A dream. Quod in somno vi-detur. Dreaming is a subject of considerable importance, not only in a physiological view, but as often affording useful prognostics, particularly in fevers; and it has been considered with great attention both by physiologists and metaphysicians; but whether the culture has been erroneous, or the soil stubborn, it is at least certain that the harvest has failed of producing that satisfaction which, from the labour and care, might have been expected. It remains to be determined whether we shall be more successful.
A dream is a series of images either sensible or intellectual, presented to the mind during sleep, more or less vivid, and sometimes so lively as to impress the mind with the fullest conviction of their real existence. They are evidently distinct from the mind, since fear and joy, despair and admiration, are excited by them; since the immaterial principle can decide on the propriety of the actions they may suggest, or can excite volition in consequence of their being presented. The images, however, thus passing before the mental eye are often incongruous, disjointed, and absurd; but whatever forms they may assume, we believe it to be a well established fact, that every part is derived from sensible ideas formerly received. The physiologist who has not particularly attended to this subject may start at so positive an assertion; but after the examination of our own dreams during a series of many years, after the most extensive inquiries, we have never, in a single instance, been able to trace any image, or any portion of a new combination, which was not previously-conveyed to the mind by the senses. So extensive, however, is the power which suggests these sleeping scenes, that their objects are as various as our ideas; and the
Quicquid agunt homines votum, timor ira -uoluptas Gaudia discursus form the farrago of this drama of the fancy. Our passions are excited as by reality; our reasoning, however, is weak and imperfect.
In dreams we seem to reason, to argue, to compose; and in all these circumstances, during sleep, we are highly gratified, and think that we excel. If, however, we remember our dreams, our reasoning we find to be weak, our arguments inconclusive, and our compositions trifling or absurd. Some metaphysicians have supposed that from age and reflection our dreams become more consistent and philosophical, and have even supposed that the mind can, during sleep, retain its wonted powers. We are willing to believe that, from age, our minds wander less in this state of repose; but we suspect that it arises from the sleep being less perfect, and not from any experience in the"art of dreaming." We certainly fancy in our dreams that a given image is new; but if we can retain it when awake, we find that this opinion arose from our imperfect recognition, and we shall then be able to recollect its prototype. We seem to think, also, some place, which in fancy is seen in our sleep, to be more beautiful and glorious than any which has before occurred. Yet on awaking we shall find this splendour a thing of shreds and patch work, made up of heterogeneous and disjointed vestiges before offered to the senses.
It has been supposed that the fancy pursues the images of the foregoing day, and that Queen Mab sports"on lovers' lips, who straight on kisses dream." This general opinion we dare not deny, especially when sanctioned by the magic of Shakspeare's poetry. Yet our experience does not support it; and when the mind has been exhausted by joy or sorrow, we have often found the sleep sound and refreshing. When less exhausted, the fancy seems to play with various images, not always connected with the previous state of mind. We have even thought that when the mind has been very deeply impressed with any peculiar images, that such have less seldom occurred in dreams than their opposites. That dreams ever offer any foreboding of future ills or benefits; that we ever, in this state, receive information from preternatural sources; are opinions which we leave to the childishness of the nursery, or the wandering fancies of superstition and dotage.
The aegri somnia have been proverbial, as descriptive of disjointed incongruous images; and what may be considered as the pathology of dreams, will perhaps more fully illustrate their nature. In fevers the dreams are often highly distressing; from indigestion they are equally so, but of a different kind. In the former, the mind is hurried from one object to another with inconceivable rapidity; in the latter, chained down and oppressed with a heavy weight. Should it happen that the patient is relieved of his load dining his dream, the complexion of these airy nothings immediately varies. Aversion is changed to liking, disgust to complacency, oppression to freedom. If the heat of fever is relieved by a salutary perspiration, the patient is no longer hurried through the trackless air, but reposes in a verdant meadow, or more often drinks of the cool stream, for the thirst vanishes. In general, very deep sleep is oppressive; light sleep salutary and refreshing. The senses no longer convey the usual impressions, but images are excited, which, though not wholly similar to the usual ones, are not very different. Thus violent heat will suggest a dream of scorching fire; throwing off the clothes in winter, of walking through a river. The effects of opium on our dreams are singular. In those with whom it agrees it excites the most pleasant images; when it disagrees, the most frightful: in all it greatly influences the ideas of the duration of time A man of genius and an artist under the influence of opium, fancied Holbein's Dance of Death realized, and that each figure assumed a real form, and was presented to him in all its horrors. He suffered, in his opinion, from this exhibition, for many hours; and, at last, awaking in terror, heard the clock strike twelve, when he recollected that he did not sleep till after eleven. The author of this article, in whom opium excites the most agreeable images, has experienced the same change in his ideas of time. We have sometimes thought the nature of dreams influenced, in a certain degree, by the temper and disposition of the dreamer. Thus the sanguine cheerful temper finds, in all his distresses, a means of escape; where the more gloomy melancholic disposition perceives no resource till he awakes in horror. But in this we may be styled dreamers. The other facts recorded in this article have been verified by repeated observation.