IF a strong magnet, capable of supporting about ten pounds, be drawn downward over the bodies of fifteen or twenty persons, without actually touching them, some among them will always be found to be excited by it in a peculiar manner. The number of people who are sensitive in this way is greater than is generally imagined : sometimes three or four are met with in such a number as above mentioned : indeed, I know an establishment where the experiment was tried, and of twenty-two young ladies who were collected there, no less than eighteen felt more or less distinctly the passage of the magnet. The kind of impression produced on these excitable people, who otherwise may be. regarded as in perfect health,1 is scarcely describable; it is rather disagreeable than pleasant, and combined with a slight sensation either of cold or warmth, resembling a cool or gently warm breath of air, which the patients imagine to blow softly upon them. Sometimes they feel sensations of drawing, pricking, or creeping; some complain of sudden attacks of headache. Not only women, but men in the very prime of life, are found distinctly susceptible of this influence; in children it is sometimes very active.

To produce this effect, it is essentially indifferent whether we use a horse-shoe magnet or a straight iron bar, with either pole, if it be but strong enough and possess something like the sustaining power above mentioned. The passes must be made from head to foot, and not with too great rapidity. The magnet must be carried as near the body as possible without actually touching the clothes; and to ensure the absence of deception on either side, the pass may be made downward from the back of the head over the neck and hack. The person magnetized is then unaware of the passage of the magnet, and his movement must be unconstrained.

Vigorous men and healthy strong women usually feel nothing of these sensations. Nevertheless, I have met with individuals who have been distinctly affected by the passage of the magnet when in the full enjoyment of health, and these, active light-hearted men and women. But the excitability presents itself more frequently in people of sedentary habits, who may otherwise be considered as healthy, especially in men who are occupied continuously in writing, or girls who pass the greater part of their time at needle-work; moreover, in those who are depressed by secret troubles, anxiety respecting their means of support, neglect, or the loss of relatives. Next to these imperfectly healthy, the slightly diseased are very frequently the most sensitive to the magnet, especially those persons of whom it is commonly said they suffer from weak nerves, who are readily frightened, or have received a shock from some fright they have experienced; besides these, the truly sick in innumerable cases, especially in those whose complaints are accompanied by local or general cramps; during abnormal developments of puberty; many hypochondriacs, valetudinarians as they are called; persons who are very disagreeably affected by odours; but above all, those suffering from catalepsy, St. Vitus's dance, palsy, many of the hysterical, and lastly, those who walk in their sleep, and the true somnambulists without exception. Thus from the healthy person to the sleep-walker a chain is formed, at one end of which stands a powerful man, and at the other a weak somnambulist. Any one may readily convince himself of those facts in every large hospital.

The magnet thus declares itself as a general agent upon the vital principle; a property of it which individual physicians have indeed endeavoured, though as yet without solid results, to bring into more extensive application, in reference to the possibility of deriving from it a curative treatment in cases of disease,—which, however, has not yet been received by natural philosophers into the realm of physics; and from the uncertainty of the observations, hitherto, has been altogether passed over by natural science generally. Nevertheless, magnetism, when more closely examined, presents an infinitely varied and exalted interest on this side. If a portion of the phenomena here assert an influence upon life, this occurs exactly and especially at the point where the boundaries of the organic and inorganic are intermingled. Since a doubt exists whether it shall be attributed to the domain of physiology or of physics, it is neglected on both sides. Thus it is left over to medicine, and has not always fallen into the best hands there. I hope, in the following pages, to disentangle some of the threads of this knot, and to combine a number of phenomena under a common point of view, at the same time arranging them under fixed physical laws.


  1. What is meant by this expression? Ordinary health would be more consonant to the Baron's meaning. Great or even modified impressionability is not a condition of perfect health. A nervous system which gives a proclivity to disorder from keen susceptibility to external impressions, is not one which belongs to an organism in every part of which the configuration is the most convenient for the perfect performance of the functions to which that organism or any of its parts is destined. Perfect health belongs only to a body in which no part is unduly developed. A law exists which establishes the fact that every undue development of a part is at the expense of some other part; and it will be found, in endeavouring to establish most incontrovertible facts, that all individuals who have an impressionable nervous fabric are the subjects of more or less imperfect development. At page 3, the Baron says, " vigorous men and healthy women usually feel nothing of these sensations." Sedentary occupations, and a variety of the circumstances surrounding man in his present imperfect state of civilization, render him more impressionable, because they irregulate and unbalance the harmony of his system. It is more difficult to induce anaesthesia, or any of the nervous states analogous to it, in a perfectly healthy and vigorous person than in one who is susceptible of the influence of those poisons which unbalance the accounts between the two systems of blood-vessels. A man in the last stage of typhus, or the fever of unhealthy venous congestion, may be saved by mesmerism, as has happened in several cases; while in a person under the condition of perfect health the mesmeric passes produce little or no effect for a great length of time. It is the same with the impressionability to magnets. Those who feel the influence of the magnet are in a greater or in a less degree in the same category of the imperfectly developed and unduly balanced. " The sensations of drawing, pricking, or creeping," from the application of the bands to a strong magnet, which I caused to be repeated daily in two impressionable cases, terminated in one in rigidity and deep mesmeric sleep in four days; in the other, in nine days.

    Since the above was written (24th of March, 1850), I have a strong corroboration of the view given in this note. A young woman had applied to me six weeks ago for a set of symptoms which indicated great debility. She had passive hemorrhage, under which, complicated with hysteria, leucorrhcea, &c., she had laboured for some months previously. It was a case which mesmerism would have cured rapidly. I tried some passes; the pupils dilated, and other symptoms of mesmeric sleep were present. She felt a warm air from the large magnet. I tried the pointed end of a large crystal, which made her very sleepy. At last I put her to sleep by the gaze. She awoke in an hour, refreshed and strengthened. Finding that she could not be mesmerised at home, I prescribed a solution of persulphate of iron in diluted sulphuric acid, to be taken three times a day. I find she has strictly attended to my directions, and she is quite well, with a healthy florid complexion. I try her with the same large magnet, and she experiences no sensation. I try for half an hour to make her sleep mesmerically : in vain. The pupils of the eyes refuse to dilate. She says if I proceeded with my experiments she is sure I should make her head ache. Here has been a clonic state of system, in which the nerves and blood-vessels have in???? ed "a temporary derangement of organization," in which some parts have suffered a while at the expense of others, in which a "sick sensibility" has supervened, in which the individual has become unduly impressionable, and in which restored health has removed the liability to be influenced by magnetism and by mesmerism.