When Mountford, an epileptic subject to seizures and memory loss, awakened near a bloody corpse, he was forced to escape to avoid execution for the crime. The years passed, nothing was heard of Mountford, and it was supposed he had either died or fled the country. A decade later, Sibyl, now Lady Penrith, is travelling along a desolate moor when a crazed man stops her carriage and hands her a scrawled note.
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Believing the note to be from Mountford, Sibyl sets out to investigate, and with the help of her niece Coralie Urquhart she will uncover the long-hidden truth behind the murder and the horrible fate of Brandon Mountford! It is also, as Laurence Talairach-Vielmas discusses in her introduction to this edition, a fascinating look at the ways Braddon adapted late-Victorian theories of heredity, disease, and criminology into her fiction.
This edition reprints the unabridged text of the "yellowback" edition, complete with a facsimile of its cover, and includes a new introduction and explanatory notes. Subject to and subjected by both medicine and the law, Mountford, his agency and body, is likewise exposed to "bio-power," defined by Foucault as "the numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations [which] brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of transformation of human life" History of Sexuality Consequently, the "law operates more and more as a norm, and [.
The attitudes about Mountford's guilt reflect both the law and this "continuum of apparatuses"; in their intersection, Mountford becomes transformed from an epileptic into the epileptic criminal. More specifically for epilepsy as a nervous illness, Foucault states in Madness and Civilization that "one [suffering from nervous illness] was both more innocent and more guilty. More innocent, because one was swept by the total irritation of the nervous system into an unconsciousness great in proportion to one's disease" This "irritation," however, drives guilt: one is "much more guilty [.
That is, Mountford becomes trapped and subjugated by his disease, both innocent and guilty in Foucault's sense, a paradox Braddon investigates in the novel. When he returns to the Scottish estate of Ellerslie for a vacation, Mountford falls in love with his distant cousin, Sibyl Higginson, and she with him. Urquhart is also attracted to Sibyl.
Mountford decides to give up his romance with Sibyl and return to Africa, but while walking in the woods surrounding Ellerslie, experiences a seizure. On awakening, he discovers what he thinks initially to be Sibyl's dead body; instead, it is Marie. Mountford is arrested for murder but escapes from jail at the urging of Urquhart. When the ship that was to provide his escape sinks during a storm, he is presumed dead.
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The search for and discovery of the author of this letter Mountford form the outer frame of the novel. Urquhart assigns Coralie to watch Sibyl and to report what she observes in her diary, which becomes the second part of the outer frame of Thou Art the Man. As the novel reveals, Mountford did not drown but was held captive by Urquhart and, due to improper care and isolation, became mad. Urquhart, the real murderer of Marie, later murders his older half-brother Lord Penrith to gain his title and land. The discovery of Mountford—still alive, though mad—marks the climax of the outer frame, and the novel ends with his death and the marriage of his saviors, Sibyl and Father John Coverdale.
Mountford's epilepsy and the investigation of Marie Arnold's murder serve to bridge the two sections of the frame.
Thou Art The Man
As Kaja Silverman notes, the "dominant fiction [of hegemonic masculinity] calls upon the male subject to see himself, and the female subject to recognize and desire him, only through the mediation of an unimpaired masculinity" Further, the "normative male ego [. Because "the achievement of manhood depend[s] on a disparagement of the feminine without and within" Roper and Tosh 13 , Mountford is always already feminized by the disease inherited from his mother.
Although he outwardly represents a traditional and classed model of masculinity as a gentleman, Mountford cannot escape the isolating and later debilitating effects of the disease. A sportsman and adventurer, Mountford seems an ideal husband for Marie Arnold because although his family is without much money, he is—on the surface—an ideal masculine type and gentleman.
While "self-discipline was a hallmark of mature masculinity [. Consequently, his characterization as an ideal husband cannot last. When Mountford tells Joseph Higginson that he cannot marry due to a "fear of hereditary madness" 78 , Higginson remembers that Mountford's mother suffered from a mental illness that "first showed itself in the form of epilepsy" and ended with dementia and death As the narrator records, "The fear of hereditary madness was the shadow that wrapped him round, and set him apart from men of his own age and circumstances, and hemmed him in with considerations which but rarely block a young man's pathway" Later, Mountford's Cambridge doctor tells him that "his best chance of warding off future attacks, and of outgrowing his malady, would be found in a free adventurous life—sport, travel—under God's sky.
Much learning was a thing for him to avoid" The advice is in keeping with the advice of actual Victorian physicians Dr. Frederick Goodchild and Dr. Gowers, who prescribe physical activity to alleviate epilepsy. Goodchild suggests that "we must endeavour to invigorate and tone up the system [and.
Although Gowers does not advise against learning altogether, he does warn that "the excitement of competitive and other examinations is [. While Mountford can act physically "in a free adventurous life," his epilepsy prevents him becoming a doctor or a lawyer After his first seizure, he resigns himself to his mother's fate and also regrets the loss of a military career: "as it had been with his mother, so it would be with him. He gave up all idea of the army" —where his father was an engineer Again, the difference and distance from his father and his connection to his mother and the inherited disease define Mountford.
This disease of mind wrecks the body and leads to "despair" and "madness":. He was nearly eighteen years of age when the first attack occurred. The foul fiend of epilepsy seized upon him one evening in the school chapel, rent and tore him, and left him shattered and weakened, with a dull despair in his heart.
Henceforth he knew himself doomed. One after another these horrible convulsive seizures would tear at brain and body, until reason would be wrecked in the struggle, and madness would close the scene. Like his mother, "Over him, too, hung that horror of possible epilepsy. He brooded on this possibility, and magnified its terrors as only youthful imagination can" For Mountford, the transition from epilepsy to madness seems inevitable: epilepsy will "tear" reason from his body and leave him mad. As the "foul fiend of epilepsy" rends his body and the "dull despair" fills his heart, the specter of madness threatens to overcome him.
She presents a dichotomy between the cultural conventions of epilepsy and the possibility for their resistance, underscoring the tension seen throughout the work. For example, although his epilepsy frustrates Mountford's romantic aspirations, he acts within this limitation. Linking the appearance of love with the appearance of a seizure, Braddon writes:.
Once during those happy days at Ellerslie, just when he was beginning to realise the fact that his love [for Sibyl] was returned, and was beginning to foreshadow the sorrow of parting, he was reminded of his misery by an attack of "le petit mal. He sat with fixed unseeing eyes, knowing nothing, till he heard a clock striking the hour, and awakening as from a dull and heavy sleep.
This seizure, "slight and harmless though it was, roused Mountford to immediate action" 93 ; he decides to leave Ellerslie and eventually return to Africa. Instead of staying with Sibyl—as she suggests—"he would make that one sacrifice that honour and conscience demanded of him. He would live and die a stranger to those domestic ties which form so large a portion of man's happiness" The gentlemanly code of honor and duty determine Mountford's decision, limiting his will and action.
That is, his honor requires that he leave, although leaving removes those "domestic ties" that ought to define him in a civilized arena as masculine and a potential husband. Unlike the murderer Urquhart, who "married badly," neglected his wife, sees "old Higginson" as a "capital joke," and whose romantic attentions are spurned by both Marie and Sibyl, Mountford honors his host When Urquhart invites him to discuss the attractions of Marie, Mountford does not respond, showing the "reticence [. Mountford's thoughts about and descriptions of his disease concretize the effect of the disease on the body.
During his stay at Cambridge, Mountford. Sometimes, in his rooms, with his books open before him, or on the river, the sculls in his hands moving slowly with measured beat, there would be a sudden lapse of consciousness.
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He would go on rowing, perhaps, with mechanical motion ; or the sculls would cease to work, and the boat would drift with the stream for a little way, the man sitting there lost to the world around him, knowing nothing till the slow awakening as from a trance with the knowledge that he had lost himself , that in those few minutes reason and memory had gone. Braddon's reference to Mountford's "mechanical motion" emphasizes the unconscious action possible during or following a seizure, but not the "homicidal impulse" that will mark the medical treatise on epilepsy he later reads.
By emphasizing the shift from epileptic to criminal in specific medical documents, she reveals how the medical understanding of the disease shapes and—later—defines Mountford. After Mountford's seizures at Cambridge, he studies an "exhaustive treatise upon his malady" 94 and "read[s] and re-read[s]". He had hung with a grisly fascination over the story of the unhappy victim, who, after being subject to epilepsy in its normal form from his childhood, at seven and twenty years of age suffered a sudden change in the nature of his malady, and became the victim of a murderous instinct which he resisted with the greatest difficulty, wrestling with himself as the demoniacs of old wrestled, fighting against the savage thirst for bloodshed which urged him to slay even his nearest and dearest.
Braddon's phrase "murderous instinct" conveys the recidivistic and degenerative nature of this "strange disease," and she suggests epilepsy occurs at a site of internal struggle, of "wrestling with himself. Maudsley describes an epileptic whose disease "changes" after he turns twenty-five. In the account, "the character of his disease changed, and instead of epileptic attacks he was seized with an irresistible impulse to commit murder [.
