In "Hard Times", what does Bounderby tell James Harthouse of Coketown's smoke?
In the second chapter of the second book of "Hard Times" Dickens introduces the character James Harthouse, a young London gentleman who wishes to join politics. James Harthouse visits Coketown with the intention of being trained by Mr. Josiah Bounderby before he becomes a Member of Parliament. As soon as Mr.Bounderby receives Mr. James Harthouse's visiting card he visits him in his hotel room where he sees Harthouse looking out of the window very dejected and gloomy.
Most probably Harthouse was upset by all the smoke and pollution of Coketown and that is why after the preliminary introduction Bounderby begins by remarking,
"First of all, you see our smoke. That's meat and drink to us. It's the healthiest thing in the world in all respects, and particularly for the lungs. If you are one of those who want us to consume it, I differ from you. We are not going to wear the bottoms of our boilers out any faster than we wear 'em out now, for all the humbugging sentiment in Great Britain and Ireland."
For Bounderby the hardened and heartless industrialist environmental pollution is a non-issue, it's only a 'healthy' by-product of utilitarian materialism. In Dickens' time manufacturers and factory owners were required by law to "consume" or suppress and 'swallow' the polluting smoke from their factories.
This would of course mean installing more sophisticated machinery and higher costs which would eventually cut into their profits. Hence many industrialists like Bounderby flouted the anti pollution laws of the day claiming that there would be no industrial development without environmental pollution.