Article body

G en'rous by nature, matchless in thy skill,

R ich in the art of medicine to heal;

A ll bless thy gifts!—the deaf, the dumb, the blind,

H ail thee with rapture for the cure they find!

A rm'd by the Deity with pow'r divine,

M ortals revere HIS attributes in thine! [1]

James Graham opened his Temple of Health and Hymen early in 1780, in the fashionable district of Adelphi, London. [2] In Spring, 1781, he moved it to Schomberg House, Pall Mall, where it remained until 1783. [3] The Temple offered the sick and the curious a remarkable multimedia 'show' that combined drama, medicine, science, metaphysics, religion, music, sex and even politics. The set for this show included a 'magnificent and most powerful Medico-electrical Apparatus' that filled ten rooms (3) and a Celestial Bed guaranteed to maximise sexual pleasure and to induce conception. Actors included an Apothecary, Porters, and even a Goddess of Health (who 'posed in various stages of undress' [4] ). At the centre of the 'show', playing a variety of roles, was the doctor himself, who claimed the power not merely 'of easing excruciating pains' but of 'snatching' the sick 'from the grave' (88). Famous for his good looks and charming personality, he claimed to be (thanks to his medical therapies) in such good health that he would live for 150 years. The Temple also offered 'genuinely libidinous lectures', delivered by Graham, and a range of the doctor's publications, with titles such as: A Lecture on the Generation, Increase, and Improvement of the Human Species; Private Medical Advice to married Ladies and Gentlemen; to those especially who are not blessed with children; A Sketch: or, Short Description of Dr. Graham's Medical Apparatus; and Il Convito Amoroso! Or, a Serio-comico-philosophical Lecture . . . To which is subjoined a Description of the stupendous Nature and Effects of the Celebrated CELESTIAL BED, delivered by Hebe Vestina!, The Rosy Goddess of Youth and of Health.[5] Visitors could also purchase an ample supply of Graham's 'Three Great Medicines': Electrical Ether, Nervous Aetherial Balsam, and the Imperial Pills.

With this much on offer, it is hardly surprising that the Temple of Health soon attracted 'overflowing audiences'. [6] Graham's patrons included, as the 'leading fencing master' [7] Henry Angelo noted, 'ladies as well as gentlemen of the highest rank'. In his Reminiscences, Angelo recalled

carriages drawing up to the door of this modern Phaphos, with crowds of gaping sparks on each side, to discover who were the visitors; but the ladies' faces were covered, all going incog. At the door stood two gigantic porters, with each a long staff with ornamental silver heads . . . and wearing superb liveries, with large gold-laced cocked hats, each was near seven feet high, and retained to keep the entrance clear. [8]

Not all patrons needed to be snatched from the grave. As Graham complained: 'the greatest hindrances have arisen from multitudes crowding into the Temple of Health! under the pretence of attending sick friends, but merely to gratify their curiosity, by staring at the apparatus' (90).

Graham drew on both Enlightenment and religious (both occult and more orthodox) traditions: he advertises his (fictitious) medical qualifications, [9] his membership of the society of Freemasons (42) and his inclination towards the Quakers (51); the painted windows of the Temple of Health locate his practice in a tradition that passes from Hippocrates and Galen to Boerhaave and Sydenham (42), yet their iconography alludes to Paracelsus and the Rosicrucians (34), the 'goddess of the pure elementary fire of the philosophers', the 'anima mundi' (43), the Trinity, and the crucifixion. To make matters still more complicated, Graham mediates between religious and Enlightenment (medical-scientific) traditions by drawing on aesthetics, in particular the religious sublime exemplified by Edward Young's Night Thoughts. [10]

Graham has frequently been presented as a 'masterquack' [11] or entertaining diversion, a footnote to medical history. [12] When his religious beliefs are mentioned, they are usually relegated to a period some ten years after he opened the Temple of Health, during which he appears to have suffered from religious mania. [13] His political ambitions are rarely discussed. [14] The literary, theatrical aspects of his Temple are assimilated to the role of showman and quack: they are devices to draw an audience, promote himself, and market his medicines. [15]

Recent critics have pointed out that the distinction between 'orthodox and quack, or professional and amateur' are 'anachronistic when applied to the eighteenth century'. As Fara argues, 'although denounced as a quack, many of Graham's treatments were the same as those being endorsed by the medical establishment in Paris'. [16] This recognition has conditioned a handful of more extended studies of Graham, such as the important chapter on his work by Porter and Hall in The Facts of Life. [17] These revisions, however, still leave Graham firmly ensconced within a medical history that is, for the most part, divorced from literature, politics and religion. Graham's roles as therapist, showman, and quack may at first seem to place him at some distance from these cultural fields; yet Graham had ambitions that exceeded any narrow definition of the doctor's (or the quack's) role. Indeed, as I shall argue, by opening a space of theatrical illusion, and then troping that space as an indirect presentation of 'the materia prima, or the universal vital principle of all things!' (18), Graham conjures an ideal, healthy body that he proposes as the model for social harmony.

Seen in this wider context, Graham is a precursor of Romanticism, a link which in turn brings into focus some of the antecedents of that cultural movement in commerce, religion and medicine. [18] His work offers a striking example of the close relations between high and popular cultural forms, and between the scientific, religious, theatrical and commercial, in the late eighteenth-century. Also of interest is the striking, and, for early twenty-first century audiences, counter-intuitive relation in Graham's medical therapies between ecstatic sexual experience, the religious desire for transcendence, and the modern individual. Rather than being anomalous, these relations exemplify an important strand of the eighteenth century's emerging consumer culture. The most straightforward path to some of these broader issues is provided by Graham's own account of the Temple of Health, published in 1780 as A Sketch: or, Short Description of Dr. Graham's Medical Apparatus. My discussion will take as one of its guiding threads the role played by the sublime in Graham's therapies and in his discourse about them. [19]

Sex, Semen, and the Divine

A Sketch begins as a catalogue of the architectural, political, religious, urban and natural sublimes that, remarkably, can all be viewed from the Temple of Health. Graham's home and the Temple it houses stand at 'the centre of that noble pile of buildings, called the Royal Terrace, Adelpi'. The buildings are 'elevated, extensive and superb', 'raised at least a hundred feet from the surface of the river' and decorated with 'the most substantial battlements'. This sublime edifice stands midway between 'two of the largest and most beautiful bridges in the world'—Blackfriars and Westminster (3-4). 'On the right of the Adelphi' can be seen the 'venerable Abbey—both Houses of Parliament, and . . . Westminster's CITY OF PALACES'. To the left,

St. Paul's most magnificent, yet most solemn Cathedral . . . rises towards heaven, hiding its head in the clouds,—and London, that queen of Cities! lengthening herself, disappears from the incapacious and astonished eye.


Less than a minute's walk from the Temple is the Strand, 'one of the greatest thoroughfare streets in London' (3), while beyond its battlements lies 'the majestic Thames' and,

Upon its banks, on the other side . . . the churches, spires, and other buildings of the populous and extensive borough of Southwark, beyond those, windmills,—villas,—the hills of Surry, &c. appear spreading far and wide in delightful assemblage.


