« PreviousContinue »
largest learning-the finest and most educated taste. He has disfigured his books, and encrusted the works of his lofty imagination with some eccentricities and af fectations. Now, that he is a Professor, let him rack off his muddy theories in Latin lectures, and the precious liquor will flow richer and clearer from the dregs. If he must write essays, let him not twist the poem to meet the essay, but make the essay meet the poem. No man can say, "Go to, I will write a Greek tragedy in English." Greek and Latin have put off flesh and blood, and become immortal: we do not like to be talking in the lanThere are many flowers guage of ghosts. in every language too fine to cross the sea; we must let them blow upon their own shore, and be at the trouble of a voyage to enjoy them. When we want a Greek tragedy let us have the real thing: there are plenty of copies of the "Poetæ Scenici." Let Mr. Arnold return to the vein of "Rustum and Balder," if "Tristram" and "the Church of Brou " offend his maturer taste-keeping Meropes for his desk, or for translations into Greek Iambics; and we venture to predict for him a name and a place among the poets of England.
From Fraser's Magazine.
A S MATA.
DR. MADDEN has managed to write a very dull book upon an exceedingly interesting subject. As far as we can make out his purpose from the catch-penny title and his general drift, if general drift there can be said to exist in these chaotic volumes, it is to illustrate the subject of moral contagion under its evil aspects. Certainly the theme is one upon which a very ordinary writer might have filled a couple of portly volumes like these with attractive and instructive matter. It would have
required no vast philosophic powers or literary skill to have so executed the work as to have rendered it an important addition to the library of every one who believes that "the proper study of mankind is man." From the evil sympathy which sets a convent of fine ladies and princesses mewing like cats, howling like dogs, and playing antics before a mixed commission of the other sex; or makes half the inhabitants of a province fancy themselves loup-garous; or fills the towns of Germany with disciples of Saint Vitus dancing themselves to death amidst the horror and ridicule of the saner population to that which causes the inevitable deterioration of character in inferior companionship
long continued, or even the transient sense of degradation which comes of the briefest communion with persons of relatively vitiated spirit, there is only a difference of degrees; and to have shown the power and reality of moral contagion, as we are all more or less liable to be affected by it, from the identity of its operation in its ordinary and in its extraordinary cases, would have been a performance meriting the gratitude of the world. Here indeed is a great theme ready to be taken up by any capable man who is desirous of doing his fellows a great service, and making himself a proportionate reputation. The subject has not been even spoilt by Dr. Madden. This gentleman suffers under the "epidemic mania" not uncommon in these days, of writing big books with the least possible expense of talent and trouble; this curious disease has caused him to perceive "epidemic mania" in almost every phenomenon of humanity which he happens to have read of or observed from the moment he first contemplated the composition and publication of his Phantasmata. For example, our wars with the French in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, are attributed to "a national epidemic mania of marauding in foreign countries." Not, however, content with the immeasurable scope which such a view of his subject gives him, Dr. Madden by a development of the principle on which his Memoirs of Lady Blessington were made to include a separate and independent memoir of every fifth-rate literary man who had ever been at Gore House, drags into his book every thing he has lately heard or read of which he thinks likely to please the public craving for the unaccountable or horrible. For example, certain phenomena of sorcery and witchcraft come legitimately under the head of "epidemic mania." Now the sacrifice of children seems to have constituted a part in certain forms of sorcery. But not very far removed from this subject is that of child-slaughter and cannibalism in general, which is elaborately illustrated. In this connection, Dr. Madden further treats us with interminable extracts from "Minutius Felix, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian," to prove that the primitive Christians did not practice human sacrifices, as the Pagans charged them with doing. Dr. Madden further shows that Athenagoras "triumphantly refutes the same slander." No less skillfully and curiously related to the
subject are the two hundred and thirtysix pages-one fourth of the entire workwhich are given to the history of Joan of Arc; or the forty-six pages occupied with the life of Saint Theresa. These personages having been quite unique in their time and way, and the subjects of inspiration or fanaticism, of singular independence and originality, were of course peculiarly fitted to illustrate the theme of "epidemic mania."
