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SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS RESULTING FROM THE HIGHLY
EXCITED STATES OF PARTICULAR TEMPERAMENTS,
" But that I would not
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
FROM the different mental dispositions observable in mankind, we are entitled to expect, that in each individual of the human
be a constitutional tendency to some one prevailing state of feelings, either distinctly pleasurable or distinctly painful. In the temperament, for instance, named sanguine, the influence of the blood is indicated by an increasing dilatation of the sanguineous vessels, or by the greater tendency of the pulse to strength and fulness, while the general mental disposition is of a
In the melancholic temperament, on the contrary, there appears to be an opposite quality of the circulating fluid, which, by its influence, induces a constricting disposition of the vessels, and a corresponding proneness to gloomy thoughts. + Pinel has referred the symptoms, named maniacal, to a very highly-excited state of these two temperaments; and this view leads to the rational doubt which may be entertained, that the cause of mania is less dependent upon the condition of the nervous system, than upon some particular or morbid quality of the circulating fluid. “ If the blood be imperfectly elaborated,” remarks a modern writer, or with a
* “ Homines tali constitutione prediti,” remarks Dr Gregory,
præter solitum sentientes et irritabiles observantur, et pulsus habent solito frequentiores, et sanguinis motum liberrimum, et secretiones et excretiones fere copiosas, raro obstructas, et animum plerumque lætum et hilarem, aliquando levem ; nam animi non secus ac corporis varietates a temperamento sæpe pendent.”
+ “ Hoc temperamento prediti, animum habent gravem, sæpe tristem, meditabundum, haud facile commovendum, quo semel commotus est affectus tenacissimum, in negotiis indefessum in studiis acutissimum, in amore ferventissimum, fidelissimum, ad poesin sæpe aptum, in melancholiam et insaniam aliquando proclivem.”—Gregory's Conspectus Medicinæ Theor. p. 229.
* “ The form of the cranium,” observes Dr Good, “ its thick. ness, and other qualities--the meninges, the substance of the brain, the ventricles, the pineal gland, the commissures, the cerebellum,-have all been analyzed in turn by the most dexterous and prying anatomists of England, France, Germany, and Italy, but with no satisfactory result.-Good's Study of Medicine, v. iii.
disproportion of some of its constituent principles to the rest, the whole system partakes of the evil, and a diathesis or morbid habit is the certain consequence. And if it become once impregnated with a peculiar taint, it is wonderful to remark the tenacity with which it retains it, though often in a state of dormancy, or inactivity, for years, or even genera
From this view, therefore, which the writer takes of the influence of the sanguineous fluid, he is led to entertain the opinion, that there is no other part of the system which we ought to regard as the predisposing cause of such corporeal disorders as gout, struma, or phthisis, and even of mental affections, as of madness. On this subject, also, I shall beg leave to add, that, as the cause of the sanguine and melancholic temperaments in their highly-excited states, can only be referable to some peculiar state of the blood, I must regard the symptoms of such states to be those which are described under the general name of mania. “ The violence of maniacal paroxysms,” says Pinel,
appears to be independent of the nature of the exci. ting cause, or to depend, at least, much more upon the consitution of the individual, or upon the different degrees of his physical and moral sensibility. Men of robust constitutions, of mature years, with black hair, and susceptible of strong and violent passions, appear to retain the same character when visited by this most distressing of human misfortunes. Their ordinary energy is augmented to outrageous fury. Violence, on the other hand, is seldom characteristic
* Good's Study of Medicine, v. 2, p. 34.
of the paroxysms of individuals of more moderate passions, with brown or auburn hair. Nothing is more common than to see men with light-coloured hair sink into soothing and pleasurable reveries; whereas it seldom or never happens that they become furious or unmanageable. Their pleasing dreams are, however, at length overtaken by, and lost amidst the gloom of an incurable fatuity.”
From these remarks we are led to expect, that vivid feelings of a highly intense kind will be often found in those states which characterize mania. Pinel has accordingly declared, that, even during intervals of comparative calmness and reason, he has no where met, except in romances, with more fond husbands, more affectionate parents, more impassioned lovers, more pure and exalted patriots, than in an asylum for lunatics. Hence he argues, that persons of the greatest mental excitement, of the warmest passions, the most active imagination, the most acute sensibility, are chiefly prone to insanity.* When such, therefore, is the frequent mental condition of the maniacal patient, it will, in a theoretical point of view, be instructive once more to advert to the power of an agent, which is calculated above every other substance to illustrate the laws connected with the vividness of which our mental feelings are susceptible; and in tracing its operation, when the sensations and ideas which it influences are excited to an extreme degree of intensity, we may compare such a result with the state of mind
*“ A melancholy reflection,” says Pinel, “ but such as is cal. culated to call forth our best and tenderest sympathies.”
which subsists during the accession of the maniacal paroxysm. The institution of this comparison will, at the same time, give strength to the opinion, that there exists in mania a sanguineous and constitutional influence, analogous in its consequences to such as may be artificially produced by chemical agents affecting the composition of the blood. Thus I have before mentioned, that Sir Humphry Davy, in relating the particular feelings which he experienced during the excitement of the nitrous oxide, first noticed the increased acuteness of his sensations, which he described under such terms, as "a sense of tangible extension, or of visible impressions being rendered dazzling, and apparently magnified." In pointing out, also, the painful effect of the febrile miasma of Cadiz, it was observed, that the incipient indications of this influence were a general soreness over the body, or a sense of extreme cold or burning heat. It is curious then to remark, that by a similar increase of corporeal sensibility, though frequently represented under different forms, the earliest symptoms of an approaching maniacal paroxysm are frequently characterized. Pinel speaks of a patient whose vision was rendered so acutely sensible, that, in forming his judgment from the effects of the sun's light, he fancied that this luminary acted upon
him at the distance of only four paces; he also described a motion which he experienced in his head as resembling that of gurgling or boiling. I likewise find it recorded of another lunatic, who, although he could usually take large quantities of snuff without sneezing, yet, upon the approach of a paroxysm, had his sense of smell rendered so intense,