The VICTORIAN ASYLUM
with Lloyd Shepherd
Thursday 4th September 2014
Doors open at 6:30 pm, Talk commences at 7:00 pm and ends at 8:00 pm
In the early 19th century, the treatment of madness was a confused combination of ignorance and new knowledge, superstition and new methods, neglect and new attitudes to care. The great asylum of Bethlem was in the process of moving to Lambeth, in a new purpose-built building but with an out-of-date programme of 'treatments' which involved a barbarous combination of blood-letting, drugging, emetics and seclusion. London was ringed by a motley collection of private madhouses, each pursuing their own theories with varying degrees of efficacy. A new notion of moral therapy was beginning to emerge, the forerunner of modern psychiatry, but for every proponent of this more modern outlook there was one who thought madness was either God's judgement, or a mystery about which 'very little can be said,' to quote the chief physician at Bethlem. This world of private madhouses, quack philosophies and commercial imperative would soon give way to the massive asylums and public health projects of the Victorian era, and its confusion is told in the stories of three very different sufferers: the mad King George III, Mary Lamb, and William Cowper.
Lloyd Shepherd is the author of the acclaimed historical mysteries The English Monster, The Poisoned Island and 2014's Savage Magic. Set in the Regency period of the early 19th century, the novels feature the proto-detective Charles Horton and his irascible magistrate John Harriott, both of the Thames River Police in Wapping. The mysteries they seek to unravel are far more peculiar than they appear, and as Horton and Harriott find themselves entangled in the machinations of Westminster and the Court, they discover that nature holds her own bizarre mysteries, not all of them amenable to classification by the natural philosophers of the Royal Society.
Lloyd was raised in Kent by his Mancunian and Welsh parents, and was educated at Sevenoaks School and Peterhouse, Cambridge. He has worked as a journalist and a web producer for the Guardian, the BBC, Yahoo!, Channel 4 and Financial Times Newsletters. He lives in South London with his wife, the chief executive of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
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