It is rarely that we have read a more detestable book than the one under review. As its title indicates, it is a description of a lunatic, but from the beginning to the end it revolts one. To begin with, the unfortunate man, named Labat, has an insane mother, whose mother also was insane. He was wealthy and of good family, and is thus able to marry a beautiful but poor girl, who has two children, both of whom die in convulsions. A most truthful but horrible description of a fit is given, exact in all its fearful details. The mother determines to have no more children by her husband, and as the latter insists upon conjugal rights, she goes to the doctor, who is readily seduced by her, and a liaison is started, which results in the birth of a fine healthy son, who bears strong indications of his paternity. The putative father is jealous, and though he takes no open steps, he evinces his disgust, and the doctor, to save himself, calls in a medical friend, who is persuaded that the accusations against his medical ally are untrue, and who treats them as delusions, and on an urgency order consigns M. Labat to a “Maison de Sauté,” kept by an ex-marine medical officer, whose treatment is of the most downright and brutal kind; he has a belief in subduing disease by means of douches and strict discipline, the patient passes through a period of distress, and very nearly loses his reason, and the details of the life in the asylum are revolting and disgusting in the extreme. He determines to suppress his real feelings and to acquiesce in the doctor's ideas, and as a result he is discharged cured. He rejoins his wife, who, receiving him coldly, causes further trouble, which ends in the murder of the child, and the flight of M. Labat. He is taken to another asylum, which is a private adventure asylum, where more brutality is exercised, and the patients are treated more as slaves than as sufferers from disease. Thence M. Labat, who has now become really insane, is taken as an insane criminal to Bicêtre, only to be tested and tortured with electricity. He once more is sent to the original “Maison de Santé,” where in the end he is boiled to death in a hot bath by accident. Madame Labat has also become permanently insane, and so the story ends. Such a book is not only unhealthy, but it is mischievous in the last degree; it represents, as if occurring at the present day, a state of mismanagement in asylums which has disappeared for many years. It causes prejudice, not only against the medical profession as a whole, but more particularly against the special branch which we cultivate. It is an untruthful libel. The medical discussions on the symptoms of mental disorder are very exact, pointing to the handiwork of one who has had medical training. “It is a filthy bird that fouls its own nest.”
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