Coffin, a chest in which dead bodies are interred.
In ancient times, the burying of deceased persons in coffins, was considered as a mark of the highest distinction. But, in Britain, the poorer classes of people are thus interred; and, if the relations of the deceased cannot afford a coffin, it is furnished at the expence of the parish. According to ThEve-not, however, the Eastern nations, whether Turks or Christians, make use of no coffins.
As there appears to prevail a most iniquitous practice, of which no feeling mind can approve, that of robbing graves of corpses, for the purpose of anatomical dissection, we shall present our readers with a short description of the patent granted in July, 1796, to Mr. Gabriel Aughtie, of Cheapside, London, for his improvement in coffins, to prevent the stealing of bodies from them, after interment: this patent has since been assigned to Messrs. JarVIS and Son, undertakers, etc. Charing-cross, and Great Mary-le-bone-street.
The coffin may be made of any kind of wood, and bound with steel, iron, or other metal. The sides are to be curved without saw-curfs; and on the top edge of each side are to be three or more boxes, of iron, steel, or other metal, let in on the inside of the coffin, to re-ceive the springs fixed to the lid ; one box to contain a spring on the top edge of the head, and another on the foot, for the same purpose. The screws for fastening down the lid, pass through an iron or metal plate, with a socket, to receive the head, and to prevent its beingdrawn out by any kind of instrument. These screws are to be placed between each of the springs, in pro.-portion to the number of the latter, and the size of the coffin. The lid is also to be bound with steel, iron, or any other kind of metal, to prevent it from being cut or broke open; and the screws used' for fastening it, are to be sunk about half the thickness of the lid. Such screws are not to be notched on the head, but some of them di-vided with two, and others with four bevils ; so that when they are once fixed, it will be impossible to unscrew them ; as, by turning the reverse way, there is no hold for any tool to withdraw them,
Many of our readers will, pro-bably, remember that the late Emperor of Germany, Joseph II. about the year 1781, enacted a law; by which the interment of dead bodies in coffins was prohibited; nay, it was ordered that they should be buried in bags, and covered with quick-lime, in order to promote their putrefaction, and prevent the exhalation of noxious vapours. This severe regulation, however, met with so universal and decided an opposition, that the enlightened monarch, from prudential motives, was speedily induced to repeal it.
Although we are no advocates for arbitrary measures, by which the feelings of humanity may be wounded, yet on the other hand, we are firmly persuaded that the custom of interring numerous bodies, in the churches and churchyards of populous towns, is attended with effects highly injurious to the living. (See vol. i. p. 392.) And as persuasion and reasonings when opposed to inveterate prejudices, are not likely to produce a favourable effect on intellects but little improved by education, we venture to suggest a remedy, than which none can be more reasonable, and less oppressive : 1. That, though all deceased bodies are to be considered as inviolable, yet the privilege of being deposited in a coffin (whether kept above or un-der ground), in towns shall be con-ferred only on those who have rendered themselves worthy of such a distinction, by virtuous and patriotic a6tions; and, 2. That all others, including children and adults, shall either be buried at a certain distance from inhabited places, or at least twenty feet deep, if their relations are anxious to see them interred in towns or villages. - See BuRial, and BURYING-gRound.