Account of the Unparalleled Case of a Citizen of London
Bookseller to the late Queen
Alexander Cruden
23 March 1738 AD

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The case of Alexander Cruden who was repeatedly committed to a mental hospital for pointing out the adultery of people in high places like John the Baptist did and lost his head!

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Introduction:

  1. In 1738 AD, Alexander Cruden, who published Cruden's Concordance in 1735, was committed to Bedlam asylum. Cruden's problems began with his parents putting him into an asylum when he experienced a broken heart over love at a young age. This labeled him a mad man for life and was the primary reason for his second false committal to an asylum. Later in life, when his amorous advances were rejected by another woman, he was committed to Bedlam. This "psychiatric history" over love lost, was only one problem. Other reason he got committed, was that the mad doctors of Cruden's time, like James Monro, and his son John, viewed Christians as mentally ill, even preventing them from entering asylums for fear of making the patient even more insane by the visit! When he got out of Bedlam, Cruden sued James Monro for "false imprisonment for nine weeks and six days at five pounds an hour, being 8280, and the assault and other damages at 1720." At the time of his second committal, Cruden worked as a type corrector, which is where he got his nick name, "Alexander the Corrector". He cleverly spiritualized his job title as the name that designated his job as a Christian to "correct the sins of the people". Cruden viewed himself as a Christian whose responsibility under God involved pointing out the sins of England. That, of course is every Christian's job, even though few have the gut or boldness or faith to actually do such. No doubt he was annoying to many sinners and this is why he was cast into the asylum. A final reason for his committal, was the work he was doing in producing his "Cruden's Bible Concordance" three years earlier in 1735. Mad doctors of the time, believed that madness was caused by these three things: 1. overworking the brain with meticulous work. 2. concentrating on a single matter for a long time. 3. too much study late at night. Exactly what is required to produce a concordance. Cruden's assessment of the psychiatric industry is shockingly applicable to what we see today in chemical psychiatry: "tho' a person be not a conjuror he may set up to be a mad-doctor, the chief prescriptions being bleeding, purging, vomiting, and sometimes bathing: And if these are not effectual . . . the patient is incurable. . . . What is Dr. Monro? A mad-doctor; and pray what great matter is that? What can mad-doctors do? prescribe purging physic, letting of blood, a vomit, cold bath, and a regular diet? How many incurables are there? ... physicians . are often poor helps; and if they mistake the distemper, which is not seldom the case, they do a deal of mischief." So Cruden had four reasons that all worked against him in getting a sane man committed to Bedlam: 1. parents wrongly labeling him at an early age as a mental patient over love lost. 2. he was a Christian who annoyed people by pointing out their sins. 3. his work in producing the concordance was believed to actually cause madness. 4. His reputation of love lost making him go insane. All four of these came together when he got dumped by a widow named Mrs. Payne, who was probably the instigator in all these matters behind the scenes over fears relating to the reason he was first committed by his parents. (Account of the Unparalleled Case of a Citizen of London, Alexander Cruden, 1738 AD)
  2. Alexander Cruden (1701-70) The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured: Or A British Inquisition Displayed, In an Account of the Unparalleled Case of a Citizen of London, Bookseller to the late Queen, who was in a most unjust and arbitrary Manner sent on the 23d of March last, 1738, by one Robert Wightman, a mere Stranger, to a Private Madhouse (1739), Cruden was one of the most public and vociferous mad figures of the eighteenth century. He was from Aberdeen, well-educated and a devout Christian, though his madness did not apparently originate in spiritual fervour, even if it took on a strongly religious line later in lift when he became involved in a series of conflicts in his self-appointed role as 'Alexander the Corrector' of the nation's morals. He was first confined for a short time by his parents in Aberdeen after a youthful romantic infatuation. On moving to London, he worked as a corrector of the press as well as running a small bookshop, and in 1737 he published his Complete Concordance to the Bible, a remarkable achievement and still an essential item of biblical scholarship. It was shortly after this that Cruden became caught up in the events that are narrated in The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured. The extract below is the opening of the work, describing his courtship of the widow 'Mrs. Payne' and the consequent disturbances with his neighbours prior to his confinement by the assumed authority of his fellow Scot, the shadowy Robert Wightman. Cruden spent nearly nine weeks in Wright's private madhouse before (escaping, carving