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William De Morgan began his career as a successful novelist is 1906, after the failure of his pottery business. The De Morgan Foundation has a lovely library of his books, which you can usually enjoy by appointment. Whilst we are currently closed, you may enjoy the stories online instead.

Available on Project Gutenberg –

One of our patrons has been doing so and has found this apposite excerpt, which certainly feels very relevant in 2020.

PPE in the time of De Morgan

Some context: the gentleman referred to here is Reverend Athelstan Taylor. He is from a fictional church, St. Vulgate’s Church, Clapham Rise, and is attending a fictional Hospital St Bride’s. Typically this is one of William’s diversions from the main thrust of the story. The Reverend is in the hospital to see the match seller ‘blind Jim’ who has been run over by a Pickford’s wagon, but while there is asked to see another patient to read the last rites. The Hospital chaplain is off sick.

A young doctor was in the ward, who said, “Is this the gentleman?” and after “Yes” from the nurse, continued: “You mustn’t be alarmed at our precautions. We only take them in order to be on the safe side.” The precautions which, it seemed, St. Bride insisted on for all who should enter a contagion-ward were a close overall of some germ-proof canvas or linen, and thin, invulnerable rubber gloves. Mr. Taylor, as he drew them on, shuddered to think how many a time, conceivably, they might have been some wearer’s only safeguard against a blasted life, and the inheritance of a dire poison by generations yet unborn.

When he was safely attired in them, the young surgeon, as he conducted him through the ward, said in reply to a question: “Oh no!—not the slightest danger from the breath. You may be quite happy about that. Let Sister Martha put a little eau-de-Cologne on your handkerchief. This is your man.”

‘It Never Can Happen Again’ by William De Morgan
Published in 1909 by Henry Holt & Company

Chapter 17, page 220