The Book of Snobs, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter xli

Club Snobs

Bacchus is the divinity to whom Waggle devotes his especial worship. ‘Give me wine, my boy,’ says he to his friend Wiggle, who is prating about lovely woman; and holds up his glass full of the rosy fluid, and winks at it portentously, and sips it, and smacks his lips after it, and meditates on it, as if he were the greatest of connoisseurs.

I have remarked this excessive wine-amateurship especially in youth. Snoblings from college, Fledglings from the army, Goslings from the public schools, who ornament our Clubs, are frequently to be heard in great force upon wine questions. ‘This bottle’s corked,’ says Snobling; and Mr. Sly, the butler, taking it away, returns presently with the same wine in another jug, which the young amateur pronounces excellent. ‘Hang champagne!’ says Fledgling, ‘it’s only fit for gals and children. Give me pale sherry at dinner, and my twenty-three claret afterwards.’ ‘What’s port now?’ says Gosling; ‘disgusting thick sweet stuff — where’s the old dry wine one USED to get?’ Until the last twelvemonth, Fledgling drank small-beer at Doctor Swishtail’s; and Gosling used to get his dry old port at a gin-shop in Westminster — till he quitted that seminary, in 1844.

Anybody who has looked at the caricatures of thirty years ago, must remember how frequently bottle-noses, pimpled faces, and other Bardolphian features are introduced by the designer. They are much more rare now (in nature, and in pictures, therefore,) than in those good old times; but there are still to be found amongst the youth of our Clubs lads who glory in drinking-bouts, and whose faces, quite sickly and yellow, for the most part are decorated with those marks which Rowland’s Kalydor is said to efface. ‘I was SO cut last night — old boy!’ Hopkins says to Tomkins (with amiable confidence). ‘I tell you what we did. We breakfasted with Jack Herring at twelve, and kept up with brandy and soda-water and weeds till four; then we toddled into the Park for an hour; then we dined and drank mulled port till half-price; then we looked in for an hour at the Haymarket; then we came back to the Club, and had grills and whisky punch till all was blue — Hullo, waiter! Get me a glass of cherry-brandy.’ Club waiters, the civilest, the kindest, the patientest of men, die under the infliction of these cruel young topers. But if the reader wishes to see a perfect picture on the stage of this class of young fellows, I would recommend him to witness the ingenious comedy of LONDON ASSURANCE— the amiable heroes of which are represented, not only as drunkards and five-o’clock-inthe-morning men, but as showing a hundred other delightful traits of swindling, lying, and general debauchery, quite edifying to witness.

How different is the conduct of these outrageous youths to the decent behaviour of my friend, Mr. Papworthy; who says to Poppins, the butler at the Club:—

PAPWORTHY. —‘Poppins, I’m thinking of dining early; is there any cold game in the house?’

POPPINS. —‘There’s a game pie, sir; there’s cold grouse, sir; there’s cold pheasant, sir; there’s cold peacock, sir; cold swan, sir; cold ostrich, sir,’ &c. &c. (as the case may be).

PAPWORTHY. —‘Hem! What’s your best claret now, Poppins? — in pints, I mean.’

POPPINS. —‘There’s Cooper and Magnum’s Lafitte, sir: there’s Lath and Sawdust’s St. Julien, sir; Bung’s Leoville is considered remarkably fine; and I think you’d like Jugger’s Chateau-Margaux.’

PAPWORTHY. —‘Hum! — hah! — well — give me a crust of bread and a glass of beer. I’ll only LUNCH, Poppins.

Captain Shindy is another sort of Club bore. He has been known to throw all the Club in an uproar about the quality of his mutton-chop.

‘Look at it, sir! Is it cooked, sir? Smell it, sir! Is it meat fit for a gentleman?’ he roars out to the steward, who stands trembling before him, and who in vain tells him that the Bishop of Bullocksmithy has just had three from the same loin. All the waiters in the Club are huddled round the captain’s mutton-chop. He roars out the most horrible curses at John for not bringing the pickles; he utters the most dreadful oaths because Thomas has not arrived with the Harvey Sauce; Peter comes tumbling with the water-jug over Jeames, who is bringing ‘the glittering canisters with bread.’ Whenever Shindy enters the room (such is the force of character), every table is deserted, every gentleman must dine as he best may, and all those big footmen are in terror.

He makes his account of it. He scolds, and is better waited upon in consequence. At the Club he has ten servants scudding about to do his bidding.

Poor Mrs. Shindy and the children are, meanwhile, in dingy lodgings somewhere, waited upon by a charity-girl in pattens.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00