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About Somnambulism - Harper's


THAT a person deeply immersed in thought, should, like Dominie Sampson, walk along in a state of "prodigious" unconsciousness, excites no surprise, from the frequency of the occurrence; but that any one should, when fast asleep, go through a series of complicated actions which seem to demand the assistance of the senses while closed against ordinary external impressions is, indeed, marvelous. Less to account for this mysterious state of being, than to arrange such a series of facts as may help further inquiry into the subject, we have assembled several curious circumstances regarding somnambulism.

Not many years ago a case occurred at the Police-office at Southwark, of a woman who was charged with robbing a man while he was walking in his sleep during the daytime along High-street, in the Borough, when it was proved in evidence that he was in the habit of walking in his somnambulic fits through crowded thoroughfares. He was a plasterer by trade, and it was stated in court that it was not an uncommon thing for him to fall asleep while at work on the scaffold, yet he never met with any accident, and would answer questions put to him as if he were awake. In like manner, we are informed that Dr. Haycock, the Professor of Medicine at Oxford, would, in a fit of somnambulism, preach an eloquent discourse; and some of the sermons of a lady who was in the habit of preaching in her sleep have been deemed worthy of publication.

We remember meeting with the case of an Italian servant, who was a somnambulist, and who enjoyed the character of being a better waiter when he was asleep than when he was awake. Every book on the subject repeats the anecdote which has been recorded of the blind poet, Dr. Blacklock, who, on one occasion, rose from his bed, to which he had retired at an early hour, came into the room where his family were assembled, conversed with them, afterward entertained them with a pleasant song, and then retired to his bed; and when he awoke, had not the least recollection of what he had done. Here, however, on the very threshold of the mystery, we meet with this difficulty—were these persons, when they performed the actions described, partially awake, or were they really in a state of profound sleep? In solving this problem, we shall proceed to consider some of the phenomena of somnambulism, premising only that if we avail ourselves of cases which the reader may before have met with, it is to throw light on what we may, perhaps, call the physiology of this very curious affection.

There can be no doubt that somnambulism is hereditary. Horstius mentions three brothers who were affected with it at the same period; and Dr. Willis knew a whole family subject to it. It is considered by all medical men as a peculiar form of disease. It seldom manifests itself before the age of six, and scarcely ever continues beyond the sixtieth year. It depends, physically, upon the susceptibility or delicacy of the nervous system; and on this account females are more liable to it than males; and in youth it manifests itself more frequently than in mature age. It is caused mentally by any violent and profound emotion; as well as by excessive study, and over-fatiguing the intellectual faculties. Some persons walk periodically in their sleep; the fit returns at stated intervals—perhaps two or three times only in the month. It has been also observed—although we by no means vouch for the fact—by an eminent German physician, that some persons walk at the full, others at the new moon, but especially at its changes. One German authority—Burdach—goes the comical length of asserting that the propensity of somnambulists to walk on the roofs of houses is owing to the attraction of the moon, and that they have a peculiar pleasure in contemplating the moon, even in the day time. Whatever may be the cause of the affection, somnambulism undoubtedly assumes different degrees of intensity. The first degree evinces itself by the movements we have referred to and by sleep-talking. This stage is said to be marked by an impossibility of opening the eyes, which are as if glued together. There are many curious circumstances to be observed concerning sleep-talking. The intonation of the voice differs from the waking state, and persons for the most part express themselves with unusual facility.

We were acquainted with a young lady accustomed to sit up in bed and recite poetry in her sleep, whose mother assured us that she sometimes took cognizance of circumstances which she could not, in any way, account for. On one occasion they had been to a ball; and, after the daughter was in bed and asleep, her mother went quietly into her room, and taking away her dress and gloves deposited them in another room. Presently, as usual, the fair somnambule began talking in her sleep; her mother entered, as usual, into conversation with her; and, at length, asked, "But what have you done with your new ball-dress?" "Why, you know," replied she, "you have laid it on the couch in the drawing-room." "Yes," continued the mother, "but your gloves—what have you done with them?" "You know well enough," she answered, in an angry tone, "you have locked them up in your jewel-box." Both answers were correct; and it may be here observed that somnambulists, if equivocated with in conversation, or in any way played upon, will express themselves annoyed, and betray angry feelings. The truthfulness of sleep-talking may, we apprehend, always be relied on. In this state there is no attempt at evasion; no ingenuity exercised to disguise any thing. The master-mind of Shakspeare—which seems to have divined the secrets of Nature, and illustrated scientific principles before they were discovered by philosophers—recognized this fact, in making Iago thus rouse the jealousy of Othello:

