The phenomena of somnambulism, hardly perceived by Mesmer, were
revealed by du Puysegur and Deleuze; but the Revolution put a stop to
their discoveries and played into the hands of the scientists and
scoffers. Among the small number of believers were a few physicians.
They were persecuted by their brethren as long as they lived. The
respectable body of Parisian doctors displayed all the bitterness of
religious warfare against the Mesmerists, and were as cruel in their
hatred as it was possible to be in those days of Voltairean tolerance.
The orthodox physician refused to consult with those who adopted the
Mesmerian heresy. In 1820 these heretics were still proscribed. The
miseries and sorrows of the Revolution had not quenched the scientific
hatred. It is only priests, magistrates, and physicians who can hate
in that way. The official robe is terrible! But ideas are even more
implacable than things.
Doctor Bouvard, one of Minoret's friends, believed in the new faith,
and persevered to the day of his death in studying a science to which
he sacrificed the peace of his life, for he was one of the chief
"betes noires" of the Parisian faculty. Minoret, a valiant supporter
of the Encyclopedists, and a formidable adversary of Desion, Mesmer's
assistant, whose pen had great weight in the controversy, quarreled
with his old friend, and not only that, but he persecuted him. His
conduct to Bouvard must have caused him the only remorse which
troubled the serenity of his declining years. Since his retirement to
Nemours the science of imponderable fluids (the only name suitable for
magnetism, which, by the nature of its phenomena, is closely allied to
light and electricity) had made immense progress, in spite of the
ridicule of Parisian scientists. Phrenology and physiognomy, the
departments of Gall and Lavater (which are in fact twins, for one is
to the other as cause is to effect), proved to the minds of more than
one physiologist the existence of an intangible fluid which is the
basis of the phenomena of the human will, and from which result
passions, habits, the shape of faces and of skulls. Magnetic facts,
the miracles of somnambulism, those of divination and ecstasy, which
open a way to the spiritual world, were fast accumulating. The strange
tale of the apparitions of the farmer Martin, so clearly proved, and
his interview with Louis XVIII.; a knowledge of the intercourse of
Swedenborg with the departed, carefully investigated in Germany; the
tales of Walter Scott on the effects of "second sight"; the
extraordinary faculties of some fortune-tellers, who practice as a
single science chiromancy, cartomancy, and the horoscope; the facts of
catalepsy, and those of the action of certain morbid affections on the
properties of the diaphragm,--all such phenomena, curious, to say the
least, each emanating from the same source, were now undermining many
scepticisms and leading even the most indifferent minds to the plane
of experiments. Minoret, buried in Nemours, was ignorant of this
movement of minds, strong in the north of Europe but still weak in
France where, however, many facts called marvelous by superficial
observers, were happening, but falling, alas! like stones to the
bottom of the sea, in the vortex of Parisian excitements.
At the bottom of the present year the doctor's tranquillity was shaken
by the following letter:--
My old comrade,--All friendship, even if lost, as rights which it
is difficult to set aside. I know that you are still living, and I
remember far less our enmity than our happy days in that old hovel
At a time when I expect to soon leave the world I have it on my
heart to prove to you that magnetism is about to become one of the
most important of the sciences--if indeed all science is not ONE.
I can overcome your incredulity by proof. Perhaps I shall owe to
your curiosity the happiness of taking you once more by the hand--
as in the days before Mesmer. Always yours,
Stung like a lion by a gadfly the old scientist rushed to Paris and
left his card on Bouvard, who lived in the Rue Ferou near Saint-
Sulpice. Bouvard sent a card to his hotel on which was written "To-
morrow; nine o'clock, Rue Saint-Honore, opposite the Assumption."
Minoret, who seemed to have renewed his youth, could not sleep. He
went to see some of his friends among the faculty to inquire if the
world were turned upside down, if the science of medicine still had a
school, if the four faculties any longer existed. The doctors
reassured him, declaring that the old spirit of opposition was as
strong as ever, only, instead of persecuting as heretofore, the
Academies of Medicine and of Sciences rang with laughter as they
classed magnetic facts with the tricks of Comus and Comte and Bosco,
with jugglery and prestidigitation and all that now went by the name
of "amusing physics."
