صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

have felt at one time or other (oftenest perhaps during the "severa silentia noctis"), some dominant idea or feeling to possess the fancy; retaining its hold with a sort of malignant power, despite all efforts to shake it off; and by degrees distorting the subject, especially if it be a painful one, into a thousand false and alarming shapes. If this train of

thought be interrupted; and time, society, and other objects come in between; the mind is felt as if passing out of a bad dream, which for a while had overshadowed it. But let there be a cause for the continuance of this state (and the duration of the impression is at least as explicable as its original occurrence), and we have an approach to monomania in some of its various shapes; nothing apparently wanting but the intensity, which is often so singularly testified in these cases by the actions induced, and by the length of period during which the delusion remains in force. Pinel, one of the best authorities on this subject, mentions instances where the same single insane impression continued without change for twenty or thirty years.

In fact, the long persistence of the mind in one idea or feeling, not duly broken in upon or blended with others, is a state always leading towards aberration: and a common evidence of insanity, especially in its earlier stage, is that drawn from the predominance of a single impression, faulty perhaps only in the absence of those which should modify and correct

It must be admitted that these partial hallucinations, occurring often without obvious cause from without, and holding thus tenaciously on the mind, furnish argument to the phrenologists; and a reasonable one, as far as respects the opinion that there is a plurality of parts about the brain having connexion with different intellectual and moral functions. But phrenology points out no actual structure in the brain having especial correspondence with these functions, either in healthy or diseased state; and its indications from the form of the cranium are not yet authentic enough to be admitted as a system of facts.

it. It may be alleged that this reasoning tends to remove all distinction betwixt the sound and unsound mind; and to reflect madness back, as it were, upon the healthy and natural state of the faculties of man. But this is not truly so. The extremes are widely apart, and offer marks of practical distinction which can rarely be misunderstood. The existence of more doubtful cases, such as graduate between reason and insanity, is but a part of that law of continuity which pervades so generally every part of creation. It is attested by the actual difficulty often experienced in dealing both legally and morally with these cases; and by the observation of their progress, as well 'when first passing the limit of reason, as when re-entering it in the course of recovery.

Such observations, and founded on this basis, are the more important, as they bear directly upon every question of treatment. No principle of practice in mental disorders can probably be successful which does not recognize their relation to the phenomena of mind in its healthy state; and some of the more remarkable cures I have known, where physical causes of the infirmity did not exist, have been effected really, if not professedly, by a discreet application to this method. It is not my present purpose to speak on the treatment of these disorders; but I am persuaded this will be found true as a general remark:- and equally so the assertion, that from no other source can suggestions be drawn, of equal value in the prevention of them, when the predisposition exists in the habit.

Though the subject does not readily admit of separation, yet having principally had in view to illustrate the connexions of insanity in its different forms with the more natural conditions of the mind, I shall not add much as to the predisposing causes of the malady. The influence of various kinds of

mental excitement, whether with or without hereditary disposition to the disorder, has so often been discussed, that it is needless here to enter upon the subject.* There is one point, however, connected with it, to which, as having been less noticed, I may allude before closing this chapter.

It seems probable that certain cases of madness depend on a cause which can scarcely exist, even in slight degree, without producing some mental disturbance; viz. the too frequent and earnest direction of the mind inwards upon itself; the concentration of the consciousness too long continued upon its own functions. It would appear (if we may venture so to surmise) a design in the creation of this wonderful existence which we call soul, that while safely using the faculties with which we are gifted in exploring the world of nature without, through every part of the scale of being, we should find these powers to sink under us, when directed within to the source and centre of their own operations. In this matter every one may make experiments for himself. I believe it will be found that any strong and continuous effort of will to concentrate the mind upon its own workings; to analyse them by consciousness; or even to fix, check, or suddenly change the trains of thought, - is generally followed by speedy and painful confusion, compelling in no long time the abandonment of the act. Even a simple difficulty of recollection, where the mind intently concentrates itself in inward search after some of its own former operations, becomes painful when long continued;

* The recent publications of Dr. Brigham, of Boston, on the influence of mental cultivation and excitement upon health, communicate some singular facts as to the effects produced by commercial, political, and religious excitement in the United States. The proportion of persons deranged in mind to the whole population is, according to his statement, nearly three times as great as in England.

and thought is often lost in utter confusion.* I doubt not that the long continuance or frequent repetition of such circumstances, from whatever cause, is sufficient to produce a temporary derangement in minds already predisposed to the infirmity. I have myself known more than one instance of aberration of intellect, which I had every reason to believe thus produced.

These, however, may be termed excesses in the employment of a faculty which it is given us to use. The actual power thus to inquire into the mind and regulate the trains of thought, exists; is capable of cultivation; and, rightly exercised, becomes one of the highest perfections of our moral and intellectual being. By no quality is one man better distinguished from another, than by the mastery acquired over the subject and course of his thoughts; - by the power of discarding at once what is desultory, frivolous, or degrading; and of adhering singly and steadily to that which it enlarges and invigorates the mind to pursue.

* In the chapter of Aristotle, Tepɩ avaμvnoɛws, will be found notice of this, as of many other curious facts connected with the subject. When speaking elsewhere of the effects of mental attention on the bodily organs, I have noticed these effects of the voluntary concentration of the mind upon itself.




Ir may seem that any remarks at the present day, on the principle or methods of using calomel, must be trite and altogether needless. Yet is this only in part true. One comment I would make is, that, in the ordinary use of this medicine as a mecurial, its good effects are often much impaired by admixture with other aperients. Such combination is doubtless most beneficial, where the object is to obtain large and speedy evacuation of the liver and bowels. But in the numerous cases where the proper mecurial action is desired, either on the mucous membrane of the intestines, or on the different secreting organs, or in arresting certain states of inflammation, calomel will generally be found to act most beneficially, and with greatest certainty, when given alone. Its combination with purgatives in these cases both obscures and impairs its effects; introducing at the same time causes of irritation, which disturb the body in other ways, and thereby check the course of recovery. The same remark holds good for the most part where the liver is the direct object of mecurial treatment. Even in cases of obstruction of the bowels, when there is threatening of topical inflammation, calomel adequately given, without the addition of other laxatives, will often be more effectual for relief than in any combination with them. Its single action is much less irritating to parts thus disposed; while there is generally more distinct and speedy exercise of its specific effect upon membranes already in an inflamed state.

« السابقةمتابعة »