February 23rd, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
A Suicide in St. Louis: 1892. When I wrote about this suicide last year, I didn’t know the date nor the name of the man in question. All I had was this description of a man whose desperation over an unrequited (or a no longer requited) love led to his untimely and sad end. Charles H Hughes, editor of the Alienist and Neurologist (“Alienist” was an early term for psychiatrist) gave a talk before the Section of Mental and Nervous Diseases at the Pan-American Medical Congress in 1893 on “Erotopathia” — among the many early terms given to homosexuality before the word “homosexual” entered the English language — in which he gave the following account:
In February of the past year (1892), a quiet, cultured and gentlemanly appearing young man committed suicide by shooting himself at his room in a hotel in St. Louis. A combination of causes probably led to the despondency which ended in the rash act. Pecuniary embarrassment may have been one of them, but the chief cause, as elicited at the Coroner’s inquest, as testified by the male friend of whom he was enamored, was that he had a morbid attachment for that friend. He wrote long letters to him teeming with endearing words. They had roomed together, but at the time of the tragedy they were rooming apart. This was his second attempt at suicide. At the time of his death he carried a locket about his neck containing the picture of the man be loved. He was an educated professional man, kindhearted and of good address.
The following letters, written in a neat hand shortly prior to, and about the time of, his death, serve to show the erotopathic condition of this young man’s mind. They reveal the ardent feeling of the anxious, disappointed lover, much the same feeling as one madly in love might normally have for his heart’s idol of the other sex, but never but unnaturally and abnormally for one’s own sex, with homicidal and suicidal impulses of maddened desperation added.
“My Dear Friend: — Are you ill, angry or merely careless? I looked for my usual Thursday’s letter Saturday morning. It came not. I then felt sure you would write me on Sunday. I watched for the postman. No letter. He has been here this A. M. and still no letter. It makes me not only unhappy, but very anxious — unhappy since I am deprived of all that is left me to care for or look forward to; unhappy in the thought that I have displeased you; in suspense and anxiety lest some bodily ailment has seized that goodly frame and rendered you unable to communicate with me. If I do not hear from you in a day or so I shall be frantic and unfit for anything. I sent the stud on Thursday, which must have reached you Saturday, and not later than Monday, in which case I should have heard from you by this time.”
“My Dear Friend: — I have just returned from the Cathedral, where Bishop Tuttle preached. My mind is not in a very receptive frame, so I can hardly tell anything he said. The pass was all a myth. The only pass I have is one into eternity. I even sold my dress suit and my old clothes to raise the funds to get here on. I came, intending to first kill you, then myself. I shall only make an end of my own miserable existence. My Jove for you has been my ruin. I can no more live a life apart from you than I can fly. The past month has been the test and I cannot do it. There is but one thing which could save me, and that is to pass the remainder of my life in your presence. I shall do that anyhow, for to die in your arms relieves death of half its terrors. I wish it would come to me naturally and you would have nothing to dishonor or grieve you. It is cruel in me to do this act, for it will blight your life. I should be more cruel to myself to try and live without you. You have done all but the one right and effective thing to save and make me, but it has all failed. I would gladly beg, steal, do anything — forego riches, forget friends, home, kindred, but for a life of blissful association with you. My office and outfit are all intact and you can realize something on those things. Mr. C—- H—-, XI6 M—- Avenue, will see to the things. I appreciate all you did, and the effort and sacrifice you made for me. It was not in the right direction.
“This letter to you is all I leave behind. I cannot write anything to my parents. The blow will probably kill my mother. I shudder to think of it. We might have been happy together had it not been for W—-. The W—-, your brother’s family, your other rich friends, your high social and business standing, your high ideas of morality, which you never filled — but ’tis too late, the end must come. I don’t see why God did not let me die that Saturday night. I suppose there was some purpose waiting till you had made the outlay and sacrificed so much. You see, the end is all the same. Good-by, dear I—-, I won’t wish you happiness; you will never have that again and you will follow in my footsteps sometime. Men of our natures and sins must have their punishment, and ours comes in a terrible shape. You are mine in the light of heaven and no family ties can claim you from me in death. I pity you, but oh, to be free from all this agony of separation, suspense, doubt, is so welcome. May God deal with me according to my weakness. Keep my stud as long as you live. send my watch and ring to my mother. Let my last rites be attended by as little expense as possible. A pauper cannot expect to repose in a metallic casket. I am going to bed, to sleep and gain nerve to face my fate. I have felt it must be, and since I have known you, I knew you were to be the last straw. I have Joved you better than you have ever loved or will ever be loved again. Think kindly of that love sometimes. I am unworthy, but my love for you is worth a thought. Pray for my soul. Amen.”
Much more than a sentiment of warm friendship for one’s benefactor is breathed in these epistles of passion, desperation and love, with its sequel of chagrin and suicide, without remorse for, or full appreciation of, the unnatural character of his perverted love. Though his Christian training had taught him to regard his unnatural passion as a sin.
This is why I love BTB readers. Soon after this appeared on a Daily Agenda last year, John Manion wrote to me after having sleuthed out the following information:
I noticed your St Louis suicide story, it sure caught my interest and I wanted to know a little more about those involved. I am into genealogy and I took it as a challenge to find out their names. I found more than I expected and got a little carried away, but, I am stopping here. I am forwarding the items to BTB. The following is from online sources (genealogybank.com, ancestry.com, google books, etc)
Dr Hughes lived in St. Louis and may have seen the letters firsthand. He states in your column that Breedlove and Judson roomed together for a while, which is something I do not think I have seen in the news, so maybe he talked with some of the people involved. There is a sketch of Dr Breedlove.
The date of the death was reported in the newspapers of the day as happening in the morning of Feb 23 1892 in St Louis at the Hurst’s Hotel. Between 8 and 8:30. The story was in many papers from coast to coast. The man who died was Dr. Charles Breedlove, a young dentist of age 28, born in 1864, a graduate of the University of Maryland. He was single. Dr Breedlove was the last of 4 children his parents had, the other 3 all died in early life and his family hails from the south. Of course, the family was completely surprised but supportive of their son, but did not know he was unhappy. His body was sent home to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where his family lived. His father was a medical doctor. His parents died in 1906, within a few months of each other. Charles Breedlove’s friends from Baltimore thought he was not sad and certainly slandered by Prof Judson.
The man he wrote the letters to was Isaac Judson, born in 1853. They had met in Sept of 1891 and became fast friends. He was 38 and single. He was a Yale graduate and spoke at his commencement ceremonies during his graduation. His dad went to Yale too and both were members of Skull & Bones. He was a professor of Greek and Latin at the St Louis High School. His family hails from the Northeast. He was suspended from teaching for a few days until a special committee could review the case. They exonerated him from any blame in the situation and allowed him to continue his profession “without prejudice”. After the suicide he stayed in St Louis until at least 1920, working as the Head Assistant in the School. He was always single up to the 1920 census, his last one. After that he returned to New York, and died there in 1926. His funeral notice does not mention family members. He was the youngest of 4 children, with one surviving brother.
Breedlove waited for him to arrive at the hotel, walk into the room, handed him a letter. Judson was reading it and behind him Breedlove shot himself in the head. Breedlove was wearing a charm around his neck, when opened was a picture of Judson. Breedlove’s letters gave the story a life it would not have had. His family and friends believed Prof Judson, had he cared enough, would have kept the letters private. That may not have been an option, as at least one other letter was found by the medical examiner.
Judson consulted a Dr Ware (he is a dentist!!) about the feelings Charles was having, and Judson didn’t understand what was going on. Judson “seemed horrified” as Dr Ware explained what it means. Judson told Dr Ware he had “never before heard of such a thing”. Judson “then resolved to throw Breedlove aside, and asked me the best way to do it.”
Dr Ware continued “Breedlove came to me once for treatment. When he offered to pay me I declined to take his money…..a few days later…we went to the theater together. I did not like the man from the start.”
Prof Judson had a roommate. This is the one Breedlove was “intensely jealous” of, Prof Herbert A Wheeler, of Washington University of St Louis. His statement is Judson was introduced to Dr Breedlove last September by a mutual friend. “the two soon grew to be fast friends and frequent visits were made by them to one another’s boarding houses.”
Professor Wheeler was born in Brooklyn in 1859 Wheeler graduated in 1880 from the Columbia College School of Mines. Herbert A Wheeler got married at age 66. It was his first marriage. He did not have any children listed at age 71, the 1930 census. He died in March 11 1950 in St Louis County. He was the youngest of 5 children.
Judson taught school in Brooklyn, from 1877 to 1880.
John also sent a wealth of newspaper clippings and other documents, and he created a public family tree page at Ancestry.com in order to make this information accessible for other historians and genealogists.
[Original source: Charles H. Hughes. “Erotopathia — Morbid eroticism.” Alienist and Neurologist 14, no. 4 (October 1893): 531-578. Available via Google Books here.]
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