Decolor, obscurus, cilis. Non ille repexam
Cæsariem Regum, nec Candida virginis ornat
Colla, nec insigni splendet per cingula morsu:
Sed nova si nigri videas miracula suai,
Tum pulcros superat cultus, et quldquid Evis
Indus litoribus rubra scrutatur in alga. CLAUDIANUS, xlviii. 10.
Obscure, unpris’d, and dark, the magnet lies,
Nor lures the search of avaricious eyes,
Nor binds the neck, nor sparkles in the hair,
Nor dignifies the great, nor decks the fair.
But search the wonders of the dusky stone,
And own all glories of the mine outdone,
Each grace of form, each ornament of state,
That decks the fair, or dignifies the great.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Though you have seldom digressed from moral subjects, I suppose you are not so rigorous or cynical as to deny the value or usefulness of natural philosophy; or to have lived in this age of inquiry and experiment, without any attention to the wonders every day produced by the pokers of magnetism and the wheels of electricity. At least, I may be allowed to hope that, since nothing is more contrary to moral excellence than envy, you will not refuse to promote the happiness of others, merely because you cannot partake of their enjoyments.
In confidence, therefore, that your ignorance has not made you an enemy to knowledge, I offer you the honour of introducing to the notice of the publick, an adept, who, having long laboured for the benefit of mankind, is not willing, like too many of his predecessors, to conceal his secrets in the grave.
Many have signalized themselves by melting their estates in crucibles. I was born to no fortune, and therefore had only my mind and body to devote to knowledge, and the gratitude of posterity will attest, that neither mind nor body have been spared. I have sat whole weeks without sleep by the side of an athanor, to watch the moment of projection; I have made the first experiment in nineteen diving engines of new construction; I have fallen eleven times speechless under the shock of electricity; I have twice dislocated my limbs, and once fractured my skull, in essaying to fly[l]; and four times endangered my life by submitting to the transfusion of blood.
In the first period of my studies, I exerted the powers of my body more than those of my mind, and was not without hopes that fame might be purchased by a few broken bones without the toil of thinking; but having been shattered by some violent experiments, and constrained to confine myself to my books, I passed six-and-thirty years in searching the treasures of ancient wisdom, but am at last amply recompensed for all my perseverance.
The curiosity of the present race of philosophers, having been long exercised upon electricity, has been lately transferred to magnetism; the qualities of the loadstone have been investigated, if not with much advantage, yet with great applause; and as the highest praise of art is to imitate nature, I hope no man will think the makers of artificial magnets celebrated or reverenced above their deserts.
I have, for some time, employed myself in the same practice, but with deeper knowledge and more extensive views. While my contemporaries were touching needles and raising weights, or busying themselves with inclination and variation, I have been examining those qualities of magnetism which may be applied to the accommodation and happiness of common life. I have left to inferior understandings the care of conducting the sailor through the hazards of the ocean, and reserved to myself the more difficult and illustrious province of preserving the connubial compact from violation, and setting mankind free for ever from the danger of supposititious children, and the torments of fruitless vigilance and anxious suspicion.
To defraud any man of his due praise is unworthy of a philosopher; I shall, therefore, openly confess that I owe the first hint of this inestimable secret to the rabbi Abraham Ben Hannase, who, in his treatise of precious stones, has left this account of the magnet: [Hebrew: chkalamta],&c. “The calamita, or loadstone that attracts iron, produces many bad fantasies in man. Women fly from this stone. If, therefore, any husband be disturbed with jealousy, and fear lest his wife converses with other men, let him lay this stone upon her while she is asleep. If she be pure, she will, when she wakes, clasp her husband fondly in her arms; but if she be guilty, she will fall out of bed, and run away.”
