A great social question: what is the line dividing sanity from insanity?

There is perhaps no great social question so imperfectly understood among us at the present day as that which refers to the line which divides sanity from insanity. That this man is sane and that other unfortunately mad we do know well enough; and we know also that one man may be subject to various hallucinations — may fancy himself to be a teapot, or what not — and yet be in such a condition of mind as to call for no intervention either on behalf of his friends, or of the law; while another may be in possession of intellectual faculties capable of lucid exertion for the highest purposes, and yet be so mad that bodily restraining him is indispensable. We know the sane man is responsible for what he does, and that the insane man is irresponsible; but we do not know — we only guess wildly, at the state of mind of those, who now and again act like madmen, though no court of council of experts has declared them to be mad. The bias of the public mind is to press heavily on such men till the law attempts to touch them, as though they were thoroughly responsible; and then, when the law interferes, to screen them as though they were altogether irresponsible. The same juryman who would find a man mad who has murdered a young woman, would in private life express a desire that the same young man should be hung, crucified, or skinned alive, if he had moodily and without reason broken his faith to the young woman in lieu of killing her.

–From Chapter 38, Verdict of the Jury — ‘Mad, my Lord‘, of Anthony Trollope’s 1869 novel, He Knew He Was Right.*

*He wasn’t. She was.

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