ESSAYS, Political, Economical and Philosophical. Volume 1.
by Benjamin Rumford
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In order to be able to give the most particular and satisfactory information respecting the manner of preparing these Indian puddings, I caused one of them to be made here, (in London,) under my immediate direction, by a person born and brought up in North America, and who understands perfectly the American art of cookery in all its branches[17]. This pudding, which was allowed by competent judges who tasted it to be as good as they had ever eaten, was composed and prepared in the following manner:

Approved Receipt for making a plain Indian Pudding.

Three pounds of Indian meal (from which the bran had been separated by sifting it in a common hair sieve) were put into a large bowl, and five pints of boiling water were put to it, and the whole well stirred together; three quarters of a pound of molasses and one ounce of salt were then added to it, and these being well mixed, by stirring them with the other ingredients, the pudding was poured into a fit bag; and the bag being tied up, (an empty space being left in the bag tying it, equal to about one-sixth of its contents, for giving room for the pudding to swell,) this pudding was put into a kettle of boiling water, and was boiled six hours without intermission; the loss of the water in the kettle by evaporation during this time being frequently replaced with boiling water from another kettle.

The pudding upon being taken out of the bag weighed ten pounds and one ounce; and it was found to be perfectly done, not having the smallest remains of that raw taste so disagreeable to all palates, and particularly to those who are not used to it, which always predominates in dishes prepared of Indian meal when they are not sufficiently cooked.

As this raw taste is the only well-founded objection that can be made to this most useful grain, and is, I am persuaded, the only cause which makes it disliked by those who are not accustomed to it, I would advise those who may attempt to introduce it into common use, where it is not known, to begin with Indian (bag) puddings, such as I have here been describing; and that this is a very cheap kind of Food will be evident from the following computation:

Expense of preparing the Indian Pudding above mentioned.

Pence. Pence. 3 lb. of Indian meal at ... ... 1 1/2 ... 4 1/2 3/4 lb. of molasses at ... ... 6 ... 4 1/2 1 oz. of salt at 2d. per lb. ... ... ... 0 1/8 ——— Total for the ingredients, 9 1/8

As this pudding weighed 10 1/16 lbs. and the ingredients cost nine pence and half a farthing, this gives three farthings and a half for each pound of pudding.

It will be observed, that in this computation I have reckoned the Indian meal at no more than 1 1/2d per pound, whereas in the calculation which was given to determine the expense of preparing hasty-pudding it was taken at two pence a pound. I have here reckoned it at 1 1/2d. a pound, because I am persuaded it might be had here in London for that price, and even for less.—That which has lately been imported from Boston has not cost so much; and were it not for the present universal scarcity of provisions in Europe, which has naturally raised the price of grain in North America, I have no doubt but Indian meal might be had in this country for less than one penny farthing per pound.

In composing the Indian pudding above mentioned, the molasses is charged at 6d. the pound, but that price is very exorbitant. A gallon of molasses weighing about 10 lb. commonly costs in the West Indies from 7d. to 9d. sterling; and allowing sufficiently for the expenses of freight, insurance, and a fair profit for the merchant, it certainly ought not to cost in London more than 1s. 8d. the gallon[18]; and this would bring it to 2d. per pound.

If we take the prices of Indian meal and molasses as they are here ascertained, and compute the expense of the ingredients for the pudding before mentioned, it will be as follows:—

Pence. Pence. 3 lb. of Indian meal at ... ... 1 1/4 ... 3 3/4 3/4 lb. of molasses at ... ... 2 ... 1 1/2 1 oz. of salt at 2d. per lb. ... ... ... 0 1/8 ——— Total for the ingredients, 5 3/8

Now as the pudding weighed 10 1/16 lbs. this gives two farthings, very nearly, for each pound of pudding; which is certainly very cheap indeed, particularly when the excellent qualities of the Food are considered.

This pudding, which ought to come out of the bag sufficiently hard to retain its form, and even to be cut into slices, is so rich and palatable, that it may very well be eaten without any sauce; but those who can afford it commonly eat it with butter. A slice of the pudding, about half an inch, or three quarters of an inch in thickness, being laid hot upon a plate, an excavation is made in the middle of it, with the point of the knife, into which a small piece of butter, as large perhaps as a nutmeg, is put, and where it soon melts. To expedite the melting of the butter, the small piece of pudding which is cut out of the middle of the slice to form the excavation for receiving the butter, is frequently laid over the butter for a few moments, and is taken away (and eaten) as soon as the butter is melted. If the butter is not salt enough, a little salt is put into it after it is melted. The pudding is to be eaten with a knife and fork, beginning at the circumference of the slice, and approaching regularly towards the center, each piece of pudding being taken up with the fork, and dipped into the butter, or dipped into it IN PART ONLY, as is commonly the case, before it is carried to the mouth.

To those who are accustomed to view objects upon a great scale, and who are too much employed in directing what ought to be done, to descend to those humble investigations which are necessary to show HOW it is to be effected, these details will doubtless appear trifling and ridiculous; but as my mind is strongly impressed with the importance of giving the most minute and circumstantial information respecting the MANNER OF PERFORMING any operation, however simple it may be, to which people have not been accustomed, I must beg the indulgence of those who may not feel themselves particularly interested in these descriptions.

In regard to the amount of the expence for sauce for a plain Indian (bag) pudding, I have found that when butter is used for that purpose, (and no other sauce ought ever to be used with it,) half an ounce of butter will suffice for one pound of the pudding. —It is very possible to contrive matters so as to use much more;—perhaps twice, or three times as much;—but if the directions relative to the MANNER of eating this Food, which have already been given, are strictly followed, the allowance of butter here determined will be quite sufficient for the purpose for which it is designed; that is to say, for giving an agreeable relish to the pudding.—Those who are particularly fond of butter may use three quarters of an ounce of it with a pound of the pudding; but I am certain, that to use an ounce would be to waste it to no purpose whatever.

If now we reckon Irish, or other firkin butter, (which, as it is salted, is the best that can be used,) at eight pence the pound, the sauce for one pound of pudding, namely, half an ounce of butter, will cost just one farthing; and this, added to the cost of the pudding, two farthings the pound, gives three farthing for the cost by the pound of this kind of food, with its sauce; and, as this food is not only very rich and nutritive, but satisfying at the same time in a very remarkable degree, it appears how well calculated it is for feeding the Poor.

It should be remembered, that the molasses used as an ingredient in these Indian puddings, does not serve merely to give taste to them;—it acts a still more important part;—it gives what, in the language of the kitchen, is called lightness.—It is a substitute for eggs, and nothing but eggs can serve as a substitute for it, except it be treacle; which, in fact, is a kind of molasses; or perhaps coarse brown sugar, which has nearly the same properties.— It prevents the pudding from being heavy, and clammy; and without communicating to it any disagreeable sweet taste, or any thing of that flavour peculiar to molasses, gives it a richness uncommonly pleasing to the palate. And to this we may add, that it is nutritive in a very extraordinary degree.—This is a fact well known in all countries where sugar is made.

How far the laws and regulations of trade existing in this country might render it difficult to procure molasses from those places where it may be had at the cheapest rate, I know not;—nor can I tell how far the free importation of it might be detrimental to our public finances;—I cannot, however, help thinking, that it is so great an object to this country to keep down the prices of provisions, or rather to check the alarming celerity with which they are rising, that means ought to be found to facilitate the importation, and introduction into common use, of an article of Food of such extensive utility. It might serve to correct in some measure, the baleful influence of another article of foreign produce, (tea,) which is doing infinite harm in this island.

A point of great importance in preparing an Indian pudding, is to boil it PROPERLY and SUFFICIENTLY. The water must be actually boiling when the pudding is put into it; and it never must be suffered to cease boiling for a moment, till it is done; and if the pudding is not boiled full six hours, it will not be sufficiently cooked.—Its hardness, when done, will depend on the space left in the bag its expansion. The consistency of the pudding ought to be such, that it can be taken out of the bag without falling to pieces;—but it is always better, on many accounts, to make it too hard than too soft. The form of the pudding may be that of a cylinder; of rather of a truncated cone, the largest end being towards the mouth of the bag, in order that it may be got out of the bag with greater facility; or it may be made of a globular form, by tying it up in a napkin.—But whatever is the form of the pudding, the bag, or napkin in which it is to be boiled, must be wet in boiling water before the pudding, (which is quite liquid before it is boiled,) is poured into it; otherwise it will be apt to run through the cloth.

Though this pudding is so good, perfectly plain, when made according to the directions here given, that I do not thing it capable of any real improvement; yet there are various additions that may be made to it, and that frequently are made to it, which may perhaps be thought by some to render it more palatable, or otherwise to improve it. Suet may, for instance, be added, and there is no suet pudding whatever superior to it; and as no sauce is necessary with a suet pudding, the expence for the suet will be nearly balanced by the saving of butter. To a pudding of the size of that just described, in the composition of which three pounds of Indian meal were used, one pound of suet will be sufficient; and this, in general, will not cost more than from five pence to six pence, even in London;—and the butter for sauce to a plain pudding of the same size would cost nearly as much. The suet pudding will indeed be rather the cheapest of the two, for the pound of suet will add a pound in weight to the pudding;—whereas the butter will only add five ounces.

As the pudding, made plain, weighing 10 1/16 lb. cost 5 3/8 pence, the same pudding, with the addition of one pound of suet, would weigh 11 1/16 lb. and would cost 11 1/8 pence,—reckoning the suet at six pence the pound.—Hence it appears that Indian suet pudding may be made in London for about one penny a pound. Wheaten bread, which is by no means so palatable, and certainly not half so nutritive, now costs something more than three pence the pound: and to this may be added, that dry bread can hardly be eaten alone; but of suet pudding a very comfortable meal may be made without any thing else.

A pudding in great repute in all parts of North America, is what is called an apple pudding. This is an Indian pudding, sometimes with, and sometimes without suet, with dried cuttings of sweet apples mixed with it; and when eaten with butter, it is most delicious Food. These apples, which are pared as soon as they are gathered from the tree, and being cut into small pieces, are freed from their cores, and thoroughly dried in the sun, may be kept good for several years. The proportions of the ingredients used in making these apple puddings are various; but, in general, about one pound of dried apples is mixed with three pounds of meal,—three quarters of a pound of molasses,—half an ounce of salt, and five pints of boiling water.

In America, various kinds of berries, found wild in the woods, such as huckle-berries, belberries, whortle-berries, etc. are gathered and dried, and afterwards used as ingredients in Indian puddings: and dried cherries and plums may be made use of in the same manner.

All these Indian puddings have this advantage in common, that they are very good WARMED UP.—They will all keep good several days; and when cut into thin slices and toasted, are an excellent substitute for bread.

It will doubtless be remarked, that in computing the expence of providing these different kinds of puddings, I have taken no notice of the expence which will be necessary for fuel to cook them.—This is an article which ought undoubtedly to be taken into the account. The reason of my not doing it here is this:— Having, in the course of my Experiments on Heat, found means to perform all the common operations of cookery with a surprisingly small expence of fuel, I find that the expence in question, when the proper arrangements are made for saving fuel, will be very trifling. And farther, as I mean soon to publish my Treatise on the Management of Heat, in which I shall give the most ample directions relative to the mechanical arrangements of kitchen fire-places, and the best forms for all kinds of kitchen utensils, I was desirous not to anticipate a subject which will more naturally find its place in another Essay.—In the mean time I would observe, for the satisfaction of those who may have doubts respecting the smallness of the expence necessary for fuel in cooking for the Poor, that the result of many experiments, of which I shall hereafter publish a particular account, has proved in the most satisfactory manner, that when Food is prepared in large quantities, and cooked in kitchens properly arranged, the expense for fuel ought never to amount to more than two per cent. of the cost of the Food, even where victuals of the cheapest kind are provided, such as is commonly used in feeding the Poor. In the Public Kitchen of the House of Industry at Munich the expence for fuel is less than one per cent. of the cost of the Food, as may be seen in the computation, page 206, Chapter III. of this Essay: and it ought not to be greater in many parts of Great Britain.

With regard to the price at which Indian Corn can be imported into this country from North America in time of peace, the following information, which I procured through the medium of a friend, from Captain Scott, a most worthy man, who has been constantly employed above thirty years as master of a ship in the trade between London and Boston in the State of Massachusetts, will doubtless be considered as authentic[19].

The following are the questions which were put to him,—with his answers to them:

Q. What is the freight, per ton, of merchandise from Boston in North America to London in time of peace?——A. Forty shillings (sterling).

Q. What is the freight, per barrel, of Indian Corn?——A. Five shillings.

Q. How much per cent. is paid for insurance from Boston to London in time of peace?—— A. Two per cent.

Q. What is the medium price of Indian Corn, per bushel, in New England?——A. Two shillings and sixpence.

Q. What is the price of it at this time?——A. Three shillings and sixpence.

Q. How many bushels of Indian Corn are reckoned to a barrel? ——A. Four

From this account it appears that Indian Corn might, in time of peace, be imported into this country and sold here for less than four shillings the bushel;—and that it ought not to cost at this moment much more than five shillings a bushel.

If it be imported in casks, (which is certainly the best way of packing it,) as the freight of a barrel containing four bushels is five shillings, this gives 1s. 3d. a bushel for freight; and if we add one penny a bushel for insurance, this will make the amount of freight and insurance 1s. 4d. which, added to the prime cost of the Corn in America, (2s. 6d. per bushel in the time of peace, and 3s. 6d. at this time,) will bring it to 3s. 10d. per bushel in time of peace, and 4s. 10d at this present moment.

A bushel of Indian Corn of the growth of New England was found to weigh 61 lb.; but we will suppose it to weigh at a medium only 60 lb. per bushel; and we will also suppose that to each bushel of Corn when ground there is 9 lb. of bran, which is surely a very large allowance, and 1 lb. of waste in grinding and sifting;— this will leave 50 lb. of flour for each bushel of the Corn; and as it will cost, in time of peace, only 3s. 10d. or 46 pence, this gives for each pound of flour 46/50 of a penny, or 3 3/4 farthings very nearly.

If the price of the Indian Corn per bushel be taken at 4s. 10d. what it ought to cost at this time in London, without any bounty on importation being brought into the account,—the price of the flour will be 4s. 10d equal to 58 pence for 50 lb. in weight, or 1 1/6 penny the pound, which is less than one third of the present price of wheat flour. Rice, which is certainly not more nourishing than Indian Corn, costs 4 1/2 pence the pound.

If 1/13 of the value of Indian Corn be added to defray the expence of grinding it, the price of the flour will not even then be greater in London than one penny the pound in time of peace, and about one penny farthing at the present high price of that grain in North America. Hence it appears, that in stating the mean price in London of the flour of Indian Corn at one penny farthing, I have rather rated it too high than too low.

With regard to the expense of importing it, there may be, and doubtless there are frequently other expences besides those of freight and insurance; but, on the other hand, a very considerable part of the expences attending the importation of it may be reimbursed by the profits arising from the sale of the barrels in which it is imported, as I have been informed by a person who imports it every year, and always avails himself of that advantage.

One circumstance much in favour of the introduction of Indian Corn into common use in this country is the facility with which it may be had in any quantity. It grows in all quarters of the globe, and almost in every climate; and in hot countries two or three crops of it may be raised from the same ground in the course of a year.—It succeeds equally well in the cold regions of Canada;—in the temperate climes of the United States of America;—and in the burning heats of the tropics; and it might be had from Africa and Asia as well as from America. And were it even true,—what I never can be persuaded to believe,—that it would be impossible to introduce it as an article of Food in this country, it might at least be used as fodder for cattle, whose aversion to it, I will venture to say, would not be found to be UNCONQUERABLE.

Oats now cost near two pence the pound in this country. Indian Corn, which would cost but a little more than half as much, would certainly be much more nourishing, even for horses, as well as for horned cattle;—and as for hogs and poultry, they ought never to be fed with any other grain. Those who have tasted the pork and the poultry fatted on Indian Corn will readily give their assent to this opinion.


Receipts for preparing various Kinds of cheap Food. Of MACCARONI. Of POTATOES. Approved receipts for boiling potatoes. Of potatoe puddings. Of potatoe dumplings. Of boiled potatoes with a sauce. Of potatoe salad. Of BARLEY Is much more nutritious than wheat. Barley meal, a good substitute for pearl barley, for making soups. General directions for preparing cheap soups. Receipt for the cheapest soup that can be made. Of SAMP Method of preparing it Is an excellent Substitute for Bread. Of brown Soup. Of RYE BREAD.

When I began writing the foregoing Chapter of this Essay, I had hopes of being able to procure satisfactory information respecting the manner in which the maccaroni eaten by the Poor in Italy, and particularly in the kingdom of Naples, is prepared;— but though I have taken much pains in making these inquiries, my success in them has not been such as I could have wished:— The process, I have often been told, is very simple; and from the very low price at which maccaroni is sold, ready cooked, to the Lazzaroni in the streets of Naples, it cannot be expensive. —There is a better kind of maccaroni which is prepared and sold by the nuns in some of the convents in Italy, which is much dearer; but this sort would in any country be too expensive to be used as Food for the Poor.—It is however not dearer than many kinds of Food used by the Poor in this country; and as it is very palatable and wholesome, and may be used in a variety of ways, a receipt for preparing it may perhaps not be unacceptable to many of my readers.

