Page images

costly pages, dear sir, and feast your dle ages, for one that will bother his eyes with the delicious vignettes, that head with the small Italian republics ever and anon glance out from between of the same era : We would rather the leaves, like the ruby clusters of have luminous notions touching the Bacchus himself, glowing amidst the precise nature of the liquor which Sir foliage of some tall marriageable elm, or John Falstaff quaffed, than the secret stately poplar ; pause upon these ex- intrigues which brought Charles the quisite gems; contemplate the rosy First to the scaffold: and, great as is god in each and all of these five thou- our respect for Mr Langan, there is sand attitudes : worship him where, still another claret which possesses franticand furious, he tosses the thyrsus claims upon our sympathies, far, far amidst the agitated arms of his con- above that which has of late flowed so gregated Mænades : adore him where, copiously from his potatoe-trap. This proudly seated upon the rich skins of work, in a word, is fitted to interest the monsters whom he subdued, he and delight, not one class of students, pours out the foaming cup of wine and but all. The classical scholar will here wisdom before the eyes of savage men, find the best of all commentaries on whom the very scent of the ethereal the most delightful passages of those stuff hath already half civilized : envy delightful writers, whom he is accushim, where beneath the thick shadow tomed to turn over with a daily and of his own glorious plant, he with one a nightly hand: he will speculate upon hand twines the ivy wreath around the the flavour that a Nestor loved, and ivory brows of Ariadne, and with the sit in erudite judgment over the benother approximates the dew of divi- most binns of a Nero. The English nity to the lips of beauty. Feast, antiquarian will enjoy the flood of revel, riot in the elegance of these une light that streams upon the joyous rivalled cameos, and when you have pages of Ben Jonson : verdea will no saturated your eye with forms that longer puzzle the Giffords, nor Petermight create a thirst beneath the ribs

sameen be a stumbling-block to the of gout, and draw three corks out of Nareses.* The man of science will anone bottle--then, 0 Christopher ! and alyse the effervescence of Sheeraz: the not till then, will you be in a fit con- Physician will hear the masterly dedition for understanding the profound fence of Claret against the charge of feelings of respect, and grateful attach- goutification, and return humanized to ment, with which it is now my agree- the exercises of his calling: the eccleable duty to introduce to your acquain- siastical historian will mourn with Dr tance, and that of <

my public,” the Henderson over the injuries done to learnedly luxurious Dissertations of my the Medoc and the Cote d'or by the good friend, and jolly little compota- suppression of the monastic establishtor, Dr Alexander Henderson.

ments of France: the lover of light The Doctor is, absque omni dubio, the reading will find the charms of rofirst historian of our age. He unites mance united with the truth and digin his single person the most admira- nity of history: The saint will have ble qualifications of all theother masters no lack of sighing, as he glances his in this great branch of literature, who grave eye over the records of human now lend lustre to the European he- debauchery, and at the same time, he misphere the extensive erudition of may, in passing, pick up a hint or two a Ranken-the noble self-reliance and that will be of use at the next dinner audacious virtue of a Brodie-the ele- of the African Association: The congant style of a Sismondi—and the prac- scious wine-merchant will read and tical sense of an Egan. In many re- tremble : and every good fellow, from spects, to be sure, the superiority he George the Fourth, down to Michael displays may be referred to the im- Angelo the Second, will read and remense superiority and unapproachable joice. merits of the theme he has chosen. It was in England only, and perThe history of the Cellar of Burgundy haps in this age of England, that a is a matter of infinitely more impro- work of this complete and satisfactory ving nature than that of the House of description could have been prepared. the same name: a thousand will take

We produce no wines, and we are the profound interest in a dissertation up- great consumers of all the best wines on the sack and hippocras of the mid- of the globe. We are free from the

* The Pedro-Ximenes is the name of the best Malaga grape.

violent prejudices, therefore, which induce the man of the Marne to turn up his nose at the flask of him of the Loire, and vice versa. We look down as from a higher and a calmer region, upon all the noisy controversies about the rival claims of the Lyonnais and the Bordelais, the Mayne and the Rhein-gau. We can do equal justice to the sweets of Malaga, and Rousil lon, and despise the narrow-minded bigotry which sets up either Madeira or Sherry at the expense of the other's ancestral stimulancy.

In former days, indeed, we partook, however absurdly, in the paltry prejudices which we now spurn with our heels. Time was when we were all for the Cyprus-time was also when we were all for the Xeres grapetime was when little or nothing would go down with us but Hockamore-and time was when even Rhedycina's learned bowers resounded to strains not simply laudative of Oporto, but vituperative and vilipensive of Bourdeaux.

We have outlived these follies. We are now completely of the liberal school of winebibbing: our grandsire's dumpy black bottle of sherry leaves the vicinity of the oven, and stands in friendly juxta-position with the long-necker of five year old demi-mousseux, and the doubly-iced juice of Schloss-Johannisberg that has been buried in the cave of caves ever since the great era of The Reformation. The native of the Alto-Douro is contented to precede him of the Garonne, as some sturdy pioneer trudges in proud solemnity before the march of a battalion of Voltigeurs. The coupde-milieu of Constantia or Frontignac forms an agreeable link between the Sillery, which has washed down the venison, and the Hock, which is to add pungency to the partridge-pie. We take Chambertin to the omelet, and Sauterne to the tart. In a word, we do justice to the boundless munificence of nature, and see no more harm in imbibing white wine and red wine, dry wine and sweet wine, still wine and sparkling wine, during the same repast, than we would in doing homage within the same fortnight to the ripe luxuries of a Ronzi de Begnis, the airy graces of a Mercandotti, the vigorous charms of a Vestris, and the meek modest radiance of a Maria Tree.

This speaks the spirit of the same unfettered age that can love a Virgil as well as worship a Homer; that places the bust of a Dante beside that of a Mil

ton; that binds the laurel on a Hogg without robbing the brows of a Hesiod-and thirsts for Lord Byron's autobiography without offering to sacrifice for its purchase, either the veracities of a Rock, or the decencies of a Faublas.

On a work, sir, such as yours, calculated for extensive and popular cir culation, it would ill become an individual like myself, to obtrude much matter of a recondite and obscure order, or adapted to the intellectual taste of particular classes of readers only. Allow me, therefore, to pass lightly over the dissertations with which this volume opens, touching the various vintages of the nations of antiquity. In truth, even the genius and erudition of a Henderson have been able to scatter but an imperfect ray over subjects, mantled, as these are, with the shades of a long night of nearly two thousand years' duration. It is still, we must admit, dubious whether the wine that Telemachus drew out of the cellars of his royal father partook more of the nature of port or of sherry. The Homeric epithet of Black may mean either the deep hue inalienable from the juice of the purple grape, or the fine grave tinge merely which wines that are called white acquire, in consequence of being kept for several lustres, whether in glass bottles, according to the modern custom, or in earthen jars, after the manner of the heroic ages. That Nestor, however, drank, during the battle with which the 13th book of the Iliad opens, wine both of a red and of a strong sort, is indisputable. The epithets of aw and iguūpos are used together in the same line, and their significancy is clear and obvious to the most German capacity. Dido, again, when she gave her first grand dinner to the Trojan prince, appears to have sported something near akin to champagne.

"IMPIGER hausit SPUMANTEM pateram."

The epithet impiger is admirably chosen, since the act is that of swallowing sparkling, or right mousseux wine -for a spumans patera can hardly be supposed to mean, in the mouth of a writer so chaste as Virgil, anything short of that. He would not have talked of that as foaming, which, in point of fact, merely creamed; and while the rapidity of quaffing a cup of foaming champagne cannot be too great, since

the vinous principle of that wine evaporates in a great measure with the effervescence of the gas it embodies, a poet of Virgil's delicate taste would have been careful not to represent Bitias as tumbling down his throat, in that hasty and furious method, a glass of burgundy, or claret, or indeed of any other wine whatever. On the contrary, he would no doubt have pictured this "officer and gentleman" as sucking down his liquor in a quiet, decorous, leisurely, and respectful style, suffering his lips to remain as long as possible in contact with the rim, which had just been honoured by the touch of the imperial beauty. And, indeed, when I look at the passage again, nothing can be more admirable than the strict cohesion and propriety of all the terms, applied either to what the Queen, or to what her guest, does.

"Hic Regina gravem gemmis auroque poposcit


Implevitque mero pateram . . .
Primaque, libato, summo tenus attigit

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Observe the politeness of her Majesty. She merely touched the cup with the extreme edge of her charming lip; not that she would not have liked abundantly to take a deeper share, but that she knew very well her friend would not get the article in its utmost perfection, unless he caught the foam in its boiling moments-summo tenus attigit ore-and then how does she hand it to the Trojan ?-Why increpitans to be sure; in other words, saying, "Now's your time, my lord be quick-don't bother with drinking healths, but off with it-off with it like a man. This is the true meaning of the increpitans. Upon the impiger we have already commentedand what can be better than the fine, full close-so satisfactory, so complete, so perfect-pleno se proluit auro. He turned up the cup with so alert a little finger, that some of the generous foam ran down his beard-se proluit. As to the exact sense of pleno auro, I really cannot speak in a decisive style. Does it mean the full golden cup? or does it rather point to the wine itself -the liquid gold?—the rich ambercoloured nectar? If this last be the truth of the case, then Dido's cham

pagne was not of the Ay sort, which is almost colourless, but right Sillery, the hue of which is very nearly the same with that of gold in its virgin state or perhaps Vin de la Marechale, which generally has even a deeper tone. Pink champagne it certainly could not have been, since, whatever might have been the case at a subsequent period of the entertainment, it is impossible that a lady who had just sat down should mistake the brightness of the rosé for the transparency and indeed pellucidity of the doré.

N.B.-Many people read the works of the classics merely for the words, the language, the poetry, the eloquence, and so forth. This is highly absurd. Lessons of practical sense and real wisdom are lurking in every page, if one would but lock for them. And here, for example, the Virgilian narrative of the Carthaginian banquet affords an excellent hint to many worthy persons, who, I hope, will attend to the thing, now that I have should always be given in a large, a fairly pointed it out. Champagne very large glass. Pateræ are out of date, but ale-glasses, or at least tumblers, are to be found in every establishment; and he who gives champagne in a thimble, betrays the soul of a tailor.

But let us get on: I hate the chat of those beaux-esprits, who dare to cast out insinuations against the wines that bedewed the lips of the Anacreons and the Horaces. They mixed sea-water with their wine in making it, says one: They put honey in it, cries another: They drank it sorely diluted, grumbles a third: It tasted of pitch and rosin, mutters a fourth. I despise this. When we shall have reared buildings equal to the Parthenon or the Coliseum: when we shall have written poems sas sublime as the Iliad, and as elegant as the Pervigilium Veneris: when our statuaries rival the Phidiases and Praxitileses: our historians, the Tacituses and Thucydideses; our philosophers, the Platos and Aristotles,-(Aristotle, by the way, wrote a History of Wines, which has unfortunately perished, and I heartily wish all his metaphysics had gone instead ;)-when our orators, sir, shall rival the Ciceros and Demostheneses of antiquity, then, and not till then, shall we be entitled to imagine that the palates of those great men were less refined

than our own. Can any man presume to dream, that Falernian was not every bit as good as Sherry?-Only think of that picture which Horace has given us of human beatification

"Seu te in remoto gramine per dies Festos reclinatum bearis

Interiore notâ Falerni !".


and illustrating this by the remarks that "wine which tastes hard when new, become delightful by age, while that which pleases in the wood never proves of durable excellence."* Could Mr Albert Cay or Mr Samuel Anderson talk in a more knowing vein upon this subject than the tutor of Nero the matricide? No-meo periculo, answer no! These folks drank their champagne when it was young, and their sherry when it was old, just as we do -they quaffed their Rozan, Sir, from the tap, and bottled their Chateau Margoux in magnum bonums.

The wines of these glorious days having, it is but too apparent, followed the fate of the poetry, rhetoric, sculpture, and architecture of those who consumed them in commendable quantity, and with blameless gusto-the semi-barbarous possessors of the European soil were constrained to make the best of it they could. They gradually, as the Scotch philosophers say, would improve in the manufacture; and, by the time of Charlemagne, and our own immortal Alfred, it appears not unlikely that


Do you not see him before you Spread out at full length upon the remote herbage, far away from the din of cities, flinging all the hum of men and things a thousand leagues behind him, he devotes not the night, not the afternoon, but the day, the whole of the blessed festival day, to the employment of making himself happy-what English circumbendibus can do justice to the nervous and pregnant conciseness of the word bearis ?-with a flask of Falernian from the deepest recesses of his cellar!-Interiore notâ Falerni! and bearis!-What words are these? Was this a man that did not possess the right use of his tongue, lips, and larynx? Was this a man upon whom you could have passed off a bottle of vin ordinaire, or mere tischwein, as the genuine liquor of Beaune or Rudesheim? No, no; you may depend upon it these people were up to the whole concern just as much as the very best of us.— -Think but of these glorious lines of old Hermippus

Έστι δε τις οινος ὃν δη Σαπειαν καλευσιν
Ου και από στόματος, σταμνων ὑπανοιγενάων,
Όζει των, όζει δε ροδων, ὀζει δε ὑακινθε
Όσμη θεσπεσίη, κατα παν δ' εχει ὑψιφερες δῶ,
Αμβροσια και Νεκταρ ὁμε.

Could any modern extol the divine ethereal aromatic odour of Tokay, or, what in my private opinion is a better thing, Southside's own old Lafitte, in any terms more exquisite than this hoary toper consecrates to his Saprian? What a fine obscurity!-a mingled undefinable perfume" a heavenly odour of violets, and hyacinths, and roses, fills, immediately on the opening of the vessel, the whole of the lofty chamber" ύψιφερες δῶ-climbs in one moment to the rafters, and confers the character of Elysium upon the atmosphere"ambrosia and nectar both together!" Nothing can be finer! Or turn to Seneca, himself, the philosopher, and hear him talking about the preference that ought to be given to a youth of grave disposition over one conspicuous for his gaiety and all-pleasing manners,

considerable portion of really excellent wines existed in the Western hemisphere. The monks were the great promoters of the science:-Successively spreading themselves from Italy to the remotest regions of Europe, these sacred swarms carried with them, wherever they went, the relish which their juvenile lips had imbibed for something stronger than mead, and more tasty than beer. Wherever the plant would grow, it was reared beneath their fatherly hands, and to them, as Dr Henderson has most convincingly manifested, the primest vineyards of the Bordelais, the Lyonnais, and the Rhinegau, owe their origin. Unsanctified fingers, it is, alas! true, now gather the roseate clusters of THE stat nominis umbra-and the memory HERMITAGE, yet the name still speaks of the Sçavants of the Cloister lingers Tart, Clos St Jean, Clos Morjot, and in like manner in Clos-Vogeot, Clos-duall the other compounds of that interesting family.-The Bacchus of modern mythology ought uniformly to sport the cucullus,

"And I do think that I could drink With him that wears a hood."

I have already hinted, that the taste of our own ancestors, in regard to wine, underwent many and very re

* Epist. 30.

[ocr errors]

markable mutations: but this is precise ly one of the subjects which my jolly little Aberdonian M.D. has treated in a most felicitous manner; and, under correction, I apprehend that a wellchosen quotation from this part of the Doctor's ponderous tome will appear by no means out of place in your immortal pages; while, at the same time, by being transferred thither, his erudite remarks will probably reach the optics of a vast multitude of most respectable persons, who would never dream of looking into, far less of purchasing, a two guinea quarto, even though its subject be Wine. With your permission, therefore, I now desire Mr James Ballantyne, Mr Daniel M'Corkindale, or whomsoever it may more immediately concern, to set up in brevier the following luculent observations:→→

[ocr errors]

"The union which subsisted between England and the northern provinces of France after the Norman conquest, but, above all, the acquisition of the Dutchy of Guienne in 1152, naturally led to an interchange of commodities between the two countries. Accordingly we find, that, in two years from the last-mentioned date, the trade in wines with Bourdeaux had commenced : and, among our older statutes, are numerous ordinances relating to the importation of French wines, most of which, in conformity to the mistaken notions of poli tical economy in those times, fix the maximum of price for which they were to be sold. Thus in the first year of King John, it was enacted, that the wines of Anjou should not be sold for more than twenty-four shillings a-tun; and that the wines of Poitou should not be higher then twenty shillings; while the other wines of France were limited to twenty-five shillings a-tun, unless they were so good as to induce any one to give for them two merks or more.' This appears to be the earliest statute on the subject of the foreign wine trade. With regard to the wines specified, it would ap pear, from Paulmier's account, that those of Anjou, which were embarked at Nantes, and probably included the produce of Touraine, were chiefly white, and distinguished by their strength and sweetness; while the growths of Poitou, otherwise called Rochelle wines, from the port where they were shipped, were of the light red class. In the retail trade, the latter were directed to be sold at fourpence the gallon, -the former at sixpence. But according to Harrison, this ordinance did not last long; for the merchants could not bear it ; and so they fell to and sold white wine for eighteenpence the gallon, and red and claret for sixpence.' Both Anjou and Poitou belonged at that time to England.


“During the following reign, the impor

tations would appear to have increased; for most of the chroniclers ascribe the neglect of the English vineyards to that fond. ness for French wines which then came upon us. But by this time the crusades had probably also introduced a taste for the sweet wines of Italy and Greece, which are occasionally mentioned by our early poets, and which, at a subsequent period, were certainly well known in this country. In an account rendered to the Exchequer by the Chamberlain of London, in the thirtieth year of HENRY III., we find that officer was allowed 404/. in acquittance of 404 dolia of French, Gascon, and Anjevin wines, imported at London and Sandwich; -391. and half a mark, for 22 dolia of wine of St John and the Moselle (de vino S. Johannis et de Oblinquo) ;-301. for 20 dolia of new, or perhaps sweet, French wine (musti Gallici); and 18467. 16d. for 900, 20 19 dolia of wines of Gascony, Anjou, French wine, Moselle wine, and wine of St John, which were bought. The last-mentioned may have been an Italian sweet wine, or else the wine of St Jean d'Angeley, which is celebrated in the 'Bataille des Vins' on account of its extraordinary strength.

"In order to cover the harshness and acidity common to the greater part of the wines of this period, and to give them an agreeable flavour, it was not unusual to mix honey and spices with them. Thus compounded, they passed under the generic nanie of piments, probably because they were originally prepared by the pigmentarii, or apothecaries; and they were used much in the same manner as the liqueurs of modern times. "Our poets of the thirteenth century,' says LE GRAND, never speak of them but with rapture, and as an exquisite luxury. They considered as the masterpiece of art, to be able to combine, in one liquor, the strength and flavour of wine, with the sweetness of honey, and the perfume of the most costly aromatics. A banquet at which no piment was served, would have been thought wanting in the most essential article. The archives of the cathedral of Paris show, that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Deans of Chateaufort were obliged to provide a regular supply of piment for the canons, at the feast of Assumption. It was even allowed to the monks in the monasteries, on particular days of the year. But it was so voluptuous a beverage, and was deemed so unsuitable to the members of a profession which had forsworn all the pleasures of life, that the Council of Aixla-Chapelle, held in the year 817, forbade the use of it to the regular clergy, except on the days of solemn festivals.

"The varieties of piment most frequent.. ly mentioned are the Hippocras and Clarry. The former was made with either white or red wine, in which different aromatic ingre

« PreviousContinue »