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Title: Medical Jurisprudence, Volume 2 (of 3)
Author: Fonblanque, J. S. M. (John Samuel Martin), Paris, John Ayrton
Language: English
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                           Transcriber’s Note

When italics were used in the original book, the corresponding text has
been surrounded by _underscores_.

Some corrections have been made to the printed text. These are listed in
a second transcriber’s note at the end of the text.





                    J. A. PARIS, M.D. F.R.S. F.L.S.


                       J. S. M. FONBLANQUE, ESQ.
                           BARRISTER AT LAW.


“Hæc est illa amica Imperantiam atque Medentium conspiratio, qua
effectum est, ut aliquo veluti connubio Medicina ac Jurisprudentia inter
se jungerentur.”

                                      _Hebenstreit Anthropolog: Forens:_


                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                VOL. II.



                      AND W. & C. TAIT, EDINBURGH.


                         Medical Jurisprudence.

                         PART III _continued_.

3. _Of Homicide generally._—4. _Of Real and Apparent Death._—5. _Of the
  Physiological Causes, and Phenomena of Sudden Death._—6. _Of
  Syncope._—7. _Of Suffocation, by Drowning, Hanging, and other
  causes._—8. _Death by exposure to Cold—Heat—Lightning—Starvation._—9.
  _Application of the Physiological Facts established in the preceding
  chapters, to the general treatment of Asphyxia._—10. _Of the Coroner’s
  Inquest._—11. _Suicide._—12. _Of Murder generally—by Wounding or
  Blows—by Poisoning._—13. _Of Poisons, Chemically, Physiologically, and
  Pathologically considered._—14. _Of Homicide, by Misadventure or
  Accident._—15. _A Synopsis of the Objects of Inquiry in Cases of
  sudden and mysterious Sickness and Death,—Commentary thereon,
  including practical rules for Dissection._—16. _Abortion and
  Infanticide—with Physiological Illustrations._—17. _Of Criminal
  Responsibility, and Pleas in bar of Execution._—18. _Of
  Punishments._—19. _Postscript._

                       3. OF HOMICIDE GENERALLY.

To aid the administration of justice in cases of homicide is not only
the most useful, but the most frequent, application of medical
jurisprudence; this subject, as well for its complexity as for its
importance, must be subdivided into many heads. It is first necessary
that the medical practitioner should determine by examination,
inspection, or dissection, whether the matter ought to be referred to
the criminal tribunals, or whether the decease of the party is to be
attributed to any of those natural causes, which are generally classed
as “Death by the Visitation of God.” In some instances this examination
will take place in aid of the coroner’s inquest, in others it will be
preparatory to it; in both cases it is equally important that it should
be minutely, faithfully, and ably conducted; for it is on the medical
report that the first impressions will be founded, and the prejudices
created by it in the public mind may not easily be effaced by any
subsequent investigation. If, however, it be determined that the cause
of death has been violent, it is then necessary to enquire to which of
the classes of homicide the act is to be attributed.

“Homicide, properly so called, is either against a man’s own life, or
that of another.” 1 _Hawk. P. C._ 102.

The first offence constitutes the crime of suicide or _felo de se_.

The second has many varieties; it may be justifiable, excusable, or
wilful; and this last again, may be with, or without, malice prepense,
which constitutes the difference between manslaughter and murder; both
are felony, the one with,[1] the other without, the benefit of clergy;
to these and their numerous subdivisions we shall separately direct the
attention of our reader; having first, by a general view of the
physiology of death, and some practical observations on the best modes
of investigation, prepared the way for a minuter examination of many of
those various modes of destruction to which human life is liable.

                      OF REAL AND APPARENT DEATH.

If life be defined, that power by which organized beings are enabled to
resist the physical and chemical operation of surrounding agents, it
follows that death must be marked by the occurrence of those phenomena
to which the elective attractions, no longer suspended or controlled,
will necessarily give rise; hence putrefaction has been considered by
many authors as the only certain sign of dissolution; unfortunately,
however, this process of decomposition does not immediately display its
agency by visible effects; the countenance has remained unchanged for a
considerable time after death, and cases have occurred in which its
colour and complexion have not only been preserved, but even heightened.
This difference in the celerity with which the body putrefies did not
escape the observation of the ancients, and like every other mysterious
occurrence, was attributed by them to divine interposition; we
accordingly find that their poets mentioned those who preserved the
appearance of freshness after death, as favoured persons, who had fallen
by the gentle darts of Apollo and Diana; thus Hecuba[2] declares that
Hector, although dead for twelve days, still remains fresh, like one who
had died by the hands of Apollo. On the other hand, in certain morbid
states of the living frame, so feebly do the powers of life resist the
operation of physical agents, that if the body cannot be said actually
to enter into a state of putrefaction, it may at least assume
appearances so analogous as to be mistaken for it. The test of death,
therefore, must rather be sought for amongst those signs which indicate
the quiescence, or cessation of the functions of life, than from those
which manifest the decomposition of the organs by which they are
performed; and here again it may be imagined that no difficulty or
fallacy can occur; the total cessation of respiration, pulsation,
sensation, and all motion, it might be supposed, would indicate to the
least experienced the departure of life, while the general aspect of the
body, its pale and livid hue, the coldness of its surface, and the
stiffness of its limbs, we might conclude were signs so palpable and
satisfactory as to defy the possibility of doubt. To the skilful medical
practitioner we apprehend such signs must ever be unequivocal; but we
are not prepared to say that a common observer may not be sometimes
deceived by them; in cases of extreme debility, as in the latter stage
of fever, and where the patient is confined in vitiated air, the
exhaustion may be so considerable as to lend all the appearance of
death; indeed that such cases have occurred we have no less a testimony
than that of the philanthropic _Howard_, who, in his work on Prisons,
says, “I have known instances where persons supposed to be dead of the
gaol fever, and brought out for burial, on being washed with cold water,
have shewn signs of life, and soon afterwards recovered.” _Hippocrates_,
in his Epidemics, also mentions the case of a woman who, being in
appearance dead, from fever, was recovered by throwing thirty amphoræ of
cold water over her body. _Diemerbroeck_[3] relates the case of a rustic
who having appeared to die of the plague, discovered after three days no
signs of respiration, but, on being carried to the grave, recovered and
lived many years afterwards; and _Paul Zacchias_ relates an analagous
case which occurred at the hospital of _Santo Spirito_ at Rome. At a
period when the small-pox raged with such epidemic fury, and physicians
so greatly aggravated its violence by their stimulating plan of cure,
there can be no doubt but that many persons were condemned as dead who
afterwards recovered; amongst the numerous cases that might be cited in
support of this opinion, the following may be considered as well
authenticated: the daughter of _Henry Laurens_, the first President of
the American congress, when an infant, was laid out as dead, in the
small-pox; upon which the window of the apartment, that had been
carefully closed during the progress of the disease, was thrown open to
ventilate the chamber, when the fresh air revived the supposed corpse,
and restored her to her family; this circumstance occasioned in the
father so powerful a dread of living interment, that he directed by will
that his body should be burnt, and enjoined on his children the
performance of this wish as a sacred duty.

We can also imagine, that women, after the exhaustion consequent on
severe and protracted labours, may lie for some time in a state so like
that of death, as to deceive the by-standers; a very extraordinary case
of this kind is related in the _Journal des Sçavans_, Janvier 1749.

_Dr. Gordon Smith_, in his work on Forensic Medicine, has observed that
in cases of precipitancy or confusion, as in times of public sickness,
the living have not unfrequently been mingled with the dead, and that in
warm climates, where speedy interment is more necessary than in
temperate and cold countries, persons have even been entombed alive; we
feel no hesitation in believing that such an event may be possible; but
the very case with which the author illustrates his position is
sufficient to convince us that its occurrence would be highly culpable,
and could only arise from the most unpardonable inattention; “I was”
says _Dr. Smith_, “an eye witness of an instance in a celebrated city on
the continent, where a poor woman, yet alive, was solemnly ushered to
the margin of the grave in broad day, and whose interment would have
deliberately taken place, but for the interposition of the by-standers;”
if the casual observer was thus able to detect the signs of animation,
the case is hardly one that should have been adduced to shew the
difficulty of deciding between real and apparent death. Many other
illustrations might be adduced, but it is not our intention to amuse the
reader with a relation of those numerous _nugæ canoræ_ that enliven
several popular productions on the subject of _trances_, premature
interments, and extraordinary resuscitations; the public have always
betrayed a morbid curiosity upon the subject, and the stories of persons
buried alive have ever found a ready access to our credulity, as well as
to our compassion.

Amongst the different anecdotes which have been brought forward in
support of the popular belief in the frequency of living interment, and
in proof of the fallacy of those signs which are commonly received as
the unerring indications of death, we read of numerous instances where
the knife of the anatomist has proved the means of resuscitating the
supposed corpse; _Philippe Peu_, the celebrated French accoucheur,
relates, himself, the case of a woman, upon whose supposed corpse he
proceeded to perform the cæsarean section, when the first incision
betrayed the awful fallacy under which he operated; the history of the
unfortunate _Vesalius_, physician to Philip II. of Spain, furnishes
another instance, upon which considerable stress has been laid; upon
dissecting a Spanish gentleman, it is said that on opening the thorax
the heart was found palpitating; for which he was brought before the
inquisition, and would probably have suffered its most severe judgment,
had not the king interceded in his behalf, and obtained for him the
privilege of expiating his offence by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.[4]

_M. Bruhier_[5] also relates a case on the authority of _M. l’Abbé
Menon_, of a young woman who was restored by the first incision of the
anatomist’s scalpel, and lived many years afterwards. With respect to
the instance of _Vesalius_ we would make this general observation, which
will probably apply to most of the cases on record; that the movements
which have been observed on such occasions are not to be received as
demonstrations of life, they merely arise from a degree of muscular
irritability which often lingers for many hours after dissolution, and
which, on its apparent cessation, may be even re-excited by the
application of galvanic stimuli.

But there is a propensity in the human mind to believe in these horrors,
because between credulity and fear there is an inherent affinity and
alliance; and it may be very safely asserted, that there is nothing of
which we have a greater instinctive horror,[6] than of any force by
which our voluntary exertions are totally repressed; hence it is, as
_Cuvier_ has remarked, that the poetic fictions best calculated to
insure our sympathy, are those which represent sentient beings inclosed
within immoveable bodies; the sighs of Clorinda issuing, with her blood,
from the trunk of the cypress, as related in the fable of Tasso, would
arrest the fury of the most savage mortal; and the sufferings which
attended the confinement of Ariel, by the witch _Sycorax_, within the
rift of a cloven pine, are described by Prospero as being of so pitiable
a description as to move the sympathy of the very beasts of the forest.

            --------“She did confine thee,
            By help of her more potent ministers,
            And in her most unmitigable rage,
            Into a cloven pine; within which rift
            Imprison’d, thou didst painfully remain
            A dozen years.”

            --------------“Thou best knows’t
            What torment I did find thee in: thy groans
            Did make wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts
            Of ever-angry bears; it was a torment
            To lay upon the damn’d.”

                                             _Tempest_, _Act_ i, _s._ 2.

The author of the present chapter had once an opportunity of witnessing
a most striking manifestation of the popular feeling to which he has
just alluded; a sailor, who had died suddenly on board a vessel in
Mount’s Bay, was sent on shore for interment on the same evening: this
indecent haste in consigning the yet warm corpse of a human being to the
grave, excited a very strong and natural feeling in those to whom the
fact was communicated; in a few hours the knowledge of the circumstance
became general in the town of Penzance, and imagination which, in cases
that interest the feelings, is always ready to colour each feature with
the hue most congenial to the fancy, soon represented the case as one of
living interment, and by midnight the impression had produced so strong
an effect upon the credulity of the town, that many hundred persons
assembled at the house of the mayor and insisted upon the disinterment
of the body; the author, in his professional capacity, was called upon
to accompany the magistrates in the investigation, which was
accomplished by torch light, amidst an immense concourse of people; the
body was disinterred, when, it is almost needless to add, that not the
slightest mark was observed that could in the least sanction the popular
belief so readily adopted, and enthusiastically maintained.

Within the last few years a singular and unphilosophical work[7] has
appeared from the pen of a learned divine, which is well calculated to
cherish the public credulity upon the subject under discussion, and to
excite many groundless alarms, as well as unjust expectations,
respecting the possibility of latent life; the reverend author, it must
be confessed, has furnished a practical proof of his talents in his
favourite art of resuscitation, by recalling into life the numerous idle
tales, and superstitious histories, that we had hoped had long since
been for ever consigned to the “tombs of all the Capulets.” The
histories of persons having been buried alive, or recovered after
apparent death, are not, however, confined to the annals of modern
times; we are informed by _Diogenes Laertius_ that _Empedocles_ acquired
great fame for restoring a woman, supposed to be dead, from a paroxysm
of hysteria; and _Pliny_, in his Natural History, devotes a chapter to
the subject, under the title of “_De his qui elati revixerunt_[8];” in
which an interesting case is related of _Avicola_, whose body was
brought out and placed on the funeral pile, the flames of which are said
to have resuscitated the unhappy victim, but too late to allow it to be
rescued from its powers; but such cases merely go to shew that the
common observer may be deceived. We feel no hesitation in asserting that
it is physiologically impossible for a human being to remain more than a
few minutes in such a state of asphyxia, as not to betray some sign by
which a medical observer can at once recognise the existence of
vitality, for if the respiration be only suspended for a short interval,
we may conclude that life has fled for ever; of all the acts of animal
life this is by far the most essential and indispensable; _breath_ and
_life_ are very properly considered in the scriptures as convertible
terms, and the same synonym, as far as we know, prevails in every
language.[9] However slow and feeble respiration may become by disease,
yet it must always be perceptible, provided the naked breast and belly
be exposed; for when the intercostal muscles act, the ribs are elevated,
and the sternum is pushed forward; when the diaphragm acts, the abdomen
swells; now this can never escape the attentive eye, and by looking at
the chest and belly we shall form a safer conclusion than by the popular
methods which have been usually adopted, such as the placing a vessel of
water on the thorax, in order to judge by the stillness or agitation of
the fluid; or holding the surface of a mirror before the mouth, which,
by condensing the aqueous vapour of the breath, is supposed to denote
the existence of respiration, although too feeble to be recognised in
any other way.

            ----“Lend me a looking-glass;
            If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
            Why, then she lives.”

                                              _Lear_, _Act_ v, _s._ iii.

For the same purpose, light down, or any flocculent substance, from the
extreme facility with which it is moved, has been supposed capable of
furnishing a similar indication; but the result must not be received as
an unequivocal proof, and accordingly _Shakspeare_, with that knowledge
and judgment which so pre-eminently distinguish him, has represented
_Prince Henry_ as having been thus deluded, when he carried off the
crown from the pillow of _Henry_ the _Fourth_—

             --------------“By his gates of breath
             There lies a downy feather, which stirs not.
             Did he suspire, that light and weightless down
             Perchance must move.”

With respect to the above tests it may be remarked, that an
imperceptible current of air may agitate the light down, and thus
simulate the effects of respiration, while an exhalation, totally
unconnected with that function, may sully the surface of a mirror held
before the mouth; on the other hand, we have learnt from experience that
mirrors have been applied to persons in a state of mere syncope without
being in the least tarnished.

Having thus considered the value of the tests of respiration, we shall
proceed to appreciate those which have been considered as furnishing no
less certain indications of death. The absence of the circulation, the
impossibility of feeling the pulsations of the heart and arteries have
been regarded as infallible means of deciding whether the individual be
dead; but it is proved beyond all doubt that a person may live for
several hours without its being possible to perceive the slightest
movement in the parts just mentioned. It has been thought also, says
_Orfila_, that an individual was dead when he was cold, and that he
still lived if the warmth of the body was preserved; there is perhaps no
sign of so little value; the drowned who may be recalled to life, are
usually very cold; whilst in cases of apoplexy, and some other fatal
diseases, a certain degree of warmth is preserved even for a long period
after death. Stiffness of the body is another sign of death upon which
great reliance has been placed; but as it sometimes happens that it
exists during life, it becomes necessary to point out the difference
between the stiffness of death, and that which occurs during life, in
certain diseases. For the following observations upon this subject we
acknowledge ourselves indebted to the judicious treatise of _Orfila_.

1. Stiffness may be very considerable in a person who has been frozen,
  who is not yet dead, and who may even be recalled to life. This
  stiffness cannot be confounded with that which is the inevitable
  result of death, because it is known that the body has been exposed to
  the action of severe cold, and above all because it is very general;
  in fact, the skin, breasts, the belly, and all the organs may possess
  the same rigidity as the muscles, a circumstance not observable in
  _cadaverous_ stiffness, in which the muscles alone present any degree
  of resistance; besides, when the skin of a frozen person is depressed,
  by pressing forcibly upon it with the finger, a hollow is produced
  which is a long time in disappearing. When the position of a frozen
  limb is changed, a little noise is heard, caused by the rupture of
  particles of ice contained in the displaced part.

2. The stiffness to which the late _M. Nysten_ has given the name of
  _convulsive_, and which sometimes manifests itself in violent nervous
  diseases, may be easily distinguished from _cadaverous_ stiffness;
  when a limb is stiff in consequence of convulsions, &c. the greatest
  difficulty is experienced in changing its direction, and when left, it
  immediately resumes its former position; it is not the same in
  stiffness from death; the limb, the direction of which has been
  changed, does not return to its former position.

3. The stiffness which occurs in certain forms of _Syncope_, can never
  be confounded with _cadaverous_ stiffness; for, in the former case,
  the stiffness takes place immediately after the commencement of the
  disease, and the trunk preserves a degree of warmth; whereas the
  _cadaverous_ stiffness is not observed until some time after death,
  and when the heat of the body is no longer evident to the senses.

If, from a cause which it is not always possible to foresee, the
individual who has been thought dead for a long time be cold and
_flexible_, instead of offering a certain degree of stiffness, and at
the same time if no evidence of putrefaction has as yet displayed
itself, the body ought not to be buried hastily—“_Satius est adhiberi
millies nimiam diligentiam, quam semel omitti necessariam._”

The cadaverous state of the face, of which _Hippocrates_ has given the
following description, has been regarded as a sign of real death; the
forehead wrinkled and dry, the eye sunken, the nose pointed, and
bordered with a violet or black circle, the temples sunken, hollow, and
retired, the ears sticking up, the lips hanging down, the cheeks sunken,
the chin wrinkled and hard, the colour of the skin leaden or violet, the
hairs of the nose and eye-lashes sprinkled with a kind of yellowish
white dust. It must be admitted that such signs, if taken separately,
are of no value, since they are sometimes observed in patients
twenty-four or forty-eight hours before death; while, on the other hand,
they are often absent in cases of sudden dissolution. The softness,
dimness, and above all, the flaccidity of the globe of the eye have been
considered as very unequivocal in their indication. _Professor
Louis_[10] has offered some remarks upon this subject worthy our notice;
he says that, in the dead, the transparent cornea is commonly covered
with a thin slimy membrane, which breaks in pieces when touched, and is
easily removed by wiping the cornea; but he remarks that some appearance
of it takes place in the eyes of the dying, and also allows that it may
be the result of disease; so much for the value of this sign: the one
which follows appears to us less exceptionable; in a few hours after
death, adds this author, the eyes become soft and flabby, an effect not
to be produced under any circumstances in the living body; we join in
this opinion; but how often does it happen that the globe of the eye
undergoes no alteration in form, until the putrefactive process has been
fully established?


It has been asserted by _Bichat_[11] that the immediate cause of death,
when it takes place suddenly, must be the cessation of the functions of
the heart, brain, or lungs; although it is sometimes difficult to
determine which of these organs is the first to fail in its action; this
may be well exemplified by the poisonous operation of Arsenic upon the
animal economy, which when introduced into the circulating system will,
according to the valuable experiments of _Mr. Brodie_, occasion stupor
and paralysis, a feeble and intermitting contraction of the heart, and
slow and laborious respiration; but it is found that in some cases, one
order of symptoms will predominate, and be the first to display
themselves, whilst in others, the very contrary will obtain, without
perhaps our being able to assign the immediate cause of such deviations.
There are, moreover, cases of sudden death, in which the principle of
animation would seem to be at once annihilated in every part of the
animal machine, and when every organ appears to be simultaneously
affected, as in that occasioned by the agency of intense cold, and
sometimes, for it is not in every instance, by that of lightning, or
electricity; still, as a general proposition, the aphorism of _Bichat_
must be admitted; and we shall proceed to investigate the subject of
sudden death, as connected with medico-judicial inquiry, upon principles
deduced from the enlightened views of this distinguished philosopher. To
the able and satisfactory researches of our English physiologist, _Mr.
Brodie_, we are also greatly indebted for a correct notion of the nature
and order of succession, of those events by which life is quickly
extinguished; his attention was many years ago directed to one important
branch of this subject,—to the investigation of that series of changes
produced on living bodies by the operation of poisons, the results of
which were published in the _Philosophical Transactions_,[12] to which
we shall have frequent occasion to refer in the following pages. Since
that period he has diligently pursued the subject in its more extensive
ramifications, and in his lectures, delivered from the anatomical chair
of the College of Surgeons during the last year, he presented a
condensed and philosophical history of the phenomena of death, in
general, in which he elucidated many leading points that were before
obscure, established several propositions that have long been considered
doubtful, and rejected a mass of popular error, which, under the
sanction of authority, has continued to retard our inquiries, and to
embarrass and misguide our practice. The author of the present section
of this work has to acknowledge the kindness and liberality by which he
is enabled to avail himself of these luminous researches, having been
furnished by his friend _Mr. Brodie_ with the manuscript notes from
which the lectures were delivered.

The organs more immediately necessary to life are, the HEART, which
conveys to every part of the body that fluid, without a constant supply
and change of which, vitality must be speedily exhausted; and the LUNGS,
by whose functions this essential fluid undergoes those unknown changes,
from the action of the atmosphere, which adapt it for the performance of
the important duties to which we have alluded.

In conformity with these views, the functions of the heart, and their
connection with those of the lungs and brain, very naturally present
themselves as the first objects of physiological inquiry; and there is
certainly no discovery in modern times more interesting in its
relations, and at the same time so useful in practical application, as
that which has determined the nature of the connections between the
functions of respiration and the motions of the heart; and shewn why the
cessation of the former should occasion the destruction of the latter.
The existence of this mysterious connection constituted a subject of
interest and inquiry in the more remote ages, and it will not be
unprofitable to take a review of the different theories which have been
proposed for its explanation. Until the celebrated experiment[13] of
_Hook_, it was supposed that the heart’s motion was maintained by the
alternate contraction and dilatation of the lungs in the act of
breathing; but the extraordinary philosopher above mentioned decided
this point by exposing the thorax of a dog, and separating the pleura
extensively from the external surface of the lungs, and then, by means
of a pair of double bellows, keeping up a constant stream of air through
the air cells; by this contrivance respiration was duly performed, while
the lungs remained motionless, and yet it was found that the vigour of
the heart’s action was not in the least impaired; whereas, if the theory
which _Hook_ undertook to refute, had been founded in truth, the heart,
under such circumstances, must necessarily have become quiescent. _Mr.
Hunter_[14] supposed the existence of a sympathy, or association,
between the motions of the heart and lungs; and the same opinion appears
to have been entertained by _Dr. Currie_[15]; _Dr. Darwin_[16] deduced
the existence of this immediate connection from that general law of the
animal œconomy, by which motions that are frequently repeated in
succession acquire the power of recurring in the same order,
independently of the original exciting cause; “it is thus,” says he,
“that by the stimulus of the blood in the right chamber of the heart the
lungs are induced to expand themselves.” _Dr. Bostock_[17], however, has
very satisfactorily opposed this hypothesis, by observing that in the
fœtus the heart commences its contractions immediately upon its
formation, while the lungs remain perfectly at rest; and that when the
animal leaves the uterus, the motion of the lungs commences, but the
periods of the contraction of the diaphragm bear no determinate ratio to
those of the systole of the heart.

It was long supposed that the cessation of respiration occasioned that
of the heart’s motion, in consequence of the black blood not having
sufficient power to stimulate its fibres; but does not the right side of
the heart, which, under all circumstances, contains de-oxygenated blood,
contract with a vigour equal to that of the left? It was reserved for
_Bichat_ to offer a true explanation of this phenomenon; he has very
justly stated that, in consequence of the suspension of the respiratory
function, the coronary vessels, by which the muscular structure of the
heart is supplied, are compelled to carry black, instead of scarlet
blood; a fact which in itself is quite adequate to explain the cause of
the heart ceasing to contract; for the irritability of this, like that
of every other muscle, can be alone maintained by duly oxygenized blood.
But it remains to be shewn how the functions of the brain and nervous
system stand related to those of the heart and lungs. Although the
agency of nervous influence is necessarily involved in impenetrable
obscurity, yet we shall not have much difficulty in proving, that _the
brain_[18] _is immediately necessary to life only because the muscles of
respiration owe their action to its influence_. _M. Lallemand_ has
published the history of a fœtus, in which the brain and spinal marrow
were equally deficient, notwithstanding which, it even exceeded the
usual size, the heart was perfect, and it was evident that the
circulation had been properly performed; no sooner, however, was the
monster born than it perished, because the diaphragm and other muscles
of respiration were unable to perform their functions without the aid of
nervous excitement; no air was therefore inhaled into the lungs, and in
a few minutes the heart ceased to contract from the deficient supply of
oxygenized blood. If the phrenic nerves of a quadruped be divided,[19]
the motion of the diaphragm ceases, and the animal breathes by the
motion of the ribs alone, panting and respiring with difficulty and
distress. If the spinal marrow be divided below the origin of the
phrenic nerves in the lower part of the neck, no interruption is given
to the transmission of the nervous influence to the diaphragm, but the
ribs now become motionless, and respiration is performed by the
diaphragm only; if the spinal marrow be divided in the upper part of the
neck, above the origin of the phrenic nerves, the nervous influence is
neither transmitted to the diaphragm, nor to the muscles which produce
the motion of the ribs, and respiration is entirely suspended; under
these circumstances the heart continues to contract for some minutes,
after which it ceases, as there is no supply of blood which has received
the influence of the air, and, consequently, the muscular fibres of the
heart lose their excitability, and the blood is no longer circulated;
if, however, the lungs be artificially inflated, before the action of
the heart has ceased, its motions are continued. The experiment may also
be very satisfactorily varied in the following manner; apply a ligature
to the carotid arteries in the neck, so as to prevent the occurrence of
hemorrhage, and then decapitate the animal; if respiration be now
artificially maintained, the heart will suffer no disturbance in its
motions, but the circulation will be preserved for several hours in the
body of the decapitated animal. In further illustration of this view of
the subject, _Mr. Brodie_ observes, that many reptiles which are capable
of respiring by means of the skin, will survive the loss of the brain
for so long a period, that the wound made by decapitation, becomes
cicatrized, and death only takes place at last in consequence of
inanition.—(_Manuscript Notes._)

In farther illustration of these views, let us observe the mode in which
death takes place in apoplexy, or in cases of pressure on the brain,
whether occasioned by a depressed portion of bone, or by blood
extravasated within the cranium. At first the patient is insensible to
all external impressions, but the breathing is not affected; after an
interval, however, the respiration becomes difficult and laborious, and
the purple hue of the lips and cheeks, from the sub-cutaneous vessels,
demonstrates that the blood is imperfectly oxygenized. The arterial
action becomes more slow, in proportion only as the respiration is more
difficult; and the pulse may even be distinguished at the wrist, after
the breathing has altogether ceased; under such circumstances it is
obvious that life might be protracted for several hours by artificial
inflation of the lungs, but as no ultimate benefit could be derived from
such an operation, its expediency may be fairly questioned.

Enough has been said to shew that the brain is not _immediately_
necessary to the action of the heart; but _Mr. Brodie_ has very justly
observed that the general proposition thus established, must not lead us
to the conclusion that the heart is therefore incapable of being
affected by violent impressions on the nervous system; the fact is quite
otherwise, for although the brain may be removed, and the circulation be
nevertheless maintained by artificial respiration, yet an injury
inflicted on the brain, of another kind, may be followed by those
immediately fatal consequences which decapitation itself would not
produce. _Dr. Wilson Philip_ states that if the brain be violently
crushed, the action of the heart is immediately stopped; and the fact is
too notorious to be questioned, that a blow on the head is frequently
succeeded by Syncope; there are but few circumstances, says _Mr.
Brodie_, in the history of the animal œconomy which appears more
remarkable than this fact, that _an injury of a part which is not
immediately essential to the heart’s action, should nevertheless, under
certain circumstances, have the effect of occasioning its immediate
cessation_. The late researches of _Le Gallois_ may perhaps receive
farther elucidation from the above proposition; this physiologist has
stated that if a wire be introduced into the _Theca vertebralis_, and be
moved upward and downward, so as to destroy the texture of the spinal
marrow, the action of the heart presently ceases; and he from thence
advances to the conclusion, not only that the spinal marrow is necessary
to the heart’s action, but that every part of the animal body derives
its vital properties from it; from what I have observed, says _Mr.
Brodie_ (_Manuscript Notes_) in the repetition of the foregoing
experiment, I should infer that the fact is correctly stated, as far as
it relates to warm-blooded animals, but the conclusions are undoubtedly
premature; and the history of the fœtus, as related by _Lallemand_, in
which, notwithstanding the absence of the brain and spinal marrow, the
child was even larger than usual, the heart perfect, and it was manifest
that the circution had been duly performed, is in direct opposition to
such a theory. We must here agree with _Mr. Brodie_, that such phenomena
are quite incompatible with the doctrine in which the spinal marrow is
supposed to be directly necessary to the existence of vitality in the
system generally, and to the action of the heart in particular; and that
we must therefore look for some other explanation of the effects which
are produced by the destruction of the spinal marrow in warm-blooded
quadrupeds.—May they not be explained by supposing them to be the effect
of the shock which must necessarily attend the removal of the spinal
marrow, which can never be effected with the facility that attends

We have deemed it necessary to offer these few remarks upon the
relations which subsist between the functions of the heart, lungs, and
brain, in as much as the propositions which have been thus established
respecting them, can alone lead to a correct pathology of those
diseases, by which life is suddenly extinguished, or suggest a rational
and effectual plan of treatment, in cases of suspended animation.


  In which the pulsations of the heart cease, before the action of the
                          respiratory organs.

The heart may cease to beat either from organic lesions in its own
structure, or in that of its vessels; or from being sympathetically
affected by injuries in other parts[20]; or from the operation of
certain poisons; or from a shock of the general nervous system, as
experienced in paroxysms of certain passions.

In ordinary fainting it is evident that some slight and feeble motions
of the heart still continue, although insufficient to produce a sensible
pulsation in the more distant arteries; and where this has continued for
an unusual period, and the respiration has been so obscure as to escape
common observation, the phenomenon has been eagerly seized by the
admirers of the marvellous, and credulity has attached to its history,
under the name of _Trance_,[21] circumstances of extravagance and
mystery, to which it can hardly be necessary to allude on the present
occasion. But the motions of the heart may have ceased altogether, and
in such cases it becomes a question, no less interesting to the
practical physician than to the physiologist, whether they can ever be
restored, and if so, we have to inquire under what limitation, as to
time; under what circumstances; and by what means? The views which have
been already offered respecting the pathology of Syncope will afford us
considerable assistance in the solution of a problem, so intimately
connected with inquiries of forensic importance. It would appear that
where the heart has ceased to pulsate, _in consequence of the cessation
of respiration, it can never again be set in motion_; but that where it
has stopped from other causes, as from the operation of certain poisons,
its muscular irritability not having been exhausted, its action may be
occasionally revived. Where Syncope arises from hemorrhage, we shall
find, on dissection, that the heart and its great vessels are either
empty, or contain only a small quantity of blood in their cavities; but
where Syncope arises from other causes, the heart is seen distended to
an unusual magnitude, and the blood in the left auricle and ventricle is
generally of a more or less florid colour, and has not the hue of venous
blood; a circumstance which depends upon the pulsation of the heart
ceasing before the function of respiration, and which is the very
reverse of what happens in death from suffocation, as we shall hereafter

Violent passions of the mind very commonly produce syncope, which has in
some instances terminated in death; we are however inclined to believe
that in fatal cases of this nature the persons must have laboured under
some organic affection of the heart, or its vessels; _Philip V._ died
suddenly on being told that the Spaniards had been defeated, and on
opening the body, his heart was found ruptured.

_Dr. Tissot_ relates also the case of the father of a numerous family,
who having lost his wife whom he tenderly loved, was suddenly seized
with laborious respiration, and died at the end of two days; when the
lungs were found gorged with blood, and the heart ruptured. Now in both
these cases, it is probable that the muscular structure of the heart had
been softened by previous disease.[22] So in the case of _Mr. John
Hunter_, whose life was suddenly extinguished by mental emotion, the
valves of the heart had been long in a state of disease, and so well
aware was he of the danger to which he was constantly exposed, that he
had for some time previous to his death, been in the habit of retiring
from all those situations, in which his passions were likely to be
excited. It is said that the instances of death from sudden joy are more
numerous than those from grief, probably because the effect of this
latter passion is rather to retard than to accelerate the circulation;
_Sophocles_, being desirous of proving that at an advanced age he was in
full possession of his intellectual powers, composed a tragedy, was
crowned, and died through joy; the same fate befel _Philippides_ the
comic writer; thus too the Lacedemonian _Chilon_ expired in the embrace
of his son who had borne away the prize at the Olympic games; and we
read of Roman women who died in the same manner, upon seeing their sons
return from the battles of Thrasymene and Cannæ. On the other hand, we
might adduce much classical authority to shew that death has frequently
been the sudden effect of grief.

_Montaigne_ relates the case of a German, who after having performed
great feats of valour, was killed at the siege of Osen; one of the
general officers having desired to see the corpse of so gallant a man,
was conducted to the body, when he instantly recognised the features of
his own son, and died on the spot. The record of our own times will
furnish us with an instance in which an actor of celebrity suddenly
expired upon repeating a passage that contained a fancied allusion to
the domestic affliction under which he was suffering.

_Dr. Ozanam_,[23] in illustration of the influence of pain and terror in
producing sudden extinction of life, relates the case of a middle aged
criminal, who having throughout evinced extreme weakness and depression,
expired in his way to the scaffold, and was stiff before he arrived at
the place of execution, which was about seven miles distant.

In such cases of sudden death, from the operation of violent mental
emotions, we apprehend that dissection will frequently demonstrate the
existence of previous disease in some of the organs immediately
essential to life; and we shall hereafter have occasion to refer to the
influence of the passions in hastening the fatal termination of a
chronic disease; on the present occasion we introduce the following
extremely interesting case, in confirmation of the position we are
endeavouring to maintain; the case was originally published in the
_Transactions of the Physico-Medical Society of New York, by Dr.
Valentine Mott_; it afterwards appeared in the _Journal Universel des
Sciences Medicales, Avril, 1819_; and lately it has found its way into
the _Medical Repository_ of this country. A robust and plethoric female,
aged 22, long addicted to dissolute and intemperate habits, had
complained for some time of slight and apparently rheumatic pains; but
within a day or two of the fatal event, she had been deserted by a man
to whom she was engaged in marriage; in consequence of which her mind
became very deeply affected; after having supped on the preceding night,
she retired to rest as usual, and in the morning was found dead in bed;
she lay in a bent position on the left side; and was hence supposed at
first to be in a profound sleep; neither the countenance nor the limbs
were in the least distorted. On dissection the pericardium was found to
contain ten ounces of coagulated blood, and two of serum; the heart on
all sides being covered by it, was of ordinary volume, but much loaded
with fat; at the summit of the aortic ventricle was discovered the
breach from which the effused blood had issued; the parietes of the
ventricle around the rupture were much thicker than in the natural
state, and on close examination a very sensible fluctuation was
distinguished, to the extent of an inch on one side of it, from which
flocculi of a cheese-like substance were discharged on pressure; the
pericardium also presented traces of inflammation.

We have here then a case in which a morbid change in the structure of
the heart had existed for a considerable period, and which was suddenly
brought to a fatal termination by an affection of the mind.

Before we quit the consideration of _Syncope_, we have to notice a fatal
variety of that disease, which well deserves the attentive consideration
of the forensic Physician, whose highest duty, let it be remembered, is
the investigation of sudden death. It is described by _Mr.
Chevalier_[24] under the term _Asphyxia Idiopathica_, in which the
patient suddenly faints and dies; the essential circumstances of the
disease evidently denote, says _Mr. Chevalier_, a sudden loss of power
in the extreme vessels to propel the blood; in consequence of which the
heart after having contracted, so as to empty itself, and then dilated
again, continues relaxed for want of the return of its accustomed
stimulus, and dies in that dilated state. On dissection all the cavities
of the heart are found completely empty, and the viscus itself in a
state of extreme flaccidity.


Suffocation may be defined, the destruction of life by the suspension of
the function of respiration, occasioned by external violence. Unless we
add “_by external violence_” we shall perceive that the definition would
be far too comprehensive; and the term _Suffocation_ would be made to
embrace a much wider range of subjects than its popular acceptation
would allow. If the physiological views be correct which we have adopted
and explained in the foregoing section, “On the causes and phenomena of
sudden death,” we should be compelled, without such a protecting
adjunct, to include under the history of Suffocation, not only the
phenomena of Drowning, Strangling, Hanging, Smothering, and noxious
inhalation, but even those of Apoplexy, fatal Intoxication, and various
diseases of the brain and spinal marrow, together with the effects of a
great proportion of Poisons; for by such agents death is undoubtedly
occasioned through the failure of the respiratory functions.

In Death from Suffocation the heart continues to pulsate for several
minutes after the breathing has entirely ceased, in consequence of which
the blood which passes through the pulmonary vessels no longer receives
the influence of oxygen, and therefore _black_ blood circulates; the
brain, it would appear, soon feels the want of the florid arterial
stream, by which alone its energies can be maintained. _Bichat_ has
shewn that when dark coloured blood is injected into the vessels of the
brain, by means of a syringe connected with the carotid artery, the
functions of the brain become immediately disturbed, and, in a short
time, entirely cease; the effect is precisely similar, whether the dark
coloured blood be transmitted to the brain by the syringe of the
experimentalist, or by the heart itself. It is not until after the full
effects of the suspended respiration are thus produced on the brain,
that the motions of the heart become enfeebled, and that the ventricles
contract less powerfully, and at longer intervals; at length, the action
of the heart is altogether arrested, and if the thorax be examined at
the instant that the circulation has ceased, nothing is observed, except
a slight tremulous motion of the auricles; the cavities of the left side
are much contracted, and contain only a small quantity of blood, while
the right auricle and ventricle, and the large vessels communicating
with them, are distended to an unusual size. This state of the heart, it
will be observed, is very different from that which we have described as
constantly occurring after _Syncope_. In the contemplation of these
phœnomena, a question very naturally suggests itself in regard to the
probable interval which elapses between the cessation of respiration,
and the consequent failure of the heart’s action; in other words, it may
be asked, how long can the heart support its contractions without the
aid of respiration? It would appear that this interval not only varies
in duration in different animals, but even in the same animal under
different circumstances, such as that of age,[25] capacity of the
thorax, quantity of air in the lungs, state of the stomach, and general
vigour of the animal; but in man, under the most favourable
circumstances, it is extremely doubtful whether the heart ever continues
to pulsate for so long a period as five minutes[26] after the lungs have
ceased to perform their office; and it is very questionable whether, in
most instances, the interval is not considerably shorter than this.

                              BY DROWNING.

It was formerly believed that _Asphyxia_[27] from _drowning_, always
depended upon the lungs and intestinal canal being filled with
water;[28] whereas it is hardly necessary to observe that it alone
depends upon the blood, in consequence of the suspension of breathing,
ceasing to possess the qualities which are essential to the preservation
of life. _M. Gauteron_ immersed a dog for more than a quarter of an
hour, without inflicting the least injury, having previously inserted a
long tube in the trachea, which was kept elevated during the experiment
above the surface of the water.

If a small animal be immersed in water, contained in a transparent glass
vessel, the phenomena of drowning are readily discernible; there is
first a deep expiration, by which bubbles of air are expelled from the
lungs; there is then an effort to inspire, but the effort is
ineffectual; there being no air which can be received into the lungs,
and a spasm of the muscles of the glottis seems to forbid the admission
of any considerable quantity of water into the trachea. The attempts to
breathe are repeated several times, and at each attempt at expiration a
small proportion of air is expelled from the mouth and nostrils, until
the air-cells of the lungs are almost emptied;[29] then the animal
becomes insensible; and convulsive action of the voluntary muscles mark
the instant when the brain begins to suffer from the influx of the dark
coloured venous blood. After the cessation of these convulsive actions,
the animal becomes motionless, and gives no sign of life; but if the
hand be applied to the thorax, the actions of the heart, gradually
becoming fainter and fainter, indicate that some remains of vitality
still linger in the system. Before the circulation of the blood
altogether ceases, the muscles of respiration once more resume their
actions, and ineffectual efforts are made to breathe. It is a remarkable
circumstance that the diaphragm continues to exert itself nearly as long
as the heart itself, and that the interval between the cessation of the
motions of the diaphragm and that of the motions of the heart, which is
so short in animals that die by strangulation, is still shorter in those
who perish by drowning.[30] These phenomena follow each other in rapid
succession, and the whole scene is closed, and the living animal is
converted into a lifeless corpse, incapable of recovery, in the brief
space of a few moments, (_Brodie’s Manuscript Notes_). If however the
animal be taken out of the water before the total extinction of life,
and the diaphragm contract afterwards, so as to draw air into the lungs
before the action of the heart has ceased, the circulation is
maintained, and the animal continues to respire; he will thus have
escaped immediate death from suffocation; but his life still remains in
jeopardy, for there is a second period of danger, and one at which death
may take place, when we are the least prepared to expect it; for the
dark coloured blood which has been transmitted through the circulatory
system, during the suspension of respiration, would seem to act like a
narcotic poison upon the brain; no sooner therefore does it enter that
organ, but deleterious effects are produced, the animal at first falls
into a state of stupor, the pupils of the eyes become dilated, the
respiration laborious, the muscles of the body convulsed, and the animal
dies, _poisoned by its own blood_.

The body of a person who has died from drowning exhibits a physiognomy
which it is important to notice. The whole surface is distinguished by a
remarkable coldness and pallor; the eyes are half open, and their pupils
considerably dilated; the tongue is pushed forward to the internal edges
of the lips, and sometimes wounded; and the mouth and nostrils are
covered with foam. At other times, instead of a pallid visage, we have
one that is swelled, and bloated with livid blood.

Upon dissection we shall perceive the vessels of the brain more or less
gorged with blood;[31] in the trachea a watery and bloody froth will be
found; the lungs will appear expanded, full of frothy mucus, and,
generally, livid; the right cavities of the heart gorged with blood, the
left nearly empty; and it has been sometimes noticed that the blood
remains fluid[32], and follows after every incision by the scalpel. The
stomach will generally be found to contain some water. _Hebenstreit_
also states, that since in the act of drowning the person dies on an
inspiration, the diaphragm is necessarily found convex, or bent towards
the abdomen; this statement however is erroneous.

Upon these appearances we have a few observations to offer, especially
as they have given origin to some important questions; and first, with
respect to _the presence of water in the stomach and lungs_, than which
few indications, connected with the subject of drowning, have given
occasion to greater controversy.[33] For since it hath been observed
that water is rarely found in the stomach or lungs of a person who has
been submerged after death, it was inferred that the presence of that
fluid in these organs necessarily proved that the individual must have
been plunged into the water during life. As a general proposition this
may be admitted as correct, although it is liable to certain exceptions
with which the medical jurist ought to be acquainted; we may, for
instance, suppose a case, in which the submerged person may be so
plunged at once under water, as to have been suffocated without his
previously coming to the surface, and when _asphyxia_ has taken place,
the powers of deglutition, on which the presence of water in the stomach
wholly depends, are at an end; or we may suppose that the party in
question faints from terror; a remarkable instance of this kind is
quoted by _Foderè_,[34] from _Plater_, of a young woman, who having been
condemned to be drowned for infanticide, fainted at the moment she was
plunged in the water, and having remained for a quarter of an hour under
its surface, recovered after being drawn out.[35]

With respect to the presence of water in the bronchiæ and lungs, we may
observe that, in the violent struggles of a drowning man, a certain
portion of water generally passes the epiglottis; and being immediately
mixed with the air and mucus of the trachea, constitutes that frothy
mucus, which we have described as being so highly characteristic of this
species of violent death; although we are not to conclude with _Larrey_,
that it is the immediate cause of dissolution in such cases. The
quantity of water, however, thus forced into the pulmonary structure, is
extremely small, for its entrance is powerfully opposed by a spasm of
the muscles of the glottis;[36] were it to occur in any considerable
quantity, and to appear in its fluid state, instead of that of froth,
the influence would clearly be, that _it had passed in after death_.

Although the presence of this frothy matter must be considered as a
strong presumptive proof that the person found in the water had perished
by drowning, the converse of this proposition is by no means established
by the absence of such an indication.

_The buoyancy of the human body_ is another point in the history of
Drowning, which has occasioned much discussion; and in solving the
problem, so highly important in its forensic relations, _whether a body
found in the water, had been drowned, or thrown in after death_, it has
been considered by some physiologists as capable of affording a certain
degree of presumptive evidence, although we are inclined to attach but
little or no importance to such an indication. The specific gravity of
the human body, under ordinary circumstances, is very little greater
than that of fresh water, so small indeed is the difference that, when
the lungs are inflated, a man will float[37] with little or no effort,
if he have sufficient self possession, and does not attempt to raise too
great a portion of his body out of the sustaining fluid;[38] but, when
the air of the lungs is expelled, and probably, at the same time, a
certain quantity of water is taken into the stomach,[39] the body
becomes specifically heavier, and the victim sinks. It may be assumed as
a general rule, that no newly drowned body floats, although many facts
have been adduced in support of a contrary opinion; the naval custom of
loading the dead bodies with weights, before they are consigned to a
watery grave, is not for the purpose of sinking the corpse, but for
preventing its rising after the process of putrefaction has commenced.
The period during which a body will remain at the bottom cannot be very
accurately determined, as the change does not take place until a
sufficient quantity of air be generated to buoy it again to the surface;
in the melancholy instance of the loss of the Royal George, the dead
bodies were observed ascending to the surface of the sea, on or about
the fifth day. The general position of a body which has thus risen,
provided there be no external or adventitious circumstances to change
it, is such, that it floats nearly immersed, the face, arms, and legs
hanging downwards, and the loins being uppermost; this is the form which
the body must mechanically and hydrostatically assume, if the sustaining
power of generated air be, as it generally will, in the cavity of the
abdomen, where putrefaction is more likely to commence; for the head and
limbs are generally[40] specifically heavier than water, while the
trunk, especially if inflated with air, is somewhat lighter.

It has been said that a position, different from that which we have just
described, will take place where the person has been strangled, and the
body then thrown into the water; for in this latter case, it is
contended, that the lungs will be distended with air, and that
consequently, the sustaining power must be in the thorax; in support of
this opinion the story of the appearance of _Caraccioli_[41], Admiral of
the Neapolitan navy, has been ingeniously adduced; this unfortunate man
was hanged in pursuance of the sentence of a court martial, and his body
was committed to the deep in the usual manner; thirteen days after
which, while the King of Sicily was walking on the deck of Lord
_Nelson’s_ ship, he suddenly exclaimed with a yell of horror—“_Vien!
Viene!_”—The Admiral’s corpse, breast high, was seen floating towards
the ship; the shot that had been attached to the feet for the purpose of
sinking it, not being sufficiently heavy. This may perhaps be explained
by supposing that the corpse was stiff before it was immersed, in which
case, the centre of gravity being exceedingly low on account of the shot
tied to the feet, he must have floated upright, wherever the buoyant
power from generated air might be situated. At all events, we feel no
hesitation in at once rejecting the proposition, for the support of
which it has been brought forward; the fact is that, in relation to
gaseous contents, the lungs are the same in strangled, as in drowned
persons; for in both cases a quantity of air is forcibly expelled from
them before dissolution.

                             2. BY HANGING:

The suspension of a person by means of a cord, or some other ligature,
round the neck, by which death is produced by closing the trachea, and
preventing respiration.

Although we are in this case bound to admit that the immediate cause of
death is suffocation, yet we cannot deny that other injuries are often
produced by hanging, such as

  1. _Pressure on the vessels._
  2. _Pressure on the nerves._
  3. _Fracture of the spine, and dislocation of the odontoid process._

1. _Pressure on the Vessels._—The red and livid hue of the face of
persons killed by hanging, very naturally induced a belief that
_Apoplexy_[42] was the immediate cause of death; while it is evident
that the pressure on the jugular veins must necessarily so prevent the
return of blood to the heart, as to produce an accumulation in the
vessels of the brain: _Dr. Hooper_ has a preparation of the brain of an
executed criminal, in which blood is seen extravasated among the
membranes; and various other cases have occurred, where dissection has
clearly demonstrated the existence of those vascular congestions and
sanguineous effusions, upon which apoplexy is supposed to depend; but
this merely goes to prove that apoplexy occasionally takes place from
hanging; it does not establish the fact of its being the common cause of
death on such occasions.[43] _Gregory_ made the following experiment to
shew that it is to the interception of air that death is to be
attributed; after having opened the trachea of a dog he passed a slip
knot round the neck, above the wound; the animal, though hanged,
continued to live and respire, the air was alternately admitted and
easily expelled through the small opening; but as soon as the
constriction was made below the orifice, the animal perished. _Mr.
Brodie_ hanged a dog, and as soon as it became insensible, the trachea
was opened below the ligature, upon which he breathed, and his
sensibility returned.

2. _Pressure on the Nerves of the Neck._ Although the pressure of a
ligature on the nerves of the neck cannot be considered as the immediate
cause of death in hanging, yet _Mr. Brodie_ has very justly observed,
that if the animal recovers of the direct consequence of the
strangulation, he may probably suffer from the effects of the ligature
upon the nerves afterwards. _Mr. Brodie_ passed a ligature under the
trachea of a Guinea pig, and tied it tight on the back of the neck with
a knot; the animal was uneasy, but nevertheless breathed and moved
about; at the end of fifteen minutes the ligature was removed; on the
following morning, however, the animal was found dead. On dissection no
preternatural appearances were discovered in the brain, but the lungs
were dark and turgid with blood, and presented an appearance similar to
that which is observed after the division of the nerves of the eighth
pair; I do not, observes _Mr. Brodie_ (_Manuscript Notes_) positively
conclude from this experiment that the animal died from an injury
inflicted upon the nerves of the eighth pair, but I think that such a
conclusion is highly probable; and it becomes an object of inquiry
whether a patient having recovered from hanging, may not, in some
instances, die afterwards from the injury of the _par vagum_.

3. _Fracture of the Spine, and Dislocation of the Neck._ The death of a
hanged person may occasionally take place by the luxation of the
cervical vertebræ, and the consequent injury of the spinal marrow; this
effect will be more likely to happen in heavy persons, and where the
culprit suffers on a drop that precipitates him from a considerable
height. It is said that _Louis_ discovered that of the two executioners
in Paris and Lyons, one dispatched the criminal condemned to be hanged
by luxating the head on the neck, whilst those who perished by the hands
of the other were completely strangled.

An animal, when first suspended, is observed to make repeated but
ineffectual attempts to inspire; violent convulsions of the whole body
then ensue, but which are not to be considered as the indications of
suffering, for they arise in consequence of the dark coloured blood
having reached the brain and spinal marrow; and the animal at this
period is necessarily insensible; hanging does not occasion a painful

The lips, nose, and all those parts in which the hue of the blood can be
observed, exhibit a dark colour; the countenance is distorted, the eyes
protruded, and frequently suffused with blood, the tongue is also forced
out of the mouth, and sometimes wounded, although it has been observed
that this phenomenon will entirely depend upon the position of the rope,
for that when it presses above the thyroid gland the tongue will be
pushed back, in consequence of a compression upon the _os hyoides_,
whereas if the pressure be applied under the _cricoid_ cartilage it will
have the effect of thrusting out the tongue. Blood is sometimes
discharged from the ears. It is not unusual for the sufferer to void his
urine, fæces, and even semen, in _articulo mortis_. The fingers are
usually bent, the nails blue, and the hands nearly closed; and the whole
physiognomy exhibits a highly characteristic appearance.

       “But see, his face is black and full of blood,
       His eye-balls further out than when he lived,
       Staring full ghastly, like a strangled man,
       His hair uprear’d, his nostrils stretch’d with struggling,
       His hands abroad display’d, as one that grasp’d
       And tugg’d for life, and was by strength subdu’d.”

                               _Henry_ VI, _Part_ ii, _Act_ iii, _s._ 2.

The dissection of a hanged person exhibits the same phenomena as those
described under the history of drowning, with the exception of the
absence of water in the _bronchiæ_. With respect to the quantity of air
found in the lungs, much discrepancy of opinion has existed. _Dr.
Goodwyn_, in his experiments on respiration, found that the lungs of a
person who had died from hanging, contained double the quantity of
gaseous contents of those who had died a natural death. This result,
however, is certainly not correct; for there is always, as we have
already stated, a very forcible expulsion of air from the lungs in the
act of strangulation, and they are accordingly found almost empty after
death. _Mr. Coleman_ hanged an animal, and then secured the _trachea_ by
a ligature, and removed the lungs; when, upon receiving their gaseous
contents in the hydro-pneumatic apparatus, he found their quantity was
very far less than that which would have been collected under other

                      3. BY MANUAL STRANGULATION.

Whether strangulation be induced by the suspension of the body by the
neck, or by a ligature drawn tight, or by any other pressure upon the
trachea, the physiological phenomena of death are the same; where,
however, the person has died from manual strangulation, the marks about
the neck will probably be more evident, and the discolouration will
correspond with the marks of the fingers and nails; and we may also
expect to find traces of violence upon the chest, for since the weight
of the body is not obtained in such a case, additional force becomes
necessary to consummate the fatal act. On opening the bodies of those
who have been taken off by manual strangulation, _Dr. Smith_ thinks that
the usual appearances of this kind of death may not seem so conclusive
as in other cases: an opinion in which we feel inclined to coincide; for
in consequence of the greater resistance of the sufferer, the functions
of respiration and circulation may continue in some measure for a longer
period than in drowning or hanging, which must be considered as more
summary processes of suffocation. In the case of a woman who had been
thus strangled by two men, _Littre_ found the tympanum of the left ear
lacerated, whence flowed about an ounce of blood; the vessels of the
brain were unusually turgid, red blood was extravasated in the
ventricles, as well as at the base of the cranium; the lungs were
distended and their membrane vascular; not more, however, than an ounce
of blood was found in the right ventricle of the heart, and it was fluid
and frothy, like that in the lungs; this circumstance deserves
particular notice, and can only be explained by supposing that the
respiration and circulation were not at once arrested, but that the
unhappy sufferer was enabled to inhale air, at intervals, during the
protracted struggle[45]; and yet in certain cases, death may be very
easily occasioned by manual strangulation, of which the murder of _Dr.
Clench_, in the year 1692, may be adduced as an example; this gentleman
was strangled in a hackney coach by two men, while driving about the
streets of the city, without the coachman having the slightest knowledge
of the transaction, until he afterwards found him quite dead, kneeling
down with his head on the seat, and a handkerchief bound about his neck,
in which was a piece of coal, placed just over the windpipe.[46]

                           4. BY SMOTHERING.

In this act the transit of the air into the lungs is prevented by
forcibly closing the nostrils and mouth. It is very obvious that such a
mode of destruction can very rarely occur in an adult; for a
comparatively feeble resistance will be sufficient to overcome the
assailant in such an attempt. It may, however, occur accidentally; it is
not difficult to imagine that a person, in a fit of intoxication, may be
unable to extricate himself from a position in which he might fall, and
in which respiration could not be performed. In children this mode of
suffocation is less rare, and it may be either the result of design or
accident, to which we shall have occasion to refer, when treating the
subject of Infanticide.


There are many gases, the inspiration of which occasions death; some of
these act simply by excluding oxygen, while others exert an absolutely
deleterious action in consequence of the specific powers which they
possess. It is exclusively to the first species that our attention is at
present to be directed; the latter will constitute matter for future
consideration, under the title of _Aërial Poisons_.

It is a fact too well established to require any discussion, that
_oxygen_ is the only principle which is capable of producing the
necessary changes in the blood, during its transmission through the
lungs; and that, accordingly, whenever atmospheric air is deprived of
this principle, it is no longer capable of supporting life, and the
animal immersed in it instantly dies. It is thus that death takes place
from exposure to the fumes of charcoal[47], to those of lime-kilns, to
the atmosphere of cellars, caverns, wells, and dungeons.[48]

The asphyxia from privies, drains, and common sewers, depends upon a
different cause, and will be considered under the head of _Sulphuretted
Hydrogen_, in the history of poisons.

The fatal effects of confined air in a small and crowded room, were
fully exemplified in the year 1742, when twenty persons were crammed in
a part of St. Martin’s round-house called the _hole_, during the night,
several of whom died; the surgeons on that occasion gave it as their
opinion, that when the doors and windows were shut, the place could not
support twenty persons for three hours without danger of their lives. A
trial took place at the Old Bailey in consequence; but we have not been
more successful than _Dr. Gordon Smith_ in our search for its report.
The medical jurist would be called upon, on such an occasion, for his
opinion as to the nature of the deteriorated air, the causes of its
accumulation, and whether it was adequate to the production of the
alleged effects; and possibly, whether the fatal consequences might not
have been averted by judicious caution, or active exertion. The most
awful exemplification of the fatal effects of confined air is, however,
recorded in the interesting narrative of what happened to the English in
the _black hole_ at Calcutta; and which we shall briefly relate in this
place; as it involves some physiological phenomena to which we shall
hereafter have occasion to refer.

It was in the month of June, 1756, that the Viceroy of Bengal laid siege
to Fort William, the English factory at Calcutta. _Mr. Holwell_,
assisted by the factors and the garrison, defended this post with
extreme bravery; but was at length obliged to surrender. There were at
this time remaining in the fort, an hundred and forty-five men and one
woman. The whole of this unfortunate company, many of whom were wounded,
and several very dangerously, were shut up the same night in a small
prison only eighteen feet square. This prison, which is now better known
in England by the name of the _black hole_, was enclosed by strong
walls, and had only two small windows at one end, secured by iron
grates. In this confined situation, which allowed only a space of about
eighteen square inches to each individual, the heat and want of fresh
air soon excited the most horrible effects; the prisoners, in a state of
despair, began by attempting to force open the door, but in this they
were unsuccessful. Mr. _Holwell_, who was placed near one of the
windows, was more at his ease than the rest, and was consequently more
cool and tranquil; and he recommended his companions to be quiet and
orderly, and not to exhaust their strength by useless efforts. This
advice produced some little calm, interrupted, however, by the groans of
the wounded and the dying. The heat increased every moment. Mr.
_Holwell_ recommended them to strip off their cloaths, as a means of
acquiring more space; this was accordingly done, but with no great
relief; they attempted to improve this by fanning the air with their
hats, but even this was too painful a task for men who were worn out by
the fatigue of the siege, and the heat of this dungeon. Another of the
company was for their kneeling down, that they might have more air. They
all readily agreed to do this; and to rise together in order to avoid
confusion. This was done several times, but every time the signal was
given to rise, the number of those who had strength enough to obey it
diminished. There were constantly some remaining on the floor, who were
unable to get up, and these were trodden to death by the survivors. All
this happened during the first hour of their imprisonment. At nine
o’clock in the evening they began to complain of excessive thirst, and
to renew their efforts to open the prison door, and to tempt the
centinels to fire upon them. Some of those who were farthest from the
window became at once furiously delirious. The cry for water was
unanimous. The guards brought water, and _Holwell_ and two of his
wounded friends received it at the window in their hats, and were going
to pass it on to the rest; but so eager and tumultuous were the efforts
of the crowd to get at this water, that _Holwell’s_ two friends were
suffocated, the water was spilt, and _Holwell_ saw himself surrounded
with dead bodies, who had either been crushed to death, or died for want
of fresh air.

Hitherto the commander and benefactor of these unfortunate people, had
been treated with some degree of respect, but now all distinction began
to be forgotten; the whole company eagerly threw themselves towards the
windows, and seizing the iron bars, some of them got even upon his
shoulders. He was so borne down by this enormous weight, as to be
deprived of all power of motion; he implored the pity of those who were
upon his head and his shoulders, and requested them to let him go and
die at the bottom of the prison; this request was readily complied with,
every one was desirous of succeeding to his place, and without much
difficulty he reached the farther end of the dungeon. The third part of
these unhappy people were already dead, and they who were still alive
pressed so eagerly towards the windows, that _Holwell_ found himself
somewhat freer in his new station; but the air was so corrupted, that
his breathing soon became extremely difficult and painful. Unable
therefore to support this, he attempted once more to make his way to the
windows; and leaning on a heap of dead bodies, he now resolved to wait
patiently for death. In this situation he remained about ten minutes,
and then he experienced such a pain of the breast, and so violent a
palpitation of the heart, that he was obliged to make one more attempt
towards getting a less fatal air. There were five rows of his companions
between himself and the window; his despair carried him through four of
these. The palpitation of his heart now began to abate, but he felt
inexpressible thirst, and cried out for water; but the water seemed to
increase instead of alleviating his thirst; he therefore resolved to
drink no more, and rather chose to suck the moisture from his shirt,
which seemed to afford him some relief. A young man quite naked, who
stood before him, eagerly seized the sleeve of his shirt, and for some
moments deprived him of this salutary refreshment. It was not yet
midnight. The small number of those who were left, were transported to
the greatest excess of rage and despair. They all called aloud for air,
because the water that had been brought to them afforded no relief. Soon
after this the noise suddenly ceased. The greater part who were living
laid themselves down, deprived of all their strength, and peaceably
breathed their last. Others aimed at getting into _Holwell’s_ situation;
a Dutchman mounted on one of his shoulders, and a black soldier on the
other. In this situation he remained till two in the morning, when he
gave up his place to a marine officer, who was soon forced out of it by
the Dutchman. The officer retired with _Holwell_ to the other corner of
the prison, and in a few moments afterwards died. _Holwell_ himself was
soon deprived of sense, and from that time till sun rise we have no
account of what passed. One of those who remained alive, at five in the
morning, drew forth _Holwell_ from the heap of dead, and found in him
some signs of life; about that time the Viceroy inquired whether he was
still alive; he was told, that if the door was immediately opened, it
would, perhaps, be possible to recover him, and orders were accordingly
given for this purpose. But the door of the prison opened inwards, and
they who were within it, and living, were deprived of all their
strength, so that more than twenty minutes elapsed before the dead
bodies were removed, which prevented the door from being opened.

At a quarter after six o’clock, there came out of this melancholy
dungeon three and twenty persons, the remains of the hundred and
forty-six who had entered it on the preceding evening.

Upon the events thus related we have to remark, that no advice could be
more judicious than that given by _Holwell_ to his companions in the
early part of their imprisonment—“to be quiet and orderly, and not to
exhaust their strength by useless efforts.” Nor can we imagine any
measure more calculated to increase the sufferings of their situation
than that which was subsequently proposed, and adopted, by another of
the company, “to fan the air with their hats, and to kneel down and rise
together, by a simultaneous motion.” It has been satisfactorily
established by physiological researches, that the demand for oxygen, in
an animal body, will be in proportion to its expenditure by muscular
exertions.[49] Whenever, therefore, circumstances may render a supply of
air deficient, we shall best economise that which we possess by perfect
quiet. _Lavoisier_ says, that a man, under ordinary circumstances,
consumes 1300 or 1400 cubic inches of oxygen in an hour, but he found
that if he is engaged in raising weights the consumption is at the rate
of 3200 in the hour.

Infants appear to be less able to sustain the deprivation of oxygen than
adults; and in some cases on record, life has been destroyed by
circumstances that we should have _a priori_ considered as hardly
adequate to such an effect. A case is related of a child, who was
suffocated by some drunken men having repeatedly blown out a candle, and
held the smoaking wick under its nose. The faculty of Leipsic
investigated the circumstances, and declared the death to have taken
place in consequence of suffocation. (_Valentini Pand: Med: Legal: Sect:


We have already stated that if the muscles of respiration be paralysed,
the animal can no longer breathe; and it dies in a state of suffocation.
There are several mechanical modes by which such a condition may be
produced; a person buried in a heap of ruins, although his head should
be free, will perish from the pressure of the surrounding rubbish
preventing the due action of the respiratory muscles. It was in this way
that criminals who obstinately refused to plead, often died under the
pressure of the weights that were heaped upon their bodies.[50].

There is a mode of suffocation, described by _Galen_, as being practised
by the slaves when brought into the presence of the judges or
executioners; it consisted in swallowing their tongue, by which it is
said they voluntarily terminated their own existence. Several more
modern authors have noticed this incredible mode of suicide, as one that
is resorted to by negroes: now to confute such an idea, we have only to
shew the attachment of the muscles of this part, and the motions which
they permit; equally absurd is it to suppose with other physiologists,
that persons can occasion suffocation by a voluntary suspension of their
breathing; for if such an attempt were even made, the effort would be
ended when self-possession was once lost, for then the impulse of nature
must instantly triumph over any struggle to oppose it. We are not,
however, prepared to say that such an attempt might not, in certain
cases, occasion such a cerebral congestion as to produce apoplexy.

The last cause of suffocation which we have to mention is mechanical
obstruction, from the entrance of foreign bodies into the aperture of
the glottis; instances of this kind are too numerous and familiar to
require many observations: it is thus that _Anacreon_ is said to have
perished from a grape-seed; _Gilbert_, the poet, terminated his
existence in a similar manner; he was a man of great appetite, and in
the midst of a festival went into a neighbouring room, but did not
return to the great surprise of his convivial companions. He was found
stretched on a couch without any signs of life. The assistance
administered by his kind but uninformed friends was useless; on opening
the body a small piece of mutton was found, that had stopped at the
entrance of the larynx, and completely prevented the passage of air into
this organ. In Oct. 1821, two inquisitions were taken at Mildenhall,
before the Coroner of Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk; in the one case it
appeared that _John Harris_ had eaten some honey, from the honey-comb,
and that a bee, having been concealed in it, entered the glottis, and
occasioned almost immediate death by suffocation; the other case was
that of an infant, _Mary Bacon_, who fell with her face upon a quantity
of slacked lime, when a particle of it getting into the wind-pipe,
produced inflammation of the lungs, and sloughing of the trachea, of
which she died. We have no doubt but that persons, during the state of
intoxication, or that of a spasmodic paroxysm, have often perished from
suffocation, when the death has been attributed to other causes; if the
stomach should reject its contents during a state of insensibility[51],
such an occurrence is by no means unlikely. We have lately received the
history of a case of this description, which occurred in the St. James’s
workhouse, and fell under the particular notice of Mr. _Alcock_. The
patient was seized after a hearty meal of pork with an epileptic fit,
during which he died; when upon opening the trachea, it was found to
contain a quantity of animal matter resembling the pork upon which he
had recently dined.

                     8. DEATH BY EXPOSURE TO COLD.

That an animal must perish as soon as the temperature of the medium in
which it lives ceases to preserve the blood in a state of fluidity, is
one of those self-evident propositions which scarcely requires notice,
much less explanation; but that a degree of cold not sufficiently
intense to occasion any physical changes upon the constituent parts of
the body should extinguish its vitality is a fact, whose history
involves some of the most interesting questions of physiology.

The degree of cold, necessary for the production of its fatal effects,
varies in a very remarkable degree with the strength and circumstances
of the individual to whom it is applied, as well as with the rapidity of
the cooling process. In some instances we find that man has endured an
extreme degree of cold with but little inconvenience, whilst in other
cases, we see him perishing from it in a temperature at which water even
retains its fluidity. The interesting history of Sir _Joseph Bankes_ (at
that time Mr. Bankes), Dr. _Solander_, and eleven others, on a botanical
excursion to the mountains of Terra del Fuego; and more recently, the
narrative of our enterprizing countrymen, in their voyage to the Polar
seas, will furnish a good illustration of the former fact, whilst the
melancholy fate of the Cambridge student, as hereafter explained,
affords a curious and instructive example of the latter. _Animal heat_,
as Mr. _Brodie_ observes, _is in some way or other dependant upon the
integrity of the functions of the Nervous System_; and consequently the
absolute degree of cold which an animal can bear with impunity will,
_cæteris paribus_, be determined by his powers of producing heat; we
must therefore cease to regard the fact as extraordinary, that an
animal, which is under the influence of a deleterious narcotic poison,
or in whom, from any other morbid cause, the powers of the nervous
system are exhausted, may be destroyed by a diminished temperature, that
would scarcely affect even the sensations of one, differently placed in
relation to his nervous energy; thus it is with a person in the last
stage of intoxication, in whom the powers of life are ebbing, in
consequence of the previous state of morbid excitement; in the course of
the last winter, two instances occurred of drunken persons being taken
to the watch-house; where, there not being any charge against them, they
were dismissed by the constable of the night, and perished in the
streets. A military friend has lately communicated to us an instance,
where out of a great number of troops who were exposed to intense cold,
the only one who perished was under the influence of intoxication; and
we learn from _Le Baume’s_ interesting account of the campaign in
Russia, that similar results were observed during the disastrous retreat
of the French army on that memorable occasion.

In our own country scarcely a winter passes without the occurrence of
some event equally illustrative of this physiological fact; and it is
highly important that the medical jurist should be able to appreciate
its influence; those who perish in this manner are generally individuals
of the most wretched condition, and will be found to have undergone much
suffering and privation; by which their nervous energy had been too much
exhausted to generate sufficient heat to counteract the diminished
temperature of the atmosphere; an event of this nature occurred in
London during the winter of 1819, when a man and his wife, aged persons,
and poor, but not supposed, nor indeed proved to have been quite
destitute, were found dead in their apartment, although food was
discovered in the room, and money was in the pocket of the man: the
night (28th of December) had been inclement, and there was neither bed
nor fire in the miserable couple’s apartment. It appeared in evidence
that they had been previously ailing. The verdict recorded that they had
perished from the inclemency of the weather, in consequence of the
destitute circumstances under which they were found.

It would seem that persons who are long exposed to intense cold do not
suffer a painful death; they gradually lose their sensibility, become
drowsy, and die as if through the effects of an opiate. Mr. _Brodie_[52]
classes the effects of cold in the following order.

1. It lessens the irritability, and impairs the functions of the whole
nervous system.

2. It impairs the contractile powers of the muscles.

3. It causes contraction of the capillaries, and thus lessens the
superficial circulation, and stops the cutaneous secretion.

4. It probably destroys the principle of vitality, equally in every
part, and does not exclusively disturb the functions of any particular

These positions have been confirmed by experiment. Dr. _Chassat_ states
that in an animal immersed in a cold bath, death may take place at 79°
Fahr. (26 _Centig._), although it may be sometimes cooled down as low as
69° (17 _Cent._) before it dies; but, _cæteris paribus_, the animal dies
sooner as the cooling is more rapid.

M. _Portal_ thinks that cold produces death by inducing apoplexy, and
remarks that the examination of the bodies of persons who have died from
cold, proves the presence of sanguineous congestions in the vessels and
cavities of the body, and especially in those of the brain. Dr. _Cooke_,
however, has remarked that “M. _Portal’s_ notions on this subject seem
to want confirmation. Excessive cold undoubtedly produces, first
drowsiness and afterwards a profound sleep, in which the unfortunate
individual generally perishes; but we have not on record a sufficient
number of cases with particular descriptions of symptoms and appearances
on dissection, to enable us to say positively that cold kills by

After death the blood is generally florid in the aorta, so that the
animal does not die of suffocation; the heart sometimes contracts feebly
after the muscular irritability of the limbs and intestines are nearly
destroyed; the cerebral veins contain but little blood; the ventricles
contain a small portion of fluid. Mr. _Brodie’s_ experiments coincide in
most respects with those of Dr. _Chassat_, who uniformly found after
death, the heart much distended with blood, as in Syncope, scarlet blood
occupying the left side; and he also found that the heart ceased to
contract before the diaphragm, so that he has seen the animal
insensible, and gasp for breath, even after the chest was opened and the
heart excised! The muscles were unusually florid, and the peristaltic
motions of the intestines were generally observed to continue longer
than the action of the heart. The voluntary muscles, he says, lose their
irritability in different degrees, those of the legs before those of the
thighs, and those of the thighs before the abdominal muscles.

                      DEATH BY THE AGENCY OF HEAT.

We have not yet a sufficient number of well reported experiments on the
effects of heat on animals, to enable us to draw any satisfactory
conclusions respecting the mode in which life is destroyed by this
agent; although it seems probable that it acts by destroying the
muscular energy of the heart and diaphragm.[53]

Mr. _Brodie_ placed a rabit in a basket in an oven, the temperature of
which was not more that 150°, and it died in a few minutes without any
apparent suffering; the heart was afterwards found distended with blood,
on both sides, as in Syncope.

                          DEATH BY LIGHTNING.

It has been incontrovertibly established by the experiments of modern
philosophers, that the phœnomena of electricity are identical with those
of thunder and lightning. The human body is alike affected by both; and
death, whether it be occasioned by the discharge of an electrical
battery, or by that of a thunder cloud, exhibits effects precisely

Mr. _Hunter_ supposed that when death is thus occasioned, there is an
instantaneous and entire annihilation of the vital principle, in every
part of the animal machine; and that the muscles are therefore relaxed,
and incapable of contraction, that the limbs do not stiffen[54], as in
other cases of death, nor the blood coagulate, and that the body very
speedily runs into a state of putrefaction. The experiments however of
Mr. _Brodie_[55] will induce us to pause, and institute farther
enquiries before we receive this theory as unexceptionable. It will
appear that in the following experiments of this physiologist, an
instantaneous extinction of vitality did not take place, but, on the
contrary, the functions of the brain were those on which the electric
shock exercised its primary influence. An electric battery of six jars
having been charged with electricity, the shock was made to pass through
a Guinea pig, in the longitudinal direction from the head to the tail:
the animal immediately fell on one side, insensible, as if stunned; a
convulsive action of the muscles of the extremities was observed, but
did not long continue; and the function of respiration was not
interrupted. In a few minutes sensibility was restored, and the animal
recovered. A shock from a battery of nine jars was then passed in the
same manner through another Guinea pig; the animal immediately fell on
its side, exhibited a convulsive action of the voluntary muscles of the
limbs, but uttered no cries, and although attentively watched, no signs
of respiration could be discovered after the shock had passed through
it. Three minutes afterwards, Mr. _Brodie_ opened the chest, and found
the heart acting with regularity and vigour, about 80 times in a minute,
and circulating dark coloured venous blood; the peristaltic motion of
the intestines was likewise visible; and the muscles, when made the part
of a galvanic circuit, readily contracted. In this experiment, observes
Mr. _Brodie_, it is evident that the electric shock did not destroy the
irritability of the muscular fibre, nor did it affect the action of the
heart. _Death took place precisely in the same manner as from a severe
injury of the head_; and the animal died, manifestly from the
destruction of the functions of the brain; and, in this case, Mr.
_Brodie_ has no doubt, but that if the lungs had been artificially
inflated, the action of the heart might have been maintained, and the
animal probably have been restored to life.

The nature and extent of the injury inflicted by lightning, depend upon
the intensity and direction of the electrical discharge, and vary
greatly in degree; by far the greater number of flashes are harmless
discharges from one cloud to another, and the instances in which it
strikes the earth are comparatively rare: when however this does occur,
and it directs its course through a human being, it may expend its
influence upon the surface, and produce partial or general
vesications.[56] Sometimes the clothes of the person have been violently
rent, and the metallic substances about them melted; or it may pass
through the body, without including the clothes, and it may occasion
death without injuring the organic structure of any part of the body: or
it may pass through only a particular portion of the body, and produce
local injury.

But it has happened that persons have been struck when the tempest has
appeared to be at a considerable distance; this has been explained by
Signor _Beccaria_, by supposing that it is a discharge of electric fluid
from the earth, occasioned by the passing of a cloud that has just
before, in the elemental strife, been rendered negatively electric. Lord
_Stanhope_ distinguishes such a discharge by the name of the _Returning

As a provision for personal security during a thunder storm, a few
precautions are necessary, and we are induced to notice them in this
place, as their history is necessarily involved in our enquiries
concerning death by lightning. In the open air, shelter ought not to be
sought immediately under trees, for should they be struck, such a
situation would be attended with the most imminent peril: on the
contrary, the distance of twenty or thirty feet from such objects, may
be considered as affording a place of safety, for should a discharge
take place, they will most likely receive it, and the less elevated
bodies will escape. Any surface of water, and even the streamlets that
may have resulted from a recent shower should be avoided, for being
excellent conductors, the height of a man, when connected with them, is
very likely to determine the course of an electrical discharge. The
partial conductors, through which the lightning directs its course when
it enters a building, are usually the appendages of the walls and
partitions; the most secure situation is therefore the middle of the
room, and this situation may be rendered still more secure by lying on a
hair mattress, or even on a thick woollen hearth rug. The part of every
building least likely to receive injury is the middle story, as the
lightning does not always pass from the clouds to the earth, but is
occasionally discharged from the earth to the clouds, as in the case of
the “_returning stroke_;” hence it is absurd to take refuge in a cellar,
as recommended by Dr. _Priestley_; indeed many instances are on record,
in which the basement story has been the only part of a building that
has sustained severe injury, the electric charge being divided and
weakened as it ascended. Any approach to a fire-place should be
particularly avoided, for the chimneys are very likely to determine the
course of the lightning; the same caution is necessary with respect to
gilt furniture, bell-wires, and moderately extensive surfaces of metal
of every description.

                          DEATH BY STARVATION.

That a living animal body cannot long survive without the ingestion of
alimentary matter, is too self-evident to require demonstration. Living
bodies, says _Cuvier_, may be considered as a kind of furnaces into
which inert substances are successively thrown, which combine among
themselves in various manners, maintain a certain place, and perform an
action determined by the nature of the combinations they have formed,
and at last fly off in order to become again subject to the laws of
inanimate nature.

It must, however, be observed, that there is a difference, depending on
age and health, in the proportion of the parts which enter into the
current, and those which abandon it; and that the velocity of the motion
usually varies according to the different conditions of each living
body; hence it follows, that the period during which an individual may
exist without food, will be liable to variation. We have already stated
(page 394) that, _cæteris paribus_, he will perish from inanition with a
rapidity proportioned to his youth, and state of robust vigour; and we
remarked in what strict conformity with physiological principles the
poet _Dante_ had described the fate of _Ugolino_ and his family.[58] The
same fact appears also to have been well understood by the ancient
physicians;[59] equally evident is it that women are able to support
abstinence longer than men. It has been also observed that a moist
atmosphere contributes to the protraction of life, under circumstances
of privation; this may depend, not only upon the fluid matter thus
furnished to the body, but upon the non-conducting power of the medium,
in relation to aqueous vapour; the ingestion of a very small proportion
of water revives in an extraordinary degree, the animal perishing from
famine, and prolongs his existence. _Redi_[60] instituted a series of
experiments with the sole view of ascertaining how long animals can live
without food. Of a number of capons which he kept without either solid
or liquid food, not one survived the ninth day; but one to which he
allowed water, drank it with avidity, and did not perish until the
twentieth day. _Elizabeth Woodcock_, who was buried under the snow, near
Cambridge, for the space of eight days, undoubtedly owed her
preservation to the snow which she occasionally sucked.[61]

Those cases of extraordinary fasting, which are recorded in the
different Transactions and Journals of almost every country, are to be
generally regarded as gross impositions; we[62] have already exposed the
fallacy of several of the more popular histories of this kind. Such
impostors, however, in their attempt to delude the world, have
unintentionally offered themselves as the voluntary victims of
physiological experiment; for we have at least learnt from them how
small a portion of aliment is sufficient to preserve the life of a human
being; a fact which had never before been satisfactorily proved, however
probable it had been rendered, by the recorded habits of many of the
early Christians, especially those of the East, who retired from
persecution into the deserts of Arabia and Egypt.

The sufferings of a person perishing from inanition[63] must be
considered as the most acute that can befall humanity; and yet we have
instances on record of their having been voluntarily encountered as the
means of suicide; a very interesting and well-authenticated instance of
this kind has been related as having occurred in Corsica;[64] and, as it
is calculated to afford, at once, a history of the symptoms of
Starvation, and an exemplification of their severity, we shall introduce
a brief account of the case in this place. _Luc Antoine Viterbi_ was
condemned to death as an accomplice in the assassination of _Frediani_,
a crime which he denied to the last moment, and appealed against a
sentence passed upon him by a Court composed of his personal enemies.
Towards the end of November, _Viterbi_ (knowing his condemnation, and
being confined in the prison of Bastia), resolved to die. To effect his
purpose, he abstained from food for three days, and then ate
voraciously, and to a forced excess, in the hope that, after fasting so
long, he should thereby put an end to his existence; in this however he
was deceived, and, on the second of December, he determined to starve
himself to death; from that day nothing could shake his awful
resolution, although he did not expire until the night of the 21st of
that month. During the three first days, _Viterbi_ felt himself
progressively tormented by hunger; under these circumstances a report
was made to the public minister, who ordered bread, water, wine, and
soup to be taken daily to his cell, and placed conspicuously in view. No
debility was manifested during these three days, no irregular muscular
movement was remarked, his ideas continued sound, and he wrote with his
usual facility, but took no nourishment.

From the 5th to the 6th, to hunger insensibly succeeded the much more
grievous suffering of thirst, which became so acute, that on the 6th,
without ever deviating from his resolution, he began to moisten his lips
and mouth occasionally, and to gargle with a few drops of water, to
relieve the burning pain in his throat; but he let nothing pass the
organs of deglutition, being desirous not to assuage the most
insupportable cravings, but to mitigate a pain which might have shaken
his resolution. On the 6th, his physical powers were a little weakened;
his voice was nevertheless still sonorous, pulsation regular, and a
natural heat equally extended over his whole frame. From the 3d to the
6th, he had continued to write; at night several hours of tranquil sleep
seemed to suspend the progress of his sufferings, no change was
observable in his mental faculties, and he complained of no local pain.
Until the 10th, the thirst became more and more insupportable; _Viterbi_
merely continued to gargle, without once swallowing a single drop of
water; but in the course of the 10th, overcome by excess of pain, he
seized the jug of water, which was near him, and drank immoderately.
During the last three days, debility had made sensible progress, his
voice became feeble, pulsation had declined, and the extremities were
cold. _Viterbi_, however, continued to write; and sleep, each night,
still afforded him several hours ease.

From the 10th to the 12th the symptoms made a slight progress. The
constancy of _Viterbi_ never yielded an instant; he dictated his
journal, and afterwards approved and signed what had been thus written
agreeably to his dictation. During the night of the 12th, the symptoms
assumed a more decided character, debility was extreme, pulsation
scarcely sensible, his voice extraordinarily feeble, the cold had
extended itself all over the body, and the pangs of thirst were more
acute than ever. On the 13th the unhappy man thinking himself at the
point of death, again seized the jug of water, and drank twice, after
which the cold became more severe; and congratulating himself that death
was nigh, he stretched his body on the bed, and said to the gendarmes
who were guarding him, “Look how well I have laid myself out.” At the
expiration of a quarter of an hour, he asked for some brandy; the keeper
not having any, he called for some wine, of which he took four
spoonsful; when he had swallowed these the cold suddenly ceased, heat
returned, and _Viterbi_ enjoyed a sleep of four hours. On awaking (on
the morning of the 13th) and finding his powers restored, he fell into a
rage with the keeper, protesting that they had deceived him, and then
began beating his head violently against the wall of his prison, and
would inevitably have killed himself, had he not been prevented by the
gendarmes. During the two following days he resisted his inclination to
drink, but continued to gargle occasionally with water; during the two
nights he suffered a little from exhaustion, but in the morning found
himself rather relieved. It was then that he penned some stanzas. On the
16th, at five o’clock in the morning, his powers were almost
annihilated, pulsation could hardly be felt, and his voice was almost
inaudible; his body was benumbed with cold, and it was thought that he
was on the point of expiring. At ten o’clock he began to feel better,
pulsation was more sensible, his voice strengthened, and, finally, heat
again extended over his frame, and in this state he continued during the
whole of the 17th. From the latter day until the 20th, _Viterbi_ only
became more inexorable in his resolution to die. During the 19th, the
pangs of hunger and thirst appeared more grievous than ever; so
insufferable, indeed, were they, that for the first time, _Viterbi_ let
a few tears escape him; but his invincible mind instantly spurned this
human tribute. For a moment he seemed to have resumed his wonted energy,
and said, in the presence of his guards, and the gaoler, “I will
persist, whatever may be the consequence; my mind shall be stronger than
my body; my strength of mind does not vary, that of my body daily
becomes weaker.” A little after this energetic expression, an icy
coldness again assailed his body, the shiverings were frequent and
dreadful, and his loins, in particular, were seized with a stone-like
coldness, which extended itself down his thighs. During the 19th a
slight pain at intervals affected his heart, and for the first time, he
felt a ringing sensation in his ears; at noon, on this day, his head
became heavy; his sight, however, was perfect, and he conversed almost
as usual, making some signs with his hands.

On the 20th, _Viterbi_ declared to the gaoler and physician, that he
would not again moisten his mouth; and feeling the approach of death he
stretched himself, asking, as on a former occasion, whether he was well
out, and added, “I am prepared to leave this world.” Death did not this
time betray his hopes. On the 21st _Viterbi_ was no more.

In this interesting history, we receive a faithful account of the
physical effects of starvation upon a human being, and perceive how
greatly a very inconsiderable portion of liquid is capable of producing
an invigorating effect upon the body, when in a state of extreme
inanition; but the mind of the subject before us was stern and
invincible, inflexibly bent upon self destruction; and we therefore do
not perceive the developement of those moral effects, which in other
cases are the general consequences of starvation. The histories of
besieged towns[65] would afford us ample evidence upon this subject; and
would shew that famine destroys all the most powerful instincts of our
nature. We know not, however, a more awful illustration of this fact
than that furnished by the account of the wreck of the _Méduse_,[66] and
its appalling consequences; it appears that this frigate struck on the
bank of Arguin, and as all attempts to save her were fruitless, nothing
remained but to concert immediate measures for the escape of the
passengers and crew; five boats were accordingly got in readiness, and a
raft, destined to carry the greatest number of people, was hastily
constructed; biscuit, wine, and fresh water were also apportioned to
each; but in the tumult of abandoning the wreck, it so happened that the
raft had the least share of the provisions, and in which there was not a
single barrel of biscuit. This raft, containing no less than one hundred
and fifty souls, was to have been towed by the boats, with which it was
connected by ropes; but the adventurers had not proceeded far, when the
boats cast off, and cruelly abandoned the raft to the mercy of the
ocean; to the scene which ensued it is impossible for any language,
however florid, to do adequate justice. Despair, aided by the pangs of
hunger, soon excited a mutiny; a dreadful slaughter ensued, and the
flesh of their murdered comrades afforded to the survivors a short
respite from the immediate sufferings of famine.


Although our researches into the causes and phenomena of asphyxia, or
suspended animation, will afford, on many occasions, but very scanty
encouragement with regard to the extent and value of the resources of
art, yet we apprehend that to the intelligent practitioner they will not
on that account be less acceptable; for to him it must be well known,
that the detection of error is the first step in the discovery of truth,
and although the tendency of the present investigation will be to
reject, as useless, many of those plans of treatment which have long
enjoyed the confidence of the public and the profession; yet it will
suggest the application of some that have not hitherto been duly
appreciated, and regulate that of others whose efficiency entirely
depends upon the time and manner of their administration. But the fact
is not to be concealed, that the medical profession, as well as the
public, have long been too sanguine in their estimate of the
probabilities of recovery by art, in cases where life is suddenly
arrested by the operation of external causes; and upon this occasion,
the establishment of the “ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY for the recovery of
persons apparently dead,” requires some notice, in relation to the
possible extent of its successful exertions. Without some explanation it
will be impossible to reconcile the reports of that philanthropic
institution, with the physiological views which we have attempted to
establish in the present work; it therefore becomes a part of our duty
to explain the nature of the fallacies into which the witnesses and
reporters of cases of suspended animation appear to us to have been
unconsciously betrayed, and which have so frequently bestowed upon fable
the colour of truth, and given to vague report, the apparent stability
of credible testimony. In the first place we would observe, that in
those cases in which a long interval is stated to have occurred between
the suspension of breathing, from drowning, and the restoration of that
function by art, it is probable that the anxiety of by-standers who
witnessed the struggles, and the impossibility of justly appreciating
the lapse of time in such moments of anxiety[67] and distress, have led
to the erroneous statements with which the subject is embarrassed. There
is, moreover, another fallacy into which the anxious observer is very
likely to fall,—the sufferer may have breathed unobserved during the
alleged interval of asphyxia; and if this fact be admitted, we at once
reduce some of the most incredible of these reports to the rational
standard of physiological probability. Nor shall we hesitate in the
present chapter to offer our remarks upon the plan of recovery proposed
by this society with as much freedom, and as little reserve, as we have
ventured to question the literal accuracy of their reports. But while,
thus fortified by physiological arguments, we profess to discredit many
of the results stated by this society, let it not be supposed that we
would prefer a charge of insincerity against their authors, or attempt
to withhold any portion of that public patronage and consideration, to
which their zeal and philanthropy so justly entitle them.

