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of picture and of poetry,—what we have read with astonishment reflected on the difference and what we have dreamed of,-rise up and between a real committer of a murder, and the crowd in upon us such eye-scaring portraits idea of one which he has been collecting and of the man of blood, that our pen is abso- heightening all his life out of books, dreams, lutely forestalled ; we commence poets when &c. ? The fellow, perhaps, is a sleek, smugwe should play the part of strictest historians, looking man, with light hair and eyebrows, and the very blackness of horror which the —the latter by no means jutting out or like deed calls up, serves as a cloud to screen the a crag,--and with none of those marks doer. The fiction is blameless, it is accordant which our fancy had pre-bestowed upou with those wise prejudices with which him. nature has guarded our innocence,
as with I find I am getting
unawares too serious ; impassable barriers, against the commission the best way on such occasions is to leave of such appalling crimes ; but, meantime, the off, which I shall do by generally recom criminal escapes ; or if,—owing to that wise mending to all prosecuting advertisers not abatement in their expectation of deformity, to confound crimes with ugliness ; or rather, which, as I hinted at before, the officers of to distinguish between that physiognomical pursuit never fail to make, and no doubt in deformity, which I am willing to grant cases of this sort they make a more than always accompanies crime, and mere physical ordinary allowance,-if, owing to this or any ugliness,which signifies nothing, is the accident, the offender is caught and brought opponent of nothing, and may exist in a good to his trial, who that has been led out of
indifferently. curiosity to witness such a scene has not
SIR-I am one of those unhappy persons drawn down upon me this vengeance, so whose misfortunes, it seems, do not entitle disproportionate to my actions on this them to the benefit of pure pity. All that is globe. bestowed upon me of that kindest alleviator My brain sickens, and my bosom labours of human miseries comes dashed with a to be delivered of the weight that presses double portion of contempt. My griefs have upon it, yet my conscious pen shrinks from nothing in them that is felt as sacred by the the avowal. But out it mustbystanders. Yet is my affliction, in truth, 0, Mr. Reflector! guess at the 'wretch's of the deepest grain—the heaviest task that misery who now writes this to you, when, was ever given to mortal patience to sustain. with tears and burning blushes, he is obliged Time, that wears out all other sorrows, can to confess that he has been—HANGED never modify or soften mine. Here they Methinks I hear an involuntary exclamust continue to gnaw as long at that fatal mation burst from you, as your imagination mark
presents to you fearful images of your Why was I ever born? Why was inno-correspondent unknown-hanged ! cence in my person suffered to be branded Fear not, Mr. Editor. No disembodied with a stain which was appointed ouly for spirit has the honour of addressing you. I the blackest guilt ? What had I done, or am flesh and blood, an unfortunate system my parents, that a disgrace of mine should of bones, muscles, sinews, arteries, like involve a whole posterity in infamy? I am yourself. almost tempted to believe, that, in some pre- Then, I presume, you mean to be pleasant.existent state,crimes to which this sublunary That expression of yours, Mr. Correspondent, life of mine hath been as much a stranger as must be taken somehow in a metaphorical the babe that is newly born into it, have I sense
In the plainest sense, without trope or my fancy in that respect, I endeavoured, by figure-Yes, Mr. Editor! this neck of mine mingling in all the pleasures which the town has felt the fatal noose,—these hands have affords, to efface the memory of what I had tremblingly held up the corroborative prayer- undergone. book,—these lips have sucked the moisture But, alas ! such is the portentous and allof the last consolatory orange,—this tongue pervading chain of connexion which links has chanted the doleful cantata which no together the head and members of this great performer was ever called upon to repeat,-community, my scheme of lying perdu was this face has had the veiling night-cap drawn defeated almost at the outset. A countryover it
man of mine, whom a foolish law-suit had But for no crime of mine.-Far be it from brought to town, by chance met me, and the me to arraign the justice of my country, secret was soon blazoned about. which, though tardy, did at length recognise In a short time, I found myself deserted my innocence. It is not for me to reflect by most of those who had been my intimate upon judge or jury, now that eleven years friends. Not that any guilt was supposed have elapsed since the erroneous sentence to attach to my character. My officious was pronounced. Men will always be fallible, countryman, to do him justice, had been and perhaps circumstances did appear at the candid enough to explain my perfect innotime a little strong
cence. But, somehow or other, there is a Suffice it to say, that after hanging four want of strong virtue in mankind. We have minutes, (as the spectators were pleased to plenty of the softer instincts, but the heroic compute it,-a man that is being strangled, character is gone. How else can I account I know from experience, has altogether a for it, that of all my numerous acquaintance, different measure of time from his friends among whom I had the honour of ranking who are breathing leisurely about him, I sundry persons of education, talents, and suppose the minutes lengthen as time worth, scarcely here and there one or two approaches eternity, in the same manner as could be found who had the courage to the miles get longer as you travel north- associate with a man that had been hanged. ward,)-after hanging four minutes, accord Those few who did not desert me altogether ing to the best calculation of the bystanders, were persons of strong but coarse minds; a reprieve came, and I was cut down and from the absence of all delicacy in them
Really I am ashamed of deforming your I suffered almost as much as from the pages with these technical phrases — if I superabundance of a false species of it in the knew how to express my meaning shorter others. Those who stuck by me were the
But to proceed.—My first care after I had jokers, who thought themselves entitled by been brought to myself by the usual methods, the fidelity which they had shown towards (those methods that are so interesting to the me to use me with what familiarity they operator and his assistants, who are pretty pleased. Many and unfeeling are the jests numerous on such occasions,—but which no that I have suffered from these rude (because patient was ever desirous of undergoing a faithful) Achateses. As they passed me in second time for the benefit of science,) my the streets, one would nod significantly to first care was to provide myself with an his companion and say, pointing to me, enormous stock or cravat to hide the place Smoke his cravat, and ask me if I had got a you understand me ;-my next care was to wen, that I was so solicitous to cover my. procure a residence as distant as possible neck. Another would inquire, What news from that part of the country where I had from * Assizes ? (which you may guess, suffered. For that reason I chose the Mr. Editor, was the scene of my shame,) and metropolis, as the place where wounded whether the sessions was like to prove a honour (I had been told) could lurk with maiden one? A third would offer to insure the least danger of exciting inquiry, and me from drowning. A fourth would tease stigmatised innocence had the best chance of me with inquiries how I felt when I was hiding her disgrace in a crowd. I sought swinging, whether I had not something like out a new circle of acquaintance, and my a blue flame dancing before my eyes ? A circumstances happily enabling me to pursue ifth took a fancy never to call me anything
but Lazarus. And an eminent bookseller complaining of the hard and unfeeling and publisher,—who, in his zeal to present prejudices of the world ; and the sweet maid the public with new facts, had he lived in has again and again declared, that no those days, I am confident, would not have irrational prejudice should hinder her from scrupled waiting upon the person himself esteeming every man according to his last mentioned, at the most critical period of intrinsic worth. Often has she repeated the his existence, to solicit a few facts relative to consolatory assurance, that she could never resuscitation,—had the modesty to offer me consider as essentially ignominious an acci- guineas per sheet, if I would write, in his dent, which was indeed to be deprecated, but Magazine, a physiological account of my which might have happened to the most feelings upon coming to myself.
innocent of mankind. Then would she set But these were evils which a moderate forth some illustrious example, which her fortitude might have enabled me to struggle reading easily furnished, of a Phocion or a with. Alas! Mr. Editor, the women, Socrates unjustly condemned; of a Raleigh whose good graces I had always most or a Sir Thomas More, to whom late posassiduously cultivated, from whose softer terity had done justice ; and by soothing minds I had hoped a more delicate and my fancy with some such agreeable parallel, generous sympathy than I found in the men, she would make me almost to triumph in —the women began to shun me—this was my disgrace, and convert my shame into the unkindest blow of all.
glory. But is it to be wondered at ? How couldst In such entertaining and instructive conthou imagine, wretchedest of beings, that versations the time passed on, till I importhat tender creature Seraphina would fling tunately urged the mistress of my affections her pretty arms about that neck which to name the day for our union. To this she previous circumstances had rendered in- obligingly consented, and I thought myself famous ? That she would put up with the the happiest of mankind. But how was I refuse of the rope, the leavings of the cord ? surprised one morning on the receipt of the Or that any analogy could subsist between following billet from my charmer :the knot which binds true lovers, and the knot which ties malefactors ?
