1698—1758, 1764—1778 etc.) with contemporary comment regarding their reliabihty. A Collection of Yearly Bills of Mortality. From 1657 to 1758 inclwive contains Natural and Political Observations etc. by Captain John Graunt* F.R.S., reprinted from the sixth ed. in 1676. *) The writer is very optimistic about the reliabihty of the statements of the bills about the causes of death:
When any dead body is found in England, no algebraist, or undecypherer of letters, can use more subtile suppositions.... than every unconcerned person doth, to find out the murtherers....
A physician, in a letter to the Medical Society, published in The Gent. Mag. of June 1771, complains that the bills of mortahty
are framed from reports of common searchers appointed to view the dead bodies in order to prevent the concealment of violence. These searchers are, for the most part, ignorant poor women.
He can contradict some of their reports from personal experience. *)
As regards the use of the word "suddenly" as a cause of death, Graunt observes, however, "If one died suddenly, the matter is not great, whether it be reported in the bills, suddenly, apoplexy, or planetstrucken," etc. This explains the liberal use of the word "suddenly" in the verdiets on suicides of which Duncombe complained in 1754.
In 1726 Isaac Watts founded his discourses against selfmurder on the fact that the papers had recorded "59 cases in the year before, 74 who were drowned and 43 who were said to be found dead." This agrees with the
**** edition< ,16&. *i t*"8 ardde author states that the first of ?$£; ?n we^yï ^ ™ortality extaat at the parish clerk hall begins the 29th of Dec 1603," but there were some bills before that date. These statistics refer to London only, yiz. 97 parishes within the walls, 17 without ™h Tk j.:23 «^malies m Middlesex and Surrey, 10 parishes in the City and hberues of W^tnunster. The number of "inhabitants of London" he
m the City and Liberties, in 1631, at 130178.
rf tL^u™ tusale^ k furth?r appears that medical attempts at improvement ot the bills, and their extension to the rest of England, had been made bv §1;? }a^> Pfofession from 1754 on, and that a bill relative to this had been laid aside , because Parhament did not desire to fall into the "sin of David" i.e. counting the nation. '