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Robert Hanham Collyer

(Born: 1814 - Died: about 1891)

American mesmerist, phrenologist, lecturer, showman, and amateur inventor. He was a self-described professor of Mesmerism and Psychography. Among other inventions, he discovered a covering for electic telegraph cables, a new method for crushing quartz, and an improved breech loading canon. He engaged in a considerable amount of experimenting with anethesia and "animal magnetisim."

He was born at St. Helier, Jersey, in England. His partents were Ann Dujardin and Robert Mitchell Collyer. He studied phrenology in Paris under Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. He later attended classes at London University, although he apparently did not graduate. He emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings on March 21, 1836, leaving from Liverpool and arriving in Philadelphia.

Ljungquist notes that Collyer appeared with "Monsieur De Bonneville . . . as mesmeric performers, as reported in the 22 January 1842 Quarto Boston Notion" (p. 196n25).

In 1838, his wife was found to have committed adultery with Captain Marryatt, which resulted in a considerable scandal and the threat of a duel. Although their marriage continued to suffer a number of difficulties, they did not divorce, although he appears to have married a second time in 1845, thus finding himself guilty of bigamy. (One of these marriages was annulled in 1873.) He died in New Orleans, LA.

Among his various books and articles are:

- A Manual of Phrenology, or the Physiology of the Human Brain, (various editions, first appearing in 1839, although the Library of Congress lists an edition as New York, printed by J. Booth & Son, about 1835)

- Lights and Shadows of American Life, Boston: Brainard & Co., about 1838  (also New York: Burgess & Stringer, 1844)

- "Directions  to Mesmerists," Mesmerism Magazine, vol. I, July 1842, p. 14.

- Psychography, or,or, The Embodiment of Thought; with an Analysis of Phrenomagnetism, "Neurology," and Mental Hallucination, including Rules to Govern and Produce the Magnetic State, Boston: Redding, 1843  (The Library of Congress and the New York Public Library both list another edition as printed in the same year in Philadelphia by Zieber & Co, and New York, office of The Sun)

- Mysteries of the Vital Element: In Connection with Dreams, Somnambulism, Trance, Vital Photography, Faith and Will, Anesthesia, Nervous Congestion and Creative Functions: Modern Spiritualism Explained, London: Henry Renshaw, 1871

- Automatic Writing: The Slade Prosecution: Vindication of the Truth, London: H. Vickers, 1876

- Early History of the Anaesthetic Discovery, London: H. Vickers, 1877


  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Ljungquist, Kent. P., " 'Valdemar' and the 'Frogpondians': The Aftermath of Poe's Boston Lyceum Appearance," in Emersonian Circles: Essays in Honor of Joel Myerson, ed. Wesley T. Mott, Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1997, pp. 181-206.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Second printing 1979)
  • Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849, Boston: G. K. Hall & Sons, 1987.

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