Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Wynard Ghost Story*: Oct. 16th, 1803

Buxton, Oct. 16th 1803. - I returned from Blithfield**.

The night before my departure, the conversation happening to turn on ghost stories, Lord Bagot mentioned the following, as being very curious from its uncommon authenticity.

During the American war, Major Wynyard (who afterwards married Lady Matilda West), Gen. Ludlow, and Col. Clinton, were dining together in a mess-room at New York. In this room there were but two doors, one of which led to a staircase, and the other to a small closet, or rather press, without either door or window.

A man entered at the door, when Gen. Ludlow, the only one of the gentlemen whose head was turned to the door, exclaimed, ' Good God. Harry! what can have brought you here?' The figure only waved its hand and said nothing. At his friend's exclamation Major Wynyard turned round, and his astonishment at seeing a brother whom he had left in England was so great, that he was unable to speak.

The figure stalked once round the table, and then disappeared through the closet door, pulling it after him, without fastening it. One of the gentlemen rose immediately to open the door, but the figure was already vanished, and no trace of any mode of egress was found in the closet. Col. Clinton, who had never seen Mr. H. Wynyard, and was less horrified than his friends, proposed that they should mark both the day and the hour on which they had seen this strange apparition, believing that they should never hear of it again, but at the same time, thinking' it might be a satisfaction to know the precise time of so extraordinary an occurrence.

The next mails which came from England brought news of the death of Mr. Henry Wynyard, which had taken place at the same hour, two days after that on which his brother had seen the figure.

Some years after this, as Col. Clinton and Gen. Ludlow were walking together in London, Col. Clinton exclaimed: ' There is the figure which we saw in America.' Gen. Ludlow turned round, and saw a man (whose name Lord Bagot had forgot) so famous for being so like Mr. H. Wynyard, that he was perpetually mistaken for him. This man never had been in America. All these facts were told to Lord Bagot by Col. Wynyard, in the presence of either one or both of the gentlemen who were with him at the time that this extraordinary adventure happened.

Another curious fact I heard at Blithfield. The Bishop of Carlisle told Lord Bagot that, in examining the papers of the late Duke of Bridgewater, in the midst of some useless papers which they were burning, they found two original warrants signed by Queen Elizabeth, one for the execution of the Duke of Norfolk, the other for that of Essex. Both warrants bear exactly the same date. Norfolk's is signed in a fine strong hand; that of Essex in one so trembling, that it is hardly legible***.

At Blithfield is preserved the cap which Charles I wore on the day of his execution, and which he sent to Col. Salusbury, an ancestor of the Bagots. The cap is made of crimson satin, richly embroidered with gold and silver. I saw likewise a letter from Charles to Col. Salusbury. It is published by Pennant, but he does not mention where the original is to be found.

* No ghost story is more frequently mentioned in society than this, but the amount of accurate information concerning it may be estimated from Sir Walter Scott's version: (The story of two highly respectable officers in the British army, - who are I supposed to have seen the spectre of the brother of one in a hut, or barrack, in America, is also one of those accredited ghost tales - which attain a sort of brevet rank as true, from the mention 'of respectable names as the parties who witnessed the vision.
The late Sir R. Peel had a fixed impression that he had seen and spoken with Lord Byron (then ill at Patras) in 1810 in the streets of London.—Moore's Memoirs, vol. vi. p. 14.

** The seat of Lord Bagot, in Staffordshire.

*** In Park's edition of Walpole's 'Royal and Noble Authors' (vol iii) is a fac-simile of the so-called original warrant in the Stafford collection, and the signature is clear and firm. There are three flourishes which could not have been executed by a trembling hand.


Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

What strikes me about this account is its mattter-of-factness. Believing in ghosts is obviously not an embarrassing thing. Not sure, however, whether to call this open-mindedness or gullibility.

6:43 PM  

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