What does the first sentence mean in the following passage?
[Fortunate it is if their skirts do not catch fire and if the nurse does not give herself up a sacrifice together with her patient, to be burnt in her own petticoats. ]I wish the Registrar General would tell us the exact number of deaths by burning occasioned by this absurd and hideous custom.
This must be from a 19th century report. It is saying that the style of clothing worn at the time was liable to catch fire (presumably long skirts which could trail into a fireplace) with the result that the person wearing it was likely to be burned to death.