For some reason, I’ve always written about institutions. There is a lunatic asylum in both The Pretender and The Rising of Bella Casey and a TB sanatorium in my first novel Mother of Pearl. Perhaps it’s a feature of writing historical fiction, predominantly based in the 19th century where the state played a more heavy-handed part in individual lives. I found this blog on celebrated inmates of insane asylums of that era fascinating. . .
1. Mary Lamb (1764-1847), sister of the essayist, poet, and playwright Charles Lamb. In 1796, Charles checked himself into a private asylum and spent six weeks there, never dreaming that a few months later, his sister would fall victim to a madness so severe that she would kill her own mother in a fit of rage. Although Mary was confined to Fisher House Asylum immediately after the murder, a verdict of lunacy assured that Lamb escaped punishment, and she was eventually released into Charles’s custody. However, she occasionally returned to an asylum when she felt madness coming on.
2. Rosina Bulwer Lytton (1802-1882) was the wife of the immensely popular novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Theirs was a love match, but the relationship hit the skids within eight years of their marriage. When her husband took up with other women, Rosina protested, and the result was a legal separation…
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