different kind to that of a miscellaneous assortment of tidbits alluded to. Oysters are, in fact, the first dish of dinner and not its precursor; the first chapter, and not the advertisement. And this brings us to the dinner of invitation.
And of this dinner there are two very distinct kinds: First, there is the little dinner of six or eight guests, carefully selected for their own specific qualities, and combined with judgment to obtain an harmonious and successful result. The ingredients of a small party, like the ingredients of a dish, must be well chosen to make it "complete." Such are the first conditions to be attained in order to achieve the highest perfection in dining. Secondly, there is the dinner of society, which is necessarily large; the number of guests varying from twelve to twenty-four!
The characteristics of the first dinner are—comfort, excellence, simplicity, and good taste. Those of the second are—the conventional standard of quality, some profusion of supply, suitable display in ornament and service.
It must be admitted that, with the large circle of acquaintances so commonly regarded as essential to existence in modern life, large dinners only enable us to repay our dining debts, and exercise the hospitality which position demands. With a strong preference, then, for the little dinners, it must be admitted that the larger banquet is a necessary institution; and therefore we have only to consider now how to make the best of it.
No doubt the large dinner has greatly improved of late; but it has by no means universally arrived at perfection. Only a few years ago excellence in quality and good taste in cuisine were often sacrificed in the endeavor to make a profuse display. Hence, abundance without reason, and combinations without judgment, were found coexisting with complete indifference to comfort in the matters of draughts, ventilation, temperature, and consumption of time. Who among the diners-out of middle age has not encountered many a time an entertainment with some such programme as the following: one of an order which, it is to be feared, is not even yet quite extinct?—Eighteen or twenty guests enter a room adapted at most to a dinner of twelve. It is lighted with gas; the chief available space being occupied by the table, surrounding which is a narrow lane, barely sufficing for the circulation of servants. Directly—perhaps after oysters—appear turtle soups, thick and clear. A consommé is to be had on demand, but so unexpected a choice astonishes the servitor, who brings it after some delay, and cold; with it, punch. Following, arrive the fish—salmon and turbot, one or both, smothered in thick lobster sauce: sherry. Four entrées promenade the circuit in single file, whereof the first was always oyster patties; after which came mutton or lamb cutlets, a vol-au-vent, etc.: hock and champagne. Three quarters of an hour at least, perhaps an hour, having now elapsed,