24 December 2013

A Canadian Winter

Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (London: Taylor & Hessey, 1823), pp. 138-139:
I put up a petition annually for as much snow, hail, frost, or storm, of one kind or other, as the skies can possibly afford us.  Surely everybody is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fireside, candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without,
And at the doors and windows seem to call,
As heav’n and earth they would together mell;
Yet the least entrance find they none at all;
Whence sweeter grows our rest secure in massy hall. 
Castle of Indolence
All these are items in the description of a winter evening which must surely be familiar to everybody born in a high latitude.  And it is evident that most of these delicacies, like ice-cream, require a very low temperature of the atmosphere to produce them; they are fruits which cannot be ripened without weather stormy or inclement in some way or other.  I am not “particular,” as people say, whether it be snow, or black frost, or wind so strong that (as Mr.  says) “you may lean your back against it like a post.”  I can put up even with rain, provided it rains cats and dogs; but something of the sort I must have, and if I have it not, I think myself in a manner ill-used; for why am I called on to pay so heavily for winter, in coals and candles, and various privations that will occur even to gentlemen, if I am not to have the article good of its kind?  No, a Canadian winter for my money, or a Russian one, where every man is but a co-proprietor with the north wind in the fee-simple of his own ears.