Page:Dickens - A tale of two cities, 1898.djvu/499

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.




"Cock-Lane ghost."

This celebrated "audition" (as Horace Walpole called it, in contradistinction to apparition) began its career by scratching and making other noises in a room where lay a child, and a young lady whose marriage was dubiously legal. When the lady, with her lord, left their lodgings in Cock Lane, and after the lady's death, the noises recurred. They were interpreted by a kind of code, and were read to assert that the man had poisoned the woman in purl. Vast crowds flocked to the place, including Horace Walpole, the Duke of York, and Lady Mary Coke. Goldsmith is believed to have written a tract defending the accused, and Dr. Johnson sent an account of his investigations to the Gentleman's Magazine. The ghost did not keep tryst after promising to rap in the vaults of a church where the dead woman lay, and the child, being threatened, produced noises by scratching a small piece of wood. These noises were, by the confession of the witnesses, not the same as those which they had previously heard. The father of the child was pilloried. (An analysis of the facts will be found in the annotator's Cock Lane and Common Sense.) Dickens was writing in the full bloom of D. D. Home's performances. Mr. Forster says, "But for the strong restraining powers of his common sense, he might have fallen into the follies of spiritualism."



"That's quartering. Barbarous!"

This part of the punishment for high treason was at least as old as the reign of Edward I., when Sir William Wallace suffered. Fergus Maclvor, in Waverley, speaks as if it was an English bequest to Scotland; but there was little to choose between the two countries. Burning was the penalty for women in Scotland, as in the case of Lady Glammis. The last Jacobite sufferer, Dr. Archibald Cameron (1753), was rendered insensible before he was quartered.