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Reason,Madness, andtheFrenchRevolution ROYPORTER Uurcultureofficiallyholdsthatpeoplecanberational,ortheycanbe mad,andthatthedistinctionisreal.Psychiatricscience,psychothera- peutics,andmentalinstitutionsallrestuponthevalidityofthispremise, whichitselfissupportedbyaphilosophyofmindinheritedfromanti- quityandbyanontologicalmodelofdisease.Underminethispolar distinctionbetweenreasonandunreason,mentalnormalcyandmental illness,andyoushakethefoundationsofpsychiatryitself,tosaynothing ofcivilization. Ofcourse,theexperienceofdoctors,magistrates,andthepublicover thecenturieshashelpedmaintainthesebasicassumptions.1Thepresence oftheraving,axe-swingingmaniac,thedroolingsimpleton,thesuicidal depressive,orthealien,autisticschizophrenichardlyshowsscepticism aboutwhatRothandKrollhaverecentlycalled"therealityofmental illness."2 Butidentifyingthemadhasneverbeenthatsimple.Thecultivationof certainliminaltypes—theholyfoolorthemadgenius—thoughnotdeny- ingtherealityofinsanity,haschallengeditscustomarymoralstigma (hereitcouldbeablessingnotmerelyabane).Furthermore,praisersof Follyhaveoftenarguedthattheremaybemethodinmadnesswhich unmasksthepsychopathologyofreason.3Inacrazyworlditisperhaps thewrongheadwhoistrulysane—aviewpointseeminglyheldbyR.D. 55 56 / PORTER Laingandothermodemanti-psychiatrists,whomighttraceanhonor- ablepedigreebackthroughBurtontoErasmusandthemedievalencomiumtolicensedfoolery .4Downtheagesithasoftenbeenthecryofso- calledlunaticsthatitistheywhoarethetrulysane,albeitpersecutedby crazymad-doctorswiththeircrazymadhouses:thosewhomsocietyfinds disturbingitlabelsdisturbed,thoseitdoesnotcomprehenditcalls incomprehensible.Anyway,Follydemands,whohasreasonenoughto tellwho'swho?—ariddleputinanutshellbytheRestorationpoetand playwrightNathanielLeeonbeingcommittedtoBethlem:"Theycalled memad,andIcalledthemmad,anddamnthem,theyoutvotedme."5 Drawingthelinebetweenthesaneandinsanemaynot,however,have beentoocrucialbeforelunaticswereroutinelyplacedunderhazardof sequestrationinmadhouses,ofbeing,inallsenses,shutup.However,as institutionalizationgrewstandardfromtheeighteenthcentury,inwhat MichelFoucaulthasevocativelythoughnotwhollyaccuratelydubbed "theGreatConfinement";andparticularlyasscandalouscasesofthe incarcerationofthesanecametolight,soitbecameanurgentmatterof prioritytoestablishcast-ironmedico-legalcriteriaforcertification.Yet thiswasrenderedallthemoreproblematicbecausepsychiatrywas, understandablythoughtendentiously,beginningtodivergefromcom- monsense.Fromtheturnofthenineteenthcentury,newdiagnostic categoriessuchaslatentandmoralinsanitywereclaimingtodefine modesofmentalillnessinvisibletotheuntrainedeye,andtounmask madnessmasqueradingasnormality.6 Asconfinementgrew,apatients'protestliteratureemergedwithit. Crieswentupfromformerasyluminmatesvindicatingtheirsanityand allegingvictimizationbysinisterfoes,inpublicationsrangingfromthe poetryofJamesCarkesseattheRestoration,thepamphletsofAlexander Cruden,thegreatconcordancecompiler("AlexandertheGreat"ashe calledhimself),indictmentsbylesser-knownfiguressuchasSamuel BruckshawandWilliamBelcher,throughinthe1830s,totheharrowing