STUBBIER, A TALE OF MESMERISM.
THE writer was originally sceptical upon the subject of Animal Magnetism, but having "submitted herself to a series of experi- ments" under the direction of Dr. C— of Vienna (why leave the name in blank ?) the result was, that "Deep sleep and insensibility to pain, and what is technically called lucidity, were successively produced in her ; and although she has no recollection of any thing that occurred during those experiments, except her own energetic struggles to resist the sleep that was stealing over her and at last locked all her senses in oblivion, the notes that were taken of all that occurred on these occa- sions by a friend who was present, were a startling evidence to her of not merely the existence of the magnetic principle, but of its wonderful and mys- terious influence upon mind as well as matter. The results in her case fell far short of those she has since witnessed in others ; but they were sufficient to set her previous doubts at rest for ever, and to awaken in her mind a train of con- flicting reflections as to the incalculable benefits that may be derived from ani- mal magnetism when properly and conscientiously exercised, and the dreadful abuses to which it is liable from the extraordinary moral ascendancy obtained by the magnetizer over the magnetized; an ascendancy which, in the bands ofa corrupt and unprincipled person, may be, and has been, turned to the most dishonourable purposes. The trust should, therefore, never be lightly confided, and the character and habits of magnetizers should be thoroughly ascertained before they are invested with the awful responsibility which attaches to their functions."
To point the moral indicated in the closing sentences is one object of Sturmer; and perhaps, to seize upon the "phsenomena " of magnetism for the purposes of fiction whilst they are tolerably fresh, may be another.
In effecting this latter purpose, it is very probable the writer conceives she has made a hit; for there is not only the love of Dr. Wolfang Sturmer for his patient Lolette, the wife of a professor of Arabic, but Lolette is presented to us in two capacities—in a natural condition, and in the state of clairvoyance. Thus, in her waking moments, Lolette is at first the contented wife of a bookish professor, and then struggling with an unlawful passion. But in her ecstatic condition she does many odd things; prescribes for her- self according to "the established facts" of magnetism ; avows her love for the doctor when in rapport, as the scientific phrase has it; walks about in her somnambulist state ; writes and reads letters ; plays extempore on the piano, in a way to surpass the well-known Devil's Sonata ; and is suddenly reduced to quiescence by a pass— magnetism performing the office of the gods and goddesses of my- thology. See.
" There was no time to be lost in arresting her progress : her hand was already upon the lock of the door, and in another moment she would have been wandering through the house to the imminent risk of discovering herself to some of the servants; but Sturmer well knew, that to have awakened her might have been fatal to her reason, and he therefore interposed the authority of magnetism to calm her delirium. Advancing gently behind her, he stretched forth his band, and held it over her head for a second : the transition effected by that simple gesture was instantaneous: her countenance, which but a moment before had presented all the frenzy and exaltation of a Pythoness, suddenly became fixed and niotionless as that of a statue; her eyes, which had been dilated to their utmost extent, closed ; her hands fell powerless by tier side; and she would have sunk to the ground had not Sturmer received her in his arms, lie bore her to the chair she had just quitted, and, placing his hand upon her forehead, ' determined ' by that magic touch the magnetic trance to the utmost limit of its profoundness and lucidity."
All this, and many other things of a similar kind, are ingenious, but not new. Mr. Bayes in The Rehearsal, nearly two centuries ago, hit upon some surprises quite as startling, and more agreeable for purposes of effect ; as when he brought to the door an "army in disguise," and, besides stopping a battle by means of an eclipse, introduced the astronomical phaenomena on the stage-
" Bayes. But—a—Sir, you have heard, I suppose, that your eclipse of the moon is nothing else but an interposition of the earth between the sun and moon ; as likewise, your eclipse of the sun is caused by an interlocation of the moon betwixt the earth and the sun.
"Smith. I have heard some such thing, indeed. "Bayes. Well, Sir, then what do me I, but make the earth, sun, and moon, conic out upon the stage and dance the hey ; hum. And of necessity, by the very nature of this dance, the earth must be sometimes between the sun and the moon, and the moon between the earth and the sun ; and there you have both your eclipses, by demonstration. "Johnson. That must needs be very fine, truly. Bayes. Yes, it has fancy in't."
Of a fiction founded upon conditions of existence which, if they take place at all, the majority of mankind believe to be the results of disease or some unaccountable idiosyncracy, it is not for criticism to speak. It strikes us, however, that the alleged laws of magnetism should be adhered to, and that though Lolette May forget in her waking state what occurs during somnambulism, her consciousness should last from one ecstatic state to another; in which point of view, the Baron and his wife would have discovered
what Dr. Sturmer and Miss Itotdca reserve for the convenience of the catastrophe. As regards the mundane parts, the book is written with some knowledge of foreign usages, and in that fluent style which seems not difficult of attainment when a tite mold& pours forth its own views of things without regard to nature or probability. The character of Stunner, the unmitigated foreign rascal, with all kinds of virtuous sentiments on his tongue and a total want of principle. in his heart, which renders him ready to commit any crime from which he may derive gratification, is not badly conceived or developed, even down to his melodramatic death-scene. With regard to the effects of the fiction itself, we imagine the interest it will excite must be limited to "the faithful." A tale founded upon a state of things opposed to the general con- ditions of life and nature, and which is believed by the bulk of mankind to arise from fraud or a distempered nervous system, can have no reality and inspire no sympathy. The thing which prevents Sturmer from being quite unreadable, is a sort of under- current of absurdity, which produces the effect of grave burlesque or extravaganza.
But the "tale of mesmerism" calls for graver censure than any that need be passed upon a bad novel, or upon a mistaken attempt to impart the interest of fiction to a subject which does not possess any; although the story is such that it is difficult to enter
upon the subject. We may say, however, that besides the spectacle of an adulterous passion in the breasts of two persons, one painted as a paragon of virtue, the other as the victim of cir- cumstances, the catastrophe arises through Stunner's having taken advantage of Lolette's state of "lucidity" to gratify his passion,— a deed surpassing in revolting turpitude the crimes which certain ancient poets have introduced into their dramas, but whose per- petrator is thus spoken of by Miss ROMER, through one of her characters—" You see, my dear Sir," said Anton, "that my poor friend was neither an unprincipled libertine nor a calculating seducer; there was nothing base or dishonourable in his nature ; his admiration of the Good* and the Beautiful* amounted almost to a worship ; and his loathing of Vice,* even in its blandest form, was equally intense."—Vol. II. page 65.
There are other tales besides Stunner in these volumes; the prin- cipal of which are The 31)ther and Daughter—a divorsed mother forming the peculiar point of the story ; and The Grisette—a Parisian tale of seduction, intrigue, and suicide. This last tale is well written, and the narrative and characters have an air of life ; though it may be wished that a female had chosen subjects more feminine according to British ideas. We have spoken of this book as if it were really what it pur- ports to be, written by a female. It is possible, however, that all its representations may be fictitious, from the name in the title- page to Dr. C-- of Vienna, or the date of Constantinople affixed to the tale of Hadg,ee Egoob. And instead of a votary of mesmerism, the writer of the book may be some litterateur who has thought to turn the " science" to account, but who, though not devoid of cleverness, has mistaken its capabilities.
• The capitals in the original.