[-257-] CHAPTER VIII.
Difficulty of obtaining accurate information on the subject of Lunatic Asylums in London—Private madhouses—Their number, and the number, &c., of their inmates—Public Lunatic Asylums—St. Luke's—Bethlem—Hanwell Asylum—Insanity on one particular point, while on all other points the party is quite rational —Sanity on one point, while on all others the parties are insane—Diversified ways in ‘which insanity manifests itself—Partiality of particular lunatics to particular employments—Instances given——Cunning of some lunatics—Their great physical energies—Hush Treatment they sometimes receive—General Remarks.
THE subject of Lunatic
Asylums in the metropolis, is one of great though painful interest. It is one
with the statistics of which the public are but very imperfectly acquainted.
This is easily accounted for. There is no accessible work, so far as my
knowledge extends, to which persons desirous of obtaining information on the
subject may refer. It is only by consulting a variety of pamphlets, the reports
of committees appointed to manage the affairs of lunatic asylums, and
parliamentary papers, that any approach can be made to an accurate knowledge of
the statistics of insanity in London. In none of my previous chap-ten have I had
to encounter so many obstacles in my endeavours to acquire that information on
the subject which could either satisfy my own mind, or which appeared to me
likely to prove satisfactory to my readers.
Before speaking of the public lunatic asylums in the metropolis, it may be proper to devote a small portion of my pages to private madhouses. The number of these has varied, for some years past, from 36 to 42. The latest authentic information on the subject to which I could obtain access, gives the number at 38. The number of patients in these private establishments, varied, before the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum was so generally preferred for pauper maniacs, from 2 to 560. As many as the latter number have been inmates of Hoxton House at one time. This establishment, it is proper to state, is by far the largest private madhouse in the united kingdom: it is doubtful whether it be not the largest in the world. Next to it, in point of size, and in respect to the number of patients usually in it, is the White House, Bethnal Green; and the third largest, is Bethnal [-258-] House. Of several smaller ones in the same neighbourhood, I say nothing. How it happens that that part of the metropolis has been for many years the locality of so many private lunatic asylums, especially as St. Luke's is so near to it, is a point which I cannot determine. In these three establishments there have, for a long series of years, been a greater number of insane persons than in all the other private madhouses in London taken together. Of pauper lunatics in these private houses, the number a few years since,* (*I have not been able to obtain information as to these establishments, up to the present day.) was 1369; of whom 596 were males, and 773 females. The number of inmates, not paupers, was 942; of whom 512 were males, and 430 were females; making the total number of inmates 2311. The number of cures performed in the course of the year to which I refer, was 121: of this number, 30 were male paupers, 37 female paupers, 36 males not paupers, and 18 females not paupers. The expenses vary, as a matter of course, with the diversity which obtains in the previous circumstances of the patients. In some cases the terms are as high as 2001. per annum. This class of inmates, it is unnecessary to say, receive a diet superior to that of the others, and have more attention paid to their cleanliness, and to their comfort in every other respect. Each of them has a keeper to himself. The price usually paid for the maintenance of pauper lunatics was formerly 11s. 6d. per week; but now, at the Hanwell Asylum, it is only 5s. 3d. This, it will be seen,, is a reduction of more than one half. The consequence, as might be expected, has been, that the pauper lunatics in those parishes which are in Middlesex, have been all taken from the private madhouses, and sent to the Hanwell institution. Of this institution, I shall have occasion to speak by-and-by.
The public asylums in London are only two in number. They are St. Luke's and Bethlem. The first is situated in Old Street, in the parish of St. Luke; and the other is over the water, a little beyond the Obelisk. The first of these establishments is, in a great measure, supported by the bequests of benevolent individuals. With the interest of this money, and the amount received for the different patients, the usual expenses are nearly paid: whatever deficiency there is, is made up from the City funds. The average number of patients may be given at 250. There is one regulation in this institution which deserves to be noticed: the ordinary class of patients are only taken in for one year, which is called a probationary period. If not cured by the end of twelve months, their friends are written to, to come and take them away. It is true, that there is a fund [-259-] belonging to the institution, left by a charitable person, for the permanent support of incurables; but it is only adequate to the maintenance of a limited number; and so great is the anxiety of individuals to get their insane relatives thus provided for, for life, that as many as forty candidates have, on some occasions, been put forward for a place in the incurable department, when one vacancy has occurred.
A marked change has taken place in the management of this institution, within the last quarter of a century. Previous to that time the grossest abuses prevailed in it. They were made the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, and excited great and general attention. That one human being could treat another human being in the way in which some of the inmates of this asylum were treated, at the period to which I refer, is one of those facts which may well make us blush for our species. One young lady, possessed of great accomplishments, and who had been for many years a governess in a respectable family, had been chained for some years to a wall, and was so inadequately clothed as to be almost in a state of nudity. That there was nothing in her conduct of so violent a nature as to justify this extreme rigour—to call it by the mildest-name—was proved by the fact, that when liberated and clothed, she walked about among the other patients, in the most peaceable and inoffensive manner, and employed herself in needlework.
There was another case—not to mention any more—of an individual named Norris, who had been chained to his bed for nine successive years, during which. period he had never been within the sight of fire. In addition to irons on his legs, of great massiveness, he had a collar round his neck, fastened in such a way to his bed as to compel him to lie almost constantly on his back. It was true, that he was very violent, and made an attempt on the life of one of the servants of the establishment; but means could have been taken to prevent any future attempt of the kind without resorting to such an extreme expedient as chaining him down to his bed in the manner I have described. For many years past, however, St. Luke's Asylum has been one of the best conducted institutions of a similar kind in the country. The inmates are treated with gentleness, and are allowed every liberty consistent with their own safety, and the safety and comfort of their fellow-patients.
Bethlem Asylum, which, as already mentioned, is situated on the other side of the water, near the Obelisk, contains, on an average, from 180 to 200 inmates. It is a well-conducted institution. The cures have been as numerous in it, considering the general character of the cases, as in any other similar institution that could be named.
[-260-] Perhaps a greater number of lunatics whose names have been brought prominently before the public, have been, from first to last, in that asylum, than in any other similar institution in the country. The man who shot at George the Third has been there for a long series of years; for I believe he is still alive; and the maniac who set fire to York Minster is among its present inmates.
Hanwell Asylum does not come so properly within the scope of this work; and yet, as ten or twelve of the largest parishes of London send all their pauper lunatics to that institution, it must not be omitted. The entire average number of patients in Hanwell Asylum has been, for some time past, about 600; all of whom are paupers, and are supported at the expense of their respective parishes. This institution has been attacked, both in parliament and out of parliament, on the ground of the disparity in the number of cures effected in it, as compared with most other public institutions for the reception and treatment of insane persons. It is true, the number of cures has been, proportionally, much less in Hanwell Asylum than at most other similar institutions supported at the public expense; but those who rest their condemnation of it on this simple fact, do it a very great injustice. Mr. Gaily Knight, the member for Nottingham, attacked it on this ground last session of parliament. "I hold," said he, "in my hand a calculation, resulting from an examination of twenty-six lunatic asylums.' From this calculation it appears, that the proportion of recoveries in asylums under the treatment now ordinarily pursued, is 40 per cent.; and that the lowest proportion in any asylum, but that at Hanwell, has been 33 per cent.; but the recoveries at Hanwell, in an equal space of time, have not amounted to 19 per cent. Again, from a return which was made of the state of various asylums in England, it appears that, whilst out of 100 patients treated at the other fourteen asylums, 46 were discharged cured, only 18 have been discharged cured out of an equal number, at Hanwell. Here is a frightful disparity; and how is it to be accounted for? That is what I am anxious to ascertain. Has Hanwell laboured under any disadvantages, from which other asylums are free? On the contrary, Hanwell is a comparatively new asylum; and, therefore, should not be embarrassed by that residuum of incurables, which is the difficulty with which other asylums have to contend. Neither will it be found, that Hanwell has had an unusual number of old cases; by which I mean, patients who have been some time insane previous to admission, and whose cure is thereby rendered so much the Less probable. I hold in my hand a report from the medical superintendent, which proves that, in the first year, only such were [-261-] admitted as were the most likely to benefit by the institution; that is to say, only recent cases; and I am in a condition to prove, that, since that time, the same cautious selection has been observed. It is not, therefore, in this manner that the paucity of cures can be accounted for. * * * * But if the cures have been few, the deaths have been many. In 1831, out of 427 patients, there died 99; in 1833, out of 537, there died 77; in 1834, —out of 680, the number who died was 71; in 1835, out of 611, there died 65. In the same time, out of 1132 patients admitted into Nottingham Asylum, there died 42; out of 1183, there died 326 at Hanwell."
