Imatges de pÓgina

Blessed Saviour as an act which prefigured bis own Resurrection. (P. 203.) If he refers to the passage in St. John's Gospel to which he evidently alludes, (John iii. 14.) he will at once perceive, that our Lord speaks of it as a type of bis Crucifixion; and such is the light in which it has been, we believe, always considered. We may also ask Mr. Locker upon what authority he has attributed the 49th Psalm to Solomon? (P. 33.) Commentators are much divided in their opinions respecting the author of this difficult Psalm, as well as on the true meaning of many passages in it: but we are not aware that any interpreter of note has considered So-. lomon as its author; at least our own researches have not enabled us to discover the authority for such an opinion.

These bowever are matters which will admit of easy correction ; and if this useful volume should be reprinted, we think Mr. Locker will thank us for baving pointed them out to his notice. Upon the whole, we consider these Lectures to form a valuable addition to those stores of religious instruction which have been provided for the use of the lower classes.

Art. VI. The Principles of Forensic Medicine, Systema

tically Arranged, and applied to British Practice. By John Gordon Smith, M.D. 8vo. Pp. 532. 14s. Messrs.

Underwood. 1821. We will not quarrel with the terms “ Forensic Medicine, and “ Medical Jurisprudence;" for it, probably, would not be easy to substitute others which would answer the purpose equally well. But the exoteric reader may, perbaps, require to be told, that they apply to those principles which, in legal investigations, enable the magistrate to form correct opinions on the causes of injuries which the human person may have sustained. It is evident, therefore, that the science is of no small importance; and, strange to say, its cultivation in England, systematically, is, in a great degree, if not altogether, new.

About thirty years since, a brief abstract of a foreign work appeared under the title of Dr. Farr's Elements. In 1815, Dr. Bartley published a treatise on Forensic Medicine, in a small compass; and subsequently Doctors Male and Rober-, ton have edited larger works on the same subject. With the exception of sach detached papers as the medical journals bave periodically contained, (and we have reason to believe

that these are numerous and valuable,) such is the meagre sum contributed by English physicians to this interesting branch of their professional knowledge.

We cannot feel assured, that Dr. Gordon Smith's work will attract more attention than those of any of his predecessors; and they, probably, by this time, have undergone the fate of most “Treatises. Neither the style, nor the arrangement of his volume, are particularly attractive: we heartily wish they were more so; for it would be difficult to assemble in the same small space so large a measure of important facts; and facts, after all, are better than fine writing in a book of science. Some of these we shall present to our readers.

There seems to be only one proof of death which can be admitted as absolute, Putrefaction; and in warm climates, where the budy is burried rapidly to interment, it s highly necessary that this process should be allowed to commence. Dr. Smith himself, saw in a celebrated continental city, a poor woman, yet alive, .carried to the brink of the grave, in broad day: the spectators fortunately interposed in this particular instance; but its occurrence sufficiently evinces that a belief in mistakes of the kind is not altogether fanciful. Besides being buried alive, (an operation with which we have heard many people of sepse express themselves dissatisfied,) there is a chance, it appears, if we do not take good care, of being burnt alive also; and, as the kindling is spontaneous, the sufferer, unless he meets with a good-natured Coroner, ought by the strict letter of the law, to be laid under four cross roads.

“ It can no longer be doubted, that persons have retired to their chambers in the usual manner, and in place of the individual, a few cinders, and perhaps part of his bones have been found. There are several instances of this nature on record *. The event is but of rare occurrence; and I am not aware that on any occasion either the interference of others, or any unusual contingency of events, has been supposed to occasion it. Nor, as far as I have been able to ascertain, has it ever been seen in what way the phenomena were produced, or in what manner the process of combustion proceeded. One case, and that I believe the only one of the kind, has been recorded in a foreign journal; where the person survived for a short time, and gave an account of the manner in which he was struck with the fire. In this instance, other people arrived in time to see him in the state of combustion, and to extinguish the flame; but bis death supervened through gangrene consequent to the event. In almost every recorded instance, however, the agency

Among other sources of easy access, the Philosophical Transactions, Annual Register, cnd other periodicals for 1775; and Gentleman's Magazine for 1736, may be consulted,"

of Alcohol seems to have been concerned, for nearly all the victims appear to have been great driukers, and in some cases, to have taken an extraordinary quantity of spirits shortly previous to the fatal catastrophe.

« Various ideas as to the mode in which this effect has been produced, have emanated from those who have reported instances of it; but I fear we know little of the real fact. The agency of the electric fluid has been supposed; and also actual contact with fire, while the animal substance was highly impregnated with Alcohol. Of these two opinions, the former will probably prove the right one; but as it is little better than conjecture, I decline entering into the subject. If such an occurrence should come in our way, it is of some importance to be aware that it has happened before * " P. 59.

Now it so happens, that the only one of the cases to which Dr. Smith refers, which we bave been able immediately to consult, by no means supports the theory of spontaneous combustion. Mary Clues was a jolly, well-looking widow, in the city of Coventry, who had passed half a century, with more regard to her comfort than her character. Grief for the loss of her husband, increased her original love of strong waters : more than once she drank four half-pints of undiluted rum, within the twelve hours ; and for a year preceding her death, her castomary allowance varied between half a pint and a quart of aniseed. Under this discipline, she grew thinner, lost her complexion, dried up her skin, became jaundiced, and took to her bed; in which last abode, her hours passed in dram-drinking and smoking, occasionally interrupted by a few short visions of the devil; who, as she solemnly assured the attendant who sometimes sat up with her at night, came into the room to carry her away.

