A WORLD OF WONDERS

(Investigator 197, 2021 March)



Albany Poyntz edited A World of Wonders With Anecdotes And Opinions Concerning Popular Superstitions (1845).

"Albany Poyntz" may be a pseudonym used by English novelist Catherine Gore (1798-1861) who, according to Wikipedia, authored 68 other books.

The article "Antiquarians and Skeptics" in Investigator 195 says:

The book's 52 chapters consistently demonstrate an investigative and sceptical attitude while covering a wide range of claims in the paranormal and supernatural including Alchemy; Apparitions; Astrology; Comets; Divining Rods; Dreams; Fables; Fortune Tellers; Ghosts; Giants and Dwarfs; Longevity of Animals; Lunar Influence; Minor Superstitions; Monstrous Births; Nostradamus; Popular Errors; Quack cures; Sorcerers and Magicians; Talismans; Vampires; Werewolves; and much more.

Antiquarians were English writers who investigated folklore, customs, oral traditions, common beliefs and superstitions, often skeptically, and may therefore be considered forerunners of the 20th century skeptics.

A World Of Wonders is less formal than sceptical and investigative writings today. It is scant, for example, in referencing the scientific research available at the time, and in suggestions for further reading.

The book nevertheless demonstrates an investigative approach to dubious claims and strange phenomena (many of which people still argue about), and presents conclusions consistent with 19th century science but still largely accurate from a 21st century skeptical perspective.

The book has some out-of-date word-spellings and a few words no longer in use, but is historically instructive, and chapters from it will therefore be published in Investigator Magazine.







A WORLD OF WONDERS,
WITH ANECDOTES AND OPINIONS
CONCERNING
POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.
 
EDITED BY
ALBANY POYNTZ.
 
LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET,
Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
1845.
 
 
LONDON:
Printed by Schulze and Co., 13, Poland Street.


PREFACE.

It is surprising, considering the gigantic strides effected by modern science, how many of the errors and prejudices engendered by the ignorance of the dark ages remain current in the world in its present days of enlightenment. Like the winged seeds of certain weeds, their light and impalpable nature renders them only the more difficult of extirpation.

A cursory review and refutation of these popular prejudices and vulgar errors has been attempted in the following Manual. A more scientific analysis of so spreading a field would have expanded into a Cyclopædia. But the ancient traditions and modern instances collected in its pages may afford the reader amusement and instruction for the passing hour, as well as an incentive to more profound investigations in hours to come.

LONDON,

NOVEMBER, 1845.

I. LONGEVITY OF ANIMALS

II. INCOMBUSTIBLE MEN

III. VENTRILOQUISTS

IV. POPE JOAN AND THE WANDERING JEW

V. THE FABLES OF HISTORY

VI. MELONS AND MONSTERS

VII. THE JEWS

VIII. VERBAL DELICACY

IX. AEROLITES AND MIRACULOUS SHOWERS

X. NOSTRUMS AND SPECIFICS

XI. PHYSIOGNOMISTS

XII. LAST WORDS OF DYING PERSONS

XIII. THE ANTIPODES—MORNING AND EVENING DEW

XIV. PERPETUAL LAMPS AND ARCHIMEDES

XV. THE LYNX AND THE CAMELEON

XVI. WILD WOMEN

XVII. SYBILS

XVIII. FORTUNE-TELLERS AND CHIROMACY

XIX. ALBERTUS MAGNUS AND NOSTRADAMUS

XX. LEECHES, SERPENTS, AND THE SONG OF THE DYING SWAN

XXI. NEGROES

XXII. FASCINATION; OR, THE ART OF PLEASING

XXIII. THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

XXIV. GIANTS AND DWARFS

XXV. ASTROLOGY



CONTENTS

I. LONGEVITY OF ANIMALS
II. INCOMBUSTIBLE MEN
III. VENTRILOQUISTS
IV. POPE JOAN AND THE WANDERING JEW
V. THE FABLES OF HISTORY
VI. MELONS AND MONSTERS
VII. THE JEWS
VIII. VERBAL DELICACY
IX. AEROLITES AND MIRACULOUS SHOWERS
X. NOSTRUMS AND SPECIFICS
XI. PHYSIOGNOMISTS
XII. LAST WORDS OF DYING PERSONS
XIII. THE ANTIPODES—MORNING AND EVENING DEW
XIV. PERPETUAL LAMPS AND ARCHIMEDES
XV. THE LYNX AND THE CAMELEON
XVI. WILD WOMEN
XVII. SYBILS
XVIII. FORTUNE-TELLERS AND CHIROMACY
XIX. ALBERTUS MAGNUS AND NOSTRADAMUS
XX. LEECHES, SERPENTS, AND THE SONG OF THE DYING SWAN
XXI. NEGROES
XXII. FASCINATION; OR, THE ART OF PLEASING
XXIII. THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE
XXIV. GIANTS AND DWARFS
XXV. ASTROLOGY

XXVI. THE MOON AND LUNAR INFLUENCE

XXVII. APPARITIONS

XXVIII. NOBILITY AND TRADE

XXIX. MERIT AND POPULARITY

XXX. COMETS

XXXI. POPULAR ERRORS

XXXI. DREAMS

XXXIII. PREJUDICES ATTACHED TO CERTAIN ANIMALS

XXXIV. CONTENT AND COURTESY

XXXV. THE DIVINING ROD

XXXVI. BEES AND ANTS

XXXVII. PREPOSSESSIONS AND ANTIPATHIES

XXXVIII. THE INFLUENCE OF BELLS UPON THUNDER STORMS

XXXIX. SMALL POX AND VACCINATION

XL. PRECOCIOUS AND CLEVER CHILDREN

XLI. EDUCATION OF CHILDREN

XLII. PREJUDICES OF THE FRENCH

XLIII. MONSTROUS BIRTHS

XLIV. THE ICHNEUMON AND THE HALCYON

XLV. SORCERERS AND MAGICIANS

XLVI. MALE AND FEMALE

XLVII. MINOR SUPERSTITIONS

XLVIII. SOMNAMBULISM

XLIX. A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT GHOSTS AND VAMPIRES,
          AND LOUP-GAROUX

L. APOCRYPHAL ANIMALS

LI. PROFESSIONS ESTEEMED INFAMOUS

LII. SUPERNATURAL HUMAN BEINGS

XXVI. THE MOON AND LUNAR INFLUENCE
XXVII. APPARITIONS
XXVIII. NOBILITY AND TRADE
XXIX. MERIT AND POPULARITY
XXX. COMETS
XXXI. POPULAR ERRORS
XXXI. DREAMS
XXXIII. PREJUDICES ATTACHED TO CERTAIN ANIMALS
XXXIV. CONTENT AND COURTESY
XXXV. THE DIVINING ROD
XXXVI. BEES AND ANTS
XXXVII. PREPOSSESSIONS AND ANTIPATHIES
XXXVIII. THE INFLUENCE OF BELLS UPON THUNDER STORMS
XXXIX. SMALL POX AND VACCINATION
XL. PRECOCIOUS AND CLEVER CHILDREN
XLI. EDUCATION OF CHILDREN
XLII. PREJUDICES OF THE FRENCH
XLIII. MONSTROUS BIRTHS
XLIV. THE ICHNEUMON AND THE HALCYON
XLV. SORCERERS AND MAGICIANS
XLVI. MALE AND FEMALE
XLVII. MINOR SUPERSTITIONS
XLVIII. SOMNAMBULISM
XLIX. A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT GHOSTS AND VAMPIRES,
          AND LOUP-GAROUX
L. APOCRYPHAL ANIMALS
LI. PROFESSIONS ESTEEMED INFAMOUS
LII. SUPERNATURAL HUMAN BEINGS





CHAPTER XXXIX

SMALL POX AND  VACCINATION


If any thing could excuse the exercise of arbitrary power on the part of a Government, it would surely be in the act of compelling parents to vaccinate their children; but the aversion to vaccination being still only too common among certain classes of the people. Yet surely the law which punishes parents for ill-usage of their children, might be extended to punish their leaving these helpless creatures exposed to the infection of pain and disfigurement? Jenner is decidedly one of the greatest benefactors of the human race; for the vast increase of population in the different countries of Europe is ascribed, by many political economists, to the safeguard of vaccination, which has preserved more lives since its introduction, than the terrible wars of the present century have destroyed.

In England, this admirable discovery was far more readily adopted than in France; where, however versatile in fashions and governments, any improvement tending to benefit the human race is slowly and cautiously accepted. In the reign of Louis XIV, the introduction of yeast in the making of bread met with general opposition; and it required the interference of the legislature to secure its adoption. The introduction of bark and emetics was also attended with violent opposition; and inoculation introduced from Turkey into Western Europe by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, found great difficulty in establishing itself in France.

It was not, however, surprising that parents should hesitate about giving their children a loathsome disease; before it became certified by long experience that the virulence of the disorder was considerably lessened by preparation; so as to secure a mother against the terrible self-reproaches arising from the loss of a child under the inoculated malady.

In England, more particularly in the county of Gloucester, from time immemorial cows were subject to a contagious disease, which infected the hands of the milkmaids, who were observed never to suffer from the small-pox. This surmise being confirmed  by  experiment, Dr. Jenner established himself in the county of Gloucester; where, by inoculating people with vaccine matter, he secured them against the small-pox.

So far from turning his discovery to pecuniary account, as most others would have done, Jenner nobly proclaimed it to mankind, calling upon all philantrophists to share his triumph.

