March 12, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour

You know, I like to think I know my mid-1850 literature. And thereabouts. I mean, Dickens and I are tighter than Cher’s pants. And Trollope and I are close as two beers in a six-pack. But up until very recently when I came across it in a big pile of books at the Library Book Sale, I’d never heard of Mr.Sponge’s Sporting Tour, or its author R.S. Surtees. I’m going to guess he didn’t hang that much with the earlier authors, as he seems a bit more, um, sporting, in that English kind of way (think foxes and horses and billiards). The book follows the Pickwick Papers in a sort-of romping adventure style, tracking its main very sponge-y character as he hunts with the hounds and, well, sponges off of people. At first, you think, this Mr. Sponge is too spongey (hah! Can I really say that?), but then I, at least, just started wondering why I was slaving every 8 to 5:30 instead of just selling horses and abusing lame-o’s hospitality. Heck, I may end up doing that yet.

Spigot presently appeared with a massive silver salvar, bearing tumblers, sugar, lemon, nutmeg, and other implements of negus. ‘Will you join me in a little wine-and-water?’ asked Jawleyford, pointing to the apparatus and bottle ends,’ or will you have a fresh bottle?—plenty in the cellar,’ added he, with a flourish of his hand, through he kept looking steadily at the negus tray. ‘Oh–why–I’m afraid–I doubt–I think I should hardly be able to do justice to a bottle single-handed,’ replied Sponge. ‘Then have negus,’ said Jawleyford; ‘you’ll find it very refreshing; medical men recommend it after violent exercise in preference to wine.

–Cocktail Talk, R.S. Surtees, Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour

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