Mrs. Birkbeck’s Apparition (1739)

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Mrs. Birkbeck’s Apparition (1739)
    Death-Bed Visions – The Psychical Experiences of the Dying (1926) by Sir William Barrett

    The incident is nearly two centuries old, but as Mr. Myers says, the Fox family is one which would carefully preserve evidence of this kind. As an illustration of this fact I may state that the narrative which Miss Anna Maria Fox gave me was practically identical with that given by Mrs. Charles Fox, which I now quote:

    "In 1739 Mrs. Birkbeck, wife of William Birkbeck, banker, of Settle, and a member of the Society of Friends, was taken ill and died at Cockermouth, while returning from a journey to Scotland, which she had undertaken alone – her husband and three children, aged seven, five, and four years respectively, remaining at Settle. The friends at whose house the death occurred made notes of every circumstance attending Mrs. Birkbeck’s last hours, so that the accuracy of the several statements as to time, as well as place, was beyond the doubtfulness of man’s memory, or of any even unconscious attempt to bring them into agreement with each other.

    "One morning, between seven and eight o’clock, the relation to whom the care of the children at Settle had been entrusted, and who kept a minute journal of all that concerned them, went into their bedroom as usual, and found them all sitting up in their beds in great excitement and delight. ‘Mamma has been here!’ they cried, and the little one said,’ She called "Come, Esther!"’ Nothing could make them doubt the fact, and it was carefully noted down, to entertain the mother on her return home. That same morning, as their mother lay on her dying bed at Cockermouth, she said, ‘I should be ready to go if I could but see my children.’ She then closed her eyes, to reopen them, as they thought, no more. But after ten minutes of perfect stillness she looked up brightly and said, ‘I am ready now; I have been with my children’; and then at once peacefully passed away. When the notes taken at the two places were compared, the day, hour, and minutes were the same.

    "One of the three children was my grandmother, nee Sarah Birkbeck, afterwards the wife of Dr. Fell, of Ulverston. From her lips I heard the above almost literally as I have repeated it. The eldest was Morris Birkbeck, afterwards of Guildford. Both these lived to old age, and retained to the last so solemn and reverential a remembrance of the circumstance that they rarely would speak of it. Esther, the youngest, died soon after. Her brother and sister heard the child say that her mother called her, but could not speak with any certainty of having themselves heard the words, nor were sensible of more than their mother’s standing there and looking on them."