The appearance of the Convulsionnaires in France, whose inhabitants, from the greater mobility of their blood, have in general been the less liable to fanaticism, is in this respect instructive and worthy of attention.
In most cases the dancing has tended more to a species of 'jumping, and although this may be due to more careful observation has been accompanied by actions of a clearly epileptoid nature. One of the most famous of these outbreaks was that of the French Convulsionnaires, which lasted from 1727 to the Revolution. In 1727, a popular, but half-crazy priest, François de Paris, died.
It was of no avail that, in the year 1762, the Grand Secours was forbidden by act of parliament; for thenceforth this work was carried on in secrecy, and with greater zeal than ever; it was in vain, too, that some physicians, and among the rest the austere, pious Hecquet, and after him Lorry, attributed the conduct of the Convulsionnaires to natural causes.
She had come with her mother to the Sainte Chapelle to hear Mademoiselle Coupain play the organ and witness the extraordinary spectacle of the convulsionnaires, brought thither to be touched by the relic of the True Cross. In the press of the crowd at this exciting scene Phlipote faints, or nearly faints, when a young man comes kindly to their aid.
"They talk about those Jansenist convulsionnaires at the tomb of Master Paris, which are setting all France by the ears," exclaimed Monredin, "but I say there is nothing so contagious as the drinking of a glass of wine like that." "And the glass gives us convulsions too, Monredin, if we try it too often, and no miracle about it either," remarked Poulariez.
Pinault, the advocate, who belonged to this sect, barked like a dog some hours every day, and even this found imitation among the believers. The insanity of the Convulsionnaires lasted without interruption until the year 1790, and during these fifty-nine years called forth more lamentable phenomena that the enlightened spirits of the eighteenth century would be willing to allow.
There are some denominations of English Methodists which surpass, if possible, the French Convulsionnaires; and we may here mention in particular the Jumpers, among whom it is still more difficult than in the example given above to draw the line between religious ecstasy and a perfect disorder of the nerves; sympathy, however, operates perhaps more perniciously on them than on other fanatical assemblies.
Do they think of it?" Saint Medard, the old church of the Rue Mouffetard, once well known as the scene of the Convulsionnaires, is a very poor parish. The "Faubourg Marceau," as they call it there, has not much religion, and the vestry-board must have hard work to make both ends meet.
In the dancing mania of the fourteenth century, the sufferers saw visions of heaven opened, with Jesus and the Virgin enthroned. Dancing was one of the prominent characteristics of the French Convulsionnaires in the eighteenth century. In more recent times we have the dancing and singing connected with the Methodist revival.
The Secourists used wooden clubs in the same manner as paviors use their mallets, and it is stated that some Convulsionnaires have borne daily from six to eight thousand blows thus inflicted without danger.