One should not, of course, mock health and safety rules, but sometimes the temptation is enormous. We have been considering, with our legal colleagues, whether the ‘alerting’ wording we use is sufficient to prevent anyone being misled into dangerous pursuits by one of our books. We already say in the preliminary pages of each book that: ‘This book reproduces the text of the original edition. The content and language reflect the beliefs, practices and terminology of their time, and have not been updated.’ And we make clear everywhere we can the author’s dates and the original date of publication.
However, in the compensation-culture society in which we live, we need to consider whether any father-and-child combination might come to grief while performing some of the experiments in Philosophy in Sport Made Science in Earnest. Might a cook inadvertently poison the family while trying out Soyer‘s prepared cockscombs? (I can however vouchsafe that Mrs Rundell‘s iced pistachio cream is very good and didn’t kill anyone.)
An unlikely peril associated with dinner in the nineteenth century was the Mummy’s Curse. As more and more people travelled to Egypt after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, they brought back souvenirs in the form of artefacts, including whole mummies. There is a fascinating post here about the fashion for after-dinner dissection (as an alternative to cards, or songs round the piano, presumably), and we are about to reissue Thomas Pettigrew’s History of Egyptian Mummies. Pettigrew was an eminent surgeon, consulted by royalty (he vaccinated the infant Queen Victoria), but he had a keen interest in antiquity, and in his book he describes the process of unrolling several mummies, in the presence of savants, artists, bishops and the aristocracy – though not apparently of women. Since in some cases the hair and even parts of the soft tissues were preserved, there may have been a possibility of ancient Egyptian ‘effluvia’ causing nineteenth-century disease – shades of the precautions taken a few years ago when a medieval plague-pit was unearthed in central London.
But please, dear readers, DON’T try digging a tunnel under the Severn or the Thames, or curing yourself of a tuberculous or scrofulous disease, or having yourself lowered into the crater of Vesuvius, just because CLC books tell you how to do so!