Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bristol Local history

Bristol City Council: Local history and heritage: Bristol 1807 - in this month: "Sarah Davies, aged 21, poisoned herself

'Monday se’nnight, an inquest was taken in the parish of St. James, in this city, on view of the body of Sarah Davies, an unfortunate female only 21 years of age, who poisoned herself by swallowing a quantity of laudanum, on the preceding Thursday. After a minute investigation of the circumstances, and an examination of the body upon dissection by three eminent surgeons, the jury returned a verdict - Felo de se!'

[Commentary: Felo de se, Latin for 'felon of himself,' is an archaic legal term meaning suicide.

Laudanum was an alcoholic tincture (dilute solution) of opium that was used by doctors as an analgesic and sedative. It was freely available at any pharmacy and could be bought over the counter, as an every day item in corner shops.

It would be prescribed for all all types of diseases and illnesses - from a cold, to menstrual cramps to much more severe illnesses like yellow fever. It was best used as a pain reliever, or a fever reducer, and also worked successfully to end diarrhoea because it caused constipation. It could help a person to sleep and many depended upon it for this reason. The drug became stronger if the bottle was old - due to evaporation - so who knows how many people only wanted to cure a toothache but took too much?]"


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