Page images

le some time or other become like this king. She laughed at me very

naturally, and I felt much relieved and thought there was no danger.

Yei, if I am not mistaken, I had then felt, for the first time, that fear E and abhorrence of evil wbich has never till lately been sufficiently strong e in my mind to produce good.

• The clergy man of my native place is a very good man. His doc

trines were, in that country, almost universally considered as methodisde tical; yet they are to be found in almost every page of the Bible, and e at this time are preached, I believe, in almost every pulpit, from that of

the University to that of the most obscure village, as the doctrines of hele the Church of England. Opposition had perhaps inflamed bis zeal, ti and induced him to dwell more on faith than on morality; and it was Every seldom that we heard him explain and enforce the intimate union # between them; his sermons made considerable impression on my mind;

but the violence, rather than the warmth of his manner, made it a painbez ful one, and it was not productive of any active effect.

'When I was about twelve years old, my sister, a child of extraordinary talents and virtues, died, at the age of fourteen, with Christian hope and joy. Her death, succeeded as it was by a train of family misforlunes, very much withdrew my mother's attention from me, and I became most completely at my own disposal. . In a year or two I fell into extreme indolence. In this slavery I bave remained till within a few days, not without almost constant self-abhorrence, and some severe struggles.

“Your knowledge, sir, must make it unnecessary for me to describe the debility of constitution, the stupidity of understanding, and the in

sensibility of heart which are the consequences of sloth. From these La assuredly nothing bu

the mercy of God could deliver me. This I have long resisted, though I have seen it in the beauty of the material creation, heard it from the lips of human genius, and felt it, in the application of the scriptures, by my conscience.

Now that I have conquered my sinful habit, and have reason to hope that more grace will be given,' I have still some very painful apprehensions. The weakness of my understanding is such, that a short calculation, or a few moves at chess, gives me a violent headache, and a universal trembling. The activity and force of my imagination appear to me such, that if I were left to myself there is no extravagance of which I could not be guilty. I have happily found some little active employment; but when I am doing any thing which is merely mechavical, I feel as if (without having any iniention of removing) ii were impossible for me to keep my seat. When at such times I can find an opportunity of reading a few verses in the Bible, I feel immediately quite calm ; but I cannot quite avoid the fear that I should abuse even the medicine of life. I have happily, in my brother, a friend, on whose strength of mind and goodness of heart I can rely with perfect confidence; but he perhaps wants some of that peculiar knowledge and experience which may be necessary for me. A sensation of sickness, which accompanies my most impatient feelings, and a degree


[ocr errors]

of restlessness at night gives me some hopes, that by the aid of medicine I might be placed in a more secure state.

• You will, I hope, excuse the length of my letter, as I thought it right to give you a true and sincere statement of my course of life, as far as regards this subject.

* I must add that nothing but my belief of your confidence in the sacrifice which has been made for the sins of the whole world, could have induced me to make this disclosure. If I had not this faith, the knowledge of my offences would be death to me; and I cannot endure that any person who does not possess it should know them.'

In the state of mind indicated by the above disclosure, it is easy to conceive how soon actual insanity might follow the inculcation of principles the severity and excluding tenor of which rest upon a wisapplication of certain passages in Holy Writ. We cannot furnish a better comment on this case than that which Dr. Burrows has presented, which we shall therefore extract, with the continuation of the history.

Nothing can so truly delineate the state of a fine but erratic mind, contending against morbid feelings and perceptions, as this simple but elegant appeal; or give a more clear prognostic of what was likely to happen. In fact, about a fortnight after it was written, a severe paroxysm of mavia followed. In a short time she was carried to to be under the care of the physician to whom the letter was addressed.

With all the seeming candour which pervades her statement, some art is apparent. She alludes to the tenets of the clergyman of her native place, which she denies having had, when a child,“ effect on her, in the very terms, which she would, had she had courage, have described the effect of the new doctrines she had recently heard; and which had actually produced on her mind the impression she deprecates.

• In about three months, the case appearing confirmed insanity, she was removed to lodgings near town to be under my care.

In this stage I first saw her. She was past the sense of all moral attentions : her intellectual faculties were wholly absorbed ; consciousness was denied; volition only seemed to be exercised. But in her soliloquies, or rather ramblings, what she said betrayed the inward workings; and that all thoughts were bent on religious subjects. She was, however, eventually cured.

With the restoration of her understanding her religious enthusiasm subsided; and she again resumed all the elegant and lighter accomplishments of which she was mistress, but had long neglected. As a convalescent, she remained some weeks under my direction. Then, contrary to my earnest advice, she returned to her usual place of residence. Former associations were renewed ; and she was allowed to pursue her own inclinations. Her health soon again became disordered: shortly she imbibed the most frightful and delusive impressions; and she was threatened with a complete relapse into her former mental malady. In this state, I found her when requested to visit her in the


[ocr errors]

any active

county of

Fortunately, the means prescribed preserved her from this calamity!'

Other examples of a similar description are cited by our author, in which exhortations by the friends of the sufferers were too much intermixed with abstract doctrinal points' that proved altogether subversive of their benevolent intention; and in which reason was not restored until the new lights' were extinguished which had led to such lamentable wanderings from truth.

It is a curious observation of Dr. Hallaran in the work to which we have above referred, that in the Cork Lunatic Asylum, where Catholics are in proportion to Protestants as ten to one, no instance has occurred of mental derangement among the former from religious enthusiasm; but several dissenters from the established Church have been so affected.' We shall not, it is hoped, be suspected of adducing this statement with a view to any advantageous comparison between the Romish superstition and sectarian liberty, but we verily believe an instructive use may be made of this fact, the following explanation of which is proposed by Dr. Burrows.

* The ministers of the Romish persuasion will not permit their flocks to be wrought upon. To distrust the infallibility of any point of doctrine or discipline, is with them heresy. Catholics, therefore, are preserved from those dubitations which, when once engendered, generally end in conversion. The moment of danger is, when ancient opinions in matters of faith are wavering, or in the novitiate of those recently embraced.'

We are hence taught the salutary influence of authority upon subjects of religion, when exercised under due limitation; and the necessity of cultivating in our own minds, and impressing upon those whose destiny is greatly regulated by what we do, or leave undone in the way of direction and restraint, the injurious consequences likely to follow from giving the reins to restless inquiries respecting the multitudes of religious opinions that are abroad in the world; and some of which rove up and down in the spirit of proselytism. · Although vo education,' says Dr. Burrows, can be deemed good except the principles of piety and morality be inculcated, and properly exemplitied, yet the young and yielding mind should be carefully guarded from encountering abstruse points of controversy. Perhaps in every instance where insanity has supervened to religion, some defect in education may be suspected.

On the very momentous subject of legislative regulations, the last topic upon which Dr. Burrows animadverts, we meet with many sensible and judicious intimations. A little too much jealousy is perhaps evinced with respect to the interference of


the legislature in the conduct of establishments for the insane; and the remarks will probably admit of some qualification, founded on the fact of the writer being a party concerned. He however, candidly admits, that the insane and idiotic are now longer capable of exercising the rights of citizens; that they to are removed out of the pale of the social compact; are aliens to their nearest and dearest connexions; and are in themselves 50 helpless, and from that very cause so often exposed to wrong, that the law enjoins, what their condition absolutely demands-supervision both of person and property ; they therefore naturally become the especial wurds of their country.'

In the recently rejected Bill, it must be conceded to Dr. Burrows and other objectors, that there were several clauses calculated to defeat the objects for which they were introduced and that the general tenor of the instrument was perhaps too severe and restrictive ; on the other hand, however, experience has too amply testified the mischief of defective vigilance on the part of government, and it is in our minds clearly made out that in many instances, at least, some preventive of indolence and interest is loudly called for.

We submit with much deference the two or three following suggestions :

It is hardly necessary to say, in the first place, that the superintendant of a mad-house ought to be a man of character and responsibility ; it is desirable, indeed, that he should be always chosen from the medical profession. But to prohibit, even prospectively, all who have not been brought up to medicine from opening establishments for the insane, might be deemed a measure too arbitrary, although we feel fully convinced that if a jus: tifiable, it would prove a salutary ordinance on the part government. The security required should be rather as to character than property; and we entirely accord with Dr. Burrows

' objections to that clause in the Bill above alluded to, which demanded a bond for a considerable sum of money from every pero son about to enter on a concern of this kind.

It is in the next place of the utmost importance, that the mere keepers, or subintendants, if we may so nanie them, should be men who unite a certain degree of skill with integrity, humanity and self-command; for much, both as it regards the success of curative measures and the comfort of the incurable, must depend upon the kind of servants that are employed. It would, of course, desirable that every incitement consistent with propriety

should be held out to a due performance of the duties which these appointments involve; and the modes proposed for stimulating to exertion are, in our judgment, sufficiently feasible, viz.—to estar



blish a fand upon which every attendant should have a claim for an annuity in proportion to the length of approved services. Something also of a saving bank might be usefully resorted to, in the way of incentive to respectable individuals for engaging in these concerns; since the sun which the servants of institutions receive as salary, is at once too large for their immediate wants (provided they are single) and too small to enable them to form any thing like a fund for meeting the contingencies of temporary inability, or providing against the necessary disqualifications of old age.

With respect to admission, it is sufficiently obvious that there should be just so much difficulty as to preclude the impossibility of inproper, and therefore unjust, continement. For the certifying of insanity, two signatures of accredited and professionally qualified individuals (one of them at least a regular physiciau or a member of the College of Surgeons), ought to be required; or if the procuring of such witnesses should, in some cases, be attended with inconvenience, on the score of necessity for immediate controul, the confinement of any person beyond a specified time, say five days, should be made subject to this provision. No exceptioni ought to be admitted on the ground that only one person is confined, for it is in these cases that the greatest risk is encountered of opening the door to unjust procedure. The only exemption from this law, should be in the instance of an indivia dual voluntarily subjecting himself to controul.* Whenever compulsion is resorted to, all measures ought to be made unlawful that are not exercised under the above restriction. The objection that it would occasion unnecessary exposure, is by no meals sufficient to set against the advantages which the rule would ensure. In all transactions of this nature, secrecy, if required, is part of the duty which honour prescribes, but, in point of fact, concealment is next to impossible; it will be found however for the most part, that the publicity given to these distressing scenes is not imputable to those who are called upou officially to witness them.

We would farther say, that such houses only should be deemed legitimately constituted institutions as provide a prompt and proper system of medical and moral management; and it ought to be made imperative upon every conductor of an asylum, whether public or private, to order a register to be made of every new case, the date of admission, and the time of discharge; to lay it,

This is sometimes done. It is a curious fact, that many of the articles in Aikiu's Biography were penned io a lunatic

asylum. The writer of them being subject to occasional attacks of insanity, and having waning of their approach, he was in the practice of giving himself up to the custody of an experienced keeper of a madhouse, prior to the full development of the disordered state.


« PreviousContinue »