Imágenes de página


D'ISRAELI. [We have recently had to lament the loss of one of the veterans of our literature, Mr. Isaac D’Israeli, who died at the age of 82, on Jan. 19, 1848. Mr. D’Israeli is principally known by his chief work, “The Curiosities of Literature,' published in 1791. This pleasant, gossiping miscellany, the result of extensive reading, is not distinguished for any of the higher qualities of authorship. It is neither brilliant nor profound. But, if not always accurate, it is never offensive; and we read the book with the same delight that we listen without effort to an agreeable and unpretending story-teller, who is fuller of his subject than of himself.]

It is said that the frozen Norwegians, on the first sight of roses, dared not touch what they conceived were trees budding with fire; and the natives of Virginia, the first time they seized on a quantity of gunpowder which belonged to the English colony, sowed it for grain, expecting to reap a plentiful crop of combustion by the next harvest, to blow away the whole colony.

In our own recollection, strange imaginations impeded the first period of vaccination; when some families, terrified by the warning of a physician, conceived their race would end in a species of Minotaurs.

We smile at the simplicity of the men of nature, for their mistaken notions at the first introduction among them of exotic novelties; and yet, even in civilized Europe, how long a time those whose profession, or whose reputation, regulate public opinion, are influenced by vulgar prejudices, often disguised under the imposing form of science and when their ludicrous absurdities and obstinate prejudices enter into the matters of history, it is then we discover that they were only imposing on themselves and on others.

It is hardly credible, that on the first introduction of the Chinese leaf, which now affords our daily refreshment; or the American leaf, whose sedative fumes made it so long a universal favourite; or the Arabian berry, whose aroma exhilarates its European votaries; that the use of these harmless novelties should have spread consternation in the nations of Europe, and have been anathematized by the terrors and the fictions of some of the learned. Yet this seems to have happened. Patin, who wrote so furiously against the introduction of antimony, spread the same alarm at the use of tea, which he calls “ l'impertinente nouveauté du siècle.” In Germany, Hanneman considered tea-dealers as immoral members of society, lying in wait for men's purses and lives; and Dr. Duncan, in his treatise on hot liquors, suspected that the virtues attributed to tea were merely to encourage the importation

Many virulent pamphlets were published against the use of this shrub, from various motives. In 1670, a Dutch writer says it was ridiculed in Holland under the name of hay-water.

“ The progress

of this famous plant,” says an ingenious writer," has been something like the progress of truth; suspected at first, though very palatable to those who had courage to taste it; resisted as it encroached; abused as its popularity seemed to spread; and establishing its triumph at last, in cheering the whole land from the palace to the cottage, only by the slow and resistless efforts of time and its own virtues."—Edinburgh Review,' 1816.

The history of the tea-shrub, written by Dr. Lettsom, is usually referred to on this subject: I consider it little more than a plagiarism on Dr. Short's learned and curious ' Dissertation on Tea,' 1730, 4to. Lettsom has superadded the solemn trifling of his moral and medical advice.

These now common beverages are all of recent origin in Europe; neither the ancients nor those of the middle ages tasted of this luxury. The first accounts we find of the use of this shrub are the casual notices of travellers, who seem to have tasted it, and sometimes not to have liked it. A Russian Ambassador, in 1639, who resided at the Court of the Mogul, declined accepting a large present of tea for the Czar, “as it would only encumber him with a commodity for which he had no use." The appearance of “a black water," and an acrid taste, seems not to have recommended it to the German Olearius, in 1633. Dr. Short has recorded an anecdote of a stratagem of the Dutch in their second voyage to China, by which they at first obtained their tea without disbursing money; they carried with them great store of dried sage, and bartered it with the Chinese for tea; and received three or four pounds of tea for one of sage; but at length the Dutch could not export sufficient quantity of sage to supply their demand. This fact, however, proves how deeply the imagination is concerned with our palate, for the Chinese, affected by the exotic novelty, considered our sage to be more precious than their tea.

The first introduction of tea into Europe is not ascertained; according to the common accounts, it came into England from Holland, in 16 when Lord Arlington and Lord Ossory brought over a small quantity: the custom of drinking tea became fashionable, and a pound weight sold then for sixty shillings. This account, however, is by no means satisfactory. I have heard of Oliver Cromwell's tea-pot in the possession of the collector, and this will derange the chronology of those writers who are perpetually copying the researches of others, without confirming or correcting them.

