Page images
PDF
EPUB

may be diminished in such a case, but he has ever witnessed. His eye and in our present ignorance of what me. ear are deceived, and he believes the dicine--not drawn from the stores of intelligence brought by these erring the moralist or religionist-can reach servants. It is absolutely impossible what are called the

distinct faculties of that he should not believe them. If pride, vanity, selfishness, or imagina- his physician tells him that such an oc. tiveness, we are really at a loss to currence is an ordinary one in fever, guess what Dr. Cheyne means. Has or if he happen otherwise to know the he a different drug for each passion, fact, there is no danger in all probabiand sentiment, and affection? We lity of such a scene ending in insanity. with him think there are cases of lu- Suppose, however, his physician too nacy not extending so far as to render fine a gentleman to converse with him the mind altogether powerless, and in at all on the matter ; suppose his at. which moral or religious considerations tendants to be ignorant, and instead of ought not to be pressed on the patient's being able to account for the phenomind; but do we therefore believe mena, deal with the sick man as if he that mind to be insensible to such con- were speaking falsehood, or as if he siderations ? Far from it; even in were insane, is it not probable that these cases the cure-if there be cure such treatment would create actual at all-is from within. The insane insanity; and, if so created, would not man who refuses to listen to his doctor the best chance of recovery in the supor nurse preaching patience or mora- posed circumstances be from the man's lity, is in all probability doing what own mind dealing with the facts of the any sane man in the community would case, and examining them with the aid do well to imitate, and we should re. of such imperfect information as he gard such a case with hope. Of this can bring to bear upon the subject ? a remarkable instance is given in the And yet in cases analagous or identicase of a gentleman who has published cal with this, it would appear from the a very minute account of the state of statement of recovered lunatics, that his mind and its struggles during a until the patient consents to admit malady of many years' continuance, every fancy of the manager of an asyand an enforced residence at more than lum to be a rule of infallible right, one asylum.* Details such as he has there is scarce a possibility of his regiven are rarely communicated to the covery being regarded as complete. public, as the very fact of such com- We believe that both the moral and munication is not unlikely to be re- medical treatment of the disease have garded as a proof of the disease be- greatly improved, even in the short ing still subsisting ; but in this, and in interval since these essays were writ. Cowper's, and, indeed, in every case ten, but we have little doubt of the where light has been thrown in on the truth of Perceval's statement, that the secrets of the prison-place, it seems theory adopted in most of the asylums plain that allowing the insane person a few years ago was to break down all to work out, as it were, the problem resistance, and hold the patient's mind which he proposes to himself, gives a altogether in subjection. In the profar better chance of ultimate restora. cess, conscience, and natural affections, tion than the effort to convince him and moral feeling were obliterated, that he is in the wrong, by telling him and recovery was a state worse than that his hallucinations are all illusion. death. The last state of the man was A man in the delirium of fever sees worse than the first. as outward realities with the waking

The diseased state of the organs eye, scenes and persons that it is phy- of sense often produces actual madsically impossible should be in his sick The sufferer is unacquainted room; yet he has for the fact of their with the nature of false perceptions, being present the same evidence that and acts on information which he is he has had of any

er incident which unable to correct. It would seem that

ness.

* Narrative of the Treatment experienced by a Gentleman during a state of Mental Derangement.--London : 1838. The first volume of this work was anonymous ; the second, published in 1840, bears on the title-page the name of John Perceval, Esq.

It pro

insanity arising from this cause ought delirium tremens the sufferer fancies to admit of an easy cure. The false that he sees fairies, devils, and spirits information given by the ear or eye is watching him, grinning at him, and likely to be corrected by the other whispering together ; such maniacs senses, yet there is often great sub- are seen suddenly starting up and listlety shown by the sufferer in evading tening with fixed attention at keyholes the new information thus received. and crevices in the wall for their spi. Voices address the ear, and the eye ritual enemies. Having no suspicion being turned to the place from which of the true nature of their malady, they seem to proceed, sees that is va- they often conclude that their powers cant. If the person be not led to be- of vision and of hearing are miraculieve that the imagined voices are re- lously increased. A man labouring ferable to the diseased state of the under insanity produced by intoxica. auditory nerves, he will in all probabi- tion,” says Dr. Cheyne, “ lately told lity become suspicious of conspiracies, us that he could hear what was uttered and imagine his enemies have employed in a whisper at a distance of half a a ventriloquist to cheat him by imi. mile." tating the accents which he hears.

This is a simple and a frequent case, The ear is very liable to be deone which we should think almost cer. luded—a person may fancy that he hears tain of cure. If the solution which the hissing of a boiling kettle, the ringany physician would give of symp- ing of bells, the roaring of the sea, the toms, which nothing but the patient's

clamours of a tumultuous crowd, and a ignorance could aggravate into insa

variety of discordant sounds, as well as

articulate voices, if the circulation of nity, be believed by the sufferer, there

the brain, or of a part of that organ be is in all probability an end of the dif

diseased. On the other hand, oral lanficulty. If it be disbelieved, yet let it guage is not always understood words, be stated calmly, and leave it to pro- even when distinctly heard, convey no duce its own natural effect,

meaning-audible language ceases to be bably will at first be like every thing intelligible when visible language is, as else evaded, but will at length find

in the case recorded by Dr. Darwin of its place in the reasonings of the Shrewsbury, of an old gentleman who patient, and be in all probability the

was superannuated, whose hearing and means of cure. Nothing under any

vision were perfect, but who could only

call up a train of ideas from the latter. circumstances can be done by decep

When he was told it was nine o'clock tion. What is called, and truly so, in

and time for him to eat his breakfast, sanity, is more often removable by he repeated the words distinctly, but mind dealing with mind, than is without understanding them. Then his thought. With the mind in every servant put a watch in his hand, upon state, fair dealing is the only true which he said, why, William, have I course.

not had my breakfast, for it is past nine The first essay is little more than a

o'clock ?' On almost every occasion his

servants conversed with him by means general statement of the subject; the second, " on false perceptions and sup

of visible objects, although his hearing

was perfect; and when this kind of posed demonism," is valuable, chiefly

communication was used he did not apfor some narratives, probably drawn

pear impaired in his intellects. This from what the author witnessed in his state came on from a stroke of the own practice, and which give some palsy; and, till he and his servants had new illustrations of the way in which recourse to this language of signs, he ignorant people are actually frightened was quite childish."--Essay ii., p. 62. into permanent insanity, by experiencing some of the very frequent illu. Hearing is more frequently disorsions of the senses, which they refer dered than sight, or any other of the to supernatural power or demoniac in

Dr. Cheyne tells us that the terference. In delirium occasioned by apparitions which attended Nicolai not drunkenness, the drunkard sees double, only peopled his apartment but spoke hears things that are not uttered, to him. There can be no doubt that and in cases of babitual intemperance, the car is often deceived at the same the false perceptions continue, even time with the eye, but Nicolai's own when the sufferer is not under the im- account of the spectral illusions with mediate influence of intoxication. In which he was visited, does not say any thing of his ever being addressed by with which he was visited were not the his visitors: and we are inclined to be- coinage of the brain, but supernatural lieve that in his case the eye was the beings, engaged in conversation with only sense engaged. Nicolai was the the poet. Manso relates an extraordiPrussian reviewer, who ventured on a nary scene, in which, after arguing with parody of Goethe's Werther, and was the poet against the possibility of his rewarded for his work by figuring as fancies having any foundation in truth, the head chamberlain, who directs the he received the following reply :witch dances in the Walpurgis scene of “Since I cannot persuade you by rea. the Faust. In several books on the soning, I will convince you by experitheory of apparitions, an account of ence. I shall cause you, with your Nicolai's spectres is given. In Anster's own eyes, to see that spirit, the exist. notes to Faustus, we find Nicolai's ence of which my words cannot cause own account, as communicated to the

senses.

you to believe.'

I accepted the Royal Society of Berlin. In Cowper's offer," says Manso ;“ and the following affecting narrative of his insanity, it is day, as we were sitting by ourselves plain that the auditory nerves were together by the fire, he turned his eyes greatly disturbed. In one of his towards a window, and held them a efforts to effect suicide, he had sus- long time so intensely fixed on it, that, pended himself from the top of the when I called him, he did not answer. door of his room by his garter. The At last, "Lo,' said he, the friendly chair which he used for the purpose, Spirit, which has courteously come to he pushed away with his feet, and hung talk with me. Lift up your eyes, and at his whole length. “While I hung you shall see the truth.' I turned my there,” he says, “ I distinctly heard a eyes thither immediately; but though voice say, three times, it is over.'"* I endeavoured to look as keenly as I It is not clear to us that in this case could, I beheld nothing but the rays of the eye was also deluded; for Cowper, the sun, which streained through the who describes his dreams does not speak, panes of the window into the chamber. at least does not speak with such distinct- And whilst I still looked around withness as to give perfect evidence on the out beholding any object, Torquato subject, of any illusions of the waking began to hold, with thi unknown eye. “My thoughts,” he says, “in something, a most lofty converse. I the day became still more gloomy, and heard, indeed, and saw nothing but my night visions more dreadful. One himself; nevertheless, his words, at morning, as I lay between sleeping one time questioning, at another reand waking, I seemed to myself to be plying, were such as take place bewalking in Westminster Abbey, wait. tween those who reason strictly on ing till prayers should begin. Pre- some important subject; and from sently I thought I heard the minister's what is said by the one, the replies of voice, and hastened towards the choir. the other may be easily comprehended Just as I was upon the point of enter- by the intellect, although they be not ing, the iron gate under the organ was heard by the ear. The discourses fung in my face with a jar that made were so lofty and marvellous, both by the abbey ring. The noise awoke me, the sublinity of the topics, and a cerand a sentence of excommunication tain unwonted manner of talking, that, from all the churches upon earth exalted above myself into a kind of could not have been so dreadful to me ecstacy, I did not dare to interrupt as the interpretation which I could them, nor ask Torquato about the not avoid putting upon this dream.”+ spirit which he had announced to me, In Tasso's insanity both ear and eye but which I did not see. In this were affected. The illusions were so way, while I listened between stupe. powerful as to throw into shadow all faction and rapture, a considerable external impressions, while his own time had elapsed, till at last the spirit reasoning powers exercised upon them departed, as I learned from the words as realities, was such as almost to con- of Torquato, who, turning to me, vince his friends against the evidence said, 'from this day forward, all your of their senses, that the phantoms doubts shall have vanished from your

* Southey's Cowper, vol. i. p. 129.

+ Southey's Cowper, yol. i. p. 135,

mind,' and I, or rather they are in. ness, apoplexy, and blindness. I have creased, since, though I have heard had headaches and pains in the intesmany things worthy of marvel, I have tines, the side, the thighs and legs; I seen nothing of what you promised to have been weakened by vomiting, dyshow me to dispel my doubts.' He smiled sentery, and fever. Amidst so many and said, “You have seen and heard terrors and pains there appeared to more of him perhaps—' and here he me in the air the image of the Glopaused. Fearful of importuning him rious Virgin, with her son in her arms, by new questions, the discourse ended; sphered in a circle of coloured vapours, and the only conclusion I can form is so that I ought by no means to deswhat I before said, that it is more pair of her grace. And though,” he likely that his visions or frenzies will adds, “this might easily be a phantasy, disorder my own mind than that I because I am frantic, disturbed by vashall extirpate his true or imaginary rious phantoms, and full of infinite opinion."

melancholy, yet by the grace of God The letter in which Manso relates I can sometimes withhold my assent, this event was written immediately which being, as Cicero remarks, the after the incident it describes, so there operation of a sound mind, I am inis no room for disputing any of the clined to believe it was in reality a particular details on the ground of miracle.”+ imperfect recollection or the kind In the life of St. Teresa we have of over-statement, which leads bio- instances not unlike these of Tasso; graphers to make the most of every and the Aurea Legenda, as well as thing unusual. The solitude in which Llorente's History of the Inquisition, Tasso lived during years of poetical

are full of them—the solution of the exertion, and long intervals of insanity, hagiographer and the witchfinder aswas of itself not unlikely to create suming always that the facts had a habits of talking and thinking aloudl, firmer basis of existence than a visionwhich rendered the conversation with ary's waking dreams, and thus we find the imagined spirit, one more easily in their narratives angels and devils sustained than, had his life been passed playing the parts which modern mediless with the creations of his own cine gives to capricious “ Faculties," fancy, would have been conceivable. or “Powers,” or “ Sentiments," or, Previous to the visits of the Platonic yet more strange, to " Endowments," Demon whom he wished to introduce seated aloft on their phrenological to Manso, he had been tormented by the thrones, and at times descending to daily vexations of a Folletto, or haunt- the help of the philosophical inquirer, ing sprite, which he fancied, found plea- like the gods coming to the relief of sure in disarranging his papers, steal. the embarrassed epic poet, to save him ing his money, and playing him one from perplexities with which his humischievous trick or another. He was man skill is unable to deal. troubled with undefinable apprehen- Dr. Cheyne tells us that “where sions: lights danced before his eyes ; delusions both of hearing and sight at times he heard the most frightful co-exist, nothing can prevent insanity noises indistinct and unlike any thing but an enlightened judgment.” How with which they could be compared. little hope, then, could there be for At times the ticking of an imagined cure at a time when the medical theo. clock, or the tolling of a non-existing rist was, as it were, in league with the bell, disturbed him ; at times voices faithless servants of the mind when were heard like those of the stupid angelic visits were looked for with imcritics of his “ Jerusalem,” at times it patience, both by the patient and his was the barking of more harmless physician, and their absence was redogs, or the cackling of geese. When garded as a proof of the departing he awoke from sleep it was a relief, for

