Historical Miscellany #5 – Hearty appetites (c.1790s)


(Remembrance of Sir Francis Beaufort – how many dinners can a midshipman consume in a day? c 1790s)

We were talking of a midshipman’s appetite, as a thing which bears a high character for energy and punctuality, and Captain Beaufort said it had never been tried how many dinners a midshipman could eat in a day.

‘I,’ said he, got as far as three. I had eaten my dinner at the midshipman’s table, and a very good one, as I always did. After it, the captain’s steward came up and said –

‘The captain’s compliments, and desires the favour of your company to dinner’

‘But I’ve dined,’ said I.

‘For mercy’s sake, don’t say that, sir,’ said he, ‘for I shall be in a scrape if you do. I ought to have asked you this morning but I forgot.’

So I thought I must go; and two hours afterwards I did go, and I dined, and I think I made my good usual dinner. Just as we rose from the table, a signal was made by the admiral to send an officer on board, and as it was my turn, I had to go off the boat. When I got on board the admiral’s ship, the admiral said to me.

‘Ah, Mr Beaufort, I believe?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said I.

‘Well, Mr Beaufort, said he, ‘the papers you are to take back will not be ready this half hour, but I am just sitting down to dinner, and shall be glad of your company.’

Now as to a midshipman refusing to dine with the admiral, there are not the words for it in the naval dictionary. So I sat down to my third dinner, and I am sure I did very well; and I got back to my ship just in time for tea.’

More Historical Miscellany here.

Image credit: Commons Helper

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