Krafft-Ebing records similar cases, one of which described "Z. He violated a girl of eleven, and then killed her. He lied about the deed" The frequency of these kinds of cases lead Edward C.
“Thou Art the Man!”
Mann to assert that "there have probably been more grave crimes committed by persons epileptically insane than during all other states of unconsciousness put together in the annals of medicine and law" For instance, Maudsley links convulsion of the body with that of the mind: "Certainly the most desperate instances of homicidal impulse are met with in connection with epilepsy [. In both the case study of the epileptic seized by "an irresistible impulse to commit murder" and in Maudsley's analysis of it, epilepsy elicits not debilitating seizures where the patient lies prone, the body racked with convulsions, but purposeful and paradoxically uncontrollable action.
This action, in turn, is driven by the "convulsion of ideas" and the homicidal impulse. In effect, Braddon critiques the medical document for its sensational elements and their effect on Mountford. As with the lesions in the epileptic's brain, the "story of horror had eaten itself, like some corroding acid, into Brandon's brain," and the "thirst for bloodshed" threatens to overcome "his senses.
At the novel's end, these thoughts seen in Mountford's "grisly fascination" transform into the "horrors" of epileptic dreams and insanity Here, Braddon provides the most sustained discussion of Mountford's seizures and illustrates how those seizures affect him physically and mentally.
As a seizure occurs, his. He had no assurance of anything but the straight, brown shafts [the trees]—like the pillars of a rude Indian temple—which rose up on every side of him—and even those looked dim and blurred as he gazed at them with eyes which slowly fixed themselves, and from which the faculty of sight slowly faded. Braddon imprisons Mountford in both the trees and his illness, constructing a representational link between epilepsy as "degenerative" state and the "primitive" imagery of the "rude Indian temple. He felt the dull beating, the agonising pain under that inexorable pressure" Unable to control even the simplest physical movements, Mountford "stagger[s] a few paces further, blindly, helplessly, [strikes] his shoulder against a tree on the right hand [.
His seizure and its aftereffects will damn Mountford on several levels. He "looked fixedly at [the groom], but made no reply.
Thou Art the Man
That direct—yet vacant—gaze was the look of one who hears without comprehending; but the groom having made up his mind that this man was a murderer, saw only a studied assumption of lunacy" In the phrase "a studied assumption of lunacy," Braddon evokes yet another symptom of the turn-of-the-century malaise, the concept of "malingering," the simulation of disease. In the March issue of The Strand , Dr. Litton Forbes defines two types of malingering: "malice prepense" and "hysterical" The first relates to "cases in which an intention to deceive has been the actuating and only motive" and includes feigned blindness, deafness, epilepsy, and paralysis In the second, the "symptoms are still feigned and unreal[,] [b]ut the sufferers are not always conscious that such is the case and are not so much indicative of bodily ailment as of a condition of mental unrest" As late as , doubts regarding feigned epilepsy continued, including those about epileptics using "automatic action" as a defense for crimes when a seizure did not in fact occur.
Sullivan notes, for example, that "epileptics may commit murder with full consciousness of what they are doing [. The stableman wonders if Mountford "was [. Where he was once praised and admired, he is now criminalized because of his inability to react after finding the body. As the initial opinion is that the murder is a crime of passion and that Mountford is consequently faking his illness, his sexual desire is not in question, but his sincerity and morality are. That is, as manly duty also denotes sincerity or sincere action , the fact that he is a defendant at the inquest suggests that there is some belief that he is insincere and is hiding his guilt by feigning illness.
As the narrator records: "[t]here was a general impression that Brandon Mountford was the murderer, and had been caught red-handed before he could withdraw the knife from his victim's heart. The verdict of "willful murder against Brandon Mountford [. His guilt, in fact, is unquestioned after his epilepsy becomes public knowledge: "nobody outside Ellerslie Park had any doubt that Brandon Mountford had killed Marie Arnold, in a paroxysm of epileptic fury.
The word epilepsy once having been uttered, the solution of the mystery was taken as found" Because an epileptic could become transformed in an "epileptic fury" into a homicidal maniac without demonstrating any criminal or homicidal tendencies beforehand, anyone with the disease becomes a potential suspect. Rather than a unique case, Mountford is implicated by his commonality with other epileptic criminals. Imagining the possibility of Mountford as a serial killer, literally transformed by his illness, she considers.
