Tuesday, 29 December 2015

20 August 1887 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

A lot of snark and boy troubles this month. 

POOR JANE: - All our readers of Answers to Correspondents know very well that we make no invidious distinctions between the upper classes and the poor. You have certainly no cause for complaint, since we answered your first letter at once. The tone of this second letter is impertinent, in suggesting that perhaps we shall not reply "because you are poor". You are mistaken in thinking that the use of a "J" pen will make you "write like a lady". Write careful copies with any pen you like. We do not care to advertise books on palmistry.

E.G.A.C.B.: - How many initials you need for identification! The rule is  for the lady to bow first, and then the man to take off his hat. There is no occasion for stopping to speak in the street; far better not to do so.

ELEANOR M.E.:- You might do so in private, and it would give pleasure. But you do well in pausing to ask advice in such matters.

SIS WIN:- No girl at seventeen should be liable to forget herself in saying or doing what is indiscreet. She should not be so taken by surprise by words or acts of others as to be betrayed into making unwise confidences, nor consenting to unsuitable proposals. If self-possessed, she will be armed against indiscretion. Your writing is stiff - does not slope the right way.

WHITE HEATHER:- It is said "Doctors differ, and patients die"; so we do not desire to render "confusion worse confounded" in your case, which appears to have proved a bone of contention amongst your advisers so far. Your person and circumstances are quite unknown to us, and we could not venture to solve the difficult question. Getting all your teeth extracted seems to us like horse practice.

ELIZABETH B:- On no account marry any man that you neither have nor feel confidence in his late improvement in conduct. If the very thought of marrying him makes you ill, and you are not strong, do not be persuaded to do so. No parent has any right natural or legal to force a child into a marriage against her inclination. Tell your mistress all your trouble, and remain in your situation. You would be quite justified in going away unknown, if you had any respectable place to go to, and that were your only way of escape. In any case, even when in the church you can say "No!" when the clergyman asks you whether you will have the man. Tell your case to a magistrate and ask for his protection.

TROUBLED SIS: It is not only indiscreet, but wrong, to correspond with any man other than with him to whom you are engaged; more especially when he had the audacity to put you "on your honour not to show the letters" and presumes to address you as "Darling Sis!"  Of course your affianced husband has a right to see the letters of any man who writes to you. His chatting in a friendly way, or even flirting with a lady friend, does not justify you in doing the same. If he does wrong, why should you follow suit? Be off with the old love before you are on with the new.

HAMLET:- You need to be taught to ride a tricycle and to wear a suitable dress that will not be entangled in the wheels. Under other circumstances it would be dangerous to ride one.

LIZZIE LANDSDOWNE should make rosemary tea just as she would make drinking tea, or sage tea for application to a sunburnt face.

J.H.:- WE do not think you could teach, or rather un-teach your bird its present habit of taking its bath without a companion to give it a lesson. Of course it would not understand how to begin.

IVY LEAF must find something useful and interesting to think about. An idle mind will naturally dream and wander like a rudderless ship. The cure depends on her own will.

A.B.C. has no idea of versification.

ONE OF THE GIRLS:- Your lines show religious feeling, not genius.

GERTRUDE M. DUTTRY:- The lines have some merits, but the handwriting is extremely hard to decipher, and also ugly.

MARIE STUART:- We advise our taking more exercise, leaving off tea and coffee, and stimulants if you take them. Take cocoa instead, also fruit cooked and uncooked, and cultivate happiness in yourself; it will grow if you really begin to see the bright side of life.

F.M.T.W.:- The person who wrote your quotation must have been ignorant and foolish to the last degree; the Coronation Stone, even for its antiquity and association, is an interesting and wonderful relic.

SPRING FLOWERS:- The composition you send to us for insertion is of the usual schoolgirl kind. By-and-by you may do better, and achieve some originality of thought.

HELEN:- It is anything but "the beauty of the hair to be so greasy"! Wash it once a week, and keep it thoroughly brushed daily, using clean brushes perpetually.

25 February 1882 - 'Seasonable Clothing and how it should be made'

Spring fashions for 1882. Ladies, please hold off purchasing your gear for the new season until April. Stripes are in for outer-wear and there's a fancy new make of undergarment called the "Hibernia". Hats will be massive this spring, bonnets will be tiny and flowers are preferred over feathers which is good, as the G.O.P. fashion columnists have always been consistent in their stance on the issue of birds as headgear. 

"March winds" are fitly represented in their effect by our sketch of the dress of the month; which, in truth, generally consists of some kind of waterproof cape, without which it is hardly safe to venture abroad in the early English spring. March, in addition to its uncertainty in the way of weather, may be fitly described as the most uncertain of all the months as regards dress; for we are all thinking of new dresses, while we are making the best of the old ones, which the hard wear of the winter has done its best to spoil. Thus when the spring begins to appear, with its infallible way of making everything look worn and faded, we begin to look forward to "something new" as a real pleasure to come. Wise people, however, do not think of purchasing until April has begun, all the fashions are out, and the shops well filled with new goods.

The round bodices with belts are the most used for slight and girlish figures, and those gathered round the shoulders, and just above the waist, are still worn. From this our readers may judge that the trimmings of the skirts worn with them will extend almost to the waist, and the draperies at the back will be high and full. Skirts are very much fuller; those which I have lately seen being quite two yards and a quarter in width. This gives far more grace to the figure than the extremely scanty ones tightly tied back. The bodices with very long peaks in front are, however, the newest of all, and are very becoming to the generality of figures, especially to those of persons who are inclined to become stout.

These bodies are finished with a basque, or square, coat-shaped ends at the back, and they are frequently made with gathers all round the front and sides, over which the peak sits gracefully. The mildness of the winter has made the fur capes a sufficiently warm covering for most young people, and, consequently, the coat-bodices have been more worn than anything else. If they fit fairly well, they are more becoming than the belted ones, which are not suitable for out-of-door wear in the winter. So far as I can see, it will be the favourite one for the spring and summer, in all kinds of materials, for youthful figures.

Out-of-door dress, as a general rule, is far simpler in style and make than it has been for some time past, and the increasing use of plush and velvet will tend to preserve it so. The velvet skirts are often quite plain, without flounces or kiltings, with a prettily draped tunic or a polonaise of some slighter material, such as cashmere, serge, beige, or tweed, or else the skirt is flounced in a simple way and has a long tightly-fitting jacket-bodice. This will be the style generally adopted for girls' dress, I think; and when next month comes they will be warm enough for wear out of doors without any other covering.

All kinds of striped materials appear to be in request, and I hear that tartans are to be one of the new introductions. The number of fancy woollen materials in course of preparation  for the spring is so varied in colour and price that everybody will be satisfied; and our ordinary everday costumes will be well provided for, some of which have the plain materials prepared to be mixed with them, and others will be prettier if made up with velveteen.

