In Redgrave church the bells are ringing;
To Redgrave church a youth is bringing
His bride, preceded by little boys singing,-
A custom considered the regular thing in
Times past, but gone out in these latter days,
When a pair may get married in fifty queer ways.

In Redgrave church blush bridesmaids seven,

One had turned faint, or they would have blushed even;
In Redgrave church a bride is given

In face of man, in face of Heaven.

In her sunshine of youth, in her beauty's pride,
The lady of Bottesdale stands that bride;
And Ralph of Redgrave stands by her side;
But no longer drest

In homely vest,

Coat, waistcoat, and breeches, are all of the best;
His look so noble, his air so free,
Proclaim a squire of high degree;
The lace on his garment is richly gilt,
His elegant sword has a golden hilt,
His "tile" in the very last fashion is built,
His Ramillie wig

Is burly and big,

And a ring with a sparkling diamond his hand is on,
Exactly as Richardson paints Sir Charles Grandison,

Nobody knows

Or can even suppose,

How Ralph of Redgrave got such fine clothes;
For little Ned Snip, the tailor's boy said,-
And a 'cuter blade was not in the trade,-
That his master's bill had been long ago paid.
Ah! little, I ween, deem these simple folks,

Who on Ralph's appearance are cracking their jokes,
How much may be gained by a person who pokes,
At the right hour, under the right sort of oaks.



[ocr errors]


"CHARITY Covereth a multitude of sins," and generally casts a mantle of insanity on the corpse of the self-murderer; but it is not altogether fair to cast a stigma on the living to exonerate the dead. If the commission of suicide be an act of lunacy, the surviving family of the defunct must be considered as predisposed to insanity; to secure to an inanimate body the rites of a Christian sepulture, and to shield its memory from the charge of cowardice, and a defiance of Divine and human laws, its innocent and already injured offspring and relations are to be exposed to the sad report of being members of a family subject to mental hallucinations!

That suicide is the deed of a lunatic, is true in many cases; but this rash act is more frequently committed under the influence of the passions, or by men who have not sufficient moral courage to live and breast the adverse tide of fortune. If such a degraded condition constitutes insanity, the coward who flies from the field of battle is a madman, and therefore should not be exposed to public obloquy. Suicide is generally resorted to after mature deliberation, and long consideration of the advantages and miseries of life. We find that through all ages, in the regions of the East, suicide was considered to be a religious and meritorious act; and the Indian gymnosophist thought it beneath the dignity of man calmly to wait the approach of death, and allow old age to corrupt the body, until it was unfit to become a sacrifice to the Deity.

Although many of the ancient philosophers advocated self-destruction, others, amongst whom we find Pythagoras and Socrates, objected to the practice. Pythagoras, who had studied in the Eastern schools, whence he derived his doctrine of metempsychosis, condemned suicide, believing that the soul was bound to the body as a punishment; and Socrates only excused it on the plea that he was already condemned to die. Both these illustrious sages deemed it an offence against the authority, the providence, and the moral government of the gods. Plato also condemns the act, when it is not committed under the visitation of great sorrow, inevitable misfortune, shame, and extreme poverty.

The ancient philosophers, so far from looking upon suicide as an evidence of insanity, considered it a manifestation of the strength of the intellectual faculties; and Seneca, on this subject observes, that "since neither infants, nor boys, nor lunatics fear death, it is shameful if reason will not inspire that indifference which folly commands."

Pliny the elder was an advocate of suicide, and blesses the benevolence of Mother Earth, who, in compassion to human miseries, has placed in the hands of man so many poisons, which would deprive him of life without pain.

It is therefore clear from these various doctrines, held forth at various periods, that suicide was considered to be permitted by the Deity under peculiar circumstances; and we have reason to believe, from the records of ancient history, that it was seldom resorted to, except under the influence of misery or superstition; but it was never maintained for one moment that self-destruction was an act of insanity.

Such were the opinions of pagan philosophers; and among the Christians, St. Augustin states that the Donatists killed themselves out of respect for martyrdom as their daily sport.* When they could not find any one to kill them, they waylaid and attacked travellers, threatening to murder them if they would not put an end to their life;† and not unfrequently in their love-feasts they would cast themselves from precipices, to this day sanctified by their self-inflicted martyrdom.