These were certainly startling statements; and when I heard the honourable gentleman make them in the House of Commons —for I chanced to be present at the time,—I was anxious to hear how they were to be met and answered. From the ohservations of several members who spoke on the subject, it appeared that Mr. Gaily Knight must have been unacquainted with several most important facts connected with the case.
With regard to the comparative number of deaths in the Hanwell institution, and at the Nottingham Asylum, Sir George Strickland showed, conclusively, that the greater proportion which existed at Hanwell could not be ascribed to any abuses, or defective administration of affairs, in the latter place; for "the same governor, the same physician, had conducted both establishments. It can, then, I think," continued Sir George "be hardly possible, that the man who has conducted the asylum at Nottingham, upon an average of 18 per cent. of deaths, should now, at Hanwell, have 32 per cent. of deaths. I must say, therefore, that the information of the honourable member appears a little strained."
In reference to the paucity of cures, Mr. C. Barclay observed, "It has been stated that the proportion of cures effected at Hanwell is much smaller than at other places. Now, I am bound, in justice, to say, from the information I have received, that by far the greatest proportion of lunatics sent to the Hanwell Asylum, are incurables, who have been in other asylums. I am informed, that out of 600 patients now at Hanwell, 500 belong to the class of incurables." In an official letter to the magistrates of the county, in 1836, respecting the diet of the patients, Sir William Ellis, the medical superintendent* (*While this sheet is passing through the press, Sir William Ellis has resigned his situation as medical superintendent of Hanwell Asylum; and Lady Ellis, as matron of the institution. Dr. Mullingen, the author of a late work under the title of "Curiosities of Medical Experience," has been selected out of nearly one hundred candidates, in the room of Sir William Ellis. The salary is 500l. a.year.), substantiates this statement of Mr. Barclay. He says—" Nearly [-262-] all the patients admitted into this institution are old incurable cases, who have been the probationary time of twelve months, either in Bethlem or St. Luke's, or have been confined in some private madhouse; and as they remain here until death, we have consequently a great many who, from old age or debility, require a different diet from otters of the patients." This statement of Sir William's at once accounts for the paucity of cures, and the greater number of deaths, in the Hanwell Asylum, as compared with similar institutions.
It is in contemplation to enlarge Hanwell Asylum to such an extent as to provide accommodation for 900 inmates. At present it is not capable of containing more than from 610 to 620. Of late it has been quite full; and many applications for admission have been refused on account of want of room. It is believed, that when the proposed additions are made to it, there will not be any necessity for further enlargement; the number of pauper lunatics belonging to the county, rarely exceeding from 1000 to 1050.
In studying the particular forms in which insanity developes itself, I have often been struck with the utter absence of reason on particular points, while on other topics the parties could talk with the most entire coherence and rationality. A curious instance of this occurred, within the last few months, in the case of a young man with whom I had some acquaintance. He had received all the advantages of a university education, and had come to London from Scotland in the hope of being able to turn his talents and acquirements to account in this great city. His hopes, unfortunately, were not realized; and the circumstance preyed much on his spirits. The first indication I had of his mind being unhinged, was in the fact of his fancying that all the people, with but one exception, in London, had entered into a conspiracy against him. He imagined that persons whom he never saw, and whose names he only knew by report, were writing to the police authorities to have him taken up on charges of the most serious nature. For several months he came, almost daily, to me, ‘with what he conceived some new proof of the universal conspiracy against him. I endeavoured for a long time to reason him out of his ungrounded notions, but I found I had attempted a hopeless task. On every other point but this, he was as sane as any man in London; and even when conversing on that point, he displayed a singular ingenuity in his efforts to convince me that his opinions were well grounded.
There are other lunatics, again, who are insane on every point but one, and on that one are perfectly rational. I knew a maniac who had been a distinguished lawyer before his intellect was affected, and who, though his conversation and conduct [-263-] were most insane in reference to all other subjects, was rational in the highest degree whenever professional matters were talked of. His opinions on all legal difficulties were as good after his insanity, as they were when he enjoyed his reason in all its perfection; and what was more, he could go through, with the greatest method and clearness, the most intricate details of a most difficult case. So long as he confined himself to professional topics, be displayed the soundest judgment: on all other subjects he talked the greatest nonsense.
It is curious to reflect on the infinitely diversified ways in which insanity manifests itself. It is true, that with some maniacs, the disease exhibits itself in no particular form. You see their insanity in every word they speak, in every action they perform, nay, in almost every .look they give to the persons or objects around them. In their cases, instead of the imagination running wild on any particular subject, they appear to have no imagination at all. Their minds seem a perfect blank. With a majority, however, the case is different. Their fancies are not only most extravagant, but are usually exercised with the same subject. One of the most common notions which lunatics entertain is, that they are persons of distinguished rank and of great consequence in the world. A very favourite delusion is, that they are kings or princesses. Two remarkable instances of this kind lately occurred, in the cases of persons who were not only not in any asylum, but were walking at large through London.
The cases to which I refer will at once recur to the minds of my readers. One gentleman, it will be recollected, fancying himself to be the rightful sovereign of the country, was in the habit of using improper language towards our young Queen when she appeared in the neighbourhood of Kensington Palace. Another, it will be remembered, made several efforts to obtain an entrance into Buckingham Palace, under the impression that he was the legitimate successor of William the Fourth to the throne of these realms. In the London lunatic asylums there are at present a great many persons who entertain similar notions. One fancies himself the king of France; another imagines he is the monarch of the world; a third deludes himself with the idea that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. The number of Dukes of Wellington is very great; nor is there any want of Lords Melbourne. Others, again, identify themselves with the leading characters of past ages. Not long since, there was a lady of great literary accomplishments in one of the private madhouses—whether she be still alive or not, I am not in a condition to say—who imagined herself to be Mary Queen of Scots. In Bethlem there was lately a lunatic—and I believe he is there still— who fancied himself to be the Reedemer of the world. Several cases have [-264-] occurred, in which the parties imagined that they were the Deity himself. Such lunatics are, in most cases, in the habit of assuming great things: they look down on all the other inmates, and show, by the whole of their demeanour, that they deem it an act of great condescension to speak to, or even look at, their fellow-unfortunates.
In many cases, lunatics exhibit the same predilections and partialities as they did before they were bereft of reason. Not long ago, a gentleman who was exceedingly fond of stenography previous to the derangement of his intellects, and who amused himself in his leisure hours, by filling a scrap-book which lie kept with selections from English modern literature, taken in shorthand,—incessantly wrote shorthand to his own dictation, after he was placed in an asylum. Mothers who were passionately fond of their children, and whose death, it may be, was the cause of their insanity, still fancy they see those children, and address their conversation to them. Many a widow thinks and talks of her departed husband, to the exclusion of everything else: and the cases are without number, in which females whose lovers either proved inconstant or were snatched away from them by death, have their thoughts, if thoughts they can be called, occupied entirely and incessantly with the former objects of their affections.
Some years since, there was an inmate in one of the lunatic asylums, who evinced a most extraordinary taste for writing. He had been a gentleman passionately attached to literary pursuits when in possession of his reason; and the notion that he was still engaged on literary works, seemed never, for a moment, to forsake him. I was struck with his appearance as well as his occupations; for notwithstanding the unmeaning movements of his eye, and the want of a definite expression in his countenance, there was something in his largely developed forehead, and about his face generally, which must have left an impression on every one who saw him, that he must, at one time, have been one of the finest and most intellectual-looking men that ever dignified the human form. I could learn nothing of his history prior to the visitation which deprived him of his reason, farther than that -he belonged to a family of great influence and respectability in the country, and that he was not only a gentleman by birth, but a perfect gentleman in his mind, his manners, and his conduct. He had been, at the time I saw him, nearly twenty years in the asylum, and during all that period, except in the hours allotted to sleep and meals, wrote on without intermission. Being of a peaceable disposition, he had full liberty to rise and walk about, either in the ward in which, along with about twenty others, he was placed, or in the ground outside the [-265-] institution; but he constantly sat, from morning to night, in one particular part of the ward. In his notions of writing, there was something peculiar. if a quantity of clean paper were placed before bum, nothing would induce him to take up the pen: the only thing on which he would write was the margin of a book. Whether or not be read any part of the print was a point on which I could get no information from the party who directed my attention to the unfortunate man; but it was clear that his impression was, that he was making notes or remarks on the book on the margin of which he was writing. His words were all correctly spelt, but his sentences were so incoherent that it was impossible even to conjecture what ideas had been passing through his mind. In his penmanship there was something singularly neat and beautiful; it was a remarkably small hand, and was not disfigured by the omission of words, or cancels or blots of any kind. The writing, too, was very close, so that the appearance of the page—the margin being entirely written at the top and bottom, and on both sides—was worthy of preservation as a curiosity. The book on which the unhappy man was employed, when I saw him, was one of the octavo size, with a very large margin; and he had written on about three hundred pages of it. It is worthy of remark, that he not only employed himself in constantly writing in the way I have mentioned, but that he never raised his head from the stooping position in which he wrote. This was surprising; for one would have thought the pain of perpetual stooping must have been too great for him to endure; and that, for the purpose of relieving or resting himself, he would occasionally have raised his head, and assumed an erect position. He not only never spoke to any one, but took no notice of any visitor who entered the place; neither could any noise, or other occurrence in the ward, ever for a moment withdraw his attention from his employment. SO thoroughly did be appear to be absorbed with his writing, that I am convinced be would not have raised his eyes from the book had the house been falling about his ears. I never saw a man engaged in any occupation who evinced so great a pleasure in it: a smile of enjoyment constantly played on his countenance. He incessantly spoke to himself, but always in so suppressed a whisper that not even the words, far less the sentences, could be understood.
I knew another literary lunatic, if the expression be a correct one, who manifested nearly as strong a taste for reading as the one to whom I have just referred did for writing, he has been repeatedly known to read for five or six consecutive hours without pausing for a moment; and what makes the circumstance the more surprising is, that he always read aloud, and with con-[-266-]siderable rapidity. He had been a good English scholar, and was noted for the accuracy of his pronunciation and the graces of his elocution; but all traces of anything worthy the name of elocution were now lost; and as to pronunciation, what it was may be inferred from the fact that he would pronounce the word "reflections" as "roultoulfoulchiness." In fact, he rarely pronounced a word in such a way as that any one who heard him could ascertain what term it was he was mutilating. That notwithstanding his singular partiality for reading, he attached no meaning, even of his own, to the passages he perused, was clear, from the fact that though he had never known anything of any other language than the English, yet a Latin, Greek, or Hebrew book was as acceptable to him—so would have been a work full of Egyptian hieroglyphics—as one written in his own tongue.
Since on this subject, I may mention another instance of the ruling passion for literary, or rather, in this case, scientific pursuits, being strong after the dethronement of reason. The unfortunate man had been a distinguished mathematician before he was visited with the dispensation which deranged his intellects; and his chief occupation, after the occurrence of that calamity, was, as he supposed, to solve difficult problems. On one occasion, an acquaintance of mine seeing a pile of papers, all full of figures, before him, asked him what was the problem he was endeavouring to solve. His answer was one of the most striking that ever escaped human lips. " I have been trying," he said, in a tone and manner which would have become the wisest of men; "I have been trying to calculate the duration of eternity." What an answer! What an idea to enter the mind of a maniac! I was never so forcibly struck with anything I have heard in my life: the very conception was sublime in the highest degree. The wisest of us may learn an important lesson from the employment, on this occasion, of this lunatic. If men would but sit down, and try to calculate the duration of eternity—in other words, overlook for the moment the impossibility of the thing, and proceed as if the problem were one which could be solved—it would awaken in the mind the most salutary as well as solemn considerations, and probably be the means of infinite good to the person so employing himself. When Simonides, in answer to an inquiry made of him as to the nature of the Supreme Being, applied himself, for several consecutive days, to the consideration of the awful topic, he found that the more he thought on the subject, the more he was lost in its unfathomable depths. So, in like manner, the man who would set himself down, like this unhappy maniac, to try to calculate the duration of eternity, would find that the more he thought on the matter, the farther he was from the solution of the [-267-] question; and surely such a train of thought, and such a result, would have a beneficial effect on his mind.
There was something sublime, if there be not an inaccuracy in the expression, in all the manifestations of this individual's madness. He never occupied his thoughts, if thoughts they could be called, with things of an earthly nature: his mental aberrations were always in the direction of the spiritual world. He fancied himself to be on terms of the closest intimacy with a large community of immaterial beings, and that a constant correspondence by letter was carrying on between him and them. He replied, at great length, to written communications which be imagined himself to have received from some of their number, and replied to those imaginary letters in a most elaborate manner. One of his answers to a supposed communication from one of his correspondents in the air, fell into my. hands, and was in my possession for some time. It was closely written on three sides of a folio sheet of paper, and afforded abundant proofs, that previous to the deprivation of his reason, he must have been a man of distinguished scholastic attainments, as well as great intellectual vigour. There were various classical allusions in the letter, which indicated an intimate acquaintance with the writings of the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome. I was not able to detect a single instance of orthographical inaccuracy, or any defect in the punctuation; neither did I discover any violation of the rules of grammar. But for the incoherency of some of the expressions, coupled with the nature of the subject, any one who had seen the letter, without being apprized of who the writer was, would have supposed that it was the production of some literary character. This insane man individualized all his ideal correspondents: he ascribed to them various distinctive peculiarities of circumstances and character, and invested them with a great diversity of offices and rank. When writing to those of inferior rank, his manner was easy and familiar; when corresponding with those of a higher station in his imaginary community, he wrote with the profoundest respect. The letter to which I have already referred, as having been given to me, was regularly folded up, and addressed thus
(Post Paid.) To
His Most Noble and Serene Highness,
The Grand and Imperial Possessor
Of the Principal Palace
In the Spiritual Kingdom.
(in great haste.)
[-268-] When I first knew this unhappy man, he was not in a lunatic asylum; and he was then in the constant habit of putting all his letters into the post-office with his own hand, in order, as he fancied, to insure their due transmission to their several destinations. Who can read such things without being affected with the thought, that a man of great literary attainments and of powerful intellect, should be reduced to such a state of mental imbecility!
In many cases, lunatics are exceedingly cunning, and display a remarkable readiness of resources in unexpected emergencies. I could mention many instances of this, but will content myself with one. There was lately, and I am not sure whether there be not now, in one of our asylums, a lunatic, who, on the loss of his reason in the first instance—for he was repeatedly cured, though he always relapsed again—lived in a neighbouring county. Belonging as he did to a family of wealth and respectability, he was provided with a keeper as soon as the first symptoms of the disease appeared. It was hoped that the unfortunate man's lunacy would be of but temporary duration; and that, by committing him to the care of a keeper, his friends would be spared the pain of sending him to an asylum. His insanity, however, lasted much longer than his relatives had fondly hoped it would; and it was therefore eventually determined to send him to an institution for the reception of persons labouring under mental aberration, in the hope that, through the superior treatment he would there receive, an additional chance of recovery might be afforded him. On the day previous to that appointed for his being sent to the asylum, he overheard his brother giving instructions to his keeper on the subject. He took no notice of the circumstance that night, nor next morning; but when told that he, accompanied by his companion—the name by which his keeper was always called—was to have a long drive in the gig that day, he expressed himself as quite delighted with the idea, and displayed a willingness to take an airing which strongly contrasted with the reluctance he had before shown to leave the house. After breakfast, the gig was ready, and both started for the county town—about twelve miles distant—in the suburbs of which the asylum was situated. The lunatic was unusually cheerful and docile all the way; and here I should remark, that his manner was sometimes so collected and rational, that it would have been difficult to convince a stranger that his intellects were in the slightest degree affected. On reaching the principal hotel, both parties came out of the gig with a view to get some refreshment, and to enable the keeper to make some necessary preliminary arrangements for the reception of his charge into the asylum. The former, after being some time in the house, [-269-] quitted the apartment into which they were shown, for a few seconds, not deeming it necessary either to take the lunatic with him, or to turn the key of the door. The latter, watching the opportunity, agreeably to a previous determination to that effect, stole out of the house the moment the other had quitted the apartment. On the keeper missing the lunatic on his return, an alarm was given, and in less than five minutes, at least a dozen persons were engaged in an active search for the unfortunate man, the suddenness of whose disappearance was quite unaccountable to his keeper. No trace of him was to be found for two hours, and the impression began to become general among all acquainted with the circumstance, that he had by some means or other destroyed himself. Just as all hopes of ever seeing him alive again were on the eve of expiration, the lunatic appeared, to the infinite astonishment and joy of the person entrusted with his safe keeping. But where he had been during his absence, was a point which, notwithstanding all the efforts that were made with that view, could not be elicited from him. Where does the reader suppose he was, or in what way employed? That was a piece of information which his keeper learned to is cost in a few hours after the lunatic's return. The latter bad been to the asylum for which his friends had destined himself, and having procured access to the proper party, gave his, keeper's name as his own, and represented him as being Mr. So-and-so, the brother of Mr.— As it was not only well known at the asylum that the latter gentleman had a brother who was at that time labouring under insanity, but as, on the —previous day, notice had been received that the lunatic was to he sent to the asylum, the remainder of his story was the more readily believed. "Now," says he, addressing himself to the manager of the institution, "the lunatic is remarkably clever and singularly cunning; and—"
"Oh, a great many of our patients are so," interrupted the superintendent of the institution. "We see instances of cunning and shrewdness every day, which the wisest of us could not exceed."
