Previsionary Dream By Charles Dickens

This incident in the experience of Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is to be

found in the standard biography by Forster, III, pp. 484-5 (London,

1874). On May 30, 1863, Dickens wrote:

"Here is a curious case at first-hand. On Thursday night in last week,

being at my office here, I dreamed that I saw a lady in a red shawl with

her back toward me (whom I supposed to be E--). On her turning round I

found that I d
dn't know her, and she said, 'I am Miss Napier.' All the

time I was dressing next morning I thought 'What a preposterous thing to

have so very distinct a dream about nothing!' and why Miss Napier?--for

I never heard of any Miss Napier. That same Friday night I read. After

the reading, came into my retiring-room, Mary Boyle and her brother, and

the lady in the red shawl, whom they present as 'Miss Napier.' These are

all the circumstances exactly told."

I can imagine the late Professor Royce saying thirty years ago--for I

much doubt if he would have said it twenty years later--"In certain

people, under certain exciting circumstances, there occur what I shall

henceforth call Pseudo-presentiments, i.e., more or less

instantaneous hallucinations of memory, which make it seem to one that

something which now excites or astonishes him has been prefigured in a

recent dream, or in the form of some other warning, although this

seeming is wholly unfounded, and although the supposed prophecy really

succeeds its own fulfillment."

Apply this curious theory (which has probably not been urged for many

years) to the incident just cited, and see how loosely it fits. What was

there about three persons, one a stranger coming to Dickens after he had

finished a reading from his own works, to "excite" or "astonish" him,

make his brain whirl and bring about a hallucination of memory, an

illusion of having dreamed it all before? It was the most commonplace

event to him. Besides, as in most such cases, he had the distinct

recollection of his thoughts about the dream after waking, thoughts

inextricably interwoven with the acts performed while dressing! Besides,

a pseudo-presentiment should tally with the event as a reflection does

with the object, but in the dream Miss Napier introduced herself, while

in reality she was introduced by another.