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glaring wildly upward. A colossal wave rises, and hangs suspended over the proud building. It totters—it falls—it breaks down arches, architraves, pillars, and dome. They offer but a feeble resistance to its power. The sound of that crash might be heard miles, miles away, above the bellowing of the tempest. Another sweep of the maclstrom, and all, all are ingulfed—the people, their Temple, their city, their island are lost— Zamia is blotted out of existence, and the Book of her History is forever closed!
Every trace of the storm had passed away the next morning. The waves rolled calmly and lazily along, perhaps with a mightier swell than usual, but there was not a wreck upon their surface to tell that beneath them a fair, and but yesterday a thickly-populated, aland lay buried.
For a long time the fact ur its disappearance from the face of creation seemed to be unknown. It might bo that the mariner couM not account for missing his landmarks, and at first believed that his own caleulations were at fault. But when years elapsed, and no trace of Zamia or its inhabitants could be discovered—when their fate was established beyond all doubt—tho remembrance of this Heathen Island, as it was called, began to be regarded with superstitious awo. Little communication had ever existed between it and the rest of the world, and in those days, when geographical science was unstudied, none cared to inquire into the cause of its mysterious destruction.
Thus it was that Zamia was forgotten. Yet among the fishermen who frequent the Ionian Sea, from the shores of Italy to those of Greece, a vague tradition of the event I have recorded (till exists; and at the mere mention of "The Lost Island" the sailor to this day devoutly crosses himself.
Thirty years ago, a French company undertook to retrieve some of Zamia's relies from the sea, wherein they had lain entombed for nearly eleven centuries.
A ship was freighted for the express purpose, and started from Marseilles, but returned without effecting tho object in view. Whether these parties were unable to discover the precise locality of the island, or whether, from its depth, it was found to be beyond reach, I have not been able to learn. I only know that such a scheme was conceived, and that an energetic attempt was made to carry it out.
The enterprise was a complete failure.
A DAY IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM.
AMONG the numerous charitable institutions founded by the benevolence of our City and State, we know of none of which New York can be more justly proud than the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. The building is situated on the north side of the island, and is about six miles distant from the City Hall. It is the property of the City, and was established exclusively for the support and treatment of those lunatics whose friends are unable to pay for the superior accommodations of a private asylum. The location is
admirably adapted to the purpose for which it was selected, the only objection to it being the want of sufficient land for the employment of "the patients," as its inmates are termed, in agriculture, horticulture, and other healthful work, so necessary for persons in their condition. The population of the institution is between six and seven hundred, among whom are natives of almost every part of the world. This, however, is more than it was originally intended to accommodate, and it is therefore desirable that it should bo enlarged to meet the constantly-increasing demands upon its means. Excellent taste is displayed in the manner in which the surrounding grounds are laid out, and the highest cultivation is exhibited in the quality of their products. Those who are not employed at this kind of work, or occupied in the Asylum, arc allowed to saunter through the walks or recline under the shade trees with which this part of the island abounds. The visitor at once recognizes among these out-door patients two distinct classes—the gay and the melancholy; the one characterized by the greatest hilarity and apparent happiness, and the other by the deepest despondency and inaction.
Before entering the building the eye is attracted by the fine proportions and elegant appearance of the exterior. Tho main building, in which are the rooms of the principal officers, is constructed of granite. It is built in the form of an octagon, having a diameter of 90 feet. Two wings, constructed of tho same material, extend from it at right angles to each other, the length of both being 490 feet. One wing is occupied exclusively by male, and the other by female patients. They are each three stories in height, and running through the entire length are three corridors, or halls, in which the inmates are allowed to take exercise at stated intervals during the day. Opening into these halls are the rooms occupied by the patients as sleeping apartments, and the visitor, as he pauses on the landing of the splendid staircase that winds from the ground to the cupola in the centre of the octagon, is at once struck by the general order and neatness which prevail. There is but little commingling of the patients, each being apparently too much absorbed in his own affairs to attend to those of his neighbors. If one is listening to the delusions of another, great patience and forbearance are manifested, unless there be a clashing of insane views, when toleration is at an end, and a scene of confusion ensues. Kings quarrel here as well as in the great world outside, aristocratic pretensions clash, and rival philosophers disagree. There is enough imagination among them to-make the fortune of a romancer and we doubt if even Mrs. Radeliffe or Monk Lewis ever exceeded them in exaggerated fancy or marvelous invention. Some believe that they are in possession of untold wealth, gigantic strength, incredible swiftness, and other desirable endowments, but imagine that they are deprived of the use of them by some power or agency over which they have no control. A lady of tall and commanding appearancr met us near the door of one of the halls, and solicited our assistance in obtaining ninety millions of dollars which were wrongfully withheld from her, and which are at present secreted in the sacristy of a church in Cincinnati. Her reasoning was quite cogent, and the inducements which she held forth for the successful prosecution of her claims were such as might tempt the cupidity of the most avaricious lawyer. She promised a commission of 33} per cent, on the whole amount, besides furnishing all the necessary evidences of title, and free tickets over the railroad to the place where the treasures were concealed. The asylum she regards as a large central telegraph office, and she is constantIy occupied in attending to its management, and the transmission of intelligence to all parts of the country. Communications are often received by her, informing her of the various devices taken by her enemies to prevent the recovery of her property. The agent who consents to undertake the c&se can have the advantage of all the facilities presented by the telegraph, and her valuable advice in addition.
While she was telling us the story of her wrongs, and soliciting us to take an active interest in obtaining redress, we were addressed by a rival claimant to the property, who informed us that there was no truth in what we had just heard, and that she was the rightful owner of the ninety millions.
"It is all false; she has no property," she exclaimed; "it is all mine; I own every thing—the gold mines, the tea plantations—all, all are mine. She is nobody; she is crazy. I am the Queen; I am the Union; it is all mine! mine! mine!"
The speaker was about seventy years old, but her eye had not been dimmed by age, and every sentence she uttered was rendered peculiarly impressive by her looks and strong gesticulations. She told us she had been sent to school in this building for the purpose of completing her education, and that, much against her wishes, the place had been changed from a boarding-school to a common boarding-house.
Another, with a smiling face, and an expression of pity for the delusion under which she labored, said, " Is it not funny that she should believe all this nonsense? But she does not know who / am" (with a low and by no means ungraceful courtesy). "I am the Queen, and these are all my attendants." Before she could proceed further with her history, she was interrupted by another patient, who addressed Dr. Ranney in a business-like manner about the condition of the institution and its inmates. She was a staid, matronly woman, and had we not been previously told that she was a patient, we should certainly have taken her for one of the attendants. Her manner and her conversation too would lead a stranger to believe that she was employed by the institution to administer to the wants of its inmates. The moment she perceived us she approached, and after the usual remarks upon the Weather, she commenced talking with Dr. Ranney in a most serious manner about the treatment «f " the poor creatures," as she called them, who were placed under her charge.
"I have every thing, as you can see for yourself, Doctor," said she, "in the most perfect order; and, as you know, it is the great object of my desires to have the poor creatures as comfortable as their condition and circumstances will permit. Of course," she continued, "it is not possible for people in their state of mind to be always kept in order, and we must therefore make all allowances for them. They are sometimes" —and here she lowered her voice, as if apprehensive that they might hear her—" they are sometimes a little violent, but then we can not expect that people in their state of mind should act like us, who have got our reason and judgment perfect-. Yes, all things considered, I think there is no cause for complaint. I have been here now over ten years, and I was never so well satisfied with the state of the institution as I am at present, and that is saying a great deal."
"Yes, indeed," said the Doctor, "you are deserving of credit for the admirable manner in which you perform your duties; and we are much indebted for your kind care and treatment of those around you. We fully appreciate the important services you render to the institution, and we are grateful to you for all you have done."
"Thank you, Doctor," she replied, "it shall always be my desire to deserve your approval and confidence. Good-morning, gentlemen;" and so saying she left us with an air that seemed to say, "What could they do without me in this establishment?" We watched her till she entered one of the sitting apartments at the end of the corridor, where we afterward found her looking over some work at which the women were employed. There was nothing whatever in her appearance or actions that would have led any one to imagine that she was not in complete possession of all her senses. Perfectly calm and self-possessed, when she was addressed she answered every question that was asked with remarkable promptness and accuracy, her only solicitude being the care and treatment of those who, as she believed, were confided to her charge.
