« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
she had formed a notion that she was to see a fine, tall, officer-like looking man (I use her very words), the very reverse of
which proved to be the truth. This was candid, and I had the civility not to ask her in return how she came to pitch upon a standard of personal accomplishments for her husband's friends which differed so much from his own, for ny friend's dimensions as near as possibly approximate to mine ; he standing five feet five in his shoes, in which I have the advantage of him by about half an inch, and he no more than myself exhibiting any indications of a martial character in his air or countenance.
These are some of the mortifications which I have encountered in the absurd attempt to visit at their houses. To enumerate them all would be a vain endeavor : I shall therefore just glance at the very common impropriety of which married ladies are guilty, of treating us as if we were their husbands, and vice versa. I mean, when they use us with familiarity, and their husbands with ceremony. Testacea, for instance, kept me the other night two or three hours beyond my usual time of supping, while she was fretting because Mr. did not come home till the oysters were all spoiled, rather than she would be guilty of the impoliteness of touching one in his absence. This was reversing the point of good manners, for ceremony is an invention to take off the uneasy feeling which we derive from knowing ourselves to be less the object of love and esteem with a fellow-creature than some other person is. It endeavors to make up, by superior attentions in little points, for that invidious preference which it is forced to deny in the greater. Had Testacea kept the oysters back for me, and withstood her husband's importunities to go to supper, she would have acted according to the strict rules of propriety. I know no ceremony that ladies are bound to observe to their husbands beyond the point of a modest behavior and decorum : therefore I must protest against the vicarious gluttony of Cerasia, who at her own table sent away a dish of Morellas, which I was applying to with great good-will, to her husband at the other end of the table, and recommended a plate of less extraordinary gooseberries to my unwedded palate in their stead. Neither can I excuse the wanton affront
But I am weary of stringing up all my married acquaintance by Roman denominations. Let them amend and change their manners, or I promise to record the fulllength English of their names, to the terror of all such desperate offenders in future.
HE custom of saying grace at meals
had probably its origin in the early times of the world and the hunter
state of man, when dinners were precarious things, and a full meal was something more than a common blessing ; when a bellyful was a windfall, and looked like a special providence. In the shouts and triumphal songs with which, after a season of sharp abstinence, a lucky booty of deer's or goat's flesh would naturally be ushered home, existed, perhaps, the germ of the modern grace. It is not otherwise easy to be understood why the blessing of food — the act of eating — should have had a particular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, distinct from that implied and silent gratitude with which we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of the many other various gifts and good things of existence.
a grace before
I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a form for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none for books, those spiritual repasts, Milton, -a grace before Shakespeare, devotional exercise proper to be said re reading the Faëry Queen ? But, the received ritual having prescribed these forms to the solitary ceremony of manducation, I shall confine my observations to the experience which I have had of the grace properly so called ; cominending my new scheme for extension to a niche in the grand philosophical, poetical, and perchance in part heretical, liturgy, now compiling by my friend Homo Humanus, for the use of a certain snug congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians, no matter where assembled.
The form, then, of the benediction before eating has its beauty at a poor man's table, or at the simple and unprovocative repasts of children. It is here that the grace becomes exceedingly graceful. The indigent man, who hardly knows whether he shall have a meal the next day or not, sits down to his fare with a present sense of the blessing, which can be but feebly acted by the rich, into whose minds the conception of wanting
a dinner could never but by some extreme theory have entered. The proper end of food — the animal sustenance – is barely contemplated by them. The
man's bread is his daily bread, literally his bread for the day. Their courses are perennial.
Again, the plainest diet seems the fittest to be preceded by the grace. That which is least stimulative to appetite leaves the mind most free for foreign considerations. A man may feel thankful, heartily thankful, over a dish of plain mutton with turnips, and have leisure to reflect upon the ordinance and institution of eating, when he shall confess a perturbation of mind, inconsistent with the purposes of the grace, at the presence of venison or turtle. When I have sat (a rarus hospes) at rich men's tables, with the savory soup and messes steaming up the nostrils, and moistening the lips of the guests with desire and a distracted choice, I have felt the introduction of that ceremony to be unseasonable. With the ravenous orgasm upon you, it seems impertinent to interpose a religious sentiment. It is a confusion of purpose to mutter out praises from a mouth that waters. The heats of epicurism put out the gentle flame of devotion. The incense which rises round is pagan, and the belly-god intercepts it for
The very excess of the provision beyond the needs takes away all sense of