Of all the minerals dug wrenched out of from the ground beneath Cornwall, arsenic is the one with the most enthralling history. It is a metal whose deadly reputation runs like a dark thread through Victorian fact and fiction. Here is my favourite use of its name in literature, in the gem of a play by Dylan Thomas:
By Dylan Thomas
“Mr Pugh, in the School House opposite, takes up the morning tea to Mrs Pugh, and whispers on the stairs:
Here’s your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.
I’ve throttled your parakeet.
I’ve spat in the vases.
I’ve put cheese in the mouseholes.
Here’s your . . .
[Door creaks open]
. . . nice tea, dear.
Too much sugar.
You haven’t tasted it yet, dear.”
If you have never listened to this play, I can recommend downloading the BBC version (Narrated by Richard Burton), sitting back, closing your eyes and drifting into the life of the Welsh Village created through the language of Dylan Thomas.