Join us to comment on new releases, make recommendations, receive our monthly newsletter and be eligible for exclusive offers
This highly original book brilliantly exposes the phenomenon of false allegations of lunacy (and the dark motives behind them...) in the Victorian period.
Buy from the following bookstores
Official Vintage online Bookstore
Published: 04 October 2012
Genre: Social history
Gaslight tales of rooftop escapes, men and women snatched in broad daylight, patients shut in coffins, a fanatical cult known as the Abode of Love… The nineteenth century saw repeated panics about sane individuals being locked away in lunatic asylums. With the rise of the ‘mad-doctor’ profession, English liberty seemed to be threatened by a new generation of medical men willing to incarcerate difficult family members in return for the high fees paid by an unscrupulous spouse or friend. And contrary to popular modern belief, the madwoman in the attic was at least as likely to have been a madman.Among the victims were the beautiful and charismatic Rosina, wife of the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton; Edward Davies, victim of a mother’s greed; Louisa Lowe, who paid for her religious fervour; and John Perceval, who, despite the best efforts of the abusive asylum attendants, cured himself.Sarah Wise uncovers twelve shocking stories, untold for over a century, which reveal the darker side of the Victorian upper and middle classes – their sexuality, fears of inherited madness, financial greed and fraudulence – and chillingly evoke the black motives at the heart of the phenomenon of the ‘inconvenient person’.
Several riveting cases Sarah Wise has unearthed for this fine social history of contested lunacy in the 19th century... Wise has given us a fascinating book that teems with rich archival research. The pictorial sources are an added boon and make for a wonderfully illustrated addition to the history of the 19th century
Lisa Appignanesi, Daily Telegraph
Rich, gripping and moving mix of social history, psychiatry and storytelling
Your Family Tree
A dark and disturbing investigation...trenchant and disturbing book
John Carey, Sunday Times
Sarah Wisehas used her subject like an axe, to split open the Victorian facade and examine everything wriggling behind. It has enough tragedy, comedy, farce and horror to fill a dozen fat novels, and enough bizarre characters to people them
Suzi Feay, Financial Times
There is so much to interest and entertain in this book, which is enhanced by over eighty informative illustrations
Gillian Tindall, Literary Review
A wonderfully engaging book
Jad Adams, Who Do You Think You Are Magazine
There are currently no readers reviews for this book.
* Required fields
Please log into the Vintage Books site by entering your email address and password below.
Sarah took an MA in Victorian Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her most recent book, The Blackest Streets, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize (2009) ...