Martin Hesselius, the German Physician
Through carefully educated in medicine and surgery, I have never practiced
either. The study of each continues, nevertheless, to interest me profoundly.
Neither idleness nor caprice caused my secession from the honorable calling
which I had just entered. The cause was a very trifling scratch inflicted
by a dissecting knife. This trifle cost me the loss of two fingers, amputated
promptly, and the more painful loss of my health, for I have never been
quite well since, and have seldom been twelve months together in the same
In my wanderings I became acquainted with Dr. Martin Hesselius, a wanderer
like myself, like me a physician, and like me an enthusiast in his profession.
Unlike me in this, that his wanderings were voluntary, and he a man, if
not of fortune, as we estimate fortune in England, at least in what our
forefathers used to term "easy circumstances." He was an old man when I
first saw him; nearly five-and-thirty years my senior.
In Dr. Martin Hesselius, I found my master. His knowledge was immense,
his grasp of a case was an intuition. He was the very man to inspire a
young enthusiast, like me, with awe and delight. My admiration has stood
the test of time and survived the separation of death. I am sure it was
For nearly twenty years I acted as his medical secretary. His immense
collection of papers he has left in my care, to be arranged, indexed and
bound. His treatment of some of these cases is curious. He writes in two
distinct characters. He describes what he saw and heard as an intelligent
layman might, and when in this style of narrative he had seen the patient
either through his own hall-door, to the light of day, or through the gates
of darkness to the caverns of the dead, he returns upon the narrative,
and in the terms of his art and with all the force and originality of genius,
proceeds to the work of analysis, diagnosis and illustration.
Here and there a case strikes me as of a kind to amuse or horrify a
lay reader with an interest quite different from the peculiar one which
it may possess for an expert. With slight modifications, chiefly of language,
and of course a change of names, I copy the following. The narrator is
Dr. Martin Hesselius. I find it among the voluminous notes of cases which
he made during a tour in England about sixty-four years ago.
It is related in series of letters to his friend Professor Van Loo of
Leyden. The professor was not a physician, but a chemist, and a man who
read history and metaphysics and medicine, and had, in his day, written
The narrative is therefore, if somewhat less valuable as a medical record,
necessarily written in a manner more likely to interest an unlearned reader.
These letters, from a memorandum attached, appear to have been returned
on the death of the professor, in 1819, to Dr. Hesselius. They are written,
some in English, some in French, but the greater part in German. I am a
faithful, though I am conscious, by no means a graceful translator, and
although here and there I omit some passages, and shorten others, and disguise
names, I have interpolated nothing.
CHAPTER I. Dr. Hesselius Relates How He Met the
Rev. Mr. Jennings
The Rev. Mr. Jennings is tall and thin. He is middle-aged, and dresses
with a natty, old-fashioned, high-church precision. He is naturally a little
stately, but not at all stiff. His features, without being handsome, are
well formed, and their expression extremely kind, but also shy.
I met him one evening at Lady Mary Haddock's. The modesty and benevolence
of his countenance are extremely prepossessing.
We were but a small party, and he joined agreeably enough in the conversation,
He seems to enjoy listening very much more than contributing to the talk;
but what he says is always to the purpose and well said. He is a great
favourite of Lady Mary's, who it seems, consults him upon many things,
and thinks him the most happy and blessed person on earth. Little knows
she about him.
The Rev. Mr. Jennings is a bachelor, and has, they say sixty thousand
pounds in the funds. He is a charitable man. He is most anxious to be actively
employed in his sacred profession, and yet though always tolerably well
elsewhere, when he goes down to his vicarage in Warwickshire, to engage
in the actual duties of his sacred calling, his health soon fails him,
and in a very strange way. So says Lady Mary.
There is no doubt that Mr. Jennings' health does break down in, generally,
a sudden and mysterious way, sometimes in the very act of officiating in
his old and pretty church at Kenlis. It may be his heart, it may be his
brain. But so it has happened three or four times, or oftener, that after
proceeding a certain way in the service, he has on a sudden stopped short,
and after a silence, apparently quite unable to resume, he has fallen into
solitary, inaudible prayer, his hands and his eyes uplifted, and then pale
as death, and in the agitation of a strange shame and horror, descended
trembling, and got into the vestry-room, leaving his congregation, without
explanation, to themselves. This occurred when his curate was absent. When
he goes down to Kenlis now, he always takes care to provide a clergyman
to share his duty, and to supply his place on the instant should he become
thus suddenly incapacitated.
When Mr. Jennings breaks down quite, and beats a retreat from the vicarage,
and returns to London, where, in a dark street off Piccadilly, he inhabits
a very narrow house, Lady Mary says that he is always perfectly well. I
have my own opinion about that. There are degrees of course. We shall see.
Mr. Jennings is a perfectly gentlemanlike man. People, however, remark
something odd. There is an impression a little ambiguous. One thing which
certainly contributes to it, people I think don't remember; or, perhaps,
distinctly remark. But I did, almost immediately. Mr. Jennings has a way
of looking sidelong upon the carpet, as if his eye followed the movements
of something there. This, of course, is not always. It occurs now and then.
But often enough to give a certain oddity, as I have said, to his manner,
and in this glance traveling along the floor there is something both shy
A medical philosopher, as you are good enough to call me, elaborating
theories by the aid of cases sought out by himself, and by him watched
and scrutinized with more time at command, and consequently infinitely
more minuteness than the ordinary practitioner can afford, falls insensibly
into habits of observation, which accompany him everywhere, and are exercised,
as some people would say, impertinently, upon every subject that presents
itself with the least likelihood of rewarding inquiry.
There was a promise of this kind in the slight, timid, kindly, but reserved
gentleman, whom I met for the first time at this agreeable little evening
gathering. I observed, of course, more than I here set down; but I reserve
all that borders on the technical for a strictly scientific paper.
I may remark, that when I here speak of medical science, I do so, as
I hope some day to see it more generally understood, in a much more comprehensive
sense than its generally material treatment would warrant. I believe the
entire natural world is but the ultimate expression of that spiritual world
from which, and in which alone, it has its life. I believe that the essential
man is a spirit, that the spirit is an organized substance, but as different
in point of material from what we ordinarily understand by matter, as light
or electricity is; that the material body is, in the most literal sense,
a vesture, and death consequently no interruption of the living man's existence,
but simply his extrication from the natural body--a process which commences
at the moment of what we term death, and the completion of which, at furthest
a few days later, is the resurrection "in power."
The person who weighs the consequences of these positions will probably
see their practical bearing upon medical science. This is, however, by
no means the proper place for displaying the proofs and discussing the
consequences of this too generally unrecognized state of facts.
In pursuance of my habit, I was covertly observing Mr. Jennings, with
all my caution--l think he perceived it--and I saw plainly that he was
as cautiously observing me. Lady Mary happening to address me by my name,
as Dr. Hesselius, I saw that he glanced at me more sharply, and then became
thoughtful for a few minutes.
After this, as I conversed with a gentleman at the other end of the
room, I saw him look at me more steadily, and with an interest which I
thought I understood. I then saw him take an opportunity of chatting with
Lady Mary, and was, as one always is, perfectly aware of being the subject
of a distant inquiry and answer.
