Monday, November 06, 2006
The air loom gang: the strange and true story of James Tilly Matthews and his visionary madness. Mike Jay
This is an extraordinary book. James Tilly Mathews, whose involvement in the French Revolution, may have led to his incarceration at Bethlem Hospital, that is Bedlam, developed an elaborate delusional system about the Air-loom Gang while there. This delusion was then the subject Illustrations of Madness, written by Mathews' psychiatrist John Haslam. Jay's book sensitively analyzes Mathews' delusions, his involvement in the French revolution and his relationship with Haslam. Since Haslam's career and the fate of Bedlam in the early nineteenth century are central to understanding the development of psychiatry in Great Britain in that period, Jay's book is also a readable and reliable introduction to that chapter in the history of psychiatry.