Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine,  7 (1858–59), 161–68.

Inside an Asylum; or, Method and Madness



Short Fiction


Mental Illness, Hospitals, Gender, Medical Treatment, Amusement

    Describes a visit to a 'Maison de Santé, or private mad-house' in Southern France (161). Enters on a heated discussion with the asylum's superintendent, Monsieur Maillard, who, much to the narrator's astonishment, was forced to abandon the 'soothing system' of managing patients in favour of a 'rigid system of exclusion'. The superintendent explains that though he has given the 'soothing system' a 'fair trial' it has proved 'dangerous' in general, although the system, which involves humouring patients, did result in 'permanent cures' being effected. (162) The narrator describes how, over a lavish banquet in the asylum, guests discuss the habits of various inmates. In response to the narrator's assumption that 'the majority of lunatics were of the gentler sex', Maillard reveals that most of his patients are men (166). Later, Maillard explains that, a short while before, the 'soothing system' had resulted in the patients gaining temporary power over the asylum, and it gradually emerges that the patients are still in control, and that Maillard is actually one of them, and not the superintendent at all (167). The story concludes with the imprisoned keepers escaping and restoring control. The narrator notes that the 'soothing system' has since been resumed at the asylum 'with important modifications' (168).

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