Jump to Navigation

We've moved! The new address is http://www.henriettes-herb.com - update your links and bookmarks!

Chapter VIII.

Meanwhile Hanna the housemaid had closed and fastened the shutters,
Spread the cloth, and lighted the lamp on the table, and placed there
Plates and cups from the dresser, the brown rye loaf and the butter
Fresh from the dairy, and then, protecting her hand with a holder,
Took from the crane in the chimney the steaming and simmering kettle,
Poised it aloft in the air, and filled the earthen teapot,
Made in delft, and adorned with quaint and wonderful figures.

Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn.

[image:14571 align=left hspace=1]Many besides those who live principally by the labor of their brains, will subscribe to the sentiment expressed by Thomas De Quincey, in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater, when he said that - "Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally of coarse nerves, or are become so from wine drinking, and are not susceptible of influence from so refined a stimulant, will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual; and for my part, I would have joined Dr. Johnson in a bellum internecinum against Jonas Hanway, or any other impious person who should presume to disparage it. "

The only stimulant that Hazlitt indulged in was strong Black tea, using the very best obtainable.

Wordsworth was a lover of tea, and he sweetened his tea beyond the taste of ordinary mortals.

Shelly also was a lover of tea.

Kant drank tea habitually for breakfast.

Motley used either tea or coffee for breakfast, as fancy prompted.

William Howitt found great refreshment in both tea and coffee, but he wrote that on his great pedestrian journeys, "Tea would always in a manner almost miraculous banish all my fatigue, and diffuse through my whole frame comfort and exhilaration without any subsequent evil effect. Tea is a wonderful refresher and reviver."

Justin McCarthy, M. P. the brilliant historian, said that he was a liberal drinker of tea, and that he found it "of immense benefit in keeping off headache, my only malady."

Harriet Martineau dearly loved her cup of tea.

Geo. R. Sims says "Tea is my favorite tonic when I am tired or languid."

[image:14572 align=left hspace=1]An amiable weakness for Afternoon Tea in the course of his daily official duties which was manifested by the late Hon. Wm. L. Strong, the worthy mayor of New York in 1895-6, furnished the New York newspapers with opportunities for many a good-natured jest and jibe; one of the best of which we have preserved in the lines which follow.

A Ballad of Oolong.

By John Paul Bocock.

Whenever the magistrate, good Li Song
Is short of his favorite tea, Oolong,
He lays his gout and his spectacles down
And hies him away into Chinatown.

Into the region of Mon Lay Won,
When the day of official life is done,
Into the land of slant-eyed Lee's
He hies him away to replenish his teas.

All day long, in the places of Tax,
Of rubicund tape and sealingwax,
He toils and moils till the hour of tea,
Blessed old five o'clock, sets him free!

Blest liberator, better than rum,
Of the Fa and the Fee and the Fi Fo Fum
Of the tammany Ogre who used to dwell
In the metropolitan citadel.

Blest over all the heroes that be
On the sunny side of the Ceylon Sea,
Nerve him still to be Good and Strong.
Excellent magistrate, great Li Song.

Dr. King Chambers, in a Manual of Diet in Health and Disease says of Tea that - "It soothes the nervous system when it is in an uncomfortable state from hunger, fatigue, or mental excitement."

Florence Nightingale said - "When you see the natural and almost universal craving in English sick for their tea, you cannot but feel that nature knows what she is about. There is nothing yet discovered which is a substitute to the English patient for his or her cup of tea."

Buckle (the Historian) quotes Dr. Jackson as saying (in 1845) that - "Even for those who have to go through great fatigues, a breakfast of tea and dry bread is more strengthening than one of beefsteak and porter."

Prof. Parkes says - "As an article of diet for soldiers, tea is most useful. The hot infusion, like that of coffee, is potent both against heat and cold; it is useful in great fatigue, especially in hot climates, and also has a great purifying effect upon water. It should form the drink par excellence of the soldiers on service."

Admiral Inglefield, in 1881, said, that in evidence given before the Artic Committee, of which he was a member, all the witnesses were unanimous in the opinion that spirits taken to keep out cold was a fallacy, and that nothing was more effectual than a good fatty diet, and hot tea or coffee, as a drink "Seamen who Journeyed with me up the shores of Wellington Channel," says the Admiral, "in the artic regions, after one day's experience of rum-drinking, came to the conclusion that Tea, which was the only beverage I used, was much more to be preferred."

Lord Wolsely, late Commander in Chief of the British Army, wrote as follows: - "It fell to my lot to lead a brigade through a distant country for more than 600 miles. I fed the men as well as I could, but no one, officer or private, had anything stronger than tea to drink during the expedition. The men had peculiarly hard work to do, and they did it well, and without a murmur. We seem to have left crime and sickness behind us with the "grog," for the conduct of all was most exemplary and no one was ever ill.

Mr. Winter Blyth, Medical Officer of Health for Marylebone, (London), says in reference to long cycling excursions, and experiments with beer and spirits, - "My own experience as to the best drink when on the road is most decidedly in favor of Tea. Tea appears to rouse both the nervous and muscular systems, with, so far as I can discover, no after-depressing effects."

"Edward Payson Weston, the great Pedestrian, finds in Tea and rest the most effective restoratives. He once walked 5000 miles in 100 days, and after each day's work, lectured on ' Tea versus Beer.'"

C. J. Nichod, late Secretary of the London Athletic Club, writes in his book - "Guide to Athletic Training," that "Tea is preferable for training purposes, possessing less heating properties and being more digestible than beer or spirits."

Cowper's lines, however hackneyed in quotation, are still classic in their application to English homes and their evening accompaniment, Tea.

"Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in."

"Tea" was the designation of the customary evening meal in most American families for about two centuries, and as late as 1850, since which time it has merged in the more substantial "late dinner," in cities and towns especially, although the last meal of the closing day is still "Tea" in spirit and in name in many families where commercial necessities have not compelled change. The same is true of England from which we derive our customs, and with which we also changed it. According to Washington Irving's veracious History of New York, tea-parties were indulged in by the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam during the reign of Governor Wouter Van Twiller (which commenced in 1633). Irving says:

"But though our worthy ancestors were singularly averse to giving dinners, yet they kept up the social bonds of intimacy by occasional banqueting, called tea parties.

"These fashionable parties were generally confined to the higher classes or noblesse, that is to say, such as kept their own cows, and drove their own wagons. The company commonly assembled at 3 o'clock, and went away about six, unless it was in winter time, when the fashionable hours were a little earlier, that the ladies might get home before dark. * * * The tea was served out of a majestic Delft tea-pot, ornamented with paintings of fat little Dutch shepherdesses tending pigs, with boats sailing in the air and houses built in the clouds, and sundry other Dutch fantasies. The beaux distinguished themselves by their adroitness in replenishing this tea-pot from a huge copper tea-kettle. * * To sweeten the beverage, a lump of sugar was laid beside each cup, and the company alternately nibbled and sipped with great decorum, until an improvement was introduced by a shrewed and economic old lady, which was to suspend a large lump directly over the tea-table by a string from the ceiling, so that it should be swung from mouth to mouth - an ingenious expedient which is still kept up by some families in Albany, but which prevails without exception in Communipaw, Bergen, Flatbush, and all our uncontaminated Dutch villages.

"At these primitive tea-parties the utmost propriety and dignity of deportment prevailed. No flirting or coquetin gambu of old ladies, nor hoyden chattering and romping of young ones, no self satisfied struttings of wealthy gentlemen with their brains in their pockets, nor amusing conceits and monkey divertisements of smart young gentlemen with no brains at all. On the contrary, the young ladies seated themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed chairs, and knit their own woolen stockings, nor ever opened their lips except to say "yaw, mynherr," or "yaw, yaw, Vrouw," to any question that was asked them, behaving in all things like decent, well educated damsels. As to the gentlemen, each of them tranquilly smoked his pipe, and seemed lost in contemplation of the blue and white tiles with which the fire-places were decorated, wherein sundry passages of scripture were piously portrayed."

But it was in New England that the tea-party reached its highest importance as a social function, and in the New England of more than a century ago. Then and there were the weightiest themes of religion and philosophy of such enthralling interest and so interwoven with the practical affairs of men, that they were familiarly discussed all the way from the pulpit and desk to the household and tea-table, and were liable to be brought forward at the table of the artisan, the farmer, or the shopkeeper, as well as at that of the scholar. Every reader of early New England history or New England fiction must be aware of this fact. The presence of the "minister." so far from discouraging these discussions, usually stimulated them, and lent them additional interest. Instances of such gatherings and conversations, of typical New England tea-parties, may be found in Mrs. Stowe's Minister's Wooing.

The "tea-table" will always live in name and in association, and we trust in reality, as an essential feature of family life, even though the nature of the repast has greatly changed. The pleasantest part of the working-day in former years was the occasion when the family, drawn together by common interests and sympathies, after the heavier tasks of the day were completed, gathered around the table whose crowning symbol of good cheer was the familiar and homely old tea-pot. From this fairy godmother flowed forth a spirit of kindly toleration and genial good humor.

A quiet fireside, a snug corner, and a singing tea-kettle, were potent sources of enjoyment to young as well as old folks, in those days when the kitchen was not turned entirely over to alien hands.

The tea-kettle and the hearth-stone may be pushed back out of sight or even quite banished from the household, by modern metropolitan life and enforced changes; but under the influence of old associations and traditions, they will surely return in time with recurring cycles of sentiment or of fashion.

Five o'clock Tea is but an attempt to revive an old custom, and for those whom fortune has favored with leisure for social amenities at that hour, it furnishes an agreeable and informal occasion for exchange of courtesies and for harmless gossip or even more dignified "conservation."

A correspondent of the New York Sun recently gave an account of actual or impending changes in the social customs of Paris, which have a bearing upon this branch of our subject. He writes that the English five o'clock tea having been adopted by Parisians several years ago, and being found to interfere with the still fashionable 7 o'clock dinner, an effort was recently made to revive the ancient mid-day dinner, say at 2 o'clock. In some cases, the difficulty was met by taking tea at five o'clock, and serving a substantial supper late in the evening.

When we desire to get away for a time from our modern conventional ideas and restraints, and indulge in a bit of homely healthy sentiment, we may fall back on such utterances as the following, from Dicken's Cricket on the Hearth:

"Now it was, you observe, that the Kettle began to spend the evening. Now it was, that the Kettle, growing mellow and musical, began to have irrepressible gurglings in its throat, and to indulge in short vocal snorts, which it checked in the bud, as if it hadn't quite made up its mind yet, to be good company. Now it was, that after two or three such vain attempts to stifle its convivial sentiments, it threw off all moroseness, all reserve, and burst into a stream of song so cosy and hilarious as never maudlin nightingale yet formed the least idea of."

[image:14573 align=left hspace=1]"So plain, too! Bless you, you might have understood it like a book - better than some books you and I could name, perhaps. With its warm breath gushing forth in a light cloud which merrily and gracefully ascended a few feet, then hung about the chimney-corner as its own domestic Heaven, it trolled its song with that strong energy of cheerfulness, that its iron body hummed and stirred upon the fire, and the lid itself, the recently rebellious lid - such is the influence of a bright example - performed a sort of jig, and clattered like a deaf and dumb young cymbal that had never known the use of its twin brother." * * * * "And here, if you like, the Cricket did chime in with a chirrup, chirrup, chirrup of such magnitude, by the way of chorus, with a voice so astoundingly disproportionate to its size, as compared with the Kettle, (size ! you couldn't see it !) that if it had then and there burst itself like an overcharged gun, if it had fallen a victim on the spot, and chirruped its little body into fifty pieces it would have seemed a natural and inevitable consequence for which it had expressly labored." * * * "There was all the excitement of a race about it. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket a mile ahead. Hum, hum, hum-m-m ! Kettle making play in the distance, like a great top. Chirp, chirp, chirp ! - Cricket round the corner. Hum, hum, hum ! Kettle sticking to him in his own way, no idea of giving in. Chirp, chirp, chirp ! Cricket fresher than ever. Hum, hum, hum-m-m ! Kettle slow and steady. Chirp, chirp, chirp ! Cricket going to finish him. Hum, hum, hum ! Kettle not to be finished. Until at last, they got so jumbled up together, in the hurry-skurry, helter-skelter of the match, that whether the Kettle chirped or the Cricket hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the Kettle hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the Kettle hummed, or the both chirped and both hummed, it would have taken a clearer head than yours or mine to have decided with anything like certainty. But of this there is no doubt, that the Kettle and the Cricket, at one and the same moment, and by some power of amalgamation best known to themselves, sent each his fireside song of comfort streaming into a ray of the candle that shone through the window, and a long way down the lane. And this light, bursting on a certain person who on the instant, approached towards it through the gloom, expressed the whole thing to him, literally in a twinkling, and cried, 'Welcome home, old fellow ! Welcome home, my boy !"

[image:14574 hspace=1]


Tea Leaves, 1900, was written by Francis Leggett & Co.



Main menu 2