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what is related of the habits of the early and mediæval monks, great numbers of them must have thus shortened their days. There is a touching story told by St. Bonaventura, of St. Francis Assisi, who was one of these victims to asceticism. As the dying saint sank back exhausted with spitting blood, he avowed, as he looked upon his emaciated body, that he had sinned against his brother, the ass ;' and then, the feeling of his mind taking, as was usual with him, the form of an hallucination, he imagined that, when at prayer during the night, he heard a voice saying : ‘Francis, there is no sinner in the world whom, if he be converted, God will not pardon; but he who kills himself by hard penances will find no mercy in eternity.' He attributed the voice to the devil.
Direct and deliberate suicide, which occupies so prominent a place in the moral history of antiquity, almost absolutely disappeared within the Church; but beyond its pale the Circumcelliones, in the fourth century, constituted themselves the apostles of death, and not only carried to the highest point the custom of provoking martyrdom, by challenging and insulting the assemblies of the Pagans, but even killed themselves in great numbers, imagining, it would seem, that this was a form of martyrdom, and would secure for them eternal salvation. Assembling in hundreds, St. Augustine says even in thousands, they leaped with paroxysms of frantic joy from the brows of overhanging cliffs, till the rocks below were reddened with their blood.? At a much later period, we find among the Albigenses a practice, known by the name of Endura, of accelerating death, in the case of dangerous illness, by fasting, and sometimes by bleeding 3 The wretched Jews, stung to madness by the persecution of the Catholics, furnish
| Hase, St. François d'Assise, have given accounts of these suipp. 137–138. St. Palæmon is said cides in their works against the to have died of his austerities. Donatists. (Vit. S. Pachomii.)
3 See Todd's Life of St. Patrick, 2 St. Augustine and St. Optatus p. 462. VOL. II.
the most numerous examples of suicide during the middle ages. A multitude perished by their own hands, to avoid torture, in France, in 1095; five hundred, it is said, on a single occasion at York; five hundred in 1320, when besieged by the Shepherds. The old Pagan legislation on this subject remained unaltered in the Theodosian and Justinian codes; but a Council of Arles, in the fifth century, having pronounced suicide to be the effect of diabolical inspiration, a Council of Bragues, in the following century, ordained that no religious rites should be celebrated at the tomb of the culprit, and that no masses should be said for his soul; and these provisions, which were repeated by later Councils, were gradually introduced into the laws of the barbarians and of Charlemagne. St. Lewis originated the custom of confiscating the property of the dead man, and the corpse was soon subjected to gross and various outrages. In some countries it could only be removed from the house through a perforation specially made for the occasion in the wall; it was dragged upon a hurdle through the streets, hung up with the head downwards, and at last thrown into the public sewer, or burnt, or buried in the sand below high-water mark, or transfixed by a stake on the public highway.
These singularly hideous and at the same time grotesque customs, and also the extreme injustice of reducing to beggary the unhappy relations of the dead, had the very natural effect of exciting, in the eighteenth century, a strong spirit of
· The whole history of suicide (Paris, 1856.) The ferocious laws in the dark ages has been most here recounted contrast remarkably minutely and carefully examined with a law in the Capitularies (lib. by M. Bourquelot, in a very in- vi. lex 70), which provides that teresting series of memoirs in the though mass may not be celebrated third and fourth volumes of the for a suicide, any private person Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes. may, through charity, cause prayers I am much indebted to these me- to be offered up for his soul. moirs in the following pages. See, 'Quia incomprehensibilia sunt jutoo, Lisle, Du Suicide, Stutistique, dicla Dei, et profunditatem conMédecine, Histoire, et Législation. silii ejus nemo potest investigare.'
reaction. Suicide is indeed one of those acts wbich
be condemned by moralists as a sin, but which, in modern times at least, cannot be regarded as within the legitimate sphere of law; for a society which accords to its members perfect liberty of emigration, cannot reasonably pronounce the simple renunciation of life to be an offence against itself. When, however, Beccaria and his followers went further, and maintained that the mediæval laws on the subject were as impotent as they were revolting, they fell, I think, into serious error. The outrages lavished upon
of the suicide, though in the first instance an expression of the popular horror of his act, contributed, by the associations they formed, to strengthen the feeling that produced them, and they were also peculiarly fitted to scare the diseased, excited, and oversensitive imaginations that are most prone to suicide. In the rare occasions when the act was deliberately contemplated, the knowledge that religious, legislative, and social influences would combine to aggravate to the utmost the agony of the surviving relatives, must have had great weight. The activity of the Legislature shows the continuance of the act; but we have every reason to believe that within the pale of Catholicism it was for many centuries extremely rare. It is said to bave been somewhat prevalent in Spain in the last and most corrupt period of the Gothic kingdom, and many instances occurred during a great pestilence which raged in England in the seventh century, and also during the Black Death of the fourteenth century. When the wives of priests were separated in vast numbers from their husbands by Hildebrand, and driven into the world blasted, heart-broken, and hopeless, not a few of them shortened
See the very interesting work Roger of Wendover, A.D. 665. of the Abbé Bourret, l'École chréti- Esquirol, Maladies mentales, enne de Séville sous la monarchie tome i. p. 591. des Visigoths (Paris, 1855), p. 196.
