Insult of the week: avaunt, Mephistopheles!


This week’s insult is dedicated not to a person, but to the demon drink: specifically, a bowl of rum punch.

mistura curiosa - drinking small
Bottoms up!

Captain Devereaux, in The House by the Church-Yard, is enjoying a convivial evening in his Chapelizod lodgings with renowned local gossip Dr. Tom Toole:

And the china bowl, with its silver ladle, and fine fragrance of lemon and old malt whiskey, and a social pair of glasses, were placed on the table by fair Mistress Irons; and Devereux filled his glass, and Toole did likewise; and the little doctor rattled on; and Devereux threw in his word, and finally sang a song.

All is going well, until all of a sudden Devereaux’s mood turns bleak – possibly because he’s just spotted something out the window that has reminded him of his romantic misfortunes.

Whatever his contemplations, it was plain, when he turned about, that the dark spirit was upon him again.

‘Curse that punch,’ said he, in language still more emphatic. ‘You’re like Mephistopheles in the play—you come in upon my quiet to draw me to my ruin. ‘Twas the devil sent you here, to kill my soul, I believe; but you sha’n’t. Drink, will you?—ay—I’ll give you a draught—a draught of air will cool you. Drink to your heart’s content.’

Happily for the good doctor (although less for his landlady’s china), Devereaux elects to vent his spleen on the punch-bowl, rather than on his guest.

And to Toole’s consternation up went the window, and a hideous rush of eddying storm and snow whirled into the room. Out went the candles—the curtains flapped high in air, and lashed the ceiling—the door banged with a hideous crash—papers, and who knows what beside, went spinning, hurry-scurry round the room; and Toole’s wig was very near taking wing from his head.

‘Hey—hey—hey! holloo!’ cried the doctor, out of breath, and with his artificial ringlets frisking about his chops and eyes.

Out, sorcerer—temptation, begone—avaunt, Mephistopheles—cauldron, away!’ thundered the captain; and sure enough, from the open window, through the icy sleet, whirled the jovial bowl; and the jingle of the china was heard faint through the tempest.

Dr. Tom Toole’s response is to swear “like a trooper”, although sadly for the blog, Sheridan le Fanu has declined to specify exactly what military terminology he’s employing on this occasion.

mistura curiosa - punch bowl

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