Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

he placed her in a castle carefully preserved by a labyrinth which surrounded it, and which is viewed by the curious who visit Woodstock till the present time with much interest.'- vol. i. p. 128.

And this passage will surely be read with much interest by all visitors of Blenheim, who, however, we fear may somewhat lose their way in their pursuit of Rosamond's Bower.

So far from there being any kind of utility in this · laborious' compilation, it is, as far as it is possible to read it, equally devoid of information as it is offensive to good taste and morality. A great proportion of the work, perhaps the greatest, is composed of the lives of those unfortunate women, by Mrs. Bush kindly styled royal favourites,' who might be more properly designated by an emphatic monosyllable. In writing history, no one portion of the task occasions more pain than the absolute necessity of detailing the vices of sovereigns. But the plan of such a work as that which Mrs. Bush has cobbled together,—for we really can hardly dare to offend Saffron Hill by calling it a translation,'— compels the writer to place them prominently before the reader; and it may be sufficient to ask whether any wife or mother can have too scanty a knowledge of the sports of the Parc aux Cerfs, or the double adulteries of · La Belle Gabrielle,' or Madame de Pompadour ?

We are quite willing to believe that Mrs. Bush really and truly does not know the meaning of the originals which she has used-probably the passages we have selected will be considered as establishing the fact—and we shall therefore simply state that amongst the extracts given in French are some (e.g. vol. i.

p. 189, and vol. ii. p. 209) which are so coarse and profane, that, even if the book had any historical worth, they would render it offensive to any well-regulated mind. It was fully our intention at first, in noticing the book, not to mention the name of the writer, but the publisher has taken such pains to advertise it, that such a reserve would be only an affectation. Much as we regret to make any remarks which may pain an individual, we should not discharge our duty, if we abstained from pointing out to our readers the manner in which the confidence of the public is abused at present by literary ladies, who ought to be contented with marking pinafores and labelling pots of jam. Mrs. Bush has been puffed with so much vehemence, that we were induced to buy her performance; but we doubt, after all, if she is worse than a fair average specimen of a whole clique, or clack, of living Clios.

ART.

Art. VII.- Report to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of

State for the Home Department, from the Poor Law Commissioners, on an Inquiry into the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain ; with Appendices. Presented to both Houses of Parliament, by command of Her

Majesty, July, 1842. 3 volumes, folio. IN N the winter of 1837 fever was unusually severe in Spitalfields,

and alarm being thereby excited of a return of the cholera, the Poor Law Commissioners deemed it their duty to send thither Dr. Arnott, Dr. S. Smith, and Dr. Kay, to inquire as to the removable causes of diseuse. These accomplished physicians in their report, dated May 12, 1838, declared the chief causes to be bad drainage and bad ventilation. The Commissioners, without loss of time, represented to Lord John Russell 'the urgent necessity of applying to the legislature for immediate measures for the removal of those constantly acting causes of destitution and death. All delays,' said they, 'must be attended with extensive misery ; in a large proportion of cases the labouring classes, though aware of the surrounding causes of evil, have few or no means of avoiding them, and little or no choice of their duellings.' But although much was said and done for the Hill Coolies and the blacks, no notice whatever was taken of this appeal; until, towards the end of the session of 1839, our energetic diocesan the Bishop of London, in his place in the House of Lords, called the attention of the Government to the Report, and moved an address to Her Majesty, praying for an inquiry as to the extent to which the causes of disease-stated by the Poor Law Commissioners to prevail among the labouring classes of the metropolis-prevail also amongst the labouring classes in other parts of the kingdom. This address being carried, Lord Jolin Russell directed the Poor Law Board to institute such an inquiry, and the Commissioners, in the month of November following, gave instructions accordingly to their Assistants. They likewise addressed letters to the several boards of guardians, as well as to their medical officers, requesting them severally to furnish answers to questions inclosed : besides which a circular letter to the dispensary-surgeons and medical practitioners, having been inclosed to the provosts of Scotch burghs, a resolution was passed by the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, recommending that all members and licentiates of that body should give every aid to this inquiry. In due time, from a number of medical men, residing in different towns and districts of Scotland, as well as of England, very valuable reports were obtained. As soon as this mass of MS. was collecied in Somerset House,

its bulk being evidently more than the Commissioners or Parliament could find leisure to examine, the Secretary of the Board was directed to digest it in detail, and, comparing its various statements with such authentic facts as he might obtain from other sources, to frame a report exhibiting the principal results of the whole investigation. From his own various and extensive personal inspections, from the information which had been forwarded to the Commissioners, from the documents of the medical officers, and from his examination of witnesses, Mr. Chadwick, after nearly two years' labour, succeeded in completing the remarkable Report now before us.

Before, however, we enter upon the first important chapter, we cannot refrain from observing how little the subject to which it particularly relates---namely, the purification by science of the air we breathe-bas hitherto been deemed worthy of consideration.

