The Lyon Archive

Life is Tough in the Big City

Travel was not only the prescription for physical ailments, but mental ones as well. Dr. Johnson studied the connection between travel and diseases, and he concluded that congested cities such as London were bad not only because of their unsanitary conditions, but also for the mental exertion they caused. He observed that many city-dwellers lacked the physical symptoms of disease but suffered from irritability and mental languish, what he called “wear and tear,” and he attributed this to “over-strenuous labor or exertion of the intellectual faculties” (“Art. VII” 457). Johnson notes that in the social atmosphere of London over-exertion is “rendered so necessary by the mere desire to keep [one’s class standing], to say nothing of the ambition to improve it” (“A Sketch” 41).

A London entrepreneur and social climber such as Lyon would, according to Johnson, be the most susceptible to mental anxiety. Close analysis of Lyon's diary seems to support Dr. Johnson's theory. As seen in the chart below, Lyon's anxiety appears most often during times when he is heavily invested in his business. As early as June of 1826, Lyon seems to show signs of this wear and tear. When his business hits trouble, he reflects that he is “exceedingly low in spirits,” but worries that while his brother James’s physical countenance reflects his mental state, he himself might be suffering from something purely internal (Lyon 19). 

Depression and Business

Mentions of business (red) correlate with mentions of anxiety and depression (blue).