The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams


Published in 1865, Frank Seafield’s The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams is a major 19th century contribution to dream theory. Drawing on anecdotal evidence, or ‘case studies’, classical sources and some contemporary scientific research, Seafield presents a history of dreams that attempts to explain their causes, effects and meanings. 

Here, Seafield discusses the causes behind dreams. Admitting that there exists ‘a limitless variety of circumstances’ (p. 56) which can trigger a dream, he goes on to state that they are, however, ‘not altogether the children of accident and inconsequence’. In fact, Seafield argues, dreams are a direct product of either a bodily and/or mental cause. These are defined as former or present ‘bodily sensations’, such as sleeping on a hard surface, or ‘previous waking thoughts, dispositions, and prevalent states of mind’ (p. 57). Dreams, then, are very firmly rooted in real experiences. 

What is this book’s connection to Lewis Carroll? 

Lewis Carroll owned a copy of The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams, whose year of publication coincided with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Evidently, Carroll’s interest in dream was fed and developed through his personal reading. Aspects of Seafield’s work make for interesting comparison with Alice; his discussion of how ‘bodily sensations’ can shape dreams, for instance, provides a way to think about Alice’s experience of bodily changes in Wonderland.

Full title:
The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams: A commonplace book of speculations concerning the mystery of Dreams and Visions
1865, London
Frank Seafield
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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