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The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether
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southern provinces of France, my route led me within a few miles of a
certain Maison de Sante or private mad-house, about which I had heard
much in Paris from my medical friends. As I had never visited a place
of the kind, I thought the opportunity too good to be lost; and so
proposed to my travelling companion (a gentleman with whom I had made
casual acquaintance a few days before) that we should turn aside, for
an hour or so, and look through the establishment. To this he
objected -- pleading haste in the first place, and, in the second, a
very usual horror at the sight of a lunatic. He begged me, however,
not to let any mere courtesy towards himself interfere with the
gratification of my curiosity, and said that he would ride on
leisurely, so that I might overtake him during the day, or, at all
events, during the next. As he bade me good-bye, I bethought me that
there might be some difficulty in obtaining access to the premises,
and mentioned my fears on this point. He replied that, in fact,
unless I had personal knowledge of the superintendent, Monsieur
Maillard, or some credential in the way of a letter, a difficulty
might be found to exist, as the regulations of these private
mad-houses were more rigid than the public hospital laws. For
himself, he added, he had, some years since, made the acquaintance of
Maillard, and would so far assist me as to ride up to the door and
introduce me; although his feelings on the subject of lunacy would
not permit of his entering the house.
I thanked him, and, turning from the main road, we entered a
grass-grown by-path, which, in half an hour, nearly lost itself in a
dense forest, clothing the base of a mountain. Through this dank and
gloomy wood we rode some two miles, when the Maison de Sante came in
view. It was a fantastic chateau, much dilapidated, and indeed
scarcely tenantable through age and neglect. Its aspect inspired me
with absolute dread, and, checking my horse, I half resolved to turn
back. I soon, however, grew ashamed of my weakness, and proceeded.
As we rode up to the gate-way, I perceived it slightly open, and the
visage of a man peering through. In an instant afterward, this man
came forth, accosted my companion by name, shook him cordially by the
hand, and begged him to alight. It was Monsieur Maillard himself. He
was a portly, fine-looking gentleman of the old school, with a
polished manner, and a certain air of gravity, dignity, and authority
which was very impressive.
My friend, having presented me, mentioned my desire to inspect the
establishment, and received Monsieur Maillard's assurance that he
would show me all attention, now took leave, and I saw him no more.
When he had gone, the superintendent ushered me into a small and
exceedingly neat parlor, containing, among other indications of
refined taste, many books, drawings, pots of flowers, and musical
instruments. A cheerful fire blazed upon the hearth. At a piano,
singing an aria from Bellini, sat a young and very beautiful woman,
who, at my entrance, paused in her song, and received me with
graceful courtesy. Her voice was low, and her whole manner subdued. I
thought, too, that I perceived the traces of sorrow in her
countenance, which was excessively, although to my taste, not
unpleasingly, pale. She was attired in deep mourning, and excited in
my bosom a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and admiration.
I had heard, at Paris, that the institution of Monsieur Maillard was
managed upon what is vulgarly termed the "system of soothing" -- that
all punishments were avoided -- that even confinement was seldom
resorted to -- that the patients, while secretly watched, were left
much apparent liberty, and that most of them were permitted to roam
about the house and grounds in the ordinary apparel of persons in
Keeping these impressions in view, I was cautious in what I said
before the young lady; for I could not be sure that she was sane;
and, in fact, there was a certain restless brilliancy about her eyes
which half led me to imagine she was not. I confined my remarks,
therefore, to general topics, and to such as I thought would not be
displeasing or exciting even to a lunatic. She replied in a perfectly
rational manner to all that I said; and even her original
observations were marked with the soundest good sense, but a long
acquaintance with the metaphysics of mania, had taught me to put no
faith in such evidence of sanity, and I continued to practise,
throughout the interview, the caution with which I commenced it.
Presently a smart footman in livery brought in a tray with fruit,
wine, and other refreshments, of which I partook, the lady soon
afterward leaving the room. As she departed I turned my eyes in an
inquiring manner toward my host.
"No," he said, "oh, no -- a member of my family -- my niece, and a
most accomplished woman."
