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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/47

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THE COMPRACHICOS.

To degrade man tends to deform him. The degradation of his condition was completed by disfigurement. Certain vivisectors of that period succeeded marvellously well in effacing from the human face the divine effigy. Doctor Conquest, member of the Amen-street College, and judicial visitor of the chemists' shops of London, wrote a book in Latin on this pseudo-surgery, the processes of which he describes. If we are to believe Justus of Carrickfergus, the inventor of this branch of surgery was a monk named Avonmore,—an Irish word signifying Great River.

The dwarf of the Elector Palatine, Perkeo, whose effigy (or ghost) springs from a magical box in the cave of Heidelberg, was a remarkable specimen of this science, which was very varied in its applications. It fashioned beings the law of whose existence was hideously simple; it permitted them to suffer, and commanded them to amuse.


III.

The manufacture of monstrosities was practised on a large scale, and comprised various branches. The Sultan wanted them; so did the Pope,—the one to guard his women, the other to say his prayers. These were of a peculiar kind, incapable of reproduction. Scarcely human beings, they were useful to voluptuousness and to religion. The seraglio and the Sistine Chapel utilized the same species of monsters; fierce in the former case, mild in the latter.

They knew how to produce things in those days which are not produced now; they had talents which we lack, and it is not without reason that some good folk cry out that the decline has come. We no longer know how to