The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/The Humble Petition of the Colliers, Cooks, &c.

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While this work is included within The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift and is not attributed to anyone other than Jonathan Swift, it may have been written by another member of the Scriblerus Club. The club, which was founded in 1714, included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St John, and Thomas Parnell.










THAT whereas certain virtuosi disaffected to the government, and to the trade and prosperity of this kingdom, taking upon them the name and title of the Catoprical Victuallers, have presumed by gathering, breaking, folding, and bundling up the sunbeams by the help of certain glasses to make, produce, and kindle up several new focuses or fires within these his majesty's dominions, and there to boil, bake, stew, fry, and dress all sorts of victuals and provisions, to brew, distil spirits, smelt ore, and in general to perform all the offices of culinary fires; and are endeavouring to procure to themselves the monopoly of this their said invention: We beg leave humbly to represent to your honours,

That such grant or patent will utterly ruin and reduce to beggary your petitioners, their wives, children, servants, and trades on them depending; there being nothing left to them, after the said invention, but warming of cellars and dressing of suppers in the winter-time. That the abolishing of so considerable a branch of the coasting trade, as that of the colliers, will destroy the navigation of this kingdom. That whereas the said catoptrical victuallers talk of making use of the moon by night, as of the sun by day, they will utterly ruin the numerous body of tallowchandlers, and impair a very considerable branch of the revenue, which arises from the tax upon tallow and candles.

That the said catoptrical victuallers do profane the emanations of that glorious luminary the sun, which is appointed to rule the day, and not to roast mutton. And we humbly conceive, it will be found contrary to the known laws of this kingdom, to confine, forestal, and monopolize the beams of the sun. And whereas the said catoptrical victuallers have undertaken by burning glasses made of ice to roast an ox upon the Thames next winter: we conceive all such practices to be an encroachment upon the rights and privileges of the company of watermen.

That the diversity of exposition of the several kitchens in this great city, whereby some receive the rays of the sun sooner, and others later, will occasion great irregularity as to the time of dining of the several inhabitants, and consequently great uncertainty and confusion in the dispatch of business: and to those, who by reason of their northern exposition will be still forced to be at the expense of culinary fires, it will reduce the price of their manufacture to such inequality, as is inconsistent with common justice: and the same inconveniency will affect landlords in the value of their rents.

That the use of the said glasses will oblige cooks and cook-maids to study opticks and astronomy, in order to know the due distance of the said focuses or fires, and to adjust the position of their glasses to the several altitudes of the sun, varying according to the hours of the day, and the seasons of the year; which studies, at these years, will be highly troublesome to the said cooks and cook-maids, not to say any thing of the utter incapacity of some of them to go through with such difficult arts; or (which is still a greater inconvenience) it will throw the whole art of cookery into the hands of astronomers and glassgrinders, persons utterly unskilled in other parts of that profession, to the great detriment of the health of his majesty's good subjects.

That it is known by experience, that meat roasted with sunbeams is extremely unwholesome; witness several that have died suddenly after eating the provisions of the said catoptrical victuallers; forasmuch as the sunbeams taken inwardly render the humours too hot and adust, occasion great sweatings, and dry up the rectual moisture.

That sunbeams taken inwardly shed a malignant influence upon the brain by their natural tendency toward the moon; and produce madness and distraction at the time of the full moon. That the constant use of so great quantities of this inward light, will occasion the growth of quakerism, to the danger of the church; and of poetry, to the danger of the state.

That the influences of the constellations, through which the sun passes, will with his beams be conveyed into the blood; and when the sun is among the horned signs, may produce such a spirit of unchastity, as is dangerous to the honour of your worships families.

That mankind living much upon the seeds and other parts of plants, these being impregnated with the sunbeams, may vegetate and grow in the bowels, a thing of more dangerous consequence to human bodies than breeding of worms; and this will fall heaviest upon the poor, who live upon roots; and the weak and sickly, who live upon barley and ricegruel, &c. for which we are ready to produce to your honours the opinions of eminent physicians, that the taste and property of the victuals is much altered to the worse by the said solar cookery, the fricassees being deprived of the hauf gout they acquire by being dressed over charcoal.

Lastly, Should it happen by an eclipse of an extraordinary length, that this city should be deprived of the sunbeams for several months; how will his majesty's subjects subsist in the interim, when common cookery, with the arts depending upon it, is totally lost?

In consideration of these, and many other inconveniences your petitioners humbly pray, that your honours would either totally prohibit the confining and manufacturing the sunbeams for any of the useful purposes of life, or in the ensuing parliament procure a tax to be laid upon them, which may answer both the duty and price of coals, and which we humbly conceive cannot be less than thirty shillings per yard square; reserving the sole right and privilege of the catoptrical cookery to the Royal Society, and to the commanders and crews of the bomb-vessels, under the direction of Mr. Whiston for finding out the longitude; who by reason of the remoteness of their stations, may be reduced to straits for want of firing.

And we likewise beg, that your honours, as to the forementioned points, would hear the reverend Mr. Flamstead, who is the legal officer appointed by the government to look after the heavenly luminaries, whom we have constituted our trusty and learned solicitor.