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Sunday, 9 December 2012

ESAH Sunday Series: Dinner Party Stories

From a 'Commonplace Book' received by one of our members who runs a local history blog. It was written by Edward Henry Lisle Reeve in 1881, who went on to succeed his father as Rector of Stondon Massey.

Tall Story

There was a gentleman at some dinner party or other who kept the table in the most feverish state of excitement while he told the story of a man who had come safely across the Atlantic in a tub with no companion but his dog in an incredibly short time.  They heard him to the end, when one of the audience addressed him: “I thank you”, he said, “for your story, and I am much obliged to you for telling it; up to this time I have never been able to find anybody who would believe it – I am that man”.

A Store of Stories

Mr Thos. Reeve had, or pretended to have, a numbered collection of these old stories, and when Capt. Reeve was telling them to a delighted audience, he would say, with a twinkle in his eye, “No. 156” or whatever it might be.


There was a favourite story of Capt. Reeve’s of a gentleman who, having been a great traveller, came back at last to see his friends in England.  His strange adventures rendered him a delightful and amusing guest, and he was often going out to luncheon or dinner parties.  On one occasion he was invited out to dine, and he took his servant with him – a common custom in those days – to stand behind his chair.  “Now John” he said to his servant, “they tell me I am fond of exaggerating, and I want you this evening, if you hear me going too far, just to give me a sly pull at the coat-tail”.  They went to dinner, and our hero told the assembled guests many strange and exciting stories.  At last he was led to give them a peep at the monkeys in Africa, and their curious and winning ways.  “One of them” he said, “had a tail 30 yards long”.  Here there was a violent pull from John at his coat-tail.  When the merriment and amusement of the guests had a little subsided he said, “Well perhaps I have exaggerated it a little, I want to be strictly true, perhaps I should not give the tail more than 20 yards”.  Here there was another lusty pull from John.  “Well” said the gentleman, “perhaps I should say 15 yards, but I can’t give him any less”.  Here there was another pull.  “Why good gracious John,” he said turning round to his servant, “you will be trying to persuade me soon that the monkey had no tail at all”.

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