Rarely does ingenuity find just reward. The enterprising Nicolas Appert learned this unhappy fact when, in 1795, he hit upon the means by which to preserve meat, fish and vegetables in glass bottles. This découverte came only after a serious of professional failures. Appert began his career as a champagne salesman, and then tried his hand at confections before ending up in a grubby little atelier in the rue de la Folie-Méricourt, immersing in a piping hot bain-marie wide-mouthed glass bottles stuffed with everything from peas to pot roast. Finding that the bath rendered the jars airtight, Appert hit upon an idea that, for a few years at least, would bring him fame and welcome fortune.
Bombed out of a boarding room in Kensington and thus forced to take up residence in the sleepy suburban town of Thames Lockdon, Miss Roach – the thirty-nine year old beak-nosed narrator of Patrick Hamilton’s 1947 novel The Slaves of Solitude – inhabits a small, pink room on the top floor of a tea house turned boarding house under conditions “of intense war, intense winter and intense blackout in the month of December.”
While on his way to the Lonely Mountain to burgle the hoard of the great dragon Smaug, Bilbo Baggins, hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit, encounters the wild but benevolent Beorn, a “skin-changer” who divides his time between the man and bear forms he assumes at will.