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Son, 8vo. Oxf. 1656, p. 36. He is speaking of unhappy marriages, which, says he, "must needs render their sleepe unquiet, that have one of those cads or familiars still knocking over their pillow."
Could our author have known of the affair in Cock-lane, he might have been equally happy in alluding to Miss Fanny's scratching.
Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, p. 227, explains spelly coat to be "one of those frightful spectres the ignorant people are terrified at, and tell us strange stories of; that they are clothed with a coat of shells, which make a horrid rattling; that they'll be sure to destroy one, if he gets not a running water between him and it. It dares not meddle with a woman with child."
In the North of England ghost is pronounced "guest." The streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne were formerly, according to vulgar tradition, haunted by a nightly guest, which appeared in the shape of a mastiff dog, &c., and terrified such as were afraid of shadows. This word is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon gast, spiritus anima. I have heard, when a boy, many stories concerning it. The following is in Drake's Eboracum, p. 7, Appendix: "Bar-guest of York. I have been so frightened with stories of this bar-guest, when I was a child, that I cannot help throwing away an etymology upon it. I suppose it comes from the A.-S. buph, a town, and gast, a ghost, and so signifies a town sprite. N.B. That gast is in the Belgic and Teut. softened into gheest and geyst. Dr. Langwith."
In Dr. Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, b. i. we read: "Hence by night
The village matron, round the blazing hearth,
[The following letter appeared in a recent number of the Athenæum :
"Lower Wick, near Worcester.
"Your correspondent, Mr. Ambrose Merton, in his letter, which appeared in p. 886 of the Athenæum of the 29th of August last, in speaking of Derbyshire, says, 'is not the neighbourhood of Haddon, or of Hardwicke, or of both, still visited by the coach drawn by headless steeds, drived by a coachman as headless as themselves? Does not such an equipage still haunt the mansion of Parsloes, in Essex?' Now, whether those places are still supposed to be so haunted I cannot say; but I well remember that, in my juvenile days, old people used to speak of a spectre that formerly appeared in the parish of Leigh, in this county, whom they called Old Coles and said that he frequently used, at the dead of night, to ride as swift as the wind down that part of the public road between Bransford and Brocamin, called Leigh Walk, in a coach drawn by four horses, with fire flying out of their nostrils, and that they invariably dashed right over the great barn at Leigh Court, and then on into the river Teme. It was likewise said that this perturbed spirit was at length laid in a neighbouring pool by twelve parsons, at dead of night, by the light of an inch of candle; and as he was not to rise again until the candle was quite burnt out, it was therefore thrown into the pool, and, to make all sure, the pool was filled up
'And peaceful after slept Old Coles's shade.'
Now, as this legend belongs to ghost instead of fairy lore, and as the scene of action was not in a reputed fairy locality, I therefore did not notice it in my little work 'On the Ignis Fatuus; or Will-o'-the-Wisp and the Fairies;' but it appears to be of kin to those mentioned by your correspondent.
"Upon my lately considering the tenor of this legend, I was led to think that 'Old Coles' must have been a person of some quality, and it induced me to look into Nash's History of Worcestershire, hoping it might throw some light upon the subject. Therein, in his account of Leigh (vol. ii. p. 73), the author says: "This ancient lordship of the abbots of Pershore falling by the dissolution of monasteries into the king's hands, remained there till Elizabeth's time. The
tenants of the house and demense, both under the abbot and under the king and queen, were the Colles, of which family was Mr. Edward (Edmund) Colles, a grave and learned justice of this shire, who purchased the inheritance of this manor,' whose son, William Colles,2 succeeded him; whose son and heir, Mr. Edmund Colles, lived in the time of Mr. Habingdon, and being loaded with debts (which like a snowball from Malvern Hill gathered increase), thought fit to sell it to Sir Walter Devereux, Bart.'
"The Colleses were also possessed of the manor of Suckley.3 There is a farm called Colles Place (vulgo Coles Place, or Cold Place), in Lusley,' which is mentioned in a ledger of the Priory of Malvern, in the reign of Henry III. as belonging to the family of Colles.' See Nash, vol. ii. p. 400,-which adjoins Leigh; and it shared the same fate, as appears by Nash's History, vol. ii. p. 397, as follows:
"The manor of Suckley remained in the name of Hungerford till it passed, by purchase, from them to Mr. Edmunds Colles, of Leigh, in the reign of Elizabeth. He left it to his son, Mr. Williams Colles, whose heir, Mr. Edmund Colles, sold it to Sir Walter Devereux, knight and baronet.'
"Now, it is not improbable that the legend may have referred to the unfortunate Edmund Colles the second son, who having lost his patrimony, and perhaps died in distress, his spirit may have been supposed to haunt Leigh Court-which was the seat of his joys in prosperity and the object of his regrets in adversity.
The credulity of our simple and less sceptical forefathers peopled every deserted mansion, and "dismantled tower" in the three kingdoms with its
Spirit of health, or goblin damn'd."
Few of the well-authenticated legends, rehearsed in the long and dreary nights of winter round the firesides of the neighbouring hamlets, travelled far beyond their immediate localities, and now, in the present age, with an increasing popu
He died 19th December, 1606, aged 76.
Died 20th September, 1615. See Nash's account of the family monuments in Leigh Church.
3 This manor includes the hamlets of Alfrick and Llusley.
lation, which no longer allows the stately dwellings of past generations to remain untenanted, these tales of tradition founded on the evil lives or violent deaths of former possessors are rapidly fading away. We conclude this chapter with the following singular legend, widely differing from the generality of the stories usually handed down :
"The Home of the Spell-bound Giants.-There is an apart ment, says Waldron, in the Castle of Rushen, that has never been opened in the memory of man. The persons belonging to the castle are very cautious in giving any reason for it; but the natives unconnected with the castle, assign this, that there is something of enchantment in it. They tell you that the castle was at first inhabited with fairies, and afterwards by giants, who continued in the possession of it till the days of Merlin, who, by the force of magic, dislodged the greatest part of them, and bound the rest of them in spells, indissoluble, to the end of the world. In proof of this they tell you a very odd story: They say there are a great many fine apartments under ground, exceeding in magnificence any of the upper rooms. Several men of more than ordinary courage have, in former times, ventured down to explore the secrets of this subterranean dwelling-place, but none of them ever returned to give an account of what they saw. It was therefore judged expedient that all the passages to it should be continually shut, that no more might suffer by their temerity. About some fifty or fifty-five years since, a person possessed of uncommon boldness and resolution begged permission to visit these dark abodes. He at length obtained his request, went down, and returned by the help of a clue of packthread which he took with him, which no man before himself had ever done, and brought this amazing discovery:-"That after having passed through a great number of vaults, he came into a long narrow place, which the farther he penetrated, he perceived that he went more and more on a descent; till having travelled, as near as he could guess, for the space of a mile, he began to see a gleam of light, which, though it seemed to come from a vast distance, was the most delightful object he ever beheld. Having at length arrived at the end of that lane of darkness, he perceived a large and magnificent house, illuminated with many candles, whence proceeded the light he had seen. Having, before he began the expedition, well fortified
himself with brandy, he had courage enough to knock at the door, which, on the third knock, was opened by a servant who asked him what he wanted? I would go as far as I can, replied our adventurer; be so kind therefore as to direct me how to accomplish my design, for I see no passage but that dark cavern through which I came. The servant told him he must go through that house; and accordingly led him through a long entry, and out at a back door. He then walked a considerable way, till be beheld another house more magnificent than the first; and, all the windows being open, he discovered innumerable lamps burning in every room.
"Here also he designed to knock, but had the curiosity to step on a little bank which commanded a view of a low parlour, and, looking in, he beheld a vast table in the middle of the room, and on it extended at full length a man, or rather monster, at least fourteen feet long, and ten or twelve round the body. This prodigious fabric lay as if sleeping with his head upon a bool, with a sword by him, answerable to the hand which he supposed made use of it. The sight was more terrifying to our traveller than all the dark and dreary mansions through which he had passed. He resolved, therefore, not to attempt an entrance into a place inhabited by persons of such monstrous stature, and made the best of his way back to the other house, where the same servant who reconducted him informed him that if he had knocked at the second door he would have seen company enough, but could never have returned. On which he desired to know what place it was, and by whom possessed; the other replied that these things were not to be revealed. He then took his leave, and by the same dark passage got into the vaults, and soon afterwards once more ascended to the light of the sun.' Ridiculous as the narrative appears, whoever seems to disbelieve it, is looked on as a person of weak faith."-Description of the Isle of Man, London edit., folio, 1731, pp. 98, 100.