By locating the Temple as the point from which these diverse sublimities unfold, Graham underlines its importance and implies its therapeutic mission: from the vantage point offered by the Temple, the chaos of London becomes an ordered, sublime body which brings into harmony the disparate perspectives of country and city, religion and politics, culture and nature, the present and the past. Burke writes that 'Succession and uniformity of parts', as seen for example in 'the isles in many of our own old cathedrals', stamps 'on bounded objects the character of infinity'. [20] Graham's extended catalogue of sublimities produces a hyperbolic sublime (the product of a succession of infinities) that is the first, indirect presentation of the 'vivifying - universal principle' (28) to which the Temple is devoted.

As visitors enter the Temple, they find its rooms cluttered with ornaments, decorations, paintings and scientific equipment. In Room No. IV there are 'three Aegytian Sphynxes', 'a five gallon brilliant cut decanter, with a curious glass cock for emitting water'; 'India fumigators for oriental essences'; a print of Queen Charlotte, the Prince of Wales, and the Princess Royal; 'an original painting by . . . Van Dyck'; 'instruments for restoring animation to persons apparently dead', 'Electrical jars and vases', 'a hundred little gilt frames exhibiting every disease of the human eye', 'a perfectly exact artificial eye', and so on (19, 23, 25, 27). This profusion establishes an aesthetic space at one remove from the 'real' world, in which objects, divided from their previous contexts and meanings, can be redeployed as signifiers of both Graham's knowledge and the 'elementary fire' he deploys.

During their passage through this space, visitors experience (at least in Graham's account) not one but a series of sublimes, arranged so that each sublime is displaced by a still more remarkable one. On arriving at Room No. I, the spectator first catches sight of

a superb electrical jar . . . of tremendous size, and infinitely more beautiful than any thing of the kind ever made in the world . . . . The curious figures and ornaments of tin, copper, silver, and gold—the sweet lustre of the colours—snowy white,—rose colour,—crimson, yellow and purple;—and the divine brilliancy of the electric or celestial fire—in glorious assemblage united, strike with surprise, astonishment and delight, the eye and the heart, of every beholder.


The electrical jar may be sublime, but on entering the room the spectator is 'more particularly struck with the sight of four noble Ionic metallic pillars, eleven feet high, supporting a rich freeze and cornice; ornamented with five and twenty lamps of different colours' (5-6).

The pillars are in turn no more than entrée to the gigantic apparatus that dominates the room. Lying 'horizontally and lengthwise along the room' is a 'stupendous metallic conductor' that, Graham assures us, 'is no less than eleven feet long, and four feet in circumference; and is so far elevated from the floor, that a man of six feet four inches high could walk erect under the lowest part of it' (6). At one end of the room is an enormous electrical cylinder connected to the prime conductor by the body of

a fiery dragon, no less than six feet in length, double gilt, and of most exquisite workmanship. It's wings are expanded, its eyes blaze with electrical fire, it appears flying through the luminous atmosphere, towards the cylinder, and with its forked crimson coloured tongue it receives the lambent elementary fire.


Electricity passes from the cylinder, through the body of the dragon, to the prime conductor and then 'along massive brass rods . . . to a superb insulated throne ten feet high, which is erected in the front of the apparatus' (7). The patient sits on this throne, while Graham directs and moderates the electricity accumulated in the apparatus.

In the unfolding sequence of sublime spectacles, this apparatus is itself surpassed by The Great Apollo Apartment, No. IV, which houses the Temple itself. As Graham expatiates:

words can convey no adequate idea of the astonishment and awful sublimity which seizes the mind of every spectator. The first object which striking the eye astonishes,—expands—and ennobles the soul of the beholder, is a magnificent Temple, sacred to health, and dedicated to Apollo.


This 'stupendous temple' is 'full twenty-one feet' in circumference with a dome supported by 'six beautiful fluted columns' (14). Electricity is generated by 'two cylinders of brilliant glass, and of prodigious size'. It is passed to the 'dome of the temple, by means of an astonishing fiery dragon', which Graham describes as 'a male, and fellow to the female in the great room below' (18-19).

In Room No. I, electricity moves along a primarily horizontal axis. In the Temple, the primary movement is downwards: 'a large regular group of massive brass rods pierce the dome in the form of an inverted cone, which end in a ball from which depends a magnetic crown'. Sometimes the crown is removed and tubes are attached from which

drop, or rain, or run by the force of air, electricity, or magnetism, or by the united power of the three, aetherial essences, nourishing dews, vivifying attractive or repellent effluvia and influences—while from innumerable points flows a glory, or seeming beatification, from the celestial or elementary fire upon the patient.


From the Temple in the Apollo Apartment, electricity flows in two directions: on the one hand to a 'magnificent electric and magnetic throne' able to accommodate a great number of patients (19); and on the other hand, to a remarkable pavilion which 'holds but one person at a time' (17). So great a stream of electrical fire flows to the pavilion 'that the patient, when the Apollo chamber is darkened, appears enthroned and environed with a visible species of celestial glory!' (17-18).

'The irresistible and salubrious influences of electricity or the elementary fire, air, and magnetism' are described by Graham as 'the greatest of those agents . . . which pervading all created beings and substances . . . connect, animate, and keep together all nature!' These primary agents are, however, also spiritual. They 'constitute as it were the various faculties of the material soul of the universe:—the ETERNALLY SUPREME JEHOVAH himself! being the essential source—the Life of that life—the Agent in those agents—the Soul of that soul' (12). On the one hand, the agents bind us to each other and to the world; on the other hand, they link us to the divine.

The apparatus in Room No. I focuses on the former: electricity rushes in a 'torrent of fire' along a horizontal axis that passes through the dragon, along the prime conductor, until it emerges in 'prodigious torrents' to be harnessed and directed by Graham. In the Great Apollo Apartment, the second aspect of the life-force is prominent. The temple is a receptacle for the prima materia that flows into the temple from 'great reservoirs' in the dome. The 'stupendous' prime conductor, as satirists were quick to point out, is a phallic form, [21] while the Temple and Pavilion in the Apollo Apartment are 'feminine' forms, receptacles designed to hold the life-force. In the Pavilion, the patient plays the role of foetus, lodged within a womb-like space filled with celestial fluid. On the throne, this same fluid is deployed to 'connect' and 'animate' individuals, thus vivifying social as well as individual health.

These contrasting aspects of the same power, and the contrasting apparatuses that are their respective vehicles, support different therapies. In Room No. I, the life-force has been concentrated and intensified by its passage along a narrow material body. It can therefore be used to apply powerful 'electrical and magnetic shocks' that, sending a flood of electricity through the body, sweep away obstacles that divide the patient from life. Like the medicines lying on a shelf above the prime conductor, the patients' bodies are 'impregnated, exalted, and arbitrarily acted upon' by this force (6). In contrast, in the Apollo Apartment health is achieved by more gentle therapies that, by filling the body with electricity, promote growth and invigorate the 'vital principle'. In this room, health is isomorphic with 'fruitfulness', illustrated by the 'curious, rare, and valuable plants, flowers, and fruits' (15) that adorn the dome of the Temple and by the portrait of 'a matron' who with one hand caresses 'two children' and 'with the other holds a cornucopia with fruits and flowers' (16).

Although Room No. I emphasises the material and Room No. IV the spiritual aspects of the life force, in both rooms there is a complicated relation between spiritual and material, male and female, active and passive powers. In the first Room, which focuses on the action of electricity within the material body. Electricity passes from female to male forms, from the globe and female dragon to the (phallic) prime conductor, where it is stored and condensed. According to Galen, 'All people were . . . on a gradient from male to female characteristics, depending on the quantity and quality of the humoral life essence possessed by each individual'.

