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The Commons will assemble without any great change in its personnel
. Mr William Williams, the new member for Lambeth, will again take his place, not at the feet, but at the side, of his Gamaliel, Mr Hume. Mr Charles Pearson, whom he succeeds, afforded another instance of a man who could exercise great power over a popular assembly failing to make way in the House of Commons. Old Mr Raphael
, the millionaire
, will be missed by those who look for accustomed faces. It will be remembered that Mr Raphael brought Mr O'Connell into difficulties in consequence of his allegation that the Liberator had played him false in an election transaction where money had passed between them. Mr Raphael's penchant for a seat in Parliament is inexplicable. He did nothing but go out and in. He seemed to have neither friend nor acquaintance in the house; and for a speech, it was out of the question. Mr Law, the late member for Cambridge University, will be missed too. At the least, he was twice the size of Mr Raphael, and had hosts of friends. He was the personification of a true Tory: he eschewed“ progress” with the same heartiness that he eulogised the civie functionaries whom he presented to the acceptance of the judges at Westminster Hall, in his capacity of recorder of London. It is worthy of remark, that there is no man on the “Papal” side of the house qualified to uphold the policy of his chief with anything like rhetorical power. Mr Rey. nolds, the member for Dublin, is the most likely, but the question is not in his way. It is too grave to be dealt with in the spirit of humorous recrimination, and in that lies Mr Reynolds's strength. It is possible, however, that the occasion may give birth to the man.
NOTES ON BOOKS.
Mrs GRAY's History Of Rome. London: T. Hatchard. This volume contains the history of the Emperors of Rome from Augustus to Constantine. It treats of a very important period of Roman history, is ample in its details, and popular in its style. The work is worthy of high commendation; for, whilst it is full, and not merely a sketch, it is produced at a price which brings it within the reach of all.
DESCARTES' DISCOURSE ON METHOD. Edinburgh: Sutherland & Knox.
This neatly got up little volume contains the famous Discourse of Desɔartes on the method of rightly conducting the reason, and seeking truth in the sciences. It is in itself very valuable, and is here translated with elegance and accuracy. PLEASURES OF MUSIC, AND OTHER POEMS. By J. C. FERGUSON.
London: Groombridge & Sons. Unlike many of the volumes of modern poetry, “ The Pleasures of Music” has received such a hearty welcome from the public, and been so extensively patronised by poetry purchasers, that the author has been induced to put forth a second edition, and encouraged to abandon his fictitious name. We don't wonder at its success, for it is a delightful bundle of pieces, bound up in a tasteful cover.
MESMERISM IN ITS HIGHER PHENOMENA.
BY AN EDINBURGH DOCTOR OF MEDICINE.
I HAVE referred to the higher phenomena and more special wonders of Mesmerism.* Many of them have already been mentioned by name indeed, though not described, in the course of my observations on the recent exhibitions in Edinburgh. It was to certain of those more incredible marvels, it may now be added, that the learned and speculative, but not incautious Coleridge referred, in reporting the opinion of Treviranus on the subject of mesmeric experimentation. Subsequently to his conversation with that great authority, the British philosopher confesses to having studied the existing literature of this occult sphere of inquiry for some nine years. The result of this purely literary investigation, for such it appears to have been, was a total inability to decide either for or against the asserted quasi-miracles: as the reader may find it stated more at large in a note to Southey's Life of Wesley. I say quasi-miracles advisedly; for it is my scientific conviction that, were all the alleged phenomena of the more transcendental mesmerists demonstrated to be good and true, they could easily be proven to belong to a totally different plane of causation from the miracles of the New Testament. The scientific discrimination of those two classes of things were no very Herculean task, to my thinking; and, in truth, it is upon such a conviction, matured and ready for defence, that these articles of mine proceed.
