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for the time, but love to be alone and solitary, though that does them more harm. And thus they are affected so long as this vapour lasteth; but by-and-by they are as pleasant and merry as ever they were in their lives; they sing, discourse, and laugh in any good company, upon all occasions. And so by fits it takes them now and then, except the malady be inveterate, and then it is more frequent, vehement, and continuate. Many of them cannot tell how to express themselves in words, how it holds them, what ails them. You cannot understand them, or well tell what to make of their sayings."
Such being the vivid mental feelings characteristic of the hysteric temperament, our present object is to search for some case in which they must have met with still greater excitement; we shall then be entitled to expect that effects will be produced not unlike those of certain gases, which exert an extraordinary influence on the blood. It fortunately happens that a recent example, which may suit our purpose, is very minutely detailed in the last volume of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, relative to a servant-girl, of the age of sixteen, who shewed general symptoms of plethora, obviously arising from the cause to which I have alluded.* The first symptom of her mental dis
* Report on a communication from Dr Dyce of Aberdeen to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, “ On Uterine Irritation, and its Effects on the Female Constitution ;" by H. Dewar, M. D. F.R. S. Edinburgh. I am sorry to be under the necessity of differing in some respects from Dr Dewar, in the view which he has given of this case, as he has appeared to have referred all the symptoms of it to Somnambulism.
order was an unusual somnolency. This was succeeded by disturbed and talking dreams, in which she uttered wild incoherent expressions, or sang musical airs. Indications of somnambulism followed. She would fall asleep, imagine herself an episcopal clergyman, go through the ceremony of baptizing the children, and give an appropriate and extempore prayer. Or she would fancy herself living with her aunt, near London, and placing herself upon one of the kitchen-stools, ride upon it with a clattering noise, and take an imaginary journey to Epsom races. Such vivid dreams were soon afterwards alternated with waking visions. These illusions, or wanderings, as the girl herself named them, would suddenly come on while she was walking with her mistress's children, or was going to church,—while she was dressing herself,—while she was arranging the furniture of the house, or while she was busily engaged in the duties of the pantry or of the dining-table. A paroxysm of this kind would sometimes last for an hour; and it differed from a dream in being characterized by fewer inconsistencies, by less glaring mistakes as to time and place, by its more frequent occurrence, and by occasionally giving way to a reproof or reprimand. “ She answered," says
case, ny questions distinctly, shewing at times scarcely any failure of her mental powers."
It may now be interesting to trace the progress of the symptoms which attended the paroxysms. to which the girl became subject. About a quarter of an hour previous to each state of this kind she felt somewhat drowsy; a pain in the head, usually slight, but which,
on one occasion, was very intense, succeeded; afterwards a cloudiness or mistiness came over her eyes ;a peculiar ringing noise stunned her ears, sometimes resembling the sound of carriage-wheels, and accompanied with a feeling of motion, as if she herself were seated in the vehicle. The state of all these sensations bore, in fact, some slight degree of resemblance to that which results from an incipient effect on the circulation after inhaling the nitrous oxide,—false yet vivid sensible impressions having been felt. Occasionally, however, the sensations of the girl were rendered still more highly acute; the eyelids appeared shut, though not entirely closed; the pupils were much contracted, and there was a great intolerance of light. She could not name objects when the light of the candle or fire shone fully upon them, but pointed them out correctly in the shade, or when they were dimly illuminated. She also recognised any of her acquaintance better by his shadow than by looking at his person. When the paroxysm fairly came on, which might be in any part of the day, the sensibility to external impressions gradually lessened; the eyes became half closed; the cornea was covered with a dimness or glaze, resembling that of a person in syncope; the pupils were dilated, and, although the iris was exposed to the direct rays of the sun, it shewed no perceptible contraction. At the same time, in proportion as sensations were either diminishing in their degree of vividness, or were becoming, in a manner,
* The pulse, says Dr Dyce, was 70, and the extremities rather cold.
evanescent, ideas grew more intense. Thus, in one fit, as it is stated, “ the girl performed, in the most correct manner, some of her accustomed duties relating to the pantry and the dinner-table. Dr Dyce went to see her ; she gave him a wrong name, as formerly. Her mistress then desired her to stand straight up, look around, and tell where she was.
She recovered instantly, but it was only for a little ;—she very soon relapsed. When requested to read in an almanack held before her, she did not seem to see it, nor did she notice a stick which was held out to her. Being asked a second time to read, she repeated a portion of Scripture, and did not give a correct answer when asked where she was. Being desired to state what she felt, she put her hand to her forehead, and complained of her head, saying, she saw the mice running through the room. Mrs L- mentioned that she had said the same thing on many former occasions, even when her eyes were shut; that she had also frequently imagined she was accompanied by a little black dog, which she could not get rid of. She did not, in general, express any particular uneasiness from such a cause ; at times, however, she cried in consequence of it, and at other times laughed immoderately."
SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS OCCURRING FROM PLETHORA ;
FOR INSTANCE, FROM THE NEGLECT OF ACCUSTOMED PERIODICAL BLOOD-LETTING.
“ Phlebotomy, many times neglected, may doe much harme to the
body, when there is a manifest redundance of bad humors and melancholy blood; and when these humors heate and boyle, if this be not used in time, the parties affected, so inflamed, are in great danger to be mad; but if it be unadvisedly, unfortunately immoderately used, it doth as much harme by refriger. ating the body, dulling the spirits, and consuming them.”
BURTON's Anatomy of Melancholy, Part I. Sect. 2.
The blood may, from nothing more than the excess in which it prevails throughout the system, prove a stimulant capable of inducing an undue vividness of thought. This curious fact appears to have formerly met with many satisfactory illustrations, when, in accordance with the humoral pathology once taught, periodical blood-letting was universally practised; and the rationale of such an effect must, from the principles laid down, be sufficiently evident. The comparative degree of vividness subsisting between sensations and ideas being regulated by the usual influencing condition of the circulating system, we may readily conceive, that whenever a wonted evacuation of the sanguineous fluid is stopped, the recollected images of the mind must be rendered liable to an