The Air Loom Gang He was a Welsh tea merchant. One of the first documented paranoid schizophrenics. A prisoner in turn-of-the-19th-century London's infamous Bedlam asylum who believed his thoughts… The Air Loom Gang He was a Welsh tea merchant. One of the first documented paranoid schizophrenics. A prisoner in turn-of-the-19th-century London's infamous Bedlam asylum who believed his thoughts… 2004-03-11 Nonfiction
Book Review

The Air Loom Gang (2004)

EW's GRADE
B

Details Release Date: Mar 11, 2004; Writer: Mike Jay; Genre: Nonfiction

He was a Welsh tea merchant. One of the first documented paranoid schizophrenics. A prisoner in turn-of-the-19th-century London's infamous Bedlam asylum who believed his thoughts and actions were being controlled by an underground pneumatic device called the ''Air Loom.'' And, for a brief moment, a key player in the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution. These are the extraordinary facts of James Tilly Matthews' life, and in the hands of a writer like Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City), they would have made for a stupendous book. All the more a shame, then, that Jay -- shackled to rote detail, plodding in language -- can't quite whip his tasty raw materials into a more appetizing dish.

Originally posted Apr 23, 2004 Published in issue #761 Apr 23, 2004 Order article reprints