JOHN EVELYN (1620–1706)
Extract from Fumifugium or The Inconvenience of the Air and Smoke or London Dissipated (1661)

An electronic facsimile of the fulltext is available in Early English Books Online (EEBO), via the Cardiff University Server. Users must be on campus to access EEBO.

For first, the City of London is built upon a sweet and most agreeable Eminency of Ground, at the North-side of a goodly and well-conditioned River, towards which it hath an Aspect by a gentle and easie declivity, apt to be improved to all that may render her Palaces, Buildings, and Avenues usefull, gracefull, and most magnificent: The Fumes which exhale from the Waters and lower Grounds lying Southward, by which means they are perpetually attracted, carried off, or dissipated by the Sun, as soon as they are born, and ascend.

Adde to this, that the Soil is universally Gravell, not onely where the City itself is placed, but for severall Miles about the Countreys which environ it: That it is plentifully and richly irrigated, and visited with Waters which Christalize her Fountains in every Street, and may be conducted to them in such farther plenty, as Rome herself might not more abound in this liquid ornament, for the pleasure and divertisement, as well as for the use and refreshment of her Inhabitants. I forbear to enlarge upon the rest of the conveniences which this August and Opulent City enjoies both by Sea and Land, to accumulate her Encomiums, and render her the most considerable that the Earth has standing upon her ample bosome; because, it belongs to the Orator and the Poet, and is none of my Institution: But I will infer, that if this goodly City justly challenges what is her due, and merits all that can be said to reinforce his Praises, and give her Title; she is to be relieved from that which renders her less healthy, really offends her, and which darkens and eclipses all her other Attributes. And what is all this, but that Hellish and dismall Cloud of SEA-COALE? which is not onely perpetual imminent over her head; For as the Poet,

Conditur in tenebris altum caligine coelum;

but so universally mixed with the otherwise wholesome and excellent Aer, that her Inhabitants breathe nothing but an impure and thick Mist, accompanied by a fuliginous and filthy vapour, which renders them obnoxious to a thousand inconveniences, corrupting the Lungs, and disordering the entire habit of their Bodies; so that Catharrs, Phthisicks, Coughs and Consumptions, rage more in this one City, than the whole Earth besides.

I shall not hear much descant upon the Nature of Smoakes, and other Exhalations from things burnt, which have obtained their several Epithetes, according to the quality of the Matter consumed, because they are generally accounted noxious and unwholesome; and I would not have it thought, that I do here Fumos vendere, as the word is, or blot paper with insignificant remarks: It was yet haply no inept derivation of that Critick, who took our Englisb, or rather, Saxon appellative, from the Greek word amucw corrumpo and exuro, as most agreeable to its destructive effects, especially of what we doe here so much declaim against, since this is certain, that of all the common and familiar materials which emit it, the immoderate use of, and indulgence to Sea-coale alone in the City of London, exposes it to one of the fowlest Inconveniences and reproaches, than possibly beffall so noble, and otherwise incomparable City: And that, not from the Culinary fires, which for being weak, and less often fed below, is with such ease dispelled and scattered above, as it is hardly at all discernible, but from some few particular Tunnells and Issues, belonging only to Brewers, Diers, Limeburners, Salt, and Sope-Boylers, and some other private Trades, One of whose Spiracles alone, does manifestly infect the Aer, more than all the Chimnies of London put together besides. And that this is not the least Hyperbolic, let the best of Judges decide it, which I take to be our senses: Whilst these are belching it forth their sooty jaws, the City of London resembles the face rather of Mount Ętna, the Court of Vulcan, Stromboli, or the Suburbs of Hell, than an Assembly of Rational Creatures, and the imperial seat of our incomparable Monarch. For when in all other places the Aer is most Serene and Pure, it is here Ecclipsed with such a Cloud of Sulphure, as the Sun itself, which gives day to all the World besides, is hardly able to penetrate and impart it here; and the weary Traveller, at many Miles distance, sooner smells, than sees the City to which he repairs. This is that pernicious Smoake which sullyes all her Glory, superinducing a sooty Crust or Fur upon all that it lights, spoyling the moveables, tarnishing the Plate, Gildings and Furniture, and corroding the very Iron-bars and hardest Stones with those piercing and acrimonious Spirits which accompany its Sulphure; and executing more in one year, than exposed to the pure Aer of the Country it could effect in some hundreds.

the Poet : Æneid xi

Last modified, 18-Jan-2002 .
This site is maintained by Anthony Mandal.