« ZurückWeiter »
dictions among the other ancient women; and to sum, not the whole, but the whole of whom it is needful to speak, Dr. Fre. derick Hoffman, who, by the bye, is one of the greatest of the great Apollos in the luminous science of physic, perorateth thus:-" If there is in nature a medicine that deserves the name of universal, it is water. It guards against every disease, protects and defends the body from all kind of corruption that may prove fatal to life, and answers all possible intentions of cure, so that without it no disorder, whether chronic or acute, can be happily and successfully removed,” and so forth. So thought Mons. Lavement, in Roderic Random: to say nought of Sangrado: and doubtless the pump is an important auxiliary, in a three and six-penny draught every four hours.
Of such stutt' is what is called physic, and the philosophy of physic, and physical writing; and of such is Doctor Frederick Hottiman, and the rest of the doctors. Peace be with them, and their evidence too. Let those who want to learn more of this learning have recourse to Mr.J. Wright, of St. Saviour's, Norwich; but will any body answer how it was, and is, and will be, that all the physicians which were mustered in London on this question, could not give an opinion about it, except a foolish, or an ignorant, or a neutral one, or-none at all? And when water, too, is the universal medicine, and the universal cause of disease moreover. Oh, ye doctors, ye shall not doctor us when we are sick. But enough of ye all.
The Grand Junction Company were rery silly, or very bad polinicians, to place their pipe where they did, eren Though the water entering it had been prored to be as paras that which comes from the clouds on St. Swithin's vari lisa man had eaten a slice of renison, and it had been authorwaris shown okurly to him that it was of a man, or a fox, I would rainly have spoiled his digestion. Let them whild it withony delay, if they hare not Bat this is a moral yaranan the present is the chemical one, and thus it ought to have been in a first. Wis the water pure or not, when all This was outcry was made abont it! The question Wilt hair and minim in five minuirs, without an appeal to Almarhum Badri, rretha House of communs, and if it halvdelen van hi havi will barn sasprind of understanding mm. hmop limixiny. Howry, thus cand comes ont of millible to hawliar it might be, but is not, and
quantity of mere earth, which is, vulgarly speaking, sand and clay. At times it does not contain even that, it is purer than London rain-water. This is the fact ; and we may now inquire a little further into the philosophy of the matter, for even the Report of the Commissioners has not done this, as it ought to have done, for the satisfaction of the people. There is a vast fuss about a trumpery examination, called an analysis, which any chemical student could have made, and there is no general reason assigned for the future satisfaction of the people, should some new dispute arise with some new company, a new Dolphin, or some future accuser start up when the present is forgotten.
The Thames water is good, and always will be good, as good as it is, though sewers or manufactories should be doubled, or quadrupled upon it. This is the important question, even in a political and commercial view. No man in his senses would assuredly lay a water-pipe at the mouth of a sewer; but in any place that common sense would choose, the river water will be good, even did it receive, what it now appears it does not, the refuse of the gas works.
In the water, as in the atmosphere, there is a regulation of nature (we cannot call it a law till we know what the law is) for decompounding or precipitating putrid, or decomposing animal and vegetable substances. On this subject Di. Lambe in particular writes egregrious nonsense. It is not easy to discover chemically, or truly, what the exact process, or processes are, by which this is effected ; but some of the general causes are apparent, from negative reasoning, and one very active positive one we have ascertained. More than one, indeed; but perhaps only one made use of by nature in this particular case.
Let us note the common apparent causes ; and first of these is proportion or bulk. The great disproportion of the pure water to the foul is the most obvious cause of purification. We might expect that this should only act by mere dilution, but it appears to do more, though it is not apparent how it does act chemically. And the next is motion, respecting the powers of which there is no doubt, and on the probable action of which it is more easy to speculate. If a pool of fresh, or salt water, even a definite and not a large quantity, be at rest, and containing offensive matter, vegetable or animal, in solution, it is sufficient to put it into motion to dissipate, decompose, or precipitate this, in a short time. We use three words, because what the chemical process is perhaps remains to be ascertained, but the offensive matter disappears. And if quantity and motion be united, the effect is most rapid, as may be seen at
sea after a calm at any time, and as must be familiar to all seamen, particularly in the tropical latitudes. And both quantity and motion are operating in the Thames. It is thus purified every hour, every minute.
The action of the atmosphere is concerned ; it is the exposure, in succession, of all the parts of the water to the air. The volatile matter, which is odoriferous, and a gas, becomes dissipated in the air, or decomposed by it, as in other and commoner cases; but there is yet somewhat more done, and some portions of the dissolved substance are thus rendered insoluble and precipitated.
Now it is the matter in solution that is the really injurious substance; and injurious enough it is, as is well known from ample experience. If Mr. Wright, or the committee, had ever drank of such water, they would not have forgotten it as long as they had lived; but, at the same time, they would have known what the water in dispute was not. It might be a punishment of poetical justice to treat them with a day's drinking, to teach them what bad water really is. But as to fragments of vegetable matter, they amount to nothing, even if they existed in the Thames water, which they do not. And fragments of animal matter are obviously out of the question ; they must be decomposed and in solution to do harm, and no pipe injects a piece of a dead dog.
