Chap. XXV.[1]

Concerning the common course of Diet, in making choice of some Animals, and abstaining from eating others.

WHY we confine our food unto certain Animals, and totally reject some others; how these distinctions crept into several Nations; and whether this practice be built upon solid reason, or chiefly supported by custom or opinion; may admit consideration.

For first there is no absolute necessity to feed on any; and if we resist not the stream of Authority, and several diductions from holy Scripture: there was no Sarcophagie2 before the flood; and without the eating of flesh, our fathers from vegetable aliments, preserved themselves unto longer lives, then their posterity by any other. For whereas it is plainly said,3 I have given you every herb which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, to you it shall be for meat; presently after the deluge, when the same had destroyed or infirmed the nature of vegetables, by an expression of enlargement, it is again delivered:4 Every moving thing that liveth, shall be meat for you, even as the green herb, have I given you all things.

And therefore although it be said that Abel was a Shepherd, and it be not readily conceived, the first men would keep sheep, except they made food thereof: great Expositors will tell us, that it was partly for their skins, wherewith they were cloathed, partly for their milk, whereby they were sustained; and partly for Sacrifices, which they also offered.

And though it may seem improbable, that they offered flesh, yet eat not thereof; and Abel can hardly be said to offer the firstlings of his flock, and the fat or acceptable part, if men used not to tast the same, whereby to raise such distinctions: some will confine the eating of flesh unto the line of Cain, who extended their luxury, and confined not unto the rule of God. That if at any time the line of Seth eat flesh, it was extraordinary, and only at their sacrifices; or else (as Grotius hinteth[5]) if any such practice there were, it was not from the beginning; but from that time when the waies of men were corrupted, and whereof it is said, that the wickedness of mans heart was great;[6] the more righteous part of mankind probably conforming unto the diet prescribed in Paradise, and the state of innocency. And yet however the practice of men conformed, this was the injunction of God, and might be therefore sufficient, without the food of flesh.

That[7] they fed not on flesh, at least the faithful party before the flood, may become more probable, because they refrained the same for some time after. For so was it generally delivered of the golden age and raign of Saturn; which is conceived the time of Noah, before the building of Babel. And he that considereth how agreeable this is unto the traditions of the Gentiles; that that age was of one tongue: that Saturn devoured all his sons but three, that he was the son of Oceanus and Thetis; that a Ship was his Symbole, that he taught the culture of vineyards, and that art of husbandry, and was therefore described with a sickle, may well conceive, these traditions had their original in Noah. Nor did this practice terminate in him, but was continued at least in many after: as (beside the Pythagorians of old, Bannyans now in India, who upon single opinions refrain the food of flesh) ancient records do hint or plainly deliver. Although we descend not so low, as that of Æsclepiades delivered by Porphyrius,8 that men began to feed on flesh in the raign of Pygmaleon brother of Dido, who invented several torments, to punish the eaters of flesh.

Nor did men only refrain from the flesh of beasts at first, but as some will have it, beasts from one another. And if we should believe very grave conjecturers, carnivorous animals now, were not flesh devourers then, according to the expression of the divine provision for them. To every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, I have given every green herb for meat, and it was so.9 As is also collected from the store laid up in the Ark; wherein there seems to have been no fleshly provision for carnivorous Animals. For of every kind of unclean beast there went but two into the Ark: and therefore no stock of flesh to sustain them many days, much less almost a year.

But when ever it be acknowledged that men began to feed on flesh, yet how they betook themselves after to particular kinds thereof, with rejection of many others, is a point not clearly determined. As for the distinction of clean and unclean beasts, the original is obscure, and salveth not our practice, For no Animal is naturally unclean, or hath this character in nature; and therefore whether in this distinction there were not some mystical intention: whether Moses after the distinction made of unclean beasts, did not name these so before the flood by anticipation: whether this distinction before the flood, were not only in regard of sacrifices, as that delivered after was in regard of food: (for many were clean for food, which were unclean for sacrifice) or whether the denomination were but comparative, and of beasts less commodious for food, although not simply bad, is not yet resolved.

