[merged small][ocr errors]

A very interesting trial for murder took place lately in Austria. The prisoner, Anna Alexander, was acquitted by the jury, who, in the various questions put to the witnesses, in order to discover whether the murdered man, Lieutenant Mathew Wurzel, was a poison-eater or not, educed some very curious evidence relating to this class of persons. As it is not generally known that eating poison is actually practised in more countries than one, the following account of the custom, given by a physician, Dr. T. Von Tschudi, will not be without interest. In some districts of Lower Austria, and in Styria, especially in those mountainous parts bordering on Hungary, there prevails the strange habit of eating arsenic. The peasantry in particular are given to it. They obtain it under the name of hedri, from the travelling hucksters and gatherers of herbs, who, on their side, get it from the glass-blowers, or purchase it from the cow-doctors, quacks, or mountebanks. The poison-eaters have a twofold aim in their dangerous enjoyment; one of which is to obtain a fresh, healthy appearance, and acquire a certain degree of embonpoint. On this account, therefore, gay village lads and lasses employ the dangerous agent, that they may become more attractive to each other; and it is really astonishing with what favorable results their endeavors are attended, for it is just the youthful poison-eaters that are, generally speaking, distinguished by a blooming complexion, and an appearance of exuberant health. Out of many examples, I select the following:— A farm-servant who worked in the cowhouse belonging to was thin and pale, but nevertheless well and healthy. This girl had a lover whom she wished to enchain still more firmly ; and in order to obtain a more pleasing exterior, she had recourse to the well-known means, and swallowed every week several doses of arsenic. The desired result was obtained; and in a few months she was much fuller in figure, rosy-cheeked, and, in short, quite according to her lover's

taste. In order to increase the effect, she was so rash as to increase the dose of arsenic, and fell a victim to her vanity; she was poisoned, and died an agonizing death. The number of deaths in consequence of the immoderate enjoyment of arsenic is not inconsiderable, especially among the young. Every priest who has the cure of souls in those districts where the abuse prevails could tell of such tragedies; and the inquiries I have myself made on the subject have opened out very singular details. Whether it arise from fear of the law, which forbids the unauthorized possession of arsenic, or whether it be that an inner voice proclaims to him his sin, the arsenic-eater always conceals as much as possible the employment of these dangerous means. Generally speaking, it is only the confessional or the death-bed that raises the veil from the terrible secret. The second object the poison-eaters have in view is to make them, as they express it, “better winded !”—that is, to make their respiration easier when ascending the mountains. Whenever they have far to go and to mount a considerable height, they take a mi. nute morsel of arsenic, and allow it gradually to dissolve. The effect is surprising; and they ascend with ease heights which other. wise they could climb only with distress to the chest. The dose of arsenic with which the poisoneaters begin, consists, according to the confession of some of them, of a piece the size of a lentil, which in weight would be rather less than half a grain. To this quantity, which they take fasting several mornings in the week, they confine themselves for a con: siderable time; and then gradually, and very carefully, they increase the dose according to the effect produced. The peasant R--> living in the Parish of A–g, a strong, hale man of upwards of sixty, takes at present, a every dose, a piece of about the weight of four grains. For more than forty years he has practised this habit, which he inherited from his father, and which he in his turn will bequeath to his children.


It is well to observe, that neither in these nor in other poison-eaters is there the least trace of an arsenic cachexy discernible; that the symptoms of a chronic arsenical poisoning never show themselves in individuals who adapt the dose to their constitution, even although that dose should be considerable. It is not less worthy of remark, however, that when, either from inability to obtain the acid, or from any other cause, the perilous indulgence is stopped, symptoms of illness are sure to appear, which have the closest resemblance to those produced by poisoning from arsenic. ... These symptoms consist principally in a feeling of general discomfort, attended by a perfect indifference to all surrounding persons and things, great personal anxiety, and various distressing sensations arising from the digestive organs, want of appetite, a constant feeling of the stomach being overloaded at early morning, an unusual degree of salivation, a burning from the pylorus to the throat, A tramp-like movement in the pharynx, pains in the stomach, and especially difficulty of breathing. For all these symptoms there is but one remedy—a return to the enjoyment of arsenic, According to inquiries made on the subject, it would seem that the habit of eating poison among the inhabitants of Lower Austria has not grown into a passion, as is the case with the opium-eaters in the East, the chewers of the betel nut in India and Polynesia, and of the cocoa-tree among the natives of Peru. When once commenced, however, it becomes a necessity. In some districts sublimate of quicksilver is used in the same way. One case in particular is mentioned by Dr. von Tschudi, a case authenticated by the English ambassador at Constantinople, of a great opium-eater at Brussa, who daily consumed the enormous quantity of forty grains of corrosive sublimate with his opium. In the mountainous Paris of Peru the doctor met very frequently with eaters of corrosive sublimate; and in Bolivia the practice is still more frequent, where this poison is openly sold in the market to the Indians.

In Vienna the use of arsenic is of everyday occurrence among horse-dealers, and specially with the coachmen of the nobility. hey either shake it in a pulverized state *mong the corn, or they tie a bit the size of * Pea in a piece of linen, which they fasten to the curb when the horse is harnessed, and the saliva of the animal soon dissolves it. The sleek, round, shining appearance of the "arriage horses, and especially the much-ad

mired foaming at the mouth, is the result of this arsenic feeding.” It is a common prac. tice with the farm-servants in the mountainous parts to strew a pinch of arsenic on the last feed of hay before going up a steep road. This is done for years without the least unfavorable result; but should the horse fall into the hands of another owner who withholds the arsenic, he loses flesh immediately, is no longer lively, and even with the best feeding there is no possibility of restoring him to his former sleek appearance.

The above particulars, communicated by a contributor residing in Germany, are curious only inasmuch as they refer to poisons of a peculiarly quick and deadly nature. Our ordinary “indulgences' in this country are the same in kind, though not in degree, for we are all poison-eaters. To say nothing of our opium and alcohol consumers, our teetotallers are delighted with the briskness and sparkle of spring-water, although these qualities indicate the presence of carbonic acid or fixed air. In like manner, few persons will object to a drop or two of the frightful corrosive, sulphuric acid, (vitriol,) in a glass of water, to which it communicates an agreeably acid taste; and most of us have, at some period or other of our lives, imbibed prussic acid, arsenic, and other deadly poisons, under the orders of the physician, or the first of these in the more pleasing form

of confectionery. Arsenic is said by Dr.

Pearson to be as harmless as a glass of wine in the quantity of one sixteenth part of a grain ; and in the cure of agues it is so certain in its effects, that the French Directory once issued an edict ordering the surgeons of the Italian army, under pain of military punishment, to banish that complaint, at two or three days' notice, from among the vast numbers of soldiers who were languishing under it in the marshes of Lombardy. It would seem that no poison taken in small and diluted doses is immediately hurtful, and the same thing may be said of other agents. The tap of a fan, for instance, is a blow, and so is the stroke of a club; but the one gives an agreeable sensation, and the other fells the recipient to the ground. In like manner the analogy holds good between the distribution of a blow over a comparatively large portion of the surface of the body and the dilution or distribution of the particles of a poison. A smart thrust upon the breast, for instance, with a foil does no injury; but if

* Arsenic produces an increased salivation.

[ocr errors]

the button is removed, and the same momentum thus thrown to a point, the instrument enters the structures, and perhaps causes death. But the misfortune is, that poisons swallowed for the sake of the agreeable sensations they occasion owe this effect to their action upon the nervous system ; and the action must be kept up by a constantly increasing dose till the constitution is irremediably injured. In the case of arsenic, as we have seen, so long as the excitement is undiminished all is apparently well; but the point is at length reached when to proceed or to turn back is alike death. The moment the dose is diminished or entirely withdrawn, symptoms of poison appear, and the victim perishes because he has shrunk from killing himself. It is just so when the stimulant is alcohol. The morning experience of the drinker prophesies, on every succeeding occasion, of the fate that awaits him. It may be pleasant to get intoxicated, but to get sober is horror. The time comes, however, when the pleasure is at an end, and the horror remains. When the habitual stimulus reaches its highest, and the undermined constitution can stand no more, then comes the reaction. If the excitement could go on ad infinitum, the prognosis would be different; but the poison-symptoms appear as soon as the dose can no longer be increased without