The agents which are employed in cases of suspended animation, are far
too indiscriminately recommended; some of them, without doubt, offer
valuable resources to the physician, and only require a judicious
application to ensure their success; while others are entirely useless
and frivolous, and ought to be dismissed from our service, since the
retaining them only embarrasses the practitioner, and that too at a
period which of all others requires the utmost decision in the selection
of a plan of treatment, and the greatest promptness in its execution.

The following may be considered as the principal resources upon which
the _Humane Society_ rely for restoration of persons apparently dead
from sudden accidents, viz.

         1. _Inflation of the lungs._
         2. _Application of heat._
         3. _Internal Exhibition of stimulants._
         4. _Friction._
         5. _Electricity._
         6. _Exposure of the surface of the body to cool air._
         7. _Blood-letting._

We shall offer a few observations upon the methods of applying these

          _On the manner of producing artificial respiration._

We are indebted to _Mr. Brodie_ for the valuable directions that are to
guide the execution of this important operation. (_Manuscript Notes._) A
common pair of bellows will be found as manageable and efficient an
apparatus for the inflation of the lungs, as any instrument that could
be contrived; those manufactured for the service of the Humane Society
are not of a size sufficient to inflate the lungs of even a large dog,
much less those of man; nor is it necessary to employ double bellows on
this occasion, for the air will escape from the lungs without being
withdrawn by suction; besides which, it is stated that the forcible
exhaustion of the lungs is liable to occasion pulmonic hemorrhage. It
has been proposed to insert the tube of the bellows into the trachea, by
means of a wound in that structure, but there are great objections to
such a proceeding; the hemorrhage which is likely to occur,[68] may
inundate the windpipe; besides which, the operation occasions delay,
which, however trifling, will be important in cases where the action of
the heart has become much enfeebled; and moreover the wound itself is an
evil which ought to be avoided, if artificial respiration can be
established without it; and were these objections even overruled, there
still remains another; experience has shewn that the air thus introduced
issues by the opening of the larynx, without having dilated the lungs.

A tube may be constructed for the purpose of being inserted through the
mouth into the _rima glottidis_; if the patient be sensible, the
introduction of such a tube might be difficult; but as the patient is in
a state of insensibility, the introduction may usually be effected
without much difficulty, but not altogether without trouble; for the
mere circumstance of having to open the mouth, to pull forward the
epiglottis, to direct the tube into the proper aperture, may occasion
delay which will be of importance in cases where success depends upon
the skill with which the time has been economised.

It is for such reasons more expedient to inflate the lungs by means of a
tube inserted into one nostril, keeping the other and the mouth
carefully closed: the bellows having been thus disposed, the air should
be driven into the lungs with a certain degree of force; the lungs will
thus become fully inflated, and in the intervals between the different
inflations, the air from the lungs will escape by the mouth and by the
other nostril, and when the lungs are thus emptied, the process may be
repeated. There is but one objection to this method of exciting
artificial respiration, viz. that at each inflation, a portion of air
will sometimes find its way into the stomach, through the œsophagus: it
is very desirable to prevent such an occurrence, for when the stomach is
much distended with air, the descent of the diaphragm is prevented, and,
consequently, a perfect inspiration cannot be accomplished. The passage
of air into the stomach may be prevented by pressing on the thyroid
cartilage, so as to close the communication between the pharynx and
œsophagus. All that is necessary for the operator is, to produce the
inspiration; we are recommended indeed to press the margin of the ribs
gently upwards, so as to expel the air, and produce expiration; but this
is altogether unnecessary, for the elasticity of the ribs, and the
pressure of the abdominal muscles and viscera, and the elasticity of the
lungs themselves, are quite sufficient to occasion the expiration
without any assistance from external pressure. We must not omit to state
that the inhalation of oxygen gas, instead of common air, has been
strongly recommended, not only as being in itself a more powerful
stimulus, but as being more efficient in the removal of the accumulation
of that carbonized matter which, under ordinary circumstances of
respiration, is regularly thrown off; the practical eligibility however,
of such a plan is very questionable, and to say nothing of the
difficulty of obtaining oxygen upon an occasion where the least delay is
fatal, it is very doubtful whether the effects of this gas are really
such as our theory would at once lead us to believe. We have deemed it
necessary to enter into these details, in order to afford some practical
instruction upon a subject of manipulation but little understood, but
which is undoubtedly the most valuable of all the resources which art
can furnish for the preservation of human beings that are in danger of
perishing from accidental causes. The principal circumstances to be
remembered are comprised in the following precepts.

  1. The lungs are to be sufficiently, but not too much inflated.

  2. The inspiration must be made of sufficient frequency.

  3. The air is to be allowed a free exit from the lungs, so that the
    same air shall not be transmitted more than once.

  4. The method of inflating the lungs must be simple, and easy of
    adoption; for as the interval of time, during which the artificial
    respiration can possibly be of any service, is very limited, it is
    important to avoid whatever may occasion the least delay.

                         _Application of Heat._

There is perhaps no medium through which we can more successfully apply
heat to the human body than that of the bath, because we can manage its
application with precision; we know the exact degree of heat, and can
avoid applying it in extremes; we, at the same time, can communicate it
more rapidly, and more equally, than by any other means, and we are
enabled to increase or diminish the temperature, by the addition of
fresh portions of water, as circumstances may render it expedient.

                  _Internal Exhibition of Stimulants._

The introduction of fluids into the stomach is not an easy process in
many cases of suspended animation, as _trismus_ is by no means an
uncommon occurrence; where, however, the spasm of the jaw has subsided,
the practitioner with a little address may by means of a flexible tube
easily accomplish his object. Glysters will likewise furnish an easy
mode of applying stimulants.


No sooner was the discovery made that galvanism is capable of exciting
muscular contraction in animals apparently dead, than the physiological
enthusiast seized it with avidity, and at once hailed it as the long
desired influence that was to restore vigour to the enfeebled, and
resuscitation to those that were in a state of suspended animation. It
had been long known that muscles could be made to contract, by
irritating the nerves belonging to them with the point of the scalpel,
but not in a degree that remotely approached the vigorous contractions
occasioned by the galvanic influence, whose stimulus seemed almost
equivalent to that of volition. The sanguine expectations, however,
which were thus very naturally excited, have ended in the most complete
disappointment; and we are bound to confess that although _galvanism is
capable of exciting extraordinary contractions in the_ VOLUNTARY
_muscles, and of astonishing the multitude, yet its influence does not
extend to those that are_ INVOLUNTARY. _Bichat_ states distinctly that
_the involuntary muscles are beyond the reach of galvanism_.[69] Mr.
_Brodie_ has frequently attempted to restore the heart’s action by the
galvanic stimulus, in an animal dead from syncope, but never with
success. The author of the present work may add, that he has attempted
the same object by modifying the experiment in several different ways,
but with no better success. But it may be said that, as galvanism will
excite the contractions of the diaphragm, and other muscles of
respiration, it may be made subservient to the purpose of producing
artificial respiration: granted,—but it never can be made to act with
the certainty, regularity, promptness, or convenience, which attend the
operation of a common pair of bellows, nor even if it could, would any
advantage be obtained which might not be equally insured by the use of
this latter simple instrument. It is, moreover, questionable whether so
powerful a stimulus may not produce a subsequent exhaustion of the
muscular energy; such effect indeed would appear to have happened in the
case related by Dr. _Babington_, where the asphyxia had been occasioned
by the fumes of burning charcoal; “having passed,” says he, “a galvanic
shock through the chest, the patient instantly, to our surprise, drew
his breath deep; the muscles of the abdomen were seen to react, though
feebly, while those of the face were slightly convulsed, and the eyelids
were raised; at each successive application of this powerful agent, the
respirations were more forcibly performed, and the stroke of the artery
at the wrist rose in the same proportion. Having procured a bladder
filled with oxygen gas, we caused it to be inspired, and we thought that
it was followed by an increased activity of the powers of respiration
and circulation; as the heat of the body was not deficient, we now
sprinkled the face and chest with cold water, which also had the effect
of rousing the dormant powers of sensation, as the respiratory muscles
were uniformly thrown by it into action, though in a more feeble and
interrupted manner than when we employed the galvanic influence. Having
received a large supply of oxygen gas, we repeated the inhalation and
the galvanic succussions alternately, through the chest and head, every
half-hour, for three hours, when the galvanic influence was
discontinued, as the heart, though uniformly excited by it, seemed in
the intervals to act more feebly, and we were apprehensive that by
exalting the action of one power continually, we might destroy that
equilibrium of forces which is necessary to the maintenance of


                                CASE I.

 _Wherein the action of the heart fails before that of the respiratory

In no case of this description can artificial inflation of the lungs
afford the least assistance, for the left side of the heart always
contains florid blood at the moment of its cessation; and since this
fact proves that it failed in its action, while under the full influence
of duly oxygenized blood, how can we expect that the stimulus, which was
unable to preserve the heart’s action while yet in motion, shall be able
to re-excite it after it has ceased? Such a practice can only have been
suggested by that erroneous physiology which maintained that the motion
of the lungs excited that of the blood.

The preservation of the body from the influence of external cold is
always important, for it is only within a certain range of temperature
that the vital functions can be performed; and during a state of
asphyxia, the body is necessarily incapable of generating any portion of
animal heat; where the heat is lost it should be gradually restored, and
for such a purpose the introduction of wine, the volatile alkali, and
other stimulants, into the stomach, by means of a flexible tube, would
probably, in certain states of syncope, prove serviceable; although in
cases of suffocation it can never occasion the least benefit. We have
been also directed to employ frictions on the surface of the body, for
the purpose of assisting the circulation of the blood; as if, says Mr.
_Brodie_, (_Manuscript Notes_) this could answer any useful purpose
where the action of the heart has ceased, or as if it could be necessary
where it still continues.

Under the head ‘death from cold,’ we have stated that the left cavities
of the heart contain florid blood; it therefore follows that the
directions of the Humane Society, to inflate the lungs in such cases,
are founded in error.

                                CASE II.

 _Wherein the function of respiration ceases, while the heart continues
                       to circulate black blood._

It has been stated that in cases of suffocation the heart continues to
contract for a short period, after the cessation of breathing; that this
interval is extremely short, but liable to vary from several causes; and
that it is uniformly shorter in cases of death by drowning, than in
those by strangulation. To the physician this is an interval of anxiety
and importance; let him beware how he trifles with the fleeting moments,
in which alone the resources of his art can be of any avail. If
artificial respiration be established at this period, the blood will
become once more oxygenised, the action of the heart will be continued,
the scarlet blood will be transmitted to the brain, and sensibility will
therefore return; the nervous energy will be once more transmitted to
the respiratory organs, and the animal will at length make a voluntary
effort to inspire air. Here then is the interval of time, during which
artificial breathing may be employed so as to effect a restoration to
life, where death must otherwise have been inevitable. Mr. _Brodie_ has
made a great variety of interesting experiments upon this subject, from
which may be deduced the following important corollaries.

  1. If the lungs be inflated, the action of the heart will continue.

  2. If the action of the heart has become feeble, but the circulation
    is nevertheless not entirely suspended, the inflation of the lungs
    will cause the feeble actions to become again frequent and vigorous.

  3. If the action of the heart has entirely ceased, it is impossible to
    restore it by the inflation of the lungs.

  4. If the action of the heart has not entirely ceased, but is so
    feeble as no longer to maintain the circulation, the artificial
    respiration will prove as useless, as if the heart were perfectly

There is still, however, another period at which artificial respiration
may be employed with the greatest advantage; we have stated that after
the natural respiration has been re-established, and the animal would
appear to be advancing towards recovery, it not unfrequently relapses
into a state of insensibility, becomes convulsed, and dies. As this
depends upon the black blood which is circulating through the brain, so
paralysing that organ as to prevent a necessary transmission of its
influence to the muscles of respiration, life may be preserved if
artificial respiration be established until the brain is again supplied
with duly oxygenized blood; after which the animal will be enabled to
perform its own functions without any assistance from art.

The same treatment will, of course, apply in every case where the
natural respiration ceases in consequence of being deprived of a due
supply of nervous energy, from the insensibility of the brain; as from a
blow on the head—the action of a narcotic poison—from lightning?

It has been proposed, in cases of suffocation, to take away blood from
some of the larger veins; as far as relates to the asphyxia, no
advantage can accrue from such a practice, but incidental benefit may
arise where congestion has taken place in the brain, as happens in
hanging: in such cases the jugular veins are those from which the blood
can be taken with the greatest chance of success.

Advantage is also said to accrue from the application of volatile
alkali, or other pungent bodies to the inside of the nostrils; whatever
promotes sneezing or coughing is supposed to give a succussion to the
diaphragm and its antagonist muscles, and thereby to promote the
re-establishment of respiration.

Cordials, moderate warmth, and quiet, are the resources upon which we
are to rely for the ultimate recovery of the vital powers, after the
complete establishment of the function of respiration.

For a long period, injections of tobacco enjoyed a high, but unmerited
reputation amongst the medicinal agents that were supposed capable of
rousing the latent energies of life, in cases of suspended animation;
and strange as it may appear, this most powerful narcotic poison, until
within a few years, was annually recommended for such purposes by those
who professed to instruct the profession and the public upon these
important topics; this may be considered as one of the most stupendous
errors that ever occurred in the exercise of the medical art.

Where the asphyxia has arisen from the inhalation of noxious vapours, as
those emitted by burning charcoal, the exposure of the body to cold has
been strongly recommended. In Russia, where from the mode of heating the
dwellings, accidents of this kind very frequently occur, the general
practice is to rub the body with snow, and it is said with the happiest
effect; this plan, says Dr. _Babington_, is probably of use, from the
strong impression which is made upon the skin as a sentient organ. It is
also a well known fact, that the recovery of the dogs which are made the
subjects of experiment in the _Grotto del Cane_, is much favoured by
their being plunged into a neighbouring lake.

Is it necessary to repeat, that the idea respecting the presence of any
considerable portion of water in the lungs of a drowned person, has no
foundation in truth? we should have scarcely deemed the notice of such a
fallacy, and that of the practice founded upon it, of hanging by the
heels, called for in this place, had not an opinion been lately
delivered, by a medical witness, that _a person drowned in the Thames
might possibly have been recovered, but for the impurity of the water,
arising from the gas-works_. We have only to observe upon this occasion,
that had the individual in question recovered in the hands of a
practitioner who could have delivered so absurd an opinion, he would
have been more indebted to good fortune than to skilful attention.

A drowned animal will, in general, be recovered more slowly and with
greater difficulty than one which has fallen into a state of asphyxia
from strangulation. It is probable that, in the former case, the sudden
reduction of temperature will contribute to the more rapid extinction of

Having thus examined the pretensions to which the several modes of
restoring animation are entitled, we may conveniently introduce in this
place some observations upon the different methods which have been
adopted to secure condemned criminals against the fatal effects of their
execution. There can be no doubt but that by making an opening in the
trachea, below the ligature, death might in some cases be prevented,
provided the neck were not dislocated, nor the weight of the body very
considerable. _Richerand_ says, that a surgeon of the imperial armies,
whose veracity cannot be questioned, assured him that he had saved the
life of a soldier by performing the operation of laryngotomy some hours
before he was executed.

Dr. _Male_[71] states that it was tried on one _Gordon_, a butcher, who
was executed at the Old Bailey in the early part of the last century;
the body having hung the usual time, was removed to a neighbouring
house, where a surgeon waited to receive it, and enforce every means
calculated to restore animation: he opened his eyes, and sighed, but
soon expired: the want of success was attributed to his great weight,
but we apprehend that, if the statement be correct as to his opening his
eyes and sighing, the failure must have depended upon want of skill in
the operators. We have yet to notice those cases of spontaneous recovery
which have taken place after execution, and which are too well
authenticated to admit of doubt; upon this point we would observe, that
such results by no means militate against the accuracy of the
physiological views which have been already presented to our readers.
Whenever such a recovery occurs, the strangulation has never been
complete, and feeble motions of the heart have been preserved by
imperfect and occasional respirations, during the interval of
suspension; this may depend, in a great measure, upon the situation of
the noose; if placed at the side of the neck, it would be pulled tight
by the weight of the body; but if at the back of the neck, it would be
far otherwise. _John Smith_, who was executed at Tyburn on the 24th of
December 1705, was cut down in consequence of the arrival of a reprieve,
nearly fifteen minutes after he had been turned off, but is said to have
been recovered by venesection and other means[72]; Governor _Wall_ was a
long time in the act of dying, and it was subsequently discovered that
this was owing to an ossified portion of the trachea resisting the
pressure of the rope; but the most extraordinary instance of this kind,
and one well authenticated, is that of _Margaret Dickson_, of
Musselburgh, who was tried and convicted in Edinburgh in the year 1728,
for the murder of her child; her conviction was accomplished by the
evidence of a medical person, who deposed that _the lungs of the child
swam in water_; there were, however, strong reasons to suspect the
justness of the verdict, and the sequel of the story was well calculated
to cherish a superstitious belief on the occasion. After execution, her
body was cut down, and delivered to her friends for the rites of
interment; it was accordingly placed in a coffin, and sent in a cart to
be buried at her native place, but the weather being sultry, the persons
who had the body in charge stopped to drink, at a village called
Peppermill, about two miles from Edinburgh; while they were refreshing
themselves, one of them perceived the lid of the coffin move, and
uncovering it, the woman immediately sat up, and most of the spectators
ran away with every sign of trepidation; a person, however, who was in
the public house immediately bled her, and in about an hour she was put
to bed, and by the following morning, was so far recovered as to be able
to walk to her own house[73], after which she lived twenty-five years
and had several children.[74]

                       OF THE CORONER’s INQUEST.

The office of Coroner (_Coronator_, from his duty in Pleas of the Crown,
2d Inst. 31. 4. Inst. 271) which is of great antiquity, was also of
considerable dignity;[75] for the Coroner, together with the Sheriff,
was to keep the peace of the county. He is to be elected by the full
county, and for life (except in cases of misconduct, when he may be
removed). The writ _De Coronatore eligendo_, F.N.B. 163, commands the
Sheriff “_quod talem eligi faciat, qui melius et sciat et velit et
possit officio illi intendere_”, and the 3 _Edw._ 1 _c._ 10. enacts,
that none but lawful and discreet knights should be chosen. But now it
is held sufficient if he have enough to be made a knight (1 _Bl. Com._
347), which is but lands to the amount of £20 per annum, (I _Edw._ 1.
_Stat. de milit_). But as the office is attended with many unpleasant
duties, gentlemen, in these nicer times, have shrunk from its
performance, and it has consequently fallen into disrepute; and too
frequently into low and indigent hands. For though in great counties,
and some populous places, it is held by very worthy and experienced men,
yet in remoter parts it is to be feared that it is ill exercised; and at
least, that the persons holding it have not the learning and practice
necessary for its due execution. And this in all probability is an
increasing evil; for an office once fallen into disrepute, and only
propped by the addition of emoluments to be derived from fees (per job),
generally becomes venal; and there is now too much reason to fear, that
decency may be outraged by the ill-timed activity of some[76], as much
as justice is defeated by the corruption and supineness of others, who
have of late been chosen to this ancient and once honorable office. It
is therefore to be wished that some legislative measure may correct or
prevent this evil, by restricting the elections to persons duly
qualified; and by appointing medical assessors or inspectors, who might
usefully assist the Coroner in the discharge of his duties in cases of
inquisition of death.

The statute _De Officio Coronatoris_, 4 _Edw._ 1 _c._ 2. directs the
mode in which Inquisitions of Death shall be held. “The Coroner, when
commanded by the King’s bailiffs, or by honest men of the county, shall
go to the places where any be slain, or suddenly dead or wounded, and
shall forthwith command four of the next towns[77], or five or six to
appear before him, in such a place; and when they are come thither, the
coroner upon the oath of them shall enquire if they know where the
person was slain; whether it were in any house, field, bed, town,
tavern, or company, and who were there. Likewise it is to be enquired
who were culpable either of the act or of the force; and who were
present, either men or women, of what age, if they can speak or have any
discretion. And such as are found culpable by inquisition shall be taken
and delivered to the sheriff, and committed to gaol; and such as be
found, and be not culpable (i.e. the witnesses, and these the coroner
shall bind over by recognizance to the next assizes,) shall be attached
until the coming of the justices[78] and their names written in the
coroner’s roll. If any be slain and the body found in the fields or
woods; first, it is to be enquired whether he was slain in the same
place or not;[79] and if it were brought and laid there, endeavour shall
be made to follow their steps who brought the body thither; whether
brought upon a horse or in a cart. Also it shall be inquired, whether
the dead person were known or a stranger, and where he lay the night
before. And if any be found culpable of the murder, the coroner shall
immediately go into his house, and inquire what goods he has, &c. how
much land, and the yearly value, and what corn on the ground, which
shall be valued and delivered to the township, which shall be answerable
before the justices for all; and the land shall remain in the king’s
hands until the lords of the fee have made fine for it, &c.

“Also it is to be enquired of those who were drowned or suddenly dead;
and after it is to be seen of such bodies whether they were so drowned
or slain, or strangled by the sign of a cord tied straight about their
necks, or about any of their members, or upon any other hurt found upon
their bodies: whereupon they shall proceed in the form above said. And
if they were slain, then ought the coroners to attach the finders and
all others in company.

“Upon appeal of wounds and such like, especially if the wounds be
mortal, the parties appealed shall be taken immediately, and kept until
it be known perfectly whether he that is hurt shall recover or not; and
if he die, the offenders shall be kept: and if the party recover, the
offenders shall be attached by four or six pledges after, as the wound
is great or small: if it be for a maim, he shall find more than four
pledges: and two pledges if it be for a small wound without mayhem. Also
all wounds ought to be viewed; the length, breadth, and depth, and with
what weapons, and in what part of the body the wound or hurt is, and how
many wounds there be, and who gave them: all which must be enrolled by
the coroner.

“Moreover if any be appealed, the party appealing of the fact shall be
taken, and the party appealed of the force shall be attached also, and
kept in ward, until the parties appealed of the fact be attainted or

“Also horses, boats, carts, &c. whereby any are slain, shall be valued,
and delivered unto the towns as beforesaid.

“If any be suspected of the death of any man, being in danger of life,
he shall be taken and imprisoned as before is said.”

This statute is but in confirmation of the common law, and therefore
does not restrain the powers of the coroner which he before possessed,
even though they be not mentioned in it. 1 _East. P. C._ 381, where see
observations on each part of this duty.

He is to inroll the verdict of his jury, written on parchment, and
return the Inquisition, either to the Justices of the next gaol delivery
of the county, or certify it into the King’s Bench, 2 _Roll. Abr._ 32.

He must take notes of the evidence,[80] and bind the witnesses to
appear, for neglect of which he may be fined, 1 & 2 _Ph. & Mary_, _c._
13. 1 _Lil. Abr._ 327. And if he hath not enough to answer, his fine
(for this or any other offence in execution of his office), shall be
levied on the county, as a punishment for electing an insufficient
officer. _Mirror_, _c._ 1. _s._ 3. 2 _Inst._ 175.

When it happens that any person comes to an unnatural death, the
township shall give notice thereof to the coroner. Otherwise if the body
be interred before he come, the township shall be amerced. _Hale P.C._
170. And _Holt_, C. J. says, It is a matter indictable to bury a man
that dies a violent death, before the Coroner’ Inquest have sat upon
him. 2 _Hawk. P.C._ _n._ 8. 1 _Burn’s Just._ 562.

Though it is not necessary that the inquisition be taken in the place
where the body was viewed, 2 _Hawk. P.C._ _c._ 9. _s._ 25. yet he has no
authority to take an Inquisition of Death, without a view of the body,
and if an inquest be taken by him without such view, it is void. 2
_Lev._ 140[81]. But after the view, which must be by the jury and
coroner together, the inquest may adjourn to a more convenient

He may in convenient time take up a dead body that hath been buried, in
order to view it: but if it be buried so long that he can discover
nothing, or if there be danger of infection, the inquest ought not to be
taken by the coroner, but by Justices of Peace, by the testimony of
witnesses; for none can take it on view, but the coroner. _Bro. Coron._
167. 173. If the body is improperly buried, or suffered to lie till it
stinks, the town shall be amerced. 2 _Danv. Ab._ 209. _Hale, P.C._ 270.
2 _Hawk._ 48.

A Coroner’s Inquisition being final, the coroner ought to hear
counsel[83] and evidence on both sides.[84] 2 _Sid._ 90. 101. He must
admit evidence as well against the king’s interest as for it; and for
omitting to do so, his inquisition may be quashed. 2 _Hale, P. C._
60.[85] 1 _East’s P.C._ 383.

The coroner among other things must enquire of the deodand, which on the
violent death of any one, even though purely accidental, has accrued to
the king or his grantee.

This mulct was, in ancient times, applied to the purpose of purchasing
masses, for the repose of the soul of the deceased; it is now converted
into an ill apportioned, arbitrary, or, in a few cases, inadequate
fine[86] on the individual, whose property has been, whether innocently
or culpably, the cause of death. It is as absurd that a ship under sail,
from which a man has fallen and been drowned, should be forfeited to the
king; as it is lamentable that the ignorant, and too frequently the
criminally negligent vender of oxalic acid for Epsom salts, should
escape all punishment.

Where a thing is not in motion, that part of it which actually caused
the death is alone forfeited, “as if a man be climbing on the wheel of a
cart, and is killed by falling from it, the wheel alone is a deodand. 1
_Bl. Com._ 300. But whenever the thing is in motion, not only that part
which immediately gives the wound, (as the wheel which runs over his
body) but all the things which move with it, and help to make the wound
more dangerous (as the cart and loading, which increase the pressure of
the wheel) are forfeited.” _ibid._ The utmost penalty of this law might
often be inflicted on the proprietors of stage coaches, where the wilful
negligence, drunkenness, or brutality of the driver had occasioned the
loss of life. “It matters not whether the owner were concerned in the
killing or not; for, if a man kill another with my sword, the sword is
forfeited.” _ibid._ The learned Commentator thus concludes, “But juries
have of late very frequently taken upon themselves to mitigate these
forfeitures, by finding only some trifling thing, or part of an entire
thing, to have been the occasion of the death. And in such cases,
although the finding of the jury be hardly warrantable by law, the Court
of King’s Bench hath generally refused to interfere on behalf of the
lord of the franchise, to assist so unequitable a claim.” 1 _Com._ 301.
Thus is the justice of the country injured, in order to restrain the
rapacity of individuals, improperly invested with the prerogatives of
the crown. See also 1 _East. P. C._ 386.

A coroner may be punished for misconduct by fine, imprisonment, or
removal; as if he be remiss in coming to do his office when he is sent
for, he shall be removed by virtue of the statute _De Coronatoribus_ 4
_Ed._ l. _c._ 2: _Salk._ 37. _Hale P. C._ 170. or if he do not properly
execute his office. 1 _Lill. Abr._ 327.

If his Inquisition be quashed, and a _melius Inquirendum_ is granted,
that Inquisition must be taken by the Sheriffs or Commissioners, upon
affidavits.[87] 1 _Danv. Abr._ 210. _Salk._ 190.

The filing of a coroner’s inquest may also be stopped for mismanagement.
1 _Mod._ 82. If he conceal felonies he shall be fined, and suffer one
year’s imprisonment. 3 _Ed._ 1 _c._ 9. In Lord _Buckhurst’s_ case a
coroner not returning his inquisition of murder to the next gaol
delivery, but suppressing it, was discharged from his office, and fined
£100. 1 _Kebl._ 280.

If a coroner be convicted of extortion, wilful neglect of duty, or
misdemeanor in his office, the Court before whom he shall be convicted,
may adjudge that he shall be removed from his office. 25 _Geo._ 2. _c._

And lastly, by the writ _De Coronatore exonerando_, _F.N.B._ 163. 164:
he may be discharged for negligence, or insufficiency, in the discharge
of his duty, and when coroners are so far engaged in any other public
business that they cannot attend the office; or if they be disabled by
old age or disease, or have not sufficient lands, or live in an
inconvenient part of the county. 2 _Inst._ 32. 2 _Hawk. P.C._ _c._ 9.
_s._ 12. But if any such writ be obtained on an untrue suggestion, the
coroner may procure a commission out of Chancery to enquire thereof; and
the king may grant a supercedeas of the writ. _Reg. Orig._ 177. 178.
_F.N.B._ 164. As the coroner’s is an office of freehold, the Court of
Chancery will not suffer the writ to issue, unless on affidavit that the
defendant has been served with notice of the petition for it. 3 _Atk._
184. On the election of a new coroner the office of the old one is _ipso
facto_ extinguished.

We have entered more fully into this description of the office and
duties of coroner in general, as we deem the due execution of them to be
of the utmost importance to the public welfare; not indeed intending it
as a guide to coroners themselves, for to that purpose it would be
insufficient; but to give some insight into the nature and character of
the office, to those who may, from time to time, be called upon to aid
its administration. It is however necessary for us to add that there are
some exceptions to the above mentioned rules, arising out of local
customs and peculiar jurisdictions; thus the Lord Mayor of London is by
virtue of his office, coroner within the City, and the Court is holden
before him or his deputy. 4 _Inst._ 250. And other places, as some of
the Royal residences, &c. have their separate coroners; but all,
whatever the mode of election or appointment, are in cases of misconduct
subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of King’s Bench.


Self-murder is ranked among the higher crimes, being a peculiar species
of felony, as implied in the technical term _felo de se_. To constitute
this offence, the party must be in his senses, else it is no crime; but
this excuse ought not to be strained to that length to which our
coroner’s juries are too apt to carry it,[88] viz. that the very act of
suicide is an evidence of insanity; as if every man who acts contrary to
reason, had no reason at all; for the same argument would prove every
other criminal _non compos_, as well as the self-murderer. The law very
rationally judges, that every melancholy or hypochondriac fit does not
deprive a man of the capacity of discerning right from wrong; and,
therefore, if a real lunatic kills himself in a lucid interval, he is
_felo de se_ as much as another man. 1 _Hales, P. C._ 412. 1 _Hawk. P.
C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 3.

As to the punishment which human laws inflict on this crime, they can
only act upon what the criminal has left behind him,—his reputation and
fortune; on the former, by an ignominious burial in the highway, with a
stake driven through his body; on the latter, by the forfeiture of all
his goods and chattels to the king.

In this as well as all other felonies, the offender must be of the age
of discretion, and _compos mentis_; and therefore an infant killing
himself, under the age of discretion, (of which some extraordinary
instances have lately been related in the public journals) or a lunatic
during his lunacy, cannot be a _felo de se_. 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27,
_s._ 1. _Crom._ 30, _a_ 6, 31; _Hales P. C._ 28; _Dalt._ _c._ 92; 3
_Inst._ 54.

He who kills another, though at his own desire or command, is a
murderer;[89] and the person killed is not looked upon as a _felo de
se_, in as much as his assent was merely void, being against the law of
God and man; 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 6; _Keilw._ 136; _Moor_ 754.
But query, as he is the guilty cause of his own death, is he not a
felon? for if the question had been of the death of another, his consent
to it would have been equally against the laws of God and man; yet if
poison were given by his direction or command, even though he were not
present, and might have repented, it would be murder, much more then,
when he actually assists at the perpetration.

Further, as to what a _felo de se_ shall forfeit, it seems clear that he
shall forfeit all chattels, real or personal, which he hath in his own
right; and also all chattels real, whereof he is possessed jointly with
his wife, or in her right; and also all bonds and other personal things
in action, belonging solely to himself; and also all personal things in
action, and as some say, entire chattels in possession, to which he was
entitled jointly with another, on any account, except that of
merchandize. But it is said, that he shall forfeit a moiety only of such
joint chattels as may be severed, and nothing at all of what he was
possessed of as executor or administrator; 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27, _s._
7, and authorities there. However the blood of a _felo de se_ is not
corrupted, nor his lands of inheritance forfeited, nor his wife barred
of her dower. 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 1; _Plowd. Com._ 261 b, 262
a; 1 _Hales, P. C._ 413. The will of a _felo de se_ becomes void as to
his personal property, but not as to his real estate. _Plowd._ 261.

Not any part of the personal estate is vested in the king, before the
self-murder is found by some inquisition; and consequently the
forfeiture thereof is saved by a pardon of the offence before such
finding; 5 _Co. R._ 110 b; 3 _Inst._ 54; 1 _Saund._ 362; 1 _Sid._ 150,
162. But if there be no such pardon, the whole is forfeited immediately
after such inquisition, from the time of the act done, by which the
death was caused; and all intermediate alienations and titles are
avoided. _Plowd. Comm._ 260; _Hales P. C._ 29; 5 _Co. R._ 110; _Finch._
216. All such inquisitions ought to be by the coroner _super visum
corporis_, if the body can be found; and an inquisition so taken cannot,
as some say, be traversed. _Hale, P. C._ 29; 3 _Inst._ 55; 1 _Hawk. P.
C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 9, 10, 11. But see also 3 _Mod._ 238, 1 _Burr._ 17.

But if the body cannot be found, so that the coroner, who has authority
only _super visum corporis_, (vide ante. p. 93), cannot proceed, the
inquiry may be by Justices of the Peace, (who by their commissions have
a general power to inquire of all felonies,) or in the King’s Bench, if
the felony were committed in the county where the court sits; and such
inquisitions are traversable by the executor, &c. 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._
27, _s._ 12; 3 _Inst._ 55; _Hales P. C._ 29; 2 _Lev._ 141.

Also all inquisitions of this offence being in the nature of
indictments, ought particularly and certainly to set forth the
circumstances of the fact; and in conclusion add, that the party in such
manner murdered himself. 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 13; 3 _Lev._ 140;
3 _Mod._ 100; 2 _Lev._ 152. Yet if it be full in substance, the coroner
may be served with a rule to amend a defect in form. 1 _Sid._ 225, 259;
3 _Mod._ 101; 1 _Keb._ 907; 1 _Hawk. P. C._ _c._ 27, _s._ 15.

If a person is unduly found _felo de se_; or on the other hand found to
be a lunatic, when in fact he was not so, and therefore ought to have
been found _felo de se_; although a writ of _melius inquirendum_ will
not be granted, yet the inquisition is traversable in the King’s Bench.
3 _Mod._ 238.

By the rubrick in the Common Prayer, before the burial office,
(confirmed by _Statute_ 13 and 14, _Car._ 2, _c._ 4) persons who have
laid violent hands on themselves shall not have that office used at
their interment. Yet the priest has no power of enquiry, or even as it
would appear of delay, in order to enquiry, when a body (though it be of
a notorious suicide) is brought to his church for interment. “The proper
judges, whether persons who died by their own hands were out of their
senses” (and a fortiori whether they did or not die by their own hands)
“are doubtless the coroner’s jury. The minister of the parish hath no
authority to be present at viewing the body, or to summon or examine
witnesses, and therefore he is neither entitled nor able to judge in the
affair; but may well acquiesce in the public determination, without
making any private enquiry. Indeed, were he to make one, the opinion
which he might form from thence could usually be grounded only on common
discourse, and bare assertion. And it cannot be justifiable to act upon
these in contradiction to the decision of a jury, after hearing
witnesses upon oath. And though there may be reason to suppose that the
coroner’s jury are frequently favourable in their judgment in
consideration of the circumstances of the deceased’s family with respect
to the forfeiture, and their verdict is[90] in its own nature
traversable, yet the burial may not be delayed,[91] until that matter on
trial shall finally be determined. But on acquittal of the crime of
self-murder by the coroner’s jury, the body in that case not being
demanded by the law, it seemeth that a clergyman may and ought” (we can
safely add is compellable) “to admit that body to christian burial.” 1
_Burn’s Ecc. Law_, _tit. Burial_.

                          OF MURDER GENERALLY.

There are so many various modes by which this infamous and horrid crime
may be perpetrated, that it would be an almost endless task to enumerate
them. In a legal point of view it is scarcely necessary; for wherever
death ensues from illegal violence[92], with malice _prepense_, it is
felony; yet for the better aid of medical investigation it is expedient
to class them under several heads.

Sir _Matthew Hale_, in his pleas of the Crown, vol. 2, p. 431,
enumerates several ways of killing.

1. By exposing a sick or weak person or infant unto the cold, to the
intent to destroy him, 2 _Ed._ 3, 189, whereof he dieth.

2. By laying an impotent person abroad, so that he may be exposed to and
receive mortal harm, as laying an infant in an orchard, and covering it
with leaves, whereby a kite strikes it and kills it. 6 _Eliz. Compt. de
Pace_; 24 _Dalton_, _cap._ 93, (new edit. 145.)[93]

3. By imprisoning a man so strictly that he dies, and therefore where
any dies in gaol, the coroner ought to be sent for to enquire of the
manner of his death.

4. By starving or famine.

5. By wounding or blows.

6. By poisoning.

7. By laying noisome and poisonous filth at a man’s door, to the intent
by a poisonous air to poison him. _Mr. Dalton_, _cap._ 93, out of _Mr.
Cook’s_ reading.[94]

8. By strangulation or suffocation.

                       “_Moriendi mille figuræ._”

The two first of these modes frequently occur in cases of infanticide,
and to that head, which requires separate consideration on account of
its intricacy, we shall therefore refer it. Adults can seldom, if ever,
be exposed to destruction in this manner; though, as in —— _Brownrigg’s_
case, and others of the same class, it may constitute a part of the
crime of murdering children, even of an advanced age, by duress and
starvation; where it is by a combination of cruel injuries, and not by
one specific blow or wound, that death is produced. These cases we shall
include under a general head, having first disposed of those which
require more specific notice.

“_By imprisoning a man so strictly that he dies, and therefore where any
  dies in gaol[95] the coroner ought to be sent for to enquire of the
                       manner of his death._”[96]

Death by duress of imprisonment was in all probability a very frequent
occurrence in the earlier periods of our history, we know that it has
often been inflicted by the individual tyranny of the nobles on their
vassals; and we have every reason to suppose, that even the keepers of
our public prisons were not free from the imputation of cruelty to their
unfortunate inmates; many have died by violence, more by neglect; it was
therefore a wise and humane precaution that the circumstances of every
death of a prisoner should be made the subject of minute enquiry; it is
also desirable that such enquiry should be carried on by persons of
competent skill, and with every possible and proper publicity. Our own
times we will hope are entirely free from the crime of premeditated
murder on the body of a prisoner; but we must not allow our confidence
in the modern improvements of prison discipline to lull us into a false
security as to the conduct of gaolers and their underlings many of these
may be men of mild and humane disposition, but as their daily occupation
must tend to blunt the finer feelings of humanity, it is well that every
charge of misconduct should be met by immediate and rigorous enquiry. On
this subject see _Rex_ v. _Huggins_, warden of the Fleet, 2 _Lord Raym._
1578; 2 _Str._ 882; 9 _Harg. St. Tri._ 107; _Bambridge’s_ case, 9 _Harg.
St. Tri._ 146, 151; _Acton’s_ case, 9 _Harg. St. Tri._ 182, 210, 218;
see also the several Parliamentary Reports on Coldbath-fields,
Ilchester, &c.

“A gaoler, knowing a prisoner to be infected with an epidemic[97]
distemper, confines another prisoner against his will, in the same room
with him, by which he catches the infection, of which the gaoler had
notice, and the prisoner dies; this is a felonious killing. _Stra._ 856;
9 _St. Tri._ 146. So, to confine a prisoner in a low damp unwholesome
room, not allowing him the common conveniences which the decencies of
nature require, by which the habits of his constitution are so affected
as to produce a distemper of which he dies; this also is felonious
homicide. _Stra._ 884; _Lord Raym._ 1578. For although the law invests
gaolers with all necessary powers for the interest of the commonwealth,
they are not to behave with the least degree of wanton cruelty to their
prisoners. _O. B._ 1784, p. 1177; and these were deliberate acts of
cruelty, and enormous violations of the trust the law reposeth in its
ministers of justice. _Forster_, 322.” See I _Hawk._ P. C. by _Leach_,
p. 119.

Previous to the researches of the celebrated _John Howard_, (see his
treatise on Prisons and Lazarettos) our prisons appear to have been in a
most disgraceful state; they are now greatly improved, but something may
yet be done for their amelioration, more particularly as affecting the
health of the prisoners; and this principally, by allowing the most
unrestrained medical inspection by disinterested practitioners, who
should be as much as possible unconnected with local prejudices, or
partialities; some of the parliamentary regulations of madhouses might
in this respect be usefully extended to all places of confinement; those
who are not _sui juris_ are ever entitled to additional protection.[98]

The best practical proof of improvement, in the construction of our
prisons, and in our prison discipline, is to be found in the
disappearance of that fatal pest, which was commonly called the gaol
fever, a disorder which, with something of retributive justice,
frequently extended its ravages to those, whose proper vigilance might
have prevented its generation. At the assizes held at Oxford in
1577,[99] called the black assize, we learn from _Baker’s_ Chronicle (p.
353) that all who were present died within forty hours: the Lord Chief
Baron, the Sheriff, and about three hundred more. _Lord Bacon_ ascribed
the fatality to a disease brought into court by the prisoners, and _Dr.
Mead_ entertained the same opinion; nor was similar infection, though to
a less extent, an uncommon occurrence[100], see vol. 1, p. 125. The
ancient practice of strewing the court with aromatic herbs and flowers,
and presenting bouquets to the Judges, is said to have derived its
origin from the idea of preventing infection: fresh air, still wanting
in our courts, would have proved a more powerful, and not less agreeable

                         BY WOUNDING, OR BLOWS.

In investigating the subject of Wounds, it will be convenient to adopt,
on the present occasion, the usual classification of local injuries,
viz. 1. _Incised wounds_, or cuts; 2. _Punctures_, or such as are
inflicted by pointed instruments; 3. _Bruises_, injuries occasioned by
blunt instruments; 4. _Lacerations_, where the integuments are torn, and
5. _Gun-shot wounds_; upon each of which we shall offer a few
observations, and, in the first place, it may be remarked generally,
that no graduated scale of wounds, expressive of the degree in which
they are curable or dangerous, can ever be constructed; in appreciating
the probable degree of danger that attends a wound other data will be
required for the solution of the problem than those deduced from
situation and extent, such as the constitution and temperament, age,
habits of life, especially as they regard temperance and sobriety,
previous state of health, unnatural structure and disposition of parts,
and existing diseases of the wounded individual; together with the
temperature of the season, and other extrinsic circumstances. As a
general rule for our guidance a division of wounds into four classes has
been suggested, viz. 1. _Absolutely mortal._ 2. _Dangerous._ 3.
_Accidentally mortal._ 4. _Not mortal._ Every practitioner, however,
must be aware that death will occasionally supervene on the slightest
injury, and at other times that the patient recovers in spite of the
most serious and extensive mischief; in proof of the former assertion,
the author may state that he has seen a case in which the extraction of
a tooth was followed by death in less than forty-eight hours; and every
experienced surgeon must in the course of his practice have observed the
slightest wound[101] productive of alarming and even fatal consequences;
in illustration of the occasional occurrence of a contrary result we may
recal to the recollection of the reader the extraordinary case[102] of
Mr. _Thomas Tipple_, who recovered after an accident, by which the shaft
of a chaise had been forced through the thorax! There have also been
instances of the recovery of persons whose brain has been wounded to a
considerable depth, of others shot through the head; Dr. _Male_ states
that a pauper in Paris, some years ago, used to receive charity in a
piece of his skull. In the second volume of the _Medico-chirurgical
Transactions_, we have a well attested case of a bayonet wound in the
heart not causing immediate death. _Littre_ has given us a report of a
man who inflicted upon himself no less than eighteen stabs in the
abdomen with a knife; and although some of them did not penetrate beyond
the parieties, yet others wounded the contents; the symptoms which
followed are stated to have been very severe, but by judicious treatment
the patient recovered; seventeen months afterwards, however, he threw
himself into the street from a three pair of stairs window, and was
instantly killed. On examining the body all the wounds were found
healed, and, with the exception of one, all the cicatrices were firm and
level; they were traced into the intestines, where corresponding
adhesions were observed.[103]

The surgical practitioner will, after such cases, be cautious in his
prognosis, and profit by the experience of Hoffman, who says, “_In
judicio de vulnerum lethalitate ferendo multorum Medicorum fama et
fortuna periclitantur_.”[104] Fortunately for the administration of
justice, that act of the Legislature, called “_the Ellenborough act_,”
relieves us from many of those embarrassments under which the
professional witness[105] must otherwise have laboured, and the surgeon
will appreciate the high importance and utility of the law, by which
wounding with an intent to kill is deemed equally criminal, whether
death be the result or not. Still, however, the testimony of the medical
practitioner will always be important; indeed the evil intent is often
to be inferred, or disproved, by the nature of the injury inflicted; as
is so well illustrated in the case of a man, who fractured the skull of
a boy with a stick, upon finding him in the act of plundering his
orchard; when it was clearly made out in evidence, that a mere
chastisement was only intended, for the size of the stick was not such
as to have occasioned any fatal effect, had not the skull of the
unfortunate boy been unusually thin.

If the surgeon is called upon to inspect a wound, with a view to
ascertain whether it produced death, he should in the first instance,
endeavour to examine its nature and direction, so as to disturb as
little as possible the position in which the body was found; the knife
of the anatomist must afterwards explore its more particular condition
and relations, by a dissection, for the performance of which we shall
give ample directions in a future chapter.

The importance of examining the wound, so as not to alter the position
of the parts must be obvious when we consider how necessary it may
afterwards become to compare as strictly as possible the internal
appearances with the external lesions. The direction of a wound is
frequently a circumstance of much greater importance than may at first
appear, we ought not therefore to probe it without extreme caution, lest
we should give to it a direction which it did not originally possess.
This precaution becomes the more necessary as the putrefactive process

_Of incised wounds, or cuts._ The prognosis of wounds made with a
cutting instrument varies, _cæteris paribus_, according to the extent
and depth of the division, the nature of the injured parts, and the
circumstances which attend the operation; where the instrument has been
so sharp as not to occasion any contusion or laceration, the fibres and
texture of the wounded part will have suffered no other injury but their
mere division; and there is consequently less tendency to inflammation,
suppuration, gangrene, and other bad consequences; if the wound be large
and deep it will be more dangerous, as well as more difficult to heal,
than one which only affects the skin. Wounds, accompanied with injury of
considerable vessels or nerves, are more or less hazardous, according to
the magnitude or number of those vessels or nerves; generally speaking,
the most dangerous examples of incised wounds are those which are made
about the throat; here there are so many large blood-vessels, nerves and
other parts of great importance, that deep incised wounds often prove
fatal, either immediately, or in a few days; in some cases of suicide
the carotid artery is opened, and the person perishes from hemorrhage on
the spot, before any assistance can be afforded; in other instances he
divides some of the principal branches of the external carotid, and
after losing a great deal of blood, he faints, and the hemorrhage being
thus checked, the life of the patient is preserved, until surgical
assistance can be procured. Cut wounds of the extremities, when such
arteries as the femoral and brachial are injured, may also suddenly
destroy the patient, by hemorrhage.

_Punctures_, or such as are made by the thrust of pointed weapons, as by
swords, daggers, lances, and bayonets, or by the accidental and forcible
introduction of considerable thorns, large nails, skewers, &c. into the
flesh,[106] comprise a class of wounds of great importance and danger,
as they generally penetrate to a great depth, so as to injure large
blood-vessels, nerves, viscera, and other organs of importance; and
being inflicted with considerable violence the parts always suffer more
injury than what would be produced by their simple division. It must
also be considered, that a great number of the weapons by which such
wounds are occasioned, increase materially in diameter from the point
towards their other extremity; and hence, when they penetrate far, they
must force the fibres asunder like a wedge, and cause a serious degree
of stretching and contusion. It is this circumstance which gives so
dangerous a character to bayonet wounds in the soft parts. The opening
which the point of such a weapon produces is quite insufficient for the
passage of the thicker part of it, which can therefore only enter by
forcibly dilating, stretching, and otherwise injuring the fibres of the
wounded flesh. But mortal injury may be inflicted by an extremely
slender instrument, so as to occasion an apparently trivial puncture;
and in some cases, the external injury is healed before the death, which
it occasions, takes place. Such cases can only receive satisfactory
elucidation from the lights of an anatomical dissection, under which
head we have furnished several instructive examples.

_Bruises_, or _Contusions_, strictly comprehend those injuries which are
occasioned by the violent application of blunt or obtuse instruments to
the soft parts. They are not unfrequently complicated with severe
internal injury resulting from the violence which the parts have
sustained, such as inflammation, suppuration, or even the rupture of
some of the viscera, of which we shall hereafter present several
illustrative cases.

A blow on the region of the stomach sometimes occasions instant death;
an effect which would appear to arise from an injury inflicted upon the
eighth pair, and great sympathetic nerves, by which the heart is
instantly paralysed. In these cases the heart has been found empty, and
the stomach has appeared red and inflamed; this latter appearance is the
obvious effect of the sudden cessation of the heart, producing the
settling of the blood in the extreme arterial branches.

Wounds of this description are, of course, more or less important,
according to their locality; unless complicated with laceration, they
are never attended with any considerable hemorrhage, although the minute
vessels are necessarily ruptured, and the effusion of their contents
produces the discoloration so characteristic of this kind of injury.

As in the case of wounds, so also in respect of blows, injuries
apparently inadequate have produced death; it then becomes difficult to
fix the degree of guilt which should be attached to the aggressor; for
though according to the strict letter of the law, every man is
responsible for the ultimate effect of an illegal act committed by him;
yet in moral justice there is much difference between the atrocity of
him who strikes a grievous wound with a deadly weapon, from which by
chance his victim may recover; and the fault of him who transported by
sudden passion gives an ordinary blow, which by accident, by reason of
some inward and unknown disease of his adversary, or by injudicious
treatment, becomes fatal. Numerous cases might be cited in support of
this position: that of _Brain_ for the murder of _Watts_, _Cro. Eliz._
778: _H. P. C._ 455. is one of the most remarkable, not only from the
circumstances attending the trial, where the jury were fined and
imprisoned for a corrupt verdict, but also for the physiological
circumstance, that the deceased died instantly from a blow on the calf
of his leg. The parties had previously quarrelled and fought; and
_Brain_, the prisoner, was hurt; the next day _Watts_ passing his shop
made mouths at him, on which new provocation _Brain_ hit him the blow
which instantly proved fatal. The Court held that the new provocation
was insufficient, and that the death must be referred to precedent
malice—might they not also have considered that a blow on the calf of
the leg was more insufficient to produce death under ordinary
circumstances, than a wry face to induce or inflame a quarrel? The
prisoner was found guilty, but not without considerable and as it
appears to us proper resistance on the part of the jury; the case being
on Appeal, the Crown could not pardon, though the appellant might
compromise his suit:—we are not informed whether the prisoner was

A case, nearly parallel to the above, is that of _Lydia Alder_, who was
tried in 1744 for the murder of her husband, whom she kicked on the
groin; in consequence of which, having at the time an inguinal rupture,
mortification came on, and he died. Verdict, _Manslaughter_. The
circumstances attending the case of _Bartholomew Quain_ were, in some
respects, different; he was tried and convicted for the murder of his
wife, at the Assizes for the Isle of Ely, in 1790. It appeared in
evidence, that a rupture of the spleen was produced by the violent
kicks, of which the indictment stated that she had died. The jury, under
the direction of the Chief Judge of Ely, found a special verdict, in
order to take the opinion of the Court of King’s Bench upon the
following question, whether the facts found by the jury amounted to
murder, or only to manslaughter, when the Court was clearly of opinion
that it was murder, because there did not appear to have been any
provocation on the part of the deceased; and no man had a right, even to
inflict chastisement, without a just provocation.

_Lacerations_, where the integuments are torn.—These differ from incised
wounds not only in the circumstance of their being less disposed to heal
by the first intention, but in the singular fact of their not bleeding
to any extent; there are perhaps no facts, in the history of surgery,
more extraordinary than those which have been recorded on the subject of
whole limbs being torn away, without hemorrhage. The most remarkable of
these is related by _Cheselden_, in his work on Anatomy, being the case
of a miller, “whose arm, with the scapula, was torn off from his body,
by a rope winding round it, the other end being fastened to the coggs of
a mill; there was no hemorrhage, nor did any severe symptoms supervene,
so that the wound was cured by superficial dressings only, the natural
skin being left almost sufficient to cover it.” Analogous cases are
recorded by _La Motte_, in his _Traité des Accouchemens_; by Mr.
_Carmichael_, in the fifth volume of the _Edinburgh Medical
Commentaries_; and by others, in the second volume of the _Mem. de
l’Acad. de Chirurgie_. In appreciating the degree of danger attendant
upon wounds of this description, the practitioner must not overlook the
possible occurence of Tetanus.

_Gun-shot wounds._ Long after the invention of gunpowder, Surgeons
continued to entertain very vague opinions respecting the nature of
wounds produced by it; some considered that the injured parts were
either dreadfully burnt by the heat of the projected body, or were
irritated by the presence of poison, communicated to them by the powder.
_Thomas Gale_, who served as a Surgeon in the army of _Henry_ 8th, at
Montreuil in 1554, was the first to refute the absurd opinions of “the
poisoning, burning, and conquassation of gun-shot wounds.” A gun-shot
wound is now defined “a violent contusion, with, or without a solution
of continuity, suddenly and rapidly effected by a solid body projected
from fire-arms.” If a musket or pistol ball has struck a fleshy part,
without injuring any material blood-vessel, we see a hole about the size
of, or smaller than the bullet itself; with a more or less discoloured
lip forced inwards, and if it has passed through the parts, we find an
everted edge, and a more ragged, and larger orifice at the point of its
exit; the pain in this case is so inconsiderable that the wounded person
is frequently not aware of his having received any injury. The course of
balls is frequently most extraordinary, and it behoves the judicial
surgeon to keep in mind a fact which may often throw considerable light
upon the subject of his investigation. A ball will often strike the
thorax or abdomen, and, to an inexperienced eye, appear to have passed
directly across, or to be lodged in one of the cavities. If great
difficulty of breathing or hemorrhage from the mouth, with sudden
paleness and laborious pulse, in the one case, or deadly faintness,
coldness of the extremities, and the discharge of stercoraceous matter
from the wound, in the second, are not present, we shall perhaps find
that the ball has coursed along under the integuments, and is marked in
its progress either by a redness, which Mr. _Hunter_ compared to a
blush, or by a wheal, or dusky line, terminated by a tumour, on the
opening which it will be easily extracted. In some of these long and
circuitous routes of balls, where we have not this mark, a certain
emphysematous crackling discovers their course, and leads to their
detection. The ball is in many instances found very close to its point
of entrance, having nearly completed the circuit of the body. In a case
related by Dr. _Hennen_, as one that occurred to a friend of his in the
Mediterranean, the ball, which struck about the _Pomum Adami_, was found
lying in the very orifice at which it had entered, having gone
completely round the neck, and being prevented from passing out by the
elasticity and toughness of the skin which had confined it to this
circular course. This circuitous route is a very frequent occurrence,
particularly when balls strike the ribs, or abdominal muscles, for they
are turned from the direct line by a very slight resistance indeed,
although they will at times run along a continued surface, as the length
of a bone, along a muscle, or a fascia, to a very extraordinary
distance. If there is nothing to check its course, and if its momentum
be very great, it is surprising what a variety of parts may be injured
by a musket ball. Dr. _Hennen_ states that in one instance, which
occurred in a soldier, who having his arm extended in the act of
endeavouring to climb up a scaling ladder, had the centre of his humerus
pierced by a ball, which immediately passed along the limb, and over the
posterior part of the thorax, coursed among the abdominal muscles,
dipped deep through the glutæi, and presented on the fore part of the
opposite thigh, about midway down. In another case, a ball which struck
the breast of a man standing erect in the ranks lodged in the scrotum.
The propensity of balls to take a curved direction is often seen in
their course on a concave surface; in short, they take very unusual and
deep-seated routes, not at all to be accounted for by any preconceived
theories drawn from the doctrine of projectiles, nor to be explained by
diagrams founded upon mathematical rules. These considerations ought to
render the Surgeon very cautious how he delivers his opinion, as to the
direction in which the shot was fired, and yet instances frequently
occur where no difficulty can arise upon this point, such was the case
of _Richard Annesley_, tried for the murder of _Thomas Eglestone_ (9
_Harg. Sta. Tri._ 327). The deceased was a poacher. _Annesley_ who was
in company with the game-keeper, stated in his defence, that his gun had
accidentally gone off in his attempt to secure the deceased. The
instructions given by the Court on this occasion was that if the jury
were of opinion that the gun had so gone off accidentally, they should
bring in a verdict of _Chance-medley_, which was returned accordingly,
in consequence of the evidence of the Surgeon who had examined the
wound, and stated that its direction being upwards, very satisfactorily
proved that the fowling-piece had not been levelled from the shoulder,
which would have implied design; but must have been discharged at the
trail, which must have been accidental.[107] An idea long existed that a
ball might produce injury without striking any part of the body; this
was supposed by some to arise from the violent commotion produced in the
air by the rapid motion of the ball; and by others, to depend upon an
electrical shock on the parts, in consequence of the ball being rendered
electrical by friction in the calibre of the gun, and giving off the
electrical matter as it passes by. This, however, is contrary to all our
received notions respecting electricity; metals can never acquire such a
property by friction.

In avowing our total disbelief in the existence of such
_wind-contusions_, as they have been called, we are well aware that we
shall oppose many very respectable authorities. “_Amicus Plato, sed
magis amica Veritas._”

An important question, connected with the present subject, still remains
for elucidation; where a body has been found dead with wounds and
contusions, by what signs we are to determine whether they were
inflicted during life, or after death. As the solution of this
interesting problem requires various data, its consideration will be
reserved for that part of our work, where all the Objects of Inquiry, in
cases of sudden and mysterious death, are considered in their various
relations to each other, with a view to appreciate their individual and
joint importance.

                             BY POISONING.

No species of murder is so base and cowardly, or so cool and deliberate
in its perpetration as murder by poison, which because of its secresy
prevents all precaution, whereas most open murder gives the party killed
some opportunity of defence;[108] it is generally committed in violation
of domestic duty and confidence, and too frequently evinces that
unrelenting and barbarous depravity, which can witness the sufferings of
its victim for days nay months unmoved; therefore our ancient laws
adjudged those convicted of poisoning to a severer punishment than other
offenders. 3 _Nels. Abr._ 363. _Jac. Law Dict. tit. Poison._ By the 22
_Hen._ 8. it was _ex post facto_ enacted that _Richard Roose_, (or
_Cooke_), for putting poison into a pot of pottage in the Bishop of
Rochester’s kitchen, by which two persons were killed, should be boiled
to death; and that the offence in future should be adjudged High
Treason; but this among other new treasons (with which the reign of
_Henry_ the 8th had abounded) was abolished by the statute of _Edward_
6, and now to poison any one wilfully is murder if the party die in a
year. 1 _Edw._ 6. _c._ 12.

By the 43 _Geo._ 3. _c._ 58. (commonly called Lord _Ellenborough’s_ Act)
any person administering poison with _intent_ to murder another, (though
no death ensue) or to procure the miscarriage of a woman quick with
child, is declared guilty of felony without benefit of clergy: and
persons administering medicines to procure miscarriage, though the woman
is not quick with child, are declared guilty of felony, punishable by
imprisonment or transportation (_vide post_). If a man persuade another
to drink a poisonous liquor, under the notion of a medicine, who
afterwards drinks it in his absence, or if _A_, intending to poison _B_,
put poison into a thing, and deliver it to _D_ who knows nothing of the
matter, to be by him delivered to _B_, and _D_ innocently delivers it
accordingly in the absence of _A_;[109] in this case the procurer of the
felony is as much a principal as if he had been present when it was done
(2 _Hawk. P. C._ 443: _Vin. Ab. tit. Accessory_) or if one mix poison
with any eatable with intent to kill another, and a stranger casually
eat it and die,[110] it is murder; _Dalton_, 93. _Agnes Gore’s_ case for
poisoning by ratsbane (9 _Co. Rep._ 81: _Palm. R._ 547.), not so if it
be to kill vermin; but query if it be manslaughter where there is not
proper precaution, as where the poison is laid in ordinary places for
keeping meat, and mixed with ordinary food, so that a child may take it.
1 _East. P. C._ He that counsels another to give poison, if that other
doth it, the counsellor, if absent, is accessory _before_. _Coke, P. C._
49. Case of the murder of Sir _Thomas Overbury_, _Harg. St. Trials_. But
he that absolutely gives or lays the poison, to the intent to poison,
though he be absent when it is taken by the party, yet he is principal,
and this was _Weston’s_ case. _Harg. St. Trials_: _Co. P. C._ _p._ 49.
_Vaux’s_ case, _ubi supra_, and _Donellan’s_ case for the murder of Sir
_Theodosius Boughton_, _Warwick Assizes_, 1784. See _Appendix_, 243.

It is not our intention to detail every mode by which murder by poison
may be committed; too many are already known to the world in general; on
those which are known, we may safely comment; nor would there be as much
mischief as is commonly supposed in hinting at some others; for if any
should study this subject with evil intention, he may be assured that
the progress of modern science, though it may have discovered some new
modes of destruction, has been yet more fertile in antidotes for the
injured, and in means of detecting the guilty.

                              OF POISONS,


Toxicology, or the history of Poisons, forms one of the most important
and elaborate branches of Forensic Medicine, and in tracing the subject
through all its numerous and interesting relations to Jurisprudence, we
shall experience no small degree of gratification by observing, how
greatly and progressively this obscure department of science has, within
the last few years, been enlightened by the discoveries of Chemistry and

The labours of the modern Chemist, indeed, have enabled us to recognise
and identify each particular substance by its properties and habitudes,
with an infallible delicacy, which the Physicians of a former age could
scarcely have anticipated, and much less practised.

The Physiologist, by an invaluable series of observations and
experiments, has demonstrated the particular organ, or texture, upon
which each individual poison exerts its energies; and the Pathologist
has been thus enabled to establish the mode in which it depraves the
health, or extinguishes the life of an animal. Nor has the Anatomist
withheld his contributions upon this interesting occasion, for he has
demonstrated the situation, extent, and intensity of the organic lesions
which result from the operation of these terrible agents upon the living
body; and has pointed out several appearances which occur from natural
causes, but which might be mistaken by the unskilful or superficial
observer, for the ravages of poison. It remains for the Forensic
Physician to converge into one focus the scattered rays which have thus
emanated from so many points, and thereby to elucidate and determine the
line of conduct which the medical attendant is called upon to pursue,
for the relief of the patient suffering under the torments of poison,
and for the establishment of the guilt or innocence of the party charged
with the perpetration of a crime, which may be said to rob courage of
its just security, while it transfers to cowardice the triumphs of
valour. That engines so powerful and secret in their work of
destruction, should have universally excited the terror of mankind is a
fact which cannot surprise us, and, when we consider how intimate are
the relations between fear and credulity, we need not seek farther for
the solution of the many problems to which the exaggerated statements of
ancient Toxicologists[111] have given origin; the most extraordinary of
those relate to the alleged subtlety of certain poisons, which was
believed to be so extreme as to defeat the most skilful caution, and at
the same time so manageable, as to be capable of the most accurate
graduation; so that, in short, the accomplished assassin was not only
thus enabled to ensure the death of his victim through the most secret,
and least suspicious agents, but to measure his allotted moments with
the nicest precision, and to occasion his death at any period that might
best answer the objects of the assassination. The writings of
_Plutarch_, _Tacitus_, _Theophrastus_, _Quintillian_, and _Livy_, abound
with such instances of _occult_ and _slow_ poisoning; most of which,
however, notwithstanding the weight they may acquire from their
testimony, bear internal evidence of their fallacious character.
_Plutarch_ informs us that a slow poison which occasioned heat, cough,
spitting of blood, a lingering consumption of the body, and a weakness
of intellect, was administered to _Aratus_ of Sicyon. This same poison
is also alluded to by _Quintillian_ in his declamations. _Tacitus_[112]
informs us that _Sejanus_ caused a _secret_ poison to be administered by
an eunuch to _Drusus_, who in consequence gradually declined, as if by a
consumptive disorder, and at length died. _Theophrastus_[113] speaks of
a poison, prepared from Aconite, that could be so modified as to
occasion death within a certain period, such as two, three, or six
months, a year, and even sometimes two years.

To such an extent does the crime of poisoning appear to have been
carried, about two hundred years before the Christian æra, that
according to _Livy_,[114] above one hundred and fifty ladies, of the
first families in Rome, were convicted and punished for preparing and
distributing poison. The most notorious and expert character of this
kind is handed down to us by the historians and poets under the name of
_Locusta_, who was condemned to die on account of her infamous actions,
but was saved in order that she might become a state engine, and be
numbered, as _Tacitus_ expresses it, “_Inter instrumenta regni_.” She
was accordingly employed to poison _Claudius_ by _Agrippina_, who was
desirous of destroying the Emperor, and yet feared to despatch him
suddenly, whence a slow poison was prepared by _Locusta_, and served to
him in a dish of mushrooms, of which he was particularly fond,
“_Boletorum appetentissimus_;” but it failed in its effects, as we learn
from _Tacitus_, until it was assisted by one of a more powerful nature.
“_Post quem nihil amplius edit._” This same _Locusta_ prepared also the
poison with which _Nero_ despatched _Britannicus_, the son of
_Agrippina_, whom his father _Claudius_ wished to succeed him on the
throne. This poison appears to have proved too slow in its operation,
and to have occasioned only a dysentery. The Emperor accordingly
compelled her by blows and threats, to prepare in his presence one of a
more powerful nature, and as the tale is related by _Suetonius_, it
appears that it was then tried on a kid, but as the animal did not die
until the lapse of five hours, she boiled it for a longer period, when
it became so strong as instantaneously to kill a pig to which it was
given. In this state of concentration it is said to have despatched
_Britannicus_ as soon as he tasted it.[115] Vide _Tac. An._ 13. _s._ 15.
16. Now it would clearly appear from these statements that _Locusta_,
avowedly the most accomplished poisoner of ancient Rome, was wholly
incapable of graduating the strength of her poisons to the different
purposes for which they were applied.

The records of modern times will furnish examples no less atrocious than
those we have just related. _Tophana_, a woman who resided first at
Palermo, and afterwards at Naples, may be considered as the _Locusta_ of
modern history; she invented and sold those drops so well known by the
names of _Aqua Toffania_; _Aqua della Toffana_; _Acquetta di Napoli_, or
simply _Acquetta_. This stygian liquor she distributed by way of charity
to such wives as wished for other husbands; from four to six drops were
sufficient to destroy a man, and it was asserted that the dose could be
so proportioned as to operate within any given period.[116] It appears
that in order to secure her poison from examination, she vended it in
small glass phials, inscribed, “_Manna of Saint Nicolas Bari_,” and
ornamented the vessel with the image of the Saint. Having been put to
the rack she confessed that she had destroyed upwards of six hundred
persons, for which she suffered death by strangulation in the year
1709[117]. In 1670 the art of secret poisoning excited very considerable
alarm in France; the _Marchioness de Brinvillier_, a young woman of rank
and great personal beauty, having intrigued with, and subsequently
married an adventurer named _Saint Croix_, acquired from him the secret
of this diabolical act, and practised it to an extent that had never
before been equalled. She poisoned her two brothers through the medium
of a dish at table. She also prepared poisoned biscuits, and to try
their strength she distributed them herself to the poor at the Hotel
Dieu. Her own maid was likewise the subject of her experiments. To her
father she gave poisoned broth, which brought on symptoms characteristic
of those induced by corrosive sublimate. Her brothers lingered during
several months under much suffering. The detection of this wretch is
said to have been brought about in the following manner. _Saint Croix_,
whenever engaged in the preparation of his poisons, was accustomed to
protect himself from their dangerous fumes by wearing a glass mask,
which happening to fall off by accident, he was found dead in his
laboratory.[118] A casket directed to the Marchioness, with a desire
that in case of her death it might be destroyed unopened, was found in
his chamber, a circumstance which in itself was sufficient to excite the
curiosity and suspicion of those into whose hands it fell. The casket
was accordingly examined, and the disclosure of its contents at once
developed the whole plot, and finally led to the conviction of this
French Medea, who after a number of adventures and escapes, was at
length arrested and sent to Paris, where she was beheaded, and then
burnt, on the 11th of July, 1676. The practice of poisoning, however,
did not cease with her execution, and it became necessary in 1679 to
establish a particular Court, for the detection and trial of such
offenders; which continued for some time to exert its jurisdiction under

With respect to the secret modes in which poisons have been supposed
capable of acting, mankind have ever betrayed the most extravagant
credulity, of which the numerous tales upon record afford ample proof;
such as that reported of _Parasapis_ by _Plutarch_, from _Ctesias_, in
his life of _Artaxerxes_, who, it is said, by anointing a knife on one
side by poison, and therewith dividing a bird, poisoned _Statira_ with
one half, and with the other regaled herself in perfect security. We are
also told of _Livia_ who poisoned the figs on a tree which her husband
was in the habit of gathering with his own hands. _Tissot_ informs us
that _John_, king of Castille, was poisoned by a pair of boots prepared
by a Turk; _Henry_ VI, by gloves[119]; Pope _Clement_ VII, by the fumes
of a taper[120]; and our king _John_, in a wassail bowl, contaminated by
matter extracted from a living toad. To these few instances of credulity
may be added the offer of the priest to destroy queen _Elizabeth_ by
poisoning her saddle[121], and the _Earl of Essex_, by anointing his

Incredible and absurd as these opinions now appear, they continued until
a late period to alarm mankind, and to perplex and baffle judicial
investigations; even _Lord Bacon_ in his charge against the _Earl of
Somerset_ for the murder of _Sir Thomas Overbury_, in the Tower, seemed
to give credit to the story of _Livia_, and he seriously stated, that
“_Weston_ chased the poor prisoner with poison after poison; poisoning
salts, poisoning meats, poisoning sweetmeats, poisoning medicines and
vomits, until at last his body was almost come, by the use of poisons,
to the state that _Mithridates’s_ body was by the use of treacle and
preservatives, that the force of poisons was blunted upon him;” _Weston_
confessing, when he was reproached for not despatching him, that he had
given enough to poison twenty men.[122] The power of so graduating the
force of a poison as to enable it to operate at any given period seems
to have been considered possible by the earlier members of the Royal
Society, for we learn from _Spratt’s_ history of that learned body, that
very shortly after its institution, a series of questions were drawn up
by the direction of the Fellows, for the purpose of being submitted to
the Chinese and Indians, viz. “_Whether the Indians can so prepare that
stupifying herb, Datura, that they make it lie several days, months,
years, according as they will have it, in a man’s body, without doing
him any hurt, and at the end kill him without missing half an hour’s

That mankind were, in a very early stage of their existence, not only
acquainted with the deadly effects of certain natural substances when
applied in minute quantities, but that they availed themselves of such
knowledge for the accomplishment of the worst purposes, is very
satisfactorily shewn by the records of sacred as well as profane
authors. But such is the ambiguity of ancient writers upon this subject,
and so intimately blended are all their receipts with the practices of
superstition, that every research, however learned, into the exact
nature of the poisons which they employed, is necessarily vague and
unsatisfactory. Of this one fact, however, we may be perfectly
satisfied, that they were solely derived from the animal and vegetable
kingdoms, for the discovery of mineral poisons was an event of later
date; owing however to the defect of botanical nomenclature, it is even
doubtful whether the plants which are designated by the terms _Cicuta_,
_Aconitum_, &c. in ancient authors, were identical with those we
designate by the same names. (See _Pharmacologia_, edit. v. vol. 1, p.
66.) With respect to the poisons of _Locusta_, all cotemporary writers
speak of the venom of the toad as the fatal ingredient of her potions,
and in the Alexipharmaca of _Dioscorides_ we find the symptoms
described, which are said to be produced by it;[123] but what is very
extraordinary, the belief of the ancients on this matter was all but
universal. _Pliny_ is express on the subject; _Ætius_ describes two
kinds of this reptile,[124] the latter of which, as Dr. _Badham_ has
suggested, was probably the frog, as well from the epithet, as that he
ascribes deleterious powers only to the former. It is scarcely necessary
to observe that this ancient belief has descended into later times; we
find Sir _Thomas Browne_ treating such an opinion as one of the vulgar
errors; and we have before alluded to the legend of king _John_ having
been poisoned by a wassail bowl in which matter extracted from a living
toad was said to have been infused. In still later times, we have heard
of a barrel of beer poisoned by the same reptile having found its way
into it. _Borelli_ and _Valisnieri_ maintain that it is perfectly
harmless, and state that they had seen it eaten with impunity.
_Spielman_[125] expresses the same opinion, “_Minus recte itaque
effectus venenati a bufonibus metuuntur._” _Franck_,[126] on the
contrary, accuses _Gmelin_ of too much precipitancy in rejecting the
belief respecting toad-poison,[127] Modern naturalists recognise no
poisonous species of toad; even the most formidable of the species, to
appearance, that of Surinam, is said to be perfectly harmless.

If we may venture to offer a conjecture upon this subject, we are
inclined to consider the origin of this opinion to have been derived
from the frequency with which the toad entered into the composition of
spells or charms, into philtres or love potions, and which, like the bat
and the owl, most probably derived its magical character from the gloom
and solitude of its habitation. _Shakspeare_ has accordingly introduced
this reptile into the witches’ enchanted cauldron, in _Macbeth_.

                  “Round about the cauldron go;
                  In the poison’d entrails throw.
                  Toad that under coldest stone
                  Days and nights hast thirty-one
                  Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
                  Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!”

This opinion receives further strength when it is considered how
frequently poisons were administered under the insidious form of charms
or incantations.[128]

It has, however, been shewn by late experiments that the toad has, under
particular circumstances, the power of ejecting from the surface of the
body an acrid secretion which excoriates the hands of those that come in
contact with it; and this fact may perhaps have assisted in supporting
the general belief respecting the poisonous nature of this reptile.
_Pelletier_ has ascertained, that this corrosive matter, contained in
the vesicles which cover the skin of the common toad, (_Rana Bufo_) has
a yellow colour, and an oily consistence, and to consist of,—1st, an
acid partly united to a base, and constituting 1/20th part of the whole.
2d, very bitter fatty matter. 3d, an animal matter bearing some analogy
to gelatine.

It would also appear from the writings of _Dioscorides_, _Galen_,
_Nicander_, _Ætius_, _Ælian_, and _Pliny_, that the ancients derived a
very energetic poison from the Sea Hare, _Lepus Marinus_,—the _Aplysia
Depilans_ of _Linnæus_; and, if we may credit _Philostratus_, it was
with such a poison that _Titus_ was killed by _Domitian_.

There is, however, ample ground for supposing that the poisons of the
ancients were, for the most part, obtained from the vegetable kingdom,
and from the class of Narcotic plants;[129] that they were compounded of
a great variety of such ingredients, together with others that were
quite inert and useless, and which merely served to disguise their

Ancient writers also allude to the blood of the bullock as a poison;
_Themistocles_ is said by _Plutarch_ to have destroyed himself by this
fluid; and _Strabo_ states that _Midas_ died of drinking the hot blood
of this animal, which he did, as _Plutarch_ mentions, to free himself
from the numerous ill dreams which continually tormented him. Some
historians assign the death of _Hannibal_ to the same draught.

With respect to the poisons employed by _Tophana_, the Locusta of modern
days, and her infamous successors, there is less doubt; _Arsenic_,
_Corrosive Sublimate_, _Sugar of Lead_, and _Antimony_,[130] were
amongst the most powerful of their instruments of torture and death.
According to the declaration of the Emperor _Charles_ VII to his
physician _Garelli_, the _Aqua Toffania_ was a solution of arsenic in
_Aqua Cymbalariæ_.[131] Dr. _Hahneman_ considered its basis to have been
an arsenical salt. Others have, with little probability, regarded Opium
and Cantharides as the active ingredients. _Franck_,[132] speaking of
the _Aqua Toffania_, agrees with _Gmelin_,[133] that it is no other than
a solution of arsenic. The _Pulvis Successionis_, another instrument of
death, whose title announces the diabolical intention with which it was
administered, has been supposed to have been a preparation of lead;
while others have considered it to have consisted of diamond dust, and
to have acted mechanically.

Having thus noticed a few of the more remarkable and interesting
features in the literary history of Toxicology, we shall proceed to
consider the subject of Poisons, in relation to their operation.

A Poison, (_Toxicum_, _Venenum_, _Virus_), has been very correctly
defined by _Gmelin_ to be a substance which when administered
internally, or applied externally, in a small dose, impairs the health,
or destroys life. This definition is adopted by _Mead_, _Sproegel_,
_Plenck_, and _Tortosa_, and is to be preferred to every other,[134] not
only for its simplicity, but for its independence of any theory relative
to the _modus operandi_ of such agents. But it will be seen that, by
accepting this definition, we are necessarily led to admit the fact,
that poisoning may be acute, or chronic, that is to say, that it may at
once destroy life, or produce a disease which can be protracted to any
indefinite period. After the erroneous and vague notions which have been
entertained upon the subject of “_Slow poisons_,” it is highly essential
that the latitude of our belief should be accurately ascertained, and
the precise meaning of our terms defined.


1. _Slow Poisons._ According to the popular acceptation of the term,
they may be defined, _Substances which can be administered
imperceptibly; and a single dose of which will operate so gradually, as
to shorten life like a lingering disease; their force, at the same time,
admitting of so nice an adjustment as to enable the artist to occasion
death at any required period._ We have now to inquire how far such
alleged powers are consistent with the known laws of physiology. It
cannot be denied that certain substances have been introduced into the
alimentary canal, where they have remained for an indefinite period,
without occasioning the slightest inconvenience, and at length excited a
disease that has terminated fatally; in the _London Medical and Physical
Journal_ for February 1816, a case is related in which death was
occasioned by a chocolate-nut having lodged in the entrance of the
_Appendix Vermiformis_; and in the _Edinburgh Medical and Surgical
Journal_ for July 1816, we have an analogous case, communicated by Dr.
_Briggs_ of Liverpool, where the _Appendix cæci_ sphacelated, owing to
the irritation of a human tooth which was found sticking in its cavity.
Mr. _Children_ has lately communicated to the Royal Society a case where
a concretion in the colon produced death; upon examination it was found
to contain a plum-stone, as a nucleus, and to consist of a fine fibrous
vegetable substance, from the inner coat enveloping the farina of the
oat, and which was derived from the oatmeal upon which the deceased had
fed. (_Phil. Trans._ 1822.) However disposed we may feel, by a forced
construction of the term, to consider such agents as _slow_ poisons, it
is very evident that they can rarely have been made subservient to the
purposes of secret poisoning; although a case occurred in the practice
of the author,[136] in which a girl swallowed six copper pence for the
avowed purpose of destroying herself; the coin produced a disease which
remained chronic for a very considerable period, when, after a lapse of
five years, they were voided, and the young woman recovered. A similar
attempt was also made by _Theodore Gardelle_, after his conviction for
the murder of Mrs. _King_ (_vide ante_), he swallowed a number of
halfpence, for the purpose of destroying himself, but without any ill
effect. Dr. _Baillie_, in his ‘_Morbid Anatomy_,’ relates an instance
where five halfpence had been lodged in a pouch in the stomach for a
considerable time, without occasioning any irritation; and Mr. _A.
Thomson_ has also furnished us with two analogous cases in children, in
one of which the copper coin remained six months in the intestines, and
in the other, two months. These facts furnish sufficient data to enable
the practitioner to appreciate the degree of danger attendant upon such
agents, and to determine how far they can ever become successful
instruments in the hands of the assassin.[137]

But it has been supposed that certain bodies, as glass, enamel,
diamonds,[138] agates, smalt, &c. when administered in the form of
powder, so lacerate the membranes of the stomach, by the sharpness of
their particles, as slowly to destroy life; and upon the same principle,
it has been asserted, that human hair, chopped fine,[139] constitutes
the active ingredient of a slow poison frequently employed in Turkey,
and that it induces, by irritation, a chronic disease resembling cancer.
With respect to the danger arising from the ingestion of diamond dust,
enamel powder, powdered glass, and the like, there still may be said to
exist some difference of opinion. _Caldani_, _Mandruzzato_,[140] and M.
_Le Sauvage_, have reported experiments made upon men and inferior
animals, in which no bad consequences followed the administration of
such bodies; whereas _Schurigius_[141] and _Cardanus_[142] cite
instances where persons have died of ulcerations of the stomach from
such causes; and this opinion receives the support of _Plouquet_,[143]
_Stoll_,[144] _Gmelin_,[145] _Foderé_,[146] _Mahon_,[147] _Franck_,[148]
and many others. The modern pathologist will not find much difficulty in
reconciling such conflicting testimony. The experimentalist may
administer mechanical substances a thousand times without producing any
ill effects, while, under certain circumstances, the most trivial body
may lodge in the intestines and produce death; but surely the occasional
occurrence of such accidents ought not to confer the general title of
_poison_ upon the substances which may happen to produce them.

Having thus disposed of a considerable number of bodies, which have been
classed as _slow_ poisons, we may proceed to observe that most of the
other substances which have found a place in the same division, appear
to us to deserve consideration under a very different head, and that we
shall get rid of much obscurity by adopting the following arrangement.

2. _Consecutive Poisoning._ Where the patient, having recovered from the
acute effects occasioned by the ingestion of a single dose of poison,
_subsequently suffers a series of symptoms from the injured structure to
which it had given origin_. By referring to our definition of _slow_
poisoning, we shall at once perceive the striking and important
distinction between that and _Consecutive poisoning_. The following
case, related by M. _Orfila_, may serve as an illustration. _Maria
Ladan_ drank by mistake a spoonful of _Aqua fortis_, the most violent
symptoms supervened, but which by judicious treatment gradually
subsided, when at length she passed by stool a long membranous
substance, rolled up, and which represented the form of the æsophagus
and stomach, and which, in fact, was found to be the interior membrane
of these organs; from that moment the sensibility of the digestive
organs became excessive, and two months after the accident she
experienced a sudden shock and died. M. _Tartra_, in observing upon
cases of this kind, asserts that the symptoms produced at first by the
nitric acid decrease insensibly; and that at the end of a certain
period, the internal membrane of the digestive canal is struck with
death, and thrown off, and the person dies of a _Marasmus_.
_Fordyce_[149] relates the case of a woman who was subject to cholics
for the space of thirty years, in consequence of having _once_ taken an
infusion of the pulp of Colocynth prepared with beer. This was
undoubtedly an extraordinary instance of idiosyncrasy, but it is
probable that some organic lesion was occasioned by its operation, to
which the subsequent suffering is to be referred. We have hitherto only
considered the effects that may arise from the ingestion of a _single_
dose of poison, but there are numerous and very interesting cases in
which fatal results have been produced by the repetition of small doses
at various intervals. We therefore propose a third, and new subdivision
of our subject, viz.

3. _Accumulative Poisoning._—By the repeated administration of a
substance, in doses, of which no single one could occasion harm; but
which, by gradually accumulating in the system, ultimately occasions
disease, and death.

The familiar operation of mercury will at once suggest itself to the
Physician, as a striking illustration of that species of poisoning which
we have ventured to name _Accumulative_, and to the forensic student the
effects of this metal, in reference to such a quality, will form a more
than ordinary object of interest, as involving questions which have
frequently embarrassed judicial inquiry; as, for instance, _Whether it
can lie dormant any considerable time without betraying its effects upon
the constitution_, and, having displayed its powers, and the symptoms
having subsided, viz. salivation, &c. _Whether they can be renewed
without a fresh application of the substance?_ See Corrosive sublimate.

To how many substances this power of accumulation extends is at present
not well understood. It may occur in those that act by absorption, and
in those whose action is wholly local. Arsenic, digitalis, and several
of the narcotic plants, as hemlock, may undoubtedly occasion serious
mischief in this manner, as the author has more fully explained in
another work,[150] and we have lately heard of several fatal cases
arising from accumulated masses of magnesia in the _primæ viæ_, from the
habitual use of small doses of that earth.

The history of many of the arts, especially those of metallurgy, would
furnish also abundant examples of this kind of poisoning.

These few facts are we trust sufficient to authorise the foregoing
arrangement, and we apprehend that the adoption of the distinctions,
upon which it is founded, will be of great service in establishing fixed
and definite notions with regard to the _chronic_ operation of poisons.
It may perhaps be useful to present the reader with a synoptical
recapitulation of the subject.

  _A Slow Poison._ A single dose is sufficient; which produces upon its
    administration no sensible effect, but gradually undermines the

  _A Consecutive Poison._ A single dose is sufficient; producing the
    most violent symptoms, very shortly after its ingestion, but which
    gradually subside, and the patient is supposed cured; when, at some
    future period, death takes place from the organic lesions that had
    been occasioned.

  _An Accumulative Poison._ Many doses are required; the effects being
    produced by the repetition of doses which would, _individually_, be

There still remains another point of view in which it is essential to
regard the operation of a poison, in order to establish a distinction
between those substances which, in a given dose, will destroy life under
every circumstance of constitution, and those which occasion death in
consequence of some constitutional peculiarity in the individual to whom
they may have been administered, and which are innocuous to the general
mass of mankind; the gradations by which food, medicine, and poison, are
thus enabled to branch into each other cannot be defined, because the
circumstances with which they are related, defy generalization. The
distinction, however, must be acknowledged and preserved, and we know no
terms better adapted for expressing it than those of _Absolute_ and
_Relative_ poisons; and our readers are accordingly requested to receive
them in conformity with this explanation, whenever they occur in the
following pages. Every work professing to treat the subject of Poisons,
abounds with instances, in which articles that, by universal consent,
are considered innocuous, have occasioned the most direful effects.
_Morgagni_ relates a case of a person who died from eating bread made
with the farina of the chesnut. Dr. _Winterbottom_[151] says that he is
subject to severe nettle-rash after eating sweet almonds. _Schenkius_
relates a case in which the general law of astringents and cathartics
was always reversed. _Donatus_ tells us of a boy whose jaws swelled,
whose face broke out in spots, and whose lips frothed, whenever he eat
an egg: we might add many more examples, but it is needless to encumber
a subject with illustrations which is already so obvious and
indisputable. Nor do the anomalies of constitutional idiosyncrasies end
here, for they not only convert food into poison, but they change poison
into food, or at least, into a harmless repast. The most extraordinary
exemplification of this on record is contained in the history of the old
man at Constantinople, as related by M. _Pouqueville_, physician to the
French army in Egypt, and who was a prisoner at Constantinople in the
year 1798[152]. “This man,” says he, “was well known all over
Constantinople, by the name of _Suleyman Yeyen_, or _Suleyman, the taker
of corrosive sublimate_. At the epoch when I was there he was supposed
to be nearly a hundred years old, having lived under the Sultans
_Achmet_ III, _Abdul Hamet_, and _Selim_ III. He had in early life
habituated himself to taking opium; but, notwithstanding that he
constantly increased the dose, he ceased to feel from it the desired
effect, and then tried sublimate, the effects of which he had heard
highly spoken of; for thirty years this old man never ceased to take it
daily, and the quantity he could now bear exceeded a drachm. It is said,
at this epoch he came into the shop of a Jewish apothecary, and asked
for a drachm of sublimate, which he swallowed immediately, having first
mixed it in a glass of water. The apothecary, terrified, and fearing
that he should be accused of poisoning a Turk, immediately shut up his
shop, reproaching himself bitterly with what he had done; but his
surprise was very great, when, the next day, the Turk came again, and
asked for a like dose of sublimate.”