"There are a kind of men so loose of soul
That in their sleep will mutter their affairs;
One of this kind is Cassio.
In sleep I heard him say, 'Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary.'"

Hitherto Othello had borne up manfully against the cruel insinuations of Iago—but this sleep-revelation "denoted a foregone conclusion," and carried with it irresistible conviction. Upon the same principle, Lord Byron founded the story of "Parisina." Not long ago a robbery was committed in Scotland, which was discovered by one of the guilty parties being overheard muttering some facts connected with it in his sleep. Mental anxiety will, almost at any age, give rise to sleep-talking. The ideas of children during sleep are often very vivid; nor is there any thing more common than to hear them utter expressions of distress, connected, particularly, with any fears that may, unwisely, have been impressed on the waking mind. The case of a little girl came lately under our notice, who exhibited the most alarming symptoms during sleep; sobbing and imploring help, under the imagination that she was being pursued by an evil spirit; in consequence of a foolish, fanatical person having frightened her with threats of this description, while the child, before going to bed, was saying her prayers. Very much convulsed inwardly, she was with difficulty awakened, and for some time afterward remained in a state of agitation bordering on delirium. Assuredly parents can not be too careful in endeavoring to make very young children go to bed with composed and happy minds, otherwise they know not what hideous phantoms may draw aside the curtain of their sleep; and, by terrifying the imagination, produce fits, that may be incurable in after-life. We believe it quite possible that epilepsy itself may be so produced.

In schools sleep-talking is very common; anxious pupils, in their sleep, will frequently repeat a lesson they can not remember when awake. The son of the eminent linguist and commentator, Dr. Adam Clarke, tells us that his father overheard him, in his sleep, repeat a Greek verb which he was endeavoring to learn, and which, the following morning, he was unable to remember. This is a curious fact—he knew his lesson in his sleep, but did not do so when he was awake; the faculty of memory, however, in a state of somnambulism undergoes many singular modifications. Thus, persons who talk in their sleep, may, by conversation, be brought to remember a dream within a dream; and it is very common, in the higher stages of somnambulism, for a person to recollect what happened in the preceding fit, and be unconscious of any interval having elapsed between them. A somnambulist, at Berlin, in one of her paroxysms, wandering in her sleep, was guilty of an indiscretion which she had no recollection of in her waking hours; but, when she again became somnambulic, she communicated all the circumstances to her mother. During the next convalescent interval, they again escaped her memory. The case is related, by Treviranus, of a young student who when he fell asleep began to repeat aloud a continuous and connected dream, which began each night precisely where it left off the preceding night. This reminds us of the story of the drunken porter, who in a fit of intoxication left a parcel at a wrong house: when he became sober he could not recollect where he had left it, but the next time he got drunk he remembered the house, and called and recovered it.

