The Fitz-Boodle Papers, by William Makepeace Thackeray




The fair and honest proposition in which I offered to communicate privately with parents and guardians, relative to two new and lucrative professions which I had discovered, has, I find from the publisher, elicited not one single inquiry from those personages, who I can’t but think are very little careful of their children’s welfare to allow such a chance to be thrown away. It is not for myself I speak, as my conscience proudly tells me; for though I actually gave up Ascot in order to be in the way should any father of a family be inclined to treat with me regarding my discoveries, yet I am grieved, not on my own account, but on theirs, and for the wretched penny-wise policy that has held them back.

That they must feel an interest in my announcement is unquestionable. Look at the way in which the public prints of all parties have noticed my appearance in the character of a literary man! Putting aside my personal narrative, look at the offer I made to the nation — a choice of no less than two new professions! Suppose I had invented as many new kinds of butcher’s meat; does any one pretend that the world, tired as it is of the perpetual recurrence of beef, mutton, veal, cold beef, cold veal, cold mutton, hashed ditto, would not have jumped eagerly at the delightful intelligence that their old, stale, stupid meals were about to be varied at last?

Of course people would have come forward. I should have had deputations from Mr. Gibletts and the fashionable butchers of this world; petitions would have poured in from Whitechapel salesmen; the speculators panting to know the discovery; the cautious with stock in hand eager to bribe me to silence and prevent the certain depreciation of the goods which they already possessed. I should have dealt with them, not greedily or rapaciously, but on honest principles of fair barter. “Gentlemen,” I should have said, or rather, “Gents”— which affectionate diminutive is, I am given to understand, at present much in use among commercial persons —“Gents, my researches, my genius, or my good fortune, have brought me to the valuable discovery about which you are come to treat. Will you purchase it outright, or will you give the discoverer an honest share of the profits resulting from your speculation? My position in the world puts ME out of the power of executing the vast plan I have formed, but ’twill be a certain fortune to him who engages in it; and why should not I, too, participate in that fortune?”

Such would have been my manner of dealing with the world, too, with regard to my discovery of the new professions. Does not the world want new professions? Are there not thousands of well-educated men panting, struggling, pushing, starving, in the old ones? Grim tenants of chambers looking out for attorneys who never come? — wretched physicians practising the stale joke of being called out of church until people no longer think fit even to laugh or to pity? Are there not hoary-headed midshipmen, antique ensigns growing mouldy upon fifty years’ half-pay? Nay, are there not men who would pay anything to be employed rather than remain idle? But such is the glut of professionals, the horrible cut-throat competition among them, that there is no chance for one in a thousand, be he ever so willing, or brave, or clever: in the great ocean of life he makes a few strokes, and puffs, and sputters, and sinks, and the innumerable waves overwhelm him and he is heard of no more.

Walking to my banker’s t’other day — and I pledge my sacred honor this story is true — I met a young fellow whom I had known attache to an embassy abroad, a young man of tolerable parts, unwearied patience, with some fortune too, and, moreover, allied to a noble Whig family, whose interest had procured him his appointment to the legation at Krahwinkel, where I knew him. He remained for ten years a diplomatic character; he was the working-man of the legation; he sent over the most diffuse translations of the German papers for the use of the Foreign Secretary; he signed passports with most astonishing ardor; he exiled himself for ten long years in a wretched German town, dancing attendance at court-balls and paying no end of money for uniforms. And what for? At the end of the ten years — during which period of labor he never received a single shilling from the Government which employed him (rascally spendthrift of a Government, va!) — he was offered the paid attacheship to the court of H. M. the King of the Mosquito Islands, and refused that appointment a week before the Whig Ministry retired. Then he knew that there was no further chance for him, and incontinently quitted the diplomatic service for ever, and I have no doubt will sell his uniform a bargain. The Government had HIM a bargain certainly; nor is he by any means the first person who has been sold at that price.

Well, my worthy friend met me in the street and informed me of these facts with a smiling countenance — which I thought a masterpiece of diplomacy. Fortune had been belaboring and kicking him for ten whole years, and here he was grinning in my face: could Monsieur de Talleyrand have acted better? “I have given up diplomacy,” said Protocol, quite simply and good-humoredly, “for between you and me, my good fellow, it’s a very slow profession; sure, perhaps, but slow. But though I gained no actual pecuniary remuneration in the service, I have learned all the languages in Europe, which will be invaluable to me in my new profession — the mercantile one — in which directly I looked out for a post I found one.”

“What! and a good pay?” said I.

“Why, no; that’s absurd, you know. No young men, strangers to business, are paid much to speak of. Besides, I don’t look to a paltry clerk’s pay. Some day, when thoroughly acquainted with the business (I shall learn it in about seven years), I shall go into a good house with my capital and become junior partner.”

“And meanwhile?”

“Meanwhile I conduct the foreign correspondence of the eminent house of Jam, Ram, and Johnson; and very heavy it is, I can tell you. From nine till six every day, except foreign post days, and then from nine till eleven. Dirty dark court to sit in; snobs to talk to — great change, as you may fancy.”

“And you do all this for nothing?”

“I do it to learn the business.” And so saying Protocol gave me a knowing nod and went his way.

Good heavens! I thought, and is this a true story? Are there hundreds of young men in a similar situation at the present day, giving away the best years of their youth for the sake of a mere windy hope of something in old age, and dying before they come to the goal? In seven years he hopes to have a business, and then to have the pleasure of risking his money? He will be admitted into some great house as a particular favor, and three months after the house will fail. Has it not happened to a thousand of our acquaintance? I thought I would run after him and tell him about the new professions that I have invented.

“Oh! ay! those you wrote about in Fraser’s Magazine. Egad! George, Necessity makes strange fellows of us all. Who would ever have thought of you SPELLING, much more writing?”

“Never mind that. Will you, if I tell you of a new profession that, with a little cleverness and instruction from me, you may bring to a most successful end — will you, I say, make me a fair return?”

