He was sick, and remained in bed; his mother sat beside him. He then dreamed of the reign of terror at the time of the Revolution. He took part in terrible scenes of murder, and finally he himself was summoned before the Tribunal. There he saw Robespierre, Marat, Fouquier-Tinville, and all the sorry heroes of that cruel epoch; he had to give an account of himself, and, after all sort of incidents which did not fix themselves in his memory, he was sentenced to death. Accompanied by an enormous crowd, he was led to the place of execution. He mounted the scaffold, the executioner tied him to the board, it tipped, and the knife of the guillotine fell. He felt his head severed from the trunk, and awakened in terrible anxiety, only to find that the top piece of the bed had fallen down, and had actually struck his cervical vertebra in the same manner as the knife of a guillotine.
This dream gave rise to an interesting discussion introduced by Le Lorrain45 and Egger20 in the Revue Philosophique. The question was whether, and how, it was possible for the dreamer to crowd together an amount of dream content apparently so large in the short space of time elapsing between the perception of the waking stimulus and the awakening.
Examples of this nature make it appear that the objective stimuli during sleep are the most firmly established of all the dream sources; indeed, it is the only stimulus which plays any part in the layman's knowledge. If we ask an educated person, who is, however, unacquainted with the literature of dreams, how dreams originate, he is sure to answer by referring to a case familiar to him in which a dream has been explained after waking by a recognised objective stimulus. Scientific investigation cannot, however, stop here, but is incited to further research by the observation that the stimulus influencing the senses during sleep does not appear in the dream at all in its true form, but is replaced by some other presentation which is in some way related to it. But the relation existing between the stimulus and the result of the dream is, according to Maury,47 "une affinité quelconque mais qui n'est pas unique et exclusive" (p. 72). If we read, e.g., three of Hildebrandt's "Alarm Clock Dreams," we will then have to inquire why the same stimulus evoked so many different results, and why just these results and no others.