John Elliotson.

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I CONSIDER the following paper to contain the account of one of
the most important and instructive cases in the annals of surgery.
"When Mr. "Ward, of "Wellow, removed the poor man's leg without
his being conscious of pain, under the mesmeric superintendence of
my friend, Mr. Topham, all those persons who were engaged in
mesmeric investigation considered the case to be the most important
which had been presented to the medical profession. And so it was.
Here was a man placed in a state of insensibility by a few passes of
the hand, and during the continuance of this state a fourth part of
his body removed by the knife of the surgeon. This was in
November, 1842. Since that period the world has become so
familiar with the performance of surgical operations without pain by
means of ether and chloroform, that the proceedings of those who
have operated on persons under the influence of mesmerism have
not attracted so much notice as they deserved. Nevertheless, the
number of operations performed in this state amount, I believe, to
nearly four hundred.

Great as this boon to suffering humanity must be considered,
and important as every one must admit the facts to be, there is yet
another portion of the subject demanding our attention, viz., the
alleviation and cure of disease. It is quite impossible to obtain a
return of the number of cases of prolonged suffering which medicines
had failed to alleviate, but which have been speedily and effectually
cured by means of mesmerism. "The Zoist," from which this


paper is extracted and now near the completion of its sixth volume,
contains an immense mass of information, and to all those who are
afflicted, and more especially those who have had recourse to medical
treatment and whose diseases have not been cured, I say, search
this record, and you will find cases analogous to your own, and
from abundant experience on this subject, I feel myself justified
in promising you considerable relief, and in many cases a positive

The sudden removal of a diseased mass is a very simple affair,
and the production of the state of insensibility in the mesmeric state
is one of the most common phenomena presented to the physiologist.
But the removal of a diseased growth, a malignant tumor, not sud-
denly with the knife of the surgeon, but with the aid of mesmerism,
so acting on the inherent powers of the constitution as to produce a
steady and progressive absorption, — this is a phenomenon which has
not been witnessed on any former occasion, and certainly demands
the most serious consideration of the medical profession. Can any
surgeon refer to a single example of tumor of the breast like the
one under consideration, which steadily progressed, either with or
without medicine, toward a perfect cure ? Here was a tumor, care-
fully examined and unanimously doomed to extirpation by several
practical surgeons, and the fact of their doing so, clearly proved
that they knew of no other plan by which the diseased mass could
be removed. Nevertheless this tumor underwent such changes, day
after day, and month after month, just in the proportion that the
efforts of the mesmeriser were continued, and finally, became ab-
sorbed, — and not only so, but the constitutional symptoms, which
were of an aggravated character, yielded, — the darting pains ceased,
sleep returned, the sallow complexion vanished, the swollen arm
returned to a natural size, and the situation of the patient became
in every respect more and more satisfactory. On one occasion,
during the absence of Dr. Elliotson on the continent, the treatment
was nearly discontinued for two months, — what was the result ?


"On ray return at the end of October," he says, " I found a very
painful and bleeding sore, and, what was worse, the darting pain
had returned, and the diseased mass had grown firmly to the ribs."
Aftei" two years exertion, here was enough to discourage any one
not endowed with the same powers of perseverance — the same
determination to prosecute a new and important truth — the same
benevolent desire to alleviate the sufferings of a fellow-creature,
which, fortunately for Miss Barber, her friend. Dr. EUiotson, pos-
sessed. Again she was mesmerised daily, and again " the mass
began to diminish." During the year 1847 the disease "steadily
gave way." "The mass had become not only much less but
detached from the ribs and moveable again." And now, September,
1848, the report is,, "The cancerous mass is now completely dissi-
pated ; the breast is perfectly fiat, and all the skin thicker and
firmer than before the disease existed. Not the smallest lump is
to be found, nor is there the slightest tenderness of the bosom or
the arm-pit."

