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Hisrcry of Psychialry, xi (2000), 071- 106.

Printed in England
Depression s forgotten genealogy:
notes towards a history of depression
GEORGE ROUSSEAU*
The history of depression remains unwritten
, yet historians harbour plenciful
assumptions about its pre-
1800 past. These views are necessarily coloured
, even
shaped, by' modern views of depression formed after
its nineteenth-century
medicalization. A history of
depression from ancwnc to modern
times is an
impossible task to complete successfully and would require,
as a minimum, the
historian s utmost vigilance to nuance, difference
, and the inclusion of non-
medical literature especially poetry, drama
and non-didactic prose.
Nevertheless, five points about depression
s pre- 1800 European profile can
confidently be made: (1)
it developed along lines of female rather than male
gender,- (2) was transformed in the long eighteench century when it blended with
male madness under the sway of the
cults of a pan-European sensibility
movemenc; (3) always embedded a problematic pseudo-
depressive state, or
feigned version
, which acted to permit female escape from dire socio-economic
situation,- (4) included sustained chronic duration as a requiremenc in its theory
from the Renaissance forward,-
(5) is richly documented in its pre-
1800 versions
in imaginative literature, its often overlooked genealogy.
Contexts
It is by now the cliche of the 1990s that ours is the era of great depression: an
Age of Prozac and depressive malady so far-
flung that it extends well beyond
international capitals and centres of the
workplace. The other depression
- the economic one - has all but disappeared in
Western countries, while the
psychological version infiltrates the remotest
villages and rural outposts.
Health-care professionals of all types, not
merely those concerned with
mental health, attribute a wide variety of causes to this cultUral proliferation
Paper presemed al the Imernational SocielY for Eighteenth-
Cemury Studies, Dublin, Ireland,
July 1999. The author thanks Dr Caroline Warman,
Leverhulme Trust Postdoctoral Fellow
, and
Professor Julia Briggs. Address for correspondence; Osterley House, Wellshead, Harwell Village,
Oxfordshire OXI2 OHD, England. E-mail: george.
rousseau(1!jmagdalen. ox. ac.
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
much of it
relatea. to modem stress. The historians of mental health
and
psychiatry of the Itwenty-
first century will fill shelves explaining the genesis
and d~velopment of what has universally become known as the Era
of Slump.
Of thIS th~re canl be no doubt.
But depression
s past, its history,
remains
shrouded In cloud .of another cast: as nebulous as it is laden with
layers of
over- and underlll!l1ng. The state
of affairs is so dire that when students ask
me what the be~t ~ook on the his~ory of depression is, I shirk and tell
them -
oddly and pu~zhn?ly - that t?ere IS none
, not even a preliminary one charting
out the terraIn a
r.d surveYI?g the major debates; all of
which raises the
fundamental questIon, what
IS depression if its history remains unwritten?!
From. a ~istori~al perspective
, it is not strange that none should
exist.
Depressl~n IS a r9latively recent word (recent, that is
, within the history of
the Enghsh langua
!?e) , first coined in the eighteenth century by
Samuel
Johnson who use4 It In the 1750s to describe low spirits. Its history from
1750 to the pres
9nt day co.uld be documented
, although it has not yet been
In a mam~oth pI~ce of lexIcal work requiring several volumes if rigorously
conce
l?tu
~hzed, sc
-Fp~lo
~sly r~search , ~nd meticulously executed. Further
?mp~lcatIng d
~presslOn hIstory IS ItS future
especially its future
hlsto
?graphy: hls
tonans ~n the future may decide that our twentieth-century
definItions and co
bstructlons of depression were too limited and narrow
I A "
1 . ~Iml ar pOint IS 'Pade by Sushrut Jadhav in '
The cultural origins of western depression
Interna~onal Journal of
'Pocial Psychiatry,
xlii ~1996), 269-
6. For approaches to the history o
~preSSlOn see Stanley W. ~acks~m
Melancholia and
Depresszon: from Hippocratic
Times to Modern
Tzmes ~ew Haven: Ya!el Umverslty Press
, 1~87) and his ' A history of melancholia and depression
D"1!resnon and Stress
I (1995), 3-42. CrucIal for my work here is Jean Starobinski
Histoire du
traltEm~nt de l~ melaru:oli4 des origjnes a 1900
(Basle: 1- R. Geigy, 1960). Useful approa
~hes are also
found In DavId Healey,
The A:ntzd~p'ressant
Era (London: Macmillan, 1996); E. Jacobson,
Depression
~ew :ork: Int~rnatIonal UDlv
~rsmes Press, . 1971); Arthur Kleinman,
Social Origins of Distress and
D!Seas~. Depresszon
, .
Neu~asthenza, and Parn rn Modern China
(New Haven: Yale University Press,
1986), Ma~k S'. M,cale I and Roy Po~er (eds),
Discovenng the HIStory of Psychiatry
(New York:
Oxford 1!mverszty Press
r 1994); LeWIS Wolpen,
Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of
Depression
(Lon~on. Faber & Faber, 1998). No one of these works would claim to be a '
history' of depression
My mle glances at ~e late Foucault
withoUt whose work I would not have conceptualized th~
gen
7alo
~ of depressIOn I as I
do. Two recent
. books have also influenced my thinking: Juliana
Schlesan, The Gendenn
'i of Melancholia: FemrnlSm
, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss
RenaISsance Lzt~rature
tItaca and London: Cornell University Press
, 1992) and Helen Small,
Love
Madness: Medzane, the lfo:'el, and
. Female Insanity, 1800-1865
(Oxford: Clarendon Press
, 1996).
Even so, the purpose of ~IS essa
~ IS not to correlate depression and literary history: to explain, for
example, why the Jacobe
~n sta~e IS r~plete WIth all sons of depressive figures; how Samuel Johnson
not only used the word d
rpre
~slOn. In ItS psychological context but lived the life
- almost. classically -
of a de
I?resslve; or exp0
9nd Intenor Romantic dejection, of which Coleridge
s ' Ode to Dejection
(I ~OO) IS !,erhaps the mo~t
eminent poem in English, representing a new type of depression turned
insIde on Its
7lf: the loss of en
~rgy shiftin~ the cause as well as effect of the depression to the
interior
realm. A major purpose
thlS research IS to map non-
English, pre- 1800 materials as if they formed
!,an of a larger ~Iscourse than the merely lIterary; consequently I have cited the passages discussed
In thelr ent~rety m the no es rather than the teXt, on the assumption that readers will not have them
readily available. (The t
7nslations into English are by Dr Caroline
Warman, Leverhulme Trust
Postdocto~l Fellow
, to rhom I am grateful for many forms of
assisrance in the research and
conceptualIzatIon of thiS essay.
even myopic and wrongheaded. If they do, this state of affairs will p~ofoundly
affect depression s history, especially the main blocks of depressIOn
s past
that the post-2000 historians of depression will choose to document. Even
so the current state of the historiography of depression
is so parlous that
~n a lexical study extending forward from the 1750s would be a significant
improvement over the current state of affairs. On the other hand
, depress~on
has become so pervasive in our contemporary society,
everywhere InvadIng
the public sphere and workplace in its manifestations
. and public polic~es,
that one would have thought histories would have been Invented of
necessIty.
This has not happened so
far. Yet when one imagines the volumes ~e
historians of psychiatry of the next century will compo
~e about the epld
spread of depression in our twentieth century, the pOInt about depressIon s
past becomes all the more pressing. .
Even so, the pre-eighteenth-century history of depressIOn
IS as nddled
from a historical vantage as its more recent
developments. The pre-
1700
record has been compiled as the history of '
melancholia' along chronological
lines that list doctors and their theories and therapies. This has included
, of
course diverse forms of melancholia: erotic, religious,
satanic (especially as
posses~ion), scholarly, nostalgic.
2 Nevertheless, a ~re-
1700 history .
depression, integrated into the cultural matrix o~ the tlm
~s on the premIse
that depression is itself an historical construct Inherent ~
the ~est of the
culture, is unlikely. And whether feasible or not
, the fact IS that It does not
exist.
Much of the difficulty lies in the word(s) - the pre-
1700 vocabularies of
melancholia as depression was not yet used - and the unstable
category(ies)
denoted. E~en in the
eighteenth century depression was rarely invoked to
describe any aspect of the psychological realm. Me~ancholy, spleen
, va
l?ou
~s,
bile, nerves, hypochondriasis, hysteria, fits, the entire vocabulary of beIng ill
the dumps
' -
. these, and others, are among the relevant
. keywords and
signposts, and all differ,
however subtly, from modem notl~ns o! mental
depression. To a historian of psychiatry mindful of the perenmal mInd-
body
split, the boundaries suggested by these concep~s a
~d the more modem
depression is crucial and hardly
interchangeable ~Ith It. But
. the borders of
these words and the things they designate are penlous: too
dIfficult for most
students of this subject. Even the more limited borders between depression
and melancholy in the nineteenth-century are perfidious: the century w~en
many of melancholia
s versions slowly closed down and .
the new dep~esslOn
as sustained dejection opened up. To
remove the lexIcal
boundanes, or
2 See especially William Engel,
Mapping Mortality: the Persi5tence of Memory and Melancholy in
Early Modern England (Amherst: University of Massachusens Press, 19?5); Lynn Enterhne,
The
Tears of Narcissus: Melanclwlia and Masculinity in Early
Modern Wnnng (Sta~ford: . Stanfo
University Press, 1995); Julius H. Rubin
Religious Melaru:lwly and ProtEstant Expenence In Amenca
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
much of it
relatea. to modem stress. The historians of mental health
and
psychiatry of the Itwenty-
first century will fill shelves explaining the genesis
and d~velopment of what has universally become known as the Era
of Slump.
Of thIS th~re canl be no doubt.
But depression
s past, its history,
remains
shrouded In cloud .of another cast: as nebulous as it is laden with
layers of
over- and underlll!l1ng. The state
of affairs is so dire that when students ask
me what the be~t ~ook on the his~ory of depression is, I shirk and tell
them -
oddly and pu~zhn?ly - that t?ere IS none
, not even a preliminary one charting
out the terraIn a
r.d surveYI?g the major debates; all of
which raises the
fundamental questIon, what
IS depression if its history remains unwritten?!
From. a ~istori~al perspective
, it is not strange that none should
exist.
Depressl~n IS a r9latively recent word (recent, that is
, within the history of
the Enghsh langua
!?e) , first coined in the eighteenth century by
Samuel
Johnson who use4 It In the 1750s to describe low spirits. Its history from
1750 to the pres
9nt day co.uld be documented
, although it has not yet been
In a mam~oth pI~ce of lexIcal work requiring several volumes if rigorously
conce
l?tu
~hzed, sc
-Fp~lo
~sly r~search , ~nd meticulously executed. Further
?mp~lcatIng d
~presslOn hIstory IS ItS future
especially its future
hlsto
?graphy: hls
tonans ~n the future may decide that our twentieth-century
definItions and co
bstructlons of depression were too limited and narrow
I A "
1 . ~Iml ar pOint IS 'Pade by Sushrut Jadhav in '
The cultural origins of western depression
Interna~onal Journal of
'Pocial Psychiatry,
xlii ~1996), 269-
6. For approaches to the history o
~preSSlOn see Stanley W. ~acks~m
Melancholia and
Depresszon: from Hippocratic
Times to Modern
Tzmes ~ew Haven: Ya!el Umverslty Press
, 1~87) and his ' A history of melancholia and depression
D"1!resnon and Stress
I (1995), 3-42. CrucIal for my work here is Jean Starobinski
Histoire du
traltEm~nt de l~ melaru:oli4 des origjnes a 1900
(Basle: 1- R. Geigy, 1960). Useful approa
~hes are also
found In DavId Healey,
The A:ntzd~p'ressant
Era (London: Macmillan, 1996); E. Jacobson,
Depression
~ew :ork: Int~rnatIonal UDlv
~rsmes Press, . 1971); Arthur Kleinman,
Social Origins of Distress and
D!Seas~. Depresszon
, .
Neu~asthenza, and Parn rn Modern China
(New Haven: Yale University Press,
1986), Ma~k S'. M,cale I and Roy Po~er (eds),
Discovenng the HIStory of Psychiatry
(New York:
Oxford 1!mverszty Press
r 1994); LeWIS Wolpen,
Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of
Depression
(Lon~on. Faber & Faber, 1998). No one of these works would claim to be a '
history' of depression
My mle glances at ~e late Foucault
withoUt whose work I would not have conceptualized th~
gen
7alo
~ of depressIOn I as I
do. Two recent
. books have also influenced my thinking: Juliana
Schlesan, The Gendenn
'i of Melancholia: FemrnlSm
, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss
RenaISsance Lzt~rature
tItaca and London: Cornell University Press
, 1992) and Helen Small,
Love
Madness: Medzane, the lfo:'el, and
. Female Insanity, 1800-1865
(Oxford: Clarendon Press
, 1996).
Even so, the purpose of ~IS essa
~ IS not to correlate depression and literary history: to explain, for
example, why the Jacobe
~n sta~e IS r~plete WIth all sons of depressive figures; how Samuel Johnson
not only used the word d
rpre
~slOn. In ItS psychological context but lived the life
- almost. classically -
of a de
I?resslve; or exp0
9nd Intenor Romantic dejection, of which Coleridge
s ' Ode to Dejection
(I ~OO) IS !,erhaps the mo~t
eminent poem in English, representing a new type of depression turned
insIde on Its
7lf: the loss of en
~rgy shiftin~ the cause as well as effect of the depression to the
interior
realm. A major purpose
thlS research IS to map non-
English, pre- 1800 materials as if they formed
!,an of a larger ~Iscourse than the merely lIterary; consequently I have cited the passages discussed
In thelr ent~rety m the no es rather than the teXt, on the assumption that readers will not have them
readily available. (The t
7nslations into English are by Dr Caroline
Warman, Leverhulme Trust
Postdocto~l Fellow
, to rhom I am grateful for many forms of
assisrance in the research and
conceptualIzatIon of thiS essay.
even myopic and wrongheaded. If they do, this state of affairs will p~ofoundly
affect depression s history, especially the main blocks of depressIOn
s past
that the post-2000 historians of depression will choose to document. Even
so the current state of the historiography of depression
is so parlous that
~n a lexical study extending forward from the 1750s would be a significant
improvement over the current state of affairs. On the other hand
, depress~on
has become so pervasive in our contemporary society,
everywhere InvadIng
the public sphere and workplace in its manifestations
. and public polic~es,
that one would have thought histories would have been Invented of
necessIty.
This has not happened so
far. Yet when one imagines the volumes ~e
historians of psychiatry of the next century will compo
~e about the epld
spread of depression in our twentieth century, the pOInt about depressIon s
past becomes all the more pressing. .
Even so, the pre-eighteenth-century history of depressIOn
IS as nddled
from a historical vantage as its more recent
developments. The pre-
1700
record has been compiled as the history of '
melancholia' along chronological
lines that list doctors and their theories and therapies. This has included
, of
course diverse forms of melancholia: erotic, religious,
satanic (especially as
posses~ion), scholarly, nostalgic.
2 Nevertheless, a ~re-
1700 history .
depression, integrated into the cultural matrix o~ the tlm
~s on the premIse
that depression is itself an historical construct Inherent ~
the ~est of the
culture, is unlikely. And whether feasible or not
, the fact IS that It does not
exist.
Much of the difficulty lies in the word(s) - the pre-
1700 vocabularies of
melancholia as depression was not yet used - and the unstable
category(ies)
denoted. E~en in the
eighteenth century depression was rarely invoked to
describe any aspect of the psychological realm. Me~ancholy, spleen
, va
l?ou
~s,
bile, nerves, hypochondriasis, hysteria, fits, the entire vocabulary of beIng ill
the dumps
' -
. these, and others, are among the relevant
. keywords and
signposts, and all differ,
however subtly, from modem notl~ns o! mental
depression. To a historian of psychiatry mindful of the perenmal mInd-
body
split, the boundaries suggested by these concep~s a
~d the more modem
depression is crucial and hardly
interchangeable ~Ith It. But
. the borders of
these words and the things they designate are penlous: too
dIfficult for most
students of this subject. Even the more limited borders between depression
and melancholy in the nineteenth-century are perfidious: the century w~en
many of melancholia
s versions slowly closed down and .
the new dep~esslOn
as sustained dejection opened up. To
remove the lexIcal
boundanes, or
2 See especially William Engel,
Mapping Mortality: the Persi5tence of Memory and Melancholy in
Early Modern England (Amherst: University of Massachusens Press, 19?5); Lynn Enterhne,
The
Tears of Narcissus: Melanclwlia and Masculinity in Early
Modern Wnnng (Sta~ford: . Stanfo
University Press, 1995); Julius H. Rubin
Religious Melaru:lwly and ProtEstant Expenence In Amenca
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
74
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
, anachronistically impose the newer psychological depression back on to the
eighteenth centurt, violates history, linguistic usage
, and the context of
unfolding grief and the guilt usually accompanying it.
Let us be clear
Iprecisely what is at stake here. Two main categories have
existed in Westerh history: a
pre-medicalized category
(melancholia) and
P?st-med~calized I (de?ression). The older melancholia appeared to be
dlsaPI?eanng by .
~e elghteenth-cen
~ry Enlightenment but actually lingered,
especially as rel1gl
pus melancholy; the newer
depression was psychologized
and medicalized and removed from its satanic domains of
possession. The
boundaries in the
I century 1750-
1850 can be charted
, but no amount of
vigilance to the 9'0 categories
' borders obliterates their differences unless
cause and effect are removed from the definition
and subsequent classi-
fication is based o
h this definition. Furthermore, a vast edifice of ideas has
attached to the neFer category -
depression - since it was first medicalized.
And in our genera~ion crossing over into the twenty-
first century the newer
category - depressIon -
. has, additionally, swollen to epidemic proportions as
the result of causes
different from the
causes of the earlier melancholia.
Therefore, ~henevfr we rein
terpret ~e older me!ancholia we do so with both
these accretIons so
f11ewhere In our
minds, even If not consciously
aware that
we do so. No matter how perfectly we toil as
historians we cannot
deprogramme ou
delves sufficiently to pretend that we
have assumed the
genuine mindset ~~ ~e older categ?ry, i.
melancholia, without the traces of
the newer medICi:al1zed depressIon.
Hence whenever simul-taneously
discussing the his
ttory of both categories we necessarily do so
under the
influence of the ~ewer one.
We can guard against the excesses of this
practice, of course, but we cannot
deprogramme ourselves to stave off the
newer category, 0
1 think that we
experience the older category as if
the
newer, medicalized concept had never developed. Yet - and herein
lies the
paradox - any co
petent historian can see
, as Starobinski recognized in
1960,
4 that the 01 er version contained a sufficient quantity of the charac-
teristics of the n'1wer to permit the
conceptualization of a '
history of
depression' as if it had been a single, continuous category.
Here I am
atte~ptin~ to v.:or~1 as if it had been a single, continuous category despite its
obvIous discontinUIty,
yet always alert to its main
overlooked heritage: the
vast pre- 1800 literakY record; and I
intentionally tap into Continental literary
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
sources rather than English ones because the latter have been heavily worked
over by literary critics.
Depression was lexically coined in the 1680s in the context o~
a ' Iowenng
of affairs ' of whatever type the '
depression' may have been , but It was rare~y
used of ilie mind or
sou1.6 If we anachronistically interpret backward to thIS
coinage in the 1680s and then forward again to the .
1750s when ~amuel
Johnson glosses the term in the
Diction
a,ry,
we run the fisk of overlooking .
the
historical substance:
specifically that In
two general states only -
~hlld-
bearing and love largely construed - was the eighteenth-century
expenence
proximate to the post-
1900. This development ar~se because early modern
depression was historically gendered and occurred In the wake of the natural
decline of magic and superstition.
This paper aims briefly to
document the ~rst assertIOn
. about femal
gender. Documentation for the second -
depressIOn and ma~c - must awaIt
another student and occasion. The method used provides a view ov
e.r s
everal
centuries - the longue duree - from the seventeenth to our own, aIming .
show how constuctions of female gender and depression arose together
, whIle
attending as well to the
anachronistic perils and pitfall
~ of such an
hypothesis. But the aim is not to chart
what a complete hIStOry of ea~ly
depression might be, let alone sug~est
. how t? write one. All al?ng I claim
that an adequate history of depressIOn
IS a fictIon - cannot be wntten exc~pt
compiled along the narrowest of lines; and I would hope that my
su~)tltle
notes towards...
) accurately reflects the limite~ goal ~f c
?nstructmg a
forgotten genealogy
. The genealogical metaph
?r In the title IS, of course,
Foucauldian and marks his own
concern With the vexed problem of
5 This dilemma exists in much historical
analysis where the categories have been transf
?rmed
over many centuries, for example in the meaning of war and peace over
. the longue duree; the
difference here is that the older category was
medicalized ,:,nd that such medlcalz
,,;atzan transformed
':
an unrecognizable version of its earlier existence.
A more fitt1Og counte:-example IS
n.osttilgza
- yearn1Og
for the home, hence its root
nostaS - which began life as a medIcal concept
~n r?e ~eventeenth
century and was transformed in an opposite direction, i. e., away from medlcahzatlon
10 the early
tWentieth century to a socio-economic mindset n
ow so nonme~lcal. that few people other than
medical historians recognize its earlier
statUs. F,ve cultUral h,stonans - Helen King,
George
Rousseau, Roy Porter, Elaine Showalter, Sander L. Gilman - re~ently grappled
WIth these method-
ological issues within the context ~f hysteri~; se~ Sander L. Gtlman
et al., Hystena Beyond Freud
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: Universtty of Cahforrna Press
, 1993).
6 S e the
New Oxford Diccionary of the English Language (1990-) under
depressIOn and the
lexicat discussion in Sushrut Jadhav
, '
The cultural origins ?f western depres~lOn
, (Note I). Fo
Johnson
s psychiatric theory see Gloria Sybil Gross,
ThIS In
:nsible R,ot of the Mind: Samuel Johnson s
Psychological Theory
(Philadelphia: University ofPennsylvama Press
, 1992). .
7 See Keith Thomas,
Religion and the Decline of Magic
(Harmondsworili: Pengu1O, 1973), as well
as Philip Shorr Science and Superscition
in the Eighteenth Century: a StUdy of the Trear.:nent of
Sczenc~
Two Encyclopedias of 1725-1750 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932); Bna,:, Easlea
WIlC~
Hunting, Magic, and the New Philosophy
(Brighton, Sussex: Harvester, 1980), especIally chapter 4
Charles Webster, From Paracelsus ta Newton: Magic and the Making of Modem
SCIence (Cambndge.
Cambridge UP, 1982).
) A strong exa~ple the afflicted was poet William Cowper (1731-
1S00) whose malady was
dIagnosed as rellgzou elancholia and who self-conceptualized his own
derangement in this
category; see James King,
WIllIam Cowper: a Biography
(Durham: Duke University Press
, 1986) and
the fine work of Allan Ingram on Cowper
s depression. Even the writings on melancholia of Freud
and Walter Benjamin (1SPZ-
1940), who committed suicide while fleeing the Nazis during the war
fit the pattern of sensibili
:r and religious melancholy broadly construed.
. See 1- Starobinski,
HlStoire du traitement de fa melancolie,
(Note I, above).
74
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
, anachronistically impose the newer psychological depression back on to the
eighteenth centurt, violates history, linguistic usage
, and the context of
unfolding grief and the guilt usually accompanying it.
Let us be clear
Iprecisely what is at stake here. Two main categories have
existed in Westerh history: a
pre-medicalized category
(melancholia) and
P?st-med~calized I (de?ression). The older melancholia appeared to be
dlsaPI?eanng by .
~e elghteenth-cen
~ry Enlightenment but actually lingered,
especially as rel1gl
pus melancholy; the newer
depression was psychologized
and medicalized and removed from its satanic domains of
possession. The
boundaries in the
I century 1750-
1850 can be charted
, but no amount of
vigilance to the 9'0 categories
' borders obliterates their differences unless
cause and effect are removed from the definition
and subsequent classi-
fication is based o
h this definition. Furthermore, a vast edifice of ideas has
attached to the neFer category -
depression - since it was first medicalized.
And in our genera~ion crossing over into the twenty-
first century the newer
category - depressIon -
. has, additionally, swollen to epidemic proportions as
the result of causes
different from the
causes of the earlier melancholia.
Therefore, ~henevfr we rein
terpret ~e older me!ancholia we do so with both
these accretIons so
f11ewhere In our
minds, even If not consciously
aware that
we do so. No matter how perfectly we toil as
historians we cannot
deprogramme ou
delves sufficiently to pretend that we
have assumed the
genuine mindset ~~ ~e older categ?ry, i.
melancholia, without the traces of
the newer medICi:al1zed depressIon.
Hence whenever simul-taneously
discussing the his
ttory of both categories we necessarily do so
under the
influence of the ~ewer one.
We can guard against the excesses of this
practice, of course, but we cannot
deprogramme ourselves to stave off the
newer category, 0
1 think that we
experience the older category as if
the
newer, medicalized concept had never developed. Yet - and herein
lies the
paradox - any co
petent historian can see
, as Starobinski recognized in
1960,
4 that the 01 er version contained a sufficient quantity of the charac-
teristics of the n'1wer to permit the
conceptualization of a '
history of
depression' as if it had been a single, continuous category.
Here I am
atte~ptin~ to v.:or~1 as if it had been a single, continuous category despite its
obvIous discontinUIty,
yet always alert to its main
overlooked heritage: the
vast pre- 1800 literakY record; and I
intentionally tap into Continental literary
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
sources rather than English ones because the latter have been heavily worked
over by literary critics.
Depression was lexically coined in the 1680s in the context o~
a ' Iowenng
of affairs ' of whatever type the '
depression' may have been , but It was rare~y
used of ilie mind or
sou1.6 If we anachronistically interpret backward to thIS
coinage in the 1680s and then forward again to the .
1750s when ~amuel
Johnson glosses the term in the
Diction
a,ry,
we run the fisk of overlooking .
the
historical substance:
specifically that In
two general states only -
~hlld-
bearing and love largely construed - was the eighteenth-century
expenence
proximate to the post-
1900. This development ar~se because early modern
depression was historically gendered and occurred In the wake of the natural
decline of magic and superstition.
This paper aims briefly to
document the ~rst assertIOn
. about femal
gender. Documentation for the second -
depressIOn and ma~c - must awaIt
another student and occasion. The method used provides a view ov
e.r s
everal
centuries - the longue duree - from the seventeenth to our own, aIming .
show how constuctions of female gender and depression arose together
, whIle
attending as well to the
anachronistic perils and pitfall
~ of such an
hypothesis. But the aim is not to chart
what a complete hIStOry of ea~ly
depression might be, let alone sug~est
. how t? write one. All al?ng I claim
that an adequate history of depressIOn
IS a fictIon - cannot be wntten exc~pt
compiled along the narrowest of lines; and I would hope that my
su~)tltle
notes towards...
) accurately reflects the limite~ goal ~f c
?nstructmg a
forgotten genealogy
. The genealogical metaph
?r In the title IS, of course,
Foucauldian and marks his own
concern With the vexed problem of
5 This dilemma exists in much historical
analysis where the categories have been transf
?rmed
over many centuries, for example in the meaning of war and peace over
. the longue duree; the
difference here is that the older category was
medicalized ,:,nd that such medlcalz
,,;atzan transformed
':
an unrecognizable version of its earlier existence.
A more fitt1Og counte:-example IS
n.osttilgza
- yearn1Og
for the home, hence its root
nostaS - which began life as a medIcal concept
~n r?e ~eventeenth
century and was transformed in an opposite direction, i. e., away from medlcahzatlon
10 the early
tWentieth century to a socio-economic mindset n
ow so nonme~lcal. that few people other than
medical historians recognize its earlier
statUs. F,ve cultUral h,stonans - Helen King,
George
Rousseau, Roy Porter, Elaine Showalter, Sander L. Gilman - re~ently grappled
WIth these method-
ological issues within the context ~f hysteri~; se~ Sander L. Gtlman
et al., Hystena Beyond Freud
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: Universtty of Cahforrna Press
, 1993).
6 S e the
New Oxford Diccionary of the English Language (1990-) under
depressIOn and the
lexicat discussion in Sushrut Jadhav
, '
The cultural origins ?f western depres~lOn
, (Note I). Fo
Johnson
s psychiatric theory see Gloria Sybil Gross,
ThIS In
:nsible R,ot of the Mind: Samuel Johnson s
Psychological Theory
(Philadelphia: University ofPennsylvama Press
, 1992). .
