11 SEPTEMBER 1830, Page 14


IN a very interesting paper in Blackwood's Magazine, entitled "Passages from the Diary of a late Physician," there is an ac- count of a scholar's deathbed, which closes thus :—" Well," he (the dying youth) murmured almost inarticulately, " I am now quite in darkness ! Oh, there is something at my heart—cold, cold ! Doctor, keep them off:" And in a note upon the last words, it is observed by the author," I once before heard these strange words fall from the lips of a dying patient—a lady. To me they suggest very unpleasant, I may say fearful thoughts. What is to be kept off?" If the amount of pain to mankind from superstitious terrors were considered, persons would scrupulously abstain from the utterance of any thoughts which may add to the mass, or strength- en any gloomy fancy already belonging to it. The observation we have quoted seems to us doubly inconsiderate,—inconsidered in itself, and inconsidered in its effect upon weak minds always disposed to self-torment and credulous of the horrible.

It is very probable that words of the fearful import mentioned are often uttered by dying persons ; but let us ask those who have more than once heard them, and who lay stress upon the com- monness of the impression, whether in the mental weakness or delirium of mere sickness without fatal termination, other fancies are not commonly remarked, from which no inference alarming to humanity is drawn. It is the accident of death following upon the imagination that gives it the character of awe, and raises a belief of something more than visionary terror. Thousands in delirium fancy horrible objects, and entreat protection from them ; and their words are unheeded by those well accustomed to hear them : but if two die in the utterance of alarm, a medical man of no ordinary intelligence is shocked by the coincidence, and in- clined to believe more in it than we dream of in our philosophy. it may be objected, that the cases instanced are not cases of deli- rium, but of minds composed at the instant of death : we ask; however, whether it is not more than probable, that at the moments preceding dissolution, the intellect is sharing in the weakness of the body, andthe functions of .the understanding disordered, or in part paralyzed? The very diffusion of the superstrtiousimpressions is also likely to cause the impression of them at the hour of the breaking up of nature. Those who have heard or read these ghastly observations in health', will be apt• to 'think of them with dread upon the approach of dissolution, and to fancy the horrors which fear has dwelt on. Superstition is the most tenacious of rateknsts, and one who never deserts her entertainers in the hour of ess, gloom, misfortuane, or death. Where she has once been admitted, she is sure to resume her sway the moment that reason relaxes its oppOsition and infirmity yield's the pass to morbid imagination.