Thursday, June 10, 2004

The years of cholera. This is from a passage in Jonathan Glancey's London - Bread and Circuses praising the construction of the city's sewage system: "Mind you, the job was only done because of the Great Stink of 1858, which meant that the windows of the Palace of Westminster had to be draped with curtains soaked in chloride of lime to mitigate the disgusting smell. The stink came from the Thames, an open sewer for all the city's effluence after a law was passed in 1847 banning domestic cesspits. No longer did salmon leap along the Thames as they had done at the beginning of the century (they returned in 1974). The river was effectively dead. And dangerous. Cholera epidemics broke out soon afterwards."
This means that in the Macaulay passage below, the progress of the centuries is being measured against a social evil that was fresh the previous year. That makes him tougher and even more heedless than I thought.
[London - Bread and Circuses, by Jonathan Glancey, Verso, London, 2001. Beautifully illustrated polemic on London's need for municipal socialism. Buy; lend; draft author for mayor.]

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