Ms. Swift says that ‘the “brute”, who in most cases has to work very hard to provide for his family, is rightly considered, in connection with culinary affairs at least, the most important member of the household’. In her advice to the young wife, she notes that:
“The well-fed man is a happy man – and a very easily ‘managed’ one too. And since we women know that to maintain harmony every man however clever, however efficient, however charming, must be ‘managed’; let us feed him well first and manage him afterwards.”
The rest of her book focuses on the difficulty of obtaining an English dinner, typical English dinners (with hints on cooking calf’s head), cooking for two, fish, sweetmeats and ‘Bachelor Cooking’. The ‘Bachelor’ is advised not to cook fish because ‘the smell of cooking fish so thoroughly permeates the atmosphere that it is almost impossible to get rid of it in a short space of time’. Wise advice for the bachelor that most likely resides in a rented bed-sitting room with a single gas ring.
After reading ‘Feed the Brute’ by Ms. Swift, I also located an article, which indicates that Christine Terhune Herrick, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1959, wrote a number of housekeeping articles and was thought to have co-authored ‘Feed the Brute !’ with Marjorie Swift, however, other than this single reference, I have been unable to confirm this or locate any other notes to this effect.
‘Feed the Brute’ seems to have become a popular phrase in early 20th century books about cooking and housekeeping and in her book, ‘Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives’, published in 1913 and written by Blanche Ebbutt, she says “Don’t forget to “feed the brute” well. Much depends on the state of his digestion. Nothing upsets a hungry man’s temper more than being kept waiting for his dinner”. Ms. Ebbutt’s book was also published in London.
So, “Feed the Brute” by Marjorie Swift, was not the first mention of ‘the brute’, and he apparently made his presence known at least as early as 1913, in Ebbutt’s book, possibly earlier. The phrase seems to have caught the attention of authors seeking to give cooking, housekeeping and other ‘wifely’ advice to young brides.
In “Feed the Brute”, Ms. Swift advises all women, who wish to create and maintain happiness in the home, and “who desire the welfare and comfort of the men they love”, to “Feed the Brute!”.
I welcome the comments of readers and your thoughts. Would Marjorie’s book be considered ‘sexist’ by today’s standards? The saying I was familiar with years ago was that ‘the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach’. Perhaps this is a more refined version of ‘Feed the Brute’!