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Science Informatiorr Centre

SiR 'DAVID

-..

m m
.

,ETTERS ON

NATURAL MAGIC
BY

SIR DAVID BREWSTER, M.A. D.C.L.

WITH

CHAPTERS ON THE BEING & FACULTIES OF MAN, AND ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC
BY
J.

A.

SMITH

BY

C-

Pi t>\ -\
'

AT f
'

'*

*r *

NEW

EDITION,

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

CHATTO

& WINDUS, PICCADILLY


1883
[All rights reserved}

SALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO., EDINBURGH CHANDOS STREET, LONDON

608124
/9,
ST.

s-

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

UNIFORM WITH THE PRESENT


VOLUME.
Post 8vo, Cloth
Gilt, 45. 6d. each.

More World* than One, the Creed


Philosopher and the
Sir

of the

Hope DAVID BREWSTER.


With

of the Christian.

By

The Martyrs
BREWSTER.

of Science. of the Sky.

By

Sir

DAVID

full-page Portraits.

The Flowers
A. PROCTOR.

With

By RICHARD

55 Illustrations.

The Chemical History of a C*ndle. By MICHAEL FARADAY. Edited by W. CROOKES,


F.C.S.

With numerous

Illustrations.

On the Various Forces


MICHAEL FARADAY.
F.C.S.

of Nature. By Edited by W. CROOICKS,


Illustrations.

With numerous
or,

The Earth and M in;

Physical Geography in its Relation to the History of Mankind. By ARNOLD GUYOT. With Additions by Professors A^A^SIZ, PIE <CE, and GRAY, and 12 Maps, &c.

CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY, W.

PREFACE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.

SINCE the 24th of April, 1832, when the last of the accompanying Letters by Sir David Brewster to Sir Walter
Scott was written, many circumstances have occurred to extend the importance of that wide and comprehensive

David nas embraced under the name of though education, intelligence, and scientific discovery have been advancing with rapid strides, credulity has not been, and does not seem ever likely to
subject which Sir
;

Natural Magic

for

b wholly eradicated by their means, while the ingenious have been armed with immense and varied additional
elements to favour deception if they shall choose to employ them for that purpose. It has appeared to the editor of the present edition, therefore, of the highest importance
k>

give the

work the
arise

which must

benefit of that profounder interest from a consideration of the physical and

metaphysical existence or being of man the union of these two conditions of his being in their action, through
the faculties or powers of human perception and verification, and also from a consideration of the range of natural
possibility ; for by a proper knowledge of these mankind will be better aware of the extent of their liability to be

deceived, and of the means of verification and correction at their command, as well as of the mode in which their
liability

to

deception ought

to

be guarded against or

IV

PREFACE.

protected from the influence of imposture, and verification applied in defeating or exposing delusion.

Much

of the ease with which

we

are deceived

by the

from our want of magic previous preparation, and our deficient knowledge, for the moment, of the laws within which the true explanation of these phenomena may be found. Hence, very much in pro-

phenomena

of natural

arises

portion to our ready knowledge or intelligence we are either credulous or sceptical the words are used in a philosophic sense merely ; and history has shown that men are
often quite as far from the truth in the extremity of their scepticism as they are in the extreme of credulity itself.

Mere

enemy to

scepticism has in fact been a great barrier and the progress of science and though the credulous have often sunk into superstition and become intolerant,
;

they have more generally recognized than ignored those temporarily incomprehensible facts which the advent of calm science has satisfactorily explained. Indeed, but for this slight difference, these two extremes only too
often meet for the extreme of scepticism is credulity, and the extreme of credulity, or superstition, is scepticism. Both distrust truth both trust their own prejudices and
;
;

both misrepresent and impressions rather than truth it both obstruct the progress of its intelligible persecute development. Even in this day many facts of science
;
;

without examination, in the hands of charlatans whose function always is to render them odious by exaggeration and therefore repugnant to
are, in consequence, left,

study and explanation for the scientific rnind ever recoils from the wares of the quack, and too nastily ignoring the small grain of genuine and philosophic truth
scientific
;

which
sustain

is

any enduring pretension

necessary and almost in every case present to considers the whole

elements involved to be as
the
individual

much

matters of imposture as

by whom

they arc

employed.

This

is

PREFACE.

barely excusable in a thinking age, and it is most certainly not the way to disarm imposture or to put it down. If
the thinking and intelligent will not examine and explain what is used to deceive, how can the unthinking and the

ignorant be but deceived, and continuously deceived, by it ? Nay, we all know the experience of human weakness in
this respect to be such that the person whose credulity has given way to deception in one case does not always,

where it has been rescued by explanation, resort to greater caution and scepticism for the future, but, on the contrary, that the idiosyncrasy of many individuals is to be deceived

which competent explanation is wantcaution and scepticism are produced ing. by detection of imposture, are these the great results which philosophy and truth would desire to achieve. Intelligence is the only bulwark of the human mind, and it is in presence of this great and necessary adjunct to the integrity of our normal being that the additions here made to Sir David Brewster's excellent and popular work are now offered to the public for the liability to be deceived, from which we all more or less suffer, ought to be, not a
in every instance in

Nor, even

when

ground for scepticism, but only a stronger incentive to obey " GET that divine injunction KNOWLEDGE, GET WISDOM,
:

AND, WITH ALL THY GETTING, GET UNDERSTANDING."

From

the nature of the case, as will be readily under-

stood, the eminent author's Letters have in themselves

been left intact, as an essential feature of their authenticity, and the new matter has been introduced in the preliminary

and additional chapters. From what is explained in the succeeding chapters, it will be observed that comparison is the great means by which we are enabled to assure ourselves, according to
the existing organization of our being, of the truth or falsehood of any phenomenon, and that this comparison ex-

tends not only to the evidence of one faculty as compared

VI

PREFACE.

with another, but to the comparison afforded by different points of examination in the use of the same faculty, so that

we may reasonably assume, where such


fairly excluded, that

verification is un-

we are entitled to suspend our judgment


immediate decision
is

in all cases in which

necessary.

is not absolutely a singular fact in connection with this subject that almost all animals are made with duplicates of each of their faculties, as if to supply by com-

But

it

parison a check to the inaccuracy of the faculty loithin Thus we have duplicate brains as well as dupliitself. cate eyes and while a man with two eyes sees with both,
;

and would detect imperfection in one eye by means of the accuracy of the other, so we have reason to believe that a

man

thinks in duplicate, or with both lobes of the brain, although from the co-operation of the organs only one
single train of thought is apparent just as by the use of both eyes one subject is alone presented in consequence of the co-operation of both organs of vision for it has
;
:

been found that where one of the lobes of the brain has been so injured as to be incapable of action, a perfectly sane and healthy power of mind has been maintained in
the individual

by the sound

action of the other lobe of the

brain only, just as accurate vision may be experienced by a person having only one eye, or shutting the other. The
explanation of this power is not referrible to the physical, but to the metaphysical part of our being, as will be better

understood by what we have introduced on the subject of Consciousness for there is just as much a duplicate of
;

thought produced in employing both lobes of the brain as there are two physical images when both eyes are used
the unity experienced in each case existing in the bining power of the Consciousness only.
J.

com
S.

Sept. 1868.

CONTENTS.

THE BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN IN REFERENCE TO NATURAL MAGIC.

CHAPTER
Material and immaterial nature of

I.

FA an

man

Body

Mind

Life

Feeling

External matter

nection of all these

Touch Separation and conPlato and the soul Electricity

Epicurus Bishop Berkeley David Hume Consciousness and matter Consciousness and the immaterial Reciprocal contact Man's primary perceptive power Its contact with and knowledge of matter and the immaterial Its proximity to the infinite Cause of the Epicurean error Berkeley's blunder tbe other way Cause of Hume's error Self-deception in philosophy

Fallacy in a syllogism

...

CHAPTER

II.

Consciousness as the primary perceptive faculty of our BeingIts contact with reality and with all our impressions and
sensations of reality Eye and Ear more subject to influence from simulated impressions than the other senses

possess more positive powers and means Smell intermediate in point of power Bishop Berkeley and the Eye Not the Eye that requires education from experience, but the Consciousness The Eye Difference between the Consciousperfect from the first ness of man and of other animals Difference between

Touch and Taste

of accuracy

instinct

and reason

The Seat of Sensation

Misapprehen.-

Till

CONTENTS.
PACK
sions as to

Consciousness moves through our bodies Capable of extension on surfaces Consciousness of spaceAction of the senses not necessary to Consciousness in
it

them Power of Consciousness over the faculties and Pain Attention Thought Memory
.

Pleasure

.19

CHAPTER
The
senses

III.

the physical media of the Consciousness The evidence of the senses of touch and taste Its impartiality
tive

Evidence of the eye and ear comparaCo-operation of the senses without collusionDistinctive perceptions or impressions of the
Its positiveness

and

relative

senses

portance
colour,

The current of ideas How stimulated Its imOur relative perception of hardness, size, weight, Our positive perception of pitch of sound, &c.

form

Standards of comparison Size differently seen by Erect vision and the inversion of images on the retina Neither the true size nor true posidifferent individuals

tion of objects presented to us by the eye

eye

Its superiority over

graphyHow
Mirrors and

caused

Accuracy of the photography A defect of photoFurther remarks on comparison

mode

of vision

......
IV.
our knowledge
therefore,
is

87

CHAPTER
The limited range
comparative
test

of our positive or absolute

knowledge of
merely

external matter

How much How necessary,

that

we should

everything where we can Difference in the mode in which truth and falsehood demand our credence Spiritualism and its seances Its profanation of the dead

Table-turning Faraday's exposure of it Simple application of his indicator for the detection of unconscious

and of confederacy Mesmerism Its more preposterous pretensions abated Our tendency to neglect the true knowledge of what is familiar Our ignorance of why or how our hands instantly obey our will
lateral pressure

Consciousness can control and direct the operations of


matter
Is
it

the force
it is

Probability that

not

by which motion is accomplished ? The vital forces and the forces

of motion distinguished

The

blocd the

life,

a mystery

CONTENTS.
Probability of its Electricity as a motive force in animals being the only motive force Structure of the muscles and electric action on them Ampere's theory of electric curof rents Telegraphic and electro-mechanical nature

IX
VAGK

animal motion

.56

CHAPTER
Animal motion
Capable
of

V.

Spontaneous, involuntary and diseased motions being artificially produced Defects in

Mesmerism Want of uniformity in its results Electroand Phrenology The brain Propensities biology
Cerebral development no proof of propensity Alleged propensity not consistently shown in .experience Propensity not material but metaphysical, and cannot be indicated by size and quantity of matter Exercise causes Small mental power capable of great development achievements Accountability of human life Eight and wrong divide the universe Danger of error Tendencies of the age Opinion Difference between Opinion and Conviction Not necessary to form opinion as a basis of
action
action

Opinion not truth

An

illustration

of

traveller

Confusion as to

impediment to correct Case of an African opinion O ir means of protecthis

An

tion against error

......

71

.NATURAL

CONTENTS.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER
Extent and

I.

PAQI

Science employed by ancient interest of the subject governments to deceive and enslave their subjects Influence of the supernatural

upon ignorant minds

Means

employed by the ancient magicians to establish their authority Derived from a knowledge of the phenomena of Nature From the influence of narcotic drugs upon the victims of their delusion From every branch of science Mechanics Acoustics M. SalHydrostatics Optics verte's work on the occult sciences Object of the following letters

.........
LETTER
II.

8S

The Eye

the most important of our organs Popular description of it The eye is the most fertile source of mental illusions Disappearance of objects when their images fall

upon the base

of the optic nerve

when
objects

seen obliquely

Disappearance of objects Deceptions arising from viewing

Luminous figures created by in a faint light pressure on the eye either from external causes or from the fulness of the blood-vessels Ocular*spectra or accidental colours
light

Remarkable
of

Influence

effects produced by intense the imagination in viewing these

spectra the eye

illusion produced by this affection of Duration of impressions of light on the eye Thaumatrope Improvements upon it suggested Disappearance of halves of objects or of one of two persons

Remarkable

Insensibility of the eye to particular colours described optical illusion

Remarkable
t

OQ

CONTENTS.

Tl
FAQB

LETTER

III.

Subject of spectral illusions Eecent and interesting case of Mrs. A. Her first illusion affecting the ear Spectral apparition of her husband Spectral apparition of a cat

Apparition of a near and living relation in grave-clothes seen in a looking-glass Other illusions affecting the ear Spectre of a deceased friend sitting in an easy-chair
Spectre of a coach and four filled with skeletons Accuracy and value of the preceding cases State of health

under which they arose Spectral apparitions are pictures on the retina The ideas of memory and imagination are also pictures on the retina General views of the subject

Approximate explanation of spectral apparitions

120

LETTER

IV.

Science used as an instrument of imposture Deceptions with plane and concave mirrors practised by the ancients The
magician's mirror
Effects

of

Images

Images on smoke

concave mirrors Aerial Combination of mirrors for

producing pictures from living objects The mysterious dagger Ancient miracles with concave mirrors Modern necromancy with them, as seen by Cellini Description and effects of the magic lantern Improvements upon it Phantasmagoric exhibitions of Philipstal and others Dr. Young's arrangement of lenses, &c., for the phantasmagoria Improvements suggested Catadioptrical phantasmagoria for producing the pictures from living objects

Method

of cutting off parts of the figures Kircher's mysterious handwriting on the wall His hollow cylindrical mirror for aerial images Cylindrical mirror for reforming
distorted pictures ducing caricatures

Mirrors of variable curvature for pro187

LETTER
Miscellaneous optical
illusions

V.

Conversions of cameos into

intaglios or elevations into depressions and the reverse Explanation of this class of deceptions Singular effects

of illumination with light of one simple colour


for

Lamps

producing homogeneous yellow light Methods of increasing the effect of this exhibition Method of reading

Xll

CONTENTS.
PACK
the inscription of coins in the dark Art of deciphering the effaced inscription of coins Explanation of these

singular effects

Apparent motion of the eyes in portraits Remarkable examples of this Apparent motion of tho

features of a portrait,

when

the eyes are

made

to

move
.

Remarkable experiment of breathing light and darkness

173

LETTER
the Brocken
described

VI.
Spectre of

Natural phenomena marked with the marvellous

Analogous phenomena Aerial Fata Morgana in the Straits spectres seen in Cumberland of Messina Objects below the horizon raised and magnified

by

refraction

Singular example seen at Hastings

Dover

Castle seen through the hill on which it stands Erect and inverted images of distant ships seen in the air Similar

phenomena seen

in the Arctic regions Enchanted coast Mr. Scoresby recognizes his father's ship by its aerial image Images of cows seen in the air Inverted images of horses seen in South America Lateral images produced by re-

fraction

Aerial spectres

by

the preceding phenomena

......
reflection

Explanation of
il)8

LETTER
Illusions

VII.

depending on the ear Practised by the ancients Speaking and singing heads of the ancients Exhibition of
from the
loquism
the invisible girl described and explained Illusions arising difficulty of determining the direction of sounds

Singular example of this illusion Nature of ventriExhibitions of some of the most celebrated ven-

triloquists

M.

St. Gille

Louis Brabant

M. Alexandre
.

Captain Lyon's account of Esquimaux ventriloquists

224

LETTER

VIII.

Musical and harmonic sounds explained Power of breaking glasses with the voice Musical sounds from the vibration
of a column of air

And

of solid bodies

Kaleidophone

Singular acoustic figures produced on sand laid on vibrating plates of glass, and on stretched membranes Vibration
of fiat rulers,

and cylinders of

glass

Production of silence

from two sounds

Production of darkness from two lights

CONTENTS.
Explanation of these singular effects Acoustic automaton Maillardet's singing bird Droz's bleating sheep Vaucauson's flute-player His pipe and tabor player
ing machine

Xlll

rial

Baron Kempelen's talking engine Kratzenstein's speakMr. Willis's researches 244

....
Dog
killed

LETTER

IX.

Singular effects 'in nature depending on sound Permanent character of speech Influence of great elevations on the
character of sounds, and of sound in throwing

on the powers of speech

Power

by Sounds greatly changed under particular circumstances Great audibility of sounds during the night explained Sounds deadened in media of different densities Illustrated in the case of a glass of champagne, and in that of new-fallen snow Remarkable echoes Reverberations of thunder Subterranean noises Remarkable one
buildings

down

sound

at the Solfa terra

Eclio at the Meuai Suspension Bridge Temporary deafness produced in diving-bells Inaudibility
of particular sounds to particular ears Vocal powers of Memnon Sounds in granite rocks Musical mountain of El-Nokous 272

the statue of

LETTER

X.

Mechanical inventions of the ancients few in number Ancient and modern feats of strength Feats of Eckeberg particuGeneral explanation of them Real feats larly described
of strength performed by Thomas Topham Remarkable power of lifting heavy persons when the lungs are inflated Belzoni's feat of sustaining pyramids of men Deception

of walking along the ceiling in an inverted position Pneumatic apparatus in the foot of the house-fly for

enabling it to walk in opposition to gravity Description of the analogous apparatus employed by the gecko lizard for the same purpose Apparatus used by the Echiueis reinora
or sucking fish
.
. . . .
.

.300

LETTER
Mechanical automata of the ancients

XI.

mata of Daedalus
inatic clock of

Wooden

Charlemagne

Moving tripods Autopigeon of Archytus Auto* Automata made by Turrianua

XIV
for

CONTENTS.
TAO

Canms's automatic carriage made for Louis XIV. Degeunes's mechanical peacock Vaucanson's duck which ate and digested its food Du Moulin's automata Baron Kempeleu's automaton chess-player Drawing and writing automata Maillardet's conjurer Benefits derived from the passion for automata Examples of wonderful machinery for useful purposes Duncan's tambouring machinery Watt's statue-turning machinery
Charles

V.

Babbage's calculating machinery

ijl?

LETTER
Wonders of chemistry

XII.

Origin, progress, and objects of alchemy Art of breathing fire Employed by Barchochebas, Eunus, &c. Modern method Art of walking upon burning coals and red-hot iron, and of plunging the hands in melted lead and boiling water Singular property of boiling tar Workmen plunge their hands in melted copper Trial of
ordeal

by

fire

Aldiui's incombustible dresses

of their wonderful power in resisting flame

Examples Power of

breathing and enduring air of high temperatures Experiments made by Sir Joseph Bunks, Sir Charles Blagden, 346 and Mr. Chantry.
.

LETTER
Spontaneous combustion

XIII.

In the absorption of air by powdered charcoal, and of hydrogen by spongy platinum Dobereiner's lamp Spontaneous combustion in the bowels of

out flame

Burning cliffs Burning soil Combustion withSpontaneous combustion of human beings Countess Zangari Grace I'ett Natural fire temples of the Guebres Spontaneous fires in the Caspian Sea Springs of inflammable gas near Glasgow Natural lighthouse of Maracaybo New elastic fluids in the cavities of gems Chemical operation going on in their cavities Explosions produced in them by heat Remarkable changes
the earth of colour from

oxide or paradise gas described Conclusion

chemical causes Effects of the nitrous when breathed Remarkable cases

.......

360

CONTENTS.

XV

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATUKAL


MAGIC.

CHAPTER

I.

nei
Optical illusions The Mirage of the desert Belzoni's description Quintus Curtius's account Probable cause Apathy
of the Arabs

and neglect of the example of the patriarchs Prospect of a remedy Optical illusion of Mr. W. G. S. Association of ideas Cause of vividness of such pheno-

mena

And

of dreams over ordinary events

Magic lantern
in

improved by
artificial light,

photography
&c.

and

the

improvements

Professor Pepper's ghost

tated head speaking Floating cherubs Leotard The high merits of these Polytechnic inventions

The decapiThe automatic

Herr Frikel's
Sensitive flames

"

Masks and Faces " Shadow pantomime

....
Aurora Borealis
rocks

393

CHAPTER. II.
Life and suspended animation, or asphyxia Interment alive Phenomena of the grave Coma, or extraordinarily long
sleeps

Bears

Toads

found

in

Tadpoles

separated vitality Polypes Annelides, or worms Process of restoring severed parts Suspended and restored animation Rotifera Reproductive powers of animals and plants Facts beyond the range of Divisibility of matter
physics

Extraordinary divisibility of

life

New

fact

in

philosophy
el)j]r]> Jogic

The

philosophers of fixity Superiority of a fact of science for Unitarians Conclusion 409

THE BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN


IN KEFEKENCE TO

NATURAL MAGIC.
CHAPTER
Plato and the soul
I.

Mind Life Material and immaterial nature of man Body Feeling External matter Touch Separation and connection
of all these
Electricity

Epicurus

Bishop

Berkeley
ness

David
the

Hume
Its

Consciousness

and matter

Conscious-

and
the

immaterial

perceptive

power

contact

Reciprocal contact Man's primary with and knowledge of matter

and

immaterial
error

Its proximity to the infinite

Epicurean error

Hume's

Berkeley's blunder the other Self-deception in philosophy

way

Cause of the Cause of


in

Fallacy

MAN is a being with two natures, one of which is physical and material, the other immaterial, or metaphysical as it is called, and both are intimately but mysteriously and
incomprehensibly united in all that is known of actual The and practicable human existence and action. physical portion of man's being we may examine by the light of science, and perfectly and accurately know but the metaphysical or immaterial portions of his being, comprehending the three widely distinct and separate though co-operating and co-acting departments of MIND, LIFE, and FEELING, are subject to no law of science with which we are acquainted, and are in their elementary composi;

2
tiou entirely

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


beyond the range of
It is true that
scientific or philosophic

profound and ponderous metaphysical works have been written on departments of this subject for the phenomena of mind are not wholly beyond the range of study and contemplation; but it
investigation.
;

would only vex and annoy the reader of a popular work like the present to pile up before him the heavy speculadepartment of Philosophy usually METAPHYSICS comprehensively, and PSYCHOLOGY and ONTOLOGY distinctively, with its special and embarrassing nomenclature and definition of terms, and we prefer
called
tions of that crude

and a clearer and one which the most general reader may follow with immediate ease through language used in its most ordinary acceptation, and the whole signification of which is decided at once by the obvious aim of the context in which it appears. Man, then, consists of two natures, divided into four parts a material Body, an immaterial Life, an immaterial Mind, and immaterial Feeling. Three-fourths of his whole
for every practical purpose here a simpler
course,
:

being therefore is metaphysical or immaterial, and only one-fourth, and that the least essential portion of it his body physical or material. To prove that Mind, Life, and Feeling, though co-operating in human existence, are
essentially distinct in themselves, it is only necessary to show that they are each capable of distinct and independ-

Thus, in the vegetable world, we have Life or Feeling among the inferior animals we have Life and Feeling without Mind and in man the latter
ent existence.

without

Mind

is

added to the others.

It is of importance, however, to

Mind may exist without Feeling, neither Mind nor Feeling can exist without Life. On the other hand, Matter may exist without being associated with
observe, that while
Life,

Mind, or Feeling as it is observable that all the chemical or Material elements of the human body may
;

PLATO AND THE IMMOBTALITY OF THE SOUL.

when
and

be found in a state of separation from these, and that Life, Mind, and Feeling are withdrawn from man

the whole Material elements of the


it is

human body remain ; hence reciprocally inferrible that Life, Mind, and Feeling may all exist in a state of separation from Matter, and that the soul of man, or his whole metaphysical being,

may

exist apart from his body. It is not intended by this deduction to say anything in favour of Plato's theory of the Immortality of the Soul. Those who conclude that

he proved the immortality of the soul rush hastily to an The immortality of the soul unwarrantable assumption. is a conditional and subjective fact of the Divine
Will, ascertainable only by revelation of that will ; it is not an inherent power or quality of the soul itself.* Plato's argument was, that because the soul does exist it

must have always existed, and must always continue to exist. But this argument is fallacious by analogy, and
utterly inconsistent with

human

experience

for on the

same

and by parity of reasoning, Consciousness exists, and it must therefore have existed from all But notorieternity, and must always continue to exist.
principle,

ously, in the experience of every man, our consciousness did not exist from all eternity, and within the limits of
* Plato in one passage appears fully to admit this, but the not easily reconcileable with his other reasoning, which,

admission

is

however, was early found to be unsatisfactory and unconvincing on the subject. Cicero felt it to be beautiful, but not impressive. The
passage in which he makes the admission referred to also goes, unfortunately, too far, and asserts that the Divine intelligence has

But Plato docs given the human soul the right of immortality. not base this assertion on its only possible foundation a known revelation of the Divine Will, and nowhere shows that he knew of
any such
Hebrews.
revelation,
lished, that

though it has been suggested, but not estabhe may have got some of his knowledge from the
intrinsic evidence
is

The

certainly against this supposi-

tion, as his doctrines

on the subject of immortality are too Pytha-

gorean for any conceivable Hebrew source.

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

exist, for it

our present experience it does not always continue to may be and is frequently in a state of absolute
thing

It is not therefore true, on suspension. any principle either of direct or analogous reasoning, that because a
exists it

must have always

existed, or
is

must always con-

tinue to exist.*

The very

converse

the rule of

human

experience, and it is a rule which admits of no demon strable exception ; for even matter did not always exist to

human

consciousness

hence the eternal endurance, or in-

destructibility of matter is not demonstrable by so limited and finite a being as man. He can no more tell or de-

monstrate what shall be after him than he can prove or demonstrate what from all eternity has been before him ;

no more warranted in assuming that matter is indestructible, simply because he cannot destroy it, than he would be in assuming that the moon and planets are incombustible because he cannot set them on fire. Man's ordinary and too popular inference, therefore, that matter is indestructible is an impotent conclusion, founded on the assumption that his own small and limited entirely powers are the boundary of all physical possibility and all knowledge, and not on any complete and absolute acquaintance with the whole laws and possible conditions of matter. This defective knowledge of man may be proved by facts recently observed which are exceptions to all the chemical laws and conditions of matter with which
is

and ho

Biela's Comet, a small human science is acquainted nucleus comet without a tail which moves round the sun in
:

it traverses every six years and a half, was in 1846, without any ascertainable cause, observed to divide into two parts, which have since continued in a state

a short orbit, which

* Plato's reasoning, even in his own hands, results in the conclusion, not so much that the human soul is immortal, as that soul

must have existed from all eternity been a Livinq First Cai "

in other words, there

must have

ELECTKICITY, LIFE, AND MATTEtt.

of complete separation, demonstrating the fact that thero are conditions in which matter may not be possessed either a circumstance which of cohesion or concentric attraction

no known law of chemistry or other science can explain ; and yet we are compelled to recognize this fact, on the
authority of astronomy, as being quite as authentic as any with which that great science, or any other science, has made us acquainted; and other facts might be cited.
,

All that we can venture, on the basis of human experience, therefore, to say is, that man cannot destroy matter, but that we are not sufficiently acquainted with to assert that it absolutely cannot be destroyed.
its

laws

But another and a nearer


believe,

fact

though we cannot explain

it,

which we must equally is that Life, and Mind,

and Feeling are introduced into, contained within, or withdrawn from Matter, such as our material bodies, without
changing, increasing, or diminishing the physical character or amount, or adding to or deducting from the bulk or How electricity is contained or weight of their Matter.
operates on and within bodies we may acquire some knowledge of, but electricity is a material element, capable by its

application of expanding and contracting bodies, as electrolysis has


float

shown, while Mind, Life, and Feeling thrill and along our nerves and tissues, or flush into the wide

region of imaginary existence and action by a mysterious power and range of volition to which we have no key a
fact before

which logic is dumb. Electricity is not Life, however fondly some have sought, in eager haste, to call it Dead men have been so. True, it has wondrous powers. made to move by it their eyes have opened, and the cold and rigid features have changed and varied with a ghastly counterfeit of the expressions of life. Nay, the stomach
has,

under

its

influence,

been made after death in some

degree to perform the function of digestion. But no application of this great agent has ever, even in one instance,

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAK.

restored Life absolutely departed, or arrested in the dead The physical and tlie slow but certain progress of decay.

metaphysical portions. of our body, once really separated, cannot be reunited by this or any other physical agency. Life, Mind, and Feeling are thus obviously not inherent
in electricity, nor in any other Material element of which The question hence has frequently nature is composed.

been asked, what can we know of the external world, seeing that our minds cannot properly know what they are not in actual and tangible contact with ? This question
has been

much complicated by the controversial mode in has been stated and dealt with, and also by the unwarrantable but unchecked assumptions which have
which
it

to time formed, and still in a large measure form, part of the propositions laid down and admitted on both sides by those who canvass such questions. The

from time

Greek physicist laid down the proposition, that nothing matter can touch or be touched ;* and from this aphorism, too hastily assumed as an axiom on the mere faith of its own plausibility, it was fallaciously inferred that everything must be material. When Bishop Berkeley
"but

laid

down

the counter-proposition
is

that feeling,

or the

sense of touch,

not
it

must be apparent,
rably in matter

an attribute of matter, because, as nowhere exists inherently or insepa-

he confronted the previous proposition with an aphorism equally plausible, and, from the reason just given in support of it, more unquestionably axiomatic but then, so fallible is human reasoning, and so eager is man to rush at ultimata and premature conclusions, that
;

Berkeley at once
inference
:

felt

himself warranted in drawing this

As

nothing but

feeling is not material, and as we can know what we feel or experience, therefore the

existence of matter cannot be proved, and we are warranted in concluding that there is no such demonstrable
*

This proposition

is

the basis of the philosophy of Epicurus.

EPICURUS, BERKELEY, HUME.

basis,

thing as Matter. Hume's philosophy was founded on this and was rendered further preposterous and extrava-

gant by his plunging at once into the dark, as far as sceptii cism could possibly go, with the wild and spectral inference
that
:

Because the existence

of Matter could

not be

demonstrated, therefore the existence of no Reality could be demonstrated, and hence there is no such thing as

Now if human reasoning leads men of intellect Reality. to conclusions like these, leaving the disciples of the physicists, on the one hand, with the proposition that there
and, on the other, ; the metaphysicians round the counter-proposition, arrays that Matter cannot be demonstrated, and hence there is no
is

nothing but Matter as their creed

to

such thing as Matter, and the sceptics at the back of these draw their wild and wide conclusion from both sides

of the controversy, and, if they have a mind, state it in a syllogistic negative thus As nothing but matter can
:

touch or be touched,

and

the

existence

of matter cannot be

demonstrated, there can be no other tangible reality than matter, and the existence of no tangible reality can be demonstrated
is surely disastrous only to man's intelligence. melancholy to find men of thought and unquestionable power contented thus to pervert the great qualities of Godlike intellect, and, in deference to their own pet and

the result
It is

favourite theories, leave the grand questions of eternal truth in this state. It is so easy in such directions to

reason a

little

way above the average


it

intellectual energy

becomes just the more deeply and indelibly reprehensible to stir up mere sediment into the fountain of truth, and leave the common mind to grope in the darkness of its muddled and inky waters. And yet such is the condition in which partizan philosophy has left this noble department of inquiry and thought. In the preceding summary we have condensed this subject, and stated its substance rather than its detail, that
of mankind, that

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

we might not embarrass the general reader with tediously protracted sophistries, n )r foul his free and healthy mind
with subordinate and diuingenuous controversies intensely unworthy of his attention. Truth is not so dark when candour comes to deal with it as these subtle and merely
technical philosophers would make it for the whole truth of their philosophy depends, not upon the facts, but on the
;

accuracy or inaccuracy of the terms or language in which they have expressed themselves and it is only necessary
;

to state their propositions in detail to

show

in

how many

parts the chain of logic is broken and fragmentary, and the reasoning inconsecutive, because they have assumed
their language to be perfect
!

Let us take then the proposition, nothing but matter can touch or be touched,' and, following it, the proposition
c

it is so obviously refuted, that feeling, or the sense or consciousness of touch, is not material, nor an attribute of matter.' From this latter proposition, which is obviously correct and irrefutable, the next proposition

by which

be drawn, that as our feelings or sensations are not material, and as it is from these feelings or sensations that all our knowledge of what is external to us is derived,
is said to

and we are conscious of nothing but them, therefore we have no knowledge of matter or external nature, and the existence of matter is not, and cannot be demonstrated. This inference is certainly very plausible, but it is not warranted by the antecedent proposition on which it professes to

An

be based, and without which it has no foundation. intermediate link of the logical chain has been dropped
it,

in arriving at

and when that link

is

replaced

it

will be

over-drawn inference, for it does not bridge the leap between it and its antecedent, but carries the current pf deduction and truth off in a totally different direc-

found

fatal to this last

While it is quite true that feeling, or the sense or consciousness of touch, is not material, nor an attribute of
tion.

CONTACT OF MATTER AND THE IMMATERIAL.


matter,
it is

not true that feeling, or the sense of touch, as

is hastily

assumed by the succeeding inference we have


touch
;

stated, does not

for

it

could not be a sense or con-

sciousness of touch, without touching.

The missing link in the

chain, therefore, is the proposition that the sense of touch does touch, and is a consciousness of touching. It is, in fact, the point of contact between Matter and the Immaterial or

Metaphysical, and but for the fact that the sense, or consciousness of touch touches the first proposition, that nothing

but matter can touch, or be touched, would not be disproved by the other proposition, that feeling, the sense of touch, is
not an attribute of matter
of touch touches that
;

for it is only because the sense

we

are enabled to demonstrate tho

inaccuracy of the first proposition, and say that something that our conelse than matter can touch or be touched
sciousness of touch,

and that Matter

Hence
that

not material, can touch Matter, can, reciprocally, touch our Consciousness. our consciousness of touch is an actual contact with
is

which

which we call Matter, and is a demonstration to us of the existence of that Matter. What then becomes of the wild inference that the existence of Matter cannot be
demonstrated
leap
is ?

And what

of

Hume's wilder and wider

into the

Reality

chaos of metaphysical intangibility, that incapable of demonstration ?


'

The
1st.
is

result of this correction is that the proposition

That nothing but matter can touch or be touched

'

untrue, for 2nd. Feeling, the sense or consciousness of touch, is not

material,

and
and
is con-

3rd. Feeling, or the sense of touch, touches

sciousness of touching Matter, and, consequently, 4th. Matter and the immaterial or metaphysical
be,

may

mutually capable of touching, and are in actual contact when the consciousness of touch is occasioned,

and

are,

and

10
5tli.

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

By

this positive

and actual contact


is.

the existence

of

the physical or

material world

by contact, Jcnoivn

and

demonstrated

to the

immaterial and metaphysical.

Hence

The

inferences that the existence of Matter and of

Reality cannot be demonstrated are reduced to absurdity, for


First. Consciousness,

and

is

though not material, is a REALITY the great primary perceptive faculty of man. Note. As such it claims the primary place jn the

preceding table occupied by the false proposition, that nothing but matter can touch or be touched ;' the re'

maining four propositions of the table following it in logical sequence, and demonstrating that, 6th. The primary reality of Consciousness is capable of
knowing and demonstrating
touch, as well as
its

to itself the existence

of Matter by

own metaphysical or immaterial existence and reality by its Consciousness of such existence and reality. Hence Epicurus, Bishop Berkeley, David Hume, and
their respective disciples are all in error,

be borne in mind that to Bishop Berkeley

though it must is due the

honour of refuting the materialists and laying down the second proposition in the preceding table, which forms
the groundwork of their refutation; but it is the third proposition of that table, founded on the second, which
really contains the refutation expressly of their proposition

by demonstrating that something besides matter can touch


contact of the physical

and be touched, and that consciousness of touch is the actual and metaphysical. But now let us consider some further facts connected

with Consciousness this great primary perceptive faculty of our being ; for all our physical senses and faculties are mere vehicles and channels of its action, and without it
the eye, however perfect, is blind, the ear deaf, the touch, smell and taste all alike powerless and incapable of vital for it isonlv whe" our Consciousness is prenent iu action
;

CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS POWERS.

11

any of these faculties that they perceive, or are capable of While Consciousness, then, is a reality, and is perceiving.
our primary perceptive faculty, the following propositions are true in regard to it, and follow each other as conse-

quences and experiences from it. 1. Each man has only one faculty of Consciousness, and that Consciousness constitutes his primary identity to
himself, for in the course of life his

body and other points of temporary identity change from childhood to age and lose all the features of literal identification.
2. This faculty of Consciousness is not capable of doing two things at a time, or receiving two or more simultaneous sensations, but its acts and sensations are successive, one

following another thus when the consciousness of hearing is in action the consciousness of seeing, or anything else, is for the moment suspended.
:

This faculty of Consciousness, though not forming any part of our bodies, nor inherent in the matter of them, does, while we live in this world, reside for the time being
3.

within our bodies and within and in actual contact with


the Matter of them, though not within any particular portion of our bodies or of their material components for,
;

faculty of Consciousness is capable of pervading every part of our body in the most rapid succession, changing from head to foot, from hand to hand, from eye to ear,
4.

The

from

to another over the

and from any point of touch whole surface of our bodies, and all this with such celerity and ease as sometimes to deceive us into the idea that we have received simultaneous instead of
taste to smell or touch,

merely rapid successive impressions or sensations. 5. The faculty of Consciousness is therefore, and as they are successively exercised in conjunction with it, in actual contact with the impressions of all our faculties, and
can consequently place itself in actual though metaphysical c</ ntact with every physical impression which our physical

BEllNG

A.ttD

FACULTIES

Otf

MAN.

faculties are capable of receiving or being affected by, as well as with every other kind of impression, not necessarily

physical, by which they are affected. indulge the imagination or memory, or

Thus, when we when we dream,

the physical faculties, engaged for the time in any of these occupations, are impressed or affected by the metaphysical influences of imagination, of memory, or of dreaming,

and the amount of Consciousness exerted for the time

is

in

contact with these physical faculties, and, through them, perceives the metaphysical infl noises by which they are
affected
6.
;

and hence

it

follows that,

is capable of actual contact with all the physical faculties of our nature, and with all the other realities, or influences of

The metaphysical faculty of Consciousness

other realities, whether physical or metaphysical, by which these physical faculties may be impressed or affected.
7.

It follows

fact or influence,

from the preceding that one metaphysical such as imagination, memory, or dream-

may come into contact with another metaphysical our Consciousness, by using a physical and material faculty as its intermediate channel or vehicle of operation
ing,
fact,

may be

in doing so. Thus the physical faculty standing between in contact with, and acted upon by, the meta-

physical on both sides, and' hence unapproached conclusion

we reach

the hitherto

8. That other metaphysical powers and influences besides consciousness of touch may come into actual contact with

Matter and with material faculties, and positively act upon and impress, and cause action in, the Matter of these faculties just as really as a physical body may penetrate and stir water. But may we not go a step further, and, strictly within the
limits of logical deduction, place ourselves on the boundary of a greater and a still higher truth, and prove from the following premises, viz. : It is not the eye that sees, but the

CONSCIOUSNESS

AND

ITS POWERS.

13

faculty of consciousness when in the eye ; it is not the ear that hears, but only the faculty of consciousness when using it is not the ear and so of all our other physical senses
;

they that perceive, but consciousness that perceives by them. But consciousness is not a special organization adapted specifically to seeing or hearing it is a meta:

physical perceptive poiver, capable

of realising in living experience and knowledge any or all of the impressions of our physical faculties, and more it is capable of using
these impressions and its knowledge of of new creations, and new combinations,

them as elements and climbing the

steps of logic and the heights of imagination and memory with them into regions apart from matter, illimitable, and all The eye as an actual faculty, bearing upon the its own.

outer world,

is to

mere camera with an image in

the consciousness nothing more than a it portrayed on the retina ;

but the retina, without the vital presence of consciousness, is no more capable of seeing the image portrayed upon it than a piece of photographic paper or a plain mirror are capable of seeing because they have images upon them.

The
ness

retina merely mirrors the image

it is

the Conscious-

which perceives the

image portrayed, and

con-

sequently,
9. The same faculty of Consciousness which is capable of perceiving with all its details the illuminated surface of the retina, or mirror of the eye, and the picture upon it,

must be equally capable of perceiving the images on any other mirroring surface, or the details of any actual surface whatever, were that faculty of Consciousness equally
free to

come in contact with such mirroring or other


and hence the present
factitious,

surface,

but not inherent

limitation of the faculty of Consciousness to our physical and organic nature and its faculties is a restriction rather
than, a full

development of

its

perceptive powers.

Aud

14
10.

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


Such a

fact lands this great primary perceptive of our being fairly and fully on the faculty margin of the infinite, and proves it to be capable of being enabled to

perceive all reality, physical or. metaphysical, beyond the range of our present experience, were it only allowed to come into competent contact with such reality ?
It will be observed that the argument here is not for the immortality of the soul, but for its highest powers of perception or knowing, and of acting. The immortality, or durability, of our consciousness is, as we have said,

dependent, not on anything inherent in itself; for it did not exist from all eternity ; but on the Great Will and Power by which it was called into existence and continues to exist, and no one can prove what that Will is but by
the revelation of it, so that a proof of the immortality of the soul on any other ground is impossible. From this point let us omitting the third proposition,

now stated, and all that follows upon it look back moment to the condition of human philosophy displayed down to the present time by the state of these
p. 9,

for a

questions,

and what

it

reveals of man's mental

power of

self-deception.

When Epicurus based his philosophy on the aphorism, nothing but matter can touch or be touched, he was guided by one faculty, the eye only, in arriving at the
had he been guided by must have become aware of the fact that FEELING touched as well as MATTER. His blunder, therefore, was that he reasoned from partial and defective premises. Indeed, caustic though the remark may seem, it is more than doubtful whether a blind man would have fallen into the same
;

conclusion to which he came

for

the sense

of touch

itself,

in

addition, he

ditch, for a blind

man

does not so readily perceive the


is

contact of matter with matter, and

more impressed
Aristotle

with the contact of consciousness with matter.

CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS POWERS.

15

and Plato accused the materialists of refusing to believe in anything they could not handle with their hands but this is even more than what was true of their philosophy, and less than discriminative in judging it. TLey
;

evidently did not believe or allow for feeling or consciousness in the hand, but falsely assumed that the whole of the hand's function or consciousness of touch

was material and apparent, and nothing more than what they saw of the hand with their eyes. But while they saw physical contact with the hand, they never saw feeling or the consciousness of touch in it, and they therefore drew a conclusion as to touch at variance with the sense of touch itself, and with the evidence of every
other faculty of

man

but his eyesight.

Berkeley, on the other hand, refuted their proposition not absolutely or directly, but only by implication and without really perceiving what was necessary to do it.

His proposition that

the sense

of touch

is

not

material

implies the refutation, but this element of his proposition

he himself expelled from it by gratuitously assuming that the existence of matter could not be demonstrated,
s

and that there was, therefore, nothing for the sense to touch. From want of logical discrimination to state the third proposition (p. 9, ante), he not only did not refute the
Epicureans, but left himself without a correct basis for
further logical progress, and went off into all the errors of his subsequent fallacious and inconsecutive philosophy.

Had he
have

material, touches

perceived that the sense of touch, though not is a sense of touch, and must therefore
it

something to touch lefore

is

sensible

of touching

he would not only have refuted the Epicureans in direct terms by showing that something besides matter can touch and be touched, but he would also have avoided the blunder that matter is intangible and cannot be
demonstrated, and all the errors he, and

Hume

after him,

16
crowded
c-n

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


the back of that fallacy. Berkeley confesses the materialist philosophy by a

to a desire to defeat

sweeping conclusion against the whole basis of their arguments the existence of matter and he lost his " Matter," he impartiality in the eagerness of his zeal. " says, being once expelled out of Nature drags with it

many

* * * * without it sceptical notions your Epiand the like have not even the shadow of cureans, Hobbists,

a pretence, but become the most cheap and easy triumph in He fell, therefore, into the weakness and the world."
error of seeking to destroy a reality for the purpose of confounding those who perverted it. How little the cause

of truth is capable of being so served or promoted is conspicuously illustrated by the fact that the very means employed in achieving his object laid the foundation of
just as much evil as it sought to cure, and reared up Hume instead of Hobbes, and something more than even absolute

Egomism* in the place of Epicurus. For it is painfully evident that, if Bishop Berkeley had not sacrificed his
candour to his
difficult, if

zeal,

he would have made

it

much more
have been

not impossible, for David


of self-deception,
is

Hume

to

an

infidel.

it will be found, from the no means impaired by the study by preceding remarks, and pursuits of philosophy. Let us hope that candour, and an inflexible love of truth for its own sake, are able to steer clear of those subtle shallows on which theory and speculation have so often foundered and gone to ruin. Many eminently wise men have lived and died without being a whit the more foolish from not knowing much

The power

of metaphysics.

Is

it

impossible to believe that these

great minds have perceived, altogether outside of metaphysical science, that the great primary perceptive faculty,
* The denial of everything but one's denied even the reality of his own

own

existence.

Hume

CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS POWERS.

17

human

consciousness, possessed a power of touch or contact with physical nature, without their finding it necessary, as a step in the logical progress of their intelligence, to lay down that fact among the abstract

sequences of dialectics, and that they have not erred the more in all the practice and nobler aims of life from
neglecting to do so'? Fortunately, practical human life is not conducted under the light of dialectics, but men

much on the impulse and necessity of the occasion in most things, and were it not for their power to do so few would be able competently to meet
have to judge very
the responsibilities of existence.
It

may now form an amusement

for such of our readers

as care for the exercise of logical analysis to turn back to the syllogism stated at page 7, of the preceding

remarks, which contains the whole concentrated force of David Hume's philosophy, and satisfy themselves how
sophistry there may be, after all, even in so solemn a formula as a syllogism, and how utterly false it may be in every member of it ; for in that instance it will be

much

found that the

first

blunder

is

a double one in the major

For those who would like to follow the proposition. subject of Metaphysics still further, reference is made to " the learned and
in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, prefixed to that work, which will

discriminating article, and the

Metaphysics,"

first

dissertation

show what a muddle has

hiherto, in all ages, been made* of this great department of thought, and in what a disgraceful condition it has been
left to the present

day from want of a

little

consecutive

directness and unbiased simplicity of thought. But the primary perceptive power or Consciousness of

man, its actual contact with, and knowledge of, Matter and the Immaterial, and its proximity to the Infinite, having been
so far indicated, let us in connection with
it.

now

deal with the physical faculties c

as forming its existing channels of

18

BEING AND FACULTIES OF BUN.

action,

operation, and with a few features of their structure and which Sir David Brewster has not in his Letters

brought forward, but which, in some instances, tend to throw considerable explanatory light on many of the phenomena of Natural Magic he has set forth.

CONSCIOUSNESS

AND

ITS POWEKS.

19

CHAPTEE

II.

Consciousness as the primary perceptive faculty of our Being Its contact with reality and with all our impressions and sensations of reality Eye and Ear more subject to influence from simulated

Touch and Taste possess more and means of accuracy Smell intermediate in point of power Bishop Berlceley and the Eye Not the Eye that The Eye requires education from experience,butthe Consciousness perfect from the first Difference between the Consciousness of man and of other animals Difference between instinct and reason
impressions than the other senses
positive powers

TJieSeat of Sensation Misapprehensions as to it Consciousness moves throur/h our bodies Capable of extension on surfaces Consciousness of space Action of the senses not necessary to Consciousness in them Power of Consciousness over the faculties

Pleasure and Pain

Attention

Thought

Memory.

IN the preceding chapter let us venture to hope it has been proved to the satisfaction of even the most general
reader,

who is at all a thinker, that CONSCIOUSNESS, the great primary perceptive power and faculty of our Being, is actually in contact not only with all we know with all

the impressions with which external nature or reality affects us but also with all the channels, senses, powers, or faculties, material or immaterial, organic or inorganic, with which we are endowed as means of knowing or
receiving impressions, real or imaginary, at all times when we are conscious of those impressions : and also that whenever touch, or actual contact with anything, is necessary
to the sensation with

which we are impressed by

it,

our

consciousness

present in the act of contact, and, as such, is the only means by which we are aware of that contact^ or receive any impression or sensation from it
is

20

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

Whenever we receive impressions without actual contact with the objects or causes which produce them, our consciousness comes in contact with the impressions so produced, and not with the objects or causes themselves ; and this applies especially to what is seen and heard by us, for in these cases the impression produced on the eye or
the ear is all that our consciousness comes in contact with

by seeing or hearing. And as hearing and vision are thus faculties, or powers of perception, which do not come into actual contact with the objects or causes from which
their impressions proceed, but only with the impressions proceeding from those objects, it follows that the eye and the ear must be much more subject to influences which

simulate their real impressions, and must therefore be more liable to deception than the other senses are. And the experiences detailed by natural magic show this to be The senses of taste, touch, and smell, are strictly true.
rarely deceived in comparison with the senses of seeing and hearing, and the means of deceiving the former are

much more

limited in

number than those which may be

brought to bear upon the two latter faculties. This will be better understood from the following analytical comparison of the powers of the various senses. Pleasure and pain the agreeable and disagreeable arc more or less common sensations of all the faculties; but

two of our senses, Feeling and Taste, involve touch, or actual contact, and the perception of temperature in their Two others, Sight and Hearing, do not involve exercise.
touch, or

actual contact, neither

do they involve

as a

sensation the perception of temperature.

The

fifth sense,

Smell, occupies an intermediate position between the four others which are thus arranged into two sets, and partakes,

and in part does not partake, of the powers of each

set

for

the sense of Smell, or the olfactory organization, does not *s a rule come into actual contact with the object from

THE SENSES AND THEIE POWERS.


which the sensations by which
it

21

is affected

proceed, but

only comes in contact as a sense with special atoms or This may be said to particles of what that object emits.

be partly contact, and partly not.

The olfactory organization is also capable of perceiving extreme variations of temperature as a sensation, though it is not very sensitive

Extreme to the impressions of common temperatures. heat will consciously affect it, as well as extreme cold ; the latter causing the convulsive action of sneezing in it. It will be thus perceived that the two senses of Feeling
and Taste have actual contact and the perception of temperature, and the sense of Smell partial contact and partial
perception of temperature, in addition to their respective

and distinctive perceptions of feeling, taste, and smell, to protect them from deception, more than the Eye and the Ear, which only see and hear, have.
faculty of Consciousness as
great primary perceptive operates through these various Senses as they are called, or, more properly, channels of If the senses be organically perfect in their its action.
it

Let us now consider

the

structure they must operate with perfect accuracy from first dawn of our experience. Bishop Berkeley, who has been highly complimented by Professor Dugald

the

the

Stewart on the merits of his work upon the Eye, speaks of However uneye being educated by experience.
it it

pleasant
requires

may be
to

to damage a literary compliment, truth be said here that Berkeley is altogether wrong

when he
reflecting

That organ is a mere mounted by nature for us, and is as telescope


so speaks of the eye.

perfect at the beginning of our existence as it is to the The image portrayed on its retina or speculum last. must, if the optical structure of the eye be organically perfect in childhood, be as accurate in receiving and detailing the first object it is impressed by as any subsequent object or image. It is not the accuracy of this

22
image, or
in

BEING AND FACULTIES OP MAN.


its details,

that is ever improved

by experience

any healthy eye, but it is the great perceptive faculty of Consciousness that improves by experience in its knowledge and appreciation of the eye's images. therefore the EYE, but the CONSCIOUSNESS, that
It is not
is

educated

by

experience. science will render this very clear. endued with perfect sight from their
light.

few analogous

facts

of comparative Some animals are


first

contact with

The

sight of a chicken

chips the shell. But we have no that the eye of a chicken is more organically matured or Its perfect at that age than the eye of a new-born child.

perfect as soon as it reason to know or believe


is

anatomical structure

is in

nothing that

we can

perceive

more

efficient

or more complete.

The

retina in a child is

a perfect mirror, and

all perfect mirrors give at all times But then a chicken's consciousness is perfect images. given it to perceive and act; a child's consciousness is

given it to perceive and reflect ; and an acting consciousness is more easily educated than a reflecting consciousness.

Hence the difference between instinct and thought. chicken's perceptions are enough for its guidance. child is guided by its reflections, and hence its reflections

have to be educated and allied to its perceptions, for its guiding power is not in, but separate and apart from
its

perceptions.

chicken's consciousness
its faculties,

is

once within the whole range of

perfect at for its con-

sciousness is merely perceptive, and all its faculties are child's consciousness is perfect in their impressions. reflective, and is not perfect at once, from want of elements

of knowledge to enable

it to reflect,

and

it

by means of knowledge and

experience.

therefore grows Hence the

superiority, in point of immediate accuracy, of instinct chicken will not run into water unless over reason.

it

be of the aquatic species, because it is conscious of danger ; a duckling, though hatched by a hen, will, because

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REASON AND INSTINCT.


it is

23

not run into


will,

conscious of safety. fire, because

because

it

is

or a duckling, will conscious of danger a child unconscious of danger until it has


it is
;

A chicken,

but by experience. it, not by instinctive perception have not here spoken of animals born blind, for the obvious reason that these cases are not within the analogy we are discussing. In such cases the eye is not perfect

learned

We

or fully matured till it is opened at a period after birth, such as in dogs and kittens. In the latter the develop-

ment of the

eye's

organic maturity

is
;

slow,

and the

full

opening of the visual faculty gradual but children are not born blind, and we are aware of no gradual maturing
of their visual organs after birth as in the case of kittens. Berkeley alludes to the fact that a human being suddenly endowed with sight would not be immediately able to see,

but would require experience to enable him to use the faculty ; and the assertion is apt to be employed against
the evidence of miracles and their possibility, though that would be contrary to Berkeley's intention in making the

To prevent this abuse of the remark itself to some extent,


remark.

it,

and also

to correct

we have

only to ask

what is to prevent a man from being instantaneously endowed with the power of perfect sight, just as much as a chicken, by the same source from which both derive vision? Nothing therefore can be founded on this remark of Berkeley's against our Saviour and his apostles
is

It giving instantaneously miraculous sight to the blind. not at conflict even with experienced natural analogy. We have now shown, let us trust, that it is the CONSCIOUS-

and not the PHYSICAL SENSE of man, that requires to be educated by experience. It is of some importance therefore that we should endeavour to know as much as possible
NESS,

of this great primary faculty and ultimate perceptive power, Consciousness how it operates in conjunction with the physical faculties, and where it resides in our.

24

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

being, because a good deal of language with which we have become familiar from childhood is apt to give false impressions on this subject. Thus we hear frequently of

the SEAT OF SENSATION, and

we would

naturally like to

know
by

An idea has been created precisely what it means. the use of this expression that our Consciousness resides
some great centre of our physical organization, all our nerves tend, and where they enter

fixedly at

toward which

its

into subtle combination, forming a cumulative basis for highest powers of comparative perception and action.

But
to

this must not be taken as an implicitly concluded axiom because a certain amount of countenance is given
it

by our anatomical

structure.

It is true there are

nervous regions and nervous centres of our physical being, but it is not necessarily true that these are the only Seats
of Sensation, or that Consciousness fixedly resides there.
It

appears

much more
it,

probable to our experience, and


is

judging from

that

when the sense of touch


is

exercised

the seat of sensation for the time being contact, and that the Consciousness
shares in the contact.

at the point of

is

there also and


seat

In like manner, of seeing, the

of sensation is in the eye ; of hearing, in the ear ; of taste and smell, in the organs of taste and smell ; and that the

Consciousness does not reside fixedly anywhere, but travels

from one sense and one point of touch to another along the nerves, and that a nervous centre is necessary only to enable it to do so, and to connect all the ways and means of And from hence it would its passage for that purpose.
follow that Sensation does not travel along our nerves to any seat or centre of Sensation, as has been supposed, but that our Consciousness travels along our nerves in passing

from one point of perception or impression to another, and that this is the reason why we are incapable of simultaneous, and only capable of successive impressions. Another peculiarity of our Consciousness is, that it must

TEA YELLING- AND EXTENSION OP CONSCIOUSNESS. 25


be capable not only of travelling along our nerves, but also be capable of extension upon certain surfaces

must

of them; because in the eye and in the sense of touch, more especially, it is capable of perceiving the extension of length and breadth not as a successive detail merely, but also as a united and present whole in the combination of the many qualities which constitute form. Conscious-

ness therefore, whatever it may be, is something more, and of greater dimensions, than a mere point if indeed such a circumscribed amount of surface as a point can be said to exist, for there is no point that we can conceive of so minute that it may not be subdivided for a point, however small, must have a circumference, and that circumference must have a centre with a still smaller circumference and there seems no reason to doubt of infinitesimal divisibility and diminution if we had means and powers sufficiently fine to perceive them. So that, however
;

small the surface of concentrated consciousness of touch

But if be, it must be something more than a point. Consciousness be thus capable of extension on surfaces of our nerves and tissues, why not also on any other physical

may

from them if free to reach it? It to be the fact that when the touch is certainly appears extended over any such surface the consciousness present in the touch is also extended over and in contact with that
surface
separate

surface in the sense of touch.

But while these

facts

appear to justify us in ascribing extension of surface to Consciousness, they do not afford us the slightest means of
ascertaining
that Consciousness

has any definite form.


its size

We may

be enabled to say that

or extension of

surface is as great at least, and fully commensurate with the size of any surface it is capable of appreciating by actual contact, but that does not enable us to say that Consciousness

of the shape of that surface, or that it is not still larger than that surface, and capable of indefinite expansion,
is

26
It has

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


been said we have but one faculty of Consciousand that it is capable of only successive, but not
It is not, however, correct

ness,

of simultaneous sensations.
to

this last conclusion quite so far without giving a qualified effect to many considerations bearing on the

draw

down

Thus, if we lay the open hand subject in our experience. flat on a table or other surface we feel the sense of

touch over the general surface of the open hand, but if we raise the hollow of the hand, leaving only the points of the fingers and the part toward the wrist in contact, there

and consciousness of it, only in two parts of the surface which was generally conscious of touch before, and the sense of touch will be suspended in the interwill be touch,

mediate portion of the hand. But this division of the sense of touch does not create two faculties of consciousness for us, it merely occasions one consciousness of touch in two portions of surface. In like manner our volition is capable of double action thus we may will to
:

hands and bring them by mutual and simultaneous motion in contact with any external object or with each other, yet there is but one volition exercised though two members of the body are simultaneously Indeed, in the experiment impelled and controlled by it. with the hand touching a table, just mentioned, it is more
raise both
strictly true that the Consciousness is

extended over the

points of contact and also over the part of the hand intermediate between them, and that it is only the contact that

suspended in the intermediate part, but not the Consciousness, and that this may be looked upon as a case of the extension of Consciousness to and between simultaneous points
is

of contact ; and a more extended illustration of the same thing may be exemplified by the use of both hands in

touching an object, in which case the extension of the Consciousness is as great as the distance between the two
hands, even to the extremest point of their possible separa-

CONSCIOUSNESS OF SPACE.

27

from each

other.

Thus both hands may be used

simultaneously to touch an object at two points more than a yard and a half distant from each other upon its surface,

and though the intermediate surface of our own bodies between the hands is not in contact with any object, yet Consciousness, though without contact, will exist over the whole
length of that intermediate portion of our bodies when touch is so exercised. This would seem to show that Consciousness may be exerted simultaneously over the whole physical range of our sense of touch, and that, as the whole luminous range of the retina may, by the presence of

extended Consciousness, simultaneously see, so the whole physical range of touch may, in like manner, simultaneously
feel.

But actual contact is not necessary to -Consciousness in the faculty of touch. When a blind man raises his two hands before him, and separates them horizontally to a distance greater than the width of his own body without coming in
contact with any object, he satisfies himself

by Conscious-

ness in the faculty of touch, but without any actual touch or contact, that there is sufficient space before him to

allow
tion

him

to

advance his body forward without interrup;

from any object

and in

this case it is

by simul-

taneous consciousness in both hands, and simultaneous consciousness also of the whole distance between them,
that he satisfies himself he
therefore,

may

proceed.

Actual touch

is,

touch

not necessary to Consciousness in the faculty of and hence Consciousness, that perceptive power of

our being by which we become aware of all things we know, does not absolutely require contact with matter to
enable
it

to discover

the existence of reality.

It

can

discover and prove to itself the existence and the reality of space, even though that space were absolutely void of matter. True, it may be said that by extending the

hands in space as we have mentioned the blind man uses his hands as a material means of measurement in gauging

28

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

But when space, and this qualification is fully admitted. the student in a narrow room, with narrow and visible walls of solid matter all around him, shutters closed, and
external light excluded, darts away by an act of thought from the midnight lamp before him, and in one bound of free and outward bursting will contemplates in imagination the remotest cluster of coloured stars that
all

the distant sapphire of the night, and plunges into and peoples with his fancy the wide and ever-expanding infinitude beyond them, it is not the real or material that is or ever can be to him a practicable gauge of that vast and traversed region of his mental will, but it is the abstract power of his Consciousness alone, and its inherent contact with and appreciation of the possible its divinely endowed intelligence that makes him aware of space which no physical perception can reveal, and no expanded power of material optics ever measure or exhaustively It is here and in similar instances that he finds explore.

gem

his metaphysical powers to be superior in their capacity


to all his physical capabilities, and that his Consciousness is shown to be aware of space to a degree far beyond all

that
istic

mere physics can know or

'

reveal.

Another characterit is

of man's Consciousness, therefore, is that

capable

of action beyond the range of all known physical agency. But as actual contact is not necessary to consciousness
in the faculty of touch, so neither is actual seeing necessary to consciousness in the eye, actual hearing to con-

sciousness in the ear, nor actual taste nor smell necessary


to consciousness, or the presence of consciousness, in these

organs.
sense.

Consciousness

may be

present in any or all of

them without

their being actually in exercise in a physical Further, Consciousness may excite them into

and influence them with, and make them the of hypothetical and imaginary impressions ; and tins fact forms the physical basis for the mental constructive
artificial action,

medium

REASON AND INSTINCT


poivcr

PLEASURE AND PAIN.

29

of our being, which

may

be said to be the dis-

Their tinguishing power of man over other animals. greatest power is the power of their faculties and impressions over their consciousness, and the physical perfection
of these impressions in producing correct instinctive action and choice. Man's greatest power, reversely, is the power of his Consciousness over his faculties, and his means of

what

operating upon them so as not only to perceive correctly is, but to prove what is not, but is possible or im-

possible.

But even when our Consciousness uses our

physical faculties in the discussion of hypothetical impressions, the initiative and directing power is not in the
faculties, but in the Consciousness.

the
in,

power

to create

So that the will and and dispose of those hypotheses is not

power is generally exercised with an aim which, though distinct and fixed, is not immediately capable of being reached in every
instance, this fact proves our Consciousness to be possessed

entirely in the Consciousness and its abstract perception ; and as this

or a part of the physical faculties engaged, but is power of volition and

of

power of forecasting, anticipation and predetermination of purpose, which is a power superior to the physical faculties or their action. Over many artificial and hypothethe

with which our physical faculties are capable of being exercised, our Consciousness uses therefore special and predetermined anticipation as well as
tical impressions

supervising

selection and control,

and the

faculties are

merely passive under such direction, so that it does not reside in them, but in influences apart from them.

Let us now consider the impressions of Pleasure and


Pain, which are also sensations perceived by our Consciousness and not by our physical nature ; for anaesthesia has clearly proved to us that the physical nature may be
violated, even to the

hazard of

life,

without producing the


surgical operations

slightest sensation of pain, as

shown by

30

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

performed under the influence of anaesthetic agents, by means of which the Consciousness has been rendered dormant for the time. What we call physical pain is,
however, produced by injury or violence to the physical system, and is only felt by the Consciousness in connection with the affected part of that system. Yet physical pain
is

neither is

not in the physical system, nor in the injury done to it it in the Consciousness apart from the physical
:

Pain must therefore be an injury done to the system. Consciousness itself when present in the portion of the
physical system which is injured. It has been already stated that Consciousness is present in the sensation of touch, when that sensation is experienced, and is in actual
contact in our physical touch with the object touched. Let us suppose that in the act of touching we receive a
cut, as in touching accidentally a sharp razor. The part, or rather surface of touch, is here severed. But are we not entitled to say the Consciousness is also partially severed,

and that

this is

by a cut ?

what constitutes pain in the Consciousness In like manner, when a burn or scald is ex-

perienced by touching, is not the Consciousness present in the touch burnt or scalded, for it is really the Consciousness that perceives the pain of cutting, scalding, or burning, where these are felt, and not the physical parts affected, to which we by indiscriminate language usually
ascribe the sensation ?

When

anaesthesia separates the

Consciousness from the part to be operated upon, no sensation of pain is felt, though all the physical parts are treated in precisely the same way as if there had been
all

And

the usual sensations of pain attending the operation. this fact would seem to suggest that if the Conscious-

ness were rendered dormant by anaesthesia,


to the extremity of a limb
tated, the

when

attracted

which in that

state

was ampu-

was in

its

amputation of the limb, while the Consciousness extremity dormant, might possiblv even sever the

PLEASURE AND PAIN.

31

isciousness from the rest of the system along with tho severed limb, and produce death. Surgeons have experienced unaccountable instances of death under operations which ought not of themselves to have been fatal, and some

of these cases this might possibly aid to explain and it might admit of being proved by such an experiment as
;

amputating the diseased limb of some inferior animal under anaesthesia, the extremity of the limb being tickled

draw the consciousness of agent was being anesthesia in some instances from pain might also admit of
to

the animal to

it

while the

anaesthetic

The failure of applied. in securing entire freedom


some explanation from the

fact that the previous pain in the injured part rendered


it, and enabled only dormancy, but not absence of Consciousness, to be produced by the anaesthesia. But while these remarks are

the Consciousness more resident in

by no means

insisted in, save as suggesting

a line of

inquiry, the limits of which, whatever they may be, it is desirable to know, there can be no doubt about the fact that physical pleasure

and pain are purely sensations of our Consciousness derived from its contact with the

particular arrangements or derangements of our physical nature calculated to excite them, and it shows that the

Consciousness abstractly

and injured.
peculiar

This

is

is capable of being both gratified further proved by those sensations

of pleasure and pain which are not physical, but purely to the Consciousness itself, such as sorrow,

joy,

remorse, regret, fear, anxiety, longing, anger, love, mental hope, confidence or trust, generosity, gratitude,
truthfulness,

which are

attributes,

sensations,

or capa-

our Consciousness, apart from physical pleasure or pain, and not capable of being ascribed to any physical For if what we usually call physical pain be faculty.
bilities of

not, as

we have shown,

scribed as such,

much

less

really physical, nor correctly deare these other sensations

32
;

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

and it would hence follow that separation from physical the body does not necessarily, and of itself, separate us from the sensations of either pleasure or pain for, as will be rendered still more apparent in dealing with the
;

Consciousness in connection with the physical faculties,

and

their structure and operation, in the succeeding chapter, it will be found that Consciousness possesses in itself alone all the attributes, powers, and sensibilities which

ascribe to it only in connection with the present physical arrangement of its existence, and that we are thus enabled to prove the separate capability of the existence, though not of the immortality of the Soul, or of

we usually

conscious Being.

But though we have said that Consciousness is capable of extension over the sense of touch, to the degree of perceiving a large amount of surface, and also of perceiving simultaneously different surfaces or parts of a surface, this
fact does not essentially qualify

what

is

meant when we

say that the Consciousness is capable only of successive and not of simultaneous sensations or impressions. The

meaning of
ness

this last statement is not that the Conscious-

may not receive a larger or a smaller amount of simultaneous impressions through any one sense not

we may not, for example, see simultaneously both a horse and his rider, or hear both a trumpet tone and the note of a violin, &c., for either of these instances is but the
that

perception of one sense or faculty but that we cannot direct the Consciousness simultaneously to the impressions that its attention must be sucof two different senses
;

cessively applied where more than one sense or faculty is exercised ; that, in fact, there is but one faculty of Consciousness, and but one power of attention in that Consciousness.

culty,

This power of attention is also another source of diffiand we have preferred not to use the expression

ATTENTION
hitherto
oil

THOUGHT.

33

involved in

account of the tendency to mislead which is it, preferring the more comprehensive ex-

For though it is difficult to pression Consciousness itself. show that attention is only one of the powers of Consciousness, and that Consciousness is not always, in our

common
power

Consciousness

because it is certain that acceptation, attention is never exercised as a faculty or perceptive without attention being simultaneously and cois

upon the same subject on which the engaged we have no means of showing how far Consciousness and attention are identical with and how far they ditler from each other. We might, for
extensively exercised

Consciousness

example, say that attention does not think, it merely perceives. But then we might say the same thing of Consciousis just

merely perceives, but does not think but this another of those plausibilities which, like the Epicurean proposition as to matter and touch, has more the aspect of obviousness in it than the qualities of
ness
it
:

for Consciousness perceives thought, and attention perceives thought, and these alone, if they be one and the same unitedly if they be twain form the
intrinsic truth
;

only

difficulty

means by which we do perceive thought. The hence is to conceive that the only power by

which we perceive thought is not our thinking power. We know of no other thinking power we possess but that power by which we perceive thought. The touch, the
taste,

the smell, sight, or hearing, cannot think, neither

can they even perceive thought. Nay, the brain itself cannot think, though it may receive impression and motion under the operation of thinking. All these
faculties

possess merely the power of mechanical, and some of them also, in a limited degree, of chemical action; and we know of no other power we possess to which the

metaphysical energy of thinking can be ascribed that power of reading the records and impressions of the brain

34

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

and senses, and of stimulating and controlling their action than the Consciousness and (or ?) Attention. But it must be obvious that the word attention is not commonly used with the full and comprehensive meaning which these facts ascribe to it, and indeed show to be inherent in it and that though the word Consciousness is, after all, nothing more than attention, and attention nothing less than Consciousness, when intrinsic analysis and definition
;

are attempted, the expression Consciousness, in common and conventional acceptation, carries more of the meaning we seek to convey than the word Attention would do. of memory is perhaps one of the most mental qualities under the control of our Consciousness for the metaphysician to comprehend. Memory may be said to be the store of all our education and exdifficult

The power

perience, but

how
it

or where is

manner does

write

down

it preserved, and in what the records of life, so that the

garrulous octogenarian, dead to the present, and incapable of identifying the most familiar features of friendship and kindred around him, wanders back with a vivid
of the delight to the long-departed and forgotten regions and blends in his narrative old age the reality of past,
his second childhood

with the phantoms of the first?


treasure recollections

Does the Consciousness

by some

abstract metaphysical power, which at last so peoples it with visions that the view of reality is excluded by tho thickly-crowded strata of memory's spectral years ? Or does some dusty volume of the physical cerebrum, long

crowded over and hidden beneath the cares of


its

life,

reopen

penned,
life

parchment pages when the over-tension has been at length snapt, and the superincumbent pressure removed ? And if so, in what hieroglyphic caligraphy are its pages that they are thus enabled so intensely to flit in mimic
before us ?
It is a strange region of Natural
;

that wild

jumble of the living and the dead

Magic, and yet it is

MEMORY.

85

from the nearer margin of this same phantom -peopled we have to take the quickening elements for hourly thought and daily action the elements of all that Is it then speculation, fancy, or purpose would achieve.
region that

in

physical, or partially physical, or wholly metaphysical Are the senses, or the brain, or any its character ? of the physical organization impressed with the portion

images or the facts to which memory enables the ConIf the senses were so impressed, it sciousness to recur ?
is difficult

upon them would not impede

permanent impressions and obstruct their power to receive the ever-new and succeedIf the ing impressions to which we find them open.
their further action

to conceive that these

brain were permantly impressed, it is equally difficult to understand how the thought, or memory, should continue
to be, as

becoming a
past.

it, a volition, and how it could avoid and a necessity as the region of the But the images of memory do not possess the

we

find

fixity

character of retained or perpetuated physical impressions they are too deficient in the exactness of their printing, too
;

wanting in the uniformity of stereotype in their reproduction by the Consciousness for that. They do not always read the same way, and the aspect of a recollected

image or event

is

never quite or exactly the same.

It has

a conjured-up and shadowy aspect, which is tremulous, shifting, and uncertain in the light of thought, so that

even the spectra of a dream are more vivid and distinct than the imagery of a recollection. And from this we
are led to infer that, as the figures seen in a dream ure not real impressions on the eye, but fictions which simulate
reality, so in a

much

less degree are recollections the

and permanent physical impressions, otherwise their imagery would be at least as distinct, if not more vivid than the fictitious visions of sleep.
results of retained

Everything rather tends to show that the Consciousness,

36

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

as a metaphysical essence of reality, is capable of being permanently impressed by its perceptions, just as, in dis-

tinguishing between instinct and reason, we have shown that it is capable cf being educated to the use of the

physical faculties.
remarked subsequently at p. 42 in the next more apparent that when images are physically impressed they present a different appearance and excite very
NOTE.
is

From what
will be

Chapter,

it

still

different sensations.

THE SENSES.

37

CHAPTER
Ths
senses the physical

III.
TJie evidence

media of the Consciousness

of

Its positiveness Its impartiality the senses of touch and taste Evidence of the eye and ear comparative and relative Cooperation of the senses without collusion Distinctive perceptions

or impressions of the senses

The current of ideas

How

stimu-

latedIts importance

Our

relative perception of hardness, size,

form

&c.0ur 'positive perception of Standards of comparison Size differently seen by different Erect vision and the inversion of images on the individuals retina Neither the true size nor true position of objects presented
weight, colour, pitch of sound,

Accuracy of the eye Its superiority over photoof photography How caused Furtlier remarks on comparison Mirrors and mode of vision.
to

us by the eye

graphyA

defect

WITH

faculties

regard to the application of Consciousness to the in their structure and operation, it will be

apparent, after what has been already said, that it is our Consciousness which possesses all the powers of feeling,
seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling ; that the touch, organs of taste and smell, eye and ear, are only the places

where and mechanical channels or physical media by which it perceives these sensations and that it possesses,
;

these powers of perception, sensibilities which no physical matter, however applied or organized, is,

in addition to

or by any

known law

inherent and material attribute


with, matter.

of nature can be, indued with, as an of, or coexisting identity

physical senses themselves, for


that

Let us now consider the structure and action of the we must still call them by

name though

strictly

they are only physical channels

38

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

of Consciousness, and are not senses in any meaning toysense or physical consciousness of the impressions Now a little attention to the upon them is implied. distinctive peculiarities of the five senses will make us

which

aware that, instead of any ground having ever existed for Berkeley's theory of the non-demonstrability of matter, the experience of the various senses is so distinguished and
arranged as to give us every kind of evidence necessary to demonstrate the existence and all the externally obvious

and

appreciable peculiarities of matter. necessary and able to perceive the actuality of matter as well as whether it be soft or hard, and what

immediately
is

Thus touch

is

its general temperature as compared with that of the sense of touch itself whether or not it be warmer or

colder than the sense of touch.

Taste

is

able also to

perceive the actuality of matter, for it, too, is touch, though of a different kind ; and the Consciousness has thus the

testimony of two distinct and separate witnesses for the actuality of matter, and two witnesses between which
there can be no collusion
;

for they cannot, even if they

same testimony. Their evidence is would, give distinct, separate, and different in character, and its only
the
point of agreement
tion.
is,

not one of identity, but of corrobora-

Taste cannot give the evidence of touch, nor touch the evidence of taste ; but Consciousness is equally imTaste discovers to our Conpressed with them both. sciousness, not merely by actual contact like touch, that

matter

is

and has temperature, but

also

whether

it

has

certain immediately excitable chemical actions, or chemical qualities, in addition to those which touch is capable of It is, in fact, a more sensitively endowed and perceiving.

and on

discriminating kind of touch, and exactly that more acute skilful sort of witness we should wish to test a

matter of fact further for us, after an ordinary witness,

whom we commonly

relied,

had

first

reported and

THE SENSES.
testified

39
therefore,

of

its existence.

These two witnesses

Taste, give evidence to us, by actual contact in which our Consciousness partakes, of external matter, its

Touch and

and certain of its qualities and, of these, its temperature more especially. Their perception of this
actuality
;

last quality

while

it is

so

being corroborative evidence, but distinctive for what is warm to the touch may be,
;

and
as

at ordinary temperatures generally is, cold, or not so warm to the taste the taste being warmer than the touch,

we find by applying the hand to the tongue so that an object which the hand would not melt, or warm by contact with it, the tongue may and thus these two senses confirm each other even while they differ, and may be
:

called the positive senses, while the eye and the ear are only capable of being ranked as abstract senses, whose

function

is

reality has

not to prove the reality of matter, but, after its been proved by these two other senses, to aid
its

in revealing
objects
tity.

comparative relation

to other material

and

its

Thus

points of difference and distinctive idenneither the eye nor the ear comes into actual

contact with objects. The eye perceives only the form and character of surface, and the relative size, position and

colour of objects

and

all

of these but colour the sense of

touch can ordinarily corroborate and confirm, or rather positively ascertain for us without the eye, where objects
are within reach
;

so that colour

may

be said to be

all

that the eye distinctively perceives of objects more than the touch. But while the eye perceives many qualities

with touch, and only colour distincthe ear perceives hearing or sound by itself exclusively, but does not perceive anything in common with the other faculties. Yet even in this disof objects in
tively

common
itself,

and by

tinctiveness the ear is not so entirely separated from tho corroboration of the other faculties as the eye is in its

perception of colour

for while

no othei faculty but the

40

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

eye can perceive colour or can, undirected by the eye, bo


consciously employed in producing it, the action of the touch can produce sound, and the eye may guide the action of the touch in its production. So that the hearing

may be fully corroborated by the action of the touch under or without the guidance of the eye; while the perception of colour can be corroborated by no separate sense, but rests on the testimony of the eye alone. Under
the expression colour it will be readily understood that light in all its varieties of white, blue, yellow, red, and intermediate tints is comprehended. Darkness the eye

can hardly be said toperceive, since blind


:

men are conscious

of that without eyes darkness to man being, in strict parlance, absence of optical sensation or impression.

