Bad gas

Twice in Hades, Bloom thinks of the gases produced by putrefaction. He ponders them at length in the mortuary chapel while watching the bloated Father Coffey perform the service: "What swells him up that way? Molly gets swelled after cabbage. Air of the place maybe. Looks full up of bad gas. Must be an infernal lot of bad gas round the place." In the crypts under St. Werburgh's church, he recalls, "they have to bore a hole in the coffins sometimes to let out the bad gas and burn it. Out it rushes: blue. One whiff of that and you're a goner." Bloom is right that holes were sometimes bored in coffins to let out methane and other gases. He is wrong about mere whiffs of the stuff being deadly, but that had been a commonly held opinion for many decades, even among physicians.

JH 2021

The cemetery at Bunhill Fields, Finsbury, London. Source: www.theguardian.com.

The "Enon Chapel, Cemetery, and Dancing Saloon," a strange establishment in a London slum that housed the first and third functions over the second. Source: www.theguardian.com.

Oil portrait of Dr. George Walker, date unknown. Source: www.theguardian.com.

Source: www.ebay.com.