“My dear creature,” replied young Protocol, “what nonsense you talk! I saw that very humbug in the Magazine. You say you have made a great discovery — very good; you puff your discovery — very right; you ask money for it — nothing can be more reasonable; and then you say that you intend to make your discovery public in the next number of the Magazine. Do you think I will be such a fool as to give you money for a thing which I can have next month for nothing? Good-by, George my boy; the NEXT discovery you make I’ll tell you how to get a better price for it.” And with this the fellow walked off, looking supremely knowing and clever.

This tale of the person I have called Protocol is not told without a purpose, you may be sure. In the first place, it shows what are the reasons that nobody has made application to me concerning the new professions, namely, because I have passed my word to make them known in this Magazine, which persons may have for the purchasing, stealing, borrowing, or hiring, and, therefore, they will never think of applying personally to me. And, secondly, his story proves also my assertion, viz, that all professions are most cruelly crowded at present, and that men will make the most absurd outlay and sacrifices for the smallest chance of success at some future period. Well, then, I will be a benefactor to my race, if I cannot be to one single member of it, whom I love better than most men. What I have discovered I will make known; there shall be no shilly-shallying work here, no circumlocution, no bottle-conjuring business. But oh! I wish for all our sakes that I had had an opportunity to impart the secret to one or two persons only; for, after all, but one or two can live in the manner I would suggest. And when the discovery is made known, I am sure ten thousand will try. The rascals! I can see their brass-plates gleaming over scores of doors. Competition will ruin my professions, as it has all others.

It must be premised that the two professions are intended for gentlemen, and gentlemen only — men of birth and education. No others could support the parts which they will be called upon to play.

And, likewise, it must be honestly confessed that these professions have, to a certain degree, been exercised before. Do not cry out at this and say it is no discovery! I say it IS a discovery. It is a discovery if I show you — a gentleman — a profession which you may exercise without derogation, or loss of standing, with certain profit, nay, possibly with honor, and of which, until the reading of this present page, you never thought but as of a calling beneath your rank and quite below your reach. Sir, I do not mean to say that I create a profession. I cannot create gold; but if, when discovered, I find the means of putting it in your pocket, do I or do I not deserve credit?

I see you sneer contemptuously when I mention to you the word AUCTIONEER. “Is this all,” you say, “that this fellow brags and prates about? An auctioneer forsooth! he might as well have ‘invented’ chimney-sweeping!”

No such thing. A little boy of seven, be he ever so low of birth, can do this as well as you. Do you suppose that little stolen Master Montague made a better sweeper than the lowest-bred chummy that yearly commemorates his release? No, sir. And he might have been ever so much a genius or gentleman, and not have been able to make his trade respectable.

But all such trades as can be rendered decent the aristocracy has adopted one by one. At first they followed the profession of arms, flouting all others as unworthy, and thinking it ungentlemanlike to know how to read or write. They did not go into the church in very early days, till the money to be got from the church was strong enough to tempt them. It is but of later years that they have condescended to go to the bar, and since the same time only that we see some of them following trades. I know an English lord’s son, who is, or was, a wine-merchant (he may have been a bankrupt for what I know). As for bankers, several partners in banking-houses have four balls to their coronets, and I have no doubt that another sort of banking, viz, that practised by gentlemen who lend small sums of money upon deposited securities, will be one day followed by the noble order, so that they may have four balls on their coronets and carriages, and three in front of their shops.

Yes, the nobles come peoplewards as the people, on the other hand, rise and mingle with the nobles. With the plebs, of course, Fitz-Boodle, in whose veins flows the blood of a thousand kings, can have nothing to do; but, watching the progress of the world, ’tis impossible to deny that the good old days of our race are passed away. We want money still as much as ever we did; but we cannot go down from our castles with horse and sword and waylay fat merchants — no, no, confounded new policemen and the assize-courts prevent that. Younger brothers cannot be pages to noble houses, as of old they were, serving gentle dames without disgrace, handing my lord’s rose-water to wash, or holding his stirrup as he mounted for the chase. A page, forsooth! A pretty figure would George Fitz-Boodle or any other man of fashion cut, in a jacket covered with sugar-loafed buttons, and handing in penny-post notes on a silver tray. The plebs have robbed us of THAT trade among others: nor, I confess, do I much grudge them their trouvaille. Neither can we collect together a few scores of free lances, like honest Hugh Calverly in the Black Prince’s time, or brave Harry Butler of Wallenstein’s dragoons, and serve this or that prince, Peter the Cruel or Henry of Trastamare, Gustavus or the Emperor, at our leisure; or, in default of service, fight and rob on our own gallant account, as the good gentlemen of old did. Alas! no. In South America or Texas, perhaps, a man might have a chance that way; but in the ancient world no man can fight except in the king’s service (and a mighty bad service that is too), and the lowest European sovereign, were it Baldomero Espartero himself, would think nothing of seizing the best-born condottiere that ever drew sword, and shooting him down like the vulgarest deserter.

What, then, is to be done? We must discover fresh fields of enterprise — of peaceable and commercial enterprise in a peaceful and commercial age. I say, then, that the auctioneer’s pulpit has never yet been ascended by a scion of the aristocracy, and am prepared to prove that they might scale it, and do so with dignity and profit.

For the auctioneer’s pulpit is just the peculiar place where a man of social refinement, of elegant wit, of polite perceptions, can bring his wit, his eloquence, his taste, and his experience of life, most delightfully into play. It is not like the bar, where the better and higher qualities of a man of fashion find no room for exercise. In defending John Jorrocks in an action of trespass, for cutting down a stick in Sam Snooks’s field, what powers of mind do you require? — powers of mind, that is, which Mr. Serjeant Snorter, a butcher’s son with a great loud voice, a sizar at Cambridge, a wrangler, and so forth, does not possess as well as yourself? Snorter has never been in decent society in his life. He thinks the bar-mess the most fashionable assemblage in Europe, and the jokes of “grand day” the ne plus ultra of wit. Snorter lives near Russell Square, eats beef and Yorkshire-pudding, is a judge of port-wine, is in all social respects your inferior. Well, it is ten to one but in the case of Snooks v. Jorrocks, before mentioned, he will be a better advocate than you; he knows the law of the case entirely, and better probably than you. He can speak long, loud, to the point, grammatically — more grammatically than you, no doubt, will condescend to do. In the case of Snooks v. Jorrocks he is all that can be desired. And so about dry disputes, respecting real property, he knows the law; and, beyond this, has no more need to be a gentleman than my body-servant has — who, by the way, from constant intercourse with the best society, IS almost a gentleman. But this is apart from the question.

