The annual account of their stewardship rendered by the Commissioners in Lunacy is always interesting, both to those who make Lunacy a study, and to those who make it a living. Many persons go to these reports keenly interested in the facts and figures set forth, and their medical significance; others see only the social and economic bearing of the statistics, while perhaps a still larger number look with anxious eyes at the praise or blame of themselves or their institutions that is published to the world in those volumes. No thoughtful man can take up one of these reports, however, without having some new ideas suggested to him. To see the records of the mere numbers of our poor human kind of every class and in every place affected with the direst of all diseases has a very saddening and humbling effect on most minds. Who can think of 68,145 insane men and women—the number in the United Kingdom at the end of 1872—and endeavour in the remotest degree to realise the broken hearts, the blasted hopes, the blighted ambitions, the unfinished work, the dead affections of this great army of stricken ones, and their belongings, without feeling very sad at heart? And these things do not half express the true seriousness of the case to the medical mind. The latent and milder cases not included in this list, the vast mass of nervous and bodily disease that has necessarily accompanied so much insanity, the mental eccentricity and obliquity, the degeneration, the immorality, and the crime, which we know must have existed in so many of the families where the insanity occurred—all these things help to darken the picture that rises in one's mind when thinking of the sixty thousand. Two or three bright spots there are it is true. All this misery has roused up a pity that is almost divine, a pity that has assumed a most practical form, and done very much for the care and cure of the disease. Medical science has not been idle in the study of the nature of the disease, and of the best means of its prevention and treatment. Through—as some would say in consequence of, as we would say in spite of—all this disease, we have in every generation a great light rising, a genius among the degenerate, a god among those that are tending to the brutes, to repay all the compassion and care that have been expended on his blood relations by giving new ideas and great thoughts to all the world. The last, and most unquestionably the truest comfort in the matter, though it may seem to the unthinking to savour of the cold heartlessness of pure science, is that all this mass of disease of man's highest organ is one of Nature's ways of keeping the general mass of human kind brain-whole. She cuts off a hand that the whole body may not be destroyed; that the fittest may survive, the unfitting must die.
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