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abundance, yet the fire appeared more vio-(junction; the left was more burnt. lent, and was not extinguished till the day was cold, but there was nothing in the whole flesh had been consumed. Her ske- grate except two or three bits of wood about leton, exceedingly black, remained entire in an inch diameter, burnt in the middle.— the chair, which was only a little scorched; None of the furniture in the apartment was one leg only, and the two hands, detached damaged. The chair on which Mademoiselle themselves from the rest of the bones. It Thuars had been sitting was found at the was not known whether her clothes had distance of a foot from her, and absolutely caught fire by approaching the grate. The untouched. The lady was exceedingly corlady was in the same place in which she sat pulent, above sixty years of age, and much every day. There was no extraordinary addicted to spirituous liquors. On the day of fire, and she had not fallen." M. Boinneau her death, she drank three bottles of wine, and remarks, that, what made him suppose that about a bottle of brandy. The consumption the use of spirits might have produced this of the body took place in less than seven effect was, that he was assured that at the hours, though, according to appearances, gate of Dinan an accident of the like kind nothing around the body was burnt but the happened to another woman under similar clothes."
of her body only were spared, but the furniture was very little damaged.
Pierre Aime Lair, from whose elaborate The Journal de Medecine, vol. lix., p. 440, Essay on Human Combustion, several of the publishes two corroborative cases. Muraire, above cases have been extracted, informs a surgeon, relates the first case which took us, that the town of Caën affords several place at Aix, in Provence. "In February, instances of the same kind. Bouffet, a 1779, Mary Jauffrey, widow of Nicholas physician of Argentan, author of an Essay Gravier, shoemaker, of a small size, exceed-on Intermittent Fevers, told him the case of ingly corpulent, and addicted to drinking, a woman of the lower class who lived at having been burnt in her apartment, M. Place Villars, who was known to be much Rocas, the colleague of Muraire, who was addicted to strong liquors, and who was commissioned to make a report respecting found in her house burnt. The extremities her body, found only a mass of ashes, and a few bones, calcined in such a manner that on the least pressure they were reduced to The same unfortunate accident happened dust. The bones of the cranium, one hand, also at Caën, to an old woman who was adand a foot, had in part escaped the action of dicted to drinking. Aime Lair was assured by the fire. Near these remains stood a table, those who told him the fact, that the flames untouched, and under the table a small which proceeded from the body could not wooden stove, the grating of which having be extinguished by water. been burnt afforded an aperture through however, think proper to relate this and which, M. Rocas supposes, the fire which the particulars of another event which took occasioned the melancholy accident had place in the same town, because they were been communicated. In other respects, not attested by a proces verbal, or commuthere was no appearance of fire, either in nicated by professional men, and not calcu the chimney or in the apartment, so that, lated, therefore, to inspire the same degree except the fore part of the chair, it appeared of confidence.
He does not,
that no other combustible matter contributed The following well-authenticated case is to this speedy incineration, which was effected extracted from the work of Foderé, and in the space of seven or eight hours." abridged by Paris and Fonblanque in their The second case detailed in the Journal Treatise on Medical Jurisprudence. "Don de Medecine, vol. lix., p. 140, occurred in Gio Maria Bertholi, after having spent the Caën. It is narrated by Merille, a surgeon day in travelling about the country, arrived of the same city. M. Merille was requested in the evening at the house of his brotheron the 3rd of June, 1782, by the king's in-law. He immediately requested to be officers, to draw up a report of the state in shown to his destined apartment, where he which he found Mademoiselle Thuars. The had a handkerchief placed between his shirt result of his observations was as follows:- and shoulders; and being left alone, betook "The body lay with the crown of the head himself to his devotions. A few minutes against one of the andirons, at the distance had scarcely elapsed, when an extraordinary of eighteen inches from the fire; the remain- noise was heard in the chamber, and the der of the body was placed obliquely before cries of the unfortunate man were particuthe chimney, the whole being nothing but larly distinguished. The people of the a mass of ashes. Even the most solid bones house, hastily entering the room, found him had lost their form and consistence; none extended on the floor, and surrounded by a of them could be distinguished except the light flame, which receded (à mesure) as coronal, the two parietal bones, the two they approached, and finally vanished. On lumbar vertebræ, a portion of the tibia, and the following morning, the patient was a part of the omoplate; and these, even, examined by M. Battlaglia, who found the were so calcined that they became dust by integuments of the right arm almost enthe least pressure. The right foot was tirely detached, and pendent from the flesh; found entire, and scorched at its upper from the shoulders to the thighs the integu
ments were equally injured; and on the ever, it turned out to be the remains of her right hand, the part most injured, mortifi- mistress, who was found in the following cation had already commenced, which, not-state: She was seated in the chair, at a withstanding immediate scarification, ra- distance from the fire, which appeared to pidly extended itself. The patient com- have burned out, with her head leaning plained of burning thirst, was horribly con- upon her right hand, and bearing behind vulsed, and was exhausted by continual against the wall. The trunk of the body vomiting, accompanied by fever and deli- was burnt to a cinder, as also the clothes rium. On the fourth day, after two hours of which invested it; but the pelvic region, comotose insensibility, he expired. During the lower and upper extremities, and such the whole period of his sufferings, it was portions of her dress as covered these parts, impossible to trace any symptomatic affec- sustained no injury. Her face had a tion. A short time previous to his death, scorched appearance; but her hair, and the M. Battlaglia observed, with astonishment, papers she had put in it, had entirely that putrefaction had made so much pro- escaped. The back and seat of the gress; the body already exhaled an insuf- chair had not suffered, but its arms were ferable odour; worms crawled from it on charred on the inner side, where in contact the bed, and the nails had become detached with the body. With the exception of the from the left hand. The account which arms of the chair, the combustion had not this unfortunate patient gave, was, that he extended to surrounding bodies. The room felt a stroke like the blow of a cudgel on was filled with a penetrating and offensive the right hand, and at the same time he odour, which was still perceptible after the saw a lambent flame attach itself to his lapse of several days. This woman was shirt, which was immediately reduced to about forty-five years of age, of low stature, ashes, his wristband, at the same time, had rather a tendency to corpulence, and being utterly untouched. The handker- was a confirmed drunkard.” chief, which, as before mentioned, was Mr. Wood, a Wesleyan minister, then replaced between his shoulders and his shirt, siding in Limerick, relates the following was entire, and free from any trace of burn- details in the Methodist Magazine, for 1809. ing; his breeches were equally uninjured, The facts were also related to Dr. Apjohn, but though not a hair of his head was in a letter received from the same minister, burned, his coif was totally consumed. The and confirmed by an intelligent lady reweather, on the night of the accident, was siding in Limerick, who personally incalm, and the air very pure; no empyreu- spected the floor through which the hole matic or bituminous odour was perceived in was burnt; the repairs which the place the room, which was also free from smoke; had to undergo still direct attention to the there was no vestige of fire, except that the precise spot which was perforated at the lamp, which had been full of oil, was found period:dry, and the wick reduced to a cinder." No "Mr. O'Neill, keeper of the Five Pounds reference in this case is made to the diet of Alms House in the city of Limerick, was the unfortunate individual. A detail of the awakened about two o'clock in the morning occurrence also appeared in the Allgemeine by a person knocking at his room door, Literatur Zeitung, for 1786. upon which he arose, and having inquired
A more recent case is related by Dr. who knocked, he opened the door, and going Apjohn, in a very excellent article on Spon- with the person who had called him into taneous Combustion, in the Cyclopædia of his apartment, which lay under Mrs. PeaPractical Medicine. It is transcribed in cocke's room, he found a dead body lying on his own words. "Anne Nelis, wife to a wine the ground burning with fire, and red as and porter merchant, living in South copper, having dropped down from the loft, Frederick-street, Dublin, let in her husband, which was on fire. Examining the loft, he who had been out at a party, between twelve saw a large hole, the size of the dead body, and one o'clock on a Saturday night. After burned through the boards and ceiling. He some altercation had taken place between instantly ran up stairs, and having burst them, both being in a state of intoxication, open Mrs. Peacocke's room door, saw in the Mr. Nelis went up-stairs to bed, but in a middle of the room the burnt hole through few minutes came down to request his wife which the body had fallen. Having, with to accompany him, an invitation which she assistance, quenched the fire about the hole, positively declined; upon which, he took he examined by what means the body had with him her candle, observing that, if she taken fire, but could discover no cause. was determined to sit up, she should do so There was no candle or candlestick near the in the dark. Next morning, the maid- place, no fire in the grate, but what was servant having opened the windows of the raked in the ashes, as is the manner of preback parlour, observed something in the serving fire by night; the room was exaarm-chair in which Mrs. Nelis usually sat, mined, and nothing had taken fire but that which she at first sight imagined to have part of the floor through which she had been put there by young Nelis, who at the fallen. Even a small basket made of twigs, instant entered the room, for the purpose of and a small trunk of dry wood, which lay frightening her. Upon examination, how-near the hole, escaped, and were not so
