[Sca-cooks] Above/Below the Salt was Greetings

Johnna Holloway johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu
Tue Mar 18 05:42:02 PDT 2008

There’s a 1597—

*1597* Bp. Hall /Sat./ ii. vi, That he do, on no default, Euer presume
to sit aboue the salt.

· *1599* B. Jonson /Cynthia's Rev./ ii. ii. (1616) 200 Hee neuer drinkes
below the salt.

· *1602* Dekker /Honest Wh./ D, Set him beneath the salt and let him not
touch a bit, till euery one has had his full cut.

· *1658* /Wit Restor'd/ 43 Hee..humbly sate Below the Salt, and munch'd
his Sprat.


now it is well knowen, that saltabove all other things causeth leannesse.
Plutarch The philosophie 1603

You nere presume to fit above the salt, from  1639

The unnaturall combat. A tragedie. The scæne Marsellis. Written by
Philip Massinger. As it was presented by the Kings Majesties Servants at
the Globe.

1609 Dekker /Gull's Horn-bk./ Wks. (Grosart) II. 244 You may giue any
Iustice of peace, or yong Knight (if he sit but one degree towards the
Equinoctiall of the Salt-seller) leaue to pay for the wine.

I suspect we'll have to dig into the books of manners for this.


Terry Decker wrote:
> Presumably, above and below the salt is medieval tradition where the salt 
> cellar was placed to divide people of rank from people who were not and we 
> can thank Lady Emma Wood and Thomas Chastain for their respective novels, 
> "Below the Salt" for enlightening we heathens to the practice.  I, however, 
> can't remember seeing a salt cellar on the table in most High Medieval 
> woodcuts and paintings and only occasionally in later works.
> The earliest reference I can find to below the salt is in Ben Johnson's 
> Cynthia's Revels (1599), "His fashion is not to take knowledg of him that is 
> beneath him in Cloaths.  He never drinks below the salt."  While period, 
> that is hardly Medieval.
> So while the theme has been used as the basis for a number of feasts, what 
> is the evidence for its Medieval historical basis beyond the imagination of 
> some modern authors?
> Bear

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