This tall clergyman approached me by-and-by; and in a little time we
had got into conversation. When two people, who like reading, and know
books and places, having traveled, wish to discourse, it is very strange
if they can't find topics. It was not accident that brought him near me,
and led him into conversation. He knew German and had read my Essays on
Metaphysical Medicine which suggest more than they actually say.
This courteous man, gentle, shy, plainly a man of thought and reading,
who moving and talking among us, was not altogether of us, and whom I already
suspected of leading a life whose transactions and alarms were carefully
concealed, with an impenetrable reserve from, not only the world, but his
best beloved friends--was cautiously weighing in his own mind the idea
of taking a certain step with regard to me.
I penetrated his thoughts without his being aware of it, and was careful
to say nothing which could betray to his sensitive vigilance my suspicions
respecting his position, or my surmises about his plans respecting myself.
We chatted upon indifferent subjects for a time but at last he said:
"I was very much interested by some papers of yours, Dr. Hesselius,
upon what you term Metaphysical Medicine--I read them in German, ten or
twelve years ago--have they been translated?"
"No, I'm sure they have not--I should have heard. They would have asked
my leave, I think."
"I asked the publishers here, a few months ago, to get the book for
me in the original German; but they tell me it is out of print."
"So it is, and has been for some years; but it flatters me as an author
to find that you have not forgotten my little book, although," I added,
laughing, "ten or twelve years is a considerable time to have managed without
it; but I suppose you have been turning the subject over again in your
mind, or something has happened lately to revive your interest in it."
At this remark, accompanied by a glance of inquiry, a sudden embarrassment
disturbed Mr. Jennings, analogous to that which makes a young lady blush
and look foolish. He dropped his eyes, and folded his hands together uneasily,
and looked oddly, and you would have said, guiltily, for a moment.
I helped him out of his awkwardness in the best way, by appearing not
to observe it, and going straight on, I said: "Those revivals of interest
in a subject happen to me often; one book suggests an other, and often
sends me back a wild-goose chase over an interval of twenty years. But
if you still care to possess a copy, I shall be only too happy to provide
you; I have still got two or three by me --and if you allow me to present
one I shall be very much honoured."
"You are very good indeed," he said, quite at his ease again, in a moment:
"I almost despaired--I don't know how to thank you.
"Pray don't say a word; the thing is really so little worth that I am
only ashamed of having offered it, and if you thank me any more I shall
throw it into the fire in a fit of modesty."
Mr. Jennings laughed. He inquired where I was staying in London, and
after a little more conversation on a variety of subjects, he took his
CHAPTER II. The Doctor Questions Lady Mary and
"I like your vicar so much, Lady Mary," said I, as soon as he was gone.
"He has read, traveled, and thought, and having also suffered, he ought
to be an accomplished companion."
"So he is, and, better still, he is a really good man," said she. "His
advice is invaluable about my schools, and all my little undertakings at
Dawlbridge, and he's so painstaking, he takes so much trouble--you have
no idea wherever he thinks he can be of use: he's so good-natured and so
"It is pleasant to hear so good an account of his neighbourly virtues.
I can only testify to his being an agreeable and gentle companion, and
in addition to what you have told me, I think I can tell you two or three
things about him," said I.
"Yes, to begin with, he's unmarried."
"Yes, that's right---go on."
"He has been writing, that is he was, but for two or three years perhaps,
he has not gone on with his work, and the book was upon some rather abstract
"Well, he was writing a book, as you say; I'm not quite sure what it
was about, but only that it was nothing that I cared for; very likely you
are right, and he certainly did stop--yes."
"And although he only drank a little coffee here to-night, he likes
tea, at least, did like it extravagantly."
"Yes, that's quite true."
"He drank green tea, a good deal, didn't he?" I pursued.
"Well, that's very odd! Green tea was a subject on which we used almost
"But he has quite given that up," said I. "So he has."
"And, now, one more fact. His mother or his father, did you know them?"
"Yes, both; his father is only ten years dead, and their place is near
Dawlbridge. We knew them very well," she answered.
"Well, either his mother or his father--I should rather think his father,
saw a ghost," said I.
"Well, you really are a conjurer, Dr. Hesselius."
"Conjurer or no, haven't I said right?" I answered merrily.
"You certainly have, and it was his father: he was a silent, whimsical
man, and he used to bore my father about his dreams, and at last he told
him a story about a ghost he had seen and talked with, and a very odd story
it was. I remember it particularly, because I was so afraid of him. This
story was long before he died--when I was quite a child--and his ways were
so silent and moping, and he used to drop in sometimes, in the dusk, when
I was alone in the drawing-room, and I used to fancy there were ghosts
I smiled and nodded.
"And now, having established my character as a conjurer, I think I must
say good-night!" said I.
"But how did you find it out?"
"By the planets, of course, as the gypsies do," I answered, and so,
gaily we said good-night.
Next morning I sent the little book he had been inquiring after, and
a note to Mr. Jennings, and on returning late that evening, I found that
he had called at my lodgings, and left his card. He asked whether I was
at home, and asked at what hour he would be most likely to find me.
Does he intend opening his case, and consulting me "professionally,"
as they say? I hope so. I have already conceived a theory about him. It
is supported by Lady Mary's answers to my parting questions. I should like
much to ascertain from his own lips. But what can I do consistently with
good breeding to invite a confession? Nothing. I rather think he meditates
one. At all events, my dear Van L., I shan't make myself difficult of access;
I mean to re turn his visit tomorrow. It will be only civil in return for
his politeness, to ask to see him. Perhaps something may come of it. Whether
much, little, or nothing, my dear Van L., you shall hear.
CHAPTER III. Dr. Hesselius Picks Up Something
in Latin Books
Well, I have called at Blank Street.
On inquiring at the door, the servant told me that Mr. Jennings was
engaged very particularly with a gentleman, a clergyman from Kenlis, his
parish in the country. Intending to reserve my privilege, and to call again,
I merely intimated that I should try another time, and had turned to go,
when the servant begged my pardon, and asked me, looking at me a little
more attentively than well-bred persons of his order usually do, whether
I was Dr. Hesselius; and, on learning that I was, he said, "Perhaps then,
sir, you would allow me to mention it to Mr. Jennings, for I am sure he
wishes to see you."
The servant returned in a moment, with a message from Mr. Jennings,
asking me to go into his study, which was in effect his back drawing-room,
promising to be with me in a very few minutes.
This was really a study--almost a library. The room was lofty, with
two tall slender windows, and rich dark curtains. It was much larger than
I had expected, and stored with books on every side, from the floor to
the ceiling. The upper carpet--for to my tread it felt that there were
two or three--was a Turkey carpet. My steps fell noiselessly. The bookcases
standing out, placed the windows, particularly narrow ones, in deep recesses.
The effect of the room was, although extremely comfortable, and even luxurious,
decidedly gloomy, and aided by the silence, almost oppressive. Perhaps,
however, I ought to have allowed something for association. My mind had
connected peculiar ideas with Mr. Jennings. I stepped into this perfectly
silent room, of a very silent house, with a peculiar foreboding; and its
darkness, and solemn clothing of books, for except where two narrow looking-glasses
were set in the wall, they were everywhere, helped this sombre feeling.
