A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal

by Daniel Defoe

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368

The framing of this story is interesting -- the writer of the pamphlet himself is at pains to distance himself from the actual characters within the story. The story within the outer frame of the pamphlet was ostensibly written by a justice of the peace from Dover, living in Maidstone, who sent the story to a friend in London. This justice of the peace is a kinsman of the story's protagonist, Mrs Bargrave.

Mrs Bargrave is the person to whom Mrs Veal, the "apparition," appears in the story. Mrs Bargrave is presumably of similar age to Mrs Veal -- that is, in her early thirties -- because the two are described as having been childhood friends. The narrator is at pains to stress the unimpeachable nature of Mrs Bargrave's character; she is still cheerful and positive despite mistreatment by a "barbaric" husband. Over the course of the story, Mrs Bargrave's intimate friendship with Mrs Veal is revisited as the two talk about their Christian sentiments and their love for each other; as children, both felt unwanted and unloved, and they would often read Drelincourt together to comfort each other.

Mrs Veal is the apparition in this story. She was brought up in "mean" circumstances with an unkind father and was living with her brother at the time of her death, which, we discover, was a day before she appeared to Mrs Bargrave. About two and a half years before her death, Mrs Veal moved with her brother to Dover, and so the pair of women fell out of habitually seeing each other, but evidently Mrs Veal believes Mrs Bargrave to be her closest friend still. She appears to Mrs Bargrave to console her, tell her she will be rewarded in heaven, and ask her to be the arbiter of Mrs Veal's precious possessions.

At the end of the story, Mrs Veal leaves in haste. She has asked Mrs Bargrave to get in touch with her cousin Watson; when she does so, Mrs Bargrave finds out that her friend is in fact dead. The Watsons also appear in the story, with Mrs Watson being shocked to hear Mrs Bargrave's description of Mrs Veal's dress, which Mrs Watson helped make.

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