In a lofty room of spacious dimensions, are seated some
eighty or a hundred guests knocking little pewter measures on the tables, and
hammering away, with the handles of their knives, as if they were so many
trunk-makers. They are applauding a glee, which has just been executed by the
three 'professional gentlemen' at the top of the centre table, one of whom is in
the chair - the little pompous man with the bald head just emerging from the
collar of his green coat. The others are seated on either side of him - the
stout man with the small voice, and the thin-faced dark man in black. The little
man in the chair is a most amusing personage, - such condescending grandeur, and
SUCH a voice!
'Bass!' as the young gentleman near us with the blue stock forcibly remarks to his companion, 'bass! I b'lieve you; he can go down lower than any man: so low sometimes that you can't hear him.' And so he does. To hear him growling away, gradually lower and lower down, till he can't get back again, is the most delightful thing in the world, and it is quite impossible to witness unmoved the impressive solemnity with which he pours forth his soul in 'My 'art's in the 'ighlands,' or 'The brave old Hoak.' The stout man is also addicted to sentimentality, and warbles 'Fly, fly from the world, my Bessy, with me,' or some such song, with lady-like sweetness, and in the most seductive tones imaginable.
'Pray give your orders, gen'l'm'n - pray give your orders,' - says the pale-faced man with the red head; and demands for 'goes' of gin and 'goes' of brandy, and pints of stout, and cigars of peculiar mildness, are vociferously made from all parts of the room. The 'professional gentlemen' are in the very height of their glory, and bestow condescending nods, or even a word or two of recognition, on the better-known frequenters of the room, in the most bland and patronising manner possible.
The little round-faced man, with the small brown surtout, white stockings and shoes, is in the comic line; the mixed air of self-denial, and mental consciousness of his own powers, with which he acknowledges the call of the chair, is particularly gratifying. 'Gen'l'men,' says the little pompous man, accompanying the word with a knock of the president's hammer on the table - 'Gen'l'men, allow me to claim your attention - our friend, Mr. Smuggins, will oblige.' - 'Bravo!' shout the company; and Smuggins, after a considerable quantity of coughing by way of symphony, and a most facetious sniff or two, which afford general delight, sings a comic song, with a fal-de-ral - tol-de-ral chorus at the end of every verse, much longer than the verse itself. It is received with unbounded applause, and after some aspiring genius has volunteered a recitation, and failed dismally therein, the little pompous man gives another knock, and says 'Gen'l'men, we will attempt a glee, if you please.' This announcement calls forth tumultuous applause, and the more energetic spirits express the unqualified approbation it affords them, by knocking one or two stout glasses off their legs - a humorous device; but one which frequently occasions some slight altercation when the form of paying the damage is proposed to be gone through by the waiter.
Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 1839