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and crawling, that are often used, and used in vain, to gain admission into the number of that self-constituted set who take the lead and give the tone to London society. I really doubt whether it would not require less interest to make you a member of parliament than a member of Almack's. It is not easy even to get a ticket to the Friday French play and ball, which is held weekly at these rooms, though this from its subordinate fashion is sarcastically entitled The Refuge for the Destitute; nor should you be insensible to the honour conferred upon you to-night. Of the seven hundred people now that you see here, how many do you suppose are asked by the lady in whose house and at whose expense the entertainment is given?" "How many?" said I, "surely I don't understand your question. Who else should ask them?" "Let me explain this matter," said he, "and then you will perceive how useful it is to a foreign traveller to have a native interpreter at his elbow, on all occasions, to enable him to penetrate beneath the surface; else he will only see the puppets playing, without any suspicion of the secret strings which really regulate their motions. You have perhaps already discovered that in England few people look straightforward; in the political world some look downwards; but in the fashionable world all look upwards. The great object of the ostensible hostess of the evening, Mrs. has been to rise a step in the scale of society; and to get within the range of that magic circle from which she has hitherto been excluded. To accomplish her purpose, she has given this splendid gala, but she was obliged to delegate the office of issuing invitations to four lady patronesses, who condescendingly undertook to procure the attendance of the haut-ton, and allowing the lady herself, as a mark of special favour, to ask fifty of her own friends, reserved to themselves the absolute disposal of the remaining six hundred and fifty tickets. The lady has so far gained her object, that to-morrow morning all these proud peeresses and titled dandies will leave their cards at her door; and she may be comprehended in their future invitations, but she will certainly lose the good will of her old friends, who cannot but feel offended at their present exclusion; so that, despised by her old associates, and disdained by her new acquaintance, the balance-sheet will not prove much in her favour."
"Well Jonathan," said I to myself, "things are not yet come to this pass in America;" and so wishing *** good night, I returned home to moralize upon the vanity of human
Πᾶς ἄφρων μαίνεται.
"Il y a à parier que toute idée publique, toute convention reçue est une sottise, car elle a convenue au plus grand nombre." CHAMPFORT.
THE stoics had a notion, which does not seem very far from the truth, that all persons who have not a control over their passions are mad; and that every foolish or immoral action is a symptom of insanity. However mortifying this doctrine may prove to certain grave and dictatorial personages, it would puzzle a casuist to draw the line in such a way as to suit all cases. So instinctively indeed is the notion inherent in men's minds, that it colours their ordinary discourse, and embodies itself in their popular adages. Hence, it may be concluded, has arisen the practice, so frequent in civilized states, of treating the insane like criminals, and whipping, chaining, and starving them, in order to make them wiser for the future.
Dr. Butler, bishop of Durham, once asked Dean Tucker whether he did not think it possible that whole communities of men might be seized with a fit of madness. This is so possible, or rather so much matter of fact, that the question should rather have been started whether communities are not always insane; and do not pass incessantly in something like a cycle, through all the different phases of mental malady of which the individual is susceptible. As far as recorded history extends, the lucid intervals of civilized societies have been "few and far between,' and generally of a very questionable character. The Spartans were manifest madmen; the insatiable ambition and lust of dominion of the Romans are decisive symptoms of insanity; the Crusaders were furious lunatics; the Cromwellians were religiously mad; the people in Charles the Second's day were mad with debauchery; the Jacobites were political madmen; the South-sea speculators were avariciously mad; the last generation was revolution mad, and we are legitimate mad. In all ages and in all climes, there has not been wanting, in every nation, from forty thousand to four hundred thousand madmen ready to be shot, or run through the body, or sunk in the sea, or blown up into the air, for the mere amusement of the spectators, and the gain of about a dozen or so of other madmen, whose hallucination is the lust of mismanaging public affairs.
This wholesale species of lunacy is not, however, the subject of present consideration. There is so much more to be got by flattering the "mentis gratissimus error" of the day, and helping nations forward in the prosecution of their insane desires, than in checking or contradicting them, that this branch of inquiry is not worth investigation. In this respect great communities
VOL. II. No. 7.-1821,
"n'entendent pas raillerie;" and whoever presumes to be wiser or better than the rest, is sure to be himself treated as a madman, shunned, persecuted, shut up, chained, or fixed in the pillory perhaps, and may think himself very well off if he is not placed under a regimen which terminates on the scaffold.
Neither is it much to the purpose to dwell upon certain insane trains of ideas, which, for a while epidemic, continue, notwithstanding all curative efforts, to infect the reasoning faculty of individuals for long series of ages. Such are alchemy, witchcraft, judicial astrology, and the like. It may, however, be worth while to notice an insane notion, very operative in life, and the source of much misery, namely, the unreasonable belief in the existence of a metaphysical personage called "luck," a being of such surprising attributes as to reverse the order of nature, and to make things certain, that, if not impossible, are barely within the sphere of possibility. Madmen, under the influence of this insane impression, abound round the gamingtables at Paris; where they are seen eagerly staking their money, under the notion that this ens of their imagination will counteract the pull of the table, and disarm the banker of the odds which the law of the game gives him over the punters. If the lottery were not one of the props of the throne and the altar, and so highly esteemed by the first moralists of the day, we might instance the English madmen who play half-crowns against shillings, and pit their luck against the 19,999 chances which stand between them and the great prize.