favour of heaven. he was freed from fantastic visions for In one part of the volume before a while, but the waking fancy soon si- us, the case is mentioned of a young mulated the wildest dreams. “ I have man of rank becoming monomaniacal. dreaded," he says, “the falling sick- He refused to take food, and made

* Black's Life of Tasso, vol. ii. p. 242.

| Wiffen's Tasso, vol. i. page 118.

some attempts to choke himself. “We quite to conceal their voices, and what were told,” says Cheyne, “ that a few they were about. Nothing can be weeks before he had been in Scotland more instructive to any person having with Mr. Campbell, of Row-had at heart the cure of a lunatic patient partaken of his delusions, and that fa- than the work to which we allude, as naticism had gradually degenerated it is quite plain to us that during a into insanity. This, Dr. Cheyne considerable part of the time in which adds, was described as a case of reli. he was confined in lunatic asylums, and gious madness. A knowledge of other warring with the masters of such facts connected with the case satisfied places and their servants, his mind Dr. Cheyne that the gentleman in was in a state to have yielded assent to question, after having made a profes- a more rational theory of the sights sion of religion was betrayed into and words which disturbed his thoughts, drinking wine with freedom--that this than the very ingenious views of the was followed by other irregularities- matter which, in the absence of better that remorse and insanity ensued. We information, he adopted, and in his are enabled to add, from an account last published volume seems to have no since published by the person in wish to abandon. Had he been posquestion, that in addition to the sense sessed of the kind of information that of shame, and ingratitude, and re- Nicolai or Spalding, whose case is told morse--and the feeling of self-accusa. by Dr. Cheyne, possessed, his insanity tion, that his conduct was calculated to could not have lasted for any length bring disrepute on the doctrines taught of time. by Mr. Campbell and his followers; in Nothing can be better than what addition to all these and other causes Dr. Cheyne says on the subject of which were enough to produce mad- such patients. The only qualification ness, (if indeed they were themselves, which we should think of making in in the extreme degree in which they the advice which he gives is that we existed, essentially different from in- think even the insane_when there is sanity) there was added the subtle any reasoning power left-should be effects of mercury upon the humours informed of the natural effects of dis. of the body, during the use of which ease. It is not probable that they will the poor man had the imprudence to at the instant assent, but if they asexpose his frame to currents of air, while sent to the degree of admitting that a washing, every morning, his whole view opposed to theirs is tenable, there person in cold water-and this in No- is, we think, great chance of cure. In vember. That the mind should have fact, if the person who believes himsunk under such circumstances, can self under Satanic influence, once adscarcely be a matter of surprise ; but mits, and is in earnest in the admis. whether we are to attribute such ruin sion, that his is but one solution, to the natural effects of bodily disease, among others, of the phenomena which of the medicine employed, and the in- are to be accounted for, we think that caution of the patient while using it, the single fact of his continuing to or whether we refer it to fanaticism, we differ with any one of the very emi. cannot think that it gives any support nent persons who conduct lunatic asyto the notion that true or even absurd lums on a subject upon which it is not views of religion are likely to endan- very easy, in the calmest state of mind, ger mental health. In the case of this to come to a sound conclusion, is pergentleman both ear and eye were en- fectly consistent with entire sanity of gaged, but through all his delusions mind—nay, perfectly consistent with there seemed to be an active and vigi. judicious medical as well as moral lant judgment exerting itself in the treatment. “ If there be," says Bax. examination of all the phenomena ter, “as some fancy, a possession of which a diseased state of the nerves the devil, it is possible that physic may was perpetually creating. Spirits cast him out ; for if you cure the me. were perpetually visiting and address- lancholy (black bile) his bed is taken ing him, and this for many years ; it away, and the advantage gone by is not surprising that he came at last which he worketh ; cure the choler to know their features—to call them (bile,) and the choleric operations of by name, and even when they chose to the devil will cease: it is by means and play invisible, that they were not able humours in us that he worketh."

« PreviousContinue »