Preface to Hasty Pudding

Joel Barlow, THE HASTY PUDDING (1793)


A simplicity in diet, whether it be considered with reference to the happiness of individuals or the prosperity of a nation, is of more consequence than we are apt to imagine. In recommending so important an object to the rational part of mankind, I wish it were in my power to do it in such a manner as would be likely to gain their attention. I am sensible that it is one of those subjects in which example has infinitely more power than the most convincing arguments or the highest charms of poetry. Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village,” though possessing these two advantages in a greater degree than any other work of the kind, has not prevented villages in England from being deserted. The apparent interest of the rich individuals, who form the taste as well as the laws in that country, has been against him; and with that interest it has been vain to contend.

The vicious habits which, in this little piece, I endeavor to combat, seem to me not so difficult to cure. No class of people has any interest in supporting them, unless it be the interest which certain families may feel in vying with each other in sumptuous entertainments. There may, indeed, be some instances of depraved appetites, which no arguments will conquer; but these must be rare. There are very few persons but what would always prefer a plain dish for themselves, and would prefer it, likewise, for their guests, if there were no risk of reputation in the case. This difficulty can only be removed by example; and the example should proceed from those whose situation enables them to take the lead in forming the manners of a nation. Persons of this description in America, I should hope, are neither above nor below the influence of truth and reason, when conveyed in language suited to the subject.

Whether the manner I have chosen to address my arguments to them be such as to promise any success, is what I can not decide; but I certainly had hopes of doing some good, or I should not have taken the pains of putting so many rhymes together. The example of domestic virtues has doubtless a great effect. I only wish to rank SIMPLICITY OF DIET among the Virtues. In that case I should hope it will be cherished and more esteemed by others that it is at present.

Chambery, Savoy, January 1793
Joel Barlow

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