Page images
PDF
EPUB

evidence in behalf of the Mackinnon theory. The proof is worthy of the project. After Mr. Walker enumerated a multitude of places which he had visited, the Chairman said:

Q. 807. Speaking from your personal knowledge, in every one of those places you have enumerated, your opinion is, as a medical man, that the burial of the dead has been injurious to the persons living in the neighbourhood ?-I am sure of it. It cannot be otherwise.” (What hinders it?)

“808. You have no doubt it affects their health ?-I have no doubt it does.” (Is absence of doubt the highest proof ?)

810. You state from your own knowledge, as a medical man, that it affects the health of persons living in the vicinity? - There is no doubt of that.” (The contrary is certain.)

“811. Would you say, as a medical man, that the gases escaping from the grave-yards, and mixing with the general air, affect the health of the persons living around ?—Yes.” (What would he not "say?")

“812. Will you state whether you have seen disease arising from that cause ?-I have; but it is sufficient to state, that the neighbourhood to which my attention has been especially directed is surrounded with grave-yards.” (Why sufficient? This proves nothing; it is mere evasion. You are required to show the effect, not to prove the existence, of grave-yards.)

“813. Can you say whether, in your immediate neighbourhood, there is any disease traceable to this cause ?—Yes; and I shall prove by a very intelligent witness, that he has known persons affected by this cause.' (Observe again his evasive dexterity. He has no case of his own, but he borrows the one mentioned in our last Letter by Surgeon Atkinson.)

The Committee found it as difficult to fix Mr. Walker, as he did to fix the gas. He escapes at every point; and, it must be owned, diffuses an unsavoury smell to the moral sense. Mark the answers to the first, second, third, and fourth of the above questions. Was attempt at proof ever more preposterous ? Was humbug ever more unblushing ? "I am sure of it.”

am sure of it." - It cannot be otherwise." "I have no doubt it does.” 66 There is no doubt of that.” 6. Yes.” The whole case ,rests upon

the

questions to which Mr. Walker returned these most absurd answers. Do such answers bespeak knowledge, science, dignity? Or are

they the indications of an empty, ridiculous, coxcomical dogmatism? What judge, not a lunatic, would direct an issue on such evidence? What jury, not fatuous, would regard it? Yet, after all the bustle and bluster' of " five years'” inquiry, and the examination of “upwards of ninety grave-yards,” this is the sum total of Mr. Walker's “gatherings.” He, nevertheless, obviously believes all he says. Our wonder is that he does not versify. He might easily achieve a deathless fame as the poet of the spade and the pick-axe. “ Imaging,” according to Dryden, “is, in itself, the very height and life of poetry." Then, of a truth, Mr. Walker is a poet of no mean pretensions. He has run to and fro among the tombs of the metropolis, peeping over walls and balustrades, through gates and gratings, surveying the spoils of mortality, till his fancy became inflamed, and

At last, sublimed
To rapture and enthusiastic heat,"

he poured himself forth in an octavo volume full of the horrors of city sepulture! He rushes along in a state of mental bewilderment, blind to facts which all see but himself, and deaf to the testimony of the numerous gentlemen who contradict him. No report is too absurd, no statement too extravagant for Mr. Walker to receive; the more monstrous the more welcome! Hence, the worthy doctor of Drury-lane is often the victim of mischievous wags, who wantonly sport with his foolish simplicity. For example, at question 2092, he says: “I was informed that upwards of five hundred skulls had been thrown up in one day, and deposited in another part of the grave-yard, and that the grave-digger had amused himself by chalking the number on the wall.” That Mr. Walker was told this we cannot doubt, since he says it; but no man of common sense, and much less a man conversant with such matters, needs be told that it is a mere jest. Men like Mr. Walker will not have far to go for lovers of the ludicrous, who, like the hero of Gay, will mock them

“Oft, in joking talk,
Of ashes, leather, oatmeal, bran, and chalk.”'

With Mr. Walker, all is evidence that savours of aversion to

in

church-yards. Mere aversion to them suffices with him to prove the presence of pestilence. As a proof of their deadly effect, he says he knows of "a gentleman refusing to take a house in the neighbourhood of Bishopsgate churchyard.” Many people have no predilection for houses in the neighbourhood of churchyards, who never heard of Mackinnon's “ Volcano," or of Walker's “ Funnel.” Few men have sufficient wisdom to delight in objects which put them in remembrance of death. The simple surgeon little thought that the Bishop of London would come forward and attest that he had lived a number of

years that very churchyard, together with his family, in perfect health!

We might add much in farther illustration of the enthusiastic folly and reckless credulity of Mr. Walker ; but perhaps the case does not require it. He will probably learn, at length, that such work as he has undertaken calls for a little judgment, as well as much zeal; and that, in pursuing even a noble end, it might be advisable not wholly to disregard common sense, truth, and reason. But let us be just.

