August 2: Shared Table XIV, and Francis Thompson I: Once upon a time there was a hypochondriac

This follows in spirit yesterday’s posting about food fads or ‘trends’. Thompson refused to give a moral to this story, but it works at many levels, not just around bodily food. Allow yourself a ‘light and carefully varied diet’ in other areas too, and have the spirit of enjoyment and gratitude.

More from Francis Thompson in the following days.



Once upon a time there was a hypochondriac, who – though his digestion was excellent – believed that his delicate system required a most winnowed choice of viands. His physician, in order to humour him, prescribed a light and carefully varied diet. But the hypochondriac was not satisfied.

i want to know, Doctor,’ he said, ‘how much of this food really contributes to the building up of my system, and how much is waste material!’

That,’ observed the sage physician, ‘i cannot possibly tell you without recondite analysis and nice calculation.’

Then,’ said the hypochondriac, in a rage, ‘I will not eat your food. You are an imposter, Sir, and a charlatan, and I believe now your friends who told me that you were a homoeopath in disguise.’

My dear Sir,’ replied the unmoved physician, ‘if you will eat nothing but what is entire nutriment, you will soon need to consult, not a doctor, but a chameleon. To what purpose are your digestive organs, unless to secrete what is nutritious and to excrete what is innutritious!’

He that has understanding, let him understand.

In: The Works of Francis Thompson, Prose: Volume III, p104. Burns Oates, 1920.


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