Morbid states of the body may also exist which are capable of resisting,
to a certain extent, or of modifying, the violent operation of
particular poisons. In the history of the Royal Academy of Sciences for
1703, a case is related of a woman, who being tired out by a protracted
dropsy, under which her husband had suffered, _charitably_ administered
to him fifteen or twenty grains of opium with the intention of
despatching him; but the dose immediately produced such copious
evacuations by sweat and urine, that it restored him to health. This
relation will immediately recal to the recollection of the classical
reader the story, recorded by _Plutarch_, in his life of _Crassus_, of
_Hyrodes_ king of the Parthians, who having fallen into a dropsical
complaint had poison (_Aconite_) administered to him by his second son,
_Phraates_, but which, instead of destroying the king, as intended,
cured his disease. The son, however, having thus failed in his attempt,
shortly afterwards smothered his father with his pillow.

                            GENERAL REMARKS


Although the phenomena by which we are enabled to discover the
administration of poison, will be fully enumerated, and carefully
examined, under the history of each particular substance, and will
necessarily vary according to the chemical properties, and physiological
action of each individual poison; yet there are some general points of
evidence, and several questions of importance, upon which it is very
essential to arrive at some definite conclusion, some fixed
understanding, before we proceed to the consideration of the particular
details, and subordinate ramifications, of this complicated subject.

The great constituents which form the medical proof of poisoning, are
derived from Chemical, Anatomical, and Pathological researches; viz.—the
existence of poison in the stomach or intestines; the morbid
appearances, corresponding to such poison, upon dissection; and the
characteristic symptoms which accompanied the action of it, previous to
death. Where these circumstances occur in combination, the demonstration
may be said to be complete, for we have arrived at absolute certainty.

But scientific evidence, short of such perfection, may be amply
sufficient to lead to conviction. The fact of a poison having been found
in the body may supersede the necessity of pathological testimony: thus
_Hoffman_,[153] “_Si venenum adhuc intra ventriculum reperitur, res est
clarissima, ubi vero, illud haud deprehenditur, res adhuc dubii plena
est._” We shall hereafter find that the discovery of organic lesions,
without the chemical proof (“_experimentum crucis_[154]”) is often
vague, and seldom satisfactory, and that even when sanctioned by the
testimony of the pathologist, will frequently be deemed insufficient to
sustain an indictment, unless indeed it be collaterally supported by a
very strong chain of circumstantial evidence of a moral nature,
especially such as relates to the character, conduct, and presumed
object of the prisoner.

As the duty of the medical witness, upon such occasions, must always be
anxious, and generally perplexing, it becomes our duty at least to clear
away those adventitious difficulties with which ignorance on the one
hand, and sophistry on the other, have obstructed a path of inquiry,
which, from its very nature and direction, must necessarily be obscure
and intricate.

We shall endeavour upon this, as we have upon similar occasions, to
bring the more leading and popular points of controversy within the
scope of a few prominent questions, assigning to each a share of
attention, commensurate with our idea of its importance.

  Q. 1. _Whether all, or most of the symptoms, characteristic of the
    action of corrosive and narcotic poisons, may not arise from morbid
    causes of spontaneous origin?_

  Q. 2. _Whether organic lesions, similar to those produced by
    poisoning, may not occasionally result from natural causes?_

  Q. 3. _Whether the rapid progress of putrefaction, in the body
    generally, or in any particular part, is to be considered as
    affording any presumptive evidence, in favour of a suspicion of

  Q. 4. _How far the absence of poison, or the inability of the chemist
    to detect it, in the body, or in the fluids ejected from it, is to
    be considered as a negative to an accusation of poisoning?_

  Q. 5. _What degree of information can be derived from administering
    the contents of the stomach of a person supposed to have been
    poisoned, to dogs, or other inferior animals?_

We shall now consider these questions in succession.

   Q. 1. _Whether all, or most of the symptoms, characteristic of the
  action of corrosive and narcotic poisons, may not arise from morbid
                     causes of spontaneous origin?_

It must be admitted that the symptoms produced by violent irritation in
the primæ viæ, are not characterised by a diversity, corresponding with
that of the causes which may excite it; thus it is, that we have a
disease to which the term “_cholera_” has been assigned, and which is
indicated by the following symptoms, “_Humoris biliosi vomitus, ejusdem
simul dejectio frequens; anxietas; tormina; surarum spasmata_,” (Cullen
Syn: LX. 1.) symptoms which supervene, and with nearly the same force,
the spontaneous effusion of acrid bile into the intestines, and the
ingestion of some acrid poison; and hence the nosologist has very
properly divided _cholera_ into two species, viz.

C. _Spontanea_, “Tempestate calida, sine causa manifesta oboriens.”

C. _Accidentalis_, “A rebus acribus ingestis.”

The problem therefore for solution, is the mode of distinguishing the
two species from each other. Although the leading characters are, as we
have said, the same in both, such as bilious vomiting, and purging,
violent tormina of the bowels, cold sweats, cramps, faintings, and
death, yet by a careful and circumstantial examination of the case, the
intelligent practitioner will generally be enabled to arrive at a
probable conjecture; the season of the year[155], the prevailing
epidemics, the age[156] and constitutional predisposition of the
patient, his habit with respect to diet, are circumstances which will
greatly assist the diagnosis. The progress of cholera morbus is also
rarely, or never, fatal in this climate, especially in so short a period
as that in which death occurs from the operation of a violent, corrosive
poison.[157] There are besides in this latter case, very frequently
other symptoms which do not attend _cholera spontanea_,[158] such as
sanguineous vomiting, extreme burnings in the æsophagus and region of
the stomach, swollen countenance, great dryness and tumefaction of the
fauces, peculiar fætor of the breath, ischuria, with discharges of
bloody urine, and ulcerations about the fundament[159]; this latter
symptom was particularly remarkable in the case of _Mr. Blandy_, whose
history, as related by his physician, _Dr. Addington_, will be found in
our _Appendix_, _p._ 236, and well deserves the attentive consideration
of the medical jurist. The matter voided will also sometimes lead to a
just diagnosis; in the true cholera _spontanea_ there is a discharge of
almost pure bile by vomiting and stool, simultaneously or alternately;
now, although the same vomiting and purging may arise from the action of
a poison, yet it does not follow that the matter discharged is bilious.
The evidence delivered on the extraordinary trial of _Donnall_, for the
wilful murder of his mother-in-law, _Mrs. Elizabeth Downing_, has been
also printed in the _Appendix_, as well illustrating those doubts with
which the present question is naturally encompassed. An opinion has
existed that the appearance of jaundice during, or after the severe
symptoms of _cholera_, offers a satisfactory proof of its spontaneous
origin. Upon this point we would observe, that by violent and protracted
retching a person may sometimes become jaundiced, a circumstance not
unlikely to occur in cases of poisoning. The stomach, diaphragm, and
abdominal muscles are, under such repeated efforts, very apt to be
rendered eminently irritable, so that at each effort of the former to
discharge its contents, the latter will frequently be simultaneously
thrown into strong spasmodic contractions, and the liver, together with
the gall-bladder, will be suddenly caught, and, as it were, tightly
squeezed in a powerful press, in consequence of which the bile will
regurgitate, and be carried into the _venæ cavæ_; for _Haller_ has shewn
with what facility a subtle injection, when thrown into the hepatic
duct, will escape by the hepatic veins; upon which _Dr. Saunders_ has
made the following remark, “I know this to be a fact, for I have
ascertained by experiment, that water, injected in the same direction,
will return by the veins in a full stream, although very little force is

The fact of the bile becoming, under certain circumstances, highly acrid
and deleterious, has been seized by the humoral pathologist as a
powerful argument in support of his doctrines. Amongst the more
distinguished authors who have fully treated this subject, and
maintained that our secretions may thus become acrid poisons, we have
_Galen_[160], _Aretæus_[161], _Fernelius_[162], _Morgagni_[163],
_Hebenstreit_[164], _Hilchen_[165], _Hoffman_[166], _Baumer_[167],
_Belloc_[168], _Alibert_[169], _Foderé_[170], _Mahon_[171], _De la
Mettrie_[172], and _Tronchin_[173]. Some of the authors above enumerated
have expressed their opinions in the strongest terms; thus _Morgagni_
(loco citato) “_Facile agnosco a prava ipsa corporis dispositione
internum aliquando posse venenum gigni_;” and _Hebenstreit_ observes,
“_Possunt omnino in corpore venena nasci, atque ipsi humores vitales vim
vasa sua destruendi sæpe acquirunt._[174]” _Hilchen_, after attempting
to establish a diagnosis between the effects of poison, and those
arising from a morbid degeneracy of the fluids, exclaims, apparently in
despair, “_Inquilinos corruptosque humani corporis humores, eum
acrimoniæ gradum, eamque corrodendi vim acquirere posse, quæ eosdem edat
effectus, quos venena corrosiva sistunt, eamdem sordium vomitu
rejectarum putrilaginem, fætorem, haud dissimilem, et acerrimam, et
pelves arrodentem acrimoniam certum est._” And _Plouquet_, after
describing all the phenomena of poisoning, concludes by acknowledging
“_Probe autem notandum hæc omnia etiam ex aliis statibus morbosis nasci
posse._” _De la Mettrie_ also has observed upon this question, “_Il est
prouvé que la bile se peut changer dans nos corps en espece d’Arsenic!_”
Our own countryman, _Dr. Currie_[175], has furnished the public with an
opinion upon the subject under discussion, and he states his belief
that, under a peculiar state of irritation, the biliary organs may
secrete a bile of so very acrid a nature as to excite an almost
immediately fatal impression upon the alimentary canal, especially when
suddenly effused, and in a highly concentrated form.

We have deemed it right to adduce these various authorities, in relation
to the important question before us, still, however, reserving our
opinion, that the physician will on such occasions, by means of the
subsidiary sources of discrimination above enumerated, generally be
enabled to form a diagnosis[176] which, although it may not amount to
certainty, must be considered as capable of increasing the weight of the
general mass of circumstantial evidence.

As the medical treatment to be adopted in cases of acute disease, or
poisoning, can hardly be considered a subject of Medical Jurisprudence,
we should have passed it over in silence, did not the evidence delivered
upon the trial of Donnall imperiously call upon us for some
animadversion; and we feel it our painful duty upon this occasion to
observe, that the whole tenor of the medical defence displayed a very
unbecoming contest; the witnesses conducted themselves like advocates,
raising doubts, and defending their positions with a pertinacity that
belongs to those who seek triumph rather than truth.

In the cure of cholera the experience of the physicians of all ages
wholly concurs. In the commencement of the disease the evacuation of the
redundant bile is to be favoured by the plentiful exhibition of mild
diluents, and after the redundant bile has been thus eliminated, or when
the spasmodic affections of the alimentary canal become dangerously
violent, opiates, in sufficiently large doses, but in small bulk, may be
administered. To employ evacuants, as _Sydenham_ quaintly observes, “is
to increase the disturbance, and as it were, to endeavour to quench fire
by oil; and on the other hand, to commence with opiates is shutting up
the enemy in the bowels.” Under such authority, we presume, one of the
witnesses in the defence of Donnall, felt justified in condemning the
practice of the respectable physician who attended the deceased
(_Appendix, p._ 304); but we here see a witness assuming as a fact, what
was never proved in evidence, and then deducing conclusions from it.
_Dr. Edwards_ informed the court that “there were no symptoms of cholera
morbus when _he_ saw Mrs. Downing; but from what _he_ heard of her
complaint, he imagined that there was something offensive either in the
stomach or bowels, which ought to be evacuated.” (_Ibid. p._ 286.)

Nor are the symptoms produced by the operation of narcotic poisons so
distinct as to escape the possibility of being confounded with those of
spontaneous disease. They may, for instance, simulate those of apoplexy,
or epilepsy; but the history of the case, the odour of the breath, and
the subsequent examination of the body after death, will generally clear
up the difficulties which may at first present themselves. But we shall
have occasion to consider this subject hereafter; the difficulties of
the case are well illustrated by the evidence on the trial of
_Donellan_, for the murder of _Sir Theodosius Boughton_, with laurel
water, for which see _Appendix, p._ 243.

Before we quit the subject which involves the consideration of our
fluids degenerating, under particular circumstances, into poisons, we
may just notice the opinion of some foreign chemists, that in certain
diseases the _Prussic acid_[177] is generated in some of the fluids of
the animal body. We are not inclined to accede to this proposition,
because during life we do not think the chemical decompositions, known
to be necessary for the production of this substance, can ever take
place. At all events, it must be preceded by a state of the system which
would necessarily prevent the chance of any medico-judicial fallacy.

Q. II. _Whether organic lesions, similar to those produced by poisoning,
           may not occasionally result from natural causes?_

In entertaining this question, we are prepared to meet with numerous
alleged difficulties; but as many of them appear to have arisen, rather
from the ignorance or carelessness of the operator, than from the
natural obscurity of the subject itself, we are inclined to hope that by
getting rid of the former source of fallacy, we shall be enabled to
examine with some satisfaction and advantage, those which, in a greater
or less degree, will be liable to baffle the researches of the more
experienced anatomist.

Such are the changes which an animal body undergoes after death, that
unless the anatomist be intimately acquainted with their nature and
extent, it is impossible that he should be able to derive any safe
conclusions from his dissection; thus, said _Mr. John Hunter_, we may
see appearances which are natural, and may suppose them to have arisen
from disease; we may see diseased parts, and suppose them to be in a
natural state, and we may suppose a circumstance to have existed before
death, which was, in reality, a consequence of it; or we may imagine it
to be a natural change after death, when it was truly a disease of the
living body. It is not difficult, therefore, to perceive, how a person
in such a state of ignorance must blunder, when he attempts to connect
the appearances in the dead body, with the symptoms that were observed
during life; and indeed it may be safely asserted, that the great
utility of anatomical inspections depends upon the accuracy, judgment,
and sagacity with which such comparisons are made. In our chapter, on
the art of conducting dissections, we have endeavoured to point out each
fallacy which is likely to present itself to the inexperienced
anatomist, we shall therefore confine ourselves, on the present
occasion, to the consideration of those points whose obscurity must be
admitted to belong intrinsically to the subject, and to be wholly
independent of the ignorance or skill of the dissector.

Amongst the signs of the action of poison on the human body, disclosed
by the light of dissection, the separation of the villous coat of the
stomach has been generally considered the most certain criterion.
_Hebenstreit_, whose opinion has been adopted by _Mahon_, and many other
forensic physicians, has delivered his unreserved judgment upon the
question, in the following emphatic sentence. “_Præterea sola atque
infallibilis deglutiti veneni nota est, separata et veluti decorticata
simulque cruenta interna ventriculi tunica: nam separatio ista supponit
applicatam superficiei internæ ventriculi materiam fervidam, igni
similem, quæ tunicam istam a substrata solvit vasculari nervea._”[178]
In opposition to such an opinion, it is our duty to state that several
cases stand recorded[179] in which the detachment of the villous coat of
the stomach and intestines has taken place, without the slightest ground
to suspect the administration of poison, while many vegetable poisons
destroy life without occasioning any inflammation in the _primæ viæ_,
and consequently leave no traces of disorganization. But there still
remains another source of fallacy connected with the present question
which demands a full and impartial inquiry, viz. that the gastric juice,
by its action upon the dead stomach, can occasion such changes in
structure, as may be mistaken for the effects of a corrosive poison;
these changes are according to circumstances liable to vary in every
possible degree of intensity, from the slight erosion of the interior
villous coat of the stomach, as displayed by the smooth, thin, and more
transparent condition of that viscus, to the destruction of all its
membranes, and the production of large perforations in its great
extremity. This phenomenon, the nature of which was first explained by
_Mr. John Hunter_[180], depends upon the gastric juice, which the
stomach secreted during life, becoming its solvent after death. Amongst
the endless proofs which the history of the animal economy affords of
that universal law by which chemical and vital forces are wisely
preserved in a state of perpetual hostility, there is no illustration
more striking and satisfactory, than that which is furnished by the
phenomenon in question. If animals, or parts of animals, while possessed
of the living principle, be taken into the stomach, they are not in the
least affected by the solvent powers of its juices; thence it is that we
so constantly find animals of various kinds living in the stomach, or
even being hatched and bred there; but no sooner do these animals lose
the living principle, than they become subject to the digestive powers
of the stomach, and are accordingly dissolved, and assimilated. If it
were possible, says _Mr. Hunter_, for a man’s hand to be introduced into
the stomach of a living animal, and kept there for some considerable
time, it would be found that the dissolvent powers of the stomach could
produce no impression upon it; but if the same hand were separated from
the body, and introduced into the same stomach, we should then find that
this organ would immediately act upon it. _Spallanzani_, with a patience
that almost wearies his readers, made many attempts at dissolving the
stomach by its own juice, but succeeded satisfactorily in none; he
proved, however, two important facts, _first_, that the process of
digestion, or more correctly speaking, of solution, continues after
death; and _secondly_, that the stomach itself is digestible. The truth
of the first he demonstrated by introducing food into the stomach, after
he had killed his animal; and that of the second, by giving the stomach
of one dog to be devoured by another. The fact then is clearly
established, that the stomach, after death, may be dissolved by its own
juice[181]; and this may exist in its cavity, or be retained in the
vessels which had secreted it. It remains for us then to examine the
circumstances under which it is likely to occur, and the appearance by
which it may be distinguished; and we may here be allowed to observe
with an ingenious writer,[182] that were these points merely of a
speculative nature, or were their decision a matter of mere curiosity,
it would be idle to consume so much valuable time in their discussion;
but when we remember that they are questions upon which the medical
practitioner may be called upon to deliver a solemn opinion, in order to
determine the fate of a criminal, they undoubtedly demand the highest
attention of those who profess to aid the administration of Justice, by
the lights of science. We have, therefore, first to inquire into _the
circumstances under which this natural erosion of the stomach is known
to take place_. _Mr. John Hunter_[183] details the history of three
examples, in which the stomach was considerably perforated. Two of the
men had died shortly after having their skulls fractured, and the third
was a man who had been hanged, so that in each of these cases the person
had been deprived of life by violence; whence _Dr. Adams_[184] inferred,
that _Mr. Hunter_ limited the action of the gastric juice on the stomach
to such as died from violent and sudden causes; and many physiologists
have, accordingly, supposed that solution of the coats of the stomach
never takes place, except where the person has died suddenly; this,
however, is an inference, as _Mr. Burns_[185] has very justly observed,
“by no means warranted by the general tenour of _Mr. Hunter’s_ essay,”
indeed he expressly states, that “there are few dead bodies in which the
stomach is not, _at its great end_, in some degree digested;” “and any
one,” continues _Mr. Hunter_, “who is acquainted with the art of
dissection, can easily trace the gradations from the smallest to the
greatest.” The consideration of the vast importance of this fact, and
frequent opportunities of investigating the subject, induced _Mr. Burns_
to collect the observations which he had made during the dissection of
those bodies in which he found the stomach digested; and these
observations, he informs us, have led him to conclude, that the
phenomenon in question is neither so rare in its occurrence as some have
imagined, nor confined to such subjects as had been, previous to death,
in a healthy condition; they have also convinced him, that other parts
of the stomach, besides the large end, may be occasionally acted on by
the gastric juice. “That the digestion of the coats of the stomach after
death is not a very rare occurrence, I think myself authorised to infer,
from my having examined nine bodies in which the solution had proceeded
to such an extent as to have made holes of considerable size through
that viscus; and, besides these nine instances in which the digestion of
part of the stomach was complete, I have had occasion to see, in opening
this viscus, various degrees of dissolution of its villous coat.”[186]

In three of the instances alluded to by _Mr. Burns_, the patients had
been worn out by debilitating diseases; and they were emaciated and
anasarcous. That the solution of the coats of the stomach in these cases
was properly attributed to the gastric juice is very satisfactorily
shewn by the relation of the following instructive dissection. “I had
occasion,” says _Mr. Burns_, “two days after death, to open the body of
a very emaciated and anasarcous young girl, who had died from scrofulous
enlargement of the mesenteric glands. On raising the coverings of the
abdomen, the stomach, which was empty, presented itself to view, _with
its front dissolved_.[187] The aperture was of an oblong shape, about
two inches in its long diameter, and an inch in its short, with tender,
flocculent, and pulpy edges. This I demonstrated to the pupils attending
my class; and I especially called their attention to the fact, that the
liver, which was in contact with the hole, had no impression made on it.
Having proceeded thus far, I placed all the parts as they had been,
stitched up the abdomen, and laid the body aside in a cold situation for
two days. Then I opened it again, in presence of the same gentlemen, and
we found that, now, _the liver, where it lay over the dissolved part of
the stomach, was pulpy; its peritoneal coat was completely dissolved,
and its substance was tender to a considerable depth_. At this time the
other parts of the liver were equally solid as before, and as yet every
part of the subject was free from putrefaction; _the posterior face of
the stomach, opposite to the hole, was dissolved, all except the
peritoneal coat, at least the internal coats were rendered pulpy and
glutinous; the peritoneal covering had become spongy and more
transparent than it ought to have been_.” These facts, in addition to
the many other important conclusions to which they will give rise,
admonish us, that in judicial investigations into the cause of
dissolution of the coats of the stomach, _the appearances will vary,
according to the period after death at which the body is examined_. But
the most satisfactory case which has been reported, in proof that the
_post mortem_ solution of the stomach may occur after a lingering
disease, is that just published by _Dr. Haviland_,[188] where the
patient died of fever after an illness of 22 days; when upon opening the
body about 12 hours after death, the following appearances were noticed:
“On raising the stomach and examining the little omentum, we were
surprised by the appearance of a dark-coloured fluid, which seemed to
escape from the former viscus. A most careful search was now made, and a
large opening was perceived in the stomach on the upper and back part,
near the cardia. The stomach was then detached, with a portion of the
œsophagus and duodenum, when a large perforation of the diaphragm came
into view, in the muscular part, corresponding precisely to, and
communicating with, the hole in the stomach; so that a portion of the
contents of the latter organ had escaped into the cavity of the chest.
This part of the diaphragm was next removed. A careful examination of
the other abdominal and thoracic viscera did not lead to the detection
of the slightest diseased appearance. There was no where the smallest
evidence of previous inflammation, no adhesions or ulcerations of any
part of the viscera. The fluid which had escaped appeared to be nothing
more than the contents of the stomach, of which the wine and water[189]
formed a part, and probably gave it its dark colour. The stomach, on
being examined after its removal from the body, afforded the following
observations. The mucous membrane appeared to be more red and vascular
than usual throughout its whole extent, and, here and there, were small
spots of what seemed to be extravasated blood, lying below the mucous
coat—for these spots were not to be washed off, nor to be removed by the
edge of the scalpel. There were two holes in the stomach, the larger
very near to the cardiac end of the small curvature, and on the
posterior surface: this was more than an inch in length, and about half
that breadth; the other not far from the former, also on the posterior
surface, about the size of a sixpence. The edges of these holes were
smooth, well defined, and slightly elevated. The coats of the stomach
were thin in many other spots, and in one in particular nothing was left
but the peritoneum, the mucous and muscular coats being entirely
destroyed. The hole in the diaphragm was through the muscular portion,
where it is of considerable thickness, and was large enough to admit the
end of the finger. There was no appearance of ulceration or of pus
adhering to the edges of this perforation of the diaphragm.” We have
extracted a full account of this dissection, as the case is in itself
truly interesting. The symptoms of the patient had been carefully
watched, and no pain, or uneasiness was ever heard of, throughout the
whole course of the disease, except in the head.

The powers of the stomach, as it would appear from the report, had
suddenly revived at about twelve hours before his death, for “he asked
for food, and swallowed a few spoonsfull of calves’-foot jelly with
apparent relish.” May we not then conclude by observing, that the facts
above related very satisfactorily corroborate the truth of the corollary
deduced by _Mr. Burns_, “that the digestion of the coats of the stomach
may take place under two very different conditions of the body; that
although such solution is most frequent in those who have been suddenly
deprived of life, when in full health, that it is not confined to those
alone, but does, under certain circumstances, occur in those who have
died from lingering diseases.”

Having then shewn under what circumstances the phenomenon in question
may take place, we shall now proceed to describe more minutely the
appearances which it may assume, and _first, with respect to the part of
the stomach, more usually acted upon by the gastric solvent_. _Mr.
Hunter_ thought, that digestion of the stomach after death was
occasioned by that portion of the gastric juice _contained in the
cavity_ of the stomach; consequently it followed, as a fair inference
from this doctrine, that the coats of this viscus will only be acted on
at that part on which the contents of the stomach rested. In _Mr.
Hunter’s_ cases, the great end of the stomach, which in the supine
position of the body is the most depending part of this viscus, was
found to be chiefly affected; a fact which tended to corroborate and
support his opinion, and to render his conjecture extremely probable.
Other anatomists, however, have discovered instances of solution of
other parts of the stomach than the great end, indeed we have already
described such an instance in the case of the emaciated and anasarcous
girl examined by _Mr. Burns_, where the situation of the aperture was
different from what it had been in any of _Mr. Hunter’s_ cases. It was
seated _on the fore-part_ of the stomach, about an inch distant from the
pylorus, and mid-way between the smaller and greater curvatures of this
viscus; at a part of the stomach with which the gastric juice _could not
have come into contact_, as the body had constantly been in the supine
posture. “If then,” asks _Mr. Burns_, “the stomach was not acted on by
the fluid contained in its cavity, how came it to be dissolved?” To us
we confess his solution of the problem appears sensible and
satisfactory. “We cannot, with propriety, ascribe the digestion of the
stomach, in every case, to the gastric juice which has been _poured into
the cavity_ of that viscus; we are more properly in some instances to
refer it to the action of the fluid _retained in the vessels_ which had
secreted it.” If this be admitted as a correct explanation of the fact,
we shall cease to have any difficulty in accounting for the dissolution
of other parts of this viscus besides the large end. We shall learn that
the part acted on must vary, according to the place of the stomach where
the gastric juice is retained in the apparatus which secreted it, and
thus we shall be enabled to explain some cases, which, at present, seem
to be in opposition to the observation of _Mr. Hunter_.

With respect to the appearances, which such erosions assume, some
difference of opinion has also unfortunately existed. _Mr. Hunter_ has
asserted that “there are very few dead bodies, in which the stomach is
not, _at its great end_, in some degree digested; and the anatomist,”
says he, “who is acquainted with dissections can easily trace the
gradations from the smallest to the greatest. To be sensible of this
effect, nothing more is necessary than to compare the inner surface of
the great end of the stomach, with any other part of the inner surface;
what is sound will appear soft, spongy, and granulated, and without
distinct blood-vessels, opaque, and thick, while the other will appear
smooth, thin, and more transparent, and the vessels will be seen
ramifying in its surface; and upon squeezing the blood which they
contain, from the larger to the smaller branches, it will be found to
pass out at the digested ends of the vessels, and appear like drops on
the inner surface.” This condition, however, of the vessels does not
invariably accompany such solution. In three of the subjects dissected
by _Mr. Burns_, there was no appearance of vessels ramifying on the
coats of the stomach. To account for the absence of this vascular
appearance several explanations have been attempted; “but we are not,”
says _Mr. Burns_, “to regard the cause of this deviation from _Mr.
Hunter’s_ description, as depending upon the particular part of the
stomach acted on in the different cases; neither are we to imagine that
the stage of the process at which we examine the body will assist us in
this investigation; we are rather to obtain an explanation of this fact,
from contemplating the difference of condition of the different
individuals at the time of death; the subjects, whose cases are detailed
by _Mr. Hunter_, were persons cut off by violence, in the plenitude of
health, their stomachs at the time excited by the stimulus of food to
vigorous action, and the process of digestion at the instant of death
going on briskly, circumstances under which it is reasonable to infer
that all the blood-vessels would be filled with blood, which it is
evident, from the nature of the causes depriving them of life, would be
detained in the veins. This being the state of his subjects at the
moment of death, we shall not wonder that, when he afterwards opened the
bodies, he could squeeze the blood from the digested ends of the
vessels.” This is certainly an ingenious explanation, and receives
considerable support from the important fact of the stomach presenting a
very high degree of vascularity, in cases of sudden death, as
exemplified by _Dr. Yelloly_[190] in his account of the appearances
found in the stomachs of several executed criminals soon after they had
undergone the sentence of the law. So also has dissection disclosed the
same phenomena, in those cases where life has been suddenly extinguished
by a blow on the region of the stomach; inflammation, in such instances,
is necessarily out of the question, for death is immediate; the red and
inflamed appearance therefore of the stomach can alone be accounted for
by regarding it as the effect of the sudden cessation of the heart,
producing an accumulation of the blood in the extreme arterial branches.
But what shall we say of _Dr. Haviland’s_ case? so far from the patient
dying suddenly, and in the plenitude of health, he expired after a
lingering illness of three weeks, and yet, upon dissection, the stomach
was found _highly vascular_. This is in direct opposition to the theory
of _Mr. Burns_, and, we must confess, is not a little embarrassing.
Where the gastric solution has proceeded so far as to produce
perforations in its coats, _Mr. Hunter_ states that, “the contents of
the stomach are generally found loose in the cavity of the abdomen,
about the spleen and diaphragm; and that in many subjects this digestive
power extends much farther than through the stomach. I have often
found,” says he, “that after it had dissolved the stomach at the usual
place, the contents had come into contact with the spleen and diaphragm,
and had partly dissolved the spleen, &c.” With respect to the appearance
of the gastric perforations, _Mr. Hunter_ characterises them as having
“their edges apparently half dissolved, very much resembling that kind
of dissolution which fleshy parts undergo when half digested in a living
stomach, viz. pulpy, tender, and ragged.”

As certain corrosive poisons will occasionally produce such organic
lesions in the stomach, as lead to perforations in its membranes, a
question naturally arises, _how are we to distinguish such
disorganizations, produced by causes acting during life, from those
which result from solution after death_? To this we may at once return a
general answer, that in a judicial investigation, we ought not to
attribute erosion of the stomach to poison, except it be accompanied by
evident marks of previous inflammation and reaction, or with gangrenous
appearances; unless indeed the poisonous substance be found in the
stomach, or the symptoms, previous to death, be characteristic and
satisfactory. It has been stated that the edges of the natural
perforation are “pulpy, tender, and ragged,” whereas those produced by
the caustic action of a poison will generally be found well defined, and
of the same thickness as any other part of the stomach. But let it be
remembered, that, after all, it is upon the detection of poisonous
matter in the stomach, that the prudent physician will place his great
reliance. We have thus offered a review of the different opinions which
have been entertained upon this important question, and in conclusion we
may observe, that there will necessarily exist in each particular case,
circumstances which no general views can comprehend, and upon which the
practitioner must exercise his judgment and discretion. It is not our
intention at present to enter fully into the several questions which
were raised on the memorable trial of _Charles Angus_ for the murder of
_Margaret Burns_, but as we have already very frequently alluded to the
medical evidence delivered on this occasion, and as we shall hereafter
be called upon to notice some of its more striking features, we have
subjoined a report of the trial, and of the unhappy and ill-conducted
controversy to which it has given origin.[191] Whether the holes in the
stomach were the effects of corrosive poison or of that solvent action
after death, which we have just endeavoured to explain, must remain a
matter of doubt, for the erosion in this case was so considerable, and
the inflammation so slight, that it is impossible to assert that they
both depended on the same cause.

With respect to the possibility of confounding the appearances of
gangrene, in the stomach, with those of putrefaction, some notice is
necessary in this place; and we cannot better illustrate the subject,
than by introducing the marks of discrimination which are considered by
_Mahon_[192] as decisive upon such occasions. The spots in the stomach,
resulting from putrefaction, says he, may be distinguished from those
which have resulted from violent causes, during life, in the following
manner. If the stomach retain its natural colour, and the spots are
mixed with a red hue, or the ulcers have pale, or bright red edges, such
have been the effect of some violent impression upon the living
membrane; whereas, on the contrary, if the stomach be pale, livid, or
green, and exhibit spots of the same colour, but of rather a deeper hue,
we may safely conclude that they are the genuine phenomena of
putrefaction. See the interesting account of the dissection of _William
Mitchell_, p. 191.

    Q. 3. _Whether the rapid progress of putrefaction, in the body,
 generally, or in any particular part, is to be considered as affording
    presumptive evidence, in support of an accusation of poisoning?_

There are few opinions more popular than that which considers the speedy
putrefaction of the body as the universal and never failing consequence
of poisoning. To appreciate, however, the true value of such an
indication, and to avoid the fallacies with which it is surrounded, it
is essential to remember that the body of a person dying suddenly, and
in what may be called full health, is very liable to run rapidly into a
state of decomposition. As far, however, as our observations enable us
to deduce any conclusion, certain vegetable poisons appear to accelerate
such a change; for, very shortly after death, the body, under such
circumstances, will frequently swell, become highly offensive, assume a
black[193] appearance, and exhibit gangrenous spots on its surface. No
such appearances, however, it is said, usually follow as the _specific_
consequence of the fatal operation of _mineral_ poisons; _Dr. Jaeger_ in
an Inaugural dissertation,[194] which deserves to be better known,
states, as the result of numerous experiments, that the putrefaction of
animal bodies, poisoned by arsenic, whether buried or not, does not
appear to be either unusually accelerated or retarded; and he moreover
found that the generation of infusory animals, the production of larvæ
and subterraneous vegetation, in and about the bodies of poisoned
animals, took place as usual; and he remarked that “the immediate
contact of an arsenical solution seemed, in several instances, to
retard, in some degree, the putrefaction of the part to which it was
applied in sufficient quantity.” In the extraordinary case examined by
_Metzger_, in which the largest quantity of arsenic ever, perhaps, taken
into the stomach, was found after death, the body was not opened until
eighteen days after dissolution, and yet, says the anatomist, “_cadaver,
quod mireris, sine ullo fœtore aut putredinis signo erat, ut et absque
maculis lividis, si digitorum apices excipias_.” A case is also related
by _Dr. Yelloly_,[195] in which death was occasioned by arsenic, but
where not the slightest appearance of putrefaction was visible at the
time of examination, which did not take place until forty-nine hours
after death.

On the other hand, _Morgagni_[196] states that, on dissecting a female
who died from Arsenic, “_facies corporis posterior, ne suris quidem et
calcibus exceptis, tota erat nigra_.” And in the interesting case of
_William Mitchell_, as hereafter related, the appearance of the body
appears to have indicated that decomposition had proceeded with more
than ordinary celerity.

The fact of accelerated, or retarded putrefaction, therefore, cannot be
received with any confidence as a collateral indication of poisoning.
_Dr. Carson_, however, in the trial of _Charles Angus_, adduced the
circumstance of its absence, as a negative proof that the deceased had
not been poisoned; and in the celebrated Scotch trial of _Patrick
Ogilvy_, and _Catharine Nairne_,[197] the same fact was forcibly urged
in their defence.

_Gaspard à Reies_,[198] and other writers, have maintained that the
discovery of _living_ worms in the intestines of a person, suspected to
have died from poison, ought to be received as a direct refutation of
the charge. We are, however, not disposed to concur in such an opinion.
With respect to the value of the indication supposed to be afforded by
the circumstance of froth issuing from the mouth of the corpse, soon
after death, _Mr. Hunter_ has given a very satisfactory opinion, and to
which we must refer the reader, see _Appendix_, p. 273.

 Q. IV. _How far the absence of poison, or the inability of the chemist
 to detect it, in the body, or in the fluids ejected from it, is to be
         received as a negative to an accusation of poisoning?_

We have already stated, that of all the proofs which can be adduced by
the physician, in support of a charge of murder by poison, no one can be
put in competition with that which arises from the discovery of the
poisonous substance itself, in the stomach, or in the contents of the
matter ejected by vomiting or purging. The law expects, therefore, that
the professional witness should be prepared to state, that every
experiment, calculated to detect the presence of poison, has been
scrupulously and faithfully performed; and we may take this occasion to
observe, that the circumstance of advanced putrefaction can rarely, in
the present state of our chemical knowledge, be admitted as a
satisfactory plea for not having proceeded to an anatomical inspection,
as preliminary to chemical inquiry; and, as to the danger of such
dissections, _Dr. Gordon Smith_ has very truly observed, “that much is
placed to this account which belongs merely to disgust.” Had an
examination of the body taken place in the case of _Ogilvy_ and
_Nairne_, how many doubts would have been cleared away; indeed, this
omission afforded the prisoners a strong ground of defence; they
complained that the informer had intentionally prevented the dissection
of the body, being conscious that the suspicions he had raised, and the
project he had formed for their ruin, would, by such a measure, have
been totally removed and defeated. To this it was answered, that when
the informer (a younger brother of the deceased) arrived, he did insist
on the body being opened and examined, as soon as a physician of
eminence could be present, which the prisoners did not then oppose; but
that when the physician arrived on the ensuing day, he declared the body
to be in such a putrid state, that no certain conclusions could be drawn
from outward appearances, nor even from a dissection of the body, which,
besides, could not be performed with safety to the surgeon and
attendants, and that he therefore thought proper to decline the
investigation. Fortunately for the ends of justice, the circumstantial
evidence of guilt was too strong to be affected by this culpable defect
in the medical testimony, although it has been often asserted that the
prisoners should have received the benefit of the omission by an
acquittal. See _Donellan’s_ case in the _Appendix_, p. 243.

With respect to the mode of conducting a chemical analysis upon these
occasions, we have reserved our directions, until we shall enter on the
discussion of poisons individually. We have, however, in this place some
remarks of a general nature to offer, to which we are desirous of
drawing the attention of those, who, without much experience, may be
called upon to conduct such investigations. In the first place, we are
desirous of convincing him, that the processes which he must institute,
for the detection of a mineral body, are by no means so elaborate and
embarrassing, as a superficial view of the subject may lead him to
conclude. During the progress of the present work the author has
repeatedly felt the truth of the opinion which he is now expressing;
for, like _Becher_, he has laid down his pen, and taken up his tests,
and, by the most simple modes of manipulation, has satisfied his own
mind of the extreme delicacy of the different processes which are
recommended for the detection of a poisonous mineral; in short, it is
very difficult to convince those whose chemical knowledge is wholly
theoretical, with how little trouble, and with how much pleasure and
profit, such experiments may be conducted. If such then be the perfect
state at which our analytical knowledge has arrived, the reader may
perhaps conclude, that _in every case of mineral poisoning the
deleterious substance should be found, and that the inability of the
chemist to detect its presence, should go far to negative the charge_.
Such an inference, however, is neither correct, nor philosophical, for
the poison may have been absorbed, or eliminated, during life, it may
have undergone chemical changes, or it may have entered into
combinations, by which its characters are masked, or wholly changed. To
_Dr. Bostock_ the judicial physician is under many obligations, but
there is no discovery for which he is more deeply indebted to him, than
for that which has resulted from his satisfactory experiments, in
elucidation of the present question. He has shewn, in the instance of
_Corrosive Sublimate_,[199] that an animal may be suddenly killed by
receiving a metallic poison into the stomach, and yet that the most
delicate chemical re-agents may not be able to detect any portion of
such poison, after death, in the contents of that viscus. _Dr. Henry_,
in a letter to _Dr. Duncan_,[200] communicates the case of _Hannah
Tomlinson_, aged twenty, who died, under the care of _Dr. Holme_, on the
sixth day after a dose of _Corrosive Sublimate_. In this case, although
an ounce of the mercurial salt had been swallowed, and the fluid ejected
from the stomach was examined, only twelve hours afterwards, by _Drs.
Henry_ and _Roget_, yet not the slightest trace of the poison could be
detected! More recently we have received from the pen of _Mr. Alexander
Murray_,[201] surgeon of Alford, some highly interesting cases of
poisoning by Arsenic, and which are so illustrative of the present
question, as well as several others that have fallen under
consideration, that no apology can be necessary for introducing some
account of them in this place. A family of the name of _Mitchell_, and
which consisted of _William_, a robust man, aged 45, _James_, æt: 52,
_Mary_, æt: 50, and _Helen_, æt: 48, breakfasted together on Sunday
morning, (August 19, 1821) on porridge, consisting of milk, salt, and
meal. _William_ partook largely, but _James_, who perceived “a sickening
taste,” took less than common, while the sisters had their usual
quantity. _William_ was seized with sickness shortly afterwards, about
10 _a. m._, on his way to church, and then with thirst and headache;
and, on his return home, between three and four in the afternoon, he was
seized with vomiting, which recurred often during the next four or five
days, especially on his attempting to quench his thirst. In the early
part of the week, he was heard to complain of pain in his stomach, eyes,
throat, breast, and arms; he was observed to void his urine frequently;
and about this time, he pointed out to one of his sisters a hollow[202]
between his breast and belly, into which according to her expression,
“she could have laid her arm.”

His illness had scarcely at any time confined him to bed. On the evening
of Friday, the 24th of August, he rode six miles, for the purpose of
consulting _Mr. Murray_, the surgeon, and reporter of the cases; on
Wednesday the 22d he had taken a dose of Epsom salts which operated, and
at the time _Mr. Murray_ first saw him he complained of the following
symptoms:—pain and heat in the region of the stomach and lower part of
the chest; occasional uneasiness in the abdomen, and sometimes
ineffectual efforts to go to stool; thirst; difficulty of breathing;
heat and uneasiness of throat, with hoarseness; soreness of eyes, which
had the common appearance of inflammation; shifting pains in his
extremities, particularly the arms, which had not their usual strength;
great restlessness; anxious expression of countenance; pulse frequent,
100-110, not strong.

A blister was applied over the stomach and lower part of the chest, and
he took an opiate at bed time. On the following day, (Saturday 25th)
_Mr. Murray_ visited him at his own house, and found him nearly as
before, except that his countenance more strongly exhibited a disturbed
and anxious expression, and the redness of the eyes, and the hoarseness
were increased. _Mr. Murray_ also observed small roundish white
accuminated prominences, on the palate and uvula, apparently as if the
membrane covering the palate bones and _velum pendulum_, was detached at
the parts by a whitish liquid. This day he took an ounce of castor oil,
which operated in the afternoon, his illness was not observed to change
during the evening, and he retired at about eight o’clock to rest. At a
little past two in the morning, he rose in search of water to drink, and
on returning to bed he was heard to utter a deep groan; after which he
lay motionless and quiet, and very soon was found to have expired. The
surgeon who saw the body, about 10 _a. m._, states that “_many bluish
spots were observed on the inferior extremities_.” _James_, _Mary_, and
_Helen Mitchell_ were attacked the same forenoon with their brother
_William_, and with nearly similar symptoms; they were all, however,
fortunate enough to recover, although a considerable period elapsed
before their usual strength returned, and in all of them a numbness of
the arms, or legs, occurred, together with a loss of muscular power.

The body of _William Mitchell_ was, owing to particular circumstances,
not opened until the 29th of August, (3 days 8 hours after death) when
the following appearances presented themselves. “The face had a natural,
composed appearance; and the rigidity of the body did not appear to be
different from what is common. The right ear, and corresponding side of
the face, as well as the scalp, exhibited a deep clay-blue colour. On
the chest and belly, several spots and streaks, some green, others blue,
were observed; and the back, upon which the body lay, was from head to
foot of a livid colour; while several roundish spots, of a still deeper
hue, gave to the shoulders and neck a mottled appearance. The penis was
much swollen and red. The scrotum also was enlarged, and of a dark blue

Upon opening the abdomen, the smell was not unusually offensive, and its
contents did not appear to have undergone alteration after death, but
several ounces of a highly-coloured liquid were found in the cavity. The
surface of the jejunum and ilium presented many purple spots, some of
which were several inches in circumference. The peritoneal surface of
the stomach, in a tract which extended from the cardia, and occupied,
for some distance downwards, the whole circumference of that viscus,
except the small curvature, was of a clear, dark red colour; and through
this space dark lines, apparently veins, were observed to ramify. This
appearance, perhaps, from 20 to 30 square inches in extent, was strongly
marked in contrast with the natural state of the inferior extremity and
small curvature. The substance connecting the stomach to the spleen,
was, as well as a small part of the transverse colon, of a red colour.
The spleen was gorged with blood; the liver healthy. The duodenum, from
a small distance below the pylorus, almost to its inferior extremity,
and round nearly the whole intestine, was of a very dark purple colour.
Upon opening the stomach, the internal surface of that part where the
outward appearance, already described, existed, was found of a bright
red colour, and over this lighter dots were thickly scattered[203],
making such an appearance as might be produced by a red colour being
dashed from a painter’s pencil, upon a somewhat darker _ground_.

The internal coats of the duodenum were very dark coloured, with a
slightly reddish hue, pulpy, thickened, and easily separated from the
peritoneal covering, while in one roundish spot, of the size of a crown
piece, the villous and muscular coats were entirely wanting. Red patches
were observed on the inner surface of the jejunum and ilium, the shape,
size, and situation of which were the same as those of the appearances
already noted as occurring on the outside of these intestines. The
stomach and duodenum contained about a quart of a brown, semi-opaque,
thickish liquid; the jejunum and ilium were empty, and coated with a
yellow viscid matter. The lungs and heart were quite healthy; but in the
cavity of the thorax were ten ounces of a reddish turbid liquid, and
about half that quantity in the pericardium. The pharynx was of an
unusually red colour. The whole of the brain was healthy, and of firm

_Mr. Murray_ concludes by stating that no part of the salt and milk used
on the sunday morning, was to be found after he visited the family, and
that although the remainder of the meal, and also the contents of
_William Mitchell’s_ stomach and duodenum were examined by _Drs.
Henderson_ and _Fraser_, of Aberdeen, as well as by _Mr. Craigie_,
surgeon, who assisted in the dissection, and _Mr. Alexander Murray_,
yet, “_no poisonous ingredient was detected in these substances_.”

The pathological and anatomical facts were, however, in themselves, so
striking and satisfactory, that not the slightest doubt can exist as to
the cause of the sufferings and death of the deceased; while, as _Mr.
Murray_ very justly states, the high probability, arising from the
separate symptoms of each individual, is strengthened almost to
certainty, by the simultaneous occurrence of these in a whole family of
four persons; while no similar disease, indeed no epidemic of any kind,
prevailed at that time.

We have only to add that the brother-in-law of this family was, in
October, 1821, tried before the Judiciary Court at Aberdeen, for
administering poison to his four relations; when the testimony given by
the medical witnesses induced the judge and jury to consider the
abstract act of poisoning proved. The accused afterwards confessed his
guilt, and that he perpetrated the crime by means of _Arsenic_, put
among the salt on the sunday morning on which the family were taken ill.

The public, and the profession, are greatly indebted to _Mr. Alexander
Murray_ for the details of this instructive case; and the patient
attention and judgment with which he conducted the investigation,
deserve the highest commendation, and afford an example which we
sincerely hope future practitioners will endeavour to follow.

Q. V. _What degree of information can be derived from administering the
 contents of the stomach of a person supposed to have been poisoned, to
                        dogs, or other animals?_

It has from time immemorial been generally believed, that no proof of
poisoning is more satisfactory than that which is furnished by the
effects produced upon dogs, by their swallowing the contents of the
stomach of persons who are supposed to have died from poison. Writers on
Forensic medicine have, however, adduced several objections to the
validity of such a test; some of which are undoubtedly worthy of
consideration, while others are the deductions of a theory which
receives no support from experience. In the first place it has been
stated, that substances poisonous to man, will not always occasion
deleterious effects upon animals[204]; this, to a certain extent, is
undoubtedly true; some of the _Ruminantia_ appear to be less sensible to
the operation of narcotic plants, than carnivorous animals. _Aloes_ are
injurious to dogs and foxes. Oxen are said to eat the _Philandria
Palustris_, which is pernicious to horses; but we are very much inclined
to believe that a poison sufficiently powerful to destroy the life of a
man, would if administered in the same state of concentration, destroy
that also of an inferior animal. It is in smaller doses only that the
difference in the action of such bodies upon various animals becomes
evident and appreciable. This opinion is confirmed by numerous
experiments. _Mr. John Hunter_, in his evidence[205] on the trial of
_Donellan_, in answer to the question, whether any certain conclusion
can be drawn respecting the poisonous operation of a substance upon man,
from its effects upon an animal of the brute creation, replied, “_As far
as my experience goes, which is not a very confined one, because I have
poisoned some thousands of animals, they are very nearly the same;
opium, for instance, will poison a dog similar to a man; arsenic will
have very near the same effect upon a dog, as it would have, I take it
for granted, upon a man; I know something of the effects of them, and I
believe their operations will be nearly similar._” If any farther
confirmation of this opinion were required, how extensively and
satisfactorily has it been afforded by the late experiments of _M.
Orfila_.[206] _Mr. Hunter_ also, on the memorable trial above mentioned,
explained a source of fallacy which attends such experiments upon
animals; he is asked “whether there are not many things which kill
animals almost instantaneously, that will have no detrimental or noxious
effect upon a human subject, such, for instance, as spirits?” He replies
that a great deal depends upon the manner of conducting the experiment,
and that by forcing an animal to drink, the liquor often passes into the
lungs. See _Appendix_, _p._ 272. _Orfila_, in his valuable work on
poisons, instituted a series of experiments upon this subject, with the
intention of determining the value of an experiment so generally
accredited; from which he is led to conclude, 1st. That the practitioner
should never attempt by force to make an animal swallow the suspected
substance, nor should he put it into his food; for by such a proceeding
he would not only run the hazard of losing the greatest part of it,
because the animal would reject it, but the food with which it is
combined might exert upon it some chemical action, or so envelope it as
to protect the coats of the stomach from its contact; besides which it
would, says he, happen, at least six times in ten, that a part of it
would flow through the larynx into the lungs, and the animal will die of
Asphyxia. 2d. The best method that can be employed, consists in
detaching the œsophagus, perforating it with a small hole, introducing
into it a glass funnel, and pouring the liquid into the stomach; that
being done, the œsophagus is to be tied below the opening. It would,
observes _M. Orfila_, be imprudent to prefer to this method, the use of
an elastic gum tube adapted to a syringe, for many bite the tube, pierce
it with holes, and the fluid then flows out of the mouth; besides which,
syringes of tin might decompose certain poisonous fluids. The obvious
objection to such a mode of administration is anticipated by this
laborious experimenter with much ingenuity. It may be asserted, says he,
that the animal perished from the operation of tying the œsophagus, and
not from the action of the poison thus introduced into the stomach, but
such an objection has no foundation in truth, for either the suspected
substance is in quantity sufficient to destroy the animal, or it is not;
in the first case death will take place during the first forty-eight
hours, and will be preceded by symptoms more or less severe, a
phenomenon never observed in the simple ligature of the œsophagus; in
the second case, the experiment will not be more conclusive, than if the
œsophagus had not been tied: and the author asserts, that the operation
of tying the œsophagus would not, of itself, produce during the first
forty-eight hours any other symptom than a slight dejection, and that
consequently all other morbid phenomena that may be observed, upon such
trials, ought to be attributed to the poisonous substance. To all this
we reply, that we believe, in the hands of _Orfila_ who has made a
thousand experiments, that such results may be satisfactory, but we feel
no hesitation in declaring, that we should not place the smallest
reliance upon such an experiment when conducted by a person unaccustomed
to the operations of experimental physiology. If there be no other mode
of employing an animal as a test for poison, but by tying his œsophagus,
we must, in a judicial point of view, reject it altogether.

But there still remains another source of fallacy connected with these
experiments, to which considerable importance has been attached. It has
been said that the acrid humours ejected from the stomach of a person
labouring under a _spontaneous_ disease, may kill an animal.
_Morgagni_[207] relates a very remarkable instance, in illustration of
this fact. A child having died of a fever was opened, when a quantity of
green bile was found in the stomach, which changed the colour of the
scalpel to violet; having dipped the point of the knife into this bile,
two pigeons were wounded with it, and they soon died in convulsions. The
bile was then mixed with some bread, and given to a cock, which also
died in the same manner. From this general view of the subject before
us, the forensic physician will be enabled to appreciate its just value,
and to apply the indications it may furnish, in each particular case,
without the risk of error. In some instances such experiments may prove
nothing, in others they may afford only equivocal results, but which may
add something to the general weight of circumstantial evidence; while
others, again, may furnish proofs so unquestionable, as to leave no
doubt upon the subject; such was the case in the instance of _Michael
Whiting_[208], who was convicted of administering corrosive sublimate to
his brothers-in-law, when it appeared in evidence that a portion of the
poisoned dumpling was given to a sow, who in consequence became sick,
and remained ill for several days.

We have now disposed of the several questions connected with the subject
of poisoning, which must be regarded, in their forensic relations, as
being of the highest importance. In considering the subjects, generally,
there must necessarily remain doubts, many of which will be considerably
diminished, or entirely removed, upon their application to particular
cases; still, however, the nature of medical evidence upon such
occasions must be frequently regarded as only sustaining high
probabilities, and the professional witness may exclaim with
_Hoffman_[209] “_Ardua sane provincia ei imponitur cui determinandæ
ejusmodi quæstiones exhibentur._”


Poisonous substances have been very differently arranged by different
authors, each appearing to have adopted a classification best suited to
promote the particular views and objects of his own pursuit; thus, the
botanist and chemist, engaged in the examination of the physical
characters by which poisons may be individually distinguished and
identified, have very judiciously erected their system upon the basis of
natural history. The pathologist, whose leading object is the
investigation of the morbid effects which follow the administration of
these agents, with equal propriety and justice prefers a classification
deduced from a generalization of the symptoms they are found to
occasion; while the physiologist, who seeks to ascertain through what
organs, and by what mechanism they destroy life, may be reasonably
expected to arrange the different poisons under divisions corresponding
with the results of so interesting an inquiry.

To meet the comprehensive views of the forensic toxicologist, an
arrangement would seem to be required, that should at once embrace the
several objects which we have just enumerated; for the data from which
the proof of poisoning is to be inferred, are, as we have often stated,
highly complicated in their relations. No such classification, however,
can be accomplished, and we are therefore compelled to select one which
may approach the nearest to our imaginary fabric. That which was
proposed by _Fodéré_,[210] and adopted, with some trivial alteration in
the order of succession of the classes, by _Orfila_, in his celebrated
system of toxicology, although it has many defects and some errors,
nevertheless merits the preference of the forensic physician; its basis
is strictly pathological, and yet it distributes the different poisons,
with some few and unimportant exceptions, in an order corresponding with
that of their natural history.

The first two classes, for instance, present us with substances of a
mineral origin; the third and fourth, with those which are principally
of a vegetable nature; and the sixth, with objects chiefly belonging to
the animal kingdom. The importance of acknowledging a division, which
has a reference to the three great kingdoms of Nature, is perhaps
greater than the reader may anticipate; for in enumerating the various
experiments to be instituted for the detection of poisons, we are, by
such an arrangement, enabled to bring together a connected series of
processes, nearly allied to, intimately connected with, and in some
respects, mutually dependant upon each other.

The following is the arrangement of _Fodéré_ as modified by _Orfila_:
viz. Cl. I, _Corrosive_, or _Escharotic poisons_. Cl. II, _Astringent
poisons_. Cl. III, _Acrid_ or _Rubefacient poisons_. Cl. IV, _Narcotic_
or _Stupefying poisons_. Cl. V, _Narcotico-Acrid poisons_. And Cl. VI,
_Septic_ or _Putrefying poisons_.

Class I. CORROSIVE or ESCHAROTIC POISONS. Such as corrode and burn the
textures to which they are applied. When internally administered they
give origin to the following symptoms: violent pain accompanied with a
sense of heat and burning in the stomach, and throughout the whole
extent of the alimentary canal; frequent vomitings, often sanguineous,
and alternating with bloody diarrhœa, with or without tenesmus; the
pulse hard, small, frequent, and at length imperceptible; an icy
coldness of the body; cold sweats; a great anxiety and oppression at the
præcordia; and hiccup. Sometimes the heat of the skin is intense, the
thirst inextinguishable, and the unhappy patient is tormented with
Dysuria and Ischuria, violent cramps in the extremities, and horrid
convulsions, which are relieved only by death. Such are the general
symptoms by which this species of poisoning is characterised; the
rapidity with which the symptoms terminate their course, will depend
upon the violence of the dose, and the particular species of poison
which has produced them; there are, moreover, other symptoms which will
be more conveniently described, when we come to speak of the effects of
corrosive poisons individually. In this class are ranked the following
substances. METALS. I. Arsenic—1. _Arsenious Acid_, or white oxide of
Arsenic. 2. _Arsenites_, or combinations of that acid with _salifiable
bases_. 3. _Arsenic Acid._ 4. _Arseniates_, or combination of the
preceding acid with the bases. 5. _Sulphurets of Arsenic_, or _Orpiment_
and _Realgar_. II. Mercury—1. _Corrosive Sublimate of Mercury_, or
_Oxy-muriate of Mercury_. 2. _Red Oxide of Mercury._ 3. _Red
Precipitate_, or _Nitric Oxide of Mercury_. 4. Other preparations of
Mercury. III. Antimony—1. _Tartarized Antimony_, or _Tartar Emetic_. 2.
_Oxide_ _of Antimony._ 3. _Antimonial Wine._ 4. _Muriate of Antimony_,
or _Butter of Antimony_. IV. Copper—1. _Blue Vitriol_, or _Sulphate of
Copper_. 2. _Verdegris._ 3. _Oxide of Copper._ 4. Other preparations of
Copper. V. Tin—1. _Muriate of Tin._ VI. Zinc—1. _Sulphate of Zinc_, or
_White Vitriol_. 2. _Oxide of Zinc._ VII. Silver—1. _Nitrate of Silver_,
or _Lunar Caustic_. The Concentrated Acids—1. _Sulphuric._ 2.
_Muriatic._ 3. _Nitric._ 4. _Phosphoric_, &c. Hot Liquids—1. _Boiling
water._ 2. _Melted Lead._ The Caustic Alkalies—1. _Potass._ 2. _Soda._
3. _Ammonia._ The Caustic Alkaline Earths—1. _Lime._ 2. _Baryta._ 3.
_Muriate_, and _Carbonate of Baryta_. Cantharides. Phosphorus.

Class II. ASTRINGENT POISONS. They occasion a remarkable and unrelenting
constriction of the great intestines, especially the colon, so as to
resist the operation of the most powerful cathartic remedies. Violent
cholics ensue, and partial paralysis; in the end if the dose be
sufficiently large, or if small doses have been frequently repeated,
they will excite inflammation of the alimentary canal, but it is not
succeeded by that disorganization which generally characterises the
operation of poisons, belonging to the preceding division. We rank under
the present class only the preparations of Lead, viz. 1, _Acetate of
Lead_, or _Sugar of Lead_; 2, _Oxides of Lead_; _Red Lead_; _Litharge_;
3, Various Saturnine impregnations.

Class III. ACRID, or RUBEFACIENT POISONS. These poisons are known by
their producing an acrid taste, more or less pungent and bitter; a
burning heat, and considerable dryness in the mouth and fauces; and a
constriction, more or less painful, in the throat. Acute pains are,
after a short interval, experienced in the stomach and bowels, which are
quickly followed by copious vomiting and purging, and which continue,
with the most painful efforts, long after the alimentary canal has been
completely evacuated. A few hours after, phenomena are observed which
indicate a lesion of the nervous system, such as vertigo, dilated
pupils, dejection, insensibility, laborious respiration, and death. The
lesions of texture, occasioned by the action of _Acrid_ poisons, have
the greatest analogy to those produced by _Corrosive_ poisons; in fact,
says _M. Orfila_, “we do not hesitate to declare, that there exists a
perfect identity between the alterations of the digestive canal produced
by the poisons of these two classes, when introduced into the stomach.”
The substances included under this class belong, for the most part, to
the vegetable kingdom, such as _Scammony_, _Camboge_, _Black_ and _White
Hellebore_, _Bryony_, _Euphorbium_, Seeds of the _Ricinus_, _Iatropa
Curcas_ (Indian nut), _Croton Tiglium_, _Squill_, _Aconite_, &c. &c.

Class IV. NARCOTIC, or STUPEFYING POISONS. Such as occasion stupor,
drowsiness, paralysis, or apoplexy, and convulsions. They do not produce
any change in the structure of parts to which they are applied. _M.
Orfila_ has satisfactorily ascertained that no alteration can be
discovered, on dissection, in the digestive canal of persons who have
swallowed any one of the poisonous substances of this class.

Class V. NARCOTICO-ACRID POISONS. This division, as its name implies, is
intended to receive such substances as produce the united effects of
those belonging to the two preceding classes, acting for instance at the
same time, as narcotics and rubefacients. Amongst the articles of this
class the following may be enumerated, _Belladonna_, _Stramonium_,
_Tobacco_, _Foxglove_, _Hemlock_, _Nux Vomica_, _Camphor_, _Cocculus
Indicus_, certain _Mushrooms_, _Alcohol_, &c. &c.

Class VI. SEPTIC and PUTREFYING POISONS. By this term are included those
poisons which, according to _Orfila_, “occasion a general debility,
dissolution of the humours, and syncope, but which do not, in general,
alter the intellectual faculties.” The articles of this class belong
almost entirely to the animal kingdom, with the exception perhaps of a
few gaseous compounds, and the _Spurred Rye_, or _Ergot_, viz. _venomous
animals_; _animals whose fluids have been depraved by antecedent
disease_; _the poison of fishes_; _substances in a state of putridity_;
_Spurred Rye_, or _Ergot_.

Such is the classification which, for reasons already stated, it is our
intention to adopt on the present occasion. We shall, however, in an
additional chapter, under the title of “_Aërial Poisons_,” treat of
those substances which are exclusively capable of acting upon the body
through the medium of the atmosphere, or which require to be in a state
of vapour, or gas, to ensure their operation.

With regard to the classification of _Fodéré_ and _Orfila_, we must here
observe that we follow it only conventionally, and that, while we
acknowledge it as being very convenient for the consideration of
poisons, in reference to their forensic relations, yet we must not be
considered as insensible to its many defects and fallacies. In the first
place, it has little or no reference to the enlarged views of the modern
physiologist, respecting the “_modus operandi_” of poisons; nor indeed
is its construction susceptible of such modifications and improvements,
as can ever render its degree of perfection progressive with the
advancement of science. In the next place, the classes are in many
particulars ill-defined, and indistinctly, if not erroneously, divided.
How questionable, for instance, are the boundaries which separate
_Corrosive_ from _Acrid_ poisons? even the respective species of each
class are, in many instances, less allied to each other than the great
divisions to which they are subordinate. As an exemplification of this
fact we have only to compare the physiological actions of _Arsenic_ and
_Corrosive Sublimate_; the former of these substances occasions death by
being absorbed, and thus acting as a vital agent, the latter, by its
local action as a caustic on the textures with which it comes in
contact. In the same manner, if we examine the individual actions of the
different species composing the class of “_Acrid_” poisons, we shall
find the same want of uniformity; thus the _Spurge-flax_, and the
_Jatropa Curcas_ act by occasioning a local inflammation, while the
_Hellebore_, being rapidly absorbed, exerts a fatal action on the
nervous system, and produces only a very slight inflammation. The class
of Narcotic poisons is more absolute in its definition, and more uniform
in its physiological affinities, and therefore less objectionable, than
the divisions to which we have just alluded; but the propriety of the
term “_Narcotico-Acrid_” may be very reasonably questioned;[211] even
_Orfila_ expresses his doubts upon the subject, “because the narcotic or
sedative effects only follow the previous excitement.” Some of the
poisons, under this last mentioned class, are rapidly absorbed, and act,
through the medium of the circulation, on the nervous system, without
producing any local inflammation; whilst others, again, merely act upon
the extremities of the nerves, with which they come in contact, and
without being absorbed, occasion death by a species of sympathetic

These few objections, and many more might be adduced, are sufficient to
demonstrate the imperfection of the classification under consideration,
and which would render it wholly unavailable to the pathologist who must
adopt his treatment according to the physiological action of each
poison. The author has accordingly, in his “Pharmacologia”[212] ventured
to propose an arrangement, in conformity with such views; and the
following sketch of it may perhaps form a useful introduction to the
general observations which it will be hereafter necessary to offer upon
the “_modus operandi_” of poisons.


† This mark denotes that the substance, against which it is placed, may
also act by being absorbed.

‡ Signifies that the article has also a local action.


    a. _By which the functions of the nervous system are destroyed._


                       Jatropa Curcas.


                       Oil of Tobacco.


                       Essential Oil of Almonds.†

  b. _By rendering the heart insensible to the stimulus of the blood._

                          Infusion of Tobacco.
                          _Upas Antiar._



                          Emetic Tartar.
                          Muriate of Baryta.


                          Meadow Saffron.


                          Prussic acid.


                          Deadly Nightshade.‡
                          Cocculus Indicus.



                         Corrosive Sublimate.†
                         Muriate and
                         Oxide of Tin.
                         Sulphate of Zinc.
                         Nitrate of Silver.


                         Hedge Hyssop.
                         Croton Tiglium.

The preceding classification of poisons will not only furnish the
practitioner with a general theorem for the administration of antidotes,
but it will suggest the different modes and forms of administration of
which each particular substance is susceptible; it will shew, that
certain poisons may occasion death without coming into contact with any
part of the alimentary canal, and that others will produce little or no
effect, however extensively they may be applied to an external surface.
The first class comprehends such poisons as operate, through the medium
of the nerves, upon the organs immediately subservient to life; in the
application of such agents it is obvious that they cannot require to be
introduced into the stomach, they may convey their destructive influence
by an application to any part duly supplied with nerves, and whose
extremities are exposed to their action; although at the same time, it
may be observed that, in general, poisons of this kind act most
powerfully when internally administered, owing to the extensive
sympathetic relations of this central organ over every function of the
living body. The second class consists of poisons that are incapable of
producing any effect, except through the medium of the circulation;
whence we shall be enabled to explain and appreciate the various
circumstances which may accelerate or retard their operation. Poisons of
this class may be applied externally to abraded parts, or even to
surfaces covered with cuticle, provided their absorption be promoted by
friction; and it may be here observed, that the function of absorption
is not performed with the same force in every tissue; as a general
proposition it may be said to be energetic in proportion to the number
of lymphatics and veins, although the late experiments of _M. Majendie_
have shewn how greatly it is influenced by the state of the
circulation.[213] If these poisons be administered internally, they find
their way into the circulating current either through the branches of
the thoracic duct, or those of the _venæ portarum_; when, as if by a
species of election, each substance very frequently expends its venom
upon some one particular system of organs. Many of the substances
arranged under this second division, have moreover a local effect upon
the structure with which they first come in contact; it is thus with
_Colocynth_, and some other bodies; while on the contrary, several of
those poisons which are distinguished for their _local action_, are
subsequently absorbed, and are thus as it were enabled to ensure their
work of destruction by a double mode of operation. We shall receive
ample evidence of this truth, as we proceed in the history of particular
poisons. The third class comprises such agents as inflict their
vengeance upon the mucous membrane of the stomach, by actual contact,
and destroy, by exciting local inflammation.

                           _MINERAL POISONS._

Under this head is included the greater proportion of those substances
which are employed as the instruments of crime; for they are generally
of easy access, require but little preparation, and are so destructive
in small doses, and, at the same time, so little disgusting in flavour,
as to furnish the assassin with the sure and secret means of
destruction. Fortunately, however, for the ends of justice, such agents
are pre-eminently the objects of successful analysis. In treating of the
history of the individual substances derived from this kingdom, we shall
consider, 1st. their _external characters_, such as form, colour, odour,
taste, specific gravity; 2d. their _chemical composition, and
habitudes_; 3d. _the tests by which their presence may be recognised_;
_4th. the symptoms which they occasion_; _5th. their physiological
action_; _6th. their different modes and forms of application_; _7th.
the lesions of structure they occasion_; _8th. the phenomena presented
on dissection_.

                       Cl. 1. CORROSIVE POISONS.


The greek word Αρσενικον was employed by _Dioscorides_, and other
writers of that period, to denote a particular mineral of a reddish
colour, which _Aristotle_ had already described by the name of
σανδαρακη,[214] and his disciple _Theophrastus_, by that of αρρενικον.
It was employed by the ancients both as a pigment and as a medicine, and
appears to have been a compound of Sulphur, and a peculiar metal, to
which the name of _Arsenic_ is now exclusively applied. At what period
this metal was first discovered seems very doubtful; and although a
process for obtaining it is described in the Pharmacopœia of
_Schroeder_, published in 1649, yet its peculiar nature was examined,
for the first time by _Brandt_, in 1733.

The metal, Arsenic, is distinguished by the following properties, viz.

It has a bluish-grey colour, not unlike that of steel, and a
considerable lustre; its texture is grained, and sometimes scaly; its
hardness not very considerable, but its fragility is so great that it
falls to pieces under a moderate blow of the hammer, and admits of being
easily reduced to a very fine powder; according to _Bergman_ its
specific gravity is 8·31. When cold, it emits no sensible odour, but if
heated, it yields a strong _alliaceous_, or garlic-like smell, which is
to be considered as the most characteristic of its properties. Its point
of fusion is unknown, for it is the most volatile of all the metals, and
sublimes, before it melts, at the temperature of 540° Fah., and if the
process be conducted slowly in close vessels, the metallic sublimate
will assume a _tetrahedral_[215] form of crystallization; if the air be
admitted, and the temperature still farther raised, it will burn with an
obscure bluish flame.

Arsenic is extremely susceptible of oxidation, and, by mere exposure to
the air, shortly loses its metallic lustre; and yet it may be kept under
the surface of _cold_ water, for any length of time without exhibiting
the signs of oxidation, or solution; a covering of this fluid, or of
alcohol, is therefore considered as affording the best means of
preserving the metal in a state of integrity.

Arsenic is capable of combining with two proportions of oxygen, and of
forming two definite compounds, which we shall hereafter consider under
the title of _Arsenious_ and _Arsenic_ acids. The substance described by
some authors as the _black oxide_ of this metal would seem to be an
indefinite mixture of the metal itself, and the arsenious acid.

Arsenic does not appear to possess any deleterious properties, but it is
almost impossible to reduce the metal to powder, so as to adapt it for
exhibition without its becoming oxidized. _M. Renault_ therefore, in
order to decide the question, had recourse to its alloys; and he found
that _Mispickel_ (an alloy of Arsenic and Iron), when given to the
extent even of two drachms, scarcely produced any effect; a result which
very satisfactorily accords with the conclusion drawn by _Bayen_, in his
work on Tin, and which proves that the arsenic contained in that metal,
need not excite the least alarm, since it exists in a metallic state. We
have upon another occasion[216] observed, that the vapours characterised
by an alliaceous odour are probably less noxious than the arsenical
fumes which are inodorous; and that the little injury experienced by
workmen who solder silver filligree with an arsenical alloy, may
probably depend upon the deoxidized state of its fumes.


This is justly considered as the most fatal of all mineral poisons, and
is the one more frequently selected than any other, as the instrument of
assassination and suicide; while its numerous applications in medicine
and the arts, by making it an article of general and indiscriminate
sale, have rendered it an accidental as well as criminal source of
suffering and death.

It is seldom prepared by the chemist, since it exists in a native state,
and is moreover procured abundantly and economically, during the
extraction of the other metals from their ores.[217] In the commercial
world the substance is still known by the name of _White Arsenic_; and
continues to be expressed in popular language, by the simple term

It generally occurs in the form of white compact masses, opaque on their
exterior surface; transparent, and presenting a vitrified aspect in the
interior. Its taste is acrid and corrosive, but not to a degree
corresponding with its virulence. _Specific gravity_ 3·7. When reduced
to powder it bears a strong resemblance to refined sugar, for which it
has sometimes been fatally mistaken, and with which it has been often
mingled for criminal purposes. At the temperature of 383° _Fah._ it is
volatilized, and is capable of crystallizing in tetrahedrons with
truncated angles, or rather in octohedrons; by a strong heat, in close
vessels, it is vitrified and becomes pellucid, and acquires the specific
gravity 5·000[218]; but when exposed to the air, it shortly returns to
its former appearance. _In the state of vapour it is quite inodorous_,
although the contrary is positively asserted in several chemical works
of high authority, and it is stated to be characterised by a smell like
that of garlic; the fact is, that the _alliaceous or garlic-like smell
is wholly confined to metallic arsenic in a state of vapour_; and
whenever the arsenious acid seems to yield such an odour, we may very
confidently conclude that its decomposition has taken place, and that it
has been reduced to its _metallic_ state. Such a reduction will
generally happen when it is projected upon ignited charcoal, or when
heated in contact with those metallic bodies which readily unite with
oxygen, such as _Antimony_, _Zinc_, &c. It is stated by _Orfila_ and
other writers, that if it be projected upon heated copper the alliaceous
odour is evolved. This assertion is undoubtedly true, but the fact
requires to be explained with more precision, or we may fall into an
important error respecting it. The author has shewn by several
experiments, already published in his _Pharmacologia_,[219] that the
phenomenon takes place only when the copper is in a state of ignition,
at which temperature its affinity for oxygen enables it to reduce the
arsenious acid, and consequently to develope the metallic odour. We have
ascertained by repeated experiments that if a few grains of arsenious
acid be heated on a plate of copper, by means of a spirit lamp or the
blow-pipe, no odour is perceptible; for, in this case, the whole of the
acid will be dissipated before the copper can acquire a temperature
sufficiently exalted to deoxidize, and reduce it. If the arsenious acid
be heated on a plate of zinc, the smell will not be evolved until the
latter metal is in the state of fusion. If, instead of the foregoing
surfaces, we employ in our experiments those of gold, silver, or
platina, no alliaceous smell whatever is produced, at any temperature,
provided every source of fallacy be carefully avoided; but it deserves
particular notice, that the author has found the flame of the spirit
lamp to be in itself, capable of decomposing the arsenious acid, in
consequence, it is presumed, of the operation of its hydrogen;[220] a
fact which is very likely to betray the experimenter, as in the first
instance it did the author, into a belief that the arsenious acid does
actually yield the odour in question.

The term Arsenious _acid_ was first bestowed upon this substance by
_Fourcroy_, since it was found to possess many of the essential
habitudes of an acid; as for instance, that of combining with the pure
alkalies to saturation. It dissolves in water; but, according to
_Klaproth_, although it requires for its solution 400 parts of that
fluid, at the temperature of 60° _Fah._ it requires not more than 13, at
212°; and it moreover appears that if 100 parts of water be boiled on
the arsenious acid, and suffered to cool, it will retain 3 grains in
solution, and deposit the remainder in crystals. This fact shews the
great importance of employing boiling water in every chemical
examination of substances supposed to contain arsenic. It proves also
that a fatal dose of the poisonous mineral may be very easily
administered in any watery vehicle, a fact which was denied on the trial
of _Ogilvy_ and _Nairne_[221] by _Dr. James Scott_, who deposed that
“Arsenic would not dissolve in warm water, but almost instantly subside
to the bottom of the vessel,” although, at the same time, he
acknowledged that “if it were put into tea with milk and sugar, and
stirred about, it _might_ be suspended long enough to kill those who
should drink the potion.” It is soluble in alcohol, and in fixed oils,
the former taking up two per cent. By the addition of an alkali, an
_arsenite_ of great solubility will result, and a solution of extreme
virulence may be thus effected. With _lime-water_ arsenious acid
produces a white precipitate of _arsenite of lime_, but which is soluble
in an excess of the acid. With _magnesia_ it also forms a very soluble,
and extremely active, _arsenite_.

             _Symptoms of Poisoning by the Arsenious Acid._

_Hahnemann_, in his work on Arsenic, proposes a classification of its
effects founded on their relative duration and violence, and which it is
our intention to adopt on the present occasion, without any other
alteration than that of reversing the order of the classes.

Poisoning by Arsenic may accordingly be considered as admitting of three
degrees of intensity, viz. 1st. Where the case, although attended with
dangerous symptoms, does not terminate fatally. 2d. Where death does not
follow until after a lapse of twenty-four hours. 3d. Where death takes
place within twenty-four hours after the exhibition of the poison.

1. _Symptoms of the first and lowest degree._ In the slighter cases in
which the operation of arsenic is recorded as producing poisonous
effects, the symptoms were, uneasiness of the præcordia; cholics;
thickness, redness, and stiffness of the palpebræ; soreness of the gums;
ptyalism; itching over the surface of the body, sometimes attended with
a slight eruption; restlessness; cough; head-ache; strangury, and _ardor
urinæ_. Where the dose of poison has been somewhat greater, although
still inadequate to the destruction of life, violent vomiting is
commonly the first symptom, preceded in some instances with a sense of
heat and dryness in the fauces; in such cases where the vomiting has
very shortly succeeded the ingestion of the Arsenic, and the stomach has
at the same time been filled with food, the patient may owe his escape
to the poison being discharged before it had time to act. _Morgagni_
relates a case of poisoning at an Italian feast, where the dessert was
intentionally sprinkled with Arsenic instead of flour; those who had
previously eaten but little speedily perished, but those who had eaten
heartily were saved by vomiting. Although in this degree of poisoning
the life of the patient may be spared, yet a variety of _consecutive_
symptoms may continue to harrass him for a longer or shorter period,
such as indigestion, debility, partial paralysis, and epilepsy. The
history[222] of the cases of _Mr. Turner_ and his family, of Chancery
lane, for the poisoning of whom _Eliza Fenning_ was executed, will
afford a striking illustration of this fact. The hair of the head has
also been observed, in some cases, to fall off. _Dr. Male_ is also of
opinion that the long protracted and injudicious use of this mineral, as
a medicine, will induce exostosis and caries of the bones.

2. _Symptoms of the second degree._ In this case where the patient lives
two or three days, or perhaps longer, as in the case of _William
Mitchell_ above described (p. 190), the earliest symptoms are heat and
thirst, or vomiting, and inexpressible uneasiness and anxiety, the
former of which is less frequently observed than the two latter;
purging, or sometimes a repeated but ineffectual desire to go to stool;
wandering pains; quick, but feeble pulse; head-ache; distended and
painful abdomen; priapism; towards the close of the scene the patient
often becomes more tranquil and is inclined to sleep, although, in some
instances, the pains, attended with convulsions, continue to the latest
moments. In general, death takes place suddenly. In cases where the
effects of the poison are not immediately fatal, we must necessarily
expect the occurrence of many phenomena, indicative of the re-action of
the system, and which will be better illustrated by a reference to the
history of individual cases, such for instance, as those of _William
Mitchell_, (p. 190) and _Mr. Blandy_, (_Appendix_) than by any general
description which can be given in this place. It is also worthy remark
that in such cases, from the length of time, there will necessarily
occur a greater opportunity for the co-operation of other contingent
causes, whether they be connected with previously existing diseases, or
the action of remedies; and the intelligent practitioner will not
neglect to appreciate their influence in modifying the character of each
particular case. There are besides symptoms highly characteristic when
they do arise, but which are of comparatively rare occurrence, such as
the ulcerated condition of the fundament, as in the case of _Mr.
Blandy_, and the inflamed eyes and state of the mucous membranes, in
that of _William Mitchell_.

3. _Symptoms of the third and highest degree._ Soon after a large dose
of Arsenic has been swallowed, an austere taste, and a sense of heat and
constriction of the pharynx and œsophagus are perceived; in a short
period excruciating pains in the stomach and bowels, accompanied with
vomiting of the most violent character, the matter voided being
generally of a brown colour, and not unfrequently mixed with blood; with
these symptoms are conjoined an inexpressible anxiety about the
præcordia, and frequent faintings; the stomach at the same time acquires
such a high degree of irritability, as to reject the mildest fluids. The
alvine discharges now become frequent and painful, and consist of dark
and extremely fœtid matter, frequently mixed with blood. The thirst is
unquenchable, and the heat of the surface becomes extreme. The pulse is
small, frequent, and irregular; palpitations of the heart, violent
cramps in the legs, sometimes a painful strangury and bloody micturition
ensue. The powers of life begin to fail, respiration becomes laborious,
cold sweats break out, hiccup occurs, the countenance assumes a singular
character of anxiety and distress, a livid circle appears around the
eyes, the pulse is imperceptible, the body swells and sometimes becomes
covered with a species of miliary eruption, or with dark purple spots.
In some cases convulsions ensue, but delirium, or loss of reason, is
very rarely the consequence of this species of poisoning, and the
unfortunate sufferer is conscious until a few moments before the
termination of his existence. Such are the general symptoms, but it is
rare to see them all united in the same case; sometimes the greater part
of them are absent. _M. Chaussier_ reports the case of a robust middle
aged man, who swallowed a quantity of arsenious acid in large lumps, and
died without discovering any other symptom than slight syncope; other
cases are related where only vomiting and purging[223] have been
observed, and the symptoms have been mistaken for those of _cholera

The practitioner is therefore not to withhold his belief in a case of
poisoning, on account of the absence of several of those symptoms which
are enumerated in systematic works on Toxicology.

It is only by the study of individual cases, that he can learn to
appreciate the just value of those pathognomonic combinations which
afford the least exceptionable evidence upon such occasions.

         _The different modes of Poisoning by Arsenious Acid._

It has been proved by numerous experiments that the life of an animal
may be destroyed with equal certainty by arsenious acid, whether it be
_internally_ administered, or _externally_ applied to abraded surfaces,
sores, or bleeding wounds; and it has been, moreover, shewn, that in
either instance the symptoms will be analogous, except in the latter
case they will often be more rapid in their course.

_Lionardo di Capoa_ relates the case of a child killed by the violent
vomiting and purging arising from a slight wound made in the head by a
comb, wet with oil in which arsenic had been infused for the purpose of
killing vermin; and we have numerous instances on record, where the
application of arsenical cerates and ointments has been followed by
violent and dangerous symptoms. We also learn from the different
historians of the Plague of London, that the arsenical amulets which
were worn, as preservatives, on that occasion, were sometimes attended
with deleterious consequences; _Crato_[224] observed an ulcer of the
breast produced by them. _Verzascha_, violent pains and syncope.
_Diemerbroeck_,[225] and Dr. _Hodges_,[226] death itself. Amongst the
foreign authors who have related cases of poisoning by the external
application of arsenic we may mention _Desgranges_,[227] who records the
history of a chambermaid, poisoned by having rubbed her head with an
arsenical ointment for the purpose of destroying vermin; and
_Roux_,[228] who confessed to have killed a girl of eighteen by an
application of the “_Pâte Arsenicale_” to a cancerous breast. _M.
Renault_ has also given us the results of his experiments upon Arsenic
when applied externally to dogs; when the skin was sound, it excited a
pustular eruption without inflammation; but, when the skin was broken,
more serious effects followed, both general and local, and in some cases
death.[229]. In an experiment performed by Mr. _Hunter_, and Mr. _Home_,
in which arsenic was applied to a wound in a dog, the animal died in
twenty-four hours, and the stomach was found to be considerably
inflamed. Mr. _Brodie_ repeated the experiment several times, always
with the precaution of tying a bandage, to prevent the animal licking
the wound; the results were uniform; the stomach was, in every case, not
only more violently, but more rapidly, inflamed, than when the poison
had been internally administered, and it even preceded any inflammatory
appearance of the wound. In the _Journal de Medecine_, the following
case is related of a woman who was killed by her husband having
insinuated powdered arsenic into the vagina,[230] at the moment of
enjoying the conjugal rites. “A woman at _Leneux, departement de
l’Ourthe_, aged forty, having died after a short illness, attended with
considerable tumefaction of the genital parts, uterine hemorrhage,
vomiting, and purging, the body was inspected by order of the mayor,
when the surgeons reported that they found the vulva in a state of
gangrene, the abdomen much distended with air, and the intestines
inflamed and gangrenous. The culprit was arrested, convicted, and
executed.” In the _Acts of the Society of Copenhagen_, a similar crime
stands recorded, and which was also committed by a peasant; in this
latter case, although some small pieces of arsenic were found within the
vagina, yet some doubts arose respecting the possibility of such a
species of poisoning, and the magistrates accordingly consulted the
College of Medicine of Copenhagen, who decided the question in the
affirmative, having first instituted a series of experiments upon

Death may also be produced by the introduction of arsenic into the
rectum; it is said that Sir _Thomas Overbury_, after the failure of the
various poisons[231] that were administered to him, was at last
despatched by an arsenical glyster.

With respect to the quantity of arsenic required for the production of
such effects it is difficult to offer a decided opinion, as its
operation must in every case be liable to contingency; but a very few
grains are in general amply sufficient.

               _Physiological action of Arsenious Acid._

It had long been supposed that arsenic occasioned death by inflaming the
stomach; but Mr. _Brodie_[232] has very satisfactorily proved, that its
influence arises from its being absorbed, and that it must be regarded
as a _vital_ rather than as a _chemical_ agent, and as having a
constitutional, not a local mode of operation.

In the first place, he has in many instances found the inflammation of
the stomach so slight,[233] that on a superficial examination it might
have been easily overlooked; and in most of his experiments with
arsenic, death took place in too short a period to be considered as the
mere effect of inflammation. In the next place we have already shewn
that in whatever manner the poison is applied, whether _externally_ to a
wound, or _internally_, to the alimentary canal, the same inflammatory
appearance will be visible in the stomach; a fact which can only be
explained by admitting that the poison is absorbed, and that it acts
upon these organs through the medium of the circulation; it acts at the
same time upon the brain, and heart, but with different degrees of force
in different cases; so that it is sometimes difficult to ascertain which
of these organs is the first to fail in its functions. According then to
these experiments and observations, inflammation of the alimentary canal
is not to be considered as the general cause of death in poisoning by
arsenic; and yet cases will occur, where the local affection may prove
fatal, the animal having survived the effects produced on the organs
more immediately subservient to life, as the brain and heart. Mr. _Henry
Earle_ communicated to Mr. _Brodie_ a case highly illustrative of this
fact, which occurred in St. Bartholomew’s hospital; a woman had taken
arsenic, and having recovered from the alarming symptoms which first
occurred, died at the end of four or five days, when upon dissection,
there appeared extensive ulcerations of the stomach and bowels. This
then was evidently a case of “_Consecutive_” poisoning.

The dissertation of _Dr. Jaeger_, to which we have before alluded,
contains the result of a very extensive series of experiments, in
illustration of the physiological action of the arsenic. He diligently
examined its effects upon all classes of organized beings, as well of
the vegetable as of the animal kingdoms. The general conclusions which
he has drawn from his experiments on vegetables are, that arsenic is in
most cases a rapidly destructive poison to them, with the exception
perhaps of a few of the simplest forms of existence;[234] and that their
death was induced by means of the gradual absorption and distribution of
the poison by the vessels and cellular membrane, so that the parts died
in succession, as the particles of the poison reached them. _Dr. Jaegar_
also found that arsenic was a quick and destructive poison to animals,
and that death was preceded, in every instance, from the infusory
animalcula up to man, by inordinate motions; and that the secretion was
most remarkably increased from the mucous membranes. His experiments
also proved that arsenic exerted the most powerful effects, when it was
injected into the veins, or applied to a bleeding wound; next, when it
was introduced into the stomach; but less so, when injected into the
large intestines, which have fewer absorbing vessels.[235]

              _Organic Lesions, discovered on Dissection._

The examination of the bodies of persons poisoned by arsenic, must not
be expected to furnish constant and uniform results, since they will be
found to vary very considerably in different cases. As we have already
considered the value of accelerated and retarded putrefaction, as an
indication of poisoning, we shall at once proceed to the description of
the morbid phenomena which are presented by the internal organs on
dissection. The stomach and intestines are the parts in which we may
expect to find the most decided marks of the ravages from arsenic. The
former viscus will be found more or less inflamed; in some instances,
the dusky redness will appear in patches, interspersed with points and
streaks of a brighter hue; the villous coat of the stomach will be
almost always softened, and, as if macerated, can be easily rubbed off
in pieces with the fingers from the coats beneath; actual ulceration and
sloughing are, according to the observations of _Mr. Brodie_, never
found unless where death is late in taking place, in which case
extensive ulceration of all the coats, amounting to actual perforation,
may be expected to happen. This statement agrees with the observation of
_Ruysch_, who says that where there had been sufficient time, he found
the stomach ulcerated in those who had died from the effects of arsenic,
but that if death supervened earlier, he only discovered bloody points,
distant from each other, throughout the viscus. On the subject of
sloughs upon such occasions, our enlightened author remarks, that
anatomists have often been betrayed into a fallacy respecting their true
nature; on opening the stomach of a dog which had taken a large quantity
of arsenic, _Mr. Brodie_ observed a dark brown spot about an inch in
diameter, having all the appearance of a slough; on a closer
examination, however, it appeared that this spot was no other than a
very thin layer of coagulated blood, of a dark colour, and adhering very
firmly to the surface of the mucous membrane, and having a few particles
of arsenic entangled in it. He states that he has at several times
observed a similar appearance but occupying a less extent of surface;
and he informs us that, in the Hunterian museum, there is a human
stomach, which was preserved for the sake of exhibiting what was
considered a slough, produced by the action of arsenic; but that, on
examining the preparation carefully, the dark coloured spot was
discovered to be simply a layer of coagulated blood, similar to that
before described. _Dr. Baillie_ and _Dr. Yelloly_ have found the stomach
thickened in several parts, as if by coaguable lymph, and in one case
the thickening of the coats was the only alteration of structure
observable; and _M. Renault_ relates a case, where the arsenic was taken
in large pieces, which produced no other effect than slight syncope on
the approach of death; and that, upon opening the body, the arsenic was
found in the state it was swallowed, but there was neither inflammation
nor erosion of the stomach. Where the arsenic has been swallowed in
substance, it will be generally found attached to the membrane of the
stomach by a peculiar glairy fluid; if the poison should have been
administered in solution, the same organic lesions will be discovered,
but the presence of the arsenic in the stomach can scarcely be expected,
although the contents of the viscus, as well as all the matter ejected
from the body before death, must be carefully examined by a chemical
process to be hereafter described. The duodenum, like the stomach,
generally affords evidence of the same inflamed and disorganized
condition; and the whole track of the intestinal canal will be found
more or less affected, according to the quantity of arsenic that has
been administered, the period of time which has elapsed before death,
and other circumstances which have been already enumerated as capable of
modifying the action of this destructive substance. It however deserves
notice that in many cases the rectum appears to be more affected than
the other intestines; _Dr. Male_[236] states, that he has frequently
found it abraded and ulcerated, and even more inflamed than the stomach
itself; _Mr. Brodie_ likewise observed, in his physiological experiments
upon this substance, that the inflammation produced by it was greatest
in the stomach and the rectum. _Dr. Baillie_ has recorded several
instances where a mortification of the rectum followed as an effect of
this poison; and in the case of _Mr. Blandy_, detailed in the
_Appendix_, p. 237, _Dr. Addington_ stated, that the extremity of the
rectum was extremely painful, and surrounded by excoriations and ulcers.

_Mr. Brodie_ has stated, in the paper to which we have so often alluded,
that the organic lesions occasioned by arsenic are confined to the
stomach and intestines, and that he _never found any appearance of
inflammation in the pharynx or œsophagus_. This statement, however, is
at variance with a great weight of authority; we have ourselves
witnessed cases in which dissection has demonstrated extensive
inflammation in these parts; indeed it would appear, that this poison
acts more particularly on the mucous membranes; and it is reasonable
therefore to conclude, that those with which it comes in actual contact
will not escape its virulence. The serous membranes which receive less
blood, and more lymphatics, are necessarily less affected by it.

In the case of _William Mitchell_, as related at _page_ 188, the patient
complained of soreness of the eyes, heat and uneasiness in the mouth and
throat; and the surgeon observed the membrane on the palate and uvula to
be detached; so in that, again, of _Mr. Blandy_, _Dr. Addington_ found
on inspection that “his tongue was swelled, and his throat inflamed and
excoriated; his lips, especially the upper one, dry and rough, and
having angry pimples on them; the inside of his nostrils in the same
condition, and his eyes a little blood shot.” (_Append._ _l. c._). In
the celebrated Scotch case of _Oglivy_ and _Nairne_ (_see page_ 184)
_Peter Meik_, surgeon of Alyth, deposed, that, upon inspecting the body
four or five days afterwards, he found “the tongue swelled beyond its
natural size, and cleaving to the roof of the mouth, which he had never
observed after a natural death.” Many more instances might be adduced to
shew that the fauces, pharynx, and œsophagus are very frequently
inflamed and excoriated by the ingestion of arsenic. Mortification of
the pudenda[237] has been said to be an effect peculiar to the action of
arsenic; certain it is that in males, priapism is sometimes a symptom of
this poison, and the penis is found swollen and red after death, as was
observed in the case of _William Mitchell_ (p. 190). The scrotum was
also enlarged and of a dark colour. We have been long aware that persons
exposed to the fumes of arsenic, or accustomed to handle any of its
preparations, have been liable to a peculiar affection of these parts,
but we have generally explained the fact by supposing that the poison
had in such cases, been locally applied to them. The author has been
lately informed by his friend _Mr. Parkes_, that several persons in his
establishment were thus attacked, during the time they were engaged in
preparing an arsenical solution, as a dye for the calico printers; and
we have stated on another occasion,[238] that the smelters and workmen
engaged in the copper works, and tin burning houses of Cornwall, are
occasionally affected with a cancerous disease in the scrotum, somewhat
similar to that which infests chimney sweepers. It is also singular that
_Stahl_, in describing the putrescent tendency in the bodies of those
who die from this poison, mentions in particular the gangrenous
appearances of the parts of generation. The other organs of the body do
not exhibit any particular appearances, which ought to be regarded as
characteristic of death by arsenic; we must necessarily expect to find
the traces of morbid action, especially where life has been unusually
protracted; and the serous effusions found in the body of _William
Mitchell_, are to be referred to such a cause.

_Mr. Brodie_ has stated that, in animals killed by arsenic, the blood is
usually found fluid in the heart and vessels after death; this agrees
with the observation of _Ruysch_, who says that he never found the blood
coagulated in the human body, after death occasioned by this poison; as
well as with that of _Dr. Jaeger_, who describes the cavities of the
heart, especially of the right side, to be, upon these occasions, turgid
with blood, but that coagula are very seldom found in them.

A question, of a very considerable importance in a forensic point of
view, has arisen with respect to the means, by which we may distinguish
whether arsenic, found in the body, had been introduced into the
digestive canal during life, or after death. In general, this fact is
placed beyond suspicion by the testimony of those to whose care the body
had been confided, previous to dissection. But cases have occurred where
a poisonous substance has been introduced into the rectum of a dead
body, with the diabolical intention of accusing an innocent person of
having been the perpetrator of the poisoning. We are not aware of any
English case of this kind, but _M. Orfila_ states that in the
proceedings of the Criminal Court of Stockholm such a case stands
recorded. Fortunately there would not be much difficulty in detecting
the crime; for were the arsenic applied to the rectum after death, the
change of structure would not extend beyond the part in actual contact
with it, but would be distinctly separated from the rest of the
intestine _by a well defined line of demarcation_, which can never
happen where the arsenic has acted during life; for, in this latter
case, the transition from the diseased to the healthy structure will be
gradual, and the limits of each imperceptible.

Before we conclude our observations upon the organic lesions occasioned
by arsenic, we may caution the anatomist not to confound the red or
violet colour which characterises inflammation, with that which has been
occasionally found to arise from the ingestion of certain coloured
drinks. The following case related by _Foderé_, and cited by _Orfila_,
may serve to illustrate this subject. “A private person of Châlons
sur-Marne, who was in a state of convalescence from a disease under
which he had laboured, took a slight purgative, and died very shortly
afterwards. He was believed to have been poisoned through some error in
the medicine, and in order to be assured of this, the body was opened.
The œsophagus and stomach were found to be red, and in certain places
livid, as if in a state of gangrene. These appearances at first induced
a belief that the deceased had died from poison; but _M. Varnier_, a
physician of Châlons, concluded from the appearances, that death was the
consequence of the disease, and that the apparent convalescence was only
an insidious respite. It became therefore necessary to give some account
of the state of the œsophagus and stomach; and having learnt that the
deceased was in the habit of using a _strong infusion of red poppies_,
the idea immediately struck him that the extraordinary colour of these
organs might possibly depend on this infusion. In order to determine the
validity of this explanation, he caused a dog to swallow, several times,
a similar infusion; when upon opening its body, he discovered that the
corresponding parts of this animal had assumed the same colour as had
been observed in the stomach of the deceased above-mentioned, and,
moreover, that this violet red colour was so firmly fixed that it
resisted the action of repeated washings.” _Tincture of Cardamoms_ will
also be liable to occasion a coloured appearance in the stomach, as
described in _Mr. Stanley’s_ case of the death of a woman by a dose of

_Of the Chemical Processes, by which the presence of Arsenious Acid may
                             be detected._

This poison may either be submitted to the judicial physician for
examination, in its solid form, or in that of solution; and in this
latter state it may be mixed with various alimentary substances, whose
presence will necessarily embarrass the inexperienced operator, and
multiply the apparent difficulties of his task. It becomes our duty,
therefore, upon this occasion, to enter very fully and minutely into the
history of the various processes, which have been proposed for the
solution of the important problem under consideration; to appreciate the
relative value of each, and to point out the sources of fallacy and
failure, to which they are severally exposed.

Such a review of the subject would, moreover, appear to be essentially
necessary at the present period, since the evidence, lately delivered on
an extraordinary trial,[240] has, to a certain extent, very unjustly
shaken the public confidence in the tests of chemistry. We shall
therefore proceed to consider the processes which are calculated to lead
to the detection of _Arsenic_, in relation to the different
circumstances under which it may be presented for investigation, viz. 1,
In a solid form; 2, In the simple state of solution; and 3, In the state
of combination with various alimentary substances.

1. _The Arsenic is in a solid form._ This is the most simple case which
can occur, and the experiments by which its presence is to be
demonstrated, will constitute the basis of the inquiry, which we shall
be hereafter called upon to institute, for the detection of the same
substance under other circumstances of mixture and combination.

The order of succession to be observed in the different experiments
which we are about to describe, must, in a great measure, be regulated
by the quantity of the material to be submitted to examination. Should
it be small, it will be prudent to reserve the process of metallization,
by which a considerable loss must necessarily arise, until we have
submitted it to the various re-agents which are calculated to afford
indications of its nature. If, on the contrary, the quantity of the
substance exceed two or three grains, it will be adviseable to proceed
in its examination by the following processes, reserving a portion for
future analysis.

A. _By its reduction to a metallic state._ Mix a portion of the
suspected substance in powder, with three times its weight of _black
flux_[241]; put the mixture into a thin glass tube, about eight inches
in length, and a quarter of an inch in diameter, and which is
hermetically sealed[242] at one end. Should any of the powder adhere to
the sides of the tube it must be carefully brushed off with a feather,
so that the inner surface of its upper part may be perfectly clean and
dry. The closed end of the tube, by way of security, may be thinly
coated with a mixture of pipe-clay and sand[243]; but this operation is
not absolutely necessary. The open extremity of the tube is to be
loosely plugged with a piece of paper. The coated end must now be
submitted to the action of heat, by placing it in a chaffing dish of red
hot coals, for ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour; when, if our
supposition respecting the nature of the substance has been correct,
metallic arsenic will sublime, and be found lining the upper part of the
tube with a brilliant metallic crust. The glass tube, when cold, may be
separated from its sealed end by the action of a file, which will enable
us to collect and examine the metallic sublimate. If a portion of this
brilliant matter be laid on heated iron, it will indicate its nature by
exhaling in dense fumes, having a powerful smell of garlic. Another
portion should be reserved for future experiments.

This method of detecting the presence of _Arsenious acid_ has been
considered the most decisive, and indeed the only unexceptionable one,
but of this we shall speak hereafter; at present we have only to
observe, that it is very far from being a minute test, for _Dr.
Bostock_[244] confesses that where less than _three-fourths of a grain_
were used, he could not say that the metallic crust was clearly
perceptible; and _Dr. Black_[245] appears to have considered that _one
grain_ was the smallest quantity which could be distinctly recognised by
such a process.

Chemists were formerly[246] in the habit of at once projecting any
substance, supposed to be _Arsenic_, on some burning body, in order to
develope the alliaceous odour; we have accidentally stumbled upon an
instance of this kind, in the fourth volume of the _London Medical and
Physical Journal_, which may serve as an illustration; it is a case
communicated by _F. Thackeray, Esq._ of a child poisoned by arsenic, in
which the author says, “_the inner surface of the stomach was very red,
and was studded throughout with a white powder, which when exposed to
the flame of a candle, yielded fumes, and a garlic odour was emitted,
proving it was arsenic; of which there can be no doubt, as the girl
afterwards confessed that she had given arsenic to the infant_.”

After the facts we have offered with respect to the _alliaceous odour_
of arsenical fumes, it is only necessary to state, in this place, that
such a test, when conducted in the manner just related, must be
considered as extremely equivocal.

Another method of identifying “_White Arsenic_,” by metallization, is to
form at the moment of its reduction, an alloy with copper, which may be
easily effected in the following manner: Mix the suspected powder with
_black flux_, as in the former experiment, and place the mixture between
two polished plates of copper; bind them tightly together by iron wire,
and expose them to a low red heat; if the included substance contain
arsenic, a silvery white stain will be left on the surface of the
copper, which is an alloy of the two metals. In this, as in the former
experiment, the presence of an _alkali_ in the flux is essential, since
it forms immediately an _arsenite of potass_, and thereby fixes the
arsenious acid, and prevents it from being volatilized before the
temperature is sufficiently high to enable the charcoal to decompose it;
we therefore differ with _Dr. Bostock_, when he states that _powdered
charcoal_ may be substituted for the _black flux_.

The property of _whitening_ copper is regarded as a very satisfactory
test of the presence of arsenic; but _Dr. Bostock_ has pointed out some
circumstances attending it, which we shall here enumerate for the
instruction and satisfaction of the less experienced operator. “It may
be necessary,” says he, “in the first place, to describe the phenomena
that take place when copper is heated according to the process that is
described above, but without the addition of the arsenic. Two copper
disks, of nearly an inch and a half in diameter, scoured bright with
sand, had one grain of powdered charcoal, made into a paste with oil,
placed between them; they were bound together with an iron wire, and
then kept red hot for ten minutes. When they were withdrawn from the
fire, the metal was found to have lost its former appearance, and to
have acquired the dull white colour of lead or zinc; the insides of the
disks were found to present the same whitish appearance, except on the
spot where the charcoal was placed, a small part of which still remained
unconsumed. As the disks cooled the whitish matter which covered them
began to separate, and fly off with some force, in the form of small
scales, leaving a clean surface of the proper copper colour. The
charcoal was rubbed off, and the surface below it was found smooth and
polished; it had acquired a light colour, resembling that of brass; and,
near the centre, there was a small spot, which approached to a steel
grey. This appearance still continued, after it had been rubbed with
fine sand. The above description,” concludes _Dr. Bostock_, “will
probably impress the Society[247] with the same idea, that, I confess,
it gave to myself, that if I had performed this experiment upon a
substance, which had been suspected to contain arsenic, and I had not
been aware of the appearance that I was to meet with, I should have
conceived that I had detected its presence. Upon repeating the process,
in precisely a similar manner, except that one grain of arsenic was
added to the charcoal, the oxidation of the copper took place as before,
and a small part of the charcoal remained unconsumed; but upon rubbing
it, the white stain was perfectly visible. However, when these disks
were compared with those in which the former experiment had been made,
the difference between them seemed more in _degree_ than in _kind_; so
that I should not choose to decide upon the presence of arsenic, as
indicated by this test, unless the result were more obvious than we can
ever expect to find it, where the quantity of arsenic is so small. It
may be proper to observe, that copper, whitened in this manner by
arsenic, is very subject to tarnish; in three days I could with
difficulty distinguish which of the disks had been employed in these two

In connection with the different modes of identifying arsenic by
metallization, we may relate a test lately proposed by _Mr. A. Thomson_,
which, as a collateral proof, merits some attention. “Into any solution,
in which arsenic may be suspected, stir a moderate quantity of charcoal
powder; allow it to settle; then pour off the clear supernatant liquor,
or filter the mixture; and when the powder which remains on the filter
is dry, sprinkle some of it on a red hot poker; if the solution contain
arsenic, the odour of garlic will be rendered sensible. This effect
becomes more obvious if a few grains of dry sub-carbonate of potass be
added to the dried charcoal powder.”[248]

If, instead of _Black flux_, or charcoal, the arsenious acid be heated
in a glass tube with quick-lime, a sudden ignition will take place, when
one part of the white arsenic will be metallized, and the other farther
acidified, so as to produce an _arseniate of lime_; in this case,
therefore, a certain portion of the arsenious acid is robbed of its
oxygen to complete the acidification of the rest.

The habitudes of arsenious acid with the _nitrates_, as first observed
by _Kunkel_, deserve also some attention. If they be heated together,
the former will be oxygenated at the expense of the nitric acid, nitrous
acid vapour will be disengaged, and an _arseniate of potass_ remain. The
forensic chemist may avail himself of these facts, and obtain a very
useful test, which may be applied in the following manner.[249] Take a
grain or two of the suspected powder, and mix it with double the
quantity of _Nitrate of Potass_; introduce this mixture in a small glass
tube, and apply the flame of a spirit lamp under the powder; when, if it
contain arsenic, the nitrate will be decomposed, nitric oxide and
nitrous acid be evolved in a gaseous form, and an arseniate of potass

The acid vapour may be easily recognised by its colour and smell, or by
placing a piece of moistened litmus paper within the tube. The
_arseniate_ may be identified by the _brick-red_ precipitate, produced
in its solution, by _Nitrate_ of Silver. So small is the quantity of
arsenic required for this latter mode of trial, that _Mr. Smithson_, in
a late paper, observes “that a drop of a solution of arsenious acid in
water, which at the height of 54·5 _Fah._ contains not more than 1/80th
of the acid, put to nitrate of potass in a platina spoon, and fused,
affords a considerable quantity of _arseniate_ of silver. Hence when no
solid particle of oxide of arsenic can be obtained, the presence of it
may be established by infusing in water the matters which contain

     B. _By the application of certain re-agents, or tests, to its

_a._ _Fused Nitrate of Silver, or Lunar Caustic._ For this test we are
indebted to _Mr. Hume_, who first suggested its application in the
Philosophical Magazine for May 1809, (vol. xxxiii). His method of using
it is as follows: into a clean Florence flask introduce two or three
grains of the suspected substance, in the state of powder, to which add
about eight ounces of rain or distilled water, and heat the solution
until it begins to boil; then while it boils frequently shake the flask,
and add to the hot solution a grain or two of sub-carbonate of potass,
agitating the whole to make the mixture uniform. Pour into a wine glass
about two table spoonsful of the solution, and touch the surface of the
fluid with a stick of lunar caustic. If arsenic be present, a beautiful
yellow precipitate will instantly proceed from the point of contact, and
settle towards the bottom of the glass as a flocculent and copious
precipitate. By this test the 60th part of a grain may be satisfactorily
recognised in two ounces of water. The presence of some alkali is
essential to the success of the experiment, since arsenious acid is
incapable, by the operation of simple affinity, to decompose the
_nitrate of silver_.[251] The validity of this test has been questioned
on several distinct grounds, and which the author has endeavoured to
answer in another work[252]; such, however, is the importance of the
question in its judicial consequences, that we shall re-consider it on
the present occasion.

OBJECTION 1. _The alkaline Phosphates are found to produce precipitates
with silver, analogous in colour and appearance to the arsenite of
silver._ This constituted one of the principal points in the evidence
for the defence, on the trial of _Donnall_ for the murder of _Mrs.
Downing_ (_see Appendix_, p. 299), and it must be admitted as a valid
objection, if the experiment be performed in the manner just stated; but
there are other reagents which will immediately distinguish these
bodies, as we shall presently have occasion to state, under the history
of the _Ammoniuret of silver_, as a test for arsenic. The author has
also shewn that there is a mode of so modifying the application of the
present test, that no error or doubt can arise in the use of it, from
the presence of any phosphoric salt. This method consists in conducting
the trial on writing paper, instead of in glasses; thus—drop the
suspected fluid on a piece of white paper, making with it a broad line;
along this line a stick of _lunar caustic_ is to be slowly drawn several
times successively, when a streak is produced of a colour resembling
that known by the name of _Indian Yellow_; and this is equally produced
by the presence of arsenic, and that of an alkaline phosphate, but the
one from the former is rough, curdy, and flocculent, as if effected by a
crayon, that from the latter is homogeneous and uniform, resembling a
water-colour laid smoothly on with a brush; but a more important and
distinctive peculiarity soon succeeds, for, in less than two minutes the
phosphoric yellow fades into a _sad green_, and becomes gradually
darker, and ultimately quite black; while, on the other hand, the
arsenical yellow remains permanent, or nearly so, for some time, when it
becomes brown. In performing this experiment the sun-shine should be
avoided, or the transitions of colour will take place too rapidly. It
would be also prudent for the inexperienced operator to perform a
similar experiment on a fluid known to contain arsenic, and on another
with a phosphoric salt, as a standard of comparison.

In this way the _nitrate of silver_, without the intervention of any
other test, is capable of removing every ambiguity, and of furnishing a
distinguishing mark between the chemical action of arsenic and that of
the phosphates. _Mr. Hume_[253] states that he has repeated this
modification of his experiment with entire satisfaction; and that, in a
late unfortunate case of poisoning, he derived considerable information
by its application. One of the great advantages of this test is the very
small quantity that is required for examination, and which will
therefore never prevent our pursuing the subject through the other
channels of investigation.

OBJECTION 2. _The muriates produce precipitates with silver, so copious
and flocculent, as to overcome every indication which the presence of
arsenic would otherwise afford._

From the general use of common salt, the chemist must be prepared to
meet with a _muriate_ in almost every examination after arsenic, besides
which this latter substance is occasionally adulterated with the
_muriate of baryta_ and by _sulphate of lime_. _Dr. Marcet_ proposes to
obviate the difficulties which the presence of a _muriate_ must
occasion, by adding to the fluid to be examined dilute _nitric_ acid,
and then cautiously applying the _nitrate of silver_ until all
precipitation ceases; in this way the muriatic acid will be entirely
removed, while the arsenic, if present, will be retained in solution,
and may be afterwards rendered evident by the affusion of ammonia, which
will instantly produce the yellow precipitate in its characteristic
form. It must, however, be confessed, that this mode appears
complicated, and, moreover, requires some chemical address for its
accomplishment; it should be also known that the yellow precipitate thus
produced is not always permanent, for it is soluble in an excess of
_ammonia_. Under these circumstances, it is surely preferable to
precipitate at once from the fluid under examination, all the substances
which nitrate of silver can affect, and then to expose the mixed and
ambiguous precipitate, so obtained, to a low heat, in a glass tube, when
the arsenious acid will be separated by sublimation. In this way the
presence of _muriates_ and even _phosphates_, may, in certain cases, be
serviceable, especially if the quantity of arsenic be very minute; for,
by increasing the bulk of the precipitate, we shall decrease the
difficulty of its examination.

OBJECTION 3. _Chromate of potass produces with nitrate of silver a
yellow precipitate, which, when placed side by side with one produced by
arsenious acid, cannot be distinguished by colour or appearance from
it._ This fact has lately been announced by Dr. Porter, of the
University of South Carolina (_Silliman’s Journal_, _iii._ 355); but as
the presence of _Chromate of Potass_ can never be suspected in any
research after arsenic, in cases of forensic interest, it is unnecessary
to enter into any details respecting it.

We have stated above, that in consequence of the inability of arsenious
acid to decompose _nitrate of silver_ by simple elective attraction, the
presence of _some_ alkali becomes indispensable in the examination; and
for this purpose _Dr. Marcet_ suggested the superior advantages which
would attend the application of _ammonia_, in all those cases where the
arsenic had not been previously combined with a fixed alkali; since the
former does not, when added singly, decompose nitrate of silver; a
circumstance which, in using the fixed alkalies, is very liable to
occasion fallacy. This led _Mr. Hume_ to improve his original plan, by
forming at once a compound,[254] which he calls the _Ammoniaco-nitrate
of silver_, but which may with more propriety be designated, as an
_ammoniuret_ of that metal.

_b._ The _Ammoniuret of Silver_. This is an improvement of considerable
value; for, while it obviates the necessity of ascertaining the exact
proportion[255] of alkali required in each experiment, it possesses the
desirable property of not in the least disturbing the solution of
_phosphate of soda_.

_c._ _Sulphate of Copper._ This test of arsenic is the one discovered by
_Scheele_; when added to the _arsenite of potass_ a beautiful green
precipitate (constituting a pigment known by the name of _Scheele’s
green_) is produced; “so decidedly,” says _Dr. Bostock_, “does this
phenomenon indicate the presence of arsenic, that I thought it desirable
to ascertain, as exactly as possible, what were the best proportions in
which the ingredients should be employed, and in what way they should be
mixed, so as to exhibit the effect in the most obvious manner. After a
number of trials, in which the substances were employed in various
quantities, and under different circumstances, I am disposed to
recommend that the proportions of the _arsenic_, the _potass_, and the
_sulphate of copper_, should be to each other as the numbers _one_,
_three_, and _five_, respectively; for instance, if one grain of arsenic
and three grains of potass, be dissolved in two drachms of water; and,
in another equal quantity of water, five grains of sulphate be
dissolved, we have two solutions, which are transparent, and nearly
colourless; but upon mixing them together, the whole is converted into
the most beautiful grass-green, from which a copious precipitate of the
same hue slowly subsides, leaving the supernatant fluid nearly without
colour. If the same materials are employed, in the same manner, but
without the arsenic, a delicate _sky-blue_ is formed, which is so
decidedly different from the former colour as not to admit of the
possibility of error.” In this experiment then, as well as in that with
the nitrate of silver, it is necessary that the arsenious acid should be
combined with an alkaline base; and for the same reason, in order to
bring the double elective attractions into play; _Mr. Hume_ has
accordingly availed himself of the property of ammonia, to form an
_ammoniuret of copper_, which is to be made according to the formula
already given for the preparation of the silver test.

_d._ _Ammoniuret of Copper._ In using this test care must be taken that
it be not too highly concentrated, for in that state it will not produce

Notwithstanding the confidence with which _Dr. Bostock_ has supported
the pretensions of the _Sulphate of Copper_, as an infallible test for
arsenic, its validity has been lately called in question, and it has
been stated that a _decoction of onions_ has the property of imparting
to the copper precipitate, produced by a fixed alkali, a green colour
and appearance completely analogous to that which is occasioned by the
presence of arsenic. This opinion was boldly advanced, and supported, on
the trial of _Donnall_, before alluded to, and of which we have given a
very ample report in the _Appendix_. Since this event an opportunity
occurred which enabled the author to examine this alleged fact, by a
fair and appropriate series of experiments,[256] the result of which has
satisfactorily proved that the opinion was grounded on an optical
fallacy, arising from the _blue_ precipitate assuming a _green_ colour,
in consequence of having been viewed through a yellow medium.[257] The
phosphoric salts may also, under similar circumstances, be mistaken for
arsenic; for the intense blue colour of the _phosphate of copper_ will,
when viewed through a yellow medium, necessarily appear green. Such
instances of optical fallacy are by no means uncommon in the history of
chemical reagents; thus _corrosive sublimate_ has been said to possess
alkaline characters, in consequence of appearing to turn the syrup of
violets green, whereas this apparent change is to be solely attributed
to the optical combination of the yellow hue of the sublimate with the
blue colour of the violet.

Whenever therefore such a source of fallacy can be suspected, the
operator would do well to repeat his experiment on white paper, in the
manner we have already pointed out, when treating of the silver test;
and let it be remembered that the results, when obtained in glasses,
should always be examined by day light, and viewed by reflected, and not
by transmitted light. _Dr. Bostock_ observes, that a weak solution of
the sulphate of copper, without any addition, when held between the eye
and the window, frequently presents a greenish tinge. It should be also
known that the usual reaction of the _ammoniuret of copper_, upon a
diluted solution of arsenic, is prevented by the presence of _tannin_;
strong tea may therefore render the test inefficient.

_e._ _Sulphuretted hydrogen._ This is a very delicate test for arsenic,
producing with its solution a beautiful golden coloured liquor, which,
after a short time, lets fall a precipitate, and which will take place
sooner if a small quantity of acetic acid be added. By this re-agent so
small a quantity as 1/100000 may be detected in solution. The test,
however, is not, says _Dr. Bostock_, sufficiently discriminative to be
depended upon alone; since _tartarized antimony_ and some other bodies,
will produce phenomena that may be mistaken for the effects of arsenic.
It has, however, the merit of not being affected by _tannin_, and may
therefore be conveniently employed for precipitating arsenious acid,
when dissolved in tea.

_f._ _Lime water_ produces with the solution of arsenic a beautiful
white precipitate of _arsenite of lime_, which easily dissolves in an
excess of arsenious acid.

The precipitates occasioned by the foregoing reagents, should be
carefully collected, and treated with _black flux_, in a glass tube, for
the purpose of obtaining the metallic sublimate, as above described.

We cannot quit this part of our subject without directing the reader’s
attention to the chemical evidence given by _Dr. Addington_, on the
trial of _Mary Blandy_ (_see Appendix, p._ 241) to prove that arsenic
was contained in a powder with which she was supposed to have poisoned
her father. To those in the least acquainted with the habitudes of
arsenious acid, it must be evident, that no one of the appearances
described by _Dr. Addington_ indicates the presence of arsenic;[258] and
his evidence is only to be reconciled upon the supposition that, instead
of the arsenic itself, he, in this case, detected the foreign substances
with which it had been adulterated; thus it has been before stated that
_white arsenic_, as sold by the druggists, is often adulterated with
_sulphate of lime_; and the decomposition of this substance by the
_sub-carbonate of ammonia_ (“_Spirit of sal-ammoniac_”) or by the
_sub-carbonate of potass_ (“_Lixivium of tartar_”) would occasion the
precipitation of a white substance, as stated in the evidence; it is
however difficult to account for the “considerable precipitation of a
lightish coloured substance” by muriatic acid (_spirit of salt_) by the
presence of any impurity likely to be contained in the arsenic, or in
the water employed for its solution. If any lime were present, it would
probably give “white glittering crystals” of sulphate of lime, by the
addition of sulphuric acid (_spirits of vitriol_). The only plausible
evidence of the presence of arsenic in the suspected powder is “the
alliaceous smell and white flowers” which _Dr. Addington_ describes as
occurring when it was thrown on red hot iron; it must however be
confessed, that from the fallacy of the other experiments, it is even
impossible to place any confidence in those last mentioned.

Arsenic does not blacken a knife by which it is cut, as stated on the
trial of _Eliza Fenning_; nor does it, when mixed with dough, prevent
its rising.[259]

We have now concluded our history of the different tests which have been
proposed for the detection of arsenic. Much has been said and written
upon the relative degree of confidence to which they are respectively
entitled, and it has been asserted on several occasions, that nothing
short of the reproduction of the metal ought to be received by the
tribunals of justice, as an unequivocal proof of the presence of
arsenious acid. (See _Dr. Neale’s Evidence on the trial of Donnall_.
_Appendix, p._ 297.) In taking an impartial review of all the evidence
which the investigation of this subject can furnish, it must appear to
the most fastidious, that the _Silver_ and _Copper_ tests, above
described, are capable, under proper management and precaution, of
furnishing striking and infallible indications; and that in most cases
they will be equally conclusive, and in some even more satisfactory in
their results, than the metallic reproduction upon which so much stress
has been laid; and for this obvious reason, that unless the quantity of
metal be considerable, its metallic splendour and appearance is often
very ambiguous and questionable. The author is personally acquainted
with a case, where the medical person, by no means deficient in chemical
address, actually ascribed the presence of arsenic to that which was no
other than a film of finely divided charcoal: in this state of doubt the
last resource was to ascertain whether it yielded, or not, upon being
volatilized, an alliaceous odour. Surely an unprejudiced judge would
prefer the evidence of _sight_, as furnished by the tests, to that of
_smell_, as afforded in the experiment to which we allude; especially
after the various fallacies, which we have shewn in the course of the
present enquiry, to have occurred with regard to this latter sense. But
the question at issue may be easily disposed of to the satisfaction of
all parties; for let it be remembered, that the application of chemical
reagents on solutions suspected to contain arsenic, so far from throwing
any obstacle in the way of the _metallic reproduction_ of that
substance, are the very steps which should be adopted as preparatory to
the “_experimentum crucis_.” It is only necessary to collect the
precipitates, and to decompose them in the manner already described; and
this confirmation of our results should never be neglected, for it is
the bounden duty of the forensic chemist, who is called upon to decide
so important a question as the presence of a corrosive poison, to
prosecute by the fullest enquiry every point which admits of the least
doubt; he should also remember that in a criminal case, where the life
of a human being depends upon his testimony, he has not only to satisfy
his own conscience, but that he is bound, as far as he is able, to
convince the public mind of the accuracy and truth of his researches.

   2. _The Arsenious Acid is mixed with various alimentary and other

The detection of the presence of arsenic, amidst a complicated mass of
alimentary matter, has long been a problem of interest and difficulty.
In the directions which have been already offered for the discovery of
arsenic in solution, we have in some measure anticipated several of the
resources, of which we are now to avail ourselves. It has been seen how
greatly coloured fluids are capable of obscuring, and changing, and even
altogether preventing, the arsenical indications. _M. Orfila_, with an
assiduity and accuracy which so eminently characterise all his
toxicological labours, has accordingly investigated the peculiar
appearances assumed by the arsenical precipitates in different media,
such as bile, tea, coffee, wine, broth, jelly, &c. Since the publication
of the great work[260] in which these phenomena are recorded, its author
has proposed a new method[261] of removing its difficulties and
embarrassments, occasioned by the colouring matter of the above media;
which consists in a previous application of _Chlorine_, so as to change
the colour to a shade, that will not offer any optical impediment to the
characteristic indications of the tests in question. We are ready to
admit that such a mode of proceeding may, on certain occasions, assist
the accomplished chemist in his analysis; but in the hands of a person
less accustomed to chemical manipulation, we hesitate not to declare
that it is subject to fatal fallacies; whereas, by collecting the
precipitate, and submitting it to the process of sublimation we shall at
once obtain the arsenious acid in a pure form, and be enabled to test
it, in distilled water without the chance of error. Why then should we
attempt to pursue our game through the windings of a labyrinth, when a
direct road lies before us by which we may drive it into the open plain?

We accordingly recommend the juridical chemist, who suspects the
presence of arsenious acid in broth, coffee, or any coloured liquid, to
add a solution of _ammoniuret of silver_, and thus to precipitate
indiscriminately all the bodies which it may be capable of so affecting.
The precipitate may then be collected, and submitted to heat in a glass
tube, as before directed.

But the _Arsenious acid_ may perchance be so mixed with various foreign
matter as to render its separation by filtration difficult; in such a
case, after having boiled it in distilled water, in order to procure all
the soluble matter from it, the residual mass may be evaporated to
dryness, care being taken that the heat applied for such a purpose never
exceeds 250° _Fah._ or we shall lose the arsenic, should any be present,
by volatilization. The residue thus obtained may then be submitted to a
higher temperature in a subliming vessel, in order to procure the
arsenious acid in its pure state. This process applies particularly to
the examination of the matter vomited, or the feculent evacuations
passed, by the patient. Should the arsenious acid have, in the first
instance, been dissolved in oil, _Dr. Ure_ proposes to boil the solution
in distilled water, and to separate the oil afterwards by the capillary
action of wick threads. If the arsenious acid be mixed with resinous
bodies, _Oil of Turpentine_ may be employed as their solvent, which will
leave the arsenic untouched. _Dr. Black_ directed the application of
alcohol for this purpose, but this is obviously improper, since
arsenious acid is soluble in that fluid.

If the physician be called upon to investigate the contents of the
alimentary canal after death, and the arsenious acid cannot be
discovered amongst the suspected matter, the stomach itself must be cut
into small pieces, and in compliance with the directions of _Orfila_,
boiled in ten or twelve times their weight of distilled water, which
should be renewed as fast as a portion of it flies off in vapour; this
liquor should be cooled and decanted, in order to put a few drops of it
into the solutions of the different re-agents which we have before
described. If the precipitates should indicate the presence of arsenic,
we may proceed according to the directions we have already laid down;
if, on the other hand, the fluid offers no indication of poison, the
mass exhausted by water should be treated, according to the process
suggested by _Rose_, by boiling it for some time in a solution of
potass, by which means the stomach will be partly decomposed and
dissolved, and the arsenious acid, with which it might have been
combined, saturated by the alkali. In this state the liquor is to be
filtered, again boiled, and nitric acid added, little by little, until
it passes from a dark to a clear yellow colour. The object of the acid
in this stage of the process being to decompose and destroy the animal
matter. The excess of acid should be saturated with potass, when an
_Arsenite of Potass_ will be formed, if there really existed any
arsenious acid in the stomach. This _M. Orfila_ recommends us to
precipitate by the _Hydro-sulphuret of Ammonia_, and a few drops of
nitric acid; (_Rose_ prefers _lime water_ for the same purpose); a
yellow _sulphuret of Arsenic_ will be the result, from which the whole
of the metal may be obtained, by drying it upon a filter, mixing it with
an equal bulk of potass, and melting it in a small glass tube.

This complicated mode of proceeding will rarely be found necessary; but
it should not be neglected, where the presence of arsenic cannot be
otherwise detected in the alimentary canal of those who are suspected to
have died from its ingestion, especially in the examination of a body
where, from the length of time it may have been under ground, there is
reason to suppose that the acid exists in a state of intimate
combination with the animal matter. And we may take this opportunity to
observe, that advanced putrefaction, however disagreeable it may render
such researches, will not, in the case of arsenic, defeat their success;
let the forensic physician, then, remember, that the length of time
which may have elapsed since the death of the body, ought never to be
urged as a plea for not having proceeded in its dissection. The task may
be personally disagreeable, but it will be less painful than the
reflections which must attend a breach of duty; upon such an occasion we
would address the anatomist in the quaint but expressive words of
_Teichmeyer_[262], “_Præstat enim manus quam conscientiam cruentare et

                      ARSENIC ACID, and ITS SALTS.

It has been stated, that the Metal Arsenic is susceptible of two degrees
of oxidizement, the result of its first degree being Arseni_ous_ acid,
and that of its second Arsen_ic_ acid. This latter compound, of which we
are now to treat, may be obtained by the repeated distillation of white
arsenic with nitric acid. In a solid state it is white, not
crystallizable; of a sour, and at the same time, metallic taste; its
specific gravity is 3·391; when exposed to the action of heat in a close
vessel, it does not become volatile, but melts and vitrifies; thrown on
burning coals, it swells, parts with its water, and becomes opaque; if
the process of deoxidation be continued, it will, at length, rise in
vapours, like those of arsenious acid, and which, like them, will yield
an alliaceous odour, or not, according to the circumstances already
explained. The _Arsenic acid_ dissolves very readily in water, and is
even indeed deliquescent. With alkalies, earths, and oxides, it
constitutes a class of salts, called “_Arseniates_,” all of which, as
well as the pure acid, are extremely active poisons; fortunately,
however, they are not much employed[263] in this country, and are not
likely to become the instruments of crime. These salts, like those of
the arsenious acid, are obedient to the different re-agents which were
enumerated under the consideration of this latter substance, but with
different results; thus the _silver_ test, instead of producing the
yellow indication, occasions an equally characteristic precipitate of a
red, or brick colour. The ammoniuret, and acetate of copper, furnish a
bluish-white precipitate. The arsenic acid, in a solid form, or the
arseniate, mixed with black flux, will, like white arsenic, furnish a
metallic sublimate, when heated in a glass tube.

                       THE SULPHURETS OF ARSENIC.

There are two Sulphurets of Arsenic: the yellow variety known in
commerce under the name of _Orpiment_, and the red sulphuret, termed
_Realgar_. The bodies, as they occur _native_, do not appear to be
endowed with the virulent powers which distinguish the other compounds
of arsenic. _M. Renault_[264] gave as much as two drachms of the native
orpiment to dogs of different sizes, from which they experienced no
inconvenience. _Hoffman_[265] also offers his testimony of the inertness
of this substance. The same observations apply to the _Realgar_. It is
not a little singular that while these native sulphurets of arsenic
should be so harmless, those which are produced by artificial fusions,
are extremely virulent in very small doses. _M. Renault_ supposed that
this remarkable difference of effect was owing to the arsenic being
oxidized in the latter compound, and in its metallic state in the
former. This explanation, however, is not considered as satisfactory by
_M. Orfila_, who states that it does not embrace all the varieties of
the case, for that the _sulphuret_, which is artificially obtained by
pouring the arsenious acid into a solution of sulphuretted hydrogen, is
as inert as the native compounds; besides which, chemical analysis has
proved that there is no oxygen in any of these _sulphurets_, and that
they only differ from one another, by a greater or less proportion of
their two ingredients. This apparent anomaly induced _M. Orfila_ to
institute a series of experiments for its investigation, but the results
which he has obtained are too unsatisfactory to enable him to decide the

The presence of an _Arsenical Sulphuret_ is to be sought for by
calcination with caustic potass, in a small glass tube. The sulphuret is
decomposed in a few seconds, yielding its sulphur to the potass, while
its metallic element is volatilized with the usual phenomena.


Mercury, or Quicksilver[266], was known in the earliest ages. Its
external characters are too familiar to require any particular
description in this place. Its specific gravity is 13·568.[267] In its
metallic state it exerts no action on the living system, except that
which may depend upon its mechanical properties, although a different
opinion has been entertained, (see _Pharmacologia_, art. Hydrargyrum.)

Several of the combinations of this metal are, however, highly
destructive in small doses, and are consequently objects of forensic

                          CORROSIVE SUBLIMATE.

           _Oxy-muriate of Mercury. Bi-chloride of Mercury._

This metallic salt is by far the most active of all the mercurial
preparations. According to the latest views of Chemistry it is a
compound of two proportionals of chlorine, and one proportional of
metallic mercury, and is therefore a _bi-chloride of Mercury_. It
generally occurs in the form of a crystalline mass, made up of very
small prismatic crystals, which undergo a slight alteration by exposure
to air, becoming opaque and pulverulent. Its taste is extremely acrid,
with a metallic astringency, occasioning a sensation of obstruction in
the throat which continues for some time. Its specific gravity is
5·1398[268]. When pulverised and thrown upon burning coals, it is
immediately volatilized, giving out a thick white smoke, of a very
pungent smell, not at all resembling garlic, but which irritates the
mucous membranes extremely, and is highly dangerous to those who breathe
it. It is soluble in eleven parts of cold, and in three of boiling
water; and this solubility may be farther increased by the addition of a
few drops of rectified spirit, or of muriatic acid. When swallowed in
small quantities it acts as a most virulent poison.[269]

            _Symptoms of Poisoning by Corrosive Sublimate._

The effects, as well as the _modus operandi_, of this salt, will vary
with the quantity swallowed. We shall, therefore, first consider the
acute symptoms which supervene a dose sufficiently powerful to destroy
life in a few hours; and afterwards those which may arise from its long
continued use in small quantities, and at different intervals.

1. _Symptoms which follow a large dose._ A most painful burning and
sense of constriction is experienced in the fauces; dryness of the mouth
and lips; excruciating pain in the stomach and bowels, increased by the
slightest pressure, and generally attended with considerable distention;
excessive vomiting and purging of frothy mucus; the countenance is
frequently red and swollen, and the eyes exhibit a sparkling appearance,
accompanied by contraction of the pupils. The pulse is in general quick,
small, and hard; suppression of urine takes place, and cold sweats;
anxiety; universal pains; convulsions, and death. If the patient
survives long enough, a violent ptyalism, and sloughing of the mouth and
gums may take place.

2. _Symptoms which are produced by the repetition of small doses._ In
this case the mercurial salt acts as an “Accumulative Poison.” (_See
page_ 148). The most striking of the symptoms are those arising from its
specific action upon the salivary glands, in consequence of which an
increased flow of saliva takes place, the gums become tender and sore,
the breath intolerably offensive, and if the use of the salt be not
discontinued, the teeth loosen, and even fall out, and their loss is
sometimes followed by that of the bones of the palate, or maxillæ; at
the same time other evils, although perhaps less apparent, soon arise;
the strength and muscular powers of the body begin to fail; emaciation
proceeds rapidly; cardialgia, dyspepsia, diarrhæa, and a train of morbid
symptoms succeed; violent pains are experienced in the muscles, tendons,
or joints; tremors of the limbs, and even paralysis may result; and in
some cases, pulmonary consumption terminates the existence of the
unhappy sufferer. It has been asserted that _Corrosive Sublimate_, when
taken for a long time in small quantities, will sometimes occasion all
the symptoms of debility above enumerated, together with hectic fever,
without producing salivation. This is a truth which the author’s
personal experience will enable him to confirm. The Countess of
Soissons, mother of the celebrated Prince Eugene, was accused, at the
latter end of the seventeenth century, of having destroyed her husband
by these means. A question of considerable importance has arisen, with
regard to the specific effects of mercury, which demands some notice in
this place. _Whether salivation, after having entirely subsided, can
ever return without a fresh exhibition of Mercury?_ Two instances are
related by _Dr. Mead_ of the return of salivation, after an interval of
several months, when not a particle of mercury had been administered, in
any form, during that period.[270] _Dr. Male_, in his work on Juridical
Medicine,[271] relates an analogous case which occurred in his own
practice: “In March, 1815,” says he, “I gave a small quantity of
triturated mercury to a respectable woman in this town, who had been
long ill; she became suddenly and unexpectedly salivated. She soon
recovered, and enjoyed better health than she had done for a
considerable time. In October, without (as she informed me) having taken
any medicine whatever, the salivation returned with extreme violence,
her mouth sloughed and mortified; and in a few weeks she died.” _Dr.
Hamilton_, the Professor of Midwifery in Edinburgh, relates in his
lectures the case of a married lady, who had been under the necessity of
going through a course of mercury, under the care of the late _Mr.
Bennet_, who, from motives of delicacy did not enquire very minutely
into the particular circumstances; but, according to the rule of the
day, gave his patient a sore mouth. Four months afterwards she
miscarried, and salivation again came on. It was removed for a week, at
the end of which it returned, and harrassed her for about twelve
months.[272] The author, in his _Pharmacologia_,[273] has cited a case
from _Hufeland’s Journal_, (vol. ix) wherein mercurial influence, after
its complete subsidence, had been renewed by doses of opium. In the
trial of _Miss Butterfield_, at the Croydon assizes, for poisoning _Mr.
Scawen_, in the year 1775, the merit of the case entirely hinged upon
this question. See vol. 1, p. 303.

             _Physiological action of Corrosive Sublimate._

When this salt is introduced into the stomach in a large dose, it
immediately exerts a corrosive action on that organ, in consequence of
which the heart and brain become sympathetically affected, and death
results from the suspension of their functions. For this view of the
_modus operandi_ of this mercurial salt we are indebted to _Mr.
Brodie_,[274] whence it would appear that its physiological action is
very different from that of arsenious acid; the former acting as a
simple _escharotic_, on the coats of the alimentary canal, the latter
requiring to be absorbed, before it can display its energies. These
observations, however, apply only to those cases in which the quantity
of poison has been so considerable as to destroy life in a few hours;
where the dose has been small, and the symptoms have arisen from its
frequent repetition, the salt produces its effects by a different mode
of operation. In this latter case it is absorbed, and carried into the
current of the blood, so as to be distributed to every part of the
living system; and it has been asserted that, after the long continued
and improper use of mercury, it has been discovered in different parts
of the body, and even in the brain, in the form of globules. In this way
then deleterious effects may arise from the external application of
corrosive sublimate, and numerous instances are recorded where such
consequences have followed the injudicious use of lotions and plasters,
into which it had entered as an ingredient.[275] In the _Medical
Repository_, for December, 1821, _Mr. Sutleffe_ has communicated the
case of a girl of five years of age, who became salivated, and died, in
consequence of an application made to the head for _tinea capitis_,
consisting of pomatum rubbed up with a few grains of _corrosive

                  _Antidotes to Corrosive Sublimate._

After the view which we have taken of the operation of this salt in
large doses, it necessarily follows that copious dilution is the very
first object which we have to accomplish, and then the ejection of the
fluid by vomiting. _Sydenham_ relates an interesting case of poisoning
by this substance, which was successfully treated by copious draughts of
water, and repeated vomiting.[276] But it becomes a question of great
practical importance to enquire, whether there may not exist some
counterpoison or antidote which, by decomposing the salt, will at once
disarm it of its virulence? This question has been investigated in a
very masterly style by _Orfila_, who has clearly proved by experiment,
that neither the _alkaline salts_ and _earths, the sulphurets of potass
and of lime_, nor the _martial alkaline tinctures_, as proposed by
_Navier_,[277] deserve the least confidence; for although the salt may
by some of these bodies be decomposed, yet the resulting oxide will
prove as virulent as the original compound; equally inefficient are the
other substances which have been proposed as counter-poisons, such as
_sulphuretted hydrogen_, _solutions of sugar_,[278] _the infusions of
Peruvian bark_,[279] and _metallic mercury_.[280]

_M. Orfila_ having observed the facility with which _albumen_ decomposes
corrosive sublimate, and gives rise to a triple compound of albumen,
muriatic acid, and protoxide of mercury, induced him to ascertain by
experiments whether the _white of eggs_ might not prove an antidote to
that poison; the result of his inquiry has shewn that this is the case;
and that by mixing such albuminous matter, in _large quantities_, with
the diluents given to provoke vomiting, the happiest effects may be
anticipated. Many examples are recorded of the success of this practice.
In the Transactions of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in
Ireland, an interesting case of this kind is related by _Dr. Lendrick_;
it is, however, but justice to state, that there are instances also of
the failure of this antidote. In the 41st volume of the _London Medical
and Physical Journal_, p. 204, the reader will find the case of a girl
who was poisoned by a drachm of sublimate, and who, notwithstanding the
copious administration of albumen, died in ninety hours afterwards.

It has lately been discovered that vegetable _gluten_, as existing in
wheat flour, is capable of producing upon corrosive sublimate the same
chemical decomposition, as that which we have stated to arise from the
action of albumen; whence the administration of wheat flour and water
has been suggested as a ready antidote. On the trial of _Michael
Whiting_, for administering poison (_corrosive sublimate_) to his
brothers-in-law, _George_ and _Joseph Langman_, the housekeeper,
_Catharine Carter_, stated in evidence, that the flour, (which was
subsequently proved to contain corrosive sublimate) could scarcely be
made into dumplings with milk[281]; and another witness, _Mrs. Hopkins_,
a neighbour who took charge of the dumpling that had not been boiled,
described it as “_a comical sort of paste; like glazier’s putty more
than paste, though not greasy_.” In order to ascertain the correctness
of this statement, we mixed powdered sublimate with wheat flour, and
proceeded to make it into dough with milk; when the same difficulty as
that stated by the above witnesses, embarrassed the process, and
satisfied us of the truth of their testimony. The phenomenon would
appear to depend upon the mutual chemical changes which arise in the
gluten and mercurial salt.

              _Organic Lesions discovered on Dissection._

The œsophagus and stomach will be found inflamed, and sometimes eroded,
as in poisoning by arsenic. _Salin_ has asserted, that this salt never
produces perforation of the intestinal tube; this, however, is not the
fact; and we know not of any exclusive appearances, by which the organic
lesions inflicted by this poison can be distinguished, unless indeed it
be the black appearance of the stomach, as if it had been burnt, which
occasionally presents itself.

_Of the Chemical Processes by which the presence of Corrosive Sublimate
                           may be detected._

As the chemist, devoted to forensic enquiry, will be required to
identify this substance under very different states of mixture and
combination, we shall proceed to enumerate the various obstacles that
may possibly oppose his researches; and, at the same time, to suggest
the expedients by which they may be successfully evaded. Unlike
arsenious acid, corrosive sublimate is so readily decomposed by various
alimentary substances, that, when we attempt to demonstrate its presence
in such mixtures, we shall be more frequently compelled to rest our
proof upon the products of the analysis, than upon the actual
reproduction of the salt.

We shall proceed to consider the best modes of establishing the presence
of this salt, in the different forms in which it may occur, viz. 1, _In
the solid form_; 2, _Dissolved in water or spirit_; 3, _In various
coloured liquids_; 4, _In a state of mixture with various solids_; 5,
_Combined with solid or liquid aliments, by which it undergoes
decomposition_; 6, _In a state of combination with the textures of the
alimentary canal_.

1. _The sublimate is in its solid form._ The external characters by
which this salt is distinguished will go far to establish its identity;
but the fact should always receive the support of a chemical proof; and
as this is to be derived from the phenomena afforded by its solutions
through the intervention of various tests, it will meet with full
consideration in the following section, viz.

2. _The salt is in the state of solution, in water, or spirit._ Let us
then suppose that we have a solution of some body in distilled water,
which we suspect to be corrosive sublimate, by what means are we able to
identify it?

(_a_) _By its metallization, through the agency of galvanism._ We are
indebted to _Mr. Sylvester_ for first suggesting the mode by which
galvanic electricity might be applied for the detection of minute
quantities of corrosive sublimate in solution. His method is as follows.
A piece of zinc or iron wire, about three inches in length, is to be
twice bent at right angles, so as to resemble the greek letter π, the
two legs of this figure should be distant about the diameter of a common
wedding ring from each other, and the two ends of the bent wire must
afterwards be tied to a ring of this description. Let a plate of glass,
not less than three inches square, be laid as nearly horizontal as
possible, and on one side drop some sulphuric acid, diluted with about
six times its weight of water, till it spreads to the size of a
halfpenny. At a little distance from this, towards the other side, next
drop some of the solution supposed to contain corrosive sublimate, till
the edges of the two liquids become joined; and let the wire and ring,
prepared as above, be laid in such a way, that the wire may touch the
acid, while the gold ring is in contact with the suspected liquid. If
the minutest quantity of corrosive sublimate be present, the ring, in a
few minutes, will be covered with metallic mercury on the part which
touched the fluid.

The above experiment may be beautifully simplified in the following
manner[282]. Drop a small quantity of a solution, supposed to contain
the salt in question, on a piece of gold, and bring into contact a key,
or some piece of iron, so as to form a galvanic circuit; when, if
sublimate be present, the gold will immediately be whitened.

A solution of _nitrate of silver_ will, under similar treatment,
occasion on gold a white precipitate; but as no amalgamation takes
place, it is readily wiped off, and cannot therefore occasion any

(_b_) _By precipitating metallic mercury from its solution, by the
contact of a single metal._ It should be generally known that, by virtue
of superior affinity, certain metals will decompose the solution of
corrosive sublimate, with different phenomena; in those cases where the
precipitating metal is capable of forming a direct union with mercury,
we shall find the precipitates to consist of an amalgam of the metal
employed; where no such combination takes place, the mercury may be
frequently seen standing on the surface as a metallic dew. This is
particularly striking when iron or steel has been employed. In the
evidence given on the trial of _Mary Bateman_[283], better known by the
name of the “Yorkshire Witch,” _Mr. Thomas Chorley_, surgeon at Leeds,
stated that he had received from his assistant, _Mr. Hammerton_, a jar
which he had carefully preserved in his possession, and of the contents
of which he gave the following account. “Upon tasting a portion, it was
very acrid, styptic, and permanent upon the tongue; I then took a small
quantity of it upon a clean knife, and rubbed it with my finger; a
change of colour immediately appeared; _further rubbing produced
numerous globules of quicksilver_, and the knife was, at the same time,
blackened by it; this change of colour led me to suspect that it must be
a mercurial composition, and having made a solution of it, and subjected
it to a series of tests and experiments, it is my opinion, that the
mixture in the pot did contain _honey_, and _corrosive sublimate of
mercury_. In order, however, more fully to satisfy myself upon this
point, a mixture was made of these ingredients, when it was found to
yield the same results.” In the above experiment, the steel knife
decomposed the sublimate, forming a _chloride of iron_, while the
mercury, thus disengaged in its metallic form, being unable to
amalgamate with the iron, appeared in globules[284] upon its surface. At
the same time the knife _became blackened_ owing to the precipitation of
carbonaceous matter from the steel.

(_c_) _Carbonate of Potass._ A saturated solution of this salt, added to
that of corrosive sublimate, will produce a _deep brick coloured_
sediment, which is stated to consist of per-carbonate of mercury[285];
while a muriate of potass will be found to remain in solution. The
_sub-carbonate of potass_ will occasion a somewhat different
precipitate, of a _clear brick_ colour, and consisting of a mixture of
the carbonate, and oxide of the metal.[286]

(_d_) _Ammonia._ A solution of the volatile alkali produces a _white
precipitate_, which is an insoluble triple salt, composed of muriatic
acid, ammonia, and oxide of mercury; being heated it grows yellow; it
passes afterwards to red, and according to _Orfila_ gives out ammoniacal
gas, nitrogen, calomel, and metallic mercury. In this operation the
oxide of mercury is supposed to be deoxidized by the hydrogen which
results from a portion of the decomposed ammonia.

(_e_) _Lime water._ This reagent may be said to decompose corrosive
sublimate more perfectly than any alkaline body; occasioning a
precipitate of a deep yellow colour, which will be found to be a
peroxide of mercury; unless indeed the quantity of lime water be very
small, when it will be a sub-muriate of the peroxide.

(_f_) _Nitrate of Tin._ According to _Dr. Bostock_[287] this test is
capable of detecting the three-millionth part of a grain in solution. A
single drop will produce an immediate and copious dark-brown

All the above precipitates, if rubbed on a bright plate of copper, will
render its surface silvery white, in consequence of the amalgamation
which takes place.

_Brugnatelli_ has lately proposed a method of distinguishing _corrosive
sublimate_ from _arsenic_, which we have repeated to our satisfaction;
but the experiment requires some nicety of manipulation to secure its
success. Take a quantity of fresh wheat starch, mix with water, and add
a sufficient quantity of _iodine_ to give the liquid a blue colour; if
either of the above poisons be now introduced into it, the colour will
be destroyed, and assume a reddish tint; but if the change has been
effected by the latter substance, a few drops of sulphuric acid will
restore the blue colour; whereas if it has been produced by the former,
it is not recoverable by such means.[288]

3. _It is dissolved in various coloured liquids._ Under this subdivision
we have to consider the corrosive sublimate as existing in a state of
solution, in liquids, whose colour will be liable to obscure the
characteristic indications which the several reagents would otherwise
occasion. It has been proposed to obviate such impediments by the
previous addition of chlorine, which will discharge the colour in
question. _Orfila_ recommends such a process, where the salt has been
dissolved in wine. The same objections which we urged against this mode
of proceeding, under the consideration of arsenic, appear to us to apply
to corrosive sublimate.

It will be preferable on these occasions to precipitate the salt by an
appropriate reagent, and then to assay the precipitate for metallic
mercury; or to evaporate the solution, and to submit the matter so
obtained to the process of sublimation, when the sublimate may be
dissolved in distilled water, and examined by the tests above described.
This circuitous process may, however, in many cases be rendered
unnecessary, by dropping the solution on the surface of white paper, and
in such a situation proceeding to its examination by tests; when the
colour of the precipitate will rarely be exposed to any optical fallacy.
The Galvanic process of metallic reduction will also furnish a
satisfactory solution of the problem.

4. _It is mixed, or combined, with some medicinal body in a solid form._
As persons have been poisoned by empirical remedies, and other medicines
containing sublimate, accidentally or by design, it is necessary to
point out the readiest mode by which the investigation may be pursued.
If it should form part of a plaster, it will be adviseable to cut it up
in small pieces, and boil them for a quarter of an hour in distilled
water; this fluid, after standing for some time, should be filtered, and
examined as we have before directed. It is evident that, if the
sublimate is neither decomposed, nor strongly retained by the materials
which compose the plaster, it ought to be found in the above solution;
if, however, no such result can be obtained, the solid portion should be
dried in a capsule, and mixed with potass; and in this state submitted,
in the usual manner, to the process of sublimation, when the appearance
of metallic globules will announce the existence of the salt in
question, or, at least, of the presence of some mercurial preparation.

5. _It is united with alimentary substances which have effected its
decomposition._ It has been frequently stated during the course of the
present inquiry, that corrosive sublimate is easily susceptible of
decomposition, and that various alimentary substances, of animal as well
as vegetable origin, have the power of converting it into
_calomel_.[289] This important fact was first noticed by
_Chaussier_[290] and has been more fully investigated and confirmed by
_Orfila_.[291] Where the quantity of mercurial salt has been
considerable, we may generally obtain, on washing the alimentary matter,
a sufficient portion for experiment; but where the dose has been small,
or where it has been ejected by frequent vomiting, the whole residue may
be decomposed; in which case we must seek to establish the fact of
poisoning, through the detection of metallic mercury, by the processes
of calcination and sublimation.

6. _It is decomposed, and a part exists in intimate combination with the
membranes of the alimentary canal._ If all the preceding experiments
have failed in detecting the presence of corrosive sublimate, it becomes
our duty to examine the textures with which it may be supposed to have
come in contact; the coats of the canal should be cut into pieces, and
calcined with potass, when, if they have been acted upon by sublimate,
they will yield metallic mercury by sublimation. “The alimentary canal,”
says _M. Orfila_, “acts upon the sublimate like all other animal
substances; muriatic acid is disengaged, and muriate of mercury _ad
minimum_ (_calomel_) is formed, which combines with the substance of the

It may be objected,” continues this distinguished experimentalist, “that
this chemical action does not take place in the living animal; that our
texture, while endued with the vital principle, is not subservient to
the same laws as inorganic substances: I am not ignorant of the extent
to which this objection is well-founded; but admitting the justice of
it, the conclusion is not less true, that if the stomach contains
corrosive sublimate at the moment of death, this body will, from that
moment, act on the texture of the viscus itself. If the stomach contain
a large quantity of aliment, the effects of such an action may be
scarcely perceptible; but on the contrary, they will be easily
applicable, should the viscus be empty, and especially if the
examination of the body takes place several days after death.”[292]

In conducting experiments upon this, and indeed all other mineral
poisons, the chemist must be prepared to meet with anomalies depending
upon the impurities or adulterations of the substance under examination.

              RED OXIDE OF MERCURY. _Precipitate per se._

We are not aware of any instance of death having, from accident or
design, taken place in consequence of the administration of this
substance; indeed its red colour, insolubility in water, and comparative
rarity, will protect mankind sufficiently against mistake, and at the
same time render its secret administration extremely difficult. It is,
moreover, mild in its effects, unless in large doses, or, under
particular circumstances of constitution. It may be identified by its
form, which is that of minute crystalline scales, of a deep red colour,
and by exposing it to heat in a glass tube, by which it undergoes
decomposition, giving out metallic mercury, adhering to the sides of the
tube, and oxygen gas, which is disengaged.

             RED PRECIPITATE, or _Nitric Oxide of Mercury_.

This is, strictly speaking, a _sub-nitrate_ of mercury, and is much more
poisonous than the preceding substance. _Plouquet_[293] relates the case
of a man, who swallowed by accident some red precipitate, when he
immediately experienced violent colics, copious vomitings, a trembling
of his limbs, and cold sweats. Its external characters will at once
enable the chemist to identify it.


The various saline compounds of this metal, as the acetate, sulphate,
and nitrate, are all highly poisonous, but they do not appear to us to
merit a separate consideration; and more especially as we have already
explained the various processes by which every variety of preparation
may be identified. We may just remark that the _sulphuret_, better known
by the name of _cinnabar_, or _vermilion_, has been known to occasion
deleterious effects. _Dr. Gordon Smith_[294] states, upon the authority
of _Mr. Accum_,[295] that “Vermilion has been detected as a poisonous
ingredient in cheese:” this may be very true, but he should have stated
at the same time, that the deleterious effects produced by it, did not
arise from the mercurial sulphuret, but from the red lead with which it
happened to be adulterated; and it is necessary to acquaint the forensic
chemist, that such a fraud[296] is by no means uncommon; it may be very
easily detected by burning a small portion of the suspected sample on a
piece of bread in the candle, when metallic globules will announce the
presence of lead; for the oxide of mercury, although revived by the
process, will at the same time be volatilized. The bread by combustion
affords the carbon by which the metallic reduction is effected.

The presence of very minute quantities of _vermilion_ may, according to
_Mr. Smithson_, be detected by the following simple experiment. Boil a
portion with sulphuric acid in a platina spoon, and lay the sulphate
thus produced in a drop of muriatic acid, on a piece of gold, and then
bring a piece of metallic tin in contact with both, when the white
mercurial stain will be produced.


Although the ancients were entirely ignorant of this metal, they were
well acquainted with several of its combinations,[297] _Basil
Valentine_, a German Benedictine Monk, was the first who described the
process for obtaining it from its ore; to this work, originally written
in high Dutch, and known by the title of the “_Currus Triumphalis
Antimonii_,” which was published towards the end of the 15th century, we
are indebted for almost all our knowledge respecting this metal.

Antimony is of a greyish white colour, having considerable brilliancy;
its texture is laminated, and exhibits plates crossing each other in
every direction; its _specific gravity_ is 6·7021; when rubbed upon the
fingers it communicates to them a peculiar taste and smell; it is very
brittle, and fuses at the temperature of 809°, but does not appear to be
volatile; when fused, with the access of air, it emits white fumes,
consisting of an oxide of the metal, which formerly was called
_Argentine flowers of Antimony_. When the metal is raised to a white
heat, and suddenly agitated, it enters into a state of combustion, and
is converted into the same white coloured oxide.

According to _Thenard_,[298] antimony is susceptible of no less than six
different degrees of oxidation; _Proust_, however, has shewn that they
may all be reduced to two, viz. _protoxide_ and _peroxide_. The former
of which alone exerts any sensible activity upon the human body; but
this constitutes the basis of several preparations, which although in
common use for medical purposes, are so extremely poisonous in larger
doses, as to render them objects of interest to the forensic physician.

               EMETIC TARTAR.[299] _Tartarized Antimony._

This saline body appears in the state of white crystals, whose primitive
figure is the regular tetrahedron, although it assumes a variety of
secondary forms. Its chemical composition is still involved in some
obscurity; it is stated, in the different dispensatories, to be a triple
salt, consisting of tartaric acid, oxide of antimony, and potass, and
that it ought therefore, according to the principles of the reformed
nomenclature, to be termed a _Tartrate of Antimony and Potass_. The
truth of these views, however, we have already[300] ventured to
question; _Gay Lussac_ has stated that in the various metalline
compounds of which _Super-tartrate of Potass_ is an ingredient, this
latter substance acts the part of a simple acid; an opinion which
receives considerable support from the great solvent property of _cream
of tartar_, and from the striking fact that it is even capable of
dissolving various oxides which are insoluble in tartaric acid, of which
the protoxide of antimony is an example. In such a state of doubt, a
better name could not be found than that of _tartarized antimony_.

The salt, according to _Dr. Duncan_, is soluble in three times its
weight of distilled water at 212° _Fah._ and in fifteen, at 60°.

When it is heated red hot in an earthen crucible, it blackens, and
undergoes decomposition like a vegetable body, leaving a residuum of
metallic antimony, and slightly carbonated potass.

               _Symptoms of Poisoning by Emetic Tartar._

A question has arisen whether this salt can be considered as a poison,
capable of occasioning death? In general where a large dose has been
administered, it is all rejected by the vomiting which it excites; we
accordingly find in the works of _Morgagni_ and other pathologists, the
history of various cases in proof of the innocence of this salt.
_Hoffman_, however, relates the case of a woman who experienced very
severe symptoms shortly after having taken tartar emetic, and that she
ultimately died,[301] and there are other similar instances recorded in
the works of _Foderé_ and _Orfila_. It also deserves notice, that
tartarized antimony is very liable to produce deleterious effects,
where, from the insensibility of the nervous system, the operation of
vomiting cannot be excited, as in apoplexy, drunkenness, and in that
state of coma, which follows the ingestion of narcotic vegetables. _M.
Cloquet_ communicated to _Orfila_ a case highly illustrative of this
fact, in which a person, labouring under apoplexy, received into his
stomach more than forty grains of tartar emetic, without exciting either
nausea or vomiting. On opening the body, independent of the morbid state
of the brain, which must be regarded as the immediate cause of death,
extensive organic lesions were discovered in the alimentary canal, which
could alone be attributed to the action of the tartar emetic. This fact
will suggest a very important precaution to the practitioner, who may be
called upon to treat a person labouring under a state of the system
which will prevent the act of vomiting.[302].

The symptoms produced by this salt will resemble those of a corrosive
poison; and where vomiting is produced, it frequently happens that
although the patient may be eventually saved, an irritability of
stomach, so great as to cause the rejection of all aliments, will remain
for a considerable period; and _Dr. Male_ states that in the only case
of poisoning by this salt which he had ever seen, the person was
affected with violent convulsions, which returned at intervals for
several weeks after recovery from the immediate effects of the
poison.[303] _M. Orfila_, after detailing several cases of poisoning by
emetic tartar, concludes by saying that the general symptoms, upon such
occasions, may be reduced to the following: a rough metallic taste;
nausea; copious vomitings; frequent hiccup; cardialgia; burning heat in
the epigastric region; pains of the stomach; abdominal colics;
inflation; copious stools; syncope; small, contracted and accelerated
pulse; skin cold, sometimes intensely hot; breathing difficult; vertigo,
loss of sense, convulsive movements; very painful cramps in the legs;
prostration of strength,—death.

Sometimes to the above symptoms is joined a great difficulty of
swallowing; deglutition may be suspended for some time. The vomiting and
alvine evacuations do not always take place, the necessary consequence
of which is an increase in the violence of the other symptoms.


The great indication to be fulfilled in a case of this description, is
the ejection of the salt by vomiting. _MM. Orfila_ and _Berthollet_ rely
very confidently upon the effects of _bark_, _strong tea_, _infusion of
galls_, and other _vegetable astringents_, which have undoubtedly the
power of decomposing the salt. They ought, therefore, to be employed as
diluents to assist vomiting, but they are not to be considered as
antidotes which can render this latter operation less indispensable.

                _Physiological action of emetic tartar._

_M. Majendie_ has shewn by experiment, that if _tartarized antimony_ be
injected into the veins of a dog, the animal vomits, and has frequent
stools; his breathing becomes difficult; his pulse frequent and
intermitting; a great degree of disquietude, and tremblings are the
precursory signs of death, which generally takes place within the first
hour from the injection of the emetic tartar. On opening the body great
alterations are perceived in the lungs; they are found of an orange or
violet colour, have no crackling, are distended with blood, and of a
tight texture. The mucous membrane of the intestinal canal, from the
cardia to the extremity of the rectum is red, and strongly injected.

If, instead of thus injecting the emetic tartar into the veins, it be
injected into the stomach, and the œsophagus is tied to prevent
vomiting, _M. Orfila_ informs us that the same alterations will be found
after death. The very same effects will also arise from the application
of the emetic tartar to the different absorbing surfaces, such as the
cellular substances, &c.

_Mr. Brodie_[304] has also thrown considerable light upon the action of
this salt. He observes that the effects of emetic tartar so much
resemble those of _arsenic_, which we have already described, and those
of _muriate of baryta_, which will form a future subject of inquiry,
that it would be needless to enter into a detail of the individual
experiments which he made with it. When applied to a wound in animals
which are capable of vomiting, it usually, but not constantly, operated
very speedily as an emetic; in other respects he found no material
difference in the symptoms produced in the different species of animals,
which he had been in the habit of employing as subjects of experiment.
The symptoms were paralysis, drowsiness, and, at last, complete
insensibility; the pulse became feeble, but the heart continued to act
after apparent death, and was maintained in action by means of
artificial respiration; but never for a longer period than for a few
minutes. Whence it would appear, that this poison acts by being
absorbed, and that it directs a sedative influence upon the heart, as
well as the brain, but that its principal action is on the latter. The
length of time which elapses, from the application of the poison to the
death of the animal, varies; in some instances _Mr. Brodie_ found that
it did not exceed three quarters of an hour, but in others, it was two
or three hours, or even longer, before death took place. When a solution
of emetic tartar was injected into the stomach of a rabbit, _Mr. Brodie_
observed the same symptoms to take place, as when it was applied to a

              _Organic lesions discovered by dissection._

_Mr. Brodie_, in his examination of animals poisoned by _emetic tartar_,
sometimes found the stomach bearing the marks of inflammation, but at
other times, its appearance was perfectly natural. In no case did he
discover any traces of inflammation in the intestines. The reader must
compare this account with that already given by _M. Majendie_, at p.

             1. _Tests for the detection of emetic tartar._

1. _The poison is in a solid form._ Dissolve a portion of the suspected
salt in about fifteen times its weight of boiling distilled water; if it
be emetic tartar, the following reagents will identify it, viz.

(_a_) _The hydrosulphurets_ will occasion a reddish-yellow precipitate,
which is a combination of _oxygen_ and _antimony_, proceeding from the
emetic tartar; and of _hydrogen_ and _sulphur_, from the reagent
employed. If it be dried on a filter, and mixed with charcoal and the
potass of commerce, it gives, by the action of heat, a cake of metallic

(_b_) _Tincture of galls._ This is regarded as the most sensible test of
this salt, affording a precipitate of a curdled, dirty white colour,
inclining to yellow.

(_c_) _Lime water._ This reagent produces a white precipitate, which is
extremely thick, and is easily redissolved by pure nitric acid. In this
case the lime forms an insoluble tartrate, and the tartrate of antimony,
thus rendered insoluble, subsides along with it.

(_d_) _Concentrated sulphuric acid_ gives a white precipitate, which
consists of the oxide of antimony retaining a small portion of the acid.
It redissolves in an excess of the precipitant.

(_e_) _Vegetable extractive_, occasions in the solution of this salt, a
reddish-yellow precipitate, which has been found to consist of _oxide of
antimony_, and a portion of vegetable matter.

          2. _It is mixed with various alimentary substances._

If our attempts should fail to procure a solution of the salt by
filtration, answering to the above reagents, we must rely upon the proof
of metallic reproduction. Various circumstances may invalidate the
action of our tests, such, for instance, as the ingestion of some
vegetable infusion or decoction, especially that of galls, or yellow

With respect to the other preparations of antimony, it is unnecessary to
waste our time in their consideration; the precepts already given will
afford the practitioner every requisite hint for the prosecution of the


This metal, with the exception of gold and silver, and perhaps tin, was
known earlier than any other metal; but its applications were entirely
confined to the arts. It was first discovered by the Greeks in the
island of Cyprus, whence its name; and we learn from _Homer_, that even
during the Trojan war, the combatants had no other armour but what was
made of bronze, which is a mixture of _copper_ and _tin_.[305].

The external characters of the metal are too well known to require
minute description. Its taste is styptic and nauseous; and the hands
when rubbed for some time on it, acquire a peculiar and disagreeable
odour. When melted, its specific gravity is 8·667; but after being
hammered it is 8·9. It is only susceptible of two degrees of oxidation.
If the protoxide be _native_, it is red; if _artificial_, orange
coloured. The peroxide is black.

Copper, on exposure to a moist atmosphere, becomes tarnished, absorbs a
portion of its oxygen, and passes into the state of an oxide, which
shortly unites with the carbonic acid of the atmosphere, and forms a
greenish carbonate of copper.

Metallic copper, perfectly pure, does not possess any deleterious
properties. We have already cited instances[306] sufficiently conclusive
to establish this fact. It becomes, therefore, a subject of no little
interest to enquire, under what circumstances it may become poisonous by
combination. _M. Orfila_ observes that it has been long maintained, that
milk heated, or allowed to remain in vessels of copper not oxidized,
dissolved a portion of this metal, and acted as a poison. _Eller_, a
philosopher of Berlin, has, however, very clearly proved such an opinion
to be incorrect. He boiled in succession, in a kettle well freed from
verdegris, milk, tea, coffee, beer, and rain water; after two hours
boiling, he found it impossible to discover, in any of these fluids, the
least vestige of copper. _M. Drouard_ has also shewn that distilled
water, left for a month together on the filings of this metal in a glass
bottle, did not dissolve an atom of it. The celebrated toxicologist
above cited, after relating these important facts, concludes by
observing, that the phenomena are very different, if, instead of pure
water, we substitute that which contains a certain quantity of muriate
of soda. _Eller_ has demonstrated the presence of a very small quantity
of copper in water, which contained 1/20th of its weight of muriate of
soda, and which had been boiled in a brass kettle. This fact is of the
highest importance, for it will explain the reason why highly seasoned
aliments have proved deleterious, when cooked in vessels of copper. But
we are indebted to _Mr. Eller_ for a still more important discovery; he
found that if, instead of heating a simple solution of common salt in
copper vessels, the salt be previously mixed with beef, bacon, and fish,
the fluid resulting from it does not contain an atom of copper.[307] In
relating this fact, _M. Orfila_ observes, “however astonishing it may
appear, it is quite correct, _M. Eller_ was the first to announce it,
and I have several times ascertained the truth of it; it is probable,”
continues _Orfila_, “that the combination of several kinds of aliments
destroys the effect of the solution of the muriate of soda; which
consequently ought to render the cases of poisoning by aliments cooked
in copper vessels, _which are not oxidized_, extremely rare.”

Copper combines with sulphur, and affords a black sulphuret.

                            OXIDE OF COPPER.

By oxidation, copper becomes poisonous. The substance may be easily
recognised by the change of colour which it produces in ammonia; this
alkali will dissolve it instantly, and assume a beautiful blue colour.
It is wholly insoluble[308] in water. In oils and fatty matter it is
easily and copiously dissolved at the ordinary temperature of the
atmosphere. Such bodies also, when boiled in vessels of perfectly clean
copper, facilitate their oxidation, especially if left to cool a few
minutes before they are poured out.

             GREEN CARBONATE OF COPPER—_Natural Verdegris_.

This substance forms spontaneously on surfaces of copper and brass; it
differs from the oxide in its green colour, and in effervescing with
dilute sulphuric acid; with ammonia, however, it demeans itself in the
same manner, and is likewise insoluble in water. It is poisonous.

From the above history of these substances the medical practitioner will
easily perceive under what circumstances, and by what bodies, metallic
vessels of copper may be rendered dangerous. The oxide and carbonate,
formed in them, will easily dissolve in acidulous and oily aliments,
whence it follows that all preparations of such food, if conducted in
vessels whose surfaces have contracted this change will be liable to
prove deleterious.[309] If the vessels be perfectly clean, acid
preparations may be safely boiled in them, but they must be poured out
immediately, and not suffered to remain sufficiently long to allow the
copper to become oxidized. To the formation of the oxide of copper, and
to the acetic acid contained in the wine, vinegar, beer, and cider, _M.
Orfila_ attributes the production of the _acetate_ which forms about the
corners of the cocks in vessels containing these liquors. Upon the same
principle the _soda water_ sold in this town, in a draught, from the
pump, is liable to metallic impregnation, as we have fully satisfied

Equally important is it for the forensic physician to be acquainted with
the various other sources from which copper poison may be derived. In
consequence of the fact of the oxide of copper forming, with the acids,
compounds of a beautiful green colour, the metal is often employed in
cookery to impart a vivid hue to various articles; the sale of pickles,
for instance, frequently depends upon the liveliness of their green
colour; whence we find, in works[310] on cookery, directions for
ensuring such an effect, by boiling the pickles with copper coin, or by
suffering them to stand for some time in vessels of that metal. In the
third volume of the _Medical Transactions of the College of Physicians_
we shall find an interesting history, related by _Dr. Percival_ of
Manchester, of a young lady who amused herself, whilst under the hands
of the hair-dresser, with eating pickled samphire, of which she consumed
two breakfast plates full; she shortly afterwards complained of great
thirst, pain in the stomach, and a rash appeared upon her hands and
breast. After an illness of nine days, during which she suffered severe
vomitings, and tormina of the bowels, she expired. Upon examining the
samphire, _Dr. Percival_ found that it was very strongly impregnated
with copper. In the preparation of confectionary, especially
sugar-plums, and sweatmeats of a green colour, copper is very generally
introduced, and many instances are recorded of their having proved
highly deleterious. Catsup is also said to be occasionally impregnated
with verdegris; and vestiges of this metal have been detected in the
well known cordial, called _Shrub_.

In order to prevent the _contingent_ dangers attendant upon copper
vessels, they ought always to be _tinned_;[311] and it is a very curious
and interesting fact, that this latter metal, although it may cover the
copper surface only imperfectly, will nevertheless protect us from its
effects; for _M. Proust_ has shewn that the superior readiness with
which _tin_ is oxidized and acted upon by acids, when compared with
copper, will not allow this latter metal to appropriate to itself a
single atom of oxygen.

But copper vessels, notwithstanding this fact, unless well tinned,
should be dismissed from the service of the kitchen. The Senate of
Sweden, in the year 1753, prohibited them entirely, and ordered that
none but such as were made of iron should be used in their fleets and

                          VERDEGRIS. _Ærugo._

The verdegris of commerce is a compound mass, consisting of the acetate,
and sub-acetate of copper, carbonate of copper, and copper partly
metallic, and partly oxidized; it, moreover, contains the stalks of
grapes and other extraneous matter. Boiling water dissolves it in part,
and, at the same time, occasions in it a chemical change, by
transforming one portion of the _sub_-acetate into the soluble acetate,
and another, into an oxide of copper, which is precipitated. With cold
water, verdegris demeans itself very differently; the acetate is
dissolved by it, whilst that portion which is in the state of _sub_-salt
remains suspended in the form of a fine green powder. Vinegar converts
all the _ærugo_ into a soluble acetate. Sulphuric acid poured on its
powder decomposes it with effervescence, and vapours of acetic acid are
disengaged; a character by which this substance may be easily

                  BLUE VITRIOL. _Sulphate of Copper._
                     _Blue Copperas—Roman Vitriol._

This salt occurs in crystals of a deep rich blue colour, and whose form
is that of a rhomboidal prism; their taste is harsh, acrid, and styptic;
on exposure to air they slightly effloresce, and assume a greenish hue.
When treated with sulphuric acid, no effervescence occurs, a
circumstance which at once distinguishes this salt from _ærugo_.

            _Symptoms of Poisoning by the Salts of Copper._

The operation of these bodies, upon the human system, is betrayed by an
acrid, styptic, coppery taste, in the mouth; nausea; head-ache; a dry
and parched tongue; vomiting; coppery eructations; a cutaneous eruption;
violent pains in the bowels; very frequent alvine evacuations, sometimes
green, and often bloody and blackish; great and painful distention of
the abdomen; small and irregular pulse; heat of skin; ardent thirst;
difficult and laborious respiration; hiccup; syncope; cold sweats;
convulsions—death. It does not, however, kill so speedily as arsenic, or
corrosive sublimate.

              _Organic Lesions discovered on Dissection._

Where death has been speedily produced by a cupreous poison, dissection
will generally discover inflammation, and even gangrene in the mucous
membrane of the alimentary canal. Like other poisons of the corrosive
class it will also be found to have occasionally extended its
inflammatory action to all the coats of the canal, producing sloughs,
easily detached, and leaving perforations. _Dr. Male_ has also remarked
that inflammation will sometimes be observed in the brain; but that this
is not an universal effect of copper poison. It has been stated, that
the fluids contained in the _primæ viæ_ are, upon these occasions, very
frequently tinged with a green colour.

_Chemical Tests by which the presence of the preparations of Copper may
                             be detected._

1. _The suspected body is in a solid form._—We have already pointed out
the characters by which the principal preparations of copper may be
identified. Our judgment, however, upon these occasions will require
that confirmation from experiment, which the following processes are
calculated to afford.

A. _By its reduction to a metallic state._ If the copper presents itself
in the form of an oxide, it may be easily reduced by heating it, in the
usual manner, in contact with some carbonaceous matter; an earthen
crucible will furnish the most convenient vessel for the occasion. If
the substance has been scraped from a surface of copper, it is probably
in the state of carbonate, (_natural verdegris_,) and may be calcined
with charcoal in order to procure the metal. Should the substance in
question be true _ærugo_, we may at once heat it to redness in an
earthen crucible, when, without the aid of any carbonaceous matter, we
shall obtain metallic copper.

 B. _By the application of certain reagents, or tests, to its solutions._

It may happen that the quantity of the above substances is not
sufficient to allow their metallic reduction by calcination. In that
case, we must proceed to obtain a solution; but since neither the oxide,
nor the carbonate, is soluble in water, it will be necessary to bring
them in contact with concentrated acetic acid, so as to obtain an
acetate of copper; which will furnish the following indications with the
respective tests.

_a._ _A surface of clean iron._ If dipped into the solution will become
coated with metallic copper, and appear as if transmuted into that

_b._ _Ammonia._ This test, when added in a quantity more than sufficient
to saturate any excess of acid, will strike a beautiful blue colour; in
the first instance we shall obtain a deep blue precipitate, but this
will be redissolved by an excess of alkali. To detect the presence of
copper, therefore, in pickles, it is only necessary to cut them into
small pieces, and to pour liquid ammonia, diluted with an equal bulk of
water, over them in a stopped phial: if the pickles contain the most
minute quantity of this metal, the ammonia will assume a blue colour. In
the same manner cupreous impregnations may be discovered in the various
articles of confectionary above enumerated, and in those foreign
conserves which are imported into this country, and usually sold in
round boxes.

_c._ _Sub-carbonate of Potass._ By this re-agent a precipitate of a pale
blue colour is produced.

_d._ _Arsenite of Potass_ instantly occasions a copious precipitate in
the acetate of copper, which is of a green colour, and is in fact an
arsenite of the metal.

_e._ _Triple Prussiate of Potass._ This test gives a brown precipitate
with a solution of verdegris, which is found to consist of prussiate of
copper, and prussiate of iron; while the liquor contains an acetate of

 2. _The suspected poison is mixed and combined with various alimentary

We have in this case the same embarrassments to encounter, as those
already noticed under the consideration of arsenic. Our tests may
produce their respective precipitates, but they will present different
colours according to the nature of the fluids with which the substance
happens to be mixed; whence the circumstance of colour, so
characteristic on other occasions, cannot be received as a satisfactory
indication. In such a difficulty, we may collect the precipitates, and
calcine them in a crucible with charcoal, in order to obtain the metal;
or we may at once evaporate the whole of the alimentary mass, and submit
it to a high temperature, by which means all the vegetable and animal
principles, which can form a part of the liquor vomited, will be
decomposed and converted into several volatile productions, and into
charcoal; this combustible body will decompose the oxide of copper, and
reduce it to its metallic state.[312].

Nor is this process without its fallacies; it is often difficult to
recognise the metal, dispersed as it necessarily must be, in small
quantity, through a considerable mass of charcoal; in this case we are
recommended by _Orfila_ to place the product of the calcination in
water, when in a short period, the copper, from its superior specific
gravity will subside from the lighter particles of charcoal. But it
would be still better to pour nitric acid upon the product of the
calcination, and thereby to obtain a solution of _nitrate of copper_,
which by filtration might be immediately prepared for the application of
appropriate re-agents.

It merits notice, however, that in certain cases of poisoning by copper,
no vestiges of the substance can be found in the matters voided from the
stomach. In that case, _Orfila_ directs that the mucous membrane of the
stomach, and of the intestines, should be scraped off, dried, and
submitted to the action of a strong heat in a crucible. “I have,” says
this distinguished experimentalist, “twice obtained metallic copper, by
calcining in this manner a portion of the membranes of the stomach of
two dogs that I had poisoned with verdegris. This effect particularly
takes place when the mucous membrane is of a bluish colour, hard, and
strongly adhering to the substance of the stomach.”

                          TIN and its MURIATE.

It is clearly established by the experiments of _Bayen_ and
_Charlard_,[313] as well as by those of _Proust_,[314] that this metal
possesses no poisonous properties. Its muriate, however, has been shewn
by _Orfila_ to possess highly corrosive properties. It excites violent
vomiting, great depression, and death, without convulsions. Its antidote
is milk, which it speedily coagulates; and by chemical combination with
it, the poison is rendered inert. On dissection, the stomach is said to
have been found corrugated and indurated, and has been compared to
tanned skin, but its colour is not altered.

As this substance is never likely to become an object of forensic
interest, in this kingdom, we shall pass it over without farther notice.


The ancients were acquainted with a mineral to which they gave the name
of _Cadmia_,[315] from Cadmus, who first taught the Greeks to use it.
They knew that when melted with copper it formed brass; and that when
burnt, a white spongy kind of ashes was volatilized, which they used in
medicine.[316] This mineral contained a good deal of zinc; and yet there
is no proof remaining that the ancients were acquainted with that metal.
It has a brilliant white colour, with a shade of blue, and is composed
of a number of thin plates adhering together; its specific gravity is
7·1. When strongly heated in a crucible, it quickly goes into fusion,
absorbs the oxygen of the atmosphere, and burns with a beautiful white
flame, inclining to green, and extremely brilliant. The oxide of zinc
thus formed, is diffused through the atmosphere, and is there condensed
into extremely light flakes of a beautiful white appearance. This oxide
was formerly known under the fanciful names of _nihil album; lana
philosophorum, &c._

In its metallic state it is quite inert; but late experiments by
_Vauquelin_ and _Deyeux_, have proved that it is very easily acted upon
by water, the weakest vegetable acids, some saline substances, and
butter; a fact which is hostile to the proposal of employing this metal
for the manufacture of culinary utensils.

