28 JULY 1855, Page 16


Sin-Perhaps you may think the enclosed worthy of publication in your columns, for the sake of the practical suggestion it contains, which appears to me of {great importance. It is (with the addition of a few sentences) a reprint of an article which I have contributed to the current number of the Quarterly Journal of Public Health; a new periodical, which I should be glad to recommend to your readers.


I wish to draw the attention of sanitary reformers to the importance of making the first principles of sanitary science a part of the regular course of instruction in all National and day schools.

. It is evident that until we are able to create a strong and intelligent pub- lic opinion among the working classes themselves in favour of sanitary re- form, all interference of boards of guardians, or of other official persons, can be only partially and imperfectly successful. Permanent sanitary officers invested with legal authority, such as are to be conferred upon us under Sir B. Hall's bill, will, indeed, be a great boon, and may do much. But so long as the poor are unwilling to obey sanitary laws, we shall be but like Sisyphus constantly rolling stones to the tops of hills, which will immediately roll down again. Every guardian of the poor will tell us how many unwearied Penelopes there are in every village and town, who, chivalrous in their resistance to authority, and love of dirt, will be always unweaving, under cover of darkness, the veil of decency and clean- liness which they were compelled by terrible sanitary suitors to weave in the daytime. " You can lead unwilling horses to the water, but you cannot make them drink," or wash themselves.

Not Argus himself, as Inspector of Nuisances, aided by Briareus, with all his hundred hands employed in the thankless task of repeatedly punishing offenders, could effect all that we want. But even if they could, where shall we find our Argus or Briareus ? Many an inspector of nuisances would be more rightly called Argos than Argus, Drone than Drudge. " The right man will not always be appointed to the right place." There is, therefore, but one remedy within our reach which will at all cover the whole extent of the evil ; but there is one, namely, the creation-by means of education- of such an enlightened public opinion on these subjects as will constitute every intelligent and well-disposed man a vigilant and interested inspector of nuisances in his own home and neighbourhood, ready and anxious to call in, if necessary, the arm of the law, to punish offenders, and enforce obe- dience. And we must also so instruct the minds of all in the great princi- ples of health, that all stern messengers of the Divine mercy-such as the cholera-shall speak to them the message which they are intended to speak to all, but which never reaches the minds of many on account of the thick veil of ignorance and prejudice with which they are surrounded.

Let, then, the principles of sanitary science, the practical consequences of good and evil which flow from obeying or neglecting its laws, be thoroughly taught in all schools. Let the clergyman and schoolmaster lose no oppor- tunity of instilling right feelings and sound practical knowledge on this sub- ject into the minds of the children. Let books upon it be read and made the subject of conversation with the girls by the schoolmistress, while they are at their work in the afternoons, or at other times.*

The advantage of teaching this science to children is by no means limited to its direct effects; it is an excellent means of mental education, and of leading them to realize the close connexion between scientific knowledge andpractical life. If we were content to aim only at being slave-drivers, forcing men to right conduct against their will, so long as we are present to drive them to it, we might look, in sanitary reform, as in other matter, tocrisons, police- courts, and public officers, as our chief instruments. But if we aim higher, and wish to make men willing "bondmen of duty," serving freely "in the light of truth," in our absence as well as in our presence, we must look in this, as in everything, to schools as the great fountain-head whence all good is to flow. In the work of sanitary reform, as well as in all other reform, if we wish to lay the foundations of our work deep, we must look in one direc- tion above all,-that is to education. Bagley _Rectory, June 1866.

• There is an excellent little Manual of Public Health and Domestic Economy, published by John Churchill for the Metropolitan Working Classes Association, which, besides being very well written, has the recommendation of being published by members of the working classes. I have long made use of this as a text-book in our village-school. But we very much want some lively and plainly written trea- tises (perhaps they would be most effective in the form of conversations) on sanitary science, for use in schools.