Things Not Generally Known

“In a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, Dr Conolly, of the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, speaking of the moral treatment of the insane, stated as the result of the experience of his whole life, that distorted views on religious subjects are the cause of at least two-thirds of the cases of mania in ladies, especially those belonging to the upper classes. Touching with all reverence on the proper study of religious books, Dr Conolly lamented that morbid brooding over subjects of theology and points of doctrine is such a fruitful cause of mental diseases… Although Dr Conolly’s remarks pointed generally to the impropriety and danger of persons – ladies especially – abandoning themselves to self-guidance, and over-prolonged contemplation on subjects of religious controversy, he severely commented upon the injurious effects of those poisonous literary emanations appearing without authority, and dignified most improperly by the name of ‘religious’.”

I have to say that some of the greatest pleasures of my life have been found in morbid brooding about abstruse points of theological doctrine. Still, now I know better, don’t I? The quoted passage is from Things Not Generally Known by John Timbs (1858), where you can also read about such matters as insensibility of the brain, dread of eclipses, unpopular improvements, and the Death of the Beetle and the Giant. Clearly a work which had a profound influence on the out of print pamphleteer Dobson.

Thanks to Scribal Terror.

3 thoughts on “Things Not Generally Known

  1. Why does he believe that such unhealthy brooding is the cause of madness and not just another symptom of it. Inflated interest with religion is symptomatic of certain types of damage to the temporal lobe (and particularly temporal lobe epilepsy). Why is mania so special that Conolly believe it is caused by excessive religious activity rather than that is simply causes excessive religious activity as might seem to be the reasonable presumption. Madness.

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