People have taken to asking me, “What do I get when I hire a poet to assist with an elegant soiree I am planning?” It is a good question, and as with all good questions there is not one single answer. Really you have to have to first answer the question, “What do I want.”
I suppose it’s easier if I give you an example of how matters can proceed. Let me run through an affair I organised for Mistress Willen. It was, of course, to be held both inside and outside her rather grand house in Dilbrook.
So what was my part in the most successful event? Well firstly I organised the cloak-room. When a guest arrived they would not merely be announced, but a maid would simultaneously take their coats. Another maid was seated at a table, writing labels, and as the major domo announced the guest, she would put the names on the labels and the maid who was taking the coat would collect the labels on her way to the cloak room.
So what particular expertise is needed to organise this I hear you ask? Well firstly I had the guest bedrooms used as cloakrooms. The bedrooms were designated alphabetically and the maids would place the coats in the appropriate bedrooms. This had many advantages, the guest, upon leaving, would merely mention their name to the maid by the door and she would know which ‘cloakroom’ to go to. So the guest got their garments back far more speedily than is normally the case. (I particularly dislike the events where one has to find one’s own coat, because inevitably somebody else has appropriated the hook you selected and your coat is now part of that drift of garments on the floor that everybody is walking through.)
But this method has added benefits. Even the most dedicated lothario is unlikely to succeed in his plans to seduce your daughters if all the spare bedrooms are full of maids, coats and the bustle that goes with them. Not only that but I also attach one of the boot boys to the enterprise, as they ensure that the maids are not unduly harassed. Note I can supply a suitable small boy, see tariff at the end.
Then there is the matter of your guests and their drinking habits. Provide me a list of elderly bores or drunkards who you feel obliged to invite and I will provide each with a charming lady who will be enchanted to listen to their stories and will ensure that your guest stays reasonably sober. Indeed most hostesses use this facility as the cost of the charming lady is normally less than the cost of the wine the unaccompanied old soak would drink if left to their own devices.
On the other hand, should you feel it necessary I can endeavour to supply any number of louché poets who will be delighted to charm or flatter sundry elderly aunts, and will listen to homilies on the failings of young people today with suitably chastened expressions.
Finally there is the entertainment. If needs be I can provide a list of balladeers, minstrels, troubadours, jongleurs and minnesingers who can be relied upon to remain comparatively sober until at least midnight, and who are almost never violently ill before two in the morning.
And as well as providing all these services I will of course circulate amongst your guests, listening to their witty asides, steering conversations away from dangerous areas, dropping the occasional relevant couplet into the mix and if you want, I can even divert the guests with the occasional recitation.
Hire of principal (Tallis Steelyard) 1 alar
Hire of charming ladies. 5 vintenars per lady.
Note that allowance has to be made for gowns, if you can provide something suitable, a little something your daughter has grown out of or similar, then the price can be adjusted according.
Hire of louché poets. 2 vintenars per poet, 3 if you want me to guarantee to remove them all at the end of the function.
Suitable small boy to watch over the maids. 3 vintenars, and at least one plate of pastries.