Arsenic and Old Wallpapers

“My wallpapers are killing me; one of us must go!” Oscar Wilde’s infamous last words are usually construed as a rueful comment on the ugliness of the decorations in his Paris hotel bedroom. Yet they could also be interpreted literally, and applied to the thousands of Victorians who fell victim to the deadly pigments in their wallpapers. Even from the vantage point of the recent pandemic, the nineteenth century was a hazardous time to be alive: subject to regular outbreaks

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