Page:In defense of Harriet Shelley, and other essays.djvu/358
is as elaborately dosed, bled, embrocated, and other wise harried and bedeviled as if there had been really something the matter with her; and when a sensible old woman comes along at last, and treats the trivial case in a sensible way, the educated ignoramus rails at her ignorance, serenely uncon scious of his own. It is pretty suggestive of the former snail-pace of medical progress that the spider retained his terrors during three thousand years, and only lost them within the last thirty or forty.
Observe what imagination can do. "This same young Woman" used to be so affected by the strong (imaginary) smell which emanated from the burning spiders that "the Objects about her seem d to turn round; she grew faint also with cold Sweats, and sometimes a light Vomiting." There could have been Beer in that cellar as well as Spiders.
Here are some more of the effects of imagination: "Sennertus takes Notice of the Signs of the Bite or Sting of this Insect to be a Stupor or Numbness upon the Part, with a sense of Cold, Horror, or Swelling of the Abdomen, Paleness of the Face, involuntary Tears, Trembling, Contractions, a (. . .), Convul sions, cold Sweats; but these latter chiefly when the Poison has been received inwardly," whereas the modern physician holds that a few spiders taken in wardly, by a bird or a man, will do neither party any harm.
The above "Signs" are not restricted to spider bites often they merely indicate fright. I have seen a person with a hornet in his pantaloons exhibit them all.