Sunday, March 04, 2012

Edward Gove, Touched with Fire

There is more to our story of Edward Gove.

In The Treason and Trial of Edward Gove, I spoke of his personal characteristics - "strenuous", quick to avenge, taken to court for assaults - and his accomplishments as a leader in the militia, member of the New Hampshire assembly, and then "Gove's Rebellion" that brought on a death sentence and confinement to the Tower of London.

As I was reading about Edward in The Gove Book, I couldn't help but be struck by this man's endless energy. He migrated from Charlestown forty miles north to Salisbury at age 27 and bought a right of commonage, i.e., to pasture animals on common land. A dizzying rate of buying and selling land over the next 20 years followed this humble beginning, in the process moving to Hampton, New Hampshire, where he acquired a large home, stables, a tavern and was a large landholder.

As an aside, in 1787 a Georgian colonial home, Elmfield, was built on Edward's original 1670 land grant in Hampton, New Hampshire. The Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whitter was a frequent guest and died here in 1892. The home was passed through generations of Goves until moved to a new site in Greenwich, CT in 1996.

But, back to my story.

Edward's indictment on this first armed resistance in the British Colonies accused him of "raising insurrection with treasonable words... inciting the people to sedition and rebellion, declaring for liberty and the like, to the great disturbance of his Majesties peace". Indeed, he rode into the colonial village of Seacoast at the head of only a dozen men from Hampton on the day before his final arrest, "waving his sword and the trumpeter sounding a military medley", but was surrounded by militia and all put on house arrest. The group escaped and when the constable showed up at Edward's house, Edward pointed his sword at his chest, "I will not be taken in my house".

The following day Edward again arrives in Hampton with his rebels, complete with the trumpeter and Edward riding at their head with carbine and sword drawn, this time taken into custody and immediately placed on trial.

Needless to say, Edward was a colorful person.

What interests this writer is the trial deposition of a 70 year old neighbor, John Stephens,

That Edward Gove now of Hampton in the Province of New Hampshire was some years since in a Strange Distemper, Seemingly Lunatick, and did attempt to kill the wife of George Martin, Saying that shee bewitched him and did to that end charged his pistolls and endeavored it of which condition of his the Court at Hampton being enformed did sent for him and understanding his condition, ordered that he should be committed into safe custody to prevent his doeing hurt to himselfe or others. Ipswich prison was the place intended, but the said Steephens, out of respects to Gove, undertook to look to him, with this condition that, if he could not rule him, he should be assisted to carry him to the aforesaid Prison.

The said Steephens saith that he did abide with him about three weekes, in which time he did humor him as a child, to keep him quiet and from doeing hurt to himselfe or others; sometimes he was seemingly Rationall, and at other times seemingly distracted, that the said Steephens was forced to lock up the dores and lock him in, sometimes he would take a booke and read an houre or two, sometimes he would be more like a mad man, and would not medle with it, Mr. Dolton the minister of Hampton being there one time, advised that we should keep bookes from him, that he might not read too long to trouble his head, which wee carefully observed.

After a while he grew pritty well and went from the said Steephens house, But the said Steephens do further declare that he did look upon him as a man that was always subject to that distemper. He thinks it was naturall to him for his mother lived and died in that kind of Distemper...

And, forty three year old John Steephens, a son of the above Stephens, gave deposition,

"He doth well Remember that when Edward Gove was at his fathers house, he was in generall as his father hath above affermed... doth affirme and declare that the said Gove was distracted and unsafe in his actions and motions and that his father attended him and followed him alway day and night during the time of his aboad at his house, for none of the house besides him could prevail with him, he lay with him at night and he hath heard his father often say that he was often fourst to hold him in his arms to keep him from rising and going about in the night...

There be also many more that can testifie to the like; if need be, & some that can sweare they were in company and did many times help to bind the said Edward Gove hand & foote (when he was out in his head) for feare he should doe hurt to himselfe or others."

When Edward was in the Tower of London, his wife, Hannah, petitioned the king and begged for the life of her husband "who by means of a distemper of Lunacy or some such like, which he have benn Subject unto (by times) from his youth, and yet is untill now (as his mother was before him) (though at some times seemingly very Rationall) which have occasioned him Irationally and evily to demeane himself (by means of some unhappy provocation) to such actions whereby he may have incured until himselfe the Sentence of Death..."

A petition from another colonial to King Charles II documented that after Governor Cranfield imposed custom on merchant ships,

"hereupon the said Edw. Gove was much troubled in mind and these and the other violent proceedings of Mr. Cranfield had such an influence upon him that it hindered by his ordinary Rest, neither had he above 2 hours Sleep in 18 days, whereby he became almost distracted... scarce knowing at that time what he either did or said".

As a psychiatrist who has cared for countless patients in the throes of mania, I believe these testimonies give good evidence Edward Gove suffered from bipolar disorder with episodes of mania. In the interim between bouts of mania, he was energetic, intense, driven, gregarious, volatile, reckless, and a man of high achievement, a temperament often associated with bipolar disorder. The genetic nature of bipolar disorder has been established and the depositions of the Stephens' indicate Edward's mother was likely also bipolar.

Kay Jamison in her book Touched with Fire has written about madness and suicide in countless artistic and creative individuals - Shumann, Shelley, Keats, Van Gogh, and Lord Tennyson among many others. Who hasn't wondered about Robert Downey, Jr. and Mel Gibson?

I think it's a good bet our Edward joins this illustrious list,

Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

Stephen Spender, 1933

Edward is our 8th great grand uncle, and his mother our 9th great grandmother.

Resource: The Gove Book, History and Genealogy of The American Family of Gove and Notes of European Goves, by William Henry Gove, 1922.


Pat said...

Huh. Glad we've had 10 (11?)generations to water that down a bit.

Susan said...

I think you are right about the bipolar diagnosis. I am Edmund's 8th great-granddaughter, and while I am not bipolar, I can see traces in the family still.

Katharine said...

Susan, He had quite a story that jumped off the pages when I read the transcripts, particularly as I am a psychiatrist. I wish I could have known him.


Matthew Lynch said...

I just found out today that Edward Gove is one of my ancestors, and my 15 year old son thinks he's bi-polar. I don't buy it, but I see some signs.


Matthew Lynch said...

I just found out today that I'm decedent of Edward Gove. Interestingly, my son thinks he has bi-polar. He's not diagnosed and I've only seen hints of it. No full mania or depression.