On the night of my first visit to Delmonico’s, at a table affording me the grandest spot for people watching my husband asked me whom I loved more, him or God. The answer spoiled the night and the first marriage. Mark Twain had more reason to celebrate on his night at Delmonico’s and here’s a small sample of his speech:
“I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one very well, and I always think of it with indignation; everything was so crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready. Now, for a person born with high and delicate instincts-why, even the cradle wasn’t whitewashed-nothing ready at all. I hadn’t any hair, I hadn’t any teeth, I hadn’t any clothes, I had to go to my first banquet just like that. Well, everybody came swarming in. It was the merest little bit of a village-hardly that, just a little hamlet, in the backwoods of Missouri, where nothing ever happened, and the people were all interested, and they all came; they looked me over to see if there was anything fresh in my line.” excerpted from birthday speech at Delmonico’s
My character Buck Crenshaw loves Delmonico’s. Dining there with his banker friends makes him feel as if he’s arrived, but Buck’s my creation and like his maker we often think we’re arriving when we’re actually not even close.
FUN FACTS ABOUT DELMONICO’S:
- The first dining establishment in America to be called by its French name, “Restaurant”
- The first dining establishment to have a printed menu
- The first restaurant to offer a separate wine list
- The first dining establishment to have tablecloths
- The first restaurant to offer private dining rooms
- The first restaurant to accommodate a ball or gala outside a private residence
- The first restaurant to allow women to congregate as a group
- The first restaurant to have a “star” chef
- The first dining establishment where guests sat at their own tables
- The first restaurant to have a female cashier
- The first restaurant to offer Eggs Benedict
- The home of Delmonico Steak and Delmonico Potatoes (Delmonico Firsts)
3 responses to “Mark Twain’s 70th Birthday at Delmonico’s Restaurant”
Mark Twain is such a legend, he was the main inspiration for my book too. His wit and humor just seemed to flow freely from his mind in an easy to read form. Best of luck with your work!
(Your phrasing of) The First Husband’s question sent a shiver down my spine. The historical resonance – how many intelligent pious women before the 20th century did at least try to love their husbands as if they were their God on earth because it was the only way of making sense of obedience and surrendering up property – also fascinates me.
Yes, our faulty understanding of the Bible has led many women (and men) down strange paths. As a young person with only a vague sense of the Bible’s teachings from Catholic school I thought I had to forgive everyone everything (aka doormat).
People have used St. Paul’s writings as an excuse for keeping women down, but the actual scriptures talk more about how a man should treat his wife with respect and dignity. While the woman is supposed to “submit” to her husband the man is supposed to sacrifice himself (his feelings, his selfishness, even his life) to his wife as Christ did for his people.
Even today men and women are mired in selfishness and pride, We still tend towards bullying and self-inflicted martyrdom. I think it’s the nature of the fallen world. (whenever some strides are made, new problems arise).
I’m thinking now of sex trafficking in this modern age and female mutilation ( nice topics for breakfast!). If men truly followed scripture these things would disappear.
I’m rambling a bit but while laws are faulty human constructions and there are plenty examples of inequality in the past and present I like to remember that a lot of average people treat their spouses fairly well. I need to find more stories about that. 🙂
Have you read Middlemarch? Dorothea trying to be pious is one of my favorite things in literature.