Punch,  41 (1861), 189–90.

A New Complaint



News-Commentary, Drollery


Mental Illness, Crime, Class, Language, Hospitals, Medical Treatment, Morality

    Discusses the 'novel complaint' of 'kleptomania', which is defined as 'a strange and inexplicable desire to take what does not belong to you' and appears to be applied to 'genteel' people, whereas 'thieving' is used to describe 'a low, vulgar person'. Explains that the difference between these terms is not only one of social class, but that a kleptomaniac 'cannot help himself' and is no more to blame for what he does than sufferers of St Vitus's dance. Adding that kleptomaniacs should be sent to hospital rather than prison, laments the number of kleptomaniacs who were wrongly imprisoned, and suggests renaming thieves' prisons 'hospitals for the reception of kleptomaniacs'. (189) Concludes by stressing that 'allusions to thieving and stealing must, henceforth, be adapted, so as to meet the exigencies of this new mental infirmity' (190).

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