Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/725

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HALLUCINATIONS OF THE SENSES.

been before me in his own proper person—I may almost say more vividly. I looked from time to time at the imaginary figure, then worked with my pencil, then referred to the countenance, and so on, just as I should have done had the sitter been there. When I looked at the chair I saw the man. . . . Gradually I began to lose the distinction between the imaginary figure and the real person, and sometimes disputed with sitters that they had been with me the day before. At last I was sure of it, and then—and then—all is confusion. I suppose they took the alarm. I recollect nothing more. I lost my senses—was thirty years in an asylum. The whole period, except the last six months of my confinement, is a dead blank in my memory."

Or, if the person does not go out of his mind, he may be so distressed by the persistence of the apparition which he has created as to fall into melancholy and despair, and even to commit suicide.

"I knew," says the same author, "a very intelligent and amiable man, who had the power of thus placing before his own eyes himself, and often laughed heartily at his double, who always seemed to laugh in turn. This was long a subject of amusement and joke; but the ultimate result was lamentable. He became gradually convinced that he was haunted by himself. This other self would argue with him pertinaciously, and, to his great mortification, sometimes refute him, which, as he was very proud of his logical powers, humiliated him exceedingly. He was eccentric, but was never placed in confinement, or subjected to the slightest restraint. At length, worn out by the annoyance, he deliberately resolved not to enter on another year of existence—paid all his debts, wrapped up in separate papers the amount of the weekly demands, waited, pistol in hand, the night of the 31st of December, and as the clock struck twelve fired it into his mouth."

Were illustrations needed of the production of hallucination by the intensity of the conception, I might take them from Shakespeare, who has given many instances of these "coinages of the brain" which, he says truly, ecstasy is very cunning in. Hamlet, perturbed by the apparition of his father's ghost, whose commands he was. neglecting, bends his eyes on vacancy and holds discourse with the incorporeal air. A dagger, sensible to sight but not to feeling, points Macbeth the way to the bed where lay Duncan whom he was about treacherously to stab; he attempts to clutch it, exclaiming justly when he grasps nothing:

". . . . There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes."

In the well-known passage in which he compares the imaginations of the lunatic, the lover, and the poet, Shakespeare sets forth the very manner of the production of hallucinations, and illustrates the gradations of the process: