[The Daily News, 16. bis
25. Dezember 1869]
The Daily News. Nr. 7372, 16. Dezember 1869. S. 4/5.
[The Daily News, 16. Dezember 1869]
THERE is something almost grotesque in the proceedings which are taking place at the bedside of a little girl in Wales. Welsh Fasting Girls are by no means novelties, and the latest example is perhaps, like her predecessors, half deceiving and half deceived. The case has, however, been taken up in such serious earnest, that several experienced nurses are actually engaged in watching her, and a committee of physicians are issuing daily bulletins to the universal public. The latest of these is, that at the close of the fifth day of the watching, the girl had actually fasted, and was very weak and ill. This would seem to be so natural a result of five days’ fasting, that the wonder seems to be that the nurses do not at once persuade her to take some nourishment. Suppose the poor girl has hitherto been fed unconsciously to herself, and is too weak to desire food, or too languid to express a wish for it, the result of this watching may simply be that she will be starved to death. Now it is all very well that science should have its martyrs, and, of course, fraud and superstition will have their victims; but which will this poor girl be if she should die under the eyes of these nurses, and die of starvation? Probably the persons concerned have already ascertained what their legal position would be in such a case. We presume that, if the girl died, an inquest must be held; but what verdict could it return? If it were “Felo de se,” it would reflect on those who saw the suicide and did nothing to prevent it. It could hardly be death from natural causes or accidental death—there is nothing natural or accidental about it. Even the favourite formula, “Visitation of God,” would be out of place, for the real cause would be a visitation of nurses. Suppose that, in the unfitness of these ordinary verdicts, the jury should stumble upon “manslaughter”, what would the nurses or the committee have to urge against it?
The Daily News. Nr. 7374, 18. Dezember 1869. S. 4/5.
Daily News, 18. Dezember 1869]
Dec 18 Anmerkung von Jenny Marx
THE problem which we ventured to put before the nurses and Committee who were watching the Welsh Fasting Girl has now been put before them with startling suddenness by circumstances. The Fasting Girl is dead. For six days the nurses kept her without food, the parents declined to force food upon her, and the inevitable result has followed, for on the seventh day she became delirious and died. Now, it is tolerably obvious that this result was inevitable. There was no alternative before the girl but to eat or to die. She was herself, probably, in that condition of entire weakness and prostration in which all desire for food had left her, and it was clearly the duty of those who had her in charge to force food upon her. The refusal of the parents to do this may have been the result either of a blind belief in her powers of fasting, or of a dogged determination to play the game to the end. But however this may have been, it must now be rendered evident even to the most sensational lovers of the marvelous that, however long the girl might have kept what was called her fast when only her parents were watching her, she could not keep it under the new conditions of a strict and disinterested watch. At the touch of really serious investigation the case breaks down—as all sensible persons knew it must. Now, however, arises the rather serious question, we put two days ago, as to where the responsibility of starving the girl to death rests? Is it with the girl herself, with her parents, or with the watchers? We will not venture an answer to this question, and will not even venture to say that it must or should be answered. One thing, however, is and must remain clear for all future time. No Welsh Fasting Girls must any more be treated with this fatal seriousness. It is not science, but superstition, even to inquire into the possibility of any human being living a conscious life without food. The very profession to do so is either disease, fanaticism or imposture and should be treated as such. But the tendency to believe in marvels is perennial and is perennially supplied with the wonders it seeks. This little girl might probably have been saved had her case been treated medically from the point of view of unbelief in her fasting powers, instead of from the point of view of an assumption that they might be real. Had food been given her instead of watchfully kept from her, she would probably have been now alive. She can, however, well be spared if the fatal result in her case explodes such pretensions henceforth, and we hear no more of fasting girls even among the hills of Wales.
The Daily News. Nr. 7375, 20. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
THE DEATH OF THE “WELSH FASTING GIRL.”
THE NURSES’ REPORT.
A meeting of the committee who undertook the watching of the “Welsh Fasting Girl” was held at the Eagle Inn, Lianfihangel-rhosicorn, on Saturday afternoon. The Rev. E. Jones, vicar of the parish, was voted to the chair. The Chairman called upon the sister nurse from Guy’s Hospital to read the report of the nurses for the eight days during which they watched the “Fasting Girl” prior to her death (which, as has already been announced by telegram, occurred at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon). The report was as follows:—“Dec. 9, Thursday.—Attrick and Palmer (two nurses) on duty at night. Dec. 10, Friday.—Nurses tell me that the girl slept until 2 o’clock, and then was only awake for five minutes. She then slept until 6 o’clock, when I found her the same as yesterday. No change. At half-past 7 she began to read in a loud voice until 8 o’clock. Still read at intervals during the morning. 2 p.m.: Nurses tell me she was very cheerful, went to sleep at a quarter-past 7 until a quarter-past 11, slept after that until 2 o’clock. Her sleep was restless up to that time. She then slept until half-past 5 o’clock quietly. I and Jones at night Dec. 11 Saturday—6 o’clock: Assisted nurse to remove girl from her bed. She did not faint, but allowed me to assist in dressing her. She thanked me and said I did not hurt her. Left her at 7 p.m., reading; looking very cheerful and happy. Nurses tell me she has been cheerful, reading and talking to them. I do not think she is looking so well. Went to sleep at half past 7. (The nurse explained that on this day she found three spots, as of stains of excrementation, on the girl’s night-dress. The largest spot was the size of a crown piece.) Dec. 12, Sunday, 6 o’clock in the morning: Nurses tell me she has had a quiet night; slept until 5 o’clock, then went to sleep again until quarter past 6. Found her looking very cheerful; she asked for her book to read, and then read aloud for some time. Her face was flushed and her eyes bright during the morning. Went to sleep at a quarter-past 7 p.m. Dec. 13, Monday.—Girl awoke at half-past 5 in the morning. Quiet night. Assisted nurse to get her out of bed; she did not faint. We changed her night-dress, and I was for some time combing her hair. She appeared pleased and cheerful, and I left her reading aloud. She has passed a large quantity of urine during the night. 