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Thelmar, E

Category: Ill or disabled

 

Miss E. Thelmar was the pseudonym of a manic depressive. 

We know about her only because of a single book The Maniac:  a realistic study of madness from the maniac’s point of view published in 1909 in London. 

It was originally written at the request of the doctor treating Miss Thelmar; the frontispiece even has a dedication – “This true record to my Doctor at whose instigation it was written and to whom it was promised”.

It documents a manic period in this lady’s illness

The Maniac – A Realistic Study of Madness from the Maniac’s Point of View – E Thelmar

THE following is a faithful account of a genuine attack of Acute Mania. Nothing has been invented-from first to last, this is a true record. The whole was written down during the months immediately after the attack, and while remembrance of it was as vivid as at the actual time of its occurrence.

Throughout the narrative the words spoken by the various "Voices" to me, and my replies thereto, are given verbatim, and, I honestly believe, with as exact verbal accuracy as if they had been taken down by shorthand reporter at the time they were being uttered. If any one doubts the possibility of such accuracy, I simply say that from first to last, throughout the attack of madness, everything of which I was conscious at the time that it occurred, and everything that was spoken either by me, or by the " Voices " to me remained fixed on my memory with such curious indelibility it was as if it had been branded thereon. To transcribe the entire account, verbatim, has been but the smallest effort of memory on my part.

I emphasised the reservation, of whatever I was conscious, because the most highly-trained "mental" doctors and nurses are, evidently, most utterly at sea with regard to a lunatic's Consciousness. The location, the extent, and, above all, the limitations of a mad patient's consciousness are so wholly misjudged and misapprehended.

That this is so, is indubitably proved to anyone who has experienced madness-and will be apparent to anyone who reads this narrative.


 

Miss E Thelmar was an unmarried woman, ‘the wrong side of thirty’. At the time the narrative was written and the illness took hold, she had begun working as a journalist on a London magazine, and worked all day at the office of the paper in the Strand. She lived alone in a one-room lodging near Regent's park.

Working at the office in the same room and at the same table as Miss Thelmar was an elderly married woman, a non-professional, spiritualistic "medium.” She used to "see" all sorts of “spirits " and other phenomena surrounding the various people in the office, and whenever work was slack she used to pass the time by giving a detailed account to whoever happened to be in the room, of what she ‘saw’ around each and all of them. She also recounted a great many of her personal “spiritualistic" experiences.

 

Miss Thelmar became intrigued and decided that several of these stories might make a good book.  As such she had begun to use the stories the medium had narrated, writing them up out of office hours, and ‘at all hours of the day and night’. When illness struck, she had just finished writing about the haunting, for several years, of the Medium by the "spirit " of R. B, (a deceased celebrity), who wanted the Medium to write down at his dictation a book which he wished written, but with which (on account of its character) she refused to have anything to do.

The Maniac:  a realistic study of madness from the maniac’s point of view

The woman was most terrified of this "spirit," whom she declared to be an evil, and extraordinarily powerful, one. She was even alarmed at my temerity in daring to utilise him as "copy," as I informed her I had done. I state the foregoing, as it explains much of the working of my mind during insanity.

I would also add that I am not a "spiritualist." I have been, however, for very many years a wholly unprejudiced psychical researcher,- by reading, not by personal experiments,- and have read a large amount of "spiritualistic" literature in the investigation of "spiritualism."

Nothing this Medium said was in any way new to me, as I was perfectly familiar with all the phenomena of "spiritualism." It occupied my mind solely so far as it afforded me "copy '' for stories. But the doing of all this story-writing out of office hours was a very great strain. I began to feel this, but was determined to finish my set of stories.


On the night of Wednesday, 27th September, her eldest brother took her out to a theatre, followed by supper at a restaurant.  By the time the supper was over she was ‘dead tired’ and was longing to get back and go straight to bed.

The Maniac:  a realistic study of madness from the maniac’s point of view

I do not know when I have ever felt so dead tired as I felt that night when at last, long past midnight, I returned to my one-room lodging off the Marylebone Road. The whole way back, during the drive, my brother had been talking about a legal matter that was, and had been for some time past, a continual worry to me. That, and my utter fatigue of body and mind, and the chill loneliness of my lodging-room on my return that night, combined to make me too miserable for words or for tears, I longed to be quit of it all, I longed to get quit of my physical body altogether, by sheer effort of Will.
 I longed with an intensity that made my head begin to feel quite queer and dizzy. Then I undressed and went to bed.


The next day, the tiredness had gone from her body but was instead ‘concentrated in her head’. She had the greatest difficulty in concentrating on her work that day, and came to the conclusion that if she felt like that the following day she would have to ask for a week's leave. She describes it as ‘My brain seemed like a cog-wheel that had stuck. It felt as if it wouldn't go on’.  So she was stressed, lonely and mentally exhausted.  Interestingly some days before she finally had her breakdown, the medium had said that Miss Thelmar was accompanied by the spirit of a woman dressed all in grey, and looking like her – in other words a doppelganger, but a spirit one.   

The Maniac:  a realistic study of madness from the maniac’s point of view

Bands of light were streaming from the "spirit " to me, The Medium believed it to be the "spirit" of some near, dead relation of mine, who must have exactly resembled me. I have lost no near relation resembling myself and I do not in the least believe that the woman saw any "spirit." But I do believe she saw exactly what she described. And those who have studied the recorded facts concerning Phantasms of the Living - including the usual condition of body, namely, collapse either in faint, trance, or at time of dissolution, the originals nearly always are in when their “doubles " are seen by people existing as independent entities apart from their originals - will probably agree with me in thinking that what the Medium saw was simply an integral portion of my own constitution, and its extrusion indicated the state bordering on collapse, in which I then most certainly was.


On Friday she came to the conclusion she couldn't carry on any longer without a rest and she asked for a week's leave. This was granted on the condition that the leave began the following Tuesday.   She returned to her lodging that Friday evening, 29th September, extremely hungry [‘All that day I had eaten very little food; everything solid seemed to stick in my throat’], and exhausted.

She had practically no supper, and then sat in the only easy-chair, glancing through Robert Hichens' book, Flames, - “it is a most terrible tale of obsession, brought about by spiritualistic seance- room experiments”.  So she was hungry, exhausted, lonely and probably terrified.  She then went to bed, and blew out the candle immediately.

The Maniac:  a realistic study of madness from the maniac’s point of view

My head had scarcely touched the pillow, when a man's voice-a very pleasant, baritone voice-proceeding apparently from the large arm-chair by the fire-place, asked clearly and aloud- "Are you awake?" I raised myself on my left elbow, and facing the direction whence the voice came, and feeling suddenly no longer tired, but brisk and most alert, I answered- "Yes, wide awake. Who are you?"


What happens next could be interpreted a number of ways; it could be construed as a sort of fragmentation of personality.  But the other personality was a man and it could not have been multiple personality, as the personalities existed concurrently and simultaneously - and talked to one another.  But she could just as easily have been attracting wayward out of body [but living] travellers.  And from the evidence initially presented, this is indeed what was happening.  When she woke up the next morning, she remembered the conversation and instead of being terrified actually regarded it as pleasant ‘I should never feel lonely anymore in the lodging room, as the voice had said we should always be able to talk to each other.'

In the evening, after going to bed and blowing out the light the same man’s voice from the previous evening came again.  The observations provide some example of the rest of the experiences.

References

 

The paintings on this page are by Georgiana Houghton (1814–1884), a British artist and spiritualist medium.  Houghton was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria but later moved to London. She began producing 'spirit' drawings in 1859 at private séances. In June 2016, a solo exhibition entitled "Spirit Drawings" was organised by the Courtauld Institute of Art, featuring a number of Houghton's surviving artworks.

The eye of God stares out of a swirling storm of line and colour, like the eye of a whale seen through turbulent oceanic depths. It is awe-inspiring. The abstract art of Georgiana Houghton summons up strange powers of the imagination that stir deep regions of the soul. Her labyrinths of red and gold, purple and brown can be joyous and ecstatic, oppressive and eerie, but always they are tremulously expressive – and completely out of time.

 

Observations

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