April 16, 2025. Blackwell Hospital for Criminal Insane
DEAR MISS FRANCO,
I bite my tongue ‘til now, not to tell you a thing which will make you sorry, but I cannot help but tell it. They took me away from the hospital and brought me in the north ward, the worst of the wards, for the solemn. While other patients enjoy all day long the sunshine and open air in spacious yards, we have one hour of yard in the morning, and one in the afternoon, and our yard is narrow and shadowy; closing the sight, except to the sky. The door of my room whispers your name, and the books tell me stories of love; all of you. I stay inside and bask in the sunshine of these stories, I want for nothing more.
Now, they cannot say that I am dangerously insane, nor can they claim that I deserved punishment by my conduct. So they say that in my journal, I write that “I wish to go out soon, and see the sun, and return home.” I answered that it is not true, and not knowing if they were saying it for a second end or very uncertain of its truth, I had believed to have convinced them. But two weeks ago Mr. Thompson was here, and they told him the same thing, and said that they cannot give me more liberty because I am a dangerous man. For a week they gave me nothing but rough leaves to feed myself with, which left me with awful cramping of the stomach and very much unable to read. After that, I was declared by the Prison authorities “A model prisoner;” the best one, and after my conduct here, really exemplar.
They believe me guilty; they believe my principles to be aberration and insanity; they believe my friends (I mean the few that know my name) arch-criminals; they believe, (and told me so) that the poets in our souls are fools and cheaters. But, what is worse, they asked me if I believed in harmony, in the golden rule; if the solemn shall not be punished. If they do not nail me, I will answer.
P.S. Yet they are not naturally bad, and they let my door open, give me two cups of milk a day, and the permission to keep books in my room. These are privileges which few are given here. I feel ashamed and my heart aches for them, yet I shall help myself, even when I cannot help others, and appreciate what I receive.