I finished reading this excellent book yesterday. I was slightly dubious about it at first, with the subject matter being what it was, but far from it being an out and out grime-fest it proved to be an insightful and well written social history of the very late Tudor and Stuart periods. The text gives you a really good impression of wha life must have been like for 'ordinary' folks in these times and all the grisly, dirty and unhygienic things they were exposed to. There is reliance on the work of Diarists and Social Commentators of the time and they prove to be helpful and amusing. Thomas Tyron in particular stood out to me as a particular joy - with his neurotic and obsessive ideas (but in actual fact they turn out to be rather forward thinking with hindsight). I can't really find any fault with this book at all, and I was very sad to have finished it. I think it would be excellent for anyone studying the period in history, or indeed, for anyone with a passing fascination for matters of grime and hygiene! Well worth a read.
this book is great, how we ever survived through the disease, filth, stench, food poisoning etc is incredible. I have long suspected that the period dramas on TV do not tell it like it was, people would have been covered in old scars from poxes, had missing or very yellow or black teeth, would have been scratching everywhere, would have stunk to high heaven, may have had hair and clothing moving of their own accord due to the lice. its clear reading this that we have moved further and further away from each other, both physically and geographically, its clear that generally speaking, people get on other people's nerves, this is not a modern phenomenon, it was happening then and it happens now. its hard to believe that we lived the way we did, but clearly we must have done as this book has documentary evidence from the time and we are still here to tell the tale so maybe dirt and filth isnt so bad.... but its more than that because the book details every aspect of how we lived, noises, planning rules, where you could dump your 'refuse', light and buildings, foods, manners, the whole lot
A scholarly but very readable and interesting book.
Until Victorian redevelopers went crazy with their wrecking balls, all English towns and cities were (to modern eyes) unbelieveably picturesque, interesting and beautiful - dense, labyrintine treasure houses packed solid with fascinating buildings, streets, alleys, courts, watercourses, and fragments of medieval fortifications.
But the old maps and engravings do not show the indescribable filth, noise and stench - caused by overcrowding, primitive sanitation, heavily-polluted (or non existent) water supplies, coal smoke, proto-industrial effluent and bad food - with which the inhabitants lived. To a ;arge degree, most became innured to them, but disgust at extreme squalor is innately human, and detailed research into the "nuisances" for which legal redress was sought in the 17th and 18th centuries is illuminating.
Our modern dull, dreary, uniform, motor-traffic-polluted cities have lost their soul, but undeniably, as a result of the destruction of their predecessors, human lives are now safer and longer.
"Beds, Thomas Tryon taught, absorb a variety of 'pernicious Excrements' from sweaty and leaky bodies. Passed down through the generations, these beds became fetid and unclean ... In cities and large towns, where the air was sulphurous and humid, bed putrefaction was more prevalent." - from HUBBUB
"Passengers in coaches would be 'cruelly shaken' by the ruts and pot-holes ... Jostling along the street in a coach in December 1662 made Samuel Pepys's testicles hurt." - from HUBBUB
"(Clavering) listed various examples of damage and injury caused by falling (chimney) pots. In one case the sweep became stuck in a chimney pot and both fell into a pile of rubbish in the yard below. The sweep was hospitalized, the pot broke, and a maid who had been washing in the yard fell into an apoplectic fit." - from HUBBUB
HUBBUB by Emily Cockayne is a scholarly account of the assaults on the senses and one's person encountered in England in the period 1600 to 1770 - assaults brought on by humans living in too close proximity to one another, particularly in the cities of London, Manchester, Bath, and Oxford.
In chapters entitled Ugly, Itchy, Mouldy, Noisy, Grotty, Busy, Dirty and Gloomy, the author examines everything - from physical deformities to poor personal hygiene to spoiled food to poorly-paved streets to air and noise pollution to traffic congestion to raw sewage, and more - which might be encountered by the average citizen on a daily basis and cause for simple discomfiture to absolute outrage.
Cockayne's approach to the narrative is to rely heavily on references to or quotes from public records and the personal accounts of contemporary chroniclers to make her points. Thus, HUBBUB comes across as interesting though somewhat dry reading, and it teeters precariously on the shelf of Popular History about to tumble to that of Scholarly Dissertation. It suggests a high school research paper for academic grown-ups, perhaps a doctoral thesis. Each chapter ends with a lengthy summary paragraph which encapsulates that which came before. Taken together, these paragraphs would have sufficed to provide the reader with the big picture, but what would've resulted wouldn't have been a 250-page book but a short pamphlet.
The volume is liberally sprinkled with reproduced engravings of the period illustrating the various annoyances. The author seems to have found those by Hogarth and Marcellus Laroon particularly useful.
One might be left pondering the question: So, what's changed with species communal living? I suspect undeveloped countries still endure most if not all the sensory assaults experienced in 17th and 18th century England. Even in developed Western democracies, it's a matter of degree, isn't it? Here in Southern California, I experience gridlocked freeways and pot-holed surface streets. I have neighbors on each side of me, each of which has a large tree that dumps huge amounts of leaves onto my property that must be swept up. Teenagers park in front of my house in the wee hours and discard fast-food wrappings into my planting beds. The neighbor up the hill and behind occasionally has noisy parties. Annual area wildfires started by arsonists or idiot campers contaminate the air with smoke. A busy-body local municipal government tells me I can't erect a white picket fence across the front of my property (if I wanted to) or landscape with fake grass to cut down on an enormous water bill (which I've considered doing).
As one who loves London above all other cities visited, I'm left with this quote by James Boswell noted in HUBBUB about a journey within that metropolis:
"... the noise, the crowd, the glare of the shops and signs agreeably confused me ... my companion (in the coach) could not understand my feelings."
But, perhaps more to the point of HUBBUB, this quote from Jean-Paul Sartre's play "No Exit":
The title certainly paves the way for an itching, scratching and uncomfortable read. Emily Cockayne, and maybe that is what they should have been smoking at the time(?), researched her subject well. It is a very good read, most informative and definitely leaves one very content to have been born in the 20th or 21st century. Imagine wearing the same old clothes let alone underwear for six months! personal hygiene non-existent. Watching where you put your feet and god forbid if you slipped up on the cobbled streets let alone what was coming down from above! Rogue builders seemed to have been as prevalent then as they are now with the exception that having a pig-sty attached to the side of your house might not have been very welcome today. Miss Cockayne thanks for making us feel we are lucky to be living in a cleaner environement............or are we?