by our Special Correspondent.
Our readers will understand that we do not hold ourselves responsible for our able Correspondent's opinions.
If SIR HENRY THOMPSON, the eminent surgeon, who was knighted several years ago for an operation on the the Queen's uncle, the King of the Belgians, is fond of making a sensation in print, he has succeeded in making one this month. In an elaborate article, he has proposed to burn instead of burying our "poor dead bodies."
There is a great deal to be said in favour of reviving this heathen and transplanting this Hindoo fashion, but, for all that, it is not likely to be accepted in this part of the world for the next hundred years.
I should not be surprised if it were taken up in America, where everything new and strange, finds acceptance. There is no difficulty about it. We should not follow the Romans, and use huge piles of timber with costly spices to drown the smell. A gas retort would reduce a corpse to superphospate of lime in less than two hours and the sculptors and iron casters would establish a fine business in vases or urns for the deceased. SIR THOMAS MORE, a writer of the Elizabethian age, and a great favourite of CHARLES LAMB's, has written a fine prose-poem on Urn Burial.
SIR HENRY has made a great deal of the unwholesomeness to the living of open cemetaries and churchyards, besides the loss of the fertilising matter which enriched Waterloo, and is now enriching the fields round Sedan. But, as far as fertilisation goes, it is to be presumed that the ashes of one's ancestors would not be distributed over the fields. As to the unhealthiness of cemeteries, as at present managed, that is truly an imaginary evil.
Some thirty years ago, a MR. WALKER published a pamphlet on Town Graveyards, which made a great deal of sensation. But the graveyards of London were not only full, but saturated with the decay of centuries. MR. EDWIN CHADWICK, afterwards C.B., took up the question, used and shunted poor WALKER, and was the means of passing a bill which closed all the graveyards of London, and established a number of suburban.
In spite of the opposition of the dignitaries of St. Paul's, WALKER's revelations were horrible. But from modern, carefully-drained cemeteries, where strict rules prevent overcrowding, no miasma can arise. It is well that it should be so, for the extension of London has travelled up to these once-isolated spots - Brompton, Kilburn, and Abney-park Cemeteries which are now surrounded by houses.
Indeed, at the great Dissenting cemetery at Abney-park, a block of new houses is flanked on three sides by graves; but they are of brick and stone and very deep.
I speak with confidence about the facility of preservation, because once at an artificial manure manufacturer's at Newcastle-on-Tyne, a dead donkey was shown to a part of us before dinner, and after dinner the poor moke's remains were handed round, quite odourless ashes, in a hand basket.
I will conclude this curious subject, which has taken up nearly all my paper, with an anecdote.
Sometime since, a man, who had made his money on the turf, a bookmaker, purchased the best part of a parish in the country. About the same time the parish was divided in opinion on the propriety of putting a fence round a new churchyard. At a meeting called for discussing the question, it was suggested and agreed that before deciding, it would be as well to obtain the presence of the new Lord of the Manor. At the adjourned meeting, when the rector appealed to MR. _____, he answered, "Well, parson, I think you'll agree with me, that them as are inside can't get out" (silence); "and, he continued, "them are outside, don't want to get in, so I don't see no use for a fence." The abashed parishioners slunk away without daring to mention the inconvenience of travelling pigs, donkeys, and cows in the parson's freehold - the churchyard.
The Spectator has been quoting from the Melbourne Herald a story of members of the New South Wales Legislature, which went the round of the Yankee papers as a dialogue between a general and a colonel at some bar in Missouri, years ago. The colonel bet the general ten dollars that he could not repeat the Lord's Prayer, upon which the general began, "Whenever I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep."
"That'll do," cried the colonel, "but I'd be all-fired if I thought you could do it."
The Spectator's story is an Australian edition; but such borrowings are quite fair, as half the Yankee jokes are our old friend JOE MILLER's, dressed in Transatlantic clothes.