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heard he was a great lover of that joint; and that a maid: of an Inn poisoned him with one, saying, “ If he is a “ Prophet, he will discover it; if he is an impostor, no “ matter what becomes of him,” I shall have occasion for the assistance of all my friends in this great work. I some posts ago defired a friend to enquire what Manuscripts Sol. Harding, a famous Cook, may have left behind himn at Oxford. He says, he finds among his executors several admirable bills of fare for Aristotle fuppers, and entertainments of country strangers, with certain prices, according to their several seasons. He says, fome pages have large black crolles drawn over them; but for the greater part the Books are fair and legible.
Sir, I would beg you to search Cooks' Hall, what Manuscripts they may have in their Archives. See what in Guildhall: what account of custard in the Sword-bearer's office : how many tun He, a Common Cryer, or a Common hunt, may eat in their life-time, But I transgress the bounds of a Letter, and have strayed from my subject, which should have been, to beg you to read the following lines, when you are inclined to be most favourable to your friend ; for else they will never be able to endure your just censure. I rely upon your good-nature.; and I am
Your inost obliged, &c.
L E T:
the other day, and, upon serious consideration, find that the true understanding of the whole “ Art of “ Cookery" will be useful to all persons that pretend to the belles lettres, and especially to Poets.
I do not find it proceeds from any enmity of the Cooks, but it is rather the fault of their masters, that Poets are not so well acquainted with good eating, as otherwise they might be, if oftener invited. However, even in Mr. D’Orfey's presence, this I would be bound to say, “ That a good dinner is brother to a good “ poem:” only it is fu.nething more fubftantial; and, between two and three a clo:k., more agreeable.
I have known a supper make the most diverting part of a Comedy. Mr. Betterton, in “ The Libertine *! has set very gravely with the leg of a chicken: but I have seen Jacomo very merry, and eat very heartily of pease and buttered eggs, under the table. The Host, in “ The Villain t,” who carries tables, stools, furniture, and provisions, all about him, gives great content to the spectators, when from the crown of his hat he pro
* A Tragedy by Thomas Shadwell, acted 1676...
duces his cold capon : fo Armarillis (or rather Para thenope, as I take it) in “ The Rehearsal,” with her wine in her spear, and her pye in her helmet; and the Cook that flobbers his beard with fack-posiet, in “ The Man's the Master *;" have, in my opinion, made the most diverting part of the action.
These embellishments we have received from our imitation of the ancient Poets. Horace, in his Satires, makes Mæcenas very merry with the recollection of the unusual entertainments and dishes given him by Nafidienus; and with his raillery upon garlick in his Third' Epode. The Supper of Petronius, with all its machines and contrivances, gives us the most lively description of Nero's luxury. Juvenal fpends a whole Satire about the price and dressing of a single fish, with the judgement of the Roman Senate concerning it. Thus, whether serious or jocose, good eating is made the subject and ingredient of poetical entertainments.
I think all Poets agree that Episodes are to be interwoven in their Poems with the greatest nicety of art; and so it is the same thing at a good table : and yet I have seen a very good Episode (give me leave to call it so) made by sending out the leg of a goose, or the gizzard of a turkey, to be broiled: though I know that Criticks with a good stomach have been offended that the unity of action should be so far broken. And yet, as in our Plays, so at our common tables, many Episodes are allowed, as slicing of cucumbers, dreffing
* A Comedy by Sir William Davenant, acted 1669.
of sallads, seasoning the inside of a furloin of beef, breaking lobsters' claws, stewing wild ducks, toasting of cheese, legs of larks, and several others.
A Poet, who, by proper expresions and pleasing images, is to lead us into the knowledge of necessary truth, may delude his audience extremely, and indeed barbaroully, unless he has some knowledge of this *** Art of Cookery,” and the progress of it. Would it not sound ridiculous to hear Alexander the Great com'mand bis cannon to be mounted, and to throw red-hot bullets out of his mortar-pieces? or to have Statira talk of tapeliry-hangings, which, all the Learned know, 'were many years after her death first hung up in the Hall of King Attalus ? Should Sir John Falstaff complain of having dirtied his fitk flockings, or Anne of Boleyn call for her coach; would an audience endure it, 'when all the world knows that Queen Elizabeth was the first that had her coacb, or wore filk stockings? Neither can a Poet .put bops in an Englishman's crink betore beres came in: nor can he serve him with a dish of carp before that time : he might as well give King James the First a dish of a paragus upon his first coming to London, which were not brought into England till many years after; or make Owen Tudor present Queen Catharine with a sugar-loaf, whereas he might as easily have given her a diamond as large, seeing the iceing of cakes at Wood-street Corner, and the refining of sugar, was but an invention of two hundred years standing, and before that time our Ancestors sweetened and garBilhed all with honey, of which there are some remains
in Windfor bowls, baron bracks, and large fimnels, fent for presents from Lichfield. But
now, contrary, it would shew his reading, if the Poet put a ben-turkey upon a table in a Tragedy; and therefore I would advise it in Hamlet, instead of their painted trifles; and I believe it would give more satisfaction to the actors. For Diodorus Siculus reports, how the filters of Meleager, or Diomedes, mourning for their brother, were turned into 'ben-turkeys ; from whence proceeds their stateliness of gate, reservedness in conversation, and melancholy in the tone of their voice, and all their actions. But this would be the most improper meat in the world for a Comedy; for melancholy and distress require a different sort of diet, as well as language : and I have heard of a fair lady, that was pleased to say, “ that, if she were upon a strange road, -** and driven to great necellity, she believed she might “ for once be able to sup upon a sack-polet and a fat « capon.”
I ain sure Poets, as well as Cooks, are for having all words nicely chosen and properly adapted ; and therefore, I believe, they would shew the same regret that I do, to hear persons of some rank and quality say, “ Pray cut up that goose. Help me to some of that “ chicken, hen, or capon, or half that plorer ;” not confidering how indiscreetly they talk, before men of -art, whose proper terms are, “ Break that Gocfe;— “ frust that Chicken;"_" spoil that Hen;"- sauce that “ Capon; "-mince that Plover."-If they are so much cut in common things, how much more will they be