Imagens da página

THE THREE ERAS OF Woman's LIFE. The attractive title of this work by no means belies the interest which it is calculated to awaken in the mind of the reader. It is, in our opinion, inferior to no English novel of the present day. It displays a familiar knowledge of the various workings of human passion, an accurate acquaintance with correct models of fictitious composition, and an acute observation of the striking or simple scenes of domestic life. Withal, its inculcations are of the best tendency.

Gil Blas. — The BROTHERS HARPER have issued, in two large and handsome volumes, uniform with their fine edition of "Tom Jones,' 'Humphrey Clinker,' etc., 'The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santaline: translated from the French of LE SAGE, by T. SMOLLETT, M. D., with a Memoir of the Author, by THOMAS Roscoe.' To state that the volumes are illustrated by CRUIKSHANK, and printed in the best manner of the publishers, is praise enough of a work which is otherwise beyond encomium.

"GEORGE Balcombe' is the title of a new American novel, on the eve of publication by the Messrs. HARPERS. It proceeds, as we learn, from Virginia ; and from a hasty glance at some of the sheets, we incline to the belief that the work will at least prove entertaining. Lively and spirited colloquy is the most prominent feature in its style. We shall refer more particularly to the volumes in a subsequent number.

Book of Niagara Falls. — The traveler to the Great Cataract will find 'STEELE'S Book of the Niagara Falls' — the third edition of which, revised, enlarged, and accompanied by maps, has just been published — an important aid to his enjoyment of the numerous points of matchless scenery which it points out and illustrates. It is neatly executed.

Cicero's SELECT LETTERS. — H. Perkins, Philadelphia, and PERKINS AND MARVIN, Boston, have printed, on a clear bold type and good paper, Cicero's Select Letters, with notes and illustrations in English. For elegant Latinity, easy and vigorous style, condensed fact, and pure sentiments, these letters have no superiors.

PLUTARCH'S LIVES. — A new corrected and revised edition of Plutarch's Lives, translated from the original Greek, with critical and historical notes, and a life of the author, has just been issued by the Messrs. HARPERS. It is executed with neatness, and well bound, in leather.

TO A CORRESPONDENT. — In answer to a correspondent, ‘H. W.,' who complains of the occasional solid or scientific articles which appear in our pages, we can only reply — in the words of a work which has attained a just preeminence, not only in Europe but in this country - that 'to be generally useful and entertaining, we mean to suit our periodical to readers of every denomination. It is not solely our intention to paint the manners and the fashions of the times; to interest the passions, and wander in the regions of fancy. We propose to blend instruction with amusement; to pass from light and gay effusions to stern disquisition; to mingle erudition with wit; to allure and please the studious and the grave, the dissipated and the idle. To the former, we may suggest matter for reflection and remark; into the latter we may infuse the love of knowledge ; and to both we may afford a not inelegant relaxation and amusement.' All this, with the aid of numerous contributors, of whose varied powers our readers are not ignorant, it will be our aim as nearly as possible to per. form. Meanwhile, as an evidence that our labors to these ends have not hitherto been considered altogether unsuccessful, we may mention the gratifying fact, that since this Magazine passed into the hands of its present proprietors, the uumber of monthly impressions bas increased from less than one thousand, to four thousand copies ; and at no period has the acquisition of names to its subscription list been so great as between each successive number. This is a substantial proof of public approbation, which we shall relax no effort appropriately and effectually to acknowledge.

The 'Reply' of Rev. Dr. Beasley to Juntus JR.' -— unavoidably omitted in the present number – will appear in the Knickerbocker for November.


Vol. VIII.


No. 5.


THE MARVELS OF CATALEPSY. • Truth is strange

- stranger than fiction. Yes, much that is ascertained to be true, and more that is told as reality, is marvellous, beyond the dreams of fancy. Who could have believed the wonders of galvanism, electricity, or magnetism, if actual experiment had not precluded doubt ? Certainly, if a sensible person could have seen the effect, without having been apprized of the cause, he must have considered the needle turning to the pole, or the limbs of a dead man convulsed by the galvanic fluid, and moving as if instinct with life, not less wonderful, nor less beyond the comprehension of the intellect, than the fabled sorcery of ancient days. Wonders are gradually reduced within the rules of science, and become the well-understood phenomena on which theories of philosophy are built; but perhaps in our progress toward perfect knowledge, we shall ever be met with facts to which we yield a reluctant credence, because they are not in harmony with

system. The


of the snake to charm a bird, so as to make its wings unavailing as means of escape, has but imperfect possession of general belief, although the proofs are numerous; and as to the more wondrous power of the serpent over the human nerves, it is scarcely admitted at all, notwithstanding it is attested by well authenticated instances. The impossibility of seeing or describing any communication between a hazel twig held in a person's hand, as he walks over a field, and a spring of water several feet or yards beneath the surface of the ground, has kept up a general incredulity as to the efficacy of a 'divining rod.' Yet many wells have been dug, and the water actually found, in pursuance of the intimations of this mysterious oracle. The curious facts belonging to the unpopular theory of animal magnetism seem to lie in this same class of unaccountables, and therefore to pass as incredible. Whenever these things are understood, as well as the phenomena seem already to be authenticated, perhaps we shall learn something of the existence of a medium of communication more subtle and more potent than the magnetic or galvanic fluid, which we at present recognise as possessing power to produce effects that our ancestors — not very far removed would necessarily have classed with magic, or rejected from belief, as utterly impossible, in the face of evidence incontrovertible. What this medium of communication may be, we cannot at present pretend to tell; but we have no right therefore to suppose

it does not exist. The prodigies of one century became, in the progress of knowledge, the familiar results of scientific experiment, in the next. Great advance has been made in discovery during the last few hundred years; but it seems reasonable




to think that the philosophers of two thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, will look back with pity on what they will call the ignorance of those who just now tread the earth. In the progressive victories of science, and until its conquests shall be completed (a faroff day) there must always be something existing in Heaven and earth, as Hamlet says,, not dreamed of in our philosophy. The wonders of somnambulism and catalepsy would be altogether beyond the possibility of belief, were it not that other marvels exist that are unquestionable in fact, and yet equally unaccountable.

The somnambulist hears the sound of his own voice, so as to give it perfect modulation, which deaf persons cannot do, but is insensible to any other noise around him. He goes straight to the object of his search, and walks on the brink of a precipice with security, but sees nothing of the friends who watch his progress and cross his very path. Can it be by means of the optic and the auditory nerves that the sense of distance is then conveyed to his perception? It is impossible to believe it, and yet account for the fact that he sees and hears only the things on which his attention is fixed, and not all things that present themselves to those outward senses.

Cases of catalepsy are more rare; but there have been many apparently well attested, where a total suspension of the ordinary powers of the senses has seemed to disclose the existence of another means of communion between the understanding and the external world, the mode and limit of which are entirely out of the grasp of our comprehension. The deaf, dumb, and blind girl, at the Hartford institution, is believed to acquire knowledge of many things which seem to require the use of some one of the senses that she does not possess. The faculties of smell and touch do not account for all the information that she gains. These considerations may induce a more indulgent and credulous attention to the accounts of cataleptic patients who exercise an unaccountable power of intelligence; which relations are apt to be treated as mere impostures.

The following curious statement of a case of this kind, is translated from a Paris journal of literature and science, published in Italian and French, entitled. The Exile.' The case is one of great notoriety, and a current anecdote at Paris embodies a fact more startling than even those here narrated. It is said that a number of persons at that capital, among whom was the great and good Lafayette, determined to put the cataleptic to a severe test, and for that purpose wrote to her attendants to inquire of her, at a particular day and hour, what was passing at a designated place in Paris. The patient was at Bologna, and at the day and hour appointed, was attended by several witnesses, and a notary, whose duty it was to make an authenticated note of all she said. At the same hour and minute the meeting was held in the appointed apartment at Paris, where a notary also attended to take down all they should do. They purposely acted whimsical and extravagant things, such as could not be expected of them; and their notary wrote all fairly down, affixed his official seal and transmitted the paper, sealed, to Bologna – reserving a copy. The cata

a leptic, at the same moment, described their persons and all their doing; which the notary present wrote down and transmitted to Paris. The two documents passed each other on the road, in the

mails, and were found to correspond precisely - the description given by the cataleptic being perfectly accurate. Can such things be? Certainly not without our special wonder.' But it would be more unphilosophical to resist good evidence, than to receive unaccountable facts. Without further preface, we proceed to the account given as before mentioned.