Now, in the matter of auctioneering, this, I apprehend, is not the case, and I assert that a high-bred gentleman, with good powers of mind and speech, must, in such a profession, make a fortune. I do not mean in all auctioneering matters. I do not mean that such a person should be called upon to sell the good-will of a public-house, or discourse about the value of the beer-barrels, or bars with pewter fittings, or the beauty of a trade doing a stroke of so many hogsheads a week. I do not ask a gentleman to go down and sell pigs, ploughs, and cart-horses, at Stoke Pogis; or to enlarge at the Auction-Rooms, Wapping, upon the beauty of the “Lively Sally” schooner. These articles of commerce or use can be better appreciated by persons in a different rank of life to his.

But there are a thousand cases in which a gentleman only can do justice to the sale of objects which the necessity or convenience of the genteel world may require to change hands. All articles properly called of taste should be put under his charge. Pictures — he is a travelled man, has seen and judged the best galleries of Europe, and can speak of them as a common person cannot. For, mark you, you must have the confidence of your society, you must be able to be familiar with them, to plant a happy mot in a graceful manner, to appeal to my lord or the duchess in such a modest, easy, pleasant way as that her grace should not be hurt by your allusion to her — nay, amused (like the rest of the company) by the manner in which it was done.

What is more disgusting than the familiarity of a snob? What more loathsome than the swaggering quackery of some present holders of the hammer? There was a late sale, for instance, which made some noise in the world (I mean the late Lord Gimcrack’s, at Dilberry Hill). Ah! what an opportunity was lost there! I declare solemnly that I believe, but for the absurd quackery and braggadocio of the advertisements, much more money would have been bid; people were kept away by the vulgar trumpeting of the auctioneer, and could not help thinking the things were worthless that were so outrageously lauded.

They say that sort of Bartholomew-fair advocacy (in which people are invited to an entertainment by the medium of a hoarse yelling beef-eater, twenty-four drums, and a jack-pudding turning head over heels) is absolutely necessary to excite the public attention. What an error! I say that the refined individual so accosted is more likely to close his ears, and, shuddering, run away from the booth. Poor Horace Waddlepoodle! to think that thy gentle accumulation of bricabrac should have passed away in such a manner! by means of a man who brings down a butterfly with a blunderbuss, and talks of a pin’s head through a speaking-trumpet! Why, the auctioneer’s very voice was enough to crack the Sevres porcelain and blow the lace into annihilation. Let it be remembered that I speak of the gentleman in his public character merely, meaning to insinuate nothing more than I would by stating that Lord Brougham speaks with a northern accent, or that the voice of Mr. Shell is sometimes unpleasantly shrill.

Now the character I have formed to myself of a great auctioneer is this. I fancy him a man of first-rate and irreproachable birth and fashion. I fancy his person so agreeable that it must be a pleasure for ladies to behold and tailors to dress it. As a private man he must move in the very best society, which will flock round his pulpit when he mounts it in his public calling. It will be a privilege for vulgar people to attend the hall where he lectures; and they will consider it an honor to be allowed to pay their money for articles the value of which is stamped by his high recommendation. Nor can such a person be a mere fribble; nor can any loose hanger-on of fashion imagine he may assume the character. The gentleman auctioneer must be an artist above all, adoring his profession; and adoring it, what must he not know? He must have a good knowledge of the history and language of all nations; not the knowledge of the mere critical scholar, but of the lively and elegant man of the world. He will not commit the gross blunders of pronunciation that untravelled Englishmen perpetrate; he will not degrade his subject by coarse eulogy or sicken his audience with vulgar banter. He will know where to apply praise and wit properly; he will have the tact only acquired in good society, and know where a joke is in place, and how far a compliment may go. He will not outrageously and indiscriminately laud all objects committed to his charge, for he knows the value of praise; that diamonds, could we have them by the bushel, would be used as coals; that above all, he has a character of sincerity to support; that he is not merely the advocate of the person who employs him, but that the public is his client too, who honors him and confides in him. Ask him to sell a copy of Raffaelle for an original; a trumpery modern Brussels counterfeit for real old Mechlin; some common French forged crockery for the old delightful, delicate, Dresden china; and he will quit you with scorn, or order his servant to show you the door of his study.

Study, by the way — no, “study” is a vulgar word; every word is vulgar which a man uses to give the world an exaggerated notion of himself or his condition. When the wretched bagman, brought up to give evidence before Judge Coltman, was asked what his trade was, and replied that “he represented the house of Dobson and Hobson,” he showed himself to be a vulgar, mean-souled wretch, and was most properly reprimanded by his lordship. To be a bagman is to be humble, but not of necessity vulgar. Pomposity is vulgar, to ape a higher rank than your own is vulgar, for an ensign of militia to call himself captain is vulgar, or for a bagman to style himself the “representative” of Dobson and Hobson. The honest auctioneer, then, will not call his room his study; but his “private room,” or his office, or whatever may be the phrase commonly used among auctioneers.

He will not for the same reason call himself (as once in a momentary feeling of pride and enthusiasm for the profession I thought he should)— he will not call himself an “advocate,” but an auctioneer. There is no need to attempt to awe people by big titles: let each man bear his own name without shame. And a very gentlemanlike and agreeable, though exceptional position (for it is clear that there cannot be more than two of the class,) may the auctioneer occupy.

