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MONTHLY MEETING, TUESDAY, MARCH 1st.
PETER MATTHEWS, ESQ., IN THE CHAIR.
De PURLAND read the following Paper on
On or about 1770 he propounded his views on the science of Animal Magnetism.
The Faculty of that day, like the Faculty of the present, were slow to believe, and too indolent to test in their own persons, that which Mesmer affected to believe was a discovery of his own.
Not only did he find his professional brethren unfavourable to his views, but he found them determined to oppose the introduction of Mesmerism as a curative agent, in every possible way, without regard to truth or honesty.
In vain did Mesmer cure diseases considered incurable by the University and the heads of Hospitals, and challenge them to an inquiry --the Faculty had made up their minds that Animal Magnetism was against the laws of nature and their own pre-conceived ideas; and Mesmer, disgusted with the prejudice that opposed him, left Vienna for Paris in 1776.
So rapid was his success in the cure of diseases that had defied the power of medicine, that in two years he received no less a sum than 400,000 francs (16,0001.), and his pupil, Dr D’Eslon, it is said, made a fortune of 100,0001.
But it must not be supposed that he met with no opposition. Oh, no! The Medicals, true to the policy pursued in the case of the great Hervey, opposed the introduction of Animal Magnetism with all their might, but in vain ; however, the French revolution did what they so much desired, put an end for a time to the dreaded innovation.
That Mesmer was a charlatan there cannot be much doubt, he operated upon his patients in a cabalistic dress, affected a peculiar air of mystery, and arrogated to himself the discovery of a means of alleviating the miseries of his fellow-creatures. But he was too well read and too acute not to be aware that Magnetism was practised ages be.
fore his time. If we look to Egypt we find it practised by her physicians ; the whole process is depicted on the walls of the tombs. Turn we to India, we have the same manipulation, under the name of the Jar-phoonk, in constant use, and from the remotest antiquity. In our own country, in the reign of Charles the Second, we find an Irish gentleman, named Valentine Greatrakes, performing very extraordinary cures, which created such astonishment, that the Hon. Mr Boyle-no mean authority-wrote a book containing his entire belief in their genuineness.
Reverting to India, but somewhat wrong in date, I venture to refer to a celebrated physician and my lamented friend, Dr Esdaile, whose name ought to go down to posterity as a benefactor to the human race. This great man performed in Calcutta some of the most formidable operations that ever fell to the lot of a medical man. Scrotal Tumours of all sizes, from 10 pounds to 103 pounds weight ! prolapsus ani, the size of a child's head, reduced; strangulated hernia reduced ; contracted arms and knees straightened ; great toe-nails cut out by the roots ; cataracts operated on; and cancers extirpated. And all done whilst the patients were unconscious by being mesmerised. “In each and all there was an entire absence of every—even the slightest-indication of physical suffering.”
In 1837 a physician of European fame had his attention drawn, as he says, "to a subject which, though utterly neglected in this country, was receiving great attention on the continent.
“Certain wonderful phenomena, and certain modes of producing these phenomena, and of curing diseases ill understood and difficult to cure, were vouched for by men of judgment. I soon found, said the learned doctor, that there was a fund of truth in what I had heard and read--that an agent or agency existed which had been overlooked; and my inquiries were soon attended with such results, that a large number of Medical men, distinguished Noblemen, nay, Royalty itself, Members of the House of Commons, some of the first men in the country, Professors of Oxford, Cambridge, King's College, and Edinburgh, the President of the Royal and Linnean Societies, and Teachers of the various Hospitals, flocked to witness my facts. Some of these gentlemen made handsome donations to the hospital.
“This soon excited envy, and this excited a commotion, and the late Dean invited me to desist. He urged that, whether the wonderful facts were true or not, and whether great benefit in the treatment of diseases would result or not, we ought to consider the interests of the school. . .
“I replied, that the institution was established for the dissemination and discovery of truth; that all other considerations were secondary to this.'
Most Medical men know the issue of the contest, the great man I have just quoted is Dr Elliotson ; and the building in which it took place was the London University Hospital.
The Council, with barbaric ignorance, refused to allow the Doctor to do what he had an undoubted right to do, and the result was Dr Elliotson's resignation. This took place in 1839.
Since that time Dr Elliotson has lost a princely fortune by his adherence, and—I say most emphatically-conscientious adherence to this great fact.
Up to 1843, I was myself a sceptic as to the power of Animal Magnetism. I was induced to witness a case at which I was much surprised, but not convinced. I determined to try experiments quietly and philosophically. I did so, and soon satisfied myself that Mesmerism was a great fact, and I do not hesitate in declaring my conviction that any one may in like manner satisfy himself of its truth by experimenting in his own family circle.
There are a few who wisely say “ they never saw a person mesmerised, that they never would see one, and that if they did see it, they would not believe it !” Such people are scarce, and it is advisable to let them carry their ignorance to the grave.
In 1846 the Mesmeric Infirmary was projected at the house of the late Earl of Ducie, and is now a well-established institution in Weymouth street, Portland place. There diseases that have for years bid defiance to medical skill, that have run the gauntlet of most of our hospitals, and been declared incurable by the most eminent surgeons and physicians, have been cured in an incredible short space of time m edi cines given, no blisters applied-nothing used, but that most potent of medicines, Mesmerism!
Hundreds, nay, thousands of cases are recorded in the thirteen volumes of The Zoist,' published under the superintendence and editorship of Dr Elliotson, some cured at the Infirmary, and others by clergymen, noblemen, and others.
