The Duke and the Pauper

This anecdote can be found in the book entitled A Modern Mental Hospital (1927) by Dr Robert Hunter Steen, and it tells of an encounter between a male pauper patient and the 6th Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Chairman of the Visiting Committee, 1892-1903.


[The patient’s name was Isiah B] and ‘whether it was because of his name or for some other reason, he regarded himself as a kind of prophet, and too look the part, he would not allow his hair to be cut. He was 80 years of age and with his long grey locks he was certainly a picturesque figure. The Duke of - & -, who was Chairman of the Visiting Committee there, hearing that Isiah was the same age as himself, sent for him and spoke very kindly to him.


          Isiah thanked him for his interest and then said suddenly; “Are you saved?”


          His Grace was taken aback and replied, “I hope I am.”


          “You have no right to hope, you should be sure,” said Isiah.


          “I shall see you again in a month’s time when I next visit,” said the Duke.


          “You may be dead by then!” was the ungracious answer.


          One learns not to expect honeyed words in this kind of work. The Duke was an old man and in failing health at the time; still he took it well and went quietly away.’