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can it answer the second, and come unex- held to be pious and privileged; father perpected. We once heard a recruit assign as formed it for son, son for father. They conhis reason for enlisting, that he should now sidered they were curtailing the dreaded at least see something of life. “And,” add-death-struggle—that a headlong fall from ed his companion, something of death.” | the precipice was as much easier as it was The poor fellow, perhaps, like many others, quicker than the winding descent by the path. had forgotten that any such contingency was in France it was the established practice-to included in the bond.
put to death persons attacked by hydrophobia The Duke d'Enghien appeared to feel like the moment the disease was plainly incuraa man reprieved, when, on issuing from his ble. There is a vulgar notion that those prison, he found he was to perish by a mili- who are wounded by a rabid dog become tary execution. Suicides are prone to use inoculated with the animal's propensity to bite. the implements of their trade. It was the But the motive of self-defence of ridding usage in Ireland in rude times, when rebels the world of a fellow-creature who had entered perhaps were more plentiful than rope, to into the class of noxious beings, which might hang them with willows. In the reign of be suspected to have had an influence in Elizabeth a criminal of this description peti- hard-hearted times—was not the source of tioned the deputy against the breach of the these unnatural homicides. They were deobservance, and begged the favor to suffer signed in pure pity to the wretched sufferers, by the time-honored“ wyth," instead of the though the tender mercies which are wicked new-fangled halter. When Elizabeth her are always cruel. Lestoile in his Journal, self expected Mary to put her to death, she which belongs to the early part of the sevenhad resolved on the request to be beheaded teenth century, relates the events of the kind with a sword, and not with an axe,—which which came to his knowledge under the date seems a distinction without a difference. In of their occurrence. A young woman atthe same category we may place Lord Fer-tacked with hydrophobia had in such horror rers's prayer for a silken rope at Tyburn. But the smothering, which, the Diarist quietly the fancy of the Duke of Clarence, could it observes in a parenthesis, " is usual in these be considered established, is the most singu- maladies,” that she was rendered more franlar on record. He must have been strange- tic by the prospect of the remedy than by ly infatuated by the “Pleasures of Memory," the present disease. Habit with her relawhen he imagined his favorite Malmsey tions was stronger than nature ; they had no could give a relish to drowning. Suffoca- idea of remitting the customary violence, tion was not more luxurious to the parasites even at the entreaties of the interested perof Elagabalus that they were stifled with per- son, and only so far yielded to her dread of fumes.
suffocation as to mingle poison with her mediOld Fuller, having pondered all the modes cine instead, which Lestoile says was adminof destruction, arrived at the short and deci- istered by her husband “ with all the regrets sive conclusion—“None please me.” “But in the world.” Sometimes, however, the vicaway,” the good man adds, “ with these tims invited their doom. A page, on his way thoughts; the mark must not choose what to the sea, then esteemed a specific in hydroarrow shall be shot against it.” The choice phobia, was scratched by a thorn which drew is not ours to make, and if it were, the priv- blood, as he passed through a wood. For a ilege would prove an embarrassment. But person in his condition to see his own blood there is consolation in the teaching of phy- was supposed to be fatal. The lad, appresiology. Of the innumerable weapons with hending the accession of a fit, begged the which Death is armed, the worst is less in- attendants to smother him on the spot, “and tolerable than imagination presents it--his this,” says Lestoile, "they did weeping--an visage is more terrible than his dart. event piteous to hear, and still more to behold.”
The act of dying is technically termed A second page is mentioned by the same " the agony.” The expression embodies a Diarist, who happily died as they were precommon and mistaken belief
, which has gived paring to shoot him. It is evident how birth to many cruel and even criminal pracó much these domestic immolations must have tices. The Venetian ambassador in Englan- weakened the awful reverence for life; the in the reign of Queen Mary mentions among weeping executioner of his dearest relatives the regular usages of the lower orders, that was separated by a far less impassable gulf a pillow was placed upon the mouth of the dy- from the cold blooded murderer. A medical ing, on which their nearest relations sat or lean- trickery, which grew no doubt from the ed till they were stifled. The office was . frightful reality, still remains in France
among the resources of medicine. Hydro- " I would write how easy and delightful it is phobia is sometimes feigned, and when the to die."
“ If this be dying," said the niece physician suspects imposture he orders the of Newton of Olney, “it is a pleasant thing patient to be smothered between a couple to die;" “ the very expression,” adds her of mattresses, which cures him, says Orfila, uncle, " which another friend of mine made as if by enchantment.
use of on her death-bed a few years ago." A mode of suffocation less murderous in The same words have so often been uttered appearance than the 'smothering with the under similar circumstances, that we could pillow was prevalent for centuries, both on the fill pages with instances which are only vaContinent and in England. The supports were ried by the name of the speaker. “If this be withdrawn by a jerk from beneath the head, dying," said Lady Glenorchy, “it is the easiwhich being suddenly thrown back, the res- est thing imaginable.” “I thought that dying piration that before was labored and difficult had been more difficult,” said Louis XIV. “I became shortly impossible. Hence it is that did not suppose it was so sweet to die,” said Shakspeare's Timon, enumerating the accurs. Francis Suarez, the Spanish theologian. An ed effects of gold, says that it will
agreeable surprise was the prevailing senti" Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their ment with them all ; they expected the stream heads."
to terminate in the dash of the torrent, and
they found it was losing itself in the gentlest Another practice which tortured the dying current. The whole of the faculties seem under pretence of relief, even in this country, sometimes concentrated on the placid enjoy. lingered among the ignorant till recent days. ment. The day Arthur Murphy died he kept The expiring ascetic of the Romish faith, pro repeating from Pope, longing his penance into death, yielded up his breath on a couch of hair. Customs survive "Taught half by reason, half by mere decay, when their reasons are forgotten. A physic
To welcome death, and calmly pass away. al virtue had come to be ascribed to the hair, Nor does the calm partake of the sensitiveand Protestants, slowly sinking to their rest, ness of sickness. There was a swell in the were dragged from their feather-beds, and sea the day Collingwood breathed his last laid on a mattress to quicken their depar- upon the element which had been the scene ture. The result of most of these perverted of his glory. Captain Thomas expressed a proceedings was to combine the disadvan- fear that he was disturbed by the tossing of tages of both kinds of death—to add the the ship: “No, Thomas," he replied ; " I horror of violence to the protracted pain of am now in a state in which nothing in this gradual decay. When the wearied swimmer world can disturb me more. I am dying: touched the shore, a furious billow dashed and I am sure it must be consolatory to you, him on the rock.
and all who love me, to see how comfortably The pain of dying must be distinguished I am coming to my end.” from the pain of the previous disease, for A second and common condition of the dywhen life ebbs sensibility declines. As death ing is to be lost to themselves and all around is the final extinction of corporal feeling, so them in utter unconsciousness. Countenumbness increases as death comes on. The nance and gestures might in many cases sugprostration of disease, like healthful fatigue, gest that, however dead to the external world, engenders a growing stupor-a sensation of interior sensibility still remained. But we subsiding softly into a coveted repose. The have the evidence of those whom disease has transition resembles what may be seen in left at the eleventh hour, that while their those lofty mountains, whose sides exhibiting supposed sufferings were pitied by their every climate in regular gradation, vegeta- friends, existence was a blank. Montaigne, tion luxuriates at their base, and dwindles in when stunned by a fall from his horse, tore the approach to the regions of snow till open his doublet ; but he was entirely senseits feeblest manifestation is repressed by less, and only knew afterward that he had the cold. The so-called agony can never done it from the information of the attendants. be more formidable than when the brain is The delirium of fever is distressing to witness, the last to go, and the mind preserves to the but the victim awakes from it as from end a rational cognizance of the state of the heavy sleep, totally ignorant that he has passbody. Yet persons thus situated commonly ed days and nights tossing wearily and talkattest that there are few things in life less | ing wildly. Perceptions which had occupied painful than the close.. "If I had strength the entire man could hardly be obliterated in enough to hold a pen,” said William Hunter, the instant of recovery ; or, if any one were in
clined to adopt the solution, there is yet a proof, before he succumbed to the disease. A corthat the callousness is real, in the unflinching dial gave him unexpected' relief ; and his first manner in which bed-sores are rolled upon, words were to express astonishment at the that are too tender to bear touching when sad countenance of his friends, because his sense is restored. Wherever there is insensi- own mind, he told them, was in such a state bility, virtual death precedes death itself, at the crisis of the attack, from the expectaand to die is to awake in another world. tion of immediate dissolution, that there was
