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Apparition At Cambridge

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Letter.—Rev. Mr. Hughes to the Rev. Mr. Bonwicke.

DEAR SIR, Jesus College, Jan. 9, 1706-7.

[After relating college news, the letter proceeds] These are all the scraps that I could pick up to entertain you withal ; and, indeed, I should have been obliged to have ended with half a letter, had not an unusual story come seasonably into my relief.

One Mr. Shaw, formerly Fellow of St. John's College, and late Minister of a college living,* within twelve miles of Oxford, as he was sitting one night by himself, smoking a pipe, and reading, observed somebody to open the door : he turned back, and saw one Mr. Nailor, a fellow-collegian, an intimate friend, and who had been dead five years, come into the room. The gentleman came in exactly in the same dress and manner that he used at college. Mr. Shaw was some-thing surprised at first; but in a little time recollecting himself, he desired him to sit down : upon which Mr. N. drew a chair, and sat by him ; they had a conference of about an hour and a half. The chief of the particulars were these : he told him, that he was sent to give him warning of his death, which would be in a very short time ;" and, if I mistake not, he added, that his death would be sudden. He mentioned, likewise, several others of St. John's, particularly the famous Auchard, who is since dead. Mr. S. asked if he could not give him another visit: he answered no, alleging, "that his time allotted was but three days, and that he had others to see, who were at a great distance." Mr. Shaw had a great desire to inquire about his present condition, but was afraid to mention it, not knowing how it would be taken. At last he expressed himself in this manner : " Mr. N., how is it with you in the other world ?" He answered, with a brisk and cheerful countenance, "Very well." Mr. Sh. proceeded, and asked, "Is there any of our old friends with you ?" He replied, "Not one." After their discourse was over, he took his leave, and went out. Mr. Shaw offered to go with [him] out of the room ; but he beckoned with his hand that he should stay where he was. Mr. Nailor seemed to turn into the next room, and so went off. This Mr. Shaw the next day made his will, the conference had so far affected him; and not long after, being taken with an apoplectic fit while he was reading the divine service,. he fell out of the desk, and died immediately after. He was ever looked upon to be a pious man, and a good scholar; only some object, that he was inclinable to melancholy. He told this story himself to Mr. Groves, a Fellow of St. John's, and a particular friend of his, and who lay at his house last summer.

Mr. G., upon his return to Cambridge, met with one of his college who told him that Mr. Auchard was dead, who was particularly mentioned by Mr. Shaw. He kept the business secret, till, hearing of Mr. Shaw's own death, he told the whole story. He is a person far enough from inventing such a story ; and he tells it in all companies without any manner of variation. We are mightily divided about it at Cambridge, some heartily embracing it, and others rejecting it as a ridiculous story, and the effect of spleen and melancholy. For my own part, I must acknowledge myself one of those who believe it, having not met with anything yet sufficient to invalidate it. As to the little sceptical objections that are generally used upon this occasion, they seem to be very weak in themselves, and will prove of dangerous consequences, if applied to matters of a more important nature. I am, dear sir, yours, most sincerely, J. HUGHES.

[Part of a] Letter.—Mr. Turner to Mr. Bonwicke.

SIR, Cambridge, Jan. 21, 1706-7.

There's a circumstance relating to the story of the apparition, which adds a great confirmation to it; which I suppose Mr. Hughes did not tell you. There's one Mr. Cartwright,* a Member of Parliament, a man of good credit and integrity, an intimate friend of Mr. Shaw's, who told the same story with Dr. Grove (which he had from Mr. Shaw) at the Archbishop of Canterbury's table : but he says further, that Mr. Shaw told him of some great revolutions in State, which he won't discover, being either obliged to silence by Mr. Shaw, or concealing them upon some prudent and politic reasons.


In your Magazine for Dec., 1778, p. 583, and in the Supplement to that year, p. 621, you published six original letters between the Rev. J. Hughes, of Jesus College in Cambridge, the learned editor of "St. Chrysostom on the Priesthood," and some of his friends. In these letters was a relation of the apparition of Mr. Naylor, who had been Fellow of St. John's in that University, to a fellow collegian, Mr. Shaw, then Rector of Souldern in Oxfordshire. I have since met with another account of the same story, written by the Rev. Richard Chambre, who was then a member of Sidney College, and afterwards Vicar of Loppington in Shropshire, where he died Feb., 1752, aged 70. The paper containing this account was put into my hands by his executor, who has assured me that it is his hand-writing. It has no date, but bears visible marks of its age ; and, by the beginning of it, is plainly to be referred to the date of the letters above mentioned, that is, the year 1707. Your readers will judge as they please of the truth of the story. My business is only to transcribe the paper containing it ; which, except in a few instances of spelling, I send you faithfully and exactly done, with its superscription. Yours, etc.

R. M.

Another account of the apparition of Mr. Naylor to Mr. Shaw, from a MS. of the Rev. Richard Chambre.

(This account I had in these very words from the Rev. Dr. Whit-field, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.)

About the end of last summer Mr. Grove, the public register of the University, was in the country at a small town near Banbury in Oxfordshire, with his old friend Mr. Shaw, lately Fellow of St. John's, and who was presented by the college to the living where he resided. While Mr. Grove tarried with him, which was about four or five days, he told him this remarkable story, viz., that some days before, as he was sitting in his study late one night, after eleven, and while he was smoking tobacco and reading, the spectre of his old companion Mr. Naylor (who died five years ago in St. John's College) came into the room, habited in a gown and cassock, and exactly in the same manner as he used to appear in the college when alive. Mr. Shaw remembered the figure well, and was therefore much surprised; but the spectre took a chair, and sitting down close by him, bid him not be afraid, for he came to acquaint him with something that nearly concerned him. So entering into discourse together, the spectre told him, that " their friend Mr. Orchard * was to die very suddenly, and that he himself should die soon after him, and therefore he came to forewarn him, that he might prepare himself accordingly." After this they talked of many other things (for their conference lasted two hours), and amongst the rest Mr. Shaw asked him, Whether one might form some sort of a notion of the other world from anything one saw in this? He answered, No; without giving any farther satisfaction to the question. Upon this, Mr. Shaw said to him, How is it with you ? His answer was, I am very well and happy. Where-upon Mr. Shaw asked him farther, Whether any of his old acquaintance were with him? His answer was, that there was not one of them which answer, Mr. Shaw said (as told the story by Mr. Grove t), struck him to the heart. At last, after two hours' conference together, the spectre took his leave ; and Mr. Shaw desiring him to stay longer, he told him he could not, for he had only three days allotted him to be absent, and they were almost expired. Mr. Shaw then desired that he might see him at least once more before his death. But he told him it could not be, and so left him. After this he walked about his room a considerable time, musing upon what had happened.

Mr. Grove is a person of undoubted credit who tells this story : and (which is the greatest confirmation of it that can be desired, is that) he told it several times here in college before Mr. Shaw died; who fell down dead in his desk as he was reading prayers. The other gentleman, Mr. Orchard, who was mentioned, died suddenly in his chair, while his bedmaker went from him to fetch his commons for supper. This story is farther confirmed by two country gentlemen t of Mr. Shaw's acquaintance, to whom he had likewise communicated it. And in truth it hath met with such universal credit here, that I have met with very few who made any scruple of believing it.

It is remarkable that Mr. Shaw was a noted enemy to the belief of apparitions, and used always in company to dispute against them.

I was induced, for the amusement at least, if I must not add the information of your readers, to transcribe the following correspondence from a MS. in my possession. The story therein related, from the characters of the persons on whose authority it rests, as well as the unaffected manner in which it is told, may not be undeserving of attention.

"Copy of a Letter from Thos. Offley ; directed to the Rev. Mr. Offley, Rector of Middleton Stony, near Bister, in Oxfordshire.

"DEAR BROTHER, " Milton, Dec. 18, 1706.

" I here send you a very surprising narrative relating to Mr. Shaw, your late neighbour. The person I had the following letter from is one Mr. Waller, a fellow of St. John's,§ there resident now ; and Mr. Grove, mentioned below, is register to the University, and fellow of the same college. I had heard something of an apparition, and wrote to Mr. Waller for a relation of the fact ; to which he returned me this answer :

2.-" Mr. Waller to Mr. Tho. Offley.