We fear that the facts which we are about to relate will not find credence with our readers; yet we can assure them that we are well acquainted with the persons from whom the narrative comes, and we cannot doubt their sincerity, nor their ability to judge of the evidence on which it rests. A detailed account of the case was sent to one of our most honored associates, from whom we have obtained the following abridgment of it, which we offer to our readers, in the hope that it may prove interesting, by reason of the extraordinary phenomena it describes.

A young woman, aged twenty-five years, on the tenth of September last, fell into a complete state of catalepsy, which recurred regularly for forty-two days consecutively. During the first thirty days, the fit began at noon, and ended at midnight; but afterward, it was of less duration. The patient, so long as the paroxysm lasted, presented the ordinary appearances of catalepsy; that is, an aptness to assume and retain all manner of inconvenient and unnatural postures, and a general insensibility to the most forcible physical impressions. Frequent yawns and sighs preceded the coming on of the fit, and also its termination; and for the last ten or twelve days, just before waking, she would raise the left arm, then the right; then the right and left foot at equal intervals, and let them fall as if they were lifeless. After these motions, she would move her head, open her hands, take hold of the bed-raise her body, fall back again, then place her hands on her head, rub up her hair, and assume a harsh expression of countenance. Her eyes were closed during the first twenty-one paroxysms; the rest of the time they were open as if she were awake. She did not appear to suffer any pain, and when awake, had no recollection of the fit; but during the paroxysm she remembered perfectly, not only what had occurred when she was awake, but also every thing that happened during the preceding paroxysms. She had no medical treatment, as she took pleasure in her malady; and the cure was effected by the efforts of nature alone.

We have said that her body was not capable of feeling the most forcible impressions, nor such as were most calculated to produce pain; but this was not the case with all parts of her body

A most exquisite sensibility remained about the epigastric region, in the palms of her hands, and the soles of her feet. These parts became supplementary organs of the senses, and through them she could receive external impressions, not spontaneously, but only when her attention was roused by the experimenters. At first, it was necessary to speak immediately against the parts that retained their sensi

bility; afterward it was sufficient if the speaker merely touched any one of those parts; and still later, it was enough if he were in communication, though at some distance, with the person who was in actual contact with those parts. She never spoke unless spoken to. When questioned in the manner described, she answered in the same tone of voice that was used by the one who spoke to her; either high or low, or very high. Her power of hearing through those parts was very extraordinary. If a person touching her stomach with one hand, grasped with his other the hand of a second person standing farther off, and the third and fourth formed in this manner a chain, hand in hand, and the fourth questioned her in the lowest possible tones, she would understand perfectly, and reply in the same tone. The reply continued always so long as the contact was maintained with the parts possessing sensibility, and ceased when that contact was interrupted ; but she would resume the discourse when the contact was restored, at the point to which it would have reached if there had been no interruption. It seemed, therefore, that the reply was continued internally; and indeed, when she was asked, in such case, why she had not spoken all the words, she always insisted that she had pronounced them all equally.

After the twenty-first day, she lost the faculty of speech. She continued to hear and understand as before ; but she could answer only by breathing forcibly when she wished to affirm positively. Those who were about her then conceived the plan of inducing her to convey her answers in as few words as possible, and to signify those words by a strong breathing, while they pronounced in her hearing the several letters of the alphabet. Afterward, she lost also the power of breathing forcibly; but the experimenters, finding that she could make a slight pressure with the ends of her fingers, availed themselves of that means to receive her answers.

Her eyes, as we have already said, were closed the first twenty-one days; but to be the more assured of their inactivity, the experimenters bound them with a handkerchief well folded ; and yet


recog. nised immediately the color of different bodies that were presented to the parts having sensibility. She could sometimes read in this way, and could always tell the hour by a watch. Afterward it was not even necessary that the objects should be in contact with her body; she could tell them in any part of the room; and it was only requisite for this, that the experimenters who were in contact with her should direct her attention to the proper point. Still later, she recognised and described objects placed in another room, in the street, or at a distance in places that she had never seen.

Being requested to give a description of a convent at Bologna, and of the vaults under a country-house in the neighborhood of that city, of which neither the patient or her interrogators had any knowledge, she described both, minutely; and her description being taken down, was found to correspond exactly with the facts, even including the number and position of the wine-vesseis in the cellars.

She was once persuaded by a professor of the University to name the objects that were in a certain cabinet in the college ; she complied, and enumerated them exactly. She was asked what was on a certain table there, which was indicated to her: she said a book.'


« AnteriorContinuar »