Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 18 (1987)
Does the Englishman eat and drink only to stay alive? Using evidence provided by George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Jerome K. Jerome, Lewis Carroll and the poetic ponderings of mighty and minor poets, Gabriel Woolf took a Iighthearted look into the English cornucopia, trying to determine whether it contained any more than our national beverage TEA and a vegetable he clearly does not savour himself - SPROUTS! Are the English the only people daft enough to eat sprouts, he clearly wondered - and we still don't know, for no evidence has appeared which proves them to be part of any European, American or Oriental menu.
With the theme of food and drink, the programme was, inevitably, fairly light-hearted, although the death. (in which lack of food and drink played no small part) of Jo, the crossing-sweeper in 'Bleak House' was poignant and moving. But other tears - of laughter - were shed at Jerome K. Jerome's hilarious contretemps with an unassailable can of pineapple.
Someone was heard to say that there was not enough George Eliot; indeed, only two passages - the much loved piece about Mr. Edward Freely's new but corrupting shop in 'Brother Jacob' and the Harvest Supper in 'Adam Bede' - but these took a larger slice of the nearly two-hour programme than any of the other writers.