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In the year 1860, M. Octave Delepierre published an ingenious and interesting work, the object of which is to prove that "madness enters in some measure into most of the. great minds with which history makes us acquainted ; and that it often becomes very difficult to establish the difference which predispositions to madness present, from certain conditions known as those of reason."
The authority of M. Lelut is invoked to prove that Pythagoras, Numa, Mahomet, and others, whose influence has been of such vast amount in the world, were all in some measure affected in mind: "they were simply men of genius and enthusiasm, with partial hallucinations." The good daemon which so often whispered counsel in the ears of Socrates, and the amulet discovered after death in Pascal's pocket, have convinced M. Lelut, who has ingeniously attempted to convince others, of the insanity of these great philosophers.
Strange is the supposition which, regards as madmen so many of the great men who have left their stamp upon the history of the world. Numa was mad, inasmuch as he professed that a certain nymph appeared to him in a cavern, which he called Egeria. Notwithstanding which, however, some may be of opinion that of the two hypotheses the first, that Numa was mad and yet capable in his madness of thinking out much legislative wisdom, and of establishing many prudent institutions; the other, that Numa being of sound mind, was politician enough to perceive that superstition was the most powerful instrument by which to impress new doctrines upon a primitive people the latter has about it a far greater appearance of probability. Even if Numa were mad, was not the nymph still a lie? And the wisdom which he somehow acquired not a lie? A madman's delusion, though it be true for him, is not true for the universe, and cannot therefore but die ith its author. So Numa's wise laws have had their influence nd are still working in the world, while the temporary accessories by which they were rendered acceptable to the barbarian mind have long since vanished.
Mahomet mad too! because, amongst other things, the angel Gabriel was said to have paid visits to him. When Pococke inquired of Grotius where the proof was of that story of the pigeon trained to pick peas from Mahomet's ear, and to pass for an angel dictating to him? Grotius answered that there was no proof! Now, the word this man spoke has been the life guidance of one hundred and eighty millions of men these twelve hundred years. These hundred and eighty millions were made by God as well as we. "A greater number of God's creatures believe in Mahomet's word at this hour than in any other word whatever." And we are asked to believe that it was the wisdom of madness!
Of Cromwell's grievous madness there will be little doubt in certain minds. Did not a spectre appear to him in the open day, or some strange woman open the curtains of his bed at night, and predict to him that he should be king of England? And a Huntingdon physician told Sir Philip Warwick that he had often been sent for at midnight; Mr. Cromwell was full of hypochondria, and thought himself near dying, and had "fancies about the town cross."- Moreover, he was subject to uncontrollable fits of laughter on serious occasions. "One that was at the battle of Dunbar told me that Oliver was carried on by a Divine impulse. He did laugh so excessively as if he had been drunk. The same fit of laughter seized him just before the battle of Naseby."
Again, there was once a "report raised by the devil, that Mr. Whitefield was mad," and he himself says, "he might very well be taken to be really mad, and that his relations counted his life
madness." Here is an account from his journal, of what seems to have been a compound of indigestion and nightmare, wherein may be discernible by certain mortals something of a mad ring: "One morning rising from my bed, I felt an unusual impression and weight upon my chest. In a short time the load gradually increased, and almost weighed me down, and fully convinced me that Satan had as real possession of my body as once of Job's. . . .I fancied myself like a man locked up in iron armour; I felt great heavings in my body, prayed under the weight till the sweat came. How many nights did I lie groaning under the weight, bidding Satan depart from me in the name of Jesus."
But why continue a list, which by a "speciality" criticism might be made to include almost every great actor in this mad world George Pox stitching for himself a leathern suit; Ignatius Loyola, "that errant, shatter-brained visionary fanatic," as Bishop Lavington calls him; St. Prancis, founder of the Franciscans, who was wont to strip himself naked in proof of his innocence, and to appear in fantastical dresses; and many others in whom appears a mixture, more or less, of fanaticism and imposture.
Perhaps if there is one man to whom a reader of English history would point as having entertained wide and philosophical views instead of having faith in the expediency-doctrine of the moment -
that man is Edmund Burke. "He possessed (says Coleridge) and had sedulously sharpened that eye which sees all things, actions, and events in relation to the laws which determine their existence, and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually to principles, he was a scientific statesman."
