Notes on a Cellar-Book, by Professor George Saintsbury

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Notes on a Cellar-Book, by Professor George Saintsbury

Post by jdaw1 » 10:54 Sun 28 Sep 2008

There follows the text of chapter III of Notes on a Cellar-Book, by George Saintsbury.

The book has been out of copyright for almost five years:
  • Notes on a Cellar-Book was published in London in 1920, having been written by a British author, this text being posted by a British citizen whilst physically present in the United Kingdom so the relevant jurisdiction is British (arguable whether England and Wales or Scotland);
  • UK copyright ‟for literary ! works” has a duration ‟70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies”;
  • and the sole author died in 1933.
Hence no permissions are needed, and none have been sought. Any parties nonetheless claiming © ownership and objecting to publication here should contact the poster or an admin, giving detailed reasons for disagreeing with the preceding analysis.

Members of :tpf: may well have in their possession other old books with chapters on or reference to Port. If it is reasonably believed that the text is out of copyright, or that the © owner would not object, then please post such works, or at least interesting excerpts therefrom. If there is doubt, ask the © owner and then type and post the work.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: This Text

Post by jdaw1 » 10:56 Sun 28 Sep 2008

Following the precedent set in the typing of Vintagewise, throughout the text, grey square parentheses [] indicate a comment by the typist. Links are, of course, added by the typist. Footnotes, shown in the original at the foot of the page, are instead are indicated with a † , and, in small type, immediately follow the paragraph pointing thereto. The layout of the table of ports is replicated by setting it as

Code: Select all

, being the closest approximation possible within phpBB3. 

This thread contains the text of the chapter on Port in George Saintsbury’s book [i]Notes on a Cellar-Book[/i], as typed by jdaw1. There will doubtless be errors in the typing, and readers may well have other comments. Please post corrections and comments in the thread [url=http://www.theportforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=2068]Notes on a Cellar-Book: Corrections and Comments[/url].

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port

Post by jdaw1 » 10:57 Sun 28 Sep 2008

CHAPTER III
PORT

That port should follow sherry is, or ought to be, to any decent Englishman, a thing requiring no argument. My cellar, if not exactly my cellar-book (which, as has been said, did not begin till some years later), was founded in this eminent respect on a small supply of 1851 (I think, but am not sure, Cockburn’s), whereof my friend in Pall Mall, but from Scotland, who supplied it, ingenuously said that for his part he liked rich port, but that for a medium dry wine he did not think it could be surpassed. Nor have I, to my remembrance, ever drunk much better than this, or than some magnums of the same shippers and vintage which succeeded it, and were bought at the sale of that air-travelling victim, Mr. Powell, of Wiltshire. [Neither Google nor Richard Kebabjian of PlaneCrashInfo.com have been able to identify Mr. Powell, the latter even having checked newspaper archives from 1903 onwards.] Indeed, I think ’51 was the finest port, of what may be called the older vintages accessible to my generation, that I ever tasted ; it was certainly the finest that I ever possessed. The much talked of 1820 I do not think that I ever drank securus, that is to say, under circumstances which assured its being genuine. Some ’34, with such a guarantee, I have drunk, and more ’47, the latter when it was about in perfection (say, in 1870) to a date the other day when it was some sixty years old and little but a memory, or at least a suggestion. But ’51 in all its phases, dry, rich and medium, was, I think, such a wine as deserved the famous and pious encomium (slightly altered) that the Almighty might no doubt have caused a better wine to exist, but that he never did.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 10:58 Sun 28 Sep 2008

For some years, however, after the book was started I did not drink much port, being in the heat of my devotion to Claret or Burgundy after dinner. I cannot find that I ever possessed any ’54, which, though not a large or very famous vintage, some not bad judges ranked with ’51 itself, but I have records of ’58, ’61, of course ’63, ’68, ’70, ’72, ’75 and ’78 in the first division of my book, and before the interval in which I did not keep it regularly. During that interval I was accused and convicted of acute rheumatism, and sentenced, as usual, to give up port altogether—which was all the harder as I had just returned to my natural allegiance thereto. The result was that several dozens of what was going to be one of the best wines of the century, Dow’s ’78, comforted the sick and afflicted of a Cambridgeshire village ; and the only ‘piece’ of port that I ever laid down—a quarter cask of Sandeman’s ’81—was taken back on very generous terms by the merchants who had supplied it. They gave me an additional five per cent. per annum on what I had given for it.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 10:59 Sun 28 Sep 2008

However, other people had to be provided for, and I did not myself practise total abstinence. I seem, from menus preserved, though the book was in suspense, to have trusted chiefly to three kinds, no one of which perhaps would have been highly esteemed by a person who went by common opinion, but which had merits. One was a wine of uncertain vintage, believed to be ’53, and probably Sandeman’s, but certainly very good. Another was a Rebello Valente of ’65. Now ’65, like ’53, has no general repute as a vintage, and some people think Rebello Valente ‘coarse.’ I can only say that this, for a ‘black-strap’ wine, was excellent, and I confess that I do not despise ‘black-strap.’ But the gem of the three was a ’73, which had been allowed to remain in wood till it was eight or nine years old, and in bottle for about as much longer before I bought it. It has lost very little colour and not much body of the best kind ; but if there was ever any devil in its soul that soul had thoroughly exorcised the intruder and replaced him with an angel. I had my headquarters at Reading at that time, and a member of my family was being attended by the late Mr. Oliver Maurice, one of the best-known practitioners between London and Bristol. He once appeared rather doubtful when I told him that I had given his patient port ; so I made him taste this. He drank it as port should be drink—a trial of the bouquet ; a slow sip ; a rather larger and less slow one, and so on ; but never a gulp ; and during the drinking his faced exchanged its usual bluff and almost brusque aspect for the peculiar blandness—a blandness of Beulah if not of Heaven itself—which good wine gives to worthy countenances. And when he set the glass down he said, softly but cordially, ‘That won’t do her any harm.’ But I am not entirely certain that in his heart of hearts he did not think it rather wasted on a lady, in which, as I have said, I think he was wrong.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 10:59 Sun 28 Sep 2008

I found out, at any rate, or chose to find out, that it did me none, or si peu que rien, and regretted my precipitancy in getting rid of the ’78 and ’81. But in ten years I had three house-moves and no good cellar ; so that I simply used up what wines I had got and supplied deficiencies for immediate use only. When, in 1895, I settled in Ediburgh, it became possible, and to me desirable, to make larger provision ; and I set about it, though in a way perhaps not the ‘provident’ in another sense. If you lay down a considerable quantity of an approved vintage port, just ready to bottle, you get it, or did get it, very cheaply. For nearly a hundred years before the war the price averaged some thirty to six-and-thirty shillings a dozen [£0·12½ to £0·15 per bottle, a Butler’s salary then being £25 to £50 per annum (source)] ; it seldom or never plays the tricks that claret, in growing up, will sometimes do ; it will treble its value in twenty or five-and-twenty years, and when it is matured, if you want to get rid of it, it will fetch full price. On the other hand, if you buy small lots of matured wines for your own amusement, you will pay a good deal for them, and broken dozens, or even larger lots sold at auctions will go for a song, while small lots of immature wines will go for whatever is worse than a ‘song.’ However, you have your amusement meanwhile, and must be prepared, as usual, to pay for it.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:00 Sun 28 Sep 2008

Between 1895 and 1915 I collected in this way small lots of most of the best back-vintages from ’70 onward, with a few older still : and laid down a dozen or two of several sorts of the best that followed from ’96 to ’08 (I had bought but not cellared ’11 before I gave up housekeeping). At one time I had, I think, about fifty or sixty different kinds of port, though seldom more than a dozen of each, sometimes only two or three bottles. The financial result when the cellar came to be sold was disastrous ; but the amusement during the twenty years was great. You could continually try different vintages of one shipper, or different shippers of the same vintage, against each other ; and as each year made a different in the good wines, and these differences were never exactly proportionate, the permutations and combinations of experiment were practically infinite, and always interesting in the trial, even if disappointing in the result. To find ’70 and ’73 always maintaining and improving their place to the very last bottle, when tears would have mingled with the wine but for spoiling it ; to see the ’90’s catching up and beating the (as it seemed to me) always over-rated ’87’s : or to pit against each other two such vintages as ’96 and ’97 from the same shipper these were intellectual as well as merely sensuous exercises, and pleasing as both.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:00 Sun 28 Sep 2008

