Death and the Victorian child

I found this interesting little quote in the journal Pediatrics, Volume 76, Number 3, September 1985, page 370:

Death and the Victorian child (1869)

Today’s children, at least in this country, are shielded from death and most are never exposed to a dead body. The quotation below taken from The Fairchild Family by Mrs Sherwood (1775-1851), a widely-read book written for English children offered them a graphic and repulsive view of a decaying corpse.1

When they came to the door, they perceived a kind of disagreeable smell, such as they never had smelt before: this was the smell of the corpse, which having been dead now nearly two days, had begun to corrupt: and as the children went higher up the stairs, they perceived this smell more disagreeably. The body of the old man was laid out on the bed… The face of the corpse was quite yellow, there was no colour in the lips, the nose looked sharp and long, and the eyes were closed, and sunk under the brow; the limbs of the corpse, stretched out upon the bed and covered with a sheet, looked longer than is natural: and the appearance of the body was more ghastly and horrible than the children had expected… At last Mrs. Fairchild said, “My dear children, you now see what death is; this poor body is going fast to corruption. The soul I trust is in God; but such is the taint and corruption of the flesh, by reason of sin, that it must pass through the grave and crumble to dust…“

Reference

1. Temple N: Seen and Not Heard. New York, Dial Press, 1970, p 217.

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