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So they that strike with the sword perish
by the sword; and I shut up Pilkington and
the Shadows fade away.



I DO not know anything that has struck me
more forcibly in life than the longevity of
nuisances; yet I am anything but disposed to
take a sad view of things; for, like Voltaire,
I think the world, after all, a very good world
in its way. How does it happen, then, that
this very good world, and all the many wise
and good people in it, see a nuisance, feel a
nuisance, hear of it, speak of it, and yet do
not set about reforming it? If this be
indolence, it is culpable; if it be want of
public spirit, it is both culpable and silly; for
each of us form part and parcel of the public,
whose claims are thus set at nought. People,
in England, are neither wrong-headed nor
silly; yet any one as blind as a mole might
point out a greater number of respectable
grey-headed nuisances in Britain than in
any other country in Europe: nuisances that
other countries have corrected and
exterminated utterly, before you or I were

Let any one read the accompanying
extracts from a book published in 1767, nearly
a century ago (Smollett's Humphrey Clinker),
and then ask himself if it is not really
wonderful that precisely the same abuses are here
spoken of and condemned which still flourish
in all their rank vigour, while we are penning
these lines.

On the Milk of London in 1767.—"The
milk itself should not pass unanalysed;
the produce of faded cabbage-leaves and sour
draff, lowered with hot water, frothed with
bruised snails; carried through the streets
in open pails ..." Here follow some half-
dozen ingredients which are positively now

On Bread.—"The bread I eat in London
is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk,
alum, and bone ashes; insipid to the taste,
and destructive to the constitution. The
good people are not ignorant of this
adulteration, but they prefer it to wholesome
bread, because it is whiter than the meal
of corn. Thus they sacrifice their taste and
their health, and the lives of their tender
infants, to a most absurd gratification of a
misjudging eye; and the miller or the baker
is obliged to poison them and their families in
order to live by his profession."

On Water.—"If I would drink water, I
must quaff the mawkish contents of an open
aqueduct, exposed to all manner of defilement;
or swallow that which comes from
the river Thames, impregnated with all
the filth of London and Westminster. Human
excrement is the least offensive part of the
concrete, which is composed of all the drugs,
minerals, and poisons used in mechanics and
manufacture, enriched with the putrefying
carcases of beasts and men, and mixed with
the scourings of all the wash-tubs, kennels,
and common sewers within the bills of

On Lodgings.—"I am pent up in frowsy
lodgings, where there is not room to swing
a cat; and I breathe the steams of endless
putrefaction; and these would undoubtedly
produce a pestilence, if they were not qualified
by the gross acid of sea-coal, which is
itself a pernicious nuisance to lungs of any
delicacy of texture; but even this boasted
corrector cannot prevent those languid, sallow
looks that distinguish the inhabitant of
London from those ruddy swains who lead
a country life."

A little farther on, he attacks the watchmen
and street criesand how short a time
have either been abolished! But he shall
speak in his own vigorous way:—

On Wine.—"As to the intoxicating potion
sold for wine, it is a vile, unpalatable, and
pernicious sophistication, balderdashed with
cider, corn spirit, and the juice of sloes. In
an action at law laid against a carman for
having staved a cask of port, it appeared from
the evidence of the cooper that there were
not above five gallons of wine to the whole
pipe, which held above one hundred, and even
that had been brewed and adulterated by the
merchant at Oporto."

On Veal.—"The same monstrous depravity
appears in veal, which is bleached by repeated
bleedings and other villanous arts."

On Vegetables.—"As they have discharged
the natural colour from their bread, their
butcher's meat, and poultry, &c., so they insist
on having the complexion of their pot-herbs
mended, even at the hazard of their lives.
Perhaps you will hardly believe that they
can be so mad as to boil their greens with
brass halfpence, in order to improve their
colour; and yet nothing is more true."

On Poultry.—"The poultry is all rotten, in
consequence of an infamous practice of sewing
up the gut, that they may be the sooner
fattened in coops in consequence of this cruel

On Oysters.—"It may not be amiss to
mention that the right Colchester are kept in
slime pits, occasionally overflowed by the sea;
and that the green colour, so much admired
by the voluptuaries of the metropolis, is
occasioned by the vitriolic scum which rises to
the surface of stagnant water."

On the Government in 1767.—"Ibrahim, the
Ambassador, who had mistaken his Grace"
(the Duke of Newcastle?) "for the minister's
fool, was no sooner undeceived by the
interpreter, than he exclaimed to this effect: 'Holy
Prophet! I don't wonder that this nation
prospers, seeing it is governed by the counsel
of idiots!'—a series of men whom all good
Musselmen revere as the organs of immediate