Stanton J. Linden, William Cooper's 'A catalogue of chymicall books 1673–88'. A verified edition, New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1987, 8vo, pp. liv, 159, $37.00

Peter Elmer
1988 Medical history  
The reasons are clear enough. Industrial centres were not, in reality, wastelands of anomie and alienation, but thriving communities in which close living, plentiful work, and high wages gave the new proletariat reasons for living, not dying. Increasingly, the most dramatically suicide-prone in Victorian England were old menand male figures were notably higher than femalesuperannuated, and often ill, who could not face the prospect of the workhouse. Yet overall, Professor Anderson advises
more » ... n. There was no single suicide profile. In Southwark, the suicide was likely to be a heavy-drinking artisan falling on bad times; in Westminster, a guardsman from Chelsea barracks; in Marylebone, a prostitute robbed by a client. In 1850, destitution proper played a large part. By 1900, "psychological" factors were perhaps becoming more importantfeelings of relative failure in the work and emotional market-places. Self-destructiveness and public attitude towards suicide mutated in a complex symbiosis. A brief review cannot even list the riches of this alert and expert analysisthere is, for example, a good discussion ofprevention agencies such as the Salvation Army, and an admirable account of how shifts in domestic technology, from disinfectants to gas ovens, transformed the instruments of quietus. But brief mention must be made of Professor Anderson's subtle grasp of the divided medical reaction to suicide. A small cadre of psychologists, especially towards the close of the century, identified suicide as a symptom of degeneration and regarded it with a certain fatalism. A larger corps of "sanitarians" believed that suicide was an environmental disease for which environmental remedies should be possible (including caging in the Monument). But most general practitioners, wedded neither to psychological medicine nor to old religious explanations, were inclined to treat the suicide and the attempted suicide with the same baffled awe as the public at large. It was all sad stuff, as this pioneering, absorbing, and learned volume so expertly shows.
doi:10.1017/s0025727300047876 fatcat:zd3id2dzzvfa3fgtdkqsqtp32i