2 p.m.: Nurses tell me she has been cheerful, and that she amused herself by reading. She looks the same. 8 p.m.: Was obliged to change her bed. She was not so much fatigued as may have been expected. She tells me she is very comfortable. She has passed a large quantity of urine during the day. 9 o’clock: She is now sleeping soundly. Dec. 14th, Tuesday.—6 o’clock: Nurse tells me the girl slept until 4 o’clock, and then was only awake a short time. Slept until half-past 5. I found her reading. Shortly after I came in, the water bottle she had for her feet fell to the floor (cord of sacking having given way) and startled her. She then had a slight fainting fit, but soon recovered. I don’t think she is so well; her voice in reading is not so strong, and she has been much flushed; her lips are dry. She has not passed any more urine. 10 o’clock p.m.: Nurses tell me she has been much the same as when I left her. She went to sleep at a quarter-past 6: awake at 9, and did not remain awake long. She has passed a small quantity of urine.—Dec. 15, Wednesday, 6 o’clock morning: She has had a wakeful night; not restless. She has passed some urine during the night. She does not complaint of having any pains; face flushed. Nurse assisted me to remove her from her bed; she did not faint. 2 o’clock p.m.: I found her much the same as when I left her. 7 o’clock p.m.: She went to sleep, but I found her restless. Her feet were cold. I had to warm flannels to put to them. 8 o’clock: She is now sleeping quietly. Dec. 16, Thursday morning.—Nurses tell me she has had a bad night; no sleep until after three o’clock. She wished the bed made, and they made it. Then she slept for about 10 minutes at a time; not more, and still threw her arms about. 6 o’clock: I found her looking very pale and anxious; I think it was for want of sleep. She suffered much during the night from cold; they gave her warm flannels. She is now much warmer. Dr. Davies came at a quarter-past 12 o’clock, and he thinks there is no danger. 10 o’clock: Found Sarah Jacob much worse. Has been restless, and throwing the things off all the night. Was very cold; two hot water bottles in bed, and hot flannels, but cou[ld not] get warm. The father then wished the litt[le girl (a] younger sister) to be put in the bed, and [I consented,] because I thought Sarah was dying. I [told that father and] mother to get near to the bed to [her, but I still] watched to see they gave her nothing. [She has not asked for food from the first day we began to watch her, and]”
The Daily News. Nr. 7377, 22. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
THE DEATH OF THE WELSH FASTING GIRL.—THE INQUEST.
CARMARTHEN, Tuesday Night.
The inquest on the Welsh fasting girl was held to-day. The Coroner said he intended to call the nurses and the medical gentlemen, and perhaps the father; but the inquiry would not be further extended unless it should be found desirable. The object of the inquest was to ascertain the cause of death, but if any part of the evidence criminated any one, showing him to have been guilty of a breach of the criminal law, it would be the duty of the jury to return a verdict to that effect, and his duty would be to send the person for trial.
The senior nurse was examined for nearly three hours, but stated little which has not been previously published. She was certain that the girl moved her left leg and left arm in her sleep. She told the girl she should let her know when she wanted to pass water. The girl replied that she did it involuntarily and did not know when. She only once passed excrement and then only a stain; no substance. The witness’s instructions from the committee were not to offer food, but if it were asked for to give it immediately, and to call in the doctors if any change took place. The girl did not have anything—not a drop of water—during the eight days of the watching. On the Tuesday four medical gentlemen visited the deceased. The father refused to allow them to examine the girl’s person. She never offered the child food, being told that if she did so the child would go into a fit. Deceased complained of no pain throughout. She was very restless from Wednesday. The body was cold, and there was difficulty in keeping her warm. The nurses |53 ceased to watch on Thursday night, seeing that the girl was dying, and allowed her parents to go to her. Could not say whether they gave her food; saw none given the girl died at a few minutes past three on Friday delirious.
Mr. James Thomas, surgeon, Newcastle Emlyn, made the post-mortem examination, with Mr. Phillips, a surgeon, in the presence of several medical men on Monday. He examined the body of the deceased, who was said to be about twelve years and six months old. The body measured about 54 inches, was plump, and well-formed, showing indications of puberty. He opened the head, and found the membranes of the brain considerably injected with blood. The substance of the brain was not very vascular, but was of a perfectly healthy and proper consistence. There was no difference between the sides of the brain, as there would have been if there had been palsy. An incision was made from the top of the chest to the lower part of the body, which displayed fine layers of fat from half an inch to an inch in thickness. There was fat all through the incision. The contents of the chest, lungs, and heart, and the great vessels, were perfectly sound and healthy, though the latter contained very little blood. The most important part of the examination of the alimentary canal showed no obstruction. There was no stricture from the mouth to the termination of the gut. The stomach was opened, and it contained three tea-spoonful of semi-glutinous substance, having a slight acid reaction with the test paper. The small intestines were empty. In the colon and return there was about half a pound of excrement, in a hard state. The liver was healthy. The gall bladder was considerably distended with bile. The kidneys and spleen were perfectly sound. The urinary bladder was empty. The body was free from disease, judging from the healthy appearance of the organs. Being questioned, Mr. Thomas stated that he believed part of the excrement had been in the body for a fortnight, and had probably been checked. It was no more possible that there could be excrement without food than ashes without fuel. My opinion, if you want it, is that death resulted from want of food or sustenance. I believe the child labored under hysteria, which frequently manifests itself by very extraordinary freaks and in her case by refusal to take food before the public.
The Coroner—You mean that if it were offered her when not before the public she would take it.
Witness—I have no other conclusion to come to.
Mr. J. Phillips, surgeon, agreed with everything in Mr. Thomas’s evidence, and added that he found the toe nails had been recently cut, and also that under the left arm there was a hollow sufficient to conceal a half-pint bottle. He thought the hard portion of excrement next to the rectum had been there for weeks. The intestines got thicker near the rectum.
In reply to a juryman, the witness said there was plenty of room for fluid to pass. The hard excrement might have been there five or six weeks.
