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thereby acts in accordance with a law peculiar to itself. If this be admitted, and we cannot conceive it doubted, we must, by a legitimate deduction, come to the conclusion that such a principle exists. It is indeed obvious that the first effect of extreme cold is upon the vitality of the system, and then supervene loss of power in the capillary vessels, and a diminution and gradual abolition of sensibility. So also, during the prevalence of an epidemic disease, the infected atmosphere strikes upon the life principle itself, and produces that peculiar depression of feeling which is the premonitory symptom of the attack. Again: instances occur of the sudden and peremptory extinction of vitality, by shocks of electricity, the communication of unexpected calamities, and even by a severe blow; and often in these cases, upon post mortem examination, no lesion of structure or pathological appearance of any kind can be detected. Here, then, the principle of life is extinguished, leaving the organization from which it was supposed to have originated, absolutely intact. We, therefore, come to the conclusion, from these and other observations, that life is an antecedent principle of organism, derived originally from the Creator, and transmitted through successive generations, whether by germs or ova throughout the infinite varieties of species which exist in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, from parent to offspring, governing by its own plastic laws the forms which it developes; and we, furthermore, consider that this principle of life is not to be confounded with the mind or with the soul, but believe them to be three separate entities, the distinctions between which are capable of being clearly defined.
Art. V.-On Death. In the “Cyclopædia of Anatomy and Physiology."
Edited by R. B. TODD, Esq. M.D. F.R.S. &c. &c. “Life is a terrible reality, and death tremendous sacrifice — vere tremendum est mortis sacramentum! As the hours of health fly over their heads, some look upon their existence as the so-called El dorado of Sir Walter Raleigh; others recoil from its darkness, as it were from the murky lair of an evil spirit; and others again wander like ghosts, silentes umbra, along the slippery shores of life, frightened at the length of their own thin shadows; while, not a few, enviable mortals, thoughtlessly commit themselves to the stream, and, laughing gaily, glide along till they approach, and at last rush headlong over, the yawning cataract, lost for ever within the vortex of the foaming abyss beneath.
Death is everywhere,-in the palace, the hospital, the mansion, and the cot,-floating upon the waves of the wide Atlantic, buried beneath
the shifting sands of the African desert, perched at the top of the highest peak of the Andes, struggling among the jungles that entangle the course of the Hoogley, climbing the giant Steppes of great Tartary, squatted at the gates of Constantinople, travelling across the sunny plains of Italy, and moored alongside the muddy banks of the metropolitan Thames. It grins upon us in the cholera or plague, smiles bitterly as it snatches away the victim of phthisis in the bloom of youth, dashes us down with a stroke of palsy, or strangles us at midnight with the rupture of a bloodvessel on the lungs. It is here, there, and everywhere,—with the old and the young, the man in the prime of life, and the maiden in the flower of her age, the child in the nurse's arms, the sailor on the last plank in the midst of the storm, and the soldier leading the forlorn hope. All is death,—for the living die as time flies, and the same hour that is giving birth to one is taking away the breath from another. And the end is hidden from us all, certain as it is, we know not where, nor how, nor when it will be,-perchance by the roadside, or in a stranger's house, on our own bed, or in the foul wards of an hospital, or in the cheerless dormitory of a union workhouse. And why not? For we live in times of so much vicissitude, both public and private, that the thought of our last hour may well indeed give a momentary pang of uneasiness to us all. Look at that mattress of straw, upon which that cadaverous wretch is breathing his last, with his glazing globe fixed on the bare white-washed wall before him -a finger is writing there, ‘One moment more, and thou shalt see God !'
