BOOK: The Body Snatcher

AUTHOR: Robert Louis Stephenson


PUBLISHER: Pall Mall Gazzette





Four friends; the undertaker, the landlord, Fettes and the narrator have made it a habit to sit in a small parlor of the George Inn at Denenham. One winter night, there was a sick man at the George. The doctor came and when he arrived, Fettes recognized his name when the landlord mentioned it. Dr. Macfarlane was a familiar name to Fettes. His other buddies were shocked that he knew the doctor.

In his young days, Fettes was a Medicine student in Edinburgh. He was a sharp and smart student who was full of talent. As a student, there was this teacher who taught him. The teacher liked Fettes’ work and soon Fettes was made a sub-assistant in his anatomy class. Given his new position, Fettes had to answer for the cleanliness of the premises and the conduct of the other students, and it was a part of his duty to supply, receive, and divide the various subjects. His other duties included taking receipt of corpses for dissection, and paying those who brought them.

One night, the ghouls who normally brought the bodies came. They arrived later than usual and seemed eager to be gone. Before giving the men their money, Fettes stared at the corpse’s face. It was that of Jane Galbraith. He knew the girl. “She was alive and hearty yesterday. It’s impossible she can be dead; it’s impossible you should have got this body fairly.” He told the men. One man brushed him off saying he was mistaken and the others demanded the money from him. The following morning, when the doctor came to class, Fettes talked to him about the previous night’s incident but the doctor dismissed him saying he could do nothing about it.

On one afternoon, when Fettes went to a popular tavern, he found Dr. Macfarlane sitting with a stranger. Gray was the stranger’s name. Gray later invite Dr. Macfarlane and Fettes for dinner. A day after, at four in the morning, Dr. Macfarlane brought a corpse for the usual dissection. To Fettes surprise, it was Gray’s body the professor had carried. Like Jane’s case, the professor tells Fettes not to say a word about it.


Fettes goes on working for Dr. Macfarlane. At one point however, the surgeon seems to lack bodies to dissect. There was burial in the rustic graveyard of Glencorse and the good professor not wanting to be thought of as not well supplied with subjects for his students, decided that he would go to the burial. He together and his assistant went to the burial ground, exhumed the coffin and placed the body in a sack. They then drove off with the body. They had expected that they had carried the body of a woman but as they went on, they discovered it was a man. Both being confused, Fettes lifted the lamp to see the face of the body. They wee shocked to see that the face of the body they had been carrying was that of Gray. Gray whom they thought they had dissected days ago.

The book is a classic, with a little horror and supernatural theme. Here we see a surgeon  who steals bodies to dismember and teach his students with. He involves one bright student, whom he made an assistant in his activities. It’s an engrossing story, as we are hooked to the characters’ activities.