Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Around Here: Dickens and the Sandwich

Sandwiches and Dickens

I was reading Barnaby Rudge and was startled by seeing a sandwich mentioned:
He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours; generally carrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and a small flask of wine.
Now I know sandwiches were invented some time ago but I hadn't come across them in fiction this old, especially as a reflection of casual everyday life. And this book was set around the time of our Revolutionary War so I had 1776 firmly in mind.

Did they eat sandwiches then?

Finishing up Barnaby (not bad, not bad at all), I picked up The Pickwick Papers for a bit of light bedtime humor.

I was stunned to find ... another sandwich in Mr. Jingle's shocking but funny story:
Heads, heads — take care of your heads!... Five children — mother — tall lady, eating sandwiches — forgot the arch — crash — knock — children look round — mother's head off — sandwich in her hand—no mouth to put it in — head of a family off—shocking, shocking!
This made Tom look up the origin date of the sandwich which, of course, no one knows. The famous story about the Earl of Sandwich, all honor to this lazy but tidy card player (bread kept the meat grease off his hands and cards) who invented one of my favorite foods, is placed in the late 1700s.

Of course, sandwiches were around before then but they weren't called sandwiches. They were known as "meat and bread" or "bread and cheese." It is when the name "sandwich" became commonly used that is interesting. And then we have this bit of evidence:
That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch.
Edward Gibbon, journal entry, November 24, 1762
So that's all right then, for Dickens use in Barnaby Rudge. And it turns out that Dickens had his own sandwich memories, though this one doesn't seem happy at all:
A longer time afterwards he recollected the stage-coach journey, and said in one of his published papers that never had he forgotten, through all the intervening years, the smell of the damp straw in which he was packed and forwarded like game, carriage-paid. “There was no other inside passenger, and I consumed my sandwiches in solitude and dreariness, and it rained hard all the way, and I thought life sloppier than I expected to find it.”
Dickens writing of his journey when he was 10
to join his family in their new home,
Life of Charles Dickens by John Foster
I found a few more of Dickens' sandwiches when I was looking around.
Great Expectations: My guardian then took me into his own room, and while he lunched, standing, from a sandwich-box and a pocket flask of sherry (he seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me what arrangements he had made for me.

Bleak House: "My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "you have four schools this afternoon. I would recommend a hasty sandwich."

Mugby Junction: "Well!" said Our Missis, with dilated nostrils. "Take a fresh, crisp, long, crusty penny loaf made of the whitest and best flour. Cut it longwise through the middle. Insert a fair and nicely fitting slice of ham. Tie a smart piece of ribbon round the middle of the whole to bind it together. Add at one end a neat wrapper of clean white paper by which to hold it. And the universal French Refreshment sangwich busts on your disgusted vision."

Uncommercial Traveller: Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed. Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre. The sandwich--as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible--we hailed as one of our greatest institutions. It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings. When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.
Dickens must have enjoyed a good sandwich as much as I do. I'll have one of those universal French Refreshment sangwiches for lunch, please!

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