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Documents for Nineteenth-Century Society

Edwin Chadwick: Report on Sanitation (1842)

After as careful an examination of the evidence collected as I have been enabled to make, I beg leave to recapitulate the chief conclusions which that evidence appears to me to establish.

First, as to the extent and operation of the evils wich are the subject of this inquiry:--

         That the various forms of epidemic, endemic, and other disease caused, or aggravated, or propagated chiefly amongst the labouring classes by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable substances, by damp and filth, and close and overcrowded dwellings prevail amongst the population in every part of the kingdom, whether dwelling in separate houses, in rural villages, in small towns, in the larger towns--as they have been found to prevail in the lowest districts of the metropolis.

         That such disease, wherever its attacks are frequent, is always found in connexion with the physical circumstances above specified, and that where those circumstances are removed by drainage, proper cleansing, better ventilation, and other means of diminishing atmospheric impurity, the frequency and intensity of such disease is abated; and where the removal of the noxious agencies appears to be complete, such disease almost entirely disappears.

         The high prosperity in respect to employment and wages, and various and abundant food, have afforded to the labouring classes no exemptions from attacks of epidemic disease, which have been as frequent and as fatal in periods of commercial and manufacturing prosperity as in any others.

         That the formation of all habits of cleanliness is obstructed by defective supplies of water.

         That the annual loss of life from filth and bad ventilation are greater than the loss from death or wounds in any wars in which the country has been engaged in modern times. . . .

         That, measuring the loss of working ability amongst large classes by the instances of gain, even from incomplete arrangements for the removal of noxious influences from places of work or from abodes, that this loss cannot be less than eight or ten years. . . .

         That the population so exposed is less susceptible of moral influences, and the effects of education are more transient than with a healthy population.

         That these adverse circumstances tend to produce an adult population short-lived, improvident, reckless, and intemperate, and with habitual avidity for sensual gratifications.

         That these habits lead to the abandonment of all the conveniences and decencies of life, and especially lead to the overcrowding of their homes, which is destructive to the morality as well as the health of large classes of both sexes.

         That defective town cleansing fosters habits of the most abject degradation and tends to the demoralization of large numbers of human beings, who subsist by means of what they find amidst the noxious filth accumulated in neglected streets and bye-places.

         That the expenses of local public works are in general unequally and unfairly assessed, oppressively and uneconomically collected, by separate collections, wastefully expended in separate and inefficient operations by unskilled and practically irresponsible officers. , , ,

Secondly. As to the means by which the present sanitary condition of the labouring classes may be improved:--

         The primary and most important measures, and at the same time the most practicable, and within the recognized province of public administration, are drainage, the removal of all refuse of habitations, streets, and roads, and the improvement of the supplies of water.

         That the chief obstacles to the immediate removal of decomposing refuse of towns and habitations have been the expense and annoyance of the hand labour and cartage requisite for the purpose.

         That this expense may be reduced to one-twentieth or to one-thirtieth, or rendered inconsiderable, by the use of water and self-acting means of removal by improved and cheaper sewers and drains. . . .

         That for all these purposes, as well as for domestic use, better supplies of water are absolutely necessary. . . .

         That the expense of public drainage, of supplies of water laid on in houses, and of means of improved cleansing would be a pecuniary gain, by diminishing the existing charges attendant on sickness and premature mortality.

         That for the protection of the labouring classes and of the ratepayers against inefficiency and waste in all new structural arrangements for the protection of the public health, and to ensure public confidence that the expenditure will be beneficial, securities should be taken that all new local public works are devised and conducted by responsible officers qualified by the possession of the science and skill of civil engineers. . . .

         That by appropriate arrangements, 10 or 15 per cent. on the ordinary outlay for drainage might be saved, which on an estimate of the expense of the necessary structural alterations of one-third only of the existing tenements would be a saving of one million and a half sterling, besides the reduction of the future expenses of management.

         That for the prevention of the disease occasioned by defective ventilation and other causes of impurity in places of work and other places where large numbers are assembled, and for the general promotion of the means necessary to prevent disease, that it would be good economy to appoint a district medical officer independent of private practice, and with the securities of special qualifications and responsibilities to initiate sanitary measures and reclaim the execution of the law. . . .

         And that the removal of noxious physical circumstances, and the promotion of civic, household, and personal cleanliness, are necessary to the improvement of the moral condition of the population; for that sound morality and refinement in manners and health are not long found co-existent with filthy habits amongst any class of the community.

Question:  How does Chadwick turn a medical argument into a moral and social one?

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861)

The Housewife, Home Virtues, Hospitality, Good Temper, Dress and Fashion, Engaging, Domestics, Wages of Servants, Visiting, Visiting Cards, Parties, Etc., Etc.

         The functions of the mistress of a house resemble those of the general of an army or the man­ager of a great business concern. Her spirit will be seen in the whole establishment, and if she performs her duties well and intelligently, her domestics will usually follow in her path. Among the gifts that nature has bestowed on woman, few rank higher than the capacity for domestic management, for the exercise of this faculty con­stantly affects the happiness, comfort and prosperity of the whole family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of The Vicar of Wakefield, who says: "The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron are much more service-able in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queans. She who makes her husband and her children happy is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from the quiver of their eyes."

         The housewife -- Although this word may he used to describe any mistress of a household, it seems more fittingly applied to those who personally conduct their domestic affairs than to others who govern with the assistance of a large staff of well-trained servants. Times have changed since 1766, when Goldsmith wrote extolling home virtues; and in few things is this change more marked than in woman's sphere; but a woman should not be less careful in her management or blameless in her life because the spirit of the age gives her greater scope for her activities. Busy housewives should be encouraged to find time in the midst of domes­tic cares for the recreation and social inter­course which are necessary to the well-being of all. A woman's home should be first and fore­most in her life, but if she allow household cares entirely to occupy her thoughts, she is apt to become narrow in her interests and sympathies, a condition not conducive to domestic happi­ness. To some overworked women but little rest or recreation may seem possible, but, generally speaking, the leisure to be enjoyed depends upon proper methods of work, punctuality, and early rising. The object of the present work is to give assistance to those who desire practical advice in the government of their home.

         Early rising contributes largely to good Household Management; she who practises this virtue reaps an ample reward both in health and prosperity. When a mistress is an early riser; it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well managed. On the contrary, if she remains in bed till a late hour; then the servants, who, as we have observed, invariably acquire some of their mistress's characteristics, are likely to become sluggards. To self-indulgence all are more or less disposed, and it is not to be expected that ser­"'ants are freer from this fault than the heads of houses. Cleanliness is quite indispensable to Health, and must be studied both in regard to the person and the house, and all that it con­tains. Cold or tepid baths should be employed every morning.

         Frugality and economy are virtues without which no household can prosper. The necessity of economy should be evident to every one, whether in possession of an income barely suffi­cient for a family's requirements, or of a large for-tune which seems to put financial adversity out of the question. We must always remember that to manage well on a small income is highly cred­itable. Economy and frugality must never; howev­er; be allowed to degenerate into meanness.

         Hospitality should be practised; but care must be taken that the love of company, for its own sake, does not become a prevailing passion; such a habit is no longer hospitality, but dissipa­tion. A lady, when she first undertakes the responsibility of a household, should not attempt to retain all the mere acquaintances of her youth. Her true and tried friends are trea­sures never to be lightly lost, but they, and the friends she will make by entering her husband's circle, and very likely by moving to a new locali­ty, should provide her with ample society.

         In conversation one should never dwell unduly on the petty annoyances and trivial dis­appointments of the day. Many people get into the bad habit of talking incessantly of the wor­ries of their servants and children, not realizing that to many of their hearers these are uninter­esting if not wearisome subjects. From one's own point of view, also, it is well not to start upon a topic without having sufficient knowledge to dis­cuss it with intelligence. Important events, whether of joy or sorrow, should be told to friends whose sympathy or congratulation may be welcome. A wife should never allow a word about any faults of her husband to pass her lips.

         Cheerfulness--We cannot too strongly insist on the vital importance of always preserving an equable good temper amidst all the little cares and worries of domestic life. Many women may be heard to declare that men cannot realize the petty anxieties of a household. But a woman must cultivate that tact and forbearance without which no man can hope to succeed in his career. The true woman combines with mere tact that subtie sympathy which makes her the loved com­panion and friend alike of husband, children and all around her.

         On the important subject of dress and fash­ion we cannot do better than quote: "Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another; which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming is totally opposite in style to that gen­erally worn." A lady's dress should be always suit­ed to her circumstances, and varied for different occasions. The morning dress should be neat and simple, and suitable for the domestic duties that usually occupy the early part of the day. This dress should be changed before calling hours; but it is not in good taste to wear much jewelry except with evening dress. A lady should always aim at being well and attractively dressed whilst never allowing questions of costume to establish inordinate claims on either time or purse. In purchasing her own garments, after taking account of the important detail of the length of her purse, she should aim at adapting the style of the day in such a manner as best suits the requirements of her face, figure and com­plexion, and never allow slavish adherence to temporary fads of fashion to overrule her own sense of what is becoming and befitting. She should also bear in mind that her different cos­tumes have to furnish her with apparel for home wear; outdoor exercise and social functions, and try to allot due relative importance to the claims of each.

Question: What is the thesis or main point of this book?

