Summer.—A Winter Eclogue
Steam-power, Entomology, Cruelty, Human Species, Nomenclature, Adulteration, Analytical Chemistry, Experiment, Universities, Botany, Medical Practitioners, Medical Treatment, Quackery
Civis has gone to visit his friend Sylvanus at Camberwell, hoping to enjoy some 'suburban verdure' (45), but is disappointed to discover that 'The trees are all bare [...] as bare as the "otomies in Surgeon's Hall!"'. Winter has not, as he fears, come early. Sylvanus explains: 'Boiling heat had more part than freezing point in this havoc. To think that even summer now-a-days should go by steam!'. (47) He reports that the trees were destroyed in one day by a swarm of a new species of locust. He caught a specimen which he did not, however, 'pin down to a cork after the manner of the entomologists' (48). The illustration captioned 'A New Locust' (facing 48) depicts a boy pulling the leaves off a tree; underneath a large jar bears the words 'British Leaf'. Sylvanus comments that the 'visage was so strangely human' that he had not the heart to kill it. He describes the species 'according to the system of the great Linnæus'. (49) Sylvanus confesses that in fact the locust was a boy who was, 'in his own heathenish jargon', doing 'a morning fake on the picking lay for a cove wot add a tea-crib in the monkery'. Civis thinks the boy's language similar to that of 'Peter the Wild Boy'. (50) Sylvanus explains that the leaves were being used in the adulteration of tea, and reports rumours of resulting ill-health. 'Mr. Fairday, the notable chemist [an allusion to Michael Faraday], hath sworn solemnly on his affidavit, that the tea is strongly emetical, having always acted upon his stomach as tea and turn out' (53). The illustration captioned 'A Great Projector' (facing 53) depicts a corpulent man with a protruberant abdomen. The illustration captioned 'Sloe Poison' (facing 54) depicts an ashen-looking woman taking tea out of a cup which bears the skull and crossbones, and a teapot with a ghoulish face; her teaspoon bears the letter 'T', as do the otherwise bare branches of the tree outside the window. Civis thinks the tea 'ought to be tested by the doctors'. Sylvanus reports that 'Dr. Budd, the Pennyroyal Professor of Botany hath ranked it with the rankest of poisons, after experimenting its destructive virtues on select tea parties of his relations and friends'. However, 'Dr. Rudd, of the same Royal College' does not agree, confirming the proverb 'Doctors' opinions do not keep step, or match together, better than their horses'. (53) Rudd 'hath given this beverage with cream of tartar and sugar of lead to consumptives, and hath satisfied himself morally and physically that phthisic does not begin with tea' (53–54).
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