« FöregåendeFortsätt »
thinking they have consciousness, and will be put out of counte. nance, he treats them so like what they are not.
Then again he makes no scruple of keeping a joint of meat on the table, after the cheese and fruit are brought in, till he has what he calls done with it. Now how aukward this looks, where there are ladies, you may judge, Mr. Reflector,-how it disturbs the order and comfort of a meal. And yet I always make a point of helping him first, contrary to all good manners-before any of my female friends are helped, that he may avoid this very error. I wish he would eat before he comes out.
What makes his proceedings more particularly offensive at our house is, that my husband, though out of common politeness he is obliged to set dishes of animal food before his visitors, yet himself and his whole family (myself included) feed entirely on vegetables. We have a theory, that animal food is neither wholesome nor natural to man; and even vegetables we refuse to eat until they have undergone the operation of fire, in consideration of those numberless little living creatures which the glass helps us to detect in every fibre of the plant or root before it be dressed. On the same theory we boil our water, which is our only drink, before we suffer it to come to table. Our children are perfect little Pythagoreans: it would do you good to see them in their nursery, stuffing their dried fruits, figs, raisins, and milk, which is the only approach to animal food which is allowed. They have no notion how the substance of a creature that ever had life can become food for another creature. A beef-steak is an absurdity to them; a mutton-chop, a solecism in terms ; a cutlet, a word absolutely without any meaning; a butcher is nonsense, except so far as it is taken for a man who delights in blood, or a hero. In this happy state of innocence we have kept their minds, not allowing them to go into the kitchen, or to hear of any preparations for the dressing of animal food, or even to know that such things are practised. But as a state of ignorance is incompatible with a certain age; and as my eldest girl, who is ten years old next Midsummer, must shortly be introduced into the world and sit at table with us, where she will see some things which will shock all her received notions, I have been endeavouring by little and little to break her mind, and prepare it for the disagreeable impressions which must be forced upon it. The first hint I gave her on the subject, I could see her recoil from it with the same horror with which we listen to a tale of Anthropophagism; but she has gradually grown more reconciled to it in some measure, from my telling her that it was the custom of the world, -to 'which, however senseless, we must submit so far as we could do it with innocence, not to give offence; and she has shewn so much strength of mind on other occasions, which I have no doubt
is owing to the calmness and serenity superinduced by her diet, that I am in good hopes, when the proper season for her debut arrives, she may be brought to endure the sight of a roasted chicken or a dish of sweetbreads, for the first time, without fainting. Such being the nature of our little household, you may guess what inroads into the economy of it--what revolutions and turnings of things upside down, the example of such a feeder as Mr. - is calculated to produce.
I wonder at a time like the present, when the scarcity of every kind of food is so painfully acknowledged, that shame has no effect upon him. Can he have read Mr. Malthus's Thoughts on the Ratio of Food to Population? Can he think it reasonable that one man should consume the sustenance of many ?
The young gentleman has an agreeable air and person, such as are not unlikely to recommend him on the score of matrimony. But his fortune is not over large; and what prudent young woman would think of embarking hers with a man who would bring three or four mouths (or what is equivalent to them) into a family? She might as reasonably choose a widower in the same circumstances with three or four children.
I cannot think who he takes after. His father and mother, by all accounts, were very moderate eaters; only I have heard that the latter swallowed her victuals very fast, and the former had a tedious custom of sitting long at his meals. Perhaps he takes after oth.
I wish you would turn this in your thoughts, Mr. Reflector, and give us your ideas on the subject of excessive eating; and, particularly, of animal food. *
* To all appearance, the obnoxious visitor of HospitA cap be no other than my inordinate friend EDAX, whose misfortunes are detailed, ore rotundo, in the preceding article. He will of course see the complaint that is made against him ; but it can hardly be any benefit either to himself or his entertainers. The man's appetite is not a bad habit but a disease ; and if he had not thought proper to relate his own story, I do not know whether it would have been altogether justifable to be so amusing upon such a subject.
Art. XX.-A DAY BY TIE Fire --poetically and pructically
I am one of those that delight in a fireside, and can enjoy it without even the help of a cat or a tea-kettle. To cats indeed I have an aversion, as animals that only affeet a sociality without caring a jot for any thing but their own luxury; and my teakettle,-I frankly confesso-has long been displaced, or rather dismissed, by a bronze-coloured and graceful urn; though between ourselves, I am not sure that I have gained any thing by the exchange. Cowper, it is true, talks of the 6 bubbling and loud-hissing urn," which
“ Throws up a steamy column;" but there was something so primitive and unaffected, so warmhearted and unpresuming, in the tea-kettle, --it's song was so much more cheerful and continued, and it kept the water so hot and comfortable as long as you wanted it,--that I sometimes feel as if I had sent off a good, plain, faithful old friend, who had but one wish to serve me, for a superficial, smooth-faced, upstart of a fellow, who after a little promising and vapouring, grows cold and contemptuous, and thinks himself bound to do nothing but stand on a rug and have his person admired by the circle. To this admiration, in fact, I have been obliged to resort, in order to make myself think well of my bargain, if possible; and accordingly, I say to myself every now and then during the tea," A pretty look with it-that urn;" or " It's wonderful what a taste the Greeks had ;” or “ The eye might have a great many enjoyments, if people would but look after forms and shapes.” In the meanwhile, the urn leaves off it's “ bubbling and hissing,”—but then there is such an air with it! My tea is made of cold water, but then the Greeks were such a nation !
If there is any one thing that can reconcile me to the loss of my kettle, more than another, it is that my fire is left quite to itself; it has full room to breathe and to blaze, and I can poke it as I please. What recollections does that idea excite !--Poke it as I please !--Think, benevolent Reader,--think of the pride and pleasure of having in your hand that awful but at the same time artless weapon, a poker,—of putting it into the proper bar,--gently levering up the coals, and seeing the instant and bustling flame above ! To what can I compare that moment? That sudden, empyreal enthusiasm ? That fiery expression of vivification?' That ardent acknowledgment, as it were, of the care and kindliness of the operators-Let me consider a mo
ment:-it is very odd;-I was always reckoned a lively hand at a simile;--but language and combination absolutely fail me here. If it is like any thing, it must be something beyond every thing in beauty and life. Oh I have it now :-think, Reader,-if you are one of those who can muster up sufficient sprightliness to . engage in a game of forfeits--on Twelfth night, for instance, think of a blooming girl, who is condemned to 6 open her mouth and shut her eyes, and see what heaven,” in the shape of a mischievous young fellow, “ will send her.” Her mouth is opened accordingly, the fire of her eyes is dead, her face assumes a doleful air ;-up walks the aforesaid heaven or mischievous young fellow, (young Ouranos, -Hesiod would have called him) and instead of a piece of paper, a thiinble, or a cinder, claps into her mouth a peg of orange or a long slice of citron ;-then her eyes above instantly light up again,--the smiles wreathe about,—the sparklings burst forth, and all is warmth, brilliancy, and delight.-I am aware that this simile is not perfect; but if it would do for an epic poem, as I think it might after Virgil's whippingtops and Ilomer's jackasses and black-puddings, the reader perhaps will not quarrel with it.
But to describe my feelings in an orderly manner, I must request the reader to go with me through a day's enjoyments by the fireside. It is part of my business, as a Reflector, to look about for helps to reflection; and for this reason, among many others, I indulge myself in keeping a good fire from morning till vight. I have also a refleative turn for an easy chair, and a very thinking attachment to comfort in general. But of this, as I pro. ceed.--Imprimis then,—the morning is clear and cold, -time half past seven,-scene a breakfast-room. Some persons, by the bye, prefer a thick and rainy morning, with a sobbing wind, and the clatter of pattens along the streets; but I confess, for my own part, that being a sedentary person, and too apt to sin agaiust the duties of exercise, I have somewhat too sensitive a consciousness of bad weather, and feel a heavy sky go over me like a feather. bed, or rather like a huge brush which rubs all my nap
wrong way. I am growing better in this respect, and by the help of a stout walk at noon, and getting, as it were, fairly into a favourite poet and a warm fire of an evening, begin to manage a cloud or an East wind tolerably well ;-mbut still, for perfection's sake on the present occasion, I must insist upon my clear morning, and will add to it, if the reader pleases, a little hoar-frost upon the windows, a bird or two coming after the crumbs, and the light smoke from the neighbouring chimnies brightening up into the early sunshine. Even the dustman's bell is not unpleasant from its association; and there is something absolutely musical in the clash of the milk pails suddenly unyoked, and the ineffable, ad
libitum note that follows. The waking epicure rises with an elastic anticipation ; enjoys the freshening cold-water which endears what is to come, and even goes placidly through the vil. Janous scraping procross which we soften down into the level and Jawny appellation of sharing. He then hurries down stairs, rubbing his hands, and sawing the sharp air through his teeth; and as he enters the breakfast-room, sees his old companion glowing through the bars,—the life of the apartment, and want. ing only his friendly hand to be lightened a little and enabled to shoot up into dancing brilliancy. (I find I am getting into a quantity of epithets here; and must rein in my enthusiasm.) What need I say? The poker is applied, and wonld be so whether required or not, for it is impossible to resist the sudden ardour inspired by that sight :-the use of the poker, on first seeing one's fire, is as natural as shaking hands with a friend. At that movement, a hundred little sparkles fly up from the coal. dust that falls within, while from the masses themselves a roaring Hame mounts aloft with a 'deep and fitful sound as of a shaken carpet :-epithets again ;-I must recur to poetry at once :
Then shine the bars, the cakes in smoke aspire,
Rubs the blithe knees, and toasts th' alternate feet. * The utility as well as beauty of the fire during breakfast need not be pointed out to the most unphlogistic observer. son would rather be shivering at any time of the day than at thať of his first rising :—the transition would be too unnatural :-he is not prepared for it—as Barnardine says when he objects to being hung. If you eat plain bread and butter with your téa, it is fit that your moderation should be rewarded with a good blaze; and if you indulge in hot rolls or toast, you will hardly keep them to their warmth without it, particularly if you read; and then,-if you take in a newspaper,---what à delightful change from the wet, raw, dabbing fold of paper, when you first touch it, to the dry, crackling, crisp superficies, which, with a skilful spat of the finger-nails at it's upper end, stands at once in your hand, and looks as if it said “ Come read me. Nor is it the look of the newspaper only which the fire must render com. plete :-it is the interest of the ladies who may happen to form part of your family,--of your wife in particular, if you have one-to avoid the niggling and pinching aspect of cold; it takes away the harmony of her features and the graces of her beha
* Parody upon part of the well-known description of night, with wbich Pope has swelled out the passage in Homer, and the faults of which have long been appreciated by general readers.