As visiting physician to Bethlem Hospital, the archetypal "Bedlam" and Britain's first and (for hundreds of years) only public institution for the insane, Dr. John Monro (1715–1791) was a celebrity in his own day. Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull call him a "connoisseur of insanity, this high priest of the trade in lunacy." Although the basics of his life and career are well known, this study is the first to explore in depth Monro's colorful and contentious milieu. Mad-doctoring grew into a recognized, if not entirely respectable, profession during the eighteenth century, and besides being affiliated with public hospitals, Monro and other mad-doctors became entrepreneurs and owners of private madhouses and were consulted by the rich and famous.
Monro's close social connections with members of the aristocracy and gentry, as well as with medical professionals, politicians, and divines, guaranteed him a significant place in the social, political, cultural, and intellectual worlds of his time. Andrews and Scull draw on an astonishing array of visual materials and verbal sources that include the diaries, family papers, and correspondence of some of England's wealthiest and best-connected citizens. The book is also distinctive in the coverage it affords to individual case histories of Monro's patients, including such prominent contemporary figures as the Earls Ferrers and Orford, the religious "enthusiast" Alexander Cruden, and the "mad" King George III, as well as his crazy would-be assassin, Margaret Nicholson.
What the authors make clear is that Monro, a serious physician neither reactionary nor enlightened in his methods, was the outright epitome of the mad-trade as it existed then, esteemed in some quarters and ridiculed in others. The fifty illustrations, expertly annotated and integrated with the text, will be a revelation to many readers.
List of Illustrations
1. John Monro: The Making of a Mad-Doctor
2. The "Real Use" of Discussing Madness: The Great Lunacy Debate
3. Madness in Their Methodism: Religious Enthusiasm, the Mad-Doctors, and the Case of Alexander Cruden
4. Mad as a Lord: Monro and the Case of the Earl of Orford
5. Mansions of Misery: Mad-Doctors and the Mad-Trade
6. Murder Most Foul, Madness Most High: The Courtroom, the Stateroom, and the Misty Summits of the Mad-Doctor's Expertise
Jonathan Andrews is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Oxford Brookes University. His publications include The History of Bethlem (1997) and "They're in the Trade of Lunacy" (1998). Andrew Scull, author of Social Order/Mental Disorder (California, 1989; 1992) and The Most Solitary of Afflictions (1993), among other books, is Professor of Sociology and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
"Undertaker of the Mind is the most splendid piece of original research for many a year on the early history of British psychiatry. Brilliantly exploiting hitherto unused documentation, Andrews and Scull bring the once murky world of the eighteenth- century mad-doctor to life, and dispel many deeply embedded myths in the process. Absolutely essential reading!"—Roy Porter, author of The Creation of the Modern World
"This is a wonderfully well-written work... The authors reconstruct, in rich and convincing detail, the dilemmas faced by Monro, his patients, their families, and the broader culture when confronted with psychological distress."—Joel Braslow, author of Mental Ills and Bodily Cures
"A telling reconstruction of the ideas and practice of probably the most famous psychiatrist in eighteenth-century Britain.... The analyses of Monro's more famous cases, Cruden, Ferrers, etc., are both stimulating and entertaining."—William Bynum, author of Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century