But the reputable and well-written authorship of Mesmeric science has increased enormously, not only in volume, but also in pretensions, since the day in which Coleridge wrote his ingenuous confession of a philosophical scepticism. Now that the simple trance, anæsthetic and whatever else it be, is an established fact; and now that hundreds of trained and cautious minds are becoming convinced of the
See the PALLADIUM for February, 1851.
reality of a greater or smaller number of the minor phenomena evoked by experiment in patients subject to that trance, it is no stretch of candour to speak of Mesmerism as a science. It is a science in embryo, but it is growing. Already can one descry something like a determinate and organic shape coming out of the germinal chaos of fact, from and within which it is being developed. It is not indeed a respectable science as yet; but it was long till the Copernican Astronomy, now the queen and mother of sciences, became respectable. The theological thought of its age, embodied in the Church of Rome, opposed and oppressed it long. Our own Sir Thomas Browne, a physician and a man of still enduring genius, a Protestant and even something more, although he claims “the honourable style of a Christian," set it down in his book of Vulgar Errors. Even the Lavoisierian Chemistry, that simplest and most luminous of modern births, was far from respectable for some ten years of its life, as Dumas has explained. If such sciences as these, little complicated and susceptible of absolute and crucial refutation or establishment, did not at once grow into the world's esteem, it may well be supposed that a subject like Mesmerism will be very long of receive ing scientific entertainment and inquiry at the hand of Royal Societies and Colleges of Physicians. It is the most complex of scientific objects. There is immense difficulty in the way of making accurate observations, of describing observations with precision and without a bias, and of determining the scientific value of observations once they are made and recorded. The phenomena themselves are fleeting, casual, not producible at will, and very startling. Then they are, in their nature, complicated with physical, physiological, pathological, psychological conditions. They appear so wonderful, so revolutionary, so mysterious, even so awful at first sight, that the experimentalist and his disciples are shaken from their propriety in the majority of instances; and it is not easy to read the lucubrations of such rhapsodists, in the sceptical cool of one's study, without a smile. Yet the enthusiastic and visionary literature of Mesmerism is not the least interesting thing about it. Those wild books are just another part of the whole phenomenon to be studied by the self-possessed man of science; for what must the phenomena of Mesmerism really be, seeing they inspire such a multitude of not unlearned heads with such "an infinite deal of nothing?”
The number of Mesmeric works is now immense. German, French, English and American students have crowded round the terrible, yet fascinating subject. From what little I have read of that vast, and in many respects respectable body of literature, and from all that I can learn from other students, it is my impression that it contains very little matter which is valuable in a scientific point of view. The Germans platonise and mystify instead of barely narrating their cases and comparing instances. The Frenchmen bluster and avoid induction, while they deal in an endless multiplicity of insignificant details. The English are plain-spoken, but they are timid. They all seem to be deficient of a wide scientific culture. Never done experimenting and talking and moving, they think they are in progress : but they have not, scientifically speaking, advanced a step beyond Mesmer:-And, of course, i world of incoherence is allowable to an originator; so all honour to Mesmer. Not that Mesmer was the first to work mesmeric effects; for such things have probably been always more or less common in the world, but without either the operators or the subjects ever suspecting them to be the results of natural causation. Nay, I have seen sculpturesque drawings, taken from Egyptian vaults, in which the process of mesmerisation by passes over the face is represented unmistakably and even characteristically; so that the trance was actually recorded as a fact in the thirty-thousand-fold stone book of Hermes Trismegistus. In other words, it appears that the literary, scientific, philosophical, mystical and all-dispensing priesthood of old Nile were really acquainted with this phenomenon ; although it is impossible to say how much they knew about it, and what their views of it can have been. The time when there was corn in Egypt while the rest of the world lay in dearth, however, has passed away without a record of their stores ; so that Mesmer is to all practical intents and purposes the first conscious and scientific thinker and writer on the strange phenomena which now bear his name, notwithstanding of the learned citations from Van Helmont and older authorities on which he rests :
“ With our humanity infirm upon us,
My God, it is a fearful thing to stand
And a propitious time !" Exclusive of Mesmer himself then, who was hypothetical rather than inductive, as perhaps became a first discoverer, Baron Reichenbach the chemist is the only man of science who has entered this dim and dangerous region with the clear forethought and the rigorous afterthought of an incorruptible scientific method. He approaches the subject from the opposite point of the compass, however, to that at which Mesmer and his disciples come upon it. He begins from the physical aspect of the question ; and, indeed, it is hardly fair as yet to classify him as an author on Mesmerism proper. He cannot help himself however, he is getting fairly sucked into the dark and troublous stream, and he will certainly be known to future ages as the first great contributor to the right investigation of mesmeric phenomena. I reserve the discussion of his celebrated experiments on a new fluid or force, which he inferentially supposes to reside in crystals and magnets, as well as to be manifested in solar and lunar radiance, in chemical action, in the ever-active body of man and so forth, till another time.
