Phenomena of Death,

From the Quarterly Review

To be shot dead is one of the easiest modes of terminating life; yet, rapid as it is, the body has leisure to feel and time to reflect. On the first attempt by one of the frantic adherents of Spain to assassinate William, Prince of Orange, who took the lead in the revolt of the Netherlands, the ball passed through the bones of his face, and brought him to the ground. In the instant that preceded stupefaction, he was able to frame the notion that the ceiling of the room had fallen and crushed him. The cannon shot which plunged into the brain of Charles XII. did not prevent him from seizing his sword by the hilt. The idea of an attack and the necessity for defence was impressed upon him by a blow which we should have supposed too tremendous to leave an interval for thought. But it by no means follows that the infliction of fatal violence is accompanied by a pang. From what is known of the first effect of gunshot wounds, it is probable that the impression is rather stunning than acute. Unless death be immediate, the pain is as varied as the nature of the injuries, and these are past counting up. But there is nothing singular in the dying sensations, though Lord Byron remarked the physiological peculiarity, that the expression is invariably that of languor, while in death from a stab the countenance reflects the traits of natural character—of gentleness or ferocity—to the last breath. Some of these cases are of interest, to show with what slight disturbance life may go on under mortal wound till it suddenly comes to a final stop. A foot-soldier at Waterloo, pierced by a musket ball in the hip, begged water from a trooper who chanced to possess a canteen of beer. The wounded man drank, returned his heartiest thanks, mentioned that his regiment was nearly exterminated, and having proceeded a dozen yards in his way to the rear, fell to the earth, and with one convulsive movement of his limbs concluded his career. "Yet his voice," says the trooper, who himself tells the story, "gave scarcely the smallest sign of weakness." Captain Basil Hall, who in his early youth was present at the Battle of Corunna, has singled out from the confusion which consigns to oblivion the woes and gallantry of war, another instance extremely similar, which occurred on that occasion. An old officer, who was shot in the head, arrived pale and faint at the temporary hospital, and begged the surgeon to look at his wound, which was pronounced to be mortal. "Indeed I feared so," he responded with impeded utterance, "and yet I should like very much to live a little longer, if it were possible." He laid his sword upon a stone at his side, "as gently," says Hall, "as if its steel had been turned to glass, and almost immediately sunk dead upon the turf."