More usually the mind is in a state inter- no other way to describe his feelings than by mediate between activity and oblivion. Ob-saying he was in rapture. Light, indeed, servers, unaccustomed to sit by the bed of must have been the suffering as he gasped death, readily mistake increasing languor for breath, since physical agony, had it existfor total insensibility. But those who watch ed, would have quite subdued the mental closely can distinguish that the ear, though ecstasy. dull, is not yet deaf—that the eye, though As little is the death-sweat forced out by dim, is not yet sightless. When a bystand- anguish. Cold as ice, his pulse nearly gone, er remarked of Dr. Wollaston that his mind “a mortal perspiration ran down the body" was gone, the expiring philosopher made a of La Boëtie, the friend of Montaigne, and signal for paper and pencil
, wrote down some it was at this very moment that, roused by figures, and cast them up. The superior en the weeping of his relations, he exclaimed, ergy of his character was the principal differ- “Who is it that torments me thus ? Why ence between himself and thousands who die was I snatched from my deep and pleasant and give no open sign. Their faculties sur- repose ? Oh! of what rest do you deprive vive, though averse to even the faintest effort, me!" Such fond lamentations disturb many and they barely testify in languid and broken a last moment; and the dying often remonphrases that the torpor of the body more than strate by looks when they cannot by words. keeps pace with the inertness of the mind. Hard as it may be to control emotions with The same report is given by those who have the very heart-strings ready to crack, pity advanced to the very border of the country demands an effort in which the strongest affrom whence no traveler returns. Montaigne fection will be surest of success.
The grief after his accident passed for a corpse, and the will not be more bitter in the end, that to first feeble indications of returning life resem- keep it back had been the last service of love. bled some of the commonest symptoms of Tears are a tribute of which those who be- } death. But his own feelings were those stow it should bear all the cost. A worse of a man who is dropping into the sweets of torment is the attempt to arrest forcibly the slumber, and his longing was toward blank exit of life by pouring cordials down throats rest, and not for recovery.
Methought,” which can no longer swallow, or more madly he says, “my life only hung upon my lips; to goad the motionless body into a manifestaand I shut my eyes to help to thrust it out, tion of existence by the appliance of pain. It and took a pleasure in languishing and letting is like the plunge of the spur into the side of myself go. In many of these instances, as
which rouses him as he is falling, in the cases of stupefaction, there are appear to take another bound before he drops to rise ances which we have learnt to associate with suffering, because constantly conjoined with it. A cold perspiration bedews the skin, the Queen MARGARET. -Help, lords, the king is dead.
SOMERSET --Rear breathing is harsh and labored, and some
up his body: wring him by
the nose. times, especially in delicate frames, death is ushered in by convulsive movements which But the most approved method of what, look like the wrestling with an oppressive in the language of the time, was called “ fetchenemy. But they are signs of debility and ing again," was to send a stream of smoke a failing system, which have no relation to up the nostrils, which Hooker states to be pain. There is hardly an occasion when the "the wonted practicing of well-willers upon patient fights more vehemently for life than their friends, although they know it a matter in an attack of asthma, which, in fact, is a impossible to keep them living;” and wellsufficiently distressing disorder before the willing thoughtlessness among our peasantry sensibility is blunted and the strength sub- to this very hour often endeavors to rescue dued.' But the termination is not to be judg- friends from the grasp of death by torturing ed by the beginning. Dr. Campbell
, the them into making one writhing struggle. The well-known Scotch professor, had à seizure, gentle nature of our great dramatist taught which all but carried him off, a few months him, that to those descending into the grave
nothing was more grateful than its own still- | ence of the Creator to whom his body was ness. Salisbury, at the death of Cardinal bent in homage, and whose praises still reBeaufort, interposes with the remonstrance, sounded from his lips. But commonly the
hand of death is felt for one brief moment “ Disturb him not, let him pass peaceably." before the work is done. Yet a parting word,
or an expression of prayer, in which the face And when Edgar is calling to Lear,
and voice retain their composure, show that “ Look up, my lord,”
there is nothing painful in the warning. It
was in this way that Boileau expired from Kent, with reverent tenderness, says,
the effects of a dropsy. A friend entered
the room where he was sitting ; and the poet, “ Vex not his ghost: 0! let him pass."
