I cannot resist sharing this wonderful 1870’s Christmas season letter to the editor of The Times because it fits so well into my theme this week of Christmas hampers.
The letter is a wonderful example of marketing practice gone wrong, of responsibility for the mistake being assigned and consequent action taken by the employer implied, of delighted suprise turned to righteous indignation on the part of the recipient (a minister of the Church, no less), and of the nineteenth century version of ‘going to the media’ in the case of a dispute. I love it.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
Sir. – I you deem my reply to the purveyor of “The Christmas Hamper” this year of any use to those who have asked advice how to act in the matter, I shall be obliged by your insertion of it. It is as follows:-
“From the Rev. Gerard Bancks, Cobham Vicarage, Surrey, to Mr. A. Fielding, importer of high class wines, &c, Denbigh-hall, Old Jewry.
“Cob. Vic., Surrey, Jan. 10, 1877.
“Sir, - On the 23rd of December, 1876, I received a case containing one dozen of champagne, addressed to me as above, but without any letter of advice. On the 5th of January, 1877, I received a letter from you, informing that the case had been sent by you as a sample, and that the letter of advice had been delayed owing to the intemperate habits of your ‘late clerk,’ and also enclosing the delayed letter, dated the 12th or 17th of December, 1876.
“Assuming the wine to be a present from some friend, I gladly shared it with friends, and we enjoyed five bottles out of the dozen before yours of the 4th inst. came to hand. You will wish to know what I intend to do in the matter, so I now write to tell you that, under advice, I do not intend to pay one farthing for those five bottles of wine, nor shall I purchase the remaining seven bottles or return them; but I must request you send, during the next few days, a duly authorized agent, whom I will allow to go into my cellar and remove them, but I will not take myself nor permit anyone in my employ, to take the very slightest trouble in the matter.
“GERARD BANCKS, Vicar of Cobham, Surrey.
If you can find space for my reply to Mr. A. Fielding, you will much oblige,
Yours very faithfully, GERARD BANCKS.
Cobham Vicarage, Jan. 10
As the recipe for the day, may I give you Champagne Sauce – once a traditional accompaniment to ham? I have chosen one from the 1870’s, from the cookery book of Pierre Blot, a French-born chef and self-styled ‘Professor of Gastronomy’ who moved to America and founded the New York Cooking Academy. He gives it as a variation of Madeira Sauce.
Mix cold in a saucepan two ounces of butter with a tablespoonful of flour, set on the fire and stir till it turns rather brown; when add nearly a pint of gravy, stir till it is becoming thick; then add half a pint of Madeira wine, little by little, stirring the while, give one boil only, salt to taste, and then strain and use. Champagne sauce is made in the same way, except that it must be poured in faster and used immediately. All wine sauces may be made in the same way. We mean wine sauces for meat or fish.
Handbook of Practical Cookery (New York, 1871) by Pierre Blot