Quick Reference

A corruption of Bethlehem, applied to the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem, in Bishopsgate, London, founded as a priory in 1247, which became a hospital for lunatics. From Bedlam are derived such expressions as Tom o'Bedlam and Bess o' Bedlam for wandering lunatics, or beggars posing as lunatics.

Subjects: History — Literature.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »