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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Doctor’s Dream

By Thomas Chalkley (1675–1741)

[Born in London, England, 1675. Died at the Friendly Islands. A Journal of the Life, Labours, Travels, etc., of Thomas Chalkley. 1749.]

AFTER we had been almost seven weeks at sea, we thought that we were near the land, but we sounded several days and found no bottom, although we let out abundance of line, I think above three hundred yards. About this time our Doctor dreamed a dream which was to this effect, himself relating it to me. He said: “He dreamed that he went on shore at a great and spacious town, the buildings whereof were high, and the streets broad, and as he went up the street he saw a large sign on which was written in great golden letters ‘Shame.’ At the door of the house (to which the sign belonged) stood a woman with a can in her hand, who said unto him: ‘Doctor will you drink?’ He replied, ‘With all my heart, for I have not drank anything but water a great while’ (our wine and cyder being all spent, having had a long passage); and he drank a hearty draught which he said made him merry. So he went up the street reeling to and fro, when a grim fellow, coming behind him, clapped him on the shoulder and told him ‘That he arrested him in the name of the Governor of the place!’ He asked him for what, and said, ‘What have I done?’ He answered, ‘For stealing the woman’s can.’ The can he had indeed, and so he was led before the Governor, which was a mighty black dog, the biggest and grimmest that ever he saw in his life; and witness was brought in against him by an old companion of his, and he was found guilty, and his sentence was to go to prison and there lay forever.”

He told me this dream so punctually and with such an emphasis that it affected me with serious sadness, and caused my heart to move within me (for to me the dream seemed true and the interpretation sure). I then told him he was an ingenious man and might clearly see the interpretation of that dream, which exactly answered to his state and condition, which I thus interpreted to him: “This great and spacious place, wherein the buildings were high and the streets broad, is thy great and high profession. The sign on which was written ‘Shame,’ which thou sawest, and the woman at the door with the can in her hand, truly represents that great, crying and shameful sin of drunkenness, which thou knowest to be thy great weakness, which the woman with the can did truly represent to thee. The grim fellow who arrested thee in the Devil’s territories is Death who will assuredly arrest all mortals. The Governor whom thou sawest representing a great black dog is certainly the Devil, who after his servants have served him to the full will torment them eternally in Hell.”

So he got up as it were in haste and said, “God forbid! It is nothing but a dream.” But I told him it was a very significant one and a warning to him from the Almighty, who sometimes speaks to men by dreams.

In seven weeks after we left sight of the land of America, we saw the Scilly Islands and next day saw the land of England, which was a comfortable sight to us; in that God Almighty had preserved us hitherto and that we were so far got on our way. We drove about the Channel’s mouth for several days for want of wind; after which, for two days the wind came up, and we got as far up the Channel as Limebay, and then an easterly wind blew fresh for several days, and we turned to windward, but rather lost than got on our way, which was tiresome and tedious to some of us.

Now about this time, being some days after the doctor’s dream, a grievous accident happened to us. We, meeting with a Dutch vessel in Limebay a little above the Start, hailed her, and she us. They said they came from Lisbon, and were bound for Holland. She was loaded with wine, brandy, fruit, and such like commodities, and we having little but water to drink, by reason our passage was longer than we expected, therefore we sent our boat on board, in order to buy us a little wine to drink with our water. Our doctor, and a merchant that was a passenger, and one sailor, went on board, where they staid until some of them were overcome with wine, although they were desired to beware thereof; so that, when they came back, a rope being handed to them, they being filled with wine unto excess were not capable of using it dexterously, insomuch that they overset the boat, and she turned bottom upwards, having the doctor under her. The merchant caught hold of a rope called the main-sheet, whereby his life was saved. The sailor, not getting so much drink as the other two, got nimbly on the bottom of the boat, and floated on the water till such time as our other boat was hoisted out, which was done with great speed, and we took him in; but the doctor was drowned before the boat came. The seaman that sat upon the boat saw him sink, but could not help him. This was the greatest exercise that we met with in all our voyage: and much the more so, as the doctor was of an evil life and conversation, and much given to excess in drinking. When he got on board the aforesaid ship, the master sent for a can of wine, and said: “Doctor, will you drink?” He replied: “Yes, with all my heart, for I have drank no wine a great while.” Upon which he drank a hearty draught, that made him merry (as he said in his dream); and, notwithstanding the admonition which was so clearly manifested to him but three days before, and the many promises he had made to Almighty God, some of which I was a witness of, when strong convictions were upon him, yet now he was unhappily overcome, and in drink when he was drowned. This is, I think, a lively representation of the tender mercy and just judgment of the Almighty to poor mortals; and I thought it worthy to be recorded to posterity, as a warning to all great lovers of wine and strong liquors.