I’ll eat my words

In the annals of lost manuscripts, possibly far too few have been lost to posterity through devourment. (Some say the world might be a better place if authors were more often compelled to perform this operation literally, rather than leaving the activity solely the preserve of bookworms and mice.)

An heroic exception is the Danish author Theodore Reinking. In 1644, Theodore wrote a political tract entitled Dania ad exteros de perfidia Suecorum (From the Danes to the world on the treachery of the Swedes — you have to remember that people expected to read important documents in Latin in those days.)

At that particular point, just after the Thirty Years’ War, Denmark was a shadow of its former power, and in sway to the strength of its neighbour, Sweden. Reinking’s tract blamed the Swedes roundly for this appalling situation. Whatever the literary merits of Reinking’s work, or its accuracy, the Swedes took agin it. The tetchy Scandinavians cast Reinking into a dark prison, where he mouldered for many years. At last, he was offered a stark choice: to lose his head or eat his book. (An early variation on Izzard’s cake or death, obviously.) A politician through and through, Reinking preferred the culinary challenge. We don’t know whether his tract was weighty enough to provide an entire meal or merely an amuse-bouche, or whether he acted alone or with kitchen accomplices, but he boiled his manuscript up into a broth and ate it that way.

Ezekiel by Raphael

Ezekiel by Raphael

We can’t be certain what the manuscript tasted like, but previous reports from this little-explored gastronomical field sound promising. The Lord once gave Ezekiel a scroll of a book written within and without with lamentations, and mourning, and woe, and obliged him to eat it. Reports the prophet: “It was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” (Ezekiel, 3:3)

Honey or wormwood, the manuscript-eating experience dissuaded Reinking completely from pursuing politics, penmanship or cookery as a career.

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One thought on “I’ll eat my words

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