Category Archives: Books

A dessert without cheese (from Carl Benson’s “Table Aesthetics,” 1848)

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Table Aesthetics Book Cover Table Aesthetics
Carl Benson
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A dessert without cheese is like a belle who has lost an eye. Various nations employ cheese in very various ways. The Italian takes it in soup, and with the national minestra of macaroni or vermicelli it is a great improvement; but with any other kind of soup, detestable. The Frenchman serves it at the other end of his dinner, among the fruit and the bon-bons. The Englishman eats it—often accompanied by salad—between the meats and the pastry; and with a very large number of Englishmen it supplies the place of pastry or dessert altogether; cheese being to John Bull what pie is to Brother Jonathan. With us ‘crackers and cheese’ are the ordinary tavern and steamboat lunch, and you may also see the traveling public devouring much cheese at tea, along with smoked beef, cake and preserves—awful catachresis of eatables! I saw with my own eyes a man do this who was then in the legislature, and has since gone abroad on a diplomatic mission. I hope he will learn better in Europe.

Carl Benson, Table Aesthetics, 1848

The French Gigots

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Next come some remarks on the appetite, and the danger of disobeying its calls. To illustrate this, there is a most awful story, which I cannot detail in cold blood. That any man, however high a public functionary he might be, should leave his company four hours and a half in the agonies of hunger and expectation while he was at a public council, seems a pitch of depravity incredible even in a Frenchman; and that the company should have waited out the infliction without pillaging his house, or setting fire to it, or even adopting the extremely lenient course of walking off and dining elsewhere, seems an equally praeter-Gallic observance of these convenances which form the French moral code. Afterward we have some anecdotes of great appetites, derived from the author’s personal observation; among others one of a curé, who used to consume in his mid-day meal a capon and a leg of mutton, not to mention the trifling accessories of soup, salad and cheese. It must be remembered, however, that the French gigots are decidedly diminutive, and not to be named in comparison with the legs which English clowns eat for wagers.

Table Aesthetics, 1848

Carving (from Carl Benson’s article, “Table Aesthetics,” 1848)

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Cover-TableAestheticsI mention carving particularly, being every day painfully reminded of the defects of my early education in this point. It is a natural consequence of the system practiced at most of our colleges of cramming the students into an uncomfortable hall, and feeding them on the coarsest fare, that they should contract a pernicious and not easily eradicated habit of scarifying and mangling dishes without care or decency. On this theme alone a treatise might be written. Bad fare naturally and inevitably induces a disrespect for the table and a neglect of  proprieties.

Carl Benson, Table Aesthetics, 1848

Fourteen Edifices

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The remainder of the fourteen edifices do not differ materially from those described; while some of them, as may be imagined, have suffered much from the effects of time, and are now crumbling amid the sea of ruins. Why, indeed, these have baffled the effects of untold ages, and come down to us as trophies of human art, while far and near is only to be seen a general wreck of matter, it is impossible to say. The probability that they were erected and used for sacred purposes, may afford us reasonable grounds for the inference, that they were either more securely built, or that, if the causes which depopulated this vast city, arose from the ravages of a victorious enemy, their hallowed character preserved them from the hand of the spoiler. Time, and the researches of the anxious antiquarian, may disclose the causes which stripped the city of its splendor, and of its innumerable inhabitants; a circumstance much to be desired by the curious and the learned.

Studies of Language: Greek, 1833

Buildings (from “American Antiquities,” 1837)

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Two other buildings, examined, have the same architectural character, and are divided in a similar manner, the bas-reliefs only being different. In one of these, and under the stone pavement of an oratory, were found the same flint, lance, conical pyramids, heart, and jars; and in another was also found articles of the same character, which, with various bas reliefs, etc., were removed. It has been thought, from some similarity in the workmanship of these fragments of art to those of the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, that they were derived from the people of those nations. The same analogous character has been remarked in the various specimens of art found elsewhere in this once renowned city, as we shall have occasion to show, in speaking of the stupendous aqueducts, fortifications, etc., to be seen in various other parts of this once populous place.

