Billeder på siden

In approaching the important and difficult topic of the respective merits of the various species of Irish oyster, the crustaceous enquirer is continually reminded that "the action of fancy and taste seems to be affected by causes too various and minute to be enumerated with sufficient completeness for the purposes of philosophical theory. Geometry is the same not only at Athens and London, but in the extremes of Nubia and Samarcand" oysters, on the contrary, are dissimilar, not only at Carlingford and Lissadell, but at Clontarf and Malahide; nor can oyster-eaters be reduced to fixed principles of action Crito likes a mild oyster, mild as old Cheshire Aristolarchus delights in a briny bivalve Nokes decides in favour of a luscious Lissadell-the favourite of Stiles, on the contrary, must contain, at the very least, a tablespoonful of the Atlantic ocean; I shall not attempt the impossibility of assigning laws to the caprices of the palates, but proceed to state succinctly the physical characteristics of each species, and as far as an extensive course of eating has informed me, the claims of our several descriptions of oyster to precedence. The natural order, as it appears to me, of treating this subject is, a division into two great genera or classes, the fat or luscious oyster, and the briny or marine. It is in the due admixture of these antagonising flavours that the true perfection of the fish, in my humble opinion, mainly consists.

The Carlingford oyster wants nothing that it should have, and has nothing that it should want-round and rough as a walnut, it opens white, fat, and juicy-neither too large nor too small, and blending with extreme delicacy the racy sharpness of the sea with the milder flavour of the fish-I demand justice for Carlingford.

and green predominate, and the fin or beard of the fish is of an olive green colour. The flavour is most delicious, but more Atlantic than that of the Carlingford, which, to some amateurs, is perfection itself.

Malahide is peculiarly favoured in its contiguity to the metropolis, two hours being sufficient to bring the fish from its native bed to market. Their condition is such as never to disappoint the expectation of the connoisseur, which sometimes happens with the provincial oyster-indeed, that of Malahide is usually sold too fresh, and is in perfection on the second or third day after its removal. Its sole defect is being somewhat oversized; this, however, can be remedied by a careful selection; as to flavour more cannot be said in its behalf than that it has been mistaken for a Carlingford; more could not be said for the oyster of Baiæ, or the Lucrine lake.

Lissadell or Sligo stands at the head of the luscious division-large, white, and fat, of a richness of flavour almost to excess-no oyster suffers more by carriage than this, and none can afford to suffer less. To eat it in perfection, the tourist must visit Sligo-whither I am accustomed to repair for the express purpose once a-year.

I need not say that there are few places round the coast destitute of the rock oyster, whose qualities deserve no particular mention.

As I have no wish to take the bread out of the mouths of the recently ap pointed Oyster-bed Commissioners, I forbear to go into the particulars of the crab and lobster trade, or to give in five minutes as much information, and more than they will be enabled to collect in two years' time, at a cost to the country of several thousand pounds.

The supply of lobsters to the metropolis is scanty and precarious-the Appearances are greatly against the price high, and the quality indiffeoyster of Burren, but for all that, it is rent arising altogether from the vastly better than it looks. The cal- want of a proper apparatus for capturcareous tegument is of a copperas tint, ing the fish, which swarm along the how imbibed I really know not; a whole western coast-as well as from sulphureous smell is emitted on the there being no steady market, or exopening of the oyster, which, if the tended consumption of lobsters in Ireshell be pierced with the knife, is re- land. In the remoter parts of the markably pungent; the pearl is tinted country they are ludicrously cheapof various hues, among which, pink in Dublin exorbitantly dear.

See an elaborate review of the poetry of Rogers, by Sir James Mackintosh.

Crabs are sweet, but of small size, never approaching the circumference of a Plymouth or a Cromer-and to conclude our summary, cray-fish are abundant, and periwinkles unknown as an article of commerce.

But, alas! we are neglected, insulted, and contemned. My blood boils when I think of the contumely heaped upon our lovely Lissadells- our "green fins" are devoured with thanklessness, and their very shells ground into powder to fertilize the fields of the Saxon and the stranger-our grievances are not the less grievous, because nobody knows wherein they consist the condition of our oysters is not less pitiable, in that they maintain a dignified silence on the exciting topic of their wrongs. Apropos to insults, let me rouse the patriotic indignation of every lover of his country by a case exactly in point.

