Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thomas Sutherland: “Quite a Pickwick”

Samuel Pickwick

Of all I have discovered about Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), two episodes amuse me greatly and thus stand out in my mind. The first is when he burst in on a party of fashionable young men and demanded they pay their tailoring bills; the second is this impromptu fete. The account comes from the travel diary of Lieutenant Andrew Agnew, published as From Lochnaw to Manitoulin: A Highland Soldier's Tour Through Upper Canada, and edited by Scott A. McLean. Agnew’s entry for September 4, 1839 states:

“[N]earby we stopped at Sutherlands Landing, the gentleman whom it is called after and owns it met us on the wharf and insisted on our coming to his house which we were by no means loath to close with. He is a regular character—quite a pickwick and he gave us an excellent lunch which we did much justice to. It was also gratifying to perceive that our distinction of his ham and c+c and rapid draining of his cellar and brandy cask gave him the greatest satisfaction….”

That Sutherland is referred to as a pickwick really is the icing on the cake. For those unfamiliar with Dickens’s novel, Mr. Samuel Pickwick is often represented in illustrations as a wealthy, portly bespectacled gentleman (a description which matches the painting of Sutherland), who is also kindly and jovial. And, as noted in an earlier entry, The Pickwick Papers were dedicated to Thomas Noon Talfourd—the brother of Sutherland’s neighbors, Froome and Field Talfourd. It's all quite delicious; almost as delicious as that food and libation sounds.

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