Mr Bramble’s Critiques of Regional Food

I was fascinated and appalled by Mr. Bramble’s opinion of London food, in his letter to Dr. Lewis at the opening of Volume II.  After Mr. Bramble’s description of London, I find it hard to imagine how anyone could live there in the 18th century and not contract a plague, breathing the “streams of endless putrefaction,” eating bread containing chalk and alum, and drinking water mixed with excrement, industrial waste, and carcasses.  This is starting to sound like a horror novel!

I was surprised by how much detail Smollett included, describing food production methods.  This book must have value as a source of historical perspective as much as literature.  He not only spoke in great detail about food production in London, but also about how food is harvested and consumed in Edinburgh, Scotland (end of Volume II) and his own country estate (in the same letter as that which describes London fare).  Does anyone know where Brambleton-hall is supposed to be?

My first thought was that Smollett chose to describe food in such detail to emphasize Mr. Bramble’s (well-founded?) germ-phobia, as well as his disdain for cities.  But Edinburgh is a large city and Mr. Bramble spends a great deal of time talking about how wholesome and varied the food is there.  Was Smollett Scottish and promoting his native country?  Does anyone have a different idea why Smollett pays so much attention to food production and availability in London, Edinburgh, and Brambleton-hall?


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