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Further, it may reasonably be supposed that at such
times remarkable acts of God's providence do occur,
especially in answer to prayer, or to meet some
emergency. We can hardly deny this, if we believe
in God's moral government of the world. And
that government I am at present assuming. I
make no doubt that the Almighty does use the
course of nature as an instrument for the ends of
that government. The question before us is. Does he
ever break through that order for those ends ? No
doubt some of the special providences which I am
admitting would seem to be such interferences in
the eyes of excited believers. We inquire, Are there
also events which have that appearance in the
judgment of observant and impartial persons ?
Now, if we turn again to the narratives just given,
the wonderful cures and bodily effects will be seen
to be the most plausible cases of such interference.
There is here less room for delusion of the mind and
the senses than in many alleged miracles. Such
delusion will produce wonders, as we know from the
tricks of a clever conjuror. But here, as Paley has
justly pointed out, is a permanent effect, which it


could not produce. It is, I think, needful to suppose
some unknown, or at least ill-understood, powers of
nature to explain these cases. I will presently give
examples so well attested as to the facts, and yet so
extraordinary, as to seem to require this supposition.
But as some of the things which I am about to say
may seem incredible, and as there may be in the
minds of some a natural prejudice against such sup-
positions as that which I am going to advocate, let
me, by way of preface, cite some instances in which
men of science have been led to reject wonderful
accounts, when well attested, merely because they
were inexplicable, and yet all has subsequently
proved to be true. Mr. Robert Chambers, in a little
pamphlet, entitled ' Testimony : its Posture in the
Scientific World,' collected several such instances.
A committee of the French Academy last century re-
jected three nearly contemporary accounts of the fall
of meteoric stones. The Royal Medical and Chlrur-
gical Society of London received with contemptuous
incredulity an account of an amputation performed
without pain upon a mesmerised patient. Mr
Hallam and Mr. Rogers were even treated with
rudeness for venturing to describe in England mes-
meric phenomena which they had witnessed in
France. Gibbon thought that no one could believe
in the tongueless speech of the African confessors,
save those who also believed in their orthodoxy, A


strange story was told in France last century about
three balls of fire being seen at the points of the cross
on a church when thunder was near. The scientific
world rejected the account, but Franklin's discovery
that lightning was due to electricity explained the
matter. Other examples might be added. I ask,
Have we not to learn from such cases diffidence in
rejecting an account merely because, in the present
state of science, it cannot be explained .-^ Should we
not be ready to admit at least as an alternative to the
supposition of its falsehood the other supposition of
which I have spoken ?

The learning and the piety, the genius and the
persecutions, of the Port Royalists have given a deep
interest to their history. Among its incidents are
many miracles, and one especially as well attested
as any in ecclesiastical history. Mrs. Schimmel-
penninck^ is able to refer to a long list of authorities —
Besogne, Clemencet, Gilbert, Perrier, Pascal, ' Necro-
logie,' ' Manuel de Port Royal,' ' Histoire du Miracle
de la Sainte Epine,' 'Memoires de Fontaine,' ' Notes
de Nicole aux Le tres Provinciales,' Racine 'His-
toire Port Royal,' Choiseul * Memoires sur la Re-
ligion,' ' Attestation des Grands Vicaires de Paris.'
I shall quote only a few to whom I have myself re-
ferred, but they will, I think, be sufficient to show the
strength of the case.

' 'Port Royal: Its Saints,' by Mrs. Schimmelpenninck, p. 68.


The story is briefly this. Marguerite Perrier,
niece to the celebrated Blaise Pascal, was placed at
the convent of Port Royal with her eldest sister for
her education in the year 1653. She was afflicted
for three years and a-half with a fistula lachrymalis
in the corner of the left eye. It became of the size
of a nut. The bones of the nose became carious,
and perforated to the palate. The left eye became
less in size, and the sense of smell was lost. A very
offensive discharge came from the sore. The child was
under the care of M. Dalence, an able surgeon, who
had proposed, as a last desperate attempt at remedy,
to cauterise the fistula. The consent of her father had
been asked, and he was indeed intending to be pre-
sent. At this crisis, a thorn, said to have been part
of the crown of Christ in his passion, was sent to
Port Royal, and exhibited to the nuns and other
inmates on March 24, 1656. The wound of
Marguerite was touched with this thorn, and within
a quarter of an hour all signs of her disease had dis-

I find this story in the histories of Du Fosse,
Fontaine, and Clemencet. The two former were
contemporary, and Du Fosse knew the young lady
intimately. She was then eleven years old, and
lived, according to Fontaine, until the year 1733.
Clemencet is a writer of later date, of the early part


of the next century, but of much research. I would
quote also the following testimonies.

