« AnteriorContinuar »
the besetting evils of unconscious childhood, from which it is the urgent duty of an effectionate father to protect his offspring. That such misconduct often displays itself to a dreadful extent, we have the authority of one of the pamphlets now before us.
• I lately saw a parent,' says Mr. Bakewell, ' who insisted upon it, that no means of recovery should be used for her son, who was in a state of phrenitic insanity; for that it was an evil spirit, she said, that he was troubled with, and till the Lord was pleased to take it off, she was quite sure that nothing that either I or any one else could do, would be of any
young man was very likely for recovery, but I dare say that he now remains in the same state; and this opinion that lunatics are demoniacs prevails very much.'
But we find that it is not merely from misconception and ignorance on the part of relatives, that the disordered in mind frequently suffer. Worse motives are seen sometimes in exercise, and that to a degree which it would scarcely be possible to suppose.
I have known a son,' says the writer just quoted, take measures evidently for the purpose of preventing the recovery of his father from insanity. I have known a large opulent family combine together in the use of means, which they thought the most likely to prevent the recovery of a brother, who had acquired a large property by his own exertions: they living at this moment in possession of his property, and he taken care of at a trifling expense. I know a female of fashion and fortune, who has pertinaciously withheld the means of recovery from an elder sister, on account of the expense, though the sufferer's own income is more than sufficient to procure the best means the country affords; but she finds it necessary to make use of part of her unfortunate sister's income to support her own fashionable style of living. I know another opulent family who have kept a brother in confinement for upwards of seven years, without any means of recovery, though they themselves believe he would have recovered bad proper means been timely resorted to; but the undisturbed possession of his property is, evidently enough, their only object. There is now living at a short distance from this place, a poor object of a female, who, for bed and accommodations, is often in a worse state than the swine are suffered to remain in at the same place ; she has been in this situation twelve years.'
pp. 12, 13.
To alleviate, then, as much as may be, the misery of those who are placed, by their cruel maladies, or more cruel relatives, in such situations, is an undertaking highly worthy the exercise of legislative wisdom: accordingly we find that the subject of lunacy has recently been agitated in the House of Commons, and so much of publicinterest has been excited by the investigation, that it becomes, in some measure, our duty to take somewhat of a comprehensive, survey of insanity and insane institutions. Of insanity, we say; for
the Committee of the House of Commons, recently appointed to investigate the state of madhouses, very naturally and properly entered into a further inquisition respecting the power that medicine, or, more strictly, medicinal treatment, might possess a counteractive of mental affections, and the question at issue came thus to be extended from a mere inquiry into the economy of madhouses, to the nature, causes, essence, and management of madness itself. In conformity with this extension, we shall advert, in the first place, to the general nature of mental hallucination--and inquire whether insanity, as a disease, admits of a distinct character, and in what its essentials consist. We shall then touch slightly upon the prevalence of nervous ailments, inquire how far medical men are competent to the treatment of lunacy; and finally, enter somewhat more at large upon the consideration of such enactments as have lately been proposed for the purpose of ensuring the greatest possible good to the most afflicted portion of our species. By taking this extended view of the subject it will be in our power, we conceive, to impart somewhat more of interest to the discussion than could be infused into a mere detail of madhouse regulations.
In what does insanity consist? Whoever has opened the various publications on the subject of mental disorder must have been disgusted with the mass of inapplicable speculations on the nature of the reasoning power, which is almost invariably to be met with in them. Into the examination of these, however, we shall not enter, our only aim, at present, being to discover whether there by such a thing as an essential distinction, an absolute difference, be, tween the sane and insane state of the understanding. Why has the exile of St. Helena always been placed, by the well-judging part of mankind, upon the list of criminals, rather than regarded as a lunatic?-Because neither the energy of his volitions, nor the strength of his fancy, was ever exalted to such a pitch of intensity as to interfere with his perceptions. In the most giddy moments of his ambitious career, he did not conceive himself possessed of more than mortal force ; neither does he, in his present banishment, (unless, perhaps, in his dreams, and in these we are all mad,) imagine that he is still wielding the sceptre of France, or com. manding the destinies of Europe. To constitute the state of real madness, it is necessary that the imaginative ideas become so vivid as to be exalted to the strength of actual belief. Madness,' says Sauvages very impressively, is the dream of him who is a wake.
