Cakes & Ale, A Dissertation on Banquets Interspersed with Various Recipes, More or Less Original, and anecdotes, mainly veracious by SPENCER, Edward

A long time ago, an estimable lady fell at the feet of an habitual publisher, and prayed unto him:—

“Give, oh! give me the subject of a book for which the world has a need, and I will write it for you.”

“Are you an author, madam?” asked the publisher, motioning his visitor to a seat.

“No, sir,” was the proud reply, “I am a poet.”

“Ah!” said the great man. “I am afraid there is no immediate worldly need of a poet. If you could only write a good cookery book, now! … What I want,” said the publisher, “is a series of essays on food, a few anecdotes of stirring adventure—you have a fine flow of imagination, I understand—and a few useful, but uncommon recipes. But plenty of plums in the book, my dear sir, plenty of plums.”

“But, suppose my own supply of plums should not hold out, what am I to do?”

“What do you do—what does the cook do, when the plums for her pudding run short? Get some more; the Museum, my dear sir, the great storehouse of national literature, is free to all whose character is above the normal standard. When your memory and imagination fail, try the British Museum. You know what is a mightier factor than both sword and pen? Precisely so. And remember that in replenishing your store from the works of those who have gone before, you are only following in their footsteps. I only bar Sydney Smith and Charles Lamb. Let me have the script by Christmas—d’you smoke?—mind the step—good morning.”

In this way, gentle reader, were the trenches dug, the saps laid for the attack of the great work. (from the Preface)
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