« PreviousContinue »
At the close of the week I was called from home to a friend's house, where green sour apples and hard gritty pears were the nearest approach to anything frugivorous within my reach. My dyspeptic stomach had struggled valiantly for the right, but fairly broke down under this new infliction, and returned for the time to the safe negations of the Vegetarian society. I thus learned my second lesson in fruit-eating, that though a rose with any other name may smell as sweet, a tasteless ungrateful fruit is not the more relishable that it is dignified with a title that to the ear embodies all that is pleasant to the eye and good for food. Support life it may, but one great point in my pet theory being, that in fruit-eating there is an increase of all the enjoyments of the organs of taste, the mere fact of adequate nourishment from wretched apples was a very inferior recommendation, which even some of the better sorts of sawdust could reasonably lay claim to. I fixed a high standard, and the question now resolved itself into this—are apples and pears really delicious—I took no lower term-to be had at a reasonable rate all the year round, from the last good gooseberry to the first of Pomona's offerings in early June.
Time would fail to tell of the attempts I resumed in September, when the jargonelle came plentifully to market; in November, when Newtown pippins, in all their glory, were come-at-able at eightpence the dozen, and in every month of the year when good fruit of home or foreign growth was to be had. Each time, some real or fancied difficulty intervened till the fruit itself decayed on my shelves and a further supply for the season was out of the question. The market stalls provide some splendid fruit at times, though always unreasonably dear, but these seem to reach the public at isolated periods, in the intervals between which a fruit-eater must of course live upon something. Between the jargonelle and the Ribston pippin there is a blank of full six weeks, during which there is really no good market pear to be had under threepence a-piece, and no good market apple fit for what is called dessert. So, too, when the Newtown pippin is over in April, there is a dreary blank till strawberry time, during which there is not a single market apple fit for any nobler purpose than a dumpling. Market pears are nowhere after Christmas.
I have fully proved for myself that really delicious fruit may be had by paying fancy prices for it, any day in any month of the year, but I have quite as clearly satisfied myself that no middle-class family--not to speak of a working man's-could well bear the fearful income-tax such a supply would involve. If fruit in this country is the best and ought to be our sole food, whence was it to be procured? The question to me was as yet unanswered, and ringing the changes upon figs, raisins, and dates brought the response no nearer. Dried fruit is nourishing always and sometimes delicious, but never wholesome. Will some one who differs from me examine any of these menageries in miniature through a magnifying glass, live on them a few days as I did, and report upon the state of his digestion. There's a hopeful thought in the saying that whatever is really desirable is somehow practicable, and in this hope I lived on.
Following out the idea of a fruit diet, I have had, for the last six years, under cultivation in garden soil of good quality and exposure, specimen trees of nearly every good variety of dessert apples in England, and upwards of one hundred varieties of pears. Reading such characters as, "rich, sugary, and delicious," attached in the nursery catalogues to so many different varieties ripening at all seasons of the year, I fancied there would be little chance of failure if I secured single trees of each, and increased my stock afterwards with an extra number of such as I found best suited to my own particular locality. Surely out of three hundred sorts there must
be twenty of apple and as many of pears coming fully up to the word "delicious" when grown in our own county. And so there are, and could I write this without qualification, I might conclude this paper by deleting the last word of its title and wind up my remarks with a glowing picture of the possible future, and an invitation to all to enter at once the portals of a frugivorous millenium. The problem of a supply of delicious fruit all the year round was then solved, and the diligent fruit-grower and fruit-eater, independent of market gardeners and apple wives, might set up for life as his own butcher, baker, grocer, and what not. Alas, however, for our fickle northern climate. There are cold summers like 1862, and the two previous years, and these very liable to recur, in which I have found scarcely a single fruit really first-rate. In such seasons the fall of temperature below the average during the ripening months suffices to rob the most luscious fruits of their flavour, leaving generally something little more inviting than an improved turnip, and sometimes literally a second edition of those fabled apples of Sodom, created, they say, for the special allurement by their beauty and repulse by their bitterness, of the frugivorously inclined of the sons of the desert. The reader may say I have fixed my standard of perfection in fruit too high. I may or may not, but I cannot conscientiously lower it. I dont want to live in paradise this year, and in purgatory the next. As an heir to all the joys of earth and heaven I claim a right to the best of all things, and the fruit I want must be such as the eater shall relish above any compound of flour and sugar, or boiled or roast vegetable or animal product conceivable. This I know many fruits grown in favourable seasons in this locality attain to, and of these I want abundance for myself and for everybody. Fruit trees trained on brick or stone walls, or in glass orchard houses, reach this perfection in our own neighbourhood, but these are too expensive structures on which to raise a nation's food. To myself the conclusion is plain. The subject I am aware has a very different aspect in the south of England, where all our fruits, when properly grown, are really what our pomological works represent them to be, but in our northern counties and in Scotland it is otherwise. Fruits in their present improved state are an artificial creation, quite as much so as the Cotswold or any other breed of sheep; and the misfortune for the north is this, that nearly all our good dessert sorts originated either in the southern counties or on the continent, where in their native climate they flourish year by year almost unfailing in excellence. Transferred to a less temperate region,-flavour, texture, and sweetness alter so thoroughly that, except in the warmest of seasons, the best of fruits survive only in name.
