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Title: A World of Wonders - With Anecdotes and Opinions Concerning Popular Superstitions
Author: Various
Language: English
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A WORLD OF WONDERS.



  A WORLD OF WONDERS,
  WITH
  ANECDOTES AND OPINIONS
  CONCERNING
  POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.


  EDITED BY
  ALBANY POYNTZ.


  LONDON:
  RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET,
  Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
  1845.



  LONDON:
  Printed by Schulze and Co., 13, Poland Street.



PREFACE.


It is surprising, considering the gigantic strides effected by modern
science, how many of the errors and prejudices engendered by the ignorance
of the dark ages remain current in the world in its present days of
enlightenment. Like the winged seeds of certain weeds, their light and
impalpable nature renders them only the more difficult of extirpation.

A cursory review and refutation of these popular prejudices and vulgar
errors has been attempted in the following Manual. A more scientific
analysis of so spreading a field would have expanded into a Cyclopædia.
But the ancient traditions and modern instances collected in its pages may
afford the reader amusement and instruction for the passing hour, as well
as an incentive to more profound investigations in hours to come.

      LONDON,
  NOVEMBER, 1845.



CONTENTS.


                                                              PAGE

  CHAPTER I.
    LONGEVITY OF ANIMALS                                      1-10

  CHAPTER II.
    INCOMBUSTIBLE MEN                                        11-22

  CHAPTER III.
    VENTRILOQUISTS                                           23-31

  CHAPTER IV.
    POPE JOAN AND THE WANDERING JEW                          32-36

  CHAPTER V.
    THE FABLES OF HISTORY                                    37-45

  CHAPTER VI.
    MELONS AND MONSTERS                                      46-53

  CHAPTER VII.
    THE JEWS                                                 54-60

  CHAPTER VIII.
    VERBAL DELICACY                                          61-64

  CHAPTER IX.
    AEROLITES AND MIRACULOUS SHOWERS                         65-74

  CHAPTER X.
    NOSTRUMS AND SPECIFICS                                   75-82

  CHAPTER XI.
    PHYSIOGNOMISTS                                           83-95

  CHAPTER XII.
    LAST WORDS OF DYING PERSONS                              96-98

  CHAPTER XIII.
    THE ANTIPODES--MORNING AND EVENING DEW                  99-102

  CHAPTER XIV.
    PERPETUAL LAMPS AND ARCHIMEDES                         103-109

  CHAPTER XV.
    THE LYNX AND THE CAMELEON                              110-115

  CHAPTER XVI.
    WILD WOMEN                                             116-118

  CHAPTER XVII.
    SYBILS                                                 119-123

  CHAPTER XVIII.
    FORTUNE-TELLERS AND CHIROMACY                          124-130

  CHAPTER XIX.
    ALBERTUS MAGNUS AND NOSTRADAMUS                        131-137

  CHAPTER XX.
    LEECHES, SERPENTS, AND THE SONG OF THE DYING SWAN      138-146

  CHAPTER XXI.
    NEGROES                                                147-160

  CHAPTER XXII.
    FASCINATION; OR, THE ART OF PLEASING                   161-170

  CHAPTER XXIII.
    THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE                                171-177

  CHAPTER XXIV.
    GIANTS AND DWARFS                                      178-183

  CHAPTER XXV.
    ASTROLOGY                                              184-190

  CHAPTER XXVI.
    THE MOON AND LUNAR INFLUENCE                           191-193

  CHAPTER XXVII.
    APPARITIONS                                            194-201

  CHAPTER XXVIII.
    NOBILITY AND TRADE                                     202-208

  CHAPTER XXIX.
    MERIT AND POPULARITY                                   209-219

  CHAPTER XXX.
    COMETS                                                 220-223

  CHAPTER XXXI.
    POPULAR ERRORS                                         224-232

  CHAPTER XXXII.
    DREAMS                                                 233-237

  CHAPTER XXXIII.
    PREJUDICES ATTACHED TO CERTAIN ANIMALS                 238-243

  CHAPTER XXXIV.
    CONTENT AND COURTESY                                   244-248

  CHAPTER XXXV.
    THE DIVINING ROD                                       249-254

  CHAPTER XXXVI.
    BEES AND ANTS                                          255-260

  CHAPTER XXXVII.
    PREPOSSESSIONS AND ANTIPATHIES                         261-265

  CHAPTER XXXVIII.
    THE INFLUENCE OF BELLS UPON THUNDER STORMS             266-269

  CHAPTER XXXIX.
    SMALL POX AND VACCINATION                              270-273

  CHAPTER XL.
    PRECOCIOUS AND CLEVER CHILDREN                         274-279

  CHAPTER XLI.
    EDUCATION OF CHILDREN                                  280-282

  CHAPTER XLII.
    PREJUDICES OF THE FRENCH                               283-288

  CHAPTER XLIII.
    MONSTROUS BIRTHS                                       289-293

  CHAPTER XLIV.
    THE ICHNEUMON AND THE HALCYON                          294-295

  CHAPTER XLV.
    SORCERERS AND MAGICIANS                                296-300

  CHAPTER XLVI.
    MALE AND FEMALE                                        301-307

  CHAPTER XLVII.
    MINOR SUPERSTITIONS                                    308-309

  CHAPTER XLVIII.
    SOMNAMBULISM                                           310-314

  CHAPTER XLIX.
    A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT GHOSTS AND VAMPIRES, AND
    LOUP-GAROUX                                            315-344

  CHAPTER L.
    APOCRYPHAL ANIMALS                                     345-352

  CHAPTER LI.
    PROFESSIONS ESTEEMED INFAMOUS                          353-356

  CHAPTER LII.
    SUPERNATURAL HUMAN BEINGS                              357-361



A WORLD OF WONDERS.



CHAPTER I.

LONGEVITY OF ANIMALS.


Most scholars are familiar with the quotation "cervi dicuntur diutissime
vivere," which has rendered proverbial the longevity of the stag. Among
birds, crows and parrots have also been said to attain miraculous length
of days; among fishes, the carp and pike; among reptiles, the tortoise.
But modern investigation has sufficiently proved that the number of
centuries, variously assigned as the natural age of these birds, beasts
and fishes, was, in the first instance, the invention of poets and
fabulists, carelessly adopted as authentic by lovers of the marvellous.

It is now ascertained that aloes frequently flower three times in a
hundred years, and that three generations of the stag are included
within the same space of time.

Hesiod, an ancient Greek poet whose works have only partially reached us,
was the first to institute a comparative inquiry into the age of the crow
and the stag. Hesiod assigns eighty-six years as the average span of human
life; yet he asserts that the rook attains eight hundred and sixty-four
years, and the crow thrice as many. Towards the stag, he is still more
liberal; declaring that these animals have been known to attain their
thirty-fifth century. Considering the age we assign to the world itself
when Hesiod flourished in it, no great experience as to the average
existence of so sempiternal an animal could have influenced his opinion.

According to many ancient writers besides Hesiod, the stag is the longest
lived of animals; and the Egyptians have adopted it as the emblem of
longevity. Pliny relates that one hundred years after the death of
Alexander, several stags were taken in the different forests of Macedonia,
to whose necks that great monarch had, with his own hand, attached
collars. This extension of existence is, however, scarcely worth
recording, in comparison with the instance commemorated by French
historians, of a stag taken in the forest of Senlis, in the year 1037;
having a collar round its neck on which was inscribed, "Cæsar hoc me
donavit."

A miraculous interpretation was assigned to this inscription, which has
consequently formed the ground-work of a popular error in France. The
"Cæsar" of the legend was admitted, without further examination, to be
Julius Cæsar, thereby allotting ten centuries as the age of the animal;
nay, seventy-seven years more, seeing that Julius Cæsar conquered Gaul
forty-two years before the birth of Christ. Nevertheless since the days of
Julius, the title of Cæsar had been bestowed on a sufficient number of
imperial potentates to explain the inscription on the collar upon more
rational grounds: the Cæsar who had thus adorned the stag being in all
probability its contemporary. But this was too simple an interpretation to
be acceptable to those wonder-seeking times.

Aristotle decided the age of the stag, not from the showing of poets and
traditions, but from the indications of experiment. Having dissected a
considerable number of these animals, he pronounced their ordinary age to
be was from thirty to thirty-six years. Buffon was of a similar opinion,
which has been adopted by most succeeding naturalists. It has been
established as a law of comparative physiology, that the life of a
mammiferous animal is in proportion to its period of gestation, and the
duration of its growth. The sheep and goat, who bear their young five
months, and whose growth lasts two years, live from eight to ten, The
horse, which is borne ten months, and whose growth requires from five to
six years, lives from thirty to forty. We are, of course, speaking of the
horse in its natural state, uninjured by premature and excessive labour.
When submitted to the hands of man, the noble animal is condemned to
premature old age, by the application of spur and thong before it attains
sufficient strength for the unnatural speed it is compelled to attempt,
and the burthens it is forced to bear. Nor, even under these
circumstances, is it allowed to attain the span of life assigned by
nature; the hand of the knacker being put in request to end its days, the
moment its services cease to be profitable to its master.

The camel, which is borne ten months, and requires four years for its
bodily development, usually attains the age of fifty. The elephant,
requiring a year's gestation, attains the climax of its growth at thirty,
and lives to a hundred. The gestation of a stag, therefore, being but of
eight months, there is no reason to infer a deviation in its favour from
the laws governing the nature of all other animals of the same genus.

"The stag," says Buffon, "whose growth requires six years, lives from
thirty to forty. The prodigious age originally ascribed to this animal, is
a groundless invention of the poets, of which Aristotle demonstrated the
absurdity."

A variety of instances of the miraculous longevity of animals may be found
in the works of the early German naturalists. It is related in the
collection of Voyages and Travels of Malte Brun, on the showing of these
authorities, that the Emperor Frederick II. having been presented with a
singularly fine pike, caused it to be thrown into a pond adjoining his
palace of Kaiserslautern, after affixing to it a collar bearing the
following Greek inscription: "I am the first fish cast into this pond by
the hands of the Emperor Frederick II.; October 5th, 1230."

After remaining two hundred and sixty years in the pond, the pike was
taken in 1497, and carried to Heidelberg, to be served at the table of the
Elector Philip; when the collar and inscription were subjected to the
examination of the curious. The pike, at that time, weighed three hundred
and fifty pounds, and was nineteen feet in length--a miraculous fish in
every respect; for how are we to suppose that an inscription upon an
elastic collar would otherwise remain legible at the close of several
centuries? This story is evidently one of the marvels that figure so
profusely in the chronicles of old Germany during the middle ages.

It has, however, often been asserted that aquatic animals are longer-lived
than others, from being cold-blooded, and losing nothing from
transpiration; though, from their peculiar nature, the fact is very
difficult of demonstration. Fordyce made some curious experiments upon the
tenacity of life in fishes; by placing gold fishes in a variety of vessels
filled with water; which, at first, he refreshed every day; then, every
third day, with which refreshment, and without other nourishment, they
lived for fifteen months. He next distilled the water; increased the
proportion of air in the vessels; and closed the apertures, so that no
insect could possibly penetrate. Nevertheless, the fish lived as before,
and were in good condition.

The experimentalist now decided that the decomposition of the air afforded
them sufficient nutriment; by this theory invalidating the proverb 'that
it is impossible to live on air.'

Without impugning the authenticity of these experiments, or the easy
sustenance of fishes, we may be permitted to observe that a variety of
circumstances are unfavourable to the fact of their miraculous longevity.
In the first place, their organization, especially that of the carp which
is supposed to be one of the longest-lived of fishes, is peculiarly
delicate; and the muscular effort to move in an element eight hundred
times heavier than atmospheric air, must be apt to exhaust the energies of
life. Such are the suggestions of common sense; too often unavailing
against the marvels of tradition, accepted by the credulity of mankind.

The Parisians delight in boasting of the age of the venerable carp in the
reservoirs at Fontainebleau and Chantilly; the former especially, as
contemporary with Francis I. Other credulous persons declare that there
exist gigantic carp many centuries old, in the water beneath the Cathedral
of Strasbourg--a fact easily asserted because impossible to disprove.

With respect to the tame old carp at Fontainebleau, which come to the
surface of the water to be fed by every visitor to that curious old
palace, the only grounds for asserting their great age is the inconclusive
fact, that there were tame old grey carp in the moat of Fontainebleau in
the reign of Francis I., as at the present time. But who is to prove that
they are identical? There were also troops and courtiers at Fontainebleau
at both epochs, whom it would be just as reasonable to assert were the
same persons. The only difference is that the generations of men are
visibly renewed; while the carp in the old moat slip away unnoticed, and
are succeeded by a younger fry.

The longevity of certain species of the feathered kind has been just as
much exaggerated as that of the stag and the carp. Willoughby states in
his work on Ornithology, that a friend of his possessed a gander eighty
years of age; which in the end became so ferocious that they were forced
to kill it, in consequence of the havock it committed in the barn-yard.
He also talks of a swan three centuries old; and several celebrated
parrots are said to have attained from one hundred to one hundred and
fifty years.

The experiments of able naturalists afford the best answer to such
statements. According to the best established authorities, pigeons, fowls,
and ducks, live, in a natural state, from ten to twelve years. Magpies,
crows, and jays, evince symptoms of caducity at the same age. Professor
Hufeland, of Jena, who has devoted considerable time and attention to the
study of the duration of life, assures us that the great eagle, and other
birds of the larger kind, such as the pelican and ostrich, are very
long-lived and of vigorous constitution. Specimens of the eagle tribe have
been known, however, to survive in a menagerie upwards of a hundred years.

Hufeland relates that a Mr. Selwand, of London, received in 1793, from the
Cape of Good Hope, a falcon wearing a golden collar inscribed "To His
Majesty, King James of England, 1610." The bird was supposed to have
belonged to James I., and having escaped from its keepers, in order to
avoid recapture, to have traversed Europe and Africa, to end its days in a
state of nature among the Hottentots! Destiny, however, was not to be
defied; and the prisoner was recaptured in its old age, and sent back to
England. This incident probably originated in a hoax upon the credulity
of Mr. Selwand, practised by one of his colonial correspondents. Moreover,
Hufeland, after publishing his conviction of the prodigious longevity of
the eagle tribe, was himself very likely to become the object of one of
those mystifications, for which the supporters of new theories are
considered fair game.

Credulity is unfortunately a weakness common to the human race; and a
tendency to exaggeration is scarcely less universal. Between the two
failings, monstrous stories obtain circulation; and as it is easier to
assent than examine, the world becomes overrun with errors and prejudices.
A curious anecdote related from mouth to mouth, becomes exaggerated into a
miracle. Thus, as regards the longevity of parrots, a bird of this species
which happens to survive three generations of the same family, though the
period may not exceed thirty years, is talked of in the circle of their
acquaintance as a Nestor or Methuselah; till, at last, from exaggeration
to exaggeration, its age becomes converted into a miracle. No one,
however, can personally attest the age of a parrot beyond fifty or sixty
years. All the rest must be hearsay.

Among curious examples of longevity in animals, the dog of Ulysses is
cited, by many ancient authors, for the intelligence displayed in his
recognition of his master after twenty years' absence. A mule, which
lived to the age of ninety years, at Athens, has also been frequently
cited.

The historian, Mézéray, relates, on the authority of Flodard, that Loup
Asnard, Duke of Aquitaine, on coming to do homage to Raoul, King of
France, about the beginning of the tenth century, appeared before the
monarch mounted on a horse a hundred years old. Such exceptions, however,
even if authentic, tend no more to prove the longevity of dogs, horses or
mules, than the incontestible fact that certain men, even in modern times,
have survived to the age of a century and a half, tend to establish that
period as the span of human existence.



CHAPTER II.

INCOMBUSTIBLE MEN.


There are instances in which it may be fairly said that seeing is not
believing. In the case of a variety of persons who have exhibited
themselves, in different times and countries, as endowed with the natural
power of resistance to fire, the frightful feats displayed serve only to
convince the spectator, that the incombustibility of the exhibitants is
but a skilful effort of legerdemain.

It may be observed that the persons who pretend to this miraculous
faculty, seldom expose themselves to the hazard of the investigations of
the scientific world. For the exhibition of their exploits, they usually
prefer small towns to great cities. In former days, incombustible men
assumed, in Spain, the name of _saludores_; and most of those who have
since exhibited in public their insensibility to fire, are descendants or
imitators of these Spanish mountebanks. The _saludores_, however,
pretended to a power of curing all sorts of diseases by means of their
saliva; whereas, the incombustible individuals who have figured in France
and Germany, pretend only to handle fire with impunity, to swallow boiling
oil, walk upon glowing embers, or even among flames; all which exploits
they accomplish with perfect self-possession. So long as two hundred years
ago, however, the _saludores_ were recognised as impostors. Leonard Vain
relates a story of one of them, who, having pretended to the faculty of
sustaining the heat of a kindled oven, was forced by the populace into
one, without sufficient preparation; on opening which, at the close of an
hour, the man was found to be calcined. A somewhat severe mode of
punishing imposture!

This example, however, did not serve to extinguish the race; and in 1806,
a man who called himself the miraculous Spaniard, opened an exhibition in
Paris, where he renewed all the skilful marvels of his predecessors, by
walking barefooted on red hot iron, drawing heated bars across his arms,
face and tongue, dipping his hands in molten lead, and swallowing, as if
with zest, a glass of boiling oil. This exhibition, to which the idlers of
the French capital resorted, produced a careful examination into the
precedents of antiquity for similar instances of incombustibility.

Some cited the well-known lines of Virgil, with reference to the
exhibitions of the priests of Apollo, on Mount Soracte, where they walked
unhurt, in presence of the worshippers of their divinity, upon burning
embers. Others quoted the equally doubtful authority of Pliny; who relates
the same fact, adding that the privilege of incombustibility was
hereditary in a specific family; a fact the more remarkable, because all
the modern jugglers in this branch of the black art, pretend to descend
from St. Catherine.

Varro, less credulous than Pliny, expressly states that the priests of the
Temple of Soracte possessed the secret of a composition which rendered
them fire-proof.

Long after Varro, Strabo related that the votaries of the goddess Feronia
obtained, as the price of their devotions, the faculty of walking unhurt
over burning piles; and that the exhibition of this miraculous power
before her altars, attracted numerous spectators.

"The worship of the goddess Feronia," says Strabo, "is much in vogue; her
temple being remarkable as the site of a miracle. Those persons whose
prayers the goddess deigns to propitiate, are enabled to defy the most
ardent flames. This miracle is renewed at her annual festival."

It is also related that, not far from the city of Thyane, the birth-place
of Apollonius, there was a celebrated temple dedicated to Diana Persica;
the virgins devoted wherein to the worship of the goddess of Chastity,
possessed the power and privilege of treading unhurt upon burning embers.
A confirmation of these wonders is to be found in Aristotle and Apuleius.

When the visitors of the miraculous Spaniard had satisfied themselves,
that antiquity supplied a variety of examples in substantiation of the
power to which he pretended, modern history was searched for further
attestation; when it appeared that Ambrose Paré and Cardan, depose to
having seen mountebanks so inured to the effects of molten lead and
boiling oil, that they were able to wash their faces and hands, unhurt,
with those terrible materials. Delrio, Delancre, and Bodin, advance many
curious facts of a similar nature.

Had these incombustible individuals existed in the days when trial by
ordeal was still a form of law; or, rather, had the Art of Chemistry
attained at that period the power of hardening the human skin into
resistance of fire, the secret would have been invaluable.

In those barbarous ages, a culprit sentenced to the fiery ordeal of
walking upon heated ploughshares, or plunging his limbs into boiling oil,
was tacitly condemned to death. We may infer, however, that Kings, Queens,
and Dignitaries of the Church were of a less combustible nature than
humbler mortals; for when these were forced to submit to the terrible
ordeal of fire, it was observed that they escaped unsinged; while serfs
and beggars, burnt like tinder: an understanding with the cruel
executioners of these savage laws, being essential to establish the
innocence of an accused person.

It would appear as though a sinister influence had always attached itself
to the ill-fated See of Autun; for one of the first instances on record of
the ordeal of fire being applied to a member of the hierarchy, was that of
Simplicius, Bishop of Autun, who, after submitting to it in his life-time,
was canonized after death. Two later Bishops of Autun--the Abbé Roquette,
said to be the original of the Tartuffe of Molière, and the Prince de
Talleyrand, one of the most remarkable personages of modern times, have
certainly not experienced the same posthumous distinction.

Simplicius, being a married man, when called to the honours of the See of
Autun, repudiated his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached. He was,
nevertheless, accused of retaining her conjugally in his palace after his
promotion to the mitre; in disproof of which, he submitted, and caused his
beloved wife to submit to the fiery ordeal in presence of a vast
congregation; when, both having escaped unhurt, Simplicius was eventually
promoted to the honour of the Calendar.

St. Brie, the successor of St. Martin in the See of Tours, was also
accused of having become a father, to the discredit of his episcopal
functions; a charge he is said to have defeated by bestowing powers of
speech upon the infant, thereby enabling it to name its real father. In
addition to this exculpation, he submitted to the fiery ordeal; and having
gathered up his robe, and filled it with burning embers, proceeded in this
guise to the tomb of his predecessor, St. Martin, without experiencing the
slightest injury. It is not added in the legend, whether the garments of
the Bishop were also uninjured.

One of the most celebrated trials by fire on record, is that of
Thuitberge, wife of Lothaire, King of France. Having been accused of more
than becoming intimacy with the young Prince, her brother, and condemned
to the ordeal, she had the good fortune to find a champion willing to
undertake it in her behalf. These champions or proxies were tantamount to
the special pleaders of the present day, being mostly hired by fee or
reward for the purpose. The champion of Thuitberge managed to establish
her innocence, by plunging his arm without injury into a cauldron of
boiling water; after which, Lothaire was compelled to admit the injustice
of his accusation, and retain her as his wife. Even at that epoch,
however, mistrust had arisen on this score; and certain servitors of the
King openly insinuated the existence of chemical compositions, by the
application of which a man might fortify his flesh against the action of
boiling fluids. Appeal from the decision of an ordeal was, however,
decided to be impossible.

A celebrated Father of the Oratoire, the Père Lebrun, published a recipe
purporting to insure impunity against fire; consisting of equal parts of
alcohol, sulphur, ammonia, essence of rosemary, and onion juice. At the
moment Père Lebrun was devoting himself to experiments on the mysteries of
incombustibles, an English practician, named Richardson, was amazing the
world of science by the performance of prodigies. This person contrived to
walk upon burning embers, to place burning sulphur upon his hand, then
transferring it to his tongue, allow it to consume away without apparent
injury. He also allowed a piece of meat, or an oyster, to be cooked upon
his tongue; the fire for the purpose being kept up in a live coal by a
pair of bellows. He was also able to grasp a red hot bar of iron, and even
seize it between his teeth; to swallow molten glass and a mixture of
burning pitch and sulphur, so that the flames burst from his mouth as from
that of a furnace; just as common mountebanks emit fire from their mouths
by means of a coal wrapt in tow, which has been previously steeped in
spirits of wine.

These experiments attracted so much attention, that scientific men
considered them deserving notice; and in 1677, Dodart, of the French
Academy of Sciences, addressed a letter on the subject to the Journal de
Science, proving that such phenomena might be achieved by time, address,
and perseverance, without the intervention of chemical agency. The
ordinary hardening of the hands and feet by labour and exercise, certainly
induce a belief that perseverance in the same means might be made to
produce absolute callosity.

It is well known, that bakers are remarkable for the muscularity of their
arms and slightness of their legs; while dancers have usually slender arms
and muscular legs. The difference of exercise, necessitated by their
several professions, producing diverse development of limb. On the other
hand, there is no need to compare the sole of the foot of a lady who
seldom goes out, unless in a carriage, or treads on any other material
than luxurious carpets, with that of a peasant who goes bare-footed on the
flinty road, without inconvenience, to be assured that the same degree of
boiling water which could be sustained by the latter without
inconvenience, would blister the delicate epidermis of the former.

Dodart observes that, in the ordinary circumstances of life, some people
are able to swallow their food much hotter than others; and that, as
regards the experiments of Richardson, charcoal loses its heat the moment
it is extinguished, and is easily extinguished by means of the human
saliva. It is a common trick of jugglers to put lighted tapers into their
mouths; and in the attempts made by Richardson to cook a piece of meat
upon his tongue, the slice was made so to envelop the ember, as to secure
his mouth from contact with the fire; while the bellows used during the
process, on pretence of keeping up the flame, were on the contrary,
intended to cool the mouth. As to the mixtures of boiling wax, pitch and
sulphur, Dodart states their temperature to have been such, that he could
hold his finger in them two seconds without pain. It is well known that
the workmen in the foundries are so inured to heat, as to touch, without
injury, metals in a state of fusion; frequently plunging their hands into
molten lead, in order to recover articles of value. Moreover, as regards
any ignited substance placed in the mouth, it naturally becomes
extinguished the moment the lips are reclosed; the gas from the human
lungs tending especially to that purpose.

About the year 1774, there lived at the foundry of Laune, a man who could
walk unharmed over bars of red-hot iron, and hold burning coals in his
hands. The skin of this man was observed to emit a sort of unctuous
transpiration, which served as his preservative.

These facts suffice to prove that the miraculous Spaniard, who affected
preternatural incombustibility, had no need of magic for the working of
his wonders. For another case, equally remarkable, we are indebted to
Sementini, an eminent Professor of Chemistry at Naples.

A Sicilian, named Lionetti, came to that city for the purpose of
exhibiting feats of incombustibility; and soon excited public astonishment
by his power of drawing a red-hot plate of iron over his hair without
singeing it, on which he afterwards stamped with his naked feet. He also
drew rods of red-hot iron through his mouth, swallowed boiling oil, dipped
his fingers in molten lead, and dropped some on his tongue. He fearlessly
exposed his face to the flames of burning oil; poured sulphuric or
muriatic acid upon lighted embers, and imbibed the fumes; ending by
allowing a thick gold pin to be thrust deep into his flesh.

The Neapolitans were as much enchanted by the feats of Lionetti as the
Parisian with those of the incombustible Spaniard. But at Naples,
Sementini, who was on the watch, perceived that, at the moment the
fire-proof man applied the heated materials to his skin, there escaped a
whitish vapour. Instead of swallowing a glass of boiling oil, according to
his announcement, he introduced only a quarter of a spoonful into his
mouth, and a few drops of molten lead upon his tongue, which was covered
with a white fur, like the secretion perceptible in cases of fever. When
he took the hot iron between his teeth, symptoms of suppressed pain were
perceptible; and the edges of his teeth were evidently charred by previous
performances of a similar description. From these appearances, Sementini
inferred that Lionetti made use of certain preparations which secured him
against the influence of heat, by hardening the epidermis; and that his
skin having become callous from use, was in itself able to resist, to a
certain degree, the action of fire. These conclusions, which concur with
those made by Dodart, in the case of Richardson, were verified by personal
observation and careful experiment.

After many fruitless attempts to discover the chemical agents used by the
Incombustibles, the persevering Sementini found that by frequent frictions
of sulphuric acid, he was able to inure his flesh to the contact of
red-hot iron; and we are bound to admire the patience and courage of those
who, for the benefit of scientific discovery, attempt experiments of so
powerful and perilous a nature. To have exposed a fallacy in matters of
science, is equal to the discovery of a fact; and the extirpation of a
single error or false conclusion from the popular mind, is an act
deserving of gratitude.

Sementini found that by bathing the parts thus deprived of their usual
sensitiveness with a solution of alum, their former sensibility to heat
was restored; and one day, happening to smear with soap the parts he had
re-softened in this manner with alum, he found, to his great surprise,
that they became hardened anew against the action of heat. The
experimentalist instantly applied to his tongue a preparation of soap, and
found that it enabled him to defy the contact of iron heated to a white
heat. To neutralize the faculty thus acquired, he had only to sprinkle his
tongue with sugar; a new application of soap serving at any moment to
render it fire-proof.

By these experiments, in various countries, the pretension to a
supernatural power of incombustibility has been reduced to its true level.
The Priests of Soracte, the Virgins of Diana, the Champion of Queen
Thuitberge, and the Bishop of Autun, were doubtless adepts in the art of
the miraculous Spaniard; and according to the recipe of Sementini, a man
may be enabled to defy the element of fire as successfully as an expert
swimmer overmasters that of water, or an experienced aëronaut of air.



CHAPTER III.

VENTRILOQUISTS.


Ventriloquists are a better order of jugglers than the Incombustibles. The
feats of the latter are doubtless more surprising--the former, far more
amusing. To behold a man expose himself to even the semblance of a cruel
torture, affords a disgusting species of excitement; and such exhibitions
as those we have described, the feat of swallowing naked swords, or the
favourite practice of placing in contact with half-tamed beasts of prey a
human being who submits to the risk for the sake of a scanty remuneration,
is an order of public entertainment that does little honour to the taste
of the listless spectator.

To witness feats of ventriloquism, on the contrary, is a diverting and
harmless pastime; though, had Messieurs Comte and Alexandre exhibited
their marvellous powers in the olden time, there is some probability that
they might have been exposed to jeopardy as sorcerers and magicians, or
to exorcism, as possessed of devils.

Ventriloquism derives its name from an error of the ancients. So far from
being effected through the body, the mouth is the sole instrument of the
art or faculty we call ventriloquism. The first inference formed on this
subject was by the Greeks, who conceived the oracles of the Pythoness to
consist of the emanation of the soul from the viscera; and as the lips of
ventriloquists assumed the same form in the exercise of their art as those
of the Pythoness during her pretended inspirations, they ascribed the
effort to the same region of the body.

Archbishop Eustatius, in treating of the Witch of Endor, attributes the
exploits of the magician Ob, in invoking the shade of Samuel, and
obtaining a reply from the apparition, to a devil, or the power of
ventriloquism. In the Book of the Septanti, the Witch of Endor is
described as a ventriloquist.

Father Delrio, as an interpreter of the opinion of the ancients, and Henri
Boguet, the great legist, declared from the bench, that all persons
endowed with a natural power of ventriloquism, had hoarse, harsh voices,
and that the spirit by which they were possessed, must be dislodged by
exorcism.

In the earlier days of ventriloquism, from the Witch of Endor downwards,
the art appears to have been almost peculiar to the female sex; though in
our own times professed only by males. In the fifteenth century, Rolande
du Vernois, accused of the exercise of ventriloquism, was condemned and
burnt as a witch; and about the middle of the sixteenth, the inhabitants
of Lisbon were amazed by the feats of a woman named Cecilia, who possessed
the art of causing her voice to issue from her elbow, foot, or any other
part of her body. In exhibiting this apparently preternatural power, she
pretended to have an invisible colleague, named Pierre Jean, with whom she
appeared to hold conversations; an exploit that exposed her to a charge of
witchcraft. She was tried for magic, and exiled to the Island of St.
Thomas, in remission of a sentence to be burnt alive.

In the same century, a little old woman who had very much the air of a
witch, and whose voice appeared to issue from the centre of her body, made
her appearance in Italy, where she was arraigned for sorcery; but her
further history is unrecorded.

A female ventriloquist, named Barbara Jacobi, narrowly escaped being burnt
at the stake in 1685, at Haarlem, where she was an inmate of the public
hospital. The curious daily resorted thither to hear her hold a dialogue
with an imaginary personage with whom she conversed as if concealed behind
the curtains of her bed. This individual, whom she called Joachim, and to
whom she addressed a thousand ludicrous questions, which he answered in
the same familiar strain, was for some time supposed to be a confederate.
But when the bystanders attempted to search for him behind the curtains,
his voice instantly reproached them with their curiosity from the opposite
corner of the room. As Barbara Jacobi had contrived to make herself
familiar with all the gossip of the city of Haarlem, the revelations of
the pretended familiar were such as to cause considerable embarrassment to
those who beset her with impertinent questions.

The celebrated Thiémet used to exhibit at Paris a scene of a similar
nature, afterwards copied in London in the Monopolylogues of Matthews.
Having concealed himself in a sentry-box, which occupied the centre of his
small stage, the distant sound of a horn became audible; then, the cry of
a pack of hounds gradually approaching; during the intervals of which, a
miller and his wife were heard familiarly conversing in bed concerning
their household affairs. In the midst of their conversation, a knock was
heard; and a strange noise became audible from without, entreating the
miller to rise and show the way through the forest to a young Baron, who
had lost the track of the hounds. The miller promised compliance; when an
altercation ensued between him and his wife; the former wishing to rise,
the latter preventing him with a declaration that she had not courage to
be left alone in the mill. At length, the miller gets the better; and,
having risen, is about to put on his clothes, when the sobs and cries of
his abandoned spouse determine him to return to bed; and the scene used to
terminate with a loud exclamation on the part of the lady when the cold
knees of the miller apprized her of his return. This somewhat too familiar
exhibition used to elicit roars of laughter from the most fashionable
audiences; nor, till Thiémet issued from his sentry-box, could they be
prevailed upon to believe that he had been alone.

Ventriloquism is, in truth, the working of a curious problem in acoustics;
the art resulting from a careful computation of distances and effects in
the science of sound. The resources afforded by such an art to the
priesthood of antiquity, who were thus enabled to create an oracle
wherever they thought proper, may easily be understood. When exercised
with dexterity, it was no wonder that the bewildered populace should
exclaim, like the Sybil of Cumæ, "Deus! ecce Deus!" Dodona and Delphos are
now generally believed to have been simply the scene of a clever
exhibition of ventriloquism. Fontenelle, and the learned Benedictine, Dom
Calmet, have both written extensively on the subject; the latter, more
especially, labouring to prove that a variety of marvels related by
Lucian, Philostratus, Iamblicus, and other eminent authors, are easily
explained by ventriloquism.

Many French historians attribute to the same origin the apostrophe of the
pretended Spectre in the Forest of Mans, which so terrified the feeble
Charles VI., as to deprive him of reason. Such was the opinion of the Abbé
de la Chapelle; who, in 1772, published a volume on ventriloquism, in
which, among other examples, he cites the wonderful faculty of a grocer
named St. Gilles, residing at St. Germain en Laye; who, when visited by
the Abbé, made his voice appear to issue from every part of the house. St.
Gilles appears to have been a facetious personage as well as a skilful
ventriloquist; for as he was one day walking in the forest of St. Germain,
with a rich Prebendary, celebrated for his avarice and clerical abuses, a
voice was heard to reproach him with his pluralities and covetousness,
threatening to bury him under the ruins of his prebendal house, unless he
reformed the errors of his ways. The grocer being careful to assume an
appearance of the same terror that paralyzed his companion, the priest
regarded this interposition as the voice of his good angel; and instantly
proceeding to the nearest church, dropped the whole contents of his purse
into the poor's box; and on his return to Paris, devoted the remainder of
his days to repentance and good works.

On another occasion, St. Gilles exercised his art in restoring family
peace to a young couple. The husband who had abandoned a young and lovely
wife, having accompanied him into the depths of the forest of St. Germain
for a morning walk, was also addressed by a supernatural voice,
threatening him with eternal punishment unless he renounced his dissolute
habits, and returned to the bosom of domestic life; a stratagem which
produced the happiest results.

One of the most skilful proficients in the art, appears to have been a
Baron von Mengen, a German nobleman, as celebrated at Vienna, as St.
Gilles in France. The Baron never appeared in society without carrying a
doll in his pockets, with which he used to hold imaginary conversations.
An English traveller, amazed by the wit and wisdom of the doll, became at
length so excited by curiosity, as to insinuate his hand into the Baron's
pocket, in the hope of discovering his secret; when the doll instantly
shrieked aloud, and bitterly reproached the Englishman for his breach of
decorum. The amazement of the abashed foreigner increasing, the Baron
produced his doll, and explained the nature of the mystery.

Philippe, a favourite actor of the Théâtre des Variétés, on his marriage
with Mademoiselle Volnais, the actress, proceeded with her into Lorraine
to visit an estate they had purchased; when the tenants having thought
proper to favour them with a magnificent reception, in the course of the
day, the bridegroom, deserting his place of honour, strolled out among the
revellers. While he appeared to be only conversing in a grave manner with
the Mayor of the place, to the dismay of the simple villagers, strange
voices were heard to issue from tuns of wine, reproaching them with their
excesses; and from wheelbarrows, reproving them for their idleness. The
whole village fancied itself bewitched; while Philippe enjoyed, for the
first time of his life, on his own account, a talent he had so often
exercised for the amusement of others.

Comte, the best ventriloquist now extant, has performed a thousand similar
exploits. When on his travels in Belgium, he caused the voice of Margaret
of Austria, to issue from her tomb in the Church of Bron, addressing a
reprimand to the verger. At Rheims, he was nearly the cause of
depopulating the quarter of St. Nicholas, by causing voices to issue from
a variety of graves in the church-yard; while at Nevers, he revived the
miracle of Balaam, by enabling an overladen ass to reproach its master
with his cruelty.

Another time, Monsieur Comte, when travelling by night in a diligence, the
travellers of which had fallen asleep, roused them from their slumbers by
a confusion of voices of robbers at the windows, calling aloud upon the
postillions to stop. The greatest consternation prevailed; when Monsieur
Comte offered to negociate for them with the robbers, and become the
depositary of their purses for the purpose. Having alighted from the
carriage for this object, he was heard conversing in the dark road with a
variety of voices, breathing the most frightful threats; and the
travellers considered themselves fortunate in being allowed to purchase
their lives by the cession of all they had about them. When daylight
broke, their adroit fellow-traveller restored their property; the mere
mention of his name sufficing to explain the nature of the jest which had
produced their alarm.

On another occasion, he preserved the statues and carvings of a village
church from mutilation, by causing a voice to issue from the altar,
commanding the forbearance of the rustic population. He was, however, very
near falling a victim to the marvels of his art, at Fribourg; where the
populace, asserting him to be a sorcerer, fell upon him, and would have
thrown him into a heated oven to be consumed, but for the intervention of
the authorities.

Nevertheless, in defiance of these well-known facts, ventriloquism still
appears miraculous to the vulgar. Thirty years ago, the learned Abbé Fiard
wrote a treatise to prove that the ancients were justified in their belief
that it proceeded from spiritual possession. Fortunately, the great
majority are content to accept it as a fertile source of recreation,
without troubling themselves concerning the origin of the faculty.



CHAPTER IV.

POPE JOAN AND THE WANDERING JEW.


In the history of the world a variety of imaginary personages have found a
place, whom it has become difficult to dislodge. Created in the first
instance by the blunders of some careless writer, or by the sickly fancy
of some unsound judgment, they are adopted by popular favour, tricked up
according to its caprices, and committed to the hands of tradition to
mislead the opinions of posterity. The pretensions of a false Demetrius, a
false Dauphin, a false Heraclius, a Lambert Simnel, or a Perkin Warbeck,
are more easily disproved and set aside than those of the mere shadows
which flit over the surface of history; too impalpable to be seized upon
and compelled to render an account of themselves.

Among these phantoms are Pope Joan, and the Wandering Jew; of whom every
one has heard something, though nothing to the purpose. Yet these
imaginary personages are too closely connected with the mysteries of our
faith to be otherwise than generally interesting.

For how many years did the legend of the Wandering Jew, the porter of
Pilate, condemned to roam the earth till the second coming of Christ, and
having his necessities provided for by five-pence, which remained
inexhaustibly in his purse, obtain favour with the world--perpetually
renewed and brightened by the inventive hand of genius! Even now, though
no longer an article of belief among the enlightened classes, his story
obtains sufficient credit with the vulgar to merit a certain degree of
examination.

The first writer who signalized the existence of the Wandering Jew, was
Matthew Paris, an English chronicler of the thirteenth century; who was
perhaps ignorant that he was only renewing a fable of the Greeks; Suidas
having recorded that a Greek named Pasès possessed a miraculous piece of
money, which as often as he expended it returned again into his pocket.

Some inventors have too much modesty to pretend to originality. So it was
with Matthew Paris; who affected to have learned the legend of the
Wandering Jew from an Armenian Bishop, who spent some time in England.
This eastern dignitary, he asserts, had actually seen and conversed with
the Wandering Jew, whose name he stated to be Cartophilax; that he was
porter to the tribunal to which Jesus was conveyed by the Roman soldiers;
and had familiarly known the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. All the
romantic incidents of his story which have passed into an article of
popular faith, were first related by Matthew Paris.

But may there not have been some allegorical or concealed sense connected
with the first creation of the Wandering Jew? At this period, Jews were
objects of universal persecution, and often publicly burnt. Is it not
likely enough that Matthew Paris intended to typify the whole persecuted
and wandering people of the Jews in the person of Cartophilax; or, may he
not have purposed to afford a means of safety and impunity to any Jew who
saw fit to take up the character?

For thirteen centuries, then--as for eighteen, now--the Jewish people had
been driven from place to place, tracked like a beast of prey, and
subjected to every species of ignominy. Their destiny, in short, was a
mere extended exemplification of the fortunes of the Wandering Jew. May
not, moreover, the eternal five-pence have been intended to show, that
wherever he finds himself, a Jew can never be long in want of money?
Montesquieu only expresses the general opinion on this subject, in saying,
"Wherever you find gold, you will find a Jew."

This theory will probably be regarded as more apocryphal than the
existence of Cartophilax! Nevertheless we would rather pin our faith on a
fanciful interpretation, than admit that a writer of so much moment to the
History of the World as the famous Matthew Paris, could voluntarily shake
the stability of his Chronicles by the wanton fabrication of such a
miracle.

The invention of Pope Joan is still more easily accounted for; as
originating in the desire of the Reformed Church to expose to contempt the
honour of the See of Rome. No contemporary writer so much as alludes to
her existence; nor till sixty years after the period assigned as that of
her adventures, do we find the monk Radulphus relating the scandalous
chronicle of her pretended pontificate. A story of this description once
set afloat, will never want for commentators; and a variety of other
writers instantly seized upon it, improving the details at leisure.

Seldom, however, has an imposture been adopted by such grave judgments, or
promulgated by such authoritative voices, as that of Pope Joan. But the
fact is that party spirit, or rather sectarian spirit, blinded the eyes of
these abettors of fraud. At the moment of the grand schism originating the
Reformed Church, the partizans of the new Faith seized upon the old wife's
tale of Pope Joan, and converted it into a serious argument against the
infallibility of Rome.

"You boast of the assistance of divine grace, you pretend to the
inspiration of the Holy Ghost," said they to the Catholics; "that it
directs your councils and suggests your elections. How came it, then, that
with so omniscient a counsellor, you were deluded into promoting a woman
to the Papal See?--The single name of Pope Joan ought to suffice to attest
the incompetency of your Church!"

The history of this pretended personage has been too often related, and is
of too gross a nature to deserve recital. Even the historians who have
been most serious in its attestation, disagree in the leading incidents;
some of them naming the female Pope Agnes, some Joan, and some Gilberta.
Voltaire, who was little prone to defend the purity of the See of Rome,
utterly discredits her existence; and in all Protestant countries, where
the fable was first called into existence, the name of Pope Joan is cited
only as a matter of jest and derision.



CHAPTER V.

THE FABLES OF HISTORY.


It is surprising how many of the facts of history have been reduced into
fictions by the careful investigations of modern enlightenment. For
centuries, it was established as an undeniable enormity of the empire,
that the Emperor Justinian put out the eyes of Belisarius. Tragedies,
operas and romances, were grounded upon this cruel incident; and the arts
have lent their aid to the perpetuation of a popular error.

Let us examine the real state of the case. In 563, a conspiracy was
discovered against the Emperor Justinian; and the conspirators were
arrested on the eve of executing their criminal design. Certain of his
favourites, envious of the great name of Belisarius, suborned false
witnesses, whose testimony made it appear that he was included in the
plot; upon which, Justinian indulged in the bitterest reproaches against
his perfidy. Belisarius, strong in his sense of innocence, and the
consciousness of the great services he had rendered to the empire,
disdained to justify himself; and Justinian, weak, versatile, and
mistrustful, influenced by a paltry pusillanimity, caused him to be
stripped of his offices, made prisoner in his house, and deprived of all
attendants or companions.

This state of things continued for the space of seven months; when the
innocence of Belisarius was, by the intervention of others, brought to
light; and he was at once restored to his former honours and the
confidence of his master. So far from being deprived of sight, and guided
about by a youth, as our imaginations have been misled into depicting him
by a variety of artists and men of letters, Belisarius died at an advanced
age in the full enjoyment of his senses.

The two first authors who thought proper to load the memory of Justinian
with the odium of having put out the eyes of Belisarius, were Crinitus and
Raphael Mafféi, both belonging to the sixteenth century. No anterior
writer makes the smallest allusion to this act of barbarity; which, had it
been authentic, could scarcely have been buried in obscurity for a period
of ten centuries. The event which probably gave rise to so monstrous a
supposition was, the disgrace of Carpocratian; who, after being the chief
favourite of Justinian, was driven into exile in Egypt, and compelled to
beg his bread on the highways. But even in this instance, the fallen man
was not deprived of sight.

One day, a village priest who was preaching in France, on the instability
of riches and the misfortunes of the great, perceiving his simple flock to
be melted into tears by the pathetic nature of his recital, comforted them
by adding, "Nevertheless, my brethren, take comfort, for, after all, these
traditions may be greatly exaggerated." It were as well, perhaps, if
historians were equally candid, more especially the one who first treated
of the cruel fortunes of Belisarius.

This great man had, in truth, no need of factitious enhancements to secure
the sympathies of the sixteenth century; the nobleness of his character
having fully equalled the greatness of his exploits. As the conqueror of
the Goths, he sustained the fortunes of the empire; sacrificing himself
for his master, and refusing a crown when the throne was easily
accessible. After he had achieved the conquest of Italy, the jealousy of
Justinian recalled him from his command. Yet when the fortunes of his
country stood a second time in need of his sword, he did not hesitate to
lay down his resentment, and take up arms for its defence.

