Author Archives: victoriandotage

Why was someone with dementia called a ‘lunatic’?

Many people are surprised and troubled to find that a person with a diagnosis of senile dementia was labelled a ‘lunatic’. But this was actually quite common. The word lunatic had a legal meaning. Anyone who was admitted to a … Continue reading

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The History of Senile Dementia: FAQ

If you watched Secrets from the Asylum on ITV1, you will have seen me chatting away to actress Claire Sweeney about her ancestor, John Sweeney.  He was admitted to Ballamona Asylum on the Isle of Man with a diagnosis of … Continue reading

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‘A ghastly absurdity’: The Senility of Dickens’ mother

Elizabeth Dickens (1789-1863) has been named as the primary inspiration for both Mrs Nickelby and Mrs Micawber, fixing her in the popular mind as a flighty and confused woman, with an unending devotion to her financially inept husband.  Dickens’ biographers … Continue reading

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“Simply from decay of nature”

“These patients are imbecile simply from decay of nature, and quiet in manners, and should, in the opinion of the committee, have been allowed to spend the little time left for them in the respective Workhouses, without compelling them to … Continue reading

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Today’s tweet 5/4/11

“Senile insanity due to atrophy of the brain, or exaggerated dotage, is, I feel sure, far more common than it once was.” This was said by the great Victorian psychiatrist James Crichton Browne in 1891, in an address to students … Continue reading

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Today’s tweet 8/3/11

“On the 12th Sept she went for a walk. She went to the House of Lords and demanded admission.” This is from the case notes of Mary Warren, a 66-year old former servant, who was admitted to Hanwell lunatic asylum … Continue reading

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Today’s tweet 10/3/11

“One has to just – I don’t know myself – I don’t know at all – oh goodness gracious, what is it all?” This was spoken by a woman called Auguste D during an interview with a doctor at the … Continue reading

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Today’s tweet 8/3/11

“Why, I’ve been sitting here for five years, and I shall sit on here to the end. I’m just waiting you see. We’re all just waiting.” From an article called ‘In the Day-Room of a London Workhouse’ by Edith Sellers, … Continue reading

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What about ‘hourglass’ or ‘athletic’?

Writing about:  “Memory loss more likely for pear shaped women” in the Metro 15/7/10 The title tells you most of what you need to know. 150 years ago it was common practice to blame a woman’s mental state on her … Continue reading

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Have you weighed your brain recently?

I saw this today: BBC News:  Big head ‘may protect against dementia’. And couldn’t help thinking of several of the articles I’ve been coming across in the Journal of Mental Science, such as John Thurnam’s  On the Weight of the … Continue reading

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