had contracted an epicurean dampness

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enkidu68

Senior Member
turkish
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

Question: What does “had contracted an epicurean dampness” mean? It is not written as Epicurean, it is written with small letter, so shall I take it “to indulge in or live luxury? ”

Ropes were unstranded, and the yarns picked apart; and, cut up into small bits, were used as a substitute for the weed. Old ropes were preferred; especially those which had long lain in the hold, and had contracted an epicurean dampness, making still richer their ancient, cheese-like flavor.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    It was written in 1849. You should not assume a modern meaning.

    How can ropes have a "cheese-like flavor"? Is someone eating the ropes? What is being done with the ropes?
     

    enkidu68

    Senior Member
    turkish
    Here are the next lines:

    It is generally of a rich, tawny, Indian hue, somewhat inclined to luster; is exceedingly agreeable to the touch; diffuses a pungent odor, as of an old dusty bottle of Port, newly opened above ground; and, altogether, is an object which no man, who enjoys his dinners, could refrain from hanging over, and caressing.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    They are using these ropes as tobacco.
    Marijuana (still known as "weed") and ropes are made from the same plant (the cannabis plant, hemp). Tobacco is a different plant.

    It had a flavour suitable for people who appreciate the finer and more sophisticated sensual pleasures - epicures. I am not sure to what extent this is meant ironically.
     
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