Dreams and Dream Stories


Anna (Bonus) Kingsford



Part I Dreams

I. The Doomed Train
II. The Wonderful Spectacles
III. The Counsel of Perfection
IV. The City of Blood
V. The Bird and the Cat
VI. The Treasure in the Lighted House
VII. The Forest Cathedral
VIII. The Enchanted Woman
IX. The Banquet of the Gods
X. The Difficult Path
XI. A Lion in the Way
XII. A Dream of Disembodiment
XIII. The Perfect Way with Animals
XIV. The Laboratory Underground
XV. The Old Young Man
XVI. The Metempsychosis
XVII. The Three Kings
XVIII. The Armed Goddess
XIX. The Game of Cards
XX. The Panic-Struck Pack-Horse
XXI. The Haunted Inn
XXII. An Eastern Apologue
XXIII. A Haunted House Indeed!
XXIV. The Square in the Hand

Dream Verses

I. "Through the Ages"
II. A Fragment
III. A Fragment
IV. Signs of the Times
V. With the Gods

Part II Dream Stories

I. A Village of Seers
II. Steepside; A Ghost Story
III. Beyond the Sunset
IV. A Turn of Luck
V. Noemi
VI. The Little Old Man's Story
VII. The Nightshade
VIII. St. George the Chevalier


The chronicles which I am about to present to the reader are not the result of any conscious effort of the imagination. They are, as the title-page indicates, records of dreams, occurring at intervals during the last ten years, and transcribed, pretty nearly in the order of their occurrence, from my Diary. Written down as soon as possible after awaking from the slumber during which they presented themselves, these narratives, necessarily unstudied in style and wanting in elegance of diction, have at least the merit of fresh and vivid color, for they were committed to paper at a moment when the effect and impress of each successive vision were strong and forceful in the mind, and before the illusion of reality conveyed by the scenes witnessed and the sounds heard in sleep had had time to pass away.

I do not know whether these experiences of mine are unique. So far, I have not yet met with any one in whom the dreaming faculty appears to be either so strongly or so strangely developed as in myself. Most dreams, even when of unusual vividness and lucidity, betray a want of coherence in their action, and an incongruity of detail and dramatis personae, that stamp

———————- * Written in 1886. Some of the experiences in this volume were subsequent to that date. This publication is made in accordance with the author's last wishes. (Ed.) ———————

them as the product of incomplete and disjointed cerebral function. But the most remarkable features of the experiences I am about to record are the methodical consecutiveness of their sequences, and the intelligent purpose disclosed alike in the events witnessed and in the words heard or read. Some of these last, indeed, resemble, for point and profundity, the apologues of Eastern scriptures; and, on more than one occasion, the scenery of the dream has accurately portrayed characteristics of remote regions, city, forest and mountain, which in this existence at least I have never beheld, nor, so far as I can remember, even heard described, and yet, every feature of these unfamiliar climes has revealed itself to my sleeping vision with a splendour of coloring and distinctness of outline which made the waking life seem duller and less real by contrast. I know of no parallel to this phenomenon unless in the pages of Bulwer Lytton's romance entitled—"The Pilgrims of the Rhine," in which is related the story of a German student endowed with so marvellous a faculty of dreaming, that for him the normal conditions of sleeping and waking became reversed, his true life was that which he lived in his slumbers, and his hours of wakefulness appeared to him as so many uneventful and inactive intervals of arrest occurring in an existence of intense and vivid interest which was wholly passed in the hypnotic state. Not that to me there is any such inversion of natural conditions. On the contrary, the priceless insights and illuminations I have acquired by means of my dreams have gone far to elucidate for me many difficulties and enigmas of life, and even of religion, which might otherwise have remained dark to me, and to throw upon the events and vicissitudes of a career filled with bewildering situations, a light which, like sunshine, has penetrated to the very causes and springs of circumstance, and has given meaning and fitness to much in my life that would else have appeared to me incoherent or inconsistent.

I have no theory to offer the reader in explanation of my faculty, —at least in so far as its physiological aspect is concerned. Of course, having received a medical education, I have speculated about the modus operandi of the phenomenon, but my speculations are not of such a character as to entitle them to presentation in the form even of an hypothesis. I am tolerably well acquainted with most of the propositions regarding unconscious cerebration, which have been put forward by men of science, but none of these propositions can, by any process of reasonable expansion or modification, be made to fit my case. Hysteria, to the multiform and manifold categories of which, medical experts are wont to refer the majority of the abnormal experiences encountered by them, is plainly inadequate to explain or account for mine. The singular coherence and sustained dramatic unity observable in these dreams, as well as the poetic beauty and tender subtlety of the instructions and suggestions conveyed in them do not comport with the conditions characteristic of nervous disease. Moreover, during the whole period covered by these dreams, I have been busily and almost continuously engrossed with scientific and literary pursuits demanding accurate judgment and complete self-possession and rectitude of mind. At the time when many of the most vivid and remarkable visions occurred, I was following my course as a student at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, preparing for examinations, daily visiting hospital wards as dresser, and attending lectures. Later, when I had taken my degree, I was engaged in the duties of my profession and in writing for the press on scientific subjects. Neither have I ever taken opium, hashish or other dream-producing agent. A cup of tea or coffee represents the extent of my indulgences in this direction. I mention these details in order to guard against inferences which otherwise might be drawn as to the genesis of my faculty.