Although, however, the actual essence of insanity is thus simple in definition, there is so remarkable a difference in the degree in which perception becomes weakened by the force of imagination, as to render it a more difficult business to determine upon the pos:
session or loss of sánity than at first might be conceived. At one time the perceptive faculty is weakened almost to annihilation, while at others it retains so much of its natural energy, that the individual judges of objects rather in the way of misapprehension than total and absolute falsity. Perception will be correct, nay, more than commonly acute, in respect of some objects, while in reference to others, it seems to be entirely obliterated. Thus, when the lunatic in the Edinburgh Infirmary conceived, while he was parTaking of his oatmeal provisions with his fellow-inmates, that he was feasting upon savoury viands, it was sufficiently evident that one order of perceptions was deranged by the vividness of his imaginative ideas; but, when he was found to complain of his cook for contriving to give an oaten smell to his several dishes, it was equally obvious that the imagination had not obtained an entire mastery over all the perceptive powers. This contest between the perceptions and the fancy is well illustrated by the following narration. The case is exceedingly interesting; elsewhere we shall have to advert to it in a manner less pleasing to our feelings, and less creditable to the reporter. To a request from the Committee of the House of Commons, to state what were the particular circumstances attending Norris, which rendered it necessary to con fine him? Mr. Haslam thus replies:
When first admitted into the Hospital he appeared perfectly tranquil, and it was intended shortly to discharge him as cured. When he had been there, perhaps a few months, I cannot tell how long, Sir Joseph Banks wrote me a note, requesting I would walk round the Hospital with some friends of bis, a foreigner of distinction and others; r took them, after seeing the Hospital, into the airing ground, and as they spoke no English, I was obliged, either in French or German, to speak to them. I said, Here is a man who will shortly be discharged, and pointed to him; at that very moment he gave me a most malignant look, and turned off very sulky. I saw him waiting for me at the gate, for at that fime I resided in the Hospital ; he was watching, and he had something in his breeches pocket, and the 'malignity of his look prevented my going through the centre of the Hospital, and I went round by the street. I mentioned it to the keeper; he said he appeared very quiet, but would I like him confined ? I said, No, God forbid, on my account. On the following day be attacked the keeper; he drew a knife upon him, and he wounded the keeper in two or three places in the belly. Another patient, of the name of Bacon, assisted the keeper, and he received a stab ; and I think another patient, but of that I will not be certain. He was then confined, but he contrived to get his handcuffs off ; and, for a very considerable time, every day produced some sort of explosion and violence. The keepers were tired out with him. When I came to him, to assure bim he should be put at liberty if he conducted himself properly, he said " It was intended for you; for, by G
you wanted to sell me to those infernal brutes you had by you the other day: you were making a bargain to sell me." ;
This case affords an example of a highly excitable imagination. Under different circumstances of the mind, perhaps at a few moments sooner or later, the appearance and language of the strangers would have been perceived, that is, believed or judged of, nearer the truth, and nothing of this outrageous conduct would have been the consequence. Precisely upon the same principle that Norris formed an erroneous estimate of the foreigners' intention and appearance, does the mad lover see Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.' In each case there is a mixture of perception with imagination, and in each case the conception mounts to the height of actual belief.*
Our reasons for moulding the essentials of insanity into this concentrated shape will be immediately seen: but before we quit the subject of the precise nature of mental hallucination, we must obviate an objection founded on the fact of what may be termed an insanity of impetuosity, while consciousness remains whole and entire. Thus it is not unusual to meet with cases in which the individual, who is the subject of the affection, confesses an impulse to the perpetration of deeds, of which his conscience and better feelings declare the atrocity. I felt an almost irresistible inclination, patients of this class will say, 'to murder my wife, children, &c. and in some instances these deeds have been actually committed. This exception, however, forms, we conceive, but a slight objection to the notion we have aimed to convey respecting the nature of insanity; and even this requires, perhaps, but a more minute investigation to make it conform with the rules just laid down. It is more or less, it will be observed, in their lucid intervals, that individuals, under the circumstances we are now considering, talk and judge of the criminality of their purposes; while the hallucination is actually upon them, their minds are so absorbed in the supposed necessity of the act, as to do away the proper conception of its dreadful nature.
But let it even be granted that there is sometimes a war between impulse and conscience, in which the former gains the ascendency, yet will our principle generally hold, that where insanity is present,
* It will be understood that we do not mean to advocate the principle, that false perception always supposes an absolute difference in the object perceived as an oba ject of sense. It is on the point, whether an individual actually believes or not in the creations of his fancy, that the whole business of distinction turns; so that whether we admit or reject the division of Dr. Arnold into ideal’and' notional' in. sanity, our conclusions respecting the essence of madness are the same. What is false notion' but false belief? and what was Norris's notion of the Bethlem visiters, but an erroneous conception of their design, destigation, manner of existence ? &c.
consciousness must be absent: we shall now venture upon a remark or two in reference to its practical bearings.
In the Zoonomia of Dr. Darwin we find, among other interesting cases of the same nature, the following6 Mr.
, a gentleman of polished manners, who in a few months afterwards destroyed himself, said to me one day, " A ride out in the morning, and a warm parlour and a pack of cards in the afternoon, are all that life affords.” He was persuaded to have an iskue on the top of bis head, as he complained of a dull head-ach, which being unskilfully managed, destroyed the pericranium to the size of an inch in diameter; during the time this took in healing, he was indignant about it, and endured life, but soon afterwards shot himself.' Now we hesitate not to affirm, that, however much of
wrongheadedness there might be in the act recorded, there was no such thing as insanity, inasmuch as there was an actual, and therefore a criminal consciousness in reference to the atrocious deed. There certainly, in such a case as this, could have been no objection to placing an issue on the head, or on any other part that might have pleased the fancy of the prescriber; yet we verily believe, that, even as a preventive measure, much more might have been effected by filling the mind with forcible images of posthumous infamy. A more recent case was lately told us of an individual deliberately effecting self-destruction to escape the tortures of a menaced paroxysm of gout: and such instances as these, in criminal compliance with the immoral laxity of fashion, are set down as insanity! We are not at present prepared to say whether the laws enacted for the prevention and punishment of suicide are the best that might have been framed; but, in the name of common-sense, let us leave off the semblance of acting in conformity to them, since the substance is become a dead letter.
The examples just cited were cases in which the act in ques: tion was perpetrated with a calculating deliberateness; and in which, of course, no allegation could be made in its behalf on the ground of irresistible impulse—an excuse which has, we conceive, been unjustly proposed in some other less palpable instances, both of murder and self-destruction. Bellingham,' says Mr. Hill in one of the works before us, declared it was a matter of indifference to him which of the ministers he destroyed; he was sorry it happened to be Mr. Percival on account of his family. We do Dot know whether our readers will agree with us, that this goes the length of justifying the act of Bellingham on the score of insanity; but in connexion with what Mr. Hill had just before adyanced, it savours strongly of such a design--a design erroneous in its principle, and mischievous in its consequences. To the plea of