The vagina and possibly the uterus and womb were thought to be an inverted penis and scrotum . . . while the ovaries were thought to be female testes. It was only the greater heat of the male body which drove these internal organs outwards to form the penis, scrotum and testicles. [22]

In Room No. I, the movement from female to male forms registers the greater accumulation of 'life essence' in the latter.

The architecture of the fourth Room implies the spiritual origin of electricity. The relation between God and his creation is commonly presented as a relation between active and passive powers. The Swedenborgian Robert Hindmarsh writes, for example, that:

The distinguishing characteristic of a male is activity; while that of a female is re-activity: Thus God, as an active Creator, is properly male; and the whole creation, as a re-active subject, is properly female. [23]

In Room No. IV, the relation between male and female powers is therefore reversed. Two (phallic) cylinders are now the source of the vital fluid that passes through a male dragon to fill the feminine (vaginal, womb-like) spaces of the Temple and Pavilion.

There are two acts of sexual congress implied by this architecture. Room No. IV is quite literally the 'Great Apollo Apartment', the feminine space which from time to time houses the great Apollo himself and stores the vital 'stuff' that emanates from him. At the same time, the Temple is the female complement to the masculine prime conductor in Room No. I. The rooms therefore imply a curious sexual conjunction: a female body provides the locale within which material and spiritual masculine-powers cohabit.

The inseminations performed or implied by these parallel masculine principles operate in tandem with each other, together tracing a supposed natural cycle defined in relation to the passive female body: Apollo plants the seed that brings the material world to life. This means, however, that the vital principle is enclosed within a material body. If life is to remain healthy, the material world must remain open to its spiritual source. This is why the operation of the prime conductor is salutary and medicinal. By removing blockages it opens the female space to celestial influence.

This partnership between spiritual and material, male and female powers, remains a staple of Graham's 'philosophy' throughout his career. In A Sketch he refers to 'the sun and moon' as 'the greater and lesser—the male and female lights, whose mingling rays and influences produce that pure, invisible, vivifying—universal principle, which animates and nourishes every thing in the world' (28). In A Short Treatise on the All-cleansing . . . Qualities of the Simple Earth, he represents:

our World or System, as a Creature of an ambiguous nature, and as partaking of both Sexes. The higher part of our system, namely, the celestial, being active and masculine; the lower, or more gross elementary part,—of the passive and feminine nature . . . the globe of the earth then is the wondrous and capacious womb, in which the all-engendering seed of Heaven is eagerly received and faithfully kept. [24]

This macrocosmic play is repeated within individual bodies and in relations between the sexes. It implies that the vital principle animating this world and streaming from the eternal world is a sexual power. In his A Lecture on the Generation, Increase, and Improvement of the Human Species, Graham claims he is 'clearly and decidedly of opinion that even the venereal act itself . . . is in fact, no other than an electrical operation!' Evidence for this identity is provided by the parallels between their operations:

In the first place . . . there is the necessary friction or excitation of the animal electrical tube or cylinder, for the accumulation, or mustering up of the balmy fire of life!—This is what electricians call the charging of the vital jar. Then follows the discharging, or passage of that balmy, luminous, active principle, from the plus male to the minus female. These are all mere, plain, demonstrable electrical processes. Here we have the negative and the positive fire,—and the active and the passive principles,—the plus and the minus state. In short, there is a perfect analogy in every respect.

These parallels identify semen as:

The . . . luminous, ever-active balsam of life . . . the grand staff, strength, all animating vital source and principle of the beauty, vigour, and serenity, both of body and of mind. [25]

In the Temple of Health, male and female principles; the prime conductor and the Temple; the divine and temporal active powers, along with the passive female body; all come together on the Celestial Bed. The Bed was '12ft. long by 9ft. wide, supported by forty pillars of brilliant glass of the most exquisite workmanship, in richly variegated colours'. Above it, a 'super-celestial dome' served as a 'grand reservoir of those reviving invigorating influences which are exhaled by . . . the exhilarating force of electrical fire'. Beneath, 'About fifteen hundred pounds weight of artificial and compound magnets, are so disposed and arranged, as to be continually pouring forth in an ever-flowing circle, inconceivable and irresistibly powerful tides of the magnetic effluvium' (20). [26]

The CELESTIAL BED being very highly electrified, the persons reposing therein bask in a genial, invigorating tide of the celestial fire, combined with the powerful influences of music, magnets, and the balmy odours of aromatic aetherial essences—which, as they powerfully vivify, and at the same time remove all impediments. [27]

It could therefore be guaranteed to cause 'immediate conception'. 'On compliment of a £50 banknote', Graham was willing to make it available to 'Any gentleman and his lady' who desired offspring, promising that

the superior pleasure and ecstasy which the parties enjoy in the celestial bed is really astonishing, and never before thought of in the world: the barren certainly must become fruitful, when they are powerfully agitated in the delights of love. [28]

Conception is, Graham claims, the result of spiritual as well as physical powers and passions. He writes in A Private Advice that if you want to conceive you should 'be exceedingly fervent in prayer, melting our beloved into one, when the balmy kiss, at the critical point of extasy and delight approaches, that surpasseth all understanding'. [29] He adds in A Lecture that when the moment of conception arises, the male is filled with such rapture 'that in the last . . . his soul seems, PROMETHEUS like, to spring up to heaven! to snatch life to animate the little embryo'. [30]

Graham warns that those who insist that the soul is 'IMMATERIAL, will be perhaps highly offended at my bringing it in upon every occasion, head and shoulders with the body'. For that portion of his potential audience, there was no doubt cause for alarm. Graham's sketch of the Temple is published with his 'The Christian's Universal Prayer', a paraphrase of the Lord's prayer. The Temple is perhaps the world's first sex clinic, yet Room No. III contains a Bible used for 'family worship!' and a normal day in the Temple begins, Graham claims, with his 'whole family' assembled for worship (49). In A Sketch he refers to: the Temple of Health; the Celestial Bed; the 'material soul'; 'electrical or celestial fire', and so on.

These collocations bring religious categories into realms usually deemed secular; however, only in a very particular sense does this migration trope the body as divine. Health is imagined by Graham as a feminine, passive body correspondent with an active, masculine and divine power. The emergence of this ideal, healthy body occurs against the background (and itself in part defines) an unhealthy body, closed within decaying flesh, animated by drives and passions not tutored by the divine. The healthy body is a willing receptacle for the 'Light, Serenity, Life and strength' that proceeds from the 'upper masculine part' of the world. Unfortunately, the doctor laments, this is not always the case: 'from the lower or female part, (as, alas! from too many other female parts) do issue fires and Aetnean or Vesuvian furors, corruptions, diseases, discords, desolations, and Death'. [31]

For Graham, health is therefore closely linked to morality. He distinguishes between 'that pure—chaste—sacred flame which pervades not only the human body, but universal Nature' and 'the intemperate, impure, and all consuming flames of Venus'. The former is 'fed by simple and homogeneous food and drink' (39-40), the latter by 'gormandizing, drunkenness, and all manner of enervating and debilitating vices and indulgences' (36). Chief amongst these vices is masturbation:

every seminal emission out of nature's road . . . every act of self-pollution,—and even every repetition of natural venery, with even the loveliest of the sex, to which appalled or exhausted nature is whipped and spurred by lust, habit, or firey unnatural provocations;—but especially every act of self-pollution;—is an earthquake—a blast—a deadly paralytic stroke,—to all the faculties of both soul and body! [32]

Disgust at the corruptible body and desire for the ideal body establish the twin points between which Graham attempts to forge a body that is restrained with regard to its bodily passions and therefore conservative in its expenditure of seminal fluid. Together they provide strong motivation for patients to subject themselves to a power supposedly able to divide them from corruption and to transport them towards a body of bliss.

Freud writes in The Ego and the Id that

[t]he ejection of the sexual substances in the sexual act corresponds in a sense to the separation of soma and germ-plasm. This accounts for the likeness of the condition that follows complete sexual satisfaction to dying, and for the fact that death coincides with the act of copulation in some of the lower animals. These creatures die in the act of reproduction because, after Eros has been eliminated through the process of satisfaction, the death instinct has a free hand for accomplishing its purposes. [33]

Graham's therapy seems in part to be based on an analogous dynamic: it proceeds by disciplining and exhausting sexual desire in order to give the death instinct (the desire to exchange temporal for spiritual bodies) free reign. But the framework offered by Freud is misleading to the extent that it treats the death instinct as a biological urge to return to inactivity, and therefore underplays the extent to which it might be produced by cultures that trope death as an accession of life. Moreover, in Graham's therapy, the death 'instinct' fuses with and intensifies the sexual instincts. [34] In discussing Graham's therapeutic practices we therefore need a framework able to orchestrate moments of blockage (caused by illness and the 'Thought of Death'), ecstasy (seen as an intensification of the sexual instincts and of the desire for transcendence/death) and revivification of the ailing body. In A Sketch Graham articulates these seemingly disparate moments by drawing on the three-part scenario of the sublime: the passage from blockage, to transport and elevation. [35] Before proceeding, we must therefore turn briefly to eighteenth-century theories of the sublime.

Ecstasy, Intercourse, and the Sublime

An experience of the sublime begins with the appearance of an overwhelming power, that stops the subject in his/her tracks. Measured against this 'stunning power', [36] 'we shrink into the minuteness of our own nature, and are, in a manner, annihilated'. [37] Burke writes that 'The mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it'. This eclipse of our vital powers, however, leads to an unexpected conclusion. Rather than bringing the experience to a catastrophic end, deflation is the prelude to transport. The power that had stopped us in our tracks now 'hurries us on by an irresistible force'. [38] Sheridan, writing with reference to the rhetorical sublime, describes an analogous phenomenon:

Like irresistible beauty, [the rhetorical sublime] transports, it ravishes, it commands the admiration of all, who are within its reach . . . . The hearer finds himself as unable to resist it, as to blow out a conflagration with the breath of his mouth, or to stop the stream of a river with his hand. His passions are no longer his own. [39]

As stand-still becomes transport and elation, [40] the power that had previously been an object of terror is troped as a paternal power (or indirect presentation of a paternal power), and the subject, sensing his/her kinship with this power, emerges unscathed, with a heightened sense of his/her own significance.

In attempting to explain these metamorphoses, theorists of the sublime commonly draw on theories of imitation and internalisation. Longinus writes:

by true sublimity our soul somehow is both lifted up and—taking on a kind of exultant resemblance—filled with delight and great glory, as if our soul itself had created what it just heard. [41]

Lord Kames reports in a matter-of-fact tone that 'A great object makes the spectator endeavour to enlarge his bulk'. [42] Similarly, Burke explains that 'when without danger we are conversant with terrible objects, the mind always [claims] to itself some part of the dignity and importance of the things which it contemplates'. [43]

A rather different explanation is prominent in the religious sublime. In Young's Night Thoughts, for example, Death brings the narrator to a standstill and alienates him from his previous life. Measured against this 'King of Terrors', [44] the narrator is as nothing. Paradoxically, this experience throws into relief a portion of the self not subject to time. The narrator discovers within his own body 'An awful Stranger, a Terrestrial God . . . / A glorious Partner with the Deity / In that high Attribute, immortal Life!' The consequent reorientation of the subject from temporal to eternal things leads to a remarkable fantasy of a body and world released from the constraints imposed by matter. As he gazes on the sublime spectacle of the Cross, his 'mounting Soul / Catches strange Fire, Eternity! at thee, / And drops the World—or rather, more enjoys'. [45] The once deflated subject now exclaims:

How Nature opens, and receives my Soul

In boundless Walks of raptur'd Thought? Where Gods

Encounter, and embrace me! What new Births

Of strange Adventure, foreign to the Sun,

Where what now charms, perhaps, whate'er exists,

Old Time, and fair Creation, are forgot? [46]

As the above quotation suggests, this second explanation for sublime elevation is closely related to a third, which proposes that the reorientation effected by the sublime, from temporal to eternal things, allows the divine (imagined as the source of all life) to flow into the temporal. It is this influx that inflates and, indeed, remakes the self, liberating it from subjection to the material world. That there is some kind of afflatus that passes from the source of the sublime to its audience is implied in many accounts of sublimity. Longinus refers to the operation in sublimity of a power 'beyond nature' that 'drives the audience . . . to ecstasy'. [47] Sheridan describes the passage of a fluid (the 'stream of a river') that passes from orator to audience, while the latter is ravished by the former. Young alludes to a 'strange Fire, Eternity!' that his Soul 'Catches' from the sublime object. [48] Each of these 'explanations' are deployed by Graham to support his therapeutic sublime.

For Graham's patients, the sublime power that has stopped them in their tracks is Death or, more accurately, the 'Thought of Death', [49] roused by the experience of illness. In Graham's Temple, however, illness and Death are troped as indirect presentations of the sublime source of all things. The architecture and iconography of the Temple, as we have seen, 'teaches' that health emerges through subjection to that source, figured almost indifferently as electricity, magnetism, sex and the divine.

This sublime power removes the blockages that had previously divided the patient from the source of life. In so doing, it opens the body to a 'torrent' of electrical/magnetic/divine fluid that soon fills and revitalises the body. This involves a reorientation of the self from artifice to nature, and from the cultural to the vital source of things. It precipitates an experience of temporal resurrection, in which the individual/collective body casts off sickness as it rises into health. Whether in the religious sublime or in Graham's Temple of Health, possession by a more powerful agent leads not only to a disciplined body but to ecstasy. The subject previously dwarfed by Death emerges revitalised, convinced of his/her power over the material world, in raptures over the ideal body that now seems within reach. Graham offers himself and his Goddess of Health as prime examples of this metamorphosis.

Graham's submission to the 'vital vivifying principle', signalled by his status as doctor/priest in the Temple of Health, underwrites his claim to deploy as his own a measure of God's unbounded power. His apparatus gives him 'a kind of almighty power' (21) that he can use to harness the powers and reproduce many of the effects of nature :

I can literally and visibly draw down into the room confining, rendering not only harmless, but even very salutary, the lightning from the clouds of heaven—while I can concentrate the beams of the sun; squeezing the various kinds of air into close prisons, separating, combining, gently dismissing or expelling them with tremendous violence—so, likewise, I can exhibit the exact appearance of the forked lightning, and imitate with my machinery the horrible—the awful noise of the thunder storm . . . . I can here not only equal, but even far exceed, with the electrical fire, &c. the beauty and the brilliance of any—even of the most glorious luminaries of heaven!

Graham's power over the inanimate world parallels his power over the flesh. He boasted of 'an absolute command over the health, functions and diseases of the human body' (21), was confident of his ability to restore 'animation to persons apparently dead' (23), and was adamant that he would enjoy 'perfect health, till I shall be at least an hundred and fifty years old' (Graham died when he was 49). As the power Graham wields is divine, the bodies he conjures are young, perfect and chaste. Graham is therefore accompanied not by his wife but by the young, beautiful, purportedly virginal 'Goddesses of Health'.

For patients and spectators, Graham is himself a sublime 'object'. His (supposed) power over life and death, along with the apparatus and seminal power he deploys, arouses a 'delightful horror' [50] in his patient/spectator. As is proper for a sublime 'object', Graham also holds out the hope that if his patients/spectators submit to him, they will be transported and transformed: their 'mounting' Souls will catch 'strange Fire, Eternity!' and drop 'the World—or rather, more' enjoy.

At the beginning of A Sketch, Graham identified the Temple of Health as a point from which a remarkable number of sublimities could be seen to unfold, and which brought into harmony the disparate perspectives of country and city, religion and politics, culture and nature, and so on. At the time, this no doubt seemed whimsical or paradoxical. Although the self might be elevated by any one of the sublimes glimpsed from the Temple, their 'centre' is elsewhere, in political or commercial power, within an urban or rural landscape, or ultimately in a transcendent God.

As readers are introduced to the Temple of Health, they discover that the finite space of the Temple, although dwarfed by the sublime scenes that cluster around it, paradoxically contains a succession of sublime objects. The journey through the Temple of Health is at the same time an allegorical passage into the heart of the universe. Both journeys reach their climax as Graham takes us across the threshold of the Great Apollo Apartment. The Temple itself, the centre-piece of the Room, 'astonishes,—expands—and ennobles the soul of the beholder' because, as we have seen, it is a receptacle for the agents that 'constitute . . . the material soul of the universe:—the ETERNALLY SUPREME JEHOVAH himself!' (12). The spiritual sun burns within the Temple of Health, in an ordinary street in London.

If Apollo's fire and Jehovah's material soul are contained by the Temple of Health, then the various sublimes glimpsed by spectators/patients as they enter the Temple do indeed unfold from within it. Moreover, the hyperbolic sublime (formed by this collocation of infinities) takes as its ultimate point of reference a power inside rather than outside the Temple. This realisation sparks two remarkable visions of sublime transcendence. In the first, the 'awful sublimity which seizes the mind of every spectator' who enters the Apollo Apartment hurries them from 'the essential source' glimpsed within the Temple (God) outward to the universe that emanates from him. He is the God

not of this world alone . . . not the God of the millions of myriads of worlds . . . but [he is] the eternal—infinitely wise!—infinitely powerful!—the infinitely good GOD of the WHOLE!—the GREAT SUN OF THE UNIVERSE! whose rays or emanations fill without increase, and without diminution the immensity of space! . . . The King of Kings! the Lord of Lords! the God of Gods!—the Soul of all Souls!—the LIGHT of all Light;—The——!!!

But at this point, Graham's sight fails. Here,

at the entrance of intellectual vision—on the very threshold of comprehension we stop,—shrinking before THAT INCOMPREHENSIBLE MAJESTY . . . into the littleness and darkness of our present nature.


In an experience of 'true sublimity our soul somehow is both lifted up and - taking on a kind of exultant resemblance—filled with delight and great glory, as if our soul itself had created what it just heard'. Similarly, although we fall back into 'our present nature', the experience carries with it the conviction of a second nature. From the point of view of our souls, that carry within them the 'GREAT SUN OF THE UNIVERSE', we are Terrestrial Gods, standing at the very centre of the universe. The moment of collapse into the 'darkness of our present nature' therefore coincides with a second vision of transcendence, this time of a state in which, freed of our material bodies, we can comprehend the glorious power within and without.

Graham tells his readers that 'When looking steadfastly on the brightest of the stars, planets, or meridian sun', and at the same time 'contemplating . . . the nature of the tremendous Being who created and supports them, my brain and all the faculties of my soul struggle, burst, and blaze with the immensity'. Although possessed by this sublime object, Graham is not content with the indirect presentation of the whole it affords. Stars, planets and sun are, of course, only a small part of the universe and therefore only a fraction of God's glory. 'Transported with impatience, love, and admiration', he therefore attempts to take one step closer to the divine by imagining the stars, planets and sun as

ONE great luminary, above us, below us, and on every side, fixed and shining with a steady brightness, ten thousand times superior to that of the bodies just mentioned, yet with mild, genial, temperate and harmonious rays, and we placed in the center of this luminous concave—on a transparent plain thousands of miles in diameter.

In this moment of vision, Graham glimpses the expanded consciousness engendered by resurrection, in which the material world no longer obstructs our sight. In such a moment, Young writes, 'all is Day: / All Eye, all Ear, the disembody'd Power'. [51] In Graham's words: 'each individual being then all eye—all ear—all mind—to take in and comprehend the whole of the light, and beauty of such a state' (13).

These complementary visions place the individual on the border between different manifestations of the same divine power. In the first, the inner turns out to be the source of the outer. In the second, the outer moves inside, and the mind bursts and blazes 'with the immensity' that possesses it. The self stands in the liminal space between these moments of internalisation and externalisation, lost in rapture, flooded by the divine. Possessed by the overwhelming power of God, the material body falls away. Yet this loss is gain, for it allows an immortal body to emerge, isomorphic with the whole.

It may at first appear as if this revelation is a supplement, an unnecessary addition to the more mundane matters of health, hygiene and morals with which the Temple is primarily concerned. Yet the resurrected, rapturous body is itself a product of the sublime experience precipitated in patients/spectators by the astonishing powers deployed in the Temple. It establishes a third point that is the desired climax and conclusion of the narrative begun in the passage from sickness to health. Just as importantly, the healthy body mimics the resurrected body. The former involves a 'submission' of passive to active powers that anticipates the conformity of risen bodies to the spirit, of the resurrected individual to God, that will be achieved in the next world. The spiritual body is filled and animated by the divine; in this world, the healthy, material body is awash with 'a full and genial tide of' semen. [52] The harmony achieved by the former is therefore anticipated in the latter. Health is a sign that we have won a battle against death; the resurrected body completes that struggle; it appears as the fruit of Death's final defeat. Moreover, through sublime ecstasy and sexual rapture, the healthy body has access to the bliss enjoyed by the resurrected body. In sexual orgasm, the married couple's

bodies and their souls rush sweetly together! with the fullest, purest, intensest, and most celestial transports!—and feeling themselves no longer inhabitants of this lovely world—they wing their soft long waving way through flowery fields of lysium!—their souls float undulating, melting, and finally launching forth upon oceans of extatic bliss! [53]