American Antiquities, 1837

Cadmus (from “Studies of Language: Greek,” 1833)

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The coming of these illustrious strangers, was, however, the first dawn of civilization in Greece; which was, in less than a century afterwards, to receive a still greater boon—the introduction of letters, by Cadmus: i.e. the Eastern, or Red man. Cadmus was the leader of the Edomites, who were driven from their country, by David, king of Israel, in his career of victory over the Canaanitish nations. Cadmus brought only fifteen characters; answering in name and number to the old Hebrew and Latin alphabets. The majority of the seven letters, subsequently added to the Hebrew alphabet, slowly found the way, after their first-born brethren; and were, in course of time, incorporated into the Greek; making, together with those invented by some unknown genius, about the war of Troy, and those invented by Simonides, about the Persian invasion, the twenty-four; of which the Greek languages was ultimately composed.

Studies of Language: Greek, 1833

Points and Accents

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The affinity of the Hebrew to the Chaldee, Arabic, Phoenician and other Shemitic dialects, sufficiently proves its high antiquity. The punctuation and accents were introductions of a later date, as is shown most fully from the Septuagint version, from the Chaldee paraphrases, from the Greek of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian, and from the Latin of Jerome. The Jews acknowledge that the book of the law, shown to the people, had not the points and accents; and that the Samaritan was deficient in vowel marks. The external forms of the letters underwent many changes from the time of Solomon to that of Ezra. The square Chaldee characters, adopted during the captivity, superseded the Phoenician, and Ezra used them in transcribing the ancient records.

Studies of Language: Hebrew, 1833

Pursuing the Excavation

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One of these has a gallery, much decayed, at the end of which is a saloon, with a chamber at each extremity. In the center of the saloon is an oratory, nine feet square, with a stone at each entrance, having upon it a bas relief figure of a man in full length. Other curious figures are to be seen on various stones in this room. The stone pavement is smooth, and admirably matched. This being perforated, and a hole made about eighteen inches in diameter, a round earthen vessel was discovered, one foot in size, cemented to another of the same dimension and quality. Pursuing the excavation, a circular stone was met with, which, on removal, presented a circular cavity containing a lance, made of flint, two small pyramids, and the figure of a heart, made of crystallized stone, called by the natives challa. Two other small jars, with covers, were found, containing a ball of vermillion, etc.

American Antiquities, 1837

Full Fountains

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The historian and the poet, the lawgiver and the moralist, must each acknowledge himself a debtor to the ancient scriptures. They have been and will continue to be full fountains sending their healthful waters thorugh all the rich fields of society. In short, wherever there has been a head that could learn, or a heart that could feel, they have exerted a meliorating influence….The study is recommended for determining the etymological significations of important Greek words. The Septuagint shows how often a Greek word may have a peculiar Hebrew meaning attached to it. The writers of the New Testament were Jews, and were most familiar with Hebrew forms of expression, and many of their words and phrases are justly termed Hebraisms. Dr. Campbell, to his criticism of Hebrews 3:5, has subjoined remakrs to prove that the knowledge of Hebrew is almost as necessary to a proper understanding of the New Testament as Greek. Surely if anyone would comprehend the meaning of those Greek words in the Christian Scriptures, which are but representations or translations of Hebrew words in the Old Testament, he must know the true import of the original.

Hebrew Literature, 1833

Windows in the form of the Greek Cross

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The entrance to the Palencian temple is on the east side, by a portico more than one hundred feet in length, and nine feet broad. This portico is supported by plain rectangular pillars, without pedestals, fifteen inches in diameter. On these are laid smooth square stones, one foot in thickness, which form an architrave. These blocks are nearly covered with stucco work of shields, etc. On each pillar, and running from one to another, rest also plain rectangular blocks of stones, five feet long, and six feet broad. Vestiges of heads, and various other designs in stucco, are discovered on these blocks; and on the internal side, are seen numerous busts, representing, without doubt, a series of kings. Between these, there is a range of windows, along the entire length of the building, some of which are square, and others in the form of the Greek cross.

American Antiquities, 1837