This broadsheet gives advice to the people of Woodbridge, a small town in Suffolk, about protecting themselves against cholera outbreaks. It tells them to keep themselves and their houses clean, and to trust in God. It encourages them to keep calm, indicating the potential for widespread panic.
The reaction to cholera in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd
In Far From the Madding Crowd, Gabriel Oak is forced to attend the hiring fair after his dog has chased his flock of sheep to their deaths. Oak’s admission that his farm failed scares away potential hirers. The taint of failure inspires the same fear as the rumour of an epidemic of cholera.
Now that Oak had turned himself into a shepherd, it seemed that bailiffs were most in demand. However, two or three farmers noticed him and drew near. Dialogues followed, more or less in the subjoined form: —
“Where do you come from?”
“That’s a long way.”
“Who’s farm were you upon last?”
This reply invariably operated like a rumour of cholera.
Far From the Madding Crowd was written in 1874, but in Thomas Hardy’s preface to the Wessex edition (1895) he talks about the story being set in ‘a modern Wessex of railways’. Railways first operated in Dorset in the late 1840s. So we know that the setting of the novel was roughly between 1850 and 1874, when Hardy started work on the text.
Although it was established in 1854 that cholera was a water-borne disease its exact nature was not widely understood until the last quarter of the 19th century. There had been confusion between ‘cholera morbus’ (gastro-enteritis) and Asiatic cholera. Asiatic cholera killed large numbers with people often dying within hours of the first symptoms appearing. For decades attempts to find a cure were unsuccessful. Popular belief held that cholera was a disease carried by air, and that sufferers carried an aura of the disease around them.
- Article by:
- John Mullan
- The novel 1832–1880, Power and politics
Middlemarch is set in the period leading up to the 1832 Reform Act. Professor John Mullan explores how George Eliot uses the novel to examine different kinds of reform and progress: political, scientific and social.
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