"I beg a thousand pardons for the suspicion," I replied, "but of
course you will know how to excuse me. The excellent administration
of your affairs here is well understood in Paris, and I thought it
just possible, you know-
"Yes, yes -- say no more -- or rather it is myself who should thank
you for the commendable prudence you have displayed. We seldom find
so much of forethought in young men; and, more than once, some
unhappy contre-temps has occurred in consequence of thoughtlessness
on the part of our visitors. While my former system was in operation,
and my patients were permitted the privilege of roaming to and fro at
will, they were often aroused to a dangerous frenzy by injudicious
persons who called to inspect the house. Hence I was obliged to
enforce a rigid system of exclusion; and none obtained access to the
premises upon whose discretion I could not rely."
"While your former system was in operation!" I said, repeating his
words -- "do I understand you, then, to say that the 'soothing
system' of which I have heard so much is no longer in force?"
"It is now," he replied, "several weeks since we have concluded to
renounce it forever."
"Indeed! you astonish me!"
"We found it, sir," he said, with a sigh, "absolutely necessary to
return to the old usages. The danger of the soothing system was, at
all times, appalling; and its advantages have been much overrated. I
believe, sir, that in this house it has been given a fair trial, if
ever in any. We did every thing that rational humanity could suggest.
I am sorry that you could not have paid us a visit at an earlier
period, that you might have judged for yourself. But I presume you
are conversant with the soothing practice -- with its details."
"Not altogether. What I have heard has been at third or fourth hand."
"I may state the system, then, in general terms, as one in which the
patients were menages-humored. We contradicted no fancies which
entered the brains of the mad. On the contrary, we not only indulged
but encouraged them; and many of our most permanent cures have been
thus effected. There is no argument which so touches the feeble
reason of the madman as the argumentum ad absurdum. We have had men,
for example, who fancied themselves chickens. The cure was, to insist
upon the thing as a fact -- to accuse the patient of stupidity in not
sufficiently perceiving it to be a fact -- and thus to refuse him any
other diet for a week than that which properly appertains to a
chicken. In this manner a little corn and gravel were made to perform
"But was this species of acquiescence all?"
"By no means. We put much faith in amusements of a simple kind, such
as music, dancing, gymnastic exercises generally, cards, certain
classes of books, and so forth. We affected to treat each individual
as if for some ordinary physical disorder, and the word 'lunacy' was
never employed. A great point was to set each lunatic to guard the
actions of all the others. To repose confidence in the understanding
or discretion of a madman, is to gain him body and soul. In this way
we were enabled to dispense with an expensive body of keepers."
"And you had no punishments of any kind?"
"And you never confined your patients?"
"Very rarely. Now and then, the malady of some individual growing to
a crisis, or taking a sudden turn of fury, we conveyed him to a
secret cell, lest his disorder should infect the rest, and there kept
him until we could dismiss him to his friends -- for with the raging
maniac we have nothing to do. He is usually removed to the public
"And you have now changed all this -- and you think for the better?"
"Decidedly. The system had its disadvantages, and even its dangers.
It is now, happily, exploded throughout all the Maisons de Sante of
"I am very much surprised," I said, "at what you tell me; for I made
sure that, at this moment, no other method of treatment for mania
existed in any portion of the country."
"You are young yet, my friend," replied my host, "but the time will
arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on
in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe
nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see. Now about our
Maisons de Sante, it is clear that some ignoramus has misled you.
After dinner, however, when you have sufficiently recovered from the
fatigue of your ride, I will be happy to take you over the house, and
introduce to you a system which, in my opinion, and in that of every
one who has witnessed its operation, is incomparably the most
effectual as yet devised."
"Your own?" I inquired -- "one of your own invention?"
"I am proud," he replied, "to acknowledge that it is -- at least in
In this manner I conversed with Monsieur Maillard for an hour or two,
during which he showed me the gardens and conservatories of the
"I cannot let you see my patients," he said, "just at present. To a
sensitive mind there is always more or less of the shocking in such
exhibitions; and I do not wish to spoil your appetite for dinner. We
will dine. I can give you some veal a la Menehoult, with cauliflowers
in veloute sauce -- after that a glass of Clos de Vougeot -- then
your nerves will be sufficiently steadied."
