Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/49

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Poor Guillotin paid dearly for the foolish vanity of affecting to be an inventor, when he was only a plagiary; and it seems very strange how so general an opinion should have prevailed as to the novelty of the invention, when we find M. Louis, in the very first distinct description of the machine, representing it as one already known in England—indeed, his expressions seem to imply that it was then actually and habitually in use amongst us. We know not whence M. Louis could have taken up this notion.—The English mode of decapitation had always been by the block and the axe—with one ancient local exception—that of what was called the Halifax Gibbet, which was indeed a perfect guillotine, and had been, of old, employed in certain peculiar cases arising in the adjoining district.

If M. Louis had inquired a little farther, he would have found not only that the implement was not in general use in England, but had not been used for near 150 years in the small district to which it belonged. He would also have easily discovered such descriptions and portraits of the like machines as would have saved him a great deal of trouble in the actual construction of that on which he was employed.

We have before us an old print of the Halifax gibbet, with a legend, "John Hoyle, delt., 1650," which had been often reproduced long before Guillotin was born—as in a little book called 'Halifax and its Gibbet Law,' 1708; and Bishop Gibson's edition of