In addition to these roles, the vision of the resurrected body, augmented by imagination and assisted by temporal beauty, operates retroactively to establish and intensify the experiences that lead to it. In A Lecture, Graham tells the story of

a certain hairdresser of Edinburgh . . . (a man of taste, though of no extraordinary, who had been married to a healthy woman some years, but had not children [who] was sent for to dress a fine beautiful young lady; when performing the operation, he was so captivated by her beauty, he found himself so animated, that he could no longer contain; he made a trifling excuse, ran home in a desperate hurry, and got his wife with three children at once. [54]

This relation between vision and sexual desire is repeated in the relation between lovers. As the lover gazes at his 'beautiful mistress', 'the magnetico-electrical effluvium—the celestial invisible fire!' proceeds 'in all directions from the fair one'. 'Struck and penetrated by the rays of this magnetico-electrical fire', the lover 'conceives those vehement desires which hurry him', like a moth to a flame, 'towards the object that gives rise to them'. [55] Augmented by touch, taste, hearing, smell, and by 'those brilliant sallies of the imagination!', the sight of the beloved gives rise to

those joys which totally dissolve and absorb all the faculties of the soul—and penetrate lovers with an ardent longing—with an intense desire to transform themselves into what they love!—Yes, to absorb and assimilate the soul and body of their beloved—and to mix and intimately blend their substance with that of the object of their passion. [56]

This desire to mix oneself with the other is made more intense when the mistress is idealised by the imagination. It is only then

that the lover, pervaded with the sweet delirium, becomes an enthusiast, and feels a flame lighted up within him, which will continue unextinguished for many years. [57]

Indeed, Graham writes that 'The artificial passions alone, of the human soul, are lasting; those of the senses . . . can last but for a moment; for the duration of pleasure can only subsist in the imagination'. [58]

The transports of sexual pleasure are, however, at their most intense, when the sexual desire to mingle one's 'substance' with a temporal object is intertwined with an analogous desire to be one with a divine object. In A Private Advice, Graham recommends prayer (along with 'domestic music' and 'sentimental, philosophical and religious conversations') as the best prelude to sexual intercourse,

for after the souls of an amiable couple have been softened, illuminated, and filled with love, harmony, and approving peace, by such rational and delightful amusements their souls rush together, melting with celestial transports, and winging their soft way through Elysium, they feel themselves no longer inhabitants of this lower world. [59]

The removal of blockages that close us off from life, the rejuvenation of the body by influx of the vivifying principle (semen, electricity, the divine), and the arousal of 'an intense desire' in the patients to transform themselves into the (idealised, ultimately transcendent) object that they love, are the three pillars of Graham's Temple of Health and Hymen. Together they help give birth to a remarkable (male) subject-in-process that, animated by a procreative force that throbs deep within his being, in love with an 'ideal beauty' that lies beyond this world, struggles to maximise sexual pleasure as a way of lifting himself above his present nature, and so propelling himself into the future, towards an ideal that in this world must remain evanescent and visionary. [60]

On the one hand, as I have suggested, this individual recalls the subject implied by Young's religious sublime. On the other hand, the same individual anticipates the subject-in-process of Romanticism. Although Graham invokes a procreative primary-power, while Wordsworth in Book VI of The Prelude (1805), to cite only an obvious example, testifies to the existence of a creative primary-power, according to both writers this vital force can on occasion intrude on the everyday world with 'such strength / Of usurpation' that 'the light of sense / Goes out'. Moreover, such moments are revelatory of 'the invisible world' which, for both Graham and Wordsworth, is 'Our destiny, our being's heart and home'. [61]

The reorientation of the subject from the finite to the infinite is, for Graham, the basis of physical health (from which flows mental health). For Wordsworth, this reorientation is the foundation of psychic health (which contributes to physical health). In Graham's Temple of Health, the healthy harmonious body is best seen in either the power and purity of young men or the feminine beauty and chastity of young women. Similarly, in Book VII of The Prelude an analogous body is glimpsed in, on the one hand, the 'rosy [male] babe' seen by Wordsworth at the theatre, who in his 'lusty vigour' seems 'A sort of alien scattered from the clouds' and, on the other hand, Mary of Buttermere, 'the artless daughter of the hills', who delights the young Wordsworth with her 'modest mien / And carriage, marked by unexampled grace'. [62] Wordsworth's therapy involves a return in memory to infancy, when 'Heaven lies about us' and the world seems 'Apparelled in celestial light'. [63] Graham's therapy attempts to bring the primary power into the present so that, as Graham notes, the patient is 'environed with a visible species of celestial glory' (18). For both, health is imagined as a subject-in-process, a state in which we are oriented to the future, animated by 'hope that can never die, / Effort, and expectation, and desire, / And something evermore about to be'. [64]

The three pillars of Graham's Temple of Health and Hymen also structure Graham's social program. For more than a century, Graham claims, 'manly firmness and vigour' have been destroyed by 'luxury and dissipation'. This 'has brought on diseases which has enervated (sic) and debilitated the human race'. As a result, 'the inhabitants of this island have decreased amazingly' and 'every succeeding generation becomes more and more weekly (sic)'. 'Degeneracy and imbecility of body and mind' now threaten the peace and happiness of the state and of individuals. [65]

As antidote to this decline, Graham recommended careful management and conservation of resources. Society's reservoirs of vital fluid would be replenished if the waste of vital fluid could be outlawed. He therefore recommends that laws be passed against 'public prostitution', taxes levied against those who don't marry, and rewards given to those who do. Such measures would soon put an end to the threat of invasion. They would produce 'an offspring, sufficient to man our fleets and increase our armies, as would bid defiance to our most inveterate foes'. [66]

In a spermatic economy, conservation and management of resources is, however, primarily the work of individuals. Graham therefore urged a regime of hygiene and self discipline. Young men are at present

poor creeping, tremulous, pale, spindle-shanked wretched creatures! who crawl upon the earth, spirting, dribling, and draining off, alone, or with their vile unfortunate street-trulls, or other mates.

But if they were to live

soberly, regularly, usefully, and perfectly continently, without ever once having know what any seminal emission is till he arrives at his twenty-first—or even to his twenty-fifth year, and is married!—that young man is a hero indeed!—an Hercules!—an Angel!—a God!'. [67]

And to stop semen leaking from the penis after ejaculation, he recommends, immediately after intercourse, the 'application of . . . icy cold vivifying water' to the genitals, a practice which supposedly 'locks the cock'. Indeed, in the interest of both hygiene and spermatic economy, men and women should bathe thoroughly their private parts (genitalia and fundament), with very cold water, every night and morning of their life. [68]

The accumulation of vital fluid leads to the intensification of 'healthy' sexual pleasure which, working in tandem with self-discipline, will wean the population from luxury and venery. When this occurs, war will be unnecessary, for only a depraved culture, attempting to retain the luxuries to which they have become addicted, forces the husband to leave his wife and pursue 'the destruction of his fellow-creatures; and even to plunge the cold and bloody steel in the hearts of our American brethren'. [69]

A healthy spermatic economy would accumulate sufficient vital force to draw the warring sections of the individual and the collective body into a vigorous whole. At the same time, the sexual rapture produced within a spermatic economy, provides a glimpse of an ideal body that now becomes the common goal towards which society strives. Fantasy and desire bring society into harmony by shifting attention from mundane to transcendental goals: 'illuminated . . . with enlarged ideas and apprehensions of [God's] infinitely transcendent wisdom, power, goodness, and glory!' the nations of the world need no longer 'differ so bitterly about the little points and formalities' (32). In this imagined world, 'all religious persecution shall cease' and 'universal light and universal toleration' will prevail, 'pervading men and women of every rank and of every nation' (33).

