A Little Dinner at Timmin’s

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray


Mr. and Mrs. Fitzroy Timmins live in Lilliput Street, that neat little street which runs at right angles with the Park and Brobdingnag Gardens. It is a very genteel neighborhood, and I need not say they are of a good family.

Especially Mrs. Timmins, as her mamma is always telling Mr. T. They are Suffolk people, and distantly related to the Right honorable the Earl of Bungay.

Besides his house in Lilliput Street, Mr. Timmins has chambers in Fig-tree Court, Temple, and goes the Northern Circuit.

The other day, when there was a slight difference about the payment of fees between the great Parliamentary Counsel and the Solicitors, Stoke and Pogers, of Great George Street, sent the papers of the Lough Foyle and Lough Corrib Junction Railway to Mr. Fitzroy Timmins, who was so elated that he instantly purchased a couple of looking-glasses for his drawing-rooms (the front room is 16 by 12, and the back, a tight but elegant apartment, 10 ft. 6 by 8 ft. 4), a coral for the baby, two new dresses for Mrs. Timmins, and a little rosewood desk, at the Pantechnicon, for which Rosa had long been sighing, with crumpled legs, emerald-green and gold morocco top, and drawers all over.

Mrs. Timmins is a very pretty poetess (her "Lines to a Faded Tulip" and her "Plaint of Plinlimmon" appeared in one of last year’s Keepsakes); and Fitzroy, as he impressed a kiss on the snowy forehead of his bride, pointed out to her, in one of the innumerable pockets of the desk, an elegant ruby-tipped pen, and six charming little gilt blank books, marked "My Books," which Mrs. Fitzroy might fill, he said, (he is an Oxford man, and very polite,) "with the delightful productions of her Muse." Besides these books, there was pink paper, paper with crimson edges, lace paper, all stamped with R. F. T. (Rosa Fitzroy Timmins) and the hand and battle-axe, the crest of the Timminses (and borne at Ascalon by Roaldus de Timmins, a crusader, who is now buried in the Temple Church, next to Serjeant Snooks), and yellow, pink, lightblue and other scented sealing waxes, at the service of Rosa when she chose to correspond with her friends.

Rosa, you may be sure, jumped with joy at the sight of this sweet present; called her Charles (his first name is Samuel, but they have sunk that) the best of men; embraced him a great number of times, to the edification of her buttony little page, who stood at the landing; and as soon as he was gone to chambers, took the new pen and a sweet sheet of paper, and began to compose a poem.

"What shall it be about?" was naturally her first thought. "What should be a young mother’s first inspiration?" Her child lay on the sofa asleep before her; and she began in her neatest hand—




"How beautiful! how beautiful thou seemest,
My boy, my precious one, my rosy babe!
Kind angels hover round thee, as thou dreamest:
Soft lashes hide thy beauteous azure eye which gleamest."

"Gleamest? thine eye which gleamest? Is that grammar?" thought Rosa, who had puzzled her little brains for some time with this absurd question, when the baby woke. Then the cook came up to ask about dinner; then Mrs. Fundy slipped over from No. 27 (they are opposite neighbors, and made an acquaintance through Mrs. Fundy’s macaw); and a thousand things happened. Finally, there was no rhyme to babe except Tippoo Saib (against whom Major Gashleigh, Rosa’s grandfather, had distinguished himself), and so she gave up the little poem about her De Bracy.

Nevertheless, when Fitzroy returned from chambers to take a walk with his wife in the Park, as he peeped through the rich tapestry hanging which divided the two drawing-rooms, he found his dear girl still seated at the desk, and writing, writing away with her ruby pen as fast as it could scribble.

"What a genius that child has!" he said; "why, she is a second Mrs. Norton!" and advanced smiling to peep over her shoulder and see what pretty thing Rosa was composing.

It was not poetry, though, that she was writing, and Fitz read as follows:—

"LILLIPUT STREET, Tuesday, 22nd May.

"Mr. and Mr. Fitzroy Tymmyns request the pleasure of Sir Thomas and Lady Kicklebury’s company at dinner on Wednesday, at 7 1/2 o’clock."

"My dear!" exclaimed the barrister, pulling a long face.

"Law, Fitzroy!" cried the beloved of his bosom, "how you do startle one!"

"Give a dinner-party with our means!" said he.

"Ain’t you making a fortune, you miser?" Rosa said. "Fifteen guineas a day is four thousand five hundred a year; I’ve calculated it." And, so saying, she rose and taking hold of his whiskers (which are as fine as those of any man of his circuit,) she put her mouth close up against his and did something to his long face, which quite changed the expression of it; and which the little page heard outside the door.

"Our dining-room won’t hold ten," he said.

"We’ll only ask twenty, my love. Ten are sure to refuse in this season, when everybody is giving parties. Look, here is the list."

"Earl and Countess of Bungay, and Lady Barbara Saint Mary’s."

"You are dying to get a lord into the house," Timmins said (HE had not altered his name in Fig-tree Court yet, and therefore I am not so affected as to call him TYMMYNS).

"Law, my dear, they are our cousins, and must be asked," Rosa said.

"Let us put down my sister and Tom Crowder, then."

"Blanche Crowder is really so VERY fat, Fitzroy," his wife said, "and our rooms are so VERY small."

Fitz laughed. "You little rogue," he said, "Lady Bungay weighs two of Blanche, even when she’s not in the f—"

"Fiddlesticks!" Rose cried out. "Doctor Crowder really cannot be admitted: he makes such a noise eating his soup, that it is really quite disagreeable." And she imitated the gurgling noise performed by the Doctor while inhausting his soup, in such a funny way that Fitz saw inviting him was out of the question.

"Besides, we mustn’t have too many relations," Rosa went on. "Mamma, of course, is coming. She doesn’t like to be asked in the evening; and she’ll bring her silver bread-basket and her candlesticks, which are very rich and handsome."

"And you complain of Blanche for being too stout!" groaned out Timmins.

"Well, well, don’t be in a pet," said little Rosa. "The girls won’t come to dinner; but will bring their music afterwards." And she went on with the list.

"Sir Thomas and Lady Kicklebury, 2. No saying no: we MUST ask them, Charles. They are rich people, and any room in their house in Brobdingnag Gardens would swallow up OUR humble cot. But to people in OUR position in SOCIETY they will be glad enough to come. The city people are glad to mix with the old families."

"Very good," says Fitz, with a sad face of assent—and Mrs. Timmins went on reading her list.

"Mr. and Mrs. Topham Sawyer, Belgravine Place."

"Mrs. Sawyer hasn’t asked you all the season. She gives herself the airs of an empress; and when—"

"One’s Member, you know, my dear, one must have," Rosa replied, with much dignity as if the presence of the representative of her native place would be a protection to her dinner. And a note was written and transported by the page early next morning to the mansion of the Sawyers, in Belgravine Place.

The Topham Sawyers had just come down to breakfast; Mrs. T. in her large dust-colored morning-dress and Madonna front (she looks rather scraggy of a morning, but I promise you her ringlets and figure will stun you of an evening); and having read the note, the following dialogue passed:—

Mrs. Topham Sawyer.—"Well, upon my word, I don’t know where things will end. Mr. Sawyer, the Timminses have asked us to dinner."

Mr. Topham Sawyer.—"Ask us to dinner! What d----- impudence!"

Mrs. Topham Sawyer.—"The most dangerous and insolent revolutionary principles are abroad, Mr. Sawyer; and I shall write and hint as much to these persons."

Mr. Topham Sawyer.—"No, d--- it, Joanna: they are my constituents and we must go. Write a civil note, and say we will come to their party." (He resumes the perusal of ’The times,’ and Mrs. Topham Sawyer writes)—

"MY DEAR ROSA,—We shall have GREAT PLEASURE in joining your little party. I do not reply in the third person, as WE ARE OLD FRIENDS, you know, and COUNTRY NEIGHBORS. I hope your mamma is well: present my KINDEST REMEMBRANCES to her, and I hope we shall see much MORE of each other in the summer, when we go down to the Sawpits (for going abroad is out of the question in these DREADFUL TIMES). With a hundred kisses to your dear little PET,

"Believe me your attached

"J. T. S."

She said Pet, because she did not know whether Rosa’s child was a girl or boy: and Mrs. Timmins was very much pleased with the kind and gracious nature of the reply to her invitation.


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William Makepeace Thackeray

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Chicago: William Makepeace Thackeray, "I.," A Little Dinner at Timmin’s, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in A Little Dinner at Timmin’s (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GSADRD7NMRK2J2H.

MLA: Thackeray, William Makepeace. "I." A Little Dinner at Timmin’s, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in A Little Dinner at Timmin’s, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GSADRD7NMRK2J2H.

Harvard: Thackeray, WM, 'I.' in A Little Dinner at Timmin’s, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, A Little Dinner at Timmin’s, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GSADRD7NMRK2J2H.