The Infirmary

by Denise Bundred

Asylum of St. Paul, Saint-Rémy de Provence


24th August 1889


There have been further attacks. They begin with a twitch of the fingers & thumb of his left hand. A slow march of the jerking up his arm resolves into rigidity. After this, the gradual diminution of convulsions into sleep. If someone isn’t quick, he bites his tongue. ‘As if the disease is trying to silence me’ he said.

Having witnessed them, I am certain these are grand mal fits. At their worst they constitute status epilepticus. Severe attacks are followed by stumbling speech, disorientation & memory loss. Occasionally a partial paralysis lasts a day or two. This upsets him more than anything. At times, he cannot even hold a brush.

I have never asked him whether, granted the choice, he would sacrifice his efforts for tranquillity — like a sailing boat on the lamp-lit Rhône going nowhere.


T Peyron, Medical Director