Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions
Charles Mackay

Part 5 out of 5

loud commanding voice, pronounced the single word, "Sleep!" He used no
manipulations whatever -- had no baquet, or conductor of the fluid;
but he nevertheless succeeded in causing sleep in hundreds of
patients. He boasted of having in his time produced five thousand
somnambulists by this method. It was often necessary to repeat the
command three or four times; and if the patient still remained awake,
the Abbe got out of the difficulty by dismissing him from the chair,
and declaring that he was incapable of being acted on. And here it
should be remarked that the magnetisers do not lay claim to a
universal efficacy for their fluid; the strong and the healthy cannot
be magnetised; the incredulous cannot be magnetised; those who reason
upon it cannot be magnetised; those who firmly believe in it can be
magnetised; the weak in body can be magnetised, and the weak in mind
can be magnetised. And lest, from some cause or other, individuals of
the latter classes should resist the magnetic charm, the apostles of
the science declare that there are times when even they cannot be
acted upon; the presence of one scorner or unbeliever may weaken the
potency of the fluid and destroy its efficacy. In M. Deleuze's
instructions to a magnetiser, he expressly says, "Never magnetise
before inquisitive persons!" ["Histoire Critique du Magnetisme
Animal," p. 60.] Yet the followers of this delusion claim for it the
rank of a science!

The numerous writings that appeared between the years 1813 and
1825 show how much attention was excited in France. With every
succeeding year some new discovery was put forth, until at last the
magnetisers seemed to be very generally agreed that there were six
separate and distinct degrees of magnetisation. They have been classed
as follow:-

In the first stage, the skin of the patient becomes slightly
reddened; and there is a feeling of heat, comfort, and lightness all
over the body; but there is no visible action on the senses.

In the second stage, the eye is gradually abstracted from the
dominion of the will (or, in other words, the patient becomes sleepy).
The drooping eyelids cannot be raised; the senses of hearing,
smelling, feeling, and tasting are more than usually excited. In
addition, a variety of nervous sensations are felt, such as spasms of
the muscles and prickings of the skin, and involuntary twitchings in
various parts of the body.

In the third stage, which is that of magnetic sleep, all the
senses are closed to external impressions; and sometimes fainting, and
cataleptic or apoplectic attacks may occur.

In the fourth stage, the patient is asleep to all the world; but
he is awake within his own body, and consciousness returns. While in
this state, all his senses are transferred to the skin. He is in the
perfect crisis, or magnetic somnambulism; a being of soul and mind --
seeing without eyes -- hearing without ears, and deadened in body to
all sense of feeling.

In the fifth stage, which is that of lucid vision, the patient can
see his own internal organisation, or that of others placed in
magnetic communication with him. He becomes, at the same time,
possessed of the instinct of remedies. The magnetic fluid, in this
stage, unites him by powerful attraction to others, and establishes
between them an impenetration of thought and feeling so intense as to
blend their different natures into one.

In the sixth stage, which is at the same time the rarest and the
most perfect of all, the lucid vision is not obstructed by opaque
matter, or subject to any barriers interposed by time or space. The
magnetic fluid, which is universally spread in nature, unites the
individual with all nature, and gives him cognizance of coming events
by its universal lucidity.

So much was said and written between the years 1820 and 1825, and
so many converts were made, that the magnetisers became clamorous for
a new investigation. M. de Foissac, a young physician, wrote to the
Academie Royale du Medicine a letter, calling for inquiry, in which he
complained of the unfairness of the report of Messrs. Bailly and
Franklin in 1784, and stating that, since that time, the science had
wholly changed by the important discovery of magnetic somnambulism. He
informed the Academy that he had under his care a young woman, whose
powers of divination when in the somnambulic state were of the most
extraordinary character. He invited the members of that body to go
into any hospital, and choose persons afflicted with any diseases,
acute or chronic, simple or complex, and his somnambulist, on being
put en rapport, or in magnetic connexion, with them, would infallibly
point out their ailings and name the remedies. She, and other
somnambulists, he said, could, by merely laying the hand successively
on the head, the chest, and the abdomen of a stranger, immediately
discover his maladies, with, the pains and different alterations
thereby occasioned. They could indicate, besides, whether the cure
were possible, and, if so, whether it were easy or difficult, near or
remote, and what means should be employed to attain this result by the
surest and readiest way. In this examination they never departed from
the sound principles of medicine. "In fact," added M. de Foissac, "I
go further, and assert that their inspirations are allied to the
genius which animated Hippocrates!"

In the mean time experiments were carried on in various hospitals
of Paris. The epileptic patients at the Salpetriere were magnetised by
permission of M. Esquirol. At the Bicetre also the same resuits were
obtained. M. de Foissac busied himself with the invalids at the
Hospice de la Charite, and M. Dupotet was equally successful in
producing sleep or convulsions at Val de Grace. Many members of the
Chamber of Deputies became converts, and M. Chardel, the Comte de
Gestas, M. de Laseases, and others, opened their saloons to those who
were desirous of being instructed in animal magnetism. [Dupotet's
Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism, page 23.] Other
physicians united with M. de Foissac in calling for an inquiry; and
ultimately the Academy nominated a preliminary committee of five of
its members, namely, Messrs Adelon, Burdin, Marc, Pariset, and Husson,
to investigate the alleged facts, and to report whether the Academy,
without any compromise of its dignity, could appoint a new commission.

Before this committee, M. de Foissac produced his famous
somnambulist; but she failed in exhibiting any one of the phenomena
her physician had so confidently predicted: she was easily thrown into
the state of sleep, by long habit and the monotony of the passes and
manipulations of her magnetiser; but she could not tell the diseases
of persons put en rapport with her. The committee of five framed
excuses for this failure, by saying, that probably the magnetic fluid
was obstructed, because they were "inexperienced, distrustful, and
perhaps impatient." After this, what can be said for the judgment or
the impartiality of such a committee? They gave at last their opinion,
that it would be advisable to appoint a new commission. On the 13th of
December 1825, they presented themselves to the Academie to deliver
their report. A debate ensued, which occupied three days, and in which
all the most distinguished members took part. It was finally decided
by a majority of ten, that the commission should be appointed, and the
following physicians were chosen its members:-- They were eleven in
number, viz. Bourdois de la Motte, the President; Fouquier, Gueneau de
Mussy, Guersent, Husson, Itard, Marc, J. J. Leroux, Thillay, Double,
and Majendie.

These gentlemen began their labours by publishing an address to
all magnetisers, inviting them to come forward and exhibit in their
presence the wonders of animal magnetism. M. Dupotet says that very
few answered this amicable appeal, because they were afraid of being
ridiculed when the report should be published. Four magnetisers,
however, answered their appeal readily, and for five years were busily
engaged in bringing proofs of the new science before the commission.
These were M. de Foissac, M. Dupotet, M. Chapelain, and M. de Geslin.
It would be but an unprofitable, and by no means a pleasant task to
follow the commissioners in their erratic career, as they were led
hither and thither by the four lights of magnetism above mentioned;
the four "Wills-o'-the-Wisp" which dazzled the benighted and
bewildered doctors on that wide and shadowy region of metaphysical
inquiry -- the influence of mind over matter. It will be better to
state at once the conclusion they came to after so long and laborious
an investigation, and then examine whether they were warranted in it
by the evidence brought before them.

The report, which is exceedingly voluminous, is classed under
thirty different heads, and its general tenor is favourable to
magnetism. The reporters expressly state their belief in the existence
of the magnetic fluid, and sum up the result of their inquiries in the
four assertions which follow:--

1. Magnetism has no effect upon persons in a sound state of
health, nor upon some diseased persons.

2. In others its effects are slight.

3. These effects are sometimes produced by weariness or ennui, by
monotony, and by the imagination.

4. We have seen these effects developed independently of the last
causes, most probably as the effects of magnetism alone.

It will be seen that the first and second of these sentences
presuppose the existence of that magnetic power, which it is the
object of the inquiry to discover. The reporters begin, by saying,
that magnetism exists, when after detailing their proofs, they should
have ended by affirming it. For the sake of lucidity, a favourite
expression of their own, let us put the propositions into a new form
and new words, without altering the sense.

1. Certain effects, such as convulsions, somnambulism, &c. are
producible in the human frame, by the will of others, by the will of
the patient himself, or by both combined, or by some unknown means, we
wish to discover, perhaps by magnetism.

2. These effects are not producible upon all bodies. They cannot
be produced upon persons in a sound state of health, nor upon some
diseased persons; while in other eases, the effects are very slight.

3. These effects were produced in many cases that fell under our
notice, in which the persons operated on were in a weak state of
health, by weariness or ennui, by monotony, and by the power of

4. But in many other eases these effects were produced, and were
clearly not the result of weariness or ennui, of monotony, or of the
power of the imagination. They were, therefore, produced by the
magnetic processes we employed: -- ergo -- Animal Magnetism exists.

Every one, whether a believer or disbeliever in the doctrine, must
see that the whole gist of the argument will be destroyed, if it be
proved that the effects which the reporters claimed as resulting from
a power independent of weariness, monotony, and the imagination, did,
in fact, result from them, and from nothing else. The following are
among the proofs brought forward to support the existence of the
magnetic fluid, as producing those phenomena:--

"A child, twenty-eight months old, was magnetised by M. Foissac,
at the house of M. Bourdois. The child, as well as its father, was
subject to attacks of epilepsy. Almost immediately after M. Foissac
had begun his manipulations and passes, the child rubbed its eyes,
bent its head to one side, supported it on one of the cushions of the
sofa where it was sitting, yawned, moved itself about, scratched its
head and its ears, appeared to strive against the approach of sleep,
and then rose, if we may be allowed the expression, grumbling. Being
taken away to satisfy a necessity of nature, it was again placed on
the sofa, and magnetised for a few moments. But as there appeared no
decided symptoms of somnolency this time, we terminated the

And this in all seriousness and sobriety was called a proof of the
existence of the magnetic fluid! That these effects were not produced
by the imagination may be granted; but that they were not produced by
weariness and monotony is not so clear. A child is seated upon a sofa,
a solemn looking gentleman, surrounded by several others equally
grave, begins to play various strange antics before it, moving his
hands mysteriously, pointing at his head, all the while preserving a
most provoking silence. And what does the child? It rubs its eyes,
appears restless, yawns, scratches its head, grumbles, and makes an
excuse to get away. Magnetism, forsooth! 'Twas a decided case of

The next proof (so called), though not so amusing, is equally
decisive of the mystification of the Commissioners. A deaf and dumb
lad, eighteen years of age, and subject to attacks of epilepsy, was
magnetised fifteen times by M. Foissac. The phenomena exhibited during
the treatment were a heaviness of the eyelids, a general numbness, a
desire to sleep, and sometimes vertigo:-- the epileptic attacks were
entirely suspended, and did not return till eight months afterwards.
Upon this case and the first mentioned, the Committee reasoned thus:--
"These cases appear to us altogether worthy of remark. The two
individuals who formed the subject of the experiment, were ignorant of
what was done to them. The one, indeed, was not in a state capable of
knowing it; and the other never had the slightest idea of magnetism.
Both, however, were insensible of its influence; and most certainly it
is impossible in either case to attribute this sensibility to the
imagination." The first case has been already disposed of. With regard
to the second, it is very possible to attribute all the results to
imagination. It cannot be contended, that because the lad was deaf and
dumb he had no understanding, that he could not see the strange
manipulations of the magnetiser, and that he was unaware that his cure
was the object of the experiments that were thus made upon him. Had he
no fancy merely because he was dumb? and could he, for the same
reason, avoid feeling a heaviness in his eyelids, a numbness, and a
sleepiness, when he was forced to sit for two or three hours while M.
Foissac pointed his fingers at him? As for the amelioration in his
health, no argument can be adduced to prove that he was devoid of
faith in the remedy; and that, having faith, he should not feel the
benefit of it as well as thousands of others who have been cured by
means wholly as imaginary.

The third case is brought forward with a still greater show of
authority. Having magnetised the child and the dumb youth with results
so extraordinary, M. Foissac next tried his hand upon a Commissioner.
M. Itard was subjected to a course of manipulations; the consequences
were a flow of saliva, a metallic savour in the mouth, and a severe
headach. These symptoms, say the reporters, cannot be accounted for by
the influence of imagination. M. Itard, it should be remarked, was a
confirmed valetudinarian; and a believer, before the investigation
commenced, in the truth of magnetism. He was a man, therefore, whose
testimony cannot be received with implicit credence upon this subject.
He may have repeated, and so may his brother Commissioners, that the
results above stated were not produced by the power of the
imagination. The patients of Perkins, of Valentine Greatraks, of Sir
Kenelm Digby, of Father Gassner, were all equally positive: but what
availed their assertions? Experience soon made it manifest, that no
other power than that of imagination worked the wonders in their case.
M. Itard's is not half so extraordinary; the only wonder is, that it
should ever have been insisted upon.

The Commissioners having, as they thought, established beyond
doubt the existence of the magnetic fluid, (and these are all their
proofs,) next proceeded to investigate the more marvellous phenomena
of the science; such as the transfer of the senses; the capability of
seeing into one's own or other people's insides, and of divining
remedies; and the power of prophecy. A few examples will suffice.

M. Petit was magnetised by M. Dupotet, who asserted that the
somnambulist would be able to choose, with his eyes shut, a mesmerised
coin out of twelve others. The experiment was tried, and the
somnambulist chose the wrong one. [Report of the Commissioners, p.

Baptiste Chamet was also magnetised by M. Dupotet, and fell into
the somnambulic state after eight minutes. As he appeared to be
suffering great pain, he was asked what ailed him, when he pointed to
his breast, and said he felt pain there. Being asked what part of his
body that was, he said his liver. [Ibid, p. 137.]

Mademoiselle Martineau was magnetised by M. Dupotet, and it was
expected that her case would prove not only the transfer of the
senses, but the power of divining remedies. Her eyes having been
bandaged, she was asked if she could not see all the persons present?
She replied, no; but she could hear them talking. No one was speaking
at the time. She said she would awake after five or ten minutes sleep.
She did not awake for sixteen or seventeen minutes. She announced that
on a certain day she would be able to tell exactly the nature of her
complaint, and prescribe the proper remedies. On the appointed day she
was asked the question, and could not answer. [Report of the
Commissioners, p. 139.]

Mademoiselle Couturier, a patient of M. de Geslin, was thrown into
the state of somnambulism, and M. de Geslin said she would execute his
mental orders. One of the Committee then wrote on a slip of paper the
words "Go and sit down on the stool in front of the piano." He handed
the paper to M. de Geslin, who having conceived the words mentally,
turned to his patient, and told her to do as he required of her. She
rose up, went to the clock, and said it was twenty minutes past nine.
She was tried nine times more, and made as many mistakes. [Idem, p.

Pierre Cazot was an epileptic patient, and was said to have the
power of prophecy. Being magnetised on the 22nd of April, he said that
in nine weeks he should have a fit, in three weeks afterwards go mad,
abuse his wife, murder some one, and finally recover in the month of
August. After which he should never have an attack again. [Idem, p.
180] In two days after uttering this prophecy, he was run over by a
cabriolet and killed. [Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xii. p. 439] A
post mortem examination was made of his body, when it was ascertained
beyond doubt, that even had he not met with this accident, he could
never have recovered. [At the extremity of the plexus choroides was
found a substance, yellow within, and white without, containing small
hydatids. -- Report oltre Commissioners, p. 186.]

The inquest which had been the means of eliciting these, along
with many other facts, having sat for upwards of five years, the
magnetisers became anxious that the report should be received by the
solemn conclave of the Academie. At length a day (the 20th of June
1831) was fixed for the reading. All the doctors of Paris thronged
around the hall to learn the result; the street in front of the
building was crowded with medical students; the passages were
obstructed by philosophers. "So great was the sensation," says M.
Dupotet, "that it might have been supposed the fate of the nation
depended on the result." M. Husson, the reporter, appeared at the bar
and read the report, the substance of which we have just extracted. He
was heard at first with great attention, but as he proceeded signs of
impatience and dissent were manifested on all sides. The unreasonable
inferences of the Commissioners -- their false conclusions - their too
positive assertions, were received with repeated marks of
disapprobation. Some of the academicians started from their seats, and
apostrophising the Commissioners, accused them of partiality or
stolidity. The Commissioners replied; until, at last, the uproar
became so violent that an adjournment of the sitting was moved and
carried. On the following day the report was concluded. A stormy
discussion immediately ensued, which certainly reflected no credit
upon the opponents of Animal Magnetism. Both sides lost temper - the
anti-magnetists declaring that the whole was a fraud and a delusion;
the pro-magnetists reminding the Academy that it was too often the
fate of truth to be scorned and disregarded for a while, but that
eventually her cause would triumph. "We do not care for your
disbelief," cried one, "for in this very hall your predecessors denied
the circulation of the blood!" - "Yes," cried another, "and they
denied the falling of meteoric stones!" while a third exclaimed
"Grande est veritas et praevalebit!" Some degree of order being at
last restored, the question whether the report should be received and
published was decided in the negative. It was afterwards agreed that a
limited number of copies should be lithographed, for the private use
of such members as wished to make further examination.

As might have been expected, magnetism did not suffer from a
discussion which its opponents had conducted with so much
intemperance. The followers of magnetism were as loud as ever in
vaunting its efficacy as a cure, and its value, not only to the
science of medicine, but to philosophy in general. By force of
repeated outcries against the decision of the Academie, and assertions
that new facts were discovered day after day, its friends, six years
afterwards, prevailed upon that learned and influential body to
institute another inquiry. The Academie, in thus consenting to renew
the investigation after it had twice solemnly decided (once in
conjunction with, and once in opposition to a committee of its own
appointment) that Animal Magnetism was a fraud or a chimera, gave the
most striking proof of its own impartiality and sincere desire to
arrive at the truth.

The new Commission was composed of M. Roux, the President; and
Messieurs Bouillard, Cloquet, Emery, Pelletier, Caventon, Oudet,
Cornac, and Dubois d'Amiens. The chief magnetiser upon the occasion
was M. Berna, who had written to the Academie on the 12th of February
1837, offering to bring forward the most convincing proofs of the
truth of the new "science." The Commissioners met for the first time
on the 27th of February, and delivered their report, which was drawn
up by M. Dubois d'Amiens, on the 22nd of August following. After a
careful examination of all the evidence, they decided, as Messieurs
Bailly and Franklin had done in 1784, that the touchings, imagination,
and the force of imitation would account satisfactorily for all the
phenomena; that the supposed Mesmeric fluid would not; that M. Berna,
the magnetiser, laboured under a delusion; and that the facts brought under their notice were anything but conclusive in favour of the doctrine of Animal Magnetism, and could have no relation either with physiology or with therapeutics.

The following abridgment of the report will show that the
Commissioners did not thus decide without abundant reason. On the 3rd
of March they met at the house of M. Roux, the President, when M.
Berna introduced his patient, a young girl of seventeen, of a
constitution apparently nervous and delicate, but with an air
sufficiently cool and self-sufficient. M. Berna offered eight proofs
of Animal Magnetism, which he would elicit in her case, and which he
classed as follow:--

1. He would throw her into the state of somnambulism.

2. He would render her quite insensible to bodily pain.

3. He would restore her to sensibility by his mere will, without
any visible or audible manifestation of it.

4. His mental order should deprive her of motion.

5. He would cause her, by a mental order, to cease answering in
the midst of a conversation, and by a second mental order would make
her begin again.

6. He would repeat the same experiment, separated from his patient
by a door.

7. He would awake her.

8. He would throw her again into the somnambulic state, and by his
will successively cause her to lose and recover the sensibility of any
part of her body.

Before any attempt at magnetisation was made by M. Berna, the
Commissioners determined to ascertain how far, in her ordinary state,
she was sensible to pricking. Needles of a moderate size were stuck
into her hands and neck, to the depth of half a line, and she was
asked by Messieurs Roux and Caventon whether she felt any pain. She
replied that she felt nothing; neither did her countenance express any
pain. The Commissioners, somewhat surprised at this, repeated their
question, and inquired whether she was absolutely insensible. Being
thus pressed, she acknowledged that she felt a little pain.

These preliminaries having been completed, M. Berna made her sit
close by him. He looked steadfastly at her, but made no movements or
passes whatever. After the lapse of about two minutes she fell back
asleep, and M. Berna told the Commissioners that she was now in the
state of magnetic somnambulism. He then arose, and again looking
steadfastly at her from a short distance, declared, after another
minute, that she was struck with general insensibility.

To ascertain this, the girl's eyes having been previously
bandaged, Messieurs Bouillard, Emery, and Dubois pricked her one after
the other with needles. By word she complained of no pain; and her
features, where the bandage allowed them to be seen, appeared calm and
unmoved. But M. Dubois having stuck his needle rather deep under her
chin, she immediately made with much vivacity a movement of

This experiment having failed, M. Berna tried another, saying that
he would, by the sole and tacit intervention of his will, paralyze any
part of the girl's body the Commissioners might mention. To avoid the
possibility of collusion, M. Dubois drew up the following
conditions:-- " That M. Berna should maintain the most perfect
silence, and should receive from the hands of the Commissioners
papers, on which should be written the parts to be deprived of motion
and sensibility, and that M. Berna should let them know when he had
done it by closing one of his eyes, that they might verify it. The
parts to be deprived of sensibility were the chin, the right thumb,
the region of the left deltoid, and that of the right patella." M.
Berna would not accept these conditions, giving for his reason that
the parts pointed out by the Commissioners were too limited; that,
besides, all this was out of his programme, and he did not understand
why such precautions should be taken against him.

M. Berna had written in his programme that he would deprive the
whole body of sensibility, and then a part only. He would afterwards
deprive the two arms of motion -- then the two legs -- then a leg and
an arm - then the neck, and lastly the tongue. All the evidence he
wished the Commissioners to have was after a very unsatisfactory
fashion. He would tell the somnambulist to raise her arm, and if she
did not raise it, the limb was to be considered paralyzed. Besides
this, the Commissioners were to make haste with their observations. If
the first trials did not succeed, they were to be repeated till
paralysis was produced. "These," as the Commissioners very justly
remarked, "were not such conditions as men of science, who were to
give an account of their commission, could exactly comply with." After
some time spent in a friendly discussion of the point, M. Berna said
he could do no more at that meeting. Then placing himself opposite the
girl, he twice exclaimed, "Wake!" She awakened accordingly, and the
sitting terminated.

At the second meeting, M. Berna was requested to paralyze the
right arm only of the girl by the tacit intervention of his will, as
he had confidently assured the Commissioners he could. M. Berna, after
a few moments, made a sign with his eye that he had done so, when M.
Bouillard proceeded to verify the fact. Being requested to move her
left arm, she did so. Being then requested to move her right leg, she
said the whole of her right side was paralyzed -- she could neither
move arm nor leg. On this experiment the Commissioners remark: "M.
Berna's programme stated that he had the power of paralyzing either a
single limb or two limbs at once, we chose a single limb, and there
resulted, in spite of his will, a paralysis of two limbs." Some other
experiments, equally unsatisfactory, were tried with the same girl. M.
Berna was soon convinced that she had not studied her part well, or
was not clever enough to reflect any honour upon the science, and he
therefore dismissed her. Her place was filled by a woman, aged about
thirty, also of very delicate health; and the following conclusive
experiments were tried upon her:-

The patient was thrown into the somnambulic state, and her eyes
covered with a bandage. At the invitation of the magnetiser, M. Dubois
d'Amiens wrote several words upon a card, that the somnambule might
read them through her bandages, or through her occiput. M. Dubois
wrote the word Pantagruel, in perfectly distinct roman characters;
then placing himself behind the somnambule, he presented the card
close to her occiput. The magnetiser was seated in front of the woman
and of M. Dubois, and could not see the writing upon the card. Being
asked by her magnetiser what was behind her head, she answered, after
some hesitation, that she saw something white -- something resembling
a card -- a visiting-card. It should be remembered that M. Berna had
requested M. Dubois aloud to take a card and write upon it, and that
the patient must have heard it, as it was said in her presence. She
was next asked if she could distinguish what there was on this card.
She replied "Yes; there was writing on it." -- "Is it small or large,
this writing?" inquired the magnetiser. "Pretty large," replied she.
"What is written on it?" continued the magnetiser. "Wait a little-I
cannot see very plain. Ah! there is first an M. Yes, it is a word
beginning with an M." [The woman thought it was a visiting-card, and
guessed that doubtless it would begin with the words Monsieur or
Madame.] M. Cornac, unknown to the magnetiser, who alone put the
questions, passed a perfectly blank card to M. Dubois, who substituted
it quietly for the one on which he had written the word Pantagruel.
The somnambule still persisted that she saw a word beginning with an
M. At last, after some efforts, she added doubtingly that she thought
she could see two lines of writing. She was still thinking of the
visiting-card, with a name in one line and the address on the other.

Many other experiments of the same kind, and with a similar
result, were tried with blank cards; and it was then determined to try
her with playing-cards. M. Berna had a pack of them on his table, and
addressing M. Dubois aloud, he asked him to take one of them and place
it at the occiput of the somnambule. M. Dubois asked him aloud whether
he should take a court card. "As you please," replied the magnetiser.
As M. Dubois went towards the table, the idea struck him that he would
not take either a court or a common card, but a perfectly blank card
of the same size. Neither M. Berna nor the somnambule was aware of the
substitution. He then placed himself behind her as before, and held
the card to her occiput so that M. Berna could not see it. M. Berna
then began to magnetise her with all his force, that he might
sublimate her into the stage of extreme lucidity, and effectually
transfer the power of vision to her occiput. She was interrogated as
to what she could see. She hesitated; appeared to struggle with
herself, and at last said she saw a card. "But what do you see on the
card?" After a little hesitation, she said she could see black and
red (thinking of the court card).

The Commissioners allowed M. Berna to continue the examination in
his own way. After some fruitless efforts to get a more satisfactory
answer from the somnambule, he invited M. Dubois to pass his card
before her head, close against the bandage covering her eyes. This
having been done, the somnambule said she could see better. M. Berna
then began to put some leading questions, and she replied that she
could see a figure. Hereupon, there were renewed solicitations from M.
Berna. The somnambule, on her part, appeared to be making great
efforts to glean some information from her magnetiser, and at last
said that she could distinguish the Knave. But this was not all; it
remained for her to say which of the four knaves. In answer to further
inquiries, she said there was black by the side of it. Not being
contradicted at all, she imagined that she was in the right track; and
made, after much pressing, her final guess, that it was the Knave of

M. Berna, thinking the experiment finished, took the card from the
hands of M. Dubois, and in presence of all the Commissioners saw that
it was entirely blank. Blank was his own dismay.

As a last experiment, she was tried with a silver medal. It was
with very great difficulty that any answers could be elicited from
her. M. Cornac held the object firmly closed in his hand close before
the bandage over her eyes. She first said she saw something round; she
then said it was flesh-coloured -- then yellow -- then the colour of
gold. It was as thick as an onion: and, in answer to incessant
questions, she said it was yellow on one side, white on the other, and
had black above it. She was thinking, apparently, of a gold watch,
with its white dial and black figures for the hours. Solicited, for
the last time, to explain herself clearly -- to say, at least, the use
of the object and its name, she appeared to be anxious to collect all
her energies, and then uttered only the word "hour." Then, at last, as
if suddenly illumined, she cried out that "it was to tell the hour."

Thus ended the sitting. Some difficulties afterwards arose between
the Commissioners and M. Berna, who wished that a copy of the proces
verbal should be given him. The Commissioners would not agree; and M.
Berna, in his turn, refused to make any fresh experiments. It was
impossible that any investigation could have been conducted more
satisfactorily than this. The report of the Commissioners was quite
conclusive; and Animal Magnetism since that day lost much of its
repute in France. M. Dupotet, with a perseverance and ingenuity worthy
a better cause, has found a satisfactory excuse for the failure of M.
Berna. Having taken care in his work not to publish the particulars,
he merely mentions, in three lines, that M. Berna failed before a
committee of the Royal Academy of Medicine in an endeavour to produce
some of the higher magnetic phenomena. "There are a variety of
incidental circumstances," says that shining light of magnetism,
"which it is difficult even to enumerate. An over-anxiety to produce
the effects, or any incidental suggestions that may disturb the
attention of the magnetiser, will often be sufficient to mar the
successful issue of the experiment." ["Introduction to the Study of
Animal Magnetism," by Baron Dupotet de Sennevoy, London, 1838, p.
159.] Such are the miserable shifts to which error reduces its

While Dupotet thus conveniently forbears to dwell upon the
unfavourable decision of the committee of 1837, let us hear how he
dilates upon the favourable report of the previous committee of 1835,
and how he praises the judgment and the impartiality of its members.
"The Academie Royale de Medicine," says he, "put upon record clear and
authenticated evidence in favour of Animal Magnetism. The Comissioners
detailed circumstantially the facts which they witnessed, and the
methods they adopted to detect every possible source of deception.
Many of the Commissioners, when they entered on the investigation,
were not only unfavourable to magnetism, but avowedly unbelievers; so
that their evidence in any court of justice would be esteemed the most
unexceptionable that could possibly be desired. They were inquiring
too, not into any speculative or occult theory, upon which there might
be a chance of their being led away by sophistical representations,
but they were inquiring into the existence of facts only -- plain
demonstrable facts, which were in their own nature palpable to every
observer." ["Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism," p. 27.]
M. Dupotet might not unreasonably be asked whether the very same
arguments ought not to be applied to the unfavourable report drawn up
by the able M. Dubois d'Amiens and his coadjutors in the last inquiry.
If the question were asked, we should, in all probability, meet some
such a reply as this: -- "True, they might; but then you must consider
the variety of incidental circumstances, too numerous to mention! M.
Berna may have been over anxious; in fact, the experiments must have
been spoiled by an incidental suggestion!"

A man with a faith so lively as M. Dupotet was just the person to
undertake the difficult mission of converting the English to a belief
in magnetism. Accordingly we find that, very shortly after the last
decision of the Academie, M. Dupotet turned his back upon his native
soil and arrived in England, loaded with the magnetic fluid, and ready
to re-enact all the fooleries of his great predecessors, Mesmer and
Puysegur. Since the days of Perkinism and metallic tractors, until
1833, magnetism had made no progress, and excited no attention in
England. Mr. Colquhoun, an advocate at the Scottish bar, published in
that year the, till then, inedited report of the French commission of
1831, together with a history of the science, under the title of "Isis
Revelata; or, an Inquiry into the Origin, Progress, and present State
of Animal Magnetism." Mr. Colquhoun was a devout believer, and his
work was full of enthusiasm. It succeeded in awakening some interest
upon a subject certainly very curious, but it made few or no converts.
An interesting article, exposing the delusion, appeared in the same
year in the "Foreign Quarterly Review;" and one or two medical works
noticed the subject afterwards, to scout it and turn it
into ridicule. The arrival of M. Dupotet, in 1837, worked quite a
revolution, and raised Animal Magnetism to a height of favour, as
great as it had ever attained even in France.

He began by addressing letters of invitation to the principal
philosophers and men of science, physicians, editors of newspapers,
and others, to witness the experiments, which were at first carried on
at his own residence, in Wigmore-street, Cavendish-square. Many of
them accepted the invitation; and, though not convinced, were
surprised and confounded at the singular influence which he exercised
over the imagination of his patients. Still, at first, his success was
not flattering. To quote his own words, in the dedication of his work
to Earl Stanhope, "he spent several months in fruitless attempts to
induce the wise men of the country to study the phenomena of
magnetism. His incessant appeals for an examination of these novel
facts remained unanswered, and the press began to declare against
him." With a saddened heart, he was about to renounce the design he
had formed of spreading magnetism in England, and carry to some more
credulous people the important doctrines of which he had made himself
the apostle. Earl Stanhope, however, encouraged him to remain; telling
him to hope for a favourable change in public opinion, and the
eventual triumph of that truth of which he was the defender. M.
Dupotet remained. He was not so cruel as to refuse the English people
a sight of his wonders. Although they might be ungrateful, his
kindness and patience should be long enduring.

In the course of time his perseverance met its reward. Ladies in
search of emotions -- the hysteric, the idle, the puling, and the
ultra-sentimental crowded to his saloons, as ladies similarly
predisposed had crowded to Mesmer's sixty years before. Peers, members
of the House of Commons, philosophers, men of letters, and physicians
came in great numbers -- some to believe, some to doubt, and a few to
scoff. M. Dupotet continued his experiments, and at last made several
important converts. Most important of all for a second Mesmer, he
found a second D'Eslon.

Dr. Elliotson, the most conspicuous among the converts of Dupotet,
was, like D'Eslon, a physician in extensive practice -- a thoroughly
honest man, but with a little too much enthusiasm. The parallel holds
good between them in every particular; for, as D'Eslon had done before
him, Dr. Elliotson soon threw his master into the shade, and attracted
all the notice of the public upon himself. He was at that time
professor of the principles and practice of medicine at the University
College, London, and physician to the hospital. In conjunction with M.
Dupotet, he commenced a course of experiments upon some of the
patients in that institution. The reports which were published from
time to time, partook so largely of the marvellous, and were
corroborated by the evidence of men whose learning, judgment, and
integrity it was impossible to call in question, that the public
opinion was staggered. Men were ashamed to believe, and yet afraid to
doubt; and the subject at last became so engrossing that a committee
of some of the most distinguished members of the medical profession
undertook to investigate the phenomena, and report upon them.

In the mean time, Dr. Elliotson and M. Dupotet continued the
public exhibition at the hospital; while the credulous gaped with
wonder, and only some few daring spirits had temerity enough to hint
about quackery and delusion on the part of the doctors, and imposture
on the part of the patients. The phenomena induced in two young women,
sisters, named Elizabeth and Jane Okey, were so extraordinary that
they became at last the chief, if not the only proofs of the science
in London. We have not been able to meet with any reports of these
experiments from the pen of an unbeliever, and are therefore compelled
to rely solely upon the reports published under the authority of the
magnetisers themselves, and given to the world in "The Lancet" and
other medical journals.

Elizabeth Okey was an intelligent girl, aged about seventeen, and
was admitted into the University College hospital, suffering under
attacks of epilepsy. She was magnetised repeatedly by M. Dupotet in
the autumn of 1837, and afterwards by Dr. Elliotson at the hospital,
during the spring and summer of 1838. By the usual process, she was
very easily thrown into a state of deep unconscious sleep, from which
she was aroused into somnambulism and delirium. In her waking state
she was a modest well-behaved girl, and spoke but little. In the
somnambulic state, she appeared quite another being; evinced
considerable powers of mimicry; sang comic songs; was obedient to
every motion of her magnetiser; and was believed to have the power of
prophesying the return of her illness -- the means of cure, and even
the death or recovery of other patients in the ward.

Mesmer had often pretended in his day that he could impart the
magnetic power to pieces of metal or wood, strings of silk or cord,
&c. The reader will remember his famous battery, and the no less
famous tree of M. de Puysegur. During the experiments upon Okey, it
was soon discovered that all the phenomena could be produced in her,
if she touched any object that had been previously mesmerised by the
will or the touch of her magnetiser. At a sitting, on the 5th of July
1838, it was mentioned that Okey, some short time previously, and
while in the state of magnetic lucidity, had prophesied that, if
mesmerised tea were placed in each of her hands, no power in nature
would be able to awake her until after the lapse of a quarter of an
hour. The experiment was tried accordingly. Tea which had been touched
by the magnetiser was placed in each hand, and she immediately fell
asleep. After ten minutes, the customary means to awaken her were
tried, but without effect. She was quite insensible to all external
impressions. In a quarter of an hour, they were tried with redoubled
energy, but still in vain. She was left alone for six minutes longer;
but she still slept, and it was found quite impossible to wake her. At
last some one present remarked that this wonderful sleep would, in all
probability, last till the tea was removed from her bands. The
suggestion was acted upon, the tea was taken away, and she awoke in a
few seconds. ["Lancet," vol. ii. 1837-8, p. 585.]

On the 12th of July, just a week afterwards, numerous experiments
as to the capability of different substances for conveying the
magnetic influence were tried upon her. A slip of crumpled paper,
magnetised by being held in the hand, produced no effect. A penknife
magnetised her immediately. A piece of oilskin had no influence. A
watch placed on her palm sent her to sleep immediately, if the metal
part were first placed in contact with her; the glass did not affect
her so quickly. As she was leaving the room, a sleeve-cuff made of
brown-holland, which had been accidentally magnetised by a spectator,
stopped her in mid career, and sent her fast to sleep. It was also
found that, on placing the point of her finger on a sovereign which
had been magnetised, she was immediately stupified. A pile of
sovereigns produced sleep; but if they were so placed that she could
touch the surface of each coin, the sleep became intense and

Still more extraordinary circumstances were related of this
patient. In her state of magnetic sleep, she said that a tall black
man, or negro, attended her, and prompted the answers she was to give
to the various perplexing questions that were put to her. It was also
asserted that she could use the back of her hand as an organ of
vision. The first time this remarkable phenomenon was said to have
been exhibited was a few days prior to the 5th of July. On the latter
day, being in what was called a state of loquacious somnambulism, she
was asked by Dr. Elliotson's assistant whether she had an eye in her
hand. She replied that "it was a light there, and not an eye." "Have
you got a light anywhere else?" -- "No, none anywhere else." -- "Can
you see with the inside as well as the out?" -- "Yes; but very little
with the inside."

On the 9th of July bread with butter was given to her, and while
eating it she drank some magnetised water, and falling into a stupor
dropped her food from her hand and frowned. The eyes, partially
closed, had the abstracted aspect that always accompanies
stupefaction. The right-hand was open, the palm upwards; the left,
with its back presented anteriorly, was relaxed and curved. The bread
being lost, she moved her left-hand about convulsively until right
over the bread, when a clear view being obtained, the hand turned
suddenly round and clutched it eagerly. Her hand was afterwards
wrapped in a handkerchief; but then she could not see with it, and
laid it on her lap with an expression of despair.

These are a few only of the wonderful feats of Elizabeth Okey.
Jane was not quite so clever; but she nevertheless managed to bewilder
the learned men almost as much as her sister. A magnetised sovereign
having been placed on the floor, Jane, then in the state of delirium,
was directed to stoop and pick it up. She stooped, and having raised
it about three inches, was fixed in a sound sleep in that constrained
position. Dr. Elliotson pointed his finger at her, to discharge some
more of the mesmeric fluid into her, when her hand immediately relaxed
its grasp of the coin, and she re-awoke into the state of delirium,
exclaiming, "God bless my soul!"

It is now time to mention the famous gold-chain experiment which
was performed at the hospital upon Elizabeth Okey, in the presence of
Count Flahault, Dr. Lardner, Mr. Knatchbull the professor of Arabic in
the University of Oxford, and many other gentlemen. The object of the
experiment was to demonstrate that, when Okey held one end of a gold
chain, and Dr. Elliotson, or any other magnetiser, the other, the
magnetic fluid would travel through the chain, and, after the lapse of
a minute, stupify the patient. A long gold chain having been twice
placed around her neck, Dr. Elliotson at once threw her into a state
of stupor. It was then found that, if the intermediate part of the
chain were twisted around a piece of wood, or a roll of paper, the
passage of the fluid would be checked, and stupor would not so
speedily ensue. If the chain were removed, she might be easily thrown
into the state of delirium; when she would sing at the request of her
magnetiser; and, if the chain were then unrolled, her voice would be
arrested in the most gradual manner; its loudness first diminishing --
the tune then becoming confused, and finally lost altogether. The
operations of her intellect could be checked, while the organs of
sound would still continue to exert themselves. For instance, while
her thoughts were occupied on the poetry and air of Lord Byron's song,
"The Maid of Athens," the chain was unrolled; and when she had reached
the line, "My life, I love you!" the stupor had increased; a cold
statue-like aspect crept over the face -- the voice sank -- the limbs
became rigid -- the memory was gone -- the faculty of forecasting the
thoughts had departed, and but one portion of capacity remained --
that of repeating again and again, perhaps twenty times, the line and
music which had last issued from her lips, without pause, and in the
proper time, until the magnetiser stopped her voice altogether, by
further unrolling the chain and stupifying her. On another trial, she
was stopped in the comic song, "Sir Frog he would a wooing go," when
she came to the line,

"Whether his mother would let him or no;"

while her left hand outstretched, with the chain in it, was moving up
and down, and the right toe was tapping the time on the floor; and
with these words and actions she persevered for fifty repetitions,
until the winding of the chain re-opened her faculties, when she
finished the song. ["Lancet," vol. ii. 1837-8, p.617.]

The report from which we have extracted the above passage further
informed the public and the medical profession, and expected them to
believe, that, when this species of stupefaction was produced while
she was employed in any action, the action was repeated as long as the
mesmeric influence lasted. For instance, it was asserted that she was
once deprived of the motion of every part of her body, except the
right forefinger, with which she was rubbing her chin; and that, when
thrown into the trance, she continued rubbing her chin for several
minutes, until she was unmagnetised, when she ceased. A similar result
was obtained when she was smoothing down her hair; and at another time
when she was imitating the laughter of the spectators, excited beyond
control by her clever mimicry. At another time she was suddenly thrown
into the state of delirious stupor while pronouncing the word "you,"
of which she kept prolonging the sound for several minutes, with a
sort of vibrating noise, until she was awakened. At another time,
when a magnetised sovereign was given to her, wrapped up in paper, she
caught it in her hand, and turned it round flatwise between her
fingers, saying that it was wrapped up "very neatly indeed." The
mesmeric influence caught her in the remark, which she kept repeating
over and over again, all the while twirling the sovereign round and
round until the influence in the coin had evaporated.

We are also told of a remarkable instance of the force of the
magnetic power. While Elizabeth Okey was one day employed in writing,
a sovereign which had been imbued with the fluid was placed upon her
boot. In half a minute her leg was paralyzed -- rooted to the floor --
perfectly immovable at the joints, and visited, apparently, with pain
so intense that the girl writhed in agony. "The muscles of the leg
were found," says the report, "as rigid and stiff as if they had been
carved in wood. When the sovereign was removed, the pain left her in a
quarter of a minute. On a subsequent day, a mesmerised sovereign was
placed in her left hand as it hung at her side, with the palm turned
slightly outwards. The hand and arm were immediately paralyzed --
fixed with marble-like firmness." No general stupor having occurred,
she was requested to move her arm; but she could not lift it a
hair's-breadth from her side. On another occasion, when in a state of
delirium, in which she had remained three hours, she was asked to
describe her feelings when she handled any magnetised object and went
off into the stupor. She had never before, although several times
asked, given any information upon the subject. She now replied that,
at the moment of losing her senses through any manipulations, she
experienced a sensation of opening in the crown of her head; that she
never knew when it closed again; but that her eyes seemed to become
exceedingly large; -- three times as big as before. On recovering from
this state, she remembered nothing that had taken place in the
interval, whether that interval were hours or days; her only sensation
was that of awakening, and of something being lifted from her eyes.

The regular publication of these marvellous experiments,
authenticated as they were by many eminent names, naturally excited
the public attention in an extreme degree. Animal Magnetism became the
topic of discussion in every circle -- politics and literature were
for a time thrown into the shade, so strange were the facts, or so
wonderful was the delusion. The public journals contented themselves
in many instances with a mere relation of the results, without giving
any opinion as to the cause. One of them which gave a series of
reports upon the subject, thus described the girl, and avowed its
readiness to believe all that was related of her. [Morning Post, March
2, 1838.] "Her appearance as she sits, as pale and almost as still as
a corpse, is strangely awful. She whistles to oblige Dr. Elliotson: an
incredulous bystander presses his fingers upon her lips; she does not
appear conscious of the nature of the interruption; but when asked to
continue, replies in childish surprise, 'it can't.' This state of
magnetic semi-existence will continue we know not how long. She has
continued in it for twelve days at a time, and when awakened to real
life forgets all that has occurred in the magnetic one. Can this be
deception? We have conversed with the poor child her ordinary state as
she sat by the fire in her ward, suffering from the headach, which
persecutes her almost continually when not under the soothing fluence
of the magnetic operation, and we confess we never beheld anybody less
likely to prove an impostor. We have seen Professor Faraday exerting
his acute and sagacious powers for an hour together, in the endeavour
to detect some physical discrepancy in her performance, or elicit some
blush of mental confusion by his naive and startling remarks. But
there was nothing which could be detected, and the professor candidly
confessed that the matter was beyond his philosophy to unravel."

Notwithstanding this sincere, and on the point of integrity,
unimpeachable evidence in her favour; notwithstanding that she
appeared to have no motives for carrying on so extraordinary and
long-continued a deception, the girl was an impostor, and all these
wise, learned, and contemplative men her dupes. It was some time,
however, before this fact was clearly established, and the delusion
dissipated by the clear light of truth. In the mean time various other
experiments on the efficacy of the supposed magnetic power were tried
in various parts of England; but the country did not furnish another
epileptic girl so clever as Elizabeth Okey. An exhibition of the kind
was performed on a girl named Sarah Overton, at the workhouse of the
parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. The magnetiser on this occasion
was Mr. Bainbridge, the parish surgeon. It is but justice to him to
state, that he conducted the experiments with the utmost fairness, and
did not pretend to produce any of the wondrous and incredible
phenomena of other practitioners. This girl, whose age was about
twenty, had long been subject to epileptic fits, and appeared
remarkably simple and modest in her manners and appearance. She was
brought into the room and placed in a chair. About twenty gentlemen
were present. Mr. Bainbridge stationed himself behind, and pointed his
fingers at her brain, while his assistant in front made the magnetic
passes before her eyes, and over her body. It cannot be said that her
imagination was not at work; for she had been previously magnetised,
and was brought in with her eyes open, and in complete possession of
all her faculties. No means had been taken to prevent interruption
during the sitting; new visiters continually arrived, and the noise of
the opening and shutting of the door repeatedly called from Mr.
Bainbridge a request that all should be kept silent. The girl herself
constantly raised her head to see who was coming in; but still, in
direct contradiction to M. Dupotet, and, indeed, all the magnetisers,
who have repeated over and over again, that interruption destroys the
magnetic power, she fell into a deep sleep at the end of about twelve
minutes. In this state, which is that called "Mesmeric Coma," she was
quite insensible. Though pulled violently by the hair, and pricked on
the arm with a pin, she showed no signs of consciousness or feeling.
In a short time afterwards, she was awakened into the somnambulic or
delirious state, when she began to converse freely with the persons
around her, but more especially with her magnetiser. She would sing if
required, and even dance in obedience to his command, and pretended to
see him although her eyes were closely blindfolded with a
handkerchief. She seemed to have a constant tendency to fall back into
the state of coma, and had to be aroused with violence every two or
three minutes to prevent a relapse. A motion of the hand before her
face was sufficient to throw her, in the middle of a song, into this
insensible state; but it was observed particularly that she fell at
regular intervals, whether any magnetic passes were made at her or
not. It was hinted aloud to a person present that be should merely
bend his body before her, and she would become insensible, and fall to
the ground. The pass was made, and she fell accordingly into the arms
of a medical gentleman, who stood behind ready to receive her. The
girl having been again aroused into the state of delirium, another
person, still audibly, was requested to do the same. He did not; but
the girl fell as before. The experiments were sufficient to convince
the author that one human being could indubitably exercise a very
wonderful influence over another; but that imagination only, and not
the mesmeric fluid, was the great agent by which these phenomena could
be produced in persons of strong faith and weak bodies.

Some gentlemen present were desirous of trying whether any of the
higher mesmeric states, such as that of lucidity and clairvoyance
could be produced. Mr. Bainbridge was willing to allow the experiment
to be made, but previously expressed his own doubts upon the subject.
A watch was then put into her bosom, the dial plate and glass against
her skin, to ascertain whether she could see without the intervention
of the organs of sight. She was asked what hour it was; and was
promised a shilling if she would tell by the watch which had been
placed in her bosom. She held out her hand for the shilling, and
received it with great delight. She was then asked if she could see
the watch? She said "no -- not a watch; she could see something --
something that was very pretty indeed." "Come, come, Sally," said Mr.
Bainbridge, "you must not be so stupid; rouse up, girl, and tell us
what o'clock it is, and I'll give you another shilling!" The girl at
this time seemed to be relapsing into a deep sleep; but on being
shaken, aroused herself with a convulsive start. In reply to further
questions, she said, "she could see a clock, a very pretty clock,
indeed!" She was again asked, five or six times, what the hour was:
she at last replied that "it was ten minutes to two." The watch being
then taken out of her bosom, it was found to be on the stroke of two.
Every one present, including the magnetiser, confessed that there was
nothing wonderful in the conjecture she had hazarded. She knew
perfectly well what hour it was before she was brought into the ward,
as there was a large clock in the workhouse, and a bell which rang at
dinner time; she calculated mentally the interval that had since
elapsed, and guessed accordingly. The same watch was afterwards
advanced four or five hours, and put into her bosom without a word
being said in her hearing. On being again asked what o'clock it was by
that watch, and promised another shilling if she would tell, she still
replied that it was near two -- the actual time. Thus, as Mr.
Bainbridge had predicted, the experiment came to nothing. The whole
case of this girl offered a striking instance of the power of
imagination, but no proof whatever of the supposed existence of the
magnetic fluid.

The Medical Committee of the University College Hospital took
alarm at a very early period at the injury which might be done to that
Institution, by the exhibitions of Okey and her magnetisers. A meeting
was held in June 1838, at which Dr. Elliotson was not present, to take
into consideration the reports of the experiments that had been
published in the Medical Journals. Resolutions were then passed to the
effect, that Dr. Elliotson should be requested to refrain from further
public exhibitions of mesmerism; and, at the same time, stating the
wish of the Committee not to interfere with its private employment as
a remedial agent, if he thought it would be efficacious upon any of
the patients of the Institution. Dr. Elliotson replied, that no
consideration should prevent him from pursuing the investigation of
Animal Magnetism; but that he had no desire to make a public
exhibition of it. He had only given lectures and demonstrations when
numbers of scientific gentlemen were present; he still continued to
receive numerous letters from learned and eminent men, entreating
permission to witness the phenomena; but if the Committee willed it,
he should admit no person without their sanction. He shortly
afterwards sent a list of the names of individuals who were anxious to
witness the experiments. The Committee returned it to him unread, with
the reply that they could not sanction any exhibition that was so
entirely foreign to the objects of the Hospital. In answer to this,
Dr. Elliotson reiterated his full belief in the doctrines of Animal
Magnetism, and his conviction that his experiments would ultimately
throw a light upon the operations of nature, which would equal, if not
exceed, that elicited by the greatest discoveries of by-gone ages. The
correspondence dropped here; and the experiments continued as usual.

The scene, however, was drawing to a close. On the 25th of August,
a notice was published in the Lancet, to the effect, that some
experiments had been performed on the girls Elizabeth and Jane Okey,
at the house of Mr. Wakley, a report of which was only withheld in the
hope that the Committee of Members of the Medical Profession, then
sitting to investigate the phenomena of mesmerism, would publish their
report of what they had witnessed. It was further stated, that whether
that Committee did or did not publish their report, the result of the
experiments at Mr. Wakley's house should certainly be made known in
the next number of that journal. Accordingly, on the 1st of September
appeared a statement, which overthrew, in the most complete manner,
the delusion of mesmerism. Nothing could have been better conducted
than these experiments; nothing could be more decisive of the fact,
that all the phenomena were purely the results of the excited
imaginations of the girls, aided in no slight degree by their wilful

The first experiments were performed on the 16th of August, in the
presence of Mr. Wakley, M. Dupotet, Dr. Elliotson, Dr. Richardson, Mr.
Herring, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. G. Mills the writer of the published
reports of the experiments at the University College Hospital. Dr.
Elliotson had said, that nickel was capable of retaining and
transmitting the magnetic fluid in an extraordinary degree; but that
lead possessed no such virtues. The effects of the nickel, he was
confident, would be quite astounding; but that lead might always be
applied with impunity. A piece of nickel was produced by the Doctor,
about three quarters of an ounce in weight, together with a piece of
lead of the same shape and smoothness, but somewhat larger. Elizabeth
Okey was seated in a chair; and, by a few passes and manipulations,
was thrown into the state of "ecstatic delirium." A piece of thick
pasteboard was then placed in front of her face, and held in that
situation by two of the spectators, so that she could not see what was
passing either below or in front of her. Mr. Wakley having received
both the nickel and the lead, seated himself opposite the girl, and
applied the lead to each hand alternately, but in such a manner as to
lead her to believe that both metals had been used. No effect was
produced. The nickel magnetised by Dr. Elliotson was, after a pause,
applied in a similar manner. No results followed. After another pause,
the lead was several times applied, and then again the nickel. After
the last application of the nickel, the face of the patient became
violently flushed, the eyes were convulsed into a startling squint,
she fell back in the chair, her breathing was hurried, her limbs
rigid, and her back bent in the form of a bow. She remained in this
state for a quarter of an hour.

This experiment was not considered a satisfactory proof of the
magnetic powers of the nickel; and Dr. Elliotson suggested that, in
the second experiment, that metal should alone be tried. Mr. Wakley
was again the operator; but, before commencing, he stated privately to
Mr. Clarke, that instead of using nickel only, he would not employ the
nickel at all. Mr. Clarke, unseen by any person present, took the
piece of nickel; put it into his waistcoat pocket; and walked to the
window, where he remained during the whole of the experiment. Mr.
Wakley again sat down, employing both hands, but placing his fingers
in such a manner, that it was impossible for any person to see what
substance he held. Presently, on applying his left hand, the girl's
vision being still obstructed by the pasteboard, Mr. Herring, who was
standing near, said in a whisper, and with much sincerity, "Take care,
don't apply the nickel too strongly." Immediately the face of the girl
became violently red, her eyes were fixed in an intense squint, she
fell back convulsively in her chair, and all the previous symptoms
were produced more powerfully than before. Dr. Elliotson observed that
the effects were most extraordinary; that no other metal than nickel
could produce them, and that they presented a beautiful series of
phenomena. This paroxysm lasted half an hour. Mr. Wakley retired with
Dr. Elliotson and the other gentlemen into an adjoining room, and
convinced them that he had used no nickel at all, but a piece of lead
and a farthing.

This experiment was twice repeated with the same results. A third
trial was made with the nickel, but no effect was produced.

On the succeeding day the experiments were repeated upon both the
sisters, chiefly with mesmerised water and sovereigns. The
investigation occupied about five hours, and the following were the

1. Six wine glasses, filled with water unmesmerised, were placed
on a table, and Jane Okey being called in, was requested to drink from
each of them successively. She did so, and no effect was produced.

2. The same six glasses stood on the table, the water in the
fourth having been subjected for a long time to the supposed magnetic
influence. She was requested in like manner to drink of these. She did
so, and again no effect was produced, although, according to the
doctrine of the magnetisers, she ought to have been immediately fixed
on drinking of the fourth.

3. In this experiment the position of the glasses was changed.
There was no result.

4. Was a repetition of the foregoing. No result.

5. The water in all the glasses was subjected to the supposed
magnetic influence from the fingers of Dr. Elliotson, until, in his
opinion, it was strongly magnetised. Still no result.

6. The glasses were filled up with fresh water unmesmerised. No

7. The water was strongly magnetised in each glass, and the girl
emptied them all. No result.

It would be needless to go through the whole series of
experiments. The results may be briefly stated. Sovereigns
unmesmerised threw the girls into convulsions, or fixed them.
Mesmerised sovereigns sometimes did and sometimes did not produce
these symptoms. Elizabeth Okey became repeatedly fixed when drinking
unmagnetised water; while that which had been subjected to the powers
of a supposed magnetic battery, produced no results. Altogether
twenty-nine experiments were tried, which convinced every one present,
except Dr. Elliotson, that Animal Magnetism was a delusion, that the
girls were of very exciteable imaginations, and arrant impostors.

Their motives for carrying on so extraordinary a deception have
often been asked. The question is easily answered. Poor girls, unknown
and unnoticed, or, if noticed, perhaps despised, they found themselves
all at once the observed of all observers, by the really remarkable
symptoms of their disease, which it required no aid from magnetism to
produce. Flattered by the oft-repeated experiments and constant
attentions of doctors and learned men, who had begun by deluding
themselves, they imagined themselves persons of vast importance, and
encouraged by degrees the whims of their physicians, as the means of
prolonging the consideration they so unexpectedly enjoyed. Constant
practice made them at last all but perfect in the parts they were
performing; and they failed at last, not from a want of ingenuity, or
of a most wonderful power over their own minds, and by their minds
upon their bodies, but from the physical impossibility of seeing
through a thick pasteboard, or into the closed hands of Mr. Wakley.
The exposure that was made was complete and decisive. From that day
forth, magnetism in England has hid its diminished head, and affronted
no longer the common sense of the age. M. Dupotet is no more heard of,
the girls Okey afford no more either wonder or amusement by their
clever acting, and reason has resumed her sway in the public mind.

A few more circumstances remain to be stated. Elizabeth Okey left
the hospital; but was re-admitted some weeks afterwards, labouring
under ischuria, a fresh complaint, unconnected with her former malady.
As experiments in magnetism were still tried upon her privately,
notwithstanding the recent exposure and the all but universal derision
of the public, the House Committee of the hospital, early in December,
met to consider the expediency of expelling the girl. Dr. Elliotson,
on that occasion, expressed his opinion that it was necessary to
retain her in the hospital, as she was too ill to be discharged. It
was then elicited from the nurse, who was examined by the Committee,
that Okey, when in the state of "magnetic delirium," was in the habit
of prophesying the death or recovery of the patients in the ward;
that, with the consent of Dr. Elliotson, she had been led in the
twilight into the men's ward, and had prophesied in a similar manner;
her predictions being taken down in writing, and given in a sealed
paper to the apothecary, to be opened after a certain time, that it
might be seen whether they were verified. Dr. Elliotson did not deny
the fact. The nurse also stated more particularly the manner in which
the prophecies were delivered. She said that, on approaching the bed
of a certain patient, Okey gave a convulsive shudder, exclaiming that
"Great Jacky was sitting on the bedclothes!" On being asked to explain
herself, she said that Great Jacky was the angel of death. At the
bedside of another patient she shuddered slightly, and said "Little
Jacky was there!" Dr. Elliotson did not altogether discredit the
predictions; but imagined they might ultimately be verified by the
death or recovery of the patient. Upon the minds of the patients
themselves, enfeebled as they were by disease and suffering, the worst
effects were produced. One man's death was accelerated by the
despondency it occasioned, and the recovery of others was seriously

When these facts became known, the Council of the College
requested the Medical Committee to discharge Okey and prevent any
further exhibitions of Animal Magnetism in the wards. The latter part
of this request having been communicated to Dr. Elliotson, he
immediately sent in his resignation. A successor was afterwards
appointed in the person of Dr. Copland. At his inaugural lecture the
students of the college manifested a riotous disposition, called
repeatedly for their old instructor, and refused to allow the lecture
to proceed; but it appears the disturbance was caused by their respect
and affection for Dr. Elliotson individually, and not from any
participation in his ideas about magnetism.

Extravagant as the vagaries of the English professors of magnetism
may appear, they are actual common sense in comparison with the
aberrations of the Germans. The latter have revived all the exploded
doctrines of the Rosicrucians; and in an age which is called
enlightened, have disinterred from the rubbish of antiquity, the
wildest superstitions of their predecessors, and built upon them
theories more wild and startling than anything before attempted or
witnessed among mankind. Paracelsus and Bohmen, Borri and Meyer, with
their strange heterogeneous mixture of alchymy and religion, but paved
the way for the stranger, and even more extravagant mixture of
magnetism and religion, as now practised in Germany. Magnetism, it is
believed, is the key of all knowledge, and opens the door to those
forbidden regions where all the wonders of God's works are made clear
to the mind of man. The magnetic patient is possessed of all gifts --
can converse with myriads of spirits, and even with God himself -- be
transported with greater rapidity than the lightning's flash to the
moon or the stars, and see their inhabitants, and hold converse with
them on the wonders and beauties of their separate spheres, and the
power and goodness of the God who made them. Time and space are to
them as if annihilated -- nothing is hidden from them -- past,
present, or future. They divine the laws by which the universe is
upheld, and snatch the secrets of the Creator from the darkness in
which, to all other men, it is enveloped. For the last twenty or
thirty years these daring and blasphemous notions have flourished in
rank luxuriance; and men of station in society, learning, and apparent
good sense in all the usual affairs of life, have publicly given in
their adhesion, and encouraged the doctrine by their example, or
spread it abroad by their precepts. That the above summary of their
tenets may not he deemed an exaggeration we enter into particulars,
and refer the incredulous that human folly in the present age could
ever be pushed so far, to chapter and verse for every allegation.

In a work published in Germany in 1817, by J. A. L. Richter,
entitled "Considerations on Animal Magnetism," the author states that
in magnetism is to be found the solution of the enigmas of human
existence, and particularly the enigmas of Christianity, on the mystic
and obscure parts of which it throws a light which permits us to gaze
clearly on the secrets of the mystery. Wolfart's "Annals of Animal
Magnetism" abound with similar passages; and Kluge's celebrated work
is written in the same spirit. "Such is the wonderful sympathy," says
the latter, "between the magnetiser and the somnambulist that he has
known the latter to vomit and be purged in consequence of medicine
which the former had taken. Whenever he put pepper on his tongue, or
drank wine, the patient could taste these things distinctly on her
palate." But Kerner's history of the case of Madame Hauffe, the famous
magnetic woman, "Seer" or "Prophetess of Prevorst," Will give a more
complete and melancholy proof of the sad wanderings of these German
"men of science," than any random selections we might make from their
voluminous works. This work was published in two volumes, and the
authenticity of its details supported by Gorres, Eschenmeyer, and
other men of character and reputation in Germany: it is said to have
had an immense sale. She resided in the house of Kerner, at Weinsberg;
and being weak and sickly, was very easily thrown into a state of
somnambulism. "She belonged," says Kerner, "to a world of spirits; she
was half spirit herself; she belonged to the region beyond death, in
which she already half existed. * * * Her body clothed her spirit like
a thin veil. * * * She was small and slightly made, had an Oriental
expression of countenance, and the piercing eyes of a prophet, the
gleams of which were increased in their power and beauty by her long
dark eyebrows and eyelashes. She was a flower of light, living upon
sunbeams. * * * Her spirit often seemed to be separated from her
frame. The spirits of all things, of which mankind in general have no
perception, were perceptible to and operated upon her, more
particularly the spirits of metals, herbs, men, and animals. All
imponderable matters, even the rays of light, had an effect upon her
when she was magnetised." The smell of flint was very agreeable to
her. Salt laid on her hand caused a flow of saliva: rock crystal laid
on the pit of her stomach produced rigidity of the whole body. Red
grapes produced certain effects, if placed in her hands; white grapes
produced different effects. The bone of an elk would throw her into an
epileptic fit. The tooth of a mammoth produced a feeling of
sluggishness. A spider's web rolled into a ball produced a prickly
feeling in the hands, and a restlessness in the whole body. Glow-worms
threw her into the magnetic sleep. Music somnambulised her. When she
wanted to be cheerful, she requested Kerner to magnetise the water she
drank, by playing the Jew's-harp. She used to say in her sleep,
"Magnetise the water by seven vibrations of the harp." If she drank
water magnetised in this manner, she was constrained involuntarily to
pour forth her soul in song. The eyes of many men threw her into the
state of somnambulism. She said that in those eyes there was a
spiritual spark, which was the mirror of the soul. If a magnetised rod
were laid on her right eye, every object on which she gazed appeared

It was by this means that she was enabled to see the inhabitants of
the moon. She said, that on the left side of the moon, the inhabitants
were great builders, and much happier than those on the right side. "I
often see," said she to her magnetiser, "many spirits with whom I do
not come into contact. Others come to me, and I speak to them; and
they often spend months in my company. I hear and see other things at
the same time; but I cannot turn my eyes from the spirits; they are in
magnetic rapport with me. They look like clouds, thin, but not
transparent; though, at first, they seem so. Still, I never saw one
which cast a shadow. Their form is similar to that which they
possessed when alive; but colourless, or grey. They wear clothing; and
it appears as if made of clouds, also colourless and misty grey. The
brighter and better spirits wear long garments, which hang in graceful
folds, with belts around their waists. The expression of their
features is sad and solemn. Their eyes are bright, like fire; but none
of them that I ever saw had hair upon their heads. They make noises
when they wish to excite the attention of those who have not the gift
of seeing them. These noises consist of sounds in the air, sometimes
sudden and sharp, and causing a shock. Sometimes the sounds are
plaintive and musical; at other times they resemble the rustling of
silk, the falling of sand, or the rolling of a ball. The better
spirits are brighter than the bad ones, and their voice is not so
strong. Many, particularly the dark, sad spirits, when I uttered words
of religious consolation, sucked them in, as it were; and I saw them
become brighter and quite glorious in consequence: but I became
weaker. Most of the spirits who come to me are of the lowest regions
of the spiritual world, which are situated just above our atmosphere.
They were, in their life, grovelling and low-minded people, or such as
did not die in the faith of Jesus; or else such as, in expiring,
clung to some earthly thought or affection, which now presses upon
them, and prevents them from soaring up to heaven. I once asked a
spirit whether children grew after death? 'Yes,' replied the spirit,'
the soul gradually expands, until it becomes as large as it would have
been on earth. I cannot effect the salvation of these spirits; I am
only their mediator. I pray ardently with them, and so lead them by
degrees to the great Saviour of the world. It costs an infinity of
trouble before such a soul turns again to the Lord.'"

It would, however, serve no good purpose to extend to greater
length the reveries of this mad woman, or to set down one after the
other the names of the magnetisers who encouraged her in her delusions
-- being themselves deluded. To wade through these volumes of German
mysticism is a task both painful and disgusting -- and happily not
necessary. Enough has been stated to show how gross is the
superstition even of the learned; and that errors, like comets, run in
one eternal cycle -- at their apogee in one age, at their perigee in
the next, but returning in one phase or another for men to wonder at.

In England the delusion of magnetism may for the present be
considered as fairly exploded. Taking its history from the
commencement, and tracing it to our own day, it can hardly be said,
delusion though it was, that it has been wholly without its uses. To
quote the words of Bailly, in 1784, "Magnetism has not been altogether
unavailing to the philosophy which condemns it: it is an additional
fact to record among the errors of the human mind, and a great
experiment on the strength of the imagination." Over that vast inquiry
of the influence of mind over matter, -- an inquiry which the embodied
intellect of mankind will never be able to fathom completely, -- it
will, at least, have thrown a feeble and imperfect light. It will have
afforded an additional proof of the strength of the unconquerable
will, and the weakness of matter as compared with it; another
illustration of the words of the inspired Psalmist, that "we are
fearfully and wonderfully made." If it serve no other purpose than
this, its history will prove useful. Truth ere now has been elicited
by means of error; and Animal Magnetism, like other errors, may yet
contribute its quota towards the instruction and improvement of



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