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piece of flesh had been taken would feel similar impressions; so that, in this manner, a correspondence might be maintained.
Some went even farther than this, asserting, that such a miraculous sympathy exists between the human body and all that has previously formed part of it, that if we were to run a hot iron into the excrement of any person, he would feel a sensation of burning in the part, whence it had proceeded.
It was also a notion that grafts of flesh, united to another body, die when the person dies from whom they have been taken. a recent work on animal magnetism, the case of a man at Brussels is given, who had an artificial nose, formed after the old Taliacotian method, which served every useful purpose, until the person, from whom the graft had been taken, died, when it suddenly became cold and livid and finally fell off. Tagliacozzi himself lived in an era of superstition, when this belief in the synchronous death of the parent and graft was universally credited; and the folly has not escaped the notice of BUTLER:
"So learned Taliacotius from
Little less singular was the superstition,—that the wounds of a murdered person will bleed afresh, if the body be touched, ever so lightly in any part by the murderer. This idea gave rise to the trial by bier-right, which has been worked up by Sir Walter Scott with so much dramatic skill, in one of his more recent novels—St. Valentine's day, or the Fair Maid of Perth. The annals of judicial inquiry furnish us with many instances of this gross superstition, which still exists amongst the lower orders in some parts of Great Britain, and probably also amongst the credulous and uninformed of this country.
In the year 1688, a gentleman, of the name of Stansfield, was tried at Edinburgh for the murder of his own father, and found guilty. Having strangled him, he caused the body to be thrown into water, to have it supposed that the death had been by suicide. The appearances about the corpse, however, were such, that both the faculty of physic and that of surgery gave it as their opinion that the deceased had been strangled and not drowned. The indictment in the case, amongst other things, remarks:—"That upon the day of November last, the said Sir James Stansfield, coming from Edinburgh to his house at New Milns, and going into his chamber to rest, about ten o'clock at night, and being alone in the room, under the credit, trust, and assurance of the said Philip his son, and his own servants within his family; the said Philip did consult with one GEORGE TOMSON and divers
other persons how to murder him; and that, accordingly, they did murder and strangle him in his bed-chamber; and, in the dead of night, carried him from the said room, and threw him into a pond near the house. That the next morning, when the body was found, the said Philip caused it to be buried in haste, and refused to stay till his friends and physicians viewed it. That the body, being taken up again by authority, and inspected by surgeons, it appeared to have been strangled and not drowned; and that his nearest relations being required to lift the corpse into the coffin after it had been inspected; upon the said Philip Stansfield touching of it (according to God's usual method of discovering murder,' says the framer of the indictment) it bled afresh upon the said Philip, and that thereupon he let the body fall, and fled from it in the greatest consternation; crying,—Lord, have mercy upon me! And that the said Philip being found by an assize to be actor, art and part of the aforesaid crimes, one or other of them, he ought to be punished, &c. &c." On this portion of the indictment, the King's advocate remarked:—"That as to the body bleeding, although several persons touched it, none of their hands were besmeared with blood but the prisoner's; and that the body having lain two days in the grave, in a cold season, the blood must naturally be congealed. That the lifting about the body, and even the incision that was made, causing no such effusion before, but only of some water or gore, and should upon the prisoner's first touching it begin to bleed afresh! he must ascribe it to the wonderful providence of God, who, in this manner, discovers murder, especially since no natural reason could be assigned for it; and that the horrible impressions it made on the prisoner, notwithstanding his resolution to the contrary, might be urged as another argument of his guilt."
A case of a similar character is given in the Annual Register for 1767, as having occurred in our own country. It is contained in the attestation of John Demarest, coroner of Bergen County, New Jersey. The superstition, too, is noticed by many of the older poets. Thus, Shakespeare, in his Richard III:
"O! gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
And Webster, in his tragedy of Appius and Virginia, published about the middle of the 17th century:
It would be endless to enumerate the various superstitions that prevailed, a few centuries ago, on topics more or less remotely
connected with this subject. We pass on, therefore, to the interesting, but abstruse, inquiry into the agents by which sympathy is accomplished.
The opinions of physiologists have, from time to time, rested chiefly; on the membranes, the cellular tissue, the blood-vessels, and the nerves; whilst there have been some, who, in the difficulty of the subject, have supposed sympathy to be devoid of all organic connexion; and others, again, have presumed, that all the parts, we have mentioned, are concerned. The rapidity, however, with which sympathies are evidenced, has led to the abandonment of all those opinions; and the generality of physiologists of the present day look to the nervous system as the great source and medium of communication of the different irradiations, by which distant organs are supposed to react, in this manner, upon each other. The rapidity, indeed, with which the various actions of the nervous system are executed,—the apparent synchronism between the reception of an impression on an organ of sense, and its perception by the brain, as well as between the determination of the will and its effect upon the muscle, -naturally attracted the attention of physiologists to this system as the instrument of sympathy.
The modes, in which it is supposed to be accomplished, are:either by the parts, that sympathize, receiving ramifications from the same nervous trunks, or from such as are united by nervous anastomosis; or by the nervous irradiation emanating from one organ, proceeding to the brain, and being thence reflected to every dependency of the system, but so that certain organs are more modified by such reflection than others; hence the distinction into what have been termed direct sympathies and cerebral sympa
Of the direct sympathies we have already given some examples, -as that between the mucous and muscular coats of the intestines; and if our acquaintance with the precise distribution and connexion of the various parts of the nervous system were more intimate, we might perhaps explain many of the cases that are yet quite obscure to us. The researches of Sir Charles Bell, regarding the nerves concerned in respiration, have thrown great light on those associations of organs which we notice in the active exercise of the respiratory function. It has been elsewhere shown, that although the whole of the nerves, composing his respiratory system, may not be apparently in action during ordinary respiration, yet that when the function has been greatly excited, the association becomes obvious; parts, that are remote in situation, are combined in function, and all the nerves that animate them are found to arise from the same column of the spine. The opinion of Boerhaave, Meckel, and some others is, that all sympathies are accomplished in this direct manner. On the other hand, Haller, Whytt, Georget, Broussais, Adelon, and others, make the
majority of sympathies to be produced through the medium of the brain. Bostock indeed affirms, that the facts, adduced by Whytt, are 0f such a nature as "to prove, that the co-operation of the brain is essential in those actions which we refer to the operation of sympathy." In many cases this is doubtless the fact;—as in sneezing and coughing; but there are others in which such cooperation seems improbable. Something like sympathy exists in the vegetable; in which if we admit, with some naturalists, a rudimental nervous system, we have no reason for presuming that there is any thing like a centre for the reception or transmission of impressions.
We find that the properties of the vital principle are exemplified by the formation of a body of a certain magnitude, form, structure, composition and duration, and that this applies to all organized bodies, vegetable as well as animal. Where such appearance of design consequently exists, we ought to expect that in the vegetable, also, a harmony or consent must reign amongst the various functions, tending to the accomplishment of that uniformity, which enables us always to recognise the particular varieties of the vegetable kingdom, and which has kept them as distinct, probably, in their characters, as when first created by Almighty power. The irritation of a single leaflet of the Mimosa pudica or sensitive plant causes the whole leaf, as well as the footstalk, to contract. Dr. John Sims irritated a leaflet of this plant, taking the greatest pains to avoid moving any other part of the leaf; yet the whole contracted and the footstalk dropped. In order, however, to be sure, that mechanical motion, communicated by the irritation, had no share in the contraction, he directed a sunbeam, concentrated by a lens, on one of the leaflets, when the leaf, again, contracted and the footstalk dropped. Of this kind of vegetable irritability we have many examples, some of which are alluded to under another head. If, in the winter, the branch of a vine be introduced into a hothouse, it will produce a luxuriant crop of leaves, blossoms and fruit, the materials of which can only be derived from the excitement of the roots produced by sympathy with the parts exposed to the warm air: this will take place even during a frost, in which situation the roots would have been in a torpid state, but for the sympathetic influence developed in the parts above ground by warmth. From these, and other facts of an analogous character, Sir Gilbert Blane concludes, that the functions of living nature, in all its departments, are kept up by a mutual concert and correspondent accordance of every part with every other part, and that it would be in vain to waste time in endeavouring to account for them by groping among dark analogies and conjectures; and that it is better to assume them as facts, on which are founded the ultimate and inscrutable principles of the animal economy. We have, certainly, much to learn regarding the agents of sympathies, and the modes in which they are operated; but still we know enough
to infer, that in many cases, in animals, the nerves appear to be the conductors; that the brain is, in others, the centre to which the organ in action transmits its irradiations, and by which they are reflected to the sympathizing organ; and that, in others again, the effect is caused in the absence of nervous centre, and perhaps even of nerves, in a manner which, in the present state of our knowledge, is inexplicable, and is, therefore, supposed to be essentially organic and vital,—epithets, however, as we have more than once expressed, that merely convey a confession of our total ignorance of the processes to which they are appropriated.