After the life of Saint Theresa-which, by the way, is nothing but a literal translation of her life written by herself-we have one hundred and twenty-five pages on "The Inquisition in Spain and Portugal," which we expected to see followed by an abstract of the Decline and Fall, and a history of Parliamentary Government in England; but these matters — together with others still more closely related to the theme, such as the Chinese War and the life of Lord Palmerston, with digressions on the coloration of green tea, and on the polarization of light; or the crinoline contagion, with illustrative essays on horse-hair and the microscopic peculiarities of the wool of the Indian bat
we presume, are reserved for the forthcoming parts of the work, which can not, with any conscience or consistency, be completed on its present plan in fewer than ten thousand octavos. The two bulky tomes before us, in addition to the dissertations already mentioned, have others on the "flagellation mania," in which Dr. Madden gives all the examples that have occurred in his reading of ascetic practices, none of them being in any way related to his subject; a life of Saint John the Baptist, showing that he was a very holy man, and therefore not unfit to be appealed to by those who were afflicted with epidemic chorea, and terminating with the information that "the festival of Saint John occurs on the 24th of June;" and voluminous appendices, containing, among other matters, complete chronolog ical statistics of all burnings for sorcery, treason, coining, etc.; "opinions of the Platonists and Pythagoreans of the third century of the Christian era; of Porphyry, a Platonic philosopher of Tyre, born in the year A.D. 233, the scholar of Longinus; and of Jamblichus, a Pythagorean philosopher and Platonist, a disciple of Porphyry," on the subject of "malefic spirits;" "The Nun's lament in the original Spanish, a poem of the fifteenth cen
tury;" a long dissertation from Feyjoo, ple: "The following notice of this sup| "Sobre La Multitud de Los Milagros," posed transformation of human beings also "in the original Spanish," etc., etc. into shapes of wolves and other animals, If the reader, after laboring through from that work of St. Augustine, I give these volumes, has learned nothing else, both in the English by the Rev. Alban he will at least have discovered that Dr. Butler and in the original Latin.” The Madden professes some acquaintance with artifice of repetition, which Mr. Carlyle the Latin and Spanish languages. This and other great writers have often used gentleman misses no opportunity of show- in order to impress their readers with iming his breeding; for example: "If any portant doctrines, is also adopted by Dr. disorder of the human race ever might be Madden. For instance, chapters twelve accounted one of demoniac origin, it sure- and thirteen both open with an historical ly was this furious and uncontrollable rage account of the "Black Death;" but this of 'La secta de los Dançantes,' as they artifice requires certain precautions to be are called by Suero." Dr. Madden is fond observed in the use of it when it concerns of displaying at once modesty and accu- the statement of facts; and Dr. Madden racy in his learning. We have heard of will do well in future editions of Phanbooks having been written with a pair of tasmata to make chapter twelve agree scissors, but this is the first example which with chapter thirteen as to the proporhas come before us of an author boasting tions of the human race destroyed by that of his having dispensed with the pen as famous mortality; for when we come to far as possible in the operation of book- such high numbers, the difference bemaking. Such declarations as the follow- tween one third and one fourth is not uning are not uncommon in Dr. Madden's important. work: "This chapter I place before my readers without the omission of a single word." "In the preceding account, the language of the Saint [Theresa] has been almost literally rendered." "I have given in the preceding literal translation from the French original, the whole of Bossuet's Raisons et Fondements." Had Bossuet's Raisons et Fondements, St. Theresa's Life, and Bohn's Cheap Classics, been inedited MSS. just discovered by Dr. Madden, he could not have transcribed, translated, and printed them with a greater sense of triumph Our readers will also perceive from the expressions we have quoted, that Dr. Madden usually reserves his information as to the fact of the matter giv- The first case of conventual "demonoen being extract or translation, until his pathy" given by Dr. Madden is that of disciples have perused it under the im- the nuns of Cambrai. In 1494, these nuns pression of its being original writing. were seized with symptoms which were This seems to us to be a new and curious investigated by authority, and declared expedient for combining the safety of au- to arise from devilish influence. Jeanne thority with the interest of novelty, and Pothière, one of the nuns, was denounced arriving at the utmost facility, without by the rest as the sorceress to whom their sacrificing the morality, of authorship. In evils were to be attributed; and she reorder we suppose that his readers may be ceived the sentence-mild for the time in some degree compensated for the en- of imprisonment for life. The nuns of tirely gratuitous character of many of his Cambrai "for a period of four years bedigressions, Dr. Madden takes care that lieved themselves tormented in the most they shall be thorough and exhaustive. horrible manner by demons. The posNo theologian illustrating a doubtful pas- sessed were seen laboring under the consage of Scripture, could give his authori-viction that they had been transformed ties with more satisfactory fullness than into animals, running about sometimes Dr. Madden does in his dissertations on like dogs, at other times like cats, counloup-garous and cataleptics. For exam-terfeiting their motions and their cries;
The only portions of Dr. Madden's book from which the student of the profoundly interesting subject of moral contagion is likely to obtain any substantial information, are the chapters on "Epidemic Monomania in Convents," on "Lycanthropy," and on "Convulsive Chorea." On these points Dr. Madden seems really to have read a good deal; and his facts, though ill put together, are numerous, and to the point. From these chapters we select the following illustrations of a class of maladies which have not ceased to be awful and mysterious because we have generally ceased to regard them as the results of demoniacal possession.
