Mind control in days of yore redux

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Fri Nov 7 07:07:26 EST 2003

A few months ago I asked for early examples of enchantment or
hypnotism/mesmerism being used to take over people's minds and will. Now
(after the article I needed it for is in press and it's too late to change
it) I've come across an interesting book called *The Air Loom Gang* by Mike
Jay, which tells of a madman, James Matthews, who in the 1790s became
convinced that the jacobins had somehow combined the discoveries of Mesmer
and Lavoisier to create an awful machine, the Air Loom, which used animal
magnetism and pneumatic chemistry to control the minds of Britain's leading
politicians, up to and including Prime Minister Pitt, who was rendered a
'pneumatic puppet', his lungs filled with 'magnetic airs and his mouth with
sonoruos, pre-scripted verbiage', leading Britain inexorably to war with

Very interesting, I thought - and the earliest instance I've come across of
the idea that was later used for the plot of *The Manchurian Candidate* and
(kind of) Gillian Cross's *The Prime Minister's Brain*.

Hey, I feel a steampunk trilogy coming on...


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