Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
 
A Dream in Kent
By William Beckford (1760–1844)
 
From Dreams and Waking Thoughts

ALL through Kent did I doze as usual; now and then I opened my eyes to take in an idea or two of the green, woody country through which I was passing; then closed them again; transported myself back to my native hills; thought I led a choir of those I loved best through their shades; and was happy in the arms of illusion. The sun set before I recovered my senses enough to discover plainly the variegated slopes near Canterbury, waving with slender birch trees, and gilt with a profusion of broom. I thought myself still in my beloved solitude, but missed the companions of my slumbers. Where are they? Behind yon blue hills, perhaps, or t’other side of that thick forest. My fancy was travelling after these deserters, till we reached the town; vile enough o’ conscience, and fit only to be passed in one’s sleep. The moment after I got out of the carriage, brought me to the cathedral; an old haunt of mine. I had always venerated its lofty pillars, dim aisles, and mysterious arches. Last night they were more solemn than ever, and echoed no other sound than my steps. I strayed about the choir and chapels, till they grew so dark and dismal, that I was half inclined to be frightened; looked over my shoulder; thought of spectres that have an awkward trick of syllabling men’s names in dreary places; and fancied a sepulchral voice exclaiming: “Worship my toe at Ghent; my ribs at Florence; my skull at Bologna, Siena, and Rome. Beware how you neglect this order; for my bones, as well as my spirit, have the miraculous property of being here, there, and everywhere.” These injunctions, you may suppose, were received in a becoming manner, and noted all down in my pocket-book by inspiration (for I could not see), and hurrying into the open air, I was whirled away in the dusk to Margate. Don’t ask what were my dreams thither:—nothing but horrors, deep-vaulted tombs, and pale, though lovely figures, extended upon them; shrill blasts that sung in my ears, and filled me with sadness, and the recollection of happy hours, fleeting away, perhaps for ever! I was not sorry, when the bustle of our coming in dispelled these phantoms. The change, however, in point of scenery was not calculated to dissipate my gloom; for the first object in this world that presented itself was a vast expanse of sea, just visible by the gleamings of the moon, bathed in watery clouds; a chill air ruffled the waves. I went to shiver a few melancholy moments on the shore. How often did I try to wish away the reality of my separation from those I love, and attempt to persuade myself it was but a dream!
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