+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


I HAVE a tenderness for beeffor beef, I
mean to say, that does not fling defiance in
my teeth. When the beef that I love and
take to my fireside has also a tenderness for
me, my happiness in it is perfect. There is
one day in the year when hearts and homes
are open: when every man goes through the
chambers of his heart and stirs the fires that
keep it warm: when he goes through the
chambers of his house, and sees that the fires
burn cheerilyhere in a bed-room for the
cousins coming to him through the cold, there
in a drawing-room, to make the laughing faces
of the children ruddy as they sit about it; in
the dining-room he stokes tremendously, for
grandfather is chilly, and the snow lies on the
window-sills, but the hottest fire in the house
is made, of course, in order to do proper
justice to his beef. Even the churl who would
shut a house-door in the face of his brother,
upon Christmas Day opens it gladly to his
beef. May all kine be hard to him who, on
such a day, thinks hardly of his kin; may his
beef come to his table as an enemy by day,
and lie heavily as a bad conscience on his
breast at night. Let him be kept awake by
it, and have abundant time for midnight
thoughts, that they may conduce to his
repentance. The malediction is not very
terrible, but in what maledictions can he deal
who is discussing Christmas Beef? Let all
animosities be drowned for ever in its gravy!

At this season of the year I regard oxen as
beeves; an ox is no longer an ox to me.
If the Royal Academy were open now, the
works of the cattle-painters would be seen
from a new point of view. The main figures
in the fresh landscapes of Messrs. Lee and
Cooper would be spoken of, were I a fine arts
critic, with distincter reference to the character
of their joints than would at any other
time be usual. I should admire in them richness,
delicacy; should object to wiry or
dry-looking cattle, or to those which might suggest
a want of tenderness and flavour. The
Exhibition in Trafalgar Square not being open, and
its oily cattle not being on view, I always go
at this season of the year to the Baker Street
Exhibition, where I see the works of farming
artists, cattle executed in real flesh and blood
that has been laid on most artistically by the
exhibitors. The works of agricultural masters
annually shown by the Smithfield Club have
been occasionally laughed at by irreverent
spectators. In their earlier productions there
was no doubt a tendency to exaggeration of
outline, and much coarseness in the filling up.
Years, however, have been ripening
experience, and our artists in beef now turn out
specimens of their art that are perfect
pictures, and which command accordingly our
admiration and respect. There are no
pre-Bakewellites among the farmers; Bakewell,
it should be understood, and Collins, having
been the Raffaelle and Michael Angelo of
cattle farming.

No doubt I have approached beef with a
relish and a heartiness common at all times
among Englishmen, and commonest at this
season; nevertheless, I am sure that I speak
not in the weakness of partiality, or with
the lightness of a festive man, when I declare
the Christmas Cattle Show in Baker Street to
be a spectacle for nations to admire, and
something that has vastly more in it of the
sublime than of the ridiculous. The case is stated.
Evidence shall now be called, and let a jury
of two hundred thousand dining men decide
unanimously for the beef we get against the
beef we might have got, for the meat of to-day
againstlet me say it boldly outagainst the
Roast Beef of Old England.

Surely we may give a satiric touch to the
O! that begins our national beef melody.
We have national songs for the three things
in which, as Englishmen, we take delight:
our Queen, our naval eminence, and our roast
beef. Now, if we except a few joints for a
few people produced only here and there, the
beef-eating of our forefathers certainly
consisted in the mastication of old cow. It may
be worse for us if we have weaker stomachs,
but I confess, for my part, that I should look
with dismay upon a sirloin of the genuine
Roast Beef of Old England. Less than a
hundred years ago, agriculture was no better
than it had been in the days of Virgil, and
although Solomon had known the difference
between a stalled ox and oxen out of the
pastureskeeping the stalled for his own table
our forefathers, who were no Solomons,
trusted entirely for the quality of their cattle
to the quality of their grass. Except the bulls
and plough oxen, all the male kine born was