COMES next after the mackarel in shape as well as in delicacy of taste, although it differs much in flavour. It is about nine or ten inches long, and about two and a half broad, and has blood shot eyes; it has large roundish scales; a forked tail; the body is of a fat, soft, delicate flesh, but stronger than that of the mackarel, and therefore less wholesome. Yet some people are so very fond of it that they call the Herring the King of Fishes. They swim in shoals and spawn once a year, about the autumnal equinox, at which time they are best. These swarms of fish emigrate from the northern seas, and in an immense column, travel gently down till they arrive at the farthest point of the British islands, and then divide in two or three branches. One, following the coast of Holland, steers through the British channel, leaving plenty after them in the fisherman’s nets. The second branch, which is the smallest, enters St. George’s channel between Great Britain and Ireland; the western part of the column, or third division follows the western coast of Ireland and meet the others on the occidental part of Britanny. Hence they part themselves in many other divisions, and some entering the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, leave the rest to follow the orders of Providence in the Austral seas.
“What Triton swift, or rose-finn’d Nereid,
From Amphitrite’s shell-wrought throne dispatch’d,
Went through the chambers of the deep, and call’d
The sportful myriads from the coral groves,
To meet, prepare, and cleave, in order’d flight,
The pathless mazes of the main? Who taught
The broad shinning shoals to warp and steer
Through whirling pools and currents wild, to seek,
Unskill’d in charts, nor by true magnet led,
Regions unknown, inhospitable shores,
Where hungry death their annual tribute claims?
Or there, perhaps, if Providence ordain’d,
To sport and love, by various names yclept,
And, with new nations, swell the Antarctic deep;
Wherefore with unrelenting speed, they scud
Against the opponent waves? – ”
This fish is prepared in different ways in order to be kept for use through the year. The white, or pickled Herrings, are washed in fresh water, and left the space of twelve or fifteen hours in a tub full of strong brine, made of fresh water and sea salt. When taken out they are drained and put in rows or layers in barrels.
The red Herrings are prepared in the same manner, with this difference that they are left in the brine double the time above mentioned, and when taken out placed in a small chimney constructed for the purpose, and containing about twelve thousand, where they are smoaked by means of a fire underneath, made of brushwood, for the space of twenty-four hours.