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turned in their coffins, and the grave-clothes | a direct effect in determining a flow of blood disarranged. But what was ascribed, with from the wound, where it chanced that the seeming reason, to the throes of vitality, is current, by the impulse of the gas, was now known to be due to the agency of nearly ready to break forth. Alatitude corruption. A gas is developed in the de- would not fail to be allowed to the expericaying body which mimics by its mechanical ment. If at any time afterward the body force many of the movements of life. So sweated or bled, it would never have been powerful is this gas in corpses which have doubted that it was prompted by the pressain long in the water, that M. Devergie, ence of the murderer, though the manifestthe physician to the Morgue at Paris, and ation was delayed. One success bears out the author of a text-book on legal medicine, many failures, for failures imply the absence says that unless secured to the table they of notable incidents, and having nothing to are often heaved up and thrown to the arrest attention are quickly forgotten, while ground. Frequently strangers, seeing the the wonders of a success take hold of the motions of the limbs, run to the keeper of mind and live in the memory. the Morgue, and announce with horror that a The generation of gas in the body, with person is alive. All bodies, sooner or later, all its consequences, was thoroughly undergenerate the gas in the grave, and it con- stood when M. Fontenelle wrote, but whatstantly twists about the corpse, blows out ever could weaken his case is systematically the skin till it rends with the distention, and suppressed. Nor is there in the whole of sometimes bursts the coffin itself. When his book one single case bearing out his pothe gas explodes with a noise, imagination sition that is attested by a name of the has converted it into an outcry o groan; slightest reputation, or for which much betthe grave has been re-opened ; the position ter authority could be found than the Greek of the body has confirmed the suspicion, and manuscript in the handwriting of Solomon, the laceration been taken for evidence found by a peasant while digging potatoes that the wretch had gnawed his flesh in the at the foot of Mount Lebanon. It is no unfrenzy of despair. So many are the circum- reasonable scepticism to assume that the stances which will occasionally concur to majority of the persons revived had never support a conclusion that is more unsubstan- even lived. Yet not only is this book still tial than the fabric of a dream. Violent and in vogue, but the French newspapers anpainful diseases, which kill speedily, are nually multiply these tales to an extent favorable to the rapid formation of the gas ; which would be frightful if they were not it may then exist two or three hours after refuted by their very number. Ăn English death, and agitating the limbs gives rise to country editor, in want of a paragraph, prothe idea that the dormant life is rousing itself claiins that a bird of passage has been shot up to another effort. Not infrequently the out of season, that an apple-tree has blosfood in the stomach is forced out through somed in October, or that a poor woman has the mouth, and blood poured from the nose, added to her family from three to half a or the opening in a vein where a victim of dozen children at a birth, and by the latest apoplexy has been attempted to be bled. advices was doing well. But we are tame Extreme mental distress has resulted from and prosaic in our insular tastes. Our agreethese fallacious symptoms, for where they able neighbors require a stronger stimulus, occur it is commonly supposed that the and therefore endless changes are rung upon former appearance of death was deceitful, the theme of living men buried, and dead and that recovery was possible if attend- men brought to life again. ance had been at hand.

Shakspeare, who, it is evident from nuThe old superstition, that a murdered merous passages in his dramas, had watched body would send forth a bloody sweat in by many a dying bed with the same interest the murderer's presence, or bleed from the and sagacity that he bestowed upon those wound at his touch, must have had its origin who were playing their part in the busy in the same cause. The sweat, which has world, has summed up the more obvious been repeatedly observed, is produced by characteristics of death in the description the the struggling gas driving out the fluids at Friar gives to Juliet of the effects of the the pores of the skin. Through a rare coin- draught, which is to transform her into the cidence, it may possibly have occurred during temporary likeness of a corpse :the period that the assassin was confronted with the corpse ; and the ordeal of the

“ No pulse shall keep touch, in compressing the veins, would have His natural progress, but surcease to beat

No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest ; “ the critical tests of death ;" and presuming
The roses on thy lips and cheeks shall fade that the Romans could not be ignorant of
To paly ashes; thy eyes' windows fall,
Like Death, when he shuts up the day of Life;

them, he thought their calling in the ears of Each part, deprived of supple government,

corpses “a vanity of affection," -an ostenShall stiff , and stark, and cold appear, like Death.” tation of summoning the departed back to life

when it was known by other infallible means These are the ordinary signs by which that life had fled. But it is now held to be death has always been distinguished; and it a better method to scrutinize the movements would be as reasonable to seek hot water of the chest and belly: one or both of which beneath cold ice, as to look for any remnant will rise and fall while any breathing whatof vitality beneath so inanimate an exterior. soever continues. It is generally, however, The cessation of breathing, in the opinion of expedient to leave the body undisturbed for Sir Benjamin Brodie—and no opinion, from two or three hours after all seems over; for his natural acuteness, his philosophical habits, the case of Colonel Townshend, related by and his vast experience, can be more entitled Cheyne in his “English Malady," appears to to weight—is alone a decisive test of the ex- favor the supposition, that though the heart tinction of life, and a test as palpable to and lungs have both stopped, life may now sense in the application as it is sure in the and then linger a little longer than usual. result. “The movements,” he says, “ of res

Colonel Townshend, described as

a genpiration cannot be overlooked by any one tleman of great honor and integrity,” was in who does not choose to overlook them, and a dying state. One morning he informed the heart never continues to act more than his physicians, Dr. Cheyne and Dr. Baynard, four or five minutes after respiration has and his apothecary, Mr. Skrine, that he had ceased.” The ancient distinction of the found for some time“ he could expire when heart was to be “primum vivens, ultimum he pleased, and by an effort come to life moriens,"—the first to live, the last to again." He composed himself for the trial, die: and a Commission of the French Acad while one felt his pulse, another his heart, emy, who lately made a report on the sub- and the third applied a looking-glass to his ject, admit that when there is a considerable mouth. Gradually the pulse ceased to beat, pause in its pulsations it is impossible for the heart to throb, the breath to stain the life to be lurking in the body. But as the mirror, until the nicest scrutiny could disheart can only beat for a brief space unless cover no indication that he lived. Thus he the lungs play, and as common observers continued for half an hour : his physicians can detect the latter more readily than the believing that he had carried the experiment former, the termination of the breathing is too far and was dead beyond recall

, when the usual and safe criterion of death. To

life returned, as it had receded, by gradual ascertain with precision whether it had com- steps.

It was at nine o'clock in the mornpletely stopped, it was formerly the custom ing that the trial was made, and at six in to apply a feather or a mirror to the lips. zhe evening Colonel Townshend was a corpse. When Lear brings in Cordelia dead, he ex

The post-mortem examination did nothing claims :

toward clearing up the mystery. His only

disorder was a cancer of the right kidney, " Lend me a looking-glass; If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,

which accounted for his death, without ac

counting for his singular power of suspendWhy then she lives.”

ing at will the functions of life. Many And immediately afterward he adds, This boldly cut the knot they are not able to un

tie, and maintain that there was an action of feather stirs : she lives ! The same test which led Lear to the fallacious inference

the heart and lungs which the physicians that Cordelia lived, induced Prince Henry to of Cheyne leaves an opening for criticism ;

wanted the skill to perceive. The narrative infer falsely that his father was dead :

but let it be considered that he was a man “ By these gates of breath

of eminence, that all three attendants were There lies a downy feather, which stirs not :

professional persons, accustomed to mark Did he suspire, that light and weightless down and estimate symptoms, that their attention Perforce must move."

