mental illness

Beaufort’s Affliction

“The interval was, consequently, spent in inaction; his grief only became more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection, and at length it took so fast hold of his mind that at the end of three months he lay on a bed of sickness, incapable of any exertion” (Shelley 19).

The character Beaufort in Frankenstein is a well-respected and wealthy man and close friend of Victor’s father. However, after a “series of unfortunate events,” Beaufort falls into horrible poverty and tries to isolate himself from everyone and everything he previously knew. The excerpt above describes his final moments. Based on Pinel’s Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation or Mania and Battie’s A Treatise on Madness, Beaufort would have been described as someone suffering from consequential madness, showing symptoms of severe melancholia (Pinel 62; Battie 50).

A typical treatment for such a disease would vary depending on the mental institution they attended, but typical treatments included “Peruvian bark, iron, vitriol [sulfuric acid], mineral waters and cold bathing” (Battie 92). Peruvian bark, mineral waters and cold bathing were external treatments meant to remedy the “laxity or defect of those membranes that surround and defend the medullary matter” (92). In this case, medullary matter refers to the inside of the brain. Vitriol was used for the same purpose, but it was taken by mouth in small doses.

The image above, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (Wikimedia) was published before the Romantic era but had heavy influence on the treatment of the mentally ill during the period.  Beaufort would have been treated for his melancholic symptoms, and these treatments would have been loosely based on Burton’s studies depending on which asylum he would have visited. 

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Sources:

Battie, William. A Treatise on Madness. Vol. 1, London: Whiston and White, 1758. https://books. google.com/books/about/A_Treatise_on_Madness.html?id=F6JbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q=anxiety&f=false. Accessed 10 April. 2018.

Pinel, Philippe. Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation. Vol. 2, Wiley-Blackwell, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9780470712238. Accessed 8 April.

Burton, Robert, et al. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Clarendon Press, 1989. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10800/10800-h/10800-h.htm. Accessed 8 April. 2018.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter. Frankenstein: the 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2012.

mental illness

Victor’s Trip to the Asylum

“What then became of me? I know not; I lost sensation, and chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me. Sometimes, indeed, I dreamt that I wandered in flowery meadows and pleasant vales with the friends of my youth, but I awoke and found myself in a dungeon. Melancholy followed, but by degrees I gained a clear conception of my miseries and situation and was then released from my prison. For they had called me mad, and during many months, as I understood, a solitary cell had been my habitation” (Shelley 142-143).

This excerpt above is from Victor Frankenstein’s perspective. Victor is the main protagonist in Frankenstein who generates life, but quickly regrets it because the monster he creates wreaks havoc on his entire life and everyone he loves. Victor frequently experiences mental breakdowns and fainting fits throughout the novel. His mental fragility is a defining aspect of his character. The excerpt above is the epitome of those mental breakdowns which results in him being sent to an asylum.

The affliction Victor experiences would be described by William Battie as “consequential madness” (41). Consequential madness occurs as a result of a traumatic event or incident. In Victor’s case, it is the death of his father and fiancée. Battie’s beliefs on mental illness and its potential cures would have been considered mainstream during Shelley’s time. He published his book, A Treatise on Madness, in 1758, outlining his beliefs and methods for curing mental ailments. He was a strong supporter of using medication to alleviate the symptoms. However, more recent practices that were popularized by Phillipe Pinel in his 1801, Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation or Mania, advocated for strictly behavioral treatments for his patients. Both Pinel and Battie headed their own private madhouses during the mid- to late-18th century. Unfortunately, madhouses funded by the state were not as forward-looking as the private madhouses run by Pinel and Battie. Public madhouses were characterized by malnourished and mistreated patients, who were frequently threatened with bloodletting or purging as a means of keeping them under control (Jay 46). Based on the brief description given by Shelley of Victor’s time in the asylum, it appears as if he was in a public madhouse, being locked up in solitary confinement to keep him away from other inmates and workers for their safety.

The image above, Bedlam Hospital by Robert White (Gothic Tea Society), portrays Bethlem hospital (referred to as Bedlam in the image).  This image is supposed to represent the stereotypical madhouse during the mid- to late-18th century.

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Sources:

Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Battie, William. A Treatise on Madness. Vol. 1, London: Whiston and White, 1758. https://books. google.com/books/about/A_Treatise_on_Madness.html?id=F6JbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q=anxiety&f=false. Accessed 10 April. 2018.

Pinel, Philippe. Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation. Vol. 2, Wiley-Blackwell, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9780470712238. Accessed 8 April.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter. Frankenstein: the 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2012.

mental illness

William Battie and A Treatise on Madness

William Battie was a London physician who worked at Bethlem, a publicly funded madhouse in London. However, he left Bethlem, disgusted by their poor treatment of the patients and founded his own hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics (Jay 56). Battie replaced practices such as bloodletting and purging with more modern medicinal treatment and what we would consider therapeutic methods. In his 1758, A Treatise on Madness he outlined his discoveries and beliefs on mental health, and he laid out a plan for an institution specially equipped to assist those with mental illnesses (Battie 2).

In his book, Battie explained his views on madness. He believed that there were two forms of madness, original and consequential. According to Battie, original madness has no apparent cause and it cannot be cured. On the other hand, consequential madness is brought upon someone who has experienced trauma or someone who is physically weak, and Battie believes this consequential madness can be alleviated through treatment (Battie 41).

In St. Luke’s Hospital, Battie treated his patients with a variety of medicines. He administered “mercury for venereal diseases, opium for pain, cinchona bark for fever— but only for symptomatic relief” (Jay 56). Battie thought that “the antidote of madness is reserved in Nature’s store, and will be brought to light in its appointed time”; until that time, however, most cases could at best be managed (Jay 57).

The image above, “View of St. Luke’s Hospital in Upper Moorfields” (County Asylums), portrays St. Luke’s Hospital, which is one of the many hospitals that William Battie worked in. Battie was one of the head doctors at this facility.

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Sources:

Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Battie, William. A Treatise on Madness. Vol. 1, London: Whiston and White, 1758. https://books. google.com/books/about/A_Treatise_on_Madness.html?id=F6JbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q=anxiety&f=false. Accessed 10 April. 2018.

mental illness

Philippe Pinel and His “Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation or Mania”

Philippe Pinel’s Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation or Mania is a collection of his case studies in which he analyzes each of his patients. Using each case from his studies, he describes four main categories of madness that he discerned: “maniacal insanity,” “melancholia,” dementia, and idiocy (Pinel 54). Maniacal insanity, according to Pinel, is typically temporary, sometimes chronic, and frequently curable. Pinel described melancholia as “a dreamy taciturn manner, touchy and suspicious, with a desire to be left alone” (Pinel 62). In the treatise, dementia is viewed as something that gradually erodes the victim’s thoughts and cannot be cured. Finally, idiocy is present when the intellect of an individual never fully developed.

Pinel’s most famous means of therapy was finding the root of a patient’s mental distress and addressing in through theatrical means. For example, Pinel had a patient who was suffering from the delusion that they were going to be sent to the guillotine (Pinel 133). His method for curing the patient was staging a trial in which the patient was found innocent so they were not sentenced to death (Jay 66). Some of the cures were not successful, but the theatrical process brought the doctor and the patient closer together, alleviating some of the patients stress and symptoms.

Pinel’s research and treatment was based on the idea that humans are essentially benevolent beings who are inclined toward kindness. However, this inviting method was backed by the threat of punishment to prevent mischief or abuse of trust. This punishment usually took the form of physical restraint or solitary confinement. A famous example of this methodology took place at Bicêtre Hospital. Pinel was treating the most violent patient in the hospital and offered to remove his restraints (Jay 70). The patient questioned the offer, but Pinel assured the patient that he had men ready to come into the room at any moment. This small reassurance allowed for productive interactions between Pinel and the patient because (according to Pinel) the patient felt less dangerous than he would have in a typical reaction with another person (Pinel 81-82).

The image above, “Philippe Pinel à La Salpêtrière” by Tiny Robert-Fleury (Wikimedia), is a piece from the Romantic period that portrays Pinel freeing the mentally ill from their chains.  This is a dramatization of what Pinel actually did, but it does carry some truth. Pinel is known now for his forward looking, therapeutic methods.

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Sources:

Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Shiraev, Eric. A History of Psychology: A Global Perspective. SAGE, 2011.

Pinel, Philippe. Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation. Vol. 2, Wiley-Blackwell, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9780470712238. Accessed 8 April.

mental illness

The State Madhouse

The archetypal state madhouse can best be described through the history and description of Bethlem madhouse in London. Bethlem is a good basis and comparison point based on its rich historical background and relevance. The reconstruction of Bethlem was finished in 1676, following the Great Fire of London. The new Bethlem significantly outshined the original: “It was a spectacular gesture of reinvention, not only of London but also of madness itself” (Jay 38). The grandeur of the new Bethlem soon faded as it became clear that the building was built on an unreliable foundation. On the inside of the structure, the walls ran with giant cracks that allowed in wind and rain. The contrast of the near perfect outside with the dilapidated inside paralleled Bethlem’s reputation. At its inception, Bethlem was meant to be a safe place for the mentally disabled. However, it slowly devolved into a place rife with abuse and malnourishment (Jay 39).

The inmates were regularly cleaned and shaved, and they were occasionally attended to by a surgeon. However, they were never given therapy for their mental conditions. The surgeons performed procedures, such as bloodletting, purging with emetics (making them throw up using medicine), and cold showers, aimed at balancing the humors of the patients. The primary rationale behind these treatments was to make the patients less violent. The priority of the caretakers was to maintain order within the institution, so more often than not, patients were treated with bloodletting and purging with the intention of making them easier to handle (Jay 52). The treatments essentially evolved into threats as opposed to legitimate attempts at caring for the patients.

The image above, “Gentle Emetic” by James Gillray (Wellcome), portrays a typical treatment for certain mental illnesses during the Romantic period. The patient above is being given an emetic so he will eventually vomit.  The idea behind this was to balance the four humours within the body to soothe the patient’s symptoms.

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 Sources:

Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

mental illness

James Hadfield, the Criminal Lunatics
Act, and the Legal Definition of Lunacy

In 1800, James Hadfield attempted to kill George III. He did this under the delusion that the murder of the king would begin the second coming of the Messiah (Rabin 1). Hadfield’s delusions began in 1794 when he was wounded on the head during a sword fight, after which he became mentally unstable and “fell under the influence of a Pentecostal preacher and became convinced that the end of the world was coming” (Jay 62). After his attempted murder of George III, Hadfield was charged with high treason and defended by one of the best defense lawyers at the time, Thomas Erskine. Erskine did not deny anything that Hadfield had supposedly done. However, he did question whether the allegations truly added up to high treason given Hadfield’s unstable mental state. Erskine claimed that Hadfield truly thought he was acting to benefit all of mankind, which meant his actions were not criminal but moral, intended to make the world better (Rabin 142-143).

Erskine even went as far as to bring in a physician to verify Hadfield’s mental state. The physician confirmed Erskine’s claims that Hadfield was not mentally stable, which further demonstrated Hadfield’s innocence. The Lord Chief Justice was persuaded by Erskine that Hadfield could not be found fully responsible for his crimes, and he halted the trial immediately, saying that Hadfield should be acquitted (Rabin 143). However, this was the first case of its type, which meant there were no previous rules regarding acquittal based on mental illness. As a result, Hadfield walked freely from the court that day, sparking public outrage. Parliament immediately responded, creating the Criminal Lunatics Act. The Act placed these new persons, not guilty of their crimes but imprisoned for the safety of the public, in the care of state madhouses (Rabin 143).

The legal definition of madness was relative to the crimes committed. If it was apparent someone was incapable of making reasonable decision at the time they committed a crime, then they could not be found fully guilty because they were said to be mad, which meant they were not sentenced the same way. A quote from William Blackstone precisely encompasses the popular opinion in the mid- to late-18th century: “As a vicious will without a vicious act is no civil crime, so, on the other hand an unwarrantable act without a vicious will is no crime at all” (Rabin 24). This is backed by the idea that mental illness warps the mind in such a way that someone’s will is not truly their own. The popular opinion at the time was that the mentally ill were incapable of rational decision making. “The question of intent defined insanity as exculpatory” (Rabin 24).

This image above, “The King’s Life Attempted” (EIT Mental Health),  shows the scene of James Hadfield attempting to take the life of George III. This case is famous for its relevance to the laws surrounding mental illness and criminals who were mentally disabled.

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Sources:

Pietikainen, Petteri. Madness: A History. Routledge, 2015.

Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Rabin, Dana. Identity, Crime and Legal Responsibility in Eighteenth-Century England. Palgrave

Macmillan, 2014. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057%2F9780230505094.pdf. Accessed 10 April. 2018.