Louis Betrand's awarded essay on suicide, 1857
Louis Bertrand. Traité du suicide considéré dans ses rapports avec la philosophie, la théologie, la médecine et la jurisprudence. Paris, London, New York, Baillière, 1857. 8vo. XI, , 418 pp. Contemporary quarter cloth, pseudo-marbled sides. In very good condition. Binding shows some wear, one corner damaged, first few leaves with a small wormhole in the gutter margin, back endpapers stained affecting the five previous leaves.
A thorough analysis of suicide, selected as a prize essay by the Imperial Academy of Medicine.
The author holds that materialism is the root cause of suicide. In his view suicide is a double crime: against the creator and against humanity. He distinguishes two forms of suicide: 'voluntary suicide' and 'maniacal suicide' (further divided into suicide occurring from sudden bursts of passion, suicide induced by 'lypemania', and finally 'monomanical' suicide).
The work was approved by a cardinal of the Catholic Church. It comes as no surprise, then, that Bertrand holds that Christianity is "the most effectual means for the prevention of suicide". To aid Christianity he advises the government to prevent the publication of books favorable to voluntary death, and newspapers to suppress reports of suicide.
The treatise was written when suicide was still widely deemed a crime (persons who died by suicide were typically buried outside consecrated graveyards, and their property was confiscated). During the 19th century suicide would slowly be decriminalized, and by mid the 20th century it had become legal in large parts of the world.