That some notion may be formed of the power of Animal Magnetism, I will enumerate a few of the cases that have been, or are being, cured or mitigated under its influence: Chorea, or St Vitus's dance ; Epilepsy ; Dropsy; Hemiphlegia ; Paraphlegia ; Scrofula ; Scald-head, Blindness ; Sciatica ; Deafness; the Dumb made to speak, and a host of other complaints.
It may be very fairly asked, If Mesmerism can produce immunity from pain, and cure diseases, why is it not more in use? The answer is easily given. Medical men, with some few honourable exceptions, ignore its power altogether; not because they know anything about it, quite the contrary ; they consider it beneath their notice, and because they will not examine it, remain in ignorance of a power which, used
as an adjunct to medicine, would elevate it into a science to be depended upon, and remove that stigma of uncertainty which clings so closely to Medical treatment.
But there is one great consolation ; all this ignoring by Medical men and Medical Journals ; all the vituperation so bountifully showered upon the head of the Mesmerist, cannot alter the fact that extraordinary cures are effected every day by Mesmerism alone, and we have only to glance at the present state of Mesmerism to be very hopeful for the future. It has during the last two years assumed an importance and obtained a sanction that was little expected by those "mad enthusiasts," who have watched its progress during the last eight years; and those who bore the brunt of the “scoffer and malignant” twelve or fifteen years ago, scarcely ventured to hope that Mesmerism would be sought after, or become so powerful a curative as it has proved itself to be. The loud brawling opponent has sunk into the waverer; and the quiet sceptic has become a believer in, and a practiser of, that he would have shunned a few years since.
The important step towards this state of things was the publication of The Zoist,' and the founding of THE MESMERIC INFIRMARY.
I will now enumerate some of the operations that have been performed in the mesmeric trance, and then proceed to what more immediately concerns ourselves as Dentists.
The first operation in England was the introduction of a seaton into the back of a patient, under the direction of Dr Elliotson, in the spring of 1838.
Then we have had divisions of the tendons of the knee-joint; and subsequently amputations of legs, arms, fingers ; removal of tonsil. tumours, cancers from breast, opening of large abscesses, besides hundreds of inferior operations.
One, of which I was an eye-witness, will suffice to show the superio. rity of Mesmerism as an apæsthetic: ASTOUNDING OPERATION IN THE MESMERIC TRANCE.
“ Truth is stranger than Action." At the invitation of Dr Elliotson I attended at the Mesmeric Infirmary in Weymouth street, Portland place, on Wednesday, April 26, 1854, to witness the removal of the right breast of a female whilst in the mesmeric trance.
I entered the institution at a quarter past one, in company with Mr Kiste, and we were shortly joined by Dr Elliotson, Mr Tubbs the operator, Colonel Bagnold, Dr Symes, Mr Goff, and Mr Amor.
At two several other gentlemen arrived, and much anxiety was expressed as to the result of the operation. Mr Tubbs was, however, quite confident that his patient would not feel it in the least.
Shortly after two o'clock we were ushered up stairs ; here we found the patient,-a female of apparently about forty years of age, seated in a reclining chair, and Mr Tubbs, with Mr Burman as his assistant, prepared to perform the operation.
The company being seated, Mr Tubbs proceeded to entrance his patient: this he effected in a few minutes by standing upon a chair behind her, taking her hands in his, and looking down steadily into her eyes, which were raised for the purpose.
After the quivering and closing the eyelids, Mr T. descended, and made passes in front, from the head to the knees, for about two minutes : she was then considered so deeply entranced as to be able to undergo any operation, however severe, without feeling it. The result fully justified this confidence.
After the breast had beeu examined by Dr Elliotson and Dr Symes, the knife was handed to Mr Tubbs by Mr Burman, and the deepest anxiety was depicted on every face.
The first incision was made amidst the most breathless silence, and all eyes were directed to the face of the patient: not a muscle movednot a sigh-there was the same placid smile as when she closed her eyes under the mesmeric influence ; she breathed freely : her left hand lay listlessly in her lap—the right was held up by Mr Burman, to be out of the way-there was no restraint.
Mr Tubbs continued to dissect out the breast leisurely-there was no hurry to get it over ; and when the whole was removed, the silent astonishment of the gentlemen assembled was excessive.
But Mr Tubbs had not done yet : he probed with his finger every part, and finding a portion that had eluded his knife, seized it, and cut it out as coolly as if trying his weapon upon a dead body.
Dr Symes and Mr Beard, at Mr Tubbs's request, examined the patient, and on their declaration that all had been removed, the operator, assisted by Mr Burman, passed five needles through the lips of the wound and inserted the sutures.
Still the patient slept-still smiled. A little wine and water was ad. ministered her dress was arranged-each gentleman resumed his seat -and Mr Tubbs awakened his patient by a few transverse passes. On opening her eyes, she was addressed by Mr Tubbs." How do you feel p". Patient.-"Have you done it P” Mr Tubbs." Supposing it is done, how do you feel p" Patient.--"I am very well.” Mr Tubbs.“ Have you felt anything P" Patient.—“No! I have felt nothing." Mr Tubbs.-" Then it is done."
The patient smiling incredulously, her dress was opened, and upon her being satisfied that it was done, her face beamed with thankfulness.
To all questions put she answered decidedly that she had not, nor did she feel, the slightest pain; on the contrary, she was quite unconscious that the operation had been performed until awakened.
After a short address by Mr Tubbs relative to the operation, preparations were made for carrying the patient to bed; but she declined all assistance, and walked up two flights of stairs as if nothing had occurred.
Mr Tubbs was now warmly congratulated upon his success by his brother mesmerists and their friends, the accompanying certificate was drawn up and signed, and a general wish expressed, that those selfstyled medical magnates (?) who scoff at " the greatest truth in nature,"