‘With all thy gettings get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.’
Proverbs, chap. iv. verse 7, 8.
From industry become opulent, from integrity and punctuality respectable, our young merchant is now sheriff of London, and dining with the different companies in Guildhall. A group on the left side are admirably characteristic; their whole souls seem absorbed in the pleasures of the table. A divine, true to his cloth, swallows his soup with the highest goût. Not less gratified is the gentleman palating a glass of wine. The man in a black wig is a positive representative of famine; and the portly and oily citizen, with a napkin tucked in his button-hole, has evidently burnt his mouth by extreme eagerness.
The backs of those in the distance, behung with bags, major perukes, pinners, &c. are most laughably ludicrous. Every person present is so attentive to business, that one may fairly conclude they live to eat, rather than eat to live.
But though this must be admitted to be the case with this party, the following instance of city temperance proves that there are some exceptions. When the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, Chamberlain, &c. of the city of London were once seated round the table at a public and splendid dinner at Guildhall, Mr. Chamberlain Wilkes lisped out, “Mr. Alderman B— — shall I help you to a plate of turtle, or a slice of the haunch — I am within reach of both, sir?” “Neither one nor t’other, I thank you, Sir,” replied the Alderman, “I think I shall dine on the beans and bacon which are at this end of the table.” “Mr. Alderman A— — ” continued the Chamberlain, “which would you choose, sir?” “Sir, I will not trouble you for either, for I believe I shall follow the example of my brother B— — and dine on beans and bacon,” was the reply. On this second refusal the old Chamberlain rose from his seat, and, with every mark of astonishment in his countenance, curled up the corners of his mouth, cast his eyes round the table, and in a voice as loud and articulate as he was able, called “Silence!” which being obtained, he thus addressed the pretorian magistrate, who sat in the Chair: “My Lord Mayor, the wicked have accused us of intemperance, and branded us with the imputation of gluttony; that they may be put to open shame, and their profane tongues be from this day utterly silenced, I humbly move, that your Lordship command the proper officer to record in our annals, that two Aldermen of the city of London prefer beans and bacon to either turtle soup or venison.”
Notwithstanding all this, there are men, who, looking on the dark side, and perhaps rendered splenetic, and soured by not being invited to these sumptuous entertainments, have affected to fear, that their frequent repetition would have a tendency to produce a famine, or at least to check the increase, if not extirpate the species, of those birds, beasts, and fish, with which the tables of the rich are now so plentifully supplied. But these half reasoners do not take into their calculation the number of gentlemen so laudably associated for encouraging cattle being fed so fat that there is no lean left; or that more ancient association, sanctioned and supported by severe acts of parliament, for the preservation of the game. From the exertions of these and similar societies, we may reasonably hope there is no occasion to dread any such calamity taking place; though the Guildhall tables often groaning under such hecatombs as are recorded in the following account, may make a man of weak nerves and strong digestion, shake his head, and shudder a little. “On the 29th October, 1727, when George II. and Queen Caroline honoured the city with their presence at Guildhall, there were 19 tables, covered with 1075 dishes. The whole expense of this entertainment to the city was 4889l. 4s.“
To return to the print; — a self-sufficient and consequential beadle, reading the direction of a letter to Francis Goodchild, Esq. Sheriff of London, has all the insolence of office. The important and overbearing air of this dignified personage is well contrasted by the humble simplicity of the straight-haired messenger behind the bar. The gallery is well furnished with musicians busily employed in their vocation.
Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast,
And therefore proper at a sheriff’s feast.
Besides a portrait of William the Third, and a judge, the hall is ornamented with a full length of that illustrious hero Sir William Walworth, in commemoration of whose valour the weapon with which he slew Wat Tyler was introduced into the city arms.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55