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Editor's Table, April 1852
Another first of April! Dear reader, the compliments of the season to thee. We do not know how thou wilt take this. But if thou wilt break off from thy carking cares -- go in fancy for a moment to merry old Eng-land, where the first of April is held to be a Saint, and throw thyself, mind, body and heart, into the joys and glories of this blessed day, we know that thou wilt take it kindly. All there, from grand-papa down to baby, are full of making fools, not getting tipsy nor making others so, not pulling wool, doing or diddling people, but doing every thing in love, and adding more breadth to their faces, more length to their girth strap and more days to their life, than were bestowed even by the blessed holidays at Yule. Do as they do, and thou wilt be better and wiser; never will phrenzy or melancholy of thine bring thee to the Gallows or Lunatic Asylum.
Considerable anxiety is sometimes expressed by persons who derive a morbid satisfaction from looking on scenes of human misery, as to the propriety, safety, &c., of their visiting the Asylum. This diseased state of the sentiments is most incident to those who have been badly educated, and who, especially, have not been taught to fol-low up feeling by the corresponding actions. They are mightily stirred by a story of distress, but never think of an effort to relieve it. The natural tie between emotion and conduct has suffered a violent disruption. -- We do not like to see such people passing through our halls. The authoress of the following letter belongs to the class we have been describing, and a decent respect for her sex demands that we should not pass it by unnoticed.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE OPAL:
SIR, -- My father is a citizen of the State of New-York, and a voter in regular standing, and he has told me that by reason of these things he and his family have free admission to the Asylum. As I have not much to do at home, (mother and the help doing all the work,) I proposed a few days ago that we should have a good sleigh-ride and fetch up at the Asylum. We were a merry party. When we got up on the big stoop and among the stone pillars, we were surprised to I have a man say to us, that "it was past the hour for visitors." We were indigant of course, and told him that we had come to go through the Asylum, and not to learn the time of day. He said that he would speak to some one; and soon a man came to us, (a mighty handsome one by the way,) and fixing a great searching black eye upon us, said to us that we might go through; but he scared us all by cautioning us with a tone and look, which I shall never forget, to bear in mind that we were in a Hospital for the Insane. So we went round. Every thing was as clean as clean can be. (I hope mother wont go there; for she it forever dinging at me about dirt in my room): We were all disappointed. For all we could see, the patients look and act like other people. We asked our guide, who was civil enough, if he would'nt take us where we could see something. He politely bowed us away to the sleigh.
Now, Sir, if this is all that one can see in your place, I beg leave to tell you that I shall not visit it again, and shall dissuade all my friends from doing so.
This it all at present from
Yours to command,
P.S. - Pray, is not the young man who went round with us a bit of a wag, or is he one of the patients.
Miss Araminta C. complains that "for all she could see, the patients look and act like other people." Ah -- could she look into the inner soul of those who so apparent composure has so disappointed her sickly and vulgar anticipations! Could she see the heart aching with a grief which will not and cannot be comforted -- or withered by long and solitary indulgence in thoughts of the neglect or scorn of the world, which, whether real or imaginary, cannot be removed by the sympathising tones nor cheering smiles of that love which always soothes and animates a mind in trouble -- or torn and racked by passions which are always contending with each other, and, having no reality for their object, may never give any outward manifestation of the agonizing tumult which reigns within!
But Araminta complains, that she was not I taken where she could "see something." -- What does she mean by something? Is it slam-bang, kick, rear up, smash windows, make fun, and yell? Such things are to be seen outside of, as well as within the Asylum; but however entertaining they might be to the lady, the performance of them might hazard her safety. There are, we own, many queer cases amongst us, whose idiosyncrasies, while they are very funny, never endanger the safety of the most timid or the most pure. There is especially one little fellow whose ideas run incessantly on osculation. An uncontrollable desire to kiss every thing he sees is his failing. And the dreadful looks of the objects he sometimes selects for this pastime are the chief grounds for declaring him insane.
While we are on this subject, it may be well, by way of warning, to say that the Superintendent is obliged by every consideration of humanity, and, we believe authorized by law to detain all those persons, who, though supposing themselves to be visits to yet act in such a way as to justify the conclusion that they will derive benefit from the sanative principle of such an Institution as this. Great circumspection therefore should be maintained by all visitors -- especially young men. A striking instance of the consequences of neglecting this caution appears in the Journal of Insanity, and is as follows: