Chapters in the History of the Insane in the British Isles
by Daniel Hack Tuke
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"In the autumn Lord Chatham's health grew stronger. Judging from the event, we may conclude that the morbid humours had begun to leave his nerves, and to concentrate for a fit—so long intermitted and so much needed—of his hereditary gout. He was still entirely shut out from his friends, and still unable to transact any business, but he could bear to hear it mentioned, and could form some judgment of its tenor. In this situation his mind, not yet restored to its full vigour, brooded over suspicions and discontents, for which the behaviour of his colleagues afforded him no just foundation."[109]

Lord Chatham now resigned the Privy Seal (October, 1768), which he had held since July, 1766. "Until towards the middle of March, 1767, he had been truly and in effect Prime Minister; since that time he had been—nothing."

Lord Chatham's derangement was, however, at last dispelled. We find that "a few weeks only after Lord Chatham's resignation, his gout, so long interrupted, but for some time past giving symptoms of approach, returned. Bowed down as he was by a far more grievous malady, it proved to him a healing visitation. It raised his drooping spirits and strung his feeble nerves. The clouds which had obscured that great intellect wholly passed away. Never indeed did his splendid eloquence or his wise and resolute counsels shine forth more brightly than during the next following years."

It was in the year 1775 (November 29) that, on the American war question, Lord Chatham emerged from his retirement—a year after the Lunacy Act had passed.

Thirteen years later, his Sovereign fell a victim to the same disorder, and it is probable that the attention thus drawn to the malady exerted a beneficial influence upon public feeling, in the interests of those labouring under the same affliction. The clerical and medical doctor, Willis, who was at that time seventy years of age, was called in to attend George III. in 1788. The King had had, as early as 1765, a slight attack, but the fact was carefully concealed. Willis's treatment consisted in bark, blistering, and an occasional dose of calomel.[110] It is not necessary to enter here into the differences of opinion which arose as to the conduct of the case, between himself and his colleagues, Warren, Reynolds, and others. In February, 1789, the royal patient had progressed so favourably that he was able to write a sensible letter to Pitt, and on April 23rd of the same year he went to St. Paul's to offer thanks for his recovery, amid a vast and enthusiastic multitude, thereby running a great risk of a relapse. However, he had no return of the complaint till 1801, when he recovered rapidly. In 1804 he again became insane, and again recovered, the death of the Princess Amelia in 1810 causing the attack from which he never recovered. The subject of insanity was therefore brought before the public again and again, for some thirty years—longer, indeed, if we include Lord Chatham's derangement—and brought before them in a way which excited their commiseration in a marked degree.

It is worthy of notice that mechanical restraint was applied by Willis to the King. "Nothing," observes the late Dr. Ray, "can more strikingly indicate the change that has occurred since that time in respect to the means of managing the insane, than the fact that for two or three months the King was frequently subjected to mechanical restraint. There was nothing in his condition which could be considered at the present time a sufficient reason for its application."[111]

It may be observed here that John Wesley prescribed at this period for madness, as well as for irreligion.[112] One of his remedies was that the patient should be exclusively fed on apples for a month—a regimen which recalls the starving treatment of epilepsy prescribed, at a recent date, by Dr. Jackson, of Boston. Wesley's prescriptions for "lunacy" and "raving madness" are given with almost as much confidence of success as those we have cited from the Saxon leech-book.

"For Lunacy:

1. Give decoction of agrimony four times a day.

2. Or, rub the head several times a day with vinegar in which ground ivy leaves have been infused.

3. Or, take daily an ounce of distilled vinegar.

4. Or, boil juice of ground ivy with sweet oil and white wine into an ointment. Shave the head anointed therewith, and chafe it in, warm, every other day for three weeks; bruise also the leaves and bind them on the head, and give three spoonfuls of the juice warm every morning.

This generally cures melancholy. The juice alone taken twice a day will cure.

5. Or, electrify. Tried.

For Raving Madness:

1. It is a sure rule that all madmen are cowards, and may be conquered by binding only, without beating (Dr. Mead). He also observes that blistering the head does more harm than good. Keep the head close shaved, and frequently wash it with vinegar.

2. Apply to the head clothes dipt in cold water.

3. Or, set the patient with his head under a great waterfall, as long as his strength will bear; or pour water on his head out of a tea-kettle.

4. Or, let him eat nothing but apples for a month.

5. Or, nothing but bread and milk. Tried."

In all hypochondriacal cases, and in obstinate madness, Wesley recommended the following, wherein we see a return to the almost inevitable hellebore: "Pour twelve ounces of rectified spirits of wine on four ounces of roots of black hellebore, and let it stand in a warm place twenty-four hours. Pour it off and take from thirty to forty drops in any liquid, fasting."

Lastly, for all nervous disorders, he recurs to what was his favourite remedy, and says, "But I am firmly persuaded that there is no remedy in nature for nervous disorders of every kind, comparable to the proper and constant use of the electrical machine."

I would direct the reader's attention to the condition of some asylums at the latter end of the eighteenth century, as described by a prominent character and noble philanthropist of that period.

The celebrated John Howard did not confine his attention to prisons, but frequently took occasion to visit asylums in the course of his philanthropic travels; and in his "Accounts of the Principal Lazarettos in Europe, together with Further Observations on some Foreign Prisons and Hospitals, and Additional Remarks on the Present State of those in Great Britain and Ireland" (1789), he contrasts St. Luke's Hospital with a hospital for lunatics at Constantinople, to the advantage of the latter in some respects, although he states that there is very little regard paid to cleanliness or the patients, while the former was neat and clean. Of the Constantinople asylums, he says, "They are admirable structures.... The rooms are all on the ground floor, arched, and very lofty, having opposite windows, and opening under a corridor into a spacious area." In the midst of the neglect of human beings he was astonished to find so much attention paid to cats, an asylum having been provided for them near the Mosque of St. Sophia. Of St. Luke's he says, "The cells were very clean and not offensive. The boxes on which the beds of straw lie are on a declivity and have false bottoms. The cells open into galleries, fifteen feet wide, and on each gallery was a vault, which was not offensive.... Here are large airing grounds for men and women; there is also a new but very inconvenient bath. Here are, very properly, two sitting-rooms in each gallery, one for the quiet, the other for the turbulent; but I could wish that the noisy and turbulent were in a separate part of the house by day and by night.... Several women were calm and quiet, and at needlework with the matron. A chapel would be proper here for the advantage of recovering patients, as I have seen in such houses abroad."

It would seem, then, that although Howard observes, "I greatly prefer the asylum at Constantinople," he must refer to the less important matter of the structure of the building. As also when mentioning St. Patrick's or Swift's Hospital at Dublin, he says he should prefer the Dol-huis at Amsterdam and the hospital at Constantinople, "where the rooms open into open corridors and gardens, which is far better than their opening into passages as here in England."[113]

In his previous work, 1784, Howard observes, speaking of English prisons, "I must add here that in some few gaols are confined idiots and lunatics. These serve for sport to idle visitors at assizes and other times of general resort. Many of the Bridewells are crowded and offensive, because the rooms which were designed for prisoners are occupied by the insane (by the Irish Act, 3 Geo. III., such persons are required to be kept separate). Where they are not kept separate, they disturb and terrify other prisoners. No care is taken of them, although it is probable that by medicines, and proper regimen, some of them might be restored to their senses and to usefulness in life."[114]

We shall see more clearly, as we proceed, what was the condition of the insane in England at the latter part of the eighteenth century.

A time then came—in the year 1792—fraught with an event as important as it was unexpected, the beginning, on a small scale, of the reform which ultimately took place in the condition of British asylums; a reform slowly brought about by means which might have seemed very inadequate for the purpose. But the poet warns us to

"Think naught a trifle, though it small appear; Small sands the mountain, moments make the year, And trifles life."

And does not Joseph de Maistre well say, "Aucune grande chose n'eut de grands commencements"—nothing great ever began great?