He must not sacrifice his honesty, then, either for his own sake or his clients’, in any way, nor tell fibs about himself or them. He is by no means called upon to draw the long bow in their behalf; all that his office obliges him to do — and let us hope his disposition will lead him to do it also — is to take a favorable, kindly, philanthropic view of the world; to say what can fairly be said by a good-natured and ingenious man in praise of any article for which he is desirous to awaken public sympathy. And how readily and pleasantly may this be done! I will take upon myself, for instance, to write an eulogium upon So-and-So’s last novel, which shall be every word of it true; and which work, though to some discontented spirits it might appear dull, may be shown to be really amusing and instructive — nay, IS amusing and instructive — to those who have the art of discovering where those precious qualities lie.

An auctioneer should have the organ of truth large; of imagination and comparison, considerable; of wit, great; of benevolence, excessively large.

And how happy might such a man be, and cause others to be! He should go through the world laughing, merry, observant, kind-hearted. He should love everything in the world, because his profession regards everything. With books of lighter literature (for I do not recommend the genteel auctioneer to meddle with heavy antiquarian and philological works) he should be elegantly conversant, being able to give a neat history of the author, a pretty sparkling kind criticism of the work, and an appropriate eulogium upon the binding, which would make those people read who never read before; or buy, at least, which is his first consideration. Of pictures we have already spoken. Of china, of jewelry, of gold-headed canes, valuable arms, picturesque antiquities, with what eloquent entrainement might he not speak! He feels every one of these things in his heart. He has all the tastes of the fashionable world. Dr. Meyrick cannot be more enthusiastic about an old suit of armor than he; Sir Harris Nicolas not more eloquent regarding the gallant times in which it was worn, and the brave histories connected with it. He takes up a pearl necklace with as much delight as any beauty who was sighing to wear it round her own snowy throat, and hugs a china monster with as much joy as the oldest duchess could do. Nor must he affect these things; he must feel them. He is a glass in which all the tastes of fashion are reflected. He must be every one of the characters to whom he addresses himself — a genteel Goethe or Shakspeare, a fashionable world-spirit.

How can a man be all this and not be a gentleman; and not have had an education in the midst of the best company — an insight into the most delicate feelings, and wants, and usages? The pulpit oratory of such a man would be invaluable; people would flock to listen to him from far and near. He might out of a single teacup cause streams of world-philosophy to flow, which would be drunk in by grateful thousands; and draw out of an old pincushion points of wit, morals, and experience, that would make a nation wise.

Look round, examine THE ANNALS OF AUCTIONS, as Mr. Robins remarks, and (with every respect for him and his brethren) say, is there in the profession SUCH A MAN? Do we want such a man? Is such a man likely or not likely to make an immense fortune? Can we get such a man except out of the very best society, and among the most favored there?

Everybody answers “No!” I knew you would answer no. And now, gentlemen who have laughed at my pretension to discover a profession, say, have I not? I have laid my finger upon the spot where the social deficit exists. I have shown that we labor under a want; and when the world wants, do we not know that a man will step forth to fill the vacant space that Fate has left for him? Pass we now to the —


This profession, too, is a great, lofty and exceptional one, and discovered by me considering these things, and deeply musing upon the necessities of society. Nor let honorable gentlemen imagine that I am enabled to offer them in this profession, more than any other, a promise of what is called future glory, deathless fame, and so forth. All that I say is, that I can put young men in the way of making a comfortable livelihood, and leaving behind them, not a name, but what is better, a decent maintenance to their children. Fitz-Boodle is as good a name as any in England. General Fitz-Boodle, who, in Marlborough’s time, and in conjunction with the famous Van Slaap, beat the French in the famous action of Vischzouchee, near Mardyk, in Holland, on the 14th of February, 1709, is promised an immortality upon his tomb in Westminster Abbey; but he died of apoplexy, deucedly in debt, two years afterwards: and what after that is the use of a name?

No, no; the age of chivalry is past. Take the twenty-four first men who come into the club, and ask who they are, and how they made their money? There’s Woolsey-Sackville: his father was Lord Chancellor, and sat on the woolsack, whence he took his title; his grandfather dealt in coal-sacks, and not in woolsacks — small coal-sacks, dribbling out little supplies of black diamonds to the poor. Yonder comes Frank Leveson, in a huge broad-brimmed hat, his shirt-cuffs turned up to his elbows. Leveson is as gentlemanly a fellow as the world contains, and if he has a fault, is perhaps too finikin. Well, you fancy him related to the Sutherland family: nor, indeed, does honest Frank deny it; but entre nous, my good sir, his father was an attorney, and his grandfather a bailiff in Chancery Lane, bearing a name still older than that of Leveson, namely, Levy. So it is that this confounded equality grows and grows, and has laid the good old nobility by the heels. Look at that venerable Sir Charles Kitely, of Kitely Park: he is interested about the Ashantees, and is just come from Exeter Hall. Kitely discounted bills in the City in the year 1787, and gained his baronetcy by a loan to the French princes. All these points of history are perfectly well known; and do you fancy the world cares? Psha! Profession is no disgrace to a man: be what you like, provided you succeed. If Mr. Fauntleroy could come to life with a million of money, you and I would dine with him: you know we would; for why should we be better than our neighbors?

Put, then, out of your head the idea that this or that profession is unworthy of you: take any that may bring you profit, and thank him that puts you in the way of being rich.

The profession I would urge (upon a person duly qualified to undertake it) has, I confess, at the first glance, something ridiculous about it; and will not appear to young ladies so romantic as the calling of a gallant soldier, blazing with glory, gold lace, and vermilion coats; or a dear delightful clergyman, with a sweet blue eye, and a pocket-handkerchief scented charmingly with lavender-water. The profession I allude to WILL, I own, be to young women disagreeable, to sober men trivial, to great stupid moralists unworthy.