When the far-seeing sagacity of Burke, in foretelling the unhappy results of the French Revolution, first struck into the minds of his party, from which he had been separated, it was reported that he was in a state of mind bordering on insanity, especially after he had in the House of Commons, addressed to the chair, with much vehemence of manner, the words of St. Paul: "I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak the words of truth and soberness." Burke's niece ventured to name to him the above absurd rumour, when he very sensibly replied: "Some part of the world, my dear - I mean the Jacobins, or unwise part of it think, or affect to think, that I am mad; but believe me, the world twenty years hence will, and with reason too, think from their conduct, that they must have been mad."
These rumours, however, gained strength, particularly after the death of Burke's son: he was said to wander about his grounds kissing his cows and horses; but his affection for domestic animals had been remarkable from his early manhood, and Reinagle painted him patting a favourite cow. This picture brought from London to Beaconsfield an old friend, to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the story when Burke, without knowing the object of his visit, unsuspiciously showed him portions of the Letters on a Regicide Peace, which he was then writing. The circumstance of his being seen to throw his arms round the neck of his son's favourite horse, to weep and sob convulsively, as he kissed the animal, had, however, a greater share in substantiating the rumour, than had
Lord Chatham, contemporary with Burke, was also alleged to have been insane. Horace Walpole fosters this scandal, and the fact of the Earl placing himself under Dr. Addington, originally a "mad doctor," strengthened the rumour; but Addington had been the village doctor at Hayes, where Lord Chatham resided. His ill-managed expenditure, and his freaks of extravagance, backed the report, which, after all, was little better than an invention of Chatham's political enemies.
The hallucinations and madness of Tasso, of Benvenuto Cellini, of the painter Fuseli, of Cowper, of Swift, and of many others whose names press under the pen, exhibit a picture of the human mind which would almost make us agree with Aristotle, that it is the fame of a good poet to be mad.
That Swift not only expired "a driv'ler and a show," but lived a madman, is what the world generally believes; but Mr. W. R. Wilde, E.R.C.S. having stated all that is really known of Swift's sufferings and disease, asserts that up to the year 1742, Swift showed no symptom whatever of mental disease, beyond the ordinary decay of nature. Towards the end of that year the cerebral disease under which he had long laboured, by producing effusion, &c. destroyed his memory, rendered at times ungovernable in his anger, and produced paralysis; but all this was the result of physical disease. It cannot be doubted that his not speaking was not the result of either insanity or imbecility, but arose either from the paralysis of the muscles by which the mechanism of speech is produced, or from loss of memory, such as frequently appears in cerebral disease; for he would often attempt to speak, but could not recollect words to express his meaning, when he would shrug up his shoulders, and sigh heavily. "We have also the evidence of one of the few eye-witnesses of the Dean's condition at this period that he never yet talked nonsense, or said a foolish thing. The disease under which he laboured so long might be termed "epileptic vertigo," such as that described by Esquirol, an affection to which it is well known many men of strong intellect have been subject. For the last few years of his embittered existence from his 75th to his 78th year his disease partook so much of the nature of senile decay, or the dementia of old age, that it is difficult to define by any precise medical term his actual state. Mr. Wilde has very carefully examined the question; and although to this day, it is difficult to persuade the great mass of the people in Dublin that the Dean was not one of the first inmates of his own madhouse (although the building was not erected till many years after his death) yet there is nothing to confirm the assertion, promulgated by Johnson, that Swift's "madness was compounded of rage and fatuity;" or that Swift expired "a traveller and a show."
To return to M. Delepierre's work _Religious Madmen_ differ in many essential points from others in their aberrations: their objects are the emotions, the passions, and the instinctive impulses of the soul. A Jesuit named Paoletti, who, in the middle ages, wrote against Thomas Aquinas' doctrine concerning Predestination and Freewill, and who had been in confinement five years when he wrote, composed a treatise in which he "demonstrated that the aborigines of America were the direct descendants of the devil and one of the daughters of Noah; consequently it was absolutely impossible that they should ever obtain salvation or grace."
