S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I remember last winter there were several young girls of the neighbourhood sitting about the fire with my landladys daughters and telling stories of spirits and apparitions. Upon my opening the door the young women broke off their discourse, but my landladys daughters telling them that it was nobody but the gentleman (for that is the name which I go by in the neighbourhood, as well as in the family), they went on without minding me. I seated myself by the candle that stood on a table at one end of the room, and, pretending to read a book I took out of my pocket, heard several dreadful stories of ghosts, as pale as ashes, that had stood at the feet of a bed, or walked over a church-yard by moonlight; and of others that had been conjured into the Red Sea for disturbing peoples rest and drawing their curtains at midnight; with many other old womens fables of the like nature. As one spirit raised another, I observed that at the end of every story the whole company closed their ranks, and crowded about the fire. I took notice in particular of a little boy, who was so attentive to every story, that I am mistaken if he ventures to go to bed by himself this twelvemonth. Indeed, they talked so long, that the imaginations of the whole assembly were manifestly crazed, and, I am sure, will be the worse for it as long as they live . Were I a father, I should take a particular care to preserve my children from these little horrors of imagination, which they are apt to contract when they are young, and are not able to shake off when they are in years.
Mr. Locke, in his chapter of the Association of Ideas, has very curious remarks to show how, by the prejudice of education, one idea often introduces into the mind a whole set that bear no resemblance to one another in the nature of things. Among several instances of this kind, he produces the following instance: The ideas of goblins and sprites have really no more to do with darkness than light: yet let but a foolish maid inculcate these often on the mind of a child, and raise them there together, possibly he shall never be able to separate them again so long as he lives, but darkness shall ever after bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined that he can no more bear the one than the other.
Our forefathers looked upon nature with more reverence and horror, before the world was enlightened by learning and philosophy; and loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms, and enchantments. There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it; the church-yards were all haunted; every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it; and there was not a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit.