Scope and Contents
Notebook containing a work of fiction on a young woman suffering from mental anguish and 'hysteria', written by Edward Denis de Vitre in 1829 in Edinburgh, in his own hand. The author draws upon his own experience as a physician, and his works reflect his empathy and his frustration towards cases such as the one depicted in his story. It is a fictional text, although the author explains that it is 'in all its leading fixtures, strictly founded in fact'.
Set in the South of Scotland, the manuscript tells the story of a young woman called Julia Stanley, narrated from the viewpoint of a physician. Julia is said to be 'hysterical' and suffering from 'mental anguish' as her partner, and baby's father, has left her for another woman. When he first meet her, the narrator-physician is optimistic and certain that he will be able to help her. To his despair and helplessness, he is unable to intervene and Julia's state keeps worsening, ultimately leading to her death at the end of the novel. The empathy and realism conveyed in De Vitre's story illustrate the deep concern he had for his patients. His unwavering commitment to the mentally ill never faltered, as evidenced by his subsequent role as Chairman of the Committee for 'The Royal Albert Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles of the Northern Counties' built between 1868-73.
Biographical / Historical
Born in Carlisle, Edward Denis de Vitre gained his MD from the University of Edinburgh in 1827. He soon married in this same city before becoming visiting Physician at the Lancaster County Lunatic Asylum in 1840. He was also one of the founders of the Royal Albert Hospital (originally The Royal Albert Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles of the Northern Counties) in Lancaster.