I should premise that there was at York an asylum founded some fifteen years before, on a charitable foundation, with it cannot be doubted, the best intentions on the part of its promoters, but, unfortunately, its management had been no better than the worst asylums of that day. It happened that, in 1791, the friends of a patient who was confined there, desiring to visit her, were refused admission, and suspicion was aroused as to the treatment to which she was subjected, with (as the event proved) only too much reason, and not, as sometimes happens at the present time, without just occasion, and, indeed, on the most frivolous and vexatious pretences. The knowledge that such is the case ought to make us very careful how we sit in judgment on our predecessors in regard to any charge brought against them. There is, however, undeniable evidence, proof which cannot be evaded, and ultimately admitted by all, that the asylum at York of which I speak was a frightful abode for lunatics. The time had not come for its public exposure, but instead of this it was proposed by a citizen of York—William Tuke—that an institution should be erected where there should be no concealment, and where the patients should be treated with all the kindness which their condition allowed. His mind, full of common sense, suggestive, and not seeing why the right thing should not be done—in fact, his creed being that it must be done—he set resolutely to work to effect his purpose. It became with him a question of humanity and right, and he resolved that if he could be the means of effecting it, there should be an asylum openly conducted and on humane principles. He talked over the project with his friends, and having at last formed a definite plan, he brought it forward before an assembly of the communion of which he was a member—the Society of Friends. I should have stated that the patient in the York Asylum to whom I have referred belonged to the same body. As was natural, difficulties were at first suggested; but, having an iron will, as well as a kind heart, he overcame them before long, and eventually succeeded in his object. His feeling that something should be done had been strengthened by a visit he had paid to St. Luke's Hospital, where he saw the patients lying on straw and in chains. He was distressed with the scene, and could not help believing that there was a more excellent way. He resolved that an attempt should be made to ameliorate their miserable condition. His proposition was made in the spring of 1792. Adopted, and the funds provided, steps were taken for erecting an institution in a healthy locality in the neighbourhood of York. "The ground was elevated, and the situation afforded excellent air and water, as well as a very extensive and diversified prospect." The illustration (Frontispiece) will convey a better idea than any verbal description of this unpretentious building. Its character as a labour of love and humanity was embodied in an inscription written at the time, which may be discovered whenever the foundation stone is disinterred:—


Referring to the establishment of the Retreat, an American physician of celebrity in the department of Psychological Medicine says, "Merit of this kind is seldom duly appreciated by the world, for it does not strike the imagination like that of brilliant discoveries in the physical sciences, and the very reason that reforms like that in question are so obviously sanctioned and confirmed by common sense and the feelings of common humanity is apt to detract from the merit of those who conceive them."[115]

There are several points to which I have devoted considerable labour among the archives of the Retreat, and on which I have had the advantage of frequently conversing with the author of the "Description of the Retreat" in former years. Among these I may refer to an interesting explanation of the origin of the now familiar term "Retreat" as applied to a lunatic asylum. One day the conversation in the family circle turned on the question, What name should be given to the proposed institution? when my grandmother, who was much interested in the establishment, quickly remarked that it should be called a Retreat. It was at once seen that feminine instinct had solved the question, and the name was adopted, "to convey the idea of what such an institution should be, namely, a place in which the unhappy might obtain a refuge; a quiet haven in which the shattered bark might find the means of reparation or of safety;"—a term which became the parent of numberless imitations, some of them, it must be confessed, only so called by a miserable irony. It need hardly be remarked that this term had been from an early period employed in the Church of Rome to indicate a place of resort for meditation and penance during certain periods of the year.

Family tradition says that the wife of the projector of the Retreat—a woman of great force of character—questioned at first his wisdom in proposing the foundation of such an institution. He had (with her full concurrence) already established a school for the higher education of girls, among other projects which sprang from his fertile brain, and she playfully told him that people would say he had had many children, and that his last was an idiot. Here for once the woman's instinct failed, and masculine sense succeeded. Some of his co-religionists also discouraged the undertaking. "Looking back to the year 1792, and considering the miserable condition of the insane in general at that period, it appears to us almost strange that the proposal should have met in the first instance with considerable opposition, and that the institution had to struggle through many difficulties into existence."[116]

The experiment began in earnest, on the opening of the establishment, four years after it was instituted, the projector residing at and superintending it, a short interval excepted, until the appointment of Jepson, who, as well as his wife, the matron, were admirably adapted for their posts. During this period, "the founder," says the historiographer of the Retreat, "superintended the management of the patients, and entered into their cases with great zeal, discrimination, and humanity."

Letters in my possession, written by him, attest this, and also the difficulties which he encountered; for in one of them he writes, "All men seem to desert me in matters essential." Happily, however, a like-minded man, in many respects, was at last found in Jepson, who became an excellent superintendent, and remained at his post until the death of the founder, who to an advanced age continued, to quote his grandson, "to pay very close attention to the institution, generally visiting it several times a week."

It was early seen that work in the open air would be an important help in the experiment, and enough land for a farm had been obtained. I observe that, among other things, the fact particularly struck a Swiss physician who visited the Retreat not long after it was opened. He remarks on its presenting the appearance of a large rural farm, and on its being surrounded by a garden. He was also struck by another important feature: "There is no bar or grating to the windows."

"Cette maison est situee a un mille de York au mileau d'une campagne fertile et riante; ce n'est point l'idee d'une prison qu'elle fait naitre, mais plutot celle d'une grande ferme rustique; elle est entouree d'un jardin ferme. Point de barreau, point de grillages aux fenetres, on y a supplee par un moyen dont je rendrai compte ci-apres.

"Vous voyez, que dans le traitement moral on ne considere pas les fous comme absolument prives de raison, c'est-a-dire, comme inaccessibles aux motifs de crainte, d'esperance, de sentiment et d'honneur, on les considere plutot, ce semble, comme des enfans qui ont un superflu de force et qui en faisoient un emploi dangereux."[117]

Pinel had now been at work five years, and for the first time heard of the management of the Retreat from the glowing account published by this Swiss physician Dr. Delarive. The conductors of the Retreat first became acquainted with Pinel's great work at the Bicetre in Paris in 1806.

An incident related in honour of Jepson may fitly be introduced here. He "had found the doctrine of subduing the insane by fear maintained in St. Luke's Hospital, which was then esteemed, and probably justly, the best public establishment of the kind in Great Britain; and he could not but attach considerable value to its long and extensive experience. Soon after entering upon his office, a very violent patient came under his care. His friend and adviser (Tuke) was from home, and he determined for once, upon his own responsibility, to act upon the prevalent notion. In size he was not ill qualified to do the duty of a keeper upon the old system, but his feelings and all the habits of his mind were opposed to harsh methods. After the experiment he was so uneasy with himself, that on retiring to bed he slept but little, and he resolved that, if the course he had adopted was not in this case beneficial, he would entirely abandon the system. On visiting the patient his opinion was that the experiment had failed, and that it had left a painful and vindictive feeling on the mind of the subject of it." It is added that henceforth Jepson fully carried out, step by step, the views of the founder and his friends.[118]

The earnestness with which the officers who were appointed entered into the undertaking—the way in which they helped to make possible the success so much desired by the founder—deserves our grateful appreciation, and should preserve them from being in the least degree thrown into the shade. To enter heartily into the ideas and schemes of other people may be as meritorious as to originate them, and is often much more irksome. It is neither necessary nor generous to exalt one class of workers at the expense of the other. No doubt the originator of the Retreat was one who also worked hard himself at what he had initiated; but he could not have eventually succeeded if he had not been able to attract to himself men who would devote their powers to the new work in the same spirit as he did. Such men were Jepson and Fowler, the latter of whom, the first visiting physician,[119] died five years after his appointment. Such also was Dr. Cappe, his successor, who was cut off in his prime deeply regretted—"a man equally esteemed for the gentle urbanity of his manner, the excellence of his understanding and dispositions, and his professional attainments."[120]

It is not always that the insane are able to appreciate the efforts made to render them comfortable. It is all the more gratifying when it does occur. A patient was admitted who had nearly lost the use of his limbs from being chained, and for some time it was necessary to lead him about like an infant. He was found to require no restraint, and was, after a while, able to walk without assistance. When one of his friends visited him and asked him what he called the place, he replied, with great earnestness, "Eden, Eden, Eden!"

A man was admitted who had been for twenty years chained and naked; with the exception of the occasional use of arm-straps, no personal restraint was employed from the moment of his admission. He was soon induced to wear clothes and adopt orderly habits.

One day a man of Herculean size was brought to the institution, and the case is thus described by the author of the "Description": "He had been afflicted several times before; and so constantly, during the present attack, had he been kept chained, that his clothes were contrived to be taken off and put on by means of strings, without removing his manacles. They were, however, taken off when he entered the Retreat, and he was ushered into the apartment where the superintendent and matron were supping. He was calm. His attention appeared to be arrested by his new situation. He was desired to join in the repast, during which he behaved with tolerable propriety. After it was concluded, the superintendent conducted him to his apartment, and told him the circumstances on which his treatment would depend; that it was his anxious wish to make every inhabitant in the house as comfortable as possible, and that he sincerely hoped the patient's conduct would render it unnecessary for him to have recourse to coercion. The maniac was sensible of the kindness of his treatment. He promised to restrain himself, and he so completely succeeded, that, during his stay, no coercive means were ever employed towards him." When excited and vociferous, the superintendent went to his room and sat quietly beside him. After a period of increased irritation, the violent excitement subsided, and he would listen with attention to the persuasions and arguments of his friendly visitor. "Can it be doubted," asks Tuke, "that in this case the disease had been greatly exasperated by the mode of management, or that the subsequent kind treatment had a great tendency to promote his recovery?"

An architect, Mr. Stark, in visiting British asylums, when engaged in preparing plans for the Glasgow Asylum, came to the Retreat. He thus speaks in his "Remarks on the Construction and Management of Lunatic Asylums": "In some asylums which I have visited, chains are affixed to every table and to every bed-post; in others, they are not to be found within the walls.... At the Retreat they sometimes have patients brought to them frantic and in irons, whom they at once release, and by mild arguments and gentle arts reduce almost immediately to obedience and orderly behaviour. A great deal of delicacy appears in the attentions paid to the smaller feelings of the patients. The iron bars which guarded the windows have been avoided, and neat iron sashes, having all the appearance of wooden ones, have been substituted in their places; and when I visited them, the managers were occupied in contriving how to get rid of the bolts with which the patients are shut up at night, on account of their harsh, ungrateful sound, and of their communicating to the asylum somewhat of the air and character of a prison. The effects of such attentions, both on the happiness of the patients and the discipline of the institution, are more important than may at first view be imagined. Attachment to the place and to the managers, and an air of comfort and of contentment, rarely exhibited within the precincts of such establishments, are consequences easily discovered in the general demeanour of the patients." "It is a government," Stark also observes, "of humanity and of consummate skill, and requires no aid from the arm of violence and the exertions of brutal force."[121] But Stark himself, strange to say, is careful not to commit himself to the total abolition of chains, adopted at the Retreat.

