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For ten countries, we first quantify the bias in the reported number of children, distinguishing fertility measures by age and birth order. We then identify the socioeconomic profiles that are most subject to biased measures. Thematic and regional chronicles The demographic situation in France.

Awards and Juries. Population report Population report Population report Subscribe to Population. Contact us. At the same time, the HUP may benefit from its gener- osity, because exposure to the online editions can make some readers want to purchase print copies. A book that sits on a shelf, read by only a few persons with access to that library, will never circulate as widely as an Authors Alliance version of the same text. The ancient printed book may be rediscovered after decades of neglect, but more likely it will be forgotten.

Deposit it in an open-access repository, put it within the range of search engines, and sit back with the satisfaction that it will live again as part of the general endeavor to make all knowl- edge available to all humans. So presumptuous an undertaking must fail, for who can hope to peer into the minds of men who have been dead for almost two centuries? But it is worth attempting and may attain some degree of accuracy through the use of neglected clues to that mentality, which have been left scattered in the scientific periodicals and pamphlets of the time, in scraps of popular songs and cartoons that were hawked in the streets, in the letters-to-the-editor and paid announce- ments of publications that one might have found lying about eighteenth-century drawing rooms and cafes, and finally in private letters, diaries, police reports, and records of club meetings that have survived in various manuscript collections.

Such material leaves a strong impression of at least the interests of the reading public in the 's, and these interests provide some surprising information about the character of radicalism at that time. They show how radical ideas filtered down from treatises like Rousseau's Social Contract and circulated at the lowest level of literacy. Faced with the impossibility of knowing all the topics of interest, even among the elite who left accounts of them, I have limited this study to what seems to have been the hottest topic — science in general, mesmerism in particular.

If the reader recoils with a feeling that this may be indeed too surprising, too quackish a subject for his attention, then he may appreciate the chasm of time that separates him from the Frenchmen of the 's. These Frenchmen found that mesmerism offered a serious explanation of Nature, of her wonderful, invisible forces, and even, in some cases, of the forces governing society and politics. They absorbed mesmerism so thoroughly that they made it a principal article in the legacy of atti- tudes that they left for their sons and grandsons to fashion viii PREFACE into what is now called romanticism.

It is not surprising that mesmerism's place in this legacy has never been recognized, for later generations, more squeamish per- haps about the impure, pseudoscientific sources of their own views of the world, have managed to forget Mesmer's commanding position during the last years of the Ancien Regime.

This study would restore him to his rightful place, somewhere near Turgor, Franklin, and Cagliostro in the pantheon of that age's most-talked-about men. In so doing it may help to show how the principles of the Enlightenment were recast as revolutionary propaganda and later transformed into elements of nineteenth-century creeds.

It thus may help one to understand how the Enlightenment ended — not absolutely for some still take seriously the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen — but his- torically, as a movement characterizing eighteenth- century France. It may merely help the reader to taste the flavor of the distant past. But if it achieves this last, more limited objective, it will have been worthy perhaps of his attention; for such tastes provide the pleasure in the study of history. With a hospitality that would have delighted their ancestor, the original Gallo- American, the Bergasse du Petit-Thouars family made available to me not only their papers but also the chateau containing them.

PREFACE ix In order to avoid cluttering the page with footnotes, references have been grouped into long notes, in which citations are listed according to the order of the quota- tions' appearance in the text. Impossibly long eighteenth- century titles have been abbreviated with ellipsis dots. The places and dates of publication of works are cited as they appear on title pages, even in the case of such obvious fictions as "Philadelphia" or "The Moon"; and where the names of authors and the places and dates of publication are not given, they are lacking in the original works.

Spelling and punctuation have been modernized, except in citations of titles. I have done the translating and have preferred to render "magnetisme animal" often shortened to "magnetisme" in the eighteenth century as "mesmerism," despite the claim of a modern expert, who believes that "mesmerisme" was first used in the early nineteenth century. Cambridge, Massachusetts Robert Darnton April 1. Mesmerism and Popular Science 2 2.

The Mesmerist Movement 46 3. The Radical Strain in Mesmerism 82 4. Mesmerism as a Radical Political Theory 5. From Mesmer to Hugo 6. Conclusion Bibliographical Note Appendix 1. Mesmer's Propositions Appendix 2. The Societe de l'Harmonie Universelle Appendix 4. Bergasse's Lectures on Mesmerism Appendix 5. An Antimesmerist View Appendix 7. The last illustration is from Louis Bergasse, Un defenseur des principes traditionnels sous la Revolution, Nicolas Bergasse Paris, The original French for passages translated in the text may be found in Appendix 7.

1001 blagues

One such form appeared in the unlikely guise of animal magnetism or mesmerism. Mesmerism aroused enormous interest during the pre- revolutionary decade; and although it originally had no relevance whatsoever to politics, it became, in the hands of radical mesmerists like Nicolas Bergasse and Jacques- Pierre Brissot, a camouflaged political theory very much like Rousseau's. The mesmerist movement therefore serves as an example of the way in which, on a vulgar level, politics became enmeshed with fads, providing radical writers with a cause that would hold their readers' attention without awakening that of the censors.


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To ex- plain the radical strain in mesmerism, it is necessary to examine Mesmer's theory in relation to the other interests of the time, to trace the course of the mesmerist move- ment, and to consider the character of the mesmerist societies. It should then be possible to enjoy an un- expected view of the prerevolutionary radical mentality, a view freed from the overgrowth of quack pamphlets, memoirs, and extinct scientific treatises that have kept it hidden.

In February , Franz Anton Mesmer arrived in Paris and proclaimed his discovery of a superfine fluid that penetrated and surrounded all bodies. While bathing the entire universe in this primeval "agent of nature," Mesmer 1. Daniel Mornet, "L'Influence de J. Sickness, he main- tained, resulted from an "obstacle" to the flow of the fluid through the body, which was analogous to a magnet. Individuals could control and reinforce the fluid's action by "mesmerizing" or massaging the body's "poles" and thereby overcoming the obstacle, inducing a "crisis," often in the form of convulsions, and restoring health or the "harmony" of man with nature.

What lent strength to this appeal to the eighteenth- century cult of nature was Mesmer's ability to put his fluid to work, throwing his patients into epileptic-like fits or somnambulist trances and curing them of diseases ranging from blindness to ennui produced by overactive spleen. Mesmer and his followers put on fascinating performances: they sat with the patient's knees enclosed between their own and ran their fingers all over the patient's body, seeking the poles of the small magnets that composed the great magnet of the body as a whole.

Mesmerizing required skill, for the small magnets kept shifting their positions. The best method of establishing "rapport" with a patient was to rely on stable magnets, such as those of the fingers and the nose Mesmer forbade taking snuff because of the danger of upsetting the nose's magnetic balance , and to avoid areas like the north pole at the top of the head, which usually received mes- meric fluid from the stars, and the south pole in the feet, which were natural receptors of terrestrial magnetism.

Most mesmerists concentrated on the body's equator at the hypochondria, on the sides of the upper abdomen, where Mesmer located the common sensorium. This prac- tice stimulated gossip about sexual magnetism but not about hypochondriacs, whose unbalanced humors elic- ited sympathy, not the scorn reserved for malades imagi- naires. The ladies in the center are forming a "chain" or mesmeric circuit, and those at the sides have passed out from overdoses of fluid.

Introduction by David M. Hart

Other patients grapple for the "poles" of surrounding bodies, while the mesmerist, depicted by the traditional ass's head of the charlatan, stirs up the seance by fluid emanating from his own supercharged body, and astrological beams com- municate influences from outer space. These were usually filled with iron filings and mesmerized water contained in bottles ar- A favorable view of a mesmerist session, emphasizing its gen- eral atmosphere of "harmony," the physical and moral accord of man and the laws of nature.

Mesmerists identified harmony with health and so used music in the treatment of illness. Health, in the broadest sense of the word, was their supreme value. Therefore the children in the center are being educated, not treated for disease: thanks to their early exposure to the "agent of nature," they may grow up to be natural men. Note the "tub for the poor" in the back room. Mesmer, doctor of medicine of the faculty of Vienna in Austria, is the sole inventor of animal magnetism. That method of curing a multitude of ills among others, dropsy, paralysis, gout, scurvy, blindness, accidental deafness consists in the application of a fluid or agent that M.

Mesmer directs, at times with one of his fingers, at times with an iron rod that another applies at will, on those who have recourse to him. He also uses a tub, to which are attached ropes that the sick tie around themselves, and iron rods, which they place near the pit of the stomach, the liver, or the spleen, and in general near the part of their bodies that is diseased. The sick, especially women, experience convulsions or crises that bring about their cure.

The mesmerizers they are those to whom Mesmer has revealed his secret, and they number more than one hundred, including some of the foremost nobles of the court apply their hands to the sick part and rub it for a while. That operation hastens the effect of the ropes and the rods. There is a tub for the poor every other day. In the ante- chamber, musicians play tunes likely to make the sick cheerful. Arriv- ing at the home of this famous doctor, one sees a crowd of men and women of every age and state, the cordon bleu, the artisan, the doc- tor, the surgeon.

They stored the fluid and transmitted it through movable iron rods, which the patients applied to their sick areas. Sitting around the tubs in circles, the patients communicated the fluid to one another by means of a rope looped about them all and by linking thumbs and index fingers in order to form a mes- meric "chain," something like an electric circuit. Mesmer provided portable tubs for patients who wanted to take mesmeric "baths" in the privacy of their homes, but he generally recommended communal treatments, where each individual reinforced the fluid and sent it coursing with extraordinary power through entire clinics.

Everything in Mesmer' s indoor clinic was designed to produce a crisis in the patient. Heavy carpets, weird, astrological wall-decora- tions, and drawn curtains shut him off from the outside world and muffled the occasional words, screams, and bursts of hysterical laughter that broke the habitual heavy silence. Shafts of fluid struck him constantly in the sombre light reflected by strategically placed mirrors. Soft music, played on wind instruments, a pianoforte, or the glass "harmonica" that Mesmer helped to introduce in France, sent reinforced waves of fluid deep into his soul.

Every so often fellow patients collapsed, writhing on the floor, and were carried by Antoine, the mesmerist-valet, into the crisis room; and if his spine still failed to tingle, his hands to tremble, his hypochondria to quiver, Mesmer himself would approach, dressed in a lilac taffeta robe, and drill fluid into the patient from his hands, his imperial eye, and his mesmerized wand.

Not all crises took violent form. Some developed into deep sleeps, and some sleeps provided communication with dead or distant spirits, who sent messages by way of the fluid directly to the somnambulist's internal sixth sense, which was extra- Another view of a mesmerist seance, which communicates something of mesmerism's stylish, overheated sensiblerie.

