Illustrations of Madness presents a first-person record of hallucinations experienced by James Tilly Mathews, a patient at Bethlem Hospital in 1797. Matthews was committed to the hospital by petitioning of local parish officers even though his family argued that he was sane and hospitalization unnecessary. After more than a decade of hospitalization, Mathew’s family employed two “learned and conscientious gentleman physicians, deeply conversant with this disease” to independently evaluate Matthews and who subsequently declared Matthews to be “perfectly in his senses.” The attendants at Bethlem Hospital, however, very much disagreed with this assessment. They had observed Matthews for 12 years and had concluded that he was “insane.” The hallucinations are presented here so that the reader may “exercise his own judgment” as to whether Matthews should have remained at the hospital or been released.
This text contains stigmatizing language and views of mental illness.
Illustrations of Madness, John Haslam (1764–1844), 1810