Eating oysters in the Liverpool market one fine morning-not confining myself to any fish in particular-mere desultory eating-my attention was attracted to a tub promising extraordinary excellence. Approaching the vender, I pointed to the reservoir, and with much politeness enquired whence they were imported-"This here in that there tub?" replied the merman "them there hoysters is a Malahide, and no mistake-none of your Irish trash!" Shades of departed Poldoodies, I exclaimed, is it come to this! Was it for this-O Ireland, O my country! I could have ostracised the muffin-headed oyster-monger; willingly would I have scraped him to death with an oyster shell.

The awakened recollection of our wrongs instantaneously directs the mind to methods of redress, and the impartial historian is led, as naturally as pigs squeak, to a recital of the origin, means, and ends of the Poldoody association.

This illustrious body is the fiftysixth association of the kind within as many years, its predecessors being thrown off in their turn, as regularly as my Lord Mayor's gown, or last year's almanack. The subscription has been hitherto only a one-pound note, for which the subscriber was entitled to cry "hear, hear!" three several times within the twelvemonth-that is to say, once at the formation of the society, once at a meeting in February, and the third and last time upon


the dissolution of the concern at the year's end, when the patriotic subscriber, minus his one-pound note, retired once again into the bosom of his family. What becomes of the one-pound notes so accumulated, none of the victims ever venture to enquire, the impression being general, that such enquiry would certainly lead to exposure, but by no means as certainly to restitution. The Poldoody Association, as its name sufficiently imports, is a last final-only one more, once more, and no more after that-an ultimate experiment for the current year; after which a new association, with a new subscription, being also a last experiment, will be organized for the year 1840, or, as the late celebrated Mr Richardson, the puppet-showman, was accustomed to express himself on similar occasions, "the performances just over will immediately begin, and so keep perpetually beginning over and over again, ladies and gentlemen, to the end of the fair." Justice to Ireland is the ignis fatuus they pursue— nobody knows what it is, or where to have it-and as for catching it, you might as well try to lay hands on Springheeled Jack, or the Paddington ghost.

So-to use a more becoming illustration-So, when a four-posted bedstead is upon the "go," and the hammer of the officiating George Robins vibrates menacingly in the air, the timorous bidder is eloquently reminded that he is all done at fifteen and sixpence-no more at fifteen and six. pence-last time at fifteen and sixthe eagle's eye of the bargain-hunter dilates with anticipated possessionwhen lo!-instead of the emphatic "gone!" confirmed by the more emphatic hammer's knock, the tantalising auctioneer turns to his attendant functionary with the freezing ejaculation, "Jemmy, pass the lot."

The subscription to the Association of the current year has been reduced to a quarter of a hundred of oysters, or one shilling sterling, instead of a one-pound note, on the principle of small profits and quick return-not without a hope that the poverty and ignorance of the subscribers may preclude too narrow a scrutiny of the financial department, so that the balance in hand may uninterruptedly find its way where previous balances have found their way before. Two hundred oyster-eaters form a deputa

tion to eat their way into the heart of Great Britain in the ensuing spring, giving a taste of their quality in the different towns as they go along, for the double purpose of puffing off the great Kerry Oyster, and of denouncing to the English people that "traitor Guiness's" draft and bottled stout.

I am happy in the recollection of being present at the preliminary meeting of the Poldoody Association, having paid a quarter of a hundred of oysters for admission. Raised seats of rough deal, amphitheatrically disposed round the large room of the Oyster Exchange-a long table, covered with inky yellow baize, that had once been green, a few forms, and a high-backed chair, completed the furniture of the apartment. Two or three potato-faced damsels, in gay bonnets and shabby cotton shawls, as also a little girl, occupied the gallery, while liberal partisans, in greasy collars and cuffs, with beards of two days and shirts of a week's standing, came dropping in, one by one, and took their seats, big with a love of oysters and their country. The room was now nearly filled, a general scraping of feet began to testify the impatience of the auditory, as well as occasional cries of "delay of the house!" "up with the rag!" and "give us back our money!" This last manifestation promptly called up a hard-featured, hungry-looking man, the treasurer of the embryo association, who declared, with great emphasis," that it was contrary to all precedent to return any money on any pretence whatever," and concluded by moving Counsellor Cockle into the chair. A weary pause ensued-the learned chairman employing himself studiously in brushing his hat the wrong way-the treasurer in affecting to mend a pen-the potato-faced damsels in joining noses under their bonnets, and the little girl in falling fast asleep. Something or somebody was evidently wanting-scraping of feet, whistling, and under-growling recommenced, while several of the liberals put on their gossamers, with an expression of their fears that the meeting was "no go." In this anticipation they were happily disappointed-a bustle at the door announced the entrance of a person of importance, who was speedily identified by the hardfeatured treasurer calling out, enthusi