                   WHITE VITRIOL. _Sulphate of Zinc._

This salt occurs in masses, consisting of crystals which are four-sided
prisms, terminated by four-sided pyramids. Their taste is styptic,
metallic, and slightly acidulous. They are soluble in 2·5 times their
weight of water at 60°, and in less than their own weight of boiling
water, but they are quite insoluble in alcohol. Thus dissolved they
redden the tincture of tournesol.

              _Symptoms of Poisoning by Sulphate of Zinc._

This salt, like tartarized antimony, from the high degree of emetic
virtue which it possesses, generally proves its own antidote; still,
however, it must be considered as a poison; for several cases are on
record, where the most alarming symptoms, and indeed death itself, have
been the effect of its ingestion. _Metzger_[317] mentions the case of a
woman, who accidentally ate a trifling quantity of a cake, into which
_White Vitriol_ had been introduced for the purpose of shortening the
days of an old man. The woman died; but the intended victim escaped,
after severe vomiting. _M. Orfila_ has also related several cases of
poisoning by this salt. The symptoms which presented themselves on these
occasions were, an astringent metalline taste, a sense of constriction
in the fauces, so distressing as even to excite in the patient a fear of
suffocation; frequent vomitings; copious stools; pains in the epigastric
region, extending afterwards over the whole abdomen; difficulty of
breathing; frequency of pulse; paleness of the countenance, and coldness
of the extremities.

We have lately heard of a case in which a noble lord swallowed a
solution of white vitriol, which had been sent to him by mistake, for
Epsom salts, to which it bears some analogy. Fortunately, however, the
violent emetic effect which followed removed the poison from the
stomach, and obviated any farther injury.

              _Organic lesions discovered on Dissection._

We have no well authenticated dissection of a human being who had died
from the ingestion of this poison. The examination of animals[318] who
have been so killed has shewn nothing more than an inflammation, not
very severe, of the membrane with which it had come in contact;
sometimes dark blood is observed to be extravasated upon the muscular
coat of the stomach and intestines.

      _Chemical processes for the detection of Sulphate of Zinc._

The chemist must remember that the _White Vitriol_ of commerce always
contains sulphate of iron, and sometimes sulphate of copper. When
dissolved in distilled water it may be identified by the following
re-agents; _viz._

_a._ _Potass_, and _Ammonia_, precipitate an oxide of a greenish white
colour, easily soluble in an excess of the latter of these alkalies. The
oxide obtained by potass, being washed and dried, and calcined with
charcoal, is revived, provided the temperature be very much elevated. It
should be known, that if the salt has been previously purified, the
above tests will occasion a _white_ precipitate.

_b._ _Prussiate of Potass_ produces a precipitate of a rather deep blue
colour; which, consists of a mixture of the prussiates of zinc and iron.
If the salt has been divested of all impurity, the precipitate will be

_c._ _The Hydro-sulphurets_ instantly occasion a blackish precipitate,
which, like the former, will be found to be a mixture of zinc and iron,
in the state of an hydro-sulphuret. If the salt, however, is pure, its
colour will be white with a tinge of yellow.


This metal does not exert any influence on the living body; but its
oxide in combination with nitric acid constitutes one of the most
corrosive of all the metallic salts.

                  LUNAR CAUSTIC. _Nitrate of Silver._
                          _Lapis Infernalis._

The usual state in which this substance occurs is in that of small
cylinders, having been cast into moulds for the purpose of imparting to
it a form best adapted for the purposes it is designed to answer.

Its action on animal matter is highly caustic, and when introduced in
any considerable quantity into the stomach, will induce death by
corroding the texture with which it may come in contact. At the same
time there is reason to believe that the whole, or part of its
composition, may be absorbed; for we have many instances on record where
the frequent repetition of this metallic salt, in small doses, has
imparted a blue tinge to the skin, which can only be explained on the
supposition that the oxide of the metal has been actually deposited in
the rete mucosum[319].

We are not aware that there is any modern case of poisoning by this
salt[320]. The medical practitioner, however, ought to know, that common
salt, is its true antidote; indeed so completely does it decompose and
separate it from water, that if a saturated solution of nitrate of
silver be filtered through common salt, it may be afterwards drunk with
impunity. _M. Orfila_, by a series of experiments, has shewn that if the
_muriate of soda_ be administered a very short time after the ingestion
of lunar caustic, it will disarm it of its virulence by transforming it
into an insoluble muriate, possessing no power of acting on the animal

        _Chemical processes for the detection of Lunar Caustic._

If a small portion of the salt can be procured it may be dissolved in
distilled water, and immediately identified by the following tests.

_a._ _Muriatic acid, or any soluble Muriate_, will precipitate the
muriate of silver, which is white, curdled, very heavy, insoluble in
water, or nitric acid; but soluble in liquor ammoniæ; when exposed to
the air it acquires a black colour.

_b._ _Potass_, _Soda_, and _Lime water_, will occasion a precipitate of
the oxide, of a deep brown colour.

_c._ _Ammonia._ This alkali will form an _ammoniuret of silver_, and in
consequence of the solubility of this new product, little or no
disturbance is occasioned by the test.

_d._ _Arsenite of Potass._ As all re-agents must be considered as
reciprocal in their operation, it is hardly necessary to state that this
is one of the best tests for nitrate of silver. See the history of its
effects at p. 240.

If it should be necessary to discover the nitrate of silver amongst the
fluids vomited, or those contained in the stomach of the deceased, we
are very properly directed by _M. Orfila_ to filter, and then assay by
the appropriate tests; if, however, the different aliments should
disguise the characteristic colour and appearance of these precipitates,
we must proceed to desiccate and calcine them in order to obtain the
silver in a metallic state.

                        THE CONCENTRATED ACIDS.

These must be regarded as the most terrible of all corrosive poisons.
Their action is so immediate and energetic, as generally to destroy the
membranes of the stomach, before their peculiar antidotes can be
applied. Notwithstanding the obvious suffering they must occasion, and
the facility with which they may be detected, such bodies have
frequently, especially in France, been the instruments of suicide and
murder; whilst in this country, we have had many lamentable
illustrations of their deadly force, by their ingestion from fatal
carelessness. In conformity with our general plan we shall proceed to
consider the individual substances included under this general class,
although the symptoms do not materially differ in the different kinds,
nor are the indications of cure peculiar to any of them. There are
however chemical characters which exclusively belong to each acid, with
which the forensic physician must be accurately acquainted, in order
that he may be enabled to detect their presence.

                   OIL OF VITRIOL. _Sulphuric Acid._

This acid, when perfectly pure, exists in the form of a colourless
liquid, without smell, and of an oily consistence; whence its popular
name. Its specific gravity is 1·85, so that, in round numbers, it may be
stated that an ounce, by measure, will weigh fourteen drachms. It
acquires a brown tinge from the smallest portion of carbonaceous matter;
mere exposure to the atmosphere is sufficient to effect this change, in
consequence of the acid disorganizing and carbonating the vegetable and
animal matter suspended in the air. This fact sufficiently explains why
we generally find the acid of commerce of a brown colour.

Its taste is highly acid and caustic. So powerful is its affinity for
water, that upon its admixture with this fluid, a heat, sufficiently
great to boil water, may be produced. When exposed in its concentrated
state to the air, it will imbibe at least seven times its own weight of
water, and so rapidly as to have its weight doubled in a month. Straw,
wood, and all vegetable substances, when immersed in the sulphuric acid,
without heat, are disorganized, softened, and blackened, and there is
separated from them a certain portion of charcoal. Like the other
mineral acids, the _Oil of Vitriol_ has never been obtained in an
insulated state without water; according to the latest views of _Sir H.
Davy_, the composition of the strongest acid may be expressed as
follows. Sulphur 30, oxygen 45, water 17.

               _Symptoms of Poisoning by Oil of Vitriol._

An extremely austere, acid, and burning taste; a painful heat in the
fauces and throat, along the œsophagus, and in the stomach; excruciating
pain; nausea, and excessive vomiting; at one time the fluid vomited is
as black as ink, at another reddened by arterial or venous blood,
producing in its passage through the throat, the most intense pain,
accompanied with a sensation of bitterness quite intolerable; if, by
chance, a portion of it should fall on the hearth or pavement, or on any
other calcareous substance, it will denote its true nature by an
effervescence; constipation, or sometimes bloody stools; gripes and
excruciating pains over the abdomen, with a tenderness of these regions,
so exquisite as not to allow the slightest pressure without torment;
pains of the breast; difficulty of breathing; extreme anxiety; the pulse
becomes frequent, small, contracted, and irregular; shiverings; great
restlessness, dejection, and agitation; convulsive motions of the
countenance; sometimes a cutaneous eruption betrays itself. Amidst all
these symptoms, the intellectual powers remain unobscured. The parts
about the fauces, the uvula, &c. having lost their vitality, slough, and
become detached, which occasion an indescribable fetor of the breath,
while they produce a perpetual cough, and the voice becomes so altered,
that it resembles the sounds of a person labouring under croup.

              _Organic lesions discovered on Dissection._

As this substance destroys life by simply acting as an escharotic, it is
not difficult to anticipate the disorganization which dissection will
display. The extent of the lesion, however, must in every case depend
upon the quantity and degree of concentration of the acid, the state of
the stomach in relation to its alimentary contents, and other incidental
circumstances not to be exactly appreciated. The mucous membrane of the
mouth, the tongue, and œsophagus, will in general be found destroyed,
and converted into a pulp.


The great indications to be fulfilled in this distressing case, is the
immediate dilution, saturation, and expulsion of the poison. Copious
draughts of water, holding calcined[321] magnesia in suspension, should
be administered without any loss of time. If this is not in readiness,
soap and water should be administered; mucilaginous drinks, milk, and
even warm or cold water, in the absence of more eligible potations,
should not be neglected. It must be never forgotten, exclaims _Orfila_,
that success upon these occasions depends upon the activity of the
practitioner; the delay of a few moments will entirely change the fate
of the patient, as the sulphuric acid destroys the texture of the organs
with a fearful celerity. After having thus neutralized the caustic, it
will be our duty to obviate the effects it may be likely to occasion;
the lancet must be used with boldness, and the detraction of blood
repeated at short intervals; at the same time emollient clysters may be
advantageously injected.

       _Chemical processes for the detection of Oil of Vitriol._

In the pure state, there can exist no difficulty in identifying it; its
specific gravity, and its action on vegetable matter, will, without any
other tests, be quite sufficient to fulfil our object. If heated with
metallic mercury, it will disengage sulphurous acid gas; and if united
with lime, a sulphate of lime will be produced, which the chemist may
easily recognise by dissolving a portion in distilled water, and
assaying the solution by _muriate of baryta_, which will produce with
the sulphate a precipitate, insoluble in nitric acid. By the last
mentioned tests we shall be enabled to detect the presence of sulphuric
acid, in whatever state of complication it may happen to exist with
alimentary matter.

                              NITRIC ACID.

This acid, when pure, assumes the form of a limpid fluid, emitting white
fumes of a suffocating odour; its taste is highly acid, and corrosive;
and it is at once distinguished from all other acids, by its tinging the
skin indelibly yellow. When of the specific gravity 1·5 it contains
74·895 per cent of dry acid, (whose ultimate elements are one
proportional of nitrogen, and five of oxygen) the complement 25·105
parts, is water.[322] It is decomposed with violent action by all
combustibles, and when mixed with volatile oils it causes their

From the facility with which this acid undergoes decomposition, it is
rarely found in commerce in a colourless condition; indeed the action of
light is sufficient to impart a tawny tinge to it; when this change has
proceeded to such an extent as to render the acid orange coloured, it is
called _Nitrous acid_, or, in the language of the arts, _aqua fortis_,
although in a chemical point of view, such a nomenclature is incorrect,
for it is nothing more than nitric acid, holding nitrous acid gas
loosely combined.

                _Symptoms of Poisoning by Nitric Acid._

This acid has been so frequently swallowed in France, for the purpose of
committing suicide, that it has enabled the pathologists of that country
to afford a very satisfactory account of its operation, and effects. To
_M. Tartra_ we are particularly indebted for a very full and interesting
investigation of the subject, and we shall avail ourselves upon the
present occasion, of the many facts and observations with which his
treatise[323] abounds. In describing the symptoms occasioned by the
ingestion of this acid, _M. Tartra_ establishes four different
gradations, viz. 1. When the death is speedy, for it is never sudden, it
commonly takes place from the _primary_ effects in about twenty-four
hours, varying from six to forty-eight hours. 2. When it proves fatal
from its _secondary_ effects, at different intervals, from fifteen days
to several years. 3. When death does not take place, but the recovery is
imperfect. 4. When a perfect cure is sooner or later obtained. The first
case is illustrated by the following example, which will serve to convey
a very just idea of the progress and intensity of the symptoms. “A man,
driven by distress to commit suicide, under the greatest agitation of
mind, and upon an empty stomach, swallowed, at a draught, two ounces of
concentrated nitric acid. Instantly he was seized with the most
excruciating pains and agitation, and could not lie in bed, but rolled
himself upon the floor. Vomiting came on, accompanied by a general
sensation of coldness, especially in the extremities. Every time he
vomited, the matter effervesced upon the pavement. A solution of soap
and oil was administered to him, and in two hours he was brought to the
hospital, often having vomited, and stopped on the road to drink. On his
arrival, he had emollient drinks, especially linseed tea, in great
abundance. He was in continual agitation, and his countenance was
greatly altered. He now vomited every instant a blackish glairy matter;
he opened his mouth easily, and his tongue was white, with a tinge of
yellow; he complained of acute pains in his mouth, along the œsophagus,
and in his stomach. His belly, slightly tense, could not bear the
slightest pressure, without great torment. The surface of the body was
cold; the pulse small and frequent; he had hiccup, and the respiration
was laborious.

His symptoms increased. He uttered sighs and lamentations; his limbs
became icy; a cold sweat covered his whole body; his pulse was scarcely
perceptible; the pain was constant; still he could rise and make
continual but useless efforts to quench his thirst, and satisfy his
urgent desire to void urine, and go to stool. He continued in this state
during the night; the matters vomited became more clear, and of a yellow
colour. He at last made a few drops of urine. The shocking appearance of
his body already resembled that of a corpse, but he retained his senses,
and was speaking when he expired, nineteen hours after swallowing the
acid.” The burning heat and pains which are commonly the immediate
effects of the ingestion of this acid are very variable in their
intensity and duration, and _M. Tartra_ observes that, in general, they
are not in proportion to the quantity or strength of the acid swallowed.
It often happens that persons who have taken only a small dose, are
seized with the most excruciating and dreadful pains, and some of those
who have swallowed a great quantity, two or three ounces for example,
have had scarcely any suffering, but remained very tranquil. In the
first case, the patients either recover, or survive a long time; in the
second, speedy death is almost always the consequence; thus a young man
of twenty died in twenty hours, without any agitation or signs of acute
pains. On opening the body, the highest degree of disorganization
appeared, perforations of the stomach, and great effusion of its
contents into the abdomen. The second variety of the progress and
termination of poisoning by nitric acid, exhibits, at first, the same
phenomena as the preceding; but less alarming symptoms succeed by
degrees; after some months, the inner membrane of the alimentary canal
detaches itself in portions, the patient falls into a marasmus, and
dies. We are here presented with a case of _consecutive_ poisoning, see
_page_ 147.

The third termination is in imperfect recovery. A slow and progressive
amendment ensures the safety of the patient; but there still remains
some complaint; obscure pains in the throat, and especially in the
epigastric region; habitual constipation, occasional vomiting, and
increased sensibility of the stomach, so that it can only support light
nourishment and bland liquors; in short, they continue invalids during
the rest of their lives; they are subject to repeated and even habitual
indispositions, and sometimes to pain and insupportable heat of the
stomach; but they are able to follow their occupations, and long survive
their poisoning.

The total disappearance of the symptoms produced by swallowing nitric
acid; or complete and absolute recovery without leaving any
consequences, is the last variety of termination.

              _Organic lesions discovered on Dissection._

_Tartra_ has furnished us with the following interesting account of the
dissection of those who have died of the primary effects of nitric acid.
The external appearance of the body presents no alteration; every part
is sound and natural, and possesses, in a certain degree, the firmness
and freshness of life. The epidermis of the margins of the lips has
commonly an orange colour, more or less deep. It seems burnt and easily
separates. Sometimes yellow spots are discovered on the hands and other
parts of the body, caused by the contact of the acid. A yellow fluid, in
some cases very abundant, flows from the mouth and nostrils, and the
belly is considerably distended with air. The alimentary canal is
remarkably affected. All the internal membrane of the mouth is burnt,
and has sometimes a white colour, but is more commonly yellow; it is
separate in some places, and adheres in others. The teeth are often
loose, and have a very marked yellow colour at their _crown_. The mucous
membrane of the pharynx exhibits the same change, or is in a state of
inflammation of a dirty red colour. The whole extent of the œsophagus is
lined with a dense mass of a fine yellow colour, dry on its surface,
unctuous and greasy to the touch, and which seems to be formed both of
the mucous membrane, altered in a particular manner, and of the albumen
contained in the viscid fluid which exudes from the membrane of the
œsophagus, solidified by the nitric acid. This lining adheres in very
few points, and is easily detected from the other membranes of the
œsophagus, which are brown and blood-shot. When the stomach is not
perforated, it has commonly a considerable size; externally, its
membranes are slightly and partially inflamed, but very much towards the
pylorus and beginning of the duodenum. Its colour is faded, livid, of a
yellowish green, with large gangrenous spots. It adheres every where to
the neighbouring parts, the diaphragm, liver, spleen, and transverse
arch of the colon, by means of a concrete lymphatic exudation; its
sides, which are thin and yellow in some places, and thick and black in
others, exhibit net-work of dilated blood-vessels filled with black
coagulated blood. Often there are several points of the stomach
dissolved, and ready to burst with the slightest touch; it contains a
great quantity of gas, which has a peculiar smell, resembling that of
bitter almonds; it also very commonly contains a great quantity of
yellow matter, of a pultaceous consistence; the substance of the stomach
is generally swelled in some places, and deeply marked with black,
without being dissolved; this effect is most remarkable at the great
end, into which the acid seems to fall by its weight; the rugæ of the
stomach are very brown, and are reduced to a mucilaginous consistence.
The other parts of the alimentary canal exhibit the same organic
lesions, although the phenomena have less intensity in proportion as the
part is more distant from the stomach.

In those cases where the stomach is found perforated, its bulk is very
small; the holes commonly occur in the large and small extremities;
their form is circular, and their edges thin, and as if dissolved. The
urinary bladder contains no urine, although the patient have not
discharged any.

The appearances upon dissection of those who die of the _secondary_
effects are entirely different from those above described. It would be
difficult to find an example of greater emaciation, more advanced
consumption, or more disgusting form. Nothing is equal to the degree of
withering, and decrepitude of the whole organs; their colour is faded;
the internal cavities do not contain the usual serum; the cellular and
muscular systems are almost annihilated; the bones become dry, as in
persons of advanced age, and break with extraordinary facility; but
these changes are general and secondary, and depend upon local organic
derangement of the alimentary tube. The stomach and whole intestinal
canal are contracted to an extremely small size; the intestines are not
larger than the little finger, sometimes not exceeding a thick writing
quill; their coats are very thick, their cavity almost obliterated, and
containing only a little mucosity. The stomach, which often resembles a
portion of a small intestine, appears sound externally, and only
presents some adhesions to the neighbouring viscera; internally, the
most remarkable change is the contraction of the pylorus, the passage
through which will scarcely admit a probe; and the membranes of the
stomach itself are so thickened and compacted around it, that they have
lost all their natural suppleness. On the internal surface, there are
irregular spots, or rather smooth and red places, which seem to be
covered with a regenerated mucous membrane, less villous than that which
had been destroyed by the action of the acid; these cicatrices are
particularly large and numerous in the great end of the stomach, and
around the circumference of the pylorus.

    _Chemical processes by which the presence of Nitric Acid may be

If the acid be in any quantity, and without mixture, there cannot exist
any difficulty in demonstrating its presence. If added to copper
filings, there will be a copious disengagement of orange-coloured fumes,
and a nitrate of copper of a blue colour will remain, as the product. If
it be saturated with potass, we shall at once obtain by due evaporation
the well known substance, nitre; this salt will announce its nature by
deflagrating with charcoal or sulphur. This latter test is the one we
must employ for the detection of nitric acid, when mixed with vinegar,
and other liquids. Where the acid has combined with the animal matters
with which it may have come into contact, they must be boiled for an
hour in a solution of pure potass, when the solution will assume a
reddish appearance; this must be filtered, and evaporated in a capsule
of porcelain, when the mass so obtained will leave a residuum of nitrate
of potass.

_Dr. Marcet_, in a paper just published in the _Philosophical
Transactions_,[324] on the composition of sea water, employed a new mode
of assaying the solution for nitric acid, and for which he acknowledges
himself indebted to _Dr. Wollaston_. Having concentrated the _bittern_
in a glass vessel, until it began to deposit solid matter, he added
sulphuric acid and gold leaf, and boiled the mixture; the gold leaf was
not in the least acted upon, nor was any smell of nitric acid perceived;
but on adding the smallest quantity of nitre to the same mixture, the
gold was dissolved, and the smell of _aqua regia_ instantly perceived.
The rationale of the experiment is obvious, gold, although insoluble in
muriatic acid, is instantly dissolved on the addition of nitric acid, in
consequence of the developement of chlorine.

                    SPIRIT OF SALT. _Muriatic Acid._

The liquid acid, of which we are about to treat, is a solution of
muriatic acid gas in water; when of the specific gravity 1·16, according
to _Davy_, it contains 32·32 per cent. of the gas, which recent
experiments have proved to be a compound of _Chlorine_ (oxy-muriatic
acid) and _hydrogen_, in equal volumes. It has accordingly received a
name expressive of its composition, and is called _Hydro-chloric acid_.
Its odour is strong and peculiar; when exposed to the air it emits white
fumes; its taste is intensely sour and caustic; it is, however, the
weakest of the three mineral acids, and no remarkable elevation of
temperature is produced by dilution. It readily combines with potass,
soda, &c. and furnishes a class of salts which may be easily recognised
by their characters.

               _Symptoms of Poisoning by Muriatic Acid._

As the effects of muriatic acid do not differ from those which have been
described, as the consequences of poisoning by the other mineral acids,
it will be unnecessary to enumerate them. _Orfila_, however, remarks,
that the patients who have swallowed a certain quantity of it, emit, in
the first moments of the accident, a thick smoke of a white colour, and
very pungent smell.

        _Chemical processes for the detection of Muriatic Acid._

This acid, in its free state, immediately announces its nature by the
fumes which it emits. When the acid, however, exists in a more
questionable shape, as in the matter vomited by the patient, or in that
found in the digestive canal after death, it will be necessary to
saturate the liquid part with pure potass, and to boil it for some time,
when we shall obtain a fluid, from which the nitrate of silver will
throw down a dense precipitate. By evaporation, we shall obtain a
crystallized muriate, which may be identified by the following tests: 1,
When concentrated sulphuric acid is poured upon it, a brisk
effervescence is immediately occasioned, and the muriatic acid is
disengaged in the form of white vapours, which are thick, and of an
excessively pungent smell. 2, If instead of employing concentrated
sulphuric acid, this acid be used in a state of dilution, and the
muriate be mixed with some substance which easily yields its oxygen, the
muriatic acid will be decomposed, its hydrogen, combining with the
oxygen so as to form water, while the chlorine will be disengaged, and
by its pungent and peculiar odour at once announce the nature of the
acid under examination.

                   OXALIC ACID. _Acid of Sugar._[325]

This salt occurs in small crystals, whose form is that of a four sided
prism. It is extremely acid to the taste, so that by applying the tongue
to one of its crystals, its nature may be immediately discovered. It
dissolves in twice its weight of cold, and in an equal weight of hot
water; it is also soluble in boiling alcohol which takes up about half
its weight; the solutions act powerfully on the vegetable colours, and
at once denote their acid properties. On account of the strong
resemblance which the crystals of this acid bear to those of sulphate of
magnesia, or _Epsom_ salts, many fatal accidents have occurred. We are
not aware that it is ever purchased, in retail, for any other purpose
than as a detergent, to clean the tops of boots; in the large way, it is
an article of extensive trade with the calico printers. Its salts[326]
are likewise employed for various purposes in the arts.

Amongst the many schemes which have been proposed to secure the public
against the possibility of mistaking this acid for Epsom salts, there
does not appear to be one which admits of successful application; nor
are we able to propose any test of discrimination which is not far
inferior in accuracy and convenience, to that which is afforded by the
mere taste of the crystal; indeed we cannot understand how so acid a
solution can be swallowed, without an immediate discovery.

                _Symptoms of Poisoning by Oxalic Acid._

From the history of the many cases on record, it appears that this acid
produces all the grievous symptoms, which characterise the action of a
corrosive poison; its operation upon the stomach is similar to that of
any other powerful acid; and dissection displays the same destruction of
parts, as that we have already described under the consideration of the
mineral acids.


We should endeavour to form as quickly as possible an insoluble oxalate
of lime; copious draughts of lime water, or magnesia and water, should
be administered; and vomiting immediately excited.

           _Chemical tests for the detection of Oxalic Acid._

If any of its crystals can be obtained, we shall be immediately able to
identify them. They dissolve very readily in water, and since the oxalic
has a greater affinity for lime, than any other acid, and forms an
insoluble salt with it, we have thus a ready test of its presence, for
it will decompose all the calcareous salts, not even excepting the

                             BOILING WATER.

Many cases are recorded of the death of children from the ingestion of
boiling water; an accident which will be always liable to occur, as long
as the peasant allows his family to quench their thirst by drinking the
cold water through the spout of the tea kettle. It has been very
generally supposed that fatal effects have, on these occasions,
supervened the high state of inflammation produced in the æsophagus and
stomach by the boiling liquid. _Dr. Marshall Hall_ has, however, lately
published a very interesting paper on this subject, in the twelfth
volume of the _Medico-Chirurgical Transactions_; from which it would
appear, that the patient, under these circumstances, actually dies of
suffocation as in croup; and that the boiling water is arrested in its
progress to the stomach by the convulsive action of the muscles of the
pharynx. In passing, however, to the posterior part of the mouth, it
scalds the _epiglottis_, and _glottis_, which afterwards become more and
more swollen, until at length the _rima glottidis_, or orifice into the
larynx, becomes completely obstructed. Here then we have a new instance
in which the operation of laryngotomy, or of tracheotomy, may be
performed with the effect of preventing impending suffocation, and
perhaps of saving life. _Dr. Marshall Hall_ relates four cases in
illustration of this interesting fact; of which one recovered from
imminent suffocation immediately after screaming[327]; two died from
suffocation, one 10, the other 17 hours, after the accident; the fourth
was completely relieved by the operation of tracheotomy, and survived 34
hours, but died, exhausted by the irritation produced by the primary

                              MELTED LEAD.

An instance stands recorded in the history of the destruction of the
Eddystone-light house, by fire, where a quantity of melted lead fell
into the mouth, and was swallowed by a person who was attentively
watching the conflagration. It is very singular, that this man lived
many days after the accident; a fact which at least shews what extensive
injury the stomach will occasionally sustain, without the immediate
destruction of life. The lead taken out of the stomach after death, in
this case, weighed exactly seven ounces, five drachms, and eighteen

                         THE CAUSTIC ALKALIES.

These bodies are distinguished by a highly corrosive and peculiar taste;
they change the blue[329] juices of vegetables to a green, and the
yellow to a brown; they are soluble in water, and have the power of
imparting the same property to oils, by combining with them, and thus
forming saponaceous compounds. With the different acids they constitute
peculiar salts. When applied to the flesh of animals they act as
powerful caustics, destroying its texture, and ultimately dissolving it;
they are accordingly arranged with great propriety under the head of
corrosive poisons.

There are three[330] alkalies—_potass_, _soda_, and _ammonia_. To the
two former the epithet _fixed_ has been applied, since they require a
very high temperature for their sublimation; while to the third, that of
_volatile_ has been assigned, because, when uncombined, it exists in a
state of gas. _Potass_, as it was considered the product of vegetation,
has received the name of the _vegetable_ alkali, while _soda_, as the
base of rock salt, has been distinguished by that of _mineral_ alkali.
The distinctions, however, originally established by _Avicenna_, must
now be abandoned, for they have not the slightest foundation in truth;
_potass_, so far from being the exclusive product of vegetation, exists
as a constituent part of the _Granite_, which forms the foundation of
our globe; it has also been discovered in the _Pumice stone_; in some
minerals of the _Zeolite_ family; in the _Leucite_; in the aluminous
ores of _La Tolfa_, &c. and, although potass is undoubtedly procured by
lixiviation from the ashes of burnt wood, and other vegetable
substances, yet there is ample grounds for supposing that the living
plant receives it from the soil in which it vegetates.

                          POTASS, or _Potash_—

LIQUOR POTASSÆ—POTASSA FUSA, or _Kali Causticum_—_Lapis
  Infernalis_—_Causticum commune acerrimum_. POTASSA CUM CALCE—POTASSÆ
  SUB-CARBONAS, or _Salt of Tartar_—_Potash_—_Pearl ash_.

Potass is rarely met with in a pure form, except in the laboratory of
the philosophical chemist, and is therefore not likely to become an
object of judicial enquiry; but in various states of mixture, as
presented in the different preparations above enumerated, it may become
the accidental, as well as criminal means of poisoning; we shall
therefore consider the chemical history of these different preparations
separately, and then describe the symptoms which they generally

                           _Liquor Potassæ._

This may be considered as a nearly pure solution of potass, although, as
it is usually prepared, it contains small portions of _muriate_ and
_sulphate of potass_, _silica_, and _lime_. It is a limpid, dense,
colourless solution; when rubbed between the fingers it feels soapy, in
consequence of a partial solution of the cuticle. As it constitutes a
medicine in common use, and, moreover, forms the basis of many _quack
medicines_, as well as of those preparations which are sold under the
name of _Depilatories_, it may readily become the accidental instrument
of mischief.

                  _Chemical Tests for its detection._

There cannot exist any difficulty in this investigation; its highly
alkaline characters will be immediately announced by its effects on the
vegetable test papers, and by its power of saturating acids; while the
particular species of alkali may be readily identified by the following

(_a_) _Carbonic acid; or water saturated with the gas._ This will not
produce any[331] disturbance in the solution of potass; a fact which at
once serves to distinguish this alkali from the earths, _baryta_ and

(_b_) _Deuto-muriate of Platina_ occasions a canary-yellow precipitate,
consisting of the deutoxide of platina, potass, and muriatic acid; as
this precipitate is, to a certain extent, soluble in water, the test may
fail through dilution. With soda, this reagent will not occasion any
precipitate, a fact which depends upon the solubility of the triple salt
formed, and affords an easy method of distinguishing the fixed alkalies
from each other.

(_c_) _Tartaric acid._ If an excess of this acid be added, we shall
obtain crystals of a _bi-tartrate_; a phenomenon which will not take
place if soda be the alkali employed.

                  _Potassa Fusa_, or _Kali Causticum_.

This substance, which occurs in sticks, or cylinders, is an extremely
caustic and deliquescent substance; it is principally employed in
surgery, to establish an ulcer; or, instead of incision, to open a
tumour. See _Pharmacologia_. As it differs from potass, only in the
degree of purity, it is unnecessary to offer any farther remarks.

                          _Potassa cum Calce._

This is a mixture of the preceding substance with lime, which is added
with a view to diminish the deliquescent property of the alkali, and
thus to render it more manageable as an escharotic. There will be no
difficulty in separating these ingredients. Their different solubilities
will furnish an easy mode of effecting it to a certain extent, and we
may then precipitate the remaining portion of lime, by carbonic acid.

    _Sub-carbonate of Potass_—_Salt of Tartar_—_Pearl-ash_—_Potash_.

Although potass becomes comparatively mild, by its union with carbonic
acid; yet the present preparation retains so much causticity as to
render it poisonous, if administered in any considerable dose. _Plenck_
reports a case of this kind, where a patient having swallowed an ounce
of _salt of tartar_, was shortly afterwards seized with a violent
vomiting, which continued for forty-eight hours, followed by a violent
inflammation of the stomach; from which, however, he ultimately

  _Symptoms of Poisoning by any of the above preparations of Potass._

A styptic, urinous, and caustic taste; a severe heat in the throat;
violent vomiting, generally of alkaline matter, turning the syrups of
violets green, and where the alkali has been in the state of
_carbonate_, effervescing with acids; sometimes the matter thus ejected
is mixed with blood; copious alvine evacuations; severe pain in the
epigastric region; excruciating tormina of the bowels; depravation of
the intellectual faculties, and death. It will be easily perceived that
the above symptoms merely indicate the operation of a corrosive poison.
They offer no characteristic peculiarities which can enable us to decide
upon the particular substance that has been swallowed, unless, indeed,
the matter vomited can be submitted to examination.


From the experiments of _Orfila_, it appears that vinegar, diluted with
water, is the remedy which can be administered with the greatest
success, where any preparation of this alkali has been swallowed in a
poisonous dose.

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

In consequence of the peculiar action of this alkali upon animal matter,
we shall generally find the stomach perforated, and its coats
extensively dissolved. We shall moreover discover the usual indications
of violent inflammation in this viscus, as well as in the intestines.


We have already stated by what chemical reagents this alkali may be
distinguished from _potass_; it only remains for us to observe that its
physiological action, the symptoms arising from its ingestion, and the
organic lesions discovered on dissection, are strictly analogous to
those we have described as the effects of potass.

                      AMMONIA, and its CARBONATE.

Ammonia, in its uncombined state, exists in the state of gas, and is
incapable of application; its affinity, however, for water, enables it
to combine with that fluid, and to form liquid ammonia, (_Liquor
Ammoniæ_) in which state it is useful in medicine, and in the arts. This
solution is colourless; its taste extremely caustic; and its odour
strong, pungent, and peculiar. Exposed to the action of heat, the
ammoniacal gas is driven off, and may be recognised by its
characteristic odour, as well as by its effects upon moistened
_turmeric_ paper. When brought into contact with muriatic acid, it will
form dense white vapours, consisting of _muriate of ammonia_. A most
elegant and sensible test for ammoniacal gas is afforded by a mixed
solution, consisting of arsenious acid and nitrate of silver; these
substances when mixed in solution do not occasion the least disturbance
in each other, for reasons already explained, (see page 240) but upon
spreading a portion of the liquid upon glass or paper, and bringing
ammoniacal gas into contact, a beautiful yellow cloud immediately
diffuses itself over the surface of the solution.

_Sub-carbonate of ammonia_ occurs in solid, white, semi-transparent
masses, of a highly pungent and ammoniacal odour. Its chemical
composition has been found to vary materially according to the
circumstances under which it has been prepared; _Mr. R. Phillips_, who
has made some highly interesting experiments upon this subject,
considers the _sub-carbonate_ to be a _sesqui_-carbonate, composed of 3
atoms of carbonic acid, 2 atoms of ammonia, and 2 of water. By long
exposure to the air, its pungency is lost, and it is converted into an
inodorous carbonate.

                  _Symptoms of poisoning by Ammonia._

Cases wherein death has been produced in a few minutes, from the
ingestion of liquid ammonia, stand recorded on the authority of
_Martinet_, _Huxham_, _Haller_, and other physiologists. In such cases
the lips, tongue, and fauces are described as being burnt by the
causticity of the fluid; while hemorrhage of the intestines marks the
organic lesions which it occasions. The nervous system would appear also
to suffer greatly, at the same time that the abdominal organs are
affected with violent inflammation.

                      THE CAUSTIC ALKALINE EARTHS.

Under this division, we have to consider the two earths, _Lime_ and
_Baryta_; both of which are highly corrosive, although they essentially
differ from each other in their physiological action. In this respect
they may be compared to _corrosive sublimate_ and _arsenic_, and offer
an additional illustration of the imperfection of the present
classification; for while _lime_ acts as a local caustic upon the parts
with which it comes in contact, _baryta_ will require, for its action,
to be absorbed and carried into the current of the circulation.

                              QUICK LIME.

This earth is of a white colour, and of a hot caustic taste; with acids
it forms peculiar salts; a fact which we shall shew affords the most
decisive means of identifying its presence. It changes vegetable blues
to a green, and reddens _turmeric_; it is capable of fusion; so great is
its affinity for water, that it will absorb and solidify one third of
its weight of that fluid, and yet remain perfectly dry. The heat,
therefore, that is evolved in the process of slacking lime, evidently
proceeds from the water, which yields its caloric, as it passes from the
liquid to the solid state.

                    _Symptoms of poisoning by Lime._

It is perhaps the least energetic of the corrosive poisons; and yet,
when taken in any quantity, it will produce nausea, vomiting, colics,
frequent stools, and all the symptoms which characterise, or are
complicated with, inflammation of the stomach and intestines.[332] Lime
in combination with carbonic acid is not considered as poisonous.

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

In examining the body of an animal that has been killed by caustic lime,
we shall find the mucous membrane of the stomach reddened, and evincing
marks of inflammation in those parts which have been in contact with it.

                _Tests for the detection of Quick-lime._

We may proceed, if the substance be free from mixture, to obtain a
solution of the earth in distilled water, and to assay it by the
following reagents.

(_a_) _Carbonic acid, and the soluble alkaline sub-carbonates_ produce a
copious white precipitate, which is soluble in an excess of carbonic
acid. The _carbonate of lime_, of which this precipitate consists, is
also decomposed by muriatic acid, with effervescence, a soluble muriate

(_b_) _Oxalic acid, and oxalate of ammonia._ They precipitate lime-water
of a white colour, and the resulting _oxalate_ is not soluble in an
excess of acid.

(_c_) _Sulphuric acid._ This acid does not precipitate lime water, since
the _sulphate of lime_ formed does not require more than 300 parts of
water to dissolve it. Whereas, says _M. Orfila_, the smallest quantity
of an exceedingly diluted solution of _baryta_ becomes instantly turbid
on the addition of that acid, because the _sulphate of baryta_ is
insoluble in several thousand times its weight of water. By this test,
therefore, we are at once enabled to distinguish lime-water, from
barytic water.

                         BARYTA, AND ITS SALTS.

_Baryta_, like lime, is a solid, heavy, alkaline earth, having an acrid
and peculiar taste; and turning the syrup of violets _green_, and the
juice of turmeric _red_. When perfectly calcined, it absorbs water very
rapidly, disengaging at the same time a quantity of caloric; the
phenomenon is similar to that of _slacking lime_, and admits of the same
explanation. It dissolves in about 20 parts of water, at the temperature
of 60°; but boiling water will dissolve half its weight of this earth,
part of which will crystallize on cooling.

MURIATE OF BARYTA. This salt crystallises in square plates, or
four-sided prisms; its taste is acrid and pungent. It dissolves in 2½
parts of distilled water at 60° _Fah._ The solution is limpid and
colourless, and has been employed in medicine, as a remedy in scrofula,
cancer, some forms of syphilis, and in hectic fever connected with
ulceration. _Dr. Johnstone_ says that he has seen a delicate female take
as much as thirty drops of a saturated solution of this salt,
_repeatedly_, without nausea; whence he concludes that it would require
at least 2 or 3 drachms to do mischief.[333]

                   _Symptoms of poisoning by Baryta._

All the soluble compounds of this earth are poisonous, especially the
_muriate_; which, whether injected into the veins, introduced into the
stomach, or externally applied to an abraded surface, will occasion
death in a very short period. We are not aware that any case stands
recorded of poisoning by baryta. _Orfila_[334] and _Brodie_[335] have,
however, investigated the symptoms which this poison produces on
animals, and they appear to be analogous to those occasioned by the
ingestion of arsenic. The muriate, on account of its greater solubility,
would appear to be much more active than the pure earth, or its

                   _Physiological action of Baryta._

Barytic poisons require to be absorbed before they act on the system;
they may therefore destroy by external application, although it would
appear that, unlike arsenic, they act sooner when internally
administered. _Mr. Brodie_ thinks that the _muriate of baryta_ occasions
death by acting upon the brain and the heart; at the same time it exerts
a local action, and corrodes the viscus with which it comes into


It has been shewn by the experiments of _Orfila_, that the soluble
sulphates, as _Glauber_ or _Epsom salts_, by converting the _baryta_
into an insoluble _sulphate_, will act as antidotes to its virulence. In
the first instance, therefore, it will be prudent to produce this
chemical decomposition in the poison, and then to expel it, as quickly
as possible, by emetics.

             _Chemical tests for the detection of Baryta._

Where the pure earth, _baryta_, or its solution in water, is presented
for our investigation, it may be identified by the following reagents.

(_a_) _Sulphuric acid, and the soluble sulphates._ These bodies
precipitate from the barytic solution, a white _sulphate_ of the earth,
insoluble in water, and nitric acid.

(_b_) _Carbonic acid gas, and the alkaline sub-carbonates_, produce in
it a white _carbonate of baryta_.

(_c_) _Muriatic acid_ combines with baryta, and furnishes a salt which
is capable of being identified by numerous reagents. _M. Orfila_ has
furnished us with the following satisfactory compendium of its
habitudes. “A salt which does not redden the tincture of tournesol,
which does not turn the syrup of violets green, which is not
precipitated by the alkaline hydro-sulphurets,[336] nor by ammonia; but
which, on the contrary, is precipitated by the sub-carbonate of ammonia,
soda, or potass; which is not soluble in concentrated alcohol; which
furnishes, with the sulphate of potass, or the sulphuric acid, a white
precipitate insoluble in water and in the nitric acid, and which gives
with the nitrate of silver a curdled precipitate of muriate of silver,
likewise insoluble in the nitric acid, _can be no other than the muriate
of baryta_.”

But it may happen, that the above salt is so mixed with alimentary
matter, as to defy the action of the tests; in this case we must
endeavour to obtain from it the pure earth, by precipitating the
suspected fluids by the sub-carbonate of ammonia; when a _carbonate of
baryta_ will fall down, which must be dried on a filter, and calcined
with charcoal.

      CANTHARIDES. _Spanish Flies_—_Blistering Flies_. (_Cantharis
                Vesicatoria_, Sp. 1, of Latreille.)[337]

Cantharides are imported into this country in their entire state, and
are so kept in the shops; their form and general appearance are too well
known to require description, and they will rarely become the objects of
inquiry; in powder, however, they may be presented to us for
investigation, and it is therefore essential that the forensic physician
should be acquainted with the appearances which they assume in the state
of disintegration. This powder has a greenish colour, tinged with grey,
and abounding with shining points of a very beautiful green colour, and
which may be recognised in whatever state of division the powder may
exist, even after it has passed through a silken sieve. Its odour is
acrid and nauseous; when thrown on burning coals it emits that peculiar
smell, which generally attends the destruction of animal matter by heat.
The chemical history of _cantharides_ is still involved in some
obscurity; according to _Robiquet_, who has furnished us with the most
satisfactory analysis, they contain various fatty principles; the
phosphates of lime, and magnesia; and the acetic and uric acids;
together with a peculiar crystalline principle, in which the vesicatory
properties wholly reside, and to which the name of _cantharidin_ has
been given by _Dr. Thomson_.[338] It may be obtained in plates, having a
micaceous lustre; when perfectly pure it is insoluble in water, but it
is rendered soluble in that fluid, by the presence of a yellow matter
which exists in native combination with it; it is very soluble in oils.

                _Symptoms of poisoning by Cantharides._

As this substance forms an article of the materia medica it may become
an accidental source of poisoning; whilst a general belief in its
aphrodisiac powers may induce a trial of its efficacy, to goad the
exertions of exhausted nature, or to incense the passion of females,
whose seduction is meditated. In the annals of crime in this country, we
are acquainted with but few instances in which cantharides have been
given with the view of destroying life; we have already referred[339] to
the case of _Vaux_, who was executed for poisoning with cantharides;
there is also that of _Sir Thomas Overbury_, who, on the confession of
the person who gave it to him, is said to have taken it, mixed with his
sauces. Cantharides may be administered in the form of powder, infusion,
or tincture. The following may be considered the more prominent symptoms
which will follow the ingestion of a large dose. Violent retching;
copious alvine evacuations, frequently bloody; very severe colics;
active inflammation of the stomach and intestines; sometimes universal
convulsions, attended with a horror of liquids, resembling that which
occurs in hydrophobia; furious delirium, &c. But the affections of the
urinary passages, and organs of generation, may be regarded, κατεξοχην,
as the peculiar symptoms of poisoning by cantharides; such as heat in
the bladder, bloody micturition; horrible strangury; painful and
obstinate priapism; _satyriasis_, &c. If the dose has not been
sufficient to occasion speedy death, it may produce marasmus.

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

Where the poison has been administered internally, we shall find the
stomach and intestines presenting an appearance of inflammation, very
similar to that which we have described as the general result of
corrosive poisons. Marks of inflammatory action, and sometimes
ulceration, will be also discovered in the urinary and genital organs;
especially in those cases where the person dies shortly after the
ingestion of the poison.

          _Methods of detecting the presence of Cantharides._

Where the poison has been administered in substance, we shall generally
discover some of its particles mixed with the ejected matter; or, after
death, adhering to the coats of the stomach, or to the folds of the
intestines, and which may be easily identified by their peculiar green
and brilliant hue. If the poison should have been administered in the
form of infusion, or tincture, our chemical resources will fail us, and
we must rely alone upon the evidence furnished by the symptoms, and
organic lesions.


This singular substance was accidentally discovered by _Brandt_, a
chemist of Hamburgh, in the year 1669,[340] as he was attempting to
extract from human urine a liquid capable of converting silver into
gold. It was also subsequently discovered by _Kunkel_ and by _Boyle_,
without these latter chemists having, in any way, participated in the
researches of each other.

Phosphorus, when pure, is semi-transparent and of a yellowish colour;
but when kept some time in water, it becomes opaque externally, and then
has a great resemblance to white wax. Its consistence is nearly that of
wax; it may be cut with a knife. Its mean specific gravity is 1·770. It
generally occurs in sticks. When exposed to the air, provided the
temperature be not lower than 43°, it emits a white smoke, which has the
smell of garlic, and is luminous in the dark. This smoke is more
abundant, the higher the temperature is, and is occasioned by the
gradual combustion of the phosphorus. When heated to 148° it takes fire,
and burns with a very bright flame, and gives out a great quantity of
white smoke, which is phosphoric acid. Oils dissolve phosphorus,
provided the temperature be a little raised. Water has no effect upon
it, unless it be aerated, when it renders the surface of the phosphorus
opaque and white, which in a short time becomes red. This change depends
upon oxidation.

                 _Symptoms of poisoning by Phosphorus._

This substance, whether introduced into the stomach in its pure form, or
dissolved in oil, will occasion the most violent symptoms, from its
escharotic action,[341] It has been employed in medicine,[342] in a
state of minute division, in the dose of one-fourth of a grain, and is
said by _Leroi_ to be very efficacious in restoring and establishing the
force[343] of young persons exhausted by sensual indulgence, and of even
prolonging the life of the aged.[344] It has also been given as a
stimulant in local fevers. We are, however, greatly inclined to question
the safety of such a practice, notwithstanding the diminutiveness of the
dose. The reader will find some interesting cases of poisoning by
phosphorus, translated from the German work of _Weickard_, in _Hooper’s_
Medical Dictionary, under the consideration of that article. Should such
a case present itself for the investigation of the forensic physician,
he will not find any difficulty in identifying the substance; its
external character, its smell, and, above all, its peculiar property of
yielding luminous vapour, are too palpable and distinctive, to admit the
possibility of error.

 MECHANICAL POISONS—_Powdered glass_—_Enamel powder_—_Chopped hair, &c.

We have already examined the pretensions of these bodies to the rank of
corrosive poisons, (_page_ 145) and we should have not reverted to the
subject, but from a wish to introduce the account of “_a case of
Schirrus in the intestines, arising from hairs remaining in the canal_,”
as related in the _Edinburgh Medical Journal_,[345] by _Dr. Burrell_,
and which had, on the former occasion, escaped our notice. The subject
of this history, _Laurence Harding_, æt. 35, being a private soldier,
was admitted into the regimental hospital, for an unrelenting
constipation of the bowels; but it appears also that he had been
affected with dyspeptic symptoms, and pain in his abdomen, for several
years; which pain was aggravated by the ingestion of solid food. He
received but little benefit from the remedies that were administered,
his strength gradually declined, and, about a month after his admission,
he expired.

“On laying open the abdomen, the stomach was found much thickened
throughout its whole substance, and the pylorus very much contracted,
which contraction continued down the duodenum. Through all the
intestines this thickening and gristly appearance was observed. The
colon was prodigiously enlarged in its calibre, until where it forms its
sigmoid flexure; at which point there were three distinct holes
ulcerated through the coats of the intestine, and forming a
communication with the abdominal cavity. Beyond the sigmoid flexure the
intestine was contracted in its diameter, so as hardly to admit the
little finger to pass downwards. On cutting open the pylorus and small
intestines, the internal coats were found to be covered with a soft
substance, which resembled size. The internal coats of the colon were of
a dark colour, and in general were completely ulcerated, and hanging in
shreds. The colour of the colon was of a dark lurid red. At the sigmoid
flexure there was much contraction, and the thickening was so great on
one side, and the valve found so considerable, as hardly to admit a
common bougie through it. The portion forming the sigmoid flexure was
cut out; and on laying it open, and removing some hardened fæces, _five
or six hog’s brittles were seen distinctly crossing each other in
different directions_; they were partially invested in the villous coat,
which had grown over them, and which had retained them in the different
positions in which they were placed; and so firmly were they kept down
by those partial coverings, that it required some force to draw them
out. The mesenteric glands were of a cartilaginous appearance; the liver
was suffused with blood, and the gall-bladder full of bile. The spleen
was very small, and compressed into an oblong shape, probably arising
from the pressure of the colon when distended with feculent matter.

This man had formerly been a shoemaker. There was no evidence as to the
period at which he swallowed these hairs; but, from the derangement
which always existed in the bowels, and the pain referred to the sigmoid
flexure, little doubt can be entertained but that these hairs were the
cause of all his complaints, and ultimately of his death.”

                      CL. II. ASTRINGENT POISONS.


This metal appears to have been known in the earliest ages; and is
mentioned several times by _Moses_.[346] It has a bluish-white colour;
is very brilliant when first cut with a knife, but soon tarnishes by
exposure to air; when rubbed violently, it emits a peculiar smell; it is
malleable and ductile, but possesses very little tenacity. It is
scarcely sonorous; being the softest of all the metals, it yields
readily to the hammer. Its specific gravity is 11·35; it melts at 612°.
According to the experiments of _Dr. Thomson_,[347] it is susceptible of
four degrees of oxidation, presenting us with four distinct, and well
defined oxides, viz.

   Yellow     (_protoxide_)   contains of lead     91·5 oxygen   8·5
   Yellow     (_deutoxide_)   contains of lead     90·5 oxygen   9·5
   Red        (_tritoxide_)   contains of lead     88·  oxygen  12·
   Brown      (_peroxide_)    contains of lead     80·  oxygen  20·

Lead, in its metallic state, does not exert any action on the living
system; but, when oxidized, or in the state of salt, its virulence is
very considerable, producing a train of symptoms, so peculiar to itself,
as to justify our placing its preparations in a separate class, under
the title of _astringent_ poisons, as explained at page 202.

Metallic lead, although _per se_ inert, may occasion deleterious effects
when introduced into the stomach, in consequence of its meeting with
acids in the _primæ viæ_; from the same cause, liquids which are liable
to become in any degree acidulous, if kept in leaden vessels, may be
productive of much danger to those who drink them. Pure water, provided
the air be excluded, does not appear to exert any sensible action upon
this metal; but the combined influence of these agents converts the lead
into a carbonate: a fact which is at once exemplified by the white line
which is so constantly visible at the surface of the water preserved in
leaden vessels. So well acquainted were the ancients with this fact,
that we find frequent allusions in their works to the dangerous property
of leaden utensils. _Vitruvius_[348] published a very strong
remonstrance against leaden pipes, when used for the purpose of
conveying water; and _Galen_ cautions us continually, not to employ
water that has flowed through pipes of this metal; since he had observed
that the _sediment_ of such water, (υποσταθμη του τουιουτου υδατος)
rendered such as swallowed it, δυσεντερικους, subject to disorders in
the intestines.

_Dr. Lambe_, to whom we are indebted for an important work[349] upon
this subject, states, that there is a great diversity in the corrosive
powers of different waters; in some places the use of leaden pumps has
been in part discontinued, from the expense entailed upon the
proprietors by the perpetual want of repair;[350] and if any acidity be
communicated to the water, from the accidental intrusion of decayed
leaves or other vegetable matter, its power of dissolving this metal
will be increased to a very dangerous extent. The noted colic of
Amsterdam is said by _Tronchin_, who has written a history of the
epidemic, to have been occasioned by leaves falling and putrefying in
leaden cisterns, filled with rain water. _Van Swieten_[351] has also
related an instance of a whole family who were afflicted with colic from
a similar cause; and _Dr. Lambe_[352] entertains no doubt but that the
very striking case recorded in the Medical Commentaries,[353] proceeded
more from some foulness in the cistern than from the solvent power of
the water; in this instance, the officers of a packet vessel used water
out of a leaden cistern; the men also drank the same water, except that
the latter had been kept in wood; the consequence was, that all the
officers were seized with colic, while the men remained healthy. _Sir
George Baker_ has furnished the following striking illustration of the
subject. “The most remarkable case that now occurs to my memory, is that
of _Lord Ashburnham’s_ family, in Sussex; to which, spring water was
supplied from a considerable distance in leaden pipes. In consequence,
his lordship’s servants were every year tormented with colic, and some
of them died. An eminent physician of Battle, who corresponded with me
on the subject, sent up some gallons of that water, which were analysed
by _Dr. Higgins_, who reported that the water had contained more than
the common quantity of carbonic acid; and that he found in it lead in
solution, which he attributed to the carbonic acid. In consequence of
this representation, _Lord Ashburnham_ substituted wooden for leaden
pipes; and from that time his family have experienced no particular
complaints in their bowels.”

But the most extensive and dangerous source of poisoning by lead, is the
presence of this metal in various wines, and acescent drinks, and meats,
and which may arise either from accident or design. A knowledge of the
different avenues, through which this poison may gain admittance into
the human body, is therefore of great importance to the forensic
physician, and we shall accordingly proceed to the investigation of the

That certain wines were occasionally liable to produce endemic colics,
is a fact which has been long known; although the disease was
universally ascribed to a mistaken origin, until the publication of the
elaborate researches[354] of _Sir George Baker_, into the cause of the
Devonshire colic; which, like the same disease observed in other
countries, was attributed to the acidity of the liquor so abundantly
drunk[355] in these districts. This celebrated physician, however, was
early led to entertain doubts with respect to the truth of this
doctrine: “when I consider,” says he, “that this colic of Devonshire is
precisely the same disease as that which is the specific effect of all
saturnine preparations, and that there is not the least analogy between
the juice of apples and the poison of lead, it seems to me very
improbable that two causes, bearing so little relation to one another,
should make such similar impressions on the human body.” The
investigation of the subject completely established the justness of
these views; and no doubt remains, but that the endemic colic, which
harrassed the cyder drinkers in Devonshire for some years, was the
effect of saturnine impregnation, derived from the lead used in the
construction of the apple mills and cyder presses; and in some cases,
from the pernicious practice of introducing a leaden weight into the
cask, or even racking the cyder into leaden cisterns, where the liquor
fretted too much, and was thereby in danger of becoming acetous. _Sir G.
Baker_ also states that the custom of boiling the _must_ in vessels
capped with lead, affords another source of saturnine impregnation; and
he informs us that, a few years ago, this very practice produced the
_Devonshire colic_ in the county of Kent. Some cyder, which had been
made in a gentleman’s family, being thought too sour, was boiled with
honey in a brewing vessel, capped with lead. All, who drank this liquor,
were seized with this disease; some more, others less violently; one of
the servants died very soon in convulsions: several others were cruelly
tortured a long time. The master of the family, notwithstanding all the
assistance which art could give him, never recovered his health; but
died miserably, after having for nearly three years languished under a
tedious and incurable malady. _Dr. Lambe_ observes, that the saturnine
colic is not endemial in Devonshire, or the other cyder countries,
during the whole year, but is confined to those months when the liquor
is still new, crude, and the fermentation incomplete. When the liquor
becomes fine, the noxious matter in a great measure separates, and is
carried to the bottom of the vessel, as the feculencies subside. Tartar
is generated during the vinous fermentation, the acid of which, uniting
with the lead, forms a salt, scarcely, if at all, soluble in water; and
hence the purification which the liquor receives. But although this new
salt is insoluble in water, it is otherwise in regard to vinegar; for
this acid dissolves a small quantity, and forms a triple compound, an
_aceto-tartrate of lead_;[356] and since no cyder, or perhaps wine, is
wholly destitute of vinegar, it necessarily follows that if the liquor
has been once contaminated during the first stages of fermentation, it
is impossible for it ever to become entirely pure, except by processes
which would render it unfit for drinking.[357] It has very lately been
discovered, that _Gallic acid_ and _tannin_ are capable of combining
with lead in solution, and of forming a perfectly insoluble substance,
which falls to the bottom of the cask; hence all liquors which have been
kept in oak casks, for a certain time, must be freed from lead. This
explains a fact with respect to the effect of new rum in the West
Indies, of some importance. This spirit, when newly distilled, is found
to contain traces of lead, derived from the leaden rims of the coppers,
and the leaden worm, used for its condensation; but, by keeping about
twelve months in oaken casks, it loses its deleterious properties, and
no longer exhibits any traces of this metal.[358]

Another source, from which acescent liquids may contract saturnine
impregnation, is afforded by the metallic glazing of earthenware[359];
that for instance of the common _cream coloured_ ware is composed of an
oxide of lead,[360] and is accordingly easily acted upon by vinegar, and
saline compounds; jars and pots of this description ought therefore
never to be used for preserving pickles, jellies of fruits, marmalade,
and similar conserves. For the same reason, _Sir George Baker_ protests
against the custom of baking fruit tarts in such ware.[361] _Stone ware_
is glazed with muriate of soda, and is therefore not liable to such an

The custom which prevails in some parts of England of keeping milk in
leaden vessels, is extremely improper; _Dr. Darwin_[363] has illustrated
this subject by the following case; “A delicate young girl, the daughter
of a dairy farmer, who kept his milk in leaden cisterns, used to wipe
off the cream from the edges of the lead, and frequently, as she was
fond of cream, licked it from her finger. She was seized with the
saturnine colic, and semi-paralytic wrists, and sunk from general
debility.” We are informed by _Mr. Parkes_,[364] that in Lancashire the
dairies are furnished with milk-pans made of lead; and that when he
expostulated with some individuals on the danger of this practice, he
was told that _leaden_ milk pans throw up the cream much better than
vessels of any other kind.

There is, says _Dr. Darwin_, a bad custom in almost all families, and
public houses, of washing out their wine bottles by putting a handful of
shot corns into them, and by shaking them about forcibly to detach the
super-tartrate of potass from their sides; that such a practice may
occasionally give origin to serious consequences, will become evident by
the relation of the following case.[365] “A gentleman who had never in
his life experienced a day’s illness, and who was constantly in the
habit of drinking half a bottle of Madeira after his dinner, was taken
ill three hours after dinner with a serious pain in the stomach and
violent colic, which gradually yielded within twelve hours to the
remedies prescribed by his medical attendant. The day following he drank
the remainder of the same bottle of wine which was left the preceding
day, and within two hours afterwards he was again seized with the most
violent pains, head-ache, shiverings, and great pain over the whole
body. His apothecary becoming suspicious that the wine he had drunk
might be the cause of the disease, ordered the bottle, from which it had
been decanted, to be brought to him, with a view that he might examine
the dregs, if any were left. The bottle happening to slip out of the
hand of the servant, disclosed a row of shot, wedged forcibly into the
angular bent-up circumference of it. On examining the beads of shot,
they crumbled into dust, the outer crust (defended by a coat of black
lead with which the shot is glazed) being alone left unacted on, whilst
the remainder of the metal was dissolved. The wine, therefore, had
become contaminated with _lead_, and perhaps _arsenic_, for in order to
form shot the former metal is alloyed with the latter.”[366]

But we have, hitherto, only directed the reader’s attention to the
different sources from which wine, and acescent liquors, may
_accidentally_ derive saturnine impregnation. We have now to state that
such liquors have, in different ages and countries, been fraudulently
adulterated with lead. It appears to have been early discovered, that
wines which have become morbidly acescent may be corrected by the
addition of lead; whence, in those countries where Rhenish, Moselle, and
other similar wines are drunk, the saturnine colic has been endemic. The
celebrated colic which raged in the province of _Poitou_, towards the
end of the sixteenth, and in the beginning of the seventeenth century,
was evidently the effect of such adulteration.[367] We find that, in the
year 1487, there was a _Recessus Imperii_ promulgated at Rotenberg; and,
in the year 1498, at Friberg; which was enacted, in the year 1500, at
Tubingen; and, in the year 1508, at Frankfort; and, in the year 1577, in
the same place. By which decrees it was made a capital crime to
adulterate wines with _litharge_, or to use _bismuth_ in the fumigation
of them; it having been, at several periods, represented to the
Emperors, that great mischief had accrued from such adulterations; and
that they had been the cause of insuperable and mortal diseases. It
should seem, that these laws were not carried into strict execution;
and, indeed, that in the latter end of the seventeenth century, it was
hardly known in Germany that such laws existed. In consequence of which,
an epidemic colic arose, which was at length traced to the effects of
lead in the wines.[368] A representation of this fact having been made
to the _Duke of Wirtemberg_, it was ordained a capital crime to mix
litharge with wine, or even to sell it in the shops, by a decree,
bearing date March 10, 1696. But, notwithstanding the severity of this
law, we are informed by _Zeller_, that in the year 1705, the same
dangerous experiments were repeated in the circle of _Zwaabe_, with a
view to correct the acidity of the weaker wines. _Bishop Watson_[369]
informs us that, in the year 1750, the _Farmers general_ in France being
astonished at the great quantities _de vin gaté_ which were brought into
Paris, in order to be made into vinegar, redoubled their researches to
find out the cause of the great increase in that article; for nearly
thirty thousand hogsheads had been annually brought in for a few years
preceding the year 1750, whereas the quantity annually brought in forty
years before, did not exceed 1200 hogsheads. They discovered that
several wine merchants, assuming the name of vinegar merchants, bought
these sour wines, and afterwards, by means of litharge, rendered them
potable, and sold them as genuine wines.[370] _Dr. Warren_[371] has
related the cases of thirty-two persons in the _Duke of Newcastle’s_
family, who were residing in Hanover in June, 1752, and were seized with
the _Colica Pictonum_, after having used, as their common drink, a small
white wine that has been adulterated with lead. Nor has the English
vintner been less regardless of the health of his employer. In a popular
work on wine making by _Graham_,[372] which has gone through six
editions, and may therefore be supposed to have done some mischief, we
find under the article of _vintner’s secrets_, the following receipts.—

                    “_To hinder wine from turning_,

“Put a pound of melted lead, in fair water, into a cask, pretty warm,
and stop it close.”

                        “_To soften green wine_,

“Put in a little vinegar, wherein litharge has been well steeped, and
boil some honey to draw out the wax. Strain it through a cloth, and put
a quart of it into a tierce: and this will mend it, in summer

We have already alluded to the presence of lead[373] in the _new_ rum of
the West Indies, as the cause of the disease known in that country by
the name of the _dry belly-ache_; it remains for us to state that the
excise officers frequently avail themselves of the peculiar power of the
_sub-acetate of lead_ to precipitate colouring matter, in order to
remove from seized Holland gin, the colour which it obtains by being
long kept in the tubs in which it is smuggled over. A practice which it
is said renders the gin liable to gripe.

According to the important experiments of _Proust_,[374] it appears,
that if lead be associated with tin, it will be incapable of furnishing
to acids any saturnine impregnation. The following are the interesting
conclusions at which this philosopher has arrived, viz.

“That the _tinning_, which contains even so large a proportion as an
equal part of lead, cannot be dangerous; since it is sufficient that the
lead should be combined with tin, in order to prevent it from being
dissolved, either in lemon juice, or vinegar, the two acids most to be
feared. The tin, being more oxidable than the lead, dissolves
exclusively in these acids, and prevents the second from being attacked.
_The lead cannot appropriate to itself an atom of oxygen, but the tin
would carry it off in an instant._”

      SUGAR OF LEAD—_Saccharum Saturni_—_Cerussa Acetata_—_Plumbi

This salt of lead, to whose presence the numerous accidental maladies
above enumerated are to be chiefly attributed, occurs in commerce in the
form of irregular masses resembling lumps of sugar, being an aggregation
of acicular four-sided prisms terminated by dihedral summits; its taste
is sweet and astringent. It is soluble in 25 parts of water, hot, or
cold; when common spring water, however, is employed for such a purpose,
a white precipitate occurs from the presence of a certain proportion of
_sulphates_ and _carbonates_.

When this salt is exposed to the action of heat, it undergoes aqueous
fusion, then dries, and at length is decomposed, leaving a globule of
metallic lead, mixed with the yellow protoxide, and an acid product of a
fetid smell. This decomposition is similar to that which vegetable
substances undergo when heated for some time. The quantity of metallic
lead, thus obtained, will be more considerable if the salt has been
previously mixed with charcoal, and particularly if it be submitted for
a long time to the action of a powerful heat. The strong sulphuric acid
of commerce, when poured upon _sugar of lead_ in powder, decomposes it
with effervescence, and disengages vapours of acetic acid.

This must be considered as an active preparation, and may, when
administered in doses of a few drachms, speedily occasion death. At the
same time, like other poisons, it may by judicious administration,
become a valuable remedy. See _Pharmacologia_, art. _Plumbi

In consequence of the sweet taste of this salt, children have been
induced to swallow it.

            GOULARD’S EXTRACT. _Liquor Plumbi Sub-acetatis._

This liquor is a saturated solution of the _sub-acetate of lead_. Spring
water, from the salts which it contains, produces with it a very milky
and turbid appearance; and even when _distilled_, in consequence of the
carbonic acid diffused through it, it will occasion precipitation. It is
principally used as an external application to diminish inflammation, an
effect which it probably produces by paralysing the nerves of the part.
Cases have occurred where this lotion has been accidentally swallowed,
and the usual symptoms of saturnine poisoning have supervened. How far
its external application may be capable of occasioning mischief, will
form a subject of inquiry under the consideration of the physiological
action of the preparations of lead.

            WHITE LEAD. _Sub-Carbonate of Lead._ _Cerusse._

The substance, known in commercial language by the name of _White Lead_,
has received at different times, very various appellations, in
consequence of the fluctuating opinions which have prevailed respecting
its composition. Thus it has been successively styled a _sub-acetate_,
an _oxide_, and a _sub-carbonate_; of which the last is unquestionably
the correct name. In the large way it is prepared by exposing sheets of
metallic lead to the fumes of vinegar. The sub-carbonate so produced
appears as a white, brittle, and scaly substance, on the surface of the
lead; which is scraped off, and afterwards ground in mills fitted for
the purpose. Formerly, it was ground dry, and the workmen suffered
severely from the operation; it is now ground in water, and the
sub-carbonate is afterwards dried in earthen pans placed in stoves,
heated by means of flues; still, however, persons employed in grinding
white lead, as well as painters[375] who are constantly using it,
occasionally suffer severely, from the want of cleanliness in not
washing their hands before eating, by which some of the white lead is
introduced into the stomach with their food.

               LITHARGE. _Semi-vitrified Oxide of Lead._

This is a yellow protoxide of lead, which has been melted, and left to
crystallize by cooling. It is in the form of small reddish, or yellowish
scales, which are brilliant and vitrified. Its character is so peculiar
that it cannot easily be mistaken. It is employed for various purposes
in the arts, and is the saturnine preparation more usually selected for
the purpose of removing acidity from wines, as above related.

When treated with a muriatic salt, and submitted to a high temperature,
a _muriate of lead_ is produced, of a bright yellow colour, the
brilliancy of which may be much heightened by grinding it as usual with
oil. In this state it forms the pigment known by the name of _Turner’s
yellow_, or _patent yellow_.[376] It is very poisonous.

                          RED LEAD. _Minium._

This red oxide of lead is easily distinguished by its colour, weight,
and the facility with which it yields metallic lead, when heated with
carbonaceous matter. Common red wafers, which derive their colour from
this oxide, afford a striking illustration of this fact, for if burnt in
a candle, globules of metallic lead will be observed to flow from them.
It is poisonous; and we have already alluded to a case where Gloucester
cheese[377] occasioned deleterious effects, in consequence of its
adulteration with _red lead_. (p. 277) It is destructive also to
inferior animals, apparently in very small quantities; red wafers prove
poisonous to birds who may pick them up; and the same paste is sold for
the purpose of destroying beetles, in which it succeeds very
effectually. Since it is employed as a pigment, it may on many occasions
prove an accidental cause of poisoning; there is indeed one very common
and dangerous source, mentioned by _Sir George Baker_,[378] which
deserves to be particularized in this place, viz. the practice of
painting toys with _red lead_, and other poisonous substances; children,
observes this distinguished physician, are apt to carry every object
which gives them delight to their mouths, the painting of toys,
therefore, with poisonous colours, is a practice which ought to be
abolished, and is the more open to censure, as it is of no real utility.

     _Symptoms of poisoning by the different preparations of Lead._

The effects of this poison will vary considerably according to the
quantity swallowed, and the circumstances under which it is taken. We
shall, therefore, first consider its operation, in doses sufficiently
large to occasion at once violent effects; and then describe its agency
as an _accumulative_ poison, where it is introduced into the system
gradually, and in small quantities, so as to act slowly and
imperceptibly, and to lay the foundation of irreparable mischief, before
any alarm is occasioned.

1. _Symptoms which follow a large dose._ Where a salt of lead has been
taken in a considerable dose, the patient soon experiences excruciating
pains in the abdomen, accompanied with sickness and vomiting; the colic
increases to a violent degree, but admits of temporary alleviation by
pressure, a circumstance which at once distinguishes it from the effects
of corrosive poison. Although it is necessary to observe, that
inflammatory symptoms may afterwards occur, where the dose has been very
considerable, and the consequences direct and speedy.

The patient describes the pain as if produced by a boring instrument,
and the abdominal muscles become knotted, and sometimes painfully
retracted with all the contents of the abdomen towards the spine.[379]
The sphincter muscles of the bladder and anus are always affected;
sometimes strangury and tenesmus are the consequences; at other times, a
total incapacity of making any water at all, and so great a contraction
of the sphincter ani that a clyster can hardly be introduced. After
suffering these torments for a period of an indefinite duration,
delirium and cold sweats may supervene, and the patient die in
convulsions. If, however, the treatment has been prompt and judicious,
and the quantity of poison has not been excessive, he may recover from
its immediate effects, and live to testify the severity of the
consecutive phenomena. A most inveterate constipation of the bowels will
continue for a considerable period, and there will be an occasional
recurrence of colic; at length a peculiar species of palsy will
supervene in the upper extremities, especially affecting the muscles of
the fore arm, and wrist,[380] _Citois_ has given us a striking
description of this stage of the saturnine disease. “_Per vicos, veluti
larvæ, aut arte progredientes statuæ, pallidi, squalidi, macilenti
conspiciuntur, manibus incurvis et suo pondere pendulis, nec nisi arte
ad os et cæteras supernas partes sublatis, ac pedibus non suis, sed
crurum muculis, ad ridiculum, ni miserandum, incessum compositis, voce
clangosa et strepera._” It does not appear that the train of symptoms
above described has ever been excited by any other external cause than
the one here assigned. Whenever we meet with colic, attended with
paralytic symptoms of the extremities, we may at once conclude that it
has arisen from the influence of lead.

The disease has been described by authors under the name of the _colic
of Poitou_,[381] or _colica Pictonum_,[382] from the circumstance of its
having raged with such epidemic fury in that province, in consequence of
the adulteration of its wines with lead. It is also mentioned as the
painter’s colic, since this class of artists is very commonly visited by
the disease, in consequence of the _white lead_ contained in their
pigments. At the Lead Hills, it is known to the miners, under the
provincial name of _milreek_; and in Derbyshire, under that of

 2. _Symptoms arising from the introduction of lead into the system, by
                       small and repeated doses._

The effects produced upon various artists by the imperceptible operation
of lead, sufficiently shew the power which this metal possesses of
accumulating in the human system, and it is probable, says _Sir George
Baker_, that from an observation of such slow, but certain effects of
lead, the French and Italians derived the hint of preparing their
celebrated poisons, called “_Poudres de Succession_;”[384] the basis of
which has been supposed to have been some preparation of that mineral.
_Zeller_ mentions a certain chemical operator, near the confines of
Bohemia, who, after having diligently applied himself to the composition
of poisons, did, by means of lead, combined with some more volatile and
corrosive substance, prepare a most slow poison, which given to dogs and
other animals, had the power of destroying them, without producing any
violent symptoms, after several weeks, or even months.[385]

The following-curious case,[386] communicated by _Dr. Wall_, of
Worcester to _Sir George Baker_, will serve to illustrate the present
subject, and to shew that lead may gain admittance into the human body,
unobserved, and even unsuspected. “A gentleman of Worcester was the
father of a numerous offspring, having had one and twenty children, of
whom eight died young, and thirteen survived their parents. During their
infancy, and indeed until they had quitted the place of their usual
residence, they were all remarkably unhealthy; being particularly
subject to disorders of the stomach and bowels. The father, during many
years, was paralytic; the mother, for as long a time, subject to colics
and bilious obstructions. She died at last of an obstinate jaundice.
This disease had been several times removed by the use of the Bath
water; but it always came on again soon after her return to Worcester;
and at last eluded every method and medicine which was tried. After the
death of these parents, the family sold the house which they had so long
inhabited. The purchaser found it necessary to repair the pump. This was
made of lead; and, upon examination, was found to be so corroded, that
several perforations were observed in the cylinder, in which the bucket
plays; and the cistern in the upper part was reduced to the thinness of
common brown paper, and was full of holes like a sieve. The waters of
this town are remarkably hard. It is then more than probable that the
water of this pump, thus impregnated with lead, occasioned the
unhealthiness of the family who drank it. I have been just informed by
the plumber,” adds _Dr. Wall_, “that he had several times repaired the
pump in question; and that he had done so not more than three or four
years before the gentleman’s death; when he found it nearly in the same
state as it has been described; so that the corrosion was effected in a
short time; and consequently the water must have been very strongly
impregnated with the noxious quality of the metal.”

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

The reports of the dissection of those who have been destroyed by
saturnine poisons are far from being satisfactory. Where the person has
died from the primary effects of a large dose of the acetate of lead,
the stomach has betrayed a state of inflammation, similar to that which
results from the action of a corrosive poison; black points and spots,
from venous extravasation, have been also observed in the interior of
this viscus; _M. Orfila_ states that he has seen in the stomach of
animals who have taken a large dose of the acetate of lead, and have not
vomited, a membraneous lining tolerably thick, of an ash colour, easily
detaching in small pieces; the origin of which appeared to be owing to
the decomposition of a part of the acetate of lead by the mucous,
bilious, and other fluids, contained in this viscus. The mucous membrane
lying under this lining, was of a dark grey colour throughout its whole
thickness, and appeared to have exercised the same action on the acetate
of lead. The case is very different in those who have died from the slow
action of this metal; all anatomists agree in reporting, that in the
_colica pictonum_, the digestive canal exhibits no vestige of
inflammation;[387] but the diameter of the large intestines, especially
that of the colon, is generally contracted; thus displaying the effects
of that operation, which is supposed to be characteristic of the
compounds of lead, and which has bestowed upon them the peculiar
designation of _astringent_ poisons. _Foderé_ states that the mesentery
and its glands; and the lacteal and lymphatic vessels, are inflamed and
obstructed, and the thoracic duct almost obliterated; the liver, spleen,
pancreas, and lungs often inflamed, tumefied and purulent, and even the
heart shrivelled;[388] and the whole body, in consequence of the
constriction of the chyliferous vessels, in a state of complete
marasmus. Upon this passage _Orfila_ makes the following observation.
“We are under the necessity of declaring, that almost all these signs
are wanting in the majority of the cases of simple colic of lead,
terminated by death.” _Fourcroy_, in a note to his translation of
_Ramazzini_, “_De Morbis Artificum_,” observes that the intestines have,
in these cases, been discovered distended by air, parched, and slightly
altered in colour; and that in the larger ones, balls of dry, dark
coloured, excrementitious matter, have been found.

                _Physiological action of Lead Poisons._

The preparations of lead seem to act upon the nervous system, destroying
its energy, and thereby producing paralysis. Whether this is effected
through the medium of the circulation, or whether they produce their
effects without being absorbed, appears to us to be a question which has
not hitherto received a satisfactory answer. It must, however, be
admitted that they act upon the alimentary canal, by coming into contact
with its nerves; and in some cases, where the dose of the _acetate_ has
been large, it may have produced death by the local injury which it
inflicted. _Dr. Lambe_ observes upon this subject, that “certain facts
render it probable that lead does not operate entirely through the
medium of the circulation, nor by nervous sympathy; but also topically,
affecting the part to which it is applied more than the other parts of
the body.” This latter position is clearly established by the beneficial
effects occasioned by the topical application of lead to inflamed
surfaces; nor can any doubt exist as to the fact of such applications
having produced local paralysis. There is a paper in the third volume of
the _Medical Transactions_ by _Dr. Reynolds_, in which the case of a
gentleman is detailed, who brought on a temporary paralysis of the
_sphincter ani_, by freely using _Goulard’s_ lotion for the cure of
piles. Foreign writers have also maintained that saturnine applications
have frequently occasioned impotence; for further information upon this
subject the reader may refer to _Istitutione di Medicina Forens: di
Tortosa_, _vol._ 1, _p._ 58; also _Fritze Compend: sopra i Malat.
Vener._ _p._ 189; and _Monteggia Annotat. sopra i Mali Venerei_, _p._
36. _Sir George Baker_ states that he has some reason to doubt, whether
_litharge_, the common basis of our plasters, when used for the purpose
of dressing issues, has not, in certain irritable constitutions,
produced some of the ordinary effects of saturnine preparations taken
internally. There have been instances of children thrown into
convulsions, by _cerusse_, sprinkled on excoriated parts. _Zeller_
quotes, on the authority of _Molingius_, a remarkable instance of the
pernicious effects of _litharge_, externally applied.[389] _Sir George
Baker_ met with a most violent and obstinate colic, which seemed to have
been occasioned by some litharge, mixed in a cataplasm, and applied to
the _vagina_, with a view to allay a troublesome itching; and he says
that he was informed by _Dr. Petit_ that _Goulard’s poultice_ applied
for some time to a patient’s knee, in St. George’s hospital, occasioned
violent pain in the bowels, which did not cease until the poultice had
been removed; nor are authorities deficient to prove, that the
fashionable application of _cerusse_ to the skin has been followed by
obstinate colics, pains, and tremors. We have been desirous of laying
before our readers the above authorities, in proof of the constitutional
effects which may be occasionally produced by the external application
of lead, since the fact has been questioned, and is still considered by
many as involved in doubt and uncertainty. _Dr. Lambe_ is inclined to
believe, that “to the production of the saturnine colic, it is necessary
that the metal should be applied _immediately_ to the stomach and
intestines.” If this hypothesis be just, he excludes nervous sympathy,
as well as absorption, as a proximate cause of saturnine colic; and,
consequently, no dependence can be placed on the accounts given by the
above pathologists with regard to the production of such an effect by
lotions and cataplasms of lead.

    _Of the chemical processes, by which the presence of lead may be

These will necessarily vary according to the different states of
combination in which it may be supposed to exist; we shall, therefore,
proceed to consider the modes of establishing its presence, 1, In
solution in _water_; _wine_; _spirit_; and _oils_. 2. In a state of
mixture with _various solids_. 3. Combined with _solid or liquid

1. _The lead exists in some unknown state of combination in solution in
water._ We are greatly indebted to _Dr. Lambe_[390] for the able
directions which he has afforded us for ascertaining the presence of
minute portions of lead in water; and we recommend the practitioner, who
may be engaged in such an investigation, to peruse his work with
attention. The following are the reagents through which our analysis
must be conducted.

(_a_) _Sulphuretted hydrogen._ A solution of this gas in distilled water
is a very delicate test for lead, throwing down a precipitate of a very
dark brown colour, approaching to black. The competency, however, of
this test to the discovery of very minute quantities of lead, in certain
states of combination, has been questioned by _Dr. Lambe_; who was
enabled to detect the presence of this metal, by other methods, in water
that manifested no indication with _sulphuretted hydrogen_. He detected
it, for instance, in the precipitate occasioned in such water by the
carbonate of potass or soda. In operating on these waters, he noticed
the following appearances.

  1. _The precipitate, produced as above stated, when re-dissolved in
    nitric acid, formed a dark cloud with sulphuretted hydrogen._

  2. _Although the sulphuretted hydrogen formed no cloud, the
    precipitate itself became darkened by it._

  3. _The precipitate re-dissolved in nitric acid_, (as in 1) _formed,
    with sulphuretted hydrogen, a white cloud._

  4. _Sulphuretted hydrogen neither formed a cloud, nor darkened the

  5. _In the cases 2, 3, 4, if the precipitate be heated to redness, in
    contact with an alkaline carbonate; and after dissolving out the
    carbonate, it be redissolved in nitric acid; then sulphuretted
    hydrogen will form a dark cloud with the solution._ In these
    experiments it is necessary that the acid used to redissolve the
    precipitate be not in excess; if it should so happen, the excess
    must be saturated, before the test is applied. It is better to use
    so little, that some precipitate may remain undissolved. The nitric
    acid, used in these experiments, should be perfectly pure; and the
    sulphuretted hydrogen test should be recently prepared by saturating
    distilled water with the gas.

(_b_) _Sulphate of soda, or potass._ This test will produce a white
precipitate in water, containing one hundred-thousandth of its weight of
lead; and is considered by _Dr. Thomson_ as the most unequivocal reagent
of that metal which we possess. “The precipitate is a fine dense powder,
which speedily falls to the bottom, and is not re-dissolved by nitric
acid; no other precipitate can be confounded with it, except _sulphate
of baryta_, and there is no chance of the presence of baryta in solution
in water.”[391]

(_c_) _Muriate of soda._ One of the methods of analysis proposed by _Dr.
Lambe_, consists in precipitating the lead by common salt; but as the
_muriate of lead_ is partly soluble in water, this test cannot be
applied to small portions of suspected water. The precipitate must,
therefore, be collected from two or three gallons, and heated to redness
with twice its weight of carbonate of soda. The alkaline carbonate is
then to be dissolved out, and nitric acid added, in order to saturate
any superfluity; the _sulphuretted hydrogen_ test will then produce its

(_d_) _Reduction of the metal._ This is undoubtedly the most
satisfactory of all the tests; and, except the trouble of collecting a
large quantity of precipitate, is not embarrassed with any difficulty.
The precipitate may be mixed with its own weight of alkaline carbonate,
and exposed either with, or without, the addition of a small proportion
of charcoal, to a heat sufficient to melt the alkali. On breaking the
crucible, a small globule of lead will be found reduced at the bottom.
The precipitate from about fifty gallons of water yielded _Dr. Lambe_
about two grains of lead.

2. _The lead is dissolved in wine._ For the detection of this dangerous
fraud, the reagent invented by _Dr. Hahnemann_ affords a ready and
convenient test. It consists of water saturated with sulphuretted
hydrogen gas, and acidulated with muriatic acid;[392] this latter
ingredient is added for the purpose of preventing the precipitation of
any iron, which the wine might accidentally contain. This liquor will,
if added in the proportion of one part to two of wine, produce with the
smallest quantity of lead, a dark coloured, or black precipitate; which,
if collected, dried, and fused before the blow-pipe on a piece of
charcoal, will yield a globule of metallic lead. Or we may modify the
experiment by passing a current of sulphuretted hydrogen gas through the
wine, having previously acidulated it with muriatic acid, to prevent the
precipitation of the iron.

A farther proof of the presence of lead in wines is the occurrence of a
precipitate, on adding a solution of the sulphate of soda.

The most satisfactory proof, however, is derived by distilling off the
alcohol, and calcining the residuum with charcoal, in order to obtain
the metallic lead.

The quantity of lead which has been detected in sophisticated wine, may
be estimated at forty grains of the metal in every fifty gallons,[393]
but this will of course be liable to vary with the degree of acidity it
was intended to correct.

3. _The lead is dissolved in oils._ In this case the lead may be
detected by shaking, in a stopped phial, one part of the suspected oil,
with two or three parts of water, impregnated with _sulphuretted
hydrogen_. This test will announce the presence of the deleterious
metal, by occasioning a dark brown, or black colour.

4. _The lead is mixed with alimentary matter._ _M. Orfila_ has furnished
us with the following directions for assaying the matter vomited, or
that which may be found in the digestive canal, after death. “After
having expressed the fluid portion through a piece of fine linen, it
must be assayed by the _tests_, which have been already enumerated as
being capable of detecting the salts of lead; and if the precipitates
obtained are of a nature to induce a belief, that the fluid contains
some preparation of this kind, it must be evaporated to dryness, and
calcined with charcoal in a crucible; when, at the expiration of three
quarters of an hour, metallic lead will be obtained. If all the
experiments made on the fluid portion of the matter vomited, for the
discovery of this poison, should be fruitless, the whole of the solid
portions, previously dried, should then be calcined with potass and
charcoal, by which means metallic lead will be obtained.”

                           VEGETABLE POISONS.

The poisons of which we are about to offer the physiological and
chemical history, although more numerous than those which belong to the
mineral kingdom, are, notwithstanding, of far less importance in a
forensic point of view. With the exception of opium, and some few
others, they must be considered as objects of accidental, rather than of
criminal poisoning; and even with respect to the former narcotic, it may
be said to afford more frequently the means of destruction to the
suicide, than to the assassin.

The sensible qualities of smell, taste, and sometimes colour, which so
eminently characterise deleterious plants, must necessarily render them
ill calculated to favour that secresy, which constitutes the
indispensable companion of crime; while their bulk, and the
pharmaceutical preparation which they require, are alike inconsistent
with the hope of concealment.

Thus we receive, as it were, from Nature, that protection which art can
no longer supply; and the commission of crime is either prevented or
discovered, in cases where the powers of chemistry would fail in its

The objects which constitute the vegetable kingdom differ from every
species of mineral matter, not only in their peculiar organized
structure, but in the chemical arrangement of their elements; those of
inorganic matter are generally combined in very simple proportions, as
one and one, or one and two, &c. whereas in organized bodies, their
proportions are much more complicated; and _Dr. Ure_ observes,[394] that
such substances derive the peculiar delicacy of their chemical
equilibrium, and the consequent facility with which it may be subverted
and new modelled, to the multitude of atoms grouped together in a
compound; hence too, as _Mr. Children_[395] has observed, is one reason
of our utter inability to reproduce even the simplest body of this
class, when once its elements have been separated; it is not in the
diversity of these elements, but in the manner in which they are
grouped, that this peculiarity consists, for, continues the accomplished
chemist last mentioned, “vegetable substances seldom contain, as
essential, more than three principles—_oxygen_, _hydrogen_, and
_carbon_, and sometimes _azote_. With four simple elements then, a brief
alphabet for so comprehensive a history! has a bountiful Omnipotence
composed the beautiful volume of the living world, where, turn to what
page we may, fresh loveliness meets the eye, fresh cause of admiration
and delight.”

