It was misty this morning in my part of the world (that is quite usual for Scotland.)  Perhaps partly for this reason I got to thinking of Sherlock Holmes; that modern magician, as Chesterton calls him –  a late 19th century Merlin. 

The appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories, as someone else once said, does not lie principally in the mysteries and their resolution.  We do not care all that much what the speckled band was, or why the orange-pips were in the letters (or was it orange peel?)  The plots are mildly interesting, but rarely more (I make an exception for The Hound of the Baskervilles, where the dénouement is terrifically exciting, if you hear it well read.)

No, what attracts us to the Holmes’ stories and confers upon them their immortality is the atmosphere; and more particularly, the atmosphere of ease which Holmes and Watson enjoy in their flat in Baker Street.  Outside, the streets of London are one ceaseless stirring ocean of activity, a throng made more obscure but no less hectic by the fog which forever overhangs it; all the ends of the earth and of the greatest empire ever seen have gathered to the metropolis and have made of it a restless human surge; but inside, ah!  It is a bachelor Valhalla.   It is forever breakfast-time, and Holmes and Watson linger like gods over their coffee and toast and marmalade, while Mrs What’s-her-name brings in buttered muffins and devilled kidneys from some kitchen about which our heroes know and care nothing. 

Is it a prosaic meal, breakfast?  I do not think so.  It is true that St Benedict finds no place for it in his Rule, and so your good Benedictine will often to this day stand up to eat it, if he does eat it, as if to show that it doesn’t really count.  Yet is breakfast not more than all others the meal of resurrection, by which the weakness and passivity of the night are transformed into the joyous strength of day?

Breakfast has also this of the divine about it, that in this meal more than any other, the soul is alone with God.  We may have others present, and be glad of it; but no wise man seeks for conversation at that hour.  We commune in silence.  Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast, said Oscar Wilde.  We do not invite our friends round to share it.  True, some moderns have attempted that chimaera called the working breakfast; but they have done so, it seems to me, with a sense that they are defying the natural order of things, and hence with the secret certainty that they cannot long succeed.  Nothing odd will do well, Sam Johnson said.

You may object that the gospel does not use this meal as a metaphor for heaven.  The parables, you may say, speak to us sometimes of coena, that is, supper, and sometimes of prandium, the midday-meal; but where do they ever mention ientaculum?  It is true; in fact, I do not remember to have come across the word, anywhere in the Vulgate. 

And yet, are you so sure that breakfast is a trivial thing?  There was once a night of hard and fruitless labour, of comrades worn out to no purpose upon the waters; and there was a dawn that broke, and a distant figure, and firm ground once more; suppressed excitement and the stirrings of a happiness too great to be accepted lest it prove illusion.  And there was a charcoal fire, and fish that lay upon it.  Δεῦτε ἀριστήσατε, they heard.  Come, and have breakfast.