was aroused to the utmost by previous no

tice, and that they had half an hour to conNor were these methods merely popular: duct their observations; and it must at least they were long likewise the trust of physi- be acknowledged that the signs which escians. Sir Thomas Browne terms them caped them were too obscure to be a safe criterion for the world at large. Yet, what- tions were for a land funeral; and, though a ever may be its other physiological bearings, colloquy so alarming might have been exit is no exception to the rule that life and pected to complete the injury to the poor breath are, for the purposes of sepulture, man's brain, he recovered from the double convertible terms. Without attaching im- shock of fright and disease. Dr. Alfred portance to a principal peculiarity of the Taylor, who has treated the signs of death case, that it required an effort of the will to with the sound sense and science that disbring Colonel Townshend into the state, and tinguish all his writings upon legal medicine, that by an effort of the will he could bring relates the anecdote as if he was satisfied of himself out of it, he was unable, after all, to its truth, and the fate which one has narprolong the period of suspension, or appar- rowly missed, it is not impossible may have ently suspended, animation beyond a single overtaken others. But even at sea, nothing half hour; and in order to bis being buried short of the grossest negligence could occaalive he must have been a party to the act, sion the calamity ; and for negligence, we and prepared his funeral in advance. The repeat, there is no effectual cure. assumption, indeed, pervades M. Fontenelle's The ceasing to breathe is not the only cribook, that everybody wrongly supposed to terion of death antecedent to corruption. be dead had a narrow escape of premature There is a second token specified by Shakinterment, though it has never been long, in speare, and familiar to every village nurse, any instance that is known to be authentic, which is quite conclusive,—the gradual tranbefore some outward sign attracted attention, sition from suppleness to rigidity. The first unless death had merely slackened his pace effect of death is relaxation of the muscles. instead of turning aside his footsteps. "Fu- The lower jaw usually drops, the limbs hang nerals, it is true, on the Continent take place heavily, the joints are flexible, and the flesh sooner than with us. In Spain, if M. Fonte- soft. The opposite state of contraction ennelle's word is a warrant for the fact, whoever sues; then the joints are stiff and the flesh oversleeps himself will have to finish out his firm, and the body, lately yielding and plislumbers in the grave, -- which, beyond ant, becomes hard and unbending. The doubt, is the most powerful incentive to contraction commences in the muscles of the early rising that was ever devised. But in neck and trunk, appears next in the upper France, the grand theatre for these harrowing extremities, then in the lower, and finally retragedies, it is usual to bury on the third day; cedes in the same order in which it came on. and if at that interval it was common for It begins on an average five or six hours afseeming corpses to revive, we, in this country, ter death, and ordinarily continues from sixshould be habituated to behold persons whose teen to twenty-four. But the period both death had been announced, whose knell had of its appearance and duration are contolled, and whose coffins had been made, siderably varied by the constitution of the rise

up and dofftheir grave clothes, to appear person, the nature of the death, and the once more among astonished friends. Yet state of the atmosphere. With the aged so far is this from being a frequent occur- and feeble, with those who die of chronic rence, that whoever heard in modern Eng diseases, and are wasted away by lingering land of a person who had been numbered sickness, it comes on quickly-sometimes in three days among the dead resuming his va- half an hour—and remains for a period which cant place among the living? At sea there is short in proportion to the rapidity of its may be better ground for apprehension. No appearance. With the strong and the musthing more excites the superstitious fears of cular, with the greater part of the persons a sailor than a cat thrown overboard, or a who perish by a sudden or violent death in corpse that is not; and very shortly after the fullness of their powers, it is slow in addeath occurs it is usual to transfer the body vancing, and slow in going off. In cases from the ship to the deep. On one occasion like these, it is often a day or two before it a man, with concussion of the brain, who commences, and it has been known to last a had lost the power of speech and motion, week. When decay begins its reign, this overheard what must have been to him the interregnum of contraction is at an end, and most interesting conversation that ever fell therefore a warm and humid atmosphere, upon his ears,—a discussion between his which hastens corruption, curtails the period brother and the captain of the vessel, as to of rigidity, while it is protracted in the cold whether he should immediately be consigned and dry weather that keeps putrefaction at to the waves, or be carried to Rotterdam, to bay. Though a symptom of some disorders, be buried on shore. Luckily their predilec- I there is this clear line between mortal rigidity and the spasm of disease—that in the lat- storm which had spent its fury before life ter the attack is never preceded by the ap- was extinct; for usually in natural death pearance of death. In the one case the re- there is a lull at the last, and the setting is sult comes after a train of inanimate phe- peaceful, however tempestuous the decline. nomena ; in the other, amidst functions pe- In strict reason it can matter nothing, when culiar to life. The alarmists, who deal in ex- the weary are once at rest, whether the contravagant fables, will persist in retaining un- cluding steps of the journey were toilsome reasonable fears; but upon no question are or pleasant; but it is so much our instinct to medical authorities more thoroughly agreed attach importance to last impressions, and than that the moment the contraction of the wounded hearts are so sensitive, that to muscles is apparent, there can be no revival many it will be a relief to know their inferunless the breath of life could be breathed ences are mistaken and their grief misplaced. afresh into the untenanted clay.

When the heat-developing faculty is exThere is one effect of the muscular con- tinct the body obeys the laws of inanimate traction of death which often occasions erro- objects, and coincident for the most part with neous and painful ideas. In the stage of re. the stage of rigidity is that chill and clammy laxation, when the muscles fall, and there is condition of the skin which is so familiarly neither physical action nor mental emotion associated with death. To judge by the to disturb the calm, the countenance assumes feelings, the atmosphere is genial compared the “mild, angelic air” described by Byron to the corpse. But the skin of the dead is a in The Giaour, and which he says in a note powerful conductor, and the rapidity with lasts for “a few, and but a few hours” after which it appropriates the warmth of the livthe spirit has taken flight. It is the acces- ing leaves a chill behind which is a deceitful sion of muscular contraction which dissipates measure of its actual frost. The length of the charm, which knits the brow, draws time which a body takes to cool will depend down the mouth, pinches the features, and upon the state of the body itself, and the circhanges a soft and soothing expression to a cumstances in which it may chance to be harsh, uneasy, suffering look. Where the placed. The process will be slower when it contraction is slight the face is less disturb- is well wrapped up than when lightly coved; and Dr. Symonds has known it drawn ered ; in summer than in winter; in a still atinto a seeming smile. Those who may only mosphere than in currents of air; with the chance to see the corpse of a relative while stout than with the thin ; with persons in it bears the care-worn aspect which is far their prime than with the aged or the young. the most frequent, are distressed at what Usually in proportion as the disease is acute, they suppose to be an indication that the and the death rapid, the less heat has been latest impressions of the world were troubled expended before the fire is extinguished, and —that death took place amid pain of body the corpse will be the longer in parting with and sorrow of mind. It appears from the its warmth. If the disease is slow, the lamp Journal of Sir Walter Scott, who evidently burns dimly before it quite goes out, and the visited the mortal remains of his wife during temperature, declining during life, will afterthe crisis of contraction, what a pang the ward arrive the sooner at its lowest point. sight communicated to a heart which, if This will also happen in particular disorders quick to feel, could never be outdone in the which, though sudden and violent, are hosresolution to endure. Violent passions, ex- tile to the development of animal warmth. treme agony, and protracted suffering may In certain forms of hysteria, in swoons, and give a set to the muscles which the rigid in cholera morbus, the body, to the touch, state will bring out anew into strong relief. might sɔmetimes seem a corpse. An icy But the expression of the face is chiefly de- skin is not of itself an evidence of death, but termined by the condition of the body, or, in it is sooner or later an unfailing accompaniother words, by the degree of contraction. ment. Persons who have died of exhausting dis- To rigidity succeeds corruption, which, eases will often, notwithstanding they expire both from its own nature and the surroundin despair, wear a look of benign repose ; ing circumstances, cannot possibly be conwhile a more muscular subject who fell founded with vital gangrene. It commences asleep in peaceful hope, may be distinguish in the belly, the skin of which turns to a ed by a mournful, lowering visage. Even bluish green, that gradually deepens to brown when the expression is influenced by the or black, and progressively covers the remainbent which was given to the muscles by pre- der of the body. But when the hue of puvious feelings, it is mostly the memorial of a trefaction has spread over the belly there is a risk to health, without an addition to secu- | Every day for a considerable period of the rity, in waiting for the further encroachments French Revolution, numbers drowned themof decay. In England a body is seldom selves in the Seine, to anticipate the tedious committed to the ground before there is set anguish of famine.' Death, which in one form upon it this certain mark that it is hurrying is fed from as an enemy, in a different shape to the dust from whence it sprung. Nor is is welcomed as a friend. A condemned solthe haste which is used at some seasons, and dier, in Montaigne's time, remarked some in some diseases, a real deviation from the preparations from his prison which led him rule. The rapid onset of corruption creates to think he was to perish by torture; he rethe necessity, and that which renders the solved to discharge for himself the execuburial speedy ensures its being safe.

