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No. 131. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1709-10.
- Scelus est jugulare Falernum,
SHEER-LANE, FEBRUARY 8.
There is in this city a certain fraternity of chemical operators, who work underground, in holes, caverns, and dark retirements, to conceal their mysteries from
and observation of mankind. These subterraneous philosophers are daily employed in the transmutation of liquors, and, by the power of magical drugs and incantations, raising under the streets of London the choicest products of the hills and valleys of France.
They can squeeze Bourdeaux out of the sloe, and draw Champagne from an apple. Virgil, in that remarkably prophecy,
Incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva.
VIRG. ECL, iv, 29. The ripening grape shall hang on every thorn,
seems to have hinted at this art, which can turn a plantation of northern hedges into a vineyard. These adepts are known among one another by the name of wine-brewers; and, I am afraid, do great injury, not only to her majesty's customs, but to the bodies of many of her good subjects.
Having received sundry complaints against these invisible workmen, I ordered the proper officer of my court to ferret them out of their respective caves, and bring them before me, which was yesterday executed accordingly.
The person, who appeared against them, was a merchant, who had by him a great magazine of wines, that he had laid in before the war: but these gentlemen, as he said, had so vitiated the nation's palate, that no man could believe his to be French, because it did not taste like what they sold for such. As a man never pleads better than where his own personal interest is concerned, he exhibited to the court, with great eloquence, that this new corporation of druggists had inflamed the bills of mortality, and puzzled the college of physicians with diseases, for which they neither knew a name or cure. He aecused some of giving all the customers colics and megrims; and mentioned one who had boasted he had a tun of claret by him, that in a fortnight's time should give the gout to a dozen of the healthfulest men in the city, provided that their constitutions were prepared for it by wealth and idleness. He then enlarged, with a great show of reason, upon
prejudice which these mixtures and compositions had done to the brains of the English nation; as is too visible said he, from many late pamphlets, speeches, and sermons, as well as from the ordinary conversations of the youth of this age. He then quoted an ingenious person, who would undertake to know by a man's writings the wine he most delighted in; and on that occasion named a certain satirist, whom he had discovered to be the author of a lampoon, by a manifest taste of the sloe, which showed itself in it, by much roughness, and little spirit.
In the last place, he ascribed to the unnatural tumults and fermentations which these mixtures raise
in our blood, the divisions, heats, and animosities, that reign among us; and, in particular, asserted most of the modern enthusiasms and agitations to be nothing else but the effects of adulterated Port.'
The counsel for the Brewers had a face so extremely inflamed, and illuminated with carbuncles, that I did not wonder to see him an advocate for these sophistications. His rhetoric was likewise such as I should have expected from the common draught, which I found he often drank to a great
Indeed, I was so surprised at his figure and parts, that I ordered him to give me a taste of his usual liquor ; which I had no sooner drunk, but I found a pimple rising in my forehead ; and felt such a sensible decay in my understanding, that I would not proceed in the trial until the fume of it was entirely dissipated.
This notable advocate had little to say in the defence of his clients, but that they were under a necessity of making claret, if they would keep open their doors, it being the nature of mankind to love every thing that is prohibited. He further pretended to reason, that it might be as profitable to the nation to make French wine as French hats; and concluded with the great advantage that this had already brought to part of the kingdom. Upon which he informed the court, that the lands in Herefordshire were raised two years' purchase since the beginning of the war.
When I had sent out my summons to these people, I gave, at the same time, orders to each of them to bring the several ingredients he made use of in distinct phials, which they had done accordingly, and ranged them into two rows on each side of the court. The workmen were drawn up in ranks behind them. The merchant informed me, 'that in one row of phials were the several colours they dealt in, and in the other, the tastes. He then showed me, on the right-hand, one who went by the name of Tom Tintoret, who, as he told me, 'was the greatest master in his colouring of any vintner in London.' To give me a proof of his art, he took a glass of fair water; and, by the infusion of three drops out of one of his phials, converted it into a most beautiful pale Burgundy. Two more of the same kind heightened it into a perfect Languedoc : from thence it passed into a florid Hermitage : and after having gone through two or three other changes, by the addition of a single drop, ended in a very deep Pontac. This ingenious virtuoso, seeing me very much surprised at his art, told me, that he had not an opportunity of showing it in perfection, having only made use of water for the ground-work of his colouring : but that, if I were to see an operation upon liquors of stronger bodies, the art would appear to a much greater advantage. He added, that he doubted not but it would please my curiosity to see the cyder of one apple take only a vermillion, when another, with a less quantity of the same infusion, would rise into a dark purple, according to the different texture of parts in the liquor. He informed me also, that he could hit the different shades and degrees of red, as they appear in the pink and the rose, the clove and the carnation, as he had Rhenish or Moselle, Perry or White Port, to work in.
I was so satisfied with the ingenuity of this virtuoso, that, after having advised him to quit so dishonest a profession, I promised him, in consideration of his great genius, to recommend him as a partner to a friend of mine, who has heaped up great riches, and is a scarlet-dyer.
The artists on my other hand were ordered, in the second place, to make some experiments of their skill before me: upon which the famous Harry Sippet stepped out, and asked me, what I would be pleased to drink?' At the same time he filled out three or four white liquors in a glass, and told me,
That it should be what I pleased to call for ;' adding very learnedly, "That the liquor before him was as the naked substance, or first matter of his compound, to which he and his friend, who stood over-against him, could give what accidents, or formi they pleased.' Finding him so great a philosopher, I desired he would convey into it the qualities and essence of right Bourdeaux. Coming, coming, Sir,' said he, with the air of a drawer; and, after having cast his eye on the several tastes and flavours that stood before him, he took up a little cruet, that was filled with a kind of inky juice, and pouring some of it out into the glass of white wine, presented it to me; and told me, · This was the wine over which most of the business of the last Term had been despatched.' I must confess, I looked upon that sooty drug, which he held up in his cruet, as the quintessence of English Bourdeaux, and therefore desired him to give me a glass of it by itself
, which he did with great unwillingness. My cat at that time sat by me upon the elbow of my as I did not care for making the experiment upon myself, I reached it to her to sip of it, which had like to have cost her her life ; for, notwithstanding it flung her at first into freakish tricks, quite contrary to her usual gravity, in less than a quarter of an hour she fell into convulsions; and, had it not been a creature more tenacious of life than
other, would certainly have died under the operation.
I was so incensed by the tortures of my domestic, and the unworthy dealings of these men, that I told them, if each of them had as many as the injured creature before them, they deserved
chair ; and