Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Morals And Manners Of The Kitchen
by [?]

Mr. Froude’s attempt to secure from the American public a favorable judgment on the dealings of England with Ireland has had one good result–though we fear only one–in leading to a little closer examination of the real state of American opinion about Irish grievances than it has yet received. He will go back to England with the knowledge–which he evidently did not possess when he came here–that the great body of intelligent Americans care very little about the history of “the six hundred years of wrong,” and know even less than they care, and could not be induced, except by a land-grant, or a bounty, or a drawback, to acquaint themselves with it; that those of them who have ever tried to form an opinion on the Anglo-Irish controversy have hardly ever got farther than a loose notion that England had most likely behaved like a bully all through, but that her victim was beyond all question an obstreperous and irreclaimable ruffian, whose ill-treatment must be severely condemned by the moralist, but over whom no sensible man can be expected to weep or sympathize.

The agencies which have helped to form the popular idea of the English political character are well known; those which have helped to deprive the Irish of American sympathy–and which, if Mr. Froude had judiciously confined himself to describing the efforts made by England to promote Irish well-being now, would probably have made his lectures very successful–are more obscure. We ourselves pointed out one of the most prominent, and probably most powerful–the conduct of the Irish servant-girl in the American kitchen. To this must of course be added the specimen of “home rule” to which the country has been treated in this city; but we doubt if this latter has really exercised as much influence on American opinion as some writers try to make out. A community which has produced Butler, Banks, Parker, Bullock, Tweed, Tom Fields, Oakey Hall, Fernando Wood, Barnard, and scores of others whom we might name, as the results of good Protestant and Anglo-Saxon breeding, cannot really be greatly shocked by the bad workings of Celtic blood and Catholic theology in the persons of Peter B. Sweeny, Billy McMullen, Jimmy O’Brien, Reddy the Blacksmith, or Judge McCunn. It is in the kitchen that the Irish iron has entered into the American soul; and it is in the kitchen that a great triumph was prepared for Mr. Froude, had he been a judicious man. The memory of burned steaks, of hard-boiled potatoes, of smoked milk, would have done for him what no state papers, or records, or correspondence of the illustrious dead can ever do; it had prepared the American mind to believe the very worst he could say of Irish turbulence and disorder. Not one of his auditors but could find in his own experience of Irish cooking circumstances which would probably have led him to accept without question the execution of Silken Thomas, the massacre of Drogheda, or even the Penal Laws, as perfectly justifiable exercises of authority, and would certainly have made it easy for him to believe that English rule in Ireland at the present day is beneficent beyond example.

Nevertheless, we are constrained to say that in our opinion a great deal of the odium which surrounds Bridget, and which has excited so much prejudice, not only against her countrymen, but against her ancestors, in American eyes, has a very insufficient foundation in reason. There are three characters in which she is the object of public suspicion and dislike–(1) as a cook; (2) as a party to a contract; (3) as a member of a household. The charges made against her in all of these have been summed up in a recent attack on her in the Atlantic Monthly
, as “a lack of every quality which makes service endurable to the employer, or a wholesome life for the servant.”