in one and the same breath, bid him hail and
farewell. “Good day and adieu," said he; When Cavendish, the great chemist, per
“it will be a very long adieu,”—and instantceived that his end drew near, he ordered his ly died. attendant to retire, and not to return till a
In sudden death which is not preceded certain hour. The servant came back to find by sickness, the course of events is much the his master dead. He had chosen to breathe same. Some expire in the performance of out his soul in solitude and silence, and would the ordinary actions of life, some with a halfnot be distracted by the presence of a man, completed sentence on their lips; some in since vain was his help. Everybody desires the midst of a quiet sleep. Many die withto smooth the bed of death ; but unreflecting out a sound, many with a single sigh, many feeling, worse than the want of it in the re
with merely a struggle and a groan. In other sult, turns it often to a bed of thorns.
instances there are two or three minutes of It is not always that sickness merges into contest and distress, and in proportion as the the agony. The strained thread may break at
termination is distant from the commencelast with a sudden snap. This is by no means ment of the attack, there will be room for rare in consumption. Burke's son, upon whom the ordinary pangs of disease. But upon his father has conferred something of his own
the whole there can be no death less awful celebrity, heard his parents sobbing in an
than the death which comes in the midst of other room at the prospect of an event they life, if it were not for the shock it gives the knew to be inevitable. He rose from his bed, survivors and the probability with most that joined his illustrious father, and endeavored it will find them unprepared. When there to engage him in a cheerful conversation. are only a few beats of the pulse, and a few Burke continued silent, choked with grief. heavings of the bosom between health and His son again made an effort to console him. the grave, it can signify little whether they “I am under no terror,” he said; “I feel are the throbbings of pain, or the thrills of myself better and in spirits, and yet my heart joy, or the mechanical movements of an unflutters, I know not why. Pray talk to me,
conscious frame. sir ! talk of religion, talk of morality, talk, that
the pain of dying is the climax to the
There is, then, no foundation for the idea noise attracted his notice, and he exclaimed, pain of disease, for
, unless the stage of the “Does it rain ?–No; it is the rustling of the agony is crossed at a stride, disease stupefies wind through the trees.” The whistling of when it is about to kill. If the anguish of the wind and the waving of the trees brought the sickness has been extreme, so striking Milton's majestic lines to his mind, and he re
from the contrast is the ease that supervenes, peated them with uncommon grace and that, without even the temporary revival effect:
which distinguishes the lightening before
death—“kind nature's signal for retreat” is "His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow, believed to be the signal of the retreat of the Breathe soft or lond; and wave your tops, ye pines; disease. Pushkin, the Russian poet, suffered With every plant, in sign of worship, wave !" agony from a wound received in a duel. His
wife, deceived by the deep tranquillity which A second time he took up the sublime and succeeded, left the room with a countenance melodious strain, and, accompanying the ac- beaming with joy, and exclaimed to the phytion to the word, waved his own hand in to- sician, You see, he is to live ; he will not ken of worship, and sunk into the arms of his die.” “But at this moment,” says the narfather—a corpse. Not a sensation told him rative, “the last process of vitality had althat in an instant he would stand in the pres- | ready begun.” Where the symptoms are
