James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Richard Peters, 20 July 1789

From Richard Peters

Belmont July 20th. 1789.

Dear Sir

It is but within a Day or two that I recieved yours of the 14th.1 in which you very properly leave me as you found me on the Subject I rambled into. But I will revenge myself by sending you a Copy of an old Fable which I have in a curious Collection I keep by me entitled “Aunciente connynge Balladdes.” I am chained to my Chair by my old Tormentor the Piles & I maliciously wish not that all my Friends should be entirely at Ease. But I let you off gently by only obliging you to read some bad Verses which I know not that you are any wise concerned in save that had you lived in the Days of these Cooks your Easiness of Temper (for which I do not like you a Jot the worse) would have prompted you to indulge the Anti Soupites in some of their Whims of an innocent Nature especially if they had been some of your Neighbours. Believe me very truly your affectionate Friend & Servt

Richard Peters


The Wise Cooks & foolish Guests
A Fable

Eleven Cooks assembled once

To make a Treat of Soup

All knowing—not a Dunce

Among the skilful Group.

The Soup was made—delicious! good!

Exclaim’d each grateful Guest,

But some who would not taste the Food,

Declar’d it wanted Zest.

Among those Malcontents were found

Some faulting each Ingredient

While others eager search’d around

To find out some Expedient

With which at once to damn the whole

Not take it in Detail.

They would not sup a single Bowl

Lest more they dare not rail.

At Length the Grumblers all fell out

In Nothing could agree

Not e’en while making of a Rout

Of what the Soup should be.

They curse the Cooks & hungry rave

For those of better Skill—

Another Mess some swear they’l have

On which they’l freely swill.

“Pray taste the Soup” requir’d the Cooks

“We’ll yield if we’re outreason’d.”

—We know ’tis bad—“by what?”—its Looks

’Tis rich & highly season’d—

We wish for Soup in th’ Maigre Stile

That’s thin—to save Expences—

(The Cooks exclaim & archly smile

“Good Sirs you’ve lost your Senses!”)

We know you Cooks who’ve learnt your Trade

Will think we talk like Asses—

But we’ll have Broth that’s cheaply made

No Salt—not much Molasses.

Instead of Dumplins we’ll have Chips

Instead of Gravy—Vapour—

And e’er it goes between our Lips

We’ll fine it down with—Paper—

And that all Palates we may please

And on your Plan refine

We’ll add some scrap’d Rh: Island Cheese

Warm’d up with Knotts of Pine.

We’ll tender this to all we meet

And if their Tastes forsake ’em

So that our Fare they will not eat

By——with Force we’ll make ’em—

If we cant have our proper Broth

We’ll join & spoil your Mess.

No Master Cook we’ll have—In Troth

We wish for Nothing less—

We’ll make a Bargain with ourselves

That one sha’n’t poison t’other

We are such wise suspicious Elves

That none will trust his Brother.

We’ll watch our Pot with sleepless Care,

O’er all we’ll keep a tight Hand,

For Honesty we feel’s so rare

Our left will cheat our right Hand—

“Our Comprehensions” cry the Cooks

“With yours are not on Level.

“To us your Mixture really looks

“A Pottage for the Devil.

“At us, good Sirs, then cease to rave

“You’re surely touch’d with Mania.

“We’ll eat our Soup—do you go shave—

“Lord help your Pericrania![”]


To mend is truly always right

But then the Way to do it

Is not so facile to the Wight

Who undertakes to shew it.

RC and enclosure (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1Letter not found.

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