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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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"Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty," -- a command to fight. "And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness;" replied the minister. "And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things," read I. That I could speak the truth, I knew. "Meekness" I could not associate with myself, except that during the preceding two years I had suffered many indignities without open resentment. That my right hand with a pen should teach me terrible things -- how to fight for reform -- I firmly believed.


"Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee," quoth the minister. Yes, my tongue could be as sharp as an arrow, and I should be able to stand up against those who should stand in the way of reform. Again: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness. -- Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."


The first sentence I did not apply to myself; but being then, as I supposed, a man restored to himself, it was easy to feel that I had been anointed with the oil of gladness above my fellows. "Oil of gladness" is, in truth, an apt phrase wherewith to describe "elation."


The last two verses of the psalm corroborated the messages found in the preceding verses: "I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations:" -- thus the minister. "Therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever," was the response I read. That spelled immortal fame for me, but only on condition that I should carry to a successful conclusion the mission of reform -- an obligation placed upon me by God when He restored my reason.


I know of no better way to convey to the reader my state of mind during these first weeks of elation than to confess -- if confession it is -- that when I set out upon a career of reform I was impelled to do so by motives in part like those which seem to have possessed Don Quixote when he, madman that he was, set forth, as Cervantes says, with the intention "of righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger, from which in the issue he would obtain eternal renown and fame." The quoted passage, first read by me while preparing for publication the printed proof of my manuscript, embodies the very idea I had expressed months earlier, while writing the paragraph which immediately precedes this one. In likening myself to Cervantes' mad hero my purpose is quite other than to push myself within the charmed circle of the chivalrous. What I wish to do is to make plain that one abnormally elated may be swayed irresistibly by his best instincts, and that while under the spell of an exaltation, idealistic in degree, he may not only be willing, but eager to assume risks and endure hardships which under normal conditions he would assume reluctantly, if at all. In justice to myself, however, and lest I should do "the cause" an injury, I feel privileged to remark that my plans for reform have never assumed Quixotic, and therefore impracticable, proportions. At no time have I gone a-tilting at windmills. A pen rather than a lance has been my weapon of offense and defense; for with its point I have felt sure that I should one day prick the civic conscience into a compassionate activity, and thus bring into a neglected field earnest men and women who should act as champions for those afflicted thousands least able to fight for themselves.




AFTER being without relatives and friends for over two years I naturally lost no time in trying again to get in touch with them; -- though I did heed my conservator's request that I first give him two or three days in which to acquaint certain persons with the new turn my affairs had taken.


During the latter part of that first week I wrote many letters, so many, indeed, that I soon exhausted a liberal supply of stationery. This had been placed at my disposal at the suggestion of my conservator, who had wisely arranged that I should have whatever I wanted, if expedient. It was now at my own suggestion that the supervisor gave me large sheets of manila wrapping paper. These I proceeded to cut into strips a foot wide. One such strip, four feet long, would suffice for a mere billet-doux; but a real letter usually required several such strips pasted together. More than once letters twenty or thirty feet long were written; and on one occasion the accumulation of two or three days of excessive productivity, when spread upon the floor, reached from one end of the corridor to the other -- a distance of about one hundred feet. My output per hour was something like twelve feet with an average of one hundred and fifty words to the foot. Under the pressure of elation one takes pride in doing everything in record time. Despite my speed, however, my letters were not incoherent. They were simply digressive, which was to be expected, as elation befogs one's "goal idea." Though these epistolary monstrosities were launched, few reached their intended addressees, for my conservator had wisely ordered that my literary output be sent in bulk to him. This interference was exasperating, but later I realized that my brother had done me a great favor when he interposed his judgment between my red-hot mentality and the cool minds of the work-a-day world. Yet, this interference with what I deemed my rights proved to be the first step in the general overruling of them by tactless attendants and, in particular, by a certain assistant physician.

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