Sir Walter Scott — poet, playwright, and author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy — apparently thought a lot about how to properly host a raucous dinner party. Here are his three rules for “presiding” over a dinner table (emphasis mine):
- Get everyone drunk fast. “Always hurry the bottle round for five or six rounds without prosing yourself or permitting others to prose. A slight filip of wine inclines people to be pleased, and removes the nervousness which prevents men from speaking; disposes them, in short, to be amusing, and to be amused.”
- Don’t be a bore. “Do not think of saying fine things; nobody cares for them any more than for fine music, which is often too liberally bestowed on such occasions…You will find people satisfied with wonderfully indifferent jokes if you can but hit the tastes of the company, which depends much on its character. Even a very high party, primed with all fashionable folks, may be stormed by a jovial, rough, round, and ready (host).”
- Don’t get as drunk as your guests. “When you have drunk a few glasses, to play the good fellow and banish modesty (if you are unlucky enough to have such a troublesome companion), then beware of the cup too much.”
The Scott quotes are from All About Etiquette; or, The Manners of Polite Society by Samuel Orchart Beeton, published in 1875, which also offers this sage wisdom:
The introducing of a great variety of wines at a quiet visiting dinner-party looks like an ostentatious display, and is not usually practised in good society. It is but a vulgar notion which associates expense with gentility.
Justification, I think, for hoarding the good stuff until the guests have gone.