The medical profession exercises its functions in those solemn hours, when time and eternity touch each other. The decay of life is the burden of its vocation. The seven ages of man, so finely represented by the poet, are the dramatic mirror in which is reflected the climacteric periods of the older physicians, or the three great epochs of youth, manhood, and age, so accurately specified in the words of science, by modern physiologists. Death is the term of each particular epoch; for childhood dies when youth begins, and the end of youth is but the birth of manhood, while old age closes the scene when manhood has finished its career. Actually, as well as figuratively, each dies or quits the stage, almost without leaving a trace of its existence behind it. Who remembers his life in his mother's lap? And what has the fire and animation of the curly-headed boy to do with the slow perceptions of the bald slip-shod pantaloon? They are manifestly different beings,—their identity remains, but their similarity is gone,—they are different animals, answering the call of the same name. Love, joy, peace—faith, hope, charity,-understanding, knowledge, and wisdom—are the respective attributes of adolescence, maturity, and decrepitude —of the aged Simeon, King David, and the child Samuel.
The ordinary duration of life has undergone little or no change from the Mosaic period, in which, as at the present day, it varied from threescore and ten to eighty years. The Greek physicians and philosophers divided this term into several periods, by a multiplication of the figures, three, seven, and nine ; and Plato was, by the Alexandrine sophists, supposed to have attained to the number of perfection, because he died at nine times nine, or eighty-one. The grand climacterics are forty-two and sixty-three ; and, however fanciful such calculations may appear, it is nevertheless practically correct that many drop or totter at these two periods, and that those who surmount forty-two, without the manifestation of any fixed disease, usually proceed in safety (accidents apart) as far as sixty-three. At these periods, two opposite changes take place :on the one hand, an extraordinary renovation of power displays itself, such as the recovery of hearing, eyesight, teeth, hair, strength, and a renewing of exhausted marrow ; while, on the other, instead of a renovation of the powers, at the period before us, we sometimes perceive as sudden and extraordinary decline. We behold a man, apparently in good health, without any perceptible cause, abruptly sinking into a general decay.* Sir H. Halford, to whom we are indebted for an excellent essay on this obscure subject, has emphatically denominated it, Climacteric Disease. And where the climacteric temperament is lurking, a very trivial excitement
proves sufficient to rouse it into action. An act of intemperance, where intemperance was not babitual, may be the first apparent cause of it. A fall, which did not appear of consequence at the moment, and which would not have been, at any other time, has sometimes jarred the frame into this disordered action. A marriage, contracted late in life, has also afforded the first occasion to this change. In this state, as in extreme old age, the least external cause is sufficient to arrest one of the three functions indispensable to life, and death immediately arrives, as the last term of destruction of the functions and organs. But few persons die at that end, which is the result of age alone. Of a million of individuals, but a very few attain to it; the others die at all periods of life, by accident or disease ; and this great destruction of individuals, by causes apparently accidental, seems to enter into the views of nature, as certainly as the precautions she has taken to ensure the reproduction of the species. I
“Accidental death, in contradistinction to natural death, is a subject particularly worthy of attention. Nothing is more certain than death;
* Mason's Good's Study of Medicine—Climacteric Decay,
# Majendie's Physiology, by Milligan, Edinburgh. 1829. Haller estimates the average probability of human life, and deduces the conclusion, that only one in fifteen thousand ever reaches his hundredth year.
nothing is, at times, more uncertain than its reality: and numerous instances are recorded, of persons prematurely buried, or actually at the verge of the grave, before it was discovered that life still remained, and even of some, who were resuscitated by the knife of the anatomist. Pliny, who devotes an entire chapter to this subject, entitled, “de hisis qui elati revixerunt,” among other instances gives that of the Roman consul, Avicula, who, being supposed dead, was conveyed to his funeral pile, where he was re-animated by the flames, and loudly called for succour; but before he could be saved, he was enveloped by the fire and suffocated. Bruhier, a French physician, who wrote on the uncertainty of the signs of death in 1742, relates an instance of a young woman upon whose supposed corpse an anatomical examination was about to be made, when the first stroke of the scalpel revealed the truth : she recovered, and lived many years afterwards. The case related by Philippe Peu is somewhat similar. He proceeded to perform the Cæsarean section upon a woman who had to all appearances died undelivered, when the first incision betrayed the awful fallacy under which he acted. remarkable instance of resuscitation after apparent death occurred in France, in the neighbourhood of Douai, in the year 1745, and is related by Rigaudeaux, to whom the case was confided.
There is scarcely a dissecting room that has not some traditional story handed down, of subjects restored to life after being deposited within its walls. Many of these are mere inventions to catch the greedy ear of curiosity; but some of them are, we fear, too well founded to admit of much doubt. To this class belong the circumstances related by Louis, the celebrated French writer on medical jurisprudence. A patient who was supposed to have died in the Hôpital Salpêtrière, was removed to the dissecting room. Next morning Louis was informed that moans had been heard in the theatre ; and on proceeding thither he found, to his horror, that the supposed corpse had revived during the night, and had actually died in the struggles to disengage herself from the winding sheet in which she was enveloped. This was evident from the distorted attitude in which the body was found. Allowing for much of fiction with which such a subject must ever be mixed, there is still sufficient evidence to warrant a diligent examination of the means of discriminating between real and apparent death: indeed, the horror with which we contemplate a mistake of the living for the dead should excite us in the pursuit of knowledge by which an event so repugnant to our feelings may be avoided."*
Dying is not the same as going to sleep. For as we sink into slumber, there is a pleasing confusion of the senses which brings before the
• The above paragraph is copied from a very able article by Dr. Beatty, of Dublin, on Persons found Dead, in the Encyclopædia of Practical Medicine by Forbes, Tweedie, and Conolly, p. 316, vol. iii. London. 1834.
fading memory a strange commixture of times, persons, things, and places, till we are lost in the deep unconsciousness of repose. Aroused for an instant, just as we are dropping off, we are made aware of a singular intermixture of thoughts blending together past and recent affairs in a not unpleasant, though in a most grotesque, fantastic grouping. The memory, chiefly at fault, is rendered as it were fragmental, halt, and blind ; while the imagination, let loose, runs riot against the better understanding, and sports its fancies in numerous irrational combinations of thoughts, ideas, and living pictures of the soul. Not so in the bour of death. They who die with their heads sound and undisturbed by the workings of a mortal malady, are wonderfully luminous and collected to the last. Perhaps, they are never more alive than when they are dying. Death lights up the soul with supernatural splendour, and lends a torch that illumines the reason with a clear diffusive flame that goes not out as the shadows of the grave close over its burning, vivid, lambent fire. It is not sleep—nay, by the rood, death is not sleep, but only the departure of that living thing, the soul, as it wings its way from off the earth, and takes its flight across the darksome, dread, profound unknown. We have conversed with the dying at the very jaws of death, and heard them give their reasons for the future and the past with a precision and an
energy which proved that, however much the mortal carcase was dissolving into nought, the spirit, or the inner man, was more than ever in a conscious and self-existent state of being. It is this supernatural energy in the articles of death, that often deceives the unpractised and inexperienced bystanders, and induces them to believe that the patient is beginning to improve, instead of being at that very moment on the eve of his departure. Weeping friends and relatives, strangers to a scene like this, do not observe the pinched nose, the filmy eye, the long expiring breath, the cold, pulseless, prostrate hand, the supine attitude in bed, and the ghastly sunken features ;—so prepossessed are all their fondest desires with the vain hope, that he who speaks so intelligibly cannot possibly be at the point of death. But so it is : in a few moments more that form has ceased to breathe, and he who had just spoken the thrilling words of life, now lies stretched out at length, a chilly, voiceless lump of clay.
In an age like this, when the acmé of life is a title of honour or a heavy purse, the visions that haunt the chamber of the dead, the dying, and the sick, are unanimously banished to the distant and reprobate regions of superstition, enthusiasm and folly. The old wife's tale and the child's ghost-story dare not compete with the sober reason of the times, or if, by chance, they gain a willing listener, it is one not worthy of credit,—the idle sailor in the forecastle of the ship during a dead calm at midnight, or the peasant who mutters a mysterious legend concerning the gable