The S. S.
M. P. Shiel
To say that there are epidemics of suicide is to give expression towhat is now a mere commonplace of knowledge. And so far are theyfrom being of rare occurrence, that it has even been affirmed thatevery sensational case of felo de se published in the newspapers issure to be followed by some others more obscure: their frequency,indeed, is out of all proportion with the extent of each particular outbreak.Sometimes, however, especially in villages and small townships, thewildfire madness becomes an all-involving passion, emulating in itsfury the great plagues of history. Of such kind was the craze inVersailles in 1793, when about a quarter of the whole populationperished by the scourge; while that at the Hotel des Invalides in Pariswas only a notable one of the many which have occurred during thepresent century. At such times it is as if the optic nerve of the mindthroughout whole communities became distorted, till in the noselessand black-robed Reaper is discerned an angel of very loveliness. Asa brimming maiden, out-worn by her virginity, yields half-fainting to thedear sick stress of her desire -- with just such faintings, wanton fires,does the soul, over-taxed by the continence of living, yield voluntary tothe grave, and adulterously make of Death its paramour.