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Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions by Charles Mackay

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astrologer, who had his bread to get, and who was at the same time a
courtier. A medal was afterwards struck in commemoration of the event;
upon one side of which was figured the nativity of the Prince,
representing him as driving the chariot of Apollo, with the
inscription "Ortus solis Gallici," -- the rising of the Gallic sun.

The best excuse ever made for astrology was that offered by the
great astronomer, Keppler, himself an unwilling practiser of the art.
He had many applications from his friends to cast nativities for them,
and generally gave a positive refusal to such as he was not afraid of
offending by his frankness. In other cases he accommodated himself to
the prevailing delusion. In sending a copy of his "Ephemerides" to
Professor Gerlach, he wrote that they were nothing but worthless
conjectures; but he was obliged to devote himself to them, or he would
have starved. "Ye overwise philosophers," he exclaimed, in his
"Tertius Interveniens;" "ye censure this daughter of astronomy beyond
her deserts! Know ye not that she must support her mother by her
charms? The scanty reward of an astronomer would not provide him with
bread, if men did not entertain hopes of reading the future in the

NECROMANCY was, next to astrology, the pretended science most
resorted to, by those who wished to pry into the future. The earliest
instance upon record is that of the Witch of Endor and the spirit of
Samuel. Nearly all the nations of antiquity believed in the
possibility of summoning departed ghosts to disclose the awful secrets
that God made clear to the disembodied. Many passages in allusion to
this subject, will at once suggest themselves to the classical reader;
but this art was never carried on openly in any country. All
governments looked upon it as a crime of the deepest dye. While
astrology was encouraged, and its professors courted and rewarded,
necromancers were universally condemned to the stake or the gallows.
Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Arnold of Villeneuve, and many others,
were accused, by the public opinion of many centuries, of meddling in
these unhallowed matters. So deep-rooted has always been the popular
delusion with respect to accusations of this kind, that no crime was
ever disproved with such toil and difficulty. That it met great
encouragement, nevertheless, is evident from the vast numbers of
pretenders to it; who, in spite of the danger, have existed in all
ages and countries.

GEOMANCY, or the art of foretelling the future by means of lines
and circles, and other mathematical figures drawn on the earth, is
still extensively practised in Asiatic countries, but is almost
unknown in Europe.

AUGURY, from the flight or entrails of birds, so favourite a study
among the Romans, is, in like manner, exploded in Europe. Its most
assiduous professors, at the present day, are the abominable Thugs of

DIVINATION, of which there are many kinds, boasts a more enduring
reputation. It has held an empire over the minds of men from the
earliest periods of recorded history, and is, in all probability,
coeval with time itself. It was practised alike by the Jews, the
Egyptians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans; is
equally known to all modern nations, in every part of the world; and
is not unfamiliar to the untutored tribes that roam in the wilds of
Africa and America. Divination, as practised in civilized Europe at
the present day, is chiefly from cards, the tea-cup, and the lines on
the palm of the hand. Gipsies alone make a profession of it; but there
are thousands and tens of thousands of humble families in which the
good-wife, and even the good-man, resort to the grounds at the bottom
of their teacups, to know whether the next harvest will be abundant,
or their sow bring forth a numerous litter; and in which the young
maidens look to the same place to know when they are to be married,
and whether the man of their choice is to be dark or fair, rich or
poor, kind or cruel. Divination by cards, so great a favourite among
the moderns, is, of course, a modern science; as cards do not yet
boast an antiquity of much more than four hundred years. Divination by
the palm, so confidently believed in by half the village lasses in
Europe, is of older date, and seems to have been known to the
Egyptians in the time of the patriarchs; as well as divination by the
cup, which, as we are informed in Genesis, was practised by Joseph.
Divination by the rod was also practised by the Egyptians. In
comparatively recent times, it was pretended that by this means hidden
treasures could be discovered. It now appears to be altogether
exploded in Europe. Onomancy, or the foretelling a man's fate by the
letters of his name, and the various transpositions of which they are
capable, is a more modern sort of divination; but it reckons
comparatively few believers.

The following list of the various species of Divination formerly
in use, is given by Gaule, in his "Magastromancer," and quoted in
Hone's "Year Book," p. 1517.

Stareomancy, or divining by the elements.
Aeromancy, or divining by the air.
Pyromancy, by fire.
Hydromancy, by water.
Geomancy, by earth.
Theomancy, pretending to divine by the revelation of
the Spirit, and by the Scriptures, or word of God.
Demonomancy, by the aid of devils and evil spirits.
Idolomancy, by idols, images, and figures.
Psychomancy, by the soul, affections, or dispositions
of men.
Antinopomancy, by the entrails of human beings.
Theriomancy, by beasts.
Ornithomancy, by birds.
Icthyomancy, by fishes.
Botanomancy, by herbs.
Lithomancy, by stones.
Kleromancy, by lots.
Oneiromancy, by dreams.
Onomancy, by names.
Arithmancy, by numbers.
Logarithmancy, by logarithms.
Sternomancy, by the marks from the breast to the belly.
Gastromancy, by the sound of, or marks upon, the belly.
Omphelomancy, by the navel.
Chiromancy, by the hands.
Paedomancy, by thee feet.
Onchyomancy, by the nails.
Cephaleonomancy, by asses' heads.
Tuphramancy, by ashes.
Kapnomancy, by smoke.
Livanomancy, by the burning of incense.
Keromancy, by the melting of wax.
Lecanomancy, by basins of water.
Katoxtromancy, by looking-glasses.
Chartomancy, by writing in papers, and by Valentines.
Macharomancy, by knives and swords.
Crystallomancy, by crystals.
Dactylomancy, by rings.
Koseinomancy, by sieves.
Axinomancy, by saws.
Kaltabomancy, by vessels of brass, or other metal.
Spatalamancy, by skins, bones, &c.
Roadomancy, by stars.
Sciomancy, by shadows.
Astragalomancy, by dice.
Oinomancy, by the lees of wine.
Sycomancy, by figs.
Tyromancy, by cheese.
Alphitomancy, by meal, flour, or bran.
Krithomancy, by corn or grain.
Alectromancy, by cocks.
Gyromancy, by circles.
Lampadomancy, by candles and lamps.

ONEIRO-CRITICISM, or the art of interpreting dreams, is a relic of
the most remote ages, which has subsisted through all the changes that
moral or physical revolutions have operated in the world. The records
of five thousand years bear abundant testimony to the universal
diffusion of the belief, that the skilful could read the future in
dreams. The rules of the art, if any existed in ancient times, are not
known; but in our day, one simple rule opens the whole secret. Dreams,
say all the wiseacres in Christendom, are to be interpreted by
contraries. Thus, if you dream of filth, you will acquire something
valuable; if you dream of the dead, you will hear news of the living;
if you dream of gold and silver, you run a risk of being without
either; and if you dream you have many friends, you will be persecuted
by many enemies. The rule, however, does not hold good in all cases.
It is fortunate to dream of little pigs, but unfortunate to dream of
big bullocks. If you dream you have lost a tooth, you may be sure
that you will shortly lose a friend; and if you dream that your house
is on fire, you will receive news from a far country. If you dream of
vermin, it is a sign that there will be sickness in your family; and
if you dream of serpents, you will have friends who, in the course of
time, will prove your bitterest enemies; but, of all dreams, it is
most fortunate if you dream that you are wallowing up to your neck in
mud and mire. Clear water is a sign of grief; and great troubles,
distress, and perplexity are predicted, if you dream that you stand
naked in the public streets, and know not where to find a garment to
shield you from the gaze of the multitude.

In many parts of Great Britain, and the continents of Europe and
America, there are to be found elderly women in the villages and
country-places whose interpretations of dreams are looked upon with as
much reverence as if they were oracles. In districts remote from towns
it is not uncommon to find the members of a family regularly every
morning narrating their dreams at the breakfast-table, and becoming
happy or miserable for the day according to their interpretation.
There is not a flower that blossoms, or fruit that ripens, that,
dreamed of, is not ominous of either good or evil to such people.
Every tree of the field or the forest is endowed with a similar
influence over the fate of mortals, if seen in the night-visions. To
dream of the ash, is the sign of a long journey; and of an oak,
prognosticates long life and prosperity. To dream you strip the bark
off any tree, is a sign to a maiden of an approaching loss of a
character; to a married woman, of a family bereavement; and to a man,
of an accession of fortune. To dream of a leafless tree, is a sign of
great sorrow; and of a branchless trunk, a sign of despair and
suicide. The elder-tree is more auspicious to the sleeper; while the
fir-tree, better still, betokens all manner of comfort and prosperity.
The lime-tree predicts a voyage across the ocean; while the yew and
the alder are ominous of sickness to the young and of death to the

It is quite astonishing to see the great demand there is, both in
England and France, for dream-books, and other trash of the same kind.
Two books in England enjoy an extraordinary popularity, and have run
through upwards of fifty editions in as many years in London alone,
besides being reprinted in Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin.
One is "Mother Bridget's Dream-book and Oracle of Fate;" the other is
the "Norwood Gipsy." It is stated on the authority of one who, is
curious in these matters, that there is a demand for these works,
which are sold at sums varying from a penny to sixpence, chiefly to
servant-girls and imperfectly-educated people, all over the country,
of upwards of eleven thousand annually; and that at no period during
the last thirty years has the average number sold been less than this.
The total number during this period would thus amount to 330,000.

Among the flowers and fruits charged with messages for the future,
the following is a list of the most important, arranged from approved
sources, in alphabetical order:-

Asparagus, gathered and tied up in bundles, is an omen of tears. If
you see it growing in your dreams, it is a sign of good fortune.

Aloes, without a flower, betoken long life: in flower, betoken a

Artichokes. This vegetable is a sign that you will receive, in a short
time, a favour from the hands of those from whom you would least
expect it.

Agrimony. This herb denotes that there will be sickness in your house.

Anemone, predicts love.

Auriculas, in beds, denote luck; in pots, marriage: while to gather
them, foretells widowhood.

Bilberries, predict a pleasant excursion.

Broom-flowers, an increase of family.

Cauliflowers, predict that all your friends will slight you, or that
you will fall into poverty and find no one to pity you.

Dock-leaves, a present from the country.

Daffodils. Any maiden who dreams of daffodils is warned by her good
angel to avoid going into a wood with her lover, or into any dark or
retired place where she might not be able to make people hear her if
she cried out. Alas! for her if she pay no attention to the warning!
She shall be rifled of the precious flower of chastity, and shall
never again have right to wear the garland of virginity.

"Never again shall she put garland on;
Instead of it, she'll wear sad cypress now,
And bitter elder broken from the bough."

Figs, if green, betoken embarrassment; if dried, money to the poor and
mirth to the rich.

Heart's-ease, betokens heart's pain.

Lilies, predict joy; water-lilies, danger from the sea.

Lemons, betoken a separation.

Pomegranates, predict happy wedlock to those who are single, and
reconciliation to those who are married and have disagreed.

Quinces, prognosticate pleasant company.

Roses, denote happy love, not unmixed with sorrow from other sources.

Sorrel, To dream of this herb is a sign that you will shortly have
occasion to exert all your prudence to overcome some great calamity.

Sunflowers, show that your pride will be deeply wounded.

Violets, predict evil to the single and joy to the married.

Yellow-flowers of any kind predict jealousy.

Yew-berries, predict loss of character to both sexes.

It should be observed that the rules for the interpretation of
dreams are far from being universal. The cheeks of the peasant girl of
England glow with pleasure in the morning after she has dreamed of a
rose, while the paysanne of Normandy dreads disappointment and
vexation for the very same reason. The Switzer who dreams of an
oaktree does not share in the Englishman's joy; for he imagines that
the vision was a warning to him that, from some trifling cause, an
overwhelming calamity will burst over him. Thus do the ignorant and
the credulous torment themselves; thus do they spread their nets to
catch vexation, and pass their lives between hopes which are of no
value and fears which are a positive evil.

OMENS. -- Among the other means of self-annoyance upon which men
have stumbled, in their vain hope of discovering the future, signs and
omens hold a conspicuous place. There is scarcely an occurrence in
nature which, happening at a certain time, is not looked upon by some
persons as a prognosticator either of good or evil. The latter are in
the greatest number, so much more ingenious are we in tormenting
ourselves than in discovering reasons for enjoyment in the things that
surround us. We go out of our course to make ourselves uncomfortable;
the cup of life is not bitter enough to our palate, and we distil
superfluous poison to put into it, or conjure up hideous things to
frighten ourselves at, which would never exist if we did not make
them. "We suffer," says Addison, ["Spectator," No. 7, March 8th,
1710-11.] "as much from trifling accidents as from real evils. I have
known the shooting of a star spoil a night's rest, and have seen a man
in love grow pale and lose his appetite upon the plucking of a
merrythought. A screech-owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than
a band of robbers; nay, the voice of a cricket has struck more terror
than the roaring of a lion. There is nothing so inconsiderable which
may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens
and prognostics. A rusty nail or a crooked pin shoot up into

The century and a quarter that has passed away since Addison wrote
has seen the fall of many errors. Many fallacies and delusions have
been crushed under the foot of time since then; but this has been left
unscathed, to frighten the weakminded and embitter their existence. A
belief in omens is not confined to the humble and uninformed. A
general, who led an army with credit, has been known to feel alarmed
at a winding-sheet in the candle; and learned men, who had honourably
and fairly earned the highest honours of literature, have been seen to
gather their little ones around them, and fear that one would be
snatched away, because,

"When stole upon the time the dead of night,
And heavy sleep had closed up mortal eyes,"

a dog in the street was howling at the moon. Persons who would
acknowledge freely that the belief in omens was unworthy of a man of
sense, have yet confessed at the same time that, in spite of their
reason, they have been unable to conquer their fears of death when
they heard the harmless insect called the death-watch ticking in the
wall, or saw an oblong hollow coal fly out of the fire.

Many other evil omens besides those mentioned above alarm the
vulgar and the weak. If a sudden shivering comes over such people,
they believe that, at that instant, an enemy is treading over the spot
that will one day be their grave. If they meet a sow when they first
walk abroad in the morning, it is an omen of evil for that day. To
meet an ass, is in like manner unlucky. It is also very unfortunate to
walk under a ladder; to forget to eat goose on the festival of St.
Michael; to tread upon a beetle, or to eat the twin nuts that are
sometimes found in one shell. Woe, in like manner, is predicted to
that wight who inadvertently upsets the salt; each grain that is
overthrown will bring to him a day of sorrow. If thirteen persons sit
at table, one of them will die within the year; and all of them will
be unhappy. Of all evil omens, this is the worst. The facetious Dr.
Kitchener used to observe that there was one case in which he believed
that it was really unlucky for thirteen persons to sit down to dinner,
and that was when there was only dinner enough for twelve.
Unfortunately for their peace of mind, the great majority of people do
not take this wise view of the matter. In almost every country of
Europe the same superstition prevails, and some carry it so far as to
look upon the number thirteen as in every way ominous of evil; and if
they find thirteen coins in their purse, cast away the odd one like a
polluted thing. The philosophic Beranger, in his exquisite song,
"Thirteen at Table," has taken a poetical view of this humiliating
superstition, and mingled, as is his wont, a lesson of genuine wisdom
in his lay. Being at dinner, he overthrows the salt, and, looking
round the room, discovers that he is the thirteenth guest. While he
is mourning his unhappy fate, and conjuring up visions of disease and
suffering, and the grave, he is suddenly startled by the apparition of
Death herself, not in the shape of a grim foe, with skeleton ribs and
menacing dart, but of an angel of light, who shows the folly of
tormenting ourselves with the dread of her approach, when she is the
friend, rather than the enemy, of man, and frees us from the fetters
which bind us to the dust.

If men could bring themselves to look upon Death in this manner,
living well and wisely till her inevitable approach, how vast a store
of grief and vexation would they spare themselves!

Among good omens, one of the most conspicuous is to meet a piebald
horse. To meet two of these animals is still more fortunate; and if on
such an occasion you spit thrice, and form any reasonable wish, it
will be gratified within three days. It is also a sign of good fortune
if you inadvertently put on your stocking wrong side out. If you
wilfully wear your stocking in this fashion, no good will come of it.
It is very lucky to sneeze twice; but if you sneeze a third time, the
omen loses its power, and your good fortune will be nipped in the bud.
If a strange dog follow you, and fawn on you, and wish to attach
itself to you, it is a sign of very great prosperity. Just as
fortunate is it if a strange male cat comes to your house and
manifests friendly intentions towards your family. If a she eat, it is
an omen, on the contrary, of very great misfortune. If a swarm of bees
alight in your garden, some very high honour and great joys await you.

Besides these glimpses of the future, you may know something of
your fate by a diligent attention to every itching that you may feel
in your body. Thus, if the eye or the nose itches, it is a sign you
will be shortly vexed; if the foot itches you will tread upon strange
ground; and if the elbow itches, you will change your bedfellow.
Itching of the right-hand prognosticates that you will soon have a sum
of money; and of the left, that you will be called upon to disburse

These are but a few of the omens which are generally credited in
modern Europe. A complete list of them would fatigue from its length,
and sicken from its absurdity. It would be still more unprofitable to
attempt to specify the various delusions of the same kind which are
believed among Oriental nations. Every reader will remember the
comprehensive formula of cursing preserved in "Tristram Shandy:" --
curse a man after any fashion you remember or can invent, you will be
sure to find it there. The Oriental creed of omens is not less
comprehensive. Every movement of the body, every emotion of the mind,
is at certain times an omen. Every form and object in nature, even the
shape of the clouds and the changes of the weather; every colour,
every sound, whether of men or animals, or birds or insects, or
inanimate things, is an omen. Nothing is too trifling or
inconsiderable to inspire a hope which is not worth cherishing, or a
fear which is sufficient to embitter existence.

From the belief in omens springs the superstition that has, from
very early ages, set apart certain days, as more favourable than
others, for prying into the secrets of futurity. The following, copied
verbatim from the popular "Dream and Omen Book" of Mother Bridget,
will show the belief of the people of England at the present day.
Those who are curious as to the ancient history of these observances,
will find abundant aliment in the "Every-day Book."

"The 1st of January. -- If a young maiden drink, on going to bed, a
pint of cold spring-water, in which is beat up an amulet, composed of
the yolk of a pullet's egg, the legs of a spider, and the skin of an
eel pounded, her future destiny will be revealed to her in a dream.
This charm fails of its effect if tried any other day of the year.

"Valentine Day. -- Let a single woman go out of her own door very
early in the morning, and if the first person she meets be a woman,
she will not be married that year: if she meet a man, she will be
married within three months.

"Lady Day. -- The following charm may be tried this day with certain
success: -- String thirty-one nuts on a string, composed of red
worsted mixed with blue silk, and tie it round your neck on going to
bed, repeating these lines --

'Oh, I wish ! oh, I wish to see
Who my true love is to be !'

Shortly after midnight, you will see your lover in a dream, and be
informed at the same time of all the principal events of your future

"St. Swithin's Eve. -- Select three things you most wish to know;
write them down with a new pen and red ink on a sheet of fine-wove
paper, from which you must previously cut off all the corners and burn
them. Fold the paper into a true-lover's knot, and wrap round it three
hairs from your head. Place the paper under your pillow for three
successive nights, and your curiosity to know the future will be

"St. Mark's Eve. -- Repair to the nearest churchyard as the clock
strikes twelve, and take from a grave on the south-side of the church
three tufts of grass (the longer and ranker the better), and on going
to bed place them under your pillow, repeating earnestly three several

'The Eve of St. Mark by prediction is blest,
Set therefore my hopes and my fears all to rest:
Let me know my fate, whether weal or woe;
Whether my rank's to be high or low;
Whether to live single, or be a bride,
And the destiny my star doth provide.'

Should you have no dream that night, you will be single and miserable
all your life. If you dream of thunder and lightning, your life will
be one of great difficulty and sorrow.

"Candlemas Eve. -- On this night (which is the purification of the
Virgin Mary), let three, five, seven, or nine, young maidens assemble
together in a square chamber. Hang in each corner a bundle of sweet
herbs, mixed with rue and rosemary. Then mix a cake of flour,
olive-oil, and white sugar; every maiden having an equal share in the
making and the expense of it. Afterwards, it must be cut into equal
pieces, each one marking the piece as she cuts it with the initials of
her name. It is then to be baked one hour before the fire, not a word
being spoken the whole time, and the maidens sitting with their arms
and knees across. Each piece of cake is then to be wrapped up in a
sheet of paper, on which each maiden shall write the love part of
Solomon's Songs. If she put this under her pillow, she will dream
true. She will see her future husband and every one of her children,
and will know, besides, whether her family will be poor or prosperous
-- a comfort to her, or the contrary.

"Midsummer. -- Take three roses, smoke them with sulphur, and exactly
at three in the day, bury one of the roses under a yew tree; the
second in a newly-made grave, and put the third under your pillow for
three nights, and at the end of that period burn it in a fire of
charcoal. Your dreams during that time will be prophetic of your
future destiny, and, what is still more curious and valuable (Mother
Bridget loquitur), the man whom you are to wed, will know no peace
till he comes and visits you. Besides this, you will perpetually haunt
his dreams.

"St. John's Eve. -- Make a new pincushion of the very best black
velvet (no inferior quality will answer the purpose), and on one side
stick your name in full length with the very smallest pins that can be
bought (none other will do). On the other side, make a cross with some
very large pins, and surround it with a circle. Put this into your
stocking when you take it off at night, and hang it up at the foot of
the bed. All your future life will pass before you in a dream.

"First New Moon of the Year. -- On the first new moon in the year,
take a pint of clear springwater and infuse into it the white of an
egg laid by a white hen, a glass of white wine, three almonds peeled
white, and a tablespoonful of white rose-water. Drink this on going to
bed, not making more nor less than three draughts of it; repeating the
following verses three several times in a clear distinct voice, but
not so loud as to be overheard by anybody:--

' If I dream of water pure
Before the coming morn,
'Tis a sign I shall be poor,
And unto wealth not born.
If I dream of tasting beer,
Middling then will be my cheer-
Chequer'd with the good and bad,
Sometimes joyful, sometimes sad;
But should I dream of drinking wine,
Wealth and pleasure will be mine.
The stronger the drink, the better the cheer-
Dreams of my destiny, appear, appear!'

"Twenty-ninth of February. -- This day, as it only occurs once in four
years, is peculiarly auspicious to those who desire to have a glance
at futurity, especially to young maidens burning with anxiety to know
the appearance and complexion of their future lords. The charm to be
adopted is the following: Stick twenty-seven of the smallest pins that
are made, three by three, into a tallow candle. Light it up at the
wrong end, and then place it in a candlestick made out of clay, which
must be drawn from a virgin's grave. Place this on the chimney-place,
in the left-hand corner, exactly as the clock strikes twelve, and go
to bed immediately. When the candle is burnt out, take the pins and
put them into your left-shoe; and before nine nights have elapsed your
fate will be revealed to you."

We have now taken a hasty review of the various modes of seeking
to discover the future, especially as practised in modern times. The
main features of the folly appear essentially the same in all
countries. National character and peculiarities operate some
difference of interpretation. The mountaineer makes the natural
phenomena which he most frequently witnesses prognosticative of the
future. The dweller in the plains, in a similar manner, seeks to know
his fate among the signs of the things that surround him, and tints
his superstition with the hues of his own clime. The same spirit
animates them all -- the same desire to know that which Infinite Mercy
has concealed. There is but little probability that the curiosity of
mankind in this respect will ever be wholly eradicated. Death and
ill-fortune are continual bugbears to the weak-minded, the
irreligious, and the ignorant; and while such exist in the world,
divines will preach upon its impiety and philosophers discourse upon
its absurdity in vain. Still, it is evident that these follies have
greatly diminished. Soothsayers and prophets have lost the credit they
formerly enjoyed, and skulk in secret now where they once showed their
faces in the blaze of day. So far there is manifest improvement.



Some deemed them wondrous wise, and some believed them mad.
Beattie's Minstrel.