At six, dinner was announced; and my host conducted me into a large
salle a manger, where a very numerous company were assembled --
twenty-five or thirty in all. They were, apparently, people of
rank-certainly of high breeding -- although their habiliments, I
thought, were extravagantly rich, partaking somewhat too much of the
ostentatious finery of the vielle cour. I noticed that at least
two-thirds of these guests were ladies; and some of the latter were
by no means accoutred in what a Parisian would consider good taste at
the present day. Many females, for example, whose age could not have
been less than seventy were bedecked with a profusion of jewelry,
such as rings, bracelets, and earrings, and wore their bosoms and
arms shamefully bare. I observed, too, that very few of the dresses
were well made -- or, at least, that very few of them fitted the
wearers. In looking about, I discovered the interesting girl to whom
Monsieur Maillard had presented me in the little parlor; but my
surprise was great to see her wearing a hoop and farthingale, with
high-heeled shoes, and a dirty cap of Brussels lace, so much too
large for her that it gave her face a ridiculously diminutive
expression. When I had first seen her, she was attired, most
becomingly, in deep mourning. There was an air of oddity, in short,
about the dress of the whole party, which, at first, caused me to
recur to my original idea of the "soothing system," and to fancy that
Monsieur Maillard had been willing to deceive me until after dinner,
that I might experience no uncomfortable feelings during the repast,
at finding myself dining with lunatics; but I remembered having been
informed, in Paris, that the southern provincialists were a
peculiarly eccentric people, with a vast number of antiquated
notions; and then, too, upon conversing with several members of the
company, my apprehensions were immediately and fully dispelled.
The dining-room itself, although perhaps sufficiently comfortable and
of good dimensions, had nothing too much of elegance about it. For
example, the floor was uncarpeted; in France, however, a carpet is
frequently dispensed with. The windows, too, were without curtains;
the shutters, being shut, were securely fastened with iron bars,
applied diagonally, after the fashion of our ordinary shop-shutters.
The apartment, I observed, formed, in itself, a wing of the chateau,
and thus the windows were on three sides of the parallelogram, the
door being at the other. There were no less than ten windows in all.
The table was superbly set out. It was loaded with plate, and more
than loaded with delicacies. The profusion was absolutely barbaric.
There were meats enough to have feasted the Anakim. Never, in all my
life, had I witnessed so lavish, so wasteful an expenditure of the
good things of life. There seemed very little taste, however, in the
arrangements; and my eyes, accustomed to quiet lights, were sadly
offended by the prodigious glare of a multitude of wax candles,
which, in silver candelabra, were deposited upon the table, and all
about the room, wherever it was possible to find a place. There were
several active servants in attendance; and, upon a large table, at
the farther end of the apartment, were seated seven or eight people
with fiddles, fifes, trombones, and a drum. These fellows annoyed me
very much, at intervals, during the repast, by an infinite variety of
noises, which were intended for music, and which appeared to afford
much entertainment to all present, with the exception of myself.
Upon the whole, I could not help thinking that there was much of the
bizarre about every thing I saw -- but then the world is made up of
all kinds of persons, with all modes of thought, and all sorts of
conventional customs. I had travelled, too, so much, as to be quite
an adept at the nil admirari; so I took my seat very coolly at the
right hand of my host, and, having an excellent appetite, did justice
to the good cheer set before me.
The conversation, in the meantime, was spirited and general. The
ladies, as usual, talked a great deal. I soon found that nearly all
the company were well educated; and my host was a world of
good-humored anecdote in himself. He seemed quite willing to speak of
his position as superintendent of a Maison de Sante; and, indeed, the
topic of lunacy was, much to my surprise, a favorite one with all
present. A great many amusing stories were told, having reference to
the whims of the patients.
"We had a fellow here once," said a fat little gentleman, who sat at
my right, -- "a fellow that fancied himself a tea-pot; and by the
way, is it not especially singular how often this particular crotchet
has entered the brain of the lunatic? There is scarcely an insane
asylum in France which cannot supply a human tea-pot. Our gentleman
was a Britannia -- ware tea-pot, and was careful to polish himself
every morning with buckskin and whiting."
"And then," said a tall man just opposite, "we had here, not long
ago, a person who had taken it into his head that he was a donkey --
which allegorically speaking, you will say, was quite true. He was a
troublesome patient; and we had much ado to keep him within bounds.
For a long time he would eat nothing but thistles; but of this idea
we soon cured him by insisting upon his eating nothing else. Then he
was perpetually kicking out his heels-so-so-"
"Mr. De Kock! I will thank you to behave yourself!" here interrupted
an old lady, who sat next to the speaker. "Please keep your feet to
yourself! You have spoiled my brocade! Is it necessary, pray, to
illustrate a remark in so practical a style? Our friend here can
surely comprehend you without all this. Upon my word, you are nearly
as great a donkey as the poor unfortunate imagined himself. Your
acting is very natural, as I live."
"Mille pardons! Ma'm'selle!" replied Monsieur De Kock, thus addressed
-- "a thousand pardons! I had no intention of offending. Ma'm'selle
Laplace -- Monsieur De Kock will do himself the honor of taking wine
Here Monsieur De Kock bowed low, kissed his hand with much ceremony,
and took wine with Ma'm'selle Laplace.
"Allow me, mon ami," now said Monsieur Maillard, addressing myself,
"allow me to send you a morsel of this veal a la St. Menhoult -- you
will find it particularly fine."
At this instant three sturdy waiters had just succeeded in depositing
safely upon the table an enormous dish, or trencher, containing what
I supposed to be the "monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen
ademptum." A closer scrutiny assured me, however, that it was only a
small calf roasted whole, and set upon its knees, with an apple in
its mouth, as is the English fashion of dressing a hare.
"Thank you, no," I replied; "to say the truth, I am not particularly
partial to veal a la St. -- what is it? -- for I do not find that it
altogether agrees with me. I will change my plate, however, and try
some of the rabbit."
There were several side-dishes on the table, containing what appeared
to be the ordinary French rabbit -- a very delicious morceau, which I
"Pierre," cried the host, "change this gentleman's plate, and give
him a side-piece of this rabbit au-chat."
"This what?" said I.
"This rabbit au-chat."
"Why, thank you -- upon second thoughts, no. I will just help myself
to some of the ham."
There is no knowing what one eats, thought I to myself, at the tables
of these people of the province. I will have none of their rabbit
au-chat -- and, for the matter of that, none of their cat-au-rabbit
"And then," said a cadaverous looking personage, near the foot of the
table, taking up the thread of the conversation where it had been
broken off, -- "and then, among other oddities, we had a patient,
once upon a time, who very pertinaciously maintained himself to be a
Cordova cheese, and went about, with a knife in his hand, soliciting
his friends to try a small slice from the middle of his leg."
"He was a great fool, beyond doubt," interposed some one, "but not to
be compared with a certain individual whom we all know, with the
exception of this strange gentleman. I mean the man who took himself
for a bottle of champagne, and always went off with a pop and a fizz,
in this fashion."
Here the speaker, very rudely, as I thought, put his right thumb in
his left cheek, withdrew it with a sound resembling the popping of a
cork, and then, by a dexterous movement of the tongue upon the teeth,
created a sharp hissing and fizzing, which lasted for several
minutes, in imitation of the frothing of champagne. This behavior, I
saw plainly, was not very pleasing to Monsieur Maillard; but that
gentleman said nothing, and the conversation was resumed by a very
lean little man in a big wig.
"And then there was an ignoramus," said he, "who mistook himself for
a frog, which, by the way, he resembled in no little degree. I wish
you could have seen him, sir," -- here the speaker addressed myself
-- "it would have done your heart good to see the natural airs that
he put on. Sir, if that man was not a frog, I can only observe that
it is a pity he was not. His croak thus -- o-o-o-o-gh -- o-o-o-o-gh!
was the finest note in the world -- B flat; and when he put his
elbows upon the table thus -- after taking a glass or two of wine --
and distended his mouth, thus, and rolled up his eyes, thus, and
winked them with excessive rapidity, thus, why then, sir, I take it
upon myself to say, positively, that you would have been lost in
admiration of the genius of the man."
"I have no doubt of it," I said.
"And then," said somebody else, "then there was Petit Gaillard, who
thought himself a pinch of snuff, and was truly distressed because he
could not take himself between his own finger and thumb."
"And then there was Jules Desoulieres, who was a very singular
genius, indeed, and went mad with the idea that he was a pumpkin. He
persecuted the cook to make him up into pies -- a thing which the
cook indignantly refused to do. For my part, I am by no means sure
that a pumpkin pie a la Desoulieres would not have been very capital
"You astonish me!" said I; and I looked inquisitively at Monsieur
"Ha! ha! ha!" said that gentleman -- "he! he! he! -- hi! hi! hi! --
ho! ho! ho! -- hu! hu! hu! hu! -- very good indeed! You must not be
astonished, mon ami; our friend here is a wit -- a drole -- you must
not understand him to the letter."
"And then," said some other one of the party, -- "then there was
Bouffon Le Grand -- another extraordinary personage in his way. He
grew deranged through love, and fancied himself possessed of two
heads. One of these he maintained to be the head of Cicero; the other
he imagined a composite one, being Demosthenes' from the top of the
forehead to the mouth, and Lord Brougham's from the mouth to the
chin. It is not impossible that he was wrong; but he would have
convinced you of his being in the right; for he was a man of great
eloquence. He had an absolute passion for oratory, and could not
refrain from display. For example, he used to leap upon the
dinner-table thus, and -- and-"
Here a friend, at the side of the speaker, put a hand upon his
shoulder and whispered a few words in his ear, upon which he ceased
talking with great suddenness, and sank back within his chair.
"And then," said the friend who had whispered, "there was Boullard,
the tee-totum. I call him the tee-totum because, in fact, he was
seized with the droll but not altogether irrational crotchet, that he
had been converted into a tee-totum. You would have roared with
laughter to see him spin. He would turn round upon one heel by the
hour, in this manner -- so -- "
Here the friend whom he had just interrupted by a whisper, performed
an exactly similar office for himself.
"But then," cried the old lady, at the top of her voice, "your
Monsieur Boullard was a madman, and a very silly madman at best; for
who, allow me to ask you, ever heard of a human tee-totum? The thing
is absurd. Madame Joyeuse was a more sensible person, as you know.
She had a crotchet, but it was instinct with common sense, and gave
pleasure to all who had the honor of her acquaintance. She found,
upon mature deliberation, that, by some accident, she had been turned
into a chicken-cock; but, as such, she behaved with propriety. She
flapped her wings with prodigious effect -- so -- so -- and, as for
her crow, it was delicious! Cock-a-doodle-doo! -- cock-a-doodle-doo!
"Madame Joyeuse, I will thank you to behave yourself!" here
interrupted our host, very angrily. "You can either conduct yourself
as a lady should do, or you can quit the table forthwith-take your
The lady (whom I was much astonished to hear addressed as Madame
Joyeuse, after the description of Madame Joyeuse she had just given)
blushed up to the eyebrows, and seemed exceedingly abashed at the
reproof. She hung down her head, and said not a syllable in reply.
But another and younger lady resumed the theme. It was my beautiful
girl of the little parlor.
"Oh, Madame Joyeuse was a fool!" she exclaimed, "but there was really
much sound sense, after all, in the opinion of Eugenie Salsafette.
She was a very beautiful and painfully modest young lady, who thought
the ordinary mode of habiliment indecent, and wished to dress
herself, always, by getting outside instead of inside of her clothes.
It is a thing very easily done, after all. You have only to do so --
and then so -- so -- so -- and then so -- so -- so -- and then so --
so -- and then-
"Mon dieu! Ma'm'selle Salsafette!" here cried a dozen voices at once.
"What are you about? -- forbear! -- that is sufficient! -- we see,
very plainly, how it is done! -- hold! hold!" and several persons
were already leaping from their seats to withhold Ma'm'selle
Salsafette from putting herself upon a par with the Medicean Venus,
when the point was very effectually and suddenly accomplished by a
series of loud screams, or yells, from some portion of the main body
of the chateau.