Her bedstead stood parallel to the chimney, at the distance of three feet; and she was used to lie upon her side close to the edge of the bed, next the fire. The poor wretch was totally helpless; and, as her habits will readily give warrant, more than once had tumbled on the floor. She had been found in this state on the morning before her decease; but she refused all attendance at night. At eleven o'clock, one of her gossips placed two pieces of coal on the grate, and a rusblight in a candlestick, on a chair by the bed. Between tive and six the next morning, smoke was observed to issue

“ • Those who desire a key to the amount of our information on this mysterious subject, down to 1814, may consult the Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales, article Combustions Humaines Spontanées. Two cases have since occurred in France. One was reported in a provincial journal, and is alluded to in the Literary Gazette of January 29, 1820. The other, which seems to have taken place about the same time, is given in the Loud. Med. and Phys. Journal for April, 1821.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

from the window; and on breaking open the door, the remains of Mary Clues were found between the bed and the fire place, The legs and one thigh were untouched ; but

excepting these parts, there were not the least remains of any skin, muscles, or viscera. The bones of the scall, thorax, spine, and the upper extremities were completely calcined.” It is very probable that the immoderate quantity of alcohol, in which this miserable woman had indulged, rendered her frame more quickly inflammable than the human body generally is found to be ; but there is no reason to conclude, that her case, unless in this particular, differed from the numerous accidents by fire, which every newspaper daily records. UnJess Dr. Smith's other instances are more to the point, we sball still saturate our minced pies with brandy, without fear of a suicidal auto da fe.

There are few poisonous substances which habit, at least in particular instances, will not render innocuous. Pouqueville mentions an old man at Constantinople, who had swallowed corrosive sublimate for thirty years, and whose dose, at length, amounted to a drachm daily. On the other hand, articles, which to the generality, are innocent or agreeable, are to some disgusting and noxious. Dr. Smith knows a person who " suffers the most excruciating torments if be partakes of any thing into the composition of which an egg has entered." "He has heard of another, who was purged by opium. If he would take the trouble, he might read in Donatus, of a boy, whose jaws swelled, whose face broke out in spots, and whose lips frothed, whenever he eat an egg: and in Schenkias, of a second, in whom the general law of astringents and cathartics was always reversed. The collectors of marvels, tell us of cardinals, who swooned at the smell of a rose; of beroes who took to their heels at the sight of rue; of apples which make the nose bleed; raisins, which give the tooth-ache ; eels which produce fainting fits, and pork which causes palpitations of the heart. All these anomalies, are stated on authorities more or less deserving credit; and most of them, we doubt not, have existed.

The chapter on poisoning, contains many valuable suggestions. It inculcates the necessity of careful dissection when death has ensued, even though an inconvenient lapse of time may have occurred before opportunities of investigation: the medical practitioner will not, or ought not, to be deterred, by a feeling of disgust, from obedience to the call of duty : and the detection of mineral poisons, cannot be affected by the approach of putrefaction. The variety of substances by which the human frame may be fatally affected

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

presents a most fearful catalogue: and some of the accidents of the art of healing do not increase our wish to be subjected to its cruel kindness. One case is mentioned, in which a piece of lanar caustic was dropped down the throat of a patient, in an attempt to cure an ulcer : be was saved by drinking abundant quantities of milk. In the Hotel Dieu, another person was made to swallow about an ounce and a half of muriatic acid by mistake for whey--to be sure, as a sort of equipoise, we must not omit the account of a woman, who being tired of her husband's dropsy, tried to send him to sleep by twenty grains of opium ; and to her great surprise carried off the water by excess of perspiration.

It is well known, that mussels and other shell fish, which generally inay be eaten with impunity, occasionally are deleterious. Dr. Beune has affirmed, that the Stella Marina sometimes lodges its spawn in these receptacles. This spawn is so caustic, when applied externally, that it produces itching and painful swellings ; and there is no reason to deny our belief to the same effects internally. Captain Scoresby has assigned poisonous qualities to bear's liver; a delicacy which, unless in the arctic regions, is not very likely to find its way to tables however luxurious; almost all the sailors who eat it were sick; in some the skin peeled off their bodies; and a few absolutely died.

The lovers of haut gout will be divided as to the security of their taste, at least as far as Dr. Smith has collected facts, At the Somersetshire assizes in 1819, an action was brought to recover from the owner of a dead cow, which had been thrown into the river Yeo, the value of several cattle who had died of a similar complaint; and a verdict was found for the defendant; grounded chiefly upon the opinion of a medical gentleman, that highly putrid animal matter might be taken into the stomach without injury. In opposition to this doctrine, we are told of thirty-two persons who died in the same year in Greenland after revelling with the envoy of the Missionary Society upon the putrid brains of a Walrus.

We scarcely recollect two cases of greater horror than the following: in the last, the coroper's jury, who sat upon the body, returned their verdict in direct terms, " eaten to death by maggots."

“ In the month of July 1809, a man was found near Finglas, in Ireland, lying under the wall of a lime kiln, at an early hour in the evening, with his face on the ground, apparently dead. On turning him on his back to ascertain the real state of the case, it was discovered that he was yet alive, but under such appalling circumstances as make it a disgusting task to enter even on the description. On

« AnteriorContinua »