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From my own Apartment, November 24.
“I am at present under very great difficulties, which it is not in the power of any one, besides yourself, to redress. Whether or no you shall think it a pro. per case to come before your court of honour, I can not tell ; but thus it is. I am a chaplain to an honour. able family, very regular at the hours of devotion, and, I hope, of an unblameable life; but for not of. fering to rise at the second course, I found my pa. tron and his lady, very sullen and out of humour, though at first I did not know the reason of it. At length when I happened to help myself to a jelly, the lady of the house, otherwise a devout woman, told me, that it did not become a man of my cloth to delight in such frivolous food; but as I still continued to sit out the last course, I was yesterday informed by the butler, that his lordship had no farther occasion for my service. All which is humbly submitted to your consideration by, Sir,
Your most humble servant, &c." The case of this gentleman deserves pity; especi. ally if he loves sweetmeats, to which, if I may guess by his letter, he is no enemy.
In the mean time, I have often wondered at the indecency of discharge ing the holiest man from the table as soon as the most delicious parts of the entertainment are served up, and could never conceive a reason for so absurd a custom. Is it because a liquorish palate, or a sweet tooth, as they call it, is not consistent with the sanc. tity of his character? This is but a trifling pretence. No
man, of the most rigid virtue, gives offence by any excesses in plum-pudding or plum-porridge, and that because they are the first parts of the dinner. Is there any thing that tends to incitation in sweetmeats more than in ordinary dishes ? Certainly not. Sugar-plums are a very innocent diet, and conserves of a much colder nature than your common pickles. I have sometimes thought that the ceremony of the chaplain's flying away from the desert was typical
and figurative, to mark out to the company how they ought to retire from all the luscious baits of temptation, and deny thetr appetites the gratifica. tions that are most pleasing to them; or at least, to signify that we ought to stint ourselves in our most lawful satisfactions, and not make our pleasure, but our support, the end of eating. But most certainly, if such a lesson of temporance had been necessary at a table, our clergy would have recoma mended it to all the lay-masters of familius, and not have disturbed other men's tables with such unsea. sonable examples of abstinence.
The original, therefore, of this barbarous custom, 1 take to have been merely accidental. The chaplain retired, out of pure complisance, to make rvom for the removal of the dishes, or possibly for the ranging of the des. sert. This by degrees grew into a duty, until at length, as the fashion improved, the good man found himself cut off from the third part of the entertainment; and, if the arrogance of the patron goes on, it is not impossible but, in the next generation, he may see himself reduced to the tythe, or tenth dish of the table; a sufficient caution not to part with any privilege we are once possessed of. It was usual for the priest in old times to feast upon the sacrifice, nay the honey-cake, while the hungry laity looked upon himn with great devotion; or, as the late lord Rochester describes it, in a very lively manner,
And while the priest did eat, the people star'd. At present the custom is in verted; the laity feast, while the priest stands by as an humble spectator. This necessarily puts a good man upon making great ravages on all the dishes that stand ncar him; and distinguishịng himself by voraciousness of appetite,
as knowing that his time is short. I would fain ask these stiff-necked patrops, whether they would not take it ill of a chaplain, that in his grace after meat should return thanks for the whole entertainment with an exception to the dessert? And yet I cap. not but think, that in such a proceeding he would but deal with them as they deserved. What would a Roman catholic priest think, who is always helpe ed first, and placed next the ladies, should he see a clergyman giving his company the slip at the first appearance of the tarts or sweet-meats? Would not he believe that he had the same antipathy to a candied orange, or a piece of puff-paste, as some have to a Cheshire cheese, or a breast of mutton ? Yet, toso ridiculous a height is this foolish custom grown, that even the Christmas pye, which in its very na. ture is a kind of consecrated cake, and a badge of distinction, is often forbidden to the Druid of the family. Strange! that a sirloin of beef, whether boiled or roasted, when entire, is exposed to his utmost depređations and incisions; but, if minced into small pieces, and tossed up with plums and sugar, changes its property, and, forsooth, is meut for his master.
In this case I know not which to censure, the pa. tron, or the chaplain, the insolence of power, or the abjectness of dependence. For my own part, I have often blushed to see a gentleman, whom I knew to have niuch more wit and learning than myself, and who was bred up with me at the university upon the same foot of a liberal education, treated in such air ignominious manner,
and sunk beneath those of his own ránk, by reason of that character which ought to bring him honour. This deters men of generous miuds from placing themselves in such a station of life, and by that means frequently excludes persons