Many hundreds of Frenchmen experienced such marvels, but few if any fully under- stood them, for Mesmer always kept his greatest doctrinal secrets to himself. Science had captivated Mesmer's contemporaries by revealing to them that they were surrounded by won- derful, invisible forces: Newton's gravity, made intelli- gible by Voltaire; Franklin's electricity, popularized by a fad for lightning rods and by demonstrations in the fashionable lyceums and museums of Paris; and the miraculous gases of the Charlieres and Montgolfieres that astonished Europe by lifting man into the air for the first time in Mesmer's invisible fluid seemed no more miraculous, and who could say that it was less real than the phlogiston that Lavoisier was attempting to banish from the universe, or the caloric he was apparently substituting for it, or the ether, the "animal heat," the "inner mold," the "organic molecules," the fire soul, and the other fictitious powers that one meets like ghosts 2.

Some of Mesmer's 27 basic propositions of animal magnetism are reproduced in Appendix 1. The best of the numerous contemporary pamphlets explaining the theory and practice of mesmerism are: F. Mesmer, Memoire sur la decouverte du magnetisme animal Geneva, ; Aphorismes de M. Mesmer, dictes a I'assemblee de ses eleves. For examples of the occult tendencies of mesmerism, see A.

Petetin, Memoire sur la decouverte des phenomenes que presentent la catalepsie et le somnambulisme. Frenchmen could read descriptions of fluids very like Mesmer's under the articles "fire" and "elec- tricity" in the Encyclopedic. If they desired inspiration from a still greater authority, they could read Newton's description of the "most subtle spirit which pervades and lies hid in all gross bodies" in the fantastic last para- graph of his Principia edition or in the later queries of his Opticks.

Berkeley, one of Newton's first opponents, had his own concept of a vitalistic fluid, which, when distilled by evergreen trees, produced a tar water that would cure all diseases. In fact, there were enough fluids, sponsored by enough philos- ophers, to make any eighteenth-century reader's head swim. It was a century of "systems" as well as one of empiricism and experimentation.

A letter from A. Servan, undated and unaddressed, in the Bibliotheque municipale, Grenoble, ms N , illustrates how the speculations in Newton's Opticks, which were restrained in comparison with those in his correspondence with Robert Boyle, took hold of the mesmerists: "Pourquoi ne pas revenir tout de suite a la belle conjecture que Newton a developpee dans l'un de ses ouvrages?

II avoue l'existence d'un milieu beaucoup plus subtil que l'air et qui penetre les corps les plus denses, milieu qui, par le ressort de toutes ses parties et les vibra- tions qui en resultent, est l'instrument des phenomenes les plus singu- liers de la nature, du feu, de I'electricite, de nos sensations meme etc. Newton to Francis Aston, May 18, , quoted in L.

The Abbe Pluche, one of the most famous of science's pious primitives, did not have to understand the law of gravity to explain the tides: he went straight to the teleological cause — God's desire to help ships in and out of harbors. Newton's own scientific labors included the study of alchemy, the Book of Revelation, and the works of Jacob Boehme. His readers rarely had so firm a grip on what would now be considered scientific method that they could cut the mysticism out of his theories of light and gravity. They often regarded gravity as an occult power, perhaps a relative of the universe's electric soul or of the vitalistic fire that burned in the heart, ac- cording to Harvey and Descartes, and that was produced by the friction of blood against arteries, according to more modern theorists.

Until Lavoisier laid the foundations of modern chemistry, scientists usually expected to explain all life processes by a few principles; and once they be- lieved they had found the key to the code of nature, they often lapsed lyrically into fiction. Buffon's style has not killed his reputation as a scientist, but Bernardin de Saint-Pierre who explained that nature divided melons into sections so that they could be eaten en famille now lives only as a figure in the history of literature, although he was also a scientist to eighteenth-century Frenchmen.

They read facts where their descendants read fiction. The progressive divorce of science from theology in the eighteenth century did not free science from fiction, because scientists had to call upon the imagination to make sense of, and often to see, the data revealed by their microscopes, telescopes, Leyden jars, fossil hunts, and dissections. That the eye alone could not decode nature seemed clear from scientific observations of mermaids and little men talking in rocks; and that machines need not improve perception followed from reports of fully developed donkeys seen through microscopes in donkey semen.

Although it was a hoax, it seemed reasonable in terms of preformation theory and no more ridiculous than Charles Bonnet's concept of the encase- ment emboitement of all individuals in the primeval parent. Epigenesis was not proven until , and until then a veil of fanciful theory hid the reproductive pro- cesses of mammals from the scientists' strained sight. By the end of the century, a legal dictionary permitted itself some doubts about the bastardy case in which a woman claimed to have conceived a child by her hus- band, whom she had not seen for four years, during a dream.

Linnaeus even illustrated an ejaculation of semen from a pollen grain that he had observed with a microscope, and he went on to explain plant life by reference to a subtle, magnetized fluid and human physiology. Yet he had only seen plants sleep. Erasmus Darwin detected them breathing, moving their muscles voluntarily, and experiencing mother love.

Meanwhile, other scientists were watching rocks grow, clams sprout, and the earth secrete many hybrid forms of life. They saw a different world from the one we see today, and they made it out as best they could with the collection of animistic, vitalistic, and mechanistic theories that they 5. Prost de Royer, Dictionnaire de jurisprudence et des arrets, 7 vols.

Lyons, , II, The Dictionnaire enthusiastically endorsed mesmerism V, As Buffon recom- mended, they saw with 'Toeil de 1'esprit," but it was "l'esprit de systeme. Indeed, Mesmer's opponents spotted his scientific an- cestry almost immediately. They showed that, far from revealing any new discoveries or ideas, his system descended directly from those of Paracelsus, J. Mesmer's theory, however, also seemed related to the cosmologies of respectable writers who sponsored a variety of fluids, which they sent swirling through the universe under familiar names like gravity, light, fire, and electricity.

Von Humboldt thought the moon might exert a magnetic force, and Galvani was experimenting with "animal electricity" in Italy at the same time that Mesmer used animal magnetism to cure hundreds of persons in France. Meanwhile, the Abbe Nollet and Bertholon and others had discovered mirac- ulous powers in the universal electric fluid. Some sci- entists reported that electric charges made plants grow faster and that electric eels cured gout. After being thrown daily into a tub of water containing a large elec- tric eel, a boy recovered from an irregularity in the use of his limbs. The experimenters did not record whatever shocks his psyche received.

Mesmer's own cures, pub- lished with elaborate testimonials, spoke more eloquently for his system than his brief and cryptic publications. He was not, after all, a man of theory his French disciples took care of the system-building , but an explorer who had embarked on uncharted seas of fluid and returned with the elixir of life.

These amateurs often sent electrical charges through "chains" of persons like Mesmer's and often regarded electricity as a magic potion that would conquer disease and even as among the clientele of Dr. James Graham's fertility bed in London help to create life. Moreover, the alliance between charlatanism and conventional medicine had been exposed so often on the French stage that any admirer of Moliere might consider Mesmer's techniques less lethal than those of orthodox doctors and barber-surgeons, secure in their faith in the four humors and the animal spirits, and formidable in their arsenal of remedies: purgatives, cauteries, resolutives, evacuants, humectants, vesicatories, and derivative, revulsive, and spoliative bleeding.

At the popular level, however, it entangled the ordinary reader in a jungle of exotic systemes du monde. How was he to separate fiction from truth, especially among the monisms that made up the biological sciences? The heirs of the seventeenth-century mathematical and mechanical philosophers failed to give successful expla- nations of processes like respiration and reproduction, and the forebears of nineteenth-century romantics, al- 6.

For contemporary views of the eighteenth century's semimedieval medicine men — who still dealt in "butter of arsenic," had generally fought against the recent practice of inoculation, and swore by bleeding as a preparative measure for childbirth — see J.

Fournel, Remontrances des malades aux medecins de la faculte de Paris Amsterdam, , and Observations tres-importantes sur les effets du magnetisme animal par M. Paris, For a thorough, contemporary analysis of the sources of mesmerism, see M. Thouret, Rech. Mechanists and vitalists com- monly disguised their failures in fantastic fluids, but as these were invisible, they could be tailored to fit any system, and some penetrating observers felt distressed at the spectacle of general nudity. Joseph Priestley, the greatest defender of invisible, fluid phlogiston, remarked about the general fascination with electricity, "Here the imagination may have full play, in conceiving of the man- ner in which an invisible agent produces an almost infinite variety of visible effects.

They had been living comfortably with electricity, mag- netism, and gravity for generations, but the invisible gases of chemistry had begun to enter their universe only with the great discoveries of the second half of the century. Joseph Black reported finding "fixed air" carbon dioxide in ; and during the next thirty years, other scientists, notably Henry Cavendish and Joseph Priestley, dizzied their contemporaries by discovering "inflammable" or "phlogisticated" air hydrogen , "vital" or "dephlogisti- cated" air oxygen , and many other wonders that had been floating about in the common air for centuries, unknown to Aristotle and all his successors.

The man-in- the-salon's difficulty in assimilating these gases into his view of the world can be judged by an article in the Journal de Paris of April 30, , reporting one of the La- voisier experiments now known to have given the death- blow to the four-element theory.

Since the beginning 7. Lavoisier, Traite elemen- taire de chirnie, presente dans un ordre nouveau, et d'apres les decouvertes modcmes, 3 ed.

Paris, ; 1 ed. Their confu- sion grew as scientists not only seemed to subtract from the Aristotelian elements but also added elements of their own — the vital and dephlogisticated airs as well as the salt, sulphur, mercury, and other "principles" that had accumulated since the time of Paracelsus. The scientists themselves shared in this confusion and called for a "new Paracelsus" to create a "transcendant," "general, philo- sophical chemistry," but they left the laymen only more bewildered by rushing in with cosmologies to fill the vac- uums that their discoveries had created.

To increase the confusion, the invisible forces clashing in the void produced repercussions among the reputations that collided in salons and academies; and the attempt of the academies to direct traffic through the unknown exposed them to charges of unenlightened despotism, while new scientific fantasies appeared faster than they could build detours around the old. Article "chimie" by G. Venel in the Encyclopedic on Diction- naire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, 1 ed.

Gillispie cites Venel's article as an example of a "romantic" reaction among eighteenth-century scientists, especially biologists, to the rational, mathematical physics of the seventeenth century. One man claims to have explained the secret of life by a vitalistic "vegetative force"; a second, announcing a new kind of motionless astronomy, says he has found "the key to all the sciences, which the finest minds of all nations have sought in vain for such a long time"; a third fills Newton's void with an invisible "universal agent," which holds the cosmos together; a fourth overturns the "idol" of gravity by explaining that Newton got it backward — combustion from the sun really repels the planets; and as for Newton's ether, an electrified, "animal" version of it courses through our bodies, determining the color of our skin, according to a fifth.

Even literary periodicals mixed science and fiction. The Annee litteraire, for exam- ple, published an attack on mesmerism that was based on a rival theory of "igneous atoms," "universal fluid," and the following physiology: "In man and animals, lungs are an electric machine, which, by their continual movement, separate air from fire; the latter insinuates itself in the blood and moves by this means to the brain, which distributes it, impels it and forms it into animal spirits, which circulate in the nerves, providing all voluntary and involuntary movement.

The barrage of theories naturally left the reading public confused — confused, but not discouraged, for these invisible forces sometimes performed miracles. One of those gases carried Pilatre de Rozier into the air over Metz on October 15, , and the news of man's first flight struck the imaginations of Frenchmen in a wave of enthusiasm for science. Women wore "chapeaux au ballon," children ate "dragees au ballon," poets com- 9.

Mercure de France, January 24, , p.

Carra, Nouveaux principes de physique Paris, , vol. A key to the illustration explained Carra's fantasy as follows: "A. Heroes ventured into balloons in towns throughout the country, and admirers recorded the smallest details of their flights, for these were great moments in history. The returning "aeronautes" were paraded through towns.

Boys fought to hold the bridles of their horses; workmen kissed their clothing; and their portraits, with appropriate laudatory verse, were printed and sold in the streets. Judging from contemporary accounts of their trips, one feels the enthusiasm must have equaled at least the excitement over Lindberg's flight and the first ventures into space: "It is impossible to describe that moment: the women in tears, the common people raising their hands toward the sky in deep silence; the passengers, leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy.

No one said anything but, 'Great God, how beautiful! Journal de Bruxelles, January 31, , pp. Almost all journals of printed similar descriptions of the flights, including many rapturous accounts by the balloonists of the sensations of flying and of man's first bird's-eye-views of towns and countryside. Pilatre de Rozier's report, published in Journal de Bruxelles, July 31, , pp. A balloon flight at Lyons in January The poem expresses the widespread conviction that science had made man almost a god, because it demonstrated the ability of his reason to under- stand and to command the laws of nature.

The last line reads, "And the feeble mortal can approach the gods. View from the southern Pavilion of Sr. Antonio Spreafico, aux Brotteaux. And the feeble mortal can ap- proach the gods. One hundred thousand weeping, cheering, fainting spectators reportedly watched a flight at Nantes.

When a flight at Bordeaux was canceled, the crowd rioted, killing two men and destroying the balloon and the ticket house. Thus the flights reached audiences full of men who could not read the Journal de Physique. A group of peasants, for example, reportedly greeted a balloon landing in a field by shout- ing, "Are you men or gods? The scientist's ability to harness the forces of nature had inspired the French with awe, with an almost religious enthusiasm, which spread beyond the scientific bodies of Paris, beyond the limits of literacy, and, as far as literary matters went, beyond the bound- aries of prose.

Thus one of the dozens of poems, inspired by the balloon flights, on the nobility of man's reason: Tes tubes ont de lair determine le poids; Ton prisme a divise les rayons de la lumiere; Le feu, la terre et Veau soumis a tes lois: Tu domptes la nature entiere. Science had opened limitless vistas of human progress: "The incredible discoveries that have multiplied during the last ten years.

Who knows how far we can go? What mortal would dare set limits to the human mind. Because the public could not distinguish the real from the imaginary, it seized on any invisible fluid, any scientific-sounding hypothesis, that promised to explain the wonders of nature. A hoax about the invention of "elastic shoes" laid bare these attitudes in On December 8, the Journal de Paris printed a letter from a watchmaker, "D.

Within a week the journal had collected 3, livres from some of the most prominent men in the country, including Lafayette, who gave one of the largest contributions. The burst of enthusiasm for the project, the imposing names on the list of subscribers, and the Journal de Bruxelles, May 29, , pp. Le retour de ces deux voyageurs. Les gens du peuple baisaient leurs mains, leurs habits. Man had just conquered the air; why could he not walk on water? What limits could be set to the invisible powers at the command of his reason? The hoax was exposed by the end of December.

The journal converted the funds into a charity drive, and by Feb- ruary 7 it had overcome its embarrassment well enough to print a letter promoting a technique for seeing in the dark, which was sponsored by a club of balloon enthu- siasts convinced of the brotherhood of "nyctalopes, hydrophobes, somnambulists and water witchers. Merrier described the spirit of his contempo- raries with his usual insight while reporting a sub- scription for a new kind of flying machine. Meister, another perceptive commentator on Parisian fashions, concurred. The excitement that animated these adult education courses can be judged from a letter from a provincial gentleman to his friends at home on the latest vogues in Paris see Appendix II ; and the tone of the lectures can be appreciated from an article in a journal published by the Museum of La Journal de Paris, December , , pp.

Like most hoaxes, the experiment laid bare contemporary attitudes; in this case, the belief that scientific progress meant that man could do anything — fly, walk on water, cure all disease. View of the crossing of the river Seine on dry feet beneath the Pont Neuf by means of elastic shoes. Dedicated to the subscribers. MESMERISM AND POPULAR SCIENCE Blancherie: "Ever since a predilection for science began to spread among us, we have seen the public occupied successively with physics, natural history, and chemistry; seen it not only concerned with their progress, but actually devoted to their study; the public swarms into courses where they are taught, it rushes to read books about them, and it welcomes avidly everything that brings them to mind; there are but few rich persons in whose homes one cannot find the instruments suitable for these useful sciences.

Priestley's less eminent French counter- part, the Abbe J. Nollet, who championed a theory of electricity that somewhat resembled Mesmer's fluid, wrote several such manuals for amateurs, and publica- tions like the Journal de Physique reviewed many similar works aimed at what must have been an extensive reader- ship of home scientists. Amateurs playing with sulphur and electricity could hope to stumble upon some discovery like the one announced in the Journal de Paris of May 11, , by J.

