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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1878

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1684
HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT

in the famous description of a dainty supper, given by Keats, in his "Eve of Saint Agnes." Could Queen Mab herself desire to sit down to anything nicer, both as to its appointment and serving, and as to its quality, than the collation served by Porphyro in the lady's bedroom while she slept:—

"There by the bedside, where the faded moon
Made a dim silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguish 'd, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold and jet.

***

While he from forth the closet, brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
With jellies smoother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrups tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr'd
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar 'd Lebanon."

But Tennyson has ventured beyond dates, and quinces, and syrups, for in his idyll of "Audley Court," he gives a most appetising description of a pasty at a picnic:

"There, on a slope of orchard, Francis laid
A damask napkin wrought with horse and hound;
Brought out a dusky loaf that smelt of home,
And, half cut down, a pasty costly made,
Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret, lay
Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks
Imbedded and in jellied."

Dinner.—The art of cooking was little known in England before the sixteenth century. The table appointments in the days of Queen Elizabeth were rich and costly, but the food was more substantial than refined. The Queen's Closet Opened, published in 1662, in the reign of Charles II, contains recipes for chicken-pie, pigeon-pie, potted venison, stewed eels, crab dressed, pancakes and strawberry cake, all of which are of a much more refined character than the dishes that graced the board of the wealthy classes in the sixteenth century. Evidently considerable progress was made during the Stuart dynasty, and more especially in the reign of Queen Anne, this no doubt being, in some measure, due to the royal lady's appreciation of good things. Then followed a period of retrogression, not only in cookery, but in almost every other art and science; for the early Hanoverians, although excellent kings in some respects, did little to promote the general welfare of the people. Matters were not much improved in the reign of George III, for the tastes of that monarch and his homely spouse were too simple for them to enjoy or provide anything but comparatively plain fare. But at the end of the eighteenth century a new order of things came into existence due to the "Exquisites," or "Macaronis," whose one aim in life was to obtain a reputation for originality and refinement. Some sought to win distinction by donning gay apparel, others by endeavouring to gratify, in some original manner, the epicurean taste which one and all tried to cultivate. The notorious extravagances of this period had at least one good result, for they gave a strong impetus to the neglected