“THE Monks of the present day,” says Charpentier, who died in the year 1702, “lead sober lives, when compared with their predecessors.” Some religious Fathers were called The Hogs of Saint Anthony. They retired from the world to make eight repasts per diem! The order of the Chartreux was of a different complexion. It was, in its original institution, more austere than that of La Trappe. Amongst other regulations for their food, it was written, that with barley bread, water, and pulse, they were fully satisfied. And again, they promise to preserve “perpetual fasting, perpetual silence, and perpetual hair-cloth.” Every Saturday night was brought to each Father his portion of food for the week, with which they accommodated themselves in their own cells, widely separated from each other. But this mortification was not long held in esteem: their severities were mitigated, more and more, till at length they have improved the order greatly, by admitting many of the luxuries of life. They now eat, instead of the dry barley bread which was brought to them on the Saturday nights, the newest loaves, made of the whitest flour; instead of water, they drink the richest wines, in greater quantities than heretofore they drank water. The pulse was found rather insipid food; so they have joined to it excellent fish: and, in fact, there is no luxury in which these Fathers, who were enjoined by their Founder to “perpetual fasts,” do not indulge their appetites.
“Ah, happy Convents! bosom’d deep in vines,
Where slumber Abbots, purple as their wines!”
Mr. Merry, the Author of the Della Crusca Poems, when he can get rid of his load of poetic tinsel, presents sometimes a thought of the true gold. He has written an Elegy on a View of the Chartreux, in which are these excellent lines—
“’Tis not by losing Life that Heaven ye gain;
It is not Solitude that leads to GOD.”