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Olla Podrida   By: (1792-1848)

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Olla Podrida, by Captain Marryat.

Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.

"Olla Podrida" was published in 1840, the fifteenth book to flow from Marryat's pen. It consists of short stories, articles, his Diary on the Continent, (as opposed to his Diary in America), short plays. Except for "The Modern Town House" there is very little of great importance in the book.



April 3, 1835.

Reader, did you ever feel in that peculiarly distressing state of mind in which one oppressing idea displaces or colours every other, absorbing, intermingling with, empoisoning, and, like the filth of the harpy, turning every thing into disgust when a certain incubus rides upon the brain, as the Old Man of the Mountain did upon the shoulders of Sinbad, burdening, irritating, and rendering existence a misery when, looking around, you see but one object perched everywhere and grinning at you when even what you put into your mouth tastes of but that one something, and the fancied taste is so unpleasant as almost to prevent deglutition when every sound which vibrates in your ear appears to strike the same discordant note, and all and every thing will remind you of the one only thing which you would fain forget; have you ever felt any thing like this, reader? If you have not, then thank God, by way of grace, before you out with your knife and fork and begin to cut up the contents of these pages.

I have been and am now suffering under one of these varieties of "Phobias," and my disease is a Politicophobia, I will describe the symptoms.

I am now in the metropolis of England, and when I walk out every common house appears to me to be the House of Commons every lordly mansion the House of Lords every man I meet, instead of being a member of society, is transferred by imagination into a member of the senate every chimney sweep into a bishop, and a Bavarian girl, with her "Py a proom," into an ex chancellor. If I return home, the ring at the bell reminds me of a Peel as I mount the stairs I think of the "Lobby" I throw myself on the sofa, and the cushion is transformed into a woolsack if a solitary visitor calls in, I imagine a public meeting, and call out chair! chair! and I as often address my wife as Mr Speaker, as I do with the usual appellative of "my dear."

This incubus, like the Catholic anathema, pursues me everywhere at breakfast, the dry toast reminds me of the toasts at public dinners tea, of the East India charter sugar, of the West India question the loaf, of agricultural distress and, as every one knows that London eggs are a lottery, according as they prove bad or good, so am I reminded of a Whig or Tory measure. When the newspaper is brought in, I walk round and round it as a dog will do round the spot he is about to lie down upon. I would fain not touch it; but at last, like a fascinated bird who falls per force into the reptile's mouth, so do I plunge into its columns, read it with desperation, and when the poison has circulated, throw it away in despair. If I am reminded to say grace at dinner, I commence "My Lords, and gentlemen;" and when I seek my bed, as I light my taper, I move "that the House do now adjourn." The tradesmen's bills are swelled by my disease into the budget, and the checks upon my banker into supplies. Even my children laugh and wonder at the answers which they receive... Continue reading book >>

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