A far more authentic instance of undeserved misfortune is the case of
Oedipus, who, born the heir of the throne, was secretly removed from the
palace in consequence of a prediction that he would become the murderer
of his father. To avoid the accomplishment of the oracle, the infant was
about to be destroyed; the servant, to whom the task was assigned, having
literally pierced his feet, and suspended him to the branches of a tree;
when unfortunately a shepherd, taking pity on the tortured babe, relieved
him and conveyed him to the Court of the Queen of Corinth, by whom, being
childless, he was reared as her son. At eighteen years of age, an oracle
enjoined him to go in search of his parents; and on his travels, having
killed a man by whom he was insulted, the victim proved to be his father.

Oedipus arrives at Thebes. A riddle is proposed to him, the sense of which
he is so unfortunate as to guess; and having by this feat rid the country
of the Sphinx, he receives the promised reward in the hand of the Queen of
Thebes, who, in process of time, proves to be the mother of her young
husband. In consequence of this parricide and incest, a frightful
pestilence afflicts Thebes; and Oedipus in despair, puts out his own eyes,
banishes himself from his native country, and is followed into exile by
his daughter Antigone, who officiates as his guide.

Such misfortunes naturally inspired the minds of the heathens with a
belief in the doctrine of fatality--a blind interpretation of events which
also served to induce a belief in the marvellous, and confirm half the
preposterous superstitions perpetuated by the weakness of the human race.

Nothing can be more groundless, by the way, than our vain assertion of
being the only created beings who "contemplate Heaven with brow erect."
Not only do we share this distinction with the ourang-outangs, but with a
variety of birds, such as the crane and the ostrich; which, on this point,
are better qualified than ourselves, seeing that instead of the upper
eyelid falling, the lower eyelid rises over the eye; thus leaving them
more at liberty to raise their eyes to Heaven.

False pretensions and vulgar errors of this kind abound in the world:--as
for instance, the belief that the pelican pierces her bosom to feed her
little ones with her blood--that the scent of bean-flowers produces
delirium--that the mole is blind--that the dove is a model of gentleness
and conjugal fidelity; and how often are the questions still mooted
whether Hannibal really worked a passage through the Alps with
vinegar--whether the coffin of Mahomet be really suspended at Mecca
between two loadstones--whether shooting stars be fragments of shattered
planets, or souls progressing from purgatory--whether beasts of prey are
afraid of fire; and whether human nature have ever exhibited affinities
with the brute creation in the form of fauns, dryads, satyrs, or
centaurs.

The fable of the centaurs explains itself naturally enough by the wonder
created in the world by the first man hardy enough to reduce the horse to
a state of submission, and convert it into a domestic animal. We know that
a man on horseback has been regarded as a complex animal by many savage
nations; just as the Peruvians, when attacked by the artillery of Pizarro,
believed their invaders to be Gods, seeing that thunder was at their
disposal.

As to fauns and satyrs, which probably consisted of shepherds whose lower
extremities were clad in goat skins, Herodotus declares that a whole
nation of them existed among the mountains of Scythia. Plutarch relates
that, in the time of Sylla, a faun was caught at Nymphea near Apollonia,
which was brought as a present to the Dictator. The creature could utter
no articulate sound,--its voice consisting of a noise between the cry of a
goat and the neighing of a horse; but exhibited social qualities, and was
much addicted to female society. This was probably some deaf and dumb
idiot, left by unnatural parents to perish in infancy, and miraculously
preserved; as in the case of Peter, the Wild Boy, found during the last
century in the forests of Westphalia, and maintained at the cost of the
King of England to a good old age. A similar specimen of degraded humanity
was exhibited at Paris under the name of the Savage of Aveyron; and the
historical fable of Valentine and Orson was probably founded on some
similar circumstance.

According to Philostratus, a satyr was taken in Ethiopia of so mild and
gentle a disposition, as to have been easily tamed; and that certain of
the simeous tribes, such, for instance, as the ourang-outang called the
Wild Man of the Woods, should have been considered a satyr by both Greeks
and Romans, on a first inspection seems natural enough. St. Jerome, in his
life of St. Anthony, asserts that he encountered a satyr in the desart,
and that they conversed and breakfasted together.

We should have thought these holy personages more in danger of an
encounter with wild beasts; concerning which peril, a passing remark may
be made, that the idea of frightening them away by fire is a popular
prejudice. Tavernier relates that some soldiers having lighted a great
fire to preserve themselves from the damp, in a forest of Africa, were set
upon by a lion, and that one of the men was greatly injured by this
midnight intruder, which was luckily shot dead by one of his comrades.

As regards the popular opinion concerning the tomb of Mahomet, it is now
proved to be at Medina instead of Mecca, where the belief of many
centuries assigned it a place; but so far from being suspended in the air
by a loadstone, the coffin lies on the ground surrounded by an iron
balustrade. A learned Jesuit, by dint of many patient experiments,
ascertained the possibility of sustaining a human body in the air by the
power of the loadstone. But the quantity employed only served to realize
the miracle for the space of two seconds. On the discovery of the singular
properties of the loadstone, as affecting the polarization of the needle,
the vulgar naturally began to endow it with miraculous powers. In 1765,
the Journal Encyclopédique published an Essay attributing to the loadstone
the power of curing the tooth-ache; the person afflicted being required to
turn his face towards the North Pole, and touch the aching tooth with the
southern point of a magnetic needle. The system was pursued for a time by
a variety of quack dentists, but soon fell to the ground.

With respect to shooting stars, philosophy remains undecided as to their
origin. But vulgar superstition clings to the belief that any wish formed
during the transit of one of these luminous bodies will be accomplished.
This idea probably purported in the first instance to demonstrate the
transitory nature of human wishes, as exemplified in the momentary glimpse
of the meteor. Some philosophers attribute shooting stars to the encounter
of the electric fluid with inflammable molecules in the atmosphere.
Descartes asserts that they are terrestrial particles which, meeting in
the air the second element, take fire and fall back to earth; leaving
where they fall a viscous matter. The truth is that they have never been
known to fall back upon the earth. Monsieur Biot has hazarded a conjecture
that they may be fragments of comets, falling with immense rapidity
through the realms of space.

If this point of popular prejudice remain unremoved, nothing can be more
certain than that the mole possesses organs of vision--though small; and
that the fable of the maternal tenderness of the pelican, originated in
the flexible pouch in which she deposits the fish she collects for her own
food, and that of her young. The proverbial fidelity of the dove to her
mate has been equally disproved by naturalists; no person having ever kept
a pair of doves without noticing that they are birds of a peculiarly
irascible and quarrelsome nature.



CHAPTER VI.

MELONS AND MONSTERS.


It might form an important matter of inquiry for naturalists, whether the
fruits appropriated by Providence to certain climates, do not become
unwholsome when transferred to others by the intervention of art. Certain
it is, that in various countries of the South, melons constitute an
article of national food; whereas, in the North, they pass for one of the
most pernicious productions of the vegetable kingdom; being the first
article of food interdicted during the prevalence of the cholera.

The origin of the melon, however, appears very uncertain. Far from being
indigenous in Italy, it was asserted by the Roman naturalists to have been
brought from Africa by Metellus; while others believe it to have been
derived from their earlier Asiatic conquests. Scipio is said by some to
have first introduced it into Rome. From whatever source derived, the
gardeners of Greece and Rome made the culture of the melon a subject of
especial study. Pliny spoke of the delicacy and flavour of the fruit as
well as of its indigestibility. It may be observed, however, that in the
more ancient bas-reliefs and frescoes of fruit found in Herculaneum, the
melon does not appear.

The modern arts of horticulture have added innumerable varieties of the
melon to the round and oblong species known to the Romans; and Godoy, the
Prince of Peace, devoted himself in Spain to the improvement of this
favourite fruit. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that the fine kind
called the Cantalupe, reached us from that country; the name being derived
from the village of Cantalupi near Rome, famous for the cultivation of its
melons. In Spain and France, the melon is eaten with roast meat, at
dinner; in England and Russia, it is eaten with sugar at dessert. By many
people the crudeness is qualified with pepper and ginger; but the Bavarian
mother of the Regent, Duke of Orleans, provoked much criticism in Paris by
powdering her slice of melon with Spanish snuff, according to the custom
in some parts of Germany.

A strange object of luxury in the same country consists in snails. A large
white species of snail, much cultivated at Ulm, is sent to various parts
of Germany. One of the popular errors concerning these snails, is the
opinion that when decapitated the body will produce a new head.
Spallanzani and Voltaire tried the experiment on innumerable snails, and
attest that a head was really reproduced. It is well known that the body
of a fly will exist some time after being deprived of its head; and that,
on crushing the shell of a snail, the creature is able to repair, by
degrees, its shattered dwelling. But in spite of the authority of
Spallanzani and Voltaire, we have no faith in the power of reproduction of
a second head. Valmont de Bomare, after decapitating fifteen hundred,
decided that the opinion was erroneous; and, unwilling to suppose that two
such great authorities had imposed on public credulity, concludes that in
their reluctance to the task, they merely cut off the nose and ears of the
sensitive snails without effecting a positive decapitation. A fact untrue
of the snail, however, has been proved as regards several varieties of
polypi, which are able to reproduce themselves from fragments of a
dismembered polypus. There is one species of polypus susceptible of being
completely turned inside out, like a glove, without injury to the vital
power!

Turenne, who wrote a Treatise on the nature of snails, may be called the
Attila of the species, since he admits having decapitated thousands and
thousands. He even affects compunction on the subject, after the example
of the Greek physician, Herophilus, who dissected seven hundred bodies in
illustration of his anatomical lectures in the theatre of Alexandria.
Turenne asserts that, if Valmont de Bomare and Adanson found no renovation
of head in the snails they decapitated, it was because they failed to
supply their victims with the food which snails are organized to imbibe
through the pores of their bodies by crawling over vegetable matter, even
when deprived of their heads. He declares that a period of two years is
indispensable for the reproduction of a head.

The discoveries of modern navigators have unquestionably added to our
menageries a vast variety of animals unknown to the ancients, or known
only by hearsay, and esteemed apocryphal. But, on the other hand, various
animals with which the ancients pretended to be familiar have wholly
disappeared; such as sphinxes and griffins, the phoenix, the salamander,
the unicorn, besides many-headed serpents and dragons, which we now
abandon to the emblazonment of heraldry.

The most famous dragons of antiquity were those which drew through the air
the car of Medea. The philosophic Possidonius--who made war so valiantly
against the gout, which he maintains to be no evil--speaks of a dragon
which covered an acre of ground; and could swallow a knight on horseback
with as much ease as the whale did Jonas. This was, however, an
insignificant reptile compared with the one discovered in India by St.
Maximus, Archbishop of Tyre, which covered five acres of ground.

Both in sacred and profane history, dragons have honourable mention.
Cadmus is related to have destroyed a dragon; the garden of the Hesperides
was guarded by a dragon; St. George triumphed over a dragon; and the
Dragon of Wantley has become proverbial in English song. St. Augustin,
Bishop of Hippona, speaks with authority of the existence of dragons;
describing them as winged serpents which conceal themselves in caverns
during the day-time, though they occasionally venture forth and rise into
the air. From this it was inferred, by early naturalists, that the dragon
of the ancients was one of the larger serpent tribes, having a
cartilaginous substance similar to the wings of the bat, or flying-fish,
attached to its body.

Suetonius declares that the Emperor Tiberius possessed a pet dragon, which
was completely tame and used to eat out of his hand; probably an iguano,
the sort of lizard which forms a luxurious object of food in the West
Indies; and which, though perfectly harmless, has a frightful appearance.
Crinitus records that, in the time of the Emperor Maurice, there was an
inundation of the Tiber, which left behind it, on the land, an enormous
dragon. The same writer mentions that the Emperor Augustus kept a
prodigious dragon in his palace, which he used to lead about with a
string. A constellation serves to attest the existence of the dragon of
Lernia.

The tame dragon of the imperial palace was probably a tame boa-constrictor
similar to the one formerly kept in the library of the late Sir Joseph
Banks.

Various are the records in ancient authors of prodigious serpents. Pliny
declares that, in Africa, the army of Regulus was kept in check by an
enormous serpent; a statement confirmed by Aulus Gellius and other
historians, and admitted by Rollin and Bossuet in their Histoire
universelle, and Histoire ancienne. Follard refutes it in his Commentary
on Polybius; conceiving the fact of a serpent of one hundred and twenty
feet keeping at bay a large army and its engines of war to be an insult to
the prowess of the Roman warriors. The following is the opinion the
celebrated Lacépède on this subject.

"Travellers who have penetrated into the interior of Africa," says he,
"give an account of prodigious serpents, who advance among the bushes and
towering reeds of some vast jungle, like a huge beam suddenly endowed with
motion. Herds of gazelles and other timid animals take flight on their
approach; nor can iron penetrate the skin of the monster, which is,
indeed, appalling when extended to its utmost length, and ravenous after
food. The only chance of its extermination is by setting fire to the
nearest bushes of the jungle; and thus raising, as it were, a rampart of
fire between you and the gigantic reptile.

"Such, probably, was the serpent which arrested the progress of the Roman
army on the coast of Africa. To compute its length at one hundred and
twenty feet, after Pliny, would probably be an exaggeration; but the Roman
naturalist adds that its skin remained some time suspended, as a trophy,
in a temple in Rome. Unless we deny all authenticity to history,
therefore, we are bound to believe in the existence of a prodigious
serpent, which when irritated by hunger, was known to attack the Roman
soldiers; and against which, in the sequel, they had successful recourse
to their engines of war."

In the same manner, a distorted account may hereafter reach posterity of
the death of Chuny, the famous elephant, which so long inhabited a
menagerie in London; until becoming rabid from the effect of high feeding
and long confinement, a party of military was called in to despatch the
infuriated animal by a discharge of musketry, which was with some
difficulty effected.

To attest the authenticity of the serpent of the time of Regulus, Pliny
expressly adds that the tradition is the more credible, because, in former
times, the serpents called boas, frequently found in Italy, were of such
prodigious size that, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, so large
a one was found on the Vatican hill, that after its destruction, a child
was exhibited entire in its stomach. For many centuries, no boas have been
found in Italy; though naturalists accord in asserting them to have
existed there in the olden time; just as the kingdom of England, now
wholly free from the larger beasts of prey, was formerly overrun with
wolves.

St. Isidore of Seville discredits the existence of the Lernian hydra;
inferring from its name that hydra only implied some torrent or lake which
Hercules effectually confined within banks; thus giving rise to the
tradition of his having crushed it with his club. The traditionary
monster, called a gargouille, said to have lived near Rouen, and to have
swallowed a prodigious number of victims, is now admitted to have been
simply a whirlpool in the Seine, destroyed by an alteration in the banks
effected by St. Romain, when Bishop of that See. The anniversary of this
event, regarded as the deliverance of the city from a monster, was
celebrated at Rouen till the period of the first Revolution; a prisoner
being annually delivered by the city on the Festival of St. Romain in
honour of the miracle. The gargouille or whirlpool, of Rouen, was but a
modern edition of the hydra.



CHAPTER VII.

THE JEWS.


We have already alluded incidentally to the Jews. But the children of
Israel have been too long and too perseveringly an object of persecution
to all Christian nations, not to demand a more extended consideration.

Mankind, in the present age, though scarcely less disposed than of old to
exercise the tyrannical influence of the strong over the weak, appear to
have substituted political for religious animosities; and the war of sects
has been converted into the feuds of parties. The days of the fagot and
the pile are happily at an end; and instead of martyrs, sacrificed in the
name of religion, the victim is forced to exclaim on the scaffold: "Oh,
liberty! in thy name, how many crimes are committed!" The number of human
victims sacrificed to religious intolerance in the various countries of
the world, would, however, afford grounds for a fearful computation.

The very existence of the Jews may be regarded as among the miracles of
the Christian religion. A wandering nation, without King, without country,
without secular laws, maintained together only by the strength of a common
worship, could never have resisted the persecutions and proscriptions of
centuries, but for the intervention of the chastening hand of God. Even in
the countries where their existence is the happiest, stigmatized by public
detestation, and in highly Catholic nations treated as lepers, as parias,
as infected sheep--condemned to the hardest, and most ignominious
tasks--beaten, spat upon, despoiled, plundered, tortured, massacred--a
prey to the cupidity of the great, and the brutality of the little--such
is the history of the Jews from the days of Titus to the present time.
Nevertheless, they not only subsist, but flourish, in spite of the
universal prejudice against the name; maintaining unchanged, their laws,
customs, usages, and even physiognomy. The abhorrence with which they are
regarded by other nations, has necessitated intermarriages from generation
to generation, which serve to maintain the pure identity of the race.

The Romans not only detested the Jews for the same motive which produced
their hatred of the Christians, namely--the impossibility of converting
them to the worship of the false Gods of Paganism, but confounded Jews and
Christians together in a common persecution. Yet this equality before the
tribunals and executioners of the Emperors and Pro-Consuls of Rome, never
availed to diminish the mutual hatred subsisting between them. No
amalgamation was possible between them, even amid the flames of a funeral
pile. Nero, on one occasion, attempted to illuminate Rome by means of Jews
steeped in resinous matter, and thus committed to the flames.

No sooner had the Christians obtained supreme power, than they began, in
their turn, to inflict upon the remnant of Israel all the persecutions
they had themselves sustained at the hands of the Romans. The Jews were
compelled to wear a cap surmounted by horns, to show that they were
pre-destined to eternal punishment; and in a Council held at the Lateran,
at the commencement of the thirteenth century, they were forced to adopt
for robes, stuff of a yellow colour, bearing the representation of a wheel
or rack. During Passion Week, and at Easter, it was lawful to attack them
with any degree of ferocity. In many cities, it was the custom to inflict
corporeal punishment on a Jew publicly, every Good Friday, before the
great door of the Cathedral; in some, a positive crucifixion took place!

Eight times have the Jews been driven out of France. Dagobert enjoined
them to embrace Christianity, on pain of banishment; Robert the Pious
issued the same edict; Philip Augustus, after crucifying several at Bray
sur Seine, caused all their synagogues to be burned, seized their
possessions, released their creditors, appropriated to himself a fifth of
their substance, and the remainder to landholders of adjoining estates.
Philippe le Bel dismissed them the kingdom, leaving them only the funds
indispensable for the journey. Nevertheless they returned, to be again
exiled by Charles VI. Under Louis XIII, was issued a new edict of
banishment. It was only under Louis XVI, one of the most humane of Kings,
that the Jews were restored to rights of citizenship in France. Nor was
their condition better, at the same epochs, in Great Britain and other
adjacent countries.

A singular chance directed the attention of Napoleon to the condition of
the Jews. A representation of Racine's "Esther" was given one night at the
Opera for a benefit; and the following morning, Talma happening to
breakfast with the Emperor, the conversation turned on the performance of
the night before. As they were discussing the character of Mardochée,
Champagny, afterwards Duc de Cadore, made his appearance, who was at that
time Minister of the Interior. Napoleon instantly began interrogating him
concerning the position and resources of the Jews in France; and desired
that a report might be drawn up on the subject, and speedily submitted to
him.

Champagny lost no time in obeying; and the results of this accidental
circumstance was the removal of the civil disabilities of the Jews.

The prejudice, however, attached for so many years to the remnant of
Israel, is far from extirpated; and though in more than one country of
Europe, the honours of chivalry have been bestowed upon wealthy Jews,
influential in the financial operations of the kingdom, and consequently
in its politics, the popular feeling against them is unchanged. It is even
carried to a most unreasonable degree; and the Jews are reproached with
the very pursuits and professions forced upon their adoption by Christian
persecution. Commercial speculations were of course the sole resource of a
people without country, and without protection; and though we are indebted
to them for the useful financial substitute of bills of exchange, we use
the name of Jew almost synonymously with that of extortioner, without
regard to their commercial importance and utility.

The emancipation accorded them in France, was given chiefly for
considerations developed ten years before by Monsieur de Clermont
Tonnerre, and other celebrated orators before the National Assembly.

"The Code of Moses," argued they, "is conceived in a twofold spirit--a
religious, and a legislative. The political laws which it contains, have
ceased to be important--being only applicable to a nation nationally
combined and organized; whereas the Jews are a scattered and wandering
tribe, rather than a nation. The religious laws are a case of conscience;
serving to enlighten the spirit, and guide the social morality of the
children of Israel. From the period of the destruction of the Temple, the
Jews have politically ceased to exist; and these religious laws may be
said to operate in France, upon Frenchmen of the Jewish persuasion; in
Poland, upon Poles of the Jewish persuasion; in Germany, upon Germans of
the Jewish persuasion, and so forth."

Upon this showing, civil rights were conceded to them in France, on
condition of their contributing their quota to the maintenance of the laws
and Government of the country in which they were naturalized.

Till this epoch, a prejudice had prevailed in France that it was an
article of faith and duty among the Jews, to deceive and defraud a
Christian whenever it lay in their power; and that they were bound, from
the moment of their birth, by the Jewish law, to a strong animosity
towards us Christian people. Horrible rumours have been revived, at
different times, in different countries, of secret sacrifices of the Jews,
in which the blood of a Christian was a necessary component.

These questions were openly met and discussed in a manly and temperate
manner, in the great Sanhedrim, composed of the highest and most
enlightened Jewish authorities; when a peremptory denial was established
to all these injurious charges. Prejudices nearly as absurd, and quite as
groundless formerly existed in England against the Catholics; the removal
of their civil disabilities being equally the result of the progress of
public enlightenment.

As regards the question of usury so often imputed to the Jews, experience
has proved of late years, that the most notorious extortioners of this
description are of the Christian faith; and it is a question of ethics to
inquire whether there be greater turpitude in openly demanding an interest
of thirty per cent for a loan of money, or in obtaining the same profit by
sale or barter of commodities. A considerable number of tradesmen who
pride themselves upon their strict integrity, require a much higher ratio
of profit than the per centage of the money-lending Jews; nor is it
necessary to remind the reader that some of the most eminent bankers in
Europe, renowned equally for their probity and liberality, are of the
Jewish persuasion.



CHAPTER VIII.

VERBAL DELICACY.


There are certain words which appear to offend public delicacy more than
the very objects they designate; till it might almost be inferred that all
the sensitiveness of human nature had concentrated itself in the ear. The
study of ancient and modern languages will attest the truth of this
assertion; for many things are to be learned in a vocabulary besides the
idiom it pretends to teach.

The stern Romans, for instance, who affected so stoical a disregard of
death, would not allow the word to be pronounced in their presence; though
the lives of their children was by the law placed at their mercy. Their
sense of delicacy would have been offended had it been mentioned before
them that such a one was "dead." It was necessary to say, "he hath lived."
In the noble defence of Milo, by Cicero, he dared not qualify by the
appropriate word the act of assassination committed by the slaves of his
client; but declared by periphrasis that under these circumstances, "the
slaves of Milo did what it became them to do."

To the title of King, the Romans had vowed an eternal hatred, created by
the traditionary opprobrium of the Tarquins, and their contempt of the
innumerable Kings subjected to their arms, and dragged behind their
triumphal cars. But when Cæsar proclaimed himself Emperor, and assumed a
more sovereign power than the history of nations had as yet recorded, the
Roman people applauded the kingly office presented to them under any other
than the name abhorred. The same circumstance occurred in France at the
commencement of the present century. The French, after devoting themselves
to the extermination of Kings, hailed with delight the coronation of an
Emperor; though to proclaim himself "King" would have ensured the
premature downfall of Napoleon.

Of late years, the ears of the world have become more than ever chaste and
refined; and certain words freely used by Shakspeare, in presence of the
Court of the Virgin Queen, and by Molière, in presence of that of the most
dignified of European monarchs, are now utterly proscribed, and expunged
from the modern stage. The fluctuations of opinion on these points, are
highly diverting. Dean Swift relates that, in his early days, the word
"whiskers" could not be mentioned in a lady's presence; a fact we should
be inclined to class among the ingenious fictions of the Dean of St.
Patrick; but that at the present day, that rational nation, the Americans,
have not courage to pronounce the word leg, even in talking of the limb of
a table or of a partridge. The false delicacy of the English takes refuge
in a foreign language. All such articles of dress or furniture as are held
of a nature unmentionable to ears polite, are named in French; as if the
word _chemise_ were a less explicit designation of an indispensable under
garment than the matter of fact word shift! All this is contemptible
hyprocrisy, and a silly compromise with common sense. Such an abbreviation
as crim. con. conveys fully as indelicate an allusion as the same words
written and pronounced in full.

The author of the School for Scandal objected to so great a variety of
words as coarse and indelicate from female lips, that there sometimes
existed a difficulty in narrating to him the ordinary events of life.

On the other hand, it is surprising how much may be effected by a change
of name with those whose ears are more impressionable than their
understanding. The French had signified pretty loudly at the revolution
their national opposition to a conscription, and to the _droits réunis_.
Against these exercises of administrative tyranny, they were prepared to
break into rebellion. Instead, however, of arguing with their pertinacity,
the Government wisely applauded it; substituting for a conscription, the
recruiting system, and for the _droits réunis_ the _contributions
indirectes_. We should be glad if any one would point out to us what was
changed in these two important departments of public service, besides the
name? This paltering, in a double sense, reminds us of the story of a
Frenchman, who was examining a library with persons more enlightened than
himself. "Ah! there are the works of my friend, Cicero," cried he.
"_Cicéron, c'est le même que Marc-Tulle._"



CHAPTER IX.

AEROLITES AND MIRACULOUS SHOWERS.


The fall of aërolites, often termed by the vulgar a shower of stones, is
either more frequent than in days of yore, or attracts more general
attention.

The record of similar phenomena has, however, been handed down to us by
the ancients; for we are told of a shower of stones which, in the days of
Tullus Hostilius, fell upon the city immediately after the ruin of Alba.

"While the Senate was occupied in its deliberations," says Livy, "a shower
of stones fell from Heaven upon the Alban Mount. The Prince, astonished at
the report of such a phenomenon, sent to ascertain the truth, and found
that a shower of pebbles had really fallen, similar to hailstones."

Before the time of the Romans, the Greeks had witnessed similar phenomena.
In the Thracian Chersonesus there fell a huge greyish stone, which excited
the greatest consternation.

A stone existed in Rome known as the stone of the Mother of the Gods,
which had originally fallen from the sky, like that of the Thracian
Chersonesus. It fell at Pessinuntum, in Phrygia, where the priests held it
in great veneration. The oracle at Rome having given out that the fortunes
of the Republic were secure if it could possess itself of this inestimable
treasure, the Senate sent an embassy into Phrygia by Scipio Nasica, who
enlarged upon the ties existing between the Phrygians and Romans through
Æneas; and skilfully setting forth the power of Rome and the protection
she was able to concede to the Pessinuntians, the priests gave up the
sacred stone. It was immediately carried in procession to Rome, exposed to
public view, and an annual festival instituted in its honour.

A similar stone, which stood near the Temple of Delphos, was equally
venerated, and endowed with a still more marvellous origin; being supposed
to issue from the belly of Saturn, the God of the stone eaters. Tradition
recorded that Saturn, having swallowed it, and found it difficult of
digestion, threw it up again, when it fell in Greece. Upon this point,
Pausanias and Nonnus concur with the tradition.

In the sixteenth century, a descent of stones took place on Mount Lebanon,
accompanied by a luminous globe. Various other instances might be cited
from the ancients; but these may suffice to establish proof of identity
between the modern and ancient phenomena. In most instances, they have
been supposed to be of divine origin and of ominous nature. Damascius
mentions that a physician of his day, named Eusebius, carried one about
his person, which conduced greatly to the relief of his patients.

In the sixteenth century, it is stated that there fell near the Adda, in
Italy, nearly twelve hundred stones, one of which weighed one hundred, and
another sixty pounds. True is it that Cardan makes the assertion, which is
therefore doubtful. But Gassendi, who is deserving of credit, states that
on the 27th of November, 1627, with a clear atmosphere, at ten A.M., he
saw a luminous stone, about four feet in diameter, descend from Heaven
upon Mount Vaisian. It was enveloped in a luminous circle of various
colours, and passed at a hundred paces from two men, who estimated its
elevation at thirty-six feet. It gave out a hissing noise like a rocket,
accompanied with a smell of sulphur, and fell two hundred feet from the
spectators, plunging itself three feet into the soil. It was of a metallic
hue, and weighed fifty-four pounds; and is still to be seen at Aix, in
Provence. The largest ever known, fell at Ensisheim, in Alsace, in 1492;
its weight being near three hundred pounds. In the Abbé Richard's Natural
History of the Air, there is a description of a fall of stones which
took place in 1768, in Maine; from which we extract the following passage:

"During a hurricane that took place near the Château of Lucé, in the
Province of Maine, a clap of thunder was heard, followed by a noise
similar to the roar of a wild beast; which was audible for many leagues
round. Some persons in the parish of Périgné thought they perceived a
dense body fall with great velocity into a meadow near the high road to
Mans; and on hurrying to the spot, found the stone imbedded in the ground.
At first, it was hot; but soon cooling, they were enabled to examine it at
leisure. It weighed seven pounds and a half, and was in form triangular;
or rather it had three protuberances, of which the one plunged in the
earth was grey, and the two others black. A fragment being submitted to
the examination of the Royal Academy of Sciences, for analysis, they
pronounced it neither to originate in thunder, nor to have fallen from the
skies, nor to be composed of mineral particles fused by the action of the
electric fluid; but a species of pyrites, giving out a smell of sulphur
during its solution. One hundred grains of this substance yielded, upon
analysis, eight grains and a half of sulphur, thirty-six of iron, and
fifty-five and a half of vitrifiable earth." The evidence of science,
however, seldom reaches the ear of the vulgar; and it would be difficult
to persuade the populace that aërolites do not fall from the sky.

Aristotle, in mentioning the stone that fell in Thrace, rejects the idea
of its coming from the heavens; and Pliny confesses that most naturalists
are of the same opinion. This was a step towards the extinction of a
popular error. Fréret denies the existence of atmospheric stones, and
declares them to be volcanic emissions driven by the force of the winds.
He supposes Mount Albano to have been formerly a volcano; and that the
stones that fell must have issued from a re-opening of the crater.
Falconet, the sculptor, wrote a volume to prove that Pliny was in error
concerning atmospheric stones. While the learned world was thus at
variance, the multitude was justified in asserting them to fall from the
moon, since men of science were unable to prove the contrary.

On the 26th of April, 1803, there fell a vast number of atmospheric stones
at Aigle, in the department of Orne. The peasants of the place, thinking
it was the end of the world, fell on their knees invoking divine mercy;
and even their betters shared their alarm. This phenomenon happened most
opportunely, as the world of science, both in Paris and London, was just
then discussing similar occurrences which had taken place in India and
Provence; and after most diligent inquiry, the Institute resolved to
despatch one of its members to the spot. Monsieur Biot, an enthusiast in
the cause of science, arrived on the spot on the 16th of July, and
collected the following facts.

"About one o'clock, P.M., the sky being calm, with only a few greyish
clouds above the horizon, which did not diminish the fineness of the
weather, a luminous globe was seen, from Caen, from Pont Audemer, from the
vicinity of Alençon, Falaise, and Verneuil, rushing with great velocity
through the atmosphere; and immediately afterwards, a violent explosion
was heard at Aigle and thirty leagues round; lasting six minutes, and
resembling a discharge of artillery followed by that of musketry, and
terminating as with a roll of drums.

"A small cloud of rectangular form seemed to have been the origin of all
this terrible noise; the broader side of which was towards the west. It
appeared to be motionless throughout the phenomenon; vapours being emitted
after each discharge. The cloud was very high in the air. The inhabitants
of two villages, situated a league asunder, perceived it as if exactly
suspended above their heads. A hissing noise, similar to a stone hurled
from a sling, was heard wherever it hovered; and at the same time,
numerous solid bodies fell, which being collected, proved to be meteoric
stones.

"When tested, they were found to contain sulphur, iron in the metallic
state, magnesia and nickel; which, in the mineral kingdom have no
analogy."

Monsieur Biot also stated that the direction of the meteor was precisely
that of the magnetic meridian; an important remark, as a guide for future
observations. The great point gained in this inquiry, is that the highest
order of science, agreeing with the earliest professors, adopts what by
progressive science was denied.

The fact of showers of stones being established, all that remains to be
proved is their origin. Some still assert that they fall from the moon;
others attribute them to volcanos. Neither fact can be proved; and the
descent of aërolites at present remains a mystery.

One phenomenon often succeeds another; and shortly after the fall of
stones at Aigle, a shower of peas took place in Spain, and the kingdom of
Leon. This last phenomenon occurred in the month of May of the same year;
and, in Spain, fifteen quintals of an unknown seed were collected after a
violent storm; being round in form, white in colour, less than peas in
size, and resembling no known seed. They seemed, however, to belong to the
leguminous family of plants. Cavanilla, the botanist, analized them
without being able to determine their class. These productions, at least,
could neither be supposed to come from the moon, nor to have a volcanic
origin. Some of the seeds were sown in the Botanic Garden of Madrid, but
without result. This is, however, by no means a solitary instance of a
miraculous shower.

Pliny, Livy, Solinus, and Julius Obsequius have recorded showers of blood,
milk, wool, money, and pieces of flesh! Those authors make frequent
mention of such occurrences; dupes, no doubt, to the traditions of the
ancients. Lamothe Levayer, however, surpasses them all, and mentions the
fall of a man from the sky. Unless from a balloon, or the scaffolding of
some lofty building, we must be permitted to doubt; though he may,
perhaps, allude to some individual carried up by the force of a whirlwind;
for in the autumn of 1812, on the road to Genoa, a mule was raised up by
the wind, sustained during thirty seconds in the air, then disappeared in
a ravine, where it probably perished.

If we deny the existence of showers of blood, we must admit that there
have been phenomena such as to justify impostors in propagating such
delusions. During the Siege of Genoa, in 1774, there fell a red rain upon
the suburb of San Pietro d'Arena, which caused much consternation among
the inhabitants; the wind having carried up a quantity of red earth, which
proved the cause of general alarm. A similar phenomenon took place, near
Hermanstadt, in Transylvania.

"On the 17th of May, 1810," says a German journal, "there was a rain of
blood which lasted a quarter of an hour, accompanied by a violent storm,
and gusts of wind towards the south-west. Being collected on the spot by a
physician, and submitted to the chemical tests of sulphurated nitrous,
muriatic acid, acetate of lead, lime water, mercury, and saponaceous
spirit, it exhibited neither precipitation, nor loss of colour. Tested
with a solution of alum and fixed alkali, the precipitate induced a belief
that the colouring matter of this strange rain pertained to the vegetable
kingdom.

To elucidate the mystery of the rain at Hermanstadt, it sufficed to
inquire in what point was the wind. For on examining the localities in the
southwesterly direction, the hills proved to be clothed with fir, in
bloom, and the rain of blood was instantly explained. For in the North of
Europe rains of a reddish yellow, impregnated with the bloom of the fir,
constantly occur.

In 1608, the walls of Aix in Provence were covered with red spots, which
the people conceived to be blood. But Peiresc, a man of profound science,
undeceived them by proving them to be the spots left by a species of
butterfly on emerging from its crysalis; the number having been immense
that year at Aix.

Till balloons and other aërial carriages are used as engines of warfare,
we despair of having to record an authentic shower of blood, or any other
than common place hail, rain, and snow. There is an instance of a shower
of money, or rather of false coinage, mentioned by Dion Cassius; who
states that a certain rain turned copper white, assigning to it the hue of
silver, which lasted for three days. This is far from miraculous; as it
requires only a portion of volatilized mercury to mingle with the rain, as
in the instance of the fir bloom, to produce such an effect.

Showers of milk are explained by cretaceous matter carried into the air by
whirlwinds. The shreds of human flesh we read of are the red fragments
vomited by volcanoes; while showers of wool consist of the down of certain
trees, such as willows and osiers. Showers of cinders are of course the
result of volcanic eruption. The wind conveys them a prodigious distance;
for when Herculaneum and Pompeii were imbedded in lava, the ashes fell at
Rome, and even in Africa.

About a century ago, the deck of a vessel sailing from Marseilles to
Martinique was covered with ashes some inches deep, which were known to
proceed from an earthquake in the Island of St. Vincent. No other cause
could be assigned, though the vessel was one hundred leagues from the
island. The velocity of a cannon-ball or shell has been calculated; but
that of the wind, like the origin of the meteoric stones, remains a
problem.



CHAPTER X.

NOSTRUMS AND SPECIFICS.


The title of "Talisman" might be fairly prefixed to this chapter; but we
will content ourselves with the word nostrum. Considering the number of
these specifics, and the blind confidence of the world in their efficacy,
the credulous must be surprised at the ailments which still afflict
humanity. Previous to the introduction of quinine, the ague was supposed
to be cured by dipping in three holy waters, in three different churches,
on the same Sunday; a difficult remedy for people residing where there is
only one church! A variety of charms for the ague are still in popular
use.

Unsuccessful gamesters used formerly to make a knot in their linen; of
late years they have contented themselves with changing their chair as a
remedy against ill-luck. As a security against cowardice, it was once only
necessary to wear a pin plucked from the winding sheet of a corpse. To
insure a prosperous accouchement to your wife, you had but to tie her
girdle to a bell and ring it three times. To get rid of warts, you were to
fold up in a rag as many peas as you had warts, and throw them upon the
high road; when the unlucky person who picked them up became your
substitute. In the present day, to cure a tooth-ache, you go to your
dentist. In the olden time you would have solicited alms in honour of St.
Lawrence, and been relieved without cost or pain.

The greater number of these charms or remedies were not resorted to by the
multitude alone, but recommended by Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. In the
treaty on superstitions by the learned Curé, Thiers, these remedies are
recorded; being about as effective as the talismans of the ancients,
including the famed Palladium of Troy.

Rome had faith in celestial bucklers, and the stone of the Mother of the
Gods. Virgil was skilled in the composition of talismans; a brazen fly
attributed to him attained more celebrity in his time than the immortal
"Georgics." This fly being suspended from one of the gates of Naples, the
charm proved so effective, that not a fly entered that city for a space of
eight years. A trumpet held by a statue, also invented by Virgil,
possessed the power of laying the dust in his garden!

Gregory of Tours mentions that the city of Paris was secured from rats,
snakes, and fires, during a long period by means of a rat, a snake, and
dormouse of brass, which were destroyed by the Vandals. Pliny suggests
that Milo of Crotona was indebted for his prodigious strength to a
talisman, as we know that of Samson to have lain in his hair. The Egyptian
warriors wore figures of scarabs, in order to fortify their courage; and
Dr. Hufeland informs us that a German army having been defeated by the
French in the olden time, talismans were found upon the bodies of the dead
and wounded.

Among the first talismans was that mentioned by Suidas as worn by the
Kings of Egypt to endow them with the love of justice. Pericles was proud
of wearing a talisman presented to him by the Grecian ladies. Macrobus
relates that the victors in the public games used to procure themselves
little boxes, in which mathematicians had inclosed preservatives against
envy; while Thiers informs us that an illustrious astrologer invented a
talisman for intercepting the approach of flies to a house; when to his
horror, no sooner was it suspended, than a fly, more daring than the rest,
deposed a contemptuous mark of disregard upon the charm. The absurdity of
these inventions, it is needless to assert; but let us consider the
subject of the ancient talismans simply as subjects only of curiosity.

Talismans were cast in metal melted under the influence of a
constellation communicating some specific virtue. Amulets, talismans of a
secondary order, but equally efficacious, were formed of plants, figures
designed on ivory, metals, or precious stones. Such designs were called
"_gamahez_"--whence the word "_cameo_;"--and were preservatives against
fever, rheumatism, gout, tooth-ache, paralysis, apoplexy, cold, and other
diseases. The Platonists were great champions of amulets and talismans.
Gaffard wrote a treatise in assertion of their efficacy, and to defend
them against the imputation of magic. Not many years ago, the ladies of
Paris used to wear iron rings, manufactured by the celebrated locksmith,
Georget, which, like the galvanic rings now in fashion, were considered a
guarantee against the headache. A few uneradicated roots of popular
prejudice will always remain to produce a new crop.

How were simple mortals to suppose themselves in error when following such
examples as Cato, Varro, and Julius Cæsar? The two first conceived that no
evil could overtake them so long as they made use of certain mysterious
words; and Cæsar, after falling out of his chariot, would not resume his
place till he had recited certain words to which he attributed the virtue
of warding off falls.

Father Thiers relates that, in his time, the Benedictines of Germany and
France pretended to possess medals which protected them and their cattle
from accidents, sorcery, and witchcraft. According to his version, about
the year 1647, there was a vigorous crusade against sorcery, and many
magicians were executed. At Straubing, several declared, when legally
examined, that their maledictions were of no effect upon either the cattle
or inhabitants of the Castle of Nattemberg, in which were deposited
certain medals of St. Benedict, of which they gave the precise
description. A certain number of initials were inscribed upon them, which
being filled up with Latin words, signified "Divine cross, guide my steps,
banish Satan, cease to tempt me, I know thy poisons, and will eschew
them." No sooner did the monks hear of this discovery than they began
casting medals of a peculiar kind, which soon abounded in Germany.

The French Benedictines became equally zealous; and having struck a
similar medal, published that it contained a charm against witchcraft and
disease, and was a guarantee against all ailings of man or beast; the
former requiring only to carry them in their pockets, the latter suspended
bell-fashion from their necks.

Father Thiers so far from accrediting the efficacy of these medals,
declares that the French Benedictines ought to be too enlightened to
encourage such absurdities. But whether in good or bad faith, certain it
is that they made a speculation of trading with the medals. Thiers also
treats as impostors the curers of burns, and preventers of fire, who
pretend to disregard the danger of fire arms. According to a popular
tradition, a burn was cured by saying: "Fire lose thy heat, as Judas did
his colour when he betrayed the Lord." A chimney on fire was extinguished
by making three crosses upon the chimney-piece. Any fire was quickly
subdued by throwing an egg into the flames, which had been laid on the
Thursday, or Friday of Holy Week, during the celebration of divine
service. No fire arms availed against a person repeating thrice, "Malatus
dives fulgiter regissa," or wearing a band with a mystical inscription,
every letter being separated by a cross. The learned father declares such
practices to be absurd, and relates the following anecdote.

"An old woman of Louvain, who had an affection of the eyes was assured she
had only to pronounce a few mysterious words to be cured. She instantly
addressed a young scholar of the University, offering to present him with
a new coat if he would write the words she dictated to him. The youth
consented, and seemed to write as she dictated. But on delivering to her
the sealed document, he enjoined her not to open it till she was cured, on
which she presented him the new coat and withdrew. Shortly afterwards,
her eyes being recovered, she confided her secret to a neighbour suffering
from the same affliction; who taking the mysterious paper into her care,
received the same benefit. Enchanted by their good fortune, they
determined to know the secret, and broke the seal of the document; which
was found to contain the following phrase, which the youth had maliciously
inserted. 'May the devil tear out thine eyes, old witch, and fill up the
sockets with burning embers.'"

In the beginning of the last century, there were individuals who professed
to have a powder which extinguished fire. This was contained in a barrel,
and thrown into the flames. The barrel was in fact double, the external
one being full of water, the internal charged with gunpowder sufficient to
cause an explosion; and the water so dispersed, of course, extinguished
the fire, if inconsiderable. Had the authors of this invention not kept it
secret, we might have respected them; for though it produced no great
result, an idea though only half conceived may be the forerunner of more
important discoveries. Attempts have been made of late years to guarantee
thatched roofs against fire, by impregnating them with a preparation of
which we know not the composition. The success, though not complete,
should not be discouraged; for repeated experiments may be finally
successful. Flowers of sulphur are often employed for the extinction of
fires in chimnies, possessing properties which render the action of fire
less intense.

However absurd the miraculous virtues attributed to talismans and amulets,
in some cases, the security they inspire may be of use to those who have
faith in their power. Imagination counts for something in the moral
organisation of man; and through the constant action and reaction of the
one on the other, the body may be at times advantageously soothed by the
serenity conferred on the mind through the influence of the fancy.



CHAPTER XI.

PHYSIOGNOMISTS.


The world and its inhabitants are still exposed to a variety of grievous
afflictions and visitations in spite of the infallible nostrums for
preventing them, in general use; which appears surprising when we consider
the number of able scientific men constantly devoted to the study of our
physical nature, and the plausible novel theories which they every now and
then unfold to the world. Let those who devote themselves to the study of
physiological science persevere in their researches; which if not valuable
to others are at least amusing to themselves. According to the Abbé
Cottin's line,

  "The pleasure is to learn and not to know."

Between the successive systems of Lavater and Gall, we give the decided
preference to the latter; the studies and experiments upon which are
founded on principles equally applicable to all human beings, whatever
their condition, sex, age, or habits; whether belonging to an
uncultivated or civilised state; while all other systems for promoting the
knowledge of human character, gravitate in a sphere more or less
exceptional; so that the application could never become general. An
eminent magistrate used to pretend that he could capitally convict a man
by a sight of his handwriting; and many people affect to pronounce upon
the shades and variations of human character on a similar indication.

Considering the number of persons ignorant of the calligraphic art, we
almost prefer the system of the barber of Picard, who needed only to shave
a man to judge of his disposition!

All the inferential systems that now command our attention were subjects
of contemplation to the ancients. Human physiognomy, above all, must have
ever presented a subject of powerful interest. It is a daily object of
reflection to all men, though unperceived by ourselves. A countenance
pleases or displeases us at first sight; yet we know not whether it be
beauty that charms, or the want of it that repels us. A face which charms
one man, disgusts another. Such a person is said to have a happy
countenance, such another, an unhappy one, on which the former may be
felicitated, the latter pitied; but it is most unfair to deduce from such
evidence the existence of good qualities in the one, or vices and defects
in the other. Such, however, is the elementary study of Physiognomy, and
such the delusion which our antipathies often create.

