Lesser Writings – Dr. Samuel Hahnemann Description of Klockenbring during his insanity 1796
Dr Muhsina Mariam. M. T
MD Organon GHMC Calicut
Medical Officer, Department of Homoeopathy, Govt of Kerala
Hahnemann was”one of the earliest, to advocate a “treatment of the insane by mildness rather than coercion”.
In fact, it was on 2 Sept 1793, that “Pinel made his first experiment of unchaining maniacs in the Bicêtre,”, which was some 15 months after Hahnemann had commenced treating Klockenbring.
In the latter part of 1791 or the first part of 1792 a friend of Hahnemann, one R. Z. Becker, was the editor and proprietor of a paper called the Reichanzeiger, which was, while Hahnemann lived in Gotha. Hahnemann frequently wrote articles for its columns. An article was published in this paper describing, at Hahnemann’s suggestion, a model asylum for the treatment, by gentle methods, of the insane of the higher classes of society.
The wife of F. A. Klockenbring, the Hanoverian Minister of Police, Secretary to the Chancellery of Hanover, saw this article and was by the editor referred to Hahnemann. It is to be remembered that during the two years following the translation of Cullen, Hahnemann continued to experiment upon himself and on his family and certain of his friends with different substances. But he had not as yet tested the truth of his new principle on the sick. The insanity of Klockenbring gave him this opportunity.
Duke Ernst of Saxe-Gotha handed over his hunting castle in Georgenthal, to Hahnemann to start a mental asylum and was situated in one of the most beautiful portions of the Principality of Gotha, at the foot of the Thuringian Forest, three leagues distant from Gotha, the capital city, opened the institution in the beginning of August, 1792.
Klockenbring – during his insanity!!!
Hither the privy secretary of the chancer, Herr Klockenbring, of Hanover, who lately died from the effects of a surgical operation in the 53d year of his age, was brought and placed under my care.
He was a man who in his days of health attracted the admiration of a large portion of Germany by his practical talents for business and his profound sagacity, as also by his knowledge of ancient and modern lore, and his acquirements in various branches of science. His almost superhuman labours in the department of state police, for which he had a great talent his constant sedentary life the continued strain upon his mind together with a too nutritious diet his copious indulgence in strong wines contributed to bring on this state. Five years before the mental alienation occurred, brought on a deranged state of the system, which gradually assumed the form of offensive whimsicality and intolerable ill-humour . His hypochondriasis attained a considerable height. His mind, that was almost too sensitive to honour and fair fame, sank deep into the dust beneath this hail-storm of abusive accusations
In the winter of 1791-2, the most fearful furious madness burst forth, that for half a year completely baffled all the most assiduous treatment of one of the greatest physicians of our age, Dr. Wichmann, physician to the Hanoverian court.
He was brought to me towards the end of June, in a very melancholy state accompanied by the strong keepers.
Face – large reddish-blue elevated spots, was dirty, and bore .An expression of the greatest mental aberration. Smiles and grinding of the teeth, inconsiderateness and insolence, cowardice and defiance, childish folly and unlimited pride, desires without wants. His bloated body, which in his days of health was somewhat unwieldy, now exhibited a wondrous agility, quickness and flexibility in all its movements.
Incessantly, day and night, he kept on raving, and was never composed for a quarter of an hour at a time.When he sank down exhausted on his bed, he rose to his feet again in a few minutes. threatening gestures capital sentences on criminals heroic character, and spouted, as Agamemmon and Hector, entire passages from the Iliad then he would whistle a popular song, roll about on the grass . For the first fortnight I only observed him without treating him medicinally.
Spoke in the exact words of the Hebrew text; but he finished nothing that he began, for some new idea constantly led him into a different region he would burst forth in an agony of weeping and sobbing, often throwing himself at the feet of the amazed attendant. write magical characters on the sand at his feet, make the sign of the cross, then he would burst out into immoderate fits of laughter, The most wonderful thing was the correctness with which he delivered all the passages from writings in all languages that occurred to his memory, especially all that he had learnt in his youth.
In his worst period he called every one thou, and would not allow any one to address him otherwise. When he was awake and alone he always kept talking to himself. In spite of all he tore and hacked to pieces his attire and his bed, generally when unobserved, with his fingers or with fragments of glass and the like. Every instant he had some urgent desire, he wanted to eat or to drink, he wished for some article of dress, some piece of furniture, or a musical instrument, some one of his private friends, or tobacco, or something else. He never waited till he got one thing before ordering another. By taking his piano to pieces and setting it together again in an absurd manner. At first he ran about and bellowed, mostly at night. He exhibited a great inclination to dress himself up, so as to give himself an amazingly majestic or half heroic, half Merry-Andrew-like, appearance.
He painted his face with variously coloured dirt, fat and such-like things, curled his hair, drew up his shirt collar and pulled down the ruffles of his shirt, scarcely ever went without a wreath of hay, straw, flowers, or something similar on his brow, never without a kind of girdle over his hips, a pathognomonic sign that he felt some disorder in the organs seated there that required attention .One evening, in the midst of the most extravagant paroxysm of folly, he hastily called for pen, ink and paper, and though on other occasions he would not listen to anything about corporeal diseases, he now wrote a prescription which he wished to be made up immediately. The extraordinary ingredients of this were so extremely well arranged and so admirably adapted to the cure of an insanity of this sort, that for the moment I was almost tempted to consider him a very well instructed physician, had not the ridiculous direction he gave as to how it should be used-namely, with a few bottles of burgundy as a vehicle, to be followed up by lard-given another turn to my thoughts.
But how was it that in the midst of the very hurricane of its most extravagant passion, his mastless and helmless mind lighted on a remedy so excellent for insanity and unknown to many physicians?
How came he to prescribe it for himself in the most appropriate form and dose?
Scarcely less remarkable was the circumstance that in the very worst period of his insanity he would, when asked, tell not only the exact day of the month but even the true hour by day or by night with astonishing accuracy.
Period of convalescence
As he began to improve, this faculty of divination became always more and more vague and uncertain, until at last, when his reason was completely restored, he knew neither more nor less about the matter than other people.
When he had completely recovered I begged him, in a friendly manner, to explain this enigma to me, or at least to describe the sensation that used to teach him this knowledge. “I shudder, and a cold chill comes all over me,” he replied, “when I think about it; I must beg of you not to remind me of this subject.” The first and worst period of his insanity he described as a death-like state, and indicated the day on which he felt as if he awoke.
Magical literary works
From time to time, especially when he commenced to improve, he used to give me things that he had written, among which I often found some subjects which must have cost him much profound meditation.
The chief part of these consisted of sonnets and elegies in various languages upon his present state, or addressed to his friends, odes to God, to his king, to me, to my family. The language of these was usually correct, and they were interspersed with quotations from the ancient poets and philosophers, or the Bible, of which book, chapter and verse were given with great accuracy, although, as I before remarked, he had not a single book at his command. They were either written on pieces of paper torn into a triangular form or if on square pieces they were written so that the lines ran obliquely across the sheet, the writing commencing in one of the corners.Or he drew various kinds of geometrical figures, in which he childishly wrote in a small hand these compositions His whim was to apply the triangular figure and the number three wherever he could thus he folded his bed-clothes and laid his pillow in a triangular manner. He disenchanted his drink, his food and his clothes by spitting thrice, by making the sign of the cross thrice, and this folly he kept up partially until very near the period when he had almost recovered his full reason, and in every other respect could be perfectly well trusted by himself. His propensity to compose verses was remarkable, and this was especially the case when his reason was somewhat restored; these chiefly consisted of popular songs conveying a moral lesson, combating popular prejudices,, illustrated by examples, many of which were excellent, in the style of ancient times.
He set them to simple appropriate melodies, in the same style, and often sang them, accompanying himself on the piano, which he played with great skill
In the midst of all these sometimes very pleasing performances, to which I did not in the least incite him, the rest of his behaviour, especially when one noticed him unseen, was very foolish, adventurous, grotesque.
But I must do him the justice to say, that in all his oral and written communications, and even when he was not observed, both during the periods of his greatest insanity and afterwards, he never shewed the slightest traces of any unbecoming behaviour in regard to sexual morality, but very frequently the very reverse. On this point he was certainly no saint in the strict meaning of the word, still he was much better than most men of the world. Loyalty to his sovereign and affection for his family and for some of his deceased friends, was perceptible through all the stages of his malady.
Much as he loved and esteemed me, even in the height of his madness, as also after his complete recovery, and though he was obliging and pleasant to every one after his recovery yet he became malicious, deceitful and offensive as he was passing from the first state into the last, I mean when his reason was just beginning to dawn, when he was able to entertain himself with visitors for half-hours at a time, and when he could behave himself quite well as long as he was noticed. A most puzzling phenomenon!
His friendship, which I enjoyed for two years after his complete restoration, has richly repaid me for these and thousands of other sad moments I passed on his account
Before he quitted my establishment he shewed to the public, by his translation of a statistical work of Arthur Young, his regenerated intelligence in a very advantageous manner, and after he quitted me the government of his native land bestowed on him, in place of his former too toilsome office, the direction of the lottery, which he continued to hold till his death, which was caused by a retention of urine.
Peace be with his ashes!
According to Richard Haehl:
“At last Hahnemann reached his decision as to which of his remedies would help Klockenbring. He gave a single dose of Antimonium tartaricum . Within six months, Klockenbring had recovered sufficiently to enter the world. Again, Hahnemann didn’t have any “remedies” at the time-he didn’t begin doing provings and recording symptoms until several years hence. Hahnemann was treating his patient with no medicine, a good dose of compassion, and changes in hygiene and diet. At one point, the patient began to eat to the point of gluttony and Hahnemann prescribed *25 grains * of Tartar Emetic (Ant. t.) to help the patient vomit. That was his only drug prescription.