I ask whether there is not here a manifestation of cause and
effect? Have we not the same evidence here that we have when
a beneficial effect follows the exhibition of a drug? To what other
conclusion can we come, than that this growth was removed by the
aid of mesmerism? I trust that the publication of this pamphlet
will stimulate my professional brethren to test the power of mes-
merism over other cases of this formidable disease. The time for
the sneer, the jest, and the look of contempt is gone by. To in-
dulge in these vulgar manifestations is always unjustifiable, and, to
any one anxious to seek for truth in a philosophical spirit, highly
derogatory. An array of new facts demands investigation, and the
claims of those suffering from disease should be answered in this
instance by the members of that profession whose duty chiefly con-
sists in alleviating the miseries of the human race. Medical and
surgical societies may consider the investigation beneath their notice.


they may do again what the members of the Royal Medico-Chirur-
gical Society did in 1842, — declare that the statement of a natural
fact, which they could not understand, was not a fit subject to be
chronicled in the record of their proceedings !* But the dial of the
world moves on. Truth and science overleap the barriers which
man in his wisdom erects, and the men of each succeeding genera-
tion contemplate with wonder and astonishment the narrow views
and sectarian prejudices of the men of the preceding. And yet this
experience does not prevent them from repeating the same irrational
course of conduct while contemplating other subjects. From the
course pursued during the last eight years, one would suppose that
the members of the medical profession imagined their duty to con-
sist in holding fast to their physiological notions with determined
obstinacy, whereas their real duty consists in following out, by
persevering inquiry, the difficulties of all physiological problems ;
and after this, in the honest recognition and avowal of what they
have satisfactorily ascertained. The views of the teachers of an
imperfect science should not be received as dicta from which there
is to be no swerving; but rather as the probable interpretation of
facts, so far as they have been ascertained, and therefore indicative
only of points of departure for future investigators. How different
has been the course pursued with regard to mesmerism ! Tempting,
as this subject is, this is neither the time nor the opportunity for
its discussion. My object is simply to point to the following paper
as containing matter, — physiological phenomena, — chronicled by one
of the most hard-working, fact-seeking, truth-loviug physicians of
the present age. Let the investigation be conducted in a fair and
impartial spirit. Let each individual remember that he has to assist

* Numerous Cases of Surgical Operations without Pain in the Mesmeric State,
with Remarks upon the Opposition of many Members of the Royal Medical and
Chirurgical Society and others to the reception of the inestimable blessings of
Mesmerism. By John Elliotson, M.D. Cantab. F.R.S. H. Bailliere,
Regent- street.


iu the discovery of truth. He has not to engage in any party inves-
tigation, but simply to collect and test the value of facts, and then
to record his experience in the simple language of sincerity, which
is invariably estimated at its true value by all those worthy of con-
sideration, and thus to aid and assist in the grandest of all occu-
pations — the promotion of true science and the alleviation of the
miseries of his fellow creatures.

Let us all keep in view in our scientijSc studies the eloquent de-
claration of a great man of a past generation : —

" The pursuit of truth hath been my only care, ever since I
" first understood the meaning of the word. For this I have for-
" saken all hopes, all friends, all desires, which might bias me, and
** hinder me from driving right at what I aimed. For this I have
" spent my money, my means, my youth, my age, and all I have,
" that I might remove from myself that censure of TertuUian, — Suo
" vitio quis quid ignorat ? If with all this cost and pains, my pur-
" chase is but error, I may safely say, to err has cost me more
" than it has many to find the truth ; and truth itself shall give me
" this testimony at last, that if I have missed of her, it is not my
" fault, but my misfortune."

W. C. Engledue, M.D.

October 30th, 1848.


" Do not auACKS hunt out the vices or infirmities of mankind to turn them

to profit, some selecting one and some anotlaer for their purpose ? Among-

quacks, tlie impostors, called mesmerists, are in my opinion the especial

FAVOURITES of those, *^* ******



" From these and similar artifices, the physician should be carefully
removed and guarded : and this can hardly be accomplished except by a sound
education, vehich will teach him to thoroughly abhor all deceit and trick."* —
Harveian Oration, delivered by Dr. F. Hawkins before the London Col-
lege OF Physicians, June 24, 1848.

