Samuel Palmer

The Letters of Samuel Palmer, Vol. 2: 1860–1881

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1873 (10)To Richard Redgrave

[? July 1873]

My dear Redgrave,

Hearing with sorrow that you have been poorly and unable, from defect of appetite or digestion, to take sufficient nourishment, and having suffered in like manner myself, I venture to quote, not poetry, but a poet who was experimentally acquainted with the subject. It shall be in the postscript, if you have patience to read so far. Mean-pg 881while, lest this document should be adduced in proof of my being 'a busybody in other men's matters,'1

  • I will subscribe myself,         
  • Yours anonymously,     

*         *         *         

P.S.—A friend of mine met Samuel Rogers in the street, and mentioned that he was suffering from indigestion. 'Come and dine with me to-day', said the bard, 'and you will find out what you ought to eat.' The meal consisted of most genial and nutritive meats, with no harsh fibre left, but, as the host remarked, half-digested in the cooking.

There are times when the stomach revolts not only against lumps and 'gobbets' (Spenser),2 whether 'raw' or 'cooked', but when the best ordinary nourishment, 'a slice from the joint,' is too much for it. Then come the softer shades and mystic poesy of the stew-pan. Very little or no water (perhaps a glass of sherry), a hint of the treasures of the spice-box, just lurking, like the onion in Sydney Smith's salad-bowl,3 over everything stewing in its own gravy like Hibernian statesmanship.

but one moment's boiling is fatal. I think (my doctor tells me so) you should take meat twice a day, of this addulced and persuasive texture—the stew of this day's lunch having simmered through five or six hours of yesterday. The great difficulty is to find a cook who has a horror of boiling and 'wabbling.'

Then I would eat at present no salads or lettuces, nor any uncooked vegetables—not even fruit, however ripe. If you long for fruit, repair to the jam cupboard—I mean, just at present; for if you adopt the stew system, making Beef your sheet-anchor, ere long you will be able to tackle the mighty nutriments—rumpsteak pudding (boiled six hours, with a crust, apparently thick, but as light as Ariel), noble sirloins, and all the strenuous diet which prepared the yeomen for Crecy.

Beware of invariable mutton, still more of lamb and veal, especially if rather underdone. (We can digest a fat fowl, thoroughly roasted, its juices rescued from the dripping-pan, by cramming it with turkey stuffing, which is of equal advantage to pheasants.)

Then, for the present, I must put an interdict to your walking. When you have taken your five-hours-yesterday's-stewed luncheon, and waited half an hour, take a nice long ride in your chaise; and if you pg 882do not drive yourself, read Sydney Smith's letters on the deans and chapters as you go, which will add to the movement of your carriage a perpetual visible tremor, highly beneficial just now, till you are able to revert to Sirloins and Plato.

You will return to your second meal with somewhat more of appetite than you felt yesterday, and after dinner the brain must have perfect rest. I fear it is wicked to read or talk nonsense, except for the one hour after dinner; and if you think it wrong even then, imitate Henry VIII., who 'was wont to solace his sweet soul with the celestial sounds of music.'

I will add one word as to the manner of eating—our modern diners out are so fond of chattering that they have no time for chewing. It will be otherwise at home. The aforesaid Rogers attributed his long life to slow eating. Pray do not understand me to recommend epicurism or luxury. What I have said, I have said medically.

Original: Not traced.

Text: From Richard Redgrave, a Memoir, pp. 328–30.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 I Peter 4:15.
Editor’s Note
2 The Faerie Queene, 1. i. 20. 3; 1. xi. 13. 3.
Editor’s Note
3 This refers to a poem by Sydney Smith called 'Recipe for a salad':
  • Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
  • And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
Nowell-Smith, C. (ed.), Letters of Sydney Smith, Oxford, 1953, Vol. 11, p. 684.
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