"I have no doubt of it," observed the lunatic, with the greatest apparent self-possession, and seemingly in the most rational manner possible. "I have no doubt of it; none whatever. 1 have seen many cases of it myself; but this unhappy man exceeds in cunning and shrewdness any one I ever beard of. Why, he would almost deceive the—"
‘ Oh, he won't deceive us," interrupted the other hastily; "we are too well accustomed to such things."
"I'm happy to hear it," continued the lunatic. "My only reason for coming out here, before taking him with me, was, that I might acquaint you with the circumstance beforehand."
[-270-] "That was unnecessary: let him try all the tricks he chooses, they will be lost here," remarked the other, with a self-consequential air, as if he were beyond the power of ingenuity to deceive.
"Very good," observed the lunatic, in a satisfied tone. "I shall bring him here in an hour or so: I have left him at the Fountain hotel, in the care of a friend."
"We shall be ready for him," said the superintendent of the place, in that careless sort of tone which is so characteristic of men in authority.
"Good morning, Sir," said the lunatic, turning on his heel as he was about to quit the apartment.
"Good morning," echoed the others in the same ha1f-civil, half-reserved tone as before.
"Oh,. I beg your pardon !" said the lunatic, hastily turning~ round, and advancing a few steps towards the manager of the institution~ "I beg your pardon, Sir, but I entirely forgot to mention the particular way in which his madness manifests itself."
"Ay, true; that is of some importance to us," observed the ether. "In what way is it?"
"Why, he has the notion that every one else is mad but himself."
"Oh! that is quite a common impression among persons in his state."
"Yes; but singularly enough, his notion is, that I am the insane party, and that he is my keeper. You may rely upon it, that the very moment we arrive, he will affirm in the most positive terms, and with the utmost earnestness of manner, that such is the fact; and then he will desire you to take me into the asylum."
"Poor fellow !" said the other, with some slight indications of feeling. "Poor fellow !—but there is nothing too extraordinary for these unhappy beings to fancy."
"I thought it right to inform you of the fact," said the lunatic, in order that you might not he taken by surprise."
"Oh, there was not the slightest danger of that. We are too well accustomed to such things, to be deceived either by their affirmations or representations."
"Good morning, then, for the present" said the lunatic, as he quitted the superintendent's apartment.
"Good morning," mumbled the latter.
In about two hours afterwards, a gig, with two persons in it, was seen to drive up to the gate of the institution: it was opened, and both proceeded to the door. As they entered the place,— "Here is an unfortunate individual," said the lunatic address-[-271-]ing himself to the superintendent, "whom you will be kind enough to take every care of."
The other was so confounded by the unexpected observation, that he was unable, for some seconds, to utter a word.
"Very good," said the superintendent of the institution; "we'll take care of him," at the same time laying hold of the astonished keeper of the lunatic, by the breast of the coat.
"Sir, sir—sir ~" stammered the confounded man; ‘you labour under a mistake: that," pointing to the lunatic, "is the person to be committed to your care. I-I-I brought him here." -
"No doubt' of it," said the overseer, still dragging the hapless wight forward, assisted by another servant of the establishment, to the part of the asylum for which be was intended.
"Gracious Heavens, Sir? what is the meaning of this ?" exclaimed the luckless party, half suffocated with astonishment and indignation, and struggling hard to disengage himself from the grasp of the parties.
"Come away, my good man, quietly with us," said the superintendent, soothingly. "By all that's sacred, Sir !" shouted the other, with the utmost vehemence, "I'm not the lunatic; that is he," again pointing to the actual party.
"I knew it all: I told you how it would be," said the latter in a steady voice, and with the greatest self-possession.
"This way," said the superintendent, carelessly, still dragging the unfortunate party forward.
"It's a mistake, Sir, by –"
"Oh, there's no mistake, my good man; no mistake," interrupted the guard of the place.
"No mistake," echoed the lunatic, with the most perfect nonchalance, displaying all the while the most rational demeanour.
"Sir," shouted the unfortunate party; "Sir, are you serious. Are you aware of what you're about?"
"Perfectly serious, perfectly aware of what we're doing," replied the superintendent, drily.
"Sir, I'm not the lunatic; that is the lunatic," pointing a third time to the proper party. "Let go your hold, or you retain it at your peril," vociferated the other.
"Never mind the poor fellow: I told you how he would conduct himself, and what he would say," observed the lunatic.
A few pulls more, and the astonished and enraged party was actually dragged into his destined apartment. When both the superintendent and the inferior servant let go their hold, I leave the reader to fancy what were the feelings of the poor wight.
[-272-] "Quite safe now; he's in our custody now; and you are relieved from all further responsibility," said the superintendent to the insane party, the moment he had shut the door on the supposed lunatic.
"All right," said the real lunatic, as if relieved of a heavy load of responsibility. "The family of the unfortunate man will make the necessary arrangements as to expense."
"Oh, that's all settled already; the necessary arrangements were made yesterday, when the first intimation of his coming here was sent to us."
"So I understood," said the lunatic, in a matter-of-course sort of style; and with that, he quitted the place; and springing into the gig, which had remained at the gate all this time, drove away home again, as if he had been the most sane man in his majesty's dominions.
It is impossible to describe the mingled surprise and consternation with which his relatives and friends were seized on his return home. Their first apprehension on missing his keeper, was, that he had murdered him on the way; and their fears were only partially calmed by his assuring them, in answer to their inquiries as to what had become of his companion, that when they both proceeded to the asylum, the parties having charge of the institution insisted that he was the lunatic, and took him under their care accordingly. An express was sent off to the asylum, to inquire whether the parties had been there at all, when the messenger found, to his unutterable surprise, that the facts were as the lunatic had represented; and as the messenger's statements and protestations as to the mistake which had been committed, were equally discredited with those of the unfortunate party himself the latter was not liberated until the following day.
The great physical exertion of which many insane persons are capable, as compared with their strength when in a sound state of mind, has often been the surprise of those who have had an opportunity of witnessing the circumstance. I knew one lunatic who was constitutionally weak and infirm while possessed of his reason, but who, when deprived of it, became so vigorous or strong, in a physical sense, that it required three men to hold him. Not less surprising is the amount of fatigue which lunatics are frequently capable of enduring. Some years ago, I knew a gentleman who had been kept some weeks by his relations, after he had become insane, before being sent to a madhouse, and he was for nearly forty consecutive days, that he did not sleep above one hour out of the twenty-four, and even then without putting off his clothes; and yet he did not appear as if the least exhausted by his deprivation of sleep and rest. I should also [-273-] mention, that during all that time, he continued to talk to those about him with scarcely the intermission of a moment. The fluency of his conversation, and the cleverness and point of many of his observations, I should likewise state, quite astonished me. In no case did he hesitate an instant either for ideas or words; nor did he, in a single instance, stutter or use an improper term. About the same time, I chanced to see, in the house of her parents, a young female lunatic, now, I am sorry to say, in an asylum, who, I was assured, spoke without intermission for eight successive days and nights without ceasing, on being first seized with insanity. She never closed her eyes in sleep during all that time; and what made the circumstance of her being able to endure so much physical fatigue the more astonishing, was, that every sentence she tittered in the course of the eight days, was spoken with as much distinctness, and in as loud a tone, as if she had been addressing some public meeting of moderate size. She, also, like the lunatic just referred to, was of a feeble constitution, of sickly appearance, and often complained of bodily weakness as well as of general bad health.
