Medical students’ tomfoolery with human corpse. Photograph: unknown.
As I noted in CrimeSong the idea for my writing the book came from an article I wrote years ago and published in The Journal of Southern Legal History. I collected in that article songs and poems dealing with murder and other gruesome things. Here is my favorite old poem (1839) on body-snatching. The names refer to real life anatomists of the day.
The Invisible Girl
‘Twas in the middle of the night
To sleep young William tried;
When Mary’s ghost came stealing in
And stood at his bedside.
Oh, William, dear! Oh, William dear!
My rest eternal ceases;
Alas! My everlasting peace
Is broken into pieces.
I thought the last of all my cares
Would end with my last minute,
But when I went to my last home,
I didn’t stay long in it.
The body-snatchers, they have come
And made a snatch at me;
It’s very hard them kind of men
Can’t let a body be.
You thought that I was buried deep,
Quite Christian-like and chary;
But from her grave in Mary-le-bone,
They’ve come and boned your Mary.
The arm that used to take your arm
Is took to Dr. Vyse;
And both my legs are gone to walk
The hospital at Guy’s.
I vowed that you should take my hand,
But fate gave us denial;
You’ll find it there at Dr. Bell’s,
In spirits and a phial.
As for my feet, my little feet,
You used to call so pretty,
There’s one, I know, in Bedford Row,
The t’other’s in the city.
I can’t tell where my head is gone,
But Dr. Carpus, can;
As for my trunk, it’s all packed up
To go by Pickford’s van.
I wish you’d go to Mr. P
And save me such a ride;
I don’t half like the outside place
They’ve took for my inside.
The cock, it crows, I must be gone;
My William, we must part;
But I’ll be yours in death, although
Sir Astley has my heart.
Don’t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be;
They haven’t left an atom there
Of my anatomy.
For more nasty lore see my article “Notes From The Underground (Sometimes Above Ground, Too),” 3 Savannah Law Review 161 (2016), a follow up to my presentation at Savannah Law School’s “The Walking Dead Colloquium.” If you want your own reprint of the article, I have a limited number of print copies and will send one to the first ten folks who email me ([email protected]) to request a copy. Remember to include a snail mail address.
Stay safe out there above ground—and underground, too.