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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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Secondly: Books alone can never produce the desired results. But a society founded and endowed for the sole purpose of solving this stubborn problem can at least raise the standard of treatment to such a level that existing shortcomings will be forever done away with. A campaign of education carried out under the auspices of a National Society should lead to effectual reform, make even petty abuses appear heinous, and thus insure, upon discovery, the correction of all abuses.


Thirdly: It is my hope that the beneficent rich may be prompted to come to the aid of the States and Nations by supplying funds for the erection and endowment of model institutions wherein mental and nervous diseases, in their incipient and curable stages, may be treated with the maximum efficiency. With such institutions -- hospitals and sanatoriums -- in operation, thousands of those who now are committed indiscriminately could be restored to health and society, without having suffered the unfair stigma of legal incompetence; and patients in our State Hospitals could then receive that individual treatment which will insure the recovery of so many of them and, at the same time, enable those who do not recover to lead comfortable, even happy lives.




I WAS born shortly after sunset about thirty years ago. My ancestors, natives of England, settled in this country not long after the Mayflower first sailed into Plymouth Harbor. And the blood of these ancestors, by time and the happy union of a northern man and a southern woman -- my parents -- has perforce been blended into blood truly American.


The first years of my life were not unlike those of thousands of other American boys. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred. At the usual age, I entered a public Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut, and was graduated in 1891. In the fall of that year I entered the Hillhouse High School of the same city. My school courses were completed with as little trouble as scholastic distinction. I always managed to gain promotion, however, when it was due; and, though few of my teachers credited me with real ability, they were always able to detect a certain latent capacity, which they evidently believed would one day develop sufficiently to prevent me from disgracing them.


Upon entering the High School I had such ambitions as any schoolboy is apt to have. I wished to secure an election to a certain secret society; that gained, I wished to become business manager of a monthly magazine, published by that society. In these ambitions I succeeded. For one of my age I had more than an average love of business. Indeed, I deliberately set about learning to play the guitar well enough to become eligible for membership in the Banjo-Club -- and this for no more aesthetic purpose than to place myself in line for the position of manager.


In athletics there was but one game, tennis, in which I was actively interested. Its quick give-and-take suited my temperament, and so fond was I of it that during one summer I played not fewer than four thousand games. As I had an aptitude for tennis, and devoted more time to it than did any of my schoolmates, it was not surprising that I acquired skill enough to win the school championship during my senior year. But that success was not due entirely to my superiority as a player. It was due in part to what I considered unfair treatment; and the fact well illustrates a certain trait of character which has often stood me in good stead. Among the spectators at the final match of the tournament were several girls. These schoolmates, who lived in my neighborhood, had mistaken for snobbishness a certain boyish diffidence for which few people gave me credit. When we passed each other, almost daily, this group of girls and I, our mutual sign of recognition was a look in an opposite direction. Now my opponent was well liked by these same girls and was entitled to their support. Accordingly they applauded his good plays, which was fair. They did not applaud my good plays, which was also fair. But what was not fair was that they should applaud my bad plays. Their doing so roiled my blood, and thanks to those who would have had me lose, I won.


One more incident of my boyhood days may assist the reader to make my acquaintance. In my early teens I was, for one year, a member of a boy-choir. Barring my voice, I was a good chorister, and, like all good choir-boys, I was distinguished by that seraphic passiveness from which a reaction of some kind is to be expected immediately after a e or rehearsal. On one occasion this reaction in me manifested itself in a fist fight with a fellow choir-boy. Though I cannot recall the time when I have not relished verbal encounters, physical encounters had never been to my taste, and I did not seek this fight. My assailant really goaded me into it. If the honors were not mine, at least I must have acquitted myself creditably, for an interested passer-by made a remark which I have never forgotten:

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