Although Graham appears to have believed in the existence of both the primary power and the ideal body (individual and collective) that he conjures, it is important to note that belief is not a precondition for the spectator wanting to experience the pleasures of the Temple (or even the patient who wants to take Graham's road to health). Indeed, the Temple of Health is a good example of what Campbell calls 'modern hedonism', in which 'pleasure is a commodity associated with experiences which we have a hand in constructing'. Modern hedonists recognise such fantasies

for what they are (or rather what they are not—that is, 'real'). Such 'realism', however, merely has the effect of making us dissatisfied with a life which provides actual pleasures so far short of those which illusion can supply; somewhere, we are convinced, it must be possible to experience the latter in reality. Hence that dissatisfaction with existence and the consequent readiness to seize whatever new pleasures are promised, which characterize the modern attitude of longing. [70]

In Graham's Temple, dissatisfaction with the present, along with desire for the healthy/ideal body on display in the Temple and a yearning for the rapture it promises, turn disinterested spectators into consumers. Some of these consumers, willing to once again suspend their disbelief, will purchase the doctor's products in order to repeat the imagined pleasures of the Temple. A Sketch, for example, addresses both 'those who intend' to see, and those who have already seen, the Temple and require, respectively, 'an agreeable and useful companion, or refresher of their memory' (3). Others, also willing to suspend their disbelief, will purchase Graham's medical assistance in the hope that he can deliver them from sickness. A third group, will seek the doctor's services in the hope that they will 'experience in reality' the ideal bodies and pleasures glimpsed in the Temple.

If one assumes a sharp distinction between illusion and reality, then each of these groups are deluded. Albeit to differing degrees, their desires have been reoriented to a non-existent goal. However, for Graham this sharp distinction would be anachronistic. Where Campbell writes disparagingly of a 'dissatisfaction with existence and the consequent readiness to seize whatever new pleasures are promised', Graham mobilises the disjunction between the real and a desired ideal to rouse the spectator/patient's desire 'to transform themselves into what they love!' [71] From this point of view, each of the groups mentioned above are at different points on the same road to health.

Politics, Fantasy, and the Real

The Temple of Health thrived against a backdrop of military defeat, the threat of invasion, and domestic turmoil. At the beginning of 1780, it had long been evident that the loyalists were losing the American War of Independence. In October 1777, a British army under General Burgoyne had surrendered at Saratoga, New York. In the following year, the French allied themselves with the Americans against the British. They were joined in 1779 by the Spanish and, towards the end of 1780, by the Dutch. The 'defeat and surrender' of a second loyalist army at Yorketown, Virginia, in October 1781, forced the British to suspend 'offensive operations in North America' and concentrate instead 'on salvaging what they could of the rest of their empire'. [72]

Spain became a participant in the war on the proviso that Britain was attacked. In 1778, 1779, 1781, and again in 1782, it was widely believed that invasion was imminent. The most serious threat occurred in the summer of 1779, when a Franco-Spanish naval force of sixty-six ships arrived in the Channel. As the British fleet of thirty-nine vessels had been 'deployed far to the west to defend the approaches to Ireland', there was 'for several weeks . . . no British naval presence in the Channel to impede a landing. Only sickness on board the enemy armada, together with increasing tensions between the allies, prevented the unthinkable from occurring'. [73]

International crisis exacerbated domestic unrest. In October 1779, Lord North 'feared that Ireland was going the same way as America'. His views were echoed by the Irish politician John Beresford who, in a letter to 'North's secretary to the treasury . . . painted a picture of Ireland on the verge of rebellion'. On another front, the war transformed

parliamentary reform from the preoccupation of a small band of enthusiasts to a mainstream issue. Increased taxes, a mounting national debt, trade dislocation, economic depression and a fall in land values began to persuade even normally conservative squires that all was not well . . . . Military failures and humiliations . . . added to widespread alarm and despondency. [74]

There seemed to be, the politician Sir William Meredith wrote, 'a "fatal torpor which hangs like the night-mare over all the powers of this Country"'. [75]

The most unequivocal signs of nightmare were provided by popular protest against the Catholic Relief Act of April 1778, which 'allowed English and Welsh Catholics to own and inherit land on the same basis as Protestants, and permitted Catholic priests to teach and officiate at religious services'. [76] When a Catholic relief bill for Scotland was foreshadowed, Protestants rioted in Edinburgh and Scotland. Even when the government backed down, emotions remained high. In May 1779, Lord George Gordon, who 'had been prominent in the Scottish agitation . . . told the House of Commons that Scotland was on the verge of rebellion' and, six months later, 'that he had 120,000 men ready to support him and that the king was regarded by the Scots as "a papist"'.

In London, anti-Catholic sentiment reached boiling point in the Gordon riots. From 6-8 June 1780, the mob terrified London: Catholic chapels and the homes of leading politicians were attacked; Newgate prison was destroyed and prisoners were released; breweries and distilleries were looted and wrecked. In the course of the disturbances, some 290 lives were lost. [77] Order was restored only when George III summoned the army. Even then, 'rumours circulated that the troops were about to join the insurgents, and that 30,000 colliers were marching on London'. [78]

Seen in this context, the Temple of Health is an escape from, which at the same time offers itself as an antidote to, political unrest. However, not all of Graham's customers saw the Temple of Health as the answer to their own, let alone the nation's, corporeal and spiritual difficulties. This group included some who were also distrustful of the interaction between illusion and reality that, as I have suggested, is a feature of the pleasures offered by the Temple of Health. One of the sceptics was Horace Walpole, who visited the Temple and attended a lecture by Graham on the 22 August 1780. Given the high price charged for a night on the celestial bed, and the link commonly assumed to exist between luxury, effeminacy and aristocracy, Walpole would from Graham's point of view clearly have belonged to the class of potential customers. [79]

A little over two months before his visit to the Temple, Walpole had watched the Gordon Riots with a kind of fascinated, anxious horror. The riots seemed a symptom of present disorder and a foretaste of future disaster. Writing to the Reverend William Mason on the night of June 9th, he reported:

It is said that this insurrection was expected in France a month ago. Just as I came away Mr. Griffith told me the French were embarking. In short what may not be expected? then one turns from what is to come, to helpless misery, that will soon be forgotten but by the sufferers. Whole families ruined, wives that tried to drag their husbands out of the mobs and have found them breathless, the terrors of the Catholics, indeed of all foreigners. [80]

The events of the following months offered little to dispel Walpole's anxious gloom. Arriving in London on the 22 August, he learnt of 'the desolation of Jerusalem. Our whole outward-bound fleets for East and West Indies are taken by the Spaniards—as in a drag-net'. [81] For Walpole, however, Graham's Temple of Health was a symptom of, rather than a solution to such difficulties.

