Charles Lamb.

Charles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 online

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younkers of his age commonly are,
let some sparks escape into a bundle
of straw, which kindling quickly,
spread the conflagration over every
part of their poor mansion, till it was
reduced to ashes. Together with the
cottage (a sorry antediluvian make-
shift of a building, you may think it),
what was of much more importance,
a fine litter of new-farrowed pigs, no
less than nine in number, perished.
China pigs have been esteemed a lux-
ury all over the East from the re-
motest periods that we read of. Bo-
bo was in the utmost consternation,
as you may think, not so much for
the sake of the tenement, which his
father and he could easily build up
again with a few dry branches, and
the labour of an hour or two, at any
time, as for the loss of the pigs.
While he was thinking what he
should say to his father, and wring-
ing his hands over the smoking rem-
nants of one of those untimely suffer-
ers, an odour assailed his nostrils,
unlike any scent which he had be-
fore experienced. What could it
proceed from? — not fro n the burnt
cottage — he had smelt that smell be-
fore — indeed this was by no means
the first accident of the kind which
had occurred through the negligence
of this unlucky young fire-brand.
Vol. VI.

Much less did it resemble that of any
known herb, we^d, or flower. A
premonitory moistening at the same
time overflowed his nether lip. He
knew not what to think. He next
stooped down to feel the pig, if there
were any signs of life in it. He burnt
his fingers, and to cool them he ap-
plied them in his booby fashion to
his mouth. Some of the crumbs of
the scorched skin had come away
with his fingers, and for the first time
in his life (in the world's life indeed,
for before him no man had known it)

he tasted — crackli

He stood in a

posture of ideot wonder. Again he
felt and fumbled at the pig. It did
not burn him so much now, still he
licked his fingers from a sort of habit.
The truth at length broke into his
slow understanding, that it was the
pig that smelt so, and the pig that
tasted so delicious; and, surrender-
ing himself up to the new-born plea-
sure, he fell to tearing up whole hand-
fuls of the scorched skin with the
flesh next it, and was cramming it
down his throat in his beastly fashion,
when his sire entered amid the smok-
ing rafters, armed with retributory
cudgel, and finding how affairs stood,
began to rain blows upon the young
rogue's shoulders, as thick as hail-
stones, which Bo-bo heeded not any
more than if they had been flies. The
tickling pleasure, which he experi-
enced in his lower regions, had ren-
dered him quite callous to any in-
conveniences he might feel in those
remote quarters. His father might
lay on, but he could not beat him
from his pig, till he had fairly made
an end of it, when, becoming a little
more sensible of his situation, some-
thing like the following dialogue en-

'^ You graceless whelp, what have
you got there devouring? is it not
enough that you have burnt me down
three houses with your dog's tricks,
and be hanged to you, but you must
be eating fire, and I know not what
— what have you got there, I say ?"
'' O father, the pig, the pig, do
come and taste how nice the burnt
pig eats."

The ears of Ho-ti tingled with hor-
ror. He cursed his son, and he cursed

::-J^i::^...;C:?5s^^.guMttaf..u..::v -.


A Dissertation upon Roast Pig.


himself that ever he should beget a
son that should eat burnt pig.

Bo-boj whose scent was wonder-
fully sharpened since mornings soon
raked out another pig, and fairly-
rending it asunder^ thrust the lesser
half by main force into the fists of
Ho-ti, still shouting out " Eat, eat,
eat the burnt pig, father, only taste
— O Lord," — with such-like barba-
rous ejaculations, cramming all the
while as if he would choke.

Ho-ti trembled every joint while
he grasped the abominable thing,
wavering whether he should not put
his son to death for an unnatural
young monster, when the crackling
scorching his fingers, as it had done
his son's, and applying the same re-
medy to them, he in his turn tasted
some of its flavour, which, make what
sour mouths he would for a pretence,
proved not altogether displeasing to
him. In conclusion (for the manu-
script here is a little tedious) both
father and son fairly sate down to the
mess, and never left off till they had
dispatched all that remained of the

