Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Depression 18th century style

Good old John Newton was a faithful friend to William Cowper in his frequent bouts of depression. Newton was no primitive when it came to understanding the nature and effects of a depressive illness. I've often reflected on Cowper's serious episodes of depression and wondered how much benefit he would have got from modern day anti-depressants. God alone knows why in His wisdom and providence the discovery of anti-depressant medication came 150 years too late for Cowper.

Writing to a friend in 1793 just 7 years before Cowper died at the age of 69 years , Newton wrote,
Nervous disorders, which some people know not how to pity, appear to me to be the source of the heaviest affliction (a wounded conscience only excepted) to which mortals are subject; they change the appearance of everything around us. They open a door to dark temptation, and often seem to load the mind with guilt for what is involuntary and unavoidable.  The pressure upon the spirit prevents the sufferer from taking comfort in anything.
I would judge that such sentiments give lie to the suggestion that Newton was insensitive to Cowper's depression.
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