Sketches in Bedlam; or characteristic traits of insanity as displayed in the cases of one hundred and forty patients of both sexes, now, or recently, confined in New Bethlem, including Margaret Nicholson, James Hatfield, Patrick Walsh, Bannister Truelock, and many other extraordinary maniacs, who have been transferred from Old Bethlem.
By A Constant Observer, London: Sherwood, Jones, and Co.
Digital version made available through Yale Medical Library.
Sketches in Bedlam is a collection of case histories of mental patients residing in Bethlem Hospital. Written by an anonymous author, calling himself ‘a Constant Observer’, in 1823, it has been attributed to James Smyth, an attendant working there, although questions over its authorship still remain.
Although it paints the hospital in a very favourable light, at a time when perhaps that wasn’t appropriate, it still provides a fascinating glimpse of the insane of ‘Bedlam’. Included in its pages are two would-be royal assassins, the pamphleteer and hawker Urbane Metcalf, and an intriguing variety of soldiers, lovers, artists, and religious ‘fanatics’ (many of whom were simply Methodists).