Posts Tagged 'Theo Hyslop'

Mystical Bedlam: Museums at Night

Last Thursday, we opened up after hours for Museums at Night 2013. We managed to squeeze a record number of visitors into the small space to explore ‘mystical Bedlam’ in the late nineteenth century. This free talk focused on the late nineteenth-century interest in hypnotism (about which we have previously blogged) as well as the involvement of several psychiatrists associated with Bethlem and psychical research, including Daniel Hack Tuke, George Savage and Theo B. Hyslop.

In 1906, Hyslop published a ‘sort-of novel’ (in the words of his obituarist, and successor at Bethlem, W.H.B. Stoddart). Laputa, Revisited by Gulliver Redivivus, was a satire of the customs and habits of the early twentieth century, based on the return of Gulliver to Laputa and the changes that he found there since his previous visit. Although published anonymously, it may have been obvious to readers that the book was written by a psychiatrist, for a good third of the text takes place inside the Laputan asylum. Here, Gulliver attends a lecture entitled ‘The Moon v. Green Cheese’, in which Hyslop satirises most psychological approaches of the day. Scottish surgeon James Braid, for example (well-known for his work on hypnotism in the first half of the nineteenth century), becomes the ‘Past and Present Grand Master of Black and White Magicians’, while the Society for Psychical Research is characterised as the ‘Society for Psychical Spook-Spotters (British and Foreign)’.

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It might be tempting to conclude from this that Hyslop found hypnotism and psychical research as a whole to be something of a joke. Yet the Laputan lecture is equally scathing about biological (evolutionary and determinist) approaches to mind. Indeed, when the lecture was first published in Bethlem’s Under the Dome in 1896 (as a talk from the ‘Bethlem Association for the Advancement of Science’), Hyslop was himself an Associate of the Society for Psychical Research, a position he maintained until at least 1901. He corresponded with French psychologist Pierre Janet, and published on ‘double consciousness’, in which he used examples of altered states that he had encountered at Bethlem. His connections also encouraged him to develop an open mind about symptoms of mental illness, such as hallucinations, which the Society for Psychical Research had discovered were more common among the ordinary population than had been previously assumed.

We hope at the Archives and Museum that a historical approach to mental health care can encourage critical thinking and enable complex issues to be thoughtfully addressed. At Museums at Night, we took the opportunity to ask people about the designs for the new Museum of the Mind, and got some detailed and extremely useful feedback. For online visitors, we’ll be repeating this process over the coming weeks with a series of short questionnaires focused around specific elements of the planned displays. All comments will be gratefully received, and help us to ensure that the new Bethlem Museum reflects the broadest possible range of interests and experiences.

To begin this process, we’d like to invite you to help to choose the logo for the new museum, from three designs suggested to us. To record your thoughts, click on the link below.

 Click here to take survey


Art History in the Pub

This year’s Art History in the Pub has so far focused on psychiatric history, and next week’s (Monday 25 February) will look at Bethlem in particular. Art History in the Pub is a series of events run by the Association of Art Historians (AAH): a series of relaxed yet informative talks held in The Monarch Pub in Camden. January’s talk, by Jennifer Wallis from Queen Mary, University of London, explored an unusual series of images: the photographs collected by asylum medical officers in the late nineteenth century. Jennifer works with the archives of the West Riding Asylum in Wakefield, which was well-known in the Victorian period as a hub for “asylum science”. The hospital had a pathology laboratory, and staff took regular photographs of what Wallis called “fragments of the insane body”, focusing in on growths or bone deformities with the use of fabric screens and close framing. These fragments, also including pulse tracings, microscope slides and post-mortem dissections, were all incorporated into a “visual record of bodily anomalies”.

Next week’s talk moves away from photography to look at the Bethlem art collections, focusing on a public exhibition of patient art organised by physician Theo Hyslop in 1900. Hyslop has often been dismissed by historians as, at best, the “representative of the psychiatry of degeneration in Britain”. Nicholas Tromans and Sarah Chaney challenge this view, by settings Hyslop’s work in the context of turn-of-the-century psychiatric practice – in particular, that at Bethlem. Historians of Outsider Art agree that the 1900 exhibition was the earliest recorded public display of psychiatric art, yet virtually nothing seems to be known of it. The exhibition, which comprised no fewer than 600 works, was curated by Hyslop, who had evidently been collecting patient art for some time. But why did psychiatrists of this period collect the art of their patients, and what did they expect to learn from it? And what was the place of art at Bethlem at the turn of the twentieth century?

Art, the Archive and the Avant-Garde Asylum, c. 1890 – 1914 takes place on Monday February 25, at 7.30pm at the Monarch, 40-42 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8BG (Camden Town or Chalk Farm tube). For more information on Art History in the Pub, visit the AAH website or Facebook page.

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Biography and Psychology V: Henry Francis Harding (1826 – 1896)

In September 1896, the editor of Bethlem magazine Under the Dome had “a very serious loss” to report: the death of the un-official “Sub-Editor”, Henry Francis Harding, at the age of seventy. Harding had contributed regularly to the magazine since its foundation, compiling a regular column, Notes Apropos, (which related articles in the outside press to events in Bethlem and vice versa), writing a variety of articles on historical and other topics (signed X. or H.F.H.) and compiling the index to each annual bound volume.1 In addition, Harding received credit in publications going beyond the Hospital. When Theo Hyslop’s Mental Physiology was published in 1895, he thanked “his friend, Mr. H.F. HARDING, for revisal of the proof-sheet”.2

It would not be obvious from either of these sources that Henry Harding was,throughout this time, a patient at Bethlem, although Harding himself made no secret of this fact. Indeed, he often took it upon himself to remind others of the need to avoid the potential separation (at least to outsiders) between the official function of the hospital and its therapeutic one. For example, in a lengthy report of the opening of the new recreation hall in June 1896 by the Duke of Cambridge, Harding listed the many prestigious persons present, before concluding:

Last but not least (seeing that the raison d’être of the Recreation Hall and of the Hospital, generally, is the patients, and which, it should be added, is practically and in kindly form recognised by those governing, or otherwise controlling the inner life of the Hospital), we were pleased to see present a fair contingent of the said patients, with nurses and attendants..3

In one of his earlier columns, Harding commented that “we who write these notes are of the genus patient (species: “Voluntary”) – and very patient, if a somewhat lengthy abiding in Bethlem be taken – and should it not? – as evidence thereof.”.4 When he wrote these lines in 1893, Harding had indeed been at Bethlem for an unusually lengthy period, following his admission in December 1886. His casenotes state that the former Law Stationer (who had left work the previous March, feeling “overworked”, perhaps not surprising at the age of 60), came to Bethlem “because he felt his misery & agitation would make him lose control.” Nonetheless, he was never certified, and it is entirely possible that it was Harding’s personal situation, rather than his state of mind, that led to his lengthy stay. Elderly and un-married, Henry seems to have come to regard the Hospital as the family he never had, emphatically stating of Bethlem: “therein are we not a happy family! We are, we are…”.5

While it is obvious to see the benefit to the Hospital of such an enthusiastic advocate, Harding also reminds us that life within the Hospital was varied, and one person might have multiple roles. Henry Harding was not “just” a Bethlem patient, but also Sub-Editor, social campaigner, chronicler, companion and friend: someone who could legally have left Bethlem at any point, but chose not to. An unusually personal note in the usually factual Physician’s Weekly Report of 19 August 1896 records that “Mr H Harding VB has died of natural causes & his loss will be much felt.”

HF Harding1

Photograph of Henry Harding, c. 1886

1 “Mr H.F. Harding”, Under the Dome , vol. 5, no. 19 (Sept 1896)
2 Hyslop, T.B. Mental Physiology, London (1895)
3 Harding, H.F. “Opening of the Recreation Hall by H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge” Under the Dome, vol. 5. No. 18 (June 1896)
4 Harding, H.F. “Notes Apropos” Under the Dome, vol. 2, no. 8 (Dec 1893)
5 Harding, H.F. “Notes Apropos” Under the Dome, vol. 2, no. 7 (Sept 1893)

Neurology, the “Unconscious” and Victorian Psychiatry

The copy of Theo Hyslop’s 1895 publication, Mental Physiology in the Wellcome Library was, presumably, originally the doctor’s own, as it is interleaved with reviews, calling cards and letters to Hyslop from other mental health professionals, forming a fascinating archive in itself.

