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Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the

That after dinner I took the garter out of the water


him what he ailed? 'I know

not what ails me, but I find that I feel no more pain. Methinks that a pleasing kind of freshness, as it were a wet cold napkin, did spread over my hand, which hath taken away the inflammation that tormented me before.' I replied, 'Since, then, you feel already so much good of my medicament, I advise you to cast away all your plasters; only keep the wound clean, and in a moderate temper betwixt heat and cold.' This was presently reported to the Duke of Buckingham, and, a little after, to the king, who were both very curious to know the circumstances of the business; which was, that after dinner I took the garter out of the water, and put it to dry before a great fire. It was scarce dry before Mr. Howell's servant came running, and saying that his master felt as much burning as ever he had done, if not more; for the heat was such as if his hand were betwixt coals of fire. I answered that, although that had happened at present, yet he should find ease in a short time; for I knew the reason of this new accident, and would provide accordingly; for his master should be free from that inflammation, it might be before he could possibly return to him. But, in case he found no ease, I wished him to come presently back again; if not, he might forbear coming. Thereupon he went, and, at the instant I did put the garter again into the water; thereupon he found his master without any pain at all. To be brief, there was no cense of pain afterwards; but within five or six days the wounds were
sicatrised and entirely healed."

Such is the marvellous story of Sir Kenelm Digby. Other practitioners of that age were not behind him in their pretensions. It was not always thought necessary to use either the powder of sympathy, or the weapon-salve, to effect a cure. It was sufficient to magnetise the sword with the hand (the first faint dawn of the _animal_ theory), to relieve any pain the same weapon had caused. They asserted, that if they stroked the sword _upwards_ with their fingers, the wounded person would feel immediate relief; but if they stroked it _downwards_, he would feel intolerable pain.[66]

[66] Reginald Scott, quoted by Sir Walter Scott, in the notes to the _Lay of the last Minstrel_, c. iii. v. xxiii.

Another very singular notion of the power and capabilities of magnetism was entertained at the same time. It was believed that a _sympathetic alphabet_ could be made on the flesh, by means of which persons could correspond with each other, and communicate all their ideas with the rapidity of volition, although thousands of miles apart. From the arms of two persons a piece of flesh was cut, and mutually transplanted, while still warm and bleeding. The piece so severed grew to the new arm on which it was placed; but still retained so close a sympathy with its native limb, that its old possessor was always sensible of any injury done to it. Upon these transplanted pieces were tatooed the letters of the alphabet; so that, when a communication was to be made, either of the persons, though the wide Atlantic rolled between them, had only to prick his arm with a magnetic needle, and straightway his friend received intimation that the telegraph was at work. Whatever letter he pricked on his own arm pained the same letter on the arm of his correspondent.


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