I admit to becoming totally obsessed with the 1834 fire at Parliament over the last couple of years. Several diarists and commentators at the time also got fed up with the blanket coverage of the disaster, as this bad-tempered columnist indicates:
“The newspapers have rioted and revel[l]ed in this fire so much, have dallied so fondly with metaphors of all sorts – have lingered so feelingly among regrets, and tropes, and passionate phrases, and still carry their readers on so remorselessly from day to day through periods that have no end, and through passages that lead as those of the Lords and Commons now do to nothing – that anything more in the way of description must prove for the present commonplace. It is enough to say that the fire was not arrested until all the buildings in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords were either destroyed utterly or burnt down to the naked walls” (New Monthly Magazine, vol xlii, Nov 1834, pp. 353-354)
So as an antidote to all this, I list below a few other significant things which were going on in 1834 which shouldn’t be overlooked (in addition, of course, to the great German mouse plague about which I have written elsewhere):
- The Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported to Tasmania for forming the first agricultural trade union in England
- Charles Babbage made a breakthrough in his work on his Analytical Engine: the first computer
- Darwin was voyaging round South America on The Beagle writing up his findings
- Charlotte Bronte was writing her Angria stories
- the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act came into force in the British Empire
- William Morris was born, and Thomas Telford died
- the harsh new Poor Law was introduced (I don’t really count this, though, as I talk quite a bit about it in the book – lots of commentators thought the fire was a judgment on the legislation)
- Charles Dickens became a Parliamentary reporter for The Morning Chronicle (oops, done it again).
What have I missed?