[ocr errors]

astically, now, gentlemen, if you please, hallo for Dan!" When the cheering had subsided, the burly personage thus distinguished settled the wig on his occiput by a couple of lateral twitches, folded his arms like a fish-fag preparing for battle, leered upon the potato-faced damsels in the gallery, and, in a mellifluous Kerry brogue delivered himself exactly as follows:-"Boys, here I am-(cries of there you are sure enough,' with


[ocr errors]

more power to your elbow')-I am here to establish the Poldoody Association (cheers)-I do establish it(cheers) it is established. (Longcontinued cheering.) Down then, every mother's son, with his shilling. (Cries of make it tenpence!') No, I will not make it tenpence-I will go the whole hog. (Hurra! and a cry of go it, Dan!')

Hereditary bondsmen, know you not Who would be free-themselves mustI believe you know the rest. (A voice, strike the blow!') You have hit it. (Cheers.) I confess I am no longer a Repealer. (Hurra!) I demand three cheers for our mild and paternal administration. (Hurra, hurra, hurra-a-a!) Honestly, I hope for nothing from the Whigs-I am a Repealer in my heart-(hurra!) -join with me, then, heart and voice, in three hearty groans for the beastly Whigs. (Agh-Aagh-A-g—h!) One groan more. (Ba-a-a-h!) One cheer more. (Hurra-a-a-a!) A groan and a cheer both together. (Bah-hurra-bah-whew!) Tithe Bill is a greater tyranny than ever was imposed upon Greek slaves by a Turkish House of Commons. (A voice, you voted for it.') Never you mind that, nabocklish! (Cheers.) The appropriation clause was the brains of the bill, and they knocked the brains out. (The same voice,


[ocr errors]


you advised that yourself.') Silence, sir; I denounce you as an enemy to Ireland. (Awful yells, with cries of 'throw him over,'' Liffey him,' and hit him on the head.') The north is against us-(yelling)-the Northern Star is against us-(groans, and a cry of 'put it out')-Carlingford is against us-(war-whoop.) [Here an oysterman, with a strong northern accent, got up and said that Carlingford and the north had something else to do than lend themselves to a humbug agitation.] (Tremendous uproar.)


A Crustaceous Tour.

You are too far north for me. (Roars of laughter.) I'll tell you what, my boy, you shall have a plenary indulif you'll join us. (Cries of 'you gence need it yourself,' and a cheer for There are sixteen 'dirty Dens.') different pairs of grievances inflicted upon Ireland by the brutal English faction, besides an odd one; firstly (Cut it short.') [Here the speaker was interrupted by a meagre oysterman from the county of Down, who modestly suggested that a week should be allowed them for consideration of the Society's prospectus.] (Horrible spy,' uproar, with cries of 'traitor,' and go to Manchester.') Ay, let him go to Jericho. (Hear him.') No; I am against hearing him-he can do us no good (cries of pitch into him!'); he only wants to save his shilling. (Laughter.) I say, my old cock of the north, down with your lily-white hog. (Roars of laughter.) Oh! you see very well he hasn't got one.' (Shrieks of laughter, with a cry of "three groans for Scrub.")


[ocr errors]

Not being able to discover wherein the interests of the country in general, or of the oyster trade in particular, were to profit by the above faithfullyreported Demosthenic display, I ventured timidly to ejaculate" Question, question," whereupon arose a tempest of horrific yells, under cover of which I received a friendly hint from the ugly treasurer to "mug off," an invitation he had no occasion to repeat. I was speedily clear of the frowsy Pandemonium, and amused my self endeavouring to recollect, as I walked along the street, whether history furnished another example of a jesting buffoon playing off his antics-not before a profligate king, or the minions of a profligate court, but openly and daringly, in the face of an acute and vigorous-minded nation, on whose bounty he chooses to depend for his daily bread.

"Mais, revenons encore à nos huitres!"


tions do not our awakened remem-
brances invest this noble animal. An
oyster, sir, is one of the elements of
social existence, a delicacy of no age,
sex, or condition, but patent to the
Your Jew
universal family of man.
abhors not an oyster, neither does
your Mussulman throw it over his left
shoulder;-good in a scallop, better
in a stew, best of all in the shell-good
in pickle, in curry, in sauce-good at
luncheon, before dinner, at supper-
good to entertain a friend, good to eat
by yourself-good when you
hungry, good, moreover, when you

are not.


