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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers’
By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)
 
I WAS present when Sir Joshua Reynolds delivered his last lecture at the Royal Academy. On entering the room, I found that a semicircle of chairs immediately in front of the pulpit was reserved for persons of distinction, being labeled “Mr. Burke,” “Mr. Boswell,” etc., etc.; and I, with other young men, was forced to station myself a good way off. During the lecture, a great crash was heard; and the company, fearing that the building was about to come down, rushed towards the door. Presently however it appeared that there was no cause for alarm, and they endeavored to resume their places: but in consequence of the confusion, the reserved seats were now occupied by those who could first get into them; and I, pressing forwards, secured one of them. Sir Joshua concluded the lecture by saying with great emotion, “And I should desire that the last words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place, might be the name of Michael Angelo.” As he descended from the rostrum, Burke went up to him, took his hand, and said,—
  “The Angel ended, and in Adam’s ear
So charming left his voice, that he awhile
Thought him still speaking, still stood fixed to hear.”
  1
  What a quantity of snuff Sir Joshua took! I once saw him at an Academy dinner when his waistcoat was absolutely powdered with it.  2
 
  THE HEAD-DRESSES of the ladies during my youth were of a truly preposterous size. I have gone to Ranelagh in a coach with a lady who was obliged to sit upon a stool placed in the bottom of the coach, the height of her head-dress not allowing her to occupy the regular seat.  3
  Their tight lacing was equally absurd. Lady Crewe told me that on returning home from Ranelagh, she has rushed up to her bedroom, and desired her maid to cut her laces without a moment’s delay, for fear she should faint.  4
 
  DR. FORDYCE sometimes drank a good deal at dinner. He was summoned one evening to see a lady patient when he was more than half-seas-over, and conscious that he was so. Feeling her pulse, and finding himself unable to count its beats, he muttered, “Drunk, by God!” Next morning, recollecting the circumstance, he was greatly vexed; and just as he was thinking what explanation of his behavior he should offer to the lady, a letter from her was put into his hand. “She too well knew,” said the letter, “that he had discovered the unfortunate condition in which she was when he last visited her; and she entreated him to keep the matter secret in consideration of the inclosed” (a hundred-pound bank-note)!  5
 
  SIR GEORGE BEAUMONT once met Quin at a very small dinner party. There was a delicious pudding, which the master of the house, pushing the dish towards Quin, begged him to taste. A gentleman had just before helped himself to an immense piece of it. “Pray,” said Quin, looking first at the gentleman’s plate and then at the dish, “which is the pudding?”  6
  Sir George Beaumont, when a young man, was one day in the Mount (a famous coffee-house in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square) with Harvey Aston. Various persons were seated at different tables. Among others present, there was an Irishman who was very celebrated as a duelist, having killed at least half a dozen antagonists. Aston, talking to some of his acquaintance, swore that he would make the duelist stand barefooted before them. “You had better take care what you say,” they replied; “he has his eye upon you.” “No matter,” rejoined Aston; “I declare again that he shall stand barefooted before you, if you will make up among you a purse of fifty guineas.” They did so. Aston then said in a loud voice, “I have been in Ireland, and am well acquainted with the natives.” The Irishman was all ear. Aston went on, “The Irish, being born in bogs, are every one of them web-footed: I know it for a fact.” “Sir,” roared the duelist, starting up from his table, “it is false!” Aston persisted in his assertion. “Sir,” cried the other, “I was born in Ireland; and I will prove to you that it is a falsehood.” So saying, in great haste he pulled off his shoes and stockings and displayed his bare feet. The joke ended in Aston’s sharing the purse between the Irishman and himself, giving the former thirty guineas and keeping twenty. Sir George assured me that this was a true story.  7
  Aston was always kicking up disturbances. I remember being at Ranelagh with my father and mother, when we heard a great row and were told that it was occasioned by Aston.  8
  If I mistake not, Aston fought two duels in India on two successive days, and fell in the second one.  9
 
  WORDS are so twisted and tortured by some writers of the present day that I am really sorry for them,—I mean for the words. It is a favorite fancy of mine that perhaps in the next world the use of words may be dispensed with,—that our thoughts may stream into each other’s minds without any verbal communication.  10
 
