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pain, that all the world should be made aware of him) — a fel low, I say, ashamed of the original from which he sprung, of the cabin which he drives, awkward, therefore affected and unnatural, can never hope or deserve to succeed in society.
The great comfort of the society of great folks is, that they do not trouble themselves about your twopenny little person, as smaller persons do, but take you for what you are — a man kindly and good-natured, or witty and sarcastic, or learned and eloquent, or a good raconteur, or a very handsome man, (and in ’15 some of the Browns were but I am speaking of fiveand-thirty years ago.) or an excellent gormand and judge of wines or what not. Nobody sets you so quickly at your ease as a fine gentleman. I have seen more noise made about a knight's lady than about the Duchess of Fitzbattleaxe herself: and Lady Mountararat, whose family dates from the Deluge, enters and leaves a room, with her daughters, the lovely Ladies Eve and Lilith D’Arc, with much less pretension and in much simpler capotes and what-do-you-call-'ems, than Lady de Mogyns or Mrs. Shindy, who quit an assembly in a whirlwind as it were, with trumpets and alarums like a stage king and queen.
But my pen can run no further,- for my paper is out, and it is time to dress for dinner.
ON SOME OLD CUSTOMS OF THE DINNER-TABLE.
Of all the sciences which have made a progress in late years, I think, dear Bob (to return to the subject from which I parted with so much pleasure last week), that the art of dinner-giving has made the most delightful and rapid advances. Sir, I maintain, even now with a matured age and appetite, that the dinners of this present day are better than those we had in our youth, and I can't but be thankful at least once in every day for this decided improvement in our civilization. Those who remember the usages of five-and-twenty years back will be ready, I am sure, to acknowledge this progress. I was turning over at the Club yesterday a queer little book written at that period, which, I believe, had some authority at the time, and which records some of those customs which obtained, if not in good London society, at least in some companies, and parts of our islands. Sir, many of these practices seem as antiquated now as the usages described in the accounts of Homeric feasts,
or Queen Elizabeth's banquets and breakfasts. Let us be happy to think they are gone.
The book in question is called “ The Maxims of Sir Morgan O'Doherty,” a queer baronet, who appears to have lived in the first quarter of the century, and whose opinions the antiquarian may examine, not without profit - a strange barbarian indeed it is, and one wonders that such customs should ever have been prevalent in our country.
Fancy such opinions as these having ever been holden by any set of men among us. Maxim 2. — It is laid down in fashionable life that you must drink Champagne after white cheeses, water after red. .... Ale is to be avoided, in case a wet night is to be expected, as should cheese also.” Maxim 4. — “ A fine singer, after dinner, is to be avoided, for he is a great bore, and stops the wine.
One of the best rules (to put him down) is to applaud him most vociferously as soon as he has sung the first verse, as if all was over, and say to the gentleman farthest from you at table that you admire the conclusion of this song very much.” Maxim 25. “ Yoil meet people occasionally who tell you it is bad taste to give Champagne at dinner - Port and Teneriffe being such superior drinking,” &c. &c. I am copying out of a book printed three months since, describing ways prevalent when you were born. Can it be possible, I say, that England was ever in such a state?
Was it ever a maxim in “ fashionable life” that you were to drink champagne after white cheeses? What was that maxim in fashionable life about drinking and about cheese? The maxim in fashionable life is to drink what you will. It is too simple now to trouble itself about wine or about cheese. Ale again is to be avoided, this strange Doherty says, if you expect a wet night — and in another place he says " the English drink a pint of porter at a draught." What English? gracious powers! Are we a nation of coalheavers? Do we ever have à wet night? Do we ever meet people occasionally who say that to give Champagne at dinner is bad taste, and that Port and Teneriffe are such superior drinking? Fancy Teneriffe, my dear boy - I say fancy a man asking you to drink Teneriffe at dinner; the mind shudders at it — he might as well invite you to swallow the Peak.
And then consider the maxim about the fine singer who is to be avoided. What! was there a time in most people's memory, when folks at dessert began to sing? I have heard such a thing at a tenants' dinner in the country; but the idea of a fellow beginning to perform a song at a dinner-party in London fills my mind with terror and amazement; and I picture to myself any table which I frequent, in May Fair, in Bloomsbury, in Belgravia, or where you will, and the pain which would seize upon the host and the company if some wretch were to commence a song:
We have passed that savage period of life. We do not want to hear songs from guests, we have the songs done for us; as we don't want our ladies to go down into the kitchen and cook the dinner any more.
The cook can do it better and cheaper. We do not desire feats of musical or culinary skill
but simple, quiet, easy, unpretending conversation.
In like manner, there was a practice once usual, and which still lingers here and there, of making complimentary speeches after dinner ; that custom is happily almost entirely discontinued. Gentlemen do not meet to compliment each other profusely, or to make fine phrases. Simplicity gains upon us daily. Let us be thankful that the florid style is disappearing.
I once shared a bottle of sherry with a commercial traveller at Margate who gave a toast or a sentiment as he filled every glass. He would not take his wine without this queer ceremony before it.
I recollect one of his sentiments, which was as follows: “Year is to 'er that doubles our joys, and divides
- I give you woman, sir,” — and we both emptied our glasses. These lumbering ceremonials are passing out of our manners, and were found only to obstruct our free intercourse. People can like each other just as much without orations, and be just as merry without being forced to drink against their will.
And yet there are certain customs to which one clings still ; for instance, the practice of drinking wine with your neighbor, though wisely not so frequently indulged in as of old, yet still obtains, and I trust will never be abolished. For though, in the old time, when Mr. and Mrs. Fogy had sixteen friends to dinner, it became an unsupportable corvée for Mr. F. to ask sixteen persons to drink wine, and a painful task for Mrs. Fogy to be called upon to bow to ten gentlemen, who desired to have the honor to drink her health, yet, employed in moderation, that ancient custom of challenging your friends to drink is a kindly and hearty old usage, and productive of many most beneficial results.
I have known a man of a modest and reserved turn, (just like your old uncle, dear Bob, as no doubt you were going to remark,) when asked to drink by the host, suddenly lighten
up, toss off his glass, get confidence, and begin to talk right and left. He wanted but the spur to set him going. It is supplied by the butler at the back of his chair.
It sometimes happens, again, that a host's conversational powers are not brilliant. I own that I could point out a few such whom I have the honor to name among my friends — gentlemen, in fact, who wisely hold their tongues because they have nothing to say which is worth the hearing or the telling, and properly confine themselves to the carving of the mutton and the ordering of the wines. Such men, manifestly, should always be allowed, nay encouraged, to ask their guests to take wine. In putting that question, they show their good-will, and cannot possibly betray their mental deficiency. For example, let us suppose Jones, who has been perfectly silent all dinnertime, oppressed, doubtless, by that awful Lady Tiara, who sits swelling on his right hand, suddenly rallies, singles me out, and with a loud cheering voice cries, “ Brown my boy, a glass of wine." I reply, " With pleasure, my dear Jones.” sponds as quick as thought, "Shall it be hock or champagne, Brown?” I mention the wine which I prefer. He calls to the butler, and says, “Some champagne or hock” (as the case may be, for I don't choose to commit myself), some champagne or hock to Mr. Brown;” and finally he says, Good health !” in a pleasant tone. Thus you see, Jones, though not a conversationist, has had the opportunity of making no less than four observations, which, if not brilliant or witty, are yet manly, sensible, and agreeable. And I defy any man in the metropolis, be he the most accomplished, the most learned, the wisest, or the most eloquent, to say more than Jones upon a similar occasion.
If you have had a difference with a man, and are desirous to make it up, how pleasant it is to take wine with him. Nothing is said but that simple phrase which has just been uttered by my friend Jones ; and yet it means a great deal. The cup is a symbol of reconciliation. The other party drinks up your good-will as you accept his token of returning friendship — and thus the liquor is hallowed which Jones has paid for: and I like to think that the grape which grew by Rhine or Rhone was born and ripened under the sun there, so as to be the means of bringing two good fellows together. I once heard the head physician of a Hydropathic establishment on the sunny banks of the first-named river, give the health of His Majesty the King of Prussia, and, calling upon the company to receive that august toast with a “donnerndes Lebehoch,” toss off a bumper
of sparkling water. It did not seem to me a genuine enthusi
No, no, let us have toast and wine, not toast and water. It was not in vain that grapes grew on the hills of Father Rhine.
One seldom asks ladies now to take wine, — except when, in a confidential whisper to the charming creature whom you have brought down to dinner, you humbly ask permission to pledge her, and she delicately touches her glass, with a fascinating smile, in reply to your glance, - a smile, you rogue, which goes to your heart. I say, one does not ask ladies any more to take wine : and I think, this custom being abolished, the contrary practice should be introduced, and that the ladies should ask the gentlemen. I know one who did, une grande dame de
le monde, as honest Brantome phrases it, and from whom I deserved no such kindness; but, sir, the effect of that graceful act of hospitality was such, that she made a grateful slave for ever of one who was an admiring rebel previously, who would do anything to show his gratitude, and who knows no greater delight than when he receives a card which bears her respected name.
A dinner of men is well now and again, but few well-regulated minds relish a dinner without women. There are some wretches who, I believe, still meet together for the sake of what is called “the spread,” who dine each other round and round, and have horrid delights in turtle, early pease, and other culinary luxuries
but I pity the condition as I avoid the banquets of those men. The only substitute for ladies at dinners, or consolation for want of them, is — smoking. Cigars, introduced with the coffee, do, if anything can, make us forget the absence of the other sex. But what a substitute is that for her who doubles our joys, and divides our griefs ! for woman! as my friend the Traveller said.
GREAT AND LITTLE DINNERS.
It has been said, dear Bob, that I have seen the mahoganies of many men, and it is with no small feeling of pride and gratitude that I am enabled to declare also, that I hardly remember in my life to have had a bad dinner. Would to heaven that all mortal men could say likewise ! Indeed, and in the presence of
* Upon my word, Mr. Brown, this is too broad a hint. - Punch.