February 23, 2021

Cocktail Talk: The Uncommercial Traveller, Part II

uncommercial-travellerThis is going to be a long quote (as a warning – but not to push you away from reading it, cause it is awesome), so not much in the way of introduction here. For more of that, be sure to read The Uncommercial Traveller Cocktail Talk Part I. Here in Part II, we’re going to hang outside another public house, but this time with a very wonderful dog, in an essay all about London “shy neighborhoods” and the animals (and people, thought a little less) that hang out within them. Dickens from all I can tell, had a big fondness for dogs – check out the Dombey and Son Cocktail Talk all about Diogenes the dog, my favorite Dickens character, for another example. Perhaps after you read the below, which has rockets up my list of favorite Dickens quotes quite rapidly. For the whole thing, but highlighted by the phrase “an intelligence of ears and tail” which I find absolutely spot on and lovely.

 

At a small butcher’s, in a shy neighbourhood (there is no reason for suppressing the name; it is by Notting-hill, and gives upon the district called the Potteries), I know a shaggy black and white dog who keeps a drover.  He is a dog of an easy disposition, and too frequently allows this drover to get drunk.  On these occasions, it is the dog’s custom to sit outside the public-house, keeping his eye on a few sheep, and thinking.  I have seen him with six sheep, plainly casting up in his mind how many he began with when he left the market, and at what places he has left the rest.  I have seen him perplexed by not being able to account to himself for certain particular sheep.  A light has gradually broken on him, he has remembered at what butcher’s he left them, and in a burst of grave satisfaction has caught a fly off his nose, and shown himself much relieved.  If I could at any time have doubted the fact that it was he who kept the drover, and not the drover who kept him, it would have been abundantly proved by his way of taking undivided charge of the six sheep, when the drover came out besmeared with red ochre and beer, and gave him wrong directions, which he calmly disregarded.  He has taken the sheep entirely into his own hands, has merely remarked with respectful firmness, ‘That instruction would place them under an omnibus; you had better confine your attention to yourself—you will want it all;’ and has driven his charge away, with an intelligence of ears and tail, and a knowledge of business, that has left his lout of a man very, very far behind.

 

— Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller

February 16, 2021

Cocktail Talk: The Uncommercial Traveller, Part I

uncommercial-travellerThe Uncommercial Traveller by our pal Charles Dickens is not a book one hears about enough – heck, even a Dickens head like me hadn’t had it in his hands until recently. But I scored a copy, which isn’t really that hard, though said copy is like a print-to-order thing, with no, like TOC, or copyright notes, or title page, anything. Which is fine, and definitely better than no copy at all! If you don’t know (and I’ll admit, I didn’t know much until I got said copy), The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of personal essays, or literary sketches as they say, that Dickens originally published in a journal he founded called “All the Year Round” (if anyone wants to gift me a few original copies of that, go right ahead), and really involves the main character (Dickens, that is, as far as it goes) writing about his wanderings around London, the UK, and (in a dreamy sort-of way and regular ways) Europe, including visiting the site of a famous shipwreck, strolling the city in the wee hours due to insomnia, mapping out the haunts of neighborhood dogs, visiting the town he grew up in, and more. They are all written in the Dickensian style, with wit, insights that remain relevant today, details rendered through his particular peculiar eye, and all. He stops at pubs and hotels and other watering holes, too, as he loved such, and drinks, so it makes for good Cocktail Talk-ing (oh, don’t miss all the past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks, as there are many jolly ones). I’m not sure yet how many Uncommercial Traveller Cocktails Talks I’ll have yet, but you can bet they’ll be more! We’re going to start at one of those neighborhood public houses, one attended by theatre-goers during intermission. And while it does have drinks! It’s really an ode to the sandwich. But I love sandwiches! Especially with drinks.

 

Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed.  Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre.  The sandwich—as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible—we hailed as one of our greatest institutions.  It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings.  When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.

