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?