Published at the turn of the 19th century, A Key to Physic, and the Occult Sciences by Ebenezer Sibly is a product of the century's experimental pursuit of scientific and psychological advancements. Within the text, Sibly provides a guide to animal magnetism and mesmerism: two (scientifically unfounded) theories that soon attracted a popular following among the public. Animal magnetism was a supposed magnetic fluid present in all human beings that could be manipulated via mesmerism (an early form of hypnosis). Many books, such as this, were published that promoted the beneficial effects of animal magnetism and mesmerism.
Charles Dickens became caught up in the ‘mesmeric mania’ that swept Britain. He was fascinated by the curious influence that could be exerted over one personality by another through mesmerism and asked his friend Dr Elliotson to teach him the process. At first Dickens practised on family and friends, apparently successfully magnetising his wife on several occasions. In 1849 Dickens’s friend and illustrator John Leech received a head injury after a fall and was unreceptive to any medical treatment. Dickens claimed to have assisted his friend’s recovery through mesmerism.