As there was no demand for the medicine, however, and no necessity for the messages, he usually occupied his unemployed hours—averaging fourteen a day—in abstracting peppermint drops, taking animal nourishment, and going to sleep.

What is "animal nourishment"? source THE BLACK VEIL

  • Your question would be more relevant if you added what you think it means (at least why a literal interpretation does not work). – user3169 Apr 19 '17 at 20:03

"Taking animal nourishment" is simply a wordy way of saying "eating".

While in some contexts "animal nourishment" might mean "meat", in this context it probably means food in general -- there is no context in the text to suggest that any specific kind of food is intended. Indeed, the description of the boy as "corpulent" (i.e, obese) earlier in the text suggests that he may have occupied a considerable amount of his time in "taking animal nourishment"!

The adjective "animal" might have been used here to contrast "animal nourishment" with "spiritual nourishment", e.g. religious study or education, neither of which the boy seems likely to have engaged in. Alternatively, it may simply be an unusual circumlocution -- Dickens is known for his wordy and sometimes excessively elaborate writing style.

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I cannot know what Ch. Dickens meant, but a brainstorming makes me think about the following meanings:

  1. take = eat, nourishment meant for animals In some situations, the same food cam be given to people and to animals. Example: while animals would eat the corn raw, people would enjoy boiled corn.

  2. take = eat, nourishment made out of animals He was eating bacon, or anything else which requires the sacrifice of some animal.

  3. take = transport He was providing food to the animal(s).

Maybe a native English speaker may be able to pinpoint the probabilities of these meanings, or even come out with new one(s).

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