A Receipt for making that Kind of Maccaroni called in Italy TAGLIATI.

Take any number of fresh-laid eggs and break them into a bowl or tray, beat them up with a spoon, but not to a froth,—add of the finest wheat flour as much as is necessary to form a dough of the consistence of paste.—Work this paste well with a rolling-pin;— roll it out into very thin leaves;—lay ten or twelve of these leaves one upon the other, and with a sharp knife cut them into very fine threads.—These threads (which, if the mass is of a proper consistency, will not adhere to each other) are to be laid on a clean board, or on paper, and dried in the air.

This maccaroni, (or cut paste as it is called in Germany, where it is in great repute,) may be eaten in various ways; but the most common way of using it is to eat it with milk instead of bread, and with chicken broth, and other broths and soups, with which it is boiled. With proper care it may be kept good for many months. It is sometimes fried in butter, and in this way of cooking it, it forms a most excellent dish indeed; inferior, I believe, to no dish of flour that can be made. It is not, however, a very cheap dish, as eggs and butter are both expensive articles in most countries.

An inferiour kind of cut paste is sometimes prepared by the Poor in Germany, which is made simply of water and wheat flour, and this has more resemblance to common maccaroni than that just described; and might, in many cases, be used instead of it. I do not think, however, that it can be kept long without spoiling; whereas maccaroni, as is well known, may be kept good for a great length of time.—Though I have not been able to get any satisfactory information relative to the process of making maccaroni, yet I have made some experiments to ascertain the expense of cooking it, and of the cost of the cheese necessary for giving it a relish.

Half a pound of maccaroni, which was purchased at an Italian shop in London, and which cost ten pence[20], was boiled till it was sufficiently done, namely, about one hour and an half, when, being taken out of the boiling water and weighed, it was found to weigh thirty-one ounces and an half, or one pound fifteen ounces and an half. The quantity of cheese employed to give a relish to this dish of boiled maccaroni, (and which was grated over it after it was put into the dish,) was one ounce, and cost two farthings.

Maccaroni is considered as very cheap Food in those countries where it is prepared in the greatest perfection, and where it is in common use among the lower classes of society; and as wheat, of which grain it is always made, is a staple commodity in this country, it would certainly be worth while to take some trouble to introduce the manufacture of it, particularly as it is already become an article of luxury upon the tables of the rich, and as great quantities of it are annually imported and sold here at a most exorbitant price[21]:—But maccaroni is by no means the cheapest Food that can be provided for feeding the Poor, in this island;—nor do I believe it is so in any country.—Polenta, or Indian Corn, of which so much has already been said,— and Potatoes, of which too much cannot be said,—are both much better adapted, in all respects, for that purpose.—Maccaroni would however, I am persuaded, could it be prepared in this country, be much less expensive than many kinds of Food now commonly used by our Poor; and consequently might be of considerable use to them.

With regard to Potatoes they are now so generally known and their usefulness is so universally acknowledged, that it would be a waste of time to attempt to recommend them.—I shall therefore content myself with merely giving receipts for a few cheap dishes in which they are employed as a principal ingredient.

Though there is no article used as Food of which a greater variety of well-tasted and wholesome dishes may be prepared than of potatoes, yet it seems to be the unanimous opinion of those who are most acquainted with these useful vegetables, that the best way of cooking them is to boil them simply, and with their skins on, in water.—But the manner of boiling them is by no means a matter of indifference.—This process is better understood in Ireland, where by much the greater part of the inhabitants live almost entirely on this Food, than any where else.

This is what might have been expected;—but those who have never considered with attention the extreme slowness of the progress of national improvements, WHERE NOBODY TAKES PAINS TO ACCELERATE THEM, will doubtless be surprised when they are told that in most parts of England, though the use of potatoes all over the country has for so many years been general, yet, to this hour, few, comparatively, who eat them, know how to dress them properly.— The inhabitants of those countries which lie on the sea-coast opposite to Ireland have adopted the Irish method of boiling potatoes; but it is more than probable that a century at least would have been required for those improvements to have made their way through the island, had not the present alarms on account of a scarcity of grain roused the public, and fixed their attention upon a subject too long neglected in this enlightened country.

The introduction of improvements tending to increase the comforts and innocent enjoyments of that numerous and useful class of mankind who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, is an object not more interesting to a benevolent mind than it is important in the eyes of an enlightened statesman.

There are, without doubt, GREAT MEN who will smile at seeing these observations connected with a subject so humble and obscure as the boiling of potatoes, but GOOD MEN will feel that the subject is not unworthy of their attention.

The following directions for boiling potatoes, which I have copied from a late Report of the Board of Agriculture, I can recommend from my own experience:

On the boiling of Potatoes so as to be eat as Bread.

There is nothing that would tend more to promote the consumption of potatoes than to have the proper mode of preparing them as Food generally known.—In London, this is little attended to; whereas in Lancashire and Ireland the boiling of potatoes is brought to very great perfection indeed. When prepared in the following manner, if the quality of the root is good, they may be eat as bread, a practice not unusual in Ireland.—The potatoes should be, as much as possible, of the same size, and the large and small ones boiled separately.—They must be washed clean, and, without paring or scraping, put in a pot with cold water, not sufficient to cover them, as they will produce themselves, before they boil, a considerable quantity of fluid.—They do not admit being put into a vessel of boiling water like greens.— If the potatoes are tolerably large, it will be necessary, as soon as they begin to boil, to throw in some cold water, and occasionally to repeat it, till the potatoes are boiled to the heart, (which will take from half an hour to an hour and a quarter, according to their size,) they will otherwise crack, and burst to pieces on the outside, whilst the inside will be nearly in a crude state, and consequently very unpalatable and unwholesome.—During the boiling, throwing in a little salt occasionally is found a great improvement, and it is certain that the slower they are cooked the better.—When boiled, pour off the water, and evaporate the moisture, by replacing the vessel in which the potatoes were boiled once more over the fire. —This makes them remarkably dry and mealy.—They should be brought to the table with the skins on, and eat with a little salt, as bread.—Nothing but experience can satisfy any one how superior the potatoe is, thus prepared, if the sort is good and meally.— Some prefer roasting potatoes; but the mode above detailed, extracted partly from the interesting paper of Samuel Hayes, Esquire, of Avondale, in Ireland, (Report on the Culture of Potatoes, P. 103.), and partly from the Lancashire reprinted Report (p.63.), and other communications to the Board, is at least equal, if not superior.—Some have tried boiling potatoes in steam, thinking by that process that they must imbibe less water.—But immersion in water causes the discharge of a certain substance, which the steam alone is incapable of doing, and by retaining which, the flavour of the root is injured, and they afterwards become dry by being put over the fire a second time without water.—With a little butter, or milk, of fish, they make an excellent mess.

These directions are so clear, that it is hardly possible to mistake them; and those who follow them exactly will find their potatoes surprisingly improved, and will be convinced that the manner of boiling them is a matter of much greater importance than has hitherto been imagined.

Were this method of boiling potatoes generally known in countries where these vegetables are only beginning to make their way into common use,— as in Bavaria, for instance,—I have no doubt but it would contribute more than any thing else to their speedy introduction.

The following account of an experiment, lately made in one of the parishes of this metropolis (London), was communicated to me by a friend, who has permitted me to publish it.—It will serve to show,—what I am most anxious to make appear,— that the prejudices of the Poor in regard to their Food ARE NOT UNCONQUERABLE February 25th, 1796.

The parish officers of Saint Olaves, Southwark, desirous of contributing their aid towards lessening the consumption of wheat, resolved on the following succedaneum for their customary suet puddings, which they give to their Poor for dinner one day in the week; which was ordered as follows:

L. s. d. 200 lb. potatoes boiled, and skinned and mashed ... ... 0 8 0 2 gallons of milk ... ... ... 0 2 4 12 lb. of suet, at 4 1/2 ... 0 4 6 1 peck of flour ... ... ... 0 4 0 Baking ... ... ... ... ... 0 1 8 ————- Expense 1 0 6 ————- Their ordinary suet pudding had been made thus:

2 bushels of flour ... ... ... 1 12 0 12 lb. suet ... ... ... ... 0 4 6 Baking ... ... ... ... ... 0 1 8 ————- Expense 1 18 2 Cost of the ingredients for the potatoes suet pudding ... ... 1 0 6 ————- Difference 0 17 8 ————-

This was the dinner provided for 200 persons, who gave a decided perference to the cheapest of these preparations, and with it to be continued.

The following baked potatoe-puddings were prepared in the hotel where I lodge, and were tasted by a number of persons, who found them in general very palatable.

