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happiness was with dozing old age in its easy figured to him his end by a vision of the night. chair, as well as with youth in the pride and exu- John Hunter has solved the mystery, if mystery it berance of life, and if its feelings are less buoyant can be called, in a single sentence: “We somethey are more placid. To die piecemeal carries times,” he says, 6 feel within ourselves that we with it a frightful sound, until we learn by obser- shall not live, for the living powers become weak, vation that of all destroyers time is the gentlest. and the nerves communicate the intelligence to the The organs degenerate without pain, and, dwin- brain.” His own case has often been quoted dling together, a perfect harmony is kept up in the among the marvels of which he afforded the rational system. Digestion languishes, the blood dimin- explanation. He intimated on leaving home that ishes, the heart beats slower, and by imperceptible if a discussion, which awaited him at the hospital, gradations they reach at last their lowest term. took an angry turn, it would prove his death. I Drowsiness increases with the decline of the pow- colleague gave him the lie ; the coarse word veriers—life passes into sleep, sleep into death. De fied the prophecy, and he expired almost immediMoivre, the master of calculation, spent at eighty ately in an adjoining room. There was everything twenty hours of the twenty-four in slumber, until to lament in the circumstance, but nothing at which he fell asleep and awoke no more. His was a nat- to wonder, except that any individual could show ural death unaccompanied by disease, and, though such disrespect to the great genius, a single year this is uncommon, yet disease itself lays a softer of whose esistence was worth the united lives of hand upon the aged than the young, as a tottering his opponents. Hunter, in uttering the prediction, ruin is easier overthrown than a tower in its strength. had only to take counsel of his own experience
The first symptom of approaching death with without the intervention of invisible spirits. He some is the strong presentiment that they are had long labored under a disease of the heart, and about to die. Ozanam, the mathematician, while he felt the disorder had reached the point at which in apparent health, rejected pupils from the feel any sharp agitation would bring on the crisis. A ing that he was on the eve of resting from his memorable instance of the weakness which accomlabors, and he expired soon after of an apoplectic panies the greatness of man when an abusive apstroke. Flechier, the divine, had a dream which pellation could extinguish one of the brightest lights shadowed out his impending dissolution, and, he- that ever illumined science. No discoverer has lieving it to be the merciful warning of Heaven, he left more varied titles to fame, and none has given sent for a sculptor and ordered his tomb. “ Begin more abundant evidence that he would have added your work forthwith,” he said at parting ; “ there to the number the longer he lived, for his mind is no time to lose ;” and unless the artist had teemed with original ideas, and fast as one crop obeyed the admonition, death would have proved was cleared away another sprang up. the quicker workinan of the two. Mozart wrote Circunstances which at another time would his requiem under the conviction that the monu- excite no attention are accepted for an omen when ment he was raising to his genius would, by the health is failing. The order for the Requiem power of association, prove a universal monument with Mozart, the dream with Flechier, turned the to his own remains. When life was flitting fast, current of their thoughts to the grave. The death he called for the score, and musing over it, said, of a contemporary, which raises no fears in the “ Did I not tell you truly that it was for myself I young and vigorous, is often regarded by the old composed this death-chant?” Another great artist, and feeble as a summons to themselves. Foute, in a different department, convinced that his hand prior to his departure for the continent, stood conwas about to lose its cunning, chose a subject em-templating the portrait of a brother-actor, and exblematical of the coming event. His friends claimed, his eyes full of tears, “Poor Weston!" inquired the nature of his next design, and Ho- In the same dejected tone he added, after a pause, garth replied, “ The end of all things.' In that " Soon others shall say, Poor Foote!”—and, to case," rejoined one of the number, " there will be the surprise of his friends, a few days proved the an end of the painter.” What was uttered in jest, justice of the prognostication. The expectation of he answered in earnest, with a solemn look and a the event has a share in producing it, for a slight heavy sigh : “ There will,” he said" and there shock completes the destruction of prostrate enerfore the sooner my work is done the better.” He gies. Many an idle belief in superstitious times commenced next day, labored upon it with unin- lent a stimulus to disease, and pushed into the termitting diligence, and when he had given it the grave those who happened to be trembling on its last touch, seized his palette, broke it in pieces, brink. Kings and princes took the shows of the and said, “ I have finished.” The print was pub- skies for their particular share.
Louise of Savoy, lished in March under the title of “ Finis," and in the mother of Francis I., when sick of a ferer, October “the curious eyes which saw the manners saw, or fancied she saw, a comet.
“ Ha!" she in the face” were closed in dust. Our ancestors, exclaimed, “ there is an omen which appears not who were prone to look into the air for causes for people of low degree: God sends it for us which were to be found upon earth, ascribed these great. Shut the window ; it announces my death; intimations to supernatural agency. It was conjec- I must prepare.” Her physicians assured her she tured that the guardian genius, who was supposed was not in a dying state. Unless," she replied, to attend upon man, infused into his mind a friendly “I had seen the sign of my death I should have though gloomy foreboding, or more distinctly pre-said the same, for I do not myself feel that I am
sinking.” She sank, however, from that time, I spite of his apparent indifference to death, there and died in three days. Confidence in the physi- was an anxiety in the pause when he was momencian is proverbially said to be half the cure, be- tarily expecting the axe to descend, which had all cause it keeps up hope, and lends to the body the but proved fatal. support of the mind; but when despair coöperates When disease passes into dying, the symptoms with the distemper, they react upon one other, usually tell the tale to every eye. The half-closed and a curable complaint is easily converted into a eyes, turned upwards and inwards, sink in their mortal disease. The case of Wolsey was more sockets ; the balls have a faded, filmy look ; the singular. The morning before he died he asked temples and cheeks are hollow, the nose is sharp; Cavendish the hour, and was answered past eight. the lips hang, and, together with the face, are “ Eight of the clock," replied Wolsey, “ that can- sometimes pale from the failure of the circulation, not be-eight of the clock, eight of the clock - and sometimes livid from the dark blood which nay, nay, it cannot be eight of the clock, for by creeps sluggishly through the veins. Startling eight of the clock shall you lose your master.” likenesses to relations, and the self of former days, The day he miscalculated—the hour came true. are sometimes revealed when the wasting of the On the following morning as the clock struck eight flesh has given prominence to the framework of his troubled spirit passed from life. Cavendish the face. The cold of death seizes upon the exand the bystanders thought he must have had a tremities and continues to spread a sign of comrevelation of the time of his death, and, from the mon notoriety from time immemorial, which Chauway in which the fact had taken possession of his cer has described in verse, Shakspeare in still mind, we suspect that he relied upon some astro- more picturesque prose. The very breath strikes logical prediction which had the credit of a reve- chill; the skin is clammy; the voice falters and lation in his own esteem.
loses its own familiar tones-grows sharp and Persons in health have died from the expecta- thin, or faint and murmuring-or comes with an tion of dying. It was once common for those who unearthly muffled sound. The pulse, sometimes perished by violence to summon their destroyers previously deceitful, breaks down; is first feebler to appear within a stated time before the tribunal and then slower; the beats are fitful and broken of God; and we have many perfectly attested by pauses; the intervals increase in frequency and instances in which, through the united influence duration, and at length it falls to rise no more. of fear and remorse, the perpetrators withered The respiration, whether languid or labored, beunder the curse and died. Pestilence does not comes slow at the close; the death-rattle is heard kill with the rapidity of terror. The profligate at every expulsion of air ; the lungs, like the pulse, abbess of a convent, the Princess Gonzaga of become intermittent in their action ; a minute or Cleves, and Guise, the profligate Archbishop of two may elapse between the efforts to breathe, and Rheims, took it into their heads for a jest to visit then one expiration, which has made “ to expire" one of the nuns by night, and exhort her as a synonymous with “ to die,” and the conflict with person who was visibly dying. While in the per- the body is over. formance of their heartless scheme they whispered As an abstract description of man would fit to each other “ She is just departing,” she departed everybody, although forming a portrait of no one, in earnest. Her vigor, instead of detecting the deaths have their individual peculiarities, in which trick, sank beneath