She had hardly left us when another patient introduced herself, and began to enlighten us in regard to the subject which occupied her mind. She believed that she was the wife of the President of the United States, and that her present abode was the White House at Washington. "Those people," said she, referring to the inmates, "have not a proper respect for my position and that of my husband; but they shall be made to know their proper place." A few feet from the Presidentess we observed a young woman, of lady-like appearance, who seemed to take no interest in any thing about her, but whose whole attention appeared to be riveted on the passing vessels which could be seen from the window at which she stood. Her face had a melancholy expression, which too plainly told the cause of her insanity. Every day she took up her position by the window, in the hope of seeing the long-expected vessel that was to convey her from the island. This was her sole occupation: she took no part in the conversation around her; she heeded not the visitors, and did not shrink from the observation which her sad tale excited; she was unconscious of every thing in the world save the creations of her own disordered mind; the earth contained nothing for her but the swelling sails and the tapering masls of the vessel that was to bear her to her lover. Her tale was a melancholy ono. The morning of her life was bright and unclouded; but she had scarcely reached the age of fifteen when her father failed in business, and after struggling in vain to retrieve his shattered fortune died, leaving his children to battle with the world. Her brother came to this country, and obtained a situation in one of the Western States, and wrote to his two sisters to join him in his adopted home. Jouy, a celebrated French writer, says that the folly of woman, whether sane or insane, is traceable to two distinct causes—love or vanity; and in her case, it was the first of these that had driven reason from its throne. The separation from one she loved, brooded over amidst the wild solitude of the ocean, unhinged her mind; for there, on shipboard, she first manifested symptoms of insanity. The sight of a ship would excite her to madness; and, when passing one, it was found necessary to confine her; for she would try strength and subtlety, strain every nerve, use every wile to escape from those who guarded her, that she might fling herself into the sea, and so reach the passing vessel, which she believed would convey her to the beloved one. Many a miserable sufferer has crossed the Atlantic— many an instance of self-devotion has that ocean witnessed; but we doubt if any misery could be greater, any love more unwavering, than that of the sister who tended and watched over her during her long and dreary voyage.
In 1849 they landed in New York, and the first intelligence they received was that the brother whom they had come so far to see had died of cholera. The sister, though worn out by accumulated griefs, and her health destroyed by constant labor and watching, worked on until she was able to work no longer. She had contrived with the scanty earnings sho obtained by her needle, and by giving lessons in music and French, to support herself and her helpless charge, until finding herself no longer able to maintain her, she brought her to the Asylum, where she has remained ever since. The devoted sister died two years ago of consumption, and the afflicted creature whom we saw at the Institution is the only one left of the family She not unfrcquently repeats the tale of hope deferred, and in a sad, plaintive tone of voice inquires of the attendants if her lover has come to take her with him to her own country. She believes that Queen Victoria has ordered a fleet expressly to convey her to her distant home; every hour she is expecting the arrival of her betrothed, and the boatmen, as they pass the island, may see her at one of the windows waving a handkerchief to the vessels as a signal of her residence . This is the absorbing idea of her mind; and although death has left
her alone of all her family, she can not be made conscious of her loss.
Turning from her with a feeling of melancholy caused by her sorrowful story, our eyes met those of a beautiful child whose bright and happy countenance seemed to exercise a cheerful influence on all about her. The mother was brought to the Asylum about six months ago with the child in her arms During the first few days she would not speak, but clung to her child as though her whole existence was centred in its being. At last the kindness of the attendants overcame her obstinacy; she began to speak, entreating not to be sent away, and asserting that the babe in her arms was Jesus Christ. She still labors under this delusion, although she has greatly improved in her physical and mental condition, and will in a few months probably recover.
Supposing that all we saw in the hall or corridor were patients, a most ludicrous mistake occurred, which we will here describe for the benefit of those who may have a curiosity to see the interior of a lunatic asylum. Addressing one of the women who was walking about among the patients with the air of a person invested with somo authority, we inquired as to her health, and shook hands with her, supposing that we were speaking to one of the patients. This opinion was strengthened when we saw her winking at another woman, and we left her wondering what was her particular hallucination. Upon asking Dr. Ranney, we found that we had mistaken one of the attendants for a lunatic; this explained at once the cause of her winking at the other, who was also an attendant, and who evidently enjoyed the whole occurrence as a capital joke.
We had as yet seen none of the violent cases, but before we left we had no complaint to make in regard to that particular. While we were passing through the wards, one of the patients came out and commenced abusing the Doctor with the virulence of a virago, called him by the most opprobrious epithets, and concluded by telling him she would be glad to see him hung. She became so violent that the attendants were obliged to lock her up in her room, from which she continued to pour forth a torrent of abuse till we left the place.
Among the various delusions with which these poor creatures are afflicted, there appears to be none more prevalent than the belief that they are either related to some eminent person or that they are themselves celebrated. This is a delusion, however, which is not confined to the inmates of lunatic asylums. We had an opportunity of seeing several who were thus afflicted bofore leaving the Institution.
"When will Lord Bantyne call and sec me? Has he not sent Mr. McCormick, his embassador, for me yet ?" impatiently inquired a woman about forty years of age, and of an appearance which certainly would not bo called prepossessing.
"I have waited here for years, and as yet I have received no intelligence of either Lord Baotyne or the Marquis of Ballina. The Queen will surely sond some of my noble friends to visit me, and have me conveyed from this place. Who says that I am not acquainted with the Earl of Derby! Don't I know him and all bis family? Will they never come near me again? Tell them I am here, and that they must take me away with them. Won't you write to them?" she said in beseeching tones; "write to them and let them know where I am."
This patient, we were informed, would sit on her chair for hours, and repeat over for the thousandth time the long list of her aristocratic connections and friends. She was firmly impressed with the idea that she was related to some noble family, and that her childhood was passed in the midst of wealth and luxury, but now all her friends had abandoned her. Still she never gave up the hope that they would relent, and would finally place her in the position she once occupied. Day after day she made the same inquiries of the attendants, who always gave her an answer which they believed would gratify her. Every night she retires to rest with the expectation of seeing on the morrow some of her titled acquaintances; and although the morrow brings with it disappointment, she hopes on still, and will continue to hope till the advent of that morrow which shall end her life of misery.
On arriving at the end of the corridor, we entered one of the apartments which is used by the inmates as a sitting-room. Here we found about a dozen of them assembled; some engaged at needle-work, and others in reading the newspapers of the day. They did not seem to be disturbed by our visit; but, with a very few exceptions, they were rather pleased than otherwise. Two or three, who were evidently the victims of that peculiar kind of insanity called melancholia, sat apart from the rest muttering some unintelligible jargon. Among these there was one in particular who attracted our attention by her singular appearance and the peculiarly harsh and unpleasant sound she made with her throat. She sat on a chair, with her feet resting upon one of the rails, and her body bent forward at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Her head was sunk between her shoulders, and her face bore an expression of half-subdued terror. There she sat from morning till night, uttering a sound entirely unlike any thing earthly that we have ever heard. She raised hor eyes to look at us as we entered; and then relapsing into her accustomed posture, she made the sound of which we have spoken. Opening her mouth, she cried, "Shoo—shoo—shoo!" in a tone of terror, as if frightened at some horrible object which she saw before her. We could not learn the cause of her insanity, but it was our opinion, from her appearance and her strange manner of acting, that she had actually been frightened out of her senses.
While passing again through the corridor for the purpose of visiting that portion of the building which is set apart for the males, a girl about sixteen years of age came toward us, and looked up in the face of each with an idiotic smile that was melancholy to behold. Dr. Ranney patted her on the head, and calling her by name, asked if she
did not know him; but she did not seem to understand what he said, gazing at him with the same expression. "Don't you remember me, Janey?" he said. "Say Doctor."
She looked at him for a moment, and then repeated the word after him with imperfect articulation; but no ray of intelligence lighted up her features, nor did she appear to have any consciousness of what she said. She is a hopeless case of idiotcy; for while the majority of the patients understand sometimes what they are doing, her mind seems to be utterly devoid of comprehension.
Passing from the female department, we entered that appropriated to the males, which, as we have already stated, is in another part of the building. Here we found the wards at either side of the corridor all open, and their occupants walking up and down the hall, or intently gazing out of the windows at some objects of attraction. We had just entered, when one of the patients stepped forth from a group of which he was the centre, and in the most courteous style bade us weleome. He had at one time been in affluent circumstances, and even in his present condition you could observe a certain refinement of manner, which distinguished him from his associates. "How are you, gentlemen?" said he. "This is really pleasant weather. Visiting our institution, eh? Doctor," he continued, addressing Dr. Ranney, "how long am I to continue here? Have you written to my friends and informed them that my health is quite recovered, and I would leave my present dwelling?"
After assuring him that his desires would be attended to, and that he would be removed very soon, he appeared to be satisfied. On another occasion, however, he was not so easily quieted, and at last became very abusive, making use of the most opprobrious epithets to one of the officers, and accusing him of theft and other crimes. "Yes, sir," said he to this gentleman, when he had been told that his friends would be informed of nis request—" yes, sir, you said that before, sir, and now I desire to let you know that I will not be imposed upon any longer, and that if I am not released from this place I will find a way to get out! I have been here longer than is requisite for the good of my health; and once for all, sir, I tell you I must be liberated." He was assured by the officer that he would do every thing in his power to oblige him. But this only served to exasperate him still more, and he eventually worked himself into a perfect fury, without, however, committing any act of violence on those about him. He had killed his wife because, as he alleged, she had sold his blood to a doctor, and he conceived the idea of destroying her in selfdefense. This, with other proofs of his mental aberration, caused his removal to the Lunatic Asylum, from which he is always pleading to be liberated.
