The random—and not so random—musings of a quirky Regency romance writer.
No one with that many people in her head can possibly be normal...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

~Regency Wednesday~ Resurrectionist

**Warning: This post contains some images that may be mildly disturbing to some. Please proceed with caution.**

Resurrectionist is not a word often heard in Regency romances. To be honest, it's a horridly unromantic word and really has no place in romances. Body-snatcher isn't much better.

That said, I decided to defy logic and write a serial Regency romance about a female resurrectionist. It's being published in monthly installments in InD'tale Magazine. (Go HERE to subscribe to InD'tale Magazine for free. You'll get no spam, ever, and your personal information remains private.)

I've announced that here already, though, haven't I? 

What was a resurrectionist?

A resurrectionist,* simply, was a body-snatcher, a thief of the dead. They would dig up the bodies of the recently interred and sell them to the medical schools in London. (This happened in other countries as well, most notably Scotland, but my focus has always been England.) They were viewed as the lowest of the low, ones who desecrated graves. And though their actions weren't technically illegal, they certainly weren't legal either. The law didn't consider the theft of the body itself as grave robbery, rather anything taken along with the body. (Hence, the reason my lovely main characters strip the bodies when procuring them for the good doctor.)

And it wasn't just the resurrectionists who were hated for this practice. Oh no. A great deal of outrage was directed at the doctors and anatomists, some viewing them in the same light as the body-snatchers themselves. (I gave my main characters an odd, unlikely outlook in Death Becomes Her, the heroine actually viewing the use of bodies for the school as far more beneficial than leaving the bodies to rot in the ground. I may get into her reasons for viewing things this way in a later installment...)

Why did they do this?

Cruelty4The problem was lack of cadavers for the medical schools and how the law chose to address this problem. The law stipulated that the bodies of murderers were to be donated to the schools, thus making it seem as though dissection was part of the punishment meted out to offenders. As a result, the thought of a resurrectionist stealing a family member's body—or one's own body, heaven forbid!—and handing it over for dissection was an abhorrent prospect. If a body-snatcher was arrested, they often had to be protected from an avenging mob intent on killing them. Ironically, or perhaps predictably, body-snatchers themselves feared the idea of ending up on the anatomist's table.

There was a religious aspect to this fear as well, something to do with the earthly body remaining intact. This would certainly add to the desire to avoid the possibility of ending up at one of these schools.

How could one prevent cadaver theft?

Mortsafes in Logierait kirkyard - geograph.org.uk - 278670
Martyn Gorman [CC-BY-SA-2.0]
In 1816, mortsafes were invented.**

(My apologies to my Death Becomes Her readers. For some reason I cannot fathom, I neglected to look up the exact date mortsafes were invented, thus I made mention of them in a previous installment of that story. Turns out, as my story takes place around 1811, mortsafes weren't around yet. Again, my apologies.)

Mortsafes in Cluny kirkyard - geograph.org.uk - 174646
Martyn Gorman [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

These extremely heavy iron or iron and stone devices were placed over the grave until such time as the body was deemed too decayed to be of use to the anatomists. The mortsafe could then be reused on another grave.

Unfortunately, these contraptions were expensive. The average person couldn't afford one, though some groups had the idea to purchase one together, making use of it as members of their group needed. If one possessed more money, an iron casket was an option. Not very encouraging.

I hope you've...enjoyed (LOL)...this edition of Regency Wednesday. If you found this post interesting, and you're not already following, please consider becoming a subscriber to this blog through networked blogs, Google, or by email. Thank you and have a lovely week!! ♥

*To read more about resurrectionists in general, check out a rather informative Wikipedia page, or download the Google book, Diary of a Resurrectionist.
**More info on mortsafes can be found on Wikipedia. Not the best resource, I know, but the basics are there.
***All images are taken from Wikimedia Commons. Each image links to its Wikimedia page.

♥Happy reading, writing, and blogging!!♥

There's a jukebox in my head. It's currently playing
♫♪ Breaking Benjamin ~ Into the Nothing

2 comments:

S.M. Carrière said...

I might be horrifically morbid, but I really did enjoy this particular Regency Wednesday!

Jaimey Grant said...

I'm glad you liked it! I really enjoyed writing it, far more than I expected to. :)

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