And as for the same distinction in the time of Moses, long after the flood, from thence we hold no restriction, as being no rule unto Nations beside the Jews in dietetical consideration, or natural choice of diet, they being enjoyned or prohibited certain foods upon remote and secret intentions. Especially thereby to avoid community with the Gentiles upon promiscuous commensality: or to divert them from the Idolatry of Egypt whence they came, they were enjoyned to eat the Gods of Egypt in the food of Sheep and Oxen. Withall in this distinction of Animals the consideration was hieroglyphical; in the bosom and inward sense implying an abstinence from certain vices symbolically intimated from the nature of those animals; as may be well made out in the prohibited meat of Swine, Cony, Owl, and many more.

At least the intention was not medical, or such as might oblige unto conformity or imitation; For some we refrain which that Law alloweth, as Locusts and many others; and some it prohibiteth, which are accounted good meat in strict and Medical censure: as (beside many fishes which have not finns and scales,) the Swine, Cony and Hare, a dainty dish with the Ancients; as is delivered by Galen, testified by Martial,10 as the popular opinion implied, that men grew fair by the flesh thereof: by the diet of Cato, that is Hare and Cabbage; and the Jus nigrum, or Black broath of the Spartans, which was made with the blood and bowels of an Hare.

And if we take a view of other Nations, we shall discover that they refrained many meats upon the like considerations. For in some the abstinence was symbolical; so Pythagoras enjoyned abstinence from fish: that is, luxurious and dainty dishes; So according to Herodotus,[11] some Egyptians refrained swines flesh, as an impure and sordid animal: which whoever but touched, was fain to wash himself.

Some abstained superstitiously or upon religious consideration: So the Syrians refrained Fish and Pigeons; the Egyptians of old, Dogs, Eeles, and Crocodiles; though Leo Africanus delivers, that many of late, do eat them with good gust: and Herodotus also affirmeth, that the Egyptians of Elephantina (unto whom they were not sacred,) did eat thereof in elder times: and Writers testify, that they are eaten at this day in India and America. And so, as Cæsar reports, unto the ancient Britains it was piaculous to tast a Goose, which dish at present no table is without.12

Unto some Nations the abstinence was political and for some civil advantage: So the Thessalians refrained Storks, because they destroyed their Serpents;[13] and the like in sundry animals is observable in other Nations.

And under all these considerations were some animals refrained: so the Jews abstained from swine at first symbolically, as an Emblem of impurity; and not for fear of the Leprosie, as Tacitus would put upon them.[14] The Cretians superstitiously, upon tradition that Jupiter was suckled in that countrey by a Sow.[15] Some Egyptians politically, because they supplyed the labour of plowing by rooting up the ground.[16] And upon like considerations perhaps the Phœnicians and Syrians fed not on this Animal: and as Solinus reports, the Arabians also and Indians.[17] A great part of mankind refraining one of the best foods, and such as Pythagoras himself would eat; who, as Aristoxenus records refused not to feed on Pigs.18

Moreover while we single out several dishes and reject others, the selection seems but arbitrary, or upon opinion; for many are commended and cryed up in one age, which are decryed and nauseated in another. Thus in the dayes of Mecenas, no flesh was preferred before young Asses; which notwithstanding became abominable unto succeeding appetites.[19] At the table of Heliogabalus the combs of Cocks were an esteemed service; which country stomacks will not admit at ours.[20] The Sumen or belly and dugs of swine with Pig, and sometimes beaten and bruised unto death: the womb of the same Animal, especially that was barren, or else had cast her young ones, though a tough and membranous part, was magnified by Roman Pallats; whereunto nevertheless we cannot perswade our stomacks.[21] How Alec, Muria, and Garum, would humour our gust I know not;[22] but surely few there are that could delight in the Cyceon; that is, the common draught of Honey, Cheese, parcht Barley-flower, Oyl and Wine; which notwithstanding was a commended mixture, and in high esteem among them.[23] We mortifie our selves with the diet of fish, and think we fare coursly if we refrain from the flesh of other animals. But antiquity held another opinion hereof: When Pythagoras in prevention of luxury advised, not so much as to tast on fish.[24] Since the Rhodians were wont to call them clowns that eat flesh:[25] and since Plato to evidence the temperance of the noble Greeks before Troy, observed, that it was not found they fed on fish, though they lay so long near the Helespont; and was only observed in the companions of Menelaus, that being almost starved, betook themselves to fishing about Pharos.26

Nor will (I fear) the attest or prescript of Philosophers and Physitians, be a sufficient ground to confirm or warrant common practice, as is deducible from ancient Writers, from Hippocrates, Galen, Simeon, Sethi: and the later tracts of Nonnus27 and Castellanus.28 So Aristotle and Albertus commend the flesh of young Hawks:[29] Galen30 the flesh of Foxes about Autumn when they feed on Grapes: but condemneth Quails, and ranketh Geese but with Ostriches: which notwithstanding, present practice and every table extolleth. Men think they have fared hardly, if in times of extremity they have descended so low as Dogs: but Galen delivereth,31 that young, fat and gelded, they were the food of Many Nations: and Hippocrates ranketh the flesh of Whelps with that of Birds: who also commends them against the Spleen,32 and to promote conception.33 The opinion in Galens time, which Pliny also followeth,[34] deeply condemned Horse-flesh, and conceived the very blood thereof destructive; but no diet is more common among the Tartars, who also drink their blood. And though this may only seem an adventure of Northern stomacks, yet as Herodotus tells us, in the hotter clime of Persia, the same was a convivial dish, and solemnly eaten at the feasts of their nativities: whereat they dressed whole Horses, Camels and Asses; contemning the Poverty of Grecian feasts, as unfurnish'd of dishes sufficient to fill the bellies of their guests.[35]

Again, While we confine our diet in several places, all things almost are eaten, if we take in the whole earth: for that which is refused in one country, is accepted in another, and in the collective judgment of the world, particular distinctions are overthrown. Thus were it not hard to shew, that Tigers, Elephants, Camels, Mice, Bats and others, are the food of several countries; and Lerius with others delivers, that some Americans eat of all kinds, not refraining Toads and Serpents: and some have run so high, as not to spare the flesh of man: a practice inexcusable, not to be drawn into example, a diet beyond the rule and largest indulgence of God.[36]

As for the objection against beasts and birds of prey, it acquitteth not our practice, who observe not this distinction in fishes: nor regard the same in our diet of Pikes, Perches and Eels; Nor are we excused herein, if we examine the stomacks of Mackerels, Cods, and Whitings. Nor is the foulness of food sufficient to justifie our choice; for (beside their natural heat is able to convert the same into laudable aliment) we refuse not many whose diet is more impure then some which we reject; as may be considered in hogs, ducks, puets,[37] and many more.

Thus we perceive the practise of diet doth hold no certain course, nor solid rule of selection or confinement; Some in an indistinct voracity eating almost any, other out of a timerous pre-opinion, refraining very many. Wherein indeed necessity, reason and Physick, are the best determinators. Surely many animals may be fed on, like many plants; though not in alimental, yet medical considerations: Whereas having raised Antipathies by prejudgement or education, we often nauseate proper meats, and abhor that diet which disease or temper requireth.

Now whether it were not best to conform unto the simple diet of our fore-fathers, whether pure and simple waters were not more healthfull then fermented liquors; whether there be not an ample sufficiency without all flesh, in the food of honey, oyl, and the several parts of milk: in the variety of grains, pulses, and all sorts of fruits; since either bread or beverage may be made almost of all? whether nations have rightly confined unto several meats? or whether the common food of one countrey be not more agreeable unto another? how indistinctly all tempers apply unto the same, and how the diet of youth and old age is confounded: were considerations much concerning health, and might prolong our days, but must not this discourse.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [This chapter added in the second (1650) edition.]

2 Eating of Flesh. [The first use of the word cited by the OED (keeping in mind that this first occurred in the second edition, so the date is 1650 rather than 1646).]

3 Gen. 1. 29.

4 Gen. 9. 3. [Wilkin asks "What scriptural evidence have we that the flood had 'impaired the properties' of the vegetables which had been and still remained as food for man?"]

5[Somewhat more than hints; Annot. ad Vetus Testament. Commenting on Gen. 1:29-30:

29. Ut sint vobis in escam] Caetera alimenta homini cum animantibus aliis communia. Sed quae de arboribus nascuntur, homini propria.

30. Ut habeant ad vescendum] Herbas nempe, quod hic in Hebraeo additur. Non ergo ab initio animantia animantibus vescebantur, sed tum demum id coeptum fieri, cum non homines tantum, sed & alia animantia via suam corruperunt. Gen. vi.7.12.

And on IX.3:

3. Omne quod movetur & vivit erit vobis in escam, quasi olera virentia tradidi vobis omnia] Videtur plane hic locus, & quae sequitur exceptio de sanguine, indicare quod ante diximus, ante diluvium jus quidem homini fuisse in animantia, ut scilicet lacte, lana, & mortuorum suo fato exuviis uteretur, non ut in cibum ea verteret: de quo jure antiquissimo, a quibusdam etiam gentibus post diluvium servato, vide quae ex omnibus historiis congessit Hieronymus II. adversus Iovinianum, cui adde Porphyrium hujus argumenti libro, & quae nobis dicta de Iure belli ac pacis libro II. c. xx. § 9. & in annotatis ad eum locum. Ostendit hic Deus homines a se curari singulos, aliorum animantium sola tantum genera, & imperfectiora a se ordinari in usum perfectiorum.

Jerome, Against Jovinianus I:18:

He raises the objection that when God gave his second blessing, permission was granted to eat flesh, which had not in the first benediction been allowed. He should know that just as divorce according to the Saviour's word was not permitted from the beginning, but on account of the hardness of our heart was a concession of Moses to the human race, so too the eating of flesh was unknown until the deluge. But after the deluge, like the quails given in the desert to the murmuring people, the poison of flesh-meat was offered to our teeth. The Apostle writing to the Ephesians teaches that God had purposed in the fulness of time to sum up and renew in Christ Jesus all things which are in heaven and in earth. Whence also the Saviour himself in the Revelation of John says, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending." At the beginning of the human race we neither ate flesh, nor gave bills of divorce, nor suffered circumcision for a sign. Thus we reached the deluge. But after the deluge, together with the giving of the law which no one could fulfil, flesh was given for food, and divorce was allowed to hard-hearted men, and the knife of circumcision was applied, as though the hand of God had fashioned us with something superfluous. But once Christ has come in the end of time, and Omega passed into Alpha and turned the end into the beginning, we are no longer allowed divorce, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh, for the Apostle says, "It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine." For wine as well as flesh was consecrated after the deluge.

Grotius cites Dichearchus, Plutarch, Seneca, Stobaeus, Democritus, among others, in his (incidental) discussion of the killing of animals (as part of his discussion of the justice of killing men).]

6 [Conflating the two clauses of Gen. 6:5 (KJV): "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually".]

7 [Pages 190-191 are misnumbered 290-291 in 1672.]

8 περὶ ἀποξῆς. [His De abstententia ab esu animalium, Lib. IV. cap. 15.]

9 Gen. 1. 30.

10 Inter quadrupedes mattya prima Lepus [Martial 13, 92.2]

11 [Here, as elsewhere in the chapter, 1672 has Heroditus. Accounts of this and the other dietary and social peculiarities Browne is about to discuss are in Book II; the account of the uncleanness of swine is particularly interesting (and confusing: why have swineherds if nobody touches swine?)]

12 Lib. 5 de bello Gall. [5.12 or Englished at Perseus; he also says the Britons could not eat hares or chickens, although they raised them. It is most unconvincing, but he was there and I wasn't.]

13 [Thus Pliny, HN x.62 (englished by Holland, Book X, chap. XXIII; killing one was legally the equivalent of murder. Browne refers again to the story in III.27.]