Although, under certain circumstances of enthusiastic self-sacrifice, suicide was tolerated, if not approved of, by the church, yet various ecclesiastic censures were passed upon this offence in several councils; not only were the bodies of suicides to be refused Christian burial, but their goods and chattels were confiscated for the profit of the State,

* Lucius Quotidianus.

We have many cases of insanity recorded, in which a man has killed another to be sent to execution in expiation of the crime.

and in many countries in Europe the property of the deceased was alienated; more especially when the public treasury might have suffered from the offence.

In more modern times suicide has been defended by some illustrious writers. Amongst these we may name Donne, Hume, Gibbon, Montaigne, and Montesquieu.

Donne says, "Self-homicide is called a sin against a particular law of nature-self-preservation. But a distinction is to be made between a general law of nature, for the good of a whole species, or for the particular preservation of every individual belonging to that species." Donne endeavours to exculpate suicide on the same principle as the ancient philosophers, and to reconcile the rash act with the doctrines of Christianity.

The historian Hume has also warmly advocated the right of man to destroy himself, with equal absurdity and sophistry. "It would be no crime in me," says he, "to divert the Nile or Danube from its course, if I could; where, then, is the crime of turning a few ounces of blood out of their natural channel?" I should wish to know on what ground our sceptic philosopher imagines that he had a right to divert the course of a river,-the course of the Danube was recently diverted, and the town of Pest was nearly swept away by the inundation. Gibbon has not been more felicitous in his lucubrations on self. destruction, when he complains that "the precepts of the Gospel or the Church have at length imposed a pious servitude on the minds of Christians, and condemn them to expect, without a murmur, the last stroke of disease or of the executioner."

Robert of Normandy, surnamed "the Devil,' before he put an end to his existence, wrote a ponderous work in favour of suicide, maintain. ing that there was no law that forbids a person to deprive himself of life, that the love of life is to be subservient to that of happiness,— that our body is a mean and contemptible machine, the preservation of which we ought not so highly to value; if the human soul be mortal, it receives but a slight injury; but if immortal, the greatest advantage: a benefit ceases to be one when it becomes troublesome, and then surely a man shall be allowed to resign it: a voluntary death is often the only method of avoiding the greatest crime and finally, that suicide is justified by the example of most nations in the world. Sir Thomas More, in his Utopia, maintains that, since a man would break through nothing advantageous to himself by his death, but only snatch himself from suffering, it would be a point of prudence to do so. Montaigne is of opinion that pain and the fear of suffering a worse death, seem to be excusable excitements to suicide. Montesquieu attributes the great enterprises and the valour of the Romans to the power they assumed over their own lives, which enabled them to escape from every other power. Rousseau advocates self-homicide in his Heloise. Beccaria maintains that the suicide does less injury to his country than the emigrant; since the former leaves his property behind him, whereas the latter carries with him part of his substance.

I shall now proceed to relate various modern cases of suicide, whence may be deduced the different motives that drove the unfortunate victims to despair.

M—, a young man of twenty-seven years of age, was married to the object of his affections. Six months afterwards he attempted his life. The motive to this desperate step was the low spirits he had

observed in his wife, and which he could only attribute to some invol untary offence he might have given, which convinced him that he could not make her happy.

E. Bancal, a surgeon at Rochefort, when a youth of eighteen years of age, had been introduced to Zelie Priolland, the young wife of a merchant of the name of Priolland, trading with Mexico. Zelie was in her twentieth year. A correspondence arose between these young people, couched in a fraternal style,-perhaps the most dangerous that could be adopted, since its operation on the mind was gradual and unsuspected. Bancal was about four years on the Coast of Africa. In his letters he tutoyé'd Zelie, who in reply wrote to him in the plural, as being more becoming a married woman. This act of prudence offended the Platonic admirer, and he expressed his determination to break up all correspondence if carried on, on her part, with such dis. tance. Zelie consented to write in a more fraternal manner. Bancal returned. Zelie's husband was in Mexico. They met. Priolland was expected home. Another separation would render life intolerable. The separation was unavoidable. Zelie proposed that they should be united in death. Bancal was overjoyed, and rapturously exclaimed, "to perish with the one I love has ever been the charm of my imagi. nation ;" and he forthwith wrote to his mother, "I die, as I have lived, not knowing what I should believe or disbelieve; but I die without any apprehension. I see eternity opening its gates before me, with as much calm delight, as I have often contemplated with rapture the beauties of Nature." Whether the lovers had read the history of Seneca and Paulina I know not, but they determined to open each other's veins, and bleed to death. For this purpose they made arrange. ments to meet at Poitiers on the 14th of March; but Zelie first placed her only child-a girl, at school; after which she drew out an inventory of all that she possessed, and, taking with her a draft for three thousand francs, payable in Paris, left her home. Bancal at the same time procured two drachms of acetate of morphine. On the 14th of March they met at the fatal appointment; where, no longer under the restrictions of social convenances, they abandoned themselves to the indulgence of their passions. Bancal again wrote to his mother, "Do not pity me: I have enjoyed more bliss for these last ten days than the longest life of man can bestow."