7 See Keith Thomas,
Religion and the Decline of Magic
(Harmondsworili: Pengu1O, 1973), as well
as Philip Shorr Science and Superscition
in the Eighteenth Century: a StUdy of the Trear.:nent of
Sczenc~
Two Encyclopedias of 1725-1750 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932); Bna,:, Easlea
WIlC~
Hunting, Magic, and the New Philosophy
(Brighton, Sussex: Harvester, 1980), especIally chapter 4
Charles Webster, From Paracelsus ta Newton: Magic and the Making of Modem
SCIence (Cambndge.
Cambridge UP, 1982).
) A strong exa~ple the afflicted was poet William Cowper (1731-
1S00) whose malady was
dIagnosed as rellgzou elancholia and who self-conceptualized his own
derangement in this
category; see James King,
WIllIam Cowper: a Biography
(Durham: Duke University Press
, 1986) and
the fine work of Allan Ingram on Cowper
s depression. Even the writings on melancholia of Freud
and Walter Benjamin (1SPZ-
1940), who committed suicide while fleeing the Nazis during the war
fit the pattern of sensibili
:r and religious melancholy broadly construed.
. See 1- Starobinski,
HlStoire du traitement de fa melancolie,
(Note I, above).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
origination
. in histprical pursuit. Further on I discuss
the relation of madness
to ~epresslOn and the role played by
male depression
in the early
modern
perIod.
A few modern ~iews demonstrate why the historical approach is so crucial
to any sense of drlpression in the early modern period and
, furthermore to
the matter of ov
brlooked origins. By its intrinsic nature
depression ts
malady lying squ~rely on the mind-
body divide. As such it embeds hidden
ass~mptions and ideological positions that more somatically-
based psycho-
loglc~l disorders do n
: ~urthermore, depression rarely presents with such
pressIng urgency that It
IS lIfe threatening (although it can be self-
destructive
of . course); ~nd itl presents in such a wide
cu~tural .context apart from it
StrIctly medical ~rofile, that debate
necessarIly exists about its
cultural
~onanc~. Who wpul~ volunteer that
. shelhe is depressive in a job interview
If Jus . mIldly so, m view
of the prejudice that continues to attach to the
condl~l?n as the
hallmark of inherent weakness?
The history of such
negatlv
~ty de
~erves to be. considered in any forgotten genealogies. But only a
few qUIet vOIces h
fve tried to make a case for depression
s positive cultural
resonance over the
lcenturies.
One of these ~~s been Kay
Redfield Jamison
, Ph.D., and currently
~ofessor of Psyc?latry a~ the .
Johns Hopkins Medical School, formerly
dlrecto~ of UC~ls
Affective Disorders Medical Clinic
, author of Touched
WIth FIre: Manzc-Jj)epressive Illness and the Artistic
Temperament
(1993), and
one of. our most e\~quent students of depression for having chronicled her
own lI~elon
~ con
11t1on
. in ~ series of autobiographical memoirs.
8 Her
ncluslOn m
An Unqu
u:t Mznd: a Memoir of
Moods and Madness
(1997)
~elzes on. the vexed jquestlon of gender: '
Depression, somehow
, is much more
mIme With society Is ~otions
of what women are all about: passive
, sensitive,
~eless, h~lp~ess,
JnCk
~n, dependent, confused
, rather tiresome, and with
lImited aspirations. Jamison continues: '
journalists and other writers
, quite
understandably, ~a e t:n~ed to focus on women and depression
, rather than
women an~ mama. This
IS not surprising: depression is twice as common in
women as m men.' 1
0 The statistic i
~ c~mfirmed by others and further fuelled
by the recent
. annOl~ncement that WIthIn the general population women today
are tWelve tUnes Ifore
lIkely to take antidepressants as men. II Jamison
concedes that women may accept medication more easily than men
but then
notes that '
manic-dkpressive illness occurs equally often in women '
and men
I .
and, being a relatively common condition
, mania end~ ~p a~ecting a large
number of
women.'12 Jamison also meticulously
distIngUIshes betWeen
manic-depressive illness and lingering chronic de
?ression a~on~ gende~ lines
(about which more is said
below). ~ut if ma
~lc-depressIVe Illness , ~s l~ss
gender specific than ordinary depressIOn,
how did the latter develop m lIne
with society s notions of what women are all about?'
. .
Women other than Jamison have tried to provide
clues. VIrgIma Woolf,
writing in her 1926 essay '
On Being Ill,' called for '
a brand new word ... a
new language...
' to express this illness, and '
a ne hierarchy of . the
passions
13 always
within the view that these were
essentlallY.female
passwns,
For Virginia Woolf
, the salient feature was ?ot
bo~y-mmd borders or
boundaries with other mental disorders (a
10ngtllTIe patient, she
thought ~he
knew what depression
was), but a pressing ~eed for ?e
:-v words to descrIbe
depression s uniqueness; at least a new.ordenng of existIng words to recount
what it felt like to be constantly
depressIVe.
However depressed and suicidal, Woolf was a
grea~ ima~ativ
: writer who
was understandably attuned to depression
lexical dimensIOns. More
sweepingly, Dr Paul Marsden, consultant psychiatrist at
~e ~oyal Marsden
Hospital in London, has recently
speculated about the historIcal causes
~or
recent statistical increases. He wonders whether the demands of modern lIfe
have caused a worldwide epidemic: '
in the eighteenth century, many people
in Britain thought that there was an
increase in nervo
~s disorders, and ~e
Victorians believed that depression had become a parucular problem which
resulted from the stresses of contemporary
life.'14 By the tWentieth century,
according to Marsden, depression is hugely on the rise in ways inconc
,:,able
in the eighteenth century, hereby compelling us to retur:n to the defimtlonal
problem about the phenomenon itself, and wh
~t sense ~t ~akes to lump all
the melancholias and manias together as merely depression.
Alternatively, Dr
Michael Argyle, a historical research:r m ?xford
studying ' happiness , has currently measured contentment
. u;t rela
~lOn to
dissatisfaction es
ecially depression
, and concluded that statistically we are
,15
not happier, but also no sadder
, than in the past.
IS IS a remar a .y
slippery historical view. It is hard to
know how one would document
. u:us
position historically over centuries, yet common sense
. ~uggests so~e v~hdlty
in the position, especially
its implication for compIl
~g
early ~Istones of
depression. Samuel Johnson, the moralist already mentioned for his
ear~y use
of the word
depression in the
psychiatric sense, may
have qUIpped
" Kay Redfield Jamiso
~,
Touched with Fire: Manic-
Depressiue Illness and the Anistic Temperament
ew ork: The
Free ~re~s, 1993).
Kay Redfield Jamlso
An Unquiet Mind: a Memoir of Moods and Madness
London' Picador
1997), 122.
:; Jamison, ~n UnquiEt tfind
123.
. . For the evidence ?f !:fnder stastistics
see Paul Crichton
, '
A prescription for happiness? Finding
=", ,. ID"'~ ,,' =""
l='"'
TLS"
I"" ""), ".
12 Jamison,
An Unquiet Mind,
123 for both passages.
...
" Virginia Woolf, 'On Being 111' in The Essays of Vlrgmla Woolf: Volume Four,
1925-28, ed.
Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1994),
318- 19,
14 Crichton, '
A prescription for happiness , (Note I I), 190.
15 Quoted by Crichton, '
A prescription for happiness , (Note 11), 190.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
origination
. in histprical pursuit. Further on I discuss
the relation of madness
to ~epresslOn and the role played by
male depression
in the early
modern
perIod.
A few modern ~iews demonstrate why the historical approach is so crucial
to any sense of drlpression in the early modern period and
, furthermore to
the matter of ov
brlooked origins. By its intrinsic nature
depression ts
malady lying squ~rely on the mind-
body divide. As such it embeds hidden
ass~mptions and ideological positions that more somatically-
based psycho-
loglc~l disorders do n
: ~urthermore, depression rarely presents with such
pressIng urgency that It
IS lIfe threatening (although it can be self-
destructive
of . course); ~nd itl presents in such a wide
cu~tural .context apart from it
StrIctly medical ~rofile, that debate
necessarIly exists about its
cultural
~onanc~. Who wpul~ volunteer that
. shelhe is depressive in a job interview
If Jus . mIldly so, m view
of the prejudice that continues to attach to the
condl~l?n as the
hallmark of inherent weakness?
The history of such
negatlv
~ty de
~erves to be. considered in any forgotten genealogies. But only a
few qUIet vOIces h
fve tried to make a case for depression
s positive cultural
resonance over the
lcenturies.
One of these ~~s been Kay
Redfield Jamison
, Ph.D., and currently
~ofessor of Psyc?latry a~ the .
Johns Hopkins Medical School, formerly
dlrecto~ of UC~ls
Affective Disorders Medical Clinic
, author of Touched
WIth FIre: Manzc-Jj)epressive Illness and the Artistic
Temperament
(1993), and
one of. our most e\~quent students of depression for having chronicled her
own lI~elon
~ con
11t1on
. in ~ series of autobiographical memoirs.
8 Her
ncluslOn m
An Unqu
u:t Mznd: a Memoir of
Moods and Madness
(1997)
~elzes on. the vexed jquestlon of gender: '
Depression, somehow
, is much more
mIme With society Is ~otions
of what women are all about: passive
, sensitive,
~eless, h~lp~ess,
JnCk
~n, dependent, confused
, rather tiresome, and with
lImited aspirations. Jamison continues: '
journalists and other writers
, quite
understandably, ~a e t:n~ed to focus on women and depression
, rather than
women an~ mama. This
IS not surprising: depression is twice as common in
women as m men.' 1
0 The statistic i
~ c~mfirmed by others and further fuelled
by the recent
. annOl~ncement that WIthIn the general population women today
are tWelve tUnes Ifore
lIkely to take antidepressants as men. II Jamison
concedes that women may accept medication more easily than men
but then
notes that '
manic-dkpressive illness occurs equally often in women '
and men
I .
and, being a relatively common condition
, mania end~ ~p a~ecting a large
number of
women.'12 Jamison also meticulously
distIngUIshes betWeen
manic-depressive illness and lingering chronic de
?ression a~on~ gende~ lines
(about which more is said
below). ~ut if ma
~lc-depressIVe Illness , ~s l~ss
gender specific than ordinary depressIOn,
how did the latter develop m lIne
with society s notions of what women are all about?'
. .
Women other than Jamison have tried to provide
clues. VIrgIma Woolf,
writing in her 1926 essay '
On Being Ill,' called for '
a brand new word ... a
new language...
' to express this illness, and '
a ne hierarchy of . the
passions
13 always
within the view that these were
essentlallY.female
passwns,
For Virginia Woolf
, the salient feature was ?ot
bo~y-mmd borders or
boundaries with other mental disorders (a
10ngtllTIe patient, she
thought ~he
knew what depression
was), but a pressing ~eed for ?e
:-v words to descrIbe
depression s uniqueness; at least a new.ordenng of existIng words to recount
what it felt like to be constantly
depressIVe.
However depressed and suicidal, Woolf was a
grea~ ima~ativ
: writer who
was understandably attuned to depression
lexical dimensIOns. More
sweepingly, Dr Paul Marsden, consultant psychiatrist at
~e ~oyal Marsden
Hospital in London, has recently
speculated about the historIcal causes
~or
recent statistical increases. He wonders whether the demands of modern lIfe
have caused a worldwide epidemic: '
in the eighteenth century, many people
in Britain thought that there was an
increase in nervo
~s disorders, and ~e
Victorians believed that depression had become a parucular problem which
resulted from the stresses of contemporary
life.'14 By the tWentieth century,
according to Marsden, depression is hugely on the rise in ways inconc
,:,able
in the eighteenth century, hereby compelling us to retur:n to the defimtlonal
problem about the phenomenon itself, and wh
~t sense ~t ~akes to lump all
the melancholias and manias together as merely depression.
Alternatively, Dr
Michael Argyle, a historical research:r m ?xford
studying ' happiness , has currently measured contentment
. u;t rela
~lOn to
dissatisfaction es
ecially depression
, and concluded that statistically we are
,15
not happier, but also no sadder
, than in the past.
IS IS a remar a .y
slippery historical view. It is hard to
know how one would document
. u:us
position historically over centuries, yet common sense
. ~uggests so~e v~hdlty
in the position, especially
its implication for compIl
~g
early ~Istones of
depression. Samuel Johnson, the moralist already mentioned for his
ear~y use
of the word
depression in the
psychiatric sense, may
have qUIpped
" Kay Redfield Jamiso
~,
Touched with Fire: Manic-
Depressiue Illness and the Anistic Temperament
ew ork: The
Free ~re~s, 1993).
Kay Redfield Jamlso
An Unquiet Mind: a Memoir of Moods and Madness
London' Picador
1997), 122.
:; Jamison, ~n UnquiEt tfind
123.
. . For the evidence ?f !:fnder stastistics
see Paul Crichton
, '
A prescription for happiness? Finding
=", ,. ID"'~ ,,' =""
l='"'
TLS"
I"" ""), ".
12 Jamison,
An Unquiet Mind,
123 for both passages.
...
" Virginia Woolf, 'On Being 111' in The Essays of Vlrgmla Woolf: Volume Four,
1925-28, ed.
Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1994),
318- 19,
14 Crichton, '
A prescription for happiness , (Note I I), 190.
15 Quoted by Crichton, '
A prescription for happiness , (Note 11), 190.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
epigr~mmatically th
~t governments
rise and fall but
human happiness
remains constant. fStIll another view for the context
of depression is found in
Professor Stanley,Jackson, the Yale historian of psychiatry who has recently
~ced ~e~~~sslOn ~ remarkable coh
~rence and continuity over two and a half
mIllennIa. In the Iterms
melanchoha and depression
and their cognates we
have well over tw? ~illennia of
. the Western worlc
f.s ways of referring '
to a
goodly ~umber of
different dejected states.
'16
Different states of
dejection:
Jackson
~s shrewd Ito
. steer clear of the dangerous waters of this
Scylla and
CharybdiS: melanc oha and depression. If Jackson avoids the pitfalls of gender,
~ conced~s th~t the boundary
between melancholia and depression is too
difficult to IdentIfy
These are only 1 few of the contexts that impinge on depression
s history
yet th~y tel~ us rpuc~ ab
~)Ut the magnitude of the
hurdles involved ~
pondenng n
~oro~s ~.Istones of depression. Gender
Gamison), borders
Gackson), social copdltlons and historical stresses
(Argyle), statistical rises and
falls .(Marsden), vocabulary to
describe the things itself (Woolf),
historical
hapPL?e~s and sadgess
. (Argyle) - all are valid and necessary contexts even for
a prelImlna
!y .
expI
9ratIon.
. T~elr effect is to suggest caution against the too-
~sy prescnptIon f
~~ mediating the past as if depression had been identical
With the world LeWIS
~olpen has recently described in
Malignant Sadness:
the. Anatomy of DJ
f~ess
~on.
17
'Y~lpen
s milieu of work-
place stress, mood
SWings and P
~ozac I dIan
~s IS vIvid for our millennial generation
but should
not be generalized ~o
, or Imposed on
, the pre- l 800 world.
Even. so, what ~ll these modern
views of depression usually omit is
depre~slOn pre- I8pO representational history. That is
, the accumulated map
- leXIcal, VIsual, a
'rdi~ory, etc.
--: which has developed
over the centuries: a
sense of what depressives over tIme look like
, sound like, act like and how
we ~oderns have
I formed in~iti
~e, almost archetypal, sense
; of their
behavIOur a
?d c~a~~cter. No hIstonan
of psychiatry would want to suggest
that dep~essIves In ~IStory .
~e acted similarly, dressed alike, walked with the
same galt, depl~y~d a sImilar stare or look in the
eyes, and so fom.
~eveI1f:1eless, a .
pIcq.tre has developed over the centuries (whether or
not the
Image IS cons
~IO
':lsI
Y verbalized is another matter, and usuall
it has not
been ' and thi S IS ~ ~ag~,
or pIc~re,
many moderns conjure when
thinking a?out depressIOn s
hIStOry. ThIs stereotypical
map constitutes the
focus of thIS essay, "fhich aims to
document merely
one aspect of the pre- I 800
record: gender. The
lP~radox of the conclusion - that depression
s gender was
?nfigured almost eptlfe
ly along
female
lines - remains a riddle. Depression
did not develop by plaYIng female melancholia off
male, so to speak in the
contrapuntal sense,
I but by an isomorphic
conceptualization of women as
:~ Jackson History of Jrrelanclwlia and Depression,
(Note I), 3.
See LeWIS Wolpert,
lalignant Sadness
(Note I).
inherently and naturally depressive: to be female was
to be depressive and vice-
versa. It was an ancient argument developed theologically and biologically
naturam; from nature.
18
Men could be depressed, or depressive
, suffer a wide
range of low spirits; history had held up examples from the world of Homer
and Herodotus forward; but this form of dumpy '
lowness' inherently differed
from the natural condition that was woman
s, as examples would demon-
strate if we collected them in the range and number found below.
19 From
time immemorial male low spirits had appeared as disappointment, loss, the
result of shame or scandal
, usually in a public setting as the result of public
acts rather than the result of their general lot in life. That women rather than
men should have been
natural depressives hardly seems fair or reasonable.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that early
male depression developed its own
historical record that
continues to be studied.
2O
The point is rather that,
comparatively speaking,
depression has a feminine genealogy; and at some
future time, perhaps
when more is
known about depression
s pre- I80?
legacy, historians will rigorously compare female and male depress1\
:es
and hers) to document the point made intuitively and
crudely In thIS
preliminary exploration. In summary, the purpose of this explorati
~n is not
to judge the paradox of gender and decide
its fairness ideologically or
otherwise - history is riddled with
paradoxes - but to present some
of the
evidence and let the record of the genealogy speak for itself.
The iconography of depression is crucial here as a heritage of possession,
bewitchment and devil-worship, and has played as
significant a role as the
medical history of melancholy even if the two areas - iconography
and
'8 For the medieval and Renaissance
legal debates about the genders and their cosmolo~~al
contexts see Ian Maclean
The Renaissance Notion of Woman: a Study
in the Fortunes of Sclwlasuasm
and Medical Science . n Eu;opean InteUectual Life (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ
~rsiry Pr~ss, ~ 980); R.
S. White, Natural Law in English Renaissance Literature
(Cambridge: Cambndg~ Umverszry Pre
~s,
1996); Knud Haakonssen, Natural Law and Moral
Philosophy: from Grouus
to the ScottISh
Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi
ty Press, 1996).
'9 At the expense of repetition it is worth statmg ~at a second survey of eqUl ~alent ex~m~les (se
below) of male depressives would reveal a very different record of so-called depressIOn
, and
remains one of the aims of this preliminary
exploration of depression
s pre- 1800 ~enealogy to
demonstrate that despite its appearance in
both genders its naTUral habitat from the
ancients forward
had been in the female domain. Even doctors
specializing in 'love-sickness,' such as Jacques
Ferrand, repeatedly made the point (see note 31 below). .
20 Authors in
different disciplines have tried to make the same comparative pomt about
female
versus male melancholy. For a sample of the different types of excellent research already perfonned
see Joan Busfield
, '
The Female Malady? Men
, Women and Madness in
Nineteenth-century
Britain Sociology, 28: I (February 1994), 259-
77; Helen Small, Love s Madness, (Note I); Jan
Goldst;in, ' The uses of male hysteria: medical and literary discourse in nineteenth-
~entury France
in Ann La Berge and Mordechai Golds~ein (e
ds), Fr~nch Medical Culture zn th~ t;lzneteenth CentUry
(Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994); Mark Micale, A
ReVIew Essay of male hystena ,
Med.cal HIStOry
(1988); Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Wome~,
. Madness and. EnglISh Culture, 1830-1980
(London: Virago, 1987). In the eighteenth century ~Ilham
. Rowley a.me~ to s~y so as well 10
Treatise on Female, Nervous, Hysterical, Hypochondnacal,
BilIOUS, ConvulsIve Disease; Apoplexy
Palsy.mth Thoughts on Madness
Suicide, etc. (London: C. Nourse, 1788).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
epigr~mmatically th
~t governments
rise and fall but
human happiness
remains constant. fStIll another view for the context
of depression is found in
Professor Stanley,Jackson, the Yale historian of psychiatry who has recently
~ced ~e~~~sslOn ~ remarkable coh
~rence and continuity over two and a half
mIllennIa. In the Iterms
melanchoha and depression
and their cognates we
have well over tw? ~illennia of
. the Western worlc
f.s ways of referring '
to a
goodly ~umber of
different dejected states.
'16
Different states of
dejection:
Jackson
~s shrewd Ito
. steer clear of the dangerous waters of this
Scylla and
CharybdiS: melanc oha and depression. If Jackson avoids the pitfalls of gender,
~ conced~s th~t the boundary
between melancholia and depression is too
difficult to IdentIfy
These are only 1 few of the contexts that impinge on depression
s history
yet th~y tel~ us rpuc~ ab
~)Ut the magnitude of the
hurdles involved ~
pondenng n
~oro~s ~.Istones of depression. Gender
Gamison), borders
Gackson), social copdltlons and historical stresses
(Argyle), statistical rises and
falls .(Marsden), vocabulary to
describe the things itself (Woolf),
historical
hapPL?e~s and sadgess
. (Argyle) - all are valid and necessary contexts even for
a prelImlna
!y .
expI
9ratIon.
. T~elr effect is to suggest caution against the too-
~sy prescnptIon f
~~ mediating the past as if depression had been identical
With the world LeWIS
~olpen has recently described in
Malignant Sadness:
the. Anatomy of DJ
f~ess
~on.
17
'Y~lpen
s milieu of work-
place stress, mood
SWings and P
~ozac I dIan
~s IS vIvid for our millennial generation
but should
not be generalized ~o
, or Imposed on
, the pre- l 800 world.
Even. so, what ~ll these modern
views of depression usually omit is
depre~slOn pre- I8pO representational history. That is
, the accumulated map
- leXIcal, VIsual, a
'rdi~ory, etc.
--: which has developed
over the centuries: a
sense of what depressives over tIme look like
, sound like, act like and how
we ~oderns have
I formed in~iti
~e, almost archetypal, sense
; of their
behavIOur a
?d c~a~~cter. No hIstonan
of psychiatry would want to suggest
that dep~essIves In ~IStory .
~e acted similarly, dressed alike, walked with the
same galt, depl~y~d a sImilar stare or look in the
eyes, and so fom.
~eveI1f:1eless, a .
pIcq.tre has developed over the centuries (whether or
not the
Image IS cons
~IO
':lsI
Y verbalized is another matter, and usuall
it has not
been ' and thi S IS ~ ~ag~,
or pIc~re,
many moderns conjure when
thinking a?out depressIOn s
hIStOry. ThIs stereotypical
map constitutes the
focus of thIS essay, "fhich aims to
document merely
one aspect of the pre- I 800
record: gender. The
lP~radox of the conclusion - that depression
s gender was
?nfigured almost eptlfe
ly along
female
lines - remains a riddle. Depression
did not develop by plaYIng female melancholia off
male, so to speak in the
contrapuntal sense,
I but by an isomorphic
conceptualization of women as
:~ Jackson History of Jrrelanclwlia and Depression,
(Note I), 3.
See LeWIS Wolpert,
lalignant Sadness
(Note I).
inherently and naturally depressive: to be female was
to be depressive and vice-
versa. It was an ancient argument developed theologically and biologically
naturam; from nature.
18
Men could be depressed, or depressive
, suffer a wide
range of low spirits; history had held up examples from the world of Homer
and Herodotus forward; but this form of dumpy '
lowness' inherently differed
from the natural condition that was woman
s, as examples would demon-
strate if we collected them in the range and number found below.
19 From
time immemorial male low spirits had appeared as disappointment, loss, the
result of shame or scandal
, usually in a public setting as the result of public
acts rather than the result of their general lot in life. That women rather than
men should have been
natural depressives hardly seems fair or reasonable.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that early
male depression developed its own
historical record that
continues to be studied.
2O
The point is rather that,
comparatively speaking,
depression has a feminine genealogy; and at some
future time, perhaps
when more is
known about depression
s pre- I80?
legacy, historians will rigorously compare female and male depress1\
:es
and hers) to document the point made intuitively and
crudely In thIS
preliminary exploration. In summary, the purpose of this explorati
~n is not
to judge the paradox of gender and decide
its fairness ideologically or
otherwise - history is riddled with
paradoxes - but to present some
of the
evidence and let the record of the genealogy speak for itself.
The iconography of depression is crucial here as a heritage of possession,
bewitchment and devil-worship, and has played as
significant a role as the
medical history of melancholy even if the two areas - iconography
and
'8 For the medieval and Renaissance
legal debates about the genders and their cosmolo~~al
contexts see Ian Maclean
The Renaissance Notion of Woman: a Study
in the Fortunes of Sclwlasuasm
and Medical Science . n Eu;opean InteUectual Life (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ
~rsiry Pr~ss, ~ 980); R.
S. White, Natural Law in English Renaissance Literature
(Cambridge: Cambndg~ Umverszry Pre
~s,
1996); Knud Haakonssen, Natural Law and Moral
Philosophy: from Grouus
to the ScottISh
Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi
ty Press, 1996).
'9 At the expense of repetition it is worth statmg ~at a second survey of eqUl ~alent ex~m~les (se
below) of male depressives would reveal a very different record of so-called depressIOn
, and
remains one of the aims of this preliminary
exploration of depression
s pre- 1800 ~enealogy to
demonstrate that despite its appearance in
both genders its naTUral habitat from the
ancients forward
had been in the female domain. Even doctors
specializing in 'love-sickness,' such as Jacques
Ferrand, repeatedly made the point (see note 31 below). .
20 Authors in
different disciplines have tried to make the same comparative pomt about
female
versus male melancholy. For a sample of the different types of excellent research already perfonned
see Joan Busfield
, '
The Female Malady? Men
, Women and Madness in
Nineteenth-century
Britain Sociology, 28: I (February 1994), 259-
77; Helen Small, Love s Madness, (Note I); Jan
Goldst;in, ' The uses of male hysteria: medical and literary discourse in nineteenth-
~entury France
in Ann La Berge and Mordechai Golds~ein (e
ds), Fr~nch Medical Culture zn th~ t;lzneteenth CentUry
(Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994); Mark Micale, A
ReVIew Essay of male hystena ,
Med.cal HIStOry
(1988); Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Wome~,
. Madness and. EnglISh Culture, 1830-1980
(London: Virago, 1987). In the eighteenth century ~Ilham
. Rowley a.me~ to s~y so as well 10
Treatise on Female, Nervous, Hysterical, Hypochondnacal,
BilIOUS, ConvulsIve Disease; Apoplexy
Palsy.mth Thoughts on Madness
Suicide, etc. (London: C. Nourse, 1788).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
medical theory - are rarely brought together.
21 The lapse bears
significant
historical consequ
bnce: if they had been combined
, it would be seen more
evidently how gdnder-based the pre-
1800 heritage has
been. Notwith-
standing these tw9 aspects of the iconography, there remains another equally
overlooked heritage of depression: its representational profile in literature
apart from discourse generated as primarily didactic, moral and
scientific.
Late twentieth-certury students of depression usually concede that this
heritage should pl
~y a part, yet rarely acknowledge it in their own thinking or
writing about depr
fssion. The position could be documented by a
survey, for
example, of one h
fldred general books
commenting on depression
s past (as
we have said, there are no proper histories apart from narrow surveys such as
~n Starobinski's)j22 Each of the two main points about depression
s heritage
- ItS gender base ~nd the small role played by pre-
1800 literary sources -
must be explamed Ilf we are to understand why these should not be
omitted
over the
n,gue dur1e.
Gender In the Pte-
1800 representation of the depressive is crucial to any
understanding of
How the nineteenth century inherited, and then shaped
, its
view. More specifidally, the question is
, what were the range of source-
types
from which the e
~rIy nineteenth-century thinkers formed their innermost
sense of depressive
b? There can be no doubt that some
developed from the
patients brought bhore them, as well as
images received while students of
medicine in unive~sities from lecture notes
and technical works they had
read. But the matter of
origins, as Foucault and other students of the early
histories of genealbgies of types have commented, is
not so simple as it
:ems
: 23 Local
in~~ences form only part of the
picture; as crucially, the
hlstonan must pre
fs further back to the
so-called epistemic moments to
locate the developi~g category as it was forming for a particular typology or
the shape of an idea. Even Descartes and his followers stressed the view that
the observer a
~rive4 at the expe~ent with pictur
:s in the mind on which he
drew and whIch
nlayed a part m the conceptIOn and execution of
the
experUfient.
