Tuesday 2 July 2013

Do the Poor Love Dirt?

There is as vile notion entertained by the some that “the poor love ‘dirt’. A fouler slander on the poor was never perpetrated. The poor endure dirt, they exist under the misery of dirt; but they do so in those situations, and, as a general rule, in those situations alone, in which dirt is inevitable. … The rural poor, in general, love cleanliness. They put up with dirt, when they do so, because they cannot help it; and it is not till years of hard necessity have made them forget the delight of being clean in the anxious daily care of seeking how they may gain the means of bare existence, that dirt, rendered less offensive to them by long suffering , comes to be disregarded.  The rub is, when they profess their belief that “the poor love dirt” they entirely forget why they themseles are so much cleaner. Your fastidious fine gentleman, with his ample supply of finest linen, and the most luxurious appliances of the bath and the toilet, with the necessary upon him from his position in society of being scrupulously clean, and habitually regarding the slightest want of cleanliness as tarnishing his social reputation, finds his daily ablutions to be equally a duty and a pleasure. But condemn him for a twelvemonth to hardships in any way approaching those under which many of the labouring classes constantly suffer, and how great would not be the change of at any rate his outward man! Take, for instance, the House of Lords, probably the cleanest assemblage of men which could be found; condemn them to cold water and no soap, and to wash all their own clothes with their own hands in their own drawing-rooms for a single twelvemonth, and how would they look at its termination? Isabella-colour would, we suspect, become fashionable for shirt-fronts, and white would yield to drab of divers shades. Can there be any doubt on this point? 

The Times, 18 October 1844

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