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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Arbuthnot (1667–1735)

A Dissertation on Dumplings

THE DUMPLING is, indeed, an ancient institution and of foreign origin; but, alas! what were those dumplings? Nothing but a few lentils sodden together, moistened and cemented with a little seethed fat, not much unlike our grit or oatmeal pudding; yet were they of such esteem among the ancient Romans, that a statue was erected to Fulvius Agricola, the first inventor of these lentil dumplings. How unlike the gratitude shown by the public to our modern projectors!

The Romans, though our conquerors, found themselves much outdone in dumplings by our forefathers, the Roman dumplings being no more to compare to those made by the Britons than a stone-dumpling is to a marrow-pudding; though, indeed, the British dumpling at that time was little better than what we call a stone-dumpling, nothing else but flour and water. But every generation growing wiser and wiser, the project was improved, and dumpling grew to be pudding. One projector found milk better than water; another introduced butter; some added marrow, others plums; and some found out the use of sugar; so that, to speak truth, we know not where to fix the genealogy or chronology of any of these pudding projectors; to the reproach of our historians, who ate so much pudding, yet have been so ungrateful to the first professors of this most noble science as not to find them a place in history….

The invention of eggs was merely accidental, two or three of which having casually rolled from a shelf into the pudding which a goodwife was making, she found herself under the necessity either of throwing away her pudding or letting the eggs remain. But concluding, from the innocent quality of the eggs, that they would do no hurt, if they did no good, she wisely jumbled them all together, after having carefully picked out the shells. The consequence is easily imagined: the pudding became a pudding of puddings, and the use of eggs from thence took its date. The woman was sent for to Court to make puddings for King John, who then swayed the scepter, and gained such favour that she was the making of the whole family.

I cannot conclude this paragraph without owning I received this important part of the history of pudding from Mr. Lawrence, of Wilson-Green, the greatest antiquary of the present age….

From that time the English became so famous for puddings, that they are called pudding-eaters all over the world to this day.

At her demise, the woman’s son was taken into favour, and made the King’s chief cook; and so great was his fame for puddings, that he was called Jack Pudding all over the kingdom, though, indeed, his real name was John Brand, as by the records of the kitchen you will find. This Jack Pudding became yet a greater favourite than his mother, insomuch that he had the King’s ear as well as his mouth at command, for the King, you must know, was a mighty lover of pudding. It is needless to enumerate the many sorts of pudding he made. He made every pudding except quaking pudding, which was solely invented by our friends of the Bull and Mouth.