12 AUGUST 1882, Page 14


[To TEE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] Wynell-Mayow attributes the high suicide rate in this country to the religious creed of its people. " Switzerland," he says, " is the most Calvinistic country in the world."

It would hardly be possible to make a more absurd mistake. Two-fifths of the Swiss people are Roman Catholic, and among the remaining three-fifths are included Protestants of every denomination,—Jews, Sundries, and Free-thinkers. Calvinism, moreover, has long ceased to be a living faith in the Con- federation. Years ago, the National Church of Geneva—the nursing mother of Calvinism—discarded religious tests, and is now divided into two sections, one of which is mildly orthodox ; while the other and more powerful section rejects the super- natural altogether, and believes neither in the possibility of miracles nor the divinity of Christ. All over Switzerland, Liberal Protestautism, as it is called, is equally in the ascendant.

Nothing is easier than to make a wrong inference, but if I might hazard an opinion, I should say that drink has much to do with the prevalence of self-murder among the Swiss, and religion, or the want of it, very little. Owing chiefly to the cheapness of alcoholic beverages and the absence of any legisla- tive check on their sale, the consumption of strong waters is something frightful. If Switzerland is not the most Calvinistic country in the world, it is certainly one of the most drunken. In this canton, for instance, there is a public-h ouse for every hundred per head of the population, and the average expendi- ture on strong drink per individual (including, of course, women and children) is more than eight pounds sterling. This is in a country where common wine is retailed at fivepence and better wine at tenpence a bottle !

But is it true that suicide among the Swiss is quite so rife as Dr. O'Dea makes out P Figures are proverbially deceptive, and an analysis of the statistics of suicide in Geneva (as given in a pamphlet published by M. Cu6nod, Director of the Central Police) shows how easily, when regarded without discrimina- tion, they may be made to convey an impression the reverse of truth. Between 1873 and 1878, 263 self-murders were com- mitted in this canton. Seventy of the victims were Genevese, seventy-seven French, sixty-six Swiss from other cantons, and thirty could not be identified. Thus, of the entire sum of sui- cides during the five years in question, 4%3 were committed by foreigners, and only 26'6 by natives of the canton. M. Cw5nod assigns, as the three most fertile causes of self- murder, drunkenness, gambling, and want ; and he mentions the singular fact that when the " hell " at Saxon, in the Valais (closed about four years ago), was open, it was no rare thing for ruined gamesters to come to Geneva and die by their own hand.

It would be interesting to know something of the suicide statistics of Monaco, which, being intensely Catholic, ought, according to Mr. Wynel-Mayow's theory, to enjoy an almost complete immunity from the crime of self-murder.—I am, Sir, &c.,