One of the results of this extensive and continuous ‘sampling’ was the conclusion that the exclusive devotion of some wine-merchants to particular shippers is rather a mistake, and that the superior position accorded in the market to some of these shippers Cockburn and Sandeman especially—is not universally justified. It is true that from the two shippers just named, and, perhaps, one or two others, you will hardly ever get bad wine ; but you do not get from them quite the same variety of good that you do from an enlarged range. I have done justice to Cockburn advisedly, and in the large number of Sandemans that I have had I have rarely been disappointed. But I don’t think I ever drank—I certainly never had—a better ’87 than Smith Woodhouse ; and I have seldom gone wrong with Graham, which I have heard experts (or supposed experts) patronise as ‘very fair second-class.’ There is no shipper’s wine that I have found better than the best of Dow, ’78 and ’90 especially ; Warre is almost always trustworthy ; and Croft generally. Martinez and Offley, both famous names, have justified themselves with me, and so has Taylor, especially for somewhat rich wines. But the best rich that I ever had was, I think, a Cockburn of ’81. Good wines I have had, in particular ‘Zimbro,’ of Feuerheerd’s, but never, I think, the very best ; and Kopke’s famous ‘Roriz’ did not seemingly appeal to me, for I find none in the book.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:01 Sun 28 Sep 2008

On another point of interest, the possession of so large a number of different vintages and shipments enables one to give a pretty well-based opinion ; and that is the extreme uncertainty of the keeping qualities even of a fortified wine like port. I have already hinted, and may now state more precisely, my belief that no red wine will keep much more than fifty years without ‘going off.’ It is true that Barham [perhaps Richard Harris Barham?] was (as I had forgotten in the first edition of this book) speaking of port when he wrote—
  • ‘And I question if keeping it does much good
    After ten years in the bottle, and three in the wood.’
But to claret this applies more strongly, though I think it applies to port, if not commonly, oftener than the public supposes. The best and most robustly and skilfully prepared wines, such as ’51, ’63, ’70, ’73, ’78, ’78, ’81, ’87, ’90, and most ’96’s with some ’97’s, probably arrive at their best between twenty and thirty. But it is sometimes difficult to foresee how long they will keep at it. The most curious experience I had of this may finish the paper. Early in the year 1900 I bought from my Bristol friends some small parcels of the very best ports then available, including a ’70 (a really magnificent wine), and both ’72 and ’73. Comparatively few people know of ’72, but its price was then the same as that of the more famous ’73, and for some time I thought it the better of the two, and got more of it ; and held this for a year or two. But when the ’72 had turned thirty, the superior vitality of the younger wine began to tell, and in a few years more it was better than ever, while the more delicate ‘Ventozello’ [presumably single-l Ventozelo] of ’72 had certainly ceased improving, and was even slightly senescent.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:01 Sun 28 Sep 2008

So no more, save a postscript, of ‘the Englishman’s wine’ ; though I should like to talk of a curious Dow, as deep in colour as a wine bottled at thirty months, but otherwise completely ‘tawny’ in character ; of the ’04’s and their wonderfully rapid development (some of which a friend gave me at Belfast, when it was not near Barham’s limit, might have made a Sinn Feiner into a good citizen) ; of many other things. They are, to blend two lines of Mr. Swinburne’s, ‘past as the shadows on glasses” the glasses in which they themselves were drunk ; but the memory and delectation of them remains.†  [Wikipedia says of Algernon Charles Swinburne that he ‟is the virtual star of the third volume of George Saintsbury's famous History of English Prosody”. As for the two blended lines, possibilities might include: ‟The shadows of past things reign”, ‟Lighten the shadows reverberate from the glasses”, and ‟As shadows flashing down a glass”.]

†  One of the most agreeable incidents of my life in connection with Port is quite recent. Soon after I had published something about wine in the Athenæum, and since America ‘went dry,’ two students of that misguided country wrote to me saying that they had found it impossible to refrain, after reading the article, from sallying forth, purchasing some so-called port wine (I hope it was not very bad), and drinking my health in it. It would be difficult for a teacher to have a more gratifying testimonial to the efficacy of his teaching ; especially when he remembers the boasts of Prohibitionists as to bringing on prohibition by sowing pseudo-scientific tarradiddles in U.S. school-books.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port List

Post by jdaw1 » 11:02 Sun 28 Sep 2008

I subjoin a list of the ports in my cellar at different or the same times.

Code: Select all

         SHIPPERS AND YEARS

Cockburn     Dow        Croft    Sandeman
  1851       1870       1875       1863
  --81       --78       --85       --67
  --84       --87       --87       --70
  --90       --90       --94       --72
  --96       --96       1900       --73
  1900       --99       --04       --78
             1904                  --81
                                   --87
Martinez     Warre     Graham      --90
  1880       1878       1881       --91
  --87       --84       --84       --92
  1900       --87       --96       --97
             --90       --97       1900
             1900                  --08

Code: Select all

         SHIPPERS AND YEARS

 Silva &                Smith
 Cosens     Taylor    Woodhouse  Feuerheed
  1887       1884       1887       1873
  --90       --87       --96       --96
  --96       --90       --97       -- ?
  1901       1900               (bot. 1902)
  --02

                 Rebello      Tuke
       Offley    Valente   Holdsworth
        1887       1865       1890
        --92       --90

       Gould
      Campbell  Burmester†   Uncertain
        1892       1900       1853
        1900                  --58
                              --61
                              --68
                              --70-74
                              --73
†  This wine, the only one of the shipper’s that I ever bought, was sold before I tasted it.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port List, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:03 Sun 28 Sep 2008

(Notes on Port List.)

It should be observed that the relative frequency with which the names of shippers occur does not invariably involve a higher estimate on my own part, owning to the fact noticed in the chapter on the subject, of the partiality of some wine merchants for some shippers. This is especially the case with Sandeman and with Silva & Cosens, though I need hardly say that I find no fault with my advisers’ tastes in either case, especially in the first. And I have been informed, rightly or wrongly, that for some years past Dow’s marks, which I think on the whole I have personally preferred to any others, have been in Messrs Silva’s hands.

The wines of uncertain origin, it need also hardly be said, were bought merely on their merits. The ’70, bot. ’74, was a very curious wine, somewhat ‘blackstrappy’ and even ‘public-housy’ in character, but by no means to be contemned. Some of the later vintages, which I had in full bottle size, I never tasted, including one or two of the ’96’s and ’97’s, and I think all of the 1900’s and their successors. But the pints were ‘morigerant’, even up to the already-mentioned 1904, though mine was not quite so good as my friend’s. Taking shippers and vintages all round, I should say ’51, ’58, ’63, some ’67, ’70, ’72, ’73, ’78, ’81, ’87, ’90, were the best of those I drank in thorough condition. To make a still ‘shorter leet,’ as they say in Scotland, I think ’51, ’70 and ’90 supplied the three best ports I ever had. But though I don’t exactly envy the people who bought my wine at prices which would scarcely buy a Tarronga now—for Envy is not one of the heaviest of my quite heavy list of Deadly Sins, and I humbly hope for no long detention with wired-up eyes if I have the luck to reach the scene of that purgation—I think they made uncommonly good bargains.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Port List, continued