the alarm, and the profane the differences of detail do not affect the likeness of pair discovered in the midst of their sport that the outline. Many traits are frequent which are they were making merry with a corpse. A con- far from usual. Some when they are sinking toss demned gentleman was handed over some the clothes from their chests, and though the French physicians, who, to try the effects of imag- attendants, indefatigable in enforcing their own ination, told him that it was intended to despatch notions of comfort, replace them unceasingly, they him by bleeding-the easiest method known to are as often thrust back. There must be opprestheir art. Covering his face with a cloth, they sion in the covering, or it would not be thrown off'; pinched him to counterfeit the prick of a lancet, but the patient himself is frequently unconscious, placed his feet in a bath, as if to encourage the and the act is instinctive, like the casting aside the stream, and conversed together on the tragic symp- bed-clothes on a sultry night in the obliviousness toms supposed to arise. Without the loss of a of sleep. Others pick at the sheets, or work them drop of blood his spirit died within him from the between their fingers, which may be done in obemental impression, and wlien the veil was raised dience to an impulse of the nerves, or to excite by he had ceased to live. Montaigne tells of a man friction the sense of touch, which is growing bewho was pardoned upon the scaffold, and was numbed. We have seen persons among the lower found to have expired while awaiting the stroke. orders burst into tears at witnessing an action Cardinal Richelieu, in hope to extract a confession which conveyed to their minds a sentence of death. from the Chevalier d'Jars, had him brought to the he senses are constantly subject to illusions. block, and though he comported himself with ex- The eyes of the dying will conjure mp particles traordinary courage and cheerfulness, yet wher, which they mistake for realities, and attempt to an instant or two after he had laid down his head, catch them with their hand, or if they are looking his pardon was announced to him, he was in a state at the bed they suppose them spccks upon the of stupefaction which lasted several minutes. In clothes, and assiduously endeavor to brush them
away. The awful shadow cast by death throws intellect of Falstaff has degenerated into sillia solemnity over every object within its range, ness, but he knows what he says, and comprehends and gives importance to actions that would other- what he sees. When the sensibility to outward wise be thought too trivial for notice. Ears, soon impressions is lost or disordered, and the mind is to be insensible to sound, are often assailed by delirious, the dying dream of their habitual occuimaginary noises, which soinetimes assume the pations, and construct an imaginary present from form of words. Cowper, who was afterwards the the past. Dr. Armstrong departed delivering medthrall of fancied voices, which spoke as his morbid ical precepts; Napoleon fought some battle o’er spirit inspired, heard three times, when he hung again, and the last words he muttered were tête himself in earlier days, the exclamation, “ 'Tis d'armée. Lord Tenterden, who passed straight from over!” The old idea that the monitor of man the judgment seat to his death-bed, fancied himself summoned him when his final minute had arrived, still presiding at a trial, and expired with, Gentlemay easily have been founded upon actual occur- men of the jury, you will now consider of your verrences, and the agent was invented to explain dict. Dr. Adam, the author of the “ Roman Anaway an undoubted and mysterious effect. Shak- tiquities,” imagined himself in a school, distribspeare, who possessed the power to press every- uting praise and censure among his pupils; But it thing into his service, has recorded the superstition grows dark, he said ; the boys may dismiss ; and in Troilus and Cressida :
instantly died. The physician, soldier, judge, Hark! you are called ; some say the Genius so schoolmaster, each had their thoughts on their Cries Come! 10 hin that instantly must die! several professions, and believed themselves enThe workings of the mind, when taken in con-gaged in the business of life when life itself was nection with the physical weakness, are often issuing out through their lips. Whether such prominent among the symptoms of dissolution. words are always an evidence of internal conMany of the ancients held the novissima verba in sciousness, may admit of a doubt. The mind is high esteem. They imagined that the departing capable of pursuing a beaten track without attendimbibed a divine power from