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a reason that he should be deprived of his chosen,
harmless, nay edifying, way of life, and be committed
in hoary age for a sturdy vagabond ?


There was a Yorick once, whom it would not have
shamed to have sate down at the cripples' feast, and
to have thrown in his benediction, ay, and his mite
too, for a companionable symbol. " Age, thou hast
lost thy breed."

Half of these stories about the prodigious fortunes
made by begging are (I verily believe) misers' calum-
nies. One was much talked of in the public papers
some time since, and the usual charitable inferences
deduced. A clerk in the Bank was surprised with the
announcement of a five hundred pound legacy left
him by a person whose name he was a stranger to.
It seems that in his daily morning walks from Peck-
ham (or some village thereabouts) where he lived, to
his office, it had been his practice for the last twenty
years to drop his half-penny duly into the hat of some
blind Bartimeus, that sate begging alms by the way-
side in the Borough. The good old beggar recog-
nised his daily benefactor by the voice only ; and,
when he died, left all the amassings of his alms (that
had been half a century perhaps in the accumulating)
to his old Bank friend. Was this a story to purse up
people's hearts, and pennies, against giving an alms
to the blind ? or not rather a beautiful moral of
well-directed charity on the one part, and noble grat-
itude upon the other?

I sometimes wish I had been that Bank clerk.

I seem to remember a poor old grateful kind of


creature, blinking, and looking up with his no eyes in
the sun

Is it possible I could have steeled my purse against

Perhaps I had no small change.

Reader, do not be frightened at the hard words,
imposition, imposture give, and ask no questions.
Cast thy bread upon the waters. Some have un-
awares (like this Bank clerk) entertained angels.

Shut not thy purse-strings always against painted
distress. Act a charity sometimes. When a poor
creature (outwardly and visibly such) comes before
thee, do not stay to inquire whether the " seven small
children," in whose name he implores thy assistance,
have a veritable existence. Rake not into the bowels
of unwelcome truth, to save a half-penny. It is good
to believe him. If he be not all that he pretendeth,
give, and under a personate father of a family, think
(if thou pleasest) that thou hast relieved an indigent
bachelor. When they come with their counterfeit
looks, and mumping tones, think them players. You
pay your money to see a comedian feign these things,
which, concerning these poor people, thou canst not
certainly tell whether they are feigned or not.


MANKIND, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend
M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me,
for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw,
clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as
they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not
obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the
second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he
designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang,
literally the Cooks' holiday. The manuscript goes
on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling
(which I take to be the elder brother) was accident-
ally discovered in the manner following. The swine-
herd, Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one
morning, as his manner was, to collect mast for his
hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son
Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who being fond of play-
ing with fire, as 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 antedilu-
vian 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 luxury all over the
East from the remotest 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 remnants of one of
those untimely sufferers, an odour assailed his nostrils,
unlike any scent which he had before experienced.
What could it proceed from? not from the burnt
cottage he had smelt that smell before indeed
this was by no means the first accident of the kind
which had occurred through the negligence of this un-
lucky young fire-brand. Much less did it resemble
that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premoni-
tory 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 applied them in his booby fashion to his mouth.
Some of the crums 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 crackling ! 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, surrendering himself up to
the new-born pleasure, he fell to tearing up whole
handfuls 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 smoking
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 experienced in his
lower regions, had rendered him quite callous to any
inconveniences 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 ensued.

" You graceless whelp, what have you got there de-
vouring? 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 horcor. He cursed
his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should
beget a son that should eat burnt pig.

Bo-bo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened
since morning, soon raked out another pig, and fairly
rending it assunder, 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 barbarous 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 remedy 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 sat down to the mess, and never left off till they
had despatched all that remained of the litter.

Bo-bo was strictly enjoined not to let the secret
escape, for the neighbours would certainly have stoned
them for a couple of abominable wretches, who
could think of improving 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 terrible 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 fore-
man 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 father
had done before them, and nature 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, townsfolk,
strangers, reporters, and all present without leaving
the box, or any manner of consultation whatever, they
brought in a simultaneous verdict of Not Guilty.

