To let a mirror fall and be broken is even now regarded as unfortunate, though not so ill-starred an accident as among the people of earlier days, who believed that the party to whom the mirror belonged would lose his best friend.
In the Mémoires de Constant, premier Valet de Chambre de I'Empereur sur la Vie privée de Napoleon, (Paris, 1830), Buonaparte's superstition respecting the looking-glass is particularly mentioned:--"During one of his campaigns in Italy he broke the glass over Josephine's portrait. He never rested till the return of the courier he forthwith despatched to assure himself of her safety, so strong was the impression of her death upon his mind."
The origin of this superstition is very simple. Looking-glasses are and always have been implements of divination; to break one is therefore accounted most disastrous, because it is the destruction of a means of knowing the will of the gods. In his Greek Antiquities, Potter says:--"When divination by water was performed with a looking-glass, it was called Catoptromancy: sometimes they dipped a looking-glass into the water, when they desired to know what would become of a sick person: for as he looked well or ill in the glass, accordingly they presumed of his future condition. Sometimes, also, glasses were used, and the images of what should happen, without water." We need not go to Greek antiquity for divination by looking-glasses: a taxi-cab to several streets in the West End of London would bring us to the rooms of seers and seeresses, who will tell fortunes by Indian mirrors and the common or garden crystal gazing.