But after supper, my father addressing himself to me, who sat at another quarter of the table,—Timon, said he, and I have a dispute, and you are to be judge, for I have been upon his skirts already about that stranger; [p. 204] for if according to my directions he had seated every man in his proper place, we had never been thought unskilful in this matter, by one
Whose art is great in ordering horse and foot.1And story says that Paulus Aemilius, after he had conquered Perseus the king of Macedon, making an entertainment, besides his costly furniture and extraordinary provision, was very critical in the order of his feast; saying, It is the same man's task to order a terrible battle and a pleasing entertainment, for both of them require skill in the art of disposing right. Homer often calls the stoutest and the greatest princes κοσμήτορας λαῶν, disposers of the people; and you use to say that the great Creator, by this art of disposing, turned disorder into beauty, and neither taking away nor adding any new being, but setting every thing in its proper place, out of the most uncomely figure and confused chaos produced this beauteous, this surprising face of nature that appears. In these great and noble doctrines indeed you instruct us; but our own observation sufficiently assures us, that the greatest profuseness in a feast appears neither delightful nor genteel, unless beautified by order. And therefore it is absurd that cooks and waiters should be solicitous what dish must be brought first, what next, what placed in the middle, and what last; and that the garlands, and ointment, and music (if they have any) should have a proper place and order assigned, and yet that the guests should be seated promiscuously, and no respect be had to age, honor, or the like; no distinguishing order by which the man in dignity might be honored, the inferior learn to give place, and the disposer be exercised in distinguishing what is proper and convenient. For it is not rational that, when we walk or sit down to discourse, the best man should have the best place, and that the same order should not be [p. 205] observed at table; or that the entertainer should in civility drink to one before another, and yet make no difference in their seats, at the first dash making the whole company one Myconus2 (as they say), a hodge-podge and confusion. This my father brought for his opinion.