that world to which ing to its own operations, and the least impulse they were bound, and spoke like gods in propor- will set it going when every other power has fled tion as they were ceasing to be men. Though the De Lagny was asked the square of twelve when belief is extinct, that the prophet's mantle de- he was unable to recognize the friends about his scends upon the shoulders of the dying, there are bed, and mechanically answered, one hundred and some who maintain that as the body wanes the mind forty-four. Repetitions of poetry are frequent in often shines with increasing lustre. Baxter called this condition, and there is usually a want of coa church-yard the market-place where all things herence and intonation which appears to indicate a are rated at their true value, and those who are want of intelligence, and leaves the conviction, approaching it talk of the world, and its vanities, expressed by Dr. Symonds, that the understanding with a wisdom unknown before. But the idea that is passive. But upon many occasions it is perthe capacity of the understanding itself is enlarged fectly obvious that the language of the lips is sug-that it acquires new powers and fresh vigor, is gested by the mental dream. The idea of Dr. due, we conceive, to the emotion of the listeners. Adam, that it was growing dark, evidently arose The scene impresses the imagination, and the over- from the fading away of the vision, as the thick wrought feelings of the audience color every word. darkness of death covered his mind and clouded Disease has more frequently an injurious effect, his perceptions. The man himself is his own and the mind is heavy, weakened, or deranged. world, and he lives among the phantoms he has Of the species of idiotcy which ushers in death, created, as he lived among the actual beings of Mrs. Quickly gives a perfect description in her flesh and blood, with the difference, perhaps, that narrative of Falstaff's end—an unrivalled piece the feelings, like the picture, are faint and shadof painting, and deeply pathetic in the midst of owy. its humor :-“After I saw hinn fumble with the There is a description of dying delirium which sheets, and play with flowers, and smile upon his resembles drunkenness. Consciousness remains, fingers' end, I knew there was but one way, for but not self-control. The individual nature appears his nose was as sharp as a pen, and ’a babbled in its nakedness, unrelieved by the modifications of green fields.” Falstaff, to whom a tavern chair which interest imposes. A woman, who had comwas the throne of human felicity, and whose heart bined an insatiable appetite for scandal with the was never open to a rural impression, amusing extremest caution in retailing it, fell into this state himself with flowers like a child-Falstaff, the a few hours before she died. The sluice was impersonation of intellectual wit, and who kept a opened, and the venom and malice were poured sad brow at the jests which moved the mirth of out in a flood. Her tones, which in health were every one besides, regarding his fingers' ends with low and mysterious, grew noisy and emphaticsimpering imbecility-there is an epitome of the the hints were displaced by the strongest terms melancholy contrasts which are constantly wit- the language could afford—and the half-completed nessed, and which would be mournful indeed if sentences, which were formerly left for imagwe did not know that the bare grain is not quick- ination to fill up, all carried now a tail and a ened except it die, and that the stage of decay must sting. “I verily believe," said her husband precede its springing into newness of life. The afterwards, " that she repeated, in that single
day, every word she had heard against anybody has fairly retired, the system has been too much from the time she was a child.” The concentra- depressed to rebound. The temporary revival is tion of the mind upon a single topic, the variety rarely complete ; but a partial intermission, from and distinctness of the portraits, the virulence and its comparative ease, creates a considerable change energy of the abuse, the indifference to the tears of sensation. Hence the pause in the disorder has of her children-heart-broken that their mother received the name of a “lightening before death”should pass from the world uttering anathemas a removal of the load of pain and stupor by which against all her acquaintances, living and dead—the patient was previously oppressed. Shakspeare made a strange and fearful exhibition, one more confines the term to the merriment of mind which impressive than a thousand sermons to show the usually accompanies the relief. Paley has said, danger of indulging an evil passion.
and he wrote after many visitations of gout, that A fatal malady sometimes appears to make a the subsidence of pain is a positive pleasure which stop—the patient lives and breathes ; and his few enjoyments can exceed. The observation is friends, who had considered him as belonging to sometimes strikingly illustrated in surgical operaanother world, are overjoyed that he is once more tions, when neither the smarting of the wound, one of themselves. But it is death come under a nor the attendant horrors, have the power to dismask. The lifting up from the grave is followed turb the sense of satisfaction which directly ensues. by a relapse which brings down to it again with Sir Charles Bell opened the windpipe of a man out return. A son of Dr. Beattie lay sick of a attacked with spasms of the throat, and who was fever, which suddenly left him ; the delirium was dying through want of air. The incision closed succeeded by a complete tranquillity, and the father with the convulsive throbs, and it was necessary was congratulating himself on the danger being to slit out a piece of the cartilage ; but when the over, when the physicians informed him truly that man, whose face was lately a picture of distress, the end was at hand. Death from hydrophobia is who streamed with the sweat of suffering, and who not seldom preceded by similar appearance of re- toiled and gasped for life, breathed freely through covery. A victim of this disorder, in which every the opening, he fell fast asleep while half-a-dozen drop of liquid aggravates the convulsions, and the candles threw their glare upon his eyes, and the very sound of its trickling is often insupportable, surgeons, with their hands bathed in his blood, was found by Dr. Latham in he utmost com- were still at work upon the wound, inserting maposure, having drank a large jug of porter at a terials to keep it open. A soldier, struck in the draught. The nurse greeted the physician with temple, at Waterloo, with a musket-ball, had his the exclamation, “What a wonderful cure !" but skull sawn through with a trephine by Mr. Cooper, in half an hour the man was dead. Sir Henry the author of the “ Surgical Dictionary,' and a Halford had seen four or five cases of inflamma- bone pulled out which had been driven half an inch tion of the brain where the raving was succeeded into the substance of the brain. Nearly lifeless by a lucid interval--the lucid interval by death. before, he instantly sat up, talked with reason and One of these was a gentleman who passed three complacency, and rose and dressed the same day. days in a luna:ic violence, without an instant's The transition is little less sudden in the “lightencessation or sleep. He then became rational, set- ing before death ;' and though the debility is tled his affairs, sent messages to his relations, and usually too great for exuberance of spirits, there talked of a sister lately dead, whom he said he is sometimes a gentle gayety which would have a should follow immediately, as he did in the course contagious charm if it were not the signal of a of the night. Many such instances are upon coming gloom, made a hundred fold more dark by record ; and Cervantes must have witnessed some the contrast with the short-lived mirth, never in thing of the kind, or he would not have ventured this world—unless by the tearsul eye of memory to restore Don Quixote to reason in his final ill- -to be beheld again. ness, make him abjure knight-errantry, and die a The moment which converts a sensitive body to sensible, as he had lived a worthy, man; for, inanimate matter is often indistinguishable ; but throughout his adventures, he displays a lostiness one would hardly think that any who had deliberof principle and a rectitude of purpose, which give ately contemplated a corpsemicy, stiff, and moan elevation to his character, and render him tionless, with nothing of humanity except the estimable when most ridiculous. Sir Henry Hal-form-could suppose that life might put on the ford cautioned the younger members of his profes
" borrowed likeness of shrunk death,” and men, sion against these appearances, which have often who were still of the present world, be consigned deluded physicians themselves. The medical at- by mistake to a living tomb. Yet many persons, tendant of Charleval, a French versifier, called out especially women, are so haunted with the idea, exultingly to a brother of the faculty who entered that they will almost fear to sleep, lest they should the room, “ Come and see, the fever is going !” wake with six feet of earth for their covering and After a moment's observation, the other, more ex- a coffin for their bed. Solemn physicians abroad perienced, replied, “No—it is the patient." The —for in England these terrorists boast no eduamendment is not real unless the pulse has im- cated disciples—have written books to accredit the proved ; the energies of life are otherwise worn belief, and add a deeper horror to the grave. out; and either the inertness of the disease pro- Each successive production of the kind, however, ceeds from a want of power to sustain it, or, if it is little more than a resuscitation of its forgotten
predecessor, from which it differs about as much the belief by authentic examples, the edifice is as the Almanac of this year from the Almanac of overthrown by the very endeavor to prop it up. Jast. In 1834, Julia de Fontenelle, a man of sci- Timidity itself would take courage on reading the
