A RESIDENCE of many years among the Turks has given the writer such facilities for becoming acquainted with the fireside life of this European branch of the great Tartar tribes as are denied to the mere tourist. To embody these experiences in one connected form is however, attended with this difficulty, that the habits, customs, and traditions of a comparatively obscure nation are so dovetailed as to compel awkward digressions from the subject in hand, − here to illustrate a point, there to fledge the wings of some shiftless idea.
Among the hitherto untravelled tracts of this terra incognita, and one of interest to the philanthropist, is that of Oriental insanity. In exploring this new field, it is neither my purpose to survey and label every square rood of ground, nor to grope through the dreary fogs of metaphysics after subtle agents and recondite theories ; a pioneer is not called upon to analyze, but simply to narrate and describe.
Repeated efforts on the part of Turkish Sultans to establish hospitals for the insane, and make their treatment a specialty, have proved futile ; partly from national customs and prejudices, and partly from the prevalent belief that insanity, like epilepsy, − the morbus sacer of the ancients, − is either a divine token of regard, or else the spell of some Jin, or evil spirit, and that it is sinful to resort to science for its relief. Hence, unless positively dangerous, a male lunatic is put under no restraint whatever, and is indulged at home, on the ground that the presence of one of Heaven’s favorites will be a source of prosperity.
A crazy lounger about a street-corner is the best improvement Turkish real estate can have ; gas, water, and good drainage count as nothing in comparison. There is no surer protection against the Evil-Eye ; such potent talismans as a bunch of garlics, or a bristle from the True Beard, holding inferior rank. Many a savory tidbit comes up smoking from neighboring kitchens to satisfy his hunger ; many a silver coin drops into his expectant palm, whilst adjacent house-lots are at a premium. Should he die, or should some shrewd speculator entice him away to advertise newly built quarters of the city, all the bereaved gossips ferment with busy apprehension, and every stillbirth, every club-foot or supernumerary toe, is laid to his absence. Like financiers in our own favored land, an insane Turk who thus influences the realestate market acts pretty much as he pleases. He does not, it is true, overissue stock, or “ make a corner,” in the Christian sense of the term ; but he levies blackmail on householders, and sets at defiance all social and municipal regulations, trusting to the forbearance of the police, and to the increased homage of his fellow-citizens.
A well-known Greek beggar of Constantinople, popularly supposed to be crazy, but sane enough to attempt on the writer the drop-game of a paste ring, broke through the guards of the late Sultan, and seizing the royal stirrup, clamorously demanded alms. Instead of being hacked to pieces by the halberds of the guards, there on the spot, he received an order for a Sehim, or annuity, of six hundred piasters, about thirty dollars in gold. This sum he pocketed with exemplary punctuality until the present monarch began to reign, when, among other abuses, this one was ordered to be abolished. Upon hearing the news, over the Galata Bridge rushed the Greek, and, bursting into the Treasury building, so bullied and badgered the officials by his imprecations, that not one dared to refuse him his pension.
One old reprobate, Mustapha by name, I have often met in the crowded streets tripping his way with as much absence of clothing as of mind, scorning even the decorum of a fig-leaf, and blandly smiling at the dismay of matrons, who fluttered into the nearest alley. This artless child of nature would often mount guard on the doorsteps of some rich man’s house, and refuse to move unless bribed by gold. Another half-crazy vagabond once entered the court of an embassy palace, and seating himself at the foot of the flagstaff, for hours kept up an outrageous howling, in order to be bribed to go away. The foreign minister, knowing well that not one of his native servants would dare to lay violent hands upon the intruder, got rid of him, not without many curses, by ordering the flagstaff to be well washed down.
But perhaps the best illustration of the forbearance shown to the insane may be found in an incident, which recently happened on board one of the crowded ferry-boats of the Bosphorus. A tipsy Greek passenger suddenly collared an Ulema, or priest of the highest rank, and threw him overboard, waving after him the sign of the cross, and shouting out, “ I baptize thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Fortunately for the priest, his salvation depended upon the buoyancy of his robes and upon that of a passing skiff. Meantime the excitement on board the ferry-boat became intense ; Mohammedan fanaticism was aroused ; weapons were unsheathed, and a general massacre of all the Christian passengers would have inevitably ensued, had not the friends of the offender loudly proclaimed his insanity, and, under the protection of that ægis, safely hustled him ashore at the first landing-place. It is pleasing to add that he found it necessary to spend a few weeks of reflection in a madhouse, before he could venture out into the streets.
Apart from such playful eccentricities, the general deportment of the insane layman is not bad. But beware those hashish-eating, half-crazy, and extremely filthy monks, called dervishes, whose frenzied utterances and indecent gestures are looked upon by the natives with awe. Clad in the skins of wild beasts, affecting shaggy locks and frowning brows, they infest every city and hamlet from the Adriatic to the Amoor, and are apt to charge down upon a European hat like a bull upon the red flag of the matador. Every resident has had serious encounters with these fanatic madmen ; I recall that of a Greek banker who, in broad daylight, was attacked in the streets, and nearly throttled, for carrying a green umbrella, that color being considered sacred. An English merchant on ’Change was rudely interrupted by an uplifted sword, and the gruff threat of its owner to split the infidel, did he not instantly repeat the Prophet’s Creed.
The reverence shown to the male lunatic during life culminates at death, and his funeral procession is swelled by multitudes, each mourner taking a turn of forty paces at the bier, and thus earning plenary indulgence for many past and some prospective sins. On the other hand, the insane Mohammedan woman is treated more harshly. If harmless, she is kept at home; if fortunately old and ugly, she is allowed a good deal of liberty ; but if young and violent, or should her relatives be too poor to seclude her properly, there are grave reasons for fearing that the burden of her maintenance is avoided by her death.
Whenever a member of a Turkish household unfortunately loses his wits, his friends first fasten an unwashed fragment of his clothing to the wiregrated window of some saint’s tomb, and, having as it were hoisted their flag at half mast, piously await celestial aid. Should the saint be unpropitious, and fail to notice this rag, among the scores of every hue and shape that flutter from each mesh, like the full code of maritime signals, they next resort to certain reputed Sheiks, or holy mendicants, who are the Pinels and Esquirols of the East. On such occasions, these native alienists, reeking with the animated filth of unwashed decades, approach with solemn tread, and under the inspiration of the Indian Hemp, bewilder their patient by gibberish incantations, mesmeric passes, and rude buffets, accompanied by hoarse cries of “Allah, Allah,” often kept up an entire night. Thus by producing impressions more dominant than the illusions of the lunatic, and by thoroughly exhausting him, they occasionally exorcise the Jin,
Nor is this superstition confined to the Moslem population ; the native Christians, Greeks, Armenians, and Bulgarians consign the treatment of all mental diseases so universally to their religious orders, that all their churches and some convents are provided with cells for crazy parishioners. Here, securely chained to the dripping wall, under the image of some patron saint, the unhappy maniac languishes in filth and darkness ; forgotten alike by friend and foe, but occasionally visited by some bigoted lay brother, who, by hunger and stripes, soon wears out the throbs of that weary heart.
Although the Saracens founded at Cairo, in 1304 A. D., the first known lunatic asylum, and introduced a system of treatment which, a century later, was copied by the Knights Hospitallers of Spain, yet Ottoman history shows that every such humane effort has proved unsuccessful when made by their successors, the Turks, who adopted the religion, but not their virtues. Three centuries ago, when the scimitar was making havoc among the chivalry of Christendom, Constantinople contained within the circuit of its ramparts a far greater number of charitable institutions than any other city of ancient or modern times. There were hospitals alike for curable and incurable diseases ; almshouses and diet-houses for the poor ; asylums for the insane ; and homes for the halt, the maimed, and the blind. There were retreats for crippled, or superannuated animals ; and, as tradition unblushingly asserts, a building, endowed by pious bequest, for the maintenance of valetudinarian vermin, which drew nightly rations from the bodies of such vagrants as were tempted to lodge there by the prospect of free quarters and good cheer. In addition to all these institutions, with lavish prodigality a vast number of schools and colleges were supported.
Yet thirty years ago, of all these magnificent charities, and of the insane asylums which crowned five of the hills of the Turkish metropolis, hardly a vestige remained. A brief sketch of the latter may possibly bridge over a gap in psychological literature, and will at least serve to show that ever-present element of decadence which outcrops the dislocated strata of Moslem history.
In the fifteenth century, Mohammed II., the conqueror of Constantinople, founded for his Mohammedan subjects a lunatic asylum, which was erected in the environs of a mosque still bearing his name. Endowed with the princely income of forty thousand Venetian sequins, equal in value to seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars of our currency, it gave every promise of success ; but popular prejudices so crippled its usefulness, that a few years later found its halls noisy with the disputes of theological students, to whom the Koran, and the Turkish in-Humanities were expounding in throat-splitting gutturals. In the year 1560, within the parish of the Suleimanié mosque—a masterpiece of Saracenic architecture —a second institution for the insane was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, who thus commemorated the fortieth year of his reign. Forty-five years later, the Validé Sultana, or mother of that unhappy Prince, Ibrahime I., piously erected a noble mosque in Scutari, the Brooklyn of Constantinople, and appended to it an insane asylum, which, however, after lying fallow for many years, degenerated into a military hospital. Early in the eighteenth century Rukié, better known by the name of Hasseki Sultana, a daughter of Amurath IV., endowed a retreat exclusively for insane women. But in 1847, within my own recollection, its handful of patients were transferred to the Suleimaniée Hospital, in order to make room for their more degraded sisters, whose excesses were thus rebuked by the grave dignitaries of Islam. finally, in 1725, Achmed III., probably as a thank-offering for having at last rid himself of his Swedish guest, the Madman of the North, laid the corner-stone of a spacious lunatic asylum ; which, after languishing for a century, was converted into a military storehouse, its two sole patients being carried to the Suleimanié Hospital.
The site of each one of these asylums, chosen for its nearness to some mosque, shows that the benevolence prompting their erection could not throw off those Rabbinical notions which class insanity among diseases requiring the aid of the “ bell and book,” rather than that of the doctor or apothecary. This belief caused the decay of these asylums ; for equally efficacious prayer and incantations could be made at the home of the patient, without subjecting him to confinement. Hence of all these noble charities for the insane, but one remains,− that of Suleiman.
True it is that, among the Christian population, there are cells and dark closets in every parish church set apart for the weak in faith and the weak in mind ; terms made convertible by cruel intolerance. In addition, the Greek and both the Gregorian and Papal Armenian communities each support a general hospital for its co-religionists, provided with wards for the insane. But this passing allusion to them will suffice, since the inmates of the former are unprofessionally treated by texts and scourges ; whilst those of the latter groan under the combined treatment of an ignorant priesthood and of complaisant hospital physicians, who make no pretensions to being expert in mental diseases. As a consequence the insane department gets the cold shoulder from the profession, and is thankfully turned over to the discipline of the church, and of the nurses, who display towards their charge a temper truly vitriolic. These Christian hospitals are hampered by the patronage of the priests, who receive and disburse the alms for their maintenance, and who appoint or snub the physicians at pleasure. This unnatural union of sacerdotal and secular affairs begets many disorders ; indeed, so crying have been the abuses in the management of the one at the Seven Towers, that the Lutchivoragan, or “ Enlightened ” Armenians, as the educated class is called, have come to an open rupture with their superior clergy, and are now striving to rescue the guardianship of their hospital and madhouse from the crook of the Patriarchate, and place it in the hands of the laity.
As the Suleimanié Hospital is the only one exclusively devoted to the insane, and withal entirely free from sectarian partiality and priestly interference, it demands a brief description, and I take this opportunity of acknowledging my great indebtedness to the masterly reports of Dr. Mongeri, its present talented superintendent.
The Dari-Chifah, or Health-House, of Suleiman, is built in the form of a square upon the slope of a hill whose summit is crowned by the Suleimanié mosque. With no architectural pretensions, it would readily pass for a factory ; whilst the general effect is somewhat marred by the abrupt descent of the ground, which compelled the addition of a story to the lower end of the building, in order to place the long corridors upon the same level. A low wall divides the quadrangle into two courts ; the inner one reserved for the patients, the outer one for the officers and attendants, A long open gallery of masonry overlooks these courts, sheltered by a groined roof, traced with quaint arabesques, and supported by graceful Saracenic arches, which spring from the capitals of marble columns. Upon this cool and airy gallery the cross-barred windows of the wards open. This asylum was originally placed in the centre of an extensive garden, but a narrow lane alone now isolates it from the surrounding dwellings.
To fill up the foreground of this truly Oriental picture, vast flocks of doves bill and coo in every nook and corner of the building. The priests of the adjacent mosque watch over them with touching solicitude, and should a feather be wantonly ruffled, or a courtship be interrupted, a fanatic mob would avenge the insult. From early dawn to the hour of sunset prayer these doves are fed by a priest, who scoops out of large chests of barley such measures as are proportioned to the alms of the worshipper.
During the lives of the founder and of his immediate successors, the Suleimanié Health-House was so richly endowed, that, although the number of patients was limited to twenty, they had one hundred and fifty attendants to wait upon them ; making it hard to decide whether this institution was intended for a lunatic asylum, or a cloister for decayed tradesmen and superannuated upper servants. With so numerous a staff, it was necessary to carry out their duties almost to decimals ; whilst to flatter their vanity, titles and insignia of office were created, which sound strangely to our ears. That most important personage, the Achdji-Bashi, or Head-Cook, lorded it over a large corps of butlers, scullions, and caterers, all of whom had bare legs, and at the same time wore such extravagantly voluminous turbans, that they resembled those improper fractions, whose numerators are greater than their denominators. There was the Hammamdji-Bashi, or Chief Bather; the Tellakdji-Bashi, or Chief Shampooer, whose working-costumes were copied direct from the fashion-plates of Eden. Then followed a long list of jailers, keepers, sweepers, ptisan-makers, water-carriers, barbers, lictors, and stock-keepers, all in appropriate uniform ; the duty of the last consisting in confining the feet and hands of unruly patients in the stocks, preparatory to the bastinado, which was scientifically administered by the lictor.
It would be tiresome to enumerate all the offices in this unique asylum. In one word, there were the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick-makers, and numerous other groups of servants, each under a chief, who was made answerable, sometimes with his head, oftener with his soles, for any misconduct of his subordinates, who in turn reaped an abundant harvest of abuse from their limping superior. These petty offices, at first in the gift of the Sultan, soon became hereditary, and degenerated into sinecures, whose sole duty was limited to drawing fixed dailyrations of bread and rice, and in dunning the treasury for a small monthly stipend. The bread, being heavy, was of good weight, and the rice above suspicion ; but the money passed through so many official palms, and adhered to so many in the transit, that it became quite microscopic before jingling in the pocket of the incumbent.
The system of treatment pursued in the early history of this asylum betrays a curious medley of barbarism and civilization,of science and superstition,and yet was far in advance of that adopted by contemporaneous Christian nations. In the centre of the building a steam bath was constructed, consisting of three contiguous chambers, each heated to a different degree of temperature, and containing a large basin of water, whose marble curb is stained by the rust of the iron rings to which the limbs of the resisting patients were bound. Once a week each patient was bathed, and a depilatory applied to his body. His head was closely shaved, excepting one long tuft over the bump of reverence, which was piously preserved as a convenient handle by which the angel Azrael could pull the defunct believer up to Paradise. After this lustration, according to the active or passive condition of the patient, he was turned over by the Head Shampooer into the hands either of his guardian or of the stock-keeper. If to the former, a blacksmith replaced an iron collar about his neck, by which he was led back to his cell, and securely bolted to the wall. If to the latter, his feet were put into the stocks, and the lictor summoned to administer a wholesome castigation on the soles of his feet.
Twice a year the head tailor and furrier, followed by a train of journeymen, knocked at the gate. They measured each patient for a suit out of such rich stuffs and costly furs as the good Sultan and his courtiers had contributed. Upon these occasions a sleek priest from the adjacent mosque registered the names of the recipients, and made a report of their condition. When the number of patients fell short of the maximum, which, under the peculiar circumstances, was probably the rule, the steward chained up for the occasion some younger brother or poor relations, in order to have them clothed at the expense of the state.
The diet of these score of lunatics, including the poor relations, was an object of deep solicitude to their one hundred and fifty attendants ; and the reader will be pleased to learn that the larder of the Suleimanié kitchen groaned under the weight of the most delicate viands. In the hospital archives are carefully preserved the original items of expenses for maintaining a band of hunters to scour the country for such game as is unforbidden in the Mosaic bill of fare. As in those devouter days no true Mussulmans could taste the hare or the wild-boar, these consequently abound, to the delight of their degenerate descendants, who, taking particular pains not to recognize this unclean food, highly enjoy it on the table of their infidel friends, especially during the forty days’ fast of Ramazan.
In the “ First Perfume,” as the spring is termed in the poetic language of the East, to expel the peccant humors which had accumulated during the winter, the chief barber furbished up his lancet, and opened the campaign by binding up the arm of each patient, and letting out a pound or two of “bad blood.” Close on his heels followed the ptisan and electuary makers, who placed upon each patient’s tongue a purgative bolus, and washed it down by sundry empirical sherbets. Among the ingredients of the latter were compounded curiously rare and repulsive drugs, unknown even to the small type of the United States Dispensatory.
Nor was the treatment of the Turkish lunatic limited to his stomach and to the soles of his feet. And here, although a smile may be allowed at many puerilities, let us hasten to acknowledge that the alienists of the East were Sauls among their European brethren, perhaps the first to recognize the dual dement of insanity, that correlation betwixt mind and matter. To soar from the sensuous to the spiritual is so thoroughly un-Turkish, that religious mania is an unknown element of Eastern insanity. There was therefore marked propriety in directing all the theological fledglings of the adjacent mosque − I refer to the students, and not to the pigeons − to repair daily to the Suleimanié asylum, and get their hand in by repeating long prayers and incantations for the disenchantment of its inmates from the spell of one particular malign spirit. Praise be to Allah ! the Sheik-ul-Islam, or Turkish Archbishop of Canterbury, had attained to such skill as chief spiritual detective, that, of the seventy thousand genii, good and bad, who expatiate in the upper ether of the Mohammedan atmosphere, he was able to point out the very Puck who disordered the brains of all crazy believers. To identify this sprite was one thing, but to restrain him was quite another ; as it involved earnest supplications to a series of other sprites, whose chief business was limited to repairing the mischievous pranks of their comrade.
To distract the patient from himself and to beguile his weary hours, stone benches were placed in front of the open doorways of the wards, from which jugglers, story-tellers, buffoons, mimes, dancers, and − Heaven save the mark − musicians exercised their calling. As a recompense for such services, these artists enjoyed exemption from the annual taxes levied by their respective guilds, besides being occasionally tipped by the Howards and Frys of that day.
Such was the condition of the lunatic in those palmy days; but making a bold leap of over three centuries, without tracing each separate element of decay, we shall find in the year 1835 a very different state of things. That imposing brigade of retainers had dwindled down to a mere corporal’s guard of one jailer and four ragged turnkeys. The ptisan-makers, the water-carriers, the cooks and barbers, had long since gone the way of all Mohammedan flesh. An unwholesome broth took the place of costly viands ; instead of neatness and perfumes, a disgusting filth and stench pervaded the premises ; robes and furs no longer concealed the nakedness of the inmates, but of course the chains, the iron bolts, and collars remained intact. By chronic pilfering and malfeasance, the princely revenues had vanished, and the maintenance of the establishment depended partly on the stinted charity of a curious rabble, who flocked thither to be amused.
At length, after inexcusable delay, the Sublime Porte hastily convened a special divan, or cabinet meeting. After the requisite number of pipes and cups of Mocha had been discussed, and beards, black and gray, had been stroked in the name of the Prophet, it was decided to invite the Hakim-Bashi, or physician extraordinary, to the palace, to select a staff and besom out these Augean mews. Rumor asserts that the father of this portly and dignified functionary−I have often seen him − had been promoted from the royal skewer to the royal lancet ; but that is neither here nor there. At any rate, the son, who inherited the paternal title as well as the paternal lancet, knew just about as much of the treatment of insanity as his pipe-bearer; but genius triumphs over difficulties. Under his inspiration, which certainly evinced good common sense, the gates of the asylum were closed, the patients were isolated, and their nakedness concealed by a thin but very populous blanket, the number of inhabitants to the square inch being positively fabulous. An empty treasury forbade all luxuries, and the pangs of hunger were barely appeased by a pittance of rice and two small loaves of sour black bread. Finally, that great Eastern therapeutic tripod, consisting of diet, bleeding, and clysters, were so heroically resorted to, that the scalp-locks of the poor wretches were very frequently clutched by the black-winged Azrael.
Four years crawled along wearily enough to the poor lunatics, but rather pleasantly to the doctor, who had gained flesh, and a decoration to boot, and was looking forward to still further promotion. But as if in fulfilment of the prophecy, that “ promotion cometh not from the east nor from the west nor from the south,” unexpected humiliation came from these very quarters of the globe, not excepting the north, which seems to have escaped the psalmist when boxing the compass. Russian threats, a Persian boundary complication, Albanian outlaws, and Greek brigands turned the whole energy of the Porte to the work of reorganizing its wretched army, and of equipping those few rotten hulks which had survived neglect, the worms, and the battle of Navarino. The noise of the anvil and loom never ceased ; the chibouques and forges were in full blast; unprecedented was the activity in the arsenals. Many public edifices, such as schools, academies, and hospitals, were sequestered, and converted into military depots. There was a certain building, known as the Menagerie of Sultan Achmed, which belonged to the state, and constituted a very important appendage to royalty. At that time its stock consisted, as I well remember, of several ostriches, two halfstarved lions, an unhappy hyena, a fox or two, and quite a large number of apes. From time immemorial all vacancies in the rank and file of this menagerie were filled by the gifts of provincial governors to their Sultan, who graciously deigned to accept these zoölogical proofs of loyalty, especially as their nourishment involved no loosening of the royal purse-strings. The arrival in Stamboul of each new recruit was a welcome event to the entire population, with the slight exception of the butchers, who were taxed in turn for a daily supply of bullocks’ hearts and livers.
The pashas, flushed with an unusual fit of military ardor, rebelled against the monopoly of so capacious an edifice by a few asthmatic quadrupeds. To destroy them would certainly create a tumult, in which any number of pashas’ heads, as well as tails, might come to grief. The insult of their return to the donors would prompt several powerful chieftains to upset their rice-kettles, which was the vernacular for setting up the standard of revolt. Another cabinet meeting was called. The nature of its deliberations has never transpired, for the climate of Constantinople is singularly unhealthy to reporters ; of which curious medical fact I could give many examples. To make a long story very short, early one hot summer morning a long string of creaking buffalo-carts filed in under the gateway of the Suleimanié Health-House, and interrupted the namaz, or morning devotions, of the whole staff by breaking bulk in the court-yard, and billeting the entire menagerie, cages, beasts, and keepers, upon the premises.
History is prudently silent as to the number of distinguished courtiers whose mothers’, grandmothers’, and greatgrandmothers’ graves the doctor spat upon, and whose fathers’ and forefathers’ shades, up to the time of the first Caliph of Bagdad, − on whom be peace, — he otherwise defiled in very indecorous pantomime. History, I repeat, is silent; but tradition asserts that the language indulged in on that memorable morning would cause us all to marvel at the vituperative resources of the Turkish language. The first effervescence of surprise once over, like a prudent general under the cannon of a superior foe, the doctor retreated with all his baggage, and without the loss of a single pipe-stem, over to one side of the court-yard, leaving the enemy in full possession of the opposite gallery. The gates of the hospital were again. thrown open to the public, to whom this striking combination of a menagerie of wild beasts and a menagerie of wild men gave infinite satisfaction ; and the doctor finally put an arm of the sea and several miles of difficult country between himself and his patients.
Left without a head, the showmen of the rival menageries began to tread upon each other’s slippers, and to study each other’s profiles from very irritating points of perspective. Noisy disputes occurred hourly over the division of the gifts and of the alms ; ugly epithets and broomsticks flew backwards and forwards across the area, to the great amusement of the visitors. Suddenly and most unaccountably these sworn enemies were seen to unite in constructing a miniature citadel under the eaves of the gallery roof, gained by a movable ladder, whence in peace and harmony they smoked over their respective charges by day, and snored over them by night.
Humanity veils her eyes from a spectacle over which demons gloated, and which for three shameful years polluted the soil of Europe. Yet, so far from being studiously concealed, this combination of madhouse and menagerie was deemed one of the most interesting sights of the capital, as many a tourist’s note-book will bear me witness.
Unfruitful would be the task to unravel the tangle of Turkish statecraft. Suffice it to say, that in 1843 the Sublime Porte again smoked its pipe and sipped its Mocha, but this time to some purpose. A Mohammedan physician of European education now dislodged the showmen from their citadel: the menagerie of wild beasts disappeared as mysteriously as an apparition ; once more the heavy gates swung to and shut out the rabble. Clothing and bedding were given to those lunatics who had not altogether forgotten how to use them. The teachings of civilization opened up new life to gaunt and squalid frames, whose stiffened limbs were freed from chains. The largest wards were partitioned off into cells, in which the more noisy inmates could exercise their lungs without fear of stocks and bastinado. A priest from the adjacent mosque hastened to furbish up his old sermons and fill the post of chaplain. An apothecary was coaxed to reside on the premises, and the patients to swallow his medicines. But, what was still better, the vast kitchens, being put into thorough repair, began to exhale odors of pilaff and kibab ; nay, twice a day became fragrant and canorous with the roasting and bruising of coffee-grains.
The year 1857 brings us to the more pleasing task of describing the last, best, and present administration of the hospital. A well-appointed corps of male and female attendants were organized ; a uniform dress gave system to the enterprise; and, above all, a piece of very good luck secured the services of Dr. Mongeri, an intelligent European physician, and ably seconded him by two medical assistants, and by twenty-one employees, including the chaplain, clerk, and apothecary. For three centuries of fortunate intolerance this hospital was denied to the Christian subjects of the Porte, that privilege, if such it may be termed, being restricted to the true believer ; but now its gates were thrown open to every nationality and sect.
Constantinople, from its unique geographical position, perplexes the stranger by its medley of peoples and tongues. Sandwiched between two continents, it is the El Dorado of all the fortune-hunters of Asia, and the city of refuge to all the expatriated rogues and patriots of Europe. Hence, the doctor and his assistants are perforce polyglots.
At first the new superintendent felt awkward, and as much out of date as the odd day in leap-year; but he soon took courage. Shod with the seven-leagued boots of civilization, he bruskly jostled against the slippered Turkish drones, and, with the unexpectedness of a boomerang, now gave a quietus to time-honored customs, anon doubled up some prejudice loitering sadly behind the times.
But art is long, very, very long, in Turkey. Its history reads like a comedy. The admission of the insane to the regenerated Health-House of Suleiman is not accompanied by those forms and certificates which other nations deem necessary as safeguards against crime, nor by the previous history of the patient. Surely, to deprive a fellow-creature of his social and political rights ought to be no hasty act ; yet the present superintendent complains that friends and relatives too readily obtain an order of admission from the civil authorities, which is a model of official brevity. Thus: "The head physician of the Suleimanié Hospital will receive the bearer, Mustapha, known to be crazy, the son of the Yellow-Slippered ” or “ the Black-Bearded Aali ” ; the want of patronymics compeiling this resort to descriptive nicknames. Sometimes a policeman will drag in a handcuffed prisoner and show this concise order: “Confine this unknown lunatic.” Indeed, so carelessly is this managed, that the order for the admission of a man has accompanied a woman ; and too often sick persons, delirious through fever, are hurried off to this asylum, either designedly or through ignorance, where they usually die from the effects of the fatigue and rudeness attending their removal. Still more frequently galleyslaves are admitted, who feign madness in hopes of escaping from premises less carefully guarded than those of the Bagnio.
Of course such official carelessness, together with the easy evasion of every law, encourages the worst crimes, and many a heart-sickening fraud has been perpetrated upon the liberty of a perfectly sane person. A large measure of this grave charge, so far as it regards the Suleimanié, must be taken retrospectively, for the present humane superintendent would never lend his aid to such an outrage ; but his own authority is limited, and his enlightened efforts are often rendered powerless by the connivance or apathy of corrupt officials. Comparatively speaking, such cases in his asylum, although too frequent, are isolated ; let them pass: but humanity shudders at the outrages hidden in the small mad cells and dungeons of the so-called Christian churches, and especially in the reckless confinement in private houses. With such unlimited facilities for crime at his command, any person of influence, or of its equivalent, − wealth,− can, on the plea of insanity, immure an enemy, his ward, an heir, or a disobedient son, without being obliged to give the proper proofs to any magistrate, unless it may be to the parish priest or to the church beadle, who, if sublimely indifferent to bribes from those who are too poor to bribe, are not so to false representations. These are bold assertions ; but to substantiate them I could bring forward fact upon fact that has fallen under my own observation. Threats of such incarceration have, to my certain knowledge, been made by men of rank to importunate creditors ; whilst to confine in madhouses recusants from the faith of their fathers has been so common as to pass into a jest. Also, to evade the penalty for murder or for other crimes, the guilty parties are clamorously accused of insanity by their own influential friends, and hurriedly thrust into some obscure madhouse, where they remain until either the excitement has died away, or some amicable arrangement of blood-money or hush-money has been made. Such lawlessness is represented to be somewhat checked at present, but what old resident believes in these honeyed bulletins of reform ? Still, let us be charitable ; there are beams in our own eyes.
Formerly the method of conveying a male lunatic to the Suleimanié HealthHouse was not calculated to tone down his distorted views of life. First, an iron collar was clamped about his neck ; to this one end of a long chain was riveted, the other end being locked around the waist of the first-met porter, who was summarily impressed into the service. Two policemen now pinioned his arms and shoved him along, whilst the porter, leading the way, dragged him to the asylum gate with many a resentful tug. As a very lame apology for this rough treatment, the reader will remember that, excepting a few thoroughfares, the streets of Constantinople are too narrow for any wheeled vehicle, and Turkish ingenuity is not up to inventing a substitute, but depends upon predestinated conflagrations to widen them into carriage-ways. With his usual promptitude Dr. Mongeri took the matter in hand ; a few strait-jackets and handcuffs were expressed from Paris, and the iron chains, collars, and other instruments of punishment or of restraint now rust among the labelled curiosities of the asylum museum.