There is however a directly purifying cause which has not been noticed, never noticed, while, singularly enough, it is one of the great grievances complained of. This is the mud of the river itself. We use the vulgar and prejudiced term : speaking chemically, we mean the clay, a mixture, properly, of finely divided silica and alumina chiefly. This is a precipitant to the matters in solution; it combines with them, especially with that obscure mucilaginous or extractive matter, which corrupts or injures that water which is notorious for badness, and carries it to the bottom, where its decomposition is afterwards completed ; sometimes, however, not very quickly. So it is, that there may be pure water lying upon offensive mud. Thus the very clay of the Thames, which renders it so disagreeable to the eye, is one of the causes of its purification and its purity. Muddy water is doubtless an evil, but it is at least innocent ; and it is seldom very difficult to purify. And if it is the visible evil of the Thames water, let us at least console ourselves with reflecting that it produces a balance of good, and is a curable disease.
Our limits compel us to be very brief; but we cannot pass over those formidable shrimps which have been the source of so much absurd alarm and bad language. It may sur
prise an ignorant man, to be told that they are also purifiers of water, yet such is the fact. We need not eat them, raw or boiled; but even if we did, they are as good eating as any other shrimps. Their office in water is good and useful ; and, as in so much more of Nature's doings, they were probably intended to be useful to us, or others, as well as to themselves. When water, stagnating water of course, is corrupt, through animal, and often also through vegetable, matter, these animals are small or invisible, and their abundance is often such as to render it absolutely thick; a sort of soup. These swarms are the prey and food of larger ones, and of this very terrific shrimp among the rest; and it is quite sufficient to introduce a few of these into such water, to purify it in a few days. They devour the evil; and the harm which they may do in return is not discoverable. Nay, there is not a boor peasant in England who does not know, that if he wants to keep a covered spring
for use, he must put a frog into it if he does not find one there. The blockhead who should set forth to kill his frogs, would soon find his spring-water worthy of a real committee of doctors at Almack's; and very probably the doctors and the committee would pass a vote of censure and anathema on the tadpoles. Such are the advantages of learning, in Chemistry and Natural History.
Is there yet more ?--more there is. The Thames water is to contain vitriol, copperas, indigo, gas, lime, oil, apothecaries' draughts, and—what more? Ask Dr. Lambe and Mr.J. Wright; a general and “strong distillation" of-of London in short. Are any, is any one of these nameless heterogeneities to be found in it? Not one was ever found, and not one ever will be, unless the analyzing doctor chooses to sink his bucket at the waste-pipe of soine one of these manufactories. The question was easy at first; why was it not asked ? why was the river not tried before it was abused and condemned ?
It is not so, and it cannot be so; and we will not repeat the reasons, for it would be little more than to repeat ourselves : dilution and precipitation-reasons enough. A boy tumbles into the West-India Dock, and is drowned ; therefore he is poisoned by a solution of the copper bottoms; as if people were never drowned in water. There is no copper even in the water, beneath the copper bottoms. And thus do the ghosts which have been conjured up disappear before the touch of the wand of-we had almost said common sense; for really to boast much of the very little philosophy which we have applied to all this, would be to rank with captain Bobadil.
But there is an evil which must not be passed over in silence,
There is a source of mischief which does not belong to the companfes, but to the companies' customers. And if, instead of running about seeking and spreading ignorant prejudices, some of those who clamour most, would look “at home ” and see what time and dirt and neglect have been piling up and gathering round their cisterns—the water of the Thames would not so easily lose its reputation. Peep into your cisterns,” should the Dolphin people say, for here lies the better, or worse, part of the evil; here is the fault, --here is the neglect, and here must a great portion at least of the remedy be supplied.
These cisterns deposit the clay which the water must bring them, and that mud becomes, in time, in certain places, animalized, if such a term may be coined. Animal matter comes down with and in the London rain-water; but we believe that such water ought not to enter cisterns. Does it or not? Flying seeds enter them, and thus produce vegetables ; animalcules come after, and the rest follows. This may not be frequent, but it does happen ; and, for the interest of the water merchants at least, it should not be so. They may send the water as pure as they please, but it cannot remain so long on these terms. We know not if they can prevent this; but it is clearly for their reputation that they should if they can; because the blame will always be thrown on them, let the cause be where it may. The whole cistern-system is bad; essentially bad, or badly conducted. Here come the dirt and the stagnation, and the de-aeration of the water, and all that renders the Thames water really but an unwholesome fluid for drinking, good as it is in itself. Caveant Emptores, they perhaps will say; and perhaps this is as unavoidable as it is abstract justice: and if the consumers will not look after their own affairs and interests, they do not deserve much pity, and least of all are they entitled to make a vast outcry, run mad, write bad books, call meetings, and abuse the Grand Junction, or the Little Junction, or any Junction Company dealing in Thames water.
There is one prejudice more respecting Thames water, which we gladly take the present opportunity of examining, as the subject of water is very little likely to cross our career again. Its importance, as it concerns our shipping, will form an apology; if apology be necessary, for attempting to substitute sense for nonsense, in the minds of a whole nation ; very particularly when that nonsense is as pernicious as it is rooted, and when the sense would prove no small saving of health, comfort, and convenience, and occasionally of money also.
Thames water is the best water in the world to carry to sea,