Two more brief testimonies from competent visitors who inspected the institution may be permitted—one from Dr. Duncan of Edinburgh, when on a tour of inspection of asylums in Britain; the other from a foreigner, Dr. Naudi, then the "President of the Maltese Hospitals." The former wrote, after visiting the Retreat, of the demonstration, "beyond contradiction, of the very great advantage resulting from a mode of treatment in cases of insanity much more mild than was before introduced into almost any lunatic asylum, either at home or abroad. In the management of this institution they have set an example which claims the imitation, and deserves the thanks, of every sect and every nation. For, without much hazard of contradiction from those acquainted with the subject, it may be asserted that the Retreat at York is at this moment the best-regulated establishment in Europe, either for the recovery of the insane, or for their comfort when they are in an incurable state." And Dr. Naudi, in broken but effective English, observed, "This house or Retreat for the troubled in mind, I think, is one of the best things I saw in England on the same subject; and having observed many others on the Continent, I dare to say it is the best in all the world. The situation of the building out of the town, a large garden around it, the propriety of the rooms, the cleanliness of the patients, the way in which they are kept, as for dressing, as for feeding them, is very remarkable to be observed."

The institution had not been very long in full operation before the success of the more enlightened treatment pursued in it was so patent, that the same pleasure and astonishment which the Swiss doctor experienced became general, and it was decided, in the hope of inducing others to follow a like course, to publish an account of the means which had been adopted in the treatment of the patients. This "Description of the Retreat," by S. Tuke, containing "An Account of its Origin and Progress, the Modes of Treatment, and a Statement of Cases," appeared in 1813.[122] Sydney Smith helped to bring the book into notice by his favourable review of it in the Edinburgh. In it he says of the Retreat:—

"The great principle on which it appears to be conducted is that of kindness to the patients. It does not appear to them (the managers), because a man is mad upon one particular subject, that he is to be considered in a state of complete mental degradation, or insensible to the feelings of kindness and gratitude. When a madman does not do what he is bid to do, the shortest method, to be sure, is to knock him down; and straps and chains are the species of prohibitions which are the least frequently disregarded. But the Society of Friends seems rather to consult the interest of the patient than the ease of his keeper, and to aim at the government of the insane by creating in them the kindest disposition towards those who have the command over them. Nor can anything be more wise, humane, or interesting than the strict attention to the feelings of their patients which seems to prevail in the institution.... To the effects of kindness in the Retreat are superadded those of constant employment. The female patients are employed as much as possible in sewing, knitting, and domestic affairs; and several of the convalescents assist the attendants. For the men are selected those species of bodily employment most agreeable to the patient, and most opposite to the illusions of his disease." He proceeds to say that in this instance, "an example has been set of courage, patience, and kindness which cannot be too highly commended or too widely diffused, and which, we are convinced, will gradually bring into repute a milder and better method of treating the insane."[123]

The author of the above work took an active part in the management of the Retreat for more than forty years, strenuously aided in exposing the abuses of the York Asylum, and exerted no inconsiderable influence upon the movement on behalf of the insane, not only by the work referred to, but by his writings on the construction of asylums.[124]

I find an entry in his journal, made in April, 1811, that he had begun an Essay on the state of the insane poor for a periodical called the Philanthropist. His indignation had been aroused by witnessing the condition of pauper lunatics in a workhouse in the south of England. He was led into a small yard at a short distance from the principal building, in which were four cells. He found them large enough for one person. At the further end of each was a platform of wood attached to the wall, which was intended for the patient's bed. In two of the cells all the light and air which could be admitted passed through an iron grating in the door, so that the cold air could not be excluded without entirely darkening the apartment. In each of these cells a female was confined. "I cannot describe," he says, "my feelings and astonishment when I perceived that the poor women were absolutely without any clothes. The weather was intensely cold, and the evening previous to our visit, the thermometer had been sixteen degrees below freezing. One of these forlorn objects lay buried under a miserable cover of straw, without a blanket or even a horse-cloth to defend her from the cold." So of the others, one of whom had the leg chained to the platform at the end of the cell. Bitter complaints were made of cold. Flannel dresses were at once sent to the workhouse for these poor wretches, which they wore, and invoked many blessings on the giver, who denounced the conduct of the guardians and writes, "Surely, a mind, actuated by the virtuous sympathies of our nature, would not have joined with comfort the warm social circle, or repose his head on a soft pillow, whilst he knew that any one was enduring so many privations, and so much misery which was not only in his power but was his duty to relieve."

It should be stated that a Select Committee had been appointed (moved for by Mr. Wynn) five years before (1806), to inquire into the state of pauper lunatics in England. This Committee proposed the erection of asylums in different parts of the kingdom, power being given to the magistrates of any county to charge the expense upon the county rate, all pauper lunatics within the district being conveyed thither and maintained at the expense of their respective parishes, and it was recommended that no asylum should contain more than 300 patients. At that time there were 1765 lunatics in workhouses, or houses of industry, 483 in private custody, 113 in houses of correction, and 27 in gaols; total, 2248.[125] Sir George Paul, who took an active interest in this Committee, stated, in a letter to the Secretary of State, that there was hardly a parish of any considerable extent in which there might not be found some unfortunate human creature, who, if his ill-treatment had made him "frenetic," was chained in the cellar or garret of a workhouse, fastened to the leg of a table, tied to a post in an outhouse, or perhaps shut up in an uninhabited ruin; or, if his lunacy were inoffensive, was left to ramble, half-naked and half-starved, through the streets and highways, teased by the rabble, and made the jest of the vulgar, ignorant, and unfeeling. "I have witnessed," he says, "instances of each of these modes of securing lunatics, under the Act 17 Geo. II., c. 5. Of all the lunatics in the kingdom, the one half are not under any kind of protection from ill-treatment, or placed in a situation to be relieved of their malady."

In the following year (1808) an Act (48 Geo. III., c. 96) was passed, providing that it should be lawful for justices in every county in England and Wales to take into consideration the propriety of providing a lunatic asylum for the reception of patients within the county. Referring to the Act 17 Geo. II. for the committal of vagrant lunatics, the new Act provided that in case there should be an asylum established for the county within which the lunatic belonged, then a warrant should be issued for the removal of such lunatic to the asylum, and not elsewhere; but if no asylum had been erected, then he was to be confined in any house duly licensed under the authority of the Act of 14 Geo. III. It will be seen that this legislation was not compulsory, and therefore utterly failed in attaining the object of its promoters. It only authorized magistrates to act.

This Act was amended in some points of importance in 1811.[126] Overseers were obliged to produce a certificate of a medical man as to the state of the lunatic. Justices were to make returns to the quarter sessions of the cases brought before them, and medical superintendents returns of the state of persons intrusted to their care, at least once a year.

"The Description of the Retreat," then, of which Dr. Conolly writes in 1856, "For readers desirous to know the views which ought to prevail in all lunatic asylums, I could not even now refer to any work in which they are more perspicuously explained; in none are the details of management, economic, medical, and moral, to be found more convincingly set forth"—this work, happily, proved the means,[127] by the extraordinary interest it excited in the experiment, and the contrast it was but too well known to exhibit to the general condition of similar institutions, of arousing attention, first to the abuses of the old asylum at York, and then to others, until it was deemed desirable to appoint a Committee of the House of Commons to investigate the subject thoroughly. To this we shall refer in more detail, but may here observe that the founder of the Retreat was one who gave evidence before it, and the members, says an eye-witness, were evidently interested in seeing the old man, then upwards of eighty, and hearing from his own lips some of the facts relating to the success of the experiment at York. He continued to devote himself to the interest of the institution, and died in 1822, thirty years after he had broached the idea of its establishment. It had, he said, some years before, succeeded far beyond his expectations, and he felt a wish to contribute such information as attentive observation had enabled him to make for the benefit of others. This he did in various ways, one being a Letter to the governors of the York Lunatic Asylum, in which he observes, "At the time of Lord Erskine's Chancellorship, I noticed with much satisfaction his remarks on the treatment of insane patients, especially in private mad-houses, which he found was so generally severe, that in case they were but a little deranged, it was sufficient to make them raving mad; and he delivered it as his judgment that kind and conciliating treatment was the best means to promote recovery. The latter part of this opinion I have the satisfaction of asserting has been evidently proved correct in the management of the Retreat, where coercion, though sometimes necessary for feeding the patients and preserving them from injury to themselves or others, is administered in the most gentle manner, and the use of chains is never resorted to."

"In person," wrote a contemporary, "William Tuke hardly reached the middle size, but was erect, portly, and of a firm step. He had a noble forehead, an eagle eye, a commanding voice, and his mien was dignified and patriarchal."

He was ninety when he died, and it may be added that Willan made a happy hit when he said, on being consulted by him many years before, "There is a pulse which will beat till ninety."

"Of no distemper, of no blast he died, But fell like autumn fruit that mellowed long: Even wondered at, because he dropt no sooner. Fate seemed to wind him up for fourscore years; Yet freshly ran he on ten winters more, Till like a clock worn out with eating time, The wheels of weary life at last stood still."

DRYDEN, OEdipus, Act iii. sc. 1.

French physicians have done justice generously and ungrudgingly to the services rendered by the York reformers in the management of the insane. Parchappe, late Inspector-General of the "Service des Alienes" in France, wrote: "La Retraite d'York, dont Samuel Tuke publia la description en 1813, fut consideree comme l'ecole ou les alienistes devaient s'instruire et comme le modele auquel ils devaient se conformer. La creation et l'organisation de cet etablissement a eu la plus grande influence sur le developpement des bonnes methodes de traitement et sur le perfectionnement des asiles en Angleterre."[128]

Ferrus, physician to Napoleon I., visited the English asylums in 1826, in order to obtain some useful hints in the management of similar institutions in France, and commends, in a passage which I shall quote, the mild means of coercion resorted to at the Retreat. He speaks of it as the first asylum in England which arrested the attention of foreigners, and proceeds, "Mr. Tuke was a man for whom religion and morality were practical virtues, and in whose eyes neither riches nor poverty, imbecility nor genius, ought in the slightest degree to affect the bonds which unite all men together in common. He thought, with reason, that justice and force ought to be evinced, not by shouts and menaces, but by gentleness of character and calmness of mind, in order that the influence of these qualities might make themselves felt upon all, even when excited by anger, intoxication, and madness. The traditions of this friend of humanity are preserved in the house which he founded. Everything, even down to the patients, is silent and peaceful in this asylum, where some who are not members of the Society of Friends are also admitted. Those admitted, be their religion or social position what they may, whatever even their habits may have been, influenced by the tranquillity of the place and the force of example, find repose in this house, which much more resembles a convent of Trappists than a mad-house; and if one's heart is saddened at the sight of this terrible malady, we experience emotions of pleasure in witnessing all that an ingenious benevolence has been able to devise to cure or alleviate it.... The reputation of this institution is the best established of any in England. We are assured that the number of cures is considerable, and we willingly believe this, because the general management of the house is favourable to the treatment of insanity."

Thirty years afterwards, when I paid a visit to Ferrus in Paris, he recalled, with great animation, the impressions he at this period received at the York Retreat.

Nor have the Americans been less grudging in their encomiums. Dr. Ray, one of their most distinguished physicians devoted to the treatment of the insane, whom I have already quoted, after visiting our asylums many years ago, bore witness to the results of the reform "so thoroughly effected at the York Retreat," and speaks of the founder as clear-headed and warm-hearted, one "who, true to his faith, conceived the idea that the insane, as well as the sane, could best be managed in the spirit of peace and good will." And Dr. Pliny Earle observes, "It is now very fully demonstrated that the idea of the amelioration of the condition of the insane was original with Pinel and Tuke, and that for some time they were actively pursuing their object, each uninformed of the action of the other. It is no new thing for inventions, discoveries, and innovations upon traditionary practices to originate almost simultaneously in more than one place, showing that they are called for by the times; that they are developments of science and humanity, necessary evolutions of the human mind in its progress towards the unattainable perfect, rather than what may be termed a gigantic or monstrous production of one intellectual genius. Each perceived the wretchedness, the misery, the sufferings of the insane around him; each was moved to compassion; each resolved to effect a reform in their treatment; each succeeded. The recognition of services to humanity is due to each. To each we freely accord it."[129]

Dr. Brown, the late physician of the Bloomingdale Asylum, New York, after visiting England in 1863, observes of the lunatic hospitals in England, "There is one possessing historical fame and interest, which yet retains its early popularity, as well as its excellent reputation among medical men. The York Retreat, founded by the Society of Friends at the close of the last century, and hallowed in the memory of every one who appreciates the spirit of beneficence which originated it and has ever since pervaded its halls, still pursues its sacred mission of removing and relieving mental diseases. Nowhere did I observe clearer evidence of intelligent and conscientious fulfilment of the humane purposes of all such institutions. The older sections of the building were being gradually replaced by new constructions, which conform interiorly to the present standard of advancement; and as for that personal devotion of the chief officers, on which the welfare of patients must mainly depend, it was sufficiently apparent that the genius and the earnestness of Tuke still abide among his successors."[130]

Returning now to what in the history of the rise and development of the modern treatment of the insane is of great importance, the guiding principles of the treatment pursued at the York Retreat, and its relation to what is understood as the non-restraint system, I would observe that the first principle of all was an active humanity—the highest form of it as embodied in the golden Christian rule. It has often been said that the members of the community by whose principles he was animated seem to think it necessary to act as well as to talk; to carry out their principles into actual practice, as if they were really intended to be applied to the ills of humanity. If some of his own friends discouraged Tuke's benevolent designs, it may have arisen from their not being convinced that a case had been made out for its exercise. An accident, as it were, brought the fact of the unsatisfactory condition of the asylums of his day forcibly before him. Accustomed to do as well as to talk about doing, when he knew the existence of an abuse, he set himself to work at once to prevent its recurrence so far as the area of his own influence could extend. Suspecting unkind treatment, he strove to have it replaced by kindness; convinced that abuses and cruelty ever tend to spring up when public surveillance is refused, he resolved to do away with all secresy in the management of the proposed institution. Further, he "had a strong faith in the dictates of an enlightened conscience and in the perfect wisdom and love which direct every law of human duty."[131]

This principle not only accounts for the successful commencement of the undertaking, but helps to explain the individual treatment of the insane; for the patients were treated as human beings suffering under a terrible affliction, toward whom it was a duty to extend consolation, compassion, and kindness. This course necessarily led to the demonstration that when so treated they were calmer and required comparatively little restraint. The fact happily bore out the theory.

But a humane man may in the exercise of his humanity be injudicious, and by so doing inflict much actual suffering. The surgeon who to avoid inflicting pain should shrink from the complete removal of a malignant tumour, would fail to relieve the patient as he ought to have done. Therefore something more than humane feeling is required. Judgment must be exercised. Now, judgment and that common sense, or mother wit, which is so much better than mere routine practice, evidently characterized the early treatment of the Retreat. As benevolent feeling naturally led to the non-use of chains and the minimum resort to restraint which then seemed possible, so common sense led to the avoidance of the periodical bloodletting and emetics then in fashion. It is a remarkable fact that even then it was seen that insanity rarely calls for depressing remedies, and the observation was made and acted upon that excitement is often relieved by a directly opposite treatment. They allowed a liberal nourishing diet[132] in cases of violent mania; a free supply of meat, or bread and cheese, and porter, was found of the greatest service at supper in procuring sleep and reducing excitement. They had no faith in specifics and nostrums in the cure of insanity, but medical treatment was by no means despised, while a warm bath was found to be "of greater importance and efficacy, in most cases of melancholia, than all the other medical means which have been employed."[133]

With this, one cannot but contrast the old system, which was emphatically empirical and unscientific. It was continued without change from year to year, and it may truly be said that idleness and selfishness, still more than ignorance, constituted the vices of the old system. Those who treated the insane always encountered opposition by brute force, instead of by energy and patience, which surmount difficulties that to idleness are impassable mountains, and which selfishness would not, if it could, overcome. Again, from the commencement of the Retreat, the idea was entertained of making the institution a home; and with this view the arrangement and surroundings were made as cheerful and home-like as possible.

Another strong point was the employment of the patients; its vital importance was forcibly felt from the first. Dr. Delarive, who inspected the Retreat in 1798, particularly comments upon this novel feature of a mad-house. He found that an experiment recently made, that of inducing the patients to cultivate the land, giving to each a task proportionate to his strength, had answered well. It was found that they were fond of this exercise, and that they were much better after a day spent in this work than when they had remained in the house, or when they had taken an ordinary walk. Delarive went to see them at work, a sight so common now in our asylums that it seems strange it should have excited his surprise.

Of employment the author of the "Description" thus speaks: "The female patients in the Retreat are employed as much as possible in sewing, knitting, or domestic affairs; and several of the convalescents assist the attendants. Of all the modes by which the patients may be induced to restrain themselves, regular employment is perhaps the most generally efficacious; and those kinds of employment are doubtless to be preferred, both on a moral and a physical account, which are accompanied by considerable bodily action, that are most agreeable to the patient, and which are most opposite to the illusions of his disease."[134]

We find it insisted upon by those who had the management of the Retreat that moral treatment is of the greatest importance; that gentleness must take the place of violence;[135] that it is erroneous to suppose it necessary to commence an acquaintance with lunatics by an exhibition of physical strength; that every effort should be made to divert the mind of melancholiacs by bodily exercise, walks, conversation, reading, and other recreations; that the desire of esteem is a more powerful principle to appeal to than fear; that the best form of restraint is self-restraint; that patients should be treated as much as possible as rational beings, but that little or no advantage arises from reasoning with them on their particular delusions; that it is desirable to encourage the influence of healthy religious principle over the mind of the insane; that those who manage them should sedulously endeavour to gain their confidence and esteem, to arrest their attention and fix it on objects opposed to their delusions, to call into action every remaining power and principle of the mind, and to remember that in the wreck of the intellect the affections not unfrequently survive.

