Back to Top

Tag Archives: William Cobbett

Alfie Dolittle, who sings this in MY FAIR LADY, definitely would have agreed with Cobbett’s analysis of why beer is better than tea.

Put it to the test with a lean hog: give him the fifteen bushels of malt, and he will repay you in ten score of bacon or thereabouts. But give him the 730 tea messes, or rather begin to give them to him, and give him nothing else, and he is dead with hunger, and bequeaths you his skeleton, at the end of about seven days.

Proof positive. At least, that beer can fatten you like a hog. Did we really need Mr. Cobbett to tell us that?

I used to be exclusively a wine drinker, but I fell in love with English ale during the three years my husband and I were on international assignment in England. The first time we walked across the road to the Fox and Hounds, our neighborhood pub in Funtington, West Sussex, my husband ordered a pint of Ruddles Best Bitter. Intrigued by the deep color, I took a sip. He had to order himself another. Some time after that, we joined the Campaign for Real Ale and used their Good Beer Guide and Good Pub Food Guide to help us plan our weekend excursions.

Now I no longer have any excuse for the mistake of having a Regency hero dash angrily into a pub and order lager. (I cringe a little when I read such scenes, but won’t go as far as book-flinging.) During the Regency, they would have drunk “real ale”. Here’s CAMRA’s definition:

Real ale is beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer’, ‘real cask ale’, ‘real beer’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer’.

Here are a few of the terms to describe varieties and styles of real ale:

  • bitters: well-hopped, copper-coloured, stronger versions are called “best” or “special”
  • pale ales: premium bitters that are not pale, just lighter than brown ales
  • India Pale Ale: pale ales adapted for transport to India, stronger, more heavily hopped
  • brown ale: reddish-brown to dark brown, somewhat sweet
  • mild: usually dark brown, lightly hopped
  • stout: extra-dark, almost black, strong flavored
  • porter: also dark, but lighter-bodied than stout.

Here’s one of my favorites: Morland’s Old Speckled Hen (the website explains how this ale was named). Fortunately for me, it is not impossible to find on this side of the pond.

Have you tried real ales? If so, what are your favorites? If not, it’s worth trying if only to better one’s understanding of Regency beverages. Anything for research, I say. 🙂

Elena, beer connoisseur and tea slut, hoping Cara will not cut my acquaintance 🙂

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee

William Cobbett, round about 1821, wrote:

The drink, which has come to supply the place of beer has, in general, been tea. It is notorious, that tea has no useful strength in it; that it contains nothing nutricious; that it, besides being good for nothing, has badness in it, because it is well known to produce want of sleep in many cases, and in all cases to shake and weaken the nerves.

Okay, so far, I slightly agree with Cobbett. Lack of sleep — yeah, if you drink more than you’re used to, or you drink late in the day, it can cause insomnia! But “shake and weaken the nerves”?

Cobbett continues:

It is, in fact, a weaker kind of laudanum, which enlivens for a moment and deadens afterwards.

Laudanum, which is opium dissolved in alcohol, being compared to tea??? Dude, what have YOU been drinking???

It is impossible to make a fire, boil water, make the tea, drink it, wash up the things, sweep up the fire-place and put all to rights again in a less space of time, upon an average, than two hours. . . . Needs there any thing more to make us cease to wonder at seeing labourers’ children with dirty linen and holes in the heels of their stockings?

There you have it, kiddies! The poor are wretched not for any of the commonly held reasons (e.g. because they are poor, or because they are lazy, or because no one who labours in the fields from dawn to dusk has time or energy to darn stockings) but because they drink too much TEA!!!!

You heard it here first.

Cara King, Tea Drinker Extraordinaire
for more weird period details, see

Posted in Regency, Research | Tagged , | 7 Replies

We broke our previous greed record yesterday by consuming all of the peaches, bought at a farmers’ market on Sunday, that were supposed to last the week. Yum. So I thought I’d talk about peaches.