On the 17th of March they repaired to Paris, where Zelie obtained cash for her draft. She immediately purchased some gold lockets and mourning, which she carefully packed up in cases, addressed to her husband, and the mother of Bancal. The locket sent to the last contained two locks of hair, the one of raven black, the other fair,-they were those of the unfortunate couple. To her husband she sent a black gown, three pair of gloves, a locket, containing hair of her father, a lock of her own, and a silver thimble for her child Léonie Bancal then writes to his mother that he had been mortally wounded in a duel, adding, “All illusions have fled! I appreciate men and things at their proper value, and, believe me, I die with more pleasure than pain.” Zelie writes at the same time to the mistress of the school where Léonie was placed, entreating her to speak to her often of her father, but to endeavour to make her forget her mother. This letter was dated the 24th March. Before they perpetrated the desperate act, Zelie wrote the following letter to a friend of her husband, a M. Victor

Casme casse :

"Dear and kind FRIEND,It grieves us to be obliged to give you a most troublesome job. You are the only person in possession of our secret, and we must, therefore, intrust you with the painful task it entails upon you. On receipt of this letter have the kindness to repair to our hotel, where you will find us both dead; as by that time Prosper and I shall have put an end to our existence. Do not grieve for us: we die in bliss. It is now upwards of a month since we formed this resolution. We were to wait until to-morrow; but, fearful that our families might discover our abode, I begged of Prosper to advance the hour, and he could not refuse my request. This evening, after your departure (for we shali expect you at dinner,)—this evening we both embark in Charon's boat. Have our bodies placed in the same coffin, and let our faces be uncovered. We leave sufficient money to pay for the funeral expenses, and for a wooden cross, bearing the inscription, ZELIE ET PROSPER. Nothing more: we do not desire that our names should be transmitted to posterity; and I do not wish to annoy my husband, my daughter, and my family. They will think that I have destroyed myself alone. We must save appearances; and on you the delicate task devolves. Adieu, dear friend! I embrace you with all my heart, and depend upon your exactitude in fulfilling our last instructions. Z. P."

Another letter from Prosper accompanied that of Zelie. "MY POOR VICTOR,-I have to confirm all that my good Zelie has told you, and with her I feel quite distressed in giving you so much trouble; but we could not apply to any other person. Your moral courage is well known to me, and I have ever depended upon your boundless friendship. I must confess the task we have given you is not a pleasant one, and you perhaps will wish us at the devil; but wait for that, until we are six feet under ground. We have adopted a strange method of destroying ourselves; it is the mildest. We do not wish to suffer, and our blood will flow until its source is exhausted. Zelie will go first-she insists upon it-and I shall follow her. We have now only six or seven hours to live, and we are as calm as if we were going to repose in each other's arms to awake to-morrow morn ing. I am only afraid that the loss of blood may produce a swoon simulating death, therefore convince yourself that our hearts have ceased to beat ere our bodies are removed.

"10 o'clock, P.M.

"Many thanks for dining with us. We have not much time before us, and I shall therefore draw out our last request. Zelie and I wish to be buried without any publicity. No priest-no church-nothing -a hearse, and you following it. If it is possible, request of the lawyer and the physician not to name us. To me, it is a matter of utter indifference, but Zelie wishes it on account of her family. I insist upon the wooden cross, and to be interred with my beloved. Our bones shall be united. The thought smiles on me! Adieu! I shall now carry this letter to the post-office, and then proceed to the operation. Farewell, old boy! for the last time. I depend upon you.

"Your friend,


Zelie requested the porter of the hotel to send her up a pail of warm water to bathe her feet; and every preparation being made, the

* Donner ce désagrément.

« 上一页继续 »