producing instant death, and the drunkard dies of the want of drink! Many persons, it cannot be denied, reach a tolerable age under this stimulus; but they do so only by taking warning in time—perhaps from some frightful illness—and carefully proportioning the dose to the sinking constitution. “I cannot drink now as formerly,” is a common remark—sometimes elevated into the boast, “I do not drink now as formerly.” But the relaxation of the habit is compulsory; and by a thousand other tokens, as well as the inability to indulge in intoxication, the ci-derant drinker is reminded of a madness which even in youth produced more misery than enjoy. ment, and now adds a host of discomforts to the ordinary fragility of age. As for arseniceating, we trust it will never be added to the madnesses of our own country. Think of a man deliberately condemning himself to devour this horrible poison, on an increasing scale, duriug his whole life, with the certainly that if at any time, through accident, neces. sity, or other cause, he holds his hand, he must die the most agonizing of all deaths' In so much horror do we hold the idea, that we would have refrained from mentioning the subject at all if we had not observed a paragraph making the round of the papers, and describing the agreeable phases of the o without mentioning its shocking reSults.

* --------

A Sketch of MAzzini.-A correspendent of the Edinburgh News, who lately spent an evening in London with M. Mazzini, thus attempts to convey an idea of the striking personal appearance of the triumvir:—“I should have known him among a million, although I cannot describe him, not having the gift of portraiture. The pictures of him which are in common circulation, are sufficiently like him before you have seen him, and perhaps afterwards too, but I have not come on one of them since that evening. A delicate but indeficient back-head, a bald coronal region of wonderful height and amplitude, a brow proper more remarkable for beauty than volume, and more expressive of keenness than power, dark eyes fitter for pity than defiance, and a thin, regular, long, pale, Persian face, are the first things that catch the eye of a stranger. The coal; black hair of the head and untouched beard yield fitting shadows, and form an appropriate ground for so eminent a countenance, surmounting, as it does, a small and slender figure. I soon perceived that, with all its beauty, it is a melancholy face; a most thoughtful, not unremembering, faithful, hopeful, yet

sad countenance. It struck me, however, as being the melancholy of temperament rather than of cir cumstance; the melancholy of genius, depending part. ly on some degree of constitutional languor, and part. ly on the continual perception of the littleness of life, and partly also on the feeling of his country's wrongs. Taking it all in all, it is a head and face at full of love and pity, clearness and truth, as ever I saw ; worthy of a prophet or an apostle, a confessor or a martyr, and eminently capable of comm wherever love and truth shall rule. . . . . . . Mazzini's conversation is wide and various, being spoken in quite as good English as we of Scotl are yet accustomed to hear. His thoughts have evidently been concentrated on the present state of Europe; necessarily so indeed, owing to his po tion: but then he has studied, and can descant with effect upon the theological, the philosophical, and the literary aspects of Éuropean life, as well as it. |. phases. He gives one the impression of eing abreast with the foremost thought of his ago along an unusually large line of advance—a man" teach a prince, or to be one.”

[ocr errors]

The principal new works issued in Great Britain, and noticed by the critical journals, and in which American readers have an interest, are enumerated below.

History, TRAVELs, AND BIoga Aphy.

The Life of Hon. Henry Cavendish, with an ab. stract of his more important scientific papers, presents the only biography of this remarkable philosopher. As marking a phase in the progress of chemistry, it is an important contribution to the history of science. It windicates, of course, Cavendish's claim to the discovery of the composition of water, and goes into a o to the celebrated article of Sir David Brewster, in the North British Review, which claimed the honor for Watt. The work is praised as clear, scholarly, and impartial.

Lord Mahon has added the fifth and sixth volumes
to his “History of England from the Peace of
Utrecht," which extend over seventeen years, em-
ing the period immediately preceding and
during our war of Independence. The Athenoum,
after indicating in a comprehensive sketch of the
events embraced in this period, its importance as an
historical era, remarks of Lord Māhon's qualifi-
cations thus:–
“But Lord Mahon is too timid—too conventionally
respectable—for such a work. What he has done
on a large scale, he has done well enough; just as
might be expected from his culture and his political
leaning. The tangled web of court and ministerial
intrigue is unravelled, exhibited, and knitted up
again by him with a minute dexterity to which
works like that of Mr. Adolphus can make no pre-
tension. The origin and progress of discontent in
America, as they appear to one having no sympathy
with revolutions, are traced with a copious precise-
ness, and in the new light of a purely English–

