A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal

by Daniel Defoe

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 662

This pamphlet, probably (but not definitely) by Daniel Defoe, was published anonymously in 1706. It opens with a preface declaring the "relation," or story, to be "matter of fact" -- that is, completely true. The writer puts several degrees of separation between himself and the story -- he says the story was sent by a gentleman in Kent to a friend in London, and that the gentleman himself was writing down the story he had heard from a kinswoman, Mrs Bargrave. The trustworthiness of all parties involved is stressed.

The story itself describes the appearance of Mrs Veal after her death to Mrs Bargrave, a woman of good character. Mrs Veal herself was only an honorary Mrs, being a "maiden gentlewoman" of thirty or so, very pious, and a close friend of Mrs Bargrave, living with her brother. Unfortunately, the pair were separated when Mr Veal moved with his sister to Dover, so Mrs Bargrave had not seen her friend in two and a half years.

On September 8th, 1705, Mrs Bargrave was in the house on her own and heard a knocking at the door. It was twelve noon: she opened the door to see Mrs Veal in a riding habit.

The two have a conversation -- Mrs Bargrave expresses her surprise at seeing Mrs Veal, who says she is going on a journey alone and wanted to see her old friend first and ask for forgiveness. The two talk about matters only they would have known, such as the book Drelincourt they read together; Mrs Veal goes on to tell her friend that she is sure she will be rewarded in heaven for her sufferings. Mrs Bargrave is so affected by her friend's kind words that she weeps.

Mrs Veal goes on to mention Dr Kenrick's Ascetick, which focuses on primitive Christians. Mrs Veal asks whether her friend has read Friendship in Perfection, a book of verses. Mrs Bargrave fetches the verses; the friends read them together, and Mrs Veal tells Mrs Bargrave that she will "love [her] for ever."

Mrs Veal asks her friend if she looks affected by her "fits," to which Mrs Bargrave assures her that she does not. Mrs Veal then says she would appreciate it if her friend would write to Mr Veal, her brother, and tell him what to do with her purse of gold and her rings.

This upsets Mrs Bargrave, and she sits down in her chair, but Mrs Veal continues her insistence, and also asks Mrs Bargrave to pass on an account of their conversation to Mr Veal. Mrs Bargrave says this would be inappropriate, but Mrs Veal persists, although she relents, saying that Mrs Bargrave may do it when she is gone.

Then, Mrs Veal asks to see Mrs Bargrave's daughter. She is not at home, but Mrs Bargrave sends for her. When she returns, however, Mrs Veal is on her way out in a great hurry.

The speaker then reveals that Mrs Veal had actually died on the 7th of September. When Mrs Bargrave begins sending for Mrs Veal's cousin Watson the following day, everyone is confused; the family retorts that Mrs Veal has died and think Mrs Bargrave has mistaken the person who visited her. Mrs Bargrave tells the whole story to the family of Captain Watson, including the details of the dress she was wearing, which makes Mrs Watson cry out that it must be true, for she helped make the gown.

This generates a flood of visitors to Mrs Bargrave's house, asking to hear her story and thinking to disprove it, but all the details she gave, including some that were secret, seem to be true. Mrs Bargrave even tries to convince Mr Veal of what she has seen, by explaining about the contents of the purse and the cabinet. Mr Veal seeks to stifle the story, but many who heard the tale, including the storyteller himself, have been "affected" by it and believe it to be true.

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