(κλέπτω, to steal, and μανία, madness), a form of partial mental derangement which is manifested by a propensity to steal and hoard articles that can be surreptitiously appropriated. The propensity to acquire becomes, in such cases, so irresistible, and the will so impotent, that the appropriation is generally regarded as involuntary, and the perpetrator, therefore, irresponsible; but, in order to constitute a case of moral irresponsibility, it should undoubtedly be insisted on that to the phenomena of moral there should always be superadded those of intellectual disorder, the assumption being that so long as the intellect is unperverted the person will be found to possess a consciousness of the nature of the criminal act in relation to law. The plea of insanity in the agent should not be admitted where it is evident that the subject is perfectly aware of the tendency of his or her actions; the simple moral inability to resist this temptation is only in the same predicament with that of every unquestioned candidate for the penitentiary or gallows. A state which may seem to deserve the name of moral insanity, as exhibiting a perversion of the moral sentiments, tendencies, and perceptions, with a loss, to a great extent, of self-control, is often prominent in the early stages of mental disease, and before the intellect is palpably affected. Up to this point the patient should undoubtedly be held personally responsible for his or her conduct in a criminal sense. When certain delusions, when delirium or incoherency supervene, the case then, without question, may be set down as that of insanity, which would absolve the patient from responsibility. The question here suggests itself as to the place which morbid impulses ought to have-
how nearly are they allied to insanity, and how far can they be urged as extenuating, or even excusing misdemeanors or crimes? This strange thraldom to a morbid prompting not unfrequently has its outlet in crimes of the deepest dye. When lord Byron was sailing from Greece to Constantinople, he was observed to stand over the sleeping body of an Albanian with a poniard in his hand, and after a while to turn away muttering, "I should like to know how a man feels who has committed a murder!"' There can be no doubt that lord Byron, urged by a morbid impulse, was on the very eve of knowing what he desired to know. But one of the most singular instances of morbid impulses in connection with material things is related in the case of a young man who, in visiting a large manufacturing establishment, stood opposite a large hammer, and watched with great interest its perfectly regular strokes. At first it was beating immense lumps of crimson metal into thin black sheets, but the supply becoming exhausted, at last it only descended on the polished anvil. Still the young man gazed intently on its motion; then he followed its strokes with a corresponding motion of his lead; then his left arm moved to the same tune; and, finally, he deliberately placed his fist on the anvil, and in a second it was crushed to a jelly. The only explanation he could afford was that he felt an impulse to do it; that he knew he should be disabled; that he saw all the consequences in a misty kind of manner, but that he still felt a power within above sense and reason-a morbid impulse, in fact, to which he succumbed, and by which he lost a good right hand. This incident suggests many things besides proving the peculiar nature and power of morbid impulses-such, for instance, as a law of' sympathy on a scale hitherto undreamt of, as well as a musical tone pervading all things. An illustrious physician has lately left on record the opinion that " one of the chief causes of the terrible scenes which accompanied the final suppression of the Communist outbreak was a contagious mental alienation. The minds of the Parisians were gradually unhinged by the privations of the siege. The revolt of the 18th of March gave the last blow to brains which were already shaken, and at length the greater part of the population went raving mad. Women are, under such circumstances, fiercer and more reckless than men. This is because their nervous system is more fully developed; their brain is weaker, and their sensibilities are more acute than those of the stronger sex; and they are consequently far more dangerous in such paroxysms. None of them knew exactly what they were fighting for; they were possessed by one of the various forms of mania-that which impelled the French Jansenists of the latter half of the 18th century to torture themselves with a strange delight in pain of the acutest kind. The men who threw themselves on the bayonets of the soldiers in a paroxysm of passion were a few moments afterwards utterly prostrate and begging for mercy. They were no more cowards in the last state than they were heroes in the first they were simply madmen." In recurring to the " Reign of Terror" of the first French Revolution, Lewis Cass has this profound reflection: "In surveying the French national character of the present day" (this was written in 1840), "it is difficult to recognise those traits of cruelty which were so shockingly developed during the Revolution. A monomuania must have prevailed, hurrying the nation into acts inconsistent with its general feeling, and marking that time of political effervescence as an extraordinary period in human history." The general term monomania implies that the individual is deranged only on one subject, or in reference to one object, or in one particular train of thought or faculty of thinking, and that his intellect, judgment, and emotions are otherwise sound, at least when not exercised on the subject of his derangement. This, however, is not strictly true. In almost all cases of so-called monomania there are other morbid indications besides the salient one-morbid dislikes or suspicions, morbid vanity or irritability. Monomania seems to arise in the failure of the faculties round a given centre of thought, in a paralysis of power along a given line of mental direction, unaccompanied by any parallel paralysis of interest, so that the patient busies himself involuntarily on a subject on which he has lost the power of bringing his faculties properly to bear. It is the attempt of weakened faculties to work upon an overstrained nervous string, so that all mental power disappears just where the wish to apply it is greatest. Now these morbid centres of partial imbecility are, cceteris paribus, more likely to spring up in minds below the average in general power than in those above them, though the centre of the disease itself will often be on the noblest or most sensitive part of the mind. These peculiarities are nearly always distinctly marked in monomania, particularly in that form of it which is called kleptomania. It is usually exhibited by persons who have no motive to steal, and is frequently satisfied by purloining articles of no value. A baronet of large fortune stole, while on the Continent, pieces of old iron and of broken crockery, and in such quantities that tons of these collections were presented to the custom- house officers. In the second volume of the Medical Critic the case of a female is detailed who could not resist the impulse of appropriating everything within her reach. In searching this woman on one occasion there were found 15 bags upon her person, in which there were 1182 articles, mostly worthless, viz., 104 bits of paper, 82 sewingneedles, 18 old gloves, 12 moulds for wax leaves, 19 buttons, 60 feathers, 8 parcels of dried fish, 135 bits of ribbons, 9 bottles, 61 lozenges, and a variety of other articles, the refuse of the place, to which she had at various times taken a fancy. Another case reported by high medical authority is that of a rich but eccentric gentleman living in an old manor-house in Lincolnshire, England. He was a good business man, and managed his estate with care and prudence, auditing his steward's yearly accounts with the skill of an expert. His neighbors were all kindly disposed towards him, and he was charitably disposed towards the poor. Even the servants who saw him every day, although they confessed that he was "certainly very peculiar at times," never once dreamed of impugning his intellect. He was insane in one direction only, and one might have passed a lifetime with him without discovering it. He would be seized by a sudden determination to travel, and on such occasions he would travel in state, with a retinue of servants. After a fortnight's or perhaps a month's absence, he would return home. Invariably, on the morning of the next day after his return, towels, which had been taken from an open portmanteau, were found scattered about the room. After breakfast, his custom was to retire to the library and write the addresses of all the hotel-keepers at whose houses he had slept during his absence on so many slips of writing-paper, with directions to his servants to inclose to each address the number of towels specified upon each piece of paper, and to copy such other writing as they might find there, and send this in a letter, with the towels, to the hotel-keeper. This gentleman was one of the unhappy race of kleptomaniacs, whose particular mania impelled him to purloin towels. He subsequently gave to a friend a history of his case, and said he was goaded to these journeyings and pilferings by an irresistible impulse, which he insisted was the result of demoniacal possession. He was never impelled, however, a second time on the same journey; so that, while no hotel-keeper would be likely to suspect, during his visit, a gentleman of his rank and style as one who would steal his towels, it never transpired publicly, so far as is known, that he was a thief, although his own consciousness of the fact embittered his existence. Sometimes, in the case of this form of monomania, there exists, in the mind of the sufferer, the delusion that what he steals is his own property, or has been stolen from him, and that he merely reclaims his own. Sometimes he imagines that God orders him to steal. The case is recorded of a Scotch clergyman, distinguished for his learning, piety, and charity; he stole Bibles with a special view to the glory of God by the propagation of the Gospel.
His manse was a little "missionary society of stolen Bibles," and he was as much in earnest in the conversion of souls by the contraband process as the most enthusiastic foreign missionary could be in his calling. He was at last detected in wholesale Bible-stealing. It was farther discovered that he had organized a wide missionary district, and left a Bible or a Testament at every cottage where it was needed along the route. The most touching fact in the story is that he was arrested while on his knees by the bedside of a dying old man, with a stolen Bible lying wide open before him on the bed. "What made you steal the Bible, Mr. B.?" asked the sheriff, with pious horror on his face. "God made me steal them, good man," was the reply; "he was weary of seeing his poor people perish of Gospelhunger because the rich Bible Society could not afford to feed them without the baubees, and so God set me to steal for them and save them." He could not be persuaded that he had done wrong. The delusion of the clergyman, who was a very poor man, naturally suggested insanity. But he was perfectly sane upon all other points, and it is doubtful whether he would have received the benefit of his malady-whether, indeed, it would have been admitted as a malady at all-if a learned and philosophical physician in a neighboring town had not positively sworn that he was the "victim of moral mania." There is this peculiarity sometimes in the case of kleptomaniacs, that their purloining is confined to single articles. The case is reported of a lady who could not resist the temptation to steal silk stockings. Another lady would steal gloves whenever the opportunity was afforded. A boy was arrested some months since in Brooklyn for stealing slippers from the feet of ladies while walking in the street. His friends came forward and testified that he had been in the habit of stealing slippers, and was never known to have stolen anything else, all his life. A letter-carrier in Harlem, N. Y., was detected in abstracting letters and concealing them under a rock, which he had practiced for more than a year. They were most carefully hoarded in his place of concealment, and were found unopened. It was proven in his case, we believe, that he had a mania for stealing letters Without any apparent motive, as he never made any use of them except to hoard them.
The cases quoted are sufficient to prove that the form of moral insanity to which the name of kleptomania has been given really exists. From these, as well as many other instances which will readily occur to the reader, it will be seen that there can be little difficulty for a skilful physician, after a short examination, in distinguishing between a real victim of this disease and an ordinary thief. And this, as well as every other true form of insanity, we presume, frees every one, whether previously bad or good, from moral responsibility in this particular regard. When the actual condition exists. no matter what the conduct may have been which preceded and conduced to it, the earthly account of the subject has already been closed, and the deeds that follow, we are sure, will be mercifully judged of by him who knows whereof his poor frail creatures are made, and remembers that they are but dust. (E. de P.)
It is proper to add to the above remarks, which are evidently just in their conclusion, some considerations setting the question of moral responsibility in such cases in a fuller light.
1. The distinction is well made in the beginning of the article that some intellectual defect must be proven in order to constitute real insanity in any case. It is not enough that a perversion of the moral faculties exists, for that is the quintessence of guilt; and on this ground he who should most effectually obliterate his own conscience would thereby the most completely excuse himself in whatever crime he might thus render himself capable of committing. The mere fact that the persons laboring under kleptomania are frequently not conscious of any wrong-doing on their own part is not of itself an adequate plea in their justification.
2. The actual presence of mental imbecility in these peculiar cases is proved by the fact of the absurd manner in which the subjects of the disease steal. In the first place, they do not commit theft for their own benefit; they do not appropriate the articles taken to their own use, nor do they have any occasion for them. The moral motive, i.e. gain, is evidently absent, and their conduct is at once understood, when the circumstances become known, as very different from ordinary cases of shop-lifting. In the second place, there is usually a pettiness, oftentimes an absolute puerility in the acts committed, that marks the person as for the time "non compos mentis." The articles purloined are frequently worthless in themselves, and always relatively so. The conduct of the individual so strongly resembles that harmless and unmeaning gathering of sticks and straws which is one of the most common signs of lunacy, that every one informed with the case spontaneously sets it down in the same category. In the third place, the impulse to these acts comes on in sudden fits, quite (tt variance with the usual course of the individual's conduct. A general good character is always held to be one of the strongest evidences against the probability of a particular offence; in these cases, the isolated nature of the acts, their sporadic occurrence, the peculiar line in which they take place, all go to show the abnormal condition of the mind at the time. The mere violence of the impulse to commit them, it is true, is not a valid excuse; for it is hard even for the subject himself to be sure that this is really irresistible; but the frantic character of it, as he experiences it, and as it appears to others, is Ia legitimate proof of its insanity. In short, the utter and marked want of congruity between the behavior of the person under these circumstances and ordinary rational life stamps the act as that of a special mania, unaccountable to the individual himself in his lucid moments. The foregoing criterion, we may remark, will serve to distinguish genuine cases of irresponsible kleptomania from deliberate and culpable thievishness, whether habitual or occasional.
3. The question whether this may be a congenital tendency we cannot here digress to consider, except so far as to remark that this, if proved in the affirmative, would not really affect the main issue of moral responsibility; for human depravity is all confessedly inherited, but we do not, on that account, hold any one free from the obligation to restrain its manifestation, and, by using the helps within his reach, even ultimately eradicating it. In like manner we pass by the interesting cognate subject of the peculiar passion for intoxicating drinks experienced by the habitual inebriate, and its violent seemingly overwhelming-tendency to return on the slightest stimulus, even after years of reform; merely observing that here, whether in instances of inherited or acquired appetite, the disease-for it undoubtedly is such-is a compound one, i.e. both of the body and the mind, the latter only- as being the controlling element being the subject of moral consideration; and that the responsibility in these cases is at most simply shifted to total abstinence henceforth from the deadly seducer. His last thought, however, may essentially apply to kleptomania likewise; for just as it is the first drop that brings back the drunkard's fatal appetite, so perhaps it was the indulgence in the first petty theft that developed the uncontrollable passion for purloining. In this light the subject has a grave lesson for all fallen humanity, inasmuch as each son of man bears within his bosom the germ of every hydra sin, which perchance needs but one fecundative act to cause it to spring forth into virulent life.