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undue degree of excitation. This is evident, from a remark occurring in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, where the mental effect resulting from a neglect of accustomed phlebotomy is, in the language of the humoral school of medicine, expressed under such metaphorical terms, as "an inflammation caused by hot and boiling humours.”
That this view is far from hypothetical, the case of Nicolai, the Prussian bookseller, to which I have alluded in the first chapter, strikingly shews. This intelligent man had evidently certain trains of thought rendered unduly vivid from moral causes, the particular influence of which I shall consider hereafter ; but a conspiring agent, much more excitable, was strictly of a pathological description, and resulted from a casual neglect of accustomed blood-letting. This
very curious fact I shall give in another extract from Nicolai's case. “ Several incidents,” he observes, “connected with apparitions, seem to me of importance, though we might be apt to regard them in a secondary point of view; for we cannot determine of what consequence even a circumstance of the most trivial nature may be, if at any future period (in case more experiments of a like nature are ascertained) some suppositions or conclusions can be made respecting the origin of such phantoms, or respecting that law of association, according to which ideas are modified or follow one another.
“I was then, which is seldom the case, in a situation to make observations on myself. I took down, therefore, in a few words, what was most important, and related it immediately to several persons. My
memory, which is extremely retentive, has, besides, treasured
up the most minute circumstances; the more on that account, as this story has very often proved the subject of my impartial consideration, not only with regard to my own particular situation, but also in respect to its many psychological consequences. Its truth will, I hope, require no further assurance on my part, since a member of this academy (Mr Selle) is an unexceptionable witness of it, having, as my physician, received a daily account of all that happened to me.
“ In the last ten months of the year 1790, I underwent several very severe trials, which greatly agitated me. From the month of September in particular, repeated shocks of misfortune had befallen me, which produced the deepest sorrow. It had been usual for me to lose blood by venesection twice a year. This was done once on the 9th of July, 1790, but towards the close of the year it was omitted. In 1783, I had been suddenly seized with a violent giddiness, which the physician imputed to an obstruction in the small muscles of the abdomen, proceeding from too intense an application to study, and my sedentary manner of life for many years. These complaints were removed by a three-years' medicinal course, and the rigid observance of a strict diet during that time. In the first stage of the malady the application of leeches had been particularly effective, and this remedy I had from that time regularly applied twice or thrice a year, whenever I felt congestion in the head. It was on the 1st of March, 1790, that the leeches had been last applied; the bleeding, therefore, and the clearing of the
minuter blood-vessels by leeches, had, in 1790, been less frequently observed than usual. A circumstance too that could not tend to benefit my deplorable situation was, that from September I had been continually engaged in business which required the severest exertion, and which, from frequent interruptions, was rendered still more burthensome and distressing.”
Nicolai then proceeded to give an account of the appearance of the first phantasm that presented itself before him, which was like the form of a deceased person; and he afterwards details the innumerable other spectral illusions with which he was haunted. This part of the narrative has been given in the first chapter of this dissertation. The most curious fact, however, still remains to be told; it is that interesting circumstance in the case which proves, that the detraction of blood in a system where the habitual evacuation of this vital fluid had been casually neglected, was sufficient, by a reduction of the sanguineous influence, to expel all the phantasms which had resulted from an undue vividness of ideas. “Though at this time," says Nicolai, “I enjoyed rather a good state of health both in body and mind, and had become so very familiar with these phantasms, that at last they did not excite the least disagreeable emotion, but, on the contrary, afforded me frequent subjects for amusement and mirth ; yet as the disorder sensibly increased, and the figures appeared to me for whole days together, and even during the night, if I happened to awake, I had recourse to several medicines, and was at last again obliged to have recourse to the application of leeches.
“ This was performed on the 20th of April, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon. I was alone with the surgeon; but during the operation, the room swarmed with human forms of every description, which crowded fast one on another ; this continued till half-past four o'clock, exactly the time when the digestion commences. I then observed, that the figures began to move more slowly ; soon afterwards the colours became gradually paler; every seven minutes they lost more and more of their intensity, without any
al teration in the distinct figure of the apparitions. At about half-past six o'clock all the figures were entirely white, and moved very little; yet the forms appeared perfectly distinct; by degrees they became visibly less plain, without decreasing in number, as had often formerly been the case. The figures did not move off, neither did they vanish, which also had usually happened on other occasions. In this instance they dissolved immediately into air ; of some even whole pieces remained for a length of time, which also by degrees were lost to the eye. At about eight o'clock there did not remain a vestige of any of them, and I have never since experienced any appearance of the same kind. Twice or thrice since that time I have felt a propensity, if I may be so allowed to express myself, or a sensation as if I saw something which in a moment again was gone. I was even surprised by this sensation whilst writing the present account, having, in order to render it more accurate, perused the papers of 1791, and recalled to my memory all the circumstances of that time. So little are we sometimes, even in the greatest composure of mind, masters of our imagination."
THE SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS WHICH OCCASIONALLY
OCCUR AS HECTIC SYMPTOMS.
“ That sudden flow of spirits, bright and strong,
A VERY remarkable agent, observable in a number of diseases, and capable of imparting an undue degree of vividness to thought, is the cause of the fever usually named Hectic.
By most medical men, the proximate cause of hectic fever is considered to be absorbed pus; agreeably to which view, the affection is merely symptomatic of the numerous catalogue of diseases in which this substance, originating from abscesses or ulcers, enters into the circulation. By a few the cause is regarded as constitutional, and hence the opinion, that it is characterized by a peculiar temperament, the indications of which are a fair skin, blue eyes, yellow hair, lax fibre, and sanguine disposition; and that other fevers, as well as the diseased actions of various or