One of the curiosities of Cairo is the hair-oil bazar. The Egyptian women are prodigious hairdressers and the variety of perfumes which they lavish upon their hair and persons, exceed all European custom and calculation. This bazar is all scents, oil, and gold braids for the hair. It is nearly half a mile long. The odour, or the mixture of odours, may well be presumed to be overpowering, when every other shop is devoted to scented bottles—the intervening ones, containing perfumed head-dresses, formed of braids of ribands and gold lace, which descend to the ground. A warehouse of Turkish tables exhibited the luxurious ingenuity of the workers in mother-of-pearl. They were richly wrought in gold and silver ornaments. Within seven miles of Cairo, there still exists a wonder of the old time, which must have made a great figure in the Arab legends—a petrified forest lying in the desert, and which, to complete the wonder, it is evident must have been petrified while still standing. The trees are now lying on the ground, many of the trunks forty feet long, with their branches beside them, all of stone, and evidently shattered by the fall. Cairo, too, has its hospital for lunatics; but this is a terrible scene. The unfortunate inmates are chained and caged, and look like wild beasts, with just enough of the human aspect left to make the scene terrible. A reform here would be well worth the interference of European humanity. We wish that the Hanwell Asylum would send a deputation with Dr Connolly at its head to the Pasha. No man is more open to reason than Mohammed Ali, and the European treatment of lunatics, transferred to an Egyptian dungeon, would be one of the best triumphs of active humanity.
The travellers at length left Cairo, and embarked on board Mills and Company's steam-boat, named the Jack o' Lantern. It seemed to be merely one of the common boats that ply on the river, with the addition of a boiler and paddles, and is probably the smallest steamer extant. However, when they entered the cabin upon the deck, they found every thing nicely arranged and began to think better of their little vessel. They had another advantage in its smallness, as the Nile was now so low that numbers of vessels lay aground, and a large steamer would probably have been unable to make the passage. The river seemed quite alive with many-formed and many-coloured boats. Their picturesque sails, crossing each other, made them at a distance look almost like butterflies skimming over the water. The little steamer drew only two feet and a half of water. She is jestingly described as of two and a half Cairo donkey power. About six miles from Boulac, they passed under the walls of Shoobra palace and gardens. Its groves form a striking object, and its interior, cultivated by Greek gardeners, is an earthly Mahometan paradise. It has bower-covered walks, gardens carpeted with flowers, ever-flowing fountains, and a lake on which the luxurious Pasha is rowed by the ladies of his harem. The Nile winds in the most extraordinary manner across the tongues of land; boats and sails are seen close, which are in reality a mile further down the stream. The banks were high above the boat, through the present shallowness of the river. They were chiefly of brown clay, and were frequently cut into chasms for the purposes of irrigation. As they shot along, they saw large tracts covered with cotton, wheat, Indian corn, and other crops. Date-trees in abundance, the leaves large and like those of the cocoa, the fruit hanging in large clusters, when ripe of a bright red. Water-melons cultivated every where, often on the sandy banks of the river itself, three or four times the size of a man's head, and absolutely loading the beds. Numbers of the Egyptian villages were seen in the navigation of the river. The houses are huddled together, are of unbaked clay, and look like so many bee-hives. Every village has its date-trees, and every hut has pigeons. The peasants in general seem intolerably indolent, and groups of them are every where lying under the trees. Herds of fine buffaloes, twice the size of those in Ceylon, were seen along the shore, and sometimes swimming the river. Groups of magnificent cattle, larger and finer than even our best English breed, were driven occasionally to water at the river side. The Egyptian boats come to an anchor every night; but the Jack o' Lantern dashed on, and by daybreak reached the entrance of the Mahoudiah Canal, on which a track-boat carries passengers to Alexandria. A high mound of earth here separates the canal from the Nile, which flows on towards Rosetta. This embankment is about forty feet wide. Some of Mrs Griffith's observations are at least sufficiently expressive; for example:—"All the children, and some past the age of what are usually styled little children, were running about entirely devoid of clothing. We observed a great deal of this in Egypt. Men are often seen in the same condition; and the women of the lower orders, having concealed their heads and faces, appear to think they have done all that is necessary." This is certainly telling a good deal; nothing more explicit could be required. The track-boats are odious conveyances, long and narrow, and the present one very dirty, and swarming with cockroaches. They were towed by three horses, ridden by three men. In England one would have answered the purpose. The Canal itself is an extraordinary work, worthy of the country of the Pyramids, and one of the prodigies which despotism sometimes exhibits when the iron sceptre is combined with a vigorous intellect. It is ninety feet wide and forty-eight miles long, and yet was completed in six weeks. But it took the labour of 250,000 men, who worked, if the story be true, night and day. Along the canal were seen several large encampments of troops, rather rough instruments, it is true, for polishing African savagery into usefulness, but perhaps the only means by which great things could have been done in so short a period as the reign of Mohammed Ali. An Italian fellow-passenger, who had resided in Egypt twenty-five years, gave it as the result of his experience, that without the strong hand of power, the population would do nothing. Bread and onions being their food, when those were obtained they had got all that they asked for. They would leave their fruitful land to barrenness, and would prefer sleeping under their trees, to the simplest operation of agriculture in a soil that never requires the plough. Yet they are singularly tenacious of their money, and often bury it, keeping their secret to the last. The Italian told them that he was once witness to a scene exactly in point. He accompanied the tax-gatherer to a miserable village, where they entered one of the most miserable huts. The tax-gatherer demanded his due, the Egyptian fell at his feet, protesting that his family were starving, and that he had not a single coin to buy bread. The tax-gatherer, finding him impracticable, ordered some of his followers to give him a certain number of stripes. The peasant writhed under the stripes, but continued his tale. The beating was renewed on two days more, when the Italian interfered and implored mercy. But the officer said that he must continue to flog, as he was certain that the money would come forth at last. After six days' castigation, the peasant's patience could hold out no longer. He dug a hole in the floor of his hut, and exhibited gold and silver to a large amount.
All this may be true; but it would be an injustice to human nature to suppose that man, in any country, would prefer dirt, poverty, and idleness, to comfort, activity, and employment, where he could be sure of possessing the fruits of his labours. But where the unfortunate peasant is liable to see his whole crop carried off the land at the pleasure of one of the public officers, or the land itself torn from him, or himself or his son carried off by the conscription, how can we be surprised if he should think it not worth the while to trouble his head or his hands about any thing? Give him security, and he will work; give him property, and he will keep it; and give him the power of enjoying his gains in defiance of the tax-gatherer, and he will exhibit the manliness and perseverance which Providence has given to all. Whether even the famous Pasha is not still too much of a Turk to venture on an experiment which was never heard of in the land of a Mahometan before, must be a matter more for the prophet than the politician; but Egypt, so long the most abject of nations, and the perpetual slave of a stranger, seems rapidly approaching to European civilization, and by her association with Englishmen, and her English alliance, may yet be prepared to take a high place among the regenerated governments of the world.
The road from the termination of the canal to Alexandria, about two miles long, leads through a desert track. At last the Mediterranean bursts upon the eye. In front rise Pompey's stately and well-known pillar, and Cleopatra's needle. High sand-banks still intercept the view of Alexandria. At length the gates are passed, a dusty avenue is traversed, the great square is reached, and the English hotel receives the travellers. Mahometanism is now left behind, for Alexandria is comparatively an European capital. All the houses surrounding the great square, including the dwellings of the consuls, have been built within the last ten years by Ibrahim Pasha, who, prince and heir to the throne as he is, here performs the part of a speculative builder, and lets out his houses to Europeans. These houses are built as regularly as those in Park Crescent, and are two stories high above the Porte Cochere. They all have French windows with green Venetian shutters, and the whole appearance is completely European. The likeness is sustained by carriages of every description, filled with smartly dressed women, driving through all the streets—a sight never seen at Cairo, for the generality of the streets are scarcely wide enough for the passage of donkeys. But the population is still motley and Asiatic. Turbans, caps, and the scarlet fez, loose gowns, and embroidered trousers, make the streets picturesque. On the other hand, crowds of Europeans, tourists, merchants, and tailors, are to be seen mingling with the Asiatics; and the effect is singularly varied and animated.
The pageant of the French consul-general going to pay his respects to the Viceroy, exhibited one of the shows of the place. First came a number of officers of state, in embroidered jackets of black cachmere, ornamented gaiters, and red morocco shoes. Each wore a cimeter, an essential part of official costume. Next followed a fine brass band; after them came a large body of infantry in three divisions, the whole in heavy marching order. Their discipline and general appearance were striking; they wore the summer dress, consisting of a white cotton jacket and trousers, with red cloth skull-caps, and carried their cartouche-boxes, cross-belts, and fire-locks in the European manner. The next feature, and the prettiest, consisted of the Pasha's led horses, in number about eighteen, all beautiful little Arabs, caparisoned with crimson and black velvet, and cloth of gold. We repeat the description of one, for the sake of tantalizing our European readers with the Egyptian taste in housings. "The animal was a chestnut horse, of perfect form and action. His saddle was of crimson velvet, thickly ribbed by gold embroidery. His saddle-cloth was entirely of cloth of gold, embossed with bullion, and studded with large gems; jewelled pistols were seen in the holsters; the head-piece was variegated red, green, and blue; embroidered and golden tassels hung from every part." But the European portion of the scene by no means corresponded to the Oriental display. The French consul followed in a barouche and pair, with his attaches and attendants in carriages; but the whole were mean-looking. The French court-dress, or any court-dress, must appear contemptible in its contrast with the stateliness of this people of silks and shawls, jewelled weapons, and cloth of gold.
Mohammed Ali is, after all, the true wonder of Egypt. A Turk without a single prejudice of the Turk—an Oriental eager for the adoption of all the knowledge, the arts, and the comforts of Europe—a Mahometan allowing perfect religious toleration, and a despot moderating his despotism by the manliest zeal for the prosperity of his country; he has already raised himself to a reputation far beyond the rank of his sovereignty, and will live in the memories of men, whenever they quote the names of those who, rising above all the difficulties of their original position, have proved their title to the mastery of nations.
The Pasha affected nothing of the usual privacy, or even of the usual pomp, of rajahs and sultans. He was constantly seen driving through Alexandria, in a low berlin with four horses. The berlin was lined with crimson silk, and there, squatting on one of the low broad seats, sat the Viceroy. Two of his officers generally sat opposite to him, and by his side his grandson—a handsome child between eight and nine years old, of whom he seems remarkably fond. Like so many other eminent men, his stature is below the middle size. His countenance is singularly intelligent, his nose aquiline, and his eye quick and penetrating. He does not take the trouble to dye his beard, as is the custom among Orientalists. He wears it long and thick, and in all its snows. Years have so little affected him, that he is regarded as a better life than his son Ibrahim—his general, and confessedly a man of ability. But his second son, Said Pasha, the half brother of Ibrahim, is regarded as especially inheriting the talents of his father. He is an accomplished man, speaks English and French fluently, seems to enter into his father's views with great intelligence, and exhibits a manliness and ardour of character which augur well for his country. But the appearance of the Pasha is not without its attendant state. In front of his berlin ride a number of attendants, caracoling in all directions. Behind the carriage rides his express, mounted on a dromedary, in readiness to start with despatches. The express is followed by his pipe-bearer; the pipe-bearer followed by a servant mounted on a mule, and carrying the light for the Pasha's pipe. The cavalcade is closed by a troop of the officers in waiting, mounted on showy horses.
At length the day of parting arrived, and the travellers embarked on board the Tagus steamer. The view of Alexandria from the sea is stately. A forest of masts, a quay of handsome houses, and the viceroyal palace forming one side of the harbour, tell the stranger that he is approaching the seat of sovereignty. The sea was rough, but of the bright blue of the Mediterranean, and the steamer cut swiftly through the waves. The vessel was clean and well arranged, the weather was fine, and the travellers began to feel the freshness and elasticity of European air. At length they arrived at Malta, and heard for the first time for years, the striking of clocks and the ringing of church-bells. They were at length in Europe. But there is one penalty on the return from the East, which always puts the stranger in ill-humour. They were compelled to perform quarantine. This was intolerably tedious, expensive, and wearisome; yet all things come to an end at last, and, after about a fortnight, they were set at liberty.
Malta, in its soil and climate, belongs to Africa—in its population, perhaps to Italy—in its garrison and commerce, to Europe—and in its manners and habits, to the East. It is a medley of the three quarters of the Old World; and, for the time, a medley of the most curious description. The native carriages, peasant dresses, shops, furniture of the houses, and even the houses themselves, are wholly unlike any thing that has before met the English eye. Malta, in point of religious observances, is like what St Paul said of Athens—it is overwhelmingly pious. The church-bells are tolling all day long. Wherever it is possible, the cultivation of the ground exhibits the industry of the people. Every spot where earth can be found, is covered with some species of produce. Large tracts are employed in the cultivation of the cotton plant—fruit-trees fill the soil—the fig-tree is luxuriant—pomegranate, peach, apple, and plum, are singularly productive. Vines cover the walls, and the Maltese oranges have a European reputation. The British possession of Malta originated in one of those singular events by which short-sightedness and rapine are often made their own punishers. The importance of Malta, as a naval station, had long been obvious to England; and when, in the revolutionary war, the chief hostilities of the war were transferred to the Mediterranean, its value as a harbour for the English fleets became incalculable. Yet it was still in possession of the knights; and, so far as England was concerned, it might have remained in their hands for ever. A national sense of justice would have prevented the seizure of the island, however inadequate to defend itself against the navy of England. But Napoleon had no such scruples. In his expedition to Egypt, he threw a body of troops on shore at Malta; and, having either frightened or bribed its masters, or perhaps both, plundered the churches of their plate, turned out the knights, and left the island in possession of a French garrison. Nothing could be less sagacious and less statesmanlike than this act; for, by extinguishing the neutrality of the island, he exposed it to an immediate blockade by the English. The result was exactly what he ought to have foreseen. An English squadron was immediately dispatched to summon the island; it eventually fell into the hands of the English, and now seems destined to remain in English hands so long as we have a ship in the Mediterranean. Malta is a prodigiously pious place, according to the Maltese conception of piety. Masses are going on without intermission—they fast twice a-week—religious processions are constantly passing—priests are continually seen in the streets, carrying the Host to the sick or dying. When the ceremonial is performed within the house, some of the choristers generally remain kneeling outside, and are joined by the passers-by. Thus crowds of people are often to be seen kneeling in the streets. The Virgin, of course, is the chief object of worship; for, nothing can be more true than the expression, that for one prayer to the Deity there are ten to the Virgin; and confession, at once the most childish and the most perilous of all practices, is regarded as so essential, that those who cannot produce a certificate from the priest of their having confessed, at least once in the year, are excluded from the sacrament by an act of the severest spiritual tyranny; and, if they should die thus excluded, their funeral service will not be performed by the priest—an act which implies a punishment beyond the grave. And yet the morals of the Maltese certainly derive no superiority from either the priestly influence or the personal mortification.
The travellers now embarked on board the Neapolitan steamer, Ercolano—bade adieu to Malta, and swept along the shore of Sicily. Syracuse still exhibits, in the beauty of its landscape, and the commanding nature of its situation, the taste of the Greeks in selecting the sites of their cities. The land is still covered with noble ruins, and the antiquarian might find a boundless field of interest and knowledge. Catania, which was destroyed about two centuries ago, at once by an earthquake and an eruption, is seated in a country of still more striking beauty. The appearance of the city from the sea is of the most picturesque order. It looks almost encircled by the lava which once wrought such formidable devastation. But the plain is bounded by verdant mountains, looking down on a lovely extent of orange and olive groves, vineyards, and cornfields. But the grand feature of the landscape, and the world has nothing nobler, is the colossal Etna; its lower circle covered with vegetation—its centre belted with forests—its summit covered with snow—and, above all, a crown of cloud, which so often turns into a cloud of flame. The travellers were fortunate in seeing this showy city under its most showy aspect. It was a gala-day in Catania; flags were flying on all sides—fireworks and illuminations were preparing—an altar was erected on the Cave, and all the world were in their holiday costume. As the evening approached the scene became still more brilliant, for the fireworks and illuminations then began to have their effect. The evening was soft and Italian, the air pure, and the sky without a cloud. From the water, the scene was fantastically beautiful; the huge altar erected on the shore, was now a blaze of light; the range of buildings, as they ascended from the shore, glittered like diamonds in the distance. Fireworks, in great abundance and variety, flashed about; and instrumental bands filled the night air with harmony. The equipages which filled the streets were in general elegant, and lined with silk; the dresses of the principal inhabitants were in the highest fashion, and all looked perfectly at their ease, and some looked even splendid. A remark is made, that this display of wealth is surprising in what must be regarded as a provincial town. But this remark may be extended to the whole south of Italy. It is a matter of real difficulty to conceive how the Italians contrive to keep up any thing approaching to the appearance which they make, in their Corsos, and on their feast-days. Without mines to support them, as the Spaniards were once supported; without colonies to bring them wealth; without manufactures, and without commerce, how they contrive to sustain a life of utter indolence, yet, at the same time, of considerable display, is a curious problem. It is true, that many of them have places at court, and flourish on sinecures; it is equally true, that their manner of living at home is generally penurious in the extreme; it is also true that gaming, and other arts not an atom more respectable, are customary to supply this yawning life. Yet still, how the majority can exist at all, is a natural question which it must require a deep insight into the mysteries of Italian existence to solve. Whatever may be the secret, the less Englishmen know on these subjects the better; communion with foreign habits only deteriorates the integrity and purity of our own. On the Continent, vice is systematized—virtue is scarcely more than a name; and no worse intelligence has long reached us than the calculation just published in the foreign newspapers, that there were 40,000 English now residing in France, and 4000 English families in that especial sink of superstition and profligacy, Italy.
The sail from the Sicilian straits to Naples is picturesque. The Liparis, with their volcanic summits, on one side—the Calabrian highlands, on the other—a succession of rich mountains, clothed with all kinds of verdure, and of the finest forms; and around, the perpetual beauty of the Mediterranean. The travellers hove to at Pizza, in the gulf of Euphania, the shore memorable for the gallant engagement in which the English troops under Stuart, utterly routed the French under Regnier—a battle which made the name of Maida immortal. Pizza has obtained a melancholy notoriety by the death of Murat, who was shot by order of a court-martial, as an invader and rebel, in October 1815. Murat's personal intrepidity, and even his fanfaronade, excited an interest for him in Europe. But he was a wild, rash, and reckless instrument of Napoleon's furious and remorseless policy; the commandant of the French army in Spain in 1808 could not complain of military vengeance; and his death by the hands of the royal troops only relieved Europe of the boldest disturber among the fallen followers of the great usurper.
The finest view of Naples is the one which the mob of tourists see the last. Its approaches by land are all imperfect—the city is to be seen only from the bay. Floating on the waters which form the most lovely of all foregrounds, a vast sheet of crystal, a boundless mirror, a tissue of purple, or any other of the fanciful names which the various hues and aspects of the hour give to this renowned bay, the view comprehends the city, the surrounding country, Posilipo on the left, Vesuvius on the right, and between them a region of vineyards and vegetation, as poetic and luxuriant as poet or painter could desire.
The wonders of Pompeii are no longer wonders, and people go to see them with something of the same spirit in which the citizens of London saunter to Primrose hill. It was a beggarly little place from the beginning; and the true wonder is, how it could ever have found inhabitants, or how the inhabitants could ever have found room to eat, drink, and sleep in. But Herculaneum is of a higher rank. If the Neapolitan Government had any spirit, it would demolish the miserable villages above it, and lay open this fine old monument of the cleverest, though the most corrupt people of the earth, to the light of day. In all probability we should learn from it more of the real state of the arts, the manners, and the feelings of the Greek, partially modified by his Italian colonization, than by any other record or memorial in existence. In those vaults which still remain closed, owing to the indolence or stupidity of the existing generation, eaten up as it is by monkery, and spending more upon a fete to the Madonna, or the liquifying of St Januarius's blood, than would lay open half the city, there is every probability that some of the most important literature of antiquity still lies buried. Why will not some English company, tired of railroad speculations and American stock, turn its discharge on Herculaneum, pour its gold over the ground, exfoliate the city of the dead, recover its statues, bronzes, frescoes, and mosaics, transplant them to Tower Stairs, and sell them by the hands of George Robins, for the benefit of the rising generation? This seems their only chance of revisiting the light of day; for the money of all foreign sovereigns goes in fetes and fireworks, new patterns of soldiers' caps, and new costumes for the maids of honour.
We have now glanced over the general features of these volumes. They are light and lively, and do credit to the writer's powers of observation. The result of his details, however, is to impress on our minds, that the "overland passage" is not yet fit for any female who is not inclined to "rough it" in an extraordinary degree. To any woman it offers great hardships; but to a woman of delicacy, the whole must be singularly repulsive. Something is said of the decorations of the work proceeding from the pencil of the lady's husband. Whether the lithographer has done injustice to them, we know not; but they seem to us the very reverse of decoration. The adoption, too, of new modes of spelling the Oriental names, is wholly unnecessary. Harem, turned into Hhareem—Dervish into Derweesh—Mameluke into Memlook, give no new ideas, and only add perplexity to our knowledge of the name. These words, with a crowd of others, have already been fixed in English orthography by their natural pronunciation; and the attempt to change them always renders their pronunciation—which is, after all, the only important point—less true to the original. On the whole, the "overland passage" seems to require immense improvements. But we live in hope; English sagacity and English perseverance will do much any where; and in Egypt they have for their field one of the most important regions of the world.
"They say miracles are past, and we have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and causeless."—All's Well that Ends Well, Act II., Scene 3.
From the many crude, illiterate, and unphilosophical speculations on the subject of mesmerism which the present unwholesome activity of the printing-press has ushered into the world, there is one book which stands out in prominent and ornamental relief—a book written by a member of the Church of England, a scholar and a gentleman; and the influence of which, either for good or for harm, is not likely to be ephemeral. Few, even of the most incredulous, can read with attention the first half of "Facts in Mesmerism, by the Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend," of which a second edition has recently appeared, without being staggered. The author leads the reader up a gentle slope, from facts abnormal, it is true, but not contradictory to received notions, to others deviating a little more from ordinary experience; and thence, by a course of calm narrative, to still more anomalous incidents; until at length, almost unconsciously, the incredible seems credible, impossibilities and possibilities are confounded, and miracles are no longer miraculous.
There is much difficulty in dealing with such a book; gentlemanly courtesy, which should grant what it would demand, and an unavoidable faith in the purity of the author's intentions, entirely prevent our treating it as the work of an empiric. It is evident that the author believes what he writes, that the facts in mesmerism are facts to him; to those unprepared by previous experience for the fallacies which the enthusiastic temperament is led into, the book would be irresistible; to those, however, accustomed to physical or phsycological investigation, the last half of the work does much to unravel the web which the first half has been engaged in weaving. When the author departs from the narrative of facts, and endeavours to render those facts consistent with reason and experience, we see the one-sided bias of his mind—we see that he is not a judge but an advocate; and the faith which we should repose on the circumstantial narrative of a gentleman, becomes changed into the courtesy with which we listen to an honourable but deceived enthusiast.
If the utilitarian school has done harm by its hasty attempts to reduce every thing to rule and to the dominion of human reason, no stronger proof than this book need be given of the evils to which the opposite extreme of transcendental philosophy has given rise. As an instance of the fallacies to which one-sided philosophic views may lead, Mr Townshend says, that if asked of what use is the eye if we can see without it, he might answer, "To show us how to make a camera obscura." The case is put illustratively, and we are far from wishing to take it literally to the author's disadvantage; but, in setting at nought the ordinary and sufficient reasoning on this subject, the author himself is obliged to adopt a similar but weaker line of argument. Unfortunate it is, that even in philosophy the judicial character is so rare; it is vainly imagined that error may be counteracted by antagonist error; and because neutrality is too often the companion of impotence, impartiality is supposed to be synonymous with neutrality.
It will be seen from the above, that Mr Townshend has failed to convince us that all the "facts in mesmerism" are facts; and certainly if he has failed, the herd of peripatetic lecturers on the so-called science are not likely to have succeeded; but, although unconvinced of the marvellous, we are by no means indisposed to believe some of the abnormal phenomena of mesmerism. We have witnessed several mesmeric exhibitions—we have never seen any effect produced which was contradictory to the possible of human experience, in which collusion or delusion was fairly negatived. We insist on our right to doubt, to disbelieve. The more startling the proposition, the more rigorous should be the proof; we have never seen the tests which are applied to the most trifling novelty in physical science applied to mesmeric clairvoyance, and withstood. The advocates of it challenge enquiry in print, but they shrink from, or sink under, experiment.
