Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

of sudden impulse, may have been prompted by a fixed idea, which may have possessed the mind for a length of time, so silently and unsuspectedly, that even after the melancholy catastrophe its existence was not suspected.

Among cases of apparently sudden impulse, we found a remarkable one, cited in some of the medical journals; it is that of a gentleman who occupied a high place in society; he was in affluent circumstances, had a happy home, and enjoyed the affection and respect of all his friends and relations, and no one could be in his company without feeling enlivened by his wit and vivacity. He was one day entertaining a company of his chosen friends and companions, and was observed to be in his usual cheerful spirits; he rose from the head of his table and went into his own room, took out a razor and cut his throat; his friends were in the act of drinking his health, when the alarm was given. A man who went out to his morning work as it was supposed, proceeded to Virginia water, into which he threw himself from off the high bridge near the black nest entrance to the royal property; his death might have been conceived to have been accidental, but for the writing which he had traced on the wall," Good bye all." The promptings to suicide have originated from such trifling causes in many instances, that it is difficult to conceive how they could have produced such a fatal effect; it has indeed been truly said by Butler, "the greatest evils in life have had their rise from somewhat which was thought of too little importance to be attended to." In the public journals for the year 1782, we are told that Mr. Edward Chamberlayne, who was universally esteemed for his high character and great erudition, was appointed one of the joint secretaries to the treasury that year, but his death soon followed his appointment. An excess of diffidence attended his acceptance of the office; he was visited by a friend who remonstrated with him on the absurdity of his misgivings, and asked him to take a walk in the park where they might talk the matter over. Mr. Chamberlayne went up for his hat and cane, but took the opportunity to throw himself out of the window, in such a position as to insure his falling on his head; his death was instantaneous. Several cases of suicide from trivial causes are mentioned by Doctor J. G. Millingen in his entertaining work on "The Curiosities of Medicine." He tells us that a German student destroyed himself because he had a club foot; a youth

put an end to his existence, because he was not allowed to wear his Sunday clothes-another because he was conscious of being too fond of gossipping. A workman, enraged with his brother for taking some of his fried potatoes and throwing them into the fire, in his anger rushed to strike him, but being withheld and prevented, he suddenly ran off and threw himself into the canal St. Martin and was drowned. "A piece of good news which I heard since I had resolved to die, would have made me renounce my project, if I had not already dispatched a letter announcing my suicide"-was the explanation left by a suicide. A young lady killed herself because her lover made it a point that she should not go to a ball to which she had been invited; a few lines left on her dressing table declared her reason for the rash act. Those about to commit suicide almost invariably contrive to be alone, they lock themselves up, they send those who are with them out of the way; they seek some secluded spot secure from interruption; but there are instances where the fatal act has taken place in the presence of others. A remarkable case is recorded. in Dodsley's Annual Register for 1773. As the regiment of the hereditary prince of Hesse Cassel was on its march, a captain made his company halt, and draw up around him; the grenadiers loved him as their father, because he treated them as his children. He made a short speech to them on their situation, and earnestly entreated them always to do their duty. Having said this, he distributed all the money he had among them, then drew a pistol from the holster of his saddle and discharged it into his breast, and fell down dead in the midst of his soldiers; no reason was alleged for the act. An instance similar in some particulars, we have often heard from the brother officers of a young man who fell by his own hand. He was a subaltern in the Tyrone militia at the time of the insurrection in Ireland in the year 1798. At the hard fought battle of Ross, he was desperately wounded, and unable to move with the troops who were rapidly retreating. He was fondly beloved by his men who gathered about him; he implored them to leave him, and quit the field with the retiring army. When he saw that his entreaties were vain, and knew that in a few moments his faithful adherents would be surrounded, he drew out his pistol and shot himself through the heart. This act of self-destruction may certainly rank as a sacrifice and not as a suicide the good of others was its sole object; none of the selfish feelings which induce

