This book is the last bit of work of the kind I shall ever do, and I am anxious to state, as I think of them, any views I may happen to have on various matters.
I am deeply interested in watching the gradual development of public opinion on cremation. I casually alluded to this before, in reference to Mr. Robinson's well-known book on the subject. So far as I can judge from the newspapers, cremation is making a little way among the rich and well-known, who alone seem in this country to have the power of influencing the majority. But if what I read is true, a terrible fashion is growing around this excellent, clean, practical way of being dealt with after death, and that is that instead of one funeral there are to be three - one the cremation, another the funeral service in London, a third (and worst of all) the burying of the ashes. The newspapers gave an account of a cremated Peer who by his own wish or his family's had the box with the collected ashes deposited in an ordinary-sized coffin, in order that the tenantry might have the honour of carrying the coffin in the usual way to the vault. This kind of thing, I think, tends to make the process ridiculous. And as only those are cremated who wish it, detailed directions might be left that the ashes should be spread under the sweet vault of heaven, and a memorial erected, useful or otherwise, in church or street, as seems good to the family. That alone, in my opinion, gives dignity to the whole proceeding; the burying of box or urn is meaningless and almost puerile. How dogmatic it reads in print, to say simply what one feels! But I mention my view of the question because, in talking with people, I so often find they have done such and such a thing merely because they had not thought of the other way. The old world, it is true, collected the ashes. But we know that in later days they were used by the Roman washerwomen, so long as they could get them, as we use soda, for the purifying alkalies they contained. I see no need for us to provide alkaline matter for future generations.