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THE old town of Cess–cum–Poolton is built
on the top of a hill, in the most elevated part
of a large tract of surrounding country. It is
called the Old Town because, lower down, at the
distance of about a mile and separated by an
intervening canal, there is a New Town which
has been recently created in the neighbourhood
of an important railway station. The
two towns are portions of a single parish.
In districts reasonably healthy, one infant
dies out of every ten or twelve that come into
the world. In the parish of Cess–cum–Poolton
one infant dies out of every seven or eight
that are born, and they are born in unusual
numbers as, by some compensating law
of nature, commonly is the case wherever
parents live under conditions that produce
a gradual rotting away of their own lives, and
an unusual mortality among their children.
The rotting away of life in the Old Town
of Cess–cum–Poolton is best expressed by
the assurance that, on an average, each
person there born, decays and dies eight
years and a half sooner than he should. In
the New Town, the loss appears to be much
greater; but, as it contains only an
exceptional population consisting chiefly of
young working men, with their wives and
children, the statement that their average
duration of life is only seventeen years is, by
no means, so horrible as it appears. So I
will steer clear of fallacy, and take only the
fact that their infants perish in undue

The delicate organs of life in infants under
one year old, cause them to be peculiarly liable
to suffer from unhealthy conditions. They do
not drink, smoke, or go astray; they live or
die strictly according to the health or sickness
of their parents, and the wholesome or
unwholesome nature of the circumstances in
which they are placed. Calculations founded
on the births and deaths of young children,
and especially of infants, supply therefore the
best figures for a thermometer of public health.
Tried by this test (as well as by every other)
the health of Cess–cum–Poolton is considerably
below zero. Out of every hundred deaths in
the New Town, more than thirteen are of
persons under the age of twenty who should
not have died; and the deaths of infants are
more than one third more than they ought
to be.

It is, however, the opinion of a large
number of the inhabitants of this parish that
we do not want our public health looked
after. I say we (though I am no parishioner
myself), because I have entered into the spirit
of the place. I recognise in it my own
native district of Beadleville, and I look
upon the whole thing as eminently British.
I am a Cess–cum–Pooltonian, only in so far
as I am a Briton. As for the people, I
consider myself one of them, and shall discuss
my neighbours as I please. If any men
dwelling in any town of England say, when
they read this narrative, "this town of ours"
is the true Cess–cum–Poolton, be it so. The
inhabitants of Cess–cum–Poolton are, as
individuals, so many unknown quantities
represented by these characters, as they might be
represented scientifically by the letters x and y.
And as the letters x and y, when representing
unknown figures, may stand in the place of
real values very great or very small, as the
case may be and as remains to be discovered,
so let it be understood that abstract
characters herein set down are in the strictest
sense provisional, and by no means express
any real knowledge of the values that they

Mr. Zinzib, a man of some property, a
retired druggist, and a radical, was the first
promoter of the public health movement
among us. Mr. ZinzibZinzib Rad, the
Tories call him after one of his own labels
having much leisure spends it all, to the
great distress of many quiet neighbours, in
agitating for the righting of everything that
he thinks wrong in the parish of Cess–cum–
Poolton. We have been unable to touch him
with the Nuisances Removal Act; though
evidently an intolerable nuisance he is not to
be removed or moved. Now, it is all very
well for a parishioner to say that the state of
our workhouse is disgraceful, and to keep
saying it; or that our want of drainage is
disgraceful, and to keep saying it; or to
count up our cases of typhus fever, and keep
mentioning them; but, for a ratepayer to
keep doing such things in a way that
compels us to advance beyond mere listening,
creates commotion and ill blood in the
parish, which is at all times shocking. It is