The Humourist (January 22, 1754)

Today, the Humourist explores connections between what a writer eats and what a writer writes!
Pay close attention: he continues to provide us with clues as he shows his ongoing knowledge of and interest in the ancients, in drama, and in painting.

Let every Thing have its due Place.

An Author ought to make Choice of those Subjects that best suit his Genius, and there is as cogent a Reason for dieting himself; by which Expression I would be willingly understood to mean, that an Author, ambitious of the Public Voice, should suit his Diet to the Nature of the Subject under Consideration:  Mr. Bayes, in the Rehearsal,2 acquaints us, that he always took stew’d Prunes whenever he proposed to write.

Men of the most peculiar Turn may sometimes hit upon a lucky Thought:  I own Mr. Bayes’s candid Declaration has had a surprising Effect upon me, and as I find his Scheme reducible to the nicest Point of reason, I shall eternally follow his great Example.  All the World knows what a close Connexion there is between the mental and the corporeal Faculties; consider then, what infinite Advantages an Author must consequently reap, from such a Regimen as tends to purge the Excrements of the brain:  I dare affirm, that the Song of the Old-English Roast-Beef3 was composed after an hearty Exercise of the manual Engines upon it.

The Moderns are greatly inveighed against for want of Genius, but, upon the Faith of an Honest Man, I really attribute any Defects in them as arising from their own Negligence:  If Writers and People of good natural Parts, will run headlong against the Rules of right Reason, they, sans Doute, must lie open to the Inconveniences attending this Precipitation.

A Man may with equal Propriety eat Beef and drink Porter in a Fever, as accustom himself to some particular kinds of Diet during a Course of Lucubration.

I am for a reasonable Allowance of Food, for in Truth it is full as bad to eat none, as it is to eat improperly.

I was inclined the other Day to write a Tragedy, and after being for some Time lost in Thought, and panting for Expression to paint some cruel Incidents, I threw down my inky Slave, fatally calling to mind, that I had been devouring Trifle, Flummery and Whip-Syllabub; these are too tender, too soft, to raise and animate the Passions, or assist an Author in representing the Horror of a Battle, the Clashing of Arms, or the madding Wheels of brazen Charriots:  In the midst of these Reflections, I was delivered from my Anxiety by a delightful Sentiment; happy the Moment when I first indulged it!  I ordered a large quantity of Black-puddings to be made, in order to give a proper Lentor to the Juices, and familiarize the Soul to bloody Thoughts.

If a Man has a Turn for Epigrams, I would heartily recommend to him a few Jellies of his own making, as a Means of recalling to his Mind, that an Epigram should resemble a Jelly-Bag, sharp at the End.

A Pastoral Writer must addict himself to the primitive way of living; Vegetables for his Diet, and for his Drink the purling Stream.  As for the Satyrist, he of Course must conform to Crab-Apples, Nettle-tops, and Vinegar; a fine Acid is a vast Help to a Satyr.

As I have enumerated several kinds of Food proper for the various Turns of Writers, I shall mention a few Things which are absolutely destructive to the Intellect, and ought to be avoided.

Custard is a most barbarous Thing; Trajan4 got his Death by it at Antioch, and many a good Alderman has experienced the bad Qualities accruing from too intimate a Connexion with it; I do firmly believe, that it obnubilates the Understanding and hurts the Memory:  Tom Brown gives you its Degrees, “eating of Custard first gives a Cachexy, instantly turns to a Dolor Alvi, that to a Peripneumonia in the Diaphragm, that to an Empyena in the Flandula Pinealis.”  I have totally forbid the Use of them near me, and hope that other People will endeavor to put a Stop to their Progress.

The judicious Fernelius,5 in his Diatriba de usu Microscoporum in Controversus Ecclesiastici, affirms, that Currants excite Choler, and Sugar has a bad Effect upon the Diaphragm and Aspera Arteria.

There are innumerable other Things which ought to be totally disregarded; but those above-mentioned will prevent any Man for rising as an Author, and they are as powerful in spoiling his Capacity as beheading is effectual for the Cure of the Tooth-Ach.

EPIGRAM upon a perfumed Spark.

Excuse my Bluntness Sir, but Men that smell
So much perfum’d ( I think) do not smell well.

The Humourist will not think it a Trouble to read, what the Author of the Letter to him in the last Paper, shall see fit to communicate.


1 Roscommon’s translation of line 92 from Horace’s Ars Poetica:  “Singula quæque locum teneant sortita decenter.”

2 George Villiers’ 1671 satirical play concerning a revolutionary playwright Bayes who was attempting to stage a play.

3 “The Roast Beef of Old England,” a ballad by Henry Fielding (1707-1754).

4 Marcus Ulpius Traianus, Roman emperor (AD 53-117).

5 Jean François Fernel (1497-1558), a renowned French physician who introduced the term “physiology.”

6 thoughts on “The Humourist (January 22, 1754)

  1. So, the new clues: Highly educated man of refined tastes with time to write high-brow nonsense, living large amongst busy, ambitious colonists; obviously The Humourist is a man of wealth and leisure.

    I suspect The Humourist of being a bon vivant in high society with bon-bons, OR a black-sheep remittance man in low places with lamb chops.


    • I do believe that you possess (as did The Humourist) an Otacousticon that gives you an excellent perspective! And being so exquisitely equipped, you must realize that your speculations need not be one or the other. In actuality, The Humourist was both a bon vivant in Charleston high society and, perhaps, a man who found himself in a “low place” in his homeland and sought refuge (of sorts) in South Carolina.

      Your comment is splendidly insightful! Thank you! Don’t you just love a whodunit? I can tell that you do!


  2. Ah! mis en place, the author is both gourmand and possibly even chef de cuisine… everything in its place, prepared and appropriate to the task at hand…


    • You are so on target: everything in place! While I doubt that The Humourist was a chef de cuisine, he was a gourmand, and, without doubt, he was a man who understood the importance of having everything in place, and he was a man who understood the historical significance of place and places.

      And, you are hereby awarded an A++ for your insights.


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