Two remedies exist. The north must import its fruit from the south or from foreign countries, or else grow seedlings of its own, that like a very few of our early pears will stand any vicissitude of climate and yet retain a high standard of quality. The former is scarcely likely to be realised for many years to come without such an extravagant expenditure as would deprive all but the very wealthy of its benefits, and the latter is the work of a lifetime. Half dreading the alternative of seeking some sheltered nook in Devonshire where the apples of the poet are materialised in the orchard, I am working at present in other directions than walls and orchardhouses, to make the most of our climate as it is, but only half hopeful of the result. Time will tell.
Incidentally, as illustrative of this particular phase of Vegetarianism run mad, let me state that this fruit-eating question is no mere theory. In my own case I cannot refer to a more lengthened experience than forty-one days in which fruit and fruit only was my food; fruit-eaters I may remark are never thirsty and never
drink; man is not a drinking animal. During this period, and it was one in which I was called upon for more bodily exercise than usual, and in the coldest of weather, I was lacking in nothing of what makes up the elements of health; and to use the expression of a fruit-eating correspondent the other day, was "all mind." There were other somewhat remarkable and unlooked for changes in very profitable directions, which some day I hope to embody in a paper abstracted from a diary kept during the period. Enough, that the experiment so far as it went was successful. Meanwhile the subject has come into notice in the United States, and several members of the Vegetarian Society in that country have turned their attention to its study; remarkably so in the case of the Boston wherryman, whose exploit of rowing a twooared gig from Boston to New York on a diet of apples and water-melons, preceded by some three weeks on cherries only, is a matter of dietetic history. A late number of the Lancet tells us of a "grape cure" in Switzerland, where, confined to an unlimited supply of that queen of fruits as their only diet, patients afflicted with all "the ills that flesh is heir to," recover their wonted health and strength before they have eaten their way through their first hundred weight. Memories of Epsom salts and castor oil, in days gone by, think of that!
Linnæus classifies man as a date-eating animal; but I must not enter further on my one hundred reasons for being a fruit-eater here. Suffice it, that a diet of fruit realises in my mind all that the most sanguine hopes of human progress, so far as mere subsistence is concerned, can conceive. Its attainment is within the reach of every working man in other countries; and to this end I long and labour, that north of the Humber and of the Mersey, I shall be able to conclude otherwise than I do, the story of "How I searched for good apples and found them not.”
CLEANLINESS, A MARK OF CIVILISATION.
(Extract from a Paper by James Haughton, Esq., J.P., Dublin.)
THE impressions of a traveller who runs hastily through a foreign land can seldom, if ever, convey any really correct idea of the condition of the people. Even of our own country the conflicting statements given by different writers, afford abundant evidence of the difficulty of arriving at facts upon which we may venture on conclusions of any great value, in relation to this subject. External appearances must, therefore, often prove fallacious guides for enabling us to form any true estimate as to the amount of comfort and happiness enjoyed by the great mass of the population, either at home or abroad. Yet they are not entirely to be set aside as valueless indicators of the amount of civilisation arrived at by the people among whom we travel; they give us some notion, by contrast, of the habits of different peoples in relation to the decencies of life.
Aside from his intellectual nature, man everywhere, as an animal, might not, I think, unfairly be characterised as the dirty animal. Most, if not all, other animals are cleanly by nature. Man, in his merely animal existence, is willing to live in the midst of filth. In his person, in his clothing, and in his habitation, dirt would seem to bring him no discomfort, but rather to be a condition of things from which he derived a sort of lazy enjoyment. I know of no animal which seems so disposed to live contentedly in the midst of uncleanness, as man. It is essential to the
comfort, and no doubt to the health also, of all other creatures, that they should be personally clean. We see them continually cleaning themselves; none seem indifferent on this matter, save the "lords of the creation."
Are we to conclude from this state of things, that dirt and nastiness, if they be the common condition of our race, are therefore the proper and healthful condition of humanity? I hope not. I believe not; for I find in cleanliness one of the first marks of a growing civilisation. The lowest stage of uncleanliness is, I presume, the lowest step on the ladder which leads us, step by step, to our highest happiness and enjoyment. To be clean is, in itself, evidence, that man has made his first step towards a higher civilisation. Filth is, in great measure, the result of poverty,that sad condition which prostrates our race, and prevents the development of those manly feelings which constitute our true nobility. When feelings of self-respect are awakened in our bosoms, we shake off those slothful habits which render us contented in our misery, and we feel the first impulses of that higher life within us, which impels us onward in that career which leads to domestic and social enjoyments.