14 [Tacitus Hist. V.4. It is an odd thing that the restriction on eating pork has gripped the Christian and the gentile imagination more than, say, the prohibitions on cooking meat in milk or eating blood.]

15 [According to Euripides, in a fragment preserved in Porphyry .]

16 [Thus Eudoxus, according to Aelian, Nat. Animal.X.16.]

17 [Solinus XXXIV; in Golding's (1587) translation, Cap. XLV. "And thys Arabie extendeth to that spicebearing and rich Land, which the Cutabanes and Scænits possesse. The Arabians are renowmed with the Mountain Casius. The cause why these Scænits are so named, is for that they dwell in Tents, and have none other houses. Theyr Tents are covered with haires made of Goates haire woven. Moreover, they utterly abstaine from Swynes flesh. Surely if this kind of beast were brought thither, it dieth by and by."]

18 Aul. Gell. lib. 4. [11]

19 [Thus Pliny, HN viii.170; Englished by Holland, Chap. XLII. The fad seems to have had a short life.]

20 [According to the Historia Augusta, in imitation of Apicius, and cut from the living beast: Elagabaus XX.5 [Latin,Elagabalus, XX.5 (sorry, no local links).]

21 [Pliny HN xi.210-211; englished by Holland, XI.]

22 [Three forms of fish sauce. Such distinction as was made seems to have been: muria, the brine; garum, the flavored oil; halec, the sludge left over; but this, as with many such distinctions, may not have been made in practice, and probably varied over the centuries. See Browne's Miscellany Tract Queries Relating to Fishes, Birds, Insects and the note therein on the sauces. Pliny, HN ix.66, describes garum or alec (in Holland's somewhat wrong-headed but immortal translation, "that dripping or gravie ... that commeth of fishes when they pine and corrupt").]

23 [Usually translated "posset" or "potion"; a common enough item; see Plato, Republic 408b; Homer, Odyssey, X.290, 316; etc.]

24 [According to Plutarch, Symposiacs VIII.8 (= Qu. Conviv. VIII).]

25 [See, for instance, Aelian Varia Historia, I.xxviii.]

26 Odyss. 4. [Both the passage from the Odyssey and that from Plato's Republic are referred to in Plutarch, above. 1672 has Odyss. 40, apparently misreading 4º of 1650 and subsequent editions. Odyssey 4, 368; Plato, Republic 3, with attention to Shorey's note: "Homer's ignoring of fish diet ... has been much and idly discussed...". ]

27 Non. de re cibaria.

28 Cast. de esu carnium.

29 [Aristotle, Hist. Animals VI.7.]

30 Gal. Alim. fac. lib. 3.

31 Gal. Simpl. fac. lib. 3.

32 Hip. de morbis

33 [Hip.] de superfit.

34 [Pliny HN xxviii.147. Pliny predates Galen.]

35 [Herodotus I.133; oxen as well. It is the lack of desserts, say the Persians, that leaves Greeks hungry.]

36 [Although, if we follow the arguments Plutarch attributes to the Pythagoreans, humans should be among those allowed for meat, since we are every bit as annoying as mice, rats, cats, and dogs, and surely more annoying than cows. Lerius, Jean de Léry, the 15th chapter of whose 1585 Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil combines violent and sometimes salacious details with recipes and instructions for preparing and cooking humans à la brésilienne, together with the occasional assurance that however horrible the tribes of Brazil might be, Jews are worse.]

37 [Peewit, the lapwing; not to my knowledge a staple of modern diet, even in Britain. It is interesting, given Browne's spelling, to note that Tennyson, in his (humorous) Will Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue, rhymes peewit with cruet, to which rhyme there were objections in his day, ll. 225-232, addressing "the head-water of the chop-house here":

We fret, we fume, would shift our skins,
   Would quarrel with our lot;
Thy care is, under polish'd tins,
   To serve the hot-and-hot;
To come and go, and come again,
   Returning like the pewit,
And watch'd by silent gentlemen,
   That trifle with the cruet.]

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