In 1826, a lady describes a Westbury custom that follows the birth of a child.
In "these" parts of the country, it is the custom, when a lady shall have been " as well as can be expected," for thirteen or fourteen days, for the husband to enjoy what is called "the gentleman's party," viz: all his friends, bachelor and Benedict, are invited to eat "sugared toast," which, (as the cookery-books always say,) " is thus prepared"— Rounds of bread are "baked," (videlicit toasted,) each stratum spread thick with moist sugar, and piled up in a portly punch bowl, ready for action: "strong beer," (anglice, home-brewed ale,) is in the mean time heated, and poured boiling hot over the mound of bread; which is taken immediately to the expectant guests . . . How they contrive to emancipate the toast from the scalding liquid, I never could, by any effort of ingenuity and research, decide to my own satisfaction. A goodly slice you know, sir, it would be entirely impracticable to achieve; for in half a minute from the time of the admission of the "hot beer," the toast must be "all of a swam," (as we elegantly say here,) and, resembling the contents of the witch's cauldron, "thick and slab." Whether a soup ladle and soup plates are in requisition on the occasion, I am equally unable to ascertain; but on final dismissal of this gentlemanly food, (for I by no means would insinuate that the congregation is limited to one act of devotion,) they magnanimously remunerate the "nurse," by each putting money into the empty bowl, which is then conveyed to the priestess of their ignoble orgies! Of all the " mean and impotent conclusions" of a feast, defend me from that, which pays its "pic nic" pittance to an old crone, who is hired to attend the behests of the "lady," but who by some strange mutation becomes the directress of the " gentleman's" revels, and the recipient of the payment from his guests, for "sugar’d toast!"
~~~here in Hone’s Every-Day Book for October 17.
Illustrations: Above left: P.F. Sokolov, Mother and Baby 1826, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Below right: Thomas Rowlandson, Naval Officers, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.