It might seem expeditious not to include these vexed matters while tracing
out the stra~s of ~epressio
s pre- 1800 genealogy, yet the relevance of this
background IS momentous: It returns us to the range of pre-
l 800 genealogies
in annals usually o
rhitted. And it demonstrates a shift in the gender base in
the long eighteen
tH century: the crucial era for the transformation of the
received gende
~ basf of depressives, as I shall aim to show. Among the types
of pre-1800 htera
rre few
portrayed depressives as realistically
as the
21 The point is made in !oilman
et ai., Hysteria beyond Freud,
(Note 5). 22 See 1- Starobinski, (Note 1).
~ The poi~t has even
I been made within the
history of psychiatry; see 1- M. Lopez Pinero,
HmoricaJ Origzns of the Concept of Neurosis
trans. D. Berrios (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1983).
emerging novel - prose fiction - assisted in an ancillary way by figures in
drama. Imaginative literature
gradually transferred to men
in the late
seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries traits formerly reserved for
women: passive, weak, emasculated, weepy behaviour.
To make a stake for the influence of this body of imaginative literature for
the pre- l 800 history of depression is to make claim for a view of depression
over the longue duree based on representation rather than narrow medIcal
models. That is, to challenge the view that work A influenced work B, or
theory X accounts for theory Y within the broad history of depression.
Theorists of what we now call pre- 1800 depression did indeed derive their
views primarily (it cannot have been exclusively because culture always ~orks
as a whole with many parts influencing many other parts) from pouted
materials. These were mainly prior medical works, but it would be naive to
think that the major part of the post- 1600 theory of depression was a lineage
of teachings. passed down from medical teacher to medical student. Any
adequate sense of the pre- 1800 phases should also include non-medical
teachings, as well as religious, moral and visual sources, and when they . do
- I am suggesting - they demonstrate to what exorbitant degree depressIon
was the normative condition of womanhood.
Classification and category
Complicating depression s pre- 1800 milieu are thorns in its classification and
status as a vexed category. If each is considered separately it soon becomes
apparent that gender and non-medical sources take on .even larger
significance. It hardly needs to be demonstrated that depressIon was not
classified until the nineteenth century because it did not yet exist as anything
except as a cognate word for the various forms of melancholia.
24 C
ontem,?orary
cognitive linguists such as Lakoff and Johnson argue that ~mgs ~Ithout
words are shadowy susbtances until they are named, almost ImpossIble to
collect sort out, and place into classes; once named, they remain susceptible
not m'erelY to their lexical instability but their metaphoric richness and
ambiguity.
25 Hence the lexical problem is
simplified because there was no
classification ofpre- 1800 depression - merely scattered comments that could
be collected, compiled and sorted. However, the uses are so few as to make it
unsound to hew out any classification even within the set and subsets of the
melancholias. This state of pre- 1800 affairs leaves depression s history in a
dilemma.
24 1- Starobinski
, (Note I above makes the point
passim).
25 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,
Women, Hre, and Dangerous T!'zngs: What Categones ~eveai
about the Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) and idem, Metaphors We L,ve By
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
medical theory - are rarely brought together.
21 The lapse bears
significant
historical consequ
bnce: if they had been combined
, it would be seen more
evidently how gdnder-based the pre-
1800 heritage has
been. Notwith-
standing these tw9 aspects of the iconography, there remains another equally
overlooked heritage of depression: its representational profile in literature
apart from discourse generated as primarily didactic, moral and
scientific.
Late twentieth-certury students of depression usually concede that this
heritage should pl
~y a part, yet rarely acknowledge it in their own thinking or
writing about depr
fssion. The position could be documented by a
survey, for
example, of one h
fldred general books
commenting on depression
s past (as
we have said, there are no proper histories apart from narrow surveys such as
~n Starobinski's)j22 Each of the two main points about depression
s heritage
- ItS gender base ~nd the small role played by pre-
1800 literary sources -
must be explamed Ilf we are to understand why these should not be
omitted
over the
n,gue dur1e.
Gender In the Pte-
1800 representation of the depressive is crucial to any
understanding of
How the nineteenth century inherited, and then shaped
, its
view. More specifidally, the question is
, what were the range of source-
types
from which the e
~rIy nineteenth-century thinkers formed their innermost
sense of depressive
b? There can be no doubt that some
developed from the
patients brought bhore them, as well as
images received while students of
medicine in unive~sities from lecture notes
and technical works they had
read. But the matter of
origins, as Foucault and other students of the early
histories of genealbgies of types have commented, is
not so simple as it
:ems
: 23 Local
in~~ences form only part of the
picture; as crucially, the
hlstonan must pre
fs further back to the
so-called epistemic moments to
locate the developi~g category as it was forming for a particular typology or
the shape of an idea. Even Descartes and his followers stressed the view that
the observer a
~rive4 at the expe~ent with pictur
:s in the mind on which he
drew and whIch
nlayed a part m the conceptIOn and execution of
the
experUfient.
It might seem expeditious not to include these vexed matters while tracing
out the stra~s of ~epressio
s pre- 1800 genealogy, yet the relevance of this
background IS momentous: It returns us to the range of pre-
l 800 genealogies
in annals usually o
rhitted. And it demonstrates a shift in the gender base in
the long eighteen
tH century: the crucial era for the transformation of the
received gende
~ basf of depressives, as I shall aim to show. Among the types
of pre-1800 htera
rre few
portrayed depressives as realistically
as the
21 The point is made in !oilman
et ai., Hysteria beyond Freud,
(Note 5). 22 See 1- Starobinski, (Note 1).
~ The poi~t has even
I been made within the
history of psychiatry; see 1- M. Lopez Pinero,
HmoricaJ Origzns of the Concept of Neurosis
trans. D. Berrios (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1983).
emerging novel - prose fiction - assisted in an ancillary way by figures in
drama. Imaginative literature
gradually transferred to men
in the late
seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries traits formerly reserved for
women: passive, weak, emasculated, weepy behaviour.
To make a stake for the influence of this body of imaginative literature for
the pre- l 800 history of depression is to make claim for a view of depression
over the longue duree based on representation rather than narrow medIcal
models. That is, to challenge the view that work A influenced work B, or
theory X accounts for theory Y within the broad history of depression.
Theorists of what we now call pre- 1800 depression did indeed derive their
views primarily (it cannot have been exclusively because culture always ~orks
as a whole with many parts influencing many other parts) from pouted
materials. These were mainly prior medical works, but it would be naive to
think that the major part of the post- 1600 theory of depression was a lineage
of teachings. passed down from medical teacher to medical student. Any
adequate sense of the pre- 1800 phases should also include non-medical
teachings, as well as religious, moral and visual sources, and when they . do
- I am suggesting - they demonstrate to what exorbitant degree depressIon
was the normative condition of womanhood.
Classification and category
Complicating depression s pre- 1800 milieu are thorns in its classification and
status as a vexed category. If each is considered separately it soon becomes
apparent that gender and non-medical sources take on .even larger
significance. It hardly needs to be demonstrated that depressIon was not
classified until the nineteenth century because it did not yet exist as anything
except as a cognate word for the various forms of melancholia.
24 C
ontem,?orary
cognitive linguists such as Lakoff and Johnson argue that ~mgs ~Ithout
words are shadowy susbtances until they are named, almost ImpossIble to
collect sort out, and place into classes; once named, they remain susceptible
not m'erelY to their lexical instability but their metaphoric richness and
ambiguity.
25 Hence the lexical problem is
simplified because there was no
classification ofpre- 1800 depression - merely scattered comments that could
be collected, compiled and sorted. However, the uses are so few as to make it
unsound to hew out any classification even within the set and subsets of the
melancholias. This state of pre- 1800 affairs leaves depression s history in a
dilemma.
24 1- Starobinski
, (Note I above makes the point
passim).
25 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,
Women, Hre, and Dangerous T!'zngs: What Categones ~eveai
about the Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) and idem, Metaphors We L,ve By
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
The pre- 1800 category depression was even less stable than the
word.
Collect the samp es in English and there are too few to understand where it
should belong inl relation to melancholia. Whether '
category' is understood
as an Aristoteliah type or - more recently in the modern
epistemological
sense - as that ~lace in the mind
, according to cognitive linguistics, where
objects are conceptualized and transformed into some type of reality that is
concrete and intElligible
, pre- 1800 depression remains unstable. Lexically,
the passages w~ere the word
depression is found can
be isolated and
described in its local context. But this procedure will not yield a generalized
or accepted view ~ecause the occurrences are so few.
Furthermore, the boundaries between the
different types of pre-
1800
derangement (thd wide class of melancholias yielding a category of madness)
are further pro~lematic because
madness cannot be otnitted
from the
discussion. If depression was medicalized in the late nineteenth
century,
madness was me?icalized in the eighteenth in some of the ways Roy Porter
has so adroitly described.
26 Yet the pre-
1800 case histories of madness and
hysteria - both eftablished categories by then -
and the didactic positions
generalized from I them and
their inherited views, make it evident that the
genderization of madness is historically more significant than its medicali-
zation. Neverthelbss, the gender was
male. Madness had been primarily a
male province until the eighteenth century: traditionally associated with men
and ascribed to ~omen only when the cults of sensibility
strengthened from
the mid-century. fv1adness was strong, noble
, energetic; depression
s female
ancestors were 'f:ak,
soft, ignoble, passive.
Women were construed as
primarily hysterical rather than mad, had few of the attributes of the '
noble
madman
27 as th~ word
itself suggests. Likewise for hysteria, for centuries
associated with f~male anatomical pathology. Hysterical women might be
conceptualized (rithin and without
the iconographical tradition) as
physically lovely, but remained weak, ignoble, in need of intervention usually
administered by rrten.
For reasons p~oximate to these, women in
seventeenth-century drama
were widely accl~imed to be possessed
, deranged or lunatic but were not
classified as ' mar in the medical sphere in their own time. They
were
adjudged to be P9ssessed, especially by the devil and his cohorts, but
further
inspection of their circumstances
always revealed suffering from (what we
would call) pre- ahd post-natal depression, love-sickness, or thwarted 10ve.
26 Roy Porter
Mind Jorg d ManacLEs: a History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the
lfency
(London: Athldne, 1987).
2 Comparison in
thd same era of the metaphor of the '
noble savage' proves enlightening and
demonstrates the gen~er bases of both
, as well as their different versions of innate evil and
goodness. See E. Dudley and M. E. Novak (eds),
The Wild Man Within: an Image in
Western
Thoughtfrom the Renaissrnce to Romanticism
(PittSburgh: University of PittSburgh Press, 1972).
28 Among these was lits construction from cause rather than distinguished by its
effect
on the
victim; defined by its effects its takes on rather different characteristics. For example, lover-sickness
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
They were regarded as ' mad' in the popular sphere and have descended in
that way: genealogically as the plentiful ' mad females' of the Jacobean stage.
The feigned or pretended madness of women was a dominant image which
often surfaced in eighteenth-century non-medical as well as medical
literature. Its appearance in both realms indicates that such pretending
behaviour arose from vulnerability, especially the need to feign illness as a
last resort to escape from miserable socio-economic situations.
Hence the line, or boundary, between pretended hysteria and bona-fide
illness (in whatever ways these were then distinguished) made itself apparent,
and in some cases genuine diagnosable illness followed upon false, pretended
illness. The pattern in the period c. 1680-1800 is found among females and
males even if the former are preponderant.
29 Thereafter this version of
gend:red madness was reoccupied by masculine ~erthers i? the. Romantic
era while the woman was viewed as weak, paSSive, hysterIcal, m need of
tre~tment. Jane Eyre, for example, rather than go mad for love is defined by
her maker Charlotte Bronte (who was au fait with the popular views of
madness of her day) precisely against that bad example. Bertha is doubtlessly
mad,'and for this reason is the figure of contrast with Jane. Jane s heroism
emerges from her strength in resisting traditional fe~ale weaknes~ rath
than embracing and displaying it. Female despair thus remained m
something of a black hole: socially circular and incapable of solution except
through feigned hysterical illness, some of which (but certair:Iy not a~l)
resembles contemporary depression. This heritage must also be Included m
pre- 1800 histories of depression; not merely. its gendered vers~ons but its
borders with other similar conditions: hysterIa, lunacy, possessIOn, metro-
mania, erotomania, nymphomania, and many others against which it was
compared and from which it drew its insidious feignings.
Such a preliminary hypothesis about a gendered model for the history of
Western depression depends less upon an empirical profile or l exical his~ory
of the word depression than on territorial, logical, and even epistemological,
dimensions of a theory. The pre- l 800 history of psychiatry is permeated with
may be seen as a manipulative reaction o~ the powerless female to an unacceptable, si~ation; in this
sense, it could be viewed as covertly active and thereby separated from .madness s . meftness. The
historical fact, however, is that love-sickness was not constructed from ItS effects m ItS pre- 1800
profile; see J. Schiesari, The Genckring of Melancholia (Note I and notes 33-
5).
29 Roy Porter notes that madness was not traditionally associated with women and th
at it was not
until the mid eighteenth century and the rise of ' sensibilite' that female mental suffenng assumed
interest in its own right; see Roy Porter A Social Hiswry of Madness
(Lo
ndon: ~eldenfeld &
Nicholson, 1987), 104 If. Michel Delon also underlines the ess~ntially energe~c a~d .Vlnle character
of madness in his magisterial ldee d' energie, 1770--1820 (Pans: Presses Uruversltalres de France,
1988), 395 If. He suggests that with ' sensibilite' arose also a deviation of madness . from the .noble
and masculine realm into the feminine. Here mental illness caused by excessIve feeling - preVIously
a tOken of weakness in women - now denoted intense sensitivity and therefore became a desirable
attribute. This gendered version of madness was then reoccupied by masculine versions in the
romantic era. See also the discussion in the conclusion.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
The pre- 1800 category depression was even less stable than the
word.
Collect the samp es in English and there are too few to understand where it
should belong inl relation to melancholia. Whether '
category' is understood
as an Aristoteliah type or - more recently in the modern
epistemological
sense - as that ~lace in the mind
, according to cognitive linguistics, where
objects are conceptualized and transformed into some type of reality that is
concrete and intElligible
, pre- 1800 depression remains unstable. Lexically,
the passages w~ere the word
depression is found can
be isolated and
described in its local context. But this procedure will not yield a generalized
or accepted view ~ecause the occurrences are so few.
Furthermore, the boundaries between the
different types of pre-
1800
derangement (thd wide class of melancholias yielding a category of madness)
are further pro~lematic because
madness cannot be otnitted
from the
discussion. If depression was medicalized in the late nineteenth
century,
madness was me?icalized in the eighteenth in some of the ways Roy Porter
has so adroitly described.
26 Yet the pre-
1800 case histories of madness and
hysteria - both eftablished categories by then -
and the didactic positions
generalized from I them and
their inherited views, make it evident that the
genderization of madness is historically more significant than its medicali-
zation. Neverthelbss, the gender was
male. Madness had been primarily a
male province until the eighteenth century: traditionally associated with men
and ascribed to ~omen only when the cults of sensibility
strengthened from
the mid-century. fv1adness was strong, noble
, energetic; depression
s female
ancestors were 'f:ak,
soft, ignoble, passive.
Women were construed as
primarily hysterical rather than mad, had few of the attributes of the '
noble
madman
27 as th~ word
itself suggests. Likewise for hysteria, for centuries
associated with f~male anatomical pathology. Hysterical women might be
conceptualized (rithin and without
the iconographical tradition) as
physically lovely, but remained weak, ignoble, in need of intervention usually
administered by rrten.
For reasons p~oximate to these, women in
seventeenth-century drama
were widely accl~imed to be possessed
, deranged or lunatic but were not
classified as ' mar in the medical sphere in their own time. They
were
adjudged to be P9ssessed, especially by the devil and his cohorts, but
further
inspection of their circumstances
always revealed suffering from (what we
would call) pre- ahd post-natal depression, love-sickness, or thwarted 10ve.
26 Roy Porter
Mind Jorg d ManacLEs: a History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the
lfency
(London: Athldne, 1987).
2 Comparison in
thd same era of the metaphor of the '
noble savage' proves enlightening and
demonstrates the gen~er bases of both
, as well as their different versions of innate evil and
goodness. See E. Dudley and M. E. Novak (eds),
The Wild Man Within: an Image in
Western
Thoughtfrom the Renaissrnce to Romanticism
(PittSburgh: University of PittSburgh Press, 1972).
28 Among these was lits construction from cause rather than distinguished by its
effect
on the
victim; defined by its effects its takes on rather different characteristics. For example, lover-sickness
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
They were regarded as ' mad' in the popular sphere and have descended in
that way: genealogically as the plentiful ' mad females' of the Jacobean stage.
The feigned or pretended madness of women was a dominant image which
often surfaced in eighteenth-century non-medical as well as medical
literature. Its appearance in both realms indicates that such pretending
behaviour arose from vulnerability, especially the need to feign illness as a
last resort to escape from miserable socio-economic situations.
Hence the line, or boundary, between pretended hysteria and bona-fide
illness (in whatever ways these were then distinguished) made itself apparent,
and in some cases genuine diagnosable illness followed upon false, pretended
illness. The pattern in the period c. 1680-1800 is found among females and
males even if the former are preponderant.
29 Thereafter this version of
gend:red madness was reoccupied by masculine ~erthers i? the. Romantic
era while the woman was viewed as weak, paSSive, hysterIcal, m need of
tre~tment. Jane Eyre, for example, rather than go mad for love is defined by
her maker Charlotte Bronte (who was au fait with the popular views of
madness of her day) precisely against that bad example. Bertha is doubtlessly
mad,'and for this reason is the figure of contrast with Jane. Jane s heroism
emerges from her strength in resisting traditional fe~ale weaknes~ rath
than embracing and displaying it. Female despair thus remained m
something of a black hole: socially circular and incapable of solution except
through feigned hysterical illness, some of which (but certair:Iy not a~l)
resembles contemporary depression. This heritage must also be Included m
pre- 1800 histories of depression; not merely. its gendered vers~ons but its
borders with other similar conditions: hysterIa, lunacy, possessIOn, metro-
mania, erotomania, nymphomania, and many others against which it was
compared and from which it drew its insidious feignings.
Such a preliminary hypothesis about a gendered model for the history of
Western depression depends less upon an empirical profile or l exical his~ory
of the word depression than on territorial, logical, and even epistemological,
dimensions of a theory. The pre- l 800 history of psychiatry is permeated with
may be seen as a manipulative reaction o~ the powerless female to an unacceptable, si~ation; in this
sense, it could be viewed as covertly active and thereby separated from .madness s . meftness. The
historical fact, however, is that love-sickness was not constructed from ItS effects m ItS pre- 1800
profile; see J. Schiesari, The Genckring of Melancholia (Note I and notes 33-
5).
29 Roy Porter notes that madness was not traditionally associated with women and th
at it was not
until the mid eighteenth century and the rise of ' sensibilite' that female mental suffenng assumed
interest in its own right; see Roy Porter A Social Hiswry of Madness
(Lo
ndon: ~eldenfeld &
Nicholson, 1987), 104 If. Michel Delon also underlines the ess~ntially energe~c a~d .Vlnle character
of madness in his magisterial ldee d' energie, 1770--1820 (Pans: Presses Uruversltalres de France,
1988), 395 If. He suggests that with ' sensibilite' arose also a deviation of madness . from the .noble
and masculine realm into the feminine. Here mental illness caused by excessIve feeling - preVIously
a tOken of weakness in women - now denoted intense sensitivity and therefore became a desirable
attribute. This gendered version of madness was then reoccupied by masculine versions in the
romantic era. See also the discussion in the conclusion.
84 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
exampl~s ~f de
~:mgement an
d ~eviation in
both genders; but until the
semantic dimens
Ions and terrItorIal border zones are further clarified it is
difficult to agree Ion any pre-
l 800 model of depression. The
conundrum for
classification is a
fparent. One can compile examples
and label all depressive
rather than hysterical, mad, manic, melancholic
, nervous, splenetic
vapourish, or cohsumptive (many of these pre-
1800 cases were medically
diagnosed as in the last stages of a consumption). But until
definitions are
agreed to and app,lied there can be no stable theory among these unstable
pre- 18?0 categofes. Instead
, students of the subject collect and
describe
cases In obscur~ works, manuscripts,
archives, medical records, without
consensus about the diagnoses and their classifications. A gendered pre-
1800
model of depress~on requires a
lexical profile, and I am saying that we will
find it pri~arily f. lit~rary sources rather than elsewhere. Hence, we should
expect to discover In lIterature figures of the subtle, differentiated types, and
indeed we do: .women
who are hysterical, mad
, melancholic, nervous,
posse~sed, and ~9 forth. Their rang~ in
I!terature is more differentiated than
anythIng found 10 the pre-
1800 medical lIterature of depressive types.
The range of ex
fmples
Give? the nature! of the pre- 1800 lexical instability of the word depression
?d ItS rare occu~ences, a gend~re~ model of early depression cannot yet be
rIgorously defended but merely Intuited and expounded. Moreover,
if-
big
if - one attempte
d to defend such a gendered model it would need to satisfy
at least two conditions. First, the necessity of
putting its lexical house in
order by considering the alternatives (Le., is this example really depression or
something else?),
1 in
order to decide rigorously what
is, and what is not
depression. Secondly, it must compile pre-
1800 historical examples in their
contexts rather thkn in lexical isolation. That is, we want to ask in each case
whether the figurds are ' depressed' , and if depressed, depressed in what sense
compared to. the .
fide repertoire of other pathologies
and derangements? Are
the~ depressive su
rply because they are women
qua women: playthings of the
devIl and men
, Ithe victims of their bodies in seduction, conjugation,
impregnation, conception
, and subsequent abandonment and abuse? Or are
there other reasor
\.s? For example, might ' depression' follow from the point
where a self-destrhctive love-sickness fails to elicit appropriate intervention?
Or follow from ~e
love-sickness that is itself a disguise for some other loss;
perhaps from the
I despair that nothing can be changed
, as in the opening
lines of Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice. Furthermore, are there cases of
depression without apparent external cause, hence depression as intimately
connected to pow
hlessness? Many pre-
1800 representations in the literature
demonstrate this
Ihomology, almost a tautology: to be a
woman is to be
depressive; to be tlepressive
is to be female. Pre- 1700 German literature, as
Joy Wiltenburg h~s demonstrated, is permeated with godless women whose
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
depression' and madness is deemed to be caused by the devil. Possessed
they suffer from wild or uncontrollable erotic urges which cause them to
commit extreme violence against the family unit.
3O
The same is true of much
French literature of the seventeenth century, especially dramatic, where the
plots of major works are built around the female protagonist s murderous
hysteria or erotically charged love mania. One looks in vain for significant
numbers of male equivalents. The Hamlets and Lears are noble, strong,
active and mad, in contrast to the female condition of lingering low spirits.
Perhaps we make the point in another key by
collecting exceptions to the
normative female condition of passive low spirits as the basis for pre-
1800
depression. For example, Corneille Medea first performed in 1634-35 and
printed in 1659, appears hysterically wild and deranged in her thirst for
revenge, but cannot be considered depressed in any modern (i.
e. post- 1800)
sense.
3! Yet even her derangement is caused by love-sickness. No man
would
have carried on for love in the way she does on the stage. Her revenge
appears gendered ne plus ultra because she transfers hitherto heroic male
characteristics in revenge drama on to a woman. Racine
Andromaque first
performed in 1667 and published in 1668, is seen throughout the playas
driven out of her wits through lost love, and presages an array of eighteenth-
century heroines who will also become confused and deranged through lost
love. She is not depressive in the stereotypic way we conceptualize
depressives in our twentieth century, but she forms one of the
visual types
that will shape the image of the modern depressive.
32 Her version of
erotomania, well documented by the seventeenth-century physicians and
followers of Jacques Ferrand, would have been almost
inconceivable for a
male; even the medical treatises of the time had commented that such
heightened erotomania was rarely found in men.
33 Nor
is the lesser figure
Hermione in Andromaque who has been spurned by Pyrrhus and lost her
mind through abandonment, depressive in our sense. Driven to suicide, she
persuades Orestre, who loves her, to kill Pyrrhus at the altar as he marries
Andromaque. Yet however distracted and deranged she may be, she is not
)0 See Joy Wiltenburg,
Disorderly Women and Female Power in the Street LiteratUre of Early Modem
England and Germany (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992).
" Jacques Ferrand
, writing in the same cultural milieu as Comeille, had made this point about
gender within the conteXt of erotomania; see his Treatise on Lovesickness trans. Donald A. Beecher
and Massimo Ciavolella (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1989).
32 See Hermione
s language of transporTed emotion and deranged propulsion to suicide in Act
Five.
" The matter had also been discussed in the Middle Ages; see Mary Frances Wack, Lovesickness
in the Middle Ages: the Viaticum and its Commentaries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1990). The seventeenth-century doctors revived the matter in the aftermath of interest in Ferrand
and his affirmation that erotOmania was a mainstay of depressive women; for examples of the early
medical discussion, see T. Kunadus, Erotomania seu amoris insani, theoriam et praxis pertracran"'m
. . .
(Wittenburg, 1681); A. S. Backhauss
De amore insano (Geneva, 1686); 1- C. Heinrze,
erotomania, von der Krankheit da man verliebt ist (Rostock, 1719).
84 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
exampl~s ~f de
~:mgement an
d ~eviation in
both genders; but until the
semantic dimens
Ions and terrItorIal border zones are further clarified it is
difficult to agree Ion any pre-
l 800 model of depression. The
conundrum for
classification is a
fparent. One can compile examples
and label all depressive
rather than hysterical, mad, manic, melancholic
, nervous, splenetic
vapourish, or cohsumptive (many of these pre-
1800 cases were medically
diagnosed as in the last stages of a consumption). But until
definitions are
agreed to and app,lied there can be no stable theory among these unstable
pre- 18?0 categofes. Instead
, students of the subject collect and
describe
cases In obscur~ works, manuscripts,
archives, medical records, without
consensus about the diagnoses and their classifications. A gendered pre-
1800
model of depress~on requires a
lexical profile, and I am saying that we will
find it pri~arily f. lit~rary sources rather than elsewhere. Hence, we should
expect to discover In lIterature figures of the subtle, differentiated types, and
indeed we do: .women
who are hysterical, mad
, melancholic, nervous,
posse~sed, and ~9 forth. Their rang~ in
I!terature is more differentiated than
anythIng found 10 the pre-
1800 medical lIterature of depressive types.
The range of ex
fmples
Give? the nature! of the pre- 1800 lexical instability of the word depression
?d ItS rare occu~ences, a gend~re~ model of early depression cannot yet be
rIgorously defended but merely Intuited and expounded. Moreover,
if-
big
if - one attempte
d to defend such a gendered model it would need to satisfy
at least two conditions. First, the necessity of
putting its lexical house in
order by considering the alternatives (Le., is this example really depression or
something else?),
1 in
order to decide rigorously what
is, and what is not
depression. Secondly, it must compile pre-
1800 historical examples in their
contexts rather thkn in lexical isolation. That is, we want to ask in each case
whether the figurds are ' depressed' , and if depressed, depressed in what sense
compared to. the .
fide repertoire of other pathologies
and derangements? Are
the~ depressive su
rply because they are women
qua women: playthings of the
devIl and men
, Ithe victims of their bodies in seduction, conjugation,
impregnation, conception
, and subsequent abandonment and abuse? Or are
there other reasor
\.s? For example, might ' depression' follow from the point
where a self-destrhctive love-sickness fails to elicit appropriate intervention?
Or follow from ~e
love-sickness that is itself a disguise for some other loss;
perhaps from the
I despair that nothing can be changed
, as in the opening
lines of Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice. Furthermore, are there cases of
depression without apparent external cause, hence depression as intimately
connected to pow
hlessness? Many pre-
1800 representations in the literature
demonstrate this
Ihomology, almost a tautology: to be a
woman is to be
depressive; to be tlepressive
is to be female. Pre- 1700 German literature, as
Joy Wiltenburg h~s demonstrated, is permeated with godless women whose
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
depression' and madness is deemed to be caused by the devil. Possessed
they suffer from wild or uncontrollable erotic urges which cause them to
commit extreme violence against the family unit.
3O
The same is true of much
French literature of the seventeenth century, especially dramatic, where the
plots of major works are built around the female protagonist s murderous
hysteria or erotically charged love mania. One looks in vain for significant
numbers of male equivalents. The Hamlets and Lears are noble, strong,
active and mad, in contrast to the female condition of lingering low spirits.
