A Modern Urbain Grandier
Spiritualism, Quackery, Mental Illness, Religious Authority, Animal Magnetism, Supernaturalism
Subtitled '(For the Spiritual Magazine)', this article discusses a story in the Morning Post of a 'mysterious epidemic' in Morzines (France) around the year 1857. The symptoms associated with the epidemic were 'hysteria and epilepsy', symptoms which several 'crafty deluders' appeared to cure. Proceeds to explain how the 'Inspector-General of Lunatic Asylums Dr Corstans was appointed to investigate the phenomenon, and found that the inhabitants of Morzines believed themselves to be 'possessed by a devil' and that the municipal authorities deemed 'the ordinary remedies of science' useless, but 'exorcisms, pilgrimages to holy lands, and animal magnetism' to be effective. Thinks that spiritualists will use this to demonstrate that animal magnetism too is a 'supernatural virtue', while 'incredulous people' will use this to 'demonstrate the same thing in confutation of both Spiritualists and Romanists'. Notes how the epidemic suddenly disappeared when the parish priest was removed and the police and infantry arrived in the town, events which the author thinks undermines the argument of the 'materialists', as the epidemic ceased because the 'medium' was removed, not when the troops arrived. Concludes with a description of what the author believes to be the comparable treatment of Urbain Grandier who was burnt alive for being the 'demon' behind an epidemic of mental illness.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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