Anonymous (Daniel Defoe?) The Apparition of Mrs. Veal

The Apparition of Mrs. Veal was attributed to Daniel Defoe. But so were many anonymous pamphlets of this period, as literary historians later got into a habit of attributing anonymous texts to him, because by the late eighteenth century he had become known as the era’s most famous writer of popular literature, and because we know that he did write many things that were published anonymously. Defoe was indeed prolific,  but there’s no way that he is the author of all of the books, pamphlets, and essays that have attributed to him over the years. The Apparition of Mrs. Veal, for example, was first attributed to Defoe in 1795, decades after his death, when a publisher wrote that Defoe had written the story largely as a way to boost sales of Charles Drelincourt’s A Christian’s Defense against the Fears of Death. Drelincourt’s work does get praised several times in Mrs. Veal, as both the title character and Mrs. Bargraves, the teller of the story, attest to the spiritual comfort that they have found in it. But A Christian’s Defense, first published in French in 1651 and translated into English in 1675, was quite popular already, and may not have needed anyone’s help. This story, the only “evidence” of Defoe’s authorship, might be true, but it might also be little more than decades-old print shop folklore. 

The Apparition of Mrs. Veal can be read as a love story between two women, an early lesbian narrative before the word “lesbian” had been invented. Mrs. Bargrave, trapped in a terrible marriage, so desires her friend Mrs. Veal that she conjures up her spirit in her imagination, and then leaves her husband to find her. This is story with powerful emotional appeal, its speaks to the universal difficulty of grieving for those you have lost, and the wish that you might still see them once more.

For further reading:
The Apparition of Mrs Veal,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 14: 3-4 (April-July 2003): 421-450


True Relation




Mrs. VEAL,

The next Day after Her DEATH:





Calumniated by some People, that are Friends to the Brother of Mrs. Veal who Appeared; who think the Relation of this Appearance to be a Reflection, and endeavour what they can to Blast Mrs. Bargrave ‘s Reputation; and to Laugh the Story out of Countenance. But the Circumstances thereof, and the Chearful Disposition of Mrs. Bargrave, notwithstanding the unheard of ill Usage of a very Wicked Husband, there is not the least sign of Dejection in her Face; nor did I ever hear her let fall a Desponding or Murmuring Expression; nay, not when actually under her Husbands Barbarity; which I have been Witness to, and several other Persons of undoubted Reputation.

Fits; which were perceived coming on her, by her going off from her Discourse very abruptly, to some impertinence: She was maintain’d by an only Brother, and kept his House in Dover. She was a very Pious Woman, and her Brother a very Sober Man to all appearance: But now he does all he can to Null or Quash the Story. Mrs. Veal was intimately acquainted with Mrs. Bargrave from her Childhood. Mrs Veals Circumstances were then Mean; her Father did not take care of his Children as he ought, so that they were exposed to Hardships: And Mrs. Bargrave in those days, had as Unkind a Father, tho’ She wanted for neither Food nor Cloathing, whilst Mrs. Veal wanted for both: So that it was in the Power of Mrs. Bargrave to be very much her Friend in several Instances, which mightily endear’d Mrs Veal ; insomuch that she would often say, Mrs. Bargrave you are not only the Best, but the only Friend I have in the World; and no Circumstances of Life, shall ever dissolve my Friendship. They would often Condole each others adverse Fortune, and read together, Drelincourt upon Death, and other good Books: And so like two Christian Friends, they comforted each other under their Sorrow.

Salute her, which Mrs. Veal complyed with, till their Lips almost touched, and then Mrs Veal drew her hand cross her own Eyes, and said, I am not very well, and so waved it. She told Mrs. Bargrave, she was going a Journey, and had a great mind to see her first: But says Mrs. Bargrave, how came you to take a Journey alone? I am amaz’d at it, because I know you have so fond a Brother. O! says Mrs. Veal, I gave my Brother the Slip, and came away, because I had so great a Mind to see you before I took my Journy. So Mrs. Bargrave went in with her, into another Room within the first, and Mrs. Veal sat her self down in an Elbow-chair, in which Mrs. Bargrave was sitting when she heard Mrs. Veal Knock. Then says Mrs. Veal, My Dear Friend, I am come to renew our Old Friendship again, and to beg your Pardon for my breach of it, and if you can forgive me you are one of the best of Women. O! says Mrs. Bargrave, don’t mention such a thing, I have not had an uneasie thought about it, I can easily forgive it. What did you think of me says Mrs. Veal? Says Mrs. Bargrave, I thought you were like the rest of the World, and that Prosperity had made you forget your self and me. Then Mrs. Veal reminded Mrs. Bargrave of the many Friendly Offices she did her in former Days, and much of the Conversation they had with each other in the time of their Adversity; what Books they Read, and what Comfort in particular they received from Drelincourt ‘s, Book of Death, which was the best she said on that Subject, was ever Wrote. She also mentioned Dr. Sherlock, and two Dutch Books which were Translated, Wrote upon Death, and several others: But Drelincourt she said, had the clearest Notions of Death, and of the Future State, of any who have handled that Subject. Then she asked Mrs. Bargrave, whether she had Drelincourt ; she said yes. Says Mrs. Veal fetch it, and so Mrs. Bargrave goes up Stairs, and brings it down. Says Mrs. Veal, Dear Mrs. Bargrave, If the Eyes of our Faith were as open as the Eyes of our Body, we should see numbers of Angels about us for our Guard: The Notions we have of Heaven now, are nothing like what it is, as Drelincourt says. Therefore be comforted under your Afflictions, and believe that the Almighty has a particular regard to you; and that your Afflictions are Marks of Gods Favour: And when they have done the business they were sent for, they shall be removed from you. And believe me my Dear Friend, believe what I say to you, One Minute of future Happiness will infinitely reward you for [Page 4]all your Sufferings. For I can never believe, (and claps her Hand upon her Knee, with a great deal of Earnestness, which indeed ran through all her Discourse) that ever God will suffer you to spend all your Days in this Afflicted State: But be assured, that your Afflictions shall leave you, or you them in a short time. She spake in that Pathetical and Heavenly manner, that Mrs. Bargrave wept several times; she was so deeply affected with it. Then Mrs. Veal mentioned Dr. Hornecks Ascetick, at the end of which, he gives an account of the Lives of the Primitive Christians. Their Pattern she recommended to our Imitation ; and said, their Conversation was not like this of our Age. For now (says she) there is nothing but frothy vain Discourse, which is far different from theirs. Theirs was to Edification, and to Build one another up in the Faith: So that they were not as we are, nor are we as they are; but said she, We might do as they did. There was a Hearty Friendship among them, but where is it now to be found? Says Mrs. Bargrave, ’tis hard indeed to find a true Friend in these days. Says Mrs. Veal, Mr. Norris has a Fine Coppy of Verses, call’d Friendship in Perfection , which I wonderfully admire, have you seen the Book says Mrs. Veal ? No, says Mrs. Bargrave, but I have the Verses of my own writing out. Have you, says Mrs. Veal, then fetch them ; which she did from above Stairs, and offer’d them to Mrs. Veal to read, who refused, and wav’d the thing, saying, holding down her Head would make it ake, and then desired Mrs. Bargrave to read them to her, which she did. As they were admiring Friendship, Mrs. Veal said, Dear Mrs. Bargrave, I shall love you for ever: In the Verses, there is twice used the Word Elysium. Ah! says Mrs. Veal, These Poets have such Names for Heaven. She would often draw her Hand cross her own Eyes; and say, Mrs. Bargrave Don’t you think I am mightily impaired by my Fits? No, says Mrs. Bargrave, I think you look as well as ever I knew you.

Scower’d Silk, and newly made up. But for all this Mrs. Veal persisted in her Request, and told Mrs. Bargrave she must not deny her: and she would have her tell her Brother all their Conversation, when she had an opportunity. Dear Mrs. Veal, says Mrs. Bargrave, this seems so impertinent, that I cannot tell how to comply with it; and what a mortifying Story will our Conversation be to a Young Gentleman? Well, says Mrs. Veal, I must not be deny’d. Why, says Mrs. Bargrave, ’tis much better methinks to do it your self, No, says Mrs. Veal; tho’ it seems impertinent to you now, you will see more reason for it hereafter. Mrs. Bargrave then to satisfie her importunity, was going to fetch a Pen and Ink; but Mrs. Veal said, let it alone now, and do it when I am gone; but you must be sure to do it: which was one of the last things she enjoin’d her at parting; and so she promised her.

Escucheons were making. This strangely surprised Mrs. Bargrave, who went to the Person immediately who had the care of them, and found it true. Then she related the whole Story to Captain Watsons Family, and what Gown she had on, and how striped. And that Mrs. Veal told her it was Scowred. Then Mrs. Watson cry’d out, you have seen her indeed, for none knew but Mrs. Veal and my self, that the Gown was Scowr’d ; and Mrs Watson own’d that she described the Gown exactly; for, said she, I helpt her to make it up. This, Mrs. Watson blaz’d all about the Town, and avouch’d the Demonstration of the Truth of Mrs. Bargraves seeing Mrs. Veal ‘s Apparition. And Captain Watson carried two Gentlemen immediately to Mrs. Bargraves House, to hear the Relation from her own Mouth. And then it spread so fast, that Gentlemen and Persons of Quality, the Judicious and Sceptical part of the World, flock’t in upon her, which at last became such a Task, that she was forc’d to go out of the way. For they were in general, extreamly satisfyed of the truth of the thing; and plainly saw, that Mrs. Bargrave was no Hypochondriack, for she always appears with such a chearful Air, and pleasing Mien, that she has gain’d the favor and esteem of all the Gentry. And its thought a great favor if they can but get the Relation from her own Mouth. I should have told you before, that Mrs. Veal told Mrs. Bargrave, that her Sister and Brother in Law, were just come down from London to see her. Says Mrs. Bargrave, how came you to order matters so strangely? it could not be helpt said Mrs. Veal ; and her Sister and Brother did come to see her, and [Page 7] entred the Town of Dover, just as Mrs. Veal was expiring. Mrs. Bargrave asked her, whether she would not drink some Tea. Says Mrs. Veal, I do not care if I do: But I’le Warrant this Mad Fellow (meaning Mrs. Bargraves Husband,) has broke all your Trinckets. But, says Mrs. Bargrave, I’le get something to Drink in for all that ; but Mrs. Veal wav’d it, and said, it is no matter, let it alone, and so it passed.