The wonderful influence of imagination in the cure of diseases is
well known. A motion of the hand, or a glance of the eye, will throw a
weak and credulous patient into a fit; and a pill made of bread, if
taken with sufficient faith, will operate a cure better than all the
drugs in the pharmacopoeia. The Prince of Orange, at the siege of
Breda, in 1625, cured all his soldiers who were dying of the scurvy,
by a philanthropic piece of quackery, which he played upon them with
the knowledge of the physicians, when all other means had failed. [See
Van der Mye's account of the siege of Breda. The garrison, being
afflicted with scurvy, the Prince of Orange sent the physicians two or
three small phials, containing a decoction of camomile, wormwood, and
camphor, telling them to pretend that it was a medicine of the
greatest value and extremest rarity, which had been procured with very
much danger and difficulty from the East; and so strong, that two or
three drops would impart a healing virtue to a gallon of water. The
soldiers had faith in their commander; they took the medicine with
cheerful faces, and grew well rapidly. They afterwards thronged about
the Prince in groups of twenty and thirty at a time, praising his
skill, and loading him with protestations of gratitude.] Many hundreds
of instances, of a similar kind, might be related, especially from the
history of witchcraft. The mummeries, strange gesticulations, and
barbarous jargon of witches and sorcerers, which frightened credulous
and nervous women, brought on all those symptoms of hysteria and other
similar diseases, so well understood now, but which were then supposed
to be the work of the devil, not only by the victims and the public in
general, but by the operators themselves.

In the age when alchymy began to fall into some disrepute, and
learning to lift up its voice against it, a new delusion, based upon
this power of imagination, suddenly arose, and found apostles among
all the alchymists. Numbers of them, forsaking their old pursuits,
made themselves magnetisers. It appeared first in the shape of
mineral, and afterwards of animal, magnetism, under which latter name
it survives to this day, and numbers its dupes by thousands.

The mineral magnetisers claim the first notice, as the worthy
predecessors of the quacks of the present day. The honour claimed for
Paracelsus of being the first of the Rosicrucians has been disputed;
but his claim to be considered the first of the magnetisers can
scarcely be challenged. It has been already mentioned of him, in the
part of this work which treats of alchymy, that, like nearly all the
distinguished adepts, he was a physician; and pretended, not only to
make gold and confer immortality, but to cure all diseases. He was the
first who, with the latter view, attributed occult and miraculous
powers to the magnet. Animated apparently by a sincere conviction that
the magnet was the philosopher's stone, which, if it could not
transmute metals, could soothe all human suffering and arrest the
progress of decay, he travelled for many years in Persia and Arabia,
in search of the mountain of adamant, so famed in oriental fables.
When he practised as a physician at Basle, he called one of his
nostrums by the name of azoth -- a stone or crystal, which, he said,
contained magnetic properties, and cured epilepsy, hysteria, and
spasmodic affections. He soon found imitators. His fame spread far and
near; and thus were sown the first seeds of that error which has since
taken root and flourished so widely. In spite of the denial of modern
practitioners, this must be considered the origin of magnetism; for we
find that, beginning with Paracelsus, there was a regular succession
of mineral magnetisers until Mesmer appeared, and gave a new feature
to the delusion.

Paracelsus boasted of being able to transplant diseases from the
human frame into the earth, by means of the magnet. He said there were
six ways by which this might be effected. One of them will be quite
sufficient, as a specimen. "If a person suffer from disease, either
local or general, let the following remedy be tried. Take a magnet,
impregnated with mummy [Mummies were of several kinds, and were all of
great use in magnetic medicines. Paracelsus enumerates six kinds of
mummies; the first four only differing in the composition used by
different people for preserving their dead, are the Egyptian, Arabian,
Pisasphaltos, and Lybian. The fifth mummy of peculiar power was made
from criminals that had been hanged; "for from such there is a gentle
siccation, that expungeth the watery humour, without destroying the
oil and spirituall, which is cherished by the heavenly luminaries, and
strengthened continually by the affluence and impulses of the
celestial spirits; whence it may be properly called by the name of
constellated or celestial mummie." The sixth kind of mummy was made of
corpuscles, or spiritual effluences, radiated from the living body;
though we cannot get very clear ideas on this head, or respecting the
manner in which they were caught. -- "Medicina Diatastica; or,
Sympathetical Mummie, abstracted from the Works of Paracelsus, and
translated out of the Latin, by Fernando Parkhurst, Gent." London,
1653. pp. 2.7. Quoted by the "Foreign Quarterly Review," vol. xii. p.
415.] and mixed with rich earth. In this earth sow some seeds that
have a congruity or homogeneity with the disease: then let this earth,
well sifted and mixed with mummy, be laid in an earthen vessel; and
let the seeds committed to it be watered daily with a lotion in which
the diseased limb or body has been washed. Thus will the disease be
transplanted from the human body to the seeds which are in the earth.
Having done this, transplant the seeds from the earthen vessel to the
ground, and wait till they begin to sprout into herbs: as they
increase, the disease will diminish; and when they have arrived at
their full growth, it will disappear altogether."

Kircher the Jesuit, whose quarrel with the alchymists was the
means of exposing many of their impostures, was a firm believer in the
efficacy of the magnet. Having been applied to by a patient afflicted
with hernia, he directed the man to swallow a small magnet reduced to
powder, while he applied, at the same time, to the external swelling a
poultice, made of filings of iron. He expected that by this means the
magnet, when it got to the corresponding place inside, would draw in
the iron, and with it the tumour; which would thus, he said, be safely
and expeditiously reduced.

As this new doctrine of magnetism spread, it was found that wounds
inflicted with any metallic substance could be cured by the magnet. In
process of time the delusion so increased, that it was deemed
sufficient to magnetise a sword, to cure any hurt which that sword
might have inflicted! This was the origin of the celebrated
"weapon-salve," which excited so much attention about the middle of
the seventeenth century. The following was the recipe given by
Paracelsus for the cure of any wounds inflicted by a sharp weapon,
except such as had penetrated the heart, the brain, or the arteries.
"Take of moss growing on the head of a thief who has been hanged and
left in the air; of real mummy; of human blood, still warm -- of each,
one ounce; of human suet, two ounces; of linseed oil, turpentine, and
Armenian bole -- of each, two drachms. Mix all well in a mortar, and
keep the salve in an oblong, narrow urn." With this salve the weapon,
after being dipped in the blood from the wound, was to be carefully
anointed, and then laid by in a cool place. In the mean time, the
wound was to be duly washed with fair clean water, covered with a
clean, soft, linen rag, and opened once a day to cleanse off purulent
or other matter. Of the success of this treatment, says the writer of
the able article on Animal Magnetism, in the twelfth volume of the
"Foreign Quarterly Review," there cannot be the least doubt; "for
surgeons at this moment follow exactly the same method, except
anointing the weapon!

The weapon salve continued to be much spoken of on the Continent,
and many eager claimants appeared for the honour of the invention. Dr.
Fludd, or A Fluctibus, the Rosicrucian, who has been already mentioned
in a previous part of this volume, was very zealous in introducing it
into England. He tried it with great success in several cases; and no
wonder; for, while he kept up the spirits of his patients by boasting
of the great efficacy of the salve, he never neglected those common,
but much more important remedies, of washing, bandaging, &c. which the
experience of all ages had declared sufficient for the purpose. Fludd,
moreover, declared, that the magnet was a remedy for all diseases, if
properly applied; but that man having, like the earth, a north and a
south pole, magnetism could only take place when his body was in a
boreal position! In the midst of his popularity, an attack was made
upon him and his favourite remedy, the salve; which, however, did
little or nothing to diminish the belief in its efficacy. One "Parson
Foster" wrote a pamphlet, entitled "Hyplocrisma Spongus; or, a Spunge
to wipe away the Weapon-Salve ;" in which he declared, that it was as
bad as witchcraft to use or recommend such an unguent; that it was
invented by the devil, who, at the last day, would seize upon every
person who had given it the slightest encouragement. "In fact," said
Parson Foster, "the devil himself gave it to Paracelsus; Paracelsus to
the Emperor; the Emperor to the courtier; the courtier to Baptista
Porta; and Baptista Porta to Dr. Fludd, a doctor of physic, yet living
and practising in the famous city of London, who now stands tooth and
nail for it." Dr. Fludd, thus assailed, took up the pen in defence of
his unguent, in a reply called "The Squeezing of Parson Foster's
Spunge; wherein the Spunge-Bearer's immodest Carriage and Behaviour
towards his Brethren is detected; the bitter Flames of his slanderous
Reports are, by the sharp Vinegar of Truth, corrected and quite
extinguished; and, lastly, the virtuous Validity of his Spunge in
wiping away the Weapon-Salve, is crushed out and clean abolished."

Shortly after this dispute a more distinguished believer in the
weapon-salve made his appearance, in the person of Sir Kenelm Digby,
the son of Sir Everard Digby, who was executed for his participation
in the Gunpowder Plot. This gentleman, who, in other respects, was an
accomplished scholar and an able man, was imbued with all the
extravagant notions of the alchymists. He believed in the
philosopher's stone, and wished to engage Descartes to devote his
energies to the discovery of the elixir of life, or some other means
by which the existence of man might be prolonged to an indefinite
period. He gave his wife, the beautiful Venetia Anastasia Stanley, a
dish of capons, fed upon vipers, according to the plan supposed to
have been laid down by Arnold of Villeneuve, in the hope that she
might thereby preserve her loveliness for a century. If such a man
once took up the idea of the weapon-salve, it was to be expected that
he would make the most of it. In his hands, however, it was changed
from an unguent into a powder, and was called the powder of sympathy.
He pretended that he had acquired the knowledge of it from a Carmelite
friar, who had learned it in Persia or Armenia, from an oriental
philosopher of great renown. King James, the Prince of Wales, the Duke
of Buckingham, and many other noble personages, believed in its
efficacy. The following remarkable instance of his mode of cure was
read by Sir Kenelm to a society of learned men at Montpellier. Mr.
James Howell, the well-known author of the "Dendrologia," and of
various letters, coming by chance as two of his best friends were
fighting a duel, rushed between them, and endeavoured to part them. He
seized the sword of one of the combatants by the hilt, while, at the
same time, he grasped the other by the blade. Being transported with
fury one against the other, they struggled to rid themselves of the
hindrance caused by their friend; and in so doing, the one whose sword
was held by the blade by Mr. Howell, drew it away roughly, and nearly
cut his hand off, severing the nerves and muscles, and penetrating to
the bone. The other, almost at the same instant, disengaged his sword,
and aimed a blow at the head of his antagonist, which Mr. Howell
observing, raised his wounded hand with the rapidity of thought, to
prevent the blow. The sword fell on the back of his already wounded
hand, and cut it severely. "It seemed," said Sir Kenelm Digby, "as if
some unlucky star raged over them, that they should have both shed the
blood of that dear friend, for whose life they would have given their
own, if they had been in their proper mind at the time." Seeing Mr.
Howell's face all besmeared with blood from his wounded hand, they
both threw down their swords and embraced him, and bound up his hand
with a garter, to close the veins, which were cut, and bled profusely.
They then conveyed him home, and sent for a surgeon. King James, who
was much attached to Mr. Howell, afterwards sent his own surgeon to
attend him. We must continue the narrative in the words of Sir Kenelm
Digby:- "It was my chance," says he, "to be lodged hard by him: and,
four or five days after, as I was making myself ready, he came to my
house, and prayed me to view his wounds; 'for I understand,' said he,
'that you have extraordinary remedies on such occasions; and my
surgeons apprehend some fear, that it may grow to a gangrene, and so
the hand must be cut off.' In effect, his countenance discovered that
he was in much pain, which, he said, was insupportable, in regard of
the extreme inflammation. I told him I would willingly serve him; but
if, haply, he knew the manner how I could cure him, without touching
or seeing him, it might be that he would not expose himself to my
manner of curing; because he would think it, peradventure, either
ineffectual or superstitious. He replied, 'The many wonderful things
which people have related unto me of your way of medicinement, makes
me nothing doubt at all of its efficacy; and all that I have to say
unto you is comprehended in the Spanish proverb, Hagase el milagro y
hagalo Mahoma -- Let the miracle be done, though Mahomet do it.'

"I asked him then for anything that had the blood upon it: so he
presently sent for his garter, wherewith his hand was first bound;
and, as I called for a basin of water, as if I would wash my hands, I
took a handful of powder of vitriol, which I had in my study, and
presently dissolved it. As soon as the bloody garter was brought me, I
put it in the basin, observing, in the interim, what Mr. Howell did,
who stood talking with a gentleman in a corner of my chamber, not
regarding at all what I was doing. He started suddenly, as if he had
found some strange alteration in himself. I asked him what he ailed?
'I know not what ails me; but I find that I feel no more pain.
Methinks that a pleasing kind of freshness, as it were a wet cold
napkin, did spread over my hand, which hath taken away the
inflammation that tormented me before.' I replied, 'Since, then, you
feel already so much good of my medicament, I advise you to cast away
all your plasters; only keep the wound clean, and in a moderate
temper, betwixt heat and cold.' This was presently reported to the
Duke of Buckingham, and a little after, to the King, who were both
very curious to know the circumstances of the business; which was,
that after dinner, I took the garter out of the water, and put it to
dry before a great fire. It was scarce dry before Mr. Howell's servant
came running, and saying that his master felt as much burning as ever
he had done, if not more; for the heat was such as if his hand were
betwixt coals of fire. I answered, that although that had happened at
present, yet he should find ease in a short time; for I knew the
reason of this new accident, and would provide accordingly; for his
master should be free from that inflammation, it might be, before
he could possibly return to him: but, in case he found no ease, I
wished him to come presently back again; if not, he might forbear
coming. Thereupon he went; and, at the instant, I did put the garter
again into the water; thereupon he found his master without any pain
at all. To be brief, there was no sense of pain afterwards; but within
five or six days, the wounds were cicatrised and entirely healed."

Such is the marvellous story of Sir Kenelm Digby. Other
practitioners of that age were not behind him in absurdity. It was not
always necessary to use either the powder of sympathy, or the
weapon-salve, to effect a cure. It was sufficient to magnetise the
sword with the hand (the first faint dawn of the animal theory), to
relieve any pain the same weapon had caused. They pretended, that if
they stroked the sword upwards with their fingers, the wounded person
would feel immediate relief; but if they stroked it downwards, he
would feel intolerable pain.[Reginald Scott, quoted by Sir Walter
Scott, in the notes to the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," c. iii. v.

Another very strange notion of the power and capabilities of
magnetism was entertained at the same time. It was believed that a
sympathetic alphabet could be made on the flesh, by means of which
persons could correspond with each other, and communicate all their
ideas with the rapidity of volition, although thousands of miles
apart. From the arms of two persons a piece of flesh was cut, and
mutually transplanted, while still warm and bleeding. The piece so
severed grew to the new arm on which it was placed; but still retained
so close a sympathy with its native limb, that its old possessor was
always sensible of any injury done to it. Upon these transplanted
pieces were tattooed the letters of the alphabet; so that, when a
communication was to be made, either of the persons, though the wide
Atlantic rolled between them, had only to prick his arm with a
magnetic needle, and straightway his friend received intimation that
the telegraph was at work. Whatever letter he pricked on his own arm
pained the same letter on the arm of his correspondent. ["Foreign
Quarterly Review," vol. xii. p. 417.] Who knows but this system, if it
had received proper encouragement, might not have rendered the
Post-Office unnecessary, and even obviated much of the necessity for
railroads? Let modern magnetisers try and bring it to perfection. It
is not more preposterous than many of their present notions; and, if
carried into effect, with the improvement of some stenographical
expedient for diminishing the number of punctures, would be much more
useful than their plan of causing persons to read with their great
toes, [Wirth's "Theorie des Somnambulismes," p. 79.] or seeing, with
their eyes shut, into other people's bodies, and counting the number
of arteries therein. ["Report of the Academic Royale de Medicine," --
case of Mademoiselle Celine Sauvage, p. 186.]

Contemporary with Sir Kenelm Digby, was the no less famous Mr.
Valentine Greatraks who, without mentioning magnetism, or laying claim
to any theory, practised upon himself and others a deception much more
akin to the animal magnetism of the present day, than the mineral
magnetism it was then so much the fashion to study. He was the son of
an Irish gentleman, of good education and property, in the county of
Cork. He fell, at an early age, into a sort of melancholy derangement.
After some time, he had an impulse, or strange persuasion in his mind,
which continued to present itself, whether he were sleeping or waking,
that God had given him the power of curing the king's evil. He
mentioned this persuasion to his wife, who very candidly told him that
he was a fool! He was not quite sure of this, notwithstanding the
high authority from which it came, and determined to make trial of the
power that was in him. A few days afterwards, he went to one William
Maher, of Saltersbridge, in the parish of Lismore, who was grievously
afflicted with the king's evil in his eyes, cheek, and throat. Upon
this man, who was of abundant faith, he laid his hands, stroked him,
and prayed fervently. He had the satisfaction to see him heal
considerably in the course of a few days; and, finally, with the aid
of other remedies, to be quite cured. This success encouraged him in
the belief that he had a divine mission. Day after day he had further
impulses from on high, that he was called upon to cure the ague also.
In the course of time he extended his powers to the curing of
epilepsy, ulcers, aches, and lameness. All the county of Cork was in a
commotion to see this extraordinary physician, who certainly operated
some very great benefit in cases where the disease was heightened by
hypochondria and depression of spirits. According to his own account,
[Greatraks' Account of himself, in a letter to the Honourable Robert
Boyle.] such great multitudes resorted to him from divers places, that
he had no time to follow his own business, or enjoy the company of his
family and friends. He was obliged to set aside three days in the
week, from six in the morning till six at night, during which time
only he laid hands upon all that came. Still the crowds which thronged
around him were so great, that the neighbouring towns were not able to
accommodate them. He thereupon left his house in the country, and went
to Youghal, where the resort of sick people, not only from all parts
of Ireland, but from England, continued so great, that the magistrates
were afraid they would infect the place by their diseases. Several of
these poor credulous people no sooner saw him than they fell into
fits, and he restored them by waving his hand in their faces, and
praying over them. Nay, he affirmed, that the touch of his glove had
driven pains away, and, on one occasion, cast out from a woman several
devils, or evil spirits, who tormented her day and night. "Every one
of these devils," says Greatraks, "was like to choke her, when it came
up into her throat." It is evident, from this, that the woman's
complaint was nothing but hysteria.

The clergy of the diocese of Lismore, who seem to have had much
clearer notions of Greatraks' pretensions than their parishioners, set
their faces against the new prophet and worker of miracles. He was
cited to appear in the Dean's Court, and prohibited from laying on his
hands for the future: but he cared nothing for the church. He imagined
that he derived his powers direct from Heaven, and continued to throw
people into fits, and bring them to their senses again, as usual,
almost exactly after the fashion of modern magnetisers. His reputation
became, at last, so great, that Lord Conway sent to him from London,
begging-that he would come over immediately, to cure a grievous
head-ache which his lady had suffered for several years, and which the
principal physicians of England had been unable to relieve.

Greatraks accepted the invitation, and tried his manipulations and
prayers upon Lady Conway. He failed, however, in affording any relief.
The poor lady's head-ache was excited by causes too serious to allow
her any help, even from faith and a lively imagination. He lived for
some months in Lord Conway's house, at Ragley, in Warwickshire,
operating cures similar to those he had performed in Ireland. He
afterwards removed to London, and took a house in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, which soon became the daily resort of all the nervous and
credulous women of the metropolis. A very amusing account of Greatraks
at this time (1665), is given in the second volume of the
"Miscellanies of St. Evremond," under the title of the Irish prophet.
It is the most graphic sketch ever made of this early magnetiser.
Whether his pretensions were more or less absurd than those of some of
his successors, who have lately made their appearance among us, would
be hard to say.

"When M. de Comminges," says St. Evremond, "was ambassador from
his most Christian Majesty to the King of Great Britain, there came to
London an Irish prophet, who passed himself off as a great worker of
miracles. Some persons of quality having begged M. de Comminges to
invite him to his house, that they might be witnesses of some of his
miracles, the ambassador promised to satisfy them, as much from his
own curiosity as from courtesy to his friends; and gave notice to
Greatraks that he would be glad to see him.

"A rumour of the prophet's coming soon spread all over the town,
and the hotel of M. de Comminges was crowded by sick persons, who came
full of confidence in their speedy cure. The Irishman made them wait a
considerable time for him, but came at last, in the midst of their
impatience, with a grave and simple countenance, that showed no signs
of his being a cheat. Monsieur de Comminges prepared to question him
strictly, hoping to discourse with him on the matters that he had read
of in Van Helmont and Bodinus; but he was not able to do so, much to
his regret, for the crowd became so great, and cripples and others
pressed around so impatiently to be the first cured, that the servants
were obliged to use threats, and even force, before they could
establish order among them, or place them in proper ranks.

"The prophet affirmed that all diseases were caused by evil
spirits. Every infirmity was with him a case of diabolical possession.
The first that was presented to him was a man suffering from gout and
rheumatism, and so severely that the physicians had been unable to
cure him. 'Ah,' said the miracle-worker, 'I have seen a good deal of
this sort of spirits when I was in Ireland. They are watery spirits,
who bring on cold shivering, and excite an overflow of aqueous humours
in our poor bodies.' Then addressing the man, he said, 'Evil spirit,
who hast quitted thy dwelling in the waters to come and afflict this
miserable body, I command thee to quit thy new abode, and to return to
thine ancient habitation!' This said, the sick man was ordered to
withdraw, and another was brought forward in his place. This new comer
said he was tormented by the melancholy vapours. In fact, he looked
like a hypochondriac; one of those persons diseased in imagination,
and who but too often become so in reality. 'Aerial spirit,' said
the Irishman, 'return, I command thee, into the air! -- exercise thy
natural vocation of raising tempests, and do not excite any more wind
in this sad unlucky body!' This man was immediately turned away to
make room for a third patient, who, in the Irishman's opinion, was
only tormented by a little bit of a sprite, who could not withstand
his command for an instant. He Pretended that he recognized this
sprite by some marks which were invisible to the company, to whom he
turned with a smile, and said, 'This sort of spirit does not often do
much harm, and is always very diverting.' To hear him talk, one would
have imagined that he knew all about spirits -- their names, their
rank, their numbers, their employment, and all the functions they were
destined to; and he boasted of being much better acquainted with the
intrigues of demons than he was with the affairs of men. You can
hardly imagine what a reputation he gained in a short time. Catholics
and Protestants visited him from every part, all believing that power
from Heaven was in his hands."

After relating a rather equivocal adventure of a husband and wife,
who implored Greatraks to cast out the devil of dissension which had
crept in between them, St. Evremond thus sums up the effect he
produced on the popular mind: -- "So great was the confidence in him,
that the blind fancied they saw the light which they did not see --
the deaf imagined that they heard -- the lame that they walked
straight, and the paralytic that they had recovered the use of their
limbs. An idea of health made the sick forget for a while their
maladies; and imagination, which was not less active in those merely
drawn by curiosity than in the sick, gave a false view to the one
class, from the desire of seeing, as it operated a false cure on the
other from the strong desire of being healed. Such was the power of
the Irishman over the mind, and such was the influence of the mind
upon the body. Nothing was spoken of in London but his prodigies; and
these prodigies were supported by such great authorities, that the
bewildered multitude believed them almost without examination, while
more enlightened people did not dare to reject them from their own
knowledge. The public opinion, timid and enslaved, respected this
imperious and, apparently, well-authenticated error. Those who saw
through the delusion kept their opinion to themselves, knowing how
useless it was to declare their disbelief to a people filled with
prejudice and admiration."

About the same time that Valentine Greatraks was thus magnetising
the people of London, an Italian enthusiast, named Francisco Bagnone,
was performing the same tricks in Italy, and with as great success. He
had only to touch weak women with his hands, or sometimes (for the
sake of working more effectively upon their fanaticism) with a relic,
to make them fall into fits and manifest all the symptoms of

Besides these, several learned men, in different parts of Europe,
directed their attention to the study of the magnet, believing it
might he rendered efficacious in many diseases. Van Helmont, in
particular, published a work on the effects of magnetism on the human
frame; and Balthazar Gracian, a Spaniard, rendered himself famous for
the boldness of his views on the subject. "The magnet," said the
latter, "attracts iron; iron is found everywhere; everything,
therefore, is under the influence of magnetism. It is only a
modification of the general principle, which establishes harmony or
foments divisions among men. It is the same agent which gives rise to
sympathy, antipathy, and the passions." ["Introduction to the Study of
Animal Magnetism," by Baron Dupotet de Sennevoy, p. 315.]

