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Dickens, Irving, and a Giant Mint Julep

By Patricia B. Mitchell

The following anecdote and illustration are found in Frederick Phillip Stieff, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Maryland, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1932. The illustration is by Edwin Tunis. The incident involved literary giants Charles Dickens and Washington Irving, and occurred in Baltimore during Dickens' first American tour.

That farewell dinner at Baltimore on March 23, 1842, was always a happy memory with Dickens. During his second American tour he thus replied to a letter from Mr. Charles Lanman:

Irving, Dickens, and a Giant Mint Julep

Your reference to my dear friend Washington Irving renews the vivid impressions reawakened in my mind at Baltimore but the other day. I saw his fine face for the last time in that city. He came there from New York to pass a day or two with me before I went westward; and they were made among the most memorable of my life by his delightful fancy and genial humour. Some unknown admirer of his books and mine sent to the hotel a most enormous mint julep, wreathed with flowers. We sat, one on either side of it, with great solemnity (it filled a respectably-sized round table), but the solemnity was of very short duration. It was quite an enchanted julep, and carried us among innumerable people and places that we both knew. The julep held out far into the night, and my memory never saw him afterwards otherwise than as bending over it, with his straw, with an attempted air of gravity (after some anecdote involving some wonderfully droll and delicate observation of character), and then as his eye caught mine, melting into that captivating laugh of his, which was the brightest and best I have ever heard.

— From J. W. T. Ley, The Dickens Circle: A Narrative of the Novelist's Friendships, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1918.