For this act of philanthropy let us give the doctor a kind shake of the hand, but at the same time a disapproving shake of the head at his want of gallantry towards the other sex. It is sad to relate that, should one of the daughters of the land display any coyness in making his acquaintance, she is treated in so culinary a manner as to justify the suspicion that she is destined for the larder of some one of those ghouls of Eastern legend. After having her arms and legs trussed up like a drawn fowl, she is packed into a hamper, carefully covered over with a cloth, and placed upon the pack of a porter, who jogs along to the asylum with as much indifference as if he were carrying an unusually large and rather noisy supply of marketing.
By stepping into the clerk’s office, and by turning over the records, all written on thick vellum paper resembling parchment, and in characters remarkably like a row of fish-hooks and pothooks variously inclined to the plane of the horizon, the learned visitor will find that the executive administration of the Suleimanié asylum has never been intrusted to the medical staff, where it properly belongs, but limps along under the guardianship of four cabinet ministers. The Seraskier, or Minister of War, provides the clothing, the furniture, and the medicines, and doles out the daily rations, which, although simple, are very fortifying to the constitutions of a score or two of that nobleman’s retainers. All general repairs are shouldered by the Minister of Pious Edifices ; for Constantinople, like Rome, rejoices in a Pious as well as a Profane Ædile. The Minister of Finance very properly pays the wages of the nurses, — whenever they are paid, — subtracting a liberal commission for his trouble ; he regulates all extraordinary expenses, and supervises the construction of any addition to the building, such as a coal-bin, a shed, or an outhouse. He must, however, first fill his pipe and have a puff over the matter with his colleague the Minister of Profane Edifices, who decides as to the utility of the proposed improvements. In addition, the latter estimates the expenses of repairs, and determines what share comes out of the funds of the War Department, what portion must be assumed by the Pious Ædile, and especially what amount of the current coin of the realm, in the transfer, may be safely diverted, out of the legitimate channel, into his own pocket, and into that of his noble friend of the Treasury. Of course in their councils disputes will arise, and the beard of the Prophet is frequently taken in vain ; but of their harmonious alacrity the reader may rest assured, whenever there is a chance of prospecting in the public funds ; for here the path of duty coincides with that of pleasure.
As a very natural consequence to this division of labor, delays prejudicial to the interests of the asylum are constantly taking place ; not only from the time consumed in deciding which magnate is the proper one to attend to the aforesaid coal-bin, shed, or outhouse, but which one shall incur the expense. For instance, the doctor complains that our old friends, the pigeons, insolent with unlimited barley, were ever breaking the window-panes and trespassing on the premises. To remedy this nuisance a requisition for wire-grating was once made ; but this article, being consecrated to the windows of saintly mausoleums and to the rags of the devout, did not appear on the red-tape list of supplies. For years, therefore, this requisition journeyed backwards and forwards, up stairs and down stairs, from one bureau to another.
Without distinction of rank or religion, the patients are clad in a simple uniform ; nor, strange to say, has much objection been made to this in a land where each one strives in dress to rival the prismatic hues. Not satisfied with gaining this point, the doctor, somewhat of a martinet, hankered after a uniformity of cut in his patients’ beards ; and, taking the barber into his confidence, meditated a very base plot. But there is a divinity which hedges the Oriental beard and protects each individual hair. A beard indicates the head of a family, rank, and independence ; as such, it is highly venerated, almost worshipped. To swear by one’s beard is an oath of solemn import ; to pull another’s beard is an insult to be atoned only by blood or blood-money. On the other hand, smooth must be the chin of a son, a servant, a chamberlain, or a clerk, although he may wax and stroke any length of mustache. Under this tonsorial law, no prince of the blood royal dare sport an imperial ; not even the heir-apparent, whose first stubble dates from his coronation, when he girds on his sword and banishes his razor. In the encounter with such deeply rooted customs, the doctor’s shears, like the Czar’s, came out second best, and the asylum chins still remain a perpetual eyesore.
The amusements and occupations of the patients require a word. Newspapers, a reading-room, or a library do very well in lands where the schoolmaster has been abroad, but here they are wholly out of place. Nor will the genius of the people admit of athletic games, or any manual labor unless of a sedentary kind. But there is no difficulty in the way of entertaining an Eastern lunatic ; give him a pipe, unlimited coffee, and a rug upon which to squat, and man’s chief end is attained ; it is only among infidel dogs that Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do. A few more active ones, chiefly Christians, occupy themselves in sewing and patching; indeed, so primitive is the cut of the asylum uniform, so free from the caprices of fashion, so innocent of gores and gussets, that any one who masters the difficulties of hitting the eye of a needle − that northwest passage to the bachelor − soon becomes an expert tailor.
It appears, however, that the time of the patients is chiefly spent in hunting up and quarrelling over their missing slippers and shoes. Happily Mustapha’s brains, however erratic, are covered by a fixture ; he sleeps and eats and sits and walks in his turban or fez ; in it he lives and moves and has his being ; and no concatenation of excuses, however ingenious, could justify its appearance on Aali’s head. But the slippers and shoes ! ah, there ’s the rub ; the blemish in this otherwise admirably appointed institution. Upon entering an Oriental house, custom and good housekeeping require the street shoes to be removed at the threshold of the front door ; hence twice a day, at breakfast and dinner, supper being an unknown meal, the entire stock of the Suleimanic shoes and slippers collects about the diningroom door in very perplexing disorder. Of course, they are forever getting mixed up, forever slipping upon wrong feet, forever being appropriated by acquisitive lunatics, forever going to some undiscovered bourne from which no asylum shoe, but a great deal of wrangling, ever returns. Barring the shoes and the beards, the doctor would be in clover.
The daily average number of patients in this asylum is one hundred and forty, nor can the building with comfort accommodate more, from 1857 1° 1867, a period of ten years, there were 1,605 patients under treatment ; of these 1,259 were males and 346 females, a ratio of about four to one. This disproportion must not be taken as a correct standard of the relative liability to insanity of the two sexes, for the following reasons : (1.) The inmates of the asylum are mainly those who are too violent to be kept at home, and women are not so prone to that form of insanity. (2.) The Turks, doubting the chastity of their wives, confine them in the prison-like apartments of the harem, secluded by close lattices and guarded by eunuchs. It therefore does violence to their prejudices to put a woman under the same roof with men, or under the care of a male physician. (3 ) A crazy woman must become very violent indeed before she can inspire the same degree of fear which is excited by an insane man ; hence she is far more frequently kept at home, or else, if poor and old, is allowed to roam the streets. Often have I heard some crazy crone, standing upon the inevitable dunghill of a Turkish hamlet, spitting forth on the villagers below an abusive froth, so rich in filth and quaint obscenity that it would put to the blush the ribald fishwives of Paris or their more renowned sisters across the Channel.
From the differences of custom and education, the phases of insanity present lights and shades unknown to purely Christian communities. Thus the doctor finds that the religious observance of stated ablutions is so indoctrinated into the Mohammedan mind as to become an instinct, and greatly tends to prevent that repulsive imbecility which tries the skill and patience of European alienists. Should a patient show any such tendency, it is readily combated by awakening the idea of ceremonial uncleanliness. On the other hand, the effluvia arising from the Christian person are sadly pungent ; but, as a makeweight, his linen is more clean and less populous than that of the Mussulman. The Christian patient delights to scribble upon the walls, and to exercise his art in charcoal-sketches ; the Turk looks on in admiration, but rarely ventures to imitate. The former is irascible and fault-finding ; the latter calm and dignified. There are many other points of difference, but as regards the disposition to lose their shoes the harmony is touching.
