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A Mind That Found Itself by Clifford Whittingham Beers

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assault. That they had been trying to goad me into a fighting mood I
well knew, and often accused them of their mean purpose. They brazenly
admitted that they were simply waiting for a chance to "slug" me, and
promised to punish me well as soon as I should give them a slight
excuse for doing so.

On the night of November 25th, 1902, the head attendant and one of his
assistants passed my door. They were returning from one of the dances
which, at intervals during the winter, the management provides for the
nurses and attendants. While they were within hearing, I asked for a
drink of water. It was a carefully worded request. But they were in a
hurry to get to bed, and refused me with curses. Then I replied in

"If I come there I'll kill you," one of them said.

"Well, you won't get in if I can help it," I replied, as I braced my
iron bedstead against the door.

My defiance and defences gave the attendants the excuse for which they
had said they were waiting; and my success in keeping them out for two
or three minutes only served to enrage them. By the time they had
gained entrance they had become furies. One was a young man of
twenty-seven. Physically he was a fine specimen of manhood; morally he
was deficient--thanks to the dehumanizing effect of several years in
the employ of different institutions whose officials countenanced
improper methods of care and treatment. It was he who now attacked me
in the dark of my prison room. The head attendant stood by, holding a
lantern which shed a dim light.

The door once open, I offered no further resistance. First I was
knocked down. Then for several minutes I was kicked about the
room--struck, kneed and choked. My assailant even attempted to grind
his heel into my cheek. In this he failed, for I was there protected by
a heavy beard which I wore at that time. But my shins, elbows, and back
were cut by his heavy shoes; and had I not instinctively drawn up my
knees to my elbows for the protection of my body, I might have been
seriously, perhaps fatally, injured. As it was, I was severely cut and
bruised. When my strength was nearly gone, I feigned unconsciousness.
This ruse alone saved me from further punishment, for usually a
premeditated assault is not ended until the patient is mute and
helpless. When they had accomplished their purpose, they left me
huddled in a corner to wear out the night as best I might--to live or
die for all they cared.

Strange as it may seem, I slept well. But not at once. Within five
minutes I was busily engaged writing an account of the assault. A
trained war correspondent could not have pulled himself together in
less time. As usual I had recourse to my bit of contraband lead pencil,
this time a pencil which had been smuggled to me the very first day of
my confinement in the Bull Pen by a sympathetic fellow-patient. When he
had pushed under my cell door that little implement of war, it had
loomed as large in my mind as a battering-ram. Paper I had none; but I
had previously found walls to be a fair substitute. I therefore now
selected and wrote upon a rectangular spot--about three feet by
two--which marked the reflection of a light in the corridor just
outside my transom.

The next morning, when the assistant physician appeared, he was
accompanied as usual by the guilty head attendant who, on the previous
night, had held the lantern.

"Doctor," I said, "I have something to tell you,"--and I glanced
significantly at the attendant. "Last night I had a most unusual
experience. I have had many imaginary experiences during the past two
years and a half, and it may be that last night's was not real. Perhaps
the whole thing was phantasmagoric--like what I used to see during the
first months of my illness. Whether it was so or not I shall leave you
to judge. It just happens to be my impression that I was brutally
assaulted last night. If it was a dream, it is the first thing of the
kind that ever left visible evidence on my body."

With that I uncovered to the doctor a score of bruises and lacerations.
I knew these would be more impressive than any words of mine. The
doctor put on a knowing look, but said nothing and soon left the room.
His guilty subordinate tried to appear unconcerned, and I really
believe he thought me not absolutely sure of the events of the previous
night, or at least unaware of his share in them.


Neither of the attendants involved in the assault upon me was
discharged. This fact made me more eager to gain wider knowledge of
conditions. The self-control which had enabled me to suspend speech for
a whole day now stood me in good stead. It enabled me to avert much
suffering that would have been my portion had I been like the majority
of my ward-mates. Time and again I surrendered when an attendant was
about to chastise me. But at least a score of patients in the ward were
not so well equipped mentally, and these were viciously assaulted again
and again by the very men who had so thoroughly initiated me into the
mysteries of their black art.

I soon observed that the only patients who were not likely to be
subjected to abuse were the very ones least in need of care and
treatment. The violent, noisy, and troublesome patient was abused
because he was violent, noisy, and troublesome. The patient too weak,
physically or mentally, to attend to his own wants was frequently
abused because of that very helplessness which made it necessary for
the attendants to wait upon him.

Usually a restless or troublesome patient placed in the violent ward
was assaulted the very first day. This procedure seemed to be a part of
the established code of dishonor. The attendants imagined that the best
way to gain control of a patient was to cow him from the first. In
fact, these fellows--nearly all of them ignorant and untrained--seemed
to believe that "violent cases" could not be handled in any other way.
One attendant, on the very day he had been discharged for choking a
patient into an insensibility so profound that it had been necessary to
call a physician to restore him, said to me, "They are getting pretty
damned strict these days, discharging a man simply for _choking_ a
patient." This illustrates the attitude of many attendants. On the
other hand, that the discharged employe soon secured a position in a
similar institution not twenty miles distant illustrates the attitude
of some hospital managements.

I recall the advent of a new attendant--a young man studying to become
a physician. At first he seemed inclined to treat patients kindly, but
he soon fell into brutal ways. His change of heart was due partly to
the brutalizing environment, but more directly to the attitude of the
three hardened attendants who mistook his consideration for cowardice
and taunted him for it. Just to prove his mettle he began to assault
patients, and one day knocked me down simply for refusing to stop my
prattle at his command. That the environment in some institutions is
brutalizing, was strikingly shown in the testimony of an attendant at a
public investigation in Kentucky, who said, "When I came here, if
anyone had told me I would be guilty of striking patients I would have
called him crazy himself, but now I take delight in punching hell out
of them."

I found also that an unnecessary and continued lack of out-door
exercise tended to multiply deeds of violence. Patients were supposed
to be taken for a walk at least once a day, and twice, when the weather
permitted. Yet those in the violent ward (and it is they who most need
the exercise) usually got out of doors only when the attendants saw fit
to take them. For weeks a ward-mate--a man sane enough to enjoy
freedom, had he had a home to go to--kept a record of the number of our
walks. It showed that we averaged not more than one or two a week for a
period of two months. This, too, in the face of many pleasant days,
which made the close confinement doubly irksome. The lazy fellows on
whose leisure we waited preferred to remain in the ward, playing cards,
smoking, and telling their kind of stories. The attendants needed
regular exercise quite as much as the patients and when they failed to
employ their energy in this healthful way, they were likely to use it
at the expense of the bodily comfort of their helpless charges.

If lack of exercise produced a need of discipline, each disciplinary
move, on the other hand, served only to inflame us the more. Some wild
animals can be clubbed into a semblance of obedience, yet it is a
treacherous obedience at best, and justly so. And that is the only kind
of obedience into which a _man_ can be clubbed. To imagine otherwise of
a human being, sane or insane, is the very essence of insanity itself.
A temporary leisure may be won for the aggressor, but in the long run
he will be put to greater inconvenience than he would be by a more
humane method. It was repression and wilful frustration of reasonable
desires which kept me a seeming maniac and made seeming maniacs of
others. Whenever I was released from lock and key and permitted to
mingle with the so-called violent patients, I was surprised to find
that comparatively few were by nature troublesome or noisy. A patient,
calm in mind and passive in behavior three hundred and sixty days in
the year, may, on one of the remaining days, commit some slight
transgression, or, more likely, be goaded into one by an attendant or
needlessly led into one by a tactless physician. His indiscretion may
consist merely in an unmannerly announcement to the doctor of how
lightly the latter is regarded by the patient. At once he is banished
to the violent ward, there to remain for weeks, perhaps indefinitely.


Like fires and railroad disasters, assaults seemed to come in groups.
Days would pass without a single outbreak. Then would come a veritable
carnival of abuse--due almost invariably to the attendants' state of
mind, not to an unwonted aggressiveness on the part of the patients. I
can recall as especially noteworthy several instances of atrocious
abuse. Five patients were chronic victims. Three of them, peculiarly
irresponsible, suffered with especial regularity, scarcely a day
passing without bringing to them its quota of punishment. One of these,
almost an idiot, and quite too inarticulate to tell a convincing story
even under the most favorable conditions, became so cowed that,
whenever an attendant passed, he would circle his oppressor as a
whipped cur circles a cruel master. If this avoidance became too
marked, the attendant would then and there chastise him for the
implied, but unconscious insult.

There was a young man, occupying a cell next to mine in the Bull Pen,
who was so far out of his mind as to be absolutely irresponsible. His
offence was that he could not comprehend and obey. Day after day I
could hear the blows and kicks as they fell upon his body, and his
incoherent cries for mercy were as painful to hear as they are
impossible to forget. That he survived is surprising. What wonder that
this man, who was "violent," or who was made violent, would not permit
the attendants to dress him! But he had a half-witted friend, a
ward-mate, who could coax him into his clothes when his oppressors
found him most intractable.

Of all the patients known to me, the one who was assaulted with the
greatest frequency was an incoherent and irresponsible man of sixty
years. This patient was restless and forever talking or shouting, as
any man might if oppressed by such delusions as his. He was profoundly
convinced that one of the patients had stolen his stomach--an idea
inspired perhaps by the remarkable corpulency of the person he accused.
His loss he would woefully voice even while eating. Of course, argument
to the contrary had no effect; and his monotonous recital of his
imaginary troubles made him unpopular with those whose business it was
to care for him. They showed him no mercy. Each day--including the
hours of the night, when the night watch took a hand--he was belabored
with fists, broom handles, and frequently with the heavy bunch of keys
which attendants usually carry on a long chain. He was also kicked and
choked, and his suffering was aggravated by his almost continuous
confinement in the Bull Pen. An exception to the general rule (for such
continued abuse often causes death), this man lived a long time--five
years, as I learned later.

Another victim, forty-five years of age, was one who had formerly been
a successful man of affairs. His was a forceful personality, and the
traits of his sane days influenced his conduct when he broke down
mentally. He was in the expansive phase of paresis, a phase
distinguished by an exaggerated sense of well-being, and by delusions
of grandeur which are symptoms of this form as well as of several other
forms of mental disease. Paresis, as everyone knows, is considered
incurable and victims of it seldom live more than three or four years.
In this instance, instead of trying to make the patient's last days
comfortable, the attendants subjected him to a course of treatment
severe enough to have sent even a sound man to an early grave. I
endured privations and severe abuse for one month at the State
Hospital. This man suffered in all ways worse treatment for many

I became well acquainted with two jovial and witty Irishmen. They were
common laborers. One was a hodcarrier, and a strapping fellow. When he
arrived at the institution, he was at once placed in the violent ward,
though his "violence" consisted of nothing more than an annoying sort
of irresponsibility. He irritated the attendants by persistently doing
certain trivial things after they had been forbidden. The attendants
made no allowance for his condition of mind. His repetition of a
forbidden act was interpreted as deliberate disobedience. He was
physically powerful, and they determined to cow him. Of the master
assault by which they attempted to do this I was not an eyewitness. But
I was an ear witness. It was committed behind a closed door; and I
heard the dull thuds of the blows, and I heard the cries for mercy
until there was no breath left in the man with which he could beg even
for his life. For days, that wrecked Hercules dragged himself about the
ward moaning pitifully. He complained of pain in his side and had
difficulty in breathing, which would seem to indicate that some of his
ribs had been fractured. This man was often punished, frequently for
complaining of the torture already inflicted. But later, when he began
to return to the normal, his good-humor and native wit won for him an
increasing degree of good treatment.

