“Moses Gate,” cried the porter, and we alighted. The heavens were black with smoke, and the smother of the mills, to one whose lungs were unaccustomed to breathing sulphurized air, made itself felt. (p. 512)….
Towards the water-lodge, and under the brow of a dark, sooty hill, crept beneath its old-fashioned stone-arched bridge a thing that only in Lancashire could be called a river. Poisonous with the discharge into its frothy volume from the settling tanks of the Farnworth and Bolton sewage works; black with the refuse waters of mines and chemical works for miles, it almost seemed to taint the air at our distance. (p. 513)….
“Dirt ain’t cheap, though we do say dirt cheap,” piped in a wizened little old body with a market-basket on her knee. “I tell yow the gentleman’s right. It costs us poor folk a sight in soap and clean curtains, let alone clean brats and gowns. When we used to get in our hay there out Darcy Lever way our gown pieces were solidly soiled black as soot in just going between the hay-mows. Talk about hay-gettin’, it was dirt-gettin’, and that’s all about it now,” she spoke defiantly. (p. 523)
Her challenge was not taken up, for the train slid into the station. But that frowsy, filthy, sulphur-smitten, soot-begrimed meadow of hay-grass haunted me all the way home; and I felt for the Englishmen and maidens of the mill robbed of their sunlight at the noon, cheated of the poor man’s heritage, the way-side flower, sickened by the filth of their black and torpid streams, with never so much as a meadow of hay-grass sweet for the smell or clean for the getting. I thought of the pale faces and the dreary dawn, the dark noon hours and the lengthened gas-lit eventide, and wondered how long common sense and science would delay to make it possible for poor men’s eyes to behold the sun, and poor men’s souls to find more heavenly cheer than the gin-palace-lights at the corner. Yes; and how long Lancashire lads would “sit in the dark and hear each other groan,” as one after another through sunless days they went through joyless work to the sunless tomb. (p. 524)
The train drew up at a ticket-collecting platform. “Sunlight Soap” stared at me from the advertisement hoardings. “That’s the only sunlight we chaps gets in Lancashire,” said the clerk. (p. 524)
“And it costs a deal more than the real article,” piped up the little wizened farm-woman. The occupants of the carriage tittered; but there was a pathos about the thought of their make-believe sun at so much a pound, doing duty for the Daystar’s purging, and I did not wonder that momentarily an angry sun looked blood-red above a guilty city, as leaving the Victoria Station we stumbled out into the murky streets of smoke-stricken Manchester, and thought with sorrow of Bolton-le-Smoke. (p. 524)
Let the furnace-owners realize that smoke-prevention is their duty. (p. 524)
Let the workmen understand that smoke does not mean work, and how easy it is to prevent the smoke. (p. 524)
Let electors feel that they have it in their power to insist on seeing the sweet sun, by enforcing the Public Health Act. (p. 524)
Let the people be taught that sunshine means health, joy, the sight of their eyes, and abundance of days; that it is their wealth—as much their wealth as their wages; then, the love of flowers, and clean gown-pieces and window-curtains will do the rest, and the answer to the question, Sunlight or Smoke? will be certain. (p. 524)
(Contemporary Review, 57 (April 1890), 512-24)