Peaches have been around for a long, long time, from China to Europe via the Silk Road, to America in the seventeenth century and into commercial production here in the nineteenth century. There were peaches at Pemberley:

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table. Pride and Prejudice

Back to early times, the Romans regarded peaches as a good mix with the savory (I’ve broiled pork chops with smushed up peaches, wine, and mint in my more carnivorous days and they were great). Here’s a recipe from Apicius, a collection of 4th- 5th century AD recipes which might be terrific. I don’t know … the Romans really loved their fish sauce, but really, fish sauce? Try at your own risk, Sister Mairi Jean’s Peaches in Cumin Sauce.

Jumping forward a few centuries–people like me should take note that King John of England died in 1216, some say from overindulging in peaches at a banquet nine days before. Here’s a recipe from 1597 for Peach Marmalade.

To make drie Marmelet of Peches.
Take your Peaches and pare them and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely and steepe them in rosewater, then straine them with rosewater through a course cloth or Strainer into your Pan that you will seethe it in, you must have to every pound of peches halfe a pound of suger finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boile it in, you must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall, of that Suger, then set your pan on the fire, and stir it til it be thick or stiffe that your stick wil stand upright in it of it self, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in prety lumps as big as you wil have the mould or printes, and when it is colde print it on a faire boord with suger, and print them on a mould or what know or fashion you will, & bake in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers or in a feate cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, (1597); Thomas Dawson. From

I couldn’t find a whole lot about peach recipes in England in the Regency period. There’s a possibility that quinces were more popular than peaches, according to (great pics here!). A lot of the historic recipes I did find were of the use them up quick variety and/or preserve them and if you’ve ever visited a pick your own orchard you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Closer to our own time, Thomas Jefferson embraced peach cultivation with enthusiasm, growing thirty-eight varieties at Monticello, compared to only two varieties at Washington’s Mount Vernon. Jefferson made mobby, an alcoholic drink from peaches, claiming that “20 bushels of peaches will make 75 galls. of mobby, i.e. 5/12 of its bulk” (The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello. Peter J. Hatch).

I’m fascinated by the wealth of varieties of peaches. Peaches are peaches, right? Unless they’re white peaches or doughnut peaches, which do have distinctive flavors. William Cobbett commented, “It is curious enough that people in general think little of the sort in the case of peaches though they are so choice in the case of apples. A peach is a peach, it seems, though I know no apples between which there is more difference than there is between different sorts of peaches.” (Quoted in Hatch, above).

Here are a couple of recipes from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, first published in 1825:

Peaches in Brandy. Get yellow soft peaches, perfectly free from defect and newly gathered, but not too ripe; place them in a pot, and cover them with cold weak lye; turn over those that float frequently, that the lye may act equally on them; at the end of an hour take them out, wipe them carefully with a soft cloth to get off the down and skin, and lay them in cold water; make a syrup as for the apricots, and proceed in the same manner, only scald the peaches more.

Peach Marmalade. Take the ripest soft peaches, (the yellow ones make the prettiest marmalade,) pare them, and take out the stones; put them in the pan with one pound of dry light coloured brown sugar to, two of peaches: when they are juicy, they do not require water: with a silver or wooden spoon, chop them with the sugar; continue to do this, and let them boil gently till they are a transparent pulp, that will be a jelly when cold. Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious.

And here’s a Peach Pudding recipe from later in the century, adapted from Recipes Tried and True, compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894.

peaches, cooked and sweetened
pint sweet milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
a little salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour

Fill a pudding dish with peaches, cooked and sweetened; pour over them a batter made of one pint of sweet milk, four eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of butter, a little salt, one teaspoon of baking powder, and two cups of flour. Place in oven, and bake until a rich brown. Serve with cream.

The title of this post, by the way is from Andrew Marvell. I do love the phrase “stumbling on melons”, and if I’d discovered these lines sooner I might have blogged about melons:

The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass

What are your favorite peach recipes? Do share! I’m off downstairs where a bowl of fresh peaches awaits…

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By