Mr. H. H. Davis, surgeon, Llandyssil, said he first attended the girl in February, 1867. She was then suffering from internal inflammation in the lower part of the chest, the pleura was inflamed. He treated her accordingly, and she was under his care for six weeks. He prescribed milk diet. She adhered to it for a time. She was not then, he thought, suffering from hysteria or epilepsy. He thought it was catalepsy. There was a rigidity of muscles of the left leg. She became much emaciated, and almost a skeleton, and was for one month in a kind of permanent fit. When he saw her he scarcely knew whether she was alive or dead. She was almost pulseless. She recovered in a fortnight. He discontinued his attendance after prescribing her diet. He saw nothing of her until the spring of this year, when she was known as the “Welsh Fasting Girl.” He did not believe her story, and was one of the committee for watching her to find out the deception. Four men watched for a fortnight, and reported satisfactorily; but witness believed they were deceived. In compliance with a request, he attended a meeting at Llanfihangelarth about a month since, when it was decided to have four nurses from Guy’s Hospital. He was one of the medical committee. The instructions to the nurses were not to desire the child to take food or water, but if she asked for them they were to be given to her. He visited the girl on Tuesday last after five days’ watching she appeared weaker. He told her father, who seemed indifferent. He (witness) did not suggest any food, because it was against the rules laid down by the father. He did not think any immediate danger was to be apprehended. Saw her again on Thursday, when she appeared much weaker, and he went to Pencader and saw an uncle of the child, named Daniels, and asked him to try and get the father to send the nurses away, or allow them to give her food. He also telegraphed to the medical committee at Carmarthen.
By the Coroner—Did not ask the father about food, because he knew he would feel annoyed, and wished first to have a consultation with the medical men.
Coroner—The child might have died in the meantime.
Witness—She was not, I think, in such imminent danger as that. I saw her again on Friday morning, when she was sinking fast. I told the parents so, and asked permission to give her stimulants. I mentioned brandy and water. The father said, in Welsh, “No, nothing; she cannot swallow; it would kill her.”
The Coroner—Did you believe that?
Witness—I did not know what to believe; nothing is certain.
The Coroner—Except that the child is dead. You have watched the case; what do you think is the cause of death?
The Coroner—Yes; but exhaustion from what?
Witness—Want of nourishment.
The Coroner then read the evidence of Messrs. Thomas and Phillips’ post mortem, and asked, “Do you think the child would have lived if the parents had allowed you to give it stimulants on Friday?”
Witness—I do if they had been given on the day before.
The inquest was then adjourned till Thursday next. The Coroner stating that it would be competent for persons believing the story of the girl’s fasting to give evidence on that day.
The Daily News. Nr. 7378, 23. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
THE WELSH FASTING GIRL.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY NEWS.
SIR,—If Mr. Charles White had read the nurses’ report on the above case attentively, he would have seen that the nurse there states, “Had she (Sarah Jacobs) asked for food, I would have given her some.” Mr. White, in common with many other worthy people, seems completely to misunderstand the reason for which the nurses were placed around the “Fasting Girl.” It was not to prevent her taking food, but to observe whether she did so. In reply to his inquiry, “Is there no one to blame in all this for the death of Sarah Jacobs?” I should say, those undoubtedly who have (designedly or otherwise as may be) encouraged her for so long a period in her deception. Following Mr. White’s example, I attach my real name, and trust the fact of my following a somewhat similar walk in life to the nurses will be accepted as an equally valid excuse as his for troubling you on the matter.—I am, &c.,
J. C. BEST, Attendant on the Insane.
Liverpool, Dec. 21.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY NEWS.
SIR,—As a lawyer, I hope that an indictment for manslaughter may be preferred against all parties concerned, directly or indirectly, in bringing about the death of this most miserable girl. I am convinced a grand jury would find a true bill against one parent at all events, and probably others in attendance on the deceased. The evidence of the surgeon, as I read it in your impression of to-day, who made the post-mortem examination, is quite conclusive as to the fact that the girl was literally starved to death. Grant that the girl, a mere child in years, was a party to the deception, she was assuredly coerced to persist in it to the last, for it is inconceivable that a mere child should have held out so steadfastly against the horrible pangs of hunger and thirst. Such an occurrence is a monstrous scandal to the civilization of this nineteenth century, and to me it is perfectly inconceivable that educated men should deliberately have recognized the possibility, for it amounts to that, of a human being existing without food or drink. I say that these gentlemen, in not compelling the girl to take sustenance when they found she was sinking, are in some degree morally responsible for her death.—I am, &c.,
The Daily News. Nr. 7367, 10. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
THE ST. PANCRAS GUARDIANS AGAIN.
