Davey, William
fl.mid-19th century

A lace-maker from Devon, said to have been a WM local preacher, he became widely known as an exponent of 'phreno-mesmerism', through his 'experimental lectures on the utility of Mesmerism, Phrenology, Sympathy and Mineral Magnetism'. Although highly thought of by those involved in expounding and demonstrating the power of hypnosis, he made no claim to any theoretical understanding of the phenomenon, but only to the gift of 'the power to heal, to demonstrate new facts and to teach a practical skill'. Hence the title of his book: The Illustrated Practical Mesmerist, Creative and Scientific (1854; 2nd edition, Edinburgh and London, 1856). Despite his fear of being dismissed by 'the crushing despotism of professional prejudice', he won the approval of the leading exponents in this new field. His lectures and demonstrations took him throughout the British Isles and he was involved with Richard Whateley, Archbishop of Dublin, in the founding of the Dublin Mesmeric Association in 1851 and the Scottish Curative Mesmeric Association in the early 1850s.


'Here the Student will find his guide, the Sick Man his hope, the Healthy Man his sanative power, the Physician an important aid, the Philanthropist a new field for labour, and the Man of Science materials to rear the most sublime structure the world has ever seen.'

(The Illustrated Practical Mesmerist)

  • Alison Winter, Mesmerized: powers of mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago, 1998), pp.113-15, 133-34

Entry written by: MB
Category: Person
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