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end of yonder mansion scarcely discernible in the twilight. We live in a crowd, too busy ever to think, and too much pressed upon ever to be alone. The throng passes along the streets and men, and horses, and carriages, and noble personages, and troops in military array, glitter in the sunshine, and make the long vista of mansions resound with trumpets, and the noise of business, and the constant hum of secular affairs. It is a grand sight, and the heart leaps with eagerness at the animated spectacle. But step aside, and enter beneath this lofty portal, pass along the spacious passage hanging on pillars, and proceed upstairs. Another flight places you above the shining drawing room, with its mirrors, and chandeliers, and gilded furniture, and rich draperies, and leads you tothe Chamber of Death! It is awfully silent—the world is shut out, and attendants, with noiseless footsteps, tread lightly across the velvet carpet, and appear and disappear behind those curtains concealing one of no mean note groaning in his last agony. His end is close at handwait a little, for it will not be long. Listen !—“Methought,” said a hollow guttural voice—“ methought I was young again, and there stood beside me my mother chiding me for the past.—Ah, death, thou art hard upon me!-a little more breath—one moment more !-my favourite child is not yet provided for, and my will is unexecuted!” Hark, again. “Methought a voice said to me, To-morrow at noon, and I will be with thee! Who's there? this is the hour—one moment more—not yet!”—a long rattling sound ensued, one last long drawn convulsive respiration, a sob,—and it was finished! A grave personage, in flowing robes, issued from behind the curtains, and approaching us said, in an audible whisper : “It is passing strange, but certainly some aged figure appeared at the foot of the bed, and with him two other forms of more supernal shape, that hovered awhile and withdrew as he spake. As I stand here, I saw them!”—said the venerable lady, bending her grey eye calmly on ours. She was frenzied for the time, and we led her into an adjoining apartment, and withdrew. On returning to the streets, the sun was in the heavens, and the proud day, attended with the pleasures of the world, was all too wanton and too full of gauds to give us audience. *
Scenes such as these are not unfrequent to the medical attendant; and if they do not exactly produce in him a religious tone of mind, they at least tend to make him reflect on the vanity of the world and the futility of its twice-told tale.
For some time we kept a particular record of the mysterious sayings, such as we could gather them, of persons on their death-beds, or of those who were concerned about them; and we put down everything
• “ The sun is in the heavens, &c."-King John.
most implicitly, without allowing the shadow of a doubt to cross our minds. They formed a curious catalogue of strange imaginings, showing how unsettled or dislocated the intellect becomes in moments of terror or grief. It is unphilosophical to discard these notices with levity and contempt, or to place them aside as accidents unworthy of our attention and consideration. For are they not the operations of the mind? and is not the mind, in all its operations, the peculiar subject of our inquiries? Disturbed conditions, indeed, they are; and, for the time being, not merely disturbed, but diseased; so that, in this sense alone, they are only so much the more interesting, as being the subjectmatter of morbid phenomena. For our own part, we own, that visions and hobgoblins always fix our attention the more closely, because we detect in them certain traces of that lofty aspiration after things supernatural, future, and sublime, which, when directed by the rule of faith, become the groundwork of everything holy, great, and good, along the barren track of our mortal pilgrimage. The ideal of a world to come, so frequently abused and so universally entertained, is the invisible bond that links together the most practical of our virtues—namely, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
Life passes away, and individuals fall off one after another, as Homer says, like the leaves of the trees in autumn, or like the ceaseless succession of waves that break along the sea shore. It is an old similitude renewed in each generation of the world.
On a bleak heath, partly covered with furze, and flanked on either side by a thick wood, lay, in the grey of the morning, the figure of a man half naked, with his pallid cheek in a pool of blood upon the ground. It was a battle-field, covered with the ruins of yesterday's conflict, and torn up with round shot and the serried tramp of manæuvring squadrons. The sun was peeping above the sharp outline of the horizon, while the wretched being, whom we have just noticed, awoke from the long swoon of death, and twice essayed to rise, but twice fell down again with his face upon the clotted gore that bespattered the grass around. “Dying-dying-dying!” he scarcely murmured, as he fixed his fading and unwinking look on the glorious orb“dying, and never a priest to shrive me for my sins, nor Matty to make my bed for me!-dying, unhousled, unappointed, unaneled!" A film passed over his waning eyeball, and his spirit fled to Him who gave it. The wind whistled merrily across the plain, the gay clouds laughed in the morning mist, and nature sang with joy for the coming day. St. Lawrence Justinian, at his death, when he saw his friends stand weeping around him, bade them dry up their tears, for that, if they wished to remain beside him, they must rejoice rather than mourn, hail the bright opening of the everlasting doors. Aloysius Gonzago,
Peter of Alcantara, the celebrated St. Theresa of Spain, and many other ecstatics besides, have wept for joy as soon as they foresaw the longprayed-for day of their departure close at hand. Dr. Heberden relates, that he received a long letter from a phrenzied patient, correctly written in the lucid interval, or lighting up, that shortly preceded his death; and Sir H. Halford, in his elegant essays already referred to, mentions a young gentleman of family, who awoke from a fatal delirium, and, during the brief moments of recollected reason and mental integrity that were granted him, calmly ascertained the nature of his disorder, prudently discharged several obligations on his purse, deliberately set his house in order, and then died. The dictator Sylla, in a burst of passion, in consequence of his hopes being frustrated respecting the restoration of the Capitol, broke a bloodvessel, and, according to the emphatic expression of Valerius Maximus, vomited forth his soul and his life-blood together. Crassus, the eminent Roman orator, fell a victim, apparently, to his love of eloquence, for he died of a sudden pleurisy a few days after having made an animated address to the senate. Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's intimate friend and literary confrère, resolutely starved himself to death in his seventy-seventh year, and died with his faculties alive within him almost to the last. One of Pliny's acquaintances did the same, and expired with the word decrevi stemnly fixed upon his lips. Socrates smiled and conversed over his last draught of aconite, hellebore, hemlock, or henbane; and Hannibal joked about the tedious death of an old man, as he poisoned himself with the inexplicable annulus, that has foiled the acumen of the ablest critics in each succeeding age. The Macedonian, after having passed the Granicus, the Issus, and the Arbelus, and touched upon
very confines of Hindostan, sighed for further conquest, impatient to engrave the signet of his name on the remotest sands of earth. In vain did he seek to hide his chagrin beneath the embroidery of his purple pavilion, when he perceived a limit set to his mortal greatness; disappointed, he arose and returned to die at Babylon, the reluctant victim of his own unrivalled power and ambition. His majesty, George IV., commanding to be apprised of the nature of his complaint, patiently expected the fatal hour of his demise; the famous chemist, Sir H. Davy, kept a journal of his daily symptoms, watching the progress of his own decay; and the great natural philosopher, Dr. Wollaston, pronounced judgment on himself, accurately describing the course of the pathological changes that certainly would, as they actually did, terminate his existence. Such persons as these survive death, and their bodies seem to be but the subordinate agents of their loftier wills and understandings.
In these instances, we have attempted to describe the condition of the mind at the brink of death, when the brain dies last; but sometimes, and perhaps more frequently, the brain dies first, long before the other viscera are defunct. In these cases, the mind goes out prematurely, and the patient sinks unconscious, lost to himself and all around him. Bichât, in his physiological researches, Sur la Vie et sur la Mort, has admirably described the difference of the commencement of death in the different organs. If the heart suddenly stops, respiration stops also, and the brain becomes unconscious at once. If the brain and spinal cord, upon which respiration depends, are stunned, severed, or compressed, death is instantaneous. If the lungs are suffocated, the brain and spinal cord are stupified, and the heart ceases to act. It is said, that when death does not begin by the heart, the action of this usually continues at least one beat after respiration. Here, the mind dies at the same time with the brain. Decease is easy and rapid, and the person is dead before he can be made aware of his peril. The slow agonizing deaths arise from the slow loss of power of the brain over the lungs, or of the lungs over the brain, by effusion, &c. Old people die as if they were falling asleep, and phthisical patients frequently die ecstatic. The senses may remain for some time after apparent death has happened; and moribund patients, actually speechless and seemingly unconscious, will, when a question is put to them, reply by signs, or the movement of a lip or of a finger. Perhaps they are suffering when we do not know it. Parts of the body may die before the whole is dead, and such dead parts may be separated by absorption, and life go on as before, independent of the loss. Such separation, however, especially if it be extensive, is seldom effected without danger to the entire system, and is generally, accompanied with delirium or disturbance of the mental faculties. In fevers, the mind is obscured, and the sufferer dies frantic or comatose. Diseases of the liver cause melancholy, those of the stomach produce anxiety and fear, renal affections render the patient apathetic, while disorders of the lungs or of the bones make him irritable, fretful, and capricious. Drunkards sink haunted with hideous phantoms, gluttons lie oppressed with the nightmare, profligates droop through a distaste of life, and misers are hunted to death by the ghost of their last shilling. The envious pine away with the sallow taint of a jaundiced eye, and the slothful lazily slumber away in the midst of obesity, gout, and the stone. Such people are the same in death as they have been in life; and if their mind survive their bodies, it is only for the purpose of giving vent to their spleen by still harping on their habitual string of thoughts. They do not live in the hour of death because they had already ceased to live in the daytime of life. They are tormented before their time. Dreams of death precede a fatal apoplexy, and singing sweetly in the frenzy of fever is a sure
sign of dying. * An intense desire of life is the deepest source of misery there is, for the resolution not to die is of no avail in the last hour. Yet many are well aware of their approaching end, and some (even children) calculate the day and hour of its occurrence to a nicety; whether the prediction verify the event, or the event the prediction, we cannot tell.+ In the sixth book of his Epidemics, and at the tenth section, Hippocrates mentions the case of a housekeeper of a Greek gentleman, who, from her own internal sensations, recognised the precise nature of her malady; † and John Hunter, in his Surgical Lectures, edited by Mr. Palmer, says, “We are sometimes so affected as to feel within ourselves that we shall not live, for the living powers having become weak, the nerves communicate this intelligence to the brain, and the mind is thus made acquainted with the state of the body."
It is needless to describe the features of death, for they are too well known almost to every one ; and the Hippocratic countenance, fresh from the easel of a master, has been touched with so vivid a brush, that, after the lapse of more than two thousand years, the hand of time, which blemishes most things else, has only served to heighten and enhance the colouring. The stillness of the repose of the dead has been the theme of all ages. Its "fair last look," as Byron calls it, has attracted the gaze of the poet, the philosopher, the moralist, and the divine. Children mistake it for sleep, and infidels have been daunted by what they scornfully style the “eternal sleep of death.” When the eye sees what it never saw, the heart feels what it never felt:—it is mine to-day, to-morrow it will be yours! When the ruffle of life and the anguish of pain have passed away, the features return to their wonted expression—sometimes they sinile, and early friends sadly discover, in the corpse of the old man, the placid face of the boy when life was young and all was hope and glee. The chill and changeless brow, the closed untwinkling eyelid, the marble
“Oh, vanity of sickness! fierce extremes
In their continuance will not feel themselves.
K. John. † Elliotson's Human Physiology. Fifth Edition, pp. 1043--1046.
Euvres complètes d'Hippocrate. Par E. Litré. Tome cinquième, pp. 348, 349. Paris, 1846.
$ Palmer's Hunter, vol. i. p. 268. Longman, 1835.