If there be one object in life that stirs the current of human feeling more sadly than another, it is a young and lovely woman, whose intellect has been blighted by the treachery of him on whose heart, as on a shrine, she offered up the incense of her first affection. Such a being not only draws around her our tenderest and most delicate sympathies, but fills us with that mournful impression of early desolation, resembling so much the spirit of melancholy romance that arises from one of those sad and gloomy breezes which sweep unexpectedly over the sleeping surface of a summer lake, or moans with a tone of wail and sorrow through the green foliage of the wood under whose cooling shade we sink into our noon-day dream. Madness is at all times a thing of fearful mystery, but when it puts itself forth in a female gifted with youth and beauty, the pathos it causes becomes too refined for the grossness of ordinary sorrow—almost transcends our notion of the real, and assumes that wild interest which invests it with the dim and visionary light of the ideal. Such a malady constitutes the very romance of affliction, and gives to the fair sufferer rather the appearance of an angel fallen without guilt, than that of a being moulded for mortal purposes. Who ever could look upon such a beautiful ruin without feeling the heart sink, and the mind overshadowed with a solemn darkness, as if conscious of witnessing the still and awful gloom of that disastrous eclipse of reason, which, alas! is so often doomed never to pass away.
It is difficult to account for the mingled reverence, and terror, and pity with which we look upon the insane, and it is equally strange that in this case we approach the temple of the mind with deeper homage, when we know that the divinity has passed out of it. It must be from a conviction of this that uncivilized nations venerate deranged persons as inspired, and in some instance go so far, I believe, as even to pay them divine worship.
The principle, however, is in our nature: that for which our sympathy is deep and unbroken never fails to secure our compassion and respect, and ultimately to excite a still higher class of our moral feelings.
These preliminary observations were suggested to me by the fate of the beautiful but unfortunate girl, the melancholy, events of whose life I am about to communicate. I feel, indeed, that in relating them, I undertake a task that would require a pen of unexampled power and delicacy. But it is probable that if I remained silent upon a history at once so true, and so full of sorrow; no other person equally intimate with its incidents will ever give them to the world. I cannot presume to detail unhappy Jane’s, calamity with the pathos due to a woe so singularly deep and delicate, or to describe that faithful attachment which gave her once laughing and ruby lips the white smile of a maniac’s misery. This I cannot do; for who, alas, could ever hope to invest a dispensation so dark as her’s with that rich tone of poetic beauty which threw its wild graces about her madness? For my part, I consider the subject not only as difficult, but sacred, and approach it on both accounts with devotion, and fear, and trembling. I need scarcely inform the reader that the names and localities are, for obvious reasons, fictitious, but I may be permitted to add that the incidents are substantially correct and authentic.