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After the spell in prison that he earned for his troubles, returned to England to warn the Prime Minister that teams of “magnetic spies” had infiltrated England and were preparing to use air looms, a type of mind-control machine that employed animal magnetism and mesmerism, to overthrow the government.

Matthews believed that he too was subject to control by the the sinister “air loom gang”, consisting of seven members led by a man called ‘Bill’, or ‘The King’, and was convinced that they were trying to destroy him by using the bizarre ploys of foot-curving, lethargy-making, spark-exploding, knee-nailing, burning out, eye-screwing, even lobster-cracking.

Matthews’ delusions got him admitted to Bedlam in 1797 but his family argued for his release and two distinguished physicians, Drs Birkbeck and Clutterbuck, were found to declare him completely sane – in direct opposition to the opinion expressed by the Bedlam doctors.

John Haslam, the apothecary at Bedlam, then decided to publish Illustrations of Madness, which he hoped would demonstrate both Matthews' insanity and the laughable state of medical understanding of madness. A copy of Haslam’s book that made £650 in a Bonhams Bath sale of July 26 was bound in later morocco but had an autograph dedication note tipped in.

During his confinement, Matthews was involved in drawing plans for the rebuilding of the new Bedlam hospital and, ironically it may seem, some of his designs were actually incorporated into the final drawings used to create the new buildings.