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Title: The Anatomy of Suicide
Author: Winslow, Forbes
Language: English
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[Illustration: Vide p. 331.]


THE ANATOMY OF SUICIDE:

by

FORBES WINSLOW,

Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London;
Author of “Physic and Physicians.”


   “But is there yet no other way, besides
   These painful passages; how we may come
   To death, and mix with our connatural dust?

         *       *       *       *       *

   Nor love thy life, nor hate: but what thou liv’st
   Live well; HOW LONG OR SHORT PERMIT TO HEAVEN.”

   MILTON.



London:
Henry Renshaw, 356, Strand.
Sold By Carfrae & Son, Edinburgh;
And Fannin & Co., Dublin.
1840.


  TO

  JAMES JOHNSON, ESQ., M.D.

  PHYSICIAN EXTRAORDINARY TO THE LATE KING,
  ETC. ETC.

  This Work is dedicated,

  AS A TESTIMONY OF RESPECT FOR HIS HIGH PROFESSIONAL ATTAINMENTS,

  AND AS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE

  ADVANTAGES DERIVED FROM A PERUSAL OF THE MANY ABLE WORKS

  WITH WHICH HE HAS ENRICHED

  THE MEDICAL LITERATURE OF HIS COUNTRY.


  _London,—May, 1840._



PREFACE.


This treatise had its origin in the following circumstance:—A
few months ago, the author had the honour of reading before the
_Westminster Medical Society_, a paper on “Suicide Medically
considered,” which giving rise to an animated discussion, and evolving
an expression of the opinions of several eminent professional men,
excited at the time much interest.

It was the author’s object in his paper to establish a fact, he
believes, of primary importance,—that the disposition to commit
self-destruction is, to a great extent, amenable to those principles
which regulate our treatment of ordinary disease; and that, to a degree
more than is generally supposed, it originates in derangement of the
brain and abdominal viscera.

Notwithstanding, however, these points were not considered with the
minuteness commensurate with their value, the discussion which followed
the author’s communication afforded him great satisfaction. It tended
to strengthen in his mind an opinion previously formed, that the
members of the medical profession were inferior to no other class in a
knowledge of those higher branches of philosophy that give dignity and
elevation to human character.

To explain more fully the author’s views on the subject of Suicide is
the object of the present work, which is, strange to say, the first
in England that has been exclusively devoted to this important and
interesting branch of inquiry.

Hitherto suicide has been the theme of the novel and the drama, and has
never, with the exception of an incidental notice in works on medical
jurisprudence, been considered in this country in reference to its
pathological and physiological character.

That an intimate acquaintance with this branch of knowledge is highly
important to the medical philosopher, few will deny; that it is a
subject of general and painful interest, all must admit. The apparent
coolness with which suicide is often committed has induced many to
suppose that the unfortunate perpetrator was at the time in possession
of a sound mind; and it is this idea which has induced the profession
to conceive the subject as one foreign to their pursuits, and belonging
rather to the province of the moral philosopher. How far the author has
succeeded in disproving this opinion, it is for others to decide.

He takes this opportunity of acknowledging the assistance he has
received from the writings of Pinel, Esquirol, Falret, Fodére, Arnold,
Crichton, Willis, Black, Haslam, Burrows, Conolly, Pritchard, Mayo,
Ellis, Paris, Smith, Beck, Taylor, and Ray. To the pages of Dr.
Johnson’s Medico-chirurgical Review, the Medical Gazette, the Lancet,
and British and Foreign Medical Review, he is also largely indebted.

In conclusion, the author, conscious of its imperfections, claims for
his work no other praise than that it is the first attempt in this
country to reflect light on a branch of medical and moral philosophy,
the importance of which is only equalled by the difficulties impeding
its investigation. He will feel himself amply repaid, should his
introductory essay (for such only can it be considered) stimulate
others more competent than himself to prosecute the inquiry which he
has commenced. Their success will afford him much satisfaction and
pleasure; for in the attainment of their endeavours will his hopes be
fulfilled, and his ambition gratified.


  LONDON,—MAY, 1840.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.

  SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS.—ANCIENT LAWS AND OPINIONS
  ON THE SUBJECT OF SUICIDE.

  Examples of antiquity no defence of suicide—Causes of ancient
  suicides—The suicides of Asdrubal, Nicocles, Isocrates,
  Demosthenes, Hannibal, Mithridates, the inhabitants of
  the city of Xanthus, Cato, Charondas, Lycurgus, Codrus,
  Themistocles, Emperor Otho, Brutus and Cassius, Mark Antony
  and Cleopatra, Petronius, Lucan, Lucius Vetus, Sardanapalus,
  M. Curtius, Empedocles, Theoxena—Noble resistance of
  Josephus—Scripture suicides: Samson, Saul, Ahitophel, Judas
  Iscariot, Eleazar, Razis—Doctrines of the stoics, Seneca,
  Epictetus, Zeno—Opinions of Cicero, Pliny, on suicide—Ancient
  laws on suicide                                                 p. 1-29


  CHAPTER II.

  WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE.

  Opinions of Hume—Effect of his writings—Case of suicide caused
  by—The doctrines of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Montaigne
  examined—Origin of Dr. Donne’s celebrated work—Madame de
  Staël’s recantation—Robert of Normandy, Gibbon, Sir T. More,
  and Robeck’s opinions considered                               p. 30-35


  CHAPTER III.

  SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN.—IT IS NOT AN
  ACT OF COURAGE.

  The sin of suicide—The notions of Paley on the
  subject—Voltaire’s opinion—Is suicide self-murder?—Is it
  forbidden in Scripture?—Shakspeare’s views on the subject—The
  alliance between suicide and murder—Has a  man a right to
  sacrifice his own life?—Everything held upon trust—Suicide
  a sin against ourselves and neighbour—It is not an act of
  courage—Opinion of Q. Curtius on the subject—Buonaparte’s
  denunciation of suicide—Dryden’s description of the suicide in
  another world                                                  p. 36-44


  CHAPTER IV.

  ON THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES IN INDUCING
  THE DISPOSITION TO SUICIDE.

  Moral causes of disease—Neglect of psychological
  medicine—Mental philosophy a branch of medical study—Moral
  causes of suicide—Tables of Falret, &c.—Influence of
  remorse—Simon Brown, Charles IX. of France—Massacre of
  St. Bartholomew—Terrible death of Cardinal Beaufort, from
  remorse—The Chevalier de S——. Influence of disappointed
  love—Suicide from love—Two singular cases—Effects of
  jealousy—Othello—Suicide from this passion—The French opera
  dancer—Suicide from wounded vanity—False pride—The remarkable
  case of Villeneuve, as related by Buonaparte—Buonaparte’s
  attempt at suicide—Ambition—Despair, cases of suicide from—The
  Abbé de Rancé—Suicide from blind impulse—Cases—Mathews,
  the comedian—Opinion of Esquirol on the subject—Ennui,
  birth of—Common cause of suicide in France—Effect of
  speculating in stocks—Defective education—Diffusion of
  knowledge—“Socialism” a cause of self-destruction—Suicide
  common in Germany—Werter—Goëthe’s attempt at suicide—Influence
  of his writings on Hackman—Suicide from reading Tom Paine’s
  “Age of Reason”—Suicide to avoid punishment—Most remarkable
  illustrations—Political excitement—Nervous irritation—Love
  of notoriety—Hereditary disposition—Is death painful? fully
  considered, with cases—Influence of irreligion                p. 45-107


  CHAPTER V.

  IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE.

  Persons who act from impulse liable to be influenced—Principle
  of imitation, a natural instinct—Cases related by Cabanis and
  Tissot—The suicidal barbers—Epidemic suicide at the Hôtel
  des Invalids—Sydenham’s epidemic—The ladies of Miletus—Dr.
  Parrish’s case—Are insanity and suicide contagious?          p. 108-114


  CHAPTER VI.

  SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION.

  Singular motives for committing suicide—A man who delighted
  in torturing himself—A dangerous experiment—Pleasures of
  carnage—Disposition  to leap from precipices—Lord Byron’s
  allusion to the influence of fascination—Miss Moyes and
  the Monument—A man who could not trust himself with a
  razor—Esquirol’s opinion of such cases—Danger of ascending
  elevated places                                              p. 115-120


  CHAPTER VII.

  OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY WHICH, IF
  ENCOURAGED, WOULD LEAD TO SUICIDE.

  Connexion between genius and insanity—Authors of fiction
  often feel what they write—Metastasio in tears—The enthusiasm
  of Pope, Alfieri, Dryden—Effects of the first reading of
  Telemachus and Tasso on Madame Roland’s mind—Raffaelle and
  his celebrated picture of the Transfiguration—The convulsions
  of Malbranche—Beattie’s Essay on Truth—Influence of intense
  study on Boerrhave’s mind—The demon of Spinello and
  Luther—Bourdaloue and his violin—Byron’s sensitiveness—Men do
  not always practise what they preach—Cases of Smollett, La
  Fontaine, Sir Thomas More, Zimmerman—Tasso’s spectre—Johnson’s
  superstition—Concluding remarks                              p. 121-129


  CHAPTER VIII.

  PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE.

  Influence of climate—The foggy climate of England does not
  increase the number of suicides—Average number of suicides in
  each month, from 1817 to 1826—Influence of seasons—Suicides
  at Rouen—The English not a suicidal people—Philip Mordaunt’s
  singular reasons for self-destruction—Causes of French
  suicides—Influence of physical pain—Unnatural vices—Suicide
  the effect of intoxication—Influence of hepatic disease
  on the mind—Melancholy and hypochondriasis, Burton’s
  account of—Cowper’s case of suicide—Particulars of his
  extreme depression of spirits—Byron and Burns’s melancholy
  from stomach and liver derangement—Influence of bodily
  disease on the mind—Importance of paying attention to it—A
  case of insanity from gastric irritation—Dr. Johnson’s
  hypochondria—Hereditary suicide, illustrated by cases—Suicide
  from blows on the head, and from moral shocks communicated to
  the brain—Dr. G. Mantell’s valuable observations and cases
  demonstrative of the point—Concluding remarks                p. 130-161


  CHAPTER IX.

  MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA.

  Diseases of the brain not dissimilar to affections of other
  organs—Early symptoms of insanity—The good effects of
  having plenty to do—Occupation—Dr. Johnson’s opinion on the
  subject—The pleasure derived from cultivating a taste for
  the beauties of nature—Effect of volition on diseases of
  the mind—Silent grief injurious to mental health—Treatment
  of _ennui_—The time of danger, not the time of disease—The
  Walcheren expedition—The retreat of the ten thousand Greeks
  under Xenophon—Influence of music on the mind in the cure of
  disease—Cure of epidemic suicide—Buonaparte’s remedy—How the
  women of Miletus were cured of the disposition to suicide, and
  other illustrations—Cases shewing how easily the disposition
  to suicide may be diverted—On the cure of insanity by
  stratagems—On the importance of removing the suicidal patient
  from his own home—On the regulation of the passions          p. 162-194


  CHAPTER X.

  PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION.

  On the dependence of irritability of temper on physical
  disease—Voltaire and an Englishman agree to commit
  suicide—The reasons that induced Voltaire to change his
  mind—The ferocity of Robespierre accounted for—The state
  of his body after death—The petulance of Pope dependent
  on physical causes—Suicide from cerebral congestion,
  treatment of—Advantages of bloodletting, with cases—Damien
  insane—Cold applied to the head, of benefit—Good effects of
  purgation—Suicide caused by a tape-worm—Early indications of
  the disposition to suicide—The suicidal eye—Of the importance
  of carefully watching persons disposed to suicide—Cunning
  of such patients—Numerous illustrations—The fondness for a
  particular mode of death—Dr. Burrows’ extraordinary case—Dr.
  Conolly on the treatment of suicide—Cases shewing the
  advantage of confinement                                     p. 195-220


  CHAPTER XI.

  IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE THE RESULT OF INSANITY?

  The instinct of self-preservation—The love of life—Dr.
  Wolcott’s death-bed—Anecdote of the Duke de Montebello—Louis
  XI. of France—Singular  death of a celebrated lawyer—Dr.
  Johnson’s horror of dying—The organ of destruction
  universal—Illustrations of its influence—Sir W. Scott, on
  the motives that influence men in battle—Have we any test of
  insanity?—Mental derangement not a specific disease—Importance
  of keeping this in view—Insanity not always easily detected—Is
  lowness of spirits an evidence of derangement?—The cunning
  of lunatics—Esquirol’s opinion that insanity is always
  present—Moral insanity—The remarkable case of Frederick of
  Prussia—Suicide often the first symptom of insanity—Cases
  in which persons have been restored to reason from loss
  of blood, after attempting suicide—The cases of Cato, Sir
  Samuel Romilly, Lord Castlereagh, Colton, and Chatterton,
  examined—Concluding remarks                                  p. 221-245


  CHAPTER XII.

  SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE.

  The importance of medical evidence—The questions which medical
  men have to consider in these cases—Signs of death from
  strangulation—Singular positions in which the bodies of those
  who have committed suicide have been found—The particulars of
  the Prince de Condé’s case—On the possibility of voluntary
  strangulation—General Pichegru’s singular case—The melancholy
  history of Marc Antonie Calas—How to discover whether a person
  was dead before thrown into water—Singular cases—Admiral
  Caracciolo—Drowning in a bath—The points to keep in view in
  cases of suspicious death—Was Sellis murdered?—Death from
  wounds—The case of the Earl of Essex                         p. 246-264


  CHAPTER XIII.

  STATISTICS OF SUICIDE.

  Number of suicides in the chief capitals of Europe from 1813
  to 1831—Statistics of death from violence in London from 1828
  to 1832—Number of suicides in London for a century and a
  half—Suicides in Westminster from 1812 to 1836—Suicide more
  frequent among men than women—Mode of committing—Influence of
  age—Effect of the married state—Infantile suicides—M. Guerry
  on suicides in France—Cases—Suicide and murder—Suicide in
  Geneva                                                       p. 265-279


  CHAPTER XIV.

  APPEARANCES PRESENTED AFTER DEATH IN THOSE WHO
  HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE.

  Thickness of cranium—State of membranes and vessels of
  brain—Osseous excrescences—Appearances discovered in one
  thousand three hundred and thirty-eight cases—Lesions of the
  lungs, heart, stomach, and intestines—Effect of long-continued
  indigestion                                                  p. 280-282


  CHAPTER XV.

  SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE.

  Introduction—Contempt of death—Eustace Budgel—M. de Boissy
  and his wife—Mutual suicides from disappointed love—Suicide
  from mortification—Mutual suicide from poverty—A French lady
  while out shooting—A fisherman after praying—Determination to
  commit if not cured—Extraordinary case after seduction—Madame
  C. from remorse—M. de Pontalba after trying to murder his
  daughter-in-law—Young lady in a pet—Sir George Dunbar—James
  Sutherland while George III. was passing—Lancet given by a
  wife to her husband to kill himself—Servant girl—Curious
  verses by a suicide—Robber on being recognised—A man who
  ordered a candle to be made of his fat—After gaming—Writing
  whilst dying—From misfortune just at a moment of
  relief—Curious papers written by a suicide—By heating a
  barrel in the fire—By tearing out the brains—Sisters by the
  injunction of their eldest sister—Mutual from poverty—Girl
  from a dream—Three servants in one pond—Indifference as to
  mode—By starvation—A man forty-five days without eating—Mutual
  of two boys after dining at a restaurateur’s—By putting head
  under the ice—By a pair of spectacles—By jumping amongst
  the bears—Young lady from gambling—Verses by a suicide—To
  obtain salvation—A lover after accidentally shooting his
  mistress—Mutual attempt—M. Kleist and Madame Vogle—Richard
  Smith and wife—Love and suicide—Bishop of Grenoble—Suicide
  in a pail of water—Mutual suicide of two soldiers—Lord
  Scarborough—A man who advertised to kill himself for benefit
  of family—The case of Creech, and the romantic history of
  Madame de Monier—Suicide of M. ——, after threatening to kill
  his brother—Two young men—Two lovers—Homicide and suicide from
  jealousy—Cure of penchant for suicide—Attempt at prevented—Man
  in a belfry—Attempt at—The extraordinary case of Lovat by
  crucifixion                                                  p. 283-334


  CHAPTER XVI.

  CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED BY LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENTS?—INFLUENCE
  OF MORAL INSTRUCTION.—CONCLUSION.

  The legitimate object of punishment—The argument of
  Beccaria—A legal solecism—A suicide not amenable to human
  tribunals—Evidence at coroners’ courts _ex-parte_—The old law
  of no advantage—No penal-law will restrain a man from the
  commission of suicide.—Verdict of _felo-de-se_ punishes the
  innocent, and therefore unjust—All suicides insane, and
  therefore not responsible agents—The man who reasons himself
  into suicide not of sound mind—Rational mode of preventing
  suicide by promoting religious education                     p. 335-340



ERRATA.

  Page 46, for “mens conscia” &c. read _mens sana in corpore
  sano_, and for “Horace” read JUVENAL.



ANATOMY OF SUICIDE.



CHAPTER I.

SUICIDES OF THE ANCIENTS.—ANCIENT LAWS AND OPINIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF
SUICIDE.


  Examples of antiquity no defence of suicide—Causes of ancient
  suicides—The suicides of Asdrubal, Nicocles, Isocrates,
  Demosthenes, Hannibal, Mithridates, the inhabitants of
  the city of Xanthus, Cato, Charondas, Lycurgus, Codrus,
  Themistocles, Emperor Otho, Brutus and Cassius, Mark Antony
  and Cleopatra, Petronius, Lucan, Lucius Vetus, Sardanapalus,
  M. Curtius, Empedocles, Theoxena—Noble resistance of
  Josephus—Scripture suicides: Samson, Saul, Ahitophel, Judas
  Iscariot, Eleazar, Razis—Doctrines of the stoics, Seneca,
  Epictetus, Zeno—Opinions of Cicero, Pliny, on suicide—Ancient
  laws on suicide.

Human actions are more under the influence of example than precept;
consequently, suicide has often been justified by an appeal to the
laws and customs of past ages. An undue reverence for the authority of
antiquity induces us to rely more upon what has been said or done in
former times, than upon the dictates of our own feelings and judgement.
Many have formed the most extravagant notions of honour, liberty, and
courage, and, under the impression that they were imitating the noble
example of some ancient hero, have sacrificed their lives. They urge
in their defence that suicide has been enjoined by positive laws, and
allowed by ancient custom; that the greatest and bravest nation in
the world practised it; and that the most wise and virtuous sect of
philosophers taught that it was an evidence of courage, magnanimity,
and virtue. There is no mode of reasoning so fallacious as that which
is constantly appealing to examples. A man who has made up his mind
to the adoption of a particular course can easily discover reasons
to justify himself in carrying out his preconceived opinions. If a
contemplated action, abstractedly considered, be good, cases may
be of service in illustrating it. There must be some test by which
to form a correct estimate of the justness or lawfulness of human
actions; and until we are agreed as to what ought to constitute that
standard, examples are perfectly useless. No inferences deduced from
the consideration of the suicides of antiquity can be logically applied
to modern instances. We live under a Christian dispensation. Our
notions of death, of honour, and of courage, are, in many respects,
so dissimilar from those which the ancients entertained, that the
subject of suicide is placed entirely on a different basis. In the
early periods of history, self-destruction was considered as an
evidence of courage; death was preferred to dishonour. These principles
were inculcated by celebrated philosophers, who exercised a great
influence over the minds of the people; and, in many instances, the
act of self-immolation constituted a part of their religion. Is it,
then, to be wondered at, that so many men, eminent for their genius,
and renowned for their valour, should, under such circumstances, have
sacrificed themselves?

The famous suicides of antiquity generally resulted from one of three
causes:—First, it was practised by those who wished to avoid pain and
personal suffering of body and mind; secondly, when a person considered
the act as a necessary vindication of his honour; and thirdly, when
life was sacrificed as an example to others.

The first class is the most excusable of the three. Pain, physical
or mental, puts a man’s courage severely to the test. He may have to
choose between the alternative of years of unmitigated anguish, or an
immediate release from torture. Need we feel surprise at many resorting
to the latter alternative, when they have been taught to believe death
either to be an eternal sleep, or a sure entrance into regions of
happiness!

How many instances have we on record of persons who have dispatched
themselves to avoid falling into the hands of an enemy! The case of
the wife of Asdrubal, the Carthaginian general, is a famous instance
of the kind. Asdrubal had deserted his post, and had fled to Scipio;
and during his absence his wife took shelter with her troops in
the temple, which she set on fire. She then attired herself in her
richest robes, and holding her two children in her hands, addressed
Scipio—who had surrounded the building with his troops—in the following
language:—“You, O Roman, are only acting according to the laws of open
war; but may the gods of Carthage, and those in concert with them,
punish that false wretch who, by such a base desertion, has betrayed
his country, his gods, his wife, his children! Let him adorn thy gay
triumph; let him suffer in the sight of all Rome those indignities and
tortures he so justly merits!”

The case of Nicocles, King of Paphos, in Cyprus, who committed suicide
in conjunction with his wife and daughter, on the approach of King
Ptolemy, is another in point. Isocrates, the celebrated Athenian
orator, starved himself to death, sooner than submit to the dominion of
Philip of Macedon. Demosthenes also poisoned himself, when Antipater,
Alexander’s ambassador, required the Athenians to deliver up their
orators, fearful of being subjected to slavery and disgrace.

The persecution to which the Romans subjected Hannibal, after he was
oppressed with years and sunk in obscurity, impelled him to have
recourse to the poison which he always kept about him in a ring,
against sudden emergencies. Mithridates took poison, and administered
the same to his wives and daughters, in order to escape being taken
prisoner by Pompey, before whose victorious arms he had been compelled
to fly.

The case of the inhabitants of the city of Xanthus is another
remarkable instance of the determination exhibited by thousands of
persons, resolved sooner to die by their own hands than submit to
the dominion of a conqueror. Notwithstanding the proffered clemency
of Brutus, who not only wept at the dreadful scene he witnessed, but
commanded his soldiers to extinguish the fire, and even offered a
reward for every inhabitant whose life was saved, the people were so
eager for death that they rushed into the flames with exclamations of
delight, and forceably drove back the soldiers who were sent by Brutus
for the purpose of saving their lives.

The example of Cato is applauded by some writers as a proof of
magnanimity; the action was the reverse; it was the effect of pride
and timidity. If ever Rome required his experience and patriotic
counsels it was at that very period. To desert the duty which Rome had
a right to demand by a voluntary death was the meanest conduct in his
character. It stamped an indelible stain on his reputation, which only
a supposition that his intellect was impaired could rationally excuse.
It was not the virtuous Cato who had stemmed the torrent of tyranny,
who had crushed the Cataline conspiracy, who had given the most noble
examples of virtuous resolution and rectitude in moral conduct, but
the enfeebled Cato, sinking under the accumulation of evils, whose
soul was depressed with suspense and distracting passions, waiting an
opportunity for revenge, or preparing to finish his life on the first
disappointment.

If such examples were admitted magnanimous, in any serious quarrel
or war, where success could not be commanded, it might be considered
laudable to commit suicide. The consequences of such reasoning would
be obvious. On such occasions, countries would lose their bravest
generals, private families their noblest and most experienced
supporters.

“If I cannot acquire what I wish,” says Cato, “I will kill myself;
I will not live to grace Cæsar’s triumph, though I know Cæsar to be
the most generous and clement of conquerors; I cannot consent to
receive Cæsar’s favours. My pride is wounded; my fears destroy all
tranquillity; my body is sinking under adversity; I will not dedicate
my services to my distressed country under the auspices of successful
Cæsar. I will plunge a sword into my bosom, and commit an injustice to
myself, which through a long life I never committed to others. From
the uniformity of my former patriotic character, writers, without
deep reasoning, will paint this concluding action in glowing colours;
they will give additional lustre to an immortal reputation.” Such,
we conceive, were the secret springs of action in Cato’s mind; such
were the contending passions which excited the delirium. It was not
the placid, judicious Cato of former years, but the depressed Cato,
_impos mentis_, committing a rash action, contrary to all his former
great reasoning, and virtuous persevering conduct. It was, in fact,
Cato’s act of insanity; it was not dying to serve his country, but to
effectually rob Cæsar of his eminent services; it therefore appears
more the effect of private pique and despondency than a demonstration
of public virtue or courage. Had all others concerned in that civil
war followed this extraordinary example, the country would have
been robbed of many of its brightest ornaments. Cato could not say
with Horace, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” for it was not
for his countrymen that he died, but to gratify a selfish caprice,
a personal resentment and hatred to Cæsar and his power. Had Cæsar
attacked the city while Cato enjoyed a vigour of mind and body, and
when the citizens were better disciplined and less corrupt, he would
have despised such inglorious conduct; he would rather have hoped for
some future opportunity to dispel the dark clouds overwhelming the
distracted country.

Physicians have frequent opportunities of observing the diminution of
human courage and wisdom from long continued misfortunes, or bodily
infirmities. The most lively, spirited, and enterprising, have become
depressed from reiterated disappointment; cowardice and despair have
succeeded to the most unquestionable bravery and ambition. The man
is then changed; his blood is changed; and with these his former
sentiments. The timidity is no longer Cato’s, but belongs to the
miserable _debilitated body_ of Cato, which had lost that _vigorous
soul_ that so eminently distinguished on other important occasions this
excellent and divine patriot.

La Motte observes, with reference to Cato’s death—

  “Stern Cato, with more equal soul,
  Had bowed to Cæsar’s wide control,
  With Rome, had to her conqueror bowed,
  But that his spirit, rough and proud,
  Had not the courage to await
  A pardoned foe’s too humbling fate.”

Voltaire, in alluding to the lines quoted above, says, “It was, I
believe, because Cato’s soul was always equal, and retained to the last
its love for his country and her laws, that he chose rather to perish
with her than to crouch to the tyrant. He died as he had lived.

“Incapable of surrendering, and to whom? to the enemy of Rome—to the
man who had forcibly robbed the public treasury in order to make war
upon his fellow citizens, and enslave them by means of their own
money. A pardoned foe! It seems as if La Motte Houdart was speaking of
some revolted subject who might have obtained his Majesty’s pardon by
letters in chancery. It seems (continues Voltaire) rather absurd to say
that Cato slew himself through weakness. None but a strong mind can
thus surmount the most powerful instinct of nature. This strength is
sometimes that of frenzy; but a frantic man is not weak.”

In forming an estimate of the condition of Cato’s mind, we must not
look at him as delineated by the dramatist and poet, but as exhibited
by the historian and philosopher. Our notions of Cato are too often
based on Addison’s, and not Plutarch’s description of his character.
That Cato was one of the most complete and perfect examples in
antiquity of private manners and of public spirit cannot be questioned;
and therefore, in this respect, worthy to be held up as an example.
Sallust thus eulogizes Cato:—“His glory can neither be increased by
flattery nor lessened by detraction. He was one who chose to be, rather
than to appear good. He was the very image of virtue, and in all points
of disposition more like the gods than men. He never did right that he
might seem to do right, but because he could not do otherwise. That
only seemed to be reasonable which was just. Free from all human vices,
he was superior to the vicissitudes of fortune.” It was the dignity of
Cato’s life that stamped a celebrity on the mode of his death.

In forming a judgment of the motives which led this distinguished
man to sacrifice his life, we must look at him in connexion with his
great enemy, Cæsar. He was not only opposed to him on public, but on
private grounds. Cæsar’s intimacy with Servilia, Cato’s sister, was
the ground of much conversation at Rome. During one of the debates
concerning the Cataline conspiracy, Cæsar received a letter whilst he
was in the senate house. Cato, who had intimated that Cæsar had been
privy to Cataline’s proceedings, and believing that the letter might
refer to the subject, from the manner in which Cæsar endeavoured to
conceal it, demanded that it should be handed over to him. The letter
was accordingly handed to Cato, when, perceiving that it was a letter
from Servilia to Cæsar, full of protestations of love to his deadliest
enemy, he threw it at Cæsar in a great rage, and called him a drunkard.
This, added to the circumstance of Cæsar’s complete triumph over him,
induced Cato to put an end to his own life. He did not commit suicide
to defeat usurpation, or to preserve the liberties and laws of Rome,
but it was done when he despaired of his country. It arose from his
horror of tyranny, and the feeling of intolerable shame at the prospect
of a long life under an arbitrary master. The superstructure of years
was in a moment levelled to the dust. He had to choose between death
or slavery. After the defeat at Thapsus, and hearing that Cæsar was
marching against him, Lucius Cæsar offered to intercede for Cato. His
answer was as follows:—“If I would save my life, I ought to go myself;
but I will not be beholden to the tyrant for any act of his injustice;
and ’tis unjust for him to pretend to pardon those as a lord over
whom he has no lawful power.” Although it was evident he was bent
upon suicide, he persuaded his son to go to Cæsar, and cautioned his
friend Statilius, whom Plutarch calls “a known Cæsar-hater,” not to
kill himself, but to submit to the conqueror. He then entered into a
discussion concerning liberty, which he carried on so violently that
his friends were apprehensive that he would lay hands on himself.
In consequence of this, his son removed his sword. Cato is then
represented as reading Plato’s Phædo, and then calling for his sword,
which they refused to bring him. He called a second and third time, and
in a fit of rage he struck the servant, and wounded him, and by doing
so, injured his own hand, which prevented him from effectually killing
himself with his weapon. After he had stabbed himself, his wound was
dressed; but so determined was he to sacrifice his life, that he tore
open the wound forcibly, and pulled his bowels out, and thus effected
his purpose.[1]

It has been said that Addison approved of Cato’s self-murder. This
does not appear to be the fact, if we are to judge from the words which
he has put in the mouth of the dying hero—

  “I am sick to death; oh, when shall I get loose
  From this vain world, the abode of guilt and sorrow!
  And yet methinks a beam of light breaks in
  On my departing soul. Alas, I fear
  I have been too hasty! O ye powers that search
  The heart of man, and weigh his inmost thoughts,
  If I have done amiss, impute it not:
  The best may err, but you are good, and—(_dies._)”

Two celebrated instances amongst the Grecians of men who voluntarily
sacrificed their lives in order to maintain the dignity and importance
of their own institutions, are exhibited in the cases of Charondas and
Lycurgus. The former, in order to encourage a proper freedom of debate,
had made it death to come armed into the assembly of the states. One
day, coming himself in haste to a convention without having first laid
aside his sword, he was rebuked by some one present, as a transgressor
of his own laws. Stung with the justice of the imputation, he instantly
plunged the sword into his own heart, both as a sacrifice to the
violated majesty of the law, and a tremendous example of disinterested
justice; trusting, moreover, thus to seal with his own blood a strict
observance in others of his wholesome institutions.

When Lycurgus had accomplished his great work of legislation in Sparta,
he took the following method of rendering his system unchangeable and
immortal. He stated that it was necessary that he should consult the
Delphian oracle relative to his new laws. He then made all the Spartan
magistrates and people take a solemn oath that they would observe
and keep his laws inviolate “till his return.” He accordingly went
to consult the oracle, and having sent back the answer in writing to
Sparta, “That the laws were excellent, and would render the people
great and happy who should observe them,” he resolved never to return
himself, in order that the people might never be absolved from their
oath. He accordingly starved himself to death. Plutarch considers
that Lycurgus reasoned himself into the act, under the belief that a
good statesman and patriot should seek to make his death itself in
some way useful to his country. The same authority considers that
he intended the mode of his death to be a practical illustration of
the great principle which pervaded the whole code of his laws, which
was—_temperance_.

Alike honourable, in a worldly point of view, was the death of Codrus,
King of Athens. The oracle was consulted with reference to the
condition of the country. That nation was predicted to be prosperous
whose king should be first slain by the enemy. Codrus disguised himself
as a private soldier, and entered the enemy’s camp, where he contrived
to pick a quarrel with the first man he met, whom he permitted to slay
him; thus, for the good of his country, courting his own death.

Themistocles is said to have poisoned himself rather than lead on the
Persian army against his own countrymen, although fame, wealth, and
honour were within his grasp.

The Emperor Otho, to avoid the further sacrifice of life in the
imperial contest, resolved to die by his own hands, notwithstanding
his troops implored and beseeched him to lead them on to a second
engagement in which victory was almost certain. King Otho’s answer to
the demand of his soldiers is considered to embody the spirit of true
Roman heroism—“Deny me not the glory of laying down my own life to
preserve yours. The more hope there is left, the more honourable is my
early retirement; since it is by my death alone that I can prevent the
further effusion of Roman blood, and restore peace and tranquillity
to a distracted empire, by being ready to die for its peace and
security.”[2]

Two of the most distinguished men of antiquity who sacrificed their
own lives were Brutus and Cassius. Before their battle with Cæsar
on the plains of Philippi, these two warriors had a conversation on
suicide. Cassius asked Brutus what his opinions were on the subject of
self-destruction, provided fortune did not favour them in the contest
in which they were about to be engaged. Brutus replied, that formerly
he had embraced such sentiments as induced him to condemn Cato for
killing himself; he deemed it an act of irreverence towards the gods,
and that it was no evidence of courage. But he continues, “Now, in
the midst of dangers, I am quite of another mind.” He then proceeds
to tell Cassius of his determination to surrender up his life “on the
Ides of March.” He states no particular reasons for having changed
his opinions on the subject of suicide. The issue of the battle is
well known. Many things conspired to damp the courage of Cassius and
Brutus. In imitation of Cæsar, Brutus made a public lustration for his
army in the field, and during the ceremony an unlucky omen is said to
have happened to Cassius. The garland he was to wear at the sacrifice
was given to him the wrong side outwards; the person, also, who bore
the golden image before Cassius stumbled, and the image fell to the
ground. Several birds of prey hovered about his camp, and swarms of
bees were seen within the trenches. Cassius, believing in the Epicurean
philosophy, considered all these circumstances as disheartening omens
of his fate. After the defeat of Cassius, he ordered his freedman to
kill him, which he did by severing his head from his body.

Plutarch makes Brutus die most stoically. After having taken an
affectionate leave of his friends, and having assured them that he
was only angry with fortune for his country’s sake, since he esteemed
himself in his death more happy than his conquerors, he advised them to
provide for their own safety. He then retired, and, with the assistance
of Strato, he ran his sword through his body. Dion Cassius (Lib. xlvii.)
represents Brutus as far from acting the stoic at his last moments. He
is said just before his death to have quoted the following passage from
Euripides—“O wretched virtue! thou art a bare name! I mistook thee for
a substance; but thou thyself art the slave of fortune.”

In considering the motives that induced Brutus to destroy himself,
we must not forget to take into calculation the effect which the
apparition he saw previous to the battle of Philippi must have had
on his mind. Brutus was naturally watchful, sparing in his diet, and
allowed himself but little time for sleep. He never retired to rest,
day or night, until he had arranged all his business. At this time,
involved as he was in the operations of war, and solicitous for the
event, he only slumbered a little after supper, and spent the remainder
of the night in attending to his most urgent affairs. When these were
dispatched, he occupied himself in reading till the third watch, when
the tribunes and centurions came to him for orders. Thus, a little
before he left Asia, he was sitting alone in his tent, by a dim light,
at a late hour. The whole army lay in sleep and silence, while Brutus,
wrapped in meditation, thought he perceived something enter his tent;
turning towards the door, he saw a monstrous and horrible spectre
standing by the side of his bed. “What art thou?” said he, boldly.
The spectre answered, “I am thy evil genius, Brutus! Thou wilt see
me at Philippi.” To which he calmly replied, “I’ll meet thee there.”
In the morning he communicated to Cassius what he had seen. Cassius,
who was an Epicurean, had often disputed with Brutus on the subject
of apparitions. He said, when he had heard the statement of Brutus,
that the spectre was not a spirit, but a real being; and argued at
considerable length on the subject, and induced the general to think
that his fate was decided. There can be no doubt but that this singular
presentiment co-operated with other circumstances in inducing Brutus to
fall by his own hands.[3]

Amongst the ancient suicides, those of Mark Antony and Cleopatra
deserve especial consideration. It is not our purpose to enter into an
elaborate history of these celebrated characters, but merely to refer
to those circumstances that had an immediate connexion with their last
moments.

Three circumstances acted powerfully on Antony’s mind in inducing him
to seek a voluntary death. The first was his having been defeated by
Cæsar; the second, the idea that Cleopatra had betrayed him; and the
third was the belief in Cleopatra’s death.

As soon as Antony was defeated, the unhappy queen fled to her monument,
ordered all the doors to be barred, and commanded that Antony should
be informed that she was dead. He was overwhelmed with grief, and
retiring to his chamber, opened his coat of mail, and ordered his
faithful servant Eros (who had been engaged to kill him whenever he
should think it necessary) to dispatch him. Eros drew his sword,
and, instead of killing his master, ran it through his own body, and
fell dead at Antony’s feet. Antony then plunged his sword into his
bowels, and threw himself on the couch. The wound was not, however,
immediately fatal. In a short period after, Diomedes, Cleopatra’s
servant, came to Antony with a request that he would instantly repair
to her chamber. His delight was unbounded when he heard that Cleopatra
was alive, and he directly ordered his servant to carry him to her.
As she would not allow the doors to be opened, Antony was drawn up to
her window by a cord. He was suspended for a considerable time in the
air stretching out his hands to Cleopatra. Notwithstanding she exerted
all her strength, strained every nerve, and distorted her features
in endeavouring to draw him up, it was with the greatest difficulty
it was effected. Cleopatra laid him on the bed, and, standing over
him, so extreme was her anguish, that she rent her clothes, and beat
and wounded her breast. After Antony’s death, when Cleopatra heard
that Cæsar had dispatched Gallus to take her prisoner, and that he
had effected an entrance into the monument, _she attempted to stab
herself with a dagger which she always carried about with her for that
purpose_. When she heard that it was Cæsar’s intention to send her
into Syria, she asked permission to visit Antony’s tomb, over which
she poured forth most bitter lamentations. “Hide me, hide me,” she
exclaimed, “with thee in the grave; for life, since _thou_ hast left
it, has been misery to _me_.” After crowning the tomb with flowers,
she kissed it, and ordered a bath to be prepared. She then sat down to
a magnificent supper; after which, a peasant came to the gate with a
small basket of figs covered with leaves, which was admitted into the
monument. Amongst the figs and under the leaves was concealed the asp,
which Cleopatra applied to her bosom. She was found dead, attired in
one of her most gorgeous dresses, decorated with brilliants, and lying
on her golden bed.

Few of the illustrious men of antiquity have exhibited such philosophic
coolness as Petronius, after he had determined to sacrifice his life.
The levity which distinguished his voluntary death was in accordance
with the gaiety and frivolity of his life. The capricious friendship
of a Nero had been withdrawn from him, and in consequence he had
determined on his own death. This _arbiter elegantiarum_ during life,
determined to indulge in a luxurious refinement of that death he was
preparing to encounter. Being well aware he could not long escape
from the murderous edict, after a fall from the summit of imperial
favour, he opened and closed his veins at pleasure. He slept during the
intervals, or sauntered about and enjoyed the delights of conversation
with his friends; but his discourse was not of so elevated a character
as that attributed to Seneca or Socrates.

The poet Lucan exhibited great apparent serenity at the approach of
death. After the veins of his arm had been voluntarily opened, and he
had lost a large quantity of blood, he felt his hands and his legs
losing their vitality. As the hour of death approached, he commenced
repeating several lines out of his own Pharsalia, descriptive of a
person similarly situated to himself. These lines he repeated until he
died.

Cocceius Nerva starved himself to death in the reign of Tiberius. It
was said that he was displeased with the state of public affairs, and
had made up his mind to die whilst his own integrity remained unsullied.

During the bloody reign of Nero, many singular suicides took place. The
particulars attending the deaths of Lucius Vetus, his mother-in-law
Sextia, and Pollutia his daughter, are worth recording. After Lucius
had distributed all his wealth among his domestics, requesting them
to remove everything from his house excepting three couches, he, with
his mother-in-law and daughter, retired into the same chamber, opened
a vein with the same lancet, and after, reclining each on a separate
couch, waited calmly the approach of death. His eyes, and those of his
mother-in-law, were both fixed on the daughter, while the daughter’s
wandered from one to the other. It was the earnest prayer of each of
them to die first, and to leave the others in the act of expiring.[4]

When the throne of Sardanapalus was endangered, he conceived a
magnificent and truly luxurious mode of committing suicide, quite in
character with the extravagance and dissoluteness of his former life.
He erected a funeral pile of great height in his palace, and adorned
it with the most sumptuous and costly ornaments. In the middle of this
building was a chamber of one hundred feet in length, built of wood,
in which a number of golden couches and tables were spread. On one of
these he reclined with his wife, his numerous concubines occupying
the rest. The building was encompassed round at some distance with
large beams and thick wood, to prevent all egress from the place.
Much combustible matter, and an immense pile of wood were also placed
within, together with an infinite quantity of gold and silver, royal
vestments, costly apparel, rich furniture, curious ornaments, and
all the apparatus of luxury and magnificence. All being arranged, this
splendid funeral pile was set on fire, and continued burning until the
fifteenth day; during which time Sardanapalus revelled in all kinds
of sensualities. The multitude without were in astonishment at the
tremendous scene, and at the immense clouds of incense and smoke which
issued with the flames. It was stated that the king was engaged in
offering some extraordinary sacrifices; while the attendants within
alone knew that this dissolute prince was putting such a splendid end
to his effeminate life.[5]

There has been some dispute as to the death of Marcus Curtius. Plutarch
attributes his death to accident, but Procillius considers that it
was voluntary. He says, the earth having opened at a particular time,
the Aruspices declared it necessary, for the safety of the republic,
that the bravest man in the city should throw himself into the gulf;
whereupon Curtius, mounting his horse, leaped armed into it, and the
gulf immediately closed. But Livy and Dionysius relate the circumstance
in a different manner. They say that Curtius was a Sabine, who, having
at first repulsed the Romans, but being in his turn overpowered by
Romulus, and endeavouring to make good his retreat, fell into the lake,
which from that time bore his name. The lake was situated almost in the
centre of the Roman forum. Some writers consider the name was derived
from Curtius the Consul, because he caused it to be walled in after it
had been struck with lightning.[6]

The death of the celebrated philosopher and poet, Empedocles, of
Sicily, was remarkable. Wishing to be believed a god, and that his
death might be unknown, he threw himself into the crater of Mount Ætna,
and perished in the flames. The mode of his death was not discovered
until some time afterwards, when one of his sandals was thrown up from
the volcano.

Ancient history affords us many noble examples of individuals who
preferred voluntary death to dishonour and loss of character. If ever
self-murder could be considered as in the slightest degree justifiable,
it would be under such circumstances. Who cannot but honour the conduct
of the noble virgins of Macedon, who threw themselves into the wells,
and courted death, sooner than submit to the dishonourable proposals
of the Roman governor! When Theoxena was pursued by the emissaries of
Philip, king of Macedon, who had been guilty of murdering her first
husband, she produced a dagger and a box of poison, and placing them
before the crew of the ship in which she was endeavouring to make her
escape, she said, “Death is now our only remedy and means of vengeance;
let each take the method that best pleases himself of avoiding the
tyrant’s pride, cruelty, and lust. Come on, my brave companions
and family, seize the sword or drink of the cup, as you prefer an
instantaneous or gradual death.” Some fell on the sword, others drank
the poison until death was effected. After Theoxena had accomplished
her designs, she threw herself into the arms of her husband, and they
both plunged into the sea.

The resistance which Josephus made to the importunities of his soldiers
to fall by his own hand sooner than surrender to the enemy, is perhaps
the most noble instance of the kind on record. After the success of
the Romans in Judæa, Josephus, who commanded the Jewish army, wished
to deliver himself up to his conquerors; he was encouraged to this by
certain dreams and visions. When Josephus’s intention was known, the
soldiers flocked round him, and expressed their indignation at his
intention. They urged him to fall by his own sword, and to let them
follow his example, sooner than abandon the field. To this appeal
Josephus replies, “Oh, my friends, why are you so earnest to kill
yourselves? why do you set your soul and body, which are such dear
companions, at such variance? It is a brave thing to die in war, but
it should be by the hands of the enemy. It is a foolish thing to do
that for ourselves, which we quarrel with them for doing to us. It is a
brave thing to die for liberty; but still it should be in battle, and
by those who would take that liberty from us. He is equally a coward
who will not die when he is obliged to die. What are we afraid of, when
we will not go up and meet the Romans? Is it death? Why then inflict it
on ourselves? You say, We must be slaves. Are we then in a clear state
of liberty at present? Self-murder is a crime most remote from the
common nature of all animals, and an instance of impiety against God
our Creator.”

Josephus, in the spirit of a true philosopher, urged his soldiers to
abandon the notion of suicide; but instead of being calmed by his
discourse, they became enraged, and rushed on him. Fearing that the
case was hopeless, Josephus prevailed upon them to listen to the
following proposal. He persuaded them to draw lots; the man on whom
the first lot fell was to be killed by him who had the second, and the
second by the third, and so on. In this way no soldier would perish
by his own hand, except the last man. Lots were accordingly drawn;
Josephus drew his with the rest. He who had the first lot willingly
submitted his neck to him who had the second. It happened that Josephus
and a soldier were left to draw lots; and as the general was desirous
neither to imbrue his own hand in the blood of his countryman, nor to
be condemned by lot himself, he persuaded the soldier to trust his
fidelity, and to live as well as himself. Thus ended this tragical
scene, and Josephus immediately surrendered himself up to Vespasian.

The first instance of suicide recorded in Scripture is that of Samson.
After suffering many indignities from the hands of the Philistines, his
anger was roused to the highest pitch, and, resting against the pillars
that supported the building in which the lords of the Philistines
and an infinite number of others were assembled, he offered up the
following prayer: “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen
me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may at once be avenged
of the Philistines for my two eyes;” and taking hold of the pillars, he
said, “Let me die with the Philistines: and he bowed himself with all
his might, and the house fell upon the lords and all that were therein;
so that the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which
he slew in his life.”

In Samson’s case, there is nothing said in Scripture either to condemn
or justify the act; but it appears evident from the whole history of
the last events of his life, that he was but an instrument in the
hands of God for the accomplishment of his wise purposes. The glory of
God had been violated in the person of Samson; he had been subjected
by the Philistines to great indignities; and it was to demonstrate
the power of God in the destruction of his enemies that Samson’s life
was sacrificed. Samson is, then, to be considered as a martyr to his
religion and his God.

The case of Saul has also been cited. It is thus referred to in
Scripture:—“And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit
him, and he was sore wounded of the archers. Then said Saul unto his
armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith, lest
these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his
armourbearer would not, for he was sore afraid; therefore Saul took a
sword and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was
dead, he fell likewise upon his sword and died with him.”[7]

It must be recollected that the Jews considered that a man was
justified in committing suicide to prevent his falling into the
enemy’s hand, and on this account Saul was commended for killing
himself. But there was nothing glorious in Saul’s death. His army was
defeated by the Philistines, and Saul sounded a retreat; and as he was
making his ignominious flight, an arrow from the ranks of the enemy hit
him, and it was then that he implored his armourbearer to dispatch him.

Much has been made of the self murder* of Ahitophel. Donne has referred
to it at some length. He says that in this case there can be “no room
for excuse.” Ahitophel was considered one of the wisest counsellors of
his age. He joined Absalom in his rebellion against his lawful prince,
David; and when he saw that it was God’s determination to defeat his
counsel, and that his advice for the first time was neglected, he
became full of secret indignation and disappointment; and in order
to avoid the consequences of his own utter despair and ruin, for his
perfidy, he hanged himself. Nothing can be urged in justification
of this act. The facts are presented to us in biblical history; and
we are left to form our own judgment upon the course which this
“Machiavellian counsellor,” as he has been termed, thought proper to
adopt.

Donne has also cited the case of Judas Iscariot.[8] He must have
been sadly in want of sound illustrations to have brought forward the
instance of this traitor as a justification of the act of suicide.
Judas has been considered by some writers as a martyr. Petilian said
“that Judas, and all who killed themselves through remorse of sin,
ought to be accounted martyrs, because they punish in themselves what
they grieve to have committed.” To whom Augustine replies, “Thou hast
said, that the traitor perished by the rope, and has left a rope behind
him for such as himself. But we have nothing to do with him. We do not
venerate those as martyrs who hang themselves.”

The case, mentioned by the same authority, of Eleazar, the brother of
Judas Maccabeus, taken from the book of the Maccabees, is said to be
one of voluntary suicide, and where self-destruction was laudable.
Eleazar sacrificed his own life for the purpose of destroying King
Antiochus, and therefore his suicide is to be considered as a voluntary
sacrifice for the good of his country.

The self-destruction of Razis is full of horror, and can only be quoted
as an evidence of the act of a madman. When the tower in which Razis
was fighting against the enemy of Nicanor was set on fire, he fell
on his own sword, “Choosing rather,” says the text, “to die manfully
than fall into the hands of the wicked, to be abused otherwise than
beseemed his noble birth; but missing his stroke through haste, the
multitude also rushing within doors, he ran boldly up to the wall, and
cast himself down manfully among the thickest of them; but they quickly
giving back, and a space being made, he fell down in the midst of a
void place. Nevertheless, while there was yet breath within him, being
inflamed with anger, he rose up; and though his blood gushed out like
spouts of water, and his wounds were grievous, yet he ran through in
the midst of the throng, and standing on a steep rock, when, as his
blood was not quite gone, he plucked out his bowels, and taking them in
both his hands, he cast them upon the throng, and calling upon the Lord
of life and spirit to restore him them again, he thus died.”[9]

Having considered the remarkable suicides of antiquity, we will now
briefly allude to those doctrines and opinions of the celebrated
philosophers of ancient times, which must of necessity have tended to
create this recklessness of human life.

The doctrines inculcated by the stoical philosophers, or the disciples
of Zeno, must have increased the crime of suicide. “A stoical wise man
is ever ready to die for his country or his friends. A wise man will
never look upon death as an evil; that he will despise it, and be ready
to undergo it at any time.” “A wise man,” says Diog. Laertius, in his
life of Zeno, when expounding the stoical philosophy, “will quit life,
when oppressed with severe pain, or when deprived of any of his senses,
or when labouring under desperate diseases.” It is astonishing that a
sect of philosophers who inculcated that pain was no evil, should so
often have practised suicide. Much as we would condemn such principles,
still we must admit that most of the admired characters of antiquity
belonged to this celebrated sect—men distinguished for their wisdom,
learning, and the strictness of their morals. Cato was a stoic, and he
put into practice the principles of the sect to which he belonged.[10]

Among the philosophers of antiquity, Seneca stands preeminently*
forward as the defender of suicide. He says, “Does life please you?
live on. Does it not? go from whence you came. No vast wound is
necessary; a mere puncture will secure your liberty. It is a bad
thing (you say) to be under the necessity of living; but there is no
necessity in the case. Thanks be to the gods, nobody can be compelled
to live.”[11] These were the principles of the “wise Seneca,” and yet
he wanted the courage to commit suicide when put to the test. He says,
“Being emaciated by a severe illness, I often thought of suicide,
but was recalled by the old age of a most indulgent father; for I
considered not how resolutely ‘I’ could encounter death, but how ‘he’
could bear up under my loss.” This is not, however, the only instance
in which Seneca yielded his stoical principles to the dictates of
natural affection and rational judgment.

Among other distinguished philosophers who advocated suicide was
Epictetus. Although a stoic, he did not blindly follow the doctrines
of Zeno. Epictetus considered that it was the duty of man to suffer to
almost any extent before he sacrificed his own life. “If you like not
life, you may leave it; the door is open; get you gone! But a little
smoke ought not to frighten you away; it should be endured, and will
thereby be often surmounted.”

Epictetus followed strictly his own principles: in this respect he
was superior to Seneca. Seneca was born in the lap of good fortune;
Epictetus was a slave, and had to pass through the rugged paths of
adversity, bodily pain, and penury. Seneca was banished from Rome for
an intrigue; Epictetus was sent into exile for being a man of learning
and a philosopher.

When Epictetus was beaten unmercifully by his master, he said, with
great composure, “You will certainly break my leg.” He did so; and the
philosopher calmly rejoined, “Did I not tell you you would do it?”
This was in the true spirit of stoical philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was, perhaps, one of the brightest ornaments
of the sect of stoics. He carried into the minutest concern of life the
doctrine of Zeno. “He was,” says Gibbon, “severe to himself, indulgent
to the imperfections of others, just and beneficent to all mankind.”

Zeno, the founder of the sect of stoical philosophers, acted up to
the principles which he inculcated to his disciples. His suicide is
recorded to be as follows:—As he was going out of his school one day,
at the age of ninety-eight, he fell down, put a finger out of joint,
went home, and hanged himself.

Cleanthes, also, the successor of Zeno, followed the example of his
master in philosophy, by shortening the period of his life in the
following manner:—After having used abstinence for two days, by the
advice of his physician, for the cure of a trifling indisposition under
which he was labouring, he had permission to return to his former diet;
but he refused all sustenance, saying, “_that as he had advanced so far
on his journey towards death, he would not retreat_.” He accordingly
starved himself to death.

Among the most distinguished orators of antiquity who spoke in favour
of suicide stands Cicero. During his banishment he would have actually
destroyed himself, if it had not been for his natural timidity and
want of resolution. He writes to his brother Quintus, “The tears of my
friends have prevented me from flying to death as my refuge.”

Pliny was an advocate of suicide. In a chapter entitled “On God,” he
writes thus—“The chief comfort of man in his imperfect state is this,
that even the Deity cannot do all things. For instance, he cannot put
himself to death when he pleases, which is the greatest indulgence he
has given to man amid the severe evils of life.” Pliny belonged to the
Epicureans, and his notions are in accordance with the doctrines of
that sect.

Pliny the younger appears to have had different notions on the
subject. When lamenting the death of a dear friend, Corellius Rufus,
who had killed himself, he says, “He is dead—dead by his own hand,
which agonizes my grief; for that is the most lamentable kind of death
which neither proceeds from nature nor from fate.” The whole epistle
from which the above extract is made indicates a noble and feeling
heart.

It appears that the Roman laws respecting suicide were of a fiscal
nature. They viewed the act not as a crime abstractedly, but considered
how far the circumstance affected the state or treasury. In some
portion of the Roman empire the magistrate had the power of granting
or refusing permission to commit suicide. If the decision was given
against the applicant, and he persisted in sacrificing his life,
disgrace and ignominy were heaped upon his body, and it was buried in
the most humiliating manner. The tenour of the law relating to suicide
laid down in “Justinian’s Digests” is to the following effect:—“Those
who, being actually accused, or who being caught in any crime, and
dreading a prosecution, made way with themselves, were to have their
effects confiscated. But this confiscation was no punishment of
suicide, _as a crime in itself_, being then only to take place when the
crime committed incurred the confiscation of property, and when the
person accused of it would have been found guilty. For which reason
the heirs-at-law were permitted (if they thought proper) to try the
cause as though the accused person, who had put a period to his life,
had been still living; and if his innocence could be proved, they were
still entitled to his effects. But if any one killed himself, either
through weariness of life, or an impatience under pain or ill health,
for a load of private debt, or for any other reason not affecting the
state or public treasury, the property of the deceased flowed in its
natural channel. In the case of an attempted but incomplete suicide,
where a man was under no accusation, a distinction was made as to the
causes impelling to it, before the question as to its punishment was
to be determined. If it proceeded not from weariness of life, or an
impatience under the pressure of some calamity, the attempter was to
suffer the same punishment as if he had effected his purpose; and for
this reason, because he who without reason spared not his own life,
would not be likely to spare another man’s.”[12]

If a prisoner committed suicide, the jailor authorized to protect him
was punished very severely. The Roman law made a distinction between
soldiers and civilians. If a soldier attempted to take away his life,
and it could not be proved that he was suffering at the time from great
grief, misfortune, madness, &c., it was deemed a capital offence, and
death was the punishment. And even in cases where it was established
that the act was the result of mental perturbation, he was dismissed
from the service with ignominy and disgrace.

During the pure ages of the Roman Republic, when religion was
reverenced, when the gods were looked up to with respect as the
disposers of all events, suicide was but little known. But when the
philosophy of Greece was introduced into the Roman Empire, and the
manners of the people became corrupted and degenerated, the crime
increased to an alarming extent. This indifference to life was also
augmented by the spread of stoical and epicurean principles. The stoic
was taught to believe his life his own; that he was the sole arbiter of
his existence; and that he could live or die as he pleased. The same
principles were inculcated by the epicurean philosophy. Is it, then, to
be wondered at, that suicide should be of common occurrence, when such
degrading principles had taken possession of the minds of the people?

By the law of Thebes, the person who committed suicide was deprived of
his funeral rites, and his name and memory were branded with infamy.
The Athenian law was equally severe: the hand of the self-murderer
was cut off, and buried apart from his body, as having been an enemy
and traitor to it. The Greeks considered suicide as a most heinous
crime. The bodies of suicides, according to the Grecian custom, were
not burned to ashes, but were immediately buried. They considered it
a pollution of the holy element of fire to consume in it the carcases
of those who had been guilty of self-murder. Suicides were classed
“with the public or private enemy; with the traitor, and conspirator
against his country; with the tyrant, the sacrilegious wretch, and
such grievous offenders whose punishment was impalement alive on a
cross.”[13]

These laws, however, fell into disuse, as appears evident from the
circumstance of there being so many cases of suicide which escaped this
treatment.

In the island of Ceos the magistrates had the power of deciding whether
a person had sufficient reasons for killing himself. A poison was kept
for that purpose, which was given to the applicant who made out his
case before the magistracy.

The same custom was followed among the Massilians, the ancient
inhabitants of Marseilles. A preparation of hemlock was kept in
readiness, and the senate, on hearing the merits of the case, had the
power to decide whether the applicant had good and substantial reasons
for committing suicide. There was, no doubt, much good effected by this
regulation, as it clearly acknowledged the principle that the power
of a man over his own life rested not in himself, but in the voice of
the magistrate, who alone was to determine how his life or death might
affect the state.

Libanius, of Antioch, who flourished towards the end of the fourth
century, has very happily ridiculed the practice to which we have
alluded. In some imaginary pleadings before the senate, he advocates
the cause of a man who wishes to swallow the hemlock draught, that
he may be freed from the garrulity of a loquacious wife. “Truly,”
says he, “if our legislator had not been addicted too much to law
making, I should have been under no necessity of proving before you
the expediency of my departure, but a rope and the first tree would
have given me peace and quiet. But since he, determining we should be
slaves, has deprived us even of the liberty of dying when we please,
and has enchained us with decrees on this business, I imprecate the
author and obey his mandates, in thus laying my complaints and my
request before you.” He then, with considerable eloquence and humour,
advocates the cause of the “envious man,” who wishes to taste the
“suicidal draught” because his neighbour’s wealth had increased beyond
his own. “Let the wretch,” he says, “recite his calamities, let the
senate bestow the antidote, and let grief be dissolved in death.”

Libanius then pleads in behalf of Timon, the man hater, who begs
permission to dispatch himself because he was bound by profession to
hate all mankind, but he could not help loving Alcibiades.

It is a singular circumstance connected with the subject of suicide,
that authors who have written in its defence should quote the cases
referred to in this chapter in justification of their views. They
have not taken into consideration the peculiar customs, habits, and
religion of the people, which of course must have greatly influenced
their actions. How absurd would it be for us to take the authority of
antiquity as an infallible rule of conduct. The Massagetes considered
those unhappy who died a natural death, and therefore eat their dearest
friends when they grew old. The Libarenians broke their necks down a
precipice. The Bactrians were thrown alive to the dogs. The Scythians
buried the dearest friends of the deceased with them alive, or killed
them on the funeral pile. The Roman people, when sunk in vice and
licentiousness, considered it a mark of courage and honour to fall by
their own hands, and suicide was a common occurrence with them.

“In the beginning of the spring,” says Malt. Brun, “a shocking ceremony
takes place at Cola Bhairava, in the mountains between the rivers Taptæ
and Nerbuddah. It is the practice of some persons of the lowest tribes
in Berar to make vows of suicide, in return for answers which their
prayers are believed to have received from their idols. This is the
place where such vows are performed in the beginning of spring, when
eight or ten victims generally throw themselves from a precipice. The
ceremony gives rise to an annual fair, and some trade.”[14]

No just distinction can be drawn between these customs. The Indian
widow, in obedience to the religion of her country, ascends the
funeral pile of her husband, and is burnt to death. Thousands annually
sacrifice their lives by throwing themselves under the wheels of their
idol Juggernaut. Strong feelings of religion impel them to this; they
become excluded from society, they lose caste, and are subjected to
all kinds of persecution if they do not bow to the customs of the
country. What legitimate argument can be deduced from these facts in
favour of suicide? And yet these cases are considered to constitute
a justification of the stoical dogma, that we have a right when we
please to put an end to our own existence. Desperate indeed must be the
circumstances of those who are compelled to found their reasoning on so
flimsy a basis.



CHAPTER II.

WRITERS IN DEFENCE OF SUICIDE.


  Opinions of Hume—Effect of his writings—Case of suicide caused
  by—The doctrines of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Montaigne
  examined—Origin of Dr. Donne’s celebrated work—Madame de
  Staël’s recantation—Robert of Normandy, Gibbon, Sir T. More,
  and Robeck’s opinions considered.

It will be foreign to my purpose to enter elaborately into an
examination of the opinions of those who have thought proper to justify
the commission of suicide. The arguments which have been advanced by
Hume, Donne, Rousseau, Madame de Staël, Montesquieu, Montaigne, Gibbon,
Voltaire, and Robeck, are founded on such gross and apparent fallacies,
that they carry with them their own refutation.

Hume, whose pen was always ready to support opinions at variance with
the precepts of the Christian religion, wrote an essay on the subject
of suicide. He has endeavoured to shew that self-murder is consistent
with our duty to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Referring to the
first of these three heads, he says—“As, on the one hand, the elements
and other inanimate parts of creation carry on their action without
regard to the particular interests and situation of men, so men are
entrusted to their own judgment and discretion in the various shades
of matter, and may employ every faculty with which they are endowed in
order to provide for their ease, happiness, or preservation.”

If an action be clearly shewn to be an infringement of the laws of
God, it certainly cannot be one which he has left us to exercise
at discretion. All the laws of religion and morality are so many
abridgments of man’s liberty, in the exercise of his judgment and
discretion for his own happiness. Hume then proceeds to examine
whether suicide be a breach of duty to our neighbour and society. He
observes—“A man who retires from life does no harm to society,—he
only ceases to do good; which, if it be an injury, is of the lowest
kind.” The man who sacrifices his own life does a _great injury_ to
society. There are very few men in the world who have no relations
or connexions, and he entails upon these the opprobrium that society
attaches to the crime of suicide. Independently of this, his example
acts injuriously on the minds of others, who may not have such good
reasons for suicide as he has. “I believe,” continues Hume, “that no
man ever threw away life while it was worth keeping. For such is our
natural horror of death, that small motives will never be able to
reconcile us to it.” He might as well have stated that such is our
horror of poverty that no man ever threw away _riches_ which were worth
keeping. The fallacy consists in drawing a conclusion from a mind
supposed in its right state, in which every faculty, propensity, and
aversion has its due proportion of strength; and in which the natural
horror of death will secure a man from throwing away a life which is
worth keeping: and this conclusion is applied to a _depraved_ state of
mind, in which it can by no means hold.

The same author asserts, “That it would be no crime in me to divert
the Nile or Danube from its course, if I could; where, then, is the
crime of turning a few ounces of blood out of its natural channel?” The
argument is too puerile to merit refutation. He must first establish
that no injury would accrue from diverting the course of the Nile and
Danube, before any argument can be deduced from it which is worth one
moment’s consideration.

It has been asserted, and remains uncontradicted, that Mr. Hume lent
his “Essay on Suicide” to a friend, who on returning it told him it was
a most excellent performance, and pleased him better than anything he
had read for a long time. In order to give Hume a practical exhibition
of the effects of his defence of suicide, his friend shot himself the
day after returning him his Essay.

If, in any one instance, suicide might admit of something like an
apology, it would have been in this—if the detestable author of this
abominable treatise had, on receiving the melancholy intelligence,
committed it to the flames, and terminated his own pernicious existence
by a cord. But the cold-blooded infidel was too cowardly to execute
summary justice on himself. With a truly diabolical spirit, his delight
was to scatter firebrands among the people, and say, “Am I not in
sport?”

Mr. Hume is the hero of modern infidels, because he is the only one
among them whose life was not disgraced by the grossest of vices;
for this, his selfish and avaricious spirit affords, perhaps, the
true reason. It is well known that Hume, in more than one instance,
sacrificed his principles (if he had any) to views of emolument at the
suggestion of the booksellers. It has been said that he was scarcely
guilty of a good or benevolent action. His treatment of Rousseau was
unfeeling in the extreme; and an intimate friend of the essayist
affirms, that “his heart was as hard and cold as marble.”

Montesquieu’s arguments in favour of suicide appear to border very
closely on those advanced by Hume. They will be found in a letter
written in the character of a Persian resident in Europe.

Rousseau[15] in his “Nouvelle Heloïse” observes, “The more I reflect
upon it (suicide), the more I find that the question reduces itself
to this fundamental proposition:—To seek one’s own good, and avoid
one’s own harm in that which hurts not another, is the law of nature.”
Rousseau must first clearly establish that what he terms “seeking
one’s own good” will not be productive of injury to others. According
to the notion of what the majority of men conceive to be their good,
much evil would result from allowing mankind to act under the influence
of their own feelings and judgment. What one man considers “good,”
another considers evil; and what often appears to be very beneficial to
ourselves, if examined fairly, will be found to be the very reverse.

Montaigne’s arguments are borrowed from ancient writers in defence of
suicide. He assumes at the commencement that suicide is not an evil.
He says, that pain, and the fear of suffering a worse death, is an
excusable incitement to suicide. The whole that he has advanced is but
a string of sophistries.

Dr. Donne has entered more fully into the defence of suicide than any
other writer. The whole of his work appears to be written for the
purpose of demonstrating that it is praiseworthy to shew a contempt of
life in the discharge of our duty, and in the execution of noble and
beneficent enterprises.

Dr. Donne was probably drawn to the contemplation of this subject by
his own sufferings. While he was secretary to Lord Chancellor Egerton,
he married a young lady of rank superior to his own, which gave offence
to his patron, and he was consequently dismissed from office. He
suffered extreme poverty with his wife and children; and in a letter,
in which he adverts to the illness of a daughter whom he tenderly
loved, he says that he dares not expect relief, even from death, as he
cannot afford the expense of a funeral. He afterwards took orders, and
was promoted to the deanery of St. Paul’s. In the early part of his
life, and probably during the period of his sufferings, he wrote his
book, entitled, “Βιαθανατος, _A Declaration of that paradox
or thesis, that self-homicide is not so naturally sin that it may never
be otherwise_.” He did not publish it. He desired _it to be remembered,
that it was written by Jack Donne, not by Dr. Donne_; and it was
published many years after his death, by his son, a dissipated young
man, tempted by his necessities to forget his father’s prohibition.

_Madame de Staël_ attempted to justify suicide in her work on the
passions, but she, greatly to her honour, published her celebrated
“Reflections on Suicide,” which was written as a recantation of some
opinions on the subject incidentally expressed in the work alluded
to. She expresses the change in her sentiments on this subject in the
following curious manner:—“J’ai l’acte du suicide, dans mon ouvrage sur
l’influence des passions, et je me suis repentie depuis de cétte parole
inconsiderée. J’etois alors dans tout l’orgueil et la vivacité de la
première jeunesse; mais à quoi servirait-il de vivre, si ce n’était
dans l’espoir de s’ameliorer.”

Madame de Staël has treated the subject with considerable ingenuity
and ability, and with a great deal of eloquence, but she has hardly
enforced sufficiently the arguments against this crime which may be
deduced from the use of that portion of existence we pass upon earth.
We are wise and good just in proportion as we consider and treat life
and all its incidents as moral means to a great end. Upon every moment
of time an eternity is dependent; and whenever we sacrifice a moment,
we throw away an instrument by which we might have created an eternity
of happiness.

All mankind are not placed upon an equality. Some experience pleasure,
others pain, privation or suffering; the tools with which we are to
work may be inconvenient or burthensome, or light and pleasant; but
they must be the most useful and efficacious, or they would not be
put into our hands; at any rate, they are all we have. We cannot fix
too deeply on our minds the truth that life is not an absolute, but a
relative existence, as in its relation to the eternity with which it is
connected, consists all its value and importance.

_Robert of Normandy_, surnamed the Devil, sacrificed his own life,
and before doing so he wrote a work in defence of suicide, in which
he argued that there was no law that forbids a person to deprive
himself of life; that the love of life is to be subservient to that
of happiness; that our body is a mean and contemptible machine, the
preservation of which we ought not so highly to value; if the human
soul be mortal, it receives but a slight injury, but if immortal,
the greatest advantage; a benefit ceases to be one when it becomes
troublesome, and then surely a man ought to be allowed to resign it;
a voluntary death is often the only method of avoiding the greatest
crime; and finally, that suicide is justified by the example of most
nations in the world. Such is the substance of the arguments in favour
of suicide urged by Robert of Normandy, and worthy of his celebrated
namesake.

Gibbon and Sir Thomas More are cited as champions in favour of suicide;
but there is nothing which these authors have advanced that merits a
separate consideration.



CHAPTER III.

SUICIDE A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN.—IT IS NOT AN ACT OF COURAGE.


  The sin of suicide—The notions of Paley on the
  subject—Voltaire’s opinion—Is suicide self-murder?—Is it
  forbidden in Scripture?—Shakspeare’s views on the subject—The
  alliance between suicide and murder—Has a man a right to
  sacrifice his own life?—Everything held upon trust—Suicide
  a sin against ourselves and neighbour—It is not an act of
  courage—Opinion of Q. Curtius on the subject—Buonaparte’s
  denunciation of suicide—Dryden’s description of the suicide in
  another world.

Among the black catalogue of human offences, there is not, indeed,
any that more powerfully affects the mind, that more outrages all
the feelings of the heart, than the crime of suicide. Our laws have
branded it with infamy, and the industry which is exerted by surviving
relatives to conceal its perpetration evinces that the shame which is
attached to it is of that foul and contagious character, that even the
innocent consider themselves infected by its malignity.

Much discussion has taken place as to whether self-murder is expressly
forbidden in the Old or New Testament.[16] Paley, who is a high
authority on all questions connected with moral philosophy, denies that
it is. He considers that the article in the decalogue so often brought
forward, “Thou shalt do no murder,” is inconclusive. “I acknowledge (he
observes) that there is to be found neither any express determination
of the question, nor sufficient evidence to prove that the case of
suicide was in the contemplation of the law which prohibits murder. Any
inference, therefore, which we deduce from Scripture, can be sustained
only by _construction and implication_.”

To maintain that God has not forbidden us to destroy the work of his
hands, because self-murder is not particularly specified, is to leave
us at liberty to commit many other offences which are not named among
the prohibitions, but which are included under general heads. When
God said to Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood
be shed, for in the image of God made he man,” it is evident that,
whatever meaning we may attach to the last words, in whatever sense man
is said to be made in the image of God, the reason of the prohibition
holds as strong against self-murder as against any other kind of
murder. If I am commanded not to shed the blood of another man because
he is made in the _image of God_, I am not justified in shedding my own
blood, as I stand in the same relation to the Deity as my fellow-men.
But there is a particular reason why suicide is not any where expressly
forbidden by _name_; that is, that whatever sins and offences God,
as a lawgiver, prohibits, he does so with a penalty; he affixes such
a punishment to such a crime, and he who transgresses is to undergo
the determined punishment in this world or in the next. Neither God
nor the magistrate can prohibit self-murder with any penalty that can
affect the criminal himself; because of his very crime, he escapes
all temporal punishment in person—he has anticipated the operation of
the law. In fact, he has, in his own person, acted the part of the
criminal, judge, jury, and executioner; he is dead before the law
can take any cognizance of his offence. No law can be enacted to any
purpose without a penalty; where, therefore, there can be no penalty,
there can be no law. Self-murder prevents all penalty, and therefore
wants no particular prohibition; it must therefore be included under
general commands, and forbidden as a _sin_, which it is only in the
power of God to take cognizance of, in another world.

Again, doubtlessly the inspired writer considered suicide of such an
atrocious nature that the warnings of conscience were sufficient to
prevent its frequency, and because the voice of nature instinctively
cries out against it.

That the act of suicide must be most offensive in the sight of God is
evident, since it is that which most directly violates those laws by
which his providence has formed, and still directs, the universe. If
any one principle in man is instinctive and implanted in him by the
hand of nature, it is that of self preservation. Different religions
and different codes have marked out particular duties, and proscribed
particular crimes; in this, every religion unites, every society
concurs, and every individual acknowledges within his own bosom the
sacred command. If, therefore, to disobey the ordinances of God must be
sinful in his sight, if ever the ordinances of men are to be respected,
what must be the guilt of that person who violates the first law of
nature, who disregards the principle that holds human society together,
that fits us for every duty, and prompts us in the performance of them!

But it is not merely against the ordinance of his Creator that the
self-murderer offends,[17] he is guilty of a breach of duty to his
neighbour. He plants a dagger not merely in his own breast, but in that
of his dearest, his tenderest connexions. He wantonly sports with the
pangs of sensibility, and covers with the blush of shame the cheek of
innocence. With a degree of ingratitude which excites our abhorrence,
he clouds with sorrow the future existence of those by whom he was most
tenderly beloved, and affixes a mark of ignominy on his unfortunate
descendants. He disobeys the first of social laws, that order by which
God appropriated his labours to the welfare of society, and, because he
fancies he can no longer exist with comfort to himself, disregards all
the duties which he owes to others.

The alliance between suicide and the murder of others is a closer one
than is generally supposed. How many instances are recorded in which
suicide and homicide have been conjoined! He who will not scruple to
take away his own life, will not require much reasoning to impel him
to sacrifice another’s. We refer to the cases of Mithridates, king of
Pontus, and Nicocles, as illustrative of this position. Many modern
instances are recorded of the same character.

It was maintained by Marcus Aurelius, that there was no more of evil in
parting from life than in going out of a smoky chamber; and Rousseau
asks, “Why should we be permitted to cut off a leg, if we may not
equally take away life? has not the will of God given us both?” Madame
de Staël very properly observes that the following passage in Scripture
replies to this sophism—“If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; if thine
eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.” Temptation is
evidently referred to in the above passage, but it may consistently be
used in refutation of Rousseau’s illogical argument. Although a man may
use any means placed in his power for the removal of physical evils, he
is distinctly prohibited from destroying his existence.

The interrogatory argument, if it can be so denominated, which is so
often used in justification of suicide—“Cannot a man do what he likes
with his own?”—is based upon an absurd and gross fallacy. Man, during
his residence on this earth, is but a trustee; his wealth, his talents,
his time, and his very life, are but trust property. He can call
nothing truly his own; he is held accountable for the most apparently
trivial action he performs. Life is given to him for noble purposes;
it is an emanation from the Deity himself; and no circumstances would
justify us in asserting that our very existence is placed at our own
disposal. How truly has the noble poet observed, when alluding to the
tenure upon which we hold everything during this life—

  “Can despots compass aught that hails their sway,
  Or call one solid span of earth their own,
  Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone?”

This life is one of privation. We are born to misery; we are led to
expect disappointment at every step we take; blighted expectations,
ruined hopes, pain, mental and bodily, constitute a part and parcel of
our very existence. No man was more overwhelmed with any species of
misfortune than Job; he was emphatically styled “_the man of grief_;”
and when, prostrated to the earth by the most poignant misery, his wife
exhorted him to quit life,—to “curse God, and die,”—he replied, “What,
shall I receive good from the hand of God, and not evil?”

No suffering, however acute, could for one moment justify the
commission of self-murder. “The concluding scene in the life of Jesus
Christ,” says Madame de Staël, with a fervid eloquence which does her
immortal honour, “seems peculiarly intended to confute those who
contend for the right of destroying life to escape misfortune. The
dread of suffering seized him who had willingly devoted himself to
death for the good of mankind. He prayed a long time to his Father in
the Mount of Olives, and his countenance was shaded by the anguish
of death. ‘My Father,’ he cried, ‘if it be possible, let this cup
pass from me.’ Thrice with tears was this prayer repeated. All the
sorrows of our nature had passed through his divine mind; like us, he
feared the violence of men; like us, perhaps, regretted those whom
he cherished and loved, his mother and his disciples; like us, he
loved this earth, and the celestial pleasures resulting from active
benevolence, for which he incessantly thanked his Father. But, not able
to avert the destined chalice, he cried, ‘Oh, my Father, let thy will
be done,’ and resigned himself into the hands of his enemies. What
more can be sought for in the gospel respecting resignation to grief,
and the duty of supporting it with fortitude and patience.” Poets
and orators have entered into a chivalrous rivalry to celebrate the
character of the “bold man struggling with the storms of fate.” That
adversity refines and ennobles our nature there cannot be a doubt. The
most beautiful features of the human mind are developed in suffering;
the ordeal through which we pass, however repugnant and abhorrent it
may be to our feelings, produces a moral regeneration in the character.
We come out of the “fiery furnace,” like gold and silver, deprived of
much of our dross; and life, youthful and innocent life, again dawns
upon us and gladdens our hearts.

Suicide is an injury to our neighbour and to society. As long as life
lasts,—no matter what amount of misery a person may suffer,—he has it
in his power to contribute to the happiness of others. By mitigating
the distresses of others, his own will be subdued. Let a man writhing
under the torture of the gout be brought into contact with a person
suffering from the intense agony of tic doloureux, and he will have a
practical illustration of the fact, that there are others in the world
worse off than himself.

Suicide has been defended as an act of courage. Courage, forsooth! If
ever there is an act of cowardice, it is that exhibited by the person
who, to escape from the disappointments and vexations of the world,
wantonly puts an end to his existence. The man of courage will defy the
opinions and scorns of the world, when he knows himself to be in the
right; will be above sinking under the petty misfortunes that assail
him; will make circumstances bow to him; will court difficulties and
dangers, in order to shew that he is able to master them.

It was a noble sentiment which Q. Curtius put into the mouth of Darius,
after every ray of hope had abandoned him:—“I will wait,” cried the
king, addressing his attendants, “the issue of my fate. You wonder,
perhaps, that I do not terminate my own life; but I choose rather to
die by another’s crime than by my own.” The sentiments of Cleomenes,
king of Sparta, expressed when his fortunes appeared most desperate,
are equally noble and magnanimous. Being much urged by a friend to
dispatch himself, he replied—“By seeking this easy and ready kind of
death, you think to appear brave and courageous; but better men than
you and I have been oppressed by fortune, and borne down by multitudes.
He that sinks under toil, or yields to affliction, or is overcome by
the opinions and reproaches of men, gives way, in fact, to his own
effeminacy and cowardice. A voluntary death is never to be chosen as a
relief from action, but as exemplary in itself, it being base to live
or die only for ourselves. The death to which you now invite us is only
proposed as a release from present misery, but conveys with it no signs
of bravery or prospects of advantage.”

Euripides put the following words in the mouth of Hercules: “I have
considered, and, though oppressed with misfortunes, I have determined
thus: Let no one depart out of life through fear of what may happen to
him; for he who is not able to resist evils will fly, like a coward,
from the darts of the enemy.”

When Buonaparte was told of the prevalent opinion, that he ought not
to have survived his political downfall, he calmly replied—“No, no; I
have not enough of the Roman in me to destroy myself.” After reasoning,
with considerable ingenuity, on the subject of suicide, he concluded
by giving expression to this decided opinion:—“Suicide is a crime the
most revolting to my feelings; nor does any reason present itself to my
understanding by which it can be justified. It certainly originates in
that species of fear which we denominate cowardice, (_poltronnerie_.)
For what claim can that man have to courage who trembles at the frowns
of fortune? True heroism consists in becoming superior to the ills
of life, in whatever shape they may challenge him to the combat.” He
might have added—“Tu ne cede malis, sed contrà audentior ito.” On
another occasion, when talking on the subject of suicide, Buonaparte
observed, “If Marius had slain himself in the marshes of Minturnæ, he
never would have stood the seventh time for consul.” After having been
some time at St. Helena, he one day spoke further on the subject of
suicide. He observed:—“With respect to the English language, I have
been very diligent. I now read your newspapers with ease; and must own
that they afford me no inconsiderable amusement. They are occasionally
inconsistent, and sometimes abusive. In one paper I am called a
_Lear_; in another, a _tyrant_; in a third, a _monster_; and in one of
them—which I really did not expect—I am described as a _coward_. But it
turned out, after all, that the writer did not accuse me of avoiding
danger in the field of battle, or flying from an enemy, or fearing to
look at the menaces of fate and fortune. It did not charge me with
wanting presence of mind in the hurry of battle, and in the suspense of
conflicting armies; no such thing. I wanted courage, it seems, because
I did not coolly take a dose of poison, or throw myself into the sea,
or blow out my brains. The editor most certainly misunderstands me; I
have, at least, too much courage for that.”[18]

We think it has decidedly been established in the preceding
observations that suicide is a crime clearly prohibited in the Bible;
that it is, in every sense of the term, self-murder; and that our duty
to our Creator, to ourselves, and to society, loudly calls upon us to
denounce it, and hold it up to the scorn and reprobation of mankind.
How terrifically has Dryden, in his Fables, portrayed the condition of
the unfortunate suicide in another world:—

  “The slayer of himself, too, saw I there:
  The gore, congealed, was clotted in his hair.
  With eyes half closed, and mouth wide ope, he lay,
  And grim as when he breathed his sullen soul away.”



CHAPTER IV.

ON THE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN MENTAL STATES IN INDUCING THE DISPOSITION
TO SUICIDE.


  Moral causes of disease—Neglect of psychological
  medicine—Mental philosophy a branch of medical study—Moral
  causes of suicide—Tables of Falret, &c.—Influence of
  remorse—Simon Brown, Charles IX. of France—Massacre of
  St. Bartholomew—Terrible death of Cardinal Beaufort, from
  remorse—The Chevalier de S——. Influence of disappointed
  love—Suicide from love—Two singular cases—Effects of
  jealousy—Othello—Suicide from this passion—The French opera
  dancer—Suicide from wounded vanity—False pride—The remarkable
  case of Villeneuve, as related by Buonaparte—Buonaparte’s
  attempt at suicide—Ambition—Despair, cases of suicide from—The
  Abbé de Rancé—Suicide from blind impulse—Cases—Mathews,
  the comedian—Opinion of Esquirol on the subject—Ennui,
  birth of—Common cause of suicide in France—Effect of
  speculating in stocks—Defective education—Diffusion of
  knowledge—“Socialism” a cause of self-destruction—Suicide
  common in Germany—Werter—Goëthe’s attempt at suicide—Influence
  of his writings on Hackman—Suicide from reading Tom Paine’s
  “Age of Reason”—Suicide to avoid punishment—Most remarkable
  illustrations—Political excitement—Nervous irritation—Love
  of notoriety—Hereditary disposition—Is death painful? fully
  considered, with cases—Influence of irreligion.

In our voyage through life, the passions are said to be the gales that
swell the canvass of the mental bark; they obstruct or accelerate
its course, and render the passage favourable or full of danger, in
proportion as they blow steadily from a proper point, or are adverse or
tempestuous. Like the wind itself, the passions are engines of mighty
power and of high importance. Without them we cannot proceed, and with
them we may be shipwrecked and lost. Curbed in and regulated, they
constitute the source of our most elevated happiness; but when not
subdued, they drive the vessel on the rocks and quicksands of life, and
ruin us.

  “How few beneath auspicious planets born
  With swelling sails make good the promis’d port,
  With all their wishes freighted.”

  YOUNG.

“In this country,” Dr. J. Johnson justly observes, “where man’s
relations with the world around him are multiplied beyond all example
in any other country, in consequence of the intensity of interest
attached to politics, religion, amusement, literature, and the arts;
where the temporal concerns of an immense proportion of the population
are in a perpetual state of vacillation; where spiritual affairs excite
in the minds of many great anxiety; and where speculative risks are
daily involving in difficulties all classes of society,—the operation
of physical causes in the production of disease dwindles into complete
insignificance when compared with that of anxiety and perturbation of
mind.”

“Mens conscia recti in corpore sano,” is Horace’s well-known
description of the happy man. Lucretius appears to have formed a
correct estimate of the most important bodily and mental conditions on
which our happiness depends:—

  “O wretched mortals! race perverse and blind!
  Through what dread, dark, what perilous pursuits
  Pass ye this round of being! Know ye not,
  Of all ye toil for, Nature nothing asks,
  But for the _body_ freedom from disease,
  And sweet unanxious quiet for the mind?”

Like human beings, the sciences are closely connected with, and are
mutually dependent upon, one another. The link in the chain may not be
apparent, but it has a real and palpable existence. Medical and moral
science are more nearly allied than we should, _à priori_, conclude.
We speak of the science of medicine, not the practice of it; for,
like judgment and wit, or, as the author of the School for Scandal
ironically observes, like _man and wife_, how seldom are they seen in
happy union. Garth feelingly alludes to this unnatural divorce:—

  “The healing art now, sick’ning, hangs its head,
  And, once a _science_, has become a _trade_.”

Psychological medicine has been sadly neglected. We recoil from the
study of mental philosophy as if we were encroaching on holy ground. So
great is the prejudice against this branch of science, that it has been
observed, that to recommend a man to study metaphysics was a delicate
mode of suggesting the propriety of confining him in a lunatic asylum!

In order to become a useful physician, it is necessary to become a good
metaphysician; so says a competent authority. It was not, however,
Dr. Cullen’s intention to recommend that species of philosophy which
confounds the mind without enlightening it, and which, like an _ignis
fatuus_, dazzles only to lead us from the truth. To the medical man we
can conceive no preliminary study more productive of advantage than
that which tends to call into exercise the latent principle of thought,
and to accustom the mind to close, rigid, and accurate observation.
The science of mind, when properly investigated, teaches us the laws
of our mental frame, and shews us the origin of our various modes and
habits of thought and feeling—how they operate upon one another, and
how they are cultivated and repressed; it disciplines us in the art of
induction, and guards us against the many sources of fallacy in the
practice of making inferences; it gives precision and accuracy to our
investigations, by instructing us in the nicer discriminations of truth
and falsehood.

The value of mental philosophy as a branch of education will be
properly appreciated when we consider that this ennobling principle was
given to us for the purpose of directing and controlling our powers and
animal propensities, and bringing them into that subjection whereby
they become beneficial to the individual and to the world at large,
enabling him to exchange with others those results which the power
of his own and the gigantic efforts of other minds have developed;
maintaining and perpetuating the most dignified and exalted state of
happiness, the attribute of social life; unfolding not only treasures
which the concentrated powers of individuals are enabled to discover,
but developing those more quiet and unobtrusive characteristics of
virtuous life, those social affections, which are alone calculated to
make our present state of being happy.

Independently of the utility of the study, what a world of delight is
open to the mind of that man who has devoted some portion of his time
to the investigation of his mental organization! In him we may truly
behold—

              “Nature, gentle, kind,
  By culture tamed, by liberty refreshed,
  And all the radiant fruits of truth matured.”

When we take into consideration the tremendous influence which the
different mental emotions have over the bodily functions, when we
perceive that violent excitement of mind will not only give rise to
serious functional disorder, but actual organic disease, leading to the
commission of suicide, how necessary does it appear that he to whose
care is entrusted the lives of his fellow-creatures, should have made
this department of philosophy a matter of serious consideration! It
is no logical argument against the study of mental science, to urge
that we are in total ignorance of the nature or constitution of the
human understanding. We know nothing of the nature of objects which are
cognizable to sense, and which can be submitted to actual experiment,
and yet we are not deterred from the investigation of their properties
and mutual influences. The passions are to be considered, in a medical
point of view, as a part of our constitution. They stimulate or depress
the mind, as food and drink do the body. Employed occasionally, and in
moderation, both may be of use to us, and are given to us by nature for
this purpose; but when urged to excess, the system is thrown off its
balance, and disease is the result.

To the medical philosopher, nothing can be more deeply interesting than
to trace the reciprocity of action existing between different mental
conditions, and affections of particular organs. Thus the passion of
fear, when excited, has a sensible influence on the action of the
heart; and when the disease of this organ takes place independently of
any mental agitation, the passion of fear is powerfully roused. Anger
affects the liver and confines the bowels, and frequently gives rise
to an attack of jaundice; and in hepatic and intestinal disease, how
irritable the temper is!

Hope, or the anticipation of pleasure, affects the respiration; and
how often do we see patients, in the last stage of pulmonary disease,
entertaining sanguine expectations of recovery to the very last!

As the passions exercise so despotic a tyranny over the physical
economy, it is natural to expect that the crime of suicide should
often be traced to the influence of mental causes. In many cases,
it is difficult to discover whether the brain, the seat of the
passions, be primarily or secondarily affected. Often the cause of
irritation is situated at some distance from the cerebral organ; but
when the fountain-head of the nervous system becomes deranged, it
will react on the bodily functions, and produce serious disease long
after the original cause of excitement is removed. It is not our
intention to attempt to explain the _modus operandi_ of mental causes
in the production of the suicidal disposition. That such effects
result from an undue excitement of the mind cannot for one moment
be questioned. Independently of mental perturbation giving rise to
maniacal suicide, there are certain conditions of mind, dependent
upon acquired or hereditary disposition, or arising from a defective
expansion of the intellectual faculties, which originate the desire for
self-destruction. These states will all be alluded to in the course of
the present inquiry.

Some idea of the influence of certain mental states on the body will
be obtained by an examination of the various tables which have been
published, in this and other countries, respecting the causes of
suicide, as far as they could be ascertained.

The following suicides were committed in London, between the years 1770
and 1830:[19]—

  _Indication of Causes._      _Men._   _Women._

  Poverty                       905      511
  Domestic grief                728      524
  Reverse of fortune            322      283
  Drunkenness and misconduct    287      208
  Gambling                      155      141
  Dishonour and calumny         125       95
  Disappointed ambition         122      410
  Grief from love                97      157
  Envy and jealousy              94       53
  Wounded self-love              53       53
  Remorse                        49       37
  Fanaticism                     16        1
  Misanthropy                     3        3
  Causes unknown               1381      377
                               ————     ————
                      Total    4337[20] 2853

According to a table formed by Falret of the suicides which took place
between 1794 and 1823, the following results appear:—Of 6782 cases, 254
were from disappointed love, and of this number 157 were women; 92 were
from jealousy; 125 from being calumniated; 49 from a desire, without
the means, of vindicating their characters; 122 from disappointed
ambition; 322 from reverses of fortune; 16 from wounded vanity; 155
from gambling; 288 from crime and remorse; 723 from domestic distress;
905 from poverty; 16 from fanaticism.

In preparing the present work, we have endeavoured to obtain access to
documents which would throw some light on the probable origin of the
many cases of self-destruction which have taken place within the last
four or five years. In many cases we could obtain no insight into the
motives of the individuals; but in nine-tenths of those whose histories
we succeeded in making ourselves somewhat conversant with, we found
that mental causes played a very conspicuous part in the drama. Our
experience on this point accords with that of many distinguished French
physicians who have devoted their time and talents to the consideration
of the subject.

In considering the influence of mental causes, we shall in the first
instance point out the effects of certain passions and dispositions
of the individual on the body; then investigate the operation of
education, irreligion, and certain unhealthy conditions of the mind
which predispose the individual to derangement and suicide.

There is no passion of the mind which so readily drives a person to
suicide as remorse. In these cases, there is generally a shipwreck of
all hope. To live is horror; the infuriated sufferer feels himself an
outcast from God and man; and though his judgment may still be correct
upon other subjects, it is completely overpowered upon that of his
actual distress, and all he thinks of and aims at is to withdraw with
as much speed as possible from the present state of torture, totally
regardless of the future.


  “I would not if I could be blest,
   I want no other paradise but rest.”


The most painfully interesting and melancholy cases of insanity are
those in which remorse has taken possession of the mind. Simon Brown,
the dissenting clergyman, fancied that he had been deprived by the
Almighty of his immortal soul, in consequence of having accidentally
taken away the life of a highwayman, although it was done in the act
of resistance to his threatened violence, and in protection of his
own person. Whilst kneeling upon the wretch whom he had succeeded in
throwing upon the ground, he suddenly discovered that his prostrate
enemy was deprived of life. This unexpected circumstance produced so
violent an impression upon his nervous system, that he was overpowered
by the idea of an involuntary homicide, and for this imaginary crime
fancied himself ever afterwards condemned to one of the most dreadful
punishments that could be inflicted upon a human being.

A young lady was one morning requested by her mother to stay at home;
notwithstanding which, she was tempted to go out. Upon her return to
her domestic roof, she found that the parent whom she had so recently
disobliged had expired in her absence. The awful spectacle of a
mother’s corpse, connected with the filial disobedience which had
almost immediately preceded, shook her reason from its seat, and she
has ever since continued in a state of mental derangement.

It is said that the solitary hours of Charles the Ninth of France were
rendered horrible by the repetition of the shrieks and cries which had
assailed his ears during the massacre of St. Bartholomew.[21]

The death of Cardinal Beaufort is represented as truly terrible. The
consciousness of having murdered the Duke of Gloucester is said to
have rendered Beaufort’s death one of the most terrific scenes ever
witnessed. Despair, in its worst form, appeared to take possession of
his mind at the last moment. His concluding words, as recorded by
Harpsfield,[22] were—“And must I then die? Will not all my riches save
me? I could purchase the kingdom, if that would save my life. What! is
there no bribing of death? When my nephew, the Duke of Bedford, died,
I thought my happiness and my authority greatly increased; but the
Duke of Gloucester’s death raised me in fancy to a level with kings,
and I thought of nothing but accumulating still greater wealth, to
purchase at last the triple crown. Alas! how are my hopes disappointed!
Wherefore, O my friends, let me earnestly beseech you to pray for me,
and recommend my departing soul to God!” A few minutes before his
death, his mind appeared to be undergoing the tortures of the damned.
He held up his two hands, and cried—“Away! away!—why thus do ye look at
me?” It was evident he saw some horrible spectre by his bed-side. This
last scene in the Cardinal’s life has been most ably delineated by the
immortal Shakspeare:—


  SCENE—_The Cardinal’s Bed-chamber_.

  _Enter_ KING HENRY, SALISBURY, and WARWICK.

  _King Hen._ How fares my Lord? Speak, Beaufort, to thy sovereign.

  _Cardinal._ If thou be’st Death, I’ll give thee England’s treasure,
  Enough to purchase such another island,
  So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.

  _King Hen._ Ah! what a sign it is of evil life
  When death’s approach is seen so terrible.

  _Warwick._ Beaufort, it is thy sovereign speaks to thee.

  _Cardinal._ Bring me unto my trial when you will.
  Died he[23] not in his bed? Where should he die?
  Can I make men live whe’er they will or no?
  O, torture me no more, I will confess—
  Alive again? then shew me where he is:
  I’ll give a thousand pound to look upon him—
  He hath no eyes, the dust hath blinded them.—
  Comb down his hair; look! look! it stands upright,
  Like lime-twigs set to catch my winged soul.—
  Give me some drink, and bid the apothecary
  Bring the strong poison that I bought of him.

  _King Hen._ O thou eternal Mover of the Heav’ns,
  Look with a gentle eye upon this wretch.
  O, beat away the busy meddling fiend,
  That lays strong siege unto this wretch’s soul,
  And from his bosom purge this black despair.

  _Warwick._ See how the pangs of death do make him grin!

  _Salisbury._ Disturb him not; let him pass peaceably.

  _King Hen._ Peace to his soul, if God’s good pleasure be!
  Lord Cardinal, if thou think’st on heaven’s bliss,
  Lift up thy hand, make signal of thy hope.—
  He dies, and makes no sign—O God, forgive him!

  _Warwick._ So bad a death argues a monstrous life.

  _King Hen._ Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.—
  Close up his eyes, and draw the curtain close,
  And let us all to meditation.[24]

M. Guillon relates the following remarkable case:—“The Chevalier de S——
had been engaged in seventeen ‘affairs of honour,’ in each of which his
adversary fell. But the images of his murdered rivals began to haunt
him night and day; and at length he fancied he heard nothing but the
wailings and upbraidings of seventeen families—one demanding a father,
another a son, another a brother, another a husband, &c. Harassed by
these imaginary followers, he incarcerated himself in the monastery of
La Trappe; but the French revolution threw open this asylum, and turned
the chevalier once more into the world. He was now no longer able to
bear the remorse of his own conscience, or, as he imagined, the sight
of seventeen murdered men, and therefore put himself to death. It is
evident that insanity was the consequence of the remorse, and the cause
of the suicide.

“No disease of the imagination is so difficult to cure as that which
is complicated with the idea of guilt: fancy and conscience then act
interchangeably upon us, and so often shift their places, that the
illusions of one are not distinguished from the dictates of the other.
If fancy presents images not moral or religious, the mind drives them
away when they give pain; but when melancholy notions take the form of
duty, they lay hold on the faculties without opposition, because we are
afraid to exclude or banish them.”[25]

How accurately has the poet depicted the tortures, the sleeplessness,
of a guilty conscience:—

  “Though thy slumber may be deep,
  Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
  There are shades which will not vanish,
  There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
  By a power to thee unknown,
  Thou canst never be alone;
  Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
  Thou art gathered in a cloud;
  And for ever shalt thou dwell
  In the spirit of this spell.”

A woman with her husband had been employed in a French hospital as
servants for a considerable time. Having left their situations, the
wife, _thirty years_ afterwards, declared she heard a voice within,
commanding her to repair instantly to the chief commissioner of police,
and confess the thefts she had committed during the time she was at
the hospital. The fact was, that she had been guilty of appropriating
occasionally to her own use a portion of the food supplied for the
patients attached to the Institution. The commissioner listened to the
woman’s story, and her demand that she should be punished, but refused
to take any cognizance of the offence. She returned home, and for some
time was extremely dejected. She became so miserable that existence was
no longer desirable; and as the legal tribunals refused to punish her,
she determined on suicide, which she committed at the age of fifty-one.

It is admitted, by almost universal consent, that there is no affection
of the mind that exerts so tremendous an influence over the human race
as that of love.

  “To love, and feel ourselves beloved,”

is said to constitute the height of human happiness. This sacred
sentiment, which some have debased by the term passion, when unrequited
and irregulated, produces the most baneful influence upon the system.

“A youthful passion, which is conceived and cherished without any
certain object, may be compared to a shell thrown from a mortar by
night: it rises calmly in a brilliant track, and seems to mix, and
even to dwell for a moment with the stars of heaven; but at length it
falls—it bursts—consuming and destroying all around, even as itself
expires.”[26]

From the constitution of woman, from the peculiar position which she
of necessity holds in society, we should, _à priori_, have concluded
that in her we should see manifested this sentiment in all its purity
and strength. Such is the fact. A woman’s life is said to be but the
history of her affections. It is the soul within her soul; the pulse
within her heart; the life blood along her veins, “blending with every
atom of her frame.” Separated from the bustle of active life—isolated
like a sweet and rare exotic flower from the world, it is natural to
expect that the mind should dwell with earnestness upon that which is
to constitute almost its very being, and apart from which it has no
existence.

  “Alas! the love of woman, it is known
  To be a lovely and a fearful thing;
  For all of theirs upon that die is thrown;
  And if ’tis lost, life hath no more to bring
  To them, but mockeries of the past alone.”

  BYRON.

The term “broken heart” is not a mere poetical image. Cases are
recorded in which that organ has been ruptured in consequence of
disappointed hope. Let those who are sceptical as to the fact that
physical disease so often results from blighted affection, visit the
wards of our public and private asylums. In those dreary regions of
misery they will have an opportunity of witnessing the wreck of many
a form that was once beauteous and happy. Ask their history, and you
will be told of holy and sincere affection nipped in the bud—of wild
and passionate love strangled at its birth—of the death of all human
hopes, of a severance from those about whom every fibre of the soul had
entwined itself. Silent and sullen grief, black despair,

  “And laughter loud, amidst severest woe,”

are the painful images that meet the eye at every step we take through
these “hells upon earth.”[27]

In this country, the great majority of the cases of insanity among
women, in our establishments devoted to the reception of the insane,
can clearly be traced to unrequited and disappointed affection. This
is not to be wondered at, if we consider the present artificial state
of society. We make “merchandize of love;” both men and women are
estimated, not by their mental endowments, not by their moral worth,
not by their capacity of making the domestic fire-side happy, but
by the length of their respective purses. Instead of seeking for a
heart, we look for a dowry. Money is preferred to intellect; pure and
unadulterated affection dwindles into nothingness when placed in the
same scale with titles and worldly honours,

  “And Mammon wins his way
  Where seraphs might despair.”

How little do those who ought to be influenced by more elevated motives
calculate the seeds of wretchedness and misery which they are sowing
for those who, by nature, have a right to demand that they should be
actuated by other principles!

            “Shall I be won
  Because I’m valued as a _money-bag_?
  For that I bring to him who winneth me,”[28]

says Catherine, in the spirit of honest indignation. It should be
remembered that “wedlock joins nothing, if it joins not hearts.”

How many melancholy cases of suicide can clearly be traced to this
cause! Death is considered preferable to a long life of unmitigated
sorrow. When the heart is seared, when there exists no “green spot
in memory’s dreary waste,”—when all hope is banished from the mind,
and wretched loneliness and desolation take up their residence in the
heart, need it excite surprise that the quiet and rest of the grave is
eagerly longed for! If a mind thus worked upon be not influenced by
religious principles, self-destruction is the idea constantly present
to the imagination.

Of all the sufferings, however, to which we are exposed during our
sojourn below, nothing is so truly overwhelming and irreparable as
the death of one with whom all our early associations are inseparably
linked—one endeared to us by the most pleasing recollections. Death
leaves a blank in our existence; a cold shuddering shoots through the
frame, a mist flits before our eyes, darkening the face of nature,
when the heart that mingled all its feelings with ours lies, cold and
insensible, in the silent grave.

As long as life lasts, there is hope; but death snatches every ray
of consolation from the mind. The only prop that supported us is
removed, and the mansion crumbles to the dust; the mind becomes
utterly and hopelessly wrecked. To say that this is but the effect on
understandings constitutionally weak, is to say what facts will not
establish. The most elevated and best cultivated minds are often the
most sensitively alive to such impressions.

The following case made considerable noise at Lyons, in 1770. A young
gentleman of rank, of handsome exterior, possessing considerable mental
endowments, and most respectably connected, fell in love with a young
lady, who, like himself, possessed a handsome person, in union with
accomplishments of a high order. They met; the passion was reciprocal,
and the gentleman accordingly made an application to her parents to
be allowed to consummate their bliss by marriage. The parents, as
parents sometimes do under these circumstances, refused compliance.
The gentleman took it greatly to heart; it preyed much upon his mind,
and in the midst of his grief he burst a blood-vessel. His case was
given over by the medical men. The young lady, on being made acquainted
with his condition, paid him a clandestine visit, and they then agreed
to destroy themselves. Accordingly the lady brought with her, on her
next visit, two pistols and two daggers, in order that, if the pistols
missed, the daggers might the next moment pierce their hearts. They
embraced each other for the last time. Rose-coloured ribbons were tied
to the triggers of the pistols; the lover holding the ribbon of his
mistress’ pistol, while she held the ribbon of his; both fired at a
given signal, and both fell at the same instant dead on the floor!

The case now about to be recorded presents some peculiarly interesting
features. An English lady, moving in the first circles of society,
went, in company with her friends, to the opera at Paris. In the next
box sat a gentleman, who appeared, from the notice he took of the
lady, to be enamoured of her. The lady expressed herself annoyed at
the observation which she had attracted, and moved to another part of
the box. The gentleman followed the carriage home, and insisted upon
addressing the lady, declaring that he had had the pleasure of meeting
her elsewhere, and that one minute’s conversation would convince her
of the fact, and do away with the unfavourable impression which his
apparent rudeness might have made upon her mind. As his request did
not appear at the moment unreasonable, she consented to see him for
a minute by herself. In that short space of time he made a fervent
declaration of his affection; acknowledged that desperation had
compelled him to have recourse to a _ruse_ to obtain an interview,
and that, unless she looked favourably on his pretensions, he would
kill her and then himself. The lady expressed her indignation at the
deceit he had practised, and said, with considerable firmness, that
he must quit the house. He did so, retired to his home, and with a
lancet opened a vein in his arm. He collected a portion of blood in a
cup, and with it wrote a note to the lady, telling her that his blood
was flowing fast from his body, and it should continue to flow until
she consented to listen to his proposals. The lady, on the receipt of
the note, sent her servant to see the gentleman, and found him, as
he represented, actually bleeding to death. On the entreaty of the
lady, the arm was bound up and his life saved. On writing to the lady,
under the impression that she would now accept his addresses, he was
amazed on receiving a cool refusal, and a request that he would not
trouble her with any more letters. Again driven to desperation, he
resolved effectually to kill himself. He accordingly loaded a pistol
and directed his steps towards the residence of his fair amorosa,
when, knocking at the door, he gained admission, and immediately
blew out his brains. The intelligence was communicated to the lady,
she became dreadfully excited, and a severe attack of nervous fever
followed. When the acute symptoms subsided, her mind was completely
deranged. Her insanity took a peculiar turn. She fancied she heard a
voice commanding her to commit suicide, and yet she appeared to be
possessed of sufficient reason to know that she was desirous of doing
what she ought to be restrained from accomplishing. Every now and then
she would exclaim, “Take away the pistol! I won’t hang myself! I won’t
take poison!” Under the impression that she would kill herself, she
was carefully watched; but notwithstanding the vigilance which was
exercised she had sufficient cunning to conceal a knife, with which,
during the temporary absence of the attendant, she stabbed herself in
the abdomen, and died in a few hours. It appears that the idea that she
had caused the death of another, and that she had it in her power to
save his life by complying with his wishes, produced the derangement
of mind under which she was labouring at the time of her death; and
yet she did not manifest, and it was evident to everybody that she
had not, the slightest affection for the gentleman who professed so
much to admire her. Possessing naturally a sensitive mind, it was
easily excited. The peculiar circumstances connected with her mental
derangement were sufficient to account for the delusions under which
she laboured. Altogether the case is full of interest.

Few passions tend more to distract and unsettle the mind than that
of jealousy. Insanity and suicide often owe their origin to this
feeling. One of the most terrific pictures of the dire effects of this
“green-eyed monster” on the mind is delineated in the character of
Othello. In the Moor of Venice we witness a fearful struggle between
fond and passionate love and this corroding mental emotion. Worked
upon by the villainous artifices of Iago, Othello is led to doubt the
constancy of Desdemona’s affection; the very doubt urges him almost to
the brink of madness; but when he feels assured of her guilt, and sees
the gulf into which he has been hurled, and the utter hopelessness of
his condition, he abandons himself to despair. Nothing which the master
spirit of Shakspeare ever penned can equal the exquisitely touching
and melting pathos of the speech of the Moor when he becomes perfectly
conscious of the wreck of one around whom every tendril of his heart
had indissolubly interwoven itself. To be forcibly severed from one
dearer to us than our own existence is a misfortune that requires much
philosophy to bear up against; to be torn from a beloved object by
death, to feel that the earth encloses in its cold embrace the idol
of our affections, freezes the heart; but to be separated from one who
has forfeited all claim to our affection and friendship, and who still
lives, but lives in dishonour, must be a refinement of human misery.
Need we then wonder that, when influenced by such feelings, Othello
should thus give expression to the overflowings of his soul:—

                “Oh now, for ever,
  Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!
  Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
  That make ambition virtue! Oh, farewell!
  Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
  The spirit-stirring drum, th’ ear-piercing fife,
  The royal banner, and all quality,
  Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
  And, oh, you mortal engines, whose rude throats
  Th’ immortal Jove’s dread clamours counterfeit,
  Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!”

It is under the infliction of such a concentration of misery that many
a mind is shattered, and that death is courted as the only relief
within its grasp. Othello, having discovered when it was too late that
he had wrongly suspected Desdemona, and had sacrificed the life of the
sweetest creature on earth, a combination of passions drives him to
distraction, and under their influence he plunges the dagger into his
heart. Jealousy was not, as some have supposed, the exclusive cause of
Othello’s suicide.

The following singular case attracted considerable notice fifteen
years ago. A woman was subjected to much maltreatment by her husband.
She was jealous of his attentions to one of the servants, and she had
frequently declared, that if he persisted in insulting her under her
own roof she would either cause his or her own death. On one occasion
she was more than usually violent, and expressed her determination to
ruin him. Fearful that she would carry her threat into execution, he
had her placed in a room where there was no furniture, and nothing
that she could use for the purpose of self-destruction. Her rage was
greatly increased by this barbarous treatment, and her screams were
sufficiently loud to alarm the whole neighbourhood. As her husband
refused to release her from confinement, she determined no longer to
submit to his brutal control, and resolved to commit suicide. Having no
instrument that she could use, she felt some difficulty in effecting
her purpose. She held her breath for some time, but that did not
succeed. She then tried to strangle herself with her hands, but that
mode was equally unsuccessful. Her determination was so resolutely
fixed, that in desperation she tore her hair out by the roots. Still
death did not come to her relief. In vain she searched in every corner
of the room for something with which she might effectually take away
her life. Just as she was beginning to give up the idea as hopeless,
her eye caught a sight of the glass in the window; she instantly broke
a pane, and with a piece of it endeavoured to cut her throat; and yet
she could not succeed in effecting her horrid purpose. At last, as a
dernier resort, she resolved to swallow a piece of the broken glass,
hoping by this means to choke herself. She did so, and the glass stuck
in her throat, and produced the most excruciating agony. Her groans
became audible; the husband became alarmed, and opened the door, when
he found his wife apparently in the last struggles of death. Medical
relief was immediately obtained, and although everything that surgical
ingenuity could suggest was had recourse to, she died, a melancholy
spectacle of the effects of unsubdued passion.

The two following cases shew how trifling a cause often incites to
self-destruction:—

Madame N——, a once famous dancer at the French opera-house, was taken
to task by her husband for not acquitting herself so well in the ballet
as she usually did. She exhibited indications of passion at the, as
she thought, unmerited reproof. When she arrived home, she resolved to
die, but was much puzzled to effect her purpose. The next morning, she
purchased a potent poison, but when she returned to her home she found
that her husband looked suspiciously at her, and appeared to watch her
movements. She then made up her mind to take the fatal draught in the
evening, as she was going in the carriage to the opera. She accordingly
did so; the poison did not have an immediate effect. The ballet
commenced, and Madame N—— was led on the stage; and it was not until
she had commenced dancing that she began to feel the draught producing
the desired effect. She complained of illness, and was removed to her
dressing-room, where she expired in the arms of her husband, confessing
that she had, in a fit of chagrin at his rebuke, swallowed poison!

A young gentleman, of considerable promise, of high natural and
acquired attainments, had been solicited to make a speech at a public
meeting, which was to take place in the town in which he resided. As
he had never attempted to address extemporaneously a public body,
he expressed himself extremely nervous as to the result, and asked
permission to withdraw his name from the published list of speakers.
This wish was not, however, complied with, as it was thought that when
the critical moment arrived he would not be found wanting even in the
art of public speaking. He had prepared himself with considerable care
for the attempt. His name was announced from the chair; when he rose
for the purpose of delivering his sentiments. The exordium was spoken
without any hesitation; and his friends felt assured that he would
acquit himself with great credit. He had not, however, advanced much
beyond his prefatory observations, when he hesitated, and found himself
incapable of proceeding. He then sat down, evidently excessively
mortified. In this state he retired to a room where the members of the
committee had previously met, and cut his throat with his penknife. He
wounded the carotid artery, and died in a few minutes.

A case of suicide from mortified pride, somewhat similar to the last,
occurred some years ago in London. A gentleman, whose imagination was
much more active than his judgment, conceived that he was possessed of
histrionic powers equal to those which were exhibited by the immortal
Garrick. A manager of a London theatre, to whom he was introduced,
allowed him to make his débût at his theatre. As is often the case,
the public formed a different estimate of his abilities to that which
the vanity of the young aspirant had induced him to form; and the
consequence was, that he was well hissed and hooted for his presumption
in attempting a character for which his talents so little adapted him.
Being naturally sensitive, his failure preyed on his mind; and under
the influence of the mortification, he hung himself, leaving in his
room the following laconic epistle, addressed to his mother:—

“MY DEAR MOTHER,—All my hopes have been ruined. I fancied myself a man
of genius; the reality has proved me to be a fool. I die, because life
is no longer to be supported. Look charitably on this last action of my
life. Adieu!”

A common cause of suicide is the feeling of false pride. The only
reason assigned for the desperate act of Elizabeth Moyes, who
threw herself from the Monument, was, that, owing to the reduced
circumstances of her father, (a baker,) it was determined that she
should procure a situation at a confectioner’s, and support herself.
This she allowed to prey upon her mind, although she expressed a
concurrence in the propriety of the course suggested. How true it is—

  “Abstract what others feel, what others think,
  All pleasures sicken, and all glories sink.”

  POPE.

Owing to the fictitious notions abroad in society, the ridiculously
false views which are taken of worldly honours, the ideas which
a sickly sentimentality infuses into the mind, this feeling is
engendered, to an alarming extent, through the different ranks of
society. This constitutes one great element which is undermining and
disorganizing our social condition. A fictitious value is affixed to
wealth and position in the world; it is estimated for itself alone, all
other considerations being placed out of view.

  “None think the great unhappy but the great.”

Vatel committed suicide because he was not able to prepare as sumptuous
an entertainment as he wished for his guests.

We cannot conceive how this evil is to be obviated, unless it be
possible to revolutionize the ideas which are generally attached to
fame and worldly grandeur. It is difficult to persuade such persons
that the end of fame is merely

  “To have, when the original is dust,
  A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.”

There is a nameless, undefinable something, that the world is taught
to sigh after—is always in search of; a moral _ignis fatuus_, which
is dazzling to lead it from the road which points to true and
unsophisticated happiness.

Persons naturally proud are less able than others to bear up against
the distresses of life; they are more severely galled by the yoke of
adversity; and hence this passion often produces mental derangement.
Such characters exhibit a morbid desire for praise; it acts like moral
nourishment to their souls; it is a stimulus that is almost necessary
to their very being, forgetting that

  “Praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought,
  Enfeebles all eternal weight of thought;
  ’Till the fond soul, within itself unblest,
  _Leans for all pleasure on another’s breast_.”

Dr. Reid justly observes, that “he who enters most deeply into the
misfortunes of others, will be best able to bear his own. A practical
benevolence, by habitually urging us to disinterested exertion, tends
to alienate the attention from any single train of ideas, which, if
favoured by indolence and self contemplation, might be in danger
of monopolizing the mind, and occasions us to lose a sense of our
personal concerns in an enlarged and liberal sympathy with the general
good.”

Villeneuve, the celebrated French admiral, when he was taken prisoner
and brought to England, was so much grieved at his defeat that he
studied anatomy in order to destroy himself. For this purpose he bought
some anatomical plates of the heart, and compared them with his own
body, in order to ascertain the exact situation of that organ. On
his arrival in France, Buonaparte ordered that he should remain at
Rennes, and not proceed to Paris. Villeneuve, afraid of being tried by
a court-martial for disobedience of orders, and consequently losing
his fleet, (for Napoleon had ordered him not to sail or to engage the
English,) determined to destroy himself; and accordingly took his
plates and compared them with the position of his heart. Exactly in the
centre he made a mark with a large pin; then fixed it, as near as he
could judge, in the same spot in his own breast, and shoved it on to
its head; it penetrated his heart, and he expired. When the room was
opened, he was found dead, the pin through his breast, and a mark in
the plate corresponding with the wound.[29]

It has been said that after the death of Josephine, and when Buonaparte
was overwhelmed with misfortunes, he attempted suicide. Those who
consider Napoleon immaculate deny the accuracy of the charge. But in
order to give the reader an opportunity of judging for himself, we lay
before him Sir Walter Scott’s account of the transaction referred to.
“Buonaparte,” he observes, “belonged to the Roman school of philosophy;
and it is confidently reported by Baron Fane, his secretary—though not
universally believed—that he designed to escape from life by an act of
suicide. The Emperor, according to this account, had carried with him,
ever since his retreat from Moscow, a packet containing a preparation
of opium, made up in the same manner with that used by Condorcet,
for self-destruction. His valet-de-chambre, in the night of the 12th
or 13th of April, heard him arise, and pour something into a glass
of water, drink, and return to bed. In a short time afterwards the
man’s attention was called by sobs and stifled groans; an alarm took
place in the chateau; some of the principal persons were roused, and
repaired to Napoleon’s chamber. Yvan, the surgeon who had procured him
the poison, was also summoned; but hearing the Emperor complain that
the operation of the potion was not quick enough, he was seized with a
panic of terror, and fled from the palace at full gallop. Napoleon took
the remedies recommended, and a long fit of stupor ensued, with profuse
perspiration. He awakened much exhausted, and surprised at finding
himself still alive. He said aloud, after a few moments’ reflection,
‘Fate will not have it so;’ and afterwards appeared reconciled to
undergo his destiny without similar attempts at personal violence.”
Napoleon’s illness was, at the time, imputed to indigestion. A general
of the highest distinction transacted business with Napoleon on the
morning of the 13th of April. He seemed pale and dejected, as from
recent and exhausting illness. His only dress was a night-gown and
slippers; and he drank, from time to time, a quantity of ptisan, or
some such liquid, which was placed beside him, saying he had suffered
severely during the night, but that his complaint had left him.[30]

We cannot conceive a more piteous condition than that of a man of
great ambition without the powers of mind which are indispensable for
its gratification. In him a constant contest is going on between an
intellect constitutionally weak, and a desire to distinguish himself
in some particular department of life. How often a man so unhappily
organized ends his career in a mad-house, or terminates his miserable
existence by suicide! Let men be taught to make correct estimates of
their own capabilities, to curb in the imagination, to cease “building
castles in the air,” if we wish to advance their mental and bodily
health. “_Ne sutor ultra crepidam_,” said Apelles to the cobbler. A
young man who “penned a stanza when he ought to engross,” blew out his
brains because he had failed in inducing a London publisher to purchase
an epic poem which he had written, and which he had the vanity to
conceive was equal to Paradise Lost, forgetting that, in order to be a
poet,—

        “Nature’s kindling breath
  Must fire the chosen genius; nature’s hand
  Must string his nerves and imp his eagle wings.”

That this state of mind predisposes and often leads to the commission
of suicide, numerous cases testify.

Despair often drives men to suicide. The dread of poverty and want;
the hopes in which we often injudiciously place too much of our
happiness entirely blasted; either honest or false pride humbled by
public or private contempt; ambitious views suddenly and unexpectedly
disappointed; pains of the body, the loss of those dear and near to
us,—tend to originate this feeling, and induce the unhappy person to
seek relief in self-murder.

How terrible is the situation of the man exposed to the influence of
this passion, and deprived of the cheering and elevating influence
of hope! We had an opportunity, some years back, of witnessing the
case of a maniac, whose derangement of mind consisted in his having
abandoned himself completely to despair. He laboured under no distinct
or prominent delusion, but his mental alienation consisted in the total
absence of all prospect of relief. The iron had entered his very soul;
he appeared as if the hand of a relentless destiny had written on the
threshold of his door, as on the gate of the Inferno of Dante, the
heart-rending sentence, “Abandon all hope!”

A woman is seduced by some heartless and profligate wretch; she is in
a short time forsaken and left to her fate. Her mind recurs to the
past; she recalls to recollection her once happy state of innocence and
peace. Scorned by the world, shunned by her relations and friends, she
is driven to a state of agonizing distraction. Despair, in its worst
features, takes possession of her mind, and under this feeling she puts
an end to her existence. A man under the operation of this passion
wrote as follows:—

“It has pleased the Almighty to weaken my understanding, to undermine
my reason, and to render me unfit for the discharge of my duty. My
blood rolls in billows and torrents of despair. It must have vent.
How? I possess a place to which I am a dishonour, inasmuch as I am
incapable of discharging it properly; I prevent some better man from
doing it more justice. This piece of bread which I lament is all that I
have to support myself and family; even this I do not merit; I eat it
in sin, and yet I live. Killing thought! which a conscience hitherto
uncorrupted inspires. I have a wife, also, and my child reproaches me
with its existence. But you do not know, my dear friends, that if my
unhappy life is not speedily ended, my weak head will require all your
care, and I shall become a burthen rather than an assistance to you.
It is better that I yield myself a timely sacrifice to misfortune,
than, by permitting the delusion to continue longer, I consume the
last farthing of my wife’s inheritance. It is a duty of every person
to do that which his situation requires; reason commands it, religion
approves. My life, such as it is, is a mere animal life, devoid of
reason; in my mind, a life which stands in opposition to duty is moral
death, and worse than that which is natural. In favour of the few whose
life I cannot render happy, it is at least my duty not to become an
oppression. I ought to relieve them from a weight which sooner or later
cannot fail to crush them.”

This unfortunate man, after penning the above account of his morbid
feelings, sent his wife to church on Sunday, May 13th, 1783; and
after writing an addition to his journal, took a pair of scissors and
attempted, although unsuccessfully, to terminate his life by cutting
his throat. He then opened the arteries at the wrists, and again failed
in destroying himself; he staggered to the window, and saw his wife
returning home, upon which he seized a knife used for killing deer, and
stabbed himself in the heart. He was lying weltering in his blood when
his wife came in, but was not quite dead. M. le Clarc, who relates the
case, observes, that he was a man of understanding, and of a lively
wit. He possessed a great deal of theoretical learning; his heart was
incorruptibly honest. Like every calm and determined self-murderer, he
was proud; but his pride was not the pride of rank, of riches, or of
learning, but that divine pride which arises from a consciousness of
incorruptible honesty, and of being possessed of good powers of mind.
The office he held was that of an assistant judge in a small college of
justice at Insterberg. His mother had been once deranged in her mind.

Few persons have given a more striking example of this passion than the
Abbé de Rancé, when first touched with remorse for the enormity of his
past life, and before the disturbed state of his mind had settled into
that turn for religious seclusion and mortification which produced the
appalling austerities of La Trappe. “To a state of frantic despair,”
says Don Lancelot, in his letter to La Mère Angelique of Port Royal,
“succeeded a black melancholy. He sent away all his friends, and shut
himself up in his mansion at Veret, where he would not see a creature.
His whole soul, nay, even his bodily wants, seemed wholly absorbed in
a deep and settled gloom. Shut up in a single room, he even forgot to
eat and drink; and when the servant reminded him that it was bed-time,
he started as from a deep reverie, and seemed unconscious that it
was not still morning. When he was better, he would often wander in
the woods for the entire day, wholly regardless of the weather. A
faithful servant, who sometimes followed him by stealth, often watched
him standing for hours together in one place, the snow and the rain
beating on his head, whilst he, unconscious of his position, was wholly
absorbed in painful recollections. Then, at the fall of a leaf, or the
noise of the deer, he would awake as from a slumber, and, wringing
his hands, hasten to bury himself in a thicker part of the wood, or
else throw himself prostrate, with his face in the snow, and groan
bitterly.”[31]

How many commit suicide from what is termed a _blind impulse_! They
fancy that an internal voice tells them to kill themselves; and
considering it impossible to resist what they term a destiny, they do
so. A gentleman, a merchant of the city of London, had been exposed to
great mental perturbation; his nervous system had received a severe
shock. He suffered extremely from a dread of going mad. As he was
walking home one afternoon, he heard a voice say, “Kill thyself!”
“Commit suicide!” and from that moment he could not banish the idea
from his mind. Two or three times he was on the eve of obeying the
mandate of this internal voice; but he fortunately possessed sufficient
resolution to resist the temptation. In this state of mind he consulted
a physician, who ordered him to be cupped in the neighbourhood of the
head. His bowels were attended to, and he was recommended to visit
some friends in the north of Scotland, and to banish from his mind all
ideas connected with business. He followed the advice of his judicious
physician, and in a short time he completely recovered.

In the midst of health apparently perfect and uniform, a man was
attacked with a sudden disposition to destroy. He seized a stick,
raised it, struck indiscriminately and broke everything that presented
itself to him. After some seconds, the stick fell from his hands,
and he appeared restored to himself. The man knew nothing of what he
had just done. He was reproached, he was shewn the remnants of the
things that he had broken; he thought they were ridiculing him, and
he was greatly irritated. He was again seized with frenzy, and killed
a person. He was taken before a court of justice, acquitted on the
ground of insanity, and placed in an hospital. This disposition to
destroy returned at distant intervals; it then came on more frequently;
and finally, changed into fits of epilepsy. A person seized with
this morbid desire is not always unconscious of the approach of the
disposition; he has sometimes a presentiment of it, perceives its
danger, seeks to combat it, and frequently succeeds in effecting his
purpose.

A labourer, at the end of his day’s work, felt himself seized with an
irresistible desire of running; he rushed upon the quay, which goes
from the Louvre to the Grève: every obstacle was overcome. An attempt
was made to stop him, but it was not successful. At last he dexterously
engaged one of his arms in the wheel of a carriage, which happened to
be within his reach. Thus withheld, he recovered his breath, became
calm, and appeared to have no idea of what had occurred. This feeling
was again manifested, and he was properly sent by his friends to an
hospital, when it was discovered that he had a disease of the spinal
marrow.

A man arrived upon the Pont Neuf; he rushed violently to the parapet,
and precipitated himself into the Seine. He was seen by some of the
bystanders, who drew him out of the water and saved his life. After
some days of complete restoration, his friends asked him the reason of
his strange conduct. He replied, “I cannot give any account. I am in
the happiest situation in the world. I have only to play with fortune
and with men. I have never been ill. I do not know what troubles may
come upon me. I can only recollect my arrival on the Pont Neuf, and my
recall to life.”

The particulars of the following fact are recorded in Mrs. Mathews’
life of her husband. Mathews the comedian had lived for some days a
vapid and inactive life. His spirit had been pressed down, “cabin’d,
cribb’d, confin’d.” In this state of mind, a party of gentlemen called
upon him, and proposed a day’s excursion. Accordingly, they all mounted
their horses. Mrs. Mathews says—“My husband’s depressed spirits were
exhilarated by the beauty of the weather, and the prospect of a day’s
pleasure (free from the restraint of a room, listening to truisms) in
the open air, where he would have uncontrolled power to gaze upon his
idol, Nature, in her most beautiful form. He had not ridden out of
the city for some weeks, and was in a state of childish delight and
excitement. At this moment his eyes turned upon one of the party, a
very little man, who was perched on a very tall horse, and who seemed
unusually grave and important. Mr. Mathews looked at him for a moment;
and the next, knocked him off with a smart blow, felling him to the
ground. The whole party were struck with horror; but no one felt more
shocked than he who had committed the outrage. He dismounted, picked up
the little victim to his unaccountable freak, declared himself unable
to give any motive for the action, but that it was an impulse he could
not resist; and afterwards, in relating this extraordinary incident, he
declared his conviction that it was done in a moment of frenzy, induced
by the too sudden reaction from previous stagnation of all freedom and
amusement.”

A young woman, about twenty years of age, who had been insane but a
short time, and appeared to be recovering, after having assisted to
whitewash and clean a ward in an asylum in which she was confined, was
sitting, in the evening, taking tea with the nurse and several other
inmates. She took advantage of the opportunity when the nurse went to
the cupboard for some sugar to seize a knife with which some bread had
just been cut; and in the presence of the whole party, in an instant,
before her hand could be arrested, cut her throat in so dreadful a
manner that she died almost immediately.

A patient in the Asylum at Wakefield, the wife of a labourer, a
kind-hearted and clever woman, was afflicted with such a propensity
to destroy that she was almost constantly obliged to be kept in
confinement; and when at liberty, she could not resist the pleasure
of breaking anything she met with. In one instance, she saw some
tea-cups on a table, and for some time walked backwards and forwards,
and checked the inclination; but eventually the temptation proved too
strong, and she swept them at once on to the floor. She afterwards
regretted the circumstance; but the impulse was too powerful to be
resisted.

A monomaniac (says Esquirol) heard a voice within him repeat these
words—“_Kill thyself! kill thyself!_” He therefore committed suicide,
in obedience to this superior power, whose order he dare not withstand.

A man, under a religious hallucination, believed himself to be in
communication with the Deity. He fancied he heard a celestial voice
saying—“_My son, come and seat thyself by my side._” He opened the
window to obey the invitation, fell down, and fractured his leg. When
he was carried to his bed, he expressed the greatest astonishment on
finding that he had precipitated himself from the window.

A young lady of considerable beauty was accosted in the street by a
strange gentleman. She took no notice at first of the unwarrantable
liberty; but on finding that he persisted in following her, she
attempted, by quickening her pace, to escape. Being extremely timid,
and having naturally a very nervous temperament, she was much excited.
The person in the garb of a gentleman followed her for nearly a mile,
and when he saw that she was home, he suddenly turned down a street,
and disappeared. The young lady expressed herself extremely ill soon
after she entered the house. A physician was sent for, who declared his
astonishment at her severe illness from a cause so trifling. During
the following night she manifested indications of mental derangement,
with a disposition to commit suicide. A strait-waistcoat was procured,
and all apprehensions of her succeeding in gratifying the propensity of
self-destruction was removed. Some weeks elapsed before she recovered.
To all appearance she was perfectly well. She had no recollection of
what had transpired, and expressed herself amazed when she was told
that she had wished to kill herself. Two months after she left her bed
she was missed. Search was made in every direction, but in vain. After
the lapse of two days, she was discovered floating in a pond of water
several miles from her home. In her pocket was discovered a piece of
paper, on which were written the following lines:—“Oh, the misery and
wretchedness I have experienced for the last month no one but myself
can tell. A demon haunts me—life is insupportable. A voice tells me
that I am destined to fall by my own hands. I leave this world for
another, where I hope to enjoy more happiness. Adieu.”

We have no doubt that in this case, although the acute symptoms of
insanity had subsided, she had not recovered completely her sane
state of mind. None but those conversant with the subject of mental
derangement would believe that so trifling a circumstance as that of
being spoken to in the street would have produced so violent an attack
of maniacal delirium as was witnessed in the case of this poor girl.

M. Esquirol states that he has never seen an unequivocal instance
of any individual drawn to the commission of suicide by a kind of
irresistible impulse, independently of any secret grievance, real or
imaginary. Could the secret feelings of these suicides be accurately
ascertained, there would generally, if not always, be found some
lurking source of discontent, real or fanciful, in the breast, which
serve as motives to their suicidal propensity. Many instances are on
record, it is true, where men have put a period to their existence
without any apparent visible cause or motive; but as Rousseau has
justly observed, “_Le bonheur n’a point d’enseigne exterieur: pour en
juger, il faudrait lire dans le cœur de l’homme heureux_.”

“Individuals,” says Esquirol, “who appear outwardly the residence of
happiness, are often inwardly the focus of chagrin, and tortured with
distracting passions. That man can destroy his own life, being at the
same time happy in his mind, is a phenomenon which human reason cannot
comprehend.”

A diseased temperament, a serious lesion of one or more of the viscera,
a gradual exhaustion of the energies of the system, may so aggravate
the miseries of life as to hasten the period of voluntary death. But
how are we to account for the irresistible propensity to suicide which
sometimes exists, independent of any apparent mental or physical
ailments? A melancholic, whose case was published in Fourcroy’s Medical
Journal of 1792, once said, “I am in prosperous circumstances; I have a
wife and a child who constitute my happiness; I cannot complain of bad
health, and still I feel a horrible propensity to throw myself into the
Seine.” His declaration was too fatally verified in the event. Crichton
was once consulted upon the case of a young man, twenty-four years
of age, in full vigour and health, who was tormented by periodical
accessions of these gloomy feelings and propensities. At those times
he meditated his own destruction. But on a nearer view of the fatal
act, he shrunk back into himself, and recoiled with horror from its
execution. Without relinquishing his project, he never had the courage
to accomplish it. “It is in cases like these,” says Crichton, “that
energetic measures of coercion, and the effectual excitement of terror,
should lend their aid to the powers of medicine and regimen.”

In many cases of suicide, the act is preceded by a long train of
perverted reasoning. These individuals become taciturn, morose,
pusillanimous, and distrustful. The future presents itself to their
view under the most unfavourable aspect, and despair becomes painted
on their countenances. Their eyes become hollow; they complain of
sleeplessness, and are disturbed by frightful dreams. The bowels are
in an inactive state; the functions of the liver become to a certain
extent suspended. It is in this state that they contemplate the idea
of suicide; and the diaries which some have kept of their sensations
and thoughts disclose the various kinds of death which they have
contemplated and rejected, one after another, often for reasons the
most preposterous and ridiculous. It is singular that in these journals
they generally endeavour to hide their despondency and their mental
aberration, while their moral and intellectual weakness is sure to be
betrayed. They often accuse themselves of insanity, and bewail their
unhappy lot; others argue most ingeniously in favour of their meditated
suicide. Others again, subdued as it were by the force of the moral and
religious principles which they have imbibed, represent to themselves
that the act they contemplate is contrary to the moral end for which
man was created—fatal to the welfare and happiness of their families.
Then ensues a conflict in their breasts. If reason and religion
prevail, the project is abandoned,—sometimes abandoned altogether. If
otherwise, the suicide is committed. Falret knew the case of a woman
who exhibited a tendency to suicide, but who was delivered for a period
from the commission of the crime by the principles of religion in which
her mind had been educated. A long period elapsed before she could
reconcile herself to the act of suicide, and then she argued herself
into it by the following piece of sophistry:—“There are no general
rules without exceptions; and I am the precise exception in this
case: therefore I may commit suicide without violating my religious
principles.”

Having once conceived the idea of suicide, the mind is often rendered
so miserable in consequence of it, that the person rushes into the arms
of death in order to escape from the terrible state of anticipation.
Others meditate on the bloody deed for years. Rousseau, after drawing
a piteous portrait of his proscribed and solitary condition, and of
the state of his health, adds, “_Puisque mon corps n’est plus pour moi
qu’un embarras, un obstacle à mon repos, cherchons donc à m’en degager
le plus tôt que je pourrai_.”

_Tedium vitæ_, or _ennui_, is said to be a frequent cause of suicide.
We have heard of an Englishman who hanged himself in order to avoid the
trouble of pulling off and on his clothes. Goëthe knew a gardener, and
the overseer of some extensive pleasure-grounds, who once splenetically
exclaimed, “Shall I see these clouds for ever passing, then, from
east to west?” So singularly developed was this weariness of life,
this feeling of satiety, in one of our distinguished men, that it is
said of him that he viewed with dissatisfaction the return of spring,
and wished, by way of change, that everything would, for once, be red
instead of green.[32]

  “—— Within that ample nich,
  With every quaint device of splendour rich,
  Yon phantom, who, from vulgar eyes withdrawn,
  Appears to stretch in one eternal yawn:
  Of empire here he holds the tottering helm,
  Prime-minister in Spleen’s discordant realm,
  The pillar of her spreading state, and more,
  Her darling offspring, whom on earth she bore.
  For, as on earth his wayward mother strayed,
  Grandeur, with eyes of fire, her form surveyed,
  And with strong passion starting from his throne,
  Unloos’d the sullen queen’s reluctant zone.
  From his embrace, conceived in moody joy,
  Rose the round image of a bloated boy:
  His nurse was, Indolence; his tutor, Pomp,
  Who kept the child from every childish romp.
  They rear’d their nursling to the bulk you see,
  And his proud parents called their imp—_Ennui_.”

  _Hayley’s Triumphs of Temper._

It is rare for an Englishman to commit suicide from ennui. The English
are different in this respect from the French people. The causes which
lead to suicide in this country, are those connected with sudden
reverse of fortune, or grievous disappointments, which are allowed to
prey upon the mind until the individual seeks relief in the arms of
death. In great commercial communities, where men may be reduced, in a
few minutes, from affluence to beggary; where the hopes and aspirations
of years are levelled in a moment to the dust, and the individual finds
himself exposed to the insulting pity of friends, and the searching
curiosity of the public, we need not feel surprise, when all these
circumstances rush upon a man’s mind in the sudden convulsion and
turbulence of its elements, that he should welcome the only escape from
the abyss into which he has been hurled.

It has been stated, by a competent authority, that the week following
the drawing of the last lottery in England, no less than fifty suicides
were committed!

_M. Gase_, in a memoir read before the _Academie Royale de Médecine_,
traces the increase of suicide in Paris to the spirit of gambling
which the Parisians so passionately indulge in. The extended system of
speculation in this country approximates in its pernicious effects on
the constitution to those which have been considered to result from
gambling. The following case, which was communicated to a popular
journal, by Dr. J. Johnson, forcibly illustrates how the constitution
may be undermined by rash, inconsiderate conduct, during the excitement
arising from temporary circumstances:—

One day, on the Stock Exchange, when the rumours of failings at home
and commotions abroad were producing such alarming vacillations in the
public funds that the whole property of a gentleman of high probity,
temperance, and respectability, was in momentary jeopardy, he found
himself in so terrible a state of nervous agitation that he was obliged
to leave the scene of confusion, and apply to wine, though quite
unaccustomed to more than a glass or two after dinner. To his utmost
surprise, the wine had no apparent effect, though he drank glass after
glass, in rapid succession, until he had finished a whole bottle.
Not the slightest inebriating influence was induced by this unusual
quantity taken before dinner. His nervous agitation was, however,
calmed, and he went back to the Exchange, and transacted business with
steadiness, composure, and equanimity. None of the ordinary effects
of wine were produced at the time, but a few days afterwards he was
seized with a severe attack of indigestion, a malady by which he had
never been previously affected. This case shews that although mental
agitation masks, or even prevents, the usual effects of wine, and
other stimulants, at the time, and thus enables, and indeed induces,
men to take more than under ordinary circumstances, yet the ulterior
effects are greatly worse on the constitution than if the stimulants
had produced the usual excitement at the moment of their reception into
the stomach. It is thus, we have no doubt, that the nervous system
of thousands in this country is ruined, and, in numerous cases, the
seeds of suicidal derangement sown, and that without the victims being
conscious of the channel through which they have been poisoned.

Defective education is a frequent cause of suicide. At the present
day, the ornamental has taken the place of the substantial; the showy
and specious, the situation of the solid and virtuous. The endowments
of the mind and cultivation of the heart are forced to yield to the
external accomplishments and graces of the body, and polished manners
are too generally preferred to sound morals. The importance of fashion
is inculcated in opposition to reason; religion is made to bow down
before the shrine of honour; and the fear of the world is taught to
supersede the fear of God. But what superstructure can be raised
on so sandy a foundation? It can support no incumbent weight; and,
in consequence, it cannot be deemed surprising that an inundation
of folly and vice, like a sweeping torrent, should bear down all
before it. The dignity of personal worth and character is a point
too little considered. Brilliant parts supersede sound judgment;
and disinterested virtue, integrity, and public spirit, are out of
character in a nation immersed in voluptuousness. Education of a
light and frivolous character leads to a vacuity of serious thoughts
and solid principles of conduct. Luxury and profligacy, in all ages,
have operated injuriously on the human mind. Cato the elder observes
that there could be no friendship in a man whose palate had quicker
sensations than his brain and heart. The man who has no internal
sources of enjoyment to fly to when others fail,—he whose happiness
consists in an indulgence in the pleasures of the senses, when these
ephemeral sources of gratification are removed, will, to avoid the
vacuum which is made in his existence, readily terminate his own life.

There cannot be a doubt but that the general diffusion of knowledge,
and the desire to place within the command of the humblest person
the advantages of education, have not a little tended to promote the
crime of suicide. It may be opposed to all our _à priori_ reasoning
to suppose that, in proportion as the intellect becomes expanded,
knowledge and civilization diffused, the desire to commit self-murder
would be engendered. It is an indisputable fact, that insanity, in
all its variations, is in a ratio to the refinement and civilization
of a country. “It is clearly proved,” says Brown, “that in Finéstre,
where the people are in a deplorable state of ignorance, and education
is entirely neglected, only twelve in a hundred of the inhabitants
being able to write or read, few suicides occur, at least only in
the proportion of one in 25,000. In Paris, that focus of all that is
brilliant and imposing in science and literature, the crime is of
common occurrence. In Coréze, where only twelve in the hundred can
read or write, one suicide in 47,000 occurs; and in the High Loire one
in 163,000. On the other hand, in Oise and Lower Seine, both places
in possession of the highest degree of general instruction, and of
the means of advancing in improvement, suicides occur in every 5000
or 9000 inhabitants. In the north of France, Catholicism has been
nearly extirpated, and there suicide and crime predominate; south
of the Loire, on the contrary, it still retains a strong hold of the
affections of the people, and there suicide, and its sinister crimes
or maladies are comparatively rare. This affords a noble proof that
the effects of Christianity, in whatever form and under whatever
circumstances, are peace and joy.”[33]

It is our firm belief that the increase of suicide in this country is
to a certain extent to be traced to the atrocious doctrines promulgated
with such zeal by the sect of modern infidels, who falsely denominate
themselves _Socialists_; a class whose opinions are subversive of all
morality and Christianity, and which sap the foundation of society
itself. It is natural to expect when such principles of infidelity are
inculcated, when men are taught to believe in the non-existence of a
God, and to consider they are not accountable agents, and are under the
operation of an organization over which they have no control, that they
should look with philosophic indifference on suicide, and consider it
as a justifiable mode of putting an end to the misery and wretchedness
engendered by their own opinions. Such doctrines must of necessity
be productive of great evil to society; and it becomes the duty of
every Christian and well-wisher to his fellow-men to hold them up to
reprobation. The opinions of Owen strike at the root of all order,
and of all virtue, social and public, and break down every barrier of
law and restraint, making the passions the only standard of right and
wrong—the animal appetites the only test of virtue and vice.

In the Bishop of Exeter’s able speech in the House of Lords, on
the subject of Socialism, he stated that cases of suicide under
circumstances of the most dreadful suffering had occurred, which had
been brought about by Mr. Owen’s pernicious doctrines. The learned
prelate related the particulars of the following case:—Mr. Parke,
a most respectable inhabitant of Wolverhampton, had an apprentice,
who had been in the habit of attending Socialists’ meetings, and
hearing their lectures. He purchased all their publications, and his
master’s shop not being of that kind to furnish them, he was obliged
to go elsewhere to obtain them. He dined and drank tea as usual with
Mr. Parke on the Sunday, and left after tea to attend St. George’s
Church. Not coming home at the usual hour, his master sat up for him
until 12 o’clock, when, as he had not returned, he concluded that his
relations had detained him. He was, however, found dead, in a sort of
lumber room, the next morning. Two bottles of poison were lying by his
side; the one which occasioned his death contained prussic acid; the
other, nux vomica: near him were lying four letters, one addressed to
his father, another to Mr. Parke, a third to the jury, and a fourth
containing his creed; in all of which he expressed his disbelief in the
Bible, considering it “the most dangerous book that ever was written,”
and if ever such a person as Jesus Christ lived, he was the weakest man
he ever heard of. In one of the letters he also stated that he had been
nurtured in superstition, (meaning, that he had been brought up as a
member of the church of England,) and that when he read Owen’s works
he “shuddered at their common sense.” He denied all belief in a future
state of retribution; and as he considered apprenticeship slavery, he
thought it more prudent to suffer pain for a moment than to endure six
years’ servitude. He earnestly entreated the jury not to bring in a
verdict of insanity.

It appears from a letter to the Bishop of Exeter, written by the
unfortunate youth’s uncle, that he had been from infancy an exceedingly
lively boy; between him and his parents the most glowing affection, as
well as the most boundless confidence, existed; but the fatal poison
of Socialism changed a confiding heart into a cold concentration of
selfishness. After the verdict of the jury, the uncle declared aloud,
before a crowded room, in a most vehement manner, that, were he in the
presence of the Queen, he would proclaim Owen as the murderer of his
nephew.

The indifference with which self-murder is looked at in Germany is
to be ascribed in a great measure to the popular productions of that
country. We are reluctant to denounce as undoubted causes of suicide
the works of men of splendid talents; but in such a case it would be
wrong, it would be criminal, to mince the matter, and plead any excuse
for so detestable a work as Werter, which has unhinged the minds of
thousands, before they were aware of its impoisoned and insidious
tendency. That it is the work of a man of genius only makes its
blackening influence the stronger; as the fascination of the style,
and the intense interest of the narrative, operate like an infernal
spell to smooth the road to self-destruction. Its leading theme is,
that human passions, and particularly love, are immediately inspired by
Heaven; and that it would be wrong—nay, that it is impossible—to resist
them; and consequently, if a lover meets with disappointment, his only
virtuous course is suicide, which is triumphantly catalogued among the
virtues, as it was by the heathen morality of the ancients.

This work, together with Foscolo’s imitation of it, the “_Ultime
Lettere di Jacopo Ortis_,” and all publications of a similar character,
ought to be repudiated by every sound thinking man. Resistance to
the dictates of passion, when it prompts to crime and suicide, is
a most deadly sin against Werterism; whilst, obeying the passions
to the letter, even if they incite to criminal love or self-murder,
gives to its disciple the stamp of one of the virtuous who have
courageously braved the laws of good order, fearlessly dared to trample
under foot all the commands of God and man, and stood forth as the
redoubted champions of human supremacy and the glorious right of
self-destruction. Such are the principles of the miscreants who wish to
prove that suicide is a virtue; and, with the sentiments found in the
pages of Werter, they rush headlong and unthinkingly into a deep and
awful futurity.

It is not generally known that Goëthe, the author of the work alluded
to, attempted suicide. He considered the death of the Emperor Otho as
worthy of imitation. In contemplating the feelings which influenced
that monarch, he says he convinced himself that if he could not proceed
as Otho had done, he was not entitled to resolve on renouncing life. He
adds, “By this conviction, I saved myself from the purpose, or indeed,
more properly speaking, from the whim, of suicide. Among a considerable
collection of arms, I possessed a costly well-ground dagger. This I
laid down nightly by my side; and, before extinguishing the light,
I tried whether I could succeed (_à la Otho_) in sending the sharp
point an inch or two deep into my heart. But as I truly never could
succeed, I at last took to laughing at myself, threw away all these
hypochondriacal crotchets, and determined to live.”

In the melancholy case of Hackman and Miss Ray, the following is the
substance of a correspondence which passed between them on the subject
of Werter. Hackman was refused the sight of this book by Miss R.,
who had a copy of the French translation, because, as she expresses
herself, she saw too great a similarity between her lover and Werter,
not only in point of situation, but in the impetuosity of their
tempers. “The book you mention,” says Miss R., “is just the only book
you should never read. On my knees, I beg you never to read it! Perhaps
you have read it; perhaps—I am distracted! Heaven only knows to whom
I may be writing this letter.” To this, Hackman, who was in Ireland,
replies: “Nonsense! to say it will make me unhappy, or that I shall
not be able to read it. Must I pistol myself because a thick-blooded
German has been fool enough to set the example, or because a German
novelist has feigned such a story.” Werter was read, and the effect was
most injurious on his mind. Whilst confined in Newgate, he wrote the
following letter:—“Among my papers you will see, my friend, some lines
I wrote on reading Goëthe’s Werter, translated from German into French,
which, whilst I was in Ireland, Miss R. refused to lend me. When I
returned to England, I made her let me read it. But I never shewed her
these lines, for fear they should make her uneasy. Unhappy Werter!
still less pretence hadst thou for suicide than I. After finally
seeing thy Charlotte married to another—marrying her thyself—hadst
thou a right over thy existence, because she was not thy wife? Yet
wast thou less barbarous than I; for thou didst not seek to die in her
presence,—but neither didst thou doubt her love. We can neither of us
hope for pardon!”

The lines were these, supposed to be found, after Werter’s death, upon
the ground by the pistol—

  “If chance some kindred spirit should relate
  To future times unhappy Werter’s fate;
  Should in some pitying, almost pardoning age,
  Consign my sorrows to some weeping page;
  And should the affecting page be haply read
  By some new Charlotte—mine will then be dead.
  (Yes; she shall die—sole solace of my love!
  And we shall meet—for so she said—above.)
  O Charlotte! (Martha—by whatever name,
  Thy faithful Werter hands thee down to fame,)
  O be thou sure thy Werter never knows
  The fatal story of my kindred woes!
  O do not, fair one,—by my shocking end
  I charge thee!—do not let thy feeling friend
  Shed his sad sorrows o’er my tearful tale:
  Example, spite of precept, may prevail.”

It may be mentioned, as a fact corroborating the opinion, that
productions of an infidel character have a tendency to originate a
disposition to suicide by weakening the moral principles; that when
the celebrated and notorious Tom Paine’s “Age of Reason” was first
published, the papers of the day recorded many cases of self-murder
committed by persons who avowed that the idea never entered their heads
until they had become familiar with the works of the above-mentioned
writer. An individual, zealous in the diffusion of Paine’s principles,
purchased several hundred copies of his work, which he most
industriously circulated, gratuitously, in quarters where he knew the
doctrines of Christianity had already obtained a footing. A copy of the
“Age of Reason,” elegantly bound, was received by a young lady who was
acting in the capacity of a governess in the family of a gentleman of
great respectability. The lady had no conception from whom the present
came, and having heard of the book, she felt a curiosity to become
acquainted with the doctrines which it inculcated. The circumstance of
her having received the book was not mentioned to any member of the
family with whom she resided; and in the evening, when she retired to
her own room, she read it with great attention. The family noticed,
in a few weeks, a perceptible alteration in the appearance of the
young lady. She became extremely thoughtful and contemplative. Her
health also appeared sensibly affected. The mother of the children
whom she was instructing took advantage of the first opportunity of
speaking to her on the subject. She expressed herself very unhappy in
her mind, but refused to disclose the cause of her mental uneasiness.
It was thought she had formed an attachment, and was suffering from
the effects of disappointed affection. She was questioned on these
points, but persisted in concealing the circumstances which had
been operating so injuriously on her mind. The mental dejection
increased, and the result was, an alarming attack of nervous fever, of
which she was cured by an able physician with much difficulty. When
convalescent, she was noticed one day busily employed in writing, and
when interrupted, shewed great anxiety to secrete the piece of paper
on which she had been transcribing her thoughts. In the course of the
evening of the same day, a deep groan was heard to issue from her
room. The servant immediately entered, when, to her great horror, she
saw the governess on the floor with a terrible gash in her throat.
Assistance was directly obtained, but, alas! not in time to save the
life of the poor unfortunate girl. On searching her desk, a sheet of
paper was discovered, on which she had disclosed her reasons for the
rash act. She said, that from the moment she read the “Age of Reason,”
her mind became unsettled. Her previous religious impressions were
undermined; in proportion as she was induced to imbibe the doctrines
of Tom Paine, so she became miserable and wretched. From one error
she fell into another, until she actually believed that death was
annihilation; and although she appeared firmly rooted in this belief,
she expressed herself horrified beyond all expression at the bare idea
of dissolution. For some time prior to her illness, she had felt an
impulse to sacrifice her life, but had not the courage to perform the
act. After her recovery, she felt the impulse renewed with increased
strength, until, with a hope of escaping from an accumulation of misery
which was weighing her to the earth, she determined to commit suicide.
She also, in the document referred to, asked her friends to forgive
her, and to take warning from her fate.

That many rush into suicide in order to escape the just and legal
punishment of their crimes cannot be a matter of doubt. Many under such
circumstances are influenced by a fear of public exposure, and prefer
death to the idea of being compelled to undergo the ordeal of a trial
in a court of justice. The following case is but the type of many that
could be related:—

A young man of family, the Hon. Mr. ——, staying at an inn in Portsmouth,
previously to sailing for India, where he was going out as an
aide-de-camp to General——, with a party of friends, also officers,
joined company at supper one evening with Mr. Bradbury, the clown of
Covent Garden Theatre, a person of very gentlemanlike exterior and
manners, and ambitious of the society of gentlemen. He was in the habit
of using a very magnificent and curious snuff-box, and on this occasion
it was much admired by the party, and handed round for inspection from
one to the other. Mr. Bradbury soon after left the inn, and retired
to his lodging, when he missed his box, and immediately returned to
inquire for it. The gentlemen with whom he had spent the evening had
all retired to bed; but he left word with the porter to mention to the
officers early the next day that he had left the box, and to request
them to restore it to him when found.

The next morning, Mr. Bradbury again hastened to the inn, anxious
to recover his property, and met on his way the Hon. Mr. ——, and
communicated his loss to him; when he was informed by that gentleman
that a similar circumstance had occurred to himself, his bed-room
having been robbed the night before of his gold watch, chain, and
seals, &c., and that he was on his way to a Jew in the town to apprize
him of the robbery, in order that if such articles should be offered
for sale, he might stop them and detain the person who presented them.
This was very extraordinary! Mr. Bradbury then met the other gentlemen
of the party, and was told by them that their rooms had also been
robbed, one of bank notes to a great amount, another of a gold watch,
&c.

The Hon. Mr. —— was violently infuriated by his loss; and as he was
bound to sail from Portsmouth when the ship was ready, he naturally
dreaded being compelled to depart without his property. He hinted,
too, that he had certain suspicions of certain people. An officer
was sent for from London. This man came down promptly, to the great
satisfaction of the Hon. Mr. ——; and after searching the house and
their trunks, Rivett (the officer) addressed the gentlemen, observing,
that there was yet a duty unperformed, and which was a painful one to
him—he must search the _persons_ of all present, and as the Hon.
Mr. ——’s trunks had been the first to be inspected, perhaps he would
allow him to examine him at once. To this he agreed; but the next moment0
he was observed to look very ill. Rivett was proceeding to search
him, as a matter of course, when he requested that everybody would
leave the room, except the officer and Mr. Bradbury, which request
was immediately complied with. He then fell upon his knees, entreated
for mercy, and placed Mr. Bradbury’s box in his hand, begging him to
forgive him and spare his life. Rivett upon this proceeded to search
him, but he resisted; the object was effected by force, and the
greater part of the property found that had been stolen in the house.
The officer, conceiving that he had not got the whole of the bank
notes, inquired of Mr. —— where the remainder was; when he pointed to
a pocket-book which was under the foot of the bed; and while Rivett
relaxed his hold of him, and was in the act of stooping to pick up
the book, Mr. —— caught up a razor and cut his throat. Rivett and Mr.
Bradbury seized an arm each, and forced the razor from him; but he
was so determined on self-destruction, that he twisted his head about
violently in different ways, in order to make the wound larger and
more fatal. To prevent him from continuing this, he was braced up with
linen round his neck so tightly that he could not move it. A surgeon
of the town, with two assistants, came, and after seeing the wound,
gave it as their opinion that it was possible for him to recover, and
by the assistance of some powerful soldiers holding him, they dressed
the wound. His clothes were then cut off, and he was carried down
stairs into another room. During this operation he coughed violently;
but whether naturally or by design, to make his wound worse, was not
ascertained. It had, however, the effect of setting his wound bleeding
again, and the dressing was obliged to be repeated.

The sequel of this distressing case was of an equally melancholy
character.

Poor Mr. Bradbury was standing close to the unfortunate young man when
he committed the sudden attempt upon his own life. The horror of the
act, and the shocking appearance of his lacerated throat, the blood
from which flowed out upon Mr. Bradbury, in short, this heart-rending
result of the previous agitation and discovery, acted upon the
sensibility of Mr. Bradbury to such an extent as to deprive him of
reason. This fact was noticeable two days after the above scene, by
his entering a church, and after the service was ended, going into the
vestry, and requesting the clergyman to pray for him, as he intended
to cut his throat! This distemper of mind was not too great at first
to admit of partial control; but it daily increased, and ultimately
caused him to be placed under restraint.[34]

A woman, about thirty-six years of age, who had been well educated,
but whose conduct had not been exempt from some irregularities, in
consequence of intemperance and manifold disappointments, became
affected with madness. She was by turns furious and melancholic, and
conceived she had murdered one of her children, for which she ought to
suffer death. She detailed the manner in which she had destroyed the
child, and the motives which actuated her, so circumstantially, and
with so much plausibility and feeling, that if it had not been known
that her child was living, the physician under whose care she was
placed might have been deceived. By her own hands she had repeatedly
endeavoured to terminate her existence, but was prevented by constant
vigilance and due restraint. Her disposition to suicide was afterwards
relinquished; but she still persisted that for the murder of the child
she ought to suffer death, and requested to be sent to Newgate, in
order to be tried, and undergo the sentence of the law; indeed, she
appeared to derive consolation from the hope of becoming a public
example, and expiating her supposed crime on the scaffold. While in
this state, and with a hope of convincing her of its safety, the child
was brought to visit her. When she beheld it, there was a temporary
burst of maternal affection; she kissed it, and for a few moments
appeared to be delighted: but a look of suspicion quickly succeeded,
and this was shortly followed by a frown of indignation, which rendered
the removal of the child a measure of wholesome necessity. Perhaps
in no instance was the buoyancy of madness more conspicuous over
reason, recollection, and feeling. She insisted they had attempted to
impose on her a strange child, which bore a faint resemblance to her
own; however, by such subterfuges she was not to be deceived; she
had strangled the child until life had totally departed, and it was
not in the order of nature that it should exist again. The effect of
this interview was an exasperation of her disorder: she became more
cunning and malignant, and her desire for an ignominious death was
augmented. To render this more certain, and accelerate her projected
happiness, she enticed into her apartment a young female patient to
whom she appeared to be attached, and having previously platted some
threads of her bed-quilt into a cord, she fixed it round the neck of
the young woman, and proceeded to strangle her. Fortunately, some
person entered the room and unloosed the cord in time to save her.
When this unhappy maniac was questioned concerning the motive which
induced her to attempt the destruction of a person for whom she had
manifested kindness, she very calmly replied, that as the murder of her
own child was disbelieved, she wished to exhibit a convincing proof
of the ferocity of her nature, that she might instantly be conveyed
to Newgate and hanged, which she desired as the greatest blessing.
With considerable satisfaction, we may add, that in a few months,
notwithstanding her derangement had been of three years’ duration, this
woman perfectly recovered, and for a considerable time performed the
duties of an important and respectable office.[35]

The great increase of the crime of suicide has been referred by many
able physicians of the present day to the political excitement to which
the minds of the people have been exposed of late years. In despotic
countries, suicide and insanity are seldom heard of: the passions
are checked by the nature of the government; the imagination is not
elevated to an unhealthy standard; every man is compelled to follow the
calling in life to which he is born, and for which he has capacity;
and on this account the evil and corrupt dispositions of the mind are,
to a certain extent, kept in abeyance. In republican governments, the
greatest latitude is allowed to the turbulent passions; all mankind
are theoretically placed on an equality; the man whose “talk is of
bullocks” considers himself as fit to carry on the complicated business
of government as he whose education, associations, and experience tend
to qualify him for the duties of a legislator.

In proportion as men are exposed to the influence of causes which
excite the passions, so will they become predisposed to mental
derangement in all its forms. The French and American revolutions
increased considerably the crime of suicide. It has been said that
during the “reign of terror” statistical evidence does not shew that
self-murder was more common than at any other period. Perhaps the
alleged unfrequency of suicide may be attributed to the circumstance
of the French people having been so busy in killing others that they
had no time to think of killing themselves. More than the average
number of suicides may not have really occurred during the crisis of
the Revolution, but it is an undisputed fact that, both before and
after that political convulsion, self-destruction prevailed to an
alarming extent. Disappointed hopes, wounded pride and vanity, blighted
ambition, loss of property, death of friends, disgust of life, all
came into active operation after the turbulence and bloodshed of the
Revolution had somewhat subsided: these passions, working upon minds
easily excited, and not under the benign influence of religion, it was
almost natural to expect that great recklessness of life should be
exhibited. Such facts demonstrate to us the folly of uselessly exciting
the passions of the people, and raising in their minds exaggerated
expectations from political changes.

The tendency of refined sensibility to become wound up in a paroxysm,
terminating in suicidal attempts, is strikingly illustrated in a case
reported by Dr. Burrows:—

“A gentleman of a family of rank, and distinguished for talent, married
early in life the object of his most ardent affections. He possessed
extreme sensibility, with a most highly cultivated and refined mind.
It may be remarked, as a constitutional peculiarity, that his natural
pulse did not exceed forty beats in a minute. When anything suddenly
occurred to agitate him, it produced an attack of fever, and his pulse
was accelerated in an astonishing degree. Though in ordinary affairs
he was a man of firm resolution and great spirit, yet when this fit
happened, he was seized with such a panic, or impulse, that he knew
not what he did, and he was unnerved for days. His lady being well
acquainted with the infirmities of his constitution, rendered him,
by her good sense and soothing, a happier man than he had previously
been. Most unfortunately, she died in the first year of her marriage.
His grief at her loss was excessive; and even when time had abated
its poignancy, he continued very miserable. His thoughts were always
reverting to the virtues of her whom he had lost, and the comparative
happiness he had enjoyed in her society. He tried everything to divert
his melancholy; but these impulses would follow reflection; and then
his ideas adverted to self-destruction. He reasoned with himself
upon the subject till, he confessed, he had become an infidel in
religion, and could no longer view the act as wicked. I had,” said
Dr. Burrows, “an opportunity of knowing the exact state of his mind
during this struggle, from perusing some notes which he had written,
describing it. He expressed himself with the utmost tenderness and
affection with respect to his departed wife, and of his intention of
soon joining her by a voluntary death; not, however, in heaven, but
in Elysium. One night, after having been occupied in reading to some
dear relations, and apparently much enjoying the subject, he retired
to his chamber. He undressed, and dismissed his valet. His gloomy
reflections recurred. One of these strange impulses came over him.
He seized a pistol, and discharged it: it failed of effect. He fired
another: he wounded himself severely, but not mortally; neither was
the effusion of blood great. He then called for assistance. Little
constitutional disturbance followed, and the wound readily healed. It
was during the time he was confined from the effects of this wound
that Dr. Burrows was consulted. He could not detect the slightest
aberration of the mind, nor was there a trait in his countenance of
a propensity to commit suicide. He freely conversed on his past and
present situation and opinions; was perfectly ready to submit to any
supervision Dr. Burrows might advise, or plan that might be suggested,
to bring him into a better and happier state of mind. By degrees, he
acquired more composure. He afterwards travelled for a year and a
half on the Continent. Upon his return, he seemed much improved in
general appearance. Nothing, however, conquered his constitutional
susceptibility.”

That the LOVE OF NOTORIETY often impels to suicide there cannot be
a doubt. The man who was killed by attaching himself to a rocket,
and he who threw himself into the crater of Mount Vesuvius, were, no
doubt, stimulated by a desire for posthumous fame. Shortly after the
suicide at the Monument, a boy made an unsuccessful endeavour to poison
himself; and on being questioned as to his motives, he said, “I wished
to be talked of, like the woman who killed herself at the Monument!”
How strange and anomalous are the motives which influence human actions!

Many are induced to think of suicide from the circumstance of their
being conscious that they labour under an hereditary disposition to
insanity. We know the case of a lady whose mind has been dwelling upon
the subject of suicide for some time, and she has told her friends
repeatedly that she feels assured she shall commit some rash act. “The
disposition to suicide and insanity is in the family, and how can I
fight against my physical organization?” Such is the mode of reasoning
she adopts whenever urgently persuaded to banish from her mind the
horrid sensations which are embittering her life.

A gentleman, in full possession of his reasoning faculties, and a
man of considerable powers of intellect, said to us one day, in a
conversation we had with him on the subject of suicide, “You may
probably smile when I tell you that, happy and contented as I appear
to be in my mind at this moment, I feel assured I shall fall by my
own hands.” Upon our asking him why he thought so, he replied, that a
relation of his had killed himself some years previously, and that he
laboured under an hereditary predisposition which nothing would subdue.

A woman, thirty-five years of age, placed herself, in 1821, under the
care of M. Falret, for symptoms of phthisis. When nineteen years old,
the death of an uncle, by his own hands, made a deep impression on her
mind. She heard that insanity was hereditary, and the idea pursued
her that she should one day fall into this melancholy condition. She
confessed her apprehensions only to the priests, who endeavoured to
dissipate the mournful impression. In this state she continued for two
years, when the death of her reputed father, also by suicide, riveted
the conviction on her mind that her own doom was sealed. She was
convinced that _her blood was corrupted_; and this idea appeared to be
confirmed by other circumstances. Tortured by this notion, she resolved
to drown herself. After leaving a letter in her chamber, apprising her
friends of the manner of her meditated death, she plunged into the
river; but being immediately taken out, she was restored to life. The
night following this attempt, she was harassed with a pain in her head,
and after a short sleep, awoke, incapable of recognising any of the
friends about her. She was evidently delirious, but made no allusion
to her former melancholy impressions. Although previously religious
and well-behaved, she uttered nothing but obscenities. This delirious
excitement continued three days, and was succeeded by melancholy and a
disposition to suicide. Headache again came on, with nausea and bilious
vomitings, which, however, soon subsided. She became considerably
emaciated after this, and looked the picture of despair; in fact, she
could not look into the glass at herself without terror. Once more she
wished the aid of religion, which afforded her some consolation, but
was insufficient to dissipate entirely her sufferings. Meanwhile, her
mother revealed to her the secret that her real father was still alive;
and, after considerable scepticism on the point, she consented to an
interview with him. The physical resemblance was so striking, that
all doubt was instantly removed from her mind. From that moment all
idea of suicide vanished; her spirits and health became progressively
re-established. Fourteen years, says Falret, have now elapsed since the
attempt at self-destruction. She is the mother of three children, and,
during her married state, has been reduced to the greatest penury and
distress; but has never, since the period alluded to, entertained the
remotest idea of suicide; on the contrary, she has proved an exemplary
wife and affectionate parent, having the full possession of her
intellectual faculties.[36]

Everything that tends to throw the mind off its healthy balance will,
of course, predispose to suicide. Excessive devotion of the attention
to any particular branch of study, or to business, often originates
cerebral disease and suicidal mania. In alluding to the injurious
effects of excessive study, Marcilius Ficinus, as quoted by Burton,
justly observes—“Other men look to their tools: a painter will wash
his pencils; a smith will look to his hammer, anvil, and forge; a
husbandman will mend his plough-irons and grind his hatchet, if it
be dull; a falconer or huntsman will have an especial care of his
hawks, hounds, horses, and dogs; a musician will string and unstring
his lute,—only scholars neglect that instrument (their _brain_ and
_spirit_, I mean) which they daily use, and by which they range over
all the world, and which by much study is consumed.”

The melancholy case of William Eyton Tooke, Esq., who committed
suicide some years ago, will illustrate the operation of the cause
referred to.

“This gentleman,” says a relative, in a letter to the _Times_
newspaper, explanatory of the causes of Mr. T.’s death, “from a very
early period of life, devoted himself to the most abstruse inquiries
into moral and political philosophy, and has thus fallen a victim
to the absorbing and exclusive nature of the pursuit.” One of the
witnesses who was examined at the inquest stated, that the deceased
was of an exceedingly studious turn, and had for many months past been
directing his attention particularly to commercial subjects. This
subject was his constant study, and the theme of his conversation. It
seemed to engross the whole of his attention, and his health, both
bodily and mentally, was evidently impaired by it. A short period
before his death, he was heard frequently to say, placing his hand upon
his head, “This subject is too much for me; my head is distracted!” It
was under the influence of this over-excited state of brain that he
committed suicide.

It has been observed, in another part of this work, that many commit
suicide from the notion that death from natural causes is attended
with considerable agony.[37] This is the generally received notion,
but it is an erroneous one. Those who have often witnessed the act of
dying allow that it is not a painful process. In some delicate and
irritable persons, a kind of struggle is indeed sometimes excited when
respiration becomes difficult; but more frequently the dying obviously
suffer nothing, and express no uneasiness. Dr. Ferriar says, “In those
who die of chronic diseases, the gradation is slow and distinct.
Consumptive patients are sometimes in a dying state for several
days; they appear at such times to suffer little, but to languish for
complete dissolution; nay, I have known them express great uneasiness
when they have been recalled from the commencement of insensibility,
by the cries of their friends, or the efforts of the attendants to
alleviate pain. In observing persons in this situation, I have always
been impressed with an idea that the approach of natural death produces
a sensation similar to that of falling asleep. The disturbance of
respiration is the only apparent source of uneasiness to the dying; and
sensibility seems to be impaired just in proportion to the decrease of
that function. Besides, both the impressions of present objects and
those recalled by memory are influenced by the extreme debility of the
patient, whose wish is for absolute rest. I could never see the close
of life under these circumstances without recollecting those beautiful
lines of Spencer—

  “Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,
  Ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please.”

Professor Hufeland, on the subject of death, observes, “that many fear
death less than the operation of dying.” People, he continues, “form
the most singular conceptions of the last struggle—the separation
of the soul from the body, and the like; but this is all void of
foundation. No man certainly ever felt what death is; and insensibly
as we enter life, equally insensibly do we leave it. The beginning
and the end are here united. My proofs are as follows:—First, man can
have no sensation of dying; for to die means nothing more than to lose
the vital powers; and it is the vital power which is the medium of
communication between the soul and the body. In proportion as the vital
power decreases, we lose the power of sensation and consciousness; and
we cannot lose life without, at the same time, or rather before, losing
our vital sensation, which requires the assistance of the tenderest
organs. We are taught also by experience that all those who ever
passed through the first stage of death, and were again brought to
life, unanimously asserted that they felt nothing of dying, but sunk at
once into a state of insensibility.[38]

“Let us not be led into a mistake by the convulsive throbs, the
rattling in the throat, and the apparent pangs of death, which are
exhibited by many persons when in a dying state. These symptoms are
painful only to the spectators, and not to the dying, who are not
sensible of them. The case here is the same as if one, from the
dreadful contortions of a person in an epileptic fit, should form a
conclusion respecting his internal feelings: from what affects us so
much, he suffers nothing.

“Let one always consider life, as it really is, a mean state, which
is not an object itself, but a medium for obtaining an object, as the
multifarious imperfections of it sufficiently prove: as a period of
trial and preparation, a fragment of existence, through which we are to
be fitted for, and transmitted to, other periods. Can the idea, then,
of really making this transition—of ascending to another from this mean
state, this doubtful, problematical existence, which never affords
complete satisfaction—ever excite terror? With courage and confidence
we may, therefore, resign ourselves to the will of that Supreme Being
who, without our consent, placed us in this sublunary theatre, and give
up to his management the future direction of our fate.

“Remembrance of the past, of that circle of friends who were nearest,
and always will be dearest to our hearts, and who, as it were, now
smile upon us with a friendly look of invitation from that distant
country beyond the grave, will also tend very much to allay the fear of
death.”

We recollect attending the case of a young lady labouring under a
disease which produced extreme mental and physical suffering, who
exhibited, a short period before her death, some singular phenomena.
This lady had not been seen to smile, or to shew any indication of
freedom from pain, for some weeks prior to dissolution. Two hours
before she died, the symptoms became suddenly altered in character.
Every sign of pain vanished; her limbs, from being subject to violent
spasmodic contractions, became natural in their appearance; her face,
which had been distorted, was calm and tranquil. All her friends
supposed that the crisis of the disease had arrived, and that it had
taken a favourable turn, and delight and joy were manifested by all
who were allowed access to her chamber, and who were made acquainted
with the change which had taken place. She conversed most freely,
and smiled as if in a happy condition. We must confess that the case
puzzled us, and that we were for a short time induced to entertain
sanguine hopes of her ultimate recovery. But, alas! how fragile are
all our best hopes! For two hours we sat by the bed, watching the
patient’s countenance with great anxiety. Every unfavourable indication
had vanished; her face was illuminated by the sweetest smile that ever
played on the human countenance. During the conversation we had with
her, she gave a slight start, and said, in a tone of great earnestness,
“Did you see that?” Her face became suddenly altered; an expression
of deep anguish fixed itself upon her features, and her eyes became
more than ordinarily brilliant. We replied, “What?” She answered, “Oh!
you must have seen it. How terrible it looked as it glided over the
bed. Again I see it,” she vociferated, with an unearthly scream, “I am
ready!” and, without a groan, her spirit took its flight!

Dr. Symonds recollects to have heard a young man, who had been but
little conversant with any but civic scenes, discourse most eloquently,
a short period before his death, of sylvan glen and bosky dells,
purling streams and happy valleys, as if his spirit had been already
luxuriating itself in the gardens of Elysium. Nothing more frequently
prognosticates the approach of death than the appearance of a spectre
at the bed-side of the patient. In some cases, the mind, when in a happy
frame, dwells with delight on the contemplation of the last struggle,
and has a foretaste of that heavenly joy which is the reward of a
well-spent life. The spirits of good men and of angels are said to
hover round the departing soul of the Christian, as if waiting to bear
it to the mansions of bliss:—

  “Saw you not even now a blessed troop
  Invite me to a banquet, whose bright faces
  Cast thousand beams upon me, like the sun?
  They promised me eternal happiness;
  And brought me garlands, Griffith, which I feel
  I am not worthy yet to wear.”

  KING HENRY VIII.

Many have, under the notion that the fear of death is beneficial to the
mind, done their best to keep the idea constantly before them.

  “If I must die, I’ll snatch at anything
  That may but mind me of my latest breath;
  Death’s-heads, graves, knells, blacks, tombs, all these shall bring
  Into my soul such useful thoughts of death,
  That this sable king of fears
  Shall not catch me unawares.”

Young raised about him an artificial idea of death; he darkened his
sepulchral study, placing a skull on his table by lamp-light. At the
end of an avenue in his garden was placed on a seat an admirable
chiaro-oscuro, which when approached presented only a painted surface,
with an inscription, alluding to the deception of the things of this
world.

Dr. J. Donne, the celebrated English divine and poet, is said to have
longed for the hour of dissolution. Previous to his death, he gave
instructions for a monument, which his friends had declared their
intention to erect to his memory. A carver made him in wood the figure
of an urn, and having secured the services of a painter, the Doctor
ordered the urn to be brought into his chamber. Having taken off his
clothes, he procured a white sheet, which was put on him, and tied with
knots at his hands and feet. In this state he stood upon the urn, with
his eyes closed, and a portion of the sheet turned aside in order to
shew his lean, pale, and death-like face. In this posture, the painter
sketched him; and when the monument was finished, it was placed by his
bed-side, and was hourly the source of contemplation until his death.

The “lightening up before death,” so often perceptible, is but the
result of venous blood being sent to the brain. When respiration
becomes imperfect, the blood does not undergo the proper chemical
change in the lungs (arterialization), and its effect on the sentient
organ is such as is occasionally witnessed prior to dissolution.
Abernethy considers the sensations of the dying similar to those
experienced by persons labouring under delirium. He relates the case
of a man who appeared, during his delirious state, to meet with old
acquaintances. The companions of his youthful days flocked once more
around him—old associations were revived. “How are you, my dear
fellow?” he exclaimed. “It is long since we met. Give us your fist, my
hearty. Now, that is a good joke; I never heard a better. Ah! ah! ah!”

We had once the painful duty of watching the expiring struggles of
a man whose life had been one long career of vice and debauchery.
His death was truly appalling. It was evident, from the expressions
which escaped him when dying, that his mind had a vivid conception
of the scenes in which he had played so conspicuous a part. “Now for
the dice!” he exclaimed, with the fury of a maniac. “That’s mine! No!
all, all is gone! More wine, d—— you; more wine! Oh! how they rattle!
Fiends, fiends, assail me! I say, you cheat! the cards are marked! Now
the chains rattle! O death! O death!” and with a terrific groan he
breathed his last.

Among the causes which operate in producing the disposition to commit
suicide, we must not omit to mention those connected with erroneous
religious notions. M. Falret justly remarks, that the religious system
of the Druids, Odin, and Mahomet, by inspiring a contempt for death,
have made many suicides. The man who believes that death is an eternal
sleep, scorns to hold up against calamity, and prefers annihilation.
The sceptic also often frees himself by self-destruction from the agony
of doubting. The maxim of the Stoics, that man should live only so long
as he ought, not so long as he is able, is, we may observe, the very
parent of suicide. The Brahmin, looking on death as the very entrance
into life, and thinking a natural death dishonourable, is eager at all
times to get rid of life. The Epicureans and Peripatetics ridiculed
suicide, as being death caused by fear of death. M. Falret, however,
goes perhaps too far when he asserts that the noble manner in which the
gladiators died in public, not only familiarized the Romans with death,
but rendered the thoughts of it rather agreeable than otherwise.

Misinterpretations of passages of scripture will sometimes lead those
who are piously inclined to commit suicide. M. Gillet hung himself
at the age of seventy-five, having left in his own handwriting the
following apology:—“Jesus Christ has said, that when a tree is old and
can no longer bear fruit, it is good that it should be destroyed.”
(He had more than once attempted his life before the fatal act.) Dr.
Burrows attended a nobleman who, for fear of being poisoned, though
he pretended it was in imitation of our Saviour’s fast, took nothing
but strawberries and water for three weeks, and these in very moderate
quantities. He never voluntarily abandoned his resolution. He was at
length compelled to take some nutriment, but not until inanition had
gone too far; and he died completely attenuated. When sound religious
principles produce a struggle in the mind which is beginning to
aberrate, the contest generally ends in suicide.

Some murder themselves to get rid of the horrid thoughts of suicide;
whilst others brood over them like Rousseau, for months and for years,
and at length perpetrate the very action which they dread. A countryman
of Rousseau’s, who advocated suicide as a duty, and who spent the
greater part of a long life in writing a large folio volume to prove
the soundness of his doctrine, thought it his duty, after he had
completed his work, to give a practical illustration of his principles,
and, accordingly, at the age of seventy, threw himself into the Lake of
Geneva, and was drowned.

It may appear strange that religion, the greatest blessing bestowed
by Heaven on man, should ever prove a cause of one of his severest
calamities. But perhaps it would be more accurate to impute such
unhappy effects to fanaticism, or to the total want of religion.

Instances very frequently occur in practice in which patients have
appeared, some suddenly, and others gradually, to be seized with
a species of religious horror, despairing of salvation, asserting
that they had committed sins which never could be forgiven, who had
never previously appeared to be under religious impressions. Some of
these have been visited by divines of various denominations, and been
induced to hear sermons and read books well calculated to dispel gloomy
apprehensions, and excite religious hope and confidence. With some
this has succeeded, especially when conjoined with medical aid; but
it has been observed, that in the cases of those who have recovered,
the patients have _emerged_ precisely as they _immerged_; for as they
before were unconcerned about religious matters, so they remained
after their recovery; thus the indisposition has been very erroneously
imputed to religion when it has no kind of affinity to, or concern
with it. Such cases almost invariably exhibit the same symptoms, which
generally turn on these points—despair of temporal support, or despair
of final salvation. But the medical practitioner, and not the divine,
is the proper person to be consulted in such cases; and, however the
mind may be affected in them, the patient is to be relieved by means
of medicine. It may be added, that the agonies of mind under which
some persons labour who are called fanatically mad arise from a sense
of moral turpitude, independent of any peculiar religious tenets or
opinions.

The true doctrines of Christianity, when properly inculcated, never
excite a gloomy state of mind. “To be religious,” says South, “it is
not necessary to be dull.” Cowper (perhaps, however, the most miserable
and melancholy of men) beautifully says—

  “True piety is cheerful as the day,
  Will weep indeed, and heave a pitying groan,
  For others’ woes, but smile upon her own.”



CHAPTER V.

IMITATIVE, OR EPIDEMIC SUICIDE.


  Persons who act from impulse liable to be influenced—Principle
  of imitation, a natural instinct—Cases related by Cabanis and
  Tissot—The suicidal barbers—Epidemic suicide at the Hôtel
  des Invalides—Sydenham’s epidemic—The ladies of Miletus—Dr.
  Parrish’s case—Are insanity and suicide contagious?

The most singular feature connected with the subject of suicide is,
that the disposition to sacrifice life has, at different periods,
been known to prevail epidemically, from a perversion, as it has been
supposed, of the natural instinct of imitation. This is not only the
case with reference to suicide, but is witnessed also in cases of
murder. The atrocities of the French Revolution are, to a certain
extent, to be traced to the influence of this imitative principle.
Persons whose feelings are not thoroughly under their command, who act
from impulse and not from reflection, are very prone to be operated
upon by the cause referred to. Man has been defined an imitative
animal; and in many instances we witness this propensity controlling
almost irresistibly the actions of the individual. Tissot relates the
case of a young woman in whom this faculty was so strongly developed
that she could not avoid doing everything she saw others do. Cabanis
gives the account of a man in whom the tendency to imitate was so
strongly marked, and active, from disease, that “he experienced
insupportable suffering” when he was prevented from yielding to its
impulses. A woman, in the ward of an hospital, will be seized with an
epileptic fit; in the course of a short period, other cases will occur
in the same ward. A child was brought into one of our metropolitan
hospitals, labouring under a violent attack of convulsions. She had not
been in the house five minutes before three children who were present
were seized with spasmodic convulsions of a similar character. The
commission of a great and extraordinary crime produces not unfrequently
the mania of imitation in the district in which it happened. A criminal
was executed at Paris, not many years ago, for murder. A few weeks
afterwards, another murder was perpetrated; and when the young man was
asked to assign a reason for taking away the life of a fellow-creature,
he replied, that he was not instigated by any feeling of malice, but,
after having witnessed the execution, he felt a desire, over which he
had no control, to commit a similar crime, and had no rest until he had
gratified his feelings. It is only on the same principle that we can
account for the following singular case of suicide. It is related by
Sir Charles Bell, in his “Institutes of Surgery.” The surgeon of the
Middlesex Hospital who preceded Sir Charles Bell went into a barber’s
shop, in the neighbourhood of the institution, to be shaved. As the
barber was operating upon his chin, the conversation turned upon the
case of a man who had been admitted the previous day into the hospital,
and who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill himself, by cutting his
throat. “He could easily have managed it,” said the surgeon, in rather
a jocular strain, “had he been acquainted with the situation of the
carotid artery. He did not cut in the proper place.” “Where should
he have cut?” asked the barber, quietly. The surgeon, not suspecting
what was passing through the barber’s mind, gave a popular lecture on
the anatomy of the neck—pointed out the exact position of the large
vessels, and shewed where they could easily be wounded. After the
conversation, the barber made some excuse for leaving the room; and,
not returning as soon as was expected, the surgeon went to look for
him, when he was discovered in the yard, behind the house, with his
head nearly severed from his body!

The following case is, perhaps, more strange and inexplicable than
the one just related. The brother of a hairdresser and barber had
killed himself by blowing out his brains. The circumstance appeared to
affect seriously the mind of his relative. He left his business for a
few days; and then returned, apparently more tranquil in his mind. In
the morning, several persons came in to be shaved; and, all at once,
he felt a strong, and almost overwhelming, inclination to cut some
one’s throat. He fought manfully, however, against this horrid desire.
During the whole of the earlier part of the day, he had been able to
resist the gratification of the feeling. Every time he placed the razor
in contact with the throat, he fancied he heard a voice within him
exclaim, “Kill him! kill him!” In the afternoon, an elderly gentleman
came into the shop to be shaved; and when the barber had nearly
concluded the operation, he was again seized with the desire; and,
before he could summon courage enough to suppress it, he gave the man’s
throat a tremendous gash; fortunately, however, the wound was not fatal.

Gall informs us of a man who, on reading in the newspapers the
particulars of a case of murder, perpetrated under circumstances of
peculiar atrocity, was instantly seized with a desire to murder his
servant, and would have done so, had he not given his intended victim
timely warning to escape.

Some years ago, a man hung himself on the threshold of one of the doors
of the corridor at the _Hôtel des Invalides_. No suicide had occurred
in the establishment for two years previously; but in the succeeding
fortnight, five invalids hung themselves on the same cross bar, and the
governor was obliged to shut up the passage.

Sydenham informs us that, at Mansfield, in a particular year, in the
month of June, suicide prevailed to an alarming degree, from a cause
wholly unaccountable. The same thing happened at Rouen, in 1806;
at Stuttgard, in the summer of 1811; and at a village of St. Pierre
Montjean, in the Valais, in the year 1813. One of the most remarkable
epidemics of the kind was that which prevailed at Versailles in the
year 1793. The number of suicides within the year was 1300—a number out
of all proportion to the population of the town.

In the olden time, the ladies of Miletus, in a fit of melancholy for
the absence of their husbands and lovers, resolved to hang themselves,
and vied with each other in the alacrity with which they did the
deed. In the time of the Ptolemies, a stoic philosopher pleaded so
eloquently, one day, to an Alexandrian audience on the advantages of
suicide, that he inspired his hearers with his principles, and a great
number voluntarily sacrificed their lives.

A clergyman, master of a very large and popular school, the locality
of which, for obvious reasons, it would not do to specify, recently
informed one of his friends that he had discovered a new pupil in the
act of practising a disgraceful vice. “Send him home to his parents,
and say nothing about it,” was the friend’s judicious recommendation.
The schoolmaster, however, placed great confidence in his own eloquence
and the corrective powers of the birch. He assembled his boys, made an
excellent harangue on the guilt of the delinquent, and gave him a sound
flogging. The example of crime proved more influential than the example
of punishment, and the vice spread so rapidly that the whole school was
broken up in consequence.[39]

The particulars of the following case are recorded in the “American
Journal of the Medical Sciences,” by Dr. Parrish. He says, “I was
called to visit a child in the family of J. S., a respectable gentleman
residing in my neighbourhood. On my arrival, at 3 P.M., I found,
on going into the chamber of my patient, that death had occurred.
The patient was a girl in her fifteenth year, who had been carefully
brought up by a family with whom she had lived between seven and eight
years. She had generally enjoyed good health, with the exception of
occasional attacks of sickness of the stomach, and headache. She had
just passed the age of puberty, and possessed a docile disposition. Her
situation in life, as far as could be ascertained, was in every respect
agreeable, and congenial to her wishes.

“On the morning of the day of her death, she was engaged as usual in
the domestic concerns of the family until eight o’clock, when she was
observed in the yard vomiting. Upon inquiring into the history of the
case, I found that early in the morning on which the patient died, she
had held a conversation with a little girl residing in the next house,
in which she mentioned having lately read in a newspaper of a man who
had been unfortunate in his business, and had taken arsenic to destroy
himself; she also spoke of an apothecary’s shop near by, and said she
frequently went there.

“The narration of this conversation afforded strong suspicion to my
mind that she had committed suicide; a suspicion which was strengthened
by the fact, that a few months previous I had been called upon to visit
a person residing in the same house, who had suffered for some years
under mental derangement, and had recently been discharged from the
insane hospital near Frankford; he had taken laudanum, with the intent
of destroying himself.

“This circumstance would naturally produce a strong impression upon the
mind of the child, which was increased, no doubt, by the reading of
the case detailed in the newspaper. In this way the desire to commit a
similar act was kindled up in the mind of the deluded girl, and thus,
by that inexplicable connexion which, in some instances at least,
appears to exist between the knowledge of such a horrible act and the
desire to perform it, she was almost irresistibly impelled to the deed.

“This case is stated as affording strong testimony in favour of a
principle which is now beginning to attract the attention of medical
men—viz., that the publicity which is given to cases of suicide,
in the newspapers and by other means, forms one of the strongest
incentives to the commission of the act, in those who have a secret
disposition to destroy themselves.

“If this be the fact, a high responsibility rests upon physicians, so
to influence public opinion, and more especially editors, as to prevent
the narration of the circumstances connected with the death of this
unfortunate class. No good can certainly arise (to the public) from
the exposure of facts which ought to remain concealed in the bosom
of distressed families; while there is reason to believe the list of
victims to suicide is annually very much swelled from the course which
is now so generally pursued.”[40]

It has been noticed that certain atmospherical phenomena have attended
or preceded the suicidal epidemics that have prevailed at various
periods. Whether these electrical conditions of the air are in any
way connected with this peculiar form of contagious malady is a point
not easily to be decided. A certain degree of atmospherical moisture
appears to favour the spread of the suicidal disposition; but this may
result from the well known influence of moist air on the disposition
of the mind, and may operate by causing a degree of mental despondency
and lassitude, very favourable to the development of the suicidal
mania, particularly after the occurrence of any very remarkable case
of self-destruction. It is notorious that nothing is so likely to
unsettle the mind, especially if an hereditary disposition be present,
than constantly associating with lunatics, and allowing the mind to
dwell for any length of time on the subject of insanity. If actual
mental derangement does not result from an exposure to the causes
referred to, a certain degree of eccentricity bordering on the confines
of aberration is generally perceptible. With our present amount of
knowledge of the subtle principle of contagion, it is difficult to
say whether an effluvium may not be generated in such cases which,
under certain conditions of the system, may communicate disease. We
cannot possibly say that this is not the case. If we are justified,
which we by no means are willing to admit, in the opinion that the
disposition to suicide and insanity may be propagated by contagion,
using this term in its usual acceptation, it is a great consolation to
the mind to think that only occasionally does the disease exhibit the
slightest approach to virulence, and that, unlike many of the admitted
contagious maladies, we may approach the patient without much fear or
apprehension.



CHAPTER VI.

SUICIDE FROM FASCINATION.


  Singular motives for committing suicide—A man who delighted
  in torturing himself—A dangerous experiment—Pleasures of
  carnage—Disposition to leap from precipices—Lord Byron’s
  allusion to the influence of fascination—Miss Moyes and
  the Monument—A man who could not trust himself with a
  razor—Esquirol’s opinion of such cases—Danger of ascending
  elevated places.

How strange, extraordinary, and inexplicable are the motives which
often lead to the commission of suicide! Many have been induced to rush
into the arms of death in order to avoid the pain which they fancy
accompanies dissolution. “_Hic, rogo, non furor est, ne moriare mori?_”
Others have been apparently led to the perpetration of the crime by a
desire to ascertain what sensations attended the act of dying; whilst
some have been influenced by a feeling of fascination, and have stated
that they experienced ecstatic delight at the idea of self-immolation.

The case of a man is recorded who felt the most exquisite delight in
torturing himself. He had often expressed a wish to be hanged, from
the notion that this Newgate mode of terminating life must give rise
to sensations of great pleasure. The idea occurred to him one day of
trying the experiment. He procured a piece of cord, attached it to
the ceiling, and suspended himself from it; fortunately for the poor
infatuated man, the servant entered the room a few minutes afterwards,
and cut him down. Life was not extinct. The man expressed that he felt,
during the few moments that he was hanging, a thrilling delight, which
no language that he could use could convey anything like an adequate
expression of. There was no doubt that this man laboured under an
abnormal condition of the mind, which, if not amounting to insanity,
certainly approached very nearly the confines of that disease.[41]

A woman was admitted some years back into one of our metropolitan
hospitals who had a propensity to cut her person with every sharp
instrument that she could procure. It was not her intention to kill
herself; and when reasoned with on the folly of her actions, she
observed that she was impelled by no other motive than the fascinating
pleasure she experienced whenever she succeeded in drawing blood.

A lady, a passenger on board of a ship bound for the East Indies,
was frequently heard to express a wish to know what feeling a person
experienced in the act of being drowned. She fancied the sensations
must be of a pleasurable character. Her fellow-passengers laughed
at her whenever she alluded to the matter. Having introduced the
subject again during dinner, she observed, “Well, I intend to try the
experiment to-morrow morning.” The threat only excited the merriment
of those who heard it. In the morning, whilst the passengers were on
deck, the lady plunged into the sea, to the astonishment of everybody.
Luckily for her, the ship was becalmed, and her life was saved.

An extraordinary young man, who lived at Paris, and who was
passionately fond of mechanics, shut himself up one evening in his
apartment, and bound not only his chest and stomach, but also his
arms, legs, and thighs, with ropes full of knots, the ends of which he
fastened to hooks in the wall. After having passed a considerable part
of the night in this situation, he wished to disengage himself, but
attempted it in vain. Some neighbouring females, who were up, heard
his cries, and, calling for assistance, they forced open the door of
his room, when they found him swinging in the air, with only one arm
extricated. He was immediately carried to the lieutenant-general of the
police for examination, when he declared that he had often put similar
trials into execution, as he experienced _indescribable pleasure in
them_. He confessed that at first he felt pain, but that after the
cords became tight to a certain degree, he was soon rewarded by the
most exquisite sensations of pleasure.[42]

“As the chill dews of evening were surrounding our bivouac,” says the
author of the “Recollections of the Peninsula,” “a staff officer, with
a courier, came galloping into it, and alighted at the quarters of our
general. It was soon known amongst us that a severe and sanguinary
action had been fought by our brother soldiers at Talavera. Disjointed
rumours spoke of a dear-bought field, a heavy loss, and a subsequent
retreat. I well remember how we all gathered round our fires to listen,
to conjecture, and to talk about this glorious, but bloody event. We
regretted that we had borne no share in the honours of such a day; and
_we talked with an undefined pleasure about the carnage_. Yes! strange
as it may appear, soldiers, and not they alone, talk of the danger of
battle fields with a sensation which partakes of pleasure.”

A watchmaker of Aberdeen, who had been looking over the precipices of
Loch-na-Gair, suddenly felt a desire to precipitate himself from the
height, and having first taken a step or two back for the purpose, he
flung himself off.

A gentleman travelling through Switzerland, with his wife, came to an
eminence commanding an extensive and beautiful view of the surrounding
country. He went, accompanied by his wife, to the edge of a mountainous
cliff, and, turning round to his lady, he observed—“I have lived long
enough!” and in a moment threw himself down the precipice.

It was a notion of this kind which induced Lord Byron to observe that
he believed no man ever took a razor into his hand who did not at the
same time think how easily he might sever the silver cord of life. The
noble poet evidently alludes, in the following stanzas, to the strange
and unaccountable influence of fascination in exciting the mind to
commit suicide:—

  “A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
  Of toil, is what we covet most, and yet
  How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
  The very suicide that pays his debts
  At once, without instalments, (an old way
  Of paying debts, which creditors regret,)
  Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
  Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

  ’Tis round him, near him, there, everywhere;
  And there’s a courage which grows out of fear,
  Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
  The _worst_ to know it:—when the mountains rear
  Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
  You look down o’er the precipice, and drear
  The gulf of rock yawns,—you can’t gaze a minute
  Without an awful wish to plunge within it!

  ’Tis true, you don’t—but, pale and struck with terror,
  Retire: but look into your past impression!
  And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
  Of your own thoughts, in all their self-confession,
  The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
  To the _unknown_; a secret prepossession,
  To plunge with all your fears—but where? You know not,
  And that’s the reason why you do—or do not.”

A gentleman with whom we are acquainted, informed us that, a few
days after Miss Moyes had thrown herself from the Monument, a friend
of his had the curiosity to visit the spot, and on looking down the
awful height from which this poor unfortunate girl had precipitated
herself, he felt suddenly an attack of giddiness, which was succeeded
in a moment by one of the most pleasurable sensations he had ever
experienced, accompanied with a desire to jump off. He was not
influenced, apparently, by any other motive than that of a wish to
gratify a feeling of ecstasy which for a minute suspended all the
operations of the mind. A gentleman who was by him asked him a question
with reference to the height of the Monument, and this circumstance
recalling him to the exercise of his reasoning faculties, he
immediately left the spot, shuddering at the recollection of the idea
which had momentarily flashed across his mind.

The case is related of a man who had this feeling so strongly
manifested that he never dared trust himself with a razor. He was
not devoid of religious feeling, and was most happy in his domestic
relations. On occasions which required the exercise of moral
resolution, he was never found wanting. He declared his life would
not be safe for a day if he were permitted to shave himself. Such
instances are by no means uncommon, and require much ingenuity to
account satisfactorily for them, unless they be referred to the effect
of fascination.

Andral observes, “that there are many men perfectly rational, and
completely undisturbed by care or pain, who, singular to state,
have been suddenly seized by a headlong, groundless inclination to
destroy themselves. There are hundreds who cannot approach the brink
of a cliff, or ascend a lofty tower, without experiencing an almost
invincible desire to precipitate themselves to the bottom, from which
fate they only save themselves by an instantaneous effort to retire
from the temptation. I knew a gentleman who, while shaving himself
one day, alone, was three times so vehemently urged to plunge the
razor into his throat, that he was at length compelled to throw the
instrument from him, in absolute horror and dismay. In rational men,
however, these trying and dangerous moments are but of very short
duration.”

A sailor informed us that he had often, when at the top of the
mast, felt disposed to precipitate himself from the giddy eminence,
influenced by no other motive than that of pleasure.

In such cases, what course is the medical man to pursue? It is
difficult to give any instructions for the treatment of such cases
of mental idiosyncrasy. Persons who are subject to feelings of this
character should be advised to avoid ascending elevated places.



CHAPTER VII.

OF THE ENTHUSIASM AND MENTAL IRRITABILITY WHICH, IF ENCOURAGED, WOULD
LEAD TO SUICIDE.


  Connexion between genius and insanity—Authors of fiction
  often feel what they write—Metastasio in tears—The enthusiasm
  of Pope, Alfieri, Dryden—Effects of the first reading of
  Telemachus and Tasso on Madame Roland’s mind—Raffaelle and
  his celebrated picture of the Transfiguration—The convulsions
  of Malbranche—Beattie’s Essay on Truth—Influence of intense
  study on Boerrhave’s mind—The demon of Spinello and
  Luther—Bourdaloue and his violin—Byron’s sensitiveness—Men do
  not always practise what they preach—Cases of Smollett, La
  Fontaine, Sir Thomas More, Zimmerman—Tasso’s spectre—Johnson’s
  superstition—Concluding remarks.

It has been observed that the act of suicide may often originate in a
feeling analogous to the enthusiasm exhibited by men of great genius
and sensibility. This mental idiosyncrasy, which borders so closely on
the confines of insanity, has been compared to the narrow bridge of
Al Sirat, which leads the followers of Mahomet from earth to heaven,
but by so narrow a path that the passenger is in momentary danger of
falling into the dismal gulf which yawns beneath him. This abnormal
condition of the nervous system is, to a certain extent, dependent on
natural organic structure, aided materially by an unhealthy exercise
of the imaginative faculty. Fielding spoke but the history of his own
sensations when he declared that he “had no doubt but the most pathetic
scenes had been writ with tears.” Metastasio was found weeping over
his Olympiad. He says: “When I apply with attention, the nerves of my
sensorium are put into a violent tumult; I grow as red as a drunkard,
and am obliged to quit my work.” Pope could not proceed with certain
passages of his translation of Homer without shedding tears. Alfieri
declares that he frequently penned the most tender passages in his
plays “under a paroxysm of enthusiasm, and whilst shedding tears.”
Dryden was seized with violent tremors during the composition of his
celebrated ode. Rousseau, in conceiving the first idea of his Essay on
the Arts, became almost delirious with enthusiasm.

Madame Roland has thus powerfully described the ideal presence in
her first readings of Telemachus and Tasso:—“My respiration rose,
I felt a rapid fire colouring my face, and my voice changing had
betrayed my agitation. I was Eucharis for Telemachus, and Emenia for
Tancred. Having my reason during this perfect transformation, I did
not yet think that I myself was anything for any one: the whole had
no connexion with myself. I sought for nothing around me; I was they;
I saw only the objects which existed for them; it was a dream without
being awakened.”

Raffaelle says, alluding to his celebrated picture, the
Transfiguration—“When I have stood looking at that picture, from figure
to figure, the eagerness, the spirit, the close unaffected attention of
each figure to the principal action, my thoughts have carried me away,
that I have forgot myself, and for that time might be looked upon as
an enthusiastic madman; for I could really fancy the whole action was
passing before my eyes.”

Malbranche was seized with violent palpitations of the heart when
reading Descartes’s Treatise on Man:—

  “With curious art, the brain too finely wrought
  Preys on itself, and is destroyed by thought;
  Constant attention wears the active mind,
  Blots out her powers, and leaves a blank behind.”

Intense occupation of mind to any particular branch of study, often
brings the mind on the verge of madness. “Since the ‘Essay on Truth’
was printed in quarto,” says Dr. Beattie, “I have never _dared_ to read
it over. I durst not even read the sheets to see whether there were any
errors in the print, and was obliged to get a friend to do that office
for me. These studies came, in time, to have dreadful effects upon
my nervous system; and I cannot read what I then wrote without some
degree of horror, because it recalls to my mind the horrors that I have
sometimes felt after passing a long evening in these severe studies.”

Boerrhave has related of himself that, having imprudently indulged in
intense thought on a particular subject, he did not close his eyes for
six weeks afterwards.

Spinello, having painted the fall of the rebellious angels, had so
strongly imagined the illusion, and more particularly the terrible
features of Lucifer, that he was himself struck with such horror as
to have been long afflicted with the presence of the demon to which
his genius had given birth. Swedenburg saw a terrestrial heaven in the
glittering streets of his New Jerusalem.

Malbranche declared he heard the voice of God distinctly within him.
Pascal often was seen to rush suddenly from his chair at the appearance
of a fiery gulf by his side. Luther maintained that during his
confinement the devil used to visit him.

Hudibras says—

  “Did not the devil appear to Martin
  Luther, in Germany, for certain?”

He declares that he had many a contest with his satanic majesty, and
that he had always the best of the argument. At one time, the devil so
enraged Luther that he threw the ink-stand at him, an action which the
German commentators greatly applaud, from a conviction that there is
nothing which the devil abhors more than ink.

Descartes, after long confinement, was followed by an invisible person,
calling upon him to pursue the search of truth.

Mozart’s sensibility to music was connected with so susceptible a
nervous system that, in his childhood, the sound of a trumpet would
turn him pale, and almost induce convulsions. Dr. Conolly relates an
amusing anecdote of the celebrated Bourdaloue. It is said that the
composition of his eloquent sermons so excited his mind that he was
unable to deliver them until he discovered some mode of allaying his
excitement. “His attendants one day were both scandalized and alarmed,
on proceeding to his apartment, for the purpose of accompanying him to
the cathedral, by hearing the sound of a fiddle, on which was played
a very lively tune. After their first consternation, they ventured to
look through the keyhole, and were still more shocked to behold the
great divine dancing about, without his gown and canonicals, to his own
inspiring music. Of course, they concluded him to be mad. But, when
they knocked, the music ceased; and after a short and anxious interval,
he met them with a composed dress and manner; and, observing some signs
of astonishment in the party, explained to them that without his music
and his exercise he should have been unable to undertake the duties of
the day.”

In the character of Lord Byron we have an apt illustration of the kind
of mental irritability and morbid sensitiveness of feeling that so
often incites to acts of desperation. It has been said that the noble
poet was the child of passion, born in bitterness and “nurtured in
convulsion.” The true state of his mind can best be divined from the
delineation of his own sensations as given in Childe Harold:—

                      “I have thought
  Too long and darkly, till my brain became
  In its own eddy boiling, and orwrought
  A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame:
  And thus untaught in youth my heart to tame,
  My springs of life were poisoned.”

Byron was subject to attacks of epilepsy; and perhaps this fact may
account for much of the spleen and irritability which he manifested
through life, and which made him so many enemies. It also teaches us
an important lesson. We are too apt to form our estimate of character
without taking into consideration all those circumstances which are
known materially to influence human thought and actions. The state
of the organization and the health ought to be maturely weighed
before we pronounce authoritatively as to the motives of individuals,
or denounce them for not acting or thinking according to what our
preconceived opinions have taught us to consider as orthodox. Byron’s
mind was morbidly alive to impressions. The most trifling circumstance
would cause him to swoon. At Bologna, in 1819, he describes one of
his convulsive attacks:—“Last night I went to the representation of
Alfieri’s Myrrha, the last two acts of which threw me into convulsions;
I don’t mean by that word lady’s hysterics, but an agony of reluctant
tears, and the choking shudder which I do not often undergo for
fiction.” He was seized in a similar manner at seeing Kean in Sir Giles
Overreach; he was carried out of the theatre in convulsions. From early
life, Byron exhibited this abnormal excitability. There can be no doubt
that it was but the natural effect of a peculiar condition of nervous
function; but, instead of endeavouring to subdue the feeling, he did
his best to encourage it, and to fan the fire into a flame. He appears
to have been tortured by horrid dreams. He says in his Journal—“I awoke
from a dream: well, have not others dreamed? Such a dream! But she did
not overtake me! I wish the dead would rest for ever. Ugh! how my blood
is chilled! I do not like this dream; I hate its foregone conclusion.”

The “Bride of Abydos” was written to distract the poet’s mind from his
dreams. He was in such a nervous state at this period, that he says if
he had not done something, he must have gone mad, or have eat his own
heart.

Stendhal, alluding to Byron’s apparent remorse, asks, “Is it not
possible that Byron might have had some guilty stain on his conscience,
similar to that which wrecked Othello’s fame? Can it be, have we
sometimes exclaimed, that, in a frenzy of pride or jealousy, he
had shortened the days of some fair Grecian slave, faithless to her
vows?”[43]

It is not just to form our opinions of the character of men by their
writings or actions. In the mass, we are ready to admit that we have no
other criteria by which to be guided; but we may charitably consider
that Byron was not himself the “dark original he drew.”

  “O memory! torture me no more:
    The present’s all o’ercast—
  My hopes of future bliss are o’er;
    In mercy, veil the past.”

Such were his feelings at the age of seventeen.

La Fontaine penned tales fertile in intrigues, and yet he was never
known, says D’Israeli, to have been engaged in a single amour. Smollett
was anything but what his writings would lead us to expect. Cowley
boasted of his mistresses, and wanted the courage to address one.
Burton declaimed against melancholy, and yet he was the most miserable
of men. Sir Thomas More preached in favour of toleration, yet in
practice was a fierce persecutor. Zimmerman, whilst he was inculcating
beautiful lessons of benevolence, was by his tyranny driving his son
into madness, and leaving his daughter an outcast from home. Goëthe
says, “Zimmerman’s harshness towards his children was the effect of
hypochondria, a sort of madness or moral assassination, to which he
himself fell a victim after sacrificing his offspring.”

Byron occasionally fancied he was visited by a spectre, which he
confesses was but the effect of an overstimulated brain.

Tasso, whose fine imagination the passions of hopeless love, and
of grief occasioned by ill treatment, disordered, was in daily
communication with a spirit. This circumstance is alluded to in the
following anecdote of him, prefixed to Hoole’s translation of his “_La
Gierusalemme Liberata_.”

“In this place (at Bisaccio, near Naples) Manso had an opportunity
of examining the singular effects of Tasso’s melancholy, and often
disputed with him concerning a familiar spirit, with which he pretended
to converse. Manso endeavoured in vain to persuade his friend that
the whole was the illusion of a disturbed imagination; but the latter
was strenuous in maintaining the reality of what he asserted; and to
convince Manso, desired him to be present at one of these mysterious
conversations. Manso had the complaisance to meet him next day; and
while they were engaged in discourse, on a sudden he observed that
Tasso kept his eyes fixed upon a window, and remained in a manner
immovable. He called him by his name several times, but received no
answer. At last Tasso cried out, ‘There is the friendly spirit, who
is come to converse with me. Look, and you will be convinced of the
truth of all that I have said.’ Manso heard him with surprise; he
looked, but saw nothing except the sunbeams darting through the window:
he cast his eyes all over the room, but could perceive nothing, and
was just going to ask where the pretended spirit was, when he heard
Tasso speak with great earnestness, sometimes putting questions to the
spirit, and sometimes giving answers, delivering the whole in such a
pleasing manner, and with such elevated expressions, that he listened
with admiration, and had not the least inclination to interrupt him.
At last the uncommon conversation ended with the departure of the
spirit, as appeared by Tasso’s words, who, turning to Manso, asked him
if his doubts were removed? Manso was more amazed than ever; he scarce
knew what to think of his friend’s situation, and waved any further
conversation on the subject.”

