Christopher Stanger was a doctor living in London. This book was written in response to an outbreak of typhus, a louse-borne disease which was endemic in major cities.
Stanger describes a densely populated city ‘where houses are in contact, in almost every direction, and where every apartment, from the cellar to the garret, is occupied, often crowded by tenants labouring under the complicated calamities of poverty and disease’. In this environment alcohol afforded the only means of escape, but it also led to prostitution and crime. Stanger imagines how civil unrest would follow on from any worsening of the situation if other epidemics arrived.
In ‘London’ William Blake reflects many of the social effects described here: beggary, weakness, and despair. For Blake the worst of these is child-prostitution, with ‘the youthful harlot’ specifically reacting with a curse.