Dream Dinner Party Guests from History

chatting at dinner table, Edwardian, Victorian

Inspired by Tudor historian, Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, who was asked by The Telegraph to list six dream dinner party companions from history, I’m going to do my list, Edwardian style.

1) Lady Randolph Churchill
With close ties to the highest in the land and to the legendary statesmen of the day, Jennie’s conversation would be brilliant and well-informed, and she would be beautifully dressed.

2) David Lloyd George
I would love to hear that rich Welsh lilt as Lloyd George thundered about politics.

3) Empress Dowager Cixi
Her story has been told by so many different people, and I’d love to hear her speak on her rise to power and how she kept her throne.

4) Bernard Berenson
I am fascinated by the art world of the Belle Epoque, and this famous art historian (and art appraiser) would know all the gossip about what aristocratic family was hard up for cash.

5) Marchesa Luisa Casati
Highly eccentric and moody, the Marchesa would lend a slightly Bohemian air to the dinner.

6) Lady Diana Manners
She was quite intelligent despite being praised for her beauty, and she was also close with some of the leading men of the 1910s.

On that note, here are tips for the latest modes in entertaining. I think my guests would enjoy a Conversazione dinner!


Hostesses are always on the alert for new methods of entertaining, as the hackneyed styles are becoming tiresome.
A few of the latest fails for dinners and luncheons are indicated, and such entertainments may be expensive or inexpensive, as one may desire.

THE PROGRESSIVE DINNER
The idea was evolved from Progressive Euchre. The guests are seated at small tables, as in the game, and are moved after each course. The hostess makes a signal and the guests rise, the gentlemen conducting the ladies to a table indicated, where they are received by two of the gentlemen from another table; thus there is a constant interchange of partners, which may or may not lie always desirable.
A pretty idea is to have a conundrum salad in a big bowl at the hostess’s table. Before changing the guests, each takes a lettuce leaf, to the under side of which a conundrum written on a slip of paper has been attached. In this ease the successful guessers pair off. Each table is decorated with a different color, the napery, porcelain, and flowers corresponding.

A progressive dinner may also be arranged in this way: The guests may progress by means of cards of the same color as the flowers at the, table ; those who draw red cards move to the jacqueminot rose table; the yellow to the jonquil table, etc.

A CONVERSAZIONE DINNER
In this form of entertainment the subjects of conversation undergo a change with the courses. The hostess, before the arrival of the guests, decides upon the subjects. For instance, with the Blue Points, the subject introduced might savor of nautical lore ; the fish course might suggest yachting and angling ; the game, hunting, and roast turkey, domestic subjects; the ices, Arctic voyages; fruits, roaming in the tropics, etc., etc. A hostess prolific in
ideas will be able to supply abundant subjects for discussion which will wonderfully enliven the tedium of the long course dinner.

A RAINBOW DINNER
The tables are dressed with flowers representing the colors in the rainbow, each tint being represented by a stripe of flowers upon the immaculate whiteness of the cloth; bows of the same colors are tied at the ends. As many colors as possible appear in the meats, vegetables, and salads, the brilliant red of radishes and beets, the tender green of crisp lettuce leaves and asparagus tips, the lively pink of ham boiled in champagne, the rich brown of the roasts and the various colors of the fruits, cakes, and ices all making a pleasing harmony. There are dainty little cakes frosted with delicate blue, violet, green, pink, etc.; ices running the gamut from a rich, dark red to the faintest yellows and greens, and bonbons which repeat the hues of the seven primary colors with artistic effect.

A FLOWER COURSE DINNER
The acme of elegant sestheticism is reached when the floral decorations of the table are changed with each course. With the soup, violets are the decoration ; with the fish, tall Venetian glasses with long-stemmed Bermuda lilies; with the entree, tulips; with the roast, Marechal Niel roses; with the game, red azaleas; with the salad, sweet peas; and with the dessert, an avalanche of pink roses. A touch of additional extravagance is the matching of the table service for each course of flowers used.

A CELLAR PARTY
The cellar is embowered in green, and pots of flowers are placed about. There are a number of small tables, and the aim is to imitate a German beer garden. The refreshments are sandwiches of all kinds, beer and lemonade. The waiters wear white aprons, and every thing is served in approved German style.

Godey’s Magazine, 1897


Who would be your six dream dinner guests from history? And which type of dinner would they enjoy?

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About Evangeline Holland

Author of Edwardian/WWI historicals. Likes cooking, the smell and collecting of old books, various artsy hobbies, travel, classic cinema, period dramas, the fusty areas of history, and all things French (though is terrible with maintaining fluency in the language). Read more about her novels and non-fiction here

5 Thoughts on “Dream Dinner Party Guests from History

  1. WELL. I’d invite JMW Turner, Edouard Manet (because I LOVE him), Donatello, Andre Breton, Jacques-Louis David, and Veronica Franco. And we’d have a Mad Tea Party, I think.

  2. ANY persons of accomplishment…In whatever field…Would be potentially fascinating as dinner partners…

  3. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Elinor Glyn, and Natalie Barney.

  4. You need to balance out the men and women … if true to the times :) A great list, by the way. I like the sound of Bernard Berenson.

  5. 1) Edgar Allen Poe
    2) Claude Monet
    3) Auguste Renoir
    4) King Henry
    5) Thomas Beecham
    and of course….
    6) Albert Einstein

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