The analysis of vegetable bodies resolves itself into two parts, each of
which constitutes an equal object of interest to the forensic physician;
who, it will be shewn, may occasionally derive important information
from both. The first relates to the discovery of the _proximate_
principles of a vegetable substance. The second, to that of its
_ultimate_ elements. By the _proximate_, or, as they are sometimes
termed, the _immediate_ principles, we mean those compound substances
which exist in the living plant in a state identical with that, under
which chemical processes exhibit them, and are chiefly separable by the
action of different solvents. The number of these principles is
considerable, as _gum_, _starch_, _sugar_, _gluten_, _extractiue_,
_tannin_, _oils_, _acid_, _&c. &c._ By the _ultimate_ elements, we
understand those, of which the _proximate_ are composed, as _oxygen_,
_hydrogen_, _carbon_, and _azote_. In submitting a plant to destructive
analysis, for the purpose of obtaining its ultimate elements, we shall
derive compounds, which formed no part of the vegetable structure, and
which result from a new arrangement of the elements composing it;
_acetic_ and _carbonic acids_, for example, are obtained by the
destructive distillation of several vegetable substances, in which
neither of these acids existed ready formed, but only their
elements.[396] It may easily be imagined to what numerous fallacies such
a law of composition must have given origin, in the earlier periods of
chemical inquiry; and it is equally evident, that the utmost refinement
of chemical science, and the most rigorous methods of analysis, will be
required to enable us to deduce any satisfactory conclusion with respect
to the quality of a plant, from these data. Such perfection, indeed, has
not hitherto been attained, but the period is probably not far distant,
when our most sanguine anticipations upon this point may be realised. We
have only to trace the history of this branch of chemistry for the last
century, to become satisfied of its gradual and important progress
towards such an epoch, and of the improvements of which this department
of vegetable analysis is farther susceptible; let us, for the sake of
illustration, only compare the rude results obtained by the academicians
of Paris, at about the commencement of the seventeenth century, with
those of _MM. Gay-Lussac_ and _Thenard_[397], or with those, very lately
instituted in this country by _Dr. Ure_,[398] and we shall perceive that
while the former of these experimentalists, by the aid of heat, were
unable to form the slightest distinction between the most inert, and the
most poisonous species of plants, the latter, by means of the same
agent, aided by the modern doctrine of equivalent ratios, has succeeded
in establishing the proportions in which the elements of each vegetable
body combines; and with such accuracy, as to discriminate between
substances, which bear the greatest analogy to each other; as between
the varieties of sugar, and those of oil; and even between common flax,
and the same substance prepared according to the improved process of
_Mr. Lee_. This statement is sufficient to show the capability of
ultimate analysis, on certain occasions, to identify vegetable bodies;
but we are, at present, scarcely advanced far enough in such an
investigation, to make it subservient to the detection of vegetable
poisons. Nor has our knowledge with regard to proximate analysis, been
less successfully advanced. The late researches of the French and German
chemists have demonstrated the existence of several new alkaline bodies
in the class of vegetable poisons, to which some of these plants appear
to be exclusively indebted for their activity, as the _poppy_,
_hellebore_, _colchicum_, _&c._; and whose characters are so distinct
and striking, as to enable the chemist to recognise their presence by
appropriate re-agents. In other cases, the virulence of a plant would
appear to depend upon the combination of several[399] proximate
principles; while in some few instances there exist in the same
individual vegetable, two distinct elements of activity, as illustrated
by the interesting history of tobacco.

In cases of vegetable poisoning it will occasionally occur, that some
remains of the plant may be collected; and seeds, portions of the fungi,
and leaves, may be found in the contents of the stomach; whence a
knowledge of botany becomes indispensable. This branch of science is,
moreover, important to the toxicologist, as enabling him to pursue the
study of plants with greater precision; for experience has shewn that
there is a wonderful analogy between the structure of those plants which
resemble each other in medicinal operation. Thus those which, from their
dismal and dusky appearance, have been arranged under the title of
_Luridæ_, are in general highly poisonous; they also possess a very
peculiar and disagreeable smell, so that Nature has, upon this occasion,
kindly given us notice of approaching danger, by means of our senses.

Of equal importance with the knowledge of the generic and specific
characters, is that of their sensible qualities, and the changes which
these latter undergo by pharmaceutical preparation.

                Cl. III. ACRID, or RUBEFACIENT POISONS.

Most of the subjects of this class constitute articles of Materia
Medica; so that ignorance on the one hand, and accident on the other,
may render them the unexpected source of mischief. With respect to the
physiological action of these bodies, the reader has only to refer to
our classification at page 207, to perceive that it will not admit of
generalization; for each division, it will be observed, contains
individuals which belong to the class of acrid poisons.

As the history of most of these articles is to be found in works on
Materia Medica, we shall not enter so fully into their properties, as we
might otherwise have considered necessary.

                          CAMBOGE or GAMBOGE.

This beautiful gum-resin is obtained by making incisions in the leaves
and young sprouts of the _Stalagmitis Cambogioides_[400] (Polygamia
Monæcia—_Nat. ord._ Tricoccæ. _Wild_:) It is first collected, in the
kingdoms of Siam and Ceylon, in cocoa-nut shells, and is thence
transferred into large earthen jars, where it remains until it is nearly
dried to a cake, when it is formed into rolls, and wrapped up in leaves.
It is imported into Europe[401] in cases and boxes. Its deep yellow
colour, which is so materially brightened by being wetted, and its
shining fracture, are characters sufficiently striking to enable the
practitioner to identify it; and when we add to these the history of its
habitudes with different menstrua, the chemist will have no difficulty
in detecting its presence, viz. when triturated with water, two-thirds
of its substance are speedily dissolved, and a turbid solution results;
alcohol dissolves nine-tenths, and forms a yellow transparent tincture,
which is rendered turbid by the addition of water; sulphuric ether
dissolves six-tenths of the substance; it is also soluble in alkaline
solutions, and the resulting compound is not rendered turbid by water,
but is instantly decomposed by acids, and the precipitate so produced is
of an extremely brilliant yellow colour, and soluble in an excess of

Its action upon the animal œconomy is that of a powerfully drastic
purge. We are, however, not acquainted with any case in which death
followed its administration. From the experiments made upon animals, it
would appear to produce its effects by a local action on the textures,
with which it comes in contact, and it will accordingly be found in the
third class of our physiological classification, (page 207.)

                         WHITE HELLEBORE.[402]

      _Veratrum Album._ (Polygamia—Monæcia—_Nat. Ord._ Coronariæ.
                        _Linn._—Junci. _Juss._)

This is undoubtedly the true hellebore of the ancients. It is a native
of the mountainous parts of Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia.
Those specimens which are cultivated in our gardens flower in July. The
root is the only part employed in medicine, but every part of the plant
is extremely acrid and poisonous. Upon the animal œconomy it acts as a
violent cathartic and emetic; producing bloody stools, excessive
vomitings, great anxiety, vertigo, tremors, sinking of the pulse,
syncope, cold sweats, convulsions, and death. There are many cases on
record, where such effects have followed the ingestion of this plant.
_Helmont_ reports that a royal prince died in the course of three hours
after taking a scruple of this poison, which induced convulsions; and
_Vicat_[403] relates the case of a tailor, his wife, children, and
workmen, who having taken soup, in which, through mistake, the root of
white hellebore had been introduced instead of pepper, were seized with
a universal coldness, and such extreme debility, as to become nearly
insensible. At the expiration of two hours, the eldest child, who was
not four years of age, began to vomit copiously, but with considerable
straining; the rest were shortly after in the same condition. _Vicat_,
who was called in at this critical period, ordered them to take a
considerable quantity of warm water and oil; shortly after which he
administered an infusion of mallow sweetened with honey; by which means,
we are informed, they were relieved, and ultimately restored. According
to the testimony of various physiologists, as well as from the
experiments of _Orfila_, it appears that this plant, if externally
applied, will produce the same effects. _Etmuller_ says, that the
external application of the root to the abdomen will produce vomiting;
and _Schroeder_ observed the same phenomenon to take place in a case
where it was used as a suppository; the juice of the plant has been also
applied to the purpose of poisoning arrows. It must, therefore, act by
being absorbed into the circulating current, thereby destroying the
energy of the nervous system. It accordingly finds a place in the second
division of our classification. Late experiments upon this substance
have shewn that its activity depends upon a peculiar alkaline principle,
to which the name of _veratria_[404] has been given; and that it exists
in native combination with an excess of gallic acid, (_super-gallate of

When taken internally, as a poison, the most effectual antidote is said
to be a very strong infusion of nut-galls.

                    BLACK HELLEBORE. _Melampodium._

   _Christmas-rose._ (Polyandria Polygynia. _Nat. Ord._ Multisiliquæ,
                     _Linn._ Ranunculaceæ, _Juss._)

This plant, which has derived its name from the dark colour of the root,
is a native of Austria, the Apennines, and Italy; it has, however,
obtained a place in our gardens,[405] and from the circumstance of its
flowering from December till March, it has acquired the name of the
christmas rose. The fibres of the roots are the parts employed in
medicine; their odour is fœtid, and their taste bitter and acrid. Its
action upon the animal œconomy is similar to that of the preceding
species. _Morgagni_ relates the history of a person who took half a
drachm of black hellebore, and expired eight hours afterwards. _M.
Orfila_ states that inflammation of the rectum is a constant occurrence,
where the animals who have taken this root, have survived its
administration for a few hours.

        FŒTID HELLEBORE. _Helleborus Fœtidus._ _Helleboraster._

This plant is a native of England, growing in shady places, on a chalky
soil, and flowering in March and April. Like the former species of
hellebore, it is capable of producing fatal effects. A case is related
in the _London Chronicle_, 1768, no. 1760, of a child who died in
consequence of taking the root of this plant in the pulp of an apple.

              ELATERIUM. _Wild_, or _squirting Cucumber_.

 _Momordica Elaterium_ (Monæcia Monadelphia. _Nat. Ord._ Cucurbitaceæ.)

This plant is a perennial native of the south of Europe, flowering in
June and July; it is cultivated in England, but does not survive the
severity of our winters. The fruit (_poma_) has the appearance of a
small oval cucumber, of a greyish colour, and covered with prickles.
When fully ripe it quits the peduncal, and casts out the seed and juice,
with great force, and to a considerable distance, through the hole in
the base where the foot-stalk is inserted, whence the name of
_squirting_ cucumber. The author has instituted numerous experiments
upon this plant, the results of which will be found fully detailed,
under its history, in the fifth edition of his Pharmacologia.

The plant appears, from the testimony of _Dioscorides_, and other
writers, to have been employed by the ancient physicians with much
confidence and success as a cathartic; all the parts of the plant were
considered as purgative, although not in an equal degree; thus
_Geoffroy_, “_radicum vis cathartica major est quam foliorum, minor vero
quam fructuum_.” This question, however, has been very lately set at
rest, by the valuable experiments of _Dr. Clutterbuck_,[406] which prove
that the active principle of this plant resides more particularly in the
juice which is lodged in the centre of the fruit. The forensic
physician, however, will scarcely be liable to meet with a case of
poisoning by the fruit of this plant. It is from that preparation of the
juice, which is admitted into our Pharmacopœia, under the title of
_Extract of Elaterium_, that we may expect to meet with mischief.

This substance subsides spontaneously from the juice of the fruit; and
occurs in commerce in little thin cakes, or broken pieces, bearing the
impression of the muslin upon which it is dried; its colour is greenish,
its taste bitter, and somewhat acrid; and when tolerably pure it is
light, pulverulent, and inflammable. Notwithstanding its extreme
activity, it does not, according to our experiments,[407] contain more
than a tenth part of active matter, which is a vegetable proximate
principle, _sui generis_, and to which we have given the name of ELATIN.
By treating the Elaterium with alcohol, this principle may be obtained;
it imparts to the spirit a most brilliant, and beautiful grass green
colour—but see our experiments upon this subject. The action of
elaterium is that of a most violent drastic cathartic, especially
affecting the rectum. It destroys life by its local action, and
consequently finds a place in the third division of our classification.

               COLOCYNTH. _Coloquintida_; _Bitter Apple_.

This is the fruit of the _Cucumis Colocynthis_ (Monœcia Monodelphia,
_Nat. Ord._ Cucurbitaceæ) an annual of Turkey and Nubia. It is of the
size of an orange, of a yellowish-white colour, devoid of smell, round,
dry, light, spongy, and smooth on the outside, when ripe; it is
trilocular, each cell containing many ovate, compressed, whitish seeds,
enveloped by a white spongy pulp. It is imported into this country,
after having been peeled, and dried in a stove. Its taste is extremely
bitter and acrimonious. It acts upon the human body as a powerfully
drastic purgative. _Fordyce_,[408] relates the case of a woman who was
subject to colics for the space of thirty years, in consequence of
having taken an infusion of this fruit in beer. _Tulpius_[409] has also
furnished us with an account of the tremendous effects produced by an
overdose of the same article; and _Orfila_ has shewn, with his usual
accuracy, that it acts not only locally upon the _primæ viæ_, but by
being absorbed, and carried into the circulation.

 EUPHORBIUM. _Euphorbia Officinarum_ (Dodecandria Trigynia. _Nat. Ord._
                    Tricoccæ Lin. Euphorbiæ _Juss._)

This gum resin is imported from Barbary, in drops, or irregular tears;
its fracture is vitreous; it is inodorous, but yields a very acrid,
burning impression on the tongue. Its acrid constituent resides
exclusively in that portion which is soluble in alcohol. This poison has
been sometimes administered imprudently as a purgative when it has
produced vomiting, and bloody stools. _Lamotte_ speaks of a clyster
prepared with it, which proved fatal. It acts as a caustic upon the
textures with which it comes in contact, and thus destroys life by a
local action; indeed its nature is so acrid that when applied to the
hair, or to warts, it causes them to fall off. _Scopoli_ mentions the
case of a person who, having the eye-lids closed, allowed them to be
rubbed with the juice of this plant; in consequence of which
inflammation followed, and the sight was lost. In pulverizing the
gum-resin, the parmaceutist should take the precaution of previously
moistening it with vinegar, or the powder will rise, excoriate his face,
and excite violent inflammation of the eyes. There are many species[410]
of _Euphorbium_, or _spurge_, which are highly poisonous; and, being
indigenous, they have frequently proved the cause of mischief; during
the last summer the author was consulted on the occasion of a family of
children having been seized with a violent inflammation of the eyes, and
eruption on the face, when the phenomenon was very satisfactorily traced
to the action of the _Euphorbia peplus_, which was growing very
luxuriantly in the garden where the children had been playing.


     _Juniperus Sabina._ (Diæcia Monadelphia—_Nat. Ord._ Coniferæ.)

This shrub is a native of the south of Europe and the Levant; but has
been long cultivated in our gardens. The leaves and tops of the plant
have a strong, heavy, disagreeable odour, and a bitter, hot taste, with
a considerable degree of pungency; qualities which depend upon the
presence of an essential oil. Upon the animal system it acts as a very
powerful stimulant, and has been received into the list of the materia
medica, as an active emmenagogue; while it has long enjoyed, amongst the
vulgar, the reputation of being capable of producing abortion.[411] Upon
this point we have only to observe, that it does not exert any specific
action on the uterus; but as a violent medicine, acting upon the general
system, it might, in common with other stimulants, produce so much
disturbance as to be followed by abortion. The experiments of _Orfila_
have shewn that savine exerts a local action, but that its effects
depend principally on its absorption, through which medium it acts on
the nervous system, the rectum, and the stomach.

                         ACONITE. _Monkshood._

   _Aconitum Napellus_ (Polyandria Trigynia—_Nat. Ord._ Multisiliquæ,
                     _Linn._ Ranunculaceæ, _Juss._)

There are several species of aconite, all of which are poisonous. The
_monkshood_ is a well known plant, met with in our gardens, and when
swallowed in any quantity will produce the symptoms, characteristic of
vegetable poisons. All the parts of aconite, in the fresh state, when
chewed, produce a sense of heat, and shortly afterwards a sensation of
numbness in the lips and gums, which does not subside for several hours.

In ancient authors, we frequently meet with _aconite_ as a poison, but
it has been fairly questioned whether any particular plant was
designated by the term[412]; like that of _cicuta_, it seems to have
been a word expressive of poisons generally. The most powerful form in
which this vegetable poison exists is in that of extract, or inspissated
juice[413], and, if prepared according to the improved process of _Mr.
Barry_,[414] it will prove highly dangerous in small doses. _M. Orfila_
relates several fatal accidents from the ingestion of this plant; his
experiments have also shewn that it will produce its effects by an
external application. We agree, however, with _Mr. Brodie_ in
considering that it acts, without being absorbed, on the brain, through
the medium of the nerves; and we have accordingly placed it in the first
division of our classification.

The plants already enumerated are sufficient to illustrate the symptoms
and physiological action of the acrid poisons of the vegetable kingdom.
We shall, therefore, conclude the history of this class with some
account of the _nitrate of potass_, which has been ranked both by
_Fodéré_ and _Orfila_ under this division of their classification.

                      NITRE. _Nitrate of Potass._

The sensible qualities of this salt are too well known to require any
description. It generally occurs crystallized in six-sided prisms,
terminated by dihedral summits. It is composed of one proportional of
nitric acid, and one proportional of potass. It dissolves in seven parts
of water at 60°, and in its own weight at 212° _Fah._ Its solution is
attended with a great reduction of temperature. It is permanent in the
air, melts when exposed to a moderate heat; and, when cast into moulds,
constitutes what is known in commerce by the name of _sal prunelle_.
When mixed with inflammable matter it undergoes, in a strong heat, a
rapid species of combustion, which, in chemical language, is termed
_deflagration_. Concentrated sulphuric acid, when poured upon this salt
in powder, decomposes it at the ordinary temperature, and disengages
vapours of nitric acid, which are white, and not very abundant.

                   _Symptoms of poisoning by Nitre._

This salt, when taken in a large dose, acts violently on the stomach and
bowels, and occasions syncope and death. There are several cases
recorded of its having been taken by mistake for _Glauber’s salt_.

On these occasions, the patients have been seized with violent vomiting
and purging of blood, attended with severe pains in the bowels, and a
sense of burning heat, referred to the chest and stomach; cold
extremities, fluttering pulse, laborious breathing, syncope, and death.
The above effects have been produced by an ounce and a half of nitre;
although, as _Dr. Gordon Smith_ has observed, the same quantity of this
salt has been inadvertently swallowed _without_ the production of such
tremendous consequences.

From the experiments of _Orfila_, it appears that if this salt be
inserted into a wound, it occasions a fatal gangrene. Its action is
undoubtedly the effect of its acrid nature, destroying the vitality of
the textures with which it comes in contact. It is not absorbed.

              _Organic lesions discovered by dissection._

In those recorded cases of death from the ingestion of nitre, the
stomach has been found red, scattered over with blackish spots, and its
mucous membrane disorganized.

            _Chemical processes for the detection of Nitre._

The property which this salt possesses of deflagrating with combustible
bodies, affords a ready indication of its presence. The process also,
which we have described under the history of nitric acid, (p. 312) as
the one suggested by _Dr. Wollaston_, and adopted by _Dr. Marcet_ in his
examination of sea water, furnishes an elegant mode of ascertaining the
presence of a nitric salt.

                       Cl. IV. NARCOTIC POISONS.

These constitute a class of vegetable poisons, less extensive, perhaps,
but of far greater importance and interest, than the one we have already
considered. It would not be easy to enumerate the various purposes to
which the active imagination of man has applied the tribe of narcotic
plants. Medicines, poisons, intoxication, and madness, lie concealed
beneath their juices. They have, in their turn, arrested the pangs of
disease, and inflicted death upon the unsuspecting object of hatred and
revenge; they have animated the courage of the warrior, inspired the
enthusiasm of the poet, soothed the sorrows of the wretched, and
furnished the debauchee with a daily source of sensual gratification;
effects which, although apparently incompatible with each other, may be
commanded by the same substance, in a different dose. It would be
foreign to the plan of this work to enter into a physiological inquiry
into the _modus operandi_ of these extraordinary agents; and the author
relinquishes the labour with less regret, as he has already, in another
work,[415] very fully considered the several theories which have been
advanced for its explanation.

                      OPIUM, and its PREPARATIONS.

This well known drug is the inspissated juice of the _Papaver
Somniferum_ (Polyandria Monogynia. _Nat. Ord._ Rhoedææ, _Linn._
Papaveraceæ _Juss._) obtained by making incisions in the half ripe
capsules, at sun-set, when the night dews favour the exudation of the
juice, which is collected in the morning by old women and children, who
scrape it from off the wounds with a small iron scoop, and deposit the
whole in an earthen pot, where it is worked by wooden spatulas in the
sun-shine, until it attain a considerable degree of spissitude. It is
then formed by the hand into cakes, which are laid in earthen basins to
be further exsiccated.[416] Two kinds are found in commerce,
distinguished by the names of _Turkey_, and _East Indian_ opium. The
latter kind is regarded as being inferior to the former.

_Turkey_ opium occurs in flat pieces, of a solid compact texture,
possessing considerable tenacity; its specific gravity is 1·336, so
that, when compared with concrete juices of other plants, it is heavy,
being exceeded only in this respect by opoponax and gum arabic. It is of
a reddish-brown, or fawn-colour, and has a peculiar, heavy, and narcotic
odour; its taste is acrid, bitter, and hot. By long exposure to the air,
it becomes hard, and breaks with a glimmering fracture, owing to the
presence of a few saline particles. It is plastic, and when worked with
the fingers is adherent to them. When brought near a lighted candle it
inflames, and burns with a brilliant light, but its odour at that time
is not narcotic. It is partially soluble in water, alcohol, æther, wine,
vinegar, and lemon-juice. When triturated with hot water, five parts in
twelve are dissolved, six suspended, and one part remains perfectly
insoluble, and resembles the gluten of wheat, but is of a dark colour.
The alcoholic is more highly charged with its narcotic principle than
the aqueous solution; but spirit, rather below proof, is its best

Few vegetable substances have been more frequently, or more ably
submitted to analysis; and the history of the successive steps by which
our knowledge respecting its composition has advanced, must encourage us
in hoping that we shall shortly be enabled to identify, by chemical
tests, the presence of opium, with as little difficulty and as great
precision as we are already capable of recognising a metallic poison.

According to the latest chemical views respecting the composition of
this body, it may be stated to consist of the following principles, viz.
resin, gum, bitter extractive, sulphate of lime, gluten, and the three
lately discovered bodies, _narcotine_, _morphia_, and _meconic acid_.

In the year 1803, _Derosne_ first obtained from opium a crystalline
substance, which he found to dissolve in acids, but he does not appear
to have instituted many experiments, for the elucidation of its nature
and properties. In 1804 _Seguin_ discovered another crystalline body,
and although he described many of its properties, what appears very
extraordinary, he never even hinted at its alkaline nature.
_Sertuerner_, at Eimbeck in Hanover, had at the same time as _Derosne_
and _Seguin_, obtained these crystalline bodies, but it was not until
the year 1817, that he first proclaimed the existence of a vegetable
alkali, and attributed to it the narcotic powers which distinguish the
operation of opium; to this body, he gave the name of _Morphia_, and it
would appear to be the same as the essential salt of _Seguin_. The salt
of _Derosne_ was also at first mistaken for the same principle, but the
experiments of _Robiquet_ have pointed out its distinctive properties,
and it has received the name of _Narcotine_.

_Morphia_, upon which the soporific powers of opium depend, appears to
exist in native combination with a peculiar acid, to which the name of
_meconic_ acid has been bestowed. The following are the essential
characters of this alkaline body, when procured in a state of

It crystallizes in fine, transparent, truncated pyramids, the bases of
which are either squares or rectangles, occasionally united base to
base, and thereby forming octohedra. It is sparingly soluble in boiling
water, but dissolves abundantly in heated alcohol, giving rise to an
intensely bitter solution; in æther it is far less soluble. It has also
the characters of an alkali; affecting test papers tinged with tumeric
or violets, uniting with acids and forming neutral salts, and
decomposing the compounds of acids with metallic oxides. It unites with
sulphur by means of heat, but the combination is no sooner formed than
it is decomposed. It fuses at a moderate temperature, when it resembles
melted sulphur, and like that substance crystallizes on cooling; it is
decomposed by distillation, yielding carbonate of ammonia, oil, and a
black resinous residue, with a peculiar smell; when heated in contact
with air, it inflames rapidly, and like vegetable matter, it leaves a
carbonaceous residue. When analyzed by means of the deutoxide of copper,
it yields carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, the atomic proportions of which
have not yet been ascertained. The nitric acid of commerce, when dropped
on _morphia_, communicates to it a beautiful red colour. _Sertuerner_
has given us an account of the effect of the alcoholic solution of
_morphia_ on himself, and three of his pupils; he found that repeated
small doses of half a grain produced at first decided excitation; then
weakness, numbness, and tendency to fainting; after swallowing vinegar
while in this condition, violent vomiting was excited; in one delicate
individual, profound sleep intervened, and on the following day he
suffered from nausea, vomiting, head-ache, anorexia, constipation, and
heaviness.[418] This case is sufficient to shew, that although _morphia_
possesses the characteristic powers of opium, its strength is by no
means commensurate with its supposed state of concentration. When
uncombined, it exerts little or no action, in consequence of its
insolubility in water, and in the fluids of the stomach. When, however,
it is combined with an acid, particularly the acetic, or the _meconic_,
with the latter of which we have before stated that it exists in opium,
it displays its properties in a very eminent degree. It is also very
soluble in oil; and, according to the experiments of _M. Majendie_, the
compound acts with great intensity.

The _meconic acid_, when separated from the residuum of the magnesian
salt, as described in the process for the preparation of morphia (_note
p._ 386) does not appear to possess any medicinal activity. Its
distinguishing _chemical_ character is, that it produces an intensely
red colour in solutions of iron, oxidized _ad maximum_; and a deep blue,
with solutions of the salts of gold. _Narcotine_ is the salt originally
obtained by _Derosne_, and is supposed by _MM. Majendie_ and _Robiquet_
to be the peculiar principle which produces the excitement experienced
by those who take small doses of opium. It may be entirely removed by
macerating the extract of opium in sulphuric æther.

                   _Symptoms of poisoning by Opium._

In considerable doses, the primary action of this substance, as a
powerful and diffusible stimulant, is not apparent; for the powers of
life are immediately depressed, drowsiness and stupor succeed, and these
are followed by delirium, stertorous breathing, cold sweats,
convulsions, and apoplectic death.

The quantity of opium necessary for the production of such effects must
be regarded as _relative_. In no two cases can we ensure a similar
result, by the administration of the same dose. But, of all the
circumstances capable of modifying the power of this drug, habit is the
most remarkable; in illustration of which we have only to adduce the
history of the opium eater, or laudanum drinker; a species of debauchee
by no means uncommon, as every London chemist can testify, for he
frequently experiences considerable doubt and difficulty in
distinguishing persons, to whom habit has rendered large doses of opium
necessary, from such as purchase it with a view to suicide.[419] The
lowest fatal dose, to those unaccustomed to it, seems to be about four
grains; but the Turk will take three drachms in the morning, and repeat
the same dose at night, without any other effects than that of
cheerfulness and exhilaration. This temporary impunity, however, is
dearly purchased by years of suffering and sorrow. The effects of opium,
says _Russel_, on those who have been addicted to it, are at first
obstinate costiveness, succeeded by diarrhœa and flatulence, with loss
of appetite, and a sottish appearance; their memories soon fail, they
become prematurely old, and then sink into the grave objects of scorn
and pity.[420]

Where a person has, from accident, or design, swallowed a large dose of
pure opium, or laudanum, the symptoms produced are so characteristic and
striking, that the practitioner, who may be summoned to render
assistance, will have no difficulty in ascertaining their cause.

Insensibility, with a scarcely perceptible respiration, although in some
cases it is attended with an apopletic stertor; the countenance is livid
and cadaverous; the skin cold; and the muscles of the limbs and trunk in
a state of extreme relaxation. The pupils are insensible to the
impression of light, and the pulse is almost imperceptible. In some
stages, the patient, by being strongly shaken, may be roused for a few
moments from the lethargy; there is generally a narcotic odour
distinguishable in the breath. Vomiting may also take place upon the
first impression of the laudanum upon the stomach; although after its
action has been displayed upon the brain, it will be difficult to excite
emesis by the most powerful means; the reason of which may be very
satisfactorily deduced from the ingenious experiments of _M. Majendie_
on the mechanism of vomiting; by which he proves, that without the
influence of the brain, the muscles, whose actions constitute an
essential part of the operation, are incapable of performing their duty,
and that vomiting therefore cannot take place. This is a very important
doctrine, inasmuch as it suggests to the pathologist several expedients,
by which he may be enabled to occasion vomiting, by recalling the
excitability of the brain. The period which will elapse, between the
ingestion of the poison, and the death of the sufferer, may be stated to
be from six to twenty-four hours; but it will in each case be liable to
vary, not only from the quantity of opium swallowed, but from the habit
and peculiar circumstances of the individual submitted to its operation.

                    _Physiological action of Opium._

It is still a question for the decision of future physiologists, whether
the narcotic principle of opium destroys the functions of the nervous
system by a local impression upon the stomach,[421] or by being
absorbed,[422] and brought into contact with the brain in the course of
the circulation. We are inclined to adopt this latter opinion, and have
therefore placed _opium_ in the second division of our classification;
at the same time, we think that it may occasionally produce an effect
upon the nervous extremities of the stomach, and we have accordingly
placed an _asterisk_ against the word, by which we denote this double
mode of operation. But, by whatever medium it may act, it is evident
that it occasions death by destroying the functions of the brain; in
consequence of which the muscles of respiration, no longer supplied with
nervous energy, cease to contract, and the animal dies in a state of

           _Of the treatment in cases of poisoning by Opium._

The first object is the evacuation of the stomach by vomiting; for which
purpose, the patient should be made to swallow from fifteen grains to a
scruple of _sulphate of zinc_; or, from five to ten grains of _sulphate
of copper_ dissolved in water; and the vomiting should be kept up for a
considerable time, and urged by irritation of the fauces. Where the act
of vomiting cannot be established, in consequence of the paralysed state
of the nervous system, cold affusion, applied by means of a shower bath,
has been said to restore the energy of the brain, and thus to render the
patient susceptible of the stimulus of an emetic.[424] Venesection has
also, under the same circumstances, been greatly extolled; and, as
vascular congestion in the brain is one of the effects of this poison,
it is reasonable to conclude that, by unloading the vessels of this
organ, we may restore its lost sensibility. _Tissot_ has strongly
recommended the practice,[425] and the experiments of _Orfila_ have
shewn that it never aggravated the symptoms of poisoning by opium, nor
accelerated the moment of death; but on the contrary, that in some
instances he found that it restored the animals which would have died,
if it had not been put in practice. Where the operation is performed,
the blood should be drawn from the jugular vein, in preference to any
other. Should these means prove insufficient to provoke vomiting, _M.
Orfila_ asks, whether one or two grains of _tartarized antimony_,
dissolved in one or two ounces of water, might not be injected into the
veins? It was formerly proposed by _Boerhaave_ to empty the stomach of
its poisonous contents, by the introduction of a syringe; an operation
which, it is said, has been lately performed with success.[426] Vinegar
and vegetable acids were long considered as _antidotes_ to opium; but
the experiments of _M. Orfila_ have clearly established that, as long as
any portion of the opium remains in the stomach, these potations, so far
from relieving, aggravate the symptoms of poisoning by this narcotic, in
consequence of the power which they possess of dissolving it. Where,
however, the opium has been expelled by vomiting, these acid drinks
possess the property of _diminishing the consecutive symptoms_, and of
thus realising the expectations which _Virgil_[427] has so poetically

                         ----“_quo non præsentius ullum
             Auxilium venit, ac membris agit atra venena_.”

The powers of the habit should, at the same time, be supported by
brandy, strong coffee, and cordials. The sufferer should be kept awake;
and, if possible, in a continued gentle motion. _Dr. Currie_[428] has
recommended the affusion of warm water at 106°, or 108°, for removing
the stupor.

A case is recorded by _Dr. Marcet_, in the first volume of the
Medico-chirurgical Transactions, where six ounces of laudanum were taken
by a young man, and remained for five hours in the stomach before any
remedies were applied for its removal; a strong dose of sulphate of
copper, however, provoked vomiting, and by judicious treatment he
eventually recovered.

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

It has been very truly remarked that although the instances in which
opium has proved fatal to human life have been very numerous, yet that
the accounts which we have received of the appearances of the body _post
mortem_, are by no means so satisfactory as we could desire. _M. Orfila_
asserts that no alteration can be discovered on dissection, in the
digestive canal of persons who have swallowed any narcotic poison; and
that if facts contrary to this assertion be met with in various authors,
it is because there have been administered irritating substances capable
of producing inflammation.[429] The lungs, however, frequently exhibit
morbid phenomena; their colour is sometimes violet, and frequently a
deeper red than in the natural state. Their texture is also more dense,
and less crepitating; and they are marked by livid spots. The blood
contained in the ventricles of the heart, and in the veins, is said to
be found in a liquid state; but _Orfila_ advances a diametrically
opposite opinion, and asserts that it is frequently coagulated. The
brain and its membranes often exhibit a state of vascular congestion; in
the case recorded by _Mr. Stanley_, in the sixth volume of the
_Transactions of the College of Physicians_, the cellular tissue of the
pia mater was found to contain water.[430]

                      _Of the detection of Opium._

There is no mode of identifying opium, whether in a liquid or solid
form, so satisfactory as that which is at once afforded by its powerful
and highly characteristic odour. In fatal instances, we shall always
meet with it in the contents of the alimentary canal, and in such
quantities as will leave no doubt as to its nature. The chemist may also
proceed to a farther examination, by obtaining _morphia_ from its
solution, by a process which we have already described under the
chemical history of opium.

                   BLACK HENBANE. _Hyoscyamus Niger._

   (Pentandria Monogynia. _Nat. Ord._ Luridæ _Linn._ Solaneæ _Juss._)

Henbane is an indigenous annual, frequent on waste grounds, and at the
sides of roads, particularly on a calcareous soil, flowering in July.
The whole of the plant is poisonous when eaten; and in the recent state
the odour of the leaves occasions stupor and delirium. The root of this
plant when in full vegetation is very powerful; and there are several
cases on record, where it has been eaten in mistake for parsnips,[431]
which it strongly resembles in its sweet and agreeable flavour. Its
operation is very analogous to that of opium; producing sickness,
stupor, delirium, and coma, with dilation of the pupils.

The pulse, at first hard, gradually becomes weak and tremulous; petechiæ
frequently make their appearance, and death ensues. Late experiments
have shewn that a peculiar alkaline body constitutes the active
principle of this plant, and it has accordingly received, from its
discoverers _MM. Meissner_ and _Brandes_, the name of _Hyoscyama_.

_Boerhaave_ experienced a trembling and drunkenness, in consequence of
having prepared a plaister, into whose composition _henbane_ entered as
an ingredient; and the experiments of _M. Orfila_ have shewn that it
acts nearly in the same manner, whether applied upon the cellular
texture, introduced into the stomach, or injected into the veins. Hence
it follows that the active principle of this plant is carried into the
circulation, and exerts a remarkable action on the brain and nervous
system, producing an extraordinary state of delirium, which is succeeded
by stupefaction. The physician will never probably be called upon to
investigate a case of wilful poisoning by this narcotic; and should he
be summoned to attend a person who, through mistake or accident, had
swallowed it, we can hardly anticipate any peculiar mystery which
requires elucidation.

There are several other species of henbane, as _hyos. alb. aureus_,
_physaloides_, all of which are poisonous, although not in the same
degree as the _hyoscyamus niger_, whose history we have just considered.

                   PRUSSIC ACID. _Hydro-cyanic Acid._

  The LAUREL (_Prunus lauro-cerasus_) and its distilled water. BITTER
                   ALMONDS, and their essential oil.

Hydro-cyanic acid exists in a great variety of native combinations in
the vegetable kingdom, and imparts to them peculiar qualities, which
have been long known. It is, however, only within a few years, that this
singular body has been obtained in its separate and independent
form[432]; indeed it was not until the publication of the celebrated
memoir of _Gay-Lussac_ upon this subject, in the year 1815, that its
chemical composition was fully understood. In this memoir, it was
clearly shewn to consist of a peculiar, gaseous, and highly inflammable
compound of carbon and nitrogen, to which the name of _cyanogene_ has
been assigned, and hydrogen; the latter body acting as the acidifying
principle; whence the term _hydro-cyanic acid_ is very happily contrived
to express its composition.

When obtained in its most concentrated form, by the process of _M. Gay
Lussac_,[433] it has the following characteristic properties, viz. At
ordinary temperatures, it is liquid, colourless, and transparent;
possessing an extremely powerful odour, very analogous to that of the
blossom of the peach, or bitter almond tree; its taste is, at first,
bland and sweetish, but afterwards pungent, bitter, and peculiar. Its
extreme volatility is such, that when a drop of it is exposed to the
air, on the end of a glass rod, it is rapidly crystallized. The same
phenomenon takes place, if a drop be suffered to fall on a sheet of
paper. Its specific gravity is ·7055; but, when in a concrete form it is
only ·9, while that of its vapour is ·947. If inhaled, it produces
almost immediate pain in the head, with deafness, unless very largely
diluted with air or water.[434] It is decomposed by a high temperature;
and by the action even of light it is, in the course of a very short
time, resolved into carbonic acid, ammonia, and carburetted hydrogen, a
carbonaceous matter remaining behind.[435] When brought near a body in a
state of combustion, it instantly inflames and burns with a blue light.
In water it is sparingly soluble; alcohol dissolves it copiously.

The “_medicinal Prussic acid_,” as it has been called, as being the
preparation lately introduced into medicine,[436] differs only from that
we have just described, in its degree of concentration. It is, in fact,
the Prussic acid of _Scheele_, and may be considered as equivalent to
the preparation of _Gay-Lussac_ diluted with six times its volume, or
eight times and a half its weight, of distilled water.

The _hydro-cyanic acid_ has been discovered, in a state of perfect
formation, in a variety of vegetables, whose peculiar odour at once
announces its presence; such are bitter almonds; the kernels of
apricots, cherries, particularly the _Cerasa Juliana_, and several
plums; the leaves of laurel; and peach blossoms; and the bark of the
_prunus padus_, or bird-cherry tree. The only mineral substance, in
which hydro-cyanic has yet been detected is the _Fer Azuré_ of
Hauy.[437] Animal substances, although they do not contain it ready
formed, yet, when treated with an alkali at a high temperature, they
yield it in great abundance, in consequence of the combination of its

               _Action of hydro-cyanic Acid as a Poison._

The experiments which have been instituted with a view to ascertain the
exact effects of this substance upon animal life, very clearly prove
that the acid of _Gay-Lussac_ is one of the most active poisons in
nature; and that the various vegetable bodies, into whose composition it
enters, exert an energy, corresponding with the quantity of this
constituent, and the degree of concentration, in which it exists. The
experiments of _M. Orfila_ were made with Prussic acid, prepared
according to the process of _Scheele_, and consequently containing a
great proportion of water, as we have already explained; and yet the
effects which followed its administration were extremely energetic. From
the _Annales de Chimie_, for October 1814, we learn that a professor of
chemistry, having inadvertently left on his table a phial filled with a
solution of Prussic acid in alcohol, a female servant, who had been
seduced by its agreeable smell, drank a small glass-full of it, and fell
dead at the end of a few minutes, as if struck by apoplexy.

The following case is quoted by _Dr. Granville_, from _Hufeland_. _D.
L._ a robust and healthy man, aged 36 years, while about to be seized as
a thief by the police officers, snatched a small sealed phial from his
pocket, broke off the neck of it, and swallowed the greatest part of its
contents. A strong smell of bitter almonds soon spread around, which
almost stupefied all present. The culprit staggered a few steps; then,
without a groan, fell on his knees, and sunk lifeless down to the
ground. Medical assistance being called in, not the slightest trace of
pulse or breathing could be found. A few minutes afterwards, a single
and violent expiration occurred, which was again repeated in about two
minutes. The extremities were perfectly cold, the breast and abdomen
still warm, the eyes half open and shining, clear, lively, full, almost
projecting, and as brilliant as those of the most ardent youth under
violent emotion. The face was neither distorted nor convulsed, but bore
the image of quiet sleep. The corpse exaled a strong smell of bitter
almonds, and the remaining liquid, being analysed, was found to be a
concentrated solution of Prussic acid in alcohol. Cases also stand
recorded where, from imprudent exposure to the vapours of the Prussic
acid, persons have exhibited all the appearances of being poisoned. Some
writers assert that _Scheele_ himself, who died suddenly, while engaged
in some inquiries into the nature and formation of this acid, was
affected by its deleterious qualities. _Orfila_ relates that
_Scharinger_, Professor at Vienna, prepared some pure concentrated
Prussic acid, and having diffused a certain quantity of it upon his
naked arm, he died a short time afterwards. The professor, however, did
not die in consequence of this accident; it appears, upon inquiry, that
he was seized with apoplexy while sitting in a coffee house in the

The distilled water of the _cherry laurel_[438] has been proved, by
numerous awful examples, to be a most energetic poison; and from the
fatal effects to which the officinal preparation of it gave rise, it was
early expunged from the Pharmacopœia of the London College. In the
_Philosophical Transactions_ for the year 1731, we shall find the
history of its effects upon a woman of the name of _Boyce_, who, with a
view to disprove an allegation, that one _Mary Whaley_ had died in
consequence of drinking a small quantity of laurel water, swallowed
three spoonsful, and, afterwards, two more of the same liquid; after
which she died in a very short time, without making the least complaint,
and without any convulsion.

_Foderé_ informs us that during the period he was pursuing his studies
at Turin in 1784, the chambermaid and man servant of a noble family of
that town, for the purpose of regaling themselves, stole from their
master a bottle of distilled laurel water; fearful of being surprised,
they hastily swallowed several mouthsful of it; but they soon paid the
price of their dishonesty, having almost instantly expired in
convulsions. Works on Toxicology also abound with the relation of
experiments, made by numerous physiologists on different animals, with
this deleterious liquid. Amongst the experimentalists we may enumerate
the names of _Madden_, _Mortimer_, _Browne_, _Langrish_, _Nicholls_,
_Stenzelius_, _Heberden_, _Watson_, _Vater_, _Rattrai_, the _Abbé
Rozier_, _Duhamel_, _Fontana_, and _Orfila_. In this country we have had
several fatal cases of poisoning by laurel water. In the year 1782, _Dr.
Price_, of Guildford, having professed to have converted mercury into
gold, offered to repeat his experiments before a competent tribunal, but
the unfortunate philosopher put a period to his existence before the day
appointed for his exhibition, by a draught of laurel water; a mode of
death which had been, no doubt, suggested by the celebrated trial of
_Donellan_, for the murder of _Sir Theodosius Boughton_, that had taken
place in the preceding year, and left a strong impression upon the
public mind; and whose details, it has been justly observed, are not
more important from the elucidation of the effects of this poison, than
from the strange display of professional testimony to which it gave
origin, (see _Appendix_, page 243.) There are those who still profess to
believe that the prisoner was unjustly convicted upon that occasion;
_Dr. Male_ states, without the least reserve, that it was neither proved
that the deceased was poisoned, nor that any poison had existed.[439] We
feel no difficulty in declaring that we hold a directly opposite
opinion; and we consider that many of the weaker points of professional
evidence delivered on the trial, have received powerful support and
elucidation from the experiments and observations of later physicians.

Nor are the leaves of this plant wholly free from danger; it is true
that they have, for many years, been in general use among cooks, to
communicate an almond or kernel-like flavour to custards, puddings,
creams, _blanc-mange_, and other delicacies of the table; but the custom
has not always been harmless; a fact with which it behoves the forensic
physician to be acquainted. In some parts of the continent milk is
boiled with one or two leaves of the cherry-laurel in it, and
_Ingenhouz_ states that he saw people much affected by it. In the
_Literary Chronicle_ (no. xxii, p. 348, 1819) we find the following
illustrative case: “Several children at a boarding-school, in the
vicinity of Richmond, having partaken of some custard flavoured with the
leaves of the cherry-laurel, four of them were taken severely ill in
consequence. Two of them, a girl of six, and a boy of five years of age,
fell into a profound sleep, out of which they could not be roused for
ten hours, the other two complained of severe pains in the epigastric
region. By proper medical treatment, they all recovered, after an
illness of three days.”

The essential oil of _bitter almonds_ is equally poisonous; and the
water distilled from them is highly dangerous if incautiously taken.
_Duvignau_ and _Parent_ instituted some experiments upon themselves to
ascertain this fact; they commenced by taking six drops of the water
distilled three times, in an appropriate vehicle, without producing any
other than a transient impression. On taking _eighteen_ drops, however,
vertigo was experienced, and a disposition to sleep, accompanied with a
tingling of the ears and dimness of sight. When the dose was increased
to _twenty-two_ drops, alarming symptoms followed, such as convulsions,
and vomiting; which, although the experimenters succeeded in allaying by
antispasmodics, cured them completely of any ulterior wish to ascertain
how far this substance might be deleterious. A drachm of the distilled
water of bitter almonds has killed a moderate sized dog. The _essential
oil_ is proportionally more active; _Mr. Brodie_[440] found that one
drop, when applied to the tongue of a cat, killed it in five minutes; no
sooner did the poison come in contact with the organ than the animal was
seized with convulsions. When two drops of the same oil were injected
with half an ounce of water into the rectum of a cat, it was not seized
for two minutes, but it died, as in the former experiment, after the
expiration of five minutes. While engaged in this inquiry, _Mr. Brodie_
dipped the blunt end of a probe into the essential oil, and applied it
to his tongue, with the intention of tasting it, and not having the
least suspicion that so small a quantity could produce any of its
specific effects on the nervous system; but scarcely had he applied it,
when he experienced a very remarkable and unpleasant sensation, which he
referred chiefly to the epigastric region, but the exact nature of which
he could not describe, because he knew nothing similar to it. At the
same time there was a sense of weakness in his limbs, as if he had not
the command of his muscles; and he thought that he should have fallen.
The fascinating liqueur noyau, _créme de noyau_, is indebted for its
flavour to the essential oil of the bitter almond, or peach; and is
undoubtedly deleterious if taken in excess. In the _Journal des Debats_,
for 1814, we find that the late _Duke Charles de Lorraine_ had nearly
lost his life from swallowing some drops of _eau de noyau_ too strongly
impregnated with the essential oil of peach kernels.

The bitter almond itself, in consequence of the manner in which its
deleterious principle is modified by the natural state of combination in
which it exists with sweet oil and albumen, does not produce an effect
corresponding with the proportion of essential oil which it yields. The
experiments of _Orfila_, however, prove that the almond, in doses of a
drachm, is destructive to cats; and there can be no doubt but that it
would be equally deleterious to the human species; but the quantity
required for the production of such an effect must ever prevent the
bitter almond from becoming either the accidental or criminal instrument
of death.

                _Physiological action of Prussic acid._

The numerous experiments, which have been made with this poison, have
clearly established that its action is upon the nervous system, whose
energies it would seem to extinguish without any ostensible injury to
respiration and circulation; for in all those animals which were killed
by it, in the experiments of _Orfila_, _Brodie_, and others, the heart
was found acting regularly, and circulating dark coloured blood, and in
some cases this phenomenon was visible for many minutes after the animal
was in other respects apparently dead. _Orfila_ considers that he has
fully demonstrated that these effects depend on the absorption of the
poison, and its transmission to the brain through the medium of the
circulation. We have accordingly placed Prussic acid in the second
division of our classification. The essential oil of bitter almonds
would, according to the experiments of _Mr. Brodie_, appear to act
through the medium of the nerves, and it has accordingly been referred
to our first division. This is undoubtedly an anomaly, which it is not
easy to reconcile; the experiments, however, which led _Mr. Brodie_ to
the conclusion appear to us to warrant such a deduction; the
instantaneousness with which the poisonous effects were produced, and
the fact of its acting more speedily when applied to the tongue, than
when injected into the intestines, although the latter presents a better
absorbing surface, seem to oppose the idea of the oil requiring to be
absorbed, before it can display its energies. _M. Vogel_, of Munich, has
lately discovered some facts respecting the composition of this oil,
which may perhaps hereafter lead to the true explanation of this
apparent anomaly; this distinguished chemist succeeded in separating the
Prussic acid from the volatile oil with which it is combined, by
agitating the whole in a concentrated solution of potass, and distilling
to dryness; the oil volatilized together with the water, while the
residuum in the retort was found to contain _cyanide of potassium_. The
oil, thus separated from the Prussic acid, is without odour, and heavier
than water; its taste is extremely acrid and burning; in order to
discover whether it was still poisonous, _M. Vogel_ put a drop of it on
the tongue of a sparrow, when it died in a few seconds, after a very
violent convulsion; he also poisoned a dog, two months old, with four
drops of it; whence he concludes that the volatile oil, divested of its
hydro-cyanic acid is still a poison, although less energetic than that
which has not undergone such a change. Do there exist then two
independent principles of activity in the _bitter almond_? If such a
fact were established it would not be solitary, for we shall hereafter
shew that the energies of _tobacco_ are dependant upon an analogous
arrangement; and that our ignorance of the fact, at first, occasioned
apparent anomalies, as embarrassing as those which at present involve
the physiological history of the oil of almonds.


_Orfila_, in his celebrated Toxicology, informs us that vinegar, or the
vegetable acids; coffee; a solution of chlorine in water; camphor;
emollient drinks; and bleeding, have been successively, but not
successfully recommended.[441] With respect to the first of these
pretended _antidotes_, it deserves notice, that instead of palliating
the symptoms, it actually quickens, and gives more energy to the action
of the poison. Coffee, as far as it may stimulate, might be employed
with advantage; but its powers are not sufficient to meet the exigency
of the case. Bleeding seems decidedly a fatal measure. The authors of
the paper on Prussic acid, inserted in the _American Recorder_, consider
at length the claims of every substance which has been proposed as an
antidote to it; and they conclude by saying that, we are entirely
ignorant of a counter-agent of this poison. There is every reason, says
_Dr. Granville_, to believe that the Prussic acid taken in large
quantities, and in its concentrated state, is partially, if not wholly
absorbed ere it _reaches the stomach_;—else how happens it that scarcely
a minute after its exhibition, I have, in common with others, been
unable to detect its presence within that organ. If so, then all
chemical attempts must be nugatory, no decomposition, or fresh
combinations can be produced to render it harmless; nor will an emetic,
although so much recommended, be of much more service in freeing the
system of its presence. But although chemical remedies are thus shewn to
be of no avail, we may derive from the class of vital agents some
powerful antidotes; all medicines taken from the class of diffusible
stimuli will be useful in supporting the powers of the system against
the sedative influence of the poison. Hot brandy and water, with
ammonia, camphor, and other similar stimulants, are the resources to
which we should fly upon such occasions.

              _Organic lesions discovered on Dissection._

The recorded dissections of persons, who have been poisoned by Prussic
acid, are too few and vague to furnish any satisfactory generalization.
In the case related by _M. Foderé_, of two servants who died after a
draught of laurel-water, the dead bodies were carried to the University
at Turin, and examined, when the stomach was found slightly inflamed,
but the other parts were in a sound state. We feel much hesitation in
giving credit to this report, the death was too immediate to allow the
access of inflammation; we are rather disposed to consider the
appearances of the stomach to have arisen from that species of
sanguineous congestion, which we have before alluded to, as sometimes
occurring in cases of sudden death. In other cases the coats of the
stomach are said to have been black and relaxed; the vessels of the
brain injected; the lungs have also been described as presenting
unnatural congestions, and purple spots; and the smell of Prussic acid
seemed as if it pervaded the whole system, and was embodied, as it were,
with the very substance of the muscles. In other cases, again, not the
slightest trace of any morbid appearance could be discovered. Some
authors have stated that in cases of death by this poison the cornea of
the eye does not collapse, but retains its fulness, and even its lustre,
for a considerable period.

 _Chemical processes by which the presence of hydro-cyanic acid may be

The strong odour yielded by the body on dissection, will furnish a
satisfactory proof of the presence of this poison. Instances may occur,
when the practitioner will be called before a tribunal to answer, from
his professional knowledge, whether a particular case of death can have
happened from the action of the hydro-cyanic acid, or any of the
compounds in which it may enter as an ingredient; it therefore becomes
an object of great importance to inquire whether any farther tests might
be made subservient to our purpose. _Dr. Granville_, who has directed a
great share of his attention to the history of this poison, has given
some directions upon this point, which appear to us to be useful and
judicious; we shall, therefore, present them to our readers. “After
collecting the blood contained in the ventricles of the heart, a portion
of the contents of the stomach, and of the superior intestines, together
with a certain quantity of any fluid which may chance to be present
within the cavity of the head, chest, or abdomen; and having agitated
the mixture for some time in distilled water, and filtered the liquid,
taking care to keep the whole at a low temperature, proceed to the
following experiments.

  A. To a small quantity of the liquid add a few drops of a solution of
    caustic potass in alcohol.

  B. To this, a few drops of a solution of sulphate of iron must be
    added, when a cloudy and reddish precipitate, of the colour of burnt
    _Terra-Sienna_ will fall down.

  C. Some sulphuric acid is now to be introduced into the tube, when the
    colour of the precipitate will instantly change to that of a
    bluish-green, which by a permanent contact with the atmosphere,
    becomes gradually of a beautiful blue, assuming at the same time a
    pulverulent aspect.


  A. Treat the filtered liquid with carbonate of potass.

  B. Add a solution of sulphate of iron with a small quantity of alum: a
    precipitate, as in the former method, will fall down, which if
    treated by free sulphuric acid, will also become blue and
    pulverulent. During this latter part of the experiment, there is a
    disengagement of carbonic acid.

Evidence may be pushed still farther, and the existence of the Prussic
acid proved in a most positive manner by decomposing the precipitate,
above described, and which is a true Prussian blue, so as to separate
the acid. For this purpose, heat the precipitate with an equal quantity
of tartaric acid, in a glass retort, at the temperature of 150°, when
the hydro-cyanic vapours will soon exhale from the mixture, and may be
received in water.”[442]

                    Cl. V. NARCOTICO-ACRID POISONS.

We have already stated our objections to this division, and our apology
for adopting it. _See page_ 205.

                DEADLY NIGHTSHADE. _Atropa Belladonna._

 (Pentandria Monogynia. _Nat. Ord._ Luridæ _Linn._ Solanaceæ. _Juss._)

This plant is an indigenous perennial, found in many parts of Great
Britain, particularly in shady places where the soil is calcareous, in
large ditches, and on the edge of hilly woods; flowering in June, and
ripening its berries in September. Every part of the plant is poisonous;
and numerous instances have occurred where children, and the ignorant,
or those suffering from hunger, allured by the beautiful and tempting
appearance of the berries, have fallen victims to their deadly power.
The root of this plant partakes also of the same qualities as the leaves
and berries, but is perhaps less virulent.

             “Or have we eaten of the _insane root_,
             That takes the reasoner prisoner.”—_Macbeth._

The inspissated juice (_Extractum Belladonnæ Pharm. Lond._) is also
extremely poisonous, when properly prepared; but, as usually met with in
commerce, it is of very variable strength; when prepared according to
the improved process of _Mr. Barry_, its activity is so considerable
that a dose of two grains is followed by unpleasant effects. (_See an
account of its effects in the Pharmacologia_, _vol._ 2, _p._ 199.) _M.
Brandes_ has lately ascertained that the active principle of this plant
is a peculiar alkaline body, to which he has assigned the name of

                 _Symptoms of poisoning by Belladonna._

Shortly after the ingestion of the berries, leaves, or root, of this
plant, the patient complains of extreme dryness of the lips, tongue,
palate, and throat; the deglutition becomes difficult, and the pupil of
the eye immoveably dilated; nausea, rarely followed by vomiting;
symptoms of intoxication succeed, accompanied with fits of laughter,
dreadful ravings, violent gestures of the body, and continual motion of
the hands and fingers; sometimes the patient sinks into a state of
fatuity, but rarely of stupor; redness and tumefaction of the face, a
low and feeble pulse, paralysis of the intestines, livid spots on
different parts of the body, profuse sweats, convulsions, and death. In
the cases where recovery has taken place, there has been an insensible
restoration to health and reason, without any recollection of the
preceding state.

                 _Physiological action of Belladonna._

The results of the experiments of _Orfila_ authorise us to arrange the
nightshade under the second division of our classification; for it is
evidently absorbed, carried into the circulation, and is thus enabled to
act upon the nervous system, and particularly on the brain. At the same
time it exerts a local action upon the stomach, although less violent
than that occasioned by the acrid poisons. It, moreover, appears on some
occasions to act directly through the medium of the nerves, like those
substances which constitute our first class; or else how shall we
explain the fact of the pupil of the eye becoming permanently dilated,
by the contact of the belladonna with the tunica conjunctiva? It would,
therefore, appear that this plant unites within itself all the three
great modes of action, upon which we have attempted to found our
physiological arrangement of poisons, as expressed by the tabular
classification at page 207.

              _Organic lesions discovered on dissection._

The bodies of those who have perished by belladonna, are extremely prone
to decomposition; they soon putrefy, swell remarkably, and are covered
with livid spots; blood flows from the mouth, nose, and eyes, and the
stench is insufferable. The stomach and intestines will sometimes
display extensive marks of inflammation, extending in some cases to the
mesentery and liver; and several cases are recorded in which the stomach
appeared ulcerated. The lungs are usually found livid, gorged with
venous blood, and studded with black spots; the heart has been also
observed to be livid.

            _Modes of detecting the presence of Belladonna._

Where the berries of this plant have been swallowed, we shall generally
detect them in the matter vomited; or, in the event of death, in the
stomach, on dissection, for they would appear to be very indigestible;
in a case of poisoning by this plant, recorded in the history of the
French Academy for the year 1706,[443] the stomach was found to contain
some berries of the belladonna crushed, and some seeds. Where the
quantity of the plant is sufficient, we may proceed to identify it, by
obtaining _atrophia_[444] from it. For this purpose, the leaves, or the
crushed berries, or any other part of the suspected plant, must be
boiled in distilled water; the decoction must then be pressed out, and
filtered; after the albumen has been thrown down by a little sulphuric
acid, potass must be added as long as any precipitate is produced; when
the precipitate is to be washed in pure water, re-dissolved in muriatic
acid, and re-precipitated by ammonia. This last result will be
_atropia_. It is white, and collects in acicular crystals, insipid,
little soluble in cold water, or even in alcohol, but very soluble in
this latter fluid at a boiling temperature, from which, however, it is
deposited on cooling.

             STRAMONIUM. _Thorn-Apple._ _James-town Weed._

   _Datura Stramonium_ (Pentandria Monogynia. _Nat. Ord._ Solanaceæ,
                       _Linn._ Solaneæ, _Juss._)

The thorn apple is an annual plant, a native of America, which gradually
diffused itself, from the south to the north, and is now naturalized to
this country, and is to be found very commonly about London growing on
dunghills, and by road sides. It flowers in July and August. Every part
of this plant is a strong narcotic poison, producing vertigo, and most
of those symptoms which we have described as the effects of belladonna,
although the former plant appears to excite the brain more violently.
_Dr. Barton_ mentions the case of two British soldiers, who ate it by
mistake, for the _chenopodium album_; one became furious, and ran about
like a madman; and the other died, with the symptoms of genuine tetanus.
In the fifth volume of the _Edinburgh Medical and Philosophical
Commentaries_, two cases are related by _Dr. Fowler_; and others are to
be found in the writings of _Haller_, _Krause_, _Sproegel_, _Gmelin_,
and _Orfila_, illustrative of the effects of this plant upon the human
species. There is reason to believe that this plant has been long known,
and that it has been very generally used by uncivilized nations, on
account of the narcotic effects which it occasions.

                     TOBACCO. _Nicotiana Tabacum._

  (Pentandria Monogynia. _Nat. Ord._ Luridæ, _Lin._ Solaneæ, _Juss._)

Tobacco is an annual plant, a native of America, from whence it was
imported into Europe. We learn from _Humboldt_ that it has been
cultivated from time immemorial by the native people of the Oroonoko;
and was smoked all over America at the time of the Spanish conquest.
_Hermandez de Toledo_ sent it into Spain and Portugal in 1559, when
_Jean Nicot_[445] was Ambassador at the court of Lisbon, from Francis
II, and he transmitted, or carried either the seed, or the plant to
_Catherine de Medicis_, as one of the wonders of the new world, and
which, it was supposed, possessed virtues of a very extraordinary
nature. This seems to be the first authentic record of the introduction
of this plant into Europe. In 1589 the Cardinal _Santa Croce_, returning
from his nunciature in Spain and Portugal to Italy, carried thither with
him tobacco; and we may form some notion of the enthusiasm with which
its introduction was hailed, from a perusal of the poetry which the
subject inspired. It is said that the smoking tobacco was first
introduced by _Sir Walter Raleigh_ on his return from America; and the
avidity with which the custom was immediately adopted is shewn by the
philippic written against it by King James, entitled the “_Counterblaste
to Tobacco_.”

As an object of Medical Jurisprudence, its claims to our attention are
numerous and important; not only as having occasionally been the means
of destroying human life, but as furnishing, in its most romantic
history, a striking illustration of the triumph of popular opinion over
a series of legislative enactments[446] which had no other origin than
that of ignorance and prejudice.

Tobacco was at one period of our history raised to a considerable extent
in Yorkshire; but the cultivation of it for the purposes of trade have
been long prohibited; and this country, as well as the greater part of
Europe, is chiefly supplied from Virginia, where the plant is cultivated
in the greatest abundance. The recent leaves do not possess any
considerable odour, nor have they much flavour; when dried, however,
their odour becomes strong, narcotic, and somewhat fœtid; their taste
bitter, and extremely acrid. We have stated, upon another occasion,[447]
that tobacco would appear to contain two independent elements of
activity, an essential oil, and a proximate principle, of an acrid
nature, to which _Vauquelin_ has bestowed the name of _Nicotin_. The
essential oil is an extremely virulent poison. _Mr. Barrow_, speaking of
the use which the Hottentots make of it for destroying snakes, says, “A
Hottentot applied some of it from the short end of his wooden
tobacco-pipe to the mouth of a snake, while darting out his tongue. The
effect was as instantaneous as an electric shock; with a convulsive
motion that was momentary, the snake half untwisted itself, and never
stirred more; and the muscles were so contracted, that the whole animal
felt hard and rigid, as if dried in the sun.” The author has ventured a
conjecture in his _Pharmacologia_,[448] with respect to this virulent
oil, which he takes this opportunity of repeating, that “_the juice of
cursed hebenon_,” by which, according to _Shakspeare_, the King of
Denmark was poisoned, was no other than the essential oil of tobacco.

                     ----“Sleeping within mine orchard,
               My custom always of the afternoon,
               Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
               With juice of _cursed hebenon_ in a vial,
               And in the porches of mine ears, did pour
               The leperous _distilment_.”

In the first place, the learned commentator _Dr. Gray_ observes, that
the word here used (_hebenon_) was more probably designated by a
_metathesis_, either of the poet or transcriber, for _henebon_, i. e.
henbane. Now it appears from _Gerarde_ that _tabaco_ was commonly called
“_henbane of Peru_” (Hyoscyamus Peruvianus); and when we consider how
high the prejudice of the court ran against this herb, as so strikingly
evinced by the ‘_Counterblaste_’ of King James, it seems very likely
that _Shakspeare_, who was fond of playing the courtier, should have
selected it, as an agent of extraordinary malignity, upon such an
occasion. No preparation of the _hyoscyamus_ with which we are
acquainted, would produce death by an application to the ear; whereas
the essential oil of tobacco might, without doubt, occasion a fatal
result. The term _distilment_ has also called forth a remark from
_Steevens_, which is calculated to add a little farther weight[449] to
our conjecture; “surely” says he, “this expression signifies, that the
preparation was the result of a _distillation_.”

                  _Symptoms of poisoning by Tobacco._

The leaves of tobacco, whether whole, or reduced to powder, as they are
daily met with in commerce, or in the form of infusion in water or wine,
or in the state of smoke, are endued with poisonous properties of
extreme energy. Their administration is shortly followed by vertigo;
severe nausea; vomiting; a general tremor of the body, which is rarely
the result of any other poison; cold sweats; syncope; and death. The
author remembers witnessing a lamentable exemplification of the action
of tobacco upon a person labouring under a strangulated hernia. The
patient had been under the care of a medical practitioner in the
vicinity of London, who after repeated and fruitless efforts to return
the intestine, injected an infusion of tobacco into the rectum, and sent
him in a carriage to the Westminster hospital, for the purpose of
undergoing the operation; but the unfortunate man expired very shortly
after his arrival, in consequence of the effects of the tobacco clyster.
The external application of tobacco, in the form of cataplasm, or
infusion, will occasion all the effects above related. A woman applied
to the heads of three children afflicted with _tinea capitis_, a
liniment consisting of powdered tobacco and butter, soon after which
they experienced vertigo, violent vomiting, and fainting.[450]

It was formerly a practice to inject the smoke of tobacco into the anus,
by means of a bellows of a peculiar construction, in cases of suspended
animation, with a view to _stimulate_ the rectum, and thereby to revive
the vital powers; we have already commented upon this most dangerous and
mistaken notion, (_see page_ 88.)

In the process of _smoking_ tobacco, the oil is separated, and being
rendered empyreumatic by heat, it is thus applied to the fauces in its
most active form; whence vertigo, nausea, and all its characteristic
symptoms speedily arise upon that occasion; although the system becomes
easily habituated to the action of this narcotic, and we continually see
a large portion of the community using it daily, in various ways, and in
great quantities, as a luxury, without experiencing any other bad effect
than that which arises from their inability to relinquish the habit.

The well known errhine, _snuff_, is prepared from the dried leaves of
tobacco, and possesses all the powers of the plant. The celebrated
_Santeuil_ experienced vomiting and horrible pains, amidst which he
expired, in consequence of having drank a glass of wine, into which some
Spanish snuff had been introduced.[451]

                   _Physiological action of Tobacco._

The deleterious effects of this plant appear to depend on an especial
action upon the nervous system; but farther experiments are required to
establish through what medium its powers are conveyed to the sensorium.
_Orfila_ concludes that the active part of the plant is absorbed, and
carried into the circulation. _Mr. Brodie’s_ experiments, however, would
lead to the conclusion that it operates through the medium of the
nerves; and, what is extremely singular, they shew that the _essential
oil_ operates very differently from the _infusion_ of tobacco; for that
while the former appears to act exclusively on the brain, leaving the
power of the circulation unimpaired, the latter acts on the heart at
once, suspending its action even before the animal ceases to respire,
and kills by producing syncope. This apparent anomaly at first led _Mr.
Brodie_, as he has since informed the author, to suspect the accuracy of
his experiments; but their careful repetition rendered this impossible.
We suggested to him, whether a probable explanation might not be found
in the late chemical results respecting the composition of tobacco,
which seemed to shew that this plant possesses two active elements.[452]

                        HEMLOCK. _Cicuta._[453]

  _Conium[454] Maculatum_ (Pentandria Digynia. _Nat. Ord._ Umbellatæ.)

Hemlock is a biennial, umbelliferous, indigenous plant, growing very
commonly about the sides of fields, under hedges, and in moist shady
places. It is at once distinguished from other umbelliferous plants,
with which it may be confounded, by its _large_ and _spotted_ stem, the
dark and _shining colour of its lower leaves_, and their _disagreeable
smell_; which, when fresh and bruised is said to bear a strong
resemblance to that of the urine of a cat. Many[455] cases of persons
who have been poisoned by this plant are to be found in the writings of
different toxicologists. The extract, if properly prepared, is a very
energetic substance, and gives rise, in large doses, to all the symptoms
which we have so often described as the result of narcotic poisons. In
those fatal cases, where the bodies have been examined, _post mortem_,
inflammation of the stomach, and sanguineous congestion in the brain,
have been the most prominent phenomena. It would appear that the active
element of this plant is absorbed and carried into the circulation,
through which medium it exerts its action on the nervous system, and
more particularly on the brain. At the same time it seems to excite a
local irritation, capable of producing an inflammation more or less
violent. The best antidote is vinegar, after the stomach has been
evacuated, and the cerebral excitement reduced by bleeding and purging.

The _Cicuta Virosa_, or _water hemlock_, with which the _conium
maculatum_ has been often confounded, is still more virulent; it is
however to be distinguished from the latter, by having its hollow roots
always immersed in water, while those of the _conium_ never are. _M.
Orfila_ has related several cases of poisoning by the _water hemlock_.

                              NUX VOMICA.

 This is the seed of the _Strychnus Nux Vomica_ (Pentandria Monogynia,
                     _Nat. Ord._ Apocyneæ, _Juss._)

The tree[456] which produces these seeds grows in Ceylon, upon the coast
of Coromandel, and in Malabar. The nux vomica is round and flat, about
an inch broad, and nearly a quarter of an inch thick, with a prominence
in the middle on both sides, of a grey colour, covered with a kind of
woolly matter, but internally hard and tough. The kernel discovers to
the taste a considerable bitterness, but makes little or no impression
on the organs of smell. There is a popular belief that this substance is
poisonous to all animals, except man. Instances, however, are not
wanting to illustrate its deleterious effects upon the human species. It
proves fatal to dogs in a very short period; it has also poisoned hares,
foxes, wolves, cats, rabbits, and even some birds. _Loureiro_ relates
that a horse died in four hours after taking a drachm of the seed in an
half roasted state. Its effects, however, on different animals, and even
on those of the same species, are somewhat uncertain, and not always in
the proportion to the quantity given. With some animals it produces its
effects almost instantaneously: with others, not until after the lapse
of several hours, when laborious respiration, followed by torpor,
tremblings, coma, and convulsions usually precede the fatal spasms, or
_Tetanus_, which so especially distinguishes the operation of this
poison. _Hoffman_ reports the case of a young girl of ten years of age,
who, labouring under an obstinate quartan fever, took, at two doses,
fifteen grains of nux vomica, and died very shortly afterwards. _MM.
Pelletier_ and _Caventou_ have discovered in these seeds, a peculiar
proximate principle, to which their virulence is owing; it was
originally named _Vauqueline_, in honour of the celebrated French
philosopher, but in deference to the opinion of the French Academy of
Sciences, the discoverers have substituted the name _Strychnia_,[457]
because “a name dearly loved, ought not to be applied to a noxious

_Strychnia_ is highly alkaline, and crystallizes in very small
four-sided prisms, terminated by four-sided pyramids; its taste is
insupportably bitter, leaving a slight metallic flavour, and is so
powerful as even to be perceptible when a grain is dissolved in eighty
pounds of water;[458] it has no smell. So extreme is its activity upon
the animal system, that in doses of half a grain it occasions serious
effects, and in larger ones, convulsions and death. It is, perhaps, the
most powerful, and, next to _hydro-cyanic acid_, the most rapid of
poisons. _M. Majendie_ has killed a dog with one-eighth of a grain; and
the editor of the _Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal_ has seen one
die in two minutes after the injection of one-sixth of a grain into the
cavity of the pleura.

Nux vomica is supposed by _Orfila_ to exert a specific action on the
spinal marrow, thereby producing tetanus, immobility of the thorax, and
consequently asphyxia, of which the animal dies. That this effect is
produced by the absorption of the poison, and its passage into the
circulation, is clearly established by the interesting and important
experiments of _M. Majendie_.[459]

                           COCCULUS INDICUS.

This is the fruit of a shrub (_Menispermum Cocculus_) which grows
naturally in the sand, in the midst of the rocks, on the coast of
Malabar, in the island of Ceylon, and in other parts of the East Indies.
The berries are imported into this country in a dry and shrivelled
state. In India they are employed for killing fish, which they
intoxicate and poison, when thrown into fish ponds. _M. Goupil_, a
physician of Nemours, communicated to the Society of Medicine some
interesting facts on the subject of this poison;[460] and he has shewn
that it is not only destructive to fishes, but also to different
carnivorous quadrupeds, and, very probably, to man. He also states that
the poisonous principle of this substance is not sensibly changed by the
gastric juices, and the vital action of the organs of digestion; but, on
the contrary, that it passes into the absorbent system with all its
properties unimpaired; and that the flesh of those fishes which have
eaten it, irritates the stomach and bowels of the animals to which it is
given, nearly in the same manner as the _Cocculus Indicus_ itself. All
the fishes who eat it do not die in an equal space of time. _Roach_,
_pollard_, _breme_, _perch_, _tench_, and _barbel_, are affected in an
order corresponding with that in which they are here arranged; the
_roach_ is killed the easiest of all; the _barbel_ is the last to die,
and is moreover said to be, of all fish, the one whose flesh the most
frequently occasions accidents in those animals who eat it; probably,
says _M. Goupil_, because these fish, taking a longer time to die, the
poison is longer subjected to the action of the digestive juices, and a
considerable quantity of it is consequently absorbed.[461]

Late experiments[462] have shewn that the active principle of the
_cocculus Indicus_ is an alkaline body, crystallizable, bitter, and
extremely poisonous; to this principle, _M. Boullay_ has given the name
of _picrotoxine_, and the experiments of _M. Orfila_ have confirmed the
idea of its constituting the only active element of the seeds.

                          POISONOUS MUSHROOMS.

The common mushroom, or champignon, (_Agaricus Campestris_) has been
long esteemed an article of epicurean delicacy; and is eaten in its
fresh state either stewed or boiled; and as a preserve, in the form of
pickle or powder. Its juice, moreover, furnishes the sauce so well known
by the name of _ketchup_,[463] or _catsup_. _Mr. Miller_ informs us that
the true eatable mushroom may be easily distinguished from the poisonous
and unpleasant species by the following characters. “When young, it
appears of a roundish form, smooth, like a button; which together with
its stalk, is white, especially the fleshy part of the button; the gills
within, when broken, are livid. As it grows larger, it expands its head
by degrees into a flat form; the gills underneath are at first of a pale
flesh-colour, but become blackish on standing.” There are besides a vast
number of species which may be eaten with perfect impunity; the Agaricus
_Procerus_, or tall mushroom, is sometimes exposed for sale in Covent
Garden market, and is quite harmless; although, when preserved in
pickle, it is very apt to run into the vinous fermentation. With equal
safety the Agaricus _Pratensis_, or Scotch bonnet, as it has been
called, may be eaten; it occurs in those patches which are well known by
the popular name of _fairy rings_. The Agaricus _deliciosus_ is
considered by _Withering_ to have been the mushroom which formed the
vehicle of poison to _Claudius Cæsar_, as related at page 134 of this
volume, and which has been celebrated by the satiric pen of _Juvenal_,
and the epigrammatic muse of _Martial_; a species of mushroom, observes
_Withering_ which is still highly esteemed in modern Italy, as it was in
ancient Rome. _Schæfer_ and _Clusius_, however, consider the plant in
question to have been the Agaricus _Xerampelinus_, a species which
although esculent, has a strong, and by no means an agreeable flavour.
The common champignon has never, as far as we can learn, produced any
mischief, although a popular opinion prevails that soil, shade, and
other local circumstances, may render it virulent. If any unpleasant
symptoms were to follow its ingestion, we should be inclined to regard
them as the result of the peculiar idiosyncrasy of the individual,
rather than as the consequence of an _absolute_ poison; indeed a
question has been raised how far such an explanation may not apply to
all the cases of poisoning from this tribe of plants; for it has been
observed that in many parts of Europe several of those species of
mushroom are eaten with impunity, that are regarded by us as most
virulent poisons; of this number we may reckon the Agaricus _Piperatus_,
or _Pepper Agaric_, which is eaten in great quantity by the Russians,
who fill large vessels with them in the autumn, seasoning or pickling
them with salt, and then eating them in the ensuing lent.[464] There is,
however, too much direct evidence in favour of the existence of an acrid
poison in certain _Agarics_, to allow the supposition of their being
_relative_[465] in their operation, as exemplified in the history of the
_Agaricus Muscarius_, or _Bugagaric_, which is so called from its power
in destroying these insects; and for which purpose the inhabitants of
the north of Europe infuse it in milk, and set it in their windows. It
constitutes the _Mouchomore_ of the Russians, Kamtschadales, and
Koriars, who use it for the sake of intoxication; upon some occasions
they eat it dry, but generally it is steeped in a liquor made with the
_Epilobium Angustifolium_; upon drinking which, they are seized with
convulsions in all their limbs, followed by raving delirium: an effect
which renders it a desirable potation[466] to those who intend to
accomplish any desperate act, or premeditated assassination. It is also
stated that those who drink the urine of persons intoxicated by this
agaric, experience the effects of the mushroom. _Withering_,[467] who
has been very assiduous in the display of this species, acknowledges ten
varieties, all of which are natives of Britain. The _Agaricus
Semi-globalus_ of this botanist, and which is identical with the A.
_Glutinosus_ of Curtis, is extremely poisonous, and has proved fatal in
several instances in this country. There are a great many other species
equally destructive, but notwithstanding the labour that has been
bestowed upon this branch of natural knowledge, much remains to be
explained. The ancients appear to have taken considerable pains in
discriminating between esculent and poisonous fungi; among the moderns,
_Clusius_ has furnished a mass of information. _Withering_ has described
with great botanical minuteness and accuracy the different species and
varieties of this extensive genus of the cryptogamia; but he has failed
in pointing out the poisonous, from the esculent and harmless species.
_Orfila_, in his late lessons on Poisons,[468] has bestowed considerable
labour with a view to establish a practical distinction, and has
enriched his work with highly illustrative engravings. Upon the present
occasion, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that it would be foreign
to the plan of this work to enter into such botanical details as the
full elucidation of this subject would require; the research would, in
itself, occupy a quarto volume; we must therefore rest satisfied with
general observations. The following indications should excite a
suspicion of mushrooms. A marshy and shady locality; an ugly or lurid
physiognomy; a glairy or moist surface; a change of colour when cut, and
a soft, porous, and moist texture; a virulent smell; a bright colour, or
a combination of distinct colours. We ought also to reject as dangerous
all those which have bulbous and soft stems, or which have fragments of
skin glued to their surface.

                 _Symptoms of poisoning by Mushrooms._

Exhilaration of spirits, laughter, vertigo, sickness, griping pains,
vomiting, and purging, suffusion of the eyes, stupor, cold sweats,
syncope, convulsions, death. Numerous records of sickness and death
might be adduced in illustration of this subject. The celebrated
musician, _Schobert_, and, with the exception of one child, his whole
family, together with a friend and a physician who dined with him, were
all fatally poisoned by a dish of mushrooms, which he had himself
gathered in the fields of Saint Gervais, a village in the environs of
Paris. It is not known to what species the plants belonged. In the
_Gazette de Santé_, for August 1812, we have the following narrative.
“_M. Dufour_, a physician of Montargis, gathered in the neighbouring
forest some mushrooms, which were stripped of their skin, and their
stem, cut into pieces, and cooked in their juice with butter and fine
herbs, under a camp oven. They were served up at table. The servant
girl, aged twenty years, who had eaten the greatest quantity, very
shortly complained of confusion of the head, giddiness, and a slight
heaving of the stomach; her face was red and inflamed, the eyes starting
and lively, the pulse full and undulating. The eldest daughter of _M.
Dufour_ experienced the same symptoms without any nausea. A little
child, eighteen months old, that had only eaten some bread dipped in the
gravy, slept quietly for sixteen hours, contrary to his usual custom,
and exhibited no other remarkable phenomenon. The other child, aged
eleven years, complained of confusion of the head and intoxication; the
parents did not experience any ill effects. Upon investigation it was
discovered that two mushrooms of the _Agaricus Muscarius_, having been
confounded with the proper one, had entered into the composition of the

Amongst the cases which have occurred in this country, we may
particularize that related by _Mr. E. Brande_, in the third volume of
the _London Medical and Physical Journal_, p. 41, “J. S. gathered early
in the morning of the third of October, in the Green Park, what he
supposed to be small mushrooms; these he stewed with the common
additions in a _tinned iron_[469] saucepan. The whole did not exceed a
tea-saucer full, which he, and four of his children ate the first thing,
about eight o’clock in the morning, as they frequently had done without
any bad consequence; they afterwards took their usual breakfast of tea,
&c., which was finished about nine, when _Edward_, one of the children
(eight years old) who had eaten a large proportion of the fungi, was
attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his
father or mother restrain him. To this succeeded vertigo, or stupor; the
pupils of his eyes were, at times, dilated to nearly the circumference
of the cornea, and scarcely contracted at the approach of a strong
light; his breathing was quick, his pulse very variable, at times
imperceptible, at others too frequent and small to be counted, latterly
very languid; his feet were cold, livid, and contracted; he sometimes
pressed his hands on different parts of his abdomen, as if in pain, but
when roused and interrogated respecting it, he answered yes, or no,
evidently without any relation to what was asked. About the same time
the father, aged forty, was attacked with vertigo, and complained that
every thing appeared black, then wholly disappeared; to this succeeded
loss of voluntary motion and stupor; in about ten minutes he gradually
recovered, but complained of universal numbness and coldness, with great
dejection, and a firm persuasion that he was dying; in a few minutes he
relapsed, but recovered as before, and had several similar fits during
three or four hours, each succeeding one being less violent, and with
longer intermission than that preceding. _Harriet_, twelve years old,
who had eaten but a very small quantity, was also attacked at the time
with slight vertigo. _Charlotte_, a delicate little girl, ten years of
age, who had eaten a considerable quantity, was suddenly attacked in the
presence of _Dr. Burges_ and myself, with vertigo and loss of voluntary
motion. _Martha_, aged eighteen, who had eaten a small proportion, was
attacked with similar symptoms.” By judicious treatment they all
recovered. Upon investigation _Mr. Sowerby_ determined the mushroom to
have been a variety of the A. _glutinosus_ of Curtis (_Flora
Londinensis_) the same with _Dr. Withering’s_ A. _semi-globatus_; and
yet no notice of its deleterious properties is taken by either of these

A less fortunate case of poisoning by _Fungi_ is related in the
twentieth volume of the same journal by _Mr. Parrott_, surgeon of
Mitcham, of which the following is a sketch. The subject of the history
was a family of six persons, viz. _William Attwood_, ætat. 45; _Eliza_,
his wife, 38; and their daughters, _Mary_, æt. 14; _Hannah_, 11;
_Sarah_, 7; _Eliza_, 5. They all ate stewed champignons, at one o’clock,
on Monday the 10th of October, which stew was made in an iron vessel,
and consisted of the articles already mentioned with the addition of
butter and flour, pepper, salt, and water only; and each of the parties
(_Hannah_ excepted) was supposed to have eaten more than half a pint.
Within ten minutes after they had eaten their meal, they felt their
spirits exhilarated, and the eldest daughter said to her mother “_how
funny you look_.” All the parties continued cheerful till about six
o’clock, when having taken their tea, they were attacked with stupor,
which was soon succeeded, by severe pains in the bowels, accompanied
with violent vomiting, and copious purging, which continued till the
following afternoon, when the parents became alarmed and sent for the
surgeon. The treatment which was pursued appears to have been, in every
respect, judicious, and _Mary_ had so far recovered on the following day
(Wednesday) that she walked into the village about a quarter of a mile
from home; in the evening, however, the symptoms returned; on Thursday
evening she became convulsed, and died on Friday morning at two o’clock.
_Eliza_ did not complain much of her sufferings, but became convulsed at
the same time as her sister, and died half an hour after her. _Sarah_
never complained of pain in the head, but was continually suffering
under extreme pain in the bowels, which was aggravated by pressure, but
no tension existed; she died on Saturday morning, in the same convulsed
state as her sisters. A dog which had partaken of the stew died on the
Wednesday night, apparently in great agony. The father recovered, the
mother, who was two months advanced in pregnancy, miscarried, but
ultimately became convalescent. _Mr. Wheeler_, of St. Bartholomew’s
hospital, a gentleman who has been long known to the profession as an
eminent botanist, no sooner heard of the event than he repaired to the
spot where the mushrooms had been gathered, when he immediately
recognised the _Agaricus semi-globatus_, which had nearly proved fatal
in the instance related by _Mr. E. Brande_, and which, upon being shewn
to the father, he instantly pronounced to be similar to those, of which
the family had so unfortunately eaten.

              _Organic Lesions discovered on Dissection._

In the above case of the family of _Attwood_, the body of _Mary_ was
examined, but no morbid appearance whatever could be discovered. In
collecting the different phenomena exhibited in other recorded cases,
they may be reduced to the following: “violet coloured spots over the
integuments; abdomen extremely bulky; the _tunica conjunctiva_ of the
eye as if it were injected; the pupil contracted; stomach and intestines
inflamed, and scattered over with gangrenous spots; and, in some cases,
they have exhibited very considerable contractions, so much so as almost
to obliterate the canal. In no case have any remains of the mushroom
been found. The lungs have been observed inflamed, and gorged with black

There cannot, however, be any doubt but that the different species of
poisonous agarics act very differently.


In all cases, the first object is to evacuate the offensive matter by
emetics. After which, stimulants, especially _ammonia_, will be found
highly serviceable.


In treating of the action of this substance upon the human body, it may
be considered as a slow, or quick poison; as one which, according to the
circumstances of its administration, may either implant the seeds of
disease and death, by an insidious, and scarcely perceptible operation,
or extinguish the principle of animation in the space of a few hours.

Its effects as an _accumulative_[470] poison are principally interesting
to the physician in their relations to therapeutics, although their
history may perhaps suggest some few points of interest to the founders
of medical police.

We shall, therefore, observe, with regard to the habitual use of
fermented liquors, that the bodily evils which arise from the custom
rather depend upon the quality, or, in other words, the state of
combination in which the alcohol exists in such liquors, than on the
absolute quantity of the libation, or the frequency with which it is
repeated. Daily experience convinces us that the same quantity of
alcohol applied to the stomach under the form of wine, and in a state of
mixture with water, will produce very different effects upon the living
body, as well with reference to the immediate symptoms, as to the remote
consequences of the potation; it has, for instance, been clearly
demonstrated that port, madeira, and sherry, contain from one-fourth to
one-fifth their bulk of alcohol;[471] so that a person who takes a
bottle of either of these wines, will thus take nearly half a pint of
pure alcohol, which is equivalent to a pint of brandy! The remote
consequences too of alcohol in these different states, are as striking
and distinct as their immediate effects. It is well known that diseases
of the liver are the most common, and the most formidable of those
produced by the use of _ardent_ spirits; it is equally certain that no
such disorders follow the intemperate use of wine that is perfectly
_pure_; let it be remembered that the greater proportion of that which
is drunk in this country contains uncombined brandy, purposely added to
meet the demand of the British market; and _Dr. MacCulloch_ thinks that
it is to the unwitting and concealed consumption of this uncombined
spirit, that we ought to attribute the prevalence of those hepatic
affections which are comparatively little known to our continental
neighbours. But although wine, in a state of purity, may be thus fairly
excluded from the general obloquy which attaches to spirituous
potations, it must not be regarded as entirely free from imputation.
“The effects of wine,” says _Rush_ “like those of tyranny in a well
formed government, are first felt in the extremities; while spirits,
like a bold invader, seize at once upon the vitals of the constitution.”
And even with respect to ardent spirits, although they can only be
regarded as diluted alcohol, still each species appears to possess a
peculiarity of operation; owing, no doubt, to the modifying influence of
the other elements of the liquid; thus _brandy_[472] is said to be
cordial and stomachic; _rum_ more heating and sudorific; _gin_ and
_whiskey_, diuretic; and _arrack_, styptic, heating, and narcotic. It
seems also that a modified effect is produced by the addition of various
other substances, such as sugar and acids; which latter bodies, besides
their anti-narcotic powers, appear to act by favouring a more perfect
combination and mutual penetration of the particles of spirit and water.
The effects also which are produced by the habitual use of fermented
liquors differ essentially according to the kind that is drunk; thus ale
and porter, in consequence of the nutritive matter, and perhaps the
invigorating bitter with which they are charged, and the comparatively
small proportion of alcohol which they contain, dispose to plethora,
which is sometimes terminated by apoplexy.[473]

                  _Symptoms of Poisoning by Alcohol._

The ordinary effects of an excessive dose of any spirituous liquor are
too well known to require description; and generally pass off without
the necessity of professional interference. In cases, however, where the
draught has been very large, the person has suddenly fallen down in a
state of complete insensibility, and has exhibited all the phenomena of
apoplexy; or, in some instances, he has expired almost immediately. The
insensibility of the patient may render it difficult for the
practitioner to distinguish the immediate cause of the symptoms;
although his history for the last few hours, and the spirituous odour of
his breath, will generally announce the true nature of his situation.
_Mr. Brodie_ observes that there is a striking analogy between the
symptoms arising from the ingestion of spirits, and those produced by
injuries of the brain; concussion of the brain, which may be considered
the slightest degree of injury, occasions a state of mind resembling
intoxication; pressure on the brain, which is a more severe injury than
concussion, produces loss of motion, insensibility, dilation of the
pupils, laborious and stertorous respiration, and death.

