Tea Leaves Book- 10

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.
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
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."
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.
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
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 shrewd 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
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
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." . . .
"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!"

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