Boswell says, Dr. Johnson mentioned a thing as not unfrequent, of
which he (Boswell) had never heard before,—being called, that is,
hearing one’s name pronounced, by the voice of a known person at a
great distance, far beyond the possibility of being reached by any
sound, uttered by human organs. An acquaintance, on whose veracity
Boswell says he could place every dependence, told him that, walking
home one evening to Kilmarnock, he heard himself called from a wood,
by the voice of a brother who had gone to America, and the next packet
brought the account of that brother’s death. Macbean asserted that this
inexplicable _calling_ was a thing very well known. Dr. Johnson said,
that one day at Oxford, as he was turning the key of his chambers, he
heard distinctly his mother call _Sam!_ She was then at Lichfield; but
nothing ensued.

Sir Joshua Reynolds gives an amusing instance of Dr. Johnson’s
eccentricity. He says, “When he and I took a journey into the west, we
visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire. The conversation turning
upon pictures, which Johnson could not well see, he retired to a corner
of the room, stretching out his right leg as far as he could reach
before him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching his right
still further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to him, and
in a very courteous manner assured him that, though it was not a new
house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The Doctor started from his
reverie, like a person waked out of a sleep, but spoke not a word.”

Dr. Johnson had one peculiarity, says Boswell, of which none of his
friends dared to ask an explanation. This was an anxious care to go out
or in at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain
point, so that either his right or left foot should constantly make
the first actual movement. Thus, upon innumerable occasions, Boswell
has seen him suddenly stop, and then seem to count his steps with
deep earnestness; and when he had neglected, or gone wrong in this
sort of magical movement, he has been noticed to go back again, put
himself in a proper posture to recommence the ceremony, and having gone
through it, break from his abstraction, briskly walk on, and join his
companions.

An inordinate cultivation of any one faculty of the mind, but more
particularly the imagination, will tend to produce the peculiarities
which have been illustrated in this chapter. A person who accustoms
himself to live in a world created by his own fancy—who surrounds
himself with flimsy idealities—will, in the course of time, cease
to sympathize with the gross realities of life. The imaginary
intelligences which his own morbid mind has called into existence will
exercise a terrific influence over him. A German poet commenced writing
a poem on the Deity. He allowed his mind to dwell so intensely on the
subject, that he fancied he was commanded to “flee from a world of
sin and iniquity;” to effect which, he cut his throat, and was found
dead in bed, with the razor in one hand and a portion of his poem in
the other. The apparitions which the monomaniac fancies to haunt him
are as real and sensible existences to him, as objects are to persons
who have a healthy use of the media through which ideas obtain access
to the mind. Mr. Calcraft, the late member of parliament, committed
suicide. He imagined that a strange unearthly-looking being sat night
and day perched at the top of his bed, watching with earnestness his
every movement. This, which to all around him was an hallucination, to
him _was_ a reality. It is possible for a person of vivid imagination
to conjure into apparent existence the most grotesque images of the
fancy, by allowing the mind to dwell with intenseness on a particular
train of thought, and by perfectly abstracting the attention from all
materiality.



CHAPTER VIII.

PHYSICAL CAUSES OF SUICIDE.


  Influence of climate—The foggy climate of England does not
  increase the number of suicides—Average number of suicides in
  each month, from 1817 to 1826—Influence of seasons—Suicides
  at Rouen—The English not a suicidal people—Philip Mordaunt’s
  singular reasons for self-destruction—Causes of French
  suicides—Influence of physical pain—Unnatural vices—Suicide
  the effect of intoxication—Influence of hepatic disease
  on the mind—Melancholy and hypochondriasis, Burton’s
  account of—Cowper’s case of suicide—Particulars of his
  extreme depression of spirits—Byron and Burns’s melancholy
  from stomach and liver derangement—Influence of bodily
  disease on the mind—Importance of paying attention to it—A
  case of insanity from gastric irritation—Dr. Johnson’s
  hypochondria—Hereditary suicide, illustrated by cases—Suicide
  from blows on the head, and from moral shocks communicated to
  the brain—Dr. G. Mantell’s valuable observations and cases
  demonstrative of the point—Concluding remarks.

The following are the physical causes which are commonly found to
operate in producing the suicidal disposition—viz., climate, seasons,
hereditary predisposition, cerebral injuries, physical suffering,
disease of the stomach and liver complicated with melancholia and
hypochondriasis, insanity, suppressed secretions, intoxication,
unnatural vices, and derangement of the _primæ viæ_. These causes can
only act by influencing sympathetically the brain and nervous system,
and in that way interfering with the healthy operations of the mind.
Much will, of course, depend upon the physical conformation of the
individual exposed to such agents. Should he labour under an hereditary
predisposition to insanity, or to suicidal delirium, a very trifling
corporeal derangement may call into existence the self-destructive
propensity, and _vice versa_. It will be our object to consider
_seriatim_ all the physical agents just enumerated.

Among the causes of suicide, the foggy climate of England has been
brought prominently forward. The specious and inaccurate conclusions
of Montesquieu on this point have misled the public mind. The climate
of Holland is much more gloomy than that of England, and yet in that
country suicide is by no means common. The reader will perceive from
the following tabular statement that the popular notion of the month of
November being the “suicide’s month” is founded on erroneous _data_.

The average number of suicides in each month, from 1817 to 1826, was as
follows:—

  January    213
  February   218
  March      275
  April      374
  May        328
  June       336
  July       301
  August     296
  September  246
  October    198
  November   131
  December   217
            ————
            3133


It has been clearly established that in all the European capitals,
when anything approaching to correct statistical evidence can be
procured, the _maximum_ of suicide is in the months of June and July;
the _minimum_ in October and November. Temperature appears to exercise
a much more decided influence than the circumstances of moisture and
dryness, storms or serenity. M. Villeneuve has observed a warm, humid,
and cloudy atmosphere to produce a marked bad effect at Paris; and
that so long as the barometer indicated stormy weather, this effect
continued.[44] Contrary, however, to the opinion of Villeneuve, it
appears that by far the fewer number of suicides occur in the autumn
and winter at Paris, than in the spring and summer.

_Number of suicides for seven years._

  In Spring  997
  In Summer  933
  In Autumn  627
  In Winter  648

When the thermometer of Fahrenheit ranges from 80° to 90° suicide is
most prevalent.

The English have been accused by foreigners of being the _beau-ideal_
of a suicidal people. The charge is almost too ridiculous to merit
serious refutation. It has clearly been established that where there is
one suicide in London, there are five in Paris. In the year 1810, the
number of suicides committed in London amounted to 188; the population
of Paris being near 400,000 less than that of London. From the year
1827 to 1830, no less than 6900 suicides occurred; that is, an average
of nearly 1800 per annum. Out of 120,000 persons who ensured their
lives in the London Equitable Insurance Company, the number of suicides
in twenty years was only fifteen; so much for the English being _par
excellence_ disposed to suicide.

The causes which frequently lead to self-destruction in France are,
defective religious education, _ennui_, and loss at dice or cards.
In considering the circumstances which produce this disparity in the
number of voluntary deaths in the two countries, we must bear in mind
the moral and religious habits of the people. When Christianity is not
acknowledged as a matter of vital importance in the affairs of man;
when morality is considered only as a conventional term, conveying
no definite idea to the mind, it is natural that there should exist,
co-relative with this tone of feeling, a marked recklessness of human
life. Some notion may be formed of the state of religious feeling in
Paris, when our readers are informed of the existence in the French
metropolis of a “society for the mutual encouragement of suicide,” all
the members of which, on joining it, swear to terminate their existence
by their own hands, when life becomes insupportable.

Dr. Schlegel dwells at much length on the abandoned state of Paris, and
after giving us some important statistical evidence, he alludes to the
gross immorality of the people, and denounces the French capital as “a
suffocating boiling cauldron, in which, as in the stew of Macbeth’s
witches, there simmer, with a modicum of virtue, all kinds of passions,
vices, and crimes.”

Alluding to the peculiarities of the French people, particularly their
indifference to human life, an eminent writer observes, speaking of
their notions of suicide, that a Frenchman asks you to see him “go
off,” as if death were a place in the _malle poste_. “Will you dine
with me to-day?” said a Frenchman to a friend. “With the greatest
pleasure;—yet, now I think of it, I am particularly engaged to shoot
myself; one cannot get off _such_ an engagement.” This is not the
suicide _à la mode_ with us. We ape at no such extra civilization
and refinement. We can be romantic without blowing out our brains.
English lovers do not, when “the course of true love” does not run
smooth, retire to some sequestered spot, and rush into the next world
by a brace of pistols tied with cherry-coloured ribbons. When we do
shoot ourselves, it is done with true English gravity. It is no joke
with us. We have no inherent predilection for the act; no “hereditary
imperfection of the nervous juices,” as Montesquieu, with all the
impudence and gravity of a philosopher, asserts, forcing us to commit
suicide. “Life,” said a man who had exhausted all his external sources
of enjoyment, and had no internal ones to fly to, “has given me a
headache; and I want a good sleep in the churchyard to set me to
rights,” to procure which, he deliberately shot himself.[45]

A late French writer thus attempts to account for the prevalence
of suicide in France:—“The external circumstances which tend to
suggest the idea of suicide are very numerous, at the present day, in
France; but more particularly so in the capital. The high development
of civilization and refinement which prevails here—the clash of
interests—the repeated political changes—all contribute to keep the
moral feelings in a perpetual state of tension. Life does not roll
on among us in a peaceful and steady current; it rushes forward with
the force and precipitation of a torrent. In the terrible _mêlée_,
it often happens that the little minority, which has obtained a
footing high above the multitude for a time, falls down as suddenly as
they have risen. The struggles of life are full of miscalculations,
disappointments, despair, and disgust. Hence the general source of
our frequent suicides. But there are other causes in operation; and
not the least, the strange turn that plays and spectacles have lately
taken. The public taste has undergone a complete revolution in this
respect. Nothing is more patronized now at the theatre than the display
of crime unpunished, human misery unconsoled, and a low literature,
impregnated by a spurious philosophy, declaiming against society,
against domestic life, against virtue itself; applauding the vengeance
of the assassin, and recognising genius only as it is seen in company
with spleen, poison, and pistols. We appeal to all who read the novels
of the present day, and who visit the theatres, whether what we say is
not the fact.”

It has been questioned whether physical suffering often originates
the desire for suicide. Too many lamentable cases are on record to
prevent us from coming to an opposite conclusion. Esquirol has justly
observed, that “He who has no intervals of ease from corporeal pain;
who sees no prospects of relief from his cruel malady, fails at length
in resignation, and destroys his life in order to put a period to his
sufferings. He calculates that the pain of dying is but momentary, and
commits the act in a cool and meditated despair. It is the same in
respect to _moral_ condition, that drives the hypochondriac to suicide,
who is firmly persuaded that his sufferings are beyond imagining; that
they are irremediable, either from some fatal peculiarity in his own
constitution, or the ignorance of his physicians. It is a remarkable
feature in hypochondriasis, and in no other disease, that there is
such a fear of death and a desire to die combined. Both fears proceed
from the same pusillanimity. Finally, it may be remarked that the
hypochondriac talks most of death; often wishes his attendants to
perform the friendly office; even makes attempts on his own life,
but rarely accomplishes the act. The most trifling motive, the most
frivolous pretext, is a sufficient excuse for procrastinating, from day
to day, the threatened catastrophe.”

The following case occurred in a provincial mad-house, in France. An
apothecary who was confined there was haunted with _ennui_, and was
always begging his companions to put him to death. At length, an insane
patient was admitted, who instantly complied with the apothecary’s
request. They both watched an opportunity, got out of a window in the
back yard, and from thence into the kitchen. They pitched upon the
cook’s chopper, and the apothecary laying his head on a block, his
companion deliberately and effectually severed it from his body. He was
seized, and examined before a tribunal, where he candidly confessed
the whole transaction, and observed that he would again perform the
same friendly office for any unhappy wretch who was tired of his
existence![46]

Lucinius Cæcinius, the prætor, subdued by the pain and _ennui_ of a
tedious disease, swallowed opium. Dr. Haslam relates the case of a
gentleman who destroyed himself to avoid the tortures of the gout.
It is recorded that the pain of the same disease drove Servius the
grammarian to take poison. Pliny informs us that one of his friends,
Corellius Rufus, having in vain sought relief from the pangs of a
disease under which he was labouring, starved himself to death at
the age of sixty-seven. It is related of Pomponius Atticus and the
philosopher Cleanthes, that they both starved themselves to death in
order to get rid of physical pain. In the course of these attempts,
the corporeal sufferings were removed—probably in consequence of the
great exhaustion and attenuation; but both individuals persevered till
death took place, observing that as this final ordeal must one day
be undergone, they would not now retrace their steps or give up the
undertaking.

Few, perhaps, are aware how frequently suicide results from the habit
of indulging, in early youth, in a certain secret vice which, we are
afraid, is practised to an enormous extent in our public schools. A
feeling of false delicacy has operated with medical men in inducing
them to refrain from dwelling upon the destructive consequences of
this habit, both to the moral and physical constitution, as openly and
honestly as the importance of the subject imperatively demands.

Medical men are, in the most enlarged acceptation of the term,
guardians of the public health; and no fastidious desire to avoid
saying what might possibly offend the taste of some, ought to keep
them from discharging what may be termed a sacred duty. The physical
disease, particularly that connected with the nervous system,
engendered by the pernicious practice alluded to, frequently leads
to the act of self-destruction. We have before us the cases of many
suicides in whom the disposition may clearly be traced to this cause.
This habit most seriously affects the brain and nervous system; and
insanity, hypochondriasis, and melancholia, in their worst forms, are
frequently the baneful consequences.

If disease, structural or functional, of the abdominal viscera gives
rise to the disposition to commit suicide, it will not require much
ingenuity to establish the fact that the habitual indulgence in
intoxicating liquors may originate a similar feeling.

It has been already established by statistical evidence, that, in
a very large proportion of the cases of insanity admitted into the
asylums and hospitals devoted to the reception of this unhappy class
of patients, the mental impairment can clearly be traced to habits of
intemperance.

The brain and nervous system become materially affected in those who
indulge frequently in “potations pottle deep.” Delirium tremens,
softening of the cerebral substance, palsy, epilepsy, extreme
hypochondriasis, are daily witnessed as the melancholy effects of
intoxication.

M. Falret knew the case of a man who always felt disposed to cut his
throat when under the influence of spirits. No reasoning could induce
him to abstain from his favourite draught. The inevitable consequences
were pointed out to him; he was reasoned with, and threatened with
confinement in a mad-house; but nothing had the desired effect. One
Sunday evening, after having drunk several glasses of spirits, although
not sufficient to produce complete inebriation, he stabbed himself to
the heart, and died in a few minutes.

Incurable indigestion and organic disease of the liver are very
commonly met with in habitual drunkards. In such persons, the
constitution of the mind appears to undergo a complete change. At first
it may not be perceptible, and the patient may not be conscious of it
himself, but the mental disease will, sooner or later, unequivocally
evince itself.

In such cases, the medical man has fearful odds to contend against.

A young man, who had become insane in consequence of long continued
intoxication, made violent efforts to maim himself, and especially to
pull out his right eye, which appeared to give him great offence. Rest,
temperance, seclusion, the application of half a dozen leeches to the
temple, and a few doses of opening medicine, restored him, in about a
fortnight, to the full possession of his faculties.

Many cases of suicide, in those who have a natural predisposition to
it, arise from the brain sympathizing with the liver; nor can this
be a matter of surprise to any one who has felt the depression of
spirits incident to disease of that organ. So many cases have occurred
from this cause, that some writers, from not finding, on subsequent
dissection, any organic lesion of the brain, have referred it to
diseased viscera only. But as we find that the insanity ceases when the
liver is restored to health, there is no reason for supposing that the
mental alienation is, in these instances, any other than the effect of
disease of the brain.

J. C., about fifty years of age, was insane for two years. He was
formerly in respectable circumstances, and employed in the situation of
writer in an office. He made several attempts on his life. He had been
in the habit of drinking spirits very freely, and had a disease of the
liver which appeared of some standing. At the time of his admission
into Hanwell asylum, under the care of Sir W. Ellis, he was in a most
emaciated state; his legs scarcely able to support him. His face and
body also were covered with an eruption; tongue furred; his stools
very dark: he was much depressed, and always moaning most piteously;
complained of heat and numbness in his head, and pain in all his limbs.
Leeches and cold lotions were applied to his head, his bowels opened
by calomel and colocynth, and he went into the warm bath every other
day. He was much relieved by these means. He still continued, however,
to moan as before. His tongue remained furred, and stools unhealthy.
He took five grains of blue pill every alternate night for some time.
These were then left off awhile; no improvement taking place, he began
the pills again, and continued them for two months, with evident
advantage. His tongue was clean; he was less depressed; became strong,
and gained flesh; the biliary secretions were much improved. He is now
occupied in the office; and every day, as the action of the liver seems
to improve, his mind makes a corresponding advance.

There is no more frequent cause of suicide than visceral derangement,
leading to melancholia and hypochondriasis. It has been a matter of
dispute with medical men whether hypochondriacal affections have their
origin in the mental or physical portion of the economy. Many maintain
that the mind is the seat of the disease; others, that the liver and
stomach are primarily affected, and the brain only secondarily. In
this disputed point, as in most others, truth will generally be found
to lie between the two extremities. That cases of hypochondria and
melancholia can clearly be traced to purely mental irritation cannot
for one moment be disputed; and that there are many instances in
which the derangement appears to have commenced in one of the gastric
organs, is as equally self-evident. Whatever may be the origin of these
affections, there can be no doubt of their producing most disastrous
consequences. Burton’s account of the horrors of hypochondria is truly
graphic. “As the rain,” says Austin, “penetrates the stone, so does
this passion of melancholy penetrate the mind. It commonly accompanies
men to their graves. Physicians may ease, but they cannot cure it; it
may lie hid for a time, but it will return again, as violent as ever,
on slight occasions, as well as on casual excesses. Its humour is like
Mercury’s weather-beaten statue, which had once been gilt; the surface
was clean and uniform, but in the chinks there was still a remnant of
gold: and in the purest bodies, if once tainted by hypochondria, there
will be some relics of melancholy still left, not so easily to be
rooted out. Seldom does this disease produce death, except (which is
the most grievous calamity of all) when these patients make away with
themselves—a thing familiar enough amongst them, when they are driven
to do violence to themselves to escape from present insufferable pain.
They can take no rest in the night, or, if they slumber, fearful dreams
astonish them. Their soul abhorreth all meat, and they are brought to
death’s door, being bound in misery and in iron. Like Job, they curse
their stars, for Job was melancholy to despair, and almost to madness.
They are weary of the sun, and yet afraid to die, _vivere nolunt et
mori nesciunt_. And then, like Æsop’s fishes, they leap from the frying
pan into the fire, when they hope to be cured by means of physic—a
miserable end to the disease; when ultimately left to their fate by a
jury of physicians, are furiously disposed; and there remains no more
to such persons, if that heavenly physician, by his grace and mercy,
(whose aid alone avails,) do not heal and help them. One day of such
grief as theirs is as a hundred years: it is a plague of the sense, a
convulsion of the soul, an epitome of hell; and if there be a hell upon
earth, it is to be found in a melancholy man’s heart. No bodily torture
is like unto it; all other griefs are swallowed up in this great
Euripus. I say the melancholy man then is the cream and quintessence
of human adversity. All other diseases are trifles to hypochondria;
it is the pith and marrow of them all! A melancholy man is the true
Prometheus, bound to Caucasus; the true Tityrus, whose bowels are still
devoured by a vulture.”

  “Dull melancholy——
  She’ll make you start at ev’ry noise you hear,
  And visions strange shall to your eyes appear.
  Her voice is low, and gives a hollow sound;
  She hates the light, and is in darkness found;
  Or sits by blinking lamps, or taper small,
  Which various shadows make against the wall.
  She loves nought else but noise which discord makes,
  As croaking frogs whose dwelling is in lakes;
  The raven hoarse, the mandrake’s hollow groan,
  And shrieking owls, that fly i’th’ night alone;
  The tolling bell, which for the dead rings out,
  A mill, where rushing waters run about.
  She loves to walk in the still moonshine light,
  And in a thick dark grove she takes delight;
  In hollow caves, thatch’d houses, and low cells,
  She loves to live, and there alone she dwells.”

“There are individuals who, from various physical or moral causes,”
says Esquirol, “fall into a state of corporeal torpor and mental
depression. They complain of want of appetite, dull pain in the head,
sense of heat in the stomach and viscera, borborygmi, and constipation
of the bowels; while they exhibit little or no indication of disease.
In the female sex, the natural secretions become suspended. As the
complaint advances, the features alter, and the countenance exhibits
anxiety; the complexion becomes pale or sallow; there is a sense of
tightness, or even pain, in the epigastrium; a kind of compression
in the head, which prevents them from fixing their attention, or
arranging their thoughts; a general torpor or lassitude, which keeps
them inactive. They dislike to move out, and love to loll about on a
sofa; they are irritated if you advise them to take exercise; they
abandon their ordinary avocations, neglect their domestic concerns,
become indifferent to their nearest connexions; in short, they will
neither converse, nor study, nor read, nor write, shunning society, and
being impatient of the inquiries and importunities of friends. In this
state they become filled with gloomy ideas (_idées noires_), despair
of ever being better, desire or even invoke death, and sometimes
destroy themselves, from a conviction that they are no longer capable
of fulfilling their duties in society. These people are perfectly
sane on all subjects of conversation; their impulse to suicide being
strong in proportion to the activity of their former avocations, and
the importance of their former duties. I have seen their disease (for
it is a disease) continue for months, and even years. I have seen it
alternate with mania and with perfect health. I have seen patients who
would be six months of the year maniacal or in sound health, and the
other six months tormented with these gloomy ideas and impulses to
suicide.”

In confirmation of this view of Esquirol’s, the following cases are
related:[47]—A gentleman of apparently sound constitution, aged 32, was
married to a woman whom he affectionately loved. His affairs became
deranged a few years after his marriage, which greatly discouraged
him, and rendered him inactive, but without apparently affecting his
health. He now embarked in a speculation which promised much advantage,
and at first applied himself to business with unremitting assiduity.
In the course of a month he encountered some difficulties, which
depressed him beyond measure. He considered himself ruined, refused to
quit his bed, and would not superintend his workmen, from a conviction
that he was no longer capable of directing their operations. He
complained of headache, heat in his stomach, &c. His affection for
his wife and children, his pecuniary interests, all failed to rouse
him from this moral and physical prostration. He reasoned sanely on
the critical state of his affairs, and yet made no effort to rescue
himself from his difficulties. Eight days passed in this way, when
all at once he sprung from his bed in perfect integrity of mind and
body. He resumed instantaneously all his activity for business, all
his affection for his family. The same state, however, recurred ten
or twelve times since, at irregular intervals, caused in general by
trifling contrarieties of business, which, under other circumstances,
would be considered as nothing. During several of these paroxysms he
had impulses to suicide; but this dreaded catastrophe has not yet taken
place.

A female was admitted into the Salpetriere on the 23d of September,
1819, in the 34th year of her age, and fourteen years after marriage.
At the age of 21 she had a child, after which she was affected with
an ulcer in the foot, which was healed in six months. From this time
she was troubled with cardialgia, at first slight, but afterwards
with intense pain and vomiting of her food. At the age of 33 she
became irresolute in her ideas and actions. She expressed an aversion
for those things which she had been previously pleased with, and was
occasionally incoherent. After suffering from other derangements
of her general health, she abandoned her household affairs, became
quite despondent, and tried more than once to commit suicide. In this
state she was admitted into the hospital, and was put upon diluents,
low diet, &c. As she shewed indications of having recovered, she was
allowed to return to her family; but in a short period she was harassed
with gloomy ideas, despaired of recovery, and expressed a desire to
quit life, the duties of which she said she was no longer able to
fulfil.

In the case of Cowper, we have a melancholy instance of hypochondriasis
leading to suicidal mental derangement. That the poet’s mind was
unsound when he attempted to kill himself, must be evident to those who
are conversant with the history of his life. He never appears to have
been free from hypochondriacal disorder. In a letter to Lady Hesketh,
he says, “Could I be translated to paradise, unless I could leave my
body behind me, my melancholy would cleave to me there.” A friend
procured him the situation of reading clerk to the House of Lords,
forgetting that the nervous shyness which made a public exhibition of
himself “mortal poison,” would render it impossible for him ever to
discharge the duties of his office. This difficulty presented itself
to the mind of the poet, and gloom instantly enveloped his faculties.
At his request, his situation was changed to that of clerk of the
journals; but even before he could be installed into office he was
threatened with a public examination before the House. This made him
completely wretched; he had not resolution to decline what he had not
strength to do: the interest of his friend, and his own reputation
and want of support, pressed him forward to an attempt which he knew
from the first could never succeed. In this miserable state, like
Goldsmith’s traveller,

  “To stop too fearful, and too faint to go,”

he attended every day for six months at the office where he was to
examine the journals in preparation for his trust. His feelings were
like those of a man at the place of execution, every time he entered
the office door; and he only gazed mechanically at the books, without
drawing from them the least portion of information he wanted. As the
time of his examination approached, his agony became more and more
intense; he hoped and believed that madness would come to relieve him;
he attempted also to make up his mind to suicide, though his conscience
bore stern testimony against it; he could not by any argument persuade
himself that it was right; but his desperation prevailed, and he
procured from an apothecary the means of self-destruction. On the day
before his public appearance was to be made, he happened to notice a
letter in the newspaper, which to his disordered mind seemed like a
malignant libel on himself. He immediately threw down the paper, and
rushed into the fields, determined to die in a ditch; but the thought
struck him that he might escape from the country. With the same
violence he proceeded to make hasty preparations for his flight; but
while he was engaged in packing his portmanteau his mind changed, and
he threw himself into a coach, ordering the man to drive to the Tower
wharf, intending to throw himself into the river, and not reflecting
that it would be impossible to accomplish his purpose, in that public
spot, unobserved. On approaching the water, he found a porter seated
upon some goods; he then returned to the coach, and drove home to
his lodgings in the Temple. On the way, he attempted to drink the
laudanum, but as often as he raised it, a convulsive agitation of his
frame prevented its reaching his lips; and thus, regretting the loss
of the opportunity, but unable to avail himself of it, he arrived half
dead with anguish at his apartments. He then closed the door and threw
himself on the bed, with the laudanum near him, trying to lash himself
up to the deed; but a voice within seemed constantly to forbid it;
and as often as he extended his hand to the poison, his fingers were
contracted, and held back by spasms. At this time some of the inmates
of the place came in, but he concealed his agitation; and as soon as
he was left alone, a change came over him, and so detestable did the
deed appear, that he threw away the laudanum, and dashed the phial to
pieces. The rest of the day was spent in heavy insensibility, and at
night he slept as usual; but on waking at three in the morning, _he
took his penknife and laid with his weight upon it, the point being
directed towards his heart_. It was broken, and would not penetrate. At
day-break he rose, and passing a strong garter round his neck, fastened
it to the frame of his bed. This gave way with his weight; but on
securing it to the door, he was more successful, and remained suspended
until he had lost all consciousness of existence. After a time, the
garter broke, and he fell to the floor, so that his life was saved; but
the conflict had been greater than his reason could endure. He felt
a contempt for himself not to be expressed or imagined. Whenever he
went into the street, it seemed as if every eye flashed upon him with
indignation and scorn. He felt as if he had offended God so deeply that
his guilt could never be forgiven, and his whole heart was filled with
pangs of tumultuous despair.[48]

When Cowper had once admitted the thought of self-destruction, he could
not go into the street without meeting with something to tempt or drive
him to the act. It seemed to him as if the whole world had conspired
to make death by his own hand inevitable. When he ventured into the
streets, after the failure of all his efforts, a ghastly shame and
alarmed suspicion were his torments; and perhaps nothing in Cowper’s
autobiography goes deeper into the heart than the following description
of his sufferings.

“I never went into the street but I thought the people stood and
laughed at me, and held me in contempt; and could hardly persuade
myself but that the voice of conscience was loud enough for any one
to hear it. They who knew me, appeared to avoid me, and if they spoke
to me, seemed to do it in scorn. I bought a ballad of one who was
singing it in the street, because I thought it was written on me. I
dined alone, either at a tavern, where I went in the dark, or at the
chop-house, where I always took care to hide myself in the darkest
corner of the room. I slept generally an hour in the evening, but it
was only to be terrified in dreams; and when I awoke, it was some time
before I could steadily walk through the passage into the dining-room.
I reeled and staggered like a drunken man. The eyes of man I did not
fear; but when I thought that the eyes of God were upon me, (which I
felt assured of,) it gave me the most intolerable anguish. If, for a
moment, a book or a companion stole away my attention from myself, a
flash from hell seemed to be thrown into my mind immediately; and I
said within myself, ‘What are these things to me, who am damned?’”

Cowper is not the only instance, however, of a man of exquisite taste
and genius whose life has been rendered miserable by hypochondria.
We have alluded elsewhere to Byron’s morbid sensitiveness, and the
reader’s attention is now called to the influence of hypochondriasis
on the poet’s mind. He says in his journal, “What can be the reason
I awake every morning in actual despair and despondency?” He had a
great apprehension of insanity. In order to overcome his melancholy,
considering that his diet had much to do with it, he put himself under
a strict regimen, avoiding most scrupulously all animal food. He states
that his diet for a week consisted of tea and six dry biscuits per
diem. After having indulged in an ordinary dinner, he writes, “I wish
to God I had not dined now; it kills me with heaviness; and yet it
was but a pint of bucellas, and fish. Oh, my head! how it aches!—the
horrors of indigestion!” Again he says, “This head was given me to ache
with.” After a severe fit of indigestion, he writes, “I’ve no more
charity than a vinegar cruet. Would that I were an ostrich, and dieted
on fire-irons! O fool! I shall go mad!”

Burns suffered much from indigestion, producing hypochondria. Writing
to his friend, Mr. Cunningham, he says, “Canst thou not minister to
a mind diseased? Canst thou speak peace and rest to a soul tost on a
sea of troubles, without one friendly star to guide her course, and
dreading that the next surge may overwhelm her? Canst thou give to
a frame tremblingly alive to the tortures of suspense the stability
and hardihood of a rock that braves the blast? If thou canst not do
the least of these, why wouldst thou disturb me in my miseries with
thy inquiries after me?” From early life, the poet was subject to a
disordered stomach, a disposition to headache, and irregular action of
the heart.

He describes, in one of his letters, the horrors of his complaint:—“I
have been for some time pining under secret wretchedness. The pang
of disappointment, the sting of pride, and some wandering stabs of
remorse, settle on my life like vultures, when my attention is not
called away by the claims of society, or the vagaries of the muse. Even
in the hour of social mirth my gaiety is the madness of an intoxicated
criminal under the hands of an executioner. My constitution was
blasted _ab origine_ with a deep incurable taint of melancholy that
poisoned my existence.”

Nothing can be more interesting to a physician who is endowed with
only a moderate share of the spirit of observation than to watch the
progress of hypochondriasis in a number of patients, especially in
regard to its effect on the mind. They always struggle, more or less in
the beginning, with the lowness and dejection which affect them; and
it is not until many a severe contest has taken place between their
natural good sense and the involuntary suggestions which arise from
the obscure and painful feelings of the diseased nerves, that a firm
belief in the reality of such thoughts gains a full conquest over their
judgment. A firm belief in any one perception never takes place until
it has acquired a certain degree of force; and as all impressions which
arise from the viscera of the abdomen are naturally obscure, we see
the reason why these must continue for a great length of time, or be
often repeated, before they can withdraw a person’s attention from the
ordinary impression of external objects, which are clear and distinct,
and before they acquire such a degree of vividness as to destroy the
operations of reason.

We meet every day with hypochondriacs in whom the disease is
just beginning to be formed, and who, being possessed of a good
understanding, seem unwilling to tell, even to their medical friends,
the singular, and often melancholy, thoughts with which they are
tormented. They acknowledge them to be unreasonable, and yet insist
that they cannot help believing in them. A very curious display of this
kind of struggle between the habitudes of reason and the approach of
delirium is to be found in the diary of an hypochondriac, from which we
make the following extract:—

“On the 14th of November, the idea that some person intended to kill
me sprung up suddenly and involuntarily in my mind, and yet, I must
confess, there was no reason why I should have harboured this thought,
for I am convinced that no one ever formed such a cruel design against
me. People who had a stick in their hands I looked on as murderers.
As I was walking out of town, a countryman happened to follow me, and
I was instantly filled with the greatest apprehension, and stood still
to let him pass. I asked the fellow in a threatening voice, and with
a view of intimidating him from his purpose, what was the name of the
town before us. The man answered my question and walked on, and I found
great relief, because he was no longer behind me.

“In the evening, I observed some water in the glass out of which I
commonly drink, and I instantly believed it was poisoned. I therefore
washed it carefully out, and yet I knew, at the same time, that I
myself had left the water in it.

“18th November.—At particular periods I believe all mankind have
conspired to murder me. I think I am deprived of my office; that I am
doomed to die of hunger; and, to add to all this, I am tormented with
horrid doubts concerning futurity, and these thoughts persecute me like
furies. Those whom I used to love most, I now hate. I avoid my best
friends, and my dear wife appears to me a much worse kind of woman than
she really is.

“I cannot describe the exertion it requires to conquer in society the
aversion I feel to my fellow-creatures, and to prevent my ill-humour
from breaking out against the most innocent people. When it really does
so, I spare no one. I am sorry for it afterwards, but then I am too
proud to acknowledge my error.

“I find myself so enraged on seeing a stupid, vacant countenance, that
I have almost an irresistible inclination to box the person’s ears to
whom it belongs: the refraining from it is a severe effort.

“20th November.—A boy with a face like a satyr met me, and occasioned
me the greatest uneasiness. Although he did nothing to displease me, I
was forced to go to him, and tell him that I was sure he would die on
the gallows.

“23rd November.—My sensibility is often extreme, and then my best
friends become insupportable to me. To their expressions of regard
I am either purposely cold or else I answer by rude and offensive
speeches. I can seldom explain to myself the reason of this too great
sensibility. If two people whisper to each other in my presence, I grow
uneasy, and lose all command of mind, because I think they are speaking
ill of me; and I often assume a satirical manner in company, in order
to frighten them. Anxiety, dreadful anxiety, seizes me, if a person
overlooks my hand at cards, or if a person sits down beside me when I
am playing the harpsichord.”

“From numerous facts which have come within my own observation,” says a
distinguished living medical authority,[49] “I am convinced that many
strange antipathies, disgusts, caprices of temper, and eccentricities
which are considered solely as obliquities of intellect, have their
source in corporeal disorder.

“The great majority of these complaints, which are considered as purely
mental, such as irascibility, melancholy, timidity, and irresolution,
might be greatly remedied, if not entirely removed, by a proper system
of temperance, and with very little medicine. There is no accounting
for the magic-like spell which annihilates for a time the whole energy
of the mind, and renders the victim of dyspepsia afraid of his own
shadow, or of things, if possible, more unsubstantial than shadows.

“It is not likely that the great men of the earth should be exempt
from these visitations any more than the little; and if so, we may
reasonably conclude, that there are other things beside ‘conscience’
which ‘make cowards of us all,’ and that, by a temporary gastric
irritation, many an ‘enterprise of vast pith and moment’ has had ‘its
current turned away,’ and ‘lost the name of action.’

“The philosopher and the metaphysician, who know but little of these
reciprocities of mind and matter, have drawn many a false conclusion
from, and erected many a baseless hypothesis on, the actions of men.
Many a happy thought has sprung from an empty stomach; many a terrible
and merciless edict has gone forth in consequence of an irritated
gastric nerve. Thus health may make the same man a hero in the field
whom dyspepsia may render imbecile in the cabinet.”

The following case will shew how powerfully indigestion may affect the
mind’s operations:—

A young lady, after eating some heavy paste, was attacked by a
sensation of burning heat at the pit of the stomach, which increased
till the whole of the upper part of the body, both externally and
internally, appeared to her to be all in flames. She rose up suddenly,
left the dinner table, and ran into the street, from which she was
immediately brought back. She soon came to herself, and thus described
her horrible ideas. She declared that she had been very wicked, and had
been dragged into the flames of hell. She continued in a precarious
situation for some time. Whenever she experienced the burning sensation
of which she first complained, the same dreadful thoughts occurred to
her mind. She seized hold of whatever was nearest to prevent her from
being forced away; and such was her alarm that she dreaded to be alone.
This lady had long been distressed by family concerns, and harassed by
restless and sleepless nights, which greatly affected her health.

Dr. Johnson used to declare that he inherited “a vile melancholy” from
his father, which made him “mad all his life, or, at least, not sober.”
Insanity was his constant terror. Boswell says that, at the period when
this great philosopher was giving to the world proofs of no ordinary
vigour of understanding, he actually fancied himself insane, or in a
state as nearly as possible approaching to it.

Murphy says, “For many years before Johnson’s death, so terrible was
the prospect of final dissolution that when he was not disposed to
enter into the conversation which was going forward, he sat in his
chair, repeating the well-known lines of Shakspeare—

  “To die, and go we know not where.”

Like Metastasio, he would not, if he could help it, permit the word
death to be pronounced in his presence. Boswell once introduced
the topic in the course of conversation, which made Johnson highly
indignant. He observed, that he never had a moment in which it was not
terrible to him.

Three or four days before he died, he declared that he would give one
of his legs for a year more of life. The ruling passion was exhibited
strong in death. At Dr. Johnson’s own suggestion, the surgeon was
making slight punctures in the legs, with the hope of relieving his
dropsical affection, when he cried out, “Deeper! deeper! _I want length
of life_, and you are afraid of giving me pain, which I do not value.”
If we had not a thorough conviction that this fear of death was but the
result of physical disease, which no moral and religious principles
could subdue, Dr. Johnson’s conduct towards the end of his life would
excite a feeling in our mind towards him very opposite to that of
respect.

With reference to suicide, there is no fact that has been more clearly
established than that of its hereditary character. Of all diseases to
which the various organs are subject, there are none more generally
transmitted from one generation to another than affections of the
brain. It is not necessary that the disposition to suicide should
manifest itself in every generation; it often passes over one, and
appears in the next, like insanity unattended with this propensity. But
if the members of the family so predisposed are carefully examined, it
will be found that the various shades and gradations of the malady will
be easily perceptible. Some are distinguished for their flightiness of
manner, others for their strange eccentricity, likings and dislikings,
irregularity of their passions, capricious and excitable temperament,
hypochondriasis and melancholia. These are often but the minute shades
and variations of an hereditary disposition to suicidal madness. A
gentleman suddenly, and without any apparent reason, cut his throat.
The father had always been a man of strong passions, easily roused, and
when so, was extremely violent. The brother was a man of impulse; he
always acted by fits and starts, and therefore never could be depended
upon. The sister had a strange, unnatural, and superstitious horror
of particular colours and odours. A yellow dress caused a feeling
approaching to syncope, and the smell of hay produced great nervous
excitement. The grandfather had been convicted of homicide, and had
been confined for two years in a mad-house.

Andral relates the case of a father who died from the effects of
disease of the brain; the mother died sane. They had six children,
three boys and three girls. Of the boys, the eldest was a man of
original mind; the second was very extravagant in his habits, and was
ultimately confined in a mad-house; the third was extremely violent in
his temper. Of the girls, one had fits of apoplexy, and became insane;
the other died at her accouchement, with symptoms of derangement; the
third died of cholera, not, however, until she exhibited indications of
mental aberration.

A case more singular than the last is recorded. All the members of a
particular family, being hereditarily disposed, exhibited, when they
arrived at a certain age, a desire to commit self-destruction. It
required no exciting cause to develope the fatal disposition. No wish
was expressed, or attempt made, to overpower the suicidal inclination,
and the greatest industry and ingenuity were exercised by the parties
in order to effect their purpose. In two cases, the propensity was
subdued by proper medical and moral treatment; but, just in proportion
to its being suppressed, did the idea of suicide appear to fix itself
resolutely in the mind. The desire came upon the individuals like the
attacks of intermittent fever.

A. K., a man aged 57, was twice married. He was a shoe-maker by trade;
but not having received any education, his wife was compelled to attend
to all his accounts. He had experienced, when young, a blow on the
head, which occasionally gave him pain. He became very intemperate in
his habits, and at particular intervals he exhibited an uncontrollable
temper, quarrelled with everybody, neglected his business, abused his
wife, and became extravagant and melancholy. During the paroxysm he
would exclaim—“_Oh, my unlucky head! I am again a lost man!_” When the
attack subsided, he returned to his business, was affectionate to his
wife and family, most humbly begged her pardon for having ill-treated
her, and expressed the greatest contrition for his conduct. These
attacks came on at regular intervals. He procured a piece of rope for
the purpose of hanging himself, and for some months carried it about
with him in his pocket for that purpose. During one of his fits he
effected his object. His grandfather had strangled himself, and his
brother and sister had attempted suicide.

Dr. Gall knew several families in which the suicidal propensity
prevailed through several generations. Among the cases he mentions
is the following very remarkable one:—“The Sieur Ganthier, the owner
of various houses built without the barriers of Paris, to be used as
_entrepôts_ of goods, left seven children, and a fortune of about two
millions of francs to be divided among them. All remained at Paris,
or in the neighbourhood, and preserved their patrimony; some even
increased it by commercial speculations. None of them met with any real
misfortunes, but all enjoyed good health, a competency, and general
esteem. All, however, were possessed with a rage for suicide, and all
seven succumbed to it within the space of thirty or forty years. Some
hanged, some drowned themselves, and others blew out their brains.
One of the first two had invited sixteen persons to dine with him one
Sunday. The company collected, the dinner was served, and the guests
were at the table. The master of the house was called, but did not
answer; he was found hanging in the garret. Scarcely an hour before,
he was quietly giving orders to the servants, and chattering with
his friends. The last, the owner of a house in the Rue de Richelieu,
having raised his house two stories, became frightened at the expense,
imagined himself ruined, and was anxious to kill himself. Thrice they
prevented him; but soon after, he was found dead, having shot himself.
The estate, after all the debts were paid, amounted to three hundred
thousand francs, and he might have been forty-five years old at the
time of his death.”

Falret, whose researches have thrown much light on this affection,
believes that it is more disposed to be hereditary than any other kind
of insanity. He saw a mother and her daughter attacked with suicidal
melancholy, and the grandmother of the latter was at Charenton for
the same cause. An individual, he says, committed suicide in Paris.
His brother, who came to attend the funeral, cried out on seeing the
body—“What fatality! My father and uncle both destroyed themselves; my
brother has imitated their example; and twenty times during my journey
hither I thought of throwing myself into the Seine!”

Gall also relates the case of a dyer, of a very taciturn humour, who
had five sons and a daughter. The eldest son, after being settled in
a prosperous business with a family around him, succeeded, after many
attempts, in killing himself by jumping from the third story of his
house. The second son, who was rather taciturn, had some domestic
troubles, lost part of his fortune at play, and strangled himself at
the age of thirty-five. The third threw himself from the window into
his garden, but did not hurt himself; he pretended he was trying to
fly. The fourth tried one day to fire a pistol down his throat, but was
prevented. The fifth was of a bilious, melancholic temperament, quiet,
and devoted to business; he and his sister shewed no signs of being
affected with their brothers’ malady. One of their cousins committed
suicide.

Among the physical causes of self-destruction, insidious affections
of the brain must stand prominently forward. It is not often that the
physician is permitted to examine after death the state of this organ;
but there can be no doubt that, in the great majority of instances, the
brain will be found to have undergone a serious structural alteration.
“During the last twenty-five years,” says Dr. G. Mantell, “many cases
of suicide have come under my notice in which the mental hallucination
which led to self-destruction has depended on lesions of the brain,
occasioned by slight or neglected injuries of the head, to which
neither the patient nor his friends attached any importance. In several
instances of self-destruction, without any assignable moral cause, and
in which no previous signs of fatuity or insanity were manifested,
I have found, upon a post mortem examination, either circumscribed
induration or softening of the brain, or thickening and adhesions of
some portions of its membranes. The conviction was forced upon my
mind that very many of the _so called_ nervous or hypochondriacal
affections, which are generally considered as imaginary and dependent
on mental emotions, are ascribable to physical causes, and frequently
originate from slight lesions of the brain.”

The learned doctor relates the following cases in illustration of his
views:—

“A respectable tradesman, between fifty and sixty years of age, of
temperate habits, was knocked down during an electioneering contest,
and struck his head on the ground. He was stunned for a few minutes by
the shock, and slightly bruised above the right temple, but experienced
no further inconvenience, and the circumstance was considered of no
consequence.

“About six months after the event, he was seized, one evening, with
rigors and a pain over the right brow; a smart reaction took place,
which terminated in perspiration, and the following morning, the
symptoms disappeared. A similar paroxysm came on daily for five or six
days; the attack was considered intermittent, and, I believe, bark was
freely administered. At the end of a week, the patient was well. After
this period, he was subject to occasional pain over the right brow,
accompanied with great mental despondency, the prevailing apprehension
being that of eternal damnation. This state would continue for an
uncertain time, the duration varying from a few days to three weeks;
and by slow degrees he would lose all trace of disease, regain his
accustomed cheerfulness, and be able to transact the affairs of an
extensive business.

“About two years from the occurrence of the accident, I saw him, at the
request of his friends, while he was labouring under great despondency,
which his relations assured me arose from some religious opinions
he had imbibed; and I found that the medical treatment had been in
accordance with such a notion. My inquiries led to the detection of the
injury he had received two years previously, but neither the patient
nor his friends would allow that there was any connexion between the
blow and the symptoms under which he now suffered. Both general and
local bleeding appeared to me necessary; a strict regimen was adopted,
and he regained his usual flow of spirits, and expressed himself much
better than he had been for years. The occasional use of leeches, and
a rigid abstinence from fermented liquors, spirits, and stimuli of all
kinds, maintained this favourable condition for a considerable time;
but his occupation led him to occasional excess in diet, and a moderate
quantity of wine or beer invariably brought on despondency and its
accompanying hallucination; in other words, when the system was kept in
a tranquil state, the cerebral functions were not impaired; but when
excited, the morbid manifestations of the mind were produced.

“During one of these attacks he cut his throat, and expired in the
course of a few hours. A short time previous to his death, when greatly
exhausted by the loss of blood from his wound, his intellect was
unclouded, and he expressed to me his astonishment at what he had done,
and assured me he had no reason for acting thus; but it was an impulse
which he could not resist.

“The only abnormal appearance upon inspecting the body after death was,
a circumscribed adhesion of the dura mater to the pia mater, to the
extent of about two inches in diameter, over the upper and anterior
portion of the right hemisphere of the brain, opposite to the spot
where the blow of the head had been inflicted some years previously.

“I will not presume to offer any comment on a case which I am well
aware presents nothing unusual, my only object being that of calling
particular attention to those slight injuries of the head which,
although unmarked by any striking symptoms at the moment of their
occurrence, may give rise to the most distressing results years after
their infliction, and when the original cause of disordered action
is forgotten, and can no longer be detected; and of pointing out the
possibility that many cases of suicide, apparently referrible to moral
causes only, may be found to result solely from physical derangement
of the organ through which the manifestations of the mind must be
displayed. It is under circumstances of this kind that the medical
philosopher, in his painful duty of exploring the relics of mortality,
may have the high gratification of protecting the memory of an
unfortunate individual from the censure of a world but too apt to judge
harshly, and thus afford a lasting consolation to those by whom that
memory will be cherished and revered.”

No complaints can be more insidious than those connected with the
brain. An apparently slight blow on the head in early life has been
known, if not to give rise at the time to actual disease of the
sentient organ, to predispose the person to attacks of cerebral
derangement when exposed to the influence of causes so trivial as to be
incapable, under any other circumstances, of producing any effect. The
following case will demonstrate that moral irritation may derange the
structure of the brain as effectually as any physical injury:—

A gentleman in early life was exposed for a few weeks to an amount
of mental excitement almost sufficient to bring on a severe maniacal
attack. He complained for some time of a sensation in his head as if
some person was hammering on his brain. In the course of a few years he
apparently recovered. During a tour through Italy, he had a renewal
of his old sensation, and became liable to head-aches, giddiness,
and severe attacks of indigestion. He placed himself under the care
of an Italian physician of eminence, who did his best to restore him
to health. Instead of improving, the symptoms of his disease became
more apparent; and one morning he was found dead on the floor of
his dressing-room, having with a penknife effectually divided the
carotid artery. On examining the brain, extensive _ramollissement_ was
discovered. In this case the structural disease originated in a _moral
shock_, the effects of which remained suspended for some years, and
then gave rise to the train of symptoms that drove the unfortunate man
to terminate his life. It is one of the most important facts connected
with this subject, that mental excitement may produce as extensive and
serious organic disease as that which so commonly follows the receipt
of physical injury. With a knowledge of this fact, how cautious we
ought to be in pronouncing an opinion as to the absence of disease of
the brain in cases of suicide resulting from an apparently trifling
departure from mental quietude, without being intimate with the
previous history of the individual.

“The English,” says Montesquieu, “frequently destroy themselves
without any apparent cause to determine them to such an act, and even
in the midst of prosperity. Among the Romans, suicide was the effect
of education; it depended upon their customs and manner of thinking:
with the English, it is the effect of disease, and depending upon
the physical condition of the system.” A young man, twenty-two years
of age, was intended by his parents for the church. He disliked the
profession exceedingly, and absolutely refused to take orders. For
this act, at once of integrity and disobedience, he was forced to
quit his father’s house, and to exert his inexperienced energies for
a precarious subsistence. He turned his thoughts to several different
employments; and, at length, he went to reside with a family, where
he was treated with great kindness, and where he appeared to enjoy
a degree of tranquillity. His enjoyment, however, was not of long
continuance, for his imagination was assailed by gloomy and distressing
reflections. His life became more and more burdensome to him, and
he considered by what method he should put an end to it. He one day
formed the resolution of precipitating himself from the top of the
house, but his courage failed him, and the execution of the project was
postponed. Some days after, he took up a pistol with the same design
of self-destruction. His perplexities and terrors returned. A friend
of this unhappy youth called upon Pinel one day to inform him of the
projected tragedy. Every means of prevention were adopted that prudence
could suggest, but the most pressing solicitations and friendly
remonstrances were in vain. The propensity to suicide unceasingly
haunted him, and he precipitately quitted the family from whom he had
experienced so many proofs of friendship and attachment. Financial
considerations prohibited the suggestion of a distant voyage or a
change of climate. He was therefore advised, as the best substitute,
some constant and laborious employment. The young melancholic,
sensibly alive to the horror of his situation, entered fully into
Pinel’s views, and procured an engagement at Bled Harbour, where he
mingled with the other labourers with a full determination to deserve
his stipulated wages. But, completely fatigued and exhausted by the
exertion of the first two days of his engagement, he was obliged to
have recourse to some other expedient. He entered into the employment
of a master-mason, in the neighbourhood of Paris, to whom his services
were peculiarly acceptable, as he devoted his leisure hours to the
instruction of an only son. No situation, apparently, could have been
more suitable to his case than one of this kind, admitting of alternate
mental and bodily exercise. Wholesome food, comfortable lodgings, and
every attention due to misfortune, seemed rather to aggravate than to
divert his gloomy propensities. After the expiration of a fortnight,
he returned to his friend, and, with tears in his eyes, acquainted
him with the internal struggles which he felt, and the insuperable
disgust of life, which bore him irresistibly to self-destruction. The
reproaches of his friend affected him exceedingly, and, in a state
of the utmost anxiety and despair, he silently withdrew, probably to
terminate a hated existence by throwing himself into the Seine.

When laying down rules for the physical treatment of suicide, we have
developed our view as to the influence of derangement of the _primæ
viæ_, suppressed secretions, &c., on the healthy state of the mind;
and we have only to refer the reader to that portion of the work for
information on these points. In discussing the important question
whether suicide invariably results from mental derangement, numerous
instances have been brought forward that may be undoubtedly traced to
that cause, therefore it will not be necessary to recapitulate in this
chapter what has been there advanced.



CHAPTER IX.

MORAL TREATMENT OF SUICIDAL MANIA.


  Diseases of the brain not dissimilar to affections of other
  organs—Early symptoms of insanity—The good effects of
  having plenty to do—Occupation—Dr. Johnson’s opinion on the
  subject—The pleasure derived from cultivating a taste for
  the beauties of nature—Effect of volition on diseases of
  the mind—Silent grief injurious to mental health—Treatment
  of _ennui_—The time of danger, not the time of disease—The
  Walcheren expedition—The retreat of the ten thousand Greeks
  under Xenophon—Influence of music on the mind in the cure of
  disease—Cure of epidemic suicide—Buonaparte’s remedy—How the
  women of Myletus were cured of the disposition to suicide, and
  other illustrations—Cases shewing how easily the disposition
  to suicide may be diverted—On the cure of insanity by
  stratagems—On the importance of removing the suicidal patient
  from his own home—On the regulation of the passions.

In treating this most important class of affections, we must dismiss
from our minds all those pre-conceived notions which we have been
led to form of what constitutes mental derangement. We must view the
subject as medical philosophers in the most liberal acceptation of the
term, and not as _nisi prius_ barristers; we must consider ourselves
at the bed-side of a suffering patient, demanding from our skill that
relief which he is led to believe we have in our power to afford, and
not as in a court of justice, undergoing an examination at the hands
of a lawyer anxious to establish his case; and, above all, we must
apply to the disease of the brain and its disordered manifestations
those pathological principles which guide us in the elucidation of
the affections of other organs. If we consider insanity not as a
specific disease invariably exhibiting the same phenomena, but as
it really is, the effect of a disordered condition of the sentient
organ, having an incipient, as well as an advanced stage, we may, by
a judicious application of the principles of therapeutics, succeed
in many cases in crushing the disposition to suicide before it has
taken a formidable hold of the constitution. In the great majority of
cases the premonitory indications are well marked and unequivocal. The
experienced physician and accurate observer will be able to detect,
before the mental alienation becomes apparent to others, the early
dawnings of derangement. He knows that it is frequently manifested
by some change in the person’s usual healthy habits of thinking and
acting,—by the exhibition of odd fancies and whims. Although surrounded
by everything calculated to contribute to his happiness, he is the most
miserable of human beings. Trifles annoy and irritate him; he sees in
his dearest friends his deadliest enemies; talks of conspiracies, of
plots, and stratagems; becomes suspicious of everything and everybody;
his former objects of pleasure afford him no delight; he avoids
society, and is occasionally heard muttering strange things to himself.
In the majority of cases these are the early dawnings of cerebral
disease leading to unequivocal insanity, and yet so tied down are we to
definitions, arbitrary standards and poetical tests, that we will not
admit derangement of mind to be present until the symptoms are so self*
evident and glaring that the condition of the mind becomes apparent to
the most superficial observer. When this view of insanity is recognised
as orthodox, and moral treatment adopted in the early stages of the
disease, much good may be expected to result.

How often do we see in society, and during the intercourse of private
friendship, individuals complaining of the severest mental sufferings,
the effect of morbid alterations of feeling almost in every respect
similar to insanity, dependent upon the same causes, manifesting the
same symptoms, and removed by the same remedial agents. How are these
mental ailments treated? The poor sufferer is perhaps smiled at; he
is considered to be fanciful, and no regard is paid to the cerebral
affection. The disease is allowed to advance until other faculties of
the mind are implicated, and then the mental alienation exhibits itself
so unequivocally that no one doubts its existence.

The success of the mental treatment of suicide will be mainly
dependent on our paying strict attention to those apparently trifling
alterations of temper and disposition, those deviations from the usual
mode of thinking and acting, which so often predicate the presence
of the incipient stage of insanity. An invincible love of solitude
exhibited in a patient considered as labouring under an hypochondriacal
affection, and who, when induced to converse, complains of being
constantly pestered with one or two trains of ideas from which he
cannot for a moment escape, although his efforts are great and
unremitting, let his friends beware. These changes are, however, but
rarely noticed, until some alarming event causes every friend to lament
the want of timely attention.

Occupation is an infallible specific for many of the imaginary and real
ills of life. In cases where the mind is sinking under the influence
of its own weight, and the fancy is allowed to dwell uninterruptedly
on the ideas of its own creation, until the individual believes
himself to stand apart from all the world, the very personification
of human misery and wretchedness, the physician can recommend no
better remedy than constant and steady occupation for the mind and
body. Burton concludes his able work on Melancholy with this valuable
piece of advice:—“Be not solitary; be not idle.” Dr. Reid recommended
a patient, labouring under great mental depression, to engage in the
composition of a novel, which, during the time he was occupied in the
task, effected much good. By interesting himself in the distresses of
fictitious beings, he diverted his attention from sufferings which were
no less the offspring of the imagination.

It has been suggested with great truth that the habit of gaming,
prevalent as it is among persons in the upper ranks of life, is not
to be attributed exclusively to a feeling of avarice. The man who
is surrounded by everything to make his condition in life happy, as
far as wealth is concerned, does not fly to dice for the purpose of
aggrandisement, but he does so to seek refuge from the miseries of
indolence and vacuity; from the gnawings of his own mind; from an eager
desire to expose himself to that mental agitation which nature tells
him is so necessary to make life supportable. “A woman is happier than
a man,” says Dr. Johnson, “because she can hem a pocket-handkerchief.”

Our faculties, like the vulture of Prometheus, devour our souls,
if they have no action beyond ourselves. “Real lassitude is always
mingled with grief,” says an eminent female genius; and Madame de Staël
considers the observation a profound one.

“The man in the Spectator who hanged himself to avoid the intolerable
annoyance of having to tie his garters every day of his life, is but a
satire on the misery of many who, having no useful occupation, find the
flight of time marked only by the swift repetition of petty troubles.

“The restlessness of Rousseau, his discontented and morbidly irritable
disposition, was closely allied to insanity; and the painful struggles
of Lord Byron, when ‘came the fit again,’ are detailed in words which
shew too plainly how they disturbed and threatened the integrity of
his judgment. In such natures, every strong emotion, or the occurrence
of disease, may destroy the delicate balance, and make a ruin of a
mind which even in ruins continues to excite a mournful admiration.
The diversion of social intercourse, which to other men is necessary
to prevent mental torpor, becomes to them a source of irritation by
impeding the workings of their imagination: they find that, when alone,
all the nobler aspirations of the soul are free, and images of beauty,
and virtue, and wisdom, occupy the mind. Society transforms them into
a being they despise, deprives them of all their high and valued
thoughts, and it enables them to feel what slight circumstances, acting
on the man without, may affect the man within. But the pleasures of
solitude are transient; their train is followed by baseless fancies,
by fears undefined, by griefs unexpressed, and black despondency,
from which society can alone relieve. We learn, from observing such
effects, arising from such causes, the advantage of mixed and varied
occupations, suited to a being not made solely for contemplation or
for action; and we may gather rules from these observations, the
application of which to minds in a morbid state is very direct.”[50]

With no less beauty than truth has the author of Rasselas depicted the
insanity of the astronomer as gradually declining under the sanative
influence of society and mental gratification. The sage confesses, that
since he has mixed in the gay scenes of life, and divided his hours
by a succession of amusements, he found the notion of his influence
over the skies gradually fade away, and began to trust less to an
opinion which he could never prove to others, and which he now found
subject to variations from causes in which reason had no part. “If,”
says he, “I am accidentally left alone for a few hours, my inveterate
persuasion rushes upon my soul, and my thoughts are chained down by
an uncontrollable violence; but they are soon disentangled by the
prince’s conversation, and are instantaneously released by the entrance
of Pekuah. I am like a man habitually afraid of spectres, who is set
at ease by a lamp, and wonders at the dread which harassed him in the
dark.”

It is difficult to lay down general rules for the treatment of
particular cases of melancholia with a tendency to suicide. Travelling,
agreeable society, works of light literature, should be had recourse
to, in order to dispel all gloomy apprehensions from the mind.

In persons predisposed to insanity, or who manifest some slight
indication of disease, how important it is to endeavour to call into
exercise the higher faculties of the mind,—the judgment and reasoning
powers,—and thus preserve the intellectual faculties in a healthy state
of equilibrium. There is much wisdom in Lord Bacon’s advice, that
“if a man’s wits be wandering, he should study the mathematics.” The
patient should be taught to derive a pleasure from the contemplation
of those objects that afford variety, and that are always within
his reach. A beneficent Creator has wisely placed around us endless
sources of the purest and most elevating enjoyments. In a ratio to our
intellectual attainments, so are we enabled to derive pleasure from
circumstances that appear trifling and foolish to others. Mungo Park
could, in the solitude of an African desert, when exposed to the most
distressing circumstances, derive a most exquisite pleasure from the
sight of a small flower. How fully can we enter into the feelings of
the man who, after being prostrated to the earth by an accumulation of
worldly disappointments, yet spoke in a tone of noble triumph at his
having retained, amidst the wreck of all his hopes, a perception of the
beauties of nature!

  “I care not, Fortune, what you me deny;—
    You cannot rob me of free Nature’s grace;
  You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
    Through which Aurora shews her bright’ning face;
    You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
  The woods and lawns by living stream at eve:
    Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
  And I these toys to the great children leave:
  Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave.”

A devotion to the common pleasures of sense is better than a state of
absolute indifference; for even if these give no kind of pleasure,
whilst all higher pursuits are neglected, there is danger lest a man
become of the same opinion as Dr. Darwin’s patient, “that all which
life affords is a ride out in the morning, and a warm parlour and
a pack of cards in the afternoon;” and, like him, finding these
pleasures not inexhaustible, should shoot himself because he has
nothing better to do!

The miserable man should endeavour to make himself practically
acquainted with the distresses of others. However desperate the
circumstances of a person may be, he may still have it in his power
to whisper a word of consolation to one whose situation may be more
humiliating than his own.

Human nature is accused of much more selfishness than it has any just
claim to; a thousand kindly emotions break in upon and redeem our daily
and interested life.

              “The poorest poor
  Long for a moment in a weary life
  When they can know and feel that they have been
  Themselves the fathers and the dealers out
  Of some small blessings; have been kind to such
  As needed kindness; for this single cause,
  That we have all one human heart.”[51]

How few have anything like a proper conception of the power which the
will can be made to exercise over the physical and mental ailments.[52]
The stimuli which we all more or less have at command, if properly
directed, will often subdue the early dawnings of disease, which, if
permitted to take its own course, would have assumed a most formidable
character. It is our duty to combat with the first menace of disordered
feeling. Once the enemy is allowed to take up a favourable position, it
will be fruitless to enter single-handed into the contest. “I will be
good,” says the child, when he sees the rod ready to direct the will
into the way of goodness; and “I will be cheerful,” ought the dull
and dyspeptic to say, who observes a cloud of hypochondriacal fancies
ready to burst upon his head. It may be said it is useless to struggle
against the natural tendencies of the mind and body, or to declare war
with habits which have become firmly rooted in the constitution. In
reply to this we would say, let not the patient yield to the influence
of those causes which have formed the habit; let him not hug to his
bosom the viper which is preying upon his mind; let him not exclaim to
gloom, “Henceforth be thou my god.”

The hypochondriac may say, when advised to rouse himself from his state
of mental despondency, and to exhibit the attributes of a free agent—

  “Go, you may call it madness, folly;
    You shall not chase my gloom away:
  There’s such a charm in melancholy,
    I would not, if I could, be gay.”

But it is exercising a _conscientious duty_ to resist the encroachments
of those ideal pleasures which sap the foundation of our moral
constitution.

I am inclined to concur in the opinion expressed by the late Dr. Uwins,
that when melancholy is stripped of all its ornamental and poetical
accompaniments, it will be found to be based in a great measure
upon pride, selfishness, and indolence. This benevolent physician
observes—“I cannot conceive a more delightful spectacle than that of an
individual, whose constitutional cast is melancholy, warring against
his temperament, and determining to enter with hilarity into the scenes
and circumstances of social life.”

Dr. Haindorft, in his German translation of Dr. Reid’s “Essay on
Hypochondriasis,” in alluding to the possibility of the patient
labouring under hypochondria being able, by an exercise of the power
of volition, to control his morbid sensations, justly observes—“We
should have fewer disorders of the mind if we could acquire more power
of volition, and endeavour, by our own energy, to disperse the clouds
which occasionally arise within our own horizon; if we _resolutely tore
the first threads of the net_ which gloom and ill-humour may cast
around us, and made an effort to drive away the melancholy images of
a morbid imagination by incessant occupation. How beneficial would
it be to mankind if this truth were universally acknowledged and
acted upon—viz., that our state of health, mental as well as bodily,
principally depends upon ourselves!”

  “By _seeming gay_, we grow to what we seem.”

It was the remark of a man of great observation and knowledge of the
world—“Only wear a mask for a fortnight, and you will not know it from
your real face.”

“I am determined to believe myself a happy man,” said a poor fellow,
sunk in the lowest stage of melancholy, to Esquirol; and he did
endeavour to triumph over his gloomy apprehensions, and for a short
period he enjoyed the sunny aspect of life; but not having sufficient
resolution to continue this effort of volition, he again gave way to
despair.

A thousand years before the Christian era, there were, at the two
extremities of Egypt, temples devoted to Saturn, to which those
labouring under hypochondriasis resorted in quest of relief. Some
cunning priests, profiting by the credulity of these patients,
associated with the pretended miracles of their powerless divinities
and barren mysteries, natural means by which they always solaced
their patients, and succeeded often in effecting cures by amusing
the mind, and withdrawing the attention from the contemplation of
physical suffering. The patients were religiously subjected to a
variety of diversions and recreative exercises. Voluptuous paintings
and seducing images were exposed to their view; agreeable songs and
melodious sounds perpetually charmed their ears; gardens of flowers and
ornamental groves furnished delightful walks and delicious perfumes.
Every moment was consecrated to some diverting scene and amusement,
which had a most beneficial result on the diseased mind, interrupted
the train of melancholy thought, dissipated sorrow, and wrought the
most salutary changes on the body through the agency of the mind.
The Egyptian physicians recommended their patients to repair to these
famous temples, as the faculty of the present day suggest a trip to a
fashionable spa.

That many suicides result from an indulgence in long-continued and
corroding grief must be apparent to all who have given this subject
any consideration. The medical man will find it difficult to manage
such patients. Everything should be done to rouse the person from his
state of mental abstraction. The immortal poet had a just conception of
the baneful influence of silent grief on the mind and body; he makes
Malcolm say, imploringly, to Macbeth,

  “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
  Whispers the o’er-wrought heart, and bids it break.”

An eminent London physician communicated to me the particulars of the
following case:—A young lady, connected with a family of rank, and
possessing great accomplishments, had formed, unknown to her parents, a
secret attachment to a gentleman who often visited the house. When it
was discovered, he was requested to abandon all notions of the lady,
as it was the determination of her relations to refuse their consent
to an alliance with him. Both parties took it much to heart. The lady
suffered from a severe attack of nervous disorder, which terminated
in suicidal mania. She endeavoured several times to jump out of the
window, and would have done so had she not been most carefully watched.
Her symptoms were most distressing. The mind appeared to be weighed
down to the earth by an accumulation of misery and wretchedness, which
she was unable to shake off. “Oh! could I but be happy!” she would
exclaim. “Will no one come to my relief? What can I do?” She would
walk about the room, occasionally giving utterance to expressions
similar to those just quoted. More than once she observed, that, could
she cry, she felt assured her mind would be relieved; but not a tear
could she shed. After a fearful struggle for some time, one evening,
as she was retiring to rest, she burst into a flood of tears. The
effect was most beneficial; from that moment she began to recover. The
copious lachrymal secretion had the effect of relieving the cerebral
congestion, and in this way the brain was restored to the performance
of its healthy functions.

It is difficult to lay down any particular instructions for the
treatment of _ennui_. How is it possible to restore enjoyment to a man
who has quite exhausted it? In such cases the advice which Fénélon
gives to Dionysius the tyrant, by the mouth of Diogenes, will naturally
apply,—“To restore his appetite, he must be made to feel hunger; and to
make his splendid palace tolerable to him, he must be put into my tub,
which is at present empty.”

A lady became insane in consequence of a sudden and unexpected
acquisition of wealth. In a few months she was reduced, by the failure
of the house in which all her property was embarked, to complete
indigence. Being compelled to work for her daily bread, her reason was
soon restored. The great preservative from _tedium vitæ_ is, in keeping
the mind and body in a state of healthy activity. How true it is—

      “That many ills o’er which man grieves,
  And still more woman, spring from not employing
  Some hours to make the remnant worth enjoying.”

  BYRON.

In the army, it is proverbial that the time of fatigue and danger is
not the time of disease; it is during the inactive and listless months
of a campaign that crowds of patients pass to the hospitals. In both
these cases it is the active exercise of the mind giving strength to
the brain, and through it, healthy vigour to the body, which produces
the effect. Shakspeare has not been unobservant of the consequences of
excitement of mind on the bodily functions. In King Henry IV., when
Northumberland is told of the fatal tidings from Shrewsbury, and is
informed of the death of his son Percy, he breaks out,—

  “For this I shall have time enough to mourn.
  In poison there is physic; and these news
  That would, had I been well, have made me sick,
  _Being sick, have in some measure made me well_:
  And as a wretch whose fever-weakened joints,
  Like strengthless hinges, buckle under life,
  Impatient of his fit, breaks like a fire
  Out of his keeper’s arms; _even so my limbs_,
  Weakened with grief, being now enraged with grief,
  Are thrice themselves.”

In illustration of the same principle, we have only to refer our
readers to the ever-memorable Walcheren expedition. It has been stated
that while our troops and seamen were actively engaged in the siege
and bombardment of Flushing, exposed to intense heat, heavy rains,
and poisonous exhalations from the malarious soil, inundated by the
turbid waters of the Scheldt, scarcely a man was on the sick list; the
excitement of warfare, the prospects of victory, and the expectation of
booty, completely fortifying the body against all the potent causes of
disease that environed the camp and the fleet.

In the celebrated retreat of the “Ten thousand Greeks” under Xenophon,
the troops were subjected to great mental despondency. They had to
cross rapid rivers, penetrate gloomy forests, drag their weary way over
vast and burning deserts, scale the summits of rugged mountains, and
wade through deep snows and pestilent morasses, in continual fear of
death or capture. It was a sense of the despondency which misfortune
was producing among the troops that induced Xenophon, in his address
to his companions on the fearful night which preceded the murder of
Clearchus, to say, “The soldiers have at present nothing before their
eyes but misfortune. If any one can persuade them to turn _their
thoughts into action_ it would greatly encourage them.” It was to
effect this purpose that the consummate general ordered everything in
the camp, except the sword, to be abandoned. He inspired the hopes of
his soldiers, roused their minds into activity, and thus prevented the
development of serious disease among the troops.

Lord Anson says, in speaking of the ravages which the scurvy made under
his command, that “whatever discouraged the seamen, or damped their
hopes, never failed to add new vigour to the distemper; for it usually
killed those who were in the last stages of it, and confined those to
their hammocks who before were capable of some kind of duty.”

In certain diseases of the nervous system, particularly when associated
with morbid conditions of the mind leading to suicide, the influence
of music may be had recourse to with great advantage to the patient.
The ancients, who paid more attention to the moral treatment of disease
than the moderns have done, had a just appreciation of the beneficial
effect of music on the nervous system. The learned Dr. Bianchini has
collected all the passages found in ancient authors relative to the
medical application of music; and from these it appears that it was
used as a remedy by the Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, not
only in chronic, but in acute cases of disease.

M. Burette, in his able and scientific work on music, allows it to be
possible, and even probable, that music, by the impressions it makes
upon the nerves, may be of use in the cure of certain maladies; yet he
by no means supposes the music of the ancients possessed this power
in a greater degree than that of the moderns. Homer attributes the
cessation of the plague among the Greeks, at the siege of Troy, to
music:—

  “With hymns divine the joyous banquet ends,
  The pæans lengthened till the sun descends:
  The Greeks, restored, the grateful rites prolong;
  Apollo listens and approves the song.”

  POPE.

In the Memoirs of the French Academy of Sciences, for 1707 and 1708,
there are many accounts of cases of disease which, after having long
resisted and baffled the most efficacious remedies, had yielded under
the influence of the soft impressions of harmony; and M. de Mairan, in
the same records, published in 1735, has entered very fully into the
consideration of the _modus operandi_ of music on the body in health
and disease.

The effect of music on the system is explained in two different ways.
The monotony of the sound is supposed to have a soothing influence over
the mind, similar to what is known to result from the gurgle of a mimic
cataract of some mountain rill, or to a distant waterfall. How often
has the music caused by the waves gently dashing upon the beach excited
sleep, when all our narcotics have failed in producing a similar
effect. This soporific effect of the repetition or monotony of sound is
beautifully alluded to by Mackenzie, in his Man of Feeling. When his
hero, Mr. Harley, arrives in London, he finds that the noise and varied
excitement of the metropolis increase his nervous state of habit, and
prevent him from sleeping. Ordinary narcotics produce no effect upon
him, and he must have continued to suffer from watchfulness if he had
not happily touched his shoe-buckle, which lay upon the table, when the
vibration produced a monotonous sound so closely resembling the voice
of his good aunt, who nightly read him asleep in the country, that from
that time he regularly applied to the same narcotic, and always slept
soundly. Music acts, secondly, by causing an association of agreeable
ideas. A lady who was confined in an asylum in the vicinity of London,
and who had been separated for some months from her home, and from all
she held dear, was pronounced partially convalescent. She was, however,
still melancholy; and it was suggested by her father that a piece, of
which she was passionately fond, and which was associated with the
happiest period of her life, should be played within her hearing. This
wish was complied with; the effect produced was highly gratifying. For
the first few minutes, no notice was taken of the music; in a short
period, however, a smile was seen to play upon a countenance where
all had been dark and gloomy for months. As the music proceeded, the
effect became more sensible and powerful; ideas of a most pleasurable
kind appeared to rush upon a mind which had previously been a blank; a
chord had been touched which thrilled through her, until she appeared
absorbed in the pleasing associations which the favourite air had
conjured to her recollection. The past was no longer forgotten, and she
for the first time gave evidence of being conscious of the situation in
which she was in. A fatal blow had been given to the disease, and in a
short period she was considered sufficiently recovered to be allowed to
return home to the bosom of her family.

The disease of Saul was alleviated by David’s harp. Aristotle maintains
that actual madness in horses may be cured by the melody of lutes.
“Experience has proved,” says Gibbon, “that the mechanical operation of
sounds, by quickening the circulation of the blood and spirits, will
act on the human machine more forcibly than the eloquence of reason
and honour.” In illustration of the above observation the following
fact may be adduced:—At the battle of Quebec, in April, 1760, while the
troops were retreating in great confusion, the general complained to a
field-officer of Fraser’s regiment of the bad behaviour of his corps.
“Sir,” he answered, in great warmth, “you did very wrong in forbidding
the bagpipes to play this morning; nothing encourages Highlanders so
much in the day of action,—nay, even now the pipes would be of use.”
“Let them blow, then, like the devil,” replied the General, “if it will
bring back the men.” The bagpipes were ordered to play a favourite
martial air. The Highlanders, the moment they heard the music, returned
and formed with alacrity, and fought like infuriated lions.

The influence of music over animals is known to be very great. Burney
says that an officer, being shut up in the Bastille, had his lute
allowed him; upon which, after a trial or two, the mice came issuing
from their holes, and the spiders, suspending themselves from their
threads, assembled round him to enjoy the melody.[53]

Falret alludes particularly to the benefit which often accrues from
music in peculiar disorders of the nervous system attended with a
disposition to suicide. So exalted an idea had M. Appert of its effects
on the mind, that he has observed, alluding to criminals, “_that the
man sensible to the influence of harmony is not irretrievably lost_.”
A young lady passionately fond of music manifested an inclination to
kill herself; she was sent by her family to an hospital, where she was
carefully watched. The idea of suicide was not, however, removed until
she was allowed the use of her favourite instrument, the harp. The
good effect was soon perceptible; her melancholy gradually subsided,
and with it the suicidal disposition. She expressed to her friends how
grateful she felt that she was allowed to indulge in her favourite
amusement, and was conscious of the benefits which she had derived from
it.

The progress of epidemic suicide has been stayed by having recourse to
measures which have powerfully affected the imagination.

The young women of Marseilles, at one period, were seized with a
propensity to commit suicide. In order to prevent the contagion from
spreading, a law was passed to the effect that the body of every
female who was guilty of self-murder should be publicly exposed after
death. The beneficial result of this law became immediately apparent;
the epidemic was stopped; the sense of shame prevailed over the
recklessness of human life.

In the French army, during the reign of Napoleon Buonaparte, a
grenadier killed himself. This suicide was followed by another case,
and it was feared that the disposition would assume an epidemic
character. Buonaparte saw the necessity of prompt and decisive
measures, and with a view of striking terror in the minds of the
soldiers, and putting a stop at once to the spread of what appeared to
be a contagious malady, he issued the following “order of the day,”
dated _St. Cloud, 22 Floreal, an_ X.:—

“The grenadier Groblin has committed suicide, from a disappointment
in love. He was, in other respects, a worthy man. This is the second
event of the kind that has happened in this corps within a month. The
First Consul directs that it shall be notified in the order of the day
of the guard, that a soldier ought to know how to overcome the grief
and melancholy of his passions; that there is as much true courage in
bearing mental affliction manfully as in remaining unmoved under the
fire of a battery. To abandon oneself to grief without resisting, and
to kill oneself in order to escape from it, is like abandoning the
field of battle before being conquered.

  “Signed,  NAPOLEON,
           “BESSIERES.”

The effect of this masterly appeal to the courage of the French
soldiery was truly magical. The disposition was completely quelled,
and no case of suicide occurred for a considerable time afterwards.
The course which Napoleon adopted shewed his great knowledge of human
nature, as well as the thorough insight he had obtained into the
character of the people over whose minds he exercised so tremendous an
influence.

An account of the punishment inflicted on the women of Miletus, a city
of Ionia, who were seized with an epidemic suicide, is transmitted to
us in the writings of Plutarch. He says, “The Milesian virgins were at
one time possessed with an uncommon rage for suicide. All desire of
life seemed suddenly to leave them, and they rushed on death (by the
help of the halter) with an impetuous fury. The tears and entreaties
of parents and friends were of no avail; and if they were prevented
by force for awhile, they evaded all the attention and vigilance of
their observers, and found means to perpetrate the horrid deed.
Some ascribed this extraordinary species of desperation and frenzy
to certain occult and maddening qualities of the air at that season,
somehow or other peculiarly injurious to the female frame and texture,
both of body and mind, (since the men were not visibly affected by it;)
while the superstitious considered it as a calamity sent from the gods,
and therefore beyond the power of human remedy. But whatever was the
cause, the effect was visible and important, and could not be suffered
to rage long without manifest injury to the state. While speculative
men, therefore, were attempting to account for the phenomena, the
active magistrate was endeavouring to arrest the progress of the
contagion, for which purpose the following decree was issued;—“That
the body of every young woman who hanged herself should be dragged
naked through the streets by the same rope with which she committed
the deed.” This wise edict had in a short time the desired effect.
Plutarch adds—“The fear of shame and ignominy is an argument of a good
and virtuous mind; and they who regarded not pain and death, which are
usually esteemed the most dreadful of evils, could not, however, endure
the thoughts of having their dead bodies exposed to indignity and
shame.”

In the Magdalen Asylum, at Edinburgh, a girl was seized with typhus
fever, at the time that it was raging in the city, and though she
was instantly removed, as well as all her bed-clothes &c., two more
were seized next day, and an alarm or panic was soon spread over the
whole house. Next day, no fewer than sixteen were in the sick-room,
and in the course of four days, out of a community of less than fifty
individuals, twenty-two were apparently labouring under decided fever.
It now struck Dr. Hamilton that there was mad delusion in all this,
and that the disease arose as much from panic and irritation as from
any other causes. Acting on this belief, he went to the sick-room, and
told the girls that such a rapid spread of the disease was entirely
unprecedented; that they were under the delusion of yielding to
their fears, and of imitating others who were now undergoing all
the tortures of bleeding, blistering, and purging, in Queensbury
Hospital. He assured them that the fumigation and other precautions
must have destroyed the contagion, and that if they would only keep
a good heart and dismiss their fears, he would pledge himself the
fever would soon disappear. The effect of the Doctor’s speech was
magical. All apprehension was instantly banished from the mind, the
cheering influence of hope was inspired, moral courage was developed,
and the progress of the pestilence stopped. Not one case of fever
occurred afterwards, and those who had the fever at the time perfectly
recovered.[54]

It is only on the same principle that we can account for the success
which Dr. A. T. Thompson met with in the treatment of the following
case of whooping-cough, which had been kept up by habit. The patient,
a young boy, was threatened with the application of a large blister;
although it was not applied, but merely placed within his view, yet the
dread of it completely removed the cough. Boerrhave cured epilepsy in a
whole school, by marching into it at the moment of the expected attack
with a red-hot poker, which he threatened to thrust down the throats of
those who should have a fit.

A remarkable instance of epidemic suicide occurred as far back as the
reign of Tarquinius Priscus, which as it required, so it received,
an effectual check by the spirited introduction of an extraordinary
mode of punishment. After this king had employed the Roman people in
successful wars abroad, he filled up their leisure at home in works
of less apparent honour, though of greater utility. These were to cut
drains and common sewers of immense size and durability. When the
soldiers disdained these servile offices, and saw no end to their
labours, many of them committed suicide by throwing themselves off the
Capitoline Hill. Others followed their example, until the contagion
spread through the whole of the men. The king, in order to strike
terror into the minds of those who might contemplate self-destruction,
issued an order commanding the bodies of those who should commit
suicide to be nailed on crosses, and then exposed as spectacles to the
rest of the citizens, and left a prey to the fowls of the air. The
feeling of shame and horror had the effect of checking the disposition
to sacrifice life, and thus the king’s purpose was effected.

Whether any measures of a similar character could be adopted in cases
where the disposition to suicide has a tendency to assume an epidemic
form is a matter of considerable doubt.

Experience has established the effect of some simple remedies in
preventing the return of paroxysms of melancholia with a propensity
to suicide. But it has likewise, and not unfrequently, evinced their
insufficiency, and at the same time the influence of a strong and
deeply impressed emotion in producing a solid and durable change. A
man who worked at a sedentary trade consulted Pinel, about the end
of October, 1783, for dyspepsia and great depression of spirits.
He knew of no cause to which he could ascribe his indisposition.
His unhappiness at length increased to such a pitch that he felt an
invincible propensity to throw himself into the Seine. Unequivocal
symptoms of a disordered stomach induced Pinel to prescribe some
opening medicines, and for some days occasional draughts of whey. His
bowels were effectually opened, and he suffered but little from his
propensity to self-destruction during the remainder of the winter. Fine
weather appeared to restore him completely, and his cure was considered
as perfect. Towards the decline of autumn, however, his melancholia
returned. Nature assumed to him a dark and dismal aspect, and his
propensity to throw himself into the Seine returned with redoubled
force. The only circumstance that in any degree restrained the horrid
impulse was, the idea of leaving unprotected a wife and child, whom
he tenderly loved. This struggle between the feelings of nature and
his delirious frenzy was not permitted to continue long; for the most
unequivocal proofs soon after appeared of his having executed his fatal
project.

A literary gentleman, devoted to the pleasures of the table, and who
had lately recovered from a fever, experienced in the autumnal season
all the horrors of the propensity to suicide. He weighed with shocking
calmness the choice of various methods to accomplish the deed of death.
A visit which he paid to London appears to have developed, with a new
degree of energy, his profound melancholy, and his immovable resolution
to abridge his term of life. He chose an advanced hour of the night,
and went towards one of the bridges of that capital for the purpose of
precipitating himself into the Thames; but at the moment of his arrival
at the destined spot, he was attacked by some robbers. Though he had
little or no money about him, he felt extremely indignant at this
treatment, and used every effort to make his escape, which, however, he
did not accomplish before he had been exceedingly terrified. Left by
his assailants, he returned to his lodgings, having forgot the original
object of his sally. This rencontre seems to have caused a thorough
revolution in the state of his mind. His cure was complete.

A watchmaker was for a long time harassed by the propensity to suicide.
He once so far gave way to the horrid impulse, that he withdrew to his
house in the country, where he expected to meet no obstacle to the
execution of his project. Here he took a pistol, and retired to an
adjoining wood, with the full intent of perpetrating the fatal deed;
but missing his aim, the contents of the piece entered his cheek.
Violent hæmorrhage ensued. He was discovered, and conveyed to his own
house. During the healing of the wound, which was long protracted,
an important change took place in the state of his mind. Whether
from the agitation produced by the above tragic attempt, from the
enormous loss of blood which it occasioned, or from any other cause,
he never afterwards shewed the least inclination to put an end to his
existence. This case, though by no means an example for imitation,
is well calculated to shew that sudden terror, or any other lively or
deep impression, may divert, and even destroy, the fatal propensity to
suicide.

A few years ago, an officer went into Hyde Park with an intention of
shooting himself. He applied a pistol to his forehead; the priming
flashed, but no discharge followed. A man of poor appearance, whom the
officer had not observed, or perhaps thought unworthy of his notice,
instantly ran up, and wrested the pistol from his hands. The other drew
his sword, and was about to stab his deliverer, who, with much spirit,
replied, “Stab me, Sir, if you think proper; I fear death as little as
you, but I have more courage. More than twenty years I have lived in
affliction and penury, and I yet trust in God for comfort and support.”
The officer was struck with these spirited words, continued speechless
and motionless for a short time, and then, bursting into tears, gave
his purse to the honest man. He then inquired into his story, and
became his private friend and benefactor; but he made the poor man
swear that he would never make inquiries concerning himself, or seem to
know him, if chance should ever bring them in sight of each other.

A female patient, who had often threatened to destroy herself, one
day assured M. Esquirol that she was about to do it. “Very well,” he
answered; “it is nothing to me; and your husband will be delivered of a
great torment.” She instantly ceased the preparations she was making to
accomplish the act, and never spoke of committing it again.

How easily lunatics may be diverted from their purpose by presence
of mind, an intimacy with their character, and the tact to employ
the destructive feeling by which they are actuated as the means of
protection, is well exemplified in an anecdote related by Dr. Fox. He
had accompanied a suicidal and furious maniac, who was at the time
calm, to the upper story of his asylum to enjoy the prospect beyond
the walls. In returning, the spiral staircase struck the eye of the
patient; the opportunity roused the half-slumbering propensity, and a
fit of frenzy ensued. His eyes glared, his teeth ground against each
other; he panted like a bloodhound for his prey, and seizing the Doctor
by the collar, howled into his ears, “You jump down, and I will jump
after you.” The Doctor for the moment was petrified with horror; he
was alone with a powerful man, frenzied by insanity; to escape was out
of the question; to attempt to overcome him by force was still more
futile: in a moment he hit upon a stratagem. Turning to the infuriated
madman, he exclaimed, with a look of coolness and collectedness, “Bah!
my child could jump from this place; it requires no nouse to do that;
the thing is to jump up—that is the difficulty.” The madman listened
with attention to what the Doctor said, and then observed, “But you
cannot do so, can you?” The Doctor replied, he could, and they both
hurried down to put the boast to the proof, and the sanguinary threat
was forgotten before they reached the lobby.

Physicians not practically acquainted with the treatment of insanity
are too much inclined to believe that it is fruitless to attempt to
reason a madman out of his morbid delusion, and that to have recourse
to a trick in order to dispel the mental illusion is a species of
practice unbecoming the dignity of a professional gentleman. Numerous
cases are recorded in which patients have been cured of monomania by a
well-contrived artifice; and in many cases of suicidal insanity, when
other treatment fails, the medical man may have recourse to this mode
of cure without any danger of sinking himself in public or professional
estimation. The following cases are illustrations of the foregoing
remark:—

A celebrated watchmaker, at Paris, was infatuated with the chimera of
perpetual motion, and to effect this discovery he set to work with
indefatigable ardour. From unremitting attention to the object of his
enthusiasm coinciding with the influence of revolutionary disturbances,
his imagination was greatly heated, his sleep was interrupted, and, at
length, a complete derangement of the understanding took place. His
case was marked by a most whimsical illusion of the imagination. He
fancied that he had lost his head on the scaffold; that it had been
thrown promiscuously among the heads of many other victims; that the
judges, having repented of their cruel sentence, had ordered them
to be restored to their owners, and placed upon their respective
shoulders; but that, in consequence of an unfortunate mistake, the
gentleman who had the management of the business had placed upon his
shoulders the head of one of his unhappy companions. The idea of this
whimsical exchange occupied his thoughts night and day, on account
of which his relations sent him to the Hôtel Dieu; and from thence
he was transferred to the Asylum de Bicêtre. Nothing could equal the
extravagant overflowings of his heated brain. He sung, cried, or danced
incessantly; and as there appeared no propensity in him to commit acts
of violence or disturbance, he was allowed to go about the hospital
without control, in order to expend, by evaporation, the effervescent
excess of his spirits. “Look at these teeth,” he constantly cried;
“mine were exceedingly handsome; these are rotten and decayed. My mouth
was sound and healthy; this is foul and diseased. What a difference
between this hair and that of my own head!” To this state of delirious
gaiety, however, succeeded that of furious madness. He broke to pieces,
or otherwise destroyed, whatever was within the reach or power of his
mischievous propensity. Close confinement became indispensable. Towards
the approach of winter, his violence abated; and, although he continued
to be extravagant in his ideas, he was never afterwards dangerous. He
was therefore permitted, whenever he felt disposed, to go to the inner
court. The idea of perpetual motion frequently recurred to him in the
midst of his wanderings; and he chalked on all the walls and doors as
he passed the various designs by which his wondrous piece of mechanism
was to be constructed. The method best calculated to cure so whimsical
an illusion appeared to be that of encouraging his prosecution of it to
satiety. His friends were accordingly requested to send him his tools,
with materials to work upon, and other requisites, such as plates of
copper and steel, watch-wheels, &c. The governor permitted him to fix
up a work-bench in his apartment. His zeal was now redoubled; his whole
attention was rivetted upon his favourite pursuit. He forgot his meals.
After about a month’s labour, which he sustained with a constancy
that deserved better success, our artist began to think that he had
followed a false route. He broke into a thousand fragments the piece of
machinery which he had fabricated at so much expense of time, thought,
and labour; entered on the construction of another upon a new plan,
and laboured with equal pertinacity for an additional fortnight. The
various parts being completed, he brought them together, and fancied
that he saw a perfect harmony amongst them. The whole was now finally
adjusted; his anxiety was indescribable; motion succeeded; it continued
for some time, and he supposed it capable of continuing for ever. He
was elevated to the highest pitch of enjoyment and triumph, and ran
as quick as lightning into the interior of the hospital, crying out,
like another Archimedes, “At length I have solved this famous problem,
which has puzzled so many men celebrated for their wisdom and talents.”
But, grievous to say, he was disconcerted in the midst of his triumph.
The wheels stopped; the perpetual motion ceased! His intoxication
of joy was succeeded by disappointment and confusion. But to avoid
a humiliating and mortifying confession, he declared that he could
easily remove the impediment; but tired of that kind of employment, he
was determined for the future to devote his whole time and attention
to his business. There still remained another maniacal impression to
be counteracted,—that of the imaginary exchange of his head, which
unceasingly recurred to him. A keen and an unanswerable stroke of
pleasantry seemed best adapted to correct this fantastic whim. Another
convalescent, of a gay and facetious humour, instructed in the part he
should play in this comedy, adroitly turned the conversation to the
subject of the famous miracle of Saint Denis. Our mechanician strongly
maintained the possibility of the fact, and sought to confirm it by
an application of it to his own case. The other set up a loud laugh,
and replied, with a tone of the keenest ridicule, “Madman as thou
art, how could Saint Denis kiss his own head? Was it with his heels?”
This equally unexpected and unanswerable retort forcibly struck the
maniac. He retired confused, amidst the peals of laughter which were
provoked at his expense, and never afterwards mentioned the exchange
of his head. Close attention to his trade for some months completed
the restoration of his intellect. He was sent to his family in perfect
health, and has now for more than five years pursued his business
without a return of his complaint.

Mr. Cox recollects a singular instance of a deranged idea in a maniac
being corrected by a very simple stratagem. The patient asserted that
he was the Holy Ghost; a gentleman present immediately exclaimed, “You
the Holy Ghost! What proof have you to produce?” “I know that I am,”
was his answer. The gentleman said, “How is this possible? There is but
one Holy Ghost, is there? How then can you be the Holy Ghost, and I be
so too?” He appeared surprised and puzzled, and, after a short pause,
said, “But are _you_ the Holy Ghost?” When the other observed, “Did you
not know that I was?” his answer was, “I did not know it before. Why,
then, I cannot be the Holy Ghost.”

A Portuguese nobleman became melancholy, and fancied that God would
never forgive his sins. Various means were tried to subdue this morbid
impression, but in vain, until the following artifice was adopted,
which proved successful in restoring the lunatic to reason. During
midnight, a person dressed as an angel was made to enter his bed-room,
having a drawn sword in its right hand, and a lighted torch in the
other. The imaginary angelic being addressed the monomaniac by name,
who, rising from his bed, spoke to the supposed angel, beseeching it
to tell him whether his sins would ever be forgiven; upon which the
angel replied, “Be comforted, your sins are forgiven.” The poor man’s
delight knew no bounds. He rose from his bed, summoned every one in
the house to his presence, and explained to them all that had passed.
From that moment the man rapidly recovered in bodily health, and his
delusion has completely vanished.

A man fancied he was dead, refused to eat, and importuned his parents
to bury him. By the advice of his physician, he was wrapped in a
winding-sheet, laid upon a bier, and in this way he was carried on the
shoulders of four men to the churchyard. On their way, two or three
pleasant fellows (appointed for that purpose) meeting the hearse,
demanded in a commanding tone of voice to know whose body they had
in the coffin. They replied it was a young man’s, and mentioned his
name. “Surely,” said one of them, “the world is well rid of him; for
he was a man who led a bad and vicious life, and his friends have
good reasons to rejoice that he has thus ended his days, otherwise
he would have died an ignominious death on the scaffold.” The young
man overheard this observation, at which he felt extremely indignant;
but feeling that it was not consistent with propriety or the laws
of nature for a dead man on his way to his last home to exhibit any
indications of passion, he satisfied himself by coolly replying, “That
they were wicked men to do him that wrong, and that if he had been
alive he would teach them to speak better of the dead.” “It is well,”
said one of the men in reply, “that you are no more; both for yourself
and family. You were a mean, pitiful scoundrel, guilty of every
abomination, and the world is rejoiced that you no longer live.” This
was too much for the patience of the dead man to endure, and feeling
that he could no longer suffer such unjust aspersions to be cast on
his character, he leaped from the coffin, procured the first stick he
could lay hands on, and commenced belabouring his vile accusers. As it
may be supposed, they gave him plenty to do, and by the time he had
gratified his indignation, and well chastised his calumniators, he had
become completely exhausted. In this state he was taken home, and in
a few days he was completely cured of the morbid idea which had taken
possession of his imagination.

Menecrates, as we learn from Ælian,[55] become so mad, as seriously to
believe himself the son of Jupiter, and to request of Philip of Macedon
that he might be treated as a god. But it is not always that the man
thus deranged falls into such good hands as those of the Macedonian
monarch; for Philip humorously determining to make the madman’s disease
work its own cure, gave orders immediately that his request should be
complied with, and invited him to a grand entertainment, at which was
a separate table for the new divinity, served with the most costly
perfumes and incense, but with nothing else. Menecrates was at first
highly delighted, and received the worship that was paid to him with
the greatest complacency; but growing hungry by degrees over the empty
viands that were offered him, while every other guest was indulged with
substantial dainties, he at length keenly felt himself to be a man, and
stole away from the court in his right senses.

Many cases of suicidal insanity have been cured by removing the persons
so unhappily afflicted from their own homes, friends, and relations.
In these cases the physician has no little difficulty in persuading
the friends of the invalid that a separation from old associations is
absolutely indispensable; that without it, a return to sanity cannot be
reasonably expected. When Dr. Willis undertook the cure of George III.,
he insisted, in the first instance, in dismissing all the old servants,
changing the furniture, and removing everything from the king’s sight
that might tend to awaken in his mind ideas of the past. The success
that attended his treatment is said mainly to have depended on this
circumstance.

Mr. ——, forty-seven years old, of a neuro-sanguineous temperament,
was happy in his domestic circle, and his business had prospered
until the year, 1830, from which period he was much harassed in the
management of his affairs. In December, 1831, after a very trifling
loss, he grew sorrowful and melancholy; his face was flushed, his eyes
became blood-shot, his breathing was difficult, and he shed tears,
incessantly repeating that he was lost. On the next and following days,
he made several attempts to commit suicide, so that they were obliged
to cover his apartment with wadding. He wished to strangle himself,
tried to swallow his tongue, filled his mouth with his fist in hopes
of suffocating himself, and then refused all nourishment. At the
expiration of six days, the patient was brought to Paris, and entrusted
to Esquirol’s care. From the moment of his arrival all desire to commit
suicide vanished, and the patient appeared restored to reason. “The
impression that I received,” said he, “on finding myself transported to
a strange house cured me.” In fact, sleep, appetite, and a return of
connected, and sometimes lively conversation, induced the belief that
a cure was effected. Three weeks seemed enough for convalescence, when
his wife and son came to fetch him. They passed two days at Paris to
finish some business there, and then returned to the country. Scarcely
had he arrived at his home when he felt himself impelled by the same
desires, in consequence of which, he returned to Paris, transacted some
business whilst he remained there, and appeared perfectly well. On
returning to his home again, he made fresh attempts to commit suicide,
struck his son, and those who waited upon him, and endangered the life
of his wife. Neither the grief of his family, the watch placed over
him, nor the pretended authority of those about him, could overcome
these feelings. The patient passed several days without food; he tore
up his linen to make a cord to hang himself, tied it round his neck,
and got upon his bed in order to throw himself upon the floor; and at
last, deceiving the watchfulness of his relations, escaped to throw
himself into the river. He was immediately put into a carriage, and
accompanied by his wife; but, notwithstanding the strait-waistcoat, he
left no means untried to kill himself. On arriving at Paris, and being
again confined, he became perfectly reasonable, and made no attempt
to destroy himself during the six weeks that his second confinement
lasted. There was reason to believe his cure complete. If he was asked
why he did not overcome his terrible impressions at his own house as
he did at Paris, he answered in an evasive manner, affirming that this
time the trial had been long enough, that he was cured, and that he
insisted upon returning home. “Deprived of my wife and son,” said he,
“I am the most unhappy of men, and I cannot live.” “But if you are
so unhappy here,” said Esquirol to him one day, “why do you not try
to destroy yourself, as it is very easy to do so?” “I know not,” he
replied; “but I am cured, and I wish to live.” This patient enjoyed
the greatest liberty, and although no apparent precaution was taken
to prevent his destroying himself, he never made the least attempt.
He afterwards ceased to talk unreasonably; but Esquirol was never
able to obtain an avowal of the motives which induced him to commit
suicide at his own house, whilst he thought no more of it as soon as he
came amongst strangers. On returning to his home for the fourth time,
although he was able to transact important business, the same phenomena
returned with equal violence.

M.——, twenty-seven years old, after experiencing some reverses of
fortune, became maniacal, with a tendency to commit suicide. The
elevated situation of the room which he inhabited, the position of
the staircase, the reiterated visits of his friends, “who came to
contemplate his misfortunes,” and the despair of his wife, were so
many circumstances which induced him to terminate his existence; and
although he avowed that he had no motive for so doing, and that he was
ashamed, and considered himself criminal for having attempted it, he
left no means untried for more than a month to effect that end. When he
was taken away from his home, and lodged in a ground-floor which led
into a garden, the idea no longer harassed him. “It would be of no
use,” he said; “I could never kill myself here; every precaution is
taken to prevent me.”

A baker’s wife, of a lymphatic temperament, experienced a violent
fit of jealousy, which caused her much distress, and induced her to
watch her husband’s steps, who vented his discontent in threats and
reproaches. At last, this unhappy woman, being unable to bear the
feeling any longer, threw herself out of the window. Her husband ran
to pick her up, and bestowed marks of the most attentive kindness
upon her. “It is useless,” she said; “you have a wife no longer.” She
refused every kind of nourishment, and neither the solicitations,
tears, prayers of her relations, and those of her husband, who never
quitted her room, were able to overcome her resolution. After seven
days of total abstinence, Esquirol was called in. They hid from him
the cause of the disease, but he observed that every time her husband
approached the bed, her face became convulsed. The patient was told
that she was about to be sent into the country, but that it was
necessary for her to take a little nourishment in order to support
the journey. A little broth which was offered her was accepted; but
notwithstanding her attempts, she could only swallow a few drops. She
tried again the following morning, but she expired in the course of
the day. “Had this woman,” says Esquirol, “been removed from her home
immediately after the accident, there is little doubt but she would
have been restored. How could she desire to live, her distress being
continually aggravated by the presence of her husband?”

The chief means of controlling the passions, and of keeping them within
just bounds, is to form a proper estimate of the things of this life,
of the relation of our present to a future state of existence, and
of the influence which our actions in this world will have upon our
happiness hereafter. Such a right estimate every rational man will
labour to attain. He will endeavour, by correcting error, and acquiring
such habits as are consistent with just sentiments, to withdraw the
nourishment from the very root of passion, rather than be for ever
fruitlessly occupied in merely pruning the luxuriance of some of its
branches.

It may be useful to impress strongly upon the minds of those who have
not sufficient command over their feelings, the persuasion that the
indulgence of any passion to excess, and especially of the selfish and
malevolent ones, is likely to be injurious to health, will certainly
be destructive of serenity and comfort; and of course, by diminishing
happiness, will frustrate its own aim and intention, and may, by
repetition, acquire accumulated force and facility of excitement,
become at length unconquerable and habitual, and according to its
nature, violence, and frequency, will, in a greater or less degree,
be subversive of happiness, and leave them more or less open to the
attacks of insanity.

Such persons will therefore see it highly expedient, while under the
influence of these impressions, to do all in their power to avoid them;
to compare their urgent and apparent importance when they occur, with
the probable diminution of the comfort and health of body and mind
which they might induce; and to lay it down as a rule never to indulge
any passion whatever, till, independently of moral considerations, and
the notions of duty and obligation, they have deliberately reflected,
whether the importance of the cause will be a sufficient counterbalance
to the certain pain inflicted and the injury which may be thence
derived to their health of body and ease and soundness of mind. A habit
of such deliberation once acquired,—and it may be acquired by diligence
and resolution,—will entirely put an end to exorbitant excitement,
since by checking the very beginnings of emotion, its growth and
progress will be altogether prevented.

And as every one has some weak point on which he is more open to
a successful attack, some constitutional or habitual feeling, the
approaches of which he cannot easily withstand, all persons who are
convinced of the expediency and necessity of subduing their passions,
if they would consult their own ease, will be aware of the importance
of keeping a diligent watch, and placing a strong guard, upon the one
that most easily and successfully besets them.

And whoever would secure a reasonable portion of present happiness will
be sensible of the necessity of learning the art of contentment, which,
difficult as it may seem to those who have not used themselves to check
the wanderings of imagination, and to keep their desires within prudent
bounds, not only appears indispensable, but easy, to the man who feels
a lively and practical conviction of its wonderful tendency to multiply
the sum of actual enjoyment.

With the same view of promoting and securing their own present
felicity, such persons will see the propriety of acquiring habits
of good nature, and of cultivating the emotions of benevolence. And
as virtue seldom fails to bring her own dowry, contentedness and
benevolence will infallibly introduce habits of cheerfulness, which,
while they improve our happiness, act as powerful preservatives against
disease, and as determined enemies of insanity.



CHAPTER X.

PHYSICAL TREATMENT OF THE SUICIDAL DISPOSITION.


  On the dependence of irritability of temper on physical
  disease—Voltaire and an Englishman agree to commit
  suicide—The reasons that induced Voltaire to change his
  mind—The ferocity of Robespierre accounted for—The state
  of his body after death—The petulance of Pope dependent
  on physical causes—Suicide from cerebral congestion,
  treatment of—Advantages of bloodletting, with cases—Damien
  insane—Cold applied to the head, of benefit—Good effects of
  purgation—Suicide caused by a tape-worm—Early indications of
  the disposition to suicide—The suicidal eye—Of the importance
  of carefully watching persons disposed to suicide—Cunning
  of such patients—Numerous illustrations—The fondness for a
  particular mode of death—Dr. Burrows’ extraordinary case—Dr.
  Conolly on the treatment of suicide—Cases shewing the
  advantage of confinement.

Medical men have not considered with that degree of attention
commensurate with its importance the relationship between physical
derangement and those apparently trifling mental ailments which so
often, if not subdued, lead to the commission of suicide. The origin
of self-destruction is more frequently dependent upon derangement of
the _primæ viæ_ than is generally imagined. Every one must, in his own
person, be aware of the influence of indigestion, and what is termed
bilious disorder, upon the spirits. An inactive condition of the bowels
is a common cause of mental disquietude. Voltaire, who was a man of
great observation, appears to have paid considerable attention to this
connexion. He advises a person who intends to ask a favour of a prime
minister, or a minister’s secretary, or a secretary’s mistress, to be
careful to approach them after they have had a comfortable evacuation
from the bowels. Dryden invariably dosed himself before sitting down
to compose. He says—“If you wish to have fairy flights of fancy,
you must purge the belly.” Carneades, the celebrated disputant of
antiquity, was in the habit of taking white helebore, (a purgative,)
preparatory to his refuting the dogmas of the Stoics. Lord Byron says,
in one of his letters, “I am suffering from what my physician terms
‘gastric irritation,’ and my spirits are sadly depressed. I have taken
a brisk cathartic, and to-morrow ‘Richard will be himself again.’” The
following anecdote is recorded of Voltaire:—“An English gentleman of
fortune had been sitting many hours with this great wit and censurer of
human character. Their discourse related chiefly to the depravity of
human nature, tyranny and oppression of kings, poverty, wretchedness,
and misfortune, the pain of disease, particularly the gravel, gout,
and stone. They worked themselves up to such a pitch of imaginary
evils that they proposed next morning to commit suicide together.
The Englishman, firm to his resolution, rose, and expected Voltaire
to perform his promise, to whom the genius replied, “_Ah! monsieur,
pardonnez moi, j’ai bien dormi, mon lavement a bien operé, et le soleil
est tout-à-fait clair aujourd’hui_.”

We knew a gentleman whose temper was not controllable if he allowed
himself to pass a day without his accustomed evacuation from the
bowels. Pinel records the particulars of the case of a man who had
fits of mental derangement whenever the action of the bowels became
irregular.

The blood-thirsty miscreant Robespierre is said to have been of a
“_costive habit, and to have been much subjected to derangement of
the liver_.” After death, it is said that “his bowels were found one
adherent mass.” It is indeed interesting to consider, both morally and
medically, how far these morbid ailments influenced this monster in the
bloody career in which he was engaged.

There can be no question but that the morbid irritability which
many of our men of genius have manifested was but the effect of
a derangement of the physical frame acting upon a mind naturally
sensitive to such impressions.

Much of the petulance, personality, and malignity of Pope was dependent
upon causes over which he had no control—viz., disease of the stomach
and liver, producing hypochondriasis. It has been well observed by
Madden, “Who knows under what paroxysms of mental irritation caused
by that disease (indigestion), which more than any other domineers
over the feelings of the sufferer, he might have written those bitter
sarcasms which he levelled against his literary opponents? Who knows
in what moment of bodily pain his irascibility might have taken the
form of unjustifiable satire, or his morbid sensibility assumed the
sickly shape of petulance and peevishness? Who knows how the strength
of the strong mind might have been cast down by his sufferings, when
‘he descended to the artifice’ of imposing on a bookseller, and of
‘writing those letters for effect which he published by subterfuge?’
Who that has observed how the vacillating conduct of the dyspeptic
invalid imitates the vagaries of this proteiform malady can wonder at
his capriciousness, or be surprised at the anomaly of bitterness on the
tongue, and benevolence in the heart, of the same individual?”[56]

That Pope was a severe sufferer from bodily disease will appear
evident from the following account given by Dr. Johnson of the poet.
He says, “Pope’s constitution, which was originally feeble, became so
debilitated that he stood in perpetual need of female attendance; and
so great was his sensibility of cold that he wore a fur doublet under
a shirt of very coarse warm linen. When he rose, he invested himself
in a bodice made of stiff canvass, being scarcely able to hold himself
erect till it was laced; and he then put on a flannel waistcoat. His
legs were so slender that he enlarged their bulk with three pairs of
stockings, which were drawn off and on by the maid, for he was not
able to dress or undress himself, and he neither went to bed nor rose
without help.”

His frequent attacks of indigestion made him at times a perfect picture
of misery and wretchedness. It clothed everything with a gloomy aspect,
made him quarrel with his friends and domestics, and he has been known
to say that he sighed for death as a reprieve from mental and bodily
agony. Sir Samuel Garth was frequently consulted when he had these
attacks; and it was only by exacting a strict attention to diet and
exhibiting medicine that he was enabled to restore the mind of the poet
to a healthy tone.

This physical ailment, as it often does when long continued, ultimately
affected the cerebral functions. At times he had symptoms of pressure
on the brain, or at least of an unequal and imperfect distribution of
blood to that organ. Spence says, he frequently complained of seeing
everything in the room as through a curtain, and on other occasions,
of seeing false colours on certain objects. At another period, on a
sick-bed, he asked Dodsley what arm it was that had the appearance of
coming out from the wall.

When the disposition to suicide is present, the physician should
carefully ascertain whether the patient is not labouring under cerebral
congestion, or a determination of blood to the head. The loss of
a small quantity of blood has frequently been known to remove the
propensity to self-destruction. A case is referred to by Schlegel of
a woman who was liable to periodical fits of suicidal mania whenever
she allowed a redundancy of blood to accumulate in the system. On two
occasions she attempted suicide. On the first indications of a return
of her delirium, she was generally bled, and relief was instantaneously
afforded.

A gentleman who had received, during the peninsular campaign, a sabre
cut in the head, felt for some years, whenever he was exposed to great
mental excitement, or allowed himself to over-indulge in the use of
spirits, a kind of suicidal delirium. Twice he was detected in the act
of attempting to commit suicide, and was fortunately prevented from
doing so. The local abstraction of blood from the neighbourhood of the
head was the only remedy which appeared to subdue the disposition.

The cases which are related in another chapter of individuals who were
insane at the moment when the act of self-destruction was attempted,
but who recovered the use of their reasoning after having inflicted
a wound attended with loss of blood, fully testify the importance
of general and local depletion in certain cases of cerebral disease
attended by this unfortunate propensity.

A blow on the head has been known to develope this feeling. The
affection of the sentient organ may remain latent for many years, and
then suddenly manifest itself. A man had received, when young, a kick
from a horse, which produced at the time no very urgent symptoms.
Six years after the accident, he, without giving any indications of
previous derangement of mind, cut his throat. Upon examining the brain,
it was found extensively diseased.

A man, feeling the suicidal disposition, bled himself from the arm, and
recovered.

It will not be proper in all cases to abstract blood; for the
destructive propensity has been known to exist where there has been
a deficiency of blood in the brain. The practitioner should examine
the condition of the patient thoroughly before he recommends active
depletion. Sixty per cent. of the cases of suicide will, however, be
found with cerebral disease either of a primary or secondary nature;
and to that organ the medical man’s attention should be particularly
directed.

The following case happily illustrates the benefits which are sometimes
derived from the local abstraction of blood in certain cases of
temporary insanity, accompanied with a disposition to commit suicide.
“A gentleman,” says Dr. Burrows, “of a very irascible and impetuous
disposition, with whom I was intimate, experienced in a public
meeting a rebuke which exceedingly mortified him, and made so deep
an impression upon his mind, that he was quite miserable. At night,
instead of going to bed, he roamed abroad; and at length, early in
the morning, without knowing whither he went, he found himself near a
sheet of water. The view of it at once determined him to drown himself,
and he accordingly plunged in. The action was perceived, and he was
rescued from the water, insensible, and immediately conveyed to a place
where means of resuscitation were adopted. As his address was found in
his pocket, a communication was directly made to his family, and Dr.
Burrows was called in to see the patient. He found him in a state of
insensibility. As soon as consciousness returned, he was dressed, put
into a coach, and Dr. B. accompanied him to his residence. As yet, he
had not spoken, neither did he appear to observe anything. The motion
of the carriage on the stones seemed to rouse him, and he looked about.
He took no notice of those who were in the carriage with him. He soon
became violent; his eyes were wild, and rolled in their sockets; his
face became flushed; the vessels of the forehead were excessively
distended, and all the symptoms of genuine delirium came on.[57] Dr.
Burrows ascribed the symptoms to a violent reaction in the vascular
system from the state of collapse it had sustained, and ordered the
oppressed vessels of the head to be relieved by the application of
cupping glasses, and the abstraction of sixteen ounces of blood;
the head to be kept cool, and enemata to be administered until the
bowels were well cleansed out. After these operations, he soon became
passive and disposed to sleep. He slept six hours, and awoke tolerably
composed, but not quite coherent. He took light nourishment, and at
night awoke perfectly collected, but exceedingly low. The next day he
was well, but languid. An explanation was given him, which removed the
impression that the offensive part of the speech had given him, and he
by degrees recovered his usual state of mind.”

We are inclined to believe, with D’Israeli, “that there are crimes for
which men are hanged, but of which they might easily have been cured
by physical means.” Damien, who attempted the assassination of Louis
XV., and who in consequence was subjected to the most refined tortures,
persisted to the last in declaring that if he had been bled, as he
wished and implored to be, the morning previously, he never would have
endeavoured to take the life of the king.

Gaubius relates the case of a lady of a too inflammable constitution,
whom her husband had reduced to a model of decorum by phlebotomy.

In the month of April, M. Delormel was called to Madame Chatelain,
at the Chateau de Armanvillers, who, according to the statement of
the physician in attendance, was “melancholic, hypochondriacal, and
insane.” She had made several attempts to commit suicide, and was
carefully guarded. She had been bled, purged, and well dosed with
anti-spasmodics, but to no purpose. M. Delormel examined the patient
very carefully, and came to a conclusion respecting her case very
different from that which had been formed by the other physicians
who had seen her. The lady was thirty-seven years of age, of a very
neuro-sanguineous temperament, active in body, and most amiable in
disposition. For more than two years she had complained of burning heat
in her stomach and bowels; digestion was painful, and constipation
habitual. The catameniæ were irregular; she was much emaciated, and the
symptoms of melancholia and hypochondriasis were well marked.

Madame C. could not bear to see her husband and children, to whom she
had, when in good health, been affectionately attached. Her chief
desire was solitude, and the predominant idea was the conviction of
approaching death. From an attentive examination of the case, it
was pronounced one of chronic gastro-enteritis. Eighty leeches were
applied to the abdomen, proper medicines were administered, her diet
regulated, and in less than a month she was completely restored to
health of body and mind.

When it is evident that the patient is suffering from cerebral
congestion, and yet general bleeding is inadmissible, the application
of cold to the head by means of a shower bath has often been productive
of much good. A young lady who laboured under the disposition to
suicide consulted an eminent living physician, communicating to him
the particulars of her malady, bitterly lamenting the unfortunate
feeling that was undermining her health. After trying various remedies
without effecting much relief, a cold shower bath was recommended
every morning. In the course of ten days, the desire to commit
self-destruction was entirely removed, and never afterwards returned.

A timely-administered purge has been known to dispel the desire of
self-destruction. Esquirol knew a man who was decidedly insane whenever
he allowed his bowels to be in an inactive condition.

A patient of Falret had well-marked suicidal delirium. So urgent were
the symptoms, that he was placed under restraint and carefully watched.
Active cathartics were administered, and Falret states that the
largest tape-worm he ever saw was evacuated. The idea of suicide soon
vanished, and the man was restored in perfect health to his friends and
family.[58]

Foderé examined the bodies of three persons in one family who fell
by their own hands, and in the three cases considerable disease was
discovered in the intestinal canal, which had been irritating the brain
and disturbing its manifestations.

In the instances just referred to, the indication of physical disease
of the _primæ viæ_ were but trifling during life.

Disease of the stomach and liver frequently incite to suicide; hepatic
affections notoriously disturb the equilibrium of the mind. Many a case
exhibiting an inclination to suicide has been cured by a few doses of
blue pill. The physician should direct his attention to the condition
of the uterine function and the state of the skin. During the puerperal
state, a tendency to suicide is often manifested.

A lady, shortly after her accouchement, expressed, with great
determination, her intention to kill herself. Her bowels had not been
properly attended to, and a brisk cathartic was given. This entirely
removed the suicidal disposition.

Any irregularity in the action of the uterine organ may give rise to
the same inclination. Under such circumstances, emmenagogues will do
much good.

German writers dwell much upon the connexion between suicide and
derangement of the cutaneous secretion. That this function should also
be attended to there cannot be a doubt, although we cannot call to
mind any cases of suicide which could be directly traced to suppressed
perspiration.

In some cases, a blister applied and kept open in the neighbourhood of
the head has effected much good. In other instances, issues have been
beneficial, particularly in persons subject to cerebral congestion.
There is, however, a condition of brain accompanying the suicidal
disposition which may be denominated a state of _cerebral irritation_,
in which bleeding or depletion would be injurious. In such cases,
friction on the spine, and the administration of anti-spasmodics,
gentle aperients, and alteratives, will be serviceable.

Sufficient attention is not paid to those precursory symptoms which
indicate the existence of a disposition to suicide. In two-thirds of
the cases that occur, the act is preceded by premonitory signs, which,
if attended to, will prevent the developement of the propensity.

With very few exceptions, the mental symptoms are those which are
principally manifested in these cases. Lowness of spirits, a love of
solitude, an indisposition to follow any occupation which requires
exercise of the mind, are generally exhibited. The person’s suspicions
become roused; he fancies his dearest friends are regardless of his
interests, or are plotting against his life. He takes no pleasure in
the family circle. He may be suffering from some evident physical
malady, acting through sympathy on the brain, and deranging its
functions; and then he will often refer to his disease, and express
his utter hopelessness of ever being cured. There is an expression
of countenance generally present in a person who meditates suicide,
which, if once seen, cannot easily be forgotten. Suicidal mania is
easily recognised by the experienced physician. The surgeon of a large
establishment in the environs of the metropolis informed me, that in
six cases out of ten he could detect, by the appearance of the eye, the
existence of the desire to commit self-destruction. A young gentleman,
a few days previously, had been admitted into the house as a patient.
The surgeon, after examining and prescribing for the lunatic, said to
one of the keepers, “You must watch Mr. —— carefully, for I feel assured
he will attempt his life.” Everything with which he might injure
himself, were he so disposed, was taken from him; but it appears that
he had resolved to make away with himself, and had carefully concealed
a penknife in his boot. On the evening of the day on which he was
admitted he made a dreadful gash in his throat, but failed in injuring
any large vessel. He confessed that he had determined to sacrifice
his life; he said, “It has been pre-ordained that I should fall by my
own hands, and I am only fulfilling my destiny by cutting my throat!”
Shortly after this he was removed; and as we have been subsequently
informed, sufficient care not being taken of him, he eventually
succeeded in killing himself.

How difficult it is for the medical man to persuade the friends of
a person who has evinced a disposition to suicide, of the absolute
necessity of his being confined and carefully watched! A physician,
dining with a friend, met by accident a young lady who had exhibited,
for a few days previously, a shrewdness of manner that attracted the
notice of those with whom she associated. He also observed a wildness
and incoherence about her ideas; but what particularly struck his
attention was, the peculiar expression of countenance which so often
denotes the presence of suicidal mania.[59] He felt convinced in his
own mind that the lady meditated self-destruction; and so firmly
persuaded was he of the fact, that he seriously spoke to the gentleman
at whose table he was dining on the subject, and urged him, as he was
intimately acquainted with the young lady’s family, to suggest the
propriety of having medical advice, and of carefully watching the
movements of the lady. This suggestion was treated with ridicule,
and of course the subject was not broached again. Two days after the
conversation took place, intelligence was brought that the lady had
taken a large dose of laudanum, and had died from its effects! A little
prudent caution might have saved the life of this poor unfortunate
being.

In cases in which the disposition to suicide has been evinced, the
patient ought to be carefully watched, and, under some circumstances,
placed under restraint. Men who talk loudly of the effects of moral
coercion, and who repudiate the idea of strait-waistcoats* &c., have
had but little practical experience of the treatment of the insane.
Moral discipline has done much good. Deeply should we regret to see
the system which has been in force within our own recollection again
introduced into our lunatic asylums. In endeavouring to avoid Scylla
we have fallen into Charybdis. How many lives are lost in consequence
of the patients not being properly secured when they have exhibited a
desire to commit self-destruction.

A lady who had attempted to destroy herself was very properly sent to
an asylum. Having expressed a determination to avail herself of the
first opportunity for carrying her intentions into execution, she was
most carefully guarded. She was never allowed to be out of sight; a
trustworthy nurse always kept by her side; and in the course of time
she was pronounced recovered. But as it was not considered prudent to
send her home at once, she was separated from the other inmates of
the house, and allowed to reside with the surgeon and matron of the
establishment. Even under these circumstances it was thought better
not to allow her to be wholly by herself, fearful that the disposition
might again suddenly develope itself. She resided with the surgeon
for some weeks, and appeared completely well. She expressed much
astonishment when told that she had attempted her own life; she was
apparently horrified at the idea. She was sitting with the matron
one morning after breakfast; the surgeon was going round the asylum,
when a child was heard to cry up stairs, as if it had received some
injury. The matron immediately left the room; she was not absent
three minutes, and when she returned she was astonished to find the
young lady had vanished. Immediate search was made for her, but she
was not to be found, when, looking behind the curtain in the parlour,
the lady was discovered hanging to the cornice! In that short space
of time she had succeeded in suspending herself, and was quite dead.
Of course we cannot determine whether she had recovered, and this
was but a sudden recurrence of the suicidal mania, or whether she
had cunningly concealed her ailment for the purpose of throwing her
attendant off her guard, and thus being enabled to effect her dreadful
purpose. We should be more disposed to accede to the latter solution
of the question, knowing the extreme cunning of such lunatics, and the
ingenious stratagems they often have recourse to in order to accomplish
any mischievous object they have in view.

A person who manifested indications of mental aberration was found
in the act of hanging himself. Upon being detected, he promised most
solemnly to abandon his rash resolution. He attempted a second time to
kill himself by cutting his throat, but the wound was not fatal. He was
now placed under the care of a gentleman who had devoted much attention
to the treatment of insanity; and, knowing his propensity, the
keeper received strict injunctions to watch his movements carefully.
Everything by which he could injure himself was removed from his room,
he was shaved every day by a barber, and no instrument of any kind was
allowed to be in his possession. He was confined for nine months; and
it appeared, from what afterwards occurred, that he had, during the
whole of this period, been absorbed in the one idea of how he should
contrive to commit suicide. He was discovered one morning hanging by
the neck from the bedstead, quite dead. How he got possession of the
cord which suspended him, puzzled everybody acquainted with the history
of the case. At last the enigma was solved. It appears that parcels of
books and newspapers had occasionally been sent to him by his family,
tied with twine; and he had carefully, and unknown to the keeper,
concealed each piece, until he had collected a quantity to constitute
a cord sufficiently strong with which to hang himself. For nine
months this idea had exclusive possession of his mind; and although
he exhibited no apparent symptoms of insanity, he had evidently been
contemplating suicide for the period already specified.

A female had made repeated attempts, during her residence in the
asylum at Wakefield, to hang herself, but had been so watched that she
had not succeeded. One evening, the servant, on going to remove all her
clothes out of her bed-room, thought she saw something bright on the top
of one of her under garments; upon examination, this was found to be
a pin. She had contrived just before bed-time to take off her garter;
and, knowing that her pockets as well as her clothes would all be
removed, she contrived to pin it within her dress, so high up that it
would not easily be perceived. Very providentially, the brightness of
the metal discovered it, and she was again prevented from accomplishing
her purpose. By degrees the propensity wore off; and after a residence
of eighteen years in the Hanwell Asylum, Sir W. Ellis found her a
few years ago, living, though upwards of eighty years of age, in a
comparatively tranquil state, waiting her removal in the ordinary
course of nature.

When persons determined on suicide find that they are unceasingly
watched, and so carefully secured that they have no opportunity of
executing their design, they will assume a most cheerful manner for
days and weeks together, in order to lull suspicion; and when a
favourable opportunity offers, it is never neglected.

A man who had long been in a state of despondency, and had made many
attempts to hang himself, but had always been prevented, very suddenly
appeared much better. He became apparently cheerful, and being desirous
of employment, was sent out with a large party into the hay-field.
He continued in this and other out-door occupations for some time,
gradually improving. One evening, on returning from the field, when
the rest of the party went in to tea, (which they were allowed when
hay-making,) he told the farming man that he did not feel thirsty, and
as it was very warm he would rather remain at the door. He was left
there. A short time afterwards his keeper came down to inquire for him,
and being told where he had been left, immediately exclaimed, “Then he
has hung himself!” It was also singularly impressed upon his mind,
that it was in one particular out-house that he had done it. There he
went, and found him suspended and dead, as he expected.

“A noble lord,” (says Dr. Rowley,) “whose family I had the honour to
attend, had received, it is said, some little reproof from a great
personage, concerning a military omission. It seized his lordship’s
mind so seriously, that on examination it was evident to me that
suicide was intended. All weapons and dangerous means whatever were
removed. It being a circumstance of delicacy, I sent for his lordship’s
son, then about eighteen, from Westminster school, communicated my
apprehensions, and requested his constant attendance on his noble
parent. This the young man executed for several days, and prevented
the commission of the crime apprehended. In my absence a few hours in
the country, a very eminent, learned, and indeed remarkably sagacious
physician, but my mortal and vindictive enemy, was called in. I had,
contrary to medical _etiquette_, enforced the necessity of promptly
bleeding a most noble lady in an apoplexy, which saved life, but
brought down invectives, hatred, and vengeance on me. Whether out of
opposition to my vigilance, or from malicious motives, it would be
difficult to determine, but the noble lord was liberated from all
restraint, and my apprehensions treated by injurious insinuations and
with contempt. Thirty-six hours had scarcely elapsed before the noble
lord put a period to his existence, by a sword he had concealed, which
had been a present from Prince Ferdinand: he wounded his breast in
two places, but the third thrust pierced his heart. Thus perished a
nobleman, whose liberality, feelings, and many virtues, did honour to
human nature, and who might, in all probability, have been now living,
had not medical arrogance and illiberality, merely from personal
ambition, dictated error, at the risk of human destruction! _Horridum!
valde horridum!_”

The physician should constantly bear in mind this important fact
connected with the suicidal disposition—viz., that those determined
upon self-destruction often resolve to kill themselves in a particular
manner, and however anxious they may be to quit life, they have been
known to wait for months and years, until they have had an opportunity
of effecting their purpose according to their own preconceived notions.
A man who has attempted to drown himself will not readily be induced
to cut his throat, and _vice versa_. A morbid idea is frequently
associated in the maniac’s mind with a particular kind of death, and
if he be removed from all objects likely to awaken this notion, the
inclination to suicide may be removed.

An old man, upwards of seventy years of age, who had a market garden,
near the asylum at Wakefield, consulted the late Sir W. Ellis as to
the best mode of destroying himself, as he had made up his mind not
to live any longer. He said he had thought of hanging himself, if Sir
William could not recommend an easier death. The physician talked to
him some time upon the heinousness of the crime he contemplated, and
endeavoured to shew him that hanging was a most horrible death, from
the suffocation that must be felt. His conversation was attended with
little success. Finding that the chylopoietic viscera were a good deal
disordered, he prescribed for him, and sent to inform his wife that he
ought never to be left alone. The medicine had the effect of restoring
the secretions to a healthy action, and he got better. Sir William
heard no more of him for some time, when he was at length informed that
he was discovered dead in a little shed in his garden, where he used
to keep his tools. But so fixed was the mode in his mind, by which he
was determined to accomplish his death, that, though the place was so
low he could not stand upright in it, and he had not a rope or a string
with which he could suspend himself, he contrived to effect his purpose
by getting a willow twig, and making it into a noose, which he fastened
to one of the rafters. He stooped to put his head through it, and then
pushing his feet from under him, suspended himself until he died. Now,
if he had not made up his mind to destroy himself in this particular
way, he might have accomplished it with much greater ease by drowning
himself in the pond in his garden, or by cutting his throat with his
garden knife, which he always had about him; but neither of these was
the mode he previously intended.

It may be practically useful to all who have the immediate care of
suicidal patients to bear this in mind; and if the medical man can find
out that any particular plan is contemplated, he ought to be especially
careful to remove the means of accomplishing it out of the patient’s
reach, and to prevent him having an opportunity of carrying it into
execution.[60]

“A medical friend,” says Dr. Burrows, “who had much enjoyed life,
and never met with any circumstances to occasion him particular
disquietude, when at the age of forty-five became very dyspeptic,
low-spirited, and restless. He gradually shunned society; but still,
though with great reluctance, pursued his professional avocations. This
depression increased so much that he often told his wife that he should
consult me. (He knew very well that both his father and grandfather had
destroyed themselves.)

“One morning he kept in bed much longer than usual, and a relation
calling, went up, without being announced, to see him. He seemed
composed, at length complained of being very faint, and upon
raising him up, blood was perceived on his hands. Upon examination
it was discovered, at the moment his friend entered the chamber,
he was employed in opening the femoral artery; that there had been
considerable hemorrhage from the small vessels he had divided. I saw
him within an hour afterwards. He had recovered from the syncope, and
expressed great sorrow for what he had done; described with minuteness
his case; lamented he had not seen me sooner, but that he could not
muster sufficient resolution; consented to place himself under my
superintendence; and, in fact, to follow all my directions.

“I placed him in charge of a careful keeper. It was agreed that he
should be removed into lodgings in the environs of town; and he
therefore submitted to the necessary medical treatment.

“He remained two days at home, till lodgings could be procured, during
which he was calm and rational; but there existed the suicidal eye,
which sufficiently denoted that he was not to be trusted.

“On the third morning, his keeper, having a violent attack of
rheumatism in his right arm, could not shave him, and another person
was obliged to be trusted. This person, unfortunately, laid the razor
on the dressing-table; and, while his face was turned away, and the
keeper was heating some water a few feet from the table, the patient
suddenly jumped up, seized the razor, and in a moment applied it to his
throat, and effectually divided the carotid artery.”

A case somewhat similar we find recorded by the same authority. Major——
had been wounded at the battle of Waterloo. He had since recovered
his health, but a great depression of spirits followed. The maniacal
diathesis was hereditary. By degrees he became more desponding, his
ideas wandered, and at length a suicidal propensity was evident. On
visiting him, Dr. Burrows strongly urged the necessity of placing
him under the supervision of an experienced keeper; but here, as in
too many cases, his family opposed this advice, and would not permit
proper restraint, but put him under the care of a nurse only. In the
evening, he retired early to bed. The nurse went to tea in his chamber,
supposing her charge to be asleep. The patient watched the opportunity,
jumped out of bed, seized a knife on the table, wounded, and would have
effectually cut his throat, had not the nurse interposed.

“A clergyman in Warwickshire told me,” says Dr. Conolly, “that he was
requested, some years ago, to interfere respecting certain measures
proper for securing a neighbour who had exhibited unquestionable
symptoms of insanity. His neighbour, however, was not to be met with
on the day when it was intended to remove him, and when he reappeared,
which was either the next day or in a day or two afterwards, he was
quite in a sound state, in which condition he has lived with great
comfort up to the present time. On the other hand, an instance came
under my own observation in which a gentleman had shewn many proofs
of disordered mind for the space of three or four months, and his
actions becoming dangerous, it was resolved to remove him. About
two hours before I was to call for him, he was so quiet and orderly
in a conversation with the old family-apothecary, that the latter
gentleman rode off to the relations of the patient, relenting all
the way concerning the proposed restraint, and purposing to solicit
its postponement; in which attempt he was only prevented by being
overtaken by a messenger before he had ridden half a mile, who came
to inform him that his apparently tranquil patient had nearly blown
up his house and his whole family with gunpowder, having for that
purpose thrown a pound and a half of it into the fire, sitting by to
see it explode. In another case, a gentleman had made repeated attempts
at self-destruction, but seemed to have got well, and was no longer
much looked after; yet after living comfortably at home for a little
while, and having passed a cheerful evening in reading to his wife, he
concluded it, when she had retired, by hanging himself in the parlour.

“These lamentable accidents are, of course, always productive of
disagreeable feelings in the mind of a practitioner; but never more
so than when he has been too confident of the absence of danger. It
is questionable, perhaps, whether there are not, in all these cases,
certain means of which prudence might avail itself, for the purpose
of ascertaining the exact state of the supposed convalescent’s mind,
as well as the existence of such intentions in a lunatic as are
inconsistent with the safety of other persons, or with the preservation
of his own existence. The lunatic may maintain a very guarded silence
on these matters so long as they remain quite unsuspected, but is
not very well able, in general, to prevent his intentions becoming
visible to those who have begun to suspect him. These intentions,
too, are generally associated with certain recollections, or certain
topics, or certain antipathies or prepossessions, which may be found
out and brought into the conversation; in which case, the lunatic can
seldom conceal his agitation, his superstitious belief, his anger, or
his inly-cherished hope of full revenge. Indeed, he is often in no
degree solicitous to conceal his feelings. There cannot be anywhere
a more harmless person than Jonathan Martin; his manners are mild,
his occupations are of the most peaceful description, his language
is strikingly simple and unassuming; but take up the Bible, and you
have touched the chord of his insanity; you find that, to destroy the
noblest monuments of ancient piety and munificence seems to him a work
to which God has especially called him. The effect of possessing a key
to the excited feelings of a lunatic is, indeed, always surprising to
those unaccustomed to their peculiarities. You walk with a man who
seems to delight in the simplest pleasures of a state of innocence;
he admires the flowers of the field and the beauty of the sky, or he
dwells with satisfaction on the contemplation of whatever is generous
and good; nothing can exceed the mildness of his manner: but a
single word calculated to rouse a morbid train of ideas, a name, the
reminiscence of a place, or any trifling inadvertency, will convert
this placid being into a demon; the tones of his voice, his gestures,
his countenance, his language, assume, in a moment, the expression of
a fiend; and you discover that opportunity alone is wanting to effect
some dreadful crime. The discovery of such a design is certainly not
always so easy, but wherever suspicion exists, strict superintendence
is warranted, or various degrees of restraint must be determined upon,
and steadily adhered to.”[61]

The following cases will shew the necessity of guarding a person
by the strictest surveillance from the moment that he evinces the
slightest symptom of mental alienation, when it manifests itself by
incongruous expressions or attempts at self-destruction. This precept
should be engraven on the mind of every medical man, and no feeling
of false delicacy should prevent his communicating his suspicions and
wishes the moment he considers measures of precaution necessary. In
these cases, the loss of an hour may make all the difference between
life and death.

M. Piorry was called to the Hôtel de Bibliothèque, where he found a
man of athletic form and military appearance in a state of complete
insensibility. He manifested all the indications of apoplexy or
epilepsy. Some time elapsed before the physician could ascertain
what was the matter; he could not obtain any satisfactory answers to
his repeated questions. At last the patient made Piorry understand
that he had swallowed a key. Professor Roux was sent for, who, after
considerable difficulty, succeeded in extracting the foreign body
from the œsophagus, along with an oblong piece of copper attached
by a chain to the handle of the instrument. On the succeeding night
he made fresh attempts to destroy himself; first by hanging with the
bed-clothes, and, on that mode not proving successful, he endeavoured
to strangle himself by squeezing two chairs against his neck. Thwarted
in effecting his design, he again swallowed the key, and he was nearly
dead when he was discovered, and the key extracted from his throat. He
was now confined in a strait-waistcoat, and was subjected to proper
medical treatment. In the course of a short period, all disposition to
suicide was removed, and his mind was restored to perfect integrity.[62]

A soldier, who was greatly beloved in his regiment for his exemplary
conduct and amiable qualities, became affected with suicidal
melancholy, and fired a pistol into his mouth. The havoc made was
dreadful; but by great exertions on the part of M. Petit, who attended
the case, his life was preserved. During his confinement, he manifested
great anxiety for his recovery, and expressed himself horrified that
he should ever have attempted to commit self-destruction. The surgeon
and his friends entertained every hope that all suicidal tendency
was dissipated. The result, however, proved that the whole was a
manœuvre on the part of the patient to lull suspicion to rest, and
when he had succeeded by this dissimulation in throwing his friends off
their guard, he put an effectual period to his existence whilst in the
wards of the hospital.

The following case exhibits some practical points exceedingly worthy
of record, and displays besides, in a remarkable degree, the control a
lunatic disposed to suicide acquires over himself, his conversation,
and conduct, when he wishes to lull suspicion to sleep. In this
instance, says Dr. Burrows, who relates the particulars of the case,
a most judicious physician, and those in whom he had confidence, all
experienced in the phases of this wonderful malady, insanity, and its
no less wonderful concomitant, suicide, were completely deceived.

A medical friend of the Doctor’s, travelling over Shooter’s Hill,
observed a gentleman walking up it, his carriage following him. When
opposite to each other, the stranger suddenly fell on his knees in
the dirt, and lifted up his hands, as if in earnest prayer. The
friend stopped his post-chaise at so extraordinary a sight, and soon
found by his looks and manners that the poor gentleman was insane. He
immediately accompanied him back to London, and placed him under Dr.
B.’s care till his relations were informed of his state.

The history of the case was this:—The patient was a cavalry officer
of rank, aged thirty-five, and had particularly distinguished himself
at the recent battle of Waterloo. On that occasion he had two horses
killed under him, and was himself wounded in four places. He was first
struck on the crown of his helmet by the splinter of a shell, which
wounded the scalp and stunned him; he was next shot through the fleshy
part of the thigh by a grape shot, which at the same time killed his
first horse; from these two wounds he lost much blood. Whilst lying
under his second horse, he was pierced in the groin by a lance; and
in this helpless condition he received from a French drummer, who was
rifling the dead and dying, a violent blow on the temple from the
butt-end of a musket, from the effects of which, he remained some time
insensible. He was afterwards conveyed in a most deplorable state as a
prisoner within the French lines, and though released the same evening
by the victorious allies, a long while elapsed before his wounds and
exhausted condition received any attention.

He inherited a predisposition to insanity, and was naturally reserved,
diffident, and taciturn, but affectionate and generous.

When he recovered from his wounds, he often complained of pains in
his head; and it was observed that his temper became fretful and
suspicious; that he slept ill, was depressed in spirits, and courted
solitude. These symptoms increased latterly. At length he imagined
himself the sport of his brother officers, and many other delusions
arose.

There was a moral cause likewise operating which, on a constitution
that had recently received so severe a shock, no doubt greatly
influenced his disorder. He had applied for promotion in consequence
of his sufferings in the service. This was withheld, as he thought,
ungraciously, and too long; and when he was raised a step, his mind was
already too much disturbed duly to appreciate it. The anniversary of
the glorious battle of Waterloo was just passed, and the recollection
of it was painful to him. In this state he came to town.

He was exceedingly sober and temperate by habit; but during the day
before, with a brother officer, he was persuaded to commit an unusual
excess in wine, with the hope of raising his spirits.

This proved a match to the mine. It exploded, and his intellects became
completely deranged.

Dr. Burrows found him with his countenance very wild, the eyes injected
and pupils contracted, pulse quick and weak, tongue white, and great
thirst. He had had no sleep for five nights. Sometimes exalted,
violent, and loquacious; sometimes depressed and taciturn. He was
rather languid, which was imputed to his having lost full twenty ounces
of blood from the rupture of an hæmorrhoidal vessel.

It is not necessary to detail the medical treatment adopted, but we
will proceed to those points in the case which are relevant.

He was placed in lodgings with a careful attendant. In about three
weeks he was nearly well, when unluckily a whitlow formed on his
finger, and as one of his delusions was that he was rotten in every
part, it was the cause, besides pain, of considerable irritation, and
it broke his rest; other delusions returned, but subsided with the pain
of the whitlow, and he again greatly improved.

In six weeks he was so well that the Doctor took his leave, advising
him to travel during the remainder of the autumn. The next day some
domestic occurrence occasioned violent irritation, and he again
relapsed into despondency, unattended by paroxysms of violence; but he
shortly recovered.

However, instead of going into the country and varying the scene, his
lady brought him into town and permitted unrestricted intercourse
with his relations, &c. He grew quarrelsome, suspicious, and very
low-spirited, and began to abuse his wife. It was then earnestly
recommended that he should be completely separated from all intercourse
with her and his connexions, but the advice was disregarded.

A boil now formed on his body. This irritated him more than the
whitlow, and his delusions about his rottenness were more prominent
than ever; but when the boil suppurated and discharged, his mind again
improved.

No persuasion could induce his friends to give him exercise or
diversion, or change the scene. He therefore sat all day brooding over
his fantasies, and reading religious books; for now there was added to
his delusions an impression that he was very wicked, and had neglected
his religious duties. His face, too, assumed the suicidal expression.

A month afterwards, a consultation with two eminent physicians
confirmed Dr. Burrows’ opinion of the treatment to be pursued. But,
notwithstanding this consultation, all remedial aid was neglected,
and he was allowed to follow his own inclinations, both in religious
matters and in totally secluding himself. In about three weeks all the
symptoms were so much increased that he was sent to a private asylum.
A few days afterwards, while walking out, he tried to drown himself,
but was rescued by his keeper. He continued in this desponding state
some months, when, rather suddenly, he appeared much better; and
continuing to improve, his physician thought him well, and he returned
home. Two days only had passed, when he called on the same physician,
acknowledged that he was as bad as ever, and entreated earnestly that
he might again be received into his house. He was so on that day. The
next day he poisoned himself and died.

It proved, that he had never abandoned the desire of committing
suicide; but he so well concealed it, and otherwise conducted himself,
as to lead to the conclusion that he had recovered. It was, in fact,
a scheme, the sole object of which was to get out and buy laudanum.
Having procured a sufficient quantity, but anxious to save his wife the
agony of witnessing the act he meditated, he preferred returning to the
asylum to execute it.

A few general principles have been laid down in this chapter to direct
the practitioner in the management of certain cases of suicidal
insanity. The success of the treatment will in a great measure be
dependent on the physician making himself acquainted with the minute
history of each case submitted to his professional care. No particular
rules can be adduced that will be applicable to all cases of this
description; much must be left to the judgment of the medical man. The
physician should, however, never forget that whatever apparently may
be the physical disturbance going on in the system, the brain, and the
brain alone, is the seat of the disease in all cases of suicide, and to
the condition of that organ most particular attention ought to be paid.



CHAPTER XI.

IS THE ACT OF SUICIDE THE RESULT OF INSANITY?


  The instinct of self-preservation—The love of life—Dr.
  Wolcott’s death-bed—Anecdote of the Duke de Montebello—Louis
  XI. of France—Singular death of a celebrated lawyer—Dr.
  Johnson’s horror of dying—The organ of destruction
  universal—Illustrations of its influence—Sir W. Scott, on
  the motives that influence men in battle—Have we any test of
  insanity?—Mental derangement not a specific disease—Importance
  of keeping this in view—Insanity not always easily detected—Is
  lowness of spirits an evidence of derangement?—The cunning
  of lunatics—Esquirol’s opinion that insanity is always
  present—Moral insanity—The remarkable case of Frederick of
  Prussia—Suicide often the first symptom of insanity—Cases
  in which persons have been restored to reason from loss
  of blood, after attempting suicide—The cases of Cato, Sir
  Samuel Romilly, Lord Castlereagh, Colton, and Chatterton
  examined—Concluding remarks.

Nature has ordained no law more universal in its influence than the
desire which all animated beings display, and which is indeed the
governing principle in the greater part of their actions, to preserve
their existence, and to secure themselves from the influence of
circumstances that bring it into danger. That “no man ever yet hated
his own flesh, but nourisheth it and cherisheth it,” is an axiom laid
down in scripture, and one founded on reason and observation.[63]

One of our poets, in alluding to this subject, after declaring life to
be the dream of a shadow, “a weak-built isthmus between two eternities,
so frail that it can neither sustain wind nor wave,” yet avers his
preference of a few days’, nay, a few hours’ longer residence upon
earth to all the fame that wealth and honour could bestow—

  “Fain would I see that prodigal
  Who his to-morrow would bestow
  For all old Homer’s life, e’er since he died till now.”

“Is there anything on earth I can do for you?” said Taylor to Wolcott,
as he lay on his death-bed. The _passion for life_ dictated the answer,
“Give me back my youth?” These were the last words of the celebrated
Peter Pindar.

Dr. Johnson had a superstitious fear of death. Boswell asked him
whether we might not fortify the mind for the approach of death.
Johnson answered in a passion, “No, Sir, let it alone! It matters
not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of
importance; it lasts so short a time.” But when Boswell persisted in
the conversation, Johnson was thrown into such a state of agitation
that he thundered out, “Give us no more of this;” and turning to
Boswell, he said, with great earnestness, “Don’t let us meet to-morrow!”

          “O thou strong heart!
  There’s such a covenant ’twixt the world and thee,
  They’re loath to break!”

There is an anecdote recorded of one of the favourite marshals of
Napoleon, the Duke de Montebello, which finely illustrates the strength
of this instinctive principle. During a battle in the south of
Germany, the duke was struck by a cannon-ball, and so severely wounded
that there was no hope of his surviving. Summoning the surgeon to his
side, he ordered the wounds to be dressed; and when help was declared
to be unavailing, the dying officer, excited into frenzy by the love
of life, burned with vindictive anger against the medical attendant,
threatening the heaviest penalties if his art should bring no relief.
The dying marshal demanded that Napoleon should be sent for, as one who
had power to save, whose words could stop the effusion of blood from
the wounds, and awe nature itself into submission. Napoleon arrived in
time to witness the last fearful struggle of expiring nature, and to
hear his favourite marshal exclaim, as the lamp of life was just being
extinguished, “Save me, Napoleon!”

The following case, which occurred in humble life, illustrates the same
principle:—A man on the point of death vowed he would not die, cursing
his physician, who announced the near termination of his life, and
insisted that he would live in defiance of the laws of nature.

It is recorded of Louis XI. of France, that so desperately did he cling
to life when everything warned him to prepare for death, that he, in
accordance with the barbarous physiology of that age, had the veins of
children opened, and greedily drank their blood, hoping in that way to
fan the dying embers of life into a flame!

A once celebrated member of the English bar, whose strong original
powers of mind had been obscured and enfeebled by the gross sensuality
of his habits, in the extremity of his last illness, when the shadows
of death were fast coming over him, with a blasphemous audacity, swore
by his Creator that he _would not die_. In this state of morbid and
impious rage he struggled out of his bed, tottered down the stairs, and
fell lifeless in the passage. From the exclamation of this unfortunate
man, it would seem as if he fancied that he held the reins of life in
his hands, and could arrest at will the rapidity of its descending
career.

Spence says, that “Salvini was an odd sort of man, subject to gross
absences, and a very great sloven. His behaviour in his last hour was
as odd as any of his behaviour in all his lifetime before could have
been. Just as he was departing, he cried out in great passion, “_Je ne
veux pas mourir, absolument!_”

  “The weariest and most loathed worldly life
  That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment, can lay on man,
  Is paradise to what we fear of death.”

It is not our intention to consider this subject phrenologically. That
we have all certain good and evil propensities inherent in our nature,
developed in various degrees in different individuals, is admitted by
the anti-phrenologist, as well as by the most zealous advocate of that
science. We need no phrenology to tell us, that “the heart of man is
deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:” scripture makes
us acquainted with this fact. It is useful to look at the dark as
well as the bright side of human nature. Without, then, using _terms_
which might be considered objectionable, there can be no doubt of the
existence in the human mind of a propensity to destroy, varying in
degree from the simple pleasure of viewing the destruction of human
life, to the most impassioned desire to kill others or oneself. This is
a natural propensity, and, when not subdued by the higher faculties of
the mind, it exhibits itself in the form of unequivocal insanity. This
feeling to destroy may exist in conjunction with a consciousness on
the part of the individual that he is about to commit a crime opposed
to the laws of God and man. Dr. Gall relates many particulars of cases
in which this natural propensity became morbidly developed. A student
shocked his fellow-pupils by the extreme pleasure he took in tormenting
insects, birds, and brutes. It was to gratify this inclination, he
confessed, that he studied surgery. A man had so strong an inclination
to kill that he became an executioner; and a Dutchman paid his butcher,
who furnished ships with extensive supplies of meat, for being allowed
to slaughter the oxen. In these cases we see this natural feeling
inordinately developed. Subject such persons to the operation of causes
likely to excite this extra-developed propensity, and they will murder
others or themselves.

Gall mentions the case of a person at Vienna who, after witnessing an
execution, was seized with a propensity to kill; at the same time, he
had a clear consciousness of his situation. He wept bitterly, struck
his head, wrung his hands, and cried to his friends to take care and
get out of his way. Pinel mentions the case of a man, exhibiting
no apparent unsoundness of intellect, who confessed that he had a
propensity to kill. He nearly murdered his wife, and then attempted
several times to destroy himself.

In 1805, a man was tried at Norwich for wounding his wife and cutting
his child’s throat. He had been known to tie himself with ropes for
a week to prevent his doing mischief to others and to himself. A man
exposed to a sudden reverse of fortune was heard to exclaim, “Do, for
God’s sake, get me confined; for if I am at liberty I shall destroy
myself and wife! I shall do it, unless all means of destruction are
removed; and therefore do have me put under restraint. Something above
tells me I shall do it; and I shall!”

Whenever the mind is exposed to the influence of excited feeling, and
the operation of the reasoning powers are suspended, we see the faculty
alluded to developed according to the constitution of the individual.
On the field of battle, striking examples occur of the various energies
of this inclination. One soldier at the appearance of blood experiences
the intoxication of carnage; another will swoon at the same sight. Sir
Walter Scott, in the poem in which he has referred to the battle of
Bannockburn, alludes to the various feelings that influence the mind
in the heat of an engagement; and it will be perceived that he directs
particular attention to those who are influenced by no other motive
than the pleasure they derive from sacrificing human life:—

  “But, oh! amid that waste of life,
  What various motives fired the strife!
  The aspiring noble _bled for fame_,
  The patriot for his country’s claim;
  This knight his youthful strength to prove,
  And that to earn his lady’s love;
  _Some fought for ruffian thirst of blood_;
  From habit some, or hardihood;
  But ruffian stern, and soldier good,
    The noble and the slave,
  From various cause the same wild road
  On the same bloody morning trode
    To that dark inn, the grave.”

What conclusion are we justified in drawing from the facts just
related? Certainly, that there is in us all a disposition to destroy,
which is in some wisely and providentially restrained. If this view
of the matter be correct, we do not think that we should be wrong in
concluding that by far the great majority of cases of suicide result
from a morbid development of this natural feeling, consequent upon a
primary or secondary affection of the brain. This subject is of great
interest in a medico-legal point of view, and is well deserving of
serious consideration.

Is the act of suicide an evidence of mental derangement? Before this
question can be satisfactorily answered, it would be necessary for
us to consider that _vexata questio_—what is insanity? Have we an
unfailing standard to which to appeal; an infallible _test_ by which
we can ascertain, with anything like a proximity to truth, the sanity
of any mind? Perhaps, if we were to assert that we considered it
impossible to point out the line of demarcation which separates the
confines of a sane and insane condition of the mind, we might lay
ourselves open to an attack. Again, were we bold enough to proclaim
our non-adherence to what is considered as the orthodox faith in this
matter, and assert that we viewed every departure from a healthy tone
of mind, whether in its intellectual or moral manifestations, as an
evidence of insanity, we might still more expose ourselves to the
merciless lash of the critic; yet these are the opinions to which we
should feel most disposed to give our assent. We must make a marked
distinction between insanity considered as a _legal_ and as a _medical_
question; and it is greatly owing to our not keeping this essential
difference in mind that so much useless reasoning and vituperation
has arisen. The man who is daily exposed to the kind and cheering
influence of friendship, and who fancies himself alone in the world,
without one human being to sympathize with him in his afflictions, is
as essentially mad as he is who imagines himself to be made of glass,
and is fearful of sitting down lest he should injure his brittle glutei
muscles. A poet of antiquity wrote a book describing the miseries of
the world, and destroyed himself at the conclusion of the task.

“No man who is oppressed with grief,” Crichton justly observes, “and
who is constantly preyed on by mental and bodily pain, can be supposed
capable of exercising his judgment at all times correctly; a fresh
misfortune, imaginary or real, excites an irresistible desire of
relief. Tired out, hopeless, dismayed by the threatening aspect of many
a bursting cloud; discerning nothing, whichever way he looks, but a
dreary and comfortless life, how can he be supposed capable of taking
a clear, calm, and comprehensive view of the obligations he owes to
his Creator or society, or of reflecting on the sudden vicissitudes
which daily occur in human life, and on which every man may safely form
some hope, even in the most distressed situation? The wretchedness of
life is the only picture present to the mind of one in whom grief has
terminated in such a state of deep melancholy; the only objects of
comparison are the misery of existence on the one hand, and the relief
he can obtain by withdrawing himself from it on the other.”

Insanity results from a disease of the brain. Although after death,
in many cases, no appreciable structural lesion can be detected in
the cerebral mass, it would be illogical for us to conclude that the
sentient organ has not been physically affected. Derangement of mind
is but the effect of physical disease, and, like all other diseases,
it has an early as well as an advanced stage. Medical men have not
paid sufficient attention to the premonitory indications of mental
alienation. Having erected an arbitrary standard of derangement in
their own minds, they have been disposed to consider no deviation from
mental soundness as insanity, unless it exhibited the symptoms which
their preconceived ideas had led them to suppose necessary, in order
to constitute that disease. They have argued as if insanity were a
specific disease invariably manifesting the same phenomena, and in
this way definitions have been framed, by which the soundness of the
intellect has been tested. It is hardly necessary to say how fallacious
all such tests must be. The brain, like every other organ, is liable
to a variety of diseases, in all of which the mental faculties are
more or less affected. The danger of attempting to erect an arbitrary
standard of insanity is this: it induces us to overlook the incipient
symptoms of mental derangement, and to consider no deviation from
soundness of intellect as insanity which does not come within the
scope of our definition. The early symptoms of mental aberration are
as much an evidence of the presence of insanity, as when the disease
is more advanced, and the indications become so apparent that no one
hesitates in pronouncing the individual mad. Medical men who have
maintained that the act of suicide is not invariably the result of
insanity have argued as if the mental ailment was always self-evident
and easily detected; whereas, those who have had any experience in the
matter know full well, that occasionally there are no diseases more
difficult of detection than those which relate to a morbid condition of
the mind. If an act of suicide has been committed, and the individual
at the moment of perpetrating it did not manifest evident symptoms of
insanity, the conclusion drawn is, that he was perfectly sane at the
time. That the facts of the case do not warrant this inference must
be apparent to those who consider the subject in an enlarged point of
view. If we examine attentively the majority of cases of suicide, we
shall find that the unfortunate persons have laboured, either for some
time previously or at the very moment, under depression of spirits,
anxiety of mind, and other symptoms of cerebral derangement. Very few
cases of suicide take place in which you cannot trace the existence
of previous mental depression, produced either by physical or moral
agents. It may be said that lowness of spirits is not insanity;
certainly not, according to the _legal_ definition of the term; but
we may always be assured, that if mental anxiety or perturbation be
more than commensurate with the exciting cause, it may be presumed
that the individual is labouring under the incipient indications of
insanity.[64] This view of the case is strengthened if an hereditary
predisposition to the disease should also be present.

“It will be said,” says Esquirol, “that there are individuals who,
in the midst of affluence, grandeur, and pleasures, and in the full
enjoyment of reason, have suddenly put an end to their existence,
immediately after parting with their friends in good spirits, or after
having written letters on business with perfect correctness. Can these
be said to be insane when they commit suicide? Yes; most undoubtedly.
Do not monomaniacs appear perfectly sane on all other subjects,
till the particular idea is started which forms the burden of their
hallucination? Are they not capable of curbing the expression of their
delirium, and dissembling their aberration of intellect? It is the
same with sane individuals, over whom the suicidal idea tyrannizes.
A physical pain, an unexpected impression, a moral affection, a
recollection, an indiscreet proposition, the perusal of a passage in
writing, will occasionally revive the thought and provoke the act
of suicide, although the individual the instant before should be in
perfect integrity of mind and body.”

In general, most persons actually insane wish not only to be esteemed
free from the malady, but to be considered as possessing considerable
intellectual endowments; hence, _real_ lunatics seldom allow the
existence of their lunacy; but are always endeavouring to conceal from
observation those lapses of thought, memory, and expression, which are
tending every moment to betray them, and of the presence of which they
are much oftener conscious than is generally apprehended or believed.
Alexander Cruden, when suffering under his second and last attack of
mental aberration, upon being asked whether he ever was mad, replied:
“I am as mad now as I was formerly, and as mad then as I am now, that
is to say, _not mad at any time_.”

Again, medical men who have reasoned against this opinion have
forgotten entirely one peculiar, and a very remarkable feature of
insanity—viz., the singular cunning of lunatics; how extremely
difficult it is in many cases where _we know_ the individual to
be unquestionably mad, to make his delusion apparent. The case of
the lunatic who indicted Dr. Monro for confining him in his asylum
has often been cited. He brought an action against the Doctor at
Westminster; and, although the man was subjected to a most severe
examination and cross-examination, his insanity could not be detected.
The trial was on the eve of being concluded, when Dr. Sims entered the
court, and knowing the man’s peculiar delusion, he was requested to ask
him a question. He did so, and his insanity instantly became apparent.
He brought another action against Dr. Monro in the city of London, and,
knowing that he had failed before by acknowledging his love for an
imaginary princess, so remarkable a degree of cunning did he exhibit
that one of the severest examinations to which a man was ever subjected
in a court of justice could not induce the lunatic to disclose the
delusion under which he was known to labour. This curious feature of
insanity must be taken into consideration in forming an estimate of the
presence of derangement in cases of suicide, and we must not hastily
conclude, because insanity is not _self-evident_, that it does not
exist.

A merchant, fifty-five years of age, of a strong constitution,
although of a lymphatic temperament, mild and gentle in his
disposition, the father of a numerous family, and who had acquired a
considerable fortune in business, experienced some domestic troubles,
not sufficiently serious, however, to affect any one of a resolute
character. About a year ago, he formed a large establishment for one
of his sons, and shortly afterwards became very active, and expressed,
contrary to his usual habits, the delight which he felt at his
increasing prosperity. He was also more frequently absent from his
warehouse and business than usual. But notwithstanding these trifling
changes, neither his family, nor any of his friends or neighbours,
suspected any disorder of his reason. One day, whilst he was from home,
a travelling merchant brought to his house two pictures, and asked
fifty louis for them, which he said was the price agreed on by a very
respectable gentleman who had given his name and address. His son sent
away both the pictures and the seller. On his return, the father did
not mention his purchase; but the children began the conversation,
alluding to the roguery of the merchant, and their refusal to pay him.
The father became very angry, asserting that the pictures were very
beautiful, that they were not dear, and that he was determined to
purchase them. In the evening, the dispute became warmer, the patient
flew into a passion, uttered threats, and at last became delirious.
On the next day, he was confided to Esquirol’s care. His children,
frightened at their father’s illness, and alarmed at the purchase
which he had made, looked through their accounts; and great was their
astonishment at seeing the bad state of their books, the numerous
blanks which they presented, and the immense deficiency of cash. This
irregularity had existed for more than six months. Had this discussion
not taken place, one of the most honourable mercantile houses would
have been compromised in a few days; for a bill of exchange of a
considerable amount had become due, and no means had been taken to
provide for it.

A patient has been known to weep, and affect the deepest contrition
for attempting suicide, when it has been proved that all the time he
was meditating on the means of accomplishing his design. A workman was
admitted into a French hospital, having a third time attempted his
life. He appeared deeply mortified and broken-hearted that he should
have suffered a relapse, and was much affected by the remonstrances of
his physician. He promised faithfully, in tears, to abandon his rash
resolve. Ten minutes afterwards, whilst on his road home, he perceived
a piece of cord; he seized it, made a noose, put his head into it, and
suspended himself from the branch of a tree, where he was found dead!
Cases illustrative of the same fact are mentioned in another part of
this work.

Again, we must bear in mind that insanity is often as much a disease of
the _moral_ as of the intellectual faculties, and that it is possible
for the intellect to be perfectly sound, and yet for insanity to be
present. Moral derangement has not met with that consideration from
the profession which its importance demands. Insanity often consists
in a vitiated condition of the moral principle, independently of
any delusion of the intellect; and in many cases of suicide, if we
investigate their history, we shall find that the alienation has been
of this character. A man, whose disposition naturally disposed him
to vice, fancied that he had been guilty of committing a nameless
offence, and, whilst labouring under this idea, blew out his brains.
In this case, the intellect was unaffected; the derangement consisted
in a perversion of the moral powers. Senile insanity, which has been
recognised in our courts of law, is a derangement of the moral
constitution. In cases of this description, it is possible for the
person to be conscious of his infirmity, and to confess, with great
apparent regret, his inability to control his feelings. “I am impotent,
and not fit to live,” said a man, and accordingly cut his throat.
If we admit the existence of an insanity which consists solely in a
perversion of the moral powers, then we should hesitate in pronouncing
_ex cathedrâ_ that insanity is not present because no derangement of
the intellectual faculties can be perceived.

Dr. T. Mayo observes, that “no intellectual delusion need be present
when self-destruction is coveted. But there must be an extinction
of that moral sense which revolts from it on grounds independent of
fear. Owing, however, to the systematic neglect of moral symptoms, the
suicide is seldom recognised as possessing this destructive tendency
until he has made an attempt upon his life; often, therefore, until all
measures must be too late.”

A very common feature of moral mania is a deep perversion of the
social affections, whereby the feelings of kindness and attachment
that flow from the relations of father, husband, and child, are
replaced by a perpetual inclination to tease, worry, and embitter the
existence of others. The ordinary scene of its manifestations is the
patient’s own domestic circle, the peace and happiness of which are
effectually destroyed by the outbreakings of his ungovernable temper,
and even by acts of brutal ferocity. Frederic William of Prussia,
father of Frederic the Great, undoubtedly laboured under this form
of moral mania; and it furnishes a satisfactory explanation of his
brutal treatment of his son, and his utter disregard of the feelings
or comfort of any other member of his family. About a dozen years
before his death, his health gave way under his constant debauches
in drunkenness; he became hypochondriacal, and redoubled his usual
religious austerities. He forbade his family to talk of any subject
but religion, read them daily sermons, and compelled them to sing,
punishing with the utmost severity any inattention to these exercises.
The prince and his elder sister soon began to attract a proportionate
share of his hostility. He obliged them to eat and drink unwholesome or
nauseous articles, and would even spit in their dishes, addressing them
only in the language of invective, and at times endeavouring to strike
them with his crutch. About this time he attempted to strangle himself,
and would have accomplished his design had not the queen come to his
rescue. His brutality towards the prince arrived to such a pitch that
he one morning seized him by the collar as he entered his bed-chamber,
and began to beat him with a cane in the most cruel manner, till
obliged to desist from pure exhaustion. On another occasion, shortly
after, he seized his son by the hair, and threw him on the ground,
beating him till he was tired, when he dragged him to a window,
apparently for the purpose of throwing him out. A servant hearing the
cries of the prince, came to his assistance, and delivered him from
his hands. Not satisfied with treating him in this barbarous manner,
he connived at the prince’s attempts to escape from his tyranny, in
order that he might procure from a court-martial a sentence of death;
and this even he was anxious to anticipate by endeavouring to run him
through the body with his sword. Not succeeding in procuring his death
by judicial proceedings, he kept him in confinement, and turned all
his thoughts towards converting him to Christianity. At this time, we
first find mention of any delusion connected with his son, though it
probably existed before. In his correspondence with the chaplain to
whom he had entrusted the charge of converting the prince, he speaks
of him as one who had committed many and heinous sins against God and
the king, as having a hardened heart, and being in the fangs of Satan.
Even after he became satisfied with the repentance of the prince, he
shewed no disposition to relax the severities of his confinement. He
was kept in a miserable room, deprived of all the comforts and many of
the necessaries of life, denied the use of pens, ink, and paper, and
allowed scarcely food enough to prevent starvation. His treatment of
the princess was no less barbarous. She was also confined, and every
effort used to make her situation thoroughly wretched, and though,
after a few years, he relaxed his persecution of his children, the
general tenour of his conduct towards his family and others evinced
little improvement in his disorder, till the day of his death.[65]

In considering this point it is important to remember that _the
attempt at self-destruction is_ OFTEN _the_ FIRST _distinct overt act
of insanity_. A young lady of delicate constitution, but previously
in apparent health, started up one day from the tea-table, rushed to
the window, and endeavoured to throw herself out. It required several
persons to restrain her until a strait-waistcoat could be procured. She
remained insane from that time until the day of her death, with very
partial glimmerings of reason. “Fortunately,” says Mr. Chevalier, who
relates the case, “her life was not long protracted.”

It has been inferred, that when an unsuccessful act of suicide has been
committed, and the person expresses his regret for what he has been
guilty of, that we are justified in concluding that the mind was sane
when the suicide was attempted. The effort which Sir Samuel Romilly is
said to have made to stop the hemorrhage after having cut his throat,
has been cited by a celebrated living authority as an evidence of his
previous sanity.[66] We must bear in mind that many cases of suicide
result from derangement of mind dependent on cerebral congestion.

In such cases, we can imagine a person insane when the act of
self-destruction is attempted, and sane immediately afterwards. The
loss of blood which a person would sustain from an extensive wound of
the throat, particularly when, as is often the case, some large vessel
is wounded, would instantly relieve the brain of the superabundant
blood which had been oppressing it, and deranging its manifestations,
and thus producing a return of sanity. That this was the fact in Sir
Samuel Romilly’s case is evident from its history. There cannot be a
shadow of doubt that he was insane when he cut his throat; and his
apparent desire to live after the act was committed, may be attributed
to the relief which he had derived from the loss of blood.

Mr. T. Miller, of Spalding, in a fit of delirium, cut his throat so
dreadfully that after languishing three days, he died. He manifested
during this interval the utmost contrition for his offence, declaring
he knew not what he had done until he found the blood streaming from
his wound. He dictated his will, and talked rationally with his friends
till his dissolution.[67]

A merchant in the city, not many months back, met with some losses
in business. His mind became affected to a certain extent; he felt
a strong desire to kill himself; but being a man of education and
enlarged capacity, he fought most resolutely against this inclination.
He had been exposed during one day to the influence of circumstances
which caused great mental depression. He said to his head-clerk,
previously to his leaving his counting-house, that his head felt heavy
and oppressed, and he had a _presentiment_ that something would happen
before the morning. The clerk suggested the propriety of his having
medical advice, but he did not think proper to do so. In this state he
went to bed. In the middle of the night he awoke in a state of extreme
agitation; no language could convey an adequate idea of his feelings,
and suicide was the only act which held out the hope of relief. In this
state he rose from his bed, called up the servants, and commanded them
to run for the surgeon. A professional gentleman who lived close by
was soon in attendance, and the moment he entered the room the patient
exclaimed, “Bleed me, or I shall cut my throat!” The operation was
instantly performed, and as the blood flowed from the vein the patient
exclaimed, “Thank God! I have been saved from committing self-murder.”
Every disposition to suicide was immediately removed.

The following is an extract of a letter found in the pocket of Captain
Aitkins, of the Pembroke Fusileers, who committed suicide:—“As some
inquiry may be instituted as to the cause of my death, I think it
necessary to state that it was inflicted by my own hand, partly from
pecuniary embarrassment, and partly from the effect of _strong nervous
malady_, which has fixed itself on my spirits so as to render life
insupportable.” In this case we have no hesitation in asserting, that
if the brain could have been relieved of the unnatural weight which
oppressed it, this poor man would not have stained his hand with his
own blood.

In many cases the delusion of the intellect is so self-evident that no
one questions the existence of insanity. A respectable Scotch merchant,
near Pimlico, committed suicide by cutting his throat. He fancied the
devil was in him; he asserted he could feel him in his throat. On
examining his room after his death, two wills were discovered, in one
of which he desires his executors to employ a surgeon to open his body,
that the devil might be found, secured, and destroyed; and in this way,
he says, he will be prevented from injuring any one else.

Many other cases could be cited in which the act of suicide was clearly
traceable to mental derangement, were it considered necessary further
to illustrate this point. Much evil has resulted from the opinions
which the profession have entertained relative to the absence of
insanity in cases of those who have exhibited a disposition to destroy
themselves. In this matter, the principle which the great Edmund Burke
applied to politics is equally applicable to medicine—“We had better be
blamed for too anxious apprehension, than be ruined by too confident a
security.”

It is a safe doctrine always to presume the presence of insanity
in those who have exhibited a desire to commit suicide. A person
who has once attempted to take away his life cannot be trusted,
notwithstanding he manifest the usual evidences of a sane intellect. It
is astonishing to consider the ingenious tricks and stratagems to which
a person whose mind is bent on self-destruction will have recourse in
order to effect his purpose. We find recorded the case of a woman who
was tried for her life, and who, in order that she might escape from
the hands of the executioner, applied a hundred leeches to her body,
hoping to bleed to death. Another female exposed herself to a swarm
of bees; and we read of an apothecary who endeavoured to beat out his
brains with his own pestle.

A builder, who had been found fault with by his employer, became
melancholy, and finally determined upon self-destruction. He hurried
to a steep part of the high road, where vehicles of all descriptions
were compelled to put on the drag in the descent. Here he waited
until a heavily loaded wagon reached the spot, when he seized hold of
one of the wheels that was not locked, and applying his body to the
circumference, was instantly crushed.

A woman cut her throat severely, but not fatally. Her friends could
not be prevailed on to believe that she was insane. She recovered,
but shewed such evidences of that unhappy condition, through the
whole progress of her cure, as were sufficiently unambiguous to every
competent judge. She had speculated unsuccessfully in the lottery,
and it was insisted that the rash act was solely to be ascribed to
her disappointment in this venture. Soon after her recovery, and
when her affairs had assumed a more comfortable train, she went up
one day into her bed-room, and being thought to stay longer than was
necessary, a person went to see after her, and found her sitting before
a dressing-glass, with a basin under her chin, and a knife in her hand,
cutting her throat again, as deliberately as a surgeon would have
performed an operation. She recovered this time also, and afterwards
made a third and successful attempt.

A maniac who was extremely turbulent, and had evinced a strong
propensity to destroy himself, was confined, and everything taken from
him which could be imagined in any way capable of being instrumental
for such a purpose. He was remarked on one occasion to be unusually
quiet, and on his keeper looking through an aperture in his apartment,
he discovered him scooping out his eyes with a bit of broken china
found by him in the mattress, which he had torn to pieces; and with his
face full in the glare of the sun, he had completely accomplished this
horrid act before the door could be opened to secure him.

A gentleman of some political consequence in France had an attack
of apoplexy, from which he recovered by copious bloodletting. Some
years afterwards, he had a fall from his horse, and was wounded
severely in his head, the injury occasioning fever and delirium of
some weeks’ duration. After this accident, he evinced some marks of
mental aberration. He threw up his post under government, and retired
to his chateau in the country, for the purpose of concocting, as he
said, a scheme for _uniting the people of all nations_. To prepare a
suitable edifice for this philanthropic union, he began to pull down
his chateau; but being interrupted by his friends, he came to Paris,
and one day jumped off the Pont-Neuf into the middle of the Seine. He
swam manfully, and reached the shore in safety. He was so proud of this
exploit that he considered himself invulnerable, and began next day to
run in the way of carriages or fiacres he met in the street, calling to
the drivers that they need not mind him, as he could not be injured!
He was seized and carried home, but in a day or two jumped out of the
chamber window into the street. He was then placed in M. Esquirol’s
establishment, and considered as an incurable maniac.

During the French revolution, a case of mania without delirium gave
rise to an extraordinary scene at the Asylum de Bicêtre. The mob, after
the massacre of the prisons, broke like madmen into the above hospital,
under pretence of emancipating certain victims of the old tyranny,
whom it had endeavoured to confound with the maniacal residents of
that house. They proceeded in arms from cell to cell, interrogating
the prisoners, and passing such of them as were manifestly insane. A
maniac, bound in chains, arrested their attention by the most bitter
complaints which he preferred, with apparent justice and rationality.
“Is it not shameful,” said he, “that I should be bound in chains, and
confounded with madmen.” He defied them to accuse him of any act of
impropriety or extravagance. “It is an instance of the most flagrant
injustice!” He conjured the strangers to put an end to such oppression,
and to become his liberators. His complaints excited amongst the armed
mob loud murmurs and imprecations against the governor of the hospital.
They immediately sent for that gentleman, and, with their sabres at
his breast, demanded an explanation of his conduct. When he attempted
to justify himself, they imposed silence upon him. To no purpose did
he adduce, from his own experience, similar instances of maniacs who
were free from delirium, but at the same time extremely dangerous from
their outrageous passions. They answered him only with abuse; and had
it not been for the courage of his wife, who protected him with her own
person, he would have been sacrificed to their fury. They commanded him
to release the maniac, whom they led in triumph with reiterated shouts
of “Vive la République!” The sight of so many armed men, their loud and
confused shouts, and their faces flushed with wine, roused the madman’s
fury. He seized with a vigorous grasp the sabre of his next neighbour,
brandished it about with great violence, and wounded several of his
liberators. Had he not been promptly mastered, he would soon have made
them repent their ill-timed humanity. The savage mob then thought
proper to lead him back to his cell, and, with shame and reluctance,
yielded to the voice of justice and experience.

Many modern and ancient cases of suicide have been referred to in
support of the opinion that insanity is not necessarily present under
such circumstances. The conclusions drawn from the history of ancient
cases, such as Cato, Cleopatra, Cassius, &c., cannot fairly be made use
of in the present inquiry; and yet if we examine these instances, which
have been so triumphantly brought forward as incontrovertible proofs
that it is possible for a person with a mind perfectly unclouded and
free from even the semblance of aberration to commit suicide, we shall
discover that they are not such good illustrations in support of the
doctrines which they who cite them are anxious to uphold.

The suicide of Cato has often been referred to, and is considered a
most apt and conclusive instance in point. We admit this case is one
of great importance, inasmuch as it has been held up as an example to
others of a man who sacrificed his own life to promote the interests
of his country. How many have been induced to plunge recklessly into
another world in imitation of the conduct of the Roman hero!

Was Cato perfectly sane when he sacrificed his life? We are disposed
to think not. His whole conduct immediately preceding the last fatal
act of his life evinces the extreme mental agitation under which he
laboured; despair had taken possession of his faculties; the ambition
and the hopes of years were prostrated in a moment to the dust, and to
escape from a long life of tyranny, he perished on his own sword.

Many modern cases have been cited as evidence of the coolness and
collectedness which many have exhibited in the act of suicide. The
Rev. Mr. Colton, the accomplished author of “Lacon,” is said to have
been sane when he committed self-destruction. He shot himself with a
pistol after having written the following apophthegm: “When life is
unbearable, death is desirable, and suicide justifiable.” The last few
weeks of Colton’s life were embittered by acute mental and physical
suffering. He was involved in great pecuniary difficulties, and was
dependent for the necessaries of life on the charity of his friends.
Independently of this, he laboured under a very painful disease, and
it was when exposed to this combination of misery that he committed
suicide. His biographer states that there was no doubt of Colton’s
insanity at the time of his death; it was evident to all who were
about him. The evidence in Sir Samuel Romilly’s case is as strongly
corroborative of his derangement as in that of poor Colton’s. At the
time, he was suffering from the loss of a wife to whom he was most
dotingly attached, and the cerebral derangement was so apparent that
his physician ordered him to be cupped in the nape of the neck a short
period previously to his killing himself. Lord Castlereagh’s insanity
was also clearly manifested. His whole conduct on the day he cut his
throat led irresistibly to the conclusion that he was not in his right
senses. His strange manner was noticed some time previously in the
House of Commons. The Duke of Wellington saw the necessity of medical
advice, and had a physician sent to him; in fact, the evidence was as
strong as evidence could be, and no one at the time questioned the
correctness of the verdict. There were many peculiar circumstances
connected with his lordship’s early history which ought to be borne in
mind before we conclude that he was of sane mind at the moment of his
suicide.

It is now more than thirty-five years ago that the following singular
circumstance occurred to the Marquis of Londonderry: He was on a visit
to a gentleman in the north of Ireland. The mansion was such a one
as spectres are fabled to inhabit. The apartment, also, which was
appropriated to his lordship was calculated to foster such a tone of
feeling from its antique character; from the dark and richly carved
panels of its wainscot; from its yawning chimney, looking like the
entrance to a tomb; from the portraits of grim men and women arrayed in
orderly procession along the walls, and scowling a contemptuous enmity
against the degenerate invader of their gloomy bowers and venerable
halls; and from the vast, dusky, ponderous, and complicated draperies
that concealed the windows, and hung with the gloomy grandeur of
funeral trappings about the hearse-like piece of furniture that was
destined for his bed. Lord Londonderry examined his chamber; he made
himself acquainted with the forms and faces of the ancient possessors
of the mansion as they sat upright in their ebony frames to receive
his salutation; and then, after dismissing his valet, he retired to
bed. His candle had not long been extinguished when he perceived a
light gleaming on the draperies of the lofty canopy over his head.
Conscious that there was no fire in his grate; that the curtains
were closed; that the chamber had been in perfect darkness but a few
minutes previously, he supposed that some intruder must have entered
into his apartment; and, turning round hastily to the side from whence
the light proceeded, he, to his infinite astonishment, saw not the
form of any human visitor, but the figure of a fair boy surrounded
by a halo of glory. The spirit stood at some distance from his bed.
Certain that his own faculties were not deceiving him, but suspecting
he might be imposed on by the ingenuity of some of the numerous guests
who were then inmates of the castle, Lord Londonderry advanced towards
the figure; it retreated before him; as he advanced, the apparition
retired, until it entered the gloomy arch of the capacious chimney,
and then sunk into the earth. Lord Londonderry returned to his bed,
but not to rest; his mind was harassed by the consideration of the
extraordinary event which had occurred to him. Was it real, or the
effect of an excited imagination? The mystery was not so easily solved.

He resolved in the morning to make no allusion to what had occurred
the previous night, until he had watched carefully the faces of all
the family, to discover whether any deception had been practised. When
the guests assembled at breakfast, his lordship searched in vain for
those latent smiles, those conscious looks, that silent communication
between parties, by which the authors and abettors of such domestic
conspiracies are generally betrayed. Everything apparently proceeded in
its ordinary course; the conversation was animated and uninterrupted,
and no indication was given that any one present had been engaged in
the trick. At last, the hero of the tale found himself compelled to
narrate the singular event of the preceding night. He related every
particular connected with the appearance of the spectre. It excited
much interest among the auditors, and various were the explanations
offered. At last, the gentleman who owned the castle interrupted the
various surmises by observing that “the circumstance which had just
been recounted must naturally appear very extraordinary to those who
have not been inmates long at the castle, and are not conversant with
the legends of his family;” then, turning to Lord Londonderry, he
said, “You have seen the Radiant Boy. Be content; it is an omen of
prosperous fortunes. I would rather that this subject should not again
be mentioned.”[68]

The case of Chatterton—

          “The marvellous boy,
  The sleepless soul that perish’d in his pride”—

has been adduced; but no one acquainted with the history of this
unfortunate youth would doubt for one moment that he was insane.
Chatterton possessed naturally acute sensibilities; he was
unquestionably a man of genius. When the forgery of Rowley’s poems was
detected, his mind received a severe shock; friend after friend forsook
him. All his bright and cheering hopes were levelled to the earth; his
character for integrity was gone; the world, which had been so eager to
court his society and friendship, turned its back upon him; misfortunes
followed in rapid succession, until he was frenzied by mental agony
and physical suffering. At the time of his death he was in want of the
common necessaries of life, realizing the affecting picture of the poet—

  “Homeless, near a thousand homes he stood,
  And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.”

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that poor Chatterton’s
mind should have been overthrown, and that he should have been led to
commit suicide. A few days before his death, he wrote to his mother
in these terms:—“I am about to quit for ever my ungrateful country.
I shall exchange it for the deserts of Africa, where tigers are a
thousand times more merciful than man.” A very important fact connected
with Chatterton’s case ought to be borne in mind—viz., that insanity
was in his family.

We have entered at some length into the consideration of this
question, because we felt it to be one of great importance. In forming
an estimate of the condition of a person’s mind who has committed
suicide, the coroner and jury should make particular inquiries into
the following points:—First, as to state of mind for some time prior
to the act. In many, and in fact, in all cases, if proper evidence
can be obtained, it will be discovered that the person has laboured
under depression of spirits, either resulting from physical or mental
causes. Inquiry should be instituted as to the presence of any
disease of the stomach or liver which may have operated injuriously
on the mind. In many cases it will be found that the suicide has
received at some period of his life a blow on his head, giving rise
to cerebral injury, which may remain latent for a great length of
time, and suddenly manifest itself. Is insanity, particularly suicidal
insanity, in the family? What was the person’s natural character? Was
he liable to sudden bursts of passion? Had his mind been dwelling on
the subject of suicide? Was he monomaniacal, or remarkable for any
peculiar eccentricity? All these various but important questions should
be carefully sifted, should the coroner entertain any doubts as to
the presence of mental derangement in such cases. In another chapter
we have considered the unjustifiableness of a jury ever returning a
verdict of _felo-de-se_.



CHAPTER XII.

SUICIDE IN CONNEXION WITH MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE.


  The importance of medical evidence—The questions which medical
  men have to consider in these cases—Signs of death from
  strangulation—Singular positions in which the bodies of those
  who have committed suicide have been found—The particulars of
  the Prince de Condé’s case—On the possibility of voluntary
  strangulation—General Pichegru’s singular case—The melancholy
  history of Marc Antonie Calas—How to discover whether a person
  was dead before thrown into water—Singular cases—Admiral
  Caracciolo—Drowning in a bath—The points to keep in view in
  cases of suspicious death—Was Sellis murdered?—Death from
  wounds—The case of the Earl of Essex.

Medical men are frequently called upon in our courts of law to give
evidence in cases where it is doubtful whether persons found dead
were murdered or committed suicide. The questions involved in these
judicial inquiries are of great public importance, and it is the sacred
duty of medical men, for the sake of their own characters, and for a
much higher consideration—for the ends of justice, to make themselves
thoroughly conversant with all the evidence which can be brought to
bear in the elucidation of such important questions. Our criminal
annals are replete with illustrations in which individuals accused
of the atrocious crime of murder have been saved from a dreadful and
ignominious death by medical evidence. Cases also are recorded in which
death has been ascribed to suicide, but which after investigation have
been proved to have been effected by other hands. In doubtful cases
of this description, the evidence of the medical man is of the highest
importance; without it, in the great majority of cases, justice would
be defeated.

In the cases of persons found hanging, two questions naturally suggest
themselves to the mind:—1. Whether the individual was suspended before
or after death. 2. Whether it was an act of suicide or murder. It is
possible, and such cases have occurred, that a person may have been
hanged up after having been murdered, or may have endeavoured to
destroy himself by firearms, or by cutting his throat, and suspend
himself afterwards, not being able to effect his purpose in any other
way. In the first case we might mistake murder for suicide; and in
the second, suicide for assassination. The following are the signs
of death from strangulation:—The countenance is livid and distorted;
the eyes protrude, and are often suffused with blood; the tongue
projects and is wounded by the teeth. If the rope be placed below the
cricoid cartilage, the tongue will protrude; but if it presses above
the thyroid cartilage, the tongue will not be seen in the position
described. It was formerly the generally received opinion that persons
who were hanged died of apoplexy; but the experiments of Sir B.
Brodie and other physiologists clearly prove that death is owing to
suffocation. The livid or depressed circle which the rope is said to
make round the neck is pronounced by M. Klein to be an uncertain sign;
he saw fifteen cases of suicide in which it was not discovered. Remer,
of Breslaw, who has recently directed his mind to the consideration
of this important point, found, out of one hundred cases of persons
who died from strangulation, eighty-nine with sugillation on the neck
in an evident manner. In addition to the signs mentioned, others have
been enumerated. The fingers are said to be found bent, the nails blue,
hands nearly closed, with swelling of the chest, shoulders, arms, and
hands.

If the body be not suspended, but touches, more or less, the ground
or floor, while the cord is not tight enough for the purpose of
strangulation, and there be no manifestations of any other means of
death, there can hardly be room to doubt as to self-murder. It is
true that the mere resting of the toes takes away but little of the
character of suspension, but we may meet with stronger cases. A few
years ago, a man, aged seventy-five, destroyed himself at Castle Cary,
in the morning, by fixing a cord round his neck while sitting on the
bed-side, and leaning forward till his purpose was accomplished. His
wife, who had for years been bedridden, and was therefore not likely to
have been very fast asleep, was in the room during the transaction, and
knew nothing of what was going on. A prisoner hung himself in a gaol by
fastening the cord to one of the window-bars, and pushing himself away
from it with his arm.

Persons have both wounded and hung themselves. This may be effected by
placing the cord in a wrong position, which would protract the person’s
sufferings, and compel him to struggle and make violent efforts to kill
himself. Ballard relates, that a young priest, having first cut his
throat to a certain extent, hung himself with his robe.[69] In cases
like these there can be little difficulty in ascertaining the real
cause of death.

In a memoir published in a French journal,[70] there are related
several instances of self-destruction by hanging, where the bodies
were found in the most extraordinary positions and attitudes. A man
was discovered in a granary hanging by a cotton handkerchief, made
fast to a rope which stretched across; the knees were bent, so that
the legs formed a right angle backwards; the feet were suspended on a
heap of grain, over which the knees hung at a distance of a few inches.
A prisoner was found suspended in a vertical position, with his heels
resting on a window-stool. An Englishman, a prisoner in Paris, hung
himself in his cell, which was an apartment with an arched roof, and at
the lower part of it was a grated window, the highest part of which
was not near the height of a man. Nevertheless, he hung himself to this
grating, and was found almost sitting down, with his legs stretched out
before, and his hips within a foot and a half of the ground. Another
case is related of a man whose attitude was similar to the case first
described. He had suspended himself to a large iron pin driven into the
wall to support the bed-curtains, and his feet, bent at a right angle,
rested on the bed, while his knees approached it within a few inches.
A female suspended herself so low that, in order to accomplish her
purpose, she was obliged to stretch out her legs, one before resting
on the heel, the other behind resting on the toes. A female was found
stretched at the foot of her bed, the legs, thighs, and left hip lying
on the floor; the upper part of the body was raised, and suspended by a
cord fixed to the neck, and fastened to the hospital bed.

A patient in La Charité was found one morning hanging by the rope which
was attached to the head of his bed. He had fastened this by a loop
round his neck, but his body was so retained, that when discovered he
was on his knees by the side of his bed.

In 1832, at the west end of the town, a man was found hanging in his
room, with his knees bent forwards and his feet resting upon the floor.
He had evidently been dead for some time, since cadaverous rigidity had
already commenced. The manner in which this man had committed suicide
was as follows:—He had made a slip knot with one end of his apron, (he
was a working mechanic,) and having placed his neck in this, he threw
the other end of the apron over the top of the door, and shutting the
door behind him, he had succeeded in wedging it in firmly. At the same
moment he had probably raised himself on tip-toe, and then allowed
himself to fall; in this way he died. The weight of his body had
apparently sufficed to drag down a part of the apron, for it seemed as
if it had been very much stretched.

In October, 1833, a gentleman who was employed as an assistant in a
respectable school in the neighbourhood of London, was discovered by
some of his pupils, one morning, in a sitting posture, on a dark part
of a staircase of the house. Upon examining further, it was ascertained
that he was completely dead, and that he was suspended to the banisters
by a cravat firmly tied round his neck. The deceased had evidently
made two similar attempts at self-destruction before he succeeded, as
part of a silk pocket-handkerchief and his braces were found suspended
to other parts of the banisters. It seemed scarcely possible to those
who discovered him that the deceased could really have accomplished
suicide by hanging in such a situation, for his body was resting
entirely on the stairs, and, making every allowance for the slipping of
the ligature by which he was suspended, still his feet must have been
throughout in contact with the stair.

There have been few medico-legal investigations of late years which
have excited greater interest than the case of the Duke de Bourbon, in
France.

On the 27th August, 1830, the duke was found suspended in his bed-room,
in the chateau* of St. Leu. An inquest was held the same morning on
the body, and from the evidence of the witnesses, as well as from the
reports of the physicians and surgeons who examined it, a verdict was
returned to the effect that the duke had committed suicide in a fit of
temporary insanity. This event did not excite much notice until the
contents of his will were made public.

The deceased, it appears, had made his will in favour of the Baroness
de Feuchéres, a female who had lived with him for some years,
bequeathing to her the whole of his immense estates, and leaving the
Duke d’Aumale, the youngest son of the king of the French, residuary
legatee. The Princes de Rohan, heirs by collateral descent to the
deceased, thus finding themselves deprived of an expected inheritance,
attempted to set aside the will, alleging that undue influence had
been exercised over him. The cause came on for hearing before the
First Chamber of the Civil Tribunal of Paris, in December, 1831, and
excited considerable attention, not so much in consequence of the
dispute concerning the validity of the will, as of the question which
was raised during the trial,—whether the duke had committed suicide,
or whether he had been murdered, and afterwards suspended, in order to
defeat the ends of justice.

The facts of the case, collected from the _procés verbaux_, are as
follows:—The deceased had naturally partaken of the alarm which had
diffused itself throughout France in consequence of the events of the
revolution of 1830. Some of his most intimate friends declared that,
for some time previously to his death, his mind had been filled with
the most gloomy forebodings as to what this new order of things would
bring about. On the morning of the 27th, his servant went, as usual,
to his bed-room door about eight o’clock; but receiving no answer on
knocking, he became alarmed. Madame de Feuchéres then accompanied the
valet to the door of the room, which was fastened on the inside; and
receiving no reply after calling to the duke in a loud voice, she
ordered it to be broken open. On entering the apartment, the body of
the deceased was found suspended from the fastening at the top of the
window-sash by means of a linen handkerchief, attached to another which
completely encircled the neck. The head was inclined a little to the
chest; the tongue protruded from the mouth; the face was discoloured;
a mucous discharge issued from the mouth and nostrils; the arms hung
down; the fists were clenched. The extremities of both feet touched
the carpet of the room, the point of suspension being about six feet
and a half from the floor; the heels were elevated, and the knees half
bent. The deceased was partly undressed; the legs were uncovered, and
had some marks of injury on them. Among other points of circumstantial
evidence, it was remarked that a chair stood near the window to which
the deceased was suspended, and the bed looked as if it had been lain
on.

The medical witnesses, who examined the body soon after its discovery,
stated that they found it cold, and the extremities rigid, from which
they inferred that the deceased had been dead eight or ten hours. This
would have fixed the time of his death at midnight of August 26th. The
body underwent a second examination, a report of which was furnished
to the legal authorities, on the following day. Five medical men were
present at the inspection; and they gave it as their opinion, from the
_post mortem_ appearances—1st, that the deceased had died by hanging;
and, 2ndly, from the absence of all marks of violence or resistance
about the person or clothes of the deceased, and other facts, that he
had destroyed himself. They considered that the contusion on one arm,
and the excoriations observed on both legs, must have arisen from the
rubbing of these parts against the projecting rail of the chair near
the window. The mark on the neck of the deceased they described to be
large, oblique, and extending upwards to the mastoid process.

General evidence was given to shew that the duke had meditated
self-destruction, and had conversed about it with some of the
witnesses. On the morning of the 28th, some fragments of paper, which
had been written on, were taken from the grate of his chamber; these
were carefully put together by one of the legal inspectors; and among a
few disjointed sentences, indicating despair and a dread of impending
danger, were the following:—“It is only left for me to die in wishing
prosperity to the French people and my country. Adieu for ever!” Here
followed his signature, and a request to be interred at Vincennes, near
the body of his son, the Duke d’Enghien. It is necessary to observe,
that no noise or disturbance was heard in the bed-room on the night of
the deceased’s death.

On the other side it was contended that the duke was not unusually
melancholy before his death; that the supposition of suicide was
inadmissible in a moral point of view, and indeed was physically
impossible, from the circumstances. One person argued that he could not
have made the knots seen in the handkerchiefs; another, that he could
not have reached so high above his head to have suspended himself,
and that the chair could not have been used in any manner to assist
him; while a third affirmed, that a person might be suspended in the
position in which the body was discovered, without death ensuing. The
circumstance of the door being fastened on the inside, was accounted
for by supposing that the bolt had been pushed to from the outside.
The duke had been heard to condemn suicide; he had made an appointment
for the following day; and had attended to many little circumstances,
such as winding up his watch the night previously, and noting his
losses at play;—facts which were forcibly urged as being opposed to the
supposition of his having destroyed himself.

To combat the medical evidence, it was assumed that the deceased was
strangled or suffocated, and was afterwards hanged, by assassins.
Several schemes were devised by the medical witnesses on this side of
the question, to account for the manner in which the supposed murder
was committed. According to some, a handkerchief might have been
tightened round the deceased’s neck by one assassin, while another
forcibly held his legs under the bed-clothes, by which the lesions
already described would have been produced; or instead of being
strangled by a handkerchief, he might have been suffocated by a pillow
placed over his mouth.

The body might then have been dragged across the room to be suspended;
and if during this time the hand of one of the assassins had been
rudely thrust between the cravat and the neck, the excoriation and mark
seen on the skin might be easily accounted for.

The counsel for the appellants remarked, that the want of a line in
writing, to withdraw from all suspicion his attendants, and even Madame
de Feuchéres, was remarkable, as this _latter precaution_ had suggested
itself _to almost every suicide_. He condemned those engaged in the
anatomical examination of the body, as having been guilty of culpable
mismanagement. He ridiculed the idea that the duke, as reported by
the two physicians consulted, had probably come to his death through
asphyxia by strangulation. He contended that all the appearances on the
skin of the neck, where no ecchymosis, _as is usual in persons hung
alive_, was visible, _shewed that death had preceded the hanging of the
body_.[71]

Conflicting as the evidence was in this case, we think no impartial
mind, after maturely considering all the physical facts and moral
circumstances connected with the Prince de Condé’s death, can entertain
any other opinion than that he sacrificed his own life. The case is one
of great interest; and the minute particulars detailed in the French
journal are worthy of the perusal of every medical man.

It has been doubted whether voluntary strangulation was possible,
but we have too many cases on record to allow us to question the
probability of such an occurrence. An individual was found strangled
in a hay-loft by a handkerchief which had been tightened by a stick.
A Malay, who, on board of a man-of-war in the East Indies, had made
repeated attempts to commit suicide, at last effected his purpose in
the following manner:—He tied a handkerchief round his neck, and with
a small stick twisted it several times, and then secured it behind his
ear, to prevent its untwisting. Jealousy was the cause assigned for the
suicide.

General Pichegru was found strangled in prison during the consulate
of Buonaparte. The case gave rise to various suspicions. The body was
found lying in bed on the left side, in an easy attitude, with the
knees bent, and the arms lying down by the side, with a black silk
handkerchief twisted tightly round the neck, by means of a stick passed
under it. The cheek was torn by the ends of the stick in its rotations.
It was established that he had been guilty of suicide.

A very important lesson is to be learned from the history of the
following case, which Dr. Beck has published in his “Medical
Jurisprudence.” This is but one of many cases in which the innocent
have been accused, and have suffered for crimes of which it has been
subsequently proved they were innocent.

Marc Antoine Calas was the son of John Calas, a merchant of Toulouse,
aged seventy years, of great probity, and a Protestant. He was
twenty-eight years of age, of a robust habit, but melancholy turn
of mind. He was a student of law, and becoming irritated at the
difficulties he experienced (in consequence of not being a Catholic)
concerning his licence, he resolved to hang himself. This he executed
by fastening the cord to a billet of wood placed on the folding doors
which led from his father’s shop to his storeroom. Two hours after, he
was found lifeless. The parents unfortunately removed the cord from
the body, and never exhibited it to shew in what manner his death
was accomplished. No examination was made. The people, stimulated by
religious prejudice, carried the body to the town-house, where it was
the next day examined by two medical men, who, without viewing the
cord, or the place where the death had been consummated, declared
that he had been strangled. On the strength of this, the father was
condemned by the parliament of Toulouse, in 1761, to be broken on the
wheel. He expired with protestations to Heaven of his innocence.

Reflection, however, returned when it was too late. It was recollected
that the son had been of a melancholy turn of mind; that no noise had
been heard in the house while the deed was doing; that his clothes
were not in the least ruffled; that a single mark only was found from
the cord, and which indicated suspension by suicide; and in addition
to these, that the dress proper for the dead was found lying on the
counter. Voltaire espoused the cause of the injured family, and
attracted the eyes of all Europe to this judicial murder. The cause
was carried up to the council of state, who, on the 19th May, 1765,
reversed the decree of parliament, and vindicated the memory of John
Calas.[72]

Many cases occur in which it is impossible to decide whether the
person was dead before being thrown into the water. The attention of
the jurist ought to be directed to the condition of the ground in
the neighbourhood of the pond, to ascertain whether any signs exist
of a struggle having taken place. In the case of Mr. Taylor, who was
murdered at Hornsey, in December, 1818, marks of footsteps, deep in the
ground, were discovered near the New River; and on taking out the body,
_the hands were found clenched, and contained grass, which he had torn
from the bank_. The appearance of wounds on the body will often lead
to, or assist in, the formation of a correct opinion, as to the cause
of death. These facts are, however, very often fallacious. Instances
have occurred in which persons determined upon suicide have endeavoured
to kill themselves with sharp instruments, and not effecting their
purpose, have subsequently thrown themselves into the water. Again,
persons may, in the act of drowning themselves, receive severe
injuries, by being propelled against rocks and stakes by the force of
the current.

A few years ago, a man, who had leaped from each of the three bridges
with impunity, undertook to repeat the exploit for a wager. Having
jumped from London Bridge, he sunk and was drowned. When the body
was discovered, it appeared that both his arms were dislocated, in
consequence of having descended with them in an horizontal instead of
a perpendicular position. Persons have been discovered drowned with
ligatures on their hands and feet, and the circumstance has naturally
excited a suspicion as to whether they had committed suicide or had
been murdered. Numerous cases prove that suicides do, occasionally,
adopt such precautions, in order to ensure death. In June, 1816, the
body of a gauging-instrument maker, who had been missing for some days
from his home, was discovered floating down the Thames. On being taken
out of the water, _the wrists were found tied together and made fast
to his knees_, which were in like manner secured to each other. He had
been deranged for two years. The cord was recognised as one which had
been attached to his bed. He could swim well, and it was presumed that
he had so tied himself, in order to prevent his using his legs and arms
should his courage fail him after having plunged into the water.

A man, with his wife and child, was reduced to great distress. On a
certain day, he took an affectionate leave of his family, declaring
he would not return until he had procured some employment by which he
should be able to buy bread for them. On the following day, he was
found drowned in the New River, with his hands and legs tied. A card
with his address was found in his pocket.

A gentleman was found in the Seine, at Paris, having his feet, wrists,
and neck, tied with a cord. His neck, limbs, and hands, were bound by
means of a rope with slip-knots, in order to put it out of his power
to aid himself when in the water, and thereby to render certain the
execution of his suicide.

In the year 1832, the body of Elizabeth Martin was found dead in the
water. A man of the name of Bayley was accused of the murder. They had
been quarrelling, and were seen struggling with each other at the banks
of the pond. He declared that she had fallen in accidentally. Her face
was found turned downwards towards the bottom of the pond, _and one of
her hands was found to be in her pocket_. The judge properly observed,
that if the woman had fallen into the water as the prisoner stated,
that she would have, undoubtedly, taken her hand from her pocket for
the purpose of extricating herself. The man was convicted of the
murder, and executed.

There has been much discussion as to whether bodies sink or swim
when thrown into the water after having been killed. Considerable
discrepancy of opinion exists on this point. It has been maintained
that strangled persons will float more readily than others, as many
facts prove. Caracciolo, Admiral of the Neapolitan navy, was hanged by
sentence of a court-martial. The body was committed to the deep in the
usual manner; and thirteen days afterwards, while the king was walking
on the deck of Lord Nelson’s ship, he suddenly exclaimed, with a yell
of horror—“_Viene! viene!_” The admiral’s corpse, breast-high, was
seen floating towards the ship. The shot which had been attached to
the feet for the purpose of sinking not being sufficiently heavy. This
phenomenon may have arisen from the evolution of gaseous matter, after
the process of putrefaction had commenced, which notoriously renders
the body specifically lighter than water.

The apparitions that appeared at Portnedown Bridge, after the Irish
massacre, and which excited such commotion at the time, were accounted
for in a similar manner. It appears that, about twilight in the
evening, a number of spirits became visible; one assumed the shape of
a naked woman, waist-high, upright in the water, with elevated and
closed hands, and looking as awful a spectre as the most superstitious
person would wish to behold. Various sounds were also heard proceeding
from the river, which caused no little alarm. The sounds were mere
delusions, but that bodies were seen floating upright in the water
there cannot be a doubt.

“One day,” says Clarke, “leaning out of the cabin-window, by the side
of an officer, who was employed in fishing, the corpse of a man, newly
sewed up in a hammock, started half out of the water, and continued
its course with the current towards the shore. Nothing could be more
horrible; its head and shoulders were visible, turning first to
one side, then to the other, with a solemn and awful movement, as
if impressed with some dreadful secret of the deep, which from its
watery grave it came upwards to reveal. Such sights became afterwards
frequent, hardly a day passing without ushering the dead to the
contemplation of the living, until at length they passed without
exciting much observation.[73]

In October, 1829, a female, who was an in-patient of St. Luke’s
Hospital, was found dead in the bath of the institution. It appears
that, for some time previously, she had been permitted the privileges
allowed to patients exhibiting indications of convalescence, and had
obtained access to the nurse’s room, in which the key of the bath
was deposited. One afternoon, she secretly possessed herself of this
key, and then immediately proceeded to make arrangements for the
accomplishment of her purpose. In order to deceive the vigilance of the
nurse, who was accustomed to lock the patients up at bed-time, she took
off her clothes and disposed them about the room, in the usual manner,
as if she had undressed. She then made up a bundle to resemble the
human figure, and placed it inside the bed, filling her nightcap with
handkerchiefs. So accurate was the deception that the other patients,
who slept in the room with the deceased, readily answered that they
were all present. The lunatic, after these preparations, must have
stolen cautiously down to the bath. She was found, the next morning,
dead, lying stretched out with her face downwards. The water of the
bath was not deep, and, indeed, it is presumed, she must have forcibly
maintained the position in which her body was found, in order to have
effected her purpose. The door of the bath-room was locked inside, and
the key was found in the deceased’s pocket.

In a small village of Warwickshire, in the year 1800, a young
gentleman suddenly disappeared on the evening previous to his intended
marriage. After a lapse of some days, his body was found floating in
a mill-stream, and it was generally concluded that he had committed
suicide, though the cause for such a rash act could not be conjectured.
Upon stripping the body, some marks of a suspicious nature were
discovered upon the throat. A surgeon was sent for to decide whether
death had taken place from any other cause than drowning, who, after
a minute examination, gave it as his opinion that he had died by
strangulation. Suspicion now fell upon a man of bad character, who
had been seen the night the gentleman was first missed, running in
great haste from the direction in which the body was afterwards found.
He was apprehended, but, no evidence of guilt being elicited by the
examination, was discharged, and the fate of the unfortunate young man
remained buried in mystery. Ten years afterwards, the person suspected
was convicted of sheep-stealing, and sentenced to transportation.
While on board the hulks, he made a voluntary confession of having
destroyed him, and declared that such was his remorse, and the horror
of his conscience, that he earnestly desired to expiate his crime on
the scaffold. He was tried for the alleged offence entirely on his own
evidence, which was as follows:—

Upon the evening of the fatal event, he was stealing potatoes from a
field-garden belonging to the deceased, whom he unexpectedly saw coming
over the gate to secure him, upon which he jumped over the hedge on
the opposite side, and ran across the field to make his escape. The
gentleman pursued him, and being an active young man, nearly overtook
him; upon which he (the prisoner) attempted to leap the mill-stream,
but the bank on the other side giving way, he fell back into the
water. The young gentleman, instantly plunging into the water after
him, strove to secure him. A desperate struggle now ensued, and the
deceased had at one time got the prisoner down under him in the water,
by which he was half drowned. At length he succeeded in overturning
his antagonist, and, seizing him by the throat, held him fast in this
manner under water, till he seemed to have no more power. He then left
him, sprang out, and made his escape.

The judge gave it as his opinion that the case amounted only to
excusable homicide, and the man was acquitted.

In forming an opinion as to the cause of death in doubtful cases of
suicide, the following important points ought to be carefully kept in
view:—

1st. If the person had for some time laboured under melancholia; had met
with losses, disappointments, or had suffered any acute chagrin.[74]
2nd. If any of his family, associates, or connexions, had any interest
in his death. 3rd. The season of the year should be taken into
consideration; for we have observed, without being able to assign the
reason, that suicide is more frequent during the solstices and the
equinoxes. 4th. If the patient, instead of complaining, remains quiet,
seeks for solitude, and refuses medical aid. And 5th. If there be any
writing (as those who destroy themselves ordinarily express their last
opinions or will) it will be one of the most satisfactory proofs that
they have made away with themselves. Remains of poison found in their
pockets, or in the apartment, are but an equivocal proof, and one which
may attend upon homicide as well as on suicide.[75]

In the course of judicial investigations, medical men are frequently
called upon to decide in cases of suspicious death whether wounds
discovered on the bodies of the deceased were self-inflicted. Before
deciding questions of this character, the medical witness ought to take
into consideration the following points:—1st, The situation of the
wound; 2nd, its nature and extent; 3rd, the direction of the wound; and
4th, the moral circumstances connected with the case.

Generally speaking, those who commit suicide do not wound themselves on
the posterior parts of the body; therefore injuries detected in such
situations naturally excite suspicions as to the mode of death. The
throat and chest are commonly selected when cutting instruments are
used. When death has resulted from the discharge of a weapon introduced
into the mouth, Dr. Smith says it may be taken for granted that the
case is one of suicide. It is, however, possible, even under such
circumstances, for a person to be assassinated in this way. When death
has been caused by firearms, the fingers and hands of the deceased
should be carefully examined, in order to detect the presence of
discoloration. In several instances, a murder has been discovered by a
careful examination of the wadding. In two cases on record, the wadding
being examined, it was discovered to have been torn from paper found in
the possession of the parties on whom suspicion had rested.

Some time back, the body of a man was found lying on the high-road. The
throat was severely cut, and he had evidently died from hemorrhage. A
bloody knife was discovered at some distance from the body; and this,
together with the circumstance of the pockets of the deceased having
been rifled, led to a suspicion of murder. This idea was confirmed
when the wound was examined. It was cut, not as is usual in suicide,
by carrying the instrument from before backwards, but as the throats
of sheep are cut. The knife had passed in deeply under and below the
ear, and had been brought out by a semi-circular sweep in front, all
the great vessels of the neck, with the œsophagus and trachea,
having been divided from behind forwards. The nature of the wound
rendered it at once improbable that it could have been self-inflicted;
and it further served to detect the murderer, who was soon afterwards
discovered, and executed.

With reference to the _extent_ of the wound, the celebrated Earl of
Essex’s case has often been quoted. He was found dead in the Tower,
in 1683, and it was the generally received opinion that he had been
murdered by persons hired by the Duke of York, afterwards King James
II. Upon examining the wound, it was found that the jugular vessels,
trachea, and œsophagus, were cut through to the very neck-bone.
The verdict was suicide. In 1688, the matter was revived, and before a
committee of the House of Lords,[76] it was proved that the razor with
which the wound was inflicted was found on the left side of the body,
while it was known that the Earl was left-handed. The edge of the razor
was found notched; and it was also proved that the cravat worn by the
deceased was cut through, and his right hand was wounded in five places.

As there was much political feeling mixed up with this case, it was
difficult to arrive at the truth. That many persons who have cut their
throats have divided the neck to the vertebræ is a well-known fact.
In the case of Mr. Calcraft, all the large vessels in the neck were
divided, and the throat was cut through to the vertebral column.

In the case of Sellis, much stress was laid by Sir E. Home on the
wound being _regular_; he observes, “_any struggle would have made it
irregular_.” Although there were points connected with this remarkable
case which naturally tended to excite suspicion, we cannot but declare
that the Duke of Cumberland most clearly vindicated himself from the
foul charge which party feeling and private malevolence had endeavoured
to establish against him.

Many doubtful cases may be decided by taking into consideration the
moral circumstances connected with them. A girl was discovered dead.
Suspicion rested upon her mother, who had severely beaten the child. It
was, however, clearly proved that the girl had been repeatedly heard
to declare her intention to commit suicide. Persons should be examined
as to the state of mind of the party found dead; whether he or she
laboured under an hereditary predisposition to suicidal insanity, or
had been exposed to the influence of causes likely to cause melancholy
or a depressed state of feeling. If all these points be carefully
considered, a fair conclusion may be arrived at in the majority
of cases that occur, and which are made the subject of judicial
investigation.



CHAPTER XIII.

STATISTICS OF SUICIDE.


  Number of suicides in the chief capitals of Europe from 1813
  to 1831—Statistics of death from violence in London from 1828
  to 1832—Number of suicides in London for a century and a
  half—Suicides in Westminster from 1812 to 1836—Suicide more
  frequent among men than women—Mode of committing—Influence of
  age—Effect of the married state—Infantile suicides—M. Guerry
  on suicides in France—Cases—Suicide and murder—Suicide in
  Geneva.

In Great Britain, owing to the neglect of statistical science, much
difficulty has been experienced in obtaining anything like correct data
respecting the number of suicides committed annually. For the details
given in this chapter we are indebted to various authorities. Every
work has been consulted which it was supposed would throw some light on
the subject.


_Number of Suicides in the chief Capitals of Europe._


  Places.    Periods.  Suicides.   Proportion
                                  to Population.

  Berlin      1813-1822    360    1 in     750
  Copenhagen  1804-1806    100    1 —   1,000
  Naples      1828         330    1 —   1,100
  Hamburg     1822          59    1 —   1,800
  Berlin      1799-1808     60    1 —   2,300
  Paris       1836         341    1 —   2,700
  Milan       1827          37    1 —   3,200
  Berlin      1788-1797     35    1 —   4,500
  Vienna      1829          45    1 —   6,400
  Prague      1820           6    1 —  16,000
  Petersburg  1831          22    1 —  21,000
  London      1834          42    1 —  27,000
  Naples      1826          13    1 — 173,000
  Palermo     1831           2    1 — 180,000

_Statistics of Suicide & Deaths from Violence in general, in London._

                  1828. 1829. 1830. 1831. 1832.
                  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----

  Suicide           41    35    25    48    52
  Executed           1    26     7     6    10
  Murdered           6     4     2     5     2
  Poisoned           7     7     4     7     4
  Found dead        15     6    13     5     5
  Drowned          150    36    97   131   149
  Burnt             47    53    61    35    36
  From famine        1     0     0     1     1
  From intoxication  7     3     4     0     1
  From suffocation  10    10     5     5     5

_Number of Suicides in London during a Century and a half._


  From 1690 to 1699  236
   —  1700 — 1709  278
   —  1710 — 1719  301
   —  1720 — 1729  478
   —  1730 — 1739  501
   —  1740 — 1749  422
   —  1750 — 1759  363
   —  1760 — 1769  351
   —  1770 — 1779  339
   —  1780 — 1789  224
   —  1790 — 1799  274
   —  1800 — 1809  347
   —  1810 — 1819  363
   —  1820 — 1829  381

_Suicides in Westminster, from 1812 to 1836._

  (Extract from Report of Medical Committee of the Statistical
  Society of London. April, 1837.)

“The first statement to which the Committee will draw the attention
of the Council is an account of the number of persons, male and
female, who have committed suicide, and upon whom inquests have been
held, within the city and liberty of Westminster, in each month, from
January, 1812, to December, 1836, procured from Mr. Higg, the deputy
coroner of Westminster; with other statements which the Committee had
prepared from it.

“The Committee deems it right to premise that caution must be used
in drawing too general inferences from these statements, on account
of the comparatively small number of cases to which they refer. The
average annual number of suicides upon which inquests have been held in
Westminster does not probably exceed one per cent. of the total number
annually committed in Great Britain; hence the number committed in
Westminster during twenty-five years, amounting to 656, is only about
twenty-five per cent. of the whole number annually committed in Great
Britain.

“For some conclusions, however, they afford sufficient data, and these
the Committee will proceed to notice.

“It appears from the following abstract, No. 1, that suicides in
Westminster are most prevalent in the three months of June, July, and
March; but that the excess is on the part of the males, as the greatest
number of female suicides was in January, September, and November.
September, August, and October exhibit the smallest number of male and
of total suicides; but February, March, and April, the smallest number
among females.

No. 1.

  _A Statement of the total number of Suicides of each Sex
  committed in Westminster in each month during the twenty-five
  years, from 1812 to 1836; also the per centage proportion of
  the whole number committed in each month; and the proportion
  which the number of each sex bears to the other._

  +----------------------------+------------------------+--------------------+
  │ Total Number of Suicides   | Per Centage Proportion |Per Cent. Proportion|
  |    from 1812 to 1816.      |committed in each Month.| of Male to Female. |
  +----------------------------+------------------------+--------------------+
  |        Male. Female. Total.| Male. Female. Total.   | Male and Female.   |
  |January   35    20     55   |  7.3   11.2    8.4     |   64       36      |
  |February  39    12     51   |  8.2    6.8    7.8     |   77       23      |
  |March     52    11     63   | 10.9    6.2    9.6     |   83       17      |
  |April     40    11     51   |  8.4    6.2    7.8     |   79       21      |
  |May       41    15     56   |  8.5    8.4    8.5     |   73       27      |
  |June      60    15     75   | 12.6    8.4   11.4     |   80       20      |
  |July      50    16     66   | 10.5    9.0   10.1     |   76       24      |
  |August    30    15     45   |  6.3    8.4    6.9     |   67       38      |
  |September 30    18     48   |  6.3   10.1    7.4     |   62       38      |
  |October   28    15     43   |  5.9    8.4    6.5     |   65       35      |
  |November  32    17     49   |  6.7    9.6    7.4     |   65       35      |
  |December  41    13     54   |  8.5    7.3    8.2     |   76       24      |
  |        ----   ---    ---   | ----    ---    ---     |   --       --      |
  | Total   478   178    656   | 100.   100.   100.     |   73       27      |
  +----------------------------+------------------------+--------------------+

“The last two columns in the above account shew more precisely the
proportion of female to male suicides in each month.

“The following statement shews the number of times, during the
twenty-five years, that no suicide was committed during each month:—


  February .. Not once.

  January    }
  March      } Once.
  June       }

  July         Twice.

  May       }  Three
  August    }  times.
  December  }

  April     } Four times.
  October   }

  September } Five times.
  November  }

“From No. 2 it appears that the average annual number of suicides in
Westminster has been increasing in each quinquennial period; but No.
3 shews that it has actually decreased with reference to the increase
which has taken place in the population.


No. 2.

_A Statement of the Average Annual Number of Suicides, Male and Female,
in each Quinquennial Period; also, the proportion per cent. which the
two Sexes bore to each other in each period._


  +------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+
  | Periods of Years.| Average Annual Number.|Proportion of each Sex.|
  +------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+
  |                  |  Male. Female. Total. |     Male. Female.     |
  |                  |                       |                       |
  |   1812 to 1816   |   18.2   7.6    25.8  |      70      30       |
  |   1817 —— 1821   |   15.0   5.2    20.2  |      74      26       |
  |   1822 —— 1826   |   16.4   7.4    23.8  |      69      31       |
  |   1827 —— 1831   |   22.0   7.8    29.8  |      78      22       |
  |   1832 —— 1836   |   24.0   7.9    31.9  |      76      24       |
  |                  +-----------------------+-----------------------+
  | Average of Total |   19.1   7.1    26.3  |      73      27       |
  +------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+

No. 3.

_A Statement of the Population of the City and Liberty of Westminster,
according to each census, and the proportion which the number of
Suicides in the Quinquennial Period immediately following each census
bore to the population._

  +--------+-----------+-------------------------------+------------------+
  |        |           |                               |  Proportion      |
  |Dates of|Population.|           Suicides.           |  of Suicides     |
  |Census. |           |                               |to the Population.|
  |        |           |                               |     One in       |
  +--------+--------------------------+----------------+------------------+
  |        |           | Quinquennial |   Average      |                  |
  |        |           |    Periods.  | Annual Number. |                  |
  |        |           |              |                |                  |
  |  1811  |  160,801  | 1812 to 1816 |     25.8       |      6,232       |
  |  1821  |  181,444  | 1822 -- 1826 |     23.8       |      7,623       |
  |  1831  |  201,604  | 1832 -- 1836 |     31.6       |      6,379       |
  |        +-----------+--------------+----------------+------------------+
  |Average |  181,283  |      ..      |     27.06      |      6,744       |
  +--------+-----------+--------------+----------------+------------------+

“It must, however, be taken into consideration that suicides committed
in Westminster may not belong to the population of the district,
for that the proximity of the river, and other causes existing in
Westminster, may attract persons residing in other parts of the town.
Hence an increase or decrease of facilities for committing suicide in
the surrounding districts, such as the formation of a canal, &c., will
naturally affect the number of such deaths in Westminster.”[77]

It has been clearly established that suicide is less frequent among
women than men. In early life, death by hanging is preferred; in
middle life, firearms are had recourse to; and in more advanced years,
strangulation again becomes the fashionable mode of terminating life.


       Years of Age.      Pistol.   Hanging.
  Between 10 and  20[78]      61        68
          28  --  30         283        51
          49  --  50         182        94
          60  --  70         150       188
          80  --  90         161       256

In an analysis of 525 cases of suicide in Prussia, the following was
the result:—

  Hanging                234
  Shooting               163
  Drowning                60
  Cutting throat          17
  Stabbing                20
  Jumping out of window   19
  Poison                  10
  Opening artery           2
                         ---
                         525

Marriage is to a certain extent a preventive of suicide; it has been
satisfactorily established that among the men two-thirds who destroy
themselves are bachelors.

In M. A. Guerry’s able “Essai sur la Statisque Morale de la France,”
published in 1833, we find some valuable statistical facts relating to
suicide in France.

It appears on evidence of the most authentic description, that, from
the year 1827 to that of 1830, there were committed throughout France
no less than 6900 suicides! that is to say, an average of nearly 1800
per annum! It should, however, be remembered, that this calculation
is founded only upon judicial documents, in which are included merely
those cases of suicide in which death has followed, or in which legal
proceedings were taken; so that it is not improbable that many more
attempts were made to perpetrate this crime of which the public is
quite ignorant.

Taking up this fact, let us consider that the number of crimes against
the person amounts yearly in France to 1900. Now, it appears that more
than 600 of these crimes consist of attempts on the lives of others; so
that the conclusion cannot be resisted, that every time an individual
in France meets with a violent death, in any other way but by accident
or mere homicide, there are three chances to one that he has committed
suicide.

M. Guerry makes a transition to the geographical position of this
crime throughout the several arbitrary divisions, and he finds the
state of the case to be as follows:—

Out of every hundred suicides which take place on the average every
year, there are committed in the

                      Suicides.
  Northern division      51
  Southern   —           11
  Eastern    —           16
  Western    —           13
  Central    —            9


Another view of the proportion of suicides in France is, that which
takes place in the number of them, as compared with the amount of the
population. It is as follows:—

  _Suicides in proportion to Population._

  Northern division   1 in  9,853
  Eastern    —        1 in 21,734
  Central    —        1 in 27,393
  Western    —        1 in 30,499
  Southern   —        1 in 30,876

It is proper to bear in mind, that in the single department of the
Seine, there are perpetrated every year nearly the sixth part of
the whole number of suicides which take place in all the eighty-six
departments of France. It is said, however, that the greater portion
of those persons who commit suicide in this department are altogether
strangers to the capital. We come, then, to this conclusion, that of
the thousand individuals who are guilty of the crime of suicide, no
less than five hundred and five take place in the department of the
north; one hundred and sixty-eight occur in the southern division;
sixty-five in the western; and fifty-two in the central; a distribution
which shews that there is, if not the same proportion, certainly the
same order, as the distribution of suicides in the five divisions in
respect of the amount of population.

In the explanation which is appended to the table just alluded to, the
author shews, that of the suicides committed in the department of the
Seine, where they are most numerous, there appears to be one suicide
for every 3,600 the inhabitants; whilst in the department of the Haute
Soire, where the crime is less frequent, this proportion does not
amount to more than one in 163,000 inhabitants.

A singularly curious inference is to be drawn from the consideration
of the facts presented in another of M. Guerry’s graphic
illustrations—viz., that which arises from the circumstance, that from
whatever confine of France an inquirer proceeds to the capital, he will
find, as he approaches it, that the number of suicides increases by
a regular gradation; so that in those departments which are near the
Seine and Maine, the traveller will discover that more suicides have
been committed than in those more remote from the metropolis, such
as the departments of the Lower Seine, of Aube and Soiret. The same
observation applies as forcibly to Marseilles, which is in some measure
to be considered the capital of certain departments in the south of
France. The more these districts are in the vicinity of Marseilles, the
greater the amount is there of suicides as compared with the number of
the population.

A curious fact has been elicited in the examination of the French
registers of crime, from which it appears that those divisions of the
kingdom of France in which the most frequent attempts have been made to
commit murder are those divisions exactly where the crime of suicide is
most rare; and it has been further proved that precisely the reverse of
this law takes place in other departments; namely, that where suicides
are numerous in proportion to the population, there the number of
murders committed by individuals on others is considerably diminished.
One peculiarity is mentioned by M. Guerry as being connected with
cases of suicide, which is, that we are much oftener enlightened as
to the cause of it than we are upon the motives of most other crimes,
and that it is rarely the case that any person sets about the crime
of self-destruction without leaving in writing, or in some other way,
the expression of his last wishes, together with an explanation of the
causes of the rash act, which he most generally seeks to justify.

Holcroft, in speaking of the number of suicides in Paris, observes, “I
am not well informed on the subject, but I doubt if as many suicides be
committed through all Great Britain _in a year, as in Paris alone in a
month_. It is the practice of the French police to stifle inquiry and
conceal facts, whenever they are of a disagreeable nature; for they tax
its omnipotence, to something little short of which it pretends: all
things are under its protection; its eye is everywhere; the assaulted
cannot sink; the culprit cannot escape; its guardian arm is stretched
out so effectually to save that none are in danger. Such are its high
claims and the daily assertion it repeats; they are the necessary
results of despotism, which, ever on the alarm, will in everything
interfere.

“The Parisians are in general themselves so ignorant that the things
which they see produce only a momentary impression; none but men of
superior minds collect facts and deduce consequences; the rest discern
with great quickness, but they forget with greater; and it is chiefly
from this forgetfulness that their gaiety of heart is derived.

“In England, misfortunes, so far from being concealed, are sought after
with eagerness by people who are paid for the bad news they bring,
and by whom it is sometimes greatly exaggerated. If the tale do not
astonish, it is scarcely worthy to be reported in our newspapers, and
the tales in these newspapers circulate through Europe. This is a
benefit when truth is not falsified.

“Of the suicides which are daily happening in France, I, who read the
daily journals, saw only two noticed; and these I was surprised to see.
One was an officer in the army who pistolled himself at the public
office of the war minister; and the other a poor wretch who, at the
moment before he threw himself from the upper story of one of the high
houses in Paris, called out in mercy to the passengers, _Garde l’eau!_
the phrase used by the Parisians when they throw water out of a window.
I was told of another suicide of the same kind, and with the same
humane caution, while I was at Paris.

“I likewise saw the body of a man borne through the streets, who,
after having breakfasted at a hut in _les Champs Elysées_, put an end
to his existence. Before doing so, he told the people that he had been
a subaltern officer of a regiment then reduced; and that all means of
procuring a livelihood was lost.

“Nine conscripts who had for a time concealed themselves, but who were
at last discovered, being determined not to serve, encouraged each
other rather to die, and voluntarily ended life by drowning themselves
together.

“I was passing _le Pont des Tuileries_ after dark, and saw a man
surrounded by other men. They had deterred him on the bridge from
jumping over; but they could not prevail on him to tell his name, or to
go home. He appeared to be determined in his purpose; the only resource
they had was, at last, to commit him to the guard; but unless his state
of mind could be altered, safety like this was but merely temporary.

“Another evening, on the same bridge, and about the same hour, a woman,
standing near the centre parapet, attracted my attention by her look,
and manner in which she seemed to be examining the river. I stopped;
she desisted, but did not remove. I was uncertain what her intentions
might be, and she appeared to shun notice. Two other passengers,
guessing my doubts, halted; but either their fears were not so strong
as mine, or their patience was less; they stood a few minutes and
left. I felt as if I did not dare to go, yet could not decide how to
act, from the fear of doing wrong. At length the woman moved towards
the end of the bridge, and I was obliged to leave her to her fate.
I was not certain her intentions were ill; to have charged her with
such might deeply have insulted her. I walked home, however, in a most
dissatisfied state of mind; at one minute, proving to myself I could
not act otherwise, and at another, making self-accusations for having
deserted the duties of humanity.

“The number of suicides that really happen in Paris must exceed,
no man can say how much, those that are actually known. The bodies
exposed at _La Morgue_ are most of them brought from _St. Cloud_; the
distance to which by water must be above three, perhaps four miles.
At the bridge of _St. Cloud_ the fishermen nightly spread their nets;
and in the morning, with the fish, these bodies are drawn up; but as
an old inhabitant of _St. Cloud_, whom I strictly questioned on the
subject, assured me the nets were only suffered to be down a stated
number of hours, according to the season, certainly not upon an average
half a day; and in proof of what he said, he observed to me that this
regulation must take place, or the navigation of the river would be
impeded. Hence, by the most moderate calculation, the number of bodies
that escape the nets must at least equal the number of those that are
caught.

“I was told that the government had lately refused the accustomed fee
to the fishermen for each corpse they brought, and that they would not
continue to drag up the dead bodies, affirming that the money they
had before received was insufficient to pay the damage their nets had
sustained.”

The following statistical facts with reference to suicide in Geneva may
be relied upon:—

By the laws of the canton, each case of violent death is investigated
by a police magistrate, and the documents are sent to the
“Procureur-Generale,” and carefully preserved. M. Prevost has examined
these documents, collected between 1825 and 1834 inclusively, with a
view to investigating the causes of suicide, and of diminishing them if
possible. The following are the most important results:—


1.—_Age._

         Ages.   No. of Cases in 10 years.   Men.   Women.
  From 50 to 60            34                 25      9
       20 to 30            30                 22      8
       60 to 70            19                 10      9
       30 to 40            18                 15      3
       40 to 50            15                 13      2
       70 to 80             9                  6      3
       10 to 20             5                  3      2
       80 to 90             3                  1      2


From this table it appears that suicides are most frequent between 50
and 60 years of age. The age when the passions are the strongest (from
20 to 30) is, as might be expected, high in the scale; that of youth
and old age low, from the young being strangers to the cares of life,
and the old few in number when compared with the population.


2.—_Sex, and State of Marriage or Celibacy._

There are more suicides among men than women, in the proportion of
95 to 38, or about three to one; and more unmarried than married,
or in the state of widowhood, in the proportion of 70 to 63, or
about seven to six. Notwithstanding this, the female suicides are
more numerous among the married and widows than among the unmarried,
in the proportion of 21 to 17. But among men the proportions are
reversed,—that is, 42 to 53; so that, on the whole, suicides are more
frequent among the unmarried than amongst those who are or have been
married. This will not surprise those who know the energy, courage,
and patience of women under misfortune; men more readily give way
to despair, and to vices consequent upon it. Men also have means of
destruction, as firearms, &c., more readily at hand.


3.—_Occupations._

The number of suicides are in proportion to the number of the
individuals engaged in various trades, except among the agricultural
population, where the proportion is very small. Thus the agricultural
population of the canton is 18,000, among whom, during ten years,
there have been but ten suicides; whereas, if they had been in the
same proportion to the whole number as was found in other occupations,
they would have amounted to thirty-nine. Constant occupation and hard
yet healthy work render them less sensible to the cares of life. There
is also a somewhat larger proportion of suicides among the educated
classes, who are engaged in literary pursuits or the higher branches of
commerce.

4.—_Religion._

The relative proportion of Protestants to Catholics in the canton of
Geneva is, according to the census of 1834, as 77 to 56. Thus—


  Of 133 inhabitants there are,
      Protestants      77
      Catholics        56
                      ---
                      133

  Of 133 cases of suicide there are,
      Protestants     107
      Catholics        26
                      ---
                      133

This result should attract the attention of those who are interested in
the moral and religious education of Protestants.


5.—_Means of Destruction._

  Drowning               55
  Firearms               31
  Strangulation          18
  Voluntary falls        15
  Cutting instruments     7
  Poison                  7
                        ---
                        133

In a small province, with a lake and two rapid rivers, it is not
surprising that drowning should be the most frequent mode of suicide;
next to this is death by firearms, which is accounted for by all the
men having firearms, as they are in the militia. Whilst the men have
used firearms and cutting instruments, the women have almost alone had
recourse to poisons and voluntary falls.


6.—_Seasons._

The seasons sensibly influence the number of suicides. There are more
almost constantly in April. Of 133 suicides there were in—

  April     19
  June      17
  August    17
  July      15
  October   14
  May       13
  March     10
  November   9
  September  6
  January    5
  February   5
  December   3

The spring appears to have an unfavourable effect; and during the great
heats, there are more suicides than during the cold weather. It is
curious that many suicides happened on the same day or week. Thus, on
April 9th, 1830, there were two suicides, and several others on the
previous and subsequent days; on the 20th of May, 1830, there were two
suicides; on the 28th and 29th of March, 1831, two; and the same on the
3rd and 4th of July of the same year. On the 20th of April, 1833, there
were two; and on the 5th of July, 1833, two others. Some atmospheric
changes may account for this, though meteorological tables did not
satisfactorily explain them.


7.—_Presumed Motives._

  Physical disease                34
  Insanity                        24
  Losses of property              19
  Domestic grief                  15
  Melancholy without known cause  13
  Bad conduct. Drunkenness        10
  Fear of punishment. Remorse      6
  Disappointment in love           6
  Gambling                         4
  Mysterious                       2


8.—_Relation of Suicides to Population and to Deaths._

The number of suicides is to the whole number of deaths as 1 to 90-1/8;
and to the whole population as 1 to 3·985; the mean population of the
canton during the last ten years being 53,000—

  In 1825    6 Suicides.
     1826    6    ”
     1827    9    ”
     1828   13    ”
     1829   13    ”
     1830   16    ”
     1831   18    ”
     1832   12    ”
     1833   24    ”
     1834   16    ”
           —-
           133

From this table it appears that the number of suicides has gradually
increased from six as high as twenty-four in eight years. The last
year, it decreased to sixteen; and it is fervently hoped that this
deduction may be maintained, and that the increase may not be so
frightfully rapid as it appears to have been. It must, however, be
taken into account, that the population was, in 1822, 51,113, and in
1834, 56,655. The police also are more active, and inquests are held
more regularly.



CHAPTER XIV.

APPEARANCES PRESENTED AFTER DEATH IN THOSE WHO HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE.


  Thickness of cranium—State of membranes and vessels of
  brain—Osseous excrescences—Appearances discovered in one
  thousand three hundred and thirty-three cases—Lesions of the
  lungs, heart, stomach, and intestines—Effect of long-continued
  indigestion.

As in cases of insanity, the morbid appearances discovered in the
bodies of suicides are varied and contradictory. Nothing has yet been
detected which can lead the pathologist to a correct conclusion as to
the nature of the organic change which precedes and accompanies the
suicidal mania.

The cranium has in many cases been found preternaturally thick, and in
others the reverse. Greeding and Gall give their testimony in favour of
the skull’s thickness. Out of 216 examined, a preternatural thickness
of cranium was found in 167. Out of 100 who died of furious mania, 78
had the skull thick, and 20 very thin. Out of 30 fatuous patients, 21
had thick crania, and six thin. The thickness of the cranial bones in
melancholy and maniacal patients, and in old people, was supposed by
Dr. Gall to be connected with diminished size of the brain, to which
the inner table of the cranial bone accommodated itself; and together
with this thickness, he considered there was also thickness of the
membranes, and ossification of the blood-vessels.

Malformations of the cranium are often detected. Osiander relates
the case of an old man who had suffered for a considerable time from
dreadful headache, and who, weary of life, hanged himself. On examining
the head, small osseous excrescences were found near the carotid
foramen. Lancisi refers to a case of hypochondriasis and suicide, in
which, after death, a sharp long excrescence was found near the apex of
the lambdoid suture.

From an examination of the particulars of 1333 cases of persons who
have committed suicide, and who have been examined after death, the
following analysis is made. The particulars of the cases referred
to are recorded in the works of Pinel, Esquirol, Falret, Foderé,
Arntzenius, Schlegel, Burrows, Haslam, &c.

  Thickness of cranium                 150
  No apparent structural change        100
  Bony excrescences                     50
  Tumours in brain                      10
  Simple congestion                    300
  Disease of membranes                 170
  Disease of lungs                     100
  Softening of brain                   100
  Appearances of inflammation in brain  90
  Disease of stomach                   100
  Disease of intestines                 50
  Disease of liver                      80
  Suppressed natural secretions         15
  Disease of heart                      10
  Syphilitic disease                     8
                                      ----
                                      1333

Accretions of the membranes of the brain are often found in suicides.
The dura mater is often ossified, and the pia mater inflamed, and the
arachnoid thickened. Osiander considers congestion of the vessels of
the brain a frequent cause of suicide.

Auenbrugger refers to the case of a man who had suffered for a long
duration severe headache, and who committed suicide. After death, a
fissure was found in the middle of the pons varolii.

Lesions of the lungs are among the common morbid appearances in the
bodies of lunatics. Esquirol states that one fourth of the melancholic
die of consumption.

The heart is sometimes found seriously disorganized. The stomach,
liver, and intestines, are the most frequent seats of morbid phenomena
in these cases. It is difficult, however, to say whether they ought
to be considered as the effect or cause of the suicidal disposition.
In many cases of gastric disease, the brain is also found organically
affected. How is it possible for us to say which organ was primarily
affected? The stomach, intestines, and liver, may be originally the
seat of the irritation, and the brain may be sympathetically deranged.
This is often the case. Again, the patient may have laboured under a
severe mental ailment, which may give rise to disease of the splanchnic
viscera. Severe and long-continued indigestion, from whatever cause
it may originate, will, in certain dispositions, produce the suicidal
mania. Very few cases are examined in which we are not able to detect
some disease of the gastric organ or its appendages.

It is not our wish to throw discredit on, or to underrate the value of,
morbid anatomy; but, with reference to the peculiar branch of inquiry
now under investigation, we must confess that very little practical
importance can be attached to the structural lesions which the industry
and scalpel of the anatomists have enabled them to discover in the
bodies of those who have committed suicide. The morbid appearances are
so varied and capricious that they cannot lead to a sound conclusion
as to the exact seat of the disease. In many cases, the brain is
apparently free from structural derangement; and yet, reasoning
physiologically, we must believe that in every case the sentient organ
must be affected, either primarily or secondarily. There are many
instances in which there cannot be a doubt but that the cerebral organ
is the seat of the disease, but in which, after death, no vestige of
the malady can be discovered!



CHAPTER XV.

SINGULAR CASES OF SUICIDE.


  Introduction—Contempt of death—Eustace Budgel—M. de Boissy
  and his wife—Mutual suicides from disappointed love—Suicide
  from mortification—Mutual suicide from poverty—A French lady
  while out shooting—A fisherman after praying—Determination
  to commit if not cured—Extraordinary case of suicide after
  seduction—Madame C. from remorse—M. de Pontalba after trying
  to murder his daughter-in-law—Young lady in a pet—Sir George
  Dunbar—James Sutherland while George III. was passing—Lancet
  given by a wife to her husband to kill himself—Servant
  girl—Curious verses by a suicide—Robber on being recognised—A
  man who ordered a candle to be made of his fat—After
  gaming—Writing whilst dying—From misfortune just at a moment
  of relief—Curious papers written by a suicide—By heating a
  barrel in the fire—By tearing out the brains—Sisters by the
  injunction of their eldest sister—Mutual from poverty—Girl
  from a dream—Three servants in one pond—Indifference as to
  mode—By starvation—A man forty-five days without eating—Mutual
  of two boys after dining at a restaurateur’s—By putting head
  under the ice—By a pair of spectacles—By jumping amongst
  the bears—Young lady from gambling—Verses by a suicide—To
  obtain salvation—A lover after accidentally shooting his
  mistress—Mutual attempt at suicide—M. Kleist and Madame
  Vogle—Richard Smith and wife—Love and suicide—Bishop
  of Grenoble—Suicide in a pail of water—Mutual of two
  soldiers—Lord Scarborough—A man who advertised to kill himself
  for benefit of family—The case of Creech, and the romantic
  history of Madame de Monier—Suicide of M. ——, after threatening to
  kill his brother—Two young men—Two lovers—Homicide and suicide
  from jealousy—Cure of penchant for—Attempt to, prevented—Man
  in a belfry—Attempt at—The extraordinary case of Lovat by
  crucifixion.

In the preceding chapters we have detailed the history of many
remarkable cases of self-destruction. It is melancholy to consider
that the principle of life with which God has endowed us for high and
noble purposes should have been sacrificed with that apparent coolness
and self-possession which was manifested in many of the instances
recorded in this work.

  “How we abuse that article our life! Some people pluck it
  Out with a knife; some blow it up with powder; others duck it;—
    One thing is sure, and Horace
    Has already said it for us,—
  Sooner or later, all must kick the inevitable bucket.”

A gladiatorial contempt of death is becoming one of the most alarming
features of the time; in this respect we appear ambitious to imitate
the conduct of the French sophists, and seek, in acts of desperation,
a notoriety that nothing else can give us. In investigating, as we
have endeavoured to do, the motives that have led to this heinous
offence, we have in many cases been unsuccessful in tracing the act
to any definite principle. Either no reasons have been assigned or
the accounts of the cases transmitted to us have been imperfect.
These individuals stand apart from the rest of the world, and exhibit
an anomaly in the last act of life totally irreconcilable to all
acknowledged principles of reason and human action. Eccentric in their
lives, they have been desirous of manifesting the ruling passion strong
in death. This mental idiosyncracy may be, and no doubt often is, the
result of original constitution, aided in its development by the moral
atmosphere in which the person is placed, as well as by education and
other circumstances which are known to influence the formation of the
mind and character.

The singular facts adduced in this chapter are only brought forward
as evidence of that anomalous condition of the mind referred to which
leads to suicide; at the same time the instances will afford to the
metaphysician valuable materials to assist him in his investigations
into the philosophy of the human understanding. Some of the cases
related, of course, admit of elucidation, but the majority will be
found to puzzle the ingenuity even of those who pride themselves on
their capacity of understanding what is beyond the ken of ordinary
mortals.

Eustace Budgel was a man of much literary fame at the beginning of the
last century, the relation and friend of Addison, and a distinguished
writer in the periodical publications of that day. He was born to
a good fortune, and held a considerable place under government
whilst Addison lived, who kept him in some order as to his political
character. But having lost all court favour after Addison’s decease,
and being a man of great expense and vanity, having also sunk a large
sum of money in the South Sea scheme, and having involved himself in
a number of fruitless litigations, he became highly distressed in his
circumstances. This, added to the chagrin of disappointed ambition and
to other matters, determined him to make away with himself. He had
always thought but lightly of revelation, and after Addison’s death
became an avowed free-thinker, which laxity of principle strongly
concurred in disposing him to adopt this fatal resolution. Accordingly,
after having been visibly agitated and almost distracted for several
days, he took a boat, and ordered the waterman to go through London
bridge. While the boat was under the bridge, Budgel threw himself
overboard, having had the previous caution to fill his pockets with
stones. This happened in the year 1737. It was said to have been
Budgel’s opinion, “that when life becomes uneasy to support, and is
overwhelmed with clouds and sorrows, man has a natural right to deprive
himself of it, as it is better not to live than to live in pain.” A
man of unsettled principles easily persuades himself into the notion
of suicide when he is actually suffering from some violence of his
passions, even though he had not imbibed it before. For whenever the
passions attempt to reason, it is only on the delusive suggestions
of their own perturbed feelings. The morning before Budgel carried
his deadly intentions into execution, he endeavoured to persuade his
daughter to accompany him in his death. His only argument to her was,
that her life was not worth holding; but she thought otherwise, and
refused to concur in the sacrifice. A slip of paper was left on his
writing-table, containing these few words, as an apology for his rash
act:—

  “What Cato did and Addison approved
  Cannot be wrong.”

Monsieur de Boissy, a French dramatic writer and satirist, being
reduced to great indigence, resolved to commit suicide. As he
considered this action in no other light than as a friendly relief from
further misery, he not only persuaded his wife to bear him company,
but prevailed on her not to leave their child of five years old behind
them, to the mercy of that world in which they had experienced so
little sympathy and happiness. Nothing now remained but to fix on
the mode of their death. They at length agreed to starve themselves.
This not only seemed to them the most natural consequence of their
condition, but also saved them from committing a violence either on
their child, themselves, or each other, of which perhaps neither Boissy
nor his wife found themselves capable. They determined therefore to
wait with unshaken constancy the arrival of death under the meagre form
of famine; and accordingly they shut themselves up in the solitude of
their apartment, where, on account of their distresses, they had little
reason to dread the interruption of company. They began, and resolutely
persisted in their plan of starving themselves to death with their
child. If any one called by chance at their apartment, they found it
locked, and receiving no answer, it was concluded that nobody was at
home. A friend, however, from that kind of instinct perhaps with which
the spirit of friendship abounds, began to apprehend that something
must be much amiss with Boissy, as he could neither find him at home,
nor get intelligence concerning him. Under much anxiety he returned
once more to his apartment; and, whether from hearing any groans from
within, or suspecting something was wrong, he ventured to break open
the door. Boissy and his wife had been so much in earnest, that it was
now three days since they had taken any sustenance, and they were so
far on their way to their intended home, that they were in sight, as it
were, of the gates of death. The friend, entering into the room where
this scene of death was going forward, found the miserable pair in such
a situation as to be insensible of his intrusion. Boissy and his wife
had no eyes but for each other, and were not sitting in, but rather
supported from falling on the ground by two chairs set opposite to each
other. Their hands were locked together, and in their ghastly looks
was painted a kind of rueful compassion for their child, which hung at
the mother’s knee, and seemed as if looking up to her for nourishment,
in its natural tenaciousness of life. This group of wretchedness did
not less shock than afflict his friend. But soon collecting from
circumstances what it must mean, his first care was not to expostulate
with Boissy or his wife, but to engage them to receive his succours, in
which he found no small difficulty. Their resolution had been taken in
earnest. They had got over the worst, and were in sight of their port.
Their friend, however, took the right way of reconciling them to live
by making the child join in the intercession. The child, who could have
none of the prejudices or reasons they might have for not retracting,
held up his little hands, and in concert with him entreated his parents
to consent to live. Nature did not plead in vain. They were gradually
restored to life, and provided with everything that could make them in
good humour with its return.

Euphrosine Lemoine was the daughter of a bourgeoise of the Faubourg
St. Antoine. She loved, and had admitted to secret interviews, a
young cabinetmaker of the neighbourhood. Her parents, however, had
long intended her to marry Mr. B——, a man of some property. She
reluctantly consented—pronounced the “_fatal yes_;” and the young man
prudently left Paris for some years. In 1836 he yielded to the desire
of once more seeing her he had loved. They met, and the husband was
dishonoured. This was followed by an elopement; but the husband, who
still loved his wife in spite of her crimes, discovered their retreat,
and by the intervention of friends and of the police a reconciliation
was effected—in vain. They again eloped, but only to perish together;
and they were found dead, eight days after, locked in each other’s
arms, in a miserable apartment they had hired for the purpose. Before
the suicide, one of them had sketched with coal on the wall of their
retreat two flaming hearts, and beneath, this inscription—“We have
sworn eternal love, and death, terrible death, shall find us united.”

A boatman discovered in the Seine a mass which the stream seemed to
roll along with difficulty; he found it was two bodies, a young woman
about twenty, tastefully dressed, and a young man in the uniform of the
eighth hussars. The left hand and foot of one victim were laid to the
right hand and foot of the other. A bit of paper, carefully wrapped
up in parchment to preserve it from the water, told their names and
motives:—

“O you, whoever you may be, compassionate souls, who shall find these
two bodies united, know that we loved each other with the most ardent
affection, and that we have perished together, that we may be eternally
united. Know, compassionate souls, that our last desire is, that you
should place us, united as we are, in the same grave. Man should not
separate those whom death has joined.

  (Signed), “FLORINE. GOYON.”


Some years ago, a light was observed in the church of Rueil. This
singular appearance occasioned a search; on the approach of the
authorities the light was extinguished, but a woman’s stays were found
on the pavement. The beadle of the church was met, apparently much
agitated. On a further search, the proprietress of the stays was found
concealed in a press under the _draps mortuaires_, (the parish pall.)
The unhappy man, on the detection of this profanation, drowned himself.

M. Malglaive, a half-pay officer, lately employed in a public office,
had suffered some unexpected pecuniary losses. One of his friends
received a note from him by the twopenny post, requesting him to call
at his lodgings, where he would find a packet addressed to him. On
proceeding there, and opening the packet, he found a letter in these
words:—

“When you shall have received this letter, my poor Eleanore and I will
be no more. Be so good as to have our door opened; you will find our
eyes closed for ever. We are weary of misfortunes, and don’t see how we
can do better than end them. Satisfied of the courage and attachment
of my excellent wife, I was certain that she would adopt my views, and
take her share in my design.”

These young people (for the husband was but thirty-four and the wife
twenty-eight) had taken the most minute precautions to render the
effect of the fumes of charcoal certain; but a brace of loaded pistols
was placed on the night table, to be used if the charcoal had failed.

Madame de F—— killed herself in the park of her chateau, with _her own_
fowling-piece, which she took out on pretence of going shooting, as she
was in the habit of doing. She loaded it with six balls, and placing
the muzzle to her breast, discharged it. The only cause assigned is the
vexation she and M. de F—— felt at her having no children to inherit
their large fortune.

A fisherman with a large family, residing at Vellon d’Auffes, near
Marseilles, had been driven by domestic trouble to form a design of
suicide, which he had long announced. One Sunday he climbed a high
rock in the neighbourhood, where, in the sight of his friends below,
with a crucifix in his hands, he was evidently saying his last prayer,
preparatory to suicide. One of the neighbours, guessing his intentions,
reached the spot suddenly, and seized him; a struggle ensued on the
edge of the precipice; the unhappy man prevailed, and, escaping from
the arms of his friendly antagonist, flung himself over.

Voltaire relates the particulars of the following singular case:—An
Englishman of the name of Bacon Morris, a half-pay officer, and a man
of much intellect, called on Voltaire at Paris. The man was afflicted
with a cruel malady, for which he was led to suppose there was no cure.
After a certain number of visits, he one day called on the philosopher,
with a purse and a couple of papers in his hand. “One of these
papers,” he said, addressing Voltaire, “contains my will, the other my
epitaph; and this bag of money is intended to defray the expenses of
my funeral. I am resolved to try for fifteen days what can be effected
by regimen and the remedies prescribed, in order to render life less
insupportable; and if I succeed not, I am determined to kill myself.
You will bury me in what manner you please; my epitaph is short.” He
then read it; it consisted of the following two words from Petronius,
“Valete, curæ”—“Farewell, care.” “Fortunately,” says Voltaire, “for him
and myself, who loved him, he was cured, and did not kill himself.”

Two young people—Auguste, aged twenty-six, and Henriette, aged
eighteen—had long loved each other, but the parents of the girl would
not consent to the match. In this difficulty the young man wrote to
Henriette:—

“Men are inexorable. Well, let us set them at defiance. God is
all-powerful; our marriage shall be celebrated in his presence; and
to-morrow, if you love me, we will write, in our blood, at the foot of
the cross, our marriage vow.”

This proposition turned the weak girl’s head, and she consented. They
proceeded one night to a field near St. Denis, where there was a cross.
On their way they made incisions in both their arms, to procure the
blood in which the following _acte de mariage_ was written:—

“O great God, who governs the destinies of mankind, take us under thy
holy protection! As man will not unite us, we come on our knees to
implore thy sanction to our indissoluble union. O God, take pity on two
of thy poor children! Assemble all thy heavenly choir, that on so happy
a day they may partake our transports, and be witnesses of the holy joy
that shines in our hearts. O God! O ye angels of heaven and saints of
Paradise! look down upon a happiness which even the blessed may envy.

“And you, shades of our parents, come to this affecting ceremony, come
and give us your approbation and your blessing. It is in the presence
of you all that we, Pierre Auguste and Marie Henriette, swear to belong
to each other, and to each other only, and to be faithful to each other
to the hour of dissolution. Yes, we swear it—we swear it with one
voice. You are our witnesses, and we are united for life and for death.

  (Signed in letters of blood), “PIERRE AUGUSTE.
                               “MARIE HENRIETTE.”

The very day after this visionary marriage it was dissolved by the
suicide of the unfortunate Henriette. The moment her fault had become
irreparable, her betrayer abandoned her, and the poor creature threw
herself into the Seine. On the body was found the foregoing singular
_acte de mariage_, to which she had subjoined, with a feeble hand, the
following note:—

“He has dishonoured me—the monster! He deceived me by pretences which
went to my heart; but it is he who is to be pitied—wretch that he is!”

A young woman, of a highly honourable commercial family, put an end to
herself, overwhelmed with the idea of having forfeited the esteem of
her husband. _Rosalie_ had from her youth been destined to be the wife
of M. C——, a gentleman of her own station in life. Their union, though
not distinguished by any transports of love, was soberly and rationally
happy, and they had two children.

Unfortunately, Madame C—— was obliged by affairs of business to go into
the country while her husband remained in Paris. During this absence,
she appears to have formed a guilty passion, (the circumstances of
which have not been revealed;) but on her return home, the remorse
of her conscience so preyed upon her spirits as to be at last
unsupportable, and, after a long and painful struggle, she resolved
upon suicide. Just before the fatal act, she wrote a long letter to her
sister, of which we can only spare room for the most striking passages:—

“I have resolved to terminate my existence to-day; but I have not had,
during the whole morning, resolution to leave my poor little children,
who are unconscious of their mother’s agony.... Forgive, my dear
sister, the grief that my death is about to cause you. If my excellent
husband has offended you, forgive him.... If I had appreciated his
worth, I should not be the wretch I am: my negligence towards him
began my misfortune, but I had nothing to reproach myself with till my
fatal journey to Sarcelles—that journey was my ruin!... If I had your
virtues, I should have been the happiest of women; but I allowed myself
to be bewildered by a sentiment which I had not before known, and in my
culpable frenzy I was guilty before I intended it. O, my God! may my
repentance be accepted, and may thy goodness inspire my husband with
a peculiar, an exalted degree of parental affection for those unhappy
and innocent children. Protect them, O, my God, and grant that they may
not curse the memory of their unhappy mother, who was guilty without
intending it.

“And you, O my dearest Louis, forgive your wretched wife, who offers
you this her last farewell.”

One may judge the consternation which this affecting letter spread in
the family. The sister, on receiving this letter, hastened with Dr.
Bouillet to Mr. C—— ’s house: it was too late—they found the poor woman
in the last agonies of death, whilst her little children were playing
about the adjoining room, indulging in the sports of their age.

M. de Pontalba was one of the great proprietors of France. His son had
been a page of Napoleon’s, and afterwards a distinguished officer,
aide-de-camp to Marshal Ney, and a protégé of the Duke of Elchingen.
He married the daughter of Madame d’Almonaster, and for some time they
lived happily; but on the death of her mother, Madame de Pontalba began
to indulge in such extravagances that even the enormous fortune of the
Pontalbas was unequal to it. This led to some remonstrance on the part
of her husband, on the morning after which she disappeared from the
hotel, and neither he nor his children had any clue to her retreat. At
last, after an interval of some months, a letter arrived from her to
her husband, dated New Orleans, in which she announced that she meant
to apply for a divorce; but for eighteen months nothing more was heard
of her, except by her _drafts_ for money. At last she returned, but
only to afflict her family. Her son was at the Military Academy of St.
Cyr. She induced him to elope, and the boy was plunged in every species
of debauchery and expense. This afflicted, in the deepest manner, his
grandfather, who revoked a bequest he had made him of about £4,000 a
year, and seemed to apprehend from him nothing but future ruin and
disgrace. The old man, eighty-two years of age, resided in his Chateau
of Mont Levéque, whither, in October, 1834, Madame de Pontalba went to
attempt a reconciliation with the wealthy senior. The day after her
arrival she found she could make no impression on her father-in-law,
and was about to return to Paris, when old M. de Pontalba, observing
a moment when she was alone in her apartment, entered it with a brace
of double-barrelled pistols, locked the door, and, approaching his
astonished daughter-in-law, desired her to recommend herself to God,
for that she had but few minutes to live; but he did not even allow
her one minute—he fired immediately, and two balls entered her left
breast. She started up and fled to a closet, her blood streaming about,
and exclaiming that she would submit to any terms, if he would spare
her. “_No, no! You must die!_” and he fired his second pistol. She had
instinctively covered her heart with her hand; the hand was miserably
fractured by the balls, but it saved her heart. She then escaped to
another closet, where a third shot was fired at her without effect; and
at last she rushed in despair to the door, and while M. de Pontalba was
discharging his last barrel at her, she succeeded in opening it. The
family, alarmed by the firing, arrived, and she was saved. The old man,
on seeing that she was beyond his reach, returned to his apartment,
and blew out his brains. It seemed clear that he had resolved to make
a sacrifice of the short remnant of his own life, in order to release
his son and his grandson from their unfortunate connexion with Madame
de Pontalba. But he failed—none of _her_ wounds were mortal; and within
a month after, Madame de Pontalba, perfectly recovered, in high health
and spirits, radiant, and crowned with flowers, was to be seen at all
the fêtes and concerts of the capital.

A wealthy inhabitant of St. Denis arrived from a long journey, in
which he had occasion to carry a brace of pistols; these he deposited,
loaded, on a table in his bed-chamber, and sat down to dinner with his
family and some friends, invited to celebrate his return. Hardly had
dinner begun when a discussion arose between the father and his eldest
daughter, about twenty years of age. This young woman had always shewn
great jealousy of her younger sister, of whom she pretended her father
was fonder than of her. On this occasion the same feeling broke out,
and after some strong exhibition of ill-temper on her part, her father
said, “Nay, if you are sulky, you had better go to bed.” The girl got
up immediately, went to her father’s bed-room, took one of the pistols,
shot herself, and expired in a few hours in great agony.

Sir George Dunbar, Baronet, Major in the 14th Light Dragoons, quartered
at Norwich, unhappily got involved in a dispute with his fellow
officers. He was a man of quick sensibility, which may have betrayed
him into error on the occasion; but whichever party was to blame,
the quarrel was of a most violent nature, and he returned home much
bruised from blows received in the scuffle. The next day, repairing
to the mess-room, he declared to the other officers, “That, if he had
offended any of them, he was ready to make an apology; or, if that
was not thought sufficient, to give them honourable satisfaction.”
This proposal was refused, and the officers insisted “That he must
sell out, for that, as he had abused the whole regiment, nothing else
would or could satisfy them.” To this, Sir George replied, “That he
would live and die in the regiment, of which he had been an officer
for twenty years, and that a pistol should end the dispute.” Here
ended all communication, but the business made a most deep impression
on his mind. For two successive days he neither took food nor slept;
and his melancholy appearance filled his family with the most lively
apprehensions. Lady Dunbar locked up his razors, pistols, &c., and
watched him with unceasing vigilance. Her distress at seeing him so
wretched was very great, and in the night she moaned very much, and was
quite restless. Sir George said, “Maria, you disturb me; I will get
up;” which he immediately did, put on his watch-coat, and laid down
on the floor. Lady Dunbar then endeavoured to conceal the anguish of
her mind, in hopes to pacify him, and, being overcome with watching,
fell asleep. Sir George, as soon as he perceived it, left the room,
and at about five or six in the morning walked out. Her ladyship,
when she awoke, being much alarmed at his absence, eagerly inquired
for him, and was told he had taken a morning walk, having a violent
headache, and thinking the air would do him good. This, however, proved
only a pretence; for he had gone to purchase a case of pistols, and
stood by while the bullets were casting, which, with the pistols, he
brought home, concealed under his watch-coat. On his return, he went
to Lady Dunbar, who took hold of his hand, observing at the same time,
“How cold you are!” To which he answered, “Yes; I shall be better
presently.” She then proposed to make breakfast, but he declined it,
saying he had a letter to write first, and that he would ring to let
her know when he had finished it. He then parted from her, after
pressing her hand very hard; went to his study, wrote his will, and
instantly after blew out his brains. Lady Dunbar, who heard the report
of the pistol, ran down into the room, and fell insensible on his
body, which lay extended on the floor, and from which she was taken up
covered with his blood, and immediately removed to a friend’s house.
They were a very happy couple, and she had accompanied him in all his
campaigns.

As George III. was passing in his carriage through the park to St.
James’s, a gentleman dressed in black, standing in the green park,
close to the rails, just as the carriage came opposite to where he
stood, was observed to pull a paper hastily from his pocket, which
he stuck on the rails, addressed to the king, threw off his hat,
discharged a pistol in his own bosom, and instantly fell. Though
surrounded with people collected to see the king pass, the rash act
was so suddenly perpetrated, that no one suspected his fatal purpose
till he had accomplished it. He expired immediately. In his left hand
was a letter addressed “To the coroner who shall take an inquest on
James Sutherland.” This unfortunate gentleman was judge-advocate at
Minorca during the governorship of General Murray, with whom he had a
law suit which terminated in his favour. The general, however, got him
suspended and recalled. This, and the failure of some applications
to government, had greatly deranged his mind. He was very genteelly
dressed, but had only two-pence and some letters in his pocket; the
letters were carried to the Secretary of State’s Office. He left a
singular paper behind him, expressive of being in a sound mind, and
that the act was deliberate.

The following case is mentioned by Dr. A. T. Thomson, as illustrative
of the extraordinary determination often exhibited by those resolved
on self-destruction. A gentleman, who had long enjoyed an unblemished
reputation, was appointed the treasurer of a society; but having
unfortunately fallen into pecuniary difficulties, he not only applied
the funds of the society to his own purposes, but forged some bills.
As the punishment of the latter crime was penal at that period, on
being arrested, he made an attempt upon his life, but did not succeed.
His prior good character, and the respect in which he had been held,
prevented him from being immediately sent to jail; and he was permitted
to remain in the custody of the officer of justice who arrested him.
The attempt which he had made upon his life rendered it requisite
that every implement which could be employed by the suicide should
be withheld from him; but in other respects, as much indulgence was
extended to him as possible, under the circumstances of the case. His
wife also was permitted to visit him, but she was searched before
entering his apartment. He was locked up every night, and he was awoke
in the morning by an officer, at a certain hour. On the third morning
after his arrest, the officer, as usual, entered his room, and called
to him, but received no answer; he then approached the bed, and found
that his prisoner was dead. A medical man was immediately sent for. It
appeared that this gentleman had studied anatomy, and knew how to use a
lancet; and as he had a thorough conviction that he should be hanged,
he had persuaded his wife to bring a lancet to him in her mouth. After
being locked up for the night, he undressed himself, and opened the
femoral artery, the blood from which he allowed to flow into the pan of
the night chair, until, as was supposed, he became faint. He then bound
a handkerchief round the upper part of the thigh, and placed himself in
bed, in the position in which he was discovered. Notwithstanding his
great loss of blood, he contrived so effectually to stem the further
flow, that none was seen on the floor of the room, and only a few spots
on the sheets of the bed.”

A servant girl of Mursley, Bucks., committed suicide while her master
and his men were weeding in the field, by taking a cord and tying it
tight round the upper part of her left thigh, and with a fleam and
stick used in bleeding cattle, making a deep incision through the
artery. She bled to death before any assistance could be procured.

John Upson, of Woodbridge, in Suffolk, a glover, who was committed to
the castle for felony a few days before, hanged himself in his own room
with a garter. The following verses were written in a prayer-book lying
by him:—

  “Farewell, vain world, I’ve had enough of thee,
  And now am careless what thou say’st of me;
  Thy smiles I court not, nor thy frowns I fear,
  My cares are past, my heart lies easy here.
  What faults they find in me take care to shun,
  And look at home: enough is to be done.

  “June 26, 1774.          POOR JOHN THE GLOVER.”

Mr. Brower, a print-cutter, near Aldersgate-street, was attacked on
the road to Enfield by a single highwayman, whom he recollected to
be a tradesman in the city, and called him by his name. The robber
immediately shot himself through the head.

The case of a man is recorded in a French paper who burnt with one of
the strongest passions of which we ever heard an account. His mistress
having proved unfaithful to him, he called up his servant, informed him
that it was his intention to kill himself, and requested that, after
his death, he would make a candle of his fat, and carry it lighted to
his mistress. He then wrote a letter, in which he told her that as he
had long burnt for her, she might now see that his flames were real;
for the candle by which she would read the note was composed of part of
his miserable body. After this he committed suicide.

Lieutenant Colonel Mautren, of the Prussian Hussars, having been
stripped, at the gaming table, of all his property, even to his watch
and the rings he wore, returned home. Next day he disposed of his
commission; and having offered marriage to a respectable female whom
he had seduced, a clergyman was sent for, and the ceremony performed.
He then retired to a private room, and while some friends were
felicitating the bride on her good fortune, the report of a pistol
announced the catastrophe that had taken place. The company hastened
to the room; but the Colonel was no more. On the table was a letter to
his wife, mentioning the cause of his death and inclosing the amount of
the sale of his commission.

The particulars of the following case were read by M. Gerard de Gray,
at the _Société de Médecine_. A young man, having spent in the capital
all his finances, returned home to recruit his purse; but failing in
his object, he resolved to put an end to himself. He made no secret of
his determination. On the 16th of August he carried it into execution.
His bed-room was about nine feet square, and a little more than six in
height. On every aperture in it by which the air might possibly have
admittance, he pasted paper, and about five in the afternoon lighted
a brazier of coals, which he set on the floor close by his bed. He
then left the apartment, carefully closing the door after him. At six,
he said to an old lady, “My brazier is now ready—I go to die.” On
the following morning, the family having become alarmed, the door of
the chamber was forced open. An insupportable vapour issued from the
place, and the body of the unfortunate youth was found stretched across
the bed. On the floor, the brazier still occupied the place already
mentioned; it was of considerable capacity, and seemed to have been
lighted with paper. Near the body were placed two volumes of an old
Encyclopædia; one of them at the foot of the bed, open at the article
Ecstasy; the other near the right hand displayed the article Death. On
the latter volume was a pencil and a bit of paper, with the words, _Je
meurs avec calme et bonheur_, clearly written, with the date annexed;
but beneath that there appeared, in characters very difficult to be
read, the following words: _Au moment de l’agonie j’aurais voulu m’être
procuré une sensation agréable_. It would appear that the deceased
immediately on writing the scrawl, had fallen into the position in
which he was found. The attitude did not betoken any struggle at the
last moment; yet it seems probable, from the signs of sickness of the
stomach, and the mention of agony in the last phrase, that life did
not become extinct without some painful sensations.

Madame Augine having been personally attached to the late Queen of
France, expected to suffer under the execrable tyranny of Robespierre.
She often declared to her sister, Madame Campan, that she never would
wait the execution of the order of arrest, and that she was determined
to die rather than fall into the hands of the executioner. Madame
Campan endeavoured, by the principles of morality and philosophy, to
persuade her sister to abandon this desperate resolution; and in her
last visit, as if she had foreseen the fate of this unfortunate woman,
she added, “Wait the future with resignation; some fortunate occurrence
may turn aside the fate you fear, even at the moment you may believe
the danger to be greatest.” Soon afterwards the guards appeared before
the house where Madame Augine resided, to take her to prison. Firm in
her resolution to avoid the ignominy of execution, she ran to the top
of the house, threw herself from the balcony, and was taken up dead. As
they were carrying her corpse to the grave, the attendants were obliged
to turn aside to let pass the cart which conveyed Robespierre to the
scaffold!

In the year 1600, on the 10th of April, a person of the name of William
Dorrington threw himself from the top of St. Sepulchre’s church, in
London, having previously left on the leads or roof a paper of which
the following is a copy:—

“Let no other man be troubled for that which is my own fault; John
Bunkley and his fellows, by perjury and other bad means, have brought
me to this end. God forgive it them, and I do. And, O Lord, forgive
me this cruel deed upon my own body, which I utterly detest, and most
humbly pray him to cast it behind him; and that of his most exceeding
and infinite mercy he will forgive it me, with all my other sins. But
surely, after they had slandered me, every day that I lived was to me a
hundred deaths, which caused me rather to die with infamy than to live
in infamy and torment.

“Oh, summa Deitas, quæ cœlis et superis presides, meis medere
miseris, ut spretis inferis, letis superis, reis dona veniam.[79]

“Trusting in his only passion and merits of Jesus Christ, and
confessing my exceeding great sins, I say—‘Master, have mercy upon me!’”

This paper was folded up in form of a letter, and indorsed, “Oh, let me
live, and I will call upon thy name!”

Thomas Davers, who built at a vast expense a little fort on the River
Thames, near Blackwall, known by the name of Davers’s Folly, after
passing through a series of misfortunes, chiefly owing to an unhappy
turn of mind, put an end to his miserable life. Some few hours before
his death, he was seen to write the following card:—“Descended from
an ancient and honourable family, I have, for fifteen years past,
suffered more indigence than ever gentleman submitted to; neglected by
my acquaintance, traduced by my enemies, and insulted by the vulgar, I
am so reduced, worn down and tired, that I have nothing left but that
lasting repose, the joint and dernier inheritance of all.

  “Of laudanum an ample dose
  Must all my present ills compose;
  But the best laudanum of all
  I want (not resolution) but a ball.

  “N. B. Advertise this.        T. D.”

A farmer near Allandale, in Northumberland, procured a gun-barrel,
which he loaded with powder and shot, and having placed the stock
end in the fire, he leaned with his belly against the other. In this
position he awaited the dreadful moment. When the barrel became hot, an
explosion took place, by which he was shot through the body. He had,
some time before, been in the habit of excessive drinking, which had
impaired his intellects, and probably produced a derangement which led
to the commission of the deed.

Mr. Henry Grymes, of Virginia, U. S., whilst labouring under the
influence of delirium, broke his skull with a stone. After having
shattered it, he took out a piece about three inches long, and two
broad. Concluding that this would not put a period to his existence, he
thrust his fingers into his head, and tore out a considerable quantity
of his brains. Instead of immediate death, _he instantly returned to
the full exercise of reason!_ walked home, and lived to the second
evening following. He appeared very penitent and rational to the last
moment of his life; and in the meantime gave to his friends the above
statement of the horrid transaction. The cause of this derangement is
believed to have been a disappointment in marriage. Through the whole
of his life he supported an unsullied character.

“A blacksmith charged an old gun-barrel with a brace of bullets, and,
putting one end into the fire of his forge, tied a string to the handle
of his bellows, by pulling which he could make them play whilst he was
at a convenient distance, kneeling down; he then placed his head near
the mouth of the barrel, and moving the bellows by means of the string,
they blew up the fire, he keeping his head, with astonishing firmness
and horrible deliberation, in that position till the further end of the
barrel was so heated as to kindle the powder, whose explosion instantly
drove the bullets through his brain. Though I know this happened
literally as I relate it, yet there is something so extraordinary,
and almost incredible, in the circumstance, that perhaps I should not
have mentioned it, had it not been well attested, and known to the
inhabitants of Geneva, and to all the English there.”[80]

A Hanoverian, eighty years of age, resided at a country house near
Berne, with his five daughters, the eldest of whom was aged thirty,
and the youngest sixteen. The family were of very retired habits,
but were governed chiefly by the eldest sister, who was noted for her
imperious disposition, and opposition to religion. A young Englishman,
who had been for some time an occasional visitor to the house, became
smitten with one of the daughters; and one fine evening, as the five
sisters were taking the air in a carriage in the avenues of the Eugi,
they met him in his cabriolet, accompanied by a friend. After parading
up and down for some time, an exchange of vehicles was proposed to and
accepted by the young ladies, one of whom accompanied the Englishman,
and his friend entered the carriage with the ladies. A similar change
was again effected, until the Englishman found himself with the object
of his affections, with whom he immediately decamped. The others,
thinking he had returned to the house by another road, gave themselves
no uneasiness, but continued their road homewards. On arriving,
however, they found he had not returned. The eldest sister, becoming
alarmed, sent and informed the police that her sister had been run away
with; and the next day, news having been received that the runaways
were at Fribourg, she immediately set out for that place, accompanied
by one of her sisters. Before her departure, she told the two who
remained, that if she did not return by a certain hour, it would be a
proof that their family was dishonoured; in which case, it became the
duty of them all to renounce life. She required, and even extorted,
from them a solemn oath, that they would drown themselves if they (the
two elder sisters) did not return at the hour mentioned. On arriving
at Fribourg, and finding their sister, whom they could not persuade
to return home, they two resolved upon putting their resolution into
effect; for which purpose they repaired to the banks of the Sarine; but
the younger, on arriving, finding her courage fail, exclaimed, “Kill
me, sister; I can never throw myself into the river.” The eldest drew
out a dagger, and was about to perpetrate the deed, when a peasant
coming up, interrupted the design. She immediately despatched the
peasant to prevent her other two sisters from putting their oath
into effect; but the precaution was too late. After having prepared
every necessary for their aged father during the day, they dressed
themselves in their best apparel, and, on arriving at the banks of
the Aar, fastened themselves with a shawl, and, embracing each other,
precipitated themselves into the river, in which position their bodies
were found some time afterwards.

The particulars of the following extraordinary case we find recorded
in the Annual Register for 1823. It appears that a man of the name
of Spring and his paramour, Mary Gooch, had agreed to commit mutual
suicide. For that purpose a large dose of laudanum was purchased; but
the dose which Spring took was not sufficient for his purpose, and
he recovered. The poor woman was successful in killing herself. The
following is the evidence given by Spring at the coroner’s inquest:—

“John Spring said, that he was present with the deceased in bed when
she died, about seven o’clock on Friday morning; that she did not
die in agony; that on the Wednesday evening the deceased and witness
came to an agreement to buy some laudanum to take together, that
they might both be found dead together in the same bed; that on the
Thursday morning, he (the witness) went to the chemist’s and bought
some laudanum; he thinks four ounces; that when he came in, Mary Gooch
said, ‘Your heart has failed you; you have not bought it for me;’ that
she got up and felt witness’s pocket. The deceased said, ‘You have got
something here.’ Witness replied, ‘Oh, that will soon do our business,
if we take it.’ She said, ‘Have you any money left of what I gave
you to buy it with?’ Witness said, ‘Yes, there are some halfpence.’
The deceased said she would purchase some oranges with them, to take
after it, and would send for them; that she sent a boy of Webb’s, who
returned with two oranges; that the deceased peeled them; that she
took two wine glasses off the shelf, and placed hers on the box, and
said, ‘Now let us take it.’ She poured half into one glass, and half
into another. One glass she kept to herself, and the other she gave to
witness. The deceased said, ‘Let us take hold of each other’s hands.’
Witness said, ‘No, my dear; if we do, we shall not take it; let us
turn back to back, and take it.’ Deceased and witness turned their
backs to one another, and drank the contents of the glasses. After
they had drunk the laudanum, the deceased said, ‘What shall we do with
the bottle?’ Witness said, he would go and throw it away. She said,
she would in the mean time wipe the glasses. He threw away the bottle,
and the deceased had wiped the glasses by the time he came back. The
deceased said, ‘Let us go to bed.’ They both went to bed together.
The deceased afterwards got out of bed, placed a chair against the
door, to fasten it, and drew the window blinds. The deceased then
said, ‘Now we shall die happily together.’ This was between two and
three o’clock. He asked the deceased how she came by the money she had
given him; the deceased said, ‘That is of no consequence, and does not
signify;’ the deceased and witness conversed together about various
things, till eight o’clock. She said, she had sent her gown to her
aunt’s, and that the money came from her. The laudanum did not take
any effect till about two; she then began to sleep. The witness was
sick about four, and the deceased was awake at that time. The deceased
was not sick at all, and fell into a sound sleep at six. The witness
awoke her between six and seven; the deceased then said, ‘How large
your eyes look!’ Witness said to her, ‘Mary, I am afraid my laudanum
will take no effect.’ The deceased said, ‘Oh dear! if I should die
without you, and you are taken before a court of justice, I shall not
die easy.’ Witness told her she might be quite happy, for, if it did
not take effect, he would get up and buy some that would, as he would
die with her. The deceased said, ‘My dear, pray give me that blue
muslin handkerchief, that I may have it in my hand when I die. Pray,
don’t you take anything; but let me die, and you will get over.’ She
then laid her head on the shoulder of the witness, and died almost
immediately. The body began to grow cold by the time he came in from
the town, about half-past eight. The deceased had been in a bad state
of mind ever since he had known her. She always appeared to wish to
die, and had attempted to destroy herself before, when the witness was
at a fair. About a month previous, the deceased having come home in
an unhappy state of mind, got up about twelve at night, took a linen
line, pinned her cap over her head, and went out of the house, taking
a small chair with her. She had one end of a rope about her neck, and
was about to throw it over the arm of an apple-tree, when he overtook
her, brought her in, and took the rope from her. The deceased, all
Wednesday evening, was very anxious to die, and wished witness to die
with her. On Thursday, she expressed a desire that they should both die
together. The witness had known the deceased ever since Michaelmas Bury
fair. She had been very anxious about the payment of the half-year’s
rent; the witness said, he could go to his friends and get it; deceased
said, ‘If you go away, I shall be afraid that you will not come back
again.’ It was not from want that they committed the act; it had been
in contemplation some time.”

A young lady, at a boarding school near Birmingham, had been set a
task, and felt indignant at being obliged to learn it out of an old
book, while some of the other scholars were indulged with new ones.
She went next day to an old woman in the neighbourhood, and told her
“that she had had a singular dream,—that she was dead, and had been
carried to her grave by such and such young ladies,” naming some of
her companions and young friends; and asked the old woman what she
thought of it; who replied, “that she put no faith in dreams.” A few
days after, when going a walk with the other scholars, she loitered
behind, and making her escape from the party, drowned herself in a
pool near the school. She left her hat (or bonnet) on the edge of the
pool, wherein was pinned a letter for her parents, entreating their
forgiveness of such a rash act. She therein requested to have for her
bearers those whom she had said she dreamed had carried her to her
grave; and enclosed some locks of her hair as mementos of friendship.
She was only about eleven years of age, and the daughter of very
respectable parents in the neighbourhood.

