Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier de Terre-Neuve du Thym - Les Farfadets, ou Tous Les Démons ne Sont pas de L'Autre Monde - 1821

Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier de Terre-Neuve du Thym - Les Farfadets, ou Tous Les Démons ne Sont pas de L'Autre Monde - 1821
Esoterie, Geneeskunde, Literatuur - Aantal: 3 - Gesigneerd door auteur, Ingeplakte plaatjes - Boek

Three octavo volumes: I: 94pp, 362pp; II : 463pp ; III : 447pp, with lithographs of the author and 8 plates, one folding. Complete. Some of the plates and title pages are foxed and there are occasional old stains.

This is a long, detailed and scrupulously honest account of one man’s decent into madness and of the efforts of France’s leading alienist, Philippe Pinel, and his colleagues to return the patient to sanity. The book is exceptionally scarce (only 300 copies were published by the author who, once recovered, bought up and destroyed as many as he could find). At the time, and during the nineteenth century, it caused a great interest in medical circles, particularly as the nature and pathology of hallucinations were being described and as paranoia became part of the psychiatric classification of diseases.

The author, Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier de Terre-Neuve du Thym known as Berbiguier (1764-1851), started scribbling these memoirs shortly after a succession of visits to fortune-tellers (Barjavel 1841). In 1818 when he began his autobiography he had already been tormented for years by imps or goblins he called ‘farfadets’, whose history and treatment by earlier authorites (doctors, philosophers, poets) are discussed in a lengthy opening section. These creatures began by bothering him casually and then, as time passed, they exerted almost complete control over Berbiguier’s life. Any event, even trivial, was the world of these malign beings – sometimes depicted as female, often portrayed as working in groups. Smoke comes out of the chimney: goblins. A nurse casts Berbiguier a glance: goblins. Flies, fleas, flowers here and about harbor or are goblins. These creatures besieged and persecuted him endlessly. During the day and during the night he felt them everywhere oppressing him, getting into his house, under his sheets, into his clothes and deep into his body. He could hear them chatter, he could see them, and he could even smell them (‘faintly sour’).

Committed to France’s leading mental asylum, the Salpêtrière, Berbiguier hoped that therapy, rest and medication would help cast out his distorted demons. That was not to be. In fact, during his incarceration his symptoms grew more dramatic and soon other patients, nursing staff and the chief physician himself, the celebrated Philippe Pinel, joined ranks with the goblins in a conspiracy against him and the world. Other physicians join Pinel as farfadets (Moreau, Bouge, Nicolas and more) but it is Pinel who courses through the three volumes as the premier goblin, the prince among corporeal trespassers. Berbiguier admitted his madness but the doctors were not only deranged but malevolent. (In an article about Berbiguier in 1824, this claim was ridiculed; Berbiguier sued for defamation in the Paris courts; the trial that ensured received wide public attention… and Berbiguier was awarded damaged of 3000 francs! [see anon 1826]. Everywhere we look the cas Berbiguier has surprises in store).

Berbiguier records that on one occasion ‘after listening with great attention, [Pinel] told me that he knew of the type of disease affecting me, and that he had successfully treated people with it’. In fact, the hallucinatory state was little studied at the time and was rarely considered a ‘disease’ at all. It was, I think, Berbiguier’s book that brought hallucinations and more particularly paranoia to the attention of the medical profession. In 1838 Esquirol introduced the term to psychiatry in his 'Des maladies mentales' and argued that hallucinations were a form of delirium, that is a symptom of madness (Esquirol 1838; Ey 1939). By 1864, the kind of hallucinations that Berbiguier described – persistent, menacing, overwhelming – were considered not simply as a symptom of other organic diseases but as a disease category in themselves, perhaps even typical of the ‘French mentality’ (Falret 1864; Hagen 1868). To grapple with the disease doctors had to explore the kind of delusions and hallucinations described by patients, and here Les Farafadets was a capital resource. Brière de Boismont in his 1845 landmark study of hallucinations established those that were and those that were not ‘compatible with reason’, and the farfadets were paradigmatic of a deep pathology as contrasted with delusions over which people could claim insight.

Les Farfadets created a considerable stir when it was published – or, rather, as medicine and psychiatry turned its attention to delusions, hallucinations and the symptoms of paranoia. Some saw Berbiguier was suffering from ‘delusional insanity’, others, like the French psychiatrist Henri Legrand du Saulle, head of the the Charenton Asylum, described him as a ‘paranoiac’ (Saulle 1871). To some psychiatrists, Berbiguier’s delusions were expressions of a deeper organic disease (Bottex 1836; Forichon 1840) while to others the delusions were the disease (see Dowbiggin 2000). Charles Lasègue, in an important article in Archives générales de médecine, thought the case to be an example of mental alienation (Lasegue 1852); Leuret had earlier explored the quality of hallucinations as a means of exploring the power and coherence of the imagination (Leuret 1834). By mid-century, Berbiguier’s delusions appeared in standard medical dictionaries, occasionally under the heading of ‘monomania’ (Dechambre 1868-89), and Les Farfadets came to be regarded as a specimen text for the medical and psychiatric study of hallucinations and psychoses (Mirville 1853; Renaudin 1854; Sandras 1851; Szafkowski, 1849). Meanwhile the phonological movement in France latched onto Berbiguier as an example of the man with an over-developed organ of ‘marvellosity’ (Combe 1836; Broussais 1836; Fossati 1845).

Fascinating, weird and a key document in psychiatry and the history of medicine!

Aantal boeken
Esoterie, Geneeskunde, Literatuur
Auteur/ Illustrator
Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier de Terre-Neuve du Thym
Les Farfadets, ou Tous Les Démons ne Sont pas de L'Autre Monde
Publicatiejaar oudste item.
Eerste druk
Oorspronkelijke taal
Paris, Chez l'Auteur et Gueffier, marchands de nouveautés,
Gesigneerd door auteur, Ingeplakte plaatjes
Nog niet geregistreerd?
Door gratis een Catawiki-account aan te maken, kun je bieden op onze 50.000 bijzondere objecten die iedere week geveild worden.
of Inloggen