S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Dr. Forbes Winslow
A very remarkable circumstance, and an important point of analogy, is to be found in the extreme rapidity with which the mental operations are performed, or, rather, with which the material changes on which the ideas depend are excited in the hemispherical ganglia. It would appear as if a whole series of acts, that would really occupy a long lapse of time, pass ideally through the mind in one instant. We have in dreams no true perception of the lapse of timea strange property of mind! for if such be also its property when entered into the eternal disembodied state, time will appear to us eternity. The relations of space as well as of time are also annihilated; so that whilst almost an eternity is compressed into a moment, infinite space is traversed more swiftly than by real thought.
What, I may be asked, is my test of insanity? I have none. I know of no unerring, infallible, and safe rule or standard, applicable to all cases. The only logical and philosophic mode of procedure in doubtful cases of mental alienation is to compare the mind of the lunatic at the period of his suspected insanity with its prior natural and healthy condition; in other words, to consider the intellect in relation to itself, and to no artificial a priori test. Each individual case must be viewed in its own relations. It is clear that such is the opinion of the judges, notwithstanding they maintained, as a test of responsibility, a knowledge of right and wrong. Can any other conclusion be drawn from the language used by the judges when propounding in the House of Lords their view of insanity in connection with crime? The facts, say they, of each particular case must of necessity present themselves with endless diversity and with every shade of difference in each case; and it is their duty to declare the law upon each particular case, upon facts proved before them; and after hearing arguments of counsel thereon, they deem it at once impracticable, and at the same time dangerous to the administration of justice if it were practicable, to attempt to make minute applications of the principles involved in the answers given by them to the questions proposed. This is a safe, judicious, and philosophic mode of investigating these painful cases; and if strictly adhered to, the ends of justice would be secured, and the requirements of science satisfied.
There is no fact more clearly established in the physiology of man than this, that the brain expends its energies and itself during the hours of wakefulness, and that these are recuperated during sleep. If the recuperation does not equal the expenditure, the brain withers: this is insanity. Thus it is that, in early English history, persons who were condemned to death by being prevented from sleeping, always died raving maniacs; thus it is also that those who are starved to death become insane,the brain is not nourished, and they cannot sleep. The practical inferences are three1st. Those who think most, who do most brain-work, require most sleep. 2d. That time saved from necessary sleep is infallibly destructive to mind, body, and estate. 3d. Give yourself, your children, your servants,give all that are under you.the fullest amount of sleep they will take, by compelling them to go to bed at some regular, early hour, and to rise in the morning the moment they awake; and within a fortnight, Nature, with almost the regularity of the rising sun, will unloose the bonds of sleep the moment enough repose has been secured for the wants of the system. This is the only safe and sufficient rule; and as to the question how much sleep any one requires, each must be a rule for himself,great Nature will never fail to write it out for the observer under the regulations just given.
In proportion as we advance in experience, we cannot but deplore the ignorance of men, especially those who are engaged in the instruction of youth. Because they have taken high scholastic rankbecause they know Greek and Latin, and have a certain faculty of divining the ordinary intellectual and moral status of their pupilsthey consider themselves competent to direct their life-career. Yet there rarely passes a year in which pupils leave the public institutions of whom their masters have neither suspected the talents nor the destined renown.
But this is not the question: that with which we chiefly reproach them is, that they ignore completely the physiology of manthat they have not the least knowledge of hereditary influence, and that they believe when they find a pupil idle, captious, or rebellious, that the remedy is perpetually to punish. The first thing ought to be to ascertain if the evil proceed from constitution, from education, or from hereditary causes. In this latter case all chastisement, far from correcting, will only aggravate the evil, and hasten the explosion of the disease.