But let us be just. In Mr. Walker, one thing pleases us,—his concern for Her Majesty! After a loud burst of laudable fury against the burying-ground of Buckingham Chapel, so long and so worthily occupied by our excellent friend, the Rev. E. A. Dunn, which stands in the vicinity of the Palace, he exclaims: “It is now exposed; when will it be denounced? Surely the guardians of Her Majesty's health will not risk the consequences of neglect." No wonder it was cautiously shunned by our sailor King, whose nautical experience had endowed him with a keen discernment between pure air and grave-yard gases ! Let Sir James Clarke, with Doctors Chambers, Blagden, and Locock, beware of treasonable neglect !

September 26, 1842.

LETTER IX.

STRATAGEMS OF THE CEMETERY COMPANIES-EVIDENCE OF GRAVE DIGGERS

EXAMINED.

THERE are certain facts of which you ought to be apprised. Ever since the opening of the Cemeteries, a system of deceptive agitation has been carried on, in the City, on their behalf. This system has comprised many expedients ; among which, that of procuring the insertion of paragraphs in the newspapers has been the most efficient. There are hired parties, who have made this their especial business. They have succeeded in enlisting the principal organs of the daily press, and also the hebdomadal reptiles of the Sunday, the foul fraternity that live by pandering to the low passions of the coarse-minded multitude, always alive to tales of horror, blood, and murder. This business was pursued with especial industry, while Mr. Mackinnon's Committee were sitting. The chief abominations then recited, were most carefully retailed, from week to week, mixed up with Mr. Walker's “ gatherings.” Since the publication of the Evidence, by order of the House, nothing has been left unattempted, in order to give the utmost publicity to the exaggerations, fictions, and slanders with which the volume abounds. In addition to paragraphs in newspapers, pamphlets likewise have been published, professing to contain extracts from the Minutes of Evidence; and persons have been employed to hawk them about the streets, bearing on their shoulders pictorial placards illustrative of their horrid recitals! One of these lies before us, which we have compared with the Evidence, and which we find interspersed with exciting comments and wicked interpolations ! Not satisfied with this, fresh forgeries and new lies are continually poured upon the public ear. Of these the most recent appeared a few days ago in the respectable columns of the Morning Chronicle, as a letter to the Editor. Its subject was, the burial ground attached to the Chapel of Ease of St. Margaret's, Westminster. After various misrepresentations, which we shall pass by, the writer says :

“ A person residing in Little Chapel-street, which runs by the side of the burial ground to which I allude, and which, though it is filled with coffins to within a few feet of the surface, is still used as a place of sepulture--this person informed me, that there is not a house in the street in which ferer does not prerail. (The italics are the writer's own.) Two females, residing next door to each other, died within the last few days, chiefly caused by the disgusting malaria arising from the burial ground opposite their dwellings. When one of these females was buried, the other was removed to the country in a cart; the smell from the grave is stated to have been almost overpowering. Mr. R., a respectable inhabitant, from whom I received the above information, states, that he is frequently obliged to close the windows of his house, owing to the smell from the burial ground.

Surely, Sir, this is a dark spot on the fair name of this great country. It is opposed to decency, morality, and religion !"

Then comes an exhortation to the Editor “to use every exertion to banish metropolitan interment."

After perusing this narrative, taught by our recent studies to doubt its truth, we resolved to inquire for ourselves; and, yesterday, proceeding to Westminster, we went over the burialground, and examined its condition,-a number of graves being open at the time; while parties on the spot politely answered our inquiries relative to the recent removal of bodies from the site of the new spire. All appeared to have been done with decency and order. We next went down Little Chapel-street, interrogating a number of the principal inhabitants, who had resided there, some two, some eight, some twelve, and others twenty years, in the same houses. We read to them, severally, the letter in the Chronicle, and their uniform reply was, in effect, that it was pure fiction. We then entered into the houses where the individuals had died, and read the letter to their inmates respectively. Their answer was, that the report was wholly untrue. The: one died of consumption, preceded and induced by erysipelas; and the other, of a cold caught by exposure during one of the heavy rains which occurred some time ago.

All the families we called on affirmed their utter ignorance of the existence of any sort of fever in the street or neighbourhood, and, with one voice, declared that the situation was most healthy, while they suffered no inconvenience whatever from the burying ground. Thus, a tale which has probably shocked many, turns out to be a thing of imagination, invented to answer base and sordid ends. Much, as we have already shown, of what is detailed in the Evidence taken before Mr. Mackinnon's Committee, and published in the newspapers, is equally unfounded.

Much mystery hangs over the subject of sepulchral agitation. It is certain, however, that the Cemetery Companies led the way ; but they had no idea that the Church would step forward

« PreviousContinue »