In persons disposed to somnambulism, dreams of a very striking and exciting nature call into action, in the early stage of this affection, the muscles of the voice before those which are implicated in the movement of rising and walking: and it is worthy of notice that the muscles, upon which the voice is dependent, are very numerous and exquisitely delicate; the result of which is, that they are affected by all mental emotions. Hence, the tones of the voice truly indicate the character of certain passions and feelings, for which reason, on the stage, the intonation given by the actor, whether it be the distressed cry of a Belvidera, or the pathetic singing of an Ophelia, will carry along the sympathies of the audience, albeit, the exact words may not be understood. A particular tone of voice causes, without reference to words, a corresponding feeling, just as the vibration of one instrument will harmonize with the vibration of another; but this is not all; the voice is the first organ which is affected by any excitement of the brain. It betrays the wine-bibber having drunk to excess while he is yet perfectly rational; it is, therefore, by no means surprising that persons in their sleep when excited by dreams, should moan, mutter, or even speak articulately. In this state, the mind seems to struggle, in its connection with the body, to give utterance to its emotions; and it is reasonable to believe the greater the intensity of the dream-conception, the clearer will be the articulation of the voice, and the greater, also, the precision of the somnambulic movements. Hence, apparently, it is only in very profound sleep that persons will rise, dress themselves, walk about, &c.; while, in less profound sleep, their vivid dreams only agitate and make them restless. One of the most interesting, and indeed affecting, cases on record, is that of Laura Bridgman, who, at a very early age, was afflicted with an inflammatory disease, which ended in the disorganization and loss of the contents of her eyes and ears; in consequence of which calamity she grew up blind, deaf, and dumb. Now, it is quite certain that persons who have once enjoyed the use of their senses, and then lost them, have very vivid dreams, in which they recall the impressions of their earliest infancy. So was it with the blind poet, Dr. Blacklock; and so also was it with Laura Bridgman, and it is a very interesting fact that she, being unable to speak, when asleep used the finger alphabet. This she did sometimes in a very confused manner, the irregularity of her finger-signs corresponding with that defective articulation which persons give utterance to, when they murmur and mutter indistinctly their dream-impressions. It was, be it observed, when she was disturbed in her sleep that she ran over her finger alphabet confusedly, like one who, playing on a stringed instrument, has not the attention sufficiently fixed to give precision and expression to the performance. The minstrel, described by Sir Walter Scott, with his fingers wandering wildly through the strings of his harp, resembles poor Laura giving utterance, thus imperfectly, to her bewildered dreams.

When the somnambulic state becomes more intense, the voluntary muscles of the limbs are excited into action; the somnambulist rises; dresses himself; and in pursuing his dream-imagery, wanders about, or sits down steadily to execute some task, which, however difficult in his waking hours, he now accomplishes with facility. The condition of the body in a physiological point of view becomes now a solemn mystery: the eyes are open, but insensible to light; the portals of the ears, also, but the report of a pistol will, in some cases, not rouse the sense of hearing; the sense of smell, too, is frequently strangely altered, and that of taste, likewise becomes perverted, or, perhaps, entirely suspended. The sensibility of the surface of the body is often remarkably impaired; and, for the time, partially or entirely abolished. In the case of a female somnambulist described in "The Philosophy of Natural History," by Dr. Smellie, he tells us that, when she was in one of her paroxysms, he ran a pin repeatedly into her arm—but not a muscle moved, nor was any symptom of pain discoverable. Here we may observe an important and interesting fact, that, as a general principle, in proportion as the mind concentrates its powers and energizes itself within, the sensibility of the body diminishes. The soldier, in his excitement on the battle-field, feels not his wounds; he will faint from loss of blood before he knows that he has been "hit." The unconsciousness of danger is often the best protection against it. On looking down a precipice, a sense of apprehension instantly suggests itself; the nervous system recoils; the circulation of the blood within the brain on a sudden becomes irregular; dizziness ensues and a total loss of command over the voluntary muscles. Man is probably the only being in whom this occurs; the stag, the goat, the antelope, will gaze unmoved down the chasms of the deepest Alpine precipices. The dizziness which is felt on ascending an elevation, arises undoubtedly from mental alarm, which modifies the impressions received by the eye, which no longer correctly estimates the relations of distance. Accordingly we are told by Mr. Wilkinson in his "Tour to the British Mountains," that a blind man, who was the scientific and philosophic Mr. Gough, ascended with him to the summit of one of the Cumberland Mountains; and in walking along, he described to him the fearful precipices which he pretended surrounded him; but soon he repented his inventive picturesque description, for the blind man, mentally affected by the supposed peril of his situation, became suddenly dizzy, and screaming with the apprehension that he was tumbling down the rocks into the abyss below, fell upon the ground. In cases of sleep-walking upon dangerous heights, there is no apprehension or fear—the mind is intently absorbed in the object pursued; all the muscular movements are performed with confidence and with unerring precision; and under these circumstances the gravitation of the body is supported on the most slender basis.