On Wednesday evening Dr. Lankester held six inquests at the College Arms, Crowndale-road, Camden-town, several of which referred to parish cases. The last held was the most important, as it involved a charge that the foetid air of the nursery had been fatal, and still was exercising a fatal influence on the infant inmates. The inquiry was held on the body of William James, aged six months. The Coroner prefaced the evidence by stating that he had held three or four inquests lately on the bodies of children who had died in the infirmary, and this had caused a feeling that the unhealthy condition of the wards had caused the deaths. It would be for the jury to find whether this was the case in the present instance. Dr. Hill, resident medical officer of the infirmary workhouse, said the child was admitted to the infant nursery on the 17th of November. It was six months old. Its mother was in the Fever Hospital, and it was therefore fed by means of a bottle. It got ill on Friday, the 3rd of December, and died on the 6th of congestion of the brain and lungs. Coroner—Do you believe that death was accelerated in any manner by the action of the air of the ward? Witness—Yes; I believe it was. It was a healthy child as far as external appearances went. The wards have been very bad since the 6th of November. I have reported the state of the wards to the guardians twice since that date, but nothing has been done. To-day at eight a.m. the nursery smelt very bad, although the doors and windows had been open for some time. I believe the smell is occasioned by the defective drainage and not by the bad nursing of the children. The ward is kept as clean as it can be considering the nature of the inmates. The floors are scrubbed every morning. On Nov. 6 some alterations were made affecting the drainage, and since that time the wards have been worse than before. One trap of a drain four yards from the nursery door is completely out of order. A week ago the master told the engineer to remedy this, but he has not done it. The master will not pass through it, and the paupers take it up in order to let the water run down, and then leave it off. This is only one cause of the smell, there are others. Witness, in answer to further questions, said chloride of lime was put in the cupboard of the nursery by his order, but that would not be injurious. In the adjoining ward a number of rats have been killed, but they do not come nearer the nursery than the windows. Ten rats were killed last week in the ward I allude to. Coroner—The presence of rats in such numbers is indicative of a very bad state of things. Emma Hows, late superintendent of the nursery, but who was summarily discharged by the guardians at their last meeting, was called. She said the board discharged me without examining me or allowing me to make any defense. I can only think that I am discharged for giving evidence about the wards at the last inquest. Coroner—This is the second nurse who has been discharged immediately after giving evidence at this court. It seems to me that the guardians are not anxious to discover the truth. (Mr. Smith: Myself and Mr. Chandler were opposed to the dismissal.) Witness here produced her letter of dismissal, which merely said she was discharged for “general inefficiency.” Dr. Hill, in answer to questions, said—I have known Emma Howse as nurse in the house for 125 months. I have never had occasion to complain of her for inefficiency; on the contrary, I am perfectly sure she is a very efficient nurse. Coroner: And you have never had to report her? Dr. Hill—No. Coroner—I allow these questions to be put it order to see how far the witness was to be credited. Emma Howse recalled—I have been at the workhouse 15 months, and I have never to my knowledge been complained of. On the 7th of July last the guardians gave me double duties to perform, on account of my efficiency; and my salary was increased. Witness then corroborated the previous testimony as to the state of the nursery, and added, it was so bad that all the women complained of it. I was never complained of till I gave evidence here. Ann Moore said—I am an inmate of the nursery. I had charge of the deceased. In the night and the first thing in the morning the wards smell very badly. I have been in the nursery three weeks, and there have been smells ever since I have been in it. The child was fine and healthy when it was brought in. Henry Goodson, master of the Workhouse, said the defective drain-trap had been repaired. He believed the smell in the wards to be caused by carbolic acid and chloride of lime. The Visiting Committee had called his attention to the fact that crusts and other things were lying about in the nursery. Dr. Hill said as an allegation was made that the smell was caused by chloride of lime, he wished to state that all the chloride of lime in the ward was 11/2 lb., in a bag in the cupboard. Dr. Ellis went round the ward directly the allegation was made, and he would like him to be examined. The drain-trap had not been altered, and the master was laboring under a mistake in saying that it had. Mr. Ward, the engineer, was called, and excused the neglect that he had not a proper trap by him at the time. The Coroner asked what the price of a trap was. Mr. Ward—About 7d. Coroner—For the sake of 7d. Then the children are to be put in danger. Dr. Ellis was called, and said that the smell in the nursery was certainly not caused by chloride of lime. A probable cause was old sewage. Within 30 yards of the nursery that day he saw several barrow-loads of sewage being carried away from an old cesspool that had been found by overflow. Mr. George John Parson, a guardian, said—Yesterday week, in company with six other guardians, I visited the infant nursery ward, in consequence of the complaints made about it. When we went in we found bread and butter and dirty clothes lying about the floor. At the west end of the room there was not the slightest smell whatever. On the east side there was a smell, and as we approached the end of the ward became more offensive. We opened the door and went into the kitchen, but there the smell ceased. We opened the cupboard door in the nursery, and there found a bag of chloride of lime which had caused the smell. We called the master and matron, and directed them to see to the clearing the ward of the impure air. We stopped in the committee room till half-past ten, when the matron reported that the ward was perfectly wholesome. In answer to questions, Mr. Parson admitted that the committee did not go back to see whether that was so or not. The foreman of the jury, after a few minutes’ consultation with the jury, returned a verdict that death was caused by congestion of the lungs and brain, accelerated by the impure air of the nursery, and added that they were very much disgusted with the iniquitous conduct of the guardians in dismissing witness who appeared before the coroner’s court.
The Daily News, 10. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
EXTRAORDINARY TREATMENT OF A DYING PAUPER.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Humphreys, the Middlesex Coroner, held an investigation at the Green Man Tavern, Hoxton, respecting the alleged murder of John Presnall, who was a pauper in the Shoreditch Workhouse.
The proceedings created intense excitement in the locality, in consequence of certain statements which had been made with respect to the conduct of a nurse and a wardsman who had charge of the ward in which the deceased man expired. As the remains of the pauper had been buried at Colney Hatch Cemetery, the Coroner, when he was informed of certain facts which tended to implicate two persons, ordered the body of the dead man to be exhumed, and it was removed to the Shoreditch dead-house. The court was crowded.
Mr. Child said that he had been instructed to watch the case on behalf of the board of guardians; Mr. Death, the chairman of the board, was present; and the Rev. Mr. Pounall, the chairman of the Visiting Committee, represented that body.
It may be stated that Mrs. Hart admitted to the board of guardians that she had been intimate with the pauper wardsman, and she resigned her situation.
Ann Presnall, the widow of the deceased, said that her husband was a bedstead-maker. He was 63 years of age. He lately became an inmate of the Shoreditch Workhouse. Last Monday week she was sent for, and told that her husband was dying, and she went to see him. He was then in a drowsy state, and although she remained with him two hours and a half, she could not get him to speak, and he did not appear to know the nature of anything that was said to him. Witness knew nothing of the circumstances which had caused her husband’s death.
Joseph Hallett, a pauper, said that on Monday, the 22nd of November, he was in the workhouse. There was a nurse named Hart in the workhouse ward. The ward was the infirmary. The deceased was then lying on a bed, and he was delirious. He shouted, “Tobacco, tobacco.” The nurse Hart then said, “Hold that noise,” or “Stop that noise.” She then went and held a handkerchief over his mouth.
Coroner—How long did she hold it over his mouth?
