6 DECEMBER 1845, Page 13


ONE class of speculators or projectors whose wits have been set to work by the failure of the potato crop merit a separate notice. l'hey are the philosophers who undertake to prove that even though the potatoes be as bad as the most despondent imagine, itill people may contrive to make a shift without unwonted or idditaonal supplies of food. Dr. Buckland points out what re- iources the poor have in mangel-wurzel and other dainty dishes ; and well-meaning people procure from Professor Liebig, and pub- lish, receipts for converting the diseased potatoes into food. These are the representatives of the " man-can-eat-anything " sect in the press : in private society their fellow believers are not unfrequent. They are learned in their explanations of the process by which the farina is to be extracted from partially decayed potatoes ; and their last new discovery is, that immense quantities of Spanish chestnuts have been imported into Holland, that chestnuts con- tain a large proportion of farina, that inexhaustible supplies of them are to be had, and that consequently we can dispense with importations of corn.

This last remark betrays the whole scope and tendency of their system. It is the esoteric doctrine, which if they could they would conceal from all but the initiated. They would, were it possible, conceal it even from themselves; and sometimes they may succeed. It is a complex problem they undertake to demon- strate—not merely that all, or more especially the poor, may be fed with the present potato crop, but that they may be fed with- out admitting foreign grain. They are not a little exacting in their postulates : to establish their point, they make most alarm- ing demands upon the palate and stomach. It is quite true that potato-flour contains all of the root that is assimilated in the pro- cess of digestion ; but man wants a bellyful as well as wherewithal to supply the particles continually carried off by perspiration and otherwise. The sensation of hunger requires mechanical stuffing to allay it. The labourer's uneasy sensations are not removed by swallowing the concentrated essence of a pound of potatoes in a tea-cupful of dissolved potato-starch ; he requires a tightener." Again, that food which is unsavoury and unpalatable is never really wholesome and nourishing. People only thrive upon what they eat with a relish. Professor Liebig may demonstrate to our eyes that the decayed potato, with its grey mouldy appearance, is merely a transmutation of albumen into easeine and that the latter is in reality as nourishing as the former : still the gorge will rise at the nasty-looking substance. There is a sad lack of tact or sympathy evinced by the dis- ciples of this peculiar school of gastronomy. If they could for a moment imagine that they had changed places with the poor people to or at whom they talk—suppose themselves the reci- pients instead of the dispensers of their own lectures—surely their mouths would be closed for ever after. Potatoes trans- formed into caseine, mangel-wurzel, and all this class of delica- cies, are not contemplated for their own tables by those who re- commend them. They will not set the example of making them part of their daily food. They are only a nice shift for poor people. Could the learned doctors and Lady Bountifuls who pre- scribe them be transformed into poor people for a day—as the lady in the farce is transformed into a cobler's wife—they would learn a useful lesson. They would learn how the bitterest and most angry feelings of human nature are stirred up when un- called-for restraint upon and violence to natural appetites is preached to the poor by those who habitually indulge their own.