The girl had an aunt among the nuns, La Soeur
Jacqueline de Sainte Euphemie. We find a letter
written by her to the child's mother preserved in the
* Recueil des plusieurs pieces pour servir a I'histoire
de Port Royal,' Utrecht. This letter was begun on
March 26, 1656, but not finished until eight days
after. It gives full particulars as to the cure. We
have also preserved among the letters of the justly
esteemed abbess of Port Royal, the Mere Angelique,
one written to the Queen of Poland about the be-
ginning of the May following this event, and relating
the story at length. In the genuineness of both
these letters, M. Sainte-Beuve, an acute critic, opposed
to the marvellous view of the matter, has full confi-
dence. We have also a tract published by Pascal
himself at Paris in 1656, in answer to a publication
of the Jesuits hostile to the miracle.^ Pascal gives
the essential circumstances, as stated above. He
rests, indeed, the defence of Port Royal upon this

He mentions several other wonderful cures
which the holy thorn was the means of causing at
Port Royal. But it had not this effect elsewhere.
He notices the following objections : — The elder

^ ' CEuvres de Pascal.'


sister Perrier had, it v/as said, been substituted for
the younger. The one shown as in health was not
the one who had been really afflicted. In answer,
both w^ere produced. Again, it was said that the
cure was incomplete, and that the disease had
returned, but this was disproved by the examina-
tion of M. Dalence and another eminent surgeon.
Also it w^as said that the disease had only changed
its seat, and that the child was otherwise afflicted ;
but this was also disproved by M. Guillard, an
eminent surgeon, and by M. Felix, first surgeon to
the king.

The accounts of the writers whom I have
quoted do not, I ought to say, minutely agree.
There is something of that addition of striking par-
ticulars which we generally see in successive narra-
tives of any wonderful events. Thus M. Fontaine
gives a much more lively and dramatic account of
the discovery of the cure by the medical men than
that which we find in the letter of the So^ur
Jacqueline. But all the accounts do agree in the
main points. All, for instance, attest the severity
of the disease. The letter just named expressly
describes how M. Dalence ascertained the perforated
condition of the bone. Pascal is explicit as to the
symptoms, the carious state of the bone, the frequent
and ofi"ensive discharges, &c. And this is I think
the main point. The subsequently healthy state of


the child is abundantly and incontestably established.
Clemencet, indeed, relates that several distinguished
physicians, Charles Bonoard, first physician to the
king, Jean Hamon and Isaac Eusebe Renaudot ;
and also surgeons Pierre Cresse, Martin Dalenc^,
and Etienne Guillard, attested the miracle from
their knowledge of the case before as well as afte7'- the
cure, and this attestation is found in other histories
as well as his.

Certainly there can be no doubt as to the state
of things after the cure. The truth of the story was
investigated by M. Felix, the king's first surgeon,
sent by a hostile court, and he confirmed the report.
An investigation was also made by the Grand
Vicars of the Archbishop of Paris with a like result.
In fact, the miracle was believed in not only by the
friends but also by the enemies of Port Royal, and
actually caused a change in the conduct of the court
towards the convent. The only question is, it seems to
me, as to the nature of the previous disease. Accord-
ingly, M. Sainte-Beuve^ offers the explanation that
the complaint was really not fistula lachrymalis but
tumor lachrymalis (tumeur lacrymale), causing an ob-
struction in the lachrymal duct which drains the sur-
face of the eye, and that the pressure of the holy thorn
on the tumour caused its dispersion in a natural way.

> ' Port Royal,' C. A. Sainte-Beuve.


But I do not see how this hypothesis can be made to
agree with the authentic accounts of the malady.

The next case is that of Miss Fancourt. It is a
history which excited much attention about forty-
four years ago.

Miss Fancourt was a young lady, the daughter
of a clergyman living in London, She had been
suffering severely for eight years from what was
thought to be disease of the hip. She had been under
the care of different medical men, and had under-
gone various treatment without recovery. She was
instantaneously cured under the following circum-
stances : — A pious friend, who had made her case
the subject of very earnest prayer, solemnly asked
her whether she believed that Christ had power to
heal her. She answered that she did. He bade
her rise from her couch and walk. She actually did
so, and was permanently restored.

This wonderful occurrence was much discussed
at the time, and various opinions concerning it were
advocated by men of learning and ability. These
opinions have been ably contrasted by Professor
Baden Powell in his work called the ' Order of
Nature.' The well-known Dr. Maitland, in an
essay in his book called ' Eruvin,' maintained the
miraculous view of the matter ; and the Rev. Thomas
Boys, also a clergyman of the Church of England,
advocated the same view, and published a book


called ' The Suppressed Evidence,' a work that has
aided me, in order to prove the continuance of
miraculous powers in Christ's Church. On the
contrary, the editor of the ' Christian Observer,' in
the number of that magazine for November 1830, op-
posed this view. Apparently his grounds were purely
theological. He was determined to look upon all
miracles out of Scripture as merely natural wonders,
but seemingly not from any difference which he
could trace in the facts themselves or the evidence
for them, but from theological views, such as the
need of evidential purpose to make a real miracle in
his opinion credible, the peculiar character of Scrip-
ture history, antipathy to Popish miracles, and the
like. The facts of the case before us he fully allows.
He gives a letter, signed ' H.S.C. H.,' containing a
statement of these facts drawn up by Miss Fancourt
herself, and also a letter from her father to a friend.
In the latter the father states that the flesh of the
restored limb had been, previous to the cure, loose
and flabby, but that after the cure it was found to
be firm and strong. He adds also that there had
been a flexure of the spine, and an enlargement of
the collar-bone on one side, and that these symp-
toms also had disappeared. These particulars he
gives on the authority of his wife.

Admitting these facts, the editor explains them
by the power of mental excitement. It will be


noticed that he here follows the example of Bishop
Doug-las, and, like that prelate, he seeks to support
his view by other cases which must he thinks be
thus explained. He refers to two modern instances —
I. A wonderful cure of a Mrs. Ann Mattingly,
attested by a number of affidavits published at
Washington, March lo, 1824. 2. The case of Mrs.
Stuart, cured at the convent of St. Joseph, Ranelagh,
in the diocese of Dublin, published by Dr. Murray,
Bishop of Dublin, 1823. It would seem that though
a strong Protestant he did not fully share Paley's
distrust of miraculous narratives published in the
interest of an Established religion, and above all of
the Popish religion.

Professor Powell himself, in accordance with his
well-known views, favoured a natural explanation,
viz., ' that the apparent spinal or hip disease was
due entirely to the deceptive effect of hysterical
affection, simulating the supposed disorder, and
which was at once removed when the hysteria was
subdued.' He refers to a letter from Mr. Travers,
an eminent surgeon, who was consulted in the case,
and who ' after some doubt at length explained it in
the way just stated.' He also refers to a notice of
the case by Sir Benjamin Brodie in a small volume
called * Lectures on Local Nervous Affections.' This
book is a collection of cases in which hysteria
simulated local injury or disease, and it is true that


Sir Benjamin speaks of Miss Fancourt's illness as
an instance. But I feel bound to say that his notice
seems to me cursory. He does not appear to have
had any knowledge of the case except from the
report of the ' Christian Observer.' He simply speaks
of it as plainly an ' hysterical affection simulating
disease of the hip-joint,' and does not notice the
circumstances stated in the father's letter as to the
spine and collar-bone. Dr. Maitland refers to other
eminent medical men who thought the case inexpli-

