I have just been looking through a collection of extracts from newspapers and other sources for the years 1774 to 6.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The Public Advertiser, Friday, November 3rd. 1775
The present violent Cold and Cough, with which all ranks of people are more or less afflicted, is equally dangerous as general. Thousands are confined to their beds by it; many have lost their speech by it, and one Weston, a broker on Saffron hill, has totally lost his hearing by it.
There is thought not to be a single family in London of which one or more are not affected with a violent cold. The physical people attribute this disorder to a noxious quality in the air; and ’tis observed the same person does not catch it twice.
Supposing the disease was spread by bad air, experiments were made;
The Public Advertiser, Saturday, November 4th.
The malignancy of the air was tried on Thursday morning last in the Spa fields by fixing a piece of raw meat to the tail of a paper-kite, which (after being suspended about forty minutes) came down quite putrefied, and in one part nearly perforated.
The pestilence also affected the arts;
The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser Tuesday, November 7th.
The desertion of the theatres in consequence of the disease with which so many are afflicted, has been productive of one agreeable effect, that of bringing Mr. Garrick forward in Benedict much earlier than was expected. It cannot be matter of surprise that Roscius should have escaped the infection, as his spirits and constitution seems proof against the attacks of age itself; after above thirty campaigns, his ardour and execution appears rather to increase. Last night he supported the character with undiminished excellence, and in the speech where he meditates, and then resolves on marriage, he soared beyond himself.
People seemed to have happily congregated, spreading the pestilence to the profit of the doctors. Some people thought that doctor’s treatments were very ineffective (which they probably were) and self-medicated.
George Cumberland, letter to his brother Richard, Friday, November 10th.
At the play. Garrick acted and the house was so full you could not have thrust your little finger in, notwithstanding [the] “plague” sweeps us away by dozens…. Everybody has had cold, and many violent ones too. . . . The sons of Galen have made a harvest of it, and much human blood has been spilt every hour . . . but with the assistance of black currant jelly, warm broth for dinner, egg wine at night, joined to abstinence from malt liquor, I have as nearly got the better of as violent a cold and sore throat as most have had, – a cold . . . that would have produced an apothecary five pounds with good management ….
At least this treatment wouldn’t do any harm!
Reading on in the collection, as today, there were problems with some of the American colonies, but only one case of voter fraud.
The Annual Register, Tuesday, September 17th 1776
At this sessions a gentleman was tried for perjury, in polling twice for Mr. Wilkes at the late election; but it appearing that what he did was the effect of an habitual intoxication or rather permanent stupidity thereby produced, he was acquitted.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the saying goes.