Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An 18th Century Halloween Treat, from our special guest blogger, Mr. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

"Daniel Defoe"  Unknown, in the style of Sir Godfrey Kneller 
Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I am able to read and share with you fascinating though obscure literary treasures. The Project Gutenberg is an excellent source for reading these pieces in their original form and the one I present to you, today, is a ghost story written by Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) telling of a ghostly encounter recounted to him by a Mrs. Bargrave in Canterbury, England in the year 1705. Defoe presents the tale as a true event though there is some speculation to the contrary. Judge for yourself after reading my following edited version or, better yet, read the original at:
(Be sure to read the footnotes following my signature.)

Mr. Defoe tells us Mrs. Bargrave had not seen her friend, Mrs. Veal, for over 2 years and attributed her absence with the forgetfulness of a woman busy with her husband's new-found prosperity. Mrs. Bargrave is sitting alone in her home attending to her sewing-work when...
... she hears a knocking at the door. She went to see who was there, and this proved to be Mrs. Veal, her old friend, who was in a riding-habit. At that moment of time the clock struck twelve at noon...
"Henrietta Cavendish Hollles" by Sir Godfrey Kneller
(digital enhancement by K. Wood)
Madam, says Mrs. Bargrave, I am surprised to see you, you have been so long a stranger; but told her, she was glad to see her, and offered to salute her; which Mrs. Veal complied with, till their lips almost touched; and then Mrs. Veal drew her hand across her own eyes, and said, I am not very well; and so waived it. She told Mrs. Bargrave, she was going a journey, and had a great mind to see her first. But, says Mrs. Bargrave, how came you to take a journey alone? I am amazed at it, because I know you have a fond brother. Oh! says Mrs. Veal, I gave my brother the slip, and came away because I had so great a desire to see you before I took my journey. So Mrs. Bargrave went in with her, into another room within the first, and Mrs. Veal sat her down in an elbow-chair, in which Mrs. Bargrave was sitting when she heard Mrs. Veal knock. Then says Mrs. Veal, My dear friend, I am come to renew our old friendship again...
Then Mrs. Veal reminded Mrs. Bargrave of the many friendly offices she did her in former days, and much of the conversation they had with each other in the times of their adversity; what books they read, and what comfort, in particular, they received from Drelincourt's Book of Death, which was the best, she said, on that subject ever written... 
Says Mrs. Veal, Dear Mrs. Bargrave, if the eyes of our faith were as open as the eyes of our body, we should see numbers of angels about us for our guard. The notions we have of heaven now, are nothing like what it is, as Drelincourt says; therefore be comforted under your afflictions...
She would often draw her hand across her own eyes, and say, Mrs. Bargrave, do not you think I am mightily impaired by my fits? No, says Mrs. Bargrave, I think you look as well as ever I knew you... 
And to divert Mrs. Veal, as she thought, took hold of her gown-sleeve several times, and commended it. Mrs. Veal told her, it was a scowered silk (see my note below*), and newly made up...
She said to Mrs. Bargrave, she would have her write a letter to her brother, and tell him, she would have him give rings to such and such; and that there was a purse of gold in her cabinet, and that she would have two broad pieces given to her cousin Watson...
Photo by K. Wood
Then Mrs. Veal asked for Mrs. Bargrave's daughter; she said, she was not at home: But if you have a mind to see her, says Mrs. Bargrave, I'll send for her. Do, says Mrs. Veal. On which she left her, and went to a neighbour's to see for her; and by the time Mrs. Bargrave was returning, Mrs. Veal was got without the door in the street, in the face of the beast-market, on a Saturday, which is market-day, and stood ready to part, as soon as Mrs. Bargrave came to her. She asked her, why she was in such haste. She said she must be going, though perhaps she might not go her journey till Monday; and told Mrs. Bargrave, she hoped she should see her again at her cousin Watson's, before she went whither she was going. Then she said, she would take her leave of her, and walked from Mrs. Bargrave in her view, till a turning interrupted the sight of her, which was three quarters after one in the afternoon...
On Monday morning she sent a person to captain Watson's, to know if Mrs. Veal was there. They wondered at Mrs. Bargrave's inquiry; and sent her word, that she was not there, nor was expected. At this answer Mrs. Bargrave told the maid she had certainly mistook the name, or made some blunder. And though she was ill, she put on her hood, and went herself to captain Watson's though she knew none of the family, to see if Mrs. Veal was there or not. They said, they wondered at her asking, for that she had not been in town; they were sure, if she had, she would have been there. Says Mrs. Bargrave, I am sure she was with me on Saturday almost two hours. They said, it was impossible; for they must have seen her if she had. In comes Capt. Watson, while they were in dispute, and said, that Mrs. Veal was certainly dead, and her escutcheons (see my note below*) were making. This strangely surprised Mrs. Bargrave, when she sent to the person immediately who had the care of them, and found it true. Then she related the whole story to captain Watson's family, and what gown she had on, and how striped; and that Mrs. Veal told her, it was scowered. Then Mrs. Watson cried out, You have seen her indeed, for none knew, but Mrs. Veal and myself, that the gown was scowered. And Mrs. Watson owned, that she described the gown exactly: For, said she, I helped her to make it up. This Mrs. Watson blazed all about the town, and avouched the demonstration of the truth of Mrs. Bargrave's seeing Mrs. Veal's apparition.
Vintage Halloween Postcard

And so, dear Reader, I am sure you join me in saying, "Thank you, Mr. Defoe, for reaching to us beyond the grave to share this story with us!"

Happy Halloween to All!

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!



*Scowered silk is raw silk that has been put through a special washing to render it smooth and silky.

*Escutcheons are engravings such as family crests which I gather, in this case, were for Mrs. Veal's gravestone.

**Special (appropriately strange) Footnote regarding the 2 portraits I found to illustrate this post**

I found these portraits with separate Internet searches. Defoe's portrait I found in while searching for "Daniel Defoe" and the portrait of the woman wearing a riding habit (which looks a lot like striped, scowered silk to me) at while searching for "Painting, 1705 Riding Habit." The odd thing is that both paintings are attributed to the same artist, Sir Godfrey Kneller (although the artist of this Defoe portrait hanging in the National Maritime Museum in London is officially unknown, it is listed as being in the style of Kneller.) Anyway...I thought it was a lovely, strange coincidence to share with you.

(Per the Project Gutenberg terms of use: "This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at" )

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