But it is in the sensations of pleasure and pain that all the faculties are distinctive in the highest degree and most widely separated in their experience and the character of their perceptions from each other. or average level of ordinary experiences

On

common

with and corroborate each, other in many away from that they each and all widely

they coincide particulars, but


differ,

though

their difference is not of the nature of contradiction or

disagreement. The sensations of pleasure or pain are in no two senses the same, or even similar, except in the one

common
to

quality of being liked or disliked by our Consciousness. painful object to the eye has no analogy

painful or disagreeable to the touch, taste, smell, or hearing ; and a pleasant landscape is equally inappreciable by the hand, tongue, nose, or ear. Its reality
is

what

we may prove by
other senses, but

testing
its

some of

its

details with

the

beauty, and the pleasure its beauty " The gives, we can recognise and enjoy only by one. eye," but the eye only, " loveth light." The other senses perceive it not. And so the ear, but the ear only, appreciates the pleasures of

sound or music

the smell only

THE

SENSES.
:

41
the touch, or

appreciates the pleasures of fragrance Consciousness in it, only the pleasures of

warmth or

cool-

ness: and the

taste,

only the pleasures of

sweetness,

pungency, &c. All these rest on the bare testimony of each respective
sense so completely that, though we may test by the other senses to some degree how these sensations arise,

we cannot

so prove them as to show that they are necessary consequences of the causes from which they spring, or

indeed that they are consequences at all, save to the reBut spective senses which alone perceive them to be so.

though thus resting only on the single testimony of each respective sense, these impressions of pleasure or pain so powerfully impress the Consciousness as to bring it
vividly enable
into positive contact
it,

with them, and therefore without other evidence, to judge in the most

Such strong impressions may positive manner for itself. be said to compel the conviction of our Consciousness by their self-demonstrative power. And while ordinarily
our Consciousness controls our faculties, here the strength
of the impression in the faculty controls for the moment full recognition of the Consciousness,

and commands the

Besides, such just as in cases of sudden start or alarm. impressions are so allied to the ordinary, but neither

pleasurable nor painful impressions of the same faculties, that they are all capable of proof by relation or analogy. There are many instances, however, in which the Conscious-

by the

ness is semi-dormant, or so passive as to be controlled The current of ideas and impressions faculties.
continually passing through the mind and senses when we are quietly led by, rather than directing the powers

thought, is to a large degree, if not altogether, occasioned by the continuous progress of time and change, and the external actions and influences of reality around us ;

of

and the continual succession of impressions occasioned in

42

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

our senses by these

is compounded no doubt with previouslyformed mental associations, and a strong instinctive and perfectly natural tendency to view and study all things with some reference more or less to ourselves just as by our eye we so readily measure every sudden appearance with
;

reference to our personal safety, and always protectively assume danger where there is no time to judge. That this tendency teaches us beneficially to know, and keeps us in a lively present Consciousness of our dependence upon, our connection with, and our obligations to events, can hardly be doubted and therefore the fact that the EGO dominates very much throughout these currents of thought
;

is

to

not so reprehensible as we might blushingly be inclined admit were our day-dreams open to the contemplation

of other eyes. While therefore the illusions sometimes produced upon the senses such as Sir Walter Scott describes " " in his " Dernonology and Witchcraft (Letter I., the case of an eminent Scottish lawyer, deceased "), and that referred to

by

(Letter III., case of Mrs.

Sir David Brewster in the present Work " Spectral illusions, recent and interesting A.," and which Sir David has admirably

explained by the impressibility of the retina with permanent images by overstraining, as exemplified in the case of Sir Isaac Newton and the phantasm of the sun, Letter

may be nothing more than the over-intensifying of a power natural to the whole senses as much as to tho eye, the phenomena they have described and referred to
II.)

are scarcely so wonderful as the fact that most of our ordinary human life is passed in a state of fiction, or

romance, in connection with the current of our ideas and our day-dreams, while the proportion of our existence which is real and passed in contact with actual events and
facts is a

mere fragment of our history in comparison. That the imaginings of the current of ideas, and the pictures they present to us, do not intensify them-

THE CURRENT OF

IDEAS.

43

selves more strongly, and render themselves more permanent impressions of the senses, is due not so much to the want of power in the faculties so to record them, otherwise they never would exist at all, as to the activity
its

of the mind, the rapidity of the current of thought, and continual change as well as the continuity of external
us,

motion around

continually attracted, influenced,


that sudden

by which the Consciousness is being and supplied with new


;

elements and impulses of thought for it is a singular fact and absolute silence has been known to stop the
total suspension

whole train of ideas, and produce an almost


for

the

moment

of

the

power

to

think
are" less

a fact duo

accustomed want of sound than to absolute darkness or want of light, and that the continual operation of noises on the ear has a suggestive and stimulating influence on the current of ideas, the total absence of which we are not accustomed to, and cannot all at once dispense with. Our mental activity, therefore, may be said to have the continual custom established, in connection with its normal action, of being influenced and impelled to daydreaming and picture-making by the most trivial and
to absolute

doubtless to the circumstance that

we

indirect as well as
it

by the

faintest suggestions

so that

superstitious minds under cloud of night, and under all the disadvantages of imperfect vision, should create spectral appearances out of
is

not at

all

surprising

the most unlikely objects, and indulge in mental exaggerations of the most improbable appearances ; for superstition

disarms the judgment just as much as darkness disarms but neither prevents the current of ideas, nor the eye but rather stimulates the suggestive powers to create stops,
;

not

more unreal,

\>ut

to ourselves

under

tJie

only more alarming images with reference consciousness that we are not so fully

protected as in ordinary light. But the uncertainty of the senses is further very

much

44

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

increased under such circumstances by our being deprived of the immediate power of comparison, for comparison is

one of the most important and indispensable means of accuracy our nature is possessed of. Indeed, so important is it that we can hardly be said to know anything positively,

know
and

but only comparatively and that even what things we do positively have all their most important attributes
;

qualities so

dependent on our power to compare and

distinguish by difference that these qualities can only be accurately ascertained by us through the medium of

comparison.

Thus hardness,

size, colour, weight, distance,

sweetness, acidity, acridity, flavour, temperature, toughof sound, elasticity, are all comparative ness, pitch
qualities of matter only,

and not positive

qualities

so that

without means of comparison at


ascertain
to

command we can never

present in matter.
positive

what degree or extent these qualities are Mathematical forms, however, are

and absolute. Circular, square, triangular, or other forms of surface are not relative to other forms or

bodies, or liable to be affected

by comparison but beyond


;

knowing that an object


form,

is,

and that

it

has a particular

we cannot be

said,

without calling in the aid ot

comparison, and the means by which comparison is achieved, to know anything about it. Our most common standard of comparison is generally some quality or sense which we carry about with ourselves, unless where men are engaged in some occupation which requires the habitual use of a fixed measure, weight, or other standard on which they acquire the custom ot For example, hardness is conventionally relying.
ascribed usually to anything not impressible by our sense of touch, and in such a case the strength of our touch is but were we to go to made the standard of hardness the Mint and see a sheet of gold rolled out and then
;

punched

into sovereigns, or

rhodium our

hardest, or iridium

RELATIVE PEKCEPTION OF
our heaviest

SIZE, ETC.

45

known

metal,

struck into medallions


die,

means of a powerful lever and


that if a pair of as such a lever

by we would conclude

human
and

its die,

fingers were as strong and as hard we would cease to call these

metals hard to such hands.

But we cannot make the

strength or hardness of our hands an absolute or a general standard, for no two pairs of hands are exactly alike in Therefore we must for general purposes resort strength.

some conventional and generally agreed on standard. we take metal, the standard will be very little more reliable than the human hand, for no single metal we may adopt can be found of uniform purity and hardness everywhere, even with the same tempering and under the same
to

If

temperature so that a fixed standard of hardness is perhaps one of the most difficult of all conventional standards
;

And after all it would, when fixed, only enable us to say that bodies to which it was applied were so much harder or softer than it, but not that they had an
to establish.

abstract
for to

and positive hardness, independent of comparison some bodies they would still be relatively soft,

and to others relatively hard. In like manner size is perhaps not seen exactly alike by any two pairs of human eyes, for eyes differ just as much as faces, and that in many particulars too minute The retina of a large eye to be mentioned here.

must portray a larger image of objects than the retina of a small eye. For the accuracy of the eye does not depend on its seeing objects as they really are in point of dimensions,

but only on its seeing them as they appear to be in comparison with each other so that a small bird whose eye is no larger than a cabbage seed sees the relative sizes of objects to each other, and to any part of its own body under its range of vision, as accurately as an ox
;

whose eye

is

more than twice the diameter of a man's and


;

yet the details in the image of a landscape of thirty miles in

46

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

extent portrayed on the retina of the bird could not be distinctly traced by us without the aid of the most powerful
itself

microscope, though all distinctly seen by the bird without any such aid and the same image on the
;

retina of the ox, though many thousand times larger than that presented to the consciousness of the bird, could not

be traced by us in

many of

its

most prominent details with-

out having again recourse to optical science. On the retina of the eye of the bird, a railway train passing over twenty miles of distance in the remote horizon of such a land-

hair,

scape will not describe a line longer than the breadth of a and yet it will be as distinctly and as accurately seen by

a bird as by a man, because the relative sizes and distances of all the objects seen will be maintained, though their
true dimensions are not given by the eye either of the man or the bird. But this question will be more fully

understood by referring also to the subject of erect vision


as
it

is

called, or

why, notwithstanding the

fact that all

images are inverted on the retina, we nevertheless see Thus an arrow in their proper and erect position. with the point upwards before the eye, placed

them

ABC,

would, as shown in the above figure, be inverted on the retina at c 1) a, or portrayed with the point downward,
because the rays m n o, and indeed all the rays proceeding from the arrow between the extremities of it, A C, and

proceeding to the convex surface of the eye, x

y,

would

INVERSION OF IMAGES IN THE EYE,

47

cross each other, as delineated in the figure, both before

and after passing into the eye. Yet we are not conscious that the image is inverted, but see it as if it were erect, and the reason for this is that we see the position and direction of objects only relatively to what we see of our own bodies and as our bodies, and all
;

portions of our own bodies seen by us, have their images inverted on the retina as well as the images of other
relative appearance and position of our own the image maintained by this inversion to the relative appearance and position of other objects, so that
objects, the

bodies

is in

when we move our hand from one place to another, as from the point to the feather of the arrow in the figure, our hand would undoubtedly move downward, but its inverted image on the retina would move upward ; so that the hand would not in consequence afford us any means by such a motion of discovering that the image was In fact, every object external to the surface of inverted. the eye, as must be apparent from a study of the
edge of the upper eyelid were seen at as, its image would be presented along the lower side of the retina at a, and hence we have no standard external to the eye itself by which we can detect
if the figure, is inverted, so that

inversion as a matter of experience ; for every conceivable standard external to the eye could only be presented to our vision by means of its inverted image in the eye, and

hence before
inversion

it

could become visible to us


itself

it

suffered inversion

as

much

as any object

would have whoso

we meant to test by it. The explanation thus given of the inversion of images, and our inability to detect their inversion in our experience, is capable of being It proved even to strict mathematical demonstration.
will thus be found on reflection, that neither the true sizes

nor the true positions of objects are presented to us by the and their relative positions. eye, but only their relative sizes

48

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


sizes of our hands,

But as the relative positions and relative


feet,

or any portions we see of our own bodies, are correctly given along with the sizes and positions of other objects,

we

are not conscious of any inconvenience from this fact. Another peculiarity of the eye, which has given a good deal of perplexity and discussion to philosophers, is what " some have called the " outness of vision, or that power of which we perceive solidness in objects and persight by Some have endeavoured to maintain spective in space. that the retina was so constructed as to allow images to penetrate its surface to some extent, and therefore show one part of an object a little further back than another. But this explanation is absurd for a common mirror or
;

polished metallic surface gives the perspective of images portrayed or reflected on it as correctly as the retina of
the eye does, and

more

correctly than

is

yet done by

photography, for a reason which will presently be exAnd the true solution of the difficulty as to plained.
is called outness of vision is really that images are as correctly portrayed on the retina of the eye as just they are on any ordinary mirroring surface, and that it is

what

not the retina that perceives the perspective so given, but our Consciousness in contact with the surface of the retina, But as has just been said, a as already mentioned.

common
give

mirror, and the retina of the eye as well, will the images and the perspective of objects more correctly than the photographic process yet does; and

the reason for this fact

is

that in photography a certain

amount of distortion and contraction takes place from the circumference to the centre of the image in consequence
of the sensitized plate of the photographer being not a concave mirror, like the retina, but a flat surface. This
will

be in part, but

not

wholly understood,

by

re-

ferring again to the figure, p. 46, ante, and observing what would be the effect if the retina, instead of being

A DEFECT OF PHOTOGRAPHY.

49

line

concave, as there shown, were represented by a straight from c to a. The result would evidently be that the

image of the arrow upon it would be shortened by the difference between the arc of a circle and the chord of the arc. This arrangement of the eye, as compared with that
of the photographer who is necessarily, for printing, reproducing, framing, &c., confined to the use of a flat surface is of great importance when it is remembered that visible
is a concave spherical area of which the spectator's of observation forms the centre, and that the concave point retina is obviously an optical adaptation of the eye to this

space

natural fact for reproducing concavely to the beholder all


that part of this concave space which admits of being simultaneously comprehended within the limits of correct

and for which no flat surface interposed instead of the retina could form an effective substitute, or one by which the consciousness could be so correctly brough* in contact
vision,

with the faculty. The difference between the accuracy of an ordinary mirror (omitting horizontal inversion) and a photograph is that, as a spectator advances to or recedes from the mirror, not only do the rays from the entire area imaged converge at different angles to him and in varying
(increasing or diminishing) relative distance from each other, but they also proceed from different parts of the
mirror's surface at each change of distance all but the one ray in the line of which the observer is moving. photograph, from the fixity of its parts, can thus obviously

be correct only at one point of distance from it as compared with a mirror, even assuming it to be absolutely correct there. Indeed, in contemplating both photographs

and

pictures,

the

eye

by long habit acquires almost

insensibly a

of adjusting itself, but only to a certain extent, so as to enable it to see these objects in relief, such as the stereoscope gives more fully, which

new power

owes

its

most important merits

to

an adjusted and

fixed

50

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

point of view. Until this power is acquired all pictures appear perfectly flat surfaces, while mirrored images never do so. But the above will show how very accurate and perfect the eye is, even with all its peculiarities,

fidelity

none of which affects its efficiency or impairs its perfect and trustworthiness, under real and ordinary
circumstances, even though in addition to all these singularities of structure and effect we have no fixed

and absolute standard of measurement, lineal, superficial, or solid, to apply or trust to, and are compelled to resort to and adopt conventional ones, such as lineal and square and cubic inches, feet, and yards, &c., or to the relative
size of our

own

hands, or other members, in reference to

objects where these conventional standards are wanting the last being a very defective standard indeed, and utterly unsuitable for conventional purposes, on

other

account of the great differences in the size of human hands so that we may conceive how much inconvenience
:

and uncertainty the ancients were under

if

they relied on

the natural cubit, consisting of the forearm and extended hand, until they had reduced it to an average or fixed
limit

which excluded

variation.

With regard

to weight,

again,

we

are in exactly the same difficulty as

we have

have no just observed with regard to measure. and abstract standard of the weight of bodies. positive

We

Their weight to- themselves

is

inter se or to us.

matter of comparison only, and relative What feels heavy to us is

the primary standard, but is incapable of being made a conventional one, from the difference between each man's And here, again, for strength and that of his neighbour. general purposes we are compelled to adopt a conventional

standard on which all are agreed, such as ounces, pounds, or the cubic foot of water as unity, &c. ; and even these do not afford us a uniformly fixed accuracy, for every kind of

weight varies according to

its altitude

or distance from

STANDARDS OF COMPARISON.

31

the earth's centre, and the surface of the earth is not at a uniform distance from its centre so that slight fractional variations take place with every trifling change of locality
;
:

and the yard measure, in the same way, varies from the standard yard to a fractional degree more or less whenever it is in a temperature different from that agreed upon for the standard yard for all bodies contract and expand under the influence of temperature, and temperature itself is equally defective in its certainty and equally dependent on an arranged and conventional standard, such as the various thermometers Fahrenheit's, Centigrade, Wedgwood's, &c. The same thing is equally true of all the other obvious
;

qualities

of

bodies,

as

little

reflection

will

make

abundantly plain. Diversity of colour, for example, is found to be relative and subjective to the effect of those

complementary colours on each other which when combined make white light for a faint white light appears
;
.

green near an intense red

light,

and blue near an intense

yellow
relative

light, &c., so that all the qualities of bodies are


;

square
circle,

is

form, as we have said, being alone excepted. a square, a triangle a triangle, and a circle a

&c.,

whatever be
size,

their

size

for

form
;

is

not

but on proportion of parts and this is the only peculiarity or characteristic of bodies which the eye or the touch in their normal health can make us

dependent upon

absolutely certain of without calling in the aid of comparison.

Bishop Berkeley, in his Work on the Eye, tells us that the situation of an object is determined only with respect to the objects of the same sense; in other words, the
touch perceives the position of an object with reference only to other objects touched, and the eye perceives the position of an object seen only with reference to the
position of other objects seen ; and this is strictly correct when applied to the question of erect vision, and within

52

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

But the limits in which the Bishop employs the remark. when it is used as an argument against the possibility of any comparison between the impressions of vision and
true, for
is

the impressions of touch, &c., it instantly ceases to be Berkeley has wholly overlooked the fact that it

not the physical faculty, but the Consciousness, that perceives the impressions of touch and vision, and that the Consciousness is capable of comparing all its impressions and of testing and verifying them by all the processes of reasoning and all the aids of science so that
;

it

comes

at last, as the result of perfectly correct

mental

investigation, to perceive that images are inverted in the eye, and yet not inverted to the touch, and that a thing

may

ticulars

thus be logically and consistently true in all its parwhich is not apparent to the physical perception or immediate experience. The Consciousness can also

and convince us of the fact, that an object which the hand touches is the same object which the eye sees, and that the points of correspondence between them are not merely few and limited, like a set of coincidences, but are universal in all particulars, and without a single exThis species of correspondence the Consciousness ception. rightly perceives can amount to nothing short of identity,
test

for nothing but identity is capable of it. The Bishop also holds that the perception of distance
is

an acquired, and not an immediate perception of the But in this particular he has also overlooked the eye.
fact that the Consciousness is the real perceptive power. If he had only considered the fact that a common mirror in reflecting objects shows distance and perspective correctly, and that the retina is just such a mirror, and

possesses the same reflecting qualities and powers, which are fixed and uniform in their action under unalterable
optical laws, and that the retina's impressions therefore do not and cannot improve or alter by the effect of educa-

MIRRORS AND MODES OF VISION.

53

tion or experience that it acquires no new or improved mode of mirroring by use lie could not have fallen into He might have been correct had it been true this error.
that the objects presented by a mirror are seen on the flat surface of the mirror, for then a mirrored image would

have been a

flat

images on
reflected;

the surface

picture; but we do not see reflected of the mirror by which they are

for the eye, or the Consciousness as our per-

no physical contact whatever with that perceive them only by the incident rays which are reflected or thrown off from the flat surface of
ceptive power, has
surface.

We

the mirror after being intercepted by it. perceive them, in fact, just as if there had been no 'mirror whatever, but merely as if the direction of the original rays

We

proceeding from the objects themselves had been changed for a mirror does not serve the purpose of flattening and
;

localising a picture of the objects it is said to represent ; it merely alters the direction of the rays from the objects

And the question comes to be one of the very greatest difficulty whether we perceive the images on the retina in any other way whether the Consciousthemselves.

ness is in actual contact with the concave surface of the


retina,

or whether the rays of light are reflected from that concave surface to the Consciousness seated to receive

them elsewhere. To solve such a question, it must be We shall admitted, is no ordinary labour of thought. endeavour to approach it by divesting it of its inessenof those associated circumstances which are not tialities
elements of the question. whether the Consciousness
elsewhere.

The
is

first of these is the point seated in the retina or seated


it

Now

it

matters not whether

is

or

is

not

seated elsewhere, for there can be no doubt, wherever it is situated, that the imaging rays are the means by which it It is not the retina perceives the appearances of objects.

which Consciousness perceives, but the imaging

light, for

54
these,

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


and not the
retina,

convey the images. All that tho

retina can do as a mirror is merely to intercept and change the direction of these rays, and it matters nothing, there-

whether the Consciousness receives these rays at the these surface of the retina or intercepts them elsewhere has said that we are ivhat it receives. Berkeley rays
fore,

do not see by geometrical


lines,

lines,

and that our idea of

distance cannot be derived from the angularity of these

with some
establish.

and he has been pleased to treat this proposition But that we do not see by little ridicule.
is

geometrical lines
If,

a statement easier to

make than

to

as has been just shown, the Consciousness perceives all objects by means of rays proceeding from them, and impinged upon it at the surface of the retina

or elsewhere, it is perfectly certain that these rays proceed from the objects in geometrical lines, and that the

angularity of these lines and the consequent presentation of the images is affected both by the fact of relative size

and the fact of relative distance. It may be a question whether the Consciousness in contact with these rays is extended as a mere surface to receive them at their point
of impact, or has depth as well as surface through which the rays angularly penetrate and so aid it in perceiving

geometrically

but this question

is

beyond investigation.

What

is

much more

relevant and certain is that the edu-

cated eye does perceive geometrical relation in the position of objects, and that it does so not because the eye,
as the effect of education, has acquired

any new or improved

mode

of receiving images or radiation, but merely because the Consciousness has become more capable of appreciating
It must be borne in mind that the images received. vision is accomplished from first to last in human beings
r only in one way, namcl; by radiation impinging on our Consciousness with the Vv locity of light, and therefore in
,

a continuous stream of luminous motion affecting our Con-

MIBROBS AND MODES OF VISION.


sciousness, and not in a state of rest.

55
fixed picture

by the contemplation of a

The only
is

fixed appearance involved in

the exercise of vision

the real object itself from which

the radiation continuously proceeds, and that we do not see, but only its radiated image ; so that to human optics

of sight is not even the object seen, but the original light, which, falling upon objects, and picking up their images by the way, carries those images as an incidence to our Consciousness; for the incident rays of optical science, after all, are not those rays which, reflected
the source

influence of

from an imaging

surface,

form what we would otherwise

but those rays of light which, falling on such objects in their course, make the limits and peculiarities of these objects their first mirror or imaging
call reflected rays,

surface, and from mirrors purely so called pick up nothing, but merely suffer additional or further and renewed deflection, and bear with them thence, and still un-

impaired, the

first

image they have acquired in their

This is probably progress from originally pure light. not the mode in which a disengaged Consciousness, freed
its optical arrangements, and in actual contact with objects, would perceive them not the way in which a spirit, or in which God perceives objects. It

from the eye and

in fact, a limited mode of perception perfectly accurate in all likelihood within its limits, but only showing us
is,

how how

objects appear

under applied and special

light,

not

they appear in their light, or to the vision of


therefore does
it

own

Him

reality independent of to whom the light and

the darkness are both alike.

How

absolutely imperative
to the

become

for us in presence of such a fact

to subordinate our rash

judgments

wisdom of

Him

who

perfect in knowledge, and who judgeth not after the seeing of the Eye, but judgeth righteous judgment 1
is

56

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

CHAPTER
The limited range of our
matter

IV.

positive or absolute knowledge of external

How much our

knowledge

is

merely comparative

How

necessary, therefore, that we should test everything where we can Difference in the mode in which truth and falsehood demand our

credence

Spiritualism

and

its

stances

Its

profanation of the

Table-turning Faraday's exposure of it Simple application of his indicator for the detection of unconscious lateral

dead

pressure and of confederacy Mesmerism Its more preposterous Our tendency to neglect the true knowledge of pretensions abated what is familiar Our ignorance of why or how our hands
instantly obey our will

Consciousness can control


it

and

direct the

operations of matter

Is

the force by

Probability that it is not plished'? The blood the life, a mysteryforces of motion distinguished Electricity as a motive force in animals Probability of its being the only motive force Structure of the muscles and electric action

which motion is accomThe vital forces and the

on them Ampere's theory of electric currents electro-mechanical nature of animal motion.

Telegraphic and

it

FROM what has been explained in the preceding chapters, will now be apparent that there are but two absolute
of matter, that
positive
is,

qualities

of bodies external to us,


verifica-

which are
tion

and capable of instantaneous

by the

senses, viz., the reality of the matter itself,

when

within the reach of touch, and the form of matter presented to the eye or the touch. How small a number of
bodies this would

make

realizable to the blind man,

how

limited an amount of the qualities of those bodies it would present, even to the man who sees, must be very evident.

How

narrow therefore would be our knowledge

if

we

KANGE OF POSITIVE KNOWLEDGE.

57

depended on these self-evidencing qualities of bodies only for of how few of them would touch and form give Yet this is the a complete or satisfactory description. absolute boundary of man's positive knowledge as to All the other qualities he knows of it are matter. relative, the result of comparison and the perception of Had we but one body only difference and distinctiveness. to handle or look at, of its form and reality we could at but its colour, if it have any, once convince ourselves depends on the light under which it is seen or the colours by which it is surrounded, and the fact whether it is
;
;

qualified to reflect the primary, or only the complementary Its weight, of the colour or light under which it is seen.

temperature, &c., are all equally relative, and only capable of being negatively ascertained. It is not so heavy, so large, or so warm as this, or not so light, so
its size, its

small, or so cold as that object of comparison, is the whole amount of our knowledge in regard to these qualities; but what its absolute weight, size, or temperature is, we

cannot

tell,

for

or temperature of anything qualities do exist in things.


It

we do not know the absolute weight, size, we merely know that such
;

must hence be obvious that our knowledge of the

relative qualities of bodies is much more comprehensive than our knowledge of their positive qualities, and that wherever

we

are deprived of the opportunity of applying those standards of comparison to objects by which alone their relative qualities can be determined we are helplessly 'thrown on

mere

trust

and assumption

for our knowledge,

and com-

or appearances pletely within the power of Natural Magic instead of realities and at the mercy of misconception or

delusion instead of accuracy. Indeed, so much of our knowledge lies within this region, guarded only by our

power of reasoning

from

analogy,

intellectual extension of our

which is a mere means of comparison and

58

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAX.

relative examination, that

we

are in no instance justified

in neglecting or dispensing with all the practical verificaare entitled to assume nothing tion in our power.

We

where we have the power to test or verify, and neglect to do so. And as corroboration forms the great convincing power of the senses, when more than one of them are brought to bear upon a subject, if the subject be what it appears and the want of corroboration is instantly manifested where it appears to be what it is not no charlatan or pretender has a right to demand our credence till he has fully satisfied every right and requisite of true evidence, and every means of possible corroboration, which the demand

upon

us, if justifiable, ought to allow. "No teacher of real or important truth will ever ask our credence on less fair and fully satisfactory terms; 'for teachers of truth are not anxious that it should stand on a weak, precarious, or

inadequate basis their desire, above all things, is that it should be clear and convincing in itself, and as immacu;

late in appearance as it is

in reality.

We may

make

perfectly certain therefore that whatever claims secrecy or the dark, or partial obscurity for any point or detail of its manifestation, is stamped with deception or imposture. Of
this class, Spiritualism or Spirit-rapping, together

with

all

the Seances and their accessories, in which

dimly delights,

is

darkly or and indelibly tainted by the deeply


it

very obscurity in which it inherent in its associations.

is

self- arrayed.

Its stain is

It dare not

and challenge

full investigation ; or even real disinterestedness in the operator pretended can rescue it from the brand of imposture. Truth does not so proclaim itself it disdains the aid of the charlatan
:

come forward in the open light and no

Its most glorious attribute is or the aspect of mystery. that it is self-assertive, self-demonstrative, and that it

claims in the modesty of its noble and immaculate integrity But when a rap professes to to be nothing but what it is.

SPIRIT-RAPPING
be a spirit,

TABLE-TURNING.

59

we

are only led to the conclusion that the

operators in connection with this imposture are possessed with the ignorant idea that the souls of the departed have

more sound than sense, are little improved by their advent into eternity, and have become only fit to be outrageously insulted before audiences as ignorant as the insulter, and not less profane. Nil nisi bonus mortis seems to be no part
In his hands men of sense of the Spiritualist's motto. and virtue are only liable to lose their characters after
they have joined the array of the just made perfect, and

have no voice of wisdom and propriety left among their unworthy relatives on earth to screen their memories

from being made an element of ridicule, misrepresentation, and swindling. The kind of evidence which is required to justify our belief in such a case, is not that a spirit
should reveal
itself,

but that those

who

assert

it

has to any

extent done so should afford us every means, so far as they are concerned, of making certain that there is no
collusion.

But there are other pretensions which have not claimed


concealment or darkness as essential to their success.

Of these, Table-turning and Mesmerism The former has gone down before the light

are
it

examples. has invoked,

and the latter has greatly receded from its first assertions. Michael Faraday showed that while continued muscular pressure might, from the strain and weariness of the effort, become unconscious of lateral tendency, even while
actually

exerting it in a very strong degree, a simple index could make us conscious of the fact, and also enable

us to detect confederacy and thenceforward gyraceous and peripatetic tables ceased to move. Table-turning is at an
;

end, and its history only affords one of those useful illustrations of misconceived phenomena which, when fairly placed

under the light of general intelligence, science never


to explain.

fails

A simple

application of the principle involved

60

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

in Faraday's index may be made by any one, with two slips of paper; one of them narrow, and a few inches long, being

wafered

down

to a tangent to that point of the

to the table at right angles to the edge, or if the at edge

FG

and the other slip not wafered, but laid down transversely on the first piece. This second paper being about six or eight inches long, and an inch or two broad, so that the fingers of a hand may rest upon it, when
table be round,

pressing the table, thus

This simple arrangement is quite enough for ordinary purposes where the table is a polished one, as the first slip of paper A B, wafered to the table at A and B, with the index line 1 1 upon it, will remain fixed, while the paper C D, on which the fingers are to rest in pressing the table, but not on that part of it which is over the
other slip
across its

lateral pressure

move from right to left if there be in the fingers, and the line drawn centre and connecting the line I I, and ocB, will

cupying the position of the dotted line when the papers


are
first

adjusted, will

move

to one side or other of the

index line I in the direction of the lateral pressure, and so at once prove its existence.

But Mesmerism, while it has much abated in interest and modified its pretensions, has not been so satisfactorily

met by

A good deal of confederacy scientific intelligence. and imposture associated with many of its manifestations

MESMERISM.

61

have been detected and exposed, but the more consistent adherents of Mesmerism have complained, and perhaps not
unjustly, that quacks and impostors, for the sake of moneymaking by sensational exhibitions, have perverted the scientific truths which they maintain, and thereby brought discredit on phenomena which are beyond dispute. It is not the purpose here to investigate whether Mesmerism be true

or false.
its

The

phenomena seen some few attempts at Mesmerising, but they must have been exceedingly bungled and blundering attempts indeed if Mesmerism be anything biit a stupid

to

present writer is too little acquainted with pronounce a judgment one way or other.

He has

hoax.

The

object

investigate

Mesmerism, but

of the following remarks is not to to consider whether we have

not within the limits of

human knowledge, and admittedly

familiar experience, a set of natural facts far surpassing in thoir reality all the phenomena which Mesmerism now

professes to have successfully manifested, and with some of the peculiarities of which Mesmerists may after all be

only floundering in the dark. It is one of the disadvantages of the student of nature
that life-long familiarity with certain phenomena too often leads him rather to assume them as matter of course than
to study

them

as matter of fact

to regard

them as too

for investigation, because it is accepted as a conclusion too trite for further iteration that they are

commonplace

man must know and understand


that

exhaustively seen under their familiar aspects, and that fully and to the uttermost

which he

is

encountering every day.

Were man's

in-

tellectuality equal to his opportunities there would be much And it is only when we probability in this conclusion.

through the eyes and understanding of some rarely endowed intelligence, whose mind has opened up a new page of nature where we had thought all was already known, that we discover the fallacy of our assumpare privileged

62
tion,

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

and find we have hitherto been looking at the half calf edges of the volume only, and that the Book in the running Brook, and the Sermon in the Stone, do not

and

gilt

preach or expose their letter-press to every one, but, like sensitive and highly-gifted ministers, pause till the audience
is sufficiently reverential

and

attentive.

Much

of the very

best elements of philosophic truth and wisdom is hid under the aspect of commonplace, and familiarity with
facts is not necessarily

knowledge. The man who has used his hands from youth to age until they have acquired such a property of easiness in custom that for them to go
right

has become intuitive, and to use them wrong would involve the necessity of special direction, does not from all this experience of his powers know one bit the more how or why it is that the hand so instantly obeys the Will, or by what sprite-quick and Ariel agency the sympathy between the master and the servant is so full that, ere the pulse beats twice, or even once, the hand has acted the thought or seized what the volition, 'has resolved on, and holds it prisoner to our further purpose. Why or

how

is it that

our motions obey our will

Has

all

our

life-long familiarity with this fact led us a step nearer to the solution of its modus operandi ? Or has our experience

only intensified our stupidity, and schooled us into arrogant indifference and self-satisfied ignorance ? All we have said of the great perceptive power of our being CONSCIOUSNESS, we see no reason to qualify here, but neither do we feel it possible to expand the ranges
of what

we have

said,

or propound an extension of its

Consciousness is energies, save in only one direction. not physical, nor possessed of physical powers or agencies. It is an intelligence, not material, nor incapable of

But its connection with separate existence from matter. matter, in addition to its contact with and powers of perceiving it which have been already dealt with, appears

OUR PHYSICAL MOTIONS.

63

to consist of a further power to control and direct the operaBut this, after all, tells us nothing more tions of matter.

than we already know, though perhaps under a different aspect, when we say that we will, and our members obey
our will.

We

ask for further satisfaction than


:

this,

and

Is Consciousness the the prominent question occurs force by which the will is carried out and reduced to

physical action ? Mankind have hitherto lived and died, under the passive assumption that it is ; but a little conleast, if it

sideration will render this assumption very doubtful at do not conclusively show that it is not. It is true that the Consciousness can direct the physical

actions of our body, but it is not true that the body is incapable of physical action after the Consciousness is

withdrawn.

The

living

body moves

its

limbs as our

Consciousness directs, but the dead body may be also made to move its limbs and all that is deficient in their
:

motions as compared with those of the living body is that the Consciousness and its directing power are not there. Electricity will make the dead move, but it cannot

Hence replace the Consciousness or its directing power. the physical force or agency which carried the will into
effect

may

physical force, therefore,

be replaced, but the Will itself cannot. The is not the Will or Consciousness
;

neither, reciprocally, is the Consciousness or Will the The Will cannot move a paralyzed limb, physical force.

but electricity properly applied can.


these facts is inevitable
:

The inference from The physical motions of our

bodies are accomplished by the agency of electricity, under the direction of our will, so far as they are voluntary,

tary.

but independently of our will so far as they are involunNow, without reference to the electric action of

dead bodies, there are voluntary and involuntary actions in the bodies of the living, and they form two largo and comprehensive divisions of our physical system. Tho

64

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


liver,

heart, the stomach, the lungs, the

and numerous

other departments of our physical system movo and operate by involuntary action over which the Will has no
direct influence or control. So that Consciousness or Will are not the forces by which these physical operations are performed, and have no presiding power over them.

know but of four departments of human existence the Life, the Mind, the Feeling, and the Material body ; but these operating forces of our physical system are
obviously not fruits of either the Are they, then, part of the Life ?

We

mind

or the feeling.

We

have no means of

discovering that they are, but we have some reasons for concluding that they are not. The dead stomach has

been made to digest under the action of electricity, therefore electricity can to some extent supply the
necessary
force

involved

in

its

action

without

life.

Besides, its action is a physical action, and Life is not physical, nor inherent in, nor an attribute of, physical

matter.

No

doubt

life

exists in a tree,
its

and controls

its

only actions ; but the force of those actions even in a tree is a physical force, and it is
vital actions,

which are

impossible to perceive how Life, which is not a physical element, can be a physical force. Yet it is here that the
if at all, that

profoundest form, and here, are bound, as far as possible, to reason it Life is not inherent in vegetation, but if life be out. withdrawn from any member of the Vegetable World its
difficulty presents itself in its

we

whole forces are suspended, and their whole motions It is not physical, and hence not a physical suppressed.
force
it is

when it ; yet absent there

is
is

present there is physical force when none. Must our reason here recede

before the great mystery of Life, and confess itself powerless ? Electricity will kill a tree, but it will not enable
it to

not

make

perform any of the operations of its vitality. It will the roots of a plant digest and absorb pabulum,

OUR PHYSICAL MOTIONS.

65

fruit,

ana send up suitable elements for bud and blossom and though it may be, and no doubt is, a subordinate agency in these operations. We must, however, meekly But confess we cannot penetrate the mystery of Life. does this stop the line of inquiry we have pursued so far
in all other respects ? a plant are vital actions,

We

think not.

All the actions of

and we can neither understand nor that kind of action to which Life is essential. Life, But it is not so of man and other animals. All the His muscular actions of a man are not vital actions.

may be produced without the presence of Life. form an extension of action beyond the range of They trees and plants, and beyond the limited range therefore of essentially vital actions. Perhaps we shall be able to
actions

discover that they are as much mechanical actions as those of the steam-engine and other machinery, and
as much accomplished by physical forces and agencies. The motions of a tree or plant are only those hydraulic

by which its sap is absorbed, analyzed, distributed, and applied in the development of the plant and in this respect they are allied to those motions of the blood in animals by which the vital energies are kept in operation, and seem to be restricted exclusively to the processes of growth or development, renovation, and reproduction. In this respect, whether it be disputed that the Scriptures teach science or not, there can be no doubt whatever that they put the finger of revelation on a remarkable scientific
energies
;

fact,

not hitherto considered so fully as it ought to have been, when they say of animal nature that the blood is the Life thereof. If the sap of a tree be not the life of the tree, its operations are so intimately united and identified with
the vital forces and actions of the tree as to be utterly indistinguishable from, it by any power of human discri-

mination ; and in like manner the operation of the blood in animal nature is utterly indistinguishable from the vital

66

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

Electricity, as we have said, energies of animal life. make the dead body move, and the dead stomach digest
it

may
;

but

cannot make the blood circulate, or the dead pulse Instead of re-energizing the blood it destroys it. throb.

A shock of electricity passed through the blood after death,


so far from vivifying, separates that fluid into its three component and subordinate elements the red globular

colouring

matter, the
it

gummy

serum, and the watery

serum, and renders of vital circulation.

altogether unfit for tho purposes But not so with regard to those
vital energies

motions with which animals are endowed, as distinguished

from and in addition to the

they possess in

These motions may be produced after life has departed from the members, and they are thence, we may warrantably conclude, separate and distinct from what we have considered as the vital actions. If electricity may produce every kind of physical motion

common with

vegetable

life.

but vital action, as we find it can in the dead, are we warranted in concluding that anything in addition to electric agency is required or employed to produce such
physical motion in the living? Unless we can charge nature in some department of her operations with superto assume superfluity here -by fluity, we are not entitled
the only light of reasoning we have to aid us in our determination of this question the light of analogy. Nature is nowhere chargeable with superfluity that we
positively know of, and we are excluded by that fact from gratuitously assuming that she may be chargeable with superfluity here. In the living, as in the dead, physical motion may be produced by electricity, and we

are warranted by all analogy of nature in concluding that the Life and the it is produced by that agency alone

power over

Consciousness having merely a presiding and directing But a little study of the anatomical it. structure of animal bodies will lead verv much to the

OUR PHYSICAL MOTIONS.


strengthening of this conclusion, for while electricity

67

may

act on inorganic bodies and cause motion, independent of organic structure in them, here it does not so act, but

operates in harmony with the organic structure only, and in conformity to the aim of predetermined motive arrange-

Applied to a dead muscle it will make that act, not as if it were inorganic matter and had no special structure, but as a muscle should acf, and in harmony and strict subordination to its organic structure and purpose and this it can only do because the structure of
ments.

muscle

the muscle
electric

is

law of motion, which,

such as to allow the operation by it of some if it be not specially and

exclusively designed to facilitate, it at all events fully and On this point we feel fully perfectly coincides with. entitled to say that if such perfect adaptation of muscular

organization to electric laws be not the result of predetermined purpose in the arrangement of nature, it is a
let

solecism unparalleled by all mere blind coincidence. But us now see whether we can detect the electric law
;

from the organization and motion of the muscle for its anatomy has been fully ascertained. The electric law, we have said, operates in strict conformity with the muscular structure ergo, as matter of induction, the mus;

under electricity is the electric action, or identical with it, and must therefore involve the operation of Now a muscle consists of a large the electric law.
cular action

number
at each

of very fine fibres arranged together, terminating

end in a tendon, and these two terminal tendons respectively form the tendinous origin and tendinous insertion of the muscle and muscles are so constructed that they contract or shorten, and extend or lengthen, as may be required when under action. In contracting, tte belly of the muscle, or that part of it between the two terminal tendons, swells out. In extending, the belly of
;

the muscle collapses.

This

is

the

mode

or form of mus-

68

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


;

eular motion
it

and having

satisfied ourselves of this

much

is

now our duty

to investigate

what known law of

This, in the fortunately not diffiM. Ampere's theory of electric currents cult to find. us with the fact that two parallel, or nearly supplies parallel, currents of electricity, when proceeding in the
electricity

such a motion coincides with.


is

advanced state of electric science,

same

direction, attract each other,

and when proceeding

in opposite directions, or counter to each other, they repel each other. have only therefore to suppose that when

We

the electricity passes along the fibres of the muscle in the same direction they attract each other, and the belly of

the muscle
that

collapses,

the muscle

being extended

and

when the currents


is,

directions, that

of electricity proceed in opposite so many of them along one set of the

muscular fibres; from one end of the muscle


origin, for

the tendinous

and so many more of them proceed from the opposite end of the muscle, or the tendinous insertion, these currents passing each other through the belly of the muscle repel each other and swell the belly, thereby causing the muscle to contract. The immense number of fibres in a powerful muscle, and the number of
example
electric currents

thus passing along them, will readily

account for

great strength and literally electric rapidity of muscular action ; and we know of no other explanation which furnishes the faintest indication of an

the

adequate cause for this familiar, but not the less remarkIf there be any other force which can able phenomenon.

produce this action, mankind, as yet, know nothing of it. We do know that electricity can, and does cause it, and we also know that the above is the only law of electricity man has been able to discover by which it can be done in

harmony with muscular organization, and


adequate to the result.

that

it is

a law

We also

know

that

it is

by pass-

ing through the muscle that electricity causes muscular

OUR PHYSICAL MOTIONS.


action,

69
;

and that the muscular

fibres are conductors

so that

our conclusion amounts, we may almost say, to as complete demonstration as the subtle nature of electricity In fact, our nerves and muscles seem to be a allows.
series of telegraphic wires

and

electric

mechanism com-

volition has accomplished its purin our physical nature ever since the creation of poses animal life, and that, great and marvellous as modern

bined,

by which our

and telegraphic discoveries are, they are after all only a lucky stumble upon an old law, and an unconscious imitation of an old application of it, as commonplace as
electric

humanity and as hoary as antiquity itself. We also know from Ampere's theory that currents of electricity influence each other, so that of two transverse currents the stronger controls the weaker, and are therefore prepared to find that where the distance between them is not sufficiently great, or the insulation not perfect, singular and marked effects might be produced
from their proximity. And all this suggests to us that the normal and strictly legitimate electric action of animal bodies is far more extensive, and far more wonderful and powerful in the most familiar and ordinary results of animal motion, than anything Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism have been able to establish. Indeed, we are
led to conclude that, if there be any grain of truth in the pretensions which Mesmerism has made, it is only a dimly

and feebly perceived fragment of this great and common 1ft w of animal life on which it has alighted, and which it
its

cannot fully explain. And if so, it is well to observe that experiments, unless conducted under the light of
science,

may

in

many

instances be injurious and exhaust-

ing to the parties operated on, in consequence of their not being conducted" in strict deference to the normal laws
of animal action
;

and that they ought

to

be discouraged
;

in all but adequately enlightened and prudent hands for everything done in the way of experiment on man ought

70

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


and invigorate

to be in a direction tending to promote healthy and natural action only.

We

are

now

in a condition to contemplate with some

degree of wonder that most astonishing of all the phenomena of natural magic that fearfully and wonderfully

made compound
"

of immortality and evanescence that To .contemplate, too, after paragon of animals," Man more than four thousand years of recorded fact and philosophy, how much and how very little we know of ourselves.
!

Familiar in daily life with those

who are continually setting

up their arrogant and hasty opinions as the finality of knowledge, though they have never exhibited intellectual energy enough to penetrate or discover a fraction of what such a work as this has recorded, or to know how much and how long philosophy has laboured for so little, the conclusion of the Preacher seems to hover like an abiding epitaph over the achievements of man's boasted wisdom in the sighing and disappointed trisyllable Vanity How small a portion of the great eternal whole is man's present existence, and yet of how many varied and
!

wonderful

A physical combinations is it made up which possesses powers of assimilating food and system matter, both by analysis and synthesis, which no laborawith a tory can equal, no skill in science compare whose arrangements eclipse telegraphy by the system communicate rapidity and completeness with which they from Will to Act, from sense to sense, intelligence and whose electro-mechanical motive power no mandate
!

machinery of human invention has yet been able to approach a system of pneumatic, hydrostatic, optic, and acoustic combination, each finer in its parts and more can even hope ever perfect in its action than ingenuity and added to all these, Life, and to understand fully

Mind, and Feeling forming a metaphysical co-operation, of which we can only say IT is, and then sink our vaunted knowledge into lip-sealed and humbled ignorance.

OUR PHYSICAL MOTIONS.

71

CHAPTEE
Animal motion

V.
and diseased motions

Spontaneous, involuntary

Capable of being artificially produced Defects in Mesmerism Want of uniformity in its results Electro-biology and Phrenology The brain Propensities Cerebral development no proof of
propensity
rience

Alleged propensity not consistently shown in expebe Propensity not material but metaphysical, and cannot indicated by size and quantity of matter Exercise causes de-

velopment
verse

Accountability of

Small mental power capable of great achievements human life Right and icrong divide the uniDanger of error Tendencies of the age Opinion Differ-

ence between Opinion and Conviction Not necessary to form opinion as a basis of action Opinion not truth An impediment
to correct

action

An

illustration of this
to

traveller

Confusion as

opinion

Case of an African Our means of protection

against error.

HAVING so far considered in the preceding chapter the laws and forces engaged in the production of animal motion, and which appear to result in showing that physical action in animals is accomplished by what may be called strictly electro-mechanical appliances, let us

now devote some

attention to

those

animal motions in

connection with the Will and the Consciousness, and also to a few of the phenomena of spontaneous, involuntary,
diseased and artificially-produced motions. It appears then, from many well-established experiences, that the Consciousness may be to a large extent separated

from physical motions which ordinarily never take place save under its immediate direction and control, and also that a large number of diseased motions are possible over

72

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

control.

which the Will and the Consciousness never have any Thus the motions of the somnambulist are to a

large extent performed without the Consciousness, though they are of a nature over which the Will, in ordinary On circumstances, would preside and exercise direction.

the other hand, cramp, lock-jaw, and other diseased actions of the muscles, are of a nature over which the will unfortunately never has any control, and they prove to us conclusively that, though Consciousness may be associated
with, and part of the vital force, it is not the motive force, nor necessarily associated with it that, in fact, the motive force is not a vital, but merely e, mechanical force.

But all mechanical forces are capable of mechanical regulation and control, and it is therefore quite possible and within the limits of legitimate logic to conceive that

what can be produced naturally or by disease in the mechanical motions of the human body may be produced

by the application of artificial control over the body. For if motion in a dead body may be produced by the
application of electricity, why may not involuntary motion be also produced in a living body by the application of it ?

muscular action be produced by electric currents obeying the volition, why may not more powerful currents, as M. Ampere has shown, be so applied as to control
If
these currents in opposition to the individual will
?

If

somnambulism and dreaming, and lock-jaw and cramp, may be produced by natural causes, why may they not be produced also by artificial means, if we know how to use And yet some of these phenomena go far these means ?
beyond anything that Mesmerists have been able to prove, and show an involuntary mechanical and electric action
in our physical nature beyond the Mesmerist's absolute power, whatever may be said of his pretensions. It may be said that these facts go to prove the phenomena of

Mesmerism.

We

have no objection to prove them

if

they

MESMEKISM.
be true.

73

But we rather think they go directly to disprove Mesmerism, and establish a set of facts which show that if Mesmerism were true if it had really discovered the key to producing by artificial means that which Nature produces by eccentric action and disease then it ought to have no failures in the application of its key, and ought to meet with no impracticable and no unimpressible
subjects.

Mesmerists confess that there are individuals


;

who cannot be mesmerised

but the facts

we have been

And dealing with are facts to which all men are subject. if Mesmerists cannot produce these uniformly in all, and with perfect certainty, their failure gives a strong
probability to the suspicion that they have not the true key to produce them in any one, and that their ex-

periments, so far as they have any truthfulness in them, are wholly empirical, of uncertain issue, and unworthy of yet being recognized as having established anything

within the legitimate precincts of science. Our aim is neither to support Mesmerism and its pretensions, nor to be severe against anything on account of which its
adherents honestly think it can really lay claim to consideration. The aim here is to direct inquiry and
attention to

what

is

known

to

be truth, and stimulate

It is quite plain investigation in the right direction. that nature does accomplish in a natural way phenomena
effects fully as wonderful as anything mesmerism has asserted; and if mesmerists think it of importance to produce similar* effects, let them turn to the means by

and

and they may have some more worthy of consideration than the pretensions of quacks, and more
which Nature
of
itself operates,

prospect

making

discoveries

uniform in their results than the accident of unaccountable susceptibilities. AVith regard to Electro-Biology

and Phrenology, which


it is

are closely connected with this subject,

perhaps right

74
that

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

we should

also say something, because here too a

reat deal of falsehood appears to have got a very small amount of physical truth.
asserts in these days, if indeed the assertion, that the brain is

mixed up with

No

anatomist

anatomists ever

made

an inorganic mass of medullary Chaos, or that its various parts have not distinct functions and purposes, whatever these may be but it
;

the pretension made by the phrenologist to forecast human character by reading the " Organs," and predicate even criminal and other life by talking of " propensities " founded on organic development and the relative
is

dimensions of so-called faculties, that produces scientific repugnance and the well-founded disgust of sensible men. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that phrenologists

of the brain which they have


busts,

have been successful in localising the various organs named in their charts and

how do they prove, let us ask, that the size of an organ, or the relative size of a set of organs, proves a propensity, or justifies the predication of a character
therefrom ? Does the size of a man's hand, or the physical formation and power of his arm, prove, because he possesses great strength, that he is fond of hard labour, or has a
propensity for laborious pursuits ? We have seen little and delicate men who have taken to manual industry and become strong-armed by practice from the extremest

degree of primary weakness ; and physical giants, on the other hand, who have never taken to greater toil than
that of the brain, nor wielded a

much

"heavier

weapon

than a goose

quill.

cerebral capacity is of the skull, there is nothing to indicate that the brain, like the feeble arm, may not develop by exercise, a

Nay, though a certain amount of indicated by the form and dimensions

collapse and diminish from the want of it ; nor to show that portions of the brain may not be largely developed and exercised at one period of life, and wholly unexercised

PROPENSITY.
at another

75

just as

much

as that a

man who may have


to fortune, or

toiled fifty years,

and Suddenly succeeds

slowly matures it during that period, all at once abandons his hard physical labour, and becomes a mere overseer or master, employing and directing the labour of others,
If size of or retires altogether into the leisure of life. cerebral organization meant propensity instead of merely power or capacity, the propensity would be persistently

and continuously manifested from the beginning to the end of existence but many men's lives are only a per;

sistent contradiction

to

their

cerebral

development, as

much
fine

as the lives of others are a contradiction to their

No one can look on the energies and physical strength. head of Shakespeare without being struck with the
of-

impress

pre-eminent intellect which

it

bears

but a

whether Nature it still arises question with regard to this evidence precedently, and stamped the physical gave
that calm and concentrated aspect of mental energy and seated power, or whether the triumdid not enlarge the phant progress of achievement and open the windows of the soul, and thereby expression

formation with

mould the physical material to its exposition, just as hand with its cunning, and modifies practice indues the right nervous and muscular development of the exercised arm the
into

harmony with

its use.

If there be such evidence for

the propensity as phrenologists have contended, where is evidence for energetic achievement, and of culpable and

But it is utterly fatal to all this degrading neglect ? upon assumption that Propensity is not Material, argument nor an attribute of Matter. It is no more Material than we
have already shown Feeling to be. There is no other propensity known as an attribute of matter, than the propensities of gravitation, attraction, repulsion, and chemical
affinity,

which are not

living, but

dead

not inherent, but

factitious

powers purely physical, and variable

under

76

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

vital

varying physical circumstances. Moral propensity is a and a living power wholly metaphysical, and
incapable therefore of being evidenced by the dimensions of a physical organ, or the relative preponderance of The biologist who does not physical arrangements.

know

this is little

better than a

mere

materialist, like

Epicurus, and must be profoundly ignorant of metaphysics, without which such conclusions as he draws cannot

Matter is but a fourth legitimately be even approached. part of the elements which go to the constitution of a

human

being, as we have shown at the outset of these chapters ; and the phrenologist who proceeds to assert the
existence of propensity on the bare evidence of physical or material development omits consideration of three-

fourths of the elements necessary to the determination of the subject, and is no wiser than he who, looking at a set of palsied and paralytic limbs, would assert, on the

bare ground of their apparent size and formation, that the possessor of them must be able to walk and leap. Physical development can at best give partial evidence
of Capacity only, not of Propensity, and only partial evidence we insist, for men are not uniformly strong in proportion
to their

appearance of strength, nor uniformly activeto

minded in proportion

their

appearance or capacity,

The intensity, the vigour, or even possession of intellect. and the quantity of the vital power, purely immaterial and beyond the range of scientific investigation, have

much

to do with character, as well as all the circumstances which attend its development, and, as external influences, And the quality and test and call it into operation.

texture of the material elements,


at last

when matter

itself is

condescended on, has more to do with its sustained activity and enduring power than that crude, primary,

and

dominant

assumption

of

the

phrenologist

the

superficial appearance of

mere brute weight or quantity.

EXERCISE AND DEVELOPMENT.


fro

77

trust the strength of a rope merely any more than he would endeavour to make a rope of sand because sand will bear his weight ivhen he stands upon it yet the phrenologist's predications of human character are just as illogically based and

sane

man would
thick,

because

it is

such conclusions and misdirected efforts and the honest mind, to which truth is everyA thing, cannot be too earnestly warned against them. deal of what mental and moral power may be in good achievement is evidenced by the small piecemeal and
inferred
as

would

be,

inglorious labours of that being, too much despised among mankind the poor Plodder ; for just as the Bees send
forth a thousand workers to gather wax and honey for the hive, which at the end of the flower season contains a plentitude of treasure and fortune, so the Plodder, intent on achieving some worthy aim beyond the instantaneous

little,

energy of his powers, calculates the value of little by and adds under the sanction of forbearing time

his thousandth time repeated contribution to his work, until it at last swells by slow but steady increase into

leave a

the full development of his purpose, and he is enabled to monument of his industry behind him not less
respectable, sanctified as it is by the fortitude of patience and the heroism of perseverance, and often as beneficial to mankind as the triumphs and masterpieces of genius
itself.

Who

only, or that the


hill

will say that small things are contemptible Ant is not the greater a giant from the

very disproportion between

its pigmy personality and its the exponent of a grander and more heroic will than genius oft can claim as its associate? And

mighty

so of these small

mental organs in men, on the ground

of which

phrenologists would predicate failure in the intellectual achievements of life. It is the exercised
little

limb of the

man that

not the idle arm of the giant.

contains the developed strength, And the intellect, too,

78

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

improves by action. It is a mistake to suppose that the skull is a hard incasement of bone which allows no
it is an arch strong as a its prisoner groined vault of masonry to resist pressure from without, but it is the very reversal of an arch, with all its powers of resistance inverted and turned against itself, when

enlargement of

opposed to pressure from within. Let us then, by every attribute of our manhood, resist and defy these miserable doctrines that would foredoom our noblest powers, and
" write the scaring word impossibility across our paths the arrogant fiat of charlatans and quacks. No cranium, "

no physical form of our organization, exhibits at the outset of this life the full development of which it is Adequate exercise only can give it that. The capable. metaphysical part of our being is the dominant part the animating, energising, and controlling power and
the physical is merely subjective to it, just as external matter also is to the forces which operate upon it. It is quite as baseless and arrogant an assumption to say
that the physical development is the cause of propensity, The very as that it is the cause of feeling and of life. reverse is the case ; for life, and feeling, and propensity, on the contrary, are the causes of the physical develop-

ment, which never would grow an inch from childhood to It is impossible to reason further age but for them.
therefore with those who, assuming the position of philosophers, mistake the effect for the cause, and the cause for the effect, and invert the whole principles of logic and sequences of truth to arrive at their ridiculous
for to them truth must appear only to be and error only to be truth an idiosyncracy as compared with which even lunacy has some lucid intervals

conclusions

error,

in its favour.

But the

result of all these various considerations of the

being and faculties of man, his internal Consciousness

DANGER OF ERROR.

79

and hie contact with and knowledge of external reality, will serve very little purpose to us if we have not learned from them higher and better powers of discrimination than we were aware of before we began the study in which we have been engaged if we have not learned that there are three great regions with which our responsibility, our high and accountable moral life is in contact
:

that there is a reality around us consistent, truthful, and at least as stable as ourselves, in which the scene of present life is cast, and in reference to which its duties

have to be wrought out in such a manner that it is of the highest consequence we should so use and learn to know
our faculties and powers as not to be negligent nor allow ourselves to be deceived that there is a coming reality
in futurity before us, after the limited present has passed away, likely to demand for its experience a higher fitness

in point

realization

and

of intelligence, capacity, and purity for its and that there is also a region present now, possible for ever, in which error, contradiction, and

confusion hold, and may continue to hold, that Saturnalia of distortion and misrepresentation, wilfully deceiving and

being deceived

which

it

is

the only chaos full of reaction and horror possible to imagine can be or ever has been

realised in an Eternity presided over by Divine and immaculate intelligence where will is free and moral action a responsibility a very Hell from the intensity and the

perpetuity of

its

more than maddening


;

incompatibilities.

Right and Wrong divide the universe by a clear, vivid and unmistakable line on the one side of which is truth,

and eternally trustworthy, and on the other falsehood and interminable error a shifting quicksand, a treacherous quagmire, blinding and betraying its reckless victims the region of inextricable and fatal flounderingstable, sure

of everlasting self-contradiction. In this age we are beset on all sides with dangers, and

80
tiled

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


with hazy philosophies propounded by didactic who seem as industriously engaged against us as if

theorists,
it

Candour was some protection


is still

were one of the highest merits of life to lead us astray. at one time, and, though it

indispensable ty> integrity of judgment, it requires often high and cultivated intelligence along with it to enable us fully to escape deception for the world has accepted that mischievous and plausible error that every man is entitled to have his own opinion, and apparently to
;

a fallacy before which the publicly proclaim and teach it whole principles of sound and truthful reasoning are subPerverted, and error endowed with universal licence.
it may yet avail some reader of these pages to point out that every one is not entitled to have his own opinion, and that those who claim such a right do it at the expense

haps

of their truthfulness and accuracy of judgment, and at the peril of all the errors into which they mislead others

and are themselves certain


those

to fall

for

we doubt whether

who
the

know

repeat this popular aphorism about opinion difference between an Opinion and a Con-

Let us ask then, is every man, or any man, hold error when he has the option of reit? Can he free himself of his moral responjecting sibility to hold the truth, and nothing but the truth?
viction.

entitled

to

truth, is it

Opinion ? Is it truth ? And if it be not anything but tmtruth falsehood and error ? To show that Opinion is not never is truth let us illustrate the difference between it and Conviction. When a man looks upon an object before him, such as a tree, for

But what

is

example, he cannot help perceiving that cannot convince himself it is not a tree.

it

is a tree he Nay, though he

deny
of

it

to be a tree, his denial will not enable


it

him

to

believe

what

Its appearance it is will not vary or alter to


is
it.

not a tree.

and self-evidence accommodate his

denial or wish to disbelieve

The

tree will continue,

OPINION AND CONVICTION.

81

just what

in spite of all his mental resistance, to appear and to be it is and what he perceives it to be and such a
;

It is self-evidenced and perception is a Conviction. of our will ; for a Conviction is a perception independent

either of the

mind or the

senses which is unalterable

the exercise of will or choice.

by But suppose that two per-

sons looking at a tree go into a discussion as to the age of the tree which is not cut, and the age of which cannot

be accurately ascertained till it is cut and the transverse section of the stem with its rings revealed and that, without knowing anything of the

number

of those rings the

tree is only eighty years old, the other, that it is upwards of a hundred these are Opinions. The one holds by the one years view, and the other holds by the other, on the maxim that

two persons dispute and argue, one, that the

every one

is

entitled to his opinion,

and that one man's

opinion is as good as another. Yes, but what of the truth involved? Will the tree become only eighty years old to please the one person, or a hundred years old to

Are the opinions worth anything as a please the other ? matter of fact where the absolute truth, and it alone, is
requisite ?

And when

is

it

not requisite,

if

anything be

Can either opinion be requisite about the matter at all ? relied on and accepted as truth if a question of the slightest importance depended upon it ? They may be called approximations to the truth.
trutTi ?

But are approximations


is

tJic

And
?

is

anything that

not the truth other than


is

untruth

In every instance in which the actual truth

Conrequired an opinion is worth absolutely nothing. viction is a perception of the truth itself Opinion is only a guess at it. No man is entitled to hold it as the truth, or act upon it as such, for it is plain that lie can at will
;

change his opinions, but the truth will not change.

But we are told that men must form opinions and act upon them in the business of life. Perhaps many men
G

82
do so
;

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.


but let us show the fallacy of their so doing by ar Very lately a celebrated African traveller

illustration.

was said to have been murdered by savage natives while pursuing his magnanimous journey in the interior of that country. When the news reached England, they were
fully credited by some and wholly discredited by others. Neither of these parties by believing or disbelieving could fix the actual fact ; their views of the

matter were mere opinions. But what we have to do with here is, whether these opinions, either or both of them,
were, or could be, of any use as the basis of any action If the that required to be taken in the circumstances.
parties who believed the illustrious traveller to be dead were to take any action, what could their action be on the

basis of their opinion ? merely to send out at

Could

it

be anything more than

their leisure

and ascertain the

reality of the fact, which they held to be true already hurry in the matter being unnecessary and out of the

question, because the traveller they were satisfied was really dead ? On the other hand, what action could those

who did
for

not believe the news of the traveller's murder

take on the basis of their opinion?

Was

it

necessary

them to do anything at all, seeing they were satisfied It would be to discredit the wisdom that all was right ?

own opinion were they to do anything. Where, then, is the value of opinion as a basis of action in such a case? and where is there any case to which it better
of their

applies? Any action taken by those who considered it necessary to act in the case of the eminent traveller we have mentioned was not taken on the basis of these
It did opinions, but by steering clear altogether of them. occur in a sensible way, and as matter of fact, that certain

of the companions of the traveller's journey had returned that was matter of fact. Part of the contemplated strength of the enterprise was not with it, whatever its condition

OPINION AND CONVICTION.

83

might

It was therefore obvious as matter of fact and be. of duty that we were bound to send out aid to replace the ascertained deficiency, so that, if in time, it might not

These were truths and obligations not opinions arrogantly expressed, but duty clearly ascertained, without absolutely fixing anything but the wisdom
be required in vain.
of distrusting opinions altogether. True, we are told that men take and act on legal opinions day by day. But this is really a confusion of ideas arising from mis-

lawyer has the facts of a case application of language. laid before him, and a sound lawyer states what the law is in reference to these facts, not what in his opinion it is
;

not what he thinks, but what he knows

it

to

be

and just

in proportion as he states what he competently knows is he a prudent adviser, and as he states what he merely
thinks is

he utterly unsafe. opinion, even from a lawyer, is of very little value, and the word is really a misnomer for the purpose Clients wish to be into which it is so applied in law.

A mere

formed of the law which

is

certainly applicable to their

case, not of that uncertain thing opinion, the

accuracy of

which has no present


ascertained
great

by

certainty, but has wholly to be a future result. Opinionative people are

self-deceivers,

and besides being very dogmatic

members
misled.

of society, they are the most easy of all to be They are continually encountering those who

cannot be made, and are under no obligation, to think as they do, but who could, if they chose to flatter, easily encourage error rather than oppose it, with the most

obvious disadvantage to the opinionist. Surely such should take warning for their own sakes, as well people as for the comfort of others, to refrain from making
dogmatists of themselves
;

for after all their labour

and

It persistency their opinions are really worth nothing. is a very small unction to lay to their souls to say their

84

BEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

opinions are as good as the opinions of others ; for all opinions are utterly worthless, and there is but one set of
fools

those who pertinaciously insist on opinions respected, namely, those who If there be noisy discussion and intemrespect them. perate language it is sure to be over an opinion indisgreater than
their

having

creetly maintained, and not over a truth that for opinionative people spend many words

it

is held,

and much

labour to prove Nothing. They may as well rest assured at once that Truth is everything, and that, besides Truth,

But if they will not discipline their there is only Error. own minds to appreciate this fact, how can they expect to be armed by accurate logical habit to correct the" errors
fallen
into,
or,

worse

and more dangerous


?

still,

the

impostures practised by others

It ought ever to be re-

membered that opinions are conclusions in the dark, before the truth is ascertained, about which all minds
justifiably differ.

and

may

and inevitable
in the wrong.

Assertion of Opinion, therefore, provokes only certain defeat, for in such encounters the person who merely disputes the Opinion is not and never can be
It is the person

who

asserts the Opinion

who

in error, for the simple reason that Opinion is not and that in the absence of the truth the Opinion truth, After the truth is cannot justifiably be insisted on.
is

apparent, and

can no longer be resisted, the region of Opinion disappears, and anything but Conviction is im-

possible.

So much,

then, for

the

proposition

that every one


is

is

entitled to have his

own Opinion, which

only the most

arrogant assertion that can possibly be propounded by those who are determined at all hazards to stick to and
justify their errors, and inflict on others their own imTruth, and perious, petulant, and blundering wilfulness. that manifestation of it which justifies Conviction, will

OPINION AND CONVICTION.

85

very rarely be disputed or mistaken, but Opinion can never justifiably claim to be acquiesced in. It may be modestly stated, but never as more than an Opinion, and
it

would be better even then that


for.

it

should wait

till it

is

asked

We have endeavoured, and the task is by no means an easy one, nor one on the results of which we can very greatly congratulate ourselves, to popularise within a reasonable limit one of the most abstruse and important
departments of philosophy, strictly in unison with, though antecedent to the subject of Natural Magic, and which
deserves from

than
tion,

it

obtains as a

mankind a much more respectful attention means of self-knowledge, demonstradirection.

and mental

Many

of our readers will

probably have tired of the subject before reaching the present page, even though our matter has been necessarily
limited to our space, and to the aim of dealing lucidly and fully with a few, rather than ponderously and exhaus-

with many things for our facts have been selected and explained at considerable length for the purpose of showing that there are elements essential to accuracy of judgment which are greatly neglected in the age in which we live an age in which correct and comtively
; :

petent

judgment

is

pre-eminently

required to guard

against deceptions ever increasing, and becoming more subtle and intricate in their character from the ad-

vancing discovery
ances.

without

of new scientific facts and appliIf these chapters are the means of showing undue tediousness to those who do care for

such subjects the powers of accurate perception and conviction at our command, and the absence of any
necessity
for

forming fixed and positive

matters of which

we

opinions on that are not thoroughly certain

no mere opinion is worth forming after all that the judgment may in all cases be safely and wisely suspended

86

LEING AND FACULTIES OF MAN.

without any practical inconvenience till the truth itself appears let us hope they will sufficiently arm the prudent and

a due respect for wisdom. prefer to learn in the school of experience to the lessons that instructor applies.
those

who have

Those who must be left

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAG10,

SIB

WALTER

SCOTT, BART.

LETTER
Extent

I.

and

interest

of the subject-

Science employed by ancient govern-

and enslave their subjects Influence of the supernatural upon ignorant minds Means employed by the ancient Magicians to establish their authority Derived from a knowledge of the phenomena of Nature From the influence of narcotic drugs upon the victims of their delusion From every branch of science Acoustics Hydrostatics Mechanics Optics- M. Salments
to deceive

verte's

work on

the occult sciences

Object of the following Letters.

DEAR SIR WALTER, As it was at your suggestion that I undertook to draw up a popular account of those prodigies of the material world which have received the appellation of
Natural Magic, I have availed myself of the privilege of introducing it under the shelter of your name. Although
I cannot hope to produce a volume at all approaching
in interest to that which you have contributed to the Family Library, yet the popular character of some of the topics which belong to this branch of Demonology may atone for the defects of the following Letters ; and I shall deem it no slight honour if they shall be considered
as forming an appropriate supplement to

MY

your valuable

work.

90

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC

The subject of Natural Magic is one of great extent as well as of deep interest. In its widest range, it
embraces the history of the governments and the superstitions of ancient times,-^ pf the means by which they maintained their influence over the human mind, of the assistance which they derived from the arts and the sciences,

and from a knowledge of the powers and phenomena of When the tyrants of antiquity were unable or unwilling to found their sovereignty on the affections and interests of their people, they sought to entrench themselves in the strongholds of supernatural influence, and to
nature.

rule with the delegated authority of heaven. The prince, the priest, and the sage, were leagued in a dark conspiracy
to deceive

and enslave

their species

and man who

re-

fused his submission to a being like himself, became the obedient slave of a spiritual despotism, and willingly bound himself in chains when they seemed to have been

forged by the gods.

This system of imposture was greatly favoured by the


ignorance of these early ages. The human mind is at all times fond of the marvellous, and the credulity of the individual may be often measured by his own attachment

When knowledge was the property of only was by no means difficult to employ it in the subjugation of the great mass of society. An acquaintance with the motions of the heavenly bodies, and the variato the truth.

one

caste, it

tions in the state of the atmosphere, enabled its possessor


to predict astronomical

and meteorological phenomena

with a frequency and an accuracy which could not fail The power of to invest him with a divine character.
bringing down fire from the heavens, even at times when the electric influence was itself in a state of repose, could

be regarded only as a
rendering the
sistible

gift

from heaven.
insensible to
;

The power
fire

of

human body

was an

irre-

instrument of imposture

and in the combinations

BESOURCE3 OF THE ANCIENT MAGIC.

91

embrocations on the

of chemistry, and the influence of drugs and soporific human frame, the ancient magicians

found their most available resources.

The

secret use

which was thus made of

scientific dis-

remarkable inventions,- has no doubt prevented many of them from reaching the present times but though we are very ill informed respecting the
coveries and of

progress of the ancients in various departments of the physical sciences, yet we have sufficient evidence that

almost every branch of knowledge had contributed its wonders to the magician's budget, and we may even
obtain some insight into the scientific acquirements of former ages, by a diligent study of their fables and their
miracles.

The

science of Acoustics furnished the ancient sorcerers

with some of their best deceptions. The imitation of thunder in their subterranean temples could not fail to
indicate

the presence of a supernatural agent. The golden virgins whose ravishing voices resounded through the stone from the river Pacthe temple of Delphos
;

whose trumpet notes scared the robber from the the speaking head which treasure which it guarded and the vocal uttered its oracular responses at Lesbos statue of Memnon, which began at the break of day to accost the rising sun, were all deceptions derived from science, and from a diligent observation of the phenomena
tolus,
; ;

of nature.
principles of Hydrostatics were equally available The marvellous fountain the work of deception. which Pliny describes in the Island of Andros as dis-

The

in

charging wine for seven days, and water during the rest of the year, the spring of oil which broke out in Eome
to

the three
at

welcome the return of Augustus from the Sicilian war, empty urns which filled themselves with wine the annual feast of Bacchus in the city of Elis, the

92

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

glass tomb of Belus which was full of oil, and which, when once emptied by Xerxes, could not again be filled.

weeping statues, and the perpetual lamps of the were all the obvious effects of the equilibrium ancients,
the

and pressure of 'fluids. Although we have no direct evidence that the philosophers of antiquity were skilled in Mechanics, yet there are indications of their knowledge, by no means equivocal, in the erection of the Egyptian obelisks, and in the transportation of huge masses of stone, and their subsequent elevation to great heights in their temples. The powers which they employed, and the mechanism by

which they operated, have been studiously concealed, but their existence may be inferred from results otherwise inexplicable, and the inference derives additional confirmation from the mechanical arrangements which seem to have formed a part of their religious impostures. When in some of the infamous mysteries of ancient Eome, the unfortunate victims were carried off by the gods, there is reason to believe that they were hurried away by the power of machinery and when Apollonius, conducted by
;

the Indian sages to the temple of their god, felt the earth rising and falling beneath his feet like the agitated sea, he was no doubt placed upon a moving floor capable of

The rapid descent imitating the Leavings of the waves. of those who consulted the oracle in the cave of Trophonius, the moving tripods which Apollonius saw in the Indian temples, the walking statues at Antium, and
in the

Temple of Hierapolis, and the wooden pigeon of Archytas, are specimens of the mechanical resources of the ancient magic.
But of
all

the sciences Optics

is

the most fertile in

marvellous expedients. The power of bringing the remotest objects within the very grasp of the observer, and of swelling into gigantic magnitude the almost invisible

GENERAL OBJECT OF THE .WORK.


boditr-s

93

ol

the material world, never fails to inspire with

astonishment even those who understand the means by

which these prodigies are accomplished. The ancients, indeed, were not acquainted with those combinations of lenses and mirrors which constitute the telescope and the
microscope, but they must have been familiar with the property of lenses and mirrors to form erect and inverted

images of objects. There is reason to think that they employed them to effect the apparition of their gods and in some of the descriptions of the optical displays which
;

hallowed their ancient temples, we recognize


transformations of the

all

the

modern phantasmagoria.

It would be an interesting pursuit to embody the information which history supplies respecting the fables and incantations of the ancient superstitions, and to show

far they can be explained by the scientific knowledge which then prevailed. This task has, to a certain extent, been performed by M. Eusebe Salverte, in a work on the but notoccult sciences, which has recently appeared withstanding the ingenuity and learning which it dis;

how

plays, the individual facts are too scanty to support the speculations of the author, and the descriptions are too

meagre to satisfy the curiosity of the reader.* In the following letters I propose to take a wider range, and to enter into more minute and popular details. The principal phenomena of nature, and the leading combinations of art, which bear the impress of a supernatural character, will pass under our review, and our attention
will

sense,

be particularly called to those singular illusions of by which the most perfect organs either cease to

* -We must caution the young reader against some of the vie\v=? given in M. Salverte 's work. In his anxiety to account for ev^y tiling miraculous by natural causes, he has ascribed to the same origin some of those events in sacred history which Christians cannot

but regard as the result of divine agency.

94

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC


and and the creations of the mind pre;

perform their functions, or perform them faithlessly

where the

efforts

dominate over the direct perceptions of external nature. In executing this plan, the task of selection is rendered

by the superabundance of materials, from the variety of judgments for which these Modern science may be materials must be prepared. as one vast miracle, whether we view it in regarded
extremely
difficult,

as well as

Almighty Being, by whom its objects and laws were formed, or to the feeble intellect of man, by which its depths have been sounded, and its mysteries And if the philosopher who is familiarized explored
relation to the
its
:

wonders, and who has studied them as necessary results of general laws, never ceases to admire and adore their Author, how great should be their effect upon less
with
its

gifted minds,

who must

ever view

them in the

light oi

has in all ages sought for a inexplicable prodigies. sign from heaven, and yet he has been habitually blind to If the millions of wonders with which he is surrounded.
the following pages should contribute to abate this dein plorable indifference to all that is grand and sublime

Man

the universe, and if they should inspire the reader with a portion of that enthusiasm of love and gratitude which

can alone prepare the mind for its final triumph, the labours of the author will not have been wholly fruitless.

POWER AND STRUCTURE OF THE

EYE.

95

LETTER
Tlie

II.

Eye the most important of our organs Popular description of it The eye is the most fertile source of mental illusions Disappearance of objects ivhen their images fall upon the
nerve
l>ase

of the optic
Deceptions

Disappearance of

objects

when

seen obliquely

Luminous figures arising from viewing objects in a faint Irght created by pressure on the eye either from external causes or from
the fulness

of the blood-vessels
effects

Ocular spectra or accidental

produced by intense light Influence of the imagination in viewing these spectra Remarkable illusion produced by this affection of the eye Duration of impressions of
light

colours

Remarkable

on the eye

Thaumatrope

Disappearance of halves of
illusion described.

objects or of one

Improvements upon it suggested of two persons Jn-

sensibility of the eye to particular colours

Remarkable optical

OF all the organs by which we acquire a knowledge of external nature the eye is the most remarkable and the most important. By our other senses the information we
obtain is comparatively limited. The touch and the taste extend no further than the surface of our own bodies.

The

sense of smell is exercised within a very narrow

sphere, and that of recognizing sounds is limited to the distance at which we hear the bursting of a meteor and

the crash of a thunderbolt.


less

But the eye enjoys a bound-

range of observation. It takes cognizance not only of other worlds belonging to the solar system, but of other
systems of worlds infinitely removed into the immensity of space and when aided by the telescope, the invention
;

of

human wisdom,

it

is

able to discover the forms, the

phenomena, and the movements of bodies whose distance

06
is

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


as inexpressible in language as
it

is

inconceivable in

thought.

While the human eye has been admired by ordinary observers for the beauty of its form, tho power of its movements, and the variety of its expression, it has excited the wonder of philosophers by the exquisite mechanism of
and its singular adaptation to the variety of which it has to serve. The eyeball is nearly purposes It is formed globular, and is about an inch in diameter.
its interior,

externally
coat,

by a tough opaque membrane called the sclerotic which forms the white of the eye, with the exception

of a small circular portion in front called the cornea. This portion is perfectly transparent, and so tough in its

nature as to afford a powerful resistance to external Immediately within the cornea, and in contact injury.

with

is the aqueous humour, a clear fluid, which it, occupies only a small part of the front of the eye. Within this humour is the iris, a circular membrane with a hole

in

its

centre called the pupil.

The

colour of the eye

resides in this

membrane, which has the curious property of contracting and expanding so as to diminish or enlarge an effect which human ingenuity has not the pupil, been able even to imitate. Behind the iris is suspended
the crystalline lens in a fine transparent capsule or bag of It is then succeeded the same form with itself. by the

which resembles the transparent white of an egg, and fills up the rest of the eye. Behind the vitreous humour, there is spread out on the inside of the eyeball a fine delicate membrane, called the retina, which is an expansion of the optic nerve, entering the back of the eye, and communicating with the brain. A perspective view and horizontal section of the left
vitreous Immour,

eye,

shown
its

idea of
obscura,

structure.

in the annexed figure, will convey a popular It is, as it were, a small camera

by means of which the

pictures

of external

OCULAR ILLUSIONS.

97

objects are painted on the retina, and in a way of which we are ignorant, it conveys the impression of them to the brain.
Fig.
1.

This wonderful organ may be considered as the sentinel which guards the pass between the worlds of matter and of spirit, and through which all their communications are The optic nerve is the channel by which interchanged. the mind peruses the handwriting of Nature on the retina, and through which it transfers to that material tablet its The eye is consequently the decisions and its creations.

When the indications principal seat of the supernatural. of the marvellous are addressed to us through the ear, the
startled without being deceived, and reason succeed in suggesting some probable source of the but when the illusion by which we have been alarmed

mind may be

may

eye in solitude sees before


in
their

it

the forms
in their

of

life,
;

fresh

colours

and

vivid

outline

when

its

or departed friends are suddenly presented to view; when visible bodies disappear and reappear and when it beholds without any intelligible cause
distant
;

objects,

no

whether real or imaginary, for whose presence cause can be assigned, the conviction of super-

98
natural

LETTERS ON NATUBAL MAGIC.


agency becomes under ordinary circumstances
it is

unavoidable.

Hence

not only an amusing but an useful occupa-

tion to acquire a knowledge of those causes which are capable of producing so strange a belief, whether it arises

from the delusions which the mind practises upon

itself,

or from the dexterity and science of others. I shall therefore proceed to explain those illusions which have
their origin in the eye,

occasionally exhibited in particular particular circumstances.

whether they are general, or only persons, and under

There are few persons aware that when they look with one eye there is some particular object before them to which they are absolutely blind. If we look with the right eye this point is always about 15 to the right of the object which

we are viewing, or to the right of the axis of the eye or the point of most distinct vision. If we look with the left .eye the point is as far to the left. In order to be convinced oi
this curious fact, which was discovered by M. Mariotte, place two coloured wafers upon a sheet of white paper at the distance of three inches, and look at the left-hand wafer
at the distance of about 11 or 12 inches, care to keep the eye straight above the wafer, and taking the line which joins the eyes parallel to the line which When this is done, and the left eye joins the wafers.

with the right eye

closed, the right-hand wafer will no longer be visible. The same effect will be produced if we close the right eye and.

look with the left eye at the right-hand wafer. When we examine the retina to discover to what part of it this insensibility, to light belongs, we find that the image of the invisible wafer has fallen on the base of the optic nerve, or the

place where this nerve enters the eye and expands itself to form the retina. This point is shown in the preceding figure by a convexity at the place where the nerve enters the eye.

But though

light of ordinary intensity

makes no im-

SPOT ON THE RETINA. ETC.

99

pression upon this part of the eye, a very strong light does, and even when we use candles or highly luminous

bodies in place of wafers the body does not wholly disappear, but leaves behind a faint cloudy light, without, however, giving anything like an image of the object from which the light proceeds.

When the objects are white wafers upon a UacJc ground, the white wafer absolutely disappears, and the space which it covers appears to be completely black ; and as the light
which illuminates a landscape
is

not

much

different

from

that of a white wafer, we should expect, whether we use one or both eyes,* to see a black or a dark spot upon every landscape, within 15 of the point which most

The Divine Artificer, particularly attracts our notice. however, has not left his work thus imperfect. Though
the base of the optic nerve
directly
is insensible to light that falls

upon

it,

yet

receiving luminous surround it, and the consequence of this is, that when the wafer disappears, the spot which it occupied, in place of being black, has always the same colour as the ground

has been made susceptible- of impressions from the parts which


it

upon which the wafer is laid, being white when the wafer is placed upon a white ground, and red when it is placed upon a red ground. This curious effect may be rudely illustrated by comparing the retina to a sheet of blottingpaper, and the base of the optic nerve to a circular portion
of
it

covered with a piece of sponge.

If a shower falls

upon the paper, the protected part will not be wetted by the rain which falls upon the sponge that covers it, but in a few seconds it will be as effectually wetted by the moisture which it absorbs from the wet paper with which
* When both eyes are open, the object whose image falls upon the insensible spot of the one eye is seen by the other, so that though it is not invisible, yet it will only be half as luminous, and therefore

two dark spots ought to be

seen.

100
it is

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


surrounded.
is

In like manner the insensible spot on stimulated by a borrowed light, and the apparent defect is so completely removed that its existonce can be determined only by the experiment already
the retina
described.

Of the same character, but far more general in its effects, and important in its consequences, is another illusion of the eye which presented itself to me several years ago.

When
mind

the eye

is

cular object, or

when

steadily occupied in viewing any partiit takes a fixed direction while the

is occupied with any engrossing topic of speculation or of grief, it suddenly loses sight of, or becomes blind to, objects seen indirectly, or upon which it is not fully

This takes place whether we use one or both and the object which disappears will reappear without any change in the position of the eye, while other objects will vanish and revive in succession without any
directed?
eyes,

apparent cause. If a sportsman, for example, is watching with intense interest the motions of one of his dogs, his

companion, though seen with perfect clearness by indirect


vision, will vanish,

and the light of the heath or of the

sky will close in upon the spot which he occupied.

In order to witness this illusion, put a little bit of white paper on a green cloth, and within three or four At the inches of it, place a narrow strip of white paper.
distance of twelve or eighteen inches, fix one eye steadily upon the little bit of white paper, and in a short time a
part or even the whole of the strip of paper will vanish as It will if it had been removed from the green cloth.

again reappear, and again vanish, the effect depending greatly on the steadiness with which the eye is kept fixed. This illusion takes place when both the eyes are open,

though
closed.

it

is easier to observe it when one of them The same thing happens when the object

is

is

luminous.

When

a candle

is

thus seen by indirect vision,

OBLIQUE VISION
it

FEEBLE LIGHT.
it

101

never wholly disappears, but

cloudy mass, the centre of which

is blue,

spreads itself out into a encircled with a

bright ring of yellow light. This inability of the eye to preserve a sustained vision of objects seen obliquely, is curiously compensated by
the greater sensibility of those parts of the eye that have this defect. The eye has the power of seeing objects with perfect distinctness, only when it is directed straight

upon them ; that is, all objects seen indirectly are seen indistinctly ; but it is a curious circumstance, that when we wish to obtain a sight of a very faint star, such as one of the satellites of Saturn, we can see it most distinctly
Ly looking away from
it,

and when the eye

is

turned full

upon

immediately disappears. Effects still more remarkable are produced in the eye when it views objects that are difficult to be seen from the
illuminated.

it, it

small degree of light with which they happen to be The imperfect view which we obtain of

such objects forces us to fix the eye more steadily upon them ; but the more exertion we make to ascertain what
they
are,

the greater difficulties

do we encounter to

accomplish our object. The eye is actually thrown into a state of the most painful agitation, the object will swell

and contract, and partly disappear, and it will again become visible when the eye has recovered from the delirium into which it has been thrown. This phenomenon may be most distinctly seen when the objects in a room
are illuminated with the feeble

gleam of a

fire

almost

extinguished

be observed in daylight by the sportsman when he endeavours to mark upon the monotonous heath the particular spot where moor -game has
;

but

it

may

alighted. Availing himself of the slightest difference of tint in the adjacent heath, he keeps his eye steadily fixed

on

it

as he advances, but

whenever the contrast of illumina-

tion is feeble, he will invariably lose sight of his

mark

102
and
lose
if
it

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


the retina is capable of taking a second time.
it

up,

it is

only to

is likely to be most efficacious in the there is just sufficient light to render white objects faintly visible, and to persons who are either timid Its or credulous must prove a frequent source of alarm.

This illusion

dark,

when

by another condition of the thrown during partial darkness. The pupil expands nearly to the whole width of the iris in order to collect the feeble light which prevails but it is demonstrable that in this state the eye cannot accommodate itself to see near objects distinctly, so that the forms of persons and things actually become more shadowy and confused when they come within the very distance at which we count upon obtaining the best view of them. These affections of the eye are, we are persuaded, very frequent causes of a particular class of apparitions which are seen at night by the young and the ignorant. The spectres
eye, into

influence too is greatly aided

which

it

is

which are conjured up are always ivhite, because no other colour can be seen, and they are either formed out of inanimate objects which reflect more light than others around
them, or of animals or human beings whose colour or change of place renders them more visible in the dark. When
the eye dimly descries an inanimate object whose different parts reflect different degrees of light, its brighter parts

may
it
;

enable the spectator to keep up a continued view of but the disappearance and reappearance of its fainter

parts,

and the change of shape which ensues, will necessarily give it the semblance of a living form, and if it occupies a position which is unapproachable, and where
animate objects cannot find their way, the mind will soon In like manner a transfer to it a supernatural existence.

human

figure shadowed forth in a feeble twilight may undergo similar changes, and after being distinctly seen while it is in a situation favourable for receiving and

PHOSPHORESCENCE OF THE EETINA.


reflecting light,

103

it may suddenly disappear in a position and within the reach of, the observer's eye fully before, and if this evanescence takes place in a path or road where there was no side-way by which the figure could
;

escape, it is not easy for an ordinary mind to efface the impression which it cannot fail to receive. Under such circumstances, we never think of distrusting an organ which we have never found to deceive us and the truth
;

that " seeing is believing," is too universally and too deeply rooted in our nature to admit on admitted, any occasion of a single exception.

of the

maxim

tator bears along with

In these observations we have supposed that the spechim no fears or prejudices, and is

a faithful interpreter of the phenomena presented to his senses but if he is himself a believer in apparitions, and
;

unwilling to receive an ocular demonstration of their reality, it is not difficult to conceive the picture which
will be

caricatured

and Another
examined.
retina,

objects are distorted and indications of his senses, coloured with all .the vivid hues of the imagination.

drawn when external

by the imperfect

class of ocular deceptions have their origin

in a property of the eye

The

fine

which has been very imperfectly nervous fabric which constitutes the

and which extends to the brain, has the singular

property of being phosphorescent Ijy pressure. When we press the eyeball outwards by applying the point of the finger between it and the nose, a circle of light will be " a circle of seen, which Sir Isaac Newton describes as
colours like those in the feather of a peacock's tail." He " if the eye and the finger remain quiet, these adds, that colours vanish in a second of time, but if the finger be

moved with a quavering motion they appear again." In the numerous observations which I have made on these
luminous
circles,

colour but white,

I have never been able to observe any vri.ih the exception of a general red

104:

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

tinge which is seen

when the

eyelids are

closed,

and

produced by the light which passes through them. The luminous circles too always continue while the pressure is applied, and they may be produced as readily after the eye has been long in darkness as when it
is

which

has been recently exposed to light.


is

When

the pressure

very gently applied, so as to compress the


of the
is

substance

retina,

light

is
;

fine pulpy immediately created

when the eye

in total darkness
it,

and when in

this state

light is allowed to fall upon more sensible to light than

the part compressed is any other part, and conse-

quently appears more luminous. If we increase the pressure, the eyeball, being filled with incompressible
protrude all round the point of pressure, and consequently the retina at the protruded part will be compressed by the outward pressure of the contained fluid,
fluids, will

while the retina on each side, namely, under the point of pressure and beyond the protruded part, will be drawn towards the protruded part or dilated. Hence the part under the finger which was originally compressed is now
dilated,

the

adjacent

parts

compressed,

and

the

more

remote parts immediately without this dilated also. Now we have observed, that when the eye is, under these
circumstances, exposed to light, there
circle

shading

off externally

is a bright luminous and internally into total

darkness.
clusions,

We
that
it

when

are led therefore to the important conthe retina is compressed in total


;

darkness

gives out light


it

that

when

it is

compressed
increased
;

when exposed to and that when


pressions.

light, its sensibility to light is


is

under exposure to light, it becomes absolutely blind, or insensible to all luminous imdilated

When

the body

is

in a state of perfect health, this

phosphorescence of the eye shows itself on many occasions. When the eye or the head receives a sudden blow, a

EFFECTS OF PRESSURE ON THE RETINA.

105

In the ac* bright flash of light shoots from the eyeball. of sneezing, gleams of light are emitted from each eye,
both during the inhalation of the air, and during its subsequent protrusion, and in blowing air violently through the nostrils, two patches of light appear above
the axis of the eye and in front of it, while other two luminous spots unite into one, and appear as it were about the point of the nose when the eyes are directed to

turn the eyeball by the action of its own is affected at the place where the muscles are inserted, and there may be seen opposite
it.

When we
the

muscles,

retina

each eye and towards the nose, two semicircles of light, and other two extremely faint towards the temples. At
particular times,

when

the retina

is

more phosphorescent
expanded
into

than

at

others,

these

semicircles are

complete circles of light. In a state of indisposition, the phosphorescence of the


retina appears in new and more alarming forms. When the stomach is under a temporary derangement accom-

panied with headache, the pressure of the blood-vessels upon the retina shows itself, in total darkness, by a faint
blue light floating before the eye, varying iii its shape, and passing away at one side. This blue light increases
in intensity, becomes green and then yellow, and sometimes rises to red, all these colours being frequently seen at

once, or the mass of light shades off into darkness. When consider the variety of distinct forms which in a state of perfect health the imagination can conjure up when

we

looking into a burning fire, or upon an irregularly shaded surface,* it is easy to conceive how the masses of coloured
*

A very curious

example of the influence of the imagination in

creating distinct forms out of an irregularly shaded surface, is mentioned in the life of Peter Heaman, a Swede, who was executed
for piracy

and murder at Leith in 1822.

We

give

it

in his

words

["

own Ona

106

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

light which float before the eye may be moulded by the same power into those fantastic and natural shapes wliich 20 often haunt the couch of the invalid, even when the mind retains its energy, and is conscious of the illusion In other cases, temporary under which it labours.

blindness

is produced by pressure upon the optic nerve, or upon the retina, and under the excitation of fever or delirium, when the physical cause which produces spectral

forms is at its height, there is superadded a powerful influence of the mind, which imparts a new character to the phantasms of the senses.
to complete the history of the illusions which in the eye, it will be necessary to give some originate account of the phenomena called ocular spectra, or acci-

In order

If we cut a figure out of red paper, and dental colours. placing it on a sheet of white paper, view it steadily for some seconds with one or both eyes fixed on a particular part of it, we shall observe the red colour to become less If we then turn the eye from the red figure the white paper, we shall see a distinct green figure, upon which is the spectrum, or accidental colour of the red
brilliant.
figure.

With

differently coloured figures

we

shall ob-

One remarkable thing was, one day as we mended a sail, it being a veiy thin one, after laying it upon deck 'in folds, I took the tar-brush and tarred it over in the places which I thought needed But when we hoisted it up, I was astonished to be strengthened.
had put upon it represented a gallows and a without a head. The head was lying beside him. He was complete, body, thighs, legs, arms, and in every shape like a man. Now, I oftentimes made remarks upon it, and repeated them
to see that the tar I

"

man under

it

I always said to them all, you may depend upon it I afterwards took down the sail something will happen. on a calm day, and sewed a piece of canvas over the figure to cover it, for I could not bear to have it always before my eyes." to the others.

that

OCULAR SPECTRA.

107

serve differently coloured spectra, as in the following


table
:

Colour of the
Original figures.

Colour of the Spectral figures.

Bed,

Orange, Yellow,
Green, Blue,
Indigo,
Violet,

Bluish-green. Blue.
Indigo. Reddish-violet.

Orange-red.
Orange-yellow. Yellow. Black.

White,
Black,

White.

The two last of figures, may be

these experiments, viz., white and black satisfactorily made by using a white

medallion on a dark ground, and a black profile figure. The spectrum of the former will be found to be black,

and that of the latter white. These ocular spectra often show themselves without .any effort on our part, and even without our knowledge. In a highly -painted room illuminated by the sun, those parts of the furniture on which the sun does not directly
fall

have always the opposite or accidental colour. Jf the sun shines through a chink in a red window-curtain, its light will appear green, varying, as in the above table,
with the colour of the curtain; and if we look at the image of a candle reflected from the water in a Uue Whenever, in short, finger glass, it will appear yellow. the eye is affected with one prevailing colour, it sees at the same time the spectral or accidental colour, just as

when

same time

a musical string is vibrating, the ear hears at the its fundamental and its harmonic sounds.

If the prevailing light is wliiie and very strong, the spectra which it produces are no longer black, but of If we look at the sun, for various colours in succession.

example, when near the horizon, or when reflected from

108

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the eye upon

glass or water, so as to moderate its brilliancy, and keep it steadily for a few seconds, we shall see even for hours afterwards, and whether the eye is open

first,

or shut, a spectre of the sun varying in its colours. At with the eye open, it is brownish-red with a slcy-blue border, and when the eye is shut, it is green with a red
border.

The

more

vivid, till the impression is gradually

red becomes more brilliant, and the Uue worn off; but

even when they become very faint, they by a gentle pressure on the eyeball.

may

be revived

Some eyes are more susceptible than others of these spectral impressions, and Mr. Boyle mentions an individual who continued for years to see the spectre of the
sun when he looked upon bright objects. This fact to Locke so interesting and inexplicable, that he appeared
Sir Isaac Newton respecting its cause, and drew from him the following interesting account of a " The similar effect upon himself observation you mention in Mr. Boyle's book of colours, I once made upon myself The manner was this I tvith the hazard of my eyes.

consulted

looked a very little while upon the sun in the lookingglass with my right eye, and then turned my eyes into a dark corner of my chamber, and winked, to observe the impression made, and the circles of colours which encompassed it, and how they decayed by degrees, and at last This I repeated a second and a third time. vanished.

At

the

third

time,
it

colours about

when the phantasm of .light and were almost vanished, intending my

fancy upon them to see their last appearance, I found, to

amazement, that they began to return, and by little little to become as lively and vivid as when I had newly looked upon the sun. But when I ceased to intend

my

and

my
uiy

found

fancy upon them they vanished again. After this, I that, as often as I went into the dark, and intended
as

mind upon them,

when a man

looks earnestly to

OCULAR SPECTRA.
see anything which is difficult to be seen, I could

109

make

the phantasm return without looking any more upon the sun and the oftener I made it return, the more easily I could make it return again. And at length, by repeating
;

any more upon the sun, I made such my eye, that, if I looked upon the clouds, or a book, or any bright object, I saw upon it a round bright spot of light like the sun, and, which is still stranger, though I looked upon the sun with my right eye only, and not with my left, yet my fancy began to
this without looking

an impression on

make an impression upon my


right.

left

eye as well as upon

my

For

if

I shut

my

right eye, and looked

upon a

book or the clouds with my left eye, I could see the spectrum of the sun almost as plain as with my right eye,
if

I did but intend I shut

my

fancy a

little

while upon

it

for at

first, if

right eye, and looked with my left, the of the sun did not appear till I intended my spectrum

my

fancy upon

it

more

easily.

And now

but by repeating, this appeared every time in a few hours' time I had brought

my

eyes to such a pass, that I could look upon no bright object with either eye but I saw the sun before me, so
that I durst neither write nor read
;

but to recover the

myself up in my chamber made for three days together, and used all means in my dark,
use of

my

eyes, shut

power

For if I to direct my imagination from the sun. thought upon him, I presently saw his picture, though I
was in the dark.

But by keeping in the dark, and emmind about other things, I began in three or ploying my and by four days to have more use of my eyes again forbearing to look upon bright objects, recovered them pretty well though not so well but that, for some months
;

spectrums of the sun began to return as often as I began to meditate upon the phenomena, even thougli
after, the

I lay in bed at midnight with now I have been very well for

my

curtains drawn.
years, though I

But

many

am

110

LETTERS ON NATUEAL MAGIC.

apt to think, if I durst venture my eyes, I could still make the phantasm return by the power of my fancy.

This story
observation

I.

tell you, to let you understand, that in the related by Mr. Boyle, the man's fancy

probably concurred with the impression made by the sun's light to produce that phantasm of the sun which he
constantly saw in bright objects."* I am not aware of any effects that had the character of

supernatural having been actually produced by the causes above described but it is obvious, that, if a living figure
;

had been projected against the strong light which imprinted these durable spectra of the sun, which might really happen when the solar rays are reflected from water, and diffused by its ruffled surface, this figure would have necessarily accompanied all the luminous spectres which the fancy created. Even in ordinary lights strange appearances may be produced by even transient impressions, and if I am not greatly mistaken, the case which I am about to mention is not only one which may occur, but which actually happened. A figure dressed in black and mounted upon a ivhite horse was riding along exposed
to the bright rays of the sun, which, through a small opening in the clouds, was throwing its light only upon The Hack figure was prothat part of the landscape.

jected against a white cloud, and the white horse shone with particular brilliancy by its contrast with the dark
soil against

which

it

was

seen.

A person

interested in

the arrival of such a stranger had been for some time following his movements with intense anxiety, but upon
his disappearance behind a wood, was surprised to observe the spectre of the mounted stranger in the form of a icliite rider upon a black steed, and this spectre was seen for

some time in the sky, or upon any pale ground to which Such an occurrence, especially if the eye was directed.
*

See the Edinburgh Encydopxdia, Art. ACCIDENTAL COLOURS.

DURATION OF LUMINOUS IMPRESSIONS.

Ill

accompanied with a suitable combination of events, might, even in modern times, have formed a chapter in the history
of the marvellous.
It is a curious circumstance, that when the image of an object is impressed upon the retina only for a few moments, the picture which is left is exactly of the same colour with the object. If we look, for example, at a window at some distance from the eye, and then transfer

the eye quickly to the wall,

we

shall see

it

distinctly but
;

momentarily with

liglit

panes and dark bars

but in a

space of time incalculably short, this picture is succeeded by the spectral impression of the window, which will consist of black

panes and ivhite bars. The similar spectrum, or that of the same colour as the object, is finely seen in the experiment of forming luminous circles by whirling round
a burning stick, in which case the circles are always red. In virtue of this property of the eye an object may be

seen in
at the

many places at once and we may even exhibit same instant the two opposite sides of the same object, or two pictures painted on the opposite sides of a piece of card. It was found by a French philosopher, M. D'Arcet, that the impression of light continued on the retina about the eighth part of a second after the luminous body was
;

withdrawn, arid upon this principle Dr. Paris has constructed the pretty little instrument, called the TJiaumatrope, or the Wonder-turner.

It consists of a

number of

circular pieces of card about two or three inches broad,

which may be twirled round with great velocity by the application of the forefinger and thumb of each hand
to pieces of silk string attached to opposite points of their circumference. On each side of the circular piece

of card is painted part of a picture, or a part of a figure, in such a manner that the two parts would form a group
or a whole figure if we could see both sides at once. Harlequin, for example, is painted on one side, and

112

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


other, so that by twirling round the seen at the same time in their usual

Columbine on the
card the two are

mode
one

The body of a Turk is drawn on and his head on the reverse, and by the rotation of The the card the head is replaced upon his shoulders.
of combination.
side,

principle of this illusion may be extended to many other contrivances. Part of a sentence may be written on one
side of a card and the rest on the reverse.
letters

Particular

be given on one side, and others upon the other, or even halves or parts of each letter may be put upon each side, or all these contrivances may be com-

may

understood only when

bined, so that the sentiment which they express can be all the scattered parts are united
card.

by the revolution of the

is virtually transparent, so that bodies beyond it can be seen through it, the power of the illusion might be greatly extended by introducing into the picture other figures, either animate or inanimate.

As

the revolving card

The

setting sun, for example,


:

might be introduced into a

landscape part of the flame of a fire might be seen to issue from the crater of a volcano, and cattle grazing in a
field

might make part of the revolutionary landscape. For such purposes, however, the form of the instrument would require to be completely changed, and the rotation should be effected round a standing axis by wheels arid pinions, and a screen placed in front of the revolving
plane with open

compartments or apertures, through Had the which the principal figures would appear.

principle of this instrument been it would doubtless have formed

known

to the ancients, a powerful engine of

delusion in their temples, and might have been more effective than the optical means which they seem to have

employed for producing the apparitions of their gods. In certain diseased conditions of 'the eye effects of a
very remarkable kind are produced. The faculty of seeing

INSENSIBILITY TO COLOURS.
objects double is too

113
remarkable
;

common

to be noticed as

take place with only one eye, yet, as it generally arises from a transient inability to direct the axes of both eyes to the same point, it excites little notice.
it

and though

may

state of the eye, however, in which we lose sight of half of every object at which we look, is more alarming and more likely to be ascribed to the disappearance of Dr. Wollaston, part of the object than to a defect of sight.

That

experienced this defect twice, informs us that, after " taking violent exercise, he suddenly found that he could see but half of a man whom he met, and that, on attempting to read the name of JOHNSON over a door, he saw

who

SON, the commencement of the name being only wholly obliterated from his view." In this instance, the part of the object which disappeared was towards his left,
but on a second occurrence of the same affection, the part which disappeared was towards his right. There are
occasions on which this defect of the eye might alarm the person who witnessed it for the first time. At certain distances from the eye one of two persons would and by a slight change of position necessarily disappear

many

either in the observer or the person observed, the person that vanished would reappear, while the other would

The circumstances under which disappear in his turn. these evanescences would take place could not be supposed to occur to an ordinary observer, even if he should be
aware that the cause had
a

phenomenon
it

its origin in himself. When so strange is seen by a person in perfect


is,

health, as

generally

and who has never had occasion

to distrust the testimony of his senses, he can scarcely refer it to any other cause than a supernatural one.

Among

the affections of the eye which not only deceive

the person who is subject to them, but those also who witness their operation, may be enumerated the insensibility of the eye to particular colours.

This defect

is

not

114

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

accompanied with any imperfection of vision, or connected with any disease cither of a local or a general nature, and it has hitherto been observed in persons who possess a strong and a sharp sight. Mr. Hudclart has described the case of

who was
degree.

one Harris, a shoemaker, at Maryport, in Cumberland, subject to this defect in a very remarkable

He seems to have been insensible to every and to have been capable of recognizing only the colour, two opposite tints of black and white. " His first suspicion of this defect arose when he was about four years old. Having by accident found in the street a child's stocking, he carried it to a neighbouring house to inquire for the owner he observed the people call it a red stocking though he di'd not understand why they gave it that denomination, as he himself thought it completely de:
,

by being called a stocking. The circumstance, however, remained in his memory, and, with other subsescribed

quent observations, led him to the knowledge of his defect. He observed also that, when young, other children could
discern cherries on a tree by some pretended difference of colour, though he could only distinguish them from the leaves by their difference of size and shape. He observed also that, by means of this difference of colour,

they could see the cherries at a greater distance than ho could, though he could see other objects at as great a
distance as they, that is, where the sight was not assisted by the colour." Harris had two brothers whose perception of colours was nearly as defective as his own. One of
these,
light

whom Mr.

Hudclart examined, constantly mistook

green for yellow, and orange for grass green. Mr. Scott has described in the Philosophical Transac-

tions his

own

that he does not

He states defect in perceiving colours. know any green in the world ; that a pink
;

colour and a pale blue are perfectly alike; that he has often thought a full red and a full green a good match

INSENSIBILITY TO COLOURS.

115

that he is sometimes baffled in distinguishing a full purple from a deep blue, but that he knows light, dark, and middle yellows, and all degrees of blue except sky-blue. " I married my daughter to a genteel, worthy man, a few

years ago the day before the marriage he came to my house dressed in a new suit of fine cloth clothes. I was
:

much
black
;

displeased that he should come, as I supposed, in

and said that he should go back to change his But my daughter said, No No; the colour is very genteel that it was my eyes that deceived me. He was a gentleman of the law, in a fine rich claret-coloured dress, which is as much a black to my eyes as any black that ever was dyed." Mr. Scott's father, his maternal uncle, one of his sisters, and her two sons, had all the same Dr. Nichol has recorded a case where a imperfection. naval officer purchased a blue uniform coat and waistcoat with red breeches to match the blue, and Mr. Harvey describes the case of a tailor at Plymouth, who, on one occasion, repaired an article of dress with crimson in place of black silk, and on another, patched the elbow of a blue
colour.
;

coat with a piece of crimson cloth. It deserves to be remarked that our celebrated countrymen the late Mr. Dugald Stewart, Mr. Dalton, and Mr. Troughton, have a

similar difficulty in distinguishing colours. Mr. Stewart discovered this defect when one of his family was admiring

the beauty of the Siberian crab-apple, which he could not distinguish from the leaves but by its form and size.

Mr. Dalton cannot distinguish blue from pink, arid the solar spectrum consists only of two colours, yellow and

Mr. Troughton regards red, ruddy pinks, and brilliant oranges, as yellows, and greens as blues, so that he is capable only of appreciating blue and yellow colours.
blue.

In

all

at least in three of

those cases which have been carefully studied, them in which I have had the advan-

tage of

making personal observations, namely, those of

116

LETtERS ON NATURAL MAGIC,

Mr. Troughton, Mr. Dalton, and Mr. Listen, the eye


capable of seeing the whole of the prismatic spectrum, the red space appearing to be yellow. If the red space consisted of homogeneous or simple red rays, we should
is

be led to infer that the eyes in question were not insensible

merely incapable of discriminating between the impressions of red and yellow light. I have lately shown, however, that the prismatic spectrum consists of three equal and coincident spectra of red, yellow, and blue light, and consequently, that much yellow and a small portion of blue light exist in the red space
;

to red light, but were

and hence it follows that those eyes which see only two colours, viz., yellow and blue, in the spectrum, are
really insensible to the red light of the spectrum, and see only the yellow with the small portion of blue with

which the red is mixed. The faintness of the yellow light which is thus seen in the red space, confirms the
opinion that the retina has not appreciated the influence of the simple red rays. If one of the two travellers who, in the fable of the

chameleon, are made to quarrel about the colour of that


singular animal, had happened to possess this defect of sight, they would have encountered at every step of their

journey new grounds of dissension without the chance of finding an umpire who could pronounce a satisfactory
decision.

Under

might
render

set aside the


it

certain circumstances, indeed, the arbiter opinions of both the disputants, and

necessary to appeal to some higher authority


to

beg he'd

tell

'cm

if lie

knew

Whether the thing was red or blue. In the course of writing the preceding observations, an ocular illusion occurred to myself of so extraordinary a
nature, that I
1

think

again.

convinced it never was seen before, and from probable that it will ever bo s-vn Upon directing iny eyes to the candles that were
it

am

far

REMARKABLE OPTICAL
standing before me,
hair,

ILLUSION.

117

I was surprised to observe, apparently and nearly straight above my head, and among my far without the range of vision, a distinct image of one

of the candles inclined about


at

4.5

to the horizon, as

shown

in Fig.

2.

The image was

as distinct and perfect

as

if

it

had been formed by reflexion from a piece

oi

mirror glass, though of course

much

less brilliant,

and

by

the position of the image proved that it must be formed reflexion from a perfectly fiat and highly-polished But where such a surface could be placed, surface.

and how, even

if it

were

fixed, it

could reflect the image

of the candle up through my head, were difficulties not a little perplexing. Thinking that it might be something

lodged in the eyebrow, I covered it up from the light, but the image still retained its place. I then examined the eyelashes with as little success, and was driven to the
crystallization was taking place in some part of the aqueous humour of the eye, and that the image was formed by the reflexion of the light

extreme supposition that a

of the candle from one of the crystalline faces.

In

this

118

LETTEBS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

state of uncertainty, and, I


last supposition

may

add, of anxiety, for this

was by no means an agreeable one, I set down to examine the phenomenon experimentally. myself I found that the image varied its place by the motion of the head and of the eyeball, which proved that it was either attached to the eyeball or occupied a place where it was
affected

by that motion.
In order

Upon

inclining the candle at

different angles the

image suffered corresponding variations

to determine the exact place of the I now took an opaque circular body reflecting substance, and held it between the eye and the candle till it eclipsed

of position.

the mysterious image. By bringing the body nearer and nearer the eyeball till its shadow became sufficiently distinct to be seen, it was easy to determine the locality

must

of the reflector, because the shadow of the opaque body fall upon it whenever the image of the candle was
eclipsed.

In this way I ascertained that the reflecting was in the upper eyelash, and I found that, in conbody sequence of being disturbed, it had twice changed its
inclination, so as to represent a vertical candle in the horizontal position B, and afterwards in the inverted
Still, however, I sought for it in vain, and position C. even with the aid of a magnifier I could not discover it.
last, however, Mrs. B., who possesses the perfect vision of short-sighted persons, discovered, after repeated examinations, between two eyelashes, a minute speck, which,

At

upon being removed with great


chip of red
in diameter,

difficulty,

turned out to be a

part of an inch surface so perfectly flat and so highly polished that I could see in it the same image This of the candle, by placing it extremely near the eye.

wax not above the hundredth


and having
its

chip of wax had no doubt received its flatness and and had started into polish from the surface of a seal,
eye

its

my

when breaking

the seal of a letter.

That

this reflecting substance

was the cause of the

REMARKABLE OPTICAL ILLUSION.

119

image of the candle cannot admit of a doubt; but the wonder still remains how the images which it formed
occupied so mysterious a place as to be seen without the range of vision, and apparently through the head. In order to explain this, let m n, Fig. 2, be a lateral view of

The chip of wax was placed at m at the root of the eye. the eyelashes, and being nearly in contact with the outer
surface of the cornea, the light of the candle
flected passed

which

it

re-

very obliquely through the pupil arid fell the retina somewhere to the left of very near upon where the retina terminates; but a ray thus falling
,

obliquely on the retina

is seen,

in virtue of the law of

visible direction already explained, in a line n C perpendicular to the retina at the point near n, where the ray
fell.

head as
flected

Hence the candle was necessarily seen through the it were of the observer, and without the range of

ordinary vision.

The comparative
;

brightness of the re-

image still surprises me but even this, if the image really was brighter, may be explained by the fact, that it was formed on a part of the retina upon which light had never before fallen, and which may therefore be supposed to be more sensible, than the parts of the membrane in constant use, to luminous impressions. Independent of its interest as an example of the marvellous in vision, the preceding fact may be considered as a proof that the retina retains its power to its very ter-

mination near the ciliary processes, and that the law of visible direction holds true even without the range of
It is therefore possible that a reflecting surface favourably placed on the outside of the eye, or that a reflecting surface in the inside of the eye, may

ordinary vision.

cause a luminous image to fall nearly on the extreme margin of the retina, the consequence of which woiild bo
that
it would be seen in the back of the head half way between a vertical and a horizontal line.

120

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER
Subject of spectral illusions

III.

Recent and interesting case of Mrs. A.

Her
and

husband

Spectral apparition of Jier Spectral apparition of a cat Apparition of a near Other living relation in grave-clothes seen in a looking-glass
first

illusion a/ecting the ear

illusions affecting the ear

Spectre of a deceased friend sitting in

an easy-chair Spectre of a coach and four filled ivith skeletons Accuracy and value of the preceding cases State of health under
which they arose
Spectral apparitions are pictures on the retina

The ideas of memory and imagination are also pictures on the General views of the subject Approximate explanation of retina
spectral apparitions.

THE
to

which the eye

preceding account of the different sources of illusion is subject, is not only useful as indicating

the probable cause of any individual deception, but it has a special importance in preparing the mind for understand-

more vivid and permanent spectral illusions to which some individuals have been either occasionally or
ing those

habitually subject. In these lesser phenomena

we

find the retina so

power-

fully influenced by external impressions as to retain the view of visible objects long after they are withdrawn wo
;

observe

it

to be so excited

by

local pressures of

which we

sometimes know neither the nature nor the origin, as to moving and shapeless masses of coloured light and we find, as in the case of Sir Isaac Newton and others, that the imagination has the power
see in total darkness
;

months and even years

of reviving the impressions of highly-luminous objects, after they were first made. From
it

such phenomena, the mind feels

to be

no violent

transi-

SPECIE AL ILLUSIONS.

121

states of health,

tion to pass to those spectral illusions which, in particular have haunted the most intelligent individuals, not only in the broad light of day, but in the

very heart of the social circle. This curious subject has been so ably and fully treated in your Letters on Demonology, that it would be presumptuous in

me

to
;

resume any part of


but as
it

it

011

which you have

even touched

forms a necessary branch of a Treatise on Natural Magic, and as one of the most remarkable cases on record has
I shall

come within my own knowledge, make no apology for giving a full account of the dif-

ferent spectral appearances which it embraces, and of adding the results of a series of observations and experiments on which I have been long occupied, with the view of throwing

some light on this remarkable class of phenomena. A few years ago I had occasion to spend some days under the same roof with the lady to whose case I have above referred. At that time she had seen no spectral illusions, and was acquainted with the subject only from In conversing the interesting volume of Dr. Hibbert. with her about the cause of these apparitions, I mentioned
that, if

she should ever see such a thing, she might distin-

guish a genuine ghost existing externally, and seen as an external object, from one created by the mind, by merely
pressing one eye or straining them both so as to see objects double ; for in this case the external object or supposed
apparition would invariably be doubled, while the impression on the retina created by the mind would remain
single.

This observation recurred

to her

mind when she


;

unfortunately became subject to the same illusions but she was too well acquainted with their nature to require

any such evidence of their mental origin and the state of agitation which generally accompanies them seems to have prevented her from making the experiment as a
;

matter of curiosity.

122
1.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

The

first

illusion to

which Mrs. A. was subject was

one which affected only the ear. On the 26th of December, 1830, about half-past four in the afternoon, she

was standing near the


of going

fire in

up
!

stairs to dress,

when she

the hall, and on the point heard, as she sup-

posed, her

husband's voice calling her by name, "

Come

here

come

to

me

!"

She imagined that he was

calling at the door to have it opened, but upon going there and opening the door she was surprised to find no

person there.
' '

Upon

the same voice

calling

returning to the fire, she again heard out very distinctly and loudly,
!"

Come, come here

She then opened two other

doors of the same room, and upon seeing no person she returned to the fire-place. After a few moments she

heard the same voice

still calling,

"

Come

come away !" in a


tient

tone.

loud, plaintive, and She answered as loudly, "

to me, come somewhat impaWhere are you ?


!

I don't

know where you are ;" still imagining that he was somewhere in search of her but receiving no answer she shortly went up stairs. On Mr. A.'s return to the house, about half an hour afterwards, she inquired why he called to her so often, and where he was and she was of course greatly surprised to learn that he had not
:

been near the house at the time.

similar illusion,

which excited no particular notice at the time, occurred to Mrs. A. when residing at Florence about ten years before, and when she was in perfect health. When she was undressing after a ball, she heard a voice call her repeatedly by name, and she was at that time unable to account for it.
2. The next illusion which occurred to Mrs. A. was of more alarming character. On the 30th of December, about four o'clock in the afternoon, Mrs. A. came down stairs into the drawing-room, which she had quitted only a few minutes before, and on entering the room she saw

her husband, as she supposed, standing with his back to

SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.
the

123

fire. As lie had gone out to take a walk about half an hour before, she was surprised to see him there, and asked him why he had returned so soon. The figure looked fixedly at her with a serious and thoughtful expression of

countenance, but did not speak. Supposing that his mind was absorbed in thought, she sat down in an arm-chair near the fire, and within two feet at most of the figure,

saw standing before her. As its eyes, howbe fixed upon her, she said after the lapse of a few minutes, " Why don't you speak ?'' The figure immediately moved off towards the window at the farther end of the room, with its eyes still gazing on her, and it passed so very close to her in doing so that she was struck by the circumstance of hearing no step nor sound, nor feeling her clothes brushed against, nor even any agitation in the air. Although she was now convinced that the figure was not her husband, yet she never for a moment supposed that it was anything supernatural, and was soon convinced that it was a spectral illusion. As soon as this conviction had establised itself in her mind, she recollected the experiment which I had suggested, of trying to double the object but before she was able distinctly to do this, the figure had retreated to the window, where it disappeared. Mrs. A. immediately followed it, shook the curtains and examined the window, the impression having been so distinct and forcible that she was unwilling to believe that it was not a reality. Finding, however, that the figure had no natural means of escape, she was convinced that she had seen a spectral apparition like those recorded in Dr. Hibbert's work, and she conseThe appearance was quently felt no alarm or agitation. seen in bright daylight, and lasted four or five minutes.

which she

still

ever, still continued to

When

the figure stood close to her objects behind it, and the apparition

it

concealed the real


as vivid as

was fully

the reality.

124:
3.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

On

these two occasions Mrs. A. was alone, but

when

the next phantasm appeared her husband was present. This took place on the 4th of January, 1830. About ton o'clock at night, when Mr. and Mrs. A. were sitting in

the drawing-room, Mr. A. took up the poker to stir the fire, and when he was in the act of doing this, Mrs. A.

exclaimed,

"Why there's
"

the cat in the room!"


close "
to

"Where?"
replied.

asked Mr. A.
"

There,

you,"

she

he repeated. Why on the rug to be sure, between yourself and the coal-scuttle." Mr. A., who had
?"

Where

the poker in his hand, pushed it in the direction " " Take take care, you care," cried Mrs. A., are hitting her with the poker." Mr. A. again asked her
still

mentioned.

where she saw the cat. She replied, up there close to your feet on the rug she is me. It is Kitty come here, Kitty !" There were two cats in the house, one of which went by this name, and they were rarely if ever in the drawingroom. At this time Mrs. A. had no idea that the sight of the cat was an illusion. When she was asked to touch it, she got up for the purpose, and seemed as if she were She followed a pursuing something which moved away. few steps, and then said, " It has gone under the chair." Mr. A. assured her it was an illusion, but she would not believe it. He then lifted up the chair, and Mrs. A. saw The room was then searched all nothing more of it. and nothing found in it. There was a dog lying on over, the hearth, who would have betrayed great uneasiness if a In cat had been in the room, but he ]ay perfectly quiet. order to be quite certain, Mr. A. rung the bell, and sent for the two cats, both of which were found in the houseto point out exactly

"

Why

sitting looking at

keeper's room. 4. About a

month after this occurrence, Mrs. A., who had taken a somewhat fatiguing drive during the day, was preparing to go to bed about eleven o'clock at night, and,

SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.
sitting before the dressing-glass,

125

was occupied in arranging her hair. She was in a listless and drowsy state of mind, but fully awake. When her fingers were in active

motion among the papillotes, she was suddenly startled by seeing in the mirror the figure of a near relation, who

was then in Scotland, and in perfect health. The apparition appeared over her left shoulder, and its eyes met hers in the glass. It was enveloped in grave-clothes,
closely pinned, as is usual with corpses, round the head and under the chin, and though the eyes were open, the features were solemn and rigid. The dress was evidently a shroud, as Mrs. A. remarked even the punctured pattern usually worked in a peculiar manner round the edges of that garment. Mrs. A. described herself as at the time sensible of a feeling like what we conceive of fascination, compelling her for a time to gaze on this melancholy apparition, which was as distinct and vivid as any reflected reality could be, the light of the candles upon the dressing-table appearing to shine fully upon its face.

reality of the
visible,

After a few minutes, she turned round to look for the form over her shoulder ; but it was not

and it had also disappeared from the glass when she looked again in that direction. 5. In the beginning of March, when Mr. A. had been

him moving near

about a fortnight from home, Mrs. A. frequently heard her. Nearly every night, as she lay

awake, she distiRctly heard sounds like his breathing hard on the pillow by her side, and other sounds such as he might make while turning in bed. 6. On another occasion, during Mr. A.'s absence, while
riding with a neighbour, Mr.
,

she heard his voice

She heard frequently as if he were riding by his side. also the tramp of his horse's feet, and was almost puzzled

by hearing him address her at the same time with the person really in company. His voice made remarks on

126
tlio

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


scenery,

improvements, &c.,

such as

he probably

would have done had he been present. On this occasion, however, there was no visible apparition. 7. On the 17th March, Mrs. A. was preparing for bed. She had dismissed her maid, and was sitting with her feet in hot water. Having an excellent memory, she had been thinking upon and repeating to herself a striking passage in the Edinburgh Review, when, on raising her eyes, she saw seated in a large easy-chair before her the The figure of a deceased friend, the sister of Mr. A. figure was dressed, as had been usual with her, with great neatness, but in a gown of a peculiar kind, such as Mrs. A. had never seen her wear, but exactly such as had been described to her by a common friend as having been worn by Mr. A.'s sister during her last visit to England. Mrs. A. paid particular attention to the dress, air, and appearance of the figure, which sat in an easy attitude in
the chair, holding a handkerchief in one hand. Mrs. A. tried to speak to it, but experienced a difficulty in doing

and in about three minutes the figure disappeared. About a minute afterwards, Mr. A. came into the room, and found Mrs. A. slightly nervous, but fully aware of the delusive nature of the apparition. She described it as having all the vivid colouring and apparent reality of life; and for some hours preceding this and other visions, she experienced a peculiar sensation in her eyes, which seemed to be relieved when the vision had ceased. 8. On the 5th October, between one and two o'clock in the morning, Mr. A. was awoke by Mrs. A., who told him that she had just seen the figure of his deceased mother draw aside the bed-curtains and appear between them.
so,

The dress and the look of the apparition were precisely those in which Mr. A.'s mother had been last seen by
Mrs. A. at Paris in 1824. 0. On the llth October, when sitting in the drawing-

SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.

127

room, on one side of the fire-place, she saw the figure of another deceased friend moving towards her from the

window

at the farther

end of the room.

It

approached

As the fire-place, and sat down in the chair opposite. there were several persons in. the room at the time, she
describes the idea uppermost in her

mind

to have been a

fear lest they should be alarmed at her staring, in the way she was conscious of doing, at vacancy, and should fancy

her intellect disordered.

Under the

iofluence of this fear,

and recollecting a story of a similar effect in your work on Demonology, which she had lately read, she summoned
requisite resolution to enable her to cross the space before the fire-place, and seat herself in the same chair with

up the

The apparition remained perfectly distinct till the figure. she sat down, as it were, in its lap, when it vanished. 10. On the 26th of the same month, about two P.M.,
Mrs. A. was sitting in a chair by the window in the same room with her husband. He heard her exclaim " What have I seen ?" And on looking at her, he observed a A strange expression in her eyes and countenance.
carriage and four had appeared to her to be driving up As it approached, she the entrance road to the house.
felt

inclined to go
if

up

stairs to

pany, but, as

spell-bound, she

prepare to receive comwas unable to move or

The carriage approached, and as it arrived within speak. a few yards of the window, she saw the figures of the postilions and the persons inside take the ghastly appearance of skeletons and other hideous figures. then vanished entirely, when she uttered

The wholo
the above-

mentioned exclamation.
11.

was

the morning of the 30th October, when Mrs. A. sitting in her own room with a favourite dog in her
distinctly

On

lap, she

saw the same dog moving about the

room during the space of about a minute, or rather more. 12. On the 3rd December, about 9 P.M., when Mr. and

128
Mrs. A. were

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


sitting near each other in the

drawing-room

occupied in reading, Mr. A. felt a pressure on his foot. On looking up, he observed Mrs. A.'s eyes fixed with a
feet distant.

strong and unnatural stare on a chair about nine or ten Upon asking her what she saw, the expres-

sion of her countenance changed, and upon recovering herself, she told Mr. A. that she had seen his brother,

who was

alive

and well

at the

moment

in

in the opposite chair, but dressed in grave-clothes, with a ghastly countenance, as if scarcely alive.

London, seated and

Such

is

a brief account of the various spectral illusions

observed by Mrs. A. In describing them I have used the very words employed by her husband in his communications to

the subject ; * and the reader may be assured that the descriptions are neither heightened by

me on

The high character fancy nor amplified by invention. and intelligence of the lady, and the station of her husband in society, and as a man of learning and science,
would authenticate the most marvellous narrative, and satisfy the most scrupulous mind, that the case has been
In narphilosophically as well as faithfully described. rating events which we regard as of supernatural character, the mind has a strong tendency to give more prominence to what appears to itself the most wonderful but
;

from the very same cause, when we describe extraordinary and inexplicable phenomena which we believe to be the result of natural causes, the mind is prone to strip them of their most marvellous points, and bring them down to From the very commencethe level of ordinary events. ment of the spectral illusions seen by Mrs. A. both she and her husband were well aware of their nature and origin, and both of them paid the most minute attention to the circumstances which accompanied them, not only
*

No.

vi. p.

Edinburgh Journal of Science, New 244 and No. viii. p. 2G1.


;

Series,

No.

iv. p.

218, 219

SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.

129

with the view of throwing light upon so curious a subject, but for the purpose of ascertaining their connection with the state of health under which they appeared.

As the spectres seen by Nicolai and others had their origin in bodily indisposition, it becomes interesting to learn the state of Mrs. A.'s health when she was under
the influence of these illusions.

During the

six

weeks

took place, she had been considerably reduced and weakened by a troublesome cough, and the weakness which this occasioned was inwithin which the three
first illusions

by her being prevented from taking a daily tonic. Her general health had not been strong, and long expericreased

ence has put


arises

it beyond a doubt, that her indisposition from a disordered state of the digestive organs.

Mrs. A. has naturally a morbidly sensitive imagination, which so painfully affects her corporeal impressions, that
the account of any person having suffered severe pain by accident or otherwise occasionally produces acute twinges of pain in the corresponding parts of her person. The account, for example, of the amputation of an arm will

produce an instantaneous and severe sense of pain in her own arm. She is subject to talk in her sleep with great

when she

fluency, to repeat long passages of poetry, particularly is unwell, and even to cap verses for half an

hour together, never failing to quote lines beginning with the final letter of the preceding one till her memory is
exhausted.

Although

it is

to understand the

not probable that we shall ever be able actual manner in which a person of

sound mind beholds spectral apparitions in the broad light of day, yet we may arrive at such a degree of knowledge on the subject as to satisfy rational curiosity, and to
strip the

phenomena of every

attribute of the marvellous.

Even

the vision of natural objects presents to us insurmountable difficulties, if we seek to understand the pre-

130

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

cise part which the mind performs in perceiving them ; but the philosopher considers that he has given a satisfactory explanation of vision when he demonstrates that

distinct pictures of external objects are painted on the retina, and that this membrane communicates with the

brain by means of nerves of the same substance as itself, and of which it is merely an expansion. Here we reach the gulf which human intelligence cannot pass and if the presumptuous mind of man shall dare to extend its speculations farther, it will do it only to evince its incapacity and mortify its pride. In his admirable work on this subject, Dr. Hibbert has shown that spectral apparitions are nothing more than ideas or the recollected images of the mind, which in
;

more vivid than

certain states of bodily indisposition have been rendered actual impressions, or, to use other words,

" cc mind's eye that the pictures in the are more vivid than the pictures in the body's eye. This principle has been placed by Dr. Hibbert beyond the reach of doubt ;

but I propose to go

much

farther,

and

to

show that the

"mind's eye"
retina is

actually the body's eye, and that the the common tablet on which both classes of imis

pressions are painted, and by means of which they receive their visual existence according to the same optical laws. Nor is this true merely in the case of spectral illusions.

holds good of all ideas recalled by the memory or by the imagination, and may be regarded as a fundamental law in the science of pneumatology.
It

created

It would be out of place in a work like this to adduce the experimental evidence on which it rests, or even to explain the manner in which the experiments themselves

must be conducted

but I

may

state in general, that the

spectres conjured up by the memory or the fancy have " always a local habitation," and that they appear in front of the eye, and partake in its movements exactly like the

PICTURES ON THE RETINA.

131

impressions of luminous objects after the objects themselves are withdrawn.

In the healthy
intensity of these

state of the
>

mind and body,

the relative

two

classes of impressions

on the retina

are nicely adjusted.

The mental

pictures are transient

and comparatively

feeble,

and in ordinary temperaments

are never capable of disturbing or effacing the direct images of visible objects. The affairs of life could not be carried on if the memory were to intrude bright representations of the past into the domestic scene, or scatter

The two opposite impressions, indeed, could not coexist the same nervous fibre which is carrying from the brain to the retina the
them over the external landscape.
:

figures of

memory, could not

at the

same instant be carry-

ing back the impressions of external objects from the The mind cannot perform two retina to the brain.
different functions at the

same

instant,

and the direction

of its attention to one of the two classes of impressions but so necessarily produce the extinction of the other
:

rapid

the exercise of mental power, that the alternate appearance and disappearance of the two contending
is

impressions is no more recognized than the successive observations of external objects during the twinkling of If we look, for example, at the fagade of the eyelids.
St.

Paul's,

mind

and, without changing our position, call to the celebrated view of Mont Blanc from Lyons, the

picture of the cathedral, though actually impressed upon the retina, is momentarily lost sight of by the mind, exactly like an object seen by indirect vision ; and during

the instant the recollected image of the mountain, towering over the subjacent range, is distinctly seen, but in a tone of subdued colouring, and indistinct outline. When

the purpose of its recall is answered, it quickly disappears, and the picture of the cathedral again resumes the ascen-

dency.

132

LETTEKS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

In darkness and solitude, when external objects no


longer interfere with the pictures of the mind, they be-

come more vivid and distinct and in the state between waking and sleeping, the intensity of the impressions
;

With persons of studious habits, who are much occupied with the operations of their own minds, the mental pictures are much more
approaches to that of visible objects.
distinct

than in ordinary persons

and in the midst of

abstract thought, external objects even cease to make any impression on the retina. philosopher absorbed in his

contemplations experiences a temporary privation of the His children or his servants will enter use of his senses.
directly before his eyes without being seen. will speak to him without being heard ; and they will even try to rouse him from his reverie without being

the

room

They

felt

; although his eyes, his ears, and his nerves, actually receive the impressions of light, sound, and touch. In such cases, however, the philosopher is voluntarily pursuing a train of thought on which his mind is deeply in-

terested; but even ordinary men, not much addicted to speculations of any kind, often perceive in their mind's

eye the pictures of deceased or absent friends, or even ludicrous creations of fancy, which have no connection

whatever with the train of their thoughts.


apparitions, they are

Like spectral

entirely involuntary, and though they may have sprung from a regular scries of associations, yet it is frequently impossible to discover a single link in the chain.
If it be true, then, that the pictures of the mind and spectral illusions are equally impressions upon the retina, the latter will differ in no respect from the former, but in the degree of vividness with which they are seen ; and

those frightful apparitions become nothing more than our ordinary ideas, rendered more brilliant by some accidental

and temporary derangement of the

vital functions.

Their

GENERAL VIEWS.
very vividness
retina
is

133

too,

which

capable of explanation.
local pressure, as well as

is their only characteristic, is I have already shown that the

rendered more sensible to light by voluntary by the involuntary pressure of the blood-vessels behind it; and if, by looking at the

we impress upon the retina a coloured image of that luminary, which is seen even when the eye is shut, we may by pressure alter the colour of that image, in consun,

sequence of having increased the sensibility of that part


of the retina on

which

it

readily

understand

how

is impressed. the vividness

Hence we may
of
the

mental

pictures must be increased by analogous causes. In the case both of Nicolai and Mrs. A. the immediate cause of the spectres was a deranged action of the

When such a derangement is induced by poison, substances which act as poisons, the retina is by peculiarly affected, and the phenomena of vision singularly Dr. Patouillet has described the case of a changed.
stomach.
or

family of nine persons who were all driven mad by eating the root of the Hyoscyamus niger, or black Henbane. One
of

them leapt into a pond. Another exclaimed that his neighbour would lose a cow in a month, and a third

vociferated that the crown piece of sixty pence would in a short time rise to five livres. On the following day

they had

all

of what had happened.

recovered their senses, but recollected nothing On the same day they all saw

objects double, and, what is still more remarkable, on the third day every object appeared to them as red as scarlet.

Now this red light was probably nothing more than the red phosphorescence produced by the pressure of the blood-vessels on the retina, and analogous to the masses of blue, green, yellow, and red light, which have been already
mentioned as produced by a similar pressure in headaches, arising from a disordered state of the digestive organs.

Were wo

to analyse the various

phenomena

of spectral

134
illusions,

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

we should

discover

many

circumstances favour-

In those seen by Nicolai the individual figures were always somewhat paler than natural objects. They sometimes grew more and more indistinct, and became perfectly white and, to use his own words, " he could always distinguish, with the greatest precision,
able to these views.
;

phantasms from phenomena." Nicolai sometimes saw the spectres when his eyes were shut, and sometimes they were thus made to disappear, effects perfectly identical with those which arise from the impressions of very luminous objects. Sometimes the figures vanished entirely, and at other times .only pieces of them disappeared,

by

exactly conformable to what takes place with objects seen indirect vision, which most of those figures must

necessarily have been. Among the peculiarities of spectral illusions there is one which merits particular attention, namely, that they

beyond them. more than any other which gives them the character of reality, and at first sight it seems
It is this circumstance
difficult of explanation.

seem

to cover or conceal objects immediately

The

distinctness of

any impres-

sion on the retina is entirely independent of the accommodation of the eye to the distinct vision of external objects.

When
objects

the eye
at

is at

rest,

and

is

not accommodated to
is

any particular distance, it seeing distant objects most perfectly.

in a state

for

When

a distinct

spectral impression, therefore, is before it, all other objects in its vicinity will be seen indistinctly, for while the eye jS engrossed with the vision, it is not likely to accommo-

is

date itself to any other object in the same direction. It common, too, for the eye to see only one of two quite

A sportsman who has objects actually presented to it. been in the practice of shooting with both his eyes open actually sees a double image of the muzzle of his fowlingpiece,

though

it is

only with one of these images that he

GENERAL VIEWS.

135

covers his game, having no perception whatever of the But there is still another principle upon which other.

only one of two objects may be seen at a time. If we look very steadily and continuously at a double pattern, such as those on a carpet composed of two single patterns
of different colours, suppose red and yellow; and if we direct the mind particularly to the contemplation of the

red one, the green pattern will sometimes vanish entirely, leaving the red one alone visible, and by the same process
the red one

may
;

be

made

to disappear.

In

this case,

however, the two patterns, like the two images, may be seen together but if the very same portion of the retina

by the direct rays of an external object, when it is excited by a mental impression, it can no more see them both at the same time than a vibrating string can
is excited

give out two different fundamental sounds. It is quite possible, however, that the brightest parts of a spectral figure

may

be distinctly seen along with the brightest parts of an object immediately behind it, but then the bright parts of each object will fall upon different parts of the retina. These views are illustrated by a case mentioned by Dr. Abercrombie. A. gentleman, who was a patient of his, of an irritable habit, and liable to a variety of uneasy
sensations in his head,

was

sitting alone in his dining-

room in the
little

twilight,

when

the door of the

room was a
enter,

open.

He

saw distinctly a female figure

wrapped in a mantle, with the face concealed by a large black bonnet. She seemed to advance a few steps towards him, and then stop. He had a full conviction that the figure was an illusion of vision, and he amused himself for some time by watching it at the same time observing that he could see through the figure so as to perceive the lock of the door, and other objects behind it.*
;

Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers, and the Investigation of Truth.

136

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

If these views be correct the

phenomena

of spectral

apparitions are stripped of all tlieir terror, whether we view them in their supernatural character or as indications of bodily indisposition. Nicolai, evon, in whose case

they were accompanied with alarming symptoms, derived pleasure from the contemplation of them, and he not only recovered from the complaint in which they originated,

but survived them for


sees

many

years.

Mrs. A.,

too,

who

them only

at distant intervals,
will,

and with
trust,

have but a fleeting existence,


gives

we

they soon lose her

whom

exclusive privilege, when the slight indisposition which them birth has subsided.

SCIENCE USED AS AN INSTRUMENT OF IMPOSTUBE. 137

LETTEE
Scieii.ce

IV.

used as an instrument of imposture Deceptions with plane and concave mirrors practised by the ancients The magicians

Aerial Images Images on Effects of concave mirrors Combination of mirrors for producing pictures from fhe mysterious dagger Ancient miracles with living objects concave mirrors Modern necromancy with them, as seen by Cellini Description and effects of the magic lantern Improvements upon it Phantasmagoric exhibitions of Philipstal and others Dr. Young's arrangement of Lenses, &c., for the Phan~

mirror

smolte

tasmagoria

Improvements

suggested

Catadioptrical
living objects

phantat -

magoria for producing

the pictures

from

Method

of cutting off parts of the figures Kircher's mysterious handwriting on the wall His hollow cylindrical mirror for aerial

images Cylindrical mirror for reforming distorted pictures Mirrors of variable curvature for producing caricatures.

IN the preceding observations


of his

man

appears as the victim

own

delusions

the spirits which shall now see him the dupe of preconcerted imposture the slave of his own ignorance the prostrate vassal of

as the magician unable to exorcise he has himself called into being.

We

power and superstition. I have already stated that the monarchs and priests of ancient times carried on a systematic plan of imposing upon their subjects a mode of government which was in perfect accordance with their
religious belief: but it will scarcely be believed that the same delusions were practised after the establishment of Christianity, and that even the Catholic sanctuary was

often the seat of these unhallowed machinations.

Nor

was

merely the low and cunning priest who thus sought to extort money and respect from the most ignorant of his
it

138
flock
:

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


bishops and pontiffs themselves wielded the magithe diadems of kings and emperors, and,

cian's

wand over

exhibition of supernatural power, made the mightiest potentates of Europe tremble upon their thrones. It was the light of science alone which dispelled

by the pretended

moral and intellectual darkness, and it is entirely in consequence of its wide diffusion that we live in times
this

when sovereigns seek to reign only through the affections of their people, and when the minister of religion asks no
other reverence but that which
is inspired by the sanctity of his office and the purity of his character. It was fortunate for the human race that the scanty

knowledge of former ages afforded so few elements of What a tremendous engine would have been deception. worked against our species by the varied and powerful machinery of modern science! Man would still have worn the shackles which it forged, and his noble spirit would still have groaned beneath its fatal pressure. There can be little doubt that the most common, as well as the most successful, impositions of the ancients were of an optical nature, and were practised by means of plane and concave mirrors. It has been clearly shown by
various writers that the ancients
steel, silver,

made use of mirrors of


tin, like

and a composition of copper and

those

now used

probable from made at Sidon

for reflecting specula. It is also very a passage in Pliny, that glass mirrors were
;

but

it

is

evident that, unless the object

presented to them was illuminated in a very high degree, the images which they formed must have been very faint

and unsatisfactory.

The

silver mirrors, therefore,

which

were universally used, and which are superior to those made of any other metal, are likely to have been most
generally employed

by the ancient magicians.

They

were made to give multiplied and inverted images of objects, that is, they were plane, polygonal or many-

139
There is one property, however, sided, and concave. mentioned by Aulus Gellius, which has given unnecessary He states that there were perplexity to commentators.
specula which,

images of

objects, but,

recovered their

when put in a particular place, gave no when carried to another place, property of reflection.* M. Salverte is of

opinion that, in quoting Varro, Aulus Gellius was not sufficiently acquainted with the subject, and erred in

supposing that the phenomenon depended on the place instead of the position of the mirror ; but this criticism is obviously made with the view of supporting an opinion of
his own, that the property in question may be analogous to the phenomenon of polarised light, which at a certain

angle refuses to suffer reflection from particular bodies. If this idea has any foundation, the mirror must have been
of glass or some other body not metallic, or, to speak more correctly, there must have been two such mirsors, so
nicely adjusted not only to one another, but to the light incident upon each, that the effect could not possibly be produced but by a philosopher thoroughly acquainted

with the modern discovery of the polarisation of light by reflection. Without seeking for so profound an explanation of the phenomenon, we may readily understand how
a silver mirror
a

may damp atmosphere,

instantly lose its reflecting power, in in consequence of the precipitation of

moisture upon

its surface, and may immediately recover it when transported into drier air. One of the simplest instruments of optical deception is the plane mirror, and when two are combined for this
it has been called the magician's mirror. An observer in front of a plane mirror sees a distinct image of himself but if two persons take up a mirror, and if the one person is as much to one side of a line perpen-

purpose

* Ut speculum in loco certo pos'dum nihil imaginet ; aliorsum translatum facial imagines. Aul. Gel. Xoct. Attic, lib. xvi. cap. 18.

140

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


it

dicular to the middle of

as the other is to the other side,

they will see each other but not themselves. If we now C, C D, C, C D to be the partitions of two suppose

adjacent apartments, let square openings be


partitions at
let

made

in the

and B, about

five feet

above the

floor,

and

with plate glass, and surrounded with a picture frame, so as to have the appearance of two mirrors. Place two mirrors E, F, one behind each opening at
filled

them be

A
B

and B, inclined 45

to the partition N, and so large and that a person looking into the plates of glass at When this is done it is obvious will not see their edges.

Fig. 3.

will not see himthat a person looking into the mirror If he self but will see any person or figure placed at B. believes that he is looking into a common mirror at A,

his astonishment will be great at seeing himself transformed into another person, or into any living animal The success of this deception that may be placed at B.

would be greatly increased if a plane mirror suspended by a pulley could be brought immediately behind the The plane glass at A, and drawn up from it at pleasure.
spectator at A having previously seen himself in this moveable mirror, would be still more astonished when ho afterwards perceived in the same place a face d inherent

CONCAVE MIRRORS.
from

141

liis own. By drawing the moveable mirror half up, the spectator at might see half of his own face joined to half of the face placed at B ; but in the present day the most ignorant persons are so familiar with the properties of a looking-glass that it would be very difficult to employ

this

kind of deception with the same success which must


it

have attended

in a

more

illiterate age.

The

optical

reader will easily see that the mirror F and the apartment are not absolutely necessary for carrying on this C

N D

deception for the very same effects will be produced if the person at B is stationed at G, and looks towards the
;

mirror

in the direction

G F.

As

the mirror F, however,

must be placed as near to A as possible, the person at G would be too near the partition C N, unless the mirror F was extremely large. The effect of this and every similar deception is greatly increased when the persons are illuminated with a strong light, and the rest of the apartment as dark as possible but whatever precautions are taken, and however skilfully
;

plane mirrors are combined, it is not easy to produce with them any very successful illusions. The concave mirror is the staple instrument of the
magician's cabinet, and must always perform a principal In order to be quite part in all optical combinations.
perfect, every

concave mirror should have

its

surface

elliptical, so that if any object is placed in one focus of the ellipse, an inverted image of it will be formed in the

This image, to a spectator rightly placed, appears suspended in the air, so that if the mirror and the object are hid from his view, the effect must appear to
other focus.

him almost supernatural. The method of exhibiting the effect of concave mirrors most advantageously is shown in Fig. 3, where C D is the partition of a room having in it a square opening E F, the
centre of which is about five feet above the floor.

This

142

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

opening might be surrounded with a picture-frame, and a


painting which exactly filled it might be so connected with a pulley that it could be either slipped aside, or
raised so as to leave the frame empty. large concave is then placed in another apartment, so that mirror

MN

when any object may be formed in

is

placed at A, a distinct image of it the centre of the opening E F Let us


.

suppose this object to be a plaster cast of any object made as white as possible, and placed in an inverted position at

A.

A strong light

should then be thrown upon


Fig. 4.

it

by a

powerful lamp, the rays of which are prevented from


reaching the opening E F. When this is done, a spectator will see an erect image of the statue at B the placed at centre of the opening standing in the air, and differing

from the real statue only in being a little larger, while the apparition will be wholly invisible to other spectators placed at a little distance on each side of him. If the opening E F is filled with smoke rising either from a chafing dish, in which incense is burnt, or made to issue in clouds from some opening below, the image will appear in the middle of the smoke depicted upon it as upon a ground, and capable of being seen by those
spectators

who could not

see the

image in the

air.

The

MYSTERIOUS DAGGER.

14.3

to

rays of light, in place of proceeding without obstruction an eye at 0, are reflected as it were from those minute

particles of manner as a

which the smoke

is

beam

of light

is

composed, in the same rendered more visible by

passing through an apartment filled with dust or smoke. It has long been a favourite experiment to place at A,
a white and strongly-illuminated human skull, and to exhibit an image of it amid the smoke of a chafing dish at B ; but a more terrific effect would be produced if a
as an object at

small skeleton, suspended by invisible wires, were placed A. Its image suspended in the air at B,

or painted
spectator.

upon smoke, could not

fail

to astonish

the

person in an inverted an object at A, has no doubt prevented the optical conjurer from availing himself of so admirable a resource but this difficulty may be removed by employing a second concave mirror. This second mirror must be so
difficulty of placing a living

The

position, as

placed as to reflect towards

M N, the rays proceeding from


to

an erect living
this object at

object,

and

A.

An

erect

form an inverted image of image of this inverted image

formed at B, either suspended in the air or This aerial image will depicted upon a wreath of smoke. exhibit the precise form and colours and movements of
will then be

the living object, and

it

will maintain its character as an

apparition if any attempt is grasp its unsubstantial fabric.

made by

the spectator to

deception of an alarming kind, called the Mysterious If a person dagger, has been long a favourite exhibition. with a drawn and highly-polished dagger, illuminated by a strong light, stands a little farther from a concave

mirror than

its

principal focus, he will perceive in the air,

between himself. and the mirror, an inverted and diminished image of his own person with the dagger if he aims the dagger at the centre similarly brandished
:

144

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

of the mirror's concavity, the two daggers will meet point


to point, and,

by pushing

it still

farther

from him towards

the mirror, the imaginary dagger will strike at his heart. In this case it is necessary that the direction of the real dagger coincides with a diameter of the sphere of which
is a part ; but if its direction is on one side of that diameter, the direction of the imaginary dagger will be as far on the other side of the diameter, and the latter will aim a blow at any person who is placed in the proper

the mirror

If the person who bears the position for receiving it. real dagger is therefore placed behind a screen, or other-

wise concealed from the view of the spectator who is made to approach to the place of the image, the thrust of
the polished steel at his breast will not fail to produce a powerful impression. The effect of this experiment would

no doubt be increased by covering with black cloth the person who holds the dagger, so that the image of his hand only should be seen, as the inverted picture of him would take away from the reality of the appearance. By using two mirrors, indeed, this defect might be remedied, and the spectator would witness an exact image of the
assassin aiming the dagger at his life. The common way of making this experiment is to place a basket of fruit above the dagger, so that a distinct aerial

image of the

fruit is

formed in the focus of the mirror.

spectator having been desired to take some fruit from the basket, approaches for that purpose, while a person

The

properly concealed withdraws he real basket of fruit with one hand, and with the other advances the dagger, the image of which, being no longer covered by the fruit,
strikes at the

body of the astonished

spectator.

The powers

of the concave mirror have been likewise

displayed in exhibiting the apparition, of an absent or deceased friend. For this purpose a strongly-illuminated bust or picture of the person is placed before the concave

CONCAVE MltoRORS.

145

mirror, and a distinct image of the picture "will be seen either in the air or among smoke in the manner already
described.

If the background of the picture is tempo-

rarily covered with lamp-black, so that there is no light about the picture but what falls upon the figure, the
effect will

be more complete.

in all experiments with concave mirrors the size of the aerial image is to that of the real object as their
distances from the mirror, we may, by varying the distance of the object, increase or diminish the size of the

As

image.

In doing this, however, the distance of the image from the mirror is at the same "time changed, so that it would quit the place most suitable for its exhibition. This defect may be removed by simultaneously changing the place both of the mirror and the object, so that the image may remain stationary, expanding itself from a luminous spot to a gigantic size, and again passing through all intermediate magnitudes, till it vanishes in a cloud of light. Those who have studied the effects of concave mirrors
of a small size, and without the precautions necessary to insure deception, cannot form any idea of the magical effect produced by this class of optical apparitions. When the instruments of illusion are themselves con-

cealed when all extraneous lights but those which illuminate the real object are excluded when the mirrors are large and well polished and truly formed the effect of the representation on ignorant minds is altogether overpowering, while even those who know the deception.

and perfectly understand

its

principles, are not a little

The inferiority in the effects of surprised at its effects. a common concave mirror to that of a well-arranged exhibition, is greater even than that of a perspective
picture hanging in an apartment to the same picture exhibited under all the imposing accompaniments of a

dioramic representation.

14(5

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

It can scarcely be doubted, that a concave mirror was the principal instrument by which the heathen gods were made to appear in the ancient temples. In the imperfect

can trace

accounts which have reached us of these apparitions, we In the all the elements of an optical illusion.

ancient temple of Hercules at Tyre, Pliny mentions that there was a seat made of a consecrated stone, "from

which the gods easily rose." Esculapius often exhibited himself to his worshippers in his temple at Tarsus and the temple of Eriguinum in Sicily was celebrated as the
;

place where the goddesses exhibited themselves to mortals. Jamblichus actually informs us that the ancient magicians

from

caused the gods to appear among the vapours disengaged fire and when the conjurer Maximus terrified his
;

audience by making the statue of Hecate laugh, while in the middle of the smoke of burning incense, he was
obviously dealing with the image of a living object dressed in the costume of the sorceress.

The
temples

character of
is so

these

exhibitions in

the ancient

admirably depicted in the following passage

all the optical effects

by M. Salverte, that we recognizo which have been already described. " " In a which ought not to be manifestation," says he,
of Damascius quoted
;

revealed

.... there appeared on the wall of the temple a mass of light which at first seemed to be very remote it transformed itself in coming nearer, into a face evidently divine and supernatural, of a severe aspect, but mixed with gentleness, and extremely beautiful. Accord-

ing to the institutions of a mysterious religion the Alexandrians honoured it as Osiris and Adonis."

Among more modern examples of this illusion, we may mention the case of the Emperor Basil of Macedonia. Inconsolable at the loss of his son, this sovereign had recourse to the prayers of the Pontiff Theodore Santabaren,

who was

celebrated for

his

power of working

MODERN NECROMANCY.