While awaiting Mr. Jennings' arrival, I amused myself by looking into
some of the books with which his shelves were laden. Not among these, but
immediately under them, with their backs up ward, on the floor, I lighted
upon a complete set of Swedenborg's "Arcana Cælestia," in the original
Latin, a very fine folio set, bound in the natty livery which theology
affects, pure vellum, namely, gold letters, and carmine edges. There were
paper markers in several of these volumes, I raised and placed them, one
after the other, upon the table, and opening where these papers were placed,
I read in the solemn Latin phraseology, a series of sentences indicated
by a penciled line at the margin. Of these I copy here a few, translating
them into English.
"When man's interior sight is opened, which is that of his spirit, then
there appear the things of another life, which cannot possibly be made
visible to the bodily sight.". . . .
"By the internal sight it has been granted me to see the things that
are in the other life, more clearly than I see those that are in the world.
From these considerations, it is evident that external vision exists from
interior vision, and this from a vision still more interior, and so on."
. . . .
"There are with every man at least two evil spirits.". . . .
"With wicked genii there is also a fluent speech, but harsh and grating.
There is also among them a speech which is not fluent, wherein the dissent
of the thoughts is perceived as something secretly creeping along within
"The evil spirits associated with man are, indeed from the hells, but
when with man they are not then in hell, but are taken out thence. The
place where they then are, is in the midst between heaven and hell, and
is called the world of spirits--when the evil spirits who are with man,
are in that world, they are not in any infernal torment, but in every thought
and affection of man, and so, in all that the man himself enjoys. But when
they are remitted into their hell, they return to their former state.".
. . .
"If evil spirits could perceive that they were associated with man,
and yet that they were spirits separate from him, and if they could flow
in into the things of his body, they would attempt by a thousand means
to destroy him; for they hate man with a deadly hatred." . . . .
"Knowing, therefore, that I was a man in the body, they were continually
striving to destroy me, not as to the body only, but especially as to the
soul; for to destroy any man or spirit is the very delight of the life
of all who are in hell; but I have been continually protected by the Lord.
Hence it appears how dangerous it is for man to be in a living consort
with spirits, unless he be in the good of faith." . . . .
"Nothing is more carefully guarded from the knowledge of associate spirits
than their being thus conjoint with a man, for if they knew it they would
speak to him, with the intention to destroy him." . . . .
"The delight of hell is to do evil to man, and to hasten his eternal
A long note, written with a very sharp and fine pencil, in Mr. Jennings'
neat hand, at the foot of the page, caught my eye. Expecting his criticism
upon the text, I read a word or two, and stopped, for it was something
quite different, and began with these words, Deus misereatur mei--"May
God compassionate me." Thus warned of its private nature, I averted my
eyes, and shut the book, replacing all the volumes as I had found them,
except one which interested me, and in which, as men studious and solitary
in their habits will do, I grew so absorbed as to take no cognisance of
the outer world, nor to remember where I was.
I was reading some pages which refer to "representatives" and "correspondents,"
in the technical language of Swedenborg, and had arrived at a passage,
the substance of which is, that evil spirits, when seen by other eyes than
those of their infernal associates, present themselves, by "correspondence,"
in the shape of the beast (fera) which represents their particular lust
and life, in aspect direful and atrocious. This is a long passage, and
particularises a number of those bestial forms.
CHAPTER IV. Four Eyes Were Reading the Passage
I was running the head of my pencil-case along the line as I read it,
and something caused me to raise my eyes.
Directly before me was one of the mirrors I have mentioned, in which
I saw reflected the tall shape of my friend, Mr. Jennings, leaning over
my shoulder, and reading the page at which I was busy, and with a face
so dark and wild that I should hardly have known him.
I turned and rose. He stood erect also, and with an effort laughed a
"I came in and asked you how you did, but without succeeding in awaking
you from your book; so I could not restrain my curiosity, and very impertinently,
I'm afraid, peeped over your shoulder. This is not your first time of looking
into those pages. You have looked into Swedenborg, no doubt, long ago?"
"Oh dear, yes! I owe Swedenborg a great deal; you will discover traces
of him in the little book on Metaphysical Medicine, which you were so good
as to remember."
Although my friend affected a gaiety of manner, there was a slight flush
in his face, and I could perceive that he was inwardly much perturbed.
"I'm scarcely yet qualified, I know so little of Swedenborg. I've only
had them a fortnight," he answered, "and I think they are rather likely
to make a solitary man nervous--that is, judging from the very little I
have read---I don't say that they have made me so," he laughed; "and I'm
so very much obliged for the book. I hope you got my note?"
I made all proper acknowledgments and modest disclaimers.
"I never read a book that I go with, so entirely, as that of yours,"
he continued. "I saw at once there is more in it than is quite unfolded.
Do you know Dr. Harley?" he asked, rather abruptly.
In passing, the editor remarks that the physician here named was one
of the most eminent who had ever practiced in England.
I did, having had letters to him, and had experienced from him great
courtesy and considerable assistance during my visit to England.
"I think that man one of the very greatest fools I ever met in my life,"
said Mr. Jennings.
This was the first time I had ever heard him say a sharp thing of anybody,
and such a term applied to so high a name a little startled me.
"Really! and in what way?" I asked.
"In his profession," he answered.
"I mean this," he said: "he seems to me, one half, blind--I mean one
half of all he looks at is dark--preternaturally bright and vivid all the
rest; and the worst of it is, it seems wilful. I can't get him--I mean
he won't--I've had some experience of him as a physician, but I look on
him as, in that sense, no better than a paralytic mind, an intellect half
dead. I'll tell you--I know I shall some time--all about it," he said,
with a little agitation. "You stay some months longer in England. If I
should be out of town during your stay for a little time, would you allow
me to trouble you with a letter?"
"I should be only too happy," I assured him.
"Very good of you. I am so utterly dissatisfied with Harley."
"A little leaning to the materialistic school," I said.
"A mere materialist," he corrected me; "you can't think how that sort
of thing worries one who knows better. You won't tell any one--any of my
friends you know--that I am hippish; now, for instance, no one knows--not
even Lady Mary--that I have seen Dr. Harley, or any other doctor.
So pray don't mention it; and, if I should have any threatening of an
attack, you'll kindly let me write, or, should I be in town, have a little
talk with you."
I was full of conjecture, and unconsciously I found I had fixed my eyes
gravely on him, for he lowered his for a moment, and he said: "I see you
think I might as well tell you now, or else you are forming a conjecture;
but you may as well give it up. If you were guessing all the rest of your
life, you will never hit on it."
He shook his head smiling, and over that wintry sunshine a black cloud
suddenly came down, and he drew his breath in, through his teeth as men
do in pain.
"Sorry, of course, to learn that you apprehend occasion to consult any
of us; but, command me when and how you like, and I need not assure you
that your confidence is sacred."
He then talked of quite other things, and in a comparatively cheerful
way and after a little time, I took my leave.
CHAPTER V. Dr. Hesselius is Summoned to Richmond
We parted cheerfully, but he was not cheerful, nor was I. There are
certain expressions of that powerful organ of spirit--the human face--which,
although I have seen them often, and possess a doctor's nerve, yet disturb
me profoundly. One look of Mr. Jennings haunted me. It had seized my imagination
with so dismal a power that I changed my plans for the evening, and went
to the opera, feeling that I wanted a change of ideas.