SIR, You must not impute it to levity, I can forgive that pert baggage Flirtilla, or to a worse failing, ingratitude, if, with who, when I complimented her one day on anguish of heart, I feel myself compelled by the execution which her eyes had done, irresistible arguments to recall a vow which replied, that, to be
Mr. was a judge I fear I made with too little consideration. of those things. But from thy more exalted I never can be yours. The reasons of my mind, Celestina, I expected a more unpre- decision, which is final, are in my own breast, judiced decision. The person whose true and you must everlastingly remain a stranger name I conceal under this appellation, of all to them. Assure yourself that I can never the women that I was ever acquainted with cease to esteem you as I ought. had the most manly turn of mind, which she
CELESTINA. had improved by reading and the best conversation. Her understanding was not more At the sight of this paper, I ran in frantic masculine than her manners and whole haste to Celestina's lodgings, where I learned, disposition were delicately and truly feminine. to my infinite mortification, that the mother She was the daughter of an officer who had and daughter were set off on a journey to a fallen in the service of his country, leaving distant part of the country, to visit a rela- | his widow, and Celestina, an only child, with tion, and were not expected to return in less a fortune sufficient to set them above want, than four months. but not to enable them to live in splendour. Stunned by this blow, which left me withI had the mother's permission to pay my out the courage to solicit an explanation by addresses to the young lady, and Celestina letter, even if I had known where they were, seemed to approve of my suit.
(for the particular address was industriously Often and often have I poured out my concealed from me, I waited with impatience overcharged soul in the presence of Celestina, the termination of the period, in the vain
hope that I might be permitted to have a remnant of this frame (the mangled trophy chance of softening the harsh decision by of reprieved innocence) with credit to mya personal interview with Celestina after self, in any of those barbarous countries. her return. But before three months were No scorn, at least, would have mingled at an end, I learned from the newspapers with the pity (small as it might be) with that my beloved had given her hand to which what was left of me would have been another!
surveyed. Heart-broken as I was, I was totally at a The singularity of my case has often led me loss to account for the strange step which to inquire into the reasons of the general levity she had taken ; and it was not till some with which the subject of hanging is treated years after that I learned the true reason as a topic in this country. I say, as a topic: from a female relation of hers, to whom it for let the very persons who speak so lightly seems Celestina had confessed in confidence, of the thing at a distance be brought to view that it was no demerit of mine that had the real scene,–let the platform be bonâ caused her to break off the match so abruptly, fide exhibited, and the trembling culprit nor any preference which she might feel for brought forth,—the case is changed ; but as any other person, for she preferred me (she a topic of conversation, I appeal to the vulgar was pleased to say,) to all mankind; but jokes which pass current in every street. when she came to lay the matter closer to But why mention them, when the politest her heart, she found that she never should authors have agreed in making use of this be able to bear the sight—(I give you her subject as a source of the ridiculous ? Swift, very words as they were detailed to me by and Pope, and Prior, are fond of recurring her relation)—the sight of a man in a night- to it. Gay has built an entire drama upon cap, who had appeared on a public platform this single foundation. The whole interest -it would lead to such a disagreeable asso- of the Beggar's Opera may be said to hang ciation of ideas! And to this punctilio I upon it. To such writers as Fielding and was sacrificed.
Smollett it is a perfect bonne-bouche.-Hear To pass over an infinite series of minor the facetious Tom Brown, in his Comical mortifications, to which this last and heaviest View of London and Westminster, describe might well render me callous, behold me the Order of the Show at one of the Tyburn here, Mr. Editor! in the thirty-seventh year Executions in his time :- .“ Mr. Ordinary of my existence, (the twelfth, reckoning from visits his melancholy flock in Newgate by my re-animation,) cut off from all respectable eight. Doleful procession up Holborn-hill connexions ; rejected by the fairer half of about eleven. Men handsome and proper that the community,—who in my case alone seem were never thought so before, which to have said aside the characteristic pity comfort however. Arrive at the fatal place of their sex ; punished because I was once by twelve. Burnt brandy, women, and sabpunished unjustly; suffering for no other bath-breaking, repented of. Some few penireason than because I once had the mis- tential drops fall under the gallows. Sheriffs' fortune to suffer without any cause at all. men, parson, pickpockets, criminals, all very In no other country, I think, but this, could busy. The last concluding peremptory psalm a man have been subject to such a life-long struck up. Show over by one.”—In this persecution, when once his innocence had sportive strain does this misguided wit think been clearly established.
proper to play with a subject so serious, Had I crawled forth a rescued victim from which yet he would hardly have done if he the rack in the horrible dungeons of the In- had not known that there existed a predisquisition,—had I heaved myself up from a position in the habits of his unaccountable half bastinado in China, or been torn from countrymen to consider the subject as a jest. the just-entering, ghastly impaling stake But what shall we say to Shakspeare, who, in Barbary, — had I dropt alive from the (not to mention the solution which the Graveknout in Russia, or come off with a gashed digger in Hamlet gives of his fellow-workneck from the half-mortal, scarce-in-time- man's problem,) in that scene in Measure for retracted cimeter of an executioneering slave Measure, where the Clown calls upon Master in Turkey,–I might have borne about the Barnardine to get up and be hanged, which
he declines on the score of being sleepy, has when we are seen," as the Angel in Milton actually gone out of his way to gratify this expresses it, “least wise,"—this, I am afraid, amiable propensity in his countrymen ; for will always be the case ; unless, indeed, as it is plain, from the use that was to be made in my instance, some strong personal feeling of his head, and from Abhorson's asking, “Is overpower the ludicrous altogether. To me, the axe upon the block, sirrah ?” that be- when I reflect upon the train of misfortunes heading, and not hanging, was the punish- which have pursued men through life, owing ment to which Barnardine was destined. to that accursed drapery, the cap presents as But Shakspeare knew that the axe and block purely frightful an object as the sleeveless were pregnant with no ludicrous images, and yellow coat and devil-painted mitre of the therefore falsified the historic truth of his San Benitos.- An ancestor of mine, who own drama (if I may so speak), rather than suffered for his loyalty in the time of the he would leave out such excellent matter for civil wars, was so sensible of the truth of a jest as the suspending of a fellow-creature what I am here advancing, that on the mornin mid-air has been ever esteemed to be by ing of execution, no entreaties could prevail Englishmen.
upon him to submit to the odious dishabille, One reason why the ludicrous never fails as he called it, but he insisted upon wearto intrude itself into our contemplations upon ing and actually suffered in, the identical, this mode of death, I suppose to be, the ab- flowing periwig which he is painted in, in surd posture into which a man is thrown the gallery belonging to my uncle's seat in who is condemned to dance, as the vulgar -shire. delight to express it, upon nothing. To see Suffer me, Mr. Editor, before I quit the him whisking and wavering in the air, subject, to say a word or two respecting the
minister of justice in this country ; in plain “ As the wind you know will wave a man ;”
words, I mean the hangman. It has always to behold the vacant carcase, from which the appeared to me that, in the mode of inflicting life is newly dislodged, shifting between capital punishments with us, there is too earth and heaven, the sport of every gust; much of the ministry of the human hand. The like a weathercock, serving to show from guillotine, as performing its functions more which point the wind blows; like a maukin, of itself and sparing human agency, though a fit only to scare away birds ; like a nest left cruel and disgusting exhibition, in my mind to swing upon a bough when the bird is has many ways the advantage over our way. flown: these are uses to which we cannot In beheading, indeed, as it was formerly pracwithout a mixture of spleen and contempt tised in England, and in whipping to death, be the human carcase reduced. We as is sometimes practised now, the hand of string up dogs, foxes, bats, moles, weasels. man is no doubt sufficiently busy, but there Man surely deserves a steadier death. is something less repugnant in these down
Another reason why the ludicrous asso- right blows than in the officious barber-like ciates more forcibly with this than with any ministerings of the other. To have a fellow other mode of punishment, I cannot help with his hangman's hands fumbling about thinking to be, the senseless costume with your collar, adjusting the thing as your valet which old prescription has thought fit to would regulate your cravat, valuing himself clothe the exit of malefactors in this country. on his menial dexterityLet a man do what he will to abstract from I never shall forget meeting my rascal,his imag
tion all idea of the whimsical, I mean the fellow who officiated for me,—in something of it will come across him when London last winter. I think I see him now, he contemplates the figure of a fellow-creature --in a waistcoat that had been mine, in the day-time in however distressing a smirking along as if he knew mesituation) in a night-cap. Whether it be In some parts of Germany, that fellow's that this nocturnal addition has something office is by law declared infamous, and his discordant with daylight, or that it is the posterity incapable of being ennobled. They dress which we are seen in at those times have hereditary hangmen, or had at least,
in the same manner as they had herediHieronimo in the Spanish Tragedy. tary other great officers of state ; and the