"DEAR SIR, "St. John, Dec. 12, 1706.

" I should scarce have mentioned anything of the matter you now write about of my own accord : but, since you have given your-self the trouble of inquiry, I am, I think, obliged in friendship to relate all that I can tell of the matter ; and that I do the more willingly because I can so soon produce my authority. The man to whom the apparition appeared was one Mr. Shaw, who had one of the college livings in Oxfordshire nigh your brother. This gentleman, Mr. Grove, fellow of the college, called on last July in his journey to the West of England, where he stayed a day or two and promised again to call on him in his return; which accordingly he did, and stayed three days with Mr. Shaw. In that time, one night after supper, Mr. Shaw told him that there happened a passage which he could not conceal from him, as being an intimate friend, and as one to whom the transaction might have some more relation than to another man. He proceeded, therefore, and told him that about a week before that time (which was July 28), as he was smoking and reading in his study about eleven or twelve o'clock at night, there came to him the apparition of Mr. Naylor, in the same garb as he used to be, with his arms clasped before him. (This was formerly a fellow of St. John's, and a friend of Mr. Shaw's, dead about two or three years ago.) Mr. Shaw, not being wonderfully surprised, asked him how he did ? and desired him to sit down ; which Mr. Naylor did. They both sat there a considerable time, and entertained each other with various discourse. After that, Mr. Shaw asked him after what manner they did in a separate estate ? He answered, ` Far different from what they did here, but that he was very well.' He inquired farther, whether there were any of their old acquaintance in that place where he was ? He answered, ` No, not one.' He farther proceeded, and told him that ` one of their old friends (naming Mr. Orchard) should die very quickly ; and that he himself (Mr. Shaw) should not be long after.' He mentioned several other people's names ; but whose they are, or upon what occasion, Mr. Grove can-not or does not declare. Mr. Shaw then asked him whether he would visit him again before that time. He said, `No, he could not, for he had but three days allotted him, and farther he could not go.' Mr. Shaw then said, `Fiat Domini voluntas,' and the apparition left him. This is word for word what Mr. Shaw told Mr. Grove, and Mr. Grove told me. Now, what surprised Mr. Grove was, that as he had in his journey home occasion to ride through Caxton, he called on one Mr. Clark, fellow of the college and curate there; where, inquiring of college news, Mr. Clark told him that Arthur Orchard died that week, on August 6 ; which very much shocked Mr. Grove, and brought to mind the story, which Mr. Shaw told him afresh. And, about three weeks ago, Mr. Shaw himself died of an apoplectic fit in the desk, the very same distemper as poor Arthur Orchard. Now, since this strange completion of the matter, Grove has told this relation, and stands to the truth of it; and that which confirms the thing itself and his veracity is, that he told the same to Dr. Balderston, the present vice-chancellor, about a week before Mr. Shaw's death ; and when the news came to college he was no way surprised, as other people were. And as for Mr. Shaw's part, it is the opinion of men that cannot digest the matter that it was only a dream ; but Mr. Shaw seemed to be very well satisfied of his waking then as at another time. And suppose it were so, the fulfilling of the things predicted is a valid proof of its being a true vision, let it be represented which way so-ever. And again, considering them both as men of learning and integrity, the one would not have first declared, nor the other spread the same, was not the matter itself serious and real. This is all that is told of the matter. The rest I leave to your descant.


" This is the letter I received, and methinks the story is wonderful, and will bear a great deal of reasoning about. Now, what I would desire of you is, that you would, as far as you can, learn the date of Mr. Shaw's will ; if he revealed this vision to anyone about you ; if he left any account of it in writing ; if he was observed by anyone to be melancholy before he died ; or gave any sign of his expectation of his death so soon. To these queries, with whatever else you have relating to the matter (which is now very public, and much talked of in the University and this country), if you will, as speedily as you can, return me proper answers, I shall be greatly obliged to you, who am, dear brother, yours affectionately,


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