I heard nothing of or from him for two or three days, when a note in
his hand reached me. It was cheerful, and full of hope. He said that he
had been for some little time so much better--quite well, in fact--that
he was going to make a little experiment, and run down for a month or so
to his parish, to try whether a little work might not quite set him up.
There was in it a fervent religious expression of gratitude for his restoration,
as he now almost hoped he might call it.
A day or two later I saw Lady Mary, who repeated what his note had announced,
and told me that he was actually in Warwickshire, having resumed his clerical
duties at Kenlis; and she added, "I begin to think that he is really perfectly
well, and that there never was anything the matter, more than nerves and
fancy; we are all nervous, but I fancy there is nothing like a little hard
work for that kind of weakness, and he has made up his mind to try it.
I should not be surprised if he did not come back for a year."
Notwithstanding all this confidence, only two days later I had this
note, dated from his house off Piccadilly:
DEAR SIR,--I have returned disappointed. If I should feel at all able
to see you, I shall write to ask you kindly to call. At present, I am too
low, and, in fact, simply unable to say all I wish to say. Pray don't mention
my name to my friends. I can see no one. By-and-by, please God, you shall
hear from me. I mean to take a run into Shropshire, where some of my people
are. God bless you! May we, on my return, meet more happily than I can
About a week after this I saw Lady Mary at her own house, the last person,
she said, left in town, and just on the wing for Brighton, for the London
season was quite over. She told me that she had heard from Mr. Jenning's
niece, Martha, in Shropshire. There was nothing to be gathered from her
letter, more than that he was low and nervous. In those words, of which
healthy people think so lightly, what a world of suffering is sometimes
Nearly five weeks had passed without any further news of Mr. Jennings.
At the end of that time I received a note from him. He wrote:
"I have been in the country, and have had change of air, change of scene,
change of faces, change of everything--and in everything--but myself. I
have made up my mind, so far as the most irresolute creature on earth can
do it, to tell my case fully to you. If your engagements will permit, pray
come to me to-day, to-morrow, or the next day; but, pray defer as little
as possible. You know not how much I need help. I have a quiet house at
Richmond, where I now am. Perhaps you can manage to come to dinner, or
to luncheon, or even to tea. You shall have no trouble in finding me out.
The servant at Blank Street, who takes this note, will have a carriage
at your door at any hour you please; and I am always to be found. You will
say that I ought not to be alone. I have tried everything. Come and see."
I called up the servant, and decided on going out the same evening,
which accordingly I did.
He would have been much better in a lodging-house, or hotel, I thought,
as I drove up through a short double row of sombre elms to a very old-fashioned
brick house, darkened by the foliage of these trees, which overtopped,
and nearly surrounded it. It was a perverse choice, for nothing could be
imagined more triste and silent. The house, I found, belonged to him. He
had stayed for a day or two in town, and, finding it for some cause insupportable,
had come out here, probably because being furnished and his own, he was
relieved of the thought and delay of selection, by coming here.
The sun had already set, and the red reflected light of the western
sky illuminated the scene with the peculiar effect with which we are all
familiar. The hall seemed very dark, but, getting to the back drawing-room,
whose windows command the west, I was again in the same dusky light. I
sat down, looking out upon the richly-wooded landscape that glowed in the
grand and melancholy light which was every moment fading. The corners of
the room were already dark; all was growing dim, and the gloom was insensibly
toning my mind, already prepared for what was sinister. I was waiting alone
for his arrival, which soon took place. The door communicating with the
front room opened, and the tall figure of Mr. Jennings, faintly seen in
the ruddy twilight, came, with quiet stealthy steps, into the room.
We shook hands, and, taking a chair to the window, where there was still
light enough to enable us to see each other's faces, he sat down beside
me, and, placing his hand upon my arm, with scarcely a word of preface
began his narrative.
CHAPTER VI. How Mr. Jennings Met His Companion
The faint glow of the west, the pomp of the then lonely woods of Richmond,
were before us, behind and about us the darkening room, and on the stony
face of the sufferer for the character of his face, though still gentle
and sweet, was changed rested that dim, odd glow which seems to descend
and produce, where it touches, lights, sudden though faint, which are lost,
almost with out gradation, in darkness. The silence, too, was utter: not
a distant wheel, or bark, or whistle from without; and within the de pressing
stillness of an invalid bachelor's house.
I guessed well the nature, though not even vaguely the particulars of
the revelations I was about to receive, from that fixed face of suffering
that so oddly flushed stood out, like a portrait of Schalken's, before
its background of darkness.
"It began," he said, "on the 15th of October, three years and eleven
weeks ago, and two days--I keep very accurate count, for every day is torment.
If I leave anywhere a chasm in my narrative tell me.
"About four years ago I began a work, which had cost me very much thought
and reading. It was upon the religious metaphysics of the ancients."
"I know," said I, "the actual religion of educated and thinking paganism,
quite apart from symbolic worship? A wide and very interesting field."
"Yes, but not good for the mind--the Christian mind, I mean. Paganism
is all bound together in essential unity, and, with evil sympathy, their
religion involves their art, and both their manners, and the subject is
a degrading fascination and the Nemesis sure. God forgive me!
"I wrote a great deal; I wrote late at night. I was always thinking
on the subject, walking about, wherever I was, everywhere. It thoroughly
infected me. You are to remember that all the material ideas connected
with it were more or less of the beautiful, the subject itself delightfully
interesting, and I, then, without a care."
He sighed heavily.
"I believe, that every one who sets about writing in earnest does his
work, as a friend of mine phrased it, on something--tea, or coffee, or
tobacco. I suppose there is a material waste that must be hourly supplied
in such occupations, or that we should grow too abstracted, and the mind,
as it were, pass out of the body, unless it were reminded often enough
of the connection by actual sensation. At all events, I felt the want,
and I supplied it. Tea was my companion-at first the ordinary black tea,
made in the usual way, not too strong: but I drank a good deal, and increased
its strength as I went on. I never, experienced an uncomfortable symptom
from it. I began to take a little green tea. I found the effect pleasanter,
it cleared and intensified the power of thought so, I had come to take
it frequently, but not stronger than one might take it for pleasure. I
wrote a great deal out here, it was so quiet, and in this room. I used
to sit up very late, and it became a habit with me to sip my tea--green
tea--every now and then as my work proceeded. I had a little kettle on
my table, that swung over a lamp, and made tea two or three times between
eleven o'clock and two or three in the morning, my hours of going to bed.
I used to go into town every day. I was not a monk, and, although I spent
an hour or two in a library, hunting up authorities and looking out lights
upon my theme, I was in no morbid state as far as I can judge. I met my
friends pretty much as usual and enjoyed their society, and, on the whole,
existence had never been, I think, so pleasant before.
"I had met with a man who had some odd old books, German editions in
mediæval Latin, and I was only too happy to be permitted access to
them. This obliging person's books were in the City, a very out-of-the-way
part of it. I had rather out-stayed my intended hour, and, on coming out,
seeing no cab near, I was tempted to get into the omnibus which used to
drive past this house. It was darker than this by the time the 'bus had
reached an old house, you may have remarked, with four poplars at each
side of the door, and there the last passenger but myself got out. We drove
along rather faster. It was twilight now. I leaned back in my corner next
the door ruminating pleasantly.
"The interior of the omnibus was nearly dark. I had observed in the
corner opposite to me at the other side, and at the end next the horses,
two small circular reflections, as it seemed to me of a reddish light.
They were about two inches apart, and about the size of those small brass
buttons that yachting men used to put upon their jackets. I began to speculate,
as listless men will, upon this trifle, as it seemed. From what center
did that faint but deep red light come, and from what--glass beads, buttons,
toy decorations--was it reflected? We were lumbering along gently, having
nearly a mile still to go. I had not solved the puzzle, and it be came
in another minute more odd, for these two luminous points, with a sudden
jerk, descended nearer and nearer the floor, keeping still their relative
distance and horizontal position, and then, as suddenly, they rose to the
level of the seat on which I was sitting and I saw them no more.
"My curiosity was now really excited, and, before I had time to think,
I saw again these two dull lamps, again together near the floor; again
they disappeared, and again in their old corner I saw them.
"So, keeping my eyes upon them, I edged quietly up my own side, towards
the end at which I still saw these tiny discs of red.
"There was very little light in the 'bus. It was nearly dark. I leaned
forward to aid my endeavor to discover what these little circles really
were. They shifted position a little as I did so. I began now to perceive
an outline of something black, and I soon saw, with tolerable distinctness,
the outline of a small black monkey, pushing its face forward in mimicry
to meet mine; those were its eyes, and I now dimly saw its teeth grinning
"I drew back, not knowing whether it might not meditate a spring. I
fancied that one of the passengers had forgot this ugly pet, and wishing
to ascertain something of its temper, though not caring to trust my fingers
to it, I poked my umbrella softly towards it. It remained immovable--up
to it--through it. For through it, and back and forward it passed, without
the slightest resistance.
"I can't, in the least, convey to you the kind of horror that I felt.
When I had ascertained that the thing was an illusion, as I then supposed,
there came a misgiving about myself and a terror that fascinated me in
impotence to remove my gaze from the eyes of the brute for some moments.
As I looked, it made a little skip back, quite into the corner, and I,
in a panic, found myself at the door, having put my head out, drawing deep
breaths of the outer air, and staring at the lights and tress we were passing,
too glad to reassure myself of reality.
"I stopped the 'bus and got out. I perceived the man look oddly at me
as I paid him. I dare say there was something unusual in my looks and manner,
for I had never felt so strangely before."
CHAPTER VII. The Journey: First Stage
"When the omnibus drove on, and I was alone upon the road, I looked
carefully round to ascertain whether the monkey had followed me. To my
indescribable relief I saw it nowhere. I can't describe easily what a shock
I had received, and my sense of genuine gratitude on finding myself, as
I supposed, quite rid of it.
"I had got out a little before we reached this house, two or three hundred
steps. A brick wall runs along the footpath, and inside the wall is a hedge
of yew, or some dark evergreen of that kind, and within that again the
row of fine trees which you may have remarked as you came.
"This brick wall is about as high as my shoulder, and happening to raise
my eyes I saw the monkey, with that stooping gait, on all fours, walking
or creeping, close beside me, on top of the wall. I stopped, looking at
it with a feeling of loathing and horror. As I stopped so did it. It sat
up on the wall with its long hands on its knees looking at me. There was
not light enough to see it much more than in outline, nor was it dark enough
to bring the peculiar light of its eyes into strong relief. I still saw,
however, that red foggy light plainly enough. It did not show its teeth,
nor exhibit any sign of irritation, but seemed jaded and sulky, and was
observing me steadily.
"I drew back into the middle of the road. It was an unconscious recoil,
and there I stood, still looking at it. It did not move.
"With an instinctive determination to try something--any thing, I turned
about and walked briskly towards town with askance look, all the time,
watching the movements of the beast. It crept swiftly along the wall, at
exactly my pace.
"Where the wall ends, near the turn of the road, it came down, and with
a wiry spring or two brought itself close to my feet, and continued to
keep up with me, as I quickened my pace. It was at my left side, so dose
to my leg that I felt every moment as if I should tread upon it.
"The road was quite deserted and silent, and it was darker every moment.
I stopped dismayed and bewildered, turning as I did so, the other way--I
mean, towards this house, away from which I had been walking. When I stood
still, the monkey drew back to a distance of, I suppose, about five or
six yards, and remained stationary, watching me.
"I had been more agitated than I have said. I had read, of course, as
everyone has, something about 'spectral illusions,' as you physicians term
the phenomena of such cases. I considered my situation, and looked my misfortune
in the face.
"These affections, I had read, are sometimes transitory and sometimes
obstinate. I had read of cases in which the appearance, at first harmless,
had, step by step, degenerated into something direful and insupportable,
and ended by wearing its victim out. Still as I stood there, but for my
bestial companion, quite alone, I tried to comfort myself by repeating
again and again the assurance, 'the thing is purely disease, a well-known
physical affection, as distinctly as small-pox or neuralgia. Doctors are
all agreed on that, philosophy demonstrates it. I must not be a fool. I've
been sitting up too late, and I daresay my digestion is quite wrong, and,
with God's help, I shall be all right, and this is but a symptom of nervous
dyspepsia.' Did I believe all this? Not one word of it, no more than any
other miserable being ever did who is once seized and riveted in this satanic
captivity. Against my convictions, I might say my knowledge, I was simply
bullying myself into a false courage.
"I now walked homeward. I had only a few hundred yards to go. I had
forced myself into a sort of resignation, but I had not got over the sickening
shock and the flurry of the first certainty of my misfortune.
"I made up my mind to pass the night at home. The brute moved dose betide
me, and I fancied there was the sort of anxious drawing toward the house,
which one sees in tired horses or dogs, sometimes as they come toward home.
"I was afraid to go into town, I was afraid of any one's seeing and
recognizing me. I was conscious of an irrepressible agitation in my manner.
Also, I was afraid of any violent change in my habits, such as going to
a place of amusement, or walking from home in order to fatigue myself.
At the hall door it waited till I mounted the steps, and when the door
was opened entered with me.
"I drank no tea that night. I got cigars and some brandy and water.
My idea was that I should act upon my material system, and by living for
a while in sensation apart from thought, send myself forcibly, as it were,
into a new groove. I came up here to this drawing-room. I sat just here.
The monkey then got upon a small table that then stood there. It looked
dazed and languid. An irrepressible uneasiness as to its movements kept
my eyes always upon it. Its eyes were half closed, but I could see them
glow. It was looking steadily at me. In all situations, at all hours, it
is awake and looking at me. That never changes.
"I shall not continue in detail my narrative of this particular night.
I shall describe, rather, the phenomena of the first year, which never
varied, essentially. I shall describe the monkey as it appeared in daylight.
In the dark, as you shall presently hear, there are peculiarities. It is
a small monkey, perfectly black. It had only one peculiarity--a character
of malignity--unfathomable malignity. During the first year looked sullen
and sick. But this character of intense malice and vigilance was always
underlying that surly languor. During all that time it acted as if on a
plan of giving me as little trouble as was consistent with watching me.
Its eyes were never off me. I have never lost sight of it, except in my
sleep, light or dark, day or night, since it came here, excepting when
it withdraws for some weeks at a time, unaccountably.
"In total dark it is visible as in daylight. I do not mean merely its
eyes. It is all visible distinctly in a halo that resembles a glow of red
embers, and which accompanies it in all its movements.
"When it leaves me for a time, it is always at night, in the dark, and
in the same way. It grows at first uneasy, and then furious, and then advances
towards me, grinning and shaking, its paws clenched, and, at the same time,
there comes the appearance of fire in the grate. I never have any fire.
I can't sleep in the room where there is any, and it draws nearer and nearer
to the chimney, quivering, it seems, with rage, and when its fury rises
to the highest pitch, it springs into the grate, and up the chimney, and
I see it no more.
"When first this happened, I thought I was released. I was now a new
man. A day passed--a night--and no return, and a blessed week--a week--another
week. I was always on my knees, Dr. Hesselius, always, thanking God and
praying. A whole month passed of liberty, but on a sudden, it was with
CHAPTER VIII. The Second Stage
"It was with me, and the malice which before was torpid under a sullen
exterior, was now active. It was perfectly unchanged in every other respect.
This new energy was apparent in its activity and its looks, and soon in
"For a time, you will understand, the change was shown only in an increased
vivacity, and an air of menace, as if it were always brooding over some
atrocious plan. Its eyes, as before, were never off me."
"Is it here now?" I asked.
"No," he replied, "it has been absent exactly a fortnight and a day--fifteen
days. It has sometimes been away so long as nearly two months, once for
three. Its absence always exceeds a fortnight, although it may be but by
a single day. Fifteen days having past since I saw it last, it may return
now at any moment."
"Is its return," I asked, "accompanied by any peculiar manifestation?"
"Nothing--no," he said. "It is simply with me again. On lifting my eyes
from a book, or turning my head, I see it, as usual, looking at me, and
then it remains, as before, for its appointed time. I have never told so
much and so minutely before to any one."
I perceived that he was agitated, and looking like death, and he repeatedly
applied his handkerchief to his forehead; I suggested that he might be
cured, and told him that I would call, with pleasure, in the morning, but
"No, if you don't mind hearing it all now. I have got so far, and I
should prefer making one effort of it. When I spoke to Dr. Harley, I had
nothing like so much to tell. You are a philosophic physician. You give
spirit its proper rank. If the thing is real----"
He paused looking at me with agitated inquiry.
"We can discuss it by-and-by, and very fully. I will give you all I
think, " I answered after an interval.
"Well--very well. If it is anything real, I say, it is prevailing, little
by little, and drawing me more interiorly into hell. Optic nerves, he talked
of. Ah! well--there are other nerves of communication. May God Almighty
help me! You shall hear.
"Its power of action, I tell you, had increased. Its malice became,
in a way, aggressive. About two years ago, some questions that were pending
between me and the bishop having been settled, I went down to my parish
in Warwickshire, anxious to find occupation in my profession. I was not
prepared for what happened, although I have since thought I might have
apprehended something like it. The reason of my saying so is this--"
He was beginning to speak with a great deal more effort and reluctance,
and sighted often, and seemed at times nearly overcome. But at this time
his manner was not agitated. It was more like that of a sinking patient,
who has given himself up.
"Yes, but I will first tell you about Kenlis my parish.
"It was with me when I left this place for Dawlbridge. It was my silent
traveling companion, and it remained with me at the vicarage. When I entered
on the discharge of my duties, another change took place. The thing exhibited
an atrocious determination to thwart me. It was with me in the church--in
the reading desk--in the pulpit--within the communion rails. At last, it
reached this extremity, that while I was reading to the congregation, it
would spring upon the book and squat there, so that I was unable to see
the page. This happened more than once.
"I left Dawlbridge for a time. I placed myself in Dr. Harley's hands.
I did everything he told me. he gave my case a great deal of thought. It
interested him, I think. He seemed successful. For nearly three months
I was perfectly free from a return. I began to think I was safe. With his
full assent I returned to Dawlbridge.
"I traveled in a chaise. I was in good spirits. I was more--I was happy
and grateful. I was returning, as I thought, delivered from a dreadful
hallucination, to the scene of duties which I longed to enter upon. It
was a beautiful sunny evening, everything looked serene and cheerful, and
I was delighted, I remember looking out of the window to see the spire
of my church at Kenlis among the trees, at the point where one has the
earliest view of it. It is exactly where the little stream that bounds
the parish passes under the road by a culvert, and where it emerges at
the roadside, a stone with an old inscription is placed. As we passed this
point, I drew my head in and sat down, and in the corner of the chaise
was the monkey.
"For a moment I felt faint, and then quite wild with despair and horror,
I called to the driver, and got out, and sat down at the road-side, and
prayed to God silently for mercy. A despairing resignation supervened.
My companion was with me as I reentered the vicarage. The same persecution
followed. After a short struggle I submitted, and soon I left the place.
"I told you," he said, "that all the beast has before this become in
certain ways aggressive. I will explain a little. It seemed to be actuated
by intense and increasing fury, whenever I said my prayers, or even meditated
prayer. It amounted at last to a dreadful interruption. You will ask, how
could a silent immaterial phantom effect that? It was thus, whenever I
meditated praying; It was always before me, and nearer and nearer.
"It used to spring on the table, on the back of the chair, on the chimney-piece,
and slowly swing itself from side to side, looking at me all the time.
There is in its motion an indefinable power to dissipate thought, and to
contract one's attention to that monotony, till the ideas shrink, as it
were, to a point, and at last to nothing--and unless I had started up,
and shook off the catalepsy I have felt as if my mind were to a point of
losing itself. There are no other ways," he sighed heavily; "thus, for
instance, while I pray with my eyes closed, it comes closer and closer
and closer, and I see it. I know it is not to be accounted for physically,
but I do actually see it, though my lids are closed, and so it rocks my
mind, as it were, and overpowers me, and I am obliged to rise from my knees.
If you had ever yourself known this, you would be acquainted with desperation."
CHAPTER IX. The Third Stage
"I see, Dr. Hesselius, that you don't lose one word of my statement.
I need not ask you to listen specially to what I am now going to tell you.
They talk of the optic nerves, and of spectral illusions, as if the organ
of fight was the only point assailable by the influences that have fastened
upon me--I know better. For two years in my direful case that limitation
prevailed. But as food is taken in softly at the lips, and then brought
under the teeth, as the tip of the little finger caught in a mill crank
will draw in the hand, and the arm, and the whole body, so the miserable
mortal who has been once caught firmly by the end of the finest fibre of
his nerve, is drawn in and in, by the enormous machinery of hell, until
he is as I am. Yes, Doctor, as I am, for a while I talk to you, and implore
relief, I feel that my prayer is for the impossible, and my pleading with
I endeavoured to calm his visibly increasing agitation, and told him
that he must not despair.
While we talked the night had overtaken us. The filmy moonlight was
wide over the scene which the window commanded, and I said:
"Perhaps you would prefer having candles. This light, you know, is odd.
I should wish you, as much as possible, under your usual conditions while
I make my diagnosis, shall I call it--otherwise I don't care."
"All lights are the same to me," he said; "except when I read or write,
I care not if night were perpetual. I am going to tell you what happened
about a year ago. The thing began to speak to me."
