Although suicide was never deemed a wholly personal a air, as attested by the post-mortem desecration of the suicide’s corpse, which persisted in Britain as a practice up until 1834, the act became increasingly the ‘nation’s business’ in direct proportion to England’s increasing derivation of its character from suicide. By mid-century, the English Malady – the notion that the English su ered inordinately from melancholy and that as a result the per capita rates of suicide were much higher in this country than elsewhere – emerged as a complex, troubling and o en contradictory index of national character.1 Each instance of suicide con rmed popular opinion regarding the pathological character of the nation, while England’s attempt to de ne a national identity necessarily foregrounded certain critical issues of the period. By 1791, the persistently suicidal poet William Cowper could lament that he ‘should be born in a country where melancholy is the national characteristic’ and subsequently con de, ‘To say the truth, I have o en wished myself a Frenchman’.2 Cowper is just one of many writers in the eighteenth century to attach a degree of determinism to national character: one is melancholy because one is English, according to this view. However, other writers downplayed this sense of fatalism by representing melancholy as an a ectation. Arguing from precisely this position, a contributor to the 17 November 1738 issue of the Daily Gazetteer announced, ‘I cannot do a more charitable, or publick spirited ing, than to examine the Validity of this Plea, which I shall do very candidly, and with no other View, than to convince those, who are addicted to Melancholy, that they have no Right to Indulge themselves therein’. e writer identi es a perverse strain in the psychology of the English, whom he represents as willfully indulging a state of mind ultimately detrimental to the welfare of the public. Both positions, however, locate in English identity a strongly passive element that serves as an obstacle to the recovery of ‘national health’.3