Before I proceed further I must give a word to underclothing, which, I daresay, is just now engaging the attention of many of my readers, and I hope they have adopted the only comfortable way of keeping up their stock of it, viz., by purchasing enough calico for a single garment, and thus obtaining one at less cost and with less apparent trouble than in any other way. The making is a very small matter when it is done at intervals, and it is not difficult to obtain a good shape. But as there are some people who can neither obtain patterns, make the underclothing, nor cut it out, I must mention that I have been recently much pleased by a special kind of underclothing which I have seen, called the "Hibernia". When it has to do with Ireland I do not know, but I have never seen any shapes so perfect, or any material so good. The work too is excellent, and those of our girls who are in difficulties for patterns had better look at this particular make, which, I believe, is to be found at all large drapers. It is hand-made, and the trimmings are so good that they will wear, to all appearance, as long as the calico.

The two figures in the March wind wear the garments of winter still. The waterproof is made in a new shape, or, rather, an old one revived, very similar to what was known as an "Inverness cape" some years ago. The comfort of being able to wear a jacket or mantle with sleeves under the waterproof, instead of being compelled to make the ulster or the "Newmarket coat" the sole garment, is very great.

The desire to do this has led to this revival of an old friend, which enables one to throw off the damp over-garment in the hall when one pays a visit, and thus to escape a cold or chill. The material is a very light waterproofed tweed, having a pattern which may be either a tartan or stripes, of an uncertain kind of colour.

The pretty figure in the corner hardly needs description. The dress she wears is a bodice of velveteen, satin or brocade, made up very simply, and plainly, with a deep point in front and at the back, and having long sleeves, which are puffed in long puff, on the shoulders. The top of the bodice is cut low, and under it a thick chemisette of mull or India muslin is worn, drawn up to the neck, and finished with a little lace and a band of black velvet. This pretty bodice may be worn with any skirt, though our artist, to carry out the effect, has depicted a gauged one, with rounded gathers at the sides and in front.

The two smaller figures of our illustrations show one of the long and rather plain-looking over-dresses, or polonaises, which have been worn a little this winter, but will probably become more general in the spring. Velveteen isv material most usually employed. The waistcoat-front may be of striped or fancy brocade or satin. The other figure wears a somewhat similar bodice to that which we have already described, except that it partakes more closely of the character of a Swiss bodice, having no sleeves, only a band or ribbon, while the white bodice beneath is a kind of loose Garibaldi, with sleeves and a full bodice.

And now I must gather together a few items of news about the expected fashions of the spring. The hats are to be larger than they have latterly been; and the brims are to be turned up and turned down in all manner of ways. The crowns are to be elevated into a sugar-loaf shape, and that of very lofty proportions; while report says that the bonnets are to decrease in size and become beautifully less. All kinds of straw hats and bonnets are being prepared for the summer; and plain and fancy tuscan; and crinoline will divide the honours of the day.

The new ribbons for strings will vary from two to four inches in width, and watered silk will be in great requisition. The pretty flowered sateens which were worn last summer will also be worn this year at the same season, the flowers being larger in size and more perfect in their artistic copying from Nature. The grounds of these pretty dresses will be of light and soft colours, such as greenish-blues, moss green, straw-colour, and pink-grey. It is said that quantities of flowers are to be worn and scarcely any feathers at all, so we must all feel glad that fashion has changed, and that the poor birds are to have a reprieve at last.

10 December 1881 - 'The Habits of Polite Society' by S.F.A. Caulfield.

I imagined all of this being read in the voice of Maggie Smith as the Countess Dowager. 

In the first part of the series of notes indicated in the above title I promised to supply, as one time amongst many, some directions on “complimentary” and “family mourning”.  So, before entering upon a consideration of a very miscellaneous collection of rules, the former subject shall be made my opening topic, premising that the statements given emanate from the highest authority. 

In giving any such directions, however, it must be remembered that special cases must not be met with any conventional hard and fast rules.  Circumstances of great personal attachment, respect or obligation; or of a residence in the house with relatives who may be in the deepest affliction, may each render a greater depth and duration of the external “trappings of woe” a matter of imperative duty.  At Courts, where the interests of trade, the obligations of State display, and brilliancy of costume, are matters demanding consideration – utterly precluding any long-continued dreariness of appearance – the wearing of mourning is of very brief duration.  Thus persons in high society, whose personal connection with Court, or with relatives who must be in frequent attendance there, cannot act altogether independently of those customs and fashions, which are obligatory under such circumstances.  At the same time, the existence of these rules amongst the elite will hold all other persons free from blame who are pleased to decide on their adoption.

Let us give to the subject of “Family Mourning” the precedence, beginning with that obligatory on a widow.  For the first twelve months she may wear deep crape and a suitable cap, and no invitations during this period – out of the circle of her own immediate family, or incognito with a very intimate friend – should be accepted.  Some change in the style of her dress is allowed on entering the second year of widowhood, when she may exchange her crape-trimmed barathea, or such like material, to a widow’s silk dress, deeply trimmed with crape, and continue to wear it for a period of six months.  After this time the crape may be reduced, and jet trimmings employed during the next six months, when a two years’ mourning will have been completed, and the crape should be altogether removed.  For the first six months of the third year she may wear grey and lavender-coloured dresses and trimmings, and then colours, like other people.

For a father, mother or child the present mourning lasts for one year.  For three months the deepest black; for the second three months, silk and crape; for the third quarter, black and jet trimmings, without crape; for the fourth, black and white, the ornaments permitted being diamonds and pearls, and grey gloves instead of black (or, at Court, white).  But while giving you the rule now obtaining, as regards the mourning for such near relatives, amongst persons going out into society amongst the aristocracy, I by no means wish my readers to understand that even persons of the same position in life, who do not go into the society of Courts, restrict the marks of love and respect for parents or children to limits so scanty as those i have described.  A year’s crape, lightened a little at the end of the first six months, and slight mourning for the first quarter of the second year, is the old-fashioned custom, still kept up by all those to whom the outward semblance of grief is a true index of the heart’s affliction.  But this can only be provided that they possess the requisite means so to vent their own feelings, and are not thwarted by the exactions of the position they hold, and the society in which they live.

For grandparents, the modern rule is to wear silk and crape for three months; plain black for three more; and black and grey or lavender for the last three, so reducing the mourning to nine months.

For a brother or sister, society prescribes only three months of crape, two of black, and one of half mourning.

For an uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece, two months of crape and one of black.

For a great uncle or aunt, two months in black, and one in half mourning.

For a first cousin, three weeks in black and three in half mourning.

For a second cousin or first once removed, three weeks in black.

And here attention must again be drawn to the exception which I have taken to the brief duration, and slight character of the mourning described as sufficient only “in society” of a certain class, for parents, and apply my observation to the rules given respecting brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and nephews and sisters.  For persons who are free from the cold and artificial influences of a Court and its hard exactions, and who occupy a place in what may be described as private society, who may render ungrudgingly the outward expression of respect or sorrow for those who shared the same blood with themselves – for these persons six months of the deepest crape would seem but too little for a brother or sister, or even in many cases for an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

We have now arrived at the second part of my subject, viz., the rules obtaining in reference to “complimentary mourning”.  It is worn by a second wife for the near relatives of her predecessor; by a mother for the parents of a son or daughter-in-law, and for their brothers and sisters, for a period of six weeks.  But this should consist of black only, not in combination with crape.  For a friend black may reasonably be worn for a month or six weeks; and for the head of your family (if a peer) a month.

Having already given an entire article on the subject of “mourning” to which the reader is referred p.398, vol.ii., I hope that the information with which I have now supplemented my views on a much vexed question will prove of some use to those who are troubled by any doubts with reference to it. 

And now from the etiquette of these black habiliments I pass on to give a few hints on suitability of dress in general.

Nothing could look more vulgar than to be over-dressed in the street.  A handsome costume of bright colour, suitable for a dinner-party, might likewise be worn at a flower-show, a concert, or a garden-party; but very bright colours, in rich silks, satin or velvet materials, are quite unsuitable for afternoon visiting.  To wear such, even if driving, to make calls on friends and acquaintances, would be to make yourself an object of very unfavourable criticism, and stamp you as one who was ignorant of the habits of society.  The kindest of the observations made would be “What a pity that poor Miss So-and-So should not know better than to go out of an afternoon dressed like that!”

Some description of white dress is to be worn at “confirmation” and a white cap.  But the precise character of the dress – respecting which continual inquiries are made – should depend, not on personal fancy, but on what has been arranged for the occasion in each respective parish.  It is in better taste to be dressed as much like the other persons of your own position, and as nearly in harmony with the rector’s wishes as possible, all appearance of display being carefully avoided.  Humility should then pre-eminently mark your whole deportment, and the absence of desire to attract attention.

In reference to visiting or afternoon walking costumes, they may be handsome, but the colours should never be brilliant, nor the style and designs remarkable.  Your carriage and deportment at all times, especially out of doors, should be a more distinguishing characteristic than the clothing with which you are covered.

There is also a distinction to be made between the style of your dress in the country and that in the town.  For example – you may take a country walk in an “ulster” at any time of the day; but, excepting in bad weather, justifying the wearing of wraps, persons in the upper classes restrict their wear to the forenoon if in a large city.  In the same way bonnets are more suitable to persons of middle age than hats, especially in the afternoon; except it be in the garden or to take a country walk, when a wide brim may be an object for the shade it affords, rather than for its youthfulness of style.

There should always be some change made in your dress in the evening.  An old summer dress may look well by candlelight which is past wear by day; and thus, if an object, economy may be as much studied as good taste by such a use of it.  If unable to afford, or in travelling to carry, an evening dress, a fresh bodice might be worn, or a change of collar and cuffs made, or a fichu, or arrangement of lace to put on round the neck, to give an appearance of change of costume; which, according to the most commonly known rules of society, is regarded as a mark of respect to those with whom you dine or spend the evening.  But of course the observance of this “habit” must depend on the circumstances of the individual; and much that I am now writing is obviously for those of my young friends in the “upper classes”.

Now that short dresses are worn out of doors, my next caution is scarcely called for at present; but should they return to fashion pray bear in mind the annoyance to others occasioned by allowing the skirt to touch the ground, as well as the uncleanliness of the practice, your own interest alone considered. If you imagine that to fasten up your long dress, so as to clear the ground, looks ungraceful, you may feel quite persuaded that you would look far worse, personally, if your dress were used as a scavenger's street broom; and, worse, morally, showing you to be so indifferent to the comfort of others who follow you on the same footway, and whom you smother with the dust raised by your dirty and loathsome skirt.

Enough of these obligations on the subject of dress, so many, and so diverse, are the little rules yet to be given on other points, and which cannot find a place within the limits of this article, excepting after a somewhat disjointed fashion.

We will suppose you are paying an afternoon visit. Do not send up your card, but give the servant your name very distinctly, and leave your umbrella or wraps in the hall, especially if they be damp. One of the menservants (in any great house) will take them from you. If the reception-room be empty, remain standing until one of the family shall appear; or, if you be fatigued and sit down, at least be careful to rise before she enters the room. Do not swing your parasol, nor hold the handle to your mouth - a trick as silly-looking as it is useless - nor gripe the hand offered you, so as to drive into your friend's fingers all the rings worn. In fact, you should not even press the hand of a superior, but leave your passively, though closely, inserted in theirs. Never give the tips of your fingers, not present two only; nor ever the left hand, which is regarded as a great impoliteness. The ungracious character of the significance attached to it may be understood, through that implied by a "left-handed compliment". This idea has descended to us from the ancient Romans, with whom the right was esteemed to represent good fortune, and the left bad, according to the teaching of their augurs. Thus also "Morganatic marriages" are called "left-handed marriages", the left hand being given on such occasions, instead of the right, by the husband.

When shaking hands with an equal, do not give one great jerk downwards, as if you were pulling a stiff bell-rope, nor saw your hand up and down half a dozen times. One little kindly shake - your hand well locked in theirs - with a slight pressure, is amply sufficient to represent the cordial nature of the greeting. Keep yoru feet and hands still, and neither fiddle with anything, nor make any rapping. Do not forget yourself so much as to tilt up the back legs of your chair, nor sit either on its edge, or on one side, so as to look as if you were going to slip off on the floor. Even if there be a rocking-chair in the room, it would be an act of intrusive familiarity to swing yourself in it, unless invited to do so. Avoid the frequent repetition of anyone's name when in conversation with them. "Yes, Mrs So-and-so", "I do not know, Mrs So-and-so", is a style of speaking as irritating as it is vulgar, and very common amongst half-bred people and little school-girls. The name should be sparingly used; and you should always avoid answering any question in monosyllables. A short blunt manner is always impolite.

But "The Habits of Polite Society" are not restricted to intercourse with friends outside the precincts of home; they are observed by all who are truly "well-bred" in the family circle. Yet there are those who could not be guilty of a rude or unkindly action at any time, nor of a vulgar one outside that circle, who are most careless and self-indulgent within it. For example, I have seen such persons perform duties of the toilet in the drawing or dining-room, such as the cutting and regulation of the nails, and employment of a tooth-pick; the trick of what is called "smiling", and the noisy use of a handkerchief; or they have indulged in coughing loudly, as though everyone else were deaf. In a church coughing loudly is most ill-bred, and, worse than that, it prevents others from hearing either the prayers or preaching. It is most revolting to see low-bred men paring their nails even in a public railway carriage, and indulging in a still more disgusting habit induced by smoking. The impoliteness of standing to windward of a lady, and so allowing the smoke to be blown into her face, is a liberty that needs no comment.

One trick of very common occurrence I advise my young friends to watch against - it is the habit of putting their hands to their face and their hair, and pulling at and rearranging any short locks. Keep your hands away from your head, loose hair may fall about, and your hands should be washed after such employment. The cracking of the finger-joints, the wriggling inside your clothes from the irritation produced by their extreme tightness, as well as every description of trick, are to be avoided. As to biting the nails, it is simply a disgusting exhibition destructive to the teeth as well as nails, and producing a most painful impression on all who see the results.

Before winding up this brief collection of hints, let me add a word or two on the subject of your conduct at meals. Help no one on your own plate, though clean, unless there be no other; always procure a fresh one. When offered a second help, either accept or decline it; do not say "I have not finished what I have" because the helper must t[ wait your convenience, and be interrupted a second time in his own meal to supply you; besides, whoever has the charge of a dish must mentally "count heads" and be guided in the helping by the numbers to be supplied. Thus, your giving so uncertain an answer leaves him in perplexity, and may deprive him of a help altogether, having had to wait for a definitive reply.