 

–Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller

 

February 2, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Dead Wrong

dead-wrongRecently decided that I was going to pick a random pocket book (here not specifically the company that shares that name, but the in-general usually, well, pocket-sized books popular mid-last-century, often leaning towards pulp-i-ness, but not always) from the stacks of them on one of my bookshelves, and ended up grabbing Dead Wrong, by George Bagby, pub’d by Dell way back in 1957. Featuring Bagby’s Inspector Schmidt and the author himself (one of the more interesting things in the Bagby canon is how he is in the books, just hanging with the Inspector and writing up his cases – things were looser in the police force back then), there’s the murder of a dancer, a short-but-curious list of possible suspects, and a few twists and turns. Not the most exciting of the genre, but worth a look, especially for the absolutely knock-out cover, with the knocking-out provided by (for me, at least) not just by the green-dress’d lady, but by the cool copy treatment. I would love to have that as a font option! It’s amazing. Oh, there are also a couple Cocktail Moments, highlighted by the below sleep cure. But that cover copy! The cover painting was by (according to the back cover), a Robert McGinnis, and Robert (wherever you may be), if you did the copy too, you are a genius!

 

The inspector introduced the two young men. Jack Champlin reached for the brandy bottle. He asked Andy if he would join him. Andy did.

“I’m not making myself drunk Inspector,” Jack said as he poured the brandy. “I seem to be using this instead of sleep tonight.”

 

–George Bagby, Dead Wrong

January 26, 2021

Cocktail Talk, Little Dorrit, Part IV

little-dorritWell, it’s sad day in a way (a small sadness), as we’re at the last of our cocktail talks from the Dickens classic Little Dorrit. It’s funny to phrase it as such, “Dickens classic” that is, being that I think all Dickens books are classics. We could go on about that, but I don’t want to get in the way of our final quote any more than to say, be sure that you don’t miss Little Dorrit Cocktail Talks Part I, Part II, and Part III, as well as reading all past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks – but maybe read the below from Little Dorrit first. In it, we return to one of my favorite characters in the book, Flora, who may be the most digression-filled character in all of Dickens, which is saying something, as he liked to tangent in perhaps the best way yet in Western Lit. If she’s not, she’s up there! And, she likes a little tipple, too, which the below has, if not much of the digressionary tactics you sometimes get with Flora. But a good way to end our tipsy tour through Little Dorrit, which I’ve certainly enjoyed!

 

‘You see, my dear,’ said Flora, measuring out a spoonful or two of some brown liquid that smelt like brandy, and putting it into her tea, ‘I am obliged to be careful to follow the directions of my medical man though the flavour is anything but agreeable being a poor creature and it may be have never recovered the shock received in youth from too much giving way to crying in the next room when separated from Arthur, have you known him long?’

 

— Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

January 19, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Little Dorrit, Part III

little-dorritHello Dickens fans (which I hope is everyone)! And let me just jump right in to our third quote from the immortal Dickens book Little Dorrit. Well, first, let me point you to the Little Dorrit Part I Cocktail Talk, and the Little Dorrit Part II Cocktail Talk, and for that matter, all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks, in case you want or get a little more book story, or read more quotes, or both! Here, we have a bit about sherry (our second sherry from the book, but it was rather popular at the time) and a bit about a character in the book that seems serene and such, but is actually a bit of a villain. There are layers of villainy in Dickens as in life, and that’s all I’m gonna say cause really, you should read the book! After the below quote of course.

 

The Patriarchal state, always a state of calmness and composure, was so particularly serene that evening as to be provoking. Everybody else within the bills of mortality was hot; but the Patriarch was perfectly cool. Everybody was thirsty, and the Patriarch was drinking. There was a fragrance of limes or lemons about him; and he made a drink of golden sherry, which shone in a large tumbler as if he were drinking the evening sunshine. This was bad, but not the worst. The worst was, that with his big blue eyes, and his polished head, and his long white hair, and his bottle-green legs stretched out before him, terminating in his easy shoes easily crossed at the instep, he had a radiant appearance of having in his extensive benevolence made the drink for the human species, while he himself wanted nothing but his own milk of human kindness.

 

–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

January 12, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Little Dorrit, Part II

little-dorritAs mentioned just two weeks ago right here on the Spiked Punch blog, we’re going into a little turn through the Dickens’ classic Little Dorrit, a book I hadn’t featured here (some how?) until just that post two weeks ago (by the way, don’t miss the Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk Part I, so you can catch a little more about the book, and be sure to see all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to learn more about my love for Dickens and his love of drinks, pubs, drinkers, and dogs). In this particular quote, there’s a character named by his profession (which happens some in this book, to swell effect), and some sherry (which also happens), which is turned into a cocktail of sorts, which I am all for, as, I hope, are you.

 

Bishop said that when he was a young man, and had fallen for a brief space into the habit of writing sermons on Saturdays, a habit which all young sons of the church should sedulously avoid, he had frequently been sensible of a depression, arising as he supposed from an over-taxed intellect, upon which the yolk of a new-laid egg, beaten up by the good woman in whose house he at that time lodged, with a glass of sound sherry, nutmeg, and powdered sugar acted like a charm. Without presuming to offer so simple a remedy to the consideration of so profound a professor of the great healing art, he would venture to inquire whether the strain, being by way of intricate calculations, the spirits might not (humanly speaking) be restored to their tone by a gentle and yet generous stimulant?

 

–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

December 29, 2020

Cocktail Talk: Little Dorrit, Part I

little-dorritI can’t believe it’s the end of 2020 (a crappy year, as you know, with some redeeming factors), which means there have been, well, 2,020 years plus a few more years of recorded Western history (I’m not here to debate history, and realize I’m generalizing in a big way, but hey, I write about drinks), and in all those years I haven’t had a Cocktail Talk from the immortal Dicken’s classic Little Dorrit! That’s an outrage! What have I been thinking? I haven’t, obviously. While Little Dorrit isn’t my all-time favorite Dickens, it’s definitely in the middle-high range, and as I love most all Dickens books a heck of a lot, that’s saying something! Be sure to read all the Dickens Cocktail Talks to hear more. But be sure to come back, too, cause you don’t want to miss these quotes from Dickens fairly-dark novel that’s unflinching in its views of his society (which is remarkably like ours, in some sad ways), while still being wonderfully comic, character-driven, lyric, and descriptive, with layers of stories that disconnect and then connect again and characters you won’t easily forget. Dickens! And, of course, there are some drinks, as he liked drinks and pubs like few other authors. Our first Little Dorrit Cocktail Talk – and there will be more, don’t you fret – features the hero (in a way of speaking) of the book, Arthur Clennam, sitting down for dinner with a now-much-changed love from his youth, and with her father.

 

Once upon a time Clennam had sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the principal heed he took of Flora was to observe, against his will, that she was very fond of porter, that she combined a great deal of sherry with sentiment, and that if she were a little overgrown, it was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had always been a mighty eater, and he disposed of an immense quantity of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding some one else.

 

— Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

December 15, 2020

Cocktail Talk: Villette

villetteJust over twelve years ago, life was a little different. We were younger, of course, and, electricity hadn’t been invented, and dinosaurs walked the earth, and Atlantis still stood strong, and well, it feels that long ago, at least, doesn’t it? But that (back in 2008) was when I last read what some consider to be Charlotte Bronte’s best novel, Villette. How do I know that fact? Cause I had a Villette Cocktail Talk way back then! Amazing, right? Amazing. I decided to delve back into the book when in a CB mood recently, and found the below quote I must have missed first time, one that’s ideal for right now as it features Wassail, a traditional holiday drink in many parts of the globe. Oh, but before that – in my earlier Cocktail Talk I said Villette was in France, but I think I’d spent too much time around the Wassail-bowl, cause really, it’s a stand-in name I believe for Brussels. Oh, also, if you haven’t read it, Villette is a somewhat reflection of part of C. Bronte’s life, and presents a picture different than many books written at the time, as the heroine is way independent for the time period, and caused a fair amount of disapproving looks at the time – though some highly approved, and I do too! Oh (part three of the “Oh”-ing), I have one or two more Charlotte Bronte Cocktail Talks, too, so don’t miss them.

 

So, while the Count stood by the fire, and Paulina Mary still danced to and fro—happy in the liberty of the wide hall-like kitchen—Mrs. Bretton herself instructed Martha to spice and heat the wassail-bowl, and, pouring the draught into a Bretton flagon, it was served round, steaming hot, by means of a small silver vessel, which I recognized as Graham’s christening-cup.

 

“Here’s to Auld Lang Syne!” said the Count; holding the glancing cup on high.

 

— Charlotte Bronte, Villette

 

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