Baked Potatoe-puddings.

No. I.

12 ounces of potatoes, boiled, skinned, and mashed; 1 ounce of suet; 1 ounce (or 1/16 of a pint) of milk, and 1 ounce of Gloucester cheese. — Total 15 ounces,—mixed with as much boiling water as was necessary to bring it to a due consistence, and then baked in an earthen pan.

No. II.

12 ounces of mashed potatoes as before; 1 ounces of milk, and 1 ounce of suet, with a sufficient quantity of salt.—Mixed up with boiling water, and baked in a pan.

No. III.

12 ounces of mashed potatoes; 1 ounce of suet; 1 ounce of red herrings pounded fine in a mortar.—Mixed—baked, etc. as before.

No. IV.

12 ounces of mashed potatoes; 1 ounce of suet, and 1 ounce of hung beef grated fine with a grater.—Mixed and baked as before.

These puddings when baked weighed from 11 to 12 ounces each.— They were all liked by those who tasted them, but No I and No 3 seemed to meet with the most general approbation.

Receipt for a very cheap Potatoe-dumplin.

Take any quantity of potatoes, half boiled;—skin or pare them, and grate them to a coarse powder with a grater;—mix them up with a very small quantity of flour, 1/16, for instance, of the weight of the potatoes, or even less;—add a seasoning of salt, pepper, and sweet herbs;—mix up the whole with boiling water to a proper consistency, and form the mass into dumplins of the size of a large apple.— Roll the dumplins, when formed, in flour, to prevent the water from penetrating them, and put them into boiling water, and boil them till they rise to the surface of the water, and swim, when they will be found to be sufficiently done.

These dumplins may be made very savoury by mixing with them a small quantity of grated hung beef, or of pounded red herring.

Fried bread may likewise be mixed with them, and this without any other addition, except a seasoning of salt, forms an excellent dish.

Upon the same principles upon which these dumplins are prepared large boiled bag-puddings may be made; and for feeding the Poor in a public establishment, where great numbers are to be fed, puddings, as these is less trouble in preparing them, are always to be preferred to dumplins.

It would swell this Essay, (which has already exceeded the limits assigned to it,) to the size of a large volume, were I to give receipts for all the good dishes that may be prepared with potatoes.—There is however one method of preparing potatoes much in use in many parts of Germany, which appears to me to deserve being particularly mentioned and recommended;—it is as follows:

A Receipt for preparing boiled Potatoes with a Sauce.

The potatoes being properly boiled, and skinned, are cut into slices, and put into a dish, and a sauce, similar to that commonly used with a fricaseed chicken, is poured over them.

This makes an excellent and a very wholesome dish, but more calculated, it is true, for the tables of the opulent than for the Poor.—Good sauces might however be composed for this dish which would not be expensive.—Common milk-porridge, made rather thicker than usual, with wheat flour, and well salted, would not be a bad sauce for it.

Potatoe Salad.

A dish in high repute in some parts of Germany, and which deserves to be particularly recommended, is a salad of potatoes. The potatoes being properly boiled and skinned, are cut into thin slices, and the same sauce which is commonly used for salads of lettuce is poured over them; some mix anchovies with this sauce, which gives it a very agreeable relish, and with potatoes it is remarkably palatable.

Boiled potatoes cut in slices and fried in butter, or in lard, and seasoned with salt and pepper, is likewise a very palatable and wholesome dish.

Of Barley.

I have more than once mentioned the extraordinary nutritive powers of this grain, and the use of it in feeding the Poor cannot be too strongly recommended.—It is now beginning to be much used in this country, mixed with wheat flour, for making bread; but is not, I am persuaded, in bread, but in soups, that Barley can be employed to the greatest advantage.—It is astonishing how much water a small quantity of Barley-meal will thicken, and change to the consistency of a jelly; and, if my suspicions with regard to the part which water acts in nutrition are founded, this will enable us to account, not only for the nutritive quality of Barley, but also for the same quality in a still higher degree which sago and salope are known to possess.— Sago and Salope thicken, and change to the consistency of a jelly, (and as I suppose, prepare for decomposition,) a greater quantity of water than Barley, and both sago and salope are known to be nutritious in a very extraordinary degree.

Barley will thicken and change to a jelly much more water than any other grain with which we are acquainted, rice even not excepted;—and I have found reason to conclude from the result of innumerable experiments, which in the course of several years have been made under my direction in the public kitchen of the House of Industry at Munich, that for making soups, Barley is by far the best grain that can be employed.

Were I called upon to give an opinion in regard to the comparative nutritiousness of Barley-meal and wheat flour, WHEN USED IN SOUPS I should not hesitate to say that I think the former at least three or four times as nutritious as the latter.

Scotch broth is known to be one of the most nourishing dishes in common use; and there is no doubt but it owes its extraordinary nutritive quality to the Scotch (or Pearl) Barley, which is always used in preparing it.—If the Barley be omitted, the broth will be found to be poor and washy, and will afford little nourishment;—but any of the other ingredients may be retrenched;— even the meat;— without impairing very sensibly the nutritive quality of the Food.—Its flavour and palatableness may be impaired by such retrenchments; but if the water be well thickened with the Barley, the Food will still be very nourishing.

In preparing the soup used in feeding the Poor in the House of Industry at Munich, Pearl Barley has hitherto been used; but I have found, by some experiments I have lately made in London, that Pearl Barley is by no means necessary, as common Barley-meal will answer, to all intents and purposes, just as well.—In one respect it answers better, for it does not require half so much boiling.

In comparing cheap soups for feeding the Poor, the following short and plain directions will be found to be useful:

General Directions for preparing cheap Soup.

First, Each portion of Soup should consist of one pint and a quarter, which, if the Soup be rich, will afford a good meal to a grown person.—Such a portion will in general weigh about one pound and a quarter, or twenty ounces Avoirdupois.

Secondly, The basis of each portion of Soup should consist of one ounce and a quarter of Barley-meal, boiled with ONE PINT AND A QUARTER OF WATER till the whole be reduced to the uniform consistency of a thick jelly.—All other additions to the Soup do little else than to serve to make it more palatable; or by rendering a long mastication necessary, to increase and prolong the pleasure of eating;—both these objects are however of very great importance, and too much attention cannot be paid to them; but both of them may, with proper management, be attained without much expence.

Were I asked to give a Receipt for the cheapest Food which (in my opinion) it would be possible to provide in this country, it would be the following:

Receipt for a very cheap Soup.

Take of water eight gallons, and mixing with it 5 lb. of Barley-meal, boil it to the consistency of a thick jelly.—Season it with salt, pepper, vinegar, sweet herbs, and four red herrings, pounded in a mortar.—Instead of bread, add to it 5 lb. of Indian Corn made into Samp, and stirring it together with a ladle, serve it up immediately in portions of 20 ounces.

Samp, which is here recommended, is a dish said to have been invented by the savages of North America, who have no Corn-mills. —It is Indian Corn deprived of its external coat by soaking it ten or twelve hours in a lixivium of water and wood-ashes.— This coat, or husk, being separated from the kernel, rises to the surface of the water, while the grain, which is specifically heavier than water, remains at the bottom of the vessel; which grain, thus deprived of its hard coat of armour, is boiled, or rather simmered for a great length of time, two days for instance, in a kettle of water placed near the fire.—When sufficiently cooked, the kernels will be found to be swelled to a great size and burst open, and this Food, which is uncommonly sweet and nourishing, may be used in a great variety of ways; but the best way of using it is to mix it with milk, and with soups, and broths, as a substitute for bread. It is even better than bread for these purposes, for besides being quite as palatable as the very best bread, as it is less liable than bread to grow too soft when mixed with these liquids, without being disagreeably hard, it requires more mastication, and consequently tends more to increase and prolong the pleasure of eating.

The Soup which may be prepared with the quantities of ingredients mentioned in the foregoing Receipt will be sufficient for 64 portions, and the cost of these ingredients will be as follows:

Pence. For 5 lb. of Barley-meal, at 1 1/2 pence, the ] Barley being reckoned at the present ] very high price of it in this country, viz ]... 7 1/2 5s. 6d. per bushel ] 5 lb. of Indian Corn, at 1 1/4 pence the pound ... 6 1/4 4 red herrings ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 3 Vinegar... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 1 Salt ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 1 Pepper and sweet herbs ... ... ... ... ... 2 ———- Total 20 3/4 ———-

This sum, (20 3/4 pence,) divided by 64, the number of portions of Soup, gives something less than ONE THIRD OF A PENNY for the cost of each portion.—But at the medium price of Barley in Great Britain, and of Indian Corn as it may be afforded here, I am persuaded that this Soup may be provided at one farthing the portion of 20 ounces.

There is another kind of Soup in great repute among the poor people, and indeed among the opulent farmers, in Germany, which would not come much higher.—This is what is called burnt Soup, or as I should rather call it, brown Soup, and it is prepared in the following manner:

Receipt for making BROWN SOUP.

Take a small piece of butter and put it over the fire in a clean frying-pan made of iron (not copper, for that metal used for this purpose would be poisonous);— put to it a few spoonfuls of wheat or rye meal;—stir the whole about briskly with a broad wooden spoon, or rather knife, with a broad and thin edge, till the butter has disappeared, and the meal is uniformly of a deep brown colour; great care being taken, by stirring it continually, to prevent the meal from being burned to the pan.

A very small quantity of this roasted meal, (perhaps half an ounce in weight would be sufficient,) being put into a sauce-pan and boiled with a pint and a quarter of water, forms a portion of Soup, which, when seasoned with salt, pepper, and vinegar, and eaten with bread cut fine, and mixed with it at the moment when it is served up, makes a kind of Food by no means unpalatable; and which is said to be very wholesome.

As this Soup may be prepared in a very short time, an instant being sufficient for boiling it; and as the ingredients for making it are very cheap, and may be easily transported, this Food is much used in Bavaria by our wood-cutters, who go into the mountains far from any habitations to fell wood.— Their provisions for a week, (the time they commonly remain in the mountains,) consist of a large loaf of rye bread (which, as it does not so soon grow dry and stale as wheaten bread, is always preferred to it); a linen bag containing a small quantity of roasted meal;—another small bag of salt;—and a small wooden box containing some pounded black pepper;—with a small frying-pan of hammered iron, about ten or eleven inches in diameter, which serves them both as an utensil for cooking, and as a dish for containing the victuals when cooked.—They sometimes, but not often, take with them a small bottle of vinegar;—but black-pepper is an ingredient in brown Soup which is never omitted.—Two table-spoonfuls of roasted meal is quite enough to make a good portion of Soup for one person; and the quantity of butter necessary to be used in roasting this quantity of meal is very small, and will cost very little.—One ounce of butter would be sufficient for roasting eight ounces of meal; and if half an ounce of roasted meal is sufficient for making one portion of Soup, the butter will not amount to more than 1/10 of an ounce; and, at eight pence the pound, will cost only 1/32 of a penny, or 1/8 of a farthing.—The cost of the meal for a portion of this Soup is not much more considerable. If it be rye meal, (which is said to be quite as good for roasting as the finest wheat flour,) it will not cost, in this country, even now when grain is so dear, more than 1 1/2d. per pound;— 1/2 an ounce, therefore, the quantity required for one portion of the Soup, would cost only 6/32 of a farthing;—and the meal and butter together no more than (1/8 + 6/32) = 10/32, or something less than 1/3 of a farthing.—If to this sum we add the cost of the ingredients used to season the Soup, namely, for salt, pepper and vinegar, allowing for them as much as the amount of the cost of the butter and the meal, or 1/3 of a farthing, this will give 2/3 of a farthing for the cost of the ingredients used in preparing one portion of this Soup; but as the bread which is eaten with it is an expensive article, this Food will not, upon the whole, be cheaper than the Soup just mentioned; and it is certainly neither so nourishing nor so wholesome.

Brown Soup might, however, on certain occasions, be found to be useful. As it is so soon cooked, and as the ingredients for making it are so easily prepared, preserved, and transported from place to place; it might be useful to travellers, and to soldiers on a march. And though it can hardly be supposed to be of itself very nourishing, yet it is possible it may render the bread eaten with it not only more nutritive, but also more wholesome;— and it certainly renders it more savoury and palatable.—It is the common breakfast of the peasants in Bavaria; and it is infinitely preferable, in all respects, to that most pernicious wash, TEA, with which the lower classes of the inhabitants of this island drench their stomachs, and ruin their constitutions.

When tea is mixed with a sufficient quantity of sugar and good cream;—when it is taken with a large quantity of bread and butter, or with toast and boiled eggs;—and above all,—WHEN IT IS NOT DRANK TOO HOT, it is certainly less unwholesome; but a simple infusion of this drug, drank boiling hot, as the Poor usually take it, is certainly a poison which, though it is sometimes slow in its operation, never fails to produce very fatal effects, even in the strongest constitution, where the free use of it is continued for a considerable length of time.

Of Rye Bread

The prejudice in this island against bread made of Rye, is the more extraordinary, as in many parts of the country no other kind of bread is used; and as the general use of it in many parts of Europe, for ages, has proved it to be perfectly wholesome.— In those countries where it is in common use, many persons prefer it to bread made of the best wheat flour; and though wheaten bread is commonly preferred to it, yet I am persuaded that the general dislike of it, where it is not much in use, is more owing to its being BADLY PREPARED, or not well baked, than to any thing else.

As an account of some experiments upon baking Rye Bread, which were made under my immediate care and inspection in the bake-house of the House of Industry at Munich, may perhaps be of use to those who wish to known how good Rye Bread may be prepared; as also to such as are desirous of ascertaining, by similar experiments, what, in any given case, the profits of a baker really are; I shall publish an account in detail of these experiments, in the Appendix to this volume.

I cannot conclude this Essay, without once more recommending, in the most earnest manner, to the attention of the Public, and more especially to the attention of all those who are engaged in public affairs,—the subject which has here been attempted to be investigated. It is certainly of very great importance, in whatever light it is considered; and it is particularly so at the present moment: for however statesmen may differ in opinion with respect to the danger or expediency of making any alterations in the constitution, or established forms of government, in times of popular commotion, no doubts can be entertained with respect to the policy of diminishing, as much as possible, at all times, —and more especially in times like the present,—the misery of the lower classes of the people.


Footnotes for Essay III.

[1] November 1795.

[2] The preparation of water is, in many cases, an object of more importance than is generally imagined; particularly when it is made use of as a vehicle for conveying agreeable tastes. In making punch, for instance, if the water used be previously boiled two or three hours with a handful of rice, the punch made from it will be incomparably better, than is to say, more full and luscious upon the palate, than when the water is not prepared.

[3] I cannot dismiss this subject, the feeding of cattle, without just mentioning another practice common among our best farmers in Bavaria, which, I think, deserves to be known. They chop the green clover with which they feed their cattle, and mix with it a considerable quantity of chopped straw. They pretend that this rich succulent grass is of so clammy a nature, that unless it be mixed with chopped straw, hay, or some other dry fodder, cattle which are fed with it do not ruminate sufficiently. The usual proportion of the clover to the straw, is as two to one.

[4] A viertl is the twelfth part of a schafl, and the Bavarian schafl is equal to 6 31/300 Winchester bushels.

[5] The quantity of fuel here mentioned, though it certainly is almost incredibly small, was nevertheless determined from the results of actual experiments. A particular account of these experiments will be given in my Essay on the Management of Heat and the Economy of Fuel.

[6] One Bavarian schafl (equal to 6 31/100 Winchester bushels) of barley, weighing at a medium 250 Bavarian pounds, upon being pearled, or rolled (as it is called in Germany), is reduced to half a schafl, which weighs 171 Bavarian pounds. The 79lb. which it loses in the operation is the perquisite of the miller, and is all he receives for his trouble.

[7] Since the First Edition of this Essay was published the experiment with barley-meal has been tried, and the meal has been found to answer quite as well as pearl barley, if not better, for making these soups. Among others, Thomas Bernard, Esq. Treasurer of the Founding Hospital, a gentleman of most respectable character, and well known for his philanthropy and active zeal in relieving the distresses of the Poor, has given it a very complete and fair trial; and he found, what is very remarkable, though not difficult to be accounted for—that the barley-meal, WITH ALL THE BRAN IN IT, answered better, that is to say, made the soup richer, and thicker, than when the fine flour of barley, without the bran, was used.

[8] By some experiments lately made it has been found that the soup will be much improved if a small fire is made under the boiler, just sufficient to make its contents boil up once, when the barley and water are put into it, and then closing up immediately the ash-hole register, and the damper in the chimney, and throwing a thick blanket, or a warm covering over the cover of the boiler, the whole be kept hot till the next morning. This heat so long continued, acts very powerfully on the barley, and causes it to thicken the water in a very surprising manner. Perhaps the oat-meal used for making water gruel might be improved in its effects by the same means. The experiment is certainly worth trying.

[9] This invention of double bottoms might be used with great success by distillers, to prevent their liquor, when it is thick, from burning to the bottoms of their stills. But there is another hint, which I have long wished to give distillers, from which, I am persuaded, they might derive very essential advantages.—It is to recommend to them to make up warm clothing of thick blanketing for covering up their still-heads, and defending them from the cold air of the atmosphere; and for covering in the same manner all that part of the copper or boiler which rises above the brick-work in which it is fixed. The great quantity of heat is constantly given off to the cold air of the atmosphere in contact with it by this naked copper, not only occasions a very great loss of heat, and of fuel, but tends likewise very much to EMBARRASS and to PROLONG the process of distillation; for all the heat communicated by the naked still-head to the atmosphere is taken from the spirituous vapour which rises from the liquor in the still; and as this vapour cannot fail to be condensed into spirits whenever and WHEREVER it loses ANY PART of its heat,— as the spirits generated in the still-head in consequence of this communication of heat to the atmosphere do not find their way into the worm, but trickle down and mix again with the liquor in the still,—the bad effects of leaving the still-head exposed naked to the cold air is quite evident. The remedy for this evil is as cheap and as effectual, as it is simple and obvious.

[10] The Bavarian pound (equal to 1.238, or near one pound and a quarter Avoirdupois,) is divided into 32 loths.

[11] For each 100 lb. Bavarian weight, (equal to 123.84 lb. Avoirdupois,) of rye-meal, which the baker receives from the magazine, he is obliged to deliver sixty-four loaves of bread, each loaf weighing 2 lb. 5 1/2 loths; equal to 2 lb. 10 oz. Avoirdupois;—and as each loaf is divided into six portions, this gives seven ounces Avoirdupois for each portion. Hence it appears that 100 lb. of rye-meal give 149 lb. of bread; for sixty-four loaves, at 2 lb. 5 1/2 loths each, weigh 149 lb. —When this bread is reckoned at two creutzers a Bavarian pound, (which is about what it costs at a medium,) one portion costs just 10/16 of a creutzer, or 120/528 of a penny sterling, which is something less than one farthing.

[12] This allowance is evidently much too large; but I was willing to show what the expence of feed the Poor would be at THE HIGHEST CALCULATION. I have estimated the 7 ounces of rye-bread, mentioned above, at what it ought to cost when rye is 7s. 6d. the bushel, its present price in London.

[13] Farther inquiries which have since been made, have proved that these suspicions were not without foundation.

[14] Since writing the above, I have had an opportunity of ascertaining, in the most decisive and satisfactory manner, the facts relative to the weight of Indian Corn of the growth of the northern states of America. A friend of mine, an American gentleman, resident in London, (George Erving, Esq. of Great George street, Hanover-square,) who, in common with the rest of his countrymen, still retains a liking for Indian Corn, and imports it regularly every year from America, has just received a fresh supply of it, by one of the last ships which has arrived from Boston in New England; and at my desire he weighed a bushel of it, and found it to weigh 61 lb.: It cost him at Boston three shillings and sixpence sterling the bushel.

[15] The price of Indian meal as it here estimated,—(2d. a pound,) —is at least twice as much as it would cost in Great Britain in common years, if care was taken to import it at the cheapest rate.

[16] Those who dislike trouble, and feel themselves called upon by duty and honor to take an active part in undertakings for the public good, are extremely apt to endeavour to excuse,—to themselves as well as to the world,—their inactivity and supineness, by representing the undertaking in question as being so very difficult as to make all hope of success quite chimerical and ridiculous.

[17] The Housekeeper of my friend and countryman, Sir William Pepperel, Bart. of Upper Seymour Street, Portman Square.

[18] Molasses imported from the French West India Islands into the American States is commonly sold there from 12d. to 14d. the gallon.

[19] This gentleman, who is as remarkable for his good fortune at sea, as he is respectable on account of his private character and professional knowledge, has crossed the Atlantic Ocean the almost incredible number of ONE HUNDRED AND TEN TIMES! and without meeting with the smallest accident. He is now on the seas in his way to North America; and this voyage, which is his HUNDRED AND ELEVENTH, he intends should be his last. May he arrive safe,—and may he long enjoy in peace and quite the well-earned fruits of his laborious life! Who can reflect on the innumerable storms he must have experienced, and perils he has escaped, without feeling much interested in his preservation and happiness?

[20] This maccaroni would not probably have cost one quarter of that sum at Naples.—Common maccaroni is frequently sold there as low as fourteen grains, equal to five pence halfpenny sterling the rottolo, weighing twenty-eight ounces and three quarters Avoirdupois, which is three pence sterling the pound Avoirdupois. An inferiour kind of maccaroni, such as is commonly sold at Naples to the Poor, costs not more than two pence sterling the pound Avoirdupois.

[21] If maccaroni could be made in this country as cheap as it is made in Naples, that is to say, so as to be afforded for three pence sterling the pound Avoirdupois, for the best sort, (and I do not see why it should not,) as half a pound of dry maccaroni weighs when boiled very nearly two pounds, each pound of boiled maccaroni would cost only three farthings, and the cheese necessary for giving it a relish one farthing more, making together one penny; which is certainly a very moderate price for such good and wholesome Food.


of CHIMNEY FIRE-PLACES, with PROPOSALS for improving them to save FUEL; to render dwelling-houses more COMFORTABLE and SALUBRIOUS, and effectually to prevent CHIMNIES from SMOKING.


CHAPTER. I. Fire-places for burning coals, or wood, in an open chimney, are capable of great improvement. Smoking chimnies may in all cases be completely cured. The immoderate size of the throats of chimnies the principal cause of all their imperfections. Philosophical investigation of the subject. Remedies proposed for all the defects that have been discovered in chimnies and their open fire-places. These remedies applicable to chimnies destined for burning wood, or turf, as well as those constructed for burning coals.

CHAPTER. II. Practical directions designed for the use of workmen, showing how they are to proceed in making the alterations necessary to improve chimney fire-places, and effectually to cure smoking chimnies.

CHAPTER. III. Of the cause of the ascent of smoke. Illustration of the subject by familiar comparisons and experiments. Of chimnies which affect and cause each other to smoke. Of chimnies which smoke from want of air. Of the eddies of wind which sometimes blow down chimnies, and cause them to smoke. Explanation of the figures.



The Author thinks it his duty to explain the reasons which have induced him to change the order in which the publication of his Essays has been announced to the Public.—Being suddenly called upon to send to Edinburgh a person acquainted with the method of altering Chimney Fire-places, which has lately been carried into execution in a number of houses in London, in order to introduce these improvements in Scotland, he did not think it prudent to send any person on so important an errand without more ample instruction than could well be given verbally; and being obliged to write on the subject, he thought it best to investigate the matter thoroughly, and to publish such particular directions respecting the improvements in question as may be sufficient to enable all those, who may be desirous of adopting them, to make, or direct the necessary alterations in their Fire-places without any further assistance.

The following Letter, which the Author received from Sir John Sinclair, Baronet, Member of Parliament, and President of the Board of Agriculture, will explain this matter more fully:

You will hear with pleasure that your mode of altering Chimnies, so as to prevent their smoking, to save fuel, and to augment heat, has answered not only with me, but with many of my friends who have tried it; and that the Lord Provest and Magistrates of Edinburgh have voted a sum of money to defray the expences of a bricklayer, who is to be sent there for the purpose of establishing the same plan in that city. I hope that you will have the goodness to expedite your paper upon the management of Heat, that the knowledge of so useful an art may be as rapidly and as extensively diffused as possible.—With my best wishes for your success in the various important pursuits in which you are now engaged, believe me, with great truth and regard, Your faithful and obedient servant John Sinclair Whitehall, London, 9th February 1796.


Fire-places for burning coals, or wood, in an open chimney, are capable of great improvement. Smoking chimnies may in all cases be completely cured. The immoderate size of the throats of chimnies the principal cause of all their imperfections. Philosophical investigation of the subject. Remedies proposed for all the defects that have been discovered in chimnies and their open fire-places. These remedies applicable to chimnies destined for burning wood, or turf, as well as those constructed for burning coals.

The plague of a smoking Chimney is proverbial; but there are many other very great defects in open Fire-places, as they are now commonly constructed in this country, and indeed throughout Europe, which, being less obvious, are seldom attended to; and there are some of them very fatal in their consequences to health; and, I am persuaded, cost the lives of thousands every year in this island.

Those cold and chilling draughts of air on one side of the body, while the other side is scorched by a Chimney Fire, which every one who reads this must often have felt, cannot but be highly detrimental to health; and in weak and delicate constitutions must often produce the most fatal effects.—I have not a doubt in my own mind that thousands die in this country every year of consumptions occasioned solely by this cause.—By a cause which might be so easily removed!—by a cause whose removal would tend to promote comfort and convenience in so many ways.

Strongly impressed as my mind is with the importance of this subject, it is not possible for me to remain silent.—The subject is too nearly connected with many of the most essential enjoyments of life not to be highly interesting to all those who feel pleasure in promoting, or in contemplating the comfort and happiness of mankind.—And without suffering myself to be deterred, either by the fear of being thought to give the subject a degree of importance to which it is not entitled, or by the apprehension of being tiresome to my readers by the prolixity of my descriptions,—I shall proceed to investigate the subject in all its parts and details with the utmost care and attention. —And first with regard to smoking Chimnies:

There are various causes by which Chimnies may be prevented from carrying smoke; but there are none that may not easily be discovered and completely removed.—This will doubtless be considered as a bold assertion; but I trust I shall be able to make it appear in a manner perfectly satisfactory to my readers that I have not ventured to give this opinion but upon good and sufficient grounds.

Those who will take the trouble to consider the nature and properties of elastic fluids,—of air,—smoke,—and vapour,— and to examine the laws of their motions, and the necessary consequences of their being rarified by heat, will perceive that it would be as much a miracle if smoke should not rise in a Chimney, (all hindrances to its ascent being removed,) as that water should refuse to run in a syphon, or to descend in a river.

The whole mystery, therefore, of curing smoking Chimnies is comprised in this simple direction. —FIND OUT AND REMOVE THOSE LOCAL HINDRANCES WHICH FORCIBLY PREVENT THE SMOKE FROM FOLLOWING ITS NATURAL TENDENCY TO GO UP THE CHIMNEY; or rather, to speak more accurately, which prevents its being forced up the Chimney by the pressure of the heavier air of the room.

Although the causes, by which the ascent of smoke in a Chimney MAY BE obstructed, are various, yet that cause which will most commonly, and I may say almost universally be found to operate, is one which it is always very easy to discover, and as easy to remove,—the bad construction of the Chimney IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE FIRE-PLACE.

In the course all my experience and practice in curing smoking Chimnies,—and I certainly have not had less than five hundred under my hands, and among them many which were thought to be quite incurable,—I have never been obliged, except in one single instance, to have recourse to any other method of cure than merely reducing the Fire-place and the throat of the Chimney, or that part of it which lies immediately above the Fire-place, to a proper form, and just dimensions.

That my principles for constructing Fire-places are equally applicable to those which are designed for burning coal, as to those in which wood is burnt, has lately been abundantly proved by experiments made here in London; for of above an hundred and fifty Fire-places which have been altered in this city, under my direction, within these last two months, there is not one which has not answered perfectly well[1].—And by several experiments which have been made with great care, and with the assistance of thermometers, it has been demonstrated, that the saving of fuel, arising from these improvements of Fire-places, amounts in all cases to more than HALF, and in many cases to more than TWO THIRDS of the quantity formerly consumed.—Now as the alterations in Fire-places which are necessary may be made at a very trifling expence, as any kind of grate or stove may be made use of, and as no iron work, but merely a few bricks and some mortar, or a few small pieces of fire-stone, are required; the improvement in question is very important, when considered merely with a view to economy; but it should be remembered, that not only a great saving is made of fuel by the alterations proposed, but that rooms are made much more comfortable, and more salubrious;— that they may be more equally warmed, and more easily kept at any required temperature;—that all draughts of cold air from the doors and windows towards the Fire-place, which are so fatal to delicate constitutions, will be completely prevented;—that in consequence of the air being equally warm all over the room, or in all parts of it, it may be entirely changed with the greatest facility, and the room completely ventilated, when this air is become unfit for respiration, and this merely by throwing open for a moment a door opening into some passage from whence fresh air may be had, and the upper part of a window; or by opening the upper part of on window and the lower part of another, and as the operation of ventilating the room, even when it is done in the most complete manner, will never require the door and window to be open more than one minute; in this short time the walls of the room will not be sensibly cooled, and the fresh air which comes into the room will, in a very few minutes, be so completely warmed by these walls that the temperature of the room, though the air in it be perfectly changed, will be brought to be very nearly the same as it was before the ventilation.

Those who are acquainted with the principles of pneumatics, and know why the warm air in a room rushes out at an opening made for it at the top of a window when colder air from without is permitted to enter by the door, or by any other opening situated lower than the first, will see, that it would be quite impossible to ventilate a room in the complete and expeditious manner here described, where the air in a room is partially warmed, or hardly warmed at all, and where the walls of the room, remote from the fire, are constantly cold; which must always be the case where, in consequence of a strong current up the Chimney, streams of cold air are continually coming in through all the crevices of the doors and windows, and flowing into the Fire-place.

But although rooms, furnished with Fire-places constructed upon the principles here recommended, may be easily and most effectually ventilated, (and this is certainly a circumstance in favour of the proposed improvements,) yet such total ventilations will very seldom, if ever, be necessary.—As long as ANY FIRE is kept up in the room, there is so considerable a current of air up the Chimney, notwithstanding all the reduction that can be made in the size of its throat, that the continual change of air in the room which this current occasions will, generally, be found to be quite sufficient for keeping the air in the room sweet and wholesome; and indeed in rooms in which there is no open Fire-place, and consequently no current of air from the room setting up the Chimney, which is the case in Germany, and all the northern parts of Europe, where rooms are heated by stoves, whose Fire-places opening without are not supplied with the air necessary for the combustion of the fuel from the room;—and although in most of the rooms abroad, which are so heated, the windows and doors are double, and both are closed in the most exact manner possible, by slips of paper pasted over the crevices, or by slips of list or furr; yet when these rooms are tolerably large, and when they are not very much crowded by company, nor filled with a great many burning lamps or candles, the air in them is seldom so much injured as to become oppressive or unwholesome; and those who inhabit them show by their ruddy countenances, as well as by every other sign of perfect health, that they suffer no inconvenience whatever from their closeness.—There is frequently, it is true, an oppressiveness in the air of a room heated by a German stove, of which those who are not much accustomed to living in those rooms seldom fail to complain, and indeed with much reason; but this oppressiveness does not arise from the air of the room being injured by the respiration and perspiration of those who inhabit it;—it arises from a very different cause;— from a fault in the construction of German stoves in general, but which may be easily and most completely remedied, as I shall show more fully in another place. In the mean time, I would just observe here with regard to these stoves, that as they are often made of iron, and as this metal is a very good conductor of heat, some part of the stove in contact with the air of the room becomes so hot as to calcine or rather to ROAST the dust which lights upon it; which never can fail to produce a very disagreeable effect on the air of the room. And even when the stove is constructed of pantiles or pottery-ware, if any part of it in contact with the air of the room is suffered to become very hot, which seldom fails to be the case in German stoves constructed on the common principles, nearly the same effects will be found to be produced on the air as when the stove is made of iron, as I have very frequently had occasion to observe.

Though a room be closed in the most perfect manner possible, yet, as the quantity of air injured and rendered unfit for further use by the respiration of two or three persons in a few hours is very small, compared to the immense volume of air which a room of a moderate size contains; and as a large quantity of fresh air always enters the room, and an equal quantity of the warm air of the room is driven out of it every time the door is opened, there is much less danger of the air of a room becoming unwholesome for the want of ventilation than has been generally imagined; particularly in cold weather, when all the different causes which conspire to change the air of warmed rooms act with increased power and effect.

Those who have any doubts respecting the very great change of air or ventilation which takes place each time the door of a warm room is opened in cold weather, need only set the door of such a room wide open for a moment, and hold two lighted candles in the door-way, one near the top of the door, and the other near the bottom of it; the violence with which the flame of that above will be driven outwards, and that below inwards, by the two strong currents of air which, passing in opposite directions, rush in and out of the room at the same time, will be convinced that the change of air which actually takes place must be very considerable indeed; and these currents will be stronger, and consequently the change of air greater, in proportion as the difference is greater between the temperature of the air within the room and of that without. I have been more particular upon this subject,—the ventilation of warmed rooms which are constantly inhabited,—as I know that people in general in this country have great apprehensions of the bad consequences to health of living rooms in which there is not a continual influx of cold air from without. I am as much an advocate for a FREE CIRCULATION of air as any body, and always sleep in a bed without curtains on that account; but I am much inclined to think, that the currents of cold air which never fail to be produced in rooms heated by Fire-places constructed upon the common principle,— those partial heats on one side of the body, and the cold blasts on the other, so often felt in houses in this country, are infinitely more detrimental to health than the supposed closeness of the air in a room warmed more equally, and by a smaller fire.

All these advantages, attending the introduction of the improvements in Fire-places here recommended, are certainly important, and I do not know that they are counterbalanced by any one disadvantage whatsoever. The only complaints that I had ever heard made against them was, that they made the rooms TOO warm; but the remedy to this evil is so perfectly simple and obvious, that I should be almost afraid to mention it, less it might be considered as an insult to the understanding of the persons to whom such information should be given; for nothing surely can be conceived more perfectly ridiculous than the embarrassment of a person on account of the too great heat of his room, when it is in his power to diminish AT PLEASURE the fire by which it is warmed; and yet, strange as it may appear, this has sometimes happened!