In endeavouring to analyse the work before us, and to examine generally the phenomena of mesmerism, we shall do our utmost to avoid the vices of partial advocacy which we censure; we moreover agree with Mr Townshend, that ridicule is not the weapon to be used. Satire, when on the side of the majority, is persecution; it is striking from a vantage ground—fair, perhaps, when the individual contends with the mass, as when an author writes to expose the fallacies of social fashion; but unfair, and very frequently unsuccessful, when directed against partially developed truths, or even against such phenomena as we believe mesmerism presents, viz. novel and curious psychical truths, o'erclouded with the dense errors of sometimes enthusiasm, sometimes knavery. We shall soberly examine the subject, because we think that much good may be done by its investigation. The really skilful and judicious steer clear of it from a fear of compromising their credit for commonsense; and while the caution necessarily attendant upon habitual scientific studies, dissuades the best men from meddling with that which may blight their hardly-earned laurels, the public is left to be swayed to and fro by an under-current of fallacious half-truths, far more seductive and dangerous than absolute falsehoods. We cannot undertake to say, thus far is true, and thus far false;—to mark out the actual limits of true mesmeric phenomena, demands the very difficult and detailed enquiries which, for the reasons just mentioned, have been hitherto withheld;—but we think we shall be able to succeed in showing, that, though there be much error, there is some truth, and truth of sufficient importance to merit a calm and careful investigation.
We may class the phenomena of mesmerism, as asserted by its professors, as follows:—
1st. Sleep, or coma, induced by external agency, (partly mental, partly physical.)
2d. Somnambulism, or, as called by Mr Townshend, sleep-waking; i.e. certain faculties rendered torpid while others are sensitive.
3d. Insensibility to pain and other external stimuli.
4th. Physical attraction to the mesmeriser, and repulsion from others; community of sensation with the mesmeriser.
5th. Clairvoyance, or the power of perception without the use of the usual organs; and second-sight, or the power of prediction respecting the mesmeric state and remedial agencies.
6th. Phreno-mesmerism, or the connexion between phrenology and mesmerism.
7th. Curative effects.
We believe these categories will include all the leading phenomena of mesmerism. We purpose to give instances of these, partly derived from our own experience, and partly from the book of Mr Townshend, or other the best sources to which we can have recourse; to state fearlessly what we believe may be true, and what we entirely disbelieve; and then to examine the arguments by which the reason of the public has been assailed, and in many cases rendered captive.
First, then, as to the power of induced coma, we will relate an instance which came under our own observation, and which serves to demonstrate that a power may be exercised by one human being over another which will produce a comatose or cataleptic state. In the Christmas week of the year 1842, we dined at a friend's house with a party of eight, (numeric perfection for a dinner-party, according to the ingenious author of the Original.) In the evening, Mackay's book on popular delusions being on the drawing-room table, some one asked if the author had treated of mesmerism. Upon this, one of the party who had recently returned from London—a man who had led a studious life, and of a highly nervous temperament—said he had recently witnessed a mesmeric exhibition, and would undertake to mesmerise any one present. Upon this, two or three ladies volunteered as patients; and he commenced experimenting upon a lady of some twenty-five years old, whom he had known intimately from childhood, clever, and well read, but rather imaginative. To make the thing more ridiculous, he knelt on both knees, and commenced making passes with both hands slowly before her eyes, telling her, whenever she took her eyes off, to look fixedly at him, and keeping a perfectly grave face when every body around was laughing unreservedly. After this had endured for some three minutes, the lady's eyes gradually closed, she fell forwards, and was only prevented from farther falling by being caught by the mesmeriser. He shook her, and, in rather a rough manner, brought her to her senses; then, suspicious lest she had been purposely deceiving him, questioned her seriously as to whether her sleep were feigned or real. She assured him that it was not simulated, that the sensation was irresistible, different from that of ordinary sleep, and by no means unpleasant; but that the only disagreeable part was the being roused. Upon this, the gentleman declared that he knew nothing of mesmerism, and that, had he believed there was any thing in it, he would not have attempted the joke. Another lady present, married, and having a family, was now most anxious to have the experiment repeated upon her. She said she had before sat to an experienced mesmeriser, who had failed, and she was still incredulous, and believed that M—— had merely given way to an imaginative temperament. It required considerable persuasion to induce the gentleman who had before operated to try any more experiments. He protested that he knew nothing about it, that he had once seen a person said to be in the mesmeric state; but that, if he succeeded again in inducing coma, he knew not at all how to awake the patient. Curiously enough, he was instructed in the manipulation by the sceptical patient, who had previously seen public mesmeric exhibitions. After some further persuasion, and with the permission of the lady's husband, who was present, he commenced again the same passes as with the former patient, the only difference being, that he was in this case sitting instead of kneeling. The patient kept constantly bursting into fits of laughter, and as constantly apologising, telling him that his gravity of face was irresistible. Of the other persons present, some laughed, others were too much terrified to laugh, but they kept up a constant running fire of comment, satirical and serious, upon the mesmeriser and mesmerisee. In four or five minutes, the fits of laughter of the latter assumed a rather unnatural character. It was evident she forced herself to laugh in spite of the strongest disinclination, and in a minute or two more she fixed into a state of ghastly catalepsy, the eyes wide open, but the lids fixed, the features all rigid, (except the lower lip, which was convulsed,) and pale as a corpse. The bystanders, now much frightened, interfered, and laid hold of the mesmeriser. After some time, water being given her to drink, she came to herself, and appeared not to have suffered from the experiment.
Notwithstanding the external difference of the case from the first, she described her sensations as the same; viz. a sleep differing from ordinary sleep, pleasing and irresistible, but the rousing very disagreeable. The lady's husband now insisted on being operated on himself. This was done, and entirely without success. Another lady was also experimented on with no success; at least she said she felt sleepy, but nothing more, which was not extraordinary, as it was now getting late. When questioned as to what means he had used, the mesmeriser said he had done nothing but stare steadily at the patients, making them also look fixedly at him, and move his hands slowly and in uniform directions, his instructor in these manoeuvres having been Tyrone Power in the farce of His Last Legs. He stated that soon after the commencement of the experiment, he felt an almost irresistible tendency to go on with it; but whether this resulted from a conviction that he was exercising some unknown influence, or from mere experimental curiosity, he would not undertake to say—"this only was the witchcraft he had used."
The result was to all present conclusive as to the production of some effect inexplicable upon received theories. The second case defied simulation, and we believe it was equally removed from hysteria. The patient was a strong-minded person, of a temperament neither nervous nor hysterical, to all appearance perfectly calm, except when overcome by a sense of the ridiculous, and before the experiment obstinately incredulous. It was certainly a strong case. Any hypothesis to account for it would be hasty; but one point suggests itself to us as arising from the remark made by the mesmeriser, viz. that the only influence he was conscious of using was that of a fixed determined stare. This may possibly afford some key to a more philosophical examination of these curious phenomena.
The fabled effects of the basilisk, the serpent, and the evil eye, have probably all some facts for their foundation. The effect of the human eye in arresting the attacks of savage animals is better authenticated, and its influence upon domestic animals may be more easily made the subject of experimental proof. Let any one gaze steadily at a dog half dozing at the fireside—the animal will, after a short time, become restless, and if the stare be continued, will quit his resting-place, and either shrink into a corner, or come forward and caress the person staring. How much of this may be due to the habitual fixed look of stern command with which censure or punishment is accompanied, it may be difficult to say; but the fact undoubtedly is, that some influence, either innate or induced, is exercised. Again, those who, in society, habitually converse with an averted glance, we generally consider wanting in moral force. We doubt the man who doubts himself. On the other hand, if, in conversation, the ordinary look of awakened interest be prolonged, and the eyes are kept fixed for a longer period than usual, an embarrassed and somewhat painful feeling is the result; an indistinct impulse makes it difficult to avert the eye, and at the same time a consciousness of that impulse is an inducement to avert it. We lay no undue stress upon these phenomena; but they are phenomena, and fair subjects for scientific investigation. An explanation of mesmerism has been sought in the physical effect of the stare alone; thus it is said that, if a party look intently at a prominent object fixed to his forehead, he will in time be thrown into mesmeric coma. There is more in it, we think, than this; there is an influence exerted by that nearest approach to the intercourse of soul—"the gaze into each other's eyes"—the extent and normae of which are unknown. The schoolboy's experiment of staring out of countenance, is not so bad a test of moral power as it would at first sight be deemed to be.
The second case we shall relate is also one at which we were personally present, but one in which both mesmeriser and mesmerisee were, if we may use the term, adepts—the former a gentleman of fortune and education; the latter a half-educated young man, who had been in service as a footman. We shall designate them as Mr M—— and G——.
At this "soiree magnetique" G. was brought in in the sleep-waking state, walking, or rather staggering, and holding the arm of Mr M., his eyes to all appearance perfectly closed, and his gait and gestures those of a drunken man. After some little time he was detached from the mesmeriser, and followed him to different parts of the room. When in proximity Mr M. raised his hand, the patient's hands followed it, his legs the same, while they receded from the hands and legs of any other of the party present. Some of these effects were certainly curious, and not easy of explanation. The mesmeriser would walk or stand behind the patient, and, waving his hands somewhat after the manner of the cachuca dancer, the hands of the patient followed his with tolerable but not unerring precision. We determined to bear in mind these effects when some other phenomena were exhibiting, and try whether similar results would ensue when the attention of the parties was devoted to other subjects. When the attention of every body present was intently strained upon some experiments which we shall presently mention, we approached, as though watching the experiment, very near to G., and frequently without his at all flinching; at other times we were told by Mr M. not to come too near, and once in particular we observed, that having had one knee and toe in close juxtaposition, almost in contact, with the patient's, we retained it so for several seconds before he withdrew his leg. These facts, which would probably be explained by mesmerists on the ground of the whole power of sensation being concentrated upon one object, rendered, however, the experiments upon mesmeric attraction inconclusive. Passing over several experiments, such as the mesmerisation of water, showing community of taste, in which, after some hesitation, the patient selected from three or four glasses of water one which had been tasted by the mesmeriser, we come to the most important point, viz. the clairvoyance. One of the party stood behind the patient, and he was asked how the former was dressed; his reply, after some hesitation was, "not over nice—he has a queerish waist-coat on," (it was a plain white.) A book was then taken off the table—one of the annuals. Mr M. held his hands tightly over the eyes of G., and the title-page was presented open opposite the covered eyes of the latter; after struggling and moving his head about for some time, just as if endeavouring to catch a glimpse of the book, he mentioned the place of publication, and afterwards the title. Other experiments were proposed, such as holding a book behind the party, or to different parts of his body; but of these some did not succeed, others were not tried. To obviate the doubt of the book having been previously seen, we were requested to write, in large letters, a word on a card, such as a slightly educated person could read, and to present it, looking at the same time as closely as we wished at the eyes of G., the lids of which were, as before, apparently tightly held down by Mr M. We did so: the word was Peru; and, after some struggles, the word was read certainly without an exposure of any part of the eye to us. We now proposed, as likely to be more satisfactory, to write another word on a similar card, and, instead of the hands of the mesmeriser being held over the eyes, to place a piece of thin paper over the card. This, it was said, was useless and would not succeed, as the influence would not be transmitted through the person of the mesmeriser; we then proposed that he (the mesmeriser) should place his hand over the card; in short, that the card should be blinded and not the eye. Our reason will be obvious. According to the known laws of vision, viz. the convergence of all the rays of light to a focus in the eye, were the least part of this exposed, vision, though imperfect, of every object within the visual angle, would follow; but, were the object covered, a partial opening would assist vision but little, and only quoad the part exposed. The experiment thus performed would have been optically conclusive; and we cannot see, according to any of the mesmeric hypotheses, any mesmeric reason why it should not have succeeded: it was, however, declined. We are obliged to omit many other points in this evening's proceedings to avoid prolixity. Though many facts were curious, and certainly not easy of explanation by ordinary means, there was nothing which defied it; every experimentum crucis failed, and we, of course, remained unconvinced.
The third case which we shall instance, was one at which we were also personally present. Having been invited to view the mesmeric experiments of Dr B., we arrived at his house, with a friend, at about ten in the morning, and having been duly introduced to the Doctor in one room, were instantly ushered into another, when a scene presented itself certainly one of the most extraordinary we have ever witnessed. There were seven females in the room, and not one man. On a sofa near the fire-place, a young girl sat upright, supported by cushions, her eyes were fixed, and opposite her stood a middle-aged woman, slowly moving her hands before the eyes of the patient. On the hearth-rug near this lay a woman covered with a coarse blanket. She appeared sound asleep, was breathing heavily, and looked deadly pale. A third patient was seated on a chair, also undergoing the mesmeric passes from another woman; and on the opposite side of the room from the fire-place, two others were seated on chairs, with their heads hanging on their shoulders, and eyes closed. Description cannot convey the mystic and fearful appearance of this room and its inmates to the first glance of the unexpectant spectator. Not a word was spoken; the solemn silence, the immobility and deathlike pallor of the objects, was awful—they were as breathing corpses. The clay-cold nuns evoked from their tombs, presented not a more unearthly spectacle to Robert of Normandy. The free-and-easy expressions of Dr B., however, which first broke the silence, instantly dissolved the spell. "That woman," he said, pointing to her on the floor, "has a disease of the liver, and her left lung is somewhat affected. I think we shall do her good. She is now getting into the clairvoyant state. She can see into the next room." He then stooped over her, and said, "How are you, Mary?" She replied, "I have the pain in my side very bad." He approached his hand to the part affected, and again withdrew it several times, opening the fingers as it neared, and closing them as it receded, as though he would gently extract the pain. He again asked her how she felt; she said better. He then pointed to the girl on the sofa, and said, "She is deaf and dumb. We cannot get her asleep." He subsequently pointed out other of the patients, and mentioned their ailments. These, and the sombre darkness of the room, accounted to us for the unnatural paleness of the patients. Dr B. next asked one of two sleeping patients to follow him into another room. We accompanied him, and his experiments upon the female, whom we shall call S., commenced. First of all, he placed her hands with the palms together, and making with his fingers motions the converse of those made in the former case, asked us to endeavour to separate them. We did, and instantly succeeded, with no more effort than would be expected were any woman of average strength purposely to hold her hands together. "Ah!" said the Doctor, "not an easy matter, is it?" We made no reply. He then walked, having on a pair of loudly-creaking boots, to the other end of the room, and looked sternly at the patient. She, after a second or two, followed him, and sat on the same chair. He then said, "I willed her to come to me."
He next asked our friend to hold the patient's hands, and ask her a question mentally, without expressing it.
After some little time she frowned, and endeavoured to withdraw her hands.
Dr. "Ah, she does not like your question! Ask her another."
After some time she burst out into a fit of laughter.
Dr. "Ah, you have tickled her fancy now!"
What the question asked by our friend was, did not transpire. This experiment having been so successful, we were asked to do the same. Not without a feeling of shame we complied; and, taking hold of the patient's hands, we mentally asked her the question—"Are you single or married?" which question did not appear to us to involve any metaphysical subtilty. However, after struggling and frowning for some time, she said, with a sort of hysteric gasp, "He's a funny man!"
Dr B. "Ah, she can't make you out!"
We are not aware to what feature in our character the epithet funny will apply; but probably our self-esteem will not permit us justly to appreciate the appositeness of this somewhat ambiguous epithet. So much, however, for the power of divination, with which the mesmeriser seemed perfectly satisfied. Dr B. now showed us a camomile flower, put it in his mouth, and chewed it. The patient made a face as if tasting something disagreeable, and, in answer to his questions, said it was bitter. He then did the same with a lozenge; and after some time, required, according to the doctor, for the removal of the bitter taste, she said she tasted lozenges.
Dr B. "There you see the community of taste." Dr B. now touched her forehead a little above and outside of the eyebrows; she burst out laughing.
Dr B. "I touched the organ of gaiety." He then did the same with the organs of music; she set up an old English ditty. Then touching these organs with one hand, and placing the other on the top of her head, she instantly changed the ballad to a doleful psalm-tune. Affection, philo-progenitiveness, were in turn touched, the doctor stating aloud beforehand what organ he was going to excite. We should weary our readers with a detail of the platitudes which ensued.
