Billeder på siden

sented to. The solicitor received the same instructions, drew it, and it was signed by the physicians (Sir Henry Halford and Sir George Tuthill). After leaving the room and conversing on the delicacy of their situation, the physicians returned to his room and questioned him how he had left his property. He mentioned the legacies correctly, but when asked to whom the real estate was to go, he said "To the heir at law to be sure." This case, although instructive, is not very intelligible; probably the solicitor was better acquainted with the peculiar weakness of the patient's mind, than either of the eminent and titled physicians.

The Divine and the Physician, by JOHN KIRKMAN, M.D., Medical Superintendent of the Suffolk County Asylum.

The questions so lately agitated in Ireland, on religious services to the insane poor, and the wavering opinions which have been expressed in regard to them, have been the means of directing more than ordinary attention to this controverted point; but it may still be considered a subject of legitimate enquiry, whether the nature of insanity is as much considered as it should be by those who engage in clerical duties amongst the insane. That those duties should be most clearly defined, and most delicately performed, is undeniable; that an undue preponderance of doctrinal discourse is injurious and dangerous, cannot be disputed; and it is the weight of this conviction that leads us now to comment on some striking observations on the subject of madness (or rather on something else of which madness is shewn to be a predicate), proceeding from a divine,* who, though not connected himself with those who minister to that great congregation, composed of the insane, possesses that master mind which may well influence others who are more exclusively devoted to their interests. We have no desire to condemn, or even criticise the labours of one of the most powerful preachers and expressive expounders of textual aphorisms, whenever they are beyond the limits of our legitimate field. We should be thankful indeed to find more Pauls at the feet of such a Gamaliel ; and conscious for ourselves, that "we know but in part," we would *The Rev. Henry Melvill.

[ocr errors]

rather stand in the attitude of reception, and welcome any information or elucidation on the mysterious subject of the mind and its liabilities, whether it comes from the divine or the physician. In this age, however, of inquiry and information, it is more certain than ever, that if a minister would preserve and extend his influence for good, he must shew both in conversation and in the pulpit, that he is not unacquainted with so much anatomy or psychology, astronomy or geology, as is essential to the true interpretation of many parts of Holy Writ. Whenever the habit may be detected of allowing accuracy to be compromised for the sake of eloquence and antithesis, it can hardly be considered as offensive to draw attention to it. It is indeed the part of every medical mans' professional duty, to uphold and maintain the consistency of that science to which he owes his temporal livelihood, with the higher truths to which he stands indebted for his knowledge of everlasting life. It is in the exercise of this duty that we must prefer a double charge, viz., that of unsound interpretation and of unsound philosophy as its consequence, against a sermon, preached from Eccles. ii., 2,-“ I said of laughter it is mad, and of mirth what doeth it?" and entitled, as published in the Pulpit, on the 19th February, 1856, "The Wit and the Madman.' It will serve better perhaps to trace the error in philosophy, relative to the two main features of insanity, viz., its own nature and its influence upon beholders, up to the exaggerated antithesis which it is selected to illustrate. Our eye falls on such sentences as the following, "There is nothing from which we seem more instictively to shrink than from madness." "There is a sort of unearthliness about the scene." "We can scarcely be said to have sympathy with the mad, as we have with the sick." "It does not come home to us that we are exposed to the same malady, or in danger of being similarly diseased." Now long before the establishment of lunatic asylums, or known publications on insanity, we can look back on two books which are scientifically accurate in the descriptions of madness, or of the allusions to it which they give. The authority of one is divine; of the other, human; we were about to say super-human. We point to the Bible, we refer to Shakespeare, and we ask how do these support the above theses? Advancing from the lower to the higher court of appeal, one feels it enough only to mention Hamlet and Lear, in order to suggest whole scenes of the most sublime and simple pathos, sustained by the electric current, joining soul with soul; soul strung with

soul unstrung; where the disturbance at one pole, excites its correlative, as correspondingly as in the literal magnet. But we select a few lines: Lear enters fantastically dressed with flowers:


Edgar. "Oh thou side-piercing sight!"

Edgar, again. "I would not take this from report; it is, and my heart breaks at it."

Again, Gentlemen. "A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch. Past speaking of in a king."

Is not love for her father, and pity for her father's condition, each striving to be uppermost in Cordelia's words? "O you kind gods

Cure this quick breach in his abused nature;
The untuned and jarring senses, O wind up

Of this child-changed father."

And Lear himself, partly assured of his condition, says: "I am mightily absurd ;—I should even die with pity To see another thus."

Lear, act iv. scenes 6-7.