I know of no sight more affecting in a world in which there are so many affecting sights, than that of the interior of a madhouse. Whet could be more melancholy than to see an assemblage of our fellow beings, all of whom were at one time equally gifted with ourselves, with the greatest and best of the Deity's gifts to men—the gift of reason—divested of all traces of rationality, had showing by their conduct that, in that respect, they are much below many of the lower animals! The spectacle is a truly pitiable one. Some time ago I was in an asylum in which there were about thirty lunatics in one ward. It was a sight not to be looked on without feelings of the most painful nature under any circumstances; but to myself, and to those who were with me on the occasion, it was doubly touching, in consequence of the particulars communicated to us respecting several of the unhappy individuals by one of the officers of the institution. It was, therefore, not necessary in our case, that we should put our imaginations in requisition, and endeavour to form some idea of the circumstances in which the helpless beings before us were previous to the derangement of their intellects, and then contrast those circumstances with the condition in which we beheld them. The contrast could not have been more striking, had we given full reins to our fancy as to what they previously were, and how they had been circumstanced. Some of them had distinguished themselves by their scholastic attainments: of one of the parties, indeed, it might be said, that too much learning had made him mad. There were others who had earned for themselves a reputation in scientific and philosophical pursuits; while [-274-] there were at least three who had been in excellent business as professional men. Two were connected by close relationship with aristocratic families; and all of them, in one word, had been accustomed to every earthly abundance. The high terms, indeed, of admission and maintenance, in the particular part of the institution in which they were placed, afforded presumptive proof that either they themselves must have possessed some property, or that their relations must have been in easy circumstances. Some of them had been the idol of their circle of acquaintances; others had been revered and beloved as husbands, parents, brothers, sons, or near relatives. They had been themselves happy in the bosom of their families; and were the source of joy and felicity to all within their domestic sphere, just as the sun is the source of light and beat to the world. One had been but a few months married; another was on the eve of union -with an amiable and virtuous woman. How altered their situation now! What could be more striking than the contrast between what they once were, and what I beheld them? The joys of friendship or affection were no longer theirs. Friend! The word was to them an unmeaning sound. Wife, mother, father, brother, sister, children, were terms which might now be uttered in their hearing without calling up one idea in their minds: they were to them as unmeaning as the wildest sounds which ever escaped the lips of the savage who roams the forest. In the moral world, all was a perfect blank: in the mental world, all was either utter darkness itself, or it was peopled with the strangest and most fantastic shapes. Even the physical world could only be said to have remained to them in a qualified sense. To many of them the change in the seasons afforded no enjoyment. They seemed incapable of perceiving any difference between the inclemency of a severe winter, and the geniality of the summer season. To them it mattered not whether the sun shone or shrouded himself amidst the clouds; whether it was fair or foul; -whether it was night or day. None of these changes, ever-recurring though they be, and though bearing so largely on the happiness of the human race generally, ever appeared to have come within the circle of their consciousness. They could be said, indeed, to exist in no other sense than as mere animals; and as animals, moreover, of the very lowest class. Where, I again repeat, could one go to witness a more touching scene than this? In every situation of life, and amidst the infinitely varied circumstances of this ever-changing world, the man of reflection finds something to excite his commiseration, and to call forth his sympathies; but in the wide range of human misfortune and human misery, there is no misfortune so great, no misery so deep, no spectacle so truly pitiable, as that [-275-] which the interior of a lunatic asylum presents to our contemplation.
And yet there are persons— will the fact be believed ?—who can treat these poor creatures with the greatest harshness and cruelty. Some years ago, the most horrible disclosures were made before a committee of the House of Commons, as to the unredeemed inhumanity with which the inmates of a private lunatic asylum were treated by those who had the charge of them; and this not occasionally, but habitually. Until those disclosures were made, and were verified beyond all possibility of doubt, I had thought that such instances of barbarity could never have occurred in a Christian or civilized land. As the asylum to which I refer still exists, I will not name it. Part of the cruelties exercised were of such a nature as to render a detail of them unfit to meet the public eye. Other instances of the barbarities systematically committed in the institution, can only be described in general terms. But, in order to preclude the possibility of being suspected, either unintentionally or otherwise, of any, even the slightest exaggeration on this subject, I will quote some portions of the evidence given. Similar cases of cruelty have occurred of a much later date; but for reasons which will occur to most persons, I go as far back as to evidence published several years since by a select committee of the House of Commons, appointed to inquire into the state of private madhouses in the metropolis. I shall only further premise, that a number of such cases of ill-usage, as those recorded in what follows, were brought to light by that committee, and by the committee which sat on the same subject, at a much later date.
MRS. MARY H- called in, and examined.
‘What was the motive of your coming to this committee ?—I came to answer any questions that the committee might put to me respecting madhouses.
How long have you been come to England ?—I arrived here on Saturday night.
Where did you come from last ?—From M
Did your brother write you to attend this committee ?—He did.
How long were you resident in the house of Mr. —, at —?—Three years, within six weeks.
In what capacity ?—Housekeeper.
By whose recommendation did you gain that situation ?—Mr. Rogers told me of the situation, and I went to Mr. —.
Your brother was then acting as surgeon to the establishment ?—He was.
It was through his recommendation to Mr. —, that you obtained the situation ?—It was.
[-276-] During the time that you were resident as housekeeper at Mr. —‘s, did you observe anything in the management of that house which, knowing the objects of the inquiries of this committee, you think it necessary to state ?—I know that patients were very ill-treated; a vast number of them.
How long have you left ?—I left on the 6th of August, in 181— State to the committee what those acts of ill-treatment were, to which you have alluded.—Samuel R—'s ill-treating Mr. Driver, a farmer, from the country.
Did you see that yourself ?—I did.
State what you saw.—It was one morning, when I was sitting behind the table, at breakfast time, I heard a terrible noise on the gentlemen's side up stairs. I went up in consequence, and found Samuel R ill-treating Mr. Driver, by beating him with a pair of boots, in a most dreadful manner.
Was he in bed ?—Yes, he was in bed: he had beat him out of bed, and the young man ran down the gallery, with Samuel after him.
Was he in his shirt ?—Yes.
What steps did you take ?—I went to Mr. —, and told him of it.
What was Mr. —‘s answer ?—He said he knew Samuel was a cruel brute.
Was nothing further done than making that observation ?—Nothing more.
You did not hear Mr. — reprimand Samuel R for that conduct ?—No, I did not.
Is there any other case that you can state, as to the harsh treatment by this keeper of the patients under his charge ?—His general conduct was extremely brutal.
In what way ?—In kicking the patients, and thumping them sadly. In striking them with his fists, and kicking them ?—Yes. Captain D—he used extremely ill when he was under his care. In what way ?—In striking him, and using him extremely ill.
Was Mr. — acquainted with his conduct to Captain D— ?— He was.
How do you know that ?—I heard the conversation.
What was that conversation ?—Mr. John D—, Mr. — and Mr. were together, in the poor women's yard; they heard a noise, and looked through the pales, and saw Sam striking Captain D— in a dreadful manner while confined in a waistcoat. They came up to the house together, and I heard Mr. D— say, "Sam is too great a brute to have the management of patients, and you ought to send him away." Mr. — said, "I will see about it," or something to that effect. In what year did that happen ?—I believe about ten or eleven months before I left the house; but I cannot exactly say.
How long was R— a keeper after that time ? —I left him a keeper when I came away.
Will you take upon yourself distinctly to state to the committee, that, to your knowledge, Mr. — was acquainted with the cruel conduct of R—to the patients under his charge, and yet continued him as keeper up to the period of your quitting the establishment ?—Yes.
[-277-] Have you any other statement to make, as to the conduct of R—? He used to treat Mr. Holmes exceedingly bad. In what way did he treat him had? By striking him.
Was it the constant practice of R— to strike the patients in the house? It was.
Was there anything particular in the conduct and behaviour of the three patients you have mentioned, that seemed to render coercion and severe treatment more necessary in their case than in that of other patients ?—No. Captain D—~ was m a very high state of disorder; but after taking to his bed, it was myself that waited and attended on him, and gave him every things which he took without the least force.
With respect to Mr. Driver, in what state of disease was he ?—He was a little high at times, but nothing to require his being confined, or anything of that kind
Was be manacled ?~-Very seldom.
With respect to Mr. Holmes ?—He was perfectly harmless.
