Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890

By Jenny Taylor; Sally Shuttleworth | Go to book overview

3. Inherited Legacies: Idiocy and Criminality

IDIOTS AGAIN

Anon., "'Idiots again'", Household Words, 9 ( 15 Apr. 1854), 197-200.

Dickens had surveyed development in the treatment of idiocy in an earlier article, written in collaboration with W. H. Wills, where he approvingly describes the new method of Dr Guggenbühl's mountain clinic in Switzerland, which produced extraordinary improvements in 'idiot' children, transforming them from 'stunted withered skeletons' to children moving 'rapidly towards perfect development' ( "'Idiots'", Household Words ( 4 June 1853), 315). The author of this of this unsigned article (probably Harriet Martineau) also emphasizes the role of moral management and education, but lays more stress on inherited factors.

It used to be thought a very religious and beautiful thing (it certainly was the easiest thing) to say that it pleased God to send idiots, and other defective or diseased children, to try and discipline their parents by affliction, and so on; but religious physicians now tell us (showing reason for what they say) that there is something very like blasphemy in talking so,--in imputing to Providence the sufferings which we bring upon ourselves, precisely by disobedience to the great natural laws which it is the best piety to obey. It is a common saying, that families who intermarry too often, die out; but no account is taken of the miseries which precede that dying out. Those miseries of disease of body and mind are ascribed to Providence, as if Providence had not given us abundant warning to avoid them! Dr. Howe, the wise and benevolent teacher of Laura Bridgman,1 says, in his Report on Idiotcy in

____________________
1
A deaf mute child whose remarkable mental development was widely discussed through the second half of the nineteenth century.

-322-

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Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • List of Illustrations xix
  • Section I Reading the Mind 1
  • 1. Physiognomy 8
  • 2. Phrenology 25
  • 3. Mesmerism 49
  • Section II The Unconscious Mind and the Workings of Memory 65
  • 1. Associationism and Physiological Psychology 73
  • 2. Dreams 102
  • 3. Double Consciousness 123
  • 4. Memory 141
  • Section III The Sexual Body 163
  • 1. Defining Womanhood 169
  • 2. the Uterine Economy 184
  • 3. Masculinity and the Control of Sexuality 209
  • Section IV Insanity and Nervous Disorders 225
  • 1. Moral Management and the Rise of the Psychiatrist 231
  • Section V Heredity, Degeneration, and Modern Life 285
  • 1. Nervous Economies: Morbidity and Modernity 293
  • 2. Concepts of Descent and Degeneration 303
  • 3. Inherited Legacies: Idiocy and Criminality 322
  • 4. Childhood 335
  • 5. Race and Hybridity 352
  • 6 Sex in Mind and Education 373
  • Notes on Authors 389
  • Select Bibliography 413
  • Index 423
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