This recapitulation of the salient features of the practice of the Retreat renders it easy to understand the position taken by the managers of the institution in regard to mechanical restraints. When kindness failed to subdue maniacal excitement, when medical remedies exerted no calming influence, mild forms of restraint were reluctantly adopted, rather than maintain a conflict between patient and attendant. It appears from the Retreat archives that not more than five per cent., reckoning the night as well as the day, were restrained by strap or waistcoat.[136] It is notorious that, at the same period, it was the custom in some asylums, probably many, to chain to the bedstocks, at night, every patient in the house. Ferrus, to whom I have referred, did not find camisoles in use at St. Luke's in 1826, but "strong chains were employed to hold the excited patients. These chains, fixed at different heights to the sides of stoves (chauffoirs), have iron rings at the end, by means of which the arms or the legs of the patient are rendered completely immovable.... Far from fearing that a painful impression will be produced on the patients by chains, they think, on the contrary, that this apparatus exerts a beneficial influence upon them; that it intimidates, humbles them, and removes all desire to attempt to get rid of their fastenings." Ferrus says that at the Retreat he found a belt was employed, softly padded, to which the arms were attached. "We do not employ it in France," he says, "although it might in hot weather be preferable to the camisole.... The Retreat offers all the resources of art and the comforts of life (douceurs de la vie) compatible with the condition of insane persons."

Coercion was regarded at the Retreat as an evil—that is to say, it was "thought abstractedly to have a tendency to retard the cure, by opposing the influence of the moral remedies employed"—but at the same time "a necessary evil," an unhappy alternative in certain cases. Practically, as we have seen, the amount of restraint was small; but no rule of practice was laid down that it should never be resorted to. The abstract principle of non-restraint adopted at Lincoln and Hanwell was not enunciated. "We greatly prefer," observes the author of the "Description," "to lay down no absolute rule of non-restraint, but to refer to our resident officers the exercise of a sound discretion in each individual case." But the managers of the Retreat did undoubtedly lay down as a fundamental principle that "coercion will diminish or increase as the moral treatment of the patient is more or less judicious;"[137] and therefore, although they did not anticipate that personal restraint would be superseded by any other mode of treatment, this principle is broad enough to embrace all that has since followed in the way of non-restraint. The result, in the long run, of honestly carrying out the doctrine to its legitimate consequences, will not very widely differ from that reached by those who adopt "non-restraint" as an abstract theory in the first instance.

Justice would scarcely be done to those who interested themselves in mental diseases during the latter half of the eighteenth and the commencement of the nineteenth century, if we did not give the titles of some of the works bearing on insanity which issued from the press during this period. A treatise on Madness was written in 1757 by Batty. Perfect wrote "Methods of Cure in some Particular Cases of Insanity" in 1778, and "Select Cases of Insanity" in 1787, and "Annals of Insanity" fourteen years later. Perfect's treatment of insanity mainly consisted in bleeding, setons, electricity, and the administration of emetics, digitalis, and antimony. Dr. T. Arnold published his "Observations on the Nature, etc., of Insanity," 1782. Harper published "A Treatise on the Real Cause and Cure of Insanity" in 1789—a work ridiculed by Pinel. Faulkner wrote his "Observations on the General and Improper Treatment of Insanity" in 1790; and Pargeter his "Observations on Maniacal Disorders" in 1792. What, if any, beneficial effect these works produced upon the condition of the insane in the British Isles, I am unable to say. Haslam wrote his "Observations on Madness" in 1798, and he was the author of several other works; but, whatever their value and interest, we know but too well the condition of the patients in the asylum of which he was the apothecary. Crichton published his "Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement"—a work, certainly, of merit and the result of practical observation. In 1802 appeared "De intellectus facultatum conditione in mentis Alienationis diversis generibus," by Campbell (Edinburgh). Cox published his "Practical Observations on Insanity" in 1804. (See Appendix B.)

* * * * *

Of Pinel, in relation to England, I must here say a few words.

The Edinburgh Review of April, 1803, contains a review of Pinel's work, which deserves attention from the tone in which it is, for the most part, written. The Reviewer evidently thinks that England had very little to learn from France. The York Retreat had, indeed, been in active operation for some years, and the treatment pursued there might, no doubt, have borne comparison with that at the Bicetre, but to speak of Great Britain as a whole having a decided superiority over other countries in its moral treatment of maniacs was rather absurd. The Reviewer regards Pinel as the first author on the Continent who is fully sensible of the advantage of such moral treatment, and then observes, "To medical readers in this country many of our author's remarks will appear neither new nor profound, and to none will his work appear complete.... It may be considered as a sketch of what has already been done, with some notices of what the author intends to do; though he seems frequently to wonder, with a smile of self-approbation, at what he thinks his own discoveries." And again: "Dr. Pinel is desirous that France should have some claim to a judicious treatment of the disease of the mind, the honour of which has hitherto been exclusively confined to England."

It is curious to find the Reviewer observing that Dr. Pinel appears to display very little sagacity and precision in saying that in some cases the brain is not affected. And again: "He conceives that the result of the examination of the periods of life most subject to insanity is alone sufficient to show how seldom it is owing to any organic affection of the brain or the cranium. But in this opinion there is some inconsistency. For he soon after states that in thirty-six dissections he found nothing more remarkable than in the brain of apoplectic and epileptic patients, or of persons who died from furor or convulsions. Now, this is a confession that some deviations from the natural and healthy appearances were observed; and this is all that is contended for, and all that the present limited state of our knowledge authorizes us to affirm." The Reviewer adds, no doubt with truth, "If no organic affections are said to have been discovered, in some few instances, we should not reason negatively from such dissections, perhaps cursorily and ignorantly made, and with instruments ill adapted to detect minute and apparently trivial deviations from the natural structure."

The following snarl is also noticeable:—"He informs us that he has studied with considerable attention the writings of Locke, Harris, Condillac, Smith, and Stewart; but the quotation of great names is not always the surest proof of an accurate acquaintance with their works, and we are inclined to think that there is some ground for doubt in the present instance."

The Reviewer is severe on Pinel's classification, which in the main has stood the test of all subsequent criticism to a remarkable degree. "It may," he says, "be entitled to the praise of ingenuity, but we doubt whether it is remarkable for its clearness and accuracy. Many of the distinctions seem absurd, and others not well founded. The several kinds of insanity are not distinct; they are only varieties of the same affection. All the symptoms mentioned under these five heads occur in the same patient. At different times he passes through all the gradations from furious phrenzy to complete fatuity." This criticism has, of course, great force as opposed to all symptomological classifications whatever, but not specially or mainly to Pinel's.

On the point whether madness can in certain cases be cured, Pinel's utterances are dismissed with downright contempt: "Instead of any new light being thrown upon this important question, or any new rules of conduct pointed out, our author gives a minute detail of two cases, where any ancient female of ordinary capacity could have decided as well as himself, and relates with laboured minuteness the contrary opinions of some eminent physicians on a late memorable occasion in this country." Pinel an old woman! It will probably be new to most, if not all, of our readers that this illustrious man was regarded in this light by the leading Review of our country, when his writings first became known amongst us. The review ends, after crediting Pinel with some merit, and commending his work as containing some profitable instruction, with the exceedingly kind and patronizing observation that "we are therefore inclined to make an indulgent allowance (!) for the imperfect execution of many parts of Dr. Pinel's essay, and to entertain hopes of further information from his diligence and discernment" (!!).

Insular conceit could surely scarcely go further. However, the Edinburgh Reviewer is forgotten and his name unknown; Pinel's name covered with glory, although not a popular hero; for when I made a pilgrimage to his grave in the great Paris cemetery, Pere la Chaise, in 1878, I was a solitary visitor, while crowds flocked to others, including that of Thiers, which is in close proximity to it. I am glad to see it announced that the Societe Medico-psychologique of Paris is about to erect—not too soon—a statue to his memory.

The bold proceeding, as it seemed in those days, of freeing the lunatics at the Bicetre from their fetters, constitutes Pinel's title to honour—an honour of which no man will succeed in robbing him. He will be remembered when Dequin[138] is forgotten. Pinel, although his writings would have made him eminent as a physician had he never rendered his name illustrious in reference to the insane, did not, as a study of his life abundantly proves, liberate the patients at the Bicetre from their chains in direct consequence of his medical knowledge of insanity, but mainly, if not entirely, from the compassion which he felt for their miserable condition. His knowledge, great before, was vastly increased after he had placed the patients in a more favourable state for medical observation; in fact, it is obvious that the opportunities of scientific research, and specially of observing the satisfactory progress of those labouring under the disease, were greatly augmented from the moment he introduced a humane system of treatment.

Had my sketch comprised France as well as England, I should have attempted to give a description of the work he performed in Paris. But I must not be tempted to go beyond my subject, and as a matter of fact the course of French and English reform in the treatment of the insane was entirely distinct and independent.[139]


[100] "By Tho. Fallowes, M.D., at his House in Lambeth-Marsh, and to be had there, or at Mr. Jones's Haberdasher in Hats, over against the Pump in Chancery Lane, and nowhere else," 1705. A second edition appeared in 1814.