"With every respect for the vast extent of human credulity, we do think
that the brood of mesmerism are its ov^n natural and most powerful enemies, and
that they must in no long time utterly destroy their loathsome dam."-^
Mr. Wakley, Lancet, July 8, 1848.t

The case which I am about to relate is one of the most
splendid triumphs of mesmerism, and is the most splendid
hitherto accomplished under my own hands. The disease
was malignant and structural, and such as the art of medicine

* " Quin etiam vitia, sive infirmitates hominum, nonne aucupantur, et
qusestui habent, alii alia, Circumforanei ? De genere hoc, prsestigiatores, quos
vocant, Mesmerici, ni fallor, iis prsecipue arrident, quos, utriusque sexus. Mater
sseva Cupidinum aut csecis urit ignibus, aut palam exagitat. Sed ex quibus hoc
subintelligi potest, ea pudoris ergo, sunt reticenda. Ab his, et talibus artificiis,
segregandus est Medicus et sepiendus sedulo, Quod vix prasstari potest, nisi
recta et bona institutione, ita informetur, ut a dolis et fallaciis prorsus abhorreat."

t The brave and modest modern FalstafF declared in 1838 that he himself had
killed and utterly destroyed mesmerism for ever. Yes ; he announced grandi-
loquently to the world its final extiuction by his own right hand ten years ago.
"Life, adventures, and death of Animal Magnetism," was the title of the
editor's leader on the cover of the Lancet for Sept. 8, 1838. " Edited by
Mr. Wakley, M.P." His own experiments, he declares, "entirely destroyed
the facts adduced in this country in favour of that delusion." p. 836. But he
has always shone more in boasting than in extinguishing.

" Fahtaff. — With a thought seven of the eleven I paid.

"P. Henry. — O, monstrous." — Henry IV., Part i.. Act ii., Sc. iv.

" Falstaff. — Yea, and I'll swear I killed him." — Act v., Sc. iv.


10 Cure of true Cancer witii Mesmerism,

has never been known to cure nor the powers of nature to
shake off.

The patient is the paternal aunt of Miss Rosina Barber^
who was permanently cured by me of violent fits many years
agOj after the failure of various modes of treatment and various
practitioners, and whose case, with all its exquisite and in-
structive mesmeric phenomena, is detailed in the second volume
of The Zoist.* One phenomenon in the niece^s case was the
excitement of cerebral organs by merely pointing at them : —
the first example of the kind in the annals of mesmerism,
and so conducted as to prove that neither unintentional sug-
gestion nor the will of the mesmeriser, but the mesmeric
influence spontaneouslj^ emanating from the fingers, produced,
the astounding eflTect.t

On the 6th of March, 1843, a very respectable-looking
person, of middle height and age,J fair, rather slender and
delicate, and with the sallow complexion of cancer, called to
solicit my advice respecting a disease of her right breast.
I found an intensely hard tumor in the centre of the breast,
circumscribed, moveable, and apparently about five or six
inches in circumference ; the part was drawn in and jmck-
ered, as though a string attached behind the skin at one
point had pulled the surface inwards ; and upon it to the
outer side of the nipple was a dry, rough, warty-looking sub-
stance, of a dirty brown and greenish colour. She com-
plained of great tenderness in the tumor and the arm-pit
when I applied my fingers, and said that she had sharp stab-
bing pains through the tumor during the day, and was
continually awakened by them in the night.

She informed me that she was single and resided with her
mother, and was dress-maker to manj^ ladies of the truest

I at once saw that it was a decided cancer in the stage
termed scirrhus, and I so named it in my note book ; but I
did not mention its nature to her. On her return home she
applied her fingers as she had observed me do, and for the
first time found there was a lump in her breast.