                   _Physiological Action of Alcohol._

We shall not enter into the history of the slow operation of repeated
doses of spirit upon the human body; but limit our present inquiry to
the _modus operandi_ of this agent, as a quick and destructive poison.

Large draughts of liquids containing alcohol, would appear to destroy,
at once, the functions of the brain, without occasioning that previous
stage of excitement, which is produced by smaller quantities of
spirit—whence coma and insensibility are the immediate consequences; and
the nervous energy being no longer conveyed to the muscles of
respiration, the breathing becomes laborious, and the patient dies, as
he does in apoplexy, for want of those changes in the blood which are
produced by the respiratory functions.[474] In the greater number,
however, of fatal cases of inebriety, life has been destroyed by
circumstances purely accidental; such as improvident exposure to cold,
as explained at _page_ 59, or suffocation from an imperfect act of
vomiting, during which a portion of the contents of the stomach are
forced into the trachea, (_see page_ 58,[475].) It having then been
clearly established that the brain is the organ principally affected by
a large dose of alcohol, it remains to be explained in what manner, and
through what medium such an effect is produced; upon this question we
are inclined to concur with _Mr. Brodie_, and to consider that alcohol
acts sympathetically on the brain by means of the nerves of the stomach;
for it has been observed that animals which die under such
circumstances, exhibit a decided inflammation of the stomach; and, in
the next place, the effects produced by this agent are too instantaneous
to admit the possibility of absorption, while repeated instances have
shewn that vomiting will often restore the intoxicated individual to his
senses. At the same time, we think it very probable that, upon some
occasions, the alcohol passes into the current of the circulation, and
is thus carried to remote organs. _Dr. Cooke_[476] has related a case,
on the authority of _Sir A. Carlisle_, of a person who was brought dead
into the Westminster hospital, in consequence of having drunk a quart of
gin for a wager, at a draught; and that upon examination, a considerable
quantity of a limpid fluid was found within the lateral ventricles of
the brain, _distinctly impregnated with gin_. We well remember this
case, for it occurred during the period that the author of the present
work held the situation of physician to that hospital. See
_Pharmacologia_, vol. 1, p. 138.

            _Treatment of Persons in a State of Inebriety._

In the first instance we should endeavour to evacuate the stomach; for
which purpose a brisk emetic of sulphate of zinc, or tartarised antimony
may be administered. Blood should also be taken from the jugular vein,
or temporal artery; more especially if there appear a considerable
determination of blood to the head. The head should be also washed with
cold water, or some evaporating lotion.

For reasons which we have already explained, the patient should be
carefully preserved in a warm atmosphere; and his body should be placed
in an easy reclining posture, and be disencumbered of all tight
bandages. These precautions are of the utmost moment, for many of those
cases of inebriety which stand recorded in our journals, have terminated
fatally, for want of attention to them.

                            ANIMAL POISONS.

This extensive kingdom of Nature presents us with a variety of objects
destructive to human life; their agency, however, is on many occasions
involved in impenetrable obscurity, and we are not even able to discover
whether their deleterious effects depend upon certain definite
principles, or upon the combination of circumstances connected with the
individuals upon whom they act; and which thus render many substances
_relatively_ poisonous, that are innocuous to the general mass of
mankind. With regard to the chemical laws by which animal compounds are
governed, and the principles upon which their analysis may be conducted,
the same observations will apply as those with which we introduced the
consideration of vegetable poisons.

                        Cl. IV. SEPTIC POISONS.

                     THE BITES OF VENOMOUS ANIMALS.

Of the whole class of serpents, which according to _Linnæus_ contains
132 species, _Plenck_ assures us that only 24 are venomous. Of these,
Europe has only 5, and England but 2; all of which are vipers, viz.
_Coluber Aspis_; _C. Chersea_; _C. Prester_ (_black viper_, peculiar to
England); _C. Illyricus_ (inhabits the mountains of Sclavonia); _C.
Berus_, (the common viper of Germany, Spain, Italy, and England.)

The venom of the viper is contained in a bag situated on both sides of
the head, beneath the muscle of the superior jaw; it is secreted from
the blood by a gland which lies just behind the orbit of the eye; from
which a duct proceeds to the above-mentioned bag; in the upper jaw are
situated two moveable teeth, very sharp towards the point, and hollowed
nearly throughout their length. When the animal intends to bite, he
presses the bag by means of the muscle, the venom comes out, arrives at
the base of the tooth, passes through the sheath which envelopes it, and
enters into its cavity by a hole which is found at this base; then it
flows along the hollow of the tooth, and issues into the wound by the
opening which is near its end, for the point itself is solid and sharp,
in order that it may better penetrate the flesh of its victim. If these
fangs be removed, or their structure destroyed, the viper is necessarily
rendered harmless; whence _Galen_ has observed that the mountebanks used
to stop these perforations of the teeth with some kind of paste,
whenever they suffered the vipers to bite them before spectators.

             _Symptoms occasioned by the Bite of a Viper._

Acute pain in the wounded part, attended with almost immediate
tumefaction; the part appears first red, and then livid; the local
affection extends itself, and the surrounding skin becomes similarly
affected. The pulse is small, frequent, and irregular; the respiration
is disturbed; the patient complains of great debility, and faintness
which often amounts to syncope; vomiting takes place; pain is felt in
the umbilical region, and he becomes jaundiced; and, in fatal cases, the
wound assumes a malignant character, and gangrene takes place.

In this country the affection is rarely mortal,[477] although the
circumstances of constitutional debility, unusual heat of season, and
injudicious treatment, have in several instances led to a fatal issue.

            _Physiological action of the Poison of Vipers._

The result of numerous experiments justify us in referring this poison
to the second division of our classification. The symptoms which it
produces evidently depend on its absorption, and its passage into the
circulation, when it exerts its peculiar action on the blood. It is
somewhat singular that this poison should be perfectly inert when taken
into the stomach; a fact, however, which appears to have been well known
from the earliest periods; whence such wounds were commonly sucked[478]
with impunity; and we learn that when _Cato_ marched the remains of
_Pompey’s_ army through Africa, he very wisely informed the soldiers,
who, although dying from thirst, feared to drink the waters which
contained serpents, that no evil could arise from such indulgence.[479]

             “Noxia Serpentum est admisto sanguine Pestis,
             Morsu Virus habent, et Fatum Dente minantur,
             Pocula Morte carent”----

Among the insects of Britain some will be found to possess fluids highly
stimulant, and sometimes, although rarely, occasioning death. These
British insects, however, cannot be compared in virulence with the
_Furia Infernalis_, _Pulex Penetrans_, the _Scorpion_, and the
_Tarantula_; but their natural history is nevertheless interesting, and
the instances of mischief arising from an application of their venom are
not unimportant. Of the genus _Vespa_ we have three species, each of
which possesses the property of producing violent and painful
inflammation, sometimes followed by considerable danger, where the
injury has been inflicted on parts of great sensibility, and in
irritable habits, viz. Vespa _Crabro_, the _hornet_; V. _Vulgaris_,
_common wasp_; C. _Coarctata_, _small wasp_. Instances are recorded of
the wasp, having been introduced into the mouth with fruit, and produced
by its sting on the _velum palati_ a sudden swelling which has so
intercepted the respiration as to occasion suffocation.[480] Of the
_Apis_ there are seven British species; the most remarkable of which are
the Apis _Rufa_, or _small field bee_; A. _Mellifica_, _the common hive
bee_; A. _Terrestris_, _humble bee_; and A. _Subterranea_, or _great
humble bee_.

The sting of a single bee cannot be regarded as attended with danger,
except in certain constitutions; but there are many instances of men and
animals having suffered most terribly, and even fatally, by an attack of
a swarm of these insects.

The supposed poison of the toad is a subject which we have already
disposed of, under the literary history of poisons, _page_ 139.

                       PUTRESCENT ANIMAL MATTER.

A question has long since arisen, how far the ingestion of animal
matter, in a state of putrefaction, is liable to affect the health? On
the one hand it has been maintained that the custom of eating game,
venison, and other species of animal food, in a state of incipient
putrescence, has never been attended with any inconvenience; but
appears, on the contrary, to afford a repast of easier digestion, than
the flesh of recently killed animals. On the other hand, it has been
asserted by _Foderé_,[481] and corroborated by the testimony of others,
that corrupted meat, fish, and eggs, are undoubted poisons; if, through
inadvertence, necessity, or extreme hunger, they are taken in any
quantity. The same distinguished writer relates that, during the siege
of Mantua, several persons who were shut up in the town were seized with
gangrene of the extremities, and scurvy, in consequence of having been
driven to the alternative of eating the half putrid flesh of horses. In
_Crantz’s_ history of Greenland we read an account of the death of
thirty-two persons, at a missionary station, called Kangek, shortly
after a repast upon the putrid brains of a Walrus.

It would appear that under circumstances not hitherto understood,
certain parts of animal bodies become poisonous; and the _virus_ would
not seem to be connected with any stage of putrefaction, nor with any
previous disease in the animal. As far as our limited experience upon
this subject will allow us to generalize, the brain and the viscera
would appear to be particularly susceptible of such a change. Some
curious and highly interesting observations have lately been published
by _Dr. Kerner_, of Wurtemberg, respecting the probable existence of a
species of animal poison not hitherto known. He informs us that the
smoked sausages, which constitute so favourite a repast to the
inhabitants of Wurtemberg, often cause fatal poisoning. The effects of
the poison occasionally manifest themselves in the spring, generally in
the month of April, in a degree more or less alarming. He states that
out of _seventy-six_ persons, who became sick from having eaten such
sausages, _thirty-seven_ died in a short time, and that several others
remained ill for years. Upon these occasions it has been observed, that
the most virulent sausages were made of liver. _M. Cadet_, of Paris,
analysed all the meats, examined all the vessels in which they had been
prepared; and inspected the matters vomited, or found in the stomach
after death, without being able to trace the vestige of any known
poison; nor was there the slightest evidence in these cases of
malevolence or negligence. Similar accidents have occurred at different
periods in Paris; upon which occasions, the police officers visited the
pig dealers, and were perfectly assured that the animals had never been
fed with unwholesome food; the use of poison for rats, with which these
places abound, was interdicted, and every precaution taken. What then,
asks _M. Cadet_, is this poison found in sausage meats—is it Prussic
acid—is it a new matter? It is evidently not the effect of putrefaction,
since it exists in meats perfectly well preserved. To the above queries
of _M. Cadet_, the author of the present work begs to add one more—may
not the skin enclosing the sausage meat be the part in which the poison
resides? It is well known that the bodies of animals who die of various
diseases, are capable of communicating fatal diseases to the human
species; and experience has shewn that such animal poison is
particularly energetic in those parts that are commonly called the
_offals_, in which term are included the intestines; in the history of
_fish-poison_, which will hereafter offer itself to our notice, we shall
find numerous instances of dogs, cats, hogs, and birds, dying from
eating these parts, while persons, who have partaken of the fish to
which these _offals_ belonged, remained uninjured. But to account for
the deleterious change of which these parts appear to be occasionally
susceptible, it does not appear necessary to suppose that the animal
died in a state of disease. _Captain Scoresby_, in his “Account of the
Arctic regions,”[482] states that although the flesh of the bear is both
agreeable and wholesome, the liver of that animal is poisonous; sailors
who had inadvertently eaten it, were almost always sick afterwards, and
some actually died; while in others the cuticle has peeled off their
bodies. The ancients appear to have entertained a fear with regard to
the wholesomeness of the viscera of certain animals, and of the fluids
which they secrete. _Pliny_ says that the gall of a horse was accounted
poison; and, therefore, at the sacrifices of horses in Rome, it was
unlawful for the _Flamen_ (priest) to touch it. _Mr. Brodie_ has lately
favoured the author with the communication of a fact, which goes far to
support the theory we have offered with respect to the possible source
of poison in sausages. He states that he has twice met with evidence of
the acrid and poisonous nature of “_dog’s meat_,” as sold in the streets
of London, which manifested itself by producing ulcerations, of a
peculiar character, on the hands, and swelling in the axillæ, of the
venders! May we venture to ask whether the prosecution of this inquiry
might not possibly lead to some new and important conclusions respecting
the origin of hydrophobia?

Where animals have died from disease, their flesh has undoubtedly
produced affections by external contact, as well as by its ingestion. At
the Somerset assizes in 1819, a case was tried, whose merits wholly
turned upon the question now under discussion. A cow, having died of
some disease, was thrown into the river Yeo, and several cattle that
afterwards drank of the water died of a similar complaint. An action was
accordingly brought against the owner of the cow for damages. The
defendant, however, obtained a verdict, apparently from the evidence of
a medical person, who asserted that animal matter in a state of
putrefaction will not communicate contagion. But we must here beg to
observe that this is quite another and distinct question; the merits of
which we have already considered.[483] The physiological question
involved in the preceding case, is whether the carcase of an animal,
whose fluids have been depraved by antecedent disease, is capable, or
not, of producing morbid and fatal affections in the living animals with
which it may come in contact? The facts collected by _MM. Enaux_ and
_Chaussier_, in their work entitled “_Methode de traiter les Morsures
des Animaux enragés_,” prove in a very satisfactory manner that the
_Anthrax_, or _Malignant Pustule_, has for its cause a _septic virus_
engendered in diseased animals, and transmitted to man.[484] The
following are amongst the more striking examples cited from these
authors by _Orfila_. “A shepherd bled one of his sheep, which had just
died suddenly; he carried it home on his shoulders; but the blood
penetrated his shirt, and was rubbed upon his loins. Two days after, a
_malignant pustule_ appeared upon this spot.”

“A boy employed in skinning an ox which had been killed at an inn at
_Gatinais_, because it had been sick, put the knife into his mouth.
Shortly after which the tongue swelled; he experienced a tightness of
the chest; the whole body was covered with pustules, and he died on the
fourth day, in a state of general gangrene. The inn-keeper, who was
pricked in the middle of the hand by a bone of the same animal, suffered
great pain; gangrene seized the arm, and he expired on the seventh day.
The servant girl received on her right cheek a few drops of the blood of
the same ox, which produced inflammation, followed by gangrene.”

In this country, a case has occurred highly illustrative of the present
subject. A pupil of the veterinary college accidentally inoculated
himself, during his dissection, with the matter of a _glandered_ horse;
the student soon experienced the usual symptoms of a septic poison;
abscesses formed in various parts of his body, and he sank under the
disease. Upon inoculating a healthy horse with some of the matter from
the abscesses, the animal was attacked with the glanders.

This subject necessarily leads us to the notice of those effects which
are frequently produced in the anatomist, by a puncture made during
dissection. From the history of those cases which stand recorded, it
does not appear that the poisonous effects are either connected with the
putrefactive state of the body under dissection, or with the peculiar
disease of which it died; but rather with the depraved state of the
operator’s health; for it has been repeatedly remarked that those
students who enjoy high health universally escape the evil, however
repeatedly they may have been exposed to its causes.

                           POISONOUS FISHES.

The number and validity of recorded cases establish the fact, beyond
dispute, that certain fish, especially the muscle, (_Mytilus Edulis_)
and others of the shell tribe, have occasionally proved fatal to those
who have eaten them; but it has been doubted whether such effects have
arisen from a specific poison, or from the peculiar state of the
stomach,[485] or idiosyncrasy of constitution, in the persons affected.
In other words, ought we to consider the fish, so circumstanced, as an
_absolute_ or _relative_ poison? Each of these theories has met with its
advocates, and many striking facts and illustrations have been adduced
in their support. The weight of authority, however, as well as of
argument, strongly inclines in favour of the existence of a specific
virus, generated under circumstances which we are at present unable to
appreciate. At the same time, it would be vain to deny, that certain
fishes are more obnoxious to the stomach of one individual than to that
of another; there are, for instance, those persons who are disordered
whenever they eat a muscle; others who are incapable of taking an oyster
without considerable disturbance of the digestive functions. This is
obviously _Idiosyncrasy_, and must not be confounded with those cases
where a number of persons have been simultaneously affected from a
particular food, which, on all former occasions, had been eaten by the
same individuals with perfect security. We must, therefore, at the very
outset of our inquiry, admit the occasional action of these articles of
diet as _relative_ poisons; although it is evident to demonstration,
that an _absolute_ virus is generated in particular fishes, by the
operation of causes hitherto unknown.

As a subject, highly important in its relations to maritime œconomy, the
history of fish-poison constitutes an interesting branch of naval
hygiene; instructions, therefore, for its investigation, ought always to
be given to the naturalists and chemists who may be appointed to attend
voyages of discovery. The notice of the scientific men who accompanied
_Peyrouse_ was officially directed to this important object; but the
unhappy fate of that celebrated adventurer rendered the commission
fruitless. The obscurity which attends this branch of toxicology has in
many cases occasioned a corresponding degree of credulity; and sailors,
as well as others, entertain an unfounded prejudice against various
fish, that are not only innocuous, but even useful as articles of food.
It would, however, appear that those which are harmless in one latitude
may prove poisonous in another; it may be stated generally, that fish
are more deleterious within the tropics, than in other seas. In torrid
regions the softest kinds are the most susceptible of that change which
renders them poisonous, and hence the policy of the Hebrew legislator
becomes apparent; “_whatsoever has no fins nor scales in the waters,
that shall be an abomination unto you._” Levit. c. xi, v. 12, and Deut.
cxiv, v. 9, 10.

The most complete history of this intricate subject, and of the
dissertations to which it has given rise, is to be found in the
_Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal_,[486] by _Dr. Chisholm_, who
has brought together, and cited a great number of authorities, biblical
and classical, foreign and domestic, for its illustration. An
interesting paper is also published on the same subject in the _Medical
Repository_,[487] by _Dr. Burrows_. To the above sources we must beg to
refer the reader who is desirous of farther information than can be
afforded him by the present work.

                     _Symptoms of Fish-poisoning._

Nausea; thirst; tormina of the bowels; vomiting; an eruption on the
skin, resembling the nettle-rash; tumefaction of the face; head-ache;
difficult respiration; distention of the abdomen; sometimes _cholera
morbus_; vertigo; delirium; cold sweats; convulsions; death. Such is the
train of symptoms, liable of course, to variation in the order of
succession, which are produced by the ingestion of fish-poison, as
occasionally existing in salmon, herrings, eels, mackarel, many of the
testaceous and most of the crustaceous fish of this country; and in a
great number of fish[488] inhabiting the tropical seas.

The species of fish, from which deleterious effects have more commonly
arisen in this country, are the _Mytilus Edulis_, or muscle. _Dr.
Burrows_ has given us an account of two cases of death from eating these
fish, which occurred at Gravesend, under the care of _Mr. Rogers_,
surgeon of that place, upon whose authority the statement is drawn
up.[489] The subjects of the history were two youths of the ages of nine
and fourteen, who had each eaten about a dozen of small muscles, which
they had picked from the side of a fishing smack, in a dead and tainted
state. In the _Gazette de Santé_,[490] and in the works of
_Fodéré_,[491] and _Behren_,[492] similar cases are recorded.
_Vancouver_,[493] in his voyage to the coast of America, relates that
several of his men were ill from eating some muscles which they had
collected and roasted for breakfast; in an hour after which they
complained of numbness of the face and extremities, sickness, and
giddiness. Three were more affected than the others, and one of them

                        _Origin of Fish-poison._

If we admit that the symptoms which are occasionally produced by the
ingestion of certain fish, depend upon the presence of poison, we have
next to inquire into its nature and origin. _Dr. Burrows_ considers that
all the opinions which have been advanced upon this subject may, for the
greater perspicuity and facility of discussion, be arranged under seven
heads, viz. does the poison exist—1. _In the skin?_—2. _In the stomach
and intestinal canal?_—3. _In the liver or gall bladder?_—4. _In the
entire substance of the fish?_—5. _In the food of fishes?_—6. _Is it a
morbid change in the system of the fish?_—7. _Is it a poison, sui

Upon these several questions _Dr. Burrows_ has offered some
observations. There do not appear to be any facts which can induce us to
consider that the poison resides only in the skin.

Experience has shewn that the _virus_ is particularly energetic in the
viscera, commonly called the _offals_; and yet there are no grounds for
concluding that it exclusively belongs to these parts. _Captain Cook_,
and _Messrs. Forster_ were poisoned by eating a piece of the liver only
of a species of _tetrodon_; yet they who ate of its substance were also

An opinion has long prevailed that the poisonous principle is derived
from the substances upon which the fish feeds; and that of muscles, in
particular, from copper; this latter hypothesis has received the
sanction of _Dr. Chisholm_. We however agree with _Dr. Burrows_ in
considering that it has neither the support of observation or analogy.
_Dr. Beune_ has supposed that the acrid principle is no other than the
spawn of the _stella marina_, an insect which very commonly lodges in
the muscle. It seems, however, more probable that it is a product of
decomposition, but which requires the concurrence of certain
circumstances for its developement.

Before we conclude the history of septic poisons, there appears to be a
species of death, particularly noticed by _Dr. Gordon Smith_,[494] which
merits our attention, as having some relation to this class of
agents—the fact of persons having been “_eaten to death by maggots_!”
Such a death has been assigned to _Sylla_, by _Plutarch_; and to
_Antiochus Epiphanes_, by _Josephus_, and the writer of the book of
Maccabees. The fate of _Herod_ is ascertained by Scripture. In modern
history we have similar instances in _Charles_ IX of France, and
_Philip_ II of Spain.

Numerous cases are recorded, in different medical works,[495] of the
generation of maggots, _i. e._ the _larvæ_ of different species of fly,
not only in external sores and excoriations, but in the internal
cavities of the human body. _Dr. Lempriere_[496] has related the case of
an officer’s lady, who had gone through an acute fever, but in whom
these maggots were produced, which burrowed, and found their way by the
nose through the _os cribriforme_, into the cavity of the cranium, and
afterwards into the brain itself, to which she owed her death. But of
all the cases of this kind, that related by _Dr. Gordon Smith_ is of the
most revolting kind. “In the month of July 1809, a man was found near
Finglas, in Ireland, lying under the wall of a lime-kiln, at an early
hour in the evening, with his face on the ground, apparently dead. On
turning him on his back to ascertain the real state of the case, it was
discovered that he was yet alive, but under the most appalling
circumstances. On removing his coat, the whole surface of his body
appeared to be a moving mass of worms. His face was considerably injured
as if from a fall, or bruises; his eyes were dissolved, and their
cavities, as well as those of the ears, nose, and mouth, were filled
with a white living mass, from which such innumerable quantities of
maggots were continually pouring out, that the skull seemed to be filled
with nothing else. After some time he recovered strength enough to walk,
and regained recollection and voice sufficient to tell who he was, where
he lived, and how he had been brought into that situation. It appeared
that he was returning home upon a car the evening before; having drank
to excess, he fell off, and remained in a state of insensibility until
he was discovered. He could neither account for the wounds in his head,
nor for his being so far from the road; but it appeared probable that he
had received the contusion from the fall, and had insensibly crawled to
the place where he lay. It was conjectured that the state of the
atmosphere, as to humidity and temperature, had brought on a solution of
the solids in the bruised parts, already disposed to putrescency, and
now in close contact with the moist earth. In these, the eggs of
innumerable insects being deposited, their generation proceeded with
rapidity under circumstances so favourable. Every attention was paid to
the unfortunate individual; he was removed to shelter, the parts were
washed with spirits and vinegar, and the loathsome objects removed, as
far as was possible. Cordials were poured down his throat, but he
swallowed with difficulty; and in a very short time spasms took place
which prevented him from swallowing altogether. The putrescence
advanced; in a short time he became insensible; and about noon the
following day he died, in a state of total _putrisolution_.”

                            AERIAL POISONS.

Under this division we include all those deleterious substances which
can be administered through the medium of the atmosphere.

Those gases, the respiration of which occasions death by the negative
operation of excluding oxygen, are not ranked under the class of
poisons, for the history of such bodies involves physiological views
peculiar to themselves, and belongs more correctly to the subject of
suffocation, under which head it has already met with full
consideration, _vol._ 2, _p._ 48.

_Aërial poisons_ are of very undefined extent, and their history is
involved in considerable obscurity. Every poison, capable of
volatilization, may be admitted into the division; and even those
substances which are generally regarded as fixed, may be mechanically
suspended in the air, and thus produce their effects on the living
system, through the medium of the lungs, stomach, or nerves. In the
present state of our knowledge, we have, perhaps, only an imperfect idea
of the distinction between a fixed and a volatile body. A very
interesting paper on this subject was read before the Royal Academy of
Berlin, by _Professor Hermbstaed_,[497] in which he observes that,
generally speaking, we might consider all bodies as volatile, as it is
most probable that, could we produce a sufficient degree of heat, no
substance could resist it. The professor also states that many bodies,
hitherto considered as fixed, are actually volatilized at the
temperature of boiling water; such he found to be _lime_, _baryta_,
_strontia_, and _potass_. We apprehend, however, that the professor has,
in these instances, mistaken a phenomenon for _volatility_, which it is
highly important to distinguish from it, viz. _the elevation of a
certain portion of a fixed body, by the carrying power of a vapour_;
thus, fixed oil may, in a minute proportion, be carried up with the
steam of water. Certain bodies, however, which have been long considered
as perfectly fixed at the ordinary temperature of the atmosphere, have
been lately discovered to undergo a slow and almost imperceptible
evaporation under such circumstances; and the discovery has led to a
very satisfactory solution of several problems which were previously
unintelligible. We shall adduce a striking exemplification of this
truth, under the consideration of mercurial vapours.

The substances, included under the head of _Aërial poisons_, may be
conveniently arranged in two orders, viz.

  I. Those, whose particles exist mechanically suspended in the

  II. Those, which are presented to us in a _vaporous_ or _gaseous_

Of the first division the various arts will furnish ample illustration,
as for instance the occupations of the colour-maker, plasterer,
cotton-spinner, dry-grinder,[498] stone-cutter, hatter, furrier, miller,
&c. &c. In all of which a subtle matter is given off, which becoming
mechanically suspended in the air, penetrates the structure of the
pulmonary organs, and excites disease, and even death.[499] In
illustration of the second division, we have the trades of
water-gilders, acid manufacturers, night-men, bleachers, and various
others, many of which have been already noticed under the medical and
chemical consideration of nuisances, _vol._ I, _p._ 330.

In the present chapter we cannot attempt an enumeration of every
substance which may act as an aërial poison; we shall confine our
attention to the history of a few bodies which are calculated to afford
general elucidation, and are likely to become objects of forensic

                           MERCURIAL VAPOURS.

It is not the least interesting fact in the history of aërial poisons,
that substances, which are found to be extremely slow in their action,
or even quite inert, when administered in their solid or liquid state,
exert a very rapid and energetic operation when they are presented to
the human body in the attenuated form of vapour. This fact is well
illustrated by the subtlety and activity of metallic mercury _in the
state of vapour_; a substance which, according to the highest
authorities, is quite inactive when introduced in its grosser form into
the stomach. It is thus that the workmen employed in gilding, silvering
looking-glasses, constructing barometers, &c. experience such dreadful
effects; that such effects arise from the _metal_ in a state of vapour,
and not, as some have supposed, from the _oxide_,[500] is a fact capable
of demonstration, for the artists at Birmingham affix an apparatus in
their chimneys as a system of economy, in order to collect the mercury,
which is always found in its _metallic_ state.[501] From the late
interesting experiments of _Mr. Faraday_,[502] it appears that _mercury_
rises in vapour at the ordinary temperature of the atmosphere; the
knowledge of which fact will afford a very satisfactory explanation of
several phenomena, which were previously unintelligible. _Dr.
Hermbstaed_, in the memoir, above mentioned, “on the volatility of
substances hitherto considered as fixed bodies,” relates the following
curious fact with regard to the volatility of mercury. “At the Royal
Manufactory of looking-glasses in Berlin, during a severe winter, the
artificers who worked in a room, which had originally served for the
process of _silvering_ the glasses, lighted a fire, and thus heated the
apartment to between 86° and 96° _Fah._ In a few days the whole of them
were, to their great surprise, affected by a strong salivation, as there
was no trace of mercury in, or near the room. They consulted on the
subject, and suspecting the real cause of the event, had the flooring of
the room taken up, when about 40 lbs of the metal were found spread
about in different parts, where it had fallen at various times during
the operation of silvering, which had been executed in that room
before.” With such facts before us, we shall no longer be unable to
explain the effects which were produced on board his majesty’s ship
_Triumph_, off Cadiz, in April 1809, by the bursting of leathern bags
containing quicksilver, and the consequent dispersion of not less than
three tons of the metal through the vessel. The interest excited by this
case has been very great, and as the facts, involved in its history, are
of high medical importance, we were induced to apply for permission to
search the journals of the ship; and, through the kindness of _Dr.
Burnett_, one of his majesty’s commissioners for victualling the navy,
and the assistance of _Mr. Plowman_, who held the situation of surgeon
to the _Triumph_, we have been enabled to obtain a correct and detailed
history of the event. Previous to the circumstances we are about to
describe, “the ship’s company had been tolerably healthy, when
unfortunately a quantity of quicksilver was received on board, and
diffused over the ship in consequence of the bursting of the leathern
bags, in which it had been enclosed; when its effects were soon
displayed upon the crew, by occasioning ptyalism, partial paralysis,
affections of the bowels; so that in three weeks, no less than two
hundred men were in a state of salivation. In consequence of which two
transports were taken up as hospital ships, in which the slighter cases
soon recovered; but as many fresh cases occurred daily, _Vice-Admiral
Pickmore_ ordered a survey on the ship, and ship’s company, by the
surgeons of the squadron, on the third of May, who reported the
necessity of sending the ship into port, in order to clear her hold,
change part of her provisions, into which the quicksilver had insinuated
itself, and to purify her by means of ablution. This was accordingly
done; but on stowing the hold afresh, every man so employed, as well as
those engaged in the steward’s room, were attacked with ptyalism. Fresh
cases happened daily, until they took their departure from Cadiz on the
13th of June; after which but few occurred, which was attributed by the
surgeon to the coldness of the weather, the fresh breezes from the
north-east, from the men having been kept constantly on deck, and not
allowed to sleep on the orlop, and from not suffering those affected
with ptyalism to lie on the lower deck; as well as from the constant
attention paid in the ventilation of the ship by means of wind-sails.
But, notwithstanding all these precautions, the ship had not been more
than ten days at sea, when many of the men became worse, and it was
found necessary to send twenty-four seamen on board the _Goshawk_, and
two transports. On the arrival of the _Triumph_ in Cawsand Bay, on the
5th of July, there did not remain one case of ptyalism on their list.
During this extraordinary visitation two men died from excessive
ptyalism, one of them at Cadiz, having previously lost his teeth, and
both cheeks at the time of his decease being in a state of sphacelation;
the other, who died at Gibraltar, had lost the whole of his teeth,
two-thirds of his tongue, and, at the time of his death, the lower lip
was in a state of gangrene. To the interesting facts above related, _Mr.
Plowman_ adds, that the interior of the ship was covered with a black
powder, and that the copper bolts displayed the mercurial influence. The
mercurial vapours proved fatal to the living stock on board, for nearly
all the poultry, sheep, pigs, mice,[503] goats, cats, a dog, and even a
canary bird, died from its influence.”

                       SULPHURETTED HYDROGEN GAS.

This gas is transparent and colourless; it has the property of
inflammability, and when set on fire in the open air, burns with a
bluish flame, and deposits a certain portion of sulphur. It is
distinguished by an excessively fœtid smell, which has been aptly
compared to that of rotten eggs. Its habitudes with other gases are
interesting and important; by admixture with _chlorine_, it immediately
undergoes decomposition, yielding its hydrogen, so as to form
_hydro-chloric acid_ (_muriatic acid_), and consequently depositing its
sulphur; with _ammoniacal gas_ it combines, and forms an
_hydro-sulphuret of ammonia_; when mingled with _sulphurous acid gas_,
the hydrogen of the former combines with the oxygen of the latter, and
the sulphur of both is precipitated; when passed over ignited charcoal
it is converted into carburetted hydrogen gas, and sulphur is deposited.

It is soluble in water, and the solution precipitates the different
metals from their saline solutions, in the form of sulphurets; a
property which at once distinguishes this gas from every other.

It has been long considered a very energetic poison, and it would, at
the same time, appear to be a very insidious one; for sensibility is
quickly destroyed by it, without any previous suffering. We are
acquainted with a chemist who was suddenly deprived of sense, as he
stood over a pneumatic trough, in which he was collecting the gas. It
would seem to act upon the nervous system through the medium of the
blood, in which it is extremely soluble. It constitutes the particular
gas of privies, and is the immediate cause of those accidents which we
have already described in a former part of this work, _vol._ 1, _page_
100; since the printing of which we have heard of the death of four
persons from emptying a privy at Brompton. This gas will be sometimes
developed during the imperfect combustion of wet coals[504]; and it was
probably owing to its presence, or to that of _carburetted hydrogen_,
that the accident arose which is recorded by _Mr. Sutleffe_ in the
_Medical Repository_. “He was hastily summoned to a neighbouring family
at bed-time, where he found a female domestic labouring under a shrill,
laborious inspiration; she had taken up from a good kitchen fire, a
panful of live coals, from which a sudden suffocating blast seized her.”

                       CARBURETTED HYDROGEN GAS.

This gas is developed by several chemical processes. We have just stated
that if, during the burning of charcoal, moisture be present, it is
evolved in abundance. It appears to be particularly fatal to animal
life. _Dr. Beddoes_ made many experiments upon the subject, from which
it would seem to destroy life by rendering the muscular fibre
inirritable without producing any previous excitement. In order to
decide this question, _Sir Humphry Davy_[505] ventured to take three
inspirations of the gas produced from the decomposition of water by
charcoal. “The first inspiration produced a sort of numbness and loss of
feeling in the chest, and about the pectoral muscles; after the second,”
says he, “I lost all power of perceiving external things, and had no
distinct sensation, except a terrible oppression on the chest; during
the third expiration, this feeling disappeared; I seemed sinking into
annihilation, and had just power enough to drop the mouth-piece from my
unclosed lips. There is every reason to believe, that if I had taken
four or five inspirations, instead of three, they would have destroyed
life immediately, without producing any painful sensation.”

                   CHLORINE—_Oxy-muriatic Acid Gas_.

This gas, which is now considered as an elementary body, has received
from _Sir Humphry Davy_ the name of _chlorine_, from the green colour
which characterises it. Its odour is so penetrating and insupportable
that it is impossible to respire it, even when considerably diluted with
atmospheric air, and yet it will support combustion. It discharges
vegetable colours, whence it forms the basis of various bleaching
preparations. According to the experiments[506] of _M. Nysten_, this gas
is not absorbed when respired pure, but appears to act only by
irritating the bronchiæ locally; and so energetic is its action, that
the animal dies before there is sufficient time for asphyxia to take
place from the circulation of black blood. When it is respired in a
dilute form, it produces a severe cough, and, according to _Fourcroy_,
it occasions a phlegmonic inflammation of the bronchial membranes. The
death of the ingenious and indefatigable _Pelletier_ was occasioned by
his accidentally inhaling a proportion of this gas; a consumption was
the consequence, which in a short time proved fatal. In the _London
Medical and Physical Journal for November, 1821_, a case of a person is
recorded who was poisoned by bleaching liquor.

                          SULPHUROUS ACID GAS.

The gas is generated by the combustion of sulphur. It is colourless; has
a pungent smell, resembling that of burning sulphur, and is very soluble
in water. It would appear to destroy life by a peculiar action on the


If a physician gives a person a potion without any intent of doing him
any bodily hurt, but with an intent to cure or prevent a disease, and
contrary to the expectation of the physician it kills him, this is no
(culpable) homicide, and the like of a chirurgeon; _1 Hale_, _P. C._
429; _4 Bl. Comm._ 197. But query if he were not a regular physician or
surgeon? on this there appears to be some difference of opinion; it was
anciently holden that if one, that is not of the mystery of a physician
or surgeon, take upon him the cure of a man, and he dieth of the potion
or medicine, this is covert felony. _Si un que nest physition ou surgeon
emprent sur luy un cure, que murrust in sa main, que cest felonie_;
_Stanford’s Pleas of the Crown_, _cap._ 9; _Fitzherbert_, _tit. coron._
_p._ 311; _Briton_, _fol._ 14; _Lombard_, _Eiren. tit. Felonie_ saith
thus; that _Thorpe_, _43 Ed. 3_, 33, saith he knew one to be indicted
accordingly. _Dalton_, _p._ 470, queries this case, as it is difficult
to determine the actual cause of death, and there appeareth no will to
do harm, but rather to do good, and “the _34 Hen. 8_, _c._ 8, leaveth so
great a liberty of such practice to unskilful persons, that it will be
hard now to make it felony.” Now the statute of _Henry the eighth_
applies only to the cure of certain diseases or sores, particularly
specified, and others like to the same, by external applications, and to
drinks for the stone, strangury, or agues, provided (if the preamble may
be relied on) “the said persons have not taken any thing for their pains
or cunning, but have ministered the same to the poor people only, for
neighbourhood, and God’s sake, and of pity, and charity;” in such sense
the act is reasonable even to this day, much more then, when from the
scarcity of regular practitioners, the charitable in the country were
frequently called upon to administer on emergencies, where no medical
aid could be procured; but surely this act can never have been intended
to warrant the administration of dangerous medicines, arsenic, corrosive
sublimate, or cantharides, such indeed as may be fairly classed as
absolute poisons, except when in skilful hands, nor the performance of
surgical operations. _Dalton_ indeed adds “But if a smith or other
person (having skill only in dressing or curing the diseases of horses
or other cattle) shall take upon him the cutting, or letting blood, or
such like cure of a man, who dieth thereof, this seemeth to be felony;
for the rule is, _quod quisque norit, in hoc se (non) exerceat_.” And if
it were otherwise, great evils might arise; for persons intending to
commit murders, need only cover their design by a pretence of
administering medicine;[507] thus in _Vaux’s_ case, the professed
purpose of administering the cantharides, was not illegal, yet the
prisoner was found guilty of murder. In _Donellan’s_ case, what would a
plea have availed, that the chemical principle of laurel water was, in
the prisoner’s opinion, a cure for consumption, with which _Sir
Theodosius Boughton_ was threatened, and that it had been administered
to cure, and not to kill him; or on the death of _Mr. Scawen_,[508] that
his mistress had infused or dissolved corrosive sublimate in all his
drinks and medicines, to cure him of an ulcer, with which he was
afflicted; and that she had done it secretly, because he had an avowed
aversion to mercurial medicines. Yet such pleas would continually be
made, if the doctrine of allowing all persons however ignorant and
unqualified to tamper with medicines, should be admitted. On the other
hand there is very considerable weight of authority; _Sir. Wm.
Blackstone_ follows _Sir Mathew Hale_ in his opinion, that this
doctrine, that if any die under the hand of an unlicenced physician it
is felony, is apocryphal, and fitted to gratify and flatter doctors and
licentiates in physic; though it may have its use to make people
cautious, and wary, how they take upon themselves too much in this
dangerous employment; _1 Hales_, _P. C._ 429, 430; _4 Bl. Com._ _c._ 14,
_p._ 197; it is difficult to imagine how caution is to be enforced by
taking away the liability to punishment. Mr. Serjeant _Hawkins_ takes a
different ground; “Also it hath been anciently holden, that if a person,
not duly authorised to be a physician or surgeon, undertake a cure and
the patient die under his hand, he is guilty of felony;” but inasmuch as
the books wherein this opinion is holden (_Stamford_, _P. C._ 16;
_Pulton_, 22; _Crom._ 27; _43 Ed. 3_, 33; _Fitz H. Cor._ 163; _Britt._
_c._ 5; and _4 Inst._ 251) were written before the statutes of _23 Hen.
8_, which first excluded such felonious killing, as may be called wilful
murder of malice prepense, from the benefit of clergy, it may be well
questioned whether such killing shall be said to be of malice prepense
within the intent of that statute; however it is certainly highly rash
and presumptuous for unskilful persons to undertake matters of this
nature; “_and indeed the law cannot be too severe in this case_, in
order to deter ignorant people from endeavouring _to get a livelihood_
by such practice, which cannot be followed without the manifest hazard
of the lives of those who have to do with them;” _1 Hawk. P. C._ 131.
This doctrine does not by any means go as far as _Sir Mathew Hale_; for
as the supposed alteration of the law is referred to the operation of
the statute, which takes away the benefit of clergy from murders, that
is to say from felonious killing with malice prepense, it does not apply
to manslaughter, to which the benefit of clergy was still allowed. But
there yet remains a question, whether in the case of a person illegally
taking upon himself the administration of dangerous medicines, for
profit, (and it must be observed that the greater number of nostrums
are, from the powerful nature of their ingredients, highly dangerous)
does not subject himself to a charge of murder if any die under his
hands; for “if a man does such an act, of which the probable consequence
may be, and eventually is, death, such killing may be murder, although
no stroke is struck;” _4 Bl. Com._ 197. What then if a man for profit
administer dangerous preparations of mercury to persons necessarily
exposed to change of temperature, and inclemency of weather; nay,
delusively hold out to them, that no mercury is employed, by which they
are induced to neglect the most ordinary precautions; if death ensue is
not this equally murder, _in foro conscientiæ_, as killing with the
sword? Malice may be implied in law, as well as apparent; it may be
general, as well as particular; and whenever a man has evinced, whether
from avarice, cruelty, or wantonness, such disregard for the lives and
safeties of mankind, as warrants the imputation of general malice, it is
not necessary that individual malice be proved towards the party who has
become his victim.[509] _1 Easts. P. C._ 231. “So too if a man hath a
beast that is used to do mischief, and he knowing it, suffers it to go
abroad, and it kills a man, even this is manslaughter in the owner: but
if he had purposely _turned it loose_, though barely to frighten people,
and make what is called sport, it is with us (as in the Jewish law) as
much murder as if he had incited a bear or dog to worry them;” _4 Bl.
Com._ 197. And _Hale_ says, _1 P. C._ 431, I have heard that the owner
was hanged for it. Is there much difference, whether the mischief be
done by a dangerous beast, or a poisonous drug? to us it appears that
the man who vends or administers the one, is as guilty as he who is
convicted of turning out the other. If _A_ give purging comfits to _B_
to make sport and not to hurt him, and _B_ dies thereof, it is a killing
by _A_, but not murder, but manslaughter; 1, _II. P. C._ 431; _Dalt._
_cap._ 93. Here _A_ is not supposed cognisant of the dangerous nature of
the comfits.

With every deference therefore to the very high authorities, which have
supported a contrary opinion, we cannot but conclude, that the unlawful
administration of medicine for profit, by which death ensues, may
constitute wilful murder in some cases, manslaughter in most, and a high
misdemeanor in all, according to the quantity of general malice,
ignorance, and presumption, evidenced in each case; under what class
each individual instance may fall, is a proper subject for a jury. If
the law be defective on this point it cannot be too soon amended, and we
must express our sanguine hope, that the consideration of revenue, as
arising from the stamp duties on patent medicines, will not be allowed
to influence the legislature in a matter vitally important to the public
health, and to the lives of his majesty’s subjects, more especially as
the evil principally operates on the class, whose personal vigour
constitutes the strength and sinews of the country. And yet in candour
we must admit the difficulties and embarrassments with which the subject
is beset: the multiplication of restraints in a free country is very
naturally regarded with extreme jealousy, and however anxiously we may
desire to crush those harpies of society, who scatter poison and death
around, under the pretence of affording relief, yet the object must not
be purchased by the infringement of civil liberty.

Doctor _Goodall_, in his historical account of the college’s proceedings
against empiricks, published in 1684, mentions many cases in which death
has ensued from unlawful administration of medicine; in some of these
cases, the college punished the offenders according to their
jurisdiction; some by fine and imprisonment, for mala praxis; others
they sued at law, for the penalty of five pounds per month for
unlicensed practice. But in those instances which appeared to require
greater severity of punishment, they consigned the accused to the
ordinary course of justice. See _Humphrey Beven’s_ case, _Goodall’s
Pro._ 425—_John Hope’s_ case, for giving two apples of coloquintida to a
man as a purge, of which he died. _Ibid._ 441.

                            END OF VOL. II.

   London: Printed by William Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street.


Footnote 1:

  “But there is a particular kind of manslaughter proper to be
  considered here, from which the benefit of the clergy is taken away by
  _Ja._ 1, _c._ 8.” “Where any person shall stab or thrust any person or
  persons that hath not then first striken the party which shall so stab
  or thrust, so as the person or persons so stabbed or thrust, shall
  thereof die within the space of six months then next following,
  although it cannot be proved that the same was done of malice
  forethought.” See 1 _Hawk. P. C._ This statute was passed in
  consequence of the numerous murders committed by the Scots, who with
  their dirks stabbed before an ordinary weapon could be drawn.

  For an extraordinary case on this statute, and much learning on the
  subject, see the trial of _William Chetwynd_ for the murder of _Thomas
  Rickets_. 18 _How St. Tri. p._ 290.

Footnote 2:

  Od. Lib. v. lin. 757.

Footnote 3:

  Tractat. de Peste Lib. iv. Hist. 85.

Footnote 4:

  In returning, the ship was cast away on the island of Zante, when this
  unfortunate philosopher perished from hunger.

Footnote 5:

  _Bruhier, John_, a physician at Paris, in the middle of the
  seventeenth century; he was author of many works, but his principal
  celebrity rested on his warnings against burying persons, supposed to
  be dead, too early. “Dissertation sur l’Incertitude des signes de la
  Mort et l’abus des enterremens, et embaumemens precipites.” Paris,
  1742. He was at the pains of collecting histories of persons who had
  revived after being supposed to be dead, some of whom had been buried.
  Bodies ought not to be interred, he says, until putrefaction has
  commenced. “Memoire sur la necessité d’un Reglement general au sujet
  des enterremens.” 1745. No one should be buried until the fourth day
  from their dying. “Addition aux Memoires,” &c. in which he adds to the
  number of examples of persons who had been buried alive, or had
  revived after being interred. These works have passed through numerous
  editions, and have been translated into several other European

Footnote 6:

  Horrible as it may appear, it was a custom in Persia, at the time that
  _Herodotus_ wrote, of _burying alive_; and this historian was informed
  that _Amestris_, the wife of _Xerxes_, when she was far advanced in
  age, commanded fourteen Persian children of illustrious birth to be
  interred alive, in honour of the Deity whom they supposed to exist
  under the earth.—_Polyhymnia_, c. xiv.

Footnote 7:

  “A Dissertation on the _Disorder of Death_, or that state of the frame
  under the signs of Death, called Suspended Animation,” by the Rev.
  _Walter Whiter_, Rector of Hardingham. Norwich, 1819. 8vo.

Footnote 8:

  _Plin._ Nat. Hist. Lib. vii, c. 52; see also _Valer. Maxim._ Lib. 1,
  c. 8. For extraordinary histories of persons roused from the tomb, see
  _Diemerbroeck_, Lib, ii; _Joannes Mathæus_, Quæst. Med.; _Hildanus_
  Cent. 2. Obs. 95, 96; _Phillip Salmuth_ Cent. 2, Obs. 86, 87, 95.
  _Maximilian Misson_ relates in his voyages many curious cases of this
  kind. “_Nouveau_ Voyage d’Italie.” But the works of _Bruhier_, before
  mentioned, contain the greatest collection of such anecdotes.

Footnote 9:

  Thus in the Greek, the most philosophically constructed language with
  which we are acquainted, the _alpha_ and _omega_, the first and last
  acts of life, are conveyed in the verb αω _spiro_ compounded of those
  letters. In Latin we also find _spiro_ and _spiritus_.

Footnote 10:

  Lettres sur la certitude des signes de la mort.

Footnote 11:

  Recherches Physiologiques sur la Vie et la Mort.

Footnote 12:

  Phil. Trans. 1811.

Footnote 13:

  Phil. Trans. 1667, vol. ii, p. 539.

Footnote 14:

  _Hunter_ on the Blood, p. 54.

Footnote 15:

  Medical Reports, p. 75.

Footnote 16:

  Zoonomia, vol. 1, p. 40.

Footnote 17:

  An Essay on Respiration by _J. Bostock_, M. D.

Footnote 18:

  A question has arisen, says _Mr. Brodie_, (_Manuscript Notes_) whether
  the whole of the brain is essential to the function of respiration, or
  whether the power of calling the respiratory muscles into action may
  not reside in some particular part of that organ? It has been stated
  by _Le Gallois_ that if you expose the cavity of the cranium, and
  remove the upper part of the brain, the muscles of respiration
  continue to act as usual; if, however, the dissection be continued, as
  soon as that portion of the _Medulla Oblongata_ is removed which
  corresponds to the _Corpora Olivaria_, their action is immediately
  suspended. The theory which such an experiment naturally establishes
  has received no inconsiderable support from the history of a fœtus,
  published by _Mr. Lawrence_ in the Medico Chirurgical Transactions: in
  this monster the _Cerebrum_ and _Cerebellum_ were entirely absent, but
  the _Medulla Spinalis_ was continued for about an inch above the
  _Foramen Magnum_ of the occiput, so as to form an imperfect _Medulla
  Oblongata_, and to give origin to several nerves. Death did not take
  place immediately after birth, as in other instances of cerebral
  deficiency, but the child breathed for four days after it had been
  expelled from the uterus.

Footnote 19:

  _Lower_, as early as the year 1667, shewed that if the nerves which go
  to the diaphragm in a dog be divided, he breathes “like a
  broken-winded horse.” _Phil. Trans._ vol. ii, p. 544.

Footnote 20:

  While this work was in progress we have read an account of a person
  who, being in a state of debility, died suddenly from the shock of a
  shower bath at Brighton. In this case Syncope was probably occasioned
  in the same manner as by a blow on the head.

Footnote 21:

  _Trance._ Although this term is extremely familiar, it does not appear
  that any precise meaning is attached to it; the popular notion is that
  the body may for a time be abandoned by the soul, and remain for a
  certain period in a deep sleep, during which the exercise of the vital
  functions is so obscure, that the individual is reduced to a state of
  close simulation of death.

Footnote 22:

  A great question has arisen upon this subject, whether rupture of the
  heart ever takes place in the sound state of that organ? And it has
  been answered by several pathologists in the affirmative. Fischer’s
  case from the JOURNAL DER PRACTISCHEN HEILKUNDE, may be seen in the
  MEDICAL REPOSITORY, Vol. 11, p. 427, and Vol. 12, p. 164. HARVEY found
  in a male subject a rupture in the aortic ventricle, capable of
  admitting a finger, and remarked that the parietes of the cavity
  possessed their natural strength and thickness (Exercitat III. De
  Circulo Sanguinis, T. p. 1. 281.) BOHN also gives a case of a man who
  had died suddenly, when a fissure was discovered in the _Ostium
  Aortæ_. PORTAL has informed us, that in a rupture of the basis of the
  heart, which he examined, the structure of the organ was as firm and
  compact as in the natural state, and that in another case the parietes
  of the heart displayed their natural solidity. (Memoires de l’Academie
  des Sciences, a Paris, 1784, p. 51.) SOEMERING considers it as having
  been very correctly remarked by Portal, that the Aortic ventricle
  commonly bursts without any previous weakening of the substance of the
  heart. (See Soemering’s German Translation of Baillie’s Morbid
  Anatomy, with Additions.) DR. WHYTT has likewise seen the heart burst
  from protracted grief, and therefore does not regard the term, “BROKEN
  HEART,” in the light of a mere metaphor. On the contrary, BOERHAAVE
  has recorded two cases, and believes that the rupture was occasioned
  by the morbid accumulation of fat; KREYSIG suspects that in most of
  these cases of ruptured heart an insidious inflammation had been
  established, and he considers that the quantity of adipose substance
  in which ruptured hearts are so commonly found enveloped, furnishes an
  evidence of this inflammatory state (Sopra i Malattée del cuore.) We
  are decidedly of opinion that such ruptures take place in consequence
  of a morbid state of the heart capable of diminishing the cohesive
  power of its fibres. See a Treatise on the Diseases of the Chest by
  _R. T. H. Laennec, M. D._ translated by _J. Forbes, M. D._ London,

Footnote 23:

  Recueil Periodique de la Societé de Medicine de Paris. T. LXI. p. 87

Footnote 24:

  Medico-Chirurg. Trans. vol. 1, p. 157. Analogous cases to those
  related by _Mr. Chevalier_ will be found in _Bonetus_ Sepulchr. Anat.
  vol. 1, p. 383; and _Morgagni_ Epist. 48, Art. 44; see also a
  communication by _Dr. Ozanam_ in the Recueil Periodique de la Societé
  de Medicine de Paris, tom. 61, p. 87.

Footnote 25:

  A young animal may not so soon perish as an older one; and a strong
  and healthy individual may survive during a longer period than a
  creature that is in a state of debility. By filling the lungs with air
  a person may also be enabled to dispense with the act of respiration
  for a longer period; _Mr. Kite_ made a very deep inspiration of 300
  cubic inches, and was thus enabled to retain this quantity for 72
  seconds, without a fresh inspiration; and divers in the pearl
  fisheries, inspire deeply before they descend. It has been, moreover,
  established by numerous experiments that the demand for oxygen in the
  lungs is materially influenced by the nature of the ingesta received
  into the stomach; _Mr. Spalding_, the celebrated diver, observed, that
  whenever he used a diet of animal food, or drank spirituous liquors,
  he consumed in a much shorter time the oxygen of the atmospheric air
  in his diving-bell; and therefore he had learned from experience to
  confine himself to a vegetable diet, and water, when following his
  avocation. And the priest, or conjurer (_Pillal Karras_, in the
  Malabar language) who attends the divers in the pearl fisheries of the
  east, enjoins, as a religious duty, an abstinence from all food,
  before he plunges into the ocean.

  Muscular exertions, as in the act of struggling, will without doubt
  contribute to the expenditure of oxygen, and increase the demand for
  it, and therefore in its absence such movement must accelerate death
  by suffocation; this physiological fact will be hereafter more fully

Footnote 26:

  We anticipate the objections that will be urged against the truth of
  this assertion. It will be asked how it can be reconciled with the
  accounts of persons who have recovered after an asphyxia of a much
  longer duration? It may be inquired how the statement can be
  reconciled with the ordinary histories of divers, who have become so
  expert in the art which they profess, as to be capable of remaining
  beneath the water for twenty minutes, or even for a longer period: we
  are bound to consider such statements as no better than extravagant
  fables; not more authentic, says _Mr. Brodie_ (Manuscript Notes), but
  certainly less poetical and elegant, than those of the nymphs and
  mermaids, whose ordinary residence is in grottos beneath the waves of
  the sea; or than those Arabian fictions which have amused and
  astonished our youthful imaginations with the description of the
  Princes who govern the submarine nations, and pass their lives in
  palaces of crystal at the bottom of the ocean—but of this we shall
  speak more fully hereafter.

Footnote 27:

  Although the term ASPHYXIA merely signifies the absence of the pulse,
  yet the name is erroneously applied to every apparent loss of

Footnote 28:

  DE HAEN thought that death was produced in drowning by the water
  flowing into the lungs, and thus stopping the passage of the blood in
  the arteries. This belief gave origin to the very erroneous and
  mischievous practice, which still continues amongst the more ignorant,
  of suspending drowned persons by the heels, or of rolling them over

Footnote 29:

  _Mr. Coleman_ examined the lungs of a cat which had been drowned, by
  placing a ligature on the trachea, removing the lungs from the thorax,
  and then making an opening in the trachea under water, so as to
  collect the air which issued from the orifice; the whole quantity of
  air thus obtained, amounted only to half a drachm; yet the same lungs
  when inflated, required as much as two ounces of air, by measure, for
  their distention. Nor would the presence of water appear to be
  immediately fatal, when introduced into the lungs; Dr. _Goodwyn_
  poured two ounces of water into the lungs of a cat, through an opening
  made between the cartilages of the trachea; the animal had an
  immediate difficulty of breathing, and a feeble pulse, but lived
  several hours afterwards without much apparent inconvenience; it was
  at length strangled, and the water was found in the lungs. From which
  it would appear, that the admission of a certain portion of water,
  does not tend to hasten death. The author of this note was present at
  an experiment made by Mr. _Brodie_, in which he drowned a guinea pig,
  whose trachea had been previously perforated; so that in this case, no
  spasm of the glottis could arrest the ingress of the water into the
  pulmonary air cells; but this produced no modification of the usual
  symptoms; nor did it prevent the resuscitation of the animal, which
  was afterwards effected by the appropriate methods.

Footnote 30:

  An animal also dies sooner by drowning, than by simple strangulation;
  Mr. _Brodie_ considers that the abstraction of heat in the former case
  is quite sufficient to account for this difference.

Footnote 31:

  _Foderè_, 90.

Footnote 32:

  _Walther_, de Morbis Peritonai, et Apoplexia. 3 _Foderè_, p. 106.

Footnote 33:

  See the Reports of the Edinburgh colleges, in the case of Sir _James
  Standsfield_, as printed in the Appendix, p. 225, also Extracts from
  Medical Evidence in the case of _Spencer Cowper_, Esq. for the murder
  of _Sarah Stout_, ibid. p. 230. 3 _Foderè_, p. 93. 100. 108. The case
  of _Servin_, ib. 125. of _Paulet_, ib. 126.

Footnote 34:

  Medicine Légale, vol. iii. p. 85.

Footnote 35:

  During such a state of the body there would be but a feeble call for
  oxygen; it is muscular action which so rapidly expends this important

Footnote 36:

  In an experiment with a drowned cat, Mr. _Brodie_ found less than a
  drachm of water in the bronchial vessels. Other physiologists have
  ascertained the same fact by drowning animals in different coloured

Footnote 37:

  See a very curious paper upon this subject by Mr. _Robertson_, in the
  Philosophical Transactions, 1757, vol. 1. p. 30; from which it appears
  that the author made ten experiments, in which, with the exception of
  one person, he found all the men _specifically lighter_ than water,
  and hence he concludes that drowning might be avoided, if the person
  who falls into the water were not deprived of his presence of mind.

Footnote 38:

  _Franklin’s_ Art of Swimming.

Footnote 39:

  Vide _Valent. Pand. Med. Leg._ 297. “De reperto sub aqua Cadavere,”
  and 299 “De Submersorum morte sine pota aquæ.”

Footnote 40:

  We say, “_generally_” because the comparative size of bone, on the one
  hand, or the quantity of fat on the other, will make a very
  considerable difference in the specific gravity of different parts of
  the human body.

Footnote 41:

  See _Southey’s_ Life of Nelson; and the New Monthly Magazine for
  January, 1821.

Footnote 42:

  This was the opinion of _Boerhaave_ and _Morgagni_. _M. Portal_ also
  coincides with them, and observes that the examination of the bodies
  of executed criminals formerly carried to him at the _Jardin des
  Plantes_ for his lectures, has confirmed him in this idea.

Footnote 43:

  See 3 _Foderè_, 130.

Footnote 44:

  See several cases cited by _Foderè_, T. 3. p. 134.

Footnote 45:

  Memoires de l’Academie Royale, &c. 1704.

Footnote 46:

  State Trials, vol. xii.

Footnote 47:

  In consequence of plants, in the absence of the sun, giving off
  nitrogen and carbonic acid gases, the custom of sleeping with flowers
  in the bed chamber is deleterious, and may even, under certain
  circumstances prove fatal; a melancholy proof of this occurred in
  October, 1814, at Leighton-Buzzard, in Bedfordshire. “_Mr. Sherbrook_
  having frequently had his pinery robbed, the gardener determined to
  sit up and watch. He accordingly posted himself with a loaded fowling
  piece, in the green-house, where it is supposed he fell asleep, and in
  the morning was found dead upon the ground, with all the appearance of
  suffocation, evidently occasioned by the discharge of _Mephitic_ gas
  from the plants during the night.” _Observer_ of 16th, and _Times_ of
  17th October, 1814; see also _Currie’s_ “Observations on Apparent
  Death,” &c. p. 181.

Footnote 48:

  _Rozier_ and _Sir Humphrey Davy_ conclude from their experiments that
  carbonic acid kills by exciting a spasmodic action, in which the
  epiglottis is closed, and the entrance of this fluid into the lungs
  altogether prevented. _Dr. Babington_ appears to entertain a different
  opinion, (see “a case of exposure to the vapour of burning charcoal,”
  Medico-Chirurg. Trans. vol. 1, p. 83,) and asks how we shall explain
  the fact, that the loss of irritability in the muscles of animals
  which have been destroyed by immersion in noxious airs, is
  comparatively greater than in such as are hanged or drowned, unless we
  suppose that the carbonic acid exerts a deleterious influence on the
  nervous and muscular systems? The farther consideration of this
  subject will be more properly entertained under the head of poisons.

Footnote 49:

  Comparative anatomy would furnish us with a variety of beautiful
  arguments, if it were necessary, to support these views. The bird
  whose muscular exertion is so great during its flight, is provided
  with a more than ordinary extent of pulmonary apparatus; and amongst
  insects we find that many of the _coleopterous_ species disclose
  avenues of air, in the act of flying, which, in their quiet state, are
  closed by the cases of their wings, thus procuring for themselves a
  larger supply of oxygen, at a period when from their exertions they
  most require it. Flat fish who, having no swimming bladder, remain at
  the bottom, and possess but little velocity, have gills that are quite
  concealed, while those who encounter a rude and boisterous stream, as
  trout, perch, or salmon, have them widely expanded. For further
  observations upon this subject, the author begs to refer to his paper
  in the 10th vol. of the Linnean Transactions, entitled “On the
  Physiology of the Egg,” by _J. A. Paris, M. D._ &c.

Footnote 50:

  This was the _peine fort & dure_ of our ancient law, which was
  inflicted on prisoners who stood mute out of malice, or who feigned
  themselves mad, or challenged peremptorily more than the number of
  Jurors allowed by law, thus refusing their legal trial. “The manner of
  inflicting this punishment may be best found from the Books of Entries
  and other law books, all of which generally agree, that the prisoner
  shall be remanded to the place from whence he came, and put into some
  low dark room, and there laid on his back without any manner of
  covering, except for the privy parts, and that as many weights be laid
  upon him as he can bear and more, and that he shall have no manner of
  sustenance but the worst bread and water, and that he shall not eat
  the same day in which he drinks, nor drink the same day on which he
  eats, and that he shall so continue till he die.” Some authorities say
  till he answers. See 2 _Hawk. P. C._ 330. _c._ 30. § 16. 4 _Bl. Com._
  _p._ 319. _Jac._ Law Dict. tit. Mute. The memory of this barbarous
  punishment remains “as a monument of the savage rapacity with which
  the lordly tyrants of feudal antiquity hunted after escheats and
  forfeitures,” for when the criminal died mute, the lord in some cases
  lost his escheat; (see 4 _Bl. Com._ 323). But its execution is no
  longer permitted by our laws. By Stat. 12 _Geo._ 3. c. 20, sentence
  may be passed on those who stand mute as if they had been found or
  pleaded guilty.

Footnote 51:

  This, however, can but rarely occur; and it seems to have been wisely
  ordained by Nature, that the stomach should lose the power of
  rejecting its contents, whenever the brain loses its sensibility. See
  _Paris’s_ Pharmacologia, edit. 5, vol. 1, p. 150.

Footnote 52:

  Manuscript Notes.

Footnote 53:

  _Dr. Badenoch_ has very satisfactorily shewn that the _Coup de Soleil_
  kills by producing apoplexy.

Footnote 54:

  This does not hold universally, for _Beccaria_ mentions the case of a
  man whose body became exceedingly stiff, very shortly after having
  been struck dead by lightning;—and in one of Mr. _Brodie’s_
  experiments, the muscles of a Guinea pig killed by electricity became

Footnote 55:

  Manuscript Notes.

Footnote 56:

  _Mayer_ directed his attention very particularly to the appearances
  which were thus produced, and had drawings made of them. It would
  appear that they most commonly passed in the direction of the spine.

  In the First Volume of the Philosophical Transactions, there is an
  account of the dissection of a man killed by lightning, but it
  contains nothing remarkable.

Footnote 57:

  See also an account of a thunder-storm, by Mr. _Brydone_, in the 77th
  vol. of Phil. Trans.

Footnote 58:

  _Morgagni_ de Sedibus et Causis Morb. Epist. 68. No. 6 and 7.

Footnote 59:

  _Hippocrat._ Aphor. 13. Sect. 2.

Footnote 60:

  Osservaz: intorno agli Anim. viventi, etc. No. 3 et 4.

Footnote 61:

  This event occurred during the period of the author’s studies at
  Cambridge; and he can therefore offer his testimony to the truth of
  the statement; he visited the woman soon after her disinterment.

Footnote 62:

  See Vol. i. p. 369.

Footnote 63:

  Starving to death was a punishment inflicted by the people of Aragon,
  some years ago; and it is reported by _Tavernier_, that the chief
  ladies in the kingdom of Tonquin, are at this day starved to death for
  adultery. The severity of the Roman law on an unchaste Vestal has
  often exercised the pencil of the artist. An account of its execution
  on _Rhea_, marked as it always was by circumstances of peculiar horror
  and solemnity, is to be found in _Plutarch’s_ Life of _Numa_; the
  offender, conducted by a mute procession across the Forum to the place
  of her interment near the Colline gate, was made to descend a ladder
  into the sepulchre, and left there with a lamp, a loaf of bread, and a
  cruse of water, the opening being immediately closed with earth and

Footnote 64:

  Corsican Gazette, and London Med. & Phys. Jour. March, 1822.

Footnote 65:

  The siege of Jerusalem by the Romans will at once occur to the reader;
  and of which _Josephus_ has left us so tragic a history: amongst other
  atrocities, an unhappy woman, reduced to the last extremity by
  pinching hunger, sacrifices the feelings of a mother to the voracious
  calls of appetite, butchers her child, and feeds upon the body!

Footnote 66:

  See “Naufrage de la Frégate la Méduse, faisant partie de l’Expedition
  du Sénégal en 1816,” par _F. B. Savigny_, ex Chirurgien de la Marine,
  et _Alexandre Corréard_, Ingénieur-Geographe. Paris, 1817.—A very
  interesting account of this narrative may be found in the Quarterly
  Review, for October, 1817.

Footnote 67:

  That which we call duration is in fact a feeling of succession, and is
  computed by the number of ideas that pass through the mind; whenever
  an event occurs which powerfully excites the attention of an observer,
  he watches the most minute change, whence he believes that the time
  which elapses before the whole event is completed, appears to be
  unusually prolonged. When the infidel sultan of Egypt refused to
  believe that Mahomet could have ascended into the seven heavens, and
  have held some thousand conferences with the Almighty in the space of
  a few minutes, the learned mussulman, who was consulted on the
  occasion, endeavoured to turn his Majesty to a more strict faith, by
  demonstrating to him that a short period of time became converted into
  a long one, when a great multitude of important events were crouded
  into it.

Footnote 68:

  In a tract entitled “Observations on Animal Life and Apparent Death,
  by _John Franks_, surgeon, 8vo. London, 1790,” the author says that
  “when the late _Mr. Justamond_ (Surgeon to the Middlesex hospital)
  lived on the terrace, Palace yard, Westminster, a boy who had been
  drowned in the Thames was brought to him; he made an opening into the
  wind-pipe, in order to inflate the lungs; but the discharge of blood
  which ensued was such as gave him no chance of succeeding in the
  recovery; for he could not prevent the blood from pouring down into
  the lungs.” Although, says _Dr. Currie_, nothing is said in this case
  about the pulse, yet from the blood flowing so copiously, there is
  reason to believe that the heart had begun to act; and therefore to
  conclude, that life was in fact _destroyed_ by this operation, which
  _might_ have been saved without it. See “Observations on Apparent
  Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation by noxious vapours, &c.” by
  _James Currie_, M.D. London, 1815.

Footnote 69:

  The first body galvanised in this country was that of the malefactor
  _George Foster_, who was executed in January 1803, before Newgate, for
  the murder of his wife and infant daughter, by drowning them in the
  Paddington Canal; the experiment was conducted under the direction of
  _Aldini_, the nephew of _Galvani_.

Footnote 70:

  _Medico-Chirurg. Trans._ vol. 1, p. 26.

Footnote 71:

  Elements of Juridical or Forensic Medicine.

Footnote 72:

  Newgate Calendar.

Footnote 73:

  See _Maclaurin’s Crim. Ca._ _p. 71._ where this circumstance is
  alluded to.

Footnote 74:

  By the Scottish law, in part founded on that of the Romans, a person
  against whom the judgment of the Court has been executed, can suffer
  no more in future, but is thenceforward totally exculpated; and it is
  likewise held, that the marriage is dissolved by the execution of the
  convicted party. _Margaret Dickson_ then, having been convicted and
  executed, as above mentioned, the king’s advocate could prosecute her
  no farther, but he filed a bill in the high court of Judiciary against
  the sheriff, for omitting to fulfil the law. The husband of this
  revived convict, however, married her publicly a few days after her
  resuscitation; and she strenuously denied the crime for which she had

Footnote 75:

  The Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench is the principal Coroner in
  the kingdom, and may, if he pleases, exercise the jurisdiction of a
  coroner in any part of the Realm. 4 _Rep._ 57.

Footnote 76:

  Except in case of persons dying in jail, the Coroner must not hold
  unnecessary inquests on the bodies of those who have died in the
  ordinary course of nature. “And the Court of King’s Bench, on two
  several occasions within my own memory, blamed the Coroners of Norfolk
  and Anglesea, for holding repeated and unnecessary inquests, for the
  sake of enhancing their fees, on bodies and parts of bodies which were
  cast up by the sea shore, without the smallest probability or
  suspicion of the deaths happening in any other manner than by the
  unfortunate perils of the sea.” 1 _East. P.C._ 382. See _ib._ the case
  of _Rex v. Harrison_, for extorting money for _not_ holding an

Footnote 77:

  For this purpose the Coroner issues a precept to the constable of such
  townships to return a competent number of jurors, viz. not less than
  twelve. 2 _Hale, P.C._ 59. 62. 1 _East. P.C._ 380.

Footnote 78:

  But this power should be used with discretion. On a late occasion, the
  Judge severely reprobated the conduct of a magistrate, who had
  committed a poor lad to await the assizes, in company of notorious
  thieves and other desperate characters, because he had been the
  innocent witness of a felony, and was too poor to find recognizance.

Footnote 79:

  Thus in the case of Sir _Edmondsbury Godfrey_, much blood might have
  been spared, and much political controversy avoided, if it had been
  possible to determine whether the murder had taken place in the field
  where the body was found, or at Somerset House, as charged by
  witnesses who afterwards confessed their perjury.

Footnote 80:

  “It is true that the statute does in terms only require the coroner to
  put in writing _the effect_ of the evidence. But this must not be
  taken to give him a latitude, such as hath been but too often taken by
  persons of this description to the great perversion of truth and
  justice, of putting down, not the words of the witnesses, but his own
  conception of their tendency. It is doubtless the meaning of the act,
  that the examination of the witnesses should be taken down with the
  greatest possible accuracy as to all material points of the inquiry:
  otherwise one great benefit of the act, which is to enable the Court
  to compare the examination with the evidence, must be defeated. _The
  effect_ mentioned therein, means the true and genuine sense of the
  evidence, as delivered in detail, not indeed in letters, syllables, or
  even words; though these should not be needlessly departed from; but
  the fair and obvious meaning of the words spoken, and not the final
  result of the evidence. Complaints have in my own memory been made by
  judges on the circuits of the culpable neglect of coroners in this
  respect, and threats of exemplary punishment holden out to them, to
  prevent a repetition of the same abuse in future.” 1 _East. P.C._ 384.

Footnote 81:

  It must be on the actual view of the body, the coroner and his party
  seeing it together. 2 _Hale_ 60. 1 _East._ 380. _King v. Ferrand._ 2
  _Barn. & Ald._ 260.

  It was evidently the original intention of the Legislature, that the
  coroner should view the body on the spot where it was found; that he
  and his jury might judge as well by inspection of the body, as by an
  examination of surrounding objects, whether the deceased had died by
  violence. And Sir _William Blackstone_ says, “He must also sit at the
  _very_ place where the death happened,” 1 _Com._ 348. and this should
  certainly be done in all possible cases, for the state of surrounding
  objects most frequently will testify more strongly than any other
  evidence. Modern fastidiousness has introduced the custom of removing
  the body to some public-house, even where the death had happened in an
  ordinary dwelling; this if not illegal, is at least improper.

Footnote 82:

  See also the proceedings on the Oldham inquest, and the subsequent
  judgment in the Court of King’s Bench. _A.D._ 1818, 1819. The _King
  against Ferrand_, 2 _Barn & Ald._ 260.

Footnote 83:

  This was publicly disputed on a late occasion; it is well to question
  all extra-judicial dicta, which may be delivered during the heat of
  political controversy.

Footnote 84:

  The evidence must be on oath; _vide ante_ _p._ 167.

Footnote 85:

  In _Scorey’s_ case, _Leach C. L._ 50. the coroner refused to take the
  evidence of a man who had accompanied the accused in search of
  deer-stealers, and only admitted the man who was with the deceased.
  The coroner, on the testimony of this man, told the jury, that the
  crime was murder, but they refused to find any other verdict than
  _Accidental death_; which verdict the coroner recorded, and then by
  his warrant sent _Scorey_ to the county goal for murder.

  _Scorey_ being now brought up by Habeas Corpus—The Court, on full
  affidavit of the fact, admitted him to bail, and granted a rule
  against the coroner to shew cause why an information should not be
  filed against him.

Footnote 86:

  There are many cases in which there is no substance which can be made
  the subject of deodand; as in death by poison or by explosions in
  mines, either from inflammable gas, or the powder used in blasting.
  The first of these cases calls for immediate remedy; as the instances
  of fatal substitution of poison for medicine occur continually,
  notwithstanding the repeated warnings published on the subject. Nor
  are accidents in mines less worthy of attention; ordinary precaution
  might have prevented many which have lately taken place. The Safety
  lamp of Sir _H. Davy_ is so firmly established in reputation, that no
  doubts can be entertained of its efficacy; some late inventions also
  have secured the miner from the numerous disasters to which he is
  liable in the dangerous operation of blasting. When the conductors of
  mines neglect these ordinary and well-known precautions, they become
  morally responsible for any mischief which may consequently occur; we
  have only to lament that they are not legally answerable for their
  criminal neglect.

Footnote 87:

  With respect to a second inquest, the law is thus laid down (3 _Barn.
  & Ald._ 266.) So also he (the coroner) may dig up the body, if the
  first Inquisition be quashed. _Str._ 533. But it must be by order of
  the Court of King’s Bench, on motion, _Str._ 167. And the judges will
  exercise their discretion, according to the _time_ and circumstances,
  whether he shall or shall not do it. _Salk._ 377. _Str._ 22. 533. 2
  _Mod._ 16.

Footnote 88:

  It is not for us in this place to argue the question whether excessive
  severity of punishment does or does not defeat its punishment; as more
  injury is done by inducing that illegal mercy which is here complained
  of, than benefit is derived by terror of the unexecuted sentence of
  the law: the subject is in abler hands; we shall, therefore, content
  ourselves with suggesting, that coroners should be far more strict in
  their examination of the bodies of persons supposed to be _felo de
  se_; nay, that anatomical inspection of the great cavities should be
  absolutely required in all cases. We will not maintain with a French
  author on Medical Jurisprudence, that the signs of insanity can often
  be discovered on dissection; though we can imagine some cases, as
  where there has been an excessive determination of blood to the brain,
  in which this inspection may be satisfactory; (See vol. 1, p. 327).
  _Fourcroy_ and _Durande_ have also found, on dissecting persons who
  had committed suicide, hardness of the liver, and gall stones; and
  _Foderé_ observes that, in failure of other evidence, such appearances
  deserve to carry some weight. But benefit would still result from the
  practice; first from the general horror in which dissection is held,
  for if the dread of an ignominious burial, however remote the chance
  of its infliction, can be supposed to discourage this offence, under
  the existing law, the certainty of personal mutilation would operate
  in the proposed alteration. It is related, that when suicide had
  become so frequent among the Roman ladies, as to threaten ill effects
  to the commonwealth, the Senate decreed that the bodies of all who
  died by their own hands should be exposed naked in the public ways.

  The effect of the decree was an immediate cessation of the crime;
  possibly the same result might be produced by the dread of dissection.

Footnote 89:

  Al sessions al Newgate post natalem dom. 1604, 2 _Jac._ Le case fuit
  que en home et se feme ayant longe temps vive incontinent ensemble, le
  homme ayant consume son substance et cressant en necessity, dit al
  feme que il fuit weary de son vie, et qu’il voiloit luy m occider, a
  que la feme dit que donques el voiloit auci moryer ove luy: per que le
  home praya la feme que el voiluit vaar et acheter ratisbane, et ils
  voilont ceo beber ensemble, le quel el fist, et el ceo mist en le
  drink, et ils bibe ceo, mes la feme apres prist sallet oyle, per que
  el vomit et fuit recover, mes le home morust: et le question fuit si
  ceo fuit murther en la feme. _Montague_ recorder cause l’especial
  matter d’estre trove: _quære_ le resolucion. _F. Moore_, 754.

Footnote 90:

  Vide ante, tit. Coroner’s Inquest.

Footnote 91:

  Decency and public policy require that burials should not be delayed,
  and it may not be amiss here to observe that the old notion of
  arresting a body for debt, is now utterly exploded, as contrary not
  only to the civil and canon law, (see _Wood’s Civ. Law_, 148; 2
  _Domat_ 628: _Lindw._ 278,) but to reason and the law of the land.
  Vide ante, Vol. 1. p. 100.

Footnote 92:

  It is said that to act upon the mind by terror, continual griefs or
  vexations, though with the intent to kill, is not murder, unless there
  be some personal violence, 1 _East. P. C._, _p._ 225: but query this,
  the proof of the crime may be difficult, but its perpetration is far
  from impossible. To act on the mind of a pregnant woman by extreme
  terrors, and so produce abortion and death of malice prepense, would
  certainly be murder in its most atrocious form; it might require some
  ingenuity in framing the indictment; but our law is fertile in
  fictions on less worthy occasions, and ought not to allow its just
  vengeance to be avoided. In cases of murder by starvation there may be
  no actual violence, yet the law reaches this offence; sometimes indeed
  imprisonment forms a part of the crime, but this may not always be the
  case; for if the deceased were confined to his bed by disease, so that
  he could not seek his own food, and those who were bound to supply him
  maliciously neglected their duty, it would be murder by omission
  without any personal violence committed. _See_ _Self’s_ case, 1 _East.
  P. C._ 226: 1 _Leach, C.C._ 163, and authorities there. So in an
  indictment for starving a servant, _Lawrence_, J. intimated, that he
  thought the indictment insufficient, in not alleging _that Elizabeth
  Williams was a girl of tender years, and under the dominion and
  controul of the defendant_. _Rex v. Eliz. Ridley_, 2 _Camp. R._ 650.
  See also _Regina v. Gould. Salk._ 381.

Footnote 93:

  “Such also was the case of the parish officers who shifted a child
  from parish to parish, till it died for want of care and sustinence.”
  1 _East. P. C._ 226, and authorities there. Unfortunately this species
  of crime is not of very rare occurrence; numerous instances might be
  cited where the death of a pauper has been caused by the barbarous
  custom of removing the poor, without the slightest regard to their
  age, disease, or infirmity.

Footnote 94:

  As we are not aware of the existence of any poisonous filth so noxious
  as to destroy by its mere stench, we shall not enlarge on this head;
  we have indeed heard of an attempt to kill by the smoke of burning
  Euphorbium, but without believing in its power. _Vide ante tit.
  Nuisance, et post, Aerial poisons._

Footnote 95:

  In this case it is not necessary that there should be any signs or
  even suspicion of violence; the bare fact that they died in gaol is

Footnote 96:

  One half of the jury should be of the prisoners, 1 _East P. C._ 383,
  for they are most likely to know if any unnecessary hardship had been
  inflicted on the deceased.

Footnote 97:

  The learned Reporter does not appear to have adverted to the
  distinction between epidemic and contagious distempers. See vol. 1, p.

Footnote 98:

  It is to be feared that grand juries will discontinue their salutary
  custom of visiting the prisons, in consequence of a recent decision
  that they have no right to demand admission. As the propriety of their
  inspection is generally granted, we may venture to hint a wish that
  some enactment may pass on this subject, and that the temporary
  political objection, arising out of the seclusion of state prisoners,
  may not be permitted to operate as a general and permanent obstacle.
  It is to the zeal of individuals in tracing abuses, rather than to
  legislative enactment for their prevention, that we look for the still
  necessary improvements of our prison discipline; for no government,
  however vigilant, can guard against the secret misconduct of its
  obscurer agents; all it can do, is to encourage enquiry, whenever the
  first hint of delinquency or even of suspicion is communicated. The
  subject is now under legislative consideration, and we may therefore
  hope that a due system may be adopted, one which shall equally steer
  clear of the wasteful expenditure of the Millbank Penitentiary, and
  the enormities imputed to Ilchester: that prisons may be made places
  of confinement, coercion, and punishment; but not of torture,
  contagion, and despair.

  The improvement in morals, order, and cleanliness introduced into some
  prisons by the exertions of a benevolent individual (_Mrs. Fry_)
  deserves our notice; her attention indeed has been mainly directed to
  the mental and religious instruction of female prisoners, but this
  mental improvement is not without its effect on their bodily health;
  order, temperance, and cleanliness, will always produce a physical as
  well as moral improvement on the minds and persons of the lower

Footnote 99:

  A similar calamity occurred in Dublin in 1776, when the sheriff,
  several counsellors, and others, fell victims to this disease. Gents.
  Mag. The death of the late Judge _Osborne_ also is attributed to an
  ill-ventilated court.

Footnote 100:

  The law does not appear to have made any sufficient provision for the
  (not improbable) contingency of a highly infectious disorder breaking
  out in any prison, yet it is evidently unjust that a prisoner for a
  debt of _one shilling!_ or any other sum, should be exposed to the
  hazard of his life by remaining in contact with the infected, (see
  _Buxton’s_ Inquiry.) Formerly the writ of _Habeas Corpus_ was granted
  on such occasions, but abuses having arisen it was ultimately referred
  to the judges to consider the legality of this application of the
  writ, who decided against it; adding, however, that in case of great
  infection some house in some good town might be assigned for the
  warden of the Fleet, and the like for the marshal of the King’s Bench,
  where they might keep their prisoners _sub arcta et salva custodia_.
  _Hutt._ 129. But query, how far this course would be applicable to
  other prisons?

Footnote 101:

  The learned _Jacob Bryant_ lost his life from mortification in his
  leg, originating in the slight circumstance of a rasure against a
  chair, in the act of reaching a book from a shelf.

Footnote 102:

  See “An account of a case of recovery, after an extraordinary
  accident, by which the shaft of a chaise had been forced through the
  thorax.” by William Maiden; London, 1812.

Footnote 103:

  Memoires de l’Acad. Royale. 1705.

Footnote 104:

  Med. Polit. P. 1. C. 1.

Footnote 105:

  _Hebenstreit_ observes that if a man is wounded by two different
  persons, one of whom stabs in the side, the other in the belly, it
  becomes necessary after death to ascertain of which wound the deceased
  died, in order that the actual murderer may be punished. By the law of
  England this question can never arise.

Footnote 106:

  The bites of venomous animals will be considered under the head of

Footnote 107:

  This trial is the more remarkable as forming one of the numerous
  persecutions to which the prisoner claimant of the Annesley Peerage
  was subjected by the rancour of his opponent; for the other
  proceedings _see State Trials_.

Footnote 108:

  Poisoning, in war, is even considered by the law of nations as more
  odious than assassination, of this _Grotius_ (lib. iii. c. 4.) has
  enlarged. It was a maxim of the Roman senate, that war was to be
  carried on by arms, and not by poison (_Aul. Gell. Nat. Altico._ lib.
  iii. c. 8.). Even _Tiberius_ rejected the proposal made by the Prince
  of the Catti, that if poison was sent to him, he would destroy
  _Arminius_; he received for answer, that the Roman people chastised
  their enemies by open force, without having recourse to wicked
  practices and secret machinations (_Val. Max._ 1. iv. c. 5.)

Footnote 109:

  See also 4 _Co. R._ case of _Vaux_, who was executed for poisoning
  with Cantharides. “Persuadebat eundem Nichol’ recipere et bibere
  quemdam potum mixtum cum quodam veneno vocat cantharides, affirmans et
  verificans eidem Nichol’ quod præd’ potus sic mixtus cum præd’ veneno
  vocat’ canth’ non fuit intoxicatus (Anglice poisoned) sed quod per
  reception’ inde præd’ Nich’ exit’ de corpore dictæ Margaretæ tunc
  uxoris suæ procuraret et haberet.” It is to be hoped that the age of
  Philtres and love powders is passed.

Footnote 110:

  At Warwick Assizes, 18 _Eliz._ _John Saunders_ and _Alexander Archer_
  were indicted for the wilful murder of _Eleanor Saunders_, an infant
  of 3 years of age, daughter of the first prisoner. _Saunders_ wishing
  to get rid of his wife consulted _Archer_, by whose advice he gave her
  (being ill) a roasted apple, with which he had mixed _arsenic_ and
  _roseacre_. She ate a small part of it, and in his presence gave the
  remainder to the infant, for which _Saunders_ reprehended her, saying
  apples were not good for such children, but he permitted the child to
  swallow the poison, lest he should be suspected. He was condemned and
  executed, but a point was reserved as to the guilt of his accomplice
  _Archer_, for which, see _Plowden’s Rep._ 474.

Footnote 111:

  The study of poisoning appears to have been of considerable antiquity.
  _Ulysses_ sought poison for his weapons from _Ilus_, “φαρμακον
  ανδροφονον” Od. 1. 1. v. 261; but the conscientious pharmacopolist
  refused to furnish his dangerous preparations to the wily chief.

Footnote 112:

  Taciti Annal: Lib: iv. c. 8.

Footnote 113:

  Hist: Plant. Lib: ix. c. 16, p. 189.

Footnote 114:

  Lib: viii, c. 18.

Footnote 115:

  For the ingenious mode in which this poison was administered, see
  _Tacitus_. The prince having called for a cup of wine, it was
  purposely presented too hot; he desired cold water to be added to it,
  and the opportunity was then taken to infuse the poison. By this
  stratagem the taster (“calida gelidæque minister.” _Juv. Sat._ v. _v._
  63.) escaped its effects, in which he must otherwise have participated
  with _Britannicus_.

Footnote 116:

  The reader will find a very interesting account of this diabolical
  woman in _Labat’s Travels through Italy_, and also in _Beckman’s
  History of Inventions_.

Footnote 117:

  _Hoffman_ Medicin. Rational.

Footnote 118:

  This story, if we mistake not, suggested to the successful author of
  Kenilworth, the tragic death of his Alchymist.

Footnote 119:

  The belief in the possibility of poisoning by the vestments is very
  ancient, as is shewn by the fabled death of Hercules.

                           ----“Capit inscius heros:
               Induiturque humeris Lernææ virus Echidnæ.
               Incaluit vis illa mali; resolutaque flammis;
               Herculeos abiit late diffusa per artus.”

                                       _Ovid. Metam. Lib._ ix. _v._ 157.

Footnote 120:

  Quæst. Med. Leg.

Footnote 121:

  _Sir Edward Coke in the trial of Sir John Hollis._

Footnote 122:

  _Bacon’s_ works, vol. ii. p. 614.

Footnote 123:

  “επιφερεν οιδηματα σωματος, μετα ωχροτητος επιτεταμενης. δυσπνοειν και
  δυσωδια οδωδεναι το στομα, και λυγμος αυτοις επεται, ενιοτε δε και
  σπερματος απροαιρετος εκκρισις.”

Footnote 124:

  1. κωφος η αφθογγος; 2. φωνητικος.

Footnote 125:

  Instit. Mater. Medic. p. 176.

Footnote 126:

  _Manuale di Tossicologia_, p. 79. 245.

Footnote 127:

  See also _Istituzioni di Med. For. di G. Tortosa_, vol. 2. p. 67, and
  authorities there cited.

Footnote 128:

  This fact may be illustrated by ancient as well as modern records;
  from the poisoned tunic of the Centaur Nessus, to the treacherous
  powders of the diabolical _Mary Bateman_.

Footnote 129:

  THEOPHRAST. _Hist. Plant._ lx. c. 16. STRABO mentions the action of
  the _Lauro-cerasus_, as a poison, and observes that it occasions a
  death like that of Epilepsy.