My nerves were very much affected, indeed, by these yells; but the
rest of the company I really pitied. I never saw any set of
reasonable people so thoroughly frightened in my life. They all grew
as pale as so many corpses, and, shrinking within their seats, sat
quivering and gibbering with terror, and listening for a repetition
of the sound. It came again -- louder and seemingly nearer -- and
then a third time very loud, and then a fourth time with a vigor
evidently diminished. At this apparent dying away of the noise, the
spirits of the company were immediately regained, and all was life
and anecdote as before. I now ventured to inquire the cause of the
"A mere bagtelle," said Monsieur Maillard. "We are used to these
things, and care really very little about them. The lunatics, every
now and then, get up a howl in concert; one starting another, as is
sometimes the case with a bevy of dogs at night. It occasionally
happens, however, that the concerto yells are succeeded by a
simultaneous effort at breaking loose, when, of course, some little
danger is to be apprehended."
"And how many have you in charge?"
"At present we have not more than ten, altogether."
"Principally females, I presume?"
"Oh, no -- every one of them men, and stout fellows, too, I can tell
"Indeed! I have always understood that the majority of lunatics were
of the gentler sex."
"It is generally so, but not always. Some time ago, there were about
twenty-seven patients here; and, of that number, no less than
eighteen were women; but, lately, matters have changed very much, as
"Yes -- have changed very much, as you see," here interrupted the
gentleman who had broken the shins of Ma'm'selle Laplace.
"Yes -- have changed very much, as you see!" chimed in the whole
company at once.
"Hold your tongues, every one of you!" said my host, in a great rage.
Whereupon the whole company maintained a dead silence for nearly a
minute. As for one lady, she obeyed Monsieur Maillard to the letter,
and thrusting out her tongue, which was an excessively long one, held
it very resignedly, with both hands, until the end of the
"And this gentlewoman," said I, to Monsieur Maillard, bending over
and addressing him in a whisper -- "this good lady who has just
spoken, and who gives us the cock-a-doodle-de-doo -- she, I presume,
is harmless -- quite harmless, eh?"
"Harmless!" ejaculated he, in unfeigned surprise, "why -- why, what
can you mean?"
"Only slightly touched?" said I, touching my head. "I take it for
granted that she is not particularly not dangerously affected, eh?"
"Mon dieu! what is it you imagine? This lady, my particular old
friend Madame Joyeuse, is as absolutely sane as myself. She has her
little eccentricities, to be sure -- but then, you know, all old
women -- all very old women -- are more or less eccentric!"
"To be sure," said I, -- "to be sure -- and then the rest of these
ladies and gentlemen-"
"Are my friends and keepers," interupted Monsieur Maillard, drawing
himself up with hauteur, -- "my very good friends and assistants."
"What! all of them?" I asked, -- "the women and all?"
"Assuredly," he said, -- "we could not do at all without the women;
they are the best lunatic nurses in the world; they have a way of
their own, you know; their bright eyes have a marvellous effect; --
something like the fascination of the snake, you know."
"To be sure," said I, -- "to be sure! They behave a little odd, eh?
-- they are a little queer, eh? -- don't you think so?"
"Odd! -- queer! -- why, do you really think so? We are not very
prudish, to be sure, here in the South -- do pretty much as we please
-- enjoy life, and all that sort of thing, you know-"
"To be sure," said I, -- "to be sure."
And then, perhaps, this Clos de Vougeot is a little heady, you know
-- a little strong -- you understand, eh?"
"To be sure," said I, -- "to be sure. By the bye, Monsieur, did I
understand you to say that the system you have adopted, in place of
the celebrated soothing system, was one of very rigorous severity?"
"By no means. Our confinement is necessarily close; but the treatment
-- the medical treatment, I mean -- is rather agreeable to the
patients than otherwise."
"And the new system is one of your own invention?"
"Not altogether. Some portions of it are referable to Professor Tarr,
of whom you have, necessarily, heard; and, again, there are
modifications in my plan which I am happy to acknowledge as belonging
of right to the celebrated Fether, with whom, if I mistake not, you
have the honor of an intimate acquaintance."
"I am quite ashamed to confess," I replied, "that I have never even
heard the names of either gentleman before."
"Good heavens!" ejaculated my host, drawing back his chair abruptly,
and uplifting his hands. "I surely do not hear you aright! You did
not intend to say, eh? that you had never heard either of the learned
Doctor Tarr, or of the celebrated Professor Fether?"