Dimension and proportion first attracted the attention of the
philosophers. Aristotle compares a man whose head possesses extraordinary
volume to an owl; while Albertus Magnus looks upon him as an idiot; and
the physician, Porta, significantly informs us that Vitellius had an
immense head. If, on the contrary, a man possess a cerebrum of the usual
circumference, but exceeding by a little the volume of ordinary heads, the
same authors regard him as a man of superior intelligence, endowed with a
noble soul, a brilliant and fertile imagination; and, as an example,
adduce the head of Plato which exceeded in proportion the remainder of his
body. Alexander the Great had a small head, compared even with his person,
which as is well known was diminutive.

The quality and colour of the hair was likewise a subject of speculative
theory for the ancients. Lank hair was considered indicative of
pusillanimity and cowardice; yet the head of Napoleon was guiltless of a
curl! Frizzly hair was thought an indication of coarseness and clumsiness.
The hair most in esteem, was that terminating in ringlets. Dares, the
historian, states that Achilles and Ajax Telamon had curling locks; such
also was the hair of Cymon, the Athenian. As to the Emperor Augustus,
nature had favoured him with such redundant looks, that no hair-dresser
in Rome could produce the like. Auburn or light brown hair was thought the
most distinguished, as portending intelligence, industry, a peaceful
disposition, as well as great susceptibility to the tender passion. Castor
and Pollux had brown hair; so also had Menelaus. Black hair does not
appear to have been esteemed by the Romans; but red was an object of
aversion. Ages before the time of Judas, red hair was thought a mark of
reprobation, both in the case of Typhon, who deprived his brother of the
sceptre of Egypt, and Nebuchednezzar who acquired it in expiation of his
atrocities. Even the donkey tribe suffered from this ill-omened
visitation, according to the proverb of "wicked as a red ass." Asses of
that colour were held in such detestation among the Copths, that every
year they sacrificed one by hurling it from a high wall.

Next in importance to the hair, were the ears; the size and shape of which
harmless cartilages, supplied important conjectures. According to
Aristotle, large ears are indicative of imbecility; while small ones
announce madness. Ears which are flat, point out the rustic and brutal
man. Those of the fairest promise, are firm and of middling size. Happy
the man who boasts of square ears; a sure indication of sublimity of soul
and purity of life. Such, according to Suetonius, were the ears of the
Emperor Augustus.

Having considered the conformation of the head, the colour and quality of
the hair, and the shape of the ears, let us treat of the complexion; of
which the most unfavourable is the yellow, livid, or leaden, like those of
Caligula, Attila, and the most notorious tyrants of the olden time. The
eyes should neither be too large nor too little; the first announcing
laziness, like those of the ox. Such were the eyes of Domitian, the
vainest, most inert, and cowardly of men. Upon this point, Aristotle is at
complete variance with Homer; who is so enraptured with large eyes, that,
in order to define the beauty of those of Juno, he names her _Boopis_ or
"ox-eyed." Neither large nor small eyes afford proof of intellect; and no
person who is not afflicted with squinting has any right to complain.

It is usual to consider large eyes the finest, a prejudice so universal,
that it is commonly said, "She is ugly, certainly; but then she has such
fine eyes!"--or, "She is a pretty woman; but her eyes are too small."
Whereas neither form nor dimension constitutes the beauty or influence of
eyes; but rather their expression. The colour of eyes is a mere matter of
taste; though Aristotle asserts that persons gifted with almond shaped
blue eyes, are frank and intelligent; with brown, clever and good; with
green, courageous and enterprising. As to black eyes, Aristotle pronounces
them to be the sure prognostics of timidity and pusillanimity. Red eyes
are indicative of bad temper. The gossips of France have quite as good a
theory as that of Aristotle; viz: that "Les yeux bleus vont aux cieux; les
yeux gris, en Paradis; les yeux noirs, en purgatoire, les yeux verts, en
enfer!"

Bushy eyebrows are indicative of a brutal obstinate and impious character;
long eyebrows, of arrogance, and insolence; spare eyebrows, of effeminacy
and cowardice. But if they are thick, flexible, and parallel, you may rely
on a sound judgment and superior wisdom. Such are ever the brows of
Jupiter; attesting the theory of Aristotle.

The question of noses occupies a prominent place in theories of the human
physiognomy. The flat nose is indicative of a propensity to pleasure and
luxury; the pointed, of ill-temper and frivolity; a deviation from the
straight line, of a disposition to malice and repartee. Since the days of
Aristotle, this opinion has been permanent; a crooked nose, being the
attribute of a satirical mind. The owner of a diminutive nose, is usually
cunning and dissimulating; of a large nose, imprudent and discourteous.

Let us here observe, that if there be one feature in the human face more
characteristic than another, it is the nose. Examine the head of a
skeleton which exhibits trace of human features, save the nasal bone;
which though prominent, is an integral part of the cerebral globe. Now if
the brain be the seat of intelligence, may not the nose be influenced by
its propinquity to the brain? Humbly submitting this question to the
consideration of science, we proceed to consider the theories of other
speculators.

Amongst Europeans, the Italians rank first for beauty of nose; the Dutch,
for the excessive ugliness of that feature. The English nose is apt to be
thick and cartilaginous; that of the Jews, somewhat crooked. In France,
almost every man of genius has had a well-formed nose. Short and flat
noses, so censured by Aristotle, still rank low in the science of
physiognomy. Socrates, however, was a singular instance of a hideous nose.
Boerhaave and Gibbon possessed one of the same disagreeable form.

The mouth attracted the notice of the ancients as much as the nose. A
moderate mouth was, in their estimation, a symbol of courage, capacity,
and nobleness of heart. The indication indeed was infallible when
accompanied with a square and well-formed chin, an expansive forehead, and
firm and rosy cheeks. The Greeks did not confine their observations to the
head and face in forming a judgment of the moral and intellectual
faculties; but regarded every component part of the human frame. Since,
however, we are more discreetly clothed than the Greeks, we decline
following their researches. The eyelids, nails, moles, and even teeth,
were taken into consideration: more especially the latter, as indicative
of the workings of the mind. If authentic, the science of physiognomy
would be universally studied, for how useful would it be to detect the
good or evil qualities of man or woman by a glance at their faces! As it
stands at present, however, many false inferences would be made. For
instance, we are told that well shaped blue eyes, portend intelligence and
frankness; qualities incompatible with a sound nose. But if found
together, as is often the case, what is to be decided between two positive
contradictions, the nose rendering impossible the virtues promised by the
eyes? The indications of the mouth and eyebrows may be equally at
variance; and physiognomy presents a tissue of similar contradictions.

Having established the fallacy of the physiognomical system, we must
nevertheless render homage to the sagacity of Lavater, to his ingenious
and fascinating system, and conscientious enthusiasm for an art which he
has enriched with much valuable observations, and endeavoured to elevate
into a science. Lavater was sincerely devoted to his art, which
predominated over every other idea, and exalted his imagination to such a
degree, that he became rather the poet than the disciple of physiognomy.
Gifted with a highly impressionable nature, the countenances of certain
persons used to haunt his memory; and in early life, he made such
striking inferences from certain physiognomies, that he was induced to
persist in his studies.

"My first attempts," said he, "were pitiful. Required to furnish a
discourse to the Society of Sciences at Zurich, I decided upon the theme
of physiognomy, and composed it with heedlessness and precipitation.

"I was censured, praised, and laughed at; and could not refrain from
smiling, well aware how much of this was undeserved. At this moment, my
physiognomical convictions are so strong that I decide upon certain faces
with as absolute a certainty as of my existence."

The sincerity of Lavater is undeniable. But even had we his convictions,
we should hesitate to decide in favour of the infallibility or
applicability of his system; which is more the result of a peculiar
personal sagacity, constantly on the watch, than the efficacy of the art.
A man may be born a physiognomist. But to become one by mere force of
study, is next to impossible.

Zopirus was doubtless a great physiognomist. One day, on entering the
school of Socrates, he pronounced, at a glance, a man who was present to
be extremely vicious; and his conjecture was correct. But such sweeping
applications of the art of physiognomy would sanction calumny, by allowing
the accidents of nature to be made a test of character; when the
influence of religion, reason, or education might have successfully
subdued them. Were such a verdict held good, a fatal impediment would be
placed against all moral improvement. Refinement of intellect is often
connected with a coarse exterior; and the most prepossessing physiognomy
with the grossest violations of decency. "A pretty woman deficient in
sense," says Madame de Staël, "is a flower without fragrance;" and how
many scentless flowers of this kind are to be met with in society!--The
face of the esteemed La Fontaine was that of an idiot. Jean Jacques
Rousseau was remarkable for a stupid serenity of countenance, wholly at
variance with the impetuous and volcanic nature of his mind. The face of
Fénélon was devoid of all expression. I have heard of two brothers, one
possessing a charming countenance, and yet a rascal; the other, a
villainous face, yet a perfectly honest man. Moreover, our features are
constantly varying; and if our moral and intellectual faculties are to be
inferred from these changes, how are we to establish or follow up any
fixed principle, amid such a labyrinth of confusion? A system based upon
the general development of the brain is far more rational; because the
lobes of the brain are born with us, and if time develop them, it is in
manifest proportions.

We admit, therefore, the talents of certain individuals for pronouncing
upon the characters of men, according to their physiognomy; and that they
may, by constant practice, enhance this personal aptitude. Individuals
educated for a diplomatic career, ought not to neglect this study,
proficiency in which is essential to their success. To divine, yet never
be divined; to read the physiognomy of others, while your own is devoid of
expression, formed one of the grand secrets of Monsieur de Talleyrand.
Most people who converse with a multiplicity of persons become
physiognomists; and if mistaken in their judgments, are less often so than
those who have intercourse with few. But the civilized man is so different
from the being pure from the hands of his Creator, that any system
comprising confusedly the state of nature and of civilization must
necessarily be fallacious.

Study Lavater, therefore, and practice his art as a recreation among
friends; but make no serious conclusions drawn from physiognomical rules,
which abound in contradictions.

Let us now proceed to point out the similitudes of feature betwixt certain
men and certain animals. Though we were created after the image of God,
many theorists establish physiognomical analogies between man and the
animal race. These speculators pretend that every human being had his
correspondent beast in this world; just as every good Christian has his
patron among the elect of Paradise. Charles Lebrun, the favourite painter
of Louis XIV, was a zealous adherent to this theory. Before his time,
Porta had devoted his attention to this ancient supposition; and
congratulated himself upon having detected a likeness between the face of
a setter and that of the divine Plato; an idea which prompted further
speculation. That a painter continually watching nature under every aspect
should be allured by such a theory, in which his practised eye has
compared and approximated objects, and detected similitudes unintelligible
to the vulgar, cannot be surprising. A mere hint, or trace suffices him
for the composition of a face, just as Cuvier recomposed the Mastodon by
merely seeing one of the bones.

After profound studies, Charles Lebrun concluded that every human face had
features more or less correspondant with those of the various animal
species. His opinion rested upon a diagram, uniting a quantity of designs
with an explanatory text. The designs still exist, but the text is not
forthcoming; though something is known of it by means of one of his pupils
who survived him. Lebrun could distinguish by a glance at an animal's
head, whether it were carnivorous, or herbivorous, timid, or bold,
peaceful, or ferocious. To the bump on the higher part of the nose, he
assigned the locality of courage. To ascertain this endowment, either in
man or animals, therefore, you had only to cast an eye on the nose. "All
men of eminence," said he, "have well proportioned noses, of which the
aquiline has ever been esteemed the most distinguished; probably from its
similitude to the beak of the king of the air--the eagle. The Persians
esteemed the aquiline nose so highly, that supreme power was inaccessible
without it. Cyrus, Artaxerxes, and every monarch who ever swayed the
eastern world, boasted of this mark of distinction.

Like all new theories, the paradoxes of Lebrun commanded much attention,
presenting a subject of inexhaustible controversy, as coming within the
scope of every one's observation. According to the system of Lebrun, the
Great Condé enjoyed the distinction of possessing the most heroic nose in
the kingdom, which, of course, brought the system into credit. Examine the
designs of Lebrun. The analogy between certain men and animals there
portrayed, is most striking. But the skill of a clever artist contrives
and exaggerates resemblances, like the wit of the caricaturist, whose
monstrosities, however absurd, often exhibit a remarkable degree of
likeness.

As regards mere physical analogy, nothing can be cleverer than the works
of Grandville, whose animals seem to emulate our absurdities, habits, and
manners. But Lebrun and his disciples looked upon the thing seriously;
instituting pernicious deductions from certain accidents of form, and
tending to approximate enlightened man to the brute creation. The
materialism thus inculcated, would lead to the most serious moral
results.



CHAPTER XII.

LAST WORDS OF DYING PERSONS.


Are the last words of the dying to be considered prophetic? Is a
supernatural intelligence vouchsafed to the last efforts of expiring
nature? Examples are cited in substantiation of this belief; but the
subject is one demanding the most serious consideration. Napoleon was of
opinion that Hannibal was the greatest warrior of antiquity; founding his
opinion upon the fact that the Roman historians, in describing his
character, must have rather disparaged than aggrandised the great enemy of
Rome. This luminous appreciation acquires to be constantly kept in view.
Every historian is more or less biassed with regard to the personages he
describes. He relates events after their accomplishment, and occasionally
miraculous incidents to enhance the value of his recital.

The words spoken on death-beds may have been accidentally realized; as
often occurs to the prophesies of the living. But this does not confer
the gift of prophecy upon every death-bed.

Ferdinand IV., King of Castille, having been cited by one of his victims
to appear in the presence of God; died on the thirtieth day. But the most
remarkable summons of this nature was that made by Jacques Molay, Grand
Master of the Templars, to Philip le Bel and Clement V., to appear in the
presence of God forty days before the end of the year. At the time
specified, Clement was carried to the tomb; but Philip did not follow him
until a year later, 1314, the martyrdom of the Templars having taken place
in 1312. It is true that Ferdinand IV. condemned to death the Brothers
Carvajal, unjustly accused of the murder of a Spanish gentleman; and that
their citation to the King in their dying moments was accomplished to a
day. But the health of the monarch was, at the time of their condemnation,
much impaired by the excesses of the table; so that his approaching end
seemed certain. As we observed respecting talismans, some imaginations are
worked upon by encouragement, while others are affected in the contrary
sense; and it needed no miracle for the menace of the Carvajals to hasten
the end of the King of Castille.

Sometimes a careless word or sentence acquires, by accident, a semblance
of importance. At the death of Louis XV., all France recalled to mind the
words the Bishop of Senez had pronounced before him: "In forty days,
Nineveh shall be destroyed." Louis XV. died on the fortieth day, and the
Bishop was thought a prophet; a mere figure of eloquence having become
metamorphosed into a prediction.

Much such a prophecy was uttered in the Church of Notre Dame, by a priest
named Beauregard, some years previous to the Revolution. "Thy temples
Lord," said he, "shall be thrown down and pillaged, thy name blasphemed,
thy rites proscribed. Great God! what do I hear! The holy canticles with
which these vaults once echoed, are drowned by profane and lascivious
songs; and the infamous divinities of paganism usurp the place of God, the
Creator, sitting on the throne of the Holy of Holies, and receiving the
sacred incense of our altars."

These words became remarkable when realized at the Revolution. But when
they were uttered, the Revolution was already impending. Beauregard,
endowed with a zealous and vehement nature, touched upon the probable
consequence of a philosophy which he contemplated with horror; thus
becoming an unconscious refutation of the proverb, that "No man is a
prophet in his own country."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE ANTIPODES--MORNING AND EVENING DEW.


It is a gratifying thing when popular prejudices are overcome by the
progress of public enlightenment. The existence of the antipodes was
formerly disbelieved. Before the spherical form of our globe was
ascertained, how was it possible to suppose that there existed human
beings under our feet standing with their head downwards?

Till the Newtonian theory was developed, it seemed impossible but that
persons so placed must fall into the realms of endless space. There is a
general disposition in human nature to believe all that is impossible as
well as to doubt every thing that really exists; and such was the
incredulity of the world with regard to the antipodes.

The ancients, who admitted many absurdities, denied the existence of the
antipodes. The Fathers of the Church followed in their steps; some indeed
pronounced it heresy to hold such a belief. St. Augustin expressly says,
"Take heed lest thou believe such a fable." In his treatise on the Acts
of the Apostles, there is an argument remarkable enough, considering that
the rotundity of the earth was then unknown. "Faith teaches us, that all
men are from Adam. But if there were other men under the earth, they could
not be of Adam. How could they have found their way to the antipodes? Not
by land, for the antipodes are cut off from our hemisphere by boundless
seas. Not by sea; for the most experienced pilot would not dare launch his
vessel in such boundless space. It is, therefore, evident that the
doctrine of the antipodes is false and heretical." Time and experience
have taught us the folly of deciding upon topics exceeding our
comprehension. Yet, perhaps, even now we deny a host of truths, which at
some time may give us an insight into futurity. In great as well as
trifling things, every day brings its tribute to the cause of truth. The
antipodes are admitted to exist. The earth revolves round the sun, though
once supposed to be stationary in its place in the heavens; while the dew,
which our ancestors believed to descend from heaven, is known to be an
emanation from the earth."

Such an error was pardonable enough. The dews are often made use of in
Holy Writ as a term of comparison; and the mercy of the Lord is implored
to descend upon his people like the dews from heaven. After many
experiments in elucidation of the origin of dew, a scientific observer
obtained the following results.

Having placed some plants under glass bells, he examined them the
following morning, and finding them to be covered with dew like those left
in the air, he cut shreds of flannel; and placing them at graduated
heights, found that those nearest the earth were first wet, and that the
dew gradually rose towards the highest. Upon weighing the shreds, he found
those below to be the most saturated. Lastly, upon examining plants grown
in green-houses, he felt convinced that they also imbibed abundant dew.
These experiments excited attention; and Muschembroek, the author, had
many imitators. Among others, Dufay, who placed a double ladder thirty-two
feet high, in the centre of a garden, suspending tablets of glass at
different altitudes; so that each was equally exposed to the action of the
atmosphere. He remained at the foot of the ladder to watch the progress of
the phenomenon, and found that the tablets nearest the earth were the
first moist, and that the humidity ascended gradually to the highest.
Several other men of science repeated the same experiment with similar
results.

The problem was thus solved, and proof obtained that dew ascended from the
earth. To the joy, however, of some, a doubt presented itself. By renewed
experiments it was found that this dew from the earth did not equally
affect all bodies, and was partial in its bearing. For instance, it
appeared to avoid gold, silver, metal, and polished marbles; while it
adhered to glass, oily and resinous substances.

Place a gold or plated vessel under a crystal vase in a garden during the
night, and in the morning you will find the edges perfectly dry, while the
crystal vase will be wet. The cause of this difference is not accounted
for. Reaumur supposes, but does not affirm, that the golden vessel,
containing more caloric than the crystal, repels the dew, while the latter
attracts it.

In confirmation of this supposition, Reaumur proposed the following
experiment. Place a china cup upon a stone within a hot-bed; and further
on, and beyond the influence of the hot-bed, another cup of similar form,
substance, and diameter; this will be charged with dew, the other will
remain dry. In explanation of this difference, it may be imagined that the
phenomenon of which they sought the solution, originated in electricity;
an opinion, however, which has no influence over the main discovery that
dews arise from the ground, instead of falling from the skies, as asserted
by the mythology of the ancients, and the tropes of Scripture.



CHAPTER XIV.

PERPETUAL LAMPS AND ARCHIMEDES.


Stability is not the characteristic of man or his works. The discovery of
perpetual motion has long been the object of our ambition; the sole
approach to which appears to be our futile perseverance in the pursuit.
Let us be content, therefore, with aspiring to duration, a sufficient
triumph for perishable man; and be it noted that this quality, though
impressed by human art upon inert matter, such as the Pyramids of Egypt,
is incompatible with the mutability of our social institutions.

The word perpetual has been too often and too easily applied. The
marvellous is too often substituted for the true, just as great vices are
more widely apparent than great virtues. Who has not heard, for instance,
of perpetual lamps, miraculous as the Wonderful Lamp of the Arabian Tales!

The Pagan priesthood originated these fabulous sepulchral lights; and
those of our own faith who had the weakness to adopt their deception,
endangered our confidence by recourse to unworthy trickeries. Pausanias
mentions a lamp of massive gold, consecrated by Callimachus, and endowed
with such properties as to endure a year without deterioration. Another is
said to have existed in a temple in England. Pope Gelasius affirms, in the
acts of St. Sylvester, that in the Baptistery of Rome, there was a lamp
which had burned without intermission since the reign of Constantine,
viz., half a century. That the dark ages should have admitted such marvels
is not surprising. But one of the illuminati of the sixteenth century,
Fortunio Liceti, composed a treaty concerning the existence of such lamps,
asserting that, upon opening the tomb of the giant Pallas, a lamp was
found which had been burning since the times of the pious Æneas. Another
was stated to have been found in the tomb of Tullia, during the
Pontificate of Paulinus, about fifteen centuries and a half after its
construction. In the reign of Justinian, a portrait of our Saviour was
discovered at Edessa with a lamp unrenovated from the period of the
Christian era, that is, during a period of five centuries. Fortunio cites
a vast number of similar examples; from which he infers that the Romans
possessed the secret of making inextinguishable lamps. His conviction
upon the subject is such, that he attempts to explain the possibility by
a theory that the combustion of the smoke produced fresh oil for the
nourishment of the lamp. This must surely have been the far-famed oil of
the Phoenix.

It is scarcely worth while to controvert such absurdities; the fable of
perpetual lamps having faded before the dawning light of reason. Is it,
however, to be credited, that the genius of Descartes did not secure him
against this vulgar error? The views of that great man on the subject
deserve to be quoted as a proof of the aberrations to which superior minds
are subject. "After considering the fire produced by gunpowder," says
Descartes, "which is the most transitory in existence, let us inquire
whether there can exist a flame, enduring without the aid of fresh matter
for its support, like those found in the tombs of the ancients shut up for
centuries. I will not vouch for the truth of their existence; but think it
possible that in a vault so close that the air could never be disturbed,
the parts of the oil transformed into smoke, and from smoke into soot,
might, by sub-formation, arch themselves over the flame so as to protect
it from the air, and render it so weak as to lose the power of consuming
either oil or wick, so long as there should remain a shred unburnt by
which means the primary element existent in the flame and identified with
the little self-formed vault, might revolve therein like a little star.
It necessarily follows that the second element became expelled on all
sides, while trying to penetrate the pores still remaining in the little
dome; and the flame which remained feeble while the place was closed,
brightened the moment it was opened, and the external air admitted. The
surrounding smoke dispersed, the flame recovers its vigour for a moment,
and then expires. Such lamps, in fact, become perpetual, only from having
exhausted their oil."

This statement is extracted from the Fourth Book of the Principles of
Philosophy of Descartes. In spite of the respect due to his name, we see
in it only a tissue of verbosity exhibiting science at a nonplus, and
advocating a groundless theory. But such a chimera on the part of so
eminent a man, ought to afford consolation to second-rate capacities, as a
proof that no one is exempt from delusions.

From Descartes, let us turn to Archimedes, who conferred ten-fold power
upon the arm of man by arming it with the lever; and with becoming
deference avow our want of faith in the mirror by the burning reflections
of which he managed to destroy the Roman galleys!

"Combustible bodies," observes Descartes, "cannot be ignited by means of
mirrors unless comprehended in the necessary focus. Geometry shows us that
the distance of a focus of a concave mirror is equal to the half of its
sphere; that is, if the mirror have been set from a sphere of a radius of
one foot, the distance of the focus will be of six inches. A sphere having
a radius of one foot, gives, therefore, but a focus of six inches, so that
to establish a focus at two hundred feet, would require a sphere with a
radius of four hundred feet, or eight hundred in diameter! Besides, how
could Archimedes procure such a mirror, when the art of casting mirrors
was unknown, and the manufacture of glass in its infancy? That it was a
metallic mirror is difficult to conceive. Such were the solutions
attempted of an insoluble problem. Doubtful anecdotes are so often and so
boldly adopted by the authors of antiquity, that we may regard as
unsubstantiated all facts upon which they are silent. Neither Livy,
Diodorus, nor Polybius mention the mirror of Archimedes; so that the
invention is probably modern, and most likely a fable of the sixteenth
century, prolific in inventions and amplifications. The press, then in its
infancy, delighted in the propagation of marvels and fallacies attributed
by their imbecile authors to the ancients, so as to assign them some
semblance of truth. Among such inventions was the mirror of Archimedes.

Gallienus, indeed, mentions the burning of the fleet by Archimedes; but is
mute on the subject of the mirror, which he could scarcely have omitted,
had the fact been genuine. Tzetzes and Zoronas are the first who mention
it; the former in the following words:

"When the Roman galleys were within arrow-shot, Archimedes caused an
hexagonal mirror to be made, and other smaller ones, each having
twenty-four angles, which were placed at a proportionate distance, and
could be worked by their hinges and certain metallic blades; their
position being such that the rays of the sun reflected upon their surface,
produced a fire which destroyed the Roman galleys, though at the distance
of a bow-shot."

The author does not condescend to give his authority; relying for the
evidence of his authenticity upon his confederate, Zoronas, who relates
that, at the Siege of Constantinople, under the reign of Anastasius,
Probus burnt the enemy's fleet by means of brazen mirrors. He states that
the invention was not new, but belonged to Archimedes, who, as testified
by Dion, used them at the Siege of Syracuse by Marcellus.

The mutual confederacy of a couple of mountebanks is as easily understood
as it would be susceptible of annihilation; did not such men as Kirchen
and Buffon become sureties, not for what Archimedes has done, but for what
he was capable of effecting. Previous to Descartes, the former had
asserted the possibility of igniting combustible matter at a great
distance by means of small plane mirrors, which could be managed so that
the rays might be directed upon any given object. This was simply a
theory; but Buffon decided upon making the experiment, the result of which
is well known. He caused to be constructed one hundred and sixty-eight
little mirrors six inches by eight, and directing their rays towards a
point, succeeded in igniting a body at a considerable distance. By this he
discovered a new principle, viz: that the action of the solar rays
reflected is in direct ratio of the diameter of the focus; proving,
moreover, that by multiplying the mirrors, an indefinite line of
combustion might be established.

Can we infer, however, from these experiments of Buffon, that Archimedes
actually destroyed the Roman galleys? We think not; considering the
silence of the Roman writers on the subject, and the progress of science
in the time of Buffon, with reference to its discoveries in the time of
the Siege of Syracuse by Marcellus. Whether this mirror existed or not,
however, Archimedes must be admitted to be one of the greatest geniuses
the World of Science ever produced.



CHAPTER XV.

THE LYNX AND THE CAMELEON.


The title of this chapter seems to promise a fable rather than a
dissertation; and a very amusing one might be grounded on the attributes
of the two animals, considering the perspicacity affected by poor
short-sighted mortals, and the mutability of colour of so many a human
mind. It is not, however, as emblems that we are about to treat of the
lynx and the cameleon.

The lynx figures extensively in the poetry of the ancients. Not only do
they attribute miraculous properties to the eyes of the animal, as being
able to see through walls, but Pliny assures us that the excrements of the
lynx were transformed into amber, rubies, and carbuncles. The nature or
habits of this animal were so delicate, however, that its secretions were
as difficult to discover as those of cats; in consequence of which much
treasure was lost! They might as well have asserted at once, that jewels
found in mines were the produce of antediluvian lynxes. They proceeded,
however, to attribute the optical powers of the lynx to a variety of
individuals; nor have modern writers hesitated to follow their example.

Valerius Maximus, Varro, and even Cicero, speak with ecstasies of the
powers of vision of the Sicilian, Strabo; who, from Cape Lilyboeum could
descry Carthage, and count the vessels sailing out of the port; the
distance being forty-five leagues! These worthies forgot, that even had
the sight of Strabo been still more powerful, the intermediary obstacles
caused by the rotundity of the globe must have circumvented his view.
Cæsar is said to have seen from Gaul all that passed in a port in Britain;
probably by a figure of speech purporting that he knew all that passed in
conquered countries, just as the eye of Napoleon was said to survey at
once his whole empire.

About the year 1725, the marvellous history of a Portuguese woman set the
whole world of science into confusion, as will be found by referring to
the Mercure de France. This female was said to possess the gift of
discovering treasures. Without any other aid than the keen penetration of
her eyes, she was able to distinguish the different strata of earth, and
pronounce unerringly upon the utmost distances at a single glance. Her eye
penetrated through every substance, even the human body; and she could
discern the mechanism, and circulation of all animal fluids, and detect
latent diseases; although less skilful than the animal magnetiser, she did
not affect to point out infallible remedies. Ladies could learn from her
the sex of their forthcoming progeny. In short, her triumphs were
universal.

The King of Portugal, greatly at a loss for water in his newly built
palace, consulted her; and after a glance at the spot, she pointed out an
abundant spring, upon which his Majesty rewarded her with a pension, the
Order of Christ, and a patent of nobility.

In the exercise of her miraculous powers, certain preliminaries were
indispensable. She was obliged to observe a rigid fast; indigestion, or
the most trifling derangement of the stomach, suspending the marvellous
powers of her visual organs.

The men of science of the day were of course confounded by such prodigies.
But instead of questioning the woman, they consulted the works of their
predecessors; not forgetting the inevitable Aristotle. By dint of much
research, they found a letter from Huygens asserting that there was a
prisoner of war at Antwerp, who could see through stuffs of the thickest
texture provided they were not red. The wonderful man was cited in
confirmation of the wonderful woman, and vice versâ.

The Antwerp lynx, meanwhile, had attained considerable credit, from the
fact of two ladies visiting him in person, upon which he burst into
immoderate laughter. On the cause of his mirth being inquired into, he
stated that one of them had on no under garment, the truth of which
statement caused the ladies to take a hasty departure, in the dread of
revelations still more indiscreet.

In the beginning of the present century there lived a physician at Lyons,
who seriously asserted that one of his patients had the power of reading
letters, though sealed. This was evidently a device to obtain notoriety,
and fill his purse at the expense of a credulous public. For what, in
fact, can be more grossly absurd than the assertion that either human
eyes, or those of the lynx possess the faculty of reading through opaque
bodies? Many attempts have been recently made by the upholders of
Magnetism to exhibit similar impositions.

From the lynx we proceed to the cameleon; hoping to exonerate this much
defamed animal from the imputations of mutability so long lavished upon
its nature. Instead of being adopted as the symbol of fickleness, the
cameleon ought, in fact, to become the emblem of frankness and truth,
betraying in its changes of hue every impression of which it is
susceptible.

The ancients denied the existence of the cameleon, treating it as an ideal
animal devoid of natural colour. They conceded to it, on the other hand,
a radiant body, and the faculty of existing without food. Such were the
opinions of Pliny, Aristotle, and Oelian. But Daubenton and Lacépède
devoted serious attention to the nature of the cameleon; and the scrutiny
of science has served to rectify a popular error.

Cameleons have been brought alive to France, and a pair is now living in
the Zoological Gardens of England. But till lately, they were known in
Europe only through the preparations of our Museums of Natural History.
This singular animal belongs to the lizard tribe, and is found in hot
climates. Its length is from thirteen to fourteen inches; of which the
tail counts for half. The head is surmounted by a kind of cartilaginous
pyramid inclining backwards. The mouth is so formed as scarcely to afford
a view of its disproportionably large swallow. For some time too, the
cameleon passed for being devoid of hearing; but Camper has established
that it possesses that faculty, though in a limited degree. The organs of
sight on the other hand, are so acute as to exceed by far those of the
lynx. It can turn its eyes in every direction; moves with deliberate
dignity, and feeds on insects. But is not entitled to the encomiums of the
ancients with respect to sobriety; though it can fast for a period
exceeding a year. Of a pacific nature, it has numerous enemies; and being
timid to excess, its endless variations of hue are perceptible through a
very transparent skin. Heat and light influence the changes of its
colours; which vary between yellow, red, black, green, and white.

Mademoiselle de Scudery possessed a pair of cameleons, from observations
upon which, it was seen that adjacent colours produced no effect upon
them; other colours than those near them often manifesting themselves on
the body. Bichat supposed that the mutations of the cameleon proceeded
from the quantity of air contained in the arterial blood; an opinion the
better founded, that this animal is able to fill itself with air and
discharge it at will. When asleep, or cold, or dead, the hue of the
cameleon is white. Such is the exact truth concerning two animals which
poets and historians have invested with fabulous properties; and to which
mankind have often been assimilated--by analogies now admitted to be
groundless.



CHAPTER XVI.

WILD WOMEN.


No age has been exempt from popular delusions; but there are certain
prejudices peculiar to certain localities. One of the characteristic
superstitions of Germany subsisted so lately as the middle of the last
century, as may be seen by a tradition of the date of 1753.

"At that time," said the peasants of Grödich, "it was not uncommon to see
wild women issue from the Wunderburg, and approach the youths and maidens
attending their herds near the cavern of Glanegg, whom they asked for
bread. Sometimes, they would come out to glean in the fields; leaving the
mountain betimes, and at nightfall returning to their haunts without even
sharing the meals of their fellow-gleaners.

One day, a little boy mounted upon a cart-horse, approached the
Wunderburg, when the wild women rushed forward, and would have carried
him off. The father, however, ran up and protected him. Unaware of the
mysteries connected with that awful mountain, he demanded what they meant
by attempting to carry off his son; to which the savages replied: 'that
among them he would be better taken care of, and that no harm should
happen to him in their abode.' But the father held fast his child, and the
women went weeping away."

Another time these wild women entered Kügelstadt, a village beautifully
situated upon the same mountain, and carried off a boy watching a herd. At
the end of a year he returned, dressed in green, and sat on the trunk of a
tree at the foot of the mountain.[1] The woodsmen and his parents went the
next day in search of him, but in vain; nor was the youth ever beheld
again. A wild woman from the mountain went towards the village of Anif,
about half a league from Wunderburg, where she hollowed out a place of
shelter in the earth.

    [1] The reader will be struck by the affinity between this Legend, and
    the Ettrick Shepherd's beautiful tale of "Kilmeny," taken from a
    Highland tradition.

Her hair was of great length and beauty falling to her feet, and proved
highly attractive to a peasant who chanced to encounter her, and who at
length ventured to make an avowal of his passion. The wild woman inquired
whether he were married; and the peasant not daring to own the truth,
answered in the negative.

Shortly afterwards, his wife, terrified by his absence from home, came in
search of him; but instead of upbraiding him with his infidelity, fled in
dismay at the sight of the lady of the beautiful locks. The mysterious
woman now upbraided him with his want of veracity; assuring him that had
his wife testified the smallest jealousy, she would have killed him on the
spot. Bidding him be more faithful in future to the marriage tie, she
bestowed a bag of money upon him, and was never again seen in the
neighbourhood of Grölich.

This story was treated as a jest by several French writers of the last
century. Yet the age, so severe upon the credulity of the simple peasants
of Wunderburg, believed in the devices of Cagliostro and the miracles of
Mesmer! The extremes of science and ignorance may consequently be said to
meet in the bewildering mazes of superstition.



CHAPTER XVII.

SYBILS.


The existence of one or more Sybils in the ancient world has been
distinctly proved. Classic authors are unanimous upon the subject. Suidas
tells us that there were fourteen; Varro, ten. Oelian asserts that there
were only four; while Martinus Capella reduces them to two.

Dr. Petit, however, the author of the Essay "De Sybilla," reduces them to
one. Let us grant that the Sybil of Cumæ was the only authentic Sybil,
whether originating in Ionia, Syria, or Campania. Let us even establish
that her name was Demo, according to Pausanias, though Virgil declares
that she was called Deiphobe, and was the daughter of Glaucus. Suidas
calls his fourteen by the common name of Eriphile; Aristotle styles the
Sybil, Malanchrenes. After due consideration of these names, certain
writers unanimously adopted that of Amalthea. Be it our business to
inquire into the question upon the only reasonable grounds, namely, in a
symbolical sense. A man had need to belong to Rome or Greece to entertain
a due respect for the subject; where the existence of supernatural beings
placed by the Gods between heaven and earth, and predominating over Kings
and their subjects, was regarded as a blessing. In those times, such
creations had a salutary influence of which we cannot now appreciate the
value. The ancient social institutions, of so many centuries past, are
scarcely to be understood from books; since those by which we are actually
surrounded are not altogether comprehensible.

Great was the veneration conceded to the Sybils in Greece and Rome; in
proof of which we need only cite the Sybilline volume--to discredit which
in the olden time, would have been a matter of danger.

It is known to all that a venerable Sybil came to Tarquin, and offered to
sell him nine volumes of her prophecies, when her price being taxed as
exorbitant, she threw three volumes into the fire, still requiring the
same price for the remaining six. Still denied her price by Tarquin, three
more of the books shared the same fate; and on her adhering to her
original demand for the remaining three; Tarquin assembled the Augurs, who
advised the purchase, and the monarch was forced to submit to the terms of
the Sybil.

From that moment, the Sybilline leaves became objects of veneration. They
were made over to the custody of the priests, and consulted upon
occasions of importance after a decree of the Senate. These volumes were
destroyed in the conflagration of the Capitol, eighty-three years before
Christ; a severe calamity to the Romans, who looked upon the Sybilline
books as a sacred charta. It is remarkable, that after the destruction of
these volumes, the Republic gradually declined, and fell under the yoke of
the Emperors.

Immense as was the loss of the volumes, considering their influence over
the minds of the people, the Augurs and Senate hoped to replace the loss.
Zealous missionaries were sent to all the cities of Europe, Asia and
Africa, which affected to possess Sybilline verses; and more than two
thousand were brought back. But we are to conclude they were far from
genuine, as the Sybilline oracles declined in credit. Augustus suppressed
many of the verses, and the rest were burned by Stilicon, father-in-law of
the Emperor Honorius.

In all countries of the ancient world, Virgins were objects of worship;
and even as connected with Pagan idolatries, there is something beautiful
and touching in the homage paid to virginal purity, more particularly in
contrast with the ferocity of manners of the early Romans. The most abject
corruption respected the worship of virginity. No virgin could be
immolated by the Romans; and Octavia was reduced to infamy ere she could
be lawfully sacrificed to the vengeance of Nero. The Sybils were sacred
virgins, which accounted for the veneration paid to them and their
oracles. St. Jerome expressly states that the gift of prophecy was
bestowed upon them in honour of their purity. As to the Sybil of Cumæ, she
was said to have rejected the advances of Apollo himself, though the God
offered to endow her with eternal youth and beauty; to which she preferred
the infirmities of mortal decrepitude in order to live and die in
chastity.

As society is now constituted, nothing founded on error, or the frauds
usually called pious, can be termed justifiable. Tarquin and the Augurs
probably understood the inauthenticity of the Sybilline books; but it was
their cue to create a deep veneration for them, and assign a divine origin
to the laws, which in those days might not otherwise have been respected
by the people.

In the time of Cicero, the Romans had learned to blush for their own
credulity; and in the following centuries, were confounded at seeing the
Fathers of the Christian Church return indirectly to ideas long fallen
into desuetude. St. Ambrose, however, denounced such doctrines; declaring
to the early Christians who were disposed to seek in the Sybilline books
exposition of their faith, that they were the idle production of fanatical
women.

The Sybils of old were apparently prophetesses after the manner of Joanna
Southcote and Madame Krudener in the present century. The Sybilline
books, as existent in the days of St. Ambrose, teemed with frauds and
anachronisms, proving the ignorance of their authors, as much as the
credulity of those who believed in them. The events of the Christian
dispensation are as clearly announced in them as in the Holy Writ. The
personages are even mentioned by their proper names. Isaiah wrote: "A
virgin shall conceive." The Sybil is made to say, "The Virgin Mary shall
conceive, and shall bring forth Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem." The Sybil
also announces the Baptism of the Messiah in the Jordan; the coming of the
Holy Ghost under the form of a dove; the circumstances of the Passion; and
the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles. She pretends to have
witnessed events long after the coming of the Messiah; relates the second
conflagration of the Temple of Vesta, which took place one hundred and
seventy years after Jesus Christ, in the reign of Commodus, and affects to
have been in Noah's Ark; yet is so ignorant of the Holy Writings, that she
supposes Noah to have sojourned therein only forty and one days; while
Moses states him to have been an entire year. She also places Mount Ararat
in Phrygia instead of Armenia.

Such was the value of the last edition of the Sybilline volumes;
conceived, no doubt, with good intentions; but, as articles of faith,
little better than a fiction.



CHAPTER XVIII.

FORTUNE-TELLERS AND CHIROMANCY.


Of the numerous family of impostors, composed of mountebanks, gypsies,
chiromancers, fortune-tellers, and sorcerers; the gypsies date from the
fifteenth century, and were first seen in Bohemia, in strange garbs, with
swarthy faces, and pretending to great proficiency in the art of
soothsaying.

They made their appearance in Paris, 1442; proclaiming themselves to be
pilgrims wandering in expiation of their sin. Among them, were a Duke, a
Count, and ten Cavaliers. The remainder, one hundred and twenty in number
were on foot. These strangers were lodged at the Holy Chapel, to which the
Parisians flocked to obtain a view of them. They had sallow complexions
and black frizzly hair, and spoke an unknown tongue. The females who
accompanied them, devoted themselves to fortune-telling.

The Bishop of Paris eventually excommunicated them, and had them expelled
the city; a persecution which served to create an interest in their
favour; and returning to Paris, they multiplied both in that city and in
other parts of France to such a degree that, in 1560, the States of
Orleans found it necessary to rid the kingdom of them; and subject them to
the pain of the gallies if they dare return. Treated with merciless
severity, they gradually disappeared; taking refuge in Germany, Hungary,
England, and the banks of the Danube; where they have remained ever since.

Gypsies are known by different names, according to the countries they
inhabit; and constitute a wandering tribe in all the civilized states of
Europe, still retaining their pristine habits and customs.

Public curiosity has long been directed towards the origin of the gypsies.
Theologians first traced them to Cain on the following grounds: when by
the murder of his brother, the elder born of Adam had brought upon himself
the supreme malediction, a mark was set upon him to secure his
recognition, at that time mankind were white. The Almighty is supposed to
have changed the complexion of Cain, that all men might know him. The
gypsies, therefore, who exhibit such remarkable complexions, and lead such
vagabond lives, had every appearance of being a proscribed race; and the
progeny of the first murderer. Other theologians make the gypsies descend
from Shem, the son of Noah, or Cham, the inventor of magic; for the
gypsies pretend to be magicians, and to descend from Cham. Father Delrio
asserts their sorcery to be so effective, that if you give them a piece of
money, the others in your purse invariably take flight to join their
fellow.

The gypsies, uncertain of their origin, suppose themselves to have been
expelled from Egypt, and condemned to wander the world for having refused
hospitality to Joseph and the Holy Virgin, when they took refuge on the
banks of the Nile. But even in Egypt, the gypsies are declared to be of
foreign origin; so that the problem has still to be decided.

These people ground their predictions upon an inspection of the palm of
the hand. Juvenal distinctly alludes to female drawers of horoscopes.
"Such a woman," said he, "exhibits her hand and forehead to the diviner."

The chiromantic principle has much analogy with those of judiciary
astrology; and Aristotle cites chiromancy as a positive science.
Chiromancers divide the hand into several regions, each presided by a
planet. The thumb belongs to Venus, the index to Jupiter, the middle
finger to Saturn, the annulary to the Sun, the auricular to Mercury, the
centre of the hand to Mars, the remainder to the Moon. The direction of
the line of life is still undecided by chiromancers; some placing it
between the thumb and index, traversing the centre of the palm; while the
Hebrew cabalists make it diverge in a quarter of a circle from the middle
of the wrist to the first joint of the index. To denote long life, this
line should be deeply defined; when feeble and superficial, it implies a
limited existence, (even if the person so qualified should have survived
his eightieth year!)

The triangle in the palm of the hand is consecrated to Mars; the three
lines of which it is formed being regarded by chiromancers as most
important, and comprehending the united indications of mind and body. The
hepatic line proceeds from the liver, and forms one of the large sides of
the triangle. When deeply indicated, it is characteristic of an exalted
soul and magnanimous character; but accompanied by a propensity to anger
and despondency. The mediana, which forms the base of the triangle,
implies frankness, sprightliness, and the love of pleasure. Should the
thumb and its root be furrowed with numerous lines, crossing at right
angles, or forming ellipses, stars, and repeated circles, you are favoured
by Venus; but should you possess the ring of Gyges, beware of her wrath.
This name implies the circular line of the thumb, and indicates an
infamous death. Adrian Sicler declares in 1639, a notorious villain who
met his fate on the wheel had this awful sign on the first phalanx.

Between chiromancers and fortune-tellers with cards, the sole difference
consists in the means employed; and if you watch the sleight of hand of
the latter, instead of listening to their chattering, you will be amazed
by their dexterity.

Card-conjurors are mere upstarts by comparison with chiromancers, who were
consulted by Augustus in the zenith of his power. Their art cannot have
existed previous to the days of Charles VI., for whose diversion cards
were invented.

The miserable personal plight of these foreshowers of the future, is
singularly at variance with their reputation. How many of them grovel in
filthy retreats; where for the smallest sum, they dispense their promises
of fame and fortune. It is lamentable to think how many dupes such
impostors still command. Fortune-tellers captivate the confidence of the
vulgar, by predicting circumstances of frequent and common-place
occurrence, with the certainty of occasionally hitting home. Should one of
these by accident make a fortunate guess, his fame is established. But
their extortions are unimportant compared with the debasement of faculties
apparent in those who consult them; whom they disgust with their useful
callings by fostering hopes of impossible eventualities; or keep weak
minds in a state of terror for the mere guerdon of a piece of silver.

