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FROM THE MEMORANDA OF A PHYSICIAN.
What is madness? All I have read, thought, heard on this subject, involves it in greater obscurity: how matter acts upon mind, still more how mind acts upon matter, is as great a mystery as ever. No analysis has been able to detect the causes of this malady through any of its phases, from melancholy up to phrenzy. If it were confined to those whose intellects scarcely remove them from the brute creation, it would be less a cause of affliction; but such are exactly the individuals who are proof against it. The man of genius, the poet, the philosopher, those gifted with the most refined sensibilities, are most liable to its fatal influence. That it is hereditary we know; but is it not contagious ? is it curable by art or medicine? These, and many other questions might be put, and meet with answers equally unsatisfactory. These reflections have suggested themselves by my having witnessed but a few months since a remarkable case, which will make the subject of contemplation this evening
I last year went to Italy, and took up my abode at Florence. Among its visitors, not the least remarkable for his high family, no less than for the peculiarity of his complaint, was Sydney. We had been col. lege friends; and, though I had given up practice as a physician, the peculiarity of his symptoms, and a lively interest in an amiable young man, then a prey to a disease which his medical advisers foresaw must be fatal, led me to pay him frequent visits. He was twenty-five years of age ; his figure was slightly stooping. His hair, partially grey, seemed in its silkiness to partake of constitutional debility, and curled naturally in long ringlets, as it is commonly worn by artists in Italy.
The beauty of his forehead was striking, and announced the mens divinior. His eyes assumed a variety of hues, according to the humour he was in, grave or gay. His voice took a tone from the impulse of his feelings, and was sometimes soft and musical as that of a woman. In a word, he was one of the most engaging of human beings.
9th May.—When I was shown into Sydney's room this morning I found him lying on a sofa turned towards the wall, but at some distance from it. The reflection of a mirror enabled me to see his face. It was pale, and his limbs bespoke extreme languor. One arm hung listlessly over the side of the couch, and rested on the floor. Had not his eyes been open, so motionless was he that I should have thought he slept. I called him by name. At the sound of my voice he started, and turning round, lookeil at me with a vacant stare. At length his intellects seemed gradually to return, he half raised himself, and took my
hand. Ah! my old friend,' in a hollow voice, he said ; 'is it you? Since we met, I have had one of my old attacks; but it is nothing. They call it incipient catalepsy. They say I slept for twenty hours. But I never sleep, if sleep be forgetfulness. My external senses may, indeed, slumber; but it is in that calm, that silentness,--that I enjoy the most delicious reveries, and that my mind acquires an extraordinary clearness, as though it were divorced froin the body. It is only when I am awake that I am ill-miserable. The day you found me in the Lung' Arno elbowed by the throng, I came home stifled by their poisonous atmosphere, shrinking in disgust from their evil countenances. A crowd always produces on my nerves a similar effect. Believe me, it is no fancy; there is contagion in it, as much as there was virtue in that of the devotees whose magnetic chain effected so many miraculous cures at the tomb of the Dracic Paris. Ah, you smile,' continued he. You may think all is not right here,' pointing to his head. “It has been my misfortune never to be understood.'
Dear Sydney!' I observed, you are still the same. The Swedish Baron's lessons are not forgotten, I find.'
'Forgotten! What else is there worth remembering bụt the words of the divine Swedenborg! I owe to him, whom you look upon as a mystic, all the scaffolding upon which I have built my theories. Your external being has, I perceive, triumphed over your internal one. The angel has, I fear, perished in you.'
* Perhaps it may be resuscitated,' said I, wishing to hear how far his opinions carried him. We must all be conscious of a double nature, two principles striving for mastery-the demon, and the angel. Haply you are so far right. The former certainly predominates.'
I will endeavour,' said he, 'to make you a convert. The great difficulty is the imperfection of language. The want of words that are the types of our thoughts. In this consisted the great superiority of the hieroglyphics, as the magi knew; but I will endeavour to make the system of Swedenborg intelligible. There exist in us two distinct creatures ; and it is left to ourselves which to make the objects of our choice. As soon as thought has convinced man of his double nature, he should try to fortify the frail nature of the angel within him. But if, instead of exerting his intellectual, he gives himself up to his corporeal faculties, the external senses become all-in-all, and the angel perishes by slow degrees. On the other hand by nourishing his better part with the things that most belong to it, the soul, like gold, throws off the alloy. Thus, when the separation, under the form that we call death, takes place, the angel, by the power it has ac. quired, disengages itself from its envelope, escapes like a fly from its chrysalis, and real life begins. This is the way in which we account for the differences that exist among mankind; for some men being little removed from brutes, and others being endowed with faculties that raise them almost to gods.'