The other patient's arch offence--a symptom of his disease--was that he
gabbled incessantly. He could no more stop talking than he could right
his reason on command. Yet his failure to become silent at a word was
the signal for punishment. On one occasion an attendant ordered him to
stop talking and take a seat at the further end of the corridor, about
forty feet distant. He was doing his best to obey, even running to keep
ahead of the attendant at his heels. As they passed the spot where I
was sitting, the attendant felled him with a blow behind the ear; and,
in falling, the patient's head barely missed the wall.

Addressing me, the attendant said, "Did you see that?"

"Yes," I replied, "and I'll not forget it."

"Be sure to report it to the doctor," he said, which remark showed his
contempt, not only for me, but for those in authority.

The man who had so terribly beaten me was particularly flagrant in
ignoring the claims of age. On more than one occasion he viciously
attacked a man of over fifty, who, however, seemed much older. He was a
Yankee sailing-master, who in his prime could have thrashed his
tormentor with ease. But now he was helpless and could only submit.
However, he was not utterly abandoned by his old world. His wife called
often to see him; and, because of his condition, she was permitted to
visit him in his room. Once she arrived a few hours after he had been
cruelly beaten. Naturally she asked the attendants how he had come by
the hurts--the blackened eye and bruised head. True to the code, they
lied. The good wife, perhaps herself a Yankee, was not thus to be
fooled; and her growing belief that her husband had been assaulted was
confirmed by a sight she saw before her visit was ended. Another
patient, a foreigner who was a target for abuse, was knocked flat two
or three times as he was roughly forced along the corridor. I saw this
little affair and I saw that the good wife saw it. The next day she
called again and took her husband home. The result was that after a few
(probably sleepless) nights, she had to return him to the hospital and
trust to God rather than the State to protect him.

Another victim was a man sixty years of age. He was quite inoffensive,
and no patient in the ward seemed to attend more strictly to his own
business. Shortly after my transfer from the violent ward this man was
so viciously attacked that his arm was broken. The attendant (the man
who had so viciously assaulted me) was summarily discharged.
Unfortunately, however, the relief afforded the insane was slight and
brief, for this same brute, like another whom I have mentioned, soon
secured a position in another institution--this one, however, a
thousand miles distant.

Death by violence in a violent ward is after all not an unnatural
death--for a violent ward. The patient of whom I am about to speak was
also an old man--over sixty. Both physically and mentally he was a
wreck. On being brought to the institution he was at once placed in a
cell in the Bull Pen, probably because of his previous history for
violence while at his own home. But his violence (if it ever existed)
had already spent itself, and had come to be nothing more than an utter
incapacity to obey. His offence was that he was too weak to attend to
his common wants. The day after his arrival, shortly before noon, he
lay stark naked and helpless upon the bed in his cell. This I know, for
I went to investigate immediately after a ward-mate had informed me of
the vicious way in which the head attendant had assaulted the sick man.
My informant was a man whose word regarding an incident of this
character I would take as readily as that of any man I know. He came to
me, knowing that I had taken upon myself the duty of reporting such
abominations. My informant feared to take the initiative, for, like
many other patients who believe themselves doomed to continued
confinement, he feared to invite abuse at the hands of vengeful
attendants. I therefore promised him that I would report the case as
soon as I had an opportunity.

All day long this victim of an attendant's unmanly passion lay in his
cell in what seemed to be a semi-conscious condition. I took particular
pains to observe his condition, for I felt that the assault of the
morning might result in death. That night, after the doctor's regular
tour of inspection, the patient in question was transferred to a room
next my own. The mode of transfer impressed itself upon my memory. Two
attendants--one of them being he who had so brutally beaten the
patient--placed the man in a sheet and, each taking an end, carried the
hammocklike contrivance, with its inert contents, to what proved to be
its last resting-place above ground. The bearers seemed as much
concerned about their burden as one might be about a dead dog, weighted
and ready for the river.

That night the patient died. Whether he was murdered none can ever
know. But it is my honest opinion that he was. Though he might never
have recovered, it is plain that he would have lived days, perhaps
months. And had he been humanely, nay, scientifically, treated, who can
say that he might not have been restored to health and home?

The young man who had been my companion in mischief in the violent ward
was also terribly abused. I am sure I do not exaggerate when I say that
on ten occasions, within a period of two months, this man was cruelly
assaulted, and I do not know how many times he suffered assaults of
less severity. After one of these chastisements, I asked him why he
persisted in his petty transgressions when he knew that he thereby
invited such body-racking abuse.

"Oh," he said, laconically, "I need the exercise."

To my mind, the man who, with such gracious humor, could refer to what
was in reality torture deserved to live a century. But an unkind fate
decreed that he should die young. Ten months after his commitment to
the State Hospital he was discharged as improved--but not cured. This
was not an unusual procedure; nor was it in his case apparently an
unwise one, for he seemed fit for freedom. During the first month of
regained liberty, he hanged himself. He left no message of excuse. In
my opinion, none was necessary. For aught any man knows, the memories
of the abuse, torture, and injustice which were so long his portion may
have proved to be the last straw which overbalanced the desire to live.

Patients with less stamina than mine often submitted with meekness; and
none so aroused my sympathy as those whose submission was due to the
consciousness that they had no relatives or friends to support them in
a fight for their rights. On behalf of these, with my usual piece of
smuggled lead pencil, I soon began to indite and submit to the officers
of the institution, letters in which I described the cruel practices
which came under my notice. My reports were perfunctorily accepted and
at once forgotten or ignored. Yet these letters, so far as they related
to overt acts witnessed, were lucid and should have been convincing.
Furthermore, my allegations were frequently corroborated by bruises on
the bodies of the patients. My usual custom was to write an account of
each assault and hand it to the doctor in authority. Frequently I would
submit these reports to the attendants with instructions first to read
and then deliver them to the superintendent or the assistant physician.
The men whose cruelty I thus laid bare read with evident but perverted
pleasure my accounts of assaults, and laughed and joked about my
ineffectual attempts to bring them to book.


I refused to be a martyr. Rebellion was my watchword. The only
difference between the doctor's opinion of me and mine of him was that
he could refuse utterance to his thoughts. Yes--there was another
difference. Mine could be expressed only in words--his in grim acts.

I repeatedly made demands for those privileges to which I knew I was
entitled. When he saw fit to grant them, I gave him perfunctory thanks.
When he refused--as he usually did--I at once poured upon his head the
vials of my wrath. One day I would be on the friendliest terms with the
doctor, the next I would upbraid him for some denial of my rights--or,
as frequently happened, for not intervening in behalf of the rights of

It was after one of these wrangles that I was placed in a cold cell in
the Bull Pen at eleven o'clock one morning. Still without shoes and
with no more covering than underclothes, I was forced to stand, sit, or
lie upon a bare floor as hard and cold as the pavement outside. Not
until sundown was I provided even with a drugget, and this did little
good, for already I had become thoroughly chilled. In consequence I
contracted a severe cold which added greatly to my discomfort and might
have led to serious results had I been of less sturdy fibre.

This day was the thirteenth of December and the twenty-second of my
exile in the violent ward. I remember it distinctly for it was the
seventy-seventh birthday of my father, to whom I wished to write a
congratulatory letter. This had been my custom for years when absent
from home on that anniversary. And well do I remember when, and under
what conditions, I asked the doctor for permission. It was night. I was
flat on my drugget-bed. My cell was lighted only by the feeble rays of
a lantern held by an attendant to the doctor on this his regular visit.
At first I couched my request in polite language. The doctor merely
refused to grant it. I then put forth my plea in a way calculated to
arouse sympathy. He remained unmoved. I then pointed out that he was
defying the law of the State which provided that a patient should have
stationery--a statute, the spirit of which at least meant that he
should be permitted to communicate with his conservator. It was now
three weeks since I had been permitted to write or send a letter to
anyone. Contrary to my custom, therefore, I made my final demand in the
form of a concession. I promised that I would write only a conventional
note of congratulation, making no mention whatever of my plight. It was
a fair offer; but to accept it would have been an implied admission
that there was something to conceal, and for this, if for no other
reason, it was refused.

Thus, day after day, I was repressed in a manner which probably would
have driven many a sane man to violence. Yet the doctor would
frequently exhort me to play the gentleman. Were good manners and sweet
submission ever the product of such treatment? Deprived of my clothes,
of sufficient food, of warmth, of all sane companionship and of my
liberty, I told those in authority that so long as they should continue
to treat me as the vilest of criminals, I should do my best to complete
the illusion. The burden of proving my sanity was placed upon me. I was
told that so soon as I became polite and meek and lowly I should find
myself in possession of my clothes and of certain privileges. In every
instance I must earn my reward before being entrusted with it. If the
doctor, instead of demanding of me all the negative virtues in the
catalogue of spineless saints, had given me my clothes on the condition
that they would be taken from me again if I so much as removed a
button, his course would doubtless have been productive of good
results. Thus I might have had my clothes three weeks earlier than I
did, and so been spared much suffering from the cold.

I clamored daily for a lead pencil. This little luxury represents the
margin of happiness for hundreds of the patients, just as a plug or
package of tobacco represents the margin of happiness for thousands of
others; but for seven weeks no doctor or attendant gave me one. To be
sure, by reason of my somewhat exceptional persistence and ingenuity, I
managed to be always in possession of some substitute for a pencil,
surreptitiously obtained, a fact which no doubt had something to do
with the doctor's indifference to my request. But my inability to
secure a pencil in a legitimate way was a needless source of annoyance
to me, and many of my verbal indiscretions were directly inspired by
the doctor's continued refusal.

It was an assistant physician, other than the one regularly in charge
of my case, who at last relented and presented me with a good, whole
lead pencil. By so doing he placed himself high on my list of
benefactors; for that little shaftlike implement, magnified by my
lively appreciation, became as the very axis of the earth.


A few days before Christmas my most galling deprivation was at last
removed. That is, my clothes were restored. These I treated with great
respect. Not so much as a thread did I destroy. Clothes, as is known,
have a sobering and civilizing effect, and from the very moment I was
again provided with presentable outer garments my conduct rapidly
improved. The assistant physician with whom I had been on such variable
terms of friendship and enmity even took me for a sleigh-ride. With
this improvement came other privileges or, rather, the granting of my
rights. Late in December I was permitted to send letters to my
conservator. Though some of my blood-curdling letters were confiscated,
a few detailing my experiences were forwarded. The account of my
sufferings naturally distressed my conservator, but, as he said when he
next visited me: "What could I have done to help you? If the men in
this State whose business it is to run these institutions cannot manage
you, I am at a loss to know what to do." True, he could have done
little or nothing, for he did not then know the ins and outs of the
baffling situation into which the ties of blood had drawn him.

About the middle of January the doctor in charge of my case went for a
two weeks' vacation. During his absence an older member of the staff
took charge of the violent ward. A man of wider experience and more
liberal ideas than his predecessor, he at once granted me several real
privileges. One day he permitted me to pay a brief visit to the best
ward--the one from which I had been transferred two months earlier. I
thus was able again to mingle with many seemingly normal men, and
though I enjoyed this privilege upon but one occasion, and then only
for a few hours, it gave me intense satisfaction.

Altogether the last six weeks of the fourteen during which I was
confined in the violent ward were comfortable and relatively happy. I
was no longer subjected to physical abuse, though this exemption was
largely due to my own skill in avoiding trouble. I was no longer cold
and hungry. I was allowed a fair amount of outdoor exercise which,
after my close confinement, proved to be a delightful shock. But, above
all, I was again given an adequate supply of stationery and drawing
materials, which became as tinder under the focussed rays of my
artistic eagerness. My mechanical investigations were gradually set
aside. Art and literature again held sway. Except when out of doors
taking my allotted exercise, I remained in my room reading, writing, or
drawing. This room of mine soon became a Mecca for the most
irrepressible and loquacious characters in the ward. But I soon
schooled myself to shut my ears to the incoherent prattle of my
unwelcome visitors. Occasionally, some of them would become
obstreperous--perhaps because of my lordly order to leave the room.
Often did they threaten to throttle me; but I ignored the threats, and
they were never carried out. Nor was I afraid that they would be.
Invariably I induced them to obey.

The drawings I produced at this time were crude. For the most part they
consisted of copies of illustrations which I had cut from magazines
that had miraculously found their way into the violent ward. The heads
of men and women interested me most, for I had decided to take up
portraiture. At first I was content to draw in black and white, but I
soon procured some colors and from that time on devoted my attention to
mastering pastel.

In the world of letters I had made little progress. My compositions
were for the most part epistles addressed to relatives and friends and
to those in authority at the hospital. Frequently the letters addressed
to the doctors were sent in sets of three--this to save time, for I was
very busy. The first letter of such a series would contain my request,
couched in friendly and polite terms. To this I would add a postscript,
worded about as follows: "If, after reading this letter, you feel
inclined to refuse my request, please read letter number two." Letter
number two would be severely formal--a business-like repetition of the
request made in letter number one. Again a postscript would advise the
reader to consult letter number three, if the reading of number two had
failed to move him. Letter number three was invariably a brief
philippic in which I would consign the unaccommodating doctor to

In this way I expended part of my prodigious supply of feeling and
energy. But I had also another way of reducing my creative pressure.
Occasionally, from sheer excess of emotion, I would burst into verse,
of a quality not to be doubted. Of that quality the reader shall judge,
for I am going to quote a "creation" written under circumstances which,
to say the least, were adverse. Before writing these lines I had never
attempted verse in my life--barring intentionally inane doggerel. And,
as I now judge these lines, it is probably true that even yet I have
never written a poem. Nevertheless, my involuntary, almost automatic
outburst is at least suggestive of the fervor that was in me. These
fourteen lines were written within thirty minutes of the time I first
conceived the idea; and I present them substantially as they first took
form. From a psychological standpoint at least, I am told, they are not
without interest.


Man's darkest hour is the hour before he's born,
Another is the hour just before the Dawn;
From Darkness unto Life and Light he leaps,
To Life but once,--to Light as oft as God wills he should.
'Tis God's own secret, why
Some live long, and others early die;
For Life depends on Light, and Light on God,
Who hath given to Man the perfect knowledge
That Grim Despair and Sorrow end in Light
And Life everlasting, in realms
Where darkest Darkness becomes Light;
But not the Light Man knows,
Which only is Light
Because God told Man so.

These verses, which breathe religion, were written in an environment
which was anything but religious. With curses of ward-mates ringing in
my ears, some subconscious part of me seemed to force me to write at
its dictation. I was far from being in a pious frame of mind myself,
and the quality of my thought surprised me then--as it does now.


Though I continued to respect my clothes, I did not at once cease to
tear such material as would serve me in my scientific investigations.
Gravity being conquered, it was inevitable that I should devote some of
my time to the invention of a flying-machine. This was soon
perfected--in my mind; and all I needed, that I might test the device,
was my liberty. As usual I was unable to explain how I should produce
the result which I so confidently foretold. But I believed and
proclaimed that I should, erelong, fly to St. Louis and claim and
receive the one-hundred-thousand-dollar reward offered by the
Commission of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition for the most efficient
airship to be exhibited. The moment the thought winged its way through
my mind, I had not only a flying-machine, but a fortune in the bank.
Being where I could not dissipate my riches, I became a lavish verbal
spender. I was in a mood to buy anything, and I whiled away many an
hour planning what I should do with my fortune. The St. Louis prize was
a paltry trifle. I reasoned that the man who could harness gravity had
at his beck and call the world and all that therein is. This sudden
accession of wealth made my vast humanitarian projects seem only the
more feasible. What could be more delightful, I thought, than the
furnishing and financing of ideas of a magnitude to stagger humanity.
My condition was one of ecstatic suspense. Give me my liberty and I
would show a sleepy old world what could be done to improve conditions,
not only among the insane, but along every line of beneficent endeavor.

The city of my birth was to be made a garden-spot. All defiling,
smoke-begriming factories were to be banished to an innocuous distance.
Churches were to give way to cathedrals; the city itself was to become
a paradise of mansions. Yale University was to be transformed into the
most magnificent--yet efficient--seat of learning in the world. For
once, college professors were to be paid adequate salaries, and
alluring provision for their declining years was to be made. New Haven
should become a very hotbed of culture. Art galleries, libraries,
museums and theatres of a dreamlike splendor were to rise whenever and
wherever I should will. Why absurd? Was it not I who would defray the
cost? The famous buildings of the Old World were to be reproduced, if,
indeed, the originals could not be purchased, brought to this country
and reassembled. Not far from New Haven there is a sandy plain, once
the bed of the Connecticut River, but now a kind of miniature desert. I
often smile as I pass it on the train; for it was here, for the
edification of those who might never be able to visit the Valley of the
Nile, that I planned to erect a pyramid that should out-Cheops the
original. My harnessed gravity, I believed, would not only enable me to
overcome existing mechanical difficulties, but it would make the
quarrying of immense monoliths as easy as the slicing of bread, and the
placing of them in position as easy as the laying of bricks.

After all, delusions of grandeur are the most entertaining of toys. The
assortment which my imagination provided was a comprehensive one. I had
tossed aside the blocks of childhood days. Instead of laboriously
piling small squares of wood one upon another in an endeavor to build
the tiny semblance of a house, I now, in this second childhood of mine,
projected against thin air phantom edifices planned and completed in
the twinkling of an eye. To be sure, such houses of cards almost
immediately superseded one another, but the vanishing of one could not
disturb a mind that had ever another interesting bauble to take its
place. And therein lies part of the secret of the happiness peculiar to
that stage of elation which is distinguished by delusions of
grandeur--always provided that he who is possessed by them be not
subjected to privation and abuse. The sane man who can prove that he is
rich in material wealth is not nearly so happy as the mentally
disordered man whose delusions trick him into believing himself a
modern Croesus. A wealth of Midaslike delusions is no burden. Such a
fortune, though a misfortune in itself, bathes the world in a golden
glow. No clouds obscure the vision. Optimism reigns supreme. "Failure"
and "impossible" are as words from an unknown tongue. And the unique
satisfaction about a fortune of this fugitive type is that its loss
occasions no regret. One by one the phantom ships of treasure sail away
for parts unknown; until, when the last ship has become but a speck on
the mental horizon, the observer makes the happy discovery that his
pirate fleet has left behind it a priceless wake of Reason!


Early in March, 1902, having lived in a violent ward for nearly four
months, I was transferred to another--a ward quite as orderly as the
best in the institution, though less attractively furnished than the
one in which I had first been placed. Here also I had a room to myself;
in this instance, however, the room had not only a bed, but a chair and
a wardrobe. With this elaborate equipment I was soon able to convert my
room into a veritable studio. Whereas in the violent ward it had been
necessary for me to hide my writing and drawing materials to keep other
patients from taking them, in my new abode I was able to conduct my
literary and artistic pursuits without the annoyances which had been
inevitable during the preceding months.

Soon after my transfer to this ward I was permitted to go out of doors
and walk to the business section of the city, two miles distant. But on
these walks I was always accompanied. To one who has never surrendered
any part of his liberty such surveillance would no doubt seem irksome;
yet, to me, after being so closely confined, the ever-present attendant
seemed a companion rather than a guard. These excursions into the sane
and free world were not only a great pleasure, they were almost a
tonic. To rub elbows with normal people tended to restore my mental
poise. That the casual passer-by had no way of knowing that I was a
patient, out for a walk about the city, helped me gain that
self-confidence so essential to the success of one about to re-enter a
world from which he had long been cut off.

My first trips to the city were made primarily for the purpose of
supplying myself with writing and drawing materials. While enjoying
these welcome tastes of liberty, on more than one occasion I
surreptitiously mailed certain letters which I did not dare entrust to
the doctor. Under ordinary circumstances such an act on the part of one
enjoying a special privilege would be dishonorable. But the
circumstances that then obtained were not ordinary. I was simply
protecting myself against what I believed to be unjust and illegal
confiscation of letters.

I have already described how an assistant physician arbitrarily denied
my request that I be permitted to send a birthday letter to my father,
thereby not merely exceeding his authority and ignoring decency, but,
consciously or unconsciously, stifling a sane impulse. That this should
occur while I was confined in the Bull Pen was, perhaps, not so
surprising. But about four months later, while I was in one of the best
wards, a similar, though less open, interference occurred. At this time
I was so nearly normal that my discharge was a question of but a very
few months. Anticipating my return to my old world, I decided to renew
former relationships. Accordingly, my brother, at my suggestion,
informed certain friends that I should be pleased to receive letters
from them. They soon wrote. In the meantime the doctor had been
instructed to deliver to me any and all letters that might arrive. He
did so for a time, and that without censoring. As was to be expected,
after nearly three almost letterless years, I found rare delight in
replying to my reawakened correspondents. Yet some of these letters,
written for the deliberate purpose of re-establishing myself in the
sane world, were destroyed by the doctor in authority. At the time, not
one word did he say to me about the matter. I had handed him for
mailing certain letters, unsealed. He did not mail them, nor did he
forward them to my conservator as he should have done, and had earlier
agreed to do with all letters which he could not see his way clear to
approve. It was fully a month before I learned that my friends had not
received my replies to their letters. Then I accused the doctor of
destroying them, and he, with belated frankness, admitted that he had
done so. He offered no better excuse than the mere statement that he
did not approve of the sentiments I had expressed. Another flagrant
instance was that of a letter addressed to me in reply to one of those
which I had posted surreptitiously. The person to whom I wrote, a
friend of years' standing, later informed me that he had sent the
reply. I never received it. Neither did my conservator. Were it not
that I feel absolutely sure that the letter in question was received at
the hospital and destroyed, I should not now raise this point. But such
a point, if raised at all, must of course be made without that direct
proof which can come only from the man guilty of an act which in the
sane world is regarded as odious and criminal.

I therefore need not dilate on the reasons which made it necessary for
me to smuggle, as it were, to the Governor of the State, a letter of
complaint and instruction. This letter was written shortly after my
transfer from the violent ward. The abuses of that ward were still
fresh in my mind, and the memory of distressing scenes was kept vivid
by reports reaching me from friends who were still confined there.
These private sleuths of mine I talked with at the evening
entertainments or at other gatherings. From them I learned that
brutality had become more rife, if anything, since I had left the ward.
Realizing that my crusade against the physical abuse of patients thus
far had proved of no avail, I determined to go over the heads of the
doctors and appeal to the ex-officio head of the institution, the
Governor of the State.

On March 12th, 1903, I wrote a letter which so disturbed the Governor
that he immediately set about an informal investigation of some of my
charges. Despite its prolixity, its unconventional form and what, under
other circumstances, would be characterized as almost diabolic
impudence and familiarity, my letter, as he said months later when I
talked with him, "rang true." The writing of it was an easy matter; in
fact, so easy, because of the pressure of truth under which I was
laboring at the time, that it embodied a compelling spontaneity.

The mailing of it was not so easy. I knew that the only sure way of
getting my thoughts before the Governor was to do my own mailing.
Naturally no doctor could be trusted to send an indictment against
himself and his colleagues to the one man in the State who had the
power to institute such an investigation as might make it necessary for
all to seek employment elsewhere. In my frame of mind, to wish to mail
my letter was to know how to accomplish the wish. The letter was in
reality a booklet. I had thoughtfully used waterproof India drawing ink
in writing it, in order, perhaps, that a remote posterity might not be
deprived of the document. The booklet consisted of thirty-two
eight-by-ten-inch pages of heavy white drawing paper. These I sewed
together. In planning the form of my letter I had forgotten to consider
the slot of a letter-box of average size. Therefore I had to adopt an
unusual method of getting the letter into the mails. My expedient was
simple. There was in the town a certain shop where I traded. At my
request the doctor gave me permission to go there for supplies. I was
of course accompanied by an attendant, who little suspected what was
under my vest. To conceal and carry my letter in that place had been
easy; but to get rid of it after reaching my goal was another matter.
Watching my opportunity, I slipped the missive between the leaves of a
copy of the _Saturday Evening Post_. This I did, believing that some
purchaser would soon discover the letter and mail it. Then I left the

On the back of the wrapper I had endorsed the following words:

"Mr. Postmaster: This package is unsealed. Nevertheless it is
first-class matter. Everything I write is necessarily first class.
I have affixed two two-cent stamps. If extra postage is needed you
will do the Governor a favor if you will put the extra postage on.
Or affix 'due' stamps, and let the Governor pay his own bills, as
he can well afford to. If you want to know who I am, just ask his
Excellency, and oblige,

Yours truly,


Flanking this notice, I had arrayed other forceful sentiments, as
follows--taken from statutes which I had framed for the occasion:

"Any person finding letter or package--duly stamped and
addressed--_must_ mail same as said letter or package is really
in hands of the Government the moment the stamp is affixed."

And again:

"Failure to comply with Federal Statute which forbids any one
except addressee to open a letter renders one liable to imprisonment
in State Prison."

My letter reached the Governor. One of the clerks at the shop in which
I left the missive found and mailed it. From him I afterwards learned
that my unique instructions had piqued his curiosity, as well as
compelled my wished-for action. Assuming that the reader's curiosity
may likewise have been piqued, I shall quote certain passages from this
four-thousand-word epistle of protest. The opening sentence read as
follows: "If you have had the courage to read the above" (referring to
an unconventional heading) "I hope you will read on to the end of this
epistle--thereby displaying real Christian fortitude and learning a few
facts which I think should be brought to your attention."

I then introduced myself, mentioning a few common friends, by way of
indicating that I was not without influential political connections,
and proceeded as follows: "I take pleasure in informing you that I am
in the Crazy Business and am holding my job down with ease and a fair
degree of grace. Being in the Crazy Business, I understand certain
phases of the business about which you know nothing. You as Governor
are at present 'head devil' in this 'hell,' though I know you are
unconsciously acting as 'His Majesty's' 1st Lieutenant."

I then launched into my arraignment of the treatment of the insane. The
method, I declared, was "wrong from start to finish. The abuses
existing here exist in every other institution of the kind in the
country. They are all alike--though some of them are of course worse
than others. Hell is hell the world over, and I might also add that
hell is only a great big bunch of disagreeable details anyway. That's
all an Insane Asylum is. If you don't believe it, just go crazy and
take up your abode here. In writing this letter I am laboring under no
mental excitement. I am no longer subjected to the abuses about which I
complain. I am well and happy. In fact I never was so happy as I am
now. Whether I am in perfect mental health or not, I shall leave for
you to decide. If I am insane to-day I hope I may never recover my

First I assailed the management of the private institution where I had
been strait-jacketed and referred to "Jekyll-Hyde" as "Dr.----, M.D.
(Mentally Deranged)." Then followed an account of the strait-jacket
experience; then an account of abuses at the State Hospital. I
described in detail the most brutal assault that fell to my lot. In
summing up I said, "The attendants claimed next day that I had called
them certain names. Maybe I did--though I don't believe I did at all.
What of it? This is no young ladies' boarding school. Should a man be
nearly killed because he swears at attendants who swear like pirates? I
have seen at least fifteen men, many of them mental and physical
wrecks, assaulted just as brutally as I was, and usually without a
cause. I know that men's lives have been shortened by these brutal
assaults. And that is only a polite way of saying that murder has been
committed here." Turning next to the matter of the women's wards, I
said: "A patient in this ward--a man in his right mind, who leaves here
on Tuesday next--told me that a woman patient told him that she had
seen many a helpless woman dragged along the floor by her hair, and had
also seen them choked by attendants who used a wet towel as a sort of
garrote. I have been through the mill and believe every word of the
abuse. You will perhaps doubt it, as it seems impossible. Bear in mind,
though, that everything bad and disagreeable is possible in an Insane

It will be observed that I was shrewd enough to qualify a charge I
could not prove.

When I came to the matter of the Bull Pen, I wasted no words: "The Bull
Pen," I wrote, "is a pocket edition of the New York Stock Exchange
during a panic."

I next pointed out the difficulties a patient must overcome in mailing
letters: "It is impossible for any one to send a letter to you _via_
the office. The letter would be consigned to the waste-basket--unless
it was a particularly crazy letter--in which case it might reach you,
as you would then pay no attention to it. But a sane letter and a
_true_ letter, telling about the abuses which exist here would stand no
show of being mailed. The way in which mail is tampered with by the
medical staff is contemptible."

I then described my stratagem in mailing my letter to the Governor.
Discovering that I had left a page of my epistolary booklet blank, I drew
upon it a copy of Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson, and under it wrote: "This
page was skipped by mistake. Had to fight fifty-three days to get writing
paper and I hate to waste any space--hence the masterpiece--drawn in
five minutes. Never drew a line till September 26 (last) and never took
lessons in my life. I think you will readily believe my statement."
Continuing in the same half-bantering vein, I said: "I intend to
immortalize all members of medical staff of State Hospital for
Insane--when I illustrate my Inferno, which, when written, will make
Dante's Divine Comedy look like a French Farce."

I then outlined my plans for reform: "Whether my suggestions meet with
approval or not," I wrote, "will not affect the result--though
opposition on your part would perhaps delay reforms. I have decided to
devote the next few years of my life to correcting abuses now in
existence in every asylum in this country. I know how these abuses can
be corrected and I intend--later on, when I understand the subject
better--to draw up a Bill of Rights for the Insane. Every State in the
Union will pass it, because it will be founded on the Golden Rule. I am
desirous of having the co-operation of the Governor of Connecticut, but
if my plans do not appeal to him I shall deal directly with his only
superior, the President of the United States. When Theodore Roosevelt
hears my story his blood will boil. I would write to him now, but I am
afraid he would jump in and correct abuses too quickly. And by doing it
too quickly too little good would be accomplished."

Waxing crafty, yet, as I believed, writing truth, I continued: "I need
money badly, and if I cared to, I could sell my information and
services to the _New York World_ or _New York Journal_ for a large
amount. But I do not intend to advertise Connecticut as a Hell-hole of
Iniquity, Insanity, and Injustice. If the facts appeared in the public
press at this time, Connecticut would lose caste with her sister
States. And they would profit by Connecticut's disgrace and correct the
abuses before they could be put on the rack. As these conditions
prevail throughout the country, there is no reason why Connecticut
should get all the abuse and criticism which would follow any such
revelation of disgusting abuse; such inhuman treatment of human wrecks.
If publicity is necessary to force you to act--and I am sure it will
not be necessary--I shall apply for a writ of habeas corpus, and, in
proving my sanity to a jury, I shall incidentally prove your own
incompetence. Permitting such a whirl-wind reformer to drag
Connecticut's disgrace into open court would prove your incompetence."

For several obvious reasons it is well that I did not at that time
attempt to convince a jury that I was mentally sound. The mere
outlining of my ambitious scheme for reform would have caused my
immediate return to the hospital. That scheme, however, was a sound and
feasible one, as later events have proved. But, taking hold of me, as
it did, while my imagination was at white heat, I was impelled to
attack my problem with compromising energy and, for a time, in a manner
so unconvincing as to obscure the essential sanity of my cherished

I closed my letter as follows: "No doubt you will consider certain
parts of this letter rather 'fresh.' I apologize for any such passages
now, but, as I have an Insane License, I do not hesitate to say what I
think. What's the use when one is caged like a criminal?

"P.S. This letter is a confidential one--and is to be returned to the
writer upon demand."

The letter was eventually forwarded to my conservator and is now in my

As a result of my protest the Governor immediately interrogated the
superintendent of the institution where "Jekyll-Hyde" had tortured me.
Until he laid before the superintendent my charges against his
assistant, the doctor in authority had not even suspected that I had
been tortured. This superintendent took pride in his institution. He
was sensitive to criticism and it was natural that he should strive to
palliate the offence of his subordinate. He said that I was a most
troublesome patient, which was, indeed, the truth; for I had always a
way of my own for doing the things that worried those in charge of me.
In a word, I brought to bear upon the situation what I have previously
referred to as "an uncanny admixture of sanity."

The Governor did not meet the assistant physician who had maltreated
me. The reprimand, if there was to be any, was left to the
superintendent to administer.

In my letter to the Governor I had laid more stress upon the abuses to
which I had been subjected at this private institution than I had upon
conditions at the State Hospital where I was when I wrote to him. This
may have had some effect on the action he took, or rather failed to
take. At any rate, as to the State Hospital, no action was taken. Not
even a word of warning was sent to the officials, as I later learned;
for before leaving the institution I asked them.

Though my letter did not bring about an investigation, it was not
altogether without results. Naturally, it was with considerable
satisfaction that I informed the doctors that I had outwitted them, and
it was with even greater satisfaction that I now saw those in authority
make a determined, if temporary, effort to protect helpless patients
against the cruelties of attendants. The moment the doctors were
convinced that I had gone over their heads and had sent a
characteristic letter of protest to the Governor of the State, that
moment they began to protect themselves with an energy born of a
realization of their former shortcomings. Whether or not the management
in question ever admitted that their unwonted activity was due to my
successful stratagem, the fact remains that the summary discharge of
several attendants accused and proved guilty of brutality immediately
followed and for a while put a stop to wanton assaults against which
for a period of four months I had protested in vain. Patients who still
lived in the violent ward told me that comparative peace reigned about
this time.


My failure to force the Governor to investigate conditions at the State
Hospital convinced me that I could not hope to prosecute my reforms
until I should regain my liberty and re-establish myself in my old
world. I therefore quitted the role of reformer-militant; and, but for
an occasional outburst of righteous indignation at some flagrant abuse
which obtruded itself upon my notice, my demeanor was that of one quite
content with his lot in life.

