[Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt, Commissioner for Lunacy and President of the British Medical Association.] Autograph Letter Signed ('T. Clifford Allbutt') giving his opinion on 'the policy of building these gigantic asylums'.

Clifford Allbutt [Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt] (1836-1925), physician, Commissioner for Lunacy, President of the British Medical Association, inventor of the clinical thermometer
Publication details: 
On his letterhead, 6 Park Square, Leeds; 7 January 1889.
SKU: 21622

4pp, 12mo. Bifolium. In good condition, lightly aged, with thin strip of paper from mount adhering to the reverse of the second leaf. The last few words and valediction of the letter are cross-written on the first page, with Allbutt's signature written across several words. At the head of the first page Allbutt has written: 'Please regard this as Private'. He begins by giving two numbered reasons why he 'cannot reply fully or definitively' to the unnamed recipient's letter: 1. 'Because I don't know more of Mr. Dent's Views than the few words he said at Q[uarter]. Sessions. (He is not on our Committee.) | 2. I am not yet clear as to my own, for the Justices were not asked their views, nor wd. their opinions have been accepted.' He concurs in the statement by Dent to the effect 'I am not at all satisfied as to the policy of building these gigantic asylums'. The alternatives to this 'difficult question' need 'thinking out'. Allbutt has 'a policy in favour of hospitals for acute, & recent cases of insanity likely to recover soon to which people caught [sic] be taken as for any other disease & so avoid the stigma of an Asylum'. He feels that 'the physicians at the head of these great institutions, as they are, are necessarily too much occupied by management & so much less able to work at scientific investigation of disease'. From the distinguished autograph collection of the psychiatrist Richard Alfred Hunter (1923-1981), whose collection of 7000 works relating to psychiatry is now in Cambridge University Library. Hunter and his mother Ida Macalpine had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.