« PreviousContinue »
good and well served, as on an hundred, as sometimes sent to table.
This observation had its proper effect on my mind; and I have ever since been inquiring how the idle parade and vain glory of our social meals may be done away, and their real and substantial comforts augmented. With this view I have consulted the works of a very distinguished philosopher of the present age, who has paid a great and respectful attention to the theory of this art. I say theory, because all his friends agree in this point,—that, whatever culinary axiorns or discoveries he may have published for the benefit of his fellow creatures, he has been perfectly disinterested in his researches; having never derived anypractical benefit from them, or applied them to his personal comfort or gratification.
In this country nothing of a public nature can be effected, but by clubs, societies, or institutions. In my endeavours to produce practical improvement
in this art, which is peculiarly applicable to the common purposes of life, I have adopted the second of these three means ; and have established a society; the object of which is to ascertain whether some degree of temperance may not be compatible with the indulgence of the appetite, and whether intellectual improvement is inconsistent with social in
We do not admit variety or profusion of viands, as being matter of ostentation, and not of pleasure. Three dishes are the most we allow to be on table at once: but then they are of the best and most substantial kind. No imaginary pies in crockery ware, no supposititious tourte a perdriv in foreign china, no plateaux with wax oranges and sweetmeats to cover an inconvenient width of table, are ever admitted to our dinners. Turbots, venison, turtles, hams, turkies, and the like, form our bills of fare. We think it a sin to waste them; and therefore we eat them in good order, and served in the most
unexceptionable manner. Again, as we consult taste, and not fashion, in the supply of our tables, we eat every
article of food when it is best; that is, when it is in full season. By these means we have what is really eatable, and at the same time does not cost a third of the expense of our neighbours table. We also prefer what is most plentiful in the market. If no fish is to be had, or if the market is bad and the price high, we exclude it, as unworthy of our table. In like manner we allow no capricious mixture of wines, nor do we drink what is unpleasant to the taste, merely because it is prejudicial to health. French wines we reject with a degree of national antipathy: always excepting red and white hermitage, and (when very excellent) claret, burgundy, and champaign. From the Portuguese dominions we admit port and madeira; and from the Spanish sherry and paxaretti. But the mawkish varieties of the Mediterranean, and the acids of Germany, we entirely pro
hibit,-except in those cases, when they are really good.
These, Sir, however, are inferior objects. In the number and selection of our guests we are curious and attentive. Upon extraordinary occasions we have allowed of as many as ten persons at table at once; but we do not like crowds. Our general number is limited to six, or at most eight persons.
We receive no guests, who occupy attention with histories of themselves and their own importance, and with accounts of the splendour of their establishments, and of the liberties which the newspapers are daily taking with them and their brilliant entertainments. We admit none of the fringe and trappings of fashion, who endeavour to pass upon others the impertinence, which they have submitted to receive.
We also exclude from our table a very numerous and prevalent class in society;
-those who delight in what I shall call the HARMONY of conversation, in exclusion of that simple melody, which consists of only one voice at a time;--persons who never utter a sound in company, until they hear some other person beginning to speak ; and then add their accompanyments of treble, countertenor and double bass. We delight, Sir, in unison; and think it more pleasant to distinguish what is said, than to enjoy a concertante variety of tones and voices; adhering to the rule of Horace, who does not allow four persons to be talking at once.
Nec quarta loqui persona laboret. At the same time we have no regular solo parts, no set speeches, no studied narratives; but rather a kind of skirmishing dialogue,-a pic-nic conversation, where each contributes in his turn from his stores of reading and observation; and where different minds and habits are successively supplying ideas and facts on the subject of general attention,
POLITICAL debates, and controversial