Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that he became convulsed with the slightest aromatics. With respect to the state of mental ideas, when they are by the same cause and under similar circumstances affected, a proportionate degree of vividness is no less observable. Thus Sir Humphry Davy has observed of the commencing effect of the nitrous oxide, that vivid ideas of the most pleasing description rapidly passed through his mind, and that an intense recollection arose of some former experiments. It is remarkable also, that a patient cured by Dr Willis has, in the narrative of his own case, described a similar state of ideas as existing in mania. " I always," he relates, “expected with impatience the accession of the paroxysms, since I enjoyed during their presence a high degree of pleasure. They lasted ten or twelve hours. Every thing appeared easy to me. No obstacles presented themselves either in theory or practice. My memory acquired upon a sudden a singular degree of perfection. Long passages of Latin authors recurred to my mind. In general, I have great difficulty in finding rhythmical terminations ; but then I could write in verse with as much facility as in prose.” Such is the state of mind induced when the earlier stage of the interval of mental alienation is of a pleasurable kind : and, on the other hand, when it is of a painful description, symptoms are ushered in more resembling those which are induced by the febrile miasma; the mind being distracted with recollections of the most gloomy character.

It may be farther remarked, that the same analogy which I have traced continues to subsist in more advanced indications of mania. It has been shewn, for

instance, that after the long-continued inhalation of the nitrous oxide, or in the more advanced state of the symptoms attending the baneful influence of the miasma of Cadiz, ideas, or the recollected images of the mind, acquire a degree of vividness equalling that of sensations. These are frequently no less the symptoms of mania after a paroxysm has attained its greatest height. Thus Pinel remarks, that a maniac conceived at different times that he had imaginary conferences with good and bad angels, and, according to the respective influences of their delusions, was mild or furious, inclined to acts of beneficence, or roused to deeds of ferocity. In an early period of history, when insane people, as was formerly the case in England, found no asylum, they were ever, in their desultory rambles, pursued by a vivid imagination with demons

“ We meet with such maniacs,” says a critical writer on the Jewish customs, “ in the synagogues, or places of religious worship—we meet with them in towns and cities, where they were allowed to ramble uncontrolled. Being thought to be inhabited by demons, they were esteemed sacred persons, and regarded with religious awe and reverence." Shakspeare has well shewn, in the character of Edgar, that such was likewise the state of madmen in this

country. “ Who gives any thing to poor Tom ?" says the pretended demoniac, “whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through pond and whirlpool, over bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew; set ratsbane by his porridge; made him proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inch'd bridges,

or furies.

to course his own shadow for a traitor.” This is no incorrect illustration of the state of a frenzied imagination.

There is no writer, however, that has been more successful than Burton in elucidating from well-authenticated instances of spectral illusions, those highlyexcited states of the sanguine and melancholic temperaments, which may be considered as maniacal. “ Such as are commonly of a ruddy complexion and high-coloured," says this author, " are much inclined to laughter, witty and merry, conceited in discourse, pleasant, if they be not far gone, much given to music, dancing, and to be in women's company. They meditate wholly on such things, and think they see or hear plays, dancing, and such like sports, free from all fear and sorrow. Like him of Argus, that sat laughing all day long as if he had been at the theatre. Such another is mentioned by Aristotle, living at Abydos, a town of Asia Minor, that would sit, after the same fashion, as if he had been upon a stage, and sometimes act himself, sometimes clap his hands, and laugh as if he had been well pleased with the sight.” The same writer remarks of another description of men, whose mental feelings have constitutionally a gloomy tendency,—“ They are usually sad and solitary, and that continually and in excess ; more than ordinary suspicious, more fearful, and have long, sore, and most corrupt imaginations ; cold and black, bashful, and so solitary, that they will endure no company. They dream of graves, still and dead men, and think themselves bewitched or dead. If the symptoms be extreme, they think they hear hideous noises, see and

talk with black men, and converse familiarly with devils, and such strange chimeras and visions, or that they are possessed by them, and that somebody talks to them, or within them.” These illustrations of mania will be at present sufficient for my purpose. It would indeed fill a volume to treat of the various mental illusions which may be referred to the same

cause :

“ See the strange working of dull melancholy !
Whose drossy thoughts, drying the feeble brain,
Corrupts the sense, deludes the intellect,
And in the soul's fair table falsely graves
Whole squadrons of phantastical chimeras,
And thousand vain imaginations ;
Making some think their heads as big as horses, -
Some that th' are dead,-some that th' are turn'd to wolves.”

OLD COMEDY OF LINGUA.

CHAPTER III.

SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS ARISING FROM THE HYSTERIC

TEMPERAMENT.

0, how this mother swells up toward my heart ! Hysterica passio! down, thou climbing sorrow, Thy element's below !”

King LEAR, Act 2, Scene 4.

WHEN the growth of the form is nearly completed, the circulating fluid necessary for the future support of the body is in superabundance, and unless corrected in the delicate system of the female, must, agreeably to the principles laid down, necessarily acquire a power of rendering unduly intense the feelings of the mind. Owing to this cause, then, arises what is named the hysteric temperament, which is so well described by Burton. “ From hence," he remarks, “ proceed a brutish kind of dotage, troublesome sleep, terrible dreams, a foolish kind of bashfulness in some, perverse conceits and opinions, dejection of mind, much discontent, and preposterous judgment. They are apt to loathe, dislike, disdain, to be weary of every object. Each thing almost is tedious to them. They pine away, are void of counsel, apt to weep, and tremble, timorous, fearful, sad, and out of all hopes of better fortunes. They take delight in doing nothing

F

« AnteriorContinuar »