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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 428 Volume 17, New Series, March 13, 1852   By:

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NO. 428. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MARCH 13, 1852. PRICE 1½ d.


In one of Webster's magnificent speeches, he remarks that so vast are the possessions of England, that her morning drum beat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth daily with one continuous and unbroken strain of its martial airs. There is another musical sound, within the British islands themselves, which does not as yet quite traverse the whole horary circle, but bids fair to do so in the course of time, and to this we would direct the attention of the American secretary, as a fitting subject for a new peroration. We allude to the Dinner bell. At noon, in the rural districts of England, this charming sound is heard tinkling melodiously from farm or village factory; at one, in the more crowded haunts of industry, the strain is taken up ere it dies; and by the time it reaches Scotland, a full hungry peal swells forth at two. At three till past four there is a continuous ring from house to house of the small country gentry; and at five this becomes more distinct and sonorous in the towns, increasing in importance till six. From that time till seven and half past, it waxes more and more fashionable in the tone, till at eight it stops abruptly: not like an air brought to a conclusion, but like one broken off accidentally, to be by and by resumed.

The dinner hours of the labouring class are no doubt regulated according to business, and perhaps receive some modification from national character. An Englishman, for instance, is said to work best after his meal, and accordingly his dinner makes its appearance sometimes as early as noon, but never later than one; while a Scotchman, who is fit for anything when half starved, is very properly kept without solid food till two o'clock. As for the smaller gentry, who scorn to dine at workmen's hours, and yet do not pretend to the abnegation of the great, they may follow their own fancy without doing any harm to others; but the case is different as regards the hours assigned to dinner parties , for these affect the health and comfort of the whole body of the gentry together.

We are no enemy to dinner parties; on the contrary, we think we have not enough of them, and we never shall have enough, till some change takes place in their constitution. We are a small gentleman ourselves, who dine at the modest hour of four, and what is the use to us of a six or seven o'clock invitation? We accept it, of course, being socially disposed, and being, moreover, philosopher enough to see that such meetings are good for men in society: but so far as the meal itself goes, it is to us either useless or disagreeable. If we have dined already, we do not want another dinner; and if we have not dined, our appetite is lost from sheer want. It is vain to say, Let us all dine habitually at six seven eight o'clock. Few of us will few of us can none of us ought. Nature demands a solid meal at a much earlier hour; and true refinement suggests that the object of the evening reunion should not be the satisfaction of the day's hunger. Only half of this fact is seen by the classes who give the law to fashion, and that half consists of the grosser and coarser necessity. They have already, more especially at their country seats, taken to the tiffin of the East, and at a reasonable hour make a regular dinner of hot meats, and all the usual accessories, under the name of lunch. So complete is this meal, that the ladies, led away no doubt by association, meet some hours afterwards in mysterious conclave, to drink what our ancestors called 'a dish of tea;' and having thus diluted the juices of their stomachs for the reception of another supply of heavy food, they descend to dinner!

The evening dinner is, therefore, a mere show dinner, or something worse... Continue reading book >>

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