Carra, the future Girondist leader. Journals snatched at such reports from their readers "especially these days, when one searches eagerly for everything Merrier, Tableau de Paris, 12 vols. Amsterdam, , II, ; also XI, "Le regne des lettres est passe; les physiciens remplacent les poetes et les romanciers; la machine electrique tient lieu d'une piece de theatre.

The enthusiasm for the lycees and musees of Paris can be documented from numerous articles in Memoires secrets pour servir a I'histoire de la republi- que des lettres en France, as well as other publications. As if to illustrate its remark, the journal published excited accounts of discoveries like the "styptic water" that, according to the habitues of the Cafe du Caveau of Paris, stopped all hemorrhages. Not to be outdone by its competitor, the Courier de I'Europe published a report of a Parisian who claimed to cure all ills with a mixture of bread and opium, a prescription that held out hope for the readers of the Journal de Physique, who had been warned that their cooking utensils were probably poison- ous.

Judging from their letters-to-the-editor, the readers of these periodicals believed science could do anything. A certain M. An old-fashioned literary type complained to the Annee litteraire that "this scientific mania" had gone too far. Physics, chemistry, natural history have become a craze. Scientist-magicians like Joseph Pinetti toured the country performing "amusing physics and various Mallet du Pan put mesmerism in its proper context while reporting on its enormous popularity in his Journal historique et politique Geneva , February 14, , p.

Une foule de gens de tout etat, qui ne s'etaient jamais doute d'etre chimistes, geometres, mecani- ciens etc. The "tetes parlantes" talking heads of the Abbe Mical elicited a serious investigation by the Academy of Sciences and a rapturous letter in the Mercure by Mallet du Pan about the new science of creating speech, the "thousand mar- vels" of science in general, and Parisians' "general frenzy about experiments regarded as supernatural. He treated dozens of tricks like the dancing egg that jumps out of a hat and the mechanical singing bird as "a simple problem of physics or mathematics" and analyzed the current scientific fads just as Priestley and Lavoisier had done: "When visible, striking phenomena depend upon an imperceptible and unknown cause, the human mind, ever inclined toward the marvelous, naturally attributes these effects to a chimerical cause.

The fiction may not have seemed too extravagant, for Pilatre de Rozier had boasted that he could fly in his balloon from Calais to Boston in two days, if the winds were right. Popular science even found its way into love letters, at least in the case of Linguet's mistress, who asked him not to send her light verse, "because I only like poems when they are dressed up in a bit of physics or metaphysics.

The reports of experiments, gadgets, and scientific debates crammed into publications ranging from the cautious journal de Paris to the clandestine bulletins a la main give the impression that the golden age of popular science occurred in prerevolutionary France, rather than in nineteenth- or twentieth-century America. So strong was the popular enthusiasm for science in the 's that it almost erased the line never very clear until the nineteenth century dividing science from pseudoscience.

The government and the learned societies, which attempted to hold that line against the incursions Mercure, July 3, , p. Paris, , pp. Dauban Paris, , p.

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II pretend d'etre plus eclaire que toutes les societes savantes. Imposing apparatus and theories inspired faith in several projects like the elastic shoes. A certain Bottineau, for A monster believed to have been captured in South America. This cartoon and others like it were sold widely in the streets of Paris. The reports of monsters were taken seriously by some newspapers and did not seem too absurd in the light of eigh- teenth-century theories of sexual generation and the cross- breeding of species.

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Description of this unique monster seizing its prey. It emerged during the night in order to devour the swine, cows, and bulls of the area, lis length is eleven feet; its face is roughly that of a man; its mouth is as wide as its face; it is provided with teeth two inches long; it has twenty-four-inch horns like those of a bull; its hair reaches to the ground; it has four-inch ears like those of an ass; it has two bat-like wings; its thighs and legs are twenty-five inches long and its claws eight; it has two tails, one very flexible and pro- vided with rings that help it seize its prey, and the other ending in a dart, which helps it kill; its entire body is covered with scales.

This monster was captured by many men who had laid traps into which it fell. It was entangled in nets and brought alive to the viceroy, who succeeded in nourishing it with a steer, a cow, or a bull, given to it every day with three or four swine, to which it is quite partial. As it would be necessary to load too great a quantity of cattle to nourish it during the crossing, which takes at least five or six months to pass Cape Horn, the viceroy has sent orders along the entire land route to provide for the needs of this unique monster while making it march by stages to the Gulf of Honduras, where it will embark for Havana.

From there to the Bermudas, to the Azores, and in three weeks it will disembark at Cadiz. From Cadiz it will be taken by short trips to the royal family. It is hoped that the female will be captured so that the species will not die out in Europe. The species seems to be that of harpies, heretofore considered legendary. The discovery by a M. This was no absurd opinion at a time when ovists, animalculists, preformationists, and panspermatists out- did each other in speculation about sexual generation; when Restif de la Bretonne and, evidently, Mirabeau believed that Frederick II had produced centaurs and satyrs by experiments with sodomy; and when Jacques- Pierre Brissot feared that sodomy would disfigure the human race, noting that "everyone has heard of the child-calf and the child- wolf.

The Journal de Bruxelles applauded the invention of an "hydrostatergatic" machine for traveling underwater but raised doubts about the canvas wings and tail with which a man proposed to fly in Provence: "These experiments have gone to the heads of the weak-minded to such an extent that hardly a day goes by without some more or less extravagant project being named and believed. Renaux sized up the mood of his contemporaries in a prospectus he circulated in Paris.

