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in various ages, and will be again, but
These are the anchors by which man rides in that billowy ocean between morning and night. The first anchor, viz. breakfast, having given way in Rome, the more need there is that he should pull up by the second; and that is often reputed to be dinner. And as your dictionary, good reader, translated breakfast by that vain word jentaculum, so, doubtless, it will translate dinner by that still vainer word prandium. Sincerely we hope that your own dinner on this day, and through all time coming, may have a better root in fact and substance than this most visionary of all baseless things the Roman prandium, of which we shall presently show you that the most approved translation is moonshine.
Reader, we are not jesting here. In the very spirit of serious truth, we assure you, that the delusion about "jentaculum " is even exceeded by this other delusion about "prandium." Salmasius himself, for whom a natural prejudice of place and time partially obscured the truth, admits, however, that prandium was a meal which the ancients rarely took; his very words are"raro prandebant veteres." Now, judge for yourself of the good sense which is shown in translating by the word, dinner, which must of necessity mean the chief meal-a Roman word which represents a fancy meal, a meal of caprice, a meal which few people took. At this moment, what is the single point of agreement between the noon meal of the English labourer and the evening meal of the English gentle
Reader! we, as well as Pliny, had an uncle, an East Indian uncle; doubtless you have such an uncle; every body has an Indian uncle. Generally such a person is rather yellow, rather yellow," [to quote Canning versus Lord Durham:] that is the chief fault with his physics; but, as to his morals, he is universally a man of princely aspirations and habits. He is not always so orientally rich as he is reputed; but he is always orientally munificent. Call upon him at any hour from two to five, he insists on your taking tiffin: and such a tiffin! The English corresponding term is luncheon: but how meagre a shadow is the European meal to its glowing Asiatic cousin! Still, gloriously as tiffin shines, does any body imagine that it is a vicarious dinner, or ever meant to be the substitute of dinner? Wait till eight, and you will have your eyes opened on that subject. So of the Roman prandium: had it been as luxurious as it was simple, still it was always viewed as something meant only to stay the stomach, as a prologue to something beyond. The prandium was far enough from giving the feeblest idea of the English luncheon; yet it
stood in the same relation to the Roman day. Now to Englishmen that meal scarcely exists; and were it not for women, whose delicacy of organization does not allow them to fast so long as men, would probably be abolished. It is singular in this, as in other points, how nearly England and ancient Rome approximate. We all know how hard it is to tempt a man generally into spoiling his appetite, by eating before dinner. The same dislike of violating what they called the integrity of the appetite, [integram famem,] existed at Rome. Every man who knows any thing of Latin critically, sees the connexion of the word integer with in and tetigi: integer means what is intact, unviolated by touch.
Cicero, when protest
ing against spoiling his appetite for dinner, by tasting any thing beforehand, says, integram famem ad cœnam afferam; I shall bring to dinner an appetite untampered with. Nay, so much stress did the Romans lay on maintaining this primitive state of the appetite undisturbed, that any prelusions with either jentaculum or prandium were said, by a very strong phrase indeed, polluere famem, to pollute the sanctity of the appetite. The appetite was regarded as a holy vestal flame, soaring upwards towards dinner throughout the day if undebauched, it tended to its natural consummation in cana: expired like a phoenix, to rise again out of its own ashes. On this theory, to which language had accommodated itself, the two prelusive meals of nine o'clock A.M., and of one P. M., so far from being ratified by the public sense, and adopted into the economy of the day, were regarded gloomily as gross irregularities, enormities, debauchers of the natural instinct; and, in so far as they thwarted that instinct, lessened it, or depraved it, were universally held to be full of pollution; and, finally, to profane a motion of nature. Such was the language.