There are examples of people being so awe-struck by the predictions of
jugglers, as to fall their victim. A person has been known to die at
forty, merely because that term of life was assigned him by a
fortune-teller. A slight illness having brought to mind the fatal
prediction at the appointed period, cerebral fever ensued which ended in
death. Such a fact is mentioned by Dr. Bruhier in his work upon the
Caprices of the Imagination.

Though evil is said never to exist without corresponding good, it would be
difficult to point out a compensation for the mischiefs of fortune-tellers
and card-conjurors. Their predictions have often proved fatal in private
life, and they have exercised their evil influence by urging Princes to
acts of cruelty. The Emperor Valens having incensed his subjects by his
tyrannies, certain of them, meditating his overthrow, consulted a
soothsayer, who predicted future events by means of a cock. A circle being
described with the letters of the alphabet around it, a grain of corn was
dropped on each, and a cock placed in the centre. The letters from which
he pecked the corn were immediately taken up and a horoscope grounded upon
them; and the cock having, in the present instance, pecked up grains from
letters T. H. E. O. D., the conspirators concluded that the empire ought
to belong to Theodore, the Secretary of Valens, a man of merit, and
generally esteemed.

The crown was offered to him, which he was rash enough to accept; but the
plot being discovered, he and his accomplices were executed. Not satisfied
with this act of vengeance, Valens banished all those whose names began by
the letters selected by the cock. But this did not prevent Theodosius the
Great from being his successor.



CHAPTER XIX.

ALBERTUS MAGNUS AND NOSTRADAMUS.


In the year 1248, the Emperor William of Holland arrived at Cologne on the
anniversary of the festival of the Epiphany; when Albertus the Great,
invited him and his whole Court to a banquet in a garden near the Convent
of the Preaching Friars. The Emperor accepted the offer: but on the
appointed day, there was a great fall of snow; and the Emperor and his
Court were much disconcerted by the invitation.

But though inclined to avoid exposure to such inclemency of weather, they
adhered to their engagement and proceeded to the scene of the
entertainment, where they found the tables spread, but the trees and turf
covered with snow. The guests were of course indignant at so absurd an
arrangement; but Albertus had contrived that no one could go out of the
garden, by placing at every entrance guards of imposing stature. The
Emperor and Princes having seated themselves, the dishes were placed on
the table; when the day became gradually fine, and the snow disappearing
as if by enchantment, the shrubs and flowers recovered their verdure and
perfume; while the trees suddenly presented fruits in luscious maturity,
with innumerable birds perched upon their branches warbling heart-stirring
music.

The heat increasing, the guests were forced to throw off their outward
garb; but no one could conjecture whence or by whom the dishes of the
feast were produced; the menials who served them being strangers, richly
attired, and of the most courteous deportment. The feast being at an end,
servitors and birds vanished; the turf lost its verdure, the flowers their
odour; and the snow re-appeared as if in the gloom of winter. The outward
garments of the guests were, of course, resumed; and all persons repaired
to a vast hall, where a good fire was blazing.

The Emperor, gratified with this wonderful entertainment, endowed the
convent of which Albertus was a member with a valuable estate; expressing
great esteem for the skill and dexterity of his entertainer.

Such is the monkish legend; nor is it worth while to contest such
absurdities, no one being weak enough to believe seriously in tales of
enchantment worthy only to figure in the pages of a romance.

Many such marvels are recorded of Albertus, entitling us to believe him a
sorcerer, and the ally of Satan. But he is known to have been, like Friar
Bacon, one of the most enlightened men of the thirteenth century; and it
often happens, that in order to enhance the fame of illustrious persons,
their biographers have resource to exaggerations that deteriorate their
well-won fame. Such was the case with Nostradamus; who, in spite of
himself, was made a prophet. The real name of Nostradamus, was Michael of
Notre-Dame, but a custom prevailed in his time of latinizing names; and
Nostradamus was one of the high-sounding titles likely to ensure
popularity. Among the French, it enjoyed equal fame with that of Matthew
Länsberg among the Germans.

The family of Nostradamus was of Jewish extraction, and proclaimed itself
descended from Issachar; a personage reputed to have been profoundly
versed in chronological science. Michael was born, December 14, 1503, at
twelve precisely, in the village of St. Remi, in Provence. He studied at
Avignon, where he distinguished himself in rhetoric; then proceeded to
Montpellier for the study of medicine. Having attained the degree of
Doctor at twenty-six, an unusual occurrence, he was considered the
successor of Hippocrates and Galen; but disdaining all earthly vocations,
he devoted himself to astrology, and mysterious speculations upon the
future.

Nostradamus first published his Ephemeris, proclaiming agricultural
epochs, eclipses, phases of the moon, the returns of the season, and the
variations of atmosphere; and predicted the approach of epidemics, the
progress of governments, the births and marriages of the great; peace,
war, land, and sea fights, and many other things, which, as a matter of
course, must be realized in some part or other of the world. His
predictions were so fortunate, that he was soon acknowledged to be a
prophet; every one seeking to benefit by his vast enlightenment. The wily
man, aware that speculation upon popular prejudices is a sure road to
fortune, and seeing the love of the marvellous predominate, soon laid
aside his almanack, and gave full play to his fecund imagination as a
soothsayer.

Had Nostradamus been only a man of profound science, he would have pined
in obscurity; but as affording diversion for the Court of France, his fame
soon prevailed throughout Europe. When his predictions first appeared, in
1555, they had such success, that Henry II. and Catherine de Medicis
invited him to Paris.

Enriched by their munificence, he returned to his vocation in Provence;
and four years later, the Duke of Savoy and Marguerite of France, on their
way to Nice, visited Nostradamus at Salon. The Duchess being _enceinte_,
the Duke desired to know the probable sex of the issue; a tolerable safe
order of prediction as the chances of verification are even. In this case,
he foretold a son who afterwards became the greatest Captain in
Europe--Charles Emanuel, Duke of Savoy.

The system of Nostradamus was partly original; but grafted upon several
others. He not only consulted the stars to cast a nativity, but the form
and features of the party. The Governor of Henry IV. wishing to have the
horoscope of his youthful master, applied to him, when he demanded to see
the royal youth naked. Henry at first resisted, thinking it a trick, and
that they perhaps meant to castigate him unjustly; but finally consented,
and after the examination, it was predicted that he would become King of
France, and enjoy a long reign.

These facts are avouched by the biographers of Nostradamus; who, though he
predicted the future to others, was unable to foresee his approaching end.
He died in July 1566, aged sixty-two; but his fame survived him, and his
tomb became a kind of shrine, being inscribed with testimonials to his
profound science and miraculous qualities. Louis XIII. visited it in 1622,
and Louis XIV. in 1660.

Like most men possessed of high renown, who profit by the credulity of
their contemporaries, he had a host of fanatical adulators. Among them,
none more enthusiastically devoted than a man named Chavigny, who
abandoned every thing to follow the fortune of the prophet, and received
his last sigh. Chavigny became the interpreter and eulogist of his great
master, as he had been the depository of his secrets. He even ventured
upon some posthumous predictions.

Inconsolable for the loss of his illustrious master, Chavigny abandoned
Provence, and settled at Lyons; where he solaced his regrets by reflecting
upon the predictions and discoveries of the great astrologer. He commented
upon three hundred stanzas of the great work of Nostradamus, the result of
thirty years' study; and published the first part of the "French Janus,"
or rather, a partial explanation of his prophecies. In this curious work,
Chavigny collated, compared and approximated the stanzas bearing reference
to the events of his own century; and composed a chronological table, so
remarkable for order and method, as to impose upon superficial minds. So
singularly happy are some of the stanzas of Nostradamus, and their
associations with history are so striking, that the renowned Doctor might
almost pass for having been inspired. Such, at least, is the opinion of
many who have strictly examined the work.

In 1695, one Guinaud, one of the royal pages and a zealous supporter of
Nostradamus, proposed to reconcile the prophecies of Nostradamus with
history, from the time of Henry II. till that of Louis XIV. Presuming upon
his genius for exposition, he undertook to prove that nothing could be
clearer and less mysterious than the predictions of his favourite
astrologer.

In support of this opinion, he applies the following lines to the massacre
of St. Bartholomew:

  Le gros airain qui les heures ordonne;
    Sur le trépas du tyran cassera;
  Fleurs plainte et cris, eau glace, pain ne donne,
    V.S.C. Paix, l'armée passera.

The explanation of Guinaud is, perhaps, more striking than the lines of
Nostradamus. The "_gros airain_," he declares to be the little bell of the
palaces. In the "_trépas du tyran_," he foresees the death of Coligny; and
in the initials "_V.S.C._," he finds an unaccountable indication of Philip
II. and Charles V.

The other analogies were equally far-fetched; and, as is not unusually the
case, the absurdity of the annotation was visited upon the original work.

The prophesies of Nostradamus, like those of Merlin, are now nothing more
than a literary curiosity.



CHAPTER XX.

LEECHES, SERPENTS, AND THE SONG OF THE DYING SWAN.


In the conclusions of naturalists there is much to respect. But we must
beware of false inferences.

For instance, no one will deny that swallows skim the surface of the earth
on the approach of a storm. But it is simply because insects then swarm in
the lower regions of the atmosphere. The swallows seek their prey where
instinct teaches them that it is most abundant; not because a peculiar
sympathy warns them of the coming storm. Swans, ducks, goslings, also,
indicate hot weather by plunging oftener than usual, because the
temperature being oppressive, they seek a fresher one under the water.

In the list of meteorological animals, leeches hold a prominent place. An
English physician pretends that they are lively when the sky is clear and
serene, and raise their heads above water to breathe the pure air. But if
the sky be gloomy and clouded, they conceal themselves in the mud, and
are evidently agitated at the approach of storms. The following are the
observations of Dr. Vitet, in his "Treaty on Medical Leeches."

"Close up a quantity of leeches in jars of equal size containing the same
water, and expose them together to the open air. Never will you see
identity of action. In one jar, they are at the surface, in another at the
bottom, while in another they will be completely out of the water sticking
to the cover. Again, you will see all the leeches of the same jar in all
these different positions; some adhering by their tails from the borders
of the jar, others balancing themselves with the most perfect regularity.
It follows, therefore, that leeches are devoid of meteorological
susceptibility."

Had not Dr. Vitet made his experiments on so large a scale, a single
leech, well-watched, would always have been said to announce changes of
weather and temperature. In the case of the Rana Arboria, or tree-frog,
which is sometimes confined in a glass jar to form a sort of living
weather-glass, it may be noticed that, when two frogs of the same species
are kept in the same glass, one is sure to be found at the top of the
ladder and one at the bottom, proving how little such indications are to
be depended upon.

To leeches is attributed another peculiarity, equally groundless; the
faculty, namely, of ridding us of our corrupt blood, while they respect
the pure; a fact disproved by daily experience.

According to a popular prejudice in many countries, snakes and vipers will
creep down the throats of persons imprudent enough to sleep in the open
fields with their mouths open; and strange things are related on this
subject, especially in Germany.

About fifty years ago, the German newspapers announced that in Styria a
young girl being asleep with her mouth open, a viper made its way into her
throat. She was not aware of the fact; but a few days afterwards began to
experience an insupportable irritation. On a subsequent day, the viper
reappeared by the channel it had penetrated, hissing and raising itself on
its tail as if overjoyed at its emancipation; and immediately afterwards,
the girl vomited a quantity of viper's eggs. This anecdote so charmed the
French journalists, that they republished it in various directions,
neither suspecting that they were renewing a fable of the Greeks, nor
inquiring whether vipers were oviparous.

The adventures of the Styrian girl was nearly forgotten, when a French
surgeon gave a fresh version of it in the following shape:

"In the month of June, 1806, a child of four years old having fallen
asleep on the bank of the Canal de L'Ourcq with her mouth open, a snake
crept in and passed into her stomach, where it remained for nineteen days;
at the expiration of which, the child accidentally drank a glass of white
wine, when forth came the snake in the presence of her whole family!"
Witnesses were found to attest the fact; and the medical man who attended
the child, asserted the reptile to have been eighteen inches long! Dr.
Masson, surgeon to the civil Hospitals of Paris, made a report upon the
subject to the Faculty of Medicine, attributing the attraction of the
snake to the child having fed upon bread and milk, the predilection of
those reptiles for that sustenance being well known.

Before we return to the above subject, we may as well inquire whether the
predilection of snakes for milk be really true. The French peasants agree
in this opinion with Pliny, Aldovrandus and Gesner. Yet all are wrong.
Snakes are furnished with numerous little teeth at the extremity of their
mouths, that their prey may not escape; so that if they sucked the cows as
asserted by the peasants, their teeth must become inextricably entangled
in the udder. The diminution of the milk in the dairies of the French
provinces, is nevertheless often most conveniently ascribed to the
interposition of snakes, innocent at least of this species of mischief.

We must, therefore, conclude that Dr. Masson's little patient was not the
victim of the passion of the snake in question for milk. Is it credible,
however, that a snake eighteen inches long could introduce itself into the
mouth of a sleeping child without awaking it, or creep down the æsophagus
and into the stomach without being perceived? The marvellous snake was
probably nothing more than a worm such as is frequently ejected from the
mouths of children.

Snakes, vipers, and serpents have always been leading features in fable,
and, at times, in history. Without alluding to the serpent-tempter, we
have the serpent of Aaron, which also serves as the attribute of
Esculapius, and ornaments the Caduceus of Mercury. We have the serpent
Python, and those which entwined themselves round the Laocoon and his
sons; the serpent concealed under the flowers, whose sting caused the
death of Eurydice; and finally, the asp of Cleopatra. But upon such
matters, the moderns have gone far beyond the ancients. If, for instance,
the asp which bit the bosom of Cleopatra had pertained to the species
which Father Charleroix saw at Paraguay, it might have been the rival of
Anthony; for the Padre expressly asserts that serpents are ever on the
watch to carry off females in the forests of that province. These may be
considered rivals to the Great Sea Serpent of the Americans.

Bertholin, the learned Swedish doctor, relates strange anecdotes of
lizards, toads and frogs; stating that a woman, thirty years of age, being
thirsty, drank plentifully of water at a pond. At the end of a few months,
she experienced singular movements in her stomach, as if something were
crawling up and down; and alarmed by the sensation, consulted a medical
man, who prescribed a dose of orvietan in a decoction of fumitary. Shortly
afterwards, the irritation of the stomach increasing, she vomited three
toads and two young lizards, after which, she became more at ease. In the
spring following, however, her irritation of the stomach was renewed; and
aloes and bezoar being administered, she vomited three female frogs,
followed the next day by their numerous progeny. In the month of January
following, she vomited five more living frogs, and in the course of seven
years, ejected as many as eighty. Dr. Bertholin protests that he heard
them croak in her stomach! The utter incompatibility of the nature of
these reptiles with the temperature of the human stomach, renders denial
of the truth of this scientific anecdote almost superfluous.

The Journal des Débats, then called the Journal de l'Empire, published the
following circumstances as having taken place at Joinville, in the
Department of the Meuse.

"Marie Ragot, a widow, having complained for two years of a distaste for
food, and suffered from internal cramps.

"These symptoms were at first attributed to an aneurism of the viscera;
but were soon found to proceed from some strange substance in the stomach.
After two months, Marie Ragot ejected from her mouth a living reptile in
the presence of many; who, on seeing it creep away, in the hurry of the
moment, inconsiderately crushed it. This reptile belonging to the lizard
class, was thin and long, its colour light grey, brown on the back, and
dark yellow under the belly. It had four small legs, each having
nail-tipped feelers, a triangular head, rather obtuse at the nose, bent, a
short tail and filiform at the extremity. This is all we have been able to
learn, the witnesses having stupidly destroyed the reptile. Ragot died
soon afterwards, and it remains undecided whether her death was caused by
the reptile remaining so long in her stomach. The lizard we have described
was doubtless the grey common wall lizard. It is supposed to have crept
into her mouth when asleep."

While occupied by consideration of the marvels of physiological history,
we must not omit to mention the song of the Dying Swan; formerly applied
as a standard of composition for the highest pitch which melody could
attain, and as typical of the last strains emanating from the soul of the
poet. Virgil, Fénélon and Shakspeare, are known as the Swan of Mantua,
the Swan of Cambray, and Swan of Avon. Pliny, whose propensity for handing
down popular fallacies we have already noticed, says, in treating of the
gift of song conceded to swans by the poets: "The doleful strain
attributed to the swan, at the moment of death, is a prejudice disproved
by experience." Modern observation confirms his opinion that the song of
the swan is a mere metaphor. To urge this matter further would be
equivalent to pleading after judgment; had not Dr. Bertholin, who attended
the woman of the eighty frogs, endeavoured to revive the idea of the
ancients; quoting the declaration of one of his friends, Grégoire
Wilhelmi, that having seen one of a flight of swans expire, the others
hastened to its aid, giving forth harmonious sounds, as if singing the
funeral dirge of their departed companion.

This story is evidently a romantic fiction. But if the domestic swan be
mute, it is not so with the wild one, which is guilty of the most
discordant noises, instead of the fabulous harmony so long attributed to
it. The Abbé Arnaud carefully observed two wild swans which sought refuge
on the waters of Chantilly, more particularly, as regarded their cries.
Buffon notices that they have a shrill, piercing shriek, far from
agreeable, and are quite insensible to the sound of music.

The song of the swan, therefore, must be admitted to be as much a creation
of the poets as the song of the syrens which, according to Homer,
attracted the vessel of Ulysses.



CHAPTER XXI.

NEGROES.


Two important questions present themselves with regard to negroes: first,
the lawfulness or expediency of slavery; and secondly, the comparative
equality of the whites and blacks. The History of the World teaches us
that slavery is independent of colour, and existed every where of old,
under every form of Government. But the abolition of slavery was the work
of the Christian religion, of which it is one of the noblest mercies; and
let us never forget the saying of Montesquieu, "that it is our business to
prove the negroes less than men, lest they prove us to be less than
Christians."

The celebrated Abbé Grégoire was one of the most zealous and persevering
advocates of the negroes. So enthusiastic was he in their cause, that he
might have been supposed to have undertaken it as a reproach to their
white brethren.

With regard to the question of innate equality between the two races, we
cannot conceive a more apt illustration than that made by a Creole child,
on hearing at his father's table, a discussion upon negroes, a subject on
which most colonists differ entirely from the Abbé Grégoire.

In the course of dessert, a gentleman, who had been loudest in
opprobriating the negroes, desired to be helped to grapes. The child
pertinaciously insisted on giving him white grapes instead of the black,
to which he had pointed. "One kind is as good as the other," said the
gentleman, "the only difference is in the colour of the skin." "And why
then," cried the child, "do you persist in refusing the same concession to
the poor negroes?"

The scholiasts have written much which has tended only to render more
obscure the origin of the negro race; some deriving it from Cain, and
attributing its blackness to Divine wrath after the murder of Abel; others
from Shem, the son of Noah, which is the opinion of Dr. Hanneman, as is
seen in his Latin Treatise upon the colour of "the Descendants of Shem."
The learned German quotes numerous proofs of the culpable conduct of Shem
towards his father; adding that Shem had long practised the art of magic,
and being unable to transport into the ark all his works of witchcraft and
magic, had them engraved upon brass and stone, so as to find them after
the deluge. Hanneman cites the authority of Luther, who formally asserts
that the skin of Shem was blackened as a punishment for his irreverence;
and quotes a passage from the learned Ulricius, who in his treaty De
Tacticis, established that the sons of Ham had white skins, those of
Japhet a brownish complexion, while those of Shem were black as ebony.

The anatomist, Meiners, adopting the theory of the facial angle, excluded
the negroes from the human race, and placed them in the family of apes and
ourang-outangs.

According to the Abbé Grégoire, all black skinned races descend from the
Ethiopian. He founds his opinion upon the works of Herodotus,
Theophrastes, Pausanias, Athenoeus, Eusebius, Heliodorus, Josephus, Pliny,
and Terence; all of whom, in speaking of negroes, call them Ethiopians. As
regards their origin, all we know is, that the Ethiopians are from the
interior of Africa, and that their ancestors had short and woolly hair,
black skins, and thick lips.

How are we to conciliate these pretensions with the assertions of
Diodorus, the Sicilian, supported by those of the learned Hearne? Some
affirm, on the other hand, that the Egyptians descend direct from the
Ethiopians; the pure Egyptian race existing only in the Copts, who have
woolly hair, round heads, flattened noses, and protruding cheek-bones.
Similar signs certainly characterize both negroes and Ethiopians. Egypt
was the cradle of civilization, and if inhabited by the Ethiopian race,
with the negroes originated sciences, arts, and institutions. In that
case, the problem of equality of intelligence becomes painfully solved;
and if we now possess a vast superiority of intellect over the negroes, we
owe it to their ancestors, who were our masters in almost every branch of
polite knowledge.

With regard to colour, Virgil has said, "nimium ne crede colori." Dr.
Beddoes, moreover, completely overcame the difficulty; for by frequently
immersing the hand of a negro in a solution of muriatic acid, he rendered
it as white as ivory. In these speculative times, we should not be much
surprised to see a company established for washing the black population
white. This might furnish matter for reflection to Mr. Williams, of
Vermont, who in his History of that State, requires four thousand years
for effecting the transition from black to white, through the sole
influence of climate.

Meiners, as we have seen, classes the negroes in the monkey tribe. How are
we to reconcile this sacrilegious classification with the dogmas of the
church, which canonize two blacks, viz. St. Elesbaan, patron of the
Portuguese and Spaniards, and the Queen of Sheba, the wife of Solomon?
Another great writer affirms, that black was the original colour of the
human race; and that the white race is in a state of degeneration.
Monsieur de Pauw shows the question of the negroes in another light,
refusing them an aptitude for civilization equal to the whites; but
attributing their colour to the scorching heat of the sun, which, by
wasting the brain, diminishes the faculties and organs of intelligence
that distinguish Europeans. Dr. Gall goes further, and pronounces the
negroes to be wholly deficient in the organs of music and mathematics.

We cannot, however, expect to find the organ of music prominent in the
organization of man in a state of nature. As to the organ of mathematics,
were the negroes completely deficient in this, Meiners would be correct in
his assimilation; for the higher order of mathematics is not here implied,
but the simplest acts of calculation. No operation of the mind, however,
is possible without the aid of a certain kind of calculation. Moreover,
experience tends to confute the system of Dr. Gall. It is well known that
in Africa, there are nations far advanced in civilization; a false kind of
civilization, perhaps, and tainted with barbarism. They have no opera, for
instance, nor a jockey club, nor the excitement of breaking their necks at
steeple-chases. But they have cities, tribunals, laws, judges,
institutions, and armies; they declare war and make peace; discuss the
interests of the State, raise taxes, and regulate the public expenditure.
Denyan, who resided thirteen years in the kingdom of Juida, was astonished
by their wonderful policy; affirming that their diplomatists were capable
of competing with the most wary European cabinets.

The Daccas, who occupy the fertile point of Cape Verd, are organized into
a Republic, under directors, lieutenants, and a hierarchy, analagous to
the different States existing in Europe. Bornou is governed by a monarchy;
but the throne is both hereditary and elective at the death of the
reigning Prince. His successors being selected from among his children
without respect to primogeniture. The most worthy is nominated to reign.
The funeral discourse is a panegyric or a censure, according to the tenor
of the reign of the deceased.

This is stronger evidence of civilization than to possess a tenor equal to
Rubini, or a dancer comparable with Taglioni.

The cities of Africa are not mere encampments. The capital of the Foulans
has seven thousand inhabitants. Mungo Park mentions that they are fond of
instruction, and read the books permitted by the Mahomedan religion with
great assiduity. In his expedition to the interior of Africa, this
celebrated traveller expresses his surprise at meeting with so much
unexpected magnificence. The city of Sego had thirty thousand inhabitants;
her population being less than those of Jenna, Timbuctoo, and Haussa.

Barrow extols the character and pleasing manners of the Boushouannas.
Their capital, Litah, has from twelve to fifteen thousand souls; ruled by
a patriarchal government. The chief executes the will of the people,
emanating from a council composed of elders. Is such a council
characteristic of barbarism? Or a proof that the moral organization of the
negroes is inferior to that of the whites?

Judging from the narratives of travellers, the maritime populations are
generally inferior to those of the interior. If this opinion be well
founded, there is every reason to infer that the circumstance arises from
the access of Europeans being less frequent with the interior than the
littoral. Often have we to deplore the demoralization we have conveyed to
distant countries. Is it just, therefore, to speak of the brutal barbarity
of the negroes, when all we see of it is partly our own work?

If we proceed from nations to individuals, a whole catalogue of eminent
black men and mulattos presents itself. The name of Henry Diaz, demands a
prominent place on the list. From a common slave, he became Colonel of a
Portuguese regiment, which by his able tactics and daring courage often
defeated experienced Generals. In an engagement, in which, overpowered by
numbers, he perceived some troops on the point of giving way, he rushed
among them exclaiming: "Are these the brave companions of Henry Diaz?" On
hearing which, his men returned to the charge, and drove the enemy from
the field. In 1645, in the heat of battle, a ball penetrated his left hand
which he was about to have amputated, when he exclaimed: "Every finger of
my right hand shall learn to grasp the sword!"

The famous St. George was a mulatto. His skill in fencing won him an
European reputation, and no one could surpass him in the art of
equitation. Moreover, Dr. Gall would have been forced to admit his
prodigious talent for music. Fifty years ago, the compositions of St.
George were eminently the fashion in the Parisian drawing-rooms.

The republican armies boasted among the bravest of the brave, General
Alexander Dumas, who, though a mulatto, was surnamed by his companions in
arms, the Horatius Cocles of the Tyrol. Before Lille, accompanied only by
four of his men, he attacked a post of fifty Austrians, of whom he killed
six, and made sixteen prisoners. With the Army of the Alps, he scaled
Mount St. Bernard, stormed a redoubt, and turned the guns against the
enemy. He was the father of the French dramatist, Alexander Dumas, who has
immolated as many victims in his dramas, as his father destroyed in the
enemies of his country.

Job-Ben-Solomon, son of the Mahomedan King of Banda, on the Gambia, was
taken prisoner in 1750, conducted to America, and sold as a slave. He had
a superior order of mind, understood Arabic, and was distinguished for his
talents. He enjoyed the friendship of Sir Hans Sloane, for whom he
translated several Arabic manuscripts; and was treated with distinction by
the Court of London, till the African Company had him reconducted to his
States. At the death of his father, he assumed the sceptre, and after
being the slave of Europeans, became the idol of his subjects. The history
of Job-Ben-Solomon presents a victorious argument against the prejudice
concerning negroes, for in him there existed not only courage but
intellect. A son of the King of Nimbana, who was educated in England, died
soon after his return to his native land; but during his stay in England,
he manifested great proofs of ability. He cultivated several sciences with
success, learnt several languages, and read the Bible in the original.

Ramsay, who passed twenty years of his life among the negroes, mentions
their impressive eloquence when excited, as well as their talent for
mimicry and acting, in which they were not inferior to some of the best
performers then known in England. In Africa, they have various national
musical instruments, of which sixteen are stringed; without counting their
famous balafon, resembling the once famed spinet. Vocal music is as
familiar to them as instrumental; and their composers have been known to
produce melodies replete with grace. We may here quote Gossec, whose
opinion on the subject of music is preferable to that of Dr. Gall, as
being one of the greatest musical composers of his time; and in his famous
opera of the "Camp de Grand Pré," he introduced a negro melody from St.
Domingo, which met with immense success. The Abbé Grégoire also speaks of
certain itinerant negro minstrels, who sang, played, and narrated like the
minstrels of old.

The negro race, therefore, have produced both heroes and artists, as well
as figured with distinction in the sciences. Derrham, once a slave at
Philadelphia, was made over to a physician, who employed him in the
compounding of his medicines. But soon ambition laid hold of the soul of
the slave, he acquired French, English, Spanish, and Latin; and perfected
himself in the hygienic and therapeutic sciences with such success, that,
in 1788, he was esteemed the most eminent practitioner in New Orleans, and
consulted from all parts of America.

Another negro, named Amo, claims attention as distinguished in the annals
of science. A native of Guinea, he was brought to Amsterdam in 1707, and
presented to the Duke Augustus of Wolfenbüttel, who sent him to study at
Halle and Wittenberg. After distinguishing himself at both those
Universities, he publicly sustained a thesis upon the rights of the
negroes, "de Jure Manorum." Amo was versed in astronomy; spoke Latin,
Greek, Hebrew French, Dutch, and German, there were, indeed, few better
linguists. Some years ago, a Swedish professor having addressed one of our
academies in Latin, the different members, perplexed by their
insufficient acquaintance with that tongue, sent in great haste for one
of their absent members, the only one qualified to answer the learned
foreigner. This was the late Andrieux; but had the negro, Amo, been in the
way, he might have supplied his place. Amo was not only a man of universal
information, but had the art of imparting it to others. Differing from his
white colleagues, he preferred instructing his scholars to the ambition of
acquiring personal renown. His lectures, from the able manner in which he
combined the advantages of the ancient and modern systems, attracted
numerous auditors. He was invested with a diploma in 1744; the first
instance of a negro arriving at that distinction. Amo left a Dissertation
upon Sensation considered as distinct from the Soul, and present to the
body. Frederick the Great, who then reigned in Prussia, conferred the
dignity of Councillor of State upon Amo. But these honours, unprecedented
for a man of his colour, did not dazzle him so as to render him insensible
to the land of his birth. Pining for his native air, he resolved, after
the death of his patron, the Duke of Brunswick, to return, after thirty
years' absence, to his birth-place, Axim, on the Gold Coast; nor was
anything further heard of him in Europe after his departure for that
obscure place.

Buffon, who was the contemporary of Amo, did not distinguish himself by
his definition of the negro race. "Negroes," said he, "are tall, fat,
well-made, but devoid of mind and genius." The great naturalist looked no
deeper than the epidermis, and was greatly mistaken in asserting negroes
to be tall and fat; as in general their stature scarcely equals our own.

Father Charleroy, goes farther than Buffon, by stating that, the negroes
of Guinea have but limited capacities, some being quite imbecile, and few
being able to count beyond three; that they possess no memory, the past
being as unknown to them as the future. "On the other hand," he observes,
"they are docile, simple, humane, credulous, superstitious." This
definition of Father Charleroy may apply to a certain number of negroes;
but it also applies to a certain number of whites. Buffon maintains that
the negroes colonized at Sierra Leone had only the occupations of women,
and a disgust for all useful employment. Their dwellings he states to be
miserable hovels; declaring that they prefer sterile and wild spots to
beautiful valleys clothed with trees, and watered by the clearest streams.
Their roads, he adds, are twice as long as necessary; yet they always
follow the beaten track, insensible to the waste of time, which they never
calculate. M. Descourtils, who resided at St. Domingo, and closely
observed the negroes, declares them to be ignorant, superstitious, and
barbarous; their music being detestable and unmeaning. But though such
asseverations may be founded to a certain degree on fact--after having
shown the difference that exists between the maritime and fluvial tribes
of Africa, and those settled in the interior--we are inclined to inquire
whether the negroes of America, more particularly those of St. Domingo,
ought to be selected as the standard of the negro race? Are not
disabilities attributed to colour which are, in truth, caused by slavery?
Had not the Spartan Helots the same skin as Agis and Epaminondas? Yet what
could be more marked than their distinction of nature? Would it even be
fair to judge the inhabitants of Paris and London by the swarms of footmen
in those cities?

Nevertheless, we are bound to agree with the most experienced
physiologists, that, independent of colour, independent of cerebral
conformation, independent of facial angularity, the most perfect specimens
of the human race are to be found in the temperate regions. The History of
the World bears out the fact; and upon this point, the best intentions of
philanthropy fall to the ground. Religion and humanity call aloud for the
abolition of slavery; while the massacres of St. Domingo prove the
necessity of its being prudent and progressive. At some still remote
period, posterity will probably abjure the prejudice of the white race
against the blacks. But this great revolution of popular feeling will not
be effected without long-established previous proof on the part of the
negro population, that the blessings of freedom have brought forth all the
fruits anticipated by the advocates of abolition. To decide upon their
equality of nature, in their present unequal condition, would be rash and
premature.



CHAPTER XXII.

FASCINATION; OR, THE ART OF PLEASING.


No individual of the human race, but at the bottom of his heart is
ambitious to please! But the charm is not more unequal in distribution
than the means are various. So various, indeed, and so uncertain, that in
our attempts to please we frequently produce the contrary effect.

This universal propensity has given rise to absurd prejudices and
ridiculous efforts; and to a thousand arts, and trickeries, affording an
amusing subject for consideration.

The desire of pleasing tended greatly to enhance, in the earlier stages of
society, the reputation and influence of sorcerers, fairies, and
supernatural beings; whose power was often invoked to increase the
personal attractions of their votaries. The wild efforts of Medea to
secure the affections of her faithless Jason are sufficiently known. Love
potions and philtres were a favourite resource of the ancients, never
weary of consulting sorcerers and enchantresses concerning their aptitude
to please. Virgil, Ovid, Tibullus, Propertius, all allude to the love
charms which could be procured at the hands of different magicians. Ovid,
who has so poetically described the delicate mysteries of the art of love,
laughs, it is true, at these incentives.

"Had magicians," says he, "the power of inflaming lovers' hearts, would
Circe have allowed Ulysses to abandon her?"

Horace accuses Canidia of killing children for the purpose of composing
love-potions; ignorant, apparently, that animal substances were
inadmissible in their composition. Vervain and rue, with a few other
mystic plants, gathered by the light of the moon, formed their chief
ingredients. According to some, a sovereign charm consists of _enula
campana_, or St. John's wort, plucked on the eve of that Saint, before
sunrise, ambergris, and other substances, of which the virtue would be
forfeited unless superscribed with the word "Scheva."

One of the most ingenious authors of antiquity, Apuleius, has given, in
his work of the Golden Ass, a recipe for a love-charm composed of
different fishes; the claws of crayfish, crabs, and oyster shells. He was
accused of having tried its influence in obtaining the affections of his
wife to induce her to make a will in his favour. This recipe is the only
one of the kind not limited to the vegetable kingdom.

Pudentilla, a rich dowager, who had been a widow for fifteen years, chose
for her future husband, the young, handsome, and clever Apuleius, who,
according to the account of the "Golden Ass," pleaded his cause as follows
before the tribunal.

"I am accused," said he, "of sorcery, because Pudentilla espoused me after
fifteen years of widowhood. But would it not be better to inquire why she
consented to remain a widow so long? In support of the accusation of
magic, you say that I instructed fishermen to bring me fish for unlawful
purposes. Ought I to have employed a lawyer, a blacksmith, or a
bird-catcher? I am accused of collecting vermiculated oysters, striped
cockle-shells, and sea crayfish. But when Aristotle, Democritus,
Theophrastus, and other naturalists made collections of Natural History,
did you infer that it was for the confection of love-charms? A child
accidentally fell down, in my presence, on my return home, and I am
accused of sorcery! For the future, then, I presume I shall be bound to
hold in leading strings all the children that approach me; and to prevent
all little girls from stumbling, I must pick up the stones in the street,
and do away with the threshold of my door, lest any one make a false step
in entering my house. Pudentilla, it seems, informed her neighbours that
I was a magician. She might have seen fit to call me a Consul; but would
that have elevated me to the consular dignity?"

Having pleaded his own cause in this vein of pleasantry, the judges
acquitted Apuleius, seeing clearly that so amiable and graceful a man
needed no love-charm for the conquest of the old widow.

In those times, sovereigns as well as subjects were in the habit of
purchasing love-charms! According to Suetonius, Cesonia administered a
potion to her husband, Caligula, which increased both his madness and his
cruelty. The death of the poet Lucretius was caused by a similar potion
administered by his mistress, Lucilia. Eusebius mentions a Governor of
Egypt, who died from the same cause, and there are innumerable instances
of these potent decoctions producing insanity, as well as fatal
enfeeblement of body. Ovid furnishes the true recipe for love: "Ut ameris,
amabilis esto!" "To be loved, be amiable!" But such a charm being out of
the reach of many, it seems easier to purchase cosmetics at the perfumers,
which are about as effective in the creation of the tender passion as the
magic potions of darker ages.

A pretension to youthful habits and appearance at an advanced period of
life, is perhaps one of the most effectual methods of becoming distasteful
and ridiculous.

Still, however, a suitable attention to the care and variations of the
toilet, proves a great enhancement to beauty in its civilized state; nor
can there be a more vulgar error than the dictum of the poet, proclaiming:

  "Beauty unadorned, adorned the most."

In the female bosom, the love of dress is an instinctive passion. Look at
two children of the same age, a girl and a boy; the one will be seen to
delight in feats of strength and agility; the other, as if in evidence of
the desire of pleasing instinctive in the opposite sex, is sure to prefer
a doll, a ribbon, or a pretty frock, in place of the drum or gun chosen by
the boy. Both have intuitively adopted their different vocations. Both are
ambitious to conquer by means suitable to their several sexes.

What prodigies of art have been effected in France in consequence of the
love of dress generated in the fair sex by a desire to please; from the
period when the fair Gauls attired themselves in a sheep-skin fastened at
the throat with a thorn; but were not the less coquettish for this
enforced simplicity.

At that period, their notions of coquetry consisted in having fanciful
designs tattooed upon their persons; and instead of pearls and diamonds,
by way of adornment, cockle-shells were suspended from their ears. Their
sole cosmetic consisted in unguents, which we now abhor as characteristic
of the Hottentots.

Can the present inhabitants of Paris be really descended from these
savages? At that time all the elegance and refinement of dress, arising
from the desire to please, were concentrated in Rome; nor have modern
times raised the fair Parisians to a similar state of refinement. Juvenal
relates that it was thought indecent by the Roman ladies to spit or make
use of a handkerchief in public; and at Athens, the fair sex never
presumed to leave their chambers when suffering from a cold. What would
they have thought of the disgusting habits of the Parisian belles, who
contaminate their handkerchiefs by taking snuff, and yet ornament them
with embroideries!--But the ladies of the antique world scrupulously
avoided all that could provoke disgust--an essential preliminary in the
art of pleasing.

In the early age of the Republic, the most refined cleanliness
distinguished the habits of the fair Romans. Under the Cæsars, and after
the conquest of the East, a taste for luxury, perfumes, and futilities of
all kinds was first indulged; while the sumptuous prodigality of the table
surpassed all precedent. The science of cosmetics then attained
perfection; and there appeared no limit to their coquetry.

Pliny states that the Roman ladies, in order to make their skin white,
made use of a juice expressed from the seeds of the wild grape;--while
minium, white lead and chalk, filled up their wrinkles, and effaced
unseemly spots.

"Tabula," said Martial, "is afraid of the rain; and Sabilla of the sun;
the one alarmed for the solution of her complexion, the other lest the
heat should evaporate the roses of her cheeks."

Ovid has transmitted to us a recipe for a paste to secure whiteness of
skin, consisting of barley flour and lentils, eggs, hartshorn, narcissus
bulbs, gum, and honey.

Poppæa invented a paste, which was moulded like a mask upon the face, to
be worn in the house. This mask was called at Rome the husband's face,
because it was only taken off for the suitor. When Poppæa travelled, she
was followed by a troop of donkeys, whose milk she used for her toilet;
and in the baths of the Roman palaces, the most unlimited luxury
prevailed. The ladies were served by numerous slaves, each having
particular attributions. One superintended the hair; another the
eye-brows; another the hands, which were dyed with pink; another, the
face; while the rest were devoted to the care of the wardrobe and jewels.

These customs, handed down both by historians and poets, had solely for
their object the desire to please; among women, the most ungovernable of
all desires, and exceeding even the love of command. To please, however,
is a preliminary to authority.

In modern times, the cosmetic art has become a branch of the sciences, and
forms a considerable source of industry and revenue. The walls of our
towns are covered with announcements of miraculous discoveries, pastes and
capillary oils, odoriferous waters,--all and each being efficacious and
infallible. Red hair may be transformed into beautiful black
tresses;--baldness may be made to give place to flowing locks; and all
these oils, pastes, and masks, which periodically change their name, are
in fact the same villanous cosmetics which never yet restored elasticity
to a withered skin, converted black to white, or bestowed curls upon a
bald pate. Art is great, but Time far greater; nor are the ravages of
years to be concealed. In divers of these preparations of lead, bismuth
and tin, the sulphurated and phosphoric properties produce the most
injurious effects. In others, the calcareous and aluminous substances
obstruct the pores of the skin, and by hardening it, annihilate its
elasticity. Minium, coral, and vegetable powders, are not less pernicious;
their corroding action augmenting, instead of diminishing the ailments of
the teeth and gums.

These salutary observations were made long before our time; and it has
been as often observed that for the preservation of the complexion,
innocuous substances should be employed such as milk, honey, cucumber, or
melon-juice, mallow-water, and above all, that best of cosmetics, fresh
water, which is within the reach of all, and wants no alluring aid of
Chinese engravings on gilded bottles to recommend its miraculous
properties.

The increased use of baths has fortunately rendered this cosmetic a matter
of universal adoption; and nothing is more likely to confer softness of
skin.

Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV., had so fine a skin, that no
linen could be found sufficiently delicate for her use, which caused
Cardinal Mazarin to observe that in another world, her eternal punishment
would consist in sleeping in coarse sheets. All the cold cream in the
world would not have effected a change in the susceptible epidermis of
Anne of Austria; and we repeat that cosmetics are both useless and
dangerous.

Not even the consummate art of Jezebel availed to repair the irretrievable
ravages of time. Young girls of redundant health have been known to
swallow acids to counteract corpulency; after succeeding in which, they
die prematurely of pulmonary affections. An equally fatal result of the
desire to please is produced by over-lacing. Ladies desirous to conceal
their obesity had far better rely upon a well-chosen dress than upon this
injurious expedient. On the other hand, a tight shoe only exhibits more
prominently a foot of large dimensions. Nothing is more erroneous than
the proverb, "that people must suffer in order to look well." To be
graceful, the movements of the body should be unrestrained.

We have already pointed out the distinction between the art of pleasing,
and the desire of pleasing. The desire is common to all, the art limited
to a few; and they who charm most are those who please naturally and
without effort.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE.


How was the world ever brought to believe that students, in rags,
possessed the power of producing gold, when the misery of their personal
condition was so apparent? How could individuals, in the enjoyment of
competence, ever be tempted to own themselves in the pursuit of chimerical
opulence? How could an enlightened century give birth to so monstrous a
delusion?

The alchemists, though not comprised among sorcerers, and requiring a
separate notice, rivalled them in the pretence to magic; for their volumes
abound in recipes for raising the dead, universal elixirs, the
regeneration of old people, the transformation of the ugly into the
beautiful, and even the creation of men and animals, without other aid
than that of a few cinders and herbs!

Such miracles, however, were insignificant compared with the science of
producing gold; which, according to some was known to Job. The
philosopher's stone is said, by certain legends, to have been the origin
of his fortune; and his poverty to have been occasioned by its loss. These
alchemists do not explain how he came to forfeit the scientific powers
which had originally produced the stone; such details being beneath the
notice of the grand science.

The philosopher's stone was, on the contrary, a creation of the fourteenth
century, and much accredited among the scientific men of that day. Raymond
Lully, Nicholas Flamel, Arnaud de Villeneuve, Paracelsus, and several
others, were initiated into the secret. Nicholas Flamel was a celebrated
alchemist, and having acquired an immense fortune, it was attributed to
the philosopher's stone, which of course stimulated the cupidity of the
proselytes of alchemy. Eager was their pursuit of a study which was to
endow them with boundless wealth; and these lunatics found coadjutors in
persons of weak and credulous mind, while wiser men diverted themselves by
sustaining their hopes, and affecting conviction of their success. Such
was Van Helmont, who published his belief in the existence of the
philosopher's stone, protesting that he had seen it, and tasted it; that
with a grain, he had produced several marks of pure gold.

The ardour with which conjectural sciences are adopted, proves a serious
injury to positive science. Many learned men asserted the possibility of
the transmutation of metals; among others, the famous Pica of Mirandola.
Alchemists, however, were not unanimous concerning the principles of the
art. Some placed its origin in Heaven, and looked upon the rays of the sun
as its primitive source; the quintessence of which was called, in their
gibberish, the powder of projection. Others maintained that its elements
existed throughout every department of nature, constituting the active
principle of the universe. Some ascribed the principle to the metals
themselves. Mercury presented itself to them as the agent for producing
silver, according to the properties we have already described with
reference to miraculous showers. According to them, mercury had only to be
condensed, its mobility fixed, and its different parts coagulated, to
create silver. But by far the greater number indulged in still wider
speculations. Most of those who attempted the pursuit were brought to want
and wretchedness; and one of them observed, in his last moments, that he
could not imagine a bitterer curse to bequeath than the love of alchemy!

All, however, were not martyrs to the art. Many of its advocates
perambulated the world, finding dupes in Princes, Kings and Emperors, who
paid dearly for their imaginary discoveries. These mountebanks were the
only real possessors of the philosopher's stone. After the treaty of
Westphalia, in 1648, the Emperor Ferdinand was convinced that he had
converted half a pound of mercury into gold by means of a philosophical
tincture; and in commemoration of the event, had a medal struck, bearing
the effigy of a youth with a face like a sun, shooting forth rays. On the
reverse was inscribed, "Glory to God for deigning to impart to his humble
creatures a portion of his infinite power."

The mountebank to whom this transmutation was attributed, by name
Richthausen, was created a Baron; and repeated his experiments before the
Elector of Mayence and many other Sovereigns. His name was long celebrated
in Germany; but his end is unknown. It is well known that Cardinal de
Richelieu witnessed several experiments in pursuit of the philosopher's
stone, generously rewarding the operator. This may have been an expedient
of his Eminence in order to secure the services of these adroit
individuals; who, admitted into the bosom of illustrious families, became
a source of useful information. Voltaire relates that he saw one, Damusi,
Marquis of Conventiglio, handsomely remunerated by certain rich noblemen,
after producing, in their presence, two or three crowns of gold.

No one has written more to the purpose on the subject of alchemists, than
Fontenelle. "Nothing but the blindness induced by avidity," says he,
"could induce the belief that a man, possessing the power of making gold,
must receive gold from another, before he can exhibit his art. How can
such a person stand in need of money? Nevertheless, these mountebanks, by
their fanatical conduct, mysterious language, and exorbitant promises, far
from rendering themselves objects of suspicion, acquire the utmost
influence. Without deciding upon the impractibility of making gold,
experience teaches us that the extreme difficulty of the operation must
render it unavailable in practice, if not in theory. But supposing that by
the means of a sulphur of gold, completely separated from other
principles, the point were gained by applying it to silver, so as to
produce a mass of gold of the same weight and volume, what would be the
result beyond a curious experiment effected at an enormous cost?"

In this appreciation of alchemy, Fontenelle expresses himself with the
scrupulousness worthy the philosopher who said that he would not have
opened his hand had it been full of truth. In this instance he opens it
partially, admitting an experimental possibility which he knew did not
exist.

Not only Kings and Emperors, but even the populace, delighting in the
marvellous, believed in the existence of the philosopher's stone; choosing
to attribute several sudden accumulations of wealth to this mysterious
source. Raymond Lullé had become rich by farming the duty imposed by
Edward III. upon the exportation of wool from England to Flanders. Arnaud
de Villeneuve, an eminent physician and chemist, effected cures by
specifics only known to himself, which were highly requited. Nicholas
Flamel enriched himself by seizing the ledgers of the Jews when expelled
from France; their creditors preferring a settlement with him, to paying
their liabilities into the exchequer; in return for which, he effaced
their names from the registers.

These mountebanks are now known to have made use of a hollow cane, the
extremity being plugged with wax, by introducing which into the crucible,
on pretext of stirring up the different matters, as the wax melted the
gold fell out, and the miracle appeared to be accomplished.

Others had their crucibles lined with a substance which yielded to the
action of the fire, when the gold concealed behind it appeared. These
clumsy tricks of legerdemain succeeded for several centuries; but
credulity flits round error, as the moth is attracted by the flame of the
taper, and is at length annihilated.

In the beginning of the last century, a well-known Princess was the victim
of an absurd fraud. Being famed for her humanity, a wounded soldier
knocked at the door of her palace, and solicited hospitality. Having been
nobly received, on recovering from his wounds, he desired to offer some
acknowledgment of gratitude previous to his departure. This man pretended
to be possessed of three reeds, which, being placed in a crucible,
converted mercury into gold. These reeds he pretended to have discovered
in a ruined Abbey in Wurzbourg; a fact which he disinterestedly
communicated to the Princess; who, in return, loaded him with marks of
munificence. When, however, her Highness proceeded to apprize the Bishop
of Wurzbourg of the treasure concealed in his diocese, no such Abbey as
the one described by the crafty soldier was found to be in existence. This
kind of philosophers' stone is not a new invention, and there is little
chance of the secret being lost.

There are still many persons engaged in the decomposition and
transmutation of metals;--viz: the coiners of base money. Even the Academy
of Sciences of Paris has still one member devoted to the miracles of the
crucible--Baron Cagnard de la Tour; who has made many wonderful
experiments on the nature and reproduction of diamonds.



CHAPTER XXIV.

GIANTS AND DWARFS.


"Have dwarfs and giants ever really existed?"

"Only so long as no traveller penetrated the countries they were supposed
to inhabit," would be the reasonable reply. For since the globe has been
explored in all directions, and tourists are compelled to be more measured
in their narratives, travellers' wonders are greatly diminished.

A belief in the existence of nations of giants and dwarfs was, however,
long entertained; one of the many errors bequeathed to us by antiquity,
and adopted by modern credulity.

The ancients had their Titans and Cyclops; of whom Polyphemus, the most
towering, was three hundred feet high; while we moderns, more moderate,
allow only ten feet to the Patagonian. From the period the Magellan
regions became better known, their proportions were still further reduced;
and we now allow only an average of seven feet. Credulity, distance, and
the love of the marvellous, tend greatly to the exaggeration of such
allotments.

The Bible, like mythology, has its giants; but in most cases, they are
exceptional; and it is undeniable that nature often digresses, and
produces individuals differing in stature from the ordinary standard of
mankind.

Most people have heard of Bébé, the famous dwarf of the King of Poland,
who came to Paris in the early part of the Consulate; and of Friand, the
giant, whose height exceeded seven feet two inches. But these two were
exceptions, not the types of a race. Excepting the Greenlanders,
Laplanders, and Samoyedes, there is little variation of stature among the
different populations of the globe, certainly not more than a tenth. As
regards the inhabitants of the arctic regions, we must bear in mind that
their stunted proportions are in harmony with the rigid, and unkindly
nature of their climates; in proof of which may be cited the similarity of
climate between Lapland and certain vallies of the frozen regions of
Switzerland. A similar influence is manifest in the inhabitants of the two
localities; the peasants of the Valais, afflicted with the goitre, having
more analogy with the Laplanders than with the fine population of
Switzerland.

There are few phenomenal races, though many individuals; just as the
monstrous fruits grown for horticultural prizes cannot be regarded as fair
samples of a species. It would be as rational to cite, by way of example,
the fabulous creations of Rabelais and Swift, the giant Gargantua, and the
nation of Lilliputians.

Polyphemus and his Cyclops are real, as they exist in the pages of Homer
and Virgil; but ideal the moment Flasellus asserts that the remains of
Polyphemus were found in Sicily, near Mount Eripana, of which he gives the
following account.

"The giant was seated with his left hand resting on the mast of a ship
terminated like a club, and carrying fifteen hundred weight of lead. It
crumbled into dust upon being touched, except part of his skull; which
would have contained several bushels of corn. Three teeth of which the
least weighed one hundred ounces, and a thigh bone, one hundred and twenty
feet long, were still perfect." Between Homer, and Virgil, and Thomas
Flasellus there is all the difference of ingenious fiction and the
grossest imposture produceable in prose.

In former days, the head of Adam was believed to have out-topped the
atmosphere, and that he touched the Arctic Pole with one hand, and the
Antarctic with the other; one of the hyperbolical exaggerations of the
rabbinical Scriptures. After Adam, the rabbins rank Og, the King of Basan,
to whom Holy Writ assigns thirteen or fourteen feet, while the rabbinical
writings declare that the stature of Og was such that the waters of the
deluge only came up to his knee. In the war against the Israelites, he
hurled a mountain against the enemy; but as he held it above his head, God
decreed that the ants should excavate it, so that it fell about his neck
like a collar. Moses, who was six ells high, profiting by the
circumstance, grasped a formidable axe, and making a spring of his own
height, could only strike the giant on the instep. The King, however,
fell, and encumbered by the mountain, was put to death.

Polyphemus, and all other giants might have danced upon the palm of King
Og; and the thigh of the Cyclops would scarcely have furnished him a
toothpick. The Jewish rabbins affirm that the thigh bone of Og, the King
of Basan, was about twelve leagues long. They do not, however, give the
precise measure.

Pomponius Mela, the most incredible of the authors of antiquity, states
that certain of the Indian tribes were of such exceeding stature, that
they mounted their elephants as we do our horses. Father Rhetel, a
Capuchin friar, saw at Thessalonica the bones of a giant ninety-six feet
long; the skull of which could contain twenty-four bushels of corn.
Herodotus states that the shoe of Perseus measured three feet. The wise
Plutarch, himself adopted the history of the giant Antæus, related by
that illustrious liar Gabirius. According to some historians, King
Tentradus was twenty-five feet high; Goliath was nine feet four inches;
the Emperor Maximin was more than eight; and the Elector of Brandenbourg,
Joachim, had at his Court a man named Michael, who was about eight feet
high. The height of Goliath, Maximin and Michael were mere instances of
the caprices of nature.

The early legends of stupendous giants arose from the fact, that the
fossil remains of antediluvial animals were originally ascribed to the
human race; whereas, geologists have never found, either in calcareous or
granitical formations, any bones of the human species which could have
preceded the deluge.

Having dismissed the giants, let us consider the dwarfs, concerning whom
our conclusions are the same:--that they are exceptions to the general
rule. Nay, the impossibility of establishing a race has been proved by a
German Princess, who having married and settled several couples of dwarfs,
failed in securing a diminutive progeny.

The existence of pygmies is the sole question concerning the dwarfish
species requiring attention; but though so long credited by the ancients,
it is now looked upon as fabulous. Aristotle, the evangelist of science,
affirms that pygmies were not fabulous; and placed them near the source of
the Nile, in a country created purposely for them, in which the nature of
every thing was proportionate. Some authors have pronounced the pygmies to
have been twenty-eight inches high; but Juvenal only allows them a foot.
These ideal dwarfs must have been about the size of the young American,
popularly known under the name of General Tom Thumb.

The pygmies are said to have been courageous and enterprising; dexterous
with the bow, and, according to Pliny, hewed down with an axe the corn,
which to them was in about the proportions of the oaks of Dodona.

The most valorous exploit attempted by the pygmies was the siege of
Hercules. Pliny relates, that one day the son of Alcmena having fallen
asleep in the country of the pygmies, their King assembling his troops,
led a division against his right arm, surrounded his left, then at the
head of his troops charged the head, leaving the remainder of the army to
capture the feet. On awaking, Hercules spread out his cloak, and made the
whole army of pygmies prisoners. This is a pretty fable, and may have
originated the Lilliputians of the Dean of St. Patrick's. But we have no
hesitation in affirming, that though the words giants and pygmies may
serve as terms of comparison, they have no prototypes among the nations of
the earth.



CHAPTER XXV.

ASTROLOGY.


Among the most popular delusions of mankind, in earlier ages, were the
deductions drawn from the stars, under the name of astrology; a science so
long sustained by men of superior intellect, as to justify the credulity
of the ignorant. Hippocrates consulted the moon before he administered
medicine to his patients. Horace, Virgil, Richelieu, Mazarin, believed in
judicial astrology. Some attributed the honour of this discovery to
Abraham, others to Zoroaster; while the Greeks claim it for one of the
seven Sages of Greeks, Chilo of Lacedemonia, who professed to have
discovered in the heavens the germ and principle of our various
temperaments.

The Romans adopted these astrological superstitions; and since that
period, both the study of the moon and stars, with the view to
prognostication, has proved a profitable pursuit. Petronius and the poet
Manilius assured their contemporaries that a child born under Aquarius,
could not fail to prefer fountains and cascades. But they forgot that
Aquarius was known long before the invention of fountains. Astrology was
then in its infancy, but like a youth improved by his travels, it acquired
strength and consistency among the Arabs.

Long before the Arabs, however, the great Hermes had asserted: "As men
have seven apertures in the head, and there exist seven planets, it must
be inferred that every planet presides over one of these apertures in the
human head." The following is the manner in which Hermes disposed of them.
He made Jupiter and Saturn preside over the ears; Mars and Venus the
nostrils; the Sun and Moon represented the eyes; and Mercury had the care
of the mouth. New planets, however, have since been discovered; and in all
conscience, the disciples of Hermes ought to have made proportionate holes
in the head in support of his doctrines.

Proceeding from the physical to the moral world, they established seven
presidencies; Venus over love, Mercury over eloquence, Saturn over grief,
the Sun over glory, and the Moon over domestic economy.

After this ingenious arrangement, they assigned to every colour its
peculiar star. Blue belonged to Jupiter, yellow to the Sun, green to
Venus, red to Mars, probably from his sanguinary influence, white to the
Moon, black to Saturn, while Mercury presided over the different shadings
of all the colours. After the theory ensued the application, which was
nearly as follows:

"Place a child in the centre of a circle, upon the circumference of which
the stars are disposed as at the moment of his conception, or birth. Their
influences concentrate upon him, and confer on him a fixed and unalterable
destiny. He will be virtuous or vicious, prosperous, or unfortunate in
this world, according to the configuration of the planets."

According to the moral character of the stars, the Sun is benevolent and
auspicious; Saturn, dull, morose, and cold; the Moon moist and melancholy;
Jupiter, temperate, and his influences kindly; Mars, dry and fervent;
Venus prolific and affable; Mercury, inconstant and variable.

Astrologers assigned twelve houses to the zodiac, appropriated to the
different planets. The first was consecrated to life and the body; from
whence emanates the white, black, and copper coloured races, giants,
dwarfs, albinos, idiots, and men of genius. The second house is devoted to
the interests of society in general; and in the third house, family
affairs between relatives of different degrees, excepting testamentary
dispositions, to which they devoted a fourth house. To pass from grave to
gay, enter the fifth house, where all is mirth, pleasure, and infantine
pastimes. Lackies and sempstresses occupy the sixth house, but they have
but little repose if the wall between it and the next house be not
tolerably thick; being inhabited by beautiful women, envy, hatred, and
malice. The eighth house of the zodiac is the cemetery; the ninth, the
head-quarters of voyages, missions, and processions; whilst the tenth is
the resort of the highest society, the nobility and dignitaries of state.
The eleventh house is destined for the prosperous, who pass their lives in
the delights of wit and friendship. The twelfth differs from the
preceding, being devoted to the groans of the wretched in their dungeons,
and the haunt of treason and shame. In building these zodiacal houses, the
representative form of certain Governments had not been anticipated, or a
better balance of power might have been effected.

Such were the chimeras of antiquity, as handed down to modern times.
Plutarch relied so much on the efficacy of the stars, that he prevented
the Lacedemonians from going into battle before the full moon; and Cæsar
and Pompey frequently consulted the astrologers. The Emperor Augustus,
born under the sign Capricorn, had a medal struck in honour of his natal
star. Caracalla had the horoscope drawn of all those he employed; while
his policy, favour, and misgivings were uniformly decided by the stars.
When the horoscope of any influential person augured ill, Caracalla had
him put to death;--a fine triumph for astrology!

Phrenology has now usurped the throne of astrology; and were sovereigns or
judges to form their judgments after the theory of Dr. Gall, they would
save themselves a world of trouble.

The reign of Catherine de Medicis was the triumph of astrology in France.
Not a high-born dame but had her _Baron_, a name assigned to the family
astrologer, who was as much a matter of course as, in other times, a
family confessor.

The astrological rage subsided during the reign of Louis XIV; but
disappeared only under the Regency. Voltaire, writes in 1757, when he was
sixty, that in his youth, the last adepts of astrology, Count
Boulainvilliers and the Italian Calonna, foretold his end at thirty years
of age. Voltaire remarks, "I have done them by thirty years!"--to which
the sequel added upwards of twenty more.

When the Europeans first penetrated the vast regions of Asia, astrology
was found to be much in vogue in Persia and China. In the latter country,
the Emperor, on his accession, has his horoscope drawn. The Japanese
consult the stars previous to undertaking any enterprise. If they succeed,
they thank their stars; if they fail, they resign themselves to their
irresistible influence.

Astrology had its hero, a Cato or Vatel, in the astrologer Cardan; who,
having predicted his death to the day and the hour, and failed in his
calculations, killed himself for the credit of science! A more judicious
prediction was that of the astrologer to Louis XI.; his master, who having
inquired of him the hour of his own death: "Two after that of your
Majesty!" replied he; and the oracle became a safeguard over his days.

Human pride often stimulates the influence of superstition. Napoleon once
pointed out his star to Cardinal Fesch, who could not make it out. "It is
lost upon you," said the Emperor, "but I see it plainly enough!" Napoleon
affected reliance upon an influence which was known to be auspicious to
his fortunes. Had the Cardinal, in return, pretended to similar
distinction, he would probably have answered as Jean Jacques Rousseau did
to a shopkeeper, who complained of his stars. "How, Sir, do such people as
you pretend to have stars?" Were astrologers in general, like Cardan,
content to exercise their art upon themselves, we should not oppose their
proceedings. But their predictions have been known to produce a panic
throughout an entire population. For instance, a German mathematician,
named Stoffler, whose audacity was only equalled by the credulity of his
proselytes, predicted, towards the end of the fifteenth century, another
Deluge for the month of February, 1524. "How was it possible," he argued,
"to escape from the calamity, when at that particular period Mars and
Pisces, Saturn and Jupiter were to be in conjunction." Upon the eve of
this awful event, in various countries of Europe, carpenters could
scarcely be found in sufficient numbers to build the arks in preparation.

Not a drop of rain, however, fell during the dreaded month of February,
and Stoffler became an object of general ridicule. Far, however, from
feeling himself defeated or acknowledging his error, he professed to have
made a mistake in the date; and predicted the end of the world for 1588.

These predictions, alarming only to women and children, have been
frequently renewed by others. About the middle of the same century, the
Jews were one day seen waiting at their windows, expecting the arrival of
their Messiah; an Israelite, named Avenar, having announced his coming.
Cardan predicted a long and glorious reign to Edward VI, King of England;
who nevertheless died in his sixteenth year!



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE MOON AND LUNAR INFLUENCE.


From the stars in general to the moon in particular, there is but a step;
nor will we separate the midnight luminary from the company in which we
usually find her. Lovers and poets have from time immemorial found solace
in her beams; while the early philosophers pretended that she swallowed
stones in the manner of the mountebanks, in order to cast them down upon
us in the form of aërolites. This conclusion is as absurd as a thousand
others, of which the moon has been the object. The ingenuousness of the
old lady, who on hearing continually of new moons, inquired anxiously what
became of the old ones, is scarcely more surprising than the complex mass
of commentaries and hypotheses which regard the influence of the orb of
night.

In former centuries, it was the custom to attribute the decay of public
monuments to the influence of the moon upon the surface of granite and
stone. Naturalists, however, having watched the work of animalculæ among
oysters, madrepores and corals, attributed this to the true cause. In the
year 1666, a physician of Caen remarked upon a stone wall of southern
aspect forming part of the Abbey of the Benedictines, a number of
cavities, into the deep sinuosities of which the hand could be inserted.
Instead of attributing this to the moon, he ascertained that they were
worked by insects whom he found concealed in the cavities. Experiment
opens the safest road to truth; while absurd theories transmitted from
generation to generation, obstruct the steps of a temple already
sufficiently difficult of ascent.

Thomas Moult, the author of an almanack superior to the general run of
those popular publications, devoted himself to conjectures on the
variations of the weather as influenced by the moon; and consulted the
observations previously made by the Abbé Toaldo, who had noted down the
effect of eleven hundred and six moons upon the weather. He found that
nine hundred and fifty were accompanied by changes of weather; while the
other one hundred and fifty six, produced no effect. The proportion being
as one to six, the chances are that a new moon will produce a change of
weather; the influence being susceptible of increase from various
circumstances, in the proportion of thirty-three to one, when the new moon
is at its perigæum.

Physicians formerly believed the phases of the moon to influence certain
diseases. Hippocrates and Galen assigned them as the cause of periodical
returns of epilepsy; while people of deranged intellect are vulgarly
styled lunatics. Bertholon observed the paroxysms of a maniac during one
year, and declared them to be aggravated by the full moon. It has been
asserted that among maritime populations, a greater number of deaths
occurred at the ebb than at the flow of the tide. At Brest, Rochefort and
St. Malo, a register was kept for thirty months of the number of deaths,
and the hours at which they took place; when the number was found to be
less at the hours supposed most fatal. The doctrine of Aristotle, which
had still many adherents, was overthrown by experience.

Dr. Mead, an English physician, wrote a treatise on the influence of the
moon upon the human constitution, which has also fallen into oblivion.



CHAPTER XXVII.

APPARITIONS.


The following anecdote is contained in one of the letters of Pliny, the
younger, which we select from many which figure in the annals of antiquity
as a type reproduced in various forms, with a change of scenery, by an
infinite number of chroniclers.

"There was at Athens a spacious and convenient house, which was abandoned
because in the dead of night its inhabitants were invariably disturbed by
a clash of iron, and rattling of chains, which appeared to approach
gradually, and afterwards grow fainter and fainter. A spectre at length
appeared, in the shape of an old man with a venerable beard, and his hair
standing on end, with chains on his feet and hands, which he shook
furiously; so that those who had courage to take shelter in the house
passed fearful and sleepless nights. This privation of rest produced
illness, which increasing by constant panic, death often ensued.

"The philosopher Athenodorus having arrived at Athens, and heard the story
of the deserted house, hired it, and took up his residence.

"When evening set in, he had his bed put up in the front apartment; and
his tablets, lights, and writing implements placed on the table; after
which, his attendants retired to the rear of the house. Lest his
imagination should conjure up phantoms, he concentrated his whole
attention in writing.

"At the beginning of the night, a deep silence prevailed. But at a later
hour, he heard the ring of chains, but continued to write on disbelieving
the evidence of his ears.

"The noise becoming louder, seemed to approach his chamber door; and on
looking up, he beheld the spectre we have described; which seemed to
beckon him with its finger. Athenodorus made sign to his visitor to wait,
and continued his writing. The spectre shook its chains anew in the ears
of the philosopher; who, perceiving it to be still beckoning, rose, took
up the light, and followed it. The phantom walked as if sinking under the
weight of its chains; and on reaching the court-yard vanished, leaving
Athenodorus picking up herbs and leaves to mark the place of its
disappearance.

"On the following day, he sought the magistrates of the city, and begged
to have the scene of the adventure examined. On due investigation, a
human skeleton, entangled in chains, was found interred on the ominous
spot. The bones were carefully collected, and publicly buried; and after
receiving the sacred rites of the dead, the spectre never again troubled
the repose of the house."

Pliny does not relate this story as deserving of credence; but offered it
to his contemporaries as an ingenious lesson upon the influence of the
imagination, serving to inculcate the respect due from the living towards
the dead. Honours have been offered to the mortal remains of illustrious
men in all times and countries; and a reverence towards the grave may be
accepted as an indication of civilization.

Plato affirmed that he saw the souls of the departed flitting about like
shadows; a prejudice we forgive the more readily in the man who first
revealed the existence of the soul, of which, in the name of Socrates, he
consecrated the immortality.

Pausanias relates that whole armies reappeared after death with their arms
and baggage.

"Four hundred years after the battle of Marathon," says he, "the neighing
of horses and cries of soldiers were heard upon the scene of action."

The object of Pausanias was to hold up to the Athenians the example of
their illustrious ancestors by immortalizing the heroic combatants of that
memorable battle. But he no more heard the neighing of horses on the spot,
than Napoleon beheld forty centuries surveying his army from the apex of
the Pyramids, as figurately described in his sublime address to his
troops.

Unmindful of the moral sense of things, and prone to judge the recitals of
antiquity according to the standard of our own ideas, regardless of the
changes of time, in our efforts to rectify the errors of our predecessors,
we fall into new ones. Due allowance ought to be made for time and place
in perusing such recitals as the following:

"St. Spiridion, Bishop of Trimitonte, in Egypt, had a daughter, named
Irene, who died a virgin. After her decease, an individual presented
himself and claimed a deposit which had been in her custody, unknown to
her father, which was vainly sought for by St. Spiridion. Proceeding,
however, to his daughter's tomb, he called aloud her name, and demanded
what she had done with the object confided to her? 'You will find it
buried in such a spot!' replied a voice from the tomb; and proceeding to
the place pointed out, the treasure was found."

St. Martin of Tours, disgusted by the reverence paid in his neighbourhood
to a pretended Saint, proceeded to his tomb, and enjoined him to arise.
The dead man issued from his grave, confessed that he was a robber justly
punished for his crimes, and condemned to eternal punishment.

To appreciate these two miracles, we must revert to the times of those two
saints, that is, to the reign of superstition; in which the priesthood
officiated with magisterial power, keeping in check, by their moral
influence, the licentiousness of manners, and the perpetration of crime.
Of these Bishops, the one saw fit to defend the reputation of his
daughter, and inculcate the sacred nature of a trust; while the other
chose to exhibit the untenability of an assumed reputation. In both
instances, this was probably accomplished by means to which the
priesthoods of all countries have not disdained to resort; finding them
far more effectual with an unenlightened populace than abstract argument.

A somewhat similar instance is related by Martinus Polonius, Platinus, and
Pierre Damien, of Pope Benedict IX. This Pontiff, they assure us, not only
rose again from the grave; but in the form of a wild beast, having the
head of an ass, the body of a bear, and the tail of a cat. As he wandered
in the forest, a holy hermit met and conversed with him.

The truth is that the three authors of this story were Guelphs, and chose
to convert the Ghibeline Pontiff into a monster, by a pretended
apparition. So is it ever with party-writers, who do not disdain to have
recourse to the most absurd and disgraceful means in order to discredit
their opponents.

As regards the vulgar family of ghosts, there can be little doubt that
such persons as really believe themselves to have been exposed to spectral
visitation, were affected either by some optical delusion, similar to that
of the "Fata Morgana" on the coast of Sicily, or the "mirage" of the
desart; in most cases, produced by the fatigue of over-study, and
infirmity of digestion. Such effects are, also, easily produced by the
interposition of malicious or jocose persons, in the way of
phantasmagoria.

A celebrated instance of this kind is on record. The wife of the Provost
of Orleans dying in that city, limited by her will to the sum of six
golden crowns the expenses of her funeral; which was to take place at the
Convent of the Cordeliers. Her heirs conformed strictly to her
injunctions; thereby greatly incensing the friars, who determined to be
revenged.

The Superior of the Convent caused a young monk to be secreted in the
vaults, and instructed him to cry aloud, and utter strange shrieks during
the performance of matins, and if invoked, to give no other answer than by
knocking thrice. The youth faithfully executed his charge; and, at the
moment agreed upon, made a hideous noise; so that the affrighted monks
suspended the sacred office. The officiating priest adjured the disturbed
spirit to tell them what was the matter; when three solemn knocks formed
the only answer, which was repeated three days consecutively.

The phenomenon was soon bruited abroad by the monks; and on the days of
holy office, the noise was louder than usual; till the faithful deserted
the church in consternation. At length, they had recourse to exorcism; and
when the exorciser conjured the phantom, demanding to know whose was the
soul in torment, and naming in succession the various persons buried in
the church, no answer was returned till they came to the name of the
offending lady, when three loud knocks were distinctly audible. The spirit
was next interrogated whether she were not condemned to eternal punishment
for having secretly embraced the doctrines of Luther; and three, knocks
instantly confirmed the charge. She was next asked whether it would not
assuage her torments if her body were carried out of the Catholic Church
to be more appropriately interred; and three knocks again replied in the
affirmative. The Chapter being convoked, decided upon giving up the lady
to her husband, as being convicted of Lutheranism. But the Provost,
instead of giving credence to the opposition, submitted the case to the
tribunals of Paris, obtaining a special commission from the Chancellor
Duprat for the purpose. The result was the confession of the secreted
friar; whereupon the Superior of the Cordeliers and his confederate were
condemned to fine and imprisonment.

Such delusions have been frequent from the time the Preaching Friars of
Bordeaux took occasion to relieve souls of purgatory in proportion to the
offerings placed before them, to that of the Convulsionaries, who, at the
commencement of the last century, exhibited their freaks on the site of
the cemetery of St. Médard.

The most diverting piece of imposition is that related by Erasmus of a
priest, who, finding the fervour of his flock relax to the evident
diminution of his revenues, let loose one night in his burying-ground a
quantity of cray-fish, each having a lighted taper attached to it. The
parishioners instantly repaired to their pastor, who affirmed that these
wandering lights were souls from purgatory in search of masses; a
considerably supply of which was ordered on the spot. Owing, however, to
the carelessness of the priest, a cray-fish, with a piece of taper
adhering to it, was picked up the following day in the church-yard.

Let those who are disposed to yield credit to ghost stories, visit but
once a good exhibition of Ombres Chinoises, or Fantasmagoria, or the
display of some able ventriloquist; and they will perceive that a good
ghost story is as easy of manufacture as a hat or a pair of gloves.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

NOBILITY AND TRADE.


The subject before us is too closely connected with the prejudices of
mankind not to call for consideration. The question is delicate, but we
hazard the argument, though at the risk of giving offence.

The honours conceded to men of pre-eminent merit, who have rendered
service to their country, or to humanity in general, excite no
dissatisfaction;--the reaction begins with the second generation.
Hereditary nobility is a time-honoured prejudice. The founder of an
illustrious race is entitled to the respect of his contemporaries; but his
descendants become esteemed in proportion to the value attached to their
name. Unless they have conferred on it additional lustre, the inherited
rank exacts little consideration.

Conquest was the origin of the most ancient nobility, as well as the
foundation of royalty. In France, from Clovis to Philip le Bel, there
were no other races of nobility; but after the reign of the latter, the
Kings of France exercised the right of ennoblement. From a right, nobility
in France became a concession. It is clear, therefore, that the power of
ennoblement, from the time of Philip le Bel, extinguished the illusions
concerning nobility which had previously prevailed. The facile formation
of nobility, the metamorphosis of the serf of yesterday into the baron of
the morrow, undeceived the multitude as to the right divine they had
hitherto attributed to the nobles; and deteriorated the consequence of the
order. From that epoch, illustrious names started forth from the middle
classes to figure at the Courts of Sovereigns; and in each succeeding
reign, we find names issuing from obscurity to cast a halo over the pages
of history. Many such still figure there; and some have added fresh lustre
to the names bequeathed them by their ancestors.

A King of France one day ennobled all the burghers of Paris; who refused
the honour, conscious that, all being noble, nobility must cease to exist.

The homage we pay to a great historical name is a justifiable feeling.
Among the ancient privileges of such nobility, one of the finest was that
of defending the country against foreign invasion. Previous to the use of
artillery, our armies were chiefly composed of cavalry. The infantry
became important under Francis I. at the battle of Marignan; after which,
this privilege became of less account. Till then, the defence of the
country was entrusted to its nobility.

At the first declaration of war, the King convoked the chief vassals of
the crown; who, in their turn, assembled their Barons and Counts,
according to the order of the feudal system,--their vassals, and their
vassals' vassals; all marching under the banners of their chiefs. Many
were reduced to ruin by such expeditions. Montesquieu asserts that fear is
the soul of a despotic government, honour of a monarchical, and virtue of
a republican. Were he now alive, he would perhaps assign money as the
pivot of the representative system. How do things proceed in a citizen
kingdom? Precisely as in feudal times! Upon the first decision of a loan,
Government convenes the whole financial vassalage, confers with the Barons
and Counts of the Stock Exchange, with the puissant lords of speculations,
and humbler knights of stock jobbing. Armed cap-à-pie with the
irresistible credit of the great vassals, after a series of combats of
which the stock-jobbers are the heralds and trumpeters, they defeat the
unfortunate Gauls of the Exchange; while the triumphant Franks risk
nothing in the expedition. There is little exaggeration in this
comparison. It often happens that a mere substitution, and not the
overthrow of a system, takes place.

Feudalism still exists, not only in the financial world, but among
individuals engaged in the same profession. Now that the law of
constitutional governments has proclaimed the principle of equality, the
thirst for distinction and supremacy has become more prevalent than ever.

In military and civil communities, a hierarchy is indispensable to exact
respect from the lower towards the higher grades; without which, all
discipline would be impossible. But among men equally free, engaged in the
same calling, and eating the same bread, we can imagine nothing more
absurd than the assumed superiority of the fortunate over the
unprosperous. The insolence of the tradesman in a great way of business
towards the tradesman commencing his career far exceeds the insolence of
the patrician towards the plebeian; and the field officer of a regiment is
often seen to treat his subalterns as though they were footmen.

That artists and men of letters should mutually treat each other according
to the reputation they may have acquired, is not surprising; seeing that,
in spite of the mercantile nature of modern literary productions, and the
dramatic and literary societies formed for the protection of their
material interests, men of letters, poets, painters, architects,
sculptors, musicians, and even actors, assume in the eyes of the public
precisely the place assigned to each by public favour and success;
standing on the ground of their individual, and not upon their corporate,
merit.

Nevertheless, in all academies of art, science, and literature, the
principle of equality prevails. The only persons they regard as inferior,
are those who on their deaths will probably succeed to their places.

Though we have alluded with sneering levity to the Counts and Barons of
Finance, we have no intention of speaking lightly on the subject. Nothing
can be more serious than the substitution of financial supremacy for those
more gloriously earned honours, the extinction of which would strike a
death-blow at civilisation.

There are several banks in Europe exceeding in wealth and power the
richest citizens of Rome after the conquest of Asia. Independent of steam,
of gigantic undertakings, manufacturing or commercial, there is another
predominating power of the utmost importance; the enormous accumulation of
capital in the hands of a few, not to be lavished like that of the Romans
in patronage of the arts, or acts of beneficence; but doled out in
speculative fractions, often fatal to the interests of honest industry,
and rarely conducing to the interests of the country.

In feudal times, the extortions of the Barons were undeniable; and
compulsory labour was a humiliating hardship. But upon their return from
the wars, when exacting from their serfs compensation for their shattered
armour, it was at least for the defence of the soil, as well as to face
the enemy again, if necessary, that these benevolences were required. In
countries where the feudal system is yet in force, such as Russia, the
moral existence of the serfs is inferior to that of our manufacturing
workmen; while as regards subsistence, the condition of the serfs is much
less precarious. Like our peasants of old, they enjoy their family ties,
breathe the fresh air, and tread upon their native soil; tilling the land
for the benefit of their Lord, instead of receiving a grudging
remuneration for their labour.

Having frequently inquired of heads of manufactories, the wages of their
workmen; we have received such evasive answers, as to be reduced to our
own conjectures on the subject.

Suppose that in a manufactory, one hundred pair of hands be daily
employed, and that the profits be £2000 per annum, it is clear that every
individual produces £20. A mutual convention exists; the master having the
power of dismissing the workman, and the latter of quitting the master;
the former being liable to the disasters of fire or bankruptcy, from which
the workman is exempt. The manufacturer having embarked his capital, has
an unquestionable right to high profits. But all this, is nevertheless
serfdom under another form; and we behold with pity these industrious
beings, breathing the burning and mephitic air prevailing in the
factories. The serf when sick, is cared for by his Lord; but the factory
man is dismissed without ceremony. For in the manufacturing districts, man
counts but as a machine, which if worn out, is replaced by another.

We can scarcely be surprised, therefore, if the financial and
manufacturing aristocracy,--the strongbox nobility,--assume at the present
day the consequence of the chivalrous nobility of the olden time. It is
but fair, however, to admit that there are generous-minded manufacturers;
just as there were good-hearted Barons among the feudal tyrants.

Much might be added on this subject; but a further disquisition would only
prolong into a political discussion, what we have only pretended to treat
on the score of vulgar prejudice.



CHAPTER XXIX.

MERIT AND POPULARITY.


What is popularity? By what indications is it known? Who ratifies its
titles? And do those titles, conferred by favoritism, error, influence,
prejudice, interest, or flattery, possess more value or more durability
than the scattered leaves on which the Sybil inscribed her oracles? Is
merit a positive thing or a relative--a matter of conversation, or of
proof?

What, we say again, is popularity? How is it acquired? How forfeited? Is
it the result of merit, or a capricious out-burst of opinion impersonating
itself so as to enjoy its own homage under the traits of a living statue?

To these questions, it is difficult to give a definitive and conclusive
reply. Popularity is often the privilege and shield of a fool or rascal;
while genuine merit of a real and indisputable quality seldom secures it
unless from some accidental cause. Those who aspire to popularity care
more for the amount of suffrages, than for their specific worth. They
delight in being the object of popular excitement; and hearing their name
re-echoed, assign their personal qualities as the cause of these
capricious demonstrations. True merit heeds not such fulsome
acclamations;--too well aware that the man who becomes the tool of
popularity, ends in being an object of contempt.

There are numerous ways of achieving popularity. But we must not forget to
distinguish the difference between the popularity of men, and the
popularity of their productions. Both are variable; being subject to the
influence of events, the vacillations of parties, and of human
inconstancy. Popularity is, however, less fickle as regards the
masterpieces of the mind of man, than as regards individuals whom it
frequently raises to the sky, the better to fling them down into the dust.
A man may sometimes be popular in spite of himself; dragged from his
seclusion, elevated above his natural position only to sink for want of
appropriate support.

How many examples are to be found in our history, of such ephemeral
popularity; the idol of to-day being proscribed on the morrow of his
ovation! On such occasions, the public resembles a mind obeying by turns
two directly opposite impulsions. In such perplexities, the scales are
rarely held with a steady hand; and when they discover a man to be
deficient in the merit they have gratuitously attributed to him, they
avenge themselves by unnecessarily depreciating that which they have
capriciously overrated. The man who delights in popularity is as much
subjugated as the veriest slave in Rome. He must obey those whom he
desires to command; must adopt measures he wishes to repress; and if for a
moment he venture to pause for the admeasurement of the abyss he is
approaching, is taxed with cowardice and treachery!

How great was the popularity of the brothers Lameth, when Mirabeau made
the terrible allusion: "And I too could command a triumph. But from the
Capitol to the Tarpeian rock, there is but a step!" How great was the
popularity of that very colossus of eloquence, Mirabeau himself; who died
in the nick of time that he might not survive the public favour which was
rapidly declining.

What King was ever so popular as Louis XVI.? Yet his popularity had passed
away long before he ascended that throne of revolutions, the scaffold. The
popularity of Henri IV. lasted during his life, and was renewed by his
tragic end; but lay torpid for a century after his death, to be revived by
the genius of Voltaire. Under Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., the name of
Henri IV. was never mentioned; and had not the poem of the Henriade
refreshed the memory of the only King of whom the people are said to keep
holy the recollection; Henri IV., like Louis XII., and other excellent
Kings of France, would have been forgotten.

After repopularizing Henri IV., Voltaire became in his turn the most
popular man in France, especially in the regions of the social and
intellectual world. Voltaire was the prince of flatterers. He flattered,
at the same time, kings and the people, but reproved as skilfully, so that
he delighted kings by their personal praise, and the people by general
reproaches against kings.

Voltaire enjoyed immense popularity during his life, and high honours
after death; but in the sequel, he reaped the bitter fruits of the tree of
evil he had planted. All but forgotten during the Revolution, quite so
during the Empire, Voltaire only renewed his popularity at the
Restoration. The official censure issued against the reprinting of his
works, served for a time to restore him to importance.

Voltaire so completely absorbed the attention of his time, that not one of
the great geniuses moving in the same sphere, arrived at any thing
approaching his popularity. Montesquieu would not compete with him; and
even Jean Jacques Rousseau, in spite of the superiority of his style,
barely acquired popularity.

In general, popularity attaches rather to political than literary
eminence; inclining towards trivialities, such as songs and epigrams,
rather than to works of merit. A particular style of dress, or a cap of a
particular colour is often necessary to secure popular favour. Yet
popularity among the vulgar is not to be despised, being often the guerdon
of works of genuine merit; more particularly as regards the Fine Arts.
Barrel organs grinding the beautiful airs of our great composers in the
streets, stamp them with a certificate of popularity; while, as regards
pictures, their popularity is often insured by the intervention of some
unskilful engraver.

Popularity sometimes attaches itself to tyrants; and Caligula and Nero
were more popular in Rome than Germanicus. What mattered the slaughter of
senators and patricians, or the confiscation of their property, so long as
the proceeds afforded food and sports to the people? The populace delight
especially in the downfall of royal favourites; and the overthrow of the
statue of Sejanus, once the idol of Rome, was hailed with shouts of
exultation. We cannot be surprised, however, that the Emperors of Rome
were popular; since Louis XI. of France, and Henry VIII. of England were
popular because they humbled the great, and summoned into their council
men of the lowest origin.

Cardinal Richelieu completed the work of Louis XI. and destroyed the last
vestiges of feudalism. But in this case, the same course produced a
contrary effect. Richilieu was not popular. So true is it that popularity
knows neither law nor precedent. Louis XIV., though not individually
popular, was honoured for his conquests, so long as he remained
victorious. Louis XV. was popular only twice in his long life; once, when
a false report of his death had prevailed; and once, when he alighted from
his carriage in Paris to kneel before the Holy Sacrament. Popularity
possesses a somewhat loose morality; at times adopting the mistresses of
Kings; such as Gabrielle d'Estrées, Agnes Sorel, and even the infamous
Pompadour and du Barry.

Of the great men who adorned the reign of Louis XIV., few were popular
during their life-time, with the exception of Molière and Corneille.
Molière, because the power of his genius placed itself between the monarch
and his people, castigating the vices of all classes with equal ridicule;
Corneille, because he excited the heroism of the kingdom by exalting the
Romans. His popularity was, however, less the result of his genius, than
of the envious persecutions of Cardinal Richelieu.

Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, acquired only posthumous fame, purely
literary, and likely to last for ever. Men of science are seldom popular;
their devotion to science, and the purity of their calling confining their
renown within certain limits. Those who benefit by the results of their
labours, think of them as lightly as those who enjoy the warmth of the
sun, without bestowing a thought upon its source. Few who use the barrow
and the truck are aware that for these useful inventions they are indebted
to Pascal; and what more popular than certain proverbs and quotations
forming part of every conversation, of which few of us are able to name
the author.

The Revolution of 1789 was popular, and men of the highest merit shared in
its popularity by their adherence. Mathieu de Montmorency was popular when
the representative of the first Christian Barony sacrificed his titles to
the love of equality. The Bishop of Autun was popular when he presented to
the Constituent Assembly a proposition for applying the revenues of the
church to make good the deficit in the public revenue. The Abbé Sièyes was
popular when he pointed out the rights of man, omitting to speak of his
duties; and no popularity ever exceeded that of Bailly, till the fatal day
of his death upon the scaffold. The taking of the Bastille cannot be
considered a popular act, if the quality and number of the instigators be
taken into account. But the remembrance of the act became popular; and it
was consecrated the following year by the first federation solemnized in
the Champ de Mars.

Never were there two more striking examples of the changes of public
opinion, than Rienzi at Rome, and Marat at Paris. The same populace which
dragged the remains of the former through the mud, afterwards assisted to
place his relics in the Pantheon dedicated to the illustrious men of the
country.

In like manner, Cromwell, whose memory was for more than a century
infamous in England, is about to obtain a statue in the National Senate.

Robespierre forfeited his popularity the moment he attempted to check the
effusion of blood of the victims; when the good cause of 1789 had become
sanguinary and frantic. Danton was more popular than Barrère. The
Girondins were popular with the people; the Mountagre faction with the
populace. It is remarkable, that in those times, every new administration
of Government was hailed by the acclamations of the people: who were just
as sure to rejoice at its downfall. So has it been in every great crisis
in France. In public exigencies, promises are made, incapable of
realization; every successive Government having shrunk from innovation and
reform, when it came to the moment of fulfilment. After the first
Revolution, popularity attended their military successes; but deserted the
vacillating policy of the Directory, and followed the banner of conquest
to Italy, under which the genius of Napoleon first shone forth; saluting
its victorious General on his return to Paris, accompanying him into
Egypt; and on his second return, raising him to sovereign power.

From the 18th Brumaire, till the year 1812, popularity adhered constantly
to a single victorious standard. At the murder of the Duke D'Enghien,
popular enthusiasm underwent a certain degree of modification, and
partially adopted the Empress Josephine as the palladium of the imperial
fortunes; to which vulgar credulity and subsequent events seemed to lend
authenticity. The popularity of the Emperor declined after his divorce.

In our examination of the influence of events upon the French people, we
have only twice found them manifest, at the same moment, exultation and
sorrow. Their indignation at the Emperor's cruel usage of Josephine,
vanished before the cradle of the King of Rome, and France was unanimous
in its gratulations on the birth of the imperial infant. The other event
is of later date. The day after the assassination of the Duke de Berry,
the gloom was universal. Some were horror-struck at the murder, some
deeply attached to the Prince and his family; while many were astonished
to find a mortal man where they had hitherto only discerned a Prince.
Nevertheless, the partizans of the imperial cause regarded the event as
the removal of an obstacle.

Popularity escorted Charles X. from St. Cloud to Paris upon proceeding
there to take possession of his throne, and restore the liberty of the
press, which was destined some day to reverse it. It also attached itself
to the gates of the Palais Royal as the residence of the Orleans family;
but merely to mark a growing aversion to the Tuileries; a negative triumph
like that of an opposition united only by a common enmity to the powers
that be.

In England, a similar transition was visible when the once popular Prince
of Wales, adopted by the people in opposition to the Court of the reigning
sovereign, became, as Prince Regent, an object of public dislike!

Among the heroes and victims of popularity may be numbered La Fayette. For
half a century did he wrestle with the fluctuations of public favour. When
at the head of the Urban Guard, which subsequently assumed the name of the
National Guard, La Fayette was at the zenith of his glory. The colour of
his very horse became popular; and every one adopted his method of
dressing his hair. Popularity becoming negligent of her idol, the scowls
of the Court served to revive it; but falling into disgrace with the
Legislative Assembly, it was again at fault. Thus ended the first act of
the drama of La Fayette's popularity.

Madame de Staël pronounced him to be an obstacle to his adversaries,
rather than an aid to his friends. The public soon lost sight of the man
so long the toy of its caprices. Shut up in the prison of Olmütz, he owed
his deliverance to the Conqueror of Italy, and returned to France
unnoticed; he afterwards offended the First Consul by presuming to offer
lessons to him upon the art of Government, and till the Restoration lived
in complete seclusion.

A trip to the United States, in securing whose Independence he had
distinguished himself in early life, served to stir up the smouldering
embers of his popularity, which he left no means unattempted to increase;
and at the Revolution of July, popularity assigned to La Fayette the
honours of a new triumph; restoring to him the command of the National
Guard.

