The Books of To-day and the Books of To-morrow, February 1905

The Essay

Public-School Food.

(Canon Lyttelton of Haileybury considers that public schoolboys get too much meat, which, he says, has a bad effect on the character.)

ONE of the most fatal practices in force at our great public schools is that of feeding every boy alike, without regard to individuality, and at the same time making beef and mutton the foundation of this universal diet. Up to the present time parents have failed to see the dangers of this system. “Is the beef wholesome?” they ask. “My beef, my dear sir,” replies the housemaster, “defies competition. It does the hole in two. It is the Main Stem. Briefly, it is It.” “Good,” says the parent. “Then carry on, Augustus, my boy, the beef’s quite wholesome.” And Augustus carries on accordingly. Canon Lyttelton has done good work in exposing this system. The influence of food on character is notorious. We ought to educate our boys through their—if we may say so—tummies, not only through their heads. Any one who takes the trouble to think the matter over quietly will see the folly of feeding a budding politician, an embryo archdeacon, and a sprouting poet, on the same food. In the ideal public school, as soon as a boy’s career in after life was decided upon, he would be specially dieted in order to fit him for that career. Thus, our budding politician would need plenty of green food, captain’s biscuits, tomatoes, chocolate creams, and—three times a day and before retiring to rest—half-a-pint of pure milk obtained from a milky cocoanut. The archdeacon would be reared principally on Mellin’s Food, sponge-cakes, and tomato catsup; while for the poet, we must obviously prescribe preserved fruits, cherry brandy, and doughnuts. This is so self-evident, that it is a standing wonder that no one has thought of mentioning it before. But we must not altogether abolish the schoolboy’s beef and mutton. For the boy who is to embark upon one of the active professions—soldiering, first-class cricket, booing in the gallery on first nights, or the writing of lyrics for musical comedy—there is no better food. But we must remember that this solid diet is not for all. Good in its proper place, but not for all. Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, but the Amateur Spiropole Championship was won (by Mr. Eustace H. Miles) on Plasmon biscuits and Grape Nuts. Whether what the Canon says as to the moral deadliness of a meat diet is true or no we cannot say. But it is a significant fact that our best, noblest, holiest men are vegetarians. Where among the ranks of the meat-eaters shall we look for a parallel to our saintly Shaw, our muscular Miles, our truthful Tolstoi? What would be the effect of a chump chop and chips on Mr. Eustace Miles? What response would a stewed steak and onions evoke from Mr. Bernard Shaw? How would Count Tolstoi react under the influence of sausages and mashed? Imagination boggles at the thought. But we cannot help feeling that there would be a moral upheaval, which would make the excesses of Heliogabalus look like the work of an amateur.



Printed unsigned; entered by Wodehouse in Money Received for Literary Work.