|PSYCHIATRY—ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN.|
Or from the deepe abysse of hell,
Mad Tom is come into the world againe
To see if he can cure his distempered braine."
—Old Tom O'Bedlam Song, XVII. century.
AMONG the achievements of the nineteenth century none surpass the revolution wrought in the field of psychiatry. The care of the insane to-day excites the interest not only of philanthropists and alienists, but of all right-minded men and women. "No reflecting mind," says Letchworth, can be indifferent to the question of making proper public provision for the treatment and care of those afflicted with an insidious disease from which no measure of intellectual or physical strength or worldly prosperity affords any certain immunity—a disease, which, prone to feed upon excitement, finally transforms the noblest faculties of our race into a wreck so appalling that in its contemplation the human intelligence becomes bewildered and dismayed. At no time in the history of civilization has the importance of this subject been more thoroughly acknowledged; and probably at no time have influences contributory to mental derangement been more powerful than they are to-day." It is eminently profitable at this time to review the treatment of the insane in ancient days, to recall the misfortunes of the unhappy madman during the dark ages of history, and to note the gradual evolution of the psychiatric science of to-day.
Going back into the very dawn of history we find scattered references to the treatment of madness, which was looked upon as a punishment by the gods or ascribed to demoniacal possession. The earliest known historical reference to insanity occurs in Egyptian papyri of the fifteenth century B, C. In one of these, according to Mahaffy, music is spoken of as employed in the treatment of insanity, and many formulæ are given for the cure of diseases caused by an evil spirit dwelling within the body. Probably the next earliest record is that found in Hebrew history, referring to the same therapeutic agent, this time used to calm the troubled spirit of Saul (1055 B. C). In the first book of Samuel we read: When the evil spirit was upon Saul, that David took a harp and played with his hand; so Saul was re-