Mental Physiology was written mainly for the psychological part of Hyslop’s London M.D, which he completed while working as Assistant Medical Officer at Bethlem. Hyslop’s successor, William Stoddart, found it “strange” that the book never reached a second edition.1 Perhaps Hyslop’s efforts to associate somatic and psychological theories of mental health and illness did not integrate easily with a growing divide between neurological and psychotherapeutic approaches. Nonetheless, Mental Physiology certainly shares similar evolutionary concerns with much British psychiatry of the period, in emphasising the importance of volition (or will) to both the individual and broader civilization, simultaneously associating mental ill-health with a loss of, or failure to attain, this self-control.

Hyslop was also heavily influenced by French neurology, much of which stemmed from the work of Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière in Paris. Mental Physiology contains numerous references to the writings of Charcot’s pupils, such as Charles Féré and Pierre Janet. Janet is of particular note here: his calling card appears among the numerous psychiatrists’ cards pasted into this copy of Mental Physiology (from physicians across Europe and the United States), presumably received when they either visited Bethlem or attended a conference or meeting of the Medico-Psychological Association. A letter from Janet to Hyslop, also included in Mental Physiology, would seem to be part of a longer correspondence between the two, for it discusses the symptoms, and treatment, of a particular individual, presumably known to both parties. Since Henri Ellenberger’s research into The Discovery of the Unconscious in 1970, Janet’s work has been regarded as important in the formation ‘dynamic psychiatry’ and psychotherapeutic techniques, through his explorations into repressed memory, multiple personality and the connections between past events and present trauma.2 It is interesting to see here evidence of an established link between French and English psychiatry during a period in which, according to the traditional historical view, continental ideas had limited influence in England.

1. Stoddart, W. H. B. 1933. “Obituary: Theophilus Bulkeley Hyslop, M.D., CM., M.R.C.P.E., F.R.S.E.”. Journal of Mental Science 79, no. 325: 424-426.

2. Ellenberger, H. 1970. The Discovery of the Unconscious: the History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.


Victorian Psychiatrists: Theophilus Bulkeley Hyslop (1863 – 1933)

Theo Hyslop, or “T.B.” as he was familiarly known, was Assistant Medical Officer at Bethlem from 1888 – 1898, when he was promoted to Resident Physician and Medical Superintendent. He remained at Bethlem until 1911.

The young Theo was literally brought up to “lunacy,” as asylum work was often known at the time. When he was two years old, his father William purchased Stretton House asylum, a private asylum for male patients in Church Stretton, Shropshire, where the family also lived. In 1869, the asylum held 40 patients and, like nineteenth century Bethlem, many could enjoy cricket, gardening, billiards, and music, while the richer patients could ride or take ‘carriage exercise’. The grounds were spacious, and the asylum was supplied from its garden and model farm.

Following his early medical training, Hyslop first came to Bethlem at the age of 23, as a clinical assistant. These posts (the name of which changed frequently over the years, in an effort to attract more applicants) were unpaid, resident positions, designed to give qualified medical men first-hand experience in “psychological medicine.” Many of Bethlem’s clinical assistants later became prominent in the field: another such in the late nineteenth century was psychologist and anthropologist W.H.R. Rivers, well known for his treatment of Siegfried Sassoon during the First World War, who will be the subject of a future post.

Hyslop is a particularly interesting character, both from his long involvement with Bethlem, and his widespread interests in art, music, literature and sport, as well as medicine. His publications were extremely varied: he was interested in physiology, philosophy, religion, the common fin-de-siècle fear of “degeneration” and the possible connections between genius, art, creativity and insanity (The Great Abnormals, for example, aimed to show that “the wildest imaginings” were not incompatible with “the highest attainments in the realms of thought and conduct”). Although the variety of Hyslop’s pursuits makes for a fascinating retrospective, it may also indicate one reason as to why he has received little attention in later years: one obituary suggested that if he “had directed all his energies into a single channel, there is little doubt that he would have become a very great man indeed.”

Theo Hyslop

Hyslop at work at Bethlem