"I am forced to acknowledge my ignorance," I replied; "but the truth
should be held inviolate above all things. Nevertheless, I feel
humbled to the dust, not to be acquainted with the works of these, no
doubt, extraordinary men. I will seek out their writings forthwith,
and peruse them with deliberate care. Monsieur Maillard, you have
really -- I must confess it -- you have really -- made me ashamed of
And this was the fact.
"Say no more, my good young friend," he said kindly, pressing my
hand, -- "join me now in a glass of Sauterne."
We drank. The company followed our example without stint. They
chatted -- they jested -- they laughed -- they perpetrated a thousand
absurdities -- the fiddles shrieked -- the drum row-de-dowed -- the
trombones bellowed like so many brazen bulls of Phalaris -- and the
whole scene, growing gradually worse and worse, as the wines gained
the ascendancy, became at length a sort of pandemonium in petto. In
the meantime, Monsieur Maillard and myself, with some bottles of
Sauterne and Vougeot between us, continued our conversation at the
top of the voice. A word spoken in an ordinary key stood no more
chance of being heard than the voice of a fish from the bottom of
"And, sir," said I, screaming in his ear, "you mentioned something
before dinner about the danger incurred in the old system of
soothing. How is that?"
"Yes," he replied, "there was, occasionally, very great danger
indeed. There is no accounting for the caprices of madmen; and, in my
opinion as well as in that of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, it is
never safe to permit them to run at large unattended. A lunatic may
be 'soothed,' as it is called, for a time, but, in the end, he is
very apt to become obstreperous. His cunning, too, is proverbial and
great. If he has a project in view, he conceals his design with a
marvellous wisdom; and the dexterity with which he counterfeits
sanity, presents, to the metaphysician, one of the most singular
problems in the study of mind. When a madman appears thoroughly sane,
indeed, it is high time to put him in a straitjacket."
"But the danger, my dear sir, of which you were speaking, in your own
experience -- during your control of this house -- have you had
practical reason to think liberty hazardous in the case of a
"Here? -- in my own experience? -- why, I may say, yes. For example:
-- no very long while ago, a singular circumstance occurred in this
very house. The 'soothing system,' you know, was then in operation,
and the patients were at large. They behaved remarkably
well-especially so, any one of sense might have known that some
devilish scheme was brewing from that particular fact, that the
fellows behaved so remarkably well. And, sure enough, one fine
morning the keepers found themselves pinioned hand and foot, and
thrown into the cells, where they were attended, as if they were the
lunatics, by the lunatics themselves, who had usurped the offices of
"You don't tell me so! I never heard of any thing so absurd in my
"Fact -- it all came to pass by means of a stupid fellow -- a lunatic
-- who, by some means, had taken it into his head that he had
invented a better system of government than any ever heard of before
-- of lunatic government, I mean. He wished to give his invention a
trial, I suppose, and so he persuaded the rest of the patients to
join him in a conspiracy for the overthrow of the reigning powers."
"And he really succeeded?"
"No doubt of it. The keepers and kept were soon made to exchange
places. Not that exactly either -- for the madmen had been free, but
the keepers were shut up in cells forthwith, and treated, I am sorry
to say, in a very cavalier manner."
"But I presume a counter-revolution was soon effected. This condition
of things could not have long existed. The country people in the
neighborhood-visitors coming to see the establishment -- would have
given the alarm."
"There you are out. The head rebel was too cunning for that. He
admitted no visitors at all -- with the exception, one day, of a very
stupid-looking young gentleman of whom he had no reason to be afraid.
He let him in to see the place -- just by way of variety, -- to have
a little fun with him. As soon as he had gammoned him sufficiently,
he let him out, and sent him about his business."
"And how long, then, did the madmen reign?"
"Oh, a very long time, indeed -- a month certainly -- how much longer
I can't precisely say. In the meantime, the lunatics had a jolly
season of it -- that you may swear. They doffed their own shabby
clothes, and made free with the family wardrobe and jewels. The
cellars of the chateau were well stocked with wine; and these madmen
are just the devils that know how to drink it. They lived well, I can
"And the treatment -- what was the particular species of treatment
which the leader of the rebels put into operation?"