Witness—For two minutes, and when it was removed the deceased shouted “Murder.” The wardsman, a man named Clarke, then said “I will do it.” Clarke then went over to the deceased, and he put a handkerchief over his mouth. He was going to tie it at the back of his head, and the nurse said, “That is not allowed—I’ll soon quiet him.” The nurse then left the ward, and she returned with something. Clarke then held the deceased down by pressing his hand against his chest. The woman then stood on the opposite side of the bed, and she poured something down the deceased’s throat. Witness heard the contents “rattle” as it went down the deceased’s throat. After the dose had been given to the deceased he never spoke nor made any more noise. He remained insensible until within about one hour of his death. I reported the conduct of the nurse to the master and the doctor, who said that they did not allow the patients to be injured.
By Mr. Child—I told the doctor all about what I had seen. The nurse is a paid one. The doctor said, “I will not allow my patients to be ill-treated.” I did not hear the deceased speak to his wife. Had the nurse tied the handkerchief over the man’s mouth, I should have got up and untied it.
Coroner—Were the nurse and the wardsman on very intimate terms?
Coroner—That is all I shall say about that.
John Britnall, an inmate of the workhouse infirmary, confirmed the evidence of the last witness, adding that the deceased died in twenty-four hours after the liquid was given to him.
Mr. Child—Did the deceased not say to his wife, “Have you brought any tobacco?”
Witness—Yes; and she gave him half an ounce. He put it under his pillow. She then asked him if he knew her, but he made no reply. She gave him no gin.
By a Juror—When the handkerchief was pulled over his mouth, the deceased shouted “Murder! What the—are you up to?” The placing of the handkerchief over his mouth appeared to give him pain, and that made him shout “Murder.”
Mrs. Presnall, recalled, denied that the deceased had said to her, “Have you brought any tobacco.” He did not speak to her. She said to him, “John, give me your hand,” and he turned his eyes towards her. He did not give her his hand. He often shouted for tobacco when he was in a delirious state.
Elizabeth Hampson, the day nurse, said that she came on duty at 7 o’clock on the morning of the 22nd Nov. The deceased was then asleep. At 12, or in the afternoon, he woke up and took some milk.
Coroner—Was he drowsy?
Witness—No; his eyes were quite bright. He did not speak. I was present when his wife came. She asked him if he would take some milk, and he looked at her, as much as to say, yes. He then pressed his wife’s hand, and she gave him some milk. I asked him if he would like some gin-and-water, and he looked, “yes”. His wife then gave him some.
Coroner—Do not answer this question before giving yourself time to think. Have you stated since that the man appeared drowsy before he died?
Coroner—Did you not state to my officer last night that he was drowsy?
Samuel Clarke said—I was a pauper wardsman at that time. Since then I have lost my birth, and I am now an inmate of the house. On the day the deceased was very noisy, and Mrs. Hart said, “I shall be under the necessity of gagging you.” He then put a handkerchief over his mouth. He was very “obstorpolus,” and I thought that I would intimidate him as I had done the night before to get him to take a pill, and I went over to him. Mrs. Hart then went and got some of the customary soothing medicine, and gave it to him. He slept until half-past 1 in the morning, and when he awoke up Mrs. Hart said to him, “You ought to be much obliged to me for what I gave you,” but the man made no reply. When I put the handkerchief into the deceased’s mouth it was done for the purpose of stopping his noise and Mrs. Hart did it because the man would not keep quiet. She put the handkerchief over him and “it was just what a mother would have done to a refractory child.”
This statement created great excitement in court, and the witness was loudly hissed, and several persons in the body of the court cried, “Murder, murder, the man has been murdered, hiss, hiss, murder” when order had been restored.
Mrs. Susannah Hart was called, and after having been cautioned, she said—This is all done through revenge.
The Coroner then requested the witness to defend her conduct if she could, and he assured her that the jury would do their duty without any feeling.|55
Mrs. Hart then said—I was a paid nurse at the Shore-ditch Workhouse Infirmary. At ten minutes to one o’clock on the morning of the 22nd November I was in the ward, and I did say to the deceased, “If you aint quiet I will gag you.” He said, “No”; and I held a handkerchief over his mouth. Again he said “Yes,” and I took it away. He then became outrageous, and I not having my senses about me—nobody always has—and I did not recollect that the man who spoke here to-day was present, said, “I will go and get something that will quiet him.” I then gave him some soothing mixture which I have for noisy patients. It is supplied to me by the dispenser, and it is left to my discretion as to when I shall use it. The doctor never gave me any instructions about using it. There is morphia in the mixture. Half a bottle of it would have done the man no harm.
A juror—Yet there is morphia in it?
Witness said that she had been two years and a half in the Brompton Hospital, and she had to leave there through a false charge.
Dr. John Whitmore, medical officer of health for Marylebone, said that he had made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased since it has been exhumed. He found no appearance of death from suffocation caused by placing the handkerchief over the mouth. Judging from the evidence, and finding that the drowsiness did not increase during the day after the morphia had been taken, he was of opinion that a sufficient quantity of it had not been administered to cause death. The morphia would become wholly absorbed into the system, and that would account for its not being found. In the opinion of witness death had resulted from dropsy.
Dr. Forbes said that he agreed with the evidence of Dr. Whitmore. He had never authorised the nurse to give morphia nor sedative medicines to any of the patients.
The Coroner said that the first information he had had of this case was reading an account in the newspaper headed “A Model Nurse,” and it would have been well if the guardians had communicated with him when they had discovered the facts. At this distant date the result of the post-mortem examination was against them, for all trace of morphia would have disappeared from the system during the time.
The jury after a long consultation with closed doors returned a verdict “that the deceased man expired from the mortal effects of dropsy, and the jury are opinion that the conduct of Mrs. Hart, the infirmary nurse, is highly censurable for administering morphia without the doctor’s sanction; and they are further of opinion that the wardman Clarke and Mrs. Hart are both censurable for their cruel conduct in tyeing a handkerchief over a dying man’s mouth.”
The Daily News. Nr. 7379, 24. Dezember 1869. S. 3.
THE DEATH OF THE WELSH FASTING GIRL.—ADJOURNED
CARMARTHEN, THURSDAY NIGHT.
At the adjourned inquest to–day on the body of Sarah Jacobs, Mr. Bishop, of Llandilo, and Mr. Lloyd, of Lampeter, solicitors, attended on behalf of the parents of the deceased girl.
Ann Jones, Sarah Palmer, and Sarah Attock, three of the nurses of Guy’s Hospital, corroborated the evidence of Elizabeth Clinch, the sister nurse, given on Tuesday.
The Rev. W. Thomas, the secretary of the Watching Committee, was examined in reference to the particular state of the girl. One-half of the committee was sceptics, and the other half believers in her story.
John Daniel, brother-in-law of the father, proved that he requested the father to give her food when the child was dying. He refused to offer her any.
Evan Jacobs, the father, was not called, but volunteered to give evidence. He made an extraordinary statement. Having been sworn, he said, in Welsh—I am the father of the deceased, I have a wife and seven children, and servant-man, at Lietherneud. The eldest is a girl of eighteen. The deceased was my third daughter; the second child is a girl of fifteen. Sarah was twelve years old, and was a very healthy child until the change which took place last February two years. She was at school, and one morning complained to her mother that she spat blood. She was ill for three days. We thought it was a cold. After the first three days, during which she was confined to her bed, she was up for three days; then she got worse, and took to bed for three days. On the third day she got worse, and we sent for Dr. Davies. When he arrived she was crying, and complaining of pain in the side. The doctor gave her medicine and eased the pain that night. I went on the morrow to Dr. Davies to fetch some medicine according to arrangement, when he gave me a bottle of medicine which gave her no relief. The week after the pain in the side became more acute. Dr. Davies thought she had worms, and treated her accordingly. He attended for a month, and then confessed his inability to understand the complaint. At the end of the month he said he could not relieve her, and that none could cure her but the Great Doctor—God Almighty. Dr. Davies withdrew, but told me I could go to other doctors, but it would be of no use but to spend money. I called in Mr. Hopkins, M. D., who said, if he had been called nine days sooner—(laughter)—he would have had a chance; but there was no cure now, and no hopes, as she had inflammation of the brain. This was in April, 1867. Dr. Hopkins only came once; he gave two pills, but she could not take them, being too ill. Dr. Davies was again sent for and came. He said there would be some change on Sunday. On the following Sunday he thought she was going to die. She called in a faint voice for milk. She had not taken food before for months. Used to moisten her lips with weak table beer, and just inside the mouth, but she did not swallow any. She passed no excrement, and but a small quantity of urine. She had a clyster up to the following August, when she took six cup full of rice a milk. Her bowels were not regular—not for a week or eight days. She only swallowed the food, which came back with froth and blood. From August to September she was not willing to allow us to give her food, only at times. She was not willing to take it. Between the periods named she had fits, in which she threw her arms about. She was weak in bed constantly from September to October. She took a little apple dumpling twice a day, and some milk and sugar towards the end of the month. She took a little apple in a spoon, about the size of a pill, in the morning and evening. She passed water every other day. The neighbours then began coming to see her. She was not very thin, but was looking bad in the face, and suffered from pain in the left side. From the beginning to the end of October, 1867, she would not allow us to take food into her sight. She never took food from that time until her death. We moistened her lips with water several times a day. Three weeks after she ceased to take food she had motions every day for a week—−very large stools. The excrement was very hard. She passed water in a middling quantity during the same week. At the end of the week the stool was very large, but she had no stool afterwards till the time of her death. Three weeks after the end of the week when she had the last stool, she continually every morning at 5 o’clock passed water—the usual quantity that girls of her age would be expected to pass. From that time, the end of Dec., 1867, to Dec., 1868, I am quite sure she passed no water. She remained in bed up to the time of her death. A utensil was in the room under another bed in which I and my wife slept, but none under hers. She could not have used that utensil, as she could not move. Neither I nor my wife ever observed water in that or the other vessel which we had any reason to believe came from her. I am sure of this. She was sensible except when in a fit. She sometimes had a fit several times in a day. The fit sometimes lasted a quarter of an hour, and then there was an interval of about a quarter of an hour, and then she was in it again for another quarter of an hour. This lasted, excepting when she slept, from about 11 at night to 11 in the morning. The fits only occurred at night time when she was awake. This state of things went on for a few weeks. I am quite sure about the water, because I always made her bed. In |[55a] November, 1867, my wife was confined. Since then I have made the bed.
The Coroner—You had two daughters, one 18 and the other 16, had you not?
The Coroner—They were strong and healthy?
The Coroner—Their mother recovered from her confinement, did she not?
The Coroner—Yet you made the bed?
The Coroner—You say you never saw the stains of urine out of the bed?
Coroner—And that from August, 1867, to December, 1868, she never made water?
Coroner—And then for how long?
Witness—Three days—consecutive days. I made the bed on alternate days, but counted the spots on the bed. She was unconscious of passing water.
Coroner—How do you know?
Witness—She was not willing to talk about it.
Coroner—What do you mean by spots?
Witness—Spots of urine. The quantity expected of a child of one year old.
Examination continued—The first time strangers came was in the spring of this year. I commenced to dress her in the manner described. When she ceased to take food the shop-keepers gave her ribbon. She had a crucifix before taken ill, I think. I certainly can’t say who is the first person to give money. I don’t remember ever taking money from any one. Hundreds came to see her, many put sixpence or a shilling on the girl’s chest. I can’t say how much they left.
By Mr. Lloyd—Another reason why I made the bed was, that her mother did not make it so well or so smooth. It was made every other day. Something did precede the discharges of the urine. The special cause of her doing so was that something was on her mind. Last year she passed water because she was watched by strangers at the first watching, and did so last summer because the cow died. She could cry like another child. When I consented to the present watching I had no reason to think she took food. I was never told by the doctors my daughter’s life was in peril from the commencement of the watching until the morning of the day of her death. Dr. Davies sent John Daniel, my brother-in-law, to tell me that the child got worse. What took place between me and Dr. Davies was that he then said, “You would not like to give her a dose of brandy and water.” I said, “No.” I had not offered her anything for two years, as she always got ill when I offered her anything.” He said might he offer it. I was perfectly willing. Dr. Davies went to her, and when he came back I asked him if he offered her anything. He said, “No; he was afraid, as she did so long without food it would choke her.” Dr. Davies told me on Thursday night she was better than on the previous night, and there was no danger.
By Mr. Bishop—All her brothers had access sometimes to the bedroom. I can’t say whether they could not take food. It made her ill. None of the doctors told me that my child was dying for want of food, nor did the nurse. Dr. Hughes and Dr. Davies asked me on Thursday evening if I should like to get rid of the nurses, and I said I should not, because I did not see her getting worse, and I could do nothing for her as being so long a date without food. If I knew the child was dying of starvation I certainly would not have refused.
By a Juror—The candle was put out at night when she went to sleep.
By Mr. Bishop—I found the scent bottle on the bed-clothes. I never found things concealed before.
The Coroner then read over the whole of the evidence, and summed up ably. He could not understand how a rational person could believe the story of the girl’s fasting. Urine and excrement must have come from something. Doctors ought not to be blamed. They were deceived by the father. There were two branches of inquiry: firstly, the cause of death; secondly, who was responsible for that cause. There could be no question of the starvation, and of the responsibility of the father. The law makes a father responsible, not merely for providing, but also for inducing the child to take food. The mother was not responsible unless it was proved that she was given food by the father, and kept it from the child. The criminal negligence on the part of the father was only a question of degree. It was marvelous how the father could tell such an ingenious story on oath, and so endeavor to impose on the jury with the hideous mass of nonsense. Which was easier to believe—that natural laws had been reversed, or that the father was stating falsehoods? The child’s life had been sacrificed, and it was a case of either murder or manslaughter.
The jury deliberated for a quarter of an hour, and then returned a verdict that the girl died of starvation, owing to negligence to induce the child to take food on the part of the father. This constituted manslaughter.
He was admitted to bail.
The Daily News. Nr. 7380, 25. Dezember 1869. S. 5.
THE WELSH FASTING GIRL.
(From the Saturday
Now what we have to say is that there was here a fundamental mistake in arranging this voluntary commission to detect the imposture. It was something more than a mistake; it was a crime in the medical and scientific authorities to have planned and carried out this peculiar method of proof or disproof. No doubt it was decisive and exhaustive, but the medical people must have known that they were only using a weapon of death. If they had, as we suppose they must have had, a lurking and concealed suspicion that the thing might be true and genuine, this mental attitude incapacitated them from being scientific judges. No scientific man ought over to lend himself to any investigation which implies that the great laws of nature and science may possibly be untrue. If the investigators and committee of watches had any object, it was to satisfy themselves whether in a particular instance a universal law of nature did or did not take effect. On such a point science to does not want to satisfy itself; nor ought science to admit, as the medical men and clergymen did inferentially admit, that a law of nature might perhaps not be true. No doubt it is of importance as a moral and social matter, and a matter of police, to detect and expose Cock-lane ghosts. Mr. Home’s floating on the air, and other absurdities of this sort; but Faraday was perfectly right in declining to waste his time in detecting the tricks and juggling of table-moving and spirit-hands. In this particular case it is possible that the Commission of Inquiry did not exactly contemplate the tragical event which has solved their little doubts, or confirmed their suspicions; but they ought to have known that to take every precaution that a human being should have no food, and actually to prevent her from getting any food, must only end in killing her. The business of a physician is to preserve life, not to be accessory, as in this case, to destroying life. To be sure, they have proved, and most demonstrably, that there was throughout delusion somewhere; but they ought to have been quite satisfied of this antecedently, and not have worked out the problem to the bitter end. They ought never to have admitted that there was any problem to solve. They ought not to have allowed that it was a hypothesis which required experiments and quite an open question whether human life could be sustained without nourishment. And yet it was to settle this doubtful and difficult question that they organized the Commission of Inquiry. Science foregoes its imperial state when, as in this instance, it condescends to take up the position of an amateur detective, bent upon finding out the tricks of a conjuror. What did it matter, or rather what ought it to have mattered, to the authorities of Guy’s Hospital, that there was down in Wales, a girl said never to eat or drink? What do we care if a man exhibits himself as one in the daily habit of drinking half a pint of prussic acid? Would Sir William Jenner or Mr. Paget feel themselves justified in assisting at an investigation of such a case, and taking especial care that the prussic acid came from Apothecaries’ Hall, and administering it with their own hands? And yet, as far as principle goes, were they to do so, it would be difficult to say that they were acting very differently from the Carmarthen Commission of Inquiry. This is the moral of this discreditable event. It serves to show what a loose and uncertain hold the greatest and simplest physical truths have on the popular mind. We believe generally in the law of gravitation, but when some impudent charlatan says that in this or that case the law of gravitation does not hold, and that ten stone of man can float unsupported in the air, we listen to him; we in our heart of hearts hesitate: we think there may perhaps be something in it. We are told that it is very unphilosophical and very bigoted to refuse to attend to or to investigate new phenomena; and hence it comes to this, that we consent to inquire into able-turning and the “spirits.” What we ought to do is to say at once to the new facts; that they are incapable of rational investigation; that evidence does not apply to this sort of thing. If a man, or if 500 men told us that he saw the lion on Northumberland-house wag his tail, and that we might see it if we pleased, we should certainly not be at the trouble of going to Charing-cross to “investigate and settle the question.” The Welsh Fasting case settled itself by announcing itself. Public opinion, we fairly admit, was embodied in the organizing of the Commission of Inquiry, but public opinion must acknowledge that it has done a very foolish and a very culpable and cruel thing. A human life has been sacrificed to prove what required no proof, and ought never to have been submitted to proof. And now very likely public opinion, in panic terror at the consequences of its own stupidity, will turn round on the Commission of Inquiry, and threaten all sorts of terrible consequences. The newspaper correspondents, now that it is too late, are condemning with great severity the Carmarthen scientific detectives. It would have been more to the purpose had they protested—which we are not aware that they did—against the commission sitting at all. In the case of Ann Moore, the fasting woman of Tutbury, a committee of magistrates and clergymen (of whom Legh Richmond was one) appointed themselves to detect the imposture. But they were timely wise, and seeing that the subject was rapidly sinking, “apprehensive of being inculpated in the charge of murder,” as the narrative says, they hastily quitted the room, and ordered in food and restoratives. Ann Moore recovered and admitted her importance. The poor child Sarah Jacobs has been sacrificed to her own obstinacy, or rather to her own diseased, hysterical and cataleptic state; to the parents’ folly or cupidity; and to public opinion—that is, to public stupidity and inability to grasp the first and elementary physical truths.
“Starved to Death!” Such is the conclusion which must have forced itself upon the mind of everyone on hearing of the Welsh fasting girl—the miserable victim of her own delusions and of the superstition, ignorance, and fraud of some of those about her. We confess to a feeling of indignation, and a sense of shame, as we read the account of this cruel demonstration of that which needed no proof. The end was inevitable, unless someone stepped in to avert it. The rapid pulse, the depression of temperature—which was probably the immediate cause of death—and the final stage of delirium, are the ordinary phenomena of death by starvation. It appears to us monstrous that such an occurrence should have taken place in the nineteenth century. The two years’ fasting was a gross imposition, which the careful weighing of the patient before and after a few days’ watching might have demonstrated. The girl was no doubt victim of a diseased volition, and a hysterical aversion to food on her part was so fostered by everything that took place around her that it even dominated the stronger natural instincts. That she took some food, however, before the watching, the result of that experiment must have proved to all. The duty of the sister and nurses was not to prevent the child from taking food, but to discover whether any was taken, and they seem to us to have discharged their part in the transaction with skill and tenderness. They were warned, we are assured, to be on the alert for the symptoms of exhaustion, and to meet them by the timely use of nutriment. They were, we assume, instructed by the daily medical attendant, and we have no hesitation in saying that it was his duty, on perceiving any such symptoms, to have acted with promptitude and decision. He ought to have warned the parents in unmistakable terms that if the girl died from the effects of abstinence from food, they would be held guilty, legally and morally, of her death, and be made responsible for it. In the event of their refusal to administer nutriment, he should unquestionably have assumed the responsibility of doing so. Some of the members of the medical committee appear to have perceived that they might be made to occupy a false position, and they therefore wisely retired. Members of the medical profession have often been accused of rising like one man in order to place their backs against the door to investigation. They had not gauged, it was said, all the facts of physiology and pathology. From the first moment that we heard of this so-called miracle we did not hesitate to characterize it as a gross imposition. Every scientific man knew that it was a palpable absurdity, and in contravention of all known laws and experience, to suppose that the temperature and the development of tissue could have been maintained without any waste or change of substance. The only medical aspect of the case of any interest ought to have been the cure of the child, and this would have been mainly induced by moral means easily accomplished in |[55b] the wards of a hospital, whither she ought to have been removed long ago. So deluded were those who ought to have known better, that our opinions were, of course, rejected by many as the arrogant expressions of professional prejudice. The case will, we trust, meet with a searching investigation. That someone had been fraudulently and surreptitiously supplying this miserable girl with food there can be no shadow of doubt, and the medical attendants should not have allowed themselves to have been in the least degree influenced, as one of them appears to have been, by those who were obviously interested in the maintenance of the fraud. The practical lesson is clear—the medical profession should have nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with the investigation of any of the absurd stories arising from time to time out of ignorance, deceit, or superstition. The sacrifice of this child ought to be enough in all conscience to make any future attempts at similar impostures penal.
(From the Medical Times
It would be a departure from our custom to comment at length on this case until the public inquiry has terminated. All we can say at present is that it is impossible not to regard it with indignation. The poor hysterical child who is dead was not the chief person to blame. The facts of her having breathed for two years and passed urine prove undeniably that she must have taken food. That she denied the fact is only a common symptom of hysterical disease and that she found persons in her father’s house to humor her and assist her in the deceit is not surprising when it is remembered that she attracted sightseers, who paid or made her presents. Those who are most to blame are the educated gentry and professional persons in the neighbourhood, who, instead of scouting the idea of anything but hysteria and fraud in the case, lent their aid by talking and writing in a half-credulous fashion, in spreading the girl’s reputation as a living wonder. If a physician had in the first instance told the parents that stimulating fasting was a well-known phase of hysteria, and that the proper treatment was to introduce a tube into the stomach or rectum, and to feed her thereby, and had insisted on seeing his prescription carried into effect, or, in case of opposition, had appealed for power to a magistrate, the poor girl’s life might have been saved. Instead of this we have had silly people kept on the qui vive for two years by sensational paragraphs in medical and other papers—then “a committee formed to investigate the case”, and nurses sent down from a London hospital to watch her, with what result has been seen. The whole thing is as great a national disgrace as it would be to try a woman for witchcraft by the ordeal of drowning.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY NEWS.
SIR,—I cannot allow the case of the Welsh Fasting Girl to be disposed of without saying a few words for the parents. Their story is one which ought to be received with respect, as it may be true, and with caution, as it may be false. From my long experience of mesmeric and biological phenomena, I have no hesitation in stating that in some very rare and exceptional states of abnormal humanity it is possible to support life for some indefinite period without ordinary food. This result may be attained by the exercise of mesmeric agency, consciously or unconsciously exerted, but the elucidation of this subject would lead me into a discussion for which the world is not yet ripe. Those who have devoted much attention to this study will understand me when I say that I attribute the immediate cause of the child’s death to mesmeric violence. The treatment actually adopted was the very reverse of curative, and was characterized throughout by the most astounding ignorance of biological experience. The coroner must excuse me if I tell him that he spoke more nonsense than the father uttered in his evidence; in fact, the father appears to me to be the only person about the child who had any right glimmer of her condition. His great error was in calling in a committee of investigation, and handing his child over to the tender mercies of metropolitan doctors. Her speedy death was then inevitable.—I am, &c.,
Blackheath, Dec. 24.
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- SUPPLYING BAD BREAD TO A WORKHOUSE.
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