NarrativeoftheTreatmentReceivedbyaGentlemanbyJohnPerceval, sonoftheassassinatedprimeminister,SpencerPerceval.Inmanycases itwouldtakeabold,nottosayfoolhardy,psycho-historiantojudge whethersuchwritingsrevealpersecutionorparanoiaorboth.7 Thisprotestliterature,theseautobiographiesoftheinsanewhichI haveanalysedelsewhere,arepuzzlingandpoignant;aboveall,theychal- lengethehistorian,fortheyholdupthemirrortosociety,reversingthe familiarfaceofthings,offeringalienmapsofreality,andstandingpsy- chiatryonitshead,orperhapsitsfeet.Iwishtoexploreoneparticular instanceofmadnessansweringback,thatofJamesTillyMatthews,a patientinLondon'sBethlemHospitalbetween1797and1814,acase Reason,Madness,andtheFrenchRevolution /57 especiallyfascinatingbecausewearefortunateenoughtopossess,in printandinsheavesofmanuscripts,boththetestimonyofMatthews himself,vindicatinghissanity,therecordoftheasylumauthorities, certifyinghisinsanity,andthewordofnumerousotherwitnessessup- portingeithercamp.Psychiatrywasthusitselfputontrial(wasBethlem sane?)asmadnessandmentalmedicineconfrontedeachother,asoppo- sites,yet,wemightalmostsay,asdoubles. JamesTillyMatthewswasaWelshtea-brokertradingfrom84 LeadenhallStreet,London.8Nothingisknownofhisearlylife.Inthe wakeoftheFrenchRevolution,whichhewelcomed,hebecameincreas- inglyperturbedaboutthedeteriorationofAnglo-Frenchrelations.Fall- inginwithhiscountryman,theradicalDavidWilliams,whowasnegoti- atingreconciliationwithGirondinleaderssuchasBrissotandLeBrun, Matthewssoughtfrom1792toconveypeaceoverturestoPittandother ministersinaseriesofself-appointedshuttle-diplomacymissions betweenParisandLondon:Pittrefusedtoseehim,thoughapparentlyhe hadanaudiencewithLordGrenville.WhentheJacobinsseizedpower, Matthewsfellundersuspicion.Arrestedin1793,hewasheldinParis until1796,whentheauthorities,itseems,concludedhewasa"dangerous lunatic"—andreleasedhim!9WhileinFranceMatthewsbecameaufait withMesmerism,stillfashionabledespitetheenforceddepartureofDr. Mesmerhimselffromthecapital,followingthedamningreportofthe investigatingCommissionsetupbyLouisXVIin1784. MatthewshastenedbacktoEnglandinMarch1796,believinghewas privytointelligencewhichcouldsavehiscountry.InSeptemberhewrote toLordLiverpool,conveyingthesecretmachinationsoftheFrench,and explaininglengthily,ifratherincoherently,how,bydintofhispeacemis- sions,hehadbecomethe"objectofintrigue":"every...measurewhich couldbedevisedseemedpractised,inordertoentrapanddestroyme." Luckily,heconfided,"ithappensthatIamnotfrightenedsoonbyawhole JacobinArmy!,"andhehadcontinuedhisbehind-the-scenes manoeuvrings:10"Butincomingandreturning,myLord,thehandof perfidyeverywherewasbehindme.Ihavesincebeeninformedoften,and eventillmyleavingFrance,thatthereweretreacherousmeninEngland, connectedwiththeMonstersofFrance,whoseIntrigueshadeven extendedtoCounteracteveryeffortofmine.PoorinfatuatedJealousy!" HehadcontrivedtosaveMarieAntoinetteandherfamily,but"atthevery momentIwasexpectingtoreceivethemIwasputinArrestation,"and "letterswerefabricatedpretendedlyfoundontherampartsofLisle,atSt Omasetcdiscoveringplotscentredinme,"asaresultofwhichhehad 58 / PORTER "becamesubjecttoalltheVengeanceofthoseinveterateEnemiesofthe British name."" Onceconfined,theJacobinsinitiallytriedtoseduceMatthewsinto servingasadoubleagent,and"IhadtendersofRichesandhonor, Palaceseventojointhem;but,myLord,Idetestassassins,theveriest EnemiesofeverythingBritish,"andherefused."Iwasthenthrowninto prison."Subjectednowtotortures,nowtoblandishments,hehadheld out,resolving"rathertoperishwantingfoodthansuffertheBritish nametobewounded,"despitethefactthathisconfinementgavehis enemiesopportunitytoruinhisbusinessathome.So,hissprawlingletter concluded,hehadgivenafullaccountof"theatrocityoftheinjuries withwhichIhavebeenloaded."ClaimingtohavedastardlynewFrench plotstoreveal,andangling,perhapswithovertonesofblackmail,for financialcompensation,herequestedanaudiencewiththeminister.12 HowLiverpoolreactedwedonotknow.Butthemeetingandthe rewardwereclearlynotforthcoming,andthenextwehearisafurther letterMatthewsaddressedtohim,inDecemberofthatyear,opening:13 IpronounceyourLordshiptobeineverysenseofthewordamost diabolicalTraitor.—AfteralonglifeofPoliticalandrealiniquity, duringwhichyourLordshipbyflatteringanddeceiving,andmorethan anyonecontributingtodeceiveyourKing,whobelievingyour hypochictical[sic]Professions,hastothedetrimentofmanyofthe CountriesFriendsloadedyouwithhonours,andEmoluments,you havemadeyourselfaprincipalinSchemesofTreasonfoundedupon themostextensiveIntrique,...whichhave...longsincelaidyour CountryatthefeetofitsmostbitterEnemies,thosewhohave assassinatedFrance. MatthewshadrumbledLiverpool'splots:"SuchIntriguesalsocom- passedtheMurderoftheunhappyMarieAntoinette,thePrincessEliza- beth,&Louisdixsept."Indeed,referringtothelateking,Matthews accusedpointblank:"youdidactuallyeffecttheMurderofthatUnfor- tunateMonarch."Matthewshadapprisedthatheclearlyknewtoomuch, andsohadbecomeatargetforelimination.Hence"youinEnglandand yourAssociatesinFrancehavecausedbothNationstobeAssassinated todeprivemeofexistence."ButMatthewswasnomoretobeseduced fromthestraight-and-narrowofvirtuethanwasRobespierrehimself:14 IprofessmyselftobeatopenwarwithyoumyLord,andwithallthose yourpartnersorApostlesincraftandTreason.Youmaysucceedin imposingupontheWorldthatIaminsanebutIwillperseveretillI convinceyouandtheWorldthatIamperfectlyotherwise.Ihopemy Reason,Madness,andtheFrenchRevolution /59 LordthaterelongtheCountrywillJudgeimpartiallybetweenus: meantimeIhavethehonourtosubscribemyselfMyLord, YourLordship'smo.ob.tSert. JamesTillyMatthews Thesereferencestomadnessspeedilyprovedpropheticallyself- fulfilling.MatthewsproceededtothegalleryoftheHouseofCommons, whereheaccusedtheministryof"traitorousvenality."Hauledbeforethe PrivyCouncil,hewasexaminedandfoundunsoundofmind;hisparish, Camberwell,wasinstructedbythelordchancellorthatheshouldnotbe leftatlarge;andhewascommittedtoBethlemon28January1797.His familyprotested,but,afterafurtherexaminationbeforeLordKenyon, theirprotestswereoverruled. ThereMatthewsremained,thoughafterayearhewastransferredto theincurableswing.Littleisknownofhiscondition,until1809whenhis relativesandparishpetitionedfortherelease,claiminghissanity.Itwas atthispointthathisrelationshipwithJohnHaslambecamecritical. HaslamwastheapothecarytoBethlem,ajobroughlyequivalentto residentgeneralpractitioner.BorninLondonin1764,fewdetailssurvive ofhisearlyyears.HegainedhismedicaltraininginLondonhospitals andEdinburghUniversity,beforejoiningBethlem'smedicalstaffin 1795.Haslam'spositiontherewassomewhatambiguous.Forhewas boththemostlowly,yetalsothemostresponsible,memberofthethree- manmedicalteam.Atitsheadwasthephysician,Dr.ThomasMonro, thethirdscionofthatMonrodynastywhichranBethlemwhilethe GeorgesweregoverningBritain.Moreinterestedinwater-coloursthanin insanity,Monrowasasupinefigure,whorestedcontentwiththeancien regimeinheritedfromhisfather,Dr.JohnMonro.Thentherewasthe surgeon,BryanCrowther.Crowtherwasanalcoholicpresumablysufferingfromdeliriumtremens ;andasHaslamrevealedtotheHouseof Commonscommitteeonmadhousesin1815,fortenyears,thoughcon- tinuingactivelyinpost,thesurgeonwas"generallyinsaneandmostly drunk."Hewassoinsaneastohaveastrait-waistcoat.15 Encumberedwithhelpfromanabsenteephysicianandadelirious surgeon,Haslamnecessarilyhadtoassumeresponsibilityfortherun- ningsofBethlem'smedicalestablishment.Theauthorityvacuumexacer- batedthatairofill-managementinthehospital,andthoseevilsofthe therapeuticregimesoontoberuthlesslyexposedbytheCommonsCom- mitteeof1815.Reformersthendiscovered,forexample,thatpatients weresometimeskeptnaked,chainedtothewalls;andcriticsmadecapi- taloutofthescandaloustreatmentofoneJamesNorris,whohadbeen keptimmobilizedforoveradecadeinaspecialcustom-builtharness. DefendinghimselfandBethleminhisevidencebeforethatcommittee, 60 / PORTER Haslamappearedbyturnsevasive,truculent,cynical,andarrogant("I havenotbeendisposedtolistento,thosewhohadlessexperiencethan myself).Seeminglyoffhandtowardstheplightoftheinmates,hemis- judgedthemoodofthetimes,whichwelcomedthehumanitarianismof theTukesattheYorkRetreat,withtheiradvocacyofmoraltherapy.16 Farfrombeingmerelyakeeperoftheoldschool,however,Haslam wasapsychiatrist(touseahandyanachronism)ofrealstature,setting outhispenetratingviewsinaseriesofvolumes,beginningin1798with ObservationsonInsanity,andincludingin1817hisMedicalJurispru- dence,thepioneeringEnglishtextofforensicpsychiatry.17Thefirst,so historianshaveclaimed,togivepreciseclinicalaccountsofschizophrenia andgeneralparesis,Haslamexcelledatdetailedcasedescriptionsstuddedwithshrewdobservations ,whilescoldingthosefixateduponabstract theory.Heradicallydistrustedfellowpsychiatrists'claimstofathomthe essenceofinsanity;suchoverweeningambitionwastheheightoffolly, amountingalmosttoprofessionaldelusionsofgrandeur.Explainingthe dutiesofaforensicwitness,hethuscommented:18"Ifitshouldbepre- sumedthatanymedicalpractitionerisabletopenetrateintotherecesses ofalunatic'smind,atthemomenthecommittedanoutrage;toviewthe internalplayofobtrudingthoughts,andcontendingmotives...itmust beconfessedthatsuchknowledgeisbeyondthelimitsofourattain- ment."Scorningspeculationandthehumbugofmaskingignorancein professionaljargon,Haslamdiscountedpaperpsychiatry,while staunchlyadvocatingitspracticalversions.Heembracedwhatcontem- porariescalled"moralmanagement,"thebeliefthatmoralmeans— personaldiscipline—weresuperiortomedicineinhandlingtheinsane. Yethewouldhavenotruckwithsentimentality,andneverwasinclined toregardtheinsaneotherthanaliens,evengrotesques.Lunaticscom- monlyevince,hestressed,alowcunning,adeviousnessofthewill,being untrustworthy,cussed,andoftendangerous.Thussoundandunsound mindswerepolesapart,whileinsanitywasalltooreal;responsibleprac- titionersowedittosocietytoexposemadnessinitstruecolours.These convictionsmustbeborneinmind,ifwearetounderstandwhythe MatthewscasedisturbedHaslamsoprofoundly,indeed,wemight almostsay,hauntedhim. Matthewspassedtheyearsfrom1797onwardsinBethlem,where,bya splendidirony,afellowpatient,UrbaneMetcalf,believedhewasheirto thethroneofDenmark,thenoccupiedbytheinsaneChristianVII.When in1809thepetitionforMatthew'sreleasewasturneddown,hisfamily andparishtookoutawritofhabeascorpusatKing'sBench.Seeking medicalauthority,theypersuadedtwoLondonpractitioners,George Reason,Madness,andtheFrenchRevolution /61 Birkbeck(rememberedasthepromoterofmechanics'institutes)and HenryClutterbuck,toexaminehim.Thesejudgedhimbasicallysane, althoughsufferingdelusionsonsome"philosophical"matters;believing himharmlesstheyrecommendedhisrelease.Otherwitnessesalsomade depositionsurgingMatthews'ssanity.TogetherwithThomasMonro, Haslamwasconvincedoftheopposite.HetestifiedthatMatthewshad beeninsaneforanentiredecadeandremainedpreytopoliticaldelusions. Someofthesewereofageneralnature;thushewasconvincedthat"the KingofPrussia...hadformedaplanofdestroyingGeneralWashing- tonandtohavedividedAmericaintotwoMonarchieswhichwereto havebeenruledbytwooftheyoungerPrincesofthiscountry."Buthe alsoadvancedpersonaldelusionsofgrandeur,believing,forinstance, that"athissuggestionofitspropriety,theCommitteeofPublicSafetyin Francewasformed,andthatitwasinordertopreventhislettersfrom reachingFranceandhimselffromgoingovertherethattheTraitorous CorrespondenceBillinthiscountrywasreceived."19 Matthewsalsosuffered,Haslamexplained,frompersecutionfears, believing"therewasaconspiracytodestroyhisWifeandFamily,"and that"hisbeingunderconfinementwasonlyapartofagrandconspiracy todeprivehimofhislibertywhichhadformanyyearsbeenattemptedin thedifferentCourtsofEurope."Indeed,evennowhewasundertheeye ofspiesinBethlem,andrefused"toassociatewithanyofthesaid PatientsintheHospital,allegingashisreasonthatheconceivedthem nottobemad,butinstrumentsofintrigue,whowerepaidbycertain Agentstocounterfeitthedisease."20 Mostcritically,HaslamclaimedthatMatthew'spoliticalopinions entailedthat,ifreleased,hewouldbeaformidablesecurityrisk,for"his insanityisofatendencysodangeroustohisMajestyandhisFamily." Believingthat"thereigningSovereignswereImpostorsandUsurpers," Matthewshadarrogatedtohimselfthetitleof"Emperorofthewhole world.""Complainingofthemosttyrannical,illegal,andcrueltreat- ment,"he"directedhisthreatstowardshispresentMajestyandtheRoyal Family,derivinghisownrighttotheCrownfromKingEdwardthe3rd" (theWelshconnexion?).HenceGeorgeIII—bythistimesenileand dementedhimself—wasausurperwhomustbedestroyed,togetherwith theentirerulingorderofthenation,"theMembersofthePrivyCouncil, SecretariesofState,Judges,GovernorsoftheHospitalandallother authorities."OtherwitnessesendorsedHaslam'sdepositionastoMat- thew...

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1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 55-79
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
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