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ONE who is not strongly fortified
in incredulity will sometimes be half
persuaded to believe in the preten-
sions of those who discover future or
distant events, by other means than
the ordinary ones of sight and hear-
ing. A story shall be related, so
directly, consistently, and circum-
stantially, that one who has not
formed an invincible opinion, a pri-
that it cannot be true, can
scarcely refuse his assent.

As our knowledge, indeed, comes
to be enlarged, and a few of the
mysteries of this kind are unravell-
ed, we are more disposed to admit
the possibility of explaining all simi-
lar mysteries by the same means.
Here is a story, which was once
altogether marvellous; a discovery
is made by some soothsayer, which
appears to us impossible but by su-
pernatural means; yet the means,
when afterwards explained, turn
out to be natural and simple. Hence
when other exploits of a conjurer
are related, no less marvellous and
inexplicable than the former one,
we naturally say, The old story was
as wonderful as this, and the riddle

as inexplicable, yet it was after-
wards solved, in a plain and satis-
factory manner: why may not this
be explicable in the same manner?

The sceptical part of the world
are not aware of the prevalence of
the belief in supernatural powers,
among the middle and lower class
of mankind. The popularity of
some fortune tellers is, indeed, won-
derful, and many have been enabled
to acquire considerable affluence by
this mysterious trade. Very grave,
shrewd, and experienced people,
many who have natural good sense,
and minds enlarged by observation,
are fully convinced of the existence
of this preternatural sagacity. They
are willing to receive any natural
explanation of appearances; but
when neither reflection nor experi-
ence can solve the mystery in this
manner, they deem themselves
bound, by all the laws of just rea-
soning, to acquiesce in the preten-
sions of the wizard. As they have
not reasoned themselves, a priori,
into the belief that all such preten-
sions are chimerical, they are, of
course, compelled to admit that so-

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lution, when what we call a natural
one is unattainable.

I shall not pretend to decide be-
tween the universal infidels and the
qualified believers, or say to which
party I should be inclined to adhere,
were I obliged to take a part. Like
Addison's creed, as delivered in one
of his Spectators, respecting witch-
craft, perhaps it would be safest to
admit the possibility, in general, of
such foresight or second sight, in a
few individuals of the human race,
but, at the same time, to refuse im-
plicit credit to any particular case
that may happen to reach us through
the medium of any other evidence
than that of our own proper senses.
The little credit which is merited
by almost all relations of this kind,
is, I think, pretty forcibly illustrated
in the two following cases:

A very grave and intelligent
friend of mine lost a considerable
sum of money. All his enquiries
and reflections were unable to point
out to him the way it had taken.
After some hesitation, he resolved
to apply to a gentleman of the same
town, who had acquired, by some
accident, the reputation of seeing
further than other men. After
stating all the circumstances of his
loss to his friend, he was desired to
go, at the dawn of the next day, to
one of the churches of the place,
which was named, and look under
the broad stone, placed at the door
of the church. There, he was told,
he would find deposited the sum
missing. He was charged to keep
secret the result of this interview,
till he had performed his expedi-
tion. He punctually obeyed the di-
rections of the seer, and recovered
his money. As the character and
situation of the person applied to
made it impossible for him to have
been either the thief or the accom-
plice, the mystery, in this case,
seems to have been as impenetrable
as in almost any which can be ima-
gined; and yet it, was afterwards
reduced to a very simple and obvi-
ous transaction, by the acknowledg-
ment of the gentleman himself, on

my venturing to apply to him for
some satisfaction on the subject. He
told me, that by carefully weighing
all the circumstances of the case, as
related by my friend, his suspicions
were fixed upon a certain person,
to whom, immediately after the in-
terview, he wrote an anonymous
letter, requiring him to deposit the
money he had stolen, in the place
above-described, at a certain hour,
previous to the time fixed for the
other's visit. His conjecture hap-
pened to be right, and the money
was deposited accordingly: so that
this effort of preternatural wisdom
resolves itself into a mere superiority
of penetration.

In the reign of Charles the se-
cond, a conjurer appeared in Lon-
don, whose fame was quickly ex-
tended to the highest classes of so-
ciety. His door was besieged, all
day long, by coaches, so that many,
after waiting a long time, were
obliged to return home unsatisfied.
Numberless were the instances re-
ported of this man's miraculous in-
sight into the private history and
family intrigues of those classes of
society, which could not be known,
by any natural means, to one of the
birth and education to be expected
in a teller of fortunes. Anthony
Hamilton's amusing history of the
count de Grammont explains this
mystery, and tells us that this con-
jurer was no other than the earl of
Rochester, that shrewd, ingenious,
but profligate nobleman, who as-
sumed this disguise for the sake of
more effectually sporting with the
credulity of the age. Rochester, to
an extensive and intimate acquaint-
ance with the character and history
of the individuals of the higher class,
added great natural sagacity, and
keen perception into the habits and
foibles of mankind. We may easily
conceive how much his communica-
tions must have astounded his visi-
tants, and how many of them would
transcend the utmost exertions of
sagacity to explain in a natural


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