It is true that through our main thoroughfares, such as Oxford Street, Holborn, Piccadilly, the Strand, Pall Mall, and St. James's Street, the atmosphere is enabled to flow with healthful celerity; but to most of these ethereal rivers are there not linked on either side, in the forms of courts, alleys, stable-yards, and cuisde-sac, a set of vile, stagnant ponds in which the heaven-born element remains in durance vile, until, saturated with the impurities and sickness of its gaol, it flows into, mixes with, and pollutes the main streams we have described? And yet if the pavement of St. James's Street be but cleanly swept, those who saunter up and down it, as well as those who in red coats or brown ones sit indolently gazing at carriages (many of which, as they roll by, seem mechanically to make their heads nod) appear not to be aware that they are one and all inhaling stale, pent-up, corrupt air, which an ounce of science could have dispersed by circulation. Even the hollow square of the royal palace is made to retain its block of the stagnant fluid, while several others of our public buildings, like the office at the bottom of Downing Street, and like the numerous high dead' walls inclosing property of the crown, &c., seem to have been purposely planned to act as tourniquets upon those veins and arteries which, if unobstructed, would give health and ruddiness to the population. Instead, however, of philosophizing any longer in the streets, we will invite our readers to enter with us for a moment into one of the splendid mansions of our metropolis; and, accordingly, ascending its spacious staircase, let us take up our position just in the doorway of the second of the suite of drawing-rooms, beyond which, the assemblage, being under high pressure, makes it evidently impossible for us to advance. We here see before us, in a dense phalanx, figures of both

sexes, amongst whom stand conspicuous persons of the highest rank, beauty, and wealth in Europe. Upon their education no expense has been spared-money has done all in its power to add to nature's choicest gifts the polish of art. Their dresses are importations from every country of the civilized world. The refreshments are delicacies which it has required months, and in some cases even years, of unremitting attention to obtain. The splendid furniture has every comfort that ingenuity can devise. And yet within this painted sepulchre, what, we ask, is the analysis of the air we are breathing? That lofty duchess's head is sparkling with diamonds—that slight, lovely being leaning on her arm has the pearls of India wound around her brow — those statesmen and warriors are decorated with stars—the dense mass displays flowers, ribands, and ornaments of every colour in the rainbow; but among them all, is there, we ask, a single one who for a moment has thought of bringing with him the hogshead of air per hour necessary for his respiration?

for his respiration ? And if every guest present has neglected to do so, in what manner, it must be inquired, has the noble host provided for the demand? Alas! the massive, pictured walls around us, and richly-stuccoed and gilt ceiling over our heads, answer the question, and one has only to cast a glance at them to perceive that the 500 persons present are, like those in the Black-hole at Calcutta, conglomerated together in a hermetically-sealed box full of vitiated air.

Every minute 500 gallons of air pass into the lungs of those present, from whence, divested of its oxygen, it is exhaled in a morbid condition unfit for combustion or animal life-every respiration of each elegant guest, nay, even our own contemplative sigh, vitiates about sixteen cubic inches of the element; and yet, while every moment it is becoming more and more destructive to health-while the loveliest cheeks are gradually fading before us —while the constitutions of the young are evidently receiving an injury which not the wealth of Cræsus will be able to repay

-what arrangements, we repeat, has the noble host made for repairing the damage he is creating? If foul air, like manure, could be carted away, and if good air, like fresh, clean straw, could be brought in its stead, surely one of the simplest luxuries which wealth could offer to society would be to effect this sanitary operation; and thus, instead of offering a set of lovely women ices and unwholesome refreshments, to spend the money these would cost in pouring upon their heads, necks, and shoulders a continual supply of that pure, fresh, exhilarating, oxygenous mixture which gives animation to their hearts, and colour to their cheeks. But is this expensive, troublesome, complicated, horse-and-cart mode of purifying the horrid atmosphere we are breathing necessary ?

No!

No! everybody present knows that outside the shutters and plateglass windows of the rooms in which we are suffering, there is at this moment in waiting, not two inches from us, an overwhelming supply (which might be warmed) of pure air, just as desirous to rush in as the foul air we have been breathing and re-breathing is eager to rush out.

The laws of specific gravity ordained by nature are in attendance to ensure for us the performance of this double processindeed so great is the supply of spare air in her laboratory, that the proportion of oxygen consumed by animated beings in a century is said not to exceed Toto of the whole atmosphere ; and yet, as though the demon of suicide had prevailed upon us to thwart these beneficent arrangements, we close our doors, bar our windows, stuff up by curtains and drapery every crevice, as if it were the particular privilege of wealth to feed its guests on foul air!

If any one of our readers who, like ourselves, may have grown out of patience at the long continuance of this barbarous custom, will take the trouble to put 500 beautiful little gold and silver fishes into a bladder of the filthiest water he can obtain, and then attaching a weight, throw the whole into a clear, crystal stream, he may justly say-aye, and he may grin as he says it— Behold an epitome of a London drawing-room!' There is, to be sure, one difference:—the tiny creatures within the globule are as innocent of the foul suffering they endure as are those poor,

lean, Neapolitan curs which almost every day throughout the year may be seen half choked by the rope that is dragging them reluctantly towards the Grotto del Cane, in order that one more inquisitive, good-humoured, ruddy-faced English family may see them forcibly suffocated in unwholesome gas.

In case, from the foregoing observations, it should become apparent that even among people of the highest rank, intelligence, and wealth, there has hitherto existed a lamentable neglect on a subject of such importance to them as the sanitary purification of the atmosphere in which they are living, it is reasonable to infer that if any one among us would make it his painful duty to penetrate into the courts, alleys, workshops, and residences of the lowest, of the most ignorant, and of the most destitute classes of our society, he would most surely detect a still greater disregard of scientific precautions, directly and flagrantly productive of misery and disease.

If, therefore, there was nothing at stake but the health, happiness, moral conduct, and condition of the labouring classes, the searching investigation unveiled in Mr. Chadwick's Report, coupled with the remedial measures submitted by him for con

sideration,

« ElőzőTovább »