This assurance did not prevent old Minoret from keeping the
appointment made for him by Bouvard. After an enmity of forty-four
years the two antagonists met beneath a porte-cochere in the Rue
Saint-Honore. Frenchmen have too many distractions of mind to hate
each other long. In Paris especially, politics, literature, and
science render life so vast that every man can find new worlds to
conquer where all pretensions may live at ease. Hatred requires too
many forces fully armed. None but public bodies can keep alive the
sentiment. Robespierre and Danton would have fallen into each other's
arms at the end of forty-four years. However, the two doctors each
withheld his hand and did not offer it. Bouvard spoke first:--
"You seem wonderfully well."
"Yes, I am--and you?" said Minoret, feeling that the ice was now
"As you see."
"Does magnetism prevent people from dying?" asked Minoret in a joking
tone, but without sharpness.
"No, but it almost prevented me from living."
"Then you are not rich?" exclaimed Minoret.
"Pooh!" said Bouvard.
"But I am!" cried the other.
"It is not your money but your convictions that I want. Come," replied
"Oh! you obstinate fellow!" said Minoret.
The Mesmerist led his sceptic, with some precaution, up a dingy
staircase to the fourth floor.
At this particular time an extraordinary man had appeared in Paris,
endowed by faith with incalculable power, and controlling magnetic
forces in all their applications. Not only did this great unknown (who
still lives) heal from a distance the worst and most inveterate
diseases, suddenly and radically, as the Savior of men did formerly,
but he was also able to call forth instantaneously the most remarkable
phenomena of somnambulism and conquer the most rebellious will. The
countenance of this mysterious being, who claims to be responsible to
God alone and to communicate, like Swedenborg, with angels, resembles
that of a lion; concentrated, irresistible energy shines in it. His
features, singularly contorted, have a terrible and even blasting
aspect. His voice, which comes from the depths of his being, seems
charged with some magnetic fluid; it penetrates the hearer at every
pore. Disgusted by the ingratitude of the public after his many cures,
he has now returned to an impenetrable solitude, a voluntary
nothingness. His all-powerful hand, which has restored a dying
daughter to her mother, fathers to their grief-stricken children,
adored mistresses to lovers frenzied with love, cured the sick given
over by physicians, soothed the sufferings of the dying when life
became impossible, wrung psalms of thanksgiving in synagogues,
temples, and churches from the lips of priests recalled to the one God
by the same miracle,--that sovereign hand, a sun of life dazzling the
closed eyes of the somnambulist, has never been raised again even to
save the heir-apparent of a kingdom. Wrapped in the memory of his past
mercies as in a luminous shroud, he denies himself to the world and
lives for heaven.
But, at the dawn of his reign, surprised by his own gift, this man,
whose generosity equaled his power, allowed a few interested persons
to witness his miracles. The fame of his work, which was mighty, and
could easily be revived to-morrow, reached Dr. Bouvard, who was then
on the verge of the grave. The persecuted mesmerist was at last
enabled to witness the startling phenomena of a science he had long
treasured in his heart. The sacrifices of the old man touched the
heart of the mysterious stranger, who accorded him certain privileges.
As Bouvard now went up the staircase he listened to the twittings of
his old antagonist with malicious delight, answering only, "You shall
see, you shall see!" with the emphatic little nods of a man who is
sure of his facts.
The two physicians entered a suite of rooms that were more than
modest. Bouvard went alone into a bedroom which adjoined the salon
where he left Minoret, whose distrust was instantly awakened; but
Bouvard returned at once and took him into the bedroom, where he saw
the mysterious Swedenborgian, and also a woman sitting in an armchair.
The woman did not rise, and seemed not to notice the entrance of the
two old men.
"What! no tub?" cried Minoret, smiling.
"Nothing but the power of God," answered the Swedenborgian gravely. He
seemed to Minoret to be about fifty years of age.
The three men sat down and the mysterious stranger talked of the rain
and the coming fine weather, to the great astonishment of Minoret, who
thought he was being hoaxed. The Swedenborgian soon began, however, to
question his visitor on his scientific opinions, and seemed evidently
to be taking time to examine him.