Before I proceed to give directions for the construction of Fire-places, it will be proper to examine more carefully the Fire-places now in common use;—to point out their faults;— and to establish the principles upon which Fire-places ought to be constructed.

The great fault of all the open Fire-places, or Chimnies, for burning wood or coals in an open fire, now in common use, is, that they are much too large; or rather it is THE THROAT OF THE CHIMNEY or the lower part of its open canal, in the neighbourhood of the mantle, and immediately over the fire, which is too large. This opening has hitherto been left larger than otherwise it probably would have been made, in order to give a passage to the Chimney-sweeper; but I shall show hereafter how a passage for the Chimney-sweeper may be contrived without leaving the throat of the Chimney of such enormous dimensions as to swallow up and devour all the warm air of the room, instead of merely giving a passage to the smoke and heated vapour which rise from the fire, for which last purpose alone it ought to be destined.

Were it my intention to treat my subject in a formal scientific manner, it would be doubtless be proper, and even necessary, to begin by explaining in the fullest manner, and upon the principles founded on the laws of nature, relative to the motions of elastic fluids, as far as they have been discovered and demonstrated, the causes of the ascent of smoke, and also to explain and illustrate upon the same principles, and even to measure, or estimate by calculations, the precise effects of all those mechanical aids which may be proposed for assisting it in its ascent, or rather for removing those obstacles which hinder its motion upwards;—but as it is my wish rather to write an useful practical treatise, than a learned dissertation, being more desirous to contribute in diffusing useful knowledge, by which the comforts and enjoyments of mankind may be increased, than to acquire the reputation of a philosopher among learned men, I shall endeavour to write in such a manner as to be easily understood BY THOSE WHO ARE MOST LIKELY TO PROFIT BY THE INFORMATION I HAVE TO COMMUNICATE, and consequently most likely to assist in bringing into general use the improvements I recommend. This being premised, I shall proceed, without any further preface or introduction, to the investigation of the subject I have undertaken to treat.

As the immoderate size of the throats of Chimnies is the great fault of their construction, it is this fault which ought always to be first attended to in every attempt which is made to improve them; for however perfect the construction of a Fire-place may be in other respects, if the opening left for the passage of the smoke is larger than is necessary for that purpose, nothing can prevent the warm air of the room from escaping through it; and whenever this happens, there is not only an unnecessary loss of heat, but the warm air which leaves the room to go up the Chimney being replaced by cold air from without, the draughts of cold air, so often mentioned, cannot fail to be produced in the room, to the great annoyance of those who inhabit it. But although both these evils may be effectually remedied by reducing the throat of the Chimney to a proper size, yet in doing this several precautions will be necessary. And first of all, the throat of the Chimney should be in its proper place; that is to say, in that place in which it ought to be, in order that the ascent of the smoke may be most facilitated; for every means which can be employed for facilitating the ascent of the smoke in the Chimney must naturally tend to prevent the Chimney from smoking: now as the smoke and hot vapour which rise from a fire naturally tend UPWARDS, the proper place for the throat of the Chimney is evidently perpendicularly OVER THE FIRE.

But there is another circumstance to be attended to in determining the proper place for the throat of a Chimney, and that is, to ascertain its distance from the fire, or HOW FAR above the burning fuel it ought to be placed. In determining this point, there are many things to be considered, and several advantages and disadvantages to be weighed and balanced.

As the smoke and vapour which ascend from burning fuel rise in consequence of their being rarefied by heat, and made lighter than the air of the surrounding atmosphere; and as the degree of their rarefaction, and consequently their tendency to rise, is in proportion to the intensity of their heat; and further, as they are hotter near the fire than at a greater distance from it, it is clear that the nearer the throat of a Chimney is to the fire, the stronger will be, what is commonly called, its DRAUGHT, and the less danger there will be of its smoking. But on the other hand, when the draught of a Chimney is very strong, and particularly when this strong draught is occasioned by the throat of the Chimney being very near the fire, it may so happen that the draught of air into the fire may become so strong, as to cause the fuel to be consumed too rapidly. There are likewise several other inconveniences which would attend the placing of the throat of a Chimney VERY NEAR the burning fuel. In introducing the improvements proposed, in Chimnies already built, there can be no question in regard to the height of the throat of the Chimney, for its place will be determined by the height of the mantle. It can hardly be made lower than the mantle; and it ought always to be brought down as nearly upon the level with the bottom of it as possible. If the Chimney is apt to smoke, it will sometimes be necessary either to lower the mantle or to diminish the height of the opening of the Fire-place, by throwing over a flat arch, or putting in a straight piece of stone from one side of it to the other, or, which will be still more simple and easy in practice, building a wall of bricks, supported by a flat bar of iron, immediately under the mantle.

Nothing is so effectual to prevent Chimnies from smoking as diminishing the opening of the Fire-place in the manner here described, and lowering and diminishing the throat of the Chimney; and I have always found, except in the single instance already mentioned, that a perfect cure may be effected by THESE MEANS ALONE, even in the most desperate cases. It is true, that when the construction of the Chimney is very bad indeed, or its situation very unfavourable to the ascent of the smoke, and especially when both these disadvantages exist at the same time, it may sometimes be necessary to diminish the opening of the Fire-place, and particularly to lower it, and also to lower the throat of the Chimney, more than might be wished: but still I think this can produce no inconveniences to be compared with that greatest of all plagues, a smoking Chimney.

The position of the throat of a Chimney being determined, the next points to be ascertained are its size and form, and the manner in which it ought to be connected with the Fire-place below, and with the open canal of the Chimney above.

But as these investigations are intimately connected with those which relate to the form proper to be given to the Fire-place itself, we must consider them all together.

That these inquiries may be pursued with due method, and that the conclusions drawn from them may be clear and satisfactory, it will be necessary to consider, first, what the objects are which ought principally to be had in view in the construction of a Fire-place; and secondly, to see how these objects can best be attained.

Now the design of a Chimney Fire being simply to warm a room, it is necessary, first of all, to contrive matters so that the room shall be actually warmed; secondly, that it be warmed with the smallest expence of fuel possible; and, thirdly, that in warming it, the air of the room be preserved perfectly pure, and fit for respiration, and free from smoke and all disagreeable smells.

In order to take measures with certainty for warming a room by means of an open Chimney Fire, it will be necessary to consider HOW, or in WHAT MANNER, such a Fire communicates heat to a room. This question may perhaps, at the first view of it, appear to be superfluous and trifling, but a more careful examination of the matter will show it to be highly deserving of the most attentive investigation.

To determine in what manner a room is heated by an open Chimney Fire, it will be necessary first of all to find out, UNDER WHAT FORM the heat generated in the combustion of the fuel exists, and then to see how it is communicated to those bodies which are heated by it.

In regard to the first of these subjects of inquiry, it is quite certain that the heat which is generated in the combustion of the fuel exists under TWO perfectly distinct and very different forms. One part of it is COMBINED with the smoke, vapour, and heated air which rise from the burning fuel, and goes off with them into the upper regions of the atmosphere; while the other part, which appears to be UNCOMBINED, or, as some ingenious philosophers have supposed, combined only with light, is sent off from the fire in rays in all possible directions.

With respect to the second subject of inquiry; namely, how this heat, existing under these two different forms, is communicated to other bodies; it is highly probable that the combined heat can only be communicated to other bodies by ACTUAL CONTACT with the body with which it is combined; and with regard to the rays which are sent off by burning fuel, it is certain that THEY communicate or generate heat only WHEN and WHERE they are stopped or absorbed. In passing through air, which is transparent, they certainly do not communicate any heat to it; and it seems highly probable that they do not communicate heat to solid bodies by which they are reflected.

In these respects they seem to bear a great resemblance to the solar rays. But in order not to distract the attention of my reader, or carry him too far away from the subject more immediately under consideration, I must not enter too deeply into these inquiries respecting the nature and properties of what has been called RADIANT HEAT. It is certainly a most curious subject of philosophical investigation, but more time would be required to do it justice than we now have to spare. We must therefore content ourselves with such a partial examination of it as will be sufficient for our present purpose.

A question which naturally presents itself here is. What proportion does the radiant heat bear to the combined heat?—Though that point has not yet been determined with any considerable degree of precision, it is, however, quite certain, that the quantity of heat which goes off combined with the smoke, vapour, and heated air is much more considerable, perhaps three of four times greater at least, than that which is sent off from the fire in rays.—And yet, small as the quantity is of this radiant heat, it is the only part of the heat generated in the combustion of fuel burnt in an open Fire-place which is ever employed, or which can ever be employed, in heating a room.

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