Were you acquainted with a person of the name of Isabella Adams? —She was a patient in the house
What species of patient ?—She belonged to St. G— parish.
Was she often in a state of great irritation ?—Not very frequently. When she was in that state, where was she confined ?—She was confined in a place in the yard.
Describe the nature of that place.—It was originally a pig-stye; it was run up high on purpose for her. I have seen her confined there for three weeks together.
Was she ironed ?—She had been ironed there in the crib, with wrist-locks and leg-Iocks and a chain two or three times across her body.
Was there an iron bar placed between~ her legs, in order to prevent her joining her feet together? —There was. Mr. — had the bar made on purpose for her.
For what purpose was that bar, as she was chained to her crib ?—It was not used when she was chained to her crib, but when she was allowed go go about.
For what purpose was it used ?—To confine her, that she shonld not get away; to prevent her from escaping.
For how long together have you ever seen her using that bar ?—Indeed, I cannot say. At different times she has had it.
For a month together ?—I do not conceive she wore it so long as that. A fortnight ?Perhaps a week.
Describe the nature of the bar, and the way it was used.— It was confined to each ankle with a chain, coming up her body, which was attached to her handcuffs.
Do you know what was the weight of that chain ?—I cannot say, indeed.
What was the size of it ?—It was very large.
As thick as your middle finger ?—It might possibly be as thick as that. Could she walk with it?—Yes.
Was she a very furious patient?—No; a very harmless patient; you might sit and talk to her when she was in the highest state.
[-278-] Was she ever employed in domestic purposes about the house ?—Yes, she was.
In what situation ?—Scouring the rooms.
Was she ever employed in the kitchen ?—Not while I was there.
Have you ever heard she was before ?—I have; but not while I was there.
Was there a female keeper in that establishment, of the name of B— W— ?—Yes.
What was her character ?—She was a very turbulent woman; very harsh and cruel to the patients.
Did you ever see her ill-treat Isabella Adams ?—Yes.
Describe what you have seen her do to her.—I have seen her lock her down in her crib with wrist-locks and leg-locks, and horsewhip her; and I have seen the blood follow the strokes.
Have you seen her often horsewhip her ?—I have, sundry times: three or four times.
Did she do it of her own freewill and pleasure, or did she do it by the order of any one else ?—By the order of Mr. —.
Did you hear Mr. — give those orders ?—He gave them to me; and I begged him to tell B— — himself.
What were those orders, to the lest of your recollection ?—B——--—, I desire you to go and take Isabella Adams, confine her to her crib, and give her a good horsewhipping.
Do you recollect what she had been doing?—She had been trying to make her escape.
Did you ever complain to Mr. — of the ill-treatment that Isabella Adams received ?—Yes.
What was his answer ?—He said that he had leave from the gentlemen of the parish; that they told him, the best thing he could do was to give her a good horsewhipping.
Has she made her escape out of the house more than once ?—Several times.
What was the nature of the whip that B—— used to horsewhip Isabella Adams with ?—A whip with a whalebone handle, and a long lash: a sort of dog whip.
Was the situation in which Isabella Adams was confined, extremely cold ?—Very cold.
What covering had she ?—A rug.
Did she appear to suffer from cold ?—She was extremely ill for some time after she came out.
Ill of what ?—She used to go double, and was very much emaciated. Was she much straitened for room ?—No; she had the usual allowance of room.
Had she a good allowance of food ?—She had the common allowance for poor people: sometimes she did not take her food for two days together
The above were not isolated cases: a great many, fully as bad, and several even worse, were brought to light, not only by the [-279-] committee of 1816, but by that of 1827. I have selected the above cases, simply because they are more fit for publication than many others. It was proved, by the examination of witnesses of undoubted integrity, that in one house a number of patients were regularly chained, in the coldest days of winter, to the walls of their cribs, from Saturday afternoon, at four o'clock, till Mon day morning, at eight; and that it was no uncommon thing to have them washed in a tub of water with a mop, when there was ice on the water. It was proved, that one poor unfortunate man had bad his eye knocked out by the keeper, whom he had offended: that another had been dreadfully cut on the head by a forcible blow with a key; and that, in a number of cases death had been the result of the cruelties which had been practised towards the poor creatures by those who were paid to protect them, and to afford them all the comfort in their power.
But this is a topic on which I will not dwell. Since then happily a great improvement has taken place in the treatment of insane persons in private madhouses. In some of these establishments, it is but justice to say, the unfortunate parties are as well taken care of, and are in every respect as comfortable, as if they were with their friends at home. I need hardly add, that as there is so great a difference in the treatment of the unfortunate insane in different private madhouses, even where the terms are the same, the friends of any such unhappy persons incur a fearful responsibility, when they fail to make the proper inquiries as to which of the asylums afford the best protection, and practise the kindliest treatment.
It was the detection of the gross abuses and shocking cruel ties which obtained in many of the leading private madhouses in London some years ago, which led to the erection of the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. To the pauper lunatics of the county, that asylum has, indeed, proved a boon of incalculable value.
In the course of my inquiries into the statistics of lunatic asylums in the metropolis, I ascertained that many of the inmates had been confined for fifteen or sixteen years, without having once, all that time, crossed the threshold of the institution. There were several who had been shut up in these asylums for twenty years; and, in one or two cases, there were parties who had been there upwards of a quarter of a century*. (* Mr. Bakewell, the keeper of a private madhouse at Spring Vale, near Wakefield, stated, in his evidence before a Committee the House of Commons, appointed to inquire into the subject of insanity, that he knew a man who had been, for the singularly long period of fifty years, a lunatic in a private asylum; and that, during all that time, he had been confined to a small dark dungeon of an apartment, almost in a state of nudity, and never rising off the heap of straw which was all he had for a bed during all that time. I ought also to mention, that he never once saw fire, or felt its genial warmth, in the course of those fifty years Neither was he visited, except a very few times, by any human being half a century in one spot, and without the light of fire To what affecting considerations is the fact calculated to give rise!) What, per-[-280-]haps, is more remarkable is, that in various instances, the maniacs who were longest in the institution were amongst the most frantic and ungovernable of the inmates, and were consequently obliged to be repeatedly kept, by chains or otherwise, closely to their own apartments. What struck me as very singular, was the fact of the human frame being able to support so much mental violence, or such a high state of excitement, as the technical phrase is, for so long a period; and this, too, without one moment's lucid interval. Yet so it was. And what is more surprising still, these persons were, in most cases, among the most healthy inmates in the various institutions. This is a physiological anomaly for which I am unable to account. I can easily enough conceive how a lunatic may endure more than ordinary physical fatigue, and make more than the usual physical exertion for the first few weeks after he is visited with the malady; on the same principle as a person, stimulated by ardent spirits, or fired by some other exciting cause, often displays an amount of physical strength to which he would be unequal in ordinary circumstances: the difficulty with me, in the case of the class of lunatics to which I refer, is, how their frames can bear up under this constant violence of manner, this unintermitting high state of excitement, for a long succession of years.
It is a fact which will surprise those who were not before aware of it, that many cases have been discovered, in the recent annals of the private madhouses of London, of persons having been for a long period—in some instances, for several years— confined in these institutions, who, before they were sent thither, and all the time they were inmates, were as sane as any man in Great Britain. It will be asked, how came they, then, to be sent to these places? In a number of cases they were so from their friends mistaking certain peculiarities or eccentricities in their manner, for insanity. Not later than towards the close of the last session of parliament, I heard Mr. Wakley, the member for Finsbury, state in his place in the House of Commons, that he himself knew a gentleman, then moving in a respectable sphere of society, who a short time before had been consigned by his friends to a lunatic asylum, under the impression that he was insane. And what does the reader suppose was the ground on which those friends rested their belief in his insanity? Simply, as Mr. Wakley stated to the house, that he happened to feel very strongly in favour of a certain class of political principles— whether Tory, Whig, Radical, or Republican, Mr. Wakley did not say,—and that his zeal for the spread of his views led him to be somewhat forward in endeavouring to make proselytes to [-281-] his principles. Poor fellow! be was a living martyr to his political faith, with a vengeance.
