Page images

mission, attended with cries, tears, trembling, and continual watchings. On the third day of this delirium, by one of those instincts, which teach animals when sick the herbs proper for their cure, he desired to hear a little concert in his room.

His physician with some difficulty consented to indulge him in his request. The Cantatas of M. Bernier were sung to him. On hearing the first notes, his aspect grew calm, his eyes lost their wildness, his convulsions quite left him, he shed tears of pleasure, and showed, that music had never been so charming to him as then. He had no feverish symptoms during the whole time of the performance, but as soon as it ceased, he felt a relapse. It was therefore thought proper to continue the use of a remedy, the success of which had been so visibly happy, though unexpected, and by the use of which his fever and delirium still abated during the operation; so that music became so necessary to the patient, that at night he made a kinswoman who attended him, sing and dance, though her concern made her yielel with pain to oblige bim. One night when only his nurse sat up with him, he obliged her to sing an old ballari, which gave him some ease. To conclude, in ten days by the continuance of music he grew entirely well, without any other remedies but two bleedings in the foot, the last of which was followed by a strong purge.

The second instance of the extraordinary effect of music in the cure of this disease, is a fact related by M. Fontenelle, who had it from M. de Mandajor, Mayor of Alais in Languedoc, a gentleman of sense and merit. A dancing-master of that town, during the carnival of 1708, had so over-heated himself with the agreeable duties of his profession, that he fell sick the beginning of Lent of a violent fever, which the fourth or fifth day turned to a lethargy and held him a long time. When this symptom disappeared he grew sullenly mad, making constant efforts to leap out of bed, threatening with his head and countenance those who held him or stood about him, and obstinately refusing to speak or take any remedies offered him. M. de Mandajof, who saw him in this condition, took a fancy, that perhaps music might compose his disordered imagination, and proposed it to his physician, who did not dislike the thing, though he objected to the ridicule that might attend such a remedy, especially if the patient should chance to die in the operation. A friend of the dancing-master's, who was less scrupulous and played

[ocr errors]

* Histe de l'Academie Royale des Sciences. An. 1708, p. 27.

a good fiddle, took up that of his sick friend, which lay in the' room, and began to play the tunes he knew he loved best. The company immediately took him to be the greater madman of the two, and began to chide him. But the sick man suddenly sate up, like one agreeably surprised, and by his motion endeavoured to keep time with the airs, but as he was still held by his arms he could only shew his satisfaction by his head. However those who held him finding him no way furious, by degrees gave him more liberty, till in a quarter of an hour he fell fast asleep, and had a crisis, which put him past all danger.

Let us now see a third example of the force of music, which surpasses the two former in the surprising manner of its effects. Few persons are strangers to the Tarantula*, and the terrible symptoms that attend its bite ; but the extraordinary remedy used to alleviate and dispel them is not perhaps so well known. This remedy is music, applied in the manner we shall describe.

Soon after the bite of the Tarantula, which causes a sensation like the stinging of a bee or ant, the patient finds in the part a very sharp pain, which in some hours is followed with a tumour. In a short time he grows melancholy, with a difficulty of breathing, faint pulse, and wild look, and if not speedily assisted he loses all sense and motion, and dies. Such are the symptoms of this poison. The best and surest means of cure yet discovered are as follow.

When the patient is arrived at the last symptoms of being insensible or motionless, a musician tries different tunes, till he hits on one whose modulation and notes suit the person affected, so that he begins to stir, to move his fingers in cadence, next his feet, and at last recovers his limbs, so as to rise and dance to the air, still continuing the exercise with greater violence. There are some patients will dance thus for six hours without intermission. When exhausted with this fatigue the patient is put to bed, and after reposing awhile, he is awaked with the same tune to renew his dancing, continuing this method for some days (often five, six,

* The Tarantula is a large spider, hairy and about the size of an acorn, its colour various, with 8 eyes and 8 feet; from its mouth arise 2 horns or trunks, a little crooked, the tips exceedingly sharp, through which it conveys its poison: it is found near Tarento, whence it takes its name, and is to be met with in other parts of Italy, especially the Isle of Corsica. Those of Apulia are the most venomous, and in general those of the plains are most dangerous, because 'the air of Calabria is hotter in the plains than in the mountains. See Hist. de l'Academ. Royale des Sciences. An. 1702, p. 20.

or seven) till the patient finds he has no more inclination to dance, which is a sign of his curé. For while the effect of the poison lasts, he would, if left to himself, dance without intermission till he killed himself. As soon as he finds himself wearied he recovers by degrees his senses and judgment, and like one awakened from a deep sleep remembers nothing of what had passed in his delirium.

Sometimes the patient is cured on his coming out of the first fit. But if otherwise, he still is subject to a deep meiancholy and forgetfulness. He shuns company, loves solitude, and if not carefully watched, is apt to drown himself. An aversion for the colours of black and blue, and a fondness for white, red, and green, are some of the odd symptoms of this distemper. If the patient dies not in the interval, the fit returns about the same time twelvemonth the bite happened, and music and dancing must be again called in. Some have had these regular relapses for 20 or 30 years together. Each patient has his particular specific'tune; but in general, those found effectual are brisk and lively. These particulars are well attested, and were confirmed to the Royal Academy not only by M. Geoffroy, who had informed himself on the spot; but by the letters of a father jesuit of Toulon, to P. Gouye, in which he relates the cure of an Italian soldier bit by a Tarantula, whom he had seen dance for several days successively.

These facts may explain the case of Saul who found his indisposition relieved by the music of David; a case which has nothing in it more wonderful or extraordinary than those related. I even think, that the effects of music on the disordered brain of a man bit with the Tarantula, has something more inexplicable, more incomprehensibly strange in it. Some philosophers have attempted to account for these phenomena, but the secret causes of them are too concealed for us to discover. O Nature! Nature! how mysterious and inscrutable are thy ways? How feeble and bounded our knowledge.

As music has in the above-mentioned instances been found. to be a very successful remedy in the several disorders in which it was applied; so it is not perhaps improbable, that it might be found efficacious in other disorders, such as the bite of a mad dog; especially if a time could be hit upon to make the patient dance and sweat. Since the evacuation in this manner of the inflammatory fluid is, according to Dr. Mead, the cause of cure in the bite of the Tarantula, the vibrations made on the nerves by tunes rightly modelled, operating as really on the nerves, as the Imperium Volun

tatis can do. And M. Geoffroy says, “the poisonous juice giving the nerves a degree of tension equal to that of some strings of an instrument, puts the nerves in unison to certain tones; and after being agitated by the undulations and vibrations of the air proper to those tones, obliges them to shake. A genuine Letter from an Italian Gentleman, concerning the

Bite of the Tarantula.

your desire I send you an account of the effect the bite of a Tarantula has upon the human body. I shall only give a distinct detail of all the circumstances that I have seen, having once been instrumental at the cure of a poor plowman that was bit by that insect.

I will not undertake to give you any account of the Tarantula itself, being sure you are perfectly well acquainted with it; I shall only tell you what has happened in my country, at a small village, called La Torre della AnFunziata, about ten miles from Naples, where I was at the time the affair I am going to relate happened.

It was in the month of October, a season of the year when all the students in Naples, that have any relations in the country, have leave to visit them.' I was one of those that enjoyed the privilege of visiting the place of my nativity, and as I was then studying music in the college of Naples, generally (whenever I went into the country) brought my violin with me.

It happened one day that a poor man was taken ill in the street, and it was soon known to be the effect of the Tarantnla, because the country people have some undoubted signs to know it, and particularly (they say) that the Tarantula bites on the tip or under lip of one's ear, because the Tarantula bites one, when sleeping on the ground; and the wounded part becomes black, which bappens three dars after one is bit, exactly at the hour of the hurt received: and they further assert, that if no one was to undertake to cure him, he would feel the effect of it every day at the same hour for the space of three or four hours, tili it would throw him into such madness as to destroy him in about a inonth's time; some (they say) have lived three months after they have been bit; but the latter I cannot believe, because it never happens that any man is suffered to die by such distemper, the priest of the parish being obliged to play on the fiddle in order to cure them; and it has not been known in the memory of man, that any one is dead of it, but to proceed.

A poor man was taken ill in a street (as I said before) and as the priest was out of the way, several gentlemen begged of me to play for that poor fellow. I could not help going, without offending a number of friends; when I was there I saw a man stretched the ground, who seemed as if he was just going to expire. The people at the sight of me cried out--play-pluy the Tarantella: (which is a tune made use of on such occasions).- It happened that I had never heard that tune, consequently could not play it. I asked whatsort of tune it was? They answered, that it was a kind of jig. I tried several jigs, but to no purpose, for the man was as motionless as before. The people still called out for the Tarantella; I told them I could not play it, but if any would sing it, I would learn it immediately: an old woman presented herself to me to do the good office, who sung it in such an unintelligible sound of voice, that I could not form an idea of it; but another woman came, and helped me to learn it; which I did in about ten minutes time, being a short one: but you must observe that while I was a learning the tune, and, happened to feel the strain of the first two bars, the man began to move accordingly, and got up as quick as lightning, and seemed as if he had been awakened by some frightful vision, and wildly stared about, still moving every joint of his body; but as I had not as yet learned the whole tune, I left off playing, not thinking that it would have any

effect on the man. But the instant 1 left off playing, the man fell down, and cried out very loud, and distorted his face, legs, arms, and every other part of his body, scraped the earth with his hands, and was in such contortions, that clearly indicated him to be in miserable agonies. 1. was frighted out of my wits, and made all the haste I could to learn the rest of the tune; which done, I played near him, Imean about four yards from him. The instant he heard me, he rose up as he did before, and danced as hard as any man could do; his dancing was very wild, he kept a perfect time in the dance, but had neither rules nor manner, only jumped and runned too and from, made very comical postures, something like the Chinese dances we have sometimes seen on the stage, and otherwise every thing was very wild of what he did; he sweated all over, and then the people cried out fuster-faster, meaning that I should give a quicker motion to the tune, which I did so quick, that I could hardly keep up playiilg, and the man still danced in time. I was very much fatigued, and though I had several persons behind me, some drying the sweat from my face, others blowing with a fan to keep me cool, (for it was about two o'clock in

« PreviousContinue »