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ART. VII.-Suicide: a Poem. In four parts. Illustrated with Notes. By HARRIET COPE. 8vo. pp. 214. London. Rivingtons. 1815. Pr. 12s.
Had this book been the production of a gentleman instead of a lady, we scarcely think we should have had resolution enough to travel to the end of it; but induced by respect for the sex, for which we are ready on all occasions to make sacrifices, we have made a great effort and actually looked into every page, notes and all; wishing to set a good example to Miss Cope's other readers, and to encourage those who may be afraid to cope with the difficulties connected with the subject.
This lady has brought together some of the finest subjects for poetical composition both affecting and sublime that can well be imagined, and has wrought them up into as many unfortunate episodes, without any suitable regard to either connexion or arrangement-the general tendency of all of which is, that it is very wrong in people to kill themselves, and that we ought to trust to Providence under all the ills of life, nowise doubting but that "death will come when it will come." Taking the poem altogether, it is little else than a string of episodes descriptive of the alternate fortitude and weakness, resignation and despair, piety and suicide, of divers persons-some of them known in history, others only the creatures of the poetess's fancy; intermixed however, with killing remarks, and joined together with dashes innumerable. Three or four of these murky ornaments sometimes occur in one line, where a single comma would have answered the purpose, and where no break at all is perceptible in the sense.
The fate of Job, of Chatterton, of Burns, and of Petrarch, (we are not accountable for the author's inattention to chronological order in the associations she forms) are very feelingly described in the first book.-The second begins with a consideration of the Hindoo creed, according to which the death of a widow on the funeral pile of her husband is both justifiable and praiseworthy; but whether this author thinks it so or not, she does not inform us, although her subject required close attention to moral causes, and her prominent piety led us to look for it. Next follows the heroism of Curtius-who cannot with propriety be called a suicide, as it was not only with the approbation, but in consequence of the advice of the interpreters of the divine will, that he devoted himself to death; and could the
good people of Rome have managed to get him out of the hole into which he had leapt, we have no doubt that instead of burying him on a crossway and driving a stake through his body, they would have honored him with a monument. But now that we have got into Rome, may we not ask why Cato has not been brought in for a share of the damning fame which is bestowed in this work on various personages both ancient and modern? This, we think, would have afforded fully as good a subject for discussion as any of the others, but at the same time it would have required something like reasoning in which this lady does not always choose to indulge. We have next a couple of episodes on imaginary subjects, which we think the best in the poem: one descriptive of the misery devolving on the family of a suicide, and the selfishness of disposition displayed in the act itself; the other of a career of pleasure, libertinism and guilt ending in suicide, with a dream of a very serious complexion, from which, however, the author does us the favor to awake us by ending the book.
The third book opens with a long episode on the treachery and death of Judas. The story of Daniel in the lions' den is next touched upon, in the management of which we are very properly incited to place our trust in God as a sure defence against oneself. Our authoress again descends to modern history with the dismal tale of Boissy the French dramatist-who, overcome by the "stings and arrows of outrageous fortune," shut himself up with his wife and family voluntarily to perish by famine, and were unwillingly relieved by the interposition of friendship. The next story is the preservation of a nymph on the brink of a precipice, by the thunder and lightning suddenly striking terror into her conscience and horror of the dreadful deed which she was meditating. We have next the sad history of a damsel whose lover had killed himself in despair, and who is seen by moonlight weeping over his grave. It differs from the rest of the poem by being written in verses of eight syllables.
The fourth and last book opens with a paraphrase on part of the 14th chapter of Isaiah, which most of Miss C.'s readers will, we have no doubt, enjoy quite as much in the vulgate prose translation as in her numbers. This is succeeded by a rapturous jubilate on the fall of Buonaparte, a piteous commiseration of the woes of the Duchess of Angouleme, and an account of the joyful return of the Bourbons to.
the country of their ancestors. We believe that this poem was written before the second fall of Napoleon, but in the event of its reaching a second edition, Miss Cope will do well to hold up his ex-imperial majesty to the world as a notable example of that Christian fortitude and resignation to the will of heaven which alone can deter and preserve from acts so degrading to human nature as those against which she inveighs. The next episode, and the last in the poem, is the catastrophe of a mariner shipwrecked "just within sight of lov'd Britannia's strand;" in which is depicted the desperate resolution of his mistress, who is on the point of committing suicide, when lo! "the youth lamented stood before her eyes," admonishing her to "shun the gulph profound," with a silver lute in his hand and a crown of sapphire on his head, and otherwise so seraphically apparelled as to seem rather to invite her to follow him than seriously to advise her to remain in the land of "tares and weeds,” as our authoress calls it; in short the most delectable spectre we ever read of, and he of course succeeds in preventing her from joining "Sappho's and Dido's angry ghosts."
Thus have we conducted the reader, in a journey we fear rather tedious, to the end of Suicide, a Poem, and we shall now present him with a few passages from it in order that he may form his own opinion of Miss Cope's poetic merits. Her style may be known from the following lines which form the exor dium of the poem,
"Ye, who the cup of bitter sorrow drain!
"Ye to whom gracious, but mysterious heaven,
"Pity those spirits! sensate like your own-
From Canto II. we quote one of the best passages in the book.
"Has guilt involved thee in its turbid wave--
But we have done, for we do not like
"to hear a brazen candlestick turn'd, Or a dry wheel grate on an axle tree."
pp. 54, 5.
If ladies cannot suppress the spirit of inspiration, let them try to content themselves with writing an occasional song, or sonnet, or a harmless madrigal; or even a charade or an enigma for the Ladies' diary; but thus to come upon the public with a didactic poem of four cantos, is imposing rather too much on their good nature.
ART. VIII. 1. A Treatise on Hydrencephalus, or Dropsy of the Brain. By JAMES CARMICHAEL SMYTH, M. D. F. R. S. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and Physician Extraordinary to His Majesty, &c. &c. &c. 8vo. pp. 120. pr. 6s. Underwood, Fleet-street; London, 1814.
2. A Statement of the Early Symptoms, which lead to the Disease termed Water in the Brain; with Observations on the necessity of a watchful Attention to them, and on the Fatal Consequences of their Neglect; in a Letter to Martin Wall, M. D. Clinical Professor at Oxford, &c. &c. By G. D. YEATS, M. D. of Trinity College, Oxford, of the Royal College of Physicians, London, &c. 8vo. pp. 114. pr. 5s. Callow, London, 1815.
3. A Second Essay on Hydrocephalus Acutus, or Dropsy in the Brain. By 1. CHEYNE, M. D. F. R. S. E. M. R. I. A. Professor of the Practice of Physic in the School of Surgery in Ireland, &c. &c. Svo. pp. 74. Gilbert & Hodges, Dublin; Underwood, London, 1815.
THE nearly coincidental appearance, in point of time, of the three essays which we purpose to consider in this article, affords us an opportunity of giving them a combined, in preference to a separate notice; and we embrace the opportunity the more readily, as we shall thereby be enabled to present our readers with a more connected and satisfactory view of the present state of the pathology of the disease on which they treat, than would otherwise have been in our power. The subject itself is one of the most important which can engage the attention of the medical pathologist.
The period is not remote at which this disease was regarded as almost decidedly mortal. It is still one of the most fatal to which the early period of life is liable; and our views of its treatment have even now scarcely acquired that degree of precision, which is requisite to give stability and confidence to the mind of the physician. It is gratifying however to observe, how much we have advanced lately; and it is no trivial proof of the advantages to be derived from diligent and faithful observation, that if we have not yet acquired the power of controlling the train of morbid action on which the fatal effusion into the brain depends, we seem at least to have entered on that path of investigation, which will probably conduct us to the desired happy end.
It is by widening the circle of our enquiries, and looking beyond the precincts of those organs on which the force of the disease is most strongly impressed, that this auspicious prospect has been opened to us. So long as the attention of physicians was principally arrested by the last and fatal stage of the disease, and the medical anatomist looked only to the brain for the