Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the same year. To give an idea of the rest, it will be sufficient to relate only that of Tuscany. By this edict the Grand Duke forbids the precipitate interment of persons who die suddenly. He orders the magistrates of health to be informed, that physicians and surgeons may examine the body; that they may use every endeavour to recal it to life, if possible, or to discover the cause of its death; and that they shall make a report of their procedure to a certain tribunal appointed to hear their depositions.

[ocr errors]

"On these occasions the magistrate of health orders the body not to be covered until the moment it is about to be buried, except so far as decency requires; observing always that the body be not closely confined, and that nothing may compress the jugular veins and the carotid arteries. He forbids people to be interred according to the antient method; and requires that the arms and hands should be left extended, and that they should not be folded or placed crosswise upon the breast. He forbids, above all, to press the jaws one against the other, and prohibits filling the mouth and nostrils with cotton or other stuffing. Lastly, he recommends not to cover the visage or face with any kind of cloth until the body is deposited in its coffin!"

Thus ends the Encyclopædia Britannica account of instances and precautions against premature interment of many ages, and countries, except what will appear for modes of treatment

[ocr errors]

in doubtful cases in a proper place; which accounts, if they lessen the originality of the present work, tend, in the same ratio, to corroborate the necessity of it, and clear the Author, at the same time, from the idle imputations of fastidious men, of his solicitude being a superfluous solecism.';}

After having shewn, by so many incontestible proofs and such very respectable authorities, not only the reality of this most dreadful affair, but the very serious attention that has been paid to it by some of the greatest and best of men, in all ages and countries, the Author of the present piece conceives himself sufficiently warranted to proceed without danger of becoming the subject of ridicule to those conceited foplings who, in the heyday of health, plume themselves upon what they call being wittily quizzical upon all matters they are too frothy to rightly understand. He, therefore, begs leave to submit a few cases, some of which have transpired within his own memory, and somewhat nearer home; and though he has not witnessed them himself, yet the same authority will screen him from the imputation of superstitious credulity in believing them but too true, both from the circumstances in each case being so very similar to those historical accounts, and from the consideration that that, which is but a natural occurrence, requires no miracle to confirm it.

MODERN DISCOVERIES OF PREMATURE

INTERMENT.

A Mr. Cornish, who was twice mayor of Bath, about eighty years since, and whose grave-stone the great grandson, and writer of this article, remembers to have been shewn to him in the abbeychurch there, was a silk-mercer and milliner of some eminence, had a son, who seemed to die of a malignant fever. The shop being the resort of people of fashion, it was considered necessary to inter the body as speedily as possible. While the grave, upon this occasion, was but yet half filled with the earth, the grave-digger (like his predecessor in Hamlet) had occasion to retire for a "stoop of liquor," when some persons, who were walking in the abbey, (which is always open to gratify the curiosity of strangers,) were alarmed by some deep but stifled groans which appeared to issue from the nearly half filled grave! a more attentive consideration of the sounds confirmed the heart-appaling apprehensions that the person just interred had been buried alive! Immediate assistance was procured; the earth thrown up; and the coffin wrenched open; when, horrible to relate, the poor victim of premature interment was discovered with his knees and elbows beaten raw, and the tears standing, in large drops, upon his cheeks! But the discovery was, unhap

pily, too late to be availing; he had drunk the bitter cup of superlative misery to the dregs!

The half-sister of this person has been often heard to supplicate her relatives most earnestly, that, when they conceived her to be dead, they would have her head separated from her body to avoid the possibility of so dreadful a catastrophe.

2

About forty years ago a man, well known about the streets of London and its environs as an itinerant vender of handkerchiefs, &c. was not only supposed dead, but partly buried alive; however, he was happily rescued from the above horrible fate by some providential accident of delay in totally filling up the grave, and, before the grave-diggers had left the spot, he was heard to groan, and was instantaneously relieved from his perilous situation, the particulars of where it happened have escaped the Author's recollection, but the awful substance is not obliterated in the least. This man lived many years after his exhumation, and till within these few years has travelled the streets of London, a living witness of the horrible temerity of premature interment, and became the standing jest of obdurate folly and consummate ignorance of those who were daily taunting him about it! Report says, that the same man, some years after the first occurrence, lay apparently dead for a fortnight, but that the former case had impressed his mind so deeply that he had always desired his relatives not to suffer him to be buried in less than a month after

[ocr errors]

he might seem to die, and that this precaution

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Thus it seems as if there were something constitutional in this man that rendered him obnoxious to this dreadful calamity. And no doubt but there are many others in the world of the same texture and habit, and yet custom, stupid custom! subjects all indiscriminately to the same gothic treatment, regardless of what disease they appear to die of, or what may be their physical qualities. Thus, by this unintellectual practice, a man who had lost his head would, for customsake, be kept as long as he who ceased to breathe from syncope!.

But this example is but preparatory to the following case of consummate horror! which was discovered about the same time in Bermondsey church-yard, Surrey! In digging a grave then about to be occupied, the operator came to a previously interred coffin, whose cover, or side, by a cause (hereafter to be explained) gave way, which induced the removal of that part entirely; perhaps to examine whether the bones were fit to be taken out, as is usual, and deposited in the charnel or bone house! when a spectacle presented itself to view, the relation only of which turns the course of nature, and makes her crimson tide run retrograde toward its own original source for protection! A spectacle! that must appal the heart of any being who is not more or less than man!

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »