Friday, 31 December 2010



I hesitated long before I put this theory to the test of practice. I well knew that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very Fortress of identity might …. utterly blot out that …which I looked to it to change…. With a strange glow of courage drank off the potion.

The most racking pangs succeeded: a  grinding in the bones; deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death … There was something strange in my sensations … I felt younger, lighter, happier in body …I knew myself at the breath of this new life to be more wicked …

I saw for the first time the appearance of Edward Hyde. …. It came about that Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll.

This extract from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) reveals a number of things. First, the nature of the Victorian Consciousness; second the search for  what constitutes the nature of man; third the assumption that such things, as discussed in earlier Posts, were taken on board by the Victorians, as real.

In that sense then, as my later discussions of several Victorian novelists will show, such novels at one level were stories, but on a deeper level were like expositions, presentations of ideas that the Victorians believed.

In this blog I intend to explore the phenomena of MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES. 

Multiple Personality Disorder  is a serious and recurring mental and emotional disorder.  A person with this condition will display two or more distinct personalities. Each separate identity has its own way  of viewing and understanding the world. Each personality may have its own unique name. and habits.
 These distinct personalities from time to time take over  that person's behaviour. It is as iif several people were at different times sharing the same body. Often the victim of Multiple Personality Syndrome is not aware of the alternate personalities, called alters, inside themselves. As a result  they cannot account for blocks of time when these other identities control their  memory, thinking, and behaviour.
This phenomena began to surface more prominently in the Victorian era. There is a reason for this. as we shall see. Suffice to say at the moment that THE MAGNETISERS were the first to notice that during the trance state various personalities, quite different from the personality of their subjects, began to emerge. Hence with the widespread publicity concerning Magnetism, and Mesmerism, the notion of Multiple Personalities was also noised abroad. This also entered the Victorian Consciousness. I shall deal with this when we examine Bulwer Lytton's 'A Strange Story'  (1862).

Left Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton, author of 'A Strange Story'

So, let us take up the idea of Multiple Personalities  with some background.
The psychological phenomena of Multiple Personalities were well known to the "magnetizers" by the end of the 18th, and the beginning of the 19th century. The experiences of the  Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825), are relevant at this point.

Leaving aside his unusual and very interesting experiments with the Magnetising of a tree and various patients, we need to comment concerning his semi-illiterate and barely articulate gardener. He, the Marquis, a man of culture and refinement states that when he placed his gardener , a semi-articulate man, in a Mesmeric trance, Lo and Behold! a different personality emerged. In his letters, the Marquis reports,  "It is from this simple man ...  that I derive instruction and knowledge." Moreover, when the peasant was "in the magnetic state, he is no longer a peasant who can hardly utter a single sentence" His personality completely changed. Even some sort of clairvoyant state manifested itself. For, "I need not speak; I have only to think before him, when he instantly understands and answers me." The peasant had his eyes shut the whole time, nevertheless, "Should anybody come into the room, he sees him, if I desire it" but not unless the Marquis allowed him to. 

But that was not all. The experiences of the Marquis de Puysegur are well worth following up for they show the state of play, regarding Multiple Personalities that were beginning to emerge.

Other writers in the 19th century were beginning to report the emergence of what they believed to be distinct personalities. They noticed that these personalities seemed to emerge during the Magnetised state, when the subject entered a strange 'sleeping' state. Jean Gros in 1855 commented:

We have seen in the same individual two simultaneous streams of thought: the one which formed the ordinary person, the other which occurred outside of him. We are in the presence of only the second person [in somnambulism]. The other remains asleep, exhausted. Because of this, it is impossible for the ordinary person to remember upon awakening anything of what has taken place during his attack (access). Such is the nature of the perfect somnambulism.

Later, Taine reported in 1878 that persons in the Magnetised, Mesmeric, or as it came to be called, Hypnotised State could produce "automatic writing". What Taine seemed to detect was that within the same individual were located at the same time the  existence in one and the same individual of "two thoughts, two wills, two distinct actions, the one of which he is aware, the other of which he is not aware and which he ascribes to invisible beings.".

Pierre Janet (1859-1947) whose writings influenced the famous C.J. Jung was a diligent investigator in the field of Hypnosis (Mesmerism, Magnetic Slumber) and his work is of vital interest to those concerned with the Victorian exploration of Consciousness and the Human Mind.

Janet first encountered Multiple Personality Phenomena during his work with a patient, Lucie, beginning in 1886. During the Magnetised State Lucie could perform several actions and perceive a number of sensations apparently unconsciously. During this State  Janet suggested that she would come to see him again in eight days time. Once out of the trance, she neither remembered this nor any other aspect of the session. Nevertheless, she did, come to see him on the appointed date.

Janet also taught Lucie 'automatic writing' while in the trance state. He then succeeded in having her do this during normal Consciousness. Janet had someone else distract  Lucie's attention, while he softly suggested to her that she take a pencil and paper and write. While Lucie concentrated on the conversation with the third person, her right hand answered Janet's questions. The writing she produced was signed "Adriene." Janet concluded that it was this mysterious Adrienne who remembered the previous  suggestions when Lucie was in the Mesmerised state, and it was she who and carried them out. Later, through  automatic writing, Adrienne revealed to Janet  that she had come at his suggestion and that Lucie knew nothing about it.

But what was Lucie's condition during the Mesmeric (hypnotic) condition? 

The normal bodily senses seem to have departed from her entire body. 

When Janet pinched her arm hard she showed absolutely no reaction. However, later, through Automatic Writing Adrienne  communicated to Janet  that  everything that Lucie did not feel, Adrienne did.