One of the most curious and indeed inexplicable phenomena connected with somnambulism is, that persons in this condition are said to derive a knowledge of surrounding objects independent of the organs of the external senses. The Archbishop of Bordeaux attested the case of a young ecclesiastic, who was in the habit of getting up during the night in a state of somnambulism, taking pen, ink, and paper, and composing and writing sermons. When he had finished one page he would read aloud what he had written, and correct it. In order to ascertain whether the somnambulist made use of his eyes, the archbishop held a piece of pasteboard under his chin to prevent his seeing the paper upon which he was writing; but he continued to write on, without being in the least incommoded. He also, in this state, copied out pieces of music, and when it happened that the words were written in too large a character, and did not stand over the corresponding notes, he perceived his error, blotted them out, and wrote them over again with great exactness. A somnambulist is mentioned by Gassendi, who used to dress himself in his sleep, go down into the cellar, draw wine from a cask, in perfect darkness—but if he awoke in the cellar, he had then a difficulty in groping his way through the passages back to his bed-room. The state of the eyes during somnambulism is found to vary considerably—they are sometimes closed—sometimes half closed—and frequently quite open; the pupil is sometimes widely dilated, sometimes contracted, sometimes natural, and for the most part insensible to light. This, however, is not always the case. The servant girl, whose case was so well described by Dr. Dyce, of Aberdeen, when this state was impending felt drowsy—a pain in the head, usually slight, but on one occasion very intense, then succeeded—and afterward a cloudiness or mistiness came over her eyes. Occasionally her sensations were highly acute; the eyelids appeared shut, though not entirely closed; the pupils were much contracted, and there was great intolerance of light. She could not name objects when the light of the candle or fire shone fully on them, but pointed them out correctly in the shade, or when they were dimly illuminated. At other times, however, the pupil of the eye was quite insensible to light. Her feelings also appear to have been very excitable. During one of her paroxysms she was taken to church; attended to the service with every appearance of devotion, and was at one time so much affected by the sermon, that she shed tears. The sensibility of the eye was also observed, in the case of Dr. Bilden; when a degree of light, so slight as not to affect the experimenter, was directed to the lids of this somnambulist, it caused a shock equal to that of electricity, and induced him to exclaim, "Why do you wish to shoot me in the eyes?" These are exceptions; as a general rule, the eye during somnambulism is insensible, and the pupil will not contract, though the most vivid flash of light be directed upon it. It also should be observed that although somnambulists will light a candle, it does not follow that they are guided by its light, or that they really see any thing by it. Their movements may still be purely automatic. This curious circumstance is finely illustrated by Shakspeare, who describes the Lady Macbeth walking in her sleep with a lighted taper in her hand:

"Gentlewoman.—Lo, yon, here she comes: This is her very guise, and upon my life, fast asleep.

Doctor.—How came she by that light?

Gentlewoman.—Why, it stood by her. She has light by her continually—'tis her command.

Doctor.—You see her eyes are open—

Gentlewoman.—Ay—but their sense is shut."

It is related of Negretti, a sleep-walker, that he would sometimes carry about with him a candle as if to give him light in his employment; but, on a bottle being substituted, he took it and carried it, fancying that it was a candle. Castelli, another somnambulist, was found by Dr. Soames translating Italian into French, and looking out the words in his dictionary. His candle being purposely extinguished, he immediately began groping about, as if in the dark, and although other candles were in the room, he did not resume his occupation until he had relighted his candle at the fire. In this case we may observe that he could not see, excepting with the candle he had himself lighted, and he was insensible to every other, excepting that on which his attention was fixed.

