Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/450

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patients has greatly increased in recent years. In other words, the apparent increase of insanity is mainly marked among those who become pauper patients. This is certainly in great measure accounted for by the disproportionate accumulation of cases in pauper asylums, for reasons into which it is not now needful to enter. It assuredly does not prove that there has been anything like a corresponding growth of insanity among the poor as compared with the rich.

In any case, however, the illiterate population does yield a very serious amount of insanity, and the fact is so patent that it shows beyond a doubt that ignorance is no proof against the inroads of the disease. The absence of rational employment of the mental powers may lead to debasing habits and to the indulgence in vices especially favorable to insanity, less likely to attract a mind occupied with literary and scientific pursuits. No doubt mental stagnation is in itself bad, but the insanity arising out of it is more frequently an indirect than a direct result. If a Wiltshire laborer is more liable to insanity than other people, it may be not merely because his mind is in an uncultivated condition, but rather because his habits,[1] indirectly favored by his ignorance, and the brain he inherited from parents indulging in like habits, tend to cause mental derangement. It is conceivable that he might have had no more mental cultivation, and yet have been so circumstanced that there would have been very little liability to the disease. This distinction is extremely important if we are tracing causes, however true it would remain that ignorance is a great evil. A South-Sea islander might be much more ignorant than the Wiltshire laborer, and yet not be so circumstanced that he would be likely to transgress the laws of mental health. The ignorance of an African tribe and that of a village in Wilts may be associated, the one with very little, the other with very much lunacy. Mr. Bright's "residuum" of a civilized people and a tribe of North American Indians are alike uneducated, but, notwithstanding, present totally different conditions of life. We have no doubt that in a civilized community there will always be found by far the larger number of insane persons. There are three grand reasons for this. First, because those who do become insane, or are idiotic among savages, "go to the wall" as a general rule; the other reasons are to be discovered in the mixed character and influence of European civilization; its action on the one hand in evolving forms of mental life of requisite delicacy and sensibility, easily injured or altogether crushed by the rough blasts from which they cannot escape in life; and on the other hand in producing a state confounded, as we have said, with savagery, but which differs widely from it, and is, simply in relation to mental disorders, actually worse. Recklessness, drunkenness, poverty, misery, charac-

  1. Dr. Thurnam, the late superintendent of the Wilts County Asylum, found that the proportion of cases caused by drink in this county was very high—in one year (1872) amounting to thirty-four per cent.