But mark my words for it, that in the religious world (I have once or twice, by mistake no doubt, had the honor of dining in “serious” houses, and can vouch for the fact that the dinners there are of excellent quality)— in the serious world, in the great mercantile world, among the legal community (notorious feeders), in every house in town (except some half-dozen which can afford to do without such aid), the man I propose might speedily render himself indispensable.

Does the reader now begin to take? Have I hinted enough for him that he may see with eagle glance the immense beauty of the profession I am about to unfold to him? We have all seen Gunter and Chevet; Fregoso, on the Puerta del Sol (a relation of the ex-Minister Calomarde), is a good purveyor enough for the benighted olla-eaters of Madrid; nor have I any fault to find with Guimard, a Frenchman, who has lately set up in the Toledo, at Naples, where he furnishes people with decent food. It has given me pleasure, too, in walking about London — in the Strand, in Oxford Street, and elsewhere, to see fournisseurs and comestible-merchants newly set up. Messrs. Morel have excellent articles in their warehouses; Fortnum and Mason are known to most of my readers.

But what is not known, what is wanted, what is languished for in England is a DINNER-MASTER — a gentleman who is not a provider of meat or wine, like the parties before named, who can have no earthly interest in the price of truffled turkeys or dry champagne beyond that legitimate interest which he may feel for his client, and which leads him to see that the latter is not cheated by his tradesmen. For the dinner-giver is almost naturally an ignorant man. How in mercy’s name can Mr. Serjeant Snorter, who is all day at Westminster, or in chambers, know possibly the mysteries, the delicacy, of dinner-giving? How can Alderman Pogson know anything beyond the fact that venison is good with currant jelly, and that he likes lots of green fat with his turtle? Snorter knows law, Pogson is acquainted with the state of the tallow-market; but what should he know of eating, like you and me, who have given up our time to it? (I say ME only familiarly, for I have only reached so far in the science as to know that I know nothing.) But men there are, gifted individuals, who have spent years of deep thought — not merely intervals of labor, but hours of study every day — over the gormandizing science — who, like alchemists, have let their fortunes go, guinea by guinea, into the all-devouring pot — who, ruined as they sometimes are, never get a guinea by chance but they will have a plate of pease in May with it, or a little feast of ortolans, or a piece of Glo’ster salmon, or one more flask from their favorite claret-bin.

It is not the ruined gastronomist that I would advise a person to select as his TABLE-MASTER; for the opportunities of peculation would be too great in a position of such confidence — such complete abandonment of one man to another. A ruined man would be making bargains with the tradesmen. They would offer to cash bills for him, or send him opportune presents of wine, which he could convert into money, or bribe him in one way or another. Let this be done, and the profession of table-master is ruined. Snorter and Pogson may almost as well order their own dinners, as be at the mercy of a “gastronomic agent” whose faith is not beyond all question.

A vulgar mind, in reply to these remarks regarding the gastronomic ignorance of Snorter and Pogson, might say, “True, these gentlemen know nothing of household economy, being occupied with other more important business elsewhere. But what are their wives about? Lady Pogson in Harley Street has nothing earthly to do but to mind her poodle, and her mantua-maker’s and housekeeper’s bills. Mrs. Snorter in Belford Place, when she has taken her drive in the Park with the young ladies, may surely have time to attend to her husband’s guests and preside over the preparations of his kitchen, as she does worthily at his hospitable mahogany.” To this I answer, that a man who expects a woman to understand the philosophy of dinner-giving, shows the strongest evidence of a low mind. He is unjust towards that lovely and delicate creature, woman, to suppose that she heartily understands and cares for what she eats and drinks. No: taken as a rule, women have no real appetites. They are children in the gormandizing way; loving sugar, sops, tarts, trifles, apricot-creams, and such gewgaws. They would take a sip of Malmsey, and would drink currant-wine just as happily, if that accursed liquor were presented to them by the butler. Did you ever know a woman who could lay her fair hand upon her gentle heart and say on her conscience that she preferred dry sillery to sparkling champagne? Such a phenomenon does not exist. They are not made for eating and drinking; or, if they make a pretence to it, become downright odious. Nor can they, I am sure, witness the preparations of a really great repast without a certain jealousy. They grudge spending money (ask guards, coachmen, inn-waiters, whether this be not the case). They will give their all, heaven bless them to serve a son, a grandson, or a dear relative, but they have not the heart to pay for small things magnificently. They are jealous of good dinners, and no wonder. I have shown in a former discourse how they are jealous of smoking, and other personal enjoyments of the male. I say, then, that Lady Pogson or Mrs. Snorter can never conduct their husbands’ table properly. Fancy either of them consenting to allow a calf to be stewed down into gravy for one dish, or a dozen hares to be sacrificed to a single puree of game, or the best Madeira to be used for a sauce, or half a dozen of champagne to boil a ham in. They will be for bringing a bottle of Marsala in place of the old particular, or for having the ham cooked in water. But of these matters — of kitchen philosophy — I have no practical or theoretic knowledge; and must beg pardon if, only understanding the goodness of a dish when cooked, I may have unconsciously made some blunder regarding the preparation.

Let it, then, be set down as an axiom, without further trouble of demonstration, that a woman is a bad dinner-caterer; either too great and simple for it, or too mean — I don’t know which it is; and gentlemen, according as they admire or contemn the sex, may settle that matter their own way. In brief, the mental constitution of lovely woman is such that she cannot give a great dinner. It must be done by a man. It can’t be done by an ordinary man, because he does not understand it. Vain fool! and he sends off to the pastry-cook in Great Russell Street or Baker Street, he lays on a couple of extra waiters (green-grocers in the neighborhood), he makes a great pother with his butler in the cellar, and fancies he has done the business.

Bon Dieu! Who has not been at those dinners? — those monstrous exhibitions of the pastry-cook’s art? Who does not know those made dishes with the universal sauce to each: fricandeaux, sweet-breads, damp dumpy cutlets, &c., seasoned with the compound of grease, onions, bad port-wine, cayenne pepper, curry-powder (Warren’s blacking, for what I know, but the taste is always the same)— there they lie in the old corner dishes, the poor wiry Moselle and sparkling Burgundy in the ice-coolers, and the old story of white and brown soup, turbot, little smelts, boiled turkey, saddle-of-mutton, and so forth? “Try a little of that fricandeau,” says Mrs. Snorter, with a kind smile. “You’ll find it, I think, very nice.” Be sure it has come in a green tray from Great Russell Street. “Mr. Fitz-Boodle, you have been in Germany,” cries Snorter, knowingly; “taste the hock, and tell me what you think of THAT.”

How should he know better, poor benighted creature; or she, dear good soul that she is? If they would have a leg-of-mutton and an apple-pudding, and a glass of sherry and port (or simple brandy-and-water called by its own name) after dinner, all would be very well; but they must shine, they must dine as their neighbors. There is no difference in the style of dinners in London; people with five hundred a year treat you exactly as those of five thousand. They WILL have their Moselle or hock, their fatal side-dishes brought in the green trays from the pastry-cook’s.

Well, there is no harm done; not as regards the dinner-givers at least, though the dinner-eaters may have to suffer somewhat; it only shows that the former are hospitably inclined, and wish to do the very best in their power — good honest fellows! If they do wrong, how can they help it? they know no better.

And now, is it not as clear as the sun at noonday, that A WANT exists in London for a superintendent of the table — a gastronomic agent — a dinner-master, as I have called him before? A man of such a profession would be a metropolitan benefit; hundreds of thousands of people of the respectable sort, people in white waistcoats, would thank him daily. Calculate how many dinners are given in the City of London, and calculate the numbers of benedictions that “the Agency” might win.

And as no doubt the observant man of the world has remarked that the freeborn Englishman of the respectable class is, of all others, the most slavish and truckling to a lord; that there is no fly-blown peer but he is pleased to have him at his table, proud beyond measure to call him by his surname (without the lordly prefix); and that those lords whom he does not know, he yet (the freeborn Englishman) takes care to have their pedigrees and ages by heart from his world-bible, the “Peerage:” as this is an indisputable fact, and as it is in this particular class of Britons that our agent must look to find clients, I need not say it is necessary that the agent should be as high-born as possible, and that he should be able to tack, if possible, an honorable or some other handle to his respectable name. He must have it on his professional card —


Apician Chambers, Pall Mall.



Amphitryonic Council Office, Swallow Street.

or, in some such neat way, Gothic letters on a large handsome crockeryware card, with possibly a gilt coat-of-arms and supporters, or the blood-red hand of baronetcy duly displayed. Depend on it plenty of guineas will fall in it, and that Gobbleton’s supporters will support him comfortably enough.

For this profession is not like that of the auctioneer, which I take to be a far more noble one, because more varied and more truthful; but in the Agency case, a little humbug at least is necessary. A man cannot be a successful agent by the mere force of his simple merit or genius in eating and drinking. He must of necessity impose upon the vulgar to a certain degree. He must be of that rank which will lead them naturally to respect him, otherwise they might be led to jeer at his profession; but let a noble exercise it, and bless your soul, all the “Court Guide” is dumb!

He will then give out in a manly and somewhat pompous address what has before been mentioned, namely, that he has seen the fatal way in which the hospitality of England has been perverted hitherto, accapare’d by a few cooks with green trays. (He must use a good deal of French in his language, for that is considered very gentlemanlike by vulgar people.) He will take a set of chambers in Canton Gardens, which will be richly though severely furnished, and the door of which will be opened by a French valet (he MUST be a Frenchman, remember), who will say, on letting Mr. Snorter or Sir Benjamin Pogson in, that “MILOR is at home.” Pogson will then be shown into a library furnished with massive bookcases, containing all the works on cookery and wines (the titles of them) in all the known languages in the world. Any books, of course, will do, as you will have them handsomely bound, and keep them under plate-glass. On a side-table will be little sample-bottles of wine, a few truffles on a white porcelain saucer, a prodigious strawberry or two, perhaps, at the time when such fruit costs much money. On the library will be busts marked Ude, Careme, Bechamel, in marble (never mind what heads, of course); and, perhaps, on the clock should be a figure of the Prince of Conde’s cook killing himself because the fish had not arrived in time: there may be a wreath of immortelles on the figure to give it a more decidedly Frenchified air. The walls will be of a dark rich paper, hung round with neat gilt frames, containing plans of menus of various great dinners, those of Cambaceres, Napoleon, Louis XIV., Louis XVIII., Heliogabalus if you like, each signed by the respective cook.

After the stranger has looked about him at these things, which he does not understand in the least, especially the truffles, which look like dirty potatoes, you will make your appearance, dressed in a dark dress, with one handsome enormous gold chain, and one large diamond ring; a gold snuff-box, of course, which you will thrust into the visitor’s paw before saying a word. You will be yourself a portly grave man, with your hair a little bald and gray. In fact, in this, as in all other professions, you had best try to look as like Canning as you can.

When Pogson has done sneezing with the snuff, you will say to him, “Take a fauteuil. I have the honor of addressing Sir Benjamin Pogson, I believe?” And then you will explain to him your system.

This, of course, must vary with every person you address. But let us lay down a few of the heads of a plan which may be useful, or may be modified infinitely, or may be cast aside altogether, just as circumstances dictate. After all I am not going to turn gastronomic agent, and speak only for the benefit perhaps of the very person who is reading this:—


“The Gastronomic Agent having traversed Europe, and dined with the best society of the world, has been led naturally, as a patriot, to turn his thoughts homeward, and cannot but deplore the lamentable ignorance regarding gastronomy displayed in a country for which Nature has done almost everything.

