Of Welsh Rabbits.
The common opinion of the Welsh Rabbit conceits that it is a species of Cuniculus indigenous unto Wales; of which Assertion, if Prescription of time and Numerosity of assertors were a sufficient Demonstration, we might sit down herein as an orthodoxial Truth, nor should there need ulterior Disquisition. Pliny discourseth of it under the Head of De Animalibus Walliæ. Seneca describeth it as an exosseous Animal, or one of the invertebrated or boneless kinde. Claudian saith that it delighteth to burrow underground in Coal Holes and Cyder Cellars. Scaliger affirmeth it to be like to the Hyæna, incapable of Domitation or taming, for the cause that he never heard of one being domesticated in a Hutch. Sarenus Sammonicus determineth it to be like unto the Salamander, moist in the third degre, and to have a mucous Humidity above and under the Epidermis or outer skin, by virtue whereof it endureth the Fire for a time. Nor are such conceits held by Humane authors only, for the holy Fathers of the Church have likewise similarly opinionated. Austin declareth it to be an unclean Animal; insomuch that like to the Polecat it is Graveolent, emitting a strong Murine or Micy Effluvium. Beda averreth that it is Noctiparent, as the Bat or Owl, and seldom quitteth its Warrene until Midnight, for food; for the reason being that being Coecigneous, or possessing no organs of Vision, it loveth Tenebrosity.
All which notwithstanding, upon strict inquiry, we find the Matter controvertible. Diodorus, in his Eleventh Book, affirmeth the Welsh Rabbit to be a creature of Figment, like unto the Sphinx and Snap-Dragon. Mathiolus, in his Comment on Dioscorides, treateth it not as an Animal, but as a Lark. Sextius, a Physitian, sayeth that having well digested the matter, he was compulsed to reject it; whilest Salmuth the Commentator of Pancirollus, averreth that one Podocaterus, a Cyprian, kept one for Months in a Cage, without ever having attained the sight of the remotest Manifestation of Vitality.
Now, besides Authority against it, Experience doth in no way confirm the existence of the Welsh Rabbit as an Animant Entity. But, contrariwise, the principles of Sense and Reason conspire to asseverate it to be, like unto the Myths of Paganism, an Inanimate Body, vivificated by the Ignoration and Superstitiosity of Men. For had they but inquired into the Etymon, or true meaning of the name of the Entity in question, they would have experienced that it was originally merely a Synonyme for a British Dainty, or Cymric Scitamentum; insomuch as it was primitively appellated, The Welsh Tid, or Rare-Bit; which by elision becoming Metamorphosed into Ra'bit, was, from its Homophony, vulgarly supposed to have respect to the Cuniculus rather than to the Scitamentum of Wales.
Againe, the Doctrine of the Existency of the Welsh Rabbit as a Vivous Entity doth in nowise accord with the three definitive Confirmators and Tests of things dubious: to wit, Experiment, Analysis, and Synthesis. And first by Experiment. For if we send to Wales for one of the Rabbits vernacular to the Princpality, we shall discriminate on the attainment of it, no Difformity in its Organism from that of the Cuniculi vulgar to other Countryes. And if we then proceed to discoriate and exossate the Animal thus attained, or to deprive it of both its Skin and Bones, and after to macerate the residuary Muscular Fibre into a papparious Pulp, we shall experience, upon diffusing the same on an Offula tosta or thin slice of toast, that so far from the concoction partaking in the least of the delectable Sapor of the Welsh Scitamentum, it will in no way titillate the lingual Papillæ; but, contrariwise, offer inordinate Offence to the Gust.
And, secondly, by Analysis. If, in the stead of sending to Wales, we betake ourselves to any Hostelrie or place of Coenatory Resort, vicine to Covent Garden (whereanent they be celebrious for the concoction of such like Comestibles, for the Deipnophagi or eater of Suppers), and thence provide ourselves with one of the Welsh Rarebits or Scitamenta, whereof we are treating, we shall discriminate upon the Dissolution or Discerption of its Part, that it consisteth not of any Carnal Substance, but simply of a Superstratum of some flavous and adipose Edible, which, to the Sense of Vision, seemeth like unto the Unguent denominated Basilicon, or the Emplastrum appellated Diachylon; whilest to the Sense of Olfaction it beareth an Odour that hath an inviting Caseous or Cheesy Fragor, and fulfilleth all the conditions and Prædicaments of caseous matter or Cheese, which hath undergone the process of Torrefaction; whereof, indeed, if we submit a portion to the Test of Gust, we shall, from the peculiar Sapor appertinent thereto, without Dubitation determine it to consist.
And thirdly and lastly, by Synthesis. If we provide ourselves with about a Selibra or half pound of the Cheese, entitulated Duplex Glocestrius, or Double Gloucester; and then go on to cut the intrinsic caseous Matter into tenuous Segments or Laminæ; and, positing such Segments within the coquinary commodity distinguished by Culinarians as the Furnus Bataviæ or Dutch Oven, submit the same to the Fire, until by the action of the Caloric they become mollified unto Semiliquidity: whereupon, if we diffuse the caseous fluid on an Offula of Bread, the Superfices whereof hath been previously torrefied, and then Season the same with a slight aspersion of the Sinapine, Piperine, and Saline Condiments, or with Mustard, Pepper, and Salt, we shall find that the Sapor and Fragor thereof differ in no wise from the Gust and Odour of the Edible we had præ-attained from the Covent Garden Coenatorium; and consequentially that the Welsh Rabbit is not, as the Vulgar Pseudodox conceiteth, a species of Cuniculus vernacular to Wales, but as was before predicated, simply a Savoury and Redolent Scitamentum or Rarebit, which is much existimated by the Cymri or Welsh people, who, from time prætermemorial, have been cognized as a Philocaseous or Cheese-loving Nation.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.