Tom O'Bedlam was a phrase used for a mental patient of the Bedlam Hospital, which had mental patients as early as 1403. Bedlam Hospital was known for its seeminly low respect for the mentally insane and was also a form of entertainment for the upper classes at one point. In later days, Tom O'Bedlam was applied to mean any insane person.

Tom: "Who gives anything to poor Tom whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame."
Edith: Being dead has certainly not improved your rendering of Shakespeare, Freddie. You've brought the cold with you.

Tom O'Bedlam is also a character in Grant Morrison's comic book series The Invisibles. Tom has a tendency to continually quote lines from King Lear that his namesake said.

Fredrick "Freddie" Harper-Seaton was the son of a magician in a group similar to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He joined the Invisibles by 1924 with his cousin Edith Manning. He took Tom O'Bedlam as his name upon joining the Invisible College, and ignores his father's requests to not take such a magical name. For great consequences could come upon a person choosing a name so imbued in insanity. Freddie, however, was greatly afraid of magic and his father, and probably only took the name in order to rebel against his father.

Harper-Seaton Senior: This name you have chosen invites madness and darkness. Fredrick. My son. Please... Will you not hear me?

Freddie also shared a psychic link with his cousin Edith. Throughout the years he was always able to hide his thoughts from Edith when he wanted to. The one thing he always hid was his love and jelousness of her sexual escapades. Edith believed Freddie to be homosexual for a long time, and treated him like a pet project.

Freddie: I've become afraid of everything, an angler in the lake of darkness.

During the time in which he joins the Invisibles and stays with Edith, he's a rather ineffectual member. In 1924 when the cell gets the Hand of Glory and access Universe B, he goes mad for six months. Tom becomes a mage by 1960 under the Ordo Templi Orientis while using his real name. He also meets Miles Delacourt during this time.

He also keeps in contact with the Invisibles, as well as teaching King Mob how to make shortcuts through space by using Universe B. In 1995, Tom is homeless and lives in the streets of London. Tom is contacted by Edith in the summer of 1995 to induct Dane McGowan, also known as Jack Frost. Tom helps Jack get control of his powers as well as his Jack Frost identity. Tom's lessons can lean over to the rough and mad side, but Jack and Tom seem to develop an odd friendship. Tom also helps Jack see the world in other perspectives as well as the Arthurian lesson of being moved into the viewpoint of a pigeon.

Dane: Magic? You're a fucking nutcase.
Tom: Then keep well away, for madness is catching. Away, the foul fiend follows me.

After Tom puts Jack in contact with BARBELiTH, he puts all of his possessions into a bag and leaves them in a locker for Jack. Tom then proceeds to go underground and dies homeless and without any possessions. In the end, he was probably one of the most powerful human magicians that had ever lived.

Tom: "Pluto Laughs and Proserpine is glad to see poor naked Tom O'Bedlam mad..."
I'm ready now. The party's over. All's well.

Sources:
Anarchy for the Masses - by Patrick Neighly and Kereth Cowe-Spigai

I had the name "Tom O'Bedlam" sitting in my head, and decided to look it up. Upon talking to atesh, he told me I was right, there was a song called "Tom O'Bedlam," not unlike "Thomas the Rhymer" and "Tam Lin." (Tam=Tom). Tom the man driven insane by the fairies.

I realized I had the name stuck in my head because I went to see King Lear recently:

Edmund
Tut, I should have been that I am,
had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled 135
on my bastardizing. Edgar--

Enter EDGAR.

and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh
like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend
these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.

--King Lear : Act 1, Scene 2

Then when Edgar decides he must go into hiding to spare his life, he takes on the persona of Tom O'Bedlam:

EDGAR
I heard myself proclaim'd;
And by the happy hollow of a tree
Escaped the hunt. No port is free; no place,
That guard, and most unusual vigilance,
Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may 'scape,
I will preserve myself: and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury, in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast: my face I'll grime with filth;
Blanket my loins: elf all my hair in knots;
And with presented nakedness out-face
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
Strike in their numb'd and mortified bare arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
And with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity. Poor Turlygod! poor Tom!
That's something yet: Edgar I nothing am.

--King Lear : Act 2, Scene 2

Tom O'Bedlam's Song

For to see Mad Tom of Bedlam
Ten thousand miles I traveled
Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes
To save her shoes from gravel.

Chorus

Still I sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys
Bedlam boys are bonny
For they all go bare and they live by the air

And they want no drink nor money.

I went down to Satan's kitchen
To break my fast one morning
And there I got souls piping hot
All on the spit a-turning.

There I took a cauldron
Where boiled ten thousand harlots
Though full of flame I drank the same
To the health of all such varlets.

My staff has murdered giants
My bag a long knife carries
To cut mince pies from children's thighs
For which to feed the fairies.

No gypsy, slut or doxy
Shall win my mad Tom from me
I'll weep all night, with stars I'll fight
The fray shall well become me.

From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend ye,
All the sprites that stand by the naked man
In the book of moons, defend ye.

That of your five sound senses
You never be forsaken,
Nor wander from your selves with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon.

With a thought I took for Maudlin,
And a cruse of cockle pottage,
With a thing thus tall, Sky bless you all,
I befell into this dotage.

I slept not since the Conquest,
Till then I never waked,
Till the naked boy of love where I lay
Me found and stript me naked.

I know more than Apollo,
For oft when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at mortal wars
In the wounded welkin weeping.

The moon embrace her shepherd,
And the queen of love her warrior,
While the first doth horn the star of morn,
And the next the heavenly farrier.

The moon's my constant mistress,
And the lonely owl my marrow;
The flaming drake and the night crow make
Me music to my sorrow.

The spirits white as lightening
Would on my travels guide me
The stars would shake and the moon would quake
Whenever they espied me.

And then that I'll be murdering
The Man in the Moon to the powder
His staff I'll break, his dog I'll shake
And there'll howl no demon louder.

With a host of furious fancies,
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander.

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end-
Methinks it is no journey.

That of your five sound senses
You never be forsaken,
Nor wander from your selves with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon.

I now reprent that ever
Poor Tom was so disdain-ed
My wits are lost since him I crossed
Which makes me thus go chained

So drink to Tom of Bedlam
Go fill the seas in barrels
I'll drink it all, well brewed with gall
And maudlin drunk I'll quarrel

Still I sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys
Bedlam boys are bonny
For they all go bare and they live by the air

And they want no drink nor money.

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