Having said thus much, en passant, of epidemic insanity, return we now to those sporadic cases which more properly belong to our subject. And in the first place one cannot but be struck at the apparent contradiction of our laws; which, distinguishing between madman and madman, take from the lunatic the management of his estate, although his mania may be that of accumulation; while they suffer another, whom they consider as a fool, to continue the master of his property, notwithstanding his daily waste of his means in the gratification of the most insane and disorderly propensities. Seneca notices the same absurdity in the Roman code. "Insanire omnes stultos diximus: nec tamen omnes curamus elleboro; his ipsis quos vocamus insanos, et suffragium et jurisdictionem committimus."
There is something remarkably selfish in this disposition of our legislators, who thus shrink from the trouble and expense of country mad-houses and chanceries upon a scale adequate to this class of patients; and because the unfortunates don't bite or do mischief, (being, as it is usually expressed, "nobody's enemy but their own") suffer them to go at large in society and ruin their health and fortune, for the exclusive benefit of quackdoctors and usurers.
This oversight of the law appears the more singular, when we reflect on the great care which it has taken of the interests of another species of madmen, called in the technical jargon of legal science infants. If two persons of this description are mad enough to marry without consent of parents, no matter how suitable the match, or how long they may continue to live together, the interests of their children's children are sacrificed, to protect the parents from themselves. This notion is so exquisitely absurd, so injurious to society, and so unjust in practice, that we cannot but conclude the pertinacity with which it has gotten possession of certain brains is a decisive proof of their being touched. Madness has been divided into erroneous sensitive impressions and erroneous notions concerning the properties of things. Upon either of these counts it would be no difficult process to convict a vast number of one's acquaintance of insanity, who are by a gross abuse left at large to the misguidance of their several hallucinations. Among the most common of these cases take the following:
Biddy is affected with such an impression of her own personal charms, that during twenty years she has treated the whole sex with an excessive disdain, and has actually refused two unexceptionable matches, which might have made her happiness through life. The disease, as is usually the case, has gained ground by its continuance, and is now so rooted, that no admonitions of her toilet-glass can effect any change in her dress or pretensions: the symptoms, however, are so far altered, that the cold and haughty disdain of her younger life is now dropped for a certain anxious, fluttering, fidgetty restlessness, when in mixed company, that renders her very troublesome to her neighbours. Biddy never was pretty; and now her perceptions of herself have become totally at variance with sound discretion, and produce an incongruity in all she says or does. Among the most striking overt acts of her insanity are noticeable, a smile, which continues to show her teeth, notwithstanding the total disappearance of that lustre and whiteness that once rendered them rather agreeable; a pair of low-cut stays, exhibiting-nothing; short petticoats, showing-too much; a turned-up hat with a plume, cherry-coloured ribands; and an insuperably craving desire to waltz. How say you, gentlemen of the jury? -guilty or not guilty?
A nobleman who, from respect, cannot be named, is grievously afflicted with an insane impression that he has a good voice, and the absurd notion that he has a taste for music. In all other respects this worthy individual is rational and consistent. He has, nevertheless, injured his fortune by entertaining foreigners, has sung and played himself into Coventry, and has broken up three musical charities, by singing louder than the professional performers hired to bring a congregation.
T. T., the son of a small but respectable farmer, succeeded, at his father's death, to an estate, upon which he might have lived very comfortably, but for his misfortune in going mad. His hallucination consists in imagining himself a genius. Every year this unfortunate gentleman suffers a severe paroxysm of his disorder, which gets no remission till he has printed, at his own expense, one or two volumes of prose or verse. These, like æther and opium, though they give temporary relief, ultimately aggravate the malady; and so disordered are his sensitive impressions on this subject, that, though his warehouse is full and his purse empty, he does not perceive that no one purchases, or reads his productions.
T. W. has a young and beautiful wife, and a lovely family of infants dependent on him for support. His nervous system is so deranged, that the application of spirituous and fermented fluids to his gustatory nerves excites the most exaggerated and false impressions of pleasure, producing an inordinate and insane avidity for this indulgence. The wretched man is not conscious that he has lost the confidence of his employers; he does not even see the goal that yawns to receive him; and he is totally insensible to a swelling in his right side, a swollen pair of legs, and the jaundice, which discolours his skin. Common sense is sufficient to show that the gentleman is stark mad.
Whoever has given the slightest attention to this branch of nosology, will remark the extreme modesty with which the foregoing cases have been selected: the more grievous alienations of mind being passed over, which are usually given in charge to the masters of penitentiaries and the public executioner. Of such cases, indeed, it must be admitted, that if the practice is not successful, it is by no means from the want of severity in the administration of remedies.
Enough, however, has been shown, in the lawyer's phrase, to make out a case for going before parliament and soliciting its attention, in an humble petition, in behalf of those unhappy maniacs who are eminently unfit for the management of themselves. The object of such a petition should be, to establish a number of district boards, similar to those which existed under the income-tax acts, for inquiring into the condition of each individual's vous, and reporting on his fitness to be left at large; and to provide a suitable number of places of safe custody, especially in the vicinity of our Universities, for undertaking the cure of such cases as are not wholly desperate: all others to be consigned to prisons, workhouses, and penitentiaries, which should henceforward bear the appellation of "hospitals for incurables." To one or other of these places should be immediately confined:-All persons who spend more money on a vixen mistress than an amiable wife. All bachelors of sixty who want to marry their maids. All persons who have ventured