Saturday, 1 June 2013

A Caution to Mothers

I've been reading through old Islington Gazettes in the British Newspaper Archive and this story stood out for its thorough-going wrong-headedness. Note the bolded sections.

'Dr Lankester held an inquiry on Wednesday at the Hanley Arms, Hornsey Road, concerning the death of Susan Elizabeth Wyatt, aged thirty years, who committed suicide by cutting her throat.

The old Hanley Arms, now a mosque.

Alfred Wyatt of 4 Westmoreland Terrace, Hornsey Road, husband of deceased, said he was an omnnibus conductor. 

Deceased had had three children. Witness went to bed on Saturday night about eleven o'clock and deceased complained of depression of spirits. 

She had been in the habit of drinking, but she did not seem under the influence of drink on that night. She had a strange way and seemed to do things mechanically. 

At three o'clock on Sunday morning he was awoken by deceased getting out of bed. He told her it was to early to get up, and told her to see what time it was. She looked at the clock and told him and he then asked her to go to bed again. She got into bed and he fell asleep. 

When he woke at eight o'clock she was not in bed and he got up and went downstairs to the kitchen, where he discovered deceased with her throat cut. 

Witness called for assistance. Deceased had lately been fretting about the illness of her child and thought she should not be able to bring it up.

Dr R. Fouracres said he knew deceased and had attended her in her last confinement a year and eight months ago. He might remark that she suckled her child up to her death, and this would tend to produce insanity in womenIt was a frequent cause.

He was called to deceased after death and found a large wound in her throat, which had divided the windpipe theere were some smaller wounds on the throat and some wounds alson on the breast wheich seemed to show an attempt to stab herself. The wounds were such as could only be inflicted by herself. 

Evidence having been given to show that Wyatt and his wife live harmoniously.

The coroner pointed out to the jury the evidence as to the suckling of the child. he thought it could not be too generally known, as a caution to mothersthat insanity was often produced by suckling a child so old

The jury returned a verdict of 'suicide while of unsound mind'.

Islington Gazette - Friday 24 November 1871

Context: Formula isn't poison. Babies fed on it (including me - preens) grow up fine. In the 1870s, however, the alternative to breastmilk was pap and the water round here was a petri dish of horribleness.

More context: That coroner, who comes across here as such a fool, was Dr Edwin Lankester. He helped rid London of cholera, and generally did more for humanity than I or you ever will.

I think the moral of the story is that however hard you try and however smart you are, there will be times when you make a complete ass of yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment