We can imagine what Bicêtre must have been when Pinel took charge—a jail, house of correction, penitentiary, and hospital, all in one; and its inmates—assassins, debauchees, sick patients, paupers, idiots—lived in fearful promiscuousness; it was, in fact, a moral cess-pool. The insane, as being no better than wild-beasts, were kept separate, shut up in pens six feet square, to which light and air were admitted only through a small opening in the door. There was a bed of loose straw, renewed every month. The patient had a chain around the waist, besides being manacled and fettered. He received neither care nor medical treatment, but was left to exhaust himself in his paroxysms, affording amusement to curious visitors, who flocked to witness the strange antics of the madmen. Pinel had the invaluable assistance, in carrying out his reforms, of a humble hospital attendant, who had himself by practical experience arrived at Pinel's own conclusions years before. "When the insane patients become too violent, what do you do?" asked Pinel. "I take off their chains, they then become quiet." Pinel ordered the irons to be struck off all the patients. Among them was an old soldier of the guards, a man of herculean strength, and a violent lunatic. The physician had his irons taken off, and then bade him remove the chains off all the other patients. The old soldier's gratitude was such that he remained for the rest of his life attached to the personal service of Pinel. As Colbert, in persuading Louis XIV. to publish his famous ordinance, had brought. the thaumaturgic era to a close, so Pinel put an end to the era of repression. After a protracted contest, victory declared in favor of common-sense and humanity. Esquirol followed after Pinel, and showed that the physician who would treat mental disorders, must study the various symptoms; and this he can do only by daily contact with the insane. Ferrus discovered the importance of giving to the insane employment of some kind, as a means of restoring them to a healthy condition of mind. While thus, in France, science was engaged in establishing the moral bases of the disease, Roller was founding a model establishment in Germany, on the principle of surrounding the patient with all those influences which could bring his thoughts back into their normal courses. His long experience went to show the advantage of employing opium and its derivatives in the treatment of mental disorders. These are the founders of the science of Mental Alienation: others have developed their premises and added to their teachings, but to Pinel, Esquirol, Ferrus, and Roller, the human race owes a debt of everlasting gratitude for having first opened the way.—Abridged from the Revue des Deux Mondes.
- Thaumaturgic, working miracles, exciting wonder.