Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 36

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It must be owned, the Covent-garden affords some good fruit; which, however, is always engrossed by a few individuals of overgrown fortune, at an exorbitant price; so that little else than the refuse of the market falls to the share of the community; and that is distributed by such filthy hands, as I cannot look at without loathing. It was but yesterday that I saw a dirty barrow-bunter in the street, cleaning her dusty fruit with her own spittle; and, who knows but some fine lady of St James's parish might admit into her delicate mouth those very cherries, which had been rolled and moistened between the filthy, and, perhaps, ulcerated chops of a St Giles's huckster — I need not dwell upon the pallid, contaminated mash, which they call strawberries; soiled and tossed by greasy paws through twenty baskets crusted with dirt; and then presented with the worst milk, thickened with the worst flour, into a bad likeness of cream: but the milk itself should not pass unanalysed, the produce of faded cabbage-leaves and sour draff, lowered with hot water, frothed with bruised snails, carried through the streets in open pails, exposed to foul rinsings, discharged from doors and windows, spittle, snot, and tobacco-quids from foot passengers, overflowings from mud carts, spatterings from coach wheels, dirt and trash chucked into it by roguish boys for the joke's sake, the spewings of infants, who have slabbered in the tin-measure, which is thrown back in that condition among the milk, for the benefit of the next customer; and, finally, the vermin that drops from the rags of the nasty drab that vends this precious mixture, under the respectable denomination of milk-maid.

I shall conclude this catalogue of London dainties, with that table-beer, guiltless of hops and malt, vapid and nauseous; much fitter to facilitate the operation of a vomit, than to quench thirst and promote digestion; the tallowy rancid mass, called butter, manufactured with candle grease and kitchen stuff; and their fresh eggs, imported from France and Scotland. — Now, all these enormities might be remedied with a very little attention to the article of police, or civil regulation; but the wise patriots of London have taken it into their heads, that all regulation is inconsistent with liberty; and that every man ought to live in his own way, without restraint — Nay, as there is not sense enough left among them, to be discomposed by the nuisance I have mentioned, they may, for aught I care, wallow in the mire of their own pollution.

A companionable man will, undoubtedly put up with many inconveniences for the sake of enjoying agreeable society. A facetious friend of mine used to say, the wine could not be bad, where the company was agreeable; a maxim which, however, ought to be taken cum grano salis: but what is the society of London, that I should be tempted, for its sake, to mortify my senses, and compound with such uncleanness as my soul abhors? All the people I see, are too much engrossed by schemes of interest or ambition, to have any room left for sentiment or friendship. Even in some of my old acquaintance, those schemes and pursuits have obliterated all traces of our former connexion — Conversation is reduced to party disputes, and illiberal altercation — Social commerce, to formal visits and card-playing — If you pick up a diverting original by accident, it may be dangerous to amuse yourself with his oddities — He is generally a tartar at bottom; a sharper, a spy, or a lunatic. Every person you deal with endeavours to overreach you in the way of business; you are preyed upon by idle mendicants, who beg in the phrase of borrowing, and live upon the spoils of the stranger — Your tradesmen are without conscience, your friends without affection, and your dependents without fidelity. —

My letter would swell into a treatise, were I to particularize every cause of offence that fills up the measure of my aversion to this, and every other crowded city — Thank Heaven! I am not so far sucked into the vortex, but that I can disengage myself without any great effort of philosophy — From this wild uproar of knavery, folly, and impertinence, I shall fly with double relish to the serenity of retirement, the cordial effusions of unreserved friendship, the hospitality and protection of the rural gods; in a word, the jucunda oblivia Vitae, which Horace himself had not taste enough to enjoy. —

I have agreed for a good travelling-coach and four, at a guinea a day, for three months certain; and next week we intend to begin our journey to the North, hoping still to be with you by the latter end of October — I shall continue to write from every stage where we make any considerable halt, as often as anything occurs, which I think can afford you the least amusement. In the mean time, I must beg you will superintend the oeconomy of Barns, with respect to my hay and corn harvests; assured that my ground produces nothing but what you may freely call your own — On any other terms I should be ashamed to subscribe myself

Your unvariable friend,
MATT. BRAMBLE
LONDON, June 8.