"Happy the man who, void of care and strife,

In silken or in leathern purse contains A splendid shilling-he ne'er hears with pain

Fresh oysters cried."

vided his affections between the oyster So sung the amiable Phillips, who diThe poor man and the human race. eats oysters at a stall-you and I at our favourite tavern-the peer in his In lodgings, in "salle à manger." chambers, in barracks, in the public dent, lawyer, soldier, secretary, and office, in the editor's room, the stugentleman of the press recruits his exhausted spirits with an oyster-the emaciated valetudinarian thanks his kind doctor for permission to taste the nutritive and grateful food-the jaded actress, in an interval of her weary toil, despatches the prompter's boy with a sixpence, and derives the life and energy of her closing act from the refreshing stimulus of an oyster.

Dando himself has declared-but hark, do I not hear the blowing horn of O'Ryan? It must be so-a fresh express arrived-waiter, my hat and pepper-box-quick, quick-gentle and oyster-loving reader, I bid you

If the urgency of the moment had admitted, we presume our correspondent meant to add "an affectionate C. N.

With how many pleasing associa- adieu."


THE high price of grain, originating in the cold and wet summer which has just been concluded, has invested the subject of the Corn Laws with a new and unprecedented interest. Ever since the great constitutional change of 1832, more than average seasons had rewarded the labours of the husbandmen, and averted the much dreaded evils of scarcity or famine. The summers from 1832 to 1836 were beyond all precedent fine, insomuch, that in the year 1835, the price of grain fell, on an average for the whole year, to thirty-nine shillings and fourpence a quarter; considerably lower than it had been for two hundred years preceding; and although the crop of 1837 was somewhat under an average, yet the average price of that year was fifty-five shillings and tenpence. To all practical purposes, therefore, the continuance of the Corn Laws has been, since the passing of the Reform Bill, a matter of no importance whatever; the produce of the British islands during that period having been fully equal for the maintenance of its numerous inhabitants, and the prices so low, that, keeping in view the certain advance that would have taken place in the markets of the Baltic if the British ports had been entirely thrown open, hardly any importation whatever would have taken place from the continental states into this country. And the experience of these years further demonstrates the gratifying fact, that, without the assistance of any foreign nations whatever, the farmers of the United Kingdom are able to provide ample food for the maintenance of its own inhabitants, and in such abundance, as to have rendered the average price of grain for the five years preceding 1838 about forty-eight shillings a quarter only, being a lower rate than the average of any five preceding years since the time of Charles I.

The cold winter of 1837-8, and the extraordinary rains of the summer of 1838, however, both of which, it is believed, were unprecedented in the memory of the oldest man living, have materially altered the rate of prices, and, in consequence, put the Radicals in possession of the most formidable


weapon that exists for moving the sions of the people. Partly under the effect of the lateness and scantiness of the harvest, produced by these extraordinary rains, the prices rapidly rose during last August and September, until they reached the point when, under the existing Corn Law, foreign grain was admitted at a nominal duty of one shilling a quarter, in consequence of which, an immense quantity of subsistence, lying in bond in the different harbours of the kingdom, was immediately let loose into the country, and, together with the fine weather in England for the last fortnight in September, and in Scotland for the first fortnight of October, have again lowered the average price of wheat tothe moderate amount of sixty-two shillings a quarter. The apprehensions recently entertained, therefore, of scarcity and high prices, may be considered as in a great degree dispelled, and with them the pressure which it was expected would have been brought to bear next winter upon the landed interest. But still the question of the Corn Laws has been every where mooted, and in many places made the subject of fierce invective against the Constitutional party; and it cannot be doubted, that in the next session of Parliament the force of the Revolutionists will be in a great degree concentrated on the attack of that branch of our institutions. Be they right, or be they wrong, it must be obvious to every one, that they are of the highest importance, and that all parties are alike interested in their correct and dispassionate investigation; the agriculturists from their vital interest in the produce of the soil; the manufacturers from their no less essential dependence on the disposal of their labour.

It is obvious, at first sight, that it is for the interest, politically speaking, of the supporters of the Reform Bill, that, in this great debate, the manufacturing classes, who now so fiercely raise the cry for a total repeal of the Corn Laws, should, for a considerable time at least, be unsuccessful. any change in the Corn Laws, particularly the Radical one for which they contend, is a matter of the highest importance, no one can doubt; and of


« ForrigeFortsæt »