One of the most interesting cases—if subjects of this description can be called interesting—is that of a man who is firmly impressed with the belief that ho has discovered the real elixir vita for which philosophers and alehemists have toiled in vain for centuries.
He has named it Longevine; and he says that one drop of it taken by a person who has attained the age of one hundred years will give him renewed life for another century, at the termination of which a repetition of the dose will be attended with the same result. The great obstacle, however, to the universal application of this wonderful discovery, is to be found in the fact that but very few live to the required age; and this he gives as a reason why it has not received that popularity to which he considers it justly entitled. He descants upon its virtues by the hour, and presents himself as another instance to prove that men of true genius are never thoroughly appreciated by the age in which they live.
Sitting in gloomy isolation, we observod a man of almost gigantic proportions, with a strong leathern belt fastened around his waist, to which his hands were bound by cuffs of the same material. Among all the inmates of the Asylum there was none to whom the title of madman could be applied with more justice than to him. He was a true personification of those madmen that we sometimes read of, but which we had supposed were long ago extinct. There was a mingled expression of wildness and ungovernable passion in his eyes, and this, combined with large, coarse, brutal features, made him a truly terrible-looking being. He said nothing, but glared at us in a manner that was any thing but pleasant; so we left him in undisturbed possession, not caring to rouse one whose passions when excited are like the fierce rage of the voleano, threatening destruction to every living thing within its compass. It seemed as if the other patients had an instinctive dread of him, for they all kept at a most respectful distance, although the manner in which his hands were fastened rendered it impossible for him to do mischief.
Of a far different temperament was another to whom we were introduced. He had a benevolent cast of countenance, and appeared much gratified when spoken to by any of the visitors. His principal amusement was a game of chess, which he played with a skill that would have done credit to a Spanish grandee. His whole attention was fixed upon the pieces before him with an intensity that nothing could disturb. He watched every move of his antagonist as eagerly asif a life were depending upon the game, and had him checkmated in less than ten minutes after the first piece was moved. This man, we were told, spoke sevoral languages with remarkable fluency, and if learning were " the one thing needful," he would certainly be better entitled to the professor's chair than many who occupy that position in our firstclass colleges.
But perhaps the most singular case of delusion which we had yet seen was that of a patient, who imagined that he had charge of the planet Jupiter. He conversed with us for a few moments, when breaking off abruptly in the course of some remarks he was making on the weather, he said he must attend to Jupiter. Then going
to one of the windows, he took up the same position which he assumed every day, gazing intently on the sky, as if he really saw there in the broad daylight the object of his solicitude. Upon him he believed depended the safety of the planet, which, if once destroyed, would plunge the world into irretrievable misery and ruin. His insanity was somewhat like that of the astronomer in Rasselas, who believed he had the control of the elements, the regulation of the weather, and the distribution of the seasons. "The sun," said he, "has listened to my dictates, and passed from tropic to tropic by my direction. The clouds at my call have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command. I have restrained the rage of the Dog Star, and mitigated the fervors of the Crab. The winds alone of all the elemental powers have hitherto refused my authority; and multitudes have perished by equinoctial tempests, which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I have administered this great office with exact justice, and made to the different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of rain and sunshine. What must have been the misery of half the globe, if I had limited the clouds to particular regions or confined the sun to either side of the equator?"
A very remarkable change of the intellectual faculties sometimes occurs, as exhibited in the manifestation of a power before entirely dormant. Two extraordinary cases of this description were related to us, one of which was that of an improvisatore, the other of an improvisatrice, both of whom exhibited decided talent 'in rhyming; and what was particularly remarkable was the fact, that during the continuance of their disease almost all their conversation was carried on in verse. Before and after their illness—for they both ultimately recovered—they had not the power of extemporizing rhymes, and its existence was to them, after the accomplishment of the cure, as amazing and strange as to those who witnessed its exhibition. It is not unfrequently the case that poetical talent is much more active during the period of insanity, the increased excitement of the nervous system seeming to call it forth.t
Among the amusements allowed the patients in this Asylum, not the least interesting and beneficial in their effects are the concerts which are occasionally given in the reception parlors. The insane are very susceptible to the influence of musie, and even those who are excitable or noisy will frequently listen quietly to a song or a performance on the piano. The invitations to the concert are given out several hours before the time appointed, for all the arrangements arc conducted with the formality of a public exhibition. When it is known that a concert is to take place, the greatest bustle and hurry ensues among the invited company; and from the attention which they give to their toilet, it would appear that the
* This is exemplified by the case of Christopher Smart, an English poet, who, while Imprisoned ia a lunatic asylum, wrote hia magnificent " Song of David," on which bis fame almost wholly depends.