Master of Lunacy: Adventures in Research

master of lunacy Microsoft Word 2010 clip art image enhanced with filtering

 

From the Taunton Courier and Western Advisor of 5 July, 1882: “Alleged Insanity of a Somerset Gentleman”

The gentleman on examination was a man of property. His wife had petitioned the Commission of Lunacy to declare him “of unsound mind”, allowing her to protect her husband’s assets. A Mr. Nicholson, Master of Lunacy, presided over the Commission, comprising nineteen jurymen. Mr. Fraser, the accused, gave testimony in response to his wife’s statement that he “heard voices from invisible beings”. He said he did. Admitting the voices, however, he said also that he didn’t mind them. He felt in control.

The jury was divided. Eight jurors voted for insanity; eleven felt Mr. Fraser’s mind to be sound…if, presumably, individual. The Master of Lunacy said twelve votes in favor of sanity were required. One juror came over to the other side; Mr. Fraser was declared “of sound mind”.

 

 


Congratulations! You’ve found a bonus poem!

 

a figure from the common lot cover with title character

 

 

The Imbecile

 

The stalls smoke out billows of bacon

Fat precipitates from steam

Poor diet of the spirit engenders a figure from

the common lot

 

What do you remember

The way in which the leaves cast back the sun

Sid stares at them and sees them gain

The depth of sapphire

Sapphire and gold

The colors of a bread wrapper

Let us make the rough way smooth

And give the imbecile his due

Sid is poor, slow

He has been labeled so

Fancy yourself a soft-eyed doe

A delicate hoof balletically poised

To step in night-dewed grass among the daisies

Each blossom yielding as white bread mashed flat

And Sid scolded for dirty hands

Sky is blue and lunch is kind

The human mind applies subtleties

Sid knows the club and boot of authority

He knows also the runaround

He has been told to fetch the key to the drill ground

He being an imbecile can’t count

If three and five make ten today

Tomorrow they may make thirteen

He will say so and accept the label if they permit him

to run away

 

The rules change

And why should they not?

Sid has never seen the proof

 

Safety First

 

(copyright 2015, Stephanie Foster)

 

 

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