From another pdf file of 19th-century notes, comes this little gem:
Question: Describe the relative advantages of the watercloset and of the pail system for the removal of excreta.
Answer: [The] Water system is much cleaner and [shite] is carried away quickly with the flush of water. The pail system [where] used should be kept clean and [have] plenty of mould thrown in every time it is used. And in case of a town [you] would want patent air-tight lids for removal.
It’s mind-boggling to me that a mere 110 years ago or so (the notes above are circa 1895, apparently) not only was the “pail system” of human waste disposal still a popular practice, but that the value of air-tight lids on the buckets needed to be pointed out.
I am reminded of an early Terry Pratchett novel, where a character asks a fellow whose job apparently consists of holding a piece of string attached to the neck of a water-buffalo, presumably to keep it from wandering away, (and I paraphrase here) “Are you content with your lot? Is life treating you well? Are all your needs being met by the government?”
“Well,” says the buffalo-herder, or words to that effect, “I could do with a longer piece of string…”