She was asked what was going on in the next room, and said, "Ah, Sophy may try, but cannot get the girl asleep!" A few other experiments, such as suspending chairs on her arms, &c., followed, and we returned to the next room, where the deaf and dumb girl was found fast asleep. Upon being asked how long she had been so, the female mesmeriser replied, "Just after you left the room." No comment was made upon the answer of the clairvoyante patient above given, which appeared to have been forgotten by all but ourselves.
Had we been anxious to give a factitious interest to our narrative, we should certainly have avoided a description of the above cases, which could not at the same time be made to possess graphic interest, and to relate accurately the real facts as presented; but we have selected them as having happened to ourselves, and as being shown not by public exhibitors, but by parties both holding a highly respectable station in life, and being, as we believe, among the best examples to be found of English mesmerisers. Although invited as sceptical spectators, and the experiments being in nowise confidential, we feel that the exhibition not being public, we have no right to mention the names of the parties.
It will be obvious that the three exhibitions we have selected differed much in character. The first, as we have stated, to our minds defied collusion or self-deception. The second was open to either construction, though, from the character of the parties, we should think collusion was, in the highest degree, improbable; and the experiments, although not conclusive, were very curious, and some of them not easy of explanation. In the third case, transparent and absurd as the experiments seemed to us, and as the account of them will probably appear to our readers, the doctor, from his position and practice, must have been seriously injured by his mesmeric experiments; and therefore there is fair reason to believe, that he was not a party to a fraud which must have been objectless, and professionally injurious to him; but how a man of experience could be carried away by such flimsy devices, is a psychological curiosity, almost as marvellous as the asserted phenomena of mesmerism.
We are aware that, in giving the above accounts of experiments which we have personally witnessed, our authority, being anonymous, is of no great weight. We state them to avoid the charge of writing on what we have not seen, and to show that we do not attempt unfairly to decry mesmerism without seeing it fairly tried; if we felt justified in giving the names of the parties, these instances would be much more conclusive. Nearly all the cases in Mr Townshend's book are given without the names of parties, probably for similar reasons to those which have induced us to withhold them.
The above cases supply instances of all the phenomena included in our categories, except those of insensibility to pain, powers of prediction, and the curative effects. Having never personally seen cases of this description, we shall select examples of them from the book of Mr Townshend and others; but before we give these instances, we will extract from Mr Townshend's book his account of the first mesmeric sitting at which he was present. This will give the reader a fair idea of his attractive style, and of his state of mind previously to witnessing, for the first time, mesmeric effects.
"If to have been an unbeliever in the very existence of the state in question, can add weight to my testimony, my reader, should he also be a heretic on the subject, may be assured that his incredulity in this respect can scarcely be greater than mine was, up to the winter of 1836. That, at the time I mention, I should be both ignorant and prejudiced on the score of mesmerism, will not surprise those who are aware of its long proscription in England, and the want of information upon it, which, till very lately, prevailed there.
"In the course of a residence at Antwerp, a valued friend detailed to me some extraordinary results of mesmerism, to which he had been an eyewitness. I could not altogether discredit the evidence of one whom I knew to be both observant and incapable of falsehood; but I took refuge in the supposition that he had been ingeniously deceived. Reflecting, however, that to condemn before I had examined was as unjust to others as it was unsatisfactory to myself, I accepted readily the proposition of my friend to introduce me to an acquaintance of his in Antwerp, who had learned the practice of the mesmeric art from a German physician. We waited together on Mr K——, the mesmeriser, (an agreeable and well-informed person,) and stated to him that the object of our visit was to prevail on him to exhibit to us a specimen of his mysterious talent. To this he at first replied that he was rather seeking to abjure a renown that had become troublesome—half the world viewing him as a conjurer, and the other half as a getter-up of strange comedies; 'but,' he kindly added, 'if you will promise me a strictly private meeting, I will, this evening, do all in my power to convince you that mesmerism is no delusion.' This being agreed upon, with a stipulation that the members of my own family should be present on the occasion, I, to remove all doubt of complicity from every mind, proposed that Mr K—— should mesmerise a person who should be a perfect stranger to him. To this he readily acceded; and now the only difficulty was to find a subject for our experiment. At length we thought of a young person in the middling class of life, who had often done fine work for the ladies of our family, and of whose character we had the most favourable knowledge. Her mother was Irish, her father, who had been dead some time, had been a Belgian, and she spoke English, Flemish, and French, with perfect facility. Her widowed parent was chiefly supported by her industry: and, in the midst of trying circumstances, her temper was gay and cheerful, and her health excellent. That she had never seen Mr K—— we were sure; and of her probity and incapacity for feigning we had every reason to be convinced. With our request, conveyed to her through one of the ladies of our family, for whom she had conceived a warm affection, she complied without hesitation. Not being of a nervous, though of an excitable temperament, she had no fears whatever about what she was to undergo. On the contrary, she had rather a desire to know what the sensation of being mesmerised might be. Of the phenomena which were to be developed in the mesmeric state, she knew absolutely nothing; thus all deceptive imitation of them, on her part, was rendered impossible.
"About nine o'clock in the evening, our party assembled for what, in foreign phrase, is called 'une seance magnetique.' Anna M——, our mesmerisee, was already with us. Mr K—— arrived soon after, and was introduced to his young patient, whose name we had purposely avoided mentioning to him in the morning; not that we feared imposition on either hand, but that we were determined, by every precaution, to prevent any one from alleging that imposition had been practised. Utterly unknown as the parties were to each other, a game played by two confederates was plainly out of the question. Almost immediately after the entrance of Mr K—— we proceeded to the business of the evening. By his directions Mademoiselle M—— placed herself in an arm-chair at one end of the apartment, while he occupied a seat directly facing hers. He then took each of her hands in one of his, and sat in such a manner as that the knees and feet of both should be in contact. In this position he remained for some time motionless, attentively regarding her with eyes as unwinking as the lidless orbs which Coleridge has attributed to the Genius of destruction. We had been told previously to keep utter silence, and none of our circle—composed of some five or six persons—felt inclined to transgress this order. To me, novice as I was at that time in such matters, it was a moment of absorbing interest: that which I had heard mocked at as foolishness, that which I myself had doubted as a dream, was, perhaps, about to be brought home to my conviction, and established for ever in my mind as a reality. Should the present trial prove successful, how much of my past experience must be remodelled and reversed!
