[Sir Andrew Halliday, physician to William IV.] Autograph Letter Signed ('Andrew Halliday -') to Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, offering to 'sacrifice' his 'emoluments' and become inspector of 'all the public and Private Asylums in England and Wales

Sir Andrew Halliday (1782-1839), Scottish physician to William IV [Lord Melbourne [William Lamb I1779-1848), 2nd Viscount Melbourne], Prime Minister]
Publication details: 
Hampton Court; 11 January 1831.
SKU: 21600

7pp, 4to. Containing 112 lines of text on two bifoliums. In good condition, lightly aged. Folded three times. Headed 'Private', and with the heading, date and place written by Halliday at a different time from the rest of the text. A long and impassioned letter, in which Halliday offers to become inspector of 'all the public and Private Asylums in England and Wales', at a payment of no more than £150 a year in expenses. The letter begins: 'My Lord | I have had some correspondence, and one short interview with your Lordships Brother Mr George Lamb [(1784-1834), MP for Dungarvan] on a subject of some importance and in which I have long taken a very deep interest; on the number and condition of Insane persons in England and Wales. Three years ago as you must well know some improvement was made in the Law relative to this large and interesting Class of the Community; but the Acts then passed will expire in this Session and Mr Robert Gordon has a motion on the Journals for the 1st. of next month for new Bills.' He states that a clause in the acts 'giving Authority to the Secretary of State and the Lord Chancellor to send a Medical or other person to inspect & examine all the public and Private Asylums in England and Wales' has never been implemented, and that it is 'of great and urgent importance that it should be accomplished before the New Acts are passed'. His reasons for holding this view are, 'because my Lord nothing but a personal examination of the various and new multiplied establishments can detect the abuses that require to be checked, or the faults that must be corrected by legislature enactment'. Halliday has 'felt most anxious to undertake this duty; in the first place because I have already once in my life (now twenty six years ago) performed it, without power or Parliamentary Authority – and in the 2d place because the Subject is I believe more familiar to me than to any other man in the Kingdom; and lastly as I consider the present Law as in some measure my own I am perhaps as well qualified as any other to judge of the way in which it has been worked throughout the Kingdom'. Halliday is as able as any of his 'Brethren' of laying a 'faithfull [sic] detail before Melbourne. 'I am ready to dedicate to this good Cause the whole time that may be necessary, and sacrifice the emoluments of a Physician in no despicable private Practice also; and as I stated to your Brother I should only ask for my bare expences during my tour, and would even limit them to a very moderate sum £150'. urges Melbourne to 'decide at once' and allow him to 'consult' with his brother. 'The question is do you as a Minister wish to have the best information or not? […] The Law gives you the power of seeking for that informaion in your own way & without the bias of any other opinion[.] The question is will you avail yourself of the advantages the law gives or will you like your Predecessor in Office suffer others not much better informed than yourself to go blundering on passing laws which are either again tp be repealed or that it is found necessary to alter and amend every Session?' He hopes Melbourne will 'pardon this long letter', concluding: 'If I did not know something of your Lordships good heard Sound head and love fore your fellow Creatures I should not have taken the trouble of inditing such an Epistle'. From the distinguished autograph collection of the psychiatrist Richard Alfred Hunter (1923-1981), whose collection of 7000 works relating to psychiatry is now in Cambridge University Library. Hunter and his mother Ida Macalpine had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.