147

The ecclesiastical conjurer exhibited to him miracles. the image of his beloved son magnificently dressed and the youth rushed mounted upon a superb charger
:

towards his father, threw himself into his arms, and


disappeared. M. Salverte judiciously observes, that this deception could not have been performed by a real person who imitated the figure of the young prince.

The existence of this person, betrayed by so remarkable a resemblance, and by the trick of the exhibition, could not fail to have been discovered and denounced, even if
we could explain how
the son could be so instantaneously from his father's embrace. The emperor, disentangled in short, saw the aerial image of a picture of his son on horseback, and as the picture was brought nearer the mirror, the image advanced into his arms, when it of

course eluded his affectionate grasp. These and other allusions to the
ancient

operations of the

though sufficiently indicative of the methods which were employed, are too meagre to convey any idea of the splendid and imposing exhibitions which must have been displayed. A national system of deception, intended as an instrument of government, must have
magic,

brought into requisition not merely the scientific skill of the age, but a variety of subsidiary contrivances, calculated to astonish the beholder, to confound his judgment, to dazzle his senses, and to give a predominant
influence to the peculiar imposture which it was thought The grandeur of the means may desirable to establish.

be inferred from their efficacy, and from the extent of


'their influence.

This defect, however, is to a certain degree supplied by an account of a modern necromancy, which has been left us by the celebrated Benvenuto Cellini, and in which
he himself performed an active part. " It happened," says he, " through a variety of odd

148

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

accidents, that I

made acquaintance with

a Sicilian priest,

who was

man

of genius, and well versed in the Latin

Happening one day to have some him when the subject turned upon the art of necromancy, I, who had a great desire to know something of the matter, told him that I had all my life
and Greek authors.
conversation with
felt a curiosity to be acquainted with the mysteries of this art. " The priest made answer, ' That the man must be of a resolute and steady temper who enters upon that study.' J replied, * That I had fortitude and resolution enough, if

The priest subjoined, I could but find an opportunity.' If you think you have the heart to venture, I will give you all the satisfaction you can desire.' Thus we agreed
'

upon a plan of necromancy. The priest one 'evening prepared to satisfy me, and desired me to look I invited one Vincenzio out for a companion or two. Romoli, who was my intimate acquaintance he brought with him a native of Pistoia, who cultivated the black art himself. We repaired to the Colosseo, and the priest, to the custom of necromancers, began to draw according
to enter
:

circles upon the ground, with the most impressive ceremonies imaginable he likewise brought hither assaseveral precious perfumes, and fire, with some foatida, compositions also, which diffused noisome odours. As soon as he was in readiness, he made an opening to the circle, and having taken us by the hand, ordered the other necromancer, his partner, to throw the perfumes
:

into the fire at a proper time, intrusting the care of the and thus he began his fire and perfumes to the rest
;

incantations.

This ceremony lasted above an hour and

a half, when there appeared several legions of devils,

insomuch that the amphitheatre was quite filled with them. I was busy about the perfumes, when the priest, perceiving there was a considerable number of infernal spirits,

MODE: IN NECROMANCY.
turned to

140

me and
'

'

said,

Benvenuto, ask them something V

I answered, Let them bring me into the company of my That night he obtained no Sicilian mistress Angelica.' answer of any sort but I had received great satisfaction
;

far indulged. The necromancer was requisite we should go a second time, assuring me that I should be satisfied in whatever I asked but that I must bring with me a pure immaculate boy. " I took with me a youth who was in my service, of about twelve years of age, together with the same Vincenzio Bomoli, who had been my companion the first time, and one Agnolino Gaddi, an intimate acquaintance, whom I likewise prevailed on to assist at the ceremony. When we came to the place appointed, the priest having made his preparations as before, with the same and even more striking ceremonies, placed us within the circle, which he had likewise drawn with a more wonderful art, and in a more solemn manner, than at our former meeting. Thus, having committed the care of the perfumes and the fire to my friend Vincenzio, who was assisted by Agnolino Gaddi, he put into my hand a pintaculo or magical chart, and bid me turn it towards the places that he should and under the pintaculo I held the boy. The direct me necromancer, having begun to make his tremendous invocations, called by their names a multitude of demons who M'ere the leaders of the several legions, and ques-

in having told me

my curiosity so
it

tioned them,

by the power

of the eternal uncreated God,

who

lives for ever, in the

Hebrew

language, as likewise

in Latin

insomuch that the amphitheatre was almost in an instant filled with demons more numerous than at the former conjuration. Vincenzio Romoli was busied in making a fire, with the assistance of Agnolino, and burning a great quantity of precious
perfumes.
desired
to
I,

and Greek;

by the directions of the necromancer, again

be in the company of

my

Angelica.

The

150

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


*

former thereupon turning to me,

Know, they have said, declared that in the space of a month you shall be in her
company.' " He thus requested me to stand resolutely by him, because the legions were now above a thousand more in

number than he had designed


the most dangerous
question,
it
;

and besides, these were so that, after they had answered my behoved him to be civil to them and dismiss
;

them

quietly.

At the same time the boy under the


terrible fright, saying that there

pintaculo was in a

were

in that place a million of fierce men, who threatened to destroy us ; and that, moreover, four armed giants of

enormous stature were endeavouring to break into our circle. During this time, whilst the necromancer, trembling with fear, endeavoured by mild and gentle methods to dismiss them in the best way he could, Vincenzio Romoli, who quivered like an aspen leaf, took care of the perfumes. Though I was as much terrified as any of them, I did my utmost to conceal the terror
I
felt
;

so that I greatly contributed to inspire the rest


;

with resolution but the truth is, I gave myself over for a dead man, seeing the horrid fright the necromancer was The boy placed his head between his knees and said, in.
I told
for we shall all surely perish.' him that all these demons were under us, and what he saw was smoke and shadow so bid him hold up his
'

In

this posture will I die

head and take courage. No sooner did he look up than he cried out, The whole amphitheatre is burning, and So covering his eyes the fire is just falling upon us.' with his hands, he again exclaimed, 'That destruction
'

was inevitable, and desired to see no more.' The necromancer entreated me to have a good heart, and take care to burn proper perfumes upon which 1 turned to Romoli, and bid him burn all the most precious perfumes he had. At the same time I cast my eye upon Aguolino Gaddi,
;

MODERN NECROMANCY.
who was
him
in
terrified to

151

sucli a

degree that he could scarce


'

distinguish objects, and seemed to he half-dead.


this

condition,

occasions a

man

Seeing I said, Agnolino, upon these should not yield to fear, hut should

stir about and give his assistance, so come directly and put on some more of these.' The effects of poor AgnoThe boy hearing a crepilino's fear were overpowering.

tation ventured once

me

more to raise his head, when, seeing ' laugh, he began to take courage, and said That the devils were flying away with a vengeance/

"In

this condition

morning prayers. remained but few


distance.

we stayed till the bell rung for The boy again told us, that there

devils, and these were at a great the magician had performed the rest of his ceremonies, he stripped off his gown, and took up a wallet full of books which he had brought with him.

When

"

We

all

went out of the

circle together,

keeping as

could, especially the who had placed himself in the middle, holding the boy, necromancer by the coat, and me by the cloak. As we

close to each other as

we possibly

were going to our houses in the quarter of Banchi, the boy told us that two of the demons whom we had seen at the amphitheatre went on before us leaping and skipping,
sometimes running upon the roofs of the houses, and sometimes upon the ground. The priest declared, that though he had often entered magic circles, nothing so
extraordinary had ever happened to
along, he

him. As we went would fain persuade me to assist with him at consecrating a brook from which, he said, we should derive immense riches we should then ask the demons to discover to us the various treasures with which the earth abounds, which would raise us to opulence and power but that these love-affairs were mere follies, from whence no good could be expected. I answered, That I would readily have accepted his proposal, if I under:

'

152
stood Latin/
that the

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

He

redoubled his persuasions, assuring ine

knowledge of the Latin language was by no means material. He added, that he could have Latin scholars enough, if he had thought it worth while to look out for them, but that he could never have met with a partner of resolution and intrepidity equal to mine, and that I should by all means follow his advice. Whilst we were engaged in this conversation, we arrived at our respective houses, and all that night dreamt of nothing but
devils."
It is impossible to peruse the preceding description without being satisfied that the legions of devils were not

produced by any influence upon the imaginations of the spectators, but were actual optical phantasms, or the images of pictures or objects produced by one or more
concave mirrors or lenses. A fire is lighted, and perfumes and incense are burnt, in order to create a ground for the images, and the beholders are rigidly confined within the The concave mirror and the pale of the magic circle. objects presented to it having been so placed that the
persons within the circle could not see the aerial image of the objects by the rays directly reflected from the
mirror, the work of deception was ready to begin. attendance of the magician upon his mirror was

The
by no

means necessary.
tators within the

He

took his place along with the spec-

magic circle. The images of the devils were all distinctly formed in the air immediately above the fire, but none of them could be seen by those within The moment, however, that perfumes were the circle. thrown into the fire to produce smoke, the first wreath of smoke that rose through the place of one or more of the images would reflect them to the eyes of the spectator, and they could again disappear if the wreath was not followed by another. More and more images would be rendered visible as new wreaths of smoke arose, and the

MODERN NECROMANCY.

153

whole group would appear at once when the smoke was


uniformly diffused over the place occupied by the images. The "compositions which diffused noisome odours"

were intended to intoxicate or stupify the spectators, so as to increase their liability to deception, or to add to the real phantasms which were before their eyes others

which were the offspring only of their own imaginations. It is not easy to gather from the description what parts of the exhibition were actually presented to the eyes of the spectators, and what parts of it were imagined by
themselves.
It is quite evident that the boy, as well as

Agnolino Gaddi, were so overpowered with terror that but they fancied many things which they did not see when the boy declares that four armed giants of an enor;

mous

stature were threatening to break into their circle, he gives an accurate description of the effect that would be produced by pushing the figures nearer the mirror,

and then magnifying their images, and causing them to advance towards the circle. Although Cellini declares that he was trembling with fear, yet it is quite evident

was not entirely ignorant of the machinery which was at work, for in order to encourage the boy, who was almost dead with fear, he assured them that the devils
that he

were under their power, and that 4i what he saw was smoke and shadow." Mr. Roscoe, from whose Life of Cellini the preceding description is taken, draws a similar conclusion from the consolatory words addressed to the boy, and states that " confirm him in the belief, that the whole of these they
appearances, like a phantasmagoria, were merely the effects of a magic lantern produced on volumes of smoke

from various kinds of burning wood."

In drawing this

conclusion, Mr. Eoscoe has not adverted to the fact, that exhibition took place about the middle of the sixteenth
tury, while the

magic lantern was not invented by

fj

"

154
Kircher
till

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


towards the middle of the seventeenth century,

Cellini having died in 1570, and Kirclier having been born in 1601. There is no doubt that the effects described

could be produced by this instrument, but we are not entitled to have recourse to any other means of explanation but those which were known to exist at the time of
If we suppose, however, that the necromancer had a regular magic lantern, or that he had fitted up his concave mirror in a box containing the figures of his devils, and that this box with its lights was carried
Cellini.

either

home with

the party, we can easily account for the decla" ration of the boy, that, as they were going home to their houses in the quarter of Banchi, two of the demons whom

we had seen at the amphitheatre, went on before us leaping and skipping, sometimes running upon the roofs of the houses, and sometimes upon the ground" The introduction of the magic lantern as an optical instrument, supplied the magicians of the seventeenth century with one of their most valuable tools. The use of the

concave mirror, which does not appear to have been even put up into the form of an instrument, required a separate apartment, or at least that degree of concealment which
it

was

difficult

on ordinary occasions
containing in
its

to

command

but
its

the magic
its

lantern,

a small compass

lenses, sliding figures, was peculiarly lamp, fitted for the itinerant conjurer, who had neither the means of providing a less portable and more expensive apparatus, nor the power of transporting and erecting it. The magic lantern shown in the annexed figure consists of a dark lantern A B, containing a lamp G, and a con-

and

cave metallic mirror

MN

and

it is

so constructed that
is is

when

the lamp is lighted, not a ray of light Into the side of the lantern escape from it.

able to
fitted

double tube

the outer half of which D, is capable of moving within the other half. large plano-convex

C D,

MAGIC LANTERN.

155

lens C, is fixed at the inner end of the double tube, and a small convex lens D, at the outer end ; and to the fixed

tube

E, there

is

sliders

containing

F, in which the joined a groove the painted objects are placed, and

through which they can be moved.

Each

slider contains

a series of figures or pictures painted on glass with highlyFig. 5.

The direct light of the lamp G, and transparent colours. the light reflected from the mirror N, falling upon the illuminating lens C, is concentrated by it so as to throw

a brilliant light upon the painting on the slider, and as this painting is in the conjugate focus of the convex lens I>, a magnified image of it will be formed on a 'white wall
is brought or white cloth placed at P Q. If the lens nearer to E F, or to the picture, the distinct image will

be more magnified, and will be formed at a greater distance from D, so that if there
.of the
is any particular distance more convenient than another, or any particular size of the object which we wish, it can be obtained by varying the distance of the lens D from E F.

imago which

is

the image is received on an opaque ground, as is commonly the case, the spectators are placed in the same

When

room with the lantern

but for the purposes of deception,

156
it

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

would be necessary to place the lantern in another apartment like the mirror in Fig. 4, and to throw tho magnified pictures on a large plate of ground glass, or a transparent gauze screen, stretched across an opening

E F, Fig. 4, made in the partition which separates the The images might, like spectators from the exhibitor. those of the concave mirror, be received upon wreaths of
smoke.

These images are of course always inverted in

reference to the position of the painted objects ; but in order to render them really erect, we have only to invert

the sliders.

The

never

fail to excite

exhibited with

representations of the magic lantern a high degree of interest, even when the ordinary apparatus ; but by using
smith, for example, is made a figure is thrown into the

double
effects

sliders,

and varying their movements, very striking

to

may be produced. A hammer upon his anvil,

by the introduction of a spectral appaand a tempest at sea is imitated, by having the sea on one slider, and the ships on other sliders, to which an undulatory motion is communicated.
attitude of terror
rition,

The magic

lantern

is

in the painting of the figures, combination of the sliders.

susceptible of great improvement and in the mechanism and

painted figure which apwell executed to the unassisted eye, becomes a mere pears and when we daub when magnified 50 or 100 times
;

consider what kind of artists are employed in their execution, we need not wonder that this optical instrument has

young.

degenerated into a mere toy for the amusement of the Unless for public exhibition, the expense of exceedingly minute and spirited drawings could not be
afforded
;

but I have no doubt that

if

such drawings were

executed, a great part of the expense might be saved by

engraving them on wood, and transferring their outline


to the glass sliders.

A series

of curious representations might be effected,

MAGIC LANTERN.
by inserting
glass.

157

trough having two of

The

glass plates containing suitable figures in a its sides parallel, and made of plate F, so that trough must be introduced at

the figure on the glass


object lens D.

is

When

proper distance from the the trough is filled with water or


at the

with any transparent fluid, the picture at P Q will be seen with the same distinctness as if the figure had been
but if any introduced by itself into the groove E F transparent fluid of a different density from water is
;

mixed with

it, so as to combine with it quickly or slowly, will underthe appearance of the figure displayed at P If spirits of wine, or any ardent go singular changes. spirit, are mixed with the water, so as to produce through-

P Q

out its mass partial variations of density, the figure at will be as it were broken down into a thousand

parts,

when the two


mix with
it

and will recover its continuity and distinctness fluids have combined. If a fluid of less
is laid

gently upon the water, so as to and produce a regular diminution gradually, or if saline substances soluble in of density downwards water are laid at the bottom of the trough, the density will diminish upwards, and the figure will undergo the most curious elongations and contractions. Analogous
;

density than water

may be produced by the application of heat to the surface or sides of the trough, so that we may effect at the same time both an increase and a diminution in the
effects

fied

density of the water, in consequence of which the magniimages will undergo the most remarkable transforma-

It is not necessary to place the glass plate which contains the figure within the trough. It may be placed in front of it, and by thus creating as it were an atmotions.

sphere with local variations of density

we may

exhibit the

phenomena of

the mirage and of looming, in which the inverted images of ships and other objects are seen in the air, as described in another letter.

]~>8

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


of the magic lantern has been greatly exit on one side of the transparent screen

The power

tended by placing

of taffetas which receives the images while the spectators are placed on the other side, and by making every part of

the glass sliders opaque, excepting the part which forms the figures. Henc& all the figures appear luminous on a

black ground, and produce a much greater effect with the same degree of illumination. An exhibition depending

on these principles was brought out by M. Philipstal in 1802 under the name of the Phantasmagoria, and when it was shown in London and Edinburgh it produced the most impressive effects upon the spectators. The small theatre of exhibition was lighted only by one hanging lamp, the flame of which was drawn up into an opaque chimney or shade when the performance began. In this " darkness visible " the curtain rose, and displayed a cave with skeletons and other terrific fig? ires in relief upon its walls. The flickering light was then drawn up beneath its shroud, and the spectators, in total darkness, found themselves in the middle of thunder and lightning. A
thin transparent screen had, unknown to the spectators, been let down after the disappearance of the light, and upon it the flashes of lightning and all the subsequent

appearances were represented.

This screen being half-

the spectators and the cave which was first shown, and being itself invisible, prevented the observers from having any idea of the real distance of the figures,

way between

and gave them the entire character of aerial pictures. The thunder and lightning were followed by the figures of ghosts, skeletons, and known individuals, whose eyes and mouth were made to move by the shifting of combined After the first figure had been exhibited for a slider:?. short time, it began to grow less and less, as if removed to a great distance, and at last vanished in a small cloud of light. Out of this same cloud the germ of another

MAGIC LANTERN.
figure

159

began to appear, and gradually grew larger and and approached the spectators till it attained its In this manner, the head of Dr. perfect development.
larger,

Franklin was transformed into a skull figures which retired with the freshness of life came back in the form of skeletons, and the retiring skeletons returned in the drapery of flesh and blood.
;

The

exhibition of these transmutations was followed

by

spectres, skeletons,

and

terrific figures,

which, instead of
\
I

and vanishing as before, suddenly advanced the spectators, becoming larger as they approached upon them, and finally vanished by appearing to sink into the
receding
of this part of the exhibition was The spectators were not naturally the most impressive. but agitated and many of them were of only surprised

ground.

The

effect

>

opinion that they could have touched the figures. M. Kobertson, at Paris, introduced along with his pictures the direct shadows of living objects, which imitated coarsely
the appearance
of those
objects in a dark night or in

moonlight. All these phenomena were produced by varying the distance of the magic lantern B, Fig. 5, from the screen P Q, which remained fixed, and at the same time keeping

the image upon the screen


distance of the lens

distinct,

by increasing the

from the

sliders in

F.

When

the lantern approached to P Q, the circle of light P Q, or the section of the cone of rays P Q, gradually dimiwas nished, and resembled a small bright cloud, when

close to the screen.


in, so that

At

this

time a

new

figure

was put

when the lantern receded from the screen, the old figure seemed to have been transformed into the new one. Although the figure was always at the same distance
from the spectators,
in size,
it

yet,

owing

to its gradual diminution

When

necessarily appeared to be retiring to a distance. the magic lantern was withdrawn from P Q, and

160
the lens

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

at the same time brought nearer to F, the in P gradually increased in size, and therefore image seemed in the same proportion to be approaching the

'

spectators.

that

Superior as this exhibition was to any representation had been previously made by the magic lantern, it

laboured under several imperfections. The figures were poorly drawn, and in other respects not well executed, and no attempt whatever was made to remove the optical incongruity of the figures becoming more luminous when
still

they retired from the observer, and more obscure when they approached to him. The variation of the distance of from the sliders in E F was not exactly the lens

adapted to the motion of the lantern to and from the screen, so that the outline of the figures was not equally
distinct during their variations of magnitude.

Dr. Thomas Young suggested the arrangement shown


in Fig. 6 for exhibiting the phantasmagoria.
Fig. 6.

The magic

lantern

is

mounted on a small car

wheels

W W.

The

direct light of the

reflected

from the mirror M, is

which runs on lamp G, and that condensed by the illuminaII,

in the opaque ting lenses C C, upon the transparent figures sliders at E, and the image of these figures is formed at

PHANTASMAGORIC EXHIBITIONS.

161

P Q, by the object lens D. When the car II is drawn back on its wheels, the rod I K brings down the point K, and, by means of the rod K L, pushes the lens D nearer to the sliders in E F, and when the car advances to P Q, the point K is raised, and the rod K L draws out the lens

from the

slider,

so that the image is always in the

conjugate focus of D, and therefore distinctly painted on The rod must be equal in length to I K, the screen.

KN

and the point I must be twice the focal length of the lens D before the object, L being immediately under the focus of the lens. In order to diminish the brightness of the image when it grows small and appears remote, Dr. Young
should suffer a contrived that the support of the lens screen S to fall and intercept a part of the light. This method, however, has many disadvantages and we are
;

satisfied that the

only way of producing a variation in the

light corresponding to the variation in the size of the image, is to use a single illuminating lens C, and to cause
it

to approach

when
from

D
EF

is

E F, and throw less light upon the figures removed from E F, and to make C recede

when

approaches to

it.

The

lens

should

therefore be placed in a mean position corresponding to a mean distance of the screen and to the ordinary size of

the figures, and should have the power of being removed from the slider E F, when a greater intensity of light is required for the images when they are rendered gigantic,

and of being brought close

to

E F when
C

made

small.

The

size of the lens


its

the images are ought of course to be

such that the section of

cone of rays at

EF

is

equal to

the size of the figure on the slider distance from the slider.

when C is

at its greatest

The method recommended by Dr. Young for pulling out and pushing in the object lens D, according as the lantern approaches to or recedes from the screen, is very
ingenious and effective.
It is, however,

clumsy in

itself,

162

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and the connexion of the levers with the screen, and their interposition between it and the lantern, must interfere
with the operations of the exhibitor. It is, besides, suited only to short distances between the screen and the lantern ;
for

when

that distance is considerable, as

it

must sometimes

would bend by L, I, require to be, the levers the least strain, and become unfitted for their purpose.

K T

For these

reasons, the

mechanism which adjusts the lens

should be moved by the axle of the front wheels, the tube which contains the lens should be kept at its greatest
distance

from
its

E F

by a slender

spring,

and should be

pressed to

proper distance by the action of a spiral cam suited to the optical relation between the two con-

jugate focal distances of the lens. Superior as the representations of the phantasmagoria are to those of the magic lantern, they are still liable to
the defect which

we have

mentioned, namely, the necessary

imperfection of the minute transparent figures when magThis defect cannot be remedied by employing nified. Even Michael Angelo would the most skilful artists.

have failed in executing a figure an inch long with transparent varnishes, when all its imperfections were to be In order, therefore, to perfect the art of repremagnified. senting phantasms, the objects must be living ones, and in
place of chalky ill-drawn figures mimicking humanity by the most absurd gesticulations, we shall have phantasms

of the most perfect delineation, clothed in real drapery, and displaying all the movements of life. The apparatus

by which such

objects

may be

used
it

may

be called the

catadioptrical phantasmagoria, as flection and refraction.

operates both by re-

The combination

of mirrors and lenses which seems

best adapted for this purpose is

shown

in Fig. 7,

where

A B

is

mirror

a living figure placed before a large concave N, by means of which a diminished and inverted

CATADIOPTRICAL PHANTASMAGORIA.

163

image of it is formed at a b. If P Q is the transparent screen upon which the image is to be shown to the spectators on the right hand of it, a large lens L L must be so placed before the image a b as to form a distinct and erect
picture of it at A' B' upon the screen. A' B' is required to be the exact size of

When

the image

A B,

the lens

LL

must magnify the small image a

6 as

be placed in N", a moveable car for the purpose of producing the variations in the size of the phantasms, and the transformations of

M N diminishes the figure A B. the mirror M and the lens L L, must all
The
a

much as the mirror The living object A B,

one figure into another.


the lens

contrivance for adjusting


picture
at

L L

to

give

distinct

different

Fig. 7.

distances of the screen will of course be required in the In order to give full effect to the present apparatus. B will require to be the living objects at phantasms, illuminated in the strongest manner, and should always

be dressed either in white or in very luminous colours, and in order to give them relief a black cloth should be
stretched at some distance behind them.
effects

Many interesting
at

might also be produced by introducing paintings and busts.

A B

fine

161
It

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


would lead us into too wide a
field

were we

to detail

the immense variety of resources which the science of optics furnishes for such exhibitions. One of these, however, is
too useful to be passed without notice. If we interpose a prism with a small refracting angle between the image a 1),
Fig. 7, and the lens L L, the part of the figure immediately opposite to the prism will be as it were detached from the
figure, and will be exhibited separately on the screen P Q. Let us suppose that this part is the head of the figure. It may be detached vertically, or lifted from the body as if it were cut off, or it may be detached downwards and In placed on the breast as if the figure were deformed. detaching the head vertically or laterally, an opaque screen must be applied to prevent any part of the head from being seen by rays which do not pass through the prism
;

but this and other practical details will soon occur to those

who put

tion of the prism is

the method to an experimental trial. The applicashown in Fig. 8, where a 1) is the


Fig.
8.

B C a inverted image formed by a concave mirror, prism with a small refracting angle B C A, placed between B a b and the lens L L, s a small opaque screen, and

hand may be made the figure with its head detached. to grasp the hair of the head, and the aspect of death may be given to it, as if it had been newly cut off. Such a
representation could be easily made, and the effect upon

CATADIOPTRICAL PHANTASMAGORIA.

165

The lifeless the spectators would be quite overpowering. head might then be made to recover its vitality, and be If the head A of the safely replaced upon the figure. A B, Fig. 7, is covered with black cloth, the living object head of a person or of an animal placed above A might be
set

upon the shoulders of the


the figure a
6,

figure

AB

by the refraction

of a prism.

When

Fig.

8, is

of very small dimensions,

as in the

magic lantern, a small prism of glass would


;

answer the purpose required of it but in public exhibitions, where the image a b must be of a considerable size, if formed by a concave mirror, a very large prism would
be necessary.
solid glass,

This, however, though impracticable with be easily obtained by means of two large of plate glass made into a prismatic vessel and filled pieces with water. Two of the glasses of a carriage window

may

would make a prism capable of doubling the whole of the bust of a living person placed as an object at A B, Fig. 7,
so that two perfectly similar phantasms might be exhibited. In those cases where the images before the lens L L are small, they may be doubled and even tripled by interposing

a well-prepared plate of calcareous spar, that is, crossed by a thin film. These images would possess the singular
character of being oppositely coloured, and of changing their distances and their colours by slight variations in the positions of the plate.* In order to render the images which are formed by the glass and water prisms as perfect as possible, it would

be easy to make them achromatic, and the figures might be multiplied to any extent by using several prisms, having their refracting edges parallel, for the purpose of
giving a similarity of position to all the images. Among the instruments of natural magic which were
in use at the revival of science, there was one invented
*

by

See Edin. Encyclopaedia, Art. OPTICS,

vol. xv. p. 611.

166

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Kircher for exhibiting the mysterious handwriting on the wall of an apartment from which the magician and his
apparatus were excluded.
this apparatus, as given

by Schottus.

The annexed figure represents The apartment in

which the spectators are placed is between L L and G H, and there is an open window in the side next L L, G being the inside of the wall opposite to the window.

the face of the plane speculum E F are written the words to be introduced, and when a lens L L is placed at such a distance from the speculum, and of such a focal length that the letters and the place of their representa-

Upon

tion are in its conjugate

foci,

a distinct

image of the

writing will be exhibited on the wall at G H. The letters on the speculum are of course inverted, as seen at E F,

and when they are illuminated by the sun's rays S, as shown in the figure, a distinct image, as Schottus In assures us, may be formed at the distance of 500 feet. this experiment the speculum is by no means necessary. If the letters are cut out of an opaque card, and illuminated by the light of the sky in the day, or by a lamp during night, their delineation on the wall would be

In the daytime it would be necessary equally distinct. to place the letters at one end of a tube or oblong box,

and the lens at the other end. As this deception is performed when the spectators are unprepared for any such

KIRCHER'S MYSTERIOUS HANDWRITING.


exhibition, the

167

warning written in luminous letters on the any word associated with the fate of the individual observer, could not fail to produce a singular effect upon The words might be magnified, diminished, his mind. multiplied, coloured, and obliterated, in a cloud of light, from which they might again reappear by the methods
wall, or

already described, as applicable to the magic lantern. The art of forming aerial representations was a great

desideratum
century.

among

the

opticians of

the

seventeenth

and others had made many unsuccessful attempts to produce such images, and the speculations of Lord Bacon on the subject are too curious to be withheld from the reader. " " It would be well bolted whether great out," says he,
Vitellio

may not be made upon reflections, as well as upon direct beams. For example, take an empty basin, put an angel or what you will into it then go so far from the basin till you cannot see the angel, because it is not then fill the basin with water, and you in a right line
refractions
;

shall see

out of its place, because of the refraction. To proceed, therefore, put a looking-glass into a basin of I suppose you shall not see the image in a right water.
it

line or at equal angles, but wide.


this, experiment

I know not whether

not be extended, so as you might see the image and not the glass, which, for beauty and strangeness, were a fine proof, for then you should see the image

may

like a spirit in the air.

As, for example,

if there

be a

cistern or pool of water, you shall place over against it the picture of the devil, or what you will, so as that you

do not see the water.


water
;

Then put

a looking-glass in the

you can see the devil's picture aside, not seeing the water, it would look like the devil indeed. They have an old tale in Oxford, that Friar Bacon walked between two steeples, which, was thought to be done by glasses, when he walked upon the ground."
if

now

168

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Kirclier also devoted himself to the production of such images, and he has given in the annexed figure his method At the bottom of a polished cylinof producing them. B he placed a figure C D, which we predrical vessel

sume must have been highly illuminated from below, and


to the spectators

who looked

into the vessel in an oblique

was exhibited an image placed vertically in the air as if it were ascending at the mouth of the vessel. Kirclier assures us that he once exhibited in this manner a representation of the Ascension of our Saviour, and that
direction there
Fie. 10.

the images were so perfect that the spectators could not be persuaded, till they had attempted to handle them, that they were not real substances. Although Kirclier Toes

not mention

it,

yet

it is

manifest that the original figure

must have been a deformed or anamorphous drawing, in order to give a reflected image of just proportions. We doubt, indeed, if the representation or the figure was ever
exhibited.
reflection.

AB

It is entirely incompatible with the

laws of

Among the ingenious and beautiful deceptions of the seventeenth century, we must enumerate that of the icfor-

CYLINDRICAL MIRRORS.

169

mation of distorted pictures by reflection from cylindrical and conical mirrors. In these representations the original image from which a perfect picture is produced is often

PO completely distorted, that the eye cannot trace in it the resemblance to any regular figure, and the greatest
degree of wonder
is

of course excited, whether the original

image

is

concealed or exposed to view.

These distorted
;

pictures

may be drawn by

strict geometrical rules

but I

have shown in Fig. 11 a simple and practical method of executing them. Let N be an accurate cylinder

made of tin-plate
side of
it

or of thick pasteboard. Out of the farther cut a small aperture abed', and out of the

nearer side cut a larger one


picture to be distorted.

ABC

D, the size of the


outline of

Having perforated the

170

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the picture with small holes, place it on the opening B C so that its surface may be cylindrical. Let a candle or a bright luminous object, the smaller the better,

be placed at
is

S, as far

behind the picture

ABCD

as the

afterwards to be placed before it, and the light eye passing through the small holes will represent on a horizontal plane a distorted image of the picture A' B' C' D',

which when sketched in outline with a pencil, and shaded


or coloured, will be ready for use. If we now substitute a polished cylindrical mirror of the same size in place of
Fig. 12.

M N, then the distorted picture when laid horizontally at


A
;

B' C' D' will be restored to


reflection at

by would

AB
it

its original state when seen It in the polished mirror. be an improvement on this method to place at a thin and flexible plate of transparent mica,

AB C D
it

having drawn upon


the

with a sharp point or painted upon

The projected image of this figure required. figure at A' B' C' D' may then be accurately copied. The effect of a cylindrical mirror is shown in Fig. 12,
which
use.
is

copied from an old one which

we have

seen in

The method above described is equally applicable to concave cylindrical mirrors, and to those of-a conical form,

MIRRORS OF VARIABLE CURVATURE.

171

and it may also be applied to mirrors of variable curvature, which produce different kinds of distortions from different
parts of their surfaces. By employing a mirror

curvature like

ABC,

whose surface has a variable Fig. 13, we obtain an instrument

for producing an endless variety of caricatures, all of which are characterized by their resemblance to the
original.

If a figure

MN

is

placed before such a mirror,

Fig. 13,

it

if the figure

will of course appear distorted and caricatured ; but even takes different distances and positions, the

variations
ciently

which the image undergoes are neither suffinumerous or remarkable to afford much amusement.

is very near the mirror, so that new But if the figure distortions are produced by the different distances of its different parts from the mirror, the most singular carica-

MN

may be exhibited. If the figure, for example, bends forward his head and the upper part of his body, they will swell in size, leaving his lower extremities short and If it draws back the upper part of the body, and slender.
tures

advances the limbs, the opposite

In like manner
the left side of

effect will take place. different sides of the head, the right or

it,

the brow or the chin,

may

be swelled

172

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

at pleasure. By stretching out the arms before the body they become like those of an orang-outang, and by drawing them back they dwindle into half their

and contracted

regular size. All these effects, which depend greatly on the agility and skill of the performer, may be very much increased by suitable distortions in his own features and
figure.

The

family likeness, which

is

of course never

lost in all the variety of figures

adds greatly to the interest ; have seen individuals so annoyed at recognizing their own likeness in the hideous forms of humanity which were thus delineated, that they could not be brought to contemplate them a second time. If the figure is inanimate, like the small cast of a statue, the effect is very curious,
as the swelling and contracting of the parts and the sudden change of expression give a sort of appearance of vitality
to the image.
is

which are thus produced, of the exhibition and we

The

inflexibility of

unfavourable to

its

such a figure, however, transformation into caricatures.

Interesting as these metamorphoses are, they lose in the simplicity of the experiment much of the wonder which they could not fail to excite if exhibited on a great scale, where the performer is invisible, and where it is
practicable to give an aerial representation of the cariThis may be done by means of the catured figures.

B apparatus shown in Fig. 7,* where we may suppose to be the reduced image seen in the reflecting surface By bringing this image nearer the Fig. 13. f

ABC, mirror M N,
image in
loss of light

may be formed
last

Fig. 7, a magnified and inverted image of it at a 6, of such a magnitude as to give the

P Q

the same size as

life.

Owing

to the

by the two reflections, a very powerful illumination would be requisite for the original figure. If such an exhibition were well got up the effect of it would
be very striking.
*

Page

163.

Page

171.

CONVERSION OF CAMEOS INTO INTAGLIOS.

173

LETTEB

V.

Conversions of cameos into intaglios Miscellaneous optical illusions or elevations into depressions, and the reverse Explanation of
this

class

of deceptions

Singular

effects

of illumination with

light of one simple colour

Lamps for producing homogeneous


effect

yellow light

Methods of increasing the

of this exhibition

Art of the inscription of coins in the dark deciphering the effaced inscription of coins Explanation of these singular effects Apparent motion of the eyes in portraits Method of reading
Remarkable examples of this Apparent motion of the features of a portrait, when the eyes are made to move Remarkable experiment of breathing light and darkness.

IN the preceding letter I have given an account of the most important instruments of Natural Magic which but there still remain depend on optical principles
;

several miscellaneous

the marvellous

is

phenomena on which the stamp of deeply impressed, and the study of

which

is

pregnant with instruction and amusement.

of the most curious of these is that false perception in vision by which we conceive depressions to be
elevations and elevations depressions, or
taglios are converted into cameos, This curious fact seems taglios.

One

by which inand cameos into into have been first

observed at one of the early meetings of the Koyal Society of London, when one of the members, in looking at a
guinea through a compound microscope of
tion,

new

construc-

head upon the coin depressed, while other members could only see it embossed
to see the

was surprised
really was.

as

it

While using telescopes and compound microscopes, Dr. Gmelin of Wurtemburg observed the same fact. The

174

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

protuberant parts of objects appeared to him depressed, and the depressed parts protuberant but what perplexed him extremely, this illusion took place at some times and
;

not at others, in some experiments and not in others, and appeared to some eyes and not to others. After making a great number of experiments, Dr. Gmelin is
effects:

said

to

have constantly observed the following

object rising upon a of any colour whatever, provided it was neither plane white nor shining, and provided the eye and the optical tube were directly opposite to it, the elevated parts

Whenever he viewed any

appeared depressed, and the depressed parts elevated. This happened when he was viewing a seal, and as often
as he held the tube of the telescope perpendicularly, and applied it in such a manner that its whole surface almost

covered the last glass of the tube.

The same

effect

was

produced when a compound microscope was used. When the object hung perpendicularly from a plane, and the
tube was supported horizontally and directly opposite to the illusion also took place, and the appearance was not altered when the object hung obliquely and even
it,

Dr. Gmelin is said to have at last dishorizontally. covered a method of preventing this illusion, which was,

by looking not towards the centre of the convexity, but at first to the edges of it only, and then gradually taking " But in the whole. why these things should so happen,
he did not pretend to determine."

The

best

method of observing

this deception is to view

the engraved seal of a watch with the eye-piece of an achromatic telescope, or with a compound microscope, or

any combination of lenses which inverts the objects that The depression in the seal will are viewed through it.*
* single convex lens will answer the purpose, provided we hold the eye six or eight inches behind the image of the seal formed in
is

conjugate focus.

CONVERSION OF CAMEOS INTO INTAGLIOS.

175

immediately appear an elevation, like tlie wax impression which is taken from it and though we know it to be
;

hollow, and feel finger, the illusion

its
is

concavity with the point of our so strong that it continues to appear


cause of this will be understood
is

a protuberance.

The

from Fig.

14,

where S

the

window

of the apartment,

Ffc. 14.

or the light which illuminates the holloio seal shaded side is of course on the same side
light.

L L

E, whose with the


lenses,

If
it

we now

invert the seal with one or

more

so that

may look in the opposite direction, it will appear to the eye as in Fig. 15, with the shaded side L

farthest

But as we know that the from the window. on our left Land, and that the light falls in the direction R L, and as every body with its shaded side farthest from the light must necessarily be convex

window

is still

seal is

or protuberant, we immediately believe that' the hollow now a cameo or bas-relief. The proof which the

eye thus receives of the seal being raised, overcomes the evidence of its being hollow derived from our actual knowledge, and from the sense of touch. In this experi-

176

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

merit the deception takes place


real direction of the light
if

from our knowing the upon the seal for the place of the window, with respect to the seal, had

which

falls

been inverted as well as the seal not have taken place.

itself,

the illusion could

In order to explain this better, let us suppose the seal R, Fig. 14, to be illuminated with a candle S, the If we invert place of which we can change at pleasure. L R it will rise into a cameo, as in Fig. 15 and if wo then place another candle D on the other side of it, as in Fig. 16, the hollow seal Avill be equally illuminated on

and it will sink down into a cavity or intaglio. If the two candles do not illuminate the seal equally, or
all sides,
Fig. 16.

if

any accidental circumstance produces a

belief that the

light is wholly or principally on one side, the mind will entertain a corresponding opinion respecting the state of

the seal, regarding it as a hollow if it believes the light to come wholly or principally from the right hand, and as a cameo if it believes the light to come from the left

hand.
If

we use a small

telescope to invert the seal, and if

we

cover up all the candle but its flame, and arrange the experiment so that the candle may be inverted along with the image, the seal will still retain its concavity,

because the shadow

is

still

on the same side with the

illuminating body. If we make the same experiments with the raised impression of the seal taken upon wax, we shall observe the

CONVERSION OF CAMEOS INTO INTAGLIOS.

177

very same phenomena, the seal being depressed when it alone is inverted, and retaining its convexity when the light is inverted along with it.

The illusion, therefore, under our consideration is the result of an operation of our own minds, whereby we judge of the forms of bodies by the knowledge we have
acquired of light and shadow.

Hence the illusion depends on the accuracy and extent of our knowledge on this subject and while some persons are under its influence,
;

others are entirely insensible to it. When the seat or hollow cavity is not polished, but ground, and the surface round it of uniform colour and smoothness, almost every
person, whether young or old, learned or ignorant, will be subject to the illusion ; because the youngest and the

most careless observers cannot but know that the shadow


Fig. 17.

is always on the side next the light, and the shadow of a protuberance on the side opposite to the

of a hollow

if the object is the raised impression of a seal I have found that when inverted it still seemed upon wax, raised to the three youngest of six persons, while the three eldest were subject to the deception.

light

but

This illusion may be dissipated by a process of reasoning arising from the introduction of a new circumstance in the experiment. Thus, let R L, Fig. 18, be the inverted seal, which consequently appears raised, and let an opaque and unpolished pin A be placed on one side of Its shadow will be of course opposite the the seal. In this case the seal which had become candle as at B.

1/0

LETTERS OX NATUEAL MAGIC.

a cameo by its inversion, will now sink down into a cavity by the introduction of the pin and its shadow for as
;

the pin and its shadow are inverted, as shown in Fig. 18, while the candle retains its place, the shadow of the pin
falling in the direction eye that the light is coming

AB

is

a stronger proof to the

from the right hand, than the actual knowledge of the candle being on the left hand, and therefore the cameo necessarily sinks into a cavity, or the shadow is now on the same side as the light. This experiment will explain to us why on some occasions an acute observer will elude the deception, while every
other person
is

subject to

it.

Let us suppose that a

Fig. 18.

particle of dust, or a little bit of wax, capable of giving a shadow, is adhering to the surface of the seal, an

ordinary observer will take no notice of this, or if he does, he will probably not make it a subject of consideration,

into a

and will therefore see the head on the seal raised but the attentive observer noticing the cameo little protuberance, and observing that its shadow lies to the left of it, will instantly infer that the light comes in that direction, and will still see the seal hollow. I have already mentioned that in some cases even the
;

sense of touch does not correct the erroneous perception. of course feel that the part of the hollow on which

We

the finger is placed is actually hollow ; but if we look at the other part of the hollow it will still appear raised.. By using two candles yielding different degrees of light,

CONVERSION OF CAMEOS INTO INTAGLIOS.


and thus giving an uncertainty
light,

179

to the direction of the

we may weaken the


it

illusion

choose, so as to overpower

in any degree we by touch or by a process of

reasoning. I have had occasion to observe a series of analogous phenomena arising from the same cause, but produced

without any instrument for inverting the object.

If

B,

a for example, is a plate of mother-of-pearl, and circular or any other cavity (Fig. 19) ground or turned
in
it,

L K

then

if this

cavity is illuminated
Fig. 19.

by a candle or a

window at S, in place of there being a shadow of the margin L of the hollow next the light, as there would have been had the body been opaque, a quantity of bright refracted light will appear where there would have been a
shadow, and the rest of the cavity will be comparatively obscure, as if it were in shade. The necessary consequence of this is, that the cavity will appear as an elevation when
seen only by the naked eye, as it is only an elevated surface that could have its most luminous side at L.

Similar illusions take place in certain pieces of polished

wood, calcedony, and mother-of-pearl, where the surface is This arises from there being at that perfectly smooth. place a knot or growth, or nodule of different transparency

from the surrounding mass, and the cause of it will be understood from Fig. 20. Let m o be the surface of a mahogany table, A m o B a section of the table, and m n o a section of a knot, more transparent than the rest of the

180
mass.

LETTERS ON NATUEAL MAGIC.

Owing

to the transparency of the thin edge at o,

opposite to the candle S, the side o is illuminated, while the rest of the knot is comparatively dark, so that on the

n o appears to be principles already explained the spot a hollow in the table. From this cause arises the appearance of dimples in certain plates of calcedony called hammered calcedony, owing to its having the look of

being dimpled with a hammer. The surface on which these cavities are seen is a section of small spherical
aggregations of siliceous matter, which exhibit the same
Fig. 20.

as the cavities in wood. Mother-of-pearl presents the very same phenomena, and it is indeed so common in this substance that it is nearly impossible to find a mother-of-pearl button or counter which seems to

phenomena

have

its

surface

flat,

although they are perfectly so when

examined by the touch;

Owing

to the different refraction

of the incident light by the different growths of the shell cut in different directions by the artificial surface, like the

annual growth of wood in a dressed plank, the surface has


necessarily an unequal and undulating appearance. Among the wonders of science there are perhaps none

more surprising than the effects produced upon coloured with homogeneous light, or objects by illuminating them The light which emanates from the light of one colour. sun, and by which all the objects of the material world
are exhibited to us, is
red, yellow,

and

blue,

composed of three different colours, by the mixture of which in different

HOMOGENEOUS YELLOW LIGHT.

181

proportions all the various hues of nature may be produced. These three colours, when mixed in the proportion in which they occur in the sun's rays, compose a

purely white light

but

if

any body on which

this white

or stop, or detain within its substance any part of any one or more of these simple colours, it will appear to the eye of that colour which arises from
light falls shall absorb,
all the rays which it does not absorb, or of that colour which white light would have if deprived of the colours which are absorbed. Scarlet cloth, for example,

the mixture of

many of the yellow, and Yellow cloth absorbs most of the blue and many of the red rays, and therefore appears yellow, and blue cloth absorbs most of the yellow and red rays. If we were to illuminate the scarlet cloth with pure and unmixed yellow light, it would appear yellow, because the
hence appears
red.

absorbs most of the blue rays and

scarlet cloth does


reflects

some of them

not absorb all the yellow rays, but and if we illuminate blue cloth
;

with yellow light, it will appear nearly black, because it absorbs all the yellow light, and reflects almost none of it. But whatever be the nature and colour of the bodies on

which the yellow light falls, the light which it reflects must be yellow, for no other light falls upon them, and those which are not capable of reflecting yellow light must appear absolutely black, however brilliant be their colour

now discovered of producing yellow abundance were not known to the ancient conjurers, nor even to those of later times, they have never availed themselves of this valuable resource. It has been known that salt thrown into the wick of a flame prolong duces yellow light, but this light is mixed with blue and green rays, and is, besides, so small in quantity that it
light in

in the light of day. As the methods

illuminates objects only that are in the immediate vicinity of the flame. method which I have found capable of

182
producing
is

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

it in abundance is shown in B Fig. 21, where a lamp containing at A a large quantity of alcohol and water or ardent spirits, which gradually descends into a This cup is strongly heated platina or metallic cup D.

by a spirit-lamp L,

inclosed in a dark lantern

and when

the diluted alcohol in

inflamed, it will burn with a fierce and powerful yellow flame if the flame should not be perfectly yellow, owing to an excess of alcohol, a
is
:

proportion of sajt thrown into the cup will answer the same purpose as a further dilution of the alcohol.*

A monochromatic lamp for producing yellow light may be constructed most effectually by employing a portable
gas lamp containing compressed oil gas. If we allow the gas to escape in a copious stream, and set it on fire, it will

form an explosive mixture with the atmospheric air, and will no longer burn with a white flame, but will emit a
bluish and reddish light.
*

The

force of the issuing gas,


vol. ix. p. 435.

See Edinburgh Transactions,

HOMOGENEOUS YELLOW LIGHT.

183

or any accidental current of air, is capable of blowing out this flame, so that it is necessary to have a contrivance

The method which I used for this purit. shown in Fig. 22. A small gas tube ale, arising N of the gas lamp P Q, termifrom the main burner nates above the burner, and has a short tube d e, moveablc up and down within it, so as to be gas-tight. This tube d e, closed at e, communicates with the hollow ring/ g, in the inside of which four apertures are perforated in such
for sustaining
is

pose

Fig. 22.

a manner as to throw their jets of gas to the apex of a When we cause the gas to cone, of which / g is the base. flow from the burner M, by opening the main cock A, it
will rush into the tube
at the four holes in the
is

abed, and
ring/0.

issue in small flames


size of these flames

The

The inflammation, therefore, regulated by the cock b. of the ignited gas will be sustained by these four subsidiary

flames through which it passes, independent of any agitation of the air, or of the force with which it issues from

the burner.

On

a projecting

arm

Ji,

carrying a ring

h,

184

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIO.

I fixed a broad collar, made of coarse cotton wick, which had been previously soaked in a saturated solution of
salt. When the gas is allowed to escape at M, with such force as to produce a long and broad column of an explosive mixture of gas and atmospheric air, the bluish

common

flame occasioned by the explosion passes through the salted collar, and is converted by it into a mass of homo-

geneous yellow light. This collar will last a long time without any fresh supply of salt, so that the gas lamp will
yield a permanent monochromatic yellow flame, which will last as long as there is gas in the reservoir. In place of a collar of cotton wick, a hollow cylinder of sponge,

with numerous projecting tufts, may be used, or a collar may be similarly constructed with asbestos cloth, and, if

thought necessary,

it

might be supplied with a saline

solution from a capillary fountain. Having thus obtained the means of illuminating any apartment with yellow light, let the exhibition be made

in a

room with furniture of various bright colours, with The party water coloured paintings on the wall. which is to witness the experiment should be dressed in a
oil or
;

and the brightest coloured diversity of the gayest colours flowers and highly-coloured drawings should be placed on
the tables.

The room being

at first lighted

with ordinary
it

lights, the bright

and gay colours of everything that

If the white lights are contains will be finely displayed. now suddenly extinguished, and the yellow lamps lighted,

The the most appalling metamorphosis will be exhibited. astonished individuals will no longer be able to recognise each other. All the furniture in the room and all the
objects which it contains will exhibit only one colour. The flowers will lose their hues. The paintings and

drawings will appear as if they were executed in China ink, and the gayest dresses, the brightest scarlets, the purest lilacs, the richest blues, and the most vivid greens

HOMOGENEOUS YELLOW LIGHT.


will all be converted into one

185

monotonous yellow.

The

complexions of the parties too will suffer a corresponding


change.

One

pallid death-like yellow.


-like the

unnatural hue

Which autumn
will envelop the

plants upon the perished -leaf,

young and the

old,

and the sallow faces

from the metamorphosis. Each individual derives merriment from the cadaverous appearance of his neighbour, without being sensible that he is himself
will alone escape

one of the ghostly assemblage. If, in the midst of the astonishment which is thus created, the white lights are restored at one end of the
room, while the yellow lights are taken to the other end, one side of the dress of every person, namely, that next the white light, will be restored to its original colours,
while the other side will retain
its yellow hue. One cheek will appear in a state of health and colour, while

the other retains the paleness of death, and, as the individuals change their position, they will exhibit the most extraordinary transformations of colour.
If, when all the lights are yellow, beams of white light are transmitted through a number of holes like those in a sieve, each luminous spot will restore the colour of the

dress or furniture

upon which

it

falls,

and the nankeen

family will appear all mottled over with every variety of tint. If a magic lantern is employed to throw upon the
walls or upon the dresses of the company luminous figures of flowers or animals, the dresses will be painted with these figures in the real colour of the dress itself. Those

alone

who appeared

in

yellow, and

with yellow com-

plexions, will to a great degree escape all these singular

changes. I red and blue light could be produced with the same facility and in the same abundance as yellow light, the

186

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

illumination of the apartment with these lights in succession would add to the variety and wonder of the exhibition.

The red

light might perhaps be procured in sufficient quantity from the nitrate and other salts of strontian ; but it would be difficult to obtain a blue flame of sufficient

intensity for the suitable illumination of a large room. Brilliant white lights, however, might be used, having for

screens glass troughs containing a mass one or two inches thick of a solution of the ammoniacal carbonate of copper.

This solution absorbs, all the rays of the spectrum but the blue, and the intensity of the blue light thus produced would increase in the same proportion as the white light
employed.

Among

the

numerous experiments with which science


even strikes terror into the

astonishes and sometimes

ignorant, there is none more calculated to produce this effect than that of displaying to the eye in absolute darkTo do this, ness the legend or inscription upon a coin.

take a silver coin (I have always used an old one), and after polishing the surface as much as possible, make the parts of it which are raised rough by the action of an acid,

the parts not raised, or those which are to be rendered If the coin thus prepared darkest, retaining their polish. is placed upon a mass of red-hot iron, and removed into a

dark room, the inscription upon it will become less luminous than the rest, so that it may be distinctly read by the spectator. The mass of red-hot iron should be concealed from the observer's eye, both for the purpose of rendering the eye fitter for observing the effect, and of

removing
reflected,

all

the dark, that

doubt that the inscription is really read in is, without receiving any light, direct or

from any other body. If, in place of polishing the depressed parts, and roughening its raised parts, we make the raised parts polished, and roughen the depressed will now be less luminous than the parts, the inscription

READING COINS IN THE DARK.


depressed parts, and
its

187

being as

it

we shall still be able to read it, from were written in black letters on a white

ground. The first time I made this experiment, without being aware of what would be the result, I used a French shilling of Louis XV., and I was not a little surprised to
observe upon its surface in black letters the inscription BENEDICTUM SIT NOYEN DEI. The most surprising form of this experiment is when we use a coin from which the inscription has been either

wholly obliterated, or obliterated in such a degree as to be illegible. When such a coin is laid upon the red-hot

and figures become oxidated, and the film of oxide radiating more powerfully than the rest of the coin will be more luminous than the rest of the coin, and
iron, the letters

the illegible inscription may be now distinctly read, to the great surprise of the observer, who had examined the

blank surface of the coin previous to


the hot iron.

its

being placed upon

The

different appearances of the

same

coin,

according as the raised parts are polished or roughened, are shown in Figs. 23 and 24.

In order to explain the cause of these remarkable we must notice a method which has been long
lown, though never explained, of deciphering the inThis is done by merely scriptions on worn-out coins. An oxidation takes placing the coin upon a hot iron. place over the whole surface of the coin, the film of oxide changing its tint with the intensity or continuance of the
heat.

The

tion

had existed oxidate

parts, however, where the letters of the inscripat a different rate from the sur-

rounding parts, so that these letters exhibit their shape, and become legible, in consequence of the film of oxide which covers them having a different thickness, and therefore reflecting a different tint from that of the adjacent
parts.

The tints thus developed sometimes pass through m$ lany orders of brilliant colours, particularly pink and

188
green,

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and

resting
tint left

can just rub of the finger. When the experiment


coin,

settle in a bronze, and sometimes a black tint, upon the inscription alone. In some cases the on the trace of the letters is so very faint that it be seen, and may be entirely removed by a slight

is

often repeated with the

same

and the oxidations successively removed

after each

experiment, the film of oxide continues to diminish, and at last ceases to make its appearance. It recovers the
is

When the coin property, however, in the course of time. put upon the hot iron, and consequently when the oxiFir. 24,

dation is the greatest, a considerable smoke arises from

frequent repetition.
this smoke,

the coin, and this diminishes, like the film of oxide, by coin which had ceased to emit

slightly after having been exposed twelve hours to the air. I have found from numerous

smoked

always the raised parts of the coin, and in coins the elevated ledge round the inscription, In an English shilling of that becomes first oxidated.
trials that it is

modern
1816
If

this ledge exhibited a brilliant yellow tint before it appeared on any other part of the coin.

that has never been

we use an uniform and homogeneous disc of silver hammered or compressed, its surface

heated.

will oxidate equally, provided all its parts are equally In the process of converting this disc into a coin.

BEADING COINS IN THE DARK.

189

the sunk parts have obviously been most compressed by the prominent parts of the die, and the elevated parts least compressed, the metal being in the latter left as it were in
its

natural state.

The

raised letters

and

figures

on a coin

than the other parts, and these When the parts oxidate sooner, or at a lower temperature.

have therefore

less density

of the legend are worn off by friction, the parts immediately below them have also less density than the surrounding metal, and the site as it were of the letters
letters

therefore receives from heat a degree of oxidation, and a colour different from that of the surrounding surface.
invisiblo letters

Hence we obtain an explanation of the revival of the by oxidation. The same influence of difference of density may be observed in the beautiful oxidations which are produced
with

on the surface of highly-polished steel, heated in contact and 630 of air, at temperatures between 430 Fahrenheit.* "When the steel has hard portions called pins by the workmen, the uniform tint of the film of oxide stops near these hard portions, which always exhibit colours different from those of the rest of the mass. These parts, on account of their increased density, absorb
the oxygen of atmospheric air less copiously than the surrounding portions. Hence we see the cause why steel

expanded by heat absorbs oxygen, which, when united with the metal, forms the coloured superficial film. As
the heat increases, a greater quantity of oxygen is absorbed, and the film increases in thickness. These observations enable us to explain the legibility of inscriptions in the dark, whether the coin is in a perfect All black or rough state, or the letters of it worn off. surfaces radiate light more copiously tha^i polished or smooth surfaces, and hence the inscription is luminous when it is rough, and obscure when it is polished, and the letters
*

See Edinburgh Encyclopedia. Art.

Sxri::.,

vol xviii. p. 387.

190

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

covered with black oxide are more luminous than the adjacent parts, on account of the superior radiation of

by the black oxide which covers them. the means now described invisible writing might be conveyed by impressing it upon a metallic surface, and afterwards erasing it by grinding and polishing that
light

By

surface perfectly smooth. When exposed to a proper degree of heat, the secret would display itself written in oxidated letters. Many amusing experiments might be

made upon the same

principle. series of curious and sometimes

alarming deceptions,

from the representation of objects in perspective upon a plane surface. One of the most interesting of these depends on the principles which regulate the
arises

apparent direction of the eyes in a portrait. Dr. Wollaston has thought this subject of sufficient importance to be

some length in the Philosophical Transactions. look at any person we direct to them both our face and our eyes, and in this position the circular iris
treated at

When we

is

will be in the middle of the white of the eyeball, or, what the same thing, there will be the same quantity of white

on each side of the

iris.

If the eyes are


fixed,

cither side, while the

head remains

now moved to we shall readily

judge of the change of their direction by the greater or less quantity of white on each side of the iris. This test,
however, accurate as
extent to
it is,

enables us only to estimate the

which the eyes deviate in direction from the But their direction of the face to which they belong. direction in reference to the person who views them is and Dr. Wollaston is of entirely a different matter
;

are not guided by the eyes alone, but are rnconsciously aided by the concurrent position of the entire face. opinion, that

we

If a skilful painter draws a pair of eyes with great correctness directed to the spectator, and deviating from

MOTION OF THE EYES IN PORTRAITS.


the geiieral position of the face as

191

much
to

as is usual in

good
to

portraits,

it

is

very

difficult

determine their

and they will appear to have different directions But what is very curious, Dr. persons. Wollaston has shown that the same pair of eyes may be made to direct themselves either to or from the spectator by the addition of other features in which the position of
direction,
different

the face

is

changed.

Thus

in Fig. 25, the pair of eyes are

looking intently at the spectator, and the face has a corresponding direction ; but when we cover up the face in
Fig. 25 with the face in Fig. 26, which looks to the right, the eyes change their direction, and look to the right also. In like manner, eyes drawn originally to look a little to

the right or the left of the spectator may be directly at him by adding suitable features.

made

to look

The nose is obviously the principal feature which produces this change of direction, as it is more subject to change of perspective than any of the other features but
;

Dr. Wollaston has shown, by a very accurate experiment, that even a small portion of the nose introduced with the

He obtained features will carry the eyes along with it. four exact copies of the same pair of eyes looking at the

192
spectator,

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

plate,

by transferring them upon copper from a steel and having added to each of two pair of them, a nose in one case directed to the right, and in the other, to the left, and to each of the other two pairs a very small

portion of the upper part of the nose, all the four pair of eyes lost their front direction, and looked to the right or
to the left, according to the direction of the nose, or of the
is not limited, as Dr. Wollaston remarks, to the mere change in the direction of the eyes, " for a total difference of character may be given to the same eyes by a due representation of the other

portion of it which was added. But the effect thus produced

features.

A lost look
may

of devout abstraction in an uplifted

be exchanged for an appearance of archness in the leer of a younger face turned inquisitive downwards and obliquely towards the opposite side," as in

countenance

This, however, is perhaps not an exact Fig. 27, 28. The new character which is said expression of the fact.
to be given to the eyes is given only to the eyes in

com-

bination with the

new

features, or,

what

is

probably more

correct, the inquisitive archness is in the other features, and the eye does not belie it.

Dr. Wollaston has not noticed the converse of these


illusions, in

which a change of direction

is

given to fixed

features

by a change in the direction of the eyes. This effect is finely seen in some magic lantern sliders, where a pair of eyes is made to move in the head of a figure which invariably follows the motion of the eyeballs. Having thus determined the influence which the general
perspective of the face has upon the apparent direction of the eyes in a portrait, Dr. Wollaston applies it to the ex-

planation of the well-known fact, that when the eyes of a portrait look at a spectator in front of it they will follow him, and appear to look at him in every other
direction.

This curious

fact,

which has received

less con-

MOTION OP THE FEATURES OF A PORTHAIT.


sideration

193

than

it

merits, has

been often skilfully em-

ployed by the novelist, in alarming the fears or exciting


the courage of his hero. ancestors, his attention

On
is

returning to the hall of his powerfully fixed on the grim

The parts which they portraits which surround him. have respectively performed in the family history rise to his mind his own actions, whether good or evil, are
:

called

of his

up in contrast, and as the preserver or the destroyer line, he stands as it were in judgment before them.

His imagination, thus excited by conflicting feelings, transfers a sort of vitality to the canvas, and if the person" ages do not start from their frames," they will at least
bend upon him their frowns or their approbation. It is in vain that he tries to evade their scrutiny. Wherever he goes their eyes eagerly pursue him they will seem even to look at him over their shoulders, and he will find
;

191:

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


shun their gaze but by quitting the

it

impossible to

apartment. As the spectator in this case changes his position in a horizontal plane, the effect which we have described
is

of the

accompanied by an apparent diminution in the breadth human face, from only seven or eight inches till

it disappears at a great obliquity. In moving, therefore, from a front view to the most oblique view of the face, the change in its apparent breadth is so slow that the apparent motion of the head of the figure is scarcely recognized as it follows the spectator. But if the per-

spective figure has a great breadth in a horizontal plane, such as a soldier firing his musket, an artilleryman his

piece of ordnance, a bowman drawing his bow, or a lancer pushing his spear, the apparent breadth of the figure will vary from five to six feet or upwards till it disappears, and therefore the change of apparent magnitude is sufficiently rapid to give the figure the dreaded appearance of turning round, and following the spectator. One of the best examples of this must have been often observed
in the foreshortened figure of a dead
tally,

body lying horizonwhich has the appearance of following the observer with great rapidity, and turning round upon the head as
the centre of motion.

The cause of this phenomenon is easily explained. Let us suppose a portrait with its face and its eyes
directed straight in front, so as to look at the spectator. Let a straight line be drawn through the tip of the nose

middle

and half way between the eyes, which we shall call the line. On each side of this middle line there will be the same breadth of head, of cheek, of chin, and of neck, and each iris will be in the middle of the whole of the eye. If we now go to one side, the apparent horizontal breadth of every part of the head and face will be diminished,
but the parts on each side of the middle line will be

MOTION OF THE FEATURES OF A PORTRAIT.

195

diminished equally, and at any position, however oblique, there will be the same breadth of face on each side of the

middle line, and the iris will be in the centre of the whole of the eyeball, so that the portrait preserves all
the characters of a figure looking at the spectator, and must necessarily do so wherever he stands. This explanation might be illustrated by a picture which represents three artillerymen, each firing a piece of ordnance in parallel directions. Let the gun of the middle one be pointed accurately to the eye of the spectator, so that he sees neither its right side nor its left, nor its upper nor its under side, but directly down its muzzle,
so that if there was an opening in the breech he would see through it. In like manner the spectator will see the left side of the gun on his left hand, and the right side of

gun on his right hand. If the spectator now changes his place, and takes ever such an oblique position, either laterally or vertically, he must still see the same thing,
the

because nothing else is presented to his view. The gun of the middle soldier must always point to his eye, and the other guns to the right and left of him. They must
therefore all three seem to

move

as he moves,

and follow

The same observahis eye in all its changes of place. tions are of course applicable to buildings and streets

m in
is

perspective.
indistinct

In common portraits the apparent motion of the head


generally rendered

by the

canvas being

imperfectly stretched, as the slightest concavity or convexity entirely deforms the face when the obliquity is

The deception is therefore best seen when the painting is executed on a very flat board, and in colours sufficiently vivid to represent every line in the
considerable.

This face with tolerable distinctness at great obliquities. distinctness of outline is indeed necessary to a satisfactory The most perfect exhibition of this optical illusion.

196

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


saw of
it

exhibition, indeed, that I ever

was in the case

of a painting of a ship upon a sign-board executed in It contained a view of the stern, and strongly gilt lines.
side of a ship in the stocks, and, owing to the flatness of the board and the brightness of the lines, the gradual development of the figure from the most violent fore-

shortening at great obliquities till it attained its perfect form, was an effect which surprised every person that saw
it.

The only other optical illusion which our limits will permit us to explain, is the very remarkable experiment of what may be truly called breathing light or darkness.
Let S be a candle where light falls at an angle of 56 45' upon two glass plates A, B, placed close to each other, and let the reflected rays A C, B D, fall at the same angle upon two similar plates 0, D, but so placed that the plane of reflection from the latter is at right angles An eye placed to the plane of reflection from the former.
Fig. 29.

at E,

C and
by a

and looking at the same time into the two plates D, will see very faint images of the candle S, which

of the place may be made to disslight adjustment the plate C to remain appear almost wholly. Allowing as it is, change the position of D, till its inclination to or made nearly is diminished about the ray B

3,

done, the image that had diswill be restored, so that the appeared on looking into

53

11'.

When

this is

BREATHING LIGHT AND DARKNESS.

197

spectator at E, upon looking into the two mirrors C, D, will see no light in C, because the candle has nearly disappeared, while the candle is distinctly seen in D.

while the spectator is looking into these two If, mirrors, either he or another person breathes upon them gently and quickly, the breath will revive the extinguished image in C, and will extinguish the visible image in D. The following is the cause of this singular
result. The light A C, B D, is polarized by reflection from the plates A, B, because it is incident at the polarizing angle of 56 45' for glass. When we breathe upon the plates C, D, we form upon their surface a thin film of water, whose polarizing angle is 53 11', so that if the

polarized rays an angle of 53

G, B D, fell upon the plates C, D, at 11', the candle from which they proceeded

would not be

visible, or

they would not suffer reflection

from the plates C D. At all other angles the light would Now the plate D be reflected and the candles visible. is placed at an angle of 53 11', and C at an angle of
56 45', so that when a film of water is breathed upon them the light will be reflected from the latter, and none from the former that is, the act of breathing upon the plates will restore the invisible, and extinguish the visible
:

image.

J8

LETTEKS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER

VI.

Natural phenomena men-Iced with Hie marvellous Spectre of the Brochen described Analogous phenomena Aerial spectres seen in Cumberland Fata Morgana in the Straits of Messina Objects
below the horizon raised and magnified by refraction Singular example seen at Hastings Dover Castle seen through the hill on which it stands Erect and inverted images of distant ships seen in the air Similar phenomena seen in the Arctic regions En-

chanted coast Mr. Scoresby recognizes his father's ship by its aerial image Images of cows seen in the air Inverted images of horses seen in South America Lateral images produced by
refraction

Aerial spectres by reflection

Explanation of the pre-

ceding phenomena.

AMONG

the wonders of the natural world which are every day presented to us, without either exciting our surprise or attracting our notice, some are occasionally displayed

which possess all the characters of supernatural phenomena. In the names by which they are familiarly known, we recognize the terror which they inspired, and
even now, when science has reduced them to the level of
natural phenomena, and developed the causes from which they arise, they still retain their primitive importance, and are watched by the philosopher with as intense

an interest as when they were deemed the immediate of Divine power. Among these phenomena we may enumerate the Spectre of the Brocken, the Fata
effects

Straits of Messina, the Spectre Ships which in the air, and the other extraordinary effects of the appear

Morgana of the

Mirage.*
*

In the
is

Sanscrit, says

Mirage

called

Mriga Trichna,

Baron Humboldt, the phenomenon of the " thirst or desire of the antelope," no

SPECTRE OF THE BROCKET.

199

The Brocken

is

the

name

of the loftiest of the Hartz

Mountains, a picturesque range which lies in the kingdom It is elevated 3300 feet above the sea, and of Hanover. commands the view of a plain seventy leagues in extent,

occupying nearly the two-hundredth part of the whole of Europe, and animated with a population of above five mil-

From the earliest periods of authentic the Brocken has been the seat of the marvellous. history, On its summits are still seen huge blocks of granite,
lions of inhabitants.

called the Sorcerer's Chair and the Altar.

spring of

pure water

and the
title

known by the name of the Magic Fountain, anemone of the Brocken is distinguished by the
is

of the Sorcerer's Flower.

These names are supposed

to have originated in the rites of the great Idol Cortho, whom the Saxons worshipped in secret on the summit of

Brocken, when Christianity was extending her benignant sway over the subjacent plains. As the locality of these idolatrous rites, the Brocken
the

mst have been much frequented, and we can scarcely loubt that the spectre which now so often haunts it at mnrise must have been observed from the earliest times ;
but
ly
it is

nowhere mentioned that

this

phenomenon was

in

associated with the objects of their idolatrous One of the best accounts of the spectre of the worship. frocken is that which is given by M. Haue, who saw it on

way

the 23rd of May, 1797. After having been on the summit of the mountain no less than thirty times, he had at last the good fortune of witnessing the object of his curiosity.

The sun

rose about four o'clock in the

a serene atmosphere.

morning through In the south- west, towards Achter-

ibt

because this animal, Mrifja, compelled by thirst, Trichna. iches those barren plains where, from the effect of unequal

fraction,
iters.

he thinks he perceives the undulating surface of the


vol.
iii.

Personal Narrative,

p. 554.

200

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

inannshohe, a brisk west wind carried before it the transparent vapours, which had not yet. been condensed into
thick heavy clouds. About a quarter past four he went towards the inn, and looked round to see whether the

atmosphere would afford him a free prospect towards the south-west, when he observed at a very great distance,
towards Achtermannshohe, a human figure of a monstrous size. His hat, having been almost carried away by a
violent gust of wind, he suddenly raised his hand to his head, to protect his hat, and the colossal figure did the

same.

He

immediately

made another movement by


Fig. 30.

bending his body,


spectral figure.

an action which was repeated by the


desirous of

M. Haue was

making further

He remained, experiments, but the figure disappeared. in the same position, expecting its return, and however, in a few minutes it again made its appearance on the
Achtermannshohe, when it mimicked his gestures as He then called the landlord of the inn, and both taken the same position which he had before, having
before.

they looked towards the Achtermannshohe but saw nothing. In a very short space of time, however, two colossal figures were formed over the above eminence, and after bending their bodies and imitating the gestures of the

t
its

AERIAL SPEC TEES IN CUMBERLAND.

201

Ketaining their posispectators, they disappeared. and keeping their eyes still fixed upon the same spot,

tne two gigantic spectres again stood before them, and were joined by a tlmd. Every movement that they made was imitated by the three figures, but the effect varied in
intensity, being

sometimes weak and

faint,

and

at

other times strong and well defined. In the year 1798 M. Jordan saw the same
at sunrise,

phenomenon

and under similar circumstances, but with less distinctness and without any duplication of the figures.*

Phenomena perfectly analogous to the preceding, though seen under less imposing circumstances, have been often When the spectator sees his own shadow witnessed.
opposite to the sun upon a mass of thin fleecy vapour passing near him, it not only imitates all his movements, but its head is distinctly encircled with a halo of light.

The
its

aerial figure is often not larger than life, its size

and

apparent distance depending, as we shall afterwards I have often seen a similar see, upon particular causes.
in a bright summer's day in an of deep water. When the fine mud pool deposited at the bottom of the pool is disturbed by ie feet of the bather, so as to be disseminated through

Low

when bathing

msive

ie

tadow

mass of water in the direction of his shadow, his is no longer a shapeless mass formed upon the ;tom, but is a regular figure formed upon the floating icles of mud, and having the head surrounded with

halo, not only luminous, but consisting of distinct radi,tions.

of the most interesting accounts of aerial spectres which we are acquainted has been given by Mr, James Clarke, in his Survey of the Lakes of Cumberland^ and the accuracy of this account was confirmed by the
ith

One

See J. F. Gmelin's
i.

Gottingischen Journal der Wisseneliaften,

partiii.

1798.

202

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

two of the persons by whom the phenoseen. On a summer's evening in the 1743, when Daniel Stricket, servant to John Wren year of Wilton Hall, was sitting at the door along with his master, they saw the figure of a man with a dog pursuing some horses along Souterfell side, a place so extremely
attestations of

mena were

first

steep that a horse could scarcely travel upon it at all. The figures appeared to run at an amazing pace, till they

On the got out of sight at the lower end of the Pell. following morning Stricket and his master ascended the
steep side of the mountain, in the full expectation of finding the man dead, and of picking up some of the shoes of the horses, which they thought must have been cast

while galloping at such a furious rate.


tions,

Their expecta-

man

No traces either of however, were disappointed. or horse could be found, and they could not even

discover upon the turf the single mark of a horse's hoof. These strange appearances, seen at the same time by two
different persons in perfect health, could not fail to a deep impression on their minds. They at first

make
conit,

cealed what they had 'seen, but they at length disclosed

and were laughed at for their credulity. In the following year, on the 23rd June, 1744, Daniel Stricket, who was then servant to Mr. Lancaster of Blakehills (a place near Wilton Hall, and both of which places are only about half a mile from Souterfell), was walking,
about seven o'clock in the evening, a little above the house, when he saw a troop of horsemen riding on Souterfell side in pretty close ranks, and at a brisk pace. Recollecting the ridicule that had been cast upon him the

preceding year, he continued to observe the figures for some time in silence but being at last convinced that there could be no deception in the matter, he went to the
;

house and informed his master that he had something curious to show him. They accordingly went out to.

FATA MORGANA.
:

203

ctetlip.r but before Stricket had pointed out the place gether; h Lancaster's son had discovered the aerial figures. Mr.

family was then summoned to the spot, and the phenomena were seen alike by them all. The equestrian figures seemed to come from the lowest parts of Souterfell and became visible at a place called Knott. They then

The

advanced in regular troops along the side of the Fell, till they came opposite to Blakehills, when they went over the mountain, after describing a kind of curvilineal path. The pace at which the figures moved was a regular swift
walk, and they continued to be seen for upwards of two hours, the approach of darkness alone preventing them

from being visible. Many troops were seen in succesand frequently the last but one in a troop quitted sion his position, galloped to the front, and took up the same
;

pace with the

rest.

equally by not confined to

all the

in the figures wero seen and the view of them was spectators, the farm of Blakehills only, but they were

The changes

seen by every person at every cottage within the distance of a mile, the number of persons who saw them amounting
to about twenty-six.

The

attestation of these facts, signed

by Lancaster and
July, 1744.

Stricket, bears the date of

the 21st

These extraordinary sights were received not only with They were not even honoured with a place in the records of natural phenomena, and the philosophers of the day were neither possession of analogous facts, nor were they acquainted
distrust but with absolute incredulity.

dth those principles of atmospherical refraction upon fhich they depenc. The strange phenomena, indeed, of le Fata Morgana, or the Castles of the Fairy Morgana,

been long before observed, and had been described by archer in the seventeenth century, but they presented )thing so mysterious as the aerial troopers of Souterfell
;

id the general characters of the

two phenomena were so

204

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

for ascribing

unlike, that even a philosopher might have been excused them to different causes.

This singular exhibition has been frequently seen in the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the coast oi
Italy,

and whenever
it

it

takes place, the people, in a state

were not only a pleasing but a lucky phenomenon, hurry down to the sea, exclaiming Morgana, Morgana. When the rays of the rising sun form an angle of 45 on the sea of Eeggio, and when the surface of the
of exultation, as if
is perfectly unruffled either by the wind or the current, a spectator placed upon an eminence in the city, and having his back to the sun and his face to the sea,

water

observes upon the surface of the water superb palaces with their balconies and windows, lofty towers, herds and
flocks grazing in

wooded valleys and


foot,

fertile plains,

armies

with multiplied fragments of buildings, such as columns, pilasters, and arches.


of

men on horseback and on

These objects pass rapidly in succession along the surface


of the sea during the brief period of their appearance. The various objects thus enumerated are pictures of palaces and buildings actually existing on shore, and the
living objects are of course only seen when they happen to form a part of the general landscape. If at the time that these phenomena are visible the

atmosphere is charged with vapour or dense exhalations, the same objects which are depicted upon the sea will be seen also in the air occupying a space which extends from These the surface to the height of twenty-five feet.
images, however, are less distinctly delineated than the former.
If the air
is in

such a state as to deposit

clew,

and

is

capable of forming the rainbow, the objects will be seen only on the surface of the sea, but they all appear fringed

with red, yellow, and blue light as


through a prism.

if

they were seen

OBJECTS

BELOW THE HOBIZON MAGNIFIED.

205

In our own country, and in our own times,

facts still

more extraordinary have been witnessed. From Hastings, on the coast of Sussex, the cliffs on the French coast are fifty miles distant, and they are actually hid by the conthat is, a straight line drawn from vexity of the earth Hastings to the French coast would pass through the sea.
;

On Wednesday, the 26th July, 1798, about five o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Latham, a Fellow of the Eoyal Society, then residing at Hastings, was surprised to see a crowd of
people running to the seaside. Upon inquiry into the cause of this, he learned that the coast of France could be
seen by the naked eye, and he immediately went down to witness so singular a sight. He distinctly saw the cliffs extending for some leagues along the French coast, and

they were only a few miles off. They gradually appeared more and more elevated, and seemed to approach nearer to the eye. The sailors with whom
they appeared as
if

Mr. Latham walked along the water's edge were

at first

unwilling to believe in the reality of the appearance, but they soon became so thoroughly convinced of it, that they pointed out and named to him the different places which

they had been accustomed to visit, and which they conceived to be as near as if they were sailing at a small
for nearly

These appearances continued an hour, the cliffs sometimes appearing brighter and nearer, and at other times fainter and more remote. Mr. Latham then went upon the eastern cliff or hill, rhich is of considerable height, when, as he remarks, a
distance into the harbour.
lost beautiful

3held at once Dungeness,


all
id,

scene presented itself to his view. Ho Dover Cliffs, and the French
St. Vallery,

as

along from Calais, Boulogne, &c., to some of the fishermen affirmed, as

far west as

ieppe.

With

the

help of

a telescope,
at anchor,

ling-boats were plainly seen


it

the French and the dif-

colours of the land

upon the heights, together with

206

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the buildings, were perfectly discernible. Mr. Latham likewise states that the cape of land called Dungeness, which extends nearly two miles into the sea, and is about
if quite close to it,

sixteen miles in a straight line from Hastings, appeared as and the vessels and fishing-boats which

were sailing between the two places appeared equally near, and were magnified to a high degree. These curious phenomena continued "in the highest splendour" till past eight o'clock, although a black cloud had for some
time totally obscured the face of the sun. A phenomenon no less marvellous -was seen by Professor Vince of Cambridge and another gentleman on the
Fig. 31.

6th August, 1806, at Eamsgate. The summits v w x y of the four turrets of Dover Castle are usually seen over the
hill

A B, upon which it stands, lying between Eamsgate and Dover; but on the day above mentioned, at seven o'clock in the evening, when the air was very still and a little of hazy, not only were the tops v w x y of the four towers
Dover Castle seen over the adjacent
of
the castle,

hill
it

n r

st

appeared as if

B, but the whole were situated on the


hill as

side

of the

hill

next Eamsgate,

and rising above the

This phenomenon was so very singular and it an illuunexpected, that at first sight Dr. Vince thought but upon continuing his observations, he became sion

much
;

as usual.

satisfied that it

was a real image of the

castle.

Upon

INVERTED IMAGE OF A SHIP.

207

this lie gave a telescope to a person present, who, upon attentive examination, saw also a very clear image of the
castle, as the

Doctor had described

it.

He

continued to

twenty minutes, during which time the appearance remained precisely the same, but rain coming on, they were prevented from making any further Between the observers and the land from observations. which the hill rises, there was about six miles of sea, and
observe
it

for about

from thence to the top of the hill there was about the same distance. Their own height above the surface of the water was about seventy feet. This illusion derived great force from the remarkable
circumstance, that the hill itself did not appear through the image, as it might have been expected to do. The image of the castle was very strong and well denned, and

though the rays from the hill behind it must undoubtedly have come to the eye, yet the strength of the image of the castle so far obscured the background, that it made no
sensible impression on the observers. Their attention was, of course, principally directed to the image of the castle; but if the hill behind had been at all visible,

Dr. Vince conceives that

it

could not have escaped their


it

observation, as they continued to look at able time with a good telescope.


erect

for a consider-

Hitherto our aerial visions have been seen only in their

and natural positions, either projected against the ground or elevated in the air but cases have occurred in which both erect and inverted images of objects have
;

been seen in the

air, sometimes singly, sometimes combined, sometimes when the real object was invisible, and sometimes when a part of it had begun to show itself to

the spectator. In the year

1793,

Mr. Huddart, when residing


;

at

Allonby, in Cumberland, perceived the inverted image of a ship beneath the image, as shown in Fig. 32 but

208

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Dr. Vince, who afterwards observed this phenomenon under a greater variety of forms, found that the ship
Fig. 32.

which was here considered the real one, was only an erect image of the real ship, which was at the time beneath the horizon, and wholly invisible. In August, 1798, Dr. Yince observed a great variety of
these aerial images of vessels approaching the horizon.
Fig. 33.

EKECT AND INVERTED IMAGES OF SHIPS.

209

Sometimes there was seen only one inverted image above


the real ship, and this was generally the case when the But when the real ship was real ship was full in view. just beginning to show its topmast above the horizon, as
at

A, Fig. 33, two aerial images of

inverted,
this

it were seen, one at B and the other in its natural position at C. In case the sea was distinctly visible between the erect

and inverted images, but in other cases the hull of the one image was immediately in contact with the hull of
the other.

Analogous phenomena were seen by Captain Scoresby when navigating with the ship Baffin in the icy sea in the immediate neighbourhood of West Greenland. On the
28th of June, 1820, he observed about eighteen sail of The sun ships at the distance of ten or fifteen miles. had shone during the day without the interposition of a
cloud,

and his rays were peculiarly powerful.

The

inten-

sity of its light occasioned a painful sensation in the eyes, while its heat softened the tar in the rigging of the ship,

and melted the snow on the surrounding ice with such rapidity, that pools of fresh water were formed on almost every place, and thousands of rills carried the excess into There was scarcely a breath of wind the sea the sea. was as smooth as a mirror. The surrounding ice was crowded together, and exhibited every variety, from the smallest lumps to the most magnificent sheets. Bears traversed the fields and floes in unusual numbers, and many whales sported in the recesses and openings among About six in the evening, a light breeze at the drift ice.
:

N.W.
first

having sprung up, a thin stratus or "fog bank,

5'

at

considerably illuminated by the sun, appeared in the same quarter, and gradually rose to the altitude of about

At this time most of the ships a quarter of a degree. navigating at the distance of ten or fifteen miles began to
change their form and magnitude, and when examined by

210

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


exhibited
at

a telescope from the masthead


point of the compass.

some

extra-

ordinary appearances, which differed

almost every

One ship had a perfect image, as dark and distinct as the original, united to its masthead in a reverse position. Two others presented two distinct
inverted images in the air, one of them a perfect figure of Two or the original, and the other wanting the hull.

more were strangely distorted, their masts appearing of at least twice their proper height, the top-gallant mast forming one-half of the total elevation, and other vessels
three

exhibited an appearance totally different from all the preceding, being as it were compressed in place of elongated.

Their masts seemed to be scarcely one-half of their


proper altitude, in consequence of which one would have supposed that they were greatly heeled to one side, or in
the position called careening. Along with all the images of the ships a reflection of the ice, sometimes in two
also appeared in the air, and these reflections suggested the idea of cliffs composed of vertical columns
strata,

of alabaster.

On the 15th, 16th, and 17th of the same month, Mr. Scoresby observed similar phenomena, sometimes extending continuously through half the circumference of the horizon, and at other times appearing only in
detached spots in various quarters. The inverted images of distant vessels were often seen in the air, while the ships
themselves

were far beyond

the

reach of

vision.

Some

ships were elevated to twice their proper height, while others were compressed almost to a line. Hummocks of
ice

were

object in distorted.

surprisingly enlarged, and every prominent a proper position was either magnified or

But of all the phenomena witnessed by Mr. Scoresby, that of the Enchanted Coast, as it may be called, must have been the most remarkable. This singular effect was

ENCHANTED COAST.

211

on the 18th July, when the sky was clear, and a tremulous and perfectly transparent vapour was parAt nine o'clock in the ticularly sensible and profuse.
morning, when the phenomenon was first seen, the thermometer stood at 42 Fahr., but in the preceding evening
it

must have been greatly lower, as the sea was in many a places covered with a considerable pellicle of new ice, circumstance which in the very warmest time of the year
as

must be considered

when

it is

known

that 10

quite extraordinary, especially farther to the north no freezing

of the sea at this season

had ever before been observed.


this occasion so near the unex-

Having approached on

plored shore of Greenland that the land appeared distinct and bold, Mr. Scoresby was anxious to obtain a drawing of it, but on making the attempt he found that the outline

was constantly changing, and he was induced to examine the coast with a telescope, and to sketch the various These are appearances which presented themselves.
shown, without any regard to their proper order, in
Fig. 34, which words " The
:

we

shall describe in

Mr. Scoresby's own

was that of an extensive ancient

general telescopic appearance of the coast city abounding with the

ruins of castles, obelisks, churches and monuments, with Some of the hills other large and conspicuous buildings.

seemed to be surmounted by turrets, battlements, spires, and pinnacles; while others, subjected to one or two
reflections, exhibited

suspended in the

air,

large masses of rock, apparently at a considerable elevation above

the actual termination of the mountains to which they The whole exhibition was a grand phantasreferred.

magoria. Scarcely was any particular portion sketched before it changed its appearance, and assumed the form of an object totally different. It was perhaps alternately a
castle, a cathedral, or

zontally,

an obelisk then expanding horiand coalescing with the adjoining hills, united
;

212

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the intermediate valleys, though some miles in width, by a bridge of a single arch, of the most magnificent appearance and extent. Notwithstanding these repeated changes, the various figures represented in the drawing had all the
distinctness of reality and not only the different strata, but also the veins of the rocks, with the wreaths of snow
;

occupying ravines and


lines,
(

fissures, formed sharp and distinct and exhibited every appearance of the most perfect

solidity."
Fig. 34.

One of

the most

images which he performed to the coast of Greenland in 1822. Having seen an inverted iiaage of a ship in the air he directed to it his telescope h^ was able to discover it to be his father's ship, which was fit the time below the
;

presented itself to

i^tmarkable facts respecting aerial Mr. Scoresby in a later voyage

horizon.

" " It was," says he, so well defined, that I could a telescope every sah, ibc general rig of distinguish by
the ship, and
its particular character ; insomuch, that I confidently pronounced it to be my father's ship, the .Fame, which it afterwards proved to be ; though, on

comparing notes with

my

father, I

position, at the time, gave a distance

found that our relative from one another

of very nearly thirty miles, being about seventeen miles

AERIAL SPECTRES BY REFLECTION.

213

beyond the horizon, and some leagues beyond the limit of I was so struck with the peculiarity of the that I mentioned it to the officer of the circumstance,
direct vision.

watch, stating my full conviction that the cruising in the neighbouring inlet."

Fame was

then

Several curious effects of the mirage were observed by Baron Humboldt during his travels in South America. When he was residing at Cumana, he frequently saw the islands of Picuita and Boracha suspended in the air, and sometimes with an inverted image. On one occasion he

observed small fishing-boats swimming in the air, during more than three or four minutes, above the well-defined horizon of the sea, and when they were viewed through a telescope, one of the boats had an inverted image accompanying it in its movements. This distinguished
traveller

observed

similar

phenomena

in

the

barren

steppes of the Caraccas, and on the borders of the Orinoco, where the river is surrounded by sandy plains. Little hills and chains of hills appeared suspended in the air,

when seen from the steppes, at three or four leagues Palm trees standing single in the Llanos distance.
appeared to be cut off at bottom, as if a stratum of air separated them from the ground and, as in the African
;

desert, plains destitute of vegetation appeared to be rivers or lakes. At the Mesa de Pavona M. Humboldt and

M. Bonpland saw cows suspended

in the air at the distance

of 1000 toises, and having their feet elevated 3' 20" above the soil. In this case the images were erect, but the
travellers

learned from good authority that inverted images of horses had been seen suspended in the air near Calabozo.

In

all

directly above the real object

these cases of aerial spectres the images were but a curious case was ;

observed by

Jurine and Soret on the 17th Sepwhere the image of the vessel was on one tember, 1818,

MM.

214

LETTEBS ON NATURAL MAGIO.

side of the real one.

About 10 h

P.M.

a bark at the dis-

tance of about 4000 toises from Bellerive, on the lake of Geneva, was seen approaching to Geneva, by the left

bank of the lake, and at the same time an image of the sails was observed above the water, which, instead of following the direction of the bark, separated from it, and appeared to approach Geneva by the right bank of the lake, the image moving from east to west, while the lark moved from north to south. When the image first separated from the bark they had both the same magnitude, but the image diminished as it receded from it, and was reduced to one-half when the phenomenon
disappeared.

A very unusual example of aerial spectres occurred to Dr. A. P. Buchan while walking on the cliff about a mile to the east of Brighton on the morning of the 28th
November, 1804.

emerged from the surface of the and saw the face of the cliff on which I was standing represented precisely opposite to me at some distance on the ocean. Calling the attention of my
water,

sun," says he, "I sea, just as the solar disc

" While watching the rising of the turned my eyes directly towards the

companion

to

this

appearance,

we discerned our own

figures standing on the summit of the apparent opposite cliff, as well as the representation of the windmill near at

hand.

"The reflected images were most distinct precisely opposite to where we stood, and the false cliff seemed to fade away, and to draw near to the real one, in proportion This phenomenon lasted as it receded towards the west.
about ten minutes, or till the sun had risen nearly his own diameter above the surface of the ocean. The whole
then seemed to be elevated into the
air, and successively disappeared, giving an impression very similar to that which is produced by the drawing up of a drop scene in

SHADOW IMAGE OF MOUNT


the theatre.

-ETNA.

215

The horizon was cloudy, or perhaps it with more propriety be said that the surface of the might sea was covered with a dense fog of many yards in height,

and which gradually receded before the rays of the sun." An illusion of a different kind, though not less interesting, is described by the Reverend Mr. Hughes in his Travels in Greece, as seen from the summit of Mount " I must not " one jiEtna. forget to mention," says he, which we observed, and for extraordinary phenomenon which I have searched in vain for a satisfactory solution. At the extremity of the vast shadow which ./Etna projects across the island, appeared a perfect and distinct image of the mountain itself elevated above the horizon, and diminished as if viewed in a concave mirror. Where or what the reflector could be which exhibited this image I cannot conceive; we could not be mistaken in its appearance, for all our party observed it, and we had been
prepared for it beforehand by our Catanian friends. It remained visible about ten minutes, and disappeared as Mr. Jones observed the same the shadow decreased.

phenomenon, as well as some other friends with whom I conversed upon the subject in England." It is impossible to study the preceding phenomena
without being impressed with the conviction that natiire
of the marvellous, and that the progress of science and the diffusion of knowledge are alone capable of dispelling the fears which her wonders must necessarily
is full

even in enlightened minds. When a spectre haunts the couch of the sick, or follows the susceptible
excite

of the invalid, a consciousness of indisposition divests the apparition of much of its terror, while its invisibility to surrounding friends soon stamps it with

vision

the impress of a false perception.


conjurer too, however skilfully they
lose
their

The spectres of the may be raised, quickly


and even the most

supernatural

character,

216

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

ignorant beholder regards the modern magician as but an ordinary man, who borrows from the sciences the best

working implements of his art. But when, in the midst of solitude, and in situations where the mind is undisturbed by sublunary cares, we see our own image delineated in the air, and mimicking in gigantic perspective
the tiny movements of humanity when we see troops in military array performing their evolutions on the very face of an almost inaccessible precipice; when in the
;

exhibits

eye of day a mountain seems to become transparent, and on one side of it a castle which we know to exist

only on the other; when distant objects, concealed by the roundness of the earth, and beyond the cognizance of the telescope, are actually transferred over the intervening convexity and presented in distinct and magnified outline
to

our accurate examination;

when such

varied and

striking phantasms are seen also by all around us, and therefore appear in the character of real phenomena of
nature, our impressions of supernatural agency can only be removed by a distinct and satisfactory knowledge of

the causes which gave them birth. It is only within the last forty years that science has brought these atmospherical spectres within the circle of

her dominion

and not only are

all

their

phenomena

susceptible of distinct explanation, but we can even reproduce them on a small scale with the simplest elements

of our optical apparatus. In order to convey a general idea of the causes of these B C D, Fig. 35, be a glass trough phenomena, lot

with water, and let a small ship be placed at S. An eye situated about E, will see the topmast of the ship S directly through the plate of glass B D. Fix a convex lens a of short focus upon the plate of glass B I), and a
filled
little

above a straight line S E joining the ship and the eye ; and immediately above the convex lens a place a concave

EXPLANATION OF SPECTRE SHIPS.


-

217

one
lens

b.

inverted
b,

will now see through the convex lens a an image of the ship at S', and through the concave an erect image of the ship at S", representing in a

The eye

Fig. 35,

phenomena shown in Fig. 33. But it where are the lenses in nature to produce This question is easily answered. If we these effects ? take a tin tube with glass plates at each end, and fill it with water, and if we cool it on the outside with ice, it
general

way

the

will be asked,

will act like a concave lens

reached the axis

same tube

filled

a convex glass. diminishes towards the centre, and in the second it increases towards the centre. The very same effects are

when the cooling effect has on the other hand, if we heat the with water, on the outside, it will act as In the first case the density of the water
;

,and,

produced in the air, only a greater tract of air is necessary for showing the effect produced, by heating and
If we now remove the lenses a, b, )oling it unequally. id hold a heated iron horizontally above the water in

the heat will gradually descend, trough tpanding or rendering rarer the upper portions of the luid. If, when the heat has reached within a little of the
>ttom,

ABC,

we

lirection

look through the trough at the ship S in the S', we shall see an inverted image at S', and

erect one at S",

and

if

we hide from the eye

at

all

218
the ship

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

S excepting the topmast, we shall have an exact


of

representation

the

phenomenon

in Fig.

33.

The
;

experiment will succeed better with oil in place of water and the same result may be obtained without heat, by

pouring clear syrup into the glass trough till it is nearly one-third full, and then filling it up with water. The water will gradually incorporate with the syrup, and
produce, as Dr. Wollaston has shown, a regular gradation of density, diminishing from that of the pure syrup to that of the pure water. Similar effects maybe obtained

by using masses
salt,

of transparent solids, such as glass, rock

&c.
it

Now

is

easy to conceive

how

the changes of density

which we can thus produce


in nature.

artificially

may be produced

If in serene weather the surface of the sea is

much

colder than the air of the atmosphere, as it frequently is, and as it was to a very great degree during the

phenomena described by Mr. Scoresby, the air next the sea will gradually become colder and colder, by giving
out
its

heat to the water

and the

air

immediately above

will give out its heat to the cooler air immediately below it, so that the air from the surface of the sea, to a con-

siderable height upwards, will gradually diminish in density, and therefore must produce the very phenomena

we have described. The phenomenon of Dover


;

Castle, seen on the Ramsgate was produced by the air being more dense near the ground, and above the sea, than at greater heights, and hence the rays proceeding from the castle reached the eye in curved lines, and the cause of its occupying its natural position on the hill, and not being seen in the air, was that the top of the hill itself, in consequence of being so near the castle, suffered the same change from the varying density of the air, and therefore the castle and the hill were equally elevated and retained their relative
side?

of the

hill,

EXPLANATION OP SPECTRE
positions.

SHIPS.

219

The reason why

the image of the castle and

the hill appeared erect was that the rays from the top and bottom of the castle had not crossed before they reached

Eamsgate;

but as they met at Kamsgate, an eye at a

greater distance from the castle, and in the path of the This will be rays, would have seen the image inverted.
better understood from the annexed diagram, which represents the actual progress of the rays, from a ship S P,

concealed from the observer at

by the convexity of the

Fig. 36.

earth
ship

P Q E. A ray proceeding from the P is refracted into the curve line P c

keel of the

E, and a

ray proceeding from the topmast S is refracted in the direction S d x d E, the two rays crossing at aj, and proceeding to the eye E with the ray from the keel F uppermost hence the ship must appear inverted as at s p. Now if the eye E of the observer had been placed nearer the ship as at x, before the rays crossed, as was the case at Eamsgate, it would have seen an erect image of the ship raised a little above the real ship S P. Rays S m, S n, proceeding higher up in the air, are refracted in the directions S in m E, S n n E, but do not cross before they
;

reach the eye, and therefore they afford the erect image of the ship shown at s' p.

220

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


aerial troopers seen at Souterfell

The
the

were produced by

very same process as the spectre of Dover Castlo, having been brought by unequal refraction from one side
of the hill to the other.
It is not our business to dis-

a troop of soldiers came to be performing their evolutions on the other side of Souterfell; but if there

cover

how

was then no road along which they could be marching,


is

it

highly probable that they were troops exercising among the hills in secret previous to the breaking out of the
Rebellion in 1745.

The image
at a

of the Genevese bark which was seen sailing

distance from the real one, arose from the same cause as the images of ships in the air, with this difference
only, that in this case the strata of equal density were vertical or perpendicular to the water, whereas in the

former cases they were horizontal or parallel to the The state of the air which produced the lateral water.

image may be produced by a headland or island, or even These rocks, near the surface, and covered with water. or sunken rocks being powerfully headlands, islands,
heated by the sun in the daytime, will heat the air immediately above them, while the adjacent air over the Hence sea will retain its former coolness and density.
there will necessarily arise a gradation of density varying in the same horizontal direction, or where the lines of

equal density are vertical. If we suppose the very same state of the air to exist in a horizontal plane which exists
in a vertical plane, in Fig. 36, then the same images would be seen in a horizontal line, viz., an inverted one at
s p, and an erect one at s' p. In the case of the Genevese bark the rays had not crossed before they reached the eye, and therefore the image was an erect one. Had the real Genevese bark been concealed by some promontory or

other

cause

Soret, they

from the observation of MM. Jurine and might have attached a supernatural character

EXPLANATION OF PHENOMENA.
to the
spectral

221

image, especially if they had seen it gradually decay, and finally disappear on the still and unbroken surface of the lake. No similar fact had been
previously observed, and there were no circumstances in the case to have excited the suspicion that it was
the spectre of a real vessel produced
tion.

by unequal

refrac-

The spectre of the Brocken and other phenomena of the same kind have essentially a different origin from those
which arise from unequal refraction. They are merely shadows of the observer projected on dense vapour or thin fleecy clouds, which have the power of reflecting much They are seen most frequently at sunrise, because light. it is at that time that the vapours and clouds necessary for their production are most likely to be generated and they can be seen only when the sun is throwing his rays horizontally, because the shadow of the observer would
;

otherwise be thrown either up in the air, or down upon the ground. If there are two persons looking at the

phenomenon, as when M. Haue and the landlord saw it together, each observer will see his own image most distinctly, and the head will be more distinct than the rest of the figure, because the rays of the sun will be

more copiously reflected at a perpendicular incidence and as from this cause the light reflected from the vapour or cloud becomes fainter farther from the shadow, the appearance of a halo round the head of the observer is frequently visible. M. Haue mentions the extraordinary circumstance of the two spectres of him and the land;

lord being joined by a third figure, but he unfortunately does not inform us which of the two figures was doubled,
for it is impossible that a person could have joined their party unobserved. It is very probable that the new

spectre forms a natural addition to the group, r.s represented it in Fig. 30, and if this was the case,

we have
it

could

222

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

only have been produced by a duplication of one of the

produced by unequal refraction. reflected spectre of Dr. Buchan standing upon the cliff at Brighton arose from a cause to which we have not yet adverted. It was obviously no shadow, for it is
figures

The

certain, from the locality, that the rays of the sun fell upon the face of the cliff and upon his person at an angle of about 73 from the perpendicular, so as to illuminate Now there are two ways in which such ifehem strongly.

an image

namely, either from from a vertical stratum of vapour, consisting of exceedingly minute globules of
reflected,

may have been

strata of air of variable density, or

water.

Whenever

light

suffers

refraction,

either

in

passing at once from one medium into another, or from one part of the same medium into another of different
density, a portion of
it

suffers reflection.

If an object,

therefore, were strongly illuminated, a sufficiently distinct image, or rather shadow of it, might be seen by reflection from strata of air of different density. As the temperature at which moisture is deposited in the atmosphere

varies with the density of the air, then at the same temperature moisture might be depositing in a stratum of ono
density, while no deposition is taking place in the adjacent stratum of a different density. Hence there would exist as
it

were in the

air a vertical wall or

stratum of minute

globules of water, from


ciently
distinct

the

surface of

which a

suffi-

image of a highly-illuminated object might be reflected. That this is possible may be proved by breathing upon glass. If the particles deposited upon the glass are large, then no distinct reflection will take
place
;

but

if

the particles be very small,

we

shall see a

distinct

image formed by the surface of the aqueous film. The phenomena of the Fata Morgana have been too

imperfectly described to enable us to offer a satisfactory explanation of them. The aerial images are obviously

EXPLANATION OF PHENOMENA.

223.

The pictures seen those formed by unequal refraction. on the sea may be either the aerial images reflected from
its

surface, or

may The

from a stratum of dense vapour, or they be the direct reflections from the objects themselves. coloured images, as described by Minasi, have never

been seen in any analogous phenomena, and require to be better described before they can be submitted to
scientific

examination.

of ships in the air by unequal no doubt given rise in early times to those superstitions which have prevailed in different countries " phantom ships," as Mr. Washington Irving respecting calls them, which always sail in the eye of the wind, and plough their way through the smooth sea, where there is In his beautiful not a breath of wind upon its surface. story of the storm ship, which makes its way up the Hudson against wind and tide, this elegant writer has finely embodied one of the most interesting superstiThe Flying tions of the early American colonists. Dutchman had in all probability a similar origin, and the wizard beacon-keeper of the Isle of France, who saw in
representation
refraction has

The

the air the vessels bound to the island long before they the offing, must have derived his power from appeared

a diligent observation of the

phenomena of

nature.

224

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER VII.
Illusions depending

on the ear

and singing heads of the described and explained

ancients

Practised by the ancients tfpeaking Exhibition of the invisible girl

Illusions arising

from

the difficulty oj

Singular example of this illusion Nature of ventriloquism Exhibitions of some of the most celebrated ventriloquists M. St. Gille Louis Brabant

determining the direction of sounds

M. Alexandre
quists.

Captain Lyons account of Esquimaux ventrilQ'

NEXT to

illusions,

the eye the ear is the most fertile source of our and the ancient magicians seem to have been

of sound.

very successful in turning to their purposes the doctrines In the labyrinth of Egypt, which contained twelve palaces and 1500 subterraneous apartments, the gods were made to speak in a voice of thunder ; and Pliny, in whose time this singular structure existed, informs us that some of the palaces were so constructed that their
doors could not be opened without permitting the peals When of thunder from being heard in the interior.

Darius Hystaspes ascended the throne, and allowed his subjects to prostrate themselves before him as a god, the
divinity of his

character was impressed upon his wor-

shippers by the bursts of thunder and flashes of lightning which accompanied their devotion. History has of course

not informed us
is

how

these effects were produced

but

it

probable that, in the subterraneous and vaulted apartments of the Egyptian labyrinth, the reverberated sounds

arising

from the mere opening and shutting of the doors


afforded

themselves

sufficient

imitation of ordinary

SPEAKING AND SINGING HEADS.


Hinder.

225

lore artificial imitation is likely to

id

it

is

In the palace of the Persian king, however, a have been employed, not improbable that the method used in our

modern

theatres was

known

to

the

ancients.

thin

sheet of iron, three or four feet long, such as that used for German stoves, is held by one corner between the
finger and the thumb,

and allowed
is

to

hang freely by

its

own

then moved or shaken horizontally, so as to agitate the corner in a direction at right


weight.

The hand

angles to the surface of the sheet. By this simple process a great variety of sounds will be produced, varying from the deep growl of distant thunder to those loud and
explosive bursts which rattle in quick succession from clouds immediately over our heads. The operator soon

acquires great power over this instrument, so as to be able to produce from it any intensity and character of

sound that may be required. The same effect may be produced by sheets of tin plate, and by thin plates of mica but on account of their small size, the sound is In modern exhibitions an admishorter and more acute.
;

rable imitation of lightning is produced by throwing the powder of rosin, or the dust of lycopodium, through a flame, and the rattling showers of rain which accompany these meteors are well imitated by a well-regulated shower of
peas.

The principal pieces of acoustic mechanism used by the ancients were speaking or singing heads, which were constructed for the purpose of representing the gods, or of

Among these, the speaking uttering oracular responses. head of Orpheus, which uttered its responses at Lesbos,

It was celebrated not only Greece, but even in Persia, and it had the throughout credit of predicting, in the equivocal language of the heathen oracles, the bloody death which terminated the
is

one of the most famous.

expedition of Cyrus the Great into Scythia.

Odin, the

226

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

mighty magician of the north, who imported into Scandinavia the magical arts of the east, possessed a speaking head, said to be that of the sage Minos, which he had

enchased in gold, and which uttered responses that had


the authority of a divine
revelation.

all

The

celebrated

mechanic Gerbert, who filled the Papal chair A.D. 1000, under the name of Sylvester II., constructed a speaking head of brass. Albertus Magnus is said to have executed a head in the thirteenth century, which not only moved but spoke. It was made of earthenware, and Thomas

Aquinas is said to have been so terrified when he saw it, he broke it in pieces, upon which the mechanist " There exclaimed, goes the labour of thirty years." It has been supposed by some authors, that in the ancient speaking-machines the deception was effected by means of ventriloquism, the voice issuing from the juggler himself but it is more probable that the sound was conthat
;

veyed by pipes from a person in another apartment to the mouth of the figure. Lucian, indeed, expressly informs

made his figure of JEscuhis voice through the gullet lapius speak, by transmitting of a crane to the mouth of the statue; and that this
us that the impostor Alexander

method was general, appears from a passage in Theoassures us that in the fourth century, when Bishop Theophilus broke to pieces the statues at Alexdoretus,

who

andria, he found

some which were hollow, and which were


priest

so placed against a wall, that the

could conceal

himself behind them, and address the ignorant spectators through their mouths.

Even

in

modern

times, speaking-machines have been

The figure is frequently a constructed on this principle. mere head placed upon a hollow pedestal, which, in order
promote the deception, contains a pair of bellows, a sounding-board, a cylinder and pipes supposed to repreIn other cases these are dissent the organs of speech.
to

THE INVISIBLE GIBL.


pensed with, and a simple wooden head utters
its

227
sounds

through a speaking-trumpet. At the court of Charles II. this deception was exhibited with great effect by one

Thomas Irson, an Englishman, and when the astonishment had become very general, a popish priest was discovered by one of the pages in an adjoining apartment. The questions had been proposed to the wooden figure by whispering into its ear, and this learned personage had answered them all with great ability, by speaking through a pipe in the same language in which the questions
Professor Beckmann informs us that were proposed. children and women were generally concealed either in
the juggler's box, or in the adjacent apartment, and that the juggler gave them every assistance by means of signs previously agreed upon. When one of these exhibitions

was shown

at Gottingen, the Professor was allowed, on the promise of secrecy, to witness the process of deception. He saw the assistant in another room, standing before the pipe with a card in his hand, upon which the signs agreed

upon had been marked, and he had been introduced so privately into the house that even the landlady was
ignorant of his being there. An exhibition of the very same kind has been brought forward in our own day, under the name of the Invisible
Girl;

and as the mechanism employed was extremely

ingenious, and is well fitted to convey an idea of this 3lass of deceptions, we shall give a detailed description if it
as contracted by M. Charles, is shown 37 in perspective, and a plan of it in Fig. 38. four upright posts A, A, A, A, are united at top 3V a cross rail B, B, and by two similar rails at bottom. Four bent wires a, a, a, a, proceeded from the top of these A hollow copper ball M, posts, and terminated at c. about a foot in diameter, was suspended from theso

The machinery,

in Fig.

228

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

wires by four slender ribands 6, fc, Z>, b, and into the copper ball were fixed the extremities of four trumpets T, T, T, T, with their mouths outwards.
Fig, 37.

The

apparatus

now

described was all that was visible


fixed in

to the spectator;

and though

one spot, yet

it

had the appearance of a piece of separate machinery, which might have occupied any other part of the room.

When

to propose

one of the spectators was requested by the exhibitor some question, he did it by speaking into one

of the trumpets at T.

An

appropriate answer was then

THE INVISIBLE

GIRL.

229

returned from all the trumpets, and the sound issued with sufficient intensity to be heard by an ear applied to any of them, and yet it was so weak that it appeared to come from a person of very diminutive size. Hence the

sound was supposed to come from an invisible girl, though the real speaker was a full-grown woman. The invisible lady conversed in different languages, sang beautifully, and made the most lively and appropriate remarks on the persons in the room.
This exhibition was obviously far more wonderful than the speaking heads which we have described, as the latter invariably communicated with a wall, or with
a pedestal through which pipes could be carried into the and its trumpets comnext apartment. But the ball

municated with nothing through which sound could be


conveyed.

The

that the ribands

spectator satisfied himself by examination 6, 6, were real ribands, which concealed

nothing, and which could convey no sound, and as he never conceived that the ordinary piece of frame -work B, could be of any other use than its apparent one of support-

ing the sphere M, and defending it from the spectators, he was left in utter amazement respecting the origin of the sound, and his surprise was increased by the difference

between the sounds which were uttered and those of


ordinary speech. Though the spectators were thus deceived by their nvn reasoning, yet the process of deception was a very simple one. In two of the horizontal railings A, A,
Fig. 38, opposite the trumpet

mouths T, there was an

aperture communicating with a pipe or tube which went to the vertical post B, and descending it, as shown at A, Fig. 39, went beneath the floor // in the direc-

T A

tion p. p,

and entered the apartment N, where the invisible

lady

sat.

On

the

side

was a small

hole, through

of the partition about Ji, there which the lady saw what was

230

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

going on in the exhibition room, and communications were no doubt made to her by signals from the person When one of the spectators tyho attended the machine.
asked a question by speaking into one of the trumpets T, the sound was reflected from the mouth of the trumpet

back to the aperture at A, in the horizontal


Fig. 39.

rail,

Fig. 38,

and was

distinctly conveyed along the closed tube into In like manner the answer issued the apartment N. from the aperture A, and being reflected back to the ear of the spectator by the trumpet, he heard the sounds

with that change of character which they receive when transmitted through a tube and then reflected to the
ear.

The surprise of the auditors was greatly increased by the circumstance, that an answer was returned to questions put in a whisper, and also by the conviction that
nobody but a person in the middle of the audience could observe the circumstances to which the invisible figure
frequently adverted. Although the performances
effected

of speaking heads were methods now described, yet by generally there is reason to think that the ventriloquist sometimes presided at the exhibition, and deceived the audience
the

ILLUSIONS OF SOUND.

231

There is no his extraordinary powers of illusion. of deception more irresistible in its effects than species

by

which arises from the uncertainty with which we judge of the direction and distance of sounds. Every person must have noticed how a sound in their own ears is often mistaken for some loud noise moderated by the distance from which it is supposed to come; and the
that

sportsman must have frequently been surprised at the existence of musical sounds humming remotely in the extended heath, when it was only the wind sounding in
that haunt

the barrel of his gun. The great proportion of apparitions old castles and apartments associated with

death exist only in the sounds which accompany them. The imagination even of the boldest inmate of a place

hallowed

by

superstition,

will

transfer

some

trifling

sound near his own person to a direction and to a distance very different from the truth, and the sound which otherwise might have no peculiar complexion will derive another character from its new locality. Spurning the idea of a supernatural origin, he determines to unmask All the the spectre, and grapple with it in its den. inmates of the house are found to be asleep even the
quadrupeds are in their lair there is not a breath of wind to ruffle the lake that reflects through the casement and the massive the reclining crescent of the night walls in which he is inclosed forbid the idea that he has
;

been

disturbed

by the warping of panelling

or

the

bending of partitions. His search is vain ; and he remains master of his own secret, till he has another opportunity
of investigation. The same sound again disturbs him, and, modified probably by his own position at the time,
it

different

perhaps appear to come in a direction slightly from the last. His searches are resumed, and he is again disappointed. If this incident should recur night after night with the same result ; if the sound

may

232

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

should appear to depend upon his own motions, or bo anyhow associated with himself, with his present feelings,
or with his past history, his personal courage will give way, a superstitious dread, at which he himself perhaps
laughs, will seize his mind, and he will rather believe that the sounds have a supernatural origin than that they could continue to issue from a spot where he knows

there is no natural cause for their production. I have had occasion to have personal knowledge of a

stronger than that which has now been put. gentleman, devoid of all superstitious feelings, and living in a house free from any gloomy associations, heard night
case

much

bedroom a singular noise unlike any He had sound to which he was accustomed. ordinary in the same room for years without hearing it, and slept
after night in his

he attributed
strictest

it at first

to

some change of circumstances


it.

in the roof or in the walls of the room, but after the

examination no cause could be found for


;

It

occurred only once in the night it was heard almost every night, with few interruptions. It was over in an

and it never took place till after the gentleman had gone to bed. It was always distinctly beard by his companion, to whose time of going to bed it had no It depended on the gentleman alone, and it relation. followed him into another apartment with another bed, on the opposite side of the house. Accustomed to such investigations, he made the most diligent but fruitless The consideration that the sound search into its cause. had a special reference to him alone, operated upon his imagination, and he did not scruple to acknowledge that the recurrence of the mysterious sound produced a Many months superstitious feeling at the moment. afterwards it was found that the sound arose from the partial opening of the door of a wardrobe which was within a few feet of the gentleman's head, and which
instant,

VENTRILOQUISM EXPLAINED.

233

had been taken into the other apartment. This wardrobe was almost always opened before he retired to bed, and
the door being a little too tight, it gradually forced itself open with a sort of dull sound, resembling the note of a

drum.
its

As

place, its

the door had only started half an inch out of change of place never attracted attention.
different direction,

sound, indeed, seemed to come in a and from a greater distance.

The

sounds so mysterious in their origin are heard by persons predisposed to a belief in the marvellous, their influence over the mind must be very powerful.

When

An

made more
his

inquiry into their origin, if it is made at all, will be in the hope of confirming than of removing

the original impression, and the unfortunate victim of own fears will also be the willing dupe of his own

judgment. This uncertainty with respect to the direction of sound If we place is the foundation of the art of ventriloquism. ten men in a row at such a distance from us that they
are included in the angle within which we cannot judge of the direction of sound, and if in a calm day each of
succession, we shall not be able with closed eyes to determine from which of the ten men any of the sounds proceeds, and we shall be incapable of perceiving that there is any difference in the direction of

them speaks in

the sounds emitted

by the two uttermost. If a man and

a child are placed within the same angle, and if the man speaks with the accent of a child without any correspond-

ing motion in his mouth or face, we shall necessarily believe that the voice comes from the child nay, if the child is so distant from the man that the voice actually
:

appears to us to come from the man, we will still continue in the belief that the child is the speaker and this conviction would acquire additional strength if the child
:

favoured the deception by accommodating

its

features and

234

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC,

So powerful, gestures to the words spoken by the man. indeed, is the influence of this deception, that if a jackass placed near the man were to open its mouth, and
its head responsive to the words uttered by his neighbour, we would rather believe that the ass spoke than that the sounds proceeded from -a person whose mouth was shut, and the muscles of whose face were in

shake

If our imagination were even directed perfect repose. to a marble statue or a lump of inanimate matter, as the

source from which

we were

to expect the sounds to issue,

be deceived, and would refer the sounds even to these lifeless objects. The illusion would be in greatly promoted if the voice were totally different

we would

still

its
it

tone and character from that of the


;

man from whom

and if he occasionally speak in his own really comes full and measured voice, the belief will be irresistible that the assumed voice proceeds from the quadruped or from
the inanimate object. When the sounds which are required to proceed from any given object are such as they are actually calculated
to yield, the process of deception is extremely easy,
it

and

successfully executed even if the angle between the real and the supposed directions of the sound is much

may be

Mr. Dugald than the angle of uncertainty. Stewart has stated some cases in which deceptions of this kind were very perfect. He mentions his having seen
greater

a person who, by counterfeiting the gesticulations of a performer on the violin, while he imitated the music by
his voice, riveted the eyes of his audience

on the

instru-

ment, though every sound they heard proceeded from his own mouth. The late Savile Carey, who imitated the whistling of the wind through a narrow chink, told Mr.
Stewart that he had frequently practised this deception in the corner of a coffee-house, and that he seldom
failed to see

some of the company

rise to

examine the

VENTRILOQUISM EXPLAINED.

235

tightness of the windows, while others, more intent on their newspapers, contented themselves with putting on Mr. Stewart their hats and buttoning their coats.

mentions an exhibition formerly common in some of the continental theatres, where a performer on the stage displayed the dumb show of singing with his lips and eyes and gestures, while another person unseen
likewise

The deception in supplied the music with his voice. this case he found to be at first so complete as to impose
upon the nicest ear and the quickest eye ; but in the progress of the entertainment he became distinctly sensible of the imposition, and sometimes wondered that it should
have misled him for a moment. In this case there can be no doubt that the deception was at first the work of the
imagination,
principle.

The

and was not sustained by the acoustic real and the mock singer were too distant,

and when the influence of the imagination subsided, the This detection of the imposture, however, may have arisen from
true direction of the sound was discovered.

another cause. If the mock singer happened to change the position of his head, while the real singer made no corresponding change in his voice, the attentive spectator

would

at

once notice this incongruity, and discover the

imposition.

In many of the feats of ventriloquism the performer under some pretence or other, to conceal his but ventriloquists of great distinction, such as M. face,
contrives,

Alexandre, practise their art without any such concealment.

Ventriloquism loses

its

distinctive

character if

its

imitations are not performed with a voice from the belly. The voice, indeed, does not actually come from that
region, but

when

the ventriloquist utters sounds from the

larynx without moving the muscles of his face, he gives them strength by a powerful action of the abdominal

236
muscles.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Hence lie speaks by means of liis belly, although the throat is the real source from which tho sounds proceed. Mr. Dugald Stewart has doubted the
fact, that

ventriloquists possess the power of fetching a voice from within he cannot conceive what aid could be
:

derived from such an extraordinary power and he considers that the imagination, when seconded by such
;

powers of imitation as some mimics possess,


sufficient to account for all the

is

quite

phenomena of ventriloquism

which he has heard. This opinion, however, is strongly opposed by the remark made to Mr. Stewart himself by a " that his art would be perfect if it were ventriloquist,
possible only to speak distinctly without any movement of the lips at all." But, independent of this admission, it is a matter of absolute certainty, that this internal power is

In the account by the true ventriloquist. which the Abbe Chapelle has given of the performances of M. St. Gille and Louis Brabant, he distinctly states that M. St. Gille appeared to be absolutely mute while he was exercising his art, and that no change in his counteexercised

nance could be discovered.*

He

affirms also that the

countenance of Louis Brabant exhibited no change, and that his lips were close and inactive. M. Eicherand, who attentively watched the performances of M. Fitz-James.
assures us that during his exhibition there was a distension in the epigastric region, and that he could not long

continue the exertion without fatigue. The influence over the human mind which the ventriloquist

derives

from the

greater than that which

The of conjurer. his accomplices, and the


*

practice of his art is exercised by any other species ordinary magician requires his theatre,
skilful
is

instruments of his

art,

and

IIG

enjoys but a local sovereignty within the precincts of hig


Edinburgh Journal of Science, No.
xviii. p. 254.

VENTHILOQUISM OF M.

ST.

GILLE.

237

own magic

circle.

The

ventriloquist,

on the contrary,

has the supernatural always at his command. In the open fields, as well as in the crowded city, in the private apartment, as well as in the public hall, he can summon

and though the persons of his spirits dialogue are not visible to the eye, yet they are as unequivocally present to the imagination of his auditors as if they had been shadowed forth in the silence

up innumerable

fictitious

of a spectral form. In order to convey some idea of the influence of this illusion, I shall mention a few well-

authenticated cases of successful ventriloquism. M. St. Gille, a grocer of St. Germain-en-Laye, whose

performances have been recorded by the Abbe de la Chapelle, had occasion to shelter himself from a storm in
a neighbouring convent, where the monks were in deep mourning for a much-esteemed member of their community had been recently buried. While lamenting over til the tomb of their deceased brother the slight honours which had been paid to his memory, a voice was suddenly heard to issue from the roof of the choir, bewailing the condition of the deceased in purgatory, and reproving the Brotherhood for their want of zeal. The tidings of this

supernatural event brought the whole brotherhood to the church. The voice from above repeated its lamentations
id reproaches,
ices,

and the whole convent fell upon their and vowed to make a reparation of their error,

^hey accordingly chanted in full choir a

De

Profundis,

during the intervals of which the spirit of the departed

monk
<

expressed his satisfaction at their pious exercises.

The prior afterwards inveighed against modern scepticism n the subject of apparitions, and M. St. Gille had great
difficulty in

convincing the fraternity that the whole was

deception.

On

cademy of

another occasion, a commission of the Royal Sciences at Paris, attended by several

238

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC,

persons of the highest rank, met at St. Germain-en-Laye to witness the performances of M. St. Gille. The real object
of their meeting was purposely withheld from a lady of the party, who was informed that an aerial spirit had
lately established itself in the neighbourhood, and that the object of the assembly was to investigate the matter.

When the party had sat down to dinner in the open air, the spirit addressed the lady in a voice which seemed to come from above their heads, from the surface of the
ground at a great distance, or from a considerable depth under her feet. Having been thus addressed at intervals during two hours the lady was firmly convinced of the existence of the spirit, and could with difficulty be
undeceived.

Another ventriloquist, Louis Brabant, who had been de chambre to Francis I., turned his powers to a more profitable account. Having fallen in love with a rich and beautiful heiress, he was rejected by her On parents as an unsuitable match for their daughter. the death of her father, Louis paid a visit to the widow, and he had no sooner entered the house than she heard the voice of her deceased husband addressing her from above, " Give my daughter in marriage to Louis Brabant, who is a man of large fortune and excellent
valet

character.

endure the

inexpressible

torments

of

purgatory for having refused her to him. Obey this admonition, and give everlasting repose to the soul of your poor husband." This awful command could not be
resisted,

and

the

widow

announced

her

compliance

with

it.

conjurer, however, required money for the of his marriage, he resolved to work upon tho completion fears of one Cornu, an old banker at Lyons, who had

As our

immense wealth by usury and extortion. Having obtained an interview with the miser, he introamassed

VENTIULOQUISM OF M. BRABANT, ETC.


duced the subjects of

239
and the

demons and

spectres

torments of purgatory, and, during an interval of silence, the voice of the miser's deceased father was heard comof his dreadful situation in purgatory, and upon his son to rescue him from his sufferings by enabling Louis Brabant to redeem the Christians that were enslaved by the Turks. The awe-struck miser was also threatened with eternal damnation if he did not thus expiate his own sins but such was the grasp that the banker took of his gold that the ventriloquist was
plaining
calling
;

obliged to pay

him another

visit.

On

this

occasion, not

only his father, but all his deceased relations appealed to him in behalf of his own soul and theirs, and such was
the loudness of their complaints that the spirit of the banker was subdued, and he gave the ventriloquist ten thousand crowns to liberate the Christian captives.

When

the miser was afterwards undeceived, he have been so mortified that he died of vexation.

is said to

The ventriloquists of the nineteenth century made great additions to their art, and the performances of M. FitzJames and M. Alexandre, which must have been seen by

many

Besides the art of speaking their predecessors. the throat and the abdomen, without 11 uscles of

of our countrymen, were far superior to those of by the

moving

those of the face, these artists had not only studied with great diligence and success the modifications which sounds
of all kinds undergo from distance, obstructions and other causes, but had acquired the art of imitating them in the The ventriloquist was therefore able highest perfection. to carry on a dialogue in which the dramatis voces, as they

may be

called,

were numerous

and when on the outside

of an apartment he could personate a mob with its infinite an variety of noise and vociferation. Their influence over

audience was

still

further extended by a singular power

over the muscles of the body.

M. Fitz-James

actually

240
succeeded in

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

making the

opposite

or
;

corresponding

and while one side of his face was merry and laughing, the other was full of sorrow and in tears. At one moment he was tall, thin, and melancholic, and after passing behind a screen he came out "bloated with obesity and staggering with M. Alexandre possessed the same power over fulness." his face and figure, and so striking was the contrast of two of these forms, that an excellent sculptor, Mr. Joseph, has
muscles act differently from each other
perpetuated them in marble. This new acquirement of the ventriloquist enabled him,
in his own single person and with his own single voice, to represent upon the stage a dramatic composition which would have required the assistance of several actors.

Although only one character in the piece could be seen at the same time, yet they all appeared during its performance, and the change of face and figure on the part of
the ventriloquist was so perfect that his personal identity could not be recognised in the dramatis personce. This deception was rendered still more complete by a particular

construction of the dresses, which enabled the

performer to reappear in a new character after an interval so short that the audience necessarily believed that it was
another person. It is a curious circumstance that Captain Lyon found among the Esquimaux of Igloolik ventriloquists of no

amongst the proeach other's secrets, expose and their exhibitions derive great importance from the
skill.

mean

There

fessors of the art,

is much who do not

rivalry

of
it

The following account of one rarity of their occurrence. them is so interesting that we shall give the whole of
in Captain Lyon's words.

" Amongst our Igloolik acquaintances were two females and a few male wizards, of whom the principal was Toolemak. This personage wr.s cunning and intelligent,

ESQUIMAUX VENTRILOQUISES.
and, whether

241

professionally, or from his skill in the chase, but perhaps from both reasons, was considered by all the tribe as a man of importance. As I invariably

paid great deference to his opinion on all subjects connected with his calling, he freely communicated to me his superior knowledge, and did not scruple to allow of my

being present at his

patron
in

spirit.

interviews with Tornga, or his In consequence of this, I took an early

opportunity of requesting my friend to exhibit his skill my cabin. His old wife was with him, and by much

and an accidental display of a glittering knife and some beads, she assisted me in obtaining my request. All light excluded, our sorcerer began chanting to his wife with great vehemence, and she in return answered by singing the Amna-aya, which was not discontinued during the whole ceremony. As far as I could hear, he afterwards began turning himself rapidly round, and in a
flattery

loud powerful voice vociferated for Tornga with great impatience, at the same time blowing and snorting like a His noise, impatience, and agitation increased walrus.

every moment, and he at length seated himself on the


deck, varying his tones, and making a rustling with his clothes. Suddenly the voice seemed smothered, and was
as to sound as if retreating beneath the each moment becoming more distant, and ultimately deck, giving the idea of being many feet below the cabin, when His wife now, in answer to my it ceased entirely.

so

managed

queries, informed me very seriously that he had dived, and that he would send up Tornga. Accordingly, in

about half a minute, a distant blowing was heard very slowly approaching, and a voice, which differed from
at times mingled with the both sounds became distinct, length and the old woman informed me that Tornga was come

that

at

first

heard,
at

was

blowing, until

to

answer

my

questions.

I accordingly asked several

242
questions

LETTERS ON NATURAL

II AGIO.

of the sagacious to each of which spirit, inquiries I received an answer by two loud, claps on the deck, which I was given to understand were favourable.

"

different

very hollow, yet powerful voice, certainly much from the tones of Toolemak, now chanted for

some time, and a strange jumble of hisses, groans, shouts, and gabblings like a turkey succeeded in rapid order.

The

old

woman

sang with increased energy, and as I took

it

for granted that this was all intended to astonish the Kabloona, I cried repeatedly that I was very much

This, as I expected, added fuel to the fire, until the poor immortal, exhausted by its own might, asked leave to retire. " The voice gradually sunk from our hearing as at first,
afraid.

and a very indistinct hissing succeeded in its advance it sounded like the tone produced by the wind on the bass chord of an JEolian harp. This was soon changed to a rapid hiss like that of a rocket, and Toolemak with a yell announced his return. I had held my breath at the first distant hissing, and twice exhausted myself, yet our conjurer did not once respire, and even his returning and powerful yell was uttered without a previous stop or
;

inspiration of air.

pected,

"Light being admitted, our wizard, as might be exwas in a profuse perspiration, and certainly much exhausted by his exertions, which had continued for at
an hour. We now observed a couple of bunches, each consisting of two stripes of white deer-skin and a long piece of sinew, attached to the back of his coat.
least half

These we had not seen before, and were informed that they had been sewn on by Tornga while he was below."* Captain Lyon had the good fortune to witness another of Toolemak's exhibitions, and he was much struck with
* Private Journal of

Captain G. F. Lyon, pp. 358, 3G1.

ESQUIMAUX VENTRILOQUISTS.

243

the wonderful steadiness of the wizard throughout the whole performance, which lasted an hour and a half.

He

did not once appear to move, for he was so close to

the skin behind which Captain Lyon sat, that if he had done so he must have perceived it. Captain Lyon did

not hear the least rustling of his clothes, or even distinguish his breathing, although his outcries were made

with great exertion.*


* Private Journal of Captain G. F. Lyon, p. 8C3.

241

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER

VIII.

Musical and harmonic sounds explained Power of breaking glasses with the voice Musical sounds from the vibration of a column of
air

And

of

solid

bodies

Kaleidophone

Singular

acoustic

figures produced on sand laid on vibrating plates of glass, and on stretched membranes Vibration of flat rulers, and cylinders

of glass Production of silence from two sounds Production of darkness from two lights Explanation of these singular effects
Acoustic automaton
bird

Droz's bleating sheep

Maillardet's singing

Vaucanson's flute-player
talking

His pipe and tabor player


Kratzensteiri s

Baron Kempelen's
machine

engine

speaking

Mr.

Willis's researches.

AMONG

the discoveries of modern, science there are few


relate to the produc-

more remarkable than those which


tion of harmonic sounds.
effects of

We

are all familiar with the

musical instruments, from the deep-toned voice of the organ to the wiry shrill of the Jew's harp. sit entranced under their magical influence, whether the ear

We

is

charmed with the melody of their sounds, or the heart But agitated by the sympathies which they rouse. though we may admire their external form, and the skill
of the artist

who

constructed them,

we never

think of

inquiring into the cause of such extraordinary combinations.

Sounds of
all

all
;

through the air

kinds are conveyed to the organ of heaving and if this element were to be destroyed

nature would be buried in the deepest silence. Noises of every variety, whether they are musical or discordant, high or low, move through the air of our atmosphere at
the surface of the earth with a velocity of 1090 feet in a

MUSICAL AND HARMONIC SOUNDS EXPLAINED.


;

245

but in sulphurous acid second, or 765 miles per hour gas sound moves only through 751 feet in a second, while in hydrogen gas it moves with the great velocity of 3000
fefit.

Along

fluid

and solid bodies

its

progress

is still

Through water it moves at the rate df 4708 rapid. feet in a second, through tin at the rate of 8175 feet, and
more
through iron, glass, and some kinds of wood, at the rato of 18,530 feet. When a number of single and separate sounds follow
each other in rapid succession, they produce a continued sound, in the same manner as a continuous circle of light is produced by whirling round a burning stick before the

In order that the sound may appear a single one to eye. the ear, nearly sixteen separate sounds must follow one another every second. When these sounds are exactly similar, and recur at equal intervals, they form a musical
In order to produce such sounds from the air, it sound. must receive at least sixteen equally distant impulses or strokes in a second. The most common way of producing
this effect is

by a

string or wire

A B,

Fig. 40, stretched

between the fixed points A, B. If this string is taken by the middle and pulled aside, or if it is suddenly struck, it will vibrate between its two fixed points, as shown in the figure, passing alternately on each side of its axis A B,
the vibrations gradually diminishing by the resistance of the air till the string is brought to rest. Its vibrations,

however,
across
it,

may

and while

be kept up by drawing a rosined fiddle-bow it is vibrating it will give out a sound

corresponding to the rapidity of its vibrations, and arising from the successive blows or impulses given to the air by

This sound is called the fundamental sound the string. of the string, and its acuteness or sharpness increases with the number of vibrations which the string performs
in a second.

If

we now touch the

vibrating string A' B' lightly with

246

LETTEES ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the finger, or with a feather at the middle point C, Fig. 40, it will give out a more acute but fainter sound than
before,

their frequency is doubled.

and while the extent of its vibrations is diminished, In like manner, if we touch

the string A" B", Fig. 40, at a point C, so that A" C is one-third of A" B", the note will be still more acute, and

correspond to thrice the number of vibrations. All this might have been expected, but the wonderful part of the
itself at

that the vibrating string A' B' divides two parts A' C, C B', the part A' C vibrating round A' and C as fixed points, and the part C B' round C and B', but always so that the part A' C is

experiment

is,

into

Fig. 40.

at the at

Am
B.

same distance on the one side of the axis A' B' C, while the part C B is on the other side, as

as
at

C, being always pulled by equal and opposite forces, remains at rest as if it were absolutely This stationary point is called a mde, and the fixed. The very same vibrating portions A' m C, C n B' loops. and D being is true of the string A" B", the points stationary points and upon the same principle a string
;

Cn

Hence the point

divided into any number of vibrating portions. In order to prove that the string is actually vibrating in these equal subdivisions, we have only to place a piece of of the light paper with a notch in it on different parts

may be

MUS] MUSICAL SOUNDS


string.
rest,

FROM VIBRATION OF

AIR.

247

At the nodes C and

while at

it will remain perfectly at or n in the middle of the loops it will ba

off or violently agitated. acute sounds given out by each of the vibrating portions are called harmonic sounds, and they accompany

thrown

The

the fundamental sound of the string in the very same manner, as we have already seen, that the eye sees the accidental or harmonic colours while it is affected with the fundamental colour.

The subdivision of the string, and consequently the production of harmonic sounds, may be effected without touching the string at all, and by means of a sympathetic action conveyed by the air. If a string A. B, for example,
Fig. 40, is at rest, and if a shorter string A" C, one-third of its length, fixed at the two points A" and C is set B will be set a-vibrating in the same room, the string

a-vibrating in three loops like A" B", giving out the same harmonic sounds as the small string A" C.
It is

owing

to this property of sounding bodies that

singers with great power of voice are able to break into pieces a large tumbler glass, by singing close to it its

and it is from the same symcommunication of vibrations that two pendulum pathetic clocks fixed to the same wall, or two watches lying upon <he same table, will take the same rate of going, though they would not agree with one another if placed in sepaMr. Ellicott even observed that the rate apartments. pendulum of the one clock will stop that of the other, and
proper fundamental note
;

that the stopped


its vibrations,

pendulum
its

will after a certain time

resume

and in

turn stop the vibrations of the

other pendulum.

The production

of musical sounds

by the vibrations of

a column of air in a pipe is familiar to every person, but the extraordinary mechanism by which it is effected is

known

principally to philosophers.

column of

air in a

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


pipe may be set a-vibrating by blowing over the open end of it, as is done in Pan's pipes, or by blowing over a hole
ture
in its side as in the flute, or by blowing through an apercalled a reed, with a flexible tongue, as in the
clarionet.

In order to understand the nature of this

B, Fig. 41, be a pipe or tube, and let us vibration, let in it a spiral spring B, in which the coil or spire place

are at equal distances, each end of the spiral being fixed to the end of the tube. This elastic spring may be supposed to represent the air in the pipe, which is of equal density

throughout.

If

we take hold of
Fisr.41.

the spring at m, and push

A and towards B in succession, it good idea of the vibration of an elastic column of air. When m is pushed towards A, the spiral spring will be compressed or condensed, as shown at m A, No. 2, while at the other end it will be dilated or rarefied, as shown at m B, and in the middle of the tube it will have the same degree of compression as in No. 1. When the string is drawn to the other end of the tube B, the spring will be, as in No. 3, condensed at the end B, and dilated at the end A. Now when a column of air vibrates in a pipe A B, the whole of it rushes alternately from B to A, as in No. 2, and from A to B, as in No. 3, being condensed at the end A, No. 2, and dilated or rarefied at the end B, while in No. 3 it is rarefied at A and conthe point

towards

will give us a

MUSICAL SOUNDS FROM VIBRATION OF AIR.

249

densed at B, preserving its natural density at the middle and B. In the case of the spring the point between ends B are alternately pushed outwards and pulled inwards by the spring, the end being pushed outwards

in No. 2, and

is pulled inwards, while in No. 3 pulled inwards and B pushed outwards. That the air vibrating in a pipe is actually in the state

may be shown by boring small holes in the and putting over them pieces of a fine membrane. pipe, The membrane opposite to the middle part between A and B, where the particles of the air have the greatest
described

now

motion, will be violently agitated, while at" points nearer the ends and B it will be less and less affected.

Let us now suppose two pipes A B, B C, to be joined together as in Fig. 42, and to be separated by a fixed
Fig. 42.

N'2

partition at B ; Let the spring

and

let a spiral

AB

be

now pushed
to C, as in

spring be fixed in each. to the end A, while the

spring

BC

is

pushed

No,

1,

and back again, as


;

but always in opposite directions then it is obvious that the partition B is in No. 1 drawn in opposite directions towards and towards C, and always with forces equal to each other, that is, when B is drawn

in No. 2,

motion,
is

slightly towards A, which it is at the beginning of the it is also drawn slightly towards C, and when it

drawn forcibly towards A, as it is at the end of the. motion of the spring, it is also drawn forcibly towards C. If the partition B, therefore, is moveable, it will still

250

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

remain fixed during the opposite excursions of the spiral springs nay, if we remove the partition, and hook the end of one spiral spring to the end of the other, the node or point of junction will remain stationary during the
:

movements of the springs, because at every instant that If three, point is drawn by equal and opposite forces.
four, or Jive spiral springs are joined in a similar

manner,

we may conceive them


in the

all

vibrating between their nodes

same manner. Upon the very same principles we may conceive a long column of air without partitions dividing itself into two, three, or four smaller columns, each of which will vibrate between its nodes in the same manner as the spiral spring. At the middle point of each small vibrating column the
air will be of its natural density like that of the atmosphere, while at the nodes B, &c., it will be in a state of

condensation and rarefaction alternately. If, when the air is vibrating in one column in the pipe A B, as in Fig. 41, Nos. 2, 3, we conceive a hole made in
the middle, the atmospheric air will not rush in to disturb the vibration, because the air within the pipe and

without it has exactly the same density. Nay, if, instead of a single hole, we were to cut a ring out of the pipe at the middle point, the column would vibrate as before.

But

we bore a hole between the middle and one of the where the vibrating column must be either in a ends, state of condensation or rarefaction, the air must either
if

rush out or rush

The

in, in order to establish the equilibrium. opposite the hole will then be brought to the state of the external air like that in the middle of the

air

pipe,

it will become the middle of a vibrating column, and the whole column of air, instead of vibrating as one, will vibrate as two columns, each column vibrating with twice the velocity, and yielding harmonic sounds along with the fundamental sound of the whole columns, in the

MUSICAL SOUNDS FROM VIBRATION OF SOLID BODIES. 251

same manner as we have already explained with regard


vibrating strings.

to

By

opening other holes we

may

sub-

divide a vibrating column into any number of smaller The holes in flutes, clarionets, &c., vibrating columns. When they are all closed up are made for this purpose. the air vibrates in one column, and by opening and

shutting the different holes in succession, the number of vibrating columns is increased or diminished at pleasure
5

and consequently the harmonic sounds will vary in a similar manner.


are, they are still surpassed those which are exhibited during the vibration of solid by rod or bar of metal or glass may be made to bodies.

Curious as these phenomena

vibrate either longitudinally or laterally. An iron rod will vibrate longitudinally like a column

of air if

we

strike it at one

end in the direction of

its

length, or rub it in the same direction with a wetted linger, and it will emit the* same fundamental note as a

column of air ten or eleven times moves as much faster in iron than
rod

as long, because

sound

in

air.

When

the iron

is thus vibrating along its length, the very same changes which we have shown in Fig. 41, as produced in

a spiral spring or in a column of air, take place in the All its particles move alternately towards solid metal. and towards B, the metal being in the one case condensed

at the

end to which the particles move, and expanded

at

^old rod in the middle, by the finger and thumb lightly applied, and rub it in the middle either of A B or B C with a piece of cloth sprinkled with powdered rosin, or with a well-rosined fiddle-bow drawn across the rod, it
will divide itself into

the end from which they move, and retaining its natural If we now this density in the middle of the rod.

two vibrating portions

B,

C,

each of which will vibrate, as shown in Fig. 42, like the two adjacent columns of air, the section of the rod, or tho

252
particles
rest.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


which compose that section at B, being at perfect holding the rod at any intermediate point beand B, so that the distance from A to the finger

By

tween A and thumb is one-third, one-fourth, one-fifth, &c., of tho whole length A C, and rubbing one of the divisions in the middle, the rod will divide itself into 3, 4, 5, &c., vibrating portions, and give out corresponding harmonic
sounds.

A
both

rod of iron

may be made
end of
free, or

transversely
fixed.

by

fixing one

to vibrate laterally or it firmly as in a vice,


free or

and leaving the other

by having both ends

When

other, is

made

a rod, fixed at one end and free at the to vibrate, its mode of vibrating may be

rendered evident to the eye; and for the purpose of doing this Mr. Wheatstone has contrived a curious instrument
called the Kaleidophone,

which

is

shown

in Fig. 43.

It

consists of a circular base of

wood

B, about nine inches

in diameter and one inch thick, and having four brass Into these sockets firmly fixed into it at C, D, E, and F. sockets are screwed four vertical steel rods, C, D, E, and F, about 13 or 14 inches long, one being a square rod,

another a bent cylindrical one, and the other two cylin-

253
ical ones of different diameters.

On

the extremities of

these rods are fixed small quicksilvered glass beads, either singly or in groups, so that when the instrument is

placed in the light of the sun or in that of a lamp, bright images of the sun or candle are seen reflected on each
If any of these rods is set a-vibrating, these luminous images will form continuous and returning
bead.

curve lines in a state of constant variation, each different

rod giving curves of different characters. The melodion, an instrument of great power, embracing five octaves, operates by means of the vibrations of
metallic rods of unequal lengths, fixed at one end and narrow and thin plate of copper is free at the other.*

A
;

screwed to the free extremity of each, rod, and at right and its surface is covered with a angles to its length
small piece of

impregnated with rosin. This narrow band is placed near the circumference of a revolving cylinder, and by touching the key it is made to descend
felt
till

it

sound.

touches the revolving cylinder, and gives out its The sweetness and power of this instrument are

unrivalled,

and such

is

the character of

its

persons of a nervous

temperament

are

tones, that often entirely

overpowered by

its effects.

The

vibrations of plates of metal or glass of various

forms exhibit a series of the most extraordinary phenomena which are capable of being shown by very simple means. These phenomena are displayed in an infinite variety of
regular figures assumed by sand, or fine lycopodium powder, strewed over the surface of the glass plate. In

order to produce these figures, we must pinch or damp the plate at one or more places, and when the sand is-

strewed upon its surface it is thrown into vibrations by drawing a fiddle-bow over different parts of its circum* See

Edinburgh Encyclopedia, Art. SCIENCE, CURIOSITIES

IN,

vol. xvii. p. 563.

254
ference.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

The method

of

damping or pinching

plates is

In No. 1 a square plate of glass A B, smooth at its edges, is pinched by the finger and ground thumb. In No. 2 a circular plate is held by the thumb against the top c of a perpendicular rod, and damped by the fingers at two different points of its circumference. In No. 3 it is damped at three points of its circumference, c and d, by the thumb and finger, and at e by pressing it

shown

in Fig. 41.

against a fixed obstacle a b. By means of a clamp like that at No. 4, it may be damped at a greater number of
points.
Fig. 41.

If we take a square plate of glass, such as that shown in Fig. 45, No. 1 and pinching it at its centre, draw the fiddle-bow near one of its angles, the sand will accumulate
,

in the

form of a
off

cross,

as

shown in the

figure,

being-

thrown

the parts of the plate that are in a state of vibration, and settling in the nodes or parts which are at If the bow is drawn across the middle of one of the rest.
If the plate edges, the sand will accumulate as in No. 2. is pinched at N, No. 3, and the bow applied at F, and

perpendicular to

B, the sand will arrange itself in three

ACOUSTIC FIGURES.
parallel lines, perpendicular to a fourth passing

255
through

But if the point N, where it is pinched, is a little farther from the edge than in No. 3, the parallel lines will change into curves as in No. 4. If the plate of glass is circular and pinched at its centre, and also at a point of its circumference, and if the bow is applied at a point 45 from the last point, the
and N.
figure of the sand will be as in Fig. 46.

No.

1.

If with

the same plate, similarly pinched, the bow is drawn, over a part 30 from the pinched point of the circumference, the sand will form six radii as in No. 2. When the

centre of the plate is left free, a different set of figures is produced, as shown in No. 3 and No. 4. When the plate is pinched near its edge, and the bow applied 45 from

the point pinched, a circle of sand will pass through that point, and two diameters of sand at right angles to each

other will be formed, as in No. 3. When a point of the circumference is pressed against a fixed obstacle, and the bow applied 30 from that point, the figure in No. 4 is

produced,

256

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

If, in place of a solid plate, we strew the sand over a stretched membrane, the sand will form itself into figures, even when the vibrations are communicated to the

a thin sheet of wet paper, such as vegetable paper, over the mouth of a tumbler glass with a footstalk, and fix it to the edges with glue. When the paper is dry, a thin layer of dry sand is strewed

membrane through the air. experiments, we must stretch

In order

to

make

these

upon

its

surface.

If

we place
Fig. 46.

this

membrane upon a
2.

No.

1.

No.

No.

3.

No.

4.

and hold immediately above it, and parallel to the membrane, a plate of glass vibrating so as to give any of the figures shown in Fig, 4G, the sand upon the membrane
table,

will imitate exactly the figure upon the glass. glass plate, in place of vibrating horizontally, is

If the

made

to

vibrate in an inclined position, the figures on the membrane will change with the inclination, and the sand will

assume the most curious arrangements. The figures thus produced vary with the size of the membrane, with its When the same material, its tension, and its shape.

SILENCE FROM

TWO

SOUNDS.

257

figure occurs several times in succession, a breath upon the paper will change its degree of tension and produce

an entirely new

figure,

which, as the temporary moisture

evaporates, will return to the original figure, through a number of intermediate ones. The pipe of an organ at

the distance of a few

feet,

or the notes of a flute at the

distance of half a foot, will arrange the sand on the membrane into figures which perpetually change with the

sound that

is

produced.
in

The manner

which

flat

rulers

and cylinders of glass

If a glass plate about twenty-seven inches long, six-tenths of an inch broad, and six-hundredths of an inch thick, is held by the

perform their vibrations

is

very remarkable.

edges between the finger and thumb, and has its lower surface, near either end, rubbed with a piece of wet cloth, sand laid upon its upper surface will arrange itself in
parallel lines at right angles to the length of the plate. If the place of these lines is marked with a dot of ink,

and the other side of the glass ruler is turned upwards, and the ruler made to vibrate as before, the sand will now accumulate in lines intermediate between the former
lines, so that the

motions of one-half the thickness of the

glass ruler are precisely the reverse of those of the corresponding parts of the other half.

As

available

these singular phenomena have not yet been made by the scientific conjurer, we must be satisfied
;

but there is still one property of sound, which has its analogy also in light, too remarkable to be passed without notice. This property has more of the marvellous in it than any result within
the wide range of the sciences. Two loud sounds may 6 made to produce silence, and two strong lights may be made to produce darkness !
in

with this brief notice of them

If two equal and similar strings, or the columns of air two equal and similar pipes, perform exactly 100

258
vibrations

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

in a second, they will produce each equal waves of sound, and these waves will conspire in generating an uninterrupted sound, double of either of the sounds heard separately. If the two strings or the two

columns of air are not in unison, but nearly so, as in the case where the one vibrates 100, and the other 101 times
in a second, then at the first vibration the two sounds will form one of double the strength of either ; but the

one will gradually gain upon the other, till at the fiftieth vibration it has gained half a vibration on the other. At

two sounds will destroy one another, and an interval of perfect silence will take place. The sound will instantly commence, and gradually increase till it becomes loudest at the hundredth vibration, where the
this instant the

two vibrations conspire in producing a sound double of

An interval of silence will again occur at the 150th, 250th, 350th vibration, or every second, while a sound of double the strength of either will be heard at the 200dth, SOOdth, and 400dth vibration. When the
either.

unison

is

very defective, or when there

ference between the

number

is a great difof vibrations which the two

strings or columns of air perform in a second, the successive sounds and intervals of silence resemble a rattle.

With
fine,

a powerful organ the effect of this experiment

is

very

wow reprethe repetition of the sounds wow wow senting the doubled sound and the interval the silence
two separate sounds.

arising from the total extinction of the

The phenomena corresponding

to this in the case of

If a beam of red light are perhaps still more surprising. light issues from a luminous point, and falls upon the
retina,

we
it

shall see distinctly the luminous object


;

from

another pencil of red light proceeds issues from another luminous point anyhow situated, provided the difference between its distance and that of

which

but

if

the other luminous point from the point of the retina,

014

DARKNESS FROM TWO LIGHTS.


which the
first

beam

fell,

is

the 258th thousandth part


thrice,

of an inch, or exactly twice,

four times, &c., that distance; and if this second beam falls upon the same point of the retina, the one light will increase the intensity of the other, and the eye will see twice as much light

as

when

it

received only one of the beams separately.

nothing more than what might bo expected from our ordinary experience. But if the difference in the distances of the two luminous points is only one-half of the 258th thousandth part of an inch, or 1J-, 2J, 3, 4J
All this
is

times that distance, the one

light will extinguish the other,

If the two luminous points are so situated, that the difference of their distances from the point of the retina is intermediate between 1 and 1J-,

and produce

absolute darkness.

or 2 and 2J, above the 258th thousandth part of an inch, the intensity of the effect which they produce will vary

from absolute darkness to double the intensity of either At 1J, 2J, 3J times, &c., the 258th thousandth of light. an inch, the intensity of the two combined lights will be If the lights, equal only to one of them acting singly.
in place of falling upon the retina, fall upon a sheet of a white paper, the very same effect will be produced black spot being produced in the one case, and a bright
;

ness in intermediate cases.

white one in the other, and intermediate degrees of brightIf the two lights are violet,

the difference of distances at which the preceding phenomena will be produced will be the IE 7th thousandth
part of an inch, and it will be intermediate between the 258th and the 157th thousandth part of an inch, for the This curious phenomenon may be intermediate colours.
easily

a dark

shown to the eye, by admitting the sun's light into room through a small hole about the 40th or oOth

part of an inch in diameter, and receiving the light on a If we hold a needle or piece of slender sheet of paper.

wire in this light, and examine

its

shadow, we shall find

260
that the

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

shadow

consists of bright

and dark

stripes sue

ceeding each other alternately, the stripe in the very middle or axis of the shadow being a bright one. The rays of light which are bent into the shadow, and which meet in the very middle of the shadow, have exactly the

same length of path, so that they form a bright fringe of double the intensity of either but the rays which fall upon a point of the shadow at a certain distance from the middle have a difference in the length of their paths, corresponding to the difference at which the lights destroy each other, so that a black stripe is produced on each side of the middle bright one. At a greater distance from the middle, the difference becomes such as to produce a bright stripe, and so on, a bright and a dark stripe succeeding
;

each other to the margin of the shadow. The explanation which philosophers have given of these strange phenomena is very satisfactory, and may be easily
understood.
still

When

a wave

is

made on

the surface of a

pool of water, by plunging a stone into it, the wave advances along the surface, while the water itself is never carried forward, but merely rises into a height and falls
into a hollow, each portion of the surface experiencing an If we suppose two elevation and a depression in its turn.

waves equal and similar to be produced by two separate stones, and if they reach the same spot at the same time, that is, if the two elevations should exactly coincide, they would unite their effects and produce a wave twice
the size of either ; but if the one wave should be just so far before the other that the hollow of the one coincided

with the elevation of the other, and the elevation of the one with the hollow of the other, the two waves would
obliterate or destroy one another, the elevation as it

were

of the one filling up half the hollow of the other, and the hollow of the one taking away half the elevation of the
other, so

as to reduce the surface to

a level.

These

DARKNESS FROM TWO LIGHTS.


effects will

261

be actually exhibited by throwing two equal stones into a pool of water, and it will be seen that there are certain lines of a hyperbolic form where the water is
quite smooth, in conseqence of the equal waves obliterating one another, while in other adjacent parts the water is raised to a height corresponding to both the waves united. In the tides of the ocean, we have a fine example of the same principle. The two immense waves arising from the action of the sun and moon upon the ocean produce

our spring-tides by their combination, or when the elevations of each coincide, and our neap-tides, when the

wave coincides with the depression moon had exerted exactly the same force upon the ocean, or produced tide waves of the same size, then our neap-tides would have disappeared altogether, and the spring-tide would have been a wave double of the wave produced by the sun and moon
elevation of the one

of the other.