“I fear,' said I, Sydney, I shall make a poor scholar; for, when I tried to become a Kantist I stumbled at the first principles, that there were no such things as time and space, and the professor gave me up.'
"Is it possible,' said he, that all this material world is aught else than what our senses have created for us ? that it is more than a delusion? Which shall we rather trust of the two principles within us—that which sees, wills, and acts in us without the intervention of our external organs, or that gross animal principle, that levels us with the brute creation. In other terms, time and space, which are everything to the niaterial being, and limit the exercise of its powers, are mere words to the inward self. But enough,' added he, after a pause; ' another day I will illustrate my subject, make it more intel
to your gross comprehension.' I left him as much enveloped in a mist as the Prince in Hoffman's *Little Zachary' was by the Doctor's dissertation on Physics and
Psychics, which he sums up by saying, "As it is the latter principle that most predominates in the human organisation, an able physi. cian should begin to occupy himself about the spirit, and not consider the body but as the vassal of the spirit, and which as such ought to obey its master.'
10th May.--I have shut myself up retracing my earliest recollections of Sydney, and endeavouring to trace his mystical opinions to their sources; and I fancy that by connecting the links l can com. plete the chain. At ten years of age I remember Sydney
I remember Sydney an awkward boy, with a prominent eye, which phrenologists say, is the characteristic of an aptitude for acquiring languages; and a countenance, over which was cast a shade of seriousness, common to those destined to die young. An ordinary observer would have discovered in him not even the germ of talent. At school he was surpassed by almost every boy in his class. None had so many impositions, so that he was held up by the masters as an example to be avoided : he consequently became the butt of the boys. It was during the hours assigned to play-into which he never entered that he fed his mind with books, and at others digested them. His avidity for reading was insatiable, and he devoured all that came in his way. His great delight was in the marvellous-the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, the Tales of the Genii, Sinbad, were believed in with infantine credulity, and the Pilgrim's Progress appeared to him real travels.
After poring on these works, so absorbed was he that it was difficult to awaken him. He had also a tendency to somnambulism. In languages he never forgot a word once known. His memory, indeed, was extraordinary-not for dates, but facts; not for single incidents, but the substance. With what delight during our long rambles I used to listen to his ghost stories, his accounts of magicians. Such he was till twelve years of age, when he began to study German,which he soon acquired. This opened a new field to his inquiring mind. Swedenborg's 'Heaven and Earth’ was the first of the mystical books that he pored over.
The incomprehensible, now in another form, riveted his thoughts ; and the influence this great visionary exercised.over him has been predominant. How it will end I dread to think.
11th May.-Sydney is right. There is a contagion in minds. His conversation produces on me the effect of opium-eating. To-day he gave me a vertigo.
"Some dreams,' said he, are no more than the shadows of our waking thoughts, mere impressions on our external senses, and referable, frequently, to some derangement of the digestive organe. They may be compared to a broken mirror, whose fragments reflect objects distortedly, yet with sufficient resemblance to establish their ideality. But there are dreams which, as Homer says, come from God, or, in my language, that partake of our angelic nature ; and such are the dreams of which we have the most authentic evidence from his. tory, sacred and profane. Raphael the sublime-I had almost said the divine Raphael - in his . Transfiguration,'* the last and greatest of
* A friend of mine was present when Napoleon and Josephine at Rome inspected the • Transfiguration.' It was then with one or two holes in it, and in so dreadful a stale that the latter exclaimed, Quel dommage ! c'est tout-à-fait abimée.'-ED
his conceptions, seems fully to have been impressed with this truth when he makes the heavens open to the eyes of a child, and reveals to him a glorified Saviour, invisible to the surrounding multitude. You may remember the remarkable visions of Cardan :-in one of which all the events of his life were spread before him, as on the canvass of the painter; and in the other, when at a great distance from his son, he saw him, to his horror, commit a crime, for which he paid the penalty of the law. The many consider as madmen, those whose minds are not cast in the same mould as their own; they will believe nothing that has not been the immediate object of their senses. To them the supernatural world—the only world that really existsof which we can only get a glimpse by profound contemplation, by means of our angelic nature ; that portion of ourselves which has not been brutified by an alliance with matter is a shut book : and the attempt to make it intelligible to their gross natures would be as fruitless as to talk of colours to the blind. Abstraction is the queen of the soul. It is the seed, that contains the buds and flowers, the foliage, aud system of the plant :-it is the germ that comprises all nature. I have imagined to myself a scale of human intellect-instinct-mechanics-reflection-contemplation--abstraction--trance. Through them I have passed. One only remains-catalepsy; and to this Newton arrived. He stood for twenty-four hours, insensible to the changes of day and night! What instances can be adduced of the power of mind over matter! Read the histories of the invincibility of the American savage to the tortures inflicted by his enemies, and you will be at no loss to perceive that man, by the exercise of his own will, can annul the influence of material agency; that he can completely divorce the two natures that compose his being.
• Without going further into this voluntary separation, I will illustrate my argument by a remarkable vision that occurred to myself. I had a sister. Of my affection for her I shall not speak. If ever there was an angel woman, it was Henrietta. We were at this very place. She was then eighteen, and in the most perfect health. One night I dreamed that she was dead; that I was following her hearse; that a few miles from Leghorn, where is the Protestant Cemetery, we came to an inundation, which seemed to preclude the possibility of our reaching a bridge across the Arno. Not six months had elapsed when the first part of my dream was realized. She died. Now hear the second. During that melancholy pilgrimage
I recognized the fea. tures of the scene as it appeared in my vision. The wide inlet of the Val d'Arno, bounded by the pine forests that stretch along the coast; the stone bridge, with its three arches; the colour of the water in the inundation ; in fact, all the details of the picture corresponded exactly. Now, if the landscape did not come to me—which is absurd—I must have gone to it. If I was there when I slept, does it not establish an entire separation of my body from my soul? Does it not prove its locomotive faculty ? Now, if one can leave the other when I sleep, why, by intense abstraction, cannot I divorce them when awake ?'
As he was saying this, his lips trembled, his look became radiant. He seemed all mind, and retained nothing of humanity but the form -such must spirits be. He soon fell back in a trance. Medical aid is useless. Let us try another remedy.
14th May.-Every city has its devil, or its diavolessa—we have no word in our language for the fiend feminine ; but we must not flatter
ourselves that we are without them. Goldoni, in his Bottega di Caffe,' and Poole, in his · Paul Pry,' have given specimens of two sorts of spirits; and there are twenty others, differing from each other as much as Asmodeus does from Mephistophiles. The barca seccatura, a terin implying a drying up of all the faculties, mental and bodily, is one of the most common, and not the least difficult to be avoided. This preface brings me to Torriagni, the devil of Flor. ence,-a devil sui generis.
He was about fifty years of age, above the common height, bony and meagre, with a face dark as that of a Moor, features marked and regular, and eye dull and gloomy: he always reminded me of one of Titian's portraits in the gallery of the Uffighi, stepped from out its frame. Had he lived when Venice was governed by the Tré, he would have proved a Loredano; and, during the reign of Austrian despotism in Italy he was admirably calculated for a spy or Calderaio, perhaps he was both. Chi lo sa.
Nature certainly never designed him for a divine. As to his religion, it was about on a par with that of the celebrated Florentine, il Abbate Casti-Casti à non casto, as lucus à non lucendo-of whom he was the worthy successor. Il Signor Professore was the title by which he was generally known. But, like many other lecturers, he had made a sinecure of his office, and only mounted the cathedra once, during many years that he touched the emoluments. Not that this circumstance would have caused his destitution ; but, as he says himself, he lost his professorship by an irresistible bon mot. During one of the midnight orgies which he was in the habit of celebrating with some of the most dissolute of the students,-he was interrogated by the patrol who and with whom he was? To which he gave this laconic answer :- Signor, Io sono un uomo publico, con una donna publica, in una strada publica.' This public avowal lost him his post. But it gave him éclat. There were two reasons why he was tolerated in the best society. His fun and his tongue-the dread of both. His epigrams were sanglante ; and he gave sobriquets the most happy to all those who gave occasion for the exercise of his satiric vein.
His conversation was full of repartee, and sparkling with wit; and his information-for he was a man of profound reading, and vast memory,-made him almost oracular. As to his eloquence, I can only compare it to that of our Coleridge. It was a swarm of ideas, seemingly incongruous, yet which he contrived to weave into the tissue of his argument with a most marvellous embroidery. How he plunged into abysses but to lighten other abysses, like a torrent, that carried all before it! It was this gift that made him welcome at Sydney's, and he had sufficient tact to keep in the back-ground the revolting vices which were habitual to him. Sydney had made his acquaintance there. Torriagni had the habit of finding out the new arrivals. For our compatriots he had a peculiar predilection, and particularly patronized the Belle Inglese, whom, after the Italian custom, he very soon familiarly called by their baptismal names, as La Signorina Mari, La Sig. norina Bettina, &c. Wherever he got the entrée, he was a sine quà non, and a va tout. He could recommend Italian masters, receiving, sub rosa, a part of the lesson money. He was never at a loss to find some palace to be let, getting a douceur monthly from the owner. For a compratore di quadri he had always at hand some mysterious Marchese, ready with a Carlo Dolce, or an Andrea del Sarto, originals of course.