Songs About Coffins
In early nineteenth century Britain, grave robbing had become such a problem that numerous devices were invented to secure one’s everlasting peace. One such device, “The Patent Coffin,” was devised by a London candle maker named Edward Bridgeman: made out of iron, with concealed spring catches that prevented any would-be resurrectionists from prying off the lid; additionally the sides were joined in a manner that would prevent anyone from being able to pry them apart. The Patent Coffin was so popular that songs were written about it, such as this broadsheet, credited to a “Mr. Didben”:
Each age has boasted curious selves,
By patent notoriety,
Whose inventions have enriched themselves,
For advantage of society.
I, an immortal artisan,
Pray, gents, favour your scoffing,
Produce to night, muse, sing the man
That made the patent coffin.
Then toll the knell, each passing bell
Shall of the mighty name of this wondrous man be talking,
While foremost in the ranks of fame
His coffin shall be walking.
We’ve patent legs, and patent eyes,
And many other fallacies,
And next shall patent pillories
Succeed to patent gallows;
Ephemerends of art away,
In trifles only clever
Your labours may exist their day,
But his will last forever.
Yet to take heed you must not fail,
Lest to the grave they hurry you,
If you’re not dead as a door nail,
Before you let them bury you;
Tho’ from a trance when in,
Often cry and rave and shout again
Caught fairly in our patent gin,
The world can’t let you out again.
Resurrection men, your fate deplore,
Retire with sore vexation,
Your mystery’s gone, your art’s no more,
No more your occupation;
Surgeons, no more shall ye ransack
The grave, with feelings callous,
Tho’ on the Old Bailey turn’d your back,
Your only hopes the gallows.
Death-hunters, mutes, shall sing my verse,
The wond’rous man applauding,
And sable plumes on many a hearse
For joy shall fall a nodding;
Hatchments and tombs his name shall raise
Clerk’s, sexton’s, undertakers,
While graves shall open in the praise
Of this prince of coffin makers.
An alternative method of preventing grave robbing: the mortsafe