Comic Annual, 6 (1835), 1–64.
The Great Conflagration
Reportage, Extract, Spoof; Reportage, Letter, Spoof; Letter, Spoof
Vulcanology, Political Economy, Chemistry, Electricity, Observatories, Accidents, Steam-power, Invention, Health, Industry, Mathematics
Provides various accounts of the fire at the Houses of Parliament, ranging from putative newspaper reports to private correspondence. A report purporting to come from the Britannic Guardian refers the fire to incendiarism, and makes oblique reference to Mount Vesuvius, claiming: 'We stand hourly on the brink of a crater: every step we take is on a solfaterra— [...] a frail crust, with a treacherous subsoil of ardent brimstone!' (2–3). A report of the fire signed 'X.Y.Z.' gives the information that 'Mr. Ricardo saved an old tattered flag, which he thought was "the standard of value"' (9). The narrator of a report signed 'SENEX' is a 'warm enthusiast on the subject of ignition', on whom the news of the fire had 'an electrical effect' (12). He has had 'a sort of observatory' erected on the roof of his house from which he hopes to discover any fires in the metropolis (13). Senex regrets that, as a result of 'gas, and new police, steam, and one cause or other', fires are not what they used to be; they have become 'what one might call slow explosions' (15). He describes the sparks of the fire as 'falling like flakes of snow— [...] the red snow formerly discovered by Captain Ross' (17). An unsigned 'Letter to a Labouring Man' (24–27) deprecates claims that the British constitution will be affected by the fire, observing that the correspondent is a British subject, and that his own constitution is unaffected. The illustration captioned 'Our Constitution's Gone!' (facing 25) depicts an ample, seated woman throwing her arms in the air, while a burning building is visible through the window. The private letter to 'Mary Price, Fenny Hall, Lincolnshire' includes the advice: 'In case of yure pettycots catchin don't forgit standin on yure hed, as recommended by the Human Society, becoz fire burns uppards, but its a posishun as requiers practice' (33). The illustration captioned 'A Refined Woman' (facing 34) depicts a heavily built woman whose shape is that of a sugar loaf. The illustration captioned 'An Adder Up' (40) depicts a snake standing vertically on a stool. The letter from 'Jacob Jubb M.P.' to his bailiff approves the vulcanist metaphor of the Britannic Guardian (41), opining: 'I have not the least doubt, if properly traced, the burning cliff at Weymouth would be found to be connected with Incendiarism, and the Earthquakes at Chichester with our political convulsions' (47–48).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005-07
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