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My Cookery Books by Elizabeth Robins Pennell

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INTRODUCTION
ILLUSTRATIONS
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- The Bibliography

Chapter 2

-II-

NEXT to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read about them.” The words are Thackeray's, and they encourage me, if I need encouragement, in my belief that to go on writing about my Cookery Books is a duty I owe not only to myself, but to the world.

If I have owned to a sneaking preference for the little calf and vellum covered duodecimos of the seventeenth century, courteous and gallant as the Stuart days to which they belong, I should lose no time in adding that it is to the eighteenth century I am indebted for the great treasure of my collection, — Mrs. Glasse in the famous “pot folio” of the first edition. The copy belonged, as I have explained, to George Augustus Sala, and came up for sale when his library was disposed of at Sotheby's in the July of 1896. This library was a disappointment to most people, — to none more than to me. I had heard much of Sala's cookery books, but small as my collection then was I found only three that I had not already. Bartolomeo Scappi's Cuoco Secreto, in fine binding, but not in the first edition (which I secured a year or two after); The Delmonico Cook Book, and excellent it is ; and Mrs. Glasse, — The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind ever yet Published, to give her book its full title. In the preliminary paragraphs that went the round of the press, Mrs. Glasse alone received the honor of special mention; in that dingy little salesroom in Wellington Street, where, however high passions — and prices — may run, the group at the table seem to have come together for nothing more exciting than a sociable nap, Mrs. Glasse again held the place of honor in a glass case apart. Everything pointed to a struggle. It would take a braver woman than I to face the “knock-outs” and “rings” before which the private buyer is said to be as a lamb led to the slaughter. When the day of the sale came, like royalty at important functions, I was “represented” at Sotheby's, and myself stayed at home with my emotions. The sequel is known. Is not the book on my shelves? It came that same evening, the two others with it. “I am pleased,” wrote my representative, “to be able to send you the three books, and all below your limit, and hope you will be satisfied.” Satisfied? Was there ever a woman yet to whom a bargain was not half the joy of possession?

Sala, it was currently reported, valued the book at five hundred dollars; I paid but fifty. It was not because he overestimated its rarity. The first edition is almost as rare as he thought. On the fly-leaf of his copy he wrote, July, 1876, that only three others were known to be in existence: one at the British Museum, a second at the Bodleian, and a third in the library of a country clergyman. Since then only two others, to my knowledge, have materialized. But Sala was a vandal; his copy was evidently in a shocking state when he found it, in a barrow in a South London slum according to the legend, and he had the battered and torn pages mended, and the book bound in substantial and expensive, if inappropriate binding. So far, so good. Still he also had it interleaved. He seems to have believed that his own trivial newspaper correspondence on the subject, carefully pasted in, would increase its value. How often have I looked at the book and decided, at whatever cost, to get rid of the interleaving and the newspaper clippings, an insult alike to Mrs. Glasse and myself! How often have I decided that to reduce it to its original slimness would be to destroy its pedigree; not a very distinguished pedigree, but still the copy was known in the auction room as Sala's, and, therefore, as Sala's must it not remain? Whoever can settle this problem for me will lift a burden of responsibility from shoulders not strong enough to bear it.

Now I have the first edition, I do not mind admitting that no other treatise on cookery owes its reputation so little to merit, so much to chance. It was popular in its own day, I grant you. The Biographical Dictionary says that, except the Bible, it had the greatest sale in the language. It went into edition after edition. There are ten in the British Museum. I own six myself, though I vowed that the first sufficed for my wants. The book was republished in Edinburgh. It was revived as late as 1852, perhaps later still, for all I as yet know. But almost all the eighteenth-century books shared its popularity, — only the Biographical Dictionary has not happened to hear of them. I have The Compleat Housewife, by E. Smith, in the eighteenth edition ; I have Elizabeth Moxon's English Housewife, in the thirteenth ; I have John Farley's London Art of Cookery, in the eleventh, and I might go on through a list of titles and authors long forgotten by everyone but me. All are as amusing now as the Art of Cookery, and were probably very useful in their day. The receipts are much the same ; indeed, the diligence with which the authorities upon cookery in the eighteenth century borrowed one from the other, without a word of acknowledgment, ought to have kept the law courts busy. Nor does the manner vary more than the matter. Of most of the books the authors could say as truthfully as Mrs. Glasse of hers; that they were “not wrote in the high polite stile.” Not even her sex gives Mrs. Glasse distinction in an age when authorship or public practice of any sort was indelicate in a female. Mary Eale, E. Smith, Elizabeth Raffald, — a charming person in a mob cap, if you can trust her portrait, — Charlotte Mason, Elizabeth Cleland, Martha Bradley, were a few of her many rivals. And where are they now?

“Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais?”