those of recovery there is in truth more pain self to the ordinary exigences of life, and if to be endured than when the issue is death, surprised by evils with which it has not been for sickness does not relinquish its hold in re accustomed to measure its strength, the firmlaxing its grasp. In the violence which pro- est nerve and the sunniest temper are overduces speedy insensibility the whole of the come by the sudden violence of the assault. downward course is easy compared to the Unless the understanding is affected, irritasubsequent ascent. When Montaigne was bility and waywardness constantly diminish stunned, he passed, we have seen, from stu- when experience has shown the wisdom and por to a dreamy elysium. But when return- duty of patience, and there soon springs up ing life had thawed the numbness engen- with well-ordered minds a generous rivalry dered by the blow, then it was that the pains between submission on the one hand and forgot hold of him which imagination pictures bearance on the other. From the hour that as incident to death. Cowper, on reviving sin and death entered into the world, it was after his attempt to hang himself, thought mercy that disease and decay should enter he was in hell; and those who are taken too. A sick-room is a school of virtue, senseless from the water, and afterward re- whether we are spectators of the mortality covered, re-echo the sentiment though they of our dearest connections, or are experiencing may vary the phrase. This is what we should upon reflection expect. The body is quickly Violent often differs little from natural deadened and slowly restored ; and from the death. Many poisons destroy by setting up moment corporal sensitiveness returns, the disorders resembling those to which flesh is throes of the still disordered functions are so the inevitable heir, and as in ordinary sickmany efforts of pain. In so far as it is a ness, though the disorder may be torture, question of bodily suffering, death is the lesser the mere dying is easy. The drugs which evil of the two.
kill with the rapidity of lightning, or which Of the trials to be undergone before dying act by lulling the whole of the senses to sleep, sets in, everybody, from personal experi- can first or last create no suffering worthy of ence or observation of disease, has formed a the name. Fatal hemorrhage is another regeneral idea. Duration is an element as im- sult both of violence and disease, and from portant as intensity, and slow declines, which the example of Seneca—his prolonged torare not accompanied by any considerable suf- ments after his veins were opened, and his fering, put patience and fortitude to a severe recourse to a second method of destruction test. “My friends," said the Fontenelle, a to curtail the bitterness of the first--was held short time before he died, “I have no pain, by Sir Thomas Browne to be a dreadful kind -only a little difficulty in keeping up life;" of death. Browne was more influenced by but this little difficulty becomes a great fa- what he read than by what he saw, or he tigue when protracted without intermission must have observed in the course of his practhrough weeks and months. More, the Pla- tice that it is not of necessity, nor in general, tonist, who was afflicted in this way, des- an agonizing process. The pain depends upon cribed his feelings by the expressive compar- the rate at which life is reduced below the ison that he was as a fish out of its element, point where sensibility ends. The sluggish which lay tumbling in the dust of the street. blood of the aged Seneca refused to flow in With all the kindness bestowed upon the an ample stream, and left him just enough sick, there is sometimes a disposition to judge vigor to feel and to suffer. A fuller discharge them by the standard of our own healthy takes rapid effect, and renders the suffering sensations, and blame them for failings which trifling by making it short. An obstruction are the effects of disease. We complain that to respiration is beyond comparison more they are selfish, not always remembering painful than total suffocation. that it is the importunity of suffering which To be shot dead is one of the easiest modes makes them exacting; we call them impatient of terminating life; yet, rapid as it is, the -forgetful that, though ease can afford to body has leisure to feel and the mind to rewait, pain craves immediate relief; we think flect. On the first attempt by one of the them capricious, and overlook that fancy pic- fanatic adherents of Spain to assassinate the tures solace in appliances which aggravate William, Prince of Orange, who took the upon trial, and add disappointment to dis- lead in the Revolt of the Netherlands, the tress. There is not any situation in which ball passed through the bones of his face, steady minds and sweet dispositions evince a and brought him to the ground. In the greater superiority over the hasty and sensual instant of time that preceded stupefaction, part of mankind; but self-control adapts it- | he was able to frame the notion that the