Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/719

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HALLUCINATIONS OF THE SENSES.

really appeared to this enraptured maiden, and as few, if any, will doubt that she herself sincerely believed that he did, one must needs suppose that her visions were hallucinations generated by the enthusiasm of a mind which was in a singularly exalted strain of religious and patriotic feeling.

The special medical interest of the subject lies in this—that there are a great many persons in the world who, suffering under some form or other of nervous disorder, habitually see figures or faces, hear threatening or insulting voices, even feel blows and taste poisons, which have no existence outside their own minds; and neither argument nor demonstration of the impossibility of what they allege they perceive will shake their convictions in the least. "You assure me," they will say, "that I am mistaken; that there are no such persons as I see, no such voices as I hear; but I protest to you that I see and hear them as distinctly as I see and hear you at this moment, and that they are just as real to me." What are we to reply? I have replied sometimes, that "as you are alone on one side in your opinion, and all the world is on the other side, I must needs think, either that you are an extraordinary genius, far in advance of the rest of the world, or that you are a madman a long way behind it; and, as I don't think you to be a genius, I am bound to conclude that your senses are disordered." But the argument does not produce the least effect.

Let me give an example or two of the character of these hallucinations, and of their persistence in minds that might be thought sane enough to correct them. The first shall be that of an old gentleman who was much distressed because of an extremely offensive smell which he imagined to proceed from all parts of his body: there was not the least ground, in fact, for this imagination. He was scrupulously clean in person, extremely courteous in manner, thoroughly rational in his conversation on every other subject, a shrewd and clever man of business; no one talking with him would for a moment have suspected him of entertaining such extraordinary fancies. Nevertheless, his life was made miserable by them; he would not go into society, but took solitary rambles in the country, where he might meet as few persons as possible; in his own house he slept for the first part of the night on the ground-floor, mounting up higher at a later period of the night; and this he did to prevent the bad odors from becoming too concentrated in one room. He believed that the people in the next house were irritated and offended by the emanations, for he often heard them moving about and coughing; and, when he passed a cab-stand in the street, he noticed that even the horses became restless and fidgeted. He used to hang his clothes out of the window at night that they might get pure, until his housekeeper put a stop to the practice by telling him that the exhibition of them would excite the notice and comment of his neighbors. All the while he was conducting his business with propriety and success; his own partners had no suspicion of his condi-