All the nuns present with, or even in hearing of the cries of, a new patient, became affected themselves. The cook of the convent, herself one of the sufferers, was fixed upon as the cause of the malady; and she and her mother were burnt alive, without, however, any mitigation of hysteria at Kintorp.
fancying themselves changed into birds," | tion. In this case each seizure was obetc. We have fuller details of a similar served to be the cause of many more. epidemic which broke out in the convent of Yvertet some sixty years afterwards. Most of the facts related are those of ordinary hysteria, as they would appear through the exaggerated medium of a belief in devilish possession. The nuns were first seized with fits of fear and melancholy, then with bursts of irrepressible laughter; sometimes they seemed to be dragged by force from their beds, and along the ground; lost their speech and power of moving, or were cast into convulsions and horrible distortions of form, with vomitings of a fluid like ink, and "so acrid as to excoriate the mouth and lips." Goulart thus describes the chief symptoms of this attack:
"When the convulsions set in, some were raised in the air to the height of a man, and all of a sudden were cast down on the ground. And when some of their friends came to visit those who seemed to be convalescent, or nearly so, the moment their friends appeared, some would fall flat to the ground on their faces; others lay stretched out as if they were dead, but with legs and arms twisted backwards. One of them was lifted up in the air, and though the assistants tried to prevent her rising, she was lifted up in spite of them, and then flung down so violently that she seemed dead. But coming to herself as if out of a profound sleep, she went out of the refectory as if nothing had happened."
In 1560, the convent of Nazareth, at Cologne, was visited by "the prevailing epidemic." The usual symptoms were present, with the additional feature of the entire perversion of the moral principles and sentiments. The mouths of hitherto irreproachable young women were filled with blasphemies and improprieties. Fortunately for the cook of this community, the devil on this occasion appeared in person "in the shape of a dog, and ran about the cloisters in a manner that was by no means edifying."
Two years later, the disease seized the inmates of the Foundling Institution at Amsterdam. The children who were affected, among other symptoms, spake foreign languages, and "knew what was passing elsewhere, even in the great coun cil of the city. They made grimaces at the doors of certain women, so that the latter were suspected to be sorcerers." The names of these women the cotemporary chronicler conceals, "to save the honor of their relations." About 1560, a convent near Santen was visited. The nuns were variously affected, some wishing for uttering horrid sounds and noises like the bleating of sheep, sometimes they were thrown from their seats in church, vails were torn off their heads," etc. It appears, according to Wier, the authority from whom Dr. Madden derives the ac
It appears that these nuns had been for some weeks previous to this attack upon a diet of bread and the juice of horseradish. We might have attributed a good deal-especially the excoriating fluid vomited-to this irregular diet, but that other victims of a similar malady seem to have had their digestive organs even more singularly affected, without any ex-count, that "the cause of this tragedy planatory circumstances of diet. In a was imputed to one of the sisters, who foundling hospital at Amsterdam, for ex- had formerly been in love with a young ample, some children, on being exorcised man, and on account of affinity between by the priests, vomited "quantities of them her parents had refused to give her pins and needles, thimbles, scraps of cloth, in marriage to him; and the devil, taking pieces of broken pottery," etc. And later, the form of this young man, had appeared at Auxonne, certain possessed nuns, on to her in the midst of her most passionate being exorcised, "experienced sickness of transports, and had counseled her to bestomach, and brought up various sub-come a nun, which she immediately did. stances hair, small pebbles, pieces of wax, This evil spirit spread like a contagion bones, and even living reptiles." amongst several other sisters of the conIn the convent of Kintorp, near Stras- vent. In 1609 occurred the celebrated bourg, the disease broke out among a case of Madeleine de Mandol and Louis community of nuns, many of whom were Gaufridi. Two inmates of St. Ursula at women of high family and great cultiva- | Aix became subject to the usual hysterical
convulsions. Madeleine de Mondol con- | fridi. Contrary to the custom of the fessed to being "possessed by a great times, Marie de Sains escaped being number of devils;" Louise Capel owned burned alive, and was sentenced only to to three devils, "one of whom called him- perpetual imprisonment, with compulsory self Verreine." These girls attributed religious austerities. their possession to Gaufridi, who was ar rested, tried, and burned alive upon their evidence. The accusation, with its foreseen consequences, seems to have driven Gaufridi mad, and he confessed to "all that was laid to his charge," and a great deal more. He had been a demon-worshiper, he said, for fourteen years. Ce démon m'engage à rendre amoureuses de ma personne toutes les femmes que j'attendrois de mon souffle. Plus de milles femmes ont été empoisonnées par l'attrait irrésistible de mon souffle, qui les rendoit passionnées." The burning of Gaufridi did not cure the nuns of their epilepsy, and a second sacrifice was offered up in the person of a poor blind girl, who was accused by Louise Capel.
Certain of the Brigettines of Lille, who had been present at the exorcisms of the nuns at Aix, seem to have transmitted the disease to their own convent. Marie de Sains, one of the community who had been eminent for her irreproachable life, was charged with sorcery on this occasion. She was imprisoned, and maintained for a year that she was innocent; but at the expiration of that time, the charge acting in the same dreadful manner upon her imagination as it had previously done on that of Gaufridi, she renounced her protestations of innocence, and charged herself with unheard-of iniquities. The Archbishop of Malines, who was one of those engaged in the investigation of the case, declared that "since he had been in the world he had never heard or seen any thing similar: the crimes and abominations of Marie de Sains were beyond all conception." She confessed to "murders without number, stranglings of innocent children, ravaging of graves, reveling in orgies of super-human turpitude, sacrileges unheard of, banqueting and junketing incessantly with demons at their sabbath." The poor girl furthermore, while undergoing the ineffectual mummeries of the exorcists, "improvised sermons which she ascribed to Satan, raved polemically and at large on the Apocalypse, and made long discourses on Anti-Christ and the Precursor," who was the son of Madeleine de Mandol and Gau
About 1628, the nuns of a Benedictine convent at Madrid became subject to contagions hysteria and catalepsy, which they attributed, as usual, to demoniacal possession. After the malady had prevailed for three years, the Inquisition arrested and imprisoned the spiritual director, Father Garcia, the superioress, and some of the nuns, as heretics, for pretending to a supernatural illumination or clairvoyance during their attacks. In this and in all other well-authenticated cases, it is particularly worthy of remark that the worst features of the malady were elicited, instead of being subdued, by the long series of exorcisms to which the patients were subjected. Those who have witnessed the effects of a few "magnetic passes " upon the moral and physical nature of persons of weak minds, will not be surprised that the mysterious looks, words, and gestures of the exorcist of the sixteenth or seventeenth century should have "electrobiologized" the poor nuns into the belief that they were "possessed by as many devils as they knew the names of.
Of all these cases of monomania in convents, that of the nuns of Loudun is the most celebrated, chiefly on account of the part attributed to Richelieu in the prosecution of Urbain Grandier. The Ursulines of Loudun were ladies of high rank and cultivation, and the school attached to their convent was attended by girls of the best families in France. The nuns first complained of midnight visions, in which a former confessor, who had been dead some time, appeared to them in anger, and inflicted blows "without motive or mercy," and on one occasion used violence of another kind. While thus tormented, the women frequently rose from their beds in a state of somnambulism, (not then understood as such,) and wandered about the dormitories and even the roofs of the convent. We may say once for all, that a very distressing perversion of the moral sentiments was one of the most constant symptoms of this terrific malady, a fact illustrating in an important manner the effects of conventual seclusion upon the imagination. An eye-wit