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JULY, 1847.

Vol. XXX.



The labours of Mesmer and his dis- clairvoyance, or a perception of things ciples, whatever judgment we may form without the ordinary range of the as to the practical or scientific worth senses, in the witch or the demonopaof any result they have led, or are likely thic, we have the less ground for supto lead to, cannot be denied to have posing the clairvoyance of the mesmeric rendered one considerable, though in- patient to be a hallucination, or a predirect service to the cause of know- tence. If we observe that very strange ledge. They have thrown light upon state of things which, in the language one of the darkest chapters in the his- of the mesmerists, is termed rapporttory of man; they have solved, at a community of sensation, thought, or least partially, the riddle of those will-between the witch and the victim wild accusations, and still wilder con- of her sorceries, or between the defessions, in virtue of which so many monopathic and the exorcist, we are thousands of human beings were deli. the less warranted to assume that such vered to an appalling death, in the rapport, as subsisting between the mes. very era of the revival of letters, and meric patient and the mesmeriser, is a the reformation of religion. They chimera, or a trick sustained by colluhave taught us, in short, what to think sion. And these are but a few of the of the witches and the witch-burners, points in which the two classes of phethe demonopathics and the exorcists, nomena we speak of correspond. In who played their fantastic and hideous the hundreds of mesmeric cases that drama with the breadth of Europe have been treated, in and out of Gerfor a theatre_from the fifteenth down many, since the great Swiss charlatan to the middle of the eighteenth century. made his debut at Vienna, and in the It is impossible to compare the appear- thousands of cases of diabolism, in its ances observable in a modern mesmeric thousand forms, that for more than patient with those presented by a witch three hundred years kept the racks at or a devil-possessed nun of the pe- work, and the market-places smoking, riod referred to-without being led to throughout the whole Christian world, the conclusion, that it is one influence a unity of character, a constant reprowhich affects both; that their states are duction of the same leading features, is identical ; that either the mesmeric pa- to be recognized, wholly inexplicable, tient is a witch, or the witch was no- unless on the hypothesis of a common thing more than a mesmeric patient. origin- of one principle operating And this recurrence of phenomena so throughout. And certainly the mani. similar, under circumstances so widely festations of this principle, even as we diverse, is the strongest of all argu- witness them, in instances “ few and far ments against the supposition that the between,” in our own times, are quite phenomena are the result of imposture. startling and enigmatical enough to If we find insensibility to pain in the account for the light in which they were witch or the demonopathic, we have viewed, and the impressions of horror the less reason to believe the insensi. which they produced, when developed bility to pain, shown by the mesmeric in multitudes at once, and in a degree patient, to be simulated. If we find of intensity which we can but faintly

Vol. XXX. -No. 175.


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picture to ourselves, at a period of time saw the fiend, and in reality transacted, when physiological investigation was in with this creation of their disordered its infancy, and when preternatural sense, the hellish compact which was agency seemed to be the only solution to put them in possession of satanic at hand, for all occurrences that broke power. The insanest delusions, as in on the routine of common experience. they present themselves in those conWe are accustomed to consider the fessions, which are founded upon the epoch of the witch-trials as

most intimate conviction of the things gross and inconceivable credulity; and confessed, will not appear too insane our indignation is without bounds, to to him who considers to what strange find clergymen and physicians, magis- fantasies, nay, to what frightful, what trates, and men of law, alike ready to ghastly shapes of monomania, the combelieve and act upon the monstrous mon hysterical affections, to which the tales, the more than delirious extrava- less robust sex is so peculiarly liable, gancies, which the evidence on these can give birth.” In perfect accordance trials disclosed. But nothing is more with these observations, you will find certain, than that not only the wit- the unfortunate persons accused of the nesses, but the accused parties them- crime of sorcery, freely acknowledging selves, in the greater number of in- their commerce with the prince of stances, believed every word of these darkness, circumstantially detailing the extravagancies to be true. Indeed the ceremonies of their initiation into the accusations of the witnesses, in most infernal league, and describing, with cases, fell far short of the confessions a graphic power which the romancist of the accused_confessions oftener vo- might often envy, the scenes to which lunteered than extorted by the appli. their communion in the unholy mystecation or threat of the rack, and not ries has given them access; the uncseldom accompanied by the most ur- tions, the transformations, the broomgent entreaties to their judges, to hand stick rides through the air, the assemthem over, without delay, to the purify- blings at the “devil's sabbaths,” the ing flames, in which, as they hoped, the “black masses,” and other sacrileges expiation of their nameless wicked- there committed; the ghoul-like bannesses was to be begun. It certainly quets, and lycanthropic carouses that was not easy to acquit persons who followed these accursed rites, and the accused themselves, especially when lewdnesses perpetrated, in outrage and the matter of the accusations was not, defiance of nature, during the demoas now, at variance with the established niac intoxication in which these cabelief of the age. And it must be con- rouses had their issue. Each witch fessed, that but too many of those suf- can tell even the name, the propensiferers were morally guilty of the crimes ties, and habits of the particular unof which they were arraigned; they clean spirit assigned to her as her fawould have committed those crimes if

miliar, or ministering demon, and the it had been possible, and, so far as the prescribed formulary by which the serwill and the intention went, they did vices of such familiar, whether for the commit them. “ It is certain," says witch's proper benefit, or for the injury one of the interlocutors in Hoffmann's of those unlovingly regarded by her, delightful Serapionsbrüder, “that in are put in requisition. those times, when no one doubted the It is easy to say that these supposed immediate influence of the devil, and his witches were mad, and that no more visible appearing, those unhappy beings weight ought to be attributed to their who were so cruelly persecuted with testimony against themselves than to fire, and the axe, really believed in all the ravings (often so wonderfully that they were accused of. It is cer. plausible and coherent) of any other tain, even, that many did, in the wick- maniacs. But the difficulty is not thus edness of their hearts, seek, through to be got rid of. The Gordian knot, the practice of what then passed for for the inquirer into these exhibitions magical arts, to enter into relations of a strange and paradoxical aspect of with the evil one, either for gain, or the human mind, is, not that these illin order to work mischief to others; fated beings were haunted by delusions and then, in the state of frenzy which of an extraordinary vividness, but that sense-destroying potions, fumigations, those delusions, without any possible and horrible incantations produced, concert, displayed such unmistakeable

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