—if several lines of philosophical titles writ- terrific register of the credulous Fontenelle. An ten after his name are a voucher for the character examination of his proof, wliile it indicates the -published his “ Medico-legal Researches on the precautions that are prudent to be taken, will reUncertainty of the Signs of Death,” which volume assure those who are accustomed to shrink from is at present, we believe, the standard one on the the semblance of death, with its frightful accomsubject. The horror of being buried alive was paniments, far more than they dread the reality ; his least motive for rousing up the public to a for it will show that, unless by culpable recklesssense of their danger. Convinced, he said, that ness and haste, there is no possibility that a single unwholesome diet and evil passions, the abuse of individual should be entombed before his time. drugs and the ignorance of physicians, are but too The first page shows how much his criticism successful in swelling the number of the undoubted has been outstripped by his zeal, for he counts dead, he conceives it his duty in compensation among the victims of error the Emperor Zenon. to preserve to society the many who were only who is said to have been interred when he was dead in appearance. He seems to have persuaded drunk by the order of his wife, ambitious of his himself that burial-grounds are a species of human crown. M. Fontenelle himself relates, that for slaughter-house, and, if he had read the English two nights he continually cried from his capacious Martyrology, would have seen something more sepulclire, “ Have mercy on me! Take me out!” than a lying legend in the story of St. Frithstane, and surely his petition would not have been in who, saying one evening masses for the dead in vain if they had buried him in good faith through the open air, as he pronounced the words requies- an unhappy mistake. Horrors never come singly: cant in pace, heard a chorus of voices from the it is added, that in his hunger he ate up his shoes surrounding graves respond loudly Amen. M. and the flesh of his arms. A case among the Fontenelle's hopes of recruiting the population accidents, that of an Archbishop Géron—when or from churchyards are grounded on a hundred where he lived is not told-has a close resemcases of apparent deaths gleaned from the entire blance to the end of
Zenon: history of the world-a rather slender counterpoise to the victims of passion, gluttony, drugs, That he would be rowed back, for he was not yet dead.
He waked in the boat, and to Charon he said and physicians, even if the instances were all well founded and all to the purpose. “lle cheats by But the persons who heard him shouting from the pence, is cheated by the pound." But of his supulchre refused to believe him, and he was left exa...ples those which are true are inapplicable, to his fate. There was an abbé who had better and those which are applicable are unsubstantiated. luck. He revised on the way to the grave; and
The marvellous is most credible when left to his attendants having thought fit to bury his cat the imagination ; the attempt to verify it dissipates with him, which sat like a night-mare upon his the illusion. Supernatural appearances seemed chest, the abbé employed his returning strengih to be probable when the argument rested on the to drive off the incubus. The animal mewed with general belief; nothing more unlikely when the the pain, and more regard being paid to the respecific facts were collected and weighed. A vol- monstrances of a cat than to those of an archbishume of ghost stories is the best refutation of op, the procession was stopped, and the coffin ghosts. That persons, by every outward sign unscrewed. Out jumped the cat, and immediately long dead, have revived, is also among the opini- after the dead man followed, and took to his heels. ions that have found adherents in all countries, The bearers are said to have been “frozen with and many are the superstitions to which it has fear;" and the cat and the abbé must have pargiven rise. Roger North, in his Life of the Lord taken of the chill. Some who came off with life Keeper, mentions that the Turks, if a noise is have yet had reason to rue the misconception. heard in a tomb, dig up the corpse, and, as one A gentleman of Rouen, returning from a tour just method of making matters sure, chop it into pieces. as his wife was being borne to the tomb, he orHe adds, that some Engrish merchants, riding at dered back the coffin, and had a surgeon to make Constantinople in company with a Janizary, passed five-and-twenty incisions on the corpse—a strange an aged and shrivelled Jew, who was sitting on a method of cherishing the remnant of existence, if sepulchre. The Janizary never doubted that of he suspected any. Nevertheless, at the twentythis sepulchre the Jew himself was the rightful sixth incision, which went deeper than the rest, tenant, and ordered him back to his grave, after she mildly inquired " What mischief they were ra.ing him soundly for stinking the world a sec- doing her ?”' and she survived to bear her husband ond time. Nations sunk lower in barbarism give six-and-twenty children--a pledge for every gash. credence to fables still more absurd, though they An English soldier showed more vigor and less do not exce::d in extravagance what we might ex- endurance than this meekest of women, pect from the exaggerations of ignorance and ter- carried to the dissecting-room of a French bespiror, if the cries and struggles of buried men had tal, where a student, to practise anatomy, cut his been heard disturbing the stillness of the tomh; jugular vein. Furious with rage and pain, he but the moment an effort is made to substantiate leapt upon the student and flung him to the