4 July 2014

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating

1835 - 1915

During the course of her fifty-five-year career, Mary Elizabeth Braddon adopted a variety of literary styles.  This extract is from The Doctor's Wife, an English version of Flaubert's Madame Bovary.

It was nearly three o'clock now, and high time for the opening of the hampers, Mr Raymond declared, when he rejoined the rest of the party, much to the delight of the orphans, who were always hungry, and who are so much, and yet remained so pale and skeleton-like of aspect, that they presented a pair of perpetual phenomena to the eye of the physiologist.  The baskets had been carried to a little ivy-sheltered arbour, perched high above the waterfall; and here Mr Raymond unpacked them, bringing out his treasures one after another; first a tongue, then a pair of fowls, a packet of anchovy sandwiches, a great poundcake (at sight of which the eyes of the orphans glistened), delicate caprices in the way of pastry, semi-transparent biscuits, and a little block of stilton cheese, to say nothing of sundry bottles of Madeira and sparkling Burgundy.
   Perhaps there never was a merrier party.  To eat cold chicken and drink sparkling Burgundy in the open air on a bright Mary afternoon is always an exhilarating kind of thing, though the scene of your picnic may be the bleakest of the Sussex Downs, or the dreariest of the Yorkshire Wolds; but to drink the sparkling wine in that little arbour at Hurstonleigh, with the brawling of the waterfall keeping time to your laughter, the shadows of patriarchal oaks sheltering you from all the outer world, is the very ultima Thule of bliss in the way of a picnic.

The Doctor's Wife

Holiday by James Tissot (c. 1876)


  1. That sounds wonderful - I haven't read this Braddon yet (and hadn't realised it was Bovaryesque), so that's a treat coming up!

    1. Had it in my hand yesterday and couldn't decide whether I should read Madame Bovary first or just go for this one...hmmm. Since it has the feel of an autumnal read there's still time for mulling!

  2. "The brawling of the waterfall keeping time to your laughter" is a wonderful line. The whole thing is a wonderful description of a picnic.

    1. It is wonderful, isn't it! Oh, the joy of a good line. We're planning a day-long picnic tomorrow but it won't look nearly as romantic as Tissot's painting, what with a domed BBQ and mad border collie dashing everywhere.