Letter to the Editor
Epidemic in Tarant
Your paper of yesterday contained an admirable article on the need to guard our city against
the recurrence of plague, and most especially against the frightful scourge by which our metropolis
was not long since desolated. Some of your readers may still be haunted by visions of ten years past,
when an unknown necromancer caused the victims of a cholera epidemic to rise from the mass grave in
which an uncaring Tarant had laid them to rest. Our police were hard-pressed to keep thousands of
the recently departed from stumbling all the way from the Bethnal Road to Soho!
All of us decried
the savage and unkind curse which drove that dread host from their rest, and sent them crawling and
shuffling toward Marlybone, their carcasses still bloated and yellow from the cholera. We wondered,
indeed, what demon could be so cruel? Why anyone would want to spread the affliction from the poor
to the rich by magick?
Alas, ten years later I reflect on that army of the dead and I begin to
sympathize with its unknown general! Knowing what I do now, I can see
the kernel of sense behind his madness. What seemed at the time a senseless
act of horror may well have been a warning, an accusation; and upon whom should
it be directed, if not the wealthy landlords of Tarant?
You published the report of the Registrar-General on the health of Tarant during
the week just past. It is stated that on the 13th, a case of spasmodic cholera
occurred at No. 6 Turlington-street, in Paddington, and terminated fatally. The
whole metropolis has furnished us with only two such cases, but this is by the
grace of Providence only! You, of course, are not aware what sort of place
Turlington-street is, but it may be well that the public in general should know.
Though constructed only within the last few months, and by courtesy called a street,
Turlington is in fact a miserable hole, having no thoroughfare, and accessible only
by a narrow passage from the Edgeware-road. The provisions of the Metropolitan Building
Act have been utterly disregarded. This fact has been pointed out in succession to
several parties: the district surveyor, the official referees appointed under the
act just mentioned, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the General Board
of Health, and even the Board of Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests, Land
Revenue, Works, and Buildings. Nonetheless, all have refused to interfere to enforce
the law, with the exception of the board last named, who have not condescended to give
any answer at all!
In short: high-minded legislators and well-meaning reformers can pass all the laws
they like, but it all comes to naught when those laws cannot be enforced. Our city
is in just as much danger from an outbreak of deadly cholera today as it was ten years
ago, when so many of our citizens perished of this dread disease. When the inevitable
comes, we will have achieved nothing to forestall the deaths of hundreds, or even thousands
of Tarantians. And when that anonymous benefactor raises the new plague victims from their
sleep, I'm sure that having a place to point their dead fingers will be cold comfort indeed!
-a gentleman of the PREVENTIVE SERVICE.