My Fulbourn Star

“The patient was a respectable artisan of considerable intelligence, and was sent to the Cambridgeshire Asylum after being nearly three years in a melancholy mood. . . . He spent much of his time in writing – sometimes verses, at others long letters of the most rambling character, and in drawing extraordinary diagrams . . . After he left the Asylum he went to work at his trade . . . but some two or three years later he began to write very strangely again .  . .

“This is one of the letters he wrote at this time, after a visit from a medical man, who tried to dissuade him from writing in this way : –

Dear Doctor,

To write or not to write, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to follow the visit of the great ‘Fulbourn’ with ‘chronic melancholy’ expressions of regret (withheld when he was here) that, as the Fates would have it, we were so little prepared to receive him, and to evince my humble desire to do honour to his visit. My Fulbourn star, but an instant seen, like a meteor’s flash, a blank when gone.

The dust of ages covering my little sanctum parlour room, the available drapery to greet the Doctor, stowed away through the midst of the regenerating (water and scrubbing – cleanliness next to godliness, political and spiritual) cleansing of a little world. The Great Physician walked, bedimmed by the ‘dark ages’, the long passage of Western Enterprise, leading to the curvatures of rising Eastern morn. The rounded configuration of Lunar (tics) garden’s lives an o’ershadowment on Britannia’s vortex.

“… In the course of another year he had some domestic troubles, which upset him a good deal, and he ended by drowning himself one day in a public spot. The peculiarity was, that he could work well, and not attract public attention, while he was in his leisure moments writing the most incoherent nonsense.”

from On The Writing Of The Insane by G. Mackenzie Bacon (1870). Available online at the Public Domain Review.

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