"Speak! How do you mean--speak as a man does, do you mean?"
"Yes; speak in words and consecutive sentences, with perfect coherence
and articulation; but there is a peculiarity. It is not like the tone of
a human voice. It is not by my ears it reaches me--it comes like a singing
through my head.
"This faculty, the power of speaking to me, will be my undoing. It won't
let me pray, it interrupts me with dreadful blasphemies. I dare not go
on, I could not. Oh! Doctor, can the skill, and thought, and prayers of
man avail me nothing!"
"You must promise me, my dear sir, not to trouble yourself with unnecessarily
exciting thoughts; confine yourself strictly to the narrative of facts;
and recollect, above all, that even if the thing that infests you be, you
seem to suppose a reality with an actual in dependent life and will, yet
it can have no power to hurt you, unless it be given from above: its access
to your senses depends mainly upon your physical condition--this is, under
God, your comfort and reliance: we are all alike environed. It is only
that in your case, the 'paries,' the veil of the flesh, the screen, is
a little out of repair, and sights and sounds are transmitted. We must
enter on a new course, sir,---be encouraged. I'll give to-night to the
careful consideration of the whole case."
"You are very good, sir; you think it worth trying, you don't give me
quite up; but, sir, you don't know, it is gaining such an influence over
me: it orders me about, it is such a tyrant, and I'm growing so helpless.
May God deliver me!"
"It orders you about--of course you mean by speech?"
"Yes, yes; it is always urging me to crimes, to injure others, or myself.
You see, Doctor, the situation is urgent, it is indeed. When I was in Shropshire,
a few weeks ago" (Mr. Jennings was speaking rapidly and trembling now,
holding my arm with one hand, and looking in my face), "I went out one
day with a party of friends for a walk: my persecutor, I tell you, was
with me at the time. I lagged behind the rest: the country near the Dee,
you know, is beautiful. Our path happened to lie near a coal mine, and
at the verge of the wood is a perpendicular shaft, they say, a hundred
and fifty feet deep. My niece had remained behind with me--she knows, of
course nothing of the nature of my sufferings. She knew, however, that
I had been ill, and was low, and she remained to prevent my being quite
alone. As we loitered slowly on together, the brute that accompanied me
was urging me to throw myself down the shaft. I tell you now--oh, sir,
think of it!--the one consideration that saved me from that hideous death
was the fear lest the shock of witnessing the occurrence should be too
much for the poor girl. I asked her to go on and walk with her friends,
saying that I could go no further. She made excuses, and the more I urged
her the firmer she became. She looked doubtful and frightened. I suppose
there was something in my looks or manner that alarmed her; but she would
not go, and that literally saved me. You had no idea, sir, that a living
man could be made so abject a slave of Satan," he said, with a ghastly
groan and a shudder.
There was a pause here, and I said, "You were preserved nevertheless.
It was the act of God. You are in His hands and in the power of no other
being: be therefore confident for the future."
CHAPTER X. Home
I made him have candles lighted, and saw the room looking cheery and
inhabited before I left him. I told him that he must regard his illness
strictly as one dependent on physical, though subtle physical causes. I
told him that he had evidence of God's care and love in the deliverance
which he had just described, and that I had perceived with pain that he
seemed to regard its peculiar features as indicating that he had been delivered
over to spiritual reprobation. Than such a conclusion nothing could be,
I insisted, less warranted; and not only so, but more contrary to facts,
as disclosed in his mysterious deliverance from that murderous in fluence
during his Shropshire excursion. First, his niece had been retained by
his side without his intending to keep her near him; and, secondly, there
had been infused into his mind an irresistible repugnance to execute the
dreadful suggestion in her presence.
As I reasoned this point with him, Mr. Jennings wept. He seemed comforted.
One promise I exacted, which was that should the monkey at any time return,
I should be sent for immediately; and, repeating my assurance that I would
give neither time nor thought to any other subject until I had thoroughly
investigated his case, and that to-morrow he should hear the result, I
took my leave.
Before getting into the carriage I told the servant that his master
was far from well, and that he should make a point of frequently looking
into his room.
My own arrangements I made with a view to being quite secure from interruption.
I merely called at my lodgings, and with a traveling-desk and carpet-bag,
set off in a hackney carriage for an inn about two miles out of town, called
"The Horns," a very quiet and comfortable house, with good thick walls.
And there I resolved, without the possibility of intrusion or distraction,
to devote some hours of the night, in my comfortable sitting-room, to Mr.
Jennings' case, and so much of the morning as it might require.
(There occurs here a careful note of Dr. Hesselius' opinion on the case,
and of the habits, dietary, and medicines which he prescribed. It is curious--some
persons would say mystical. But, on the whole, I doubt whether it would
sufficiently interest a reader of the kind I am likely to meet with, to
warrant its being here reprinted. The whole letter was plainly written
at the inn where he had hid himself for the occasion. The next letter is
dated from his town lodgings.)
I left town for the inn where I slept last night at half-past nine,
and did not arrive at my room in town until one o'clock this afternoon.
I found a letter m Mr. Jennings' hand upon my table. It had not come by
post, and, on inquiry, I learned that Mr. Jennings' servant had brought
it, and on learning that I was not to return until to-day, and that no
one could tell him my address, he seemed very uncomfortable, and said his
orders from his master were that he was not to return without an answer.
I opened the letter and read:
DEAR DR. HESSELIUS.--It is here. You had not been an hour gone when
it returned. It is speaking. It knows all that has happened. It knows every
thing-it knows you, and is frantic and atrocious. It reviles. I send you
this. It knows every word I have written--I write. This I promised, and
I therefore write, but I fear very confused, very incoherently. I am so
Ever yours, sincerely yours,
ROBERT LYNDER JENNINGS.
"When did this come?" I asked.
"About eleven last night: the man was here again, and has been here
three times to-day. The last time is about an hour since."
Thus answered, and with the notes I had made upon his case in my pocket,
I was in a few minutes driving towards Richmond, to see Mr. Jennings.
I by no means, as you perceive, despaired of Mr. Jennings' case. He
had himself remembered and applied, though quite in a mistaken way, the
principle which I lay down in my Metaphysical Medicine, and which governs
all such cases. I was about to apply it in earnest. I was profoundly interested,
and very anxious to see and examine him while the "enemy" was actually
I drove up to the sombre house, and ran up the steps, and knocked. The
door, in a little time, was opened by a tall woman in black silk. She looked
ill, and as if she had been crying. She curtseyed, and heard my question,
but she did not answer. She turned her face away, extending her hand towards
two men who were coming down-stairs; and thus having, as it were, tacitly
made me over to them, she passed through a side-door hastily and shut it.
The man who was nearest the hall, I at once accosted, but being now
close to him, I was shocked to see that both his hands were covered with
I drew back a little, and the man, passing downstairs, merely said in
a low tone, "Here's the servant, sir."
The servant had stopped on the stairs, confounded and dumb at seeing
me. He was rubbing his hands in a handkerchief, and it was steeped in blood.
"Jones, what is it? what has happened?" I asked, while a sickening suspicion
The man asked me to come up to the lobby. I was beside him in a moment,
and, frowning and pallid, with contracted eyes, he told me the horror which
I already half guessed.
His master had made away with himself.
