This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
By Wm. Robinson. London: Published at the office of the Garden. 1880.
Mr. Robinson, is well known as the editor of the very useful Garden, and author of the "Parks and Gardens of Paris," as well as other beautiful books. This one is also beautiful, and is an attempt to make what is usually a most hideous sight, one of beauty also. For there can be nothing more repulsive than ordinary grave-yards in large cities, and we may even say than the sickening things called vaults in many a pretentious cemetery. Cemeteries themselves have improved a little over the old grave-yard plan, while the landscape burial places, like that of Spring Grove, at Cincinnati, seem to have left little more to be desired. In this work, Mr. Robinson frankly says, that if burial places in Europe were like those becoming popular in America, there would be little use at present for his book. But he believes the time will come, even in America, when burial places there will be little better than abroad, and he, therefore, commends his work to us as heartily as to his brethren of the old world.
Mr. Robinson is opposed to bodily burial, and advocates cremation; and his object in this work is to show how very beautiful a burial place might be made where handsome urns, in all sorts of styles, filled with the ashes of the dead, might be erected, and made to fall in with the most tasteful ideas of landscape gardening. To aid his point, he shows the horrors that occasionally associate themselves with the ordinary methods, and the evils that occasionally flow from them. To our mind, the horrors and evils are not as great or as extensive as Mr. Robinson seems to regard them, and are little more than the incidental black clouds that invariably follow the bright days. He illustrates his point by showing how, in the French revolution, the bodies of Royal personages, half decomposed, were ruthlessly lifted from their graves and all thrown into one pit and rotted up with lime. If they had been cremated this could not have occurred. This is true, and yet it is no worse than the guillotine, which did its fearful work on the royal necks.
But this does not happen every day, and we" may imagine that times would come when even the sacred ashes saved in urns would be so treated as to shock the sentiments of humanity fully as much as they suffered from the ruffianly treatment of the bodies of the French Royalists. Indeed, if we are to decide the question by mere sentiment, we take it the balance will be to the credit of the present plan. The bonds of love cannot be suddenly severed. It is hard often to believe that the beloved form before us is really dead; it seems but a sound sleep, from which the slumberer will awake again. We place the body in the coffin, and in the grave, and for weeks and months afterwards we imagine we see the sleeping body as we last saw it. It is a comfort to even dream that we see it thus. Mr. Robinson leaves the very sentiment he has evoked just here, and shows us the hard facts, the description in all its offensiveness - nothing but food for worms. But we adhere to his own test, the test of sentiment, and we see only the lost friend sleeping as we last saw him; in the cold sleep of death to be sure, but still the same dear form we always loved. Time may wean us. Time does bridge over the separation, and the grave is the best aid we can have in the journey.
And it is here that cremation does violence to this human sentiment It is bad enough to feel that death has claimed its own, but to know that even the form is all lost, that everything we so much prized has at once turned to dust and ashes, is a violence to that natural transition from sorrow to peace, which is one of the blessings of nature.
No doubt there are evils connected with burials in large cities, but these can be overcome. There is no reason why, in these days of cheap and rapid traveling, that there should be any burials in cities. They should be wholly interdicted. All cities in their charters should forbid any burials within its limits, and if at any time any rural district should be taken in, from the time of the inclusion no more should be permitted in the new acquisition.
These seem to be the views we should hold after reading Mr. Robinson's work; but the reader should take the book and judge for himself. It will be impossible to read it without, profit, whatever final views are held.