The Actress in High Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 372 pages of information about The Actress in High Life.

“I wonder whether Horace,” continued Colonel Bradshawe, with a thoughtful air, “when he opened a jar of Falernian, was obliged to finish it at a sitting, to prevent its growing sour?  Wine out of a jar!  Think of that.  With a wooden or earthen stopper, made tight with pitch.  Think of having your wine vinho-flavored with pitch! like the vinho verde of these Portuguese peasants, out of a pitchy goat-skin sack.”

Lady Mabel looked nauseated at the idea, and the colonel swallowed a glass of Madeira, to wash away the pitchy flavor.  “Yes,” said he, shaking his head gravely, “they must have often felt sadly the want of a cork.  How would it be possible to confine champagne (I am sorry this cursed war prevents our getting any,) until it is set free with all its life and perfection of flavor, just at the moment of enjoyment!  They had glass, too, and used glass, these Romans, yet persevered in keeping their wine in those abominable jars.  It proves how little progress they had made in the beautiful art of glass-blowing; and, of course, (here the colonel took up a decanter of old Madeira and replenished his glass, after eyeing approvingly the amber-colored liquor,) they were ignorant that wines that attain perfection by keeping, ripen most speedy in light-colored bottles.”

“Indeed!” said Lady Mabel, “I did not know that.  But I learn something new from you every moment.”

“And that,” said he, nodding approvingly at her, “is something worth knowing.  I doubt, after all, whether these Romans, with the world at their beck, really knew much of the elegant and refined pleasures of life.  Setting aside their gladiatorial shows, and the custom of chaining the porter by the leg to the doorpost, that he might not be out of the way when friend or client called on his master, and similar rude habits, there is enough to convict them as a gross people.  They put honey in their wine, too!  What a proof of childish, or rather, savage taste!  Lucullus’ monstrous suppers, and Apicius’ elaborate feasts, are better to read about than to partake of.  Give me, rather, a quiet little dinner of a few well-chosen dishes and wines, and three or four knowing friends, not given to long stories, but spicy in talk, and I will enjoy myself better than ‘the noblest Roman of them all.’”

“But, Colonel Bradshawe, how did you become so familiar with Roman manners?  Many of us know something of their public life, their wars, conquests, seditions and laws; but you seem to have put aside the curtain, and peered into the house, first floor, garret and cellar.”

“You overrate my learning, Lady Mabel; my tastes naturally lead me to inform myself on some points that may seem to lie out of the common road.  Some people take the liberty of calling me an epicure.  I admit it so far as this:  I hold it to be our duty to enjoy ourselves wisely and well.  Much as I esteem a knowing bon vivant, I despise an ignorant glutton, or undiscriminating sot.  To know how to make the most of the good things given us, is, at once, a duty and a pleasure.  This conviction has led me to heighten what are called our epicurean enjoyments, by investigating the history of cookery, the literature of the vineyard, and other cognate branches of learning.”

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The Actress in High Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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