How are these curious anomalies to be explained? There is, it appears to us, a striking analogy between the actions as they are performed by the blind and those executed by somnambulists, who are insensible to light; the exaltation of the sense of touch, in blindness, is so great, that some physiologists have conceived the existence of a sixth sense—the muscular sense—which communicates the impression before the actual contact of objects. This muscular sense is supposed by Dr. Fowler to adjust the voice, the eye, and the ear, to the distances at which sounds are to be heard, and objects seen. It may, perhaps, be described as a peculiar exaltation of the sense of feeling. A lady during her somnambulism, observed to Despine, her physician, "You think that I do not know what is passing around me; but you are mistaken. I see nothing; but I feel something that makes an impression on me, which I can not explain." Another somnambulist, a patient of Hufeland, used to say invariably, "I feel"—"I am conscious" of the existence of this or that object. The blind girl, Jane Sullivan, described by Dr. Fowler, could, without a guide, feel her way to every part of the work-house, and recognize all its inmates by the feel of their hands and clothes. It is said of Laura Bridgman, that she could, in walking through a passage, with her hands spread before her, recognize her companions, and could in this way distinguish even their different degrees of intellect; nay, that she would regard with contempt a new-comer, after discovering her weakness of mind. It has been also observed, that the pupils in the Manchester Asylum for the Blind are aware, by this muscular sense, of their approach, even to a lamp-post, before actually coming against or up to it. May not the somnambulist walking through intricate passages and performing complicated manual operations in the dark, have his movements guided by this sense? May he not, in like manner, be sensible of his approach to obstructing obstacles, and may not this sense, in a higher degree of development, lead to perceptions, which are ordinarily conveyed to the mind through their appropriate and respective organs?

The sense of hearing in somnambulism is not often suspended, for, generally speaking, somnambulists will answer questions and carry on conversation; but it is remarkable that the same ear which may be deaf to the loudest noises, will perceive even a whisper from one particular person with whom the sleeper may alone appear to hold communion. In the "Transactions of the Medical Society" at Breslau, we meet with the case of a somnambulist who did not hear even the report of a pistol fired close to him. In another instance, that of Signor Augustin, an Italian nobleman, his servants could not arouse him from his sleep by any description of noise—even blowing a trumpet in his ear. On the other hand, the same individual would, in another paroxysm, apply his ear to the key-hole of the door, and listen attentively to noises which he heard in the kitchen. The sense of smell, as we have observed, is frequently altered. Brimstone and phosphorus are said to have a pleasant scent to the somnambulist, but sometimes it appears completely abolished. In one case, a snuff-box filled with coffee, was given to a somnambulist, who took it as he would have taken snuff, without perceiving the difference. So also is it with taste. Some somnambulists have not been able to distinguish wine from water.

Another very remarkable circumstance has been observed in somnambulism; it is, that persons in this state have exhibited an extraordinary exaltation of knowledge. Two females mentioned by Bertrand, expressed themselves, during the paroxysms, very distinctly in Latin; although they afterward admitted having an imperfect acquaintance with this language. An ignorant servant girl, described by Dr. Dewar, evinced an astonishing knowledge of astronomy and geography, and expressed herself in her own language in a manner which, though often ludicrous, showed an understanding of the subject. It was afterward discovered that her notions on these subjects had been derived from hearing a tutor giving instructions to the young people of the family. A woman in the Infirmary of Edinburgh, on account of an affection of this kind, during her somnambulism, mimicked the manner of the physicians, and repeated correctly some of their prescriptions in the Latin language. Many of these apparent wonders are referable to the circumstance of old associations being vividly recalled to the mind; this very frequently happens also in the delirium of fever. There is nothing miraculous in such cases, although upon them are founded a host of stories descriptive of persons in their sleep speaking unknown languages, predicting future events, and being suddenly possessed of inspiration.