Among the female patients there is not often found the disposition to tear or strip off their clothes ; for so rigidly is woman guarded at home from every profane gaze, so peremptorily does the Koran permit a husband to divorce her should she unveil before a stranger, that this instinct of modesty remains long after every other sense of shame is lost. Again : the oppressive vacuity of the Eastern intellect, the perfumed indolence of the rich, the dronish lethargy of the poor, the lack of education, the life-killing doctrine of fatalism, the servile cringing to superiors, which has effaced every trace of manhood,−all combine to stamp their impress upon the insane brain. “ Hardly known,” says the doctor, “ is that restless energy of mind and body, those fierce alternations of rapture and despair, finding vent in excessive action and incoherent volubility, fretting at restraint and chafing at reproof.” Equally rare is that extravagant egotism and exaggerated self-esteem, which so frequently in our own asylums lead to insubordination and treachery.
Such elements of discord are scarcely to be met with ; but, torpid in body, sluggish in mind, exhibiting a mute and brutish resignation, the insane Oriental, like those chemical solutions which crystallize only when agitated, remains inert, unless rudely jostled against an idea. Taught from the cradle to grovel at the feet of his superiors, let his stolid mind once absorb the fact that the superintendent is the Effendi, or master, who holds the reins, and there remains no further difficulty in controlling him. At occasional intervals, however, to enliven the dull routine of hospital discipline, the doctor catches a real as well as proverbial “ Tartar,” who, fresh from the provinces, is too churlish a bigot to yield precedence to the “ cursed son of a giaour,” and raises quite a tempest of insubordination.
Having glanced at this truly noble institution, my next step should be to turn to its statistics, and show what percentage the insane bear to the total population, and to the three great communities of Mohammedans, Christians, and Jews. But at the threshold a serious difficulty confronts the inquirer; namely, how to solve that vexed question as regards the number of inhabitants in the city of Constantinople. In consulting a considerable number of authorities upon this subject, I find a difference of opinion and of numerals truly disheartening. One dyspeptic economist, in order to point some gloomy vital problem, lowers the population to five hundred thousand. Equally reckless guesses are hazarded by a series of geographical adventurers, climaxed finally by a "cry from Macedonia” for “one million three hundred thousand copies of the Scriptures for the benighted souls of the great metropolis alone.”
Adopting as an impartial basis for future calculations a population of nine hundred thousand, and eliminating the European and Jewish residents, the former as foreign to our inquiry, the latter because the number of their insane is not known, I find that Constantinople contains three hundred and thirty thousand native Christians, and four hundred and fifty-nine thousand persons who profess Mohammedanism. Armed with these data, I am now prepared to develop new facts ; although the scant material at my command will show to disadvantage beside the affluence of European and American statistics.
During the twelve months ending March 1, 1864, 325 patients, of whom 72 were females, passed under treatment in the Suleimanié. Of this number 98, or three tenths, represented the local population, the remainder of 227 being sent from provincial towns. During the same period of time about 258 Christian patients, namely, 202 males and 56 females, were confined in the insane wards of the three Christian general hospitals. Of these, 192 claimed a residence in the city proper. In addition, about a score of wretches cower in the cells of an old Greek convent in the island of Prinkipo, a good two hours’ row from the Golden Horn, whither, even in the times of the Lower Empire, all crazy Byzantines were ferried, to be placed under the care of Saint George, its patron saint. But as that saintly warrior and alienist, in all the daubs and legends of the Greek Church, is ever depicted in desperate conflict with the Dragon, it is charitable to explain the loathsome condition of his patients by the inference that he has not yet thrust home his lance-head, and is still hard pressed by quarts and tierce.
Three hundred and ten lunatics, therefore, represent a mixed population of 789,000 souls, a proportion of one insane person to every 2,545 of the inhabitants. To subdivide still further, 330,000 native Christians support 212 insane patients in their three sectarian hospitals, a ratio of one to 1,560. On the other hand, as the 98 citizens who are confined in the tolerant Suleimanié also include outcasts from other sects, and especially from the foreign legations, only about eighty lunatics— and this is a high estimate − will represent the 459,000 Mohammedans of the metropolis, namely, one in every 5.737. Now if in France, according to M. Lunier, Inspector-General of Lunatic Asylums, there exists one lunatic to every 200 inhabitants, and one in 412 so violent as to require confinement, whilst in England the proportion is one in 432 of the population, it stands to reason that the proportion of lunatics in Constantinople should be greater than one in 2,545. The fact is, that since so many Oriental lunatics are concealed at home, made way with, or allowed to be at large, the above statistics are utterly unreliable, so far as they give the proportion of the insane to the sane inhabitants. But as these sources of error are common to all the communities, this important fact may be fairly deduced, that the tendency to insanity among the Christian subjects far exceeds that of their Moslem masters. So unexpected a result demands some explanation ; and I shall therefore attempt to trace out the causes of this startling difference.
In a measure this may be explained by the aphorism of Esquirol, “ Les progrès de la civilisation multiplient les fous ” ; for the Christians are far better educated than the Turks, on whom civilization, like an unwelcome marauder, makes an occasional raid. Other causes, not so patent, exist ; under currents, which show no surface ripples, and yet drift surely towards the abyss. To determine these demands a knowledge of the character, customs, habits, and religious tenets of each community is necessary.
The statistics of all Christian asylums show that the moral effect of public opinion and the twinges of an educated conscience often lead to insanity those who abandon themselves to the indulgence of their appetites. In the Ottoman race this does not hold good. Turkish society sanctions the most exhaustive excesses, and openly winks at vices forbidden alike by natural and revealed religion. Their songs, national and anacreontic, reek with the vilest filth. The coarse ribaldry of their polite conversation would not be tolerated even by our ancestors, who, like the gentle Cowper, read aloud to fireside circles the comedies of a Congreve or Wycherley. At such favorite places of resort as the “ Heavenly Waters,” or the “ Valley of Sweet Waters,” the wanton dances and lascivious couplets of strolling gypsy girls are the favorite amusements of the mothers and daughters of the land. Kara-Gueuz, the harlequin of their only national play, sets at defiance all decency of language and pantomime. So debauched a people, who know no chastity but what is barred and bolted, whose “ministering spirits” are mere concubines, and whose heaven is one vast seraglio, the demon of insanity may scourge only when devils shall again be suffered to enter into a herd of swine.
In other lands, education peoples the wards of insane asylums. In the days of the Caliphs many a Saracen’s busy brain and alembic cracked in the search after the Elixir of Life. But the times are changed, and with them the true believers, for positively much learning hath not made mad a single patient in the Suleimanié Health-House. In the Bœotian atmosphere of the East, where the midnight lamp burns only in orgies, nerve fibres are too relaxed to snap.
Utterly unknown is religious mania. No pantheistic dream, no scornful scepticism, disturbs the repose of the Oriental mind. The dogma of Fatalism so covers every inch of ground, and leaves so little elbow-room for wrangling schoolmen, that amid all the oscillations of human belief the Moslem has ever remained constant to his creed. Grave disputes have arisen, it is true, whether the canonical color of the turban should be a snow-white or a pea-green ; whether Fatima or Ayesha possesses a soul, or some other germ of immortality: but in these brain jousts no wits have been lost. In short, all Moslems stand shoulder to shoulder in their religious tenets, excepting those accursed Persians, whose beards we spit upon, and whose fathers' graves we defile.
The wonderful buoyancy and elasticity of the Moslem faith is yet another cause of exemption from religious mania. It accepts as truths absurdities the most amazing, anachronisms the most incoherent, paradoxes the most monstrous. Should reason or common sense suggest an objection, “ God is great ” is the unanswerable reply.
For the merest trifles, over five thousand Frenchmen annually perish by their own hands ; full as many Britons “sneak to death ” ; but what Turk was ever known to commit suicide ? His only fireside is a brazier of charcoal ; polished arms bristle in his girdle; deadly poisons are sold over his grocer’s counter ; his highway, the Bosphorus, seethes with venomous currents ; and yet an implicit belief in Kismet, or Fate, renders him so undemonstrative of joy or sorrow, so patient under disheartening calamities, that never basely skulks from life, but with austere apathy waits for the tidal wave of adversity to ebb. Moreover, in the presence of royalty, the pasha and the peasant are vassals; whilst neither aristocracy nor wealth are hereditary. There hardly exists a man of rank, whose life is not a romance ; to-day a beggar, to-morrow clad in ermine; now chained to the oar, a week hence lolling on the divan of the Grand-Vezir. Hence in the darkest night he looks toward the orient, and hope is the nepenthe which sustains him. Even when there falls upon his ear the stealthy tread of the imperial mutes, he resorts not to suicide, but calmly exclaiming, “ God is great,” bares his neck to the bow-string. Can a phlegm so tough yield to insanity ?
Save among a few simple-hearted mountaineers, or in some exiled member of a nomadic tribe, nostalgia is an unknown element of insanity. The young Turk yearns for no home, and is bound by hallowed ties to no spot on earth. The affectionate outgushings of his childhood are repressed ; he is taught to approach his parents, not with the artless abandon of filial love, but with studied awe and measured step. Instead of showering kisses and receiving them back with interest, he reverently presses his lips to their hands, and then falling back a step or two, stands servilely with folded arms. At the age of puberty he is carefully excluded from the apartments of the harem, and is married off as soon as possible to some girl on whom he never laid eyes.
The passion of love, which in other lands has demented its thousands, is in the East so hedged in by customs and traditions, that it is as harmless as a caged wild beast. The women are closely veiled, the sexes kept scrupulously apart. Courtship being forbidden, among the men the “nervous erethism ” arising from long engagements and unreciprocated love is utterly unknown. A woman may, however, become enamored of some tradesman, from whom she purchases her finery, and instances are not wanting of female victims to the tender passion.
In civilized lands mental alienation is often produced by noble attributes, such as patriotism, the love of liberty, real or imaginary dishonor ; but these are qualities too delicate to take root in the jejune soil of an effete nationality. In vain will you search the wards of the Suleimanié for such soul-maladies. Nor will you have any better success with cases of melancholy and misanthropy ; for, give the Osmanlee a few live coals, a coffee-pot, a pipe, and a widow’s cruse of tobacco, and I defy him to grow sick of himself or of the world.
If neither education, nor religion, nor love, nor philosophy, nor immorality, nor disaster, nor solitude disturbs the Eastern brain, in the name of the Prophet what does ? Without venturing upon the battle-ground of modern alienists, who range themselves under the banners of materialism and immaterialism, in reply, it may be stated broadly that the causes of insanity are divided into two great classes, the one emotional, the other somatic, or dependent on some derangement of the body. Mania arising from love or religion is an example of the first class, whilst the second embraces those cases of mental alienation resulting from injury to the brain, as from disease, want, intemperance, and accidents. Amidst education and refinement the psychical element of insanity preponderates, for the delicate and complex web of nerve fibrils, composing a highly organized brain, resembles that scientific toy, which resists many a rude blow from without, but is shivered by an in-dropping sand-grain. On the other hand, the statistics of the Suleimanié asylum show that certain pathological conditions of the body are requisite to perturbate the stagnant Mohammedan mind.
Foremost among the causes of Eastern insanity stand opium-eating and the use of the Indian hemp. Next in rank is the abuse of alcoholic drinks, especially of those European spirits, which, being distilled from anything under the sun except the forbidden “juice of the grape,” are affected by even, the greenest turbaned casuist, who would perish at the stake sooner than sip a thimbleful of wine. In Constantinople and in other seaports, where the attrition of commerce has rubbed off many incrustations, and alas ! much of the Oriental enamel, intemperance begets the largest percentage of lunatics. In the provinces, where the habits of the people are more primitive and where the spirit as well as the letter of the Koran is observed too strictly to sanction the use of any intoxicating beverages, almost all the lunatics are victims to the habit of opium and hashish eating. A rapid decay of mind and body is also produced by the use of other deleterious drugs, sold over every counter, and largely employed by Turkish sybarites. Space is wanting to dilate upon this interesting subject of Oriental poison-eaters. Suffice it to say that arsenic is used as a depilatory ; cantharides and nux-vomica are habitually taken as aphrodisiacs, or else stealthily administered as philters ; whilst corrosive sublimate is swallowed for the purpose of enhancing the dreamy narcotism of opium. This resort to aksulimen, or corrosive sublimate, is inevitable ; the Theriaki, or opium-eater, may shiver awhile on the brink of the abyss, but into it he must plunge sooner or later. Among Mohammedan women, according to Dr. Mongeri, insanity may be traced to the excessive use of coffee and tobacco, and especially to the loss of health resulting from the measures adopted to prevent offspring. In our own land this crime of fœticide is of bastard growth and without excuse; but where polygamy prevails it is a natural offshoot, and will ever be coeval with the vitality of Islamism.
Having traced out the causes of insanity among the Moslems, let me now turn to the native Christian population and explain their greater tendency to mental alienation. Fear holds the first rank as a cause of insanity ; such fear as no citizen of a free land can understand. In the palmy days of the Janizaries, when human life was held so cheap that any petty lord of a manor could at pleasure hang or behead his vassals, the rural districts would have been depopulated, had not some Turkish Malthus instituted a humane order of knighthood, whose motto should have been, “ Tails I win, heads you lose.” Thus a Pasha of One Tail bore on his standard one horse’s tail, which patent of nobility bestowed the right of cutting off one human head daily between sunrise and sunset, without assigning any reason, and without being called to account. More heads than one every four-and-twenty hours justly rendered him liable to reproof. A Pasha of Two Tails was entitled to two heads per day ; and thus tails were added and heads subtracted in even ratio until a pashalick of five tails was the highest rank of nobility in the gift of a grateful monarch. Then followed a very lucky gap in this sequence of numbers, closed by the Sultan himself, whose rank of Sixty Tails very suitably has gained him the title of Khiunkyar, or Blood-Drinker. Happily, those bloody days are past.
From the capture of Constantinople in 1453 down to the promulgation of the Hatti-Houmayoum, or Magna Charta, in 1856, a pall of terror and dismay brooded over the rayahs, or Christian subjects. I well remember the ignominious costumes which they were compelled by their oppressors to wear; and, when that was abolished through “ outside pressure,” the shameful badges of vassalage tagged on to their fezes, lest these uncircumcised dogs should be mistaken for the true believers. I well remember the time, when by gifts or by threats Christian children were enticed to repeat the words, La Allah il Allah, Muhammed ressul Allah, “ God is the God, and Mohammed his prophet.” This creed once uttered, they were claimed as converts and torn away from their parents. Years have elapsed, but never can I forget the afternoon when, seated at an open window and reading a juvenile Life of Mohammed, I first came across these words ; how, with boyish heedlessness I shouted them out at the top of my voice ; how my father, pale with fear, ran into the room and silenced me by explaining the danger from being overheard ; how for weeks afterwards every knock at the door sounded my doom; how oppressive was the weight of this secret, and how often I was tempted to cry out this fatal creed in the crowded streets of the city !
Those were blood-curdling times. After stealing from bis house at an early hour to enter upon the labors of the day, the Armenian or Greek tradesman never knew whether his eyes would rest upon his family again. Fear, heart-rending, hopeless fear, ever dogged his footsteps, — fear for his own life or liberty ; fear of confiscation or of torture ; fear lest his wife should be dishonored, or his daughters torn away to some nobleman’s seraglio ; fear lest his sons should be forced to embrace Mohammedanism, and thus be lost to him not only in this life, but eternally in the next. The life of a street dog was absolutely more safe than his. For pastime a party of bravos, bristling with arms, and swaggering through the streets, would not unfrequently try the temper of a newly purchased weapon upon the first Christian. The dreary agony of life was measured, not by days and hours, but by heart-throbs.
I have met with several remarkable instances, and every old resident can tell off on his fingers case upon case of insanity or of kindred nervous disorders produced by harrowing suspense or paroxysms of fear. The French Revolution lasted but a few short years, and yet, during that reign of terror, the increase in insanity was most marked ; a fortiori must four centuries of torture, of oppression, and of suspense have stamped its impress upon an entire community. It is true that the last twenty years have witnessed great improvements in the condition of the native Christians, but constant fear, constant agony, constant humiliation, have so crushed out every trace of manhood, that they are still a cringing, fawning, and abject race. Several generations of happier descendants can alone efface the mental taints acquired in those long years of vassalage.
But this Utopian state of happiness can only occur in a change. So long as the dominant power is Moslem, never can the Turk and Christian be upon the same footing, Fortunately, to foretell the end requires no great powers of vaticination. The Ottoman is a doomed empire, Islam is a doomed religion, the Turks a doomed race. “Turkey is dying for want of Turks.” What enthusiast believes in Turkish regeneration ? Who is now beguiled by those siren notes of reform which yearly float to our ears across the ocean ? Alas ! even those fitful gleams of light which play athwart the Eastern horizon are but the phosphorescence of decay.
In times of plague or cholera the Turk shows no fear, affects no precautions, and coolly awaits either a fated death or a fated deliverance ; whilst the Armenian and Greek−I write as an eyewitness − spurn all ties of blood and affection in frantic efforts at selfpreservation. During the last epidemic of cholera in 1867, in the small Christian village of Buyukdéré, over sixty dead bodies were found in as many deserted houses, the occupants having fled at the first alarm, leaving their sick relatives to wrestle alone with death. Nature violated is exacting, and a fear so intense and so selfish often culminates in insanity.
Fortunately such calamities appear in cycles and are not constant; but one dire scourge, that of fire, ever hangs poised over the wood-built cities of the East. From the first feeble glimmer until a vast conflagration flaunts its crimson banners over an entire horizon, the heart grows sick and faint. The countless firebrands, the roaring of the flames, the crash of falling timbers, the explosion of mines, the howls of dogs, the shrieks and yells of men and women, the tearing of the hair, the beating of breasts, the pillaging, the jamming of a panic-stricken mob in crooked lanes, whole streets blocked up by broken or abandoned furniture, render the confusion appalling. All presence of mind is lost ; husbands become separated from their wives, children from their parents; the old and feeble are trodden down ; mothers, frantic with terror, throw their infants out of windows, and rush from their burning houses, carefully bearing away some valueless utensil. As no banks exist, every man’s house − although it cannot in any sense of the word be called his castle − contains his all, and a fire, consuming the accumulation of years, leaves thousands in abject poverty. Add to this the well-known morbid influence of maternal impressions, not only upon gestation, but upon its products, and we have in conflagrations a fertile source of idiocy and insanity; just as the bombardment of Vienna caused the birth of many weak-brained and idiotic children.
The passion of gaming and of speculating in land are frequent causes of insanity. There exists no nation on the face of the earth who borrow and lend to the same extent as the native Christians. The credit of the Greeks is somewhat impaired by an unpleasant habit of sticking a knife into their creditors ; but if an Armenian, poor or rich, can be found in the Turkish Empire who does not confess to being exercised by some little borge, or debt, he deserves to be canonized.
Again, so entangled in trickery, fraud, lying, and cheating is every branch of trade, that a business transaction is but a euphemism for an exhaustive encounter between rival swindlers, in which the longer-headed rogue overreaches the other. This harassing anxiety, this constant strain of alertness,− now studying how to repress, now to allure, − the sleepless nights passed in plotting and counter-plotting, in time tell on the brain. Indeed, so notorious is it for the great Armenian bankers to have softening of the brain, that the Seraff Ileti, or bankers’ disease, has passed into a proverb.
In my opinion one prolific source of insanity lies in certain mediæval customs which obtain among the Christian sects. Early marriages are the rule ; each son, therefore, brings his bride to his father’s house, which is gradually enlarged to suit the requirements of an increasing family. So many mistresses under one roof would certainly raise it, did not etiquette exact from each bride a Carthusian silence, which is rigidly and often heartlessly enforced by every capricious mother-in-law. For years − I have known it to last thirty and have heard of one authentic case lasting eighty − she may not speak unless first addressed, and must then reply in whispered monosyllables. For one month after her marriage the galin, or bride, cannot open her lips under any pretext whatever, and for a year does not quit the house or see any of her relatives. Even her husband cannot converse with her, much less make her the slightest gift, without the permission of the heads of the family; whilst for her to laugh in his presence, to put a question to his parent, or air a dimple before his maiden aunts, would be a gross violation of social etiquette. I have known one uxorious husband, pitying the melancholy of his wife, to smuggle in candies under his cap ; and on one occasion, as he himself narrates, so many hours elapsed before he could transfer the gift, that it softened and trickled down his face, exposing him to the rebukes and jeers of the household.
When visitors call, these brides sit mute, and are ignored by all present as if they were children out of the nursery on good behavior. Under all circumstances this polite fiction must be observed. Even in professional visits I confess, culpa mea, culpa maxima mea, to having done the proper thing, by barely addressing a word to the poor invalid, although perhaps herself a mother, and by limiting my questions to the bustling mistress of the house, who would describe the aches of her daughter-in-law with all the artless detail of a mamma, whose infant had just cut a tooth or was about to take to the bottle. A monotony of life so dreary, a social bondage so hateful, to girlish instincts often lead to insanity or to kindred disorders; and this result would be invariable were there not an antidote, a sort of mental bezoar. A wholesome vent to long-pentup silence is here found in violent hysterical explosions, in outrageous fits of temper, and especially in the most frightful ululations over the dead, not only of their own kindred, but of a whole district. On such a sanitary occasion as a funeral, all the neighbors turn out to beat their breasts, to tear out their hair, to utter piercing shrieks, and to outvie one another in other gymnastic feats of grief. Foreseeing that, in the absence of epidemics, these weaker vessels, like Leyden jars, might become too highly charged for safe detonations, a thoughtful wisdom has appointed stated days in each year, on which the women visit the graveyards; where, with dishevelled hair and disordered dress, they weep and wail and howl themselves into a state of equilibrium.
Such, then, are a few of the peculiarities of Eastern insanity ; for the subject is by no means exhausted, nor will it ever be. Studies in human nature can never be exhaustive, even where a unity of traits and customs exists ; for there are analogies deep in the constitution of man, and common to all mankind, which science has not yet plumbed. In conclusion, with poor materials and scant statistics at his command, with but a limited knowledge of mental diseases, the writer attaches less value to this article as a contribution to science, than as a description of manners and characteristics. To map out the channels of the human mind, and buoy out its shoals and quicksands, should be the work of a master alienist, − the only trustworthy navigator in that mysterious sea ; yet the humblest mariner has done good service whenever he heaves the lead and rudely chalks down the outlines of some unexplored coast.
W. Goodell, M. D.