I went upstairs with him to the room--what I saw there I won't tell
you. He had cut his throat with his razor. It was a frightful gash. The
two men had laid him on the bed, and composed his limbs. It had happened,
as the immense pool of blood on the floor declared, at some distance between
the bed and the window. There was carpet round his bed, and a carpet under
his dressing table, but none on the rest of the floor, for the man said
he did not like a carpet on his bedroom. In this sombre and now terrible
room, one of the great elms that darkened the house was slowly moving the
shadow of one of its great boughs upon this dreadful floor.
I beckoned to the servant, and we went downstairs together. I turned
off the hall into an old-fashioned paneled room, and there standing, I
heard all the servant had to tell. It was not a great deal.
"I concluded, sir, from your words, and looks, sir, as you left last
night, that you thought my master was seriously ill. I thought it might
be that you were afraid of a fit, or something. So I attended very close
to your directions. He sat up late, till past three o'clock. He was not
writing or reading. He was talking a great deal to himself, but that was
nothing unusual. At about that hour I assisted him to undress, and left
him in his slippers and dressing-gown. I went back softly in about half-an-hour.
He was in his bed, quite undressed, and a pair of candles lighted on the
table beside his bed. He was leaning on his elbow, and looking out at the
other side of the bed when I came in. I asked him if he wanted anything,
and he said No.
"I don't know whether it was what you said to me, sir, or some thing
a little unusual about him, but I was uneasy, uncommon uneasy about him
"In another half hour, or it might be a little more, I went up again.
I did not hear him talking as before. I opened the door a little. The candles
were both out, which was not usual. I had a bedroom candle, and I let the
light in, a little bit, looking softly round. I saw him sitting in that
chair beside the dressing-table with his clothes on again. He turned round
and looked at me. I thought it strange he should get up and dress, and
put out the candles to sit in the dark, that way.
But I only asked him again if I could do anything for him. He said,
No, rather sharp, I thought. He said, 'Tell me truth, Jones; why did you
come again--you did not hear anyone cursing?' 'No, sir,' I said, wondering
what he could mean.
"'No,' said he, after me, 'of course, no;' and I said to him, 'Wouldn't
it be well, sir, you went to bed? It's just five o'clock;' and he said
nothing, but, 'Very likely; good-night, Jones.' so I went, sir, but in
less than an hour I came again. The door was fast, and he heard me, and
called as I thought from the bed to know what I wanted, and he desired
me not to disturb him again. I lay down and slept for a little. It must
have been between six and seven when I went up again. The door was still
fast, and he made no answer, so I did not like to disturb him, and thinking
he was asleep, I left him till nine. It was his custom to ring when he
wished me to come, and I had no particular hour for calling him. I tapped
very gently, and getting no answer, I stayed away a good while, supposing
he was getting some rest then. It was not till eleven o'clock I grew really
uncomfortable about him--for at the latest he was never, that I could remember,
later than half past ten. I got no answer. I knocked and called, and still
no answer. So not being able to force the door, I called Thomas from the
stables, and together we forced it, and found him in the shocking way you
Jones had no more to tell. Poor Mr. Jennings was very gentle, and very
kind. All his people were fond of him. I could see that the servant was
very much moved.
So, dejected and agitated, I passed from that terrible house, and its
dark canopy of elms, and I hope I shall never see it more. While I write
to you I feel like a man who has but half waked from a frightful and monotonous
dream. My memory rejects the picture with incredulity and horror. Yet I
know it is true. It is the story of the process of a poison, a poison which
excites the reciprocal action of spirit and nerve, and paralyses the tissue
that separates those cognate functions of the senses, the external and
the interior. Thus we find strange bed-fellows, and the mortal and immortal
prematurely make acquaintance.
CONCLUSION. A Word for Those Who Suffer
My dear Van L--, you have suffered from an affection similar to that
which I have just described. You twice complained of a return of it.
Who, under God, cured you? Your humble servant, Martin Hesselius. Let
me rather adopt the more emphasized piety of a certain good old French
surgeon of three hundred years ago: "I treated, and God cured you."
Come, my friend, you are not to be hippish. Let me tell you a fact.
I have met with, and treated, as my book shows, fifty-seven cases of
this kind of vision, which I term indifferently "sublimated," "precocious,"
There is another class of affections which are truly termed- though
commonly confounded with those which I describe--spectral illusions. These
latter I look upon as being no less simply curable than a cold in the head
or a trifling dyspepsia.
It is those which rank in the first category that test our promptitude
of thought. Fifty-seven such cases have I encountered, neither more nor
less. And in how many of these have I failed? In no one single instance.
There is no one affliction of mortality more easily and certainly reducible,
with a little patience, and a rational confidence in the physician. With
these simple conditions, I look upon the cure as absolutely certain.
You are to remember that I had not even commenced to treat Mr. Jennings'
case. I have not any doubt that I should have cured him perfectly in eighteen
months, or possibly it might have extended to two years. Some cases are
very rapidly curable, others extremely tedious. Every intelligent physician
who will give thought and diligence to the task, will effect a cure.
You know my tract on "The Cardinal Functions of the Brain." I there,
by the evidence of innumerable facts, prove, as I think, the high probability
of a circulation arterial and venous in its mechanism, through the nerves.
Of this system, thus considered, the brain is the heart. The fluid, which
is propagated hence through one class of nerves, returns in an altered
state through another, and the nature of that fluid is spiritual, though
not immaterial, any more than, as I before remarked, light or electricity
By various abuses, among which the habitual use of such agents as green
tea is one, this fluid may be affected as to its quality, but it is more
frequently disturbed as to equilibrium. This fluid being that which we
have in common with spirits, a congestion found on the masses of brain
or nerve, connected with the interior sense, forms a surface unduly exposed,
on which disembodied spirits may operate: communication is thus more or
less effectually established. Between this brain circulation and the heart
circulation there is an intimate sympathy. The seat, or rather the instrument
of exterior vision, is the eye. The seat of interior vision is the nervous
tissue and brain, immediately about and above the eyebrow. You remember
how effectually I dissipated your pictures by the simple application of
iced eau-de-cologne. Few cases, how ever, can be treated exactly alike
with anything like rapid success. Cold acts powerfully as a repellant of
the nervous fluid. Long enough continued it will even produce that permanent
insensibility which we call numbness, and a little longer, muscular as
well as sensational paralysis.
I have not, I repeat, the slightest doubt that I should have first dimmed
and ultimately sealed that inner eye which Mr. Jennings had inadvertently
opened. The same senses are opened in delirium tremens, and entirely shut
up again when the overaction of the cerebral heart, and the prodigious
nervous congestions that attend it, are terminated by a decided change
in the state of the body. It is by acting steadily upon the body, by a
simple process, that this result is produced--and inevitably produced--I
have never yet failed.
Poor Mr. Jennings made away with himself. But that catastrophe was the
result of a totally different malady, which, as it were, projected itself
upon the disease which was established. His case was in the distinctive
manner a complication, and the complaint under which he really succumbed,
was hereditary suicidal mania. Poor Mr. Jennings I cannot call a patient
of mine, for I had not even begun to treat his case, and he had not yet
given me, I am convinced, his full and unreserved confidence. If the patient
do not array himself on the side of the disease, his cure is certain.