Not only are the mental powers intensified in this state, but the physical energies are unwontedly increased. Horstius relates the case of a young nobleman living in the Citadel of Breslau, who used to steal out of his window during his sleep, muffled up in a cloak, and, by great muscular exertion, ascend the roof of the building where, one night, he tore in pieces a magpie's nest, wrapped up the little ones in his cloak, and then returned to bed; and, on the following morning, related the circumstances as having occurred in a dream, nor could he be persuaded of its reality until the magpies in the cloak were shown to him. In the "Bibliothèque de Médecine" we find the account of a somnambulist who got out of his bed in the middle of the night, and went into a neighboring house which was in ruins, and of which the bare walls, with a few insecure rafters running between them, alone remained; nevertheless he climbed to the top of the wall, and clambered about from one beam to another, without once missing his hold. It is affirmed that somnambulists will maintain their footing in the most perilous situations with perfect safety, so long as they remain in a state of somnambulism; but when they are disturbed or awakened in such positions, they are then taken by surprise, and instantly lose self-possession. A young lady was observed at Dresden walking one night in her sleep upon the roof of a house; an alarm being given, crowds of people assembled in the street, and beds and mattresses were laid upon the ground, in the hope of saving her life in case of her falling. Unconscious of danger, the poor girl advanced to the very edge of the roof, smiling and bowing to the multitude below, and occasionally arranging her hair and her dress. The spectators watched her with great anxiety. After moving along thus unconcernedly for some time, she proceeded toward the window from which she had made her exit. A light had been placed in it by her distressed family; but the moment she approached it, she started, and suddenly awakening, fell into the street, and was killed on the spot. Upon this incident Bellini founded the charming opera of "La Sonnambula."

The actions of the somnambulist are, doubtless, prompted and governed by those dream-impulses which the imaginary incidents passing through the sleeper's mind suggest. He is a dreamer able to act his dreams. This we learn from those exceptional cases in which the somnambulist, upon awaking, has remembered the details of his dream; in illustration of which we find an anecdote, related with much vivacity, by Brillat-Savarin, in the "Physiology of Taste." The narrator is a M. Duhagel, who was the prior of a Carthusian monastery, and he thus tells us the story: "We had in the monastery in which I was formerly prior, a monk of melancholic temperament and sombre character, who was known to be a somnambulist. He would sometimes, in his fits, go out of his cell and return into it directly; but at other times he would wander about, until it became necessary to guide him back again. Medical advice was sought, and various remedies administered, under which the paroxysms so much diminished in frequency, that we at length ceased to think about them. One night, not having retired to bed at my usual hour, I was seated at my desk occupied in examining some papers, when the door of the apartment, which I never kept locked, opened, and I beheld the monk enter in a state of profound somnambulism. His eyes were open, but fixed; he had only his night-shirt on; in one hand he held his cell lamp, in his other, a long and sharp bladed knife. He then advanced to my bed, upon reaching which he put down the lamp, and felt and patted it with his hand, to satisfy himself he was right, and then plunged the knife, as if through my body, violently through the bed-clothes, piercing even the mat which supplied, with us, the place of a mattress. Having done this, he again took up his lamp and turned round to retrace his steps, when I observed that his countenance, which was before contracted and frowning, was lighted up with a peculiar expression of satisfaction at the imaginary blow he had struck. The light of the two lamps burning on my desk did not attract his notice; slowly and steadily he walked back, carefully opening and shutting the double door of my apartment, and quietly retired to his cell. You may imagine the state of my feelings while I watched this terrible apparition; I shuddered with horror at beholding the danger I had escaped, and offered up my prayers and thanksgiving to the Almighty; but it was utterly impossible for me to close my eyes for the remainder of the night.