These feelings have been afresh awakened in my mind by a run of a few weeks in England, in France, and in Switzerland. In the condition of the people of France and Switzerland I saw a marked contrast, very unfavourable to my own country, and I think unfavourable also to England.
I passed through France with my son, from Boulogne to Paris, from Paris to Lyons, and from Lyons to Geneva. From Geneva, I crossed Switzerland to Schauffhassen, stopping at many towns on my journey; during which I was in fourteen of the cantons. I mention this course of my journey to show that I passed over a considerable portion of both these fine countries. I saw large numbers of their inhabitants engaged in rural occupations; and I also observed the condition of the inhabitants of several of their cities and towns.
My impressions might be summed up in this one statement, that I witnessed no such signs of misery and destitution, and inferiority in the cultivation of the soil, as so constantly offend the eye at home.
I shall give a hasty sketch of the places I visited in Switzerland, just glancing for a moment, before doing so, at the city of Lyons in France, which is a beautifulindeed I may add-a -a noble city. But on this head I shall not enlarge, as my purpose is, to point out to you the condition of the people as I observed it, and not to dwell on the elegance of the cities and towns I hastily visited-nor the wondrous beauty of some of the scenery I passed through.
In Lyons I was much struck by the neat and cleanly appearance of the country people coming into market, and with the good order in the vegetable market, where I saw large numbers assembled. The whole scene indicated that the peasantry, as well as the citizen population, were in the possession of much comfort. I saw not the least indication of destitution. No signs of rags and wretchedness presented themselves, and the various articles of food offered for sale were all clean, and neatly arranged on the pavement, which was in excellent order.
Part of the drive from Lyons to Geneva is surpassingly grand and beautiful; and the high cultivation of the land gave evidence of an industrious population. The people seem to congregate in villages, as but few scattered cottages are to be seen; so that the labourers must often have to walk long distances to their work. This circumstance, and the watching of sheep and cattle, necessitated by the absence of fencing, appeared to me uneconomical modes of farm labour. It also seemed to me that the land was not as rich as in Ireland. But it is all cultivated. I saw little or
no waste or neglected land anywhere; and the people at work on it, all had a decent and comfortable appearance.
Geneva has all the appearance of a prosperous and thriving city, and its inhabitants seem to be well and busily employed. I saw no mendicancy here, nor signs of want or destitution; and judging from the public works going forward, and the general cleanliness everywhere visible, I must conclude that neither the authorities nor the people are indisposed to submit to needful taxation for useful purposes. I believe taxes so expended are always advantageous in a community, and I am satisfied it would do good to Dublin in many ways, if much larger sums than are now devoted to the purpose, were expended in cleansing and in otherwise beautifying our city. Rigid economy should doubtless be practised, but funds for all useful purposes should be amply provided.
From Geneva to Montreuil, per railway, a charming run of about two and a half hours, we see a highly cultivated country, and a people presenting every appearance of comfort; this was indicated by the clothing of the peasantry at work in the fields and vineyards; by the cottages in which they live; and by the well-dressed and happy appearance of the very numerous travellers, and the spectators at the railway stations, which are found at every few miles of the road. Much pains are evidently taken in this way to accommodate the public, and thus ensure a large passenger traffic. No great wealth, in the shape of large mansions or great estates, is anywhere to be seen; but indications of general comfort are evidenced all around. Very many thriving towns and villages are spread over the country, and no misery saddens the the heart or offends the eye in any direction, save the disease called goitre; but of this I did not see many cases.
From Geneva to Chamounix you also pass through a country whose peasantry seem more than comfortable. A portion of our route lay through Savoy, the land of which seems to yield abundance; the crops of apples and pears were perfectly surprising. The people not so clean nor apparently so industrious as I had heretofore observed; and I asked myself could the reason be, that less labour was required to procure the necessaries of life? Does man really need the stimulus of a comparatively ungrateful soil to make him an industrious being?
At Chamounix, and in the neighbourhood of this glorious valley, we remained two or three days, and as I went much about on foot, walking for several hours daily, I had a nearer view of peasant life than before. And although here, as in all other places that I have seen in my small experience as a traveller,
'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
so far as regards cleanliness in peasant life,—and indeed life in the higher grades of social life, where the bad example of uncleanliness is often observable, yet there is an appearance of general comfort, and the possession of the good things of this world, which I often deplore the absence of at home.
The Swiss peasant seems to look upon manure as the grand summum bonum. He gathers it with the assiduity of the gold digger, and its odours must smell sweetly in his nostrils. He has no more idea that it should be kept at a distance from his habitation, than our own poor farmers entertain. He usually lives under the same roof with his cattle, and the interior of some of the houses I looked into had an unsavory appearance. This, however, is not the general condition of their picturesque chalets, very many of which indicate a high degree of civilisation; and the land in all cases manifests the presence of care, and industry, and of skill in its