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Stoddart, W.H. (1932). The Maniac: By? (Watts & Co., Second Edition, 1932. Pp. 259. Price 7 s. 6 d. net.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 13:485-486.
(1932). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 13:485-486
The Maniac: By? (Watts & Co., Second Edition, 1932. Pp. 259. Price 7 s. 6 d. net.)
Review by: W. H.B. Stoddart
This is a true and well justified 'Story with a Moral'. The first edition was published in 1909 shortly after the authoress (a journalist, then aged thirty-five) had recovered from an acute mental illness lasting from September 29 to November 6, 1908; and the book is an extraordinarily clear and detailed description of the bewildering jumble of confused and terrorizing thoughts, phantasies, hallucinations and delusions, which occurred during the malady. She tells us that to write the book required but the smallest effort of memory because the experiences were indelibly branded on her mind. On the other hand, there were many incidents she does not remember; and this, in her curious attempt at psycho-pathology, she ascribes to the mind being separated from the body, the ego severed from the brain and so forth.
It will be gathered from the above that this was not a case of mania, but one of "acute confusion" or "the exhaustion psychosis."
The reason for the writer's anonymity is obvious, but the title of the volume is unfortunate, not merely because the diagnosis is wrong, but also because the word 'maniac' has a sinister connotation in the public mind. The publisher has issued the book in a scare dust-cover like that of a detective novel, where the aim of the publication is a serious one.
For five and a half weeks this poor lady lived the most horrifying and torturing nightmare it is possible to conceive and she appears to have the notion that all or most mental patients go through similar experiences. While most of them suffer extreme misery, unbearable at times, we are glad to be able to assure her that they do not all suffer as much as she did. Some indeed are hilariously happy, but—to all without exception—to be misunderstood intensifies their unhappiness very greatly.
As we should expect, sexual thoughts, both manifest and symbolized, played an important rôle. Early in the illness she fell in love with the artist of a picture in her room. She had never even seen him, but he took a prominent part right through the attack. She was engaged to him, became his wife and was identified with him—and others.
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