Baptista Porta, who, in the whimsical genealogy of the
weapon-salve, given by Parson Foster in his attack upon Dr. a
Fluctibus, is mentioned as one of its fathers, had also great faith in
the efficacy of the magnet, and operated upon the imagination of his
patients in a manner which was then considered so extraordinary that
he was accused of being a magician, and prohibited from practising by
the Court of Rome. Among others who distinguished themselves by their
faith in magnetism, Sebastian Wirdig and William Maxwell claim
especial notice. Wirdig was professor of medicine at the University of
Rostock in Mecklenburgh, and wrote a treatise called "The New Medicine
of the Spirits," which he presented to the Royal Society of London. An
edition of this work was printed in 1673, in which the author
maintained that a magnetic influence took place, not only between the
celestial and terrestrial bodies, but between all living things. The
whole world, he said, was under the influence of magnetism: life was
preserved by magnetism; death was the consequence of magnetism!

Maxwell, the other enthusiast, was an admiring disciple of
Paracelsus, and boasted that he had irradiated the obscurity in which
too many of the wonder-working recipes of that great philosopher were
enveloped. His works were printed at Frankfort, in 1679. It would
seem, from the following passage, that he was aware of the great
influence of imagination, as well in the production as in the cure of
diseases. "If you wish to work prodigies," says he, "abstract from the
materiality of beings -- increase the sum of spirituality in bodies --
rouse the spirit from its slumbers. Unless you do one or other of
these things -- unless you can bind the idea, you can never perform
anything good or great." Here, in fact, lies the whole secret of
magnetism, and all delusions of a similar kind: increase the
spirituality -- rouse the spirit from its slumbers, or in other words,
work upon the imagination -- induce belief and blind confidence, and
you may do anything. This passage, which is quoted with approbation by
M. Dupotet in a recent work ["Introduction to the Study of Animal
Magnetism," p. 318.] as strongly corroborative of the theory now
advanced by the animal-magnetists, is just the reverse. If they
believe they can work all their wonders by the means so dimly shadowed
forth by Maxwell, what becomes of the universal fluid pervading all
nature, and which they pretend to pour into weak and diseased bodies
from the tips of their fingers?

Early in the eighteenth century, the attention of Europe was
directed to a very remarkable instance of fanaticism, which has been
claimed by the animal magnetists, as a proof of their science. The
convulsionaries of St. Medard, as they were called, assembled in great
numbers round the tomb of their favourite saint, the Jansenist priest
Paris, and taught one another how to fall into convulsions. They
believed that St. Paris would cure all their infirmities; and the
number of hysterical women and weak-minded persons of all descriptions
that flocked to the tomb from far and near was so great, as daily to
block up all the avenues leading to the spot. Working themselves up to
a pitch of excitement, they went off one after the other into fits,
while some of them, still in apparent possession of all their
faculties, voluntarily exposed themselves to sufferings, which on
ordinary occasions would have been sufficient to deprive them of life.
The scenes that occurred were a scandal to civilization and to
religion -- a strange mixture of obscenity, absurdity, and
superstition. While some were praying on bended knees at the shrine of
St. Paris, others were shrieking and making the most hideous noises.
The women especially exerted themselves. On one side of the chapel
there might be seen a score of them, all in convulsions, while at
another as many more, excited to a sort of frenzy, yielded themselves
up to gross indecencies. Some of them took an insane delight in being
beaten and trampled upon. One in particular, according to Montegre,
whose account we quote [Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales -- Article
"Convulsionnaires," par Montegre.] was so enraptured with this ill
usage, that nothing but the hardest blows would satisfy her. While a
fellow of herculean strength was beating her with all his might with a
heavy bar of iron, she kept continually urging him to renewed
exertion. The harder he struck the better she liked it, exclaiming all
the while, "Well done, brother; well done; oh, how pleasant it is!
what good you are doing me! courage, my brother, courage; strike
harder; strike harder still!" Another of these fanatics had, if
possible, a still greater love for a beating. Carre de Montgeron, who
relates the circumstance, was unable to satisfy her with sixty blows
of a large sledge hammer. He afterwards used the same weapon, with the
same degree of strength, for the sake of experiment, and succeeded in
battering a hole in a stone wall at the twenty-fifth stroke. Another
woman, named Sonnet, laid herself down on a red-hot brazier without
flinching, and acquired for herself the nickname of the salamander;
while others, desirous of a more illustrious martyrdom, attempted to
crucify themselves. M. Deleuze, in his critical history of Animal
Magnetism, attempts to prove that this fanatical frenzy was produced
by magnetism, and that these mad enthusiasts magnetised each other
without being aware of it. As well might he insist that the fanaticism
which tempts the Hindoo bigot to keep his arms stretched in a
horizontal position till the sinews wither, or his fingers closed upon
his palms till the nails grow out of the backs of his hands, is also
an effect of magnetism!

For a period of sixty or seventy years, magnetism was almost
wholly confined to Germany. Men of sense and learning devoted their
attention to the properties of the loadstone; and one Father Hell, a
jesuit, and professor of astronomy at the University of Vienna,
rendered himself famous by his magnetic cures. About the year 1771 or
1772, he invented steel plates of a peculiar form, which he applied to
the naked body, as a cure for several diseases. In the year 1774, he
communicated his system to Anthony Mesmer. The latter improved upon
the ideas of Father Hell, constructed a new theory of his own, and
became the founder of ANIMAL MAGNETISM.

It has been the fashion among the enemies of the new delusion to
decry Mesmer as an unprincipled adventurer, while his disciples have
extolled him to the skies as a regenerator of the human race. In
nearly the same words, as the Rosicrucians applied to their founders,
he has been called the discoverer of the secret which brings man into
more intimate connexion with his Creator; the deliverer of the soul
from the debasing trammels of the flesh; the man who enables us to set
time at defiance, and conquer the obstructions of space. A careful
sifting of his pretensions -- and examination of the evidence brought
forward to sustain them, will soon show which opinion is the more
correct. That the writer of these pages considers him in the light of
a man, who deluding himself, was the means of deluding others, may be
inferred from his finding a place in these volumes, and figuring among
the Flamels, the Agrippas, the Borris, the Boehmens, and the

He was born in May 1734, at Mersburg, in Swabia, and studied
medicine at the University of Vienna. He took his degrees in 1766, and
chose the influence of the planets on the human body as the subject of
his inaugural dissertation. Having treated the matter quite in the
style of the old astrological physicians, he was exposed to some
ridicule both then and afterwards. Even at this early period some
faint ideas of his great theory were germinating in his mind. He
maintained in his dissertation, "that the sun, moon, and fixed stars
mutually affect each other in their orbits; that they cause and direct
in our earth a flux and reflux not only in the sea, but in the
atmosphere, and affect in a similar manner all organized bodies
through the medium of a subtile and mobile fluid, which pervades the
universe and associates all things together in mutual intercourse and
harmony." This influence, he said, was particularly exercised on the
nervous system, and produced two states which he called intension and
remission, which seemed to him to account for the different periodical
revolutions observable in several maladies. When in after-life he met
with Father Hell, he was confirmed by that person's observations in
the truth of many of his own ideas. Having caused Hell to make him
some magnetic plates, he determined to try experiments with them
himself for his further satisfaction.

He tried accordingly, and was astonished at his success. The faith
of their wearers operated wonders with the metallic plates. Mesmer
made due reports to Father Hell of all he had done, and the latter
published them as the results of his own happy invention, and speaking
of Mesmer as a physician whom he had employed to work under him.
Mesmer took offence at being thus treated, considering himself a far
greater personage than Father Hell. He claimed the invention as his
own, accused Hell of a breach of confidence, and stigmatized him as a
mean person, anxious to turn the discoveries of others to his own
account. Hell replied, and a very pretty quarrel was the result, which
afforded small talk for months to the literati of Vienna. Hell
ultimately gained the victory. Mesmer, nothing daunted, continued to
promulgate his views, till he stumbled at last upon the animal theory.

One of his patients was a young lady named Oesterline, who
suffered under a convulsive malady. Her attacks were periodical, and
attended by a rush of blood to the head, followed by delirium and
syncope. These symptoms he soon succeeded in reducing under his system
of planetary influence, and imagined he could foretell the periods of
accession and remission. Having thus accounted satisfactorily to
himself for the origin of the disease, the idea struck him that he
could operate a certain cure, if he could ascertain beyond doubt what
he had long believed, that there existed between the bodies which
compose our globe, an action equally reciprocal and similar to that of
the heavenly bodies, by means of which he could imitate artificially
the periodical revolutions of the flux and reflux beforementioned. He
soon convinced himself that this action did exist. When trying the
metallic plates of Father Hell, he thought their efficacy depended on
their form; but he found afterwards that he could produce the same
effects without using them at all, merely by passing his hands
downwards towards the feet of the patient -- even when at a
considerable distance.

This completed the theory of Mesmer. He wrote an account of his
discovery to all the learned societies of Europe, soliciting their
investigation. The Academy of Sciences at Berlin was the only one that
answered him, and their answer was anything but favourable to his
system or flattering to himself. Still he was not discouraged. He
maintained to all who would listen to him that the magnetic matter, or
fluid, pervaded all the universe -- that every human body contained
it, and could communicate the superabundance of it to another by an
exertion of the will. Writing to a friend from Vienna, he said, "I
have observed that the magnetic is almost the same thing as the
electric fluid, and that it may be propagated in the same manner, by
means of intermediate bodies. Steel is not the only substance adapted
to this purpose. I have rendered paper, bread, wool, silk, stones,
leather, glass, wood, men, and dogs -- in short, everything I touched,
magnetic to such a degree that these substances produced the same
effects as the loadstone on diseased persons. I have charged jars with
magnetic matter in the same way as is done with electricity."

Mesmer did not long find his residence at Vienna as agreeable as
he wished. His pretensions were looked upon with contempt or
indifference, and the case of Mademoiselle Oesterline brought him less
fame than notoriety. He determined to change his sphere of action, and
travelled into Swabia and Switzerland. In the latter country he met
with the celebrated Father Gassner, who, like Valentine Greatraks,
amused himself by casting out devils, and healing the sick by merely
laying hands upon them. At his approach puling girls fell into
convulsions, and the hypochondriac fancied themselves cured. His house
was daily besieged by the lame, the blind, and the hysteric. Mesmer at
once acknowledged the efficacy of his cures, and declared that they
were the obvious result of his own newly-discovered power of
magnetism. A few of the Father's patients were forthwith subjected to
the manipulations of Mesmer, and the same symptoms were induced. He
then tried his hand upon some paupers in the hospitals of Berne and
Zurich, and succeeded, according to his own account, but no other
person's, in curing an opththalmia and a gutta serena. With memorials
of these achievements he returned to Vienna, in the hope of silencing
his enemies, or at least forcing them to respect his newly-acquired
reputation, and to examine his system more attentively.

His second appearance in that capital was not more auspicious than
the first. He undertook to cure a Mademoiselle Paradis, who was quite
blind, and subject to convulsions. He magnetised her several times,
and then declared that she was cured; at least, if she was not, it was
her fault, and not his. An eminent oculist of that day, named Birth,
went to visit her, and declared that she was as blind as ever; while
her family said she was as much subject to convulsions as before.
Mesmer persisted that she was cured. Like the French philosopher, he
would not allow facts to interfere with his theory. [An enthusiastic
philosopher, of whose name we are not informed, had constructed a very
satisfactory theory on some subject or other, and was not a little
proud of it. "But the facts, my dear fellow," said his friend, "the
facts do not agree with your theory." -- "Don't they," replied the
philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, "then, taut pis pour les faits;"
-- so much the worse for the facts.] He declared that there was a
conspiracy against him; and that Mademoiselle Paradis, at the
instigation of her family, feigned blindness in order to injure his

The consequences of this pretended cure taught Mesmer that Vienna
was not the sphere for him. Paris, the idle, the debauched, the
pleasure-hunting, the novelty-loving, was the scene for a philosopher
like him, and thither he repaired accordingly. He arrived at Paris in
1778, and began modestly, by making himself and his theory known to
the principal physicians. At first, his encouragement was but slight;
he found people more inclined to laugh at than to patronise him. But
he was a man who had great confidence in himself, and of a
perseverance which no difficulties could overcome. He hired a
sumptuous apartment, which he opened to all comers who chose to make
trial of the new power of nature. M. D'Eslon, a physician of great
reputation, became a convert; and from that time, Animal Magnetism,
or, as some called it, Mesmerism, became the fashion in Paris. The
women were quite enthusiastic about it, and their admiring tattle
wafted its fame through every grade of society. Mesmer was the rage;
and high and low, rich and poor, credulous and unbelieving, all
hastened to convince themselves of the power of this mighty magician,
who made such magnificent promises. Mesmer, who knew as well as any
man living the influence of the imagination, determined that, on that
score, nothing should be wanting to heighten the effect of the
magnetic charm. In all Paris, there was not a house so charmingly
furnished as Monsieur Mesmer's. Richly-stained glass shed a dim
religious light on his spacious saloons, which were almost covered
with mirrors. Orange blossoms scented all the air of his corridors;
incense of the most expensive kinds burned in antique vases on his
chimney-pieces; aeolian harps sighed melodious music from distant
chambers; while sometimes a sweet female voice, from above or below,
stole softly upon the mysterious silence that was kept in the house,
and insisted upon from all visitors. "Was ever anything so
delightful?" cried all the Mrs. Wittitterley's of Paris, as they
thronged to his house in search of pleasant excitement; "so
wonderful!" said the pseudo-philosophers, who would believe anything
if it were the fashion; "so amusing!" said the worn-out debauchees,
who had drained the cup of sensuality to its dregs, and who longed to
see lovely women in convulsions, with the hope that they might gain
some new emotions from the sight.