He asked only for a subscription of 24, iivres and a lodging in the Ecole Militaire in return for devel- oping a machine that would fly without gas or smoke , Memoires secrets, November 27, , pp. London, ; Courier de I'Europe, January 9, , p. Brissot, Theorie des loix criminelles Berlin, , I, Moreover he promised new methods of heating and cooling apartments, salvaging sunken ships, com- municating thoughts with great speed over great dis- tances, and seeing objects on other planets as clearly as if they were on earth.

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Cagliostro was only the most famous of the many alchemists Mercier found in Paris. Unable to afford proper doctors, the poor turned, as always, to the cheaper exploitation of the quacks and faithhealers in the underworld of medicine — and probably fared better for it. Such practices probably had always existed, but in July a Parisian correspon- dent of the Journal de Bruxelles remarked on the era's peculiar plethora of "hermetic, cabalistic, and theosophic philosophers, propagating fanatically all the old absurdi- ties of theurgy, of divination, of astrology etc.

Labre de Damette, the beggar-healer; and unidentifiable others — St. Hubert, the genie Alael, the "prophete de la rue des Moineaux," the faith-healer of the rue des Ciseaux, the "toucheur" who cured by mystic signs and touches, the purveyors of an all-curative "sympathetic powder" in- vented by Sir Kenelm Digby in the seventeenth century, Journal de Bruxelles, February 14, , pp.

Even serious scientists had long been publishing accounts in the Journal des Sgavans and the Journal de Physique of marvels like talking dogs and basilisks whose looks killed quicker than bullets. To maintain that certain fountains dried up when impure women bathed in them was to demonstrate common sense in a day when the heritage of alchemy, with its myths about magic potions that caused im- mortality and cured all diseases, could not easily be dismissed as nonsense.

Alchemists, sorcerers, and fortune tellers had imbedded themselves so deeply in Parisian life that the police found them to be better even than priests at spying and providing secret information. Honest spiritualists like L. Willermoz, and J. Lavater also flourished. They were cited in mes- merist works and practiced mesmerism themselves. Spiritualism seemed to complement the efforts of scien- tists like Goethe and Goethe's Faust to penetrate the vitalistic forces in the very marrow of the matter that A typical plan for flying machines.

It illustrates the gadgeteering aspect of the enthusiasm for popular science and shows the ancestry of modern fantasies about travel through space. The "aeronauts" have left their airships and are landing by means of their "aerostatic clothes," which also help them to navigate in water. The two balloons, full of inflammable air, follow a set direction, while the third, destitute of its gas and sustained by the immense surface it exposes to the air, is directed with the help of a rudder to a favorable place.

The two travelers who float in the air with aero- static costumes and "manivoles" in their hands have left that vessel, as has the traveler on the ground. He has his costume tucked up and his "manivoles" near him. They all have cork jackets to help them skim along the water. A compass on the front of the jackets is in- tended to guide the travelers when fog or distance prevent them from seeing earth. The sort of crow's nest on top of the balloons is to hold a man who could help in maneuvering the sails.

Mesmerism seemed to be a spiritualist science; in fact some mesmerists described it as a modern, scien- tific version of the mystic strain in Jansenism: the convul- sionaries had suffered mesmeric crises and ". James Graham. The quotations come from the Mercure, March 13, , p. Bailly avec celles de M. Philadelphia, , p. On these and other forms of occultism, see: Memoires secrets, August 11, , pp.

Hervier et de ses adhe- rents , p. London, , p. D'Epremesnil, a I'occasion de quelques ecrits anonymes qu'il a recus de Beaucaire par la poste For a description of a typical alchemist session of the 's, see R. Le Suire pseudonym , Le Philosophe parvenu. London, , I, On the police and spiritualism, see Memoires tires des archives de la police de Paris. Peuchet Paris, , III, 98, The indispensable general study of this obscure subject is Auguste Viatte, Les sources occultes du romantisme, illuminisme-theosophie , 2 vols. A satirical picture of the fashionable, foppish sort of amateur scientist.

This "physicist" plans to escape his creditors and his mistresses by flying away in a balloon outfit. The little-master physicist. By , Mercier himself, whose Tableau de Paris reflected most nuances of opinion in prerevolutionary Paris, had moved beyond mesmerism to the belief of a "new sect" that the world was full of invisible ghosts. Such beliefs did not mark one as an eccentric in those days; they were the height of fashion. For example, a play, Les illumines, featured Cleante, "a fashionable young man and an illuminist" un jeune homme a la mode et illumine , dominating a debate in a stylish salon.

Cleante adopted "that sentimental language that makes us transmit our thoughts from one pole to the other" in order to com- municate with ghosts and to defend mesmerism. Even the most occult of Mesmer's followers rejected any sug- gestion that they were repudiating the scientific advances of their century. Court de Gebelin, the highly esteemed author of he Monde Primitif, described mesmerism and "the supernatural sciences" as the natural products of recent scientific discoveries. One of his fellow mes- merists exulted that "physics would take the place of magic everywhere"; and another explained, "Above science is magic, because magic follows it, not as an effect, but as its perfection.

Bailly, the author of the royal commission's report con- demning mesmerism, held scientific theories that, as mesmerist pamphlets noted, embarrassingly resembled Mesmer's, and readers might even confuse the description of caloric by Lavoisier, another member of the commis- sion, with Mesmer's account of his fluid. Rousseau, Buffon, Marat, Bertholon. Mesmerism played a role in this movement, too: it showed the point at which the two extremes met. But it had not reached this point in the mid's, when a wit put it neatly in perspective: Autrefois Moliniste Ensuite Janseniste Puis Encyclopediste Et puis Economiste A present Mesmeriste.