The Duke de Rochefauld-Liancourt having witnessed the effects of vaccination in England, introduced it into France, and did more for its propagation than the slow deliberations of the Parisian Schools of Medicine. Dr. Pinel, however, tried experiments at the Hospital of the Salpétrière, with perfect success; while Dr. Aubert was despatched by Government to England to report upon the subject. The result was favourable. Matter was imported from England in the month of May, 1800, when thirty-eight children were vaccinated at the Hospital of La Pitié; and commissions were instantly instituted throughout France. Jenner had, however, his opponents. In London, it was denounced from the pulpit, as an infringement on the dispensation of Providence; and in France, Doctors Vaume, Chapon and others pronounced vaccination to be injurious to the human constitution, and capable of reducing man to the condition of a brute, by the introduction of animal virus into the blood. As if we resembled a calf or sheep the more for having swallowed a mutton chop or veal cutlet.

With a few rare exceptions, vaccination has proved a security against the small-pox, and the practice ought consequently to become universal. But old women are still to be found with instances of children who have died of convulsions after vaccination; as if that were the origin of their illness and death.

Among the lower orders, a prejudice prevails that an inferior kind of vaccine matter is provided for them; and whenever their children exhibit symptoms of disease or deformity, they comfort their self-love by attributing it to the influence of vaccination. “Such maladies were unknown in their families, till the madness of introducing matter from the body of a stranger into that of their child conveyed also the germs of disease.”






CHAPTER XXVI

THE MOON AND LUNAR INFLUENCE

From the stars in general to the moon in particular, there is but a step; nor will we separate the midnight luminary from the company in which we usually find her. Lovers and poets have from time immemorial found solace in her beams; while the early philosophers pretended that she swallowed stones in the manner of the mountebanks, in order to cast them down upon us in the form of aërolites. This conclusion is as absurd as a thousand others, of which the moon has been the object. The ingenuousness of the old lady, who on hearing continually of new moons, inquired anxiously what became of the old ones, is scarcely more surprising than the complex mass of commentaries and hypotheses which regard the influence of the orb of night.

In former centuries, it was the custom to attribute the decay of public monuments to the influence of the moon upon the surface of granite and stone. Naturalists, however, having watched the work of animalculæ among oysters, madrepores and corals, attributed this to the true cause. In the year 1666, a physician of Caen remarked upon a stone wall of southern aspect forming part of the Abbey of the Benedictines, a number of cavities, into the deep sinuosities of which the hand could be inserted. Instead of attributing this to the moon, he ascertained that they were worked by insects whom he found concealed in the cavities. Experiment opens the safest road to truth; while absurd theories transmitted from generation to generation, obstruct the steps of a temple already sufficiently difficult of ascent.

Thomas Moult, the author of an almanack superior to the general run of those popular publications, devoted himself to conjectures on the variations of the weather as influenced by the moon; and consulted the observations previously made by the Abbé Toaldo, who had noted down the effect of eleven hundred and six moons upon the weather. He found that nine hundred and fifty were accompanied by changes of weather; while the other one hundred and fifty six, pro-duced no effect. The proportion being as one to six, the chances are that a new moon will produce a change of weather; the influence being susceptible of increase from various circumstances, in the proportion of thirty-three to one, when the new moon is at its perigæum.

Physicians formerly believed the phases of the moon to influence certain diseases. Hippocrates and Galen assigned them as the cause of periodical returns of epilepsy; while people of deranged intellect are vulgarly styled lunatics. Bertholon observed the paroxysms of a maniac during one year, and declared them to be aggravated by the full moon. It has been asserted that among maritime populations, a greater number of deaths occurred at the ebb than at the flow of the tide. At Brest, Rochefort and St. Malo, a register was kept for thirty months of the number of deaths, and the hours at which they took place; when the number was found to be less at the hours supposed most fatal. The doctrine of Aristotle, which had still many adherents, was overthrown by experience.

Dr. Mead, an English physician, wrote a treatise on the influence of the moon upon the human constitution, which has also fallen into oblivion.


http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

https://ed5015.tripod.com/

I. LONGEVITY OF ANIMALS

II. INCOMBUSTIBLE MEN

III. VENTRILOQUISTS

IV. POPE JOAN AND THE WANDERING JEW

V. THE FABLES OF HISTORY

VI. MELONS AND MONSTERS

VII. THE JEWS

VIII. VERBAL DELICACY

IX. AEROLITES AND MIRACULOUS SHOWERS

X. NOSTRUMS AND SPECIFICS

XI. PHYSIOGNOMISTS

XII. LAST WORDS OF DYING PERSONS

XIII. THE ANTIPODES—MORNING AND EVENING DEW

XIV. PERPETUAL LAMPS AND ARCHIMEDES

XV. THE LYNX AND THE CAMELEON

XVI. WILD WOMEN

XVII. SYBILS

XVIII. FORTUNE-TELLERS AND CHIROMACY

XIX. ALBERTUS MAGNUS AND NOSTRADAMUS

XX. LEECHES, SERPENTS, AND THE SONG OF THE DYING SWAN

XXI. NEGROES

XXII. FASCINATION; OR, THE ART OF PLEASING

XXIII. THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

XXIV. GIANTS AND DWARFS

XXV. ASTROLOGY