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I SUPPOSE that most readers of Household
Words have dipped at times into the pages
of the " Prose Edda;" and, in the antique
freshness of its narrations, enjoyed a picture
of the beliefs of our Scandinavian ancestors.
I suppose they have mused over the odd
feastings of the gods in that jolliest of all
mythologies; and have concluded with me,
that the taste for associating business and
banqueting runs in the blood of us Northerns.
For does not Tacitus tell us, in his oracular,
epigrammatic way, that the ancient Germans
discussed public affairs, twice; once when
drunk, and once when sober? And did not
that notable Douglas, Archibald the Grim,
stop the mouth of the gentleman who came
with the King's warrant, by saying that it
was "ill talking between a full man and a
fasting? "—by which allusion to an admitted
maxim, he excused himself for hanging the
prisoner whom the warrant was to have

The fact is notorious that dining is a
solemn, national institution. " The destiny
of nations," says Brilliat Savarin, " depends
upon the manner in which they dine."  We
make political movements; we establish
world-wide commercial enterprises; we
organise public charities, by means of dinners.
Everything of importance is done, when
—"the cloth being removed"—there is a fair
stage for exertion. The ancients sanctified
their chickens; we roast them: they canonised
their pheasants; we shoot and eat them.
They decorated their demi-heroes with
crowns of parsley. We garnish with parsley
the offerings which excited enthusiasm sets
before our Warriors when they return from
India to be feasted at the public Walhalla in
Bishopsgate Street.

The temple of these ceremonies; the
"head-quarters of ' prog,' " (to borrow a phrase from
Moore's Mr. Bob Fudge)  is a building of a
solemn and decorous aspect. It is made
known to the world by the newspapers as the
"London Tavern "— the London Tavern,
supposed to represent the genus. The purpose-like
gravity of its aspect causes it to be occasionally
mistaken, by country cousins, for the Bank of
England. Neither would a provincial
disbelieve you if you told him it was Exeter
Hall. Only, during the summer season, you
may see certain placards announcing dinners,
"with his Grace the So-and-so, of So-and-so,
in the chair," hanging modestly outside; and
at six o'clock, during the same period, white
cravats are plentiful at the portals; for it is
here that the most important dinners of the
day are devoured. Here, the East India
Company solemnly feeds, in celebration of its
empire; and many City Companies make The
London Tavern their Hall, and the depository
of their plate.

Such is the establishment of which I propose
to give readers a sketch. Patriotism
demands it of me. Who am I? you will say.
Some garrulous diner? No matter. I may be
a solitary enthusiast, who has visited this
scene of so many dinners with the reverential
feelings of other patriots when they wander
over the field of Waterloo.

I think I ought to begin with what they
call a " historical sketch; " but I must first
note the significance of the name " tavern."
Your superficial observer classes " hotels,"
and " taverns," and " inns " together. He
is wrong. The genuine tavern furnishes
no beds. It affordeth not the casual chop to
the stray wanderer. It issueth not the occasional
bottle of wine to the solitary toper.
It has no coffee-room partitioned off for
dining mankind as Mr. Huxley fattens oxen,
by stall-feeding: but, on the contrary,
displays broad acres of snow-white pasturage
teeming with the richest viands and sparkling
with the brightest wines. It is not a place at
which a man can say, indifferently, that he has
"had his dinner; " but where, he will tell you
unctuously that he has " dined "—a vast
distinction: the first being a mere impulse of
physical voracity; the second a Rite. If you
go into that hall; and, with an irreverent
off-hand air, order an impromptu repast, you will
be referred to the Spread Eagle in Gracechurch
Street, or to " Joe's " in Finch Lane:
the London Tavern is a temple of gastronomic
art; and you would be equally justified
in ordering " a profile in this style in
half-an-hour " of Maclise or Stanfield. Dinners
of a scientific characterwhether expensive
or moderate; but always scientificare the
business of the Tavern proper. It was to
promote these that the London Tavern was
established, on the Tontine principle, eighty