That devil's trick

Hypnotism and the Victorian popular imagination

By William Hughes

That devil's trick


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  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7483-7
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: January 2015
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, Literature, Romanticism, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, Gothic, PSYCHOLOGY / Hypnotism, LITERARY CRITICISM / Gothic & Romance, Hypnosis, Humanities / Social & cultural history


That devil's trick is the first study of nineteenth-century hypnotism based primarily on the popular - rather than medical - appreciation of the subject. Drawing on the reports of mesmerists, hypnotists, quack doctors and serious physicians printed in popular newspapers from the early years of the nineteenth century to the Victorian fin de siècle, the book provides an insight into how continental mesmerism was first understood in Britain, how a number of distinctively British varieties of mesmerism developed, and how these were continually debated in medical, moral and legal terms.

Highly relevant to the study of the many authors - Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Bram Stoker and Conan Doyle among them - whose fiction was informed by the imagery of mesmerism, That devil's trick will be an essential resource for anybody with an interest in the popular and literary culture of the nineteenth century, including literary scholars, medical historians and the general reader.


'That Devil's Trick makes a valuable contribution to the history of nineteenth-century mesmerism and medicine. In focussing on the non-medical press, Hughes has greatly expanded our appreciation of both the range and longevity of contemporary debates on mesmerism. In doing so, he presents us with a rich and nuanced history of a pseudoscience that, for all its fluidity, ultimately remained fixed at the fringes of medical respectability.'
Karl Bell, University of Portsmouth

'I would thoroughly recommend the book to anyone working in this area since Hughes's new research method has uncovered a host of original new materials and done a massive job of synthesis. He is to be commended for a serious and weighty volume of research that nuances our understanding of this aspect of nineteenth-century culture.'
Roger Luckhurst, Birkbeck, University of London, Victorian Studies (issue 60.1) Autumn 2017


Preamble: Animal magnetism - a farce
1. The epoch of Mesmer
2. Medical magnetism
3. Surgical hypnotism
Conclusion: 'This is that devil's trick - hypnotism!'


William Hughes is Professor of Gothic Studies at Bath Spa University

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