Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/832

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

who would refuse any work, however anxious on other grounds to accept it, if it involved the frequent perusal of long manuscripts in varied handwritings. No doubt the tendency to a broad and coarse but beautifully legible handwriting, which has conquered the upper class and is slowly filtering downward, is diminishing this reluctance, but it would be more rapidly removed if a little trouble were taken to teach children to read handwriting. They hardly see any till they begin to receive correspondence, and are never compelled to read any, and consequently learn to write what they can not read, without intelligence and without pleasure.—Spectator.

 
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A CONSIDERATION OF SUICIDE.
By J. H. HOPKINS.

NICHOLAS RIDLEY and Hugh Latimer stood at the stake to be burned for heresy. Fastened to the body of each was a bag of powder, placed there by friends with the intention of bringing the sufferings of the victims to a speedy termination. Latimer died first. The flames, rising rapidly, touched the bag of powder, and the torture for him was at an end. Ridley was not so fortunate. The wood, prepared for his execution, being green and tightly packed, the fire smoldered, and he was long in agony, crying out that he could not burn; until one of the spectators having loosened the fagots and admitted air, the flame swept up to the powder and brought death.

It is certain that the use of powder was not included in the sentence of death. It was permitted, not authorized. Death being sure, the persecutors were magnanimous enough, at the last, to allow it to come quickly. As the Athenian tribunal granted the privilege of hemlock to Socrates; as the English executioners failed to carry out, literally, the horrible sentence of hanging, drawing, and quartering; so the Marian officials did not insist on the extreme rigor of the sentence. But was this hastening of death, in a way unauthorized by law, either murder on the part of the friends of Ridley and Latimer, or suicide on their own part?

Under the old, stern common law, literally construed, the martyrs who used and the friends who furnished the powder were guilty, the former of suicide and the latter of murder. "The law of England," says Blackstone (vol. ii., p. 189), wisely and religiously considers that no man hath a power to destroy life but by commission from God, the author of it; and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offense, one spiritual, in evading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into his immediate presence uncalled for, the other temporal, against the King, who hath an interest in the preservation of all his subjects,