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[Extraordinary 28-page Autograph Letter from a Patient with Mental Illness to U.S. Senator Boies Penrose].
[Extraordinary 28-page Autograph Letter from a Patient with Mental Illness to U.S. Senator Boies Penrose].
[Extraordinary 28-page Autograph Letter from a Patient with Mental Illness to U.S. Senator Boies Penrose].

[Extraordinary 28-page Autograph Letter from a Patient with Mental Illness to U.S. Senator Boies Penrose].


Extraordinary and very lengthy letter written by an in-patient, possibly in Wernersville State Hospital in Berks County, Pennsylvania, an asylum for the “chronically insane.” The thoughtfully argued—though semi-literate, stream-of-consciousness—letter is addressed to U.S. Senator and Philadelphia Republican “Boss,” Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, and to a “Mr. Green,” likely former Pennsylvania state senator, U.S. Congressman, and newspaper editor, Henry D. Green (1857–1929) of Reading, Berks County. In this letter, an exasperated patient with mental difficulties deftly confronts corruption and the political “bosses” who overlook it.

The patient, likely a man, decries his detention by “Mr. Green” and the maladministration of (Mr.) “White” and an unnamed Black woman attendant, both of whom he demands be ousted. He appears to describe a “gang” of politically connected or state employee insiders defrauding the government of monies that are supposed to go toward in-patient care. There are references to Irish nationalist politicians such as John Redmond (1856–1918) and Joseph Devlin (1871–1934) and to home rule in Ireland and Sinn Féin, a then-rising political party. Some of the writer’s phonetic spellings—writing “are” for “or” and “hafter” for “after”—might suggest he is Irish-American. These references, the public service dates of Penrose and Green, a reference to very large war expenditures—likely the First World War, a reference to the “new year,” and the sole dateline—“Monday 17,” suggest the letter was written in either January 1916 or January 1921.

The patient’s letter, written entirely in pencil, begins in full stride (punctuation supplied):

what do you boath men to be such infidels and hipocrits with white [White] for?  why don’t you order him out of hear and mean it?  don’t order him him out and be pleasant with him the next minute, not who with white you can do this.  I ask you let the new year commence good & lucky with you [Penrose?] and you socrates [Mr. Green?] and not forgetting those patients and my self. I demand you to oust white…to be fair – square this time you neglected this place…patien[ts] are sick of them.  just kick them out.  remember senators you have more look by acting honest.  I am tired of wrighting this to you.  why don’t you do the work the way I want it done?  you all prove to me you are false friends and to the Redeemer you are nothing.  I am surprised you cannot do favors.  don’t cost you one cent and you harts are so unhuman wicked.  why is it you cannot see to white’s mistake killing the patients, keeping them hear [here] allowing the patients ignorant help and tantalizing them?  extremes, Mr. Green, is no good.  he [White] ought to be ashamed of himself.  he had my release a few years.  he could certainly do better if I tell fore you leave.  I bet you would not be many days back of it but you all make such a fool out of me I cannot believe you all on you oath you say you leave this day—& that day I don’t leave.  your princible [principle] and mine is different.  you hold me.  I want you see that Mr. Connors Mr. Hazleton, Mr. Ryne, Mr. Kelly leaves that Hotell where they are.  leave I want then to leave.  they are nothing but traitors to me and causing my release and keeping me in this terrible tortoring [torturing].  they are holding O’Malley and white hear because those are dirty deceitful things.  I have no use for them.  they are imposing on me.  I want John Redmond (enimie then a sin finder [enemy than? a Sinn Féin-er]) they are better to me than that crown of loafers.  I ask you for me to see them and tell them for me to leave this place at once.  let them go back to ireland. help Redmond.  they are better fitting for this Job, tantalizing me and softening my brain.  do as I say. ... (pp1–5)

Redmond is a dirty man.  that one man I wish he give me up he cannot get me out for he has such bad luck and he wants the earth because his brother was unluckey.  he cannot get this nor can he get Home rule.  what is he holding me for?  I don’t understand him.  what has be been doing 12 years?  and the summer I could not leave hear the 9 of this month to if he can get you a fool for him.  he push it along.  he is a sly old coon that Redmond.  nothing be honest in him.  I Hate—despise him.  ... he is clownish in his doings.  I have to suffer for it.  he is a shame full fool. ... you don’t see him giving me a Dr. over hear [here] are [or] medicine nourishment are [or] ousting Conners Kelly Ryne Hazleton.  what does he mean the bum holding those poor cheap things against me?  what does he mean?  has he any respect are [or] princible about him.  do you call him honest trying to gain in the House of Commons with devilin [Devlin]?  never will he gain it is no use trying neigher [neither] but it takes a man with temper princible decency releigeon [religion] to do this for me.  not such as himself.  Are his good nature crowd holding the Job down no matter what insults they get?  they don’t care as long as redmond will win. ... I Hate – despise to be a mongst them.  you know what white–o’malley are when they want to remain hear. (pp7–12)

... you members of Congress who has charge of the Rules – Regulations are mean to the patients hear.  they are suffering for the want of warm clothing, the same clothing winter – summer time.  sometimes in winter they go without one garment.  they are poorly clad hear.  what does that old Hussey n[****]r wench care?  alll she look for to make the patients afraid of her so she gets along with them.  she is a brute murder that what she is and you let her stay hear—her squad just the same.  she goes to her breakfast in the morning such as the rich people hafter 8 [o’]Clock.  her meals are kept warm for her.  this morning had no coffee.  this is the way with those patients.  they are left without Coffee.  one slize [slice] of thin bread, sometimes no meat.  shameful to let them stay hear, the common old hussey.  she eats 2-3 slices of chops at one meal.  this would last the patients for one week and then the patients could not eat the meat.  it is rotten — fat what the Have in their table sugar so scarce they have 2 kinds of sugar.  she never goes round to see the patients food clothing bed clothing are [or] when they are sick – dead.  she don’t bother herself with them.  she is a Villain murdering old crook.  you cannot put shame are [or] princible in her.  I don’t see where it come in at to give her so much priviledges and her own way.  she does nothing only bossing, watching the men who come hear for to gain th[e]ir respect, in deceit—smuggling dishonesty they don’t know how this bluff is so rotten deceitful to gain over the patients, to remain.  you see she is no good when she takes the patients money and don’t do nothing for them. ... they have to be scared of her.  they have to behave themselves. ... they get along tip top the pair against the patients Rong dirty doings with such as o’malley are [or] white nobody don’t notice them.  only the patients, they have to notice them respect them are [or] get death, locked up, beat…are [or] be slited [slighted] in some way.

Senator penRose do put o’malley–white…out of her the they are no good, only Hard Luck bad Luck.  they are next to death.  I ask you oust them.  he wants an inquiry investigation to put him off this is you stupid noncence towards him you big men ought to be a shamed to commence such cheap talk with him.  you know what he is & o’,alley you cannot favour him are [or] be to friendly with him for he would take the advantage of it.  he wants every person to take an interest in his place.  he don’t want to cure the patients, look after them.  what does he stay amongst them?  this proves to you what he is.  if he don’t look to his place what does he say amongst them get 5 or for then he has the gall to ask for 4 hundred 50 thousand for what for his gang and himself, to get the best part of it not the patients.  he is for his employers.  you—your friends are for him – o’malley and against those patients to give them their freedom and cure them.  they are not fit to leave hear even if they are discharged out.  those patents are badly badly neglected from you, all imagening shure enough he is you[r] god and you must worship hiom, adore him.  senator penrose kindness don’t cost one cent, just see what you spend on the war about 25 Billions and this you grumble & those patients no money properated [appropriated] for their use, only the big checks and too many loufers [loafers] bums to take thier money from them.  you know it is hard suffering times.  how do you think we are among the insects infidels Hyprocrits to everything done for their benefit nothing done for the inmates?  you know this should be done in summer time to do what was needed.  you certainly have screws loose some where.  you know they is no decent kind hearted supertendand [superintendent] to do you human. ... get a man worth having at once, no delay about this.  those furnices [furnaces] has to be fixed at once.  it is brutish hear [here], a government place, to have such suffering and more radyators [radiators].  you see those working class of men in the st [street], they can have the furnice fixed in less than one week by getting those men in the st.  it can and must be done at once to save them from death are [or] sickness.  you get those people at once please see to this.  do the work at once.  I don’t understand Mr. Green.  he is so neglectful to the patients.  he will not do nothing for them to get well are [or] be made comfortable. oust the reches [wretches]. (pp13–21)

The extraordinary letter continues apace: torture, torment, insults, etc. He is exasperated: “this place would keep you crazy. ...you imagen you gaining but your [you’re] loosing [losing] such as I am loosing [losing] my Health. I don’t understand why I am kept hear.  remember, don’t let me believe shure enough it is [John] Redmond helping me.  I will not remain for such a man.” (pp24–[25])

Senator Penrose and Mr. Green surely must have been chastened by such a letter, a seemingly unending screed virtually written as one long sentence, the writer hardly drawing breath. How cleverly the writer turns the tables, this mental in-patient writing to two powerful politicians: “you certainly have screws loose some where.”


Description: [Extraordinary 28-page Autograph Letter from a Patient with Mental Illness to U.S. Senator Boies Penrose].

[Likely Pennsylvania, c.1916–1921]. [28]pp.  Autograph Letter, unsigned and likely not complete. 4tos.; 13 leaves plus a fragment of an envelope opened flat for use as a letter sheet; manuscript in pencil. Folds; small loss to one leaf, not affecting sense; envelope sheet with irregular margins; very good. BCJ 319448.

[3729426]

Price: $400.00

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