devouring element

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References in classic literature ?
Heep - once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring element.
Grewgious, 'and that any outbreak of the devouring element would be perceived and suppressed by the watchmen.