Charles Dickens Asylum Reform

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Charles Dickens had a great interest in psychiatry and the treatment of the insane. For instance, in Household Words, with W. H. Wills, he wrote about their visit to Saint Luke’s Hospital at Christmastime in 1851. Dickens describes the patients’ “oppressive silence,” and return to their usual solitude after dancing. He says that the patients gathering round a Christmas tree gave him “a very sad and touching spectacle,” and concludes, “the utmost is necessarily far inferior to the restoration of the senses of which they are deprived. To lighten the affliction of insanity by all human means, is not to restore the greatest of the Divine gifts; and those who devote themselves to the task do not pretend that it is. They find their sustainment and reward in the substitution of humanity for brutality, kindness for maltreatment, peace for …show more content…

In American Notes (1842), he writes of the inhuman treatment and wretched environment in a lunatic asylum in New York: “everything had a lounging, listless, madhouse air, which was very painful. The moping idiot, cowering down with long dishevelled hair...there they were all, without disguise, in naked ugliness and horror. In the dining-room, a bare, dull, dreary place, with nothing for the eye to rest on but the empty walls, a woman was locked up alone...The terrible crowd with which these halls and galleries were filled, so shocked me, that I abridged my stay within the shortest limits, and declined to see that portion of the building in which the refractory and violent were under closer restraint.”3 He made speeches in support of the Royal Hospital for Incurables in June 1856 and May 1857. In the speech in 1857, he pointed out the hospital’s poor facilities and appealed for more funds.4 He thought that physical environments in asylums were crucial to cure

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