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Dinner, Real And Reputed
by [?]

The daylight, furnished gratis, was certainly “neat,” and “undeniable” in its quality, and quite sufficient for all purposes that were honest. Seneca, even in his own luxurious period, called those men “lucifugae,” and by other ugly names, who lived chiefly by candle-light. None but rich and luxurious men, nay, even amongst these, none but idlers did live much by candle-light. An immense majority of men in Rome never lighted a candle, unless sometimes in the early dawn. And this custom of Rome was the custom also of all nations that lived round the great pond of the Mediterranean. In Athens, Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, everywhere, the ancients went to bed, like good boys, from seven to nine o’clock.[3] The Turks and other people, who have succeeded to the stations and the habits of the ancients, do so at this day.

The Roman, therefore, who saw no joke in sitting round a table in the dark, went off to bed as the darkness began. Everybody did so. Old Numa Pompilius himself, was obliged to trundle off in the dusk. Tarquinius might be a very superb fellow; but we doubt whether he ever saw a farthing rushlight. And, though it may be thought that plots and conspiracies would flourish in such a city of darkness, it is to be considered, that the conspirators themselves had no more candles than honest men: both parties were in the dark.

Being up then, and stirring not long after the lark, what mischief did the Roman go about first? Now-a-days, he would have taken a pipe or a cigar. But, alas for the ignorance of the poor heathen creatures! they had neither one nor the other. In this point, we must tax our mother earth with being really too stingy. In the case of the candles, we approve of her parsimony. Much mischief is brewed by candle-light. But, it was coming it too strong to allow no tobacco. Many a wild fellow in Rome, your Gracchi, Syllas, Catilines, would not have played “h—- and Tommy” in the way they did, if they could have soothed their angry stomachs with a cigar–a pipe has intercepted many an evil scheme. But the thing is past helping now. At Rome, you must do as “they does” at Rome. So, after shaving, (supposing the age of the Barbati to be passed), what is the first business that our Roman will undertake? Forty to one he is a poor man, born to look upwards to his fellow-men–and not to look down upon anybody but slaves. He goes, therefore, to the palace of some grandee, some top-sawyer of the Senatorian order. This great man, for all his greatness, has turned out even sooner than himself. For he also has had no candles and no cigars; and he well knows, that before the sun looks into his portals, all his halls will be overflowing and buzzing with the matin susurrus of courtiers–the “mane salutantes.”[4] it is as much as his popularity is worth to absent himself, or to keep people waiting. But surely, the reader may think, this poor man he might keep waiting. No, he might not; for, though poor, being a citizen, he is a gentleman. That was the consequence of keeping slaves. Wherever there is a class of slaves, he that enjoys the jus suffragii (no matter how poor) is a gentleman. The true Latin word for a gentleman is ingentius–a freeman and the son of a freeman.

Yet even here there were distinctions. Under the Emperors, the courtiers were divided into two classes: with respect to the superior class, it was said of the sovereign–that he saw them, (videbat😉 with respect to the other–that he was seen, (“videbatur.”) Even Plutarch mentions it as a common boast in his times, [Greek: aemas eiden ho basileus]–Caesar is in the habit of seeing me; or, as a common plea for evading a suit, [Greek: ora mallon]–I am sorry to say he is more inclined to look upon others. And this usage derived itself (mark that well!) from the republican era. The aulic spirit was propagated by the Empire, but from a republican root.