Newes from the Dead

This snippet comes from Newes from the Dead, OR A TRUE AND EXACT Narration of the miraculous deliverance of ANNE GREENE (1651) by Richard Watkins, Scoller.  He published an account of the miraculous survival of a young Oxfordshire woman, who was hanged, taken off for dissection, and then wonderously sprang to life in her coffin.

There happened lately in this Citty [Oxford] a very rare and remarkable accident, which being variously and falsely reported amongst the vulgar, I have here faithfuly recorded it. At Duns-Tew in Oxford-shire there lived a maid named Anne Greene, being about 22 years of age, of a middle stature, strong, fleshie, and of an indifferent good feature, who being (as she said) often sollicited by the faire promises and other amorous enticements of Mr Jeffrey Read [aged 16/17]… at last consented to satisfy his unlawfull pleasure. By which act she conceived, and was delivered of a Man-child, which being never made known, and the Infant found dead, caused a suspition that she being the mother had murthered it, and throwne it there on purpose to conceale both it and her shame together.

According to Anne’s biographer, Laura Gowing, she had in fact fallen ill, and gone to the privy, where she was delivered of a stillborn foetus and then, terrified, had hidden it in a corner of the privy covered with dust and ashes. However, her employers discovered the child and she was accused of infanticide and imprisoned. Under the 1624 statute (21 James I c. 27) single women who concealed their infant’s death could be presumed guilty of infanticide.

She was immediately taken into examination, and carried before severall Justices of the peace in the Countrey, and soone after, in an extreame cold and rainy day, sent unto Oxford Gaole, where having passed about three weekes more in continuall affrights and terrours, she was at a Sessions held in Oxford, arraigned, condemned, and on Saturday the 14 December last, brought forth to the place of Execution: where, after singing a Psalme & something said in justification of her self, and touching the lewednesse of the Family wherein she lately lived, she was turn’d off the Ladder, and hanging by the neck for the space of almost halfe and houre, some of her friends in the mean time thumping her on the breast, others hanging with all their weight upon her leggs, sometimes lifting her up, and then pulling her downe againe with a suddaine jerke, thereby the sooner to dispatch her out of her paine.

At length, when everyone thought she was dead, the body being taken downe and out into a Coffin, was carried thence into a private house, where some Physitians had appointed to make a Dissection. The Coffin being opened, she was observed to breath, and in breathing, obscurely to rattle: which being perceived by a lusty fellow (thinking to doe an act of charity in ridding her out of the small reliques of a painfull life) stamped severall times on her breast & stomack with all the force he could.

At this point it appears several anatomy professors arrived, and seeing Anne still breathing in the coffin, quickly attempted to revive her:

Having caused her to be held up in the Coffin, they wrenched open her teeth, which were fast set, and powred into her mouth some hot cordiall spirits; whereupon she rattled more than before. Then they ordered some to rub and chafe the extreme parts of her body, which they continued about a quarter of an houre; oft, in the mean time, powring in a spoonfull or two of the cordiall waters; and besides tickling her throat with a feather, at which she opened her eyes, but shut them againe presently.

These ministrations went on for considerable time, and the poor woman was eventually moved from her coffin to a warm bed. The doctors bled her, and fed her cordials and rubbed her extremities until by the following day she was able to sit up and complain of a sore throat.

Thus, within the space of a Moneth, was she wholly recovered: and in the same Room where her Body was to have been dissected, she became a great wonder, being revived to the satisfaction of multitudes that flocked thither daily to see her.

After her recovery Anne went to recuperate with her friends in the country, taking the coffin she had been laid in as a souvenir; her father took a collection from the many visitors, which paid her medical bills and enabled her to sue for a free pardon, which was granted.

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  • November 12, 2009 - 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I believe that’s how amubulance crews revive people to this day.

  • November 11, 2009 - 4:53 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing tale…would make a great short story.

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