[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
[blocks in formation]

Prayer to be pardoned their faults.
Desire to expiate a crime.
That they are become reckless on

Disgust of life.

Reproaches to persons of whom they think they have a right to complain.

Kind expression to persons, &c. Adieus to their friends.

Desire to receive the prayers of the church.

Insult to the ministers of religion.

Belief in a future life.

Thoughts of debauch and libertinage. Materialism.

Prayer not to give publicity to their suicide.

Wish to have their letters published in the newspapers.

Reflections on the misery of human life. Belief in a fatality. Prayer to their children to pardon the suicide they are committing. That they die men of honour. Regret not to be able to testify their gratitude to their benefac


Talk of the hopes which they see

vanish. Prayers to their friends to bestow Regrets for life.

some tears upon their memory. Regrets to quit a brother, &c. Prayer to conceal the nature of

their death from their children. Solicitude for the future of their


Incertitude of a future life. Recommendation of their souls to God.

Confidence in divine mercy. Instructions for their funerals. Prayer to their friends to keep a

mesh of hair, a ring, in remembrance of them. Desire to be buried with a ring or other token of remembrance.

Request as to the manner they

Fear to be exposed at the Morgue.

would be buried.

Reflections on what will become of the body.

Desire to be carried directly to the cemetery.

Prayer to be buried with the poor.

M. Guerry has a large collection of these papers, which published simply as they are, would be one of the most interesting of modern publications.



[ocr errors]

Here we find men-"fearing to want courage,' "feeling that they are becoming reckless on earth," --“disgusted with life,"--" insulting the ministers of religion,”—" thinking of debauch and libertinage," "wishing to have their letters published in the newspapers," boasting that they die men of honour,”"giving instructions for their funerals." Mark what these sentences contain! Mark the vanity, the frivolity which do not shrink before the tomb. Mark the passions, so light, so ridiculous, so strong!-the passion which points a pistol to the brain, and dictate at the same moment a paragraph to the "Constitutionnel!"*

Any one little given to the study of these subjects would hardly imagine that the method by which a person destroys himself is almost as accurately and invariably defined by his age as the seasons are by the So it is, notwithstanding, if we may rely upon


M. Guerry's experience.

The young hang themselves; arrived at a maturer age they usually blow out their brains; as they get old they recur again to the juvenile practice of suspension.

The tables annexed give the number of persons who kill themselves by the pistol and the halter; their age is indicated at the base, and a little above is the proportion which these numbers bear to the total number of observations taken upon one thousand.

I have gone thus into the details of M. Guerry's work now before me,† first, because I think so important

* This paper seems, for some reason or other, the paper in which suicides are most anxious to be recorded.

There are other facts in M. Guerry's work to which I do not allude, but which are still interesting. From his statements in respect to education, it appears that from 1815 to 1827 the number of persons receiving instruction had so far augmented as to furnish in the most enlightened arondissements of the north-east (where there are the universities of Mentz, Strasbourg, Douai, and Dijon), one boy going to school in every 11, 12, and 15 inhabitants-instead of one in 14, 15, 16, and 17 inhabitants; and so in the districts of Angers, Orleans, Rennes, and Clermont, where there is the least instruction, for one boy going to school in 113, 126, 190, 158, and 167 inhabitants in 1819, there was in 1827 one in every 74, 92, 128, 150, and 159. But

an attempt to carry certain rules into those departments of morals and jurisprudence, which have hitherto been vaguely treated and considered, would be, whether successful or unsuccessful, well worthy our deepest attention; and, secondly, because I feel greatly disposed to concur in the majority of M. Guerry's conclusions. This disposition, I own, is not merely founded upon a faith inspired by the calculations I have submitted to the reader. I do not feel that faith in such calculations which many do. But in this instance, the results which M. Guerry has given are those which the ordinary rules of nature and observation would teach me to believe.

A philosopher, writing on history, once said, that statues, and monuments, and triumphal arches were only to be received as credible witnesses when the facts which they pretended to commemorate were likely to be true. This is about the manner in which, under the necessity of quoting from very imperfect sources, I usually consider the figures of most statists. But what does M. Guerry prove? Those facts which he demonstrates as most probable are facts which we were taught, centuries before the kind of tables which he gives us, to believe. It is the wife who wrongs the husband, or the husband who wrongs the wife, that

the schools which in England receive a third of the public donations receive in France but a thirtieth; and in seventeen departments there was not, during the space of ten years, one gift or bequest to an institution of this description. This leads me to remark that there are some curious statements in M. Guerry's work respecting donations, more especially as they concern the clergy and the poor. From these it would appear that the wealthiest and most enlightened provinces make the greatest number of donations to the clergy, and that the most ignorant provinces make the fewest donations to anybody. Where there are the most crimes against the person, the most priests, there the most is given to the poor.

More than half of the bequests and gifts that take place are for the benefit of this class (the poor), and the support of hospitals, and other beneficent establishments; and, contrary to general belief, it would appear, 1st, that the greatest number of charitable contributors are of the male sex; 2dly, that instead of the priests wringing what is left to them from the dying sinner, it is the poor who gain the most by testament, and the clergy the most by donation.

in ninety-four cases out of a hundred, adds murder to adultery. The profound author of the Prince divined on a large scale what M. Guerry has just established on a small one! . . . . . . . . The dogma, too beautiful to be true, that wealth and knowledge are incompatible with crime, stood opposed to every page of history that ever pretended to portray the character of mankind. It is refuted by figures; it is by figures only that men would have dared or attempted to assert it.

The earliest philosophers and legislators had condemned, on the score of policy and morality, those sexual disorders on which Christ set the seal of divine reprobation, and which we are now for the millionth time shown to be injurious to the well-being of society. The influence exercised by climate and race is a doctrine as ancient as the separation of the sons of Noah. One stands amazed at the slow progress of intelligence when one sees it necessary to prop up these old and hackneyed precepts with new authority.

So much for the facts that concern mankind in general as for those which relate to France in particular, M. Guerry's calculations conform, for the most part, with the views that a rational observer would have taken. He paints the population of France active and industrious in the north; indolent, passionate, charitable in the south; ignorant, honest, religious, and attached to their parents in the centre; while in Paris we find, as we might have supposed, a people universally sensual, and easily disgusted with life. This is what we should have said without seeing M. Guerry's tables-this is what his tables teach us.

I do not, by these observations, mean to depreciate the class of works which I have been considering; it has, undoubtedly, its peculiar merits; but I see people of the present day insensible to its defects-astonished when a truth is proved to them by ciphers-credulous when an error is similarly asserted, and falling perpetually into trivialities, absurdities, and superficialities, merely because they think that nothing can be

« VorigeDoorgaan »