High Table


“These suppers take place once a week in the vast refectories of each of the different colleges. The table at which the diners and their guests sit is raised up on a platform and thus presides over the other tables (where the students dine with suspicious haste, fleeing as soon as they have finished, gradually abandoning the elevated guests and thus avoiding the spectacle the latter end up making of themselves) and it is for this reason rather than because of any unusually high standard of cuisine or conversation that they are designated “high tables”. The suppers are formal (in the Oxonian sense) and for members of the congregation the wearing of gowns in obligatory. The suppers do begin very formally, but the sheer length of the meal allows for the appearance and subsequent development of a serious deterioration in the manners, vocabulary, diction, expositional fluency, composure, sobriety, attire, courtesy and general behaviour of the guests, of whom there are usually about twenty.”

From Javier Marías, All Souls. 

Thus begins one of the most hilarious and painful accounts of a certain kind of Englishness in all contemporary fiction, written, not surprisingly by a foreigner.






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