Victorian London - Disease - 'Miasma' and smell 

   All smell is, if it be intense, immediate acute disease; and eventually we may say that, by depressing the system and rendering it susceptible to the action of other causes, all smell is disease.

Edwin Chadwick
Metropolitan Sewage Committee proceedings. Parliamentary Papers 1846;10:651


    If anybody, possessed with a hatred of his species, wishes to poison a whole district, without running the risk of being hanged for murder, he should adopt the following plan :-In a densely populated neighbourhood, let him buy a few square yard. of ground. Let him dig a number of deep holes in it, as close together as possible. Let him put into these holes as many tons as they will hold of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, and sulphur; which he will be able to procure very cheaply, as all of them exist in combination in any animal substance. Let him then cover them up, lightly, with a thin layer of mould. In the materials thus deposited in them there will occur, in a short time, an intense chemical action, which will eliminate a variety of the most subtle and deadly poisons, in the form of gases. These, ascending into the atmosphere, will mingle with it, and contaminate it for miles around, affecting all who may happen to breathe it, in a- degree proportionate to their proximity to the centre of infection.
    In the immediate vicinity of this spot, the exhalations will produce sudden death; a little further off, typhus fever, or lingering decline; and more remotely still, eruptions for instance, generated in Spa Fields, will perhaps disfigure faces in May Fair. Reader, in London, and every large town, such poison-magazines exist; they are established for the sake of getting money; they are attached to Churches and Chapels, whose proprietors and ministers obtain a living by them; and they are, in fact, the graveyards within the walls of cities.

Punch, Jan-Jun. 1846



The bloodshot moon glares on the close-crowded graves, 
Through the foul mist that over the sepulchres waves, 
On the tombs where the City, with people o'erspread, 
In the midst of the living hath buried its dead.

A glimmering vapour creeps over the ground,
You may see whence it issues-yon newly-raised mound;
Mark what spectre ascends in that horrible light- 
Lo, the Vampyre Infection is rising to-night!

The Vampyre! The Vampyre! Avoid him! His breath
Is the reek of the charnel, the poison of death:
He has broken his prison of pestilent clay,
And the grave yields him up, on the living to prey.

The Vampyre! The Vampyre! Behold where he flies
To the couch where his wife, in her widowhood, lies:
Of her lost one - her husband - she dreams in her rest;
Whilst the Vampyre is fixing his fangs in her breast.

The Vampyre! The Vampyre! His infant child sleeps;
To its innocent cradle he stealthily creeps,
And his bite its pure cheek with a plague-spot distains,
And corrupts his own blood in his little one's veins.

The Vampyre! The Vampyre! Nor mercy, nor ruth,
Saves his kindred and friends from his venomous tooth:
He is bound to a task which he cannot evade;
He is sent by a mandate which must be obeyed.

The Vampyre! The Vampyre! Beneath a stern doom,
On his terrible errand he breaks from the tomb;
To work vengeance and woe is his mission of dread,
Upon those mid the living who bury their dead.

Punch, Jul-Dec. 1847

see also The Scholars' Handbook of Household Management - click here

That was in June 1845. My eldest sister was born there, and I think my eldest brother; but I was born in our first house, a modest enough establishment; but one that could not have been kept up on such an income; as there were three children and much coming and going of guests. We were not long, either, in Park Village West; where we parted from our canal, the last home of many dear dead cats and dogs, over which 1 used to weep as they floated past, with great sorrow on our parts, but great relief to our parents. For people had just begun, after the Great Exhibition, to think smells might possibly not be healthy, and that the rising damp and fog from the canal might be the cause of my brother's croup. I think we moved late in 1852 ...

Mrs. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1908