‘Dracula’ and Diet: Renfield, 3

Wain Gothic Cat
Louis Wain: Gothic Cat (Wellcome Collection)

In his paper ‘On some of the Varieties of Morbid Impulse and Perverted Instinct’ (1866) Dr Mclntosh reported:

Dr Elliotson narrates in his lectures that a patient has longed for raw flesh, and even for live flesh, so that some have eaten live kittens and rats (!).

In ‘Dracula’, Dr Seward tempts his patient Renfield with the possibility of a kitten, but lets him down. The Count offers rats to get Renfield to let him into the asylum:

A dark mass spread over the grass, coming on like the shape of a flame of fire […]  and I could see that there were thousands of rats with their eyes blazing red, like His only smaller.

But Renfield is deceived again, and dies.

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‘Dracula’ and Diet: Renfield, 1

2019 Blood is lifeImages from Wellcome Collection

Dr Seward, the asylum superintendent in ‘Dracula’, decided to invent a new diagnosis for his pet patient Renfield – ‘zoophagy’ (animal-or life-eating).

However, Renfield wanted to go beyond his usual flies, spiders and birds, and attacked Dr Seward himself, explaining that ‘the blood is the life’ as mentioned in the Bible and in the advertisement shown above. (In fact this Mixture’s chief active ingredient was potassium iodide.)

The real psychiatrist Dr George Savage had in 1888 described a case with similar self-proclaimed motivation:

He visited the city abattoir, obtained and drank blood hot from the slaughtered animals. This was after a few days stopped, but fortunately he was watched, for he was seen to try to decoy children to his rooms, and he owned to me that he wished to have their blood, as blood was his life, and his life was that of a genius. 

Dr Savage was considering the psychopathology of Jack the Ripper.