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PENITENTIARIES FOR THE POLITÉ.
"We pity or laugh at those fatuous extravagants, while yet ourselves have a considerable dose of what makes them so." GLANVILLE.
Ar a period when every charity instituted for the relief of our fellow creatures is sure of receiving the most munificent support, and when our capitalists eagerly embark their funds in every project, however wild and visionary, which promises to yield an adequate remuneration, it is really astonishing that an establishment combining a certainty of succour to a numerous and most suffering class of human beings, with a prospect of incalculable profit to the contributors, should never have suggested itself to any of our philanthropists. Such are the features of the new Institution which we are about to introduce to public notice; and though we are sufficiently aware that our benevolent countrymen, acting upon the principle that virtue is its own reward, require no sordid stimulus to their humanity, it may not be amiss to state, from the most accurate calculations, that the charity we propose is sure of being "twice bless'd" even in a financial point of view, and of rewarding him that gives with as much certainty as it will relieve the party to whom its soothing influence will be extended. As we wish it to rest upon its own merits, moral and pecuniary, we shall waste no more time in preliminary recommendations, but proceed at once to an outline of our plan, leaving its more perfect developement to a committee, for whose appointment a public meeting will shortly be called, and at which we earnestly solicit the attendance of all our readers, both male and female.
Every one who has been in the habit of attending to the proceedings in the Chancery Court upon applications for a commission "de Idiota inquirendo," must have been struck with the difficulty that exists in proving a man to be non compos mentis. In the case of a noble Peer, not long since brought before the public, many acts and habits were imputed to him as evidences of a non-sane mind, which are daily and hourly performed by many of his Majesty's liege subjects, without the The law holds no man to smallest imputation upon their rationality.
be an idiot who has understanding enough to measure a yard of cloth, number twenty rightly, and tell the days of the week, &c.; but it is obvious that this limitation is a great deal too circumscribed, and that many who do not come within the letter of this enactment, are fairly included in its spirit. Hardly any two authorities agree as to the minimum of intellect which shall qualify a person for the management of his own affairs, while some men have been accused of "Much madness upon grounds at once ridiculous and contradictory. learning hath made thee mad," cries Festus to Paul; the Emperor Anastasius ordered the gospels to be corrected and amended, "tanquam ab idiotis evangelistis composita;" and the general uncertainty upon this subject could not be better exemplified than by the poor fellow in Bedlam, who, upon being asked the cause of his confinement, replied-" I said the world was mad, they said it was me, and they outnumbered me." Surely such a grave question as this should never be decided by acclamation, or a show of hands. We may be legally wrong when we say of any half-crazy individual
that he is a mad-brained fellow, or a moon-struck simpleton, as under the dementating influence of that planet; just as we may be literally unwarranted in pronouncing another to be dead drunk when the vital functions have not ceased; but there can be no doubt that we are virtually correct in both instances, and it is precisely for that numerous class who are included in the former epithets that our establishment will be founded. We propose, in short, to build Asylums or Penitentiaries for the Polite, all over the kingdom, for the reception and cure of all such unhappy persons as labour under a partial absurdity of conduct or sentiment, although their aberration from right reason be not of so general and marked a character as to bring them legally within the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor, and the guardianship of the King.
In thus wishing to provide hospitals for such patients as could not claim admission into any existing charity, however grievously they might be afflicted with the complaint of folly, we mean not, like Swift when he endowed a madhouse,
"To show by one satiric touch
but we are impressed with a deep and serious conviction that our Institution may be the means of bringing many poor creatures to their sober senses, who are now living and acting as if under the wit-shattering spells of
"The queen of night, whose large command
And over moist and crazy brains
In high spring tides at midnight reigns."
That the reader may form a more accurate notion of the species of mental imbecility which we undertake to treat, and hope to cure, it may be requisite to mention a few of those classes which will more immediately fall within the scope of our plan, confining our notice to those patients whose case is the most urgent and lamentable.
All such ladies and gentlemen as are in the habit of wasting their nights, and even their days, seated behind pasteboard parallelograms, inscribed with barbarous coloured characters, or of throwing small numbered squares of ivory out of a wooden box, sacrificing their own health and time, and the property of themselves and families, upon the combinations which the aforesaid playthings may chance to assume, must be pronounced, by any impartial committee, so far unsound in mind as to qualify them for our hospitals for the mind, where they may be set to some honest and useful employment until a cure be effected. By this regulation our routs and balls will be cleared of sundry dowagers, spinsters, parsons, old bachelors, and other idle characters, who for hours together infest those resorts, labouring for the odd trick, or solemnly ejaculating " Propose !" and "I mark one for the king!"
Those mis-called gentlemen who are in the habit of putting "an enemy into their mouths to steal away their brains," or in common parlance, of making beasts of themselves, are respectfully informed that they may be accommodated in our establishments with a tread-mill, as well as comfortable stables, clean straw, and a good pump, from which they will be compelled to quaff bumpers until they have learnt that rational
enjoyment does not by any means consist in losing one's reason. Three-bottle men will be allowed to dip their own pails into the well. Misers, whose pleasure consists in accumulating what they do not want, in hoarding that which others are to spend, and whose chief luxury arises from denying themselves necessaries; as well as those spendthrifts, who, after having run through their own, imagine they have a right to lavish the property of others, so long as they can obtain credit, are both incontestable victims of mental alienation, although the latter may be the pleasanter species of fatuity. "I had rather,” says Suckling, "be mad with him, who when he had nothing, thought all the ships that came into the haven his, than with you, who when you have so much coming in, think you have nothing." Both these parties will be clearly entitled to admission into our asylum, and to remain there until the former shall have learnt not to rob himself, and the latter not to rob others.
Such poetasters, whether male or female, who are so far under the influence of the stultifying planet as to perpetrate sonnets to the moon, together with all those idle young men, who, under the pretext of being in love, are guilty of dismal ditties "made to their mistress' eyebrow," are unequivocally labouring under a sufficient derangement to warrant their claiming our protection. "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet," says Shakspeare, (who very properly lumps them together) "are of imagination all compact;" and elsewhere he observes, "Love is merely madness, and deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too." This defect we shall endeavour to remedy by having none but hardened old bachelors for keepers. The poetical patients we hope to cure by a sharp course of criticism, and the lovers by such remedies as their case may appear to require. Marriage has been recommended for the more desperate, but their friends need not be under any apprehension of this sort, since we have determined on avoiding all measures of severity, unless in cases of actual necessity. We shall adapt ourselves as much as possible to Sir Edward Coke's system, "Ut pœna ad paucos, metus ad omnes perveniat."
It must afford great consolation to the friends of the unfortunate sufferers to learn, that we shall have a spacious and special ward for the reception of those gulls, gudgeons, and noodles, who, undeterred by the warning of the South-Sea bubble, have invested their properties in Poyais, Spanish, Mexican, Chilian, and half a score other securities, as certain projectors have the impudence to call them. As such crazy simpletons are obviously not fit to be trusted with the management of their own estates, we propose taking charge of them until their investments shall have found their true value, i. e. till they are worth nothing, when we have every reason to hope that they may safely be discharged, cured.
Believers in Swedenborg, Joanna Southcote, Prince Hohenlohe, animal magnetism, metallic tractors, and the whole tribe of similar quackeries, delusions, and impostures; together with those who have faith in the influence of dreams, omens, horseshoes, lucky numbers, ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, and other diablerie, will all be confined (for such characters should not be left at large) in the same division of
our building, in the expectation that by mutual exposure of their follies and absurdities they may cure one another. Phrenologists to be allowed sticks for producing such bumps upon the heads of their brethren as may be necessary for establishing the truth or falsehood of their theory, when they may be detained or dismissed accordingly.
Gentlemen who have so far lost the use of right reason as to devote all their faculties to the imitation of their own coachmen, will be received, and compelled to clean carriages, rub down horses, and black shoes and boots, until, by performing the hard work of the character, they shall have acquired a distaste for copying its manners and appearance. Tourists and others smitten with the mania of travelling, in defiance of the Vagrant Act, shall be liable to detention in our establishments, unless they can prove that they know half as much of England as they do of foreign countries. Antiquarians and similar noodles "Who show on holidays a sacred pin,
That touch'd the ruff that touch'd queen Bess's chin,"
and rout out old tombstones, of which they send drawings to the Gentleman's Magazine, as if they were valuable as the philosopher's stone, or formed "of one entire and perfect chrysolite;"-the medallist, who like Curio
Restless by the fair one's side,
Sighs for an Otho and neglects his bride,"
and would willingly give a purseful of genuine sovereigns for a doubtful Queen Anne's farthing;-the dandy of sixty, who wastes all his time in repairing an old face, and yet values nothing but what is new;-the fribble, who may exclaim in the words of Prior,
"And trifles I alike pursue,
Because they're old, because they're new :"
all these and many more whom we have not now leisure to enumerate, but who are obviously unfit to be trusted with the disposal of their own time and money, we propose to receive into our penitentiary, in the full confidence that by a course of moderate labour, spare diet, and proper instruction, we shall be enabled to cure them of their respective hallucinations, and restore them to their disconsolate friends in the full possession of the "mens sana in corpore sano."
It only remains that we should say a few words upon the sources whence the profits of the institution will be derived, and the extent of capital proposed to be embarked. The benefit to accrue to the shareholders will arise from an imposition of one penny per day, and one pound per cent. on all the time and money saved to each patient received into the establishment, which, upon a very moderate calculation, will give fifteen per cent. upon the capital employed. This it is deemed prudent to limit at present to three millions sterling, which have not only been eagerly subscribed, but the shares are already selling at a considerable premium, although a few may still be had upon very moderate terms by early application to Messrs. Flam, Bubble, and Hoax, Knave's-aere.
OUT of Philosophy there are strange things,-
Affrighted on their thrones by the las bleus;
Of freedom from the press, and labour too,
Have seen him leave with promises unpaid;
Discomfort I should grieve to be his lot;
Harbouring whole shoals of facts, strange tales, and lies,
From Adam's day to that of the Allies
Call'd Holy-from the unregal grassy sty
Of Nebuchadnezzar's years, to that which spies
That there or Austria only could be king-
Predictions from celestial revolution,
When law dealt much in the rack'd martyr's cries,
Or he had not been dry the whole year round:
And very rarely either smiled or frown'd;
It was a solitary place their cave
The son had seen none but the parent's face;
Save he and his-they lived upon the chace,
* The idea of part of this story will be found in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.