In the number of ' Macmillan's Magazine ' for
April 1 87 1, there is an account by an eminent
medical man, Dr. Day, of a Belgian ecstatic, Louise
Lateau. Dr. Day does not speak as an eye-witness.
He takes the particulars from an account published
by Dr. Lefebvre, Professor of General Pathology and
Therapeutics at the University of Louvain. Dr.
Lefebvre himself had long and carefully examined
the case. The facts, indeed, have been so minutely
and scientifically investigated, and the absence of
fraud has been so strictly tested, that there cannot, I
should think, be any doubt as to the truth of the
mere phenomena. They are briefly as follows : —
Louise Lateau was a peasant girl of pious but not
enthusiastic character, who after a severe illness re-
ceived without external cause marks resembling those
known as the stigmata, and already spoken of in the



case of St. Francis. In her case there were marks
similar to those commonly associated with the cru-
cifixion upon both sides of the hands and of the feet,
a mark upon the left side of the chest, and also
pricks in a zone going round the head between the
hair and eyebrows. But there was not the appear-
ance of nails. From these marks blood issued every
Friday. Further, about a quarter of a year after
these appearances, an ecstatic state began to recur
every Friday. In this state Louise Lateau saw
visions of our Lord's Passion, and remained per-
fectly insensible to outward things, even under the
most severe tests.

Dr. Lefebvre considered these phenomena inex-
plicable in the present state of medical science. But
in a number of the ' Lancet,' published immediately
after the account in ' Macmillan's Magazine,' it is
maintained that these phenomena, however strange,
can be explained by the action of the mind, when its
attention is automatically, and therefore very long and
very powerfully, directed to a particular part of the
body. A singular case is mentioned in which a severe
injury to the fingers of a child was followed by inflam-
mation and sloughing in the corresponding parts of the
mother's fingers. Dr. Carpenter, in his ' Mental Phy-
siology,' ^ has also mentioned this case, and added
another similar case on the authority of Dr. Tuke.

^ Carpenter's ' Principles of Mental Physiology,' p. 682.


The imaginary cold experienced by some subjects
in displays of electro-biology has been known to
produce actual chilblains.

The article in ' Macmillan's Magazine ' tells us
that there are on record in all about seventy alleged
cases of receiving the stigmata, beginning with that
of St. Francis.

I have cited these three cases because, as it seems
to me, they are adequately attested, and seem to
prove that religious feeling may produce bodily effects
which in ignorant times would certainly have been
accounted miraculous, and which may, I think, be
fairly compared with the miracles of the New Testa-
ment. With a little research, other cases might, I
have no doubt, be added. Bu^^as enough may have
been said upon this point, I will pass on to another
which is of great importance in our subject.

The cases which I have brought prominently
forward have all been connected with the influence
of the Christian religion. Incidentally, reference has
been made to other analogous cases which had no
such connection ; which, in fact, had sometimes no
connection with any religion.

I would now expressly call attention to the fact, as
a very important point, that wonderful bodily effects
are produced by mental influences other than reli-
gious. Of this fact we have already had one example
in the Vespasian cures. It is evidently important in

196 THE KING'S TOUCH. essay

our present inquiry, because it tends to deprive the
cause of these anomalous cures, be it what it may,
of a strictly religious character. I will illustrate it
further, by a reference to the cures by the king's
touch, of which mention has been already made.
We have, indeed, a great deal of evidence that such
cures really occurred. I will give some. Dr. Tooker,
who lived in the reign of Elizabeth, and was made
Dean of Lichfield, wrote a book upon the subject,
entitled ' Charisma sive Donum Sanationis.' In
Chapter VIII. he gives the names and abodes of some
persons whom he knew to have been cured, and he
tells us that he had by inquiries found the cures to be
real and permanent. He says that the cured were
of all ranks, ages, and sexes, and he adds the instruc-
tive remark that he had found in the applicants for
relief ' incredibilem ardorem et fidem adipiscendse

Mr. Richard Wiseman was a principal surgeon
in the army of Charles I., and serjeant-surgeon to
Charles II. He has left a collection of surgical
treatises, amongst which there is one on the king's
evil. It opens with a notice of cures by the king's
touch, from which I extract the following passage : —

