Evelyn's “Fumifugium”

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Abstract

VOCAL as have been the protests against the emission of smoke and fumes from the chimneys of electric power stations in London, when one reads No. 8 of Old Ashmolean Reprints, the “Fumifugium” of John Evelyn (1661), these modern protests seem couched in language mild and restrained compared with the diarist's wealth of obloquy and sustained invective against the effects of burning of coal by brewers, dyers, lime-burners, soap- and salt-boilers, and other private traders. Additional picturesqueness is obtained, not by the modern method of pictures showing the pall of smoke over our cities or the corrosion of stonework, but by lurid quotations from the classics to heighten the condemnation of “that Hellish and dismal Cloud of Sea-Coale” with its “fulgenous and filthy vapour, corrupting the Lungs”, causing the City of London to resemble rather the “Suburbs of Hell than an Assembly of Rational Creatures and the Imperial Seat of our incomparable Monarch”. Truly John Evelyn was a man before his time, and his “Fumifugium” characteristically not only describes the grievance, but also indicates the remedy and suggests an amelioration.

Fumifugium.

By John Evelyn, of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1661. Now reissued as an Old Ashmolean Reprint in the Year of the refacing of the Old Ashmolean Museum, which, like ‘Fumifugium’, was dedicated to King Charles II., founder of the Royal Society. Pp. viii + 49. (Oxford: Dr. R. T. Gunther, Folly Bridge, 1930.) 2s. 6d.

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