11 Jun To be associated with an inconsiderate companion at table is not the mark of a man of sense… (PLUTARCH)
The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men
Our visitor here has precipitated us into a conversation that is quite inappropriate, since he has not been careful to bring up topics and questions suitable for persons on their way to dinner. Do you not honestly believe that, as some preparation is necessary on the part of the man who is to be host, there should also be some preparation on the part of him who is to be a guest at dinner? People in Sybaris, as it appears, have their invitations to women presented a year in advance so as to afford them plenty of time to provide themselves with clothes and jewellery to wear when they come to dinner; but I am of the opinion that the generous preparation on the part of the man who is to be the right kind of guest at dinner requires even a longer time, inasmuch as it is more difficult to discover the fitting adornment for character than the superfluous and useless adornment for the body. In fact, the man of sense who comes to dinner does not betake himself there just to fill himself up as though he were a sort of pot, but to take some part, be it serious or humorous, and to listen and to talk regarding this or that topic as the occasion suggests it to the company, if their association together is to be pleasant.
Now an unsavoury dish can be declined, and, if the wine be poor, one may find refuge with the water-sprites; but a guest at dinner who gives the others a headache, and is churlish and uncivil, ruins and spoils the enjoyment of any wines and viands or of any girl’s music; nor is there any ready means by which one can spew out this sort of unsavouriness, but with some persons their mutual dislike lasts for their entire lifetime — stale dregs, as it were, of some insult or fit of temper which was called into being over wine. Wherefore Chilon showed most excellent judgement when he received his invitation yesterday, in not agreeing to come until he had learned the name of every person invited. For he said that men must put up with an inconsiderate companion on shipboard or under the same tent, if necessity compels them to travel or to serve in the army, but that to trust to luck regarding the people one is to be associated with at table is not the mark of a man of sense.