In a letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory, dated 23 August 1780, Walpole described the Temple of Health as

the most impudent puppet-show of imposition I ever saw, and the mountebank himself the dullest of his profession, except that he makes the spectators pay a crown apiece . . . . The decorations are pretty and odd, and the apothecary who comes up a trap-door—for no purpose, since he may as well come upstairs, is a novelty. The electrical experiments are nothing at all singular, and a poor air-pump, that only bursts a bladder, pieces out the farce. The Doctor is like Jenkinson in person, and as flimsy a puppet. I hope his brother, whom Mrs. Macaulay married, is not such a wooden thing on wires. [82]

Where Graham claims the ability to bring the body into therapeutic relation with a primary power, Walpole believes that power to be an illusion. Lacking the vivifying principle, Graham's actors are puppets and—despite the occasional 'novelty', scientific equipment, and some 'pretty' decorations—the Temple of Health is no more than a 'puppet show', with Graham's desire to draw a profit from a gullible audience the power pulling the strings. Complaints such as these are commonly levelled at both quacks and religious enthusiasts; however, in the last two sentences of his description of the Temple, Walpole suggests that Graham is a symptom of a more widespread disease.

Walpole compares Graham first with an opponent, and then (through Graham's younger brother) with a supporter of the American revolution. Charles Jenkinson became Secretary of War in 1778, 'in the middle of the American conflict'. [83] The tenor of his 'consistently doctrinaire' attitude to the Americans is suggested by the advice he offered Lord North in 1777: 'In my view nothing can be done with any prospect of success but to state to the Americans in plain and explicit terms, the condition on which alone you will allow them to reserve a share in their own government, and in the mean time to govern them by powers vest in the Crown'. [84] From around 1775, he was widely thought to exert secret influence on matters of government policy and even to be the King's secret adviser. In Walpole's opinion, 'there can be no doubt but Jenkinson was the director or agent of all his Majesty's secret counsels', [85] and therefore in part to blame for the government's disastrous American policies.

In contrast to Jenkinson, Mrs. Macaulay was a notorious republican and supporter of the American colonist's right to oppose tyrannical government. Her eight volume History of England was published between 1763 and 1783. Her first husband, George Macaulay, died in 1766. Twelve years later, at the age of 47, her marriage to the 21-year-old William Graham, made her a frequent object of derision.

James Graham, as I have argued, claims the ability to bring the female body into harmonious relation with a primary, male ground. Walpole's allusion to Charles Jenkinson and to William Graham suggest that James Graham has both too much and too little of the vital fluid required to achieve this goal. Jenkinson is a puppet of the King, in the same way that Graham is a puppet of the primary power he serves. Walpole writes that 'the King's views and plans were commonly as pestilent to his own interest as to his people, yet as they were often artfully conducted', Jenkinson was 'too ignorant and too incapable to have digested the measures'. Jenkinson therefore became the agent of a tyrannical central power whose policies, out of touch with the people, divided rather than harmonised the body politic. Seen in this light, Graham's slavish subjection of himself to the primary ground is both the means of his own self-advancement and a recipe for social disintegration. Whether in the political, somatic, or psychological sphere, the impositions of a tyrannical power will eventually provoke rebellion.

Paradoxically, Graham's submission to the primary force means that he lacks what is required to govern the body. Graham and Jenkinson are both in a position analogous to that of Graham's brother. William Graham, in Walpole's view, is unlikely to have the masculine power necessary to dominate his older, more famous, intellectually distinguished wife. If he were to attempt to carry out the theories of his older brother, an American revolution would engulf his household. It is Jenkinson's submission to the King's 'views and plans' that makes him unable to master the colonists. By the same token, Graham's combination of self-discipline and subjection to the primary force is in reality likely to have precisely the opposite effects to those he anticipates.

This gloomy analysis of the Temple of Health as symptom rather than cure for the 'fatal torpor which hangs like the night-mare over all the powers of this Country' was no doubt conditioned by the Gordon riots. Graham hoped that submission to a greater power would raise his countrymen above petty squabbles between countries, parties and religions. In Walpole's view, it is precisely such subjection that leads ultimately to social disintegration. Lord George Gordon, leader of the Protestant Association, and James Graham were both Scottish, a nation that, according to Walpole, is a primary source of such disorder, 'in every reign engendering traitors to the state'. [86] More importantly, as McCalman notes, Graham, like Gordon, 'campaigned for the American rebels in the 1770s, underwent a spell in Newgate, and converted to millenarianism'. In the 1780s both wrote 'tracts that thundered against popery, colonialism, war, transportation, and slavery, and excitedly invoked Priestley's millenarian mission to inaugurate the spiritual new Jerusalem'. [87]

Walpole's critique of the Temple of Health shifts attention from the imagined world and ideal body that it constructs, to the real world that it occludes. Graham constructs an aesthetic space within which, he claims, spectators can glimpse the primary force that is the ground of both the ideal body he conjures and the real world. Walpole will have none of this. The Temple destroys the detachment and tranquillity that are the necessary preconditions for a just appraisal of the real.

One imagines that Walpole would like to have put forward his neo-Gothic 'castle' at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, as antidote to the modern delusions exemplified by the Temple of Health. This 'toy' castle, with its 'papier maché fabric', collection of relics, and 'use of stage-set designs' to recreate 'the atmosphere of a medieval castle' is, like Graham's Temple, a place of illusion. However, in this instance illusion is designed to provide an indirect presentation not of a divine power but of an idealised historical tradition. As McKinney argues, 'the whimsical nature of Strawberry Hill . . . provided a direct appeal to the imagination and caused the mind to concentrate on the glories of an idealised past'. More broadly, it was designed to be 'a lasting mansion to [Walpole's] noble heritage, virtú, and ambition'. [88] Not quite a Temple, it was nevertheless, in McKinney's words, 'a personal shrine'.

It was of course difficult for Walpole to ensure that his castle was read in this manner. In a letter to the Countess of Ossory, dated 2 August 1786, he described himself in terms that recall his judgement of Graham:

Another gentlewoman was here two days ago . . . she said, 'Well, I must live another forty years to have time to see all the curiosities of this house'. These little incidents of character do not make me amends for being the master of a puppet-show, for though I generally keep behind the scenes, I am almost as much disturbed as if I constantly exhibited myself. [89]

In the burgeoning consumer society of the second half of the eighteenth century, Walpole's castle becomes a 'curiosity', a commodity that stands apart from the family tradition it wants to preserve. It is this gap between signifier and signified that pushes Walpole forward as the anxious, embarrassed author of a 'fiction' that he wants to be read not as a representation of his own desires, but as a monument to the real, family tradition of which he is part.

Walpole responds to the eclipse of religious and social traditions characteristic of modernity, and the opening of an aesthetic space in which the relation between signifier and signified is uncertain, by tying illusion to tradition. Graham also attempts to bring the signifier (the temporal) into relation with the signified (the primary power), but he does so by shifting the apparent locus of power from religion and tradition to the individual. In the open, aesthetic space of the Temple, freed from the constraints imposed by the everyday world, Graham believes that subjects will feel themselves to be (even if only momentarily) the locus of a primary sexual/religious force. As I have argued, this allows Graham to foster a dynamic—between primary power, subject-in-process, and ideal body—that secularises and psychologises religious categories in a manner that anticipates Romanticism.

The intersection of fashion and therapy, the temporal and the eternal, the body and the spirit, in Graham's therapeutic practices, however, ensure that the Temple is itself ephemeral. In the years after the Temple is closed, Graham turns to 'earth-bathing', espouses millenarian religious beliefs, and attempts to show that it is possible to live without eating, [90] in what appear to be increasingly desperate attempts to reassure himself and his audience that passion for the healthy, spiritual body will prove to be the authentic past of a future, utopian present.