Perhaps we make the point in another key by
collecting exceptions to the
normative female condition of passive low spirits as the basis for pre-
1800
depression. For example, Corneille Medea first performed in 1634-35 and
printed in 1659, appears hysterically wild and deranged in her thirst for
revenge, but cannot be considered depressed in any modern (i.
e. post- 1800)
sense.
3! Yet even her derangement is caused by love-sickness. No man
would
have carried on for love in the way she does on the stage. Her revenge
appears gendered ne plus ultra because she transfers hitherto heroic male
characteristics in revenge drama on to a woman. Racine
Andromaque first
performed in 1667 and published in 1668, is seen throughout the playas
driven out of her wits through lost love, and presages an array of eighteenth-
century heroines who will also become confused and deranged through lost
love. She is not depressive in the stereotypic way we conceptualize
depressives in our twentieth century, but she forms one of the
visual types
that will shape the image of the modern depressive.
32 Her version of
erotomania, well documented by the seventeenth-century physicians and
followers of Jacques Ferrand, would have been almost
inconceivable for a
male; even the medical treatises of the time had commented that such
heightened erotomania was rarely found in men.
33 Nor
is the lesser figure
Hermione in Andromaque who has been spurned by Pyrrhus and lost her
mind through abandonment, depressive in our sense. Driven to suicide, she
persuades Orestre, who loves her, to kill Pyrrhus at the altar as he marries
Andromaque. Yet however distracted and deranged she may be, she is not
)0 See Joy Wiltenburg,
Disorderly Women and Female Power in the Street LiteratUre of Early Modem
England and Germany (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992).
" Jacques Ferrand
, writing in the same cultural milieu as Comeille, had made this point about
gender within the conteXt of erotomania; see his Treatise on Lovesickness trans. Donald A. Beecher
and Massimo Ciavolella (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1989).
32 See Hermione
s language of transporTed emotion and deranged propulsion to suicide in Act
Five.
" The matter had also been discussed in the Middle Ages; see Mary Frances Wack, Lovesickness
in the Middle Ages: the Viaticum and its Commentaries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1990). The seventeenth-century doctors revived the matter in the aftermath of interest in Ferrand
and his affirmation that erotOmania was a mainstay of depressive women; for examples of the early
medical discussion, see T. Kunadus, Erotomania seu amoris insani, theoriam et praxis pertracran"'m
. . .
(Wittenburg, 1681); A. S. Backhauss
De amore insano (Geneva, 1686); 1- C. Heinrze,
erotomania, von der Krankheit da man verliebt ist (Rostock, 1719).
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
depressed in the sense of suffering from
low spirits from which she cannot
extricate herself. 3
Racine Phedr~, first perfonned in 1677 and published in 1687, is yet
another example
tragic love driving a woman caught by circumstance into
confusion and tie undoing of
herself through fatal
mistakes. Phedre
symptoms in Ra
9in
s treatment lie. somew~ere between the madness that
Petrarchan love II?-fhcts and the erotic hystena and attendant confusion that
characterize later I versions in the eighteenth century. She is not
classically
depressive but contributes vitally to the
genealogy of the post- 1800
depressive.
35 If hJr example
is grounded in the medical theory of the late
seventeenth cennlry, it is classical hysteria, an aggravated and raging
furor
uterinus which s~ould be her. di~~osis rather than a precursor of modern
depressIon. In the play she IS VIVIdly portrayed as low-spirited, anorexic
sleepless, distracsed, consumed by
passion. But these attributes augur
hysteria rather than depression (the seventeenth-century doctors would have
considered them Jsequelae' emanating from the main condition, '
wandering
uterus ). These etamples appear remote to us by virtue of their
excessive
~ee of passion lover unrequited or lost love. Yet they seem less dire and
?bhque If one tra'!1slates them (anachronistically) into equivalent conditions
ill early twenty-first century society. They initially
played to small court
audiences, but id subsequent
generations to wider groups with
diverse
backgrounds who C
I annot be said to have drawn on knowledge then confined
to an educated up, er class. They further make the point in summary that it
is impossible to generalize from them to
a broadly based pre- 180a
depression.
In Guillerague s widely read LeCtres porcugaises, composed in 1669, the
spurned nun writ~g to her
lover now departed into France
describes the
tonnents to which she has been subjected.
36 Her afflictions disturb the
equilibrium of her
l mind and heart to such an extent that she
loses her core
34 A ,:entury I~~er Juli~tte de Lespinasse (1732-
1776), discussed below (Note 78), saw her own
epresslve condlt1o~ re~ected in Racine Phedre writing that: '
Je dirai comme Phedre: j' ai pris la
VIe en hame et mOl-m9me en horreur
' (quoted by Roben Mauzi in '
Les Maladies de I' ame au
XYIIIe siecle,' Revue dd
s.cieru;es humaines
xcvii (1960), 481).
See especially her Ihsclosures to her nurse Oenone describing the physical toll taken
on her
body by love-madness a ' she fell in love with her stepson Hippolyte:
Je Ie vis, je rougis, je palis II sa vue;
Un trouble s elev dans mon ame eperdue;
Mes y~ux ne voyarent plus, je ne pouvais parler;
Je sentls tOut mon corps et transir et bn1ler.
Je reconnus Venu~ et ses feux redoutables
~n sang . ellelpoursuit tou~ent~ inevi~ables.
Jean
. Racme, Phedre: Oeuvres completes, Blblwtheque de la Plezade
Raymond Picard (ed. ) (Paris:
Galhmard, 1950), 776 Ifl.
" Gabriel-J ~~h de ria Vergne, Comte de Guilleragues, Lettres portugaises: textes litteraires
franfazses Fredenc Deloffre and Jacques Rougeot (eds) (Geneva and Paris: Droz and Minard
1972).
character or dominant self and splits (almost in the classical Freudian sense).
Her lowness is caused primarily by situational forces eroding her psyche. She
appears not to be a typical modern depressive but a composite figure of low
spirits based on antithetical attributes: strength and weakness.
Goldoni the Venetian playwright, and Casanova the pan-European
traveller-lover who was also Venetian, exquisitely capture the feigning sort of
female madness which consists in pretending to be deranged to escape a
murderous situation. In Goldoni' s comic La finta ammalata (probably
written in the mid eighteenth century), the physician renders a diagnosis of
Rosaura s condition: ' an illness deriving from the imagination
38 This
psychosomatic malady accounts for her insomnia loss of appetite,
oppression of the heart . The doctor dissects her mood swings which
J7 See the vocabulary of deranged emotion in letter I
(Leures portugaises, 1972, 148):
Helas! votre demiere lettre (... ) reduisit (mon coeur) en un etrange etat: il eut des
mouvements si sensibles qu il fit, ce semble, des effOrTS pour se separer de moi, et pour
vous aller trouver; je fus si accablee de toutes ces emotions violentes, que je demeurai
plus de trois heures abandonnee de tous mes sens: je me deIendis de revenir II une vie
que je dois perdre pour vous, puisque je ne puis la conserver pour vous; je revis enfin,
malgre moi, la Iumiere, je me flattais de sentir que je mourais d' amour; et d' ailleurs
etais bien aise de n etre plus exposee II voir mon coeur dechire par la douleur de votre
absence.'
38
Carlo Goldoni TUlte Ie opere, Giuseppe Onolani (ed.) (M.ilan: Mondadori, 1959), 3: 681-2),
Act II, Scene II. The doctor s analysis is worth citing for its psychiatric content. Onesti is the
doctOr, Rosaura the afflicted young lady, and Pantalone, her father:
ONESTI: There are three malignant effects produced by her imagination: insomnia,
lack of appetite, oppression round the hearT. Having engaged her mind in
fantastical thoughts, she is unable to sleep for the quantiry of spirits flowing
continuously from the pineal gland. These keep the ventricles of the brain dilated
which in tUrn makes the nerve fibres tense and agitated such that the machine is
kept vigilant and ready to obey the operations of the spirits. She has no appetite
because the agitation of the spirits, diffusing throughout the whole network of the
nerves, violently affects the fibre, thereby producing an imperfect chilification. Loss
of appetite is due to the ventricle s irritated state, blocked by viscous undigested
matter. She suffers from oppression round the hearT, but this is cerTainly not caused
by the abundance of blood, nor by clotting, nor by narrow or even dilated veins,
because the regular pulse assures us that there is no alteration in the fluids, nor any
disruption of the solids. Thus, it would be correct to say that the same strong
imagination, by increasing the vigour of those spirits that give the arteries and heart
their elasticity, also steps up the pressure about the vital pans, thereby sometimes
deleteriously affecting the breathing. This confirms me in the belief that the ease
with which she passes from laughter to tears is caused precisely by the different
movements of the upper organs, that is to say, by the restriction of the dilation of
the lungs. I judge the illness of this lady to derive purely from the imagination and
not from the physical and therefore conclude that there is nothing in medical
science that is worth the risk of trying out without first establishing what the origin
of her fixation is, and indulging her desires if decent and legitimate, or correcting
them if not.
ROSAURA: What a darling little doctor, he has understOod my sickness.
PANTALONE: This Dr Onesti wants us to believe that my daughter is mad.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
depressed in the sense of suffering from
low spirits from which she cannot
extricate herself. 3
Racine Phedr~, first perfonned in 1677 and published in 1687, is yet
another example
tragic love driving a woman caught by circumstance into
confusion and tie undoing of
herself through fatal
mistakes. Phedre
symptoms in Ra
9in
s treatment lie. somew~ere between the madness that
Petrarchan love II?-fhcts and the erotic hystena and attendant confusion that
characterize later I versions in the eighteenth century. She is not
classically
depressive but contributes vitally to the
genealogy of the post- 1800
depressive.
35 If hJr example
is grounded in the medical theory of the late
seventeenth cennlry, it is classical hysteria, an aggravated and raging
furor
uterinus which s~ould be her. di~~osis rather than a precursor of modern
depressIon. In the play she IS VIVIdly portrayed as low-spirited, anorexic
sleepless, distracsed, consumed by
passion. But these attributes augur
hysteria rather than depression (the seventeenth-century doctors would have
considered them Jsequelae' emanating from the main condition, '
wandering
uterus ). These etamples appear remote to us by virtue of their
excessive
~ee of passion lover unrequited or lost love. Yet they seem less dire and
?bhque If one tra'!1slates them (anachronistically) into equivalent conditions
ill early twenty-first century society. They initially
played to small court
audiences, but id subsequent
generations to wider groups with
diverse
backgrounds who C
I annot be said to have drawn on knowledge then confined
to an educated up, er class. They further make the point in summary that it
is impossible to generalize from them to
a broadly based pre- 180a
depression.
In Guillerague s widely read LeCtres porcugaises, composed in 1669, the
spurned nun writ~g to her
lover now departed into France
describes the
tonnents to which she has been subjected.
36 Her afflictions disturb the
equilibrium of her
l mind and heart to such an extent that she
loses her core
34 A ,:entury I~~er Juli~tte de Lespinasse (1732-
1776), discussed below (Note 78), saw her own
epresslve condlt1o~ re~ected in Racine Phedre writing that: '
Je dirai comme Phedre: j' ai pris la
VIe en hame et mOl-m9me en horreur
' (quoted by Roben Mauzi in '
Les Maladies de I' ame au
XYIIIe siecle,' Revue dd
s.cieru;es humaines
xcvii (1960), 481).
See especially her Ihsclosures to her nurse Oenone describing the physical toll taken
on her
body by love-madness a ' she fell in love with her stepson Hippolyte:
Je Ie vis, je rougis, je palis II sa vue;
Un trouble s elev dans mon ame eperdue;
Mes y~ux ne voyarent plus, je ne pouvais parler;
Je sentls tOut mon corps et transir et bn1ler.
Je reconnus Venu~ et ses feux redoutables
~n sang . ellelpoursuit tou~ent~ inevi~ables.
Jean
. Racme, Phedre: Oeuvres completes, Blblwtheque de la Plezade
Raymond Picard (ed. ) (Paris:
Galhmard, 1950), 776 Ifl.
" Gabriel-J ~~h de ria Vergne, Comte de Guilleragues, Lettres portugaises: textes litteraires
franfazses Fredenc Deloffre and Jacques Rougeot (eds) (Geneva and Paris: Droz and Minard
1972).
character or dominant self and splits (almost in the classical Freudian sense).
Her lowness is caused primarily by situational forces eroding her psyche. She
appears not to be a typical modern depressive but a composite figure of low
spirits based on antithetical attributes: strength and weakness.
Goldoni the Venetian playwright, and Casanova the pan-European
traveller-lover who was also Venetian, exquisitely capture the feigning sort of
female madness which consists in pretending to be deranged to escape a
murderous situation. In Goldoni' s comic La finta ammalata (probably
written in the mid eighteenth century), the physician renders a diagnosis of
Rosaura s condition: ' an illness deriving from the imagination
38 This
psychosomatic malady accounts for her insomnia loss of appetite,
oppression of the heart . The doctor dissects her mood swings which
J7 See the vocabulary of deranged emotion in letter I
(Leures portugaises, 1972, 148):
Helas! votre demiere lettre (... ) reduisit (mon coeur) en un etrange etat: il eut des
mouvements si sensibles qu il fit, ce semble, des effOrTS pour se separer de moi, et pour
vous aller trouver; je fus si accablee de toutes ces emotions violentes, que je demeurai
plus de trois heures abandonnee de tous mes sens: je me deIendis de revenir II une vie
que je dois perdre pour vous, puisque je ne puis la conserver pour vous; je revis enfin,
malgre moi, la Iumiere, je me flattais de sentir que je mourais d' amour; et d' ailleurs
etais bien aise de n etre plus exposee II voir mon coeur dechire par la douleur de votre
absence.'
38
Carlo Goldoni TUlte Ie opere, Giuseppe Onolani (ed.) (M.ilan: Mondadori, 1959), 3: 681-2),
Act II, Scene II. The doctor s analysis is worth citing for its psychiatric content. Onesti is the
doctOr, Rosaura the afflicted young lady, and Pantalone, her father:
ONESTI: There are three malignant effects produced by her imagination: insomnia,
lack of appetite, oppression round the hearT. Having engaged her mind in
fantastical thoughts, she is unable to sleep for the quantiry of spirits flowing
continuously from the pineal gland. These keep the ventricles of the brain dilated
which in tUrn makes the nerve fibres tense and agitated such that the machine is
kept vigilant and ready to obey the operations of the spirits. She has no appetite
because the agitation of the spirits, diffusing throughout the whole network of the
nerves, violently affects the fibre, thereby producing an imperfect chilification. Loss
of appetite is due to the ventricle s irritated state, blocked by viscous undigested
matter. She suffers from oppression round the hearT, but this is cerTainly not caused
by the abundance of blood, nor by clotting, nor by narrow or even dilated veins,
because the regular pulse assures us that there is no alteration in the fluids, nor any
disruption of the solids. Thus, it would be correct to say that the same strong
imagination, by increasing the vigour of those spirits that give the arteries and heart
their elasticity, also steps up the pressure about the vital pans, thereby sometimes
deleteriously affecting the breathing. This confirms me in the belief that the ease
with which she passes from laughter to tears is caused precisely by the different
movements of the upper organs, that is to say, by the restriction of the dilation of
the lungs. I judge the illness of this lady to derive purely from the imagination and
not from the physical and therefore conclude that there is nothing in medical
science that is worth the risk of trying out without first establishing what the origin
of her fixation is, and indulging her desires if decent and legitimate, or correcting
them if not.
ROSAURA: What a darling little doctor, he has understOod my sickness.
PANTALONE: This Dr Onesti wants us to believe that my daughter is mad.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FOR,GOTTEN GENEALOGY
vacillate between tears and laughter and back again
, concluding that he
cannot treat her
lbecause o~.
his ig~lOrance of the source of her distress. But
Rosaura has fe1~ed the 1Ilness to escape an
unwanted marriage and
comforts herself
I with the self-
knowledge that ' her dear little doctor' has
understood the problem
exactly, while her doltish father (in
another
Rosaura s asides) interprets the doctor
s diagnosis as madness. Confusion
ensues over the ciliagnosis, demonstrating to what degree Goldoni was playing
to infor~ed Ve
~ftian audiences and problematizing the
cliches of his era.
Rosaura 1S certainly not mad. But whether mad or not she is
certainly not
depressive in out modem sense, although she - like her
literary sisters -
contributes to this overlooked heritage for the post- 1800 archetypal
depressive. An e~rly history of pre- 1700, or even pre- 1800, depression will
need to take accdunt of these discriminations and firmly build them into the
integum of its m lliodology for the &ssessment of pre- 1800 materials.
Over a hundtjed years after the appearance of the
Lettres portugaises,
Laclos s celebrat~d and popular
Les Liaisons dangereuses
(1782) describes
the mortally afflicted Tourvel as lingering in a
psychosomatic illness so
aggravated it caubes her death.
39 Tourvel, in
common with heroines of this
sort across the Channel culled from Samuel Richardson to Jane Austen and
the Brontes, alt~mates between violent deliriwn and catatonia, as do
Richardson s Clahssa Harlowe and Austen
s Marianne Dashwood. But is
Tourvel depressi~e in our modem
sense? She doubtless contributed to the
grea~ nu
~ber of ~erange~ literary females who combined to constitute the
rece1ved lIDage for the nineteenth century.
But to claim that Tourvel, and
others like her,
typically depressed women consigns a large segment of the
female protagoni~ts of pre-
1800 imaginative literature to the ranks
of the
depressed when their maladies should be more subtly refined. A '
depressed
Tourvel' has som~thing in it, provided its consequences
for the genealogy of
depre";oD ov"
km"" du,"" ore Doted, "peeiolly the cOD"q"eD'"
,. See letter 147 whe e Mme de Volanges enumerates the medical symptoms and somatic signs to
Mme de Rosemonde, the libertine Valmont s vinuous aunt.
Vous serez surement aussi affligee que je Ie suis
, ma digne amie, en apprenant I'etat oil
~ trouve Mm de Tourvel: elle est malade depuis bier: sa maladie a pris de si
vlVement, et se ontre avec des symptomes si graves, que j'
en suis vraiment alarmee.
One ~evre a .dente, un transport violent et presque continuel
, une soif qu on ne
peut a~alser, voIla tout ce qu
on remarque. Les medecins disent ne pouvoir rien
pronosuquer en ore; et Ie traitement sera d' autant plus difficile, que la malade refuse
avec obsti!,ation t~ute espece de. remede: c est au point qu il a. fallu la tenir de force
pour la salgner; t il a fallu depUls en user de meme deux autres fois pour lui remeltre
sa bande, que dars son transport elle veur toujours arracher.
Vous qui I' avez vue, comme moi, si pea forte, si timide et si douce, concevez-vous
donc que quatrelpersonnes puissent a peine la conlenir, et que pour peu qu
on veuille
lui representer qbelque chose, elle entre dans des fureurs inexprimables? Pour moi, je
crains qu il n y ~it plus que du delire, et que ce ne SOil
une vraie alienation d' esprit.
(Choderlos de Ildos Les Liaisons dangereuses (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), 414-15.
the borders of mental
types. To
argue negatively - that Tourvel is not
depressed - elicits a fiercely historical response in the face of those who
would bend distinctions and commit anachronism on the borders of history.
Such a view leads to the position that all pre- 1800 troubled women are mad
and that it does not matter whether their madness is classified as hysterical,
splenetic, nervous, neurotic, or - most consequential for us - depressed.
Four years after Laclos published Les Liaisons dangereuses an anonymous
collection of stories appeared in 1786: Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, ou
folies par amour.
4o
This anthology strengthens the paradigm of the beautiful
woman driven insane through love. Its routinely sentimental tales constitute
less well-polished, or chiselled, portrait of Tourvellian descent into
madness and death, although the pin on which all these stories hang is the
heroine s explicit madness. In ' La folIe par haine
' ('
The woman who went
mad from hate ), Zolaide, a beautiful Greek Moslem girl, is captured and
raped by a wicked Turk. She loses her mind and believes her '
real self' to be
possessed by a guardian angel and protected by
Mohammed, while some
other shadow or cast-off of herself is condemned to marry and be raped by
this Turk.
The plot, however, is more intricate than this. A young Indian, also
captured by the Turk, sees Zola'lde and is smitten with love for her, as well as
consumed by pity. The Indian soothes her with music, and after a series
afternoons spent listening to him, she finally breaks out of her delusion and
recognizes him - the young Indian - as the ' angel' to whom she is really
married.
42 She
announces these discoveries to the Turk, who dies of rage and
'0
Les Nouvelles Folies semimentales, oufolies
par amour (Paris, 1786).
" '
La folie par haine,' ibid. 3-16. The key passage describes her rape and subsequent loss of
reason:
Enfin, apres avoir accumule les mauvais lraitements, il arracha ce qu
il ne pouvoit
obtenir (...) Indigne usurpateur des tresors de (' amour, dirai-je qu iI les profana. . .
Est-ce donc que la haine accorde? (...) Zolaide perdit connoissance des les premiers
momens de cette violence execrable, et en recouvrant ses sens, elle. ne reprit point
usage de sa raison. Elle regarda son inf'ame epoux avec des yeux pleins de dedain et
un Tire convulsif. Monsrre! lui dit-elle, combien j' ai joui de ton erreur! Tu as crn me
posseder, moi qui te hais! (' La folie par haine,' 5-6)
The Turk tries to cure her with music:
Le renegat (the Turk) presqu emu s imagina de (...) fa ire entendre (cette musique) a
Zolaide, et d' essayer si son chant deux et melodieux ne calmeroit point Ie delire mortel
qui lui faisoit continuellement apprehender que sa proie ne lui echappiit (.. .
).
(Ibid.,
42 The substance of her rhetoric is evident in the mad speech:
Le voila... Ie voila lui... lui... lui... men ange de lumiere... celui avec qui
Mahomet m a mariee... pendant que ce monstre (en montrant d'un air effraye son
epoux) pendant que cet homme abominable prenoit une ombre. pour moi...
pendant. . . & elle pousse des cris, ou plurot des hurlements
affreu,:,; pUIS, courant vets
Ie jeune Indien, et se jetant dans son sein palpitant, centre lequelll la presse avec une
ardeur sans egale. 0 puisque je suis ta houri, emmene-moi
, s ecrie-t-elle, conduis-moi
vers Mahomet. ...
(Ibid.,
II)
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FOR,GOTTEN GENEALOGY
vacillate between tears and laughter and back again
, concluding that he
cannot treat her
lbecause o~.
his ig~lOrance of the source of her distress. But
Rosaura has fe1~ed the 1Ilness to escape an
unwanted marriage and
comforts herself
I with the self-
knowledge that ' her dear little doctor' has
understood the problem
exactly, while her doltish father (in
another
Rosaura s asides) interprets the doctor
s diagnosis as madness. Confusion
ensues over the ciliagnosis, demonstrating to what degree Goldoni was playing
to infor~ed Ve
~ftian audiences and problematizing the
cliches of his era.
Rosaura 1S certainly not mad. But whether mad or not she is
certainly not
depressive in out modem sense, although she - like her
literary sisters -
contributes to this overlooked heritage for the post- 1800 archetypal
depressive. An e~rly history of pre- 1700, or even pre- 1800, depression will
need to take accdunt of these discriminations and firmly build them into the
integum of its m lliodology for the &ssessment of pre- 1800 materials.
Over a hundtjed years after the appearance of the
Lettres portugaises,
Laclos s celebrat~d and popular
Les Liaisons dangereuses
(1782) describes
the mortally afflicted Tourvel as lingering in a
psychosomatic illness so
aggravated it caubes her death.
39 Tourvel, in
common with heroines of this
sort across the Channel culled from Samuel Richardson to Jane Austen and
the Brontes, alt~mates between violent deliriwn and catatonia, as do
Richardson s Clahssa Harlowe and Austen
s Marianne Dashwood. But is
Tourvel depressi~e in our modem
sense? She doubtless contributed to the
grea~ nu
~ber of ~erange~ literary females who combined to constitute the
rece1ved lIDage for the nineteenth century.
But to claim that Tourvel, and
others like her,
typically depressed women consigns a large segment of the
female protagoni~ts of pre-
1800 imaginative literature to the ranks
of the
depressed when their maladies should be more subtly refined. A '
depressed
Tourvel' has som~thing in it, provided its consequences
for the genealogy of
depre";oD ov"
km"" du,"" ore Doted, "peeiolly the cOD"q"eD'"
,. See letter 147 whe e Mme de Volanges enumerates the medical symptoms and somatic signs to
Mme de Rosemonde, the libertine Valmont s vinuous aunt.
Vous serez surement aussi affligee que je Ie suis
, ma digne amie, en apprenant I'etat oil
~ trouve Mm de Tourvel: elle est malade depuis bier: sa maladie a pris de si
vlVement, et se ontre avec des symptomes si graves, que j'
en suis vraiment alarmee.
One ~evre a .dente, un transport violent et presque continuel
, une soif qu on ne
peut a~alser, voIla tout ce qu
on remarque. Les medecins disent ne pouvoir rien
pronosuquer en ore; et Ie traitement sera d' autant plus difficile, que la malade refuse
avec obsti!,ation t~ute espece de. remede: c est au point qu il a. fallu la tenir de force
pour la salgner; t il a fallu depUls en user de meme deux autres fois pour lui remeltre
sa bande, que dars son transport elle veur toujours arracher.
Vous qui I' avez vue, comme moi, si pea forte, si timide et si douce, concevez-vous
donc que quatrelpersonnes puissent a peine la conlenir, et que pour peu qu
on veuille
lui representer qbelque chose, elle entre dans des fureurs inexprimables? Pour moi, je
crains qu il n y ~it plus que du delire, et que ce ne SOil
une vraie alienation d' esprit.
(Choderlos de Ildos Les Liaisons dangereuses (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), 414-15.
the borders of mental
types. To
argue negatively - that Tourvel is not
depressed - elicits a fiercely historical response in the face of those who
would bend distinctions and commit anachronism on the borders of history.
Such a view leads to the position that all pre- 1800 troubled women are mad
and that it does not matter whether their madness is classified as hysterical,
splenetic, nervous, neurotic, or - most consequential for us - depressed.
Four years after Laclos published Les Liaisons dangereuses an anonymous
collection of stories appeared in 1786: Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, ou
folies par amour.
4o
This anthology strengthens the paradigm of the beautiful
woman driven insane through love. Its routinely sentimental tales constitute
less well-polished, or chiselled, portrait of Tourvellian descent into
madness and death, although the pin on which all these stories hang is the
heroine s explicit madness. In ' La folIe par haine
' ('
The woman who went
mad from hate ), Zolaide, a beautiful Greek Moslem girl, is captured and
raped by a wicked Turk. She loses her mind and believes her '
real self' to be
possessed by a guardian angel and protected by
Mohammed, while some
other shadow or cast-off of herself is condemned to marry and be raped by
this Turk.
The plot, however, is more intricate than this. A young Indian, also
captured by the Turk, sees Zola'lde and is smitten with love for her, as well as
consumed by pity. The Indian soothes her with music, and after a series
afternoons spent listening to him, she finally breaks out of her delusion and
recognizes him - the young Indian - as the ' angel' to whom she is really
married.
42 She
announces these discoveries to the Turk, who dies of rage and
'0
Les Nouvelles Folies semimentales, oufolies
par amour (Paris, 1786).
" '
La folie par haine,' ibid. 3-16. The key passage describes her rape and subsequent loss of
reason:
Enfin, apres avoir accumule les mauvais lraitements, il arracha ce qu
il ne pouvoit
obtenir (...) Indigne usurpateur des tresors de (' amour, dirai-je qu iI les profana. . .
Est-ce donc que la haine accorde? (...) Zolaide perdit connoissance des les premiers
momens de cette violence execrable, et en recouvrant ses sens, elle. ne reprit point
usage de sa raison. Elle regarda son inf'ame epoux avec des yeux pleins de dedain et
un Tire convulsif. Monsrre! lui dit-elle, combien j' ai joui de ton erreur! Tu as crn me
posseder, moi qui te hais! (' La folie par haine,' 5-6)
The Turk tries to cure her with music:
Le renegat (the Turk) presqu emu s imagina de (...) fa ire entendre (cette musique) a
Zolaide, et d' essayer si son chant deux et melodieux ne calmeroit point Ie delire mortel
qui lui faisoit continuellement apprehender que sa proie ne lui echappiit (.. .
).
(Ibid.,
42 The substance of her rhetoric is evident in the mad speech:
Le voila... Ie voila lui... lui... lui... men ange de lumiere... celui avec qui
Mahomet m a mariee... pendant que ce monstre (en montrant d'un air effraye son
epoux) pendant que cet homme abominable prenoit une ombre. pour moi...
pendant. . . & elle pousse des cris, ou plurot des hurlements
affreu,:,; pUIS, courant vets
Ie jeune Indien, et se jetant dans son sein palpitant, centre lequelll la presse avec une
ardeur sans egale. 0 puisque je suis ta houri, emmene-moi
, s ecrie-t-elle, conduis-moi
vers Mahomet. ...
(Ibid.,
II)
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
jealousy. The two young lovers then escape in the ensuing pandemonium,
but Zolalde rela~ses into her delusions and starts believing that her lover is
the Turk. Altern
ftely mad and calm
, she is taken by ship from the eastern
Mediterranean to
l France where her lover hopes that the French doctors may
cur~ her malady.
i3 On this optimistic note the story ends, but not
before
havm~ persuad
~9 the reader of he
~ a~iction without labelling or naming it.
In pOInt of lexical fact, no name
IS gIven, yet one should not consider
it a
precursor of our modern depression. It is more accurately a forbear of the
stuff of late ninetJenth-century depression.
In another tal~, ' La folle pithagoricienne
, the female narrator wanders
thr~ugh the wo01s. where she encounters a deranged woman sitting close by
a ditch who explaIns that she and her lover had rested here, on this very
bank, before he ,as kille~ by a bullet.
44 S?e
fainted as he died, and when she
awoke saw a harli streakIng away from hIs body. She assumed that his soul
has transmigrate1 into the hare
, and now passes her days
searching for it.
One hare, bolde~ than the. others, n :,", approaches the two women. The
p~ssessed female. jshreaks WIt? recognltlon
, at which point the hare darts off
WIt? the woman 1
1j1 h
~t pursuIt. ~ere e
1;'~s the ,
tale without further resolution.
ThIs mad woman
l of La folle plthagonclenne approaches the romantic idea
of madness: poss
9ssed
, temperamentally wild, impulsive and fatally dejected.
Whatever else th
9 narrator represents, she is clearly too unbalanced to yield
to the norm of t!he depressive, yet she anticipates the
type who became
prominent among Freud'
s female patients. It would be
difficult to find an
equivalent numbe~ of males in the period who parallel her.
In all these talfs the
female is a forlorn castaway:
jilted or abandoned,
abused and cast off, broken by love. In another tale in the volume called '
folle de Beaune , J soldier on horseback trots through the French countryside
45
. a spanIe at ,IS ee s. The heroIne, Pauline, tenaciously grabs the dog,
whIch she recognIzes as her lo
,,:er s. Here, as in. many other demonic tales
ab?ut aborted l~ve
. accompanIed by . ~athologIcal depressive symptoms
anImals play a S~
r1fiCant role as
anticIpatory signs. A handsome young
" When aboar~ s~iP,
1 Zol
~ld s confusion ,retu
?'~: '
. . . de temps en temps elle . . . contemple (son
ama~tl avec, adml
~t.t~~, pUIS I horreur succede a I amour, et la replonge dans l'
aveuglement qui les
toe I un et ,I autre (,bid!, 15).. Her lover hopes for her eventual cure which is not guaranteed: '
Son
amant espere que les medecms de France, son amour et ses soins
arviendron
gue
(ibid.
16).
I ,
. .. .. '
La folie pithagoricienne,' ibid. 17-28. The description of the appearance of the mad woman is
almost entirely somatic:
Je vis une jeune femme assis: a~ bord d' un fosse, dont les traits, I' attitude et les
~egar~s, me .
rurent eXtraordmatres: les yeux fixes sur Ie coteau, elle sembloit epier
sq~ ~u momd
~'i mouvement des cha
~seurs. Se~ bras ~roises sur sa poitrine, sa robe
neglIgee et entr ~uverte, ses cheveux ~pars .et depoudres, que Ie vent renvoyait avec
for~e s~r son fr0 , ~ur~toUt la co
n;'moflon ,?olen
~e qu elle eprouvoit a chaque coup de
fust! qu elle entendOlt tlrer, tout m annon~alt Ie desordre de son esprit.
(Ibid.
20)
45 '
La folie de Beaun
~,'
ibid., 37-58.
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
soldier had fallen in love with this young woman, but fearful of the marriage
noose and feckless in character, he abandoned Pauline and rejoined his
regiment. She grew inconsolable, but obeyed her father
s wish that she go
through an arranged marriage. At the altar Pauline experienced a fit
collapsed, and awoke mad. All is narrated by the soldier on horseback who
Pauline met at the beginning of the tale. The dog is indeed Pauline
s lover
a friend of the soldier. The narrator-soldier seeks out the absconded lover
and fetches him now. Repentant, he
tries to win back Pauline who has
regained her wits on seeing him. Yet she is incredulous and will not believe
his return is based on anything but pity. Hence Pauline refuses to marry him
and soon dies in an acute consumption. The lover retires to a hermitage to
bewail his loss, leading to the pattern
shown in so many of these tales:
madness overcome leads, almost inexorably, to corporeal
sickness. In every
case the woman grows sick and and usually dies.
The remaining stories in Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, au folies par
amour are as pathetic, recounting the lives of deranged women whose
disastrous romances are followed by self
mutilation, self murder, and
rampant suicide. On any grounds these characters are the victims of
circumstance rather than inherently mired in chronic depression, yet every
aspect of their dramatization - their life just before and after
illness, inferior
nourishment, skin colour, visage, gait, sleep, detachment, alienation, sunken
spirits, fits, maniacal rage, self destruction - bears striking similarity
to the
depressives of the late nineteenth century.
46 Chronic, ongoing
depression is
.6 In '
La folie de Paris,' (ibid.
59-85) the young lovers have overcome social obstacles to wed. A
marquis, rival to the woman, Jovienne, challenges the lover to a duel. The lover comes off the worse
- so far as we know, he has died. He has written a lerter for his opponent to take to Jovienne
, asking
her to transfer her affections to his worthy vanquisher. Instead
, she faints and awakes mad, nursing
a violent affection for a doll she has dressed up to resemble her lover. Every time she sees the rival
she goes into a sort of fit. This continues for six months. The doctor suggests she might recover if
she has a baby but they can t marry her off to the rival as she screams every time he enters the room.
Finally, the rival gives up and goes to the village where he left the lover in precarious recovery. He is
alive bUt with only one arm and a wobbly jaw. He gets well enough to go to Paris, dons a false arm,
ties his jaw up and they go to see Jovienne. They put the lover in place of the doll when she
s oUt of
the room and when she retums he wakes up. All is joy and they marry. Jovienne is delighted to see
his false arm - she takes it that he has kept one of the doll' s arms to please her. This is the only sign
of madness she persists in, and they have three children and are very happy. In one passage the
narrator captures Jovienne at the moment of the loss of her wits:
En ... voyant paraitre (Ie marquis), Jovienne poussa un cri
suivi d'un long
evanouissement. On la rappella difficilement a la vie; mais heIas! un sourire niais
annon~a, lorsqu elle eut repris ses sens, qu il s etoit fait en elle une revolution funeste.
Elle jeta les yeux sur Ie Marquis, et se levant avec precipitation, elle vonlut lui prendre
les mains. - Epargnez sa vie! & s il vous faUt une victime, frappez; me voila prete a
recevoir la mort! ... On crnt que cet egarement ne seroit pas de longue duree: on
effor~a de calmer l'infortunee Jovienne: on voulUt faire sortir Ie Marquis: mais des
elle Ie voyait s eloigner, elle poussoit des cris et paroissoit au desespoir: - Ah!
retenez- , il va lui arracher la vie! L' on fut oblige de faire rester Ie Marquis; Jovienne
etoit tranquille que lorsqu elle Ie voyoit; mais elJe ne lui parla plus; elle demeura
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
jealousy. The two young lovers then escape in the ensuing pandemonium,
but Zolalde rela~ses into her delusions and starts believing that her lover is
the Turk. Altern
ftely mad and calm
, she is taken by ship from the eastern
Mediterranean to
l France where her lover hopes that the French doctors may
cur~ her malady.
i3 On this optimistic note the story ends, but not
before
havm~ persuad
~9 the reader of he
~ a~iction without labelling or naming it.
In pOInt of lexical fact, no name
IS gIven, yet one should not consider
it a
precursor of our modern depression. It is more accurately a forbear of the
stuff of late ninetJenth-century depression.
In another tal~, ' La folle pithagoricienne
, the female narrator wanders
thr~ugh the wo01s. where she encounters a deranged woman sitting close by
a ditch who explaIns that she and her lover had rested here, on this very
bank, before he ,as kille~ by a bullet.
44 S?e
fainted as he died, and when she
awoke saw a harli streakIng away from hIs body. She assumed that his soul
has transmigrate1 into the hare
, and now passes her days
searching for it.
One hare, bolde~ than the. others, n :,", approaches the two women. The
p~ssessed female. jshreaks WIt? recognltlon
, at which point the hare darts off
WIt? the woman 1
1j1 h
~t pursuIt. ~ere e
1;'~s the ,
tale without further resolution.
ThIs mad woman
l of La folle plthagonclenne approaches the romantic idea
of madness: poss
9ssed
, temperamentally wild, impulsive and fatally dejected.
Whatever else th
9 narrator represents, she is clearly too unbalanced to yield
to the norm of t!he depressive, yet she anticipates the
type who became
prominent among Freud'
s female patients. It would be
difficult to find an
equivalent numbe~ of males in the period who parallel her.
In all these talfs the
female is a forlorn castaway:
jilted or abandoned,
abused and cast off, broken by love. In another tale in the volume called '
folle de Beaune , J soldier on horseback trots through the French countryside
45
. a spanIe at ,IS ee s. The heroIne, Pauline, tenaciously grabs the dog,
whIch she recognIzes as her lo
,,:er s. Here, as in. many other demonic tales
ab?ut aborted l~ve
. accompanIed by . ~athologIcal depressive symptoms
anImals play a S~
r1fiCant role as
anticIpatory signs. A handsome young
" When aboar~ s~iP,
1 Zol
~ld s confusion ,retu
?'~: '
. . . de temps en temps elle . . . contemple (son
ama~tl avec, adml
~t.t~~, pUIS I horreur succede a I amour, et la replonge dans l'
aveuglement qui les
toe I un et ,I autre (,bid!, 15).. Her lover hopes for her eventual cure which is not guaranteed: '
Son
amant espere que les medecms de France, son amour et ses soins
arviendron
gue
(ibid.
16).
I ,
. .. .. '
La folie pithagoricienne,' ibid. 17-28. The description of the appearance of the mad woman is
almost entirely somatic:
Je vis une jeune femme assis: a~ bord d' un fosse, dont les traits, I' attitude et les
~egar~s, me .
rurent eXtraordmatres: les yeux fixes sur Ie coteau, elle sembloit epier
sq~ ~u momd
~'i mouvement des cha
~seurs. Se~ bras ~roises sur sa poitrine, sa robe
neglIgee et entr ~uverte, ses cheveux ~pars .et depoudres, que Ie vent renvoyait avec
for~e s~r son fr0 , ~ur~toUt la co
n;'moflon ,?olen
~e qu elle eprouvoit a chaque coup de
fust! qu elle entendOlt tlrer, tout m annon~alt Ie desordre de son esprit.
(Ibid.
20)
45 '
La folie de Beaun
~,'
ibid., 37-58.
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
soldier had fallen in love with this young woman, but fearful of the marriage
noose and feckless in character, he abandoned Pauline and rejoined his
regiment. She grew inconsolable, but obeyed her father
s wish that she go
through an arranged marriage. At the altar Pauline experienced a fit
collapsed, and awoke mad. All is narrated by the soldier on horseback who
Pauline met at the beginning of the tale. The dog is indeed Pauline
s lover
a friend of the soldier. The narrator-soldier seeks out the absconded lover
and fetches him now. Repentant, he
tries to win back Pauline who has
regained her wits on seeing him. Yet she is incredulous and will not believe
his return is based on anything but pity. Hence Pauline refuses to marry him
and soon dies in an acute consumption. The lover retires to a hermitage to
bewail his loss, leading to the pattern
shown in so many of these tales:
madness overcome leads, almost inexorably, to corporeal
sickness. In every
case the woman grows sick and and usually dies.
The remaining stories in Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, au folies par
amour are as pathetic, recounting the lives of deranged women whose
disastrous romances are followed by self
mutilation, self murder, and
rampant suicide. On any grounds these characters are the victims of
circumstance rather than inherently mired in chronic depression, yet every
aspect of their dramatization - their life just before and after
illness, inferior
nourishment, skin colour, visage, gait, sleep, detachment, alienation, sunken
spirits, fits, maniacal rage, self destruction - bears striking similarity
to the
depressives of the late nineteenth century.
46 Chronic, ongoing
depression is
.6 In '
La folie de Paris,' (ibid.
59-85) the young lovers have overcome social obstacles to wed. A
marquis, rival to the woman, Jovienne, challenges the lover to a duel. The lover comes off the worse
- so far as we know, he has died. He has written a lerter for his opponent to take to Jovienne
, asking
her to transfer her affections to his worthy vanquisher. Instead
, she faints and awakes mad, nursing
a violent affection for a doll she has dressed up to resemble her lover. Every time she sees the rival
she goes into a sort of fit. This continues for six months. The doctor suggests she might recover if
she has a baby but they can t marry her off to the rival as she screams every time he enters the room.
Finally, the rival gives up and goes to the village where he left the lover in precarious recovery. He is
alive bUt with only one arm and a wobbly jaw. He gets well enough to go to Paris, dons a false arm,
ties his jaw up and they go to see Jovienne. They put the lover in place of the doll when she
s oUt of
the room and when she retums he wakes up. All is joy and they marry. Jovienne is delighted to see
his false arm - she takes it that he has kept one of the doll' s arms to please her. This is the only sign
of madness she persists in, and they have three children and are very happy. In one passage the
narrator captures Jovienne at the moment of the loss of her wits:
En ... voyant paraitre (Ie marquis), Jovienne poussa un cri
suivi d'un long
evanouissement. On la rappella difficilement a la vie; mais heIas! un sourire niais
annon~a, lorsqu elle eut repris ses sens, qu il s etoit fait en elle une revolution funeste.
Elle jeta les yeux sur Ie Marquis, et se levant avec precipitation, elle vonlut lui prendre
les mains. - Epargnez sa vie! & s il vous faUt une victime, frappez; me voila prete a
recevoir la mort! ... On crnt que cet egarement ne seroit pas de longue duree: on
effor~a de calmer l'infortunee Jovienne: on voulUt faire sortir Ie Marquis: mais des
elle Ie voyait s eloigner, elle poussoit des cris et paroissoit au desespoir: - Ah!
retenez- , il va lui arracher la vie! L' on fut oblige de faire rester Ie Marquis; Jovienne
etoit tranquille que lorsqu elle Ie voyoit; mais elJe ne lui parla plus; elle demeura
qua depression inherent lacking in interest to the storyteller: there is little to
dramatize in livd whose days mirror each other without drama,
crisis and
eros. I~ this sens9 thegen
,:ine depres~ive would have held no interest for the
dramatist. But the depressive women ill these stones are driven by erotic love
to rise above the dngoing burden of their daily circumstance.
Still, it would ~~ wrong to think that these pre-
1800 representative malades
~ere carbon cop~es of our modern
depressives, or -
surveying national
literatures - that French imaginative literature of the
eighteenth-century was
~niq~e in fiction~lizing possessed women who grow pathologically dejected
(I. ~ mcapable of
lperforming the daily life functions), and who are driven to
suIcide before 011 after aborted love
or pregnancy. French,
Italian and
German literatur~ are as plentiful in this
representation. Moreover
, erotic
love as a form of devil
possession endured into the 1770s, as in Jacques
CazoUt Dia le c:moureux (1772).
47 Here, again
, animals participate in
the mam action l
'tadmg to pathology. A naive Spanish officer summons the
devil, who first appears as an
awesome camel (terrifying by virtue of
the
con~entree, et n
f so
~t e s?n aneantlssement que pour faire des poupees. Elle en
dessma une enfi
'1 ':!u elle habliia comme Ie Comte son amant: elle la coucha
, se mit a
son chevet, et fit! slgne qu
on pouvoit laisser sortir Ie Marquis: - Le voila
leur disoit-
elle, qu . sorte; jlaurai bien '!loins de peine ~ Ie garder qu
and son ennemi ~' y sera plus!
DepUls ce mpment, la Jeune mfortunee passa les
Jours et les nuits a cote du
simulacre de son rmant. ('
La folie de Paris ibid., 76-7.
Her fits are always med
1calized as follows:
Le medecin avoit fait entendre qu
une crise violente, comme un accouchement
pouv~it remettre Isa raison, et que Ia vue d'
un enfant qui lui devroit la vie, toucheroi;
p~ut-etre assez ,s\,n .coeur, pour contrebalancer sa passion; mais il fur impossible de
fatre. supporter a JoVlenne la vue du Marquis! Des qu
il paroissoit, elle poussoit des cris
hornbles, en cou
rant de son corps
Ie simulacre de son amant. II fallUt absolument
renoncer a cette i ee.
(Ibid.
77-
~ na
n;ator makes clear
, in keeping with the notion that love and breeding deranged women, that
JoVlenne s d~rangementlw~s se~ally grounded on her wedding night:
Le SOlr, quand on deshabilla Ie Comte, elle toucha pour la premiere fois Ie bras factice
de so!, nouvel e ~, et elle eclata de rire. - C'
est singulier! il a Ie bras que je lui ai fait!
- .0,:," mo
!, amle i J en al voulu garder un; mais I' autre est a moL - II est vrai! II est vrai!
dlson JoVlenne
, ~n les touchant I'un apres l'autre. Puis, regardant sa mere avec
, attendriss~~e~t: t ~' ~st encore une. marque d' amitie!
(Ibid., 84)
La folIe en pelenna
l\e
(Ibid., 87- 120) IS the story of a mystery woman
, well-born and delightful
who happens on a household one day and stays for two years. She finally leaves
because both father
and son are in I?ve ~.ithlher a?d she c~n t get our of it. She therefore pretends to be a fallen woman
?d to have an dIeglt1m~te child. Ha~ng preached to each ab,?Ut false appearances and fidelity, she
disa~pears, and IS gen
'f.
ally recognIzed as haVIng been subject to a sort of benign
madness in
sullymg her own repUtation falsely. Both preface and conclusion refer to this as a
different sort of
madness from the one lusually e
~countered bUt nonetheless worth recounting. The anonymous
auth~r concludes that rpe myste
nous self-calumniator '
est pas assez extravagante pour figurer
';l1l1 les folies du mo
tp':.nt; malS, avec t
~t de vertus et tant d'amour pour la fidelite, je pense
qu elle peut pourtant paronre assez folie auJourd'
hui.' ' La folie en pelerinage , 120.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
47 Jacques Cazotte,
Le Diable amoureux
(rep. 1981, originally published in 1772).
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
animal's appearing from nowhere in a geography alien to his appearance) and
subsequently as a spaniel, young page, and - ultimately - a beautiful young
woman: Biondetta-Beelzebut who sets about seducing the soldier. The action
follows the intricacy of Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, revealing a woman
possessed by the devil. Only a systematic literary survey would reveal how
long this devil-in-woman paradigm survived. It certainly endured into
the
late eighteenth century when Polish Count Jan Potocki, who
was direly
melancholic himself and blew out his own brains with a silver bullet, gave it
full representation in The Manuscript found in Saragossa.
In Marsollier des Vivetieres Nina ou la folie par amour (1786):9 a popular
sentimental French drama often reprinted and translated into Italian, English
and Spanish, female madness alternates between hysteria and catatonia in a
love formula that was well-worn by the 1780s. Nina has lost her wits after
losing her lover. She had been engaged to a respectable man but her father
reneged when a richer suitor presented himself. Germeuil, the old lover, was
summarily dismissed, but he was caught by the
rival while returning to
snatch a farewell kiss from Nina, a duel'
ensued, he lost, and Germeuil was
presumably killed.
50 Nina
quickly becomes demented. She spends every day
wandering the grounds, anorexic, insomniac, awaiting his return. Each day
she weaves a posy of flowers for him, leaving it by the bank before
retiring to
her chapel of sorrow. Her only remaining solace
is meeting poor people to
relieve their suffering. She recoils into profound withdrawal and
aphasia,
almost a sustained amnesia, at the mere sight of her father. This is Nina
s sad
state of spirit as the play opens. Her complying father conceals himself from
her lest she become further deranged, forlorn as he is for the grief that has
transformed his daughter. A drama of pathetic female scenes ensues of the
type often found in the British novel (for example
, Tobias Smollett s Miss
Williams in Roderick Random and Aurelia Darnel in Launcelot Greaves).
48 Jan Potocki,
The Manuscriptfound in Saragossa (London: Penguin, 1996), trans. Ian Maclean.
49 Marsollier des Vivetieres
Nina ou lafolk par amour (Paris, 1786).
50 The description of Nina
s reaction to Germeuil' s death dramatizes the fraught psychosomatic
crisis. Nina s nurse recounts it in first person narrative:
Nina perdit connoissance, je COUTs au Chateau demander du secours, on I' y porte
mourante; et quand elle ouvre les yeux, Ie premier objet qui se presente . .. c
est son
pere, tenant par la main Ie meurtrier de Germeuil , et lui ordonnan~ de Ie regarder
comme son epoux. Nina, muette d' effroi, d'indignation, ne pent resIster au combat
affreux qu elle eprouve; elle veut parler, et les expressions se refusent a sa douleur! elle
veut pleurer, et les !armes se sechent dans ses yeux! ses traits s alterent, sa raison est
troublee, une fievre devorante, un delire affreux s emparent de tous ses sens, la
presence de son pere, celie de l'odieux rival, ne font que (' augmenter encore; tous les
secours de (' art sont employes, on reussit a la rendre a la vie; mais helas: on ne pent
retablir sa raison. Le pere, repentant, desespere, ne pouvant soutenir ce spectacle, me
laisse ce depot si cher, et Nina plus interessante, plus respectable que jamais, offre a
tollS ceux qui la voient, une deplorable victime de l'amour et de la severite. (Nina ou la
folle par amour
51 See below p. 98.
qua depression inherent lacking in interest to the storyteller: there is little to
dramatize in livd whose days mirror each other without drama,
crisis and
eros. I~ this sens9 thegen
,:ine depres~ive would have held no interest for the
dramatist. But the depressive women ill these stones are driven by erotic love
to rise above the dngoing burden of their daily circumstance.
Still, it would ~~ wrong to think that these pre-
1800 representative malades
~ere carbon cop~es of our modern
depressives, or -
surveying national
literatures - that French imaginative literature of the
eighteenth-century was
~niq~e in fiction~lizing possessed women who grow pathologically dejected
(I. ~ mcapable of
lperforming the daily life functions), and who are driven to
suIcide before 011 after aborted love
or pregnancy. French,
Italian and
German literatur~ are as plentiful in this
representation. Moreover
, erotic
love as a form of devil
possession endured into the 1770s, as in Jacques
CazoUt Dia le c:moureux (1772).
47 Here, again
, animals participate in
the mam action l
'tadmg to pathology. A naive Spanish officer summons the
devil, who first appears as an
awesome camel (terrifying by virtue of
the
con~entree, et n
f so
~t e s?n aneantlssement que pour faire des poupees. Elle en
dessma une enfi
'1 ':!u elle habliia comme Ie Comte son amant: elle la coucha
, se mit a
son chevet, et fit! slgne qu
on pouvoit laisser sortir Ie Marquis: - Le voila
leur disoit-
elle, qu . sorte; jlaurai bien '!loins de peine ~ Ie garder qu
and son ennemi ~' y sera plus!
DepUls ce mpment, la Jeune mfortunee passa les
Jours et les nuits a cote du
simulacre de son rmant. ('
La folie de Paris ibid., 76-7.
Her fits are always med
1calized as follows:
Le medecin avoit fait entendre qu
une crise violente, comme un accouchement
pouv~it remettre Isa raison, et que Ia vue d'
un enfant qui lui devroit la vie, toucheroi;
p~ut-etre assez ,s\,n .coeur, pour contrebalancer sa passion; mais il fur impossible de
fatre. supporter a JoVlenne la vue du Marquis! Des qu
il paroissoit, elle poussoit des cris
hornbles, en cou
rant de son corps
Ie simulacre de son amant. II fallUt absolument
renoncer a cette i ee.
(Ibid.
77-
~ na
n;ator makes clear
, in keeping with the notion that love and breeding deranged women, that
JoVlenne s d~rangementlw~s se~ally grounded on her wedding night:
Le SOlr, quand on deshabilla Ie Comte, elle toucha pour la premiere fois Ie bras factice
de so!, nouvel e ~, et elle eclata de rire. - C'
est singulier! il a Ie bras que je lui ai fait!
- .0,:," mo
!, amle i J en al voulu garder un; mais I' autre est a moL - II est vrai! II est vrai!
dlson JoVlenne
, ~n les touchant I'un apres l'autre. Puis, regardant sa mere avec
, attendriss~~e~t: t ~' ~st encore une. marque d' amitie!
(Ibid., 84)
La folIe en pelenna
l\e
(Ibid., 87- 120) IS the story of a mystery woman
, well-born and delightful
who happens on a household one day and stays for two years. She finally leaves
because both father
and son are in I?ve ~.ithlher a?d she c~n t get our of it. She therefore pretends to be a fallen woman
?d to have an dIeglt1m~te child. Ha~ng preached to each ab,?Ut false appearances and fidelity, she
disa~pears, and IS gen
'f.
ally recognIzed as haVIng been subject to a sort of benign
madness in
sullymg her own repUtation falsely. Both preface and conclusion refer to this as a
different sort of
madness from the one lusually e
~countered bUt nonetheless worth recounting. The anonymous
auth~r concludes that rpe myste
nous self-calumniator '
est pas assez extravagante pour figurer
';l1l1 les folies du mo
tp':.nt; malS, avec t
~t de vertus et tant d'amour pour la fidelite, je pense
qu elle peut pourtant paronre assez folie auJourd'
hui.' ' La folie en pelerinage , 120.
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
47 Jacques Cazotte,
Le Diable amoureux
(rep. 1981, originally published in 1772).
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
animal's appearing from nowhere in a geography alien to his appearance) and
subsequently as a spaniel, young page, and - ultimately - a beautiful young
woman: Biondetta-Beelzebut who sets about seducing the soldier. The action
follows the intricacy of Les Nouvelles Folies sentimentales, revealing a woman
possessed by the devil. Only a systematic literary survey would reveal how
long this devil-in-woman paradigm survived. It certainly endured into
the
late eighteenth century when Polish Count Jan Potocki, who
was direly
melancholic himself and blew out his own brains with a silver bullet, gave it
full representation in The Manuscript found in Saragossa.
In Marsollier des Vivetieres Nina ou la folie par amour (1786):9 a popular
sentimental French drama often reprinted and translated into Italian, English
and Spanish, female madness alternates between hysteria and catatonia in a
love formula that was well-worn by the 1780s. Nina has lost her wits after
losing her lover. She had been engaged to a respectable man but her father
reneged when a richer suitor presented himself. Germeuil, the old lover, was
summarily dismissed, but he was caught by the
rival while returning to
snatch a farewell kiss from Nina, a duel'
ensued, he lost, and Germeuil was
presumably killed.
50 Nina
quickly becomes demented. She spends every day
wandering the grounds, anorexic, insomniac, awaiting his return. Each day
she weaves a posy of flowers for him, leaving it by the bank before
retiring to
her chapel of sorrow. Her only remaining solace
is meeting poor people to
relieve their suffering. She recoils into profound withdrawal and
aphasia,
almost a sustained amnesia, at the mere sight of her father. This is Nina
s sad
state of spirit as the play opens. Her complying father conceals himself from
her lest she become further deranged, forlorn as he is for the grief that has
transformed his daughter. A drama of pathetic female scenes ensues of the
type often found in the British novel (for example
, Tobias Smollett s Miss
Williams in Roderick Random and Aurelia Darnel in Launcelot Greaves).
48 Jan Potocki,
The Manuscriptfound in Saragossa (London: Penguin, 1996), trans. Ian Maclean.
49 Marsollier des Vivetieres
Nina ou lafolk par amour (Paris, 1786).