When I first read this wonderful passage, I could not easily conceive why it had remained hitherto unregarded in such a zealous competition for magnetical fame. It would surely be unjust to suspect that any of the candidates are strangers to the name or works of rabbi Abraham, or to conclude, from a late edict of the Royal Society in favour of the English language, that philosophy and literature are no longer to act in concert. Yet, how should a quality so useful escape promulgation, but by the obscurity of the language in which it was delivered? Why are footmen and chambermaids paid on every side for keeping secrets, which no caution nor expense could secure from the all-penetrating magnet? Or, why are so many witnesses summoned, and so many artifices practised, to discover what so easy an experiment would infallibly reveal?
Full of this perplexity, I read the lines of Abraham to a friend, who advised me not to expose my life by a mad indulgence of the love of fame: he warned me by the fate of Orpheus, that knowledge or genius could give no protection to the invader of female prerogatives; assured me that neither the armour of Achilles, nor the antidote of Mithridates, would be able to preserve me; and counselled me, if I could not live without renown, to attempt the acquisition of universal empire, in which the honour would perhaps be equal, and the danger certainly be less.
I, a solitary student, pretend not to much knowledge of the world, but am unwilling to think it so generally corrupt, as that a scheme for the detection of incontinence should bring any danger upon its inventor. My friend has indeed told me that all the women will be my enemies, and that, however I flatter myself with hopes of defence from the men, I shall certainly find myself deserted in the hour of danger. Of the young men, said he, some will be afraid of sharing the disgrace of their mothers, and some the danger of their mistresses; of those who are married, part are already convinced of the falsehood of their wives, and part shut their eyes to avoid conviction; few ever sought for virtue in marriage, and therefore few will try whether they have found it. Almost every man is careless or timorous, and to trust is easier and safer than to examine.
These observations discouraged me, till I began to consider what reception I was likely to find among the ladies, whom I have reviewed under the three classes of maids, wives, and widows, and cannot but hope that I may obtain some countenance among them. The single ladies I suppose universally ready to patronise my method, by which connubial wickedness may be detected, since no woman marries with a previous design to be unfaithful to her husband. And to keep them steady in my cause, I promise never to sell one of my magnets to a man who steals a girl from school; marries a woman of forty years younger than himself; or employs the authority of parents to obtain a wife without her own consent.
Among the married ladies, notwithstanding the insinuations of slander, yet I resolve to believe, that the greater part are my friends, and am at least convinced, that they who demand the test, and appear on my side, will supply, by their spirit, the deficiency of their numbers, and that their enemies will shrink and quake at the sight of a magnet, as the slaves of Scythia fled from the scourge.
The widows will be confederated in my favour by their curiosity, if not by their virtue; for it may be observed, that women who have outlived their husbands, always think themselves entitled to superintend the conduct of young wives; and as they are themselves in no danger from this magnetick trial, I shall expect them to be eminently and unanimously zealous in recommending it.
With these hopes I shall, in a short time, offer to sale magnets armed with a particular metallick composition, which concentrates their virtue, and determines their agency. It is known that the efficacy of the magnet, in common operations, depends much upon its armature, and it cannot be imagined, that a stone, naked, or cased only in a common manner, will discover the virtues ascribed to it by Rabbi Abraham. The secret of this metal I shall carefully conceal, and, therefore, am not afraid of imitators, nor shall trouble the offices with solicitations for a patent.
I shall sell them of different sizes, and various degrees of strength. I have some of a bulk proper to be hung at the bed’s head, as scare-crows, and some so small that they may be easily concealed. Some I have ground into oval forms to be hung at watches; and some, for the curious, I have set in wedding rings, that ladies may never want an attestation of their innocence. Some I can produce so sluggish and inert, that they will not act before the third failure; and others so vigorous and animated, that they exert their influence against unlawful wishes, if they have been willingly and deliberately indulged. As it is my practice honestly to tell my customers the properties of my magnets, I can judge, by their choice, of the delicacy of their sentiments. Many have been content to spare cost by purchasing only the lowest degree of efficacy, and all have started with terrour from those which operate upon the thoughts. One young lady only fitted on a ring of the strongest energy, and declared that she scorned to separate her wishes from her acts, or allow herself to think what she was forbidden to practise.
I am, &c.