' I myself have been a frequent eye-witness of
many hundreds of cures performed by His Majesty's
touch alone, without any assistance of chirurgery,
and those many of them such as had tired out the



endeavours of able chirurgeons, before they came
thither. It were needless to recite what I myself
have seen, and what I have received acknowledg-
ment of by letter, not only from several parts of
this nation, but also from Ireland, Scotland, Jersey,
and Guernsey.' He mentions certain objections.
The improvement in health might, it was said,
be the effect of the journey and change of air.
He brings forward in reply the case of Londoners
who had been cured. Some attributed the cures
to the effect of imagination ; but this explanation,
Wiseman remarks, would not apply to the case of
infants who had been cured. Others connected
the benefit with the piece of gold usually given on
the occasion, and cases were cited in which, when
this gift had been parted with, the recovery did
not last. Our author admits this fact, but says
that the relapse did not always follow, and further
asserts that Charles I. performed cures when he
gave only silver pieces and indeed sometimes nothing
at all. He tells us that like miracles of healing were
performed by the blood of Charles I. preserved after
his execution upon chips of wood and handkerchiefs.
I ought perhaps to add that he does not give the
names of the cured of whom he speaks. We are
here reminded of ' the special miracles ' wrought at
Ephesus by the hands of Paul, ' so that from his
body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or

198 THE KINGS TOUCH. essay

aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and
the evil spirits went out of them ' (Acts xix. 1 2) ;
and again of the sick laid out upon their beds, ' that
at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might
overshadow some of them' (Acts v. 15).

I have referred already to the testimony which
Bishop Douglas, in his work ' The Criterion,' bears to
the reality of some of these cures. I may add that,
besides referring to the writers from whom I have
myself quoted, he also cites Mr. Dickens, serjeant-
surgeon to Queen Anne. Of this gentleman the
Bishop expresses a high opinion, and he tells us
that Mr. Dickens had full opportunity of testing the
truth, as those who were to be touched were first
examined by him. He made no secret of bearing
witness to the certainty of some of the cures.

I will now quote the explanation of those cures
from extraordinary mental impressions, either reli-
gious or secular, given by an eminent living physio-
logist. The natural agency supposed will be seen to
be the same as that suggested in the quotation from
the ' Lancet,' and even those who may not be willing
to accept this explanation must allow that it is
sound in principle, being an attempt at legitimate
ofeneralisation from a o^reat number of observed facts.
The following quotation is from Dr. Carpenter's
' Principles of Human Physiology.' The author has
been speaking of certain extraordinary effects upon


the body from a fixed attention of the mind, and he
adds as follows : —

' Now the effects which are producible by the
voluntary or determinate direction of the conscious-
ness to the result are doubtless no less producible
by that involuntary fixation of the attention upon it,
which is consequent upon the eager expectation of
benefit from some curative method in which implicit
confidence is placed. It is to such a state that we
may fairly attribute most, if not all, the cures which
have been worked through what is popularly called
the imagination. The cures are real facts, however
they may be explained, and there is scarcely a
malady in which amendment has not been produced
not merely in the estimation of the patient but in
the more trustworthy opinion of medical observers,
by practices which can have had no other efl"ect
than to direct the attention of the sufferer, and keep
alive his confident expectation of the cure. The
charming away of warts by spells of the most vulgar
kind, the imposition of the royal hands for the cure
of the evil, the pawings and strokings of Valentine
Greatrakes, the manipulations practised with the
metallic tractors, the invocations of Prince Hohen-
lohe et hoc gentis oinne, not omitting the globulistic
administrations of the infinitesimal doctors, and the
manipulations of the mesmerists of our own times,
have all worked to the same end, and have all alike


been successful. It is unquestionable that in all such
cases the benefit derived is in direct proportion to
the faith of the sufferer in the means employed, and
thus we see that a couple of bread pills will produce
copious purgation, and a dose of red poppy syrup
will serve as a powerful narcotic, if the patient
have entertained a sufficiently confident expectation
of such a result' He goes on to speak of ill effects
followinof in like manner. In a note, the case of
Pascal's niece is mentioned and spoken of as well
attested. Similar views are expressed and further
illustrated in Dr. Carpenter's more recent book,
' Principles of Mental Physiology,' p. 685. The case

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