Few champions of early public lunatic asylums doubted that they had eradicated aloneness from within the institutional walls. Condemning the stereotypical violence and solitude of the unreformed madhouse, 19th-century alienists instead trumpeted the consolatory value of sympathy and domesticity, endorsing amusements and forms of labour that could awaken patients’ moral sentiments. Yet despite the doctors’ best efforts to issue conformity, patients responded to the asylum’s emotional regime in diverse and sometimes unexpected ways, with some seeking to define healthy sociability on their own terms. More pressingly, the concrete social distinction between institution and certain communities invariably created the conditions in which a modern form of ‘loneliness’ could flourish.