If the sun and

An example of the effect of the equality separately. of the two waves occurs in the port of Batsha, where the
two waves arrive by channels of different lengths, and
actually obliterate each other. Now, as sound is produced

by undulations or waves in and as light is supposed to be produced by waves or undulations in an ethereal medium, filling all nature, and occupying the pores of transparent bodies, the successive production of sound and silence, by two loud sounds, or of light and darkness by two bright lights, may be explained in the very same manner as we have explained the increase and the obliteration of waves formed on the surface of water. If this theory of light be correct, then the breadth of a wave of red light will l;e the 258th thousandth part of an inch, the breadth of a wave of green light the 207th thousandth part of ar. inch, and the breadth of a wave of violet light the 157th thousandth part of an inch.
the
air,

262

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


of

those beautiful automata

skill, we must enumerate which the motions and actions by of man and other animals have been successfully imitated. I shall therefore describe at present some of the most remarkable acoustic automata, in which the production of musical and vocal sounds has been the principal object of the artist.

Among the wonders

modern

Many very ingenious pieces of acoustic mechanism have been from time to time exhibited in Europe. The
celebrated Swiss mechanist, M. le Droz, constructed for the King of Spain the figure of a sheep, which imitated in the most perfect manner the bleating of that animal,

and likewise the figure of a dog watching a basket of fruit, which, when any of the fruit was taken away, never ceased barking till it was replaced. The singing-bird of M. Maillardet, which he exhibited
in

Edinburgh many years

ago, is still

more wonderful.*

An

oval box, about three inches long, was set upon the table, and in an instant the lid flew up, and a bird of the
size of the humming-bird, and of the most beautiful plumage, started from its nest. After fluttering its wings, it opened its bill and performed four different kinds of

the most beautiful warbling. It then darted down into The moving power its nest, and the lid closed upon it.

mechanism is said to have been springs which continued their action only four minutes. As there was no room, within so small a figure, for accommodating pipes to produce the great variety of notes which were warbled, the artist used only one tube, and produced all the variety of sounds by shortening and lengthening
in this piece of
it

with a moveable piston.

into insignificance
IVi.

Ingenious as these pieces of mechanism arc, they sink when compared with the machinery of

Vaucanson, which

had

previously astonished

all

similar piece of

mechanism had been previously made by

JT. le Droz.

VAUCANSON'S FLUTE-PLAYER.
Europe.

263

His two principal automata were the fluteand tlio pipe and tabor player. The flute-player player, was completed in 1736, and wherever it was exhibited it produced the greatest sensation. When it came to Paris The French savans it was received with great suspicion.
recollected the story of M. Kaisin, the organist of Troyes, who exhibited an automaton player upon the harpsichord,

which astonished the French court by the variety of


powers.

its

and mechanism, there was found in the figure a pretty little musician five years of age. It was natural, therefore, that a similar piece of mechanism should be received with some distrust but this feeling was soon removed by M. Vaucanson, who exhibited and explained to a com;

curiosity of the King could not be restrained, in consequence of his insisting upon examining the

The

mittee

of the Academy of Sciences the whole of the* mechanism. This learned body was astonished at the ingenuity which it displayed and they did not hesitate
;

machinery employed for producing the sounds of the flute performed in the most exact manner the very operations of the most expert flute-player, and that the artist had imitated the effects produced, and the means employed by nature, with an accuracy which had exceeded all expectation. In 1738, M. Vaucanson published a memoir, approved of by the Academy, in which he gave a full description of the machinery employed, and of the principles of its construction. Following this
memoir, I shall therefore attempt to give as popular a description of the automaton as can be done without lengthened details and numerous figures. The body of the flute-player was about 5 J feet high, and

to state, that the

was placed upon a piece of rock, surrounding a square When pedestal 4? feet high by three and a half wide. the panel which formed the front of the pedestal was opened, there was seen on the right a clock movement,

2 04

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

which, by the aid of several wheels, gave a rotatory motion to a steel axis about 2J feet long, having cranks at six equidistant points of its length, but lying in different
directions.

To

each crank was attached a cord, which

descended and was fixed by its other end to the upper board of a pair of bellows, 2 feet long and six inches
the

Six pair of bellows arranged along the bottom of pedestal were then wrought, or made to blow in succession, by turning the steel axis.
wide.

At the upper face of the pedestal, and upon each pair of bellows, is a double pulley, one of whose rims is 3 inches in diameter, and the other 1J-. The cord which proceeds
from the crank coils round the smallest of these pulleys, and that which is fixed to the upper board of the bellows goes round the larger pulley. By this means the upper
Iboard of .the bellows is made to rise higher than if the cords went directly from them to the cranks. Round the larger rims of three of these pulleys, viz.,

those on the right hand, there are coiled three cords, which, by means of several smaller pulleys, terminate in

the upper boards of other three pairs of bellows placed on the top of the box.

The

tension of each cord

when
it is

it

begins to raise the

board of the bellows to which


to a lever placed above
it

attached, gives motion between the axis and the double

The pulley in the middle and lower region of the box. other end of this lever keeps open the valve in the lower
board of the bellows, and allows the air to enter freely, while the upper board is rising to increase the capacity of
the bellows.

By

this

means there

is

not only power

gained, in so far as the air gains easier admission through the valve, but the fluttering noise produced by the action

of the air upon the valves is entirely avoided, and the nine pair of bellows are wrought with great ease, and without x1 noise. any concussion
'

VAUCANSON'S FLUTE-PLAYER.

265

different

These nine bellows discharge their wind into three and separate tubes. Each tube receives the wind

of three bellows, the upper boards of one of the three pair being loaded with a weight of four pounds, those of the second three pair with a weight of two pounds, and those of the other three pair with no weight at all. These three
tubes ascended through the body of the figure, and terminated in three small reservoirs placed in its trunk. These
reservoirs were thus united into one, which, ascending into the throat, formed by its enlargement the cavity of the mouth terminated by two small lips, which rested upon

the hole

of the

flute.

These

lips

had the power of

opening more or less, and by a particular mechanism they could advance or recede from the hole in the flute.

Within the cavity of the mouth there is a small raoveable tongue for opening and shutting the passage for the wind through the lips of the figure. The motions of the fingers, lips, and tongue, of the figure were produced by means of a revolving cylinder thirty inches long, and twenty-one in diameter. By means of pegs and brass staples fixed in fifteen different
divisions

similar

to

in its circumference, fifteen different levers, those in a barrel-organ, were raised and

Seven of these regulated the motions of tho seven fingers for stopping the holes of the flute, which they did by means of steel chains rising through the body and directed by pulleys to the shoulder, elbow, and fingers
depressed.

Other three of the levers, communicating with the valves


of the three reservoirs, regulated the ingress of the air, so Another lever as to produce a stronger or a weaker tone.

opened the
lever

lips so as to give a free passage to the another contracted them for the opposite purpose.

air,

and

A third

drew them backwards from the orifice of the flute, and a fourth pushed them forward. The remaining lever enabled the tongue to stop up the orifice of the flute.

266

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Such is a very brief view of the general mechanism by which the requisite motions of the flute-player were The airs which it played were probably equal produced. to those executed by a living performer, and its construction, as well as its performances,

continued for

many years

to delight

and astonish the philosophers and musicians of


this

Europe.

Encouraged by the success of

machine M. Vaucan-

son exhibited in 1741 other automata, which were equally, if not more, admired. One of these was the automaton
duck, which performed all the motions of that animal, and not only ate its food, but digested it * and the other was his pipe and tabor-player, a piece of mechanism which re;

the resources of his fertile genius. Having machine before he was aware of its peculiar begun difficulties, he was often about to abandon it in despair, but his patience and his ingenuity combined enabled him

quired

all

this

not only to surmount every difficulty, but to construct an automaton which performed complete airs, and greatly excelled the most esteemed performers on the pipe and tabor. The figure stands on a pedestal, and is dressed like a dancing shepherd. Ho holds in one hand a flageolet, and in the other the stick with which he beats the tambourin
as an accompaniment to the airs of the flageolet, about The twenty of which it is capable of performing. flageolet has only three holes, and the variety of its tones depends principally on a proper variation of the force of the wind, and on the different degrees with which the
orifices are covered.

These variations in the force of the

be given with a rapidity which the ear can scarcely follow, and the articulation of the tongue wac required for the quickest notes, otherwise the effect was As the human tongue is not capable far from agreeable.

wind required

to

of giving the requisite articulations to a rapid succession


*

See Letter XI,

KRATZENSTEIN'S TALKING AUTOMATON.

267

of notes, and generally slurs over one-half of them, the automaton was thus able to excel the best performers, as
it

played complete airs with articulations of the tongue at every note. In constructing this machine M. Vaucanson observed
that the flageolet

the

human
effort

an

must be a most fatiguing instrument for lungs, as the muscles of the chest must make equal to 56 pounds in order to produce the

single ounce was sufficient for the highest notes. lowest notes, so that we may, from this circumstance,

form an idea of the variety of intermediate


to be produced.

effects

required

While M. Vaucanson was engaged

in the construction

of these wonderful machines, his mind was filled with the strange idea of constructing an automaton containing the whole mechanism of the circulation of the blood. From

some birds which he made he was satisfied of its practicability ; but as the whole vascular system required to be made of elastic gum or caoutchouc, it was supposed that it could
only be executed in the country where the caoutchouc-treo was indigenous. Louis XVI. took a deep interest in the
execution of this machine.
It was agreed that a skilful anatomist should proceed to Guiana to superintend the construction of the blood-vessels, and the King had not

only approved of, but had given orders for, the voyage. Vaucanson Difficulties, however, were thrown in the way became disgusted, and the scheme was abandoned.
:

The two automata which we have

described

were

purchased by Professor Bayreuss of Helmstadt; but we have not been able to learn whether or not they still
exist.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a bold and almost successful attempt was made to construct a ialldwj In the year 1779, the Imperial Academy of automaton.
Sciences at
St.

Petersburgh proposed as the subject of one

268

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

of their annual prizes an inquiry into the nature of the and U, and the construction of vowel sounds A, E, I,

an instrument for artificially imitating them. This prize was gained by M. Kratzenstein, who showed that all the vowels could be distinctly pronounced by blowing through a reed into the lower ends of the pipes of the annexed figures, as shown in Fig. 47, where the corresponding vowels are marked on the different pipes. The vowel I is
Fi.
47.

pronounced by merely blowing into the pipe a pipe marked I, without the use of a reed.

I,

of the

About the same time


these researches,

that Kratzenstein

was engaged in

of Vienna, a celebrated was occupied with the same subject. In his mechanician, first attempt he produced the vowel sounds, by adapting a reed E, Fig. 48, to the bottom of a funnel-shaped cavity

M. Kempelen

A B,

funnel.

and placing his hand in various positions within the This contrivance, however, was not fitted for his purpose but after long study, and a diligent examination of
;

the organs of speech, he contrived a hollow oval box, divided into two portions attached by a hinge so as to resemble
jaws.

This box received the sound which issued from the

tube connected with the reed, and by opening and closing the jaws he produced the sounds A, 0, U, and an
imperfect E, but no indications of an I. After two years' labour he succeeded in obtaining from different jaws tho

KEMPELEN

TALKING ENGINE.

269

>unds of the consonants P, M, L, and by means of these vowels and consonants, he could compose syllables and The sounds words, such as mama, papa, aula, lama, mulo.
cf two adjacent letters, however, run into each other, and an aspiration followed some of the consonants, so that

instead of papa the word sounded pTiaa-ph-a ; these difficulties he contrived with much labour to surmount, and he

found

it

necessary to imitate the


Fig. 48.

human organs

of speech

by having only one mouth and one

glottis.

The mouth

consisted of a funnel or bell-shaped piece of elastic gum, which approximated, by its physical properties, to the
softness

and

flexibility of the

human

organs.*

To

the

mouth-piece was added a nose made of two tin tubes, which communicated with the mouth. When both these
tubes were open, and the mouth-piece closed, a perfect was produced, and when one was closed and the other
open,

an

was sounded.

M. Kempelen

could have

succeeded in obtaining the four letters D, G, K, T, but by using a P instead of them, and modifying the sound in a
particular manner, he contrived to deceive the ear tolerable resemblance of these letters.

by a

* Had M. Kempelen known the modern discovery of giving caoutchouc any degree of softness, by mixing it with molasses or sugar, which is always absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, he

might have obtained a


organs.

still

more perfect imitation of the human

270

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

produce entire

There seems to be no doubt that he at last was able to words and sentences, such as opera,

astronomy. Constant inopolis, vous etes mon ami,je vous ainu>, de tout mon cwur, venez avec moi a Paris, Leopoldus secundus,
fitted

Romanorum imperator semper Augustus, (fee., but he never up a speaking figure, and probably, from being

with the general result of his labours, he only to his private friends the effects of the apparatus, which was fitted up in the form of a box. This box was rectangular, and about three feet long,
dissatisfied

exhibited

and was placed upon a table and covered with a cloth. When any particular word was mentioned by the company, M. Kempelen caused the machine to pronounce and appait, by introducing his hands beneath the cloth, motion to some parts of the apparatus. Mr. rently giving Thomas Collinson, who had seen this machine in London, mentions in a letter to Dr. Hutton, that he afterwards saw it at M. Kempelen's own house in Vienna, and that he then gave it the same word to be pronounced which he gave it in London, viz., the word Exploitation, which, he
assures us,
accent.
it

again distinctly pronounced with the French

M.
him

ful, for

Kratzenste5n seems to have been equally unsuccessthough he assured M. De Lalande, when he saw

in Paris in 1786, that he had made a machine which could speak pretty well, and though he showed him some of the apparatus by which it could sound the vowels, and

even such syllables as papa and mama, yet there is no reason to believe that he had accomplished more than
this.

The

labours of Kratzenstein and Kempelen have been

recently pursued with great success by our ingenious In repeating countryman Mr. Willis of Cambridge. shown in Fig. 48, ho used a Kempelen's experiment

shallower cavity, such as that in Fig. 49, and found that

WILLIS'S

VOWEL MACHINE.

271

he could entirely dispense with the introduction of thehand, and could obtain the whole series of vowels, by over the mouth of the cavity. sliding a flat board C Mr. Willis then conceived the idea of. adapting to the reed

joints.

cylindrical tubes, whose length could be varied by sliding When the tube was greatly less than the length of a stopped pipe in unison with the reed, it sounded I,

and by increasing the length of the tube it gave E, A, and U in succession. But what was very unexpected,
Fig. 49.

when

the tube

was so much lengthened as

to be

1^-

times

the length of a stopped pipe in unison with the reed, the vowels began to be again sounded in an inverted order,
viz.,

U, 0, A, E, and then again in a direct order, I, E, A, 0, U, when the length of the tube was equal to twice that of a stopped pipe, in unison with the reed.

Some important discoveries have been recently made by M. Savart respecting the mechanism of the human voice,* and we have no doubt that, before another century is
completed,
a Talking and a Singiny machine numbered among the conquests of Science.
* See Edinburgh Journal of Science, No.
viii. p.

will

be

200.

272

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTEE
Singular

IX.

on sound Permanent character effects in nature depending of speech Influence of great elevations on the character of sounds, and on the powers of speech Power of sound in throwing down Dog killed by sound Sounds greatly changed under buildings

particular circumstances

Great audibility of sounds during the night explained Sounds deadened in media of different densities Illustrated in the case of a glass of champagne, and in that of new-fallen snow Remarkable echoes Reverberations of thunder
Subterranean noises
at
tlie

Remarkable one at the Solfaterra Echo Menai Suspension Bridge Temporary deafness produced in

diving-bells

Inaudibility of particular sounds to particular ears Vocal powers of the statue of Memnon Sounds in granite rocks

Musical mountain of El-Nakous.

ALTHOUGH among the phenomena of the material world is scarcely one which, when well considered, is not au object of wonder, yet those which we have been
there

accustomed to witness from our infancy lose all their interest from the frequency of their occurrence, while to
the natives of other countries they are unceasing objects of astonishment and delight. The inhabitant of a tropical

climate

is

confounded

at the sight of falling

snow, and he

almosts discredits the evidence of his senses

when he

sees

a frozen river carrying loaded waggons on its surface. The diffusion of knowledge by books, as well as by

frequent communication between the natives of different quarters of the globe, have deprived this class of local

wonders of their
Scandinavian can

influence,
visit

and the Indian

and

the

each other's lands without any violent excitement of surprise. Still, however, there are

PERMANENT CHAKACTER OF SPEECH.

273

phenomena of rare occurrence, of which no description can convey the idea, and which continue to be as deeply marked with the marvellous as if they had been previously unknown. Among these we may rank the remarkable modifications which sound undergoes in particular situations and under particular circumstances. In the ordinary intercourse of life, we recognise individuals as

much by

their voice as

by the features of

their

friend who has been face and the form of their body. long absent will often stand before us as a stranger, till his voice supplies us with the full power of recognition.

The brand imprinted by time on his outer form may have effaced the youthful image which the memory had cherished, but the original character of his voice and its
remain unimpaired. face is not more common in its moral than in its physical acceptation, and though the sagacity of proverbial wisdom has not supplied us with the
yet
will

remembered tones

An

old friend with a

new

counterpart

in relation to the

human

voice,

yet

the

influence of its immutability over the recorded by the poet in some of his

mind has been


most
powerful

When Manfred was unable to recognise in conceptions. the hectic phantom of Astarte the endeared lineaments of
the being whom he loved, the mere utterance of his name recalled "the voice which was his music," and invested her with the desired reality
:

I live but in the

Say Sound

on, say on It is thy voice

BYRON.

The permanence

of character thus

impressed

upon

speech exists only in those regions to whose atmosphere our vocal organs are adapted. If either the speaker or the
hearer

placed in air differing greatly in density from which they are accustomed, the voice of the one will emit different sounds, or the same sounds will prois

that to

274

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

impression on the ear of the other. But both parties are placed in this new atmosphere, their tones of communication will suffer the most remarkable
cluco a different
if

change.

The two extreme

positions,

where such

effects

become

sufficiently striking, are in the compressed air of the diving-bell, when it is immersed to a great depth in

the sea, or in the rarefied atmosphere which prevails on the summit of the Himalaya or the Andes.

In the region of common life, and even at the stillest hour of night, the ear seldom rests from its toils. When the voice of man and the bustle of his labours have ceased, the sounds of insect life are redoubled, the night breeze awakens among the rustling leaves, and the swell of the
distant ocean,

the

murmuring

and the sounds of the falling cataract or of brook, fill the air with their pure and

solemn music. The sublimity of deep silence is not to be found even in the steppes of the Volga, or in tho It can be felt only in those lofty forests of the Orinoco.
regions

Where the tops


Shoot soaringly

of the
forth.

Andes

the traveller rises above the limit of life and motion, and enters the region of habitual solitude, the death-like silence which prevails around him is rendered still more striking by the diminished density of the air which he

As

breathes.

The

voice of his fellow-traveller ceases to be

heard even at a moderate distance, and sounds which would stun the ear at a lower level make but a feeble The report of a pistol on the top of Mont impression.

Blanc

is

no louder than that of an Indian cracker.

But
:

while the thinness of the air thus subdues the loudest


the sounds, the voice itself undergoes a singular change muscular energy by which we speak experiences a great diminution, and our powers of utterance, as well as our

power of hearing, are thus singularly modified.

Were

the

INFLUENCE OF ELEVATION ON SOUNDS.

275

magician, therefore, wlio is desirous to impress upon his victim or upon his pupil the conviction of his supernatural power, to carry him, under the injunction of silence,
to
1

breathe

The difficult ah of the iced mountain's top, Where the birds dare not build, uor insect's wing
Flit o'er the herbless granite,

he would experience little difficulty in asserting his power over the elements, and still less in subsequently com-

municating the same influence to his companion. But though the air at the tops of our highest mountains
is

scarcely capable of transmitting sounds of ordinary intensity, yet sounds of extraordinary power force their

its most attenuated strata. At elevations where the air is three thousand times more rare than that which we breathe, the explosion of meteors is heard like the sound of cannon on the surface of the earth, and the whole air is often violently agitated by the sound. This fact alone may give us some idea of the tremendous nature of the forces which such explosions create, and it is

way through

fortunate for our species that they are confined to the upper regions of the atmosphere. If the same explosions

were to take place in the dense air which rests upon the earth, our habitations and our lives would be exposed to the most imminent peril. Buildings have often been thrown down by violent
concussions of the
great guns or
air,

occasioned either by the sound of

by loud thunder, and the most serious effects upon human and animal life have been produced Most persons have experienced the by the same cause. stunning pain produced in the ear when placed near a
cannon that is discharged. Deafness has frequently been the result of such sudden concussions, and if we may reason from analogy, death itself must often have been the
consequence.

When

peace was proclaimed in London in

276
'

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

1697, two troops of horse were dismounted and drawn up in line in order to fire their volleys. Opposite the centre
of the line was the door of a butcher's shop, where there was a large mastiff dog of great courage. This dog was sleeping by the fire, but when the first volley was fired, it immediately started up, ran into another room, and hid itself under a bed. On the firing of the second volley, the run several times about the room, trembling dog rose, violently and apparently in great agony. When the third volley was fired, the dog ran about once or twice with great violence, and instantly fell down dead, throwing up blood from his mouth and nose. Sounds of known character and intensity are often
singularly changed even at the surface of the earth, accord-

ing to the state of the ground and the conditions of the clouds. On the extended heath, where there are no solid
objects capable of reflecting or modifying sound, the sportsman must frequently have noticed the unaccountable variety of sounds which are produced by the report of
his fowling-piece. Sometimes they are flat and prolonged, at other times short and sharp, and sometimes the noise

so strange that it is referred to some mistake in the These variations, however, arise loading of the gun. from the state of the air, and from the nature and entirely
is

In pure air of proximity of the supcrjacent clouds. uniform density the sound is sharp and soon over, as the
undulations of the air advance without any interrupting In a foggy atmosphere, or where the vapours produced by heat are seen dancing as it were in the air,
obstacles.

the sound
are

is

dull and prolonged

and when these clouds

imm

them

diately overhead, a succession of echoes from produces a continued or a reverberating sound.

When

the

French astronomers were determining the

velocity of sound by firing great guns, they observed that the report was always single and sharp under a perfectly

SOUNDS DURING THE NIGHT.


clear sky, but indistinct, and attended
roll like thunder,

277

by a long-continued when a cloud covered a considerable

It is no doubt owing to the same part of the horizon. cause, namely, the reflection from the clouds, that the

thunder rolls through the heavens, as

if it

were produced

by a succession of

electric explosions.

The

phenomenon

great audibility of sounds during the night is a of considerable interest, and one which had

been observed even by the ancients.

In crowded

cities or

in their vicinity, the effect was generally ascribed to the rest of animated beings, while in localities where such

an explanation was inapplicable, it was supposed to arise from a favourable direction of the prevailing wind. Baron Humboldt was particularly struck with this phenomenon

when he first heard the rushing of the great cataracts of the Orinoco in the plain which surrounds the mission of These sounds he regarded as three times the Apures.
louder during the night than during the day. Some authors ascribed this fact to the cessation of the humming
of insects, the singing of birds, and the action of the wind on the leaves of the trees, but M. Humboldt justly

maintains that this cannot be

the cause of

it

on the

Orinoco, where the buzz of insects is much louder in the night than in the day, and where the breeze never rises
till after

sunset.

Hence

lie

was led

to ascribe the pheno-

menon
the

to the perfect transparency and uniform density of the air, which can exist only at night after the heat of

ground has been uniformly diffused

through

the

atmosphere. When the rays of the sun have been beating on the ground during the day, currents of hot air cf
different

temperatures,

and

consequently

of

different

densities, are constantly ascending from the ground and mixing with the cold air above. The air thus ceases to

be a homogeneous medium, and every person must have observed the effects of it upon objects seen through it

278

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

motion, as

which are very indistinctly visible, and have a tremulous if they were "dancing in the air." The very same effect is perceived when we look at objects through spirits and water that are not perfectly mixed, or when we view distant objects over a red-hot poker or over a In all these c-ises the light suffers refraction in flame. passing from a medium of one density into a medium of a different density, and the refracted rays are constantly
succession.

changing their direction as the different currents rise in Analogous effects are produced when sound passes through a mixed medium, whether it consists of two different mediums, or of one medium where portions
of
it

different velocities

have different densities. As sound moves with through media of different densities,

the wave which produces the sound will be partly reflected in passing from one medium to the other, and the direction of the transmitted wave changed; and hence in

passing through such media different portions of the wave will reach the ear at different times, and thus destroy the This may be sharpness and distinctness of the sound.

proved by many striking facts. If we put a bell in a receiver containing a mixture of hydrogen gas and atmospheric air, the sound of the bell can scarcely be heard.

During a shower of rain or of snow, noises are greatly deadened, and when sound is transmitted along an iron
wire or an iron pipe of sufficient length, we actually hear two sounds, one transmitted more rapidly through the The solid, and the other more slowly through the air. same property is well illustrated by an elegant and easilyrepeated experiment
is

of

Chladni's.

When

sparkling

poured into a tall glass till it is half full, champagne the glass loses its power of ringing by a stroke upon its
edge, and emits only a disagreeable and puffy sound. This effect will continue while the wine is filled with

bubbles of

air,

or as long as the effervescence lasts

but

REMARKABLE ECHOES.
when the when
the
effervescence

279
the

begins

to

subside,

sound

becomes clearer and


effervescence

clearer,

and the glass rings as usual


If

the air-bubbles have vanished.

we reproduce

stirring the champagne with a piece of bread the glass will again cease to ring. The same experiment will succeed with other effervescing

by

fluids.

The difference in the audibility of sounds that pass over homogeneous and over mixed media is sometimes so remarkable as to astonish those who witness it. The
following fact
is
it.

given on the evidence

of

an

officer

who observed
forces were

When

the British and the American

encamped on each side of a river, the outposts were so near that the forms of individuals could be easily An American drummer made his appeardistinguished. ance and began to beat his drum, but though the motion of his arms was distinctly seen, not a single sound reached the ear of the observer. A coating of snow that had newly fallen upon the ground, and the thickness of the atmosphere, had conspired to obstruct the sound. An
very reverse of this is produced by a coating of glazed or hardened snow, or by an extended surface of Lieutenant Foster was able to carry on a ice or water. conversation with a sailor across Port Bowen harbour, a
effect the

distance of no less than a mile and a quarter, and the sound of great guns has been heard at distances varying

from 120 to 200 miles. Over hard and dry ground of an uniform character, or where a thin soil rests upon a continuous stratum of rock, the sound is heard at a great

and hence it is the practice among many eastern tribes to ascertain the approach of an enemy by applying
distance,

the ear to the ground.

Many remarkable phenomena in the natural world are produced by the reflection and concentration of sound. Every person is familiar with the ordinary Echo which

280
arises

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


from the
reflection of

sound from an even surface,

such as the face of a wall, of a house, of a rock, of a hill, As sound moves at the rate of 1090 feet or of a cloud.
in a second,
to the person has travelled over a space equal to twice his distance from the reflecting surface, the distance in feet

and as the sound which returns

who

emits

it

of the body which occasions the echo may be readily found by multiplying 545 by the number of seconds which

elapse between the emission of the sound and its return This kind of echo, where the in the form of an echo.

same person is the speaker and the hearer, never takes place unless when the observer is immediately in front of the reflecting surface, or when a line drawn from his

mouth
in

to the flat surface is nearly perpendicular to it, because in this case alone the wave of sound is reflected

the

reaches

it.

very same direction from the wall in which it If the speaker places himself on one side of

this line, then the

another person as far on the other side of

echo will be heard most distinctly by it, because the


light, so that the

waves of sound are reflected like

angle

of incidence or the inclination at which the sound falls

upon the
from the

reflected surface is equal to the angle of reflec-

tion, or the inclination at

which the sound

is

returned

If two persons, therefore, are placed before the reflecting wall, the one will hear the echo of
wall.

the sound emitted by the other, and obstacles may intervene between these two persons so that neither of them

hears the direct sound emitted by the other ; in the same manner as the same persons similarly placed before a
looking-glass would see each other distinctly by reflection, though objects might obstruct their direct view of each
other.

Hitherto we have
reflecting surface, in

supposed that there

is

only one
is

which case there will be only one

echo

but

if

there are several reflecting surfaces, as

REMARKABLE ECHOES.

281

the case in an amphitheatre of mountains, or during a thunder-storm, where there are several strata or masses of clouds ; or if there are two parallel or inclined surfaces

between which the sound can be repeatedly reflected, or if the surface is curved so that the sound reflected from one part falls upon another part, like the sides of a

polygon inscribed in a circle in all these cases there will be numerous echoes, which produce a very singular effect. Nothing can be more grand and sublime than the primary and secondary echoes of a piece of ordnance discharged in an amphitheatre of precipitous mountains.

The

direct or

primary echoes from each reflecting surface

reach the ear in succession, according to their different distances, and these are either blended with or succeeded

by the secondary echoes which terminate in a prolonged growl ending in absolute silence. Of the same character
are the reverberated claps of a thunder-bolt reflected from the surrounding clouds, and dying away in the distance. The echo which is produced by parallel walls is finely

Marquis of Sinaonetta's villa near Milan, which has been described by Addison and Keysler, and which we believe is that described by Mr. Southwell in
illustrated at the

to the

the Philosophical Transactions for 1746. Perpendicular main body of this villa there extend two parallel

wings about fifty-eight paces distant from each other, and the surfaces of which are unbroken cither with doors or
windows.

The sound

of the

human

voice, or

rather a

word quickly pronounced, is repeated above and the report of a pistol from fifty-six to

forty times, sixty times.

The
that

repetitions, however, follow in such rapid succession it is difficult to reckon "them, unless early in the

morning before the equal temperature of the atmosphere The echoes is disturbed, or in a calm still evening. to be best heard from a window in the main appear building between the two projecting walls, from which the u

282

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


Dr. Plot mentions an echo in

pistol also is fired.

Wood-

stock Park which repeats

and twenty by night. An Shipley Church in Sussex repeats twenty-one syllables. Sir John Herschel mentions an echo in the Manfroni palace at Venice, where a person standing in the centre

seventeen syllables by day echo on the north side of

of a square room about twenty -five feet high, with a CDncave roof, hears the stamp of his foot repeated a great many times, but as his position deviates from the centre,
the echoes become feebler, and at a short distance entirely cease. The same phenomenon, he remarks, occurs in the
large

room of the library M. Genefay has described

of the
as
is

curious oblique echo which

at Naples. near Rouen a existing not heard by the person

museum

who emits the sound. A person who sings hears only his own voice, while those who listen hear only the echo,
which sometimes seems to approach, and at other times one person hears a single sound, to recede from the ear another several sounds, and one hears it on the right and
;

another on the

left,

the effect always changing as the

Dr. Birch has described hearer changes his position. an extraordinary echo at Roseneath in Argyleshire, which
certainly does not

now

exist.

When

eight or ten notes

were played upon a trumpet they were correctly repeated, but on a key a third lower. After a short pause another repetition of the notes was heard in a still lower tone,

and
still

after another short interval they

were repeated in a

lower tone.

In the same manner as light is always lost by reflection, sound are enfeebled by reflection from ordinary surfaces, and the echo is in such cases fainter than the original sound. If the reflecting surface, however, is circular, sound may be condensed and rendered I have seen a fine stronger in the same manner as light.
so the waves of

example of this in the circular turn of a garden wall

WHISPERING GALLERY.

283

nearly a mile distant from a weir across a river. When the air is pure and homogeneous, the rushing sound of the water is reflected from the hollow surface
of the wall, and concentrated in a focus, the place of which the ear can easily discover from the intensity of

the sound being there a maximum. person not acwith the locality conceives that the rushing quainted
noise is on the other side of the wall.

In Whispering Galleries, or places where the lowest whispers are carried to distances at which the direct sound is inaudible, the sound may be conveyed in two ways, either by repeated reflections from a curved surface
in the direction of the sides of a polygon inscribed in a
circle,

or

reflecting surface,

reflecting reflected sounds.

where the whisperer is in the focus of one and the hearer in the focus of another surface, which is placed so as to receive the

The first of these ways is exemplified in the whispering gallery of St. Paul's, and in the octagonal gallery of Gloucester Cathedral, which conveys a whisper

seventy 'five feet across the nave, and the second in the baptistery of a church in Pisa, where the architect Giovanni Pisano is said to have constructed the cupola on purpose.

The cupola has an elliptical form, and when one person whispers in one focus, it is distinctly heard by the person placed in the other focus, but not by those who are placed
between them. The sound first reflected passes across the cupola, and enters the ears of the intermediate persons, but it is too feeble to be heard till it has been condensed by a
second reflection to the other focus of ellipse.
officer,

A naval

travelled through Sicily in the jear 1824, gives an account of a powerful whispering place in the cathedral of Girgenti, where the slightest whisper is

who

carried with perfect distinctness through a distance of 250 feet, from the great western door to the cornico behind the high altar. By an unfortunate coincidence

284

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the focus of one of the reflecting surfaces was chosen for the place of the confessional, and when this was accidentally discovered, the lovers of secrets resorted to the other focus, and thus became acquainted with confessions
of the gravest import. This divulgence of scandal continued for a considerable time, till the eager curiosity of

avowal of her own

one of the dilettanti was punished, by hearing his wife's This circumstance gave infidelity.
publicity to the whispering peculiarity of the cathedral,

and the confessional was removed to a place of greater


secrecy.

An
Sir

by duced by the suspension bridge across the Menai Strait in Wales. " The sound of a blow with a hammer," says he, " on one of the main piers is returned in succession from each of the cross beams which support the road-way, and from the opposite pier at a distance of 576 feet and in addition to this, the sound is many times repeated between the water and the road- way. The effect is a series of sounds which may be thus written the first return is
;
:

echo of a very peculiar character has been described John Herschel in his Treatise on Sound, as pro-

Fi-. 50.

the rattling sharp and strong from the road-way overhead which succeeds dies away rapidly, bnt the single repercussion from the opposite pier is very strong, and is suc;

ceeded by a faint palpitation repeating the sound at the rate of twenty-eight times in five seconds, and which, therefore, corresponds to a distance of 184 feet, or very

from the road-way to tho nearly the double interval Thus it appears that in the repercussion between water.

SUBTERRANEAN ECHO,

285

the water and road-way, that from the latter only affects the ear, the line drawn from the auditor to the water

being too oblique for the sound to diverge sufficiently in

Another peculiarity deserves especial that the echo from the opposite pier is namely, best heard when the auditor stands precisely opposite to the middle of the breadth of the pier, and strikes just on
that
direction.
notice,

that point.

As

it

deviates to one or the other side, the

return

is

him when

proportionally fainter, and is scarcely heard by his station is a little beyond the extreme edge

of the pier, though another person, stationed (on the same side of the water) at an equal distance from the central point, so as to have the pier between them, hears
it

well."

remarkable subterranean echo

is

often heard

when

the hoofs of a horse or the wheels of a carriage pass over This sound is frequently particular spots of ground.

very similar to that which is produced in passing over an arch or vault, and is commonly attributed to the existence
of natural or artificial caves beneath.
often been constructed in times of
rity for persons

As such

caves have

war as places of secu-

and property, many unavailing attempts

have been made to discover hidden treasures where their locality seemed to be indicated by subterraneous sounds.

But though these sounds are sometimes produced by excavations in the ground, yet they generally arise from tho nature of the materials of which the ground is composed,

and from their manner of combination. If the hollow of a road has been filled up with broken rock, or with largo
water-worn stones, having hollows either left entirely empty, or filled up with materials of different density, then the sound will be reflected in passing from the loose
to the dense materials,

and there will arise a great number of echoes reaching the ear in rapid succession, and forming by their union a hollow rumbling sound. This principle

286

LETTEKS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

has been very successfully applied by Sir John Herschol to explain the subterranean sounds with which every
traveller is familiar

who has

visited the

Solfaterra near

the ground at a particular place is struck violently by throwing a large stone against it, a peculiar hollow sound is distinctly heard. This sound has been

Naples.

When

by some geologists to the existence of a great vault communicating with the ancient seat of the volcano, by other writers to a reverberation from the surrounding
ascribed

with which it is nearly concentric, and by others to the porosity of the ground. Dr. Daubeny, who says that the hollow sound is heard when any part of the Solfaterra is struck, accounts for it by supposing that the hill is not
hills

made up

of one entire rock, but of a number of detached blocks, which, hanging as it were by each other, form a sort of vault over the abyss within which the volcanic operations are going on.* Mr. Forbes, who has given the latest and most interesting description of this singular volcano,f agrees in opinion with Dr. Daubeny, while

Mr. Scrope J and Sir John Herschel concur in opinion " It seems most probable," that no such cavities exist. the latter, " that the hollow reverberation is nothing says more than an assemblage of partial echoes arising from
the reflection of successive portions of the original sound in its progress through the soil at the innumerable halfcoherent surfaces composing it were the whole soil a
:

would be so strong and frequent as to destroy the whole impulse, in too short an It is a interval to allow of a distinguishable after-sound.
mass of sand, these
reflections

case analogous to that of a strong light, thrown into a milky medium or smoky atmosphere the whole medium
;

*
T *

Description of Volcanoes, p. 170.

Edinburgh Journal of Science, N. Series, No. i. p. 124. Considerations on Volcanoes, and Edinburgh Journal of Science,
p. 261,

No. xx.

and No.

xiv. p. 265,

MOMENTARY DEAFNESS.

287

is to

appears to shine with a nebulous undefined light. This the eye what such a hollow sound is to the ear."*
It

has been recently shown by

human

M. Savart, that the ear is so extremely sensible as to be capable of

appreciating sounds which arise from about twenty-four thousand vibrations in a second, and consequently, that it

can hear a sound which lasts only the twenty-four thousandth part of a second. Vibrations of such frequency and Dr. Wollaston afford only a shrill squeak or chirp
;

has shown that there

are

sense of hearing entire, such acute sounds, though others are painfully affected by them. Nothing, as Sir John Herschel remarks, can be

many individuals with their who are altogether insensible to

more surprising than


deaf, the

to see

two persons, neither of them

one complaining of the penetrating shrillness of a sound, while the other maintains there is no sound at all. Dr. Wollaston has also shown that this is true also
of very grave sounds, so that the hearing or not hearing of musical notes at both extremities of the scale seems to

depend wholly on the pitch or frequency of vibration constituting the note, and not upon the intensity or loudness This affection of the ear sometimes appears of the noise. in cases of common deafness, where a shrill tone of voice,
such as that of

women and

children, is often better heard

than the loud and deeper tone of men. Dr. Wollaston remarked, that when the mouth and nose are shut, the tympanum or drum of the ear may be

by a forcible attempt to take breath by the expansion of the chest, the pressure of the external air upon the membrane gives it such a tension, that the ear
so exhausted

becomes insensible to grave tones, without losing in any degree the perception of sharper sounds. Dr. Wollaston found, that after he had got into the habit of making the
experiment, so as to be able to produce a great degree of
* Art> SorND, Enrycl. Metrop.

110,

288
exhaustion,

LETTEES ON NATURAL MAGIC.


liis

ears were insensible to all sounds below

"If I strike the table before F, marked by the base clef. " with the end of me," says he, my finger, the whole
board sounds with a deep dull note. If I strike it with my nail, there is also at the same time a sharp sound produced by quicker vibrations of parts around the point of
latter sound,

the ear is exhausted it hears only the without perceiving in any degree the deeper In the same manner, in listening note of the whole table.
contact.

When

sound of a carriage, the deeper rumbling noise of body is no longer heard by an exhausted ear but the rattle of a chain or loose screw remains at least as audible
to the

the

as before exhaustion."

excessive tension of the

Dr. Wollaston supposes that this drum of the ear, when produced

by the compressed

air in the diving-bell, will also

produce

a corresponding deafness to low tones. This curious experiment has been since made by Dr. Colladon, when descend-

ing in the diving-bell

at

Howth

in

1820.

"We

de-

" so slowly that we did not notice the scended," says he, motion of the bell ; but as soon as the bell was immersed

in water, we felt about the ears and the forehead a sense of pressure, which continued increasing during some minutes. I did not, however, experience any pain in tho
ears
;

but

my

companion suffered so much that we were

To remedy obliged to stop our descent for a short time. that inconvenience, the workmen instructed us, after
having closed our nostrils and mouth, to endeavour to swallow, and to restrain our respiration for some moments,

by this exertion, the internal air might act on the Eustachian tube. My companion, however, having tried it, found himself very little relieved by this remedy. After some minutes, we resumed our descent. My friend he was pale his lips were totally suffered considerably his appearance was that of a man on tho discoloured; he was in involuntary low spirits, point of fainting
in order that,
;
;

INAUDIBILITY OF CERTAIN SOUNDS.


owing, perhaps, to the violence of the pain, added to that kind of apprehension which our situation unavoidably This appeared to me the more remarkable, as inspired.

my

case was totally the reverse.

I was in a state of ex-

citement resembling the effect of some spirituous liquor. I experienced only a strong pressure J suffered no pain
;

round
it.

head, as if an iron circle had been bound about I spoke with the workmen and had some difficulty in

my

hearing them.

This

difficulty of

hearing rose to such a

height, that during three or four minutes I could not hear them speak. I could not, indeed, hear myself speak,

though I spoke as loudly as possible

nor did even the

great noise caused by the violence of the current against the sides of the bell reach my ears."

The effect thus described by Dr. Colladon is different, from that anticipated by Dr. Wollaston. He was not merely deaf to low tones but to all sounds whatever and I have found by repeated experiment, that my own ears become perfectly insensible even to the shrill tones of the female voice, and of the voice of a child, when the drum of the ear is thrown into a state of tension by yawning.
;

With regard to sounds of high pitch at the other extremity of the scale, Dr. Wollaston has met with persons, whose hearing was in other respects perfect, who
never heard the chirping of the Gryllus campestris, which commonly occurs in hedges during a summer's evening, or that of the house-cricket, or the squeak of the bat, or

The note of the chirping of the common house-sparrow. the bat is a full octave higher than that of the sparrow and Dr. Wollaston believes that the note of some insects
;

reach one octave more, as there are sounds decidedly higher than that of a small pipe, one-fourth of an inch in

may

length, which he conceives cannot be far from six octaves " The suddenness of the pianoforte. above the middle " from of the transition," says Dr. Wollaston, perfect

290

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

hearing to total want of perception occasions a degree of surprise, which renders an experiment on this subject with
of small pipes among several persons rather amusing. It is curious to observe the change of feeling manifested by various individuals of the party, in succession, as the sounds approach and pass the limits of their

a series

hearing.

Those who enjoy a temporary triumph are often compelled in their turn to acknowledge to how short a In concluding distance their little superiority extends."

his interesting paper on this subject, Dr. Wollaston conjectures that animals, like the grylli (whose powers of

may

hearing appear to commence nearly where ours terminate), have the power of hearing still sharper sounds which

at present

we do not know

to exist,

and that there may be

other insects having nothing in common with us, but who are endowed with a power of exciting, and a sense of perceiving vibrations which make no impression upon our
organs, while their organs are equally insensible to the slower vibrations to which we are accustomed.

to

With the view of studying the class of sounds inaudible certain ears, we would recommend to the young
examine the sounds emitted by the insect

naturalist to
tribe,

both in relation to their effect upon the human ear, and to the mechanism by which they are produced. The

Cicadse or locusts in North America appear, from the observations of Dr. Hildreth,* to be furnished with a " When bagpipe on which they play a variety of notes.

any one passes," says he,


arc

" they make a great noise and with their air-bladder or bagpipes. These bags screaming

axilla,

placed under, and rather behind, the wings in the something in the manner of using the bagpipes with the bags under the arms, I could compare them to nothing else ; and, indeed, I suspect the first inventor of
the instrument borrowed his ideas from some insect of
*
Fdinljurqli Journal of Science, No. xvii. p. 158,

VOCAL STATUE OF MEMNON.


tin's

291

kind kind. They play a variety of notes and rounds, one which nearly imitates the scream of the tree-toad." Among the acoustic wonders of the natural world may be ranked the vocal powers of the statue of Memnon, the son of Aurora, which modern discoveries have withdrawn from among the fables of ancient Egypt. The history of this remarkable statue is involved in much obscurity. Although Strabo affirms that it was overturned by an earthquake, yet as Egypt exhibits no traces of such a convulsion, it has been generally believed that the statue was mutilated by Cambyses. Ph. Casselius, in his dissertation on vocal or speaking stones, quotes the remark of the scholiast in Juvenal, " that, when mutilated by Cambyses, the statue which saluted both the sun and the king, afterwards saluted only the sun."
f

statue looked to the east,

Philostratus, in his life of Apollo, informs us, that the and that it spoke as soon as the

Pausanias, rays of the rising sun fell upon its mouth. who saw the statue in its dismantled state, says that it is a statue of the sun, that the Egyptians call it Phamenophis,

and not Memnon, and


sunrise, wliicli

that

it

emits sounds every morning at

can be compared only to that of the breaking of the string of a lyre. Strabo speaks only of a single sound which he heard but Juvenal, who had probably heard it
;

during his stay in Egypt, describes emitted several sounds


:

often

it

as if

it

Dimidio magicso resonant ubi Memnone chordae. Where broken Memnon sounds his magic strings.

The simple sounds which issued from the statue were in the progess of time magnified into intelligible words, and even into an oracle of seven verses, and this prodigy has
been recorded In a Greek inscription on the left leg of But though this new faculty of the colossus the statue.

was evidently the contrivance of the Egyptian

priests, yet

292

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

we

are not entitled from this to call in question the simple and perfectly credible fact that it emitted sounds. This property, indeed, it seems to possess at the present

day

for

we

learn,* that an

English

traveller, Sir

A.

Smith, accompanied with a numerous escort, examined the statue, and that at six o'clock in the morning he

heard very distinctly the sounds which had been so celebrated in antiquity. He asserts that this sound does not
proceed from the statue but from the pedestal
;

and he

expresses his belief that it arises from the impulse of the air upon the stones of the pedestal, which are arranged so
as

This singular to produce this surprising effect. description is to a certain extent confirmed by the description of Strabo, who says that he was quite certain that he heard a sound which proceeded either from tlie base, or

from the colossus, or from some one of the assistants. As there were no Egyptian priests in the escort of Sir A. Smith, we may now safely reject this last, and, for many centuries, the most probable hypothesis. The explanation suggested by Sir A. Smith, had been previously given in a more specific form by M. Dussaulx,
the translator of Juvenal.
" " The statue," says he, being the heat of the sun heated the air which it conhollow, tained, and this air, issuing at some crevice, produced the

sounds of which the priests gave their own interpretation." Rejecting this explanation, M. Langles, in his dissertation on the vocal statue of Memnon, and M. Salverte,
in his

work on the occult sciences, have ascribed the sounds entirely to Egyptian priestcraft, and have even which the gone so far as to describe the mechanism by statue not only emitted sounds, but articulated distinctly the intonations appropriate to the seven Egyptian vowels, and consecrated to the seven planets. M. Langles conceives that the sounds may be produced by a series of
*

Hern?

Enc]idope'diqiie, 1821,

Tom.

ix. p.

592.

VOCAL STATUE OF MEMNON.


liners,

293

stones like those

which strike either the granite itself, or sonorous which have been long used in China

for musical instruments.


fect apparatus,

M.

Salverte improves this imper-

by supposing that there might be adapted to these hammers a clepsydra or water-clock, or any other instrument fitted to measure time, and so constructed as to put the hammers in motion at sunrise. Not satisfied
with this supposition, he conjectures that the spring of all this mechanism was to be found in the art of concentrating the rays of the sun, which was well known to the ancients. Between the lips of the statue, or in some less remarkable part of it concealed from view by its
height, he conceives an aperture to be perforated, containing a lens or a mirror capable of condensing the

rays of the rising sun

upon one or more metallic


put
in motion

levers

which

Hence he explains why the sounds were emitted only at sunrise, and when the solar rays fell upon the mouth of the statue, and why they
succession.

by hammers in

their

expansion

the

seven

were never again heard


horizon.

till

the sun returned to the eastern

a piece of mechanism, this contrivance is defective in not providing for the change in the sun's
as

As

amplitude, which is very considerable even in Egypt, for the statue and the lens are both fixed, and as the
lens

sounds were heard at all seasons of the year, the same which threw the midsummer rays of the sun upon
the

hammers
is

could

not

his rays

in winter

But even
it

possibly throw upon them if the machinery were

perfect, it

obvious that
of the

could not have

survived

the mutilation

statue,
its

and could

not, short of a

miracle, have performed

part in the time of Sir A.

Smith.
idea of the whole being a trick of the which has been generally done, and which the priesthood, recent observations of Sir A. Smith authorizes us to doj
If

we abandon the

294

LETTERS OX NATURAL MAGIC.


natural

we must seek some

cause for the phenomena

similar to that suggested by Dussaulx. It is curious to observe how the study of nature gradually dispels the

consecrated delusions of ages, and reduces to the level of ordinary facts what time had invested with all the characters of the supernatural. And in the present case

" on which w e Humboldt, lay is one of those where travellers on the Orinoco have heard from time to time, towards sunrise, subterraneous sounds resembling those
T '

remarkable that the problem of the statue of first solved by means of an observation made by a solitary traveller wandering on the banks of the Orinoco. " The granitic rock," says Baron
it is

no

less

Memnon

should have been

of the organ. .The missionaries call these stones loxas de It is witchcraft,' said our young Indian pilot. musica.

never ourselves heard these mysterious sounds either Carichana Vieja or in the upper Orinoco ; but from information given us by witnesses worthy of belief, the
at

We

existence of a

phenomenon

that seems to

depend on a

certain state of the atmosphere cannot be denied. The shelves of rock are full of very narrow and deep crevices.

They are heated during the day to about 50. I often found their temperature at the surface during the night
at

39, the surrounding atmosphere being

at

28.

It

easily be conceived that the difference of temperature between the subterraneous and the external air attains

may
its

maximum about

sunrise, or at that

moment which

is at

the same time farther from the period of the maximum of the heat of the preceding day. May not these sounds

of an organ, then, which are heard when a person sleeps upon the rock, his ear in contact with the stone, be the
effect

crevices ?

of a current of air that issues out through the Does not the impulse of the air against the

elastic spangles of

tribute to

mica that intercept the crevices conthe sounds ? May we not admit that modify

SOUNDS IN GRANITE ROCKS.

295

the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, in passing incessantly

up and down the Nile, had made the same observation on some rock of the Thebaid, and that the music of the
rocks there led to the jugglery of the priests in the statue of Memnon ?"

This curious case of the production of sounds in granite rocks at sunrise might have been regarded as a transatlantic wonder which was not applicable to Egypt ; but

MM. Jomard, and Devilliers, who were travelling in Egypt nearly about the same time that M. Humboldt was traversing the wilds of South America, heard, at sunrise, in a monument of granite, situated near the centre of the spot on which the palace of Carnac stands, a noise resembling that of a breaking string, the very expression by which Pausanias characterizes the sound in the Memnonian granite. The travellers regarded these sounds as arising from the transmission of rarefied air through the crevices of a sonorous stone, and they were of the same opinion with Humboldt, that these sounds might have
by a singular coincidence of observation,
Jollois,

nonium.

suggested to the Egyptian priests the juggleries of the MemIs it not strange that the Prussian and the French
,

gone a step farther, and solved the problem of two thousand years, by maintaining that the sound of the statue of Memnon was itself a natural
travellers should not have

phenomenon, or a granite sound elicited at sunrise by the very same causes which operated on the Orinoco and in
of Carnac, in place of regarding it as a trick sounds? If, as Humboldt supposes, the ancient inhabitants of Egypt had, in passing incessantly up and down the Nile, become familiar with

the

Temple

in imitation of natural

the

the music of the granite rocks of the Thcbaid, how could imitation of such natural and familiar sounds be

regarded by the priests as a means of deceiving the people ? There could be nothing marvellous in a colossal

296

LETTERS

0-X

NATURAL MAGIC.

same sounds that were given out at the same time of the day by a granite rock and in place of reckoning it a supernatural fact, they could regard it in no other light than as the duplistatue of granite giving out the very
;

cate of a well-known natural

phenomenon.

It is a

mere

conjecture, however, that such sounds were common in the Thebaid, and it is therefore probable that a granite rock,

possessing the property of emitting sounds at sunrise, had been discovered by the priests, who were at the same time
the philosophers of Egypt, and that the block had been employed in the formation of the Memnonian statue for the purpose of impressing upon it a supernatural character, und enabling them to maintain their influence over a

credulous people. The inquiries of recent travellers have enabled us to


corroborate these views, and to add another remarkable example of the influence of subterraneous sounds over

About three leagues to the north of Tor, in Arabia Petraea, is a mountain, within the bosom of which the most singular sounds have been heard.
superstitious minds.

of

The Arabs of the Desert ascribe these sounds to a convent monks preserved miraculously under ground, and the
is

sound

supposed to be that of the Nakous, a long narrow

metallic ruler, suspended horizontally, which the priest strikes with a hammer for the purpose of assembling the Greek was said to have seen the monks to prayer.

mountain open, and to have descended into the subterranean convent, where he found fine gardens and delicious water and, in order to give proof of his descent, he produced some fragments of consecrated bread, which ho
;

pretended to have brought from the subterranean convent. The inhabitants of Tor likewise declare that the camels
are not only frightened but rendered furious hear these subterraneous sounds.

when they
visited

M.

Scetzen, the

first

European traveller who

MUSICAL MOUNTAIN OF EL-NAKOUS.

297

this extraordinary mountain, set out from Woodyel Nackel on the 17th of June at five o'clock in the morning. He was accompanied by a Greek Christian and some Bedouin Arabs, and after a quarter of an hour's walk they reached the foot of a majestic rock of hard sandstone. The mountain itself was quite bare and entirely composed of He found inscribed upon the rock several Greek and it. Arab names, and also some Koptic characters, which proved that it had been resorted to for centuries. About noon the party reached the foot of the mountains called Ndkous, where at the foot of a ridge they beheld an insuThis mountain presented upon two lated peaked rock. of its sides two sandy declivities about 150 feet high, and so inclined that the white and slightly adhering san& which rests upon its surface is scarcely able to support itself and when the scorching heat of the sun destroys
;

or when it is agitated by the smallest motions, it slides down the two acclivities. These declivities unite behind the insulated rock, forming an acute
its feeble cohesion,

angle, and, like the adjacent surfaces, they are covered with steep rocks which consist chiefly of a white and
friable freestone.

The first sound which greeted the ears of the travellers took place at an hour and a quarter after noon. They had climbed with great difficulty as far as the sandy
declivity, a height of seventy or

eighty

feet,

and had

rested beneath the rocks where the pilgrims are accustomed to listen to the sounds.

While in the act of climbing, M. Seetzen heard the sound from beneath his knees, and hence he was led to think that the sliding of the sand was the cause of the sound, and not the effect of the vibration which it occaAt three o'clock the sound became louder, and sioned.
continued six minutes, and after having ceased for ten
minutes,
it

was again heard,

The sound appeared

to

have

298

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

the greatest resemblance to that of the humming-top, Believing rising and falling like that of an Eolian harp. that he had discovered the true origin of the sound, M. Seetzeen was anxious to repeat the experiment, and with
this

view he climbed with the utmost

difficulty to the

highest rocks, and, sliding down as fast as he could, he endeavoured, with the help of his hands and feet, to set

the sand in motion.

The

effect

thus produced far exceeded

his expectetions, and the sand in rolling beneath him made so loud a noise that the earth seemed to tremble to
afraid if he

such a degree that he states he should certainly have been had been ignorant of the cause.

M. Seetzen throws

out

cause of these sounds.

some conjectures respecting the Does the rolling layer of sand,

says he, act like the fiddle-bow, which on being rubbed upon a plate of glass raises and distributes into regular Does figures the sand with which the plate is covered ?

the adherent and fixed

layer of sand perform here the of the plate of glass, and the neighbouring rocks that part cannot pretend to answer of the sounding body? these questions, but we trust that some philosopher com-

We

petent to the task will have an opportunity of examining these interesting phenomena with more attention, and

describing them with greater accuracy. The only person, so far as I can learn,

who has

visited

El Nakous since the time of Seetzen


University College, Oxford ; to the information acquired
the
first visit

Mr. Gray, of but he has not added much


is

by his predecessor. During which he made to the place, he heard at the end of a quarter of an hour a low continuous murmuring sound beneath his feet, which gradually changed into the pulsations as it became louder, so as to resemble it striking of a clock, and at the end of five minutes
.

became so strong as to detach the sand. Eeturning to the spot next day, he heard the sound still louder than before.

MUSICAL MOUNTAIN OF EL-NAKOUS.

299

He

air could penetrate,

could not observe any crevices by which the external and as the sky was serene and the air

calm, he was satisfied that the sounds could not arise from
this cause.*
* See Edinburgh Journal of Science, No.
p. 51.
xi. p.

153,

and No.

xiii.

300

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER
Mechanical inventions of
the-

X.
few
in

ancients

number

Ancient and

modern

feeds of strength

Feats of Eckeberg particularly de-

General explanation of them Heal feats of strength scribed Remarkable power of lifting performed by Thomas Topham

heavy persons when the lungs are inflated Belzoni's feat of sustaining pyramids of men Deception of walking along the

Pneumatic apparatus in the foot ceiling in an inverted position of the house-fly for enabling it to walk in opposition to gravity
Description of the analogous apparatus employed by the gecko lizard for the same purpose Apparatus used by the Echineis

remora or sucking fish.

THE

theoretical,

mechanical knowledge of the ancients was principally and though they seem to have executed some
of

minor pieces

mechanism which were

sufficient to

delude

the ignorant, yet there is no reason for believing that they have executed any machinery that was capable of

much surprise, either by its ingenuity or its The properties of the mechanical powers, magnitude. however, seem to have been successfully employed in performing feats of strength which were beyond the reach
exciting

even of strong men, and which could not fail to excite the greatest wonder when exhibited by persons of ordinary
size.

Firmus, a native of Seleucia,

who was

executed by the

for espousing the cause of Zenobia, was In his account of the celebrated for his feats of strength.
life

Emperor Aurelian

of Firmus, who lived in the third century, Vopiscus informs us, that he could suffer iron to be forged upon an

PEATS OF ECKEBERG.
anvil placed upon his breast. his back, and resting his feet

301

In doing this he lay upon and shoulders against some support, his whole body formed an arch as we shall afterwards more particularly explain. Until the end of the
sixteenth century the exhibition of such feats does not seem to have been common. About the year 1703, a
native of of strength in received the

Kent of the name of Joyce exhibited such feats London and other parts of England, that he name of the second Sampson. His own but he had also dispersonal strength was very great
;

covered, without the aid of theory, various positions of his body in which men even of common strength could perform

very surprising

feats.
;

He drew against

horses,

and raised

enormous weights but as he actually exhibited his power in ways which evinced the enormous strength of his own In muscles, all his feats were ascribed to the same cause. the course of eight or ten years, however, his methods were discovered, and many individuals of ordinary strength
exhibited a number of his principal performances, though in a manner greatly inferior to Joyce. Some time afterwards, John Charles Van Eckeberg, a native of Harzgerode in Anhalt, travelled through Europe

under the appellation of Sampson, exhibiting very remarkThis we believe is the able examples of his strength. same person whose feats are particularly described by Dr.
a man of the middle size, and of and as Dr. Desaguliers was convinced ordinary strength that his feats were exhibitions of skill and not of strength, he was desirous of discovering his methods, and with this view he went to see him accompanied with the Marquis of Tullibardine, Dr. Alexander Stuart, and Dr. Pringle, and
Desaguliers.
;

He was

his

own mechanical

operator.

They placed themselves

round the German so as to be able to observe accurately all that he did, and their success was so great, that they were able to perform most of the feats tho same evening

302

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


all

by themselves, and almost

the rest

when they had

Dr. Desagu tiers exhiprovided the proper apparatus. bited some of the experiments before the Royal Society,

and has given such a distinct explanation of the principles on which they depend, that we shall endeavour to give a
popular account of them.

The performer sat upon an inclined board A B 1. with his feet abutting against placed upon a frame

ODE,

Fig. 51.

the upright board C. Round his loins was placed a strong F G, to the iron ring of which at was fastened a girdle

rope by means of a hook.

The rope

passed between his

legs through a hole in the board C, and several men, or two horses pulling at the other end of the rope, were unable to draw the performer out of his place. His hands
at

G
2.

seemed to pull against the men, but they were of no

advantage to him whatever.

Another of the German's feats is shown in Fig. 52. Having fixed the rope above mentioned to a strong post at A, and made it pass through a fixed iron eye at B, to the ring in his girdle, he planted his feet against the post at B, and raised himself from the ground by the rope, 'as shown in the figure. He then suddenly stretched out his legs and broke the rope, falling back on a feather-bed at
C, spread out to receive him. 3. In imitation of Firmus, he laid himself

down on

the

ground, as

shown in Fig.

53, and when an anvil

was

FEATS OF ECKEBERG.
Fig. 52.

303

with all his force placed upon his breast, a man hammered with a sledge-hammer, and sometimes the piece of iron B,
Fig. 53.
^

two smiths cut in two with


laid

chisels a great cold bar of iron

At other times a stone of huge dimensions, half of which is shown at C, was laid upon his belly, and broken with a blow of the great hammer.
upon the
anvil.
4.

The performer then

placed his shoulders upon one

304
chair,

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and his heels upon another, as in Fig. 5d, forming with his back-bone, thighs, and legs, an arch springing from its abutments at A and B. One or two men then stood upon his belly, rising up and down while the perFig. 54.

former breathed. A stone one and a half feet long, one foot broad, and half a foot thick, was then laid upon his belly and broken by a sledge-hammer, an operation which

may be performed with much

less danger than when his back touched the ground, as in Fig. 53. 5. His next feat was to lie down on the ground as in Fig. 55. A man being then placed on his knees, he draws his heels towards his body, and raising his knees, he lifts

up the man gradually,

till

having

brought

his

knees

perpendicularly under him, as in Fig. 56, lie raises his own body up, and placing his arms around the man's legs,

he

rises with him,

and

sets

him down on somo low

table
feat

or eminence of the same height as his knees.

This
one.

he sometimes performed with two men in place of

FEATS OF ECKEBERG,

305

Fig. 55.

Fig. 56.

306
6.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

The

last,

formance of the German

and apparently the most wonderful, peris shown in Fig. 57, where he
Fig. 57.

appears to raise a cannon A, placed upon a scale, the four ropes of the scale being fixed to a rope or chain attached to his girdle in the manner already described.
rest

Previous to the fixing of the ropes, the cannon and scale upon two rollers B C, but when all is ready, the

two rollers are knocked from beneath the scale, and the cannon is sustained by the strength of his loins.

The German
into a screw a
first

flat

also exhibited his strength in twisting He piece of iron like A, Fig. 58.

bent the iron into a right angle as at B, and then wrapping his handkerchief about its broad upper end, ho

FEA1S OF ECKEBERG.
held that end in his
to

307

left hand, and with hio' right applied the other end, twisted about the angular point, as

Fig. 58.

shown at C. Lord Tullibardine succeeded in doing the Fame thing, and even untwisted one of the irons which the German had twisted. It would lead into details by no means popular, were
I to give a minute explanation of the mechanical prin few general ciples upon which these feats depend. observations will perhaps be sufficient for ordinary

The feats No. 1, 2, and 6, depend entirely on the natural strength of the bones of the pelvis, which form a double arch, which it would require an immense force to break, by any external pressure directed to the
readers.

and as the legs and thighs are capable ; of sustaining four or five thousand pounds when they tand quite upright, the performer has no difficulty in
centre of the arch
resisting the force of

weight of a
pounds.

two horses, or of sustaining the cannon weighing two or three thousand

The

feat of the anvil is certainly a very surprising one.

308

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


difficulty,

The
is

anvil, for

when

however, really consists in sustaining the this is done the effect of the hammering

If the anvil were a thin piece of iron, or nothing. even two or three times heavier than the hammer, the performer would be killed by a few blows but the blows
;

are scarcely felt when the anvil is very heavy, for the more matter the anvil has, the greater is its inertia, and it is the less liable to be struck out of its place ; for

has received by the blow the whole momentum hammer, its velocity will be so much less than that of the hammer, as its quantity of matter is greater.

when

it

of the

When

the blow, indeed, is struck, the man feels less of the weight of the anvil than he did before, because in the reaction of the stone all the parts of it round about the hammer rise towards the blow. This property is illustrated

by the well-known experiment of laying a stick ends upon two drinking glasses full of water, and striking the stick downwards in the middle with an
with
its

iron bar.

The

stick will in this case be

broken without

breaking the glasses, or spilling the water. But if the stick is struck upwards as if to throw it up in the air,
the glasses will break if the blow be strong, and if the blow is not very quick, the water will be spilt without

breaking the glasses.

When the performer supports a man upon his belly as in Fig. 54, he does it by means of the strong arch formed by his backbone, and the bones of his legs and thighs. If there were room for them he could bear three or four, or,
in their stead, a great stone, to be broken with one blow. number of feats of real and extraordinary strength

were

exhibited

Thomas Topham, who was


about 31 years of age.
of the
for

about a century ago, in London, by five feet ten inches high, and

He was

surprising,

methods making and he often performed by

entirely ignorant of any his strength appear more


his

own

natural

FEATS pF STRENGTH OF TOPHAM.

309

powers what lie learned had been done by others by A distressing example of this occurred artificial means.

by pulling against

in his attempt to imitate the feat of the German Sampson horses. Ignorant of the method which

-described, he seated himself on the ground with his feet against two stirrups, and by the weight of his body he succeeded in pulling against a single horse but in attempting to pull against two horses, he was lifted out of his place and one of his knees was
;

we have already

shattered against the stirrups, so as to deprive

him

of

most of the strength of one of his legs. The following are the feats of real strength which Dr. Desaguliers saw

him perform. 1. Having rubbed his fingers with coal ashes to keep them from slipping, ho rolled up a very strong and large
pewter plate.
2. Having laid seven or eight short and strong pieces of tobacco-pipe on the first and third finger, he broke them by the force of his middle finger.

3. He broke the bowl of a strong tobacco-pipe placed between his first and third fiuger, by pressing his fingers

together sideways. 4. Having thrust such another bowl under his garter, his legs being bent, he broke it to pieces by the tendons
of his hams, without altering the bending of his leg. 5. He lifted with his teeth, and held in a horizontal
position for a considerable time, a table six feet long, with half a hundredweight hanging at the end of it. The feet

of the table rested against his knees.


6. Holding in his right hand an iron kitchen poker three feet long and three inches round, he struck upon his bare left arm, between the elbow and the wrist, till he

bent the poker nearly to a right angle.


7. Taking a similar poker, and holding the ends of it in his hands, and the middle against the back of his neck,

310

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

he brought both ends of it together before hiin, and he then pulled it almost straight again. This last feat was the most difficult, because the muscles which separate the arms horizontally from each other are not so strong as
those which bring them together. 8. He broke a rope about two inches in circumference, which was partly wound about a cylinder four inches in

diameter, having fastened the other end of went over his shoulder.

it

to straps that

9. Dr. Desaguliers saw him lift a rolling stone of about 800 Ibs. weight with his hands only, standing in a frame above it, and taking hold of a frame fastened to it. Hence Dr. Desaguliers gives the following relative view of the

strengths of individuals Strength of the weakest


:

Strength of very strong Strength of Topham

men men
-

125 400 800

Ibs.

The weight of Topham was about 200. One of the most remarkable and inexplicable experiments relative to the strength of the human frame, which you
have yourself seen and admired, is that in which a heavy man is raised with the greatest facility, when he is lifted up the instant that his own lungs and those of the persons who raise him are inflated with air. This experiment was, I believe, first shown in England a few years ago by Major H., who saw it performed in a large party at Venice

under the direction of an

As Major H. performed
I shall
prescribed.

officer of the American Navy. more than once in my presence, describe as nearly as possible the method which he
it

The

heaviest person in the party lies

down

upon two chairs, his legs being supported by the one and Four persons, one at each leg, and his back by the other. one at each shoulder, then try to raise him, and they find
his dead weight to be very great, .from the difficulty they experience in supporting him. When he is replaced in

LIFTING HEAVY PERSONS.

311

the chair, each of the four persons takes hold of the body
as before, and the person to be lifted gives two signals by clapping his hands. At the first signal he himself and

the four lifters begin to draw a long and full breath, and when the inhalation is completed, or the lungs filled, the second signal is given, for raising the person from the
chair.
rises

To

his

own

with the greatest

than a feather.

and that of his bearers, he he were no heavier On several occasions I have observed that
surprise
facility, as if

when one

of the bearers performs his part ill, by making the inhalation out of time, the part of the body which he tries to raise is left as it were behind. As you have

repeatedly seen this experiment, and have performed the part both of the load and of the bearer, you can testify

how remarkable
complete
is

the effects appear to all parties, and

how

the conviction, either that the load has been or the bearer strengthened by the prescribed lightened,
process.

At Venice the experiment was performed in a much more imposing manner. The heaviest man in the party was raised and sustained upon the points of the foreMajor II. declared that the experiment would not succeed if the person lifted were placed upon a board, and the strength of the individuals applied
fingers of six persons.

He conceived it necessary that the bearers to the board. should communicate directly with the body to be raised. I have not had an opportunity of making any experiments relative to these curious facts ; but whether the general
effect is

an

illusion, or the result of

known

or of

new

principles, the subject merits a careful investigation.

the remarkable exhibitions of mechanical and dexterity, we may enumerate that of supportstrength ing pyramids of men. This exhibition is a very ancient

Among

one.

It is described,

though not very


it

clearly,

by the

Roman

poet Claudian. and

has derived some importance

312
in

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

modern times, in consequence of its having been performed in various parts of great Britain by the celebrated traveller Belzoni, before ho entered upon the more estimable career of an explorer of Egyptian antiquities.

The simplest form of this feat consists in placing a number of men upon, each other's shoulders, so that each row consists of a man fewer till they form a pyramid terminating
in a single person, upon whose head a boy is sometimes placed with his feet upwards.

Among the displays of mechanical dexterity, though not grounded on any scientific principle, may be mentioned the art of walking along the ceiling of an apartment with This exhibition, which we have the head downwards.
witnessed in one of the
excite the

London Theatres, never

failed to

wonder of the audience, although the movements of the inverted performer were not such as to inspire us with any high ideas of the mechanism by which they were effected. The following was probably the method by which the performer was carried along the ceiling. Two parallel grooves or openings were made in the ceiling at the same distance as the foot tracks of a person walking on sand. These grooves were narrower than the

human

foot, so as to permit a rope or chain or strong wire, attached to the feet of the performer, to pass through the

ceiling,

above

it.

where they were held by two or more persons In this way the inverted performer might be

carried along by a sliding or shuffling motion, similar to that which is adopted in walking in the dark, and in more which the feet are not lifted from the ground.

regular motion, however, might be produced by a contrivance for attaching the rope or chain to the sole of the
foot, at

way, when the performer


his left foot, he

each step, and subsequently detaching it. In this is pulled against the ceiling by

would

lift

his right foot,


it

and having made

a step with

it ;

and planted

against the grooves, the rope

WALKING ALONG THE CEILING.

5lb

would be attached to it, and when the rope was detached from the left foot, it would make a similar step, while the These effects right foot was pulled against the ceiling. might be facilitated and rendered more natural by attaching to the body or to the feet of the performer strong wires invisible to the audience, and by using friction wheels, if a sliding motion only is required.

A
is

more

scientific

method of walking upon the

ceiling

suggested by those beautiful pneumatic contrivances by which insects, fishes, and even some lizards are enabled

to support the

gravity.

The

weight of their bodies against the force of house-fly is well known to have the power

of walking in an inverted position upon the ceilings of rooms, as well as upon the smoothest surfaces. In this case the fly does not rest upon its legs, and must therefore

upon

adhere to the ceiling, either by some glutinous matter its feet, or by the aid of some apparatus given it for

314
that purpose.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

In examining the foot of the fly with a powerful microscope, it is found to consist of two concavities, as shown in Fig. 59 and 60, the first of which is copied from a drawing by G. Adams, published in 1746, and the second by J. C. Keller, a painter at Nuremberg, who drew it for a work published in 1766. The author

work maintains that these concavities are only fly moves horizontally, and that, when it moves perpendicularly or on the ceiling, they are turned up out of the way, and the progressive motion is effected by fixing the claws shown in the figure into the irregularities of the surface upon which the fly moves, whether
of this

used when the

Pig. GO.

it is glass,

porcelain, or

any other subtance.

Sir Everard

Home, however, supposes with

great reason, that these concave surfaces are (like the leathern suckers used by children for lifting stones) employed to form a vacuum,

so that the foot adheres as


ceiling,

it were by suction to the and enables the insect to support itself in an

inverted position.

FOOT OF THE GECKO.

315

This conclusion Sir Everard has been led to draw from an examination of the foot of the Lacerta Gecko. Sir Joseph Banks had mentioned to him in the year 1815,

which is a native of the island of Java, comes out in the evening from the roofs of the houses, and walks down the smooth, hard, polished chunam walls in search of the flies which settle upon them, and which are its natural food. When Sir Joseph was at Batavia, he amused himself in catching this lizard. He stood close to the wall at some distance from the animal, and, by suddenly scraping the wall with a long flattened pole, he was able to bring the animal to the ground. Having procured from Sir Joseph a very large specimen of the Gecko, which weighed 5| ounces avoirdupois, Sir Everard Home was enabled to ascertain the peculiar mechanism by which the feet of this animal have the
that this lizard,

power of keeping hold of a smooth, hard, perpendicular wall, and carry up so heavy a weight as that of its body. The foot of the Gecko has five toes, and at the end of each of them, except the thumb, is a very sharp, and highlycurved claw. On the under surface of each toe are sixteen transverse
slits, leading to as many cavities or pockets, the depth of which is nearly equal to the length of the slit that forms the surface. These cavities all open

forwards, and the external edge of each opening is serrated like the teeth of a small toothed comb. The cavities are
lined with a cuticle, which also covers the serrated edges. This structure Sir Everard Home found to bear a considerable resemblance to that portion of the head of the Echineis remora, or sucking-fish, by which it attaches itself
to the shark, or the

bottoms of ships.

It is of

an oval

form, and is surrounded by a broad, loose, moveable edge, capable of applying itself closely to the surface on which
it is set.

It consists of

two rows of cartilaginous

plates,

connected by one edge to the surface on which they are

316

LETTERS ON NATUKAL MAGIC.

placed, the other, or the external edge, being serrated liko The two that in the cavities of the feet of the Gecko.

rows are separated by a thin ligamentous partition, and


the plates being raised or depressed by the voluntary mucles form so many vacua, by means of which the adhesion of the fish is effected.

fail to arrest

These beautiful contrivances of Divine Wisdom cannot the attention and excite the admiration of
;

the reader

but though there can be

little

doubt that they

are pneumatic suckers wrought by the voluntary muscles of the animals to which they belong, yet we would

recommend

the farther examination of

tion of those

them to the attenwho have good microscopes at their command.

MECHANICAL AUTOMATA OF THE ANCIENTS

317

LETTEE
MecJianical automata of the ancients

XI.

Moving tripods Automata oj Automatic clock oj Wooden pigeon of Arcliytas Charlemagne Automata made ~by Turrianus for Charles V. Camus' s automatic carriage made for Louis XIV. Degennes's mechanical peacock Vaucanson's duck which ate and digested

Dxdalus

its

food

Du

Mouliris automata

chess-player

Baron Kempelens automaton Maillardet's Drawing and writing automata

conjurer Benefits derived from the passion for automata Examples of wonderful machinery for useful purposes Duncan's tambouring machinery Watt's statue-turning machinery Bab*
bage's calculating machinery.

have already seen that the ancients had attained some degree of perfection in the construction of automata or
pieces of

WE

man and

mechanism which imitated the movements of The tripods which Homer * mentions as having been constructed by Vulcan for the banqueting hall of the gods, advanced of their own accord to the table, and again returned to their place. Selfmoving tripods are mentioned by Aristotle, and Philosthe lower animals.
tratus informs us, in his life of Apollonius, that this philosopher saw and admired similar pieces of mechanism among the sages of India.

Daedalus enjoys also the reputation of having constructed machines that imitated the motions of the human body, Some of his statues are said to have moved about spontaneously, and Plato, Aristotle, and others have related
that
it

was necessary to
*

tie

them, in order to prevent them

Iliad, Lib. sviii.

373378.

318

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

from running away. Aristotle speaks of a wooden Venus, which moved about in consequence of quicksilver being poured into its interior; but Callistratus. the tutor of Demosthenes, states with some probability, that the statues of Daedalus received their motion from the mechanical
powers. Beckmann is of opinion that the statues of Daedalus differed only from those of the early Greeks and

Egyptians in having their eyes open and their feet and hands free, and that the reclining posture of some, and the
" as if ready to walk," gave rise to the exaggeration that they possessed the power of locomotion.
attitude of others,

show of reason for case, we must apply


;

This opinion, however, cannot be maintained with any if we apply such a principle in one it in all, and the mind would be left

in a state of utter scepticism respecting the inventions of ancient times.


Gellius, on the authority of of Tarentum, who flourished Archytas about 400 years before Christ, constructed a wooden pigeon which was capable of flying. Favorinus relates, that when

We

are informed

by Aulus

Favorinus, that

had once alighted, it could not again resume its flight, and Aulus Gellius adds, that it was suspended by balancing, and animated by a concealed aura or spirit. Among the earliest pieces of modern mechanism was
it

the curious water-clock presented to Charlemagne by the Kaliph Harun al Easchid. In the dial-plate there were
the hours.

twelve small windows corresponding with the divisions of The hours were indicated by the opening of the windows, which let out little metallic balls, which

The doors struck the hour by falling upon a brazen bell. continued open till twelve o'clock, when twelve little
knights,
instant,

mounted on horseback, came out at the same and after parading round the dial, shut all the windows and returned to their apartments.*
* Annales Loisiliani.

Anno

807.

TURRIANUS'S AUTOMATA.

319

The next automata of which any distinct account has been preserved are those of the celebrated John Muller or Eegiomontauus, which have been mentioned by Kircher, Baptista Porta, Gassendi, Lana, and Bishop Wilkins.
This philosopher is said to have constructed an artificial eagle, which flew to meet the Emperor Maximilian when lie arrived at Nuremberg on the 7th Jane, 1470. After
air, the eagle is stated to have met the some distance from the city, and to have Emperor returned and perched upon the town gate, where it waited

soaring aloft in the


at

his approach. When the Emperor reached the gate, the stretched out its wings, and saluted him by an eagle

Muller is likewise reported to which was put in motion by wheel-work, and which flew about and leapt upon the table. At an entertainment given by this philosopher to
inclination of its body.

have constructed an iron

fly,

some of his familiar friends, the fly flew from his hand, and after performing a considerable round, it returned again to the hand of its master.

The Emperor Charles


throne,

V., after his abdication of the

amused himself
kinds.

in his later years with automata of


artist

Janellus Turrianus of Cremona.

he employed was was his custom after dinner to introduce upon the table figures of armed men and horses. Some of these beat drums, others played upon flutes, while a third set attacked each other with spears. Sometimes he let fly wooden sparrows, which flew back
various
It

The

whom

He also exhibited corn-mills so again to their nest. extremely small that they could be concealed in a glove, yet so powerful that they could grind in a day as much
corn as would supply eight men with food for a day. The next piece of mechanism of sufficient interest to

merit our attention


for the
sisted

is that which was made by M. Camus amusement of Louis XIV. when a child. It conof a small coach, which was drawn by two horses,

320

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and which contained the figure of a lady within, with a When this machine was footman and page behind.
placed at the extremity of a table of the proper size, the coachman smacked his whip, and the horses instantly set
off,

moving their legs in a natural manner, and drawing the coach after them. When the coach reached the oppoedge of the table,
it

site

turned sharply at a right angle,

and proceeded along the adjacent edge. As soon as it arrived opposite the place where the King sat it stopped the page descended and opened the coach door the lady alighted, and with a curtsey presented a petition, which After waiting some she held in her hand to the King. The time she again curtsied and re-entered the carriage. page closed the door, and having resumed his place behind, the coachman whipped his horses and drove on. The footman who had previously alighted, ran after the carriage and jumped up behind into his former place. Not content with imitating the movements of animals, the mechanical genius of the 17th and 18th centuries ventured to perform by wheels and pinions the functions
;
;

of vitality.

We

are informed
officer

Degennes, a French

by M. Lobat, that General who defended the colony of St.

English forces, constructed a which could walk about as if alive, pick up peacock, grains of corn from the ground, digest them as if they had been submitted to the action of the stomach, and afterwards discharge them in an altered form. Degennes is said to have invented various machines of great use in navigation and gunnery, and to have constructed clocks
without weights or springs.

Christopher's against the

The automaton of 'Degennes probably suggested to M. Vaucanson the idea of constructing his celebrated duck, which excited so much interest throughout Europe, and which was perhaps the most wonderful piece of mechanism Vaucanson's duck exactly resembled that was ever made.

AUTOMATON CHESS-PLAYER.
the living animal in size and appearance.
accurately all
its

321
It executed

movements and
all

gestures,

it

ate

and drank

the quick motions of the head and throat which are peculiar to the living animal, and like it, it muddled the water which it drank with its bill.

with avidity, performed

It produced also the

manner.

sound of quacking in the most natural In the anatomical structure of the duck, the artist exhibited the highest skill. Every bone in the real duck had its representative in the automaton, and its wings were anatomically exact. Every cavity, apophysis, and curvature was imitated, and each bone executed its proper movements. When corn was thrown down before it it, the duck stretched out its neck to pick up, it swallowed it, digested it, and discharged it, in a digested condition. The process of digestion was effected by chemical solution,

and not by trituration, and the food digested in the stomach was conveyed away by tubes to the place of its
discharge.

The automata

of Vaucanson were imitated

by one

Du

Moulin, a silversmith, who travelled with them through Germany in 1752, and who died at Moscow in 1765. Beckmann informs us that he saw several of them after
the machinery had been deranged ; but that the artificial duck, which he regarded as the most ingenious, was still
Its ribs, which were made able to eat, drink, and move. of wire, were covered with duck's feathers, and the motion was communicated through the feet of the duck by means

of a cylinder and fine chains like that of a watch. Ingenious as all these machines are, they sink into
insignificance
player,

when compared with

the automaton chess-

and delighted In the year 1769, M. Kempelen, a the whole of Europe. gentleman of Presburg in Hungary, constructed an autowhich
for a long time astonished

maton chess-player, the general appearance of which is The chess-player is a shown in the annexed figures.

322

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


life,

figure as large as

clothed in a Turkish dress, sitting

behind a large square chest or box three feet and a half The machine long, two feet deep, and two and a half high. runs on casters, and is either seen on the floor when the
doors of the apartment are thrown open, or is wheeled into the room previous to the commencement of the exhi-

The Turkish chess-player sits on a chair fixed to the square chest his right arm rests on the table, and in the left he holds a pipe, which is removed during the
bition.
:

game, as

it is

with this hand that he makes the moves.

chess-board, eighteen inches square, and bearing the usual The number of pieces, is placed before the figure.
Fig. 61.

Fig. 62.

exhibitor then announces to the spectators his intention of showing them the mechanism of the automaton. For this

purpose he unlocks the door A, Fig. 61, and exposes to view a small cupboard lined with black or dark coloured
cloth,

and containing cylinders, levers, wheels, pinions, and different pieces of machinery, which have the appearance He next opens the door of occupying the whole space. 62, at the back of the same cupboard, and holding B, Fig.
a lighted candle at the opening, he still further displays the enclosed machinery to the spectators, placed in front

of A, Fig. 61.

When

the candle

is

withdrawn, the door

AUTOMATON CHESS-PLAYER.
;

323

and the exhibitor proceeds to open the is then locked drawer G, G, Fig. 61, in front of the chest. Out of this drawer he takes a small box of counters, a set of chessmen, and a cushion for the support of the automaton's arm, as if this was the sole object of the drawer. The
two front doors, C, C, of the large cupboard, Fig. 61, are then opened, and at the back-door D of the same cupboard, Fig. 62, the exhibitor applies a lighted candle, as
before, for the purpose of showing its interior, which is lined with dark cloth like the other, and contains only a

few pieces of machinery.


round, as
:

The

chest

is

now wheeled

the garments of the figure are in Fig. 62 lifted up, and the door E in the trunk, and another door F in the thigh, are opened, the doors B and having

When this exhibition of the been previously closed. interior of the machine is over, the chest is wheeled back The doors A, C, C, into its original position on the floor. in front, and the drawer G, G, are closed and locked, and the exhibitor, after occupying himself for some time at the
chest, as if he were adjusting the mechanism, removes the pipe from the hand of the figure, and winds up the machinery. The automaton is now ready to play, and when an opponent has been found among the company, the figure

back of the

takes

the

first

move.

At every move made by the


;

automaton, the wheels of the machine are heard in action the figure moves its head, and seems to look over every
part of the chess-board.

When
thrice,

it

gives check to
twice

its

opponent, it shakes checks the queen.


false

its

head

and only

It likewise shakes its made, replaces the adversary's piece on the the next move square from which it was taken, and takes In general, though not always, the automaton itself.

when it head when a

move

is

Tvins the

game.

During the progress of the game, the exhibitor often

324

LETTERS OX NATURAL MAGIC.


it

after it

stood near the machine, and wound had made ten or twelve moves.

up like a clock At other times he

went

to a corner of the room, as if it were to consult a small square box, which stood open for this purpose. The chess-playing machine, as thus described, was

exhibited after

its

completion in Presburg, Vienna, and

Paris, to thousands, and in

1783 and 1781

it

was exhibited

in

England, without the Its secret of its movements having been discovered. who was a gentleman and a man of ingenious inventor, education, never pretended that the automaton itself
different parts of

London and

On the contrary, he distinctly really played the game. " that the machine was a bagatelle, which was not stated,
without merit in point of mechanism, but that the effects of it appeared so marvellous only from the boldness of
the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for promoting the illusion."

Upon

considering the operations of this automaton,

it

must have been obvious that the game of chess was performed either by a person enclosed in the chest, or by The first of these hypotheses was the exhibitor himself.
ingeniously excluded by the display of the interior of the machine, for as every part contained more or less machinery, the spectator invariably concluded that the
smallest dwarf could not be
this idea

accommodated within, and was strengthened by the circumstance, that no

person of this description could be discovered in the suite Hence the conclusion was drawn, that of the exhibitor. the exhibitor actuated the machine either by mechanical

means conveyed through its feet, or by a magnet concealed That mechanical communiin the body of the exhibitor. cation was not formed between the exhibitor and. the such communifigure, was obvious from the fact, that no cation was visible, and that it was not necessary to place Hence the machine on any particular part of the floor.

AUTOMATON CHESS-PL A YEtl.

325

the opinion became very prevalent that the agent was a magnet but even this supposition was excluded, for the exhibitor allowed a strong and well-armed loadstone to
;

be placed upon the machine during the progress of the Had the moving power been a magnet, the whole game. action of the machine would have been deranged by the
approximation of a loadstone concealed in the pockets of

any of the spectators. As Baron Kempelen himself had admitted that there was an illusion connected with the performance of the automaton, various persons resumed the original conjecture, that it was actuated by a person concealed in its interior,

who either played the game of chess himself, or performed the moves which the exhibitor indicated by signals.
Mr.
J. F.

Freyhere of Dresden published a book on the subject in 1789, in which he endeavoured to explain, by coloured plates, how the effect was produced; and he
"

that a well-taught boy, very thin and tall of his age (sufficiently so that he could be concealed in a drawer almost immediately under the chess-board), agitated

concluded,

the whole."

In another pamphlet which had been previously published at Paris in 1785, the author not only supposed that the machine was put in motion by a dwarf, a famous chess-

player, but he goes so far as to explain the manner in which he could be accommodated within the machine.

The invisibility of the dwarf when the doors were opened was explained by his legs and thighs being concealed in two hollow cylinders, while the rest of his body was out of the box, and hid by the petticoats of the automaton. When the doors were shut the clacks produced by the
his place

swivel of a ratchet-wheel permitted the dwarf to change and return to the box unheard ; and while the,

machine was wheeled about the room, the dwarf had an opportunity of shutting the trap through which he passed

326

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

The interior of the figure was next and the spectators were satisfied that the box conshown, tained no living agent. Although these views were very plausible, yet they were never generally adopted and when the automaton was exhibited in Great Britain in 1819 and 1820, by M. Maelzel, it excited as intense an interest as when it was first produced in Germany. There can be little doubt, however, that the secret has been discovered and an anonymous writer has shown in a pamphlet, entitled
into the machine.
; ;

"An

attempt

to

Kempelen," that

analyse the Automaton Chess-player of M. it is capable of accommodating an


;

ordinary-sized man and he has explained in the clearest manner how the inclosed player takes all the different positions, and performs all the motions which are necessary
is

to produce the effects actually observed. the substance of his observations


:

The

following

The drawer G G when closed does not extend to the back of the chest, but leaves a space O behind it (see
Figs. 69, 70, and 71), fourteen inches broad, eight inches This space is high, and three feet eleven inches long.

never exposed to the view of spectators. The small cupboard seen at A is divided into two parts by a door or screen I, Fig. 68, which is moveable upon a hinge, and is
so constructed that
closed.
it

closes at the

same instant that

is

of the front compartment as far as I is occupied with the machinery H. The other compartment behind I is empty, and communicates with the space O

The whole

behind the drawer, the floor of this division being removed. The back of the great cupboard C C is double, and the
part P Q, to which the quadrants are attached, moves on a joint Q, at the upper part, and forms when raised an opening S, between the two cupboards, by carrying with it part of the partition E, which consists of cloth tightly
stretched.

The

false

back

is

shown closed

in Fig. 69,

AUTOMATON CHESS-PLAYER.

32?

while Fig. 70 shows the same back raised, so as to form the opening S between the chambers.

When the spectator is allowed to look into the trunk of the figure by lifting up the dress, as in Fig. 70, it will be observed that a great part of the space is occupied by an inner trunk N, Fig. 70, 71, which passes off to the
back in the form of an arch, and conceals from the This inner trunk N spectators a portion of the interior. and communicates with the chest by an aperture T, opens Fig. 72, about twelve inches broad and fifteen high.

When

the false back is raised, the two cupboards, the


Fig. 63.

Fig. 64.

behind the drawer, are all contrunk N, and the space nected together. The construction of the interior being thus understood, the chess-player may be introduced into the chest through
the sliding panel U, Fig. 69. lie will then raise tho false back of the large cupboard, and assume the position represented by the shaded figure in Fig. 63 and 64.

Things being in

this state, the exhibitor is

his process of deception. the small cupboard, and

He

first

ready to begin opens the door A of

from the crowded and very ingenious disposition of the machinery within it, the eye is unable to penetrate far beyond the opening, and the spectator concludes without any hesitation that the whole

328

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


filled,

of the cupboard is

as

it

appears to be, with similar

machinery.

This

false conclusion is greatly corroborated

by observing the glimmering light which plays among when the door B is opened, and a candle held at the opening. This mode of exhibiting the interior of the cupboard satisfies the spectator also that no opaque
the wheel-work

body capable of holding or concealing any of the parts of a hidden agent is interposed between the light and the observer. The door B is now locked and the screen I closed, and as this is done at the time that the light is withdrawn it will wholly escape observation.

The door B

is

so constructed as to close

by

its

.own

weight, but as the head of the chess-player will soon be placed very near it, the secret would be disclosed if, in

turning round, the chest door should by any accident fly This accident is prevented by turning the key, and, lest this little circumstance should excite notice, it,
open.
as accidental, as the keys were immediately wanted for the other locks. As soon as the door B is locked, and the screen I closed, the secret is no longer exposed to hazard, and the exhibitor proceeds to lead the minds of the spectators still farther from the real state of things. The door A is left open to confirm the opinion that no person is concealed within, and that nothing can take place in the interior

would probably be regarded

without being observed.

The drawer G G is now opened, apparently for the purpose of looking at the chess-men, cushion and counters which it contains but the real object of it is to give time
;

to the player to

annexed

figure,

change his position, as shown in the and to replace the false back and partition

preparatory to the opening of the great cupboard. The chess-player, as the figure shows, occupies with his body the back compartment of the small cupboard, while his
legs and thighs are contained in the space 0, behind the

AUTOMATON CHESS-PLAYER.

329

drawer G G, his body being concealed by the screen I, and his limbs by the drawer G G. The great cupboard C C is now opened, and there is so little machinery in it that the eye instantly discovers that no person is concealed in it. To make this more certain, however, a door is opened at the back, and a lighted
candle held to
it,

to allow the spectators to explore every

corner and recess.


Fig. 65.

left

front doors of the great and small cupboard being opened, the chest is wheeled round to show the trunk of the figure, and the bunch of keys is allowed to remain

The

in the door D, as the apparent carelessness of such a proceeding will help to remove any suspicion which may

have been excited by the locking of the door B. When the drapery of the figure has been raised, and the doors E and F in the trunk and thigh opened, the
chest is wheeled round again into its original position, and the doors E and F closed. In the mean time the player withdraws his legs from behind the drawer, as he cannot so easily do this when the drawer G G is pushed in. In all these operations, the spectator flatters himself that he has seen in succession every part of the chest, while in reality some parts have been wholly concealed from his view, and others but imperfectly shown, while at

330

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


is

the present time nearly half of the chest view.

excluded from

When
and C

the drawer

GG

is

pushed

in,

and the doors

closed, the exhibitor adjusts the machinery at the back, in order to give time to the player to take the posi-

shown in a front view in Fig. 66, and in profile in Fig. 67. In this position he will experience no difficulty in executing every movement made by the automaton.
tion

As

his

head

is

above the chess-board, he will see through


Fig. 67.

Fig. 66.

the waistcoat of the figure, as easily as through a veil, the whole of the pieces on the board, and he can easily take

up and put down a chess-man without any other mechanism than that of a string communicating with the finger His right hand being within the chest may be employed to keep in motion the wheel-work for producing the noise which is heard during the moves, and to
of the figure.

perform the other movements of the figure, such as that of moving the head, tapping on the chest, &c.

A
to

very ingenious contrivance

is

adopted to facilitate

the introduction of the player's left arm into the arm of To permit this, the arm of the figure requires the figure.

ing,

be drawn backwards and for the purpose of concealand at the same time explaining this strained attitude,
;

AUTOMATON CHESS-PLAYER.
a pipe
is

331

For

this reason the pipe is not

ingeniously placed in the automaton's hand. removed till all the other

arrangements are completed. When everything has been thus prepared, the pipe is taken from the figure, and the
exhibitor winds

up

as

it

were the inclosed machinery, for

the double purpose of impressing upon the company the belief that the effect is produced by machinery, and of

giving a signal to the player to put in motion the head of the automaton.
Fig. 68.
Fig. 69.

This ingenious explanation of the chess automaton is, our author states, greatly confirmed by the regular and
undeviating mode of disclosing the interior of the chest and he also shows that the facts which have been observed " afford respecting the winding-up of the machine positive proof that the axis turned by the key is quite free and
;

unconnected either with a spring or weight, or any system of machinery."

In order

to

make

the preceding description more intel-

ligible, I shall

add the following more detailed explana-

tion of the figures.

Fig. 61 is a perspective view of the automaton seen in front with all the doors thrown open. Fig. 62 is an elevation of the automaton, as seen from

behind.

332

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Fig. 63 is an elevation of the front of the chest, the

shaded figure representing the enclosed player in his first position, or when the door A is opened.
Fig. 64 is a side elevation, the shaded figure representing the player in the same position. Fig. 65 is a front elevation, the shaded figure showing

the player in his second position, or that which he takes after the door B and screen I are closed, and the great

cupboard opened. Fig. 66 is a front elevation, the shaded figure showing the player in his third position, or that in which he plays
the game.
Fig. 70.
Fig. 71.

the figure in the Fig. 67 is a side elevation, showing

same

position.

section of the chest through Fig. 68 is an horizontal in Fig. 66. the line section of the chest through the Fig. 69 is a vertical in Fig. 68. line

WW

XX

is a vertical section through the line Y Y, 66 showing the false back closed. Fig. section showing the false Fig. 71 is a similar vertical

Fig. 70

back raised.

The following letters of reference are employed in the figures A. Front door of the small cupboard.
:

all

B. Back door of

ditto.

DRAWING AND WHITING AUTOMATA.

333

C C. Front doors of large cupboard. D. Back door of ditto. E. Door of ditto.


F. Door of the thigh. G G. The drawer.

H. Machinery in front of the small cupboard.


Screen behind the machinery. K. Opening caused by the removal of part of the
I.

floor

of the small cupboard. L. box which serves to conceal an opening in the floor of the large cupboard, made to facilitate the first

position; and
position.

which

also serves as a seat for the third

M.
the

similar box to receive the toes of the player in


position.
filling

first

N. The inner chest


0.

up part of the trunk.

joint at Q. R. Part of the partition formed of cloth stretched tight, which is carried up by the false back to form the opening

The space behind the drawer. P Q. The false back turning on a

between the chambers.


S.

T.
is

The opening between the chambers. The opening connecting the trunk and
by the
false back.

chest,

which

partly concealed

U. Panel which is slipt aside to admit the player. Various pieces of mechanism of wonderful ingenuity have been constructed for the purposes of drawing and

One of these, invented by M. Le Droz, the son writing. of the celebrated Droz of Chaux le Fonds, has been described by Mr. Collinson. The figure was the size of life.
hand a metallic style, and when a spring was touched, so as to release a detent, the figure immediately began to draw upon a card of Dutch vellum previously
It held in its

laid under its hand.

the

first

card, the figure rested.

After the drawing was executed on Other five cards were

334

LETTERS OK NATURAL MAGIC.


it

then put in in succession, and upon these

delineated in

the same manner different subjects. On the first card it drew " elegant portraits, and likenesses of the king and queen facing each other;" and Mr. Collinson remarks,
to observe with what precision the pencil in its transition from one point of the drawing to another without making the slightest mistake.

that

it

was curious

figure lifted

up

its

M.

Maillardet has executed an automaton which both

The figure of a boy kneeling on ono knee holds a pencil in his hand. When the figure begins to work, an attendant dips the pencil in ink, and adjusts
writes and draws.

the drawing-paper upon a brass tablet. spring, the figure proceeds to write, and
finished its

Upon touching when the line

a
is

hand returns

when

In this necessary. ful pieces of writing in

to dot and stroke the letters manner it executes four beautiFrench and English, and three

landscapes, all of which occupy about one hour. One of the most popular pieces of mechanisn which

we

the magician constructed by M. Maillardet for the purpose of answering certain given questions.

have seen

is

figure, dressed

a magician, appears seated at the bottom of a wall, holding a wand in one hand and a book number of questions ready prepared are in the other.
like

inscribed on oval medallions, and the spectator takes any of these which he chooses, and to which he wishes an

answer
it,

and having placed it in a drawer ready to receive ; the drawer shuts with a spring till the answer is returned. The magician then rises from his seat, bows his head,

describes circles with his wand, and, consulting the book as if in deep thought, he lifts it toward his face. Having

thus appeared to ponder over the proposed question, he raises his wand, and striking with it the wall above his
head, two folding-doors fly open, and display an appropriThe doors again close, the ate answer to the question.

MAILLARDET'S AUTOMATA.
magician resumes
opens
liis

335

to return the medallion.

original position, and the drawer There are twenty of these

medallions, all containing different questions, to which the magician returns the most suitable and striking

answers.

The medallions

are thin plates of brass of an

Some of elliptical form, exactly resembling each other. the medallions have a question inscribed on each side, both of which the magician answers in succession. If the
drawer
shut without a medallion being put into it, the book, shakes his head, and remagician sumes his seat. The folding-doors remain shut, and the
is

rises, consults his

drawer is returned empty. If two medallions are put into the drawer together, an answer is returned only to the lower
one.

When

the machinery is

wound

up, the

movements

continue about an hour, during which time about fifty quesThe inventor stated, that the tions may be answered.

means by which the

different medallions acted

upon the

machinery, so as to produce the proper answers to the


questions which they contained, were extremely simple.* The same ingenious artist has constructed various other

automata representing insects and other animals.

One of

these was a spider entirely made of steel, which exhibited It ran on the surface of all the movements of the animal.

a table during three minutes, and to prevent it from running off, its course always tended towards the centre of the
table.

He

a mouse, and a serpent.


every direction, opens
tongue.

constructed likewise a caterpillar, a lizard, The serpent crawls about in


its

mouth, hisses and darts out


all these pieces of

its

Ingenious and beautiful as


are,

mechanism
scientific

and surprising as their

effects

appear even to

spectators, the principal object of their inventors was to astonish .and amuse the public. should form an

We

* See
p. 66.

the Edinburgh Encyclopedia,

Art.

ANDROIDES, Vol.

ii.

33G

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

erroneous judgment, however, if we supposed that this was the only result of the ingenuity which they displayed. The
passion for automatic exhibitions which characterised the eighteenth century gave rise to the most ingenioiis mechani-

and introduced among the higher orders of and accurate execution in the formation of the most delicate pieces of machinery. The same combination of the mechanical powers which made the spider crawl, or which waved the tiny rod of the magician, concal devices,
artists habits of nice

tributed in future years to purposes of higher import. Those wheels and pinions, which almost eluded our senses

by their minuteness, reappeared in the stupendous mechanism of our spinning-machines and our steamengines.

The elements

of the tumbling puppet were

revived in the chronometer, which now conducts our navy through the ocean; and the shapeless wheel which directed the hand of the drawing automaton has served in
the present age to guide the movements of the tambouring

Those mechanical wonders which in one century engine. enriched only the conjurer who used them, contributed in another to augment the wealth of the nation ; and those
automatic toys which once amused the vulgar, are now employed in extending the power and promoting the civilization of our species. In whatever way, indeed, the

power of genius may invent or combine, and to whatever low or even ludicrous purposes that invention or combination

may be
it

which
seed

can never lose

originally applied, society receives a gift and though the value of the
;

not be at once recognized, and though it may lie long unproductive in the ungenial till of human knowledge, it will some time or other evolve its germ, and yield to

may

mankind its natural and abundant harvest. Did the limits of so popular a volume as
be permit
description
it,

this ought to

I should have proceeded to give a general of some of these extraordinary pieces of

MB. DUNCAN'S TAMBOURING MACHINE.

337

machinery, the construction and effects of which never iail to strike the spectator with surprise. This, however,
field too extensive, and I shall therefore confine myself to a notice of three very remarkable pieces of mechanism which are at present very little known to the general reader, viz., the tambouring machine

would lead me into a

of Mr. Duncan, the statue-turning machine of Mr. Watt, and the calculating machinery of Mr. Babbage.

The tambouring

of muslins, or the art of producing

upon them ornamental flowers and figures, has been long known and practised in Britain, as well as in other countries; but it was not. long before the year 1790 that it became an object of general manufacture in the west of where it was chiefly carried on. At first it was Scotland, under the direction of foreigners but their aid was not long necessary, and it speedily extended to such a degree as to occupy, either wholly or partially, more than 20,000
;

females.

Many

of these labourers lived in the neighbour-

hood of Glasgow, which was the chief seat of the manufacture but others were scattered through every part of Scotland, and supplied by agents with work and money. In Glasgow, a tambourer of ordinary skill could not in general earn more than five or six shillings a week by constant application; but to a labouring artisan, who had several daughters, even these low wages formed a source
;

of great wealth. At the age of five years, a child capable of handling a needle was devoted to tambouring, even though it could not earn more than a shilling or two in a

week

and the consequence of this was, that female children were taken from school, and rendered totally unfit for any social or domestic duty. The tambouring
;

population was therefore of the worst kind, and it must have been regarded as a blessing rather than as a calamity,

when the work which they performed was entrusted


regular machinery.

to

338

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Mr. John Duncan of Glasgow, the inventor of the tambouring machinery, was one of those unfortunate

who benefit their species without benefiting themselves, and who died in the meridian of life the victim of poverty and of national ingratitude. He conindividuals

ceived the idea of bringing into action a great number of needles at the same time, in order to shorten the process

by manual

labour, but he at first

was perplexed about the

This difficulty, however, he soon surmounted by employing two forces at right angles to each other, which gave him a new force in the direction
diversification of the pattern.

of the diagonal of the parallelogram, whose sides were

formed by the original


very imperfect
;

forces.

His

first

machine was

but after two years' study he formed a

company, at whose expense six improved machines were put in action, and who secured the invention by a patent. At this time the idea of rendering the machine automatic had scarcely occurred to him; but he afterwards succeeded in accomplishing this great object, and the tambouring machines were placed under the surveillance of a
steam-engine.

Another patent

was

taken

for

these

improvements. account of these improvements, and of the various parts of the machinery, will be amply gratified by perusing the
inventor's

The

reader

who

desires to have a minute

own account of the machinery in the article CHAINWOEK in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. At present
will be sufficient to state, that the muslin to be tam-

it

boured was. suspended vertically in a frame, which was capable of being moved both in a vertical and a horizontal
direction. Sixty or more needles lying horizontal occuEach of these pied a frame in front of the muslin web. working-needles, as they are called, was attended by a

feeding-needle, which

by a

circular

motion round the

working-needle lodged upon the stejm of the latter the loop of the thread. The sixty needles then penetrated the web,

MR. WATT'S STATUE-TURNING MACHINE.

339

and in order that they might return again without injuring the fabric, the barb or eye of the needle, which resembled The the barb of a fishing hook, was shut by a slider. muslin web then took a new position by means of the machinery that gave it its horizontal and vertical motion, so that the sixty needles penetrated it, at their next movement, at another point of the figure or flower. This The operation went on till sixty flowers were completed. web was then slightly wound up, that the needles might be opposite that part of it on which they were to work another row of flowers. The flowers were generally at an inch distance, and the rows were placed so that the flowers formed what are There were seventy-two rows of flowers called diamonds. in a yard, so that in every square yard there were nearly 4000 flowers, and in every piece of ten yards long 40,000. The number of loops or stitches in a flower varied with the pattern, but on an average there was about thirty. Hence the number of stitches in a yard was 120,000, and the number in a piece was 1,200,000. The average work done in a week by one machine was fifteen yards, or 60,000 flowers, or 1,800,000 stitches, and by comparing this with the work done by one person with the hand, it appeared that the machine enabled one person to do the work of twenty-four persons. One of the most curious and important applications of machinery to the arts which has been suggested in modern times was made by the late Mr. Watt, in the construction of a machine for copying or reducing statues and sculpture of all kinds. The art of multiplying busts and statues, by casts in plaster of Paris, has been the means of diffusing a knowledge of this branch of the fine arts but from the fragile nature of the material, the copies thus produced were unfit for exposure to the weather, and
;

therefore

ill

calculated for ornamenting public buildings,

3-iO

LEMERS ON NATURAL
memory
is

MAGIC.

or for perpetuating the

of public achievements.

capable of multiplying the labours of the sculptor in the durable materials of marble or of brass was a desideratum of the highest value,

machine, therefore, which

and one which could have been expected only from ti genius of the first order. During many years Mr. Watt carried on his labours in secret, and he concealed even his intention of constructing such a machine. After he had made considerable progress in its execution, and had thought of securing his invention by a patent, he learned that an ingenious individual in his own neighbourhood had been long occupied in the same pursuit; and Mr. Watt informed me, that he had every reason to believe that this gentleman was entirely ignorant of his labours. A proposal was then made that the two inventors should combine their talents, and secure the privilege by a joint patent but Mr. Watt had experienced so frequently the fatal operation of our patent laws, that he saw many difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and he was
;

unwilling, at his advanced age, to


extensive,

and which seemed

embark in a project so to require for its successful

prosecution all the ardour and ambition of a youthful mind. The scheme was therefore abandoned ; and such
the unfortunate operation of our patent laws, that the circumstance of two individuals having made the same invention has prevented both from bringing it to perfecis

and conferring a great practical benefit upon their The machine which Mr. Watt had constructed had actually executed some excellent pieces of work. I have seen in his house at Heathfield copies of basso and some relievos, and complete statues of a small size of his friends have in their possession other specimens of
tion,

species.

its

Of

performance. all the machines which have been constructed in


times, the calculating

modern

machine

is

doubtless the

MR. BABBAGE'S CALCULATING MACHINE.

341

most extraordinary.

Pieces of mechanism for perform-

have been long ago ing particular arithmetical operations constructed, but these bear no comparison either in
ingenuity or in magnitude to the grand design conceived and nearly executed by Mr. Babbage. Great as the power
of

mechanism

is

known

to be, yet

we venture

to

say that

many

of the most intelligent of our readers will scarcely admit it to be possible that astronomical and navigation

tables can be accurately computed by machinery ; that the machine can itself correct the errors which it may

commit; and that the results of its calculations, when absolutely free from error, can be printed off, without the
aid of

human

hands, or the operation of

human

intelli-

All this, however, Mr. Babbage's machine can do ; gence. and as I have had the advantage of seeing it actually
calculate,

and of studying

its

construction with

Mr.

Babbage himself, I am able to make the above statement on personal observation. The calculating machine now
constructing under the superintendence of the inventor has been executed at the expense of the British Govern-

ment, and is of course their property. It consists essentially of two parts, a calculating part, and a printing part,

both of which are necessary to the fulfilment of Mr. Babbage's views, for the whole advantage would be lost
if the

computations made by the machine were copied by human hands and transferred to types by the common The greater part of the calculating machinery process.
is

already constructed, and exhibits workmanship of such extraordinary skill and beauty that nothing approael ing In order to execute it,- partito it has been witnessed.
cularly those parts of the apparatus which are dissimilar to any used in ordinary mechanical constructions, tools

and machinery of great expense and complexity have been invented and constructed and in many instances contriv;

ances of singular ingenuity have been resorted

to,

which

342
cannot
fail to

LETTERS ON NATUKAL MAGIC.


X

prove extensively useful in various branches of the mechanical arts.


of this machinery, which form a large of the work, and on which all the contrivance has part been bestowed, and all the alterations made, cover upwards of 400 square feet of surface, and are executed with ex-

The drawings

traordinary care and precision. In so complex a piece of mechanism, in which inter-

rupted motions are propagated simultaneously along a great variety of trains of mechanism, it might have been

supposed that obstructions would


tibilities occur,

arise, or even incompafrom the impracticability of foreseeing all

the possible combinations of the parts ; but this doubt has been entirely removed, by the constant employment of a system of mechanical notation invented by Mr. Babbage,

which places distinctly in view,

at every instant, the proof motion through all the parts of this or any other gress machine, and by writing down in tables the times required

for all the movements, this method renders it easy to avoid all risk of two opposite actions arriving at the same instant at any part of the engine.

In the printing part of the machine less progress has been made in the actual execution than in the calculating
part.

The

cause

of this is the greater difficulty of its

contrivance, not for transferring the computations from the calculating part to the copper or other plate destined
to receive
it,

but for giving to the plate itself that number

and variety of movements which the forms adopted in


printed tables

may

call for in practice.

The

practical

object of the calculating engine is

to

compute and print a great variety and extent of astronomical and navigation tables, which could not be done without enormous intellectual and manual labour, and which,
even
if

executed by such labour, could not be calculated

with the requisite accuracy.

Mathematicians, astronomers,

MB.

BABBAGES CALCULATING MACHINE.

<.l4.J

and navigators do not require


value of such tables
the information
of
;

to be informed of the real

but

it

may be
that

proper to

state, for

large folio volumes of logarithmic tables alone were calculated at an enormous expense by the French Government ; and that
others,

seventeen

the British Government regarded these tables to be of such national value that they proposed to the French
to print an abridgment of them at the of the two nations, and offered to advance joint expense Besides logarithmic tables, Mr. 5000Z. for that purpose.

Board of Longitude

Babbage's machine will calculate tables of the powers and products of numbers, and all astronomical tables for determining the positions of the sun, moon, and planets ;

and the same mechanical principles haVe enabled him to integrate innumerable equations of finite differences that of differences is given, he can, by is, when the equation an engine, produce at the end of a given time any setting distant term which may be required, or any succession of
;

terms commencing at a distant point. Besides the cheapness and celerity with which this
its work, the absolute accuracy of the deserves especial notice. By peculiar printed contrivances, any small error produced by accidental dust, or by any slight inaccuracy in one of the wheels, is corrected as soon as it is transmitted to the next, and this is

machine will perform


results

done in such a manner as effectually to prevent any accumulation of small errors from producing an erroneous
figure in the result. In order to convey

some idea of

this

stupendous under-

taking,

the effects produced by a small trial engine constructed by the inventor, and by which he 2 computed the following table from the formula # -f- x -j- 41.

we may mention

The figures as they were calculated by the machine were not exhibited to the eye as in sliding rules and similar instruments, but were actually presented to the eye on two

344

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

appearing in
copying.

opposite sides of the machine ; the number 383, for example, figures before the person employed in

Table calculated

Inj

a small Trial Engine.

41

MR. BABBAGES CALCULATING MACHINE.

345

The object of these the types of Mr. Babbage's engine. machines was entirely different. Their highest functions were to perform the operations of common arithmetic. Mr. Babbage's engine, it is true, can perform these operations also, and can extract the roots of numbers, and approximate to the roots of equations, and even to their
impossible
roots.

But

this

is

not

its

object.

Its

function, in contradistinction to that of all other contrivances for calculating, is to embody in machinery the

method of differences, which has never before been done and the effects which it is capable of producing, and the works which in the course of a few years we expect to see it execute, will place it at an infinite distance from all
;

other efforts of mechanical genius.*


*

A popular account of this engine will be found in Mr. Babbage's


volume On
the

interesting

Economy of Manufactures.

2 A

346

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAQIO.

LETTER
Wonders of chemistry
of breathing fire

XII.
and
objects

Origin, progress,

of alchemy

Art

Employed by Barchochebas, Eunus, &c. Modern method Art of walking upon burning coals and red-hot iron, and of plunging the hands in melted lead and boiling ivater
Singular property of boiling tar Workmen plunge their hands in melted copper Trial of ordeal by fire Aldini's incombustible

Examples of their wonderful power in resisting flame Power of breathing and enduring air of high temperatures Experiments made by ,?ir Joseph Banks, Sir Charles Blagden, and Mr. Chantry.
dresses

science of chemistry has from its infancy been preeminently the science of wonders. In her laboratory tho

THE

alchemist and the magician have revelled uncontrolled, and from her treasures was forged the sceptre which was so long and so fatally wielded over human reason. The

changes which take place in the bodies immediately around us are too few in number and too remote from observation to excite

much

of our notice

but when the sub-

stances procured directly from nature, or formed casually by art, become objects of investigation, they exhibit in
their simple or
effects.

The phenomena which they

combined actions the most extraordinary display, and the

products which they form, so little resemble those with which we are familiar, that the most phlegmatic and the
least speculative observer

the creation of

must have anticipated from them It can valuable compounds. scarcely, therefore, be a matter of surprise that minds of the highest order, and spirits of the loftiest ambition,

new and

ORIGIN OF ALCHEMY.

347

for those splendid products

should have sought in the transmutations of chemistry which were conceived to be

most conducive to human happiness. The disciple of Mammon grew pale over his crucible in
the his ardour to convert the baser metals into gold philosopher pined in secret for the universal solvent
:

which might develop the elements of the precious stones, and yield to him the means of their production and the philanthropist aspired after a universal medicine, which might arrest disease in its course, and prolong indefinitely the life of man. To us who live under the meridian of such expectations must appear as presumptuous knowledge, as they were delusive but when we consider that gold and silver were actually produced by chemical processes from the rude ores of lead and copper; that some of the most refractory bodies had yielded to the disintegrating and solvent powers of chemical agents; and that the mercurial preparations of the Arabian physicians had operated like charms in the cure of diseases that had
;

some apology
alchemists.

resisted the feeble medicines of the times, we may find for the extravagant expectations of the

An object of lofty pursuit, even if it be one of impossible attainment, is not unworthy of philosophical ambition. Though we cannot scale the summit of the volcanic cone,
we may yet reach its heaving flanks, and though we cannot decompose its loftiest fires, we may yet study the lava which they have melted and the products which they have
In like manner, though the philosopher's stone has not been found, chemistry has derived rich accessions from its search; though the general solvent
sublimed.

has not been obtained, yet the diamond and the gems have surrendered to science their adamantine strength ;
elixir of life has never been distilled, yet " the ills which flesh is heir other medicines have soothed

and though the

348
to,"

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


and prolonged in no
slight degree the average term

of our existence.

Thus

far the pursuits of the alchemist

and useful;

were honourable but when his calling was followed, as it

soon was, by men prodigal of fortune and of character, science became an instrument of crime ; secrets unattained
rant,

were bartered for the gold of the credulous and the ignoand books innumerable were composed to teach these

pretended secrets to the world. An intellectual reaction, however, soon took place, and those very princes who had sought to fill their exhausted treasuries at the furnace of
the chemist, were the
first to

enact laws against the frauds

which they had encouraged, and to dispel the illusions which had so long deceived their subjects. But even when the moral atmosphere of Europe was
thus disinfected, chemistry supplied the magician with his most lucrative wonders, and those who could no longer delude the public with dreams of wealth and longevity, now sought to amuse and astonish them by the exhibition of their skill. The narrow limits of this volume will not me to give even a general view of those extrapermit ordinary effects which this popular science can display. I must therefore select from its inexhaustible stores those topics which are most striking in their results, and most

popular in their details. One of the most ancient feats of magic was the art of breathing flame an art which even now excites the astonishment of the vulgar. During the insurrection of the
slaves in Sicily in the second century before Christ, a Syrian named Eunus acquired by his knowledge the rank

of their leader.
their minds,

When

In order to establish his influence over he pretended to possess miraculous power. he wished to inspire his followers with courage, he

breathed flames or sparks among them from his mouth, at the same time that he was rousing them by his eloquence

WALKING ON BURNING COALS,

ETC.

319

St. Jerome informs us, that the Rabbi Barchochebas, who headed the Jews in their last revolt against Hadrian, made them believe that he was the Messiah, by vomiting flames from his mouth and at a later period, the Emperor Constantius was thrown into a state of alarm when Valentinian informed him that he had seen one of the body guards
;

breathing out fire and flames. We are not acquainted with the exact methods by which these effects were pro-

duced but Florus informs us, that Eunus filled a perforated nut-shell with sulphur and fire, and having concealed it in his mouth, he breathed gently through it
;

while he was speaking. This art is performed more simply by the modern juggler. Having rolled together some flax or hemp, so as to form a ball the size of a.

on fire, and allows it to burn till it is he then rolls round it while burning some additional flax, and by these means the fire may be
walnut, he sets
it

nearly consumed

it for a considerable time. At the commencement of his exhibition he introduces the ball into his mouth, and while he breathes through it the fire is revived, and a number of burning sparks are projected from his

retained in

mouth. These sparks are too feeble to do any harm, provided he inhales the air through his nostrils.

The kindred

art of walking

on burning coals or red-

hot iron belongs to the same antiquity. The priestesses of Diana at Castabala in Cappadocia were accustomed,

and at according to Strabo, to walk over burning coals the annual festival, which was held in the temple of Apollo on Mount Soracte in Etruria, the Hirpi inarched
;

over burning coals, and on this account they were exempted from military service, and received other privileges from This power of resisting fire was the Roman Senate. ascribed even by Varro to the use of some liniment with which they anointed the soles of their feet. Of the same character was the art of holding red-hot

350

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

iron in the hands or between the teeth, and of plunging the hands into boiling water or incited lead. About the
close of the seventeenth century, an

Englishman of the

of Bichardson rendered himself famous by chewing burning coals, pouring melted lead upon his tongue, and

name

swallowing melted glass.

That these

effects are

produced

partly by deception, and partly by a previous preparation of the parts subjected to the heat, can scarcely admit of a The fusible metal, composed of mercury, tin, and doubt.

bismuth, which melts at a low temperature, might easily have been substituted in place of lead and fluids of easy
;

used in place of boiling water. A solution of spermaceti or sulphuric ether, tinged with alkanet root, which becomes solid at 50 of Fahrenheit,
ebullition

may have been

and melts and boils with the heat of the hand, is supposed which is used at Naples when the dried blood of St. Januarius melts spontaneously, and boils over the vessel which contains it.
to be the substance
fluid requires a high temperature to have other properties, which enable us to boil, may plunge our hands into it with impunity. This is the case with boiling tar, which boils at a temperature of 220, even higher than that of water. Mr. Davenport informs us, that he saw one of the workmen in the King's Dockit

But even when the

yard

at

temperature.

Chatham immerse his naked hand in tar of that He drew up his coat sleeves, dipped in his

hand and wrist, bringing out fluid tar, and pouring it oft from his hand as from a ladle. The tar remained in complete contact with his skin, and he wiped it off with tow. Convinced that there was no deception in this experiment, Mr. Davenport immersed the entire length of his forefinger in the boiling cauldron, and moved it about a short time before the heat became inconvenient. Mr. Davenport ascribes this singular effect to the slowness with which the tar communicates its heat, which he conceives

HANDS PLUNGED IN MELTED COPPER.

351

to arise from the abundant volatile vapour which is evolved " carrying off rapidly the caloric in a latent state, and intervening between the tar and the skin, so as to prevent the more rapid communication of heat." He con ceives also, that tar adhering to

when
it,

the hand is withdrawn, and the hot

the rapidity with which this vapour is evolved from the surface exposed to the air cools it im-

The workmen informed Mr. Davenport, that, mediately. a person put his hand into the cauldron with his glove on, he would be dreadfully burnt, but this extraordinary
if

result

was not put to the test of observation. But though the conjurers with fire may have availed
of these singular properties of individual

themselves

bodies, yet the general secret of their art consisted in rendering the skin of the exposed parts callous and in--

sensible to heat

an

effect

which may be produced by

continually compressing or singeing them till the skin proof of this opinion is acquires a horny consistence. mentioned by Beckmann, who assures us that in September,

1765, when he visited the copper-works at Awestad, one of the workmen, bribed by a little money to drink, took
in his hand, and after showing company, threw it against a wall. He then squeezed the fingers of his horny hand close to each other, held it a few minutes under his arm-pit to make it perspire, as he said, and taking it again out, drew it over a ladle filled with melted copper, some of which he skimmed off

some of the melted copper


it

to the

and moved his hand backwards and forwards very quickly by way of ostentation. During this performance M. Beckmann noticed a smell like that of singed horn or leather, though the hand of the workman was not burned. This callosity of the skin may be effected by frequently
it with dilute sulphuric acid. Some allege that the juices of certain plants produce the same effect, while others recommend the frequent rubbing of the skin

moistening

352

LETTERS ON NATUBAL MAGIC.

with oil. The receipt given by Albertus Magnus for this purpose was of a different nature. It consisted of a nonconducting calcareous paste, which was made to adhere to
the skin by the sap of the marsh-mallow, the slimy seeds of the flea-bane, and the white of an egg.

As
it

tibility of asbestos or

the ancients were acquainted with the incombusamianthus, and the art of weaving
it

into cloth,

is

highly probable that

in the performance of equally probable that

it was employed some of their miracles, and it is it was subsequently used, along

with some of the processes already described, in enabling the victims of superstition to undergo without hazard the In every country where this bartrial of ordeal by fire. barous usage prevailed, whether in the sanctuary of the
Christian idolater, or in the pagan temple of the Bramin,
or under the wild orgies of the African savage, Providence seems to have provided the means of meeting it with impunity.

In Catholic countries this exculpatory judgment was granted chiefly to persons in weak health, who were incapable of using arms, and particularly to monks and
ecclesiastics

who

could not avail themselves of the trial

by

single combat.

The

fire

ordeal was conducted in the


:

church under the inspection of the clergy mass was at the same time celebrated, and the iron and the victim^

were consecrated by the sprinkling of holy water. The preparatory steps were also under the direction of the It was necessary that the accused should be priests. three days and three nights under their care, both placed
trial. Under the pretence of preventing the defendant from preparing his hands by art, and in order to ascertain the result of the ordeal, his hands

before and after the

were covered up and sealed during the three days which and it has preceded and followed the fiery application been plausibly conjectured by Beckmann, that during the
;

first

three days the preventative

was applied

to

those

ALDINl's INCOMBUSTIBLE DRESSES.

353

they wished to acquit, and that the last three days were requisite to bring back the hands to their natural In these and other cases, the accused could condition.
not have availed himself directly of the use of asbestos gloves, unless we could suppose them so made as to
imitate the

whom

human

skin at a distance

but the fibres ot

may have been imbedded in a paste which applied itself readily to all the elevations and depressions
that mineral

of the skin.

face,

In our own times the art of defending the hands and and indeed the whole body, from the action of heated iron and intense fire, has been applied to the nobler purpose of saving human life, and rescuing property from the flames. The revival and the improvement of this art we owe to the benevolence and the ingenuity of
the Chevalier Aldini of Milan, who has travelled through all Europe to present this valuable gift to his species.
Sir H.

Davy had long ago shown

that a safety

lamp

for

illuminating mines, containing inflammable air, might be constructed of wire-gauze alone, which prevented the flame within, however large or intense, from setting fire to

This valuable property, which has been long in practical use, he ascribed to the conducting and radiating power of the wire-gauze, which carried off the heat of the flame, and deprived it of its
the inflammable air without.

power. The Chevalier Aldini conceived the idea of applying the same material in combination with other badlyThe conducting substances, as a protection against fire.

incombustible pieces of dress which he uses for the body, r.rms, and legs, are formed out of strong cloth, which has

been steeped in a solution of alum, while those for the


head, hands, and feet, are made of cloth of asbestos or The head-dress is a large cap which enveamianthus. h ps the whole head down to the neck, having suitable
perforations for the eyes, nose, and mouth.

The

stockings

354
aiid

LETTERS ON NATUBAL MAGIC.

cap are single, but the gloves are made of double amianthus cloth, to enable the fireman to take into his

hand burning or red-hot bodies. The piece of ancient asbestos cloth preserved in the Vatican was formed, we believe, by mixing the asbestos with other fibrous substances

same

but M. Aldini has executed a piece of nearly the size, nine feet five inches long, and five feet three
;

is much stronger than the ancient and possesses superior qualities, in consequence of having been woven without the introduction of any In this manufacture the fibres are foreign substance. from breaking by the action of steam, the cloth prevented

inches wide, which

piece,

is

made .loose

in its fabric, and the threads are about the

fiftieth

of an inch in diameter. metallic dress which


is

The

superadded to these means

of defence consists of five principal pieces, viz., a casque or cap, with a mask large enough to leave a proper space

between
ets
;

it

and the asbestos cap

a cuirass with
;

its

brass-

a piece of armour for the trunk and thighs a pair of boots of double wire-gauze ; and an oval shield five feet

long by 2 wide, made by stretching the wire-gauze over All these pieces are made of a slender frame of iron.
iron wire-gauze, having the interval between its threads the twenty-fifth part of an inch. In order to prove the efficacy of this apparatus, and inspire the firemen with confidence in its protection, he
first enveloped in asbestos, and then in a double case of wire-gauze, might be held a long time in the flame of a spirit-lamp or candle before the

showed them that a finger

heat became inconvenient.

fireman having his hand

within a double asbestos glove, and its palm protected by a piece of asbestos cloth, seized with impunity a large
piece of red-hot iron, carried it deliberately to the distance of 150 feet, inflamed straw with it, and brought it back

again to the furnace.

On

other occasions, the firemen

ALDINIB INCOMBUSTIBLE DEESSES.

355

handled blazing wood and burning substances, and walked during five minutes upon an iron grating placed over
flaming faggots. In order to show

how the head, eyes, and lungs, are protected, the fireman put on the asbestos and wire-gauze cap, and the cuirass, and held the shield before his breast.

fire of shavings was then lighted, and kept burning in a large raised chafing-dish, and the fireman plunged his head into the middle of the flames with his face to the

fuel,

and in that position went several times round the


Fig. 72.

In a chafing-dish for a period longer than a minute. subsequent trial at Paris, a fireman placed his head in the middle of a large brasier filled with 'flaming hay and wood, as in Fig. 72, and resisted the action of the fire during five or six minutes, and even ten minutes. In the experiments which were made at Paris in the
presence of a committee of the

Academy

of Sciences, two

356

LETTERS OX NATURAL MAGIC.

and brushwood, supported by iron were formed at the distance of three feet from each other, and extended thirty feet in length. When this combustible mass was set on fire, it was necessary to
parallel rows of straw
wires,

stand at the distance of eight or ten yards to avoid the The flames from both the rows seemed to fill up heat.
the whole space between them, and rose to the height of nine or ten feet. At this moment six firemen, clothed in
the incombustible dresses, and marching at a slow pace behind each other, repeatedly passed through the whole

length between the two rows of flame, which were conOne of the stantly fed with additional combustibles.
firemen carried on his back a child eight years old in a wicker basket covered with metallic gauze, and the child had no other dress than a cap made of amianthine
cloth.

In February, 1829, a still more striking experiment was Two in the yard of the barracks of St. Gervais. towers were erected two stories high, and were surrounded with heaps of inflamed materials, consisting of faggots and

made

straw.

The firemen braved

opposition to the advice of

the danger with impunity. In M. Aldini, one of them, with

the basket and child, rushed into a narrow place, where The violence of the flames were raging eight yards high. the fire was so great that he could not be seen, while a

smoke spread around, throwing out a heat which was unsupportable by the spectators. The fireman remained so long invisible that serious doubts were
thick black

entertained of his safety. He at length, however, issued from the fiery gulf uninjured, and proud of having succeeded in braving so great a danger.
It is a

firemen are able to

remarkable result of these experiments, that the breathe without difficulty in the

middle of the flames.

This

the heat being intercepted

effect is owing not only to by the wire gauze as it passes

SIR

c.

BLAGDEN'S EXPERIMENTS.

357

to the lungs, in consequence of which its temperature becomes supportable, but also to the singular power which the body possesses of resisting great heats, and of

breathing air of high temperatures. series of curious experiments were

made on

this sub-

ject

in France, and by Dr. Fordyce and Sir Charles Blagden, in England. Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Solander, and Sir Charles Blagden, entered a room in
Tillefc,

by M.

which the air had a temperature of 198 Fahr. and remained ten minutes but as the thermometer sunk very Dr. rapidly, they resolved to enter the room singly. Solander went in alone, and found the heat 210. and Sif Joseph entered when the heat was 211. Though exposed to such an elevated temperature, their bodies preserved their natural degree of heat. Whenever they breathed upon a thermometer it sunk several degrees every
;
:

expiration, particularly if strongly made, gave a pleasant impression of coolness to their nostrils, and their cold

breath cooled their fingers whenever it reached them. On touching his side, Sir Charles Blagden found it cold like

a corpse, and yet the heat of his body under his tongue was 98. Hence they concluded that the human body
possesses the power of destroying a certain degree of heat when communicated with a certain degree of This power, however, varies greatly in differquickness.

The same person who experienced no inconvenience from air heated to 211, could just bear rectified
ent media.
spirits of

at

wine at 130, cooling oil at 129, cooling water A familiar 123, and cooling quicksilver at 117.
All the

instance of this occurred in the heated room.

pieces of metal there, even their watch-chains, felt so hot, that they could scarcely bear to touch them for a moment, while the air from which the metal had derived all its

heat was only unpleasant. MM. Duhamel and Tillet observed at Eochefoucault in France that the girlp ho were
r

358

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

accustomed to attend ovens in a bakehouse were capable of enduring for ten minutes a temperature of 270. The same gentlemen who performed the experiments
higher temperatures.

above described ventured to expose themselves to still Sir Charles Blagden went into a

room where the heat was 1 mained eight minutes in this


about to
still

or 2 D above

260, and

re-

situation, frequently

walking

all

the different parts of the room, but standing

most of the time in the coolest spot, where the heat was above 240. The air, though very hot, gave no pain, and Sir Charles and all the othc? gentlemen were of
opinion that they could support a much greater heat. During seven minutes, Sir C. Blagden 's breathing continued perfectly good, but after that time he felt an oppression in his lungs, with a sense of anxiety, which

induced him to leave the room.


double
its

His pulse was then 144, ordinary quickness. In order to prove that there was no mistake respecting the degree of heat indicated by the thermometer, and that the air which they
breathed was capable of producing all the well-known effects of such a heat on inanimate matter, they placed some eggs and a beef-steak upon a tin frame near the

thermometer, but more distant from the furnace than from In the space of twenty minutes the wall of the room.
eggs were roasted quite hard, and in forty- seven minutes the steak was not only dressed, but almost dry. Another beef-steak, similarly placed, was rather overdone
the in thirty-three minutes.

In the evening, when the heat was still more elevated, a third beef-steak was laid in the same place, and as they had noticed that the effect of the hot air was greatly increased by putting it in motion, they blew upon the steak with a pair of bellows, and thus
hastened the dressing of
greatest portion of thirteen minutes.
it it

was found

to such a degree, that the to be pretty well done in

MB. CHANTEY'S EXPERIMENTS.

359

Our distinguished countryman, Mr. Chantry, has very recently exposed himself to a temperature still higher than any which we have mentioned. The furnace which
he employs for drying his moulds is about 14 feet long, 12 feet high, and 12 feet broad. When it is raised to its highest temperature, with the doors closed, the thermometer stands at 350, and the iron floor is red hot. The

workmen

often enter

it

at a temperature of

over the iron floor with

wooden

charred on the surface.

On

340, walking which are of course one occasion Mr. Chantry,


clogs,

accompanied by

five

or six of his friends, entered the

furnace, and, after remaining

two minutes, they brought out a thermometer which stood at 320. Some of the

party experienced sharp pains in the tips of their ears, and in the septum of the nose, while others felt a pain in their eyes.

360

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

LETTER
.Spontaneous
charcoal,

XIII.
of
air

combustion

In

tlie

absorption

and of hydrogen by spongy platinum

by poivdered Dobereiner's

lamp Spontaneous combustion in the bowels of the earth Burning cliff's Burning soil Combustion without flame Spontaneous combustion of human beings Countess Zangari Grace Pett Natural fire temples of the Guebres Spontaneous fires in
the Caspian Sea Springs of inflammable gas near Glasgow Natural light-house of Maracaybo New elastic fluids in the Chemical operation going on in their cavities cavities of gems Explosions produced in them by heat Eemarltdble changes of

colour

paradise

from chemical causes gas when breathed

Effects of

the nitrous oxide or

Remarkable

cates

described

Conclusion.

AMONG

sents to us, there are few

the wonderful phenomena which chemistry premore remarkable than those of

spontaneous combustion, in which bodies, both animate and inanimate, emit flames, and are sometimes entirely consumed by internal fire. One of the commonest experiments in chemistry is that of producing inflammation by mixing two fluids perfectly cold. Becker, we believe, was
the
first

person

who

discovered that this singular effect

was produced by mixing oil of vitrol with oil of turpenBorrichios showed that aquafortis produced the tine. same effect as oil of vitrol. Tournefort proved that spirit of nitre and oil ^f sassafras took fire when mixed and Homberg discovered that the same property was possessed by many volatile oils when mixed with spirit of nitre. Every person is familiar with the phenomena of heat
;

and combustion produced by fermentation.

Ricks of hay

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION.

361

and stacks of corn have been frequently consumed by the heat generated during the fermentation produced from moisture; and gunpowder magazines, barns, and papermills have been often burnt by the fermentation of the
Galen informs us that materials which they contained. the dung of a pigeon is sufficient to set fire to a house, and he assures us that he has often seen it take fire when
it

had become

rotten.

Casati likewise relates on good

authority, that the fire which consumed the great church of Pisa was occasioned by the dung of pigeons that Had
for centuries built their nests under its roof.

the substances subject to spontaneous combuspulverized or finely-powdered charcoal is one of the most remarkable. During the last thirty years no fewer than four cases of the spontaneous inflammation of pow-

Among

tion,

dered charcoal have taken place in France. coal is triturated in tuns with bronze bruisers

When
it is

char-

reduced

In this condition it into the state of the finest powder. has the appearance of an unctuous fluid, and it occupies a
space three times less than it does in rods of about six inches long. In this state of extreme division it absorbs

much more readily than it does when in rods. This absorption, which is so slow as to require several days for its completion, is accompanied with a disengagement of
air

which rises from 340 to 360 nearly of Fahrenheit, and which is the true cause of the spontaneous inflammation. The inflammation commences near the centre of
heat,

the mass, at the depth of five or six inches beneath its surface, and at this spot the temperature is always higher

than at any other.


heats and inflames

Black charcoal strongly

distilled

which

easily than the orange, or that is little distilled, or than the charcoal made in

more

boilers. The most inflammable charcoal must have a mass of at least 66 Ibs. avoirdupois, in order that it may With the be susceptible of spontaneous inflammation. 2 B

362

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


tlie

other less inflammable varieties,

inflammation takes
is

place only in larger masses. The inflammation of powdered charcoal

more

active

in proportion to the shortness of the interval between its The free admission of air carbonization and trituration.
to the surface of the charcoal is also indispensable to its

spontaneous combustion. Colonel Aubert, to whom we owe these interesting results, likewise found that when sulphur and saltpetre
are added to the charcoal, it loses its power of inflaming But as there is still an absorption of spontaneously. air and a generation of heat, he is of opinion that it would

not be prudent to leave these mixtures in too large masses


after trituration.*

species of spontaneous combustion, perfectly analogous to that now described, but produced almost instantaneously, was discovered by Professor Dobereiner of

Jena in 1824. He found that when a jet of hydrogen gas was thrown upon recently-prepared spongy platinum, the metal became almost instantly red hot, and set fire to the In this case the minutely-divided platinum acted gas. upon the hydrogen gas, in the same manner as the minutelyHeat and comdivided charcoal acted upon common air. bustion were produced by the absorption of both gases, though in the one case the effect was instantaneous, and in the other was the result of a prolonged absorption. This beautiful property of spongy platinum was happily applied to the construction of lamps for producing an instantaneous light. The form given to the lamp by Mr. Garden of London is shown in the annexed figure, where A B is a globe of glass, fitting tightly into another
glass globe

by a ground shoulder

n.

The globo
n o p, on the
viii. p.

A B

terminates in a hollow tapering neck


Edinburgh Journal of Science,

* See

Xew

Scries,

No.

274.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION.
lower end of which
is

363

A brass

tube a b

c is fitted at

placed a small cylinder of zinc o p. a into the neck of the globe

C D, and through
d,

this tube,

which

is

furnished with a

the gas can escape at the small aperture c. stop-cock brass pin c f, carrying a brass box P, is made to slide through a hole h, so that the brass box P, in which the

spongy platinum is placed, can be set at any required If sulphuric acid diluted distance from the aperture c.
Fig. 73.

with an equal quantity of water


vessel

is

now poured

into the

AB

by

its

mouth

at S,

now

closed with a stopper,

the fluid will descend through the tube m n o p, and if -the cock d is shut, it will compress the air contained in C D.

The

dilute acid thus introduced into

D will

act

upon

the ring of zinc o p, and generate hydrogen gas, which is let off, will gradually after the atmospheric air in C fill the vessel C D, the diluted acid being forced up the

tube o
o

pm

n,

into the glass globe

B.

The

floats

on a piece of cork, so that when

C D

ring of zinc is full of

364

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

hydrogen, the diluted acid does not touch the zinc, and

consequently

is

prevented from producing any more gas.

any gas is let off at c, the pressure of the fluid in the globe B, and tube m n o p, overcomes the elasticity of the remaining gas in C D, and forces the diluted acid up to the zinc o p, so as to enable

The

instant, however, that

it

produce more gas to supply what has been used. The lamp being supplied with hydrogen in the manner now described, it is used in the following manner The
to
:

spongy platinum in P being brought near c, the cock d is turned, and the gas is thrown upon the platinum. An
intense heat
is

immediately produced, the platinum be-

A taper is hot, and the hydrogen inflames. then lighted at the flame, and the cock d is shut. Professor Gumming of Cambridge found it necessary to cover up the platinum with a cap after every experiment. This ingenious chemist likewise found that, with platinum foil the 9000dth part of an inch thick kept in a close tube, the hydrogen was inflamed but when the foil was only the GOOOdth of an inch thick, it was necessary to raise it
comes red
;

previously to a red heat.

Spontaneous combustion is a phenomenon which occurs very frequently, and often to a great extent, within the bowels of the earth. The heat by which it is occasioned
is

other causes.

produced by the decomposition of mineral bodies, and This heat increases in intensity till it is capable of melting the solid materials which are exposed
it.

to

Gases and aqueous vapours of powerful elasticity

are genrated, new fluids of expansive energy imprisoned in cavities under great pressure are set free, and these tremendous agents, acting under the repressing forces of

the superincumbent strata, exhibit their power in desolating earthquakes ; or, forcing their way -through the superficial

crust of the globe, they waste their fury in volcanic

eruptions.

COMBUSTION WITHOUT FLAME.

365

When

the

phenomena of spontaneous combustion take


its effects are

place near the surface of the earth,

of a less

dangerous character, though they frequently give birth to permanent conflagrations, which no power can extinguish. An example of this milder species of spontaneous combustion has been recently exhibited in the burning cliff at

Weymouth and a still more interesting one exists at this moment near the village of Bradley, in Staffordshire. The earth is here on fire, and this fire has continued for
;

nearly sixty years, and has resisted every attempt that has been made to extinguish it. This fire, which has reduced
acres of land to a mere calx, arises from a burning stratum of coal about four feet thick and eight or ten yards deep, to which the air has free access, in conse-

many

quence of the main coal having been dug from beneath it. The surface of the ground is sometimes covered for many yards with such quantities of sulphur that it can be easily The calx has been found to be an excellent gathered.
material for the roads, and the workmen who collect often find large beds of alum of an excellent quality.
it

singular species of invisible combustion, or of comI bustion without flame, has been frequently noticed. have observed this phenomenon in the small green wax

When the flame is blown out, the tapers in common use. wick will continue red hot for many hours, and if the
taper were regularly and carefully uncoiled, and the room kept free from currents of air, the wick would burn on in
this

way

till

same
is

effects are

the whole of the taper was consumed. The not produced when the colour of the wax

red.

In
out,

blown

this experiment the wick, after the flame is has sufficient heat to convert the wax into

vapour, and this vapour, being consumed without flame, keeps the wick at its red heat. very disagreeable

vapour

is

produced

during this imperfect

combustion of

the wax.

366

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC,

Professor Dobereiner of Jena observed, that when the alcohol in a spirit of wine lamp was nearly exhausted, the wick became carbonized, and though the flame disappeared,
the carbonized part of the wick became red hot, and continued so while a drop of alcohol remained, and provided the air in the room was undisturbed. On one occasion the wick continued red hot for twenty-four hours, and a very disagreeable acid vapour was formed.

On these principles depend the lamp without flame which was originally constructed by Mr. Ellis. It is shown in the annexed figure, where A B is the lamp, and h a cylindrical coil of platinum wire, the hundredth part
Fig. 74.

This spiral is so placed that four or five of the twelve coils of which the cylinder consists are upon the wick, and the other seven or eight above it.
If the lamp is lighted, and continues burning till the cylindrical coil is red hot, then if the flame is blown out, the vapour which arises from the alcohol will by its com-

of an inch in diameter.

bustion keep the coils above the wick red hot, and this red heat will in its turn keep up the vaporisation of the The alcohol till the whole of the alcohol is consumed.
is always sufficient to kindle a piece of or saltpetre paper, so that a sulphur match may at any time be lighted. Mr. Gill found that a wick composed of twelve threads of the cotton yarn commonly

heat of the wire

German fungus

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION.

367

used for lamps will require half an ounce of alcohol to keep the wire red hot for eight hours. This lamp has

recommended

been kept burning for sixty hours ; but it can scarcely be for a bed-room, as an acid vapour is disen-

gaged during the burning of the alcohol.

When

perfumes

are dissolved in the alcohol, they are diffused through the apartment during the slow combustion of the vapour. species of combustion without flame, and analogous

to

that

which has been described,

is

exhibited in the

extraordinary phenomena of the spontaneous combustion of living bodies. That animal bodies are liable to
internal combustion is a fact
ancients.

which was well known to the

Many

cases which have been adduced as ex-

amples of spontaneous combustion are merely cases of individuals who were highly susceptible of strong electrical excitation. In one of these cases, however, Peter Bovisteau
that the sparks of fire thus produced reduced to ashes the hair of a young man ; and John De Viana
asserts,

informs us, that the wife of Dr. Freilas, physician to the Cardinal de Eoyas, Archbishop of Toledo, emitted by
perspiration an inflammable matter of such a nature, that when the ribbon which she wore over her shift was taken

from her and exposed to the cold air, it instantly took fire, and shot forth like grains of gunpowder. Peter Borelli
has recorded a fact of the very same kind respecting a peasant whose linen took fire, whether it was laid up in a

box when wet, or hung up in the open air. The same author speaks of a woman who, when at the point of death, vomited flames; and Thomas Bartholin mentions
this

phenomenon

as having often

happened

to persons

who were

Ezekiel de great drinkers of wine or brandy. Castro mentions the singular case of Alexandrinus Megefire

tius, a physician,

from one of whose vertebrae there issued which scorched the eyes of the beholders and
;

Krantzius relates, that during the wars of Godfrey of

368

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Boulogne, certain people of the territory of Nivers were burning with invisible fire, and that some of them cut off a foot or a hand where the burning began, in order to arrest the calamity. Nor have these effects been confined to man. In the time of the Eoman consuls Gracchus and
Juventius, a flame is said to have issued from the of a bull without doing any injury to the animal.

mouth

The

may

reader will judge of the decree of credit which belong to these narrations when he examines the

effects of a similar kind which have taken place in less fabulous ages, and nearer our own times. John Henry Gohausen informs us, that a Polish gentleman in the time

of the Queen Bona Sforza, having drunk two dishes of a liquor called brandy- wine, vomited flames, and was burned by them, and Thomas Bartholin* thus describes a similar
accident:

"A

poor

woman

at Paris used to drink spirit

of wine plentifully for the space of three years, so as to take nothing else. Her body contracted such a combustible disposition, that one night,
r

when she lay down

on a straw couch, she w as all burned to ashes except her John Christ skull and the extremities of her fingers."
Sturmius informs us in the German Ephemerides, that in
the northern countries of Europe flames often evaporate from the stomachs of those who are addicted to the

and he adds, " that seventeen years before, three noblemen of Courland drank by emulation strong liquors, and two of them died scorched and suffocated by a flame which issued from their
drinking of strong liquors
;

stomach."

One

of

the most
is that

remarkable cases of

spontaneous

of the Countess Cornelia Zangari and Bandi of Cesena, which has been minutely described by the Eeverend Joseph Bianchini, a prebend in the city of

combustion

Ada

Medico,

et

Philosophica Hafniensia, 1673

CASE OF COUKTESS ZANGARI.

369

Verona. This lady, who was in the sixty-second year of her age, retired to bed in her usual health. Here she epent above three hours in familiar conversation with her

and having at last fallen was shut. As her maid was not summoned at the usual hour, she went into the bed-room to wake her mistress but receiving no answer she opened the window, and saw her corpse on the floor
asleep, the

maid and

in saying her prayers ; door of her chamber

in the most dreadful condition.


feet

At

the distance of four

from the bed there was a heap of ashes. Her legs, with the stockings on, remained untouched, and the head, half-burned, lay between them. Nearly all the rest of the body was reduced to ashes. The air in the room was charged with floating soot. A small oil lamp on the floor was covered with ashes, but had no oil in it and in two candlesticks, which stood upright upon a table, the cotton wick of both the candles was left, and the tallow of both had disappeared. The bed was not injured, and the blankets and sheets were raised on one side as if a person had risen up from it. From an examination of all the circumstances of this case, it has been generally supposed that an internal combustion had taken place; that the lady had risen from her bed to cool herself, and that, in her way to open the window, the combustion had overpowered her, and consumed her body by a process in which no flame was produced which could set fire to the furniture or the floor. The Marquis Scipio Maffei was informed by an Italian nobleman who passed through Cesena a lew days after this event, that he heard it stated in that town, that the Countess Zaugari was in the habit,
;

when she felt herself indisposed, of washing all her body with camphorated spirit of wine. So recently as 1744 a similar example of spontaneous combustion occurred in our own country at Ipswich. fisherman's wife of the name of Grace Pett, of the parish

1>70

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

of St. Clements, had been in the habit for several years of going down stairs every night after she was half-undressed

on the evening of the 9th daughter, who lay in the same bed with her, had fallen asleep, and did not miss her mother till she awaked early in the morning. Upon dressing herself, and going down stairs, she found her mother's body lying on the right side with her head against the grate, and extended over the hearth with her legs on the deal floor, and appearing like a block of wood burning with a glowing fire without flame. Upon quenching the
to
pipe.
this

smoke a

She did

of April, 1744.

Her

fire

with two bowls of water, the neighbours,

whom

the

cries of the daughter had brought in, were almost stifled with the smell. The trunk of the unfortunate woman

was almost burned

to ashes,

and appeared

like a

heap of
fire

charcoal covered with white ashes.

The

head, arms, legs,

and thighs, were also much burned.

There was no

whatever in the grate, and the candle was burned out in


the socket of the candlestick, which stood by her. The clothes of a child on one side of her, and a paper screen

on the other, were untouched; and the deal floor was neither singed nor discoloured. It was said that the woman had drunk plentifully of gin overnight in welcoming a daughter who had recently returned from Gibraltar. Among the phenomena of the natural world which are related to those of spontaneous combustion, are what have been called the natural fire temples of the Gucbres, and the igneous phenomena which are seen in their vicinity. The ancient sect of the Guebres or Parsees, distinguished from all other sects as the worshippers of fire, had their
origin in Persia;
but,

being scattered by persecution,

they sought an asylum on the shores of India.

Those

who

refused to expatriate themselves continued to inhabit the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the cities of Ispahan,

Yezd, and Kerman.

Their great

fire

temple called Atttish

FtBE TEMPLES OF THE GEUBRES.

371

Kudda stands in the vicinity of Badku, one of the largest and most commodious ports in the Caspian. In the neighbourhood of this town the earth is impregnated with naphtha, an inflammable mineral oil, and the inhabitants have no other fuel, and no other light, but what is derived from this substance.

The remains
are
still visible

of the ancient fire temples of the Guebres about ten miles to the north-east of the

The temple in which the Deity is worshipped under the form of fire is a space about thirty yards square, surrounded with a low wall, and containing many apartments. In each of these a small volcano of sulphureous
town.
fire

issues

from the ground through a furnace or funnel in

the shape of a Hindoo altar.


fire is

On

closing the funnel the

and by placing the ear at the aperture a hollow sound is heard, accompanied with a strong current of cold air, which may be lighted at
instantly extinguished,

The pleasure by holding to it any burning substance. flame is of a pale clear colour, without any perceptible smoke, and emits a highly-sulphureous vapour, which
impedes respiration, unless when the mouth is kept beneath the level of the furnace. This action on the

wan and emaciated appearand oppresses them with a hectic cough, which ance,
lungs gives the Guebres a
strangers also feel while breathing this insalubrious atmosphere.

miles in circumference, round the the whole ground, when scraped to the principal fire, depth of two or three inches, has the singular property of being inflamed by a burning coal. In this case, however,
it

For about two

does not communicate


earth
is

if the

near

it,

fire to the adjacent ground ; but with a spade, and a torch brought dug up an extensive, but instantaneous conflagration takes

place, in

lives of the people

which houses have often been destroyed, and the exposed to imminent danger.

372

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


the sky is clear and the weather serene,

When

the

springs in their ebullition do not rise higher than two or three feet ; but in gloomy weather, and during the pre-

valence of stormy clouds, the springs are in a state of the greatest ebullition, and the naphtha, which often takes fire

spontaneously at the earth's surface, flows -burning in great quantities to the sea, which is frequently covered with it, in a state of flame, to the distance of several
leagues from the shore. Besides the fires in the temple there is a large one which springs from a natural cliff in an open situation,

and which continually burns. The general space in which this volcanic fire is most abundant is somewhat less than a mile in circuit. It forms a low flat hill sloping to the sea, the soil of which is a sandy earth mixed with stones. Mr. Forster did not observe any violent eruption of flame in the country around the Attush Kudda but Kinneir informs us, that the whole country round Badku
;

has at times the appearance of being enveloped in flames.

"It often seems," he adds, "as if the fire rolled down from the mountains in large masses, and with incredible velocity; and during the clear moonshine nights of November and December, a bright blue light is observed at times to cover the whole western range. The fire does not consume, and if a person finds himself in the middle of it no warmth is felt."

The

inhabitants apply these natural

fires

to domestic

purposes, by sinking a hollow cane or merely a tube of paper, about two inches in the ground, and by blowing

upon a burning coal held near the orifice of the tube, there issues a slight flame, which neither burns the cane nor the paper. By means of these canes or paper tubes, from which the fire issues, the inhabitants boil the water in their coffee- urns, and even cook different articles of
food.

The

flame

is

put out by merely plugging up the

SPRINGS OF INFLAMMABLE GAS.


orifice.

