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THIS WEEK IN HOUSEHOLD WORDS

Smoke or No Smoke

This piece, published in the July 1, 1854, issue, discusses the enormous problem of air pollution in 19th-century Britain and proposes means for solving the problem of excessive smoke in the atmosphere. Although this piece takes London as its major focus, the excessive smoke produced by manufacturers such as those in Manchester and those represented in Hard Times became a point of contention. Manufacturers who were required by law to consume or "swallow" the smoke their factories made frequently flouted the regulations. As we have seen, earlier in the novel Bounderby tells Harthouse:

"First of all, you see our smoke. Thatís meat and drink to us. Itís the healthiest thing in the world in all respects, and particularly for the lungs. If you are one of those who want us to consume it, I differ from you. We are not going to wear the bottoms of our boilers out any faster than we wear Ďem out now, for all the humbugging sentiment in Great Britain and Ireland."

This quotation is taking from the June 3, 1854, installment of Hard Times; the recurrence to the question of smoke in this later issue of Household Words demonstrates how Dickens controlled the content of the magazine to highlight the novelís key issues for readers, even as the novel was covering other material.

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