Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sunday lunch.........

With all due respect to family and friends, with whom I have spent an enjoyable luncheon, I think the person from history I would most like to share a long leisurely Sunday lunch with is Sydney Smith.

He is considered by many to have been Britain's greatest wit. A man who was universally loved and had no recorded personal enemies. He was founder of the Edinburgh Review, an organ through which he published articles to help promote his many causes, including Catholic Emancipation and the abolition of slavery.

Throughout his life as a parson in Yorkshire and Somerset, and later as Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Sydney was admired for his conversational wit, his humanity and for the sheer creative power of his writing. He never once resorted to vulgarity in order to solicit a laugh.

Even on his deathbed, Sydney could not resist making a joke. His nurse, looking for his medicine, found a half-bottle of ink in the place where the medicine should have been. Sydney said he had probably taken a dose of ink the last time by mistake. The horrified nurse asked what to do. 'Bring me all the blotting paper there is in the house,' advised Sydney.

After meeting one Mrs Grote, the wife of a nineteenth - century historian he said of her turban; 'Now I know the meaning of the word grotesque.'

When a rather pompous clergyman dated a letter to him with a particular Saint's Day instead of the more traditional date, Sydney replied, dating his letter 'Washing Day'.

Lord Brougham wrote of Sydney Smith:
'He was an admirable joker; he had the art of placing ordinary things in an infinitely ludicrous point of view. I have seen him at Foxton (his home in Yorkshire) drive the servants from the room with the tears running down their faces in peals of inextinguishable laughter'.

So tell me do; which person from history would you choose to share a Sunday lunch with?


  1. I have a long list of historical lunch dates. First on the list would have to be Abraham Lincoln.

  2. Oh, my yes. Limiting it to one. That is difficult. I have always rather thought dining with Gertrude Stein would be quite nice. Her salons were infamous and her company very artistic and varied. I can certainly imagine one would be amply entertained and educated.

  3. Oh, I don't know. Maybe you. You seem like you're good for a laugh or two. ;~P

  4. This is a difficult one, Michael. The Rev. Smith certainly seems worthy in the entertainment stakes. For wit, perhaps Oscar Wilde would be my choice. But then Noel Cowerd could be witty and musical!

  5. Mind you, I have just been reading your birthday post on Byron. Lunch with that hunka, hunka burning verse might be just the ticket. I would love to thank him for these lines...
    "Tis sweet to hear the watch dog's honest bark/Bay deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home/'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark/Our coming, and look brighter when we come."