But we guess what is passing in the reader's mind. He thinks that all this proves the prandium to have been a meal of little account; and in very many cases absolutely unknown. But still he
thinks all this might happen to the English dinner-that might be neglected; supper might be generally preferred; and, nevertheless, dinner would be as truly entitled to the name of dinner as before. Many a student neglects his dinner; enthusiasm in any pursuit must often have ex. tinguished appetite for all of us. Many a time and oft did this happen to Sir Isaac Newton. Evidence is on record, that such a deponent at eight o'clock A. M., found Sir Isaac with one stocking on, one off; at two, said deponent called him to dinner. Being interrogated, whether Sir Isaac had pulled on the minus stocking, or gartered the plus stocking, witness replied that he had not. Being asked if Sir Isaac came to dinner, replied that he did not. Being again asked, "at sunset, did you look in on Sir Isaac?" Witness replied, I did. And now, upon your conscience, sir, by the virtue of your oath, in what state were the stockings? Ans. In statu quo ante
bellum. It seems Sir Isaac had fought through that whole battle of a long day, so trying a campaign to many people-he had traversed that whole sandy Zaarrah, without calling, or needing to call at one of those fountains, stages, or mansiones,* by which (according to our former explanation) Providence has relieved the continuity of arid soil which else disfigures that long dreary level. This happens to all; but was dinner not dinner, and did supper become dinner, because Sir Isaac Newton ate nothing at the first, and threw the whole day's support upon the last? No, you will say, a rule is not defeated by one casual deviation, nor by one person's constant deviation. Every body else was still dining at two, though Sir Isaac might not; and Sir Isaac himself on most days no more deferred his dinner beyond wo, than he sate with one stocking of. But what if every body, Sir Isaac included, had deferred his substantial meal until night, and taken a slight refection only at two? The question put does really represent the very case which has happened with us in England, 1700, a large part of London took a meal at two P.M., and another at seven
* "Mansiones "-the halts of the Roman legions, the stationary places of repose which divided the marches, were so called.
or eight P.M. In 1839, a large part of London is still doing the very same thing, taking one meal at two, and another at seven or eight. But the names are entirely changed: the two o'clock meal used to be called dinner, and is now called luncheon; the eight o'clock meal used to be called supper, and is now called dinner.
Now the question is easily solved: because, upon reviewing the idea of dinner, we soon perceive that time has little or no connexion with it: since both in England and France, dinner has travelled, like the hand of a clock, through every hour between ten A. M. and ten P. M. We have a list, well attested, of every successive hour between these limits having been the known established hour for the royal dinner-table within the last 350 years. Time, therefore, vanishes from the equation: it is a quantity as regularly exterminated as in any algebraic problem. The true elements of the idea, are evidently these:-1. That dinner is that meal, no matter when taken, which is the principal meal; i. e. the meal on which the day's support is thrown. 2. That it is the meal of hospitality. 3. That it is the meal (with reference to both Nos. 1. and 2.) in which animal food predominates. 4. That it is that meal which, upon necessity arising for the abolition of all but one, would naturally offer itself as that one. Apply these four tests to prandium :- How could that meal answer to the first test, as the day's support, which few people touched? How could that meal answer to the second test, as the meal of hospitality, at which no body sate down? How could that meal answer to the third test, as the meal of animal food, which consisted exclusively and notoriously of bread? Or to the fourth test, of the meal entitled to survive the abolition of the rest, which was itself abolished at all times in practice?
Tried, therefore, by every test, prandium vanishes. But we have something further to communicate about this same prandium.
I. It came to pass, by a very natural association of feeling, that prandium and jentaculum, in the latter centuries of Rome, were generally confounded. This result was inevitable. Both professed the same basis. Both came in the morning. Both were fictions. Hence they were confounded.