through the leg of his bed with a kitchen knife to do so, and 'pleading his case, still chained, before the Lord Mayor. The pamphlet (the first of a series of such accounts by Cruden) is a classic work of protest. Cruden highlights every detail that could possibly be adduced to demonstrate his own sanity or the Malevolence of his persecutors, while avoiding what might tell against him-in this extract, the role of Mrs Payne, his relations with his landlord and landlady, the Grants, and with his neighbours generally. Indeed, as in many works of protest, the apparently overwhelming evidence presented makes one wonder what really happened. That Cruden was abused while in Wright's madhouse would seem to be undeniable, yet his treatment was quite standard for the time. Moreover, his legal action against Wightman for wrongful confinement failed, as did other similar actions taken by Cruden later in his life, including in 1753 a case against his own sister, Mrs Isabella Wild. The London Citizen is one of the most engaging pieces of 'mad' writing of the period, not least because of the ambiguity of the obsessionally sane state of mind of its author and protagonist. " (Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century, A Reader, Allan Ingram, 1998 AD, p93)
  3. "Monro's attendance (as well as his father's) on Alexander "the Corrector" Cruden, the famous compiler of a Bible concordance that remains in print to this day, brought him notoriety of a different sort: a torrent of published criticisms from the disaffected patient that constituted one of the first examples of a persistent tradition of protest literature directed against the claims of mad-doctoring (and, later, psychiatry) to be engaged upon a therapeutic enterprise. The case is examined here (in chapter 3) as part of the tangled set of relationships between religion and insanity in this period: in particular, between those who appeared to suffer from this especially problematic admixture, and the doctors, divines, and laymen who, alternately, ministered to and vilified them. The Monros' tendencies to stigmatize religious enthusiasts as crazy, and their medical treatment of Methodist madmen, was to bring down opprobrium on their heads from the movement's leaders, John Wesley and George Whitefield. (Sympathy for popular religious enthusiasm was in rather short supply among the ultra-orthodox "Bethlemeical" physicians, with their family history of high Anglican, Tory, and Jacobite sympathies.)" (Undertaker of the mind: John Monro, Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Scull, 2001 AD, p xv)
  4. "For James, the profession of such beliefs was itself a clear sign of mental disturbance, and he promptly informed Robert Wightman, the Edinburgh merchant who was responsible for Cruden's confinement, "that the Prisoner was a Man of Sense and Learning, and of a good Education, but that he was a great Enthusiast; and he believed that he thought that God would send an Angel from Heaven, or would work some Miracle for his Deliverance."" (Undertaker of the mind: John Monro, Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Scull, 2001 AD, p 98
  5. "Once he escaped, Cruden attempted to be as good as his word in carrying out his previous threats. The very public response to Monro's role in his confinement from the newly delivered Alexander was condemnation of James as corruptly in league with his captors. Rounding on his mad-doctor, Cruden hurled a whole series of personal insults at him. More disturbing than verbal abuse from a discharged madman, Monro next found himself a joint defendant in a lawsuit in the King's Bench. Cruden sought 10,000 in damages for "false imprisonment for nine weeks and six days at five pounds an hour, being 8280, and the assault and other damages at 1720." (Undertaker of the mind: John Monro, Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Scull, 2001 AD, p 99)
  6. "Both doctors prescribed similar doses of purges, vomits, and bleeding, and Cruden alleged that both doctors dosed and bled him routinely and excessively, the bleeding James ordered from his foot leaving it "for some months after benumn'd," and John once ordering twelve ounces of blood to be taken. Both Monros were also attacked as the prime representatives of a profession that Cruden had little respect for. The Corrector queried in 1739: ". . . is there so great Merit and Dexterity in being a mad Doctor? The common Prescriptions of a Bethlemetical Doctor are a Purge and a Vomit and a Purge over again, and sometimes Bleeding, which is no great Mystery." And in 1754 he [Cruden] similarly observed: . . . tho' a person be not a conjuror he may set up to be a mad-doctor, the chief prescriptions being bleeding, purging, vomiting, and sometimes bathing: And if these are not effectual . . . the patient is incurable. . . . What is Dr. Monro? A mad-doctor; and pray what great matter is that? What can mad-doctors do? prescribe purging physic, letting of blood, a vomit, cold bath, and a regular diet? How many incurables are there? ... physicians . are often poor helps; and if they mistake the distemper, which is not seldom the case, they do a deal of mischief.'" (Undertaker of the mind: John Monro, Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Scull, 2001 AD, p 108)

 

Account of the Unparalleled Case of a Citizen of London, Bookseller to the late Queen, Alexander Cruden, 23 March last, 1738

Note: This is Written by Alexander Cruden about himself. "Mr. C" is Mr. Cruden!

A Short Narrative is here given of the horrid Sufferings of a London-Citizen in Wright's private Madhouse at Bethnal-Green, during nine weeks and six days, (till he made his wonderful Escape) by the Combination of Robert Wightman Merchant at Edinburgh, a stranger in London, and others, who had no right, warrant or authority in Law, Equity or Consanguinity, or any other manner whatsoever, to concern themselves with him or his affairs; and yet most unjustly imprisoned him in that dismal place. How unjustly and unaccountably they acted in first sending Mr. C. to Bethnal-Green, and how cruel and barbarous they were in their bold and desperate Design to fix him in Bethlehem, (after Mr. C. refused to sign their Pardon) that they might screen themselves from punishment, by covering one heinous crime with another more heinous, will appear by the following Journal of Mr. C.'s Sufferings.

After thirteen years acquaintance with Mr. Bryan Payne, Cornchandler in Picadilly, and his Wife, where Mr. C. had officiated as Chaplain for some years on Sabbath-Evenings, and was used like their particular Friend, the said Mr. Payne died August 9,1737. Some considerable time after his decease Mr. C. made his addresses to the Widow Payne, then a Gentlewoman of a great fortune, and was greatly encouraged by her, which increased his Affection. He was kindly received by her in the way of Courtship, and supping with her on Monday and Tuesday the 13th and 14th of March, at both these times he plainly expressed his great Esteem and Affection for her; and his addresses were received chearfully and pleasantly, without the least contradiction.

March 17. Mr. C. after he had been deeply engaged as Corrector at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, went about eight o'clock at night to visit Mrs. Payne, who entertained him most chearfully, and gave him scope enough to talk over his affair, which she received with a most agreeable air. He spoke to her what he thought was proper upon the affair in hand, but by some expressions she dropt Mr. C. began to suspect her Sincerity with regard to him.

March 18. Mr. C. being apt to think, that Mrs. Payne said the night before, was chiefly for a trial of his love, and that it might be said of her,

Ardeat ipsa tames, tormentis gaudet Amantis
(Cruder slightly misquotes Juvenal's sixth satire, lines 208-09, 'she may be on fire herself, but she delights in the torments of her lover'.)

wrote this morning a letter to her, and acquainted her that he designed to pay his respects to her to day at dinner-time. Mr. C. intended to get a plain Answer, and to know fully her Resolution from her own Mouth; and having done his business that morning at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, he went afterwards to Mrs. Payne's; and when he came thither, Mr. William Crookshank and John Oswald were with her. Upon Mr. C.'s going into Mrs. Payne's Dining-room she was not dressed, and went out without saying one word, which greatly displeased him; yet he tarried some time, being in hopes of her being quickly in a better disposition; but he being afterwards satisfied, that he had been misused by her in such a manner that no generous man could bear, he was greatly disobliged, and justly on the account of the great Encouragement she had given him in his addresses on former occasions.

Crookshank and Oswald were so officious, that they followed Mr. C. home to his lodgings in White's-Alley in Chancery-Lane, tho' he earnestly begged them not to go to his lodging, nor to speak any thing to Grant or his Wife of the affair relating to Mrs. Payne, fearing the weak people might misconstrue it: But those two weak and imprudent men, contrary to all justice and prudence, made secretly a false representation of Mr. C. and of this Affair to his silly Landlord and Landlady, who live in Oswald's house, and are only his servants. The false notions that Crookshank and Oswald instilled into the weak brains of Grant and his Wife, occasioned them from thenceforth to behave towards Mr. C. in a very foolish and contradictory manner. Whether these Persons misconstrued Mr. C.'s actions to curry favour with Mrs. Payne, they know best. Mr. Whatley of Gray's-Inn, and Claudius Bonner, a Compositor at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, called this evening of Mr. C. at his lodging, and they have both declared that he behaved very sensibly.

March 19. Mr C. being engaged to go this day to the Meeting-house in Swallow-street, and being much offended at Mrs. Payne for her Haughtiness and bad Behaviour towards him, chose to sit in that Front-seat of the Gallery where Mr. Payne and Mrs. Payne some years before used to sit, that he might rather triumph over Mrs. Payne, than shew a mean or servile spirit for the great Disappointment she had given him. It was owned by every body that he was very attentive in publick Service. Mr. Crookshank had told him that he had been invited to dine this day with Mrs. Payne: Mr. C. desir'd at noon that he would not go to dine with her; Crookshank promised to grant him his Request, but he broke his Promise and went. After the Afternoon's Service in Swallow-Street, Mr. C. went home to his aforesaid Lodging; and Wightman and Oswald passed the evening with him in good Discourse, and regular Devotion perform'd by him in a decent and unexceptionable manner.

Monday, March 20. This morning Wightman, without being desired or expected, came to Mr. C.'s room, and advised him not to go to the Printing- Office that day, but to be let blood, and stay at home, which Mr. C. at last complied with, tho' with great reluctance. Mr. C. wrote a letter to Mr. Ragg the Surgeon, who came and let him blood: He was at home all that day in a quiet and calm manner.

