William Makepeace Thackeray.

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only for persons in the middling classes of life. Very


few men can afford to pay more than five francs daily for
dinner. Let us calmly, then, consider what enjoyment
may be had for those five francs ; how, by economy on
one day, we may venture upon luxury the next ; how,
by a little forethought and care, we may be happy on all
days. Who knew and studied this cheap philosophy of
life better than old Horace before quoted ? Sometimes
(when in luck) he chirrupped over cups that were fit for
an archbishop's supper ; sometimes he philosophised over
his own ordinaire at his own farm. How affecting is the
last ode of the first book :

To his Serving-boy. Ad Ministram.

Persicos odi, Dear Lucy, you know what my wish is,
Puer, apparatus ; I hate all your Frenchified fuss :

Displicent nexas Your silly entrees and made dishes
Philyra corona; : Were never intended for us.

Mitte sectari No footman in lace and in ruffles
Rosa quo locorum Need dangle behind my arm-chair :

Sera moretur. And never mind seeking for truffles,
Although they be ever so rare.

Simplici myrto But a plain leg of mutton, my Lucy,
Nihil allabores I pr'ythee get ready at three :

Sedulus curae : Have it smoking, and tender, and juicy,
Neque te ministrum And what better meat can there be ?

Dedecet myrtus, And when it has feasted the master,
Neque me sub arcta 'Twill amply suffice for the maid ;

Vite bibentem. Meanwhile I will smoke my canaster,
And tipple my ale in the shade.

Not that this is the truth entirely and for ever.
Horatius Flaccus was too wise to dislike a good thing ;
but it is possible that the Persian apparatus was on that
day beyond his means, and so he contented himself with
humble fare.

A gentleman, by-the-bye, has just come to Paris to
whom I am very kind ; and who will in all human prob-
ability, between this and next month, ask me to a dinner
at the * Rocher de Cancale.' If so, something may
occur worth writing about ; or if you are anxious to


hear more on the subject, send me over a sum to my
address, to be laid out for you exclusively in eating. I
give you my honour I will do you justice, and account
for every farthing of it.

One of the most absurd customs at present in use is
that of giving your friend when some piece of good-
luck happens to him, such as an appointment as Chief
Judge of Owhyhee, or King's advocate to Timbuctoo
of giving your friend, because, forsooth, he may have
been suddenly elevated from ^200 a year to 2000, an
enormous dinner of congratulation.

Last year, for instance, when our friend, Fred Jowling,
got his place of Commissioner at Quashamaboo, it was
considered absolutely necessary to give the man a dinner,
and some score of us had to pay about fifty shillings
apiece for the purpose. I had, so help me Moses ! but
three guineas in the world at that period ; and out of
this sum the bienscances compelled me to sacrifice five-
sixths, to feast myself in company of a man gorged
with wealth, rattling sovereigns in his pocket as if
they had been so much dross, and capable of treat-
ing us all without missing the sum he might expend
on us.

Jow himself allowed, as I represented the case to him,
that the arrangement was very hard ; but represented,
fairly enough, that this was one of the sacrifices that a
man of the world, from time to time, is called to make.
4 You, my dear Titmarsh,' said he, t know very well
that I don't care for these grand entertainments' (the
rogue, he is a five-bottle man, and just the most
finished gourmet of my acquaintance !) 'you know that I
am perfectly convinced of your friendship for me, though
you join in the dinner or not, but it would look rather
queer if you backed out, it would look rather queer?
Jow said this in such an emphatic way, that I saw I
must lay down my money ; and accordingly, Mr.
Lovegrove of Blackwall, for a certain quantity of iced


punch, champagne, cider cup, fish, flesh, and fowl,
received the last of my sovereigns.

At the beginning of the year Bolter got a place too
Judge Advocate in the Topinambo Islands, of
^3000 a year, which, he said, was a poor remuneration
in consideration of the practice which he gave up in
town. He may have practised on his laundress, but
for anything else I believe the man never had a client
in his life. However, on his way to Topinambo by
Marseilles, Egypt, the Desert, the Persian Gulf, and so
on Bolter arrived in Paris ; and I saw from his appear-
ance, and his manner of shaking hands with me, and the
peculiar way in which he talked about the * Rocher de
Cancale,' that he expected we were to give him a
dinner, as we had to Jowling.

There were four friends of Bolter's in the capital
besides myself, and among us the dinner question was
mooted : we agreed that it should be a simple dinner
of ten francs a head, and this was the bill of fare :

1. Oysters (common), nice.

2. Oysters, green of Marennes (very good).

3. Potage, puree de gibier (very fair).

As we were English, they instantly then served us,

4. Sole en matelotte Normande (comme ca).

5. Turbot & la creme au gratin (excellent).

6. Jardiniere cutlets (particularly seedy).

7. Poulet a la Marengo (very fair, but why the deuce is
one always to be pestered by it ?).

8 )

' > (Entries of some kind, but a blank in my memory.)

10. A r&t of chevreuil.

1 1 . Ditto of ortolans (very hot, crisp, and nice).

12. Ditto of partridges (quite good and plump).

13. Pointes d'asperges.

14. Champignons k la Provencale (the most delicious
mushrooms I ever tasted).


15. Pineapple jelly.

1 6. Blanc, or red mange.

17. Pcncacks. Let everybody who goes to the 'Rochcr'
order these pancakes ; they are arranged with jelly inside,
rolled up between various couches of vermicelli, flavoured
with a leetle wine ; and, by everything sacred, the most
delightful meat possible.

1 8. Timbalc of macaroni.

The jellies and sucreries should have been mentioned
in the dessert, and there were numberless plates of trifles,
which made the table look very pretty, but need not
be mentioned here.

The dinner was not a fine one, as you sec. No
rarities, no truffles even, no mets de primeur, though
there were peas and asparagus in the market at a pretty
fair price. But with rarities no man has any business
except he have a colossal fortune. Hothouse straw-
berries, asparagus, &c., are, as far as my experience goes,
most/tf*/*, mean, and tasteless meats. Much better to
have a simple dinner of twenty dishes, and content
therewith, than to look for impossible splendours and
Apician morsels.

In respect of wine. Let those who go to the
* Rocher ' take my advice and order Madeira. They
have here some pale old East India very good. How
they got it is a secret, for the Parisians do not know
good Madeira when they see it. Some very fair strong
young wine may be had at the Hotel des Americains, in
the Rue Saint Honore ; as, indeed, all West India
produce pineapple rum, for instance. I may say, with
confidence, that I never knew what rum was until I
tasted this at Paris.

But to the * Rocher.' The Madeira was the best
wine served ; though some Burgundy, handed round in
the course of dinner, and a bottle of Montrachet,
similarly poured out to us, were very fair. The
champagne was decidedly not good poor, inflated, thin


stuff. They say the drink we swallow in England is
not genuine wine, but brandy-loaded and otherwise
doctored for the English market ; but, ah, what superior
wine ! Au reste^ the French will not generally pay the
money for the wine ; and it therefore is carried from an
ungrateful country to more generous climes, where it is
better appreciated. We had claret and speeches after
dinner ; and very possibly some of the persons present
made free with a jug of hot water, a few lumps of sugar,
and the horrid addition of a glass of cognac. There can
be no worse practice than this. After a dinner of
eighteen dishes, in which you have drunk at least thirty-
six glasses of wine when the stomach is full, the brain
heavy, the hands and feet inflamed when the claret
begins to pall you, forsooth, must gorge yourself with
brandy and water, and puff filthy cigars. For shame !
Who ever does it ? Does a gentleman drink brandy
and water ? Does a man who mixes in the society of
the loveliest half of humanity befoul himself by tobacco-
smoke ? Fie, fie ! avoid the practice. I indulge in it
always myself; but that is no reason why you, a young
man entering into the world, should degrade yourself in
any such way. No, no, my dear lad, never refuse an
evening party, and avoid tobacco as you would the upas

By the way, not having my purse about me when the
above dinner was given, I was constrained to borrow
from Bolter, whom I knew more intimately than the
rest ; and nothing grieved me more than to find, on
calling at his hotel four days afterwards, that he had set
off by the mail post for Marseilles. Friend of my youth,
dear dear Bolter ! if haply this trifling page should come
before thine eyes, weary of perusing the sacred rolls of
Themis in thy far-off island in the Indian Sea, thou wilt
recall our little dinner in the little room of the Cancalian
Coffee-house, and think for a while of thy friend !

Let us now mention one or two places that the Briton,


on his arrival here, should frequent or avoid. As a quiet
dear house, where there are some of the best rooms in
Paris always the best meat, fowls, vegetables, &c.
we may specially recommend Monsieur Voisin's caf,
opposite the Church of the Assumption. A very decent
and lively house of restauration is that at the corner of
the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, on the Boulevard. I
never yet had a good dinner at Vefour's ; something is
always manque at the place. The grand Vatel is worthy
of note, as cheap, pretty, and quiet. All the English
houses gentlemen may frequent who are so inclined ;
but though the writer of this has many times dined for
sixteen sous at Catcomb's, cheek by jowl with a French
chasseur or a labourer, he has, he confesses, an antipathy
to enter into the confidence of a footman or groom of
his own country.

A gentleman who purchases pictures in this town was
lately waited upon by a lady, who said she had in her
possession one of the greatest rarities in the world, a
picture admirable, too, as a work of art, no less than
an original portrait of Shakspeare, by his comrade, the
famous John Davis. The gentleman rushed off
immediately to behold the wonder, and saw a head,
rudely but vigorously painted on panel, about twice the
size of life, with a couple of hooks drawn through the
top part of the board, under which was written


4 Voyez-vous, Monsieur,' said the lady ; * il n'y a plus
dc doute. Le portrait de Shakspeare du celebre Davis,
et signe meme de lui ! '

I remember it used to hang up in a silent little street
in the Latin quarter, near an old convent, before a
quaint old quiet tavern that I loved. It was pleasant to
see the old name written up in a strange land, and the


well-known friendly face greeting one. There was a
quiet little garden at the back of the tavern, and famous
good roast beef, clean rooms, and English beer. Where
are you now, John Davis ? Could not the image of thy
august patron preserve thy house from ruin, or rally the
faithful around it ? Are you unfortunate, Davis ? Are
you a bankrupt ? Let us hope not. I swear to thee,
that when, one sunny afternoon, I saw the ensign of thy
tavern, I loved thee for thy choice, and doused my cap
on entering the porch, and looked around, and thought
all friends were here.

In the queer old pleasant novel of the * Spiritual
Quixote,' honest Tugwell, the Sancho of the story,
relates a Warwickshire legend, which at the time
Graves wrote was not much more than a hundred years
old : and by which it appears that the owner of New
Place was a famous jesting gentleman, and used to sit at
his gate of summer evenings, cutting the queerest
merriest jokes with all the passers-by. I have heard
from a Warwickshire clergyman that the legend still
exists in the country ; and Ward's l Diary ' says that
Master Shakspeare died of a surfeit brought on by
carousing with a literary friend who had come to visit
him from London. And wherefore not ? Better to die
of good wine and good company than of slow disease and
doctors' doses. Some geniuses live on sour misanthropy,
and some on meek milk and water. Let us not deal too
hardly with those that are of a jovial sort, and indulge in
the decent practice of the cup and the platter.

A word or two, by way of conclusion, may be said
about the numerous pleasant villages in the neighbour-
hood of Paris, or rather of the eating and drinking to be
found in the taverns of those suburban spots. At
Versailles, Monsieur Duboux, at the Hotel des
Reservoirs, has a good cook and cellars, and will gratify
you with a heavier bill than is paid at Very's and the
* Rocher.' On the beautiful terrace of Saint Germain


looking over miles of river and vineyard, of fair villages
basking in the meadows, and great tall trees stretching
wide round about, you may sit in the open air of summer
evenings, and see the white spires of Saint Denis rising
in the distance, and the grey arches of Marly to the
right, and before you the city of Paris with innumerable
domes and towers.

Watching these objects, and the setting sun
gorgeously illumining the heavens and them, you may
have an excellent dinner served to you by the chef of
Messire Gallois, who at present owns the pavilion where
Louis XIV. was born. The maitre a hotel is from the
4 Rocher,'and told us that he came out to Saint Germain
for the sake of the air. The only drawback to the
entertainment is, that the charges are as atrociously high
in price as the dishes provided are small in quantity ; and
dining at this pavilion on the I5th of April, at a period
when a botte of asparagus at Paris cost only three francs,
the writer of this and a chosen associate had to pay seven
francs for about the third part of a botte of asparagus,
served up to them by Messire Gallois.

Facts like these ought not to go unnoticed. There-
fore let the readers of Eraser's Magazine who propose a visit
to Paris take warning by the unhappy fate of the person
now addressing them, and avoid the place or not, as they
think fit. A bad dinner does no harm to any human
soul, and the philosopher partakes of such with easy
resignation ; but a bad and dear dinner is enough to
raise the anger of any man, however naturally sweet-
tempered, and he is bound to warn his acquaintance of it.