The rapidity with which his name fell into oblivion on his decease, proves
that these apparitions of departed popularity--these reflections of an
earlier favour--are rarely permanent; and that to attain the honours of
history, a more solid merit is required than that which secures the
ephemeral sunshine of Popularity.



CHAPTER XXX.

COMETS.


Comets played a leading part among the omens of the olden time; and the
appearance of one in the heavens was the signal for popular panic. The
unlooked for appearance of a comet became a godsend to the astrologers.

The credit of omens, however, was on the decline from the time when Cato
declared that it was impossible for two augurs to meet without a smile;
and for the Romans, the discredit of presages and omens was an important
matter, nature and all her works furnishing them with indications from
which auguries might be elicited. The omens of which they stood most in
awe were invariably connected with the left side. Thunder audible from the
left, or even the croaking of a frog to the left, filled them with such
consternation, that they instantly propitiated the Gods by an offering.
The sudden appearance of a mouse, determined Fabius Maximus to abdicate
the dictatorship; and the Consul Flaminius renounced a command of cavalry
in consequence of the same sinister omen. Great events certainly proceeded
in those centuries from the smallest causes. But in all this, the
self-love and vanity of the human race were chiefly apparent, the ancients
being convinced that even in the most insignificant details of their
lives, the Gods were actively interested.

Hannibal rose superior to this weakness. Having advised Prusias to give
battle to the Romans, it is related that the King of Bithynia declined,
alleging that the entrails of the victims suggested a contrary conclusion.

"You prefer then," said the Carthaginian hero, "the advice of a sheep's
liver to that of the head of a veteran General?--I pity you!"

Ancient history affords only too many instances of similar superstition;
from the sacred fowls which were consulted only in imminent dangers, to
the deformed children flung into the Tiber, lest they should bring down
evil on the republic. The practice of the ancient Germans, by the way, of
plunging new-born infants into the Danube to render them robust, is more
easily explained; since being necessarily fatal to weakly children, the
qualities of the healthy ones who survived were readily attributable to
the immersion.

The absurd prejudices connected with the appearance of comets, are about
equally deserving of attention. Madame de Sévigné writes upon this
subject in her usual lively style.

"We are visited by a comet," says she, in one of her letters to her
daughter, "which is the finest of its kind, and possesses one of the most
splendid tails ever beheld in the heavens. All our great personages are
terrified; conceiving that Providence, having nothing better to do than
watch over their paltry comings and goings, has decreed their downfall,
and sent an intimation of it to the world by means of this comet."
Cardinal Mazarin was just then given over by his physicians, and those
about him saw fit to flatter his vanity by pretending that the Almighty
had signalized his last moments by a prodigy. Having mentioned to him that
a terrible comet was announcing the great event which struck panic into
the world, he had strength of mind to jest upon their vile adulation,
assuring them that the comet "did him a great deal too much honour." It
would be well, were all men to judge as wisely; for human pride must be
blind indeed, to suppose that the stars have no other duty in their
spheres than to regulate the affairs of mortals.

A celebrated Spanish author has written concerning comets with even less
reverence than Madame de Sévigné.

"Comets," said he, "are the very braggarts of the sky. They have been
aptly used as engines for the intimidation of Sovereigns, who have less
to fear upon the face of the earth than other men. Still, it is scarcely
necessary that the celestial bodies should derange themselves to appal
them, so long as they have the ambition of neighbouring Princes, the
insubordination of their subjects, and the numerous plagues of government
to hold them in subjection."

The same writer attacks the influence of comets in terms less reverential
than those of the learned dissertations of Bayle; for he pretends that the
earth is too small a planet to attract so vast a meteor. As regards their
influence in the necrology of Kings, he proves that the average life of
royal personages equals the average life of peasants; without requiring
the aid of a comet to announce their natural dissolution.

Various interpretations have been affixed at different times to the
appearance of comets. Thus, the one that appeared at Rome, shortly after
the death of Julius Cæsar, was regarded as a glorification of the deceased
Emperor; and in 1811, on the appearance of the comet which has given its
name to the year, as, "l'année de la comète,"--(the wines made from grapes
grown under its fervid influence being sold under the name of Comet
wines)--an attempt was made to convert it into an homage to the glory of
the Emperor Napoleon!



CHAPTER XXXI.

POPULAR ERRORS.


A popular error of the most fatal kind was the idea formerly prevalent
that a drowned person, being overpowered by the quantity of water he had
swallowed, was susceptible of restoration by suspending him with the head
downwards, so as to force him to disgorge it. More persons owed their
death to this stupid operation, than to the suspended respiration it was
intended to restore. It is only during the present century that the
experiments of the faculty all over the world have pointed out that the
only course to pursue with persons taken insensible out of the water, is
to restore circulation by warmth and friction of the extremities; and
respiration, by the introduction of air into the lungs.

An equally strange legislative abuse connected with this subject,
prevailed in Paris till within the last few years. A reward of twelve
francs, or ten shillings was given to any person who saved another from
drowning by extricating his body from the Seine, while a reward of
six-and-thirty francs, or three times as much, was given to the person who
rescued a dead body from the water! This was evidently conceived in the
hygienic interests of a city, where the river water is in such extensive
use for baths and drinking; but it was in point of fact offering a premium
for murder: the morality of navigatory populations being in most countries
at a low ebb.

Another French delusion fatal to human preservation, is the idea that the
person who cuts down the body of another found hanging, legally involves
himself in an accusation of murder; and nothing can be more injudicious
than the harshness with which the proceedings of an inquest are often
pursued; as if to justify the poltroonery of those whose first impulse on
discovering a body is to go in search of witnesses of the circumstances
attending the discovery, instead of lending immediate aid.

A more innocent, but not less groundless popular prejudice is, that which
attaches itself to that most useful of domestic animals, the ass--the
war-horse of the poor. In all countries, this sure-footed and faithful
animal is adopted as an emblem of stupidity, from the patience with which
it submits to punishment and endures privation. A pair of ass's ears is
inflicted upon a child in reproof of his duncehood; and through life we
hear every blockhead of our acquaintance called an ass. Whereas the ass
is a beast of great intelligence; and we often owe our safety to its sure
and unerring foot beside the perilous precipice, where the steps of the
man of science would have faltered.

The Fathers of the Church, and the Disciples of the Sorbonne, persuaded of
the universal influence of the Christian faith, believed the dark cross on
the back of the ass to date only from the day on which our Saviour made
his entry into Jerusalem. The ass of the desart was an animal of great
price. Pliny mentions that the Senator Arius paid for one the sum of four
hundred thousand sesterces. Naturalists have frequently remarked the
extraordinary dimensions of an ass's heart, which is thought an indication
of courage; and it is the custom of the peasantry of some countries to
make their children wear a piece of ass's skin about their person. The
ass's skin is peculiarly valuable, both for the manufacture of
writing-tablets and drums; which may be the reason why a dead ass is so
rarely seen. It is too valuable to be left on the highway. In many places,
the ass serves as a barometer. If he roll in the dust, fine weather may be
expected; but if he erect his ears, rain is certain. Why should not
animals experience the same atmospheric influences as man? Are we not
light-hearted in the sunshine, and depressed in a heavy atmosphere.

Louis XI., of France, was a great patron of the ass. His astrologers
having failed in their predictions concerning the weather, he dismissed
them, and substituted an ass in their place, as being more weather-wise.
Certain physicians consider the emanations from the ass's body to possess
beneficial medical properties; while, in former days, the blood of the
bull was considered poisonous.

The credulous Plutarch declared that Themistocles poisoned himself with
bullock's blood, upon the authority of the priests of Egina, who are also
cited by Pliny; and this same bullock's blood, esteemed poisonous, was
also considered a moral purification;--sins being expiated by the
sprinkling of the human body with the blood of the bull. On solemn
occasions, when the criminal was a man of wealth and distinction, so that
a bull was dedicated to his use, the blood was made to fall in a
perforated vessel, and the criminal standing beneath, received the sacred
aspersion upon his face and attire. The Emperor Julian submitted to this
act of expiation. Bullock's blood is now known to be as innocuous as that
of other animals; and is extensively used in more than one manufacture.

During the Middle Ages, ground glass was supposed to act as an infallible
poison; and was long known by the name of "Succession Powder." Montfleury
speaks of it in one of his comedies. One of the personages, showing a
packet of it, observes: "Here is the making of many an heir!"

Portal, and several other French physicians, have asserted in their works,
that ground glass is fatal to the swallower; and it is frequently used by
the poor as ratsbane, mixed up with the compositions intended for the
extermination of vermin. Jugglers were the first to controvert this error,
by publicly swallowing it with impunity, a feat which Dr. Franck having
witnessed, he immediately experimentalized on himself, and published the
results as conclusive against the received opinion.

About the year 1810, a physician of Caen, named Sauvage, confirmed the
opinion of Franck. A young lady under his care swallowed a quantity of
powdered glass for the purpose of self-destruction without experiencing
the least injury; upon which Sauvage tried experiments on various animals,
administering ground glass to cats, dogs, and rats, on opening the bodies
of which, he could not detect the smallest effect. Many similar
experiments produced the same results. Dr. Cayol, in presence of his
colleagues, swallowed a quantity of irregular fragments of glass. So,
also, did Sauvage, without producing the smallest derangement of the
digestive organs.

It is worthy of remark, that mountebanks often clear the way for the
march of science; a proof that the most trivial observations may be the
origin of the grandest results. Some students of Oxford, on visiting
Newton, found him blowing bubbles from a straw, and considered the
occupation childish. The philosopher was studying the theory of light.

Since we have alluded to mountebanks, let us devote a few more words to
them. Jugglers have been known to swallow, not only pounded glass, but
stones and knife blades. A celebrated Spaniard, accused by the
Inquisition, proved his innocence by swallowing fiery coals without
injury; and the savage found in the woods at Aveyron, devoured all sorts
of fowls with their feathers. But these exploits will not bear comparison
with those of the Molucca savage, of whom we read an account in a volume
entitled: "The Testament of Jerome Sharp," printed in 1786.

"I entered," says the narrator, "with one of my friends, and found a man
resembling an ourang-outang crouched upon a stool in the manner of a
tailor. His complexion announced a distant climate, and his keeper stated
that he found him in the island of Molucca. His body was bare to the hips,
having a chain round the waist, seven or eight feet long, was fastened to
a pillar, and permitted him to circulate out of the reach of the
spectators. His looks and gesticulations were frightful. His jaws never
ceased snapping, except when sending forth discordant cries, which were
said to be indicative of hunger. He swallowed flints when thrown to him,
but preferred raw meat, which he rushed behind his pillar to devour. He
groaned fearfully during his repast, and continued groaning until fully
satiated. When unable to procure more meat, he would swallow stones with
frightful avidity; which, upon examination of those which he accidentally
dropped, proved to be partly dissolved by the acrid quality of his saliva.
In jumping about, the undigested stones were heard rattling in his
stomach."

The men of science quickly set to work to account for these feats, so
completely at variance with the laws of nature. But before they had hit
upon a theory, the pretended Molucca savage proved to be a peasant from
the neighbourhood of Besançon, who chose to turn to account his natural
deformities. When staining his face for the purpose, in the dread of
hurting his eyes, he left the eyelids unstained, which completely puzzled
the naturalists. By a clever sleight of hand, the raw meat was left behind
the pillar, and cooked meat substituted in its place. Some asserted his
passion for eating behind the pillar to be a proof of his savage origin;
most polite persons, and more especially Kings, being addicted to feeding
in public. The stones swallowed by the pretended savage were taken from a
vessel left purposely in the room full of them; small round stones,
encrusted with plaster, which afterwards gave them the appearance of
having been masticated in the mouth. Before the discovery of all this, the
impostor had contrived to reap a plentiful harvest.

Some time afterwards, a woman was exhibited near the Louvre, who devoured
flints and slate with the utmost avidity. But the scientific world,
forewarned by its former credulity, took no note of her peculiarities of
appetite.

It is recorded in the Gazette of Health, that the Abbé Monnier, of St.
Jean d'Angély, used in his youth to grind between his teeth fragments of
stone for recreation, and even in his declining age, continued the custom.
He would swallow a spoonfull during the day, and did not consider his
dinner complete without them. He was always pale and emaciated, which was
attributed to his singular diet. But his brother, who did not feed upon
stones, was precisely of the same temperament and appearance. The Abbé
lived till the age of ninety-eight. Diseased persons have been known to
devour without injury, earth, stones, chalk, and plaster; and an eminent
physician used to eat small lumps of plaster-of-Paris, as others swallow
sugar-plums.

In the anatomical inquiries of Menelaus Winsemius, a Dutch physician, he
relates that in his time, a peasant of Friesland was in the habit of
swallowing flints, wood, glass, and live fish. In Wurtemberg, there was
also a miller, who for money would swallow birds, mice, lizards,
caterpillars, or fragments of glass and stone. He one day swallowed an
inkstandish, with all its appurtenances. These feats were publicly
attested by the Senate of Wurtemberg; after which, the man lived nineteen
years, subsisting upon twelve pounds of food per diem. There is scarcely a
fair throughout Europe at which such feats are not exhibited on a minor
scale.



CHAPTER XXXII.

DREAMS.


In modern times, dreams have become a gratuitous affair; but in the time
of lotteries they possessed the greatest value with the votaries of Blind
Fortune. At the French offices, a register was kept of lucky numbers,
whose prizes were the result of dreams. Not a day passed but the office
keepers were applied to for numbers, the combination of which was foretold
by dreams.

However great the weakness of those who put undue faith in such omens, it
must be admitted that the wanderings of the mind during sleep have been
productive of marvellous results. But just as the slightest opinions of
Montaigne are the result of the minutest self-study, a person desirous to
ascertain the real importance of a dream ought to consider what was the
state of health, disposition, mind and feeling of the dreamers. Many
dreams constitute a mere continuation of the occupations of the day.
Others arise from our habitual strain of mind. During illness or fever,
the mind, and consequently the dreams by which it is perplexed, assume an
exalted and unnatural tone.

Authors have been known to compose during their sleep. Voltaire declares
that he composed his verses to Monsieur Touron while asleep; and on
returning from a ball, what young dancer does not fancy during the night,
that the violins of the orchestra are still ringing in his ears?
Hippocrates was so persuaded of the analogy of dreams with our physical
condition, that he points out specifics against evil dreaming. If the
stars turn pale in your dreams, you are to run in a circle; if the moon,
you must run in a straight line; if the sun, you must run both in a
straight line and a circle to avoid a repetition of the evil omen.

By these prescriptions, he prevailed upon the lazy Athenians to assist
their bad digestion by the effect of exercise, so as to procure a calm and
gentle sleep.

Pliny, the younger, mentions the following fact: "One of my slaves, who
was sleeping with his companions in the place usually allotted to them,
dreamed that two men, dressed in white, entered through the window, and
having shaven their heads, departed by the way they came. The following
morning he was found shaved, and his hair scattered on the ground." This
was probably some waggish trick practised on him by his companions when in
a state of intoxication.

Valerius Maximus, on the authority of Cicero, relates a remarkable dream:

"Two fellow-travellers arrived at Megara; the one putting up at an hotel,
the other at the house of a friend. Scarcely had the former fallen asleep,
when he saw his companion imploring him to come to his aid, as his host
was attempting to murder him. The impression was so strong as to wake him;
when, finding it a delusion, he went to sleep again. Once more, his friend
appeared, announcing the accomplishment of the crime, and that his
assassin had concealed his body under the dunghill, to which he begged his
companion to repair betimes, before they had time to remove it out of the
city. Overawed by so awful a vision, the friend rose forthwith, and
proceeding to the scene of the murder, found a carter and his cart about
to quit the court. On insisting to examine the load, the carter fled; when
the body was extricated from the dung, the whole affair discovered, and
the host condemned to death."

This Greek story is related on the authority of Cicero, who was never at
Megara, and consequently knew the fact by hearsay. Had Cicero asserted
that he witnessed the affair, the story would have been difficult to
believe; as it is, posterity is absolved from the smallest credence.

There lived at Marseilles, a bigoted woman, who passed her days at church,
and dreamt every night that she was transformed into a lamp: a dream she
chose to verify; for, on the day of her death, a silver lamp was
suspended, at her cost, in the choir of the church in which she was wont
to follow her devotions.

Dreams are the peculiar province of the poet. Æneas, to justify his
abandonment of Dido, cites the commands of his father, who appears to him
every night. What more beautiful, except perhaps the dream of Athalia,
than the dream of Æneas, in which Hector presents himself to the son of
Anchises, pale and ghastly, as after he had become a victim to the
vengeance of Achilles? In the Greek plays, and the French tragedies
imitated from the Greek, dreams form a prominent feature. The family of
Atrides were great dreamers:--Atreus, Agamemnon, Orestes, and Egisthus,
the son of Atreus, had all remarkable dreams.

In Lemercier's tragedy of "Agamemnon," Egisthus relates that which is
evidently the result of a dream;--but he will not admit it to be a dream,
declaring that he "did not sleep."

The impressions of dreams are often so vivid that we confound in our
memory real facts with the visions of sleep. Hence, no doubt, the popular
expression of "You must have dreamt that!"

The existence of dreams must be coeval with the human race. By the
ancients, the Gods were thought to preside over them. The dreams of
Pharaoh made the fortune of Joseph; and Artemidorus acquired a great
reputation under the Antonines, by interpreting dreams. According to him,
to dream of being weighed down by a mountain, portended proscription; and
to dream of death, meant marriage. To dream that you are deprived of
sight, intimates that you are about to lose one of your children.
Artemidorus interpreted dreams in the same manner as the celebrated
Mademoiselle Lenormand, or as Mrs. Williams, so well-known in London at
the commencement of the present century.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

OF PREJUDICES ATTACHED TO CERTAIN ANIMALS.


Innumerable are the auguries which the remnants of ancient superstition
have attached to certain animals. To meet a flock of sheep, is considered
a lucky omen. To overtake one when proceeding to the house of a friend,
determines many people to turn back as indicative of an inhospitable
reception.

Two magpies are sure forerunners of good news; but a single one is
supposed to foreshow tidings of the death of a friend.

Spiders are of evil omen; though the mischief they convey is attributed,
in Scotland, solely to the family of Bruce. There is a French proverb
which says, "Arraignée du soir--espoir," as if the hour of the day
influenced the nature of the omen. Lalande, the astronomer, is known to
have been fond of eating spiders. Yet the insect is an object of
repugnance to most people; and is, in some species, venomous.

Of all reptiles, the toad is the most universally detested; as if gifted
with a magnetism of repulsion. The Abbé Rousseau asserts in his Treatise
on Natural History, that the sight of a toad has been known to produce
convulsions and death. "Having enclosed one of these reptiles," says he,
"in a glass jar, I stood watching it; when the creature rose on its hinder
legs, fixing its red and inflamed eyes upon me, till I became so faint and
depressed, as to be on the point swooning. A cold dew rose upon my face,
such as announces the approach of death." This was probably the result of
fear alone. Two living beings cannot long stare fixedly at each other
without one giving way. The power of the visual organ is very great; and
the stronger controls the weaker. As the pointer arrests the partridge,
the eye of Marius arrested the arm of the Cimber sent to assassinate him;
and by fixing his eye upon a troublesome dog, Talma could always prevent
its barking. The toad is a disgusting animal, but not a noxious animal. It
destroys many insects injurious to the beauty of our flower-gardens, and
plumpness of our esculents; while for sobriety, it has no competitor.
Toads have been found imbedded in blocks of marble and trunks of trees,
deprived of all chance of external air or nutriment.

The lizard, which is nearly as unseemly to look on as the toad, has long
been deemed the friend of man; and the vulgar had formerly a superstition
that a piece of lizard's tail worn on the person secured good fortune.

Lizards are sociably disposed, and fond of the human voice. They are said
by travellers in Surinam and Cayenne, to awake a sleeping person on the
approach of the rattlesnake. Alarmed at the approach of a snake, they have
probably been known to cross the face of some man lying asleep; and have
thus given rise to a popular fallacy. But if lizards be not the
benefactors of the human race, at least they do us no harm; a quality that
might be advantageously transferred to many of our own species.

Pliny maintains that oysters grow fat or thin according to the phases of
the moon; while most modern oyster-eaters attribute the change to certain
months rather than certain weeks of the year. It is an equally erroneous
supposition that milk promotes the digestion of oysters; which may be
proved by trying to dissolve them in hot or cold milk. The prejudice that
they are out of season when no R figures in the name of the month,
originated in the difficulty of transferring them fresh from the coast to
the capital during the months of May, June, July, and August. By the
sea-side, they will be found good at all seasons of the year.

In ancient times, the appearance of an owl in the day-time was esteemed a
prodigy; and the Romans used to rush to the temples, offering incense to
the Gods! Pliny considers the apparition of an owl an omen of sterility;
and an omelet made of owl's eggs was a sovereign specific against ebriety.
Among villagers, the shriek of the owl is still dreaded as a summons to
the other world. Yet this bird was favoured by dedication to the Goddess
of Wisdom, though ungifted with the powers of divination ascribed by the
Greeks to the vulture. According to the ancients, the vulture possessed
such olfactory powers, that it could foreshow the death of a person three
days previous to his decease.

It may be observed, that all the animals to which particular superstitions
are attached, were known to the ancients; whereas those discovered during
the latter ages are free from imputation of supernatural power.

The wild beasts of all climates make man their prey; but none kill him by
a look, as was said of the basilisk. Among the ancients, Aristotle, Pliny,
and Galen, persisted in the foregoing opinion; and among modern
propagators of errors, the German Athazen, and the Italian Vitello. If
Rome, the superb, crouched before an owl, a basilisk compelled Alexander
to raise the siege of an Asiatic city. Taking the besieged under its
protection, a basilisk, esconced betwixt two stones on the ramparts,
repulsed, without moving, two hundred Macedonians who were rash enough to
attack it. Sir Thomas Brown suggests the possibility, that the poison of
the basilisk may be so intense and subtle, as to be darted forth by means
of its visual organ.

The venomous bite of the viper has given rise to a variety of popular
prejudices. The tooth of St. Amable was once the only specific; to which
succeeded a faith in the antidote of Maltese earth. Meanwhile the utmost
efforts of the faculty remain fruitless against the bite of the
rattle-snake, of the cobra di manilla, and several other of the more
venomous species. The quality of their venom is supposed to remain
unimpaired by the death of the reptiles; and instances are cited of
individuals having died of handling them, even after being preserved in
spirits of wine. The venom is deposited in two vesicles on either side the
head, above the muscle of the upper jaw, the remainder of its body being
completely innocuous; so that, in former days, viper broth was frequently
prescribed in pulmonary complaints. The venom of the viper becomes less
intense as it advances in age.

It used to be believed, that the saliva of man was fatal to vipers, as
their venom to ourselves; an opinion maintained by Aristotle, Galen,
Varro, Pliny, and Figuier, the surgeon. The latter asserts that he killed
a viper by the effect of his own saliva. The experiments by Redi, the
learned physician of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and many others, proved
the absurdity of the idea.

Benvenuto Cellini declares, in his Memoirs, that he saw a salamander in
the midst of his own fire; probably a lizard, inadvertantly brought from
the country among the logs of wood. No one has yet pleaded guilty to
having seen a phoenix, though for ages, a popular superstition attached to
this fabulous bird. The unicorn also continues to be placed among the
apocryphal animals, with the great sea-serpent of the American coast.

The bite of the tarentula spider was long said to produce involuntary
dancing; simply because the persons bitten, on applying to the local
practitioners of the healing art, were instantly ordered to dance the
_pizzica_, the rapid Sicilian dance of the provinces where the tarentula
abounds, in order to promote circulation and neutralize the effects of the
poison. Whole villages used to assemble to witness the result, and
whenever the patient expired of the bite of the reptile, he was said to
have danced himself to death. Such is the origin of the Neapolitan
superstition of the tarentula.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

CONTENT AND COURTESY.


The first ambition of mankind is to be happy. To the brute creation, and
to man in a state of nature, happiness consists in sensual gratification.
To this, succeeds the factitious happiness of civilization; whence the
origin of a variety of popular errors and prejudices. From the days of
Horace to our own, people have been prone to envy those who pursue any
career but their own. But if the soldier envy the position of the
civilian, and _vice versâ_, it is clear that the ambition of being what
one is not, arises from the fact that every one is acquainted with the
drawback on his own profession, and only appreciates the advantages of
that to which he does not belong. La Fontaine never imagined anything more
true, or more charming, than the fable of the cobbler entreating the
financier to restore him his song and peaceful sleep, in exchange for the
hundred crowns he had bestowed upon him. Every one has heard the Persian
apologue of the Sophi, to whom, in a fit of acute suffering, the sole
remedy prescribed was the shirt of a happy man; a treasure difficult to
discover either in Court or city; till at length a ragged wretch was found
in the suburbs of Ispahan, who admitted himself to be perfectly happy; but
alas! he had not a shirt to his back; and the cure of the Sophi was not
more advanced than before.

History has its lessons on this head as well as fiction. The Comte de
Ségur relates in his Memoirs, that previous to the Revolution, the Duke de
Lauraguais wrote to him as follows:

"Congratulate me, my dear Ségur. Thanks be to Heaven, I am completely
ruined! I have nothing left, but am delivered from the importunities of my
creditors."

Towards the termination of his career, this witty nobleman subsided into
voluntary habits of simplicity, differing strangely from his past
splendours. Never, however, had he been happier!--His peace of mind was
from within; superior to all incidents of birth, position, and fortune.

It requires to have inhabited the various stories of the social edifice,
to be able to judge man under the various aspects resulting from fortune
and station. Happiness has little to do with either; fortune and
misfortune have alike their evil influences. Covetousness is as insatiable
as ambition. In proportion as people scale the ladder of opulence, they
discover others richer than themselves to excite their envy; and vanity
pervades every rank of society, marring the quietude of the human mind.
The laurels of Miltiades gave umbrage to Themistocles; and Cæsar declared
that he would rather be the first of a village, than second in Rome. A
wiser man was the shepherd who said: "Were I a King, I would keep my sheep
on horseback."

The ceremonies of politeness, when carried to excess, are a source of
public inconvenience. The custom of addressing a lady bare-headed, as was
the case in France a century ago, when Louis XIV., even in a shower,
refused to put on his hat in the presence of females, was the cause of
many a serious indisposition. The custom of appearing bare-headed in
church is also dangerous to many; and, so far unreasonable, that men are
unable to appear in hats, while it would be accounted singular for a woman
to appear there without a bonnet. Can any reasonable motive be assigned
for such a distinction?

Again, what is the origin of the ridicule attached to a person who is
left-handed? It is clear that some are born with an instinctive facility
in the use of the right hand--some of the left. Yet mothers punish their
children for using the left hand, as an act of awkwardness. The preference
given to the use of the right hand, though existing from the times of
antiquity, is not the less ridiculous.

In Holy Writ, the right hand is made an instrument of benediction; which
probably conferred a superiority over the left. Theologians also contend
that the Son of God sat on the right of the heavenly throne. The Romans
conceded such superiority to the right hand, that when at table, they lay
on the left side that the right hand might be free. Aristotle maintained
that the pre-eminence of the right hand proceeded from the same
conformation by which the cray-fish have the right claw larger than the
left. Politeness in these days requires we should place the person we wish
to distinguish, on the right. The indiscriminate use of both hands is the
best lesson to teach a child:--indifference to the distinction bestowed by
the assignment of a place on either, the best lesson to be practised by
adolescence.

Parisians consider it a lesson of politeness to their young children to
kiss their right hand before receiving any thing presented to them. The
left hand is, however, devoted to the wedding-ring. This is not a
Christian custom; but prevailed among the Assyrians, Medes, Egyptians,
Babylonians, and most of the people of antiquity.

Many people object to uttering the word farewell in parting from a friend,
influenced by a prejudice that a fatality attaches to the word. Whence the
French mode of taking leave with "_sans adieu_!"

The compliments formerly paid to a person sneezing are now happily
abandoned; having arisen in those early days of civilization when
epidemics were so far more frequent and fatal than now. It was the custom,
in most European countries, to say "God bless you," to the person who
sneezed, lest it should be symptomatic of the commencement of an illness.

Sneezing has been the object of a variety of ridiculous prejudices.
Aristotle pronounces sneezing to be a gift from the Gods, and to be
honoured as a thing of holiness, and a sign of good health. Hippocrates
agrees with Aristotle, and pronounces it a great relief to parturient
women. The Rabbins assert that Adam sneezed after his fall; and that in
the primitive times, sneezing was a sure prognostic of death; and remained
so till the patriarch Jacob obtained from God that it should no longer be
the forerunner of dissolution. It is fortunate this change took place
previous to the use of snuff; or the snuffbox would have been accounted
fatal as that of Pandora.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE DIVINING ROD.


The superstition of the divining rod prevailed only a century and a half
ago. The following story concerning it, is too curious to be omitted. In
the year 1692, a vintner of Lyons and his wife were murdered in their
cellar, their assassins making away with their money. All attempts to
discover the culprits were vain, till a simple Dauphinese peasant, named
Jacques Aymar, boasted that, with the aid of a simple hazel twig, he could
discern the assassins. Having visited the scene of the murder, rod in
hand, it became agitated; and on following its indications till he reached
the right bank of the Rhone, Aymar entered the house of a gardener, where
three bottles stood on the table; when, lo! the rod instantly intimated
that the bottles had been emptied by the assassins! Two children of the
house owned that three ill-looking men had been there; on which Aymar
began to obtain some credit. Traces of three men were found imprinted on
the sand by the river-side; and, persuaded that they had embarked, Aymar
followed them, inquiring as he proceeded, and detecting the spots where
they had halted, to the astonishment of those who accompanied him.

At the Sablon, the rod becoming agitated, Aymar announced that the
assassins were evidently in the camp; and his divining rod led him as far
as the gate of the prison of Beaucaire; which being opened, twelve of the
fifteen prisoners confined were brought before him. But the divining rod
was motionless till the approach of a certain humpbacked prisoner, who
declared his utter ignorance of the crime committed at Lyons. On the
indications of the rod, however, the hunchback being conducted to the
gardener's house was recognised as having been one of the party. At length
he confessed his guilt; protesting, however, that he was an involuntary
spectator, and did not participate in the murder. Having furnished Aymar
with information concerning the direction the assassins had taken, he
traced their steps to an inn at Toulon, where they had dined the previous
evening. On finding that the culprits had put to sea, he also embarked and
followed the course of their boat to its landing-place. But on reaching
the frontier, all further trace of them was lost.

This wonderful story afforded a topic of discussion to the whole kingdom.
So many persons bore testimony to the truth of the story, that it was
impossible to doubt it; the more so, that Aymar followed it up with
exploits equally wonderful. He detected several thieves, as well as the
places where they had concealed their booty; and as a test of his powers,
the lady of the chief officer of police possessed herself, by stealth, of
the purse of one of her friends, and begged him to come to her and detect
the thief. Aymar instantly declared that they were amusing themselves at
his expense.

The Prince de Condé, who, far from being superstitious, had greater faith
in his Field-Marshal's baton than the divining rod, could not resist his
curiosity to witness the feats of Aymar, and sent for him to Paris. As
soon as he recovered the fatigues of his journey, he was conducted to a
bureau, from which something of considerable value had disappeared; but
whether or not the magnificence of the place annihilated the power of the
divining rod, the charm was gone! Holes were dug in various parts of the
garden, in which were deposited gold, copper, stones, and other
substances. But the rod failed to point out the hidden treasure. In the
interim, a pair of silver candlesticks having been stolen from
Mademoiselle de Condé, Aymar's rod pointed out a goldsmith's shop, the
master of which being accused, was highly indignant. Thirty-six livres
were forwarded, however, the following morning as the price of the
objects; and it was supposed that Aymar had resorted to this expedient,
with the view of re-establishing his reputation. But it was all in vain!
The divining rod had lost its reputation, and Jacques Aymar was pronounced
to be an impostor.

At his own request, however, he accompanied the King's advocate to a
street in which a murder had been committed; and the result being
unsatisfactory, Aymar was considered either a mountebank, or a man
following, with new pretensions, the old trade of recovering for reward
the stolen goods, in the abstraction of which he had participated.

Science becomes dangerous in the hands of empirics, as weapons in the
hands of children. About forty years ago, a German doctor revived the
marvels of the divining rod, grounding his system upon the phenomena of
galvanism. But the philosophy of Volta disdained such an association.
Pleasantly exposed to ridicule in the admirable pages of the antiquary, it
is now estimated as on a par with the charm once supposed to be inherent
in the rope by which a human being had suffered the sentence of the law.
It is still proverbial with the vulgar, that any singularly lucky person
"carries a bit of hangman's rope in his pocket."

Uninquiring incredulity is as great a proof of weakness as over
credulousness. The following instance of that incomprehensible foresight
which flashes upon the brain of certain individuals, under the name of
presentiment, passed under the notice of Gratien de Sémur.

Madame de Saulce, the wife of a rich planter of St. Domingo, was residing
in France about the time of the Revolution. Her husband occasionally
visited his native country, leaving his lady at Paris, who was a woman of
sense and piety, by no means of a nervous temperament. During the last
voyage of her husband, being engaged at cards at an evening party, she
suddenly uttered a shriek, and sunk on her chair, exclaiming, "Monsieur
Saulce is dead!" Her friends crowding about her, attempted to tranquillize
her by their remonstrances, till by degrees she recovered her reason. So
powerful, however, had been the sensation or presentiment, that she had no
peace till she obtained news of her husband.

A favourable letter arrived; but, alas! the date was anterior to that of
her vision. And soon afterwards, one of the friends present at the scene
of Madame de Saulce's ejaculation, received a communication from a
stranger in St. Domingo, requesting him to communicate to that lady the
distressing news of her husband's decease. Monsieur de Saulce had been
assassinated by his negroes, on the very day and hour of her fatal
presentiment. The event occurred in the presence of at least twenty
persons; and till the day of her death, the widow remained a prey to
sorrow mingled with awe and consternation.

In the Memoirs of the great Sully will be found the record of the
presentiments of assassination, which oppressed the mind of Henry IV. "The
King," says he, "had the strongest presentiment of his dreadful destiny.
As the moment of his coronation approached, his alarm and consternation
increased; and in answer to my remonstrance, he exclaimed: 'In spite of
all you can urge, this ceremony is most distasteful to me. My heart
assures me that some misfortune will be the result.' After uttering these
desponding words, he sank back, overcome by gloomy anticipations; and
remained tapping the case of his spectacles, absorbed in gloomy reverie."

The presentiment of Henri IV. of his approaching assassination, is
confirmed by the testimony of L'Etoile and Bassompierre, who, in their
Memoirs, relate the same particulars; and the fact is as historically
established as the evil dream of Calphurnia, and the denunciation of the
soothsayer to Julius Cæsar, on a parallel occasion.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

BEES AND ANTS.


Dull must be the blockhead, who could reproach La Fontaine with ignorance
of Natural History, and pronounce the fable of the "Ant and the
Grasshopper" bad, because the fabulist has not shown himself a rigid
naturalist. The great fault charged against La Fontaine, by the critics,
is having made the grasshopper sing. Its cry is considered by most people
far from melodious.

The bee possesses a thousand poetical associations derived from our early
conversancy with the Georgics. From the remotest periods of antiquity,
bees have been recognised as attached to monarchical government, though
not to the Salique law. A hive has been compared to the palace of a
Czarina of Muscovy.

The queen bee reigns over hundreds of male subjects with the despotism of
a Sultan; with the additional privilege of peopling her own dominions.
When the queen is on the point of increasing her numerous subjects, the
females invade the seraglio of their sovereign, and with their stings
exterminate all the male admirers of her majesty. The fecundity of a queen
is such, that she can produce sixty thousand of her species annually. The
males are easily recognized, being the sleekest and best formed of the
hive; and all its labours are carried on by them. To gather honey, and
bring back every day to the common exchequer the fruits of the plunder,
separate the honey from the wax, and with the latter construct their cell,
distil the honey, and die, constitute the duties of the bee.

It has been asserted that the queen bee has no sting, which is an error.
Another error prevails, that after a bee has stung, it dies, leaving its
sting in the wound. Some one probably crushed a bee, and found the sting
in his finger, from which isolated fact a general conclusion has been
made.

Réaumur applied himself to the study of bees; not, however, so devoutly as
the philosopher, Aristomachus, who consecrated fifty-eight years to it; or
the philosopher, Hytiscus, who conceived so great a passion for bees, that
he retired into the Desart, the better to observe them. He simply cleared
the way of errors, and discountenanced old traditions; but all was
conjecture with regard to bees, till the invention of glass hives; when
the government of those interesting insects became no longer a secret.
The devotion of the working bees to their queen is now well-known. When in
danger, or the hive is attacked, they rush to her aid; and even form a
mass to conceal her, and die in her defence.

Réaumur relates the following anecdote of which he was a witness. A queen
bee, and some of her attendants were apparently drowned in a brook. He
took them out of the water, and found that neither the queen bee, nor her
attendants were quite dead. Réaumur exposed them to a gentle heat, by
which they were revived. The plebeian bees recovered first. The moment
they saw signs of animation in their queen, they approached her, and
bestowed upon her all the care in their power, licking and rubbing her;
and when the queen had acquired sufficient force to move, they hummed
aloud, as if in triumph!

It has been thought that bees were prejudicial to the fructification of
plants, by robbing them of their pollen. This is not only an error, but
naturalists worthy of faith, are of opinion that their movement in a
blossom tends to sprinkle the pollen, and promote fecundity.

Bees are of twofold service to the human race, by furnishing us with the
most refined means of lighting our houses, and of brightening our
furniture; to say nothing of their aromatic honey, surpassing the
sweetness of sugar.

Little is known of the republics or monarchies of ants; or indeed of their
precise form of government. From the most remote period, however, it has
been the custom to represent the ant as the symbol of industry.

The industrious habits of the ant cannot be questioned; but their much
vaunted foresight, as described by Boileau, and Addison's Spectator, is
now recognized as fabulous.

According to naturalists, the ant is not without a certain analogy with
the bee; seeing that they have not one queen to each swarm, but a certain
number of queens for the reproduction of the species; there being
productive and unproductive ants. The working class is of a neutral sex.
The female ant deposits an egg, whence proceeds a worm, which becomes the
ant. As architects, also, to ants must be assigned the precedence over
bees; their cellular formations resulting from instinct, and not from
calculation. In the stupendous ant-hills so frequently seen in forests,
what a series of galleries, dormitories, corridors, and magazines is
contained; so that the numerous occupants find ample means of circulation.
But the ant cannot pretend to the gratitude of man in the same degree as
the bee.

The following is a curious and well-attested fact. After the death of the
illustrious Lagrange, Parseval Deschênes, his coadjutor in his scientific
pursuits, who announced the coming of Pallas ten years previous to the
discovery of that planet--renounced his mathematical researches; and from
long habits of study acquired fresh occupation for his mind.

While spending the summer with his friend, M. d'Aubusson de la Feuillade,
in the course of one of his rambles in the woods, he found an immense
ant-hill, and immediately resolved to make ants his study. He went every
day early enough to the ant-hill to see the first ant issue forth; and
followed it from the moment of its departure to that of its return.

"About four o'clock in the afternoon," says he, "I saw my own particular
ant arrive heavily laden at the foot of the diminutive mountain; and,
finding it impossible to carry its burthen up the hill, deposit it and
look around for a confederate. None being at hand, it set forth again; and
about fifteen steps on its progress I saw my ant meet another equally
loaded. Both halted, and seemed to hold council; after which, they
proceeded together to the foot of the ant-hill. Then began the most
interesting scene I ever witnessed. The second ant disembarrassed itself
of its burthen; and, having provided themselves with a blade of grass,
they slipped it under the overweighted load, and, by their united efforts,
conveyed it over the hillock, and entered their respective cells!

"After abandoning the study of mathematics as too abstruse," observes
Parseval, "I found the lever of Archimedes in use in an ant-hill."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

PREPOSSESSIONS AND ANTIPATHIES.


Undue prepossession against or in favour of some object, is as much to be
guarded against as any other irrational prejudices.

It is not uncommon to hear people reply when some particular dish is
offered to them: "Thank you, I have never eaten any, and nothing could
persuade me to touch it." Such a prepossession scarcely would be
pardonable in women or children.

An anecdote is related in the life of Talma, which has lately formed the
subject of a drama.

A poor strolling player, universally rejected, arrived, at his wits' end,
in a city where the illustrious actor was expected. A bright idea flashed
across his mind to personate Talma; as whom he accordingly announced
himself. The authorities of the town hastened to offer him their homage.
The theatre was crowded, and all the world enraptured with his
performance. In the midst of his popularity, the real Talma arrived; but
foreseeing that a prepossession once established in favour of the imitator
was not likely to be easily reversed, departed without making himself
known. The chances were that he might have been hissed.

It is difficult to comprehend the use of the flatteries of painters to
Princes and Princesses about to be married by proxy. The portraits being
exchanged, the betrothed receive a first strong impression, and form their
opinions accordingly. A favourable prepossession is conceived; and in
place of an agreeable and expressive countenance, a frightful reality is
often rendered more frightful by disappointment.

With regard to literary predilections, the works of an unknown author,
however meritorious, often lie mildewed on the shelf, while some trash,
protected by a favourite name, becomes popular. The admirable leading
articles of Benjamin Constant produced no effect till he signed them with
his well-known name, when their merit was instantly recognised. When
Michael Angelo first exhibited the productions of his chisel, they were
treated as far inferior to the sculptures of the ancient world. In the
seclusion of his studio, and unknown to any one, he accordingly set to
work on a statue of Cupid; of which he broke off the arm, and concealed
the mutilated statue in the midst of the excavations making by the Pope.
When the statue was discovered, all Rome fell into ecstasies; pronouncing
it to be the work of Phidias or Praxiteles. Michael Angelo immediately
produced the mutilated arm, and his former critics became rebuked into
silence.

At the time when the rage for Italian music excluded every other
composition from the stage, and the great French composers had fallen in
public estimation, Méhul avenged himself much in the manner of Michael
Angelo. Zealous in the cause of French music, he composed the opera of the
Irato, the words by the ingenious Hoffmann; who, to render the illusion
complete, made the libretto as incomprehensible as possible. The opera was
rehearsed in secret, though fifty persons were engaged in it; and it was
circulated in the world, that the forthcoming opera was a mere pasticcio,
borrowed from the operas recently in vogue in Italy.

When the curtain rose, the overture was enthusiastically applauded. Still
more so, the different airs executed by Ellevion, Martin, and the
excellent company of the Comic Opera. The theatre was crowded with
enthusiastic admirers of Italian music, whose applause was vehement; one
person declaring that the music was by Fioravanti, and that he had heard
it at Naples; another, that it was by Cimarosa. At the end of the opera,
it was announced to be by Méhul, when the amateurs of the Italian school
were confounded.

Teniers also exposed the unjust prejudices of his countrymen; who,
underrating his paintings, they sold far short of their value. Having
previously published a report of his death and burial, he instructed his
wife to assume widow's weeds; and, after a certain time, to announce the
sale of the paintings of her deceased husband. The stratagem succeeded,
his very detractors enhancing the value of his works. Teniers afterwards
returned to his native country, and resumed his labours, which were never
afterwards disparaged.

When a History of France by Pigault Le Brun was announced, it was
pronounced to be detestable long before it appeared; solely because
Pigault Lebrun was the author of a variety of amusing novels. The famous
physician Portal turned to good account the prejudice that prevails in
Paris in favour of fashion. Established in the capital, he was some time
without obtaining practice. At length, he devoted all his means to the
purchase of a beautiful equipage, and sent it every day to stand before
the doors of illustrious patients. Of course the numerous inquirers after
the invalid, could not fail to remark the beautiful equipage of the
physician in every quarter of the town; and the Marchioness immediately
determined to try the physician of the Duchess, and _vice versâ_; till in
a short time, Portal received applications from all quarters, calling in
his advice to the noblest sufferers of the capital. Endowed with a
distinguished appearance, elegant manners, and considerable powers of
conversation, he became the indispensable attendant of all fashionable
invalids; and thus, founded a reputation to which he subsequently proved
himself entitled.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE INFLUENCE OF BELLS UPON THUNDER STORMS.


Science has long demonstrated the folly of ringing church bells during a
storm. The vibration of the air, produced by the movement of a bell, was
formerly supposed to disperse the fluid; which, on the contrary, it
attracts. For these fifty years past, the civic authorities have compelled
the bell-ringers to be silent during a storm. In former ages, when the
priests caused the bells to be rung during a storm, it was an act of piety
and not a physical experiment. Scientific men, on the contrary, have been
justified in declaring the vibration caused by the sound of a church bell
upon a cloud charged with electricity to be injurious, from the fact that
ringers have been struck dead by the electric fluid during the discharge
of their functions. But though bells are no longer rung during a storm,
the fluid falls just as often upon church steeples. It is, however, as
well to forbid the ringing of bells during a storm, for the simple reason
that to ring the bells, the ringer must be in the tower, where he is in
greater danger than elsewhere. Steeples are often surmounted by an iron
cross, or weathercock, which attracts the fluid.

It is only lately we have made any proficiency in electrical science.
Franklin, who at the same moment brought fire from heaven and wrested the
sceptre from the potentates of the earth, was the inventor of the
conductor, which has probably preserved many monuments from destruction.
In the reign of Louis XIV, sailors were in the habit of affixing a pointed
sword to the summit of the mast, most likely acting under the experience
and impression which produced the conductor. A learned priest, the Abbé
Thiers, who died in 1703, in enumerating the superstitious practices of
his time, mentions the custom of affixing a pointed sword to a mast during
storms. The good old priest saw in it only a kind of superstition; while
the discovery of Franklin commanded the admiration of the world. It is not
unlikely that from the bosom of vulgar superstitions, science might
extract many a valuable discovery.

