Dining with the Georgians

Despite difficulties of supply and the inferior quality of food the English Georgians went in for enormous meals, which two centuries of prosperity and gluttony had made habitual. So habitual, in fact, and so much a part of life that when Mary Stukeley died in 1748 her sorrowing father inscribed this verse on her gravestone.

Life is a journey of a winter’s day
Where many breakfast and then pass away
Some few stay dinner, and depart full fed,
Fewer that sup before they go to bed….

Promiscuous seating became the rage – men and women sitting next to each other alternately, especially among those considered ‘vulgar’.  In upper crust houses strict precedence was observed and guests served in order of rank. This replaced the old order where the highest ranking lady had led the women in first to one side of the table and then the host, similarly surrounded, In the first thirty years of the century the dinner hour moved from midday to three o’clock. By 1740 the fashionable hour was four, by 1780 anytime between three and five was usual with seven o’clock finally getting the nod around 1780.

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