The story of Charles de Vere Beauclerk (1870–1934) is one of many to be found in Andrew Scull’s grand tour through the terrain of madness and its treatment. This son and heir of the tenth duke of St Albans could trace his roots back at least as far as the couplings of Charles II and Nell Gwyn two centuries earlier. That Beauclerk would spend the last thirty years of his life at Ticehurst Asylum was certainly not what his mother and father had anticipated after their son’s education at Eton. The boy’s paranoid fantasies only manifested themselves fully when he was in his early twenties. Among his most upsetting delusions, from his parents’ point of view, was a conviction that they were intent upon poisoning him.
Scull ranges widely, taking in such life stories, along with a plethora of theories and mythologies of madness, culled from literature, religion, philosophy and medicine across the ages. This rich work is also well illustrated with paintings, photos and film stills. There are forays into the treatment and understanding of