Upon minute enquiry into the origin, course, and dura-
tion of the complaint, I found that one day in November,
1841, about the time of the birth of the Prince of Wales,
while sitting to rest herself, after having finished some dresses
for Mrs. Cardell, of Hampstead, she raised her right hand

* No. VI. Like the two Okeys, Miss Critchly, and Miss Abbot, she is
now married. See No. XI., p. 354.

t No. IV,, pp. 222—8; No. III., pp. 242—4.
X Elle avoit quarante deux ans.

by Dr. EIHotson. 1 1

to take something off the mantel shelf and instantly felt a
sndden and momentary, violent, darting pain in the right
breast. In a week, while playing with a child, she felt a
second, equally violent. These " dreadful dartings," to use
her own words, soon ceased to be solitary, and began at length
to take place a dozen times in rapid succession, and this every
few hours; and they gave her the idea of "a penknife jag-
ging her breast." Her nights were much disturbed by them.
The dartings were always followed by pricking sensations and
tenderness. The part now began to look drawn together and
puckered, and sometimes a little red and to feel hot. She
had found relief from fomenting it with warm water ; and in
doing so she discovered that it had grown hard. Her complexion
and hands had gradually grown sallow for many months. She
mentioned her complaint about six months before I saw her
to her medical man, Mr. Powell, of Great Coram Street,
Brunswick Square, while he was attending her mother, but
declined showing it to him as he was a young man.

Her father's mother had died of a " bleeding cancer" of the
breast, as I afterwards learnt.

As she had witnessed the great mesmeric cure of her
niece,* I proposed mesmerism to her, and offered to take the
charge of the case myself. My purpose was to render her
insensible to the pain of the surgical removal of the breast,
seeing no other chance for her ; and this indeed was a poor
chance, for cancer invariably returns in the same or some
part if the patient survive long enough, and the operation is
not to be recommended unless it can be conducted without
pain. When a disease termed cancer has not returned, I
have no doubt that it had not been cancer ; and such a ter-
rible thing as the removal of breasts not cancerous has always
been but too frequent among surgeons.

Unwilling to make her unhappy, I said no more, and
allowed her to suppose that the mesmerism was intended to
cure her disease. She thankfully accepted my offer to mes-
merise her, and returned to my house the next day for the
first essay. I mesmerised her half an hour daily with slow
passes before her from opposite her forehead to opposite her
stomach, and my fixed look at her eyes. The first mesmeris-
ation caused a mistiness before her eyes at the time, and a
much better night than usual. In a few days she became
drowsy, and at the end of a month her eyes perfectly
closed and she fell asleep near the expiration of the half hour.

* The facts in her niece's treatment detailed at pp. 197 — 99 of No. VI.,
prove the absurdity of the ascription of the phenomena to imagination, and of
the cure to the powers of nature.

B 2

1 2 Cure of true Cancer with Mesmerism,

The sleep, however, was so light that a word addressed to her
or the least touch of my finger awoke her. I could not dis-
tinguish it from natural sleep. There was no increase of
effect for nine months. She seldom slept much longer than
half an hour, frequently much less : though a dozen passes
were sufficient to send her back into the sleep. The pain
lessened, so that her nights became greatly better, and her
health and spirits improved. The sallowness of her complexion
lessened. But for six months she continued to work hard in
taking measure, cutting out, making up, and trying on, often
walking considerable distances to the ladies, so that she once
fainted at Harapstead after walking thither and trying on
dresses : and for the first six months of mesmerisation the
tumor increased ; probably not from increased cancerous ac-
tion, but from an increase of simple congestion through the
irritation of exertion, since every other symptom improved ;
the act of pushing the needle through hard articles gave her
pain to the very elbow. She could work no longer, and in
September lost the whole of her business. For a niece whom
she had benevolently taken to support eleven years before,
when the girFs mother was unexpectedly left with nine chil-
dren, and had supported ever since, having learnt that her
aunt's disease was a cancer, suddenly left her without any
intimation, never returning after going out one day for a
holiday, nor even sending an apology. It afterwards tran-
spired that she had said she would not nurse her aunt
through her illness, which she of course concluded would be
tedious and fatal.