"Why, as for that, a madman is not necessarily a fool, as I have
already observed; and it is my honest opinion that his treatment was
a much better treatment than that which it superseded. It was a very
capital system indeed -- simple -- neat -- no trouble at all -- in
fact it was delicious it was."
Here my host's observations were cut short by another series of
yells, of the same character as those which had previously
disconcerted us. This time, however, they seemed to proceed from
persons rapidly approaching.
"Gracious heavens!" I ejaculated -- "the lunatics have most
undoubtedly broken loose."
"I very much fear it is so," replied Monsieur Maillard, now becoming
excessively pale. He had scarcely finished the sentence, before loud
shouts and imprecations were heard beneath the windows; and,
immediately afterward, it became evident that some persons outside
were endeavoring to gain entrance into the room. The door was beaten
with what appeared to be a sledge-hammer, and the shutters were
wrenched and shaken with prodigious violence.
A scene of the most terrible confusion ensued. Monsieur Maillard, to
my excessive astonishment threw himself under the side-board. I had
expected more resolution at his hands. The members of the orchestra,
who, for the last fifteen minutes, had been seemingly too much
intoxicated to do duty, now sprang all at once to their feet and to
their instruments, and, scrambling upon their table, broke out, with
one accord, into, "Yankee Doodle," which they performed, if not
exactly in tune, at least with an energy superhuman, during the whole
of the uproar.
Meantime, upon the main dining-table, among the bottles and glasses,
leaped the gentleman who, with such difficulty, had been restrained
from leaping there before. As soon as he fairly settled himself, he
commenced an oration, which, no doubt, was a very capital one, if it
could only have been heard. At the same moment, the man with the
teetotum predilection, set himself to spinning around the apartment,
with immense energy, and with arms outstretched at right angles with
his body; so that he had all the air of a tee-totum in fact, and
knocked everybody down that happened to get in his way. And now, too,
hearing an incredible popping and fizzing of champagne, I discovered
at length, that it proceeded from the person who performed the bottle
of that delicate drink during dinner. And then, again, the frog-man
croaked away as if the salvation of his soul depended upon every note
that he uttered. And, in the midst of all this, the continuous
braying of a donkey arose over all. As for my old friend, Madame
Joyeuse, I really could have wept for the poor lady, she appeared so
terribly perplexed. All she did, however, was to stand up in a
corner, by the fireplace, and sing out incessantly at the top of her
And now came the climax -- the catastrophe of the drama. As no
resistance, beyond whooping and yelling and cock-a-doodling, was
offered to the encroachments of the party without, the ten windows
were very speedily, and almost simultaneously, broken in. But I shall
never forget the emotions of wonder and horror with which I gazed,
when, leaping through these windows, and down among us pele-mele,
fighting, stamping, scratching, and howling, there rushed a perfect
army of what I took to be Chimpanzees, Ourang-Outangs, or big black
baboons of the Cape of Good Hope.
I received a terrible beating -- after which I rolled under a sofa
and lay still. After lying there some fifteen minutes, during which
time I listened with all my ears to what was going on in the room, I
came to same satisfactory denouement of this tragedy. Monsieur
Maillard, it appeared, in giving me the account of the lunatic who
had excited his fellows to rebellion, had been merely relating his
own exploits. This gentleman had, indeed, some two or three years
before, been the superintendent of the establishment, but grew crazy
himself, and so became a patient. This fact was unknown to the
travelling companion who introduced me. The keepers, ten in number,
having been suddenly overpowered, were first well tarred, then --
carefully feathered, and then shut up in underground cells. They had
been so imprisoned for more than a month, during which period
Monsieur Maillard had generously allowed them not only the tar and
feathers (which constituted his "system"), but some bread and
abundance of water. The latter was pumped on them daily. At length,
one escaping through a sewer, gave freedom to all the rest.
The "soothing system," with important modifications, has been resumed
at the chateau; yet I cannot help agreeing with Monsieur Maillard,
that his own "treatment" was a very capital one of its kind. As he
justly observed, it was "simple -- neat -- and gave no trouble at all
-- not the least."
I have only to add that, although I have searched every library in
Europe for the works of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, I have, up
to the present day, utterly failed in my endeavors at procuring an
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