When I was a young man the term ‘to have been through the mill’ had a grim meaning. We accept it now as a slang addition to the English language, indicating a knocked-about and hard-worn appearance. In 1890 it described a mill worker whose childhood had been ruined by hard labour and little sleep, and who, in manhood, looked shrunken and white-faced.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Dark satanic mills
Posted by Kathleen Geier
Scenes from the of history of capitalism: ever wonder where the phrase "to have been through the mill" came from? I just read an LRB review of a new book about memoirs from the Industrial Revolution. It includes an excerpt from one autobiography by a man named J.R. Clynes,, who'd been a child laborer in the Lancashire mills: