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Temperance Movement
by [?]

I. The first hint is one that has been often offered; viz., the diminution of the particular liquor used, by the introduction into each glass of some inert substance, ascertained in bulk, and equally increasing in amount from day to day. But this plan has often been intercepted by an accident: shot, or sometimes bullets, were the substances nearest at hand; an objection arose from too scrupulous a caution of chemistry as to the action upon lead of the vinous acid. Yet all objection of this kind might be removed at once, by using beads in a case where small decrements were wanted, and marbles, if it were thought advisable to use larger. Once for all, however, in cases deeply rooted, no advances ought ever to be made but by small stages: for the effect, which is insensible at first, by the tenth, twelfth, or fifteenth day, generally accumulates unendurably under any bolder deductions. I must not stop to illustrate this point; but certain it is, that by an error of this nature at the outset, most natural to human impatience under exquisite suffering, too generally the trial is abruptly brought to an end through the crisis of a passionate relapse.

II. Another object, and one to which the gladiator matched in single duel with intemperance, must direct a religious vigilance, is the digestibility of his food: it must be digestible not only by its original qualities, but also by its culinary preparation. In this last point we are all of us Manichaeans: all of us yield a cordial assent to that Manichaean proverb, which refers the meats and the cooks of this world to two opposite fountains of light and of darkness. Oromasdes it is, or the good principle, that sends the food; Ahrimanes, or the evil principle, that everywhere sends the cooks. Man has been repeatedly described or even defined, as by differential privilege of his nature, ‘A cooking animal.’ Brutes, it is said, have faces,–man only has a countenance; brutes are as well able to eat as man,–man only is able to cook what he eats. Such are the romances of self-flattery. I, on the contrary, maintain, that six thousand years have not availed, in this point, to raise our race generally to the level of ingenious savages. The natives of the Society and the Friendly Isles, or of New Zealand, and other favored spots, had, and still have, an art of cookery, though very limited in its range: the French [Footnote: But judge not, reader, of French skill by the attempts of fourth-rate artists; and understand me to speak with respect of this skill, not as it is the tool of luxury, but as it is the handmaid of health.] have an art, and more extensive; but we English are about upon a level (as regards this science) with the ape, to whom an instinct whispers that chestnuts may be roasted; or with the aboriginal Chinese of Charles Lamb’s story, to whom the experience of many centuries had revealed thus much, viz., that a dish very much beyond the raw flesh of their ancestors, might be had by burning down the family mansion, and thus roasting the pig-stye. Rudest of barbarous devices is English cookery, and not much in advance of this primitive Chinese step; a fact which it would not be worth while to lament, were it not for the sake of the poor trembling deserter from the banners of intoxication, who is thus, and by no other cause, so often thrown back beneath the yoke which he had abjured. Past counting are the victims of alcohol, that, having by vast efforts emancipated themselves for a season, are violently forced into relapsing by the nervous irritations of demoniac cookery. Unhappily for them, the horrors of indigestion are relieved for the moment, however ultimately strengthened, by strong liquors; the relief is immediate, and cannot fail to be perceived; but the aggravation, being removed to a distance, is not always referred to its proper cause. This is the capital rock and stumbling-block in the path of him who is hurrying back to the camps of temperance; and many a reader is likely to misapprehend the case through the habit he has acquired of supposing indigestion to lurk chiefly amongst luxurious dishes. But, on the contrary, it is amongst the plainest, simplest, and commonest dishes that such misery lurks, in England. Let us glance at three articles of diet, beyond all comparison of most ordinary occurrence, viz., potatoes, bread, and butcher’s meat. The art of preparing potatoes for human use is utterly unknown, except in certain provinces of our empire, and amongst certain sections of the laboring class. In our great cities,–London, Edinburgh, &c.–the; sort of things which you see offered at table under the name and reputation of potatoes, are such that, if you could suppose the company to be composed of Centaurs and Lapithae, or any other quarrelsome people, it would become necessary for the police to interfere. The potato of cities is a very dangerous missile; and, if thrown with an accurate aim by an angry hand, will fracture any known skull. In volume and consistency, it is very like a paving-stone; only that, I should say, the paving-stone had the advantage in point of tenderness. And upon this horrid basis, which youthful ostriches would repent of swallowing, the trembling, palpitating invalid, fresh from the scourging of alcohol, is requested to build the superstructure of his dinner. The proverb says, that three flittings are as bad as a fire; and on that model I conceive that three potatoes, as they are found at many British dinner-tables, would be equal, in principle of ruin, to two glasses of vitriol. The same savage ignorance appears, and only not so often, in the bread of this island. Myriads of families eat it in that early stage of sponge which bread assumes during the process of baking; but less than sixty hours will not fit this dangerous article of human diet to be eaten. And those who are acquainted with the works of Parmentier, or other learned investigators of bread and of the baker’s art, must be aware that this quality of sponginess (though quite equal to the ruin of the digestive organs) is but one in a legion of vices to which the article is liable. A German of much research wrote a book on the conceivable faults in a pair of shoes, which he found to be about six hundred and sixty-six, many of them, as he observed, requiring a very delicate process of study to find out; whereas the possible faults in bread, which are not less in number, require no study at all for the defection; they publish themselves through all varieties of misery. But the perfection of barbarism, as regards our island cookery, is reserved for animal food; and the two poles of Oromasdes and Ahrimanes are nowhere so conspicuously exhibited. Our insular sheep, for instance, are so far superior to any which the continent produces, that the present Prussian minister at our court is in the habit of questioning a man’s right to talk of mutton as anything beyond a great idea, unless he can prove a residence in Great Britain. One sole case he cites of a dinner on the Elbe, when a particular leg of mutton really struck him as rivalling any which he had known in England. The mystery seemed inexplicable; but, upon inquiry, it turned out to be an importation from Leith. Yet this incomparable article, to produce which the skill of the feeder must co-operate with the peculiar bounty of nature, calls forth the most dangerous refinements of barbarism in its cookery. A Frenchman requires, as the primary qualification of flesh meat, that it should be tender. We English universally, but especially the Scots, treat that quality with indifference, or with bare toleration. What we require is, that it should be fresh, that is, recently killed, (in which state it cannot be digestible except by a crocodile;) and we present it at table in a transition state of leather, demanding the teeth of a tiger to rend it in pieces, and the stomach of a tiger to digest it.