Punch,  50 (1866), 142.

Fast and Humiliation; or, Sick Beasts v. Sick Paupers





Disease, Health, Class, Sanitation, Utilitarianism, Animal Husbandry, Religious Authority, Industry, Morality, Human Development, Periodicals

    Responding to the call by clergymen for a national fast day to arrest the cattle plague, the author begins by asking how people are supposed to 'Fast and humiliate' themselves in order 'to avert the wrath of Heaven!', and ponders the rituals that are intended to achieve this result. Adopting the language of a preacher, wonders whether the 'Lessons of the Day' are 'written' in the filthy habitations of cattle. Warns that 'Our cruelty to cattle falls in curse of plague and blain' but emphasises that 'the real "Lesson of the Day's" on "cruelty to man"', lessons to be read in the 'workhouse ward'. Identifies the workhouse as the place where there is true 'plague' and 'cruelty to animals'. Considers that these degrading actions should 'awake wrath in God', and points out the frequency with which 'Reports, inquiries, inquests, leading articles' on these horrors are published in the newspapers. Proceeds to summarise typical horrors from the workhouse including the vermin who wax 'ripe on human rot', the 'pauper nurse, the slattern meal, change-medley, draught or pill', 'acute diseases' that grow 'chronic', and the hastily acting poor law guardians who sweep filth beneath paupers' beds. Presents a harrowing account of the death of a pauper 'turned out just on the edge of doom, / To the winter cold and darkness of the old men's common-room', and the death of a newly-born baby. Concludes by angrily condemning the call for 'Fast and humiliation' just because 'beef's up at Leadenhall', when 'round us' lies evidence of 'our own neglect and greed'.

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