I had felt it right to mention the nature of the disease to
her niece's mother without loss of time ; and all the family
thus knew it, but kept the secret. A fortnight after she
first came to me, one of the ladies who employed her, the
wife of the Rev. Mr. Sharpe, rector of Allhallows in the city,
hearing that I had said the disease was cancer, out of kind-
ness begged she would allow a connection of her own, Mr.
Brown, practising in the Edgware Road, to see it, and she
consented without my knowledge. He pronounced it to be
no cancer, but a common glandular swelling from a strain,
and wished to send her a plaster. He saw it in September
again without my knowlege, and had now no doubt that it
was a cancer. This candid acknowledgment was highly cre-
ditable to him : no less than his remark respecting mesmerism.
He spoke against a surgical operation, adding that, if Miss
Barber were his sister, she should not submit to one : and,
not being able to suggest a remedy, made no attempt to
dissuade her from the continuance of mesmerism, but said

by Dr. EUiotson. ]3

that he knew nothing about it and therefore should say-
nothing against it. This display of common sense is de-
serving of all imitation by medical men.

Soon after Mr. Brown had seen it the first time^ she
shewed it at her mother's request to Mr. Powell, who imme-
diately in her presence pronounced it to be a confirmed
incurable cancer, adding that if it were not cut away it
would be as big as his head by Christmas, and that if mes-
merism cured it he would believe any thing. She thus
learnt the distressing truth, which I had so anxiously kept
from her.

The various ladies felt so much for her that they anxiously-
urged her to undergo the operation, some begging and pray-
ing, and some most kindly offering to nurse her and sit up
with her after it. One, a relation of Sir Benjamin Brodie,
was long hurt with her because she would not place herself
under his care : and another related what an immense cancer
she had seen. Like a true-hearted woman, she resisted all
these well-intended influences behind my back and remained
firm to him in whom from her experience of me in Rosina's
case she had placed her confidence. Mrs. Sharpe did not
urge her to act contrary to her judgment. None of these
ladies knew me or could know the medical powers of mes-
merism, and the conduct of them all displaj^ed such intense
interest and goodness of heart as are truly delightful and
worthy of the reflection of those who sweepingly condemn
all human nature. I shall have to record more of their

In September I quitted England for a tour in the
Pyrenees till November, and left her to be mesmerised daily
by a gentleman whom I allowed ^8200 per annum with a
constant place at my table to mesmerise for me gratuitously
and investigate the subject of mesmerism with me. During
the early part of my absence Mr. Powell saw it again and
anxiously urged its immediate removal with the knife. He
mentioned Sir Benjamin Brodie and Mr. Liston : but she
declined. He then entreated her to accompany him to Mr.
Samuel Cooper, Professor of Surgery at University College,
who he was sure would see her without a fee ; and at length
she consented. Mr. Cooper diff'ered from Mr. Powell in
thinking that the operation could not be safely delayed till
my return, but gave a decided opinion that the disease was
cancer and that the operation should be performed as soon
as ever T came back. " Poor thing," said this good and kind
man, " if she wishes to wait for Dr. Elliotson's return, she
may ; but it must be cut away then." The great anxiety

14 Cure of true Cancer with Mesmerism,

displayed by Mr. Powell was quite disinterested and most

On my return I found she had not been mesmerised to
the extent I wished, and Avas therefore not so susceptible as
when I left her. But I took her in hand again myself; and
in less than two months she passed into genuine sleep-waking,
with perfect insensibility to mechanical injury. When I ad-
dressed her she now did not wake but answered me ; and
took no notice if I touched her, not even if I pinched or
pricked her. Mr. Powell called upon her two or three times,
wishing to see the breast and to try once to mesmerise her ;
but she declined and he has ceased to call upon her : nor did he
ever communicate with me upon the subject of her case. Her
health continued to improve ; the pains to lessen ; and the size
was stationary. In February she one day did not come to my
house as usual, and 1 went to see her at her mother's lodgings
in Nutford Place, Bryanstone Square. She was labouring
under severe pleurisy of the right side, and required bleeding.
I drove off to Mr. Powell, and related this circumstance to
him, begging him as he attended the family to go with me and
bleed her and attend her with me in this attack. But he had
the rheumatism and could not leave the house. Without
her knowing it she was bled by Mr. Ebsworth, a former pupil
of Mr. Symes, and this little episode in her case was given
in No. v., p. 91.

" Her aunt has a cancer in her breast, and has been mesmerised

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Online LibraryJohn ElliotsonCure of a true cancer of the female breast with mesmerism → online text (page 1 of 4)