‘Circle of Human Life’ (1847)

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My attention was brought to this book by a YouTube video by Storied entitled ‘The Macabre Origins of the Grim Reaper,’ featuring our favourite mortician, Caitlin Doughty, from the Order of the Good Death. Those who know me won’t be in any way surprised by that introductory sentence.

This is a publication that fits in with what we do here, being both published in Edinburgh and older than 1900. This book is a translation, from the original German, by the Rev. Robert Menzies and has within its pages, page 11 to be exact, the earliest appearance of the words “Grim Reaper” in English. I direct you towards the abovementioned video for an excellent run-down on how this term came to be.

Rev. Menzies tells us;

   “There are many who suppose that a clear and certain foreknowledge of the day of their death would exert a very powerful influence upon their mind. In this opinion, however, there must be some deception. All know full well that life cannot last above seventy, or at the most eighty years. If we reach that term without meeting the grim reaper with his scythe, there or there about, meet him we surely shall. Death being thus the most certain of all certain events, why not begin at once the work of preparation for it?” 

Well said, love!

Not sure when I’ll get round to uploading it to the site, having so many other publications already as priorities, but it’ll happen.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Cover and Spine.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Inside Cover.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Inscription;

“To

Mabel Cowan

from her

Uncle & Aunt

Mark (?) of

Hoddam

8th Aug.

1861.”

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Title Page.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Publisher’s Page.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Preface.

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, Preface (concluded).

Rev. R. Menzies (1847), ‘Circle of Human Life,’ Edinburgh: Myles MacPhail, First English mention of “the Grim Reaper” in text, p.11.

   “There are many who suppose that a clear and certain foreknowledge of the day of their death would exert a very powerful influence upon their mind. In this opinion, however, there must be some deception. All know full well that life cannot last above seventy, or at the most eighty years. If we reach that term without meeting the grim reaper with his scythe, there or there about, meet him we surely shall. Death being thus the most certain of all certain events, why not begin at once the work of preparation for it?” 

3 thoughts on “‘Circle of Human Life’ (1847)

  1. I’m having trouble finding the original German book. Also unable to get a hit for “Tholuck” + “Sensenmann”, which would seem to mean either a) the German book just isn’t online, or b) Tholuck didn’t actually use the word Sensenmann (but he almost must’ve, since the word has been around since the Middle Ages).

    Liked by 1 person

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