This enjoyable PR job for the mollusc by an Oxford GP reveals that Patricia Highsmith was always accompanied by her pet snails, usually in her handbag but "carefully positioned under each breast" when travelling abroad.
Snails inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York and Borromini's sensational spiral lantern tower in Rome. Possibly the first animal domesticated by man, the protein of farmed snails is at least 50 per cent cheaper than beef.
Williams offers three pages of snail recipe ideas, including Heston Blumenthal's snail porridge, though he might have pointed out that small snails are more palatable than big jobs.
Williams urges us to observe William Cowper's admonition "An inadvertent foot may crush the snail... Tread aside and let the reptile live." But both poet and doctor might have felt differently if their pot of basil had become a snail's breakfast.