“But it is ever singularly thus. Inherent ignorance belongs to man; and The Agent, in his Continental travels, has always remarked, that the countries most fertile in themselves were invariably worse tilled than those more barren. The Italians and the Spaniards leave their fields to Nature, as we leave our vegetables, fish, and meat. And, heavens! what richness do we fling away, what dormant qualities in our dishes do we disregard — what glorious gastronomic crops (if the Agent may be permitted the expression)— what glorious gastronomic crops do we sacrifice, allowing our goodly meats and fishes to lie fallow! ‘Chance,’ it is said by an ingenious historian, who, having been long a secretary in the East India House, must certainly have had access to the best information upon Eastern matters —‘Chance,’ it is said by Mr. Charles Lamb, ‘which burnt down a Chinaman’s house, with a litter of sucking-pigs that were unable to escape from the interior, discovered to the world the excellence of roast-pig.’ Gunpowder, we know, was invented by a similar fortuity.” [The reader will observe that my style in the supposed character of a Gastronomic Agent is purposely pompous and loud.] “So, ’tis said, was printing — so glass. — We should have drunk our wine poisoned with the villanous odor of the borachio, had not some Eastern merchants, lighting their fires in the Desert, marked the strange composition which now glitters on our sideboards, and holds the costly produce of our vines.

“We have spoken of the natural riches of a country. Let the reader think but for one moment of the gastronomic wealth of our country of England, and he will be lost in thankful amazement as he watches the astonishing riches poured out upon us from Nature’s bounteous cornucopia! Look at our fisheries! — the trout and salmon tossing in our brawling streams; the white and full-breasted turbot struggling in the mariner’s net; the purple lobster lured by hopes of greed into his basket-prison, which he quits only for the red ordeal of the pot. Look at whitebait, great heavens! — look at whitebait, and a thousand frisking, glittering, silvery things besides, which the nymphs of our native streams bear kindly to the deities of our kitchens — our kitchens such as they are.

“And though it may be said that other countries produce the freckle-backed salmon and the dark broad-shouldered turbot; though trout frequent many a stream besides those of England, and lobsters sprawl on other sands than ours; yet, let it be remembered, that our native country possesses these altogether, while other lands only know them separately; that, above all, whitebait is peculiarly our country’s — our city’s own! Blessings and eternal praises be on it, and, of course, on brown bread and butter! And the Briton should further remember, with honest pride and thankfulness, the situation of his capital, of London: the lordly turtle floats from the sea into the stream, and from the stream to the city; the rapid fleets of all the world se donnent rendezvous in the docks of our silvery Thames; the produce of our coasts and provincial cities, east and west, is borne to us on the swift lines of lightning railroads. In a word — and no man but one who, like The Agent, has travelled Europe over, can appreciate the gift — there is no city on earth’s surface so well supplied with fish as London!

“With respect to our meats, all praise is supererogatory. Ask the wretched hunter of chevreuil, the poor devourer of rehbraten, what they think of the noble English haunch, that, after bounding in the Park of Knole or Windsor, exposes its magnificent flank upon some broad silver platter at our tables? It is enough to say of foreign venison, that THEY ARE OBLIGED TO LARD IT. Away! ours is the palm of roast; whether of the crisp mutton that crops the thymy herbage of our downs, or the noble ox who revels on lush Althorpian oil-cakes. What game is like to ours? Mans excels us in poultry, ’tis true; but ’tis only in merry England that the partridge has a flavor, that the turkey can almost se passer de truffes, that the jolly juicy goose can be eaten as he deserves.

“Our vegetables, moreover, surpass all comment; Art (by the means of glass) has wrung fruit out of the bosom of Nature, such as she grants to no other clime. And if we have no vineyards on our hills, we have gold to purchase their best produce. Nature, and enterprise that masters Nature, have done everything for our land.

“But, with all these prodigious riches in our power, is it not painful to reflect how absurdly we employ them? Can we say that we are in the habit of dining well? Alas, no! and The Agent, roaming o’er foreign lands, and seeing how, with small means and great ingenuity and perseverance, great ends were effected, comes back sadly to his own country, whose wealth he sees absurdly wasted, whose energies are misdirected, and whose vast capabilities are allowed to lie idle . . . .” [Here should follow what I have only hinted at previously, a vivid and terrible picture of the degradation of our table.] “ . . . Oh, for a master spirit, to give an impetus to the land, to see its great power directed in the right way, and its wealth not squandered or hidden, but nobly put out to interest and spent!

“The Agent dares not hope to win that proud station — to be the destroyer of a barbarous system wallowing in abusive prodigality — to become a dietetic reformer — the Luther of the table.

“But convinced of the wrongs which exist, he will do his humble endeavor to set them right, and to those who know that they are ignorant (and this is a vast step to knowledge) he offers his counsels, his active co-operation, his frank and kindly sympathy. The Agent’s qualifications are these:— ‘1. He is of one of the best families in England; and has in himself, or through his ancestors, been accustomed to good living for centuries. In the reign of Henry V., his maternal great-great-grandfather, Roger de Gobylton’ [the name may be varied, of course, or the king’s reign, or the dish invented], ‘was the first who discovered the method of roasting a peacock whole, with his tail-feathers displayed; and the dish was served to the two kings at Rouen. Sir Walter Cramley, in Elizabeth’s reign, produced before her Majesty, when at Killingworth Castle, mackerel with the famous GOOSEBERRY SAUCE, &c.’

“2. He has, through life, devoted himself to no other study than that of the table: and has visited to that end the courts of all the monarchs of Europe: taking the receipts of the cooks, with whom he lives on terms of intimate friendship, often at enormous expense to himself.

“3. He has the same acquaintance with all the vintages of the Continent; having passed the autumn of 1811 (the comet year) on the great Weinberg of Johannisberg; being employed similarly at Bordeaux, in 1834; at Oporto, in 1820; and at Xeres de la Frontera, with his excellent friends, Duff, Gordon and Co., the year after. He travelled to India and back in company with fourteen pipes of Madeira (on board of the Samuel Snob’ East Indiaman, Captain Scuttler), and spent the vintage season in the island, with unlimited powers of observation granted to him by the great houses there.

“4. He has attended Mr. Groves of Charing Cross, and Mr. Giblett of Bond Street, in a course of purchases of fish and meat; and is able at a glance to recognize the age of mutton, the primeness of beef, the firmness and freshness of fish of all kinds.

“5. He has visited the parks, the grouse-manors, and the principal gardens of England, in a similar professional point of view.”

The Agent then, through his subordinates, engages to provide gentlemen who are about to give dinner-parties —“1. With cooks to dress the dinners; a list of which gentlemen he has by him, and will recommend none who are not worthy of the strictest confidence.

“2. With a menu for the table, according to the price which the Amphitryon chooses to incur.

“3. He will, through correspondence, with the various fournisseurs of the metropolis, provide them with viands, fruit, wine, &c., sending to Paris, if need be, where he has a regular correspondence with Messrs. Chevet.

“4. He has a list of dexterous table-waiters (all answering to the name of John for fear of mistakes, the butler’s name to be settled according to pleasure), and would strongly recommend that the servants of the house should be locked in the back-kitchen or servants’ hall during the time the dinner takes place.

“5. He will receive and examine all the accounts of the fournisseurs — of course pledging his honor as a gentleman not to receive one shilling of paltry gratification from the tradesmen he employs, but to see that the bills are more moderate, and their goods of better quality, than they would provide to any person of less experience than himself.

“6. His fee for superintending a dinner will be five guineas: and The Agent entreats his clients to trust ENTIRELY to him and his subordinates for the arrangement of the repast — NOT TO THINK of inserting dishes of their own invention, or producing wine from their own cellars, as he engages to have it brought in the best order, and fit for immediate drinking. Should the Amphitryon, however, desire some particular dish or wine, he must consult The Agent in the first case by writing, in the second, by sending a sample to The Agent’s chambers. For it is manifest that the whole complexion of a dinner may be altered by the insertion of a single dish; and, therefore, parties will do well to mention their wishes on the first interview with The Agent. He cannot be called upon to recompose his bill of fare, except at great risk to the ensemble of the dinner and enormous inconvenience to himself.

“7. The Agent will be at home for consultation from ten o’clock until two, earlier if gentlemen who are engaged at early hours in the City desire to have an interview: and be it remembered, that a PERSONAL INTERVIEW is always the best: for it is greatly necessary to know not only the number but the character of the guests whom the Amphitryon proposes to entertain — whether they are fond of any particular wine or dish, what is their state of health, rank, style, profession, &c.

“8. At two o’clock, he will commence his rounds; for as the metropolis is wide, it is clear that he must be early in the field in some districts. From 2 to 3 he will be in Russell Square and the neighborhood; 3 to 3 3/4, Harley Street, Portland Place, Cavendish Square, and the environs; 3 3/4 to 4 1/4, Portman Square, Gloucester Place, Baker Street, &c.; 4 1/4 to 5, the new district about Hyde Park Terrace; 5 to 5 3/4, St. John’s Wood and the Regent’s Park. He will be in Grosvenor Square by 6, and in Belgrave Square, Pimlico, and its vicinity, by 7. Parties there are requested not to dine until 8 o’clock; and The Agent, once for all, peremptorily announces that he will NOT go to the palace, where it is utterly impossible to serve a good dinner.”


“Every Monday evening during the season the Gastronomic Agent proposes to give a series of trial-dinners, to which the principal gormands of the metropolis, and a few of The Agent’s most respectable clients, will be invited. Covers will be laid for TEN at nine o’clock precisely. And as The Agent does not propose to exact a single shilling of profit from their bills, and as his recommendation will be of infinite value to them, the tradesmen he employs will furnish the weekly dinner gratis. Cooks will attend (who have acknowledged characters) upon the same terms. To save trouble, a book will be kept where butchers, poulterers, fishmongers, &c. may inscribe their names in order, taking it by turns to supply the trial-table. Wine-merchants will naturally compete every week promiscuously, sending what they consider their best samples, and leaving with the hall-porter tickets of the prices. Confectionery to be done out of the house. Fruiterers, market-men, as butchers and poulterers. The Agent’s maitre-d’hotel will give a receipt to each individual for the articles he produces; and let all remember that The Agent is a VERY KEEN JUDGE, and woe betide those who serve him or his clients ill!


“CARLTON GARDENS, June 10, 1842.”

Here I have sketched out the heads of such an address as I conceive a gastronomic agent might put forth; and appeal pretty confidently to the British public regarding its merits and my own discovery. If this be not a profession — a new one — a feasible one — a lucrative one — I don’t know what is. Say that a man attends but fifteen dinners daily, that is seventy-five guineas, or five hundred and fifty pounds weekly, or fourteen thousand three hundred pounds for a season of six months: and how many of our younger sons have such a capital even? Let, then, some unemployed gentleman with the requisite qualifications come forward. It will not be necessary that he should have done all that is stated in the prospectus; but, at any rate, let him SAY he has: there can’t be much harm in an innocent fib of that sort; for the gastronomic agent must be a sort of dinner-pope, whose opinions cannot be supposed to err.

And as he really will be an excellent judge of eating and drinking, and will bring his whole mind to bear upon the question, and will speedily acquire an experience which no person out of the profession can possibly have; and as, moreover, he will be an honorable man, not practising upon his client in any way, or demanding sixpence beyond his just fee, the world will gain vastly by the coming forward of such a person — gain in good dinners, and absolutely save money: for what is five guineas for a dinner of sixteen? The sum may be gaspille by a cook-wench, or by one of those abominable before-named pastry-cooks with their green trays.

If any man take up the business, he will invite me, of course, to the Monday dinners. Or does ingratitude go so far as that a man should forget the author of his good fortune? I believe it does. Turn we away from the sickening theme!

And now, having concluded my professions, how shall I express my obligations to the discriminating press of this country for the unanimous applause which hailed my first appearance? It is the more wonderful, as I pledge my sacred word, I never wrote a document before much longer than a laundress’s bill, or the acceptance of an invitation to dinner. But enough of this egotism: thanks for praise conferred sound like vanity; gratitude is hard to speak of, and at present it swells the full heart of


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