Simon Morin, who had published an absurd book, was arrested by order of the French Parliament, and was ordered to be sent to a madhouse for the rest of his days. But having abjured his follies he was released, and soon after published another book in which he maintained that he was no other than the Son of Man. He was condemned, in 1662, to be burnt alive with his books, and his ashes to be cast to the wind. So Simon Morin and his heterodoxy were extinguished. On the other hand, St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscans, who saw visions "as of an angel with six burning wings, bearing a figure nailed upon the cross," and who, at any rate, was at one time chained down in a dark room by his parents, and was "deemed to be mad both by the learned and vulgar," he was canonized.
Proceeding to the second Division - _Literary Madmen_, we find that they do not occupy themselves with deep speculations on abstruse subjects: they rarely go below the surface of things, and are concerned rather with the mode of expression of common ideas than with the nature of the ideas themselves. Their intellectual powers being less concentrated than in those who are occupied with philosophy or theology, the exhaustion is much less. Many belonging to this class are persons, who, in madness, are still afflicted with the itching humour of writing. Yet, some there are who, out of decay, emit bright phosporescence of genius, and compose in good style what a professed philosopher may read with advantage: the writings of Nathaniel Lee, born about the end of the seventeenth century, have been praised by Addison. One night, when Lee was composing one of his dreams in his cell in Bedlam, a cloud passed before the moon, by the light of which he was writing, when he suddenly cried out: _Jove, snuff the moon_. Dryden relates how this same Lee once replied to a bad poet who had made the foolish remark, that it was very easy to write like a madman: "It is very difficult to write like a madman, but it is very easy to write like a fool."
Alexander Cruden became insane while at college, through his love being rejected by a young lady: he was sent to an asylum, but shortly after recovered; and after he was set at liberty, he wrote his Concordance, a work of surprising research. He was three times placed in confinement; and after his release on the last occasion, despairing of obtaining what he deemed justice for his wrongs, he wrote to his sister, and several of his friends, proposing, with the utmost simplicity, that they should in an easy way afford him a slight compensation by subjecting themselves to imprisonment for a time in Newgate. Heavenly voices towards the end of his life, informed him that he had a divine mission; and he demanded that he should be recognized of the King in Council, and that he should be created by Act of Parliament, "Corrector of the People."
Living at the same time as Cruden was a certain Christopher Smart, who, after a brilliant career at Cambridge, unhappily became insane. During his confinement he wrote, by means of a key, on the panels of his chamber, a poem of nearly a hundred stanzas to the "Glory of David, King and Prophet."
_Philosophical Madmen_ are in a somewhat similar position to that of theological madmen: they are mostly vain persons who have lost their way in matters too deep for them; and by reason of their vanity, and of the nature of the subject of their pursuits, are as difficult to deal with as those who speculate on religious mysteries. A deplorable instance of this class is afforded by Thomas Wirgman, who, after making a large fortune as a goldsmith and silversmith, in St. James 's Street, London, squandered it all as a regenerating philosopher. He had paper made specially for his books, the same sheet consisting of several different colours; and as he changed the work many times while it was printing, the cost was enormous. He published a grammar of the five senses, which was a sort of system of metaphysics for the use of children, and maintained that when it was universally adopted in schools, peace and harmony would be restored to the earth, and virtue would everywhere replace crime. He complained much that people would not listen to him, and that, although he had devoted nearly half a century to the propagation of his ideas, he had asked in vain to be appointed Professor in some University or College, so little does the world appreciate those who labour unto death in its service. Nevertheless, exclaimed Wirgman, after another useless application, "while life remains I will not cease to communicate this blessing to the rising world."
_Political Madmen_. Davesney or Davenne, temp. Louis XIV. was of opinion that of right he ought to supplant that monarch, and mount the throne: and he proposed two plans of deciding the question. "Call the Cardinal, the Regent, the Duke of Orleans, the Princes Beaufort, and those who are deemed most holy in the world; have a furnace kindled; let us all be thrown into it, and he who comes out uninjured, like a renovated phoenix from the flames, let him be regarded as the protege of God, and be ordained prince of tlie people." Fearing however, naturally enough, that so severe a test might not be acceptable, he proposes another. "Let the Parliament sentence me to death for having dared to speak the truth to princes. Let them execute me, and if God does not protect me from their hands in a supernatural way, let the memory of me be extinct. If God preserves me not from the hands of the executioners, nothing shall be done to them; but if a supernatural arm tears me from their clutches, let them be sacrificed in my place."