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Sketches in Bedlam: Preface

The editor of the following sheets having had, for some years, daily opportunities of witnessing the whole system of management adopted in Bethlem Hospital, in its various relations of regularity, cleanliness, humanity, and skill, has been induced to think, that a descriptive sketch of the institution, and the manners of its inhabitants, would not be an unacceptable novelty to the Public.

Among the great charitable establishments of the British empire this holds a pre-eminent rank, and by the excellence of its regulations and medical treatment, it may be justly considered a model of imitation for all Europe. For this rare improvement Bethlem Hospital is indebted to a series of measures, planned and executed with consummate wisdom and indefatigable perseverance. Experience was the grand basis of these measures. During a long, minute, and patient investigation, carried on through successive sessions, by a Parliamentary Committee, the practice adopted in all other establishments of a similar nature, whether public or private, throughout the United Kingdom, was diligently examined; the skill and opinions of all the medical men most conversant with the subject, were attentively consulted and compared. The detection and reform of errors and abuses, arising from ignorance, apathy, caprice, or cruelty, which had been too long prevalent, constituted the happy result of that laborious, but humane inquiry; and benevolence was never, perhaps, consecrated by a nobler triumph, than when it was satisfactorily demonstrated, that force and terror, instead of alleviating, tended but to aggravate the miseries and horrors of insanity and delirium. The philanthropic views of the British Legislature and the British nation were at length realized. Harsh usage and irritating coercion gave way to mildness, forbearance, and indulgence, and the wretched inmates of this asylum of mental derangement were liberated from unnecessary violence, intimidation, and solitary confinement.

That part of the work which enumerates a number of singular cases, is new to the public press; and however curious to the general reader, will not, it is trusted, be unattended with beneficial effects to the observing and inquisitive mind, which interests itself in the investigation, distinction, and comparative views of such extraordinary appearances. If they do not, either individually or collectively, supply any data for tracing (what has hitherto baffled the powers of human intellect) the maladyA disease or ailment; or a serious problem. to its source, they may at least contribute to illustrate, by living example, the various modifications of mania.

The correctness of the respective statements is entitled to the most implicit belief. The editor's chief object, in the present publication, is to make the merits of the institution more generally and accurately known; to remove any prejudices which may exist in the minds of the uninformed; and to point out the mode by which the admission of patients may be promptly obtained. He subjoins a succinct account of the foundation of the hospital, a table of the rules and orders under which it is conducted, and some approving testimonies of
illustrious and eminent persons, extracted from a long list of similar attestations, the voluntary tributes of encomium and admiration on the part of those who have carefully inspected the establishment.