Kate Chopin: The Awakening (1899)

This novel was one of the first to show a woman exploring freedom from traditional Victorian modes of behavior.  Written by an American, it met with hostility upon publication.  Chopin tended to write in the family room, surrounded by her children.  She was refused entry into the St. Louis Fine Arts Club because she had written this book.

Read by Karen Shallenberg, via Librivox

          It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any one else's wherein his wife failed in her duty toward their children. It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement.

         If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother's arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing. Tots as they were, they pulled together and stood their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usually prevailed against the other mother-tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon as a huge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush and part hair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted and brushed.

         In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The motherwomen seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.

         Many of them were delicious in the role; one of them was the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm. If her husband did not adore her, he was a brute, deserving of death by slow torture. Her name was Adele Ratignolle. There are no words to describe her save the old ones that have served so often to picture the bygone heroine of romance and the fair lady of our dreams. There was nothing subtle or hidden about her charms; her beauty was all there, flaming and apparent: the spun-gold hair that comb nor confining pin could restrain; the blue eyes that were like nothing but sapphires; two lips that pouted, that were so red one could only think of cherries or some other delicious crimson fruit in looking at them. She was growing a little stout, but it did not seem to detract an iota from the grace of every step, pose, gesture. One would not have wanted her white neck a mite less full or her beautiful arms more slender. Never were hands more exquisite than hers, and it was a joy to look at them when she threaded her needle or adjusted her gold thimble to her taper middle finger as she sewed away on the little night-drawers or fashioned a bodice or a bib.

Madame Ratignolle was very fond of Mrs. Pontellier, and often she took her sewing and went over to sit with her in the afternoons. She was sitting there the afternoon of the day the box arrived from New Orleans. She had possession of the rocker, and she was busily engaged in sewing upon a diminutive pair of night-drawers.

         She had brought the pattern of the drawers for Mrs. Pontellier to cut out—a marvel of construction, fashioned to enclose a baby's body so effectually that only two small eyes might look out from the garment, like an Eskimo's. They were designed for winter wear, when treacherous drafts came down chimneys and insidious currents of deadly cold found their way through key-holes.

         Mrs. Pontellier's mind was quite at rest concerning the present material needs of her children, and she could not see the use of anticipating and making winter night garments the subject of her summer meditations. But she did not want to appear unamiable and uninterested, so she had brought forth newspapers which she spread upon the floor of the gallery, and under Madame Ratignolle's directions she had cut a pattern of the impervious garment.

Question:  Which sections of the passage indicate Chopin's critical attitude toward Victorian domesticity?

Sigmund Freud: Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901)

         I believe we accept too indifferently the fact of infantile amnesia -- that is, the failure of memory for the first years of our lives -- and fail to find in it a strange riddle. We forget of what great intellectual accomplishments and of what complicated emotions a child of four years is capable. We really ought to wonder why the memory of later years has, as a rule, retained so little of these psychic processes, especially as we have every reason for assume that these same forgotten childhood activities have not glided off without leaving a trace in the development of the person, but that they have left a definite influence for all future time. Yet in spite of this unparalleled effectiveness were forgotten! This would suggest that there are particularly formed conditions of memory (in the sense of conscious reproduction) have thus far eluded our knowledge. It is possible that the forgetting of childhood give us the key to the understanding of amnesias which, according to our newer studies, lie at the basis of the formation of all neurotic symptoms.

         Of these retained childhood reminisces, some appear to us readily comprehensible, while others seem strange or unintelligible. It is not  difficult to correct certain errors in regard to both kinds. If the retained reminiscences of a person are subjected to an analytic test, it can be readily ascertained that a guarantee for their correctness does not exist. Some of the memory pictures are surely falsified and incomplete, or displaced in point of time and place. The assertions of persons examined that their first memories reach back perhaps to their second year are evidently unreliable. Motives can soon be discovered which explain the disfigurement and the displacement of these experiences, but they also demonstrate that these memory lapses are not the result of a mere unreliable memory. Powerful forces from a later period have moulded the memory capacity of our infantile experiences, and it is probably due to these same forces that the understanding of our childhood is generally so very strange to us.

         The recollection of adults, as is known, proceeds through different psychic material. Some recall by means of visual pictures -- their memories are of a visual character; other individuals can scarcely reproduce in memory the most paltry sketch of an experience we call such persons "auditifs" and "moteurs" in contrast to the to "visuels," terms proposed by Charcot. These differences vanish in dreams; all our dreams are preponderatingly visual. But this development is also found in the childhood memories; the latter are plastic and visual, even in those people whose later memory lacks the visual element. The visual memory, therefore preserves the type of the infantile recollections. . . .

Question:  What is the thesis or main point of this selection from Freud?