Library Collections: Document: Full Text
From the Edinburgh Review.
1.Traitement Moral, Hygiéne et Education des Idiots et des autres Enfants Arriérés, &c. Par EDOUARD SÉGUIN. Paris: 1846.
2.Remarks, Theoretical and Practical, on the Education of Idiots and Children of Weak Intellect. By W. R. SCOTT, Ph.D. London: 1847.
3.Die Heilung und Verhütung des Cretinismus und Ihre Neuesten Fortschritte. Dr. Med. J. GUGGENBUHL. Bern und St. Gallen: 1853.
4.Teaching the Idiot. A Lecture at St. Martin's Hall, London, August 4, 1854, in connection with the Educational Exhibition of the Society of Arts and Manufactures. By the Rev. EDWIN SIDNEY, A.M. London: 1854.
5.Die gegenwärtige Loge der Cretinen, Blodfinnigen und Idioten in den Christlichen Landern. JULIUS DESSELHOFF. Bonn: 1857.
6.The Mind Unveiled. Philadelphia: 1858.
7.The Causes of Idiocy. Being the Supplement to a Report by Dr. S. G. Howe and the other Commissioners appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to inquire into the Condition of the Idiots of the Commonwealth. Edinburgh: 1858.
8.Two Visits to Earlswood Asylum for Idiots, 1859 and 1861. By the Rev. EDWIN SIDNEY, A.M. London: 1859 and 1861.
9.Eighth Annual Report of the Pennsylvanian Training School for Feeble-minded Children. Philadelphia: 1861.
10.The Method of Drill, the Gymnastic Exercises, and the Manner of Teaching Speaking, used at Essex Hall, Colchester, for Idiots, Simpletons, and Feeble-minded Children. By E. MARTIN DUNCAN, MB. (Londini). London: 1861.
11.The Idiot and his Helpers. By W. MILLARD, Essex Hall, Colchester. 1864.
12.Lunacy and Law, together with Hints on the Treatment of Idiots. By F. E. D. BYRNE, L.R.C.P. and M.R.C.S. London: 1864.
13.A Fête Day at Earlswood Asylum for Idiots, June 16, 1864. By the Rev. EDWIN SIDNEY, A.M. London: 1864.
14.The Training of Idiotic and Feeble-minded Children. By CHEYNE BRADY, Esq., M.R.I.H. Dublin: 1864.
IDIOTCY is unquestionably one of the most fearful of the host of maladies, which pass like gloomy shadows over the brightest spots of human civilization. Its intensity has also been much increased by the impression which so long prevailed, that it was almost incapable of any palliative, and certainly of anything in the shape of a remedy. Modern science and an enlarged philanthropy are, however, gradually removing this unhappy idea, and are showing that there is no class of unfortunates of our species to whom enlightened treatment may be applied with a more cheering hope of success. In this country, on the continent of Europe, and in America, reports of the results of the efforts we are about to describe are all equally replete with assurances that the increasing physiological and psychological knowledge, which is due to the researches of the strong-minded, is gradually becoming a great and unexpected boon to the feeble. These feeble ones are also shown to be far more numerous, both in the Old and New Worlds, than was generally imagined, and may in truth be numbered by many thousands, making an appalling array in the ranks of miserables. Mr. Byrne, in his Treatise on Lunacy and Law, which is in our list of books, speaking of idiots, says: 'That there are thousands of such is fully borne out by the Report of the Poor Law Board (1862-63), where it appears that on the 1st of January, 1862, there were in 649 unions and parishes 34,271 insane paupers, of whom 18,311 were idiots' (p. 12). Now, though the idiot requires a special treatment, and one totally distinct from the lunatic, being in fact absolutely injured by his contact with the insane, yet the only place provided for him is the county asylum, which of course subjects him to a treatment the opposite of being suitable. From page 20 of the same report, it appears that a new statute has been enacted, called 'An Act to provide for the Education and Maintenance of Pauper Children in certain Schools and Institutions,' 25 & 26 Vict. c. 43. This Act enables the guardians of a union to contract with the managers of any institution supported wholly or in part by voluntary contributions, for the education of idiotic persons, and to pay for their maintenance and education a sum not exceeding the cost of their relief in the workhouse. At present, however, such institutions are by no means in sufficient number to meet the want of them; but happily many intelligent and influential minds are now becoming acquainted with the subject, and alive to the serious duties it entails.
Nearly up to the present time the miserable idiot has been regarded as one of a Pariah caste, rather to be ignored as much as possible than sought out and succoured. Till the beginning of this century, idiots were regarded either with superstitious awe or abhorrence, and it is even said that Luther would fain have had one put to death as a monster filled with Satanic possession. In 1803 Abercromby, after Fodere (1) and Wenzel, (2) who wrote upon Cretins, turned his thoughts to the improvement of their condition; and in 1819 Dr. Poole communicated an important treatise on the subject to the Encyclopaidia Edinensis. Light, however, broke in slowly and feebly. We are told by Mr. Scott, that in the year 1839, Dr. Vosin, a French physician, gave in London some Orthophrenic lectures, which were apparently for the purpose of drawing attention to an institution he was connected with in France, called the Etablissement Orthophrenic, which was specially directed to sufferers from mental weakness. No interest, however, was awakened by these lectures. Mr. Scott goes on to inform us, by a quotation from a German paper, that 'the instruction of idiots has succeeded. The problem theoretically and practically has been solved by M. Sargent in conjunction with Mr. Sachs, first teacher of the establishment (the Deaf and Dumb Institution, Berlin), and this solution has been successfully proved and acknowledged by our eminent physicians Dr. Barry and Dr. Joseph Muller. So fully assured are the Prussian Government of the complete efficacy of the system, that a portion of the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Berlin is to be permanently set aside as a hospital for idiots, where the most effective methods of education can be tested and carried out.' In September, 1844, M. Sargent had twelve pupils, and employed a master to assist in their instruction, and two females to take care of them, the whole being most anxiously attended to according to his own plans. All were imbeciles and some idiots of a very low grade; but in time they became improved. Two of them were deaf mutes, and others were unable to walk or help themselves in any way; but those who could hear had more or less learned to speak, and some to sew, to draw and to write, while several played about cheerfully like other youths, appearing ameliorated both in body and mind. A 'deaf boy who was one of the worst cases washed and dressed himself daily without assistance, walked, and even ran about the house and yard, and was learning to draw,' though his actions were not all exempt from the appearance of his malady. Such is the account of the fruits of M. Sargent's treatment.
(1) Traité du Goitre et du Cretinisme: 1800.
(2) Ueber der Kretinismus: 1802.