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The Omar Khayyam Club (article 25 november 1896)

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The Omar Khayyam Club is an article published in The Sketch on 25 november 1896.


Review

The Sketch (25 november 1896, p. 176)

The Omarians may be said to have impressed their cult upon the respectful consideration, if not upon the understanding, of intellectual London. Guests do not rise at the board now and declare that they have just heard of Omar Khayyam for the first time. The disappearance of that dishonoured jest from the oratory is significant of the social progress of the Club. Mr. Comyns Carr, indeed, struck another note at the dinner on Nov. 20 at Frascati's, by declaring his deep disappointment to discover that the club was not a pretext for Bacchanalian riot. He had told his wife that he was going to dine with his old tutor, a clergyman, and his only reward for that fraud was the society of a number of ordinary Englishmen who made speeches after dinner. This odious imputation of mere conventionality was beard by the Omarians in pitying silence. Evidently it will need a laborious education of several repasts to make even so sprightly a wit as Mr. Carr's appreciate the distinction between the Omar Club and the average company of diners-out.

Mr. Clement Shorter has been succeeded in the Presidency of the Club by Mr. Edmund Gosse, whose felicities in the chair culminated in a delightful little passage of arms with Mr. Frederic Harrison. Mr. Goose had read an interesting letter from Mr. Coventry Patmore, who was prevented by indisposition from attending the dinner, a letter in which the veteran poet remarked that Omar was an enemy of priests. Here Mr. Gosse, with mock alarm, suggested that Mr. Harrison, who sat on his right hand, was a kind of a priest, an impeachment which Mr. Harrison laughingly disputed. Mr. Sidney Colvin, in a speech of singular interest, described his personal impressions of Edward FitzGerald, who used to wander about the Suffolk lanes in a plaid and spectacles, and was reported to have fallen off the Woodbridge quay on one occasion, when he was fished up with his spectacles still on his nose and a book in his hand. Mr. Colvin, in surveying FitzGerald's work, attached small importance to the translations from the Greek, an opinion to which Mr. Frederic Harrison demurred in the course of that eulogy on "Old Fitz" which is a cherished formula of the club. Mr. Henry Norman, the Vice-President, in proposing the toast of "Tire Guests," discoursed very happily on the surreptitious Paganism of the Omarians, an important branch of their occult psychology; and Dr. Conan Doyle responded to the toast with much genial humour. For the benefit of future historians of the Club, Mr. L. F. Austin read a poem, based on a prophecy in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam—


Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor, and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen'd perhaps, but never talk'd at all.


Just as we find in Shakspere's teeming page
Thoughts of his own and each succeeding age;
So is the shadow of our social throng
The prescient image of the Persian Sage.


Pots are we all, and shaped from common Earth,
Each of us three parts full of modest worth;
And should some Jar pretend to overflow,
That were a theme for philosophic Mirth.


Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, here we sit,
And soul to soul with cheerful converse knit;
By one great Affidavit deeply sworn,
That none shall stint the Flagon nor the Wit.


Yet, in our Rites, a sober thrift has stored
A wisdom richer than old Omar's board;
His Liquor quelled him, laid him low, while we—
We linger near, but not beneath, the Board.


And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Are speechless Vessels, but are never dumb;
Theirs is the dressage of a deeper lore—
The Art of Listening is the Art to come.


Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, still we play
With zest our little Masquerade in Clay;
And, as we crumble, cry the Potter quits;
For Fellowship makes merry with Decay.


The guests of the evening included Mr. Frederic Harrison, Mr. Sidney Colvin, Sir Martin Conway, Dr. Conan Doyle, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. Hamo Thornycroft, Mr. W. E. Norris, Mr. H. G. Wells, Mr. J. Comyns Carr, the Hon. Maurice Baring, Mr. Edward Rose, Mr. Frederick Wedmore, and Mr. Louis Beeke.





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