50 The description of Nina
s reaction to Germeuil' s death dramatizes the fraught psychosomatic
crisis. Nina s nurse recounts it in first person narrative:
Nina perdit connoissance, je COUTs au Chateau demander du secours, on I' y porte
mourante; et quand elle ouvre les yeux, Ie premier objet qui se presente . .. c
est son
pere, tenant par la main Ie meurtrier de Germeuil , et lui ordonnan~ de Ie regarder
comme son epoux. Nina, muette d' effroi, d'indignation, ne pent resIster au combat
affreux qu elle eprouve; elle veut parler, et les expressions se refusent a sa douleur! elle
veut pleurer, et les !armes se sechent dans ses yeux! ses traits s alterent, sa raison est
troublee, une fievre devorante, un delire affreux s emparent de tous ses sens, la
presence de son pere, celie de l'odieux rival, ne font que (' augmenter encore; tous les
secours de (' art sont employes, on reussit a la rendre a la vie; mais helas: on ne pent
retablir sa raison. Le pere, repentant, desespere, ne pouvant soutenir ce spectacle, me
laisse ce depot si cher, et Nina plus interessante, plus respectable que jamais, offre a
tollS ceux qui la voient, une deplorable victime de l'amour et de la severite. (Nina ou la
folle par amour
51 See below p. 98.
94
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
Eventually the P9asant Georges runs on stage to announce that Germeuil has
returned - he is not dead after all. Nina
s father spies Germeuil, repents, and
- this is the crubal detail for our survey - descants
on Nina s condition,
claiming that shf suffers from ' une maladie d' amour' as ' une deplorable
victi~e de l' amO1.
Fmally Germepll arrives on stage, persuades Nina of his identity,
revives
her memory and!. restores her sanity.
Nina forgives her father, marries
Germeuil that vety day, and
, calmed and regenerated
, watches the peasants
dance. Vivetieres audience could not have doubted the nature of Nina
~ent~l condition which ~as m
~de clear and indisputable. Translate her
situation, sympto, s and diagnosIs into
contemporary tenns, and one has a
depressive in need of immediate clinical treatment; alter her situation and
her
depression takes f)fi altogether different hues. The
matter is not to quibble
whether she is a tfirty per-cent
depressive or a seventy, for example, but the
degree to which
tjhree centuries ago she anticipated the condition that later
will be called ' derJressive' and become medicalized in the nineteenth century.
Furthennore, to recognize that although
male Ninas existed in her time, they
remained few and far apart.
Let. us ma~e ~ poin
t with a major example: Casanova s gargantuan and
autobIOgraphical memOIrs, the famous
Histoire de ma vie
composed in the
decade before his Ideath in 1798, where lovesick males appear, principally the
narrator-author. Even in this sprawling and disorganized narrative composed
over many years, the quintessential matter about gender - that
women rather
than men are inHerently
depressive - finds expression in a model
of early
depression trans~tted
from
male to female. In one such episode demonstrating
how such transfe~ence is imagined and then dramatized, Casanova accom-
modates with a faJ;ily structurally similar to Nina
, whose adolescent daughter
Bettine ascends rIie stairs to Casanova
s chamber every morning to comb his
~ir.
53
The scenesiform a cl
~rion call to arouse Cas~nova:s senses. His desire
stirred, the two make an
assignatIOn, but when Bettme falls to
turn up and is
subsequently disc
bvered having succumbed to another lodger -
the fifteen-
year-old Casanov
~ becomes inflamed. Jealousies flare, Bettine is thwarted
falls ill - here co
rbes the salient point for us - quickly
grows mad, and i~
reported to be po
ksessed by the devi1.54 Ineffectual exorcisms follow, as do
" Medieval ~al~ lov~-sic~ess was common, but the secondary
literaTUre on pre- I 800 male love
sIckness remams mconcluslve and
undersTUdied in companson to female love-sickness. Most
secondary literature, especially the important work of Dr Mark Micale, demonstrates
that males
could , or even werej susceptible but pre-
1800 statistical comparisons are weighted by far in
favour of women. See al~o notes 19-
20 above.
53 Jacques Casanova de Seingalt,
Hisroire de ma vie
(Paris: Pion, 1960), I 19-28.
" Bettine s illness is r~coumed as if a detailed case history:
Fache qu elle metre avant que je la rue, je me love, je descends
, et je la vois dans Ie lit
~ son pere en 90nvulsions effroyables entouree de route la famille, pas
tout Ii fait
vetue, se tourna t Ii droite
, et Ii gauche. Elle s arquait, elle se cambrait donnam des
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
various types of doctors - not
merely medical - until Bettine even~~l1y
divulges the secret: that she has been driven into a comer by ~e blac~all
adolescent Candiani, hereby suggesting not merely her retaIned ratIonality
but the likelihood that she has invented her illness: her feigned possession.
Pretended madness is not confirmed;
even if it were, the first-person
narrator - Casanova - is hardly an impartial observer. Yet he suspects
Bettine s motives and structures his story around the
premise of feigned
derangement. Why should
Casanova grasp for this
explanation? Even if
convenient in the light of his
biographical jealousy, Casanova must have
considered his readership. One explanation must be that Casanova
s readers
were so familiar with Bettine
s pretence - derangement feigned as the means
to escape - that they too grasped for it as the
likeliest explanation. Bettine
pretence, like Rosaura s in Goldoni' La finta ammalata (see p. 87), rescues
her from shame and
disgrace. Even so, her successful
strategy should not
suggest that pre-1800 women were not naturally
depressed or c?nstantly
vulnerable to the perils of sexual desire
, even if less so than Bettme.
~te
Enlightenment boundaries between sane and insane, feigned and genu
depression remain nebulous, as in the literary
example before us: Bett!Il:e
cleverly seizes on the '
devil' as ruse. On which side of the border does
thiS
coups de poing, et de pieds au has""d, et .
echappan~ par des violences secousses tantot
lil' un et tamer lil' autre de ceux quI voulalent la temr ferme.
Voyant ce tableau, et plein de l'
histoire de la nuit, je ne savais qu
; penser
: Je ne
connaissais ni la nature ni les ruses C. . .
) Au bout d' une heure Bettme s en~~rmlt. Une
sage-femme, et Ie docteur Olivo arriverent da
?s Ie , ?,e instant. La p~emlere dlt ':!ue
etaient des effels hysteriques; et Ie docteur dlt qu II n
y avalt pas questlO? d~ matnce.
II ordonna qu on la laissat tranquille, et des bams frOldes.. Je ,
~e moquals deux sans
rien dire, car je savais que la maladie de cette fille ne pouval~ d~nver '!ue ~e ses .
trav~ux
nocturnes, ou de la peur que ma
rencomre avec Candlam devalt IUI
aVOlr falte.
CHiswire de ma vie
29)
The language of possession and hysteria intrudes when a capucin priest is brought to
exorcise
Bettine:
Bettine Ii son apparition lui die en eclatant de rire des injures sanglantes
, qui plurent Ii
tOllS les assistants, puisqu
il n y avail que Ie diable d' as~ez hardi J?our traIler amsl un
capucin; mais celui-ci Ii son roUt s
emendam appeler Ignorant, 'mposte,:~, et p~ant
commen~a Ii doDDer des coups Ii Bettine avec un gros crucIfix d,sant
qu II battalt Ie
diable. II ne s arreta que 10rsqu iIla vir en position de lui jeter un pot de chambre lil
tete, chose que j' aurais bien voulu voir. ... Incon
~eva~le fille remphe de talent, qUI
confondit Ie capucin, et qui n
etonna personne, pUlsqu on attnbua routes ses paroles
au diable. Je ne concevais pas quel pouvait etre son but. (IbId.,
32-
The demonic possession then spreads ro her mind ro pervert and derange it:
Le lendemain route la maison fur desolee, parce que Ie demon qui possedait Bettine
etait empare de sa raison. Le docteur me die que dans ses deraisonnemems iI y avail
des blasphemes, et qu elle de~ait d?~c etre. possedee" car il n y a~?it pas d' !'parence
en qualite de folle elle eut tralte Ie Pete ~rospe
ro. C...) ~ e~alt un .dlma~che
Bettine avail bien dine, et avail ere folle toute la Journee.
VeTS mIDUlt son pere amva a
la maison chamam Ie Tasso, ivre Ii ne pas pouvoir se tenir debou~. II alla au ht de s~
fille, et apres I' avoir tendremem embrassee il lui die qu
elle n etalt pas folle. Elle lUl
repondit qu iI n etait pas saou1. (Ibid.,
36)
94
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
Eventually the P9asant Georges runs on stage to announce that Germeuil has
returned - he is not dead after all. Nina
s father spies Germeuil, repents, and
- this is the crubal detail for our survey - descants
on Nina s condition,
claiming that shf suffers from ' une maladie d' amour' as ' une deplorable
victi~e de l' amO1.
Fmally Germepll arrives on stage, persuades Nina of his identity,
revives
her memory and!. restores her sanity.
Nina forgives her father, marries
Germeuil that vety day, and
, calmed and regenerated
, watches the peasants
dance. Vivetieres audience could not have doubted the nature of Nina
~ent~l condition which ~as m
~de clear and indisputable. Translate her
situation, sympto, s and diagnosIs into
contemporary tenns, and one has a
depressive in need of immediate clinical treatment; alter her situation and
her
depression takes f)fi altogether different hues. The
matter is not to quibble
whether she is a tfirty per-cent
depressive or a seventy, for example, but the
degree to which
tjhree centuries ago she anticipated the condition that later
will be called ' derJressive' and become medicalized in the nineteenth century.
Furthennore, to recognize that although
male Ninas existed in her time, they
remained few and far apart.
Let. us ma~e ~ poin
t with a major example: Casanova s gargantuan and
autobIOgraphical memOIrs, the famous
Histoire de ma vie
composed in the
decade before his Ideath in 1798, where lovesick males appear, principally the
narrator-author. Even in this sprawling and disorganized narrative composed
over many years, the quintessential matter about gender - that
women rather
than men are inHerently
depressive - finds expression in a model
of early
depression trans~tted
from
male to female. In one such episode demonstrating
how such transfe~ence is imagined and then dramatized, Casanova accom-
modates with a faJ;ily structurally similar to Nina
, whose adolescent daughter
Bettine ascends rIie stairs to Casanova
s chamber every morning to comb his
~ir.
53
The scenesiform a cl
~rion call to arouse Cas~nova:s senses. His desire
stirred, the two make an
assignatIOn, but when Bettme falls to
turn up and is
subsequently disc
bvered having succumbed to another lodger -
the fifteen-
year-old Casanov
~ becomes inflamed. Jealousies flare, Bettine is thwarted
falls ill - here co
rbes the salient point for us - quickly
grows mad, and i~
reported to be po
ksessed by the devi1.54 Ineffectual exorcisms follow, as do
" Medieval ~al~ lov~-sic~ess was common, but the secondary
literaTUre on pre- I 800 male love
sIckness remams mconcluslve and
undersTUdied in companson to female love-sickness. Most
secondary literature, especially the important work of Dr Mark Micale, demonstrates
that males
could , or even werej susceptible but pre-
1800 statistical comparisons are weighted by far in
favour of women. See al~o notes 19-
20 above.
53 Jacques Casanova de Seingalt,
Hisroire de ma vie
(Paris: Pion, 1960), I 19-28.
" Bettine s illness is r~coumed as if a detailed case history:
Fache qu elle metre avant que je la rue, je me love, je descends
, et je la vois dans Ie lit
~ son pere en 90nvulsions effroyables entouree de route la famille, pas
tout Ii fait
vetue, se tourna t Ii droite
, et Ii gauche. Elle s arquait, elle se cambrait donnam des
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
various types of doctors - not
merely medical - until Bettine even~~l1y
divulges the secret: that she has been driven into a comer by ~e blac~all
adolescent Candiani, hereby suggesting not merely her retaIned ratIonality
but the likelihood that she has invented her illness: her feigned possession.
Pretended madness is not confirmed;
even if it were, the first-person
narrator - Casanova - is hardly an impartial observer. Yet he suspects
Bettine s motives and structures his story around the
premise of feigned
derangement. Why should
Casanova grasp for this
explanation? Even if
convenient in the light of his
biographical jealousy, Casanova must have
considered his readership. One explanation must be that Casanova
s readers
were so familiar with Bettine
s pretence - derangement feigned as the means
to escape - that they too grasped for it as the
likeliest explanation. Bettine
pretence, like Rosaura s in Goldoni' La finta ammalata (see p. 87), rescues
her from shame and
disgrace. Even so, her successful
strategy should not
suggest that pre-1800 women were not naturally
depressed or c?nstantly
vulnerable to the perils of sexual desire
, even if less so than Bettme.
~te
Enlightenment boundaries between sane and insane, feigned and genu
depression remain nebulous, as in the literary
example before us: Bett!Il:e
cleverly seizes on the '
devil' as ruse. On which side of the border does
thiS
coups de poing, et de pieds au has""d, et .
echappan~ par des violences secousses tantot
lil' un et tamer lil' autre de ceux quI voulalent la temr ferme.
Voyant ce tableau, et plein de l'
histoire de la nuit, je ne savais qu
; penser
: Je ne
connaissais ni la nature ni les ruses C. . .
) Au bout d' une heure Bettme s en~~rmlt. Une
sage-femme, et Ie docteur Olivo arriverent da
?s Ie , ?,e instant. La p~emlere dlt ':!ue
etaient des effels hysteriques; et Ie docteur dlt qu II n
y avalt pas questlO? d~ matnce.
II ordonna qu on la laissat tranquille, et des bams frOldes.. Je ,
~e moquals deux sans
rien dire, car je savais que la maladie de cette fille ne pouval~ d~nver '!ue ~e ses .
trav~ux
nocturnes, ou de la peur que ma
rencomre avec Candlam devalt IUI
aVOlr falte.
CHiswire de ma vie
29)
The language of possession and hysteria intrudes when a capucin priest is brought to
exorcise
Bettine:
Bettine Ii son apparition lui die en eclatant de rire des injures sanglantes
, qui plurent Ii
tOllS les assistants, puisqu
il n y avail que Ie diable d' as~ez hardi J?our traIler amsl un
capucin; mais celui-ci Ii son roUt s
emendam appeler Ignorant, 'mposte,:~, et p~ant
commen~a Ii doDDer des coups Ii Bettine avec un gros crucIfix d,sant
qu II battalt Ie
diable. II ne s arreta que 10rsqu iIla vir en position de lui jeter un pot de chambre lil
tete, chose que j' aurais bien voulu voir. ... Incon
~eva~le fille remphe de talent, qUI
confondit Ie capucin, et qui n
etonna personne, pUlsqu on attnbua routes ses paroles
au diable. Je ne concevais pas quel pouvait etre son but. (IbId.,
32-
The demonic possession then spreads ro her mind ro pervert and derange it:
Le lendemain route la maison fur desolee, parce que Ie demon qui possedait Bettine
etait empare de sa raison. Le docteur me die que dans ses deraisonnemems iI y avail
des blasphemes, et qu elle de~ait d?~c etre. possedee" car il n y a~?it pas d' !'parence
en qualite de folle elle eut tralte Ie Pete ~rospe
ro. C...) ~ e~alt un .dlma~che
Bettine avail bien dine, et avail ere folle toute la Journee.
VeTS mIDUlt son pere amva a
la maison chamam Ie Tasso, ivre Ii ne pas pouvoir se tenir debou~. II alla au ht de s~
fille, et apres I' avoir tendremem embrassee il lui die qu
elle n etalt pas folle. Elle lUl
repondit qu iI n etait pas saou1. (Ibid.,
36)
::" h~? H~ LIRriOn ::,
::i::~' d=ngem"" =d
demon-
possession. Casa
hova even imbues her portrait with comic
relief: ' Bettine
avait ~ien ?ine e~ avait ete folIe to
ute la journee.'55 Casanova may claim she
needs devIl stren~' but we
know otherwise.
Still more cux1ously, Bettine
s father arrives at her cell reciting Tasso.
(However, the great Italian poet was not feigning: declared mad
, Tasso had
been imprison~d I ~or years). Casanova
~ dramatization of feigned madness
ensue~ as BettIn
9 IS subsequently exorcised by yet another priest
, a Father
Mancla, who calms her by stealthy means. He is staggeringly handsome and
virtually woos h~r into
compliance. Calm ensues and Bettine
s reason
returns. Her dempnic love-
possession has abated but smallpox
follows. She
survives the smal~ox but may linger in her madness - we are never told as
~e episo~e fades
I into another. Casanova
s intentions are difficult to grasp
~lth certaInty, exc
ept that he clearly links female
possession and corporeal
Illness.
systematic €hronological
analysis of possessed
female figures from
c. 1700 forward w
buld produce not tens but dozens of Bettines who end less
happily, often in s
hicide. For example, Fanny Burney
s Cecilia in the novel of
that name (1782) I
grows desperate and raves when she cannot find her lover
Delville.
57 Bodily
heat and horror ensue: '
This moment, for Cecilia, teemed
with calamity; shelwas wholly overpowered.. .'58
Distracted hurry, confusion
and fatigue assail rer '
while all means of repelling them were denied her. . .
the attack was too
. stro~~ for her fears, feelings and faculties, and her reason
suddenly, yet tota ly, faIlIng her
, she madly called out, "
He will be gone! he
will be gone! and
I ~ust foll ?w him to Nice!",59 She wanders distractedly
through London, endIng up In a pawn-shop
whose proprietors incarcerate
her on the ground~ that she is mad from her repeated assertions that she '
...
must go to Nice
. Imprisoned, she is denied food and drink
, in the opinion of
those attending he
t grows frantic and deranged:
Mrs Wyers. .
1. heard her frantic
exclamations without any emotion
contentedly copcluding that her madness was incurable: and though she
was i~ a high ~ever, refused all sustenance, and had every symptom of an
alarmmg and dangerous malady. '
' she was fully persuaded that her case
was that of d9cided
insanity, and had not any notion of
temporary or
accidental alienation of reason.
All . she cou* think ?f by
way of indulgence to her
, was to bring her a
qua
r;'tlty
. o~ strflw, h~vmg heard that mad people were fond of it; and
putting 11 m a iheap m one corner of the room, she expected to see her
eagerly fly to itt
55
56
mOl ma
.', t.
Hzstolre de ma VIe
36.
:: Fa"?,y Burney,
C:ecz
if' or Memoirs. of an Heiress,
Judy Simons (ed. ) (London: Virago, 1986).
CecilIa, or MemOIrs oj an Heiress
874-5.
Cecilia, or Memoirs oJ an Heiress,
875.
60
Cecilia, or Memoirs oJ an Heiress,
878.
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
Is this modem depression or situational madness? Burney s vivid description
links Cecilia s strange perceptions to their awful consequences: she grows
delirious and mad as much from inanition and frustration as from despair.
She becomes physically ill and loses all sense of her geography and core self,
proceeding into the aphasia so
typical of her type of love
sickness. The
madhouse proprietors advertise, her friends and husband find her, she
improves only when united with her lover - the moral is perfectly clear.
Yet not all these depressed female protagonists survived their abandon-
ments and travails. After four generations of fictional representation from the
late seventeenth century, their makers increasingly viewed their situation as
tragic and killed them off. Sophie Cortin' Malvina (1800),61 like Richardson
much earlier Clarissa Harlowe (1748), ends with the heroine s virtual suicide.
It too recounts female derangement created by the male lover s - Sir
Edmond Seymour s - sequence of betrayal-death-departure, causing Malvina
fever, hysteria, catatonia and death. After three volumes of turmoil the
tragedy strikes: the two have been recently married, but Edmond ~avels to
London to plead for the custody of their adopted daughter. WhIle there,
Edmond is seduced by the lusty Kitty Fenwick who intercepts Malvina
letters and creates havoc. Kitty cunningly writes to Malvina that Edmond has
abandoned her. Malvina receives Kitty s letter on the night when their
daughter Fanny is abducted. She concludes that Edmond himself
has
kidnapped Fanny, and she suddenly loses her reason. Malvina is shown alone
as deranged, and later - when Edmond returns - exhibited enacting her
dementia. Eventually Malvina dies from her state of advanced derangement -
it is a sort of suicide of the will. Her depression, if depression this be, is
effected entirely by circumstance, as Cottin makes plain. A language of
crippled emotion caused by despair and dejection pervades the story. Pages
roll forth describing the details of a manic malady: fits and starts, fevers and
inflammations, moods and miseries. The name '
depression' is not, of course,
given to Malvina
s condition, but its traits foreshadow the received image of
the depressive at the time of its subsequent medicalization.
It may have seemed to informed readers of novels at the turn of the
nineteenth century (readers bred on a generation of these fictions of the
1780s and 1790s depicting depressed women) that Ophelia s proverbial
plight in Hamlet had become the curse of the Western world: pandemic love-
sickness causing such havoc that ordinary
life was impossible.
63 Andre
61 Sophie Cortin,
Malvina (Paris, 1811), 3 vols.
62 This pre-
1800 vocabulary is discussed in the notes to Ferrand, notes 31 and 33.
6) One wonders with what response readers in 1800 responded to the final tragedy as It struck:
Dans son desespoir, il frappe sa tete contre la pierre, en s ecriant: ' Malvina! Malvina!
. .
.' Aussit6t une voix douce et faible, qui semble sortir du bosquet, repond et
demande: '
Qui m
appelle?' A cet accent, Edmond egare se love, et cherche de l'oeil
::" h~? H~ LIRriOn ::,
::i::~' d=ngem"" =d
demon-
possession. Casa
hova even imbues her portrait with comic
relief: ' Bettine
avait ~ien ?ine e~ avait ete folIe to
ute la journee.'55 Casanova may claim she
needs devIl stren~' but we
know otherwise.
Still more cux1ously, Bettine
s father arrives at her cell reciting Tasso.
(However, the great Italian poet was not feigning: declared mad
, Tasso had
been imprison~d I ~or years). Casanova
~ dramatization of feigned madness
ensue~ as BettIn
9 IS subsequently exorcised by yet another priest
, a Father
Mancla, who calms her by stealthy means. He is staggeringly handsome and
virtually woos h~r into
compliance. Calm ensues and Bettine
s reason
returns. Her dempnic love-
possession has abated but smallpox
follows. She
survives the smal~ox but may linger in her madness - we are never told as
~e episo~e fades
I into another. Casanova
s intentions are difficult to grasp
~lth certaInty, exc
ept that he clearly links female
possession and corporeal
Illness.
systematic €hronological
analysis of possessed
female figures from
c. 1700 forward w
buld produce not tens but dozens of Bettines who end less
happily, often in s
hicide. For example, Fanny Burney
s Cecilia in the novel of
that name (1782) I
grows desperate and raves when she cannot find her lover
Delville.
57 Bodily
heat and horror ensue: '
This moment, for Cecilia, teemed
with calamity; shelwas wholly overpowered.. .'58
Distracted hurry, confusion
and fatigue assail rer '
while all means of repelling them were denied her. . .
the attack was too
. stro~~ for her fears, feelings and faculties, and her reason
suddenly, yet tota ly, faIlIng her
, she madly called out, "
He will be gone! he
will be gone! and
I ~ust foll ?w him to Nice!",59 She wanders distractedly
through London, endIng up In a pawn-shop
whose proprietors incarcerate
her on the ground~ that she is mad from her repeated assertions that she '
...
must go to Nice
. Imprisoned, she is denied food and drink
, in the opinion of
those attending he
t grows frantic and deranged:
Mrs Wyers. .
1. heard her frantic
exclamations without any emotion
contentedly copcluding that her madness was incurable: and though she
was i~ a high ~ever, refused all sustenance, and had every symptom of an
alarmmg and dangerous malady. '
' she was fully persuaded that her case
was that of d9cided
insanity, and had not any notion of
temporary or
accidental alienation of reason.
All . she cou* think ?f by
way of indulgence to her
, was to bring her a
qua
r;'tlty
. o~ strflw, h~vmg heard that mad people were fond of it; and
putting 11 m a iheap m one corner of the room, she expected to see her
eagerly fly to itt
55
56
mOl ma
.', t.
Hzstolre de ma VIe
36.
:: Fa"?,y Burney,
C:ecz
if' or Memoirs. of an Heiress,
Judy Simons (ed. ) (London: Virago, 1986).
CecilIa, or MemOIrs oj an Heiress
874-5.
Cecilia, or Memoirs oJ an Heiress,
875.
60
Cecilia, or Memoirs oJ an Heiress,
878.
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
Is this modem depression or situational madness? Burney s vivid description
links Cecilia s strange perceptions to their awful consequences: she grows
delirious and mad as much from inanition and frustration as from despair.
She becomes physically ill and loses all sense of her geography and core self,
proceeding into the aphasia so
typical of her type of love
sickness. The
madhouse proprietors advertise, her friends and husband find her, she
improves only when united with her lover - the moral is perfectly clear.
Yet not all these depressed female protagonists survived their abandon-
ments and travails. After four generations of fictional representation from the
late seventeenth century, their makers increasingly viewed their situation as
tragic and killed them off. Sophie Cortin' Malvina (1800),61 like Richardson
much earlier Clarissa Harlowe (1748), ends with the heroine s virtual suicide.
It too recounts female derangement created by the male lover s - Sir
Edmond Seymour s - sequence of betrayal-death-departure, causing Malvina
fever, hysteria, catatonia and death. After three volumes of turmoil the
tragedy strikes: the two have been recently married, but Edmond ~avels to
London to plead for the custody of their adopted daughter. WhIle there,
Edmond is seduced by the lusty Kitty Fenwick who intercepts Malvina
letters and creates havoc. Kitty cunningly writes to Malvina that Edmond has
abandoned her. Malvina receives Kitty s letter on the night when their
daughter Fanny is abducted. She concludes that Edmond himself
has
kidnapped Fanny, and she suddenly loses her reason. Malvina is shown alone
as deranged, and later - when Edmond returns - exhibited enacting her
dementia. Eventually Malvina dies from her state of advanced derangement -
it is a sort of suicide of the will. Her depression, if depression this be, is
effected entirely by circumstance, as Cottin makes plain. A language of
crippled emotion caused by despair and dejection pervades the story. Pages
roll forth describing the details of a manic malady: fits and starts, fevers and
inflammations, moods and miseries. The name '
depression' is not, of course,
given to Malvina
s condition, but its traits foreshadow the received image of
the depressive at the time of its subsequent medicalization.
It may have seemed to informed readers of novels at the turn of the
nineteenth century (readers bred on a generation of these fictions of the
1780s and 1790s depicting depressed women) that Ophelia s proverbial
plight in Hamlet had become the curse of the Western world: pandemic love-
sickness causing such havoc that ordinary
life was impossible.
63 Andre
61 Sophie Cortin,
Malvina (Paris, 1811), 3 vols.
62 This pre-
1800 vocabulary is discussed in the notes to Ferrand, notes 31 and 33.
6) One wonders with what response readers in 1800 responded to the final tragedy as It struck:
Dans son desespoir, il frappe sa tete contre la pierre, en s ecriant: ' Malvina! Malvina!
. .
.' Aussit6t une voix douce et faible, qui semble sortir du bosquet, repond et
demande: '
Qui m
appelle?' A cet accent, Edmond egare se love, et cherche de l'oeil
98 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
C?en ~r ~ert~inly
l th
~ught so when he adopted the plot of
Marsollier des
Vlveueres Nma f0r his famous poem '
La belle de Scio
64
Others, now barely
read or known, h~d done so before Chenier in gory, almost gothic, fictions
d!ssecting every f9rm of female despair. Among the varied themes of the
late
elgh~een~ c~ntu
1fY these fall
~n and dejected women had infiltrated the
readIng Imagmaupn: the Clanssa Harlowes in Samuel Richardson, Aurelia
Darnels among ~obias Smollett s asylum-loves, Cecilias in Fanny Burney.
Aurelia, like Rosafra and Bettine, feigns madness to escape from her brutal
uncle Anthony, assumes the name '
Miss Meadows,' and is incarcerated in a
private madhouscl.
65 The pattern
continued after Cecilia in decade upon
decade down to qe depressive heroines of Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft,
Mary Shelley and! the Bronte sisters, each inventing women as pathetic
in verbal and icdnic representation as many of them must have been
biographical life.
ou vient la voJ qui l' a ti-appe et qu il n ose reconnaitre: cependant il entend Ie bruit
un vetement a rravers Ie feuillage
, et aper~oit une femme done un voile de crepe noir
couvre la tete et line partie des epaules. '
Qui etes-vous? Qui cherchez-vous?' demanda-
t-elle: pourquoi Ivenir troubler la cendre des morts, et
empecher que la paix du
tombeau existe !pour moi? - Qu ai-je entendu! s ecrie-t-il; quelles funestes paroles!