If Mrs. Glasse alone survives, it is for one reason only, and that the most unreasonable. Her fame is due not to her genius, for she really had none, but to the fact that her own generation believed there was “no sich a person,” and after generations believed in her as the author of a phrase she never wrote. And, indeed, no one would remember even the doubt at the time thrown upon her identity, but for Boswell. I know Cumberland also is an authority for the report that Dr. Hill wrote the book. Hill, he says, was “a needy author who could not make a dinner out of the press till, by a happy transformation into Hannah Glasse, he turned himself into a cook and sold receipts for made dishes to all the savoury readers in the kingdom. Then, indeed, the press acknowledged him second in fame only to John Bunyan; his feasts kept pace in sale with Nelson's Fasts, and when his own name was fairly written out of credit, he wrote himself into immortality under an alias.” But nobody nowadays reads Cumberland's Memoirs, and everybody reads Boswell, — or pretends to. The subject came up at Mr. Dilly's dinner-table. “Mrs. Glasse's Cookery, which is the best, was written by Dr. Hill. Half the trade knows this,” said Mr. Dilly, who, being in the trade himself, ought to have been an authority. But Dr. Johnson was of another opinion: “Women can spin very well, but they cannot make a good book of cookery.” Mrs. Glasse's is not a good book, mistakes occurring in it; therefore, Dr. Hill, a man, could not have written it. I agree with Dr. Johnson's conclusions, but on far simpler grounds. The impersonation of Mrs. Glasse would, in the end, have become too elaborate a joke to carry through, had Dr. Hill been as ingenious and as wanting in veracity as in Dr. Johnson's description of him to George III. The first edition of the Art of Cookery — the folio, sold at Mrs. Ashburn's China Shop, corner of Fleet Ditch, and at Mrs. Wharton's, at the Blue Coat Boy, near the Royal Exchange — was published anonymously in 1747. “By a Lady” is printed on the title-page. Only later editions, the octavo, sold by innumerable booksellers, Dr. Johnson's friend Mr. Millar among them, appear with the name H. Glasse on the title-page and above the first chapter. To invent the name would have been no great tax on the imagination. But, by the fourth edition, Dr. Hill would have had to invent a trade as well. For in this edition, and in this one only, an impressive engraved frontispiece describes Hannah Glasse — and if the description is long, it is too inimitable not to be quoted in full — as “Habit-Maker, to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, in Tavistock Street Covent Garden. Makes & Sells all Sorts of Riding Habits, Josephs, Great Coats, Horsemens Coats, Russia Coats, Hussar Coats, Bedgowns, Night-Gowns, and Robe de shambers, Widows Weeds, Sultains, Sultans, and Cantouches, after the neatest manner. Likewise Parliament, Judges, & Councellers Robes, Italian Robes, Cossockeens, Capuchins, Newmarket Cloaks, Long­Cloaks, Short Do. Quilted Coats, Hoop Petticoats, Under Coats, All Sorts of Fringes & Laces as Cheap as from the Makers Bonnetts, Hatts, Short Hoods and Caps of all Sorts Plain Sattins, Sasnetts and Persians. All Sorts of Childbed Linning, Cradles, Baskets & Robes &c Also Stuffs, Camblets, Calimancoes & Worsted Damasks, Norwich Crapes & Bumbasins, Scarlet Cloaths, Duffels & Frizes, Dimitys, New Market Hunting Caps, &c. Likewise all Sorts of Masquerade Dresses.”

 

FOURTH EDITION OF MRS. GLASSE'S ART OF COOKERY, 1751.
FOURTH EDITION OF MRS. GLASSE'S ART OF COOKERY, 1751.

More than this, Dr. Hill, thus established on copper plate, would have had promptly to invent his failure. In 1754, three years later, Hannah Glasse figured among the bankrupts of the year; “Hannah Glasse of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, Warehousekeeper,” is the entry. He would also have had to claim two other books: The Servant's Directory, published in 1760, almost fifteen years after the Art of Cookery, a book I have never been able to find 1 and The Compleat Confectioner, published in I cannot say what year, for my copy, a first edition, has no date, and the book is known neither to Hazlitt nor Vicaire. And as a last touch, he must have had the brilliant idea of opening a cookery school in Edinburgh, if I can trust “M. D.,” who wrote a note on the fly-leaf of my copy of The Compleat Confectioner to protest against the revival, in the Times, of the old scandal. This was in 1866, when some one rashly called Mrs. Glasse “Mrs. Harris.” Mrs. Glasse, M. D. says, “lived in the flesh in Edinburgh about 1790. She taught cookery to classes of young ladies. My mother was a pupil and fondly showed in her old age to her children a copy of Glasse's Cookery, with the autograph of the authoress, gained as a prize in the School of Cookery.” “M. D.” at once spoils her case by adding, “This book did contain ‘Catch your Hare.’” Not before seeing it could I believe. I have spent hours in pursuit of the famous phrase, or, at least, the reason of the misquotation, in the hope that success might, forever after, link my name with that of Hannah Glasse. But I can come no nearer to the clue than the “First Case your hare,” found in every cookery book of the period, that Mr. Churton Collins has just been offering as an explanation, and so depriving me of the chance of being the first with even this obvious discovery.

Well, anyway, believe in Mrs. Glasse, or not, the cookery book that bears her name is the only one published in the eighteenth century now remembered by the whole world. And yet, it is in eighteenth-century books my collection is richest. They are mostly substantial octavos, calf bound, much the worse for wear, often “embellished” with an elegant frontispiece, a portrait of the author, or picture of the kitchen, and, I regret to say, seldom very beautiful examples of the printer's art. Several have been given to me by friends who know my weakness. For instance, few books in my entire library do I prize more than the Collection Of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery; For the Use of all Good Wives, Tender Mothers, and Careful Nurses, not so much because it is curious and tolerably rare, as because of the little legend, “Hommage to Autolycus,2 Austin Dobson,” on the fly-leaf. The greater number I have bought at different times, but it is to be noted that never, like Sala, have I picked one up from a coster monger's barrow, though, for a while, I made weekly pilgrimages to Whitechapel in their pursuit. Usually they have come through the second-hand booksellers. A few sympathizers, Dr. Furnivall chief among them, never fail to let me know of a chance for a bargain. Once I was offered some odd twenty, all in one lot, before they were advertised, and I hardly receive a catalogue that does not contain two or three in its list. Nor are they often costly. For the price of one Mrs. Glasse in the first edition, you can have a whole series of her contemporaries. And so this section of my collection has grown, until I have over seventy books published in England alone during the eighteenth century.

If I were asked to point out anyone characteristic they all share in common, I would say it was the business­like seriousness of their authors. The amateur had been silenced forever by artists like Robert May and Will Rabisha. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, almost all the new cookery books were being written by cooks. And the new authors were in haste, on the very title-page, to present their credentials. Henry Howard (England's Newest Way in all Sorts of Cookery, 1703, — my edition, alas, is 1708) and T. Hall (The Queen's Royal Cookery, 1713) were Free Cooks of London. Patrick Lamb (The Complete Court-Cook, 1710) was “near fifty years Master Cook to their late Majesties King Charles II, King James II, King William, Queen Mary, and to her Present Majesty, Queen Anne,” and in the Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household, you can learn to a halfpenny how much he earned in a year. Charles Carter (The Compleat City and Country Cook, 1732), whose boast it was that he came of “a long race of predecessors,” presided over the kitchens of the Duke of Argyle, the Earl of Pontefract, and Lord Cornwallis. John Nott (The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, 1727), Vincent La Chapelle (The Modern Cook, 1751, but then mine is a fourth edition), William Verral (A Complete System of Cookery, 1759), — all I could name have as irreproachable references. A few were not cooks in service, but teachers: Edward Kidder, Pastry-Master, for one, who ran two schools: in Queen Street, near St. Thomas Apostle's, where he held his classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and at Furnival's Inn in Holborn, where he presided on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; he also was willing, kind soul, to teach ladies in their own houses. I respect Kidder as a man of originality, for his Receipts of Pastry and Cookery is unlike any book of the same period. From the frontispiece, where he appears in ample wig, with one hand uplifted as if in exhortation to his class, to the amazing plans for setting and decorating a dinner-table, it is neatly engraved and printed on one side of the page only, the receipts written out in the most beautiful copper-plate writing. He was original in his spelling, too : “Sauceages,” I consider a gem even in the eighteenth century; and he was surely a forerunner of the modern cockney, when he wrote, “To roast an Hare.”

The ladies were as eager to vouch for their qualifications. Mrs. Mary Eale, whose Receipts were first published in 1708, was Confectioner to Queen Anne; Mrs. Charlotte Mason was a Housekeeper who had had “upwards of Thirty Years' Experience in Families of the first Fashion;” Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald held the same position to the Hon. Lady Elizabeth Warburton, and Mrs. Sarah Martin, to Freeman Bower, Esq., of Bawtry, — I have his copy of her book, with receipts in his own hand­writing on pages inserted for the purpose, with a note testifying to their origin by his great-nephew, Canon Jackson! Others proudly proclaimed their town or county, as if their reputation made further detail superfluous : Mrs. Mary Wilson of Hertfordshire, Mrs. Sarah Harrison of Devonshire, Mrs. Susannah Carter of Clerkenwell, Mrs. Ann Shackleford of Winchester. And then there were the rivals of Edward Kidder: Mrs. Frazer, Mrs. Cleland, and Mrs. Maciver taught the Arts of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionery in Edinburgh, where, if M. D. is to be believed, Hannah Glasse joined them after her adventures in the Bankruptcy Court. But whatever their qualifications, they are to be counted by the dozen, so that I can but wonder why it seemed so astonishing a thing for Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the other Blue Stockings of the eighteenth century to rush into print.

The seriousness with which these cooks and housekeepers and professors took themselves was reflected in their style. An occasional seventeenth-century book, reappearing in an eighteenth-century edition, may have continued to enjoy something of popularity; an occasional new book at the very beginning of the period may have retained something of the old picturesqueness. The Collection Of above Three Hundred Receipts fills its pages with Tansies and Possets, Syllabubs and Flummeries, still recommends a dish as “the best that ever was tasted,” and still advises you “to put in a little shalot, if you love it;” The Queen's Royal Cookery is as flamboyant with decorative adjectives as any queen's closet. But as time went on, the pleasant old familiarity went out of fashion, and ornament was chastened. The literary tendency of the age was toward more formal dignity, a greater regularity of form. In accordance with the mode, receipts were written with a businesslike decision, a professional directness that allowed no flowers of speech. Many cooks seem to have forestalled or copied Dr. Johnson in the effort to say a thing as pompously as it could be said; disdain of ornament led many to a matter-of-fact bluntness that is appalling. “Stick your Pig just above the breast-bone,” says Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald without any preamble, “run your knife to the heart, when it is dead, put it in cold water.” Whoever, after that, would eat of her pig has more courage than I.

Some sort of order was also introduced into the arrangement of receipts, in the place of the haphazard disorder of the old MS. books. The change was due, in a large measure, to French influence. In France, the art of cookery had reached a much higher stage of perfection than in England. The English might rebel against the fact, and they did in good earnest. It was not only the Squire of Clod-Hall who

“Classed your Kickshaws and Ragoos
With Popery and Wooden Shoes.”

Steele deplored the fashion that banished the “noble Sirloin” ignominiously “to make way for French Kickshaws,” and he held a French ragout to be “as pernicious to the Stomach as a glass of spirits.” “What work would our countrymen have made at Blenheim and Ramillies, if they had been fed with fricassees and ragouts?” he asks. It was the “parcel of Kickshaws contrived by a French cook” that gave the finishing touch to Matthew Bramble's displeasure with the wife of his friend Baynard. “Their meals are gross,” was one of Dr. Johnson's first entries in the Diary of his little Tour in France, proving forever that he was not the “man of very nice discernment in the science of cookery” that Boswell thought him. And, at home, was it not of a certain nobleman's French cook he was heard to say with vehemence, “I'd throw such a rascal into the river”? The English cooks were as outspoken. Mrs. Glasse's Preface is a protest against “the blind Folly of this age that they would rather be imposed on by a French Booby than give encouragement to a good English Cook . . . if Gentlemen will have French cooks, they must pay for French tricks.” E. Smith regretted that in her book she had to include a few French dishes, “since we have, to our disgrace, so fondly admired the French tongue, French modes, and also French messes.” Charles Carter lamented that “some of our Nobility and gentry have been too much attached to French Customs and French Cookery,” — too willing “to dress even more delicious Fare after the Humour of the (perhaps vitiated) palates of some great Personages or noted Epicures of France.” It was the one point upon which all, with a few exceptions, were agreed.

But protests were of small avail. Already, in his Directions to Servants, Swift had found it a long time since the custom began among the people of quality to keep men cooks and generally of the French nation. Patriotism, I fear, does not begin in the stomach. French cooks presided in most of the big houses; French cooks were patronized by royalty; French cooks wrote cookery books. The French Family Cook (1793) was but a belated translation of the famous Cuisinière Bourgeoise (1746). La Chapelle, who published a treatise, was a Frenchman. So was Clermont. Verral studied under a Frenchman. And from French sources the most patriotic were not ashamed to steal. Mrs. Smith, however she might object to French messes, must still admit the necessity to temporize, justifying herself by including only “such receipts of French cookery as I think may not be disagreeable to English palates.” Mrs. Glasse, however she might scorn the French Booby, must still give some of her dishes “French names to distinguish them, because they are known by those names,” and it matters not if they be called French so they are good. The question reduced itself simply to one of demand and supply. But if the “French Kickshaws” had been so bad for the public as patriots preached, the study of French books was altogether good for the preachers. Under the sweet civilizing influence of France the barbarous medley of the English cookery book disappeared. A roast did not turn up unexpectedly between a sweet and a savory, or a fish in the midst of the soups, or an omelet lost among the vegetables. Each dish was duly labeled and entered in its appropriate chapter. Chemical, Physical, and Chirurgical Secrets were banished to separate volumes with a few curious exceptions. “I shall not take upon me to meddle in the physical way farther than two receipts,” writes Mrs. Glasse. “One is for the bite of a mad dog, and the other if a man should be near where the Plague is, he shall be in no danger.” And these receipts are so often repeated in rival cookery books that I can only suppose there were many who believed in earnest what Lord Chesterfield said in jest when, six years after Mrs. Glasse's book was published, he wrote to his son that his friend Kreuningen “admits nobody now to his table, for fear of their communicating the plague to him, or at least the bite of a mad dog.” But it was no easy matter for the ladies to relinquish their rights to prescribe. If the gentlewoman of the day still