Post by jdaw1 » 11:03 Sun 28 Sep 2008

For Port red Port, as one of the earliest celebrants after the Methuen treaty no less justly than emphatically calls it, White Port being a mere albino is incomparable when good. It is not a wine-of-all-work like Sherry Mr. Pendennis was right when he declined to drink it with his dinner. [William Thackeray: ‟… It’s your turn to fill your glass. What? you won’t have any port? Don’t like port with your dinner? Here’s your health.” And this worthy man found himself not the less attached to Pendennis because the latter disliked port wine at dinner.] It has not the almost feminine grace and charm of Claret; the transcendental qualities of Burgundy and Madeira; the immediate inspiration of Champagne; the rather unequal and sometimes palling attractions of Sauterne and Moselle and Hock. But it strengthens while it gladdens as no other wine can do; and there is something about it which must have been created in pre-established harmony with the best English character.† 

†  One thing it should not be asked to do, and is to act purely as a thirst-quencher. I remember two stories illustrating this in tragi-comic manner, though the tragedy predominated in the first, the comedy (with some romance) in the second. Mozley in his Reminiscences [Reminiscences, Chiefly of Oriel, and the Oxford Movement], I think, tells how a predecessor of his at Cholderton contracted a sad habit of excessive drinking. It appears that, in old days at Oriel, they used, as poor Hartley Coleridge found to his cost, to devise traps and torments for their probationer fellows (more recently I have heard nothing worse at other colleges than expectation of salad-making). This man’s trial was cataloguing the library. It was in a state of dust not very credible to the ‘Noetics,’ who had, however, hardly then arisen, and this dust had to be ‘laid.’ The youngster, perhaps too proud of his new status to drink beer, fled to port then still the milk of donhood, as Greek was its unthreatened mother-tongue and allowed Apeiron to violate the law of the Peras. The other story is unpublished, and not so sad. A Canadian lady once told me that, when she was a girl, she was playing lawn-tennis with other maidens in the gardens of the late Professor Goldwin Smith ‘over there.’ It was a very hot day, and he came and good-naturedly asked them if they would like something to drink. (Goldwin Smith had a reputation for acerbity ; but I can say that, on the only occasion when I met him as being an old Saturday Reviewer he revisited his former haunts at the Albany, and my editor admitted me to the interview he was as agreeable as any man could be.) Well, after a few minutes, during which the damsels naturally became thirstier than ever, their host reappeared, bearing on a mighty silver salver glasses of port wine! They were not or at least she was not so ungracious as to refuse it ; but it did not exactly meet their views.

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Notes on a Cellar-Book: Corrections and Comments

Post by jdaw1 » 11:04 Sun 28 Sep 2008

jdaw1 wrote:This thread contains the text of the chapter on Port in George Saintsbury’s book Notes on a Cellar-Book, as typed by jdaw1. There will doubtless be errors in the typing, and readers may well have other comments. Please post corrections and comments in the thread Notes on a Cellar-Book: Corrections and Comments.

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Re: Notes on a Cellar-Book, by Professor George Saintsbury

Post by DRT » 22:03 Tue 10 Mar 2009

jdaw1 wrote:The book has been out of copyright for almost five years:
Notes on a Cellar-Book was published in London in 1920, having been written by a British author, this text being posted by a British citizen whilst physically present in the United Kingdom so the relevant jurisdiction is British (arguable whether England and Wales or Scotland);
UK copyright ‟for literary ! works” has a duration ‟70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies”;
and the sole author died in 1933.
Hence no permissions are needed, and none have been sought.
I have just received a copy of this book from http://www.amazon.co.uk. It's a brand new edition, pubished and copyrighted in 2008 by The Regents of the University of California (University of California Press Ltd, London, England).

Does this affect the legal status of this thread?
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

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Re: Notes on a Cellar-Book, by Professor George Saintsbury

Post by jdaw1 » 22:12 Tue 10 Mar 2009

Absolutely not. The Regents of the University of California, or their agents, may well have chosen to publish some out-of-copyright text. Hurray for them.

Presumably the modern book has been retypeset, rather than being a series of photographs. If so, the new typesetting will be copyright, but not the text.

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