Skae's Classification of Mental Diseases

T. S. Clouston
1876 Journal of Mental Science  
When I saw in the last number of this journal that Dr Crichton Browne had essayed the task of criticising the system of classification of insanity devised by the late Dr. Skae, I knew the fact could not but be gratifying to Skae's friends. To have any system or theory subjected to independent criticism is very good for it. Then I could not forget that some of those who had advocated most earnestly Skae's classification had been pupils, assistants, and friends of his during life; and I was
more » ... fe; and I was conscious, from my own experience, how much anyone in that position was inclined to look partially on his work. I felt sure that Dr. Browne, while seeing this, would not, in those circumstances, consider it a mortal sin, and would pass it gently and generously by. Indeed, I was a little afraid that he himself, as an old pupil of Skae, might be tempted to soften the stern tone befitting a critic, by something of the same pardonable feeling. He has striven to resist this impulse, and with much success. Another reason why I rejoiced that the merits of this system should be canvassed was, that I thought with, perhaps, natural partiality, that everyone must necessarily see something good in it; and that the fact of its being looked closely into by a competent and unbiased mind would produce a better understanding of Skae's point of view, and a more thorough sifting of the tares from the wheat. Not that such criticism had been wanting either at home or abroad. The system had been before the world for twelve years. The authors of all the standard books on psychological medicine and papers on classification published since that time had discussed its merits; and it did seem as if it were growing in favour. Maudsley, in each successive edition, had seemed to make more and more account of it; Blandford had assigned it a good place amongst other systems; Hack Tuke had given high praise to all the "somato-etiological" systems of looking at and classifying mental disease, and to Skae's in particular; Mitchell had declared it had taken hold of the medical mind; Thompson Dickson had said there was some good in it; and finally, that Nestor of alienists, whom Dr. Browne fitly describes as "the most illustrious representative of English medical psychology now living," Bucknill, had given it the truest flattery of all by incorporating its nomenclature in the orders, genera, and species of that classification which is the final result of his vast experience, the generalised sum of all his thinking. All these, and more, had found it had faults; but they all speak of it and its author with much respect. Then it is a mere matter of fact that its terminology had become a part—and an essential part—of recent writings on nervous and mental disease.
doi:10.1192/bjp.21.96.532 fatcat:zgxv2wlaijhdje4ajqefeeo3d4