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Hadfield, James, approximately 1772–1841
Epitaph of my poor Jack, squirrel.
London, 1826?
Physical Description:
1 item ([1] p.) ; 23 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
RC450.G7 H33 1826
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Archives & Manuscripts
Rollin, H. "Sketches from the history of psychiatry: The fire at Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, 1903, remembered." In Psychiatric Bulletin, 13(4), pages 188-189.
Manuscript poem, by James Hadfield, upon the death of his pet squirrel, with an illustration of the squirrel at the head of the sheet. The poem is written in pen and brown ink. The illustration is in watercolor over graphite.
The author of this verse, James Hadfield, was a patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London (or "Bedlam"), the world's first psychiatric hospital. Over twenty-five years earlier, in 1800, he had been committed to the hospital after attempting to kill George III at the Drury Lane Theatre. Tried for high treason, he secured an acquittal by arguing partial insanity (a first in an English criminal trial). Hadfield spent the remaining 41 years of his life in a cell.
Patients at Bethlem were allowed visitors, and Hadfield, perhaps due to his notoriety, seems to have attracted many. One such visitor was the French socialist Flora Tristan, who records the visit in her Promenades dans Londres, 1840: "He lives in a small room and he is not averse to passing the time of day with visitors. We had rather a long visit with him; his conversation and his habits denote a sentimental and loving heart, a pressing need for affection. He has had in succession two dogs, three cats, several birds and finally a squirrel. He was extremely fond of his animals and was grieved at their deaths; he mounted them himself and keeps them in his room. These remains of his beloved creatures all have epitaphs in verse which express his sorrow. Above the verses for his squirrel there is a coloured image of the friend he lost. I might add that he does a brisk little trade with his feelings, handing out the epitaphs to visitors who in return give him a few shillings." Translation by Dennis Palmer and Giselle Pincetl, Flora Tristan's London Journal, p. 163 (see Rollin).
Hadfield's verse reads as follows: "Epitaph, of my poor Jack, squirrel. Here are the remains of my poor little Jack / Who with a little fall, almost broke his back / And I myself was the occasion of that / By letting him be, frighten'd by a cat / I then picked him up, from off the floor / But he, alas, never do need a hornpipe more / And many a time have I laugh'd, to see him so cunning / To sit and crack the nuts I gave him so funny / Now in remembrance of his pretty tricks / I have had him stuff'd that tonight not him forget / And so he is gone; and I must go; as well as him / And pray God, send I may go; but with little sin / So there is an end to my little darling Jack / That will never more be, frighten'd by a cat. -- Died Sunday morning, July 23, 1826. James Hadfield, Bethlem Hospital."
There are three variations of the present manuscript in the collections of the Bethlem Museum of the Mind. See: https://museumofthemind.org.uk/collections/gallery/artists/james-hadfield (accessed January 11, 2021).
Subject Terms:
Bethlem Royal Hospital (London, England)
Hadfield, James, approximately 1772-1841.
Mentally ill -- Great Britain -- Poetry.
Pets -- Poetry.
Psychiatric hospitals -- Great Britain.
Psychotherapy patients -- Great Britain.
Squirrels -- Poetry.
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