I was indeed content--I was happy. Knowing that I should soon regain my
freedom, I found it easy to forgive--taking great pains not to
forget--any injustice which had been done me. Liberty is sweet, even to
one whose appreciation of it has never been augmented by its temporary
loss. The pleasurable emotions which my impending liberation aroused
within me served to soften my speech and render me more tractable. This
change the assistant physician was not slow to note, though he was
rather slow in placing in me the degree of confidence which I felt I
deserved. So justifiable, however, was his suspicion that even at the
time I forgave him for it. I had on so many prior occasions "played
possum" that the doctor naturally attributed complex and unfathomable
motives to my most innocent acts. For a long time he seemed to think
that I was trying to capture his confidence, win the privilege of an
unlimited parole, and so effect my escape. Doubtless he had not
forgotten the several plans for escape which I had dallied with and
bragged about while in the violent ward.

Though I was granted considerable liberty during the months of April,
May, and June, 1903, not until July did I enjoy a so-called unlimited
parole which enabled me to walk about the neighboring city unattended.
My privileges were granted so gradually that these first tastes of
regained freedom, though delightful, were not so thrilling as one might
imagine. I took everything as a matter of course, and, except when I
deliberately analyzed my feelings, was scarcely conscious of my former

This power to forget the past--or recall it only at will--has
contributed much to my happiness. Some of those who have suffered
experiences such as mine are prone to brood upon them, and I cannot but
attribute my happy immunity from unpleasant memories to the fact that I
have viewed my own case much as a physician might view that of a
patient. My past is a thing apart. I can examine this or that phase of
it in the clarifying and comforting light of reason, under a memory
rendered somewhat microscopic. And I am further compensated by the
belief that I have a distinct mission in life--a chance for usefulness
that might never have been mine had I enjoyed unbroken health and
uninterrupted liberty.

The last few months of my life in the hospital were much alike, save
that each succeeding one brought with it an increased amount of
liberty. My hours now passed pleasantly. Time did not drag, for I was
engaged upon some enterprise every minute. I would draw, read, write,
or talk. If any feeling was dominant, it was my feeling for art; and I
read with avidity books on the technique of that subject. Strange as it
may seem, however, the moment I again found myself in the world of
business my desire to become an artist died almost as suddenly as it
had been born. Though my artistic ambition was clearly an outgrowth of
my abnormal condition, and languished when normality asserted itself, I
am inclined to believe I should even now take a lively interest in the
study of art if I were so situated as to be deprived of a free choice
of my activities. The use of words later enthralled me because so
eminently suited to my purposes.

During the summer of 1903, friends and relatives often called to see
me. The talks we had were of great and lasting benefit to me. Though I
had rid myself of my more extravagant and impossible delusions of
grandeur--flying-machines and the like--I still discussed with intense
earnestness other schemes, which, though allied to delusions of
grandeur, were, in truth, still more closely allied to sanity itself.
My talk was of that high, but perhaps suspicious type in which
Imagination overrules Common Sense. Lingering delusions, as it were,
made great projects seem easy. That they were at least feasible under
certain conditions, my mentors admitted. Only I was in an abnormal
hurry to produce results. Work that I later realized could not be
accomplished in less than five or ten years, if, indeed, in a lifetime,
I then believed could be accomplished in a year or two, and by me
single-handed. Had I had none but mentally unbalanced people to talk
with, I might have continued to cherish a distorted perspective. It was
the unanimity of sane opinions that helped me to correct my own views;
and I am confident that each talk with relatives and friends hastened
my return to normality.

Though I was not discharged from the State Hospital until September
10th, 1903, during the preceding month I visited my home several times,
once for three days. These trips were not only interesting, but
steadying in effect. I willingly returned to the hospital when my
parole expired. Though several friends expressed surprise at this
willingness to enter again an institution where I had experienced so
many hardships, to me my temporary return was not in the least irksome.
As I had penetrated and conquered the mysteries of that dark side of
life, it no longer held any terrors for me. Nor does it to this day. I
can contemplate the future with a greater degree of complacency than
can some of those whose lot in life has been uniformly fortunate. In
fact, I said at that time that, should my condition ever demand it, I
would again enter a hospital for the insane, quite as willingly as the
average person now enters a hospital for the treatment of bodily

It was in this complacent and confident mood, and without any sharp
line of transition, that I again began life in my old world of
companionship and of business.


For the first month of regained freedom I remained at home. These weeks
were interesting. Scarcely a day passed that I did not meet several
former friends and acquaintances who greeted me as one risen from the
dead. And well they might, for my three-year trip among the
worlds--rather than around the world--was suggestive of complete
separation from the everyday life of the multitude. One profound
impression which I received at this time was of the uniform delicacy of
feeling exhibited by my well-wishers. In no instance that I can recall
was a direct reference made to the nature of my recent illness, until I
had first made some remark indicating that I was not averse to
discussing it. There was an evident effort on the part of friends and
acquaintances to avoid a subject which they naturally supposed I wished
to forget. Knowing that their studied avoidance of a delicate subject
was inspired by a thoughtful consideration, rather than a lack of
interest, I invariably forced the conversation along a line calculated
to satisfy a suppressed, but perfectly proper, curiosity which I seldom
failed to detect. My decision to stand on my past and look the future
in the face has, I believe, contributed much to my own happiness, and,
more than anything else, enabled my friends to view my past as I myself
do. By frankly referring to my illness, I put my friends and
acquaintances at ease, and at a stroke rid them of that constraint
which one must feel in the presence of a person constantly in danger of
being hurt by a chance allusion to an unhappy occurrence.

I have said much about the obligation of the sane in reference to
easing the burdens of those committed to institutions. I might say
almost as much about the attitude of the public toward those who
survive such a period of exile, restored, but branded with a suspicion
which only time can efface. Though a former patient receives personal
consideration, he finds it difficult to obtain employment. No
fair-minded man can find fault with this condition of affairs, for an
inherent dread of insanity leads to distrust of one who has had a
mental breakdown. Nevertheless, the attitude is mistaken. Perhaps one
reason for this lack of confidence is to be found in the lack of
confidence which a former patient often feels in himself. Confidence
begets confidence, and those men and women who survive mental illness
should attack their problem as though their absence had been occasioned
by any one of the many circumstances which may interrupt the career of
a person whose mind has never been other than sound. I can testify to
the efficacy of this course, for it is the one I pursued. And I think
that I have thus far met with as great a degree of success as I might
have reasonably expected had my career never been all but fatally

Discharged from the State Hospital in September, 1903, late in October
of that same year I went to New York. Primarily my purpose was to study
art. I even went so far as to gather information regarding the several
schools; and had not my artistic ambition taken wing, I might have
worked for recognition in a field where so many strive in vain. But my
business instinct, revivified by the commercially surcharged atmosphere
of New York, soon gained sway, and within three months I had secured a
position with the same firm for which I had worked when I first went to
New York six years earlier. It was by the merest chance that I made
this most fortunate business connection. By no stretch of my rather
elastic imagination can I even now picture a situation that would, at
one and the same time, have so perfectly afforded a means of
livelihood, leisure in which to indulge my longing to write the story
of my experiences, and an opportunity to further my humanitarian

Though persons discharged from mental hospitals are usually able to
secure, without much difficulty, work as unskilled laborers, or
positions where the responsibility is slight, it is often next to
impossible for them to secure positions of trust. During the
negotiations which led to my employment, I was in no suppliant mood. If
anything, I was quite the reverse; and as I have since learned, I
imposed terms with an assurance so sublime that any less degree of
audacity might have put an end to the negotiations then and there. But
the man with whom I was dealing was not only broad-minded, he was
sagacious. He recognized immediately such an ability to take care of my
own interests as argued an ability to protect those of his firm. But
this alone would not have induced the average business man to employ me
under the circumstances. It was the common-sense and rational attitude
of my employer toward mental illness which determined the issue. This
view, which is, indeed, exceptional to-day, will one day (within a few
generations, I believe) be too commonplace to deserve special mention.
As this man tersely expressed it: "When an employe is ill, he's ill,
and it makes no difference to me whether he goes to a general hospital
or a hospital for the insane. Should you ever find yourself in need of
treatment or rest, I want you to feel that you can take it when and
where you please, and work for us again when you are able."

Dealing almost exclusively with bankers, for that was the nature of my
work, I enjoyed almost as much leisure for reading and trying to learn
how to write as I should have enjoyed had I had an assured income that
would have enabled me to devote my entire time to these pursuits. And
so congenial did my work prove, and so many places of interest did I
visit, that I might rather have been classed as a "commercial tourist"
than as a commercial traveler. To view almost all of the natural
wonders and places of historic interest east of the Mississippi, and
many west of it; to meet and know representative men and women; to
enjoy an almost uninterrupted leisure, and at the same time earn a
livelihood--these advantages bear me out in the feeling that in
securing the position I did, at the time I did, I enjoyed one of those
rare compensations which Fate sometimes bestows upon those who survive
unusual adversity.


After again becoming a free man, my mind would not abandon the
miserable ones whom I had left behind. I thought with horror that my
reason had been threatened and baffled at every turn. Without malice
toward those who had had me in charge, I yet looked with abhorrence
upon the system by which I had been treated. But I realized that I
could not successfully advocate reforms in hospital management until I
had first proved to relatives and friends my ability to earn a living.
And I knew that, after securing a position in the business world, I
must first satisfy my employers before I could hope to persuade others
to join me in prosecuting the reforms I had at heart. Consequently,
during the first year of my renewed business activity (the year 1904),
I held my humanitarian project in abeyance and gave all my executive
energy to my business duties. During the first half of that year I gave
but little time to reading and writing, and none at all to drawing. In
a tentative way, however, I did occasionally discuss my project with
intimate friends; but I spoke of its consummation as a thing of the
uncertain future. At that time, though confident of accomplishing my
set purpose, I believed I should be fortunate if my projected book were
published before my fortieth year. That I was able to publish it eight
years earlier was due to one of those unlooked for combinations of
circumstances which sometimes cause a hurried change of plans.

Late in the autumn of 1904, a slight illness detained me for two weeks
in a city several hundred miles from home. The illness itself amounted
to little, and, so far as I know, had no direct bearing on later
results, except that, in giving me an enforced vacation, it afforded me
an opportunity to read several of the world's great books. One of these
was "Les Miserables." It made a deep impression on me, and I am
inclined to believe it started a train of thought which gradually grew
into a purpose so all-absorbing that I might have been overwhelmed by
it, had not my over-active imagination been brought to bay by another's
common sense. Hugo's plea for suffering Humanity--for the world's
miserable--struck a responsive chord within me. Not only did it revive
my latent desire to help the afflicted; it did more. It aroused a
consuming desire to emulate Hugo himself, by writing a book which
should arouse sympathy for and interest in that class of unfortunates
in whose behalf I felt it my peculiar right and duty to speak. I
question whether any one ever read "Les Miserables" with keener
feeling. By day I read the story until my head ached; by night I
dreamed of it.

To resolve to write a book is one thing; to write it--fortunately for
the public--is quite another. Though I wrote letters with ease, I soon
discovered that I knew nothing of the vigils or methods of writing a
book. Even then I did not attempt to predict just when I should begin
to commit my story to paper. But, a month later, a member of the firm
in whose employ I was made a remark which acted as a sudden spur. One
day, while discussing the business situation with me, he informed me
that my work had convinced him that he had made no mistake in
re-employing me when he did. Naturally I was pleased. I had vindicated
his judgment sooner than I had hoped. Aside from appreciating and
remembering his compliment, at the time I paid no more attention to it.
Not until a fortnight later did the force of his remark exert any
peculiar influence on my plans. During that time it apparently
penetrated to some subconscious part of me--a part which, on prior
occasions, had assumed such authority as to dominate my whole being.
But, in this instance, the part that became dominant did not exert an
unruly or even unwelcome influence. Full of interest in my business
affairs one week, the next I not only had no interest in them, but I
had begun even to dislike them. From a matter-of-fact man of business I
was transformed into a man whose all-absorbing thought was the
amelioration of suffering among the afflicted insane. Travelling on
this high plane of ideal humanitarianism, I could get none but a
distorted and dissatisfying view of the life I must lead if I should
continue to devote my time to the comparatively deadening routine of
commercial affairs.

Thus it was inevitable that I should focus my attention on my
humanitarian project. During the last week of December I sought
ammunition by making a visit to two of the institutions where I had
once been a patient. I went there to discuss certain phases of the
subject of reform with the doctors in authority. I was politely
received and listened to with a degree of deference which was, indeed,
gratifying. Though I realized that I was rather intense on the subject
of reform, I did not have that clear insight into my state of mind
which the doctors had. Indeed, I believe that only those expert in the
detection of symptoms of a slightly disturbed mental condition could
possibly have observed anything abnormal about me at that time. Only
when I discussed my fond project of reform did I betray an abnormal
stress of feeling. I could talk as convincingly about business as I had
at any time in my life; for even at the height of this wave of
enthusiasm I dealt at length with a certain banker who finally placed
with my employers a large contract.

After conferring with the doctors, or rather--as it proved--exhibiting
myself to them, I returned to New Haven and discussed my project with
the President of Yale University. He listened patiently--he could
scarcely do otherwise--and did me the great favor of interposing his
judgment at a time when I might have made a false move. I told him that
I intended to visit Washington at once, to enlist the aid of President
Roosevelt; also that of Mr. Hay, Secretary of State. Mr. Hadley
tactfully advised me not to approach them until I had more thoroughly
crystallized my ideas. His wise suggestion I had the wisdom to adopt.

The next day I went to New York, and on January 1st, 1905, I began to
write. Within two days I had written about fifteen thousand words--for
the most part on the subject of reforms and how to effect them. One of
the documents prepared at that time contained grandiloquent passages
that were a portent of coming events--though I was ignorant of the
fact. In writing about my project I said, "Whether I am a tool of God
or a toy of the devil, time alone will tell; but there will be no
misunderstanding Time's answer if I succeed in doing one-tenth of the
good things I hope to accomplish.... Anything which is feasible in this
philanthropic age can easily be put into practice.... A listener gets
the impression that I hope to do a hundred years' work in a day. They
are wrong there, for I'm not so in love with work--as such. I would
like though to interest so many people in the accomplishment of my
purpose that one hundred years' work might be done in a fraction of
that time. Hearty co-operation brings quick results, and once you start
a wave of enthusiasm in a sea of humanity, and have for the base of
that wave a humanitarian project of great breadth, it will travel with
irresistible and ever-increasing impulse to the ends of the
earth--which is far enough. According to Dr. ----, many of my ideas
regarding the solution of the problem under consideration are years and
years in advance of the times. I agree with him, but that is no reason
why we should not put 'the times' on board the express train of
progress and give civilization a boost to a higher level, until it
finally lands on a plateau where performance and perfection will be
synonymous terms."

Referring to the betterment of conditions, I said, "And this
improvement can never be brought about without some central
organization by means of which the best ideas in the world may be
crystallized and passed along to those in charge of this army of
afflicted ones. The methods to be used to bring about these results
must be placed on the same high level as the idea itself. No yellow
journalism or other sensational means should be resorted to. Let the
thing be worked up secretly and confidentially by a small number of men
who know their business. Then when the very best plan has been
formulated for the accomplishment of the desired results, and men of
money have been found to support the movement until it can take care of
itself, announce to the world in a dignified and effective manner the
organization and aims of the society, the name of which shall be--,
decided later.... To start the movement will not require a whole lot of
money. It will be started modestly and as financial resources of the
society increase, the field will be broadened." ... "The abuses and
correction of same is a mere detail in the general scheme." ... "It is
too early to try to interest anyone in this scheme of preventing
breakdowns, as there are other things of more importance to be brought
about first--but it will surely come in time."

"'Uncle Tom's Cabin,'" I continued, "had a very decided effect on the
question of slavery of the negro race. Why cannot a book be written
which will free the helpless slaves of all creeds and colors confined
to-day in the asylums and sanitariums throughout the world? That is,
free them from unnecessary abuses to which they are now subjected. Such
a book, I believe, can be written and I trust that I may be permitted
to live till I am wise enough to write it. Such a book might change the
attitude of the public towards those who are unfortunate enough to have
the stigma of mental incompetency put upon them. Of course, an insane
man is an insane man and while insane should be placed in an
institution for treatment, but when that man comes out he should be as
free from all taint as the man is who recovers from a contagious
disease and again takes his place in society." In conclusion, I said,
"From a scientific point of view there is a great field for
research.... Cannot some of the causes be discovered and perhaps done
away with, thereby saving the lives of many--and millions in money? It
may come about that some day something will be found which will prevent
a complete and incurable mental breakdown...."

Thus did I, as revealed by these rather crude, unrevised quotations,
somewhat prophetically, if extravagantly, box the compass that later
guided the ship of my hopes (not one of my phantom ships) into a safe
channel, and later into a safe harbor.

By way of mental diversion during these creative days at the Yale Club,
I wrote personal letters to intimate friends. One of these produced a
result unlooked for. There were about it compromising earmarks which
the friend to whom it was sent recognized. In it I said that I intended
to approach a certain man of wealth and influence who lived in New
York, with a view to securing some action that would lead to reform.
That was enough. My friend showed the letter to my brother--the one who
had acted as my conservator. He knew at once that I was in an excited
mental condition. But he could not very well judge the degree of the
excitement; for when I had last talked with him a week earlier, I had
not discussed my larger plans. Business affairs and my hope for
business advancement had then alone interested me.

I talked with President Hadley on Friday; Saturday I went to New York;
Sunday and Monday I spent at the Yale Club, writing; Tuesday, this
telltale letter fell under the prescient eye of my brother. On that day
he at once got in touch with me by telephone. We briefly discussed the
situation. He did not intimate that he believed me to be in elation. He
simply urged me not to attempt to interest anyone in my project until I
had first returned to New Haven and talked with him. Now I had already
gone so far as to invite my employers to dine with me that very night
at the Yale Club for the purpose of informing them of my plans. This I
did, believing it to be only fair that they should know what I intended
to do, so that they might dispense with my services should they feel
that my plans would in any way impair my usefulness as an employe. Of
this dinner engagement, therefore, I told my brother. But so
insistently did he urge me to defer any such conference as I proposed
until I had talked with him that, although it was too late to break the
dinner engagement, I agreed to avoid, if possible, any reference to my
project. I also agreed to return home the next day.

That night my guests honored me as agreed. For an hour or two we
discussed business conditions and affairs in general. Then, one of them
referred pointedly to my implied promise to unburden myself on a
certain subject, the nature of which he did not at the time know. I
immediately decided that it would be best to "take the bull by the
horns," submit my plans, and, if necessary, sever my connection with
the firm, should its members force me to choose (as I put it) between
themselves and Humanity. I then proceeded to unfold my scheme; and,
though I may have exhibited a decided intensity of feeling during my
discourse, at no time, I believe, did I overstep the bounds of what
appeared to be sane enthusiasm. My employers agreed that my purpose was
commendable--that no doubt I could and would eventually be able to do
much for those I had left behind in a durance I so well knew to be
vile. Their one warning was that I seemed in too great a hurry. They
expressed the opinion that I had not been long enough re-established in
business to be able to persuade people of wealth and influence to take
hold of my project. And one of my guests very aptly observed that I
could not afford to be a philanthropist, which objection I met by
saying that all I intended to do was to supply ideas for those who
could afford to apply them. The conference ended satisfactorily. My
employers disclaimed any personal objection to my proceeding with my
project, if I would, and yet remaining in their employ. They simply
urged me to "go slow." "Wait until you're forty," one of them said. I
then thought that I might do so. And perhaps I should have waited so
long, had not the events of the next two days put me on the right road
to an earlier execution of my cherished plans.

The next day, January 4th, true to my word, I went home. That night I
had a long talk with my brother. I did not suspect that a man like
myself, capable of dealing with bankers and talking for several
consecutive hours with his employers without arousing their suspicion
as to his mental condition, was to be suspected by his own relatives.
Nor, indeed, with the exception of my brother, who had read my
suspiciously excellent letter, were any of my relatives disturbed; and
he did nothing to disabuse my assurance. After our night conference he
left for his own home, casually mentioning that he would see me again
the next morning. That pleased me, for I was in a talkative mood and
craved an interested listener.

When my brother returned the next morning, I willingly accepted his
invitation to go with him to his office, where we could talk without
fear of interruption. Arrived there, I calmly sat down and prepared to
prove my whole case. I had scarcely "opened fire" when in walked a
stranger--a strapping fellow, to whom my brother immediately introduced
me. I instinctively felt that it was by no mere chance that this third
party had so suddenly appeared. My eyes at once took in the dark blue
trousers worn by the otherwise conventionally dressed stranger. That
was enough. The situation became so clear that the explanations which
followed were superfluous. In a word, I was under arrest, or in
imminent danger of being arrested. To say that I was not in the least
disconcerted would scarcely be true, for I had not divined my brother's
clever purpose in luring me to his office. But I can say, with truth,
that I was the coolest person in the room. I knew what I should do
next, but my brother and the officer of the law could only guess. The
fact is I did nothing. I calmly remained seated, awaiting the verdict
which I well knew my brother, with characteristic decision, had already
prepared. With considerable effort--for the situation, he has since
told me, was the most trying one of his life--he informed me that on
the preceding day he had talked with the doctors to whom I had so
opportunely exhibited myself a week earlier. All agreed that I was in a
state of elation which might or might not become more pronounced. They
had advised that I be persuaded to submit voluntarily to treatment in a
hospital, or that I be, if necessary, forcibly committed. On this
advice my brother had proceeded to act. And it was well so; for, though
I appreciated the fact that I was by no means in a normal state of
mind, I had not a clear enough insight into my condition to realize
that treatment and a restricted degree of liberty were what I needed,
since continued freedom might further inflame an imagination already

A few simple statements by my brother convinced me that it was for my
own good and the peace of mind of my relatives that I should
temporarily surrender my freedom. This I agreed to do. Perhaps the
presence of two hundred pounds of brawn and muscle, representing the
law, lent persuasiveness to my brother's words. In fact, I did assent
the more readily because I admired the thorough, sane, fair, almost
artistic manner in which my brother had brought me to bay. I am
inclined to believe that, had I suspected that a recommitment was
imminent, I should have fled to a neighboring State during the
preceding night. Fortunately, however, the right thing was done in the
right way at the right time. Though I had been the victim of a clever
stratagem, not for one moment thereafter, in any particular, was I
deceived. I was frankly told that several doctors had pronounced me
elated, and that for my own good I _must_ submit to treatment. I was
allowed to choose between a probate court commitment which would have
"admitted me" to the State Hospital, or a "voluntary commitment" which
would enable me to enter the large private hospital where I had
previously passed from depression to elation, and had later suffered
tortures. I naturally chose the more desirable of the two disguised
blessings, and agreed to start at once for the private hospital, the
one in which I had been when depression gave way to elation. It was not
that I feared again to enter the State Hospital. I simply wished to
avoid the publicity which necessarily would have followed, for at that
time the statutes of Connecticut did not provide for voluntary
commitment to the state hospitals. Then, too, there were certain
privileges which I knew I could not enjoy in a public institution.
Having re-established myself in society and business I did not wish to
forfeit that gain; and as the doctors believed that my period of
elation would be short, it would have been sheer folly to advertise the
fact that my mental health had again fallen under suspicion.

But before starting for the hospital I imposed certain conditions. One
was that the man with the authoritative trousers should walk behind at
such a distance that no friend or acquaintance who might see my brother
and myself would suspect that I was under guard; the other was that the
doctors at the institution should agree to grant my every request, no
matter how trivial, so long as doing so could in no way work to my own
injury. My privileges were to include that of reading and writing to my
heart's content, and the procuring of such books and supplies as my
fancy might dictate. All this was agreed to. In return I agreed to
submit to the surveillance of an attendant when I went outside the
hospital grounds. This I knew would contribute to the peace of mind of
my relatives, who naturally could not rid themselves of the fear that
one so nearly normal as myself might take it into his head to leave the
State and resist further attempts at control. As I felt that I could
easily elude my keeper, should I care to escape, his presence also
contributed to _my_ peace of mind, for I argued that the ability to
outwit my guard would atone for the offence itself.

I then started for the hospital; and I went with a willingness
surprising even to myself. A cheerful philosophy enabled me to turn an
apparently disagreeable situation into one that was positively pleasing
to me. I convinced myself that I could extract more real enjoyment from
life during the ensuing weeks within the walls of a "retreat" than I
could in the world outside. My one desire was to write, write, write.
My fingers itched for a pen. My desire to write was, I imagine, as
irresistible as is the desire of a drunkard for his dram. And the act
of writing resulted in an intoxicating pleasure composed of a mingling
of emotions that defies analysis.

That I should so calmly, almost eagerly, enter where devils might fear
to tread may surprise the reader who already has been informed of the
cruel treatment I had formerly received there. I feared nothing, for I
knew all. Having seen the worst, I knew how to avoid the pitfalls into
which, during my first experience at that hospital, I had fallen or
deliberately walked. I was confident that I should suffer no abuse or
injustice so long as the doctors in charge should live up to their
agreement and treat me with unvarying fairness. This they did, and my
quick recovery and subsequent discharge may be attributed partly to
this cause. The assistant physicians who had come in contact with me
during my first experience in this hospital were no longer there. They
had resigned some months earlier, shortly after the death of the former
superintendent. Thus it was that I started with a clean record, free
from those prejudices which so often affect the judgment of a hospital
physician who has treated a mental patient at his worst.


On more than one occasion my chameleonlike temperament has enabled me
to adjust myself to new conditions, but never has it served me better
than it did at the time of which I write. A free man on New Year's Day,
enjoying the pleasures of a congenial club life, four days later I
found myself again under the lock and key of an institution for the
insane. Never had I enjoyed life in New York more than during those
first days of that new year. To suffer so rude a change was, indeed,
enough to arouse a feeling of discontent, if not despair; yet, aside
from the momentary initial shock, my contentment was in no degree
diminished. I can say with truth that I was as complacent the very
moment I recrossed the threshold of that "retreat" as I had been when
crossing and recrossing at will the threshold of my club.

Of everything I thought and did during the interesting weeks which
followed, I have a complete record. The moment I accepted the
inevitable, I determined to spend my time to good advantage. Knowing
from experience that I must observe my own case, if I was to have any
detailed record of it, I provided myself in advance with notebooks. In
these I recorded, I might almost say, my every thought and action. The
sane part of me, which fortunately was dominant, subjected its
temporarily unruly part to a sort of scientific scrutiny and
surveillance. From morning till night I dogged the steps of my restless
body and my more restless imagination. I observed the physical and
mental symptoms which I knew were characteristic of elation. An
exquisite light-heartedness, an exalted sense of wellbeing, my pulse,
my weight, my appetite--all these I observed and recorded with a care
that would have put to the blush a majority of the doctors in charge of
mental cases in institutions.

But this record of symptoms, though minute, was vague compared to my
reckless analysis of my emotions. With a lack of reserve characteristic
of my mood, I described the joy of living, which, for the most part,
then consisted in the joy of writing. And even now, when I reread my
record, I feel that I cannot overstate the pleasure I found in
surrendering myself completely to that controlling impulse. The
excellence of my composition seemed to me beyond criticism. And, as to
one in a state of elation, things are pretty much as they seem, I was
able to experience the subtle delights which, I fancy, thrill the soul
of a master. During this month of elation I wrote words enough to fill
a book nearly as large as this one. Having found that each filling of
my fountain pen was sufficient for the writing of about twenty-eight
hundred words, I kept a record of the number of times I filled it. This
minute calculation I carried to an extreme. If I wrote for fifty-nine
minutes, and then read for seventeen, those facts I recorded. Thus, in
my diary and out of it, I wrote and wrote until the tips of my thumb
and forefinger grew numb. As this numbness increased and general
weariness of the hand set in, there came a gradual flagging of my
creative impulse until a very normal unproductivity supervened.

The reader may well wonder in what my so-called insanity at this time
consisted. Had I any of those impracticable delusions which had
characterized my former period of elation? No, not one--unless an
unreasonable haste to achieve my ambitions may be counted a delusion.
My attention simply focussed itself on my project. All other
considerations seemed of little moment. My interest in business waned
to the vanishing point. Yet one thing should be noted: I did
deliberately devote many hours to the consideration of business
affairs. Realizing that one way to overcome an absorbing impulse is to
divide the attention, I wrote a brief of the arguments I had often used
when talking with bankers. In this way I was able to convince the
doctors that my intense interest in literature and reform would soon
spend itself.

A consuming desire to effect reforms had been the determining factor
when I calmly weighed the situation with a view to making the best
possible use of my impulse to write. The events of the immediate past
had convinced me that I could not hope to interest people of wealth and
influence in my humanitarian project until I had some definite plan to
submit for their leisurely consideration. Further, I had discovered
that an attempt to approach them directly disturbed my relatives and
friends, who had not yet learned to dissociate! present intentions from
past performances. I had, therefore, determined to drill myself in the
art of composition to the end that I might write a story of my life
which would merit publication. I felt that such a book, once written,
would do its own work, regardless of my subsequent fortunes. Other
books had spoken even from the grave; why should not my book so
speak--if necessary?

With this thought in mind I began not only to read and write, but to
test my impulse in order that I might discover if it were a part of my
very being, an abnormal impulse, or a mere whim. I reasoned that to
compare my own feelings toward literature, and my emotions experienced
in the heat of composition, with the recorded feelings of successful
men of letters, would give me a clue to the truth on this question. At
this time I read several books that could have served as a basis for my
deductions, but only one of them did I have time to analyze and note in
my diary. That one was, "Wit and Wisdom of the Earl of Beaconsfield."
The following passages from the pen of Disraeli I transcribed in my
diary with occasional comment.

"Remember who you are, and also that it is your duty to excel.
Providence has given you a great lot. Think ever that you are born to
perform great duties." This I interpreted in much the same spirit that
I had interpreted the 45th Psalm on an earlier occasion.

"It was that noble ambition, the highest and best, that must be born in
the heart, and organized in the brain, which will not let a man be
content unless his intellectual power is recognized by his race, and
desires that it should contribute to their welfare."

"Authors--the creators of opinion."

"What appear to be calamities are often the sources of fortune."

"Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant."
("Then why," was my recorded comment, "cannot the changes I propose to
bring about, be brought about?")

"The author is, as we must ever remember, of peculiar organization. He
is a being born with a predisposition which with him is irresistible,
the bent of which he cannot in any way avoid, whether it directs him to
the abstruse researches of erudition or induces him to mount into the
fervid and turbulent atmosphere of imagination."

"This," I wrote (the day after arriving at the hospital) "is a fair
diagnosis of my case as it stands to-day, assuming, of course, that an
author is one who loves to write, and can write with ease, even though
what he says may have no literary value. My past proves that my
organization is a peculiar one. I have for years (two and a half) had a
desire to achieve success along literary lines. I believe that, feeling
as I do to-day, nothing can prevent my writing. If I had to make a
choice at once between a sure success in the business career ahead of
me and doubtful success in the field of literature, I would willingly,
yes confidently, choose the latter. I have read many a time about
successful writers who learned how to write, and by dint of hard work
ground out their ideas. If these men could succeed, why should not a
man who is in danger of being ground up by an excess of ideas and
imagination succeed, when he seems able to put those ideas into fairly
intelligible English? He should and will succeed."

Therefore, without delay, I began the course of experiment and practice
which culminated within a few months in the first draft of my story.
Wise enough to realize the advantages of a situation free from the
annoying interruptions of the workaday world, I enjoyed a degree of
liberty seldom experienced by those in possession of complete legal
liberty and its attendant obligations. When I wished to read, write,
talk, walk, sleep, or eat, I did the thing I wished. I went to the
theatre when the spirit moved me to do so, accompanied, of course, by
an attendant, who on such occasions played the role of chum.

Friends called to see me and, at their suggestion or mine, invited me
to dinner outside the walls of my "cloister." At one of these dinners
an incident occurred which throws a clear light on my condition at the
time. The friend, whose willing prisoner I was, had invited a common
friend to join the party. The latter had not heard of my recent
commitment. At my suggestion, he who shared my secret had agreed not to
refer to it unless I first broached the subject. There was nothing
strange in the fact that we three should meet. Just such impromptu
celebrations had before occurred among us. We dined, and, as friends
will, indulged in that exchange of thoughts which bespeaks intimacy.
During our talk, I so shaped the conversation that the possibility of a
recurrence of my mental illness was discussed. The uninformed friend
derided the idea.

"Then, if I were to tell you," I remarked, "that I am at this moment
supposedly insane--at least not normal--and that when I leave you
to-night I shall go direct to the very hospital where I was formerly
confined, there to remain until the doctors pronounce me fit for
freedom, what would you say?"

"I should say that you are a choice sort of liar," he retorted.

This genial insult I swallowed with gratification. It was, in truth, a
timely and encouraging compliment, the force of which its author failed
to appreciate until my host had corroborated my statements.

If I could so favorably impress an intimate friend at a time when I was
elated, it is not surprising that I should subsequently hold an
interview with a comparative stranger--the cashier of a local
bank--without betraying my state of mind. As business interviews go,
this was in a class by itself. While my attendant stood guard at the
door, I, an enrolled inmate of a hospital for the insane, entered the
banking room and talked with a level-headed banker. And that interview
was not without effect in subsequent negotiations which led to the
closing of a contract amounting to one hundred and fifty thousand

The very day I re-entered the hospital I stopped on the way at a local
hotel and procured some of the hostelry's stationery. By using this in
the writing of personal and business letters I managed to conceal my
condition and my whereabouts from all except near relatives and a few
intimate friends who shared the secret. I quite enjoyed leading this
legitimate double life. The situation appealed (not in vain) to my
sense of humor. Many a smile did I indulge in when I closed a letter
with such ambiguous phrases as the following: "Matters of importance
necessitate my remaining where I am for an indefinite period." ... "A
situation has recently arisen which will delay my intended trip South.
As soon as I have closed a certain contract (having in mind my contract
to re-establish my sanity) I shall again take to the road." To this day
few friends or acquaintances know that I was in semi-exile during the
month of January, 1905. My desire to suppress the fact was not due, as
already intimated, to any sensitiveness regarding the subject of
insanity. What afterwards justified my course was that on regaining my
freedom I was able, without embarrassment, again to take up my work.
Within a month of my voluntary commitment, that is, in February, I
started on a business trip through the Central West and South, where I
remained until the following July. During those months I felt perfectly
well, and have remained in excellent health ever since.