Sophia Edwards and Mary West, two female-servants, in the family of
the Rev. John Gibbons, of Brasted, in Kent, were left in care of the
house for some weeks, in consequence of the absence of their master
and mistress. During this time they had the misfortune to break some
articles of furniture, and to spoil four dozen of knives and forks,
by incautiously lighting a fire in an oven where they had been placed
to keep them from rust. The unfortunate girls, however, bought other
knives and forks. Upon the return of Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons, the servants
were severely reprimanded for what had happened, and one of them
received notice to leave her place. They both appeared to be very
uncomfortable for two days afterwards; and, on the second day, the
footman heard them in conversation respecting Martha Viner, a late
servant in the same family, who had drowned herself in a pond in the
garden, and observing one to the other, that she had done so through
trouble. The elder then said to the younger—“We will have a swim
to-night, Mary!” The other replied—“So we will, girl.” The footman
thought they were jesting, and said—“Ay, and I will swim with you!”
Sophia Edwards replied—“No, you shan’t; but I will have a swim, and
afterwards I will haunt you.” After this conversation, they continued
about their work as usual, and at six o’clock asked the footman to get
tea for them. While he was in the pantry for that purpose, he heard
the kitchen door shut; and on his return into the kitchen, they were
both gone. The footman afterwards thought he heard them upstairs, and
therefore took no notice of their absence, until eight o’clock, when
he told his master and mistress. Search was made for them about the
house, garden, and neighbourhood, during the whole night; and early
next morning, the same pond was dragged which had so recently been the
watery grave of Martha Viner, when both their bodies were found in it,
lying close to each other.

The following whimsical instance of indifference as to the mode of
suicide is related in Sir John Hawkins’s History of the Science and
Practice of Music, vol. v. 7:—“One Jeremiah Clarke, organist of St.
Paul’s, an. dom. 1700, was at the house of a friend in the country,
from whence he took an abrupt resolution of returning to London. His
friend having observed marks of great dejection in his behaviour, and
knowing him to be a man disappointed in love, furnished him not only
with a horse, but a servant to take care of him. A fit of melancholy
seizing him on the road, he alighted and went into a field, in the
corner whereof was a pond, and also trees; where he began to debate
with himself, whether he should then end his days by hanging or
drowning. Not being able to resolve on either, he thought of making
what he looked on as chance, the umpire. He tossed a piece of money
into the air, which came down on its edge and stuck in the clay. Though
the determination answered not his wishes, it was far from ambiguous,
as it seemed to forbid both methods of destruction; and would have
given unspeakable comfort to a mind less disordered than his. Being
thus interrupted in his purpose, he returned, and mounting his horse,
rode on to London, where, in a short time after, he shot himself.

Falret relates the case of an apothecary who, on receiving a reproof
from his sweetheart, went home and blew out his brains, having first
written the following sentence on his door—“When a man knows not how to
please his mistress, he ought to know how to die.”

A German merchant, aged thirty-two, depressed by severe reverses
of fortune, came to the resolution of starving himself to death.
With this view he repaired, on the 15th of September, 1818, to an
unfrequented wood, where he constructed a hut of boughs, and remained,
without food, till the 3rd of October following. At this period, he
was found, by the landlord of a public-house, still alive, but very
feeble, speechless, and insensible. Broth, with the yolk of an egg,
was administered to him; he swallowed some with difficulty, and died
immediately.

In the pocket of the unfortunate man was found a journal, written in
pencil, singular of its kind, and remarkable as a narrative of his
feelings and sentiments. It commences in these words:—“The generous
philanthropist, who shall one day find me here after my death, is
requested to inter me; and in consideration of this service, to keep my
clothes, purse, knife, and letter-case. Moreover observe, that _I am no
suicide_, but have died of hunger, because through wicked men I have
lost the whole of my very considerable property, and am unwilling to
become a burden to my friends.” The ensuing remark is dated September
17th, the second day of abstinence:—“I yet live; but how I have been
soaked during the night, and how cold it has been. O God! when will my
sufferings terminate! No human being has for three days been seen here;
only some birds.” The journal continues, “And again, three days, and I
have been so soaked during the night, that my clothes to-day are not
quite dry. How hard this is no one knows, and my last hour must soon
arrive. Doubtlessly, during the heavy rain, a little water has got into
my throat; but the thirst is not to be slaked with water; moreover, I
have had none even of this for six days, since I am no longer able to
move from the place. Yesterday, for the first time during the eternity
which, alas! I have already passed here, a man approached me within
eight or ten paces. He was certainly a shepherd. I saluted him in
silence, and he returned it in the same manner; probably, he will find
me after my death!”

“Finally, I here protest before the all-wise God, that, notwithstanding
all the misfortunes which I have suffered from my youth, I yet die
very unwillingly, although necessity has imperiously driven me to it.
Nevertheless, I pray for it. Father, forgive him; for he knows not what
he does! More I cannot write for faintness and spasms; and this will be
the last. Dated near the forest, by the side of the Goat public-house.

  “Sept. 29, 1818.      J. F. N.”


It is evident, from the above account, that consciousness and the
power of writing remained till the _fourteenth_ day of abstinence.
The operation of famine was aggravated by mental distress, and still
more by exposure to the weather. This, indeed, seems to have produced
his most urgent sufferings. Subsequent to the common cravings and
debility of hunger, his first physical distress appears to have been
the sensation of cold; then cold and thirst; lastly, faintness and
spasm. In this case we find no symptoms of inflammation. A want of
nervous energy, arising from the reduction in the quantity or quality
of the blood, appears to have been the principal disease. The effort
of swallowing, and the oppression of food on the exhausted stomach,
completed the catastrophe.[81]

There is an extraordinary instance of suicidal design recorded, and
which is worth noticing, were it only to shew the extent to which the
human powers can sustain life unaided by proper nourishment, even
though the intelligent principle be subverted.

An officer, having experienced many mortifications, fell into a state
of deep melancholy. He resolved to die of famine; and he followed up
his resolution so faithfully that he passed forty-five days without
eating anything, except on the fifth day, when he asked for some
distilled water, in which was mixed a quarter of a pint of spirits of
aniseed. This lasted him three days. Upon being told that this quantity
of spirit was too much, he then took in each glass of water no more
than three drops of it, and the same quantity of fluid lasted him
thirty-nine days. He then ceased drinking, and took nothing at all
daring the last six days. On the thirty-sixth day, he was obliged to
recline on a couch. Every request to induce him to break his resolution
was useless, and he was regarded as already lost, when chance recalled
within him a desire to live. Having seen a child with a slice of bread
and butter, the sight excited in him so violent an appetite that he
instantly asked for some soup. They gave him every two hours some
spoonsful of rice bouillie, and by degrees more nourishing diet, and
his health, though slowly, was established.[82]

Two young men, mere youths, entered a _restaurant_, bespoke a dinner of
unusual luxury and expense, and afterwards arrived punctually at the
appointed hour to eat it. They did so, apparently with all the zest
of youthful appetite and glee. They called for champagne, and quaffed
it hand-in-hand. No symptom of sadness, thought, or reflection of any
kind, was observed to mix with their mirth, which was loud, long, and
unremitting. At last came the _café noir_, the cognac, and the bill;
one of them was seen to point out the amount to the other, and then
burst out afresh into violent laughter. Having swallowed each a cup of
coffee to the dregs, the _garçon_ was ordered to request the company of
the _restaurateur_ for a few minutes. He came immediately, expecting,
perhaps, to receive the payment of his bill, minus some extra charge
which the jocund but economical youths might deem exorbitant.

Instead of this, however, the elder of the two informed him that the
dinner had been excellent, which was the more fortunate, as it was
decidedly the last that either of them should ever eat; that for his
bill, he must of necessity excuse the payment of it, as, in fact, that
neither of them possessed a single sous; that upon no other occasion
would they have thus violated the customary _etiquette_ between guest
and landlord; but that finding this world, with its toils and its
troubles, unworthy of them, they had determined once more to enjoy a
repast of which their poverty must for ever prevent the repetition,
and then take leave of existence for ever! For the first part of this
resolution, he declared that it had, thanks to the cook and his cellar,
been achieved nobly; and for the last, it would soon follow, for the
_café noir_, besides the little glass of his admirable cognac, had been
medicated with that which would speedily settle all their accounts for
them.

The _restaurateur_ was enraged. He believed no part of the rhodomontade
but that which declared their inability to discharge their bill, and he
talked loudly in his turn of putting them into the hands of the police.
At length, however, upon their offering to give up their address, he
was induced to allow them to depart.

On the following day, either the hope of obtaining his money or some
vague fear that they might have been in earnest in the wild tale that
they had told him, induced this man to go to the address they had left
with him; and he there heard that the two unhappy boys had been that
morning found lying together, hand-in-hand, on a bed hired a few weeks
before by one of them. When they were discovered, they were already
dead and cold.

On a small table in the room lay many written papers, all expressing
aspirations after greatness that should cost neither labour nor care,
a profound contempt for those who were satisfied to live by the sweat
of their brow, sundry quotations from Victor Hugo, and a request that
their names and the manner of their death might be transmitted to the
newspapers.

Many are the cases of young men, calling themselves friends, who have
thus encouraged each other to make their final exit from life, if not
with applause, at least with effect. And more numerous still are the
tales recounted of young men and women found dead, and locked in each
other’s arms, fulfilling literally, and with most sad seriousness, the
destiny sketched so merrily in an old song—

  “Gai, gai, marions-nous—
  Mettons-nous dans la misère;
  Gai, gai, marions-nous—
  Mettons-nous la corde au cou.”[83]

A woman drowned herself by breaking a hole in the ice of a pond
sufficiently large to admit her head, which she put into the water, so
that her body remained quite dry.

A Greenwich pensioner, who had his allowance stopped from some
misconduct, committed suicide by stabbing himself with his spectacles,
which he sharpened to a point for that purpose.

A man, with a determination to sacrifice his life, threw himself among
the bears in the _Jardin du Roi_, in Paris. A bear sprung immediately
upon him, and before he could be rescued from Bruin’s grasp, he was so
mutilated that he died a few hours afterwards. Prior to his death he
expressed much pleasure at having effected his purpose.

A young lady, at the age of nineteen, was extremely beautiful,
in possession of a large fortune, and by no means deficient in
understanding or wit; but was immoderately fond of play. She soon
gambled away her whole fortune. Reflections on the past became
bitter; anticipation of the future alarming; melancholy increased,
and weariness of life succeeded. Being at Bath, in the year 1731, she
was seen to retire to her chamber with her usual composure, and was
found in the morning hanging by a gold and silver girdle to a closet
door. Her youth, beauty, and distress, rendered her an object of
pity to every one but a near relation, who, on hearing of her death,
was inhuman enough to exclaim, in a punning style—“Then she has tied
herself up from play.”

On the morning of her death she left these lines in the window:—

  “O death, thou pleasing end of human woe!
  Thou cure for life! thou greatest good below!
  Still mayst thou fly the coward and the slave,
  And thy soft slumbers only bless the brave.”

On reading which a gentleman wrote thus:—

  “O dice, ye vain diverters of our woe!
  Ye waste of life! ye greatest curse below!
  May ne’er good sense again become your slave,
  Nor your false charms allure and cheat the brave.”

A man whose name and connexions were unknown, was found dead in his
chamber at an inn, in Kent, with the following paper lying beside him:—

  Lost to the world, and by the world forsaken,
            A wretched creature,
       Who groaned under a weary life
    Upwards of thirty years, without knowing
              One happy hour.
                 And all
      In consequence of one single error,
          Committed in early days,
           Though highly venial
  As being the mere effects of juvenile folly,
           And soon repented of.
                But, alas!
            The poor prodigal
  Had no kind father that would take him home,
   And welcome back his sad repentant virtue
   With fond forgiveness and the fatted calf.
                  Here
   He sinks beneath his mighty load of ills,
                And with
      His miserable being lays them down,
              Heart-broken,
          At the age of fifty.
   Tender reader, give him a little earth
              For charity.

A middle aged Frenchman, decently dressed, hanged himself in a
public-house in Old Street Road. A letter written in French was found
in his pocket, setting forth that some years ago, he dreamt he was
to die that day, if not, he was to be damned; and therefore, for the
salvation of his soul, he had thought it necessary to put an end to his
life.

A young gentleman, living in London, had paid his addresses to an
agreeable young lady, won her heart, and obtained the consent of her
father, to whom she was an only child. The old gentleman had a fancy to
have them married at the same parish church where he himself had been,
at a village in Westmoreland; and they accordingly set out alone, the
father being at the time indisposed with the gout, in London.

The bridegroom took only his man, and the bride her maid; and when they
arrived at the place appointed, the bridegroom wrote the following
letter to his wife’s father:—

“SIR,—After a very pleasant journey hither, we are preparing for the
happy hour in which I am to be your son. I assure you the bride carries
it, in the eyes of the vicar who married you, much beyond her mother;
though he says, your open sleeves, pantaloons, and shoulder-knot,
made a much better shew than the finical dress I am in. However, I am
contented to be the second fine man this village ever saw, and shall
make it very merry before night, because I shall write from thence,
Your most dutiful son,

  “T. D.”

“P. S. The bride gives her duty, and is as handsome as an angel. I am
the happiest man breathing.”


The bridegroom’s servant knew his master would leave the place very
soon after the wedding was over, and seeing him draw his pistols the
night before, took an opportunity of going into his chamber and charged
them.

Upon their return from the garden they went into that room, and,
after a little fond raillery on the subject of their courtship, the
bridegroom took up one of the pistols, which he knew he had unloaded
the night before, presented it to her, and said, with the most
graceful air, whilst she looked pleased at his agreeable flattery,
“Now, madam, repent of all those cruelties you have been guilty of
towards me; consider, before you die, how often you have let a poor
wretch freeze under your casement. You shall die, you tyrant! you shall
die with all those instruments of death about you,—with that enchanting
smile, those killing ringlets of your hair!”

“Give fire,” said she, laughing. He did so, and shot her dead. Who can
speak his condition? But he bore it so patiently as to call up his
man. The poor wretch entered, and his master locked the door upon him.
“Will,” said he, “did you charge these pistols?” He answered, “Yes;”
upon which his master shot him dead with the undischarged instrument of
death. After this, amidst a thousand broken sobs, piercing groans, and
distracted motions, he wrote the following letter to the father of his
dead mistress:—

“SIR,—Two hours ago, I told you truly I was the happiest man alive.
Your daughter lies dead at my feet, killed by my own hand through a
mistake of my man’s charging my pistols unknown to me! I have murdered
him for it. Such is my wedding-day. I will follow my wife to her grave;
but before I throw myself upon my sword, I command my distraction
so far as to explain my story to you. I fear my heart will not keep
together till I have stabbed it. Poor, good old man, remember that he
who killed your daughter died for it! In death I give you thanks, and
pray for you though I dare not pray for myself. If it be possible, do
not curse me. Farewell for ever!

  “T. D.”


This being finished, he put an end to his life. The body of the servant
was interred in the village where he was killed; and the young couple,
attended by their maid, were brought to London, and privately interred
in one grave, in the parish in which the unhappy father resided.

The following case occurred in England not many years ago. A young
couple, the wife aged sixteen and the husband nineteen, discovered,
a few months after marriage, that money was much more easily spent
than procured; and being unable to live in the style they wished, they
determined, after having held a long consultation on the subject, that
their best and only remedy was at once to put an end to their imaginary
miseries by committing suicide. After dinner, the husband attended his
usual business, and brought home with him at tea-time a quarter of a
pound of sugar of lead, for the purpose of executing their design. The
whole of this poison was dissolved in a pot of coffee, and carefully
strained and sweetened, to render it more palatable. The young man
then deliberately wrote a letter, explaining the circumstances to his
father, to whom he had previously sent a message, requesting him to
call in the evening. At the time appointed the husband and wife drank
off the poison, and then, embracing each other, laid down to die.
When they were discovered, all that they could be induced to say was
the word “poison.” Medical assistance was immediately procured, but
no persuasions could induce them to take an antidote, both of them
heroically resolving to die. The young woman, however, reconsidered
the point, and began to think that death was not so agreeable a thing
as she first supposed; but, retaining her feelings of obedience strong
in death, imploringly said to her husband, when she was pressed to
take the medicine offered, “Shall I take it, dear?” To this he gave
a direct negative, enforcing it with an oath; but her love of life
triumphed over her sense of obedience to the commands of her lord, and
she consented to swallow the antidote. The husband, however, was not
so willing to venture upon the cares and vexations of the world, and
obstinately persisted in dying; but as this was not thought prudent, he
was made by physical force to swallow the medicine, and was restored to
life, and is still in the land of the living.

Instances of mutual suicide are by no means uncommon on the Continent,
and were not unknown in ancient times. The inhabitants of England have
not become as yet romantic enough for these exhibitions. The case
of M. Kleist, the celebrated Prussian poet, and Madame Vogle, may
be fresh in the minds of our readers. Madame Vogle, it is said, had
suffered long under an incurable disorder; her physicians had declared
her death inevitable; she herself came to a resolution to put an end
to her existence. M. Kleist, the poet, and a friend of her family,
had also determined to kill himself. These two unhappy beings, having
confidentially communicated to each other their horrible resolution,
resolved to carry it into effect at the same time. They repaired to the
inn at Wilhemstadt, between Berlin and Potsdam, on the borders of the
Sacred Lake. For one night and one day they were preparing themselves
for death, by putting up prayers, singing, drinking wine and rum, and
concluded by drinking sixteen cups of coffee. They wrote a letter to
M. Vogle, to announce to him the resolution they had taken, and to
beg him to come as speedily as possible, for the purpose of seeing
their remains devoutly interred. After having despatched the letter to
Berlin, they repaired to the bank of the Sacred Lake, where they sat
down opposite to each other. M. Kleist then took a loaded pistol and
shot Madame Vogle through the heart,—she instantly fell back dead; he
then reloaded the pistol, and applying the muzzle to his own head, blew
out his brains.

A horrid scene of mixed murder and suicide, accompanied with great
calmness in its execution, was exhibited in the year 1732, in the
family of one Richard Smith, a bookbinder. This man being a prisoner
for debt within the walls of the King’s Bench, was found hanging in his
chamber, together with his wife; and their infant of two years old lay
murdered in a cradle beside them. Smith left three letters behind him,
one of which was addressed to his landlord, in which he says:—“He hopes
effects enough will be found to discharge his lodgings, and recommends
to his protection his ancient dog and cat.” A second was addressed to
his cousin Brindley, and contained severe censure on the person through
whose means he had been brought into difficulties, with a desire also
that Brindley would make the third letter public, which was as follows:—

“These actions, considered in all their circumstances, being somewhat
uncommon, it may not be improper to give some account of the cause;
and that it was an inveterate hatred we conceived against poverty and
rags, evils that through a train of unlucky accidents were become
inevitable. For we appeal to all that ever knew us, whether we were
idle or extravagant, whether or no we have not taken as much pains
to get our living as our neighbours, although not attended with the
same success. We apprehend the taking our child’s life away to be a
circumstance for which we shall be generally condemned; but for our
own parts we are perfectly easy on that head. We are satisfied it is
less cruelty to take the child with us, even supposing a state of
annihilation as some dream of, than to leave her friendless in the
world, exposed to ignorance and misery. Now in order to obviate some
censures which may proceed either from ignorance or malice, we think it
proper to inform the world, that we firmly believe the existence of an
Almighty God; that this belief of ours is not an implicit faith, but
deduced from the nature and reason of things. We believe the existence
of an Almighty Being from the consideration of his wonderful works,
from those innumerable celestial and glorious bodies, and from their
wonderful order and harmony. We have also spent some time in viewing
those wonders which are to be seen in the minute part of the world, and
that with great pleasure and satisfaction. From all which particulars
we are satisfied that such amazing things could not possibly be without
a first mover,—without the existence of an Almighty Being. And as we
know the wonderful God to be Almighty, so we cannot help believing that
he is also good—not implacable, not like such wretches as men are,
not taking delight in the misery of his creatures; for which reason
we resign up our breath to him without any terrible apprehensions,
submitting ourselves to those ways which in his goodness he shall
please to appoint after death. We also believe in the existence of
unbodied natures, and think we have reason for that belief, although
we do not pretend to know their way of subsisting. We are not ignorant
of those laws made _in terrorem_, but leave the disposal of our bodies
to the wisdom of the coroner and his jury, the thing being indifferent
to us where our bodies are laid. From hence it will appear how little
anxious we are about a ‘_hic jacet_.’ We for our part neither expect
nor desire such honours; but shall content ourselves with a borrowed
epitaph, which we shall insert in this paper:

  ‘Without a name, for ever silent, dumb;
  Dust, ashes, nought else is within this tomb;
  Where we were born or bred it matters not;
  Who were our parents, or have us begot.
  We ‘were, but are not.’ Think no more of us,
  For as we are, so you’ll be turn’d to dust.’

“It is the opinion of naturalists, that our bodies are at certain
stages of life composed of new matter; so that a great many poor men
have new bodies oftener than new clothes. Now, as divines are not
able to inform us which of those several bodies shall rise at the
resurrection, it is very probable that the deceased body may be for
ever silent as well as any other.

  (Signed,) “RICHARD SMITH,
            “BRIGET SMITH.”


A lady and gentleman visited an hotel in the neighbourhood of Paris,
and ordered dinner to be prepared in a private room. The lady, who
appeared only nineteen years of age, was most magnificently attired.
The gentleman was observed to pay her marked attention, and addressed
her with the most endearing epithets. The dinner consisted of every
luxury of the season. After drinking a large quantity of wine, the
gentleman requested that they should not be disturbed, and he was heard
to lock the door. Half an hour afterwards, a report of a pistol was
heard in the room. The master of the hotel was alarmed. The assistance
of the police was obtained, and the door of the room in which the
lady and gentleman had dined forced open. The lady was found on the
floor dead, and the gentleman a short distance from her, in the last
struggle of death. Two pistols were found near the bodies. It appeared
that they had agreed to commit mutual suicide, and each being provided
with a loaded pistol, fired at and killed each other. On the table
was found a piece of paper, on which were written with a pencil the
following words:—“We, H***d and Maria **, were enamoured of each other.
Circumstances beyond the control of man prevent our alliance. We have
no alternative but separation or death; and believing death to be one
eternal dream of bliss, we, after much meditation, have determined to
kill each other. We affix our signatures to this document.

  “H***D,
  “MARIA **.”


Two devoted lovers, disappointed in obtaining the consent of their
parents to their union, resolved upon dying. They experienced some
difficulty in deciding how to effect their purpose. The lady expressed
an abhorrence of pistols, and the gentleman was equally repugnant to
the rope. After much hesitation, they agreed to throw themselves into
the river, and stated their intention to a friend, who, thinking they
were merely joking, observed—“Well, I think you will find the water
very cold; I should advise you to put on warm clothing before you jump
in.” In the evening they were missing, and on searching the river, they
were discovered, tied to each other, quite dead.

The suicide of Sir R. Croft has often been alluded to. He attended
the late Princess Charlotte in her confinement, and her much lamented
death, although not owing to any want of skill on his part, preyed
much on his mind, and drove him to the rash act. He fancied he saw the
spirit of the princess glide through his room. The sight of an open
razor on the table first suggested the idea of self-destruction to
him. He was a physician of great skill, and was much beloved by all who
knew him.

A bishop of Grenoble affords an instance of suicidal ingenuity. He
took a rod on which his bed-curtains hung, and suspended it across by
a stick, which communicated with the trigger of his fowling-piece. He
then sat quietly down, with his feet hanging over the rod, and placing
the muzzle of the gun in his mouth, held it fast. He had nothing more
now to do than to drop his leg upon the rod, when the gun went off, and
three bullets entered his brain.

The fortitude which suicides display is amazing. A servant girl of the
Dean of——, who had always borne a most excellent character, was accused
by the family of theft. She immediately repaired to the wash-house,
immersed her head in a pail of water, and was found dead in that
position. What must have been the courage of this poor creature, who,
when writhing under the lash of a false accusation, kept her head under
water, despite the horrible sense of suffocation that must have come on!

A French soldier of the name of Bordeaux, being determined to put an
end to his life, persuaded a comrade, called Humain, to follow his
example. They both repaired to an inn at St. Denis, and bespoke a good
dinner. One of them went out to buy some powder and balls. They spent
the day (Christmas) together with great cheerfulness, called for more
wine; and, about four o’clock in the evening, blew out their brains,
leaving some empty bottles, their will, a letter, and half-a-crown, in
addition to the amount of their bill.

The following letter was addressed by Bordeaux to the lieutenant of his
troop, and was as follows:—

“SIR,—During my residence at Guise, you honoured me with your
friendship. It is time to thank you. You have often told me that
I appeared displeased with my situation. I was sincere, but not
absolutely true. I have since examined myself more seriously, and
acknowledge that I am disgusted with every state of man, the whole
world, and myself. From these discoveries a consequence should be
drawn,—if disgusted with the whole, renounce the whole. The calculation
is not long,—I have made it without the aid of geometry. In short, I
am about putting an end to the existence that I have possessed for
near twenty years, fifteen of which have been a burden to me; and from
the moment that I have ended this letter, a few grains of powder will
destroy this moving mass of flesh, which we vain mortals call the king
of beings. I owe no one an excuse. I deserted. That was a crime; but
I am going to punish it, and the law will be satisfied. I asked leave
of absence from my superior officers, to have the pleasure of dying at
my ease. They never condescended to give me an answer. This served to
hasten my end. I wrote to Bord to send you some detached pieces I left
at Guise, which I beg you will accept. You will find that they contain
some well chosen literature. These pieces will solicit for me a place
in your remembrance. Adieu, my dear lieutenant! Continue your esteem
for St. Lambert and Dorat. As for the rest, skip from flower to flower,
and acquire the sweets of all knowledge, and enjoy every pleasure.

    ‘Pour moi, j’arrive au trou,
    Qui n’echappe ni sage ni fou,
    Pour aller je ne sais où.’

“If we exist after this life, and it is forbidden to quit it without
permission, I will endeavour to procure one moment to inform you of it;
if not, I shall advise all those who are unhappy, which is by far the
greater part of mankind, to follow my example. When you receive this
letter, I shall have been dead at least twenty-four hours.

  With esteem, &c.
  “BORDEAUX.”


Lord Scarborough exhibited the same nonchalance in the act of killing
himself as he did when he resigned his situation as master of the
horse. He was reproached in the House of Peers with taking the king’s
part because he had a good place at court. “My Lords,” said he, “to
prove to you that my opinion is independent of my place, I resign it
this moment.” He afterwards found himself in a perplexing dilemma
between a mistress whom he loved, but to whom he had promised nothing,
and a woman whom he esteemed, and to whom he had promised marriage.
Not having sufficient resolution to decide which to choose, he killed
himself to escape the embarrassment.

Perhaps the coolest attempt at self-destruction on record, the _chef
d’œuvre_ of a suicide, is one related by Foderé. An Englishman
advertised extensively that he would on a certain day put himself to
death in Covent Garden, for the benefit of his wife and family. Tickets
of admission a guinea each.

Voltaire states that Creech, the translator of Lucretius, wrote on
the margin of the manuscript, “Remember to hang myself after my
translation is finished,” and he accordingly did so.[84] Zimmerman
asserts that he committed suicide in order to escape from the contempt
of his countrymen, in consequence of the ill-success that attended the
translation of Horace, which followed Lucretius. Mr. Jacob, however,
observes, in reply to the statement of Zimmerman, that Creech did not
hang himself until seventeen years after the appearance of his Horace.
His death was attributed at the time to some love affair, or to his
morose and splenetic temper.

The history of the unfortunate _Madame de Monnier_ is full of interest.
It has been asserted that her death was the result of an ardent passion
for Mirabeau; but we think it has clearly been established that, at
the time of her suicide, she had abandoned all claim to his affection,
and had formed a strong attachment to a person who, although highly
respectable in point of rank, was very inferior to herself. It is well
known that Mirabeau had a _liaison_ with Madame de Monnier, the wife of
the Marquis de Monnier, whom she abandoned. After residing seven years
with her seducer, mutual jealousies and suspicions arose, and all
intercourse between them ceased. After the death of her husband, the
Marquis de Monnier, she became enamoured of M. Edme. Benoit de Poterat,
a retired captain of cavalry, a widower, thirty-five years of age.
The lovers were mutually captivated, and they agreed to marry. Before
this happy event, however, could be arranged, the ill health of M. de
Poterat forced him to quit the country, and Madame de Monnier resolved
to terminate her own existence. She often conversed with her intimate
friend Dr. Ysabeau on the effects of suffocation from charcoal wood.
She asked whether death necessarily ensued? The doctor replied, that
when suffocation was gradual and incomplete, instances had been known
of persons saved by the instinctive effort of introducing air into the
room. On the death of M. de Poterat, which took place on the 8th of
September, 1789, Madame de Monnier was overcome with grief. Dr. Ysabeau
and his wife did all they could to console her, but without effect.
Being alone one day, she collected her papers, tied them in bundles,
sealed them, wrote a letter containing her last directions, and entered
a closet, the smallness and closeness of which she considered well
suited to the design she had long resolved to carry into execution.
She then closed and carefully calked the door and the window. Two
chafing dishes full of charcoal, which she had just lighted, were then
placed by her, one on each side of the arm chair upon which she seated
herself. In order to prevent her purpose from being counteracted by
any instinctive effort of nature, she bound her legs, first under and
then above her clothes. She then tied one of her arms to the chair, and
fixed the other, and in this position calmly awaited death. When it was
discovered that she had attempted suicide, M. Bousseau, Procureur du
Roi of the Bailliage, proceeded to the house, attended by a surgeon,
who, without adopting the most simple means of resuscitation, commenced
opening the body, on the supposition that she was _enceinte_. In the
meanwhile, a messenger was dispatched for Dr. Ysabeau, who rode full
gallop towards Madame de Monnier’s house; but he arrived too late; the
operation had been performed, and life was extinct. From the symptoms
which were present before the ignorant and barbarous surgeon commenced
the operation, Dr. Ysabeau expressed a firm belief that he could have
restored her to animation.[85]

M.——, aged twenty-seven, a native of Burgundy, who was equally favoured
by nature and by fortune, fell passionately in love with a young lady.
For a long time he solicited in vain the consent of his parents to the
match, but at length love triumphed. Scarcely a month had elapsed after
his marriage, when he was seized with a lowness of spirits, a disgust
of life, and a frightful desire to commit suicide. Everything which
the tenderness of a young and loving wife, and the solicitude of the
whole family, by whom he was loved, could suggest, was done to disperse
these gloomy ideas, and reconcile him to life; but the unfortunate
fellow was too deeply sunk in his melancholy. He at length quitted
Burgundy, and went to Paris with his brother to consult a physician.
The day after he had arrived, he went to M. Esquirol, made known his
sad state to him, assuring him that his weariness of life was not the
result of any physical disease, of any disappointment, or of any moral
pain; affirming, on the contrary, that he was surrounded with nothing
but subjects of contentment. His brother confirmed this declaration.
He left M. Esquirol, and promised to return the next day and commit
himself to his care in his establishment. The next day arrived, the
young man went out at six o’clock in the morning, purchased a pair of
pistols, and returned at seven. He then proposed to his brother to set
out together for Rouen; but he reminded him of the promise he had given
to M. Esquirol, adding, to prevent his changing his mind, that he had
months suitable to go. At that instant M.—— took out his two pistols,
and placing the mouth of one of them at his brother’s forehead, said,
“If you do not consent to go with me immediately, I will instantly blow
out your brains with this pistol, and afterwards kill myself with the
other.” The brother, on hearing this, fell at his feet in a swoon, and
when he recovered, he no longer saw his unfortunate relative who had
threatened him, and he trembled lest he should have gone to some secret
place to terminate his life. He at once gave notice to the police, and
demanded that the most active of their body should be sent in search of
him. On his part, he neglected nothing which could give him any clue to
his discovery; he inquired of his friends and his acquaintances, but
heard nothing of him until the next day, when he received intelligence
from the police that the body of a man shot through the head, had been
found in the forest of Seuart. It was that of his unfortunate brother.

M. Escousse, author of a drama called Faruck le Maure, about twenty,
and M. Lebras, about fifteen, both united by the closest ties of
friendship, and each of a melancholy turn of mind, committed suicide
at Paris. They had often complained of the miseries of this world, and
talked of the necessity of quitting it. M. Escousse wrote the following
note to his friends:—“I shall expect you at half-past eleven o’clock;
the curtain will be raised; come, and we will at length arrive at the
_dénouement_.” The young Lebras arrived at the appointed time, the
charcoal was ignited, and the two friends expired together.

A young woman of Marseilles, remarkable for her beauty, formed a
connexion with a cabinetmaker, whose parents objected to their union.
They were found quite dead, clasped in each other’s arms, having been
suffocated by a quantity of burning charcoal. They were both dressed in
the most elegant manner, and must have spent many hours at their toilet
preparing for their last adieu.

The following case related by Gall cannot easily be paralleled. The
first lieutenant of a company in which a man named Prochaska served
became enamoured of the wife of the latter; but she resisted all his
entreaties. The officer, irritated by this obstinacy, was guilty of
some injustice to the husband. Prochaska appeared dejected and morose,
but the following day he appeared at the dinner table and seemed
quite tranquil. A few days afterwards he and his wife attended the
confessional and took the sacrament. He dined in good spirits, and
took a few glasses of wine. In the evening, he and his wife went out
to walk, and he expressed himself in terms of great affection for her.
He asked her, however, if she had made a candid and full confession to
the priest; and on being answered in the affirmative, he coolly plunged
a poniard in her breast; seeing that she was not instantly dispatched,
he cut her throat across, in order to release her from her sufferings.
He now repaired to his house, and seizing his two children, who were
in bed asleep, he actually hacked them in pieces with a hatchet.
Having committed these three murders, he repaired to the main guard,
and with the most perfect coolness and deliberation detailed the whole
particulars of the bloody deed. He concluded in these words:—“_Let the
lieutenant now make love to my wife if he pleases!_” Shortly after
this, he stabbed himself to the heart.

A young lady threatened, without ceasing, to kill herself, and made
many attempts at it. An old uncle with whom she lived, tired by her
repeated menaces, proposed a walk in the country; and taking her to
the brink of a piece of water, he commenced undressing himself. “Now,
niece,” said he, “throw yourself into the water, and I will follow
after you.” He continued pressing her, and pushed her towards it; but
after some struggling, she cried out that she was unwilling to die, and
would never more talk of killing herself.

A young woman, married to a churlish husband, and who, although the
mother of many children, was unhappy in domestic life, determined to
fall by her own hands. She threw herself into a part of the river
sufficiently deep for the execution of her project, but a man,
passing by, drew her out, and compelled her to go home. The necessary
attentions were paid her, and she recovered; but it was observed that
she stood in much dread of water, and felt a pain even in going into a
bath. She, besides, had a fit of melancholy at the time in which she
endeavoured to drown herself. This fit lasted two or three months; it
was followed by a month of great excitement, and then she remained calm
during the remainder of the year.

The bell of the church at Fressonville, in Picardy, was heard to sound
at an unusual hour, and in a very extraordinary manner. The people
hastened to make inquiry, and found a man suspended from the clapper.
He was immediately cut down, and after some time restored to life. No
motives are assigned for the act.

A person of melancholy temperament, and who detested his parents on
account of their injustice towards him, had recourse to the chase as
a diversion from his domestic sorrows. One day, being weary, he lay
down in the shade by the side of his weapon and his dog, the faithful
companion of his misfortunes, and fell into a profound sleep. He awoke
in an agitated state of mind, and the idea occurred to him of making an
eternal sleep follow the temporary one he had so much enjoyed. Pleased
with this, he got up, increased the charge of his fowling-piece, and
was about to blow out his brains, when he sensibly reflected in this
manner—“What! am I about to shorten my days because my unjust and
unnatural parents deprive me of their property? This is to give them
their utmost desire, and to abandon to them that which they cannot take
from me.”

Matthew Lovat was born at Casale, a hamlet belonging to the parish
of Soldo, in the territory of Belluno. His father’s name was Mark,
and being in poor circumstances, the son was employed in the coarsest
labours of husbandry. His education and habits must have been in
accordance with his station; but it appears that, being attracted by
the comfortable and easy circumstances of the rector and curate,
the only persons in the parish who lived without manual labour, he
placed himself under the latter with the desire of entering the
priesthood. From him he learned to read and write a little, but he
was too poor to gratify this inclination, and betook himself to the
trade of a shoemaker. Whether this disappointment had any effect on
Lovat we cannot tell, but he never became expert at his trade, and was
distinguished for his gloominess and silence. When he grew older, he
became subject to attacks of giddiness in the head in the spring, and
to eruptions of a leprous character. Except this gloominess and his
great attention to religious exercises, nothing remarkable was noticed
about Lovat until July, 1802. At this period he performed an operation
upon himself, which subjected him so much to the ridicule of his
neighbours that he was compelled to remain within doors, and to refrain
even from going to mass. He left the village in November, and went to
Venice, where he had a younger brother, who recommended him to a widow,
with whom he lodged until the 21st of September in the following year,
working regularly as a shoemaker, and without exhibiting any signs of
insanity. On that day he made his first attempt to crucify himself.
Having constructed a cross out of the wood of his bed, he proceeded
to nail himself to it in the middle of the street, called the Cross
of Biri, and was only prevented by some persons who seized him as he
was about to drive the nail through his left foot. He was interrogated
as to his motives, but would give no answer, except on one occasion,
when he said that the day was the festival of St. Matthew, and that
he could not explain further. A few days after this had happened, he
left Venice, and went to his native village, but returned soon after,
and continued working at his trade for nearly three years without
exhibiting further signs of his malady. Having taken a room in a third
story in the street Delle Monache, his old delusion again seized him,
and he commenced making at his leisure hours the machine on which he
intended to accomplish his purpose, and providing the nails, ropes,
bands, crown of thorns, &c. He perceived that it would be difficult
to nail himself firmly to the cross, and therefore made a net, which
he fastened over it, securing it at the bottom of the upright beam a
little below the bracket he had placed for his feet, and at the ends of
the two arms. The whole apparatus was securely tied by two ropes, one
from the net, and the other from the place where the beams intersected
each other. These ropes were fastened to the bar above the window, and
were just sufficiently long to allow the cross to lie horizontally upon
the floor of his apartment. Having finished these preparations, he next
put on his crown of thorns, some of which entered his forehead; and
then, having stripped himself naked, he girded his loins with a white
handkerchief. He then introduced himself into the net, and seating
himself on the cross, drove a nail through the palm of his right hand
by striking its head against the floor until the point appeared on the
other side. He now placed his feet on the bracket he had prepared for
them, and with a mallet drove a nail completely through them both,
entering a hole he had previously made to receive it, and fastening
them to the wood. He next tied himself to the cross by a piece of
cord round his waist, and wounded himself in the side with a knife
which he used in his trade. The wound was inflicted two inches below
the left hypochondre, towards the internal angle of the abdominal
cavity, but did not injure any of the parts which the cavity contains.
Several scratches were observed on his breast, which appeared to have
been done by the knife in probing for a place which should present no
obstruction. The knife, according to Lovat, represented _the spear of
passion_.

All this he accomplished in the interior of his apartment, but it was
now necessary to shew himself in public. To accomplish this, he had
placed the foot of the cross upon the window sill, which was very
low, and by pressing his fingers against the floor, he gradually drew
himself forward, until the foot of the cross overbalancing the head,
the whole machine tilted out of the window, and hung by the two ropes
which were fastened to the beam. He then, by way of finishing, nailed
his right hand to the arm of the cross, but could not succeed in fixing
his left, although the nail by which it was to have been fixed was
driven through it, and half of it came out of the other side.

This took place at eight o’clock in the morning. Some persons by whom
he was perceived ran up stairs, disengaged him from the cross, and put
him to bed. A surgeon in the neighbourhood who was called in ordered
his feet to be put in water, introduced some tow into the wound in the
hypochondre, which he said did not reach the cavity, and prescribed
some cordial.

Luckily, Dr. Bergierri, to whom we are indebted for the particulars
of this case, was passing near, and came immediately to the house.
When he arrived, his feet, from which but a small quantity of blood
had flowed, were still in water; his eyes were shut; he gave no answer
to the questions of those around him; his pulse was convulsive; his
respiration difficult; he was, in fact, in a state which required the
most prompt means of assistance. Having obtained permission of the
director of police, who had come to the spot to ascertain what had
happened, he had him removed by water to the Imperial Clinical School
at the Hospital of St. Luke and St. John, of which he then had the
superintendence. The only observation Lovat made while being conveyed
was to his brother Angelo, who was lamenting his extravagance; he
replied, “_Alas! I am very unfortunate_.” His wounds were examined
afresh on his arrival at the hospital, and it was quite evident that
the nails had entered at the palm of the hand, and passing between the
bones of the metacarpus without doing them much injury, had gone out of
the back. The nail which fastened the feet first entered the right foot
between the second and third bones of the metatarsus, and then passed
between the first and second of the left foot, laying them open and
grazing them. The wound in the hypochondre was found to extend to the
point of the cavity.

The patient all this time was quite docile, and did everything that was
required of him. The wounds in the extremities were treated with fresh
oil of sweet almonds and bread and milk poultices, renewed several
times a day. Some ounces of the mixture cardiaca opiata and a little
very weak lemonade were taken at intervals during the first six days.
On the fifth day the wounds of the extremities suppurated, and on the
eighth, that in the hypochondre was perfectly healed.

Dr. Bergierri frequently questioned him as to the motives he had
in crucifying himself, and always received the same answer—“_The
pride of man must be mortified; it must expire on the cross_.” Lovat
seldom spoke; he sat with his eyes closed, and a gloomy expression of
countenance. The impression on his mind that he must crucify himself
was very deep. He seemed fully persuaded that this was an obligation
imposed on him by the will of the Deity, and wished to inform the
tribunal of justice that this was his destiny, in order that they might
not suspect that he had received his death from any other hand than his
own. He had expressed these ideas on a paper which he wrote before his
attempt, and which afterwards fell into the hands of Dr. B.

He did not complain much of pain during the first seven days, but
on the morning of the eighth he suffered severely; this, however,
was soon removed by the remedies had recourse to. In the course of a
short time Lovat was completely restored to bodily health, but his
mind retained until his death the same melancholy caste, although he
never had another opportunity of putting his sanguinary project into
execution.[86]



CHAPTER XVI.

CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED BY LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENTS?—INFLUENCE OF MORAL
INSTRUCTION.—CONCLUSION.


  The legitimate object of punishment—The argument of
  Beccaria—A legal solecism—A suicide not amenable to human
  tribunals—Evidence at coroners’ courts, _ex-parte_—The old
  law of no advantage—No penal law will restrain a man from
  the commission of suicide—Verdict of _felo-de-se_ punishes
  the innocent, and therefore unjust—Are suicides insane, and
  therefore not responsible agents?—The man who reasons himself
  into suicide not of sound mind—Rational mode of preventing
  suicide by promoting religious education.

The only legitimate object for which punishment can be inflicted is
the prevention of crime. “Am I to be hanged for stealing a sheep?”
said a criminal at the Old Bailey, addressing the bench. “No,” replied
the judge; “you are not to be hanged for stealing a sheep, but _that
sheep may not be stolen_.” Every punishment, argues Beccaria, which
does not arise from absolute necessity is unjust. There should be a
fixed proportion between crimes and punishments. Crimes are only to be
estimated by the injury done to society; and the end of punishment is,
to prevent the criminal from doing further injury, as well as to induce
others from committing similar offences.

The act of suicide ought not to be considered as a crime in the
legal definition of the term. It is not an offence that can be
deemed cognizable by the civil magistrate. It is to be considered a
sinful and vicious action. To punish suicide as a crime is to commit
a solecism in legislation. The unfortunate individual, by the very
act of suicide, places himself beyond the vengeance of the law; he
has anticipated its operation; he has rendered himself amenable to
the highest tribunal—viz., that of his Creator; no penal enactments,
however stringent, can affect him. What is the operation of the law
under these circumstances? A verdict of _felo-de-se_ is returned, and
the innocent relations of the suicide are disgraced and branded with
infamy, and that too on evidence of an _ex-parte_ nature. It is unjust,
inhuman, unnatural, and unchristian, that the law should punish the
innocent family of the man who, in a moment of frenzy, terminates his
own miserable existence. It was clearly established, that before the
alteration in the law respecting suicide, the fear of being buried
in a cross-road, and having a stake driven through the body, had
no beneficial effect in decreasing the number of suicides; and the
verdict of _felo-de-se_, now occasionally returned, is productive of no
advantage whatever, and only injures the surviving relatives.

When a man contemplates an outrage of the law, the fear of the
punishment awarded for the offence may deter him from its commission;
but the unhappy person whose desperate circumstances impel him to
sacrifice his own life can be influenced by no such fear. His whole
mind is absorbed in the consideration of his own miseries, and he even
cuts asunder those ties that ought to bind him closely and tenderly to
the world he is about to leave. If an affectionate wife and endearing
family have no influence in deterring a man from suicide, is it
reasonable to suppose that he will be influenced by penal laws?

If the view which has been taken in this work of the cause of
suicide be a correct one, no stronger argument can be urged for the
impropriety of bringing the strong arm of the law to bear upon those
who court a voluntary death. In the majority of cases, it will be
found that some heavy calamity has fastened itself upon the mind,
and the spirits have been extremely depressed. The individual loses
all pleasure in society; hope vanishes, and despair renders life
intolerable, and death an apparent relief. The evidence which is
generally submitted to a coroner’s jury is of necessity imperfect;
and although the suicide may, to all appearance, be in possession of
his right reason, and have exhibited at the moment of killing himself
the greatest calmness, coolness, and self-possession, this would not
justify the coroner or jury in concluding that derangement of mind was
not present.

If the mind be overpowered by “grief, sickness, infirmity, or other
accident,” as Sir Mathew Hale expresses it, the law presumes the
existence of lunacy. Any passion that powerfully exercises the mind,
and prevents the reasoning faculty from performing its duty, causes
temporary derangement. It is not necessary in order to establish the
presence of insanity to prove the person to be labouring under a
delusion of intellect—a false creation of the mind. A man may allow
his imagination to dwell upon an idea until it acquires an unhealthy
ascendency over the intellect, and in this way a person may commit
suicide from an habitual belief in the justifiableness of the act.[87]
If a man, by a distorted process of reasoning, argues himself into a
conviction of the propriety of adopting a particular course of conduct,
without any reference to the necessary result of that train of thought,
it is certainly no evidence of his being in possession of a sound mind.
A person may reason himself into a belief that murder, under certain
circumstances not authorized by the law, is perfectly just and proper.
The circumstance of his allowing his mind to reason on the subject
is a _prima facie_ case against his sanity; at least it demonstrates
a great weakness of the moral constitution. A man’s _morale_ must be
in an imperfect state of development who reasons himself into the
conviction that self-murder is under any circumstances justifiable.

We dwell at some length on this subject, because we feel assured that
juries do not pay sufficient attention to the influence of passion in
overclouding the understanding. If the notion that in every case of
suicide the intellectual or moral faculties are perverted, be generally
received, it will at once do away with the verdict of _felo-de-se_.
Should the jury entertain a doubt as to the presence of derangement,
(and such cases may present themselves,) it is their duty, in
accordance with the well-known principle of British jurisprudence, to
give the person the benefit of that doubt; and thus a verdict of lunacy
may be conscientiously returned in every case of this description.

Having, we think, clearly established that no penal law can act
beneficially in preventing self-destruction,—first, because it would
punish the _innocent_ for the crimes of the _guilty_; and, secondly,
that, owing to insanity being present in every instance, the person
determined on suicide is indifferent as to the consequences of his
action,—it becomes our province to consider what are the legitimate
means of staying the progress of an offence that undermines the
foundation of society and social happiness.

In the prevention of suicide, too much stress cannot be laid on the
importance of adopting a well-regulated, enlarged, and philosophic
system of education, by which all the _moral_ as well as the
intellectual faculties will be expanded and disciplined. The education
of the intellect without any reference to the moral feelings is a
species of instruction calculated to do an immense amount of injury.
The tuition that addresses itself exclusively to the perceptive and
reflective faculties is not the kind of education that will elevate
the moral character of a people. Religion must be made the basis of
all secular knowledge. We must be led to believe that the education
which fits the possessor for another world is vastly superior to
that which has relation only to the concerns of this life. We are no
opponents to the diffusion of knowledge; but we are to that description
of information which has only reference “to the life that is, and not
to that which is to be.” Such a system of instruction is of necessity
defective, because it is partial in its operation. Teach a man his
duty to God, as well as his obligations to his fellow-men; lead him to
believe that his life is not his own; that disappointment and misery
is the penalty of Adam’s transgression, and one from which there is
no hope of escaping; and, above all, inculcate a resignation to the
decrees of Divine Providence. When life becomes a burden, when the
mind is sinking under the weight of accumulated misfortunes, and no
gleam of hope penetrates through the vista of futurity to gladden the
heart, the intellect says, “Commit suicide, and escape from a world of
wretchedness and woe;” the moral principle says, “Live; it is your duty
to bear with resignation the afflictions that overwhelm you; let the
moral influence of your example be reflected in the characters of those
by whom you are surrounded.”

If we are justified in maintaining that the majority of the cases
of suicide result from a vitiated condition of the moral principle,
then it is certainly a legitimate mode of preventing the commission
of the offence to elevate the character of man as a moral being. It
is no legitimate argument against this position to maintain that
insanity in all its phases marches side by side with civilization and
refinement; but it must not be forgotten that a people may be refined
and civilized, using these terms in their ordinary signification, who
have not a just conception of their duties as members of a Christian
community. Let the education of the _heart_ go side by side with the
education of the _head_; inculcate the ennobling thought, that we
live not for ourselves, but for others; that it is an evidence of
true Christian courage to face bravely the ills of life, to bear with
impunity “the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, and the
proud man’s contumely;” and we disseminate principles which will give
expansion to those faculties that alone can fortify the mind against
the commission of a crime alike repugnant to all human and Divine laws.



FOOTNOTES:


[1] Cæsar’s reply on being told of Cato’s death was reported
to be—“Cato, I envy thee thy death, for thou hast envied me the
preservation of thy life;” on which Plutarch remarks, “Had Cato
suffered himself to be preserved by Cæsar, it is likely he would not so
much have impaired his own honour, as augmented the other’s clemency
and glory.” But Cato’s own idea was, that it was an insupportable
instance of Cæsar’s tyranny and usurpation that he should “pretend” to
shew clemency in saving lives over whom he had no legal authority.

[2] The affection and resolution of an obscure private soldier was
very remarkable, who, standing before Otho with his drawn sword, spoke
thus—“Behold in my action an instance of the unshaken fidelity of all
your soldiery. There is not one of us but would strive thus to preserve
thee,” and immediately he stabbed himself to the heart. Many private
soldiers, after Otho’s death, gave the same proof of fidelity to their
deceased lord.—_Plutarch’s Life of Otho._

[3] It is said that the night before the battle the same spectre
appeared to Brutus, but vanished without saying anything.

[4] Tac. An. xvi.

[5] At Anchiale, there was a monument erected to the memory of
Sardanapalus. It consisted of an image carved in stone work, and having
the thumb and the finger of the right hand joined, as if making some
sound or noise with them. On the monument was inscribed these words in
Assyrian characters: “Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndarax, founded
Anchiale and Tyre in one day. Eat, drink, and be merry. As for the
rest, it is not worth the snap of the finger.”

[6] Varro _de Ling. Lat._, lib. iv.

[7] 1 Samuel, xxxi.

[8] This is the only case of suicide recorded in the New Testament.
Judas’s conduct is condemned in the strongest language; he is called in
the Gospel of St. John (vi. 70,) “a devil, and the son of perdition;”
and in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, at the 25th
verse, after the account given of his violent death, he is said to have
gone _to his own peculiar place_. (Εἰς τὸν τόπον τὸν ἴδιον.)

Virgil thus alludes to the “place of punishment” allotted to those who
sacrifice wantonly their own lives:—

  “Proxima deinde tenent mæsti loca, qui sibi letum
  Insontes peperêre manu, lucemque perosi
  Projecêre animas. Quàm vellent æthere in alto
  Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores!
  Fas obstat. Tristique palus inamabilis undâ
  Alligat, et novies Styx interfusa coërcet.”

  (ÆNEIS, lib. vi. ver. 434 et seq.)

  “The next in place and punishment are they
  Who prodigally throw their souls away:
  Fools, who, repining at their wretched state,
  And loathing anxious life, suborn their fate:
  With late repentance now they would retrieve
  The bodies they forsook, and wish to live;
  Their pains and poverty desire to bear,
  To view the light of heaven and breathe the vital air.
  But fate forbids, the Stygian floods oppose,
  And with nine circling streams the captive souls inclose.”

  (DRYDEN.)

[9] Macc. i. 6.

[10] There is something sublime in the stern copiousness with which the
stoics dwelt particularly on the facility with which suicide may be
committed. “Ante omnia cavi, ne quis vos teneret invitos: PATET EXITUS.
Si pugnare non vultis, licet fugere. Ideoque ex omnibus rebus, quas
esse vobis necessarias volui, nihil feci facilius, quam mori. Attendite
modo et videbitis quam brevis ad libertatem et quam expedita ducat
via. Non tam longas in exitu vobis quam intrantibus, moras posui,”
&c.—_Seneca de Providentia_, in fine. Vide epistle lxx.

[11] Epistles xii. and lxx.; and De Irâ, lib. iii.

[12] Corpus Juris Civilis, lib. xlviii. tit. xxi. parag. 3.

[13] Vide Potter’s Antiquities.

[14] Universal Geography, vol. iii. p. 155.

[15] It is generally believed that Rousseau killed himself by taking
arsenic; but this has been denied. Judging from the character and
disposition of the man, we should feel disposed to credit the statement
respecting his voluntary death. Rousseau always maintained that
the following stanza of Tasso had a direct application to him, and
accurately described his feelings and position in the world—

  “Still, still ’tis mine with grief and shame to rove,
  A dire example of disastrous love;
  While keen remorse for ever breaks my rest,
  And raging furies haunt my conscious breast,
  The lonely shades with terror must I view,
  The shades shall every dreadful thought renew:
  The rising sun shall equal horrors yield,
  The sun that first the dire event revealed;
  Still must I view myself with hateful eye,
  And seek, though vainly, from myself to fly.”

[16] _Duverger de Haurane_, abbot of St. Cyran, regarded as the founder
of Port Royal, wrote, in the year 1608, a treatise on suicide, which
has, says Voltaire, become one of the scarcest books in Europe.

He says the decalogue forbids us to kill. In this precept, self-murder
seems no less to be comprised than murder of our neighbour. But if
there are cases in which it is allowable to kill our neighbour, there
likewise are cases in which it is allowable to kill ourselves. We must
not make an attempt upon our lives until we have consulted reason. The
public authority, which holds the place of God, may dispose of our
lives. The reason of man may likewise hold the place of the reason of
God,—it is a ray of the eternal light.

Voltaire, disposed as he was to advocate the right of committing
suicide whenever a man considered death preferable to a dishonourable
life, had sufficient sagacity to see through the glaring sophistry of
St. Cyran’s reasoning on this point. The same author says, “A man may
kill himself for the good of his prince, for that of his country, or
for that of his relations.”

[17] It is evident that the great dramatist considered that suicide was
opposed to the divine will.

  “Against self-slaughter
  There is a prohibition so divine,
  That cravens my weak hand.”

Again, he says—

  “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
  His canon ’gainst self-slaughter!”

[18] Warder’s “Letters from the Northumberland.”

[19] London Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. v. p. 51.

[20] In a table given by Professor Caspar, of Berlin, one hundred and
three cases of suicide are attributed to mental affections; thirty of
these may be classed under this head, and thirty-two under that of fear
and despondency combined.

[21] The massacre of St. Bartholomew lasted seven days, during which
more than 5000 persons were slain in Paris, and from 40 to 50,000 in
the country. During the execution, the king betrayed neither pity nor
remorse, but fired with his long gun at the poor fugitives across the
river; and on viewing the body of Coligni on a gibbet, he exulted with
a fiendish malignity. In early life, this monster had been noted for
his cruelty: nothing gave him greater pleasure than cutting off the
heads of asses or pigs with a single blow from his _couteau de chasse_.
After the massacre, he is said to have contracted a singularly wild
expression of feature, and to have slept little and waked in agonies.
He attributed his thirst for human blood to the circumstance of his
mother having at an early period of his life familiarized his mind with
the brutal sport of hunting bullocks, and with all kinds of cruelty. It
is recorded that, when dying, he actually sweated blood.

[22] Hist. Eccles. edit. Duaci, 1622, pp. 643-4.

[23] Meaning the Duke of Gloucester.

[24] King Henry, Act 3.

[25] Dr. Johnson’s Rasselas.

[26] Goëthe, in allusion to one of his own early attachments.

[27] Love, it is said, often turns the brains of the Italians, even the
men. M. Esquirol says, “Frenchmen seldom go mad from love. A Frenchman
often kills himself in a sally of passion and feeling, but is seldom in
love long enough to go mad about it.”

[28] “Love.”

[29] O’Meara’s “Voice from St. Helena,” vol. i. p. 57.

[30] “Life of Napoleon,” vol. viii. p. 244.

[31] It is worthy of remark that the judge who condemned, as well as
the disciple who betrayed, our Saviour, were both driven by despair to
suicide. The fate of Judas is recorded in the Gospel; the concluding
scenes in the life of Pontius Pilate are related by two learned
historians (_Josephus_ and _Eusebius_). The former says that “Pontius
Pilate, after having exercised great cruelties in his government of
Judæa, was, before the Roman Emperor (Caligula), stripped of all his
dignities and fortunes, and banished to Gaul, where it is said he
suffered such extreme hardships of body and despair of mind, that,
after lingering for two years, he became his own executioner.”

[32] Lessing.

[33] On Lunatic Asylums.

[34] Vide Mathews’ Life, by his widow, vol. ii. p. 158.

[35] Dr. Haslam.

[36] “Revue Médicale,” Dec. 1821.

[37] Under the heathen mythology, it was believed that the struggles of
death continued till Proserpine had cropped the hair on the crown of
the head, as victims were treated at the altar. Virgil has preserved
this opinion in the fourth book of the Æneid, where he gives so fine a
picture of the dying agonies of Dido.

[38] It is only by reasoning physiologically that we can conclude that
the act of dying is not a painful process. In proportion as death
seizes its victim, so must consciousness be suspended. What can be more
painful to the beholder than to witness the convulsive struggles, and
the foaming at the mouth, of a person in an epileptic fit, who, when
restored to consciousness, has no recollection of what has occurred? He
remembers the premonitory indications, and that is all. Death is but
an epileptic struggle. A phenomenon attends the dying moment which we
do not recollect to have seen noticed. A man who fell into the water,
and who rose several times to the surface, had a consciousness of the
hopelessness and awfulness of his situation; he felt that death was
inevitable. With this conviction on his mind, he saw presented to him
a picture of his past life; the minutest action in which he had been
engaged was brought in a kind of tableau before him. Circumstances that
had long been forgotten were conjured from his brain, and he had a
bird’s-eye view of his past career. Possibly, this may occur to every
person at the moment of dying. The expressions of those placed under
such circumstances would indicate as much.

[39] Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xvi.

[40] Vol. xxi. for 1837.

[41] It is related by Lord Bacon, in his “Historia Vitæ et Mortis,”
that a friend of his, who was particularly anxious to ascertain
whether criminals suffered much pain in undergoing the sentence of
the law, on one occasion suspended himself by the neck, having for
that purpose thrown himself off a stool, on which he supposed he could
readily remount, when he had carried his experiment sufficiently far
to satisfy his curiosity. The report goes on to state, that the loss
of consciousness which followed would have led to a fatal termination
of the experiment, had not a friend accidentally entered the apartment
in time to save the life of the adventurous experimentalist. Foderé
relates a similar incident of one of his fellow-students. This young
man, after an argument respecting the cause of death in hanging,
resolved personally to gratify his curiosity, by passing a ligature
round his neck, and attaching it to a hook behind the door. To
accomplish this, he had raised himself on tip-toe, and now gradually
brought his heels to the ground. He soon lost all consciousness,
but was cut down by a companion, who discovered him, in a state of
insensibility, very soon after the commencement of the experiment,
and by the prompt application of remedial measures he was finally
recovered. From cases of this description we learn that the first
effect experienced in hanging is the appearance of a dazzling light
before the eyes, accompanied by tingling in the ears. These sensations
are, however, momentary, for insensibility and death rapidly close the
scene.

[42] Gazette Litteraire.

[43] Foreign Literary Gazette.

[44] In 1806, upwards of sixty voluntary deaths took place at Rouen,
during June and July, the air being at that time remarkably humid and
warm; and in July and August of the same year, more than three hundred
were committed at Copenhagen, the constitution of the atmosphere
presenting the same characteristics as it did at Rouen. The year 1793,
presented in the town of Versailles alone the horrible spectacle of
thirteen hundred suicides.

[45] This was Philip Mordaunt, cousin-german to the celebrated Earl of
Peterborough, so well known to all European courts, and who boasted of
having seen more postillions and kings than any other man. Mordaunt
was young, handsome, of noble blood, highly educated, and beloved by
those who knew him. He resolved to die. Preparatory to his doing so,
he wrote to his friends, paid his debts, and even made some verses on
the occasion. He said his soul was tired of his body, and when we are
dissatisfied with our abode, it is our duty to quit it. He put a pistol
to his head and blew out his brains. An uninterrupted course of good
fortune was the only motive that could be assigned for this suicide.

[46] M. Falret.

[47] Dict. des Sciences Med., vol. liii.

[48] Previous to Cowper’s attempt at suicide, he had fallen into the
company of two sophists, who both advanced claims to the right of
self-destruction, and whose fallacious arguments won him to their
pernicious views, which were, besides, aided by his recollection of
a certain book containing similar reasoning, which, however weak in
itself, now seemed to his disordered mind irrefragable.

[49] Dr. J. Johnson.

[50] Vide Dr. Conolly.

[51] Wordsworth.

[52] The _possunt quia posse videuntur_ feeling is not sufficiently
encouraged by medical philosophers in treating mental affections.

[53] History of Music.

[54] Edinburgh Medical Trans.

[55] Lib. xii. cap. 51.

[56] When Pope was on his death-bed, Bolingbroke observed to the
weeping attendants, “I have known Pope these thirty years; he was the
kindest-hearted man in the world.”

[57] Prior to the more urgent symptoms developing themselves, he
appeared to be endeavouring to recollect Dr. B., and addressed him as
Dr. Death.

[58] A medical student, twenty years of age, was seized with mania,
arising from the presence of worms in the intestines. He felt the most
acute pains in the different regions of his body, appearing to him
as if persons were driving arrows into him, more particularly in the
palms of his hands and soles of his feet. This caused him to utter most
distressing cries, to seek to be alone, and prevented him from walking.
The intolerable pains and madness left him as soon as the worms were
expelled.

[59] “When powerful feelings or passions are in active operation, in
the insane or in the sane, they draw the muscles of the face into
particular forms; and, if they continue for a length of time to be
greatly predominant, they impress upon the countenance an appearance
indicative of the character. This is felt and acted upon unconsciously
in the common intercourse of life. A good countenance is a letter of
recommendation; and we have, in spite of ourselves, an unfavourable
feeling towards a stranger where this is absent. Now in the generality
of suicidal cases, the desponding feelings are in constant and active
operation; hence there is usually a melancholy and gloomy expression of
countenance. This arises from no mysterious cause peculiar to insanity,
but is perfectly intelligible on common physiognomical principles; but
there are numerous instances where the most experienced physician would
be unable to detect, by inspection only, the slightest mark of either a
disposition to suicide or insanity. The absence of this expression must
not, therefore, induce us to suppose that this disposition does not
exist.”—SIR W. ELLIS.

[60] Ellis on Insanity.

[61] Indications of Insanity.

[62] Journ. Gen. de Médecine, Juillet, 1822.

[63] “Pain is an evil; death, the deprivation of every hope or comfort
in this life. No man in his senses will burn, drown, or stab himself;
for these all produce what are called evils; neither can any of these
actions be executed without the probability of pain in the convulsive
action or struggles of death. As no rational being will voluntarily
give himself pain, or deprive himself of life, which certainly, while
human beings preserve their senses, must be acknowledged evils, it
follows that every one who commits suicide is indubitably _non compos
mentis_, not able to reason justly, but is under the influence of false
images of the mind; and therefore suicide _should ever be considered an
act of insanity_.”—DR. ROWLEY.

[64] Lowness of spirits ought to be regarded and treated as insanity,
says Ellis, and not dreaded as its forerunner. For it is at this stage
that suicide is resorted to. Should this not be the case, specific
hallucinations may speedily appear, and the agony of mind will be
endured as a consequence of bankruptcy, the unfaithfulness of a friend,
the persecutions of enemies, or the ravages of an incurable disease.
No demonstration of the untenableness of such grounds, no picture of
brighter and happier circumstances, will avail to refute or encourage.
The sufferer clings to his hoarded misery. There is generally great
loss of physical strength in cases of this kind, and the pale emaciated
countenance, dull and sunken eye, and listless dejected form, tell as
plainly as the querulous complaint, or the long intricate description
of sorrows and anticipated evils, to what class the patient belongs.

[65] Vide Lord Dover’s Life of Frederick, and Ray on Med. Juris.

[66] Dr. J. Johnson.

[67] Hill on Insanity.

[68] This was no doubt an hallucination of the senses. On another
occasion, when in the House of Commons, Lord Castlereagh fancied
he saw the same “Radiant Boy.” Does not this fact establish that
his lordship’s senses were not always in a healthy condition? It is
possible that when impelled to suicide he laboured under some mental
delusion.

[69] Notes to Metzger.

[70] Annales de Hyg. pub. et de Méd. Lég. tom. v. p. 156.

[71] We have availed ourselves of Dr. Taylor’s translation of the
particulars of the prince’s death, which are recorded with much
minuteness in the “Annales d’Hygiène Publique, et de Médecine Légale.”

[72] Foderé, vol. iii. p. 167; from the Causes Célèbres. See also
Grimm’s Historical and Literary Memoirs, (from 1753 to 1769,) vol. ii.
pp. 41, 117, and 166.

[73] Travels in Asia, Africa, &c.

[74] To which may be added, anticipation of punishment, or disgrace
from misconduct.

[75] Méd. Légale, iv. § 948; and Smith on Med. Jurisprudence.

[76] The committee made no report. Lord Delamere undertook to draw it
up, but before he did so, parliament was prorogued. Bishop Burnet, who
has given the particulars of the case with great minuteness, says, he
had no doubt that the Earl of Essex committed suicide. He was subject
to fits of deep melancholy, and maintained the lawfulness of suicide.
This is also Hume’s opinion.

[77] This is confirmed by the fact that within the jurisdiction of the
metropolitan police, the two districts in which the greatest number of
suicides were committed or attempted, in 1836 or 1837, were those of
the Regent’s Park and Stepney, through both of which the Regent’s Canal
runs. This circumstance tends to shew that drowning is the mode of
suicide most frequently resorted to in London, and that a canal offers
greater facilities for that purpose than the river.

[78] The disposition to suicide may be manifested very early in life.
M. Falret knew a boy, twelve years old, who hanged himself because
he was only twelfth in his class. A similar case occurred at the
Westminster school about seventeen years ago. Harriet Cooper, of Huden
Hill, Rowly-Regis, aged ten years and two months, upon being reproved
for a trifling fault, went upstairs, after exhibiting symptoms of grief
by sighing and sobbing, and hung herself with a pair of cotton braces
from the rail of a tent bed. A girl named Green, eleven years old,
drowned herself in the New River, from the fear of correction for a
trifling fault. Dr. Schlegel states, on the authority of Casper, that
in Berlin, between the years 1812 and 1821, no less than thirty-one
children, of twelve years of age and under, committed suicide, either
because they were tired of existence or had suffered some trifling
chastisement.

[79] “Oh, supreme God, who inhabitest the highest heavens, heal my
afflictions; as with the wretched in hell, the joyful in heaven, shew
mercy to the guilty.”

[80] Dr. Moore’s Travels through France, vol. i. let. 32.

[81] Hufeland’s Journal.

[82] Hist. de l’Acad. Roy., 1769.

[83] Paris and the Parisians, by Mrs. Trollope.

[84] Voltaire observes, that if Creech had been translating Ovid, he
would not have committed suicide.

[85] We refer our readers, for a minute and deeply interesting account
of this unfortunate woman’s career, to a work from which we have
gleaned the above facts; the particulars of her life will be perused
with great interest.—Vide “Memoirs of Mirabeau, by himself,” vol.
iii. chap. xi.

[86] Vide Frontispiece.

[87] A singular case of this kind was brought under the notice of the
Westminster Medical Society by Dr. Stone, as an argument in favour of
the possibility of a person committing suicide when in possession of a
sane mind.



T. C. Savill, Printer, 107, St. Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross.





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