tioner's office, though he had no other weapOf the innumerable paths which terminate on than a rusty nail, which, having first inin the common goal some are easier to tread effectually mangled his throat, he thrust into than others, and it might be expected from his belly to the very head. The authorities the diversities of temperament that there hastened to his cell to read out the sentence, would be a difference of opinion about which that the law might yet be beforehand with was best.

Cæsar desired the death which death. The soldier, sufficiently sensible to was most sudden and unexpected. His hear what was passing, found that his punwords were spoken at supper, and the fol- ishment was simple beheading. He immelowing morning the Senate-house witnessed diately rallied, expressed his delight, acceptthe fulfillment of the wish. Pliny also con- ed wine to recruit his strength, and by the sidered an instantaneous death the highest change in the kind of death seemed, says Monfelicity of life; and Augustus held a some- taigne, as though he was delivered from death what similar opinion. When he heard that itself. If his suspicions had proved correct, any person had died quickly and easily, he it is difficult to suppose that his tormentors invoked the like good fortune for himself could have improved on his own performand his friends. Montaigne was altogether ances with the rusty nail. of Cæsar's party, and, to use his own meta- Gustavus Adolphus, who realized his asphor, thought that the pill was swallowed pirations on the field of Lutzen, was in the best without chewing. If Sir Thomas Browne habit of saying that no man was happier than had been of Cæsar's religion, he would have he who died in the exercise of his calling. So shared his desires, and preferred going off at Nelson wished the roar of cannon to sound a single blow to being grated to pieces with his parting knell. “You know that I ala torturing disease. He conceived that the ways desired to die this way," said Moore Eastern favorite who was killed in his sleep, to Hardinge at Corunna—and the anguish would hardly have bled at the presence of of the wound had no power to disturb his his destroyer. Sir Thomas Browne was one satisfaction. Marshal Villars was told in his of those men who habitually apply their latest moments that the Duke of Berwick hearts unto wisdom, and his latter end, come had just met at the seige of Philipsburg with when it might, would have found him pre- a soldier's death, and he answered, “I have pared. But Christianity, in enlarging our always said that he was more fortunate than hopes, has added to our fears. He felt that myself." His confessor urged with justice the mode of dying was comparatively an in- that the better fortune was to have leisure significant consideration, and however much to prepare for eternity ;-but possibly the he inclined by nature to Cæsar's choice, and exclamation proceeded from a momentary studied to be ready for the hastiest summons, gleam of martial ardor, which instinct kina sense of infirmity taught him the wisdom dled, and reflection quenched. A Christian of that petition in the Litany by which we would never, indeed, fail to make the prepaask to be delivered from sudden death. With ration for battle a preparation for death. the majority flesh and blood speak the same Unless “every soldier in the wars do as language; they had rather that the candle every sick man in his bed, wash

every mote should burn to the socket than the flame be out of his conscience," he must know that he blown out. The prospect, nevertheless, of is staking both soul and body on the hazard protracted suffering will sometimes drive of the fight. “Soldiers,” says an old didesperate beings to seek a shorter and easier vine, “ that carry their lives in their hands, passage from the world. Many of the Ro- should carry the grace of God in their mans during the plague of Syracuse attacked hearts." Death at the cannon's mouth may the posts of the enemy, that they might fall be sudden, and answer the first of Cæsar's by the sword instead of the pestilence. conditions ; with none but the presumptuous

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