In 1947 Britain had its severest winter since 1881, starving sheep came off the hills looking for sustenance in the towns, and the snow went on until April. That was when I boarded the MV Batory, later renowned or infamous for its espionage traffic, to be decanted into an early heat wave in New York. Times Square was hot and hectic, the steaks were two inches thick instead of two ounces a week, so my wife and I pushed on to our destination in Hartford, Connecticut where I had been appointed psychiatrist after an impressive series of transatlantic cablegrams. Hartford was a dignified and prosperous town, ‘the insurance city of the world.’ The Hartford Retreat had been founded in 1822, one of the earliest American hospitals to be devoted to mental illness; it had undergone a radical change in the 1930s under the entrepreneurial genius of Dr Charles C. Burlingame and was re-named the Institute of Living.
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