William Makepeace Thackeray.

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show their gratitude in this way. Before the supper-


rooms were thrown open at my friend Mrs. Perkins's
ball, I recollect Liversage at the door, swearing and
growling as if he had met with an injury. So I thought
the Bellows - Menders' guests seemed heaving into
mutiny, when the great doors burst open in a flood of
light, and we rushed, a black streaming crowd, into the
gorgeous hall of banquet.

Every man sprang for his place with breathless
rapidity. We knew where those places were beforehand ;
for a cunning map had been put into the hands of each
of us by an officer of the Company, where every plate of
this grand festival was numbered, and each gentleman's
place was ticked off. My wife keeps my card still in
her album ; and my dear eldest boy (who has a fine
genius and appetite) will gaze on it for half-an-hour at
a time, whereas he passes by the copies of verses and the
flower-pieces with an entire indifference.

The vast hall flames with gas, and is emblazoned
all over with the arms of bygone Bellows-Menders.
August portraits decorate the walls. The Duke of
Kent in scarlet, with a crooked sabre, stared me firmly
in the face during the whole entertainment. The
Duke of Cumberland, in a hussar uniform, was at my
back, and I knew was looking down into my plate.
The eyes of those gaunt portraits follow you every-
where. The Prince Regent has been mentioned before.
He has his place of honour over the Great Bellows-
Mender's chair, and surveys the high table glittering
with plate, pergnes, candles, hock-glasses, moulds of
blancmange stuck over with flowers, gold statues
holding up baskets of barley-sugar, and a thousand
objects of art. Piles of immense gold cans and salvers
rose up in buffets behind this high table ; towards which
presently, and in a grand procession the band in the
gallery overhead blowing out the Bellows-Menders'
march a score of City tradesmen and their famous
guests walked solemnly between our rows of tables.


Grace was said, not by the professional devotees who
sang c Non nobis ' at the end of the meal, but by a
chaplain somewhere in the room, and the turtle began.
Armies of waiters came rushing in with tureens of this
broth of the City.

There was a gentleman near us a very lean old
Bellows-Mender indeed who had three platefuls. His
old hands trembled, and his plate quivered with excite-
ment, as he asked again and again. That old man is
not destined to eat much more of the green fat of this
life. As he took it he shook all over like the jelly in
the dish opposite to him. He gasped out a quick laugh
once or twice to his neighbour, when his two or three
old tusks showed, still standing up in those jaws which
had swallowed such a deal of calipash. He winked at
the waiters, knowing them from former banquets.

This banquet, which I am describing at Christmas,
took place at the end of May. At that time the
vegetables called peas were exceedingly scarce, and cost
six-and-twenty shillings a quart.

There are two hundred quarts of peas,' said the old
fellow, winking with blood-shot eyes, and a laugh that
was perfectly frightful. They were consumed with the
fragrant ducks, by those who were inclined : or with
the venison, which now came in.

That was a great sight. On a centre table in the
hall, on which already stood a cold Baron of Beef a
grotesque piece of meat a dish as big as a dish in a
pantomime, with a little Standard of England stuck into
the top of it, as if it were round this we were to rally
on this centre table, six men placed as many huge dishes
under cover ; and at a given signal the master cook and
five assistants in white caps and jackets marched rapidly
up to the dish-covers, which being withdrawn, discovered
to our sight six haunches, on which the six carvers,
taking out six sharp knives from their girdles, began


It was, I say, like something out of a Gothic
romance, or a grotesque fairy pantomime. Feudal
barons must have dined so five hundred years ago. One
of those knives may have been the identical blade which
Walworth plunged into Wat Tyler's ribs, and which
was afterwards caught up into the City Arms, where it
blazes. (Not that any man can seriously believe that
Wat Tyler was hurt by the dig of the jolly old Mayor
in the red gown and chain, any more than that Pantaloon
is singed by the great poker, which is always forth-
coming at the present season.) Here we were practising
the noble custom of the good old times, imitating our
glorious forefathers, rallying round our old institutions,
like true Britons. These very flagons and platters were
in the room before us, ten times as big as any we use
or want nowadays. They served us a grace-cup as
large as a plate-basket, and at the end they passed us a
rosewater dish, into which Pepys might have dipped his
napkin. Pepys ? what do I say ? Richard III., Cceur-
de-Lion, Guy of Warwick, Gog and Magog. I don't
know how antique the articles are.

Conversation, rapid and befitting the place and
occasion, went on all round. * Waiter, where's the
turtle-fins?' Gobble, gobble. 'Hice Punch or My
deary, sir ? ' * Smelts or salmon, Jowler my boy ? '
' Always take cold beef after turtle.' Hobble-gobble.
' These year peas have no taste.' Hobble-gobble-obble.
1 Jones, a glass of 'Ock with you? Smith, jine us?
Waiter, three 'Ocks. S., mind your manners ! There's
Mrs. S. a-looking at you from the gallery.' Hobble-
obbl-gobble-gob-gob-gob. A steam of meats, a flare of
candles, a rushing to and fro of waiters, a ceaseless
clinking of glass and steel, a dizzy mist of gluttony,
out of which I see my old friend of the turtle soup
making terrific play among the peas, his knife darting
down his throat.


It is all over. We can eat no more. We are full of
Bacchus and fat venison. We lay down our weapons and
rest. ' Why, in the name of goodness,' says I, turning
round to Pillkington, who had behaved at dinner like a
doctor ; c why '

But a great rap, tap, tap proclaimed grace, after which
the professional gentlemen sang out, ' Non nobis,' and
then the dessert and speeches began ; about which we
shall speak in the third course of our entertainment.


ON the hammer having ceased its tapping, Mr. Chisel,
the immortal toast-master, who presided over the
President, roared out to my three professional friends,
' Non nobis ; ' and what is called ' the business of the
evening' commenced.

First, the Warden of the Worshipful Society of
the Bellows-Menders Proposed Her Majesty ' in
a reverential voice. We all stood up respectfully,
Chisel yelling out to us to * Charge our glasses.' The
Royal health having been imbibed, the professional
gentleman ejaculated a part of the National Anthem ;
and I do not mean any disrespect to them personally,
in mentioning that this eminently religious hymn was
performed by Messrs. Shadrach and Meshech, two well-
known melodists of the Hebrew persuasion. We clinked
our glasses at the conclusion of the anthem, making more
dents upon the time-worn old board, where many a man
present had clinked for George III., clapped for George
IV., rapped for William IV., and was rejoiced to bump
the bottom of his glass as a token of reverence for our
present Sovereign.


Here, as in the case of the Hebrew melophonists, I
would insinuate no wrong thought. Gentlemen, no
doubt, have the loyal emotions which exhibit themselves
by clapping glasses on the tables. We do it at home.
Let us make no doubt that the bellows-menders, tailors,
authors, public characters, judges, aldermen, sheriffs, and
what not, shout out a health for the Sovereign every
night at their banquets, and that their families fill round
and drink the same toast from the bottles of half-guinea

* His Royal Highness Prince Albert, and Albert
Prince of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family,'
followed, Chisel yelling out the august titles, and all of
us banging away with our glasses, as if we were seriously
interested in drinking healths to this Royal race : as if
drinking healths could do anybody any good ; as if the
imprecations of a company of bellows-menders, aldermen,
magistrates, tailors, authors, tradesmen, ambassadors,
who did not care a twopenny-piece for all the Royal
families in Europe, could somehow affect Heaven kindly
towards their Royal Highnesses by their tipsy vows, under
the presidence of Mr. Chisel.

The Queen Dowager's health was next prayed for
by us Bacchanalians, I need not say with what fervency
and efficacy. This prayer was no sooner put up by the
Chairman, with Chisel as his Boanerges of a Clerk,
than the elderly Hebrew gentlemen before mentioned
began striking up a wild patriotic ditty about the
* Queen of the Isles, on whose sea-girt shores the bright
sun smiles, and the ocean roars ; whose cliffs never
knew, since the bright sun rose, but a people true, who
scorned all foes. Oh, a people true, who scorn all wiles,
inhabit you, bright Queen of the Isles. Bright Quee
Bright Quee ee ee ee ee en awf the Isles ! ' or
words to that effect, which Shadrach took up and
warbled across his glass to Meshech, which Meshech
trolled away to his brother singer, until the ditty


was ended, nobody understanding a word of what
it meant ; not Oldboy not the old or young Israelite
minstrel his companion not we, who were clink-
ing our glasses not Chisel, who was urging us and
the Chairman on not the Chairman and the guests
in embroidery not the kind, exalted, and amiable lady
whose health we were making believe to drink,
certainly, and in order to render whose name welcome
to the Powers to whom we recommended her safety,
we offered up, through the mouths of three singers,
hired for the purpose, a perfectly insane and irrelevant

* Why,' says I to Pillkington, ' the Chairman and the
grand guests might just as well get up and dance round
the table, or cut off Chisel's head and pop it into a
turtle-soup tureen, or go through any other mad
ceremony as the last. Which of us here cares for Her
Majesty the Queen Dowager, any more than for a
virtuous and eminent lady, whose goodness and private
worth appear in all her acts ? What the deuce has
that absurd song about the Queen of the Isles to do
with Her Majesty, and how does it set us all stamping
with our glasses on the mahogany ? ' Chisel bellowed
out another toast ' The Army ; ' and we were silent
in admiration, while Sir George Bluff, the greatest
General present, rose to return thanks.

Our end of the table was far removed from the thick
of the affair, and we only heard, as it were, the in-
distinct cannonading of the General, whose force had
just advanced into action. We saw an old gentleman
with white whiskers, and a flaring scarlet coat covered
with stars and gilding, rise up with a frightened and
desperate look, and declare that * this was the proudest
a-hem moment of his a-hem unworthy as he was
a-hem as a member of the British a-hem who had
fought under the illustrious Duke of a-hem his joy
was to come among the Bellows-Menders a-hem and


inform the great merchants of the greatest City of the
hum that a British a-hcm was always ready to do
his hum. Napoleon Salamanca a - hem had
witnessed their hum, haw and should any other
hum ho casion which he deeply deprecated haw
there were men now around him a - haw who,
inspired by the Bellows-Menders' Company and the
City of London a-hum would do their duty as
a-hum a-haw a-hah." Immense cheers, yells, hurrays,
roars, glass -smackings, and applause followed this
harangue, at the end of which the three Israelites,
encouraged by Chisel, began a military cantata 'Oh,
the sword and shield on the battle-field Are the joys
that best we love, boys Where the Grenadiers, with
their pikes and spears, through the ranks of the foemen
shove, boys Where the bold hurray, strikes dread
dismay, in the ranks of the dead and dyin' and the
baynet clanks in the Frenchmen's ranks, as they fly
from the British Lion.' (I repeat, as before, that I
quote from memory.)

Then the Secretary of the Tape and Sealing- Wax
Office rose to return thanks for the blessings which we
begged upon the Ministry. He was, he said, but a
humble the humblest member of that body. The
suffrages which that body had received from the nation
were gratifying, but the most gratifying testimonial
of all was the approval of the Bellows-Menders'
Company. {Immense applause.} Yes, among the most
enlightened of the mighty corporations of the City, the
most enlightened was the Bellows-Menders'. Yes, he
might say, in consonance with their motto, and in
defiance of illiberality, 'Afflavit veritas et dissipati sunt.'
{Enormous applause.} Yes, the thanks and pride that
were boiling with emotion in his bosom, trembled to
find utterance at his lip. Yes, the proudest moment of
his life, the crown of his ambition, the meed of his early
hopes and struggles and aspirations, was at that moment


won in the approbation of the Bellows-Menders. Yes,
his children should know that he too had attended at
those great, those noble, those joyous, those ancient
festivals, and that he too, the humble individual who
from his heart pledged the assembled company in a
bumper that he too was a Bellows- Mender.

Shadrach, Meshech,and Oldboy, at this began singing,
I don't know for what reason, a rustic madrigal, describ-
ing, * Oh, the joys of bonny May bonny May a-a-ay,
when the birds sing on the spray,' &c., which never, as
I could see, had the least relation to that or any other
Ministry, but which was, nevertheless, applauded by all
present. And then the Judges returned thanks ; and
the Clergy returned thanks ; and the Foreign Ministers
had an innings (all interspersed by my friends' indefatig-
able melodies) : and the distinguished foreigners present,
especially Mr. Washington Jackson, were greeted, and
that distinguished American rose amidst thunders of

He explained how Broadway and Cornhill were in
fact the same. He showed how Washington was in fact
an Englishman, and how Franklin would never have
been an American but for his education as a printer in
Lincoln's Inn Fields. He declared that Milton was his
cousin, Locke his ancestor, Newton his dearest friend,
Shakespeare his grandfather, or more or less he vowed
that he had wept tears of briny anguish on the pedestal
of Charing Cross kissed with honest fervour the clay of
Runnymede that Ben Jonson and Samuel that Pope
and Dryden, and Dr. Watts and Swift were the darlings
of his hearth and home, as of ours, and in a speech of
about five-and-thirty minutes, explained to us a series
of complimentary sensations very hard to repeat or to

But I observed that, during his oration, the gentle-
men who report for the daily papers were occupied with
their wine instead of their note-books that the three


singers of Israel yawned and showed many signs of
disquiet and inebriety, and that my old friend, who had
swallowed the three plates of turtle, was sound asleep.

Pilllcington and I quitted the banqueting-hall, and
went into the tea-room, where gents were assembled
still, drinking slops and eating buttered muffins, until the
grease trickled down their faces. Then I resumed the
query which I was just about to put when grace was
called and the last chapter ended. * And, gracious
goodness!' I said, * what can be the meaning of a
ceremony so costly, so uncomfortable, so unsavoury, so
unwholesome as this ? Who is called upon to pay two
or three guineas for my dinner now, in this blessed year
1847? Who is it that can want muffins after such a
banquet ? Are there no poor ? Is there no reason ?
Is this monstrous belly-worship to exist for ever ? '

* Spec,' the Doctor said, * you had best come away. I
make no doubt that you for one have had too much.'
And we went to his brougham. May nobody have such
a headache on this happy New Year as befell the present
writer on the morning after the Dinner in the City !


HAVING made a solemn engagement during the last
Midsummer holidays with my young friend Augustus
Jones, that we should go to a Christmas Pantomime
together, and being accommodated by the obliging
proprietors of Coven t Garden Theatre with a private
box for last Tuesday, I invited not only him, but some
other young friends to be present at the entertainment.
The two Miss Twiggs, the charming daughters of the


reverend Mr. Twigg, our neighbour; Miss Minny
Twigg, their youngest sister, eight years of age ; and their
maternal aunt, Mrs. Captain Flather, as the chaperon of
the young ladies, were the four other partakers of this
amusement with myself and Mr. Jones.

It was agreed that the ladies, who live in Montpellier
Square, Brompton, should take up myself and Master
Augustus at the Sarcophagus Club, which is on the way
to the theatre, and where we two gentlemen dined on
the day appointed. Cox's most roomy fly, the mouldy
green one, in which he insists on putting the roaring
grey horse, was engaged for the happy evening. Only
an intoxicated driver (as Cox's man always is) could
ever, I am sure, get that animal into a trot. But the
utmost fury of the whip will not drive him into a
dangerous pace; and besides, the ladies were protected
by Thomas, Mrs. Flather's page, a young man with a
gold band to his hat, and a large gilt knob on the
top, who ensured the safety of the cargo, and really gave
the vehicle the dignity of one's own carriage.

The dinner -hour at the 'Sarcophagus' being
appointed for five o'clock, and a table secured in the
strangers' room, Master Jones was good enough to arrive
(under the guardianship of the Colonel's footman) about
half-an-hour before the appointed time, and the interval
was by him partly passed in conversation, but chiefly
in looking at a large silver watch which he possesses,
and in hoping that we shouldn't be late.

I made every attempt to pacify and amuse my young
guest, whose anxiety was not about the dinner but about
the play. I tried him with a few questions about Greek
and Mathematics a sort of talk, however, which I was
obliged speedily to abandon, for I found he knew a great
deal more upon these subjects than I did (it is disgust-
ing how preternaturally learned the boys of our day are,
by the way). I engaged him to relate anecdotes about
his schoolfellows and ushers, which he did, but still in a


hurried, agitated, nervous manner evidently thinking
about that sole absorbing subject, the pantomime.

A neat little dinner, served in Botibol's best manner
(our chef at the 4 Sarcophagus ' knows when he has to deal
with a connoisseur, and would as soon serve me up his
own ears as a rechauffe dish), made scarcely any impression
on young Jones. After a couple of spoonfuls, he pushed
away the Palestine soup, and took out his large silver
watch he applied two or three times to the chrono-
meter during the fish period and it was not until I had
him employed upon an omelette, full of apricot jam, that
the young gentleman was decently tranquil.

With the last mouthful of the omelette he began to
fidget again ; and it still wanted a quarter of an hour to
six. Nuts, almonds and raisins, figs (the almost never-
failing soother of youth), I hoped might keep him quiet,
and laid before him all those delicacies. But he beat the
devil's tattoo with the nut-crackers, had out the watch
time after time, declared that it stopped, and made such
a ceaseless kicking on the legs of his chair, that there
were moments when I wished he was back in the parlour
of Mrs. Jones, his mamma.

I know oldsters who have a savage pleasure in making
boys drunk a horrid thought of this kind may, perhaps,
have crossed my mind. 4 If I could get him to drink
half-a-dozen glasses of that heavy port, it might soothe
him and make him sleep,' I may have thought. But he
would only take a couple of glasses of wine. He said he
didn't like more ; that his father did not wish him to
take more : and abashed by his frank and honest
demeanour, I would not press him, of course, a single
moment further, and so was forced to take the bottle to
myself, to soothe me instead of my young guest.

He was almost frantic at a quarter to seven, by which
time the ladies had agreed to call for us, and for about
five minutes was perfectly dangerous. * We shall be late,
I know we shall ; I said we should ! I am sure it's


seven, past, and that the box will be taken ! ' and count-
less other exclamations of fear and impatience passed
through his mind. At length we heard a carriage stop,
and a Club servant entering and directing himself
towards our table. Young Jones did not wait to hear
him speak, but cried out, c Hooray, here they are ! '
flung his napkin over his head, dashed off his chair,
sprang at his hat like a kitten at a ball, and bounced out
of the door, crying out, c Come along, Mr. Spec ! '
whilst the individual addressed much more deliberately
followed. 'Happy Augustus!' I mentally exclaimed.
* O thou brisk and bounding votary of pleasure ! When
the virile toga has taken the place of the jacket and
turned-down collar, that Columbine, who will float
before you a goddess to-night, will only be a third-rate
dancing female, with rouge and large feet. You will
see the ropes by which the genii come down, and the
dirty crumpled knees of the fairies and you won't be in
such a hurry to leave a good bottle of port as now at the
pleasant age of thirteen.' [By the way, boys are made
so abominably comfortable and odiously happy, nowadays,
that when I look back to 1 802, and my own youth, I
get in a rage with the whole race of boys, and feel
inclined to flog them all round.] Paying the bill, I say,
and making these leisurely observations, I passed under
the hall of the * Sarcophagus,' where Thomas, the page,
touched the gold-knobbed hat respectfully to me in a
manner which I think must have rather surprised old
General Growler, who was unrolling himself of his
muffetees and wrappers, and issued into the street, where
Cox's fly was in waiting : the windows up, and whitened
with a slight frost : the silhouettes of the dear beings
within dimly visible against the chemist's light oppo-
site the Club ; and Master Augustus already kicking
his heels on the box, by the side of the inebriated

I caused the youth to descend from that perch, and


the door of the fly being opened, thrust him in. Mrs.
Captain Flather, of course, occupied the place of honour
an uncommonly capacious woman, and one of the
young ladies made a retreat from the front seat, in order
to leave it vacant for myself; but I insisted on not
incommoding Mrs. Captain F., and that the two darling
children should sit beside her, while I occupied the place
of back bodkin between the two Miss Twiggs.

They were attired in white, covered up with shawls,
with bouquets in their laps, and their hair dressed
evidently for the occasion ; Mrs. Flather in her red
velvet of course, with her large gilt state turban.

She saw that we were squeezed on our side of the
carriage, and made an offer to receive me on hers.

Squeezed ? I should think we were ; but, O Emily,
O Louisa, you mischievous little black-eyed creatures,
who would dislike being squeezed by you ? I wished it
was to York we were going, and not to Covent Garden.
How swiftly the moments passed. We were at the
play-house in no time ; and Augustus plunged instantly
out of the fly over the shins of everybody.


WE took possession of the private box assigned to us :
and Mrs. Flather seated herself in the place of honour
each of the young ladies taking it by turns to occupy
the other corner. Miss Minny and Master Jones
occupied the middle places ; and it was pleasant to
watch the young gentleman throughout the performance
of the comedy during which he was never quiet for
two minutes now shifting his chair, now swinging to
and fro upon it, now digging his elbows into the
capacious sides of Mrs. Captain Flather, now beating


with his boots against the front of the box, or trampling
upon the skirts of Mrs. Flather's velvet garment.

He occupied himself unceasingly, too, in working up
and down Mrs. F.'s double-barrelled French opera-glass
not a little to the detriment of that instrument and

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 3 of 31)