Skip to main content

Recent Lunacy Legislation: Retrogression or Progress?

  • William Graham (a1)

Literary apologies, it has been said, are either superfluous or impertinent—superfluous if the matter apologised for is of itself worthy of public regard, impertinent if it can lay claim to no such merit. Therefore it does not seem necessary on the present occasion for me to introduce the subject of asylum management with any deprecatory language. It will suffice simply to recall the fact that in this city the question has come up in an acute and even controversial form, and is deeply interesting the community in whose midst we are assembled. We may well hope that the impulse given by this discussion will leave a permanent impression throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. One thing, at any rate, we may expect—the abolition of the standing scandal that has so long permitted the insane poor to be huddled together in workhouses without the benefit of scarcely one of those ameliorative agencies elaborated by modern science wedded to a genuinely philanthropic spirit. It is an oft-told tale, and need not be repeated here. The Poor Law guardian who takes for his axiom “keep down the rates” must shut his eyes to the uncleanliness, the untidiness, the lack of discipline, the absence of proper scientific supervision, the utter discomfort which reigns everywhere—characteristics that have made the name of workhouse a byword and a reproach even among the most degraded. If at any time he is visited with a qualm of conscience, he reflects, perhaps, that the unfortunates in his charge owe their sad destiny to God, or Fate, or Nature, and that anything done for them robs the ratepayer of that which, not enriching them, leaves him poor indeed. These institutions are cheap, but if there is any warning writ more largely than another for the behoof of all future lunacy reform in Ireland, it is surely that supplied by our workhouses against a parsimonious and pettifogging spirit in our provisions for the insane.

Hide All

(1) See the letter of the Bishop of Ross in the Cork Daily Herald for February nth. The report of a speech by the same prelate in the issue for February 23rd. Also letter in Freeman's Journal for April 13th.—

(2) See Freeman's Journal, April 13th, 1901.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 6 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 19th February 2018 - 19th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Recent Lunacy Legislation: Retrogression or Progress?

  • William Graham (a1)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *