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meats, I have wondered at the despair or tedious sighing of her lovers.
The rules among these false delicates, are to be as contradictory as they can be to nature.
Without expecting the return of hunger, they eat for appetite, and prepare dishes not to allay, but to excite it.
They admit of nothing at their tables in its natural form, or without some disguise.
They are to eat everything before it comes in season, and to leave it off as soon as it is good to be eaten.
They are not to approve anything that is agreeable to ordinary palates; and nothing is to gratify their senses, but what would offend those of their inferiors.
I remember I was last summer invited to a friend's house, who is a great admirer of the French cookery, and (as the phrase is)“ eats well.” At our sitting down I found the table covered with a great variety of unknown dishes. I was mightily at a loss to learn what they were, and therefore did not know where to help myself. That which stood before me I took to be a roasted porcupine; however, did not care for asking questions; and have since been informed, that it was only a larded turkey. I afterwards passed my eye over several hashes, which I do not know the names of to this day ; and hearing that they were delicacies, did not think fit to meddle with them.
Among other dainties, I saw something like a pheasant, and therefore desired to be helped to a wing of it, but, to my great surprise, my friend told me it was a rabbit, which is a sort of meat I never cared for. At last I discovered, with some joy, a pig at the lower end of the table, and begged a gentleman that was near it to cut me a piece of it. Upon which the gentleman of the house said, with great civility, I am sure you will like the pig, for it was whipped to death. I must confess, I heard him with horror, and could not eat of an animal that had died such a tragical death: I was now in great hunger and confusion, when, methought, I smelled the agreeable savour of roast beef, but could not tell from which dish it arose, though I did not question but it lay disguised in one of them. Upon turning my head, I saw a noble sirloin on the side-table, smoking in the most delicious manner. I had recourse to it more than once, and could not see, without some indignation, that sub
stantial English dish banished in so ignominious a manner, to make way for French kickshaws.
The dessert was brought up at last, which, in truth, was as extraordinary as anything that had come before it. The whole, when ranged in its proper order, looked like a very beautiful winter-piece. There were several pyramids of candied sweetmeats, that hung like icicles, with fruits scattered up and down, and hid in an artificial kind of frost. At the same time, there were great quantities of cream beaten up into a snow, and near them little plates of sugar-plums, disposed like so many heaps of hail-stones, with a multitude of congelations in jellies of various colours. I was indeed so pleased with the several objects which lay before that I did not care for displacing any of them, and was half angry with the rest of the company, that, for the sake of a piece of lemon-peel, or a sugar-plum, would spoil so pleasing a picture. Indeed, I could not but smile to see several of them cooling their mouths with lumps of ice, which they had just before been burning with salts and peppers.
As soon as this show was over I took my leave, that I might finish my dinner at my own house: for as I in everything love what is simple and natural, so particularly in my food; two plain dishes, with two or three good-natured, cheerful, ingenious friends, would make me more pleased and vain, than all that pomp and luxury can bestow. For it is my maxim, “That he keeps the greatest table, who has the most valuable company at it.”
No. 152. THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 1710.
Dii, quibus imperium est animarum, umbræque silentes,
From my own Apartment, March 29. A man who confines his speculations to the time present, has but a very narrow province to employ his thoughts in. For this reason, persons of studious and contemplative natures often entertain themselves with the history of past
ages, or raise schemes and conjectures upon futurity. For my own part, I love to range through that half of eternity which is still to come, rather than look on that which is already run out; because I know I have a real share and interest in the one, whereas all that was transacted in the other can be only matter of curiosity to me.
Upon this account, I have been always very much delighted with meditating on the soul's immortality, and in reading the several notions? which the wisest of men, both ancient and modern, have entertained on that subject. What the opinions of the greatest philosophers have been, I have several times hinted at, and shall give an account of them from time to time as occasion requires. It may likewise be worth while to consider, what men of the most exalted genius, and elevated imagination, have thought of this matter. Among these, Homer stands up as a prodigy of mankind, that looks down upon the rest of human creatures as a species beneath him. Since he is the most ancient heathen author, we may guess from his relation, what were the common opinions in his time concerning the state of the soul after death.
Ulysses, he tells us, made a voyage to the regions of the dead, in order to consult Tiresias how he should return to his own country, and recommend himself to the favour of the gods. The poet scarce introduces a single person, who doth not suggest some useful precept to his reader, and designs 2 his description of the dead for the amendment of the living.
Ulysses, after having made a very plenteous sacrifice, sat him down by the pool of Holy Blood, which attracted a prodigious assembly of ghosts of all ages and conditions, that hovered about the hero, and feasted upon the steams of his oblation. The first he knew, was the shade of Elpenor, who, to show the activity of a spirit above that of body, is represented as arrived there long before Ulysses, notwithstanding the winds and seas had contributed all their force to hasten
? In reading the several notions.] We do not read notions, but the books which contain them. The proper word is—“ observing, contemplating,” or some such participle, expressing an act of the mind upon its ideas.
? Scarce introduces—and designs.] The two parts of this sentence do not connect properly. He should have expressed himself in some such way as this :-“ He makes almost every person, whom he introduces, suggest—and designs," &c.
his voyage thither. This Elpenor, to inspire the reader with a detestation of drunkenness, and at the same time with a religious care of doing proper honours to the dead, describes himself as having broken his neck in a debauch of wine; and begs Ulysses, that for the repose of his soul, he would build a monument over him, and perform funeral rites to his memory. Ulysses with great sorrow of heart promises to fulfil his request, and is immediately diverted to an object much more moving than the former. The ghost of his own mother Anticlea, whom he still thought living, appears to him among
the multitude of shades that surrounded him, and sits down at a small distance from him by the Lake of Blood, without speaking to him, or knowing who he was. Ulysses was exceedingly troubled at the sight, and could not forbear weeping as he looked upon her: but being all along set forth as a pattern of consummate wisdom, he makes his affection give way to prudence; and therefore, upon his seeing Tiresias, does not reveal himself to his mother, till he had consulted that great prophet, who was the occasion of this his descent into the empire of the dead. Tiresias having cautioned him to keep himself and his companions free from the guilt of sacrilege, and to pay his devotions to all the gods, promises him a return to his kingdom and family, and a happy old age in the enjoyment of them.
The poet having thus with great art kept the curiosity of his reader in suspense, represents his wise man, after the despatch of his business with Tiresias, as yielding himself up to the calls of natural affection, and making himself known to his mother. Her eyes are no sooner opened, but she cries out in tears,“ Oh my son!” and inquires into the occasions that brought him thither, and the fortune that attended him.
Ulysses on the other hand desires to know, what the sickness was that had sent her into those regions, and the condition in which she had left his father, his son, and more particularly his wife. She tells him, they were all three inconsolable for his absence. “ And as for myself, (says she,) that was the sickness of which I died. My impatience for your return, my anxiety for your welfare, and my fondness for
my dear Ulysses, were the only distempers that preyed upon my life, and separated my soul from my body.” Ulysses was melted with these expressions of tenderness, and thrice
endeavoured to catch the apparition in his arms, that he might hold his mother to his bosom and weep over her.
This gives the poet occasion to describe the notion the heathens at that time had of an unbodied soul, in the excuse which the mother makes for seeming to withdraw herself from her son's embraces. “ The soul, (says she,) is composed neither of bones, flesh, nor sinews, but leaves behind her all those encumbrances of mortality to be consumed on the funeral pile. As soon as she has thus cast her burthen, she makes her escape, and flies away from it like a dream.”
When this melancholy conversation is at an end, the poet draws up to view as charming a vision as could enter into man's imagination. He describes the next who appeared to Ulysses, to have been the shades of the finest women that had ever lived
upon the earth, and who had either been the daughters of kings, the mistresses of gods, or mothers of heroes ; such as Antiope, Alcmena, Leda, Ariadne, Iphimedia, Eriphyle, and several others, of whom he gives a catalogue, with a short history of their adventures. The beautiful assembly of apparitions were all gathered together about the blood : “Each of them (says Ulysses, as a gentle satire upon female vanity,) giving me an account of her birth and family." This scene of extraordinary women seems to have been designed by the poet as a lecture of mortality to the whole sex, and to put them in mind of what they must expect, notwithstanding the greatest perfections and highest honours they can arrive at.
T'he circle of beauties at length disappeared, and was succeeded by the shades of several Grecian heroes, who had been engaged with Ulysses in the siege of Troy. The first that approacked was Agamemnon, the generalissimo? of that great expedition, who at the appearance of his old friend wept very bitterly, and without saying anything to him, endeavoured to grasp him by the hand. Ulysses, who was much moved at the sight, poured out a flood of tears, and asked him the occasion of his death, which Agamemnon related to him in all its tragical circumstances ; how he was murdered at a banquet by the contrivance of his own wife, in confederacy with her adulterer ; from whence he takes occasion to reproach the whole sex, after a manner which
1 Generalissimo.] Instead of this cant and ludicrous term, he should have used the more noble one of “General,” or “Commmander-in-chief.”