Bo-bo was strictly enjoined not to
let the secret escape, for the neigh-
bours would certainly have stoned
them for a couple of abominable
wretches, who could think of im-
proving upon the good meat which
God had sent them. Nevertheless,
strange stories got about. It was
observed that Ho-ti's cottage was
burnt down now more frequently than
ever. Nothing but fires from this
time forward. Some would break
out in broad day, others in the night-
time. As often as the sow farrowed,
so sure was the house of Ho-ti to be
in a blaze ; and Ho-ti himself, which
was the more remarkable, instead of
chastising his son, seemed to grow
more indulgent to him than ever. At
length they were watched, the ter-
rible mystery discovered, and father
and son summoned to take their trial
at Pekin, then an inconsiderable
assize town. Evidence was given,
the obnoxious food itself produced
in court, and verdict about to be
pronounced, when the foreman of
the jury begged that some of the
burnt pig, of which the culprits
stood accused, might be handed
into the box. He handled it, and
they all handled it, and burning
their fingers, as Bo-bo and his fa-

ther had done before them, and na-
ture prompting to each of them the
same remedy, against the face of all
the facts, and the clearest charge
which judge had ever given,- — to the
surprise of the whole court, towns-
folk, strangers, reporters, and all
present, without leaving the box, or
any manner of consultation what-
ever, they brought in a simultaneous
verdict of Not Guilty.

The judge, who was a shrewd fel-
low, winked at the manifest iniquity
of the decision ; and, when the court
was dismissed, went privily, and
bought up all the pigs that could be
had for love or money. In a few
days his Lordship's town house was
observed to be on fire. The thing
took wing, and now there was nothing
to be seen but fires in every direc-
tion. Fuel and pigs grew enormously
dear all over the district. The in-
surance offices one and all shut up
shop. People built slighter and
slighter every day_, until it was fear-
ed that the very science of architec-
ture would in no long time be lost to
the world. Thus this custom of
firing houses continued, till in process
of time, says my manuscript, a sage
arose, like our Locke, who made a
discovery, that the flesh of swine, or
indeed of any other animal, might be
cooked (burnt, as they called it)
without the necessity of consuming
a whole house to dress it. Then first
began the rude form of a gridiron.
Roasting by the string, or spit, came
in a century or two later, I forget in
whose dynasty. By such slow de-
grees, concludes the manuscript, do
the most useful, and seemingly the
niost obvious arts, make their way
among mankind.

Without placing too implicit faith
in the account above given, it must
be agreed, that if a worthy pretext
for so dangerous an experiment as
setting houses on fire (especially in
these days) could be assigned in fa-
vour of any culinary object, that
pretext and excuse might be found in


Of all the delicacies in the whole
mundus edihilis, I will maintain it to
be the most delicate — jyrincejps obso-

I speak not of yom* grown porkers
— things between pig and pork —
those hobbydehoys— but a young and
tender suckling — under a moon old


A Dissertation upon Roast Pig.

— guiltless as yet of the stye — with
no original speck of the amor iin-
munditia, the hereditary failing of
the first parent, yet manifest — his
voice as yet not broken, but some-
thing between a childish treble, and
a grumble — the mild forerunner, or
proeludium, of a grunt.

He must he roasted. I am not ig-
norant that our ancestors ate them
seethed, or boiled — but what a sa-
crifice of the exterior tegument !

There is no flavour comparable, I
will contend, to that of the crisp
tawny, well-watched, not over-roast-
ed, craclding, as it is well called —
the very teeth are invited to their
share of the pleasure at this banquet
in overcoming the coy, brittle resist-
ance — with the adhesive oleaginous
— O call it not fat — but an inde-
finable sweetness growing up to it —
the tender blossoming of fat — fat
cropped in the bud — taken in the
shoot — in the first innocence — the
cream and quintessence of the child-
pig's yet pure food the lean, no

lean, but a kind of animal manna —
or, rather, fat and lean (if it must be
so) so blended and running into each
other, that both together make but
one ambrosian result, or common

Behold him, while he is doing — it
seemeth rather a refreshing warmth,
than a scorching heat, that he is so
passive to. How equably he twirl-
eth round the string ! — Now he is
just done. To see the extreme sen-
sibility of that tender age, he hath
wept out his pretty eyes — radiant
jeUies — shooting stars —

See him in the dish, his second
cradle, how meek he lieth ! — wouldst
thou have had this innocent grow up
to the grossness and indocility which
too often accompany maturer swine-
hood ? Ten to one he would have
proved a glutton, a sloven, an obsti-
nate, disagreeable animal — wallow-
ing in all manner of filthy conversa-
tion — from these sins he is happily
snatched away —

Ere sin could blight^ or sorroxv fadc^
Death ca?ne -with timely care —

his memory is odoriferous — no clown
curseth, while his stomach half re-
jecteth, the rank bacon — no coal-
heaver bolteth him in reeking sau-
sages—he hath a fair sepvdchre in the
grateful stomach of the judicious epi-

cure — and for such a tomb might be
content to die.

He is the best of sapors

Pine-apple is great. She is indeed
almost too transcendant — a delight,
if not sinful, yet so like to sinning,
that really a tender-conscienced per-
son would do well to pause — too ra-
vishing for mortal taste, she wound-
eth and excoriateth the lips that ap-
proach her — like lovers' kisses, she
biteth — she is a pleasure bordering on
pain from the fierceness and insanity
of her relish — but she stoppeth at the
palatt — she meddleth not with the
appetite — and the coarsest hunger
might barter her consistently for a
mutton chop.

Pig— let me speak his praise — is
no less provocative of the appetite,
than he is satisfactory to the critical-
ness of the censorious palate. The
strong man may batten on him, and
the weakling refuseth not his mild

Unlike to mankind's mixed charac-
ters, a bundle of virtues and vices,
hiexplicably intertwisted, and not
to be unravelled without hazard,
he is — good throughout. No part
of him is better or worse than an-
other. He helpeth, as far as his lit-
tle means extend, all around. He
is the least envious of banquets. He
is all neighbours' fare.

I am one of those, who freely and
imgrudgiiigly impart a share of the
good things of this life which fall to
their lot (few as mine are in this
kind) to a friend. I protest I take
as great an interest in my friend's
pleasures, his relishes, and proper sa-
tisfactions, as in mine own. " Pre-
sents," I often say, " endear Ab-
sents." Hares, pheasants, partridges,
snipes, barn-door chickens (those
'' tame villatic fowl"), capons, plo-
vers, brawn, barrels of oysters, I dis-
pense as freely as I receive them. I
love to taste them, as it were, upon
the tongue of my friend. But a stop
must be put somewhere. One would
not, like Lear, '* give every thing.'*
I make my stand upon pig. Me-
thinks it is an ingratitude to the
Giver of all good flavours, to extra-
domiciliate, or send out of the house,
slightingly, (under pretext of friend-
ship, or I know not what) a blessing
so particularly adapted, predestined,
I may say, to my individual palate —
it argues an insensibility.
T 2


Forest Flowers.


I remember a touch of conscience
in this kind at school. My good old
aunt, who never partedfrom me at the
end of a holiday without stuffing a
sweet-meat, or some nice thing, into
my pocket, had dismissed me one
evening with a smoking plumb cake,
fresh from the oven. In my way to
school (it was over London bridge)
a grey-headed old beggar saluted
me (I have no doubt at this time of
day that he was a counterfeit). I
had no pence to console him with,
and in the vanity of self-denial, and
the very coxcombry of charity, school-
boy-like, I made him a present of —
the whole cake ! 1 walked on a little,
buoyed up, as one is on such occa-
sions, with a sweet soothing of self-
satisfaction ; but before I had got to
the end of the bridge, my better
feelings returned, and I burst into
tears, thinking how ungrateful I had
been to my good aunt, to go and
give her good gift away to a stranger,
that 1 had never seen before, and
who might be a bad man for aught
I knew ; and then I thought of the
pleasure my aunt would be taking in
thinking that I — I myself, and not
another — would eat her nice cake —
and what should I say to her the
next time 1 saw her — how naughty
1 was to part with her pretty present
— and the odour of that spicy cake
came back upon ray recollection, and
the pleasure and the curiosity I had
taken in seeing her make it, and her
joy when she sent it to the oven, and
how disappointed she would feel that
I had never had a bit of it in my
nlouth at last — and I blamed my im-
pertinent spirit of alms-giving, and
out-of-place hypocrisy of goodness,
and above all I wished never again

to see the face of that insidious, good-
for-nothing, old grey impostor.

Our ancestors were nice in their me-
thod of sacrificing these tender vic-
tims. We read of pigs whipt to death
with something of a shock, as we hear
of any other obselete custom. The age
of discipline is gone by, or it would
be curious to inquire (in a philosophi-
cal light merely) what effect this pro-
cess might have towards intenerating
and dulcifying a substance, naturally
so mild and dulcet as the flesh of
young pigs. It looks like refining a
violet. Yet we should be cautious,
while we condemn the inhumanity,
how we censure the wisdom of the
practice. It might impart a gusto —

I remember an hypothesis, argued
upon by the young students, when I
was at St. Omer s, and maintained
with much learning and pleasantry
on both sides, " Whether, supposing
that the flavour of a pig who ob-
tained his death by whipping {per
Jlagellationem extremain) superadded
a pleasure upon the palate of a man
more intense, than any possible suf-
fering we can conceive in the animal,
is man justified in using that method
of putting the animal to death?" I
forget the decision.

His sauce should be considered.
Decidedly, a few bread crumbs, done
up with his liver and brahis, and a
dash of mild sage. But, banish, dear
Mrs. Cook, I beseech you, the whole
onion tribe. Barbecue your whole
hogs to your palate, steep them in
shalots, stuff them out with planta-
tions of the rank and guilty garlick ;
you cannot poison them, or make them
stronger than they are — but consider,
he is a weakling — a flower.

Eli A.




As a single man^ I have spent a
good deal of my time in noting down
the infirmities of Married People, to
console myself for those superior
pleasures, which they tell me I have
lost by remahihig as 1 am.

I cannot say that the quarrels of
men and their wives ever made any
great impression upon me, or had
much tendency to strengthen in me
those anti-social resolutions, which I
took up long ago upon more substan-
tial considerations. "What oftenest
offends me at the houses of married
persons where I visit, is an error of
quite a different description ; — it is,
tnat they are too loving.

Not too loving neither : that does
not explain my meaning. Besides,
why should that offend me ? The
very act of separating themselves
from the rest of the world to have
the fuller enjoyment of each other's
society, implies that they prefer one
another to all the world.

But what I complain of is, that
they carry this preference so undis-
guisedly, they perk it up in the faces
of us single people so shamelessly,
you cannot be in their company a
moment without being made to feel,
by some indirect hint or open avowal,
that 2/ou are not the object of this
preference. Now there are some
things which give no offence, while
implied or taken for granted merely ;
but expressed, there is much offence
in them. If a man were to accost
the first homely-featured or plain-
dressed young woman of his ac-
quahitance, and tell her, bluntly, that
she was not handsome or rich enough

Vol. VL

for him, and he could not marry her,
he would deserve to be kicked for his
ill manners ; yet no less is implied in
the fact, that having access and op-
portunity of putting the question to
her, he has never yet thought fit to
do it. The young woman under-
stands this as clearly as if it were
put into words; but no reasonable
young woman would think of making
this the ground of a quarrel. Just
as little right have a married couple
to tell me by speeches, and looks that
are scarce less plain than speeches,
that I am not the happy man, — the
lady's choice. It is enough that I
know I am not : I do not want this
perpetual remuiding.

The display of superior knowledge
or riches may be made sufficiently
mortifying; but these admit of a
palliative. The knowledge which is
brought out to insult me, may acci-
dentally improve me ; and in the rich
man's houses and pictures, — his parks
and gardens, I have a temporary
usufruct at least. But the display of
married happiness has none of these
palliatives: it is throughout pure,
unrecompensed, unqualified insult.

Marriage by its best title is a mo-
nopoly, and not of the least invidious
sort. It is the cunning of most pos-
sessors of any exclusive privileges to
keep their advantage as much out of
sight as possible, that their less fa-
voured neighbours, seeing little of
the benefit, may the less be disposed
to question the right. But these
married monopolists thrust the most
obnoxious part of their patent into
our faces.


The Old Actors.


■days, when he was ''cherub Die-

What clipped his wings, or made it
expedient that he should exchange the
holy for the profane state ; whether
he had lost his good voice (his best
recommendation to that office), like
Sir John, " with hallooing and sing-
ing of anthems ;" or whether he was
adjudged to lack something, even
in those early years, of the gravity
indispensable to an occupation which
professeth to ''commerce with the
skies" — I could never rightly learn ;
but we find him, after the probation
of a twelvemonth or so, reverting to
a secular condition, and become one
of us.

I think he was not altogether of
that timber, out of which cathedral
seats and sounding boards are hewed.
But if a glad heart — kind and there-
fore glad — be any part of sanctity,
then might the robe of Motley, with
xvhich he invested himself with so
much humility after his deprivation,
and which he wore so long with so
much blameless satisfaction to himself
and to the public, be accepted for a
surplice — his white stole, and albe.

The first fruits of his seculariza-
tion was an engagement upon the
boards of Old Drury, at which thea-
tre he commenced, as I have been
told, with adopting the manner of
Parsons in old men's characters. At
the period in which most of us knew
him, he was no more an imitator than
he was in any true sense himself imit-

He was the Robin Good-Fellow of
the stage. He came in to trouble all
things with a welcome perplexity,
himself no whit troubled for the mat-
ter. He was known, like Puck, by
his note — Ha! Hal Ha! — sometimes
deepening to Ho! Ho! Ho! with an
in-esistible accession, derived perhaps
remotely from his ecclesiastical edu-
cation, foreign to his prototype, of —
O La I Thousands of hearts yet re-
spond to the chuckling O La! of
Dicky Suett, brought back to their
remembrance by the faithful tran-
script of his friend Mathews's mimic-
ry. The "force of nature could no
further go." He drolled upon the
stock of these two syllables richer
than the cuckoo.

Care, that troubles all the world,
was forgotten in his composition.
Had he had but two grains (nay, half

a grain) of it, he could never have
supported himself upon those two spi-
der's strings, which served him (in
the latter part of his unmixed exist-
ence) as legs. A doubt or a scruple
must have made him totter, a sigh
have puffed him down ; the weight of
a frown had staggered him, a wrin-
kle made him lose his balance. But
on he went, scrambling upon those
airy stilts of his, with Robin Good-
Fellow, " thorough brake, thorough
briar," reckless of a scratched face or
a torn doublet.

Shakspeare foresaw him, when he
framed his fools and jesters. They
have all the true Suett stamp, a loose
gait, a slippery tongue, this last the
ready midwife to a without-pain-deli-
vered jest; in words light as air, vent-
ing truths deep as the centre ; with
idlest rhymes tagging conceit when
busiest, singing with Lear in the tem-
pest, or Sir Toby at the buttery hatch.

Jack Bannister and he had the for-
tune to be more of personal favourites
with the town than any actors before
or after. The difference, 1 take it, was
this : — Jack was more beloved for his
sweet, good-natured, moral, preten-
sions. Dicky was more liked for his
sweet, good-natured, no pretensions at
all. Your whole conscience stirred
with Bannister's performance of Wal-
ter in the Children in the Wood— how
dearly beautiful it was ! — but Dicky
seemed like a thing, as Shakspeare
says of Love, too young to know
what conscience is. He put us into
Vesta's days. Evil fled before him—
not as from Jack, as from an antago-
nist, — but because it could not touch
him, any more than a cannon-ball a
fly. He was delivered from the bur-
then of that death ; and, when Death
came himself, not in metaphor, to
fetch Dicky, it is recorded of him by
Robert Palmer, who kindly watched
his exit, that he received the last
stroke, neither varying his accus-
tomed tranquillity, nor tune, with the
simple exclamation, worthy to have
been recorded in his epitaph — O La!
—O La! Bobby!


Not many nights ago we had come
home from seeing this extraordinary
performer in Cockletop; and when we
retired to our pillow, his whimsical
image still stuck by us, in a manner
as to threaten sleep. In vain we tried
to divest ourselves of it by conjuring

>>^-v-.r; '.ii5l<t^i.j!^J' **-

1822,;] TAe Old Actors.

up the most opposite associations.
We resolved to be serious. We
raised up the gravest topics of life ;
private misery, public calamity. All
would not do.

There the antic sate

Mocking our state— ^

his queer visnomy — his bewildering
costume — all the strange things which
he had raked together — his serpen-
tine rod swagging about in his pocket
— Cleopatra's tear, and the rest of his
relics — O'Keefe's wild farce, and his
wilder commentary — till the passion
of laughter, like grief in excess, re-
lieved itself by its own weight, in-
viting the sleep which in the first in-
stance it had driven away.

But we were not to escape so
easily. No sooner did we fall into
slumbers, than the same image, only
more perplexing, assailed us in th6
shape of dreams. Not one Munden,
but five hundred, were dancing be-
fore us, like the faces which, whether
you will or no, come when you have
been taking opium — all the strange
combinations, which this strangest of
all strange mortals ever shot his pro-
per countenance into, from the day
he came commissioned to dry up the
tears of the town for the loss of the
now almost forgotten Edwin. O for
the power of the pencil to have fixed
them when we awoke ! A season or
two since there was exhibited a Ho-
garth gallery. We do not see why
there should not be a Munden gal-
lery. In richness and variety the
latter would not fall far short of the

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