"Convinced, as I have since been, to what valuable conclusions the phenomena of mesmerism may conduct the enquirer, never, perhaps, have I been more impressed with the importance of its pretensions than at that moment, when my doubts of their validity were either to be strengthened or removed. Concentrating my attention upon the motionless pair, I observed that Mademoiselle M—— seemed at her ease, and occasionally smiled or glanced at the assembled party; but her eyes, as if by a charm, always reverted to those of her mesmeriser, and at length seemed unable to turn away from them. Then a heaviness, as of sleep, seemed to weigh down her eyelids, and to pervade the expression of her countenance; her head drooped on one side; her breathing became regular; at length her eyes closed entirely, and, to all appearance, she was calmly asleep, in just seven minutes from the time when Mr K—— first commenced his operations. I should have observed that, as soon as the first symptoms of drowsiness were manifested, the mesmeriser had withdrawn his hands from those of Mademoiselle M——, and had commenced what are called the mesmeric passes, conducting his fingers slowly downward, without contact, along the arm of the patient. For about five minutes, Mademoiselle M—— continued to repose tranquilly, when suddenly she began to heave deep sighs, and to turn and toss in her chair. She then called out, 'Je me trouve malade! Je m'etouffe!' and rising in a wild manner, she continued to repeat, 'Je m'etouffe!' evidently labouring under an oppression of the breath. But all this time her eyes remained fast shut, and at the command of her mesmeriser, she took his arm and walked, still with her eyes shut, to the table. Mr K—— then said, 'Voulez-vous que je vous eveille?'—'Oui, oui,' she exclaimed; 'je m'etouffe.' Upon this Mr K—— again operated with his hands, but in a different set of movements, and taking out his handkerchief, agitated the air round the patient, who forthwith opened her eyes, and stared about the room like a person awaking from sleep. No traces of her indisposition, however, appeared to remain; and soon shaking off all drowsiness, she was able to converse and laugh as cheerfully as usual. On being asked what she remembered of her sensations, she said that she had only a general idea of having felt unwell and oppressed: that she had wished to open her eyes, but could not, they felt as if lead were on them. Of having walked to the table she had no recollection. Notwithstanding her having suffered, she was desirous of being again mesmerised, and sat down fearlessly to make a second trial. This time it was longer before her eyes closed, and she never seemed to be reduced to more than a state of half unconsciousness. When the mesmeriser asked her if she slept, she answered in the tone of utter drowsiness, 'Je dors, et je ne dors pas.' This lasted some time, when Mr K—— declared that he was afraid of fatiguing his patient, (and probably his spectators too,) and that he should disperse the mesmeric fluid. To do so, however, seemed not so easy a matter as the first time when he awoke the sleep-waker; with difficulty she appeared to rouse herself; and even after having spoken a few words to us, and risen from her chair, she suddenly relapsed into a state of torpor, and fell prostrate to the ground, as if perfectly insensible. Mr K——, entreating us not to be alarmed, raised her up—placed her in a chair, and supported her head with his hand. It was then that I distinctly recognised one of the asserted phenomena of mesmerism. The head of Mademoiselle M—— followed every where, with unerring certainty, the hand of her mesmeriser, and seemed irresistibly attracted to it as iron to the loadstone. At length Mr K—— succeeded in thoroughly awaking his patient, who, on being interrogated respecting her past sensations, said that she retained a recollection of her state of semi-consciousness, during which she much desired to have been able to sleep wholly; but of her having fallen to the ground, or of what had passed subsequently, she remembered nothing whatever. To other enquiries she replied, that the drowsy sensation which first stole over her was rather of an agreeable nature, and that it was preceded by a slight tingling, which ran down her arms in the direction of the mesmeriser's fingers. Moreover she assured us, that the oppression she had at one time felt was not fanciful, but real—not mental, but bodily, and was accompanied by a peculiar pain in the region of the heart, which, however, ceased immediately on the dispersion of the mesmeric sleep. These statements were the rather to be relied upon, inasmuch as the girl's character was neither timid nor imaginative."—(P. 38-42.)
We would willingly give the whole of the second sitting of the same patient, in which were developed the phenomena of,
1st, "Attraction towards the mesmeriser."
2d, "A knowledge of what the mesmeriser ate and drank, indicating community of sensation with him."
3d, "An increased quickness of perception."
4th, "A development of the power of vision."
Our space will not permit us to give these in detail. We shall therefore give an extract from the third sitting, where the clairvoyance was more decidedly developed, and the impressions of Mr Townshend on the phenomena he had witnessed are stated.
"Upon first passing into the mesmeric state, Theodore seemed absolutely insensible to every other than the mesmeriser's voice. Some of our party went close to him, and shouted his name; but he gave no tokens of hearing us until Mr K——, taking our hands, made us touch those of Theodore and his own at the same time. This he called putting us 'en rapport' with the patient. After this Theodore seemed to hear our voices equally with that of the mesmeriser, but by no means to pay an equal attention to them.
"With regard to the development of vision, the eyes of the patient appeared to be firmly shut during the whole sitting, and yet he gave the following proofs of accurate sight:—
"Without being guided by our voices, (for, in making the experiment, we kept carefully silent,) he distinguished between the different persons present, and the colours of their dresses. He also named with accuracy various objects on the table, such as a miniature picture, a drawing by Mr K——, &c. &c.
"When the mesmeriser left him, and ran quickly amongst the chairs, tables &c., of the apartment, he followed him, running also, and taking the same turns, without once coming in contact with any thing that stood in his way.
"He told the hour accurately by Mr K——'s watch.
"He played several games at dominoes with the different members of our family, as readily as if his eyes had been perfectly open.
"On these occasions the lights were placed in front of him, and he arranged his dominoes on the table, with their backs to the candles, in such a manner that, when I placed my head in the same position as his own, I could scarcely, through the shade, distinguish one from the other. Yet he took them up unerringly, never hesitated in his play, generally won the game, and announced the sum of the spots on such of his dominoes as remained over at the end, before his adversaries could count theirs. One of our party, a lady who had been extremely incredulous on the subject of mesmerism, stooped down, so as to look under his eyelids all the time he played, and declared herself convinced and satisfied that his eyes were perfectly closed. It was not always, however, that Theodore could be prevailed upon to exercise his power of vision. Some words, written by the mesmeriser, of a tolerable size, being shown to him, he declared, as Mademoiselle M—— did on another occasion, that it was too small for him to distinguish.
"Towards the conclusion of the sitting, the patient seemed much fatigued, and, going to the sofa, arranged a pillow for himself comfortably under his head; after which he appeared to pass into a state more akin to natural sleep than his late sleep-waking. Mr K—— allowed him to repose in this manner for a short time, and then awoke him by the usual formula. A very few motions of the hand were sufficient to restore him to full consciousness, and to his usual character. The fatigue of which he had so lately complained seemed wholly to have passed away, together with the memory of all that he had been doing for the last hour.
"I must now pause to set before my reader my own state of mind respecting the facts I had witnessed. I perceived that important deductions might be drawn from them, and that they bore upon disputed questions of the highest interest to man, connected with the three great mysteries of being—life, death, and immortality. On these grounds I was resolved to enter upon a consistent course of enquiry concerning them; though as yet, while all was new and wonderful to my apprehension, I could scarcely do more than observe and verify phenomena. It was, however, necessary that my views, though for the present bounded, should be distinct. I had already asked respecting mesmeric sleep-waking, 'Does it exist?' and to this question, the cases which had fallen under my notice, and which were above suspicion, seemed to answer decidedly in the affirmative: but it was essential still further to enquire, 'Does it exist so generally as to be pronounced a part—though a rarely developed part—of the human constitution?' In order to determine this, it was requisite to observe how far individuals of different ages, stations, and temperaments, were capable of mesmeric sleep-waking. I resolved, therefore, by experiments on as extensive a scale as possible, to ascertain whether the state in question were too commonly exhibited to be exceptional or idiosyncratic. Again, the two cases that I had witnessed coincided in characteristics; but could this coincidence be accidental? It might still be asked, 'Were the phenomena displayed uncertain, mutable, such as might never occur again; or were they orderly, invariable, the growth of fixed causes, which, being present, implied their presence also?' In fine, was mesmeric sleep-waking not only a state, but entitled to rank as a distinct state, clearly and permanently characterized; and, as such, set apart from all other abnormal conditions of men? On its pretensions to be so considered, rested, I conceived, its claims to notice and peculiar investigation: to decide this point was, therefore, one of my chief objects; and, respecting it, I was determined to seek that certainty which can only be attained by a careful comparison of facts, occurring under the same circumstances. To sum up my intentions, I desired to show that man, through external human influence, is capable of a species of sleep-waking different from the common, not only inasmuch as it is otherwise produced, but as it displays quite other characteristics when produced."—(P. 49-52.)
In the subsequent portions of the book, similar and still more wondrous phenomena are produced by Mr Townshend. He mesmerises several Cambridge friends. He procures two patients, designated by the names of Anna M—— and E—— A——, who are said to be very susceptible of the mesmeric state, and sight or mesmeric perception is manifested in a dark closet, with large towels over the head, through the abdomen, through cards, books, &c. &c. Anna M. is mesmerised unconsciously when in a separate house from the mesmeriser; they predict remedies for themselves and others, read thoughts, state how they and others can be further mesmerised and demesmerised.
As an instance of the curative effects, and the power of predicting remedies, we cite the following:—
"Accident threw in my way a lad of nineteen years of age, a Swiss peasant, who for three years had nearly lost the faculty of sight. His eyes betrayed but little appearance of disorder, and the gradual decay of vision which he had experienced, was attributed to a paralysis of the optic nerve, resulting from a scrofulous tendency in the constitution of the patient. The boy, whom I shall call by his Christian name of Johann, was intelligent, mild-tempered, extremely sincere, and extremely unimaginative. He had never heard of mesmerism till I spoke of it before him, and I then only so far enlightened him on the subject, as to tell him that it was something which might, perhaps, benefit his sight. At first he betrayed some little reluctance to submit himself to experiment, asking me if I were going to perform some very painful operation upon him; but, when he found that the whole affair consisted in sitting quiet, and letting me hold his hands, he no longer felt any apprehension.
"Before beginning to mesmerise, I ascertained, with as much precision as possible, the patient's degree of blindness. I found that he yet could see enough to perceive any large obstacle that stood in his way. If a person came directly before him, he was aware of the circumstance, but he could not at all distinguish whether the individual were man or woman. I even put this to the proof. A lady of our society stood before him, and he addressed her as 'mein herr,' (sir.) In bright sunshine he could see a white object, or the colour scarlet, when in a considerable mass, but made mistakes as to the other colours. Between small objects he could not at all discriminate. I held before him successively, a book, a box, and a bunch of keys, and he could not distinguish between them. In each case he saw something, he said, like a shadow, but he could not tell what. He could not read one letter of the largest print by means of eyesight; but he was very adroit in reading by touch, in books prepared expressly for the blind, running his fingers over the raised characters with great rapidity, and thus acquiring a perception of them. Whatever trifling degree of vision he possessed, could only be exercised on very near objects: those which were at a distance from him, he perceived not at all. I ascertained that he could not see a cottage at the end of our garden, not more than a hundred yards off from where we were standing.
"These points being satisfactorily proved, I placed my patient in the proper position, and began to mesmerise. Five minutes had scarcely elapsed, when I found that I produced a manifest effect upon the boy. He began to shiver at regular intervals, as if affected by a succession of slight electric shocks. By degrees this tremour subsided, the patient's eyes gradually closed, and in about a quarter of an hour, he replied to an enquiry on my part—'Ich schlaffe, aber nicht ganz tief'—(I sleep, but not soundly.) upon this I endeavoured to deepen the patient's slumber by the mesmeric passes, when suddenly he exclaimed—his eyes being closed all the time—'I see—I see your hand—I see your head!' In order to put this to the proof, I held my head in various positions, which he followed with his finger; again, he told me accurately whether my hand was shut or open. 'But,' he said, on being further questioned, 'I do not see distinctly.—I see, as it were, sunbeams (sonnen strahlen) which dazzle me.' 'Do you think,' I asked, 'that mesmerism will do you good?' 'Ja freilich,' (yes, certainly,) he replied; 'repeated often enough, it would cure me of my blindness.'
"Afraid of fatiguing my patient, I did not trouble him with experiments; and his one o'clock dinner being ready for him, I dispersed his magnetic sleep. After he had dined, I took him into the garden. As we were passing before some bee-hives, he suddenly stopped, and seemed to look earnestly at them: 'What is it you see?' I asked. 'A row of bee-hives,' he replied directly, and continued—'Oh! this is wonderful!—I have not seen such things for three years.' Of course, I was extremely surprised, for though I had imagined that a long course of mesmerisation might benefit the boy, I was entirely unprepared for so rapid an improvement in his vision. My chief object had been to develop the faculty of sight in sleep-waking; and I can assure my readers, that this increase of visual power in the natural state was to me a kind of miracle, as astonishing as it was unsought. My poor patient was in a state of absolute enchantment. He grinned from ear to ear, and called out, 'Das ist praechtig!' (This is charming!) Two ladies now passed before us, when he said, 'Da sind zwei fraeuenzimmer!' (There go two ladies!) 'How dressed?' I asked. 'Their clothes are of a dark colour,' he replied. This was true. I took my patient to a summer-house that commanded an extensive prospect. I fear almost to state it, but, nevertheless, it is perfectly true, that he saw and pointed out the situation of a village in the valley below us. I then brought Johann back to the house, when, in the presence of several members of my family, he recognised, at first sight, several small objects, (a flowerpot, I remember, amongst other things,) and not only saw a little girl, one of our farmers' children, sitting on the steps of a door, but also mentioned that she had a round cap on her head. In the house, I showed Johann a book, which, it will be remembered, he could not distinguish before mesmerisation, and he named the object. But, though making great efforts, he could not read one letter in the book. Having ascertained this, I once more threw Johann into the mesmeric state, with a view to discover how far a second mesmerisation could strengthen his natural eyesight. As soon as I had awaked him, at the interval of half an hour, I presented him with the same book, (one of Marryat's novels,) when he accurately told me the larger letters of the title-page, which were as follows—'Outward Bound.' Johann belonging to an institution of the blind situated at some distance from our residence, I had unhappily only the opportunity of mesmerising him three times subsequently to the above successful trial. The establishment, also, of which he was a member, changed masters; and its new director having prejudices on the score of mesmerism, there were difficulties purposely thrown in the way of my following up that which I had so auspiciously begun."—(Pp. 176-179)
Many of these cases of clairvoyance, given by Mr Townshend, appear on the face of them ambiguous; thus the reading is said to be effected with difficulty and imperfectly, the difficulty to be increased by the superposition of obstacles. Others, as related, certainly admit of no explanation by deductions from ordinary experience. All we can say of them, therefore, is, that we have fairly sought to see such phenomena, and have never succeeded; when we see them, and can properly test them, we will believe them. But from the internal evidence of the latter portion of Mr Townshend's book, which we shall presently discuss, we cannot, although not doubting his honesty of purpose, set our faith upon his experiments and judgment.
Mr Townshend gives no account of the phreno-mesmerism, or of the surgical operations performed without any evidence of pain during the mesmeric states. We have already related one of the former exhibitions, which, we think, requires no further comment. Viewed abstractedly, the attempt to support by the assumed accuracy of one science, at best in its infancy, and confessedly fallible, another still more so, is making too large demands upon public credulity to require much counter argument. With regard to the surgical cases, they stand on a very different ground; three operations, among the most painful of those to which man is ever subjected, are alleged to have been performed during the mesmeric state—Madame Plantin, amputation of cancerous breast; and James Wombwell and Mary Ann Lakin, amputation of the leg above the knee. The case of Wombwell was canvassed at length at the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London; and in that and the other cases there seems to have been no question raised as to the facts of the patients having undergone the operation without the usual evidence of suffering. In Wombwell's case the divided end of the sciatic nerve was purposely (it appears to us very wantonly) touched with the forceps, but without any appearance of sensation on the part of the patient. In all these cases the medical men most opposed to mesmerism seem to have admitted the fact, and to have rested their incredulity on the various cases known to them, of parties having borne operations with such fortitude as not to have expressed the usual cries of suffering.
In Madame Plantin's case it is stated; that she subsequently confessed to a nurse in an hospital, that she felt the full pain, but purposely, and by great effort, kept silent. This confession is, however, strongly denied by Dr Elliotson and others, and does not appear to be clearly substantiated.
A professional "odium" appears to have arisen on the subject; and, from the controversial tone of the speaking and writing on both sides, it is difficult to get at the truth. We must say, however, that, admitting the facts, which the antagonists of mesmerism seem to do, we are more inclined to believe the paralysis of nervous sensation by mesmeric influence, than that, with such inadequate motives as the patients could feel, they should have such marvellous self-control as to feign sleep, and keep their whole muscular system in a relaxed state, while suffering such exquisite pain. Medical men are, indeed, better judges of the power of endurance and simulation than we can pretend to be; but, to make their testimony conclusive, they should have witnessed the operation. The elaborate research for causes explanatory of an unseen case, lessens the weight of authority which would otherwise be very high.
Many other minor cases, such as teeth drawn, and division of tendons, are given; and though we have never had an opportunity of witnessing such effects, we must say we think, from their benefit to suffering humanity, the possibility, however remote, of their truth, deserves more calm and dispassionate enquiry than appears hitherto to have been given them.
While doctors, however, seek to explain, by various profound theories, the efficient causes of asserted mesmeric cures, a member of the Church of England, and popular preacher at Liverpool, the Rev. Hugh M. Neill, M.A., has cut the Gordian knot, by a sermon preached at St Jude's Church, on April 10th, 1842, and published in Nos. 599 and 600 of the Penny Pulpit, price twopence. By this sermon it appears to have occurred to the philosophic mind of the reverend divine, that mesmeric marvels may be accounted for as accomplished by the direct agency of Satan! Doubtless Satan is as actively at work in this the nineteenth century, as in any anterior period of our history; but we are inclined to think the progress of civilization has opened a sufficient number of channels for his ingenuity, without rendering it necessary that he should alarm the devout by miraculously interfering to assuage human suffering.