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. 

Return to Project Home   Next >


Battie, William. A Treatise on Madness. Vol. 1, London: Whiston and White, 1758. https://books. Accessed 10 April. 2018.

Pinel, Philippe. Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation. Vol. 2, Wiley-Blackwell, Accessed 8 April.

Burton, Robert, et al. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Clarendon Press, 1989. Accessed 8 April. 2018.

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