Malvina, est-ce tpi que je vois? est-ce toi que j'
entends? - Non, reprit-elle, je ne suis
plus Malvina; je !a fils jadis quand il m
aimait; mais il s est eloigne, et je suis tombee
dans la detresse; II m a retire son amour, et la douleur m a rendue a la poussiere. ' Aces
mots, un froid mprtel glisse dans l'ame d'
Edmond; il pressent un malheur plus grand,
peut-etre, que la mort meme (.. .
).
(Malvina 165-
A few pages later Malvita s depression turns murderously suicidal:
Malvina, muette, insensible, ne voir rien
, n entend rien; elle jette autour d' elle des
regards vagues qJi ne fixent aucun objet; puis, se ievant doucement, elle s
approcha du
tombeau, et s ~nouillant dessus: 'Voila l' heure, dit elle; elle a sonne, et j' existe! II me
faut donc encorel attendre tout un jour? Encore Ie monde aujourd'
hui, mais demain
eternite!' Alors elle se leve et suspend son voile noir a une branche de cypres; ses
beaux cheveux bl!mds retombent epars sur son "ou; elle les ecarte, et fait quelques pas
hors du bosquetj la lune frappe a plomb sur son visage, et c est a sa pale clarte
Edmond. ~e
lsa femme cherie et aper~oit tous se
~ traits alteres par la main du
malheur qm det
Tj'lt en sIlence. Elle passe aupres de 1m, range sa robe pour ne pas Ie
toucher, et continue son chemin. . . . (Malvina 168-
Finally, Malvina reveals to Edmond that death is the only response to ill-
fated love:
Mais je vois bien que vous ne savez pas ce que c
est que cette lettre... c est quelque
chose qui detruit, qui rue, continua-t-elle en fixant Edmond d'
un air farouche; c est
quelque chose quI brule
, qui devore ici, 10. (en montrant successivement
son coeur, sa
tete et sa poitrine); c est un feu qui consume toujours, un mal qui ne s
apaise ;amais; il
corrompt Ie sang) il ronge Ie coeur
, il empeche de vivre, il ne penner pas de mourir:
voyez, ceux qui lie
souffrent n existent plus, ils soot tous comme moi.. .' Elle
interrompit; l' effroyable tableau de ses
souffrances venait d'aneantir toUte ses
facultes; elle tom~a sans force dans (es bras de son epoux. . . .
(Malvina 195)
.. See Andre, Chenier
, I
Oeuvre! completes, Gerard Walter (ed. ) (Paris: Gallimard - Editions Pleiade,
1950), 521- , La belle de SCIO , ti-agment
v from the ' Fragments de Bucoliques.'
65 For private English I madhouses of this period
of just the iype in which Aurelia Darnel would
have been placed, see
1hur Moms
Haxton Madhouses (London: Goodwin Brothers, 1958).
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
The lesson for any broad history of depression glancing further back than
1800 is that it cannot proceed without taking account of this vast
hinterland of prose fiction. It is important to note that these are European
annals of literature crossing the English Channel as well as the Rhine and the
Alps, as my few examples have tried to demonstrate. From the pathetic
female figures of the mid eighteenth century - Laurence Sterne s mad Maria
the French shepherd girl who loses her senses when the curate forbids her
marriage in A Sentimental Journey (1768) - to the more rounded protagonists
and weepy heroines of the fin-de-siecle and post-French Revolution period,
this new typology of the self assumed a place of privilege. Passive, feeble,
pathetic: its fallen heroines were the victims of debilitating love-sickness
played out on socio-economic fronts. As women they were anything but
active, brave and noble, as had been most men in the older, pre- 1800 male
model of madness. Only the biographical Rousseaus and fictional Werthers
would rival their versions of sensibility. Yet if the Man of Sensibility, as he
was then often called in early specimens such as Henry Mackenzie Man of
Feeling
(1771), could also appear to be depressed, his plight was less focused
on love-sickness than were his female counterparts, the Rosauras and
Bettines.
By the 1780s and 1790s and chronologically beyond then, a depressive
female state of mind formed the basic alloy for the novel itself: a feminization
of literature which literary critics of our time have annotated with exquisite
finesse.
67 Frances Burney
had been one of its architects in these stories of
aborted or unrequited love, but others followed suit and extended her
psychology of the dejected female self as its main subject: from Elizabeth
Inchbald' Simple Story (1791) to Mary Shelley Mathilda (1819), all
demonstrating how women could be wronged and what the effects of crossed
love were. Decades of ' mad Marias' had followed Sterne s fictional one: from
Mary Wollstonecraft' Mary: a Fiction
(1788),
68 through Jane West
Advantages of Education, or, The HistOry of Maria Williams
(1793), to Jane
Austen s ' other mad Maria,' Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
(1811) who loses her mind and body when Wickham (as wicked as his name
sounds) abandons her. William Beckford, the millionaire Englishman-traveller,
.. The relation of sensibiliiy to gender has been studied abundantly but much less so in relation
to deviant behaviour and depression. Extra-sensitive nerves were thought in the period
1750- 1820 to contribute to a heightened aesthetic sense and artistic creativiiy, but not necessarily
to low spirits and melancholy. The matter is much more complex than appears and marks the
finning of the modem movements of neuroanatomy in relation to behaviour.
. See, for example, Terry Castle Masquerade and Civilization: the Camivalesque in Eighteenth-
Century English Culture and Fiction (London: Methuen, 1986); Deborah Ross, The Excellence of
Falsehood: Romance, Realism, and Women s Conrributions to the Novel (Lexington: University Press of
Kentucky, 199 I).
'8 Published anonymously in 1788 and again in 1790 with her name on the title page.
98 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
C?en ~r ~ert~inly
l th
~ught so when he adopted the plot of
Marsollier des
Vlveueres Nma f0r his famous poem '
La belle de Scio
64
Others, now barely
read or known, h~d done so before Chenier in gory, almost gothic, fictions
d!ssecting every f9rm of female despair. Among the varied themes of the
late
elgh~een~ c~ntu
1fY these fall
~n and dejected women had infiltrated the
readIng Imagmaupn: the Clanssa Harlowes in Samuel Richardson, Aurelia
Darnels among ~obias Smollett s asylum-loves, Cecilias in Fanny Burney.
Aurelia, like Rosafra and Bettine, feigns madness to escape from her brutal
uncle Anthony, assumes the name '
Miss Meadows,' and is incarcerated in a
private madhouscl.
65 The pattern
continued after Cecilia in decade upon
decade down to qe depressive heroines of Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft,
Mary Shelley and! the Bronte sisters, each inventing women as pathetic
in verbal and icdnic representation as many of them must have been
biographical life.
ou vient la voJ qui l' a ti-appe et qu il n ose reconnaitre: cependant il entend Ie bruit
un vetement a rravers Ie feuillage
, et aper~oit une femme done un voile de crepe noir
couvre la tete et line partie des epaules. '
Qui etes-vous? Qui cherchez-vous?' demanda-
t-elle: pourquoi Ivenir troubler la cendre des morts, et
empecher que la paix du
tombeau existe !pour moi? - Qu ai-je entendu! s ecrie-t-il; quelles funestes paroles!
Malvina, est-ce tpi que je vois? est-ce toi que j'
entends? - Non, reprit-elle, je ne suis
plus Malvina; je !a fils jadis quand il m
aimait; mais il s est eloigne, et je suis tombee
dans la detresse; II m a retire son amour, et la douleur m a rendue a la poussiere. ' Aces
mots, un froid mprtel glisse dans l'ame d'
Edmond; il pressent un malheur plus grand,
peut-etre, que la mort meme (.. .
).
(Malvina 165-
A few pages later Malvita s depression turns murderously suicidal:
Malvina, muette, insensible, ne voir rien
, n entend rien; elle jette autour d' elle des
regards vagues qJi ne fixent aucun objet; puis, se ievant doucement, elle s
approcha du
tombeau, et s ~nouillant dessus: 'Voila l' heure, dit elle; elle a sonne, et j' existe! II me
faut donc encorel attendre tout un jour? Encore Ie monde aujourd'
hui, mais demain
eternite!' Alors elle se leve et suspend son voile noir a une branche de cypres; ses
beaux cheveux bl!mds retombent epars sur son "ou; elle les ecarte, et fait quelques pas
hors du bosquetj la lune frappe a plomb sur son visage, et c est a sa pale clarte
Edmond. ~e
lsa femme cherie et aper~oit tous se
~ traits alteres par la main du
malheur qm det
Tj'lt en sIlence. Elle passe aupres de 1m, range sa robe pour ne pas Ie
toucher, et continue son chemin. . . . (Malvina 168-
Finally, Malvina reveals to Edmond that death is the only response to ill-
fated love:
Mais je vois bien que vous ne savez pas ce que c
est que cette lettre... c est quelque
chose qui detruit, qui rue, continua-t-elle en fixant Edmond d'
un air farouche; c est
quelque chose quI brule
, qui devore ici, 10. (en montrant successivement
son coeur, sa
tete et sa poitrine); c est un feu qui consume toujours, un mal qui ne s
apaise ;amais; il
corrompt Ie sang) il ronge Ie coeur
, il empeche de vivre, il ne penner pas de mourir:
voyez, ceux qui lie
souffrent n existent plus, ils soot tous comme moi.. .' Elle
interrompit; l' effroyable tableau de ses
souffrances venait d'aneantir toUte ses
facultes; elle tom~a sans force dans (es bras de son epoux. . . .
(Malvina 195)
.. See Andre, Chenier
, I
Oeuvre! completes, Gerard Walter (ed. ) (Paris: Gallimard - Editions Pleiade,
1950), 521- , La belle de SCIO , ti-agment
v from the ' Fragments de Bucoliques.'
65 For private English I madhouses of this period
of just the iype in which Aurelia Darnel would
have been placed, see
1hur Moms
Haxton Madhouses (London: Goodwin Brothers, 1958).
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
The lesson for any broad history of depression glancing further back than
1800 is that it cannot proceed without taking account of this vast
hinterland of prose fiction. It is important to note that these are European
annals of literature crossing the English Channel as well as the Rhine and the
Alps, as my few examples have tried to demonstrate. From the pathetic
female figures of the mid eighteenth century - Laurence Sterne s mad Maria
the French shepherd girl who loses her senses when the curate forbids her
marriage in A Sentimental Journey (1768) - to the more rounded protagonists
and weepy heroines of the fin-de-siecle and post-French Revolution period,
this new typology of the self assumed a place of privilege. Passive, feeble,
pathetic: its fallen heroines were the victims of debilitating love-sickness
played out on socio-economic fronts. As women they were anything but
active, brave and noble, as had been most men in the older, pre- 1800 male
model of madness. Only the biographical Rousseaus and fictional Werthers
would rival their versions of sensibility. Yet if the Man of Sensibility, as he
was then often called in early specimens such as Henry Mackenzie Man of
Feeling
(1771), could also appear to be depressed, his plight was less focused
on love-sickness than were his female counterparts, the Rosauras and
Bettines.
By the 1780s and 1790s and chronologically beyond then, a depressive
female state of mind formed the basic alloy for the novel itself: a feminization
of literature which literary critics of our time have annotated with exquisite
finesse.
67 Frances Burney
had been one of its architects in these stories of
aborted or unrequited love, but others followed suit and extended her
psychology of the dejected female self as its main subject: from Elizabeth
Inchbald' Simple Story (1791) to Mary Shelley Mathilda (1819), all
demonstrating how women could be wronged and what the effects of crossed
love were. Decades of ' mad Marias' had followed Sterne s fictional one: from
Mary Wollstonecraft' Mary: a Fiction
(1788),
68 through Jane West
Advantages of Education, or, The HistOry of Maria Williams
(1793), to Jane
Austen s ' other mad Maria,' Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
(1811) who loses her mind and body when Wickham (as wicked as his name
sounds) abandons her. William Beckford, the millionaire Englishman-traveller,
.. The relation of sensibiliiy to gender has been studied abundantly but much less so in relation
to deviant behaviour and depression. Extra-sensitive nerves were thought in the period
1750- 1820 to contribute to a heightened aesthetic sense and artistic creativiiy, but not necessarily
to low spirits and melancholy. The matter is much more complex than appears and marks the
finning of the modem movements of neuroanatomy in relation to behaviour.
. See, for example, Terry Castle Masquerade and Civilization: the Camivalesque in Eighteenth-
Century English Culture and Fiction (London: Methuen, 1986); Deborah Ross, The Excellence of
Falsehood: Romance, Realism, and Women s Conrributions to the Novel (Lexington: University Press of
Kentucky, 199 I).
'8 Published anonymously in 1788 and again in 1790 with her name on the title page.
summed up a half century of prose fiction when he wrote in
Modern Novel
Writing (1796) ~at its Clarissas and mad Marias had been both its strength
and downfall. Trr.ee years later Mary Robinson
Letter to the Women of
England, on the I
rjustice of Mental Insubordination
(1799) could have served
equally well to alert the world to the gendered injustice we moderns
, in our
more enlightenedl times, refer to by a single medicalized word: depression.
~ limited p~intl has been that this
genealogy of pre- 1800 depression is as
valId for the Images of the depressive
it left in the mind, as the
stringing
together of didact
ic theories of melancholy from the time of Robert Burton.
~nc1usions
lut the
examples offered
Pzrst among my conclusions about this
genealogy is the crucial matter of
gender on the bo~ders of mental illness - this interface within the context
Western civilizatilpn
. mind-body split. If there is an
historical shift in the
borders. between! elghteenth
~centu madness and depression (again,
depressIOn constIJUed proleptlcally In the
anachronistic way I have been
suggesting througpout this essay), the shift is the result of sensibility to the
degree that a primary cause can be assigned to a complex matter based on
diverse cultural r
~sources. Sensibility - the cult
of the sensitive over the
~tional, the heart lover the head
, the passions over the intellect - was the mid
elghteenth-cenrurr movement
responsible for creating the conditions of
possibility for
rs
(as indicated above, the Rousseaus and
Werthers) also
known to be 10ve
Tsick and depressed.
7O Sensibility,
no more than madness,
cannot be omitted from this
genealogy of depression. Whereas post-
1700
male madness cdntinued to be
portrayed as strong in mind
despite its
depravities, all ~ersions of
feminine hysteria and
melancholy were
represented in thF language and
images of weakness: weak spirits, weak
nerves, weak fibres, frail and
passive physiology wrapped into one
flawed
female creature rio matter how
lovely and beautiful. The woman who
transcended these frailties was the exception rather than the norm.
When she
rose above her depressive state she did so out of strength by transcending
inherent, almost .
~reternatural, weakness. The normative male required no
such transformation from weak to
strong. He remained strong and noble
despite cracking, li
ie Hamlet in 1600 and Werther in 1774.
Her poetry about ~emale melancholy IS
as eloquem on the matter as Burton
s tWo centuries
~lier in the
1natomy.
lThe best life and edition of her works remains her daughter s: see Maria
Ehzabeth Robmson,
Memozrs
...
WIth some Posthumous Pieces,
4 vols. (1801) and
Poerical Works,
3 vols (1806).
. 10 .
For the cultUral resonances see G. J. Barker-
Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society
In E,ghteenth-Century Bn in (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
11 Contrast h
~re with Sade is useful because his protagonists, male and female, break many of
these ?o
n:ns. HIS heroes ar
~ represente~ as the o!'posite of mad
, as super-rational, dominating their
every mstmct and chan
TIhng them all mto the hbertme persona. However, as Michel Delon poims
100
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY 101
Further along gender lines within the flow of historical depression, it is not
my aim to minimize concepts of subjectivity (the self's relation to its wider
culture) and empowerment despite remaining silent about them here. There
is no doubt that these pre- 1800 stories demonstrate helpless women aiming
to empower themselves through their acquired depressive condition, whether
genuine or feigned.
72 Their lingering
depression is not a cause but a result:
the result, or effect, of helplessness turned back on itself into enduring states
of mind and body, day in and day out. Stated otherwise, a strong case exists
that depression as a phenomenon and learned behaviour was historically the
result, or effect, not the root cause, of socio-economic powerlessness that has
demoralized and disenfranchized the female erotic drive.
Even further in the domain of gender, males in history became similarly
demoralized in the late eighteenth century at the historical moment when
they found themselves helpless against developing publi sy~tems of
government, law and the professions before whose recent codIfications they
now found themselves as inert as women had previously been in the socio-
economic realm. And that this masculine transformation accounted in part for
the rise of sensitive ' men of feeling' and sorrowful Werthers who were then
- in the late eighteenth century - validly depressive for the first time.
Depression thus became masculinized within a sphere of diminished m
~le
freedom, as in William Godwin' Caleb Williams (1794), whose protagonist
finds his freedom curbed from what it would have been just two or three
generations earlier. These tesselations - the broidery of their historical
reciprocities - are worthy of treatment. But my purpose here has not been to
trace the evolution of pre-1800 depression in relation to literary works, but
oUt there are a couple of episodes where madness is either imitated or induced. In Delon s words:
(S~de) redonne a la demence toute sa violenc~. Juliette et Clairwill . invi~ees du roi de Naples,
visitem la maison de force de Salence dont Ie dlrecteur est expert en hbertmage. Devam les deux
jeunes femmes, il se livre aux memes contorsions que Ie fou dont it jouit, il deraisonne com?,e sa
victime et finit par s ecrier: "Et moi aussi je suis fou
'" (Delon
, 1988, note 29, 396-7). Sade hunself
was imprisoned in the mad asylum of Charemon some years later. Delon also comments aboUt
Sade that ' tous ces reves et ces fantasmes som les exacts contemporains des textes fondateurs de la
medecine alieniste qui fait effectivement du discours sur la folie une energetique. La folie, selon
l'analyse de Pinel, exaspere les caracteres de l' individu' (Delon , 1988, 398).
12 The difference raises all sorts of
questions about the awareness of feigning. Depressive
behaviour in both states, feigning and its opposite, was imitative, in which state the matter. of
conscious awareness may be minimal or even irrelevant. The matter has not been much stUdIed
historically.
13 The secondary literature about
male sensibility c. 1750-1800 is now extensive and gendere~ b~t
does not deal with low chronic male melancholia qua depression as a medical construct. The pOlDt IS
made by consulting such works as G. J. Barker-Benfield The Cullure of Sensibility: Sex and Society .
Eighteenth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992~; Ann van Sam, SenSIbility
and the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Any notion that the transformation
was caused by an effeminizing sexual ambivalence through homoerotic possibility is toO narrow to
be explanatory for the larger gender shift; see the strong case by George Haggerty, Men In Love:
Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).
summed up a half century of prose fiction when he wrote in
Modern Novel
Writing (1796) ~at its Clarissas and mad Marias had been both its strength
and downfall. Trr.ee years later Mary Robinson
Letter to the Women of
England, on the I
rjustice of Mental Insubordination
(1799) could have served
equally well to alert the world to the gendered injustice we moderns
, in our
more enlightenedl times, refer to by a single medicalized word: depression.
~ limited p~intl has been that this
genealogy of pre- 1800 depression is as
valId for the Images of the depressive
it left in the mind, as the
stringing
together of didact
ic theories of melancholy from the time of Robert Burton.
~nc1usions
lut the
examples offered
Pzrst among my conclusions about this
genealogy is the crucial matter of
gender on the bo~ders of mental illness - this interface within the context
Western civilizatilpn
. mind-body split. If there is an
historical shift in the
borders. between! elghteenth
~centu madness and depression (again,
depressIOn constIJUed proleptlcally In the
anachronistic way I have been
suggesting througpout this essay), the shift is the result of sensibility to the
degree that a primary cause can be assigned to a complex matter based on
diverse cultural r
~sources. Sensibility - the cult
of the sensitive over the
~tional, the heart lover the head
, the passions over the intellect - was the mid
elghteenth-cenrurr movement
responsible for creating the conditions of
possibility for
rs
(as indicated above, the Rousseaus and
Werthers) also
known to be 10ve
Tsick and depressed.
7O Sensibility,
no more than madness,
cannot be omitted from this
genealogy of depression. Whereas post-
1700
male madness cdntinued to be
portrayed as strong in mind
despite its
depravities, all ~ersions of
feminine hysteria and
melancholy were
represented in thF language and
images of weakness: weak spirits, weak
nerves, weak fibres, frail and
passive physiology wrapped into one
flawed
female creature rio matter how
lovely and beautiful. The woman who
transcended these frailties was the exception rather than the norm.
When she
rose above her depressive state she did so out of strength by transcending
inherent, almost .
~reternatural, weakness. The normative male required no
such transformation from weak to
strong. He remained strong and noble
despite cracking, li
ie Hamlet in 1600 and Werther in 1774.
Her poetry about ~emale melancholy IS
as eloquem on the matter as Burton
s tWo centuries
~lier in the
1natomy.
lThe best life and edition of her works remains her daughter s: see Maria
Ehzabeth Robmson,
Memozrs
...
WIth some Posthumous Pieces,
4 vols. (1801) and
Poerical Works,
3 vols (1806).
. 10 .
For the cultUral resonances see G. J. Barker-
Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society
In E,ghteenth-Century Bn in (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
11 Contrast h
~re with Sade is useful because his protagonists, male and female, break many of
these ?o
n:ns. HIS heroes ar
~ represente~ as the o!'posite of mad
, as super-rational, dominating their
every mstmct and chan
TIhng them all mto the hbertme persona. However, as Michel Delon poims
100
GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY 101
Further along gender lines within the flow of historical depression, it is not
my aim to minimize concepts of subjectivity (the self's relation to its wider
culture) and empowerment despite remaining silent about them here. There
is no doubt that these pre- 1800 stories demonstrate helpless women aiming
to empower themselves through their acquired depressive condition, whether
genuine or feigned.
72 Their lingering
depression is not a cause but a result:
the result, or effect, of helplessness turned back on itself into enduring states
of mind and body, day in and day out. Stated otherwise, a strong case exists
that depression as a phenomenon and learned behaviour was historically the
result, or effect, not the root cause, of socio-economic powerlessness that has
demoralized and disenfranchized the female erotic drive.
Even further in the domain of gender, males in history became similarly
demoralized in the late eighteenth century at the historical moment when
they found themselves helpless against developing publi sy~tems of
government, law and the professions before whose recent codIfications they
now found themselves as inert as women had previously been in the socio-
economic realm. And that this masculine transformation accounted in part for
the rise of sensitive ' men of feeling' and sorrowful Werthers who were then
- in the late eighteenth century - validly depressive for the first time.
Depression thus became masculinized within a sphere of diminished m
~le
freedom, as in William Godwin' Caleb Williams (1794), whose protagonist
finds his freedom curbed from what it would have been just two or three
generations earlier. These tesselations - the broidery of their historical
reciprocities - are worthy of treatment. But my purpose here has not been to
trace the evolution of pre-1800 depression in relation to literary works, but
oUt there are a couple of episodes where madness is either imitated or induced. In Delon s words:
(S~de) redonne a la demence toute sa violenc~. Juliette et Clairwill . invi~ees du roi de Naples,
visitem la maison de force de Salence dont Ie dlrecteur est expert en hbertmage. Devam les deux
jeunes femmes, il se livre aux memes contorsions que Ie fou dont it jouit, il deraisonne com?,e sa
victime et finit par s ecrier: "Et moi aussi je suis fou
'" (Delon
, 1988, note 29, 396-7). Sade hunself
was imprisoned in the mad asylum of Charemon some years later. Delon also comments aboUt
Sade that ' tous ces reves et ces fantasmes som les exacts contemporains des textes fondateurs de la
medecine alieniste qui fait effectivement du discours sur la folie une energetique. La folie, selon
l'analyse de Pinel, exaspere les caracteres de l' individu' (Delon , 1988, 398).
12 The difference raises all sorts of
questions about the awareness of feigning. Depressive
behaviour in both states, feigning and its opposite, was imitative, in which state the matter. of
conscious awareness may be minimal or even irrelevant. The matter has not been much stUdIed
historically.
13 The secondary literature about
male sensibility c. 1750-1800 is now extensive and gendere~ b~t
does not deal with low chronic male melancholia qua depression as a medical construct. The pOlDt IS
made by consulting such works as G. J. Barker-Benfield The Cullure of Sensibility: Sex and Society .
Eighteenth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992~; Ann van Sam, SenSIbility
and the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Any notion that the transformation
was caused by an effeminizing sexual ambivalence through homoerotic possibility is toO narrow to
be explanatory for the larger gender shift; see the strong case by George Haggerty, Men In Love:
Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).:~"
'" d,mon
L" how G~7:~i
::~S
:::~1' ~"d 'nd dmm""'d
images from which doctors and others students of the mind developed
, and
even sometimes bopied, their theories.
74 The two
realms - literary and
medical - are obJiously connected, even if
the connections continue to be
perfidious two ce~turies later.
Second is the grad~al paradigmatic shift over the long eighteenth century of
the ways in which women were gradually
represented as mad rather than
possessed or depr~ssed
, and readers will have noticed that even in the limited
number of examptes presented here there is a shift from the constellation of
possession/depression to male-resembling madness. If this entry of women to
the realms of maid madness is valid
, as I think it is, their entrance arises as a
slow, gradual evolution in which they usurp male
prerogative by sapping
masculine stren~. This
transformative process fuels much (but certainly
not all) literature bf the eighteenth century - stories, fables
, the novel, even
on the stage - anti continues into the nineteenth century when
depression
was consciously a~d professionally medicalized. It should
not be surprising
that such a shift lin popular
sensibility - from
possessed women to mad
women, from noblY mad men to now nobly mad
women - should take a toll
in the diagnostic r
roms of the Salpetriere and Bethlehem. Culture is holistic,
of one cloth. Doctors breathe the same air as their patients and drink the
same water. Theyl scanned the same books and absorbed similar
images.
They certainly reatl the
bestselling novels discussed in this paper. To
make
these claims is no Imore extravagant than to purport
that our contemporary
psychiatrists watcn films and TV
programmes which, in turn, figure into
their psychiatric th
fOries.
Third is feigned female madness deployed for escape. This version has been
overlooked yet re
rbains among the most interesting of all the varieties.
74 The copy element i~ beyond doubt but sometimes it occurred in reverse: Tobias Smollett, one
of the major novelists oflthe eighteenth century, is known to have read the pages of William Battie
Treatise of Madness
(17 7) and then penned his
Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves,
mentioned
above.
75 Feigned female ma ness was popular on stage in the early nineteenth century, as
in Jean-
Fran~ois Regnard,
Les IFolies amoureuses, comMie, en trois actes et
en veTS (Paris, 1806), first
performed in 1804. Ag~
llie, a pretty young woman
, is jealously guarded by Alben who is much
older and wants to malT)( her. She wants to marry Eraste. In order to trick Alben she
pretends to go
mad, in turn spitting, sinking, insulting and hitting Alben and taking on the different personas of an
old drunken woman, fernie mother of founeen children by age twenty-seven who is taking her sons
to coun (she gains 100 16uis from the bewildered Alben to further her cause) and soldier thirsty for
action. Eraste, a witness,! at first believes thai she is mad but realizes her pretence. She gives him a
letter in her derangement which is seen by Alben.
Nevertheless, the depressed lisette
, her maid
repons her mistress tUrning mad between one scene (where she withdraws in order for Alben to
welcome Eraste) and the
lnext when Lisette retUms in a few minutes to repon the event. The action
occurs so swiftly that the spectator comprehends the pretension:
Quand par vorre ofdre expres, elle a vu travailler
Ce maudit serrurie
~, venn pour nous griller;
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
103
Feigned insanity could
cause ~enuinely depressive sympto
J?s among its
manipulators when its
strategtes failed. The pre- 1800 hte~ary record
demonstrates what these strategies were an~ h
ow ~ey were studied ?y early
nineteenth-century psychiatrists eager to distinguish between genuine and
concocted depression. The strength
of the genealogi:al appr~ach suggested
here is that it provides a rich archive for the exploratIon o~
feigned madn~ss
as distinct from other versions; an annals of
pathographles complete With
aetiology, development, presentation, and therapy.
Fourth is the crucial matter of the te
I?P~ral durati
~~ of the depres~ive state or
condition. If ongoing ennui and continuing low spmts over lon
~ tIme penods
constitute the sine qua non of depression versus competing types of
disaffection, then little of it is found in th~ pr
1800 novel. Most women (but
not all) are creatures of their dire situatIOn In love
and 'pregnancy. Remove
these and the so-called depression lifts. Re-enter the penIs of pregnancy and
aborted love, whether through jilting or any other form of aband
~nment, ~nd
the depression returns. The condition
s aetiology, to speak .m~dlcally, anses
from its situational context. In the pre-
0~ literature. there IS lIttle sense of ~
natural predisposition to chronic low spmts except In the humoural sense,
d women who continued to be melancholic despite the absence of
=~ational causes are few and far apart. An exception is found in Isabelle d
Charriere s (also called Belle de Zuylen)
Lettres de Mistress Henley
(1784).
