The Air Loom Gang by Mike Jay

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The amazing story of James Tilly Matthews and his visionary madness is a startling portrait of a society on the brink of the modern age. London, the 1790s: Europe has been turned upside down by the French Revolution. Plots, counterplots and conspiracies seem to be edging England into a disastrous war with France. Operating undercover across the city is a gang of revolutionary "terrorists" armed with a machine unlike any the world has ever seen. They call it the Air Loom. It works by animal magnetism, sending invisible rays to control the minds of its victims. The gang has control of the minds of politicians and generals and is determined to plunge England further into the war with France. The only man who knows of this fiendish plot and believes he can stop it is a tea-merchant from Wales called James Tilly Matthews. But Matthews is a long-term resident of the Bethlem Royal Hospital -- "Bedlam." The Air Loom Gangtells the remarkable, true story of James Tilly Matthews whose delusions, while incarcerated in England's most notorious madhouse, became celebrated as the most complex and bizarre ever recorded -- the first man to believe that his mind was controlled by a machine. But the truth of his case was even stranger: many of the incredible episodes in which he claimed to have been involved were entirely real.The Air Loom Gangshines a light into the darkest recesses of Georgian England and witnesses the convulsive birth-pangs of modern psychiatry.

Bantam, 2003.
ISBN: 9780593049976. 259 pp.
Hardcover. Fine in a fine jacket.