That fact speaks for itself:-Breakfast and luncheon never could have been confounded; but who would be at the pains of distinguishing two shadows? In a gambling-house of that class where you are at liberty to sit down to a splendid banquetanxiety probably prevents your sitting down at all; but, if you do, the same cause prevents your noticing what you eat. So of the two pseudo meals of Rome, they came in the very midst of the Roman business; viz from nine A. M. to two P. M. Nobody could give his mind to them, had they been of better quality. There lay one cause of their vagueness, viz.-in their position. Another cause was-the common basis of both. Bread was so notoriously the predominating "feature" in each of these prelusive banquets, that all foreigners at Rome, who communicated with Romans through the Greek language, knew both the one and the other by the name of agrorios, or the bread repast. Originally this
name had been restricted to the earlier meal. But a distinction without a difference could not sustain itself: and both alike disguised their emptiness under this pompous quadrisyllable. In the identity of substance, therefore, lay a second ground of confusion. And then, thirdly, even as to the time, which had ever been the sole real distinction, there arose from accident a tendency to converge. For it happened that while some had jentaculum but no prandium, others had prandium but no jentaculum; a third party had both a fourth party, by much the largest, had neither. Out of which varieties (who would think that a nonentity could cut up into so many somethings?) arose a fifth party of compromisers, who, because they could not afford a regular cana, and yet were hospitably disposed, fused the two ideas into one; and so, because the usual time for the idea of a breakfast was nine to ten, and for the idea of a luncheon twelve to one, compromised the rival pretensions by what diplomatists call a mezzo termine; bisecting the time at eleven, and melting the two ideas into one. But by thus merging the separate times of each, they abolished the sole real difference that had ever divided them. Losing that, they lost all.
Perhaps, as two negatives make one
affirmative, it may be thought that two layers of moonshine might coalesce into one pancake; and two Barmecide banquets might compose one poached egg. Of that the company were the best judges. But probably, as a rump and dozen, in our land of wagers, is construed with a very liberal latitude as to the materials, so Martial'sinvitation, "to take bread with him at eleven," might be understood by the σuvel as significant of something better than αρτοσιτος. Otherwise, in good truth, "moonshine and turn-out" at eleven A. M., would be even worse than "tea and turn-out" at eight P. M., which the "fervida juventus " of young England so loudly detests. But however that might be, in this convergement of the several frontiers, and the confusion that ensued, one cannot wonder that, whilst the two bladders collapsed into one idea, they actually expanded into four names, two Latin and two Greek, gustus and gustatio, yevois, and γευσμα which all alike express the merely tentative or exploratory act of a prægustator or professional "taster" in a king's household: what, if applied to a fluid, we should denominate sipping.
At last, by so many steps all in one direction, things had come to such a pass the two prelusive meals of the Roman morning, each for itself separately vague from the beginning, had so communicated and interfused their several and joint vaguenesses, that at last no man knew or cared to know what any other man included in his idea of either; how much or how little. And you might as well have hunted in the woods of Ethiopia for Prester John, or fixed the parish of the everlasting Jew, as have attempted to say what "jentaculum" might be, or what "prandium." Only one thing
clear what they were not. Neither was or wished to be any thing that people cared for. They were both empty shadows; but shadows as they were, we find from Cicero that they had a power of polluting and profaning better things than themselves.
We presume that no rational man will henceforth look for "dinner"that great idea according to Dr Johnson that sacred idea according to Cicero-in a bag of moonshine on one side, or a bag of pollution on the other. Prandium, so far from being what our foolish dictionaries pretend -dinner itself—never in its palmiest days was more or other than a miserable attempt at being luncheon. It was a conatus, what physiologists call a nisus, a struggle in a very ambitious spark, or scintilla, to kindle into a fire. This nisus went on for some centuries; but finally issued in smoke. If prandium had worked out his ambition, had "the great stream of tendency" accomplished all his wishes, prandium never could have been more than a very indifferent luncheon. But now,
II. We have to offer another fact, ruinous to our dictionaries on another ground. Various circumstances have disguised the truth, but a truth it is, that "prandium" in its very origin and incunabula, never was a meal known to the Roman culina. In that court it was never recognised except as an alien. It had no original domicile in the city of Rome. It was a vox castrensis, a word and an idea purely martial, and pointing to martial necessities. Amongst the new ideas proclaimed to the recruit, this was one"look for no cœna,' no regular dinner, with us. Resign these unwarlike notions. It is true that even war has its respites; in these it would be possible to have our Roman cœna with all its equipage of ministrations. Such luxury untunes the mind for doing and suffering. Let us voluntarily renounce it; that, when a necessity of renouncing it arrives, we may not feel it, among the hardships of war. From the day when you enter the gates of the camp, reconcile yourself, tyro, to a new fashion of meal, to what in camp dialect we call prandium." This "prandium," this essentially military meal, was taken standing, by way of symbolizing the necessity of being always ready for the enemy. Hence the posture in which it was taken at Rome, the very counter-pole to the
"The everlasting Jew;"the German name for what we English call the Wandering Jew. The German imagination has been most struck with the duration of the man's life, and his unhappy sanctity from death, the English by the unrestingness of the man's life— his incapacity of repose.
luxurious posture of dinner. A writer of the third century, a period from which the Romans naturally looked back upon every thing connected with their own early habits, and with the same kind of interest as we extend to our Alfred, (separated from us as Romulus from them by just a thousand years,) in speaking of prandium, says, "Quod dictum est parandium, ab eo quod milites ad bellum paret." Isidorus again says, "Proprie apud veteres prandium vocatum fuisse omnem militum cibum ante pugnam;" i. e. "that, properly speaking, amongst our ancestors every military meal taken before battle was termed prandium." According to Isidore, the proposition is reciprocating, viz. that, as every prandium was a military meal, so every military meal was called pran dium. But, in fact, the reason of that is apparent. Whether in the camp or the city, the early Romans had probably but one meal in a day. That is true of many a man amongst ourselves by choice; it is true also, to our knowledge, of some horse regiments in our service, and may be of all. This meal was called cana, or dinner in the city-prandium in camps. In the city it would always be tending to one fixed hour. In the camp innumerable accidents of war would make it very uncertain. On this account it would be an established rule to celebrate the daily meal at noon, if nothing hindered; not that a later hour would not have been preferred had the choice been free; but it was better to have a certainty at a bad hour, than by wait ing for a better hour to make it an uncertainty. For it was a camp proverb-Pransus, paratus; armed with his daily meal, the soldier is ready for service. It was not, however, that all meals, as Isidore imagined, were indiscriminately called prandium; but that the one sole meal of the day, by accidents of war, might, and did, revolve through all hours of the day.
The first introduction of this military meal into Rome itself, would be through the honourable pedantry of old centurions &c., delighting (like the Trunnions, &c., of our navy) to keep up in peaceful life some image or memorial of their past experience, so wild, so full of peril, excitement, and romance, as Roman warfare must have been in those ages. Many nonmilitary people for health's sake, many as an excuse for eating early, many
by way of interposing some refreshment between the stages of forensic business, would adopt this hurried and informal meal. Many would wish to see their sons adopting such a meal as a training for foreign service in particular, and for temperance in general. It would also be maintained by a solemn and very interesting commemoration of this camp repast in Rome.
This commemoration, because it has been grossly misunderstood by Salmasius, (whose error arose from not marking the true point of a particular antithesis,) and still more, because it is a distinct confirmation of all we have said as to the military nature of prandium, we shall detach from the series of our illustrations, by placing it in a separate paragraph.
On a set day the officers of the army were invited by Cæsar to a banquet; it was a circumstance expressly noticed in the invitation, by the proper officers of the palace, that the banquet was not a "coena," but a "prandium." What followed, in consequence? Why, that all the guests sate down in full military accoutrement; whereas, observes the historian, had it been a cana, the officers would have unbelted their swords; for, he adds, even in Cæsar's presence the officers lay aside their swords. The word prandium, in short, converted the palace into the imperial tent: and Cæsar was no longer a civil emperor and princeps senātûs, but became `a commander in-chief amongst a council of his staff, all belted and plumed, and in full military fig.
On this principle we come to understand why it is that, whenever the Latin poets speak of an army as taking food, the word used is always prandens and pransus; and, when the word used is prandens, then always it is an army that is concerned. Thus Juvenal in a well-known satire— "Credimus altos Desiccasse amnes, epotaque flumina, Medo Prandente."
Not cœnante, observe: you might as well talk of an army taking tea and toast: Nor is that word ever applied to armies. It is true that the converse is not so rigorously observed: nor ought it, from the explanations already given. Though no soldier dined, (cœnabat,) yet the citizen sometimes adopted the camp usage and took a prandium. But generally the poets