Key’s Cupboard : A Life Dismantled Of Muffins

Key's Cupboard

I am currently hard at work on a forthcoming blockbuster entitled The Hooting Yard Bumper Anthology of Anecdotes ‘n’ Apocrypha Regarding Breakfast, Arranged Alphabetically. Thus far I have chosen one piece for inclusion, but I am in a bit of a quandary whether to file it under D for De Quincey, L for Lieutenant-Colonel, or M for Muffins. I could, I suppose, include it three times, but that would involve devising some sort of cross-referencing system, and that seems too much of a bother when I have better things to do with my time. Immeasurably better things, like polishing to a gleam the little bald pate of my lifelike Alain De Botton puppet.

Oops! I should not be telling you about that! Here, just in case I never get round to publishing the Bumper Anthology, is the chosen anecdote. If Thomas De Quincey is read at all today, it is for Confessions Of An English Opium Eater, but, magnificent as that book is, he wrote more, much much more, most of it worthy of our attention. I am particularly fond of The Last Days Of Immanuel Kant and The Household Wreck, although the following quotation is from an 1845 essay entitled On The Temperance Movement Of Modern Times:

The less variety there is at that meal [breakfast], the more is the danger from any single luxury; and there is one, known by the name of ‘muffins,’ which has repeatedly manifested itself to be a plain and direct bounty upon suicide. Darwin, in his Zoonomia, reports a case where an officer, holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel, could not tolerate a breakfast in which this odious article was wanting; but, as a savage retribution invariably supervened within an hour or two upon this act of insane sensuality, he came to a resolution that life was intolerable with muffins, but still more intolerable without muffins. He would stand the nuisance no longer; but yet, being a just man, he would give nature one final chance of reforming her dyspeptic atrocities. Muffins, therefore, being laid at one angle of the breakfast-table, and loaded pistols at another, with rigid equity the Colonel awaited the result. This was naturally pretty much as usual: and then, the poor man, incapable of retreating from his word of honour, committed suicide, – having previously left a line for posterity to the effect (though I forget the expression), “That a muffinless world was no world for him: better no life at all than a life dismantled of muffins”

You can read (much) more Frank Key, buy his remarkable books and download his famous podcasts at Hooting Yard.
Share This Post

About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

8 thoughts on “Key’s Cupboard : A Life Dismantled Of Muffins

    February 18, 2011 at 08:53

    Muffins are, in the opinion of some, flint axe heads in disguise and as such need to be indexed under B for B&Q where they are readily available at 110% off.
    A friend, a new age person really, adds nyger seeds to her muffins “Siskins like them” she said. from the safety of a sheet of Tidysan.

  2. Brit
    February 18, 2011 at 09:08

    I wish I could think of something to say about that extraordinary passage, but… well, I’m commentless.

    February 18, 2011 at 09:18

    I would also be sans-comment too Brit, if I hadn’t spent a bit of time in the States, where a muffin can only mean one thing. I think we need to call Jonathon in on this one, not Jassy.

    February 18, 2011 at 09:20

    De Quincey can indeed leave one awestruck. A magnificent writer.

  5. Worm
    February 18, 2011 at 09:47

    Imagine if De Quincey were alive today and thus able to unleash the full might of his intellect upon the cupcake

    john halliwell
    February 18, 2011 at 11:37

    I like the idea of Frank polishing the noggin of the De Botton puppet; I have a similar aid to inner peace and harmony: I regularly buff up the muffins on my Katie Price wax dummy, bought for a tenner from Tussauds’ scrap yard.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:49

      You could get arrested for that, John.

  7. Gaw
    February 18, 2011 at 13:35

    I imagine de Quincey was referring to what the Americans call English muffins, a much more acceptable item than the sort of thing found in Starbucks. In fact, toasted and topped with smoked salmon or ham and some hollandaise it’s close to being a meal to die for (but only metaphorically).

    BTW I wasn’t going to mention it but it’s haunting me: on last week’s Faulks on Fiction AdB claimed that Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbevilles with an erection. I think it’s not the least of the would-be sage’s crimes to have conjured this image into being – I’m still quite shaken. Perhaps you could take remedial action involving his doll?

Comments are closed.