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  • Dreaming Murder in Parliament 7#: Perceval Speaks! October 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    ***For all previous posts on the Perceval Dream follow this link***

    In one of the many modern books that describe the Williams’ dream this strange addition to the legend is included. Get ready for a laugh.

    A week later, Spencer Perceval himself had a very disturbing dream. After he shared with his family the nightmare that a fellow wearing a coat with brass buttons had shot him in the House of Commons, they begged him not to go. The dream had ended by going black, which Perceval assumed to mean that he had died. In any case, the dream did not justify staying home. Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible, and the Ignored Juanita Rose Violini, 92 [image borrowed from this book]

    And so like that Roman murderer Caesar, Perceval walked down to the Forum and got his just (or in the case of Perceval) his not so just desserts. (No post is ever so distant that an opportunity to insult Caesar or the Vikings should be passed up on.) Now where does this nonsense actually come from? Well, strangely enough it may be based on fact. We are quoting from Spencer Walpole’s Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon Spencer Perceval (1871). SP, Perceval’s grandson writes:

    The Speaker tells us on the authority of the late Lord Rokeby, that Perceval had strong apprehensions of his impending fate for several days before it took place, and that he had given his will to Mrs Perceval, with some expressions indicating its probability.

    Lord Rokeby is presumably the fourth Baron of Rokeby who served in parliament and who died in 1831. All that fade to black stuff is likely, meanwhile, modern invention. But there is a late hint of an early nineteenth century tradition here. It would be interesting to see if there were any other ealier references to this: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Note that the Speaker who was Spencer’s source got this at second hand. The will (which was a meager affair, as Perceval had left his numerous family without much money) was much discussed at the time of the murder: its inadequacy was one of the reasons that Perceval’s family were voted 50,000 pounds by Parliament. There is room for confusion then in memory and record. Just trying to brush up his non-existent telepathic credentials Beach should mention that Perceval, as an evangelist, would have been interested in dreams and would have taken more notice of them than some godless free-marketeer up on the Whig benches. In some respects this is the easiest part of the entire Perceval’s-death-predicted story to believe.

    23 Oct 2013: This gets weirder and weirder. This just in Bob S who has given lots of interesting information on this case.  EXCERPTS FROM “THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PERCEVAL SPENCER” – by Philip Treherne  (1909) (P. 203-4) According to Lord Rokeby, Perceval had strange forebodings of his approaching death, a few days before it occurred, and gave his will to Mrs Perceval at the time… (p. 205-13 , after an account of Williams’ dream of Perceval’s murder) For the second time within the space of a hundred and fifty years a warning had been received of approaching death in the Perceval family. The body of Robert Perceval, aged nineteen, was found by the watchmen “under the Maypole in the Strand,” in the early morning of the 5th of June 1667. He was uncle to the first Earl of Egmont, and had come to London to study for the law under the guardianship of his uncle, Sir Robert Southwell. ” Many extraordinary circumstances attended this sad affair. The particulars are delivered word for word, as they are minuted down by the present Earl of Egmont upon a conversation which Sir Robert Southwell had with him immediately before his death.” “Robert was but twenty when he was murdered in the Strand by villains, that, to this day, are not found out, and lies buried at Lincoln’s Inn, near one of the pillars underneath the chapel. Some circumstances concerning his death are too extraordinary to be passed by, and what I am going to relate, I had from two persons whose sincerity I can depend on. “ A few nights before the murder, Robert, who was a student in Lincoln’s Inn, was sitting in his chamber reading, and it was late at night when there appeared to him his own apparition, bloody and ghastly, stalking into his chamber. My uncle was so astonished at the sight that he immediately swooned away; but, recovering, he saw the spectre walk out again and vanish downstairs. When he was recovered of his fright he undressed himself and went to bed, but in extraordinary uneasiness, so that he could not sleep, but rose early, and, putting on his clothes, went to his uncle and guardian, Sir Robert Southwell, who lived in Spring Garden. It was so early that Sir Robert was not yet stirring, but nevertheless he went into his room and waked him. It was a freedom he was not used to take, and Sir Robert was surprised; but, asking him what made him there so early, my uncle, still in consternation, replied he had that night seen his ghost, and told him all the particulars as I have related them. Sir Robert at first chid him for reporting an idle dream, the effect of an ill life and guilty conscience (for he loved his pleasure, and followed it too much); but, observing the disorder he was in, and having repeated the story to him, he grew very serious, and desired his nephew would take care of himself, and recollect if he had given occasion to any person to revenge himself on him; for this might be a true presage of what was to befall him. My uncle after some time left him, and, notwithstanding the impression thus made at first, I suppose he wore it off soon, or else it were impossible he could be so careless of himself the night he was killed. For that evening he was dogged from house to house where he visited, by a single man, who followed him at a small distance, who when my uncle went into a house would wait like a footman in the porch till t’other came out; insomuch that once or twice he spoke to him, asking what was his business in following him so close, and the other answered what was that to him, he was about his own business. Nay, when my uncle told his friends he was dogged, he would not let them send a footman to attend him; and when at eleven o’clock at night he was assaulted by two or three, and wounded slightly as he entered a tavern in the Strand, where some friends of his were, he would take no warning, nor admit any one to see him safe away, though the tavern boy was so urgent with him that he chid him for his impertinence. But, leaving that company, he was a little time after found dead by the watchmen in the Strand, supposed to be killed in a house and laid there afterwards. I have the examinations taken by a coroner’s inquest now by me, but they could not help to a discovery. This my uncle Southwell told me a little time before he died, word for word. “It is said of this unfortunate young gentleman, that when he came into the tavern before mentioned, he called for a glass of brandy, saying he was a little faint ; and then, after having wiped his sword, which was stained with blood (as he said) of one of those by whom he was assaulted, and whose business (as he expressed it) he had done; and after having with his handkerchief tied up his leg, which was wounded, as he was going out of the house to return to his own chambers, he stepped back to tell the master of the tavern that he should remember, that he had been attacked by persons who bore him an old grudge, and that, if he was murdered, his friends would find it out. “His person and conversation were both more agreeable to others than advantageous to himself, for they led him into company which proved his ruin. Example and fashion had, as it generally has upon men of his years, too great an influence, which showed itself in most of his actions, and in one particular (in which it was exaggerated by a great courage and high spirit) in a remarkable degree; for he had been engaged in nineteen duels before he was twenty years of age, in all of which he came off with honour, and commonly with advantage… ” A stranger’s hat with a bunch of ribbons in it was found by his side, from whence it was at first hoped that the murderer might be discovered ; but this expectation was found vain. For though the King by his proclamation, and the family by all proper enquiries, endeavoured to bring the offenders to justice, no positive or certain proof was ever attained to, and the villainy has as yet escaped at least a publick punishment. . . . Some imagined it was done by Beau Fielding, with whom he had a quarrel at a play; others by a near relation to Sir Robert Southwell’s wife.” The assassination of Spencer Perceval affords a landmark in the early political history of the nineteenth century, and the dream of John Williams has been quoted in matters of psychical research. But the direct death-warning of Robert Perceval has a romance, a mystery of its own. The same fatalism connects itself with the murder of a Prime Minister in the lobby of the House of Commons, and the death of a young law student, his ancestor, who was found on a June morning lying dead ” under the Maypole in the Strand.” Thanks Bob!