The following was the mode of operation: -- In the centre of the
saloon was placed an oval vessel, about four feet in its longest
diameter, and one foot deep. In this were laid a number of
wine-bottles, filled with magnetised water, well corked-up, and
disposed in radii, with their necks outwards. Water was then poured
into the vessel so as just to cover the bottles, and filings of iron
were thrown in occasionally to heighten the magnetic effect. The
vessel was then covered with an iron cover, pierced through with many
holes, and was called the baquet. From each hole issued a long
moveable rod of iron, which the patients were to apply to such parts
of their bodies as were afflicted. Around this baquet the patients
were directed to sit, holding each other by the hand, and pressing
their knees together as closely as possible to facilitate the passage
of the magnetic fluid from one to the other.

Then came in the assistant magnetisers, generally strong, handsome
young men, to pour into the patient from their finger-tips fresh
streams of the wondrous fluid. They embraced the patients between the
knees, rubbed them gently down the spine and the course of the nerves,
using gentle pressure upon the breasts of the ladies, and staring them
out of countenance to magnetise them by the eye! All this time the
most rigorous silence was maintained, with the exception of a few wild
notes on the harmonica or the piano-forte, or the melodious voice of a
hidden opera-singer swelling softly at long intervals. Gradually the
cheeks of the ladies began to glow, their imaginations to become
inflamed; and off they went, one after the other, in convulsive fits.
Some of them sobbed and tore their hair, others laughed till the tears
ran from their eyes, while others shrieked and screamed and yelled
till they became insensible altogether.

This was the crisis of the delirium. In the midst of it, the chief
actor made his appearance, waving his wand, like Prospero, to work new
wonders. Dressed in a long robe of lilac-coloured silk, richly
embroidered with gold flowers, bearing in his hand a white magnetic
rod; and, with a look of dignity which would have sat well on an
eastern caliph, he marched with solemn strides into the room. He awed
the still sensible by his eye, and the violence of their symptoms
diminished. He stroked the insensible with his hands upon the eyebrows
and down the spine; traced figures upon their breast and abdomen with
his long white wand, and they were restored to consciousness. They
became calm, acknowledged his power, and said they felt streams of
cold or burning vapour passing through their frames, according as he
waved his wand or his fingers before them.

"It is impossible," says M. Dupotet, "to conceive the sensation
which Mesmer's experiments created in Paris. No theological
controversy, in the earlier ages of the Catholic Church, was ever
conducted with greater bitterness." His adversaries denied the
discovery; some calling him a quack, others a fool, and others, again,
like the Abbe Fiard, a man who had sold himself to the devil! His
friends were as extravagant in their praise, as his foes were in their
censure. Paris was inundated with pamphlets upon the subject, as many
defending as attacking the doctrine. At court, the Queen expressed
herself in favour of it, and nothing else was to be heard of in

By the advice of M. D'Eslon, Mesmer challenged an examination of
his doctrine by the Faculty of Medicine. He proposed to select
twenty-four patients, twelve of whom he would treat magnetically,
leaving the other twelve to be treated by the faculty according to the
old and approved methods. He also stipulated, that to prevent
disputes, the government should nominate certain persons who were not
physicians, to be present at the experiments; and that the object of
the inquiry should be, not how these effects were produced, but
whether they were really efficacious in the cure of any disease. The
faculty objected to limit the inquiry in this manner, and the
proposition fell to the ground.

Mesmer now wrote to Marie Antoinette, with the view of securing
her influence in obtaining for him the protection of government. He
wished to have a chateau and its lands given to him, with a handsome
yearly income, that he might be enabled to continue his experiments at
leisure, untroubled by the persecution of his enemies. He hinted the
duty of governments to support men of science, and expressed his fear,
that if he met no more encouragement, he should be compelled to carry
his great discovery to some other land more willing to appreciate him.
"In the eyes of your Majesty," said he, "four or five hundred thousand
francs, applied to a good purpose, are of no account. The welfare and
happiness of your people are everything. My discovery ought to be
received and rewarded with a munificence worthy of the monarch to whom
I shall attach myself." The government at last offered him a pension
of twenty thousand francs, and the cross of the order of St. Michael,
if he had made any discovery in medicine, and would communicate it to
physicians nominated by the King. The latter part of the proposition
was not agreeable to Mesmer. He feared the unfavourable report of the
King's physicians; and, breaking off the negotiation, spoke of his
disregard of money, and his wish to have his discovery at once
recognised by the government. He then retired to Spa, in a fit of
disgust, upon pretence of drinking the waters for the benefit of his

After he had left Paris, the Faculty of Medicine called upon M.
D'Eslon, for the third and last time, to renounce the doctrine of
animal magnetism, or be expelled from their body. M. D'Eslon, so far
from doing this, declared that he had discovered new secrets, and
solicited further examination. A royal commission of the Faculty of
Medicine was, in consequence, appointed on the 12th of March 1784,
seconded by another commission of the Academie des Sciences, to
investigate the phenomena and report upon them. The first commission
was composed of the principal physicians of Paris; while, among the
eminent men comprised in the latter, were Benjamin Franklin,
Lavoisier, and Bailly, the historian of astronomy. Mesmer was formally
invited to appear before this body, but absented himself from day to
day, upon one pretence or another. M. D'Eslon was more honest, because
he thoroughly believed in the phenomena, which it is to be questioned
if Mesmer ever did, and regularly attended the sittings and performed

Bailly has thus described the scenes of which he was a witness in
the course of this investigation. "The sick persons, arranged in great
numbers and in several rows around the baquet, receive the magnetism
by all these means: by the iron rods which convey it to them from the
baquet -- by the cords wound round their bodies -- by the connection
of the thumb, which conveys to them the magnetism of their neighbours
-- and by the sounds of a pianoforte, or of an agreeable voice,
diffusing the magnetism in the air. The patients were also directly
magnetised by means of the finger and wand of the magnetiser moved
slowly before their faces, above or behind their heads, and on the
diseased parts, always observing the direction of the holes. The
magnetiser acts by fixing his eyes on them. But above all, they are
magnetised by the application of his hands and the pressure of his
fingers on the hypochondres and on the regions of the abdomen; an
application often continued for a long time-sometimes for several

"Meanwhile the patients in their different conditions present a
very varied picture. Some are calm, tranquil, and experience no
effect. Others cough, spit, feel slight pains, local or general heat,
and have sweatings. Others again are agitated and tormented with
convulsions. These convulsions are remarkable in regard to the number
affected with them, to their duration and force. As soon as one begins
to be convulsed, several others are affected. The commissioners have
observed some of these convulsions last more than three hours. They
are accompanied with expectorations of a muddy viscous water, brought
away by violent efforts. Sometimes streaks of blood have been observed
in this fluid. These convulsions are characterized by the precipitous,
involuntary motion of all the limbs, and of the whole body: by the
construction of the throat -- by the leaping motions of the
hypochondria and the epigastrium -- by the dimness and wandering of
the eyes -- by piercing shrieks, tears, sobbing, and immoderate
laughter. They are preceded or followed by a state of languor or
reverie, a kind of depression, and sometimes drowsiness. The smallest
sudden noise occasions a shuddering; and it was remarked, that the
change of measure in the airs played on the piano-forte had a great
influence on the patients. A quicker motion, a livelier melody,
agitated them more, and renewed the vivacity of their convulsions.

"Nothing is more astonishing than the spectacle of these
convulsions. One who has not seen them can form no idea of them. The
spectator is as much astonished at the profound repose of one portion
of the patients as at the agitation of the rest - at the various
accidents which are repeated, and at the sympathies which are
exhibited. Some of the patients may be seen devoting their attention
exclusively to one another, rushing towards each other with open arms,
smiling, soothing, and manifesting every symptom of attachment and
affection. All are under the power of the magnetiser; it matters not
in what state of drowsiness they may be, the sound of his voice -- a
look, a motion of his hand -- brings them out of it. Among the
patients in convulsions there are always observed a great many women,
and very few men." [Rapport des Commissaires, redige par M. Bailly. --
Paris, 1784.]

These experiments lasted for about five months. They had hardly
commenced, before Mesmer, alarmed at the loss both of fame and profit,
determined to return to Paris. Some patients of rank and fortune,
enthusiastic believers in his doctrine, had followed him to Spa. One
of them named Bergasse, proposed to open a subscription for him, of
one hundred shares, at one hundred louis each, on condition that he
would disclose his secret to the subscribers, who were to be permitted
to make whatever use they pleased of it. Mesmer readily embraced the
proposal; and such was the infatuation, that the subscription was not
only filled in a few days, but exceeded by no less a sum than one
hundred and forty thousand francs.

With this fortune he returned to Paris, and recommenced his
experiments, while the royal commission continued theirs. His admiring
pupils, who had paid him so handsomely for his instructions, spread
the delusion over the country, and established in all the principal
towns of France, "Societies of Harmony," for trying experiments and
curing all diseases by means of magnetism. Some of these societies
were a scandal to morality, being joined by profligate men of depraved
appetites, who took a disgusting delight in witnessing young girls in
convulsions. Many of the pretended magnetisers were notorious
libertines, who took that opportunity of gratifying their passions. An
illegal increase of the number of French citizens was anything but a
rare consequence in Strasburg, Nantes, Bourdeaux, Lyons, and other
towns, where these societies were established.

At last the Commissioners published their report, which was drawn
up by the illustrious and unfortunate Bailly. For clearness of
reasoning and strict impartiality it has never been surpassed. After
detailing the various experiments made, and their results, they came
to the conclusion that the only proof advanced in support of Animal
Magnetism was the effects it produced on the human body -- that those
effects could be produced without passes or other magnetic
manipulations - that all these manipulations, and passes, and
ceremonies never produce any effect at all if employed without the
patient's knowledge; and that therefore imagination did, and animal
magnetism did not, account for the phenomena.

This report was the ruin of Mesmer's reputation in France. He
quitted Paris shortly after, with the three hundred and forty thousand
francs which had been subscribed by his admirers, and retired to his
own country, where he died in 1815, at the advanced age of eighty-one.
But the seeds he had sown fructified of themselves, nourished and
brought to maturity by the kindly warmth of popular credulity.
Imitators sprang up in France, Germany, and England, more extravagant
than their master, and claiming powers for the new science which its
founder had never dreamt of. Among others, Cagliostro made good use of
the delusion in extending his claims to be considered a master of the
occult sciences. But he made no discoveries worthy to be compared to
those of the Marquis de Puysegur and the Chevalier Barbarin, honest
men, who began by deceiving themselves before they deceived others.

The Marquis de Puysegur, the owner of a considerable estate at
Busancy, was one of those who had entered into the subscription for
Mesmer. After that individual had quitted France, he retired to
Busancy with his brother to try Animal Magnetism upon his tenants, and
cure the country people of all manner of diseases. He was a man of
great simplicity and much benevolence, and not only magnetised but fed
the sick that flocked around him. In all the neighbourhood, and indeed
within a circumference of twenty miles, he was looked upon as endowed
with a power almost Divine. His great discovery, as he called it, was
made by chance. One day he had magnetised his gardener; and observing
him to fall into a deep sleep, it occurred to him that he would
address a question to him, as he would have done to a natural
somnambulist. He did so, and the man replied with much clearness and
precision. M. de Puysegur was agreeably surprised: he continued his
experiments, and found that, in this state of magnetic somnambulism,
the soul of the sleeper was enlarged, and brought into more intimate
communion with all nature, and more especially with him, M. de
Puysegur. He found that all further manipulations were unnecessary;
that, without speaking or making any sign, he could convey his will to
the patient; that he could, in fact, converse with him, soul to soul,
without the employment of any physical operation whatever!

Simultaneously with this marvellous discovery he made another,
which reflects equal credit upon his understanding. Like Valentine
Greatraks, he found it hard work to magnetise all that came - that he
had not even time to take the repose and relaxation which were
necessary for his health. In this emergency he hit upon a clever
expedient. He had heard Mesmer say that he could magnetise bits of
wood -- why should he not be able to magnetise a whole tree? It was no
sooner thought than done. There was a large elm on the village green
at Busancy, under which the peasant girls used to dance on festive
occasions, and the old men to sit, drinking their vin du pays on the
fine summer evenings. M. de Puysegur proceeded to this tree and
magnetised it, by first touching it with his hands and then retiring a
few steps from it; all the while directing streams of the magnetic
fluid from the branches toward the trunk, and from the trunk toward
the root. This done, he caused circular seats to be erected round it,
and cords suspended from it in all directions. When the patients had
seated themselves, they twisted the cords round the diseased parts of
their bodies, and held one another firmly by their thumbs to form a
direct channel of communication for the passage of the fluid.

M. de Puysegur had now two hobbies - the man with the enlarged
soul, and the magnetic elm. The infatuation of himself and his
patients cannot be better expressed than in his own words. Writing to
his brother, on the 17th of May 1784, he says, "If you do not come, my
dear friend, you will not see my extraordinary man, for his health is
now almost quite restored. I continue to make use of the happy power
for which I am indebted to M. Mesmer. Every day I bless his name; for
I am very useful, and produce many salutary effects on all the sick
poor in the neighbourhood. They flock around my tree; there were more
than one hundred and thirty of them this morning. It is the best
baquet possible; not a leaf of it but communicates health! all feel,
more or less, the good effects of it. You will be delighted to see the
charming picture of humanity which this presents. I have only one
regret - it is, that I cannot touch all who come. But my magnetised
man -- my intelligence - sets me at ease. He teaches me what conduct I
should adopt. According to him, it is not at all necessary that I
should touch every one; a look, a gesture, even a wish, is sufficient.
And it is one of the most ignorant peasants of the country that
teaches me this! When he is in a crisis, I know of nothing more
profound, more prudent, more clearsighted (clairvoyant) than he is."

In another letter, describing his first experiment with the
magnetic tree, he says, "Yester evening I brought my first patient to
it. As soon as I had put the cord round him he gazed at the tree; and,
with an air of astonishment which I cannot describe, exclaimed, 'What
is it that I see there?' His head then sunk down, and he fell into a
perfect fit of somnambulism. At the end of an hour, I took him home to
his house again, when I restored him to his senses. Several men and
women came to tell him what he had been doing. He maintained it was
not true; that, weak as he was, and scarcely able to walk, it would
have been scarcely possible for him to have gone down stairs and
walked to the tree. To-day I have repeated the experiment on him, and
with the same success. I own to you that my head turns round with
pleasure to think of the good I do. Madame de Puysegur, the friends
she has with her, my servants, and, in fact, all who are near me, feel
an amazement, mingled with admiration, which cannot be described; but
they do not experience the half of my sensations. Without my tree,
which gives me rest, and which will give me still more, I should be in
a state of agitation, inconsistent, I believe, with my health. I exist
too much, if I may be allowed to use the expression."

In another letter, he descants still more poetically upon his
gardener with the enlarged soul. He says, "It is from this simple man,
this tall and stout rustic, twenty-three years of age, enfeebled by
disease, or rather by sorrow, and therefore the more predisposed to be
affected by any great natural agent, -- it is from this man, I repeat,
that I derive instruction and knowledge. When in the magnetic state,
he is no longer a peasant who can hardly utter a single sentence; he
is a being, to describe whom I cannot find a name. I need not speak; I
have only to think before him, when he instantly understands and
answers me. Should anybody come into the room, he sees him, if I
desire it (but not else), and addresses him, and says what I wish him
to say; not indeed exactly as I dictate to him, but as truth requires.
When he wants to add more than I deem it prudent strangers should
hear, I stop the flow of his ideas, and of his conversation in the
middle of a word, and give it quite a different turn!"

Among other persons attracted to Busancy by the report of these
extraordinary occurrences was M. Cloquet, the Receiver of Finance. His
appetite for the marvellous being somewhat insatiable, he readily
believed all that was told him by M. de Puysegur. He also has left a
record of what he saw, and what he credited, which throws a still
clearer light upon the progress of the delusion. ["Introduction to the
Study of Animal Magnetism," by Baron Dupotet, p. 73.] He says that the
patients he saw in the magnetic state had an appearance of deep sleep,
during which all the physical faculties were suspended, to the
advantage of the intellectual faculties. The eyes of the patients were
closed; the sense of hearing was abolished, and they awoke only at the
voice of their magnetiser. "If any one touched a patient during a
crisis, or even the chair on which he was seated," says M. Cloquet,
"it would cause him much pain and suffering, and throw him into
convulsions. During the crisis, they possess an extraordinary and
supernatural power, by which, on touching a patient presented to them,
they can feel what part of his body is diseased, even by merely
passing their hand over the clothes." Another singularity was, that
these sleepers who could thus discover diseases -- see into the
interior of other men's stomachs, and point out remedies, remembered
absolutely nothing after the magnetiser thought proper to disenchant
them. The time that elapsed between their entering the crisis and
their coming out of it was obliterated. Not only had the magnetiser
the power of making himself heard by the somnambulists, but he could
make them follow him by merely pointing his finger at them from a
distance, though they had their eyes the whole time completely closed.

Such was Animal Magnetism under the auspices of the Marquis de
Puysegur. While he was hibiting these fooleries around his elm-tree, a
magnetiser of another class appeared in Lyons, in the person of the
Chevalier de Barbarin. This person thought the effort of the will,
without any of the paraphernalia of wands or baquets, was sufficient
to throw patients into the magnetic sleep. He tried it and succeeded.
By sitting at the bedside of his patients, and praying that they might
be magnetised, they went off into a state very similar to that of the
persons who fell under the notice of M. de Puysegur. In the course of
time, a very considerable number of magnetisers, acknowledging
Barbarin for their model, and called after him Barbarinists, appeared
in different parts, and were believed to have effected some remarkable
cures. In Sweden and Germany, this sect of fanatics increased rapidly,
and were called spiritualists, to distinguish them from the followers
of M. de Puysegur, who were called experimentalists. They maintained
that all the effects of Animal Magnetism, which Mesmer believed to be
producible by a magnetic fluid dispersed through nature, were produced
by the mere effort of one human soul acting upon another; that when a
connexion had once been established between a magnetiser and his
patient, the former could communicate his influence to the latter from
any distance, even hundreds of miles, by the will! One of them thus
described the blessed state of a magnetic patient: -- "In such a man
animal instinct ascends to the highest degree admissible in this
world. The clairvoyant is then a pure animal, without any admixture of
matter. His observations are those of a spirit. He is similar to God.
His eye penetrates all the secrets of nature. When his attention is
fixed on any of the objects of this world -- on his disease, his
death, his well-beloved, his friends, his relations, his enemies, --
in spirit he sees them acting; he penetrates into the causes and the
consequences of their actions; he becomes a physician, a prophet, a
divine!" [See "Foreign Review, Continental Miscellany," vol. v. 113.]

Let us now see what progress these mysteries made in England. In
the year 1788, Dr. Mainauduc, who had been a pupil, first of Mesmer,
and afterwards of D'Eslon, arrived in Bristol, and gave public
lectures upon magnetism. His success was quite extraordinary. People
of rank and fortune hastened from London to Bristol to be magnetised,
or to place themselves under his tuition. Dr. George Winter, in his
History of Animal Magnetism, gives the following list of them: --
"They amounted to one hundred and twenty-seven, among whom there were
one duke, one duchess, one marchioness, two countesses, one earl, one
baron, three baronesses, one bishop, five right honourable gentlemen
and ladies, two baronets, seven members of parliament, one clergyman,
two physicians, seven surgeons, besides ninety-two gentlemen and
ladies of respectability." He afterwards established himself in
London, where he performed with equal success.

He began by publishing proposals to the ladies for the formation
of a Hygeian Society. In this paper he vaunted highly the curative
effects of Animal Magnetism, and took great credit to himself for
being the first person to introduce it into England, and thus
concluded:-- "As this method of cure is not confined to sex, or
college education, and the fair sex being in general the most
sympathising part of the creation, and most immediately concerned in
the health and care of its offspring, I think myself bound in
gratitude to you, ladies, for the partiality you have shown me in
midwifery, to contribute, as far as lies in my power, to render you
additionally useful and valuable to the community. With this view, I
propose forming my Hygeian Society, to be incorporated with that of
Paris. As soon as twenty ladies have given in their names, the day
shall be appointed for the first meeting at my house, when they are to
pay fifteen guineas, which will include the whole expense."

Hannah More, in a letter addressed to Horace Walpole, in September
1788, speaks of the "demoniacal mummeries" of Dr. Mainauduc, and says
he was in a fair way of gaining a hundred thousand pounds by them, as
Mesmer had done by his exhibitions in Paris.

So much curiosity was excited by the subject that, about the same
time, a man, named Holloway, gave a course of lectures on Animal
Magnetism in London, at the rate of five guineas for each pupil, and
realised a considerable fortune. Loutherbourg, the painter, and his
wife followed the same profitable trade; and such was the infatuation
of the people to be witnesses of their strange manipulations, that, at
times, upwards of three thousand persons crowded around their house at
Hammersmith, unable to gain admission. The tickets sold at prices
varying from one to three guineas. Loutherbourg performed his cures by
the touch, after the manner of Valentine Greatraks, and finally
pretended to a Divine mission. An account of his miracles, as they
were called, was published in 1789, entitled "A List of New Cures
performed by Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg of Hammersmith Terrace,
without Medicine; by a Lover of the Lamb of God. Dedicated to his
Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury."

This "Lover of the Lamb of God" was a half-crazy old woman, named
Mary Pratt, who conceived for Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg a
veneration which almost prompted her to worship them. She chose for
the motto of her pamphlet a verse in the thirteenth chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles: "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish!
for I will work a work in your days which ye shall not believe though
a man declare it unto you." Attempting to give a religious character
to the cures of the painter, she thought a woman was the proper person
to make them known, since the apostle had declared that a man should
not be able to conquer the incredulity of the people. She stated that,
from Christmas 1788 to July 1789, De Loutherbourg and his wife had
cured two thousand people, "having been made proper recipients to
receive Divine manuductions; which heavenly and Divine influx, coming
from the radix God, his Divine Majesty had most graciously bestowed
upon them to diffuse healing to all, be they deaf, dumb, blind, lame,
or halt."

In her dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury, she implored
him to compose a new form of prayer to be used in all churches and
chapels, that nothing might impede this inestimable gift from having
its due course. She further entreated all the magistrates and men of
authority in the land to wait on Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg, to
consult with them on the immediate erection of a large hospital, with
a pool of Bethesda attached to it. All the magnetisers were
scandalised at the preposterous jabber of this old woman, and De
Loutherbourg appears to have left London to avoid her; continuing,
however, in conjunction with his wife, the fantastic tricks which had
turned the brain of this poor fanatic, and deluded many others who
pretended to more sense than she had.