Janet's work with Lucie continued and in 1889 he discovered yet another altered state of consciousness, between Lucie and Adrienne. He remarked that Lucie's consciousness seemed to be composed of three parallel streams. He named them "Lucie 1," "Lucie 2," and "Lucie 3" (as he then called Adrienne). When Lucie 1 was Mesmerised and entered the first trance stage, Lucie1 disappeared and Lucie 2 appeared. In this state, Lucie 2 remembered the periods when she was the dominant personality and also everything Lucie 1 had experienced. As Lucie went deeper Lucie 2 disappeared and Lucie 3 (i.e., Adrienne) appeared. Adrienne was able to remember experiences from all three personality states.

Left A Mesmerist gets to work on a female subject in 1887

Janet's exploration of Consciousness went on. During his investigations he began to comment that the prevailing view of the Human Mind was wrong. In what way?

The prevailing view was that everyday personality was the normal one. Therefore, whatever manifested during the Mesmeric State was considered to be abnormal. Janet took the opposite view and offered his work with Marceline as an example. For example, his patient Marceline during normal consciousness was usually very depressed  and had numerous, very serious conditions. These included insensitivity  to pain or bodily sensations. 

 By contrast in her Mesmerised state she was a cheerful and active woman who had complete sensory control (Janet, 1910). Janet concluded that this healthier, but Mesmerised State, was the true woman. He speculated that this Mesmerised condition corresponded to the natural state of Marceline in her childhood, before she became ill. 

We need to move on a little and look at one or two more cases. I trust I have established that the Victorian exploration of Consciousness was a widespread and influential pre-occupation. I repeat that exploring the Victorian Consciousness will enable us more easily to IDENTIFY WITH and not simply read the Victorian novelists.

I must state that in 1842 the eminent physician, James Braid, rejected the term Animal Magnetism, or Mesmerism, and replaced it with the term Hypnotism. Although, to my mind there was little difference between these concepts, I shall from now on refer to it as either Mesmerism or Magnetism.

I admit the use of the terms, Mesmerism, or Magnetism is a personal preference. Quite simply, I think it captures the SPIRIT of the Victorian novel much more.

Moving on a little later, in The Early 1880s a landmark case of the treatment of Multiple Personality Syndrome was published by Drs. Bourru And Burot, Professors At The Medical School Of Rochefort, France. It involved a patient named  Louis Vivé. He was  twenty-two years old when he came under treatment . Louis, under the Mesmeric State  manifested six distinct personalities. Each personality had its own set of muscle contractions and lack of certain bodily sensations. Each personality had its own individual cluster of memories. 

 Each Personality was linked with a particular period of Louis's life, and significantly held memories ONLY for that period. However, the memories of one Personality overlapped the memories of four of the others. 

As to the characteristics of the various Personalities, Personality 1 was violent and Uncontrollable; Personalities 2 and 3 were quiet and well educated;  Personality 4 was shy, childlike in speech. This Personality also had the skills of a Tailor but with little education.  Personality 5 was submissive,youthful, and well educated. 

On the whole, Personality 6 seemed the best balanced of them all. This Personality manifested good character, average education, and good physical strength. What was highly significant is that this Personality possessed a memory for most of the events of Louis' life. 
Bourru And Burot, outlined their treatment in the classic book, Variations De La Personnalité (1888). 
Moving nearer to the twentieth century, Morton Prince whose work was published widely and was eventually part of the data compiled by The Society for Psychical Research in 1901 worked with a woman described as, Miss Beauchamp. In fact, her real name was Clara Norton Fowler.
Apparently this lady had three Principal Personalities. Personality number one was called, 'The Saint'. She was religious, quiet, gentle, and somewhat emotionally needy. On the other hand, Personality number two was called, 'The Woman'. Prince described her as a Realist, a strong person, quick to anger, and self-reliant. The third Personality was, 'Sally'. She was mischievous, bouncy, and irresponsible.
What is of greatest importance is that Sally was ALWAYS CO-CONSCIOUS at the same time the other personalities manifested. 
It is not my purpose in this blog to discuss the various MEDICAL theories concerning these Multiple Personality States, nor the various treatments which sought to integrate them. I have simply tried to show the massive publicity and effect such phenomena had on the Victorian Consciousness and how this permeated the Victorian novels I shall discuss.
When I began my research at University, I was told by my Professor, "You must read IN THE PERIOD until you hear the voices speak."
This is what I am trying to do. Trying to saturate my blog readers with the components of the Victorian Consciousness. In that way, the novels will more easily be apprehended.
I hope you have enjoyed the blog.
Any comments?
Picture Credits
1. Commons
2. Wikimedia commons/MO
3. Commons
4.        ibid
5.        ibid


  1. ". . . read in the period until you hear the voices speak." That gives me something to think about. Thanks for an interesting post.

  2. I would agree with Anita. Your professor gave you sound advice.

    Are you, by chance, a fan of steam punk?

  3. I admire the Gothic elements of steam punk, in animation in particular. A nice example with steam-powered computers in a Victorian setting is "The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello."

  4. Most interesting. many years ago I had a girlfriend who was bouncy, bubbly and fun to be with. We lost touch as one does.

    Some years later I saw her again. I kid you not, there was a compl;eytely different personality looking out of her eyes. That is the only way I can describe it. I was shocked and frightened by the appearance. I escaped without speaking to her. However I knew that she had recognised me.

    I spoke to a friend of my ex-girlfriend who said that she had the same experience and had escaped from the meeting. She also was shocked and frightened.

    I never investigated further or saw my ex-girlfriend again.

    What was going on?