their agony by suicide.' Among women it was in general especially rare; and a learned historian of suicide has even asserted that a Spanish lady, who, being separated from her husband, and finding herself unable to resist the energy of her passions, killed herself rather than yield to temptation, is the only instance of female suicide during several centuries. 2 In the romances of chivalry, however, this mode of death is frequently pourtrayed without horror, and its criminality was discussed at considerable length by Abelard and St. Thomas Aquinas, while Dante has devoted some fine lines to painting the condition of suicides in hell, where they are also frequently represented in the bas-reliefs of cathedrals. A melancholy leading to desperation, and known to theologians under the name of "acedia,' was not uncommon in monasteries, and most of the recorded instances of mediæval suicides in Catholicism were by monks. The frequent suicides of monks, sometimes to escape the world, sometimes through despair at their inability to quell the propensities of the body, sometimes through insanity produced by their mode of life, and by their dread of surrounding demons, were noticed in the early Church,
Lea’s History of Sacerdotal titione; dignam meliori seculo Celibacy (Philadelphia, 1867), p. feminam, insigne studium casti248.
tatis.'—De Rebus Hispan. xvi. 17. 2 • Per lo corso di molti secoli 3 A number of passages are abbiamo questo solo suicidio don- cited by Bourquelot. nesco, e buona cosa è non averne 4 This is noticed by St. Gregory più d'uno; perchè io non credo che Nazianzen in a little poem which la impudicizia istessa sia peggiore is given in Migne's edition of The di questa disperata castità.'--Cro- Greek Fathers, tome xxxvii. p. maziano, Ist. del. Suicidio, p. 126. 1459. St. Nilus and the biograMariana, who, under the frock of pher of St. Pachomius speak of a Jesuit, bore the heart of an an- these suicides, and St. Chrysostom cient Roman, treats the case in a wrote a letter of consolation to a
• Ejus young monk, named Stagirius, uxor Maria Coronelia cum mariti which is still extant, encouraging absentiam non ferret, ne pravis him to resist the temptation. See cupiditatibus cederet, vitam posuit, Neander, Ecclesiastical Hist. vol ardentem forte libidinem igne ex. iii. pp. 319, 320. tinguens adacto per muliebria
and a few examples have been gleaned, from the mediæval chronicles,' of suicides produced by the bitterness of hopeless love, or by the derangement that follows extreme austerity. These are, however, but few; and it is probable that the monasteries, by providing a refuge for the disappointed and the broken-hearted, have prevented more suicides than they have caused, and that, during the whole period of Catholic ascendancy, the act was more rare than before or after. The influence of Catholicism was seconded by Mahommedanism, which, on this as on many other points, borrowed its teaching from the Christian Church, and even intensified it; for suicide, which is never expressly condemned in the Bible, is more than once forbidden in the Koran, and the Christian duty of resignation was exaggerated by the Moslem into a complete fatalism. Under the empire of Catholicism and Mahommedanism, suicide, during many centuries, almost absolutely ceased in all the civilised, active, and progressive part of mankind. When we recollect how warmly it was applauded, or how faintly it was condemned, in the civilisation of Greece and Rome; when we remember, too, that there was scarcely a barbarous tribe, from Denmark to Spain, who did not habitually practise it,” we may realise the com
1 Bourquelot. Pinel notices well as slavery. Odin, who, under (Traité médico-philosophique sur different pames, was the supreme | Aliénation mentale (2nd ed.), pp. divinity of most of the Northern 44-46) the numerous cases of in- tribes, is said to have ended his sanity still produced by strong earthly life by suicide. Boadicea, religious feeling; and the history of the grandest figure of early British the movements called 'revivals,' in history, and Cordeilla, or Cordelia, the present century, supplies much the most pathetic figure of early evidence to the same effect. Pinel British romance, were both suisays, religious insanity tends pecu- cides. (See on the first, Tacitus, liarly to suicide (p. 265).
Ann. xiv. 35-37, and on the second ? Orosius notices (Hist. v. 14) Geoffrey of Monmouth, ii. 16-a that of all the Gauls conquered by version from which Shakspeare has Q. Marcius, there were none who considerably diverged, but which is did not prefer death to slavery. faithfully followed by Spenser. The Spaniards were famous for (Faëry Queen, book ii. canto 10.) their suicides, to avoid old age as