"The next morning I sent for the somnambulist, and asked him, without any apparent emotion, of what he had dreamt the preceding night? He was agitated at the question, and answered, 'Father, I had a dream, so strange, that it would give me the deepest pain were I to relate it to you.' 'But I command you to do do; a dream is involuntary; it is a mere illusion,' said I; 'tell it me without reserve.' 'Father,' continued he, 'no sooner had I fallen asleep than I dreamt that you had killed my mother, and I thought that her outraged spirit appeared before me, demanding satisfaction for the horrid deed. At beholding this, I was transported with such fury, that—so it seemed to me—I hurried, like a madman, into your apartment, and finding you in bed there, murdered you with a knife. Thereupon I awoke in a fright, horrified at having made such an attempt, and then thanked God it was only a dream, and that so great a crime had not been committed.' 'That act has been committed,' I then observed, 'further than you suppose.' And thereupon I related what passed, exhibiting at the same time the cuts intended to be inflicted upon me which had penetrated the bed-clothes; upon which the monk fell prostrate at my feet, weeping and sobbing, and imploring to know what act of penance I should sentence him to undergo. 'None; none!' I exclaimed. 'I would not punish you for an involuntary act; but I will dispense with your performing in the holy offices at night for the future; and I give you notice that the door of your cell shall be bolted on the outside when you retire, every evening, and not opened until we assemble to our family matins at break of day.'"

Here we may recur to the question with which we set out;—whether persons in somnambulism are partially awake, or in a state of unusually and preternaturally profound sleep? The phenomena we have above referred to—particularly those connected with the insensibility of the body and the organs of the senses—lead us to believe, that in somnambulism there is an increased intensity of sleep, producing an extreme degree of unconsciousness in regard to the physical organization, very similar to that which we find in hysterical, cataleptic, and many other nervous affections. The mental phenomena exhibited in this state are those connected with exaggerated dreams, and as the physiology of dreams is by no means well understood in the healthy state, still less can they be explained under the aspect of disease.

It may be asked, How somnambulism, being an affection likely to entail more serious diseases upon persons subject to it, is to be cured? When the general health is affected, the family doctor, we apprehend will speedily put an end to metaphysical mystery; but in young persons, even where it is hereditary, attention must be paid to diet, regimen, and a due amount of bodily exercise. The shower-bath has sometimes been found serviceable. It is thought, also, that it may be resisted by a strong effort of the will, inasmuch as, in young persons, it has been suppressed by the fear of punishment; but this, on the other hand, may have a very contrary effect, disturbing and exciting, rather than composing, the nervous system. In the north of Scotland the following plan is in some schools adopted. The youthful somnambulist is put to sleep in bed with a companion who is not affected, and the leg of the one boy is linked by a pretty long band of ribbon or tape to the leg of the other. Presently, the one disposed to ramble in his sleep gets out of bed, and, in so doing, does not proceed far before he awakens the non-somnambulist, who in resisting being dragged after him, generally throws the other down, which has the effect of awakening him. In this way we have been assured that several such cases have been effectually cured. But is it always safe thus to awake a person during the paroxysm? Macnish relates the case of a lady who being observed walking in her sleep into the garden, one of the family followed her, and laying hold of her, awaked her, when the shock was so great that she fell down insensible, and shortly afterward expired.

We feel satisfied that all sudden and abrupt transitions should be avoided. The state of sleep, apart from somnambulism, is one of natural repose; the organs of the body have their various functions appropriately modified; and we can not help thinking that to interrupt abruptly the course of nature, and throw, as it were, a dazzling light upon the brain, the functions of which are in abeyance, is unwise, and may prove injurious. Many persons suddenly awakened out of a deep sleep, complain afterward of severe headache. We conceive, therefore, that somnambulists who may be considered in a state of preternaturally profound sleep, ought not to be forcibly awakened. It is true that some somnambulists, like the servant girl described by Dr. Fleming, above referred to, have been awakened without after ill consequence, but as a general rule, the nervous system ought not to be subjected to any rude or unnecessary shock. The management of, and treatment of the somnambulist, must, it is obvious, depend very much on age, sex, temperament, and upon the causes, in particular—whether physical or mental—to which the affection may be ascribed. The most interesting circumstance connected with somnambulism is, that it brings palpably under our observation a preternatural state of being, in which the body is seen moving about, executing a variety of complicated actions, in the condition, physically, of a living automaton, while the lamp of the human soul is burning inwardly, as it were, with increased intensity; and this very exaltation of the mental faculties proves, incontestably, that the mind is independent of the body, and has an existence in a world peculiar to itself.