One does not often, these days, have the supper-table set formally, does one? One would, I am sure, if one had a footman to do perform this duty, wouldn’t one? The author (Thomas Cosnett) of a charming book called The footman's directory and butler's rememberancer (1823) addresses his advice towards a fictional apprentice whom he calls William. This is what William learns on the subject of the supper-table.
You can always lay your table-cloth for supper before the company comes, if the room is not made use of to make the tea or prepare the refreshments in. You ought to know what number of visitants are expected; then place the chairs close to one another; this will be a rule to guide you what length the table should be. In putting the linen cloth on, be as particular as at dinner. Put one knife and fork to each person, unless you are short of waiters; in this case put two. Let your carving knives and forks, salts and spoons, be put as at dinner, and a wine-glass to the right of each person, about four inches from the edge of the table. Glass-coolers, finger-glasses, or napkins, are very seldom used for supper. You must have proper water decanters, or jugs, to set on the table with spring-water in them. Let two or three glasses be put for each of the company, as they in general help themselves. If it is a cold supper, you can put a plate for each person round; but if there should be anything hot, you must have hot plates; this is, however, seldom the case in small families. You can set your supper things on the table before the supper is ordered, therefore you may take your time in putting it on; you will have a bill of fare to direct you. Be particular to have the dishes put on the table as it is there directed, as every dish is contrived to answer each other; let the dishes be put in a proper line and at equal distances from each other, and the edges and ends of the table. There is seldom any changing of dishes at a supper-table in a small family, particularly if cold; it is generally all on at once, therefore you will not want so many things as at dinner; but have plenty of rummers and tumbler-glasses. Let your sideboard and side-table and everything be set out as at dinner. The decanters of wine are in general put on the supper-table: observe the same rule here as at dinner; if there are only pint decanters on the supper-table, it will be necessary to have more than if they were quart ones; but this depends on your employers, and they will give you directions accordingly. Study, however, to put on every thing, so that it may look handsome, and as though you had a design in setting it out. In general, the dishes which are sent up for supper, the meat as well as the fruit, are garnished with various green leaves and flowers; be particular not to shake them off in carrying them up, as they give the supper-table a pretty appearance.
In waiting, … be regulated according to the number of persons you have to assist; let everyone have his proper place appointed, and what to do.
SUPPER IN THE DRAWING-ROOM.
I shall now, William, observe a few things to you concerning the company having supper in the drawing-room: this often causes great confusion, as it is always done in a hurry; and very often the tables from the dining-room are to be carried up into-the drawing-room for supper; if you have this to do, be careful that you' do not knock the corners against the wall in coming up. Let your glasses, knives, forks, plates, and everything be in readiness, and likewise the supper all got ready in good time, that you may have nothing to do, but just to set the table and put the things on when you have got the orders; in fact, you should so place your things below, that you will have nothing to do but merely to take them into the room when called for. Have a green cloth, or piece of carpet, to put under your plate-basket and knife trays, as, in a hurry, things may be slopped or spill out of the plates, which would spoil the carpet. Have your tray-stands in the room to put your various things on in the trays, as you will have no sideboard; if there be a drugget, instead of a carpet, which the drawing-room floor is covered with, you must be doubly on your guard, and never put the dishes or plates thereon. When the supper is served up in this way, there is not so much form as when it is laid out in the rooms below; but always arrange it in the best way you can. When supper is over, and the company gone, look up your plate, and see that it is all right; because, if not, the present will be the time to look after it, as it sometimes happens that spoons, forks, &c. are thrown into the dust-hole, or hog-tub, with bits and scraps, therefore always count it up the same night or the next morning. Let the lights in the drawing-room and parlour be put out with the extinguisher, as before directed; let the lamps be turned down, not blown out; let the thing which is to keep up the oil in the lamp be put up when you put it out, this will prevent the oil from overflowing, which it is apt to do when it is warm.
I think I have now said sufficient to give you an insight into the manner and ways of setting out the tables and properly waiting on a small party; and although in a few things there maybe a trifling difference in some families, still the foregoing observations will be of service to all, if you properly attend to them.
As the recipe for the day, I give you a couple of delicious supper beverages from Sweets and Supper Dishes à la Mode, by Mrs de Salis (1908.)
Champagne Cup and Saumur Cup.
Put in a jug an ounce of white bruised sugar-candy, a little borage and balm, an orange sliced,
two slices of lemon, half a glass of sherry, and a bottle of champagne or saumur. Embed in ice for an hour. Also have embedded in ice two bottles of soda water. After decanting the hampagne, mixture from one jug to another pour in the soda water.
Mix in a soda-water tumbler a gill of old rum one sliced orange, one drop of essence of peppermint, two drops of essence of cloves on sugar; fill up with pounded ice.