Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/646

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

not born an inebriate. But nobody believes it would be safe for him to tamper with intoxicating liquors, because, in all probability, he has inherited a predisposition to inebriety. And, if one's ancestors have been consumptives, the disease that affected their lungs would, under favorable circumstances, be more apt to affect his than those of one whose ancestors had never had consumption. If a man had an uncle, or an aunt, or a brother, who had suffered from that disease, it would seem to indicate that it was "in the blood." And so, in the same way, as regards insanity. It would not be correct, of course, to say that a person inherited insanity from an uncle or a brother. But the fact that the uncle or the brother had been insane would show that the disease was in the family—in the blood—and one, in such a case, would have good reason to be apprehensive lest he himself might have inherited a predisposition to become insane from the same source whence his relatives had derived their tendency.

The first that I remember of my attack was while I was riding in a railroad-car. It seemed to me that the passengers in the forward part were getting up amateur theatricals. The fact that this did not surprise me, nor appear at all out of place, illustrates one curious feature of insanity, and that is, its close similarity in many respects to dreaming. It is well known that the strange phantasmagoria attendant upon most of our dreams never strikes us at the time as at all astonishing, illogical, or contradictory, because the critical faculty in sleep is partially and perhaps wholly dormant. And so also is it in insanity. And as a sound or a touch will suggest or give direction to an ordinary dream, so everything that occurs within the sight or hearing of an insane man affects him in like manner. Also, he has no more control over his words and actions, when the insanity is complete, than a somnambulist. And, when a patient comes to himself, after having been insane, he feels as though he had been having a long and, sometimes, a very unpleasant dream. Some of my delusions were of a frightful character, and resembled a nightmare more than anything else; but more often they were by no means disagreeable. Of course, it seemed strange to me afterward that I could have been carried away by such absurdities. At one time I thought that the end of the world had come, and that the day of judgment was at hand. This was somewhat remarkable, because I had not for years been a believer in the scriptural prophecies relating to those two events. Nor had I any faith in the doctrine that there is a hell of fire; yet, in imagination, I visited that place of torment, and witnessed the tortures of the damned—without, however, getting scorched myself. Some strange conceits, that I had come across in books, occasionally suggested material for my mind to work on. I saw men whose souls I believed had been taken from their bodies, leaving behind the intelligent personal identity—an idea suggested by a character described in Bulwer's "Strange Story." Again, I thought that demons occasion-