It is the custom for a servant to lay the letters come by the morning post on the breakfast-table; if they do not arrive in the post-bag, which is the case in country places, they are placed by the plate of each person to whom they severally belong. No one else should touch them. Yet I have often seen people (members of the same family, more or less  nearly connected with the owner of the letter) take up a letter, turn it round and round, endeavour to decipher the various post-marks and to guess at the name of the writer. My young readers must not miscalculate the limits of my reprobation of such vulgar and dishonourable prying, which comes under the denunciation addressed to "busybodies in other men's matters". Let them bear in mind that the young, while minors under their parents' roof and guardianship, must by no means resent such an action, in reference to themselves, by those parents who have their interests at heart. At the same time I should strongly recommend parents, who have no reason to distrust their children, when arrived at the age of seventeen or eighteen, not by any means to act so as to give them the shadow of an impression that they are regarded with doubt, if not positive suspicion. Let them invite a willing and freely-given confidence, and raise their child's own feeling of self-respect, as a grand safeguard against all conduct of an unworthy and clandestine character.

But not only should you refrain from examining another person's closed letter, but you should carefully avoid casting glances at what they may be themselves writing, and of walking behind them while so engaged. I heard of a gentleman who was once writing a letter in some reading-room, and who was annoyed by the fact that a man stood behind his chair, he could not tell whether reading over his shoulder, or looking elsewhere; but it so disturbed him, that he tried the experiment of writing as follows:-

"I cannot continue my letter, as there is a vulgar fellow looking over my shoulder and reading all that I write."

Thrown off his guard by his surprise at the statement made, the man immediately exclaimed:-

"I'm not reading your letter!  What do you say that for?"

"Celui qui s'excuse, s'accuse."

And now, my young friends, I must conclude; promising that, should any further rules occur to me, anent the "Habits of Polite Society", I shall gladly give you the benefit of them on some future occasion.

3 March 1880 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

MADCAP:- Weak eyes are common enough in young girls of fair complexion and a somewhat feeble constitution.  WEak cold green tea is the best and safest application, but cod liver oil - a dessertspoonful three times a day often works wonders in such cases.  The oil should be gradually increased till a tablespoonful can be taken.  The dose is from five to ten drops thrice daily in a little water.  Frequently bathing the forehead in cold water also does good.

J.W.C.F.:- 1. The simplest remedy for tightening the teeth when they are inclined to be loose is the tincture of murrh.  A few drops should be put in about a tablespoonful of water, and applied three times a day with a soft tooth-brush.  Also use any astringent tooth-paste, say that with rhatany root in it.  The causes of loose teeth are generally indigestion or general weekness.  A few drops, say fifteen, of the tincture of gentian before meals does good.  2. The best plan to make the hair grow thick, soft and glossy is to wash it once a week in lukewarm spring water, using the yolks of two eggs instead of soap.  No oils should be used, but a natural gloss may be got by daily brushing and combing for some minutes every morning.  This treatment stimulates the growth of the hair.  3. The best application known for softening the skin and preventing its injury from cold irritating winds is rose glycerine.

POLLY DUNSTONE:- Your little black-and-tan terrier, you say, has taken cold.  You do not give us the symptoms, however; but if it is hot and feverish, get a little mindererus spirit and give it a dessertspoonful at night, and a teaspoonful of castor oil in the morning.  Then, after two days, let it have three times daily ten drops of paragoric and about twenty each of the honey of squilla and syrup of poppies.  Keep warm and dry, and feed well.

FRANK:- We advise all young girls to rise at 7 a.m. and to be in bed by 10 p.m.  Should breakfast be at 8 you should not take anything previously.  Only an invalid should take any description of food or drink before rising when breakfast is served so early.  2. Perhaps your tooth requires stopping, or you mayu have caught cold in the jaw.  getting the feet wet is a common cause of toothache.  We have heard that using flour of sulphur as a tooth powder will prevent your being attacked by it.  3. What do you mean by "straightening yourself?  IF you mean that you stoop, the old-fashioned "face-board" stuck into your belt is the best cure that we can recommend.  This can easily be made for it.  It is shaped like a battledore with the middle cut out, only of a flat piece of wood.  4. Your last question "Is it right to be ambitoius?" is too vague.  A certain amount of ambition is very justifiable, as, for example, for a man to "covet to be a bishop" according to St Paul.  But there should be a limit to its indulgence, and ambition must be well balanced with other qualities, and so kept in proper check, or it may become a vice.  Much also necessarily depends on the direction which the ambition takes.

I'm back!

For the, oh, eleven people around the world who check in on this blog from time to time - apologies. I am back for good now. I have also discovered that Tumblr randomly changed ALL the URLs on the Tumblr version of the blog, so I've had to go through the archive here and update links accordingly. I'm sure I've missed some. If you find a broken link please leave a comment and I will amend it.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

4 January 1902 - 'The White House Class' by Lina Orman Cooper - Chapter 4

A Victorian curry. Look, I don't condone everything here, I just transcribe it, all right?

Having had two “sweet mornings”, or rather two mornings devoted to sweet things, Miss Benson thought a lesson in savoury cooking would not come amiss.  Mr Merton, in fact, had gone out of his way in order to call at the White House and ask Miss Benson to teach his daughters how to cook a curry.

“Having been in India so long,” he explained, “I am devoted to curry.  No, my liver is not out of order, Miss Benson, but my life is incomplete without that spicy and toothsome mixture on my table occasionally.  It is true, my wife gives me a yellowy, pallid compound, which she calls curry!  But it is nothing like unto the crisp, browny, golden mixture I used to get in Bengal.”

“Well, I think I can give your daughters instruction on that point,” answered Miss Benson, smiling.  “I myself learned from a shivering Bengalese in London many years ago.  He came to my mother’s house one bitter wintry day clad in his national costume.  No, not in a neat postage stamp and a necklace, Mr Merton, but swathed in snow-white muslin.  The poor fellow was such an object of compassion, that my people took him in, until they could communicate with the proper officials interested in such stray Orientals.  In gratitude, Mooza taught my sister and me how to make his national dish.  I never eat a curry now in any house but my own.  For what professes to be such is but a feeble imitation. 

Mr Merton was full of thanks.

“And don’t forget the rice,” he whispered, as he took his way down the white steps.  “For goodness’ sake, Miss Benson, don’t forget the rice!”

So on the fourth morning, the round spice-box, full of every kind of dry pod and bean which can be used, stood on the kitchen dresser when the three young maidens arrived for their weekly instruction. 

“Condiments, my dear girls,” began Miss Benson, in her most pedagogic manner, “are rather adjuncts to food than foods themselves.  In fact they may be said to be medicines more than foods.  Yet they are extremely valuable in rendering food more palatable, stimulating a jaded appetite, supplying a necessary substance, and assisting in the preservation of food.  Your father was here yesterday, and though he did not pl illness, or complain of a jaded appetite, he did ask me to teach you all how to make him a savoury curry such as his soul loves.  Lucilla, Linda and Eva, you are this day to make a curry succulent enough to melt in the mouth, hot enough to tickle the palate, soft enough to be eaten with a spoon, and crisp enough not to be a hash!”

Miss Benson was evidently in good form this morning.  Lucilla kissed the white brow which was so often wrinkled with pain, and looked lovingly at the thin cheeks.

“Yes,” replied Miss Benson to the unspoke sympathy, “I am feeling better than usual.  So you girls will have to look extra spry if you want to please me.  I am all anxiety to turn out a first class curry.”

On the table the girls saw some raw beef cut up into dice, some cooked vegetables left from last night’s dinner, a bottle of powder, and onions.

“First and foremost, Linda, those onions must be cut into rings.  I have some compassion on your eyes, dears, so I asked cook to peel them for you.  That is right, Linda, I want a good pile.  Now, Eva, melt in a stew pan a lump of good dripping or butter; when it boils, and it only does this when all bubbling has ceased, pour in your rings and let them fry.  You may let them, indeed, look quite a dark colour and feel quite crisp before you remove them from the fire.  Linda, if you peel a couple of potatoes with the knife you have used in slicing the onions, all unpleasant odour will be eradicated.  Now, Lucilla, dredge over the meat and vegetables with flour out of its dredger.  Don’t be satisfied with a sprinkling, but see that every part is well covered with a white veil.  Eva, whilst the onions are frying, mix a tablespoonful of curry-powder with a breakfastcupful of milk.  It I had been able to get butter-milk or thick sour cream it would be even better.  Mix thoroughly and take out every lump with the back of a spoon.  Pour it into the pan.  When it boils up, Linda, must put the meat in.  There, that will do, but as we have had to use sweet milk, Lucilla, please squeeze a lemon over the meat, and see that the sauce covers it completely.  That is the foundation of all curries; but we must add much more if we want really a good one.  I see an apple on the dresser, slice that in, and are not those green gooseberries in that basket?  Top and tail a handful, little Eva, they can go in too.  Is there anything else?  Yes, that bottle of chutney is nearly empty and its contents too dry to use.  Pop it in – the chutney, not the bottle, I mean.  Now give it one or two ‘rakes’ with a folk, Lucilla, and if it’s bubbling draw it away from the open ring and leave it to cook at the side of the range.  The lid is well down, isn’t it, Linda?  Doesn’t fit properly?  Oh, then we had better dispense with it altogether!  Our object will be to keep in all the steam which may arise; so put a plate over the compound, Lucilla, it will act splendidly.”

“But when will the curry be ready, Miss Benson?  It is scarcely cooking at all at the side of the range.”

“It will not be ready till eight o’clock dinner,” explained Miss Benson, “by that time every ingredient will be undistinguishable.  It will be a golden brown mass of soft stuff, most toothsome and most appetising.  Never be in a hurry with curry.  It is always better after twelve hours’ cooking.”

“Do you always make your curries of fresh meat, Miss Benson?” quoth  Lucilla the prudent.  “Mother says she uses up all the cold meat and scraps in one.”

“Your mother is quite right, Lucilla, as she always is.  For I hope your motto is the same as I had when a girl – ‘What mother says is so – Is so, even if it isn’t so.’  Curies may be made of any scraps at hand.  It’s in the mixing and the cooking that success hangs; but, of course, a curry made of fresh meat or fowl is better than one made of dry, cold mutton or any reheated stuff.  As I wanted your father to have a really good one, I have been extravagant enough today to use fresh butcher’s beef.”

“Now for the rice!” exclaimed Lucilla.  “That is a more fearsome mystery than the curry even.”

“It is less seldom met with properly cooked,” answered the old lady.  “Let us try our ‘prentice hands anyway.”

So, according to directions, a quarter of a pound of Patna rice was well washed in clean cold water, every disfiguring dark grain being ruthlessly picked out.  It was then put  into a large saucepan of madly boiling water.

“A large saucepan is a sine qua non for cooking rice,” explained Miss Benson.  “There must be room for each separate grain to whirl about in the water.  If you put rice into a little water, it will absorb it, and become a glutinous pulpy mass.  If there be sufficient water that is impossible.  Keep it boiling quickly for fifteen minutes; at the end of that time try a grain between finger and thumb; if there still be a ‘bone’ in it, give another minute’s boiling.  Then strain quickly, pour cold water through it, and after covering the rice with a dry clean cloth, put the sieve and it into an oven, and serve when every grain is distinct.”

“Is there much difference between the different kinds of rice we see in the grocer?” queried Linda, who was particularly fond of the delicious little grain.

“There is a great difference in price and some difference in appearance, Linda,” answered Miss Benson; “but there is not much difference in their nutritive qualities.  The large-grained Patna rice at threepence a pound is quite indispensable for cooking with curries.  It is so white and firm; but the smaller grains at twopence a pound do well enough for milk puddings, etc.  The cheaper kinds, and there are cheaper, must be I think the sweeping of grocers’ shops, and to be avoided.  It is wonderful how we are able to get rice at even threepence a pound, which is the top price in the market, when one thinks that it is an entirely tropical or sub-tropical production, and the long way it has to travel to reach us.  We ought never to grudge the price.  Rice requires much moisture and germinates best in marshy surroundings.  For this reason the paddy fields of India and the cultivated portions of the Nile banks grow the finest kinds.  There is not much nutriment in rice myself, though from the earliest records it has formed the staple food of the great masses of population in both India and China.  One has only to read of the way in which Death mows down his millions in those countries whenever an epidemic breaks out, to see how little stamina the people possess.  It is the additions we make to it that makes rice wholesome.  In India it is the ‘ghee’ or rancid butter, they mix with their daily dole, which sustains life.  In this country the milk and sugar we usually cook it with is what makes it valuable.”

“Can anything be done with this plain-water boiled rice when there is any over?” queried economical Lucilla, looking at the pile of snowy grain left on the sieve after being boiled.

“One nice way of eating it is to add cold milk and aw sugar to it and eat it thus.  As a child I delighted in this mixture, and every other child I have ever given it to does the same; but, as a rule, rice is not worth heating up twice.  You can soon tell how much you  need to cook.  Usually far too much is put into saucepan or pudding.  Amateurs forget how much rice swells, one teaspoonful to half a pint of milk is quite sufficient for the milk-rice so much used.  Skim milk will make this, if you replace the abstracted cream with a bit of finely-chopped suet.  This suet is better than butter in giving a thin yellowy-brown skin to the baked pudding.  It never tastes as strongly as does cooking butter, and it is more wholesome to weakly digestions.  You know suet boiled in milk is largely given to consumptives as a fattening, sustaining, heat-giving food.”

The curry prepared that morning at the White House appeared at the dinner table of Mr Merton that same night.  It was of a dark-brown complexion, and encircled with a high wall of dainty grains of white rice.  N.B. – This was freshly boiled, the trio of cooks having demolished the first-made pile with sugar and milk before they left Miss Benson’s kitchen.  In addition to the curry was a small glass pot of hastily-made chutney.  I append the recipe for the same. 

A handful of sultana raisins well cleaned and finely chopped, a few small chillies treated in the same way, a handful of fresh green mint chopped and pounded, and a fistful of raw brown sugar.  All these ingredients pounded together in a mortar and moistened with a few drops of tarragon vinegar.

“The very nicest chutney I ever tasted,” decided Mr Merton, the connoisseur, as he helped himself for a third time.  “More power to your elbows, girls, and may your shadows never grow less!”

Monday, 12 January 2015

21 December 1901 - 'The White House Class' by Lina Orman Cooper - Chapter 3

Today, sponge cake and a delicious-sounding apricot gateaux.

Miss Benson was a wise woman.  She did not wish to make the weekly classes at White House too severely scientific.  So, on the third morning on which the young Mertons came up her spotless hite steps, and into her pretty, comfortable kitchen, they found a variety of tempting ingredients laid out on the table in the window.  There were currants and spices, and sultanas and sugar, and flour and baking-powder, and butter and jam.  The fire too was alight, and nothing but one of the most interesting of processes to be gone through.

“I am going to have a tea-party tonight.  I want a sponge cake, voila tout!” explained the old lady, with a sweep of her hands.

“But how are we to make it, please?” quoth the proud Lucilla humbly.  “I haven’t the faintest idea!”

“What ingredients do you suppose you will want?” queried Miss  Benson.

“Flour, of course,” answered all three.

“Butter as well,” added Lucilla.

“Eggs,” said Eva.

“Milk,” supplemented Linda. 

“Eggs certainly,” assented Miss Benson.  “And maybe a very little flour.  But no milk and no butter.  Sponge cake is one of the easiest of cakes to make.  It is also one of the least expensive.  On the other hand it takes the most time and requires a good deal of elbow grease.  Now, Lucilla, take two eggs and their weight in flour.  Put the latter in a basin, and whilst you are breaking up six more eggs, Linda must sift the flour carefully.  My last cook broke my sifting wheel, Linda; but pass the flour carefully through that tiny wire sieve and it will do as well.  Now, Lucilla, break each egg separately.  This is always necessary if eggs are bought in a shop.  It is unnecessary if they are home laid.  AS you see that the white of each is clear, you may add it to the ones already broken.  There, that will do.  Now, with a spoon, Lucilla, remove these little white specks and threads attached to so many yolks.  If you forget to do this, the cake may taste strongly and will be heavy too.  Now, whisk with that wire erection.  It cost eightpence, and is better than any double fork.  Nay, child, but you have to whip for twenty minutes, and if you do it from the shoulder you will never last out!  Whisk with the wrist, as I show you – what a mercy I have the use of my hands, isn’t it?  Now, take a quarter of a  pound of sifted sugar, and add it to your eggs.  Go on whisking all the time.  I see that the mixture is more like milk than cream, so we must add the flour Linda has already prepared.  If you were expert enough at whisking, this would not be necessary.  Now squeeze half a lemon into the cream.”

Poor Lucilla went on labouring at the beating, whilst Eva was directed to put a walnut of butter into a round cake pan.

“Melt it, and then sift over some white sugar, turning the tin in all directions as you do so in order that it may be coated with the oleaginous compound.  This little addition is the secret whereby confectioners manage to give their sponges the syrupy, frosty appearance so taking, and apparently unattainable by an ordinary amateur.  The oven must be hot.  Put a crumb of bread in it, Linda.  Is it brown at once?  Then the oven is hot enough.  Now pour the cream into the pan, Lucilla, as quickly and deftly as possible.  Cover the face with a sheet of tissue paper, and put at once into the oven.  Don’t attempt to look at it for ten minutes, girls.  At the end of that time it will have risen as much as it will ever do, a /heat must be moderated in order to cook it thoroughly all through."

All three girls were intensely delighted at the result of this morning’s work.  Their cake emerged from the oven in first-rate condition.  Though the cream had only half filled its tin when introduced to its fiery ordeal, it was a couple of inches above the top of the rim when finished.  Loosening it with a knife from its surroundings, it slid out freely and satisfactorily without leaving any morsels of ragged sponge behind it.  Then it was set on a sieve to cool.

“If it we lay it on a flat surface like a plate,” explained Miss Benson, “it would become moist and heavy with the condensation of steam.  On a sieve it dries evenly and completely, and even its bottom layer will be as crisp as its crown.”

So it was.  And great was Mrs Merton’s satisfaction when she eat a bit of the first cake made by her daughters’ hands.

Not to be prolix, I will say that this sponge mixture may be used in many different ways.  It can be poured into patty-pans and made into spongelets.  It can be spread out evenly on the tin top of an ordinary biscuit box, then cut in two, sandwiched with jam, and so made into swiss roll.  It can, par excellence, be made into apricot shape.  As this is a famous supper dish of Miss Benson’s, I will tell you how she prepared it.

After making and baking a square sponge cake after the above plan, she caused the girls to scoop out its crumb as far as possible.  This was done with the point of a knife.  Then this hollow was filled with apricot mixture and covered with apricot glaze.  To prepare the latter, she soaked a quarter of an ounce of sheet gelatine in about two tablespoonfuls of water.  In order to do this, it was set over gentle heat in a small saucepan.  As soon as it was melted, two tablespoonfuls of apricot jam was added to it.  If too thick to run nicely when dropped from a spoon (and gelatine rather varies in strength) a little syrup from an open tin of apricots was added to it. This glaze was then poured over the sponge casing, which rested on a tin, through a fine wire-sieve.  This enabled any glaze which ran down the sides to be pasted up again with the back of a spoon.  That left over finally was taken up and poured into the centre of the casing.

Then two whites of egg were beaten up as stiffly as possible with a flat wire-netting spoon.  Two and a half ounces of sugar were added to the froth and mixed up in it.  This compound was next forced through a paper bag (the pattern for which I gave in a recent number of the “G.O.P.”) on to the sponge.  It was sprinkled with sugar.

“Never forget this sprinkling,” directed Miss Benson, when she was teaching her class this particular recipe.  “If you do, the meringue will entirely lose its crispness and character.”

It was set in an oven for five or six minutes, taken out and let cool. Then, lastly, the centre of the apricot gateau was filled up with good tinned apricots. 

“Would fresh fruit do as well, Miss Benson?” queried Lucilla, as she piled up the apricots.  “Mother has a great prejudice against our eating any tinned things, and we would like our share of this delicious dish.”

“To be sure,” answered the old lady.  “Any fresh fruit would do as well.  Strawberries might be slightly mawkish, but raspberries would not be too sweet to use, or stewed apples.  There, it is done now, girls; but it looks a little dry.  So put away the syrup out of the tin, and I will tell cook to add a little to the cake before bringing it to the table.  This must be done at the last moment, or it would soak into the sponge casing and make it sodden.  But, for gracious, Linda, don’t leave the juice in the tin!  Pour it into a cup or bowl.  No wonder your mother objects to your eating canned things, if that is the way you manage them.  Never leave any contents of a tin in its former receptacle when once opened; that is what causes the few cases of poisonings we hear of.  If it be fruit, an acid will be formed which is highly injurious.  Why, even potted meat should never be left in the tin in which it is bought!  It should be scraped out and put into a china pot.  I have them of all sizes with tight-fitting covers.  By using such, all dangers of ptomaine poison is avoided.”

As Mr Ruskin’s definition of cookery included a knowledge of fruits, Miss Benson told her class a little about the process of preserving fruits in a tin.

“I was for awhile in California,” she said, and the girls set themselves to listen as to an interesting tale, “and saw several canneries at work.  All prejudice on the matter was taken from my mind at seeing the way in which peaches and apricots were treated.  Warm and luscious they were brought from out of the hot sunshine into the cool depths of the store.  They were always carefully covered with layers of their own glossy oval leaves.  Then each downy, orange-brown skin was looked at, and if bruised in any way, that particular specimen was tossed aside into a large basket and sent away to feed the pigs; if whole and sound, the fruit was laid on a stone slab, and with one sweep of a sharp knife detached from its stone.  Some of the kernels were bitter, others sweet; when this last was the case the kernel was added to the quartered fruit and put into the tin with it.  Syrup was then poured over all, and the air being expelled by artificial means, it was soldered down.  Now, besides the care exercised in choosing only sound apricots, the tins were subjected to strict scrutiny before being used.  It is almost impossible to say how quick and deft the packers were in discerning any flaw in them.  Thousands of tins are passed through a store in the season, but quite as many are rejected as being unsuitable."

“Does the apricot tree flourish in all parts of the world, Miss Benson?” queried Linda.

“I do not know,” replied the old lady frankly, “but it is not indigenous to England, though it flourishes so well on a south wall in our cold island.  It was introduced only in the time of Henry VIII.  The agent was his own gardener named Weolf, and this man brought it from Italy.  The fruit was, however, well known to the Greeks and the Romans, so its antiquity is great.”

“It is rather hard sometimes to tell an apricot from a peach,” quoth Lucilla thoughtfully.  “Do they belong to the same family, Miss Benson?”

“No,” answered the old lady, who seemed to have such knowledge at her finger-ends.  “The peach is of the genus almond and of the natural order Rosaceae, whereas the apricot belongs to the plum family.  Nectarines are a tender variety of the peach, with a smooth instead of a hairy skin, but apricots are quite distinct.  I suppose you know that the tiny bottles of bitter almond flavouring are distilled from peach stones and from the pulp of the bruises leaves.  It is a deadly poison.”

“Why do we so seldom come across canned plums?” queried Eva, whose special favourite was the above mentioned stone fruit.

“There is no need to tin plums when we can procure them so easily in a dried form,” answered Miss Benson.  “Heavy pressure to extract moisture, and a thorough drying in a southern sun is enough to preserve this fruit to us.  If prunes be properly cooked, they are almost equal to fresh plums, and their mecicinal properties are too well known for me to enlarge on them.”

“I suppose it is incorrect cooking that makes the stewed prunes one is so often given, like nothing but hard skin and stone,” went on Eva.  “How do you cook them, Miss Benson?”

“Just gently stewing them,” said the old lady.  “But the secret is not so much to soak as to plump them,  by pouring over them boiling water.  The prunes, if treated in this way, and dried figs too, will ‘swell wisible’ like Mr Guppy.  Then they must be stewed in a prepared syrup until tender.  Taken as a laxative they are invaluable.  But if given to very young children the skins should be passed through a wire-sieve and reduced to pulp, or the results may be disastrous.”

Here the kitchen clock struck a sonorous twelve, and the class had to adjourn.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2 November 1901 - 'The White House Class' by Lina Orman Cooper - Chapter 2

How to light a fire, a brief foray into social justice and the manufacture of matches, cooking methods and the question of ethical vegetarianism. 

A love of cookery, or rather, of cooking, is born in all children.  From their earliest years they will make sand or mud pies, turn puddings out of buckets on the shore, or make feasts in winkles and cockle shells.  Who does not remember the toffee of childhood boiled only on snowy days and as hard as the nether millstone?  Who does not recall the tallow, crimson drops evolved by application of a sugary lump to a smoking candle?  Who does not recall the delight of snow pancakes and even of those wonderful flat loaves made from courtcards?  Who does not love doughy pigs with currant eyes, or pastry mice with tender tails?

Yet how few of the maidens who esteemed an hour in the kitchen as the greatest pleasure of all their pleasurable childhood carry out this love into intelligent interest and manipulation in other years?  Miss Benson had not been in error when she said that the three young Mertons would look upon the classes as a grand bit of fun.  They came in sparkling and dimpling and bursting with eagerness.  For the first morning their instructress let them work their own sweet will, “Just to let them know their own ignorance,” as she said.  When this was manifested by a pile of burnt pies and sodden cakes, she raised their spirits by telling them that she would see they made no mistakes in future.

“Listen to what I say and follow what I say, and you will be successful.”  And successful they were in the end, though inaccuracy and carelessness and inattention spoiled many a dish even after they had set themselves to learn in real earnest.

As Miss Benson’s classes were no formal ones, so no formal sequence of proceedings marked them.  Just as was convenient she taught them various things, so my readers must not wonder if the lessons hopped from pastry to turnips and from soups to sweets.

“The first thing a cook must learn is how to lay and light a fire,” said Miss Benson, as her small class came in the next day.  “I have not allowed cook to do mine this morning so that you might have a chance.  Coal, sticks, and paper are the articles wanted.  Rake out every bit of dust and cinder.  Your fire requires air to breathe just as much as your lungs do.  Now put a few of the larger cinders at the bottom.  On them place a handful of sticks.  No, not in a bunch like that, Linda!  Build them up as you would do bricks.  You have in your hand a bundle of prepared kindling twigs.  Each end has been dipped in resin, as you see, to make it catch easily.  A bundle costs one halfpenny, and half a bundle should be sufficient to light up a big range fire quickly.  If speed be not an object the bundle can be made to light three fires, and it should be expected to do so, when used in the parlour or bedroom.  For one penny, therefore, you have sufficient kindling material for three fires.  Remember this when you have servants of your own, my dears.”

“But when wood is so cheap, is there any need to be so particular?” inquired Lucilla, with her most grande-dame air.  “It hardly seems worth while, does it?”

“My dear child,” said Miss Benson, you have evidently never mastered the first principles of economics!  A wise man has said, ‘Political economy consists in spending a pound to save a penny.  Household economy consists in spending a penny to save a pound’.  This is true, and every penny saved is a penny gained.  I will not bid you add up the amount to credit if you save just one farthing in firewood per diem!  Such statistics are futile to most folk!  But I will demonstrate truth in another way.  The heap of firewood in that corner beside you cost sixpence.  There are twelve bundles.  Take a third from each bundle, and you will lose four bundles at once!  That is, that you waste twopence out of every sixpence, or nearly seven shillings out of every pound!”

Lucilla looked convinced.  It was all as clear as day when Miss Benson put it that way!

“Now use that wire shovel beside you for taking up each bit of cinder.  Heap it on the wood, and intersperse it with lumps of round coal.  Not large ones, Linda!  Just the smallest in the bucket.  There!  Your fire is alight!”

“But you use expensive matches, I see, Miss Benson,” quoth Lucille, remembering the little lecture on saving she had just been given.

“Yes, my dear, for two reasons!  One is that common Swedish matches at fourpence a dozen are apt to catch fire when not wanted.  Only the other night a child came in to me with her hand badly scorched by a box of these cheap things exploding in it!  Extracting one match is often sufficient to cause the whole box to ignite.  The second reason is that most match-making is a most fatal trade.  By improper sanitary precautions the match-makers of England suffer from a most terrible and fatal disease called ‘Phosphorous jaw’.  Manufacturers know that unless certain precautions are taken this dreadful disease is sure to attack those who engage in it.  If these precautions are taken, it makes match-making a more expensive process than if they are given out to be made at home.  For this reason I always use the matches made by the Salvation Army.  These are made under healthy and safe conditions.  And I believe Bryant and May are careful about their employees too, and their matches are very well made!”

“Then we should all use safety matches from unselfish as well as selfish motives,” remarked Lucilla.  “I have only heard the cheap ones condemned because they are unsafe.”

“That is the reason usually given, because folks have not looked into the matter,” said Miss Benson earnestly.  “But my reason is, as I have told you, because in safety matches, which are said to light only on the box, the head of the match contains no phosphorus as do those of ordinary make.  They are tipped with a mixture of chlorate of potash and sulphide of antimony.  These are comparatively harmless chemicals.”

Linda, whilst the talk had been going on, had the fire well laid and blazing.  Miss Benson bid her carry away all refuse and, when the first blaze was a little over, she was directed to add more coal. 

“As Mr Ruskin says a knowledge of cookery includes many other things, I must give you a little lecture about coal, I suppose,” sighed Miss Benson, for her class was eager to get “forrard”.  “I wonder which of you girls can tell me to what kingdom it belongs.”

“As it is dug out of the ground, I suppose to the mineral,” quoth all three at once.

But the old lady shook her head.

“To the vegetable, my dears!  Coal is of vegetable origin.  It is, indeed, the remains of vast forests which grew in the carboniferous period!  There is a long word for you, little Eva!  Wherever coal is now found was once, ages and ages ago, vast swampy forests, in which grew gigantic trees.  These forests subsided beneath the sea, and the accumulated vegetable matter was covered with a layer of sand.  The wet vegetable matter underwent slow decomposition, and consequently became richer and richer in carbon.  Our ordinary household contains, I believe, on an average about 88 per cent of carbon.  That is why it fizzes in little jets and gives out such a cheery flame.  Another form of true economy, Lucilla, is connected with coal.  The cheapest is never the cheapest in the long run!  Good, hard, clean coal is far less wasteful in use than cheap, soft stuff.  It burns itself and does not leave behind clinkers and cinders and ash.  I save the proverbial pound by spending the proverbial penny in this matter.”

The kind of fire necessary to our different processes of cooking were next dwelt upon.  For roasting, Miss Benson said, a clear hot fire was called for.  This could be secured by having the front surface built up of lumps and kept in place by a background of damp slack.

“In large kitchens,” she said, “the fireplaces are built very shallow.  At King’s College, Cambridge, where the kitchens are almost as beautiful as the Chapel, long grates measuring only about three inches in depth are found.  These give a large surface and very little background.  Spits hang before these long gratings, and food is cooked in the most digestible way.  In roasting, our object must be to seal up the juices of the meat in a kind of envelope.  Hence we hang a joint as near the fire as we can.  Intense heat freezes the surface, to use a Hibernianism.  After a time the meat is drawn backwards and basting begins.  This keeps the inside moist and helps to make the envelope crisp.  The rule for roasting is, twenty minutes before the hottest part of a fire to begin with; then twenty minutes to each pound at a reasonable distance from the same.

“For baking we need much the same kind of fire, but it must be as fierce at the back as in front, otherwise our oven will not heat.  This fire must be kept at the same heat all the time the oven is required.  Regulation of it must take place by letting in air to the oven and letting out fair from it.  Twenty minutes to each pound is again the rule for all meat cookery in an oven.  Roasting and baking may be called the aristocratic branches of heating.  The poor must be content with boiling and stewing – indeed so must the dyspeptics!  No way is meat so digestible as when stewed.  By stewing I mean extracting the juices and goodness of meat by slow boiling.  French people seldom cook in any other way, and in stewing, inferior or, I would rather say, less expensive parts of a carcass can be used.  Really inferior meat is never economical.  Go to the best butcher in the town, is my advice.  If you cannot afford to buy the best joints buy the cheaper ones.  But by dealing with an honest well-to-do man you are sure of getting good value for money, and of getting even the less tasty part of meat of good quality.  It is the duty of a cook to so present these inferior parts that they may be just as nourishing and toothsome as the superior ones.  A good cook in this way is a most economical thing.  I pity housewives who have to put up with a ‘slavey’ at six pound a year.  She will waste more thorough ignorance than one realises.  If you cannot have a good trained cook, girls, then do the cooking yourselves!  So much depends on the kitchen in a modern household – health and spirits and brain and cheerfulness!”

Miss Benson had apparently forgotten the last branch of cookery.  Lucilla reminded her she had said nothing about boiling. 

“For boiling,” amended the old lady, “you need a gentle heat.  For what is called boiling a joint is not boiling at all – or certainly not beyond the first two minutes.  Here again our object must be to produce an envelope capable of resisting the action of hot water.  This we obtain by plunging the leg or shoulder or chicken into a pot of madly bubbling water.  Introduction of the said shoulder, etc., immediately stops boiling.  But let the pot come up to a bubble again and you will have sealed the pores of the meat, and can depend on juices being retained until it is cut at table.  All delicate-looking white-complexioned meat is produced by not attending to this rule.  And then not only is the meat tasteless but its most nourishing properties have been left behind in the pot from which it was lifted.  That contains the essence, as it were, extracted by the process of stewing.”

“Mother told me to ask you, Miss Benson, if New Zealand frozen meat is as nourishing as English-fed animals?  It is so much cheaper, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” replied Miss Benson.  “It may be prejudice but I must confess I prefer nice English mutton to any which has come over the sea.  New Zealand lamb, however, and American beef are much in vogue now.  It depends entirely on how long they are cooked whether they are as nourishing as English produce.  In some ways I rejoice at the introduction of ice chambers and refrigerators.  It has done away with much of the dreadful trade of shipping living animals for consumption in our little island.  It makes one inclined to forswear all animal food to read of the torments inflicted on poor brutes during the passage, say, from Ireland to England, or from Normandy to us.”

“Do you, then, approve of vegetarianism?” queried Eva with wide-open eyes.

“Yes, in many ways,” answered Miss Benson.  “But for ourselves I believe our cold climate calls for use of animal food in moderation.  We eat far too much as a rule, little Eva.  If milk and eggs could be procured as cheaply and easily as flesh, I think our artisan population might be largely benefited by using them more generously.  I am sure our ‘upper suckles’ would benefit largely by knocking off half their daily meat allowance.”

By this time the hour was up.  Miss Benson and her two pupils looked ruefully at the clock.

“We have done absolutely no cooking this morning,” urged the trio.  “Can’t we go on for awhile?”  But Miss Benson shook her head.

“I perceive these classes will be as diffuse as Mr Ruskin could wish!” she said.  “But one hour is quite enough, my dears, both for teacher and for taught.  Next week, I promise you, you shall do some real cooking.  But you will have to light the fire first, remember.”