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The stranger blushed up to the ears; laid down his knife and fork, and waited for the venison. Neapolitan Bons-wicans.—Though there may be greater gluttons than the good citizens of Naples, the Neapolitans are very fond, not only of eating, but of talking what they eat. When there is a dead pause, or when the conversation is about to take a melancholy turn, nothing is more common than for one of the party to smack his lips and say, “Parliamo di cose allegre, let us speak of merry things | What have you had for dinner to-day ?” or, “What are you going to have for dinner to-day ?” as the hour may be when the conversation takes place. No sooner is this key-note struck, than one after the other they all begin to count their dishes on their fingers, and run through a gamut of “green-green maccaroni,”— “stupendous ragouts”—“exquisite fries,”—“magnificent fish,” &c. &c. The unction with which they speak, the energy of their delivery and gesticulation, the well-rounded periods, and the sounding superlatives of the Italian language, all render their dialogues very striking. A good many years ago we were talking with the old Bishop of Gallipoli, who was a happy mixture of the gourmand and gourmet—the stately churchman and the bon-vivant, about the city of Sorrento, the birth-place of the poet Tasso: “Ah! Sorrento " said this holy father in God; “ speak to me of that I have lived there, and shall never forget its veal! — Quello poi, & un paese dove trovarete tutto chè il cuor del!" uomo possa desiderare. Vitello squisitissimo, butirro stupendissimo, vini sincerissimi, donne freschissime, latte deliziosissimo, acqua sanissima / Ma che vitello /* Our own language breaks down under such an effort, but the following is a translation of the words: “Ay! that’s a country where you will find everything that the heart of man can desire. Most exquisite veal, most stupendous butter, most sincere wines, most fresh (complexioned) women, most delicious milk, most wholesome water | But, oh! what veal l” There is an old Neapolitan joke to this effect: Query. Chi sono i cittadini ?” (Who are the citizens?) Answer. “I porci.” (The pigs.) And, for some reason we could never discover, for that town is less infested by swine, and the manners of the people are much less swinish than in many other places in the kingdom, the Neapolitans say, “ The pigs are the citizens of Sorrento;” or, “ The citizens of Sorrento are pigs.” When our close corporations were in their “most high and palmy state,” when gourmandising was the order of the day, and your overseers of the poor would eat a child” at a sitting, surely it might have been said that the citizens of were pigs.
As the good people of London go to Greenwich and Blackwall, to eat white-bait; to Putney, to eat eel-pie; and to other places for other luxuries; so do the Neapolitans migrate to the Granatella at Portici, to eat red
* We believe this expression was figurative.
mullet; to the Sarno, to eat eels; to the Fusaro lake, to eat oysters; to the Madonna degli Angeli, to feast upon pig's fry; and (not to mention many other high-places and temples of gluttony) to the country between the city and Mount Vesuvius, to expatiate upon fresh figs and artichokes. The houses of entertainment in all these places are of the commonest and coarsest description, being mere taverne, or pot-houses; for the word “ tavern,” which we have applied to the best of our public-houses, means in Italian the worst. And apropos to this change of meaning; we remember some Italians were much puzzled in reading in the newspapers, that English princes, royal dukes, marquisses, and lords, the very pink of our nobility, thought nothing of dining at the Taverna di Londra, (the London Tavern,) which to their ears sounded every bit as vulgar as “The Pig and Tinder-box,” or, “ The Cat and Mutton.” But to return to the Neapolitan taverne, they are much frequented at the proper seasons by the great body of the citizens; nor do the mobility and gentry hesitate to make small private parties to them, or place themselves, for the time being, on an equality with the rest of mine host’s customers. Old Nicolo Capasso, a poet and wit of the last century, was a great frequenter of these rustic places of entertainment, where form and ceremony disappear, and hilarity and the effect of good cheer are increased by everybody's being perfectly at his ease, as we all more or less feel ourselves on a stray holiday in a primitive, rudely furnished inn, rather than in a splendid hotel, or ceremonious private dining-room. One of the most favoured of Nicola's haunts was a small public-house not far from the suburbs of Naples, which was called “La taverna de' Carcioff,” or the “Artichoke tavern;” and there, on a bright sunny festival-day, he would collect the choicest wits and humorists of the capital, and drink brindisi, or rhymed impromptu toasts, until the house rang again. The Boniface of this humble tenement had often and earnestly begged Capasso to write him a poetical inscription to place over his door; and the poet, full of the genius loci, finally gave him one in the Neapolitan dialect and the following words: “Manyammo, amici miei, manyammo e bevimmo, Finchē dura l'uoglio nella lantierna! Chi sã sè all’ auto munno ci vedimmo 2 Chi sã sé all' auto munno c'è tavierna?”
Let us eat, my friends, let us eat and drink, While the oil lasts in the lantern' For who knows whether we shall meet in the next world ! Who knows whether, in the other world, there is a public-house? And here we will conclude this desultory chapter on eating, though not from lack of matter. w
SAY the anecdote books of the last century, the first question asked about him varies according to the country in which he happens to be. In France it is, “Is he received at court”—in England, “How much has he a year?” (where other MSS. read, “What sort of a person is he?”)—in Holland, “Is he solvent?”—and in Germany, “Is he of gentle blood 2" The German question runs, “Ist er stiftmässigo" i. e. “Is he capable of being elected a canon?”—which in some establishments would require the stranger to be able to show noble descent for sixteen generations on both his father's and mother's side.
LXX. A HAPPY REPARTEE.
We have given elsewhere * a lucky saying of Atterbury, the celebrated bishop of Rochester; but the following seems to us perfect in its kind.
The bishop happened to say, in the House of Lords, while speaking on a certain bill then under discussion, that “he had prophesied last winter this bill would be attempted in the present session; and he was sorry to find he had proved a true prophet.” My Lord Coningsby, who spoke after the bishop, and always spoke in a passion, desired the House to remark, “that one of the right reverend had set himself forth as a prophet; but, for his part, he did not know what prophet to liken him to, unless to that furious prophet—Balaam, who was reproved by his own ass.”
Atterbury, in reply, with great wit and calmness, exposed this rude attack, concluding thus: “Since the noble lord has discovered in our manners such a similitude, I am well content to be compared to the prophet Balaam; but, my lords, I am at a loss how to make out the other part of the parallel: I am sure that I have been reproved by nobody but his lordship.”—Political and Literary Anecdotes of his own Times, by Doctor William King, Principal of St. Mary, Ocon.
* Vol. i. p. 242.