• hogarth bedlam

Methodism: A Common Cause of Lunacy

hogarth bedlam

How Methodism leads to Bedlam…

 

misfortunes, troubles, disappointments, grief…206
family/heredity………………………………………………115
fevers…………………………………………………………….110
religion and methodism………………………………….90
childbed………………………………………………………….79
love………………………………………………………………..74
drink……………………………………………………………….58
fright……………………………………………………………….51
study……………………………………………………………….90

These figures are for ‘Lunacy by Cause’ in a table published by the apothecary of the Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) towards the end of the 18th century. I came across it in The Air Loom Gang, Mike Jay’s fascinating study of the case of James Tilly Matthews.

The table can read like a kind of macabre poem, or summing up of human life. I particularly like the category ‘religion and methodism’ – as if Methodism were not quite worthy of classifying as ‘religion’. This no doubt reflects contemporary suspicion of the inflammatory emotionalism of some Methodist preachers.

Methodism was blamed by some for triggering not only religious mania but also sexual frenzy and its regrettable consequences. Indeed it was commonplace in some parts of the country for young men to loiter outside Methodist chapels in the hope of taking advantage of the aroused state of susceptible young women after a particularly strong sermon by a good-looking preacher.

How very unlike the present-day incarnation of Wesley’s great movement.

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Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

3 thoughts on “Methodism: A Common Cause of Lunacy

  1. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    December 17, 2015 at 10:18

    Was that, I wonder, the beginnings of the target driven NHS. Considering the general condition of the population of London at that time, the figure of 58 nutters with alcohol related problems seems somewhat of an under estimation.

  2. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    George
    December 17, 2015 at 10:18

    Stendhal would have found it telling that love comes so far behind “Religion and methodism”, and given one a paragraph or two on on the chilly and canting ways of the English, and for that matter Americans. One does forget, in its present-day respectability, how unusual Methodism looked then. Smollett’s Humphrey Clinker gives a skeptical but lively picture.

  3. jjechenthal@yahoo.com'
    Bugscuttle
    December 30, 2015 at 00:09

    I wish i had had this information in my school days. “Mom, I can’t study a minute more, insanity looms!”

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