[101] In his Review for 1706 there is a "Scheme for the Management of Mad-houses," with a case of abuse.

[102] As will be seen by the date, the elder Pitt and Fox.

[103] The physician referred to at p. 87.

[104] 14 Geo. III., c. 49 (1774).

[105] "The Early History of Charles James Fox," by G. O. Trevelyan, 1880.

[106] Letter written July 30, 1767.

[107] "Lady Chatham also, when writing confidentially to Lord Shelburne in the autumn of 1767, observes, 'I wish I could say there was any material change in the state of my Lord's health, but we are forbid to expect that, until he can have a fit of gout.'"

[108] "History of England from the Peace of Utrecht," vol. v. pp. 166, 188 (edit. 1853).

[109] Page 203.

[110] See "Evidence before the House of Commons." See also "Debates on the Regency," Hansard, vol. xxvii.

[111] "American Journal of Insanity," July, 1855.

[112] See the last edition, corrected by himself (1780), of his "Primitive Physic, or an Easy and Natural Method of curing most Diseases."

[113] Page 82.

[114] "The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, with Preliminary Observations," by John Howard, F.R.S., 3rd edit., 1784.

[115] Ray, American Journal of Insanity, vol. iv. p. 112.

[116] "Review of the Early History of the Retreat," by S. Tuke. 1846.

[117] "Lettre addressee aux Redacteurs de la Bibliotheque Britannique sur un nouvel etablissement pour la guerison des Alienes" (1798). Par Dr. Delarive, p. 29.

[118] "Review of the Early History of the Retreat," p. 14.

[119] The physician who gave his name to the well-known solution of arsenic. Author of a treatise on Arsenic, 1786, and one on Rheumatism in 1795. Jepson resigned in 1822, and died in 1836.

[120] "Description of the Retreat," by S. Tuke, p. 62.

[121] Pages 11, 12.

[122] The British Review (vol. vi. No. xii.), in reviewing this book, observed: "In 1813 Mr. Samuel Tuke published his 'Description of the Retreat,' the celebrated work, the title of which we have placed among others at the head of our article.... The Retreat has been conducted from the beginning upon the principle that the utmost practicable degree of gentleness, tenderness, and attention to the comforts and feelings of the patients was in the first place due to them as human beings; and in the next place was infinitely the most promising means of effecting their recovery. The object of this work of Mr. Tuke was to describe the system of management which had been pursued in the Retreat; to make known the success which had attended it; and to point out more distinctly than had ever yet been done, the principle upon which that management was founded (the principle of gentleness, and of regard to the feelings of the patients) as the grand principle which ought to regulate the management of every establishment of the kind. The service which Mr. Tuke professed to render to the public by his book was assuredly of importance, and his book has performed it well.... In having pointed out this as the governing principle, he has rendered a service to humanity of the greatest importance. It is this characteristic circumstance which will render the publication of his book an era in the history of the treatment of this calamity. The book has already met with great and almost universal attention. It has by the nation been much more than approved; it has been applauded and admired."

The reviewer continues: "One thing we may venture to say, that it was hardly possible for a book to be written in a manner less calculated to give offence to anybody.... Yet this book gave prodigious offence. It has been regarded as a libel upon the York Asylum, and an attack upon it has appeared in the newspapers." This was a letter signed "Evigilator," who was in reality the superintendent of the above institution. This led to a long and heated correspondence. About the same time a charge of ill treatment of a patient in the York Asylum was made by a magistrate (Mr. Godfrey Higgins of Doncaster), whose persistent endeavours to bring this and other cases to the light of day were beyond praise, and happily proved successful at last.

The writer has in his possession a mass of private letters which passed between his father and Mr. Higgins on these cases, which indicate their combined endeavours, made (under the fiercest opposition) to reform the horrible abuses which had converted a well-intentioned charity into a hell upon earth. Mr. Higgins was the author of a book on Mahomet, the remarkable work on the Celtic Druids (1827), and of "Anacalypsis" (1836).

[123] April, 1814, pp. 190, 194, 198.

[124] (1) "Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums; including Instructions to the Architects who offered Plans for the Wakefield Asylum, and a Sketch of the most approved Design." York, 1815. (2) "On the Construction and Management of Hospitals for the Insane," by Dr. Jacobi, with Introduction by Samuel Tuke, 1841. Born 1784; died 1857. An Honorary Member of the Medico-Psychological Association.

[125] The incompleteness of this Parliamentary return was shown by the fact that, a few weeks afterwards, Sir Andrew Halliday found that in Norfolk there were 112 instead of 42.

[126] 51 Geo. III., c. 74; also in 1815, May 2 (55 Geo. III., c. 46), independently of the Report of the Select Committee. Overseers were to make returns of all lunatics and idiots within their parishes. These Acts do not touch "Private mad-houses"—only paupers.

[127] "What strenuous efforts fruitlessly combined to accomplish, a little volume has at once achieved. I hardly need name Mr. Samuel Tuke's account of the Retreat. Mr. Tuke's work, operating on a suspicious and irritable mind, produced the letters signed 'Evigilator;' the public attention became aroused, doubts and surmises were started. Either confident in right, or daring in wrong, a general challenge was given; that challenge was answered, with what results it is needless to add" (vide "Papers respecting the York Lunatic Asylum," by S. W. Nicoll, Esq., 1816).

[128] "Les Principes a suivre dans la Fondation et la Construction des Asiles d'Alienes," Paris, 1853, p. 226.

[129] American Journal of Insanity, April, 1856.

[130] Ibid., October, 1863, p. 205.

[131] "Review of the Early History of the Retreat," by S. Tuke, 1846.

[132] Referring to the practice at the Retreat as given in the "Description," the editor of the Medical Repository, 1817, after observing, "We are told that in violent maniacal paroxysms, depletion having failed to procure quiescence, a full meal of meat and good porter for supper produced the desired effect, and that this mode has since been very frequently and successfully employed," adds that if this be true, the general system of well-known physicians, that of pursuing depletion through "paroxysm and remission," cannot be right.

[133] Tuke's "Description," p. 113.

[134] Page 156.

[135] "If it be true that oppression makes a wise man mad, is it to be supposed that stripes and insults and injuries, for which the receiver knows no cause, are calculated to make a mad man wise? or would they not exasperate his disease and excite his resentment" ("Description of the Retreat," 1813, p. 144).

[136] Including cases in seclusion.

[137] "Description of the Retreat," S. Tuke.

[138] A Savoy physician who dedicated the second edition of his "La Philosophie de la Folie," published in 1804, to Pinel. M. Brierre de Boismont thinks the latter guilty of "the conspiracy of silence" in not mentioning him in his work, but I do not think the conspiracy is proved.

[139] See Appendix C.



I now resume the thread of my history at the time of the exposure of the abuses at the old York Asylum.

We have already intimated that the treatment adopted at the Retreat, and made known to the public by various writers and by many visitors, but more especially by the "Description," exerted a remarkable influence on the subsequent inquiry and legislation. The success of the Retreat excited the jealousy and antipathy of the superintendent of the York Asylum; the discussion which ensued led to investigation; the revelations which followed excited public opinion; the representatives of the people undertook an inquiry by means of a Select Committee, which finally necessitated legislation, and this legislation by successive enactments wrought the wondrous and beneficial change which we now witness. This sequence of events will be found to be borne out by facts, by any one who will investigate the literature of lunacy from 1792 to the present time. Sydney Smith says, writing in 1817,[140] that "the new Establishment began the great revolution upon this subject, which we trust the provisions of Parliament will complete.... In the course of a few years the Institution had done so much by gentle methods, that a modest and well-written volume, giving an account of it, excited universal interest, and, in fact, achieved what all the talents and public spirit of Mason and his friends had failed to accomplish. It had still better effects. A very inoffensive passage in this book roused, it seems, the animosity of the physician to the York Lunatic Asylum, and a letter which this gentleman published in one of the York newspapers, became the origin of a controversy among the governors of that establishment, which terminated in August, 1814, after a struggle of nearly two years, in the complete overthrow of the old system, and the dismission of every officer of the asylum, except the physician himself. The period is not remote when lunatics were regarded as beings unsusceptible of mental enjoyment or of bodily pain, and accordingly consigned without remorse, to prisons under the name of mad-houses—in the contrivance of which nothing seems to have been considered, but how to enclose the victim of insanity in a cell, and to cover his misery from the light of day. But the success of the Retreat demonstrated, by experiment, that all the apparatus of gloom and confinement was injurious; and the necessity for improvement becoming daily more apparent, a 'Bill for the Better Regulation of Mad-houses' was brought into Parliament by Mr. Rose in 1813, but was nevertheless opposed and finally withdrawn; and another Bill, in 1814,[141] though it passed the Commons, was rejected by the House of Lords. The public, in fact, was not yet aware of the atrocious evils which these Bills were intended to remove; and it was not until now that the course was adopted, which, in every case of public grievance, is the only sure one for obtaining redress. A Committee of the House of Commons, appointed for the purpose of inquiry in 1814, and revived in the following year, was fortunately composed of men determined to do the business they had undertaken."[142]

Mr. Rose, on the 28th of April, 1815, again introduced the subject of private mad-houses to Parliament, and, dwelling on the great abuses connected with them, pointed out the necessity of their condition being examined into by the House. He said that among the cases which had recently come to his knowledge was that of a young woman who, although requiring some restraint, was perfectly harmless. She was found chained to the ground by both legs and arms, a degree of cruelty which was in no respect justified. With a view of correcting such practices, he moved "that a Committee be appointed to consider of provision being made for the better regulation of mad-houses in England, and to report the same, with their observations thereupon, to the House."[143] The motion was agreed to.

