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tors' days, chaunt high mass to St. Epicurus. On ordinary occasions the commons' tables are covered with most excel lent food in great profusion. Often the students at their rooms riot in daintiness and choice wines ; and, when the fellows meet together, a spectator may wonder at the beauty of the China, at the selection of nice things for dinner and supper, and at the quantity of rich, embossed, old fashioned silver plate, which has descended for many generations from the noble founders and patrons of the colleges to the present possessors, and which once graced the feasts of scholars and dignitaries, like Chancellor William of Wykeham and Archbishop Laud.
It is customary to refer to the moralists of antiquity to exemplify the duty of abstemiousness, and the excellence of sim
But there are some reasons to suppose, that their conduct was governed by different principles from those of rigid virtue.
I am afraid, that some of the strictest sect were remarkable for great roughness of throat, that they did not possess palates of nice sensations; and therefore their contempt of luxurious banquets is to be ascribed to the apathy of the papillæ of the tongue, and not to their elevated conceptions of the true dignity of man. Among the most celebrated of these philosophers were Antisthenes and Diogcnes. The former carried his wallet, and was covered with rags. He depended on the miserable pittances of charity for support, and, when this source failed, it might not be injurious to believe, that he was obliged to steal. The latter lived in a tub, and dined on the scraping of bones. He had a cup, out of which he drank ; yet so great was his folly, that he threw it away, when he saw a child take up water in the palm of his hand. Besides these there were many other practical and speculative sophists among the Greeks, who railed against the delicate sensibility of the mouth, and the well covered tables of the rich. They pretended to prefer the black broth of Sparta to the savoury meats of a Persian kitchen. They would swear, that water was better than wine, and, like their worthy successor in "ithe Tale of the " Tub," that bread was the staff of life, and the quintessence of good cookery. But this enlightened age has learned to lessen the commendations in favor of snarling philosophers. Many suppose with Socrates and Plato, that the Cynics were governed by the folly of affectation.
Others think, and probably justly, that they thundered their imprecations, as little children cry, only when they were hungry; and that they condemned the exquisite entertainments of the Athenians, only because they were not invited to sup.
A fine taste is a valuable gift. I mean not a taste, which delights in the graces of architecture, the beauties of painting, or the curves of sculpture ; but which is conversant with the dainties of the table. Unfortunately it is oftener desired, than possessed. It is highly prized, because it procures a continual fund of varying felicity. Its excellence, like the value of virtue, is evidenced by the numerous acts of hypocrisy, which are practised to obtain a belief from the world, that it exists, when it does not. Many are the little practices, which a soi-disant connoisseur of Russian throat exerts to make it generally credited, that he has a palate, which startles, like a sensitive plant, at the approach of what is contrary to its nature ; and yet such a barbarian could not tell the best part of a hare, and could hardly discern the difference between a greasy Lapland medley, and the delicious ole la podrida at the sumptuous banquet of the renowned Marquis de Escalona. Far different is the man of real taste. Far superior is the epicure of tremulous sensibility. I reverence such a being; “ mihi erit magnus Apollo.” I love to view such a hero at a well covered table, and willingly acknowledge the greatness of one, who can exquisitely relish the flavor of game ; who can discern with precision the peculiar properties and different vintages of various wines ; and who can immediately ascertain by niceness of texture and firmness of fat the rank of a wild bird in the catalogue of a connoisseur. Such a man is not transported by a ravenous appetite to satisfy the demands of hunger ; but is merely inclined to gratify a natural delicacy by suitably appreciating
the general productions of the season, or the curious rarities of distant lands and oceans. With an ample fortune in his coffers he is not merely exempted from the fear of hunger, but he is entirely freed from the disgust and fatigue of uniformity in his courses. He is so able from knowledge to vary them, that he is never tormented with the thought of being obliged again to eat today, what he had yesterday exquisitely relished. Hence there is a perpetual round of gratify
A mere rich man may alter his dishes in a thousand ways ; he may have whatever fish the industry or skill of fishermen can supply, and whatever bird the month can regularly afford, or the accidents of weather may have forced on the coast ;, yet, if he have no power of selecting the best bits, and no taste in relishing his luxuries, he has squandered his money very little to his credit, and is not far removed from the spendthrift, who foolishly lavishes what he ignorantly possesses.
One of the most celebrated poets of antiquity seems to have been a connoisseur of no ordinary kind. Horace has often been justly honored with a high rank, as the recorder of nice dishes, and the discriminator of excellent wine. No doubt he enjoyed at the table of Mæcenas whatever, as a disciple of Epicurus, his cultivated taste could suggest, and the fortune of his noble entertainer was able to pro
As a teacher of moral wisdom, he did not indeed penly recommend a minute attention to elegant luxuries ; yet his poems abound with the names and qualities of most excellent meats, and he seems to take a delight in ridiculing the sumptuous entertainments of the rich, only that he may shew his own nicety of perception, and the wide range of his Epicurean knowledge. A diligent reader may easily observe, that he dwells on subjects of this nature longer, than the point of satire requires ; and that he reverts to them, whenever slight opportunity offers. This argument I would not in, deed press too far, because it would prove, that Bayle was licentious in his practices, as he was immoral in his writings; and that St. Jerom delighted in titillating his palate with rare Vol. II. No. 3.
every man of
titbits, as in writing to Salvian, he says, “ Procul sint à con“ viviis tuis phasides aves, crassi turtures, attagen Ionicus.* Yet from this, combined with various circumstances in the writings of Horace, it is evident, that, so far from being of the school of Cato and the republic, he was a luxurious philosopher of the Augustan age.
“ Me pinguem et nitidum benè curata cute vises,
« Cùm ridere voles, Epicuri de grege porcum." The world should therefore be grateful to Horace for having told them of the most esteemed rarities in his time. I that
rank in the illustrious list of connoisseurs will thank him for the authority of his name in vindicating their science from reproach, for having adorned it with the fragrant flowers of poetry, and for giving the sanction of his name to the goodness of Lucrine oysters and Falernian wine, and to the delicacy of the barbel, the partridge, and the African hen.
Why the pleasures of the table have been so much condemned, it is not easy to conjecture.
One reason may
however be given by a severe inspector of life. They have been denounced, not by the wise, who might have a right to judge, nor by the experienced, who were entitled to censure ; but by the ignorant multitude, who continued the cry of hereditary folly, and by the envious, who hated what they could not enjoy, and who concealed their love of dainty living under the cloak of morals and sanctity. That these reproaches are wholly true, I certainly do not mean to avow ; yet no one will suppose, that they are entirely false, who considers the extensive influence of envy over the generality of mankind, and who knows the determined opposition, which has immemorially subsisted between poverty and plenty. A rigid observer might therefore conclude, that Epictetus, who was a slave, could have no authority to talk against splendid banquets, to which he was not invited. He might also easily believe, that Diogenes was governed by envy or affectation, when he called Aristippus the parasite of the rich, for the former pretended to relish dried beans and mouldy soup,
while the latter, like a wise companion of Plato and Xenophon, shared in all the delicacies of Athenian cookery.
If the love of good things be innocent, it receives some recommendation from the pleasure, which it bestows on oth
An ambition of gratifying is common to all, in various manners and in various degress. It does not necessarily produce harm, and it may easily occasion no ordinary felicity. This desire often originates the large and splendid dinner parties in every great metropolis. There beauty or elegance presides. Nature and art there display the choicest produce tions, which are arranged with ingenuity, embellished with ornaments, and most appropriately adapted to excite the appetite, or gratify the taste. To this display of sumptuousness the epicure is invited, as a particular favorite. He knows, that his senses will revel amid such profusion, and his be nevolence inclines him to return the honor of the invitation by praising with truth the texture of the salmon, and the nices ness of the sauce ; the flavour of the mutton, and the dressing of the woodcocks. He expatiates on classical cookery, and proves most learnedly the inferiority of the Roman scarus to the turbot of Holland ; and shews with peculiar discrimination the difference of goodness between the renowned lagois at the banquet of Lucullus and the invaluable ortolan, cui datur principatus, the pride of England and her titled peers. Such reciprocity of pleasure is not merely harmless, it is an absolute good'; it diffuses smiles and kind words ; it creates curious questions, which receive ingenious answers ; it causes gaiety or merriment, and the whole company is delighted with the real goodness of the dinner, and the peculiar erudition of the learned connoisseur.
: But the value of the science is evident not only from the harmless pleasure, it produces, but also from the solid adyantages, which it directly originates. Of these I shall now mention only one, leaving the others to the imagination of the reader. This benefit arises from the employment, afforded to thousands in procuring the choicest dainties of sea and land. This gives a subsistence to many, who might other