This second interruption of my career came at a time and in a manner to
furnish me with strong arguments wherewith to support my contention
that so-called madmen are too often man-made, and that he who is
potentially mad may keep a saving grip on his own reason if he be
fortunate enough to receive that kindly and intelligent treatment to
which one on the brink of mental chaos is entitled. Though during this
second period of elation I was never in a mood so reckless as that
which obtained immediately after my recovery from depression in August,
1902, I was at least so excitable that, had those in authority
attempted to impose upon me, I should have thrown discretion to the
winds. To them, indeed, I frankly reiterated a terse dictum which I had
coined during my first period of elation. "Just press the button of
Injustice," I said, "and I'll do the rest!" This I meant, for fear of
punishment does not restrain a man in the dare-devil grip of elation.

What fostered my self-control was a sense of gratitude. The doctors and
attendants treated me as a gentleman. Therefore it was not difficult to
prove myself one. My every whim was at least considered with a
politeness which enabled me to accept a denial with a highly sane
equanimity. Aside from mild tonics I took no other medicine than that
most beneficial sort which inheres in kindness. The feeling that,
though a prisoner, I could still command obligations from others led me
to recognize my own reciprocal obligations, and was a constant source
of delight. The doctors, by proving their title to that confidence
which I tentatively gave them upon re-entering the institution, had no
difficulty in convincing me that a temporary curtailment of some
privileges was for my own good. They all evinced a consistent desire to
trust me. In return I trusted them.


On leaving the hospital and resuming my travels, I felt sure that any
one of several magazines or newspapers would willingly have had me
conduct my campaign under its nervously commercial auspices; but a
flash-in-the-pan method did not appeal to me. Those noxious growths,
Incompetence, Abuse, and Injustice, had not only to be cut down, but
rooted out. Therefore, I clung to my determination to write a book--an
instrument of attack which, if it cuts and sears at all, does so as
long as the need exists. Inasmuch as I knew that I still had to learn
how to write, I approached my task with deliberation. I planned to do
two things: first, to crystallize my thoughts by discussion--telling
the story of my life whenever in my travels I should meet any person
who inspired my confidence; second, while the subject matter of my book
was shaping itself in my mind, to drill myself by carrying on a
letter-writing campaign. Both these things I did--as certain indulgent
friends who bore the brunt of my spoken and written discourse can
certify. I feared the less to be dubbed a bore, and I hesitated the
less, perhaps, to impose upon good-nature, because of my firm
conviction that one in a position to help the many was himself entitled
to the help of the few.

I wrote scores of letters of great length. I cared little if some of my
friends should conclude that I had been born a century too late; for,
without them as confidants, I must write with no more inspiring object
in view than the wastebasket. Indeed, I found it difficult to compose
without keeping before me the image of a friend. Having stipulated that
every letter should be returned upon demand, I wrote without
reserve--my imagination had free rein. I wrote as I thought, and I
thought as I pleased. The result was that within six months I found
myself writing with a facility which hitherto had obtained only during
elation. At first I was suspicious of this new-found and apparently
permanent ease of expression--so suspicious that I set about diagnosing
my symptoms. My self-examination convinced me that I was, in fact,
quite normal. I had no irresistible desire to write, nor was there any
suggestion of that exalted, or (technically speaking) euphoric,
light-heartedness which characterizes elation. Further, after a
prolonged period of composition, I experienced a comforting sense of
exhaustion which I had not known while elated. I therefore
concluded--and rightly--that my unwonted facility was the product of
practice. At last I found myself able to conceive an idea and
immediately transfer it to paper effectively.

In July, 1905, I came to the conclusion that the time for beginning my
book was at hand. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to set a definite
date. About this time I so arranged my itinerary that I was able to
enjoy two summer--though stormy--nights and a day at the Summit House
on Mount Washington. What better, thought I, than to begin my book on a
plane so high as to be appropriate to this noble summit? I therefore
began to compose a dedication. "To Humanity" was as far as I got. There
the Muse forsook me.

But, returning to earth and going about my business, I soon again found
myself in the midst of inspiring natural surroundings--the Berkshire
Hills. At this juncture Man came to the assistance of Nature, and
perhaps with an unconsciousness equal to her own. It was a chance
remark made by an eminent man that aroused my subconscious literary
personality to irresistible action. I had long wished to discuss my
project with a man of great reputation, and if the reputation were
international, so much the better. I desired the unbiased opinion of a
judicial mind. Opportunely, I learned that the Hon. Joseph H. Choate
was then at his summer residence at Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Mr.
Choate had never heard of me and I had no letter of introduction. The
exigencies of the occasion, however, demanded that I conjure one up, so
I wrote my own letter of introduction and sent it:

August 18, 1905.

Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


Though I might present myself at your door, armed with one of
society's unfair skeleton-keys--a letter of introduction--I prefer
to approach you as I now do: simply as a young man who honestly
feels entitled to at least five minutes of your time, and as many
minutes more as you care to grant because of your interest in the
subject to be discussed.

I look to you at this time for your opinion as to the value of
some ideas of mine, and the feasibility of certain schemes based
on them.

A few months ago I talked with President Hadley of Yale, and
briefly outlined my plans. He admitted that many of them seemed
feasible and would, if carried out, add much to the sum-total of
human happiness. His only criticism was that they were "too

Not until I have staggered an imagination of the highest type will
I admit that I am trying to do too much. Should you refuse to see
me, believe me when I tell you that you will still be, as you are
at this moment, the unconscious possessor of my sincere respect.

Business engagements necessitate my leaving here early on Monday
next. Should you care to communicate with me, word sent in care of
this hotel will reach me promptly.

Yours very truly,


Within an hour I had received a reply, in which Mr. Choate said that he
would see me at his home at ten o'clock the next morning.

At the appointed time, the door, whose lock I had picked with a pen,
opened before me and I was ushered into the presence of Mr. Choate. He
was graciousness itself--but pointed significantly at a heap of
unanswered letters lying before him. I took the hint and within ten
minutes briefly outlined my plans. After pronouncing my project a
"commendable one," Mr. Choate offered the suggestion that produced
results. "If you will submit your ideas in writing," he said, "I shall
be glad to read your manuscript and assist you in any way I can. To
consider fully your scheme would require several hours, and busy men
cannot very well give you so much time. What they can do is to read
your manuscript during their leisure moments."

Thus it was that Mr. Choate, by granting the interview, contributed to
an earlier realization of my purposes. One week later I began the
composition of this book. My action was unpremeditated, as my quitting
Boston for less attractive Worcester proves. That very day, finding
myself with a day and a half of leisure before me, I decided to tempt
the Muse and compel myself to prove that my pen was, in truth, "the
tongue of a ready writer." A stranger in the city, I went to a school
of stenography and there secured the services of a young man who,
though inexperienced in his art, was more skilled in catching thoughts
as they took wing than I was at that time in the art of setting them
free. Except in the writing of one or two conventional business
letters, never before had I dictated to a stenographer. After I had
startled him into an attentive mood by briefly outlining my past career
and present purpose, I worked without any definite plan or brief, or
reference to data. My narrative was therefore digressive and only
roughly chronological. But it served to get my material in front of me
for future shaping. At this task I hammered away three or four hours a
day for a period of five weeks.

It so happened that Mr. Choate arrived at the same hotel on the day I
took up my abode there, so that some of the toil he had inspired went
on in his proximity, if not in his presence. I carefully kept out of
his sight, however, lest he should think me a "crank" on the subject of
reform, bent on persecuting his leisure.

As the work progressed my facility increased. In fact, I soon called in
an additional stenographer to help in the snaring of my thoughts. This
excessive productivity caused me to pause and again diagnose my
condition. I could not fail now to recognize in myself symptoms hardly
distinguishable from those which had obtained eight months earlier when
it had been deemed expedient temporarily to restrict my freedom. But I
had grown wise in adversity. Rather than interrupt my manuscript short
of completion I decided to avail myself of a vacation that was due, and
remain outside my native State--this, so that well-meaning but perhaps
overzealous relatives might be spared unnecessary anxiety, and I myself
be spared possible unwarranted restrictions. I was by no means certain
as to the degree of mental excitement that would result from such
continuous mental application; nor did I much care, so long as I
accomplished my task. However, as I knew that "possession is nine
points of the law," I decided to maintain my advantage by remaining in
my literary fortress. And my resolve was further strengthened by
certain cherished sentiments expressed by John Stuart Mill in his essay
"On Liberty," which I had read and reread with an interest born of

At last the first draft of the greater part of my story was completed.
After a timely remittance (for, in strict accordance with the
traditions of the craft, I had exhausted my financial resources) I
started for home with a sigh of relief. For months I had been under the
burden of a conscious obligation. My memory, stored with information
which, if rightly used, could, I believed, brighten and even save
unhappy lives, was to me as a basket of eggs which it was my duty to
balance on a head whose poise was supposed to be none too certain. One
by one, during the preceding five weeks, I had gently lifted my
thoughts from their resting-place, until a large part of my burden had
been so shifted as to admit of its being imposed upon the public

After I had lived over again the trials and the tortures of my
unhappiest years--which was of course necessary in ploughing and
harrowing a memory happily retentive--the completion of this first
draft left me exhausted. But after a trip to New York, whither I went
to convince my employers that I should be granted a further
leave-of-absence, I resumed work. The ground for this added favor was
that my manuscript was too crude to submit to any but intimate
acquaintances. Knowing, perhaps, that a business man with a literary
bee buzzing in his ear is, for the time, no business man at all, my
employers readily agreed that I should do as I pleased during the month
of October. They also believed me entitled to the favor, recognizing
the force of my belief that I had a high obligation to discharge.

It was under the family rooftree that I now set up my literary shop.
Nine months earlier an unwonted interest in literature and reform had
sent me to an institution. That I should now in my own home be able to
work out my destiny without unduly disturbing the peace of mind of
relatives was a considerable satisfaction. In the very room where,
during June, 1900, my reason had set out for an unknown goal, I
redictated my account of that reason's experiences.

My leave-of-absence ended, I resumed my travels eagerly; for I wished
to cool my brain by daily contact with the more prosaic minds of men of
business. I went South. For a time I banished all thoughts of my book
and project. But after some months of this change of occupation, which
I thoroughly enjoyed, I found leisure in the course of wide travels to
take up the work of elaboration and revision. A presentable draft of my
story being finally prepared, I began to submit it to all sorts and
conditions of minds (in accordance with Mill's dictum that only in that
way can the truth be obtained). In my quest for criticism and advice, I
fortunately decided to submit my manuscript to Professor William James
of Harvard University, the most eminent of American psychologists and a
masterful writer, who was then living. He expressed interest in my
project; put my manuscript with others on his desk--but was somewhat
reserved when it came to promising to read my story. He said it might

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