Footnote 130:

  All these substances were found in the casket of _Saint Croix_.

Footnote 131:

  _Gerarde_, in his Herbal, considers the _Cymbalaria_ to be the
  Pennywort of which he describes two varieties, viz. the
  Wall-pennywort, and the Water-pennywort; and he blames the “ignorant
  apothecaries,” for using the latter instead of the former, as
  extremely dangerous and destructive to life. Modern botanists consider
  it as an _Antirrhinum_,—A. Cymbalaria. Lin. i. e. Ivy-leaved
  Toad-flax. We are not aware of any part of this genus being poisonous.
  The _A. Linaria_, common Toad-flax, appears to be the only one to
  which any medicinal virtues have been ascribed. _Linnæus_, however,
  says (Flor. Suec.) that this plant is used as a poison to flies.

Footnote 132:

  Man. de Toxicol.

Footnote 133:

  Hist. General de Venen. mineral.

Footnote 134:

  BOERHAAVE gives us the following definition. “_Venenum dico omne illud
  quod ingestum vel applicatum corpori, talem in corpore humano
  mutationem excitat, quæ per ipsam eam mutationem non superatur.
  Medicamentum præterea in eo differt, quod ipsa, quam facit mutatio, in
  sanitatem tendat, venenum vero corpus mutat, ut ex sano ægrum fiat,
  aut cadaver._” (Prælect. Acad. T. vi, p. 283.) HOFFMANN has furnished
  us with a definition less exceptionable than the foregoing, but still
  inferior to that of _Gmelin_. “_Alit natura res, quæ exigua mole et
  summa partium tenuitate, brevi tempore, concentum atque ordinem motuum
  vitalium pervertunt, vel plane destruunt; et hæ vocari solent
  Venena._” (M.R.S.T. II. p. 88.)

Footnote 135:

  We have adopted this term, as one that has been in previous use,
  although we are by no means satisfied that a more expressive word
  might not be found.

Footnote 136:

  This case is detailed in his ‘Pharmacologia,’ under the article _Cupri

Footnote 137:

  See an interesting paper by Dr. _Marcet_, in the 12th volume of the
  Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, entitled, “_Account of a man who
  lived ten years after having swallowed a number of clasp knives._”

Footnote 138:

  In the reign of LOUIS XIV, _Henrietta_, Duchess of Orleans, is said to
  have been poisoned by diamond-dust mixed with powdered sugar. The same
  substance is enumerated among other extraordinary poisons, as having
  been administered in the case of _Sir Thomas Overbury_.

Footnote 139:

  Old women in the country recommend the same remedy for the destruction
  of worms; probably the medicine and the poison may be equally

Footnote 140:

  Saggi Scientif. e letter dell’ Accademia di Padova. T. III. p. 11, p.

Footnote 141:


Footnote 142:

  De Venenis.

Footnote 143:

  Comment. super Homicid. p. 177.

Footnote 144:

  Ratio Medendi. Part VI, p. 60.

Footnote 145:

  Hist. General de Venenis Mineral.

Footnote 146:

  Med. Leg. Tom. II. p. 170.

Footnote 147:

  Tom. II. p. 346.

Footnote 148:

  Man. de Toxicol.

Footnote 149:

  Fragmenta Chirurg. et Med. p. 66.

Footnote 150:

  Pharmacologia, Edit. v. vol. I. p. 324.

Footnote 151:

  See Medical Facts and Observations, Vol. v.

Footnote 152:

  See M. _Pouqueville’s_ “Voyage de Morée,” also Mr. _Thornton’s_
  Travels; and Notes to Lord _Byron’s_ Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Footnote 153:

  M. R. S. T. iv. Part iii, p. 278.

Footnote 154:

  For the purpose of propitiating the favour of heaven, the alchymist
  stamped the figure of the cross upon the vessel, in which he expected
  to obtain the long sought prize that was to convert the baser metals
  into gold, whence the term _Crucible_ derived its origin. And when the
  experiments of chemistry began to be considered as the true tests of
  philosophical truth, the expression of “_Experimentum crucis_” was
  adopted to signify the highest degree of proof of which a subject is

Footnote 155:

  _Sydenham_ considered the occurrence of cholera, as a disease in
  England, to be confined to the month of August, at which time, says
  he, it appears as certainly as swallows in the early spring, or
  cuckows at the approach of summer; but he himself observed it to
  appear sometimes towards the end of summer, when the season was
  unusually warm; and that the violence of the disease was in proportion
  to the degree of heat. _Note. Mrs. Downing_ died in November, and
  _Miss Burns_, whose case is so frequently alluded to in this work, in

Footnote 156:

  Youths and adults are more generally affected than children and old

Footnote 157:

  _Sydenham_ describing the violent symptoms of cholera concludes by
  observing, “and such like symptoms as frighten the by-standers, and
  kill the patient in 24 hours.” Syd. Sect. iv, c. 2. It must be
  remembered that _Sydenham_ is here describing an extreme case. The
  unfortunate _Mrs. Downing_ (see Appendix, p. 277) died in fourteen

Footnote 158:

  See the case of _Mr. Robert Turner_, poisoned by _Eliz. Fenning_, as
  related by _Mr. Marshall_.

Footnote 159:

  See _Baillie’s_ Morbid Anatomy.

Footnote 160:

  Opera Omnia Ch. iv, p. 34.

Footnote 161:

  De Causis et Signis. Lib. 1, c. 7.

Footnote 162:

  De Abdit. rerum Causis. Lib. ii, c. 15.

Footnote 163:

  De Sedibus, &c. Epist. 59, n. 16.

Footnote 164:

  Anthropolog: Forens. p. 523.

Footnote 165:

  De Signis Veneni dati Diagnosticis, n. 8.

Footnote 166:

  M. R. S. T. iv, p. 3, c. 8.

Footnote 167:

  Med. Forens. p. 169.

Footnote 168:

  Cours de Med. Leg. p. 248.

Footnote 169:

  Nouveau Ellem. de Therapeutiq. T. 1, p. 408.

Footnote 170:

  Med. Leg. T. 2, p. 225

Footnote 171:

  Med. Leg. T. ii, p. 260.

Footnote 172:

  Œuvres de Medecine, T. 1, p. 69.

Footnote 173:

  De Cholica Pictonum, p. 37.

Footnote 174:

  See also _Sloane MSS._ Brit. Mus. 330: 9135. “_Venenum potest generari
  in corpore._”

Footnote 175:

  Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, &c. by _James Currie_,
  M.D. p. 156.

Footnote 176:

  We are informed by _Tortosa_ (Istituzioni di Med. For. vol. ii, p. 62)
  that a work has been published by a celebrated physician of Verona,
  Rotario, in which the author attempts to establish a diagnosis by
  which these symptoms may be distinguished. (Opere Med. p. 116.) We
  have not been so fortunate as to obtain a sight of this work.

Footnote 177:

  Those who are desirous of becoming farther acquainted with the history
  of this opinion may consult the “_Recherches et Considerations
  Medicales, sur l’acide Hydro-cyanique, son radical, ses composés, et
  ses antidotes_,” par _J. Coullon_, D. M. 1 vol. 8vo. 1819. _Dr.
  Granville_ has also in his Treatise on Hydrocyanic acid (edit. 2d
  1820) alluded to this opinion, and to the different authors who have
  supported it, p. 24. The reader will also find a case by _Fourcroy_,
  (Annales de Chimie, tom. 1, p. 66) of a woman, of about thirty years
  of age, who in consequence of protracted grief, laboured under a
  nervous and melancholic affection; she became extremely emaciated, and
  her livid paleness, and universal langour seemed to indicate a
  depressed state of vitality, and a decomposition of the animal fluids;
  after a few days she was seized with faintings and convulsions, which
  were followed by the discharge of drops of blood from the edge of the
  eye-lids, the nostrils, and the ears. The linen with which the blood
  was wiped was marked with spots of a beautiful blue. Fourcroy examined
  this matter, and concluded that the blood contained Prussiate of iron.

Footnote 178:

  Anthropolog. Forens. p. 526.

Footnote 179:

  Edinburgh Medical Essays.

Footnote 180:

  Phil. Trans. A. D. 1772, “_On the Digestion of the Stomach after
  Death_,” by _John Hunter_, F. R. S. and Surgeon to St. George’s

Footnote 181:

  This phenomenon is frequently exhibited, in a very satisfactory
  manner, by inferior animals who die suddenly. _Mr. Hunter_ noticed it
  particularly in fish.

Footnote 182:

  We allude to a highly interesting paper, to which we shall have
  frequent occasion to refer in the progress of the present inquiry,
  entitled “_Observations on the Digestion of the Stomach after Death_,”
  by _Allan Burns_, Lecturer on Anatomy and Surgery in Glasgow.
  Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journ. for April, 1810.

Footnote 183:

  _Hunter’s_ Observations on Digestion, p. 185.

Footnote 184:

  _Adams’s_ Observations on Morbid Poisons, edit. 2, p. 30, where he
  says “but for this purpose, _Mr. Hunter_ saw that the animal must be
  in health immediately before death, otherwise neither the quantity nor
  quality of the secretion would be equal to the purpose; he was
  confirmed in this by the instances in which he saw the stomach
  digested; both were men who had died from a violent death; both had
  been previously in sufficient health to eat a hearty meal. The fair
  inference from these was, that when men die of disease, the appetite
  usually ceases, and probably the secretion of the gastric juice also.”

Footnote 185:

  _Burns_, loco citato.

Footnote 186:

  “It will generally be found that, where the coats of the stomach are
  softened by the gastric juice, the vessels are unable to resist the
  force of the syringe in injecting the body. In such subjects,
  therefore, we find the cavity of the stomach filled with wax, and we
  likewise see masses of it collected between the coats of the viscus.”

Footnote 187:

  Mark this circumstance, for we shall have occasion to revert to it,
  when we come to consider _the part_ of the stomach which undergoes
  solution from the action of the gastric juice.

Footnote 188:

  A case of extensive solution of the Stomach by the Gastric fluids,
  after Death. By _John Haviland_, M. D. Regius Professor of Physic in
  the University of Cambridge. Transactions of the Cambridge
  Philosophical Society, vol. 1, part ii, p. 287.

Footnote 189:

  He had taken, at intervals, a small quantity of port wine and water.

Footnote 190:

  Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, vol. iv.

Footnote 191:

  1. “The trial of _Charles Angus, Esq._ for the murder of _Margaret
  Burns_, taken in short hand by _William Jones_, jun. 8vo.” Liverpool,
  pp. 1808, 288. Also

  2. “A vindication of the opinions delivered in evidence by the medical
  witnesses for the crown, on a late trial at Lancaster for murder,
  8vo.” 1803.

  3. “Remarks on a late publication, entitled “A Vindication of the
  Opinions delivered in Evidence by the Medical witnesses for the Crown,
  on a late trial at Lancaster.” By _James Carson, M.D._”

  4. “An Exposure of some of the false statements contained in _Dr.
  Carson’s_ pamphlet, entitled “Remarks, &c.” in a letter to that
  gentleman, by _James Dawson_, Surgeon.”

  The suspicion against the prisoner, _Charles Angus_, was, that he had
  endeavoured to procure a premature delivery, or abortion, by means of
  an instrument resembling a long trochar, and that he had administered,
  or been privy to the administration of certain drugs, which had
  occasioned such effects upon the stomach of the deceased, as in the
  end produced her death. The prisoner was a retired merchant, with two
  or three children, with whom the deceased had lived as housekeeper and
  governess. It appeared in evidence that improper familiarities had
  been noticed between them, and that Miss _Burns_ had, for some time,
  appeared out of health, and that her abdomen was much increased in
  size at the period when she was attacked with the symptoms which
  preceded her death, and which, as we learn from the witnesses on the
  trial, presented the following history.

  The deceased was seen by the servants of the family at about six
  o’clock, on Wednesday morning, the 23d of March, 1808, at which time
  she was in her usual state of health; but replied to one of them, who
  remarked her having risen earlier than usual, that she could not
  sleep. She was next seen by the servants at a quarter before nine,
  sitting at breakfast with _Mr. Angus_, but apparently very ill; after
  breakfast she was lying on a sofa complaining of a pain in her bowels,
  but she was not then sick. On moving about afterwards, she held by the
  chair, as if from pain, and about an hour and a half after breakfast,
  she ordered some water gruel, of which she drank nearly three quarts
  in the course of the day, being very thirsty, and in considerable
  pain, and so sick as to reject the gruel almost as soon as it was
  taken. The matter vomited was described by the house-maid as being, at
  first, very black, but becoming, towards the last, of a green colour;
  the kitchen maid, however, described it as being in the first instance
  of a green colour, with yellow pieces in it resembling the inside of
  an orange, or the yolk of an egg, and as turning blacker after it
  ceased to be green. While thus retching, _Miss Burns_ observed to the
  house-maid, “Oh, Betty, what bile comes off my stomach! I wish I had
  taken an emetic long since.” On the servants going to bed that night,
  she seemed very poorly, but did not complain to them.

  On Thursday morning, at six o’clock, she was lying, as she had been
  left the night before, on the sofa, with pillows under her head; she
  complained that she was very thirsty; said she was tired of gruel, and
  had some water posset, and a little warm beer. She also complained
  that she was badly hurt to make water; but was relieved by sitting on
  a sliced onion, with some boiling water poured over it. Her vomiting
  was now of a blacker colour, and she continued sick and vomiting all
  day, till towards evening, when the sickness went off, and she
  appeared better, and could stir more about.

  On Friday morning, at four o’clock, the house-maid went into the room,
  and thought her much worse, as she breathed quicker than before. She
  was seen again at six in much the same state, and lying in the same
  posture on the sofa; she asked for some warm beer, which settled on
  her stomach, and she also took about a pint of gruel; she said that
  the pain had left her. Her vomiting had ceased, but was succeeded by a
  “_lax_,” which continued all the morning. A little before ten, the
  house-maid was sent out for some Madeira, _Miss Burns_ having
  expressed a wish for some. Between the hours of ten and eleven, the
  kitchen maid was in the room, and received orders about dinner; and
  _Miss Burns_ said she would have some barley water. On the return of
  the house-maid, about eleven, she went straight into the parlour,
  where _Miss Burns_ was found lying dead in the corner, by the door,
  with her face against the wall, “_cowered of a lump_,” her elbows upon
  her knees, and one foot “_crudled_” under her; _Mr. Angus_, who had
  nursed her throughout, sitting in an arm chair, apparently so fast
  asleep that he was not roused without difficulty. During the whole
  course of her illness, she did not go to bed, but remained in the
  parlour, generally lying on a sofa. She refused to have medical
  assistance; but _Mr. Angus_ said that he had given her seven drops of
  laudanum on one night, and ten on another, and that on the morning of
  her death he had given her some castor oil, in spirit, but that it
  came up immediately.

                        REPORT OF THE DISSECTION.

  On Sunday the 27th of March, 1808, at noon, _Dr. Rutter_ was desired
  by the Coroner of Liverpool to take with him an experienced surgeon to
  the house of _Mr. Charles Angus_, and there to examine the body of a
  young lady who had died suddenly.

  The examination was made at two o’clock the same day, by _Mr. Hay_, a
  surgeon in Liverpool, with his apprentice, in company with _Dr.
  Rutter_ and _Dr. Gerard_; and the following report on the subject was
  presented to the coroner in writing.

  “On our arrival at the house, we were introduced into a parlour, where
  we found _Mr. Angus_, with some other persons to us unknown; and we
  delivered to him the note from the coroner as the authority under
  which we acted. Upon perusing it, he expressed perfect willingness
  that the examination should be made. We were then introduced into the
  room up stairs, were the body of the deceased was laid. After having
  removed the body, a small stain of blood was observed on the sheet of
  the bed on which it had laid; and the pillow was stained with a fluid
  which had issued from the head. The body being laid on a table, a
  large quantity of a thin yellowish fluid poured out from the nostrils,
  and was collected in vessels. No marks of external violence were
  discovered on the body; nor was there any appearance of commencing
  putrefaction. The nails of the fingers were of a bluish colour; and
  the veins on the external surface of the _abdomen_ or belly appeared
  to be much enlarged. At this period we were joined by _Mr. Christian_,
  surgeon. On opening the _abdomen_, a considerable quantity of fluid
  was found to have been effused into that cavity, similar in colour and
  smell to that which issued from the nostrils, but more turbid. Marks
  of inflammation were found on the external or peritoneal coat of
  different portions of the small intestines; but the large intestines
  were free from it. The external coat of a part of the smaller
  curvature of the stomach was also inflamed; and a similar appearance
  of inflammation was observed on a small portion of the anterior edge
  of the liver, directly over the smaller curvature of the stomach. On
  raising up the stomach, an opening through its coats was found in the
  anterior and inferior part of its great curvature; and from this
  opening a considerable quantity of a thick fluid of a dark olive
  colour issued; of which fluid some ounces were collected and
  preserved. The natural structure of the coats of the stomach for a
  considerable space around this opening was destroyed; and they were so
  soft, pulpy, and tender, that they tore with the slightest touch.
  Around this part of the coats of the stomach, there were no traces of
  inflammation whatever. The stomach was then taken out of the body; and
  its inner surface was carefully washed; and the contents washed out
  were preserved. A quantity, about three ounces, of a fluid resembling
  that in the stomach, but not quite so thick, was also taken out of one
  of the small intestines, and preserved.

  “On examining the womb, it was found to be very considerably enlarged,
  and, on its inner surface, the part to which the _Placenta_, or
  after-birth, had adhered, was very plainly discernible. This part was
  nearly circular, and occupied a space of about four inches in
  diameter. The mouth of the womb was greatly dilated. In a word, the
  appearances of the womb were such as might have been expected a few
  hours after the birth of a child nearly full grown.

  “The fluid taken out of the stomach and intestines, and cavity of the
  _Abdomen_, as well as that collected from the nostrils, was taken
  away: and, afterwards, in the course of the same day, examined, and
  subjected to various trials, with a view to discover the presence of
  such mineral substances as were likely to produce appearances or
  effects similar to those which were found in the stomach of the
  deceased. In this examination, we thought it right to request the
  assistance of _Dr. Bostock_. The contents of the stomach were, as has
  already been mentioned, of a dirty olive colour, thick, and of an acid
  smell. A considerable number of large globules of a dark coloured,
  dense, oily fluid, floated upon them; but no particular smell that we
  could discover. We could not discover, in the contents of the stomach,
  by the smell, the presence of any known vegetable substance, capable
  of producing deleterious effects when introduced into it. The fluid
  contained in the stomach deposited no sediment; nor was any but a
  mucous sediment found in the water with which the inner surface of the
  stomach was washed. Upon subjecting the contents of the stomach, in
  the state in which we found them, to such tests as are deemed
  sufficient to detect the presence of any active preparation of Mercury
  or Arsenic, we could not detect either of these substances. The
  contents of the stomach were then filtered, and subjected to the same
  trials, but with the same result. These trials were made at _Dr.
  Bostock’s_, in the presence of _Dr. Gerard_ and _Dr. Rutter_.”

  The substance of this report was afterwards delivered, in evidence, on
  the trial; and the following additional circumstances stated.

  “The preternatural opening in the stomach was larger than a crown
  piece; but _Mr. Hay_ thinks he may have increased it in drawing down
  the stomach, as it was nearly in the centre of the disorganized
  portion, where the coats were thin, soft, and semi-transparent. The
  stomach was nearly full of the fluid described, but not distended. The
  intestines also contained a great deal of a similar fluid; and the
  internal villous coat of the duodenum was slightly inflamed, while its
  external coat was also more inflamed than that of the other

  In consequence of the suspicious circumstances attending the death of
  _Miss Burns_, _Charles Angus_ was indicted for her murder; but, after
  a trial which occupied the court from eight o’clock on Friday morning,
  until three on Saturday, the 2d of September, 1808, the prisoner was

  The medical defence, conducted by _Dr. Carson_, and which savoured
  more of the ingenuity of the forensic pleader, than the justice of the
  honest inquirer after truth, rested upon the following grounds, viz.
  1. The appearances of the stomach upon dissection are to be reconciled
  upon the supposition of the dissolution of its coats having taken
  place, _after death_, in consequence of the action of the gastric
  fluid. 2. The symptoms which preceded death were not such as accompany
  corrosive poisoning. 3. No poisonous substance was detected in the
  body. 4. The appearance of the uterus does not justify the conclusion
  that a delivery had recently taken place; such a dilated state of the
  organ, had it lately parted with a placenta, must have occasioned
  death by hemorrhage, or it must have been found gorged with coagulated
  blood. 5. The appearances may be reconciled by supposing that an
  expulsion of hydatids had taken place.

  We must not omit to state, that in consequence of the intense interest
  excited by this trial, the ovaria were subsequently examined, when a
  _corpus luteum_ was discovered.

  We cannot conclude this account without expressing a regret that
  several important sources of information should have been neglected.
  The omitting to inspect the appendages of the uterus, to examine the
  œsophagus, the chest, and the head, and to analyse the membranes of
  the stomach, are instances of inattention, for which it is not easy to
  find an excuse. May they furnish a salutary lesson for future

Footnote 192:

  Med. Leg. vol. ii, p. 315.

Footnote 193:

  This appearance is particularly mentioned by _Juvenal_ as an effect of

   “Per famam et populum _nigros_ efferre maritos.”—_Sat._ i, _v._ 72.

  The reader will remember, that we have already stated our opinion,
  that the poisons of the ancients were of a vegetable origin.

Footnote 194:

  Dissertatio Inauguralis de effectibus Arsenici in varios Organismos,
  nec non de Indicus quibusdam Veneficii ab Arsenicoillati. Quam præside
  _C. F. Kielmayer_ publicé defendet, Jan. 1808, Auctor _Georg_: _Fred_:
  _Jäeger_, Stuttgardianus. A very full analysis of this Essay was
  published by Dr. _Siegwart_ in _Gehlen’s_ Chemical and Physical
  Journal; and which afterwards found its way into the Edinburgh Medical
  and Surgical Journal, no. xxv, Jan. 1811.

Footnote 195:

  Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journal, no. XX.

Footnote 196:

  Epist. lix, 3.

Footnote 197:

  _Patrick Ogilvy_ and _Catharine Nairne_ were indicted for incest, and
  the murder, by Arsenic, of _Thomas Ogilvy_, brother of the said
  _Patrick_, and husband of the said _Nairne_. This celebrated Scotch
  trial commenced at Edinburgh, on Monday the 12th of August at seven in
  the morning, and the court continued setting until about two on
  Tuesday morning, when the Jury being inclosed, it adjourned until
  Wednesday at four o’clock in the afternoon. They were both found
  guilty. After several respites _Ogilvy_ was executed. _Nairne_ escaped
  from prison, and was never afterwards heard of.

Footnote 198:

  Camp: Elys:

Footnote 199:

  Edinb. Med. and Surg. Journ. no. xvii.

Footnote 200:

  Ibid. no. xxvi.

Footnote 201:

  Ibid. no. lxxi, for April, 1822.

Footnote 202:

  _Mr. Marshall_, in his account of the symptoms of _Mr. Robert Turner_,
  who was poisoned by _Eliza Fenning_, states, “On examination I
  discovered a very remarkable irregularity of surface, occasioned by
  the spasmodic contractions of the muscles of the abdomen, and even of
  the viscera; this unevenness extended from the epigastric region to
  the pubes, and to the right and left hypochondrium.”

Footnote 203:

  Nothing can be more strikingly illustrative of the characteristic
  appearances which distinguish the effects of violence during life,
  from those which result from putrefaction as described at page 181.

Footnote 204:

  The author refers the reader to the first volume of his
  _Pharmacologia_, page 124, _note_. In addition to what he has there
  observed it may be stated, that many fallacies have arisen in
  pharmacology, from deducing conclusions respecting the effects of
  remedies upon inferior animals. One example will suffice.—Several
  substances have gained the reputation of Styptics, from the effects
  which have followed their application to the wounded and bleeding
  vessels in the extremities of the horse and ass; whereas the fact is
  that the blood-vessels of these animals possess a power of contraction
  which does not exist in those of man, and to which the cessation of
  the hemorrhage, fallaciously attributed to the styptic, is to be
  wholly attributed.

Footnote 205:

  See Appendix, page 272.

Footnote 206:

  Toxocologie Générale considérée, sous les Rapports de la Physiologie,
  de la Pathologie, et de la Medicine légale. Paris, 1815. This work has
  been faithfully translated into English by _John Walker_, in two
  volumes. London, 1817.

Footnote 207:

  De Sed. et Caus. Morb. per Anat. indag. Epist. 59, 18.

Footnote 208:

  See the interesting trial of _Michael Whiting_, for administering
  poison to _George_ and _Joseph Langman_, of Downham, in the Isle of
  Ely, at the Assizes holden at Ely on Wednesday, March 4th, 1822,
  before _Edward Christian, Esq._ Chief Justice of the Isle. The
  prisoner was convicted and executed.

Footnote 209:

  M. R. S. T. iv, P. iii, p. 278.

Footnote 210:

  “Nous adoptons la division suivante, en six classes, de tous les
  poisons connus, et de toutes les manières possibles par lesquelles
  les substances vénéneuses peuvent nuire au corps humain:

Footnote 211:

  _Belloc_ surmises that where acrid poisons have been administered,
  narcotics may have been taken to relieve pain; and thus that a sort of
  combination of the symptoms of both classes may be produced.

Footnote 212:

  PHARMACOLOGIA. Edit. 5th, vol. i, page 225, c. _Antidotes_.

Footnote 213:

  Journal de Physiologie Experimentale, (1er numero Janvier 1821.)

Footnote 214:

  The adoption of this term led to a very extraordinary error in
  medicine—the application of Arsenic in the form of vapour, together
  with the fumes of frankincense, myrrh, and other gums, in a paroxysm
  of Asthma! This frightful practice arose from confounding the gum
  Juniper, or Vernix of the Arabians, which by their medical writers was
  prescribed in fumigations, under the name of Sandarach, for the
  Σανδαρακη of the Greeks.

Footnote 215:

  _Orfila._ Toxicolog. General.

Footnote 216:

  Pharmacologia, edit. v, vol. 2, art. _Arsenici Oxydum_.

Footnote 217:

  A very large quantity is annually prepared from the sublimate which
  collects in the chimneys and flues of the smelting works and burning
  houses in Cornwall. We have examined samples prepared according to the
  improved process of Dr. _Edwards_, and found them to be perfectly free
  from foreign admixture: a fact of much greater importance than the
  reader may at first imagine. Those who require farther information
  upon this subject may consult a paper in the first volume of the
  _Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall_, by J. H.
  VIVIAN, Esq. entitled “_Observations on the processes for making the
  different preparations of Arsenic, which are practised in Saxony_.”

Footnote 218:

  _Bergman_ ii, 286. We are, however, upon the authority of _Mr. Richard
  Phillips_, inclined to consider this statement of its specific gravity
  incorrect. He found that when transparent it did not exceed 3·715,
  and, when opaque, 3·260.

Footnote 219:

  Vol. ii, p. 86.

Footnote 220:

  The chemist may satisfy himself of this fact by heating some arsenious
  acid on a piece of platina foil, and then alternately raising and
  depressing it into the blue flame of the spirit, when corresponding
  changes in odour will take place in the fumes.

Footnote 221:

  See page 184, Note.

Footnote 222:

  See _Mr. Marshall’s_ Remarks, &c.

Footnote 223:

  See the case reported by _Dr. Yelloly_, in the 5th volume of the
  Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journal.

Footnote 224:

  Epist. 168.

Footnote 225:

  De Pest. Hist. 99. Annot.

Footnote 226:

  De Peste Lond. p. 239.

Footnote 227:

  Recueil Periodique de la Societé de Med. de Paris, tom. vi. p. 22.

Footnote 228:

  Nouveaux Elemens de Med. operat. par _J. P. Roux_.

Footnote 229:

  Nouvelles Experiences sur les Contre-Poisons de l’Arsenic. Par
  _Casimir Renault_. A. Paris. A. 9, pp. 119.

Footnote 230:

  A belief in this mode of poisoning appears to be of very ancient
  origin. CALPURNIUS BESTIA was said by _Pliny_ (Hist. Nat. Lib. 27.
  Cap. 2.) to have been particularly skilled in such a process, and to
  have murdered many of his wives when asleep, by bathing the parts of
  generation with the juice of Aconite; and Dr. _Gordon Smith_, in his
  work on Forensic Medicine, relates, on the authority of _Schenckius_,
  the tragical death of _Ladislas_, or _Lancelot_, surnamed the
  Victorious and the Liberal, who succeeded to the contested throne of
  Naples in 1386, and died at the age of thirty-eight in great pain, in
  consequence of having been poisoned by the daughter of a physician, of
  whom he was passionately fond, _per concubitum_. Sir _Thomas Brown_,
  in his _Vulgar Errors_, alludes to an ancient story of an “Indian king
  that sent unto _Alexander_ a fair woman, _fed with Aconites_, and
  other poisons, with the intent that she either by converse or
  _copulation_ might destroy him.”

Footnote 231:

  See page 137.

Footnote 232:

  _Philosophical Transactions._ 1811.

Footnote 233:

  M. _Orfila_ observes that there are many cases of poisoning by
  arsenious acid introduced into the stomach, in which we are unable to
  discover the slightest appearance of erosion or inflammation in the
  alimentary canal; such cases are recorded by _Chaussier_, _Etmuller_,
  _Marc_, _Sallin_, and _Renault_.

Footnote 234:

  We well remember performing some experiments at Cambridge, many years
  ago, upon mildew, which as far as they went corroborate this assertion
  of _Jaegar_, for its propagation was not prevented by arsenic. See
  also “The effects of Arsenical fumes,” vol. I, p. 332.

Footnote 235:

  See Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journ. for January 1, 1811.

Footnote 236:

  Elements of Juridical Medicine, p. 76.

Footnote 237:

  Prestwich on Poisons.

Footnote 238:

  Pharmacologia, Edit. 5. vol. ii. p. 89.

Footnote 239:

  Medical Transactions, vol. vi, p. 414.

Footnote 240:

  See Appendix, page 277.

Footnote 241:

  This substance may be said to consist of Charcoal, in a state of
  extremely minute division, and the sub-carbonate of Potass. It is
  prepared by deflagrating, in a crucible, two parts of Super-tartrate
  of Potass with one part of Nitrate of Potass.

Footnote 242:

  In order to close the end of the tube, where a blow-pipe is not to be
  procured, (which, says _Dr. Bostock_, we may suppose upon these
  occasions will often be the case) the end is to be placed in a common
  fire until it is completely softened, and a pair of small tongs being
  at the same time made red hot, the tube is to be withdrawn from the
  fire, and the heated end pinched by the tongs, and at the same time
  bent up at an acute angle, so as to be brought parallel to the body of
  the tube. The tube is then to be heated a second time, and being again
  firmly pinched by the hot tongs, the end will be found to be
  completely impervious.

Footnote 243:

  _Dr. Bostock_ states that the best proportions for this coating are,
  one part of common pipe clay, to three parts of fine sand; which are
  to be well kneeded together, and reduced to such a state of tenacity,
  that the lute will readily adhere to the tube, and its different parts
  unite without forming a visible seam. “_Observations on the different
  methods recommended for detecting minute portions of Arsenic, by J.
  Bostock, M.D._” Read before the Liverpool Medical Society, and
  published in the Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journ. April, 1809.

Footnote 244:

  See the paper above quoted.

Footnote 245:

  _Black’s_ Lectures, v. ii, p. 430.

Footnote 246:

  _Foderé_ recommends this process, _Traité de Med. Leg._ t. iv, p. 153;
  and Dr. Jaeger, in his Thesis, before quoted, observes that he has
  been enabled to recognise the tenth of a grain of arsenious acid,
  although mixed with sugar, by its odour, when thrown upon burning
  coals! We must be allowed to question this fact; Dr. Jaeger, no doubt,
  believed that he recognised the alliaceous odour, but it must have
  been the sole effect of the imagination. Dr. Bostock states that such
  a test is not to be depended upon; for, unless the arsenic be in
  considerable quantity, the odour is not sufficiently perceptible; and
  if it be mixed with either an animal or a vegetable substance, the
  smoke and smell arising from these bodies, when heated, will
  altogether prevent our recognising the peculiar odour of the arsenic.
  When a quantity of arsenic is mixed with an equal weight of flour, and
  placed upon iron at a low red heat, so as not to cause the flour to
  inflame, the suffocating smoke that arises from the latter can be
  alone perceived; nor is it possible to discover that any thing has
  been mixed with it. _Edinb. Med. Journ._ _l. c._ This last objection
  of Dr. Bostock is true in fact, although it admits of a different
  explanation, for at a low temperature the arsenious acid will be
  volatilized _without decomposition_; in which case no alliaceous odour
  can be developed.

Footnote 247:

  The paper was read before the Liverpool Medical Society.

Footnote 248:

  London Dispensatory. Edit. 3, p. 176.

Footnote 249:

  See a letter from _Mr. Hume_ on the subject, to the Editors of the
  Medical and Physical Journal. July, 1810.

Footnote 250:

  On the detection of very minute quantities of Arsenic and Mercury. By
  _James Smithson_, Esq. F.R.S. _Annals of Philosophy_, August, 1822.

Footnote 251:

  If any trifling opacity occur in a simple solution of arsenic, when
  assayed by the nitrate of silver, it may be considered as the effects
  of some casual impurity; this may be farther demonstrated by bringing
  over the surface of the arsenical liquid, a piece of blotting paper,
  or a stopper moistened with a solution of ammonia, when there will
  instantly form a copious yellow precipitate of arsenite of silver. If
  this experiment be performed by spreading the mixed solutions of
  arsenious acid and nitrate of silver over a surface of glass, laid
  upon white paper, the result will be most striking and beautiful, for
  on slowly bringing the ammoniacal test over it, the yellow cloud will
  gradually diffuse itself over the surface.

Footnote 252:

  Pharmacologia. Edit. 5, vol. ii, p. 96.

Footnote 253:

  London Medical and Physical Journal, January, 1818.

Footnote 254:

  The following is the formula for its preparation. Dissolve ten grains
  of _lunar caustic_, in ten times its weight of distilled water; to
  this add, _guttatim_, liquid ammonia, until a precipitate is formed;
  continue cautiously to add the ammonia, repeatedly agitating the
  mixture until the precipitate is nearly redissolved. The object of
  allowing a small portion to remain undissolved is, to guard against an
  excess of ammonia. Wherever the test is used, the liquid to which it
  is added ought to be quite cold.

Footnote 255:

  This is very important, for an excess of ammonia redissolves the
  yellow precipitate, and therefore defeats the object of the test. The
  fixed alkalies, in excess, have not such a property.

Footnote 256:

  The great impression made upon the public mind in Cornwall by the
  above trial, produced a disposition to regard every sudden death with
  more than usual jealousy. In consequence, therefore, of a report
  having arisen that a young woman had died after an illness of
  forty-eight hours, and been hastily buried at Madron, near Penzance,
  the magistrates of that district issued their warrant for the
  disinterment of the body, and requested the author’s attendance at the
  examination. The dissection was accordingly conducted in the church,
  when it appeared that the immediate cause of death had been an
  inflammation of the intestines; the stomach was found to contain a
  considerable portion of liquid, which was carefully collected and
  examined; no solid matter could be discovered in it, nor were any
  particles found to be adhering to the coats of the stomach. The fluid
  appeared to consist principally of the remains of a quantity of
  pennyroyal tea, which had been the last thing administered to the
  deceased. This was divided into several distinct portions, and placed
  in separate wine glasses, and submitted, in the presence of the High
  Sheriff, and some other gentlemen whose curiosity had been excited by
  the late trial of _Donnall_, to a series of experiments, amongst which
  the following may be particularized, as bearing upon the present
  question, and as affording an important elucidation of it.

  A few drops of a solution of _sub-carbonate of potass_ were added to
  the liquid, in one of the glasses, when its colour, which was
  originally of a light hazel, was instantly deepened into a reddish
  yellow; the sulphate of copper was then applied, when a precipitate
  fell down, which every one present simultaneously pronounced to be of
  a “_vivid grass green_” hue; but, on pouring off the supernatant
  liquid, and transferring the precipitate upon a sheet of white paper,
  it assumed the blue colour which is so characteristic of the
  _carbonate of copper_. The explanation of the phenomenon, and the
  fallacy to which it gave rise, became obvious; the yellow colour
  imparted to the liquid by the alkali, was the effect of the latter
  body upon the vegetable extractive matter of the infusion. The other
  portions were then strictly examined, but no indications of arsenic or
  any other metallic poison were discovered.

Footnote 257:

  This explanation applies equally to the objection lately advanced by
  _Dr. Porter_, of the University of South Carolina, who, in his
  observations on the tests of arsenic, remarks, that an appearance
  similar to “_Scheele’s Green_,” is produced by the carbonate of
  potass, when added to a solution of the sulphate of copper in coffee,
  but without arsenic, more striking than if even a weak solution of
  arsenic were used. _Silliman’s Journal_, iii. 865.

  FODERE reports a case, in which an erroneous conclusion respecting the
  presence of arsenic was drawn, evidently owing to the same source of
  fallacy. The Society of Medicine at Marseilles, in consequence of a
  girl having been poisoned by a quack medicine, appointed a scientific
  person to examine the composition of the _Nostrum_; this person,
  strongly prepossessed with the opinion that it contained arsenic,
  applied the _copper test_ above described, and having obtained by
  means of it, a _green precipitate_, reported, without any further
  inquiry, that the medicine in question was an arsenical solution.
  _Foderé_, however, suspected the correctness of the conclusion, in
  consequence of the residue not yielding by combustion, any alliaceous
  odour; a new analysis was therefore made, which proved the nostrum to
  be nothing more than a very strong alcoholic tincture of colocynth.
  _Médecine Légale, tom. iv. p._ 137.

Footnote 258:

  It is hardly necessary to observe that neither the carbonate of
  ammonia or of potass, or sulphuric or muriatic acid, produce any
  effect whatever in a pure solution of white arsenic.

Footnote 259:

  Corrosive sublimate, however, produces both these effects, from causes
  which we have fully explained under the consideration of that poison.

Footnote 260:

  _Toxicologie Générale_, supra citat.

Footnote 261:

  See _Leçons de Médecine Légale_, a Paris, 1821. “Experiences chimiques
  propres à decouvrir les poisons minéraux qui ont été mêlés avec du
  thé, du café, du vin, ete.” _Trente-unieme Leçon._ _p._ 415.

Footnote 262:

  Chirurg. Med. p. 185.

Footnote 263:

  The _arsenite of potass_, which has been long known under the name of
  the “_arsenical salt of Macquer_” has been used in medicine, and the
  Dublin Pharmacopœia contains a process for the preparation of
  “_arsenias kali_.”

Footnote 264:

  Nouvelles Experiences, &c., op. sup. cit.

Footnote 265:

  Opera Omnia de Venenis, 1761.

Footnote 266:

  Υδραργυρος of the Greeks from its fluidity and colour. Quicksilver.
  _Quick_, in the old Saxon tongue signified living: an epithet derived
  from its mobility.

Footnote 267:


Footnote 268:

  _Hassenfratz_ Ann. de Chim. xxviii, 12.

Footnote 269:

  Hence it was called by the alchymists the _Dragon_.

Footnote 270:

  _Mead_ on Poisons, edit. 4, p. 196.

Footnote 271:

  Second edition, p. 89.

Footnote 272:

  For the report of the above satisfactory case we are indebted to _Dr.
  Gordon Smith_, who has related it in his work on Forensic Medicine, p.

Footnote 273:

  Edit. 5, vol. 1, p. 260.

Footnote 274:

  “Further experiments and observations on the action of Poisons on the
  animal system.” Phil. Trans. 1812.

Footnote 275:

  For a history of the different quack medicines which contain mercury,
  see Pharmacologia, vol. ii, p. 239.

Footnote 276:

  Opera Medica. Epist. i, p. 200.

Footnote 277:

  Contre-poisons de l’Arsenic, du sublimé corrosif, &c.

Footnote 278:

  Proposed by _M. Duval_, “Dissertation sur la Toxicologie.”

Footnote 279:

  _M. Chausarel._ “Observations sur diverses substances Vénéneuses,” p.

Footnote 280:

  We find in an ancient epigram of Ausonius, that a woman gave to her
  husband some metallic mercury, with the design of increasing the
  energy of a certain poison, which she administered to him. But instead
  of producing this effect, the mercury, on the contrary, entirely
  re-established the health of the person poisoned. The celebrated
  _Goethe_ upon asking the Professor _Doebereiner_ of Jena, his opinion
  upon the above case, received in reply, that the poison must have been
  corrosive sublimate, since, of all the known poisons, it was the only
  one whose power was weakened by mercury.

  This story induced _Orfila_ to ascertain the truth by experiment, and

Footnote 281:

  _Mr. Hart._ “What did you do with the flour and pork?

  _C. Carter._ I made it into four dumplings, two with pork, and two
  without, and tied the two largest, with pork in them, up in bags.

  ---- With what did you mix the flour?

  ---- With milk.

  ---- When you were making these dumplings, did you observe any thing?

  ---- They made different to any thing which I had ever made before.

  ---- Explain that difference?

  ---- They broke and crumbled all into little bits. I had to knock them
  in a stant like when we make butter. They would not hold together.

  ---- Had you more or less difficulty than usual?

  ---- More trouble than I ever had before.”

                                               _Extract from the trial._

Footnote 282:

  We have been informed that, by this simple and beautiful test, Mr.
  Archdeacon _Wollaston_ identified the presence of corrosive sublimate
  in the dumplings by which _Michael Whiting_ attempted to poison his
  brothers-in-law, at Ely, as stated in the preceding page, as well as
  at 197. Although in the report of the trial in our possession, the
  professor does not appear to have furnished the court with any account
  of the process by which he discovered the poison.

Footnote 283:

  Trial of Mary _Bateman_ for the wilful murder of _Rebecca Perigo_, at
  the York Assizes, 1809. As we have on several occasions alluded to
  this trial, it may perhaps be satisfactory to give a short sketch of
  the case in this place.

  This diabolical woman, under the pretext of possessing the art of
  witchcraft, committed numerous frauds, and worked with so much success
  upon the credulity of her victims, as to obtain considerable sums of
  money, and reduce them to the extremes of poverty; while, in order to
  conceal the frauds, she consigned whole families to the grave by her
  poisons. Her detection was brought about by the robbery of a family of
  the name of _Perigo_, from whom she obtained the sum of seventy
  pounds, besides cloathes and furniture, under the pretence of engaging
  a Miss _Blythe_ to relieve _Perigo’s_ wife from the effects of an
  “evil wish,” under which she was supposed to labour; when the
  appointed time arrived for the restoration of the property, and the
  promised cure of the wife, _Mary Bateman_ sent a powder (_Arsenic_)
  which she directed them to add to their pudding, and advised them,
  should they be ill after eating it, to take a spoonful of prepared
  honey with which she supplied them. The wife ate the pudding, and soon
  afterwards died; the husband, however, very narrowly escaped: for this
  murder she was tried and convicted; and thus was a system of robbery
  and murder, scarcely equalled in the annals of crime, happily exposed
  and ended.

Footnote 284:

  In the Philosophical Magazine for December, 1821, a communication is
  to be found from a Mr. _Murray_, which would have been too ridiculous
  to require notice, had it not involved a question connected with the
  habitudes of corrosive sublimate and iron, which might possibly
  occasion error. After stating that certain metallic solutions may be
  decomposed through the agency of magnetism, he says, a solution of
  corrosive sublimate may be thus made to yield metallic mercury, by
  introducing into it a bar of magnetised iron! He had not the wit to
  inquire whether unmagnetised iron might not prove equally powerful as
  a decomposing agent.

Footnote 285:

  _Orfila_, l. c.

Footnote 286:

  _Orfila_, l. c.

Footnote 287:

  Edinburgh Med. & Surg. Journal, v.

Footnote 288:

  Ann. de Chimie et Phys. iv. 334.

Footnote 289:

  Tartarized Antimony, administered as an emetic, may decompose the salt
  in the stomach.

Footnote 290:

  Consultation Medico-legale sur une Accusation de l’empoisonnement par
  le _Muriate de Mercure sur-oxydé_. p. 146.

Footnote 291:

  L. C.

Footnote 292:

  The above passage is quoted from _Waller’s_ translation of _Orfila’s_
  Treatise on Poisons, vol. i, p. 73.

Footnote 293:

  Comment: Med. in Processus Criminales.

Footnote 294:

  Principles of Forensic Medicine, p. 113.

Footnote 295:

  _Accum_ on culinary poisons, or “Death in the Pot.” As this is the
  last occasion which we shall have to mention the above work, we may
  observe by the way, that this _ad captandum_ title is not original
  with _Mr. Accum_, for there is a dissertation by _Mauchart_, entitled

Footnote 296:

  Many of the preparations lately presented by _Dr. Baillie_ to the
  College of Physicians have become black, in consequence of the
  vermilion, with which they are injected, having been adulterated with
  red lead.

Footnote 297:

  Upon this subject, the reader may consult the Historical Introduction
  to the Pharmacologia, page 87.

Footnote 298:

  Annal. de Chem. xxxii. 255.

Footnote 299:

  We have upon this, as well as on similar occasions, preferred adopting
  the name by which the substance is known in common parlance, to that
  which might more strictly accord with our scientific views of its

Footnote 300:

  Pharmacologia, Edit. v. vol. 2. p. 65.

Footnote 301:

  F. Hoffmanni Op. om. T. 1. par. ii. c. v. p. 219.

Footnote 302:

  This subject is treated very copiously in the first volume of the
  Pharmacologia, page 152. To this work the author must refer the
  reader, for the limits of the present volume will not allow more than
  a mere enunciation of the fact.

Footnote 303:

  Elements of Juridical Medicine, edit. 2, p. 96.

Footnote 304:

  “Further experiments and observations on the Action of Poisons on the
  Animal system, by _B. C. Brodie, Esq._ F. R. S. Communicated to the
  Society for the improvement of Animal Chemistry, and by them to the
  Royal Society.” _Phil. Trans._ for 1812, vol. 102, p. 205.

Footnote 305:

  To those who are curious upon this subject, we recommend the perusal
  of an interesting essay, entitled “Observations on the Tin trade of
  the Ancients in Cornwall, and on the Ictis of Diodorus Siculus,” by
  Sir _Christopher Hawkins_, Bart. F.R.S. &c.

Footnote 306:

  See page 144 of this volume; and article _Cupri Sulphas_ in
  Pharmacologia, vol. 2, p. 167, _note_.

Footnote 307:

  We have long considered that the process of salting meat is something
  more than the mere saturation of the animal fibre with muriate of
  soda; some unknown combinations and decompositions take place, which
  future experiment will probably discover.

Footnote 308:

  Water may thus be preserved in copper cisterns, without contracting
  any metallic impregnation, even should the surface of the cistern be
  coated with the oxide and carbonate of copper.

Footnote 309:

  _Dr. Johnson_, in his Essay on Poison, relates the history of three
  men being poisoned, after excruciating sufferings, in consequence of
  eating food cooked in an unclean copper vessel, on board the Cyclops
  frigate; and, besides these, thirty-three men became ill from the same

Footnote 310:

  See the Ladies Library, vol. ii, p. 203; Modern Cookery, or the
  English Housewife, edit, 2, p. 94; and the English Housekeeper, p.
  352, 354.

Footnote 311:

  This practice is of ancient origin, thus _Pliny_ “Stannum, illinitum
  æneis vasis, saporem gratiorem facit, et compescit æruginis virus.”
  Lib. xxxiv, cap. 17.

Footnote 312:

  _Orfila_, l. c.

Footnote 313:

  Recherches Chimiques sur l’Etain par _Bayen et Charlard_, 1781.

Footnote 314:

  Annales de Chimie.

Footnote 315:

  See _Thomson’s_ System of Chemistry.

Footnote 316:

  Plinii Lib. xxxiv. cap. 2, 10.

Footnote 317:

  We extract the notice of this case from Dr. _Gordon Smith’s_ work, not
  having a copy of Metzger’s Principles of Judiciary Medicine at hand.

Footnote 318:

  _Orfila_, l. c.

Footnote 319:

  Pharmacologia, vol. ii. art. _Argenti Nitras_.

Footnote 320:

  _Boerhaave_ relates the instance of a student in pharmacy having
  swallowed some lunar caustic, in consequence of which the most serious
  symptoms resulted, such as excruciating pains, gangrene, and sphacelus
  of the primæ viæ. _Metzger_ also mentions a case, where a piece of
  lunar caustic was accidentally dropped into the throat of a person
  while applying it to an ulcer, but that the patient was saved by
  drinking copious draughts of milk.

Footnote 321:

  In the neutralization of acid poisons in the stomach, it is a great
  object to avoid _carbonated_ alkalies and earths, on account of the
  large volume of carbonic acid, thus given off, proving highly

Footnote 322:

  Pharmacologia, vol. ii, art. _Acid Nitric_.

Footnote 323:

  Traité de l’Empoisonment par l’Acide Nitrique; par _A. E. Tartra_,
  Médecin. à Paris 1802.

Footnote 324:

  Some experiments and researches on the saline contents of sea-water,
  undertaken with a view to correct and improve its chemical analysis.
  By _A. Marcet_, M.D. F.R.S. in the Phil. Trans. for the year 1822.
  part 2.

Footnote 325:

  It is known in commerce by this name, since it is prepared on a large
  scale, by distilling sugar with nitric acid. It derives the term
  _oxalic_ acid, from the plant which so abundantly contains it, viz.
  _oxalis acetosella_, or wood sorrel.

Footnote 326:

  ESSENTIAL SALT OF LEMONS. “The preparation sold under this name, for
  the purpose of removing iron moulds from linen, consists of cream of
  tartar, and super-oxalate of potass, or _salt of sorrel_, in equal
  proportions.” _Pharmacologia._

Footnote 327:

  The parents of this child suppose that the violence of the screaming
  ruptured the vesicles by which the breathing was impeded, and thus
  proved an unexpected means of cure.

Footnote 328:

  See “An account of the case of a man who died of the effects of the
  fire at Eddystone Light-house,” by Mr. _Edward Spry_, Surgeon, at
  Plymouth. PHIL. TRANS. vol. xlix, part 2, p. 477, A. D. 1756.

Footnote 329:

  There are some exceptions to this law; for instance, the tincture of
  litmus, and litmus paper, are always rendered more intensely blue, by
  the addition of alkalies. There are also other bodies, besides
  alkalies, which change the yellow colour of turmeric to a brown. Upon
  this subject see an interesting paper in the 26th number of the
  Journal of Science and the Arts, p. 315, by _Mr. Faraday_, entitled
  “On the changing of vegetable colours as an alkaline property, and on
  some bodies possessing it.” By this communication we are informed that
  even the strong acids redden turmeric paper, and that a very weak
  nitric acid gives it a tint exactly like that produced by an alkali.
  Different metallic salts are characterised by similar effects.

Footnote 330:

  A new alkali has been lately discovered in a mineral called
  _Petalite_, by _M. Arfwedson_, a young Sweedish chemist, but as the
  extreme rarity of the substance will prevent its ever becoming an
  object of forensic interest, we shall pass it over without further
  notice. Some new alkaline principles have also been developed by the
  French and German chemists, in the analysis of certain vegetables, but
  as these bodies have a physiological action, which is wholly
  independent of their alkalinity, they will be more properly noticed
  under the history of the vegetables which contain them.

Footnote 331:

  Should the solution contain a small portion of lime, as may occasionly
  happen, the cloud will be very slight, and cannot give origin to any
  important fallacy.

Footnote 332:

  _Orfila_, vol. i, p. 404.

Footnote 333:

  Essay on Poisons, page 143.

Footnote 334:

  _Orfila_, Lib. Cit.

Footnote 335:

  _Brodie_, Phil. trans. 1812.

Footnote 336:

  This is an important characteristic, since all the metallic poisons
  yield an abundant precipitate, either black, yellow, or red, on the
  addition of one or other of the alkaline hydro-sulphurets.

Footnote 337:

  “GENERA CRUSTACEORUM ET INSECTORUM,” tom. 2, p. 220. The London
  College in their present pharmacopœia refer this insect to the genus
  LYTTA, an error which will be corrected in the future edition.

Footnote 338:

  System of Chemistry, edit. 5, vol. iv. p. 436. See also Ann. de Chim.
  lxxvi. p. 308.

Footnote 339:

  Page 129, _note_.

Footnote 340:

  _Homberg_, Mem. Par, 1692.

Footnote 341:

  Ann. de Chim. xxvii, 87.

Footnote 342:

  The earliest account we have of this substance having been used in
  medicine is to be found in the seventh volume of _Haller’s_ collection
  of Theses, relating to the history and cure of diseases. The original
  dissertation is entitled “_De Phosphori loco Medicamenti adsumpti
  virtute medica, aliquot casibus singularibus confirmata,” Auctore J.
  Gabi, Mentz_.

Footnote 343:

  Memoirs of the Society of Emulation at Paris.

Footnote 344:

  See _Nicholson’s_ Journal iii, 85.

Footnote 345:

  For July, 1813.

Footnote 346:

  Numb. xxxi, 22.

Footnote 347:

  System of Chemistry, 4th edit. 1, 274-277.

Footnote 348:

  De Architectura, lib. viii, c. 7.

Footnote 349:

  Researches into the Properties of Spring water, with Medical cautions
  against the use of Lead, by _W. Lambe_, M.D. &c.

Footnote 350:

  A case is recorded, wherein a legal controversy took place, in order
  to settle the disputes between the proprietors of an estate and a
  plumber, originating from a similar cause—the plumber being accused of
  having furnished a faulty reservoir; whereas the case was proved to be
  owing to the chemical action of the water on the lead. _Dr. Lambe_
  states an instance where the proprietor of a well, ordered his plumber
  to make the lead of a pump of double the thickness of the metal
  usually employed for pumps, to save the charge of repairs; because he
  had observed that the water was so hard, as he called it, that it
  corroded the lead very soon.

Footnote 351:

  _Van Swieten_ ad _Boerhaave_ Aphorism. 1060 Comment.

Footnote 352:

  Libro supra citato, p. 24.

Footnote 353:

  _Duncan’s_ Med. Comment. Dec. 2, 1794.

Footnote 354:

  See the papers by Sir George _Baker_, in the first volume of the
  Medical Transactions of the College of Physicians, viz. “_An Inquiry
  concerning the Cause of the Endemial Colic of Devonshire_,” p. 175.

  “_An Examination of several means by which the_ POISON OF LEAD _may be
  supposed frequently to gain admittance into the human body,
  unobserved, and unsuspected_,” p. 257.

  “_An attempt towards an historical account of that species of
  Spasmodic Colic, distinguished by the name of the Colic of_ POITOU,”
  p. 139.

Footnote 355:

  See a work by Dr. _William Musgrave_, which contains the earliest
  account of the Devonshire colic, entitled “_Dissertatio de Arthritide
  symptomatica_,” 1703; and also Dr. _Huxham’s_ work on the “_Morbus
  Colicus Damnoniorum_.”

Footnote 356:

  Annales de Chimie, vol. 1, p. 76.

Footnote 357:

  See _Fourcroy_, Memoire sur la nature du Vin lithargyré, in the
  “Histoire de l’Academie Royale,” for 1817.

Footnote 358:

  Sir _George Baker_ considered that the dry belly ache, which is common
  to the drinkers of _new_ rum, in the West Indies, ought to be wholly
  referred to its contamination with lead.

Footnote 359:

  The art of glazing earthenware with lead is of modern invention; that
  part of the old earthenware, preserved in the British museum, which is
  supposed to have been of Roman manufacture, is not glazed. The
  vessels, which are called Etruscan, and which are supposed to be of
  greater antiquity than the Roman, have indeed a paint or polish on
  their surfaces; but that does not appear to resemble our modern
  saturnine vitrification.

Footnote 360:

  The workmen who are employed at the glazing tub are subject to colics
  and paralysis.

Footnote 361:

  The frequency with which the inhabitants of Madrid, and of a great
  part of New Castille in Spain, were harrassed with colic, as recorded
  by _M. Thierry_, received a satisfactory explanation from the fact of
  glazed earthenware having been universally used in that country for
  culinary vessels.

  _Sir G. Baker_ in a paper entitled “_Further Observations on the
  Poisons of Lead_,” Med. Trans. vol. 2, p. 419, mentions the practice
  of drinking cyder out of glazed earthen vessels as dangerous. Dr.
  _Watson_, junior, saw several instances of the Devonshire colic,
  during the time of harvest, apparently from this cause. And a similar
  instance fell under the notice of Dr. _Charleston_, where six persons
  became, at one time, paralytic, by drinking cyder, brought to them
  while at harvest work, in a new earthen pitcher, the inside of which
  was glazed. That the glazing was dissolved by the liquor appeared not
  only by the effects which it produced, but from its having given, as
  these persons informed Dr. _Charleston_, that astringent sweetish
  taste to the liquor, by which the solutions of this metal are so
  peculiarly distinguished.

Footnote 362:

  As it is very desirable to exclude the use of _lead_ altogether, the
  Society for the promotion of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, has
  offered a premium for a substitute for this metallic glaze. For an
  account of several new glazes, as substitutes for _lead_, see
  _Parkes’s Chemical Essays_, vol. iii, p. 193-576.

Footnote 363:

  _Darwin’s_ Zoonomia, vol. 3, cl. 1, 2, 4, 8.

Footnote 364:

  Chemical Essays, vol. v, p. 193.

Footnote 365:

  Philosophical Magazine, 1819, no. 257, p. 229.

Footnote 366:

  The use of the arsenic is to render the lead more brittle, and to
  dispose it to run into spherical drops.

Footnote 367:

  _Francis Citois_, the historian of this celebrated epidemic, published
  his “_Diatriba de novo et populari apud Pictones, dolore colico
  bilioso_,” A.D. 1617. In which he states that the “_dolor colicus
  Pictonicus_” was a new epidemic in the province of Poitou, about the
  year 1572; and after having prevailed in that province about 60 or 70
  years, it became milder, less untractable, and by degrees was
  translated to other parts of France. The supposition, however, says
  Sir _George Baker_, that the colic of Poitou was a new disease, about
  the time when Citois lived, is not true; the disease was even
  mentioned by our countryman _John of Gaddesden_, who appears to have
  written his _Rosa Anglica_ early in the fourteenth century. If we
  consult authors posterior to _Citois_, we find this species of colic
  mentioned in almost every practical book. We have an account in
  _Sennertus_ of its having prevailed epidemically, all over Silesia, in
  the year 1621. _Baglivi_ even affirms that “nihil facilius colicæ
  supervenit, quam paralysis.” None of these authors, however, appear to
  have entertained the slightest suspicion of the true source of the

Footnote 368:

  EPHEMERIDES GERMANICÆ, Ann. 4.—Observ. 60 by _Cockelius_.—Obs. 92 by
  _Brunnerus_.—Obs. 100 by _Wicarius_.

Footnote 369:

  Chemical Essays, vol. 3, page 369, edit. 3.

Footnote 370:

  Exam. Chy. de Differ. Subs. par M. Sage, p. 157.

Footnote 371:

  Medical Transactions of the College of Physicians, vol. ii, p. 86.

Footnote 372:

  The art of making wines, from fruits, flowers, and herbs; all the
  native growth of Great Britain, by _William Graham_, late of Ware in

Footnote 373:

  See “_Some experiments made upon Rum, in order to ascertain the cause
  of the colic, frequent among the Soldiers in the island of Jamaica, in
  the years 1781, and 1782_”; by JOHN HUNTER, M.D. In the Medical
  Transactions, vol. 3, p. 227.

Footnote 374:

  Annales de Chimie, tom. lvii, p. 84. Memoire de _M. Proust_.

Footnote 375:

  _Cerusse_ was in great request among the Roman ladies as a cosmetic.

Footnote 376:

  The manufacture of this colour was long kept secret; but its
  consumption has lately been greatly lessened by the introduction of
  the artificial CHROMATE OF LEAD, which is a yellow of much greater
  brilliancy than the muriate of that metal.

Footnote 377:

  See Repository of Arts, vol. viii, no. 47, p. 262.

Footnote 378:

  Med. Trans. vol. 2, p. 445.

Footnote 379:

  See a paper in the Medical Transactions, vol. 2, p. 68, “Of the Colica
  Pictonum,” by _R. Warren_, M.D. &c.

Footnote 380:

  _Paulus Ægineta_ is the first writer who has described a species of
  Colic terminating in Paralysis. (Lib. iii, c. 18, 43.)

Footnote 381:

  Poitou, this late province in France was divided at the revolution
  into the three departments of Vendée, Vienne, and the Two Sevres.

Footnote 382:

  Pictones—_Cæs._ People of France, whose chief city is Pictavium, now
  called Poictiers.

Footnote 383:

  _Percival’s_ Essays, vol. 1, p. 458.

Footnote 384:

  See our remarks upon this subject at page 142. See also _Teichmeyer_,
  Inst. Med. For. p. 164.

Footnote 385:

  Upon the subject of slow poisons we have already expressed the
  latitude of our belief, see page 143.

Footnote 386:

  Medical Transactions, vol. 2, p. 420.

Footnote 387:

  Transactions of Medical Society of London.

Footnote 388:

  Med. Legale, iv, § 921.

Footnote 389:

  “De Lithargyrio quoque mihi narravit, matronam quandam nobilem
  pulverem ejus in rubore faciei, postquam hic ipsi tanquam singulare et
  certissimum arcanum deprædicatus fuisset, in petia ligatum, axillis
  bis vel ter die aspersisse cum præsentaneo effectu; verum exinde
  subsecuta fuisse dyspnæam, lipothymiam, dolores vagos in abdomine,
  vomituritionem, et nauseam.”

Footnote 390:

  See his “Researches into the Properties of Spring water.” 8vo. London.
  _Johnson._ 1803.

Footnote 391:

  Observations on the Water with which Tunbridge is supplied for
  domestic purposes.

Footnote 392:

  The following is the method of preparing the test. Expose equal parts
  of sulphur and powdered oyster shells to a white heat for fifteen
  minutes; and, when cold, add an equal quantity of cream of tartar;
  these are to be put into a strong bottle with common water to boil for
  an hour; and the solution is afterwards to be decanted into ounce
  phials, adding twenty drops of muriatic acid to each.

Footnote 393:

  _Lambe_, op. sup. cit. page 175.

Footnote 394:

  On the ultimate Analysis of Vegetable and Animal Substances, by
  _Andrew Ure_, M.D.F.R.S. Phil. Trans. for 1822, part. 2.

Footnote 395:

  Essay on Chemical Analysis, by _J. G. Children, Esq._

Footnote 396:

  Where a compound is merely separated it is called an EDUCT; but where
  it arises from a new combination of the elements it is distinguished
  by the term PRODUCT.

Footnote 397:

  Recherches Physico-Chimiques.

Footnote 398:

  On the ultimate Analysis of Vegetable and Animal Substances, by
  _Andrew Ure_, M.D.F.R.S. Phil. Trans, for 1822, part 2.

Footnote 399:

  The author has already in the fifth edition of his Pharmacologia,
  entered so fully into the philosophy of medicinal combination, that he
  can scarcely feel regret at the limits of the present work not
  allowing him to dwell upon the subject.

Footnote 400:

  The Cambogia _Gutta_ Lin. (Polyandria Monogynia) and several species
  of Hypericum; Chelidonium, &c. also yield a similar juice.

Footnote 401:

  The Dutch appear to have first introduced it into Europe about the
  middle of the seventeenth century.

Footnote 402:

  Ελλεβορος λευκος of Dioscorides.

Footnote 403:

  Histoire des Plantes Vénéneuses de la Suisse.

Footnote 404:

  The same alkali has been discovered in the seeds of the _Veratrum
  Sabadilla_, and in the root of the _Colchicum Autumnale_.

Footnote 405:

  It was first cultivated by _Gerarde_ in 1596.

Footnote 406:

  See London Medical Repository, vol. xii, no. 67.

Footnote 407:

  Pharmacologia, vol. ii, art. _Extract. Elaterii_, p. 204.

Footnote 408:

  Fragmenta Chirurg. et Med. p. 66.

Footnote 409:

  Obs. Lib. iv, c. xxvi, p. 208.

Footnote 410:

  The juice of every species of _spurge_ is so acrid, that it corrodes
  and ulcerates the body wherever it is applied. Warts or corns,
  annointed with the juice presently disappear; hence this tribe of
  plants has derived the popular name of _wart weed_.

Footnote 411:

  One of the supposed proofs of the guilt of _Charles Angus_ in the case
  of _Margaret Burns_, as stated at page 177, rested upon the fact, that
  on searching the prisoner’s bed room, three bottles were found in the
  wardrobe, viz. one marked “_poison water_;” a second “_Jacob’s
  water_;” and a third “_Savine oil_.”

Footnote 412:

  The roman poets constantly use it in the plural number, which
  evidently shews that it was meant to denote other kinds of poisons, or
  poisons in general; thus JUVENAL in the first satire, v. 156.

             “Qui dedit ergo tribus patruis ACONITA, vehetur
             Pensilibus plumis,——”

  So again _Ovid_ in the first book of Metamorph, v. 47.

               “Lurida terribiles miscent ACONITA novercæ.”

Footnote 413:

  _Theophrastus_ tells us that a poison may be prepared from _aconite_
  so as to occasion death within any definite period; see page 183 in
  the present volume.

Footnote 414:

  See an account of this process of preparing extracts _in vacuo_, in
  Medico-Chirurg. Trans. vol. x, p. 240; and for a history of their
  superior powers, the author begs to refer the reader to an account of
  the articles in his Pharmacologia.

Footnote 415:

  Pharmacologia, vol. 1, p. 136.

Footnote 416:

  Med. Observ. and Inquiries, vol. v. p. 317.

Footnote 417:

  It may be obtained from opium by the following process, invented by
  ROBIQUET. Three hundred parts of pure opium are to be macerated during
  five days, in one thousand parts of common water; to the filtered
  solution, fifteen parts of perfectly pure magnesia (carefully avoiding
  the _carbonate_) are to be added; boil this mixture (A) for ten
  minutes, and separate the sediment (B) by a filter, washing it with
  cold water until the water passes off clear; after which, treat it
  alternately with hot and cold alcohol (12, 22. Bé) as long as the
  menstruum takes up any colouring matter; the residue is then to be
  treated with boiling alcohol (22, 32, Bé) on cooling, the solution
  will deposit the _Morphia_ in crystals.

  _Rationale of the process._ A soluble _meconiate of magnesia_ is, in
  the first place, formed; (A) while the sediment (B) consists of
  _morphia_, in the state of mixture, with the excess of magnesia; the
  boiling alcohol, with which this residuum is treated, exerts no action
  upon the magnesia, but dissolves the _morphia_, and, on cooling,
  surrenders it in a crystalline state.

Footnote 418:

  Ann. de Chim. et de Phys. tom. v.

Footnote 419:

  “Confessions of an English opium-eater.” London, 1822.

Footnote 420:

  History of Aleppo.

Footnote 421:

  _Orfila_ states that animals, on which the section of the _par vagum_
  of both sides has been performed, die at the end of two or three
  hours; after having experienced intoxication, somnolency, and
  convulsions. _Bulletin de la Soc. Philomatique, Mai 1808_, _t._ 1,
  _p._ 143.

Footnote 422:

  _Toriosa_ (_Istituzioni di Med. For._) has remarked that opium may act
  mortally without losing much of its weight in the stomach. We are very
  sceptical upon this point.

Footnote 423:

  The reader is requested to refer to our chapter “On the Physiological
  causes and phenomena of sudden death,” p. 22.

Footnote 424:

  See “Cases illustrating the decided efficacy of cold affusion in the
  treatment of poisoning by opium, by _S. Wray_.” _London Medical and
  Physical Journal_, for September 1822.

  “A case of poisoning by opium, in which the cold affusion was
  successfully employed; with observations on the medical management of
  similar occurrences, by _J. Copland_, M. D.” _Ibid._

  “On the most efficacious means of remedying the effects of opium, when
  taken in poisonous doses, by _J. H. Sprague_.” _Ibid._

Footnote 425:

  Avis au _peuple_, tom. ii, § 535, p. 280, 7th edit.

Footnote 426:

  “On the common syringe, with a flexible tube, as applicable to the
  removal of opium, and other poisons, from the stomach, by _F. Bush_.”
  _London Med. and Phys. Journ._ for September, 1822.

  “New means of extracting opium, &c. from the stomach, by _E. Jukes,
  Esq_.” _Ibid._ for November, 1822.

Footnote 427:

  See Pharmacologia, vol. 1, p. 234.

Footnote 428:

  Reports on Water, 1, 80.

Footnote 429:

  A very high degree of vascularity is often found in the stomach and
  alimentary canal of those who have been suddenly deprived of life. The
  reader may consult _Dr. Yelloly’s_ paper in the _Medico-chirurgical
  Transactions_, vol. iv, respecting the appearances found in the
  stomachs of several executed criminals.

  A case of poisoning by opium is given in the foreign department of the
  London Medical Repository, for November 1820; in which two drachms of
  solid opium had been swallowed, and on dissection a general congestion
  of blood was found in the internal organs.

Footnote 430:

  The stomach in this case was observed to be red, but the colour was
  traced to the tincture of cardamoms, which the deceased had taken.

Footnote 431:

  Philosophical Transactions, vol. xl, p. 446.

Footnote 432:

  It was discovered by _Scheele_, but _Gay-Lussac_ first succeeded in
  depriving it of a very great quantity of the water with which it was
  combined, when prepared according to the process of its discoverer.
  See _Annales de Chimie_, tom. lxxvii, p. 123.

Footnote 433:

  By the decomposition of muriatic acid, and the cyanuret of mercury.

Footnote 434:

  _Dr. Majendie_ has informed us that, in consequence of some
  carelessness, he breathed a portion of the vapour, while preparing the
  acid for the purpose of experiment; and that he suffered very violent
  pains in the chest, accompanied by feelings of oppression, which
  endured for several hours.

Footnote 435:

  “En conservant cet acide dans des vases bien fermés, même sans quil
  ait le contact de l’air, il se decompose quelquefois en moins d’une
  heure.” _Gay-Lussac._

Footnote 436:

  See “An Historical and Practical Treatise on the Internal use of
  hydro-cyanic (Prussic) acid, by _A. B. Granville_, M.D.” Second edit.
  London, 1820.

Footnote 437:

  See, however, an account of “A new substance found accompanying Welsh
  Culm, by _J. A. Paris_, M.D.” in the first volume of the Transactions
  of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall.

Footnote 438:

  The poisonous properties of this plant are alluded to by _Strabo_, who
  says that the _Lauro-cerasus_ produces a mode of death, similar to
  that of epilepsy.

Footnote 439:

  The merits of this case are to be found very fully discussed in a
  pamphlet, entitled “Considerations on the criminal proceedings of this
  country; on the danger of convictions on circumstantial evidence, and
  on the case of _Mr. Donellan_.” By a barrister of the Inner Temple,
  London, 1781.

Footnote 440:

  “Experiments and Observations on the different modes in which Death is
  produced by certain vegetable poisons.” Phil. Trans. vol. 101, for the
  year 1811.

Footnote 441:

  To those who may wish to gain further information upon this subject,
  we beg to recommend the perusal of _Dr. Granville’s_ work above

Footnote 442:

  Treatise on Prussic acid, sup. citat. p. 96.

Footnote 443:

  Journal General de Médecine, 1. xxiv, p 224.

Footnote 444:

  Annals of Philosophy, vol. i, p. 2, _new series_.

Footnote 445:

  From this person the plant received its generic name, _Nicotiana_; the
  specific appellation being taken from _Tabac_, the name of an
  instrument used by the natives of America in smoking the herb.

Footnote 446:

  In 1624 Pope Urban the VIII, published a decree of excommunication
  against all who took snuff in the church. Ten years after this,
  smoking tobacco was forbidden in Russia, under the pain of having the
  nose cut off. In 1653 the Council of the Canton of Appenzel cited
  smokers before them, whom they punished; and they ordered all
  inn-keepers to inform against such as were found smoking in their
  houses. The police regulations of Berne, made in 1661, were divided
  according to the ten commandments, in which the prohibition of smoking
  stood immediately beneath the command against adultery. This
  prohibition was renewed in 1675, and the tribunal instituted to put it
  into execution—viz. “CHAMBRE AU TABAC,” continued to the middle of the
  eighteenth century. Pope Innocent the XII, in 1590 excommunicated all
  those who were found taking snuff, or using tobacco, in any manner, in
  the church of St. Peter at Rome; even so late as 1719 the Senate of
  Strasburgh prohibited the cultivation of tobacco, from an apprehension
  that it would diminish the growth of corn. Amurath the IV published an
  edict which made the smoking tobacco a capital offence; this was
  founded on an opinion that it rendered the people infertile.

Footnote 447:

  Pharmacologia, vol. 1, 228, and vol. 2, art. Tabaci Folia.

Footnote 448:

  Vol. ii, p. 404.

Footnote 449:

  We are, however, by no means disposed to assign greater weight to this
  expression that it can fairly sustain; it may perhaps refer to the
  operation of dropping the poison into the ear, and not to the poison
  itself—thus _Juvenal_, “_stillavit_ in aurem.”

Footnote 450:

  Ephemerides des Curieux de la Nature, Dec. ii, An. i, p. 46.

Footnote 451:

  _Orfila_, Toxicol.

Footnote 452:

  Pharmacologia, vol. 1, p. 228.

Footnote 453:

  Pliny informs us that the word _cicuta_ amongst the ancients, was not
  indicative of any particular species of plant, but of vegetable
  poisons in general. We have already made the same remark with respect
  to Aconite.

Footnote 454:

  Κωνειον of Dioscorides.

Footnote 455:

  In the London Medical and Physical Journal, vol. 14, p. 425, we shall
  find a case wherein the hemlock was eaten through mistake for common
  parsley. Similar accidents are also recorded in _Miller’s_ Dictionary.

Footnote 456:

  It is figured in the Hortus Malabaricus under the name of _Canirum_.

Footnote 457:

  Annales de Chimie, t. 8 to 10.

Footnote 458:

  Ibid. t. x, 153.

Footnote 459:

  Journal de Physiologie Experimentale, 1^{er} numeroJanvier 1821, in a
  paper entitled “_Memoire sur le Méchanisme de l’Absorption_.”

Footnote 460:

  We avail ourselves of this report, as given by _Orfila_ in his System
  of Toxicology.

Footnote 461:

  Bulletin de la Société de Med. Nov. 1807.

Footnote 462:

  Analyse Chimique de la Coque du Levant. Paris, 1812.

Footnote 463:

  We have already stated that this sauce has been occasionally rendered
  poisonous by the presence of copper, p. 290.

Footnote 464:

  _Haller_, Helvet. hist.

Footnote 465:

  We have explained, at page 150, the sense in which we wish these terms
  to be received.

Footnote 466:

  Krascheminckow, Histoire Naturel du Kamtschatka, p. 209.

Footnote 467:

  Systematic arrangement of British Plants, vol. iv, p. 181.

Footnote 468:

  Leçons, faisant partie du Cours de Medecine Legale de _M. Orfila_.
  Paris, 1821.

Footnote 469:

  This fact is particularized, as some persons have supposed the
  symptoms which have arisen from the ingestion of these fungi, may have
  been the effect of copper derived from the cooking utensils.

Footnote 470:

  Let it be remembered that this term is to be received conventionally;
  we merely intend it to express certain phenomena, without any
  reference to their cause.

Footnote 471:

  _Mr. Brande._ Phil. Trans. 1811 and 1813.

Footnote 472:

  “I apprehend that the peculiar flavour of _cogniac_ depends upon the
  presence of an æthereal spirit, formed by the action of tartaric, or
  perhaps acetic acid upon alcohol. It is on this account that nitric
  æther, when added to malt spirits gives them the flavour of brandy.”
  Pharmacologia, vol. 2, p. 396.

Footnote 473:

  Pharmacologia, vol. 2, p. 397.

Footnote 474:

  See our chapter on “_the Physiological causes and Phenomena of Sudden
  Death_,” page 16.

  In the course of the present work we have frequently recommended the
  artificial inflation of the lungs, in cases where life is liable to be
  extinguished by suffocation, (_page_ 78); but we have not yet hinted
  at the possibility of employing such a resource with success in cases
  of narcotic poisoning, wherein the death may be physiologically
  considered as analogous to that occasioned by suffocation. _Mr.
  Brodie_ was the first philosopher who ventured to propose such an
  expedient, and in an experiment carefully performed on an animal under
  such circumstances its life was preserved.

  The success of the process will depend upon our being able to keep up
  an artificial breathing, until the effects of the narcotic have passed
  away, and the energy of the brain is restored. As during this interval
  the generation of animal heat appears to be in a great measure
  suspended, it will be necessary to maintain a sufficient temperature
  by art.

Footnote 475:

  We have just received from _Mr. Alcock_ a history of the particular
  circumstances of the interesting case alluded to at page 58 of the
  present volume, and we shall give insertion to it in our chapter on
  Anatomical Dissection.

Footnote 476:

  Treatise on Nervous Diseases, vol. 1, p. 221.

Footnote 477:

  Case of a woman bitten by a viper, _Med. and Phy. Journ._ vol. ii, p.

Footnote 478:

  Celsus Medicin. lib. 5, c. 27.

Footnote 479:

  Lucan Pharsal, c. 9.

Footnote 480:

  See our remarks on the effects produced by the accidental ingestion of
  boiling water, page 317, and which will apply to the circumstances of
  the present case.

Footnote 481:

  Med. Legale, t. iv, 835.

Footnote 482:

  Vol. 1, p. 519.

Footnote 483:

  See volume 1 of the present work, p. 95.

Footnote 484:

  See _Orfila_, vol. 2.

Footnote 485:

  See _Dr. Stone_ on the Diseases of the Stomach, p. 80. We also beg to
  direct the attention of the medical reader to a paper entitled “On the
  effects of certain articles of food, especially oysters, on women
  after child-birth, by _John Clarke_, M. D.” Med. Trans. vol. v, p.

Footnote 486:

  For October, 1808, vol. iv, p. 393.

Footnote 487:

  For June, 1815, vol. 3, p. 445.

Footnote 488:

  _Dr. Burrows_ has given us a list of them in the paper above alluded
  to; the most poisonous of which is the yellow-bill’d sprat, (_Clupea
  Thryssa_.) Indeed, says this author, it has rarely occurred that
  _immediate_ death has ensued between the tropics from the virus of any
  other fish. _M. Orfila_ observes that the action of this fish is so
  rapid, that it has been often seen at _St. Eustatia_ that persons have
  expired while still eating it.

Footnote 489:

  Med. Rep. vol. 3, p. 445.

Footnote 490:

  Gazette de Santé, Ire Mars, 1812, p. 51.—Ibid. 21 Mars, 1813.—Ibid. 1,
  Octob. 1812.

Footnote 491:

  Tom. iv, p. 85.

Footnote 492:

  _Behren’s_ Dissert. de Affect. a comest Mytil.

Footnote 493:

  Voyage of Discovery, vol. 2, p. 286, 287.

Footnote 494:

  The Principles of Forensic Medicine, _page_ 191.

Footnote 495:

  See Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journal, for Jan. 1811, p. 41.—_Bateman_
  on Cutaneous Diseases, art. _Prurigo_.

Footnote 496:

  Observ. on the Diseases of the Army in Jamaica, vol. ii, p. 182.

Footnote 497:

  Giornale di Fisica, &c. Secondo Bimestre, 1817.

Footnote 498:

  There is no trade more immediately destructive of health than dry
  grinding steel; the workmen are usually attacked by what is called the
  grinder’s asthma at twenty-five or thirty years of age, and few of
  them live to forty. The Society of Arts have long offered a reward for
  the invention of some mode of securing the workmen from this dreadful
  calamity, and in 1822 awarded their gold medal to _Mr. J. H. Abraham_,
  of Sheffield, for his Magnetic Guard for Needle-pointers, (see
  Transactions for 1822.) The contrivance is likely to answer its
  intended purpose, provided the obstinacy and prejudice of the workmen
  can be overcome by the perseverance of the master manufacturers, who
  are morally bound to adopt every probable means of securing the health
  of those employed under them, even though their servants should
  themselves neglect it.

Footnote 499:

  _Diemerbroeck_, lib. ii, p. 443.

Footnote 500:

  The oxide of mercury is not volatile.

Footnote 501:

  Where mercury is sublimed, it will usually assume the appearance of a
  black powder, in consequence of the extreme state of division it has
  undergone. This appearance has no doubt deceived the superficial
  observer, and given origin to many erroneous statements.

Footnote 502:

  “A small portion of mercury was put through a funnel into a clean dry
  bottle, capable of holding about six ounces, and formed a stratum at
  the bottom not one-eighth of an inch in thickness; particular care was
  taken that none of the mercury should adhere to the upper part of the
  inside of the bottle. A small piece of leaf-gold was then attached to
  the under part of the stopper of the bottle, so that when the stopper
  was put into its place, the leaf-gold was enclosed in the bottle. It
  was then set aside in a safe place, which happened to be both dark and
  cool, and left for between six weeks and two months. At the end of
  that time it was examined, and the leaf-gold was found whitened by a
  quantity of mercury, though every part of the bottle and mercury
  remained, apparently, just as before. This experiment has been
  repeated several times, and always with success. The utmost care was
  taken that mercury should not get to the gold, except by passing
  through the atmosphere of the bottle. I think therefore it proves that
  at common temperatures, and even when the air is present, mercury is
  always surrounded by an atmosphere of the same substance.”—_On the
  vapour of mercury at common temperatures, by M. Faraday, Chemical
  Assistant at the Royal Institution._ Journal of Science and the Arts,
  vol. 10, p. 354.

Footnote 503:

  _Mr. Plowman_ has since stated, in conversation, that he has seen five
  or six mice, in one day, come into the ward-room, leap up a
  considerable height, and fall down dead on the deck. He also stated
  that the food for the use of the canary bird was kept in well closed
  bottles, so that it was impossible for it to have contracted any
  metallic impregnation.

Footnote 504:

  The gases given off by burning coal, will vary very much according to
  the activity of the combustion, and the degree of moisture present; so
  that we may expect to receive sulphuretted hydrogen, sulphurous acid,
  carbonic oxide, carbonic acid, and carburetted hydrogen.

Footnote 505:

  Researches Chemical and Philosophical, chiefly concerning nitrous
  oxide, &c. London, 1800.

Footnote 506:

  Recherches de Physiologie et de chimie, p. 144, an. 1811.

Footnote 507:

  See the case in _Valentini_, _P. M. L._ p. 538, of a woman wilfully
  killed by continual and excessive doses of sulphuric acid,
  administered to her under pretence of medicine.

Footnote 508:

  See the trial of _Jane Butterfield_ for the murder of _Wm. Scawen_,
  Esq. published from the short hand writer’s notes, London 1775. _Miss
  Butterfield_ was acquitted, the case is therefore put

Footnote 509:

  Such was the case of the ignorant man who went out at night with the
  intention of shooting a ghost, which was supposed to haunt the village
  of Hammersmith; he actually shot a bricklayer’s labourer who was
  returning from his work; this was held to be murder, and the prisoner
  was convicted; he was not indeed a fit subject for execution, and was
  therefore pardoned; but this should not be extended into a doctrine,
  that gross ignorance, producing death, is always a pardonable offence.

                           Transcriber’s Note

This book uses inconsistent spelling and hyphenation, which were
retained in the ebook version. Ditto marks and dashes used to represent
repeated text have been replaced with the text that they represent. Some
corrections have been made to the text, including correcting the errata
noted in Volume 1 of this work, normalizing punctuation. Diacritics were
left off Greek words since they were used inconsistently and when they
were used they were often incorrect. Further corrections are noted

 p. 6: proved the means of resucitating -> proved the means of
 Anchor position for Footnote 8 assumed
 p. 14: whereas the _cadeverous_ stiffness -> whereas the _cadaverous_
 p. 24: in cases of supended animation -> in cases of suspended animation
 p. 30: in such cases it become a question -> in such cases it becomes a
 Footnote 21: _Tranee._ Although this term -> _Trance._ Although this
 p. 28: killed at the seige of Osen -> killed at the siege of Osen
 p. 37: there is asecond period of danger -> there is a second period of
 p. 41: until a sufficient quanity of air -> until a sufficient quantity
    of air
 p. 58: no doubt but that persous -> no doubt but that persons
 p. 75: cases were life is suddenly arrested -> cases where life is
    suddenly arrested
 p. 85: are founded n error -> are founded in error
 p. 87: animal will be enable to perform -> animal will be enabled to
 Anchor position for Footnote 72 assumed
 p. 110: it is scarely necessary; -> it is scarcely necessary;
 p. 116: 1. _Absolutely mortal._ 2. _Dangerous._ 8. _Accidentally
    mortal._ -> _Absolutely mortal._ 2. _Dangerous._ 3. _Accidentally
 p. 120: footnote marker removed for which no footnote was printed:
    destroy the patient, by hemorrhage.
 Anchor position for Footnote 152 assumed
 p. 154: our idea of it importance -> our idea of its importance
 p. 162: with numerous alledged difficulties -> with numerous alleged
 Footnote 187: the stomach which undergeos solution -> the stomach which
    undergoes solution
 p. 171: satisfactorily corrobrate the truth -> satisfactorily
    corroborate the truth
 p. 174: the red and inflammed appearance -> the red and inflamed
 Footnote 191: being very thirsy, and in considerable pain -> being very
    thirsty, and in considerable pain
 Footnote 191: wlth yellow pieces in it -> with yellow pieces in it
 Footnote 191: that they torn with the slightest -> that they tore with
    the slightest
 p. 191: was of an unusally red colour -> was of an unusually red colour
 p. 193: which are undoubtedly worthy consideration -> which are
    undoubtedly worthy of consideration
 p. 195: from which he his led to conclude -> from which he is led to
 p. 200: some few and unimportannt exceptions -> some few and unimportant
 p. 200: Cl. V, _Narotico-Acrid poisons_ -> Cl. V, _Narcotico-Acrid
 p. 210: The greek work Αρσενικον -> The greek word Αρσενικον
               σανδαραχη -> σανδαρακη
               αρρενιχον -> αρρενικον
 Footnote 214: Σανδαραχη -> Σανδαρακη
 p. 211: will assume a _tretrahedral_ form -> will assume a _tetrahedral_
 p. 217: the head has also been observd -> the head has also been
 Footnote 230: at the age of thirth-eight -> at the age of thirty-eight
 p. 227: confined to the stomach and ntestines -> confined to the stomach
    and intestines
 Footnote 245: _Black’c_ Lectures, v. ii, p. 430. -> _Black’s_ Lectures,
    v. ii, p. 430.
 p. 240: application in the Philosophial Magazine -> application in the
    Philosophical Magazine
 p. 248: no solid matter could be dicovered in it -> no solid matter
    could be discovered in it
 p. 253: difficulties and embarassments, occasioned by -> difficulties
    and embarrassments, occasioned by
 p. 273: containing sublimate, accidently or by design -> containing
    sublimate, accidentally or by design
 Footnote 296: having been adulterated with red red -> having been
    adulterated with red lead
 p. 297: but their are quite insoluble -> but they are quite insoluble
 Footnote 359: supposed to have been of Roman manafacture -> supposed to
    have been of Roman manufacture
 p. 373: thereby destroying the energ of the nervous system -> thereby
    destroying the energy of the nervous system
 Footnote 426: New means of extractiug opium -> New means of extracting
 p. 395 with dilalation of the pupils -> with dilation of the pupils
 Footnote 431: Philosophical Taansactions, vol. xl, p. 446 ->
    Philosophical Transactions, vol. xl, p. 446
 p. 400: footnote marker after _Foderé_ removed since there was no
    corresponding footnote
 p. 403: taking six dops of the water -> taking six drops of the water
 p. 406: but not succesfully recommended -> but not successfully
 p. 414: most of those symytoms which we have described -> most of those
    symptoms which we have described
 p. 430: he answed yes, or no -> he answered yes, or no
 p. 430: longer intermission than that preceeding -> longer intermission
    than that preceding
 Footnote 469: which have arisen form the ingestion -> which have arisen
    from the ingestion
 Footnote 474: in cases were life is liable to be -> in cases where life
    is liable to be
 Anchor position of Footnote 482 assumed
 p. 449: or idosyncrasy of constitution -> or idiosyncrasy of

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can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.