This highly original book brilliantly exposes the phenomenon of false allegations of lunacy (and the dark motives behind them...) in the Victorian period.
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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’.
Kathryn Hughes, Guardian
A fine social history of the people who contested their confinement to madhouses in the 19th century, Wise offers striking arguments, suggesting that the public and juries were more intent on liberty than doctors and families
Action-packed and entertaining… [A] marvellous book
Christopher Hirst, i
Fascinating… 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
Wise is a terrific researcher and storyteller. Here she has woven a series of case studies into a fascinating history of insanity in the 19th century
Kate Summerscale, Guardian Books of the Year
Deeply researched and gripping...it makes for harrowing reading
A.N. Wilson, Mail on Sunday
An illuminating look at an area of social history that inspired Wilkie Collins among others
Sebastian Faulks, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
Excellent... One often feels as if one is actually present at the scenes she describes. There can be no higher praise... Inconvenient People is as interesting a work of social history as you are ever likely to read.
Anthony Daniels, Spectator
Fascinating and chilling, Inconvenient People reads like a series of Victorian novels in brief - only all the tales are true
Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
This superlative study opens the door on the cruelty of the quacks who locked up lost souls
Edward Pearce, Independent
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
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
Fascinating book (4 stars)
Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman
Wise reopens 12 uncontested lunacy cases from the 1800s, meticulously exploring the details of each and recreating the stories with a page-turning eye for a great narrative
Sarah Wise knows how to grab the reader’s attention with phrases that would have done Bulwer-Lytton proud. But the book’s readability does not disguise its scholarship. This is a valuable contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century
Charlotte Moore, Book Oxygen
I thrilled to Sarah Wise’s Inconvenient People, an enthralling study of those who fell foul of Victorian mad-doctors and greedy relatives
Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph
It makes for a harrowing read, but much of it is also hilarious, and as gripping as the most lurid Victorian melodramatic novel. Yet again, one closes a book with the impression that beneath the polished mahogany surfaces and shimmering silks of Victorian interiors lurked Hell itself
A. N. Wilson, Mail on Sunday
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Sarah Wise has an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London, and is an Associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. Her debut, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in ...