Elle a vu ces barreaux, et ces grilles paraitre
Dont ce noir forgeron condamnait sa fenerre;
1'ai, dans Ie meme instant, vu ses yeux s
egarer,
Et son esprit frappe, soudain s evaporer.
Elle tient des discours remplis d' extravagance.
Elle coun, elle grimpe, elle chante, elle d~nse.
Elle prend un habit, puis Ie change souda!l~
Avec ce qu elle peut rencontrer sous sa maIO.
Tout- l'heure elle a mis, dans votre garderobe
Vorre large culotte, et votre grande robe;
Puis, prenant sa guitarre, elle a, d~ sa fa~on,
Chante differens airs en different Jargon.
Enfin c est cent fois pis que je ne puis vous dire:
On ne peut s empecher d' en pleurer et d' en rire.
(Les Folies amoureuses 22-
Her madness is so shocking that even normally unacceptable behavio,:,r is permitted here, as when
A athe is rude to Albert as a ruse to escape. Feigned female m
~dnes~ IS therefore a tWo-fold means
rescape here: (I) from social convention; (2) from the proverbial pnson of an arranged marnage.
'6 The story is of a tWenty-
five year old orphan needing to marry and having to make a choice
between a rich and worldly nabob know~ to be faintly disreputable, and a reasonabl
~, respec ~e,
up-standing man, Mr Henley. As she realIzes that It IS the w~rst pans o~ herself -
vaDlty, etc. .
are attracted to the nabob, she rejects him and makes the VIITUOUS chOIce. I:Io~ever, the ma,!,age
does not develop happily. Her husband does not respond to her mnocent vIvacIty and femml
Dlty
instead chiding her, rebuking her at every step. Her letters are a lItany of her allege
~, wron dom
;~~
Aurait-il raison, ma chere amie? Aurais-je eu encore ton, toUJours ton,
ton en toUt. C... ) Ce s :~"
'" d,mon
L" how G~7:~i
::~S
:::~1' ~"d 'nd dmm""'d
images from which doctors and others students of the mind developed
, and
even sometimes bopied, their theories.
74 The two
realms - literary and
medical - are obJiously connected, even if
the connections continue to be
perfidious two ce~turies later.
Second is the grad~al paradigmatic shift over the long eighteenth century of
the ways in which women were gradually
represented as mad rather than
possessed or depr~ssed
, and readers will have noticed that even in the limited
number of examptes presented here there is a shift from the constellation of
possession/depression to male-resembling madness. If this entry of women to
the realms of maid madness is valid
, as I think it is, their entrance arises as a
slow, gradual evolution in which they usurp male
prerogative by sapping
masculine stren~. This
transformative process fuels much (but certainly
not all) literature bf the eighteenth century - stories, fables
, the novel, even
on the stage - anti continues into the nineteenth century when
depression
was consciously a~d professionally medicalized. It should
not be surprising
that such a shift lin popular
sensibility - from
possessed women to mad
women, from noblY mad men to now nobly mad
women - should take a toll
in the diagnostic r
roms of the Salpetriere and Bethlehem. Culture is holistic,
of one cloth. Doctors breathe the same air as their patients and drink the
same water. Theyl scanned the same books and absorbed similar
images.
They certainly reatl the
bestselling novels discussed in this paper. To
make
these claims is no Imore extravagant than to purport
that our contemporary
psychiatrists watcn films and TV
programmes which, in turn, figure into
their psychiatric th
fOries.
Third is feigned female madness deployed for escape. This version has been
overlooked yet re
rbains among the most interesting of all the varieties.
74 The copy element i~ beyond doubt but sometimes it occurred in reverse: Tobias Smollett, one
of the major novelists oflthe eighteenth century, is known to have read the pages of William Battie
Treatise of Madness
(17 7) and then penned his
Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves,
mentioned
above.
75 Feigned female ma ness was popular on stage in the early nineteenth century, as
in Jean-
Fran~ois Regnard,
Les IFolies amoureuses, comMie, en trois actes et
en veTS (Paris, 1806), first
performed in 1804. Ag~
llie, a pretty young woman
, is jealously guarded by Alben who is much
older and wants to malT)( her. She wants to marry Eraste. In order to trick Alben she
pretends to go
mad, in turn spitting, sinking, insulting and hitting Alben and taking on the different personas of an
old drunken woman, fernie mother of founeen children by age twenty-seven who is taking her sons
to coun (she gains 100 16uis from the bewildered Alben to further her cause) and soldier thirsty for
action. Eraste, a witness,! at first believes thai she is mad but realizes her pretence. She gives him a
letter in her derangement which is seen by Alben.
Nevertheless, the depressed lisette
, her maid
repons her mistress tUrning mad between one scene (where she withdraws in order for Alben to
welcome Eraste) and the
lnext when Lisette retUms in a few minutes to repon the event. The action
occurs so swiftly that the spectator comprehends the pretension:
Quand par vorre ofdre expres, elle a vu travailler
Ce maudit serrurie
~, venn pour nous griller;
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY
103
Feigned insanity could
cause ~enuinely depressive sympto
J?s among its
manipulators when its
strategtes failed. The pre- 1800 hte~ary record
demonstrates what these strategies were an~ h
ow ~ey were studied ?y early
nineteenth-century psychiatrists eager to distinguish between genuine and
concocted depression. The strength
of the genealogi:al appr~ach suggested
here is that it provides a rich archive for the exploratIon o~
feigned madn~ss
as distinct from other versions; an annals of
pathographles complete With
aetiology, development, presentation, and therapy.
Fourth is the crucial matter of the te
I?P~ral durati
~~ of the depres~ive state or
condition. If ongoing ennui and continuing low spmts over lon
~ tIme penods
constitute the sine qua non of depression versus competing types of
disaffection, then little of it is found in th~ pr
1800 novel. Most women (but
not all) are creatures of their dire situatIOn In love
and 'pregnancy. Remove
these and the so-called depression lifts. Re-enter the penIs of pregnancy and
aborted love, whether through jilting or any other form of aband
~nment, ~nd
the depression returns. The condition
s aetiology, to speak .m~dlcally, anses
from its situational context. In the pre-
0~ literature. there IS lIttle sense of ~
natural predisposition to chronic low spmts except In the humoural sense,
d women who continued to be melancholic despite the absence of
=~ational causes are few and far apart. An exception is found in Isabelle d
Charriere s (also called Belle de Zuylen)
Lettres de Mistress Henley
(1784).
Elle a vu ces barreaux, et ces grilles paraitre
Dont ce noir forgeron condamnait sa fenerre;
1'ai, dans Ie meme instant, vu ses yeux s
egarer,
Et son esprit frappe, soudain s evaporer.
Elle tient des discours remplis d' extravagance.
Elle coun, elle grimpe, elle chante, elle d~nse.
Elle prend un habit, puis Ie change souda!l~
Avec ce qu elle peut rencontrer sous sa maIO.
Tout- l'heure elle a mis, dans votre garderobe
Vorre large culotte, et votre grande robe;
Puis, prenant sa guitarre, elle a, d~ sa fa~on,
Chante differens airs en different Jargon.
Enfin c est cent fois pis que je ne puis vous dire:
On ne peut s empecher d' en pleurer et d' en rire.
(Les Folies amoureuses 22-
Her madness is so shocking that even normally unacceptable behavio,:,r is permitted here, as when
A athe is rude to Albert as a ruse to escape. Feigned female m
~dnes~ IS therefore a tWo-fold means
rescape here: (I) from social convention; (2) from the proverbial pnson of an arranged marnage.
'6 The story is of a tWenty-
five year old orphan needing to marry and having to make a choice
between a rich and worldly nabob know~ to be faintly disreputable, and a reasonabl
~, respec ~e,
up-standing man, Mr Henley. As she realIzes that It IS the w~rst pans o~ herself -
vaDlty, etc. .
are attracted to the nabob, she rejects him and makes the VIITUOUS chOIce. I:Io~ever, the ma,!,age
does not develop happily. Her husband does not respond to her mnocent vIvacIty and femml
Dlty
instead chiding her, rebuking her at every step. Her letters are a lItany of her allege
~, wron dom
;~~
Aurait-il raison, ma chere amie? Aurais-je eu encore ton, toUJours ton,
ton en toUt. C... ) Ce s
When Mistress Hlenley aborts her correspondence with her confidante
and
lapses into permanent silence, she is one of the few pre- 1800 depressive
heroines who doe~ so. For two years she remains silent, sunk in low spirits
without apparent
Ireason. More typical were women with cause. The salons
of Europe before 1820 were brimming with women like Madame du Deffand
who craved the s~ability of life without consciousness because the lot of the
woman in love :-yas too painfu1.77 Julie de Lespinasse, mentioned above
joined up with Deffand, then started her own salon to distract her from her
les petites choses qui affiigent ou m impatientent, et me font avoir ton' (cited by Joan Hinde
Stewart
Gynographs: F
rench Novels by Women of the Late Eighteenth Century
(Lincoln and London:
University of Nebraska Press, 1993), 106). Mistress Henley becomes increasingly depressed.
Pregnant, her husband! is interested only in the baby (notice the figure of pregnancy returning yet
again, this time represented by the melancholic female herself): ' De moi, de ma sante, de mon
plaisir, pas un mot: il d' etait question que de cet enfant qui n existait pas encore' (Stewart quoting
Charriere, 106). She discovers that her husband has renounced a place at coun without telling her
entailing her solitary cobfinement to their country estate, which produces an intense reaction:
'fai voulu dire q
~elque chose; mais j' avais ete si attentive, j' etais tellement combattue
entre I' estime que m arrachait tant de moderation, de raison, de droiture dans mon
mari, et l' horreu~ de me voir si etrangere a ses sentiments, si fon exclue de ses pensees,
si inutile, si iso\ee, que je n ai pu parler. Fatiguee de tant d'effons, ma tete s est
embarrassee; je me suis evanouie.
(Ibid.,
107)
As Hinde Stewan re~arks: ' This sense of ineluctable frustration then finds a more imponant
expression in the symb?lically permanent silence on which the novel ends, as she announces to her
confidante that she will write no more
(ibid.
107). About this planned silence Mistress Henley
writes that: ' Dans un an, dans deux ans, vous apprendrez, je l' espere, que je suis raisonnable et
heureuse, ou que je ne ~uis plus
(ibid.,
109). Roben Mauzi ('Les maladies de I' ame,' see above note
34) sees Mistress HenlJy s predicament as arising from her ' vocation du malheur
La vocation de rhalheur est si fone dans une ame melancolique qu elle persiste meme
lorsqu il n existejaucune condition objective du malheur. Cleveland, M de la Bedoyere
ont a subir des epreuves qu i!s n inventent pas. Mais que dire de Mistress Henley. . .
qui vir au milieu!d' une lumineuse nature, aupres d' un mari si parfait et si epris qu elle
appelle elle-me
re un '
mari de roman ? Le destin de Mistress Henley illustre Ie theme
de impossible bonheur. Toujours froissee, aigrie, 'afRigee' par de ' petites choses
chimerique, cult/vant une solitude imaginaire, jouant a l' incomprise, elle fait cet aveu
significatif: ' Une! femme raisonnable ne pouvait manquer d' etre heureuse; mais je ne
suis pas une fe
'fme raisonnable.' C'
est fainsi) que cette femme... se compose un
destin aussi insupponable que celui, authentiquement noir, d' un Cleveland.' (Mauzi,
479)
Manzi emphasizes that Mistress Henley ' invents' her trials, ' cultivates' her loneliness, 'plays' at
being misunderstood, 'treates for herself an unbearable destiny. It is significant that in 1960 Mauzi
considered Mistress HJnley ' just' a neurotic and a hysteric.
77 Mauzi quotes
le du Deffand ro the Duchesse de Choiseul, 27. 1771, pleading for life
without consciousness: I' ll me semble que je me trouverais fon bien d' etre onne ou chene. J'imagine
ils sont contents de leur situation (. . . ) on ne les separe pas des arbres leurs voisins, qui sont sans
doute leurs amis' (Manzi, 466-7). Mauzi also comments on her tragic ennui:
a I' image apaisa1te de la foret, symbole d' un tiede ensevelissement, succede une autre
image, qui exppme sa condition reelle et qui evoque un univers de solitude
agression et d'horreur: '
Je ne suis environnee que de tigres
, de grues, de neiges, de
glaces, de pierre~, d' epines.. .'. Telle est la forme extreme, tragique de )' ennui, route
proche de notre Inodeme angoisse. (Ibid., 467)
104 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY 105
genuine depression. She was doubtless consumptive, bur was as chronically
depressive as she was tubercular.
7s She corresponded with many about her
predicament - Condorcet, her lover d' Alembert, the comte de Guibert - and
concluded that distraction was the best therapy: ' Monsieur de Guibert,
opium and Gluck' Orphee.'79 In brief, fiction needed to look no further than
realism for its versions of lingering female ennui. Perhaps Mistress Henley
clinches the matter about depression being a matter of sustained
temporal
chronicity when noting that her condition is
permanent. Whatever Henley
predicament, her depression continues because it is a '
vocation du malheur
as Robert Mauzi commented with reference to Mistress Henley. In all these
literary examples temporal duration is made explicit.
Fifth the issue of priority. Literature, especially the novel, did not anticipate
a medical theory of depression or cause it in any meaningful sense. Nor was
it antecedent or prior to an evolving
medical theory even if that theory was
not medicalized in the category of '
depression' until the nineteenth century.
While the plays and prose fiction I have been
discussing here were being
composed, medical theorists of every type were generating their own views of
melancholy: the world from Burton to
Battie, Cheyne to Charcot. The
contribution of literature was descriptive, dramatic, expressive,
emotive and
sensual. Literature represented possessed, and then mad, women; gave them
flesh and bones and a corporeal body in pain that could be far more
expressive than anything in medical texts. It held up
- as Johnsonian critics
of the mid eighteenth century would have claimed - '
pictures to the mind'
thereby creating a fertile soil from which medical theorists could generate
their causal theories. Literature was an enhancer rather than an anticipator.
78 Lespinasse was the illegitimate daughter of the
comtesse d' Albon. In 1754 she became
companion to Mme du Deffand, only to break away in 1764 (to Mme du Deffand'
s great distress)
to fonn her own salon. Hers became a meeting-place of ' encyclopedistes,' unlike Mme du
Deffand' s, and she was also the friend-lover of d' Alemben, who left his (surrogate) mother to set up
house with Lespinasse. Mauzi describes her as sharing Mistress Henley s ' vocation for
unhappiness . In her letters we find ' decrits avec une precision etoonante, les principaux sympt6mes
de la conscience alienee: retrecissement de l' ame, qui tient en un seu! point; recherche de l'imemile,
devenue inseparable du sentiment de l'existence; contradiction de la logique affective;
intennittences du coeur' (Mauzi , 480). Mauzi describes her love affairs in the reflected light of her
continuing chronic depression: ' En outre, la passion de Mile de Lespinasse est sans cesse
contaminee par des reminiscences litteraires: "Pour moi je ne devais figurer que dans les romans de
Prevost." D' ailleurs elle s exprime comme les personnages melancoliques de ces romans: "
Pour une
aIDe malade, la nature n a qu une couleur: tous les objets sont couvens de crepe'" (Mauzi , 481).
Here I am also grateful to Professor Felicia B. Sturzer for sharing her archive on Lespinasse with
me; see her anicle ' Love and disease - the contaminated letters of Julie de Lespinasse
, fonhcoming
in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighuenth CentUry, 2000.
79 The point about depression and music is made by Mauzi
, 482. "' La musique repand dans mon
sang, dans tout ce qui m anime une douceur et une sensibilite si delicieuses que je dirais presque
elle me fait jouir de mes regrets et de mon malheur." Le miracle etait necessaire. Grace a la
musique ou a la litterature, Ie malheur cesse d' apparaitre comme ce pur neant iI est en realite'
(Mauzi, 482).
80 Mauzi,
466-7.
When Mistress Hlenley aborts her correspondence with her confidante
and
lapses into permanent silence, she is one of the few pre- 1800 depressive
heroines who doe~ so. For two years she remains silent, sunk in low spirits
without apparent
Ireason. More typical were women with cause. The salons
of Europe before 1820 were brimming with women like Madame du Deffand
who craved the s~ability of life without consciousness because the lot of the
woman in love :-yas too painfu1.77 Julie de Lespinasse, mentioned above
joined up with Deffand, then started her own salon to distract her from her
les petites choses qui affiigent ou m impatientent, et me font avoir ton' (cited by Joan Hinde
Stewart
Gynographs: F
rench Novels by Women of the Late Eighteenth Century
(Lincoln and London:
University of Nebraska Press, 1993), 106). Mistress Henley becomes increasingly depressed.
Pregnant, her husband! is interested only in the baby (notice the figure of pregnancy returning yet
again, this time represented by the melancholic female herself): ' De moi, de ma sante, de mon
plaisir, pas un mot: il d' etait question que de cet enfant qui n existait pas encore' (Stewart quoting
Charriere, 106). She discovers that her husband has renounced a place at coun without telling her
entailing her solitary cobfinement to their country estate, which produces an intense reaction:
'fai voulu dire q
~elque chose; mais j' avais ete si attentive, j' etais tellement combattue
entre I' estime que m arrachait tant de moderation, de raison, de droiture dans mon
mari, et l' horreu~ de me voir si etrangere a ses sentiments, si fon exclue de ses pensees,
si inutile, si iso\ee, que je n ai pu parler. Fatiguee de tant d'effons, ma tete s est
embarrassee; je me suis evanouie.
(Ibid.,
107)
As Hinde Stewan re~arks: ' This sense of ineluctable frustration then finds a more imponant
expression in the symb?lically permanent silence on which the novel ends, as she announces to her
confidante that she will write no more
(ibid.
107). About this planned silence Mistress Henley
writes that: ' Dans un an, dans deux ans, vous apprendrez, je l' espere, que je suis raisonnable et
heureuse, ou que je ne ~uis plus
(ibid.,
109). Roben Mauzi ('Les maladies de I' ame,' see above note
34) sees Mistress HenlJy s predicament as arising from her ' vocation du malheur
La vocation de rhalheur est si fone dans une ame melancolique qu elle persiste meme
lorsqu il n existejaucune condition objective du malheur. Cleveland, M de la Bedoyere
ont a subir des epreuves qu i!s n inventent pas. Mais que dire de Mistress Henley. . .
qui vir au milieu!d' une lumineuse nature, aupres d' un mari si parfait et si epris qu elle
appelle elle-me
re un '
mari de roman ? Le destin de Mistress Henley illustre Ie theme
de impossible bonheur. Toujours froissee, aigrie, 'afRigee' par de ' petites choses
chimerique, cult/vant une solitude imaginaire, jouant a l' incomprise, elle fait cet aveu
significatif: ' Une! femme raisonnable ne pouvait manquer d' etre heureuse; mais je ne
suis pas une fe
'fme raisonnable.' C'
est fainsi) que cette femme... se compose un
destin aussi insupponable que celui, authentiquement noir, d' un Cleveland.' (Mauzi,
479)
Manzi emphasizes that Mistress Henley ' invents' her trials, ' cultivates' her loneliness, 'plays' at
being misunderstood, 'treates for herself an unbearable destiny. It is significant that in 1960 Mauzi
considered Mistress HJnley ' just' a neurotic and a hysteric.
77 Mauzi quotes
le du Deffand ro the Duchesse de Choiseul, 27. 1771, pleading for life
without consciousness: I' ll me semble que je me trouverais fon bien d' etre onne ou chene. J'imagine
ils sont contents de leur situation (. . . ) on ne les separe pas des arbres leurs voisins, qui sont sans
doute leurs amis' (Manzi, 466-7). Mauzi also comments on her tragic ennui:
a I' image apaisa1te de la foret, symbole d' un tiede ensevelissement, succede une autre
image, qui exppme sa condition reelle et qui evoque un univers de solitude
agression et d'horreur: '
Je ne suis environnee que de tigres
, de grues, de neiges, de
glaces, de pierre~, d' epines.. .'. Telle est la forme extreme, tragique de )' ennui, route
proche de notre Inodeme angoisse. (Ibid., 467)
104 GEORGE ROUSSEAU
DEPRESSION' S FORGOTTEN GENEALOGY 105
genuine depression. She was doubtless consumptive, bur was as chronically
depressive as she was tubercular.
7s She corresponded with many about her
predicament - Condorcet, her lover d' Alembert, the comte de Guibert - and
concluded that distraction was the best therapy: ' Monsieur de Guibert,
opium and Gluck' Orphee.'79 In brief, fiction needed to look no further than
realism for its versions of lingering female ennui. Perhaps Mistress Henley
clinches the matter about depression being a matter of sustained
temporal
chronicity when noting that her condition is
permanent. Whatever Henley
predicament, her depression continues because it is a '
vocation du malheur
as Robert Mauzi commented with reference to Mistress Henley. In all these
literary examples temporal duration is made explicit.
Fifth the issue of priority. Literature, especially the novel, did not anticipate
a medical theory of depression or cause it in any meaningful sense. Nor was
it antecedent or prior to an evolving
medical theory even if that theory was
not medicalized in the category of '
depression' until the nineteenth century.
While the plays and prose fiction I have been
discussing here were being
composed, medical theorists of every type were generating their own views of
melancholy: the world from Burton to
Battie, Cheyne to Charcot. The
contribution of literature was descriptive, dramatic, expressive,
emotive and
sensual. Literature represented possessed, and then mad, women; gave them
flesh and bones and a corporeal body in pain that could be far more
expressive than anything in medical texts. It held up
- as Johnsonian critics
of the mid eighteenth century would have claimed - '
pictures to the mind'
thereby creating a fertile soil from which medical theorists could generate
their causal theories. Literature was an enhancer rather than an anticipator.
78 Lespinasse was the illegitimate daughter of the
comtesse d' Albon. In 1754 she became
companion to Mme du Deffand, only to break away in 1764 (to Mme du Deffand'
s great distress)
to fonn her own salon. Hers became a meeting-place of ' encyclopedistes,' unlike Mme du
Deffand' s, and she was also the friend-lover of d' Alemben, who left his (surrogate) mother to set up
house with Lespinasse. Mauzi describes her as sharing Mistress Henley s ' vocation for
unhappiness . In her letters we find ' decrits avec une precision etoonante, les principaux sympt6mes
de la conscience alienee: retrecissement de l' ame, qui tient en un seu! point; recherche de l'imemile,
devenue inseparable du sentiment de l'existence; contradiction de la logique affective;
intennittences du coeur' (Mauzi , 480). Mauzi describes her love affairs in the reflected light of her
continuing chronic depression: ' En outre, la passion de Mile de Lespinasse est sans cesse
contaminee par des reminiscences litteraires: "Pour moi je ne devais figurer que dans les romans de
Prevost." D' ailleurs elle s exprime comme les personnages melancoliques de ces romans: "
Pour une
aIDe malade, la nature n a qu une couleur: tous les objets sont couvens de crepe'" (Mauzi , 481).
Here I am also grateful to Professor Felicia B. Sturzer for sharing her archive on Lespinasse with
me; see her anicle ' Love and disease - the contaminated letters of Julie de Lespinasse
, fonhcoming
in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighuenth CentUry, 2000.
79 The point about depression and music is made by Mauzi
, 482. "' La musique repand dans mon
sang, dans tout ce qui m anime une douceur et une sensibilite si delicieuses que je dirais presque
elle me fait jouir de mes regrets et de mon malheur." Le miracle etait necessaire. Grace a la
musique ou a la litterature, Ie malheur cesse d' apparaitre comme ce pur neant iI est en realite'
(Mauzi, 482).
80 Mauzi,
466-7.
106 . GEORGE ROUSSEAU
Could psychIatrIc theory have developed without this
literature? The
que~tion is flawedf One cannot reconstruct history based on
ifs:
what If the
Enhghtenment haf:l never occurred, or
if
Napoleon and Hitler had never
lived? These questions make for amusing diversion but cannot be
the stuff of
serious historical ahalysis. It is sufficient to claim, in conclusion, that this vast
body of pre- 1800lliterature does exist and that it has been overlooked by
historians of psychiatry.
What, then, do I propose? First, that those ' moderns' cited above who link
depressi~n with
ferale
gend~r are. his~orically correct despite their
inability
- and mIlle - .to prove the lmk historically;
second, that despite these pre-
1800 female hterab:y figures not being entirely depressive in our sense they
nevertheless lend ~ sense - perhaps through the
sheer number of them - that
they are depressioh's genuine ancestors. Both points are in varying degrees
paradoxical. And it may even seem that these women are both depressed and
not ~epressed at thf sa~e time. I. clai~ that .such a position is neither illogical
nor. mcom~ensur~te WIth the .hlstoncal evIdence. Indeed, the ambiguity of
theIr emotIonal status constItutes one of the
main energies of their
entitlement to anc~stry in
. de~ression s .historical genealogy.
However, my greater aIm m addressmg the matter is to open up discussion
about the histori~~l instability of th~ category itself - depression - over the
last fo~r centurIe~. Such exploratIon would have been
unnecessary if
depressIon were a forgotten malady: a condition once known (like nostalgia)
but having died opt over time. The
opposite, it appears, is unequivocally
true: at the doorstep of the twenty-
first century depression has few
?mp~titors or coriditions that beg for more assessment and therapy. In the
hIstorical sphere I Jm saying that depression is
not a pre- 1800 category in our
sense except un4er extraordinary modifications and
conditions. That
whatever pre- 1800 depression was, it
was gendered and conceptualized
almost entirely in telation to the female
condition in love and procreation.
That the shift in mkdness occurring gradually in the middle of the eighteenth
century was not al breakthrough for depression but the
consequence of a
developing cultural sensi~il
ity that turne~ the genders topsy-turvy. That the
border~ of all thes~ condItIons are too dIfficult to chart accurately. Finally,
there IS no doubt we wIll continue to
compile and interpret cases of
melanc~oly. But wb should not do so thinking we are writing a '
history' of
?~eSSIOn unl~ss Iwe problemat~ze th~se matters, for we are not, when
wntmg the hIS top- of depressIon, m the presence of a continuous
phenomenon or staple category since c. 1600.
Hislory of psychialry,
xi (2000) 107- 112. Printed in England
'.~
Classic Text No. 41
. )
Introduction: Jules Seglas and
hallucinatory obsessions
FIUBERTO FUENTENEBRO and GERMAN E. BERRIOS
In the locus classicus that follows, Jules Seglas discusses the possibility of a
non-coincidental association between hallucinations and obsessional disease.
Hallucinations are not included in the
DSM IV definition of OCD.
1 In
general, the grounds on which
such clinical link has been
dismissed by
official psychiatry are not altogether clear.
2 It is easy to argue
it out of
existence, for example by stating that it is '
coincidental' or simply the result
of ' misdiagnosis , i.e. that either the patient is reporting a '
pseudo-
hallucination
'3 or has a
psychosis. Because these claims are empirically
unsupported, Seglas
s view that hallucinations may actually be part of the
picture of O~D remains a tantalizing
possibility.
Born in Evreux, department of the Eure on 31 May 1856
, Jules Seglas
entered the Paris Medical School in 1873. Between 1877-
1880, he worked
as an intern to the Paris Hospitals under Charcot,
Delasiauve and
Bourneville. He graduated on 20 January 1881 with a
thesis on 'The
influence of intercurrent diseases on the course of epilepsy
. In 1898, Seglas
became a ' consultant' at Bicetre, and from 1909 until his retirement he was
chief of service
' at La Salpetriere. In
1884, Seglas occupied the place
vacated by Moreau de Tours at the Societe Medico
Psychologique of Paris,
becoming its President in 1908.
4 His four major works
5 are a faithful
reflection of the glorious clinical tradition reigning in those two French
hospitals at the turn of the century.
Seglas has been accurately portrayed as a retiring, non-assuming clinici
an,
of great moral and academic integrity, and with marked disdain for pundItry
. Reprint requests to G. E.
Berrios, Depanment of
. Psychiatry, University of ~ambridge,
Addenbrooke s Hospital (Box 189), Hills Road, Cambndge, UK CB2 2QQ.
E-matl: gebll(!!)
cam. ac.