Society Chit-Chat

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Society Chit-Chat
by Stephen Leacock
Appeared in Literary Lapses, published in 1910.

As It Should Be Written[edit]

I notice that it is customary for the daily papers to publish a column or so of society gossip. They generally head it "Chit-Chat," or "On Dit," or "Le Boudoir," or something of the sort, and they keep it pretty full of French terms to give it the proper sort of swing. These columns may be very interesting in their way, but it always seems to me that they don't get hold of quite the right things to tell us about. They are very fond, for instance, of giving an account of the delightful dance at Mrs. De Smythe's--at which Mrs. De Smythe looked charming in a gown of old tulle with a stomacher of passementerie--or of the dinner-party at Mr. Alonzo Robinson's residence, or the smart pink tea given by Miss Carlotta Jones. No, that's all right, but it's not the kind of thing we want to get at; those are not the events which happen in our neighbours' houses that we really want to hear about. It is the quiet little family scenes, the little traits of home-life that--well, for example, take the case of that delightful party at the De Smythes. I am certain that all those who were present would much prefer a little paragraph like the following, which would give them some idea of the home-life of the De Smythes on the morning after the party.

Dejeuner de luxe at the de Smythe Residence[edit]

On Wednesday morning last at 7.15 a.m. a charming little breakfast was served at the home of Mr. De Smythe. The déjeuner was given in honour of Mr. De Smythe and his two sons, Master Adolphus and Master Blinks De Smythe, who were about to leave for their daily travail at their wholesale Bureau de Flour et de Feed. All the gentlemen were very quietly dressed in their habits de work. Miss Melinda De Smythe poured out tea, the domestique having refusé to get up so early after the partie of the night before. The menu was very handsome, consisting of eggs and bacon, demi-froid, and ice-cream. The conversation was sustained and lively. Mr. De Smythe sustained it and made it lively for his daughter and his garçons. In the course of the talk Mr. De Smythe stated that the next time he allowed the young people to turn his maison topsy-turvy he would see them in enfer. He wished to know if they were aware that some ass of the evening before had broken a pane of coloured glass in the hall that would cost him four dollars. Did they think he was made of argent. If so, they never made a bigger mistake in their vie. The meal closed with general expressions of good-feeling. A little bird has whispered to us that there will be no more parties at the De Smythes' pour long-temps.

Here is another little paragraph that would be of general interest in society.

Diner de fameel at the Boarding-house de McFiggin[edit]

Yesterday evening at half after six a pleasant little diner was given by Madame McFiggin of Rock Street, to her boarders. The salle à manger was very prettily decorated with texts, and the furniture upholstered with cheveux de horse, Louis Quinze. The boarders were all very quietly dressed: Mrs. McFiggin was daintily attired in some old clinging stuff with a corsage de Whalebone underneath. The ample board groaned under the bill of fare. The boarders groaned also. Their groaning was very noticeable. The pièce de résistance was a hunko de boeuf boile, flanked with some old clinging stuff. The entrées were pâté de pumpkin, followed by fromage McFiggin, served under glass. Towards the end of the first course, speeches became the order of the day. Mrs. McFiggin was the first speaker. In commencing, she expressed her surprise that so few of the gentlemen seemed to care for the hunko de boeuf; her own mind, she said, had hesitated between hunko de boeuf boilé and a pair of roast chickens (sensation). She had finally decided in favour of the hunko de boeuf (no sensation). She referred at some length to the late Mr. McFiggin, who had always shown a marked preference for hunko de boeuf. Several other speakers followed. All spoke forcibly and to the point. The last to speak was the Reverend Mr. Whiner. The reverend gentleman, in rising, said that he confided himself and his fellow-boarders to the special interference of providence. For what they had eaten, he said, he hoped that Providence would make them truly thankful. At the close of the Repas several of the boarders expressed their intention of going down the street to a restourong to get quelque chose à manger.

Here is another example. How interesting it would be to get a detailed account of that little affair at the Robinsons', of which the neighbours only heard ndirectly! Thus:

Delightful Evening at the Residence of Mr. Alonzo Robinson[edit]

Yesterday the family of Mr. Alonzo Robinson spent a very lively evening at their home on ---th Avenue. The occasion was the seventeenth birthday of Master Alonzo Robinson, junior. It was the original intention of Master Alonzo Robinson to celebrate the day at home and invite a few of les garçons. Mr. Robinson, senior, however, having declared that he would be damné first, Master Alonzo spent the evening in visiting the salons of the town, which he painted rouge. Mr. Robinson, senior, spent the evening at home in quiet expectation of his son's return. He was very becomingly dressed in a pantalon quatre vingt treize, and had his whippe de chien laid across his knee. Madame Robinson and the Mademoiselles Robinson wore black. The guest of the evening arrived at a late hour. He wore his habits de spri, and had about six pouces of eau de vie in him. He was evidently full up to his cou. For some time after his arrival a very lively time was spent. Mr. Robinson having at length broken the whippe de chien, the family parted for the night with expressions of cordial goodwill.