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.

Friday, 3rd July, 2009


“I am prolix, and I fear tedious, in treating of the sensory; but it is a point of some consequence, and this ingenious Author’s scheme principally turns on the supposition of its being shut up during sleep, from the soul’s inspection; whereby he divests it of memory, and thence infers it of memory, and thence infers the necessity of receiving all the materials of our dreams from foreign agents. I am induced to conjecture, that he found himself a little pressed by Mr. Locke’s arguments against the soul’s perpetual thinking, but that it sometimes nods with the body, which has an aspect of making them too nearly related; and perfectly to get over this difficulty (which he has otherwise, with much success attempted) he deemed it proper to detach the soul from having the least dependence on the body as to dreams, by drawing a veil over the sensory in sleep; whereby too, the irrationality charged on our sleeping thoughts cannot be attributed to our wanting the assistance of the body, as tho’ we owed the perfection of thinking thereto; but must be occasioned by spirits, who obtrude on us what we then think about. But I cannot help apprehending, that tho’ his Hypothosis makes the soul sometimes active, whilst the body sleeps, and its thoughts at that time independent on the body; yet it renders the view of the sensory so necessary to thinking, that, should the soul, deprived of its aid, be at the same time unoccupied by spirits, it might, nay must, as soundly nod, as by the other supposition.”

Thomas Branch, Thoughts on Dreaming, (London: R. Dodsley, 1738) pp. 25-6.

Tuesday, 30th June, 2009


“The Dreams of sleeping Men, are, as I take it, all made up of the waking Man’s Ideas, though for the most part oddly put together. ’Tis strange if the Soul has Ideas of its own, that it derived not from Sensation or Reflection, (as it must have, if it thought before it received any Impression from the Body) that it should never, in its private Thinking, (so private that the Man himself perceives it not) retain any of them, the very Moment it wakes out of them, and then make the Man glad with new Discoveries.”

John Locke, An Essay concerning human understanding in 4 books, (Edmund Parker: London, 1731) vol.1 of 2. p.76

Sunday, 28th June, 2009


“I grant that the Soul in a waking Man is never without Thought, because it is the Condition of being awake: But whether Sleeping without Dreaming be not an Affection of the whole Man, Mind as well as Body, may be worth a waking Man’s Consideration; it being hard to conceive that any thing should think, and not be conscious of it. If the Soul doth think in a sleeping Man, without being conscious of it, I ask, whether, during such Thinking, it has any Pleasure or Pain, or be capable of Happiness or Misery? I am sure the Man is not, no more than the Bed or Earth he lies on. For to be Happy or Miserable, without being conscious of it, seems to me utterly inconsistent and impossible; or if it be possible that the Soul can, whilst the Body is sleeping, have its Thinking, Enjoyments and Concerns, its Pleasure or Pain apart, which the Man is not conscious of, nor partakes in: It is certain, that Socrates asleep, and Socrates awake, is not the same Person: But his Soul when he sleeps, and Socrates the Man, consisting of Body and Soul when he is waking, are two Persons; since waking Socrates has no Knowledge of, or Concernment for that Happiness or Misery of his Soul, which it enjoys alone by it self whilst he sleeps, without perceiving any thing of it; no more than he has for the Happiness or Misery of a Man in the Indies, whom he knows not. For if we take wholly away all Consciousness of our Actions and Sensations, especially of Pleasure and Pain, and the Concernment that accompanies it, it will be hard to know wherein to place Personal Identity.”

John Locke, An Essay concerning human understanding in 4 books, (Edmund Parker: London, 1731) vol.1 of 2. p.72-3

%d bloggers like this: