Cornhill Magazine,  5 (1862), 481–94.

First Beginnings

[Andrew Wynter]




Psychology, Mental Illness, Darwinism, Gender, Physiological Psychology, Genius

People mentioned:

Benedict A Morel , Arthur L Wigan , Forbes B Winslow , John Elliotson , Henry Holland , Marshall Hall

Publications cited:

Winslow 1860 , Holland 1852

    Asserts that 'since the appearance of Dr. Abercrombie's Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers, which created such a profound sensation thirty years ago', 'the science of mind, healthy and diseased, has been placed, as it were, in the field of the intellectual microscope'. Indeed, the 'careful observation of the First Beginnings of brain disease' has become 'a subject in which the public is greatly interested', and 'there is a vast amount of latent brain disease in the community, only awaiting a sufficiently exiting cause to make itself patent to the world'. (481) In some conditions of mind 'prayers are turned into curses, and the chastest into the most libidinous thoughts', although it 'does not necessarily follow that, because a man is thus haunted by another and evilly-disposed self, that he has reached the stage of lunacy, if his reason still retains the mastery'. However, the purpose of the article is to warn that even the most trivial mental aberrations may be the first beginnings of an 'impending lunacy', which, if left to 'progress unperceived', may soon become incurable (482–83). With the 'struggle for life [...] ever straining men's minds to the breaking point' it is imperative that even the slightest manifestation of mental abnormality receives immediate medical attention (483). Suggests that the 'more the fact of the physical nature of insanity is acknowledged—the more it is recognized as an ailment which can be reached by physical agents—the greater will be its chances of successful treatment' (485). The remainder of the article discusses the various 'unusual physical signs' by which the 'latent seeds of insanity very often become known to the world' (486).


Wynter 1875

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