With regard to the interpretation and application of particular dreams, I think it best to say nothing. The majority are obviously allegorical, and although obscure in parts, they are invariably harmonious, and tolerably clear in meaning to persons acquainted with the method of Greek and Oriental myth. I shall not, therefore, venture on any explanation of my own, but shall simply record the dreams as they passed before me, and the impressions left upon my mind when I awoke.

Unfortunately, in some instances, which are not, therefore, here transcribed, my waking memory failed to recall accurately, or completely, certain discourses heard or written words seen in the course of the vision, which in these cases left but a fragmentary impression on the brain and baffled all waking endeavor to recall their missing passages.

These imperfect experiences have not, however, been numerous; on the contrary, it is a perpetual marvel to me to find with what ease and certainty I can, as a rule, on recovering ordinary consciousness, recall the picture witnessed in my sleep, and reproduce the words I have heard spoken or seen written.

Sometimes several interims of months occur during which none of these exceptional visions visit me, but only ordinary dreams, incongruous and insignificant after their kind. Observation, based on an experience of considerable length, justifies me, I think, in saying that climate, altitude, and electrical conditions are not without their influence in the production of the cerebral state necessary to the exercise of the faculty I have described. Dry air, high levels, and a crisp, calm, exhilarating atmosphere favor its activity; while, on the other hand, moisture, proximity to rivers, cloudy skies, and a depressing, heavy climate, will, for an indefinite period, suffice to repress it altogether. It is not, therefore, surprising that the greater number of these dreams, and, especially, the most vivid, detailed and idyllic, have occurred to me while on the continent. At my own residence on the banks of the Severn, in a humid, low-lying tract of country, I very seldom experience such manifestations, and sometimes, after a prolonged sojourn at home, am tempted to fancy that the dreaming gift has left me never to return. But the results of a visit to Paris or to Switzerland always speedily reassure me; the necessary magnetic or psychic tension never fails to reassert itself; and before many weeks have elapsed my Diary is once more rich with the record of my nightly visions.

Some of these phantasmagoria have furnished me with the framework, and even details, of stories which from time to time I have contributed to various magazines. A ghost story,* published some years ago in a London magazine, and much commented on because of its peculiarly weird and startling character, had this origin; so had a fairy tale,** which appeared in a Christmas Annual last year, and which has recently been re-issued in German by the editor of a foreign periodical. Many of my more

———————- * "Steepside" ** "Beyond the Sunset" ————————

serious contributions to literature have been similarly initiated; and, more than once, fragments of poems, both in English and other languages, have been heard or read by me in dreams. I regret much that I have not yet been able to recover any one entire poem. My memory always failed before I could finish writing out the lines, no matter how luminous and recent the impressions made by them on my mind.* However, even as regards verses, my experience has been far richer and more successful than that of Coleridge, the only product of whose faculty in this direction was the poetical fragment Kubla Khan, and there was no scenic dreaming on the occasion, only the verses were thus obtained; and I am not without hope that at some future time, under more favorable conditions than those I now enjoy, the broken threads may be resumed and these chapters of dream verse perfected and made complete.

It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark that by far the larger number of the dreams set down in this volume, occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise, during a "second sleep." A condition of fasting, united possibly, with some subtle magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to impressions of the kind. And, in this connection, I think it right to add that for the past fifteen years I have been an abstainer from flesh-meats; not a "Vegetarian," because during the whole of that period I have used such

* The poem entitled "A Discourse on the Communion of Souls; or, the
Uses of Love between Creature and Creature, Being a part of the
Golden Book of Venus," which forms one of the appendices to "The
Perfect Way," would be an exception to this rule but that it was
necessary for the dream to be repeated before the whole poem could
be recalled. (Ed.)

animal produce as butter, cheese, eggs, and milk. That the influence of fasting and of sober fare upon the perspicacity of the sleeping brain was known to the ancients in times when dreams were far more highly esteemed than they now are, appears evident from various passages in the records of theurgy and mysticism. Philostratus, in his "Life of Apollonius Tyaneus," represents the latter as informing King Phraotes that "the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions, are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first inquired the time at which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof (that is, that it might be worth the interpreting), in that the soul was then fitted for divination, and disencumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight, while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise, refused to give any interpretation. Moreover, the gods themselves are of this opinion, and send their oracles only into abstinent minds. For the priests, taking him who doth so consult, keep him one day from meat and three days from wine, that he may in a clear soul receive the oracles." And again, Iamblichus, writing to Agathocles, says:—"There is nothing unworthy of belief in what you have been told concerning the sacred sleep, and seeing by means of dreams. I explain it thus:—The soul has a twofold life, a lower and a higher. In sleep the soul is liberated from the constraint of the body, and enters, as an emancipated being, on its divine life of intelligence. Then, as the noble faculty which beholds objects that truly are—the objects in the world of intelligence— stirs within, and awakens to its power, who can be astonished that the mind which contains in itself the principles of all events, should, in this its state of liberation, discern the future in those antecedent principles which will constitute that future? The nobler part of the mind is thus united by abstraction to higher natures, and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods . . . . The night-time of the body is the day-time of the soul."

But I have no desire to multiply citations, nor to vex the reader with hypotheses inappropriate to the design of this little work. Having, therefore, briefly recounted the facts and circumstances of my experience so far as they are known to myself, I proceed, without further commentary, to unroll my chart of dream-pictures, and leave them to tell their own tale.