In the meanwhile, the general literature of Mesmerism is far from uninteresting : it is only confused and unprogressive. Here it is dazzled, there it is darkened by cross-lights. It is a party-coloured tissue. It is literate enough. It is also religious for the most part. It is learned in the hands of men like Eschenmayer, it is ingeniously and profoundly speculative with Ennemoser, it is mystical with Kerner, it is melodramatic with Puysegùr, it is fantastical with Dupotet, it is sensible enough with Elliotson, it is practical with Esdaile. In short it is everything by turns and nothing long. At least it is everything but what it ought to be ; everything but what it must become, before it will be able to approve itself a veritable gift from Heaven and a benefaction to mankind. It is not scientific; simply, cautiously, severely, gradually, experimentally, inductively, learnedly and also fearlessly scientific. It
is accordingly little deserving of study, except by the psychologist and the curious.
In case, however, the reader of the PALLADIUM should like to know something of the sort of things embalmed in the quaint and multifarious wrappages of that literature, and preserved as incontestible matter of fact for the use of believers, the rest of this paper shall consist of a little innocent talk more or less relating to the so-called higher phenomena of Mesmerism. But I shall make no extracts of cases from the regular books and periodicals of the (young) science ; preferring to describe my own experience, limited as it has been. It will render the narrative more lifelike, and the reader will get proportionally closer to the things related. At the same time this method of procedure is adopted with no vain intention of scientifically contributing anything, in the way of facts, to the growing substance of Mesmerism. I have too profound a reverence for fact in science to entertain any such futile purpose. I saw the things about to be described two, three and even more years ago ; and, although notes were made of them at the time of observation, they are not worthy of scientific confidence. It was by a wondering onlooker, rather than a scientific observer, that the experiments were made and recorded. It is only for literary reasons, then, that my own memory and notes are drawn upon instead of the professed record of the subject in hand. It is in order to make the story more vivid and real, as has been said above. It is to render the images of the cases, about to be conveyed to the reader, more like the images of direct perception and less like the feebler images of memory. After that purpose has been subserved, he may consider the whole affair as a work of fiction, if he choose. They will be equally useful to him, whether he take them for the pure invention of the writer's dream, or regard them as historically true. For whether they be historically true or not, they are representatively so. Precisely such things, in the midst of others more wonderful still
, are everyday described by the regular mesmerist; which is all I wish to say at present. Such in short are some of the marvels contained in the voluminous pages of mesmeric authorship. Yet I am not disposed to make any secret of my own conviction that the following phenomena were real and true, although too ill-observed to satisfy the demands of science. My conviction is therefore not scientific and positive: it is personal and hypothetical; and it may accordingly be uprooted by future investigation. But pending the progress of a stricter inquiry, the following narrative is assuredly“ a round unvarnished tale ;” and it represents what still seem to me to have been the objects of actual observation to myself and others.
“Sit down awhile;
“Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this." It is now nearly seven years since a circumstance reached my ears, which arrested my attention more than anything connected with Mesmerism had ever done. Rheticus, then a student of theology and now