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The Dean's Contributory Dinner

Irish Humour Home

Dean Swift once invited to dinner several of the first noblemen and
gentlemen in Dublin. A servant announced the dinner, and the Dean led
the way to the dining-room. To each chair was a servant, a bottle of
wine, a roll, and an inverted plate. On taking his seat, the Dean
desired the guests to arrange themselves according to their own ideas of
precedence, and fall to. The company were astonished to find the table
without a dish or any provisions. The Lord Chancellor, who was present,
said, Mr. Dean, we do not see the joke. Then I will show it you,
answered the Dean, turning up his plate, under which was half-a-crown
and a bill of fare from a neighboring tavern. Here, sir, said he, to
his servant, bring me a plate of goose. The company caught the idea,
and each man sent his plate and half-a-crown. Covers, with everything
that the appetites of the moment dictated, soon appeared. The novelty,
the peculiarity of the manner, and the unexpected circumstances,
altogether excited the plaudits of the noble guests, who declared
themselves particularly gratified by the Dean's entertainment. Well,
said the Dean, gentlemen, if you have dined, I will order dessert. A
large roll of paper, presenting the particulars of a splendid dinner,
was produced, with an estimate of expense. The Dean requested the
accountant-general to deduct the half-crowns from the amount, observing,
that as his noble guests were pleased to express their satisfaction
with the dinner, he begged their advice and assistance in disposing of
the fragments and crumbs, as he termed the balance mentioned by the
accountant-general--which was two hundred and fifty pounds. The company
said, that no person was capable of instructing the Dean in things of
that nature. After the circulation of the finest wines, the most
judicious remarks on charity and its abuse were introduced, and it was
agreed that the proper objects of liberal relief were well-educated
families, who from affluence, or the expectation of it, were reduced
through misfortune to silent despair. The Dean then divided the sum by
the number of his guests, and addressed them according to their
respective private characters, with which no one was, perhaps, better
acquainted. You, my Lords, said the Dean to several young noblemen, I
wish to introduce to some new acquaintance, who will at least make their
acknowledgment for your favors with sincerity. You, my reverend Lords,
addressing the bishops present, adhere so closely to the spirit of the
Scriptures, that your left hands are literally ignorant of the
beneficence of your right. You, my Lord of Kildare, and the two noble
lords near you, I will not entrust with any part of this money, as you
have been long in the usurious habits of lending your own on such
occasions; but your assistance, my Lord of Kerry, I must entreat, as
charity covereth a multitude of sins.

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