Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

air they breathe; and if they find it not for their intellectual creations, rather than labour without its cheering influence, their genius spends itself upon those associations and pursuits in which sympathy may always be bestowed and occasionally received. Necessity,' we are told, always affected Hartley • Coleridge with the touch of a torpedo. This is commonly the case where the active powers, however large in themselves, are not in proportion to the sensibilities, or where the moral sensibilities are encompassed and embarrassed by a throng of nervous sensibilities. Hope is the conducting spirit of such a character, which finds it easier to advance than to stand; and to natures so constituted success is but a minister of Hope.

Such support Hartley Coleridge needed in an especial degree. The humility which is impressed upon all his poems, and the spirit of compunction which stamps upon the best among them their peculiar character, at once searching and subduing, were probably not favourable to those habits of mind which engage men in large enterprises. For the poet, however, as for the man, good and ill fortune were so blended that it is often hard to know them apart. He had a high training as well as a high gift, the helps 28 well as the hindrances of a poetic age, the benefits, as well as the disadvantages, which proceed from the absence of contemporary fame; he had nature, books, friends, and leisure. A man with these advantages, and fifty-two years of life, may. generally be considered to have put forth what was in him and was accessible. So large a bequest as he has left us is seldom so unalloyed a one. A noble moral spirit will long continue to be diffused from his poetry: a moral lesson not less deep is to be found in that poetry taken in connexion with his life. In our remarks on the latter we have but glanced at principles of large and general concern, enforced by himself in many a poem rich in heart wisdom,' and strong to diffuse it. Our imperfect sketch can easily be filled up for himself by any reader who is able to afford to so large a storehouse of genuine poetry the time that it deserves. In Hartley Coleridge's · Essays and • Marginalia,' he will find all the additional notes necessary for the study of their author's genius, as well as a varied range of discriminative criticism and discursive thought. We regret that our present limits compel us thus briefly to refer to them,

time to afford to be filled up trong to difuse it in

[ocr errors]

ART, IV. - Return of the Number and Nature of the Accidents

and the Injuries to Life and Limb which have occurred on the Railways in Great Britain and Ireland, from the 1st of July to the 31st of December, 1850, together with the Number of

Passengers conveyed during that Period. Ordered to be printed · 7th May, 1851. EXEMPTION from fatal accidents, as well as from many

minor calamities that flesh is heir to, has long been popularly counted among the blessings of pastoral simplicity. " But the probability of any such exemption is questioned by the sceptical: and Arcadia keeps no statistics. This is a controversy, which may well wait. Not so the question, how far we can exempt the denizens of the artificially crowded and restless world in which we live, from any considerable proportion of these evils. Since it is clear that, whether or not it would be abstractly better to go backward,- onward is the direction in which the world is going and must go; and that the crowding, the restlessness, the untiring energy of exertion, and the marvellous fertility of invention which characterise our own days, will only be enlarged in those of our descendants. At the very outset of any inquiries bearing on such a subject, it is a pleasant thing to remember that science has ever hitherto been able to control its strength to good purposes; and that the motive powers which have possessed the most terrible force, have been under the most absolute discipline and restraint; that, for instance, when the murderer has fled from his victim on the wings of steam, science has overtaken him by a still speedier messenger, and has ranged the officers of justice at the termination of his flight, standing there calm, instructed, and collected, ready to examine his bloody hands, a hundred miles from the place of crime.

Among the various tests of the efficacy with which human institutions fulfil their social office, surely none can be so sensitive as the average vitality of the community. Whenever anything in them is wrong, if it be wrong on a considerable scale, it must tend to add, with more or less remoteness, to the insecurity of human life. The promotion of all such worthy inducements to exertion as excite without exhausting the physical and mental energies, - the regulated liberty which protects without invading, – the high-toned social atmosphere in which depravity cannot live, – the external tranquillity which exempts the body from violence, and relieves the mind from anxiety, -

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

to the would

the well-regulated monetary or commercial arrangements which save the public from fluctuations and convulsions, — the careful removal of external noxious agencies ;-all these are more or less the creatures of legislation, and have an influence on vitality, in so much that where they are materially deficient, — where men are tyrannical, greedy, dishonest, reckless of the safety of their fellow-men and of their own, where they wallow in moral and physical impurity, and oscillate between abject poverty and uncertain riches, - we may be assured that the traces of these malign influences, if they possess any such record, will be palpably marked in their tables of mortality.

