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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Subjects Food; Cooking; Gastronomy; Alcohol; Bars (Drinking Establishments); Restaurants; Dinners and Dining
Great Britain—Politics and Government
Health; Diseases; Personal Injuries; Hygiene; Cleanliness—Fiction
National Characteristics; Nationalism
Public Health; Sanitation; Water
Other Details
Printed : 11/8/1855
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XII
Magazine : No. 281
Office Book Notes
Views : 892

Thomas Wakley had begun a campaign against the adulteration of food in The Lancet in 1850 and published in the journal a review of Food and its Adulteration; comprising the Reports of the Analytical Sanitary Commision for the years 1851 to 1854 inclusive shortly before the following article appeared.

In it he commented that, even before his campaign began, 'it was undoubtedly a matter of notoriety that the prime alimentary articles were generally and scandalously adulterated'. Public concern resulting from the Lancet articles had led to the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee. Dickens adopts the idea of Wakley's 'Analytical Sanitary Commission' to provide the device for his satirical attack on Palmerston's administration—the Prime Minister, with his record of changing sides and his fondness for jocosity, is, of course, the 'volatile ingredient' floating on the top of the 'Government' sample—and on the appointment of well-connected incompetents, 'noodles', to posts in the Civil Service (cf. the Barnacles in Little Dorrit). Dickens also attacks the bishops, particularly the aggressively high-church Bishop of Exeter Henry Philpotts, who was notorious for publishing polemical pamphlets ('extensive stains of printer's ink') and for his litigiousness, the so-called 'Gorham Controversy' (1848) being only the most famous of the many cases in which he was embroiled.

MS The Dickens House Museum, London.

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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