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Done For

Dreamed 1872/10/14 by the Reverend Francis Kilvert

Last night I had a strange and horrible dream. It was one of those curious things, a dream within a dream, like a picture within a picture. I dreamt that I dreamt that Mr. and Mrs. Venables tried to murder me. We were all together in a small room and they were both trying to poison me, but I was aware of their intention and baffled them repeatedly. At length, Mr. Venables put me off my guard, came round fondling me, and suddenly clapping his hand on my neck behind said, "It's of no use, Mr. Kilvert. You're done for." I felt the poison beginning to work and burn in my neck. I knew it was all over and started up in fury and despair. I flew at him savagely. The scene suddenly changed to the organ loft in Hardenhuish Church. Mr. Venables, seeing me coming at him, burst out at the door. Close behind the door was standing the Holy Ghost. Mr. Venables knocked him from the top to the bottom of the stairs, rolling over head over heels, rushed downstairs himself, mounted his horse and fled away, I after him.

This dream within a dream excited me to such a state of fury, that in the outer dream I determined to murder Mr. Venables. Accordingly I lay in wait for him with a pickaxe on the Vicarage lawn at Clyro, hewed an immense and hideous hole through his head, and kicked his face till it was so horribly mutilated, crushed and disfigured as to be past recognition.

Then the spirit of the dream changed. Mrs. Venables became her old natural self again. "Wasn't it enough," she said, looking at me reproachfully, "that you should have hewed that hole through his head, but you must go and kick his face so that I don't know him again?" At this moment, Mr. Bevan, the Vicar of Hay, came in."Well," he said to me, "you have done it now. You have made a pretty mess of it."

All this time I was going about visiting the sick at Clyro and preaching in Clyro Church. But I saw that people were beginning to look shy at me and suspect me of the murder which had just been discovered. I became so wretched and conscience-stricken that I could bear my remorse no longer in secret and I went to give myself up to a policeman, who immediately took me to prison where I was kept in chains. Then the full misery of my position burst upon me and the ruin and disgrace I had brought on my family. "It will kill my father," I cried in an agony of remorse and despair. I knew it was no dream. This at last was a reality from which I should never awake. I had awaked from many evil dreams and horrors and found them unreal, but this was a reality and horror from which I should never awake. It was all true at last. I had committed a murder. I calculated the time. I knew the Autumn Assizes were over and I could not be tried till the Spring. "The Assizes," I said, "will come on in March and I shall be hung early in April." And at the words I saw Mrs. Venables give a shudder of horror.

When I woke I was so persuaded of the reality of what I had seen and felt and done in my dreams that I felt for the handcuffs on my wrists and could not believe I was in bed at home till I heard the old clock on the stairs warn and then strike five.

From: the Revd. Francis Kilvert's diary, 14 October 1872, quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook; 1983)



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