« PreviousContinue »
verted the feat of reason, and given more inhabitants to Bedlam than any other caufe. A religious lunatic is miserable, even to the deepest tortures of despair.
The mifer, whom I must always rank among mad. men, heaps up gold with an anxiety that affects his looks, his appetite, and his fleep. The wretch dreads poverty in the centre of plenty and ftarves, only because he dares not taste those fruits which appear most agreeable to his defires.
In fome other fpecies of madness, the perfons affected are really more happy than in their fenfes, and it is almost a crime to banish the agreeable delufion. You remember the cafe of the citizen of Argos, who, after a falutiferous dofe of hellebore, cried out,
Pol me occidiftis, amici,
Non fervaflis (ait) cui fic extorta voluptas,
Such again would be the case of the beau of Bedlam who, amidst darkness and confinement, still retains hi' pride and felf-admiration; dresses himself up in ftraw inftead of embroidery; and when fuffered to go to the window, imagines that he captivates every female, who chances to pass through Moor fields. Is not fuch a man happier in his madness, than in his senses?
To fpecify the many different claffes of madmen, would be endless. They are innumerable: so that it is almost a rare felicity to enjoy mens fana in corpore fano. fome men have owed their reputation and fuccefs in the world to a tincture of madness; while others, merely from a fuperior understanding, have been ranked among lunatics. Of the latter fort Hippocrates (whom I wish you to look upon as a claffic author, as well as a phyfician) gives a remarkable instance in one of his letters. He fays, he was fent for by the people of Abdera to cure Democritus of madness; but, to his furprife, he found him the wifeft man of the age, and, by his laughing manner of talking and reafoning, he almoft convinced Hippocrates, that all the rest of the world except Democritus were mad. It is not improbable, that madness has been coæval with mankind. There have certainly been many inftances of it among the Greeks and Romans. Among VOL. VIII.
the Jews, the enthufiaftic fury of Saul is equally remark. able with the ecftatic rage of Nebuchadnezzar. Nor have any parts of the world, I believe, entirely escaped this raging evil. It was frequently mistaken for inspi ration; and the prophetic Sybils were obliged to put on the airs and looks of madness, to obtain an implicit belief to their prophecies. From these facerdotal impofitions, mad people reaped fome remarkable advantages. They were often looked upon as meffengers fent by hea. ven, to declare the will of the gods, and the prophetical decrees of fate; they were revered as perfons facred and divine; and, instead of scourges, they received tokens of adoration. In how great a degree muft the fubtilty of priests have prevailed, when they could make one of the greatest curfes that attends human life appear one of the greatest bleffings?
Lunatics are fo called from the influence which the moon has over bodies, when its attractive power is greatest, by which means the preffure of the atmosphere being leffened, the humours of the body are more rarefied, and produce a greater plenitude in the vessels of the brain. This has been illuftrated by our good and learned friend Dr Mead, in his treatise De imperio luna et folis: and I have particularly obferved, that, in the laft book which he published, intitled, Monita et precepta medica, he takes notice, in his chapter de infania, "that "the blood of fuch perfons, who have been moft liable "to this malady, was thick and fizy, and, upon dif"fection, their brain always appeared dry, and their "veffels filled with black sluggish blood:" from whence perhaps we may, in fome measure, account for the principal fource of Swift's lunacy; his countenance being dark, bilious, and gloomy, and his eyes fometimes fixed and immoveable for a long time. Horace, I remember, attributes the madness of Oreftes to a phyfical caufe, where he says,
Hanc furiam, hunc aliud, juffit quod fplendida bilis.
So that difeafes formed originally in the mind, often bring on this diforder, and by degrees affect the body; efpecially in fuch conftitutions as have any tendency to
this distemper. But what can be the reason that it is fo remarkably epidemical in these kingdoms? I am inclined to believe, that it must be owing to the groffness of our food, and to our immoderate ufe of fpirituous li quors; the one frequently caufing the deepeft melancholy, the other the most unlimited rage. Our climate is fo variable and uncertain, and our atmosphere is fo perpetually filled with clouds and fulphureous vapours, that theie caufes muft neceffarily have a great effect up. on the natural impatience and inconftancy of the inhabitants. We are apt to revel in a free indulgence of our paffions; and they are as apt to agitate and enervate the fibres of the brain, and to imprint by degrees many fatal impreffions, that can never be eradicated from the mind. Even the greatest bleffing we enjoy, the freedom of our laws, may, I am afraid, in some measure, contribute to thofe rafh actions, that often end in dreadfull murders of the worst kind, parricide, and suicifm. Men must be reckoned in the highest class of lunatics, who are capable of offending the great Author of nature, by depriving themselves of that life which he only has a right of taking away, because he only had the power of giving it. No perfon in his fenfes can voluntarily prefer death to life. Our defires of existence are frong and prevalent; they are born with us: and our ideas of a future ftate are not fufficiently clear, to make us fond of hurrying into eternity: especially as eternity itself must ever remain incomprehenfible to finite beings. Human nature has an abhorence, and a terror of its own diffolution. The philofopher fubmits to death, because he looks upon it as a neceffary event; in the mean time, he uses every method of prudence, and every art of caution, to lengthen out life as far as he poffibly can extend it, and to prevent the leaft accident that may bring on death one hour fooner than the laws of the human structure require. The military hero meets the king of terrors more from the dictates of reason, than the impulfes of nature. His fame, his fortune, every object that can be dear to him, depend upon his refolution to die. He expofes himself to the danger of being deftroyed, because an effort of fecuring his life, must be attended with contempt and infamy. But, on
the other hand, who would wantonly chufe death, unlefs he were agitated to fuch a choice by the fumes and vapours of a diftempered brain?
The fubjects, where arbitrary power is established, live in a continual state of dread and apprehenfion, and all their other paffions are fubdued by fear: fo that fewer inftances of fuicide have appeared in defpotic governments, than in kingdoms where liberty is more prevalent, and where the paffions are lefs restrained.
The diet, the air, and the political conftitution of a country, give the peculiar, and diftinguishing character of the people and as the characteristics change, the inhabitants undergo the fame metamorphofes. How different are the modern Italians from the ancient Romans? If Brutus were now living, he would probably acquiefce in the depending ftate of a cardinal, and the Papal crown would be unanimously prefented to Cæfar.
The melancholy cafe of Dr Swift, has, I find, feduced me into a long digreffion. When I am writing to you, I give a full scope to my thoughts, and wander licentioufly out of my fphere. I aim at placing all observa. tions in your way, which I think can be of any ufe in your future road of life. But why talk to you on the melancholy effects of madness? only to obferve in general, that temperance, exercife, philofophy, and true religion, are the fureft means to make men happy, and to preferve them from a contagious malady, to which the inhabitants of these kingdoms are unfortunately li
A ftate of idiotifm is lefs deplorable, not lefs fhocking, than that of madness. Idiots are afflicted with no turbulent paflions. They are innocent and harmless, and often excite pity, but never occafion fear. The proverb tells us, They are the favourites of Fortune. But I fuppofe it alludes only to thofe fools who can number twenty rightly, and can tell the days of the week: and alas! those are no idiots in the eye of the law. The abfolute naturals owe their wretchedness to a wrong formation in their brain, or to accidents in their birth, or the dregs of fevers and other violent diftempers. cafe of the Dean of St Patrick's, count fent me by his two relations Mrs Whiteway and
The laft was the according to the ac
Mr Swift: neither of whom, I think, make the leaft mention of a deafness that, from time to time, attacked the Dean, and rendered him extremely miferable. You will find him complaining of this misfortune in feveral parts of his writings; efpecially in his letters (of the eighth volume) to Dr Sheridan. Poffibly fome internal preffure upon his brain might first have affected the auditory nerves, and then, by degrees, might have increafed, fo as entirely to stop up that fountain of ideas, which had before spread itself in the most diffusive and furprising manner.
Having juft now hinted to you the advantages that have accrued to madmen, I ought not to omit the honours that have been paid to fools. In former ages the courts of France and England were not thought completely imbellished without a favourite idiot, who bore the title of the King's jefter, and who was as remarkably distinguished by a cap and bells, as his royal mafter was diftinguifhed by a diadem and robes. This animal, like Junius Brutus, frequently affumed the face and behaviour of folly, to anfwer his own particular views and advantages. His bluntnefs and fimplicity recommended him in thofe places, where truths, if fpoken by a man of sense, were disagreeable and dangerous. If he had not the honour, like Brutus, to fave his country, at leaft he had the happiness to fecure himself: and his expreffions were often fo full of humour and farcafm, that, to this day, they are recorded as pieces of wit. was the famous reply of Archy to K. James I. when his Majefty, amidst all his wifdom, was fufficiently infpired with folly, to fend his only fon into Spain. But fools at prefent are no longer admired in courts; or, if they are, they appear there without their cap and bells.
And now, to quit reflections that tend in general rather to terrify than to improve the understanding, let me obferve, in honour of my friend Swift, that his eftablishment of an hofpital for idiots and lunatics, is remarkably generous; as the unhappy perfons who re⚫ ceive the benefit, muft for ever remain infenfible of their benefactor.
Above, p. 343- -346