Day 63

5.01: First, lay your recently-hanged murderer on a table or worksurface. Cut him open at the nape, hips and heel, and hook his spine up to a battery. Touch a connected galvanic rod onto his sciatic nerve, and  he’ll jive like a jitterbug.

Apply the rod on the hole in his heel, and he’ll kick like Karate Kid. “The leg was thrown out with such violence as nearly to overturn one of the assistants, who in vain attempted to prevent its extension.”

Good morning everyone, I’ve found a new hobby.

This is a rough precis of the first couple of paragraphs of the chapter “Galvanic Experiments on the Dead Body of  a Criminal,” taken from a volume entitled The Young Man’s Book of Amusement, published in 1854.

Another recommended source of amusement for a young man is “fulminating silver,” an explosive so dangerous that “the falling of a few atoms of it from a small height produces an explosion, a drop of water falling on it has the same effect. No attempt can be made to inclose it in a bottle…”

“To make this experiment with safety,” the book advises, “no greater quantity than a grain of silver should be used.”

The keepers of the website hosting it point out that the first known instance of the reanimating the murderous corpse experiment coincided with the publication of Frankenstein in 1818. In fulminating silver, I reckon there might be a pre-echo of The Professor in Conrad’s Secret Agent, one of my favourite, and the most terrifyingly sinister, literary figures every dreamed up, who goes about the place with a bulb in his pocket, one squeeze of which would suck St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London into Hades’ downstairs toilet.

Amusement was grander in the Victorian age, and greater. When men were men, you know.

6.55: Not my strongest performance, but a couple of paragraphs stammered out. I managed to sit upright for two hours at least, which makes this morning a resounding victory over yesterday’s giddy, reeling misadventure. I swear I’m going to be good for nothing but twitching, drooling and swearing at seagulls by the time this is over.

~ by David Thorley on March 19, 2010.

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