Donne, John - A Premonition of his wife's stillborn child
Type of Spiritual Experience
John’s wife Anne bore John twelve children in sixteen years of marriage including two stillbirths—their eighth and then, in 1617, their last child. She died on 15 August 1617, five days after giving birth to their twelfth child, a still-born baby.
Izaak Walton wrote that John saw his wife's doppelgänger in 1612 in Paris. The hallucination was a sort of premonition and it may have been a premonition of her eventual death, it may have simply marked the fact that a baby was eventually still-born and was buried on 24 January 1613. This account first appears in the edition of Life of Dr. John Donne published in 1675, and is attributed to "a Person of Honour... told with such circumstances, and such asseveration, that... I verily believe he that told it me, did himself believe it to be true. ". At the time Donne was indeed extremely worried about his pregnant wife, and was going through severe illness himself.
A description of the experience
Two days after their arrival there, Mr. Donne was left alone, in that room in which Sir Robert, and he, and some other friends had dined together. To this place Sir Robert returned within half an hour; and, as he left, so he found Mr. Donne alone; but, in such ecstasy, and so altered as to his looks, as amazed Sir Robert to behold him in so much that he earnestly desired Mr. Donne to declare befallen him in the short time of his absence? to which, Mr. Donne was not able to make a present answer: but, after a long and perplext pause, did at last say, I have seen a dreadful Vision since I saw you: I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms: this, I have seen since I saw you.
To which, Sir Robert replied; Sure Sir, you have slept since I saw you; and, this is the result of some melancholy dream, which I desire you to forget, for you are now awake. To which Mr. Donnes reply was: I cannot be surer that I now live, then that I have not slept since I saw you: and am, as sure, that at her second appearing, she stopped, looked me in the face, and vanished.