  THOMAS GRENVILLE told me this curious fact. When he was a young man, he one day dined with Lord Spencer at Wimbledon. Among the company was George Pitt (afterwards Lord Rivers), who declared that he could tame the most furious animal by looking at it steadily. Lord Spencer said, “Well, there is a mastiff in the court-yard here which is the terror of the neighborhood: will you try your powers on him?” Pitt agreed to do so; and the company descended into the court-yard. A servant held the mastiff by a chain. Pitt knelt down at a short distance from the animal, and stared him sternly in the face. They all shuddered. At a signal given, the mastiff was let loose, and rushed furiously towards Pitt,—then suddenly checked his pace, seemed confounded, and leaping over Pitt’s head, ran away, and was not seen for many hours after.  11
  During one of my visits to Italy, while I was walking a little before my carriage on the road not far from Vicenza, I perceived two huge dogs, nearly as tall as myself, bounding towards me (from out a gateway, though there was no house in sight). I recollected what Pitt had done; and trembling from head to foot, I yet had resolution enough to stand quite still and eye them with a fixed look. They gradually relaxed their speed from a gallop to a trot, came up to me, stopped for a moment, and then went back again.  12
 
  DUNNING (afterwards Lord Ashburton) was “stating the law” to a jury at Guildhall, when Lord Mansfield interrupted him by saying, “If that be law, I’ll go home and burn my books.” “My lord,” replied Dunning, “you had better go home and read them.”  13
  Dunning was remarkably ugly. One night while he was playing whist at Nando’s with Horne Tooke and two others, Lord Thurlow called at the door and desired the waiter to give a note to Dunning (with whom, though their politics were so different, he was very intimate). The waiter did not know Dunning by sight. “Take the note up-stairs,” said Thurlow, “and deliver it to the ugliest man at the card-table—to him who most resembles the knave of spades.” The note immediately reached its destination. Horne Tooke used often to tell this anecdote.  14
 
  WHEN titled ladies become authoresses or composers, their friends suffer for it. Lady —— asked me to buy her book, and I replied that I would do so when I was rich enough. I went to a concert at Lady ——’s, during which several pieces composed by her daughter were performed; and early next morning a music-seller arrived at my house, bringing with him the daughter’s compositions (and a bill receipted), price sixteen shillings.  15
 
  THOMAS GRENVILLE told me that he was present in the House when Lord North, suddenly rising from his seat and going out, carried off on the hilt of his sword the wig of Welbore Ellis, who was stooping to take up some papers. I have myself often seen Lord North in the House. While sitting there he would frequently hold a handkerchief to his face; and once after a long debate, when somebody said to him, “My lord, I fear you have been asleep,” he replied, “I wish I had.”  16
 
  ONE morning at his own house, while speaking to me of his travels, Fox could not recollect the name of a particular town in Holland, and was much vexed at the treacherousness of his memory. He had a dinner party that day; and just as he had applied the carving-knife to the sirloin, the name of the town having suddenly occurred to him, he roared out exultingly, to the astonishment of the company, “Gorcum, Gorcum!”  17
 
  LORD ST. HELENS (who had been ambassador to Russia) told me as a fact this anecdote of the Empress Catherine. She frequently had little whist parties, at which she sometimes played, and sometimes not. One night when she was not playing, but walking about from table to table and watching the different hands, she rang the bell to summon the page-in-waiting from an antechamber. No page appeared. She rang the bell again; and again without effect. Upon this she left the room, looking daggers, and did not return for a very considerable time; the company supposing that the unfortunate page was destined for the knout or Siberia. On entering the antechamber, the Empress found that the page, like his betters, was busy at whist; and that when she had rung the bell, he happened to have so very interesting a hand that he could not make up his mind to quit it. Now what did the Empress do? She dispatched the page on her errand, and then quietly sat down to hold his cards till he should return.  18
  Lord St. Helens also told me that he and Ségur were with the Empress in her carriage, when the horses took fright, and ran furiously down-hill. The danger was excessive. When it was over the Empress said, “Mon étoile vous a sauvée.”  19
 
 
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