The Dean's Contributory Dinner





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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