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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Health and Education

Human Freaks....

Reports of Mentally ill people from around the world out of touch with reality, and who imagined of themselves being things they were not.

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -

FreaksTULPINS mentions a painter who verily believed that all the bones of his body were so soft and flexible that they might easily be crushed together, or folded one within another, like pieces of pliable wax.

A Lusitanian had a patient who insisted that he was perpetually frozen, and would sit before a great fire even in dog days. The Portuguese doctor made him a dress of rough sheep-skins, saturated with aqua vitae, and set him on fire. He then said he was quite warm, rather too much so, and so was cured.

Galen and Avicen make mention of people who have fancied themselves earthen pots, and therefore have carefully avoided being touched for fear they should be broken.

Then there is the case of the insane watchmaker mentioned by Pinel, who insisted that he had been guillotined, and that another head had afterwards, by mistake, been put on his shoulders, instead of his own. “Look at these teeth,” he would say; “mine were extremely handsome – these are decayed. My mouth was sound and healthy – this is foul. How different is the hair from that of my own head.”

Mr Haslam, in his work on insanity, mentions a case of one who insisted that he had no mouth, and when compelled by force to swallow, declared that a wound had been made in his throat, through which the food had been introduced.

Benvenuto Cellini, the celebrated Florentine artist, in his life says that the governor of the castle in which the former was confined had a periodical disorder of this sort; every year he had some different whim. One time he conceived himself changed into a pitcher of oil; another time he thought himself a frog, and began to leap as such; another time, again, he imagined he was dead, and it was found necessary to humour his conceit by making a show of burying him. At length he thought himself a bat, and when he went to take a walk he sometimes made just such a noise as bats do; he likewise used gestures with his hands and body, as if he were going to fly.

Noses have been known to be particularly troublesome to hypochondriacs. One man fancied that his nose was of a ludicrous length, and consequently kept backing off as his friend approached to hold a parley with him, fearing that he should put their eyes out. It is said that frequently this same deluded possessor of a long nose might have been seen going along the street, guiding his nose with his hand to keep it from breaking the shop windows.

A young man had a strong imagination that he was dead, and earnestly begged his friends to bury him. They consented, by the advice of the physician. He was laid upon a bier and carried upon the shoulders of men to church, when some pleasant fellow, up to the business, met the procession and inquired who it was; they answered. “And a very good job it is,” said one of them, “for the world is well rid of a very bad character, which the gallows must have had in due course.” The young man now lying dead hearing this, popped his head up, and said they ought to be ashamed of themselves in this traducing his fair fame, and if he was alive he would thrash them for their insolence. But they continued to utter the most disgraceful language. Flesh and blood could no longer bear it; up he jumps, they run, he after them, until he fell down quite exhausted. He was put to bed; the violent exertion he had gone through promoted perspiration, and he got well.

Relevant links:
Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
(reference to Tulpins in chapter XII)
Medieval Manuscripts (reference to Galen and Avicen)