Beach began thinking that there was just one account of Williams dream, his own (1832). He then learnt there was a second earlier account (dating to 1828), which shows signs of not being written by the author. However, since then – in great part thanks to Wade and Bob – he has realized that there are multiple accounts. Here is yet another. This was included in a book by John Abercrombie (1832), Inquiries concerning the intellectual powers. Abercrombie is discussing dreams.
The four classes, which have now been mentioned, appear to include the principal varieties of dreams; and it is often a matter of great interest to trace the manner in which the particular associations arise. Cases of dreams are indeed on record, which are not referable to any of the classes which have been mentioned, and which do not admit of explanation on any principle which we are able to trace. Many of these histories, there is every reason to believe, derive their marvellous character from embellishment and exaggeration; and, in some instances which have been related to me in the most confident manner, I have found this to be the case after a little investigation. Others, however, do not admit of this explanation, and we are compelled to receive them a facts which we can in no degree account for. Many year ago there was mentioned in several of the newspapers a dream which gave notice of the murder of Mr Percival. Through the kindness of an eminent medical friend in England, I have received the authentic particulars of this remarkable case, from the gentleman to whom the dream occurred. He resides in Cornwall, and, eight days before the murder was committed, dreamt that he was in the lobby of the House of Commons, and saw a small man enter, dressed in a blue coat and white waistcoat. Immediately after, he saw a man dressed in a brown coat with yellow basket metal buttons, draw a pistol from under his coat, and discharge it at the former, who instantly fell, the blood issuing from a wound a little below the left breast. He saw the murderer seized by some gentlemen who were present, and observed his countenance; and on asking who the gentleman was who had been shot, he was told it was the Chancellor. (Mr Percival was, at the time, Chancellor of the Exchequer.) He then awoke, and mentioned the dream to his wife, who made light of it — but in the course of the night the dream occurred three times without the least variation in any of the circumstances. He was now so much impressed by it, that he felt much inclined to give notice to Mr. Percival, but was dissuaded by some friends whom he consulted, who assured him he would only get himself treated as a fanatic. On the evening of the eighth day after, he received the account of the murder. Being in London a short time after, he found in the print-shops a representation of the scene, and recognised in it the countenances and dress of the parties, the blood on Mr. Percival’s waistcoat, and the peculiar yellow basket buttons on Bellingham’s precisely as he had seen them in his dream.
Note that the eminent doctor who gave this account ‘was born in Madras; and was brought from thence at the age of three years, to be educated in England, where he grew up without the least recollection of any thing related to Madras, or to his parents who remained in India”. He allegedly had a pre-cognitive dream of his own. It should be noted that there are still other sources kicking around. Clement Carlyon’s Early years and Late Memories (1856), includes a reference to Dr Abercombie. Carlyon notes that he had often himself heard the tale from John Williams’ lips.
All this, I beg to repeat, I have myself heard more than once circumstantially related by Mr. Williams, who is still alive (February 1836), and residing at Calstock, Devon, and who, I am sure, from his obliging disposition, would be most ready to corroborate the wonderful history to its full extent.
More interestingly he refers to a now lost manuscript.
I have compared this account of Dr. Abercombie’s with a manuscript which Mr. Hill, a barrister, and grandson of Mr. Williams, was lately kind enough to give me; and which records the particulars of this most strange dream in the words of which he heard them related by his grandfather. There is very little and no material variation. Mr. Hill states, that Mr. Williams ‘heard the report of the pistol, saw the blood fly and stain the waist-coat, and saw the colour of the face change.’
Then the original Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes the following account which names Williams’ friends, the only source to do so.
One of the most remarkable occurrences in Williams’s life was his dream of the assassination of Perceval. On 2 or 3 May 1812, eight or nine days before the catastrophe, he dreamt three times in the same night that he saw a man shot in the lobby of the House of Commons, a place with which he was familiar, and that on inquiry he was informed that it was Perceval. The impression made was so deep that on the next day he consulted his brother William and his partner, Robert Were Fox, on the propriety of communicating with Perceval, but suffered them to dissuade him. Apart from the importance of the event foreshadowed, this dream is interesting as one of the best authenticated instances of prevision or second sight. The first account of the dream appeared in the ‘Times’ on 16 Aug. 1828. The date of the vision was there erroneously assigned to the night of the assassination. The earliest correct account appeared about 1834 in Abercrombie’s ‘Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers.’ An account by Williams appeared in Walpole’s ‘Life of Perceval’ (cf. Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xi. 47, 121, 232, 297, 416, xii. 437, 516; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 305; Carlyon, Early Years and Late Reflections, 1836, i. 219; Walpole, Life of Perceval, ii. 329).
So do we have a fifth account or did the reference to Robert Were Fox (what a name!) appear in Hill’s manuscript? What about the strange reference to Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep.: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com? The next and most mysterious source (the Fox account) comes next, thanks to Bob!
31 Nov 2013: Bob writes in: The reference to the Hist MSS 5th Report is reproduced in the W.E Buckley letter in N&Q Ser. 7 Vol 11 p. 47. Reference to the provenance of the MSS (more than one) is given in Wedgewood’s great contribution in the same volume N&Q Ser. 7 Vol 11 p. 121-3. Thanks Bob!