Handle them as little and as lightly as possible, and pluck off the feathers gently; for if this be violently done the skin of the birds will be broken. Do not draw them, but after having wiped them with clean soft cloths, truss them with the head under the wing, and the bill laid close along the breast; pass a slight skewer through the thighs, catch the ends with a bit of twine, and tie it across to keep the legs straight. Suspend the birds with the feet downwards to a bird-spit, flour them well, and baste them with butter, which should be ready dissolved in the pan or ladle. Before the trail begins to drop, which it will do as soon as they are well heated, lay a thick round of bread, freed from the crust, toasted to a delicate brown, and buttered on both sides, into the pan under them to catch it, as this is considered finer eating even than the flesh of the birds; continue the basting, letting the butter fall from them into the basting-spoon or ladle, as it cannot be collected again from the dripping-pan should it drop there, in consequence of the toast or toasts being in it. There should be one of these for each woodcock, and the trail should be spread equally over it.
When the birds are done, which they will be, at a brisk fire, in from twenty to twenty-five minutes, lay the toasts into a very hot dish, dress the birds upon them, pour a little gravy round the bread, and send more to table in a tureen.
Woodcock, 20 to 25 minutes; snipe, 5 minutes less.
This beautiful bird is by no means rare upon the coast, but we know not whether it be much seen in the markets generally. It is most excellent eating, and should be roasted at a clear quick fire, well floured when first laid down, turned briskly, and basted with butter almost without cessation. If drawn from the spit in from twenty-five to thirty minutes, then dished and laid before the fire for two or three more, it will give forth a singularly rich gravy. Score the breast when it is carved, sprinkle on it a little cayenne and fine salt, and let a cut lemon be handed round the table when the bird is served; or omit the scoring, and send round with it brown gravy, and Christopher North's sauce made hot 20 to 30 minutes.