See also Hamlet, act iii., scene 1.
Ophelia." O what a noble mind is here o'erthrown,

“That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
"Blasted with ecstacy; O wo is me

"To have seen what I have seen, see what I see." But we pass on to the Scriptures, where of course, the cases are but incidental. We hardly expect sympathy in Achish king of Gath, who probably, in common with all heathen, could not distinguish the phrensy of madness, from the ecstacy of inspiration; but it was evidently because David's behaviour was uncourtly rather than unearthly, that one demonstration in his presence was sufficient.

If all departures from sound reason, rapidly verged into the type of the Gadarene demoniac, we should have much less to say, indeed; but there seems something of weight in the case, without any nice distinctions of lunacy, insanity, and demoniacal possession, that, "those that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy"+ all indiscriminately met with sympathy from the multitude who brought them, and from the great physician who healed them. And it is curious, though it is no more than natural, for a father to love his child as much in sickness as in health, that the most extreme instance of † Mark iv. 24.

naturalness and feeling in all the Gospels, is a


case of

an epileptic child who was lunatic and sore vexed;" over whom the father cried out, and said with tears, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." + Hospitals and asylums are modern; and we must draw the comparison between them by the help of modern ideas. That the possibility of infection is necessary to sympathy, we suppose that the preacher would hardly maintain. Is the possibility of having oneself to suffer in like manner essential thereto ? or even the supposed probability? If so, sympathy should be far stronger with the madman than with the sick. I visit a fair female flower withering of consumption in the prime of life; or I witness an amputation for some strumous affection of a joint; and I have a thankful feeling of rejoicing, that, humanly speaking, my own constitution, free from hereditary predispositions, is almost certain never to suffer from either of those complaints. Have I, therefore, less sympathy with those pitiable cases? If so, sympathy is after all, resolvable into self-love; and I am pitying myself in imagination, instead of having another in view. But I have as little predisposition to insanity, and I know it cannot be infectious; though truly, let me not forget, that fear, prejudice, and such mental states, which actually coincide with madness in their characteristic of unreasonableness ARE violently and irresistibly infectious; and I do most heartily pity the narrow minded and the nervous. But this feeling, which argues rather the common virtue of humanity in me, than actual benefit to the sufferer, being an effect, varies with its causes, and rises infinitely higher over a universal chaos than a partial disturbance; over insanity than over feebleness of mind.

But further, says our orator, "the mind seems to know nothing whatever of the probability that itself may be out of joint." Is it so indeed? There cannot be a greater contrast, than between myself in the exaltation of health, and my friend burning with fever, and with death in his face, and I cannot shade off that contrast; but there is something too serious for a joke in the observation that no such breach of continuity separates me from the madman. Let us suppose that we could build twelve lunatic asylums, the first to be filled with ordinary men of the world, with their senses and their wits all about them; the twelfth with patients spending their remaining strength in paroxysms of bodily and mental excitement. Let also the second be the

Matthew xvii., 15. Mark ix., 24.

abode of those who have weak intellects and small attainments; the third, of such as have lost their self possession by the undue preponderance of some favourite idea; the fourth, of persons of intellectual genius; the others, with mono-maniacs, or with melancholics whom no diagnosis can distinguish from cases of inconsolable despondency; and so on, up to the last. Are there not here, links of a real chain connecting me with the maniac, shewing me that I have more in common with him than I had with the patient suffering from fever, or the man with his scrofulous joint : nay, that sanity and insanity, like light and darkness, are but things of degrees after all? No one is absolutely free from irrationality, and few perhaps destitute of all traces of rational ideas. It is day with me and night with him, but there is only twilight between us. Self-love then, even, should make me feel the strongest sympathy with the madman; because though his may be the acute disease, and mine only the infirmity, yet I wish I were more rational myself, my faculties under sounder control, and the light of reason less flickering, so as to be more unlike his, which has gone out.

[ocr errors]

But again, says the divine, "It is not man who is looked upon, it is a strange mysterious inexplicable being, who seems to have assumed the human form that he may appall us in our own likeness, and to have come from some dark place of final retribution on an errand of scorn and revenge. "We do not know whether there be not something analogous between the feelings with which the inmate of a madhouse is surveyed, and those which might be supposed to be excited by the appearance of a spectre. In either case, it is the want of earthliness which goes so chillingly to the heart. It is not one of ourselves, with all the attributes of humanity, which is standing before us, and that involuntary shudder is in both instances a confession that we are in contact with something which is not of this creation, and that from all such contact flesh and blood must shrink. But let the causes be what they may, the fact is beyond dispute, that madness is regarded by us with feelings wholly different from those which are excited by any other form of sickness. We cannot bring you away from the madhouse as from the hospital." Ignorance is the mother of superstition we know, but that spectators of such parentage should liken a madman to a spectre; and imagine "the mysterious inexplicable being" of the insane, to be clothed in such unearthly drapery as appalls the eye and heart, is no more a true account of the VOL. II. NO. 20.


« ForrigeFortsæt »