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As soon as you have seen all you wish to see in any place, and do not mean to make it a residence, it is advisable without delay to proceed on your journey. Many people lose a great deal of time in loitering, and to no purpose whatever, because it is impossible under such circumstances to settle to any
Wherever you are, it is good to fall into the customs and habits of the place; for though sometimes they may be a little inconvenient, it is generally much more so to run counter to them. Those who will have their own way, never succeed, but at a much greater cost than success is worth.
There is in the art of dining a matter of special importance, - I mean attendance—the real end of which is to do that for you which you cannot so well do for yourself. Unfortunately this end is generally lost sight of, and the effect of attendance is to prevent you from doing that which you could do much better for yourself. The cause of this perversion is to be found in the practice and example of the rich and ostentatious, who constantly keep up a sort of war-establishment, or establishment adapted to extraordinary, instead of ordinary occasions, and the consequence is, that, like all potentates who follow the same policy, they never really taste the sweets of peace; they are in a constant state of invasion by their own troops. It is a rule at dinners - not to allow you to do any thing for yourself, and I have never been able to understand how even salt, except it be from some superstition, has so long maintained its place on table. I am always in dread, that, like the rest of its fellows, it will be banished to the sideboard, to be had only on special application. I am rather a bold man at table, and set form very much at defiance, so that if a salad happens to be within my reach, I make'no scruple to take it to me; but the moment I am espied, it is nipped up from the most convenient into the most inconvenient position, That such absurdity should exist amongst rational beings, and in a civilized country, is extraordinary! See a small party with a dish of fish at each end of the table, and four silver covers unmeaningly starving at the sides, whilst every thing pertaining to the fish comes, even with the best attendance, provokingly lagging, one thing after another, so that contentment is out of the question; and all this is done under pretence that it is the most convenient plan. This is an utter fallacy. The only convenient plan is to have every thing actually upon the table that is wanted at the same time, and nothing else; as for example, for a party of eight, turbot and salmon, with doubles of each of the adjuncts, lobster-sauce, cucumber, young potatoes, cayenne, and Chili vinegar, and let the guests assist one another, which, with such an arrangement, they could do with perfect ease. This is undisturbed and visible comfort. I am speaking now only with reference to small parties. As to large ones, they have long been to me scenes of despair in the way of convivial enjoyment. A system of simple attendance would induce a system of simple dinners, which are the only dinners to be desired. The present system I consider strongly tainted with barbarism and vulgarity, and far removed from real and refined enjoyment. As tables are now arranged, one is never at peace from an arm continually taking off, or setting on a side dish, or reaching over to a wine-cooler in the centre. Then comes the more laborious changing of courses, with the leanings right and left, to admit a host of dishes, that are set on only to be taken off again, after being declined in succession by each of the guests, to whom they are handed round. Yet this is fashion, and not to be departed from. With respect to wine, it is often
offered, when not wanted; and when wanted, is perhaps not to be had till long waited for. It is dreary to observe two guests, glass in hand, waiting the butler's leisure to be able to take wine together, and then perchance being helped in despair to what they did not ask for; and it is still more dreary to be one of the two yourself. How different, where you can put your hand upon a decanter at the moment you want it! I could enlarge upon, and particularize these miseries at great length; but they must be only too familiar to those who dine out, and those who do not may congratulate themselves on their escape. I have been speaking hitherto of attendance in its most perfect state : but then comes the greater inconvenience, and the monstrous absurdity of the same forms with inadequate establishments. Those who are overwhelmed with an establishment, are, as it were, obliged in self-defence to devise work for their attendants, whilst those who have no such reason ape an example which, under the most appropriate circumstances, is a state of restraint and discomfort, but which, when followed merely for fashion's sake, becomes absolutely intolerable, I remember once receiving a severe frown from a lady at the head of her table, next to whom I was sitting, because I offered to take some fish from her, to which she had helped me, instead of waiting till it could be handed to me by her one servant: and she was not deficient, either in sense, or good breeding; but when people give into such follies they know no mean. It is one of the evils of the present day, that everybody strives after the same dull style—so that where comfort might be expected, it is often least to be found. State, without the machinery of state, is of all states the worst. In conclusion of this part of my subject, I will observe, that I think the affluent would render themselves and their country an essential service if they were to fall into the simple, refined style of living, discarding every thing incompatible with real enjoyment; and I believe, that if the history of overgrown luxury were traced, it has always had its origin from the vulgar-rich-the very last class worthy of imitation. Although I think a reduction of establishment would often conduce to the enjoyment of life, I am very far from wishing to see any class curtailed in their means of earning their bread; but it appears to me, that the rich might easily find more profitable and agreeable modes of employing the industrious, than in ministering to pomp and parade.
I had written thus far for my last number, according to my promise in my last but one; but there was not even space enough to notice the omission. I now wish to add about a page, and as, like other people I suppose, I can write most easily upon what is freshest in my mind, I will give you, dear reader, an account of a dinner I have ordered this very day at Lovegrove's, at Blackwall, where if you never dined, so much the worse for you. This account will serve as an illustration of my doctrines on dinner-giving better than a long abstract discourse. The party will consist of seven men beside myself, and every guest is asked for some reason—upon which good fellowship mainly depends, for people, brought together unconnectedly, had, in my opinion, better be kept separate. Eight I hold to be the golden number, never to be exceeded without weakening the efficacy of concentration. The dinner is to consist of turtle, followed by no other fish but white-bait, which is to be followed by no other meat but grouse, which are to be succeeded simply by apple fritters and jelly ; pastry on such occasions being quite out of place. With the turtle, of course there will be punch, with the whitebait champagne, and with the grouse claret: the two former I have ordered to be particularly well iced, and they will all be placed in succession upon the table, so that we can help ourselves as we please. I shall permit no other wines, unless, perchance, a bottle or two of port, if particularly wanted, as I hold variety of wines a great mistake. With respect to the adjuncts, I shall take care that there is cayenne, with lemons
cut in halves, not in quarters, within reach of every one, for the turtle, and that brown bread-and-butter in abundance is set upon the table for the white-bait. It is no trouble to think of these little matters beforehand, but they make a vast difference in convivial contentment. The dinner will be followed by ices, and a good dessert, after which coffee and one glass of liqueur each, and no more ; so that the present may be enjoyed rationally without inducing retrospective regrets. If the master of a feast wishes his party to succeed, he must know how to command, and not let his guests run riot, each according to his own wild fancy. Such, reader, is my idea of a dinner, of which I hope you approve ; and I cannot help thinking that if parliament were to grant me 10,0001. a-year, in trust, to entertain a series of worthy persons, it would promote trade and increase the revenue more than any huggermugger measure ever devised.
I am strongly of opinion that sick wives are very interesting for a short time, and very dull for a long one. It is of great importance that females of all classes should reflect upon this distinction, and not abuse a privilege most readily granted them, if exercised within the bounds of moderation. Nothing is so tedious as uniformity; and as, under the bright sky of Italy, one sometimes sighs for a cloud, so in long-continued health a slight ailment now and then is not without its advantages. In a wife it naturally calls forth the attentions of the husband, and freshens the delicacy of his affections, which gratifying effects, it is to be feared, tend frequently, in minds not well disciplined or strongly constituted, to generate habits of selfishness, and a sort of sickly appetite for indulgence. I