“Sick Of Mankind and Their Disgusting Ways”: Victorian Alcoholism, Social Reform, and Anne Brontë’s Narratives of Illness

  • Beth Torgerson


In an unsigned review of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from Fraser’s Magazine, now attributed to Charles Kingsley, the reviewer describes the author “Acton Bell” as a satirist performing the functions of a surgeon or contemporary sanitary reformers, since all three—the satirist, the surgeon, and the sanitation reformer—operate for the health of the larger community. The review reads:

It is true, satirists are apt to be unnecessarily coarse. Granted; but are they half as coarse, though, as the men whom they satirise? That gnat-straining, camel-swallowing Pharisee, the world, might, if it chose, recollect that a certain degree of coarse-naturalness, while men continue the one-sided beings which they are at present, may be necessary for all reformers, in order to enable them to look steadily and continuously at the very evils which they are removing. Shall we despise the surgeon because he does not faint in the dissecting-room? Our Chadwicks and Southwood Smiths would make but poor sanitary reformers if their senses could not bid defiance to sulphuretted hydrogen and ammonia. Whether their nostrils suffer or not, ours are saved by them: we have no cause to grumble. And even so with “Acton Bell.” (qtd. in Allott 270–71)


Male Character Drinking Habit Social Critique Temperance Movement Cultural Script 
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  1. 7.
    George Gissing’s The Odd Women (1893) and many of Thomas Hardy’s novels, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D’Ubervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1896), all focus on working-class drinking.Google Scholar

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© Beth E. Torgerson 2005

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  • Beth Torgerson

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