Barbier Alexis Dureau is certainly wrong in attributing it to Pierre Didot, who, as a member of the Society of Harmony, would not have satirized mesmerism ; Court de Gebelin, Lettre de Vautcur du Monde Primitif a Messieurs ses souscripteurs sur le magnetisme animal Paris, , pp. Amsterdam, , p. Galart de Montjoie exposed the parallels between the ideas of Bailly and Gebelin in Lettres sur le magnetisme animal. On Lavoisier's caloric, see his description of it in Traite elementaire de chimie, I, 4 "un fluide tres-subtil qui s'insinue a travers les molecules de tous les corps et qui les ecarte" , and Maurice Daumas, Lavoisier, theoricien et experimentateur Paris, , pp.

The mesmerist list of philosophes is in Appel au public sur le magnetisme animal. The epigram, from the Memoires secrets, May 25, , p. Although it is difficult to measure this interest with any precision, it certainly varied, mounting steadily from to and declining after ; and contemporary accounts indicate unmistakably that, as La Harpe put it, mesmerism prevailed as "an epidemic that has overcome all of France. Even the Almanack des Muses for is full of poems mostly hostile about it. The book- seller S.

Hardy noted in his private journal that the "frenzy" of mesmerism had overcome even the passion for balloon flights. One is dazzled with its marvels, and if one admits doubts about its powers It was investigated by the police, patronized by the queen, ridiculed several times on the stage, burlesqued in popular songs, doggerels, and car- toons, practiced in a network of masonic-like secret La Harpe, Correspondance Utteraire.

The enormous interest in mesmerism provides some clues to the mentality of literate Frenchmen on the eve of the Revolution. In the pamphlet literature during the decade before the calling of the Estates General one rarely meets any sophisticated political ideas or analysis of key issues like the land tax. French pamphleteers produced at least twice as many works on mesmerism as on the six- month political crisis accompanying the first Assembly of Notables.

Failing to foresee the Revolution, Frenchmen did not interest themselves in political theory. They dis- cussed mesmerism and other apolitical fads, like balloon flights. Why, indeed, should they have tortured them- selves with the difficult and seemingly irrelevant abstrac- tions of the Social Contract when they could fill their thoughts with Chilean monsters, flying machines, and the other miracles offered them by the wonderful, invis- ible powers of science? True, the censorship prevented serious discussion of politics in publications like the journal de Paris, France's only daily paper.

But the hottest topics of all, the subjects that provoked debates and aroused passions, the items with "news value" in the eyes of contemporary journalists, were mesmerism, balloon flights, and the other marvels of popular science. Politics took place in the remote world of Versailles, often in the form of obscure intrigues around ill-defined factions like that of the Baron de Breteuil, the Minister of the Department of Paris, and that of Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, the Controller-General, and these intrigues had little relevance to the lives of most Frenchmen before the prerevolutionary crisis of In the eyes of the literate public, what was a critical political event, like the death of the foreign minister Vergennes, compared with the death of Pilatre de Rozier, the hero balloonist, after his Montgolfiere- Charliere caught fire and crashed during his attempt to fly across the English Channel on June 15, ?

Pilatre's death, not the Assembly of Notables, aroused the pamph- leteering instinct in Jean-Paul Marat, who lamented, "He [Pilatre] was deaf to my voice, and, like another Cassandra, I cried in the desert. The point may seem labored, but it is worth emphasizing, because no one has ever taken mesmerism and the other forms of popular science seriously — virtually no one, that is, since the French of the 's.

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They looked out on a world so different from our own that we can hardly per- ceive it; for our view is blocked by our own cosmologies, The death of Pilatre de Rozier after his balloon caught fire dur- ing his attempt to cross the Channel on June 15, He had bragged earlier that he could cross the Atlantic in two days, if winds were favorable. The disaster checked the vogue of balloon flights, which in its heyday had raised issues like the influence of science on warfare, but which floundered on the more mun- dane problem of how to guide balloons when the winds were not favorable.

In the eighteenth century, the view of literate French- men opened upon a splendid, baroque universe, where their gaze rode on waves of invisible fluid into realms of infinite speculation. It should help us understand the mentality of these men if we consider that on the eve of the Revolution they communicated with ghosts, with remote planets, and with one another Marat's remark is in his anonymous pamphlet, Lettres de I'observateur bon-sens a M. Marat had a remote connection with Robespierre's famous light- ning rod case; see A.

Cabanes, Marat inconnu: I'homme prive, le medecin, le savant, 2 ed. Greenlaw estimated that there were political pamphlets published during the first six months of in his statistical work on this surprisingly unstudied subject, "Pamphlet Literature on the Eve of the French Revolution," Journal of Modern History, XXIX , An estimate made in put the number of mesmerist pamphlets at Appel au public sur le magnetisme animal This figure seems reliable, for there are works in the incomplete collection of prerevolutionary mesmerist writings in the Bibliotheque Nationals The Mercure of October 20, , pp.

Their thoughts drifted about among the clusters of attitudes — flighty, nebulous, and at times imperceptible to someone peering through two centuries of time — that made up the High Enlightenment. Despite its difficulties, an investigation of that remote mental universe should improve the understanding of pre- revolutionary radicalism; for radical ideas filtered down to the reading public, not as so many citations of Rousseau, but as components of contemporary interests.