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BY the one hundred and thirty-second section
of the Metropolis Local Management
Act, it was ordained about two years ago
that there should be appointed by the Board
of Works, which represents the vestry in
each London parish, a Medical Officer of
Health, whose duty it should be " to ascertain
the existence of diseases, more especially
epidemics increasing the rate of mortality," and
who also should "take cognisance of the
fact of the existence of diseases."

By an instructional minute of the General
Board of Health, dated on the twentieth of
the December before last, the duties of these
medical officers of health were further
defined: they were not only to show the
existence of preventible diseases, to point out
methods of removing them, and to insist on
their removal, but they were also to collect
and diffuse general information upon sanitary
matters, and to serve as sanitary referees to
the parishioners on whose behalf they were
retained. The raising of the corps of sanitary
soldiers thus established was not completed
until March, in the year eighteen
'fifty-six. Some vestries had their officers
of health appointed earlier, but the first
year's work for the improved health of
London was supposed to begin in March of
last year, and to end in March of this year;
when the Act of Parliament required that
each officer of health, in addition to any
weekly, monthly, or half-yearly reports that
he might furnish to the board with which he
worked, should write an annual report for
publication by the vestry. The publication
of these annual reports, by the several London
parishes, has been recently completed.
We have made it our business to read them
all, together with many of the monthly and
half-yearly reports by which they were
preceded. We have not only read, but we have
also marked them and digested them, and
the result of our study is now at the service
of the reader.

It gives us much of the story of a healthy
year in London. There is not a fact or a
suggestion in the sketch we are now writing
which has not been drawn from the recent
reports of the London officers of health, and
there has been hardly a report issued that
will not contribute to it, indirectly or directly,
some fact or opinion. The year in
question was a healthy one. In 'fifty-six,
deaths from all causes in town fell short
of the average of the four former years
by five thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight;
and in the spring of this year the mortality
was five hundred and forty-six below
the average. We do not attribute this to
the exertions of the health officers and sanitary
inspectors; but when we come presently
to take a glance at the work actually done
for the improvement of our wholesomeness,
it will be evident that some of the life saved
has been saved by the increase of attention
paid to what is necessary for the maintenance
of health.

Let us confirm our minds upon this subject,
and at the same time fortify them against
any undue despondency when we fall upon
details of our present state that are disheartening
and sickening, by looking at the increase
of health and duration of life actually
produced by improvement in the public sense
of what is wholesome. In London, in the
year seventeen hundred, one person died
out of every twenty-five. Fifty years later
one died out of every twenty-one. In the
first year of the present century there died
only one in thirty-five, and in eighteen 'thirty
one in forty-five. Mr. Bianchi, of St. Saviour's,
reminds us of that. Again, Mr.
Rendle, the health officer for the parish of
St. George the Martyr, Southwark, reminds
the public, that in the great plague year of
sixteen 'fifty-five there died out of that parish
one person in every four; but that the loss
in modern pestilences is one in thirty, forty,
or sixty. His district is now one of the
worst in London, and one of the most densely
peopled; but he does not look back with
envy to the day when its population was
much thinner-a century and a-half ago;
when all the alleys were blind alleys, and
thoroughfares gloried in filthiness; when
people had an address by Harrow Dung-hill,
or in Dirty-lane, or Melancholy-walk, and
Labour-in-vain-alley-dens of life interspersed
among good buildings and spacious gardens.

At the present time we may represent the
effect of unwholesome influences on a town
population by the evidence of Dr. Letheby,
that in some parts of the City of London the