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May 29, 1967


JAMA. 1967;200(9):788-790. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120220090019

Few mollusks have been so much maligned nor yet so loudly praised as that most famous of them all, the oyster. English writers, especially, seem to have been particularly susceptible to the delights (or lack thereof) of oysters. Thus the 17th century anonymous jester could say: "Oysters... are ungodly, because they are eaten without grace; uncharitable, because they leave naught but shells; and unprofitable, because they must swim in wine." Lord Byron's Don Juan, on the other hand, could claim that "Oysters are amatory food." Shakespeare speaks of oysters in no less than seven of his plays; Jonathan Swift notes that "He was a bold man that first eat an oyster" though James I had said it first; Sheridan has his oysters "crossed in love," and Dickens thinks of them as "secret and self-contained, and solitary"; finally, Louisa May Alcott is "beginning to live a little, and feel less like