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The Indefinite Article.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sir William Petty (1623-1687)

From The Life of Sir William Petty by Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice (1895)

In 1650 an event occurred which made his name known in the whole country and opened up the way to a larger career. One Ann Green had been tried, convicted, and executed at Oxford on December 14, 1651, for the murder of her illegitimate child. Her execution seems to have been carried out with a combination of clumsiness and brutality characteristic of the times. It was observed "by the spectators that she seemed to take an unconscionable time in dying, so her friends went to assist her in getting out of this world, some of them thumber her on the breast, others hanging with all their weight upon her legs, sometimes lifting her up and then pulling her down again with a sudden jerk. At length the Sheriff was satisfied, and the unfortunate woman was certified to be dead. The body was then cut down, put in a coffin, and taken to the dissecting room.

When, however, the coffin lid was opened she was seen to be still breathing and to "rattle," "which being observed by a lusty fellow who stood by, he, thinking to do an act of charity in ridding her out of the reliques of a painful life, stamped several times on her breast and stomach with all the force he could." Just at this moment, however, Dr. Petty and Dr. Wilkins appeared on the scene, and recognising distinct signs of life, decided to attempt to revive the supposed corpse. They wrenched open Ann Green's teeth, poured cordials down her throat, and persuaded a woman to go to bed with her to restore warmth. Signs of life soon began to appear; The doctors bled her, ordered her a julep and so left her for the night. In two hours she began to talk. The dead had come to life. Though legally defunct, she is said to have survived to marry and become the mother of children, in spite of the Sheriff and to the confusion of the hangman.


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