The statistics of most subjects often present a startling appearance to those who have already arrived on them at independent conclusions of their own. There are few who would be fortunate enough to approach by guess-work to the exact number of deaths caused by violent accidents in the United Kingdom. Some would enumerate all they remember seeing in newspapers, — others would launch into a sea of figures, of which they do not know the actual meaning. In 1838, according to the Report of the Registrar-general, the number of deaths from violence in England and Wales was 11,727. Either there had been some defect in the returns for that year, or the causes of such calamities were decreasing, while population increased : for the number in the ensuing year was 11,632; in 1840, 11,594; and in 1841, 11,000. We do not find in the Registrar's Reports of later years the causes of death so separated and distinguished, – at least over the whole kingdom.* Scotland and Ireland are both destitute of the valuable machinery of the registration system; so that we know no more directly of vital statistics in these countries, than in China and Japan. But taking the English returns, as a foundation, we may safely calculate that the present population of

would rate allaccidents

Polip deaths from had been such calamitie in the ensu. W

er deaths to the not

* It might be natural to expect that, as the same uniform classes of facts have to be recorded by him every year, the Reports of the Registrar-general should be as uniform as an almanac or tide-table. Each annual volume, however, is an independent book with distinct subjects. And a cursory examination of the volumes shows a satisfactory reason for this. The materials collected by the registration system are of the same class every year; but the ways in which they may be used and applied to each other, especially with reference to a succession of years, are infinitely varied. A considerable number of these applications even would occupy too much bulk for an annual Report, and so each year presents its separate combinations : in one, we have the influence of the atmosphere or of politics on mortality - in another, that of trade, on marriages and births -- and so on.

the United Kingdom is double that of England and Wales in 1840. Making allowance for the proportional number of violent deaths having in the mean decreased, we may perhaps now count them, in round numbers at 20,000 in the year. This is in itself a vast mass of calamity. It would appal the world if it came in considerable instalments. All Europe was startled by the accident which killed 1200 people at the rejoicings for the marriage of Marie Antoinette, and which was in some measure repeated on that of Marie Louise. Our five great naval victories in the late war cost us only 1233 killed, and 3626 wounded; while 20,000 were probably beyond the British loss in battle in any one of its campaigns. Twenty thousand deaths would have cut no mean figure in the human sacrifices of Napoleon: and it will be remembered that the result of the three bloody days of the battle of Paris, was deemed to be grossly exaggerated when the deaths were computed at 8,000.

To avert a portion, say a half or a quarter, of the violent deaths incident to peaceful occupations, would surely be a great boon to the community. We see in other departments of the dark catalogue, what the energy of nan can accomplish in rendering life more secure. If we look at the element of starvation, which in some countries is so conspicuous, we shall find that the spirit and mechanism of English society have been brought to bear effectually against it, and that --partly from self-exertion, and partly from the application of the Poor Law, where self-exertion has proved insufficient, the mortality from this cause, more miserable yet perhaps than from violence, is comparatively small. It was, in 1838, 167; in 1839, 130; and in 1840, 137. The mortality test, as lately shown to the Metropolitan Association, by Dr. Southwood Sinith, gauges the saving of human life, which will be effected by improving the dwellings of the industrious poor.

Of course, the numbers of the dead only represent a certain per-centage of the direct sufferers on these occasions. How many are injured for every one whose life is extinguished by any class of violent agencies, would be a curious object of inquiry: it would be found to vary greatly with the circumstances which occasion the violence. We happen to alight at this moment on a note of the casualities caused by an attempt, in 1828, to rush out of a church at Kirkcaldy. The Reverend Edward Irving was addressing a crowded audience; an alarm arose for the safety of the building; 28 of his congregation were crushed to death, and 150 injured. In the first quarterly railway accidents' return for 1851, the number of persons killed from circumstances beyond • their own control’ is 3, the number injured, 33; while, by the


Expense of preventive Measures.


class of accidents set down as owing to their own misconduct

or want of caution,' the passengers killed were 7, those injured only 3. But in the succeeding quarterly return the proportion is still more startling; since, where 9 passengers are killed, 138 are injured from circumstances beyond their own control, - though, of passengers suffering from their own misconduct, &c., there are 9 injuries to 13 deaths. A strange and unexpected disproportion this, arising apparently from the injuries caused by slight collisions.

But the immediate deaths, or the immediate wounds, are not all which the public suffer from such calamities. First comes that indefinite circle, disappearing as it widens, of those who suffer in their affections, their interests, or their sympathies. But even in the still waters beyond the last perceptible vibration, where, outwardly indeed, people might not only seem callous to the misfortunes of the sufferers, but selfishly exulting in their own exemption, — there is a jarring of the nerves, an inward unsettledness, which makes life uneasy, and expands into positive distress as often as the excited imagination succeeds in drawing analogies between the thinker's position and that of the sufferer. In many instances some permanent shock to the nerves, even madness itself, has been attributed to the circumstances under which the patient became acquainted with some frightful accident. In the case of parties present at any of the great catastrophes, as for example in the Sutton tunnel, who shall venture to sum up the mental horror suffered there by the 1,500 victims for three quarters of an hour, amidst damp and darkness, uproar and confusion, the finding of the dead and wounded, while the work of death was going on at intervals, — no one knowing when the next remorseless crash would come, and whom and how many it would slay! Could the calling over of the guillotine lists in the Parisian prisons be an ordeal of greater agony ? Yet the primary cause of all this horror was an engine insufficient for the weight attached to it.

Perhaps we have said quite enough, but the importance of the matter will not be questioned ; and it will be no waste of the reader's time if we can present him with a few considerations tending to show how far it is within human power to modify those violent jerks and oscillations of the physical world which snap the thread of life, and scatter the hopes and affections clustering round it in desolation and despair.

In the first place we must set it down as an axiom, that in the accomplishment of such an end “money is no object;' that wherever life can be directly and certainly saved, without some

« PreviousContinue »