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”