Mitchell, Silas Weir

Tagged: Author

(1829-1914) US physician, neurologist and author, of considerable eminence for his original research – he published at least 172 papers from 1852 on neurophysiology and related subjects. His theory that female depression could be cured through a tyrannical rest cure that that required patients to remain isolated and passive for long periods inspired The Yellow Wall Paper (January 1892 New England Magazine; 1899) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who had been one of his victims. His regime was also satirized by Virginia Woolf in her novel Mrs Dalloway (1925), where he appears as Sir William Bradshaw.

Most of Mitchell's voluminous fiction is historical and depicts US subjects with romantic solemnity. His first story, "The Case of George Dedlow" (July 1866 Atlantic Monthly), being a Satire on Spiritualism, is of some sf interest. In Dr North and his Friends (1900) a female character exhibits a dual personality; it is one of the earliest appearances of this phenomenon in fiction (see Psychology). Little Stories (coll 1903) assembles tales and vignettes of some interest as parables where the supernatural is modestly debunked, with the main exception of "The Waters of Oblivion" (May 1902 the Century Magazine), a Basilisk tale about a book which, when read, causes Amnesia. A further story, "Was He Dead?" (January 1870 Atlantic Monthly), appears in Future Perfect (anth 1966) edited by H Bruce Franklin. [JC]

Silas Weir Mitchell

born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 15 February 1829

died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 4 January 1914



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