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Caninum prandium.- Plautus.
LIKE Horace, I confess myself • Epicuri de grege porcus.' There are people with a fine abstemiousness about them, who think eating and drinking gross and vulgar. Shall I tell you why? They have either no palates or no digestions. There are
Poets tune-deaf and painters colour-blind.
There are men without the sense of smell, whom a sewer offends not, and who get no delight from the multitudinous wreaths of honeysuckle or the tremulous bells of the lily of the valley. So there are people to whom wood-pigeon is as palatable as woodcock, and cider as Sauterne. For them was designed the Roman playwright's caninum prandium—a breakfast without wine.
I agree with my friend Mr. Blackmore, that noon is the proper hour for the labourer's dinner. This morning, after writing a couple of articles, I took a stroll on my lawn before going to bed. It was half-past three. The nightingales were singing vespers — the starlings were seeking breakfast. Some labourers were just going to mow my neighbour's grass. Between my habits and theirs the difference is as great as between those of nightingale and starling. They will want their dinner at high noon, doubtless : I shall probably be at breakfast.
Two meals a day is what the eupeptic philosopher should eat,prandium and coena. I am dealing with the man who is not tied to time—who has not made himself a slave—who lives by some work which he can do when he lists. The moment you
have to be at a given place through given hours you become a machine. Machine work-mere routine-necessarily decreases the ideal power; and this decrease, according to my theory, tends to the shortening of life. Let me suppose that you can do as you please, and that you please to lead a life of lettered leisure in some pleasant corner of England. You rise when you like; you go to your room when you like. You may sleep, if you will, at high noon, when all the common world is alive; you may be wakeful and brilliant in the short hours of the night, when there are no witnesses of your vagaries save the silent stars above you. Living such a life, I venture to think that you should take two meals daily-prandium, which is neither breakfast nor luncheon, but something better than either; and coena, which is dinner. As to the hours, you are your own master. From eleven to twelve I recommend for prandium—and it should be a meal of cold meats, prawns and lobsters, fruit, salad, strawberry pies and sardines, cold game when it is attainable, light wines according to the season.
Your ghost Of a breakfast in England, your curst tea and toast, as Tom Moore puts it, is an utter absurdity. The man who has heavy and definite work to do is most unwise to begin his day in such fashion. A lobster and some hock, or a cold grouse and some Burgundy, would set him up for the day more thoroughly. I have nothing to say to the critic who maintains it would cost more, since I write for those who can afford to live well. I do not write for millionaires or voluptuaries. I write for the man who gives good work of the brain in return for what the world gives him. It is quite true that such men can seldom live so freely as those who devote their faculties to making money out of the world ; but the whirligig of time brings in his revenges,' and Plutus does not permanently get the upper hand of Apollo. The art of money-making, like all other arts, is apt to master its possessor: the man who has made his million in the City bows down and worships the God MILLION. It is not so with those of the first force: the merchant prince, who values money for what it can do, and intelligently uses it, is not unknown in England. In all departments of life the art overpowers the inferior artist : the small poet venerates rhyme, and the puny mathematician reveres formula.
With regard to dinner there is much to be said, and when all is said, much must be left to the man who wants to dine. First: the hour. For an average, writing as I am for men who use their nights wisely, sleeping six or seven hours, I take seven to be a capital time. But let there be variation with the weather. In winter dine by candle-light : of course no man who desires to live long will