The judge, who was a shrewd fellow, 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 noth-


ing to be seen but fires in every direction. Fuel and
pigs grew enormously dear all over the district. The
insurance offices one and all shut up shop. People
built slighter and slighter every day, until it was feared
that the very science of architecture 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 degrees, concludes the manuscript, do
the most useful, and seemingly the most 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 pre-
text for so dangerous an experiment as setting houses
on fire (especially in these days) could be assigned
in favour of any culinary object, that pretext and ex-
cuse might be found in ROAST PIG.

Of all the delicacies in the whole mundus edibilis,
I will maintain it to be the most delicate princeps

I speak not of your grown porkers things between
pig and pork those hobbydehoys but a young


and tender suckling under a moon old guiltless
as yet of the sty with no original speck of the
amor immunditm, the hereditary failing of the first
parent, yet manifest his voice as yet not broken,
but something between a childish treble, and a
grumble the mild forerunner, or praludium, of a

He must be roasted. I am not ignorant that our
ancestors ate them seethed, or boiled but what a
sacrifice of the exterior tegument !

There is no flavour comparable, I will contend, to
that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted,
crackling, as it is well called the very teeth are in-
vited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet in
overcoming the coy, brittle resistance with the
adhesive oleaginous' O call it not fat but an in-
definable 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 substance.

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 twirleth round the
string ! Now he is just done. To see the extreme


sensibility of that tender age, he hath wept out his
pretty eyes radiant jellies 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 ac-
company maturer swinehood? Ten to one he would
have proved a glutton, a sloven, an obstinate, dis-
agreeable animal wallowing in all manner of filthy
conversation from these sins he is happily snatched


Ere sin could blight, or sorrow fade,
Death came with timely care

his memory is odoriferous no clown curseth, while
his stomach half rejecteth, the rank bacon no coal-
heaver bolteth him in reeking sausages he hath a
fair sepulchre in the grateful stomach of the judicious
epicure and for such a tomb might be content to

He is the best of Sapors. Pine-apple is great.
She is indeed almost too transcendent a delight, if
not sinful, yet so like to sinning, that really a tender-
conscienced person would do well to pause too
ravishing for mortal taste, she woundeth and excori-
ateth the lips that approach 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 palate 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 provoca-
tive of the appetite, than he is satisfactory to the criti-
calness of the censorious palate. The strong man
may batten on him, and the weakling refuseth not his
mild juices.

Unlike to mankind's mixed characters, a bundle of
virtues and vices, inexplicably intertwisted, and not to
be unravelled without hazard, he is good through-
out. No part of him is better or worse than another.
He helpeth, as far as his little means extend, all
around. He is the least envious of banquets. He is
all neighbours' fare.

I am one of those, who freely and ungrudgingly
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 satisfactions,
as in mine own. " Presents," I often say, " endear
Absents." Hares, pheasants, partridges, snipes, barn-
door chickens (those "tame villatic fowl"), capons,
plovers, brawn, barrels of oysters, I dispense 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. Methinks
it is an ingratitude to the Giver of all good flavours,
to extra-domiciliate, or send out of the house, slight-
ingly, (under pretext of friendship, or I know not


what) a blessing so particularly adapted, predestined,
I may say, to my individual palate It argues an in-

I remember a touch of conscience in this kind at
school. My good old aunt, who never parted from
me at the end of a holiday without stuffing a sweet-
meat, or some nice thing, into my pocket, had dis-
missed me one evening with a smoking plum-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 coun-
terfeit) . 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 ! I walked on a little, buoyed up, as
one is on such occasions, 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 I 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 I
saw her how naughty I was to part with her pretty
present and the odour of that spicy cake came back
upon my recollection, and the pleasure and the curi-



osity 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
mouth at last and I blamed my impertinent spirit
of alms-giving, and out-of-place hypocrisy of good-
ness, and above all I wished never to see the face
again of that insidious, good-for-nothing, old grey

Our ancestors were nice in their method of sacri-
ficing these tender victims. We read of pigs whipt
to death with something of a shock, as we hear of any
other obsolete custom. The age of discipline is gone
by, or it would be curious to inquire (in a philo-
sophical light merely) what effect this process 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 im-
part a gusto

I remember an hypothesis, argued upon by the
young students, when I was at St. Omer's, and main-
tained with much learning and pleasantry on both
sides, " Whether, supposing that the flavour of a pig
who obtained his death by whipping (per flagcttatio-
nem extremam} superaddeda pleasure upon the palate
of a man more intense than any possible suffering we
can conceive in the animal, is man justified in using


that method of putting the animal to death? " I for-
get the decision.

His sauce should be considered. Decidedly, a few
bread crums, done up with his liver and brains, 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, stiiff
them out with plantations of the rank and guilty gar-
lic ; you cannot poison them, or make them stronger
than they are but consider, he is a weakling 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 pleas-
ures, which they tell me I have lost by remaining
as I 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 me in those anti-
social resolutions, which I took up long ago upon
more substantial considerations. What oftenest of-
fends me at the houses of married persons where I
visit, is an error of quite a different description ; it
is that 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 cany this
preference so undisguisedly, 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
you are not the object of this preference. Now there
are some things which give no offence, while implied
or taken for granted merely j 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 acquaintance, and tell her bluntly, that she
was not handsome or rich enough 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 opportunity of putting
the question to her, he has never yet thought fit to
do it. The young woman understands 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 reminding.

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 accidentally 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 monopoly, and not of
the least invidious sort. It is the cunning of most
possessors of any exclusive privilege to keep their
advantage as much out of sight as possible, that their
less favoured 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.

Nothing is to me more distasteful than that entire
complacency and satisfaction which beam in the
countenances of a new-married couple, in that of
the lady particularly : it tells you, that her lot is dis-
posed of in this world ; that you can have no hopes
of her. It is true, I have none ; nor wishes either,
perhaps : but this is one of those truths which ought,
as I said before, to be taken for granted, not

The excessive airs which those people give them-
selves, founded on the ignorance of us unmarried
people, would be more offensive if they were less
irrational. We will allow them to understand the
mysteries belonging to their own craft better than
we who have not had the happiness to be made free


of the company : but their arrogance is not content
within these limits. If a single person presume to
offer his opinion in their presence, though upon the
most indifferent subject, he is immediately silenced
as an incompetent person. Nay, a young married
lady of my acquaintance, who, the best of the jest
was, had not changed her condition above a fort-
night before, in a question on which I had the mis-
fortune to differ from her, respecting the properest
mode of breeding oysters for the London market,
had the assurance to ask with a sneer, how such an
old Bachelor as I could pretend to know any thing
about such matters.

But what I have spoken of hitherto is nothing to
the airs which these creatures give themselves when
they come, as they generally do, to have children.
When I consider how little of a rarity children are,
that every street and blind alley swarms with
them, that the poorest people commonly have
them in most abundance, that there are few mar-
riages that are not blest with at least one of these
bargains, how often they turn out ill, and defeat
the fond hopes of their parents, taking to vicious
courses, which end in poverty, disgrace, the gallows,
&c. I cannot for my life tell what cause for pride
there can possibly be in having them. If they were
young phoenixes, indeed, that were born but one in
a year, their might be a pretext. But when they
are so common


I do not advert to the insolent merit which they
assume with their husbands on these occasions. Let
them look to that. But why we, who are not their
natural- born subjects, should be expected to bring
our spices, myrrh, and incense, our tribute and
homage of admiration, I do not see.

" Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant, even
so are the young children : " so says the excellent
office in our Prayer-book appointed for the churching

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 15 of 32)