Monday, 17th August, 2009


“[…] while the subject thus offers itself I will hear briefly of that shame which people are so apt to have for their religious affections. This is so visible that I believe scarcely anybody ventures to discourse on the solemn truth of religion in common conversation, or to mention such terms as heaven and hell, unless to utter an unmeaning curse, or a complaint that blasphemes. If a man appears really struck with the concerns of another world and manifests them by his conduct and conversation, he is generally thought melancholy or mad. I do not say that an ostentation in religious deportment is a disagreeable thing! But because this is a fault, is indifference a merit? Am I to be ashamed of a good cause, tho’ another thing, because another brings disgrace on it? himself by it? who refuses a post of honour chiefly because its last proprietor was a disgrace to it? and is not Christianity an honour? Shame on the man who thinks it is not. The truth is, our hearts are cold. We do not feel the love of God in them and therefore we are both careless and ashamed. We are caught out of countenance by those who are indifferent and kept in awe by fear of being ridiculous.”

Deleted text, MS.42083

Sunday, 12th July, 2009


from ‘The World of Dreams’

And is thy soul so wrapt in sleep?
Thy senses, thy affections, fled?
No play of fancy thine, to keep
Oblivion from that grave, thy bed?
Then art thou but the breathing dead:
I envy, but I pity too:
The bravest may my terrors dread,
The happiest fain my joys pursue.

Soon as the real World I lose,
Quick Fancy takes her wonted way,
Or Baxter’s sprites my soul abuse –
For how it is I cannot say,
Nor to what powers a passive prey,
I feel such bliss, I fear such pain;
But all is gloom, or all is gay,
Soon as th’ ideal World I gain.

Come, then, I woo thee, sacred Sleep!
Vain troubles of the world, farewell!
Spirits of Ill! your distance keep –
And in your own dominions dwell,
Ye, the sad emigrants from hell!
Watch, dear seraphic beings, round,
And these black Enemies repel;
Safe be my soul, my slumbers sound!

In vain I pray! It is my sin
That thus admits the shadowy throng.
Oh! now they break tumultuous in –
Angels of darkness fierce and strong.
Oh! I am borne of fate along;
My soul, subdued, admits the foe,
Perceives and yet endures the wrong,
Resists, and yet prepares to go.

Where am I now? and what to meet?
Where I have been entrapt before:
The wicked city’s vilest street,–
I know what I must now explore.
The dark-brow’d throng more near and more,
With murderous looks are on me thrust,
And lo! they ope the accursed door,
And I must go – I know I must!

That female fiend! – Why is she there?
Alas! I know her. – Oh, begone!
Why is that tainted bosom bare,
Why fix’d on me that eye of stone?
Why have they left us thus alone?
I saw the deed – why then appear?
Thou art not form’d of blood and bone!
Come not, dread being, come not near!

So! all is quiet, calm, serene;
I walk a noble mansion round –
From room to room, from scene to scene,
I breathless pass, in gloom profound:
No human shape, no mortal sound –
I feel an awe, I own a dread,
And still proceed! – nor stop nor bound –
And all is silent, all is dead.

Now I’m hurried, borne along,
All is business! all alive!
Heavens! how mighty is the throng,
Voices humming like a hive!
Through the swelling crowd I strive,
Bustling forth my way to trace:
Never fated to arrive
At the still-expected place.

George Crabbe, ‘The World of Dreams’ in The Complete Poetical Works, ed. by Norma Dalrymple-Champneys and Arthur Pollard, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1988) III, pp.246-255.

Thursday, 9th July, 2009


“I returned late last night, and my reflections were as cheerful as such company could make them, and not, I am afraid, of the most humiliating kind; yet, for the first time these many nights, I was incommoded by dreams, such as would cure vanity for a time in any mind where they could gain admission. Some of Baxter’s mortifying spirits whispered very singular combinations. None, indeed, that actually did happen in the very worst of times, but still with a formidable resemblance. It is doubtless very proper to have the mind thus brought to a sense of its real and very possible alliances, and the evils it has encountered, or might have had; but why these images should be given at a time when the thoughts, the waking thoughts, were of so opposite a nature, I cannot account. So it was. Awake, I had been with the high, the apparently happy: we were very cheerful. Asleep, all was misery and degradation, not my own only, but of those who had been. — That horrible image of servility and baseness — that mercenary and commercial manner! It is the work of imagination, I suppose; but it is very strange. I must leave it.”

George Crabbe, journal entry of 21st July 1817, in Selected Letters and Journals of George Crabbe, ed. by Thomas C. Faulkner, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 221.

Tuesday, 7th July, 2009


The purpose of this blog, when it first occurred to me that it should come into being, was to be a repository for things that I come across while working that interest me and seem crucial in the formation of other ideas. It was also to serve as a backdrop to various different projects, as a place to reflect on them.

So far, it has concentrated exclusively in the former, and specifically in texts relating to the discussion of dreaming in the eighteenth century. However, I’m still going to try and reflect from time to time, and to make clear the distinction; these posts shall appear in a mossy green text.

The concern with dreaming is largely what I’ve been working on at the moment, and it’s a wide and fascinating discussion, which gives a sense of the background upon which Crabbe was writing, thinking, and indeed dreaming.

One of the greatest discoveries during this work has been Lucia Dacome, who has written intelligently and passionately on the subject. It has been instructive to read her, especially in the points she makes on the close parallels between views on dreaming, madness and religious enthusiasm held at this time. That she makes the firm connection between madness and dreaming, is the point that I was fumbling towards, but this all fits with Crabbe’s unease with enthusiasm, too – there is a murmur of that in ‘Eustace Grey’, a poem which deals primarily with madness and waking apparitions, but I still need to examine it more closely to work through that zealous vein.

Dacome’s writing has also been quite encouraging in verifying what I hoped was right. Down to finding that I’d selected the same passages from Locke to concentrate on as her, it’s nice to feel like you’ve been pointing in the right direction.

What’s interesting at the moment is how little the thinking on this subject seemed to have moved on during the C18. The majority of the discussion occurs in the 1730s, but by the 1820s, Crabbe and Coleridge were both still turning to Andrew Baxter’s Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul (1737) as a means of explaining their troubled dreams. It’s partly that Baxter’s views seem crudely superstitious against a lot of Crabbe’s other thinking which makes it so surprising, but it’s also the progression of time, that in a hundred years, we expect the thinking on psychology to have developed more. Yet our own views on the subject are probably only subtle progressions on Freud’s. I quite like the thought that in a couple of hundred years someone would look back on our own conceptions of the world and the mind – which we firmly believe (and have to believe) now to be more-or-less correct, only lacking the bits we’re yet to find out – and think how quaintly naïve, how fundamentally superstitious, the 21st century thinker was.

Thursday, 2nd July, 2009


from ‘Lady Barbara; or, The Ghost’, Book XVI of Tales of the Hall.

‘But then in sleep those horrid forms arise,
That the soul sees,— and, we suppose, the eyes,—
And the soul hears,— the senses then thrown by,
She is herself the ear, herself the eye;
A mistress so will free her servile race
For their own tasks, and take herself the place:
In sleep what forms will ductile fancy take,
And what so common as to dream awake?
On others thus do ghostly guests intrude?
Or why am I by such advice pursued?
One out of millions who exist, and why
They know not – cannot know – and such am I;
And shall two beings of two worlds, to meet,
The laws of one, perhaps of both, defeat?
It cannot be.— But if some being lives
Who such kind warning to a favourite gives,
Let him these doubts from my dull spirit clear,
And once again, expected guest! appear.’


‘Yes, all are dreams; but some as we awake
Fly off at once, and no impression make;
Others are felt, and ere they quit the brain
Make such impression that they come again;
As half familiar thoughts, and half unknown,
And scarcely recollected as our own;
For half a day abide some vulgar dreams,
And give our grandams and our nurses themes;
Others, more strong, abiding figures draw
Upon the brain, and we assert “I saw;”
And then the fancy on the organs place
A powerful likeness of a form and face.

‘Yet more – in some strong passion’s troubled reign,
Or when the fever’d blood inflames the brain,
At once the outward and the inward eye
The real object and the fancied spy;
The eye is open, and the sense is true,
And therefore they the outward object view;
But while the real sense is fix’d on these,
The power within its own creation sees;
And these, when mingled in the mind, create
Those striking visions which our dreamers state;
For knowing that is true that met the sight,
They think the judgment of the fancy right.
Your frequent talk of dreams has made me turn
My mind on them, and these the facts I learn.
Or should you say, ’t is not in us to take
Heed in both ways, to sleep and be awake,
Perhaps the things by eye and mind survey’d
Are in their quick alternate efforts made;
For by this mixture of the truth, the dream
Will in the morning fresh and vivid seem.

‘Dreams are like portraits, and we find they please
Because they are confess’d resemblances;
But those strange night-mare visions we compare
To waxen figures – they too real are,
Too much a very truth, and are so just
To life and death, they pain us or disgust.’


George Crabbe, ‘Lady Barbara; or, The Ghost’, in The Complete Poetical Works, ed. by Norma Dalrymple-Champneys and Arthur Pollard, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1988) II, pp.547-573.

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