much as touched by the fire. This pheno- stains produced by the smoke. According menon was the next day examined by the to the testimony of one of the relations, who mayor, clergymen, and several gentlemen of is represented as a woman of the strictest the city. The impossibility of ascertain- veracity, there was no fire whatever in the ing the cause of the fire, the extraordinary room. The subject of the case had been circumstance of no part of the room being grossly intemperate for several days before burnt but the centre of it, through which her decease, having drunk at this period much she had fallen, added to the well-authen- more ardent spirit than usual." ticated circumstance of her recent diabolical In the Athenæum for 1836, p. 540, the imprecations and lies, obliged every ob- details of a case are given which had then server to resolve so awful an event into recently occurred at Aunay, in the depart'the visitation of God's judgment in the ment of Avalon, France. "The body of a punishment of a daring and persevering very fat woman, aged seventy-four years, sinner.' Mrs. Peacocke was about sixty and addicted to drinking brandy at twentyyears of age, and indulged in the use of in- seven degrees, was discovered one morning toxicating liquors to an immoderate extent." by the mayor in a horrid state, and accomDr. Apjohn relates the two following ad- panied with an extraordinary smell. Near ditional cases; they are extracted from the the chimney was laid a heap of something Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine: "Mrs. burnt to cinders, at one end of which was Stout, widow of a watchmaker, and married a head, a neck, the upper part of a body, a second time to a man of the name of and one arm. At the other end were some Hanna, went to bed one evening in ap- of the lower parts, and one leg, still retainparent health, and was found next morning ing a very clean shoe and stocking. No burnt to a cinder on the floor of her bed-other traces of fire were to be seen, except room. When discovered, a vapour was a blue flame which played along the surface still issuing from her mouth; and those parts of a long train of grease or serous liquor, of the body, the form of which had not which had been produced by the combustion been altered, immediately crumbled down of the body. The mayor found it impossiupon being handled. Her chemise and ble to extinguish the flame, and summoned night-cap escaped uninjured." This case all the authorities; and from the state of occurred in 1808, at a place called Coote the apartment, and comparison of circumHill, in the county of Cavan. The subject stances, it was concluded amongst them, of it was about sixty years of age, and an inveterate dram-drinker.
that previous to going to bed, for which she had evidently been making preparations, the woman had been attempting to ignite some embers with her breath."
Dr. Apjohn was indebted to the Rev. Mr. Ferguson, of Dublin, for the facts of the next case. Mr. Ferguson had professional Dr. Peter Scholefield, of Upper Canada, opportunities of acquaintance with the relates the following example of recent ocfamily. He states also, that soon after the currence. It was that of a young man occurrence he examined the room in which about twenty-five years of age: "He had the old woman had been burnt, and was been," says Dr. Scholefield, an habitual satisfied that the fire had not extended to drinker for many years. I saw him about the bed, bed-clothes, or furniture: "A. B., nine o'clock in the evening on which it hapa woman about sixty years of age, who pened. He was then, as usual, not drunk, lived with her brother, in the county of but full of liquor. About eleven the same Down, retired one evening to bed with her evening, I was called to see him. I found daughter, both being, as was their constant him literally roasted from the crown of his habit, in a state of intoxication. A little head to the soles of his feet. He was found before day so me members of the family in a blacksmith's shop just across the way were awakened by an extremely offensive from where he had been. The owner all of smoke which pervaded their apartment, a sudden discovered an extensive light in and on going into the chamber where the his shop, as though the whole building was old woman and her daughter slept, they in one general flame. He ran with the found the smoke to proceed from the greatest precipitancy, and on flinging open body of the former, which appeared to the door discovered a man standing erect be burning with an internal fire. It in the midst of a widely-extended silverwas as black as coal, and the smoke coloured blaze, bearing, as he described it, issued from every part of it. The com- exactly the appearance of the wick of a bustion having been arrested (which was burning candle in the midst of its own flame. effected with difficulty, although there was He seized him by the shoulder and jerked no flame), life was found completely him to the door, upon which the flame was extinct. While the body was being re-instantly extinguished. There was no fire moved into the coffin, which was done as in the shop, neither was there any possisoon as possible, it was dropping in pieces. bility of fire having been communicated to Her daughter, who slept in the same bed, him from any external source. It was sustained no injury; nor did the combustion purely a case of spontaneous ignition. A extend to the bed or bed-clothes, which general sloughing soon came on, and nis exhibited no other traces of fire than the flesh was consumed or removed in the dress
ing, leaving the bones and a few of the 13. In persons who have been attacked larger blood-vessels standing. The blood, with spontaneous combustion, a putrid denevertheless, rallied around the heart, and generacy takes place, which soon leads to maintained the vital spark until the thir- gangrene. teenth day, when he died, not only the most III. Indestructibility of the human frame loathsome, ill-featured, and dreadful picture by combustion, in its natural state. that was ever presented to human view, but singular circumstance, that the combustion his shrieks, his cries, and lamentations, which consumes the human frame, under were enough to rend a heart of adamant. the circumstances detailed above, is not sufHe complained of no pain of body, his ficiently potent to ignite woollen or cotton flesh was gone. He said he was suffering articles, substances ordinarily of a peculiarly the torments of hell; that he was just upon inflammable character. The human body, its threshhold, and should soon enter its however, under other circumstances, is dismal caverns; and in this frame of mind difficult of combustion. "At a period when gave up the ghost. Oh, the death of a criminals were condemned to expiate their drunkard! Well may it be said to beggar crimes in the flames," says an authority, "it all description. I have seen," concludes is well-known what a large quantity of comDr. Scholefield, "other drunkards die, but bustible materials was required for burning never in a manner so awful and affecting." their bodies.* Pierre Aime Lair relates The above cases are for the most part, the case of Renaud, a baker's boy, who some extracted from the various writers whose years ago was condemned to be burnt at names are cited as authorities, and are Caën. Two large cart-loads of fagots given, in almost every instance, in the pre-were required to consume the body, and at cise words of the narrator. Several other the end of more than ten hours some remains cases are related in the Dictionaire de of the bones were still to be seen.† The Medecine, as well as in other creditable case of Mrs. King, in this country, illustrates publications. The above cases, however, the same fact. She was murdered by a foamply suffice to illustrate the subject. reigner, who afterwards attempted to conIn a memoir recently read before the sume her remains by burning. He was enAcademie des Sciences, the chief circum-gaged in the execution of this scheme for stances connected with spontaneous com- several weeks, and even at the expiration of bustion are described as follows: 1. The that period he had not entirely accomplished greater part of the persons who have fallen his object. The case of Daniel Good and victims to it have made an immoderate use his unfortunate victim is of too recent ocof intoxicating liquors. 2. Combustion is currence to need more than brief reference. almost always general, but sometimes is IV. Conditions favourable to combustion. only partial. 3. It is much rarer among These may briefly be enumerated as follows: men than among women, and they are prin- 1. Depraved secretions. The pathological cipally old women. There is but one case condition, which forms the proximate cause of the combustion of a girl of seventeen of human combustion, is the result of deyears of age, and that was only partial. praved secretions. The cases known, in4. The body and the viscera are invariably deed, almost exclusively relate to persons burnt, while the feet, the hands, and the addicted to habits of gross intemperance, top of the skull almost always escape com- whose bodies were enfeebled by habitual bustion. 5. Although it requires several excess.
fagots to burn a common corpse, incinera- 2. Age. Most of the cases of human tion takes place in these spontaneous com- combustion occurred in persons of advanced bustions without any effect on the combus- life. The Countess Cesena was sixty-two tible matter in the neighbourhood. In an years of age; Grace Pitt, sixty; Madame extraordinary case of a double combustion de Boiseon, eighty; Mary Clues, fifty-two; operating upon two persons in one room, Mademoiselle Thuars, more than sixty; neither the apartment nor the furniture was Mrs. Stout, sixty; Anne Nelis, forty-five; burnt. 6. It has not been at all proved and A. B., sixty years. Julia Fontenelle that the presence of an inflamed body is relates two cases of aged individuals, adnecessary to develop spontaneous human dicted to intemperate habits, who fell viccombustions. 7. Water, so far from ex- tims to this fearful combustion in 1820. tinguishing the flame, seems to give it more The one, whose whole body was consumed activity; and when the flame has disap-except the skull and a portion of skin, had peared, secret combustion goes on. 8. Spon- attained to the advanced age of ninety. The taneous combustions are more frequent in right leg alone remained unconsumed of the winter than in summer. 9. General com- other, who was sixty-six years old. General bustions are not susceptible of cure, only William Repland relates the case of a very partial. 10. Those who undergo spontane- old person, in which the greater portion of ous combustion are the prey of very strong the body was consumed. Alphonse Deveninternal heat. 11. The combustion bursts
out all at once, and consumes the body in a few hours. 12. The parts of the body not attacked are struck with mortification.
*Paris and Fonblanque's Medical Jurisprudence.
gee details another case of an individual the Garden of Plants, who died from the aged fifty-one, which occurred in 1829. effects of inordinate indulgence in wine. The muscles of the trunk, thighs, and superior | Similar cases occurred at the Manchester extremities, were burnt. The only excep- Royal Infirmary, in 1842. tions to this general rule, as yet known, are The theory of alcoholic impregnation is, two. The first was that of a girl aged however, of itself insufficient to account, seventeen, whose case is detailed in the for human combustion. If the mere impregJournal of the Hospital of Hamburgh. One nation of the tissues with alcohol was suffifinger of the right hand alone was burnt. cient to account for this phenomena, we In the other case, related by Dr. Peter should anticipate its more frequent occurScholefield, the consequences were terribly rence. One powerful reason why we should fatal. In the latter instance, the excesses attribute its remote cause to pathological of the young man had induced a condition changes is the fact, that when an individual of body common only to gross intemperance in comparative health dies of intoxication, his and advanced life. frame does not appear to be more inflam
It appears, therefore, from the cases on mable than it would have been under other record, that the structure of old and feeble circumstances. The surface, also, of an persons is most favourable to human com- anatomical preparation, recently removed bustion. from the spirit in which it has been soaked
3. Sex. In a table of twenty-five authen- for an unlimited period, on being placed in tic cases which the author has collected contact with the flame of a candle, will only from various sources, not less than twenty burn until the alcohol is consumed. The were females. The fragile structure of substance of the preparation remains unwomen renders them peculiarly prone to this injured. condition. Females are not only more Dr. Marc supposes that human combusdelicate in their structure, but inactive and tion may be induced by the development of sedentary in their mode of life. Hence, in-inflammable gases in various parts of the ebriating liquors exercise a powerful influ- system. Well-authenticated cases are on ence on their constitutions. In no case, so record of the presence of inflammable gas far as our knowledge extends, does combus-during life, not only in the stomach and intion operate on persons of robust and hardy testines, but in the different tissues. M. frames. "Every thing which we know Bally relates a remarkable case which upon the subject," says Dr. Apjohn, "jus- came under his notice, at the Hôtel-Dieu, tifies us in inferring that the causes which Paris ;* and excited at the time considerproduce it are such as have most influence able attention among the members of the in reducing the powers of life and enervating Academie Nationale de Medecine. the system."* development of inflammable gases, however, V. Theories of human combustion. The during life, as Dr. Apjohn correctly refact of buman combustion being established marks, whether the result of putrefaction on such clear and undeniable evidence, the or of depraved secretion, will not explain following questions naturally arise: How is the completeness of the incineration which this anomalous condition of the human takes place in human combustion, nor the frame produced? Is it the immediate re- rapidity with which the combustion spreads sult primarily of some chemical action, or over the whole body."† the consequence of peculiar pathological How does the combustion commence? The changes effected in the system? Again, most eminent writers on this subject are as In what manner does the combustion com- yet undetermined whether human combusmence? Is it spontaneous, or does the ig-tion is spontaneous in its origin, or whether nition in the first instance originate in con- the ignition commences by contact with tact with some inflammable substance? some inflammable substance. An ignited Numerous theories illustrative of these body has, in most cases, been found in the points have been advanced by different wri- immediate vicinity of the corpse. In some ters: most of them, however, are unsatisfac-instances a lighted pipe has been supposed tory, and founded on false data. to have commenced the combustion; in
In what manner is the body rendered so others, a lamp, candle, stove, or fire in the inflammable as to support combustion? The hearth. Vicq D'Azyr, Lair, Breschet, Dutheory of alcoholic impregnation most po- puytren, and other eminent writers, counpularly obtains. The facts presented to the tenance this view, and attribute its origin, in reader in previous sections demonstrate that every instance, to an external cause. the tissues of the human frame may Maffei, Lecat, Kopp, and Marc, who conliterally be soaked with alcohol. Breschet ceive this theory inadequate to account for found that the different tissues of criminals, all the phenomena witnessed in cases of huwhose bodies he opened soon after execu- man combustion, suggest that the source of tion, evolved a powerful odour of eau-de- ignition may depend on the calorific powers vie. Dumeril and Cuvier made a similar of the electric fluid. Apparently insurobservation upon the body of a workman at
Dict. of Pract. Med., Art. Spontan. Combust.
* Cyclopæd. of Pract. Med., vol i., p. 452.