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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 12 Nov 1994 10:06:39 -0800
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From:    Steven J. Pachuta <[log in to unmask]>

(This subject may have been discussed at some previous time in The
Dickensian or elsewhere, so please excuse me if I'm repeating an old
topic.)  While rereading Silas Marner last evening I came upon the
following line in reference to the child Eppie who turned up on
Silas' hearth:

        For if the child ever went anyways wrong, and you hadn't
        done your part by it, Master Marner--'noculation, and
        everything to save it from harm--it 'ud be a thorn i'
        your bed for ever o' this side the grave....

This would have been very early in the 19th century (ca. 1805 based
upon various hints in the text).  I assume this "'noculation" refers
to smallpox.  A quick check of the encyclopedia shows that Jenner's
first successful experiments were carried out in 1796.  It seems
curious that if the residents of Eliot's rural Raveloe were getting
routinely innoculated in 1805, Esther Summerson somehow missed being
innoculated decades later (assuming her illness was really smallpox,
which is implied but not explicitly stated in Bleak House).  Does
anyone have comments on the extent of smallpox innoculation in 19th
century England?  Could it have been more common among the
agricultural sector than among urban dwellers?  Was Dickens himself
ever "'noculated"?

Steven Pachuta