Monomania with Unnatural Propensity, 1838


Is a variety of partial insanity, the principal feature of which is an irresistible propensity to the crime against nature. This offence is so generally abhorred, that in treatises upon law it is termed 'peccatum illud horribile inter christianos non nominandum', the punishment of which is death, formerly rendered more dreadful by burning or burying alive the offender. Being of so detestable a character, it is a consolation to know that it is sometimes the consequence of insanity; it is, however, a melancholy truth, that the offence has been committed in christian countries, by persons in full possession of their reason and capable of controuling their actions, and it is said to be still more prevalent in countries where the purifying and restraining influence of the christian religion does not prevail, but that it is not in all cases the result of moral depravity there can be no doubt; monomania with unantural lust is a well marked variet of insanity of not unfrequent occurrence, I have met with ten cases at least, in which it was the effect of cerebral disease.

It is stated by Blackstone, in his Commentaries upon the Laws of England, when treating of the offence, 'that being from its nature easily charged, and the negative difficult to be proved, the evidence should be plain and satisfactory in the proportion as the crime is detestable'; it may be added to this caution that where the offence becomes the subject of criminal investigation, the jury ought to be fully assured whether or not the offender was in possession of his reason and power of self controul; the propriety of this is evident, when we consider the circumstances of some of those who have been accused of this offence, in regard to rank, wealth and talents; for instance, a nobleman of high rank, rich in fortune, family and friends, sacrifices all these blessings and herds with the vilest of the vile; a clergyman, eminent for eloquence, and high in the confidence of his fellow citizens, sacrifices his reputation and his means of living, by betraying the trust reposed in him, and abusing youths committed to his charge, – cases of actual occurrence; in such cases we have reason to suspect that disease in the brain may have led to the perpetration of the crime; in the greater number of cases that I have seen, the existence of this disease was rendered more certain by other marks of disordered mind being combined with the unnatural propensity. In one case insane ideas of grandeur, in another melancholy with attempts of self-destruction were combined with it, and in a third case, that of a minister of the gospel, he had so little controul over himself that he frequently laughed in the midst of a serious discourse delivered from the pulpit. The treatment of this variety differs little from that generally employed in cases of insanity – of nine cases I have known two cured. Camphor in large doses has been employed with advantage. [pp.157–8]

SOURCE: Sir Alex. Morison, The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases, 1838.

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