The murderous impulse might recur, and this man—the man she admired and loved, the man of high birth and gentle breeding—might become a scourge and a horror to his fellow-men; a wretch whose death or whose lifelong imprisonment would be required for the safety of others. That epilepsy could transform a "man of high birth and breeding" into a "scourge and horror" serves to confirm the verdict of "willful murder" and even begins to instill doubt in Sibyl. Although she would like to believe that he is innocent, if she accepts the fact that any epileptic could be transformed, she has to accept the fact that Mountford could be as well.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a psychological model of the murder" in "Murder and More to Follow" highlights the transition from man to criminal also seen in the discourse of epilepsy. As will be elaborated below, in Braddon's narrative and in the case of Jack the Ripper, "two discourses confronted one another: that of the law, with its stress on individual responsibility and free will; and that of medicine, with its focus on nature, determinism [,] and irresponsibility" Kestner This "confrontation" gains an added import when "epileptic fury" is informed by Krafft-Ebing's discussion of epilepsy and the "sexual impulse.
In Psychopathia Sexualis, Krafft-Ebing details several case studies where the "epileptic mania" leads to acts of sexual perversion. He writes: "Epilepsy is allied to the acquired states of mental weakness because it often leads to them, and then all the possibilities of reckless satisfaction of the sexual impulse [. Moreover, in many epileptics the sexual instinct is very intense" This "sexual impulse," while not overtly portrayed in Thou Art the Man , becomes implicit in the recurring portrayal of women as victims of epileptic attack.
The "convulsion of ideas" described by Maudsley becomes for Krafft-Ebing sexual in nature:. From the following facts it will certainly be clear that the cerebral changes which accompany the epileptic outbreak may induce an abnormal excitation of the sexual instinct.
Besides, in the exceptional mental states of epileptics, they are unable to resist their impulses, by reason of the disturbances of consciousness. For both Maudsley and Krafft-Ebing, these "disturbances of consciousness" produce a loss of will. The change in mental state from normal to abnormal epileptic typically involves a drastic shift in character; for example, a normally moral man will become hypersexual or a rapist during an epileptic attack.
Thou Art the Man
While his thoughts are not explicitly sexual, Mountford nevertheless fears that this kind of transformation could have occurred on the night of Marie's murder. He is not sure if he murdered Marie in a fit of epileptic frenzy and simply does not remember it. He explains to Sibyl: "[M]y senses grew dim in that red cloud of anger, and when I came out of that blood-red stupor, murder had been done within a few yards of the spot where I found myself.
Who knows, Sibyl? How dare I affirm that I was not the murderer? In other words, he accepts the discourse that criminalizes him and becomes debilitated by it, as is further confirmed when the fear of conviction causes him to let Urquhart break him out of jail. Maudsley writes that. On account of its violent and destructive character, it is a most dangerous form of insanity; for the patient, in a frenzy of excitement, unconscious of what he is doing [.
Maudsley's study outlines the "abnormal" cases, such as those read by Mountford; in these cases, epilepsy does not lead progressively to insanity in old age—as was the case with Mountford's mother. Instead, calling it the "most dangerous form of insanity," Maudsley connects epilepsy with more immediate insanity. As Maudsley writes: "The problem of [criminal responsibility] then is to determine, first, what conditions of derangement of the mental faculties are to be considered the result of the disease; and, secondly, whether and how far free-will is excluded by them" Further, because the belief of Mountford's guilt is driven by the medical understanding of his disease, he should have been acquitted:.
Maudsley In the few times that responsibility is mentioned, homicidal impulse or epileptic mania is emphasized, but not its jurisprudential or legal consequences. Urquhart uses the specter of the asylum and the assertion that "nobody can doubt [Mountford] will be committed for trial" to prompt Mountford to flee: "if you should be pardoned on the ground of lunacy, that would mean a lifelong imprisonment [.
The former statement assumes guilt and elides responsibility, while the latter presupposes—if not guilt—then at least conviction, guilty or not. Without a trial, these questions of responsibility and mental illness remain just that: questions. Although several successful insanity defenses occurred during the nineteenth century, notably the defense of Daniel M'Naghten in , few epileptics were granted an insanity verdict based on their disease, despite statements like those above by Maudsley Smith Also, the success of M'Naghten's defense did not resolve the basic conflict between medicine and law.
Although medical practitioners contended that "movements influenced by disease [such as the automatism of epilepsy] could not involve responsibility," jurists, lawyers, and judges resisted this argument because it "suggested reduction ad absurdum [. Consequently, prosecutors typically concentrated on actus reus guilty act rather than mens rea guilty mind , as at Mountford's inquest. I have given evidence in several cases in which quasi-criminal acts have been committed by persons who where, as I believed, in a state of post-epileptic automatism at the time, and I have found my evidence received with great incredulity, even scorn [.
As late as , epileptics charged with murder were still being convicted, even when citing their illness as a defense. Charles Rosenberg asserts that "Among many physicians and laypersons [.