With one parting syllable in praise of the
4 Marronniers' at Bercy, where you get capital eels, fried
gudgeons fresh from the Seine, and excellent wine of the
ordinary kind, this discourse is here closed. * En telle
ou meilleure pensee, Beuueurs tres illustres (car a vous
non a aultres sont dedies ces escriptz), reconfortez vostre
malheur, et beuuez fraiz si faire se peult.'



THERE is some peculiar influence, which no doubt the
reader has remarked in his own case, for it has been
sung by ten thousand poets, or versifying persons, whose
ideas you adopt, if perchance, as is barely possible, you
have none of your own there is, I say, a certain balmy
influence in the spring-time, which brings a rush of
fresh dancing blood into the veins of all nature, and
causes it to wear a peculiarly festive and sporting look.
Look at the old Sun, how pale he was all the winter
through ! Some days he was so cold and wretched he
would not come out at all, he would not leave his bed
till eight o'clock, and retired to rest, the old sluggard !
at four ; but lo ! conies May, and he is up at five, he
feels, like the rest of us, the delicious vernal influence ;
he is always walking abroad in the fresh air, and his jolly
face lights up anew ! Remark the trees ; they have
dragged through the shivering winter-time without so
much as a rag to cover them, but about May they fe*>!
obligated to follow the mode, and come out in new
suit of green. The meadows, in like manner, appear
invested with a variety of pretty spring fashions, not
only covering their backs with a brand-new glossy suit,
but sporting a world of little coquettish ornamental
gimcracks that are suited to the season. This one
covers his robe with the most delicate twinkling white
daisies ; that tricks himself out with numberless golden
cowslips, or decorates his bosom with a bunch of dusky
violets. Birds sing and make love ; bees wake and
make honey ; horse and men leave ofF their shaggy
winter clothing and turn out in fresh coats. The only
animal that does not feel the power of spring is that
selfish, silent, and cold-blooded beast, the oyster, who

2 A


shuts himself up for the best months of the year, and
with whom the climate disagrees.

Some people have wondered how it is that what is
called 'the season* in London should not begin until
spring. What an absurd subject for wondering at !
How could the London season begin at any other time ?
How could the great, black, bilious, overgrown city,
stifled by gas, and fogs, and politics, ever hope to have
a season at all, unless nature with a violent effort came
to its aid about Easter-time, and infused into it a little
spring blood ? The town of London feels then the
influences of the spring, and salutes it after its fashion.
The parks are green for about a couple of months.
Lady Smigsmag, and other leaders of the ton, give their
series of grand parties ; Gunter and Grange come
forward with iced-creams and champagnes; ducks and
green-peas burst out ; the river Thames blossoms with
whitebait ; and Alderman Birch announces the arrival
of fresh lively turtle. If there are no birds to sing and
make love, as in country places, at least there are coveys
of opera-girls that frisk and hop about airily, and
Rubini and Lablache to act as a couple of nightingales.
* A lady of fashion remarked,' says Dyson, in the
Morning Post, * that for all persons pretending to hold
a position in genteel society,' I forget the exact words,
but the sense of them remains indelibly engraven upon
my mind, 'for any one pretending to take a place in
genteel society two things are indispensable. And what
HANDKERCHIEF.' This is a self-evident truth. Dyson
does not furnish the bouquets he is not a market-
gardener he is not the goddess Flora ; but a townman,
he knows what the season requires, and furnishes his
contribution to it. The lilies of the field are not more
white and graceful than his embroidered nose orna-
ments, and with a little eau des cent milles fleurs, not
more fragrant. Dyson knows that pocket-handker-


chiefs are necessary, and has * an express from Long-
champs ' to bring them over.

Whether they are picked from ladies' pockets by
Dyson's couriers, who then hurry breathless across the
Channel with them, no one need ask. But the gist of
Dyson's advertisement, and of all the preceding remarks,
is this great truth, which need not be carried out
further by any illustrations from geography or natural
history, that in the spring-time all nature renews
itself. There is not a country newspaper published in
England that does not proclaim the same fact. Madame
Hoggin informs the nobility and gentry of Penzance
that her new and gigantic stock of Parisian fashions has
just arrived from London. Mademoiselle M'Whirter
begs to announce to the haut-ton in the environs of
John-o'-Groat's that she has this instant returned from
Paris with her dazzling and beautiful collection of spring

In common with the birds, the trees, the meadows,
in common with the Sun, with Dyson, with all nature,
in fact, I yielded to the irresistible spring impulse homo
sum^ nihil humani a me alienum, &c. I acknowledge the
influence of the season, and ordered a new coat, waist-
coat, and tr in short, a new suit. Now, having

worn it for a few days, and studied the effect which it
has upon the wearer, I thought that perhaps an essay
upon new clothes and their influence might be attended
with some profit both to the public and the writer.

One thing is certain. A man does not have a new
suit of clothes every day; and another general proposi-
tion may be advanced, that a man in sporting a coat for
the first time is either

agreeably affected, or
disagreeably affected, or
not affected at all,

which latter case I don't believe. There is no man,


however accustomed to new clothes, but must feel some
sentiment of pride in assuming them, no philosopher,
however calm, but must remark the change of raiment.
Men consent to wear old clothes for ever, nay, feel a
pang at parting with them for new ; but the first
appearance of a new garment is always attended with

Even the feeling of shyness, which makes a man
ashamed of his splendour, is a proof of his high sense of
it. What causes an individual to sneak about in corners
and shady places, to avoid going out in new clothes of a
Sunday, lest he be mistaken for a snob ? Sometimes
even to go the length of ordering his servant to powder
his new coat with sand, or to wear it for a couple of
days, and remove the gloss thereof? Are not these
manoeuvres proofs of the effects of new coats upon
mankind in general?

As this notice will occupy at least ten pages (for
a reason that may be afterwards mentioned) I
intend, like the great philosophers who have always
sacrificed themselves for the public good, imbibing
diseases, poisons, and medicines, submitting to opera-
tions, inhaling asphyxiations, &c., in order that they
might note in themselves the particular phenomena of
the case, in like manner, I say, I intend to write this
essay in five several coats, viz :

1. My old single-breasted black frock-coat, with
patches at the elbows, made to go into mourning for
William IV.

2. My double-breasted green ditto, made last year but
one, and still very good, but rather queer about the
lining, and snowy in the seams.

3. My grand black dress-coat, made by Messrs.
Sparding & Spohrer, of Conduit Street, in 1836. A
little scouring and renovating have given it a stylish look
even now ; and it was always a splendid cut.

4. My worsted-net jacket that my uncle Harry gave


me on his departure for Italy. This jacket is wadded
inside with a wool like that one makes Welsh wigs of ;
and though not handsome, amazing comfortable, with
pockets all over.


Now, will the reader be able to perceive any
difference in the style of writing of each chapter ? I
fancy I see it myself clearly ; and am convinced that
the new frock-coat chapter will be infinitely more
genteel, spruce, and glossy than the woollen-jacket
chapter ; which, again, shall be more comfortable than
the poor, seedy, patched William-the-Fourth's black
frock chapter. The double-breasted green one will be
dashing, manly, free-and-easy ; and, though not fashion-
able, yet with a well-bred look. The grand black-dress
chapter will be solemn and grave, devilish tight about
the waist, abounding in bows and shrugs, and small talk ;
it will have a great odour of bohea and pound-cake ;
perhaps there will be a faint whiff of negus ; and the
tails will whisk up in a quadrille at the end, or sink
down, mayhap, on a supper-table bench before a quantity
of trifles, lobster-salads, and champagnes ; and near a
lovely blushing white satin skirt, which is continually
crying out, ' O you ojous creature ! ' or * O you naughty
satirical man, you ! ' * And do you really believe Miss
MofFat dyes her hair ? ' ' And have you read that sweet
thing in the " Keepsake " by Lord Diddle ? ' Well,
only one leetle leetle drop, for mamma will scold ; ' and
1 O you horrid Mr. Titmarsh, you have filled my glass, I
declare ! ' Dear white satin skirt, what pretty shoulders
and eyes you have ! what a nice white neck, and bluish-
mottled, round, innocent arms ! how fresh you are and
candid ! and ah, my dear, what a fool you are !

I don't have so many coats nowadays as in the days
of hot youth, when the figure was more elegant, and
credit, mayhap, more plenty ; and, perhaps, this accounts


Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 27 of 31)