March 16, 2021
I have a tear in my eye, as while I could probably have a fair more Cocktail Talks from the Charlie Dickens collection of essays The Uncommercial Traveller, for now (but perhaps not forever), this will our last one. If you’ve missed any of the previous four, then be sure to read The Uncommercial Traveller Cocktail Talks Part 1, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, and while you’re in the reading mood, check out all the Dickens Cocktail Talks. Don’t read so much that your eyes tire, however, as you won’t want to miss the below quote. From one of the laugh-out-loud-ier pieces in the collection (and there are many funny scenes throughout, so that’s saying something), called “A Little Dinner in an Hour,” the below quote is just a small part of a regrettable dining experience Dickens has with his pal Bullfinch, when they are traveling for some business and decide to book a meal at a local spot that once was rumored to be worthy. But now leaves much to be desired! Ah, I wish I could have been there to watch it all unfold (if not to actually partake in it). A fine end to our Cocktail Talk tour through the book. Sherry, please!
‘It’s quite impossible to do it, gentlemen,’ murmured the waiter; ‘and the kitchen is so far off.’
‘Well, you don’t keep the house; it’s not your fault, we suppose. Bring some sherry.’
‘Waiter!’ from Mr. Indignation Cocker, with a new and burning sense of injury upon him.
The waiter, arrested on his way to our sherry, stopped short, and came back to see what was wrong now.
‘Will you look here? This is worse than before. Do you understand? Here’s yesterday’s sherry, one and eightpence, and here we are again two shillings. And what the devil does ninepence mean?’
This new portent utterly confounded the waiter. He wrung his napkin, and mutely appealed to the ceiling.
‘Waiter, fetch that sherry,’ says Bullfinch, in open wrath and revolt.
‘I want to know,’ persisted Mr. Indignation Cocker, ‘the meaning of ninepence. I want to know the meaning of sherry one and eightpence yesterday, and of here we are again two shillings. Send somebody.’
The distracted waiter got out of the room on pretext of sending somebody, and by that means got our wine. But the instant he appeared with our decanter, Mr. Indignation Cocker descended on him again.
— Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller
August 4, 2020
Our last (for now – the next time I read the book, and fates-willing there will be a next time, there may well be more) Cocktail Talk from The Old Curiosity Shop is also the longest, and it’s very long as far as Cocktail Talks go. But I couldn’t cut a word, as it highlights so well hot rum, the demon (though a man) Quilp, and his toady and lawyer Sampson Brass. Do heat it up, but don’t let said heating keep you from earlier The Old Curiosity Shop Cocktails Talk, including Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, or from other past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks.
‘No?’ said Quilp, heating some rum in a little saucepan, and watching it to prevent its boiling over. ‘Why not?’
‘Why, sir,’ returned Brass, ‘he — dear me, Mr. Quilp, sir — ‘
‘What’s the matter?’ said the dwarf, stopping his hand in the act of carrying the saucepan to his mouth.
‘You have forgotten the water, sir,’ said Brass. ‘And — excuse me, sir — but it’s burning hot.’
Deigning no other than a practical answer to this remonstrance, Mr. Quilp raised the hot saucepan to his lips, and deliberately drank off all the spirit it contained, which might have been in quantity about half a pint, and had been but a moment before, when he took it off the fire, bubbling and hissing fiercely. Having swallowed this gentle stimulant, and shaken his fist at the admiral, he bade Mr. Brass proceed.
‘But first,’ said Quilp, with his accustomed grin, ‘have a drop yourself — a nice drop — a good, warm, fiery drop.’
‘Why, sir,’ replied Brass, ‘if there was such a thing as a mouthful of water that could be got without trouble — ‘
‘There’s no such thing to be had here,’ cried the dwarf. ‘Water for lawyers! Melted lead and brimstone, you mean, nice hot blistering pitch and tar — that’s the thing for them — eh, Brass, eh?’
‘Ha ha ha!’ laughed Mr. Brass. ‘Oh very biting! and yet it’s like being tickled — there’s a pleasure in it too, sir!’
‘Drink that,’ said the dwarf, who had by this time heated some more.
‘Toss it off, don’t leave any heeltap, scorch your throat and be happy!’
The wretched Sampson took a few short sips of the liquor, which immediately distilled itself into burning tears, and in that form came rolling down his cheeks into the pipkin again, turning the colour of his face and eyelids to a deep red, and giving rise to a violent fit of coughing, in the midst of which he was still heard to declare, with the constancy of a martyr, that it was ‘beautiful indeed!’
–Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop