This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
The subjects of the other form occupy a lower level. They affect singularity for the purpose of attracting attention to themselves, and thus obtaining the notoriety which they crave with every breath they inhale. They dress differently from other people, wearing enormous shirt-collars, or peculiar hats, or oddly cut coats of unusual colors, or indulging in some other similar whimsicality of an unimportant character, in the expectation that they will thereby attract the attention or excite the comments of those they meet.
Or they build houses upon an idea perhaps correct enough in itself, as, for instance, the securing of proper ventilation; but in carrying it out they show such defective judgment that the complete integrity of the intellect may, perhaps, be a matter of question. Thus, one gentleman of my acquaintance, believing that fireplaces were the best ventilators, put four of these openings into every room in his house. This, however, was one of the smallest of his eccentricities. He wore a ventilated hat, his clothing was pierced with holes, as were even his shoes; and no one could be in his company five minutes without having his attention directed to these provisions for securing health.
In addition to these advanced notions on the subject of ventilation, he had others equally singular in regard to the arrangement of the furniture in his dwelling and the care that was to be taken of it. Thus, there was one room called the "apostles' room." It contained a table that represented Christ, and twelve chairs, which were placed around it, and typified the twelve apostles; one chair, that stood for Judas Iscariot, was covered with black crape. The floor of this room was very highly polished, and no one was allowed to enter it without slipping his shod feet into cloth slippers that were placed at the door ready for use. He had a library, tolerably large but of little value, and every book in it which contained Judas's name was bound in black, and black lines were drawn around the name wherever it occurred. Such eccentricity as this is not far removed from insanity, and is liable at any time, from some cause a little out of the common way, to pass over the line.
Thus, a lady had since her childhood shown a singularity of conduct as regarded her table furniture, which she would have of no other material than copper. She carried this fancy to such an extent that even the knives and forks were of copper. People laughed at her, and tried to reason her out of her whim, but in vain. She was in her element as soon as attention was directed to her fancy and arguments against it were addressed to her. She liked nothing better than to be afforded a full opportunity to discuss with any one the manifold advantages which copper possessed as a material to be used in the manufacture of every article of table ware. In no other respect was there any evidence of mental aberration. She was intelligent, by no means excitable, and in the enjoyment of excellent health. She had, moreover, a decided talent for music, and had written several passably good stories for a young ladies' magazine. An uncle had, however, died insane.
A circumstance, trifling in itself, but one, as it afterward resulted, of great importance to her, started in her a new train of thought, and excited emotions which she could not control. She read in a morning paper that a Mr. Koppermann had arrived at one of the hotels, and she announced her determination to call upon him, in order, as she said, to ascertain the origin of his name. Her friends endeavored to dissuade her, but without avail. She went to the hotel, and was told that he had just left for Chicago. Without returning to her home, she bought a railway ticket for Chicago, and actually started on the next train for that city. The telegraph, however, overtook her, and she was brought back from Rochester raving of her love for a man she had never seen, and whose name alone had been associated in her mind with her fancy for copper table furniture. She died of acute mania within a month. In this case erotic tendencies, which had never been observed in her before, seemed to have been excited by some very indirect and complicated mental process, and these in their turn developed into general derangement of the mind.
In another case, a young man, a clerk in a city bank, had for several years exhibited peculiarities in the keeping of his books. He was exceedingly exact in his accounts, but after the bank was closed always remained several hours, during which he ornamented each page of his day's work with arabesques in different-colored inks. He was very vain of this accomplishment, and was constantly in the habit of calling attention to the manner in which, as he supposed, he had beautified what would otherwise have been positively ugly. His fellow-clerks amused themselves at his expense, but his superior officers, knowing his value, never interfered with him in his amusement. Gradually, however, he conceived the idea that they were displeased with him, and at last the notion became so firmly rooted in his mind that he resigned his position, notwithstanding the protestations of the directors that his idea was erroneous. Delusions of various other kinds supervened, and he passed into a condition of chronic insanity, in which he still remains. In most of the cases occurring under this head the intellectual powers are not of a high order, though there may sometimes be a notable development of some talent, or even a great power for acquiring learning. Painters, sculptors, musicians, mathematicians, poets, and men of letters generally, not infrequently exhibit eccentricities of dress, conduct, manner, or ideas, which not only merely add to their notoriety, but often make them either the laughing-stocks of their fellow-men or objects of fear or disgust to all who are brought into contact with them.