an escape from troubles, or harassing thoughts by suicide, mingled with this act. Not only have there been instances where suicide has been committed in the presence of others, but there have been cases where there has been companionships in the crime. Husbands and wives reduced by want have been found lying dead side by side, having determined to destroy themselves together; still more dreadful, the husband and the parent has imbrued his hands in the blood of those dearest to him, before he has destroyed himself. Lovers about to be parted, have had recourse to charcoal, determined that even death shall not divide them, or have been found drowned in some river, locked in each other's arms. A remarkable case where suicide was planned and carried into effect with a companion, may be found in Dodsley's Annual Register for 1818. Two brothers, John and Lancelot Younghusband, were respectable farmers, living near Alnwick at Hickley Grange; the elder was near seventy years of age, the younger sixty. They had been remarkable from their earliest childhood for their strong attachment to each other. There was such an agreement in their thoughts and feelings, that they were never known to have had a difference of opinion. Between nine and ten o'clock on the 10th of November, one of them was giving directions to a boy, who was ploughing in one of the fields, when the other came over and said to his brother, are you ready? he answered in the affirmative, and they left the field together. They were missed at dinner, but it was conjectured that they were delayed by farming business, but when the shades of evening came on, some alarm was felt at their continued absence, and a servant was sent in the direction where they had been seen walking. In some time they were found lying near a ditch, but a few yards asunder, each with his throat cut, and a razor near his body; a watch was found near one of them, from which it was inferred that they had determined to die at the same moment. There was not the least appearance of a struggle, or any room for suspicion that they had fallen by any hands but their own. An inquest was held that night, and a verdict of felo de se was found; an attempt to prove insanity had utterly failed; the bodies were buried at midnight, in the cross roads near the church. The act appeared to have been for some time premeditated, as a hair-dresser identified the razors, as the same which had been brought to him on the Saturday

before to be sharpened. In the annals of passing events, in the Annual Register for 1825, we met with the following extraordinary detail:-"A Hanoverian gentleman and his five daughters resided at Berne, where they were visited by a young Englishman who fell in love with one of the sisters. One fine summer evening when the young ladies were taking the air in their carriage in the avenues of Engi, the young man and a friend drove up in his cabriolet. In a short time he proposed that one of the ladies should change places with his companion, and the object of his affections accordingly took her seat in the cabriolet beside him. The sisters expected to find them on their return home-but when time passed, and they did not come, the elder sister became alarmed, and the police were informed of the elopement. Next day news was received that the fugitives were traced to Friburg. The eldest sister, who was of an impetuous temper, set off with one of her sisters to reach them; she told the two whom she was leaving, that if she did not return by a certain hour they were to consider it a proof that their family was dishonoured. She then made them all join in a solemn oath, that if such were the case, and that she did not appear at the appointed hour, that they would put an end to their existence. On reaching Friburg, the sisters found all their efforts to induce the girl to return home unavailing, and they resolved to redeem their pledge; they, therefore, hastened to the banks of the river to drown themselves, but the courage of the younger failing, she cried out, "kill me, sister, for I can never throw myself into the river." The eldest drew out a dagger and was about to dispatch her, when a peasant came up and interfered to prevent her; she then sent a message in all haste to absolve her sisters at home from their oath; it was too late; they had made all necessary preparations for their father's comfort, and then dressed themselves in their best clothes, a care which suicides almost always take. On reaching the banks of the Aer, they fastened themselves together with a shawl and threw themselves into the river, in which position they were found some hours after.

The directions left by suicides who have died together, are generally to the effect that they may not be separated in the grave. There is sometimes an entreaty that they may be wrapped in the same shroud. A young woman deserted by her lover still hopes to touch his heart by her melancholy

fate and her last wish. She conjures him to follow her, and to be laid in the grave by her side. "Carry this garland to our child's grave," were the words addressed to her lover by an unhappy girl; "it is the last prayer of one who loves you better then life itself." "Do not reproach the author of my death," is the last request of a forsaken one about to drown. herself. On the 20th of last November, when the letters of a young girl were read on whose body an inquest had been held, there was not a dry eye in the court, and her poor sister fainted away. Her innocence had never been doubted, and she had borne an excellent character; to hide her shame she had committed suicide. In her letter to her mother she speaks of her case as being a fearful one, and begs of her not to fret; in speaking of him she had loved too well, she says, "I beg you will not scold my dear Harry; write to him and he will pay my funeral expenses; pray don't wrong him for my sake, don't scold him, I would not die happy if I thought you would do so. I am not yet nineteen years of age, do not forget my birth day, the 20th of December." The will of another at once betrays the cause of her suicide. She bequeaths all she dies possessed of, to her brother, that he may not follow her example, but be able to marry the person he loves. Another, in all the bitterness of her feelings, desires that her faithless lover may be assured that he shall be haunted by her ghost. The most extraordinary direction perhaps ever given was that of a French gentleman to his servant; he left a positive order that he should get a candle made of his fat, and take it lighted to his mistress that she might read by its blaze the lines written to her by him just before his suicide: a record of this curious case may be found in Dodsley's Annual Register for 1818. The tenderness with which the tokens of other days are cherished to the last, appears in the directions left by the unhappy beings; the request that some trinket—a ring, a bracelet, or some other token of affection-may be buried with them, is often the last wish expressed in writing. "We have eight letters on this subject," are the words in one of the numbers of the Journal of Psychological Medicine. "I pray to be buried with the hair that is round my neck," writes one; "it is my mother's." It has been remarked that in general, those who have lingered after they have inflicted the death wound are most anxious to recover; we could mention several instances. Early one morning, some years since, the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »