Suicide (Lat. sui, one's self, and caedere, to kill) is defined as the killing of one's self with malice aforethought, and while in the possession of a sound mind. It is known in the law as felo de se, and is considered felony. In the early Church suicides were called βιοθάνατοι (biothanati), from offering violence to themselves. Because suicide was a crime that could have no penance imposed upon it, the Church denied the suicide the honor and solemnity of a Christian burial, and allowed him to lie excommunicated and deprived of all memorial in her prayers after death. In England this crime was punished not only with forfeiture of goods and chattels, like other felonies, but the body of the suicide was buried in the night at the crossings of two highways with a stake driven through the body. This ancient rule was repealed by Statute 4 George IV, c. 51, and now the burials take place in a churchyard, but between 9 and 12 P.M.
Suicide is now generally considered a symptom of some form of insanity, permanent or temporary, in which the emotions and passions are excited or perverted. The following statistics respecting suicides are from Chambers's Encyclopaedia s.v.; "In the kingdom of Sweden there is calculated to be 1 suicide to every 92,375 inhabitants; in Saxony, 1 to 8446; in Russia, 1 to 34,246; in the United States, 1 to 15,000; in Paris, 1 to 2700; in St. Petersburg and London, 1 to 21,000. In all England the proportion of suicides is 7.4 to every 100,000 people." See Winslow, Anatomy of Suicide; Brierre de Boismont, Du Suicide et de la Folie Suicide; Bertrand, Traits du Suicide; Radcliffe, English Suicide Fields; Medical Critic, 1862.