raise themselves by an effort of the imagination to
the high conceptions of the original actor', and can
feel both the glow of the iron while in the furnace,
and resemble the metal when it has cooled. History,
to be sure, deals with the little as well as with the
lofty, but he who is equal to cope with the last, will
not be vanquished by the former. Mr. Macaulay is
advancing upon the heels of Lord Mahon. Yet it
must be some years, at least, before he can reach
the goal which is Lord Mahon's starting-place; and
should he ever tread the same path, he will not, we
are convinced, efface the footsteps of his predecessor.
That Mr. Macaulay will sustain his honors we have
no sort of doubt, but we believe that Lord Mahon
will keep his likewise. The only difference will be,
that we shall have the pleasure thenceforward of
travelling the road with a lamp on each side of us.
Nay, great as is Lord Mahon's reputation, we expect
it to be greater hereafter.”
It may be stated that Lord Mahon, after a delib-
erate discussion, decides the author of the Junius
Letters to be Sir Philip Francis.

D'Israeli's Life of Lord George Bentinck attracts general notice, and meets with diverse treatment. The Athenæum thinks that “dryness and D'Israeli were never so strongly associated as in this volume; about one fifth only of which is interesting to the general reader.” The Britannia, on the other hand, regards it as a most successful specimen of biography.

A translation of a new work by the indefatigable German traveller, Kohl, has appeared—Travels in Istria, Dalmatia, and Montenegro–the result of an excursion made during the past year, along the eastern coasts of the Adriatic, partly because attention had been directed to the inhabitants of these coasts by some of the events of the late Hungarian

- - * – t t i- - - war, and partly because our information respectin

o * o: a high o of lo, o the o and inhabitants of Istria, o: - * Porops, the not essential-Part of 'ho "... and Montenegro, is somewhat meagre. The Literary o torian's task, Lord Mahon has gone over in an Gazette remarks:— o extremely brief, vague, and unsatisfactory, manner. "what We res ect in Herr Kohl, is the absence o With the exception of a short chapter on literature of pretence, ...] the conscientious matter-of fact o | o, o o manner in which he proceeds to discharge the limited | - seshoes nly as duties which he has imposed upon himself.” f sental and altogether subsidiary connection with the st history of the time, some eight or nine pages are Narfative of the Voyage of the Rattlesnake, by o all that he devotes, out of nearly eleven hundred, John Macgillivray—a history of an exploring expe.

to the entire range of topics embraced in the term dition sent out in 1846, to complete the survey of o ‘social history.” Torres Strait, and examining the sea between the ; : The Literary Gazette speaks of the author and | Barrier Reefs, New Guinea, and the Louisiade o

the work in high eulogy:-
“It is always with extreme satisfaction that we
read the announcement that Lord Mahon has accom.
Plished another stage of his journey. From the
ce of Utrecht, where his charming marrative
gins, up to our own day, we have no classic his-
torian who has gathered up the scattered events,
which are else like water spilt upon the ground.
Great deeds are lost without great writers, who can

islands, under the command of Capt. Stanley, a son
of the late Bishop of Norwich. This voyage made
the important discovery of a clear channel, of at
least thirty miles wide, along the southern shores
of New Guinea. The work, as descriptive of the
voyage, and of the countries visited, is highly com-
mended. The Earaminer says:—
“Mr. Macgillivray has here published one of the
best books of travels of its class which has falled


under our notice for many years. It is indeed second only to one to which all books of maritime travels are likely to be second for a long time to come, we mean that portion of the ‘Narrative of the Voyage of the Adventure and Beagle' which is Mr. Charles Darwin's. The judicious narrator of the Expedition has been no idle observer of the strange countries and stranger people that were brought under his notice in his four years' peregrination, and hence the public is presented with much varied knowledge, not only regarding his own special scientific pursuits, but relating to the rude and strange men of whom little or nothing was known before, and about whom, it must also be admitted, much remains still to be known.” Others of the best critical journals speak as well of the work.

Memoir of Peer Ibraheem Khan, is a curious work, portraying the life of a remarkable character, who took an active and most important part in the English war in Assohanistan. His character and his deeds are highly praised in Major Herbert Edwardes' interesting account of his campaign on the Punjaub frontier.

Holland's Life of Chantrey, the sculptor, is sharply censured for its inadequacy, by the Westminster: “It is of the very lowest order of the * Memoires pour servir, redeemed from utter worthlessness by the few facts concerning Chantrey which the local knowledge of the writer has enabled him to rescue from oblivion for the use of the future biographer. The alternate puerility and inflation of Mr. Holland's style, and the seriousness with which he makes all his calculations from the meridian of Sheffield, are at the turning point between the tiresome and the amusing.”

The Life and Letters of Barthold George Niebuhr, with Essays on his Character and Influence, by the Chevalier Bunsen, and Professors Brandis and Loebel, is announced as in press, and is eagerly waited for.

Mr. Dickens' Child's History of England has been reprinted from his Household Words, and is a work of great merit.

The Lives of the Prime Ministers and other Eminent Ministers of State, by J. Houston Browne, is announced.

The Shrines and the Sepulchres of the Old and New Worlds, by Dr. R. R. Maiden, a work of great research, is about to be published.

Recollections of a Literary Life ; or, Books, Places, and People, by Mary Russell Mitford, is in the press of Bentley.

A new historical work by Miss Martineau is an nounced–-a History of the British Empire during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, to be published in monthly parts.

The ninth and tenth volumes of Grote's History of Greece, republished in elegant form in this country, by Messrs. J. P. JEwett & Co., Boston, are announced as nearly ready.

England and France under the House of Lancas. ter, is also amnounced, from an anonymous source.

Sketch of the Religious History of the Sclavonic Nations, is a new work, by Count Krasinski, who has delivered at Edinburgh interesting courses of

lectures on the same subject. The struggles of the Reformation in the Sclavonic lands of Bohemia and Poland are detailed, and the historical and biographical sketches are admirably drawn.


Dr. Latham, the celebrated ethnologist, has published two works recently. A Handbook of the English Language, which is commended by nearly all critics. The Athenaeum says:—

“No man has done more than Dr. Latham toplace the ". of English on its proper footing. By his philosophical treatment of it, he has raised it to the dignity which it deserves, and shown that, while an essential in the earliest education of children, it is not unworthy to hold a high place in college pur. suits. His present work is a sort of medium be. tween his large and school grammars. It is ren: dered much more interesting, as well as more use. ful, to a student than the school grammar, by containing not merely a greater number of facts, but also a more copious discussion of principles and a fuller explanation of the origin . reasons of particular usages. On the other hand, it is less ab: struse and more practical than the large work on the English language.”

The other work of Dr. Latham is entitled, The Germania of Tacitus, with Ethnological Disserta. tions and Notes, which does not receive quite so genial a reception. The Eraminer sharply criticises it as follows:–

“We fancy that a close ethnological examination, if it could be made, would prove to us that Dr. R. G. Latham and Mr. G. P. R. James come of exactly the same variety under a common stock Both are clever men, and neither gives himself fair play. They will be for ever sprouting and leafing, and they will not let themselves be pruned. They build a mass of books upon a given, not very wide, base; a mass like the body of a top, upon a limited though durable and solid peg; and down the mass must go, by its own weight, if it be not kept spinning. . Dr. Latham, having acquired a certain number of respectable ideas connected with ethnology and language, proceeded to make admirable use of his acquirements in the production of a work upon ‘the English language.' " That work perhaps con: tained some pomps and affectations—we thought we saw some, but we did not care. The book was a good book, nobody has given us a better of its kind. But having produced this his main joint, Dr.Lao tham has since been putting it we do not know how many times again upon the public table, cold, hashed, fried, potted. ‘We liked the joint when first served. We did not grumble when it was offered again, cold; we accepted it thereafter, hashed; not many weeks ago, when it came up again fried, wo

hinted a hope that there remained no other ways of

cooking it;-and now, Heaven help us, here we have a stew made of the trimmings.”

Douglas Jerrold is engaged in issuing a un, form edition of his numerous writings, the second volume of which, containing his “Men of Character, originally contributed to Blackwood, has been jo" published. Of course, they are well received. The Athenaun knows" of but few better counsels that we could offer in the interest of our readers' go spirits, and of the humanities which delight in. wise wit and witty wisdom, than a recommendation."

« VorigeDoorgaan »