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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Richard Haydock: The Sleeping Preacher

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Richard Haydock: The Sleeping Preacher

In 1605, a medical doctor named Richard Haydock attracted the attention of James I because of his ability to deliver brilliant sermons while in a deep sleep. Haydock had a passion for preaching, but ended up studying medicine instead because of a debilitating stutter. After inviting Haydock to court to hear the sleeping sermons himself, James I exposed Haydock as a fraud. However, because his sermons had been so pro-monarchy, his only punishment was publicly confessing his deceit. The prefatory material to Haydock’s treatise on dreams, Oneirologia, served as his confession.

Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo. Trattato dell'arte de la pittura, scultura, et architettura. Book 1-5. English. Oxford, 1598

To express his gratitude to the king for his leniency and to acknowledge his earlier deception, Haydock composed a treatise on dreams, and he dedicated his manuscript to King James. No doubt he hoped that James would be pleased to be referred to as a son of King Solomon, known for his wisdom, and that he would be interested in a text on dreams. Chapter four of Haydock’s work concentrates on what happens in the mind when the body is asleep. He assures his readers that when drowsy vapors take over common sense, fantasy must be freed or there will be no dreams. The manuscript was never published, and the copy at the Folger is the only copy known to exist.


The story of King James unmasking Haydock’s fraud was a popular one that appeared in many seventeenth-century histories, including Sir Richard Baker’s

A Chronicle of the Kings of England. It was not only an interesting story in itself, but it also allowed historians to praise the king for his “admirable sagacity in discovering of Fictions.”


On the frontispiece shown above, Richard Haydock (an artist as well as a preacher) has engraved a portrait of himself.


Richard Haydock. Collection of dramatic and poetical works. Manuscript, 1567-ca. 1620

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