Adventures in Research: Master in Lunacy

Posted by ractrose on 4 Oct 2014 in Non-Fiction

Master in Lunacy: Adventures in Research

My Curious Reading

Adventures in Research
Master in Lunacy


One of the excellent job titles from the days when it mattered whether you were an imbecile or an idiot.




From the Taunton Courier and Western Advisor of 5 July, 1882: “Alleged Insanity of a Somerset Gentleman”

The gentleman on examination was a man of property, whose wife had petitioned the Commission of Lunacy to declare him “of unsound mind”, allowing her to “protect her husband’s assets”. A Mr. Nicholson, Master in Lunacy, presided over the Commission, comprising nineteen jurymen. Mr. Fraser, the accused, gave testimony in response to his wife’s statement that he “heard voices from invisible beings”. He agreed he did. Admitting the voices, however, he said also that he didn’t mind them. He felt in control.

The jury was divided. Eight voted for insanity; eleven felt Mr. Fraser’s mind to be sound…if, presumably, individual. The Master in Lunacy said twelve votes in favor of sanity were required. One juror came over to the other side; Mr. Fraser was declared “of sound mind”.



Master in Lunacy: Adventures in Research

Safety First




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Adventures in Research: Master in Lunacy


The Moth


Clear your plate

See the river flowing westward

See the regional attractions

Printed on your paper placemat

You may take it as a keepsake

A blotch of grease

Shaped like your home state

Eat your side of mashed potatoes

Raise your eyes and through the window

You perceive the piercing light

Like the scales of an alien carp

Opposing forces of industrial chemicals

The sulphurous fumes of commerce

The oily stultifying weight

Borne on barges

And the wind

Makes the surface stick and glint

See this through a shroud of poison

Ivy, cockleburs and beggar lice


It’s late

They want the light

They want the flour and the oatmeal and the rice

They want the woolens

And you may find them

Staining pages of an unread book

They want the bindings

Open drawers

Open boxes stacked in closets

Where old things are stored

Look among old clothes, old shoes, old letters

Tiny curled larvae

One or two still living

Motionless then wriggling

You may find more

Pull back the cover, see their shells and bits

Bump, tap

Hear them hit the screen

Behind you

As you sit reading

In the lamplight


Rather than break

Or fall and die some began

To hear a call

The world was balanced on two pillars

Then a third drew off the power

Fortune’s refugees grew brutal

Subjected to brutality




(2015, Stephanie Foster)



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