“knew for sprains what bands to choose,
Could tell the sovereign wash to use
For freckles, and was learned in brews
As erst Medea,”

it would not have done for the self-appointed instructors of the sex to be behindhand in these arts. E. Smith cannot resist giving some two hundred receipts “never before been made public,” though she has the grace to print them in a section apart. Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Price both undertake to make “Every man his own Doctor,” and in the undertaking Mrs. Price supplies a cure that I quote on the chance of its proving useful, for I fancy the malady continues to be common, so afflicted am I with it myself. “For the Lethargy,” she says, “you may snuff strong vinegar up the nose.” It was natural at a time when Compendiums, Universal Visitors, Dictionaries of Commerce, and of everything else, were in vogue, that other women took upon themselves also, by means of Dictionaries, and Magazines, and Companions, and Jewels, and Guides, to see their sex comfortably through life “from the cradle to the grave.” I have any number of ambitious books of this kind, all based on The Whole Duty of Woman, and the performance of Mrs. Hannah Woolley of seventeenth­ century fame. Take a few headings of chapters from anyone chosen at random, and you have the character of all : Of Religion; The Duty of Virgins ; Of Wives; Of Gravies, Soups, Broths, Pottages. But the system, the careful division of subjects, now become indispensable, is observed even in these compilations.

The new love of order had one drawback. It gave writers less opportunity for self-revelation. I miss the personal note so pleasant in the older books of cookery, that is, in the receipts themselves. One collection is so like another I can hardly tell them apart unless I turn to the title-page or the preface. But here ample amends are made. The cook did not suppress his individuality meekly, and, fortunately for him, the age was one of Prefaces and Dedications. In the few pages where he still could swagger, he made up for the many where the mode forced him to efface himself. “Custom,” says John Nott, in 1723, to the “Worthy Dames” to whom he offers his Dictionary, “has made it as unfashionable for a Book to appear without an Introduction, as for a Man to appear at Church without a Neckcloth, or a Lady without a Hoop-petticoat.” “It being grown as unfashionable for a Book to appear in public without a Preface, as for a Lady to appear at a Ball without a Hoop-petticoat,” says Mrs. Smith in 1727, her great talent being for plagiarism, “I shall conform to custom for Fashion's sake, and not through any Necessity.” Mr. Hazlitt thinks Mrs. Smith unusually observant; he should have remembered the library at her disposal, and, had he known this library more intimately, he would have realized how little scruple she had in drawing from it. She only writes because, although already there are “various Books that treat on this subject and which bear great names as Cooks to Kings, Princes and Noblemen,” most of them have deceived her in her expectations, so impracticable, whimsical, or unpalatable, are the receipts. But she presents the result of her own experience “in Fashionable and Noble Families,” and if her book but “prove to the advantage of many, the end will be answered that is proposed by her that is ready to serve the Publick in what she may.” Each writer in turn is as eager to find a reason for his or her help in glutting the market. The author of the Collection Of above Three Hundred Receipts is prompted by the sole “desire of doing good,” in which, fortunately, she has been aided by those “who with a Noble Charity and Universal Benevolence have exposed to the World such invaluable secrets,” as, I suppose, “how to stew Cucumbers to eat hot,” or “to make the London Wigs,” — gratitude, above all, being due to the Fair Sex, “who, it may be because of the greater Tenderness of their Nature or their greater Leisure, are always found most Active and Industrious in this, as well as in all other kinds of Charity. O Heavenly Charity!” — and so on, and so on. William Gelleroy has learnt during service with the Lord Mayor that “so long as it is the fashion to eat, so long will cookery books be useful.” Mrs. Elizabeth Price, the healer of Lethargy, thinks it her duty to show the world how to unite “Economy and Elegance,” and, as an assurance of her ability, breaks into verse on her title-page: —

“Here you may quickly learn with care
To act the housewife's part,
And dress a modern Bill of Fare
With Elegance and Art.”

 

TITLE: A COLLECTION OF ABOVE THREE HUNDRED RECEIPTS, ETC., 1719.
TITLE: A COLLECTION OF ABOVE THREE HUNDRED RECEIPTS, ETC., 1719.

Mrs. Charlotte Mason knows there are many books, but has “never met with one that contained any instructions for regulating a table.” Mrs. Elizabeth Moxon, like the modest author to-day, shifts the responsibility to her “honored friends who first excited her to the publication of her book, and who have been long eye-witnesses of her Skill and Behaviour in the Business of her Calling.” Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald, reflecting upon the contempt with which the many volumes already published were read, seems to have hoped no one would find her out if she boldly borrowed from Mrs. Price and Mrs. Glasse, and tried to save her own from the general fate by uniting “Economy and Elegance,” taking the very words out of Mrs. Price's mouth, and by seeing that it was not “glossed over with Hard Names or words of High Stile, but wrote in my own plain language,” barely altering Mrs. Glasse's memorable phrase. I select a few specimens of her plain language: “Hares and Rabbits requires time and care,” she says, with a cheerful disregard of grammar; “Pigeons Transmogrified” is a term I should recommend to the Century Company for a new edition of their Dictionary; while upon a very popular dish of the day she bestows the name “Solomon-gundy,” as if she fancied that, somehow, King Solomon were responsible for it. John Farley hopes his book is distinguished from others by “Perspicuity and Regularity.” But I might go on quoting indefinitely, for almost every Preface is a masterpiece of its kind, so pompous in its periods, so bombastic in its eloquence, until I begin to suspect that if Bacon wrote Shakespeare, so Dr. Johnson must have written Nott and Lamb and Clermont and Farley; that if Dr. Hill transformed himself into Hannah Glasse, so Dr. Johnson must have masqueraded as E. Smith, Elizabeth Raffald, and a whole bevy of fair cooks and housekeepers.

There is another trait shared by all these cooks, to whom I should do scant justice if I did not point it out. This is the large liberality with which they practiced their art. The magnitude of their ideas, at times, makes me gasp. I have been often asked if, with such a fine collection to choose from, I do not amuse myself experimenting with the old receipts. But all our flat turned into a kitchen would not be large enough to cook an eighteenth-century dinner, nor our year's income to pay for it. The proportions used in each different dish are gigantic. What Dr. King wrote in jest of the different cooks who, “to show you the largeness of their soul, prepared you Mutton swol'd3 and oxen whole,” was virtually true. For a simple “Fricassy,” you begin with half a dozen chickens, half a dozen pigeons, half a dozen sweetbreads, and I should need a page to explain what you finish with for garniture. Fowls disappeared into a lamb or other meat pie by the dozen; a simple leg of mutton must have its garniture of cutlets; twelve pounds of good meat, to say nothing of odd partridges, fowls, turkeys, and ham, went into the making of one stew, — it is something stupendous to read. And then the endless number of dishes in a menu, — the insufferably crowded table. A century before, Pepys had discovered the superior merit of serving “but a dish at a time” when he gave his fine dinner to Lord Sandwich. But the eighteenth-century books continue to publish menus that make Gargantua's appetite seem mere child's play; their plates “exhibiting the order of placing the different dishes, etc., on the table in the most polite way” would spoil the appetite of the bravest. Forty-three dishes are symmetrically arranged for a single course in one of Vincent La Chapelle's plates, and La Chapelle was a Frenchman, and in England enjoyed Lord Chesterfield's patronage. Cooks may have got so advanced as no longer to believe “that Syllibubs come first and Soups the last,” but quantity was still their standard of merit. Authorities may have begun to decree that “three courses be the most.” But consider what a course meant. Let me give one menu of two courses as an average example. It is for a July day, and Mrs. Smith is the artist: “First Course: Cock Salmon with buttered lobsters, Dish of Scotch collops, Chine of Veal, Venison pasty, Grand Sallad, Roasted geese and ducklings, Patty royal, Roasted pig larded, Stewed carps, Dish of chickens boiled with bacon, etc.,” —that etc. is expressive. “Second Course: Dish of partridges and quails, Dish of lobsters and prawns, Dish of ducks and tame pigeons, Dish of jellies, Dish of fruit, Dish of marinated fish, Dish of Tarts of sorts.” Add a third course to this if you dare.

At first, this lavishness perplexed me. I remembered eighteenth-century dinners as simple as our own. For example, Boswell's with Dr. Johnson one Easter Sunday, — a very good soup, a boiled leg of lamb and spinach, a veal pie, and rice pudding, — that seems reasonable. Or again, the beef, pudding, and potatoes to which Grub Street was invited on Sundays by the successful author, according to Smollett. Or Stella's breast of mutton and a pint of wine when she dined at home in Dublin. “Two plain dishes, with two or three good­natured, cheerful, ingenious friends,” was Steele's idea of a good dinner. But then there is the opposite side of the picture. Dr. Johnson's Gulosulus, cultivating the art of living at the cost of others. Swift, in London, sauntering forth of a morning deliberately in search of a dinner at somebody else's house and expense, and if none of the great men with great establishments invited him, dropping in for want of something better, and without a moment's notice, at Mrs. Vanhomrigh's, and he could not have been a more severe critic had he had the special invitation which Dr. Johnson thought made the special menu an obligation. “The worst dinner I ever saw at the dean's was better,” Swift wrote to Stella, “than one had at Sir Thomas Mansel's,” and “yet this man has ten thousand pounds a year and is a Lord of the Treasury!” At the Earl of Abingdon's, on a certain Ash Wednesday, there was nothing but fish that was raw, wine that was poison, candles that were tallow; and yet “the puppy has twelve thousand pounds a year,” though I do not find that Swift went the length of calling his host puppy in print, more outspoken as he was than most of his contemporaries. Swift was but one of a large crowd of hungry men in search of a free dinner which they looked upon as their right. By food the noble Lord tamed his authors and secured his sycophants; by food the gracious Lady ruled her salon. “Whenever you meet with a man eminent in any way, feed him, and feed upon him at the same time,” was Lord Chesterfield's advice to his son. Mrs. Thrale had but to provide sweet­meats to make her evenings a success, Dr. Johnson thought. Nor, for that matter, has the bait lost its cunning in the London of to-day. Now the eighteenth-century cook who wrote books was a snob. He would always have you know it was with the Tables of Princes, Ambassadors, Noblemen, and Magistrates he was concerned; but rarely would he devise “the least expensive methods of providing for private families,” and then it must be “in a very elegant manner.” He had, therefore, to design on a large scale, to adapt his art to the number and hunger and fastidiousness of the hanger­on. And here, I think, you have the explanation.

But another problem I have hitherto been unable to solve. When I study the receipts of the period, I am struck by their variety and excellence. The tendency to over­seasoning, to the mixing of sweets and savories in one dish, had not altogether been overcome; probably, I am afraid, because fresh meat was not always to be had, and suspicious flavors had to be disguised. Some “made dishes” you know, without tasting them, to be as “wretched attempts” as Maclaurin's seemed to Dr. Johnson. However, so many and ingenious were the ways of preparing soups, sauces, meats, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, and sweets, the gourmet had sufficient chance to steer clear of the tawdry and the crude. Only in Voltaire's witticism was England then a country of a hundred religions and one sauce. Soup soared above the narrow oxtail and turtle ideal, and the cook roamed at will from the richest bisque to the simplest bouillon. The casserole was exalted and shared the honors with the honest spit. Fricassees and ragouts were not yet overshadowed by plain roast and boiled. Vegetables were not thought, when unadorned, to be adorned the most. And as for oysters, an American could not have been more accomplished in frying, scalloping, stewing, roasting, broiling, and boiling them, — even Swift gave his dear little M. D. a receipt for boiled oysters, which must have been not unlike that delicious dish of mussels one has eaten in many a French provincial hotel. And what is England to-day? A country soupless and sauceless, consecrated to a “Chop or a Steak, sir!” from John o' Groat's to Land's End, vowed irrevocably to boiled potatoes and greens, without as much as a grain of salt to flavor them. How did it happen? What was the reason of the Decline and Fall? Not Tatler's Appeal to his fellow countrymen to “return to the food of their forefathers, and reconcile themselves to beef and mutton.” That was uttered in 1710, and had absolutely no effect upon the tendency of the eighteenth-century cookery books that followed. As for “the common people of this kingdom [who] do still keep up the taste of their ancestors,” never yet have they set the fashion. I confess I still remain in outer darkness, groping for a clue.

If, as a rule, the eighteenth-century books, save for their prefaces, have a strong family resemblance, I prize the more the small but select saving remnant that makes for individuality. There are books that stand out with distinction, in my estimate, at least, because of the originality of the title: for instance, Adam's Luxury and Eve's Cookery; or the Kitchen-Garden display'd. (Printed for R. Dodsley in Pall Mall, 1744.) This octavo I saw first in the Patent Library collection of cookery books, never resting afterwards until I had secured a copy of my own, and the contents would have to be more colorless than they are to spoil my pleasure in the name. Now the charm is in the illustrations: for example, The Honours of the Table, or Rules for Behaviour During Meals (by the author of Principles of Politeness, 1791). Most of the cookery books of the period are content with the frontispiece, engraved on copper. But this little book has tail-pieces and illustrations scattered through the text, described in catalogues and bibliographies as “Woodcuts by Bewick.” I saw it also first at the Patent Library, and before the ardor of my pursuit had cooled to the investigation point, three different editions had a place on my shelves; two printed in London at the Literary Press, in 1788 and 1791, the third printed in Dublin also in 1791. Then I found that the wood engravings — it is a mistake to call them woodcuts, and one might as well be pedantic in these matters — are not by Thomas but by John Bewick, which makes a difference to the collector. But then Bewick's brother is not to be despised, and the book is full of useful hints, such as “eating a great deal is deemed indelicate in a lady (for her character should be rather divine than sensual);” or, “if any of the company seem backward in asking for wine, it is the part of the master to ask or invite them to drink, or he will be thought to grudge his liquor.” A few books please me because of the tribute their learning pays to the kitchen. Among these the most celebrated is Dr. Lister's edition of Apicius Coelius, published in 1705, now a rare book, at the time a bombshell in the camp of the antiquary, who, living in the country and hearing of it but not yet seeing it, was reduced to such “perplexity of mind” that “he durst not put any Catchup in his Fish Sauce, nor have his beloved Pepper, Oyl and Limon with his Partridge,” lest “he might transgress in using something not common to the Antients.” Another is The Art of Cookery, (1705), in imitation of Horace, by the Dr. King who was described, two years later, by Swift to Stella, as “a poor starving wit.” And indeed, the „32 5 0, said to have been paid him for the poem by Lintot, could not have tided him over his difficulties as a thirsty man. It is rather a ponderous performance, with here and there flashes: probably the verses were some of those Pope said he would write “in a tavern three hours after he could not speak.” The book was a skit really on Dr. Lister and his Apicius Coelius that, for the moment, served the wit as a target for his ridicule.

 

FRONTISPIECE : LISTER'S COELIUS APICIUS, 1709.
FRONTISPIECE : LISTER'S COELIUS APICIUS, 1709.

But, of all, the books I love most are those that make their appeal by some unexpected literary association. I own to a genuine emotion when I found it was to Lord Chesterfield that Vincent La Chapelle dedicated The Modern Cook, and that to the chef in his kitchen the noble patron offered the helping hand he later refused to the author at his door. I cannot understand why, for La Chapelle, in his praise of his lordship's exalted qualities, did not humble himself more completely than Johnson when overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of his lordship's address. In the Gentle Art of Toadying, the author of the eighteenth century could instruct the cook. It was, however, reserved for William Verral to give me the greatest thrill. His Complete System of Cookery is little known even to bibliographers; its receipts do not seem exceptional, perhaps because they have been so freely borrowed by other compilers; in make-up the book scarcely differs from the average, nor is there special distinction in Verral's post at the time of his writing, — he was master of the White Hart Inn, Lewes, Sussex; “no more than what is vulgarly called a poor publican” is his description of himself. But his title-page at the first glance was worth more to me than a whole shelf of his contemporaries' big fat volumes. Let me explain. By no great man in the annals of cookery have I been so puzzled as by that once famous “Chloe,” French cook to the Duke of Newcastle, and important enough in his own generation to swagger for a minute in the Letters of Horace Walpole and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. I had heard of Chloe, the beloved of Daphnis; I had heard of Chloe, the rival of Steele's Clarissa; I had even heard of Chloe, the old darky cook of the South. But of Chloe, a Frenchman, I had never heard, and I knew, without consulting the Encyclopædia, he simply could not exist. Who, then, was the Duke of Newcastle's Chloe? He was the last person I had in my mind when I began to read Verral's title, but by the time I got to the end I understood: A Complete System of Cookery, In which is set forth a Variety of genuine Receipts; collected from several Years' Experience under the celebrated Mr. de St. Clouet, sometimes since Cook to his Grace, the Duke of Newcastle. Clouet — Chloe — is it not as near and neat a guess as could be hoped for in the French of eighteenth-century London? He deserves his fame, for his receipts are excellent; wisdom in all he says about soup; genius in his use of garlic. Verral, moreover, writes an Introductory Preface, a graceful bit of autobiography, “to which is added, a true character of Mons. de St. Clouet;” so well done that there is scarcely a cook in history, not Vatel, not Carême, whom I now feel I know better. “An honest man,” Verral testifies, “worthy of the place he enjoyed in that noble family he had the honour to live in,” not extravagant as was said, but “setting aside the two soups, fish, and about five gros entrées (as the French call them) he has with the help of a couple of rabbits or chickens, and six pigeons, completed a table of twenty-one dishes at a course, with such things as used to serve only for garnish round a lump of great heavy dishes before he came.” Fortunately for the Duke of Newcastle's purse, St. Clouet must still have been with him for the famous banquets celebrating his installation as Chancellor at Cambridge, when, according to Walpole, his cooks for ten days massacred and confounded “all the species that Noah and Moses took such pains to preserve and distinguish,” and, according to Gray, everyone “was very owlish and tipsy at night.” This was in 1749; 1759 is the date of Verral's book, by which time St. Clouet had become cook to the Maréchal de Richelieu. I think it but due to him to recall that he was “of a temper so affable and agreeable as to make everybody happy around him. He would converse about indifferent matters with me (Verral) or his kitchen boy, and the next moment, by a sweet turn in his discourse, give pleasure by his good behaviour and genteel deportment, to the first steward in the family. His conversation is always modest enough, and having read a little, he never wanted something to say, let the topick be what it would.” How delightful if cooks to-day brought us such graceful testimonials!

It is with discoveries of this kind my Cookery Books reward me for the time — and worse, the money — I spend upon them. I never pick up one already in my collection, well as I may know it, without wondering what puzzle it will unravel for me; I never buy a new one without seeing in it the possible key to a mystery. And when I consider how much more fruitful in such rewards my eighteenth-century books have been than my seventeenth, when I consider the splendor of their mock heroics, the magnificence of their bombast, I waver in my old allegiance and begin to think that, after all, this is the period that charms me most in the Literature of the Kitchen.


NOTES

1 Just as I am re-reading this before trusting it to the post, a package is handed to me. I open it. The Servant's Directory, or Housekeeper's Companion, by H. Glasse. The book I have been searching for during long years! The miracle I owe, I am proud to say, to Mr. Janvier, whose intimacy with Mr. Hutchinson, Port of Philadelphia, has made him sympathize with me in my study of the Science of the Gullet. [Return to text]

2 Perhaps I should explain that my articles on cookery appeared in the Pall Mall, under the title of Wares of Autolycus, and it was while I was writing them that Mr. Dobson gave me the book. [Return to text]

3 “Swol'd Mutton is a sheep roasted in its Wool,” according to Dr. Lister himself. [Return to text]

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