Amidst the rival contests of the Dutch and the English East India Companies, the honour of introducing its use into Europe may be claimed by both. Dr. Short conjectures that tea might have been known in England as far back as the reign of James I., for the first fleet set out in 1600 ; but had the use of this shrub been known, the novelty would have been chronicled among our dramatic writers, whose works are the annals of our prevalent tastes and humours. It is rather extraordinary that our East India Company should not have discovered the use of this shrub in their early adventures; yet it certainly was not known in England so late as in 1641, for in a scarce “ Treatise of Warm Beer,” where the title indicates the author's design to recommend hot in preference to cold drinks, he refers to tea only by quoting the Jesuit Maffei's account, that “they of China do for the most part drink the strained liquor of an herb called Chia, hot.” The word Cha is the Portuguese term for tea, retained to this day, which they borrowed from the Japanese ; while our intercourse with the Chinese made us, no doubt, adopt their term Theh, now prevalent throughout Europe, with the exception of the Portuguese. The Chinese origin is still preserved in the term Bohea, tea which comes from the country of Vouhi; and that of Hyson was the name of the most considerable Chinese then concerned in the trade.

The best account of the early use, and the prices of tea in England, appears in the handbill of one who may be called our first Tea-maker. This curious handbill bears no date, but as Hanway ascertained that the price was sixty shillings in 1660, this bill must have been dispersed about that period.

Thomas Garway, in Exchange Alley, tobacconist and coffeeman, was the first who sold and retailed tea, recommending it for the cure of all disorders. The following shop-bill is more curious than any historical account we have.

"Tea in England hath been sold in the leaf for six pounds, and sometimes for ten pounds the pound weight, and in respect of its former scarceness and dearness it hath been only used as a regalia in high treatments and entertainments, and presents made thereof to princes and grandees, till the year 1657. The said Garway did purchase a quantity thereof, and first publicly sold the said tea in leaf or drink, made according to the directions of the most knowing merchants into those Eastern countries. On the knowledge of the said Garway's continued care and industry in obtaining the best tea, and making drink thereof, very many noblemen, physicians, merchants, &c., have ever since sent to him for the said leaf, and daily resort to his house to drink the drink thereof. He sells tea from 16s. to 50s. a pound.”

Probably tea was not in general use domestically so late as in 1687; for in the diary of Henry, Earl of Clarendon, he registers that “ Père Couplet supped with me, and after supper we had tea, which he said was really as good as any he had drank in China.” Had his lordship been in the general habit of drinking tea, he had not, probably, made it a subject for his diary.

While the honour of introducing tea may be disputed between the English and the Dutch, that of coffee remains between the English and the French. Yet an Italian intended to have occupied the place of honour; that admirable traveller, Pietro della Valle, writing from Constantinople 1615, to a Roman, his fellow-countryman, informing him, that he should teach Europe in what manner the Turks took what he calls Cahué," or as the word is written in an Arabic and English pamphlet, printed at Oxford, 1659, on “ the nature of the drink Kauhi or Coffee.” As this celebrated traveller lived in 1652, it may excite surprise that the first cup of coffee was not drank at Rome: this remains for the discovery of some member of the 'Arcadian Society. Our own Purchas, at the time that Valle wrote, was also "a Pilgrim," and well know what was “ Coffa," which “they drank

as hot as they can endure it; it is as black as soot, and tastes not much unlike it; good they say for digestion and mirth.”

It appears, by Le Grand's Vie Privée des François,' that the celebrated Thevenot, in 1658, gave coffee after dinner; but it was considered as the whim of a traveller; neither the thing itself, nor its appearance, was inviting: it was probably attributed by the gay to the humour of a vain philosophical traveller. But ten years afterwards a Turkish ambassador at Paris made the beverage highly fashionable. The elegance of the equipage recommended it to the eye, and charmed the women: the brilliant porcelain cups, in which it was poured, the napkins fringed with gold, and the Turkish slaves on their knees presenting it to the ladies, seated on the ground on cushions, turned the heads of the Parisian dames. This elegant introduction made the exotic beverage a subject of conversation, and in 1672, an Armenian at Paris, at the fair-time, opened a coffee-house. But the custom still prevailed to sell beer and wine, and to smoke and mix with indifferent company in their first imperfect coffee-houses. A Florentine, one Procope, celebrated in his day as the arbiter of taste in this department, instructed by the error of the Armenian, invented a superior establishment, and introduced ices : he embellished his apartment, and those who had avoided the offensive coffee-houses, repaired to Procope's, where literary men, artists, and wits resorted, to inhale the fresh and fragrant steam. Le Grand says, that this establishment holds a distinguished place in the literary history of the times. It was at the coffee-house of Du Laurent that Saurin, La Motte, Danchet, Boindin, Rousseau, &c., met; but the mild steams of the aromatic berry could not mollify the acerbity of so many rivals, and the witty malignity of Rousseau gave birth to those famous couplets on all the coffee-drinkers, which occasioned his misfortunes and his banishment.

Such is the history of the first use of coffee and its houses in Paris. We, however, had the use before even the time of Thevenot; for an English Turkish merchant brought a Greek servant in 1652, who, knowing how to roast and make it, opened a house to sell it publicly. I have also discovered his hand-bill, in which he sets forth,

“ The vertue of the coffee drink, first publiquely made and sold in England, by Pasqua Rosee, in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, at the sign of his own head.”

« AnteriorContinuar »