373

The same tubes are employed for illuminating houses that are not paved. The smell of naphtha is of course diffused through the house, but after any person is The accustomed to it it ceases to be disagreeable.
inhabitants
lime.

employ this natural fire in calcining quantity of naphtha procured in the plain to It is drawn from the south-east of Badku is enormous. wells, some of which yield from 1000 to 1500 Ibs. per day.
also

The

As soon

as these wells are emptied, they * naphtha rises to its original level.

fill

again

till

the

Inflammable gases issuing from the earth have been used both in the old and the new world for domestic
purposes. In the salt mine of Gottesgabe at Rheims, in the county of Fecklenburg, there is a pit called the Pit of the Wind, from which a constant current of inflammable

gas has issued for sixty years. M. Boeder, the inspector of the mines, has used this gas for two years not only as a light, but for all the purposes of domestic economy. In
the pits which are not worked he collects the gas and conveys it in tubes to his house. It burns with a white

and

brilliant flame, has a density of about 0*66,

tains traces of carbonic acid gas

and conand sulphuretted hydro-

gen.f

Near the village of Fredonia in North America, on the Lake Erie, are a number of burning springs as they are called. The inflammable gas which issues from these springs is conveyed in pipes to the village, which is
shores of
actually lighted by them.j: In the year 1828, a copious spring of inflammable gas was discovered in Scotland in the bed of a rivulet which
crosses the north road between
c,

Glasgow and Edinburgh,

little to

the east of the seventh mile-stone from Glasgow and Kinneir's Gcog. Memoir.

* See Forster's Travels, i Id. Id.

f Edinburgh Journal of Science,

No

xv. p. 183.

374

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and only a few hundred yards from the house of Bedlay. The gas is said to issue for more than half a mile along the banks of the rivulet. Dr. Thomson, who has analysed the gas, saw it issuing only within a space about fifty yards in length, and about half as much in breadth.
"

The emission of gas was

visible in a

the declivity to the rivulet in neighbourhood of a small farm-house.

along

good many places the immediate The farmer had

on fire in one place about a yard square, out of which a great many small jets were issuing. It had burnt without interruption during five weeks, and the soil (which was clay) had assumed the appearance of pounded
set the gas

brick all around.


"

The

flame was yellow and

perfectly the appearance


fire

which

strong, and resembled carburetted hydrogen gas or

in daylight. But the was in the rivulet itself, distant gas about twenty yards from the place where the gas was The rivulet when I visited the place was burning. swollen and muddy, so as to prevent its bottom from being But the gas issued up through it in one place with seen. violence, as if it had been in a state of compression great under the surface of the earth; and the thickness of the jet could not be less than two or three inches in diameter. We set the gas on fire as it issued through the water. It burnt for some time with a good deal of splendour but as the rivulet was swollen and rushing along with great impetuosity, the regularity of the issue was necesDr. sarily disturbed, and the gas was extinguished."

damp

presents

when burnt

greatest issue of

Thomson found

this gas to consist of two volumes of hydrogen gas and one volume of vapour of cart)on and as its specific gravity was 0'555, and as it issues in great abundance, he remarks that it might be used for filling "Were we assured," he adds, "that it air-balloons.
;

would continue

to issue in as great

abundance as

at pre-

NATURAL LIGHTHOUSE OF MARACAYBO.


sent,
it

375

might be employed in lighting the streets of Glasgow."* A very curious natural phenomenon, called the Lantern or Natural Lighthouse of Maracaybo, has been witnessed A bright light is seen every night on in South America. a mountainous and uninhabited spot on the banks of the
river Catatumbo, near its junction with the Sulia. easily distinguished at a greater distance than
It
is

forty

leagues, and as it is nearly in the meridian of the opening of the Lake of Maracaybo, navigators are guided by it as by a lighthouse. This phenomenon is not only seen from
at

the sea -coast but also from the interior of the country, Merida, for example, where M. Palacios observed it for

two years.

Some persons have

ascribed this remarkable

phenomenon to a thunderstorm, or to electrical explosions, which might take place daily in a pass in the mountains and it has even been asserted that the rolling of thunder is
;

heard by those who approach the spot. Others suppose it to be an air volcano, like those on the Caspian Sea, and that it is caused by asphaltic soils like those of Mena.
It is more probable, however, that it is a sort of carburetted hydrogen, as hydrogen gas is disengaged from the ground

in the

are which are going on in the great laboratory of Nature, and alarming as their
effects

same district.f Grand as the chemical operations


appear

when they

are displayed in the terrors of

the earthquake and the volcano, yet they are not more wonderful to the philosopher than the minute though

analogous operations which are often at work near our own persons, unseen and unheeded. It is not merely in
the bowels of the earth that highly-expansive elements are imprisoned and restrained, and occasionally called into

tremendous action by the excitation of heat and other


*
t

Edinburgh Journal of Science, No. i. New Series, pp. 71 Humboldt's Personal Narrative, Vol iv. p. 254, note.

75.

376
causes.

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.


Fluids and vapours of a similar character exist

in the very gems and precious stones which science has contributed to luxury and to the arts.

In examining with the microscope the structure of mineral bodies, I discovered in the interior of many of the gems thousands of cavities of various forms and sizes.

Some had
:

the shape

of hollow and

regularly-formed

crystals others possessed the most irregular outline, and consisted of many cavities and branches united without
order, but all
cavities

communicating with each other. These sometimes occurred singly, but most frequently in

groups forming strata of cavities, at one time perfectly flat and at another time curved. Several such strata were
often found in the same specimen, sometimes parallel to each other, at other times inclined, and forming all varieties of angles with the faces of the original crystal.

which occurred in sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, beryl, quartz, amethyst, peridot, and other substances, were sometimes sufficiently large to be distinctly seen by the naked eye, but most frequently they were so small as to require a high magnifying power to be well seen, and often they were so exceedingly minute that the highest magnifying powers were unable to exhibit their outline. The greater number of these cavities, whether large or small, contain two new fluids different from any hitherto known, and possessing remarkable physical properties. These two fluids are in general perfectly transparent and colourless, and they exist in the same cavity in actual
cavities,

These

contact, without mixing together in the slightest degree. One of them expands thirty times more than water and at
;

a temperature of about 80 of Fahrenheit it expands so as to fill up the vacuity in the cavity. This will be underis the B stood from the annexed figure, where

cavity, p o the highly-expansible fluid in which at low temperatures there is always a vacuity V, like an air-bubblo

VAPOUR CAVITIES IN MINERALS


in

377

common

fluids,

and

A m

n,

Cop,

the second fluid

and C. When heat such as that occupying the angles of the hand is applied to the specimen, the vacuity gradually contracts in size, and wholly vanishes at &

The temperature of about 80, as shown in Fig. 76. fluids are shaded, as in these two figures, when they arc
seen by light reflected from their surfaces.

When

with the quantity of expansible fluid

the cavities are large, as in Fig. 77, compared m n p o, the heat

converts the fluid into vapour, an effect which is shown by the circular cavity becoming larger and larger till it

fills

the whole space

m no p.
Fis

When

any of these

cavities,

whether they are

filled

with

fluid or with vapour, is allowed to cool, the vacuity reappears at a certain temperature. In the fluid cavitie^

the fluid contracts, and the small vacuity appears, which

grows larger and larger

When

till it resumes its original size. the cavities are large several small vacuities make 2 o

378

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

and gradually unite into one, though they sometimes remain separate. In deep cavities a very remarkable phenomenon accompanies the reappearance of
their appearance

At the instant that the fluid has acquired the temperature at which it quits the sides of the cavity, an effervescence or rapid ebullition takes place, and the
the vacuity.

transparent cavity is for a moment opaque, with an infinite number of minute vacuities, which instantly unite into one
that goes on enlarging as the temperature diminishes. In the vapour cavities the vapour is reconverted by the cold
into fluid,
till all

and the vacuity V, Fig. 77, gradually contracts It is curious to the vapour has been precipitated.
Fig. 77.

observe, when a great number of cavities are seen at once in the field of the microscope, that the vacuities all dis-

appear and reappear at

the*

same

instant.

While
fluid,

all these

changes are going on in the expansible

the

other denser fluid at


its

remains unchanged either in


ing that
it

and C, Figs. 75, 76, form or magnitude. On

this account I experienced considerable difficulty in prov-

was a

fluid.

The

improbability of two fluids

existing in a transparent state in absolute contact, without mixing in the slightest degree, or acting upon each other,

induced many persons to whom I showed the phenomenon to consider the lines m n op, Figs. 75, 76, as a partition

CAVITIES IN MINERALS.

379

o p, either as filled in the cavity, or the spaces ra, C with solid matter, or as corners into which the expanding
fluid

Am

ever,

would not penetrate. The regular curvature, howof the boundary line m n o p, and other facts,
difficulty

rendered these suppositions untenable.

This

was

at last

entirely

removed by the

discovery of a cavity of the form shown in the annexed figure, where A, B, and C are three portions of the expansible fluid separated by the interposition of the

second fluid
fluid

DE

F.

The

first

portion

of the expansible

had four vacuities V, X, Y, Z, while the other two In order to determine if portions B, C had no vacuity. the vacuities of the portions B, C had passed over to A, I
Fig. 78.

took an accurate drawing of the appearances at a temperature of 50, as shown in the figure, and I watched the

changes which took place in raising the temperature to


filled

portion gradually expanded itself till it the four vacuities V, X, Y, and Z but as the portions B, C had no vacuities, they could expand

83.

The
up

all

themselves only by pushing back the supposed second fluid E F. This effect actually took place. The

dense fluid quitted the side of the cavity at F. The two B, C of the expansible fluid instantly united, and portions
the dense fluid having retreated to the limit m n n o, its other limit advanced to p q r, thus proving it to be a real This experiment, which I have often shown to fluid.
others, involves

one of those rare combinations of circum-

380

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

illustrate her

stances which nature sometimes presents to us in order to most mysterious operations. Had the portions

B,

been

accompanied, as
fluid

is

usual, with their

would have remained interposed immoveable between the two equal and opposite expanvacuities, the

sions

but owing to the accidental circumstance of these

of vacuities having passed over into the other branch the cavity, the fluid yielded to the difference of the
its fluid

expansive forces between which character to the eye.


Fig. 79.

it

lay,

and thus exhibited

examine these cavities narrowly, we find that are actually little laboratories, in which chemical opethey rations are constantly going on, and beautiful optical phe-

When we

nomena continually displaying themselves. Let A B D C, summit of a crystallized cavity in S S representing the dense, N N the expansible topaz,
for example, be the
fluid,

bounded by a circular line

abed, and V V

the

vacuity in the new fluid, bounded by the circle e f g h. B C is placed under a compound microIf the face

scope,
less

so

that

light

may

be

reflected

at

an

angle

than that of total

reflection,

and

if

the observer

now

looks through the microscope, the temperature of the room being 50, he will see the second fluid S S shining

FLUIDS IN MINERALS.

381

N with a very feeble reflected light, the dense fluid V with a light perceptibly brighter, and the vacuity The boundaries with a light of considerable brilliancy.
a b
also
c d, e

N V

g h are marked by a well-defined outline, and

by the concentric coloured rings of thin plates produced the extreme thinness of each of the fluids at their edges. by
If the

temperature of the room

is

raised slowly to

58, a brown spot


vacuity

V.

will appear at x in the centre of the This spot indicates the commencement of

evaporation from the expansible fluid below, and arises from the partial precipitation of the vapour in the roof of
the cavity.

As

the heat increases, the brown spot en-

It is then succeeded by a larges and becomes very dark. white spot, and one or more coloured rings rise in the The vapour then seems to form a centre of the vacuity.

drop, and all the rings disappear

by retiring
lustre.

to the centre,

but only to reappear

with

new

During the

application of heat, the circle efgh contracts and dilates When the vaporization is so like the pupil of the eye. feeble as to produce only a single ring of one or two tints of

the second order, they vanish instantly by breathing upon the crystal, but when the slight heat of the breath reaches the

throws off fresh vapour, and the rings again appear. If a drop of ether is put upon the crystal when the rings are in a state of rapid play, the cold produced by its evaporation causes them to disappear, till the temperature
fluid, it

again rises. When the temperature is perfectly uniform, and in the rings are stationary, as shown between

Fig. 79

and

produced by ring at the margin of the


near
it

interesting to observe the first ring the vapour swelling out to meet the first
it

is

fluid,

and sometimes coming so

band.

that the darkest parts of both form a broad black As the heat increases, the vacuity diminishes,

VV

and disappears at 79, exhibiting many curious phenomena which we have not room to describe.

332

LETTERS ON NATUBAL MAGIC.

Having fallen upon a method of opening the cavities, and looking at the fluids, I was able to examine their
properties with
fluid first rises
it

more attention. When the expansible from the cavity upon the surface of the
still

topaz,

neither remains

like

the fixed

oils,

nor

Under the influence, disappears like evaporable fluids. no doubt, of heat and moisture it is in a state of constant
motion,
surface,

now spreading itself on a thin plate over a large and now contracting itself into a deeper and
extended drop. These contractions and extenmarked by very beautiful optical phenomena.
it

much

less

sions are

When

the fluid has stretched itself out into a thin plate,

ceases to reflect light like the thinnest part of the soapbubble, and when it is again accumulated into a thicker

drop,
plates.

it

is

covered

with the coloured rings of

thin

After performing these motions, which sometimes last


for ten minutes, the fluid suddenly disappears, behind it a sort of granular residue. When

and leaves
examining

this with a single microscope, it again started into a fluid

and extended and contracted itself as before. This was owing to the humidity of the hand which held the microscope, and I have been able to restore by moisture the fluidity of these grains twenty days after they were formed from the fluid. This portion was shown to the Reverend Dr. Fleming, who remarked that, had he observed it accidentally, he would have ascribed its apparent vitality to the movements of some of the animals
state,

of the genus Planaria. After the cavity has remained open for a day or two, the dense fluid comes out and quickly hardens into a trans-

parent and yellowish resinous-looking substance, which absorbs moisture, though with less avidity than the other.
It is not volatilized

by

heat,

and

is insoluble

in water

and alcohol.

It readily dissolves, however, with efferves-

NEW

FLUIDS IN MINERALS.

383

cence in the sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic acids. The residue of the expansible fluid is volatilized by heat, and
is

tioned acids.

dissolved, but without effervescence, in the above-menThe refractive power of the dense fluid is

about 1*295, and of the expansible one 1/131. The particles of the dense fluid have a very powerful attraction for each other and for the mineral which contains them,

while those of the expansible fluid have a

very slight attraction for one another,


substance of the mineral.

and also for the


fluids

Hence the two

never

mix, the dense fluid being attracted to the angles of angular cavities, or filling the narrow necks by which two

communicate. The expansible fluid, on the other the wide parts of the cavities, and in deep and round cavities it lies above the dense fluid. When the dense fluid occupies the necks which join two
cavities

hand,

fills

cavities,

it

performs the singular function of a fluid

valve, opening and shutting itself according to the expanThe fluid valves sions or contractions of the other fluid. thus exhibited in action may suggest some useful hints to

the mechanic and the

philosopher,

while they afford

ground of curious speculation in reference to the functions of animal and vegetable bodies. In the larger organizations of ordinary animals, where gravity must in general
overpower, or at least modify, the influence of capillary attraction, such a mechanism is neither necessary nor
appropriate
;

but,

in the

lesser functions of the

same

animals, and in almost all the microscopic structures of the lower world, where the force of gravity is entirely

subjected to the
it is

more powerful energy of capillary forces, extremely probable that the mechanism of immiscible

and fluid valves is generally adopted. In several cavities in minerals I have found crystallised and other bodies, sometimes transparent crystals, sometimes black spicular crystals, and sometimes black
fluids

384

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

In spheres, all of which are moveable within the cavity. some cavities the two new fluids occur in an indurated
state,

matter.

and others I have found to be lined with a powdery This last class of cavities occurred in topaz, and they were distinguished from all others by the extraordinary beauty and symmetry of their form. One of these cavities represented a finely- ornamented sceptre, and, what is still more singular, the different parts of which it
is

composed lay in

different planes.

When
may

the

gem which

fluid is strong,

and the cavity not near the


;

contains the highly- expansive surface, heat

my

be applied to it without danger but in the course of experiments on this subject, the mineral has often burst with a tremendous explosion, and in one case

wounded me on

the brow.

An

accident of the same kind

a crystal into his mouth for the purpose of expanding the fluid. The specimen burst with great force and cut his mouth, and the fluid

occurred to a gentleman,

who put

which was discharged from the cavity had a very disagreeable taste.

In the gems which are peculiarly appropriated for female ornaments, cavities containing the expansible fluid frequently occur, and if these cavities should happen to be
very near the surface or the edge of the stone, the fever heat of the body might be sufficient to burst them with an alarming and even dangerous explosion. I have never
heard of any such accident having occurred but if it has, or if it ever shall occur, and if its. naturally marvellous
;

character shall be heightened by any calamitous results, the phenomena described in the preceding pages will strip it

of

its

wonder.

There are no facts in chemistry more interesting than those which relate to the changes of colour which arc produced by the mixture of fluids, and to the creation of brilliant colours by the combination of bodies in which no

CHANGE OF COLOUR IN CLOTHES.


colouring matter
is visible.

385

Feats of this kind are too

common and
work was known
in a

too generally known to require to be noticed The art of producing such changes like this.
to

some of the early impostors, who endea-

voured to obtain a miraculous sanction to their particular dogmas. Marcos, the head of one of the sects that wished
to engraft paganism upon Christianity, is said to have filled three transparent glasses with white wine, and while ho prayed, the wine in one of the glasses became red like

became purple, and that in the third Such transformations present no difficulty to sky-blue. the chemist. There are several fluids, such as some of the
blood, that in another

coloured juices of plants, which change their colour and in rapidly and without any additional ingredient
;

other cases, there would be no difficulty in making additions to fluids, which should produce a change of colour at

any required instant. A very remarkable experiment of an analogous nature has been publicly exhibited in modern times. Professor
Beyruss,

who lived at the court of the Duke of Brunswick, one day pronounced to his highness that the dress which he wore should during dinner become red and the change actually took place to the astonishment of the prince and M. Vogel, who has recorded this the rest of his guests.
;

curious fact, has not divulged the secret of the German chemist ; but he observes, that, if we pour lime-water into

the juice of beet-root, we shall obtain a colourless liquid ; and that a piece of white cloth dipped in this liquid and dried rapidly will in a few hours become red by the mere
contact of air.
effect

singular

M. Vogel is also of opinion that this would be accelerated in an apartment where

champagne or other fluids charged with carbonic acid are poured out in abundance. Among the wonders of chemistry we must number the remarkable effects produced upon the human frame by the

386

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

inhalation of paradise or intoxicating gas, as it lias been This gas is known to chemists by the name of the called.
nitrous oxide, or the gaseous oxide of azote, or the protoxide of nitrogen. It differs from atmospheric air only in the

proportion of its ingredients, atmospheric air being composed of twenty-seven parts of oxygen and seventy-three of
nitrogen, while the nitrous oxide consists of thirty-seven The most parts of oxygen and sixty-seven of nitrogen. convenient way of procuring the gas is to expose nitrate of ammonia in a tabulated glass retort to the heat of an

The argand's lamp between 400 and 500 of Fahrenheit. bubbles of gas begin to rise from the salt first melts
;

mass, and in a short time a brisk effervescence takes place, which continues till all the salt has disappeared. The

products of this operation are the nitrous oxide and water, the watery vapour being condensed in the neck of the retort while the gas is received over water. The gas

thus obtained

is

generally white, and hence,

when

it is

to be used for the purposes of respiration, it should remain at least an hour over water, which will absorb the small

to

quantity of acid and of nitrate of ammonia which adhere it. pound of the nitrate of ammonia will in this way

yield five cubic feet of gas


tion.

fit

for the purpose of inhala-

It was discovered by Sir Humphry Davy, that this gas could be safely taken into the lungs, and that it was In capable of supporting respiration for a few minutes.

he was surprised to find that it a singular species of intoxication, which he thus produced " three "I describes breathed," says he, quarts of oxide

making

this experiment

from and into a


lungs.

silk

bag for more than half a minute

without previously closing

The

giddiness. fulness in

nose or exhausting my caused a slight degree of inspiration This was succeeded by an uncommon sense of

my

first

the head, accompanied with loss of distinct

EFFECTS OF INTOXICATING GAS.

387

sensation and voluntary power, a feeling analogous to that produced in the first stage of intoxication, but unattended

In describing the effects of another experiment, he says, " Having previously closed my nostrils and exhausted my lungs, I breathed four

by pleasurable sensations."

first

The quarts of nitrous oxide from and into a silk bag. feelings were similar to those produced in the last
experiment, but in less than half a minute, the respiration

being continued, they diminished gradually, and were succeeded by a highly-pleasurable thrilling, particularly
in the chest and the extremities.

The

became dazzling, and

my

hearing more

objects around me acute. Towards

the last respiration the thrilling increased, the sense of

muscular power became greater, and at

last

an irresistible

propensity to action was indulged in. indistinctly what followed ; I knew that
varied and violent.
respiration. state of mind.

I recollect but

my motions

were

very rarely ceased after In ten minutes I had recovered my natural


effects

These

The

thrilling in the extremities continued

This experiment was longer than the other sensations. made in the morning; no languor or exhaustion was
consequent, my feelings through the day were as usual, and I passed the night in undisturbed repose." In giving an account of another experiment with this
gas, Sir

Humphry
after

thus describes his feelings

"
:

Imme-

diately my return from a long journey, being I respired nine quarts of nitrous oxide, having fatigued, been precisely thirty-three days without breathing any.
feelings were different from those I had experienced on former experiments. After the first six or seven respirations, I gradually began to lose the perception of external things, and a vivid and intense recollection of some former experiments passed through my mind, so that I called out, what an annoying concatenation of
*

The

"

ideas.'

388

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

Another experiment made by the same distinguished chemist was attended by still more remarkable results.

He was

shut up in an air-tight breathing box, having a capacity of about nine and a-half cubic feet, and he allowed himself to be habituated to the excitement of the gas,

which was gradually introduced. After having undergone this operation for an hour and a quarter, during which eighty quarts of gas were thrown in, he came out of the box and began to respire twenty quarts of unmingled " A thrilling," says he, " extending from nitrous oxide. the chest to the extremities, was almost immediately produced.
surable
I felt a sense of tangible extension, highly pleavisible impressions were in every kind,

my

I heard distinctly dazzling, and apparently magnified. sound in the room, and was perfectly aware of my every

By degrees, as the pleasurable sensation increased, I lost all connection with external things ; trains
situation.

of vivid visible images rapidly passed through my mind, and were connected with words in such a manner as to

produce perceptions perfectly novel. I existed in a world When I of newly connected and newly modified ideas. was awakened from this same delirious trance by Dr. Kinglake, who took the

bag from my mouth, indignation and pride were the first feelings produced by the sight of the persons about me. My emotions were enthusiastic and sublime, and for a moment I walked round the room, perfectly
regardless of what was said to me. As I recovered my former state of mind, I felt an inclination to communicate

made during the experiment. I endeavoured to recal the ideas they were feeble and One recollection of terms, however, presented indistinct. itself, and with the most intense belief and prophetic
the discoveries I had
;

manner I exclaimed
thoughts
;

to Dr. Kinglake,
is

the universe

nothing exists but composed of impressions, ideas,

'

pleasures,

and

"
pains.'

EFFECTS OF INHALING KlTROUS OXIDE.

889
to

These remarkable properties induced several persons

repeat the experiment of breathing this exhilarating medicine. Its effects were, as might have been expected,

various in different individuals


to

but

its

general effect was

produce in the gravest and most phlegmatic the highest degree of exhilaration and happiness, unaccompanied with

languor or depression.

In some

it

created an irresistible

disposition to laugh, and in others a propensity to musIn some it impaired the intellectual funccular exertion. tions, and in several it had no sensible effect, even when it

'

was breathed in the purest state and in considerable to quantities. It would be an inquiry of no slight interest
ascertain the influence of this gas over persons of various temperaments, and upon minds varying in their

bodily

intellectual

and moral character. Although Sir Humphry Davy experienced no unpleasant effects from the inhalation of the nitrpus oxide, yet such and there is reason to effects are undoubtedly produced
;

believe that even permanent changes in the constitution may be induced by the operation of this remarkable
stimulant.

Two very interesting cases of this kind presented themselves to Professor Sillirnan of Yale College, when the nitrous oxide was administered to some of his
The students had been in the habit for several puprls. to one years of preparing this gas and administering it and these two cases .were the only remarkable another,
ones which deserved to be recorded.

We
:

shall describo

them
"

in Professor Silliman's

own words

A gentleman

about nineteen years of age, of a san-

in the most guine temperament, and cheerful temper, and health, inhaled the usual quantity of the nitrous perfect Immeoxide when prepared in the ordinary manner.

so that, diately his feelings were uncommonly elevated, as he expressed it, he could not refrain from dancing and

shouting.

Indeed to such a degree was he excited, that

390
lie

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

was thrown into a frightful fit of delirium, and his exertions became so violent, that after a while he sunk to the earth exhausted, and there remained, until having by
quiet in some degree recovered his strength, he again arose only to renew the most convulsive muscular efforts,

and the most piercing screams and cries within a few moments, overpowered by the intensity of the paroxysm, he again fell to the ground apparently senseless and pantThe long continuance and violence of ing vehemently. the affection alarmed his companions, and they ran for
;

professional assistance. They were, however, encouraged by the person to whom they applied to hope that he would come out of his trance without injury, but for the space

of two hours these symptoms continued ; he was perfectly unconscious of what he was doing, and was in every He states, however, that his feelings respect like a maniac.
vibrated between perfect happiness and the most consummate misery. In the course of the afternoon, and after the first violent effects had subsided, he was compelled to lie down two or three times, from excessive fatigue, although he was immediately aroused upon any one's The effects remained in a degree for entering the room. three or four days, accompanied by a hoarseness, which he attributed to the exertion made while under the immediate influence of the gas. This case should produce a degree

of caution, especially in persons of a sanguine temperament, whom, much more frequently than others, we have 3een painfully and even alarmingly affected." The -other case described by Professor Silliman was
that of a age, and of a grave and respectable " For nearly two years previous to his taking the gas his health had been very delicate, and his mind
character.

man of mature

This was peculiarly frequently gloomy and depressed. the case for a few days immediately preceding that time, and his general state of health was Such that he was

CONCLUSION.

391

obliged almost entirely to discontinue nis studies, and was about to have recourse to medical assistance. In this state of bodily and mental debility he inspired about

The consequences were, three quarts of nitrous oxide. an astonishing invigoration of his whole system, and the
most exquisite perceptions of delight. These were manifested by an uncommon disposition for pleasantry and

The effects mirth, and by extraordinary muscular power. of the gas were felt without diminution for at least thirty hours, and in a greater or less degree for more than a
week.
**

But the most remarkable

effect

was that upon

tlie

organs of taste. Antecedently to taking the gas, he exhibited no peculiar choice in the articles of food, but immediately subsequent to that event, he manifested a taste
for such things only as were sweet, and for several days ate Indeed this singular taste was nothing but sweet cake. carried to such excess, that he used sugar and molasses not

and butter and lighter food, but upon his This he continues to do even at the and although eight weeks have elapsed since present time, he inspired the gas, he is still found pouring molasses over
only upon his bread

meat and

vegetables.

beef, fish,

poultry, potatoes, cabbage, or whatever vegetable food is placed before him.


11

animal or

His health and

spirits since that

time have been uni-

formly good, and he attributes the restoration of his strength and mental energy to the influence of the nitrous
oxide.
is entirely regular in his mind, and now exno uncommon exhilaration, but is habitually periences cheerful, while before he was as habitually grave, and

He

even to a degree gloomy."

Such is a brief and a general account of the principal phenomena of Nature, and the most remarkable deductions of science, to which the name of Natural Magic has been

392

LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC.

If those who have not hitherto sought for inapplied. struction and amusement in the study of the material

world shall have found a portion of either in the preceding


pages, they will not fail to extend their inquiries to other popular departments of science, even if they are less

marked with the attributes of the marvellous. In every region of space, from the infinitely distant recesses of the heavens to the "dark unfathoined caves of ocean," the
Almighty has erected monuments of miraculous grandeur, which proclaim the power, the wisdom, and the beneficence The inscriptions which they bear the of their author. which shines upon their walls appeal to the handwriting understanding and to the affections, and demand the adTo miration and the gratijfcude of every rational being.
remain willingly ignorant of these revelations of the Divine Power is a crime next to that of rejecting the revelation of the Divine will. Knowledge, indeed, is at once the handmaid and the companion of true religion. They mutually adorn and -support each other and beyond
;

the immediate circle of our secular duties, they are the only objects of rational ambition. While the calm deductions of reason regulate the ardour of Christian zeal, the warmth of a holy enthusiasm gives a fixed brightness to

the glimmering lights of knowledge. It is one of the darkest spots in the history of man that In the these noble gifts have been so seldom combined.

young mind alone can the two kindred seeds be effectually sown and among the improvements which some of our public institutions require, we yet hope to witness a national system of instruction, in which the volumes of Nature and of Revelation shall be simultaneously perused.
;

D. BKEWSTEH.

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA
NATURAL MAGIC.
CHAPTEK

I.

TJie Mirage of the desert Belzoni's description Optical illusions Quintus Curtiuss account Probable cause Apathy of the Arabs

and neglect of the example of the patriarchs Prospect of a remedy Optical illusion of Mr. W. G. S. Association of ideas Cause of vividness of such phenomena And of dreams over
ordinary
events

Magic lantern improved by photography


artificial light, &c.

and
ghost

the

improvements in

Professor Pepper's

head speaking Floating cherubs The The high merits of these Polytechnic inautomatic Leotard " Masks and Faces " Aurora Borealis ventions Herr Frikel's
TJie decapitated

Sensitive flames

Shadow pantomime.

ON the subject of optical illusions little falls to be added to the preceding Letters, beyond what Sir David Brewster The mirage in the Arctic has already so fully written.
regions has been considerably dilated on in more recent voyages than those Sir David has referred to, but

nothing has been added to the interest of this phenomenon which would be regarded as more than mere amplification
of details in the present volume. The following, on what is called the mirage in the desert, however, possesses
sufficiently

distinctive

features

to justify

notice.

M.

Belzoni, writing of the desert in Upper Egypt, on the western side of the Bed Sea, which he crossed, and which 2 D

394

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

is parallel with the great desert on the eastern side, the scene of the wanderings of the Israelites, says " Generally speaking, in a desert there are few springs of water:
:

some of them at the distance of four, six, and eight days' journey from one another, and not all of sweet water
:

generally salt or bitter, so that if the thirsty traveller drinks it, it increases his thirst, and But when the calamity he suffers more than before.
it

on the contrary,

is

happens that when the next well, which is so anxiously sought for, is found dry, the misery of such a situation cannot be well described. The camels, which afford the only means of escape, are so thirsty that they cannot proceed to another well and if the travellers kill them, to extract the little liquid which remains in their stomachs, they themselves cannot advance any further. The situation must be dreadful, and admits of no resource. Many perish victims of the most horrible thirst. It is
;

then that the value of a cup of water is really that has a zenzabra of it is the richest of all.

felt.

He

In such a case there is no distinction. If the master has none the servant will not give it to him for very few are the instances where a man will voluntarily lose his life to
;

save that of another, particularly in a caravan in the What a desert, where people are strangers to each other.
situation

for a man, though a rich one, perhaps the owner of all the caravans! He is dying for a cup of water no one gives it to him he offers all he possesses no one hears him they are all dying though by walking a. few hours further they might be saved. If the camels are lying down, and cannot be made to rise, no one has strength to walk. Only he that has a glass of that precious liquor lives to walk a mile further, and * * * In short, to be thirsty in the perhaps dies too.
:

desert without water, exposed to the burning sun without shelter, and no hopes of finding either, is the most

MIRAGE IN THE DESERT.

395

terrible situation that a man can be placed in, and one of the greatest sufferings that a human being can sustain : the eyes grow inflamed, the tongue and lips swell, a hollow sound is heard in the ears, which brings on

deafness, and the brain appears to All these feelings arise from the

grow thick and inflamed. want of a little water.

In the midst of all this misery, the deceitful morasses appear something like a before the traveller at no great distance lake or river of clear fresh water. If, perchance, a
traveller
is

sooner

the

more he advances towards


at last
it

not undeceived he hastens his pace to reach it it the more it recedes

from

him,

till

vanishes entirely, and the deluded

passenger often asks where is the water he saw at no great He can scarcely believe that he was so deceived ; he distance ?

waves running before the wind, and protests that he saw the Elsewhere the reflection of the high rocks in the water."

M. Belzoni
this desert

gives the following further


"
:

mirage

so

unmoved by

particulars of It generally appears like a still lake, the wind that everything above is to be

seen most distinctly reflected by it. If the wind agitate any of the plants that rise above the horizon of the

mirage the motion

is seen perfectly at a great distance. If the traveller stands elevated much above the mirage

the apparent water seems less united and less deep ; for as the eyes look down upon it, there is not thickness

enough in the vapour on the surface of the ground

to

conceal the earth from the sight ; but if the traveller be on a level with the horizon of the mirage he cannot see
it, so that it appears to him clear water. By putting my head first to the ground, and then mounting a camel, the height of which from the ground might

through

have been about ten feet at the most, I found a great difference in the appearance of the mirage. On approaching it, it becomes thinner, and appears as if agitated by
the wind, like a field of ripe corn.
It gradually vanishes

396

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.


and
at last entirely disappears Belzoni's Narrative, pp. 341

as the traveller approaches,

when he

is

on the

spot."

This description substantially coincides 343, and p. 196. with that of Quintus Curtius, who, in detailing the passage of Alexander the Great and his army through
" Amidst a dearth of Sogdiana, says of of obtaining any created thirst before it water, despair was excited by nature. Throughout four hundred stadia

the deserts

not a drop of water springs.

As soon

as the

summer

heat pervades the sand everything is dried up as in a burning kiln. Steaming from the fervid expanse, which appears like a surface of sea, a cloudy vapour darkens the

The phenomenon Quint. Curt., lib. vii. c. 5. day," &c. described by these writers is supposed to be produced by a decrease in the density of the stratum of the atmosphere
in immediate contact with the ground, arising from the intense heat of the sun upon the sand; but there is

probably also a small amount of vapour or steam at the high temperature of invisibility along with it, and which

would in that
of the

state rather

increase
to

the inconvenience
skin, as

traveller,

and even aid


remarks,
;

blister his

Curtius

further

than

modify the

heat

and

drought, or help him for more recent travellers seem to indicate from their observations that there is water at no

very great depth below the sand. And, indeed, it is a remarkable fact that the Arabs, with the well-remembered

examples of the patriarchs before them, whose Artesian works remain, and are pointed out by them to this day,
their

should not have dug wells at convenient distances for caravan journeys, and established caravansaries
at them, to prevent the horrors Belzoni has described, and with the fatal features of which they have had grim

familiarity down through all the ages of their history. The desire for short routes and railway communication
will probably

come

to their aid at last,

and accomplish

OPTICAL ILLUSION OF ME. W.

G.

S.

397

this object by the sinking of Artesian wells and the dissemination of streams of water along the surface of the ground by means of steam pumps, which would soon be

for

by vegetation if water were steadily supplied, astonishing how rapidly the desert blooms and becomes covered with verdure whenever plants find
sheltered
it is

And there appears little moisture to support them. reason to doubt that these deserts are great basins full of
Dean Stanley, in water, but only fuller still of sand. his " Sinai and Palestine," speaking of the general charac" There is teristics of the wadys or valleys, says nearly
:

everywhere a thin,

it

might almost be said a transparent

coating of vegetation." Allied to the class of optical illusions mentioned in Sir David's third Letter, the following, communicated to the
editor

by the gentleman by whom

it

was experienced,

is

sufficiently distinctive to deserve notice.

One

day, not

many
was

after

years since, Mr. W. G. S., the gentleman in question, an interval of years walking along a picturesque

country road in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, when reaching a certain point he was suddenly, and without any
previous preparation for such a spectacle, surprised by the appearance of a magnificent cavalcade of knights and

dames on horseback arrayed in the costume of the Middle Ages, accompanied with a suitable following of squires and other attendants, with hounds and hawks many of the ladies with falcons on their wrists, as if the party were bent on hunting. The cavalcade consisted of a numerous company, and defiled with gay but graceful dignity, passed him and disappeared in a woodland path. The gentleman stood riveted in surprise for some moments after the spectacle had disappeared for, convinced it was only an illusion, he was astonished at its vivid magnificence and complete details. At length, overcoming his wonder, he proceeded on his walk, still ruminating on the pageant
:

398

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.


it

he had seen, and striving to explain


at last recollected that in his

to himself,

when he

boyhood,
it

many

years before,

when he had given himself up literature, at the period when


;

to the reading of

romance-

was most in

fashion, he

had been in the habit of identifying himself with the suband being of a peculiarly intense jects he had read character, with a highly-picturesque imagination, had on
occasions during his solitary country rambles abanto the enthusiasm of the time and imagined himself one of the characters in just such chivalrous and

many

doned himself

and he then felt fully satisfied that some peculiarity in the appearance of the road at the point where he had just beheld the spectacle mentioned had recalled the whole association of ideas connected with a past visit to the spot, and revived in this vivid form a
romantic pageants
;

day-dream of his youth.

The mere
its

vividness, however, of such an incident

was

only peculiarity. The association of ideas is so strong and so well known, that we can scarce hear certain subjects
mentioned, or look upon certain articles, without having at once a long train of the past suggested to the mind's eye,

and the intensity with which the subject presents itself often passes unnoticed on account of its being expected and a matter of course. Thus the presence of an article
of furniture such as an old chair will set the fancy into a trance of contemplation as to some departed and venerable

occupant, and the whole thought in connection with it will be pictured by the mind, for it is a mistake to say we

we think in pictures also, just as ; in pictures, and the only reason why such pictures do not strike us with surprise is that they are, if not pictures resulting from direct volition, at all
think in language only

much

as

we dream

we

events pictures tacitly acquiesced in, and therefore such as are mentally prepared for. It is in fact only when we

think without the will or consent that the imagery of the

MAGIC LANTERN.

399

mind, unfamiliar under that aspect, is more than usually vivid from the effect of surprise. Indeed, reality is in

much the same condition with us. We meet friends day by day who have been the associates of our lives, and we
familiar face

scarce realize the fact that they have been with us. may appear, a familiar step enter the study

while we are busily engaged, and pass out again without our recognition, and scarcely with our consciousness that

But should any friend long they have been with us. absent appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the same way, surprise and the intensity of special recognition will be
evoked
at once,

and a vividness of the whole incident

impressed upon the mind which will produce the strongest impression at the moment, and leave elements for perreflection afterwards when things common have been long forgotten. The vividness of dreams is very much, if not wholly, attributable to the same cause. The will in our mental life to a certain extent directs and

manent

and with regard

controls the current of ideas under ordinary circumstances, to real incidents, we are in contact with a
series of causes, all the associations

and

results of

which

are regarded as matter of course, calculated on and looked for. They are therefore looked forward to before they

take place, or so far foreknown as to have their interest and novelty exhausted before they occur but dreams are
;

things out of the list of anticipation, for they never are, when vivid or impressive, what we expected them to be ; hence the impression of their novelty is not and cannot be
forestalled, and they strike us with as much vividness as any surprising or unexpected incident in the eventualities

of

life.

Among

artificial illusions

appeared of late years.

many ingenious novelties have The ingenious suggestions of Sir

David Brewster, before mentioned, for the improvement of the magic lantern have been all more or less exceeded by

400

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

the great progress of recent discovery. Photography has given accuracy of detail and life-like intensity to the
subjects displayed

by the

lantern, while

improvements in

the mechanism, together with lime ball, magnesium, and other powerful means of illumination, have been successfully applied to produce almost a daylight clearness on the screen compared with the darkness in which the

audience sits in viewing such objects. How far Sir David had anticipated some of the most advanced improvements by his suggestions however will appear from the following
passage in a recent publication compared with his letter

on this subject
"

ingenious experimentalist, desirous of showing various chemical phenomena by means of the magic

An

makes a glass tank, into which different liquids may be poured, which will illustrate the effect of refraction on light and other phenomena. If a pipette be skilfully used to introduce some of the solutions into the water in the tank, the appearance thrown on the
lantern,

or solutions

screen is that of a submarine volcano, pouring forth clouds of smoke and torrents of lava, which, however, are

soon absorbed in the surrounding ocean.


:

solution of

cochineal in alcohol, similarly introduced, produces the a solution of effect of a magnificent crimson fountain

litmus appears as a delicate blue sky ; a few drops of acid being let fall into this give a variety of forms and combinations, as of clouds seen in a sunset sky.

Black,

stormy clouds may be produced by dropping into the


water a small quantity of sulphate of copper in solution and weak ammonia and with dilute sulphuric acid and ferrocyanide of potassium, other cloud-effects can be repre;

sented which have a most impressive appearance on the It is possible also to show the changes in colour screen.

produced by chemical reaction, the decomposition of water by a galvanic current, and the convection of heat by

PROFESSOR PEPPER'S GHOST.


liquids
;

SPEAKING HEAD, ETC. 401

and to exhibit all these operations to a large of persons at once, opens a new application of the magic lantern which clever operators will no doubt turn to account ; any one familiar with the manipulation of

number

apparatus will

know how

to contrive the tanks for the

different purposes."

eminently-ingenious Professor Pepper also, in cor^unction with the other talented gentlemen forming
the staff of the Royal Polytechnic Institution of London, has distinguished himself by great success not only
in showing all the illusions practised by charlatans who claim a higher authority than mere skill and dexterity for
their seances, but in the forestalling by their inventive genius discoveries which otherwise might have been used

The

in course of time to deceive and operate


stitious

by

vile

upon the superand unprincipled pretenders to the super-

natural.

Among other novelties, Professor Pepper's ghost, the speaking head, floating cherubs, automatic Leotard, &c., The deserve special mention and the highest praise.
is got up in a very simple yet remarkably effective way, and suggests the idea that the Professor must have caught sight of his own image in a plate-glass window

ghost

more than once before he engaged in spirit-making. This illusion is easily accomplished by placing a large sheet of plate glass B F on the stage before a dark-green cloth under a subdued light, and throwing the reflection of a person
acting the ghost upon it by having him placed in front in such a position as to cause his image to appear at the point desired. For this purpose the person acting the

ghost must be placed with a screen of dark-green cloth

behind him, as shown in the following diagram. In this way the reflection of the dark-green cloth A B behind the
figure will not appear, but will blend with the colour of the dark-green cloth C behind the sheet of plate glass,

402

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATUBAL MAGIC.

while the figure will appear reflected alone. The light being kept more subdued upon the stage than upon the
figure to be reflected, the presence of any real actor upon the stage will appear less vivid under the subdued light than that of the ghost. If the plate glass be so arranged

that the actor on the stage in approaching or passing the shadow can go behind or in front of the plate glass at pleasure, the illusion of passing through the shadow or

appearing to strike, stab, or grasp it in vain, will be very The distance between the figure and its perfectly shown.

E F is necessarily circumscribed by the limits of our space. The angularity of the glass to the audience, so as to throw the image of the ghost only toward them, and all other reflection on it in other directions, is easily
reflection at

arranged.

plished

The speaking head, floating cherubs, &c., are accomby similar arrangements of plate glass and dark

background. But in these cases the figures seen may, or may not be in shadow or reflection, at the option of the conductor. When not reflections, the arrangement may be
accomplished by having the plate
pieces.

Thus a

glass divided into half sheet from the bottom of the stage,

with a screen of green cloth in front of the performer, will

POLYTECHNIC INVENTIONS.

403

conceal the whole body but the head, which may appear to be resting on a pole or narrow pedestal in front of the

In this way Blue Beard places the carefullyembalmed head of a deceased wife, the victim of his
glass.

cruelty, upon the pedestal to look at. This head, if an excellent wax likeness of some lady performer of the esta-

way when being placed by the lady performer herself, who appears from behind, showing only so much of her head as replaces and represents the wax likeness.
blishment, is easily put out of the on the pedestal and represented

Blue

Beard
to

then

retires

when

his

astonishment
its

addresses him, opens

ingenious and perfect. about by representing heads of children or young performers in the same way, their bodies being concealed
cloth in front of the floating stage on which they stand. The great advantage of the darkgreen cloth groundwork in blending, though in separate pieces, as if it were only one continuous background, is of great importance, together with such a subdued and

smoke and contemplate, and horror the dead head This illusion is very eyes, &c. Cherubs may be made to float
to

by a screen of green

appropriate arrangement of the light as prevents the plate glass from glancing and becoming apparent to the
audience, and the ingenious invention
is capable of far higher dramatic effects than it has yet been applied to. Professor Pepper's ghosts, like those of Shakespeare, are almost too refined and gentlemanly for any but those

and metaphysical qualities of mind which appreciate the characteristics of propriety and logical connection in everything. The white sheet horror is more
delicate

suited

to

really is
peare's

the modern sensational drama. But there some defect in the representation of Shakesgrand ghost scenes, which modern science might

The ghost of Hamlet's surely apply itself to remedy. father and others want a glistering, phosphorescent and

404

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATIttlAL MAGIC.

self-lighted aspect to distinguish their spectral character vividly from the living actors with whom they mingle,

and doubtless Shakespeare's own ideal was something of though the resources of the time did not afford very satisfactory means of realising it. The innocuous
this kind,

phosphorus now in use, with perhaps some other chemical appliances, might afford means of overcoming
allotropic
this difficulty.

The automatic Leotard is another of those admirablyachieved Polytechnic illusions which may be said to This surpass in some respects even the living prototype. figure is admirably formed, and its possible motions, with
their swing, are well kept within the range of easy To the close physical action in the natural joints. observer it becomes at once apparent, from the want of

bend in the elbow-joints and the complete circles performed by the shoulders of the figure, that the hands and inflexible arms are permanently fixed to the cross-bar of the trapeze, which is made to revolve in any direction by means of rods and wheels connected with its ends and set in motion from above, the rods being concealed by what appear to be the cords by which the whole is suspended, which also have a manifest inflexibility and an otherwise unnecessary thickness. These peculiarities, however, are far from detracting from the merit of this
admirable Polytechnic invention. Professor Pepper manfully disavows the power to work impossibilities. He only aims at accomplishing apparent impossibilities

by the most skilful and graceful application of possible To what means, and assuredly these are of them. infamous purposes, by contrast, the ancient statecrafts and priestcrafts would have turned these meritorious and honourable ingenuities, had they known them, many a passage in the preceding Letters of Sir David Brewster
will abundantly suggest.

HERE FRIKEL'S "MASKS AND

FACES."

405

The illusion as to the direction of sight and the expression of faces, mentioned in one of the preceding Letters, has been further and most successfully illustrated
lately

by the "Masks and Faces" of the

talented

and

ingenious Herr Frikel, who by the mere arrangement of head-gear and appropriate accessories has shown

how

typical

readily the same face may be made to realise our ideas of the European and Asiatic, Hindoo,

Chinese, Turk, or Tartar, &c., as well as the masculine or Indeed our feminine expression and countenance. attention or inattention to facts, which perhaps do or do
not strongly affect us, is apt to make us imagine there are greater differences in some cases and less differences in

The man who would never others than really exist. doubt, until confronted with one of Herr Frikel's transformations, that he could at once tell, by the aspect of the countenance, the difference between a German and a

Chinaman would be apt

to

deny the possibility of a

shepherd being able to distinguish every individual sheep of a numerous flock which has been for a short time under Yet any one who takes the trouble to look his care.
carefully at a flock of sheep driven through the streets will be able to see that, even in the shape of the nose,

much distinguished from each other individually by all the varieties of Eoman, Greek, and snub nose as human beings are, and that all the other features
sheep are as

marked by individual identity. Indeed, the " " as like as two peas is by no means so very aphorism close or proximate a resemblance as the expression appears We doubt if there ever were two peas to assume.
are equally

exactly alike since the creation of the world, any more than two kinds or specimens of handwriting. Nay, much
as identity in this latter respect is distinctively recogwe doubt if any man ever wrote his own

nisable,

signature exactly alike twice in the whole course of his

406
life
;

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATUBAL MAGIC.

and yet a man with perfect integrity and justifiability swears to his own handwriting, and others acquainted with it do so also, in the perfect and conscientious
certainty of the fact. One of the subjects which it appears justifiable to introduce here, along with the associated subject of the mirage which has been so interestingly treated by Sir

David Brewster, is the aurora borealis, which is displayed with remarkable brilliance within the Arctic circle during

much

the prolonged winter darkness of that region, which is indebted to this splendid phenomenon for the relief of its prolonged and inhospitable gloom. Those who
its

observe this phenomenon attentively will find that point of convergence, or the centre towards which
<:

its

point, is generally identical with, or very nearly approximate to, that point of the heavens which is opposite to the sun during the manifestation of the
spectacle.
It is a point, in fact, only seen in the northern

streamers

"

and southern regions beyond the range of the ecliptic while the sun is within that plane, and on the opposite side of the earth, and everything conspires to show that
while the atmosphere of the world acts like a sphere of glass enclosing the earth, by which the rays of the sun
are refracted as if they were intercepted by a globular or double convex lens, these rays so refracted are converged

on the opposite side of

this atmospheric lens, from the edges of the terrestrial disc exposed to the sun, according to the greater or less purity of the atmosphere under that

region forming the edge of the disc, and that the coloured rays seen to prevail sometimes are mere prolongations of
the gorgeous tints of sunset or of dawn then prevailing at those points of the world's surface from which the reThe rapidity with which the aurora fraction takes place. darts its rays, and changes, is readily accounted for from

the presence of intercepting clouds, projecting

ice,

and

SENSITIVE FLAMES.

407

mountain ranges, and other inequalities along the circumference of the earth's disc exposed to the solar action, combined with the rapidity of the earth's motion (diurnal and orbitual) with reference to the sun; while the weather which such an appearance is held to presage is
also accounted for
to enable the

by the atmospheric conditions necessary phenomenon to take place.


of Mr. Barrett, late Assistant at the Royal what are called " sensitive

One
inquiry
flames."

of the remarkable discoveries of recent scientific


is that

Institution, with regard to

metal pipe with an orifice of steatite, when emitting such an amount of gas as to afford that quantity of flame which a burner gives forth just before the flame " as we are accustomed to hear it from the
roars,"
called,

excessive pressure of the gas, furnishes a light which is exceedingly sensitive to certain sounds. grave sound

such as a low whistle will cause

it

to shoot out

numerous

tongues of flame, which subside when the sound is discontinued. By different arrangements of the burner this be varied. An aperture supplying a column of flame may
of about two feet in length will cower the influence of certain sibilant sounds.

and quiver under

Words

contain-

ing the

letters,

s, x,

and

z,

fully affect it even when And a variety of manifestations distance from it.

especially the former, powerpronounced at a considerable

may be

occasioned by certain notes of the pianoforte. Under one set of conditions the effect being produced by high, and under another by low notes. This peculiarity is manifestly the effect of vibration on highly-elastic elements, which may either be the gas forming the supporter of

combustion, or the metallic orifice from which the flame Indeed, every element known is more or less proceeds.
elastic,
it is quite possible to conceive that certain the peculiarity of their vibration, could shiver Bounds, by solid bodies to pieces, and that the character of the sound,

and

408

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIO.


concussion

more than the power of the atmospheric

involved, might produce the most serious consequences. is not familiar with that most disagreeable of sounds, the sharpening of a saw with a file, to recall the very

Who

recollection

of which

is

to

conjure up a sensation of

horror ?

It is not in such a case because our dislike is

we hate the sensation produced, but because it is really disagreeable, and to somo delicate constitutions has a positively injurious physical effect, that repugnance to it prevails, and the nerves
arbitrary and capricious that

shrink and quiver painfully beneath its action. very amusing novelty has recently been successfully

exhibited at one of the London amphitheatres, which may of the house be called " Shadow Pantomime." The

or

body room being darkened, a white screen is interposed

between the audience and the performers, with a light behind it, by means of which the shadows of the performers only are given projected on the screen. When
a performer approaches near to the light at the back of the stage his shadow is greatly magnified and appears of gigantic proportions, while the other performers approach-

ing nearer to the screen appear upon it by their shadows The effect is highly striking of nearly their natural size. and effective, as well as amusing, as the hand of an
individual near the light will appear larger by its shadow on the screen than the whole body of an actor more

remote from the

light,

and nearer

to the screen.

Jack

the Giant Killer, and the adventures of Gulliver, admit of a highly effective and comic representation by means of
this very ingenious adaptation of shadow, and the arrangements are so simple and easily made that the amusements of the nursery may be readily and greatly enhanced and illustrated by it at absolutely no expense, and scarcely

any trouble.

SUSPENDED ANIMATION.

409

CHAPTEK
Life,

II.

and suspended animation, or asphyxia Interment alive Phenomena of the grave Coma, or extraordinarily long sleeps Bears
Toads found in rocks
Annelides, or

worms

Tadpoles: separated vitality Polypes Process of restoring severed parts Sus-

pended and restored animation Botifera Reproductive pou'ers of animals and plants Divisibility of matter Facts Iteyond the
range of physics
philosophy
logic

Extraordinary divisibility of life New fact in The philosophers of fixity Superiority of a child s
Unitarians
Conclusion.
life

A fact of science for

THE

extraordinary circumstances under which


exist

sometimes continue to

has

given

rise

to

may many

remarkable, and, in some instances, painful impressions among mankind. The dormant condition of bears and
other animals during their winter's sleep of many months' duration, and many well-authenticated instances of unusually long periods of sleep by human beings, who during this condition have maintained their vitality without food and at a very low and all but suspended rate of vital action, have doubtless given rise to those popularlyrecited cases of asphyxia, or suspended animation, under which people have been said to be buried alive, and which

many

if left to

living individuals have a horror may be their fate the charge of the careless and incautious at the

time of death.

Many

have

felt

this

apprehension so

oppressive that they have desired that their interment should not take place after apparent death under ordinary circumstances, unless in addition some violence were done
to the physical organization, so as to prevent the possibility of their coming to life again after the earth had

boen closed in upon them

and many have wished to do 2 E

410

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

away with interment altogether to avoid suffering the horror of suffocation in the tonib. This kind of death, it
is idle to

deny, has a character of horror for the

human

mind, the metaphysical associations of which invest it with an ideal, but not on that account the less a real
agony, eminently beyond every other conceivable form of That instances well authenterminating our mortality.
ticated of people being buried alive

under misapprehension have occurred cannot be gainsayed, and a circumstance was brought before public attention not many years ago

which appeared to support the idea that this was much more common than was usually suspected, for it was found on opening many tombs for the purposes of subsequent interments in the same place that the faces of the parties previously interred were generally found turned downward. This was concluded to be evidence of the persons having awoke in the grave after their interment, and in their helpless and hopeless struggles for relief turning round upon their faces, and dying under these dark circumstances in despair. Fortunately a more careful investigation of the facts satisfactorily dispelled this truly horrible impression. It was found that, though the skull was face

downward,

it

was not until decay had so

far progressed

as to effect separation of the vertebrae of the neck that it was so, and that the rest of the skeleton still remained

upon its back. This fact was utterly at variance with the idea of the person having become alive in the tomb and afterwards dying of suffocation, because the position of the face downwards, and the body on its back, was
impossible as a result of voluntary action which any one may prove by attempting to turn the head round so as
to see directly behind him while retaining the breast in the opposite direction ; and a little further investigation showed that the skull when separated by decay from

the neck could not balance itself on the back of the head.

SUSPENDED ANIMATION.

411

but invariably turned round on the face under the law of


its

own

gravitation.

But though

this satisfactorily dis-

a most painful impression, it has neither fully dissipated the popular horror of being buried alive, nor disproved instances in which that has actually taken
pelled

and a general belief prevails that there are cases of unusually long-suspended animation, or asphyxia, under which the same thing is continually liable to be repeated.
place
;

That the medical profession have not been able to authenticate any such cases of long-continued asphyxia, or suspended animation, is however a very important fact.

To suspect that highly honourable profession of any collusive suppression on the subject seems impossible; but that the reader may fully understand the subject, and
ligence, let

place the question beyond suspicion to his own intelhim consider what the conditions of asphyxia,
or suspended animation, are. Now a complete cessation of the pulse, and a consequently complete stoppage in the
circulation of
pulsation, are

the blood, which cannot proceed without primary features of asphyxia; and such conditions have not been found capable of continuing beyond a certain time without such a change taking place in the stagnated blood as utterly unfits it from resuming
its

circulation

which are necessary

or retaining those elements to the resumption of

of vitality

human

life.

usually allowed for this fatal change taking place in the condition of the blood is that ascribed to
cases

The time

beyond which restoration from drowning, hanging, syncope or fainting, and suffocation, have never been known to take place, and is held by such experience not to exceed a few hours. On this subject an eminent " Where one dies suddenly authority, Mr. Smee, says
:

without a clear equivalent cause which is irremediable, the heat of the body should be maintained at least twelve hours

by hot

bottles,

and

artificial respiration

should be

at

412

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

tempted as for drowning. Remember 4hat the death may be only apparent, and your care may be repaid by the
inexpressible delight of seeing life gradually resumed and This excellent advice the party restored to his family." cannot be too carefully adhered to, for there can be no

doubt that where people have been buried alive culpable carelessness has had much to do with the matter. There
is

instances liable,

a condition to which humanity is in extraordinary where, without absolute asphyxia or

complete stoppage of the circulation, the pulsation may be so low that, though the person is only in a very profound state of prolonged sleep and low vitality, the
evidence of circulation in the blood and consequent pulsation majr escape ordinary attention, and the coldness of the breath, from the temperature of the body being allowed by those in attendance to get too low, may not
face. This, however, only a state of coma, will not deceive the competent physician, who in all such cases will be able at once to detect the difference between coma and asphyxia

even mist a mirror held before the

which

is

and the danger of interment alive to the sufferer will only occur where medical aid has not been called. Instances
of

coma being produced

artificially are said to

be

known
in

to the Hindoos, into


it,

who

will allow themselves to be thrown


alive,

and even buried

for

short periods,

shallow graves, where the porousness of the earth allows sufficient air to reach them for the low rate of respiration

which takes place while they are in that state. More astonishing instances occur among some of the othef animals that of bears in the northern districts of Europe

and elsewhere, which has been already referred to, being known. And those remarkable cases of toads found in stones in the course of quarrying, and other excavations of the earth's crust, where the animal must to all appearance have remained imprisoned for
sufficiently well

TOADS FOUND INCLOSED IN ROCKS.

413

thousands of years, are instances of vitality supported under circumstances so abnormal as to excite the utmost

wonder

at its tenacity. Such cases are manifestly not asphyxia, and can hardly be said to be even coma. The toad, as is well known to naturalists, is a foul-

blooded animal, and does not purify its blood perfectly at the lungs during circulation. It seems capable, therefore, of living

under similar circumstances to those under which thick-leaved plants exist in hermetically-closed conservatories without renewed air or water, and is able sufficiently to purify the air around it for the purposes
of
its

own

respiration.

It can, therefore, live in a less

quantity of air, and with a less degree of absolute purity in the atmosphere by which it is surrounded, than would

be possible for a pure-blooded animal, or one which, as an essential of its health, required to purify its blood
perfectly at the lungs.

But

it

is

well

known

that the

toad possesses remarkable powers of vitality in the earlier stages of its existence, i.e., when in the tadpole state, in which, with gills like a fish, it may be seen in our slow

running streams and stagnant pools during the period of its development as a small black comet-shaped creature, In this consisting of a round nucleus or head, and a tail. state, if separated from the head, the tail will continue to live, and even grow for many days while, in the meanwhile, the head grows a new tail for itself, repairing the injury and restoring the completeness of the animal.
;

But
is

this

power of
is

vitality in animals, as well as in plants,

in

many

instances

more remarkable than the above.

In plants, as
shoots is

well known, propagation by slips and oft' easily effected, and inversion of the whole

may be accomplished, for trees and shrubs capable of being propagated by cuttings seem generally to possess this remarkable peculiarity that
direction of vitality

either end of the cutting

may

be inserted into the ground

414

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

or into the stock in grafting, and the cutting will reverse the action of its fluids, and throw out its branches with a downward, instead of an upward tendency, such as we see in that plant

now

so

much
is

drooping ash,

which

cultivated, the weeping, or a tree grafted on this principle.

animals the polypes seem to possess still more wonderful powers of vitality. They are tube-like forms, and if turned inside out the outer coating will become a stomach, and the stomach an outer skin. They can be

Among

cut into pieces, and each piece will continue to live and become a perfect polype. If punctured, the punctured part will shoot forth a young polype, which may be cut off and separated from the parent, and cut into pieces, and each piece become an independent and perfect polype. The annelides, or earth-worms (Lumbricidce), seem possessed of These worms, like the leeches, are similar vital energies. hermaphrodites (Honoicous), the one end being male and the other female. If cut in two both ends will become separate individuals, and will grow into perfect worms by reproducing the ends of which they are deprived. Nothing is more common in turning up soil than to see worms with a thick and a thin end. These are worms which have been severed by the spade or other cause, the thick end being one of the halves of the original worm, and the thin end being a reproduction of the severed part. In such cases it might be said that the hermaphrodite is two

animals joined together, but capable of separate existence, and possessed of distinct and separable vitalities ; and so
of plants

capable

of

being

propagated by cuttings,

and of polypes that they are a combination of many distinct and separable vitalities, and capable, when severed from each other, of self-restoring powers the
:

plant restoring itself by reproducing the severed root, and the animal by reproducing the severed member. In

both plant and animal the hermaphrodite peculiarity in

DORMANT VITALITY.
such cases prevails.

415

The animal and the plant are equally capable of reproducing in the ordinary way, as well as by cuttings, and the long period during which vitality may be entirely dormant in plant life, as well as in some
In plants we have animals, bears a very close analogy. the example of the wheat, representing thousands of years of dormant life ; but it is also found, not only

mummy

that seeds

may

be kept for

many

to their vegetating power, but that

years without injury even the pollen or

yellow dust from the anthers of flowers may be kept for years, and afterwards used in hybridizing and in pro-

ducing seed. While in animal life, that of the toad, which we have already referred to, might be supplemented by
instances of the prolonged dormancy of eggs or and also by the remarkable experiments by Spallanzani, Davaine, Gavarret, and others with the Tardigrades and Rotifera, or Wheel Animalculae, which it has been found can be dried and moistened, or killed and revived as it was at one time considered, and the experiment repeated with them many times after intervals of years. At one time it was supposed these animalcule could bear to be perfectly desiccated, but more careful observation

many
ova,

has shown that, unless a small essential quantity of moisture remains in them, replacing them in water will fail to restore their vitality. Of course their vitality

never actually gone, it is merely in a state of suspension or dormancy. But these remarks are introduced less because they are
is

conclusions, than because they form the threshold, and merely the threshold, of an exceedingly great and interesting and, at the same time, utterly incomprehensible sub-

the great life chain of reality. Take up any link ject of this wonderful subject and examine it carefully, and we
will find that, instead of being within the range of intelligible and natural laws, we are altogether thrown out of

416

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

our logic into a region for which nature has no law, but is not the less a vivid reality, most deeply and permanently concerning ourselves. We have many wonderful statements in scientific works on the subject of matter

which

and
are

its divisibility.

It is stated, for example, that there

in the milt of a single codfish than there are men on the whole earth, and that a single grain of sand is larger than four millions of these animals.

more animals

But

let

us take

a moderate estimate of this fact, far


all

within the limits of truth, and therefore free from

hyperbole, for the purpose of reaching a deeper and more Let us, for interesting region of reality beyond it.

example, content ourselves with assuming that there are only ten millions of those animals in a single codfish, it follows that this single codfish was but one of ten
millions in the milt of
its

but one of ten millions in the milt of

progenitor, and that progenitor its parent, and so

on backward until you reach the three-hundredth ancestor in a direct line of reproduction ; and here you find the
its

fact utterly surpassing all our possible investigation into physical reality, but not the less a fact on that account,

must at that stage of his in the milt of his parent, and only, for we say, a millionth part the size of a grain of sand are speaking of the progeny in the milt, not in the roe
that this three-hundredth ancestor

existence

when he was

minute condition, we say, must have had within him in turn a progeny whose numbers in the three-hundredth generation after him would be so numerous that, were we to begin at the top of this page with the number ten millions, we should have to add as many ciphers as there is space for types in the whole page to note them down. Taking the page, then, at thirty- six lines of three inches long, we should have for this number a line
this animal in this

of figures, of the size of the present type, three yards long. Carrying this curious calculation back to the time

DIVISIBILITY OF

MATTER

FACTS BEYOND PHYSICS. 417


;

and

Augustus, the product would fill six pages of this work if extended in a single line of figures as large as our type would form a sum eighteen yards long carried back
:

to the founding of the Chinese Empire, according to some historians, it would fill thirteen of our pages, and give a

single line of figures thirty-nine yards long, as any of our readers may satisfy himself by multiplying the first

ten millions by ten millions for the succeeding year, and so on, and observing that each year adds seven ciphers to He has therefore merely to take the number the product. of years and add seven ciphers for each.

And

yet this

extraordinary result
it

is

probably as far within the mark as

may

at first sight appear hyperbolical

and excessive,
limits, that

for

we have not merely assumed, within our

the cod milt contains only ten millions, instead of more nearly eight or ten hundred millions, but that each fish

reproduces
time.

At

its species only once a year, and once in a lifethe same time it is not essential to our calcula-

tion, or its object, that these

animals do not

all

reach full

development and maturity ; it is enough for what we are about to observe on the subject that they exist even for only an instant at any stage of their vitality. Now we do
not state this for the purpose of illustrating the infinitesimal divisibility of matter, nor the extent of its practicable
divisibility in the hands of its great Maker and Master ; for while we freely and reverently acknowledge God's per-

fectly illimitable

we do not

believe that

omnipotence in this as in all directions, He has chosen to subdivide matter to


to think that various chemical

this degree,

and we venture

facts are inconsistent with

such a hypothesis.

We

think,

on the contrary, that we are on the verge of a new discovery, and a discovery with which we cannot hope to
laurel ourselves, for
little

we know

it will only, we fear, reveal to us how how little of palpable and unchallengeable

fact

and reality we ever here can hope to know.

In editing

418

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATUBAL MAGIC.

Joyce's Scientific Dialogues for Mr. Tegg, the present writer ventured, at p. 324 of that work, to say that, while it was impossible to conceive of any body or particle of

matter so small as not to have two surfaces, the one of which must be capable of physical separation from the other, had we means sufficiently fine to accomplish the
" yet there is reason to believe that the subseparation, division of matter stops short of this infinitesimal reducibility of parts in a definite and ultimate molecular form,

very minute indeed, but beyond which material elements never are divided, though it is of course impossible to
conceive that these molecules or atoms of matter are incapable of being divided still further had we the means ; only if further divided they would cease to be molecules,

and would only be fragments of molecules. Chemistry, from the proportions in which different elements chemically combine, has long pointed to, and now absolutely
demands, this solution of the structure of matter." The view above stated we find no good ground for qualifying here, even in the presence of the extraordinary fact as to reproduction in the codfish which has just been set forth,

and which
of

many

is greatly exceeded in the reproductive history other animals and in many plants. What we
is,

maintain

that the subdivision

we have

set forth in this

case of animated nature is far beyond the molecular, and very, very far beyond the possible organic subdivision of
that the hundredth promatter, taking nature as it is geny or descendant of a codfish has, consequently, no physical or organic existence whatever in its hundredth

ancestor or progenitor, and that its connection with its ancestor during the earlier stages of that ancestor's exist-

ence and development is not and cannot be a physical one. We do not at the same time deny that the connection
exists, or existed at that stage
;

on the contrary, we

affirm

that

it

did then exist, and was in the parent as essentially

NEW FACT
as the parent's

IN PHILOSOPHY.

419

But then
life

it

own life and reproductive powers were in it. must have been in it only in the condition of

in that mysterious yet real, but utterly incomprehensible state of dormant vitality, of which nature's laws

which hazy philosophies make the absolute and dominant


rule of everything in these days
slightest

knowledge, and material

can give us not the very criteria not the vestige

of available measurement.

There is certainly little corroboration to be derived from facts like the preceding in behalf of the ex nihilo
f"

nihil fit
all

philosophy.

It is a

remarkable circumstance that

who have ventured


fact,

to state these absolute

and ultimate

propositions have had but a very limited knowledge of


scientific
scientific

men.

even while claiming to be exclusively In the age in which these philosophies

sprang up all the science known, even had it been all comprehended in one mind, was, as compared with that of our own age, limited and imperfect. Among modern philo-

who have ventured to reproduce these propositions we have never found one who had a wide and comprehensive knowledge of comparative science who was more
sophers

than distinguished in some particular department within

which his knowledge was respectable enough and worthy of being received as authority, but beyond which it was all but contemptible and feebler than that of a child, as well as more erring because more confident who ever
could draw a wider analogy than that which his own limited department of study afforded, or look upon the illimitable range of general philosophy save with a mono-

chromatic vision coloured exclusively by the light per-

vading his own point of view. If all scientific knowledge when these propositions were first dogmatised was inadequate as a basis for ultimate and absolute conclusions,

how much

less

one branch of study

can the professor distinguished by merely now be justified in rearing up his

420

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATUBAL MAGIC.

solitary testimony in behalf of them when reproduced in an age like this, in which we are only beginning to feel

fully the littleness of achievement, the feebleness of


capacity,

human

and the inexhaustible harvest of eternal discovery and expansion before us ? " Through the EVIDENCE conOF THINGS viction, manifestation, demonstration, EAeyxoc

NOT SEEN
it

(for that is the apostolic and authoritative meaning of Christian FAITH, which those who do not know

"

call credulity), " we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things that are seen were not made of things which do appear." How far such a fact reaches through and beyond the uttermost depths

of present scientific achievement, even when we deal with the subject of Matter only What, for example, do we know or explain of any portion of matter by saying, really
!

in the ultimatum of scientific language, It is a primary element? "What is gold made of?" a child will ask of

" Gold a philosopher. why gold is gold it is a primary dear it is nothing but gold :" so replies the my scientific sage. "Yes, but what is it made of?" insists
!

element,

the pertinacious child for a child is a healthy inquirer, and has not learned to be silenced with an unsatisfactory " answer. What can it be made of but gold ?" says the " stultified philosopher ; chemistry can reduce it into But the child is not nothing else gold is gold."
;

He is not yet acquainted with Mammon's but on the whole approximately satisfactory fluctuating, solution of its value he is not questioning his broker, and is innocent of the ways of 'Change, so he pecks
answered.
;

another fathom deep into the wisdom of the vexed philosopher, and spits him through his shallows with the broad

and startlingly assertive proposition, " But gold must be made of something ;" and then, petulantly reiterative, add* " What is it made of?" The philosopher, rememberin when he also had such a question suggested by his ow

SUPERIORITY OF A CHILD'S LOGIC.


mind, feels that he

421

is on the verge of a primeval headache, and seeing the vivacious child attracted by some new subject, waits till his attention is fairly tackled, and

quietly leaves the throne of philosophy vacant. But the child is right after all, and how clearly and confidently he knows it ! Gold is made of something. It

and

has a molecular structure of some kind, apart from which cease to be gold, its chemical ratios it would
chemically and monetarily. Its ultimate molecule, whether

we

are right in all

we have

said of

its

structure

in

Joyce's Scientific Dialogues, p. 324, or not, is divisible into something else could we but reach it, and its molecular structure once divided its whole chemical ratios and

combinations would be destroyed. be satisfied with the fact that gold

The
is

philosopher

may

gold, but the unso phisticated child will reason straight up to his Maker, and be satisfied with no explanation short of that which
satisfies all his

who

could

awed and deep-felt consciousness that He make himself could also make gold, whatever

lesser

ultimatum science may proclaim on the basis of This primary and hypothetically irresoluble elements.
is

not quite intuition in a child, it is the honest energy of unvitiated dialectics penetrating to the legitimate ultimatum of all causation the only possible source of those
:

things not seen which the apostle and our own experience alike demonstrate to us have their evidence in the meta-

The child physical existence and consciousness of us all. knows he has been but recently brought into existence
and by a competent Power which he perceives b$ analogy to be competent to bring anything else into exIn mathematical language, the first of these facts istence.
himself,
is

an axiom, the second explanatory, are at least proposition that gold is on any axiomatic

is its corollary

irresistibly convincing.

and both, if not But the

self-existent is a hypothesis not

premise.

Gold, we know, has a

422

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

which we find can be chemically acted on. But structure implies construction, and therefore gold must have been constructed. We also know that selfexistence must reside, not in the thing constructed, but in the primary constructor and thus we analytically prove
structure
;

the superiority of a child's logic over that of a philosopher. It may be asked, why does man as he grows up lose this
originally high and clear reasoning power reaching to absolute conclusions ? The answer is, that as man grows up

he acquires bias, and starts favourite theories and hypotheses within the limits of his powers. It is the unvitiated
candour of a child that constitutes
conclusiveness
its superiority and its to the utmost penetrable limits. reaching

Here in a department then of distinctly demonstrable and experienced scientific fact we have as it were the evidence that from the Creator's vital energy all conscious existence has been produced, in that He has conferred upon vitality a reproductive power which would be almost as wonderful as his own, were it, like his, exerted by an absolute, conscious, and fully enlightened volition.

What

a marvellous essence then


life
!

of us all called

An

is this intrinsic element element whose association with

physical nature is merely factitious, not inherent which requires no physical space for its accommodation, and

does not disturb the quiescence, nor displace the juxtaposition or volume of matter while traversing through or touching it. Matter may touch matter, and cause motion
or action in
it
;

but while

life

may

also touch matter,

and

by

its

when
plants

presence endow it with vital powers, it is not, save associated with feeling, as in animals but not in
conscious of

its contact with the matter in which any more than a stone is conscious of contact with a stone, where the contact is not the less real that
it exists,

consciousness does not perceive it. Life may indeed cause motion in matter, but not by direct but only by

CONCLUSION.
secondary agency

423

We may place
of will

it must use matter to act on matter. hand on an object, and vainly by force endeavour, because our vital power is placed in

the

simple contact with it, to make that object move. We must use the physical power of the hand to compel the motion we require ; so that the will, without the physical

But in such a case as the practically nothing. of animal forms which has just been referred reproduction to, how divisible must this vital principle Life be, which
agency,
is

The yet itself requires no physical space to contain it divisibility of matter is a fact obvious and apparent, but
!

this divisibility of life, associated as it is in

man

with an

and incomprehensible divisibility of mind and feeling, is a metaphysical phenomenon inherently all that importantly and essentially constitutes oui'selves before which the facts of natural magic within their physical limits dwarf into insignificance, and which makes us, even in this life, denizens of a reality wholly
equally
extensive

beyond their range.

The philosophers of fixity would tell us that two and two cannot make any other number than four; that it is impossible they can make any other number even with God, and that Omnipotence itself has here a limit. How would such theorists of the abstract-absolute explain that
demonstration of Omnipotence in the concrete, by which life in the Polypes and Annelides is capable of being subdivided from one life into many distinct and inde-

pendent lives ? Even accepting the theory that a polype may be a combination of many lives in one, this explanation, if it could be substantiated in that case, would not
apply to a
that a

a duplex animal, or two animals in one, that fact would not explain how by being cut in halves it became two such duplex animals instead of one, or four animals instead of two. We can a hermaphrodite
is

worm worm as

to the

same

extent.

For even assuming

424

ADDITIONAL PHENOMENA OF NATURAL MAGIC.

understand the separation of the material part or body of the animal, for the matter of the one is not the matter of the other, but we cannot so easily understand the
division of one life into two lives, or two lives into four, for that is changing an identity into more than one.

Perhaps the Unitarians, who have so long denied the existence of the Trinity, on the ground of its absolute
impossibility, will aid us with their logical taper here. Some of our readers will possibly think the argument am

ad hominem might be applied to us on this subject, on the ground of what we have said ourselves in a preceding page as to the fixity of truth, but it must be borne in mind that we have never with the inherent consciousness of our own purely contingent and dependent existence
ventured to assert, or been able to find any ground for asserting, the essential fixity and unchangeableness of
anything, as being positive, eternal, or superior to Omnipotence,

and we have nowhere found science able to de-

monstrate anything of the kind. Manifestly nothing is absolutely fixed in this life but by the choice of Omnipotence,

and only during the pleasure of

that Great

Power

and

scientific

men may

ridicule

miracles, and talk of

impossibility as they will, while they cannot demonstrate to themselves, or to any one else, the primary law of their

own

existence, or the permanency of it, or that what is what they are most sure about, viz., their own lives may
not cease to be.

If this, then, be all the certainty of what men are most sure of, what becomes of other realities on the argument of analogy ? Change is everywhere, and something more than change in the mysterious region of vitality creation and extinction, increase and diminution,

numerical as well as quantitative, are everywhere.

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