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[41]

Jan. 16, 1839.

This London is socially a bewitching place. Last evening I first dined with Booth, a Chancery barrister; then went to Rogers's, where was a small party, —Mrs. Marcet, Mrs. Austin, Miss Martineau, Mr.Lyell and Mrs. Lyell, Mr.Wedgewood and Mrs. Wedgewood, Harness,1 and Milman. We talked and drank tea, and looked at the beautiful pictures, the original editions of Milton and Spenser, and listened to the old man eloquent (I say eloquent indeed); and so the time passed. This morning I spent chatting with Hayward about law, literature, and society; then walked with Whewell, and afterwards dined with Bellenden Ker.2 And the dinner! it is to be spoken of always. There was a small company: our host and his wife,—one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen; Courtenay,3 M. P., and his beautiful daughter; Eastlake, the accomplished artist; and Lord Brougham. Then the house was a little gem. It is in Regent's Park, removed from the bustle of town. The door-panels of the drawing-room are copies of some of the first masters; and the room is hung round with attractive paintings, and adorned with some of the finest curiosities of art. The dining-room is painted in imitation of a room of Pompeii. You may not know that Courtenay is the great epicure of London. His taste in matters of the table is reputed to be unerring, and his judgment of wines incontrovertible. With him a dinner is the putting in practice of a great science. I need not add, that the host and intimate friend of such a guest gave us a simple but choice dinner. My wonder at Brougham rises anew. To-night he has displayed the knowledge of the artist and the gastronomer. He criticised the ornaments of the drawing-room and the dining-room like a connoisseur, and discussed subtle points of cookery with the same earnestness with which he emancipated the West India slaves and abolished rotten boroughs. Calling for a second plate of soup, he said that there was ‘a thought too much of the flavor of wine;’ but that it was very good. He told how he secured good steaks, by personally going into the kitchen and watching over his cook, to see that he did not spoil them by pepper and horse-radish,—the last being enough to make a man go mad. I called his attention to the woodcock story, of which I have already written you, and he told me that the epigram which I have sent you under his Lordship's name was written by the Bishop of Durham, and that it was the best of all offered. The Marquis of Wellesley wrote a Latin one, of which he has promised to give me a copy; it is not, however, ‘lapidary,’ being too long. Brougham told me that his own Greek epigram was the worst of all. You will see an allusion to this story in a note in the last ‘Quarterly Review,’ to which I first called Chantrey's attention. I have spoken of Courtenay as the great gastronomer; I shall not neglect to add that he is as good a scholar as epicure. When we were speaking of Greek epigrams, [42] he and Brougham alternately quoted to me several, which were circulating in English society, written by Alderson and Williams; and when I quoted an out-of-the-way line from Juvenal, Courtenay at once gave the next one. Indeed, in the fine English society you will be struck by this thorough. ness of classical education, which makes a Latin or Greek epigram a choice morsel even for a dainty epicure. Strange union that in Brougham! I have met few men who seemed such critics of food. Courtenay had been in Germany; and Brougham said to Miss C., ‘I understand you have been flirting with the King of Bavaria, and that he gave you a great entertainment.’ ‘Nothing,’ said the father, ‘but a dejeuner à la fourchette, with some negus and punch.’ ‘Punch!’ said Brougham, with an oath, ‘that's not so bad a thing.’ His Lordship was kind enough to take me home in his carriage; and as we drove along, some three miles, we talked gravely of Washington and Sparks and Dr. Bowditch. I hope to induce him to write an article on Sparks's ‘Washington’ in the ‘Edinburgh.’ He had seen Bowditch's ‘Laplace’ only last week, and was filled with admiration of it. He asked me, in his name, to present a copy of his forthcoming book to Dr. B.'s family, and to let them know the impression their father's labors had made upon his mind. I was happy in being able to tell him something of Dr. B., of whose life and place of residence he was entirely ignorant. Lord Brougham is not agreeable at dinner. He is, however, more interesting than any person I have met. He has not the airy graces and flow of Jeffrey, the piercing humor of Sydney Smith, the dramatic power of Theodore Hook, or the correct tone of Charles Austin; but he has a power, a fulness of information and physical spirits, which make him more commanding than all! His great character and his predominating voice, with his high social and intellectual qualities, conspire to give him such an influence as to destroy the equilibrium, so to speak, of the table. He is often a usurper, and we are all resolved into listeners, instead of partakers in the conversational banquet; and I think that all are ill at ease. Brougham abused Miss Martineau most heartily. He thought that she excelled in stories, and in nothing else; and that she was ‘a great ass’ for pronouncing so dogmatically on questions of policy and government. He exhorted me to write a book on England, to revenge my country of Basil Hall! To-morrow I breakfast with Rogers.4


1 Rev. William Harness.

2 H. Bellenden Ker was a conveyancer; was a friend of Lord Brougham, and passed the later years of his life at Cannes, in France, where he died, about 1870. Sumner was his guest at dinner on different occasions, at 27 Park Road, Regent's Park.

3 Philip Courtenay; Queen's counsel, belonging to the Northern Circuit. Sumner dined with him at 23 Montague Street, Russell Square.

4 Samuel Rogers, 1763-1855. From 1802 until his death he lived in St. James Place, London, looking into the Green Park. His courtesy and hospitality have been commemorated by many visitors from the United States.

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