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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Selling Coal To Newcastle




William Carew Hazlitt, in his book Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine (the “popular edition”) of 1902, gives us a learned and colorful account of exactly what the title describes. In this excerpt from a discourse on the development of the kitchen, he quotes the poet Nicholas Breton to great effect.

The early 1600s were a time of incomparable finesse in the English language, with writers much given to enlivening their text with sensory description under the thinnest layer of playfulness. There is a satisfying beauty in his description of coal as “the black Bowels of New-Castle soyle.” The absurdity of selling coals to Newcastle was by then a century old, which only attests to its staying power as a useful bit of idiom.

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, William Carew Hazlitt, 1902

Also form this book: Errorem, or My Beautiful Boo-Boo

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