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of abominable wretches, who could think of improving upon

20 the good meat which God had sent them. Nevertheless,
strange stories got about. It was observed that Ho-ti's cot-
tage 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

85 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 mys-
tery discovered, and father and son summoned to take their

30 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,

35 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, re-
porters, and all present — without leaving the box, or any
manner of consultation whatever, they brought in a simul-
taneous verdict of Not Guilty.

The Judge, who was a shrewd fellow, winked at the mani- 5
fest iniquity of the decision: and when the court was dis-
missed, 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 direction. 10
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 15
in process of time, says my manuscript, a sage arose, like our
Locke, who made a discovery that the flesh of swine, or in-
deed 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. 20
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 25
given, it must be agreed that if a worthy pretext for so dan-
gerous an experiment as setting houses on fire (especially in
these days) could be assigned in favor of any culinary object,
that pretext and excuse might be found in kOxVST pig.

Of all the delicacies in the whole mundiis edibiJis, I will 30
maintain it to be the most delicate — princeps obsoniorum.

I speak not of your grown porkers — things between pig
and pork — those hobbydehoys — but a young and tender suck-
ling — under a moon old — guiltless as yet of the sty — with
no original speck of the amor immunditice, the hereditary 35
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 prceludium, of a grunt.


He must he roasted. I am not ignorant that our ancestors
ate them seethed, or boiled — but what a sacrifice of the ex-
terior tegument!

There is no flavor comparable, 1 will contend, to that of the
5 crisp, tawn}^, well-watclied, not over-roasted, cvacMing, as it
is well called — the very teeth are invited to their share of the
pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the C03', brittle resist-
ance — with the adhesive oleaginous — oh call it not fat — but an
indefinable sweetness groM'ing up to it — the tender blossoming

10 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

15 ambrosian result, or common substance.

Behold him while he is doing — it seemeth rather a refresh-
ing 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

20 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 gross-
ness and indocility which too often accompany maturer swine-

25 hood? Ten to one he would have proved a glutton, a sloven,
an obstinate, disagreeable animal — wallowing in all manner
of filthy conversation — from these sins he is happily snatched
away —

" Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade,

30 Death came with timely care " —

his memory is odoriferous — no clown curseth, while his stom-
ach 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
35 tomb might be content to die.

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 excoriateth 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 stop- 5
peth at the palate — she meddleth not with the appetite — and
the coarsest hunger might barter her consistently for a mut-

Pig — let me speak his praise — is no less provocative of the
appetite than he is satisfactory to the criticalness of the cen- 10
sorious 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 throughout. No part of him is 15
better or worse than another. He helpeth, as far as his little
means extend, all around. He is the least envious of ban-
quets. He is all neighbors' 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 20
(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 chicken (those " tame villatic fowl "), capons, 25
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 everything." I make my
stand upon pig. Methinks it is an ingratitude to the Giver 30
of all good flavors to extradomiciliate, or send out of the
house, slightingly (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 insensibility.

I remember a touch of conscience in this kind at school. 35
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 dismissed me one evening with a smok-


ing plum-cake, fresh from the oven. In ni}^ 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

5 the vanity of self-denial and the very coxcombry of charity,
schoolboy-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

10 I burst into tears, thinking how ungrateful I had been to
my good aunt to go and give her good gift awav 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 an-

15 other — 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 odor of that spicy cake came back
upon my recollection, and the pleasure and the curiosity I
had taken in seeing her make it, and her joy when she sent

20 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 almsgiving and out-of-place hypoc-
risy of goodness; and above all I wished never to see the
face again of that insidious, good-for-nothing, old grey

25 impostor.

Our ancestors were nice in their method of sacrificing these
tender victims. We read of pigs whipt to death with some-
thing of a shock, as we hear of any other obsolete custom.
The age of discipline is gone by, or it would be curious to

30 inquire (in a philosophical 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

35 the wisdom of the practice. It might impart a gusto —

I remember an hypothesis, argued upon by the young stu-
dents, when I was at St. Omer's, and maintained with much
learning and pleasantry on both sides, " Whether, supposing


that the flavor of a pig who obtained his death by whipping
{per flageUationeni extremam) superadded a pleasure upon
the pahite 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 forget the 5

His sauce, should be considered. Decidedly, a few bread
crumbs, 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, lO
steep them in shalots, stuff them out with plantations of the
rank and guilty garlic; you cannot poison them, or make them
stronger than they are — but consider, he is a weakling — a


(From The Last Essays of Elia, 1833.)

A Poor Eelation — is the most irrelevant thing in nature, — 15
a piece of impertinent correspondency, — an odious approxi-
mation, — a haunting conscience, — a preposterous shadow,
lengthening in the noontide of your prosperity, — an unwel-
come remembrancer, — a perpetually recurring mortification,
— a drain on 3'our purse, — a more intolerable dun upon your 20
pride, — a drawback upon success, — a rebuke to your rising, —
a stain in your blood, — a blot on 3'Our scutcheon, — a rent in
your garment, — a death's head at your banquet, — Agathocles'
pot, — a Mordecai in your gate, — a Lazarus at your door, — a
lion in your path, — a frog in your chamber, — a fly in your 25
ointment, — a mote in your eye, — a triumph to your enemy,
an apology to your friends, — the one thing not needful,
— the hail in harvest, — the ounce of sour in a pound of

He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you, " That 30

is Mr. ." A rap, between familiarity and respect; that

demands, and at the same time seems to despair of, enter-
tainment. He entereth smiling and — embarrassed. He
holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and — draweth it back


again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time — when the
table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have com-
pany — but is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your
visitor's two children are accommodated at a side table. He
5 never coraeth upon open days, when your wife says with some

complacency, " j\Iy dear, perhaps Mr. will drop in

to-day." He remembereth birthdays — and professeth he is
fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against
fish, the turbot being small — yet suffereth himself to be im-

lu portuned into a slice, against his first resolution. He stick-
eth by the port — yet will be prevailed upon to empty the
remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press it upon him.
He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too
obsequious, or not civil enough, to him. The guests think

15 " they have seen him before." Every one speculateth upon his
condition; and the most part take him to be — a tide-waiter.
He calleth you by your Christian name, to imply that his
other is the same with your own. He is too familiar by half,
yet you wish he had less difBdence. With half the famil-

30 iarity, he might pass for a casual dependant; with more bold-
ness, he would be in no danger of being taken for what he
is. He is too humble for a friend; yet taketh on him moi-e
state than befits a client. He is a worse guest than a country
tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth up no rent — yet 'tis odds,

25 from his garb and demeanor, that your guests take him for
one. He is asked to make one at the whist-table; refuseth on
the score of poverty, and — resents lieing left out. When the
company break up, he proffereth to go for a coach — and lets
the servant go. He recollects your grandfather; and will

30 thrust in some mean and quite unimportant anecdote of — the
family. He knew it when it was not quite so flourishing as
" he is blest in seeing it now." He reviveth past situations,
to institute what he calleth — favorable comparisons. With
a reflecting sort of congratulation, he will inquire the price

35 of your furniture; and insults you with a special commenda-
tion of your window-curtains. He is of opinion that the urn
is the more elegant shape, but, after all, there was something
more comfortable about the old tea-kettle — which you must


remember. He dare say you must find a great convenience
in having a carriage of your own, and appealeth to your lady
if it is not so. Inquireth if you have had your arms done
on vellum yet; and did not know, till lately, that such-and-
such had been the crest of the family. His memory is un- 5
seasonable; his compliments perverse; his talk a trouble; his
stay pertinacious; and when he goeth away, you dismiss his
chair into a corner, as precipitately as possible, and feel fairly
rid of two nuisances.

There is a worse evil under the sun, and that is — a female 10
Poor Eelation. You may do something with the other; you
may pass him off tolerably well; but your indigent she-relative
is hopeless. " He is an old humorist," you may say, " and
affects to go threadbare. His circumstances are better than
folks would take them to be. You are fond of having a Char- 15
acter at your table, and truly he is one." But in the indica-
tions of female poverty there can be no disguise. No woman
dresses below herself from caprice. The truth must out with-
out shuffling. " She is plainly related to the L s; or what

does she at their house?" She is, in all probability, your 30
wife's cousin. Nine times out of ten, at least, this is the
case. Her garb is something between a gentlewoman and a
beggar, yet the former evidently predominates. She is most
provokingly humble, and ostentatiously sensible to her inferi-
ority. He may require to be repressed sometimes — aliquando 25
sufjiaminandus erat; — but there is no raising her. You
send her soup at dinner, and she begs to be helped — after the

gentlemen. Mr. requests the honor of taking wine with

her; she hesitates between port and Madeira, and chooses the
former — because he does. She calls the servant " Sir "; and 30
insists on not troubling him to hold her plate. The house-
keeper patronizes her. The children's governess takes upon
her to correct her when she has mistaken the piano for a

Richard Amlet, Esq., in the play, is a notable instance of 35
the disadvantages to which this chimerical notion of affinity
constituting a claim to acquaintance may subject the spirit
of a gentleman. A little foolish blood is all that is betwixt


him and a lady of great estate. His stars are perpetually
crossed by the malignant maternity of an old woman, who
persists in calling him "• her son Dick." But she has where-
withal in the end to recompense his indignities, and float him
5 again upon the brilliant surface, under which it had been
her seeming business and pleasure all along to sink him. All
men, besides, are not of Dick's temperament. I knew an
Amlet in real life, who, wanting Dick's buoyancy, sank
indeed. Poor W was of my own standing at Christ's,

10 a fine classic, and a youth of promise. If he had a blemish,
it was too much pride; but its quality was inoffensive; it was
not of that sort which hardens the heart, and serves to keep
inferiors at a distance; it only sought to ward off derogation
from itself. It was the principle of self-respect carried as

15 far as it could go without infringing upon that respect which
he would have every one else equally maintain for himself.
He would have you to think alike with him on this topic.
Many a quarrel have I had with him, when we were rather
older boys and our tallness made us more obnoxious to obser-

20 vation in the blue clothes, because I would not thread the
alleys and blind ways of the town with him to elude notice,
when we have been out together on a holiday in the streets

of this sneering and prying metropolis. W went, sore

with these notions, to Oxford, where the dignity and sweet-

25 ness of a scholar's life, meeting with the alloy of a humble
introduction, wrought in him a passionate devotion to the
place, with a profound aversion from the society. The
servitor's gown (worse than his school array) clung to him
with Nessian venom. He thought himself ridiculous in a

30 garb under which Latimer must have walked erect, and in
which Hooker, in his young days, possibly flaunted in a vein
of no discommendable vanity. In the depth of college shades
or in his lonely chamber, the poor student slirunk from ob-
servation. He found sh(>lter among books, which insult not;

35 and studies, that ask no questions of a youth's finances. He
was lord of his library, and seldom cared for looking out
beyond his domains. The liealing infinence of studious pur-
suits was upon him, to soothe and to abstract. He was


almost a healthy man; when the waywardness of his fate
Ijroke out against him with a second and worse malignity.
The father of W had hitherto exercised the humble pro-
fession of house-painter at N , near Oxford. A supposed

interest with some of the heads of the colleges had now in- 5
duced him to take up his abode in that city, with the hope
of being employed upon some public works which were talked
of. From that moment I read in the countenance of the
young man the determination which at length tore him from
academical pursuits forever. To a person unacquainted with IC
our universities, the distance between the gownsmen and the
townsmen, as they are called — the trading part of the latter
especially — is carried to an excess that would appear harsh

and incredible. The temperament of W 's father was

diametrically the reverse of his own. Old W was a little, 15

busy, cringing tradesman, who, with his son upon his arm,
would stand bowing and scraping, cap in hand, to anything
that wore the semblance of a gown — insensible to the winks
and opener remonstrances of the young man, to whose
chamber-fellow or equal in standing, perhaps, he was thus 20
obsequiously and gratuitously ducking. Such a state of

things could not last. W must change the air of Oxford

or be suffocated. He chose the former; and let the sturdy
moralist, who strains the point of the filial duties as high
as they can bear, censure the dereliction; he cannot estimate 25

the struggle. I stood with W , the last afternoon I ever

saw him, under the eaves of his paternal dwelling. It was
in the fine lane leading from the Hioh-street to the back of

****** college, where W kept his rooms. He seemed

thoughtful and more reconciled. I ventured to rally him 30
— finding him in a better mood — upon a representation of
the artist Evangelist, which the old man, whose affairs were
beginning to flourish, had caused to be set up in a splendid
sort of frame over his really handsome shop, either as a token

of prosperity or badge of gratitude to his saint. W 35

looked up at the Luke, and, like Satan, " knew his mounted
sign — and fled." A letter on his father's table the next
morning announced that he had accepted a commission in a


regiment about to embark for Portugal. He was among the
first who perished before the walls of St. Sebastian.

I do not know how, upon a subject which I began with
treating half seriously, I should have fallen upon a recital
5 so eminently painful; but this theme of poor relationship is
replete with so much matter for tragic as well as comic asso-
ciations that it is difficult to keep the account distinct with-
out blending. The earliest impressions which I received on
this matter arc certainly not attended with anything painful

10 or very humiliating in the recalling. At my father's table
(no very splendid one) was to be found, every Saturday, the
mysterious figure of an aged gentleman, clothed in neat black,
of a sad yet comely appearance. His deportment was of the
essence of gravity; his words few or none; and I was not to

15 make a noise in his presence. I had little inclination to
have done so — for ray cue was to admire in silence. A par-
ticular elbow-chair was appropriated to him, which was in no
case to be violated. A peculiar sort of sweet pudding, which
appeared on no other occasion, distinguished the days of his

20 coming. I used to think him a prodigiously rich man. All
I could make out of him was that he and my father had been
schoolfellows a world ago at Lincoln, and that he came from
the Mint. The IMint I knew to be a place where all the
money was coined — and I thought he was the owner of all

25 that money. Awful ideas of the Tower twined themselves
about his presence. He seemed above human infirmities and
passions. A sort of melancholy grandeur invested him.
From some inexplicable doom I fancied him obliged to go
about in an eternal suit of mourning; a captive, a stately

30 being, let out of the Tower on Saturdays. Often have I
wondered at the temerity of my father, who, in spite of an
habitual general respect which we all in common uumifested
towards him, would venture now and then to stand up against
him in some argument touching their youthful days. The

35 houses of the ancient city of Lincoln are divided (as most
of my readers know) between the dwellers on the hill and in
the valley. This marked distinction formed an ol)vious
division between the boys who lived above (however brought


together in a common school) and the !)oys whose paternal
residence was on the plain; a sufficient cause of hostility in
the code of these young Grotiuses. j\Iy father had been a
leading Mountaineer; and would still maintain the general
superiority, in skill and hardihood, of the Above Boys (his 5
own faction) over the Below Boys (so were they called), of
which party his contemporary had been a chieftain. Many
and hot were the skirmishes on this topic — the only one upon
which the old gentleman was ever brought out — and bad
blood bred; even sometimes almost to the recommencement 10
(so I expected) of actual hostilities. But* my father, who
scorned to insist upon advantages, generally contrived to turn
the conversation upon some adroit by-commendation of the
old minster; in the general preference of which before all
other cathedrals in the island, the dweller on the hill and the 15
plain-born could meet on a conciliating level, and lay down
their less important differences. Once only I saw the old

Online LibraryWalter Cochrane BronsonEnglish essays → online text (page 15 of 37)