Tuesday, March 21. He called in the morning on his Landlady Grant's Wife for some of his Papers committed to her care, but she for a great while made no Answer, 'till at last she said they might be about his bed: But while Mr. C. was making diligent search for them, John Huet a Blacksmith in the neighbourhood came up with a stick in his hand, in order to seize him as a Madman; which Mr. C. looked upon as the highest Affront and greatest Provocation. Mr. C. took the stick from him, and forced him down stairs: But in a few minutes Grant and his Wife alarmed the neighbourhood as if he was a Madman, and so about a dozen of them came in, whom he obliged to go out, and then shut the doors. They rallied by the cellar-window, particularly a bloody Butcher came from below, who disfigured Mr. C.'s face with several blows: And while he was grappling with this diabolical Butcher, John Duck a Blackmore and John Anderson a Coachman came up, rescued Mr. C. from the Butcher, and seized him. This cruel Butcher soon after gave him a severe blow, to the great effusion of his blood, with a stick on the head, without the least provocation, and then quickly disappeared, and no body can give any account of him. Mr. C. was amaz'd at this uncommon Treatment, and asked whether they were all become Madmen?

Duck and Anderson went up stairs with Mr. C. where he lay down on a bed, and Mr. Ragg the Surgeon came to dress his Wound. He examined if it had fractured the Skull, but happily it had not; for had it been a little deeper, it had been mortal. A Tool of Wightman's formerly an Apprentice to a Taylor, but lately a Coffin-breaker and Grave-digger in St. Andrew's Burying-ground, and a few months before a pretended Physician of no figure, came in, who with great impudence insulted over Mr. C. but he greatly despised this silly man, and calmly and composedly desired John Duncan then in the room, to go to the learned and eminent Physician Dr. Hulse, to come and see him; but tho' Duncan promised to go, he never went. Mr. C. often called for a Constable, but tho' there was one at hand, he would not come, he not approving of their conduct. This was about twelve o'clock. He saw himself obliged to submit peaceably and patiently to their orders all that day.

Wednesday, March 22. Mr. C. stayed at home all day, cool and sedate, employing his time in reading: But the foolish people would allow none of his Friends to visit him, tho' some particular Friends called both yesterday and to day, and earnestly desired to go up to see him; yet Wightman hindered Mr. Kelsey Bull and Mr. Frederick Bull, two of Mr. C.'s particular Friends, from coming up to see him; and Grant and his Wife who stood at the door, were so impudent as to refuse entrance to Mr. John Cargil another particular Friend, and made Mr. C. their Prisoner.

Thursday, March 23. Mr. C. sorting his Papers this morning in his room on the table where a candle stood, the foolish people made a great breach in the door, and knocked at it with such Fury, that they made the snuff of the candle to fall upon three loose sheets of paper on the table, and set fire to them; which Mr. C. to prevent any bad consequence, wrapt up together, and put them out at the breach of the door. This is all the ground that the malicious people had to say that Mr. C. designed to set the house on fire; which is abominably false.

This day Oliver Roberts a Chairman came, as he said, from one Robert Wightman in Spring-Gardens, and told Mr. C. that the said Wightman wanted to speak with him at his lodgings in Spring-Gardens; and Roberts taking with him Anderson the Coachman, decoy'd Mr. C. into a Hackney-coach; and till the Coach came to Ludgate-hill Mr. C. did not fully discover their wicked Design, for the Coach-windows were drawn up: Mr. C. had asked Roberts in Chancery-Lane which way the Coach was to go to Spring-Gardens? Roberts answered, Up the Strand. And when Mr. C. saw himself thus imposed upon, he expostulated with them in the following manner: 'Oh! what are you going to do with me? I bless God, I am not mad. Are you going to carry me to Bethlehem? How great is this Affliction! This is the way to put an end to all my Usefulness in the World, and to expose me to the highest Degree! Oh! what shall I do? God help me! I desire to submit to the Will of God.' Roberts then positively told him that he had Orders from the said Wightman to carry him to Country-Lodgings near Bow, which proved to be Wright's private Madhouse on Bethnal-Green, where he delivered him to John Davis the Under-Keeper of the said Madhouse, when Mr. C. requested Roberts and Anderson not to expose him by telling any body of his being brought to so dismal a Place: And Roberts particularly remembers that Mr. C. said, he hoped that God would make this great Affliction turn to his Good. Roberts also declares that Mr. C. always spoke sensibly, and behaved well, and much like a Gentleman.

 

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