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Seemingly drowned man restored to life

Year 1806, James Grange

Read by Craig Barclay – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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AT THE ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL, On Tuesday, the 15th Day of April, 1806,
HIS EXCELLENCY BARON DE ROBECK, in the Chair. PRESENT, The Right Honourable the EARL of ROMNEY, V.P. The Right Honourable LORD HAWARDEN, The Honourable PHILIP PUSEY, V.P. VICE-PRESIDENT LETTSOM, VICE-PRESIDENT THOMPSON, and upwards of THREE HUNDRED MERCHANTS and OTHERs, GOVERNORS OF THIS SOCIETY; On Motion by R. H. MARTEN, Esq. who, by an appropriate address, introduced the interesting communication from JAMES GRANGE, Esq. in the following letter to W. Hawes, M.D. Treasurer of the Society.

London, March 24, 1806.

Dear Sir,

AGREEABLY TO YOUR REQUEST, that I would commit to writing the narrative that formed part of our late conversation, I have now the renewed pleasure to inform you , that H. I. M. the Emperor Alexanda, in one of his journeys through Poland, by his own humane perseverance and personal exertion, restored to life a peasant of that country, who had been drowned a considerable time. This very interesting occurrence came to my knowledge during my late fay at St. Petersburg and took place between Konna and Wilna (in LITHUANIA), on the banks of the little river WILNA, from whence the just-mentioned town derives its name.

The Emperor, from some cause or other immaterial to the present interesting subject, had considerably preceded his attendants; and being led, by the winding of the road, within a short distance of the above-mentioned river, and perceiving several persons assembled near the edge of the water, out of which they appeared to be dragging something, instantly alighted; and, on approaching the spot, found it to be the body of a man apparently lifeless. Prompted by humanity alone, and without any other assistance than that of the ignorant boors around him (to whom he was no otherwise known, than that his uniform indicated an officer of rank), he had him conveyed to, and laid on the fide of a bank, and immediately proceeded, with his own hands, to assist in taking of the wet clothes from the apparent corpse, and to rub his temples, wrists, etc. which H. I. M. continued for a considerable time, using every other means (though destitute of every medical assistance), that appeared at the moment most likely to restore animation, but all without effect.

IN THE MIDST OF THIS BENEFICENT OCCUPATION, the Emperor was joined by the gentlemen of his suite, among whom were Prince Wolkonsky and Co. Liewen (two Russian noblemen), and Dr. WEILLY, His Majesty’s head surgeon, an English gentleman, whose professional abilities are so well known (at least on the Continent), that they need no comment, who always travels with, and indeed never quits His Majesty at any time.

Their exertions were immediately added to those of the Emperor; and on the Doctor’s attempting to bleed the patient, His Majesty held and rubbed his arm, and gave every other assistance in his power; however that, and all other means they could devise, proved equally ineffectual; so much so, that after above three hours fruitless attempts to recover him, the Doctor declared, to the extreme chagrin of the Emperor (who was by this time become very anxious about it), to be his opinion, that life was quite gone, and that it was useless proceeding any further.

Fatigued as he was with such continued exertion, the Emperor could not, however, rest satisfied without entreating Dr. Weilly to persevere, and to make a fresh attempt to bleed him.— The Doctor, although (as he has declared to me himself, and from whose own mouth I have these particulars) he bad not the slightest hope of being more successful in this than in former ones, proceeded, nevertheless, to obey the positive injunctions of H. I. M; when the whole of them (the noblemen, etc.) making last effort in rubbing, etc. the Emperor had, at length, the inexplicable satisfaction of feeing the blood make its appearance, accompanied by a slight groan.

THE EMOTIONS OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY, on this occasion, the Doctor informed me, are not to be described; and, in the plenitude of his joy, he exclaimed, in FRENCH,

“Good God! this is the brightest day of my life!”

and the tears, which instantaneously sprang into his eyes, indicated that these words came from the heart.

IT IS USELESS TO SAY, my dear Sir, that their exertions were, as you may suppose, redoubled, and finally crowned with complete success; but 1 must not forget to add (as in justice to H. I. M. no trait, however trifling, ought to be omitted, which reflects such honour on his feelings as a man), that, on Dr. Weilly’s looking about for something to stop the blood with, and tie up his arm, the EMPEROR, without any hesitation, instantly took out his handkerchief, tore it in pieces, and with his own bands bound the poor fellow’s arm with it (whose gratitude and astonishment, when informed to whom he was indebted for his life, you may easily conceive); and remained with him till he saw him quite recovered, and conveyed to a place where proper care would be taken of him; besides ordering him considerable present of money, and having since otherwise provided for him and his family.

THE ACCOMPANYING SNUFF-BOX, on which this interesting event is faithfully, though roughly delineated the poor inhabitants of that part of Poland being no great artists), was sketched at a neighbouring town, for the purpose of commemorating his restoration; and is one of four presented, on the occasion, to the principal actors in it, namely, H. I. M. and the three gentlemen above mentioned, who are (though not very correctly, it is true) represented on it.

Knowing my attachment to everything in the least connected with that truly amiable and good Prince, or his actions, Dr. Weilly was kind enough, at my request, to present me with it; and although I would not part with it on any other account, I think it cannot be better disposed of, than by taking the liberty of offering it to you, Sir, to the end, that so striking an example of humanity, perseverance, and philanthropy, in so exalted a character, may not be entirely loft to the world, and to posterity.

REQUESTING you to excuse the hasty, imperfect way in which I have endeavoured to narrate this very affecting translation to which I feel myself totally incompetent to do adequate justice), allow me to assure you, Sir, of the sentiments of respect and esteem with which I beg leave to subscribe myself, dear Sir, yours most faithfully,

James Grange.

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