Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/324

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ing an increase of but from 14 to 18 per year during the same period. This result is probably due to a great extent to the influence of the Catholic priesthood, for it is the Roman Church, above all others, that has firmly "fix'd its canon 'gainst self-slaughter."

On account of the more settled social condition of England the statistics of that country do not show the same alarming increase as those of France, Germany, and Austria, but the regularity of the number for each five years, from 1855 to 1875—viz., from 1855 to 1860, 65; from 1860 to 1865, 66; from 1865 to 1870, 67; and from 1870 to 1875, 66—supports in a remarkable degree the statement made by Buckle that, "when the social conditions do not undergo any marked change, we find year by year the same proportion of persons putting an end to their existence, so that we are able to predict, within a very small limit of error, the number of voluntary deaths for each ensuing period."

Both Profs, Bertillion and Morselli express some doubt as to the reliability of their statistics showing an increase in the United States on account of its rapidly increasing population; but any one who will pay attention to the subject will be convinced, I am sure, that a marked increase is annually taking place; and there are many reasons why it should be so. Our country is young, social changes are rapid, and the struggle for wealth is severe. In brief, we are living in what is justly called a "fast age." The modern youth "consumes in an hour, by useless brilliancy, the oil of the lamp which should burn throughout the night," and soon finds that the infirmities of age have supplanted the vigor of youth; the business man who to-day is at the very height of prosperity, by some rash speculation becomes a bankrupt to-morrow; the professional man, who is ambitious of distinction, does not rest when the sun goes down, but prolongs his work far into the quiet hours of night. In fact, almost every one is madly pursuing either pleasure, wealth, or fame, and, under such circumstances, is it a wonder that often an overpowering sense of ennui and disgust of life occurs, or that the delicate structure of the brain breaks down, impelling the unfortunate victim to seek rest in the suicide's dishonored grave?

Besides dissipation, reverses of fortune and overwork, love, jealousy, and remorse play an important part in the etiology of self-destruction. Marc Antony fell upon his sword and killed himself because he believed that Cleopatra had played him false; and she, overcome by remorse and grief, placed the asp to her breast that it might "the knot intrinsicate of life untie," and thus unite her in the grave with him whose absence filled her life with woe; and the same motives which, thirty years before the birth of Christ, made Antony and Egypt's queen "a-weary of the sun," rule just as powerfully to-day in modern hearts.