In a late number of the Almanack of the Board of Longitude, Monsieur Arago
published a curious theory upon thunder, citing many interesting facts;
the only means of conferring popularity on knowledge, which, in its
severer garb, is too often banished to the lecture-room. The influence of
storms upon animate as well as inanimate bodies, is incontestable; for
which of us has not felt or witnessed the effects? Previous to the
approach of the storm, the depression of the air is perceptible upon our
limbs and spirits; and on beholding the dejected, languid, and uneasy
demeanour of the animal species, it might be supposed that so powerful a
sensation would be more oppressive to ourselves, were it not restrained by
reason. A similar sensation is experienced in a far higher degree,
previous to the shock of an earthquake.

With the first drops of rain of a thunder storm, however, we experience
relief. Both animal and vegetable substances become decomposed during a
storm. Objects formed of goat or sheep-skin give out a nauseous smell.
White paper and other substances have been known to become covered with
spots of various hues. Oxen killed by lightning are unfit for use, so
nauseous and black is the flesh. Dairy-maids place a nail under the
vessels containing the milk, to prevent it turning, as well as under a hen
which is sitting. Remote approaches towards the conductor!

Of the phenomena which signalize storms, nothing is more remarkable than
the repugnance of the electric fluid for silk. The steel ornaments of a
purse have been known to become twisted by the fluid, while the silk
remained uninjured. A covering of silk is accordingly the surest
preservative. But it is a curious fact that to none of the insect species
is a thunder-storm more fatal than to the silk-worm; as the silk-growers
know to their cost.

The protective power of the laurel is now known to be fabulous; the laurel
tree being as much a conductor as any other.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

SMALL POX AND VACCINATION.


If any thing could excuse the exercise of arbitrary power on the part of a
Government, it would surely be in the act of compelling parents to
vaccinate their children; but the aversion to vaccination being still only
too common among certain classes of the people. Yet surely the law which
punishes parents for ill-usage of their children, might be extended to
punish their leaving these helpless creatures exposed to the infection of
pain and disfigurement? Jenner is decidedly one of the greatest
benefactors of the human race; for the vast increase of population in the
different countries of Europe is ascribed, by many political economists,
to the safeguard of vaccination, which has preserved more lives since its
introduction, than the terrible wars of the present century have
destroyed.

In England, this admirable discovery was far more readily adopted than in
France; where, however versatile in fashions and governments, any
improvement tending to benefit the human race is slowly and cautiously
accepted. In the reign of Louis XIV, the introduction of yeast in the
making of bread met with general opposition; and it required the
interference of the legislature to secure its adoption. The introduction
of bark and emetics was also attended with violent opposition; and
inoculation introduced from Turkey into Western Europe by Lady Mary
Wortley Montague, found great difficulty in establishing itself in France.

It was not, however, surprising that parents should hesitate about giving
their children a loathsome disease; before it became certified by long
experience that the virulence of the disorder was considerably lessened by
preparation; so as to secure a mother against the terrible self-reproaches
arising from the loss of a child under the inoculated malady.

In England, more particularly in the county of Gloucester, from time
immemorial cows were subject to a contagious disease, which infected the
hands of the milkmaids, who were observed never to suffer from the
small-pox. This surmise being confirmed by experiment, Dr. Jenner
established himself in the county of Gloucester; where, by inoculating
people with vaccine matter, he secured them against the small-pox.

So far from turning his discovery to pecuniary account, as most others
would have done, Jenner nobly proclaimed it to mankind, calling upon all
philantrophists to share his triumph.

The Duke de Rochefauld-Liancourt having witnessed the effects of
vaccination in England, introduced it into France, and did more for its
propagation than the slow deliberations of the Parisian Schools of
Medicine. Dr. Pinel, however, tried experiments at the Hospital of the
Salpétrière, with perfect success; while Dr. Aubert was despatched by
Government to England to report upon the subject. The result was
favourable. Matter was imported from England in the month of May, 1800,
when thirty-eight children were vaccinated at the Hospital of La Pitié;
and commissions were instantly instituted throughout France. Jenner had,
however, his opponents. In London, it was denounced from the pulpit, as an
infringement on the dispensation of Providence; and in France, Doctors
Vaume, Chapon and others pronounced vaccination to be injurious to the
human constitution, and capable of reducing man to the condition of a
brute, by the introduction of animal virus into the blood. As if we
resembled a calf or sheep the more for having swallowed a mutton chop or
veal cutlet.

With a few rare exceptions, vaccination has proved a security against the
small-pox, and the practice ought consequently to become universal. But
old women are still to be found with instances of children who have died
of convulsions after vaccination; as if that were the origin of their
illness and death.

Among the lower orders, a prejudice prevails that an inferior kind of
vaccine matter is provided for them; and whenever their children exhibit
symptoms of disease or deformity, they comfort their self-love by
attributing it to the influence of vaccination. "Such maladies were
unknown in their families, till the madness of introducing matter from the
body of a stranger into that of their child conveyed also the germs of
disease."



CHAPTER XL.

PRECOCIOUS AND CLEVER CHILDREN.


It is a common observation respecting children, "that such or such a child
is too clever to live;" and though abundance of precocious children have
grown up, and into very ordinary men, it stands to reason that the
premature development of any particular quality in an extraordinary
degree, must exhaust the subject upon whom it operates. Gardeners thin the
superfluous shoots on trees, that those remaining may attain their perfect
growth. It would be difficult, perhaps, to pursue this system with
children who manifest supernaturally precocious capacities. But when such
cases present themselves, the vanity of parents often serves to forward an
evil result. The parents of children of genius usually stimulate instead
of checking the impulses requiring restraint; thus increasing the already
existing exhaustion. Proud of their infantine prodigy, which, in humble
life, becomes the object of some abominable speculation, nothing can be
more lamentable than the exhibition of these interesting little beings,
carried about from place to place, obtaining a notoriety of the most
injurious nature, and often let out for hire to some able speculator. The
exhibitionist, bent upon realising the largest profit in the shortest
time, and, reckless as to the source, having attained his end, cares not
whether the child perish in misery; and the laws, so severe upon the poor
hucksters in our streets, unprovided with a licence, sanction these
homicidal speculations!

Baillet mentions one hundred and sixty-three children endowed with
extraordinary talents, among whom few arrived at an advanced age. The two
sons of Quintilian, so vaunted by their father, did not reach their tenth
year. Hermogenes, who at the age of fifteen, taught rhetoric to Marcus
Aurelius, who triumphed over the most celebrated rhetoricians of Greece,
did not die, but at twenty-four, lost his faculties and forgot all he had
previously acquired. Pica di Mirandola died at thirty-two; Johannes
Secundus at twenty-five; having at the age of fifteen composed admirable
Greek and Latin verses, and become profoundly versed in jurisprudence and
letters. Pascal, whose genius developed itself at ten years old, did not
attain the third of a century.

In 1791, a child was born at Lubeck, named Henri Heinekem, whose
precocity was miraculous. At ten months of age, he spoke distinctly; at
twelve, learnt the Pentateuch by rote, and at fourteen months, was
perfectly acquainted with the Old and New Testaments. At two years of age,
he was as familiar with Ancient History as the most erudite authors of
antiquity. Sanson and Danville only could compete with him in geographical
knowledge; Cicero would have thought him an "alter ego," on hearing him
converse in Latin; and in modern languages, he was equally proficient.
This wonderful child was unfortunately carried off in his fourth year.
According to a popular proverb--"the sword wore out the sheath."

The American family of the Davisons, whose Memoirs have been recently
before the public, afford two melancholy instances in point. Nevertheless,
the duty of every created being is to give the most ample development to
the predispositions conferred on him by his Creator; and this is certainly
to be accomplished without injury to the human frame. The mission of woman
is the perpetuation of the human race; and the statistical table of all
countries demonstrate that fruitful women have been remarkable for their
longevity. On the other hand, the tables of Blair and others prove that
unmarried women, whether spinsters or nuns, are shorter lived than
matrons. As regards the influence of an excessive exercise of the
intellect on the life of man, we can quote many instances of longevity
among the most eminent of ancient or modern times.

Hippocrates, the greatest physician the world has ever seen, died at the
age of one hundred and nine, in the island of Cos, his native country.
Galen, the most illustrious of his successors, reached the age of one
hundred and four. The three sages of Greece, Solon, Thales, and Pittacus,
lived for a century. The gay Democritus outlived them by two years. Zeno
wanted only two years of a century when he died. Diogenes ten years more;
and Plato died at the age of ninety-four, when the eagle of Jupiter is
said to have borne his soul to Heaven. Xenophon, the illustrious warrior
and historian, lived ninety years. Polemon and Epicharmus ninety-seven;
Lycurgus eighty-five; Sophocles more than a hundred. Gorgias entered his
hundred and eighth year; and Asclepiades, the physician, lived a century
and a half. Juvenal lived a hundred years; Pacuvius and Varro but one year
less. Carneades died at ninety; Galileo at sixty-eight; Cassini at
ninety-eight; and Newton at eighty-five. In the last century, Fontenelle
expired in his ninety-ninth year; Buffon in his eighty-first; Voltaire in
his eighty-fourth. In the present century, Prince Talleyrand, Goethe,
Rogers, and Niemcewicz are remarkable instances. The Cardinal du Belloy
lived nearly a century; and Marshal Moncey lately terminated a glorious
career at eighty-five.

Voltaire, though not a juvenile prodigy, was still young when he achieved
his brilliant reputation. At seventeen, he wrote the poem of La Ligue,
which afterwards became the Henriade; and at nineteen, produced the
tragedy of Oedipus. His constitution was then far from strong; and his
correspondence attests his frequent sufferings. No man, perhaps, ever made
a larger demand on his faculties. Yet his head may be said to have
survived the other members of his body, the extremities of which were long
insensible; his body reduced to a skeleton, his stomach rejecting all
sustenance, while to the last moment, his spirit gave proofs of wit and
genius. Among the precocious children who survived to maturity, though of
weakly health, were Alexander Pope and Dr. Johnson, both of whom may be
said to have "lisped in numbers."

Liceti, the son of a Genoese physician, came into the world only a few
inches long, and it was thought impossible he could live. His father,
however, gave him the name of Fortunio, a singular selection, considering
the circumstances of the event, and placed him in an oven of even
temperature, under the care of an attentive nurse; and in the course of a
few months, Fortunio Liceti differed in nothing from children born in the
usual manner. The early years of this child passed much as that of
others, except that he evinced signs of superior intelligence. At
nineteen, he wrote a "Treatise on the Soul;" and in the course of a life
of seventy-nine years, embellished the literature of his country with
eighty works, bearing the stamp of great erudition.

Marshal Richelieu was a child of untimely birth; and so delicate in frame,
as to be considered impossible to rear, though carefully wrapped in
cotton. Yet he lived to the age of eighty-five! Without intending to set
up Richelieu as a first-rate man, or defend his licentiousness, we cannot
deny him a prominent place among the distinguished Frenchmen of the last
century; being as much the representative of the tone and manners of the
great world, as Voltaire of the wit, or Mirabeau of the eloquence of the
country.



CHAPTER XLI.

EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.


Neither the illustrious preceptor of Alexander, nor the amiable preceptor
of the Duke of Burgundy, nor all the professors of the universities of
England and France, ever effected so much in the way of education, as that
unrecognised president of all universities and public
schools--Example!--From the hour of their birth, children begin to
imitate. Their first words are mimicries of what they hear pronounced
before them. Hence the origin of different idioms and enunciations.
Montaigne made Latin the mother tongue of his son, by surrounding him with
persons who spoke no other language, and even a nurse who spoke Latin.

The intellect of children expands long before they have the power of
expressing their ideas. Physicians have affirmed that children have been
known to die of jealousy, before they were old enough to express their
sensations. Excessive notice of another child, or seeming neglect of
themselves, has been found to induce a state of languor, and hasten their
end. Young children suffer doubly in illness, from the incapability of
expressing their pain.

Their language being formed upon our own, and their conduct framed upon
our own, the duty of placing desirable examples before them is
sufficiently evident; yet we frequently punish them for faults of which
the first lesson was given by ourselves. In many conditions of life,
however, parents are forced to delegate to other hands the care of their
progeny. The labouring poor, for instance, cannot constantly watch over
them. While the rich wantonly confide their infants to the care of menial
hands, the poor trust them to any which God is pleased to send to their
aid. It is even more essential to avoid giving bad examples to children
than to offer them good. Yet how often are family dissensions and
recriminations exposed to their observation! A man and wife living ill
together, who so far forget themselves as to quarrel before their
children, create a preference and partizanship which must diminish the
respect equally due to both parents. In humbler life, abusive language
often ends with blows; and what must be the effect of such scenes on the
tender mind of infancy?

The presence of children on such occasions, when proved before the
magistracy, ought to be considered an aggravation of the offence against
the law. Fathers and mothers by upbraiding each other in presence of their
children, often beget impressions which all their future representations
are unable to eradicate; and of what avail to the comfort of parents the
brilliant accomplishments and attractive manners of their children, if a
son have been taught to disparage his father, or a daughter to think ill
of her mother! Often do children so young as to appear deficient in
observation, receive vague but indelible impressions, afterwards recalled
by a retrospective view; when the past appears clear and free from the
vapours which veiled it from our earlier comprehension.

Among the lower orders, if a poor man be laborious, his son is usually the
same. But the son of a father who ill-uses the mother, is pretty sure to
turn out an idler and a dunce in childhood, and, in riper years, a
ruffian.



CHAPTER XLII.

PREJUDICES OF THE FRENCH.


The prevailing weakness of the French, collectively and individually, is
to esteem themselves the type and model of perfection; the standard by
which the universe ought to be regulated. An Italian author once asserted
that the face of man was not made after that of God; but that the face of
the Creator was to be imagined after that of man. The French consider all
that resembles them, right: all that differs from them, wrong. This
prejudice entitles foreigners to laugh at them, whether justly or not. The
word "_fat_" appears to have been exclusively invented for the nation.
Vain, presumptuous, haughty, disdainful men are to be found in all
countries; but _fatuité_ is the peculiar attribute of Frenchmen; nor does
any other language possess an equivalent term.

The French, unhesitatingly, pronounce themselves the most polished nation
of the universe; and Paris, the capital of the civilized world,--the city
of arts, sciences, elegance of manners, and refinement. In Paris only,
does genius receive due homage,--merit, encouragement,--or the mind its
full development. But the temple they have erected to their national
vanity, has begun to totter upon its flimsy foundation.

Notwithstanding their assumed pre-eminence, no nation is more prone to
imitate the customs, usages, fashions, and forms of government of others.
Just as the Romans placed the Gods of their defeated enemies in their
Pantheon, the French, under Napoleon, brought back the customs of foreign
nations.

For twelve centuries, the French possessed a system of government of their
own; but they decided, at length, to adopt that of the English. A
Revolution having occurred in England, and a King been beheaded in London,
an analogous event appeared indispensable; and a King of France,
consequently, ended his reign on the scaffold. In early times, one
legislative chamber was considered sufficient; but as there existed two in
England, their national vanity could not rest till gratified by a similar
number. In all this, there is little to support the vaunted superiority of
the French.

Till the close of the last century, the French wore what is still termed,
on the continent, the French costume, or _habit Français_, with bags and
swords, which in England we call a court-dress. But the English having
laid aside these inconvenient appendages in favour of hunting and riding
coats, the latter were quickly adopted by the Parisians under the name of
_redingotte_.

The Lord Cadogan of Marlborough's time, having found it convenient to
double up his queue, and bind it with a bow of black ribbon, the whole
French army adopted the fashion; and his Lordship's name became
immortalized in France by "_les perruques à la Cadogan_."

The strong horses of Normandy required an easy but somewhat solid kind of
saddle, the form of which had prevailed from the time of Louis XIV. But
the English using a lighter and smaller kind, it was adopted in
preference; and certain moral philosophers who proceeded to England to
study the laws, manners, and system of government, having remarked in
addition that the English treated their horses as Alcibiades did his dog,
the horses on the other side the channel were forthwith anglicised by the
abbreviation of their tails.

On the arrival of the Bourbons and the English in France, in 1814, the
long waists and cottage-bonnets of the ladies were made the ground-work of
innumerable caricatures. Yet a few years afterwards, generally they were
adopted! This Anglomania has been as much a matter of reproach to the
French for centuries past; as, in England, the preference of the English
ladies for French goods and manufactures. A serious source of discussion
between Napoleon and Josephine was her rage for English fashions.

In the early part of the Revolution, the Duke of Orleans made frequent
excursions to England; in one of which he purchased a sword hilt of steel,
the execution of which was admirable. On his return to Paris, he exhibited
it to a celebrated steel worker, challenging him to produce its equal; on
which, taking up the hilt, the man pointed out his own name to the Prince,
as the manufacturer of the article, which had been exported to London.

During the brilliant campaigns of Field-Marshal Suwarow, the form of his
hat and boots was copied by the military men of France; and when Bolivar
and Murillo were ascertained to wear hats of different dimensions, the
French partizans of the two chiefs assumed on one part, broad-brimmed
Spanish hats, on the other, a narrower shape.

When the Russians came to Paris at the Restoration, another change took
place. Instead of the boots worn to protect the legs from the mud, the
wide trowsers of the Russians made to cover their boots, in consideration
of the bitterness of their climate, were instantly adopted by the nation
which pronounces itself the arbiter of Europe in matters of taste. The
padded chests of the Russian uniforms, also worn as a defence against the
weather, were imitated in defiance of climate and common sense.

Previous to the arrival of the Russians in Paris, smoking was limited to
the operative classes, and soldiers who had fought in the German campaign.
But from the moment the Russians began to smoke in the open street, the
capital so famed for elegance, became polluted with the smell of tobacco.
A modern man of fashion can no more dispense with his cigar-case than
Bayard with his sword; and in imitation of the Spanish women, the
fashionable Parisian ladies, known by the name of _lionnes_, have taken to
smoking.

In order to mark their estimation of the Swedes, when they elected to be
their Prince, Bernadotte, who is a Frenchman, they thought to do them the
highest honour by calling them the French of the north. Two noblemen, the
one an aide-de-camp of Napoleon, the other of the Emperor Alexander,
having made acquaintance at Tilsit, the former observed, with the
intention of paying a compliment: "You might really be taken for a
Frenchman!" to which the Russian, indignant at his rudeness, replied:
"Depend upon it you could never pass for a Russian!"

It is a favourite vaunt of the braggarts of France, that their children
are born soldiers. "Stamp upon the soil of France, and myriads of warriors
will start up!" says one of their popular writers.

In answer to this boast, observe the results of the drawing for the
conscription, when the most trifling bodily defects are put forth to
secure exemption from military service!--Nothing can exceed the despair of
those who draw what is called "a bad number;" though a military career
presents nearly the same advantages to a working man as any other to which
he may devote himself.

The self-sufficiency of the nation stands perpetually self-convicted; and
it is now proverbial in Europe to "be as great a boaster as a Frenchman."



CHAPTER XLIII.

MONSTROUS BIRTHS.


The attachment existing betwixt animals of different kinds is an undoubted
fact. Dogs have been known to take kittens under their protection during
the absence, or after the death of the parent cat. Most people who have
been at the Jardin des Plantes, must have noticed the affection evinced by
the lion for the little dog that shares his cage. Two horses and an ass
having fed from the same rack during a period of fourteen years, on the
death of the ass, his two companions refused food and died. These
inclinations are probably the result of the familiarity with mankind
produced by domestication, which destroys their natural instincts.

Parrots, starlings, jays, and magpies, do not talk in their wild state;
nor would a dog, or squirrel, of its free will, have turned a wheel.

In a Norman farm, so singular an affection subsisted between a hen and a
cat attached to the barn-yard, that the cat was frequently seen sitting
upon the nest during the absence of her friend; and the eggs thus hatched
produced a hybrid race of fowl and cat--a fact certified by an eminent
Norman naturalist, Dr. Vimond, at the close of the last century. Towards
the beginning of the present, there was exhibited in the Rue St. Honoré, a
mastiff bitch having a litter of two puppies and two cats, which she had
brought into the world at a birth.

The ancients frequently speak of monstrous progeny. Besides the famous
Minotaur of Crete, Pliny relates that a Roman lady, named Alcippa,
produced a young elephant, and that a female slave brought forth a
serpent. Julius Obsequens describes two Italian women, who, in the middle
of the fifteenth century, produced on the same day, the one a cat, the
other a dog. In such instances, dogs and cats seem to enjoy the
preference. A Swiss woman, however, is asserted to have produced a hare; a
Thuringian, a toad. Bayle speaks of a mare which produced a calf; and of a
woman, who became the mother of a black cat, which was burnt by command of
the Holy Inquisition in the belief that it was the offspring of the devil.
These marvels have been chiefly attested by monks and physicians; but
there is scarcely an instance in which any distinguished naturalist has
been able to confirm the fact.

During the thirteenth century, in three different places, at Wittenberg,
Misnia, and Villefranche, children were born without heads. They died upon
coming into the world; but not without having exhibited symptoms of life.

Carpi, the anatomist, mentions a child born in 1729, in whose head was
found nothing but clear water without a vestige of brain. On the other
hand, children have come into the world with a double volume of brain. In
1684, a woman gave birth to twins, of which the first-born survived only a
few hours, while the second exhibited a double head, having four eyes, two
noses, two tongues, but only two ears.

The annals of anatomy furnish many such instances; and the cases of the
Siamese twins, and of the unfortunate sisters of Sgöny, are too well known
to need description. But if all the instances on record were
recapitulated, these blunders of nature are but as a grain of sand
compared with the regularity of her productions through an infinity of
ages.

The idea of individuals having a double sex, created probably by Plato in
the fable of the Androgyne, the most ingenious fiction bequeathed to us by
antiquity, was for ages supposed to have its foundation in fact; and every
now and then, the irregularities of a Chevalier d'Eon revive the chimera,
to which anatomists oppose a decided negative. The beautiful statue of the
Florentine hermaphrodite at the Louvre is as much a chimerical being as a
sphinx.

The Memoirs of the Chevalier d'Eon, published in America, declare one of
the most illustrious dynasties of modern Europe to be his descendents; an
assertion easily disproved by a comparison of the date of his visit to
Russia with that of the birth of the Emperor Paul.

The Albinos were formerly considered a distinct race. They were sought in
the olden time as favourite appendages to the Courts of African and
Asiatic monarchs. Pliny places them in Albania, probably from the
similitude of name; but does not state that they constituted a nation. His
description of them, however, perfectly agrees with those of modern times;
having white hair, and eyes which he describes as resembling those of a
partridge. The Albinos are, in truth, an exceptional race; and their
peculiarities are seldom found to be hereditary.

The morbid longings of women during pregnancy afford many remarkable
facts. Goulard relates, that in the neighbourhood of Andernach, on the
Rhine, a woman experienced such a longing for the flesh of her husband,
that she murdered him, ate one half of the body and salted the other;
when her appetite being appeased, she confessed the deed to two friends of
her husband.

In the Helvetic Chronicles it is related, that in the time of Martin IV.,
an illustrious lady of Rome, an object of affection to the supreme head of
the Church, gave birth to a son having the semblance of a wild beast;
which monstrous production was ascribed to the passion of his Holiness for
paintings of animals, numbers of which ornamented his palace, till the
continual view of such objects influenced the mind and body of his fair
inmate.

A black child is generally believed to have been born to Marie Thérèse,
the wife of Louis XIV., in consequence of a little negro page in her
service having started from a hiding-place, and stumbled over her dress
early in her pregnancy. This child was educated at the Convent of Moret,
near Fontainebleau, where she took the veil, and where, till the epoch of
the Revolution, her portrait was shown.

Mallebranche has assigned the greatest scope of imagination to women under
such circumstances. He mentions one, who having been present at the
breaking of a criminal on the wheel, gave birth to a child whose limbs
were broken at the exact places where those of the criminal were
fractured. Scarcely an anatomical museum but contains monstrous
productions. The question unsolved is the influence of the imagination of
the mother in producing these aberrations of nature.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE ICHNEUMON AND THE HALCYON.


Buffon assumes that the Ichneumon has been brought to a state of
domesticity. But he probably generalized from a single instance. The Pacha
of Egypt has a tame lion; and many other instances might be cited. But the
lion cannot be regarded as reduced to a domestic animal.

According to Pliny, the ichneumon was an object of veneration among the
Egyptians. So also was the crocodile; these two determined enemies being
equally objects of adoration. By the ancients, the ichneumon was said to
watch the moment of the crocodile's sleep; when, finding the monster's
jaws open, it instantly crept in, and having devoured the bowels, made its
way out by the way it entered.

Denon has given us the following account of the ichneumon in his Travels
in Egypt.

"The ichneumon is seen lying upon the reeds of the Nile, in the
neighbourhood of the villages, to which it repairs in search of poultry
and eggs. The supposed antagonism of the ichneumon and crocodile, the one
eating the eggs of the other, and the former creeping down the throat of
the latter, is pure invention. These two animals do not dwell in the same
regions. Crocodiles are not known in Lower, nor ichneumons in Upper Egypt;
so that there can be no grounds for the prejudice which has existed twenty
centuries:--for Pliny, himself, probably handed down a tradition!

The fable of the halcyon is so charming, that it ought to have been
founded on fact. But Ovid was a better poet than naturalist.

To the power of tranquillizing the tempest, the halcyon was supposed to
add the gift of foretelling good or bad weather. By degrees, writers of
fiction endowed its feathers with the power of rendering silk proof
against the sting of insects, of yielding wealth and harmony, and
conferring grace and beauty on the wearers. The halcyon deposits its eggs
on the sea-shore, on the banks of lakes and rivers; and its breeding
season is that when the air is most calm and serene; but its power of
controlling the elements is wholly fabulous.



CHAPTER XLV.

SORCERERS AND MAGICIANS.


In the works of St. Augustin, we are informed that there existed in his
time in Italy, women possessed of the power attributed by the poets to
Circe, who transformed men into beasts of burthen, and compelled them to
bear their baggage. St. Augustin mentions that a priest named Præstantius
unfortunately meeting one of those women, was changed into a mule, and
compelled to bear a trunk on his back; and that it was only when she had
no further occasion for his services, he was allowed to resume his gown
and band.

Are we to infer from this passage, that one of the greatest minds that
ever enlightened the Church believed in this species of transformation?
Certainly not! The works of St. Augustin are not to be literally
interpreted.

The hyperbole simply implies that there are in Italy women whose charms
are so powerful, and whose allurements so dangerous, that men who give way
to their influence, ceasing to be men, are reduced to the condition of
brutes, and exercise the most degrading labour. As to the priest
Præstantius, his name contains the key to the mystery; and he was probably
one of the minor Canons of the Church converted into a slave to do the
errands of some attractive dame.

This version of the passage of St. Augustin, so often cited for twelve
centuries by the believers in magic, was simply an exhortation against
female seduction to the laity and clergy of his time. It has proved,
however, no small advantage to mountebanks to be backed by the authority
of the illustrious name of St. Augustin!

The annals of the Jesuits abound in terrible histories of atonement made
at the stake for imputed sorcery. The following instance is related by Dom
Calmet. Charles IV., Duke of Lorraine, had in his service a
valet-de-chambre, named Desbordes, who was accused of having hastened, by
the art of sorcery, the death of the Princess Mary of Lorraine, mother to
the Duke.

"Charles IV. conceived suspicions against Desbordes, from the period of
his having furnished a grand banquet given by the Duke to a hunting party
at a moment's notice: Desbordes having made no other preparatives than to
open a chest, having three trays, upon which were three courses ready
prepared. During another hunting party, Desbordes reanimated three
criminals suspended from a gibbet, and commanded them to make obeisance to
the Duke; having done which, he bade them hang themselves again. Another
time, he made the figures in a piece of tapestry come down and join in the
dance. Charles IV., alarmed at these supernatural feats, eventually
brought Desbordes to trial; and he was condemned and executed as a
magician for mere acts of sleight of hand.

The real cause of his condemnation was the enmity of the court-physicians
of Lorraine; whom he had irritated by the disappointment of their
predictions touching the death of the Princess Mary; for had his judges
really believed in his power of restoring the dead to life, their sentence
of execution would have been absurd.

The most learned men of times famed for their learning have sometimes
condescended to confirm these popular errors. Baronius affirms the bridge
of the Spiritus Sanctus, in Rome, to have been erected by a glance from
the eye of a child of twelve years old, named Benezet; and his assertion
is founded upon five Papal bulls.

Paulus Jovius, a man of unquestionable erudition, confirms the popular
legend concerning the black dog of Cornelius Agrippa; stating that, when
on his death-bed at Lyons, he uttered dreadful imprecations against his
faithful attendant, who was supposed by the vulgar to be a familiar spirit
disguised under the form of a cur; saying, "Away with thee wretched beast,
through whom I am lost to all eternity!" On which the dog precipitated
itself into the Saône, and appeared no more. Unfortunately for the
historian, Agrippa died at Grenoble, and not at Lyons, so that the Saône
is rather far fetched. But those who believe in familiar spirits are apt
to be loose in their notions of geography.

The work of James I., upon Demonology, is one of the most curious records
of the superstition of his time, of which the feats of Nicholas Hopkins,
the witch-finder, afford so cruel an evidence. The royal author would,
perhaps, have been better employed in seeing a more enlightened education
bestowed upon his ill-advised son, than in perpetuating his own credulity.

The Memoirs of the Cardinal de Richelieu admit his belief in witchcraft.
In his time, it was an advantage to a Minister of State to have at his
disposal accusations of a mysterious crime, where disculpation was next to
impossible. Urbain Grandier, the priest, who was condemned to death for
allowing the nuns of Loudun to communicate with the devil, was one among
many victims to the darkness of the public mind.

By the Parliaments of France, hundreds were burnt for witchcraft in the
course of a few months. The shepherds of La Brie alone supplied
innumerable victims; as the supposed authors of all the domestic
misfortunes of the district, the murrain that carried off the cattle, and
the hooping-cough that carried off the children. Like the old women in
Scotland, they were "na canny;" and like them, expiated the prejudice
among faggots and tar-barrels. But though we no longer burn for
witchcraft, the profession is far from extinct; and in the remote
districts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, there scarcely exists
a country magistrate but has had some charge brought before him implying
the exercise of witchcraft. The horse-shoe is still seen nailed above the
doors of our villages; and fortune-tellers, and spaewives are consulted,
in spite of Sunday schools and the Lancastrian system. Not a day passes,
but the ordeal of the Bible and key, the Sortes virgiliane of the vulgar,
is resorted to in some village of the British empire; but the exorcisms of
the school-master will probably drive both witches and witch-finders from
the land.



CHAPTER XLVI.

MALE AND FEMALE.


When the learned Spaniard, Feijoo, was about to decide upon the
comparative power and merit of the two sexes, he invoked an angel to
descend from Heaven to enlighten his mind; so perplexing did he feel the
arguments on both sides.

Rousseau, in comparing the sexes, observes, "as I pursue my
investigations, I perceive on all sides affinity--on all sides
discrepancy."

And long may that discrepancy exist. The merit of woman consists in the
oppositeness of her qualities to those of the male sex.

To be completely woman, is her perfection; as man is never more perfect
than when most completely man. Sybarites and Amazons are alike at variance
with nature; and Hercules handling the distaff of Omphale could not be
more absurd than Omphale wielding the club of Hercules.

In heathen times, and even now, in countries uncivilized by Christianity,
the condition of women is of a subordinate and miserable nature. Aristotle
was one of the greatest depreciators of women; regarding them as an
incomplete production, and at variance with the ends of nature. He fancied
that, in a more perfect order of things, only men would be seen on earth.
In the tragedies of Euripides, women are treated with unmeasured contempt;
and his opinions being embraced by the Greeks, were adopted by the early
theologians alluded to by St. Augustin; who pretended that at the day of
judgment, God would reform his work, and the dead of both sexes rise again
of the masculine gender. In the fifth century, it was agitated in council,
whether our Saviour died for women as well as men; nor was it till after
the most violent contestation, decided in the affirmative. Mahomet, the
most violent opponent of the equality of sexes excluded women from
Paradise except in a few favoured instances.

Chivalry was the first defender of the weaker sex.

At the beginning of the twelfth century, a doctor, named Amauri, of the
diocese of Chartres, attempted to renew the doctrine of Aristotle
concerning women, declaring them to be imperfect works accidentally
proceeding from the hands of God. The Archbishop of Paris, however,
convened a council, which declared his doctrine to be heretical; and
anathemized Amauri, who having died previous to the decree, his lady was
disinterred, and thrown into the common sewer. This proceeding gave much
satisfaction to the Parisian populace; but was scarcely necessary to
refute the impertinent assertions of Aristotle and his disciple.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the criticisms, satires, and diatribes, of
which women have been the objects,--from Juvenal, to Boileau and Pope; and
from Boccaccio and Brantome, to La Fontaine and Byron:--for their
champions are, at least, as numerous as their assailants. Among themselves
Madame de Genlis in France, and Mary Wolstonecroft in England, have fought
a good fight in favour of the equality of the sexes.

Mallebranche, one of the writers who has most profoundly studied the
question, accords to women a decided superiority in point of sensibility;
but decides them to be equally inferior to the male sex in point of
abstract ideas. Arguing upon the difference of organisation, and
conceiving the brain to be the seat of intellectual operations, he shows
that the brain of women is of a more feeble organization, and less
extended than that of men; and concludes, from the diameter of their head
being less, that their minds must maintain the same proportion. This
opinion is based upon the craniological, or phrenological system.

Mallebranche agrees with Dr. Gall in the belief that the seat of
intelligence lies essentially in the brain, and that the amount of our
faculties is proportioned to the volume of that organ: that stupid animals
have scarcely any brain, and sagacious animals much; that no animal can
vie in proportion with that of man; and that among men, idiots are
remarkable for deficiency of brain. On this point, the learned and the
ignorant fully coincide;--a fool or idiot, having been always styled a
brainless fellow.

The Cretins of the Valais, and the Pyrenees, who have very diminutive
heads, are alike devoid of intellect, and suffer from the same affliction.
In the intellectual physiology of Domangeon, he relates, that, of two
maniacs under his care, a young person suddenly bereft of reason had a
head incredibly small; while an old woman, similarly afflicted, had a
brain no larger than that of a child of three years old.

Experiment has now proved the brain to be the seat of human intelligence.
The celebrated Dr. Richerand, attended a patient whose brain was
accidentally exposed, and anxious to convince himself that the brain was
really the seat of intelligence, he pressed that of his patient with his
hand, when the intellectual powers immediately ceased, and upon
withdrawing his hand, they recovered their faculties.

Those who still deny the brain to be the seat of intelligence, instance,
in support of their theory, the existence of reason after the ossification
of the brain; and of children, born deficient in spinal marrow. Duverney
exhibited to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, the head of an ox nearly
petrified, notwithstanding which, it had never betrayed the least
uneasiness, or any unusual symptoms.

It is certain that considerable portions of the brain have been removed
from a living subject, in cases of accident, without prejudice to the
intellectual faculties. But the lobes being double, a portion may be cut
away without affecting its power; as in losing an eye or an ear, the
faculty of seeing and hearing remains.

All this, however, is a digression from the fact asserted; that the brain
of a woman weighs less by one sixteenth than that of a man! The mean
weight of the brain of a man is estimated at three pounds; and it is found
to be two pounds thirteen ounces in that of a woman, from which it may be
inferred that man is a sixteenth part more intelligent than woman. It may,
however, be argued that this is only accordant with the other comparative
proportions of the human frame. The stature of woman is a sixteenth less
than that of man, and the brain ought surely to be in proportion to the
stature.

On this point, J. J. Rousseau observes, "A perfect woman and perfect man
ought to be as dissimilar in form and face, as in soul. A well-conditioned
man should not be less than five feet and a half in height, with a
sonorous voice and well-bearded chin." But considering the number of men
who expend many hours a day in adorning and perfuming their persons, and
lounging upon a sofa or beside a work-table, it is not wonderful that
women should be tempted to consider themselves somewhat nearer on a par
with those who renounce the manly attributes of their sex.

In establishing between man and woman certain relations and differences,
Providence has clearly distinguished the condition of the two sexes. To
the stronger, he assigned rude labour and the tillage of the earth; to the
weaker, domestic duties, and the rearing of progeny. The one has an
out-door, the other an in-door existence; and by the duties of the mother,
the position of the slighter sex is distinctly pointed out.

It would appear as if the comparative merit of the sexes were influenced
by the effect of climate; the Salique-law still prevailing in several of
the most civilized countries of Europe, in spite of the glorious reigns of
Elizabeth and Anne in England, and Catherine in Russia; and the living
example of three female sovereigns on the throne. But it may be added
that in two of the countries where woman is excluded from the throne, she
exercises in private life fourfold the influence assigned her in England,
Spain, or Portugal, where she is admitted to the privileges of supreme
power.



CHAPTER XLVII.

MINOR SUPERSTITIONS.


One of the most prevalent minor superstitions has its origin in a
religious influence. Friday is regarded as the most unlucky day of the
week, from being that of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. People of all
classes object to commencing an undertaking, or a journey, on Friday; and
the Calabrian brigands forbear to assassinate on that day, however
difficult to postpone the premeditated crime till the following morning.
They feel convinced that a murder committed on a Friday will be overtaken
by the hand of justice. In Paris, the average quantity of new pieces
produced at the different theatres is from a hundred and fifty to two
hundred; and for the last thirty years, not one of these has been produced
for the first time on a Friday.

Boileau, in one of his Satires, places among the number of human
weaknesses, the superstition which makes

  Twelve grouped together, fear an other one.

The origin of this sentiment dates from the Last Supper; when, thirteen
being at table, one of them betrayed and another denied his master, and
"went and hanged himself;" and a prejudice has ever since prevailed that
out of every thirteen dipping together in the dish, one must fall a victim
before the end of the year. The probability that one out of every thirteen
may die in the course of the year, exceeds but little the usual chances of
mortality.

The dislike which many entertain of seeing a knife and fork crossed on a
plate, has also reference to a religious objection as an emblem of the
crucifixion. Yet it sometimes obtains ascendancy over unbelievers.
Frederick the Great disliked seeing a knife and fork crossed so much, that
he never failed to uncross them. Others dislike to see three candles
lighted; an omen borrowed from the ancients, who regarded them as symbolic
of the Fates, the Furies, and the three heads of Cerberus.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

SOMNAMBULISM.


"Dreams are the interludes of a busy fancy," say the copybooks; and in
some instances they appear to excite in the body impulses equally active.

Condillac, the mathematician, when surprised by sleep in the midst of his
abstruse calculations, often found that, on awaking, the solution of a
problem presented itself spontaneously to his mind, as though he had been
working in his sleep.

But a more familiar instance of somnambulism is that of a deceased
Hampshire Baronet.

This gentleman was nearly driven to distraction by the fact that, every
night, he went to bed in a shirt, and every morning awoke naked, without
the smallest trace of the missing garment being discovered.

Hundreds of shirts disappeared in this manner; and as there was no fire in
his room, it was impossible to account for the mystery. The servants
believed their master to be mad; and even he began to fancy himself
bewitched. In this conjuncture, he implored an intimate friend to sleep in
the room with him; and ascertain by what manner of mysterious midnight
visitant his garment was so strangely removed. The friend, accordingly,
took up his station in the haunted chamber; and lo! as the clock struck
one, the unfortunate Baronet, who had previously given audible intimation
of being fast asleep, rose from his bed, rekindled with a match the candle
which had been extinguished, deliberately opened the door, and quitted the
room. His astonished friend followed; saw him open in succession a variety
of doors, pass along several passages, traverse an open court, and
eventually reach the stable-yard; where he divested himself of his shirt,
and disposed of it in an old dung heap, into which he thrust it by means
of a pitch fork. Having finished this extraordinary operation, without
taking the smallest heed of his friend who stood looking on, and plainly
saw that he was walking in his sleep, he returned to the house, carefully
reclosed the doors, re-extinguished the light, and returned to bed; where
the following morning he awoke, as usual, stripped of his shirt!

The astonished eye-witness of this extraordinary scene, instead of
apprizing the sleep-walker of what had occurred, insisted that the
following night, a companion should sit up with him; choosing to have
additional testimony to the truth of the statement he was about to make;
and the same singular events were renewed, without the slightest change or
deviation. The two witnesses, accordingly, divulged all they had seen to
the Baronet; who, though at first incredulous, became of course convinced,
when, on proceeding to the stable-yard, several dozens of shirts were
discovered; though it was surmised that as many more had been previously
removed by one of the helpers, who probably looked upon the hoard as
stolen goods concealed by some thief.

A far stranger circumstance has been related by a highly-beneficed member
of the Roman Catholic Church.

In the College where he was educated was a young Seminarist who habitually
walked in his sleep; and while in a state of somnambulism, used to sit
down to his desk and compose the most eloquent sermons; scrupulously
erasing, effacing, or interlining, whenever an incorrect expression had
fallen from his pen. Though his eyes were apparently fixed upon the paper
when he wrote, it was clear that they exercised no optical functions; for
he wrote just as well when an opaque substance was interposed between them
and the sheet of paper.

Sometimes, an attempt was made to remove the paper, in the idea that he
would write upon the desk beneath. But it was observed that he instantly
discerned the change; and sought another sheet of paper, as nearly as
possible resembling the former one. At other times, a blank sheet of paper
was substituted by the bystanders for the one on which he had been
writing; in which case, on reading over, as it were, his composition, he
was sure to place the corrections, suggested by the perusal, at precisely
the same intervals they would have occupied in the original sheet of
manuscript.

This young priest, moreover, was an able musician; and was seen to compose
several pieces of music while in a state of somnambulism; drawing the
lines of the music paper for the purpose with a ruler and pen and ink, and
filling the spaces with his notes with the utmost precision, besides a
careful adaptation of the words, in vocal pieces.

On one occasion, the somnambulist dreamt that he sprang into a river to
save a drowning child; and, on his bed, was seen to imitate the movements
of swimming. Seizing the pillow, he appeared to snatch it from the waves
and lay it on the shore. The night was intensely cold; and so severely did
he appear affected by the imaginary chill of the river, as to tremble in
every limb; and his state of cold and exhaustion when roused, was so
alarming, that it was judged necessary to administer wine and other
restoratives."

It would require a volume to relate the wonders of artificial somnambulism
produced by Animal Magnetism, _i. e._ the somnolency produced in certain
organizations by persons constitutionally endowed for the purpose; during
which, some patients become so utterly insensible, that surgical
operations of the most painful nature, such as amputation, have been
performed upon them without their knowledge. Others appear to be
transported into a higher sphere; and in a frame of mind described under
the name of _clairvoyance_, become capable of reading sealed letters and
closed books; of speaking languages of which they are otherwise ignorant,
and indicating the name and nature of misunderstood diseases, as well as
the means of cure; though at the cessation of the state of somnambulism,
all recollection is effaced of the wonders they have performed under its
influence.

The mysteries of Magnetic Science are at present so imperfectly
understood, and afford so wide a field for scientific argument, that it
would be presumptuous to enter further into the subject in a work
affecting to treat of errors and superstitions.



CHAPTER XLIX.

A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT GHOSTS, VAMPIRES, AND LOUP-GAROUX.


In the winter of 1758, the sacristan of Polliac expired, after a few
hours' illness, of a fright produced by the sight of a large white rabbit
seated on the grave-stone of a famous poacher recently deceased, as he was
crossing the church-yard at midnight after accompanying the curate to
administer the last sacrament to a dying parishioner. The mind of this
poor fellow, who was a proficient in the ghost stories of the
neighbourhood, was probably deeply impressed by the melancholy scene he
had been witnessing; which, combined with the desperate character and
blasphemous habits of Blaise Rolland, the poacher, induced him to suppose
that the soul of the defunct had undergone transformation, or that Satan
himself was watching over his grave, in the shape of one of the animals
he had so often appropriated to himself.

The rabbit proved in the sequel to be a tame one escaped from a
neighbouring farm. But in the interim, the poor man had fallen a victim to
his panic! A more rational being would have inquired of himself for what
purpose the Almighty could be supposed to suffer the soul of an obscure
poacher to revisit the earth, when we learn from divine writ His refusal
to permit the appearance of Dives to his brethren, as a superfluous
concession. "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be
persuaded, though one rose from the dead!"

Nothing can be more absurd than the functions attributed to ghosts, when
we know that the soul, at the moment of its separation from the body, is
an impalpable, invisible, substance. Yet this spiritual essence, which eye
hath not seen, or ear heard, is supposed to have exercised the power of
dragging chains, undrawing curtains, opening doors, ringing bells,
uttering groans, articulating reproaches; in the face of the Scriptural
Revelation "that the body shall return to the dust, and the spirit unto
GOD who gave it!"

We find in St. John's Gospel, that the souls of mankind in the different
mansions of the Almighty, receive after death the reward of deeds done in
the body. Is it likely then that they should have leisure or inclination
for revisiting their dreary mansion of clay?

There is one instinct which we are bound to accord to ghosts; _i. e._ a
wonderful aptitude for the discovery of cowards! In the ghost-stories of
all countries, it is observable that the first impulse of the person
addressed by a spectre is to take to his heels. With the exception of the
lady of the Beresford family, who is said to have sat and talked theology
with her brother, there is no record of a rational conversation between a
disembodied spirit and those of the flesh; for the pretended apparition of
Mrs. Veale, is now known to have been an ingenious bookseller's puff of
the work of Drelincourt on Death.

In most instances, ghost-stories have their origin in some incident which
no one has been at the pains to investigate. In 1746, the public Theatre
of Anatomy, in Paris, was disturbed by the sudden frenzy of the porter in
care of the dissecting-room; who protested that the spirit of a young man,
whose body had been deposited there the preceding day, after having
committed suicide by throwing himself into the Seine, had appeared to him
in the course of the night, bewailing and lamenting the dreadful
consequences of his crime.

Bruhier, the learned Professor of Anatomy, aware of the injurious
consequences likely to arise from a report that the theatre was haunted,
examined carefully into the details of the case; when it appeared that
this unfortunate young man, having recovered in the course of the night
from the state of insensibility in which he was deposited in the
dissecting-room, and terrified by the horrible aspect of the spot in which
he found himself, among dead bodies, skeletons and anatomical preparations
faintly illuminated by the light of a lamp, had dragged himself to the
door of the small adjoining room inhabited by the porter, and in faint
accents implored his assistance, and described the agonies of his
situation.

The porter, roused from his sleep by the appeal of a dead man wrapped in
his winding-sheet, instantly lost his senses; and the doors being locked
upon them, the exhausted young man, whom Providence had thus fruitlessly
restored, sank a victim to cold and exhaustion. His body was discovered
stretched on the floor of the dissecting-room near the porter's door. But
for the judicious investigations of Monsieur Bruhier, this would have been
established as an authentic instance of spectral visitation!

A similar circumstance occurred in Lancashire some years ago.

A lady, the wife of a wealthy squire, died after a protracted illness; and
on the evening of her decease, her husband, desirous to pass a solitary
hour by the body, sent the nurse who was watching beside it, out of the
room. Before the expiration of an hour, the bell by which the deceased had
been in the habit of summoning the nurse, rang violently; and the woman,
fancying the unfortunate widower was taken suddenly ill, hurried into the
room. He dismissed her angrily, however, protesting that he had not rung.
Shortly afterwards, the bell was rung a second time; when the woman
observed to one of the servants that she should not attend to the summons,
as the gentleman might again repent having summoned her, and dismiss her
ungraciously.

"It cannot be my master who is ringing now," replied the footman, "for I
have this moment left him in the drawing-room."

And while he was still speaking, the bell of the chamber of death rang a
third time--and still more violently than before.

The nurse was now literally afraid to obey the summons: nor was it till
several of the servants agreed to accompany her, that she could command
sufficient courage. At length, they ventured to open the door, expecting
to discover, within, some terrible spectacle.

All, however, was perfectly tranquil; the corpse extended upon the bed
under a holland sheet, which was evidently undisturbed. Such, however, was
the agitation of the poor nurse, that nothing would induce her to remain
alone with the body; and one of the housemaids accordingly agreed to
become her companion in the adjoining dressing-room.

They had not been there many minutes, when the bell again sounded; nor
could there be any mistake on the subject, for the bell-wire passing round
the dressing-room was in motion, and the servants in the offices could
attest the vibration of the bell. The family butler accordingly determined
to support the courage of the terrified women by accompanying them back to
the dressing-room, in which they were to sit with the door open, so as to
command a view of the bed.

These precautions effectually unravelled the mystery! A string had been
attached to the bell-pull to enable the sick lady to summon her attendants
without changing her position, which, still unremoved, hung down upon the
floor; and a favourite kitten, often admitted into the room to amuse the
invalid, having entered the chamber unobserved, was playing with the
string, which, being entangled in her feet, had produced this general
panic.

But for the opportune explanation of this trivial incident, the family
mansion would have obtained the notoriety of a haunted house, and probably
been deserted!

Such was the case with the Crown Inn at Antwerp, where some years ago, a
white spectre, bearing a lamp in one hand and a bunch of keys in the
other, was seen by a variety of travellers passing along a corridor till
it disappeared in a particular chamber.

Nothing would satisfy the neighbours that an unfortunate traveller had not
been, at some period or other, despatched in that fatal room by one of the
previous landlords of the house; and the Crown gradually obtained the name
of the Haunted Inn, and ceased to be frequented by its old patrons.

The landlord, finding himself on the brink of ruin, determined to sleep in
the haunted-room with a view of proving the groundlessness of the story;
and caused his ostler to bear him company, on pretence of requiring a
witness to the absurdity of the report; but in reality, from cowardice. At
dead of night, however, just as the two men were composing themselves to
sleep in one bed, leaving another which was in the room untenanted, the
door flew open, and in glided the white spectre!

Without pausing to ascertain what it might attempt on approaching the
other bed, towards which it directed its course, the two men rushed naked
out of the room; and by the alarm they created, confirmed, more fully than
ever, the evil repute of the house.

Unable longer to sustain the cost of so unproductive an establishment,
the poor landlord advertised for sale the house in which he and his father
before him were born and bred. But bidders were as scarce as customers;
the inn remaining on sale for nearly a year, during which, from time to
time, the spectre reappeared.

At length, an officer of the garrison, who had formerly frequented the
house, and recollected the excellent quality of its wine, moved to
compassion in favour of the poor host, undertook to clear up the mystery
by sleeping in the haunted chamber; nothing doubting that the whole was a
trick of some envious neighbour, desirous of deteriorating the value of
the freehold in order to become a purchaser.

His offer having been gratefully accepted, the Captain took up his
quarters in the fatal room, with a bottle of wine, and a brace of loaded
pistols on the table before him; determined to shoot at whatever object
might enter the doors.

At the usual hour of midnight, accordingly, when the door flew open and
the white spectre bearing a lamp and a bunch of keys made its appearance,
he seized his weapons of destruction; when, lo! as his finger was on the
point of touching the trigger, what was his panic on perceiving that the
apparition was no other than the daughter of his host, a young and pretty
girl, evidently walking in her sleep! Preserving the strictest silence, he
watched her set down the lamp, place her keys carefully on the
chimney-piece, and retire to the opposite bed, which, as it afterwards
proved, she had often occupied during the life-time of her late mother who
slept in the room.

No sooner had she thoroughly composed herself, than the officer, after
locking the door of the room, went in search of her father and several
competent witnesses; including the water-bailiff of the district, who had
been one of the loudest in circulating rumours concerning the Haunted Inn.
The poor girl was found quietly asleep in bed; and her terror on waking in
the dreaded chamber, afforded sufficient evidence to all present of the
state of somnambulism in which she had been entranced.

From that period, the spectre was seen no more; probably because the
landlord's daughter removed shortly afterwards to a home of her own.

It has frequently occurred, for ill-disposed persons to profit by the
ill-name of a haunted house, as in the case of gangs of coiners and
thieves, who raise such reports in order to secure impunity in their
haunts. The Palace of the Tuileries is said to be haunted by a Red Man,
who regularly appears on the eve of any popular tumult, betiding evil to
the Royal Family of France. And appear he will, to the end of time; for
those who wish to create a political panic, take care that the apparition
shall be periodically renewed. The Palace at Berlin was at one time in
danger of having a Weisse Frau, or White Lady, to match with the Red Man.

During the reign of Frederick I., one of the Princesses, his daughters,
being dangerously ill, a white spectre was seen to traverse the royal
corridor leading to her apartments; and from that moment, the royal family
gave up all hope of her recovery. The following night, the Princess
expired; and not a soul about the Court doubted that the fatal event had
been announced by the appearance of the White Lady, who, on being
challenged by the guard at the head of the staircase had flitted past like
a shadow. Great difficulty was found in procuring proper attendants to
watch beside the body of her royal highness; when one of the royal
Chaplains requested a sight of the depositions of the soldiers by whom the
spectre had been accosted.

The mystery was instantly explained. A favourite attendant of the late
Princess, who, from the moment of her death had been confined to her bed
by severe affliction, happened to have mentioned to the Chaplain that, on
quitting her royal highness's room in search of him, about midnight, the
night preceding her mistress's demise, having a white veil thrown over her
head to keep her from the night air, she had been challenged by the
sentinel on guard; which being contrary to etiquette in a spot where her
person was well known, she had not thought proper to reply. On further
investigation, the evidence of the young lady herself was obtained; when
it appeared that the period of her passage in a white night-dress, to and
from the Princess's apartments, corresponded exactly with the apparitions
of the White Lady described by the soldiers a happy relief for those who
were compelled to inhabit that wing of the palace.

A curious discovery occurred some years ago, at the head-quarters of the
French army on the banks of the Rhine. It appears that rumours became
suddenly prevalent of the repeated appearance of the spectre of the famous
General Marceau, who, was killed at Altenkirchen near Coblentz, in 1796,
and buried in the glacis of that city. He was, nevertheless, seen in his
uniform as a General of Chasseurs, with a drawn sword in his hand, by
several sentries and patroles; and nothing was discussed in Paris but the
nature of the omens to be inferred from this apparition of one of the
bravest officers of the Republic.

It happened that the French Commandant of the city of Coblentz was a
school-fellow and intimate friend of General Marceau; and either in hopes
of once more beholding one so much beloved, or with a view of detecting
the impostor who had presumed to trifle with his memory, he marched to the
spot pointed out as the usual haunt of the spectre, escorted by a company
of grenadiers.

Shortly after his arrival, the ghost made its customary appearance, and by
way of military salute, the Commandant ordered his men to "make ready" and
"present!" But ere he could add the fatal word "fire," the ghost was upon
its knees, whining piteously; realizing the officer's shrewd suspicions
that it would prove to be one of the boatmen of the Rhine, who had assumed
this appalling costume in order to pursue his calling unmolested, of
conveying by night to the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, opposite Coblentz,
(at that moment besieged by the French) the provisions and succours so
vital to the garrison. In the character of Marceau's ghost, accordingly,
he had nightly paraded the glacis; keeping the coast clear from intrusion,
while his boats traversed the river towards the fortress.

Every one who has travelled in Hungary is familiar with the superstitions
of the Willis, or dancing-brides, and the Vampires, or bodies that
preserve a posthumous life by the suction of blood from human veins. But
the latter superstition has found its way to other countries. A grave
having been accidentally opened in a church-yard in Lorraine, about the
year 1726, the body of a schoolmaster who, in his lifetime, had been
strongly suspected of proficiency in the occult sciences, but who had been
dead nearly half a century, was discovered in his coffin, as plump and
fresh as though still alive; his eyes bright--his air joyous.

The whole village having crowded to the spot to behold the miracle,
instantly recognised a Vampire in this healthful corpse. Thousands of
anecdotes were instantly cited of children lost in the neighbourhood; who,
though previously supposed to have fallen into the river, or been
destroyed by wolves, had evidently satisfied the dreadful appetites of the
dead schoolmaster! In order to keep him, for the future, quiet and
harmless in his grave, the villagers drove a stake through the body, after
having cut off his head and burnt it on the spot.

Had they persevered in their search, they would doubtless have found
reason to fear, from the evidence of the adjoining graves, that their own
fathers and mothers were also Vampires. Many soils, particularly those
impregnated with nitre, have the property of preserving bodies by
converting them to a substance resembling spermaceti. Similar discoveries
have been made in several church-yards in England; but luckily without
provoking suspicions so preposterous.

In the course of a few years, thanks to the progress of national
education, the best authenticated ghost-story going will scarcely find an
auditor. Half of the magic rites and mystic wonders of the olden time have
found able expositors in our own, in the retort and the crucible. We no
longer exorcise a ghost:--we decompose it,--like any other gas.

The orgies of intemperance used to be a fertile source of apparitions; as
in the case of the female spectre which rebuked the infidelity of Lord
Lyttleton--and the appearance of Lord Lyttleton himself to his friend
Miles Peter Andrews; two _bon vivants_, who were most likely indebted for
their nocturnal visions to an extra bottle of claret, and a broiled bone.

A clergyman, who had been struggling hard and sacrificing his nights' rest
for a series of months to a new translation of the Prophecies, took it
into his head one night, that three children had entered his room and were
seated at his writing table. As there was nothing alarming in such a
visitation, he continued to write on; and on retiring to bed, at daybreak,
left his young visitors apparently occupying their place. When he woke in
the morning, they had of course disappeared.

The illusion was, however, so strong, and recurred so often, that his
studies were seriously interrupted; till at last he took the only wise
step ever taken by an inveterate ghost-seer:--he consulted an eminent
physician.

"You have been overworking yourself," was the judicious reply, "and unless
you have recourse to air and exercise, your nervous system will become
seriously impaired. Such cases are by no means rare among men of studious
habits. In some instances, the spectrum is created by a disorder of the
optic nerve. In yours, I am pretty nearly sure that it arises from
derangement of the stomach. A good dose of calomel, my dear Sir, will lay
all your ghosts in the Red Sea!"

An ignominious conclusion of a romance, which in some respects resembles
the story of the Lutheran clergyman related in Wraxall's Memoirs! who, on
taking possession of his cure, was awoke early next morning by the spectre
of a pastor in his gown and band, praying beside the desk at the foot of
his bed, and holding a ghastly child by either hand, whom he
recognised--by a likeness suspended in the parish church--as his
predecessor in the living. This occurred in summer time; but at the
beginning of winter, when the stove in his chamber came to be lighted, as
it never used to be in the time of the former pastor, an unpleasant smell
issuing from the chimney caused a search to be instituted; when lo! the
bones of two young children were found among the ashes in the stove. The
incumbent, who had already circulated the report of his ghost story, had
of course the comfort of finding child-murder attributed to his
predecessor.

The instance of Eugene Aram and 'Dan Clarke's bones' affords strong proof
that those who hide can find; and in the ease in question, there appears
some doubt whether the spectre were the delinquent.

The subject of ghosts, however, must not be treated with less reverence
than its due. Samuel and the Witch of Endor, and the declaration of the
Evangelist that, during the Passion of our Saviour "the dead were raised
up, and seen by many in the City of Jerusalem," remind us that spectral
visitations are consistent with the records of Holy Writ. But in this
case, as in that of demoniacal possession, the Christian era has produced
a revolution in the pschycological phenomena of nature; the power of the
evil one over the human race being modified so that the dead are no longer
raised up; while the angels of the Lord no longer manifest themselves to
the eyes of mankind, nor do His fallen angels take possession of the
living soul.

A remarkable story connected with the belief in spectral visitations, is
that of the celebrated Bernhardi of Vienna; who after spending the evening
in a gay carouse with a party of young men of infidel principles, where he
boldly avowed his disbelief in the existence of ghosts, undertook to
proceed, as the bell tolled midnight, to an adjoining church-yard, and
stick into a grave pointed out to him, a fork which was taken from the
supper-table and presented to him for the purpose.

A considerable wager was to depend upon his execution of the feat; and at
the appointed hour, with a daring deportment Bernhardi quitted the
company, and repaired to the scene of action. It was agreed that he should
return to the supper-table, leaving the fork sticking in the grave so as
to be found on the morrow, in token of his accomplishment of the exploit.

Ten minutes would have sufficed for his visit to the church-yard. But at
the close of an hour he was still absent; when his companions became
convinced that he had turned coward and sneaked home to bed. They
instantly determined to convict his defection by following him to his
lodgings; but on their arrival, found, with no small consternation, that
he had not made his appearance.

One of them, more his friend than the rest, really alarmed for his safety,
proposed that they should visit the church-yard, and ascertain, at least,
whether he had accomplished the feat. When lo! extended on the grave lay
the lifeless body of the scoffer; who had burst a blood-vessel and died of
fright.

Having accidentally pinned down his cloak to the earth in sticking the
fork into the ground, where it still remained, he probably fancied himself
transfixed by the hands of the grisly tenant of the grave he was thus
unpardonably violating, for the sport of a drunken frolic; and thus became
the victim of his unwarrantable sacrilege. Let those who jest upon such
fearful matters, take warning by Bernhardi!

Another superstition connected with the disembodied spirit, is the belief
that spectres are to be found in the neighbourhood of hidden treasures.

In barbarous countries, it was the practice to kill a slave on a spot
where treasures were deposited, in order that his soul might watch over
the hoard, and terrify others from the spoil.

In Ireland, such murders would be gratuitous; for almost every spot
pointed out as having been a depository of treasures, in the olden time,
is said to be haunted by a banshee.

The same superstition appears to prevail in Germany and the Low Countries.

Some years ago, a most ridiculous incident, founded upon this prejudice,
came before the inquisition of the Saxon tribunals.

The Burgomaster of the village of Brummersdorf, being a man of dissolute
propensities, was in the habit of frequenting the public-house of the
place, in order to enjoy with loose companions the irregularities he dared
not attempt in his own house, in the fear of drawing upon himself the
reprehension of his superiors in office. A fellow of the name of
Osterwald, who acted as his clerk, was usually the companion of these
excesses; and many a good bottle of wine formed the cement of the
excellent understanding between them.

One summer night, as they were seated, according to custom, in the public
room of the inn, considerably the worse for a carouse prolonged after the
decent inhabitants of the village had retired to rest, a stranger entered
the inn demanding a night's lodging; and having approached the table at
which the Burgomaster and his friend were drinking, continued to attract
their attention by uttering profound sighs.

Provoked by the interruption, the Burgomaster, whose name was Listenbach,
demanded the cause of his affliction; to which the fellow replied that it
was one with which he did not choose to trouble two gentlemen so
distinguished as those he saw before him.

Tickled by this flattery, Osterwald insisted on an explanation; and, at
length, after much show of caution and mystery, the stranger declared that
being a poor student of the University of Jena, he had been warned by a
dream to repair to the old Castle of Brummersdorf; where he would find a
fertile source of prosperity for his old age.

"I knew not," said the stranger, "that there existed such a spot as
Brummersdorf on the face of the globe; but on consulting my books of
science, the following morning, I discovered, not only that it possessed
the ruins of an ancient castle, formerly one of the finest in Westphalia,
but that the constellations were favourable to the enterprize."

"I recommend you then to set off at daybreak for the Castle," said
Osterwald, "which is situated only a few hundred yards' distance, on the
cliff overhanging the village."

"Alas! I have just returned from thence!" replied the stranger. "I was
expressly enjoined in my dream to visit the spot at the full of the moon."

"And what success have you met with, my good friend?" demanded Listenbach,
with increasing curiosity.

"I need not tell you gentlemen, since you appear to be inhabitants of the
place," replied the stranger, "that the old Castle of Brummersdorf is the
depository of a prodigious treasure, the property of the extinct house of
that name."

"Indeed!" exclaimed his astonished auditors. "That accounts for the edict
issued by Government that the inhabitants should on no account be
permitted to disturb a stone of that ancient monument!"

"On arriving at the spot," rejoined the stranger, "I made known in a loud
voice the spiritual authority by which my mission was appointed. When lo!
the spirit to whom is delegated the guardianship of the hidden treasure
replied that he was not permitted to divulge the spot where it was buried,
unless adjured by three persons at once; and unless the vault containing
it were opened by a magic key--to be formed of pure gold. But alas!
however tempting the prospect, gentlemen, how is a poor devil like myself
to procure the twenty-one ducats which the spirit asserts to be
indispensable for the casting of the key; or the attendance of two
enterprizing companions willing to share my exploit, and its noble
reward?"

"Your two companions are before you," exclaimed the boozy Burgomaster, "if
you will accept our company. Let me see what money I have in my purse!"

Even without paying the reckoning--including a fresh bottle of wine,
called for to drink to the success of their expedition--the purse of the
Burgomaster did not furnish half the necessary sum. Nothing was easier for
him, however, than to despatch his clerk to the strong box of his office;
which, as he was obliging enough to acquaint them, contained nearly a
couple of hundred ducats.

In as short a time as the condition of his intellects would allow,
Osterwald returned with the requisite sum; and the three companions, after
an inspiriting bumper, took their way towards the ruins of the old
castle.[2]

    [2] The scene of Dousterswivel in the house of the Antiquary, may,
    perhaps, owe its origin to the heroes of the Castle of Brummersdorf.

Having arrived on a platform before the venerable gateway, distinctly
visible by the brilliant light of the moon, the stranger drew from his
pocket a short black stick, with which he traced upon the parched turf a
small circle, adorning it with several mystical devices and symbols.

"Within this magic circle," said he, addressing his companions who were
overcome, partly by wine and partly by awe, "you must place yourselves, in
order to be secure from the molestation of the evil spirits besetting the
spot; while I proceed to fulfil the conditions of the guardian spirit of
the eastern tower."

The two drunkards, not a little pleased to be thus secured from an
interview so tremendous, readily complied; and having furnished the
stranger with the purse, took up their position within the circle. For
some time, intense anxiety kept them silent. At length, they ventured to
communicate to each other their opinion, that the interview between the
strange student and the Spirit of the Castle was somewhat long; but being
fortified by their position within the magic circle, weary of standing,
and oppressed by drowsiness, they agreed to stretch their limbs on the
ground.

Next morning, the village of Brummersdorf was disturbed by the discovery
that in the course of the night the office of the Burgomaster had been
broken into, and its strong box pillaged, the iron safe being left empty
on the floor. A further search was immediately instituted; but no
Burgomaster was to be found; and his clerk being also absent, the
dissolute character of Listenbach and Osterwald caused them to fall under
suspicion of having embezzled and carried off the public funds.

The testimony of the village landlord, however, soon induced other
surmises; and the constables, by whom the robbery was discovered, having
proceeded at the head of a body of peasants to the ruins of the old
Castle, the hapless Burgomaster and his drunken clerk were discovered
stretched on the ground:--not, as was in the first instance apprehended,
bathed in their gore, but quietly sleeping off the fumes of their carouse!

The loss of his money was succeeded, of course, by the loss of the place
for which he had shown himself so incompetent. But in the course of the
summer, the cunning impostor was arrested; and it was the evidence of the
parties themselves on his trial which gave publicity to the story!

An amusing anecdote occurs in the Memoirs of the President de Thou; whose
son, also a lawyer of eminence, having been despatched by Government in
1596 to the town of Saumur, on a mission of consequence, was desired to
take up his quarters in the ancient Hôtel-de-Ville, the seat of
Government.

Having retired to bed with the uneasy feelings usually attendant on
sleeping in a strange place, particularly one of so gloomy and solitary an
aspect, the President was awoke about midnight by the weight of some heavy
burthen suddenly flung upon his chest; and entertained little doubt that
an attempt was about to be made upon his life. Being a man of strength and
courage, he seized the object in his arms, and flung it violently on the
floor; when, by the heavy moans that ensued, he perceived it to be a human
being.

"Doubtless some thief," was his next reflection, "who was searching under
my bolster during my slumbers for my watch and purse."

While the President was preparing to jump out of bed, the figure, which
was attired in white, rose feebly from the floor, and by the dim light of
the moon, assumed a somewhat spectral appearance.

"Who are you?" cried the President, "answer this moment, or I will fell
you to the earth!"

"Who am I, ignoramus? Who _should_ I be but the Queen of Heaven!" replied
a cracked female voice; while the servant of the President, who slept in
an adjoining room, being now disturbed, rushed in with lights; and with
the aid of the porter of the Hôtel-de-Ville discovered the intruder to be
a poor maniac, accustomed to wander about the streets of Saumur and find
shelter where she could.

Perceiving the doorway of the private apartments of the Hôtel-de-Ville to
be open, the poor woman had profited by so unusual a circumstance to
secure the best bed-room. On Monsieur de Thou's return to Paris, the King,
who insisted on hearing from his own lips his ridiculous adventure,
complimented him on his presence of mind; admitting that, for his own
part, he stood more in fear of ghosts than of the shot of the enemy.

Had the servants of Monsieur de Thou encountered this midnight visitant
instead of their master, it is probable that the town of Saumur would have
enjoyed the reputation of having a haunted Hôtel-de-Ville as long as one
stone remained upon another.

The forest of Ratenau, in Westphalia, passed, during a whole year, for
being haunted by white spectres of the gnome or imp description; who
having accosted, not only the peasants of the neighbourhood, but some of
the servants of the Count returning after nightfall from the neighbouring
market, the road through the forest came to be deserted, and the greatest
consternation prevailed at the Schloss von Ratenau.

"On my arriving at the Castle from Berlin to spend the summer," said the
Count, in relating the story, "I found the poor people firmly persuaded
that a supernatural race of beings had attained supreme power over a
portion of my estate; and it was vain to attempt to argue them into a more
rational frame of mind. Judge, however, of my surprise, when, on returning
through the forest, a few nights after my arrival, from the house of one
of my neighbours, the carriage stopped suddenly, the horses reared
violently; and the postillion, instead of attempting to keep his saddle,
began roaring aloud, 'The Spirits--The Evil Spirits!'

"Another minute and the carriage was dashed from the road and overturned
in a ravine; nor was it without much difficulty that I extricated myself,
the postillion having already taken to his heels accompanied his fellow
servants. I confess to you, that, half stunned by the accident, I
experienced some uneasiness at the idea of finding myself alone, at
midnight, with the object which had produced this fearful consternation,
whether robber or impostor; nay, I will not swear that some of the
fantastic tales of Schiller and Goethe did not recur to my mind.

"Great, therefore, was my satisfaction on emerging from the broken
vehicle, and perceiving two white shapes bounding and gambolling at a
distance among the hoary trunks of the oak trees, to recognize two
handsome white grey-hounds, which I afterwards ascertained to have strayed
from the kennel of the Prince Henry of Prussia, and to have subsisted for
a year on their depredations in the forest of Ratenau!"

Another adventure occurred on the estate of a nobleman of the same family,
in the Duchy of Brunswick. An attempt was made to rob the village church;
the sacramental plate and poor-box being found one morning in the nave of
the church wrapped in a piece of old sacking, so as to give rise to an
opinion that the thieves must have been disturbed in their sacrilegious
enterprize. Some time afterwards, a gang of burglars having been arrested,
the judge of the neighbouring town charged them, after their conviction of
divers other robberies, with being accessory to the crime in question.

In a moment, these fellows, who had preserved the most hardened audacity,
fell on their knees, and freely confessed the attempt; adding, that they
had been prevented carrying off their booty by the sudden appearance of
the evil one emerging from the vestry; and as far as the uncertain light
of their dark lantern in that vast area enabled them to judge, in the form
of a horned monster.

A general laugh instantly arose in court; several of the inhabitants of
the village in question recognizing by this description, a tame stag, the
pet of a former incumbent of the living, which was allowed the run of the
presbytery orchard and church-yard; and which, having most opportunely
sought shelter in the porch on the night in question, had probably
followed the robbers into the church, which they entered by means of false
keys, leaving the doors open for their readier escape.

It is recorded in the Memoirs of one of the free-thinking circle which
surrounded Baron d'Holbach, in Paris, previous to the Revolution, that
having retired to bed one night after a gay supper, during which this
_coterie_ of sceptics amused themselves with the most blasphemous
conversation, his gay companions, in order to try his courage, introduced
into his bed-room a goat, whose fleece had been steeped in spirits of
wine; which, when set on fire, gave to the unlucky animal an aspect truly
horrific.

The goat almost equally terrified with its intended victim, instantly ran
to the bed and attempted to extinguish the flames by rubbing itself
against the bed-clothes, which it set on fire; and the young man, having
drunk freely at supper so as to be heavily asleep was with difficulty
extricated from the flames. The goat died of the consequences of this
cruel experiment; and the young man was subject for the remainder of his
life to epileptic fits.

Many instances are on record of an equally serious termination to these
foolish practical jokes. Witness the well-known story of the young lady,
who, after boasting of her intrepidity, had a skeleton from a neighbouring
surgery brought into her bed-room by her brothers and some young friends
staying in her father's house. On retiring to rest, these cruel jesters
listened anxiously for the shrieks which they hoped would betray her
cowardice, and were greatly disappointed to find her as self-possessed as
she had announced; for instead of screaming, she went quietly to bed. But
alas! next morning, when the servant entered her room, she was found
playing with the skeleton, in a state of complete fatuity!--

In the southern provinces of France, there prevails a superstition,
derived probably from the lycanthropy of the ancients, that certain
persons assume at night the form of wolves, and roam the country for prey,
under the name of _loup-garoux_; a fable which gave rise to Perrault's
charming fairy-tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

In a neighbourhood said to be frequented by one of these devastators, who
was of course no other than a man in wolf's clothing, who, in this assumed
character pillaged the adjacent farms, a _garde champêtre_ or country
constable, who had been several times attacked by the supposed monster,
contrived to lop off his paw with a hatchet; and, on the escape of the
_loup-garou_, found, as he expected, that the furry paw contained a human
hand! All the labourers of the neighbourhood were accordingly visited by
the gendarmes to ascertain, by his mutilation, the identity of the
sheep-stealer. But the delinquent had already fled the country; and the
imputed cause of his flight was confirmed a few years afterwards, by his
re-appearance in another department of France, maimed of his left hand!

Sometimes, these _loup-garoux_ are madmen, whose insanity has taken this
monomaniacal form; as in the instance of the vintager near Padua, in the
sixteenth century, who was apprehended on a charge of furiously biting his
neighbours on pretence of his lycanthropic propensities. When reminded
that his face was unchanged, while the real _loup-garoux_ have always a
wolfish physiognony, he asserted that he was permitted to wear his
wolf-skin inwards; whereupon the barbarous village tribunal by which he
was tried, ordered his hands to be amputated and skinned, to ascertain the
truth of the assertion!

Inflammation ensued, and the wretched lunatic died of his wounds!--



CHAPTER L.

APOCRYPHAL ANIMALS.


The tarantula is a spider about the size of a nut; the head being
surmounted by two horns charged with venomous matter. It has also antennæ
which become violently agitated at the sight of its prey; with eight legs,
and the same number of eyes, usually of a grey colour, but occasionally
marked with livid spots upon a blueish ground. This variety is considered
the most dangerous. The tarantula is hairy in the body, and lies torpid in
the earth during winter. It revives at the return of spring, when the
inhabitants of the district wear half boots for the protection of their
legs.

In the month of June which is their breeding season, their venom acquires
more virulence. The part wounded by this animal becomes livid, yellow, or
black; and the victim sinks into despondency, as in cases of hydrophobia.
The following account of the bite of a tarantula is borrowed from the
letters of the physician St. André.

A Neapolitan soldier who had been bitten by a tarantula, though apparently
cured, suffered from an annual attack of delirium, after which he used to
sink into a state of profound melancholy; his face becoming livid, his
sight obscure, his power of breathing checked, accompanied by sighs and
heavings. Sometimes he fell senseless, and devoid of pulsation; ejecting
blood from his nose and mouth, and apparently dying. Recourse was had to
the influence of music; and the patient began to revive at the sound, his
hands marking the measure, and the feet being similarly affected. Suddenly
rising and laying hold of a bystander, he began to dance with the greatest
agility during an uninterrupted course of four-and-twenty hours. His
strength was supported by administering to him wine, milk, and fresh eggs.
If he appeared to relapse; the music was repeated, on which he resumed his
dancing. This unfortunate being used to fall prostrate if the music
accidentally stopped, and imagine that the tarantula had again stung him.
After a few years he died, in one of these annual attacks of delirium.

St. André is not the only man of science who attributes awful effects to
the bite of the tarantula. Baglini, a man of considerable eminence,
maintains that not only the bite causes the patient to dance, but that
the insect itself is readily excitable by music.

The properties attributed to the tarantula, in modern times, are not borne
out by the testimony of the ancients. Dr. Pinel, in his commentaries upon
the works of Baglini, a most eminent authority in the World of Science,
quotes the adverse opinion of another man of acknowledged merit,
Epiphany-Ferdinandi, who declares that many persons of his acquaintance
had been bitten by tarantulas, without experiencing any other
inconvenience than might have occurred from the sting of a wasp. Thus
reduced to the class of a venomous spider, it becomes stripped of its
magic powers as the scorpion ceased to be a salamander, when the ordeal of
burning alcohol was found to be invariably fatal.

The renown of the salamander is, however, of far more ancient date than
that of the tarantula. Aristotle, Pliny, Oelian, Nicander, all the
illustrious apostles of the marvellous, declare that the salamander lives
in the midst of flames, and exercises such a control over them, that one
salamander was capable of extinguishing the Lemnian forges. In the time of
Henri II., the famous Ambroise Paré, pronounced the salamander to be
incombustible. Others assert that they have seen salamanders extinguish
burning embers by emitting a viscous humour, and Benvenuto Cellini, in his
Memoirs, gives an account of having seen a salamander in the midst of his
fire. The salamander, or rather the newt that bears that name, partakes of
the lizard and frog, being generally from five to six inches in length.
Naturalists admit two kinds, the land and the water salamander.
Maupertius, among many others, submitted both species to the test of fire,
and the result was the same as with any other animal.

The were-wolves of antiquity, and _loup-garoux_ of the middle ages,
disappeared in the open daylight of modern science. Virgil confers on
Moeris the power of transforming himself into a wolf, Varro Pamponius,
Mela, Strabo, ascribe the same faculty to various individuals skilled in
the art of magic. In the annals of the early French courts of law, there
may be found many instances of condemnation for witchcraft and
transformation into were-wolves for criminal purposes; and more than one
of these wretched victims, probably in a fit of mental aberration, pleaded
guilty to the accusation.

In 1521, Pierre Burgot and Michael Verdun, confessed before the Parliament
of Besançon, that they had frequently transformed themselves into
were-wolves, and attacked little girls and boys. Half a century later,
the Parliament of Paris condemned to the flames Jacques Rollet for having
transformed himself into a were-wolf, and half devoured a little boy. If
we can believe the account of Job Pincel, Constantinople was so infested
with were-wolves, in the middle of the sixteenth century, that the Sultan
went forth with his guard and exterminated one hundred and fifty, when the
remainder took to flight.

In a conference of theologians convened by the Emperor Sigismund,
transformation into were-wolves was pronounced a crime, and any assertion
to the contrary was accounted heresy.

In the same century, domestic goblins or familiars were generally
accredited. In the twelfth century, a goblin domesticated in a small town
of Saxony, was known by the name of Cap-a-Point, and a great favourite
with the inhabitants; for whom he cleared their wood, lit their fires, and
turned their spits. He was, however, of a vindictive temper; and a
turnspit, in one of the kitchens he frequented, having ill-used him, he
strangled him in the night, cut him in pieces, and served him to his
master in a ragout. The goblin, who saved himself by flight, was
anathematized by the clergy as an evil spirit; being, in all probability,
some half idiotic deaf and dumb urchin, like Peter the Wild Boy.

In the thirteenth century, a house in the Rue d'Enfer in Paris,
subsequently a monastery, was infested by goblins, and in the year 1262,
the King granted the reverend fathers an exemption from taxes, provided
they were able to exorcise these familiar spirits by their prayers and
invocations. Among the last on record were those seen by Monsieur
Berbiginer de Terre Neuve, who lived in the Rue Guénégaud, and left
copious Memoirs of his contentions with these imaginary beings!--

While witches, spirits, and salamanders, have disappeared from the surface
of Europe, modern Asia appears to have sustained a far greater loss in the
phoenix, which has ceased to rise from its ashes.

Many writers, both ancient and modern, have minutely described the
appearance and habits of this fabulous bird; as though an object of
natural history rather than of poetical fiction.

The phoenix may be regarded as an allegorical type, like most mythological
fables. Among the great writers who appear to have believed in its actual
existence was Tacitus. In the sixth book of his Annals, he affirms that
the phoenix was seen in Egypt under the Consulate of Paulus Fabius, and
Lucius Vitellius; and that its appearance gave rise to much discussion
among the scientific men of Egypt and Greece. Tacitus adds that the
periodical return of the phoenix is an incontestable truth. The scholiast,
Solinus, relates the same facts; adding that the phoenix was taken during
the last year of the eighth century of the foundation of Rome, where it
was exhibited to the public gaze. The event was recorded in the imperial
archives.

The account given by Tacitus is far more doubtful than that of Solinus.
The Emperor Claudius probably chose that the Romans should see a phoenix
in a certain bird presented to their admiration; and many a modern
sovereign might, by the same means, have created a phoenix.

The Fathers of the Church profess the same conviction as Tacitus and
Solinus concerning the phoenix. A passage taken from an Epistle to the
Corinthians by St. Clement, in speaking of the resurrection of mankind,
has the following passage:

"There exists in Arabia, a bird, the only one of its kind, which is called
the phoenix. After living one hundred years, on the eve of death it
embalms itself; and having collected myrrh, incense, and aromatics, forms
a funeral pyre for its own obsequies. When its flesh is decomposed, a worm
is generated, which forms and perfects itself from the remains into a new
phoenix. Having acquired strength to take wing, it carries off the tomb
containing the mortal remains of its parent, and carries it from Arabia to
the city of Heliopolis, in Egypt. Having traversed the air, visible to all
eyes, it places its burthen on the altar of the Sun, and flies away again.
The priests, by consulting their chronicles, have discovered that this
phenomenon is repeated every five hundred years."

The description of the phoenix by Solinus is as follows:--"This bird is of
the size of an eagle; its head embellished with a cone of feathers; its
neck surrounded with heron-like plumes and dazzling as gold. The remainder
of the body is of a beautiful violet, excepting the tail, which is a
mingled rose and blue."

Plutarch speaks of the phoenix with as much reverence as if it were an
illustrious man. He states the brain to be an article of delicacy for the
table, though he does not mention having tasted it! The fable of the
phoenix, which is both graceful and ingenious, and has been rendered
available by the poets of the last two thousand years, was probably
invented by the priests of Egypt, the first embalmers of the dead. Another
bird of Arabia--the roc, or condor, has given rise to a thousand Oriental
fables. The Bird of Paradise, which was for centuries supposed to be the
inhabitant of a higher sphere, so rarely was it seen alive, has now been
tamed in an European aviary at Canton. Let us hope that some future
menagerie may obtain a specimen of the phoenix.



CHAPTER LI.

PROFESSIONS ESTEEMED INFAMOUS.


In the reign of Louis XVIII., an oration was made in the French Chamber of
Deputies, complaining of the vileness of certain parties employed by the
police. The Duc Decazes, then at the head of the administration, replied:
"Point out to me honest men who would undertake the same functions, and I
promise to employ them."

The infamy attached to spies and common informers is a wholesome
prejudice. In England, the nature of our constitution and political
institutions secures us from the intrusion of such vermin; who were
extensively employed in France by the police of the elder Bourbons and of
Napoleon. In Austria, and, above all, in Russia, no society is secure
against them; and half the Russian travellers dispersed through Europe,
even those bearing illustrious names, are neither more nor less than
spies. The fashionable watering places of the continent are infested by
these individuals, most of whom have solicited from the Emperor the
honourable appointment of travelling spy.

A vocation which must always convey infamy, and which is more essential to
the well-being of society, is that of public executioner; and
notwithstanding the disgust with which it is contemplated, whenever there
occurs a vacancy in the office, in any country, a host of solicitors
present themselves.

In Russia, which many pretend to consider a barbarous country, there is no
salaried executioner. So infamous is the office considered, that in the
event of a capital execution, a criminal convicted of a less heinous crime
undertakes it, and thereby gains his pardon. Formerly, in state
executions, the executioner used to be masked, to secure him from the
odium attending his calling.

In some countries, the stage, or rather the profession of an actor is an
object of violent prejudice. In France actors were denied for several
centuries the rites of Christian burial, and even in the present century
have been made objects of excommunication. England was the first to show a
more liberal example, by the interment of Garrick in Westminster Abbey,
and the intermarriage of the nobility with actresses;--a violent and
pernicious extreme. During the Consulate in France, even on occasion of
state dinners, Mademoiselle Coutat was admitted as the associate of Madame
Bonaparte, as Talma of the First Consul. But on the restoration of the
Bourbons, public opinion resumed in this particular nearly all its former
inveteracy.

In England, the leading members of the profession, such as the Kembles,
Young, Macready, Charles Kean, whose conduct in private life is as
exemplary as their talents on the stage are distinguished, are received in
society with the same respect conceded to any other order of literary
persons. In France, this honourable position would be untenable; so deeply
rooted are the prejudices of the vulgar. A clever French writer, who was
in his youth an actor, relates the following anecdote:--

"Being once engaged in a company of players in a town in the south of
France, he devoted the leisure of his theatrical duties to literary
pursuits. A shoe-maker, whom he employed, an ardent admirer of the
dramatic art, occasionally attempted to engage him in conversation; and
the actor indulged the man's passion for theatricals by presenting him
with tickets of free admission. At the end of some month's acquaintance,
the shoemaker entered the actor's lodgings one morning in the greatest
glee, and informed him that it was his daughter's wedding-day, and that he
was come to invite him to the ceremony. The actor, hesitating to accept
the invitation, made a variety of polite excuses to his humble friend, who
seized him cordially by the hand. "I see how it is," said he. "You think
my friends will not like to sit at table with an actor! But never mind. I
am not proud, and for my sake they will overlook it!"

The gentlemen of the household of Louis XIV. refused to make the King's
bed with Molière, who had purchased a small place in the royal household,
because he had been an actor. This was a just punishment to one who should
have abstained from a position so infinitely below his rank in the great
scale of human nature. Of the individuals thus fastidious, the names are
unknown to posterity. That of Molière is immortal.

John Kemble was the occasional guest of the Prince Regent, and Mrs.
Siddons enjoyed the highest distinctions from the highest personages in
the realm. Still, even in England, among the lower classes, a prejudice
prevails against comedians; but arising chiefly from the irregularities
with which many belonging to the inferior class of the profession are
unfortunately chargeable.



CHAPTER LII.

SUPERNATURAL HUMAN BEINGS.


There is no species of supernatural power to which some impostor or other
has not pretended; some to incombustibility; some to insubmergeability;
some to invulnerability; some to invisibility. Men have been found who
pretend to fly,--to walk upon the surface of the waters,--to penetrate, by
the acuteness of their optics, into the depths of the earth. But though an
announcement of a balloon, a diving-bell, an electrical telegraph, or even
a railroad, would have appeared as much a matter of empty vaunt to the
ancients as these pretensions to ourselves, no extent of modern discovery
has enabled or is likely to enable mankind so thoroughly to defy the
existing laws of nature. The conformation of the human form expressly
points out the purposes and capabilities for which it was created.

We read in old books, in proverbial reference to human speed, that such a
one 'runs like a man without a spleen;' and it has been asserted that the
bearers of the posts of the ancients, had their spleen extracted in order
to facilitate despatch.

Even with our present chirurgical proficiency, such an operation would be
somewhat hazardous. But certain it is that dogs from which the spleen has
been removed in the way of experiment, are observed to grow unnaturally
fat, which would be no great advantage to a pedestrian. If the operation
in question were both harmless and effectual, it is deserving the
consideration of the King of Naples; who is accompanied by running footmen
from his palace in that city to his country palace of Caserta at some
leagues' distance; the unfortunate men being compelled to keep up on foot
with the hard trotting of the horses. Not a year passes, but one of these
victims of royal state drops dead from the exertion.

Running footmen constituted a very imposing portion of royal and noble
equipage in former times, when preceding the stately carriages of
prelates, drawn by mules, or the lumbering coaches and six of the days of
the Stuarts; when part of their business was to forewarn the coachmen of
holes in the pavement, or water-courses in the imperfect roads. But the
office of running footman in the days of macadamization, is a work of
supererogation. The act of barbarity of removing the spleen from such men
would not be much more cruel, however, than killing them by so terrible an
excess of exertion.

Nothing could be more remarkable than the feats of activity performed in
France by the _coureurs_, or running-footmen of the nobility prior to the
Revolution, and without any dangerous consequences. They were generally
Basques, or natives of the frontier country of Gascony, proverbially light
and active.

In the Landes, adjoining their district, another species of activity
prevails--the walking or running on stilts, necessitated by the sandy
nature of the soil. A large company of the inhabitants of that curious
desart, proceeding to market, resembles the course of a troop of
ostriches, or emus, over the Pampas.

The first aspect of these strangely-mounted men, probably gave rise to
some of the fictions of our early fairy-tales, such as the seven-leagued
boots of the ogre; just as the Laplanders and Patagonians originated races
of beings which exaggeration rendered fabulous.

The marvels related by the traveller, Mandeville, and the more recent
wonders described by Mungo Park, drew down upon their narrators a charge
of mendacity, for which we have been forced to make atonement to their
memory. How curious will be the first book of travels in England, written
by a New Zealander!--The author would be sacrificed by his countrymen, on
his return, as a wanton impostor!

It is related in French jest-books, that during the period of the
religious troubles of France, when decapitation was so common, a Gascon
executioner, boasting of his skill, was heard to protest that his victims
were so artistically despatched as to remain unconscious of their
execution. He was forced to say to them, 'have the goodness to shake your
head!'--when it rolled to the ground. In emulation of this foolish joke,
people used to assert during the Reign of Terror, that they were forced to
shake their heads every morning to be certain that, amid the general
massacre, they had escaped the guillotine. A century hence, what with the
acceleration of motion in every department--the application of caoutchouc
and bitumen to all sorts of purposes--and the general diffusion of
chemical science, we shall scarcely know whether we are on terra-firma, or
in the air; and the reflective powers of the human race may chance to
become strangely confused by such universal motation.

We may at least anticipate from the same source, the obliteration of
vulgar errors, and the dissolution of popular prejudices. Our successors
will have no time to cherish such chimeras as omens, presages, or
presentiments: no leisure for listening to old wives' tales, or traditions
of ghosts and devils.

For all classes, education effects the miracle of making the blind see,
the deaf hear, the lame walk; and in our own, its operations commence at
too early an age to leave our children at the mercy of ignorant
nurses--the fountain-head of all popular superstition.

A love of the marvellous is, however, so strongly implanted in certain
natures, and our capacity is after all so finite, that prejudices must
ever, to a certain extent, prevail. Hypochondriacs, invalids, and pregnant
women, will always be susceptible of the terrors of superstition; and so
long as children are born with the marks and deformities to which all
animated nature is liable, so long as the winter wind howls, 'the owls
shriek, and the crickets cry,' nervous persons will not be wanting to
listen to the foolish interpretations of any empty-headed gossip at hand.

To remedy the mischief, it becomes a peremptory duty to render the rising
generation 'wise virgins' in their youth, in order that they may not
become foolish old women in their age, to perpetuate the evils of POPULAR
PREJUDICES and NATIONAL SUPERSTITIONS.


END.


  LONDON:
  Printed by Schulze & Co., 13, Poland Street.





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