Novelists and writers of tales often construct their stories on the singularly affecting circumstances under which lovers, friends, and acquaintances sometimes meet. I know of no meeting which could be more affecting to the relatives and friends of the parties, than that of those who were dear to each other, in a lunatic asylum. Some years since, a father and grown-up daughter, who were most affectionately attached to each other, were both inmates of St. Luke's at the same time; both having by a painful coincidence been visited with insanity within a short period of each other, though neither, so far as I have been able to learn, ever exhibited any symptoms of it before. And within the last few weeks, a case has been verbally communicated to me, by a gentleman who was personally cognizant of the fact, in which two brothers, between twenty and thirty years of age, were both visited with mental alienation within a few weeks of each other; and so decided was their insanity, that it became necessary to send both to an asylum. They were both sent to the same institution; and, touching thought! sent on the same day, and in each other's company. It was a remarkable fact in the case of these unfortunate young men, that not only was their attachment singularly strong towards each other, but their tastes, views, and habits, were so alike as to amount to a species of Siamese sympathy. And yet, when they became insane, nothing could exceed the dislike which the one entertained to the other: they seemed then to act on the principle of antipathy: what the one liked, the other hated, and vice versa.
In a former part of the chapter, I adverted to the fact of some lunatics talking with great rationality on all other points but one; a modification of the disease generally called monomania, or hallucination of mind. In most of the cases of this kind which have come under my observation, the parties have exhibited a marked predilection for dwelling, in their conversation with others, on the particular topic on which their minds were insane—so very strong a predilection for talking on the subject, that it was with difficulty you could divert their minds for a short time from it. There are occasional cases, however, in which the insanity of individuals not only manifests itself on a particular point, but they can, if not led to that point by accident, abstain from introducing it into conversation with others, and probably, also, from thinking of is~ themselves, for weeks and months at a time. The most remarkable case of this kind which has been brought before the public, for some years past, was that of Captain Good, now an inmate in Bethlem, and to which I referred, when speaking of lunatics fancying themselves [-282-] to be sovereigns. It will be remembered, that about six months ago, this individual—a gentleman by birth, education, and manners—committed two or three outrages on the Queen, and was afterwards ascertained to have been as decidedly mad as a human being could well be imagined to be. Yet it was proved by the landlady, with whom he had lived for several months in Regent.. street, that his conduct, so far as she saw, was perfectly rational and orderly. Nothing was seen amiss in his manner, even on the days on which he behaved so insanely in the presence of the Queen. His brother also stated, that he had heard whispers of his being insane some time before this; but that, after a lengthened interview, and a great deal of conversation on every variety of topic with him, he thought for some time that he was as sane as himself. It seems to have been the thought of the Queen, or of Kensington Palace, in which she then resided, that brought to his mind the point on which he was deranged, and made him so outrageous. It also appeared, that the moment the Queen was out of his sight, or he had quitted the neighbourhood of Kensington, his mind resumed its sanity: for it was proved that he talked and acted quite rationally, an hour or two after he had conducted himself so frantically in the presence of Her Majesty. It will be remembered that the unfortunate man was brought before Lord Chief Justice Denman, in the Court of Queen's Bench, in November last, in consequence of the outrage he had offered to her Majesty. As the whole of the proceedings afforded a curious illustration of the particular way in which insanity works on some minds, I will here quote the report without alteration which appeared in the public journals, of the examination he underwent before Lord Denman.
Saturday, November 18, 1837.
This morning, on the sitting of the Court, Captain John Good was brought in, and placed upon the floor of the court; he was very well dressed, and had a star on his left breast: he kept his hat on his head.
Usher—Take off your hat, Sir. Captain Good—I will not: I am the King of England.
Earl Spencer, Earl Glenelg, Sir John Nicol, Sir Herbert Jenner, and Sir Frederick Pollock, then entered the court, and took the oaths of allegiance. On their swearing to be true and faithful to Queen Victoria, Captain Good said, "A usurper; what a villanous oath that is !"
The privy councillors having retired, Captain Good was politely asked by the officers of the court to come forward.
Captain Good then addressed their Lordships—I beg to observe, my Lord, that this is an illegal Court; the Court of a usurper; the Court of Princess Victoria, the usurper. The throne of England is mine; I am King John the Second.
Lord Denman, with much mildness—Should you not take off your [-283-] hat? Captain Good—I can't take off my hat, my Lord, without giving up my claim to the throne of England which I do not intend to do, I assure your Lordship. My Lord, in my mother's lifetime, you once acted honourably and nobly.
The indictment was then read, which charged him as a man calling himself John the Second, and also with having used seditious language in the presence of Her Majesty.
Captain Good—This is a — infernal —. I will have you off the throne.
Upon being asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, he said, "I will not plead before this Court; it is the Court of a usurper.
The Attorney-General—I now, my Lord, pray an inquest, under the 29th & 30th Geo. III., to try whether this gentleman is now of sound mind, or insane.
Lord Denman—Is the Sheriff in attendance? This being answered in the affirmative, The Attorney-General said—My Lords, at common law, it has been determined that the second section of the act applied to misdemeanours.
Captain Good—You want to get rid of a bad prosecution. You want to get rid of it on the ground of my insanity. I am as sane as you are.
A jury was then sworn, to try whether John Good was insane or not.
Captain Good—Why am I not tried for high treason?
The Attorney~Genera1—Gentlemen of the jury, in a few words, I may explain the nature of these proceedings. The unfortunate gentleman who stands before you, is indicted for having spoken seditious words in the presence of her Majesty, as her Majesty was returning from Brighton to the Palace, on the 4th of November; and there is every reason to believe that he is not responsible for his acts. By the humanity of the common law of England, no person, who is in an unsound state of mind, shall he put upon his trial; and it is directed, that when any person shall be called upon to plead to an indictment, and there is reason to believe him not to be of sound mind, an inquest shall be immediately taken, to ascertain that fact; and if be is found to be insane, his trial must be postponed until he shall have recovered. A most salutary act passed in the 39th & 40th years of George III., wherein it is enacted, that where any person, indicted for any offence, shall, upon his arraignment, be found to be insane, he is not to be discharged until the pleasure of the sovereign shall be known; but that the finding of the jury be recorded; and the Court shall make an order that he be placed in confinement at the pleasure of the sovereign, as her Majesty shall think fit.
Captain Good—That statute was made on purpose for me.
The Attorney-General—By another section of that act, it is enacted, that if any insane person, without actually committing an offence, shall try to commit one, that that person may have proceedings taken against him; and that that person may be put into confinement, so that he may be no longer dangerous.
[-284-] Captain Good—That statute was made expressly for the purpose of meeting my case.
The Attorney-General—I will now state the history of this unfortunate gentleman. He served ten years in the army, and was a most excellent officer, having the good opinion of all men. In the year 1834. he left his regiment (10th Foot), and was promoted to half-pay. He had always conducted himself in the most proper and gentlemanly manner; but it unfortunately happened, about the month of October last, that his understanding became impaired: he was still, however, rational upon every subject but one. He had taken the strange notion into his head, that he was entitled to the throne of England: he said he was the son of George the Fourth; and insisted upon it, that he ought to reign over this kingdom. He had remained under that delusion to the present hour; and you have been witnesses of that delusion, by his conduct in this court. When the oaths of allegiance were being administered, he said her Majesty was a usurper. I shall prove to you, that in the month of October last, in the presence of his own brother, he declared he did not stand in any relationship to him; and that he was the sovereign, and had the right to command the services of all the officers in the army. Down to the present hour, he labours under that delusion. Gentlemen, I will call the surgeon who has attended him lately, and he will tell you, that whenever he talks upon this subject, he breaks out in the manner you have heard. He says her Majesty is a usurper. Under these circumstances, he is not a fit subject for punishment; he will be humanely and properly taken care of, and will not longer be dangerous, as he would, if suffered to go at large. I am sure, if he were of sane mind, be would be a most loyal subject of the sovereign, and would be the first to come forward to protect her.
W. H. Good, Esq., having been called,
Captain Good said—When a villain comes before his lawful sovereign, and shall conspire and compass the death of his liege lord, be shall be hung, drawn, and quartered; and (addressing his brother, who was then passing him in his way to the witness-box,) that is your sentence, and your death is recorded in the Court of King's Bench.
W. H. Good, Esq., was then examined by Mr. Wightman.
You are the brother of Captain Good, I believe ?—I am the brother of Captain John Good.
You are in the 10th regiment of Foot?—I am.
Was your brother also in the 10th regiment ?—He was also in the 10th regiment, for a period of nine or ten years.
When did he leave that regiment?—! think in the year 1834, on promotion to half-pay.
Did you remain with the regiment after he quitted?—I did, till August last.
Did you then see your brother ?—I arrived in London the let of October; I left the Mediterranean in August.
Did you call upon your brother ?—I called upon my brother on the 12th.
Where did you find him ?—118, Regent-street.
[-285-] Captain Good. You know, you villain, you are not my brother: how dare you claim relationship to the blood-royal of England?
Evidence continued. Tell us what passed between you?—He received me first in a rational manner; and I had reason then to hope that the reports I had heard, as to his state of mind, were unfounded. Very shortly afterwards, he stood up, and asked me in what relationship I considered him to stand towards me? I replied, that of brother. He said, "No, Sir; you are the son of an officer in my service, and occupy your proper place in society. I am King of England. I am King John the Second." From that time, his language was incoherent. He said Queen Victoria was a usurper, and that he would have her off the throne.
Captain Goad—YOU are trembling on the verge of the grave, Sir, remember.
Examination continued. Did you leave him?—l left him at that time: be disclaimed me as his brother. In the afternoon of the same day, I paid him another visit; and I found he had given orders that I should not be admitted. As soon as I entered the room where he was, he told me that he was King of England, and took up his hat, and walked away, repeating again that he was lawful heir to the throne.
Have you seen him since ?—I saw him once in Water1oo-place we passed each other, but did not speak.
That was the last personal communication?—Yes; that was the last personal communication.
By Lord Denman. .Had you been on affectionate terms with your brother ?—Most particularly so.
There was no cause of quarrel ?—None whatever.
Alice Collins was then called; but Lord Denman asked if it was requisite to go further.. His Lordship then addressed the jury.—Gentlemen,! don't know whether you want any further evidence. There might be a question whether the unfortunate man should not he called upon; but that would bean improper mockery, and would only lead to lengthened observations, without altering the result. If you are of opinion that this unfortunate gentleman is not of sound mind, you will say so by your verdict.
Jury - Perfectly unsound.
The Attorney-General – It is now my duty to move, my Lords, that this finding be recorded; and that your Lordships will be pleased to order that John Good be kept in strict custody till her Majesty's pleasure be known.
Lord Denman—Be it so.
Captain Good—I declare, before this Court, that I will impale the royal family; that I will drag, from the sepulchre at Windsor, the bones of their ancestors, and burn them before their faces; that I will order a brig-of-war to be anchored off the Tower, in which their bones shell be placed~ and cast into the deepest part of the Atlantic. I will draw out their bowels. I will draw out the bowels, and embowel the Russian and Dutch embassies, the true foes of England and hang them on the Tower. ‘This is my sentence, pronounced on the floor of the Court of [-286-] King's Bench; and, so help me God! I will perform it; for I will regard as an accomplice any one who dares to intercede for them.—.(This was delivered with great warmth, accompanied with considerable action.)
Lord Denman—Let him now be taken back to the custody from which he was brought here.
Captain Good then turned round, and quietly walked out, having first said, in an authoritative tone, "Make way." He was guarded by a number of officers, but treated throughout by all as a gentleman.
There is every reason to believe that insanity has not yet been treated with that scientific skill of which the disease is susceptible. This, at all events, is the impression of most of our present eminent physicians. The question then suggests itself, How are the defects of the system of treatment which at present obtains, to be remedied? This is a question which it is not for me or for any one who, like myself; is unconnected with the medical profession, to answer. I may, however, observe, that the general opinion among the most distinguished physicians of the present day—those, especially, whose attention has been particularly directed to the subject—is, that there ought, as the groundwork of any efficient system of treatment in cases of mental alienation, to be a union of moral and medical remedies. One physician of great celebrity has recorded his conviction, that "medical advice is likely to be useful in cases of insane persons. He adds, "It is most useful in the early stages of insanity; but it is useful also in the progress of the disease, particularly when it recurs in paroxysms; and it is occasionally useful in confirmed lunacy, though the good effect of it is less certain in the advanced stages of the disease. This, however, is analogous only to what is found to be the case in other distempers. I consider insanity to be connected with bodily indisposition throughout its course, though this be less apparent in some cases than in others." In connection with the medical part of the treatment of lunatics, it is necessary that the greatest attention should be paid to diet— a fact which, it is to be feared, is too generally overlooked. Sir Anthony Carlisle, in his examination before a select committee of the House of Commons, in 1827, on the subject of insanity, expresses himself on this point as follows: "I am quite convinced, from experience, that both for the moral health—that is, the remedying the derangement of the mind—and for the continuance of bodily health, diet is one of the most essential things; and that it should be specifically directed in each case, and that it requires medical direction in each case." Again: "Were I the superintendent, and answerable to the governors of an institution of that sort (a public madhouse), and were they, from a feeling of economy or saving, to coerce me in the treatment of a lunatic, or set of lunatics, with regard to diet, I would say [-287-] ‘You neither do the patient justice, nor do you permit me to exercise my judgment.' Their diet must be of the best kind, and not of the grossness of diet in general: it must be fresh meat, and not salt meat. In those institutions where economy is a great matter, I have seen coarse pieces of salt beef; coarse cheese, and not the best kind of bread, and unwholesome vegetables. There is no chance of restoring a man whose disordered mind depends on a disordered stomach and disordered bowels, if he is taking that food. If a man is kept in a state of dreaming while he is awake—for, in many instances, insanity consists in a man not being able to distinguish between his waking and sleeping powers; if a man's powers are asleep, he becomes a lunatic while he is awake; for most men are lunatics when they are. asleep with a disturbed state of the stomach; and if a man is thrown into that state, that he is confused while he is awake, he becomes a continued lunatic, and has no chance. There is an operation of the mind, arising from the disturbance of that function, which physic can never cure, if a man is eating that
which disturbs his brain, and keeps it from that quiescence and rest which the health of the mind requires."
The moral remedies to he resorted to, in the treatment of insanity, are as much dependent on the peculiar condition of the patient, as are the medical remedies. In the fifth report, written two years ago by Sir William Ellis, of the state of matters in the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, Sir William has some judicious observations on this point. He says—"By inducing the patient to exercise and combine the mental faculties which remain to him, these become strengthened, and others are gradually developed, until the mind is eventually restored to its original powers. It must be evident, that to carry this plan into execution, a greater diversity of employment and amusement must be carefully selected, and continued with unremitting attention for years, according to the different tastes and various habits of the patients. By keeping the attention completely engrossed, so as to allow the mind no time to dwell on its prevailing delusions, these almost imperceptibly fade away; and, after a period, vanish altogether."
In conformity with these views, it is one of the leading features in the system of treatment adopted at the Hanwell institution, to employ the patients in some way or other, but always in a manner agreeable to themselves, in every case where practicable. Sir William Ellis, in the report of 1836, and from which I have already quoted, says, in reference to this—." During the year, upwards of 360 patients* (* Out of 600; a very large proportion, when allowances are made for advanced years, physical infirmities, and other accidental causes.) have been constantly more or [-288-] less employed, either in the house, or in the grounds when the weather has been favourable; and it is with thankfulness recorded again, without a single accident. The delight," adds Sir William, "experienced in witnessing the benefit derived by this system, is, in some measure, a compensation for the additional duties and dangers it necessarily entails."
Religious as well as moral remedies may, in some, though in comparatively few cases, be had recourse to with success, in the treatment of insanity. Sir William Ellis makes some very important remarks on this point. "In former years," says he, "from the, very incorrect notions entertained of this disease, religious and moral instruction of any kind was never thought of being afforded to the insane. Happily, a better knowledge, and a better state of feeling, now exist. And it is at this time generally admitted, that though, on some points, the mind may be insane, yet on others it may be perfectly rational. And it is no ordinary blessing to many of the sufferers, that a just sense of religion often remains when every other feeling seems obliterated. An act of parliament now provides, that the religious services, according to the established church, should be performed in all large asylums in this country. Here the patients. have the instruction of the Rev. J. Stoddart, the chaplain to the institution; and a more orderly and attentive congregation cannot be assembled together. Some of the committee, and other gentlemen, have frequently been present, and have expressed their astonishment and delight at witnessing the reverence and decorum of the patients."
These are important facts in the history of insanity, and if duly improved may be of great service in the treatment of many lunatics. They have only been recently discovered; and were the subject to be more fully studied by scientific men, and the facts discovered and the observations made by them, were from time to time to be published, in the form of periodical papers or reports—there can be little question that certain principles could be laid down in the treatment of the disease, which, when taken in its earliest stages, would insure the speedy recovery of the patient, except in a few very peculiar cases.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]