' ON SOAP.
BRISTOL may have little to do with soap. Its streets justify this doubt. But soap, or its manufacture, has a lot to do with Bristol. Another great mind forestalled me in that particular immortal saying anent the association of cleanliness and godliness. And in spite of its myriad churches and its half share in a whole bishop, if Bristol is not the godliest of all cities, it is not the fault of Messrs. Christr. Thomas & Bros., Limited.
Both on entering and departing from Bristol by train, the first and most striking edifice noticeable from your carriage window is the soap and candle works of this firm. No other factory in England has such a peculiar appearance. If it were not for the big-lettered announcement to the contrary, these soap-works might be a modern workhouse, an ancient castle, or a Florentine monastery. In due course I paid Messrs. Thomas a visit, and was shown all over their magnificent works. As a result, I shall be able to embody in the following a description of what I saw in them. But first of all, no one would be a whit the worse if I explained in the first case what soap is. In an age like the present, when wares rely almost solely upon advertisement for their proper comprehension by the public, such a comparatively unknown thing as soap requires an introduction.
Right back through the ages, much further into the regions of the remote past than even I am able to remember, the art of softening water and of taking something with it (not necessarily alcohol) for the purpose of washing and cleansing', has been known and adopted. Pliny senior, who died A.D. 79, was responsible for the first authentic advertisement of soap. He speaks of it as having been first manufactured by the Gauls, who, as was natural, produced the caustic-alkali from wormwood and natural earth. The remains of a Pompeiian soap-factory, in a perfect state of preservation—due no doubt to the oil used in the manufacture of the material—are to be seen for the visiting and the small sum of two francs, at that resurrected city. To those of my readers who have suffered sufficiently from my writings to seek solace in the Scriptures, I may mention that in Jeremiah ii. 22, they may read, "For though thou wash thee with nitre and take thee much sope" This is not a sentence in a thousand for either beauty of grammar or symmetry of diction - and a fault could be found hero and there with the spelling. But as casting light upon the patriarchal age of soap, it is worth all the looking up I have given to its unearthing.
It was not until the early part of the present century that soap as a manufactured article made much progress. The researches of Chevreul into the constitution of fatty bodies—a subject he had a great leaning for - and the manufacture of soda from the common or garden order of salt.... '
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