The York Lunatic Asylum stood first upon the evidence before the Select Committee. "It appears from the history of that institution, which was published at the close of the controversy above alluded to, that the victory of the reformers was not obtained without strong opposition; for, at the very moment when the state of things that we shall presently detail was flourishing in full enormity, their opponents were enabled to carry a resolution of the governors, declaring that a lunatic, who appears to have sustained gross injury, 'had been treated with all possible care, attention, and humanity,' and censuring the parties who brought forward the complaint.... On a subsequent day thirteen spirited men (including Mr. Higgins and Mr. Tuke) determined to enforce investigation; and, having qualified themselves as governors by paying the requisite donation of L20 each, succeeded in obtaining the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the complaints that had been exhibited; which, after meeting for several successive days, and examining witnesses, concluded by adopting Resolutions of censure upon the proceedings proved before them."[144]

One day Mr. Higgins went to the asylum. After having seen all the patients' rooms, he went with the steward to the kitchen. There he was struck with "the retired appearance" of a door. He ordered a keeper to unlock it. He perceived fear and hesitation. He repeated his order in stronger language. The key not being readily forthcoming, Mr. Higgins grew warm, and declared he would soon find a key that would open it at the kitchen fireside. It was then opened. He went in, and discovered a row of cells, four in number, which had been concealed from the committee of investigation. On entering the first cell, he found it in a state dreadful beyond description. The cell was about eight feet and a half square, perfectly dark when the door was shut, and the stench almost intolerable. He was told these cells were occupied at night by thirteen women, who were then upstairs; where he found them in a room twelve feet long by seven feet ten inches wide, with a window, which not opening would not admit of ventilation. Sydney Smith well says, after citing more horrible details than I have given, that he is aware of the disgust which they will cause, but that he cannot spare his readers, and asks of the most delicate of them whether it is more shocking that these things should exist unknown, and consequently unredressed, than that they should be told and punished, and remembered for ever, as the only means of preventing their recurrence.

To enter into much detail is impossible. It must suffice to say that case after case of gross neglect and cruelty was brought to light; that while 365 patients had died, only 221 had been reported; that a patient having been killed, his body was hurried away to prevent an inquest; that when the accounts were examined, it was discovered that two sets of books of receipts were kept, one of which was only presented to the governors, and that the difference between the sums contained in the two, amounting to some hundreds a year, found its way into the pocket of the superintendent; and lastly we must record that one wing of the asylum was burned, involving the deaths of patients and the destruction of much that it was with good reason believed the authorities wished to conceal.

Of the revelations made by the Committee of the House of Commons in regard to Bethlem Hospital, we shall only briefly speak. We have already sketched the history of this institution. For the most part it is to the second Bethlem—that in Moorfields—the minutes of evidence refer. During the seven years prior to the investigation, the number of patients averaged 238; the annual expenditure, L12,000. Mr. Haslam, the resident apothecary, ruled supreme. He was responsible for the dreadful condition in which the notorious Norris was discovered. "There is," says Sydney Smith, "much evasive testimony, to shift from himself the burden of this atrocious case; but his efforts tend rather to confirm than to shake the conviction which the evidence produces.... The conduct of Haslam with respect to several other patients was of a corresponding description; and in the case of a gentleman whose death was evidently accelerated by the severities he underwent, and of several other persons, there is abundant proof of cruelty.... It is in proof that a patient actually died, through mere neglect, from the bursting of the intestines, overloaded for want of aperient medicine, and it is expressly stated by Haslam himself that a person whom he asserts to have been 'generally insane and mostly drunk,' whose condition, in short, was such 'that his hand was not obedient to his will,' was nevertheless retained in the office of Surgeon, and continued to attend the patients for a period of ten years—a statement so atrocious that, from any other quarter, we should have rejected it as utterly incredible."[145]

The governors easily convinced themselves that no foundation whatever existed for the charge of cruelty and bad management; that every degree of permissible indulgence had been observed; that the hospital was equal, if not superior, to any other asylum in England; that the mode of confining the unhappy Norris appeared "to have been, upon the whole, rather a merciful and humane, than a rigorous and severe imposition;" in short, that "the general management of Bethlem, as affecting the health, the cleanliness, and the comfort of the patients, was of a nature creditable to the governors and others concerned in its administration." What a picture of the standard of excellence held by the managers of asylums at that period, not in Bethlem alone, but generally!

To the question, "Has there not been a rule in the hospital, for a certain number of years, that, in certain months of the year, particular classes of the patients should be physicked, bled, bathed, and vomited, at given periods?" the reply from Bethlem was in the affirmative. Twice in the year the patients, with few exceptions, were bled. "After they have been bled," said the physician, in evidence, "they take vomits once a week for a certain number of weeks; after that, we purge the patients. That has been the practice, invariably, for years—long before my time."

In regard to the means of coercion employed, it was stated that the patients "are generally chained to the wall with manacles." When inquiry was made regarding the use of strait waistcoats, it was replied, "I do not believe there are any strait waistcoats in Bethlem now, or very few indeed; they generally use irons." The objection to strait waistcoats was, that the patients "could not help themselves in strait waistcoats; they are so excessively long in the hospital without being seen by anybody, in a dark place; in winter, from four o'clock to six or seven in the morning. If they were in a strait waistcoat they could not assist themselves the least in the world." When, in the following year, the head-keeper of Bethlem Hospital was asked, "Was it not the practice in old Bethlem—not in the late gallery, but in the gallery pulled down—for eight, ten, or more patients to be fastened to the tables, almost in a state of perfect nakedness?" he replied, "Yes; they used to think they tore their clothes all to pieces; some of them would do that." "In point of fact, were they not fastened to the tables, sitting in a state of perfect nudity?" Answer: "They used to be so at the table; they were chained all round." In regard to the apparatus, so ingeniously cruel, by which one of the patients (Norris) was chained ten or twelve years, Haslam, the apothecary at Bethlem, when asked, "Do you think that his confinement in that manner during the whole of that period was necessary?" replied, "Decidedly."

The matron of Bethlem Hospital (who was elected January, 1815) gave evidence that, when she was appointed, there were about twenty patients under personal restraint, out of between fifty and sixty patients. "The custom when I first went was only to get them up three days of the week—never on meat days; they lie in bed four days in the week." She also stated that one of the female patients had been chained for eight years, but had not required restraint since she had been there.

Bethlem, however, was far from being the only place where patients were treated like wild beasts. Mrs. Mary Humieres, formerly housekeeper in a private asylum at Bethnal Green, gave evidence to an attendant "kicking the patients and thumping them sadly," and "beating one in his shirt with a pair of boots, in a most dreadful manner." She named a female patient who, when in a state of irritation, "was confined in a place in the yard which was originally a pig-sty; it was run up high on purpose for her. I have seen her confined there for three weeks together. She has been ironed there in the crib with wrist-locks, and leg-locks, and a chain two or three times across her body." An iron bar was placed between her legs when she walked about, to prevent her escaping. "It was confined to each ankle, with a chain coming up between her legs, which was attached to her handcuffs." But, in addition to this frightful restraint, we are informed that an attendant, at the instance of the proprietor, would, "at sundry times," lock her down in her crib with wrist-locks and leg-locks, and horsewhip her. "I have seen the blood follow the strokes." Yet this patient is described as very harmless; "you might sit and talk to her when she was in the highest state."

The Committee found that at a private asylum—Fonthill, Wilts—there was in that year, out of fourteen patients, only one without fetters or handcuffs, and only three out of their sleeping-rooms.[146]

At the Bethnal Green Asylum "several of the pauper women were chained to their bedsteads, naked, and only covered with a hempen rug," and "the accommodation for paupers was infamously bad, and required immediate reform;" while in January of the same year it is reported that "some pauper men were chained upon their straw beds with only a rug to cover them, and not in any way defended from the external cold."[147]

Dr. John Weir was asked, at the Committee of 1815, to what he attributed the difference of opinion among even enlightened men as to the management of the insane. He replied that it was chiefly due to the want of practical observation, as it is only by comparison that we are enabled to appreciate the superiority of one institution over another. He added that, until within the last eighteen years, the primary object of almost every insane institution, whether of a public or private description, had been merely the security of these pitiable objects; comfort, medical and moral treatment, had been in a great measure overlooked. "Happily, however, for that class of society, the Retreat at York had at last convinced the world how much may be done towards the amelioration of their condition."[148]

On the 11th of July, 1815, Mr. Rose brought up the Report of this Committee. On moving that it be printed, he said that all who read the Report must feel satisfied of the indispensable necessity of legislative interference. The way in which lunatics were usually confined was that of criminals, and their treatment was in general worse than the ordinary treatment in jails. The number of persons appointed to take care of them was in most cases utterly insufficient, in consequence of which the greatest severity was too frequently resorted to.

The conclusions arrived at in this celebrated Report may be thus summarized: That keepers of houses for the insane received a much greater number of persons than they were calculated for, thus greatly retarding their recovery; that the number of attendants being insufficient, there was unavoidably a larger amount of restraint than would otherwise be necessary; that outrageous patients were mixed with the quiet and inoffensive; that there was an absence of medical attention to the malady for which the patients were confined; that the certificates on which patients were received into asylums were insufficient, and that the visitation of private mad-houses was defective.

The Report concluded that "some new provision of law is indispensably necessary for ensuring better care being taken of insane persons, both in England and Ireland, than they have hitherto experienced; the number of whom appear to be very considerable, as the inquiries of the Committee have convinced them that there are not in the country a set of beings more immediately requiring the protection of the legislature than the persons in this state, a very large proportion of whom are entirely neglected by their relatives and friends. If the treatment of those in the middling or in the lower classes of life shut up in hospitals, private mad-houses, or parish workhouses, is looked at, your Committee are persuaded that a case cannot be found where the necessity for a remedy is more urgent."

The evidence taken before the Committee of 1815 was so full and convincing that it would have seemed wholly unnecessary to have required a further disclosure of the abuses rampant in the asylums of England, but in consequence of the demand for further investigation before the House of Commons committed itself to legislation, a mass of further particulars was obtained in 1816 in regard to the state of various institutions, including Bethlem Hospital and the York Asylum.

In February Mr. Rose had said in the House that, as chairman of the Committee for inquiry into the conduct of mad-houses, he was instructed to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the better regulation of such establishments. But some gentlemen of the Committee being desirous that further investigation should take place, he had acceded to their wish, although the majority concurred with him in thinking that sufficient evidence had already been adduced to justify the proposal of a Bill. Therefore, he should propose, instead of a Bill, that a Committee be appointed to consider of provision being made for the better regulation of mad-houses in England, and report the same, with their observations thereupon, to the House.

On May 28th Mr. Rose brought up the Report of the Committee, and obtained leave to bring in a Bill pursuant thereto. This Bill was for the repeal of the 14th and 55th of the King. He said[149] the Committee had, after the most patient investigation, adopted the provisions of the present Bill, which principally were, that instead of the physicians of the neighbourhood, or those in or near the metropolis, together with a neighbouring magistrate, being the inspectors of such establishments, they should be twice a year examined, etc., by eight Commissioners appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department throughout the kingdom; the Commissioners to be assisted by two of the local magistrates in each district, and with equal powers. There was also a provision in the Bill relative to the erection of lunatic asylums in counties, and the ordering the reception therein of pauper lunatics allowed at present to range abroad, to their own and the public injury.

On the 17th of June, Mr. Rose moved that the clauses of this Bill be taken into further consideration. Lord R. Seymour observed that when Parliament in 1774 passed the "Bill for the Regulation of Licensed Mad-houses," it must have meant to do three things: (1) To secure all persons against unnecessary confinement; (2) to better the chance of recovery of all such persons confined as being insane, as well by moral treatment as by the use of medicine; and (3) to insure the restoration of all who might become again of sound mind to society. But the Mad-house Act, he said, does none of these three things, for it does not empower the Commissioners to discharge a patient, however sound in mind; nor does it furnish them with the means of enforcing the observance of any improvement they may recommend. The Commissioners, indeed, may withdraw the licence, but the keeper of such a house must again have it on the next licensing day, if he wishes, upon giving the necessary security. It was not surprising, therefore, that the greatest abuses should have been found to prevail.

Mr. Wynn expressed a wish that magistrates should be empowered to examine houses where only one patient was confined.[150]

This Bill passed the House, but was rejected by the House of Lords.

Thus all the mass of valuable and decisive evidence which had been collected with so much labour, and had occupied the time and thought of two Committees of the House of Commons, was, for the time, thrown away, and the misery of the inmates of asylums allowed to go unrelieved. The facts, however, had been made widely known. The inertia, torpor, and indifference to human suffering—in short, the crime which characterized the majorities who threw out the Bills calculated to remove the abuses in asylums, had at last to give way to the popular demand. What was gained by prolonging the dismal condition of these abodes of woe for some years longer, I leave others to discover.

After the lapse of three years, namely, on the 10th of March, 1819, Mr. Wynn[151] rose to move for leave to bring in a "Bill for the Regulation of Mad-houses," and observed that, as this subject had been already several times before the House, he did not feel it necessary to trespass long upon its attention. It would be remembered, he said, that some years ago the Report of a Committee had been laid before the House, detailing such scenes of misery and wretchedness in mad-houses, as had perhaps never been paralleled, and after such an exposure it was the obvious duty of the House to follow up the Report by the adoption of some legislative measure calculated to put an end to the evils complained of. There was, however, no fault to be found with the conduct of that House; for it had done its duty by repeatedly sending up a Bill to the other House, which it had thought proper to reject. Although no mad-houses could be legally opened without a licence, the College of Physicians was not in possession of funds to prosecute. He therefore proposed that a general Board of Inspection for mad-houses should be appointed, and that the members of that Board should be at liberty to visit such houses throughout the country, at different and uncertain times, so as to ascertain the manner in which they were conducted, and to report any existing evil to the Board, which should be invested with power to enforce their correction. Mr. Wynn moved for leave to bring in a Bill for repealing the Act of the 14th and 55th of the King with respect to mad-houses, and for making other provisions for their better regulation.[152]

Leave was given to bring in the Bill.

In June of the same year the Marquis of Lansdowne, speaking on the Bill in the House of Lords, said that nothing could more forcibly appeal to the humanity of their lordships than the state of the unfortunate insane, and the legislative means of preventing abuses of the most flagrant and revolting nature, which had long been too clearly proved. Strange to say, however, the Lord Chancellor (Lord Eldon) opposed the Bill, observing that there could not be a more false humanity than an over-humanity with regard to persons afflicted with insanity. (Is not an under-humanity nearly as false?) He admitted there were great abuses, but the better way to remedy them would be to take a cool and dispassionate view of the subject in a Committee, next session. As if there had not been Committees enough! With regard to pauper lunatics, the Lord Chancellor went so far as not only to admit there were great abuses, but to agree to a short Bill, if desired, embodying the clauses relating to them in the measure before the House.

The Bill was thrown out, only fourteen doing themselves the credit of voting in its favour, while thirty-five voted against it. Majority against the Bill, twenty-one.

An "Act for making Provision for the Better Care of Pauper Lunatics in England"[153] was, however, passed (July 12, 1819), but it consisted of three sections only, and does not appear to be an advance, in any essential particular, upon previous Acts. The form of the medical certificate for a pauper lunatic is prescribed.[154] Again, the Act is permissive as regards the action of the justices in causing the overseers to bring the lunatic before them, and calling in a medical man to their assistance.

Four years afterwards, on June 30, 1823, the subject of private mad-houses again came before the House. A petition from John Mitford for an inquiry into the state of private mad-houses was ordered to lie on the table. Mr. Wynn, as on a former occasion, spoke, and observed that three Bills had, at recent periods, been sent up from that House to the Lords, relative to the inspection of houses of this description. He regretted to say they had not been passed. It is extraordinary that Mr. Wynn should have ended his speech by saying that, although he believed abuses might exist in some of these establishments, they were on the whole well conducted. Mr. (afterwards Lord) Brougham said that he knew Dr. Warburton, against whom charges had been brought, and that his character stood equally high both for medical skill and for humanity!

Writing in 1827, Sir Andrew Halliday[155] says, "The evidence taken before Mr. Rose's Committee, which sat for more than one session, must be fresh in the recollection of every one of my readers.... He was at great pains to prepare a Bill which, in the opinion of all who had heard the evidence, and had taken a disinterested part in the investigation, was well calculated to remedy every evil either ascertained or anticipated. The subject was dispassionately canvassed in the Lower House, and the Bill passed by the Commons, almost unanimously, three or four several times; but it was uniformly rejected by the Lords, and after Mr. Rose's death it got into Chancery, and there it has slept for the last nine years. I do not mean this remark in any manner as a jest; for, literally and truly, the late Lord Chancellor [Lord Eldon] took the whole matter upon his own shoulders, and promised to prepare a measure more suited to the exigencies of the sufferers than any that the collected wisdom of the Commons of England, in Parliament assembled, could think or devise.... The House of Commons has again taken up the matter, and I trust they will not abandon it, even though they should be opposed, until some provision is made against the recurrence of those evils, very trifling in comparison of former times, which during their last short inquiry were found still to exist." Sir A. Halliday points out that, although twenty years had elapsed since Mr. Wynn's Act passed (having received subsequently several amendments), asylums had only been opened in the counties of York (Wakefield, 1818), Lancaster (1816), Nottingham (1812), Norfolk (1814), Stafford (1818), Bedford (1812), Gloucester (1823), Lincoln (1820), and Cornwall (1820)—nine out of the fifty-two counties of England and Wales. Suffolk had just finished its building, as had Chester a short time before. Only at that very time had the magistrates of Middlesex, after two years' deliberation, announced that a county asylum was necessary, although it had been proved by Lord R. Seymour that 873 persons were suffering neglect and cruel treatment for want of it!

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