From this period until 1798, magnetism excited little or no
attention in England. An attempt to revive the doctrine was made in
that year, but it was in the shape of mineral rather than of animal
magnetism. One Benjamin Douglas Perkins, an American, practising as a
surgeon in Leicestersquare, invented and took out a patent for the
celebrated "Metallic Tractors." He pretended that these tractors,
which were two small pieces of metal strongly magnetised, something
resembling the steel plates which were first brought into notice by
Father Hell, would cure gout, rheumatism, palsy, and in fact, almost
every disease the human frame was subject to, if applied externally to
the afflicted part, and moved about gently, touching the surface only.
The most wonderful stories soon obtained general circulation, and the
press groaned with pamphlets, all vaunting the curative effects of the
tractors, which were sold at five guineas the pair. Perkins gained
money rapidly. Gouty subjects forgot their pains in the presence of
this new remedy; the rheumatism fled at its approach; and toothache,
which is often cured by the mere sight of a dentist, vanished before
Perkins and his marvellous steel plates. The benevolent Quakers, of
whose body he was a member, warmly patronised the invention. Desirous
that the poor, who could not afford to pay Mr. Perkins five guineas,
or even five shillings, for his tractors, should also share in the
benefits of that sublime discovery, they subscribed a large sum, and
built an hospital, called the "Perkinean Institution," in which all
comers might be magnetised free of cost. In the course of a few months
they were in very general use, and their lucky inventor in possession
of five thousand pounds.

Dr. Haygarth, an eminent physician at Bath, recollecting the
influence of imagination in the cure of disease, hit upon an expedient
to try the real value of the tractors. Perkins's cures were too well
established to be doubted; and Dr. Haygarth, without gainsaying them,
quietly, but in the face of numerous witnesses, exposed the delusion
under which people laboured with respect to the curative medium. He
suggested to Dr. Falconer that they should make wooden tractors, paint
them to resemble the steel ones, and see if the very same effects
would not be produced. Five patients were chosen from the hospital in
Bath, upon whom to operate. Four of them suffered severely from
chronic rheumatism in the ankle, knee, wrist, and hip; and the fifth
had been afflicted for several months with the gout. On the day
appointed for the experiments, Dr. Haygarth and his friends assembled
at the hospital, and with much solemnity brought forth the fictitious
tractors. Four out of the five patients said their pains were
immediately relieved; and three of them said they were not only
relieved, but very much benefited. One felt his knee warmer, and said
he could walk across the room. He tried and succeeded, although on the
previous day he had not been able to stir. The gouty man felt his
pains diminish rapidly, and was quite easy for nine hours, until he
went to bed, when the twitching began again. On the following day the
real tractors were applied to all the patients, when they described
their symptoms in nearly the same terms.

To make still more sure, the experiment was tried in the Bristol
Infirmary, a few weeks afterwards, on a man who had a rheumatic
affection in the shoulder, so severe as to incapacitate him from
lifting his hand from his knee. The fictitious tractors were brought
and applied to the afflicted part, one of the physicians, to add
solemnity to the scene, drawing a stop-watch from his pocket to
calculate the time exactly, while another, with a pen in his hand, sat
down to write the change of symptoms from minute to minute as they
occurred. In less than four minutes the man felt so much relieved,
that he lifted his hand several inches without any pain in the

An account of these matters was published by Dr. Haygarth, in a
small volume entitled, "Of the Imagination, as a Cause and Cure of
Disorders, exemplified by fictitious Tractors." The exposure was a
coup de grace to the system of Mr. Perkins. His friends and patrons,
still unwilling to confess that they had been deceived, tried the
tractors upon sheep, cows, and horses, alleging that the animals
received benefit from the metallic plates, but none at all from the
wooden ones. But they found nobody to believe them; the Perkinean
Institution fell into neglect; and Perkins made his exit from England,
carrying with him about ten thousand pounds, to soothe his declining
years in the good city of Pennsylvania.

Thus was magnetism laughed out of England for a time. In France,
the revolution left men no leisure for such puerilities. The "Societes
de l'Harmonie," of Strasburg, and other great towns, lingered for a
while, till sterner matters occupying men's attention, they were one
after the other abandoned, both by pupils and professors. The system
thus driven from the first two nations of Europe, took refuge among
the dreamy philosophers of Germany. There the wonders of the magnetic
sleep grew more and more wonderful every day; the patients acquired
the gift of prophecy - their vision extended over all the surface of
the globe -- they could hear and see with their toes and fingers, and
read unknown languages, and understand them too, by merely having the
book placed on their bellies. Ignorant clodpoles, when once entranced
by the grand Mesmeric fluid, could spout philosophy diviner than Plato
ever wrote, descant upon the mysteries of the mind with more eloquence
and truth than the profoundest metaphysicians the world ever saw, and
solve knotty points of divinity with as much ease as waking men could
undo their shoe-buckles!

During the first twelve years of the present century, little was
heard of Animal Magnetism in any country of Europe. Even the Germans
forgot their airy fancies; recalled to the knowledge of this every-day
world by the roar of Napoleon's cannon and the fall or the
establishment of kingdoms. During this period, a cloud of obscurity
hung over the science, which was not dispersed until M. Deleuze
published, in 1813, his "Histoire Critique du Magnetisme Animal." This
work gave a new impulse to the half-forgotten delusion; newspapers,
pamphlets, and books again waged war upon each other on the question
of its truth or falsehood; and many eminent men in the profession of
medicine recommenced inquiry, with an earnest design to discover the

The assertions made in the celebrated treatise of Deleuze are thus
summed up: [See the very calm, clear, and dispassionate article upon
the subject in the fifth volume (1830) of "The Foreign Review," page
96, et seq.] -- "There is a fluid continually escaping from the human
body," and "forming an atmosphere around us," which, as "it has no
determined current," produces no sensible effects on surrounding
individuals. It is, however, "capable of being directed by the will;"
and, when so directed, "is sent forth in currents," with a force
corresponding to the energy we possess. Its motion is "similar to that
of the rays from burning bodies;" "it possesses different qualities in
different individuals." It is capable of a high degree of
concentration, "and exists also in trees." The will of the magnetiser,
"guided by a motion of the hand, several times repeated in the same
direction," can fill a tree with this fluid. Most persons, when this
fluid is poured into them, from the body and by the will of the
magnetiser, "feel a sensation of heat or cold" when he passes his hand
before them, without even touching them. Some persons, when
sufficiently charged with this fluid, fall into a state of
somnambulism, or magnetic ecstasy; and, when in this state, "they see
the fluid encircling the magnetiser like a halo of light, and issuing
in luminous streams from his mouth and nostrils, his head, and hands;
possessing a very agreeable smell, and communicating a particular
taste to food and water."

One would think that these absurdities were quite enough to be
insisted upon by any physician who wished to be considered sane, but
they only form a small portion of the wondrous things related by M.
Deleuze. He further said, "When magnetism produces somnambulism, the
person who is in this state acquires a prodigious extension of all his
faculties. Several of his external organs, especially those of sight
and hearing, become inactive; but the sensations which depend upon
them take place internally. Seeing and hearing are carried on by the
magnetic fluid, which transmits the impressions immediately, and
without the intervention of any nerves or organs directly to the
brain. Thus the somnambulist, though his eyes and ears are closed, not
only sees and hears, but sees and hears much better than he does when
awake. In all things he feels the will of the magnetiser, although
that will be not expressed. He sees into the interior of his own body,
and the most secret organization of the bodies of all those who may be
put en rapport, or in magnetic connexion, with him. Most commonly, he
only sees those parts which are diseased and disordered, and
intuitively prescribes a remedy for them. He has prophetic visions and
sensations, which are generally true, but sometimes erroneous. He
expresses himself with astonishing eloquence and facility. He is not
free from vanity. He becomes a more perfect being of his own accord
for a certain time, if guided wisely by the magnetiser, but wanders if
he is ill-directed."

According to M. Deleuze, any person could become a magnetiser and
produce these effects, by conforming to the following conditions, and
acting upon the following rules:--

Forget for a while all your knowledge of physics and metaphysics.

Remove from your mind all objections that may occur.

Imagine that it is in your power to take the malady in hand, and
throw it on one side.

Never reason for six weeks after you have commenced the study.

Have an active desire to do good; a firm belief in the power of
magnetism, and an entire confidence in employing it. In short, repel
all doubts; desire success, and act with simplicity and attention.

That is to say, "be very credulous; be very persevering; reject
all past experience, and do not listen to reason," and you are a
magnetiser after M. Deleuze's own heart.

Having brought yourself into this edifying state of fanaticism,
"remove from the patient all persons who might be troublesome to you:
keep with you only the necessary witnesses -- a single person, if need
be; desire them not to occupy themselves in any way with the processes
you employ and the effects which result from them, but to join with
you in the desire of doing good to your patient. Arrange yourself so
as neither to be too hot nor too cold, and in such a manner that
nothing may obstruct the freedom of your motions; and take precautions
to prevent interruption during the sitting. Make your patient then sit
as commodiously as possible, and place yourself opposite to him, on a
seat a little more elevated, in such a manner that his knees may be
betwixt yours, and your feet at the side of his. First, request him to
resign himself; to think of nothing; not to perplex himself by
examining the effects which may be produced; to banish all fear; to
surrender himself to hope, and not to be disturbed or discouraged if
the action of magnetism should cause in him momentary pains. After
having collected yourself, take his thumbs between your fingers in
such a way that the internal part of your thumbs may be in contact
with the internal part of his, and then fix your eyes upon him! You
must remain from two to five minutes in this situation, or until you
feel an equal heat between your thumbs and his. This done, you will
withdraw your hands, removing them to the right and left; and at the
same time turning them till their internal surface be outwards, and
you will raise them to the height of the head. You will now place them
upon the two shoulders, and let them remain there about a minute;
afterwards drawing them gently along the arms to the extremities of
the fingers, touching very slightly as you go. You will renew this
pass five or six times, always turning your hands, and removing them a
little from the body before you lift them. You will then place them
above the head; and, after holding them there for an instant, lower
them, passing them before the face, at the distance of one or two
inches, down to the pit of the stomach. There you will stop them two
minutes also, putting your thumbs upon the pit of the stomach and the
rest of your fingers below the ribs. You will then descend slowly
along the body to the knees, or rather, if you can do so without
deranging yourself, to the extremity of the feet. You will repeat the
same processes several times during the remainder of the sitting. You
will also occasionally approach your patient, so as to place your
hands behind his shoulders, in order to descend slowly along the spine
of the back and the thighs, down to the knees or the feet. After the
first passes, you may dispense with putting your hands upon the head,
and may make the subsequent passes upon the arms, beginning at the
shoulders, and upon the body, beginning at the stomach."

Such was the process of magnetising recommended by Deleuze. That
delicate, fanciful, and nervous women, when subjected to it, should
have worked themselves into convulsions will be readily believed by
the sturdiest opponent of Animal Magnetism. To sit in a constrained
posture -- be stared out of countenance by a fellow who enclosed her
knees between his, while he made passes upon different parts of her
body, was quite enough to throw any weak woman into a fit, especially
if she were predisposed to hysteria, and believed in the efficacy of
the treatment. It is just as evident that those of stronger minds and
healthier bodies should be sent to sleep by the process. That these
effects have been produced by these means there are thousands of
instances to show. But are they testimony in favour of Animal
Magnetism? - do they prove the existence of the magnetic fluid? Every
unprejudiced person must answer in the negative. It needs neither
magnetism, nor ghost from the grave, to tell us that silence,
monotony, and long recumbency in one position must produce sleep, or
that excitement, imitation, and a strong imagination, acting upon a
weak body, will bring on convulsions. It will be seen hereafter that
magnetism produces no effects but these two; that the gift of prophecy
- supernatural eloquence - the transfer of the senses, and the power
of seeing through opaque substances, are pure fictions, that cannot be
substantiated by anything like proof.

M. Deleuze's book produced quite a sensation in France; the study
was resumed with redoubled vigour. In the following year, a journal
was established devoted exclusively to the science, under the title of
"Annales du Magnetisme Animal;" and shortly afterwards appeared the
"Bibliotheque du Magnetisme Animal," and many others. About the same
time, the Abbe Faria, "the man of wonders," began to magnetise; and
the belief being that he had more of the Mesmeric fluid about him, and
a stronger will, than most men, he was very successful in his
treatment. His experiments afford a convincing proof that imagination
can operate all, and the supposed fluid none, of the resuits so
confidently claimed as evidence of the new science. He placed his
patients in an arm-chair; told them to shut their eyes; and then, in a

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