C19 Tea Songs

These lyrics from four nineteenth-century British songs on the subject of tea were first featured in a blog post made in May 2014.

 

The Dish of Tea; or, Ladies Answer to “Pipe of Tobacco”. The Words by a Gentleman. Composed by M. P[ierre] Gaveaux. (London : John Longman, Clementi, & Co, [1800?])

 

Drowsy Mortals time destroying,
Let in smoke the minutes flee,
Sweeter tis the time employing
In a tranquil dish of Tea.

 

Rude and strong the foaming liquor
Smoakers drink with noisy glee
But good humour passes quicker
In a social dish of Tea.

 

Cease, o cease, each face distorting
(Swelling cheek and pouting lip;)
Haste, where pleasure calmly sporting,
Blends with mirth the frequent sip.

 

And, if smoke alone is charming,
With the Ladies let it be;
Lovely Vapour! Care disarming,
Rising from a dish of Tea.

 

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Robert Rhodes Reed (lyric) and Carlo Minasi (music), The Song of the Tea-Pot (London: C. Jeffreys, [1855])

 

‘Respectfully Dedicated to the Ladies of England’.

 

The most intimate friends of all classes, I sing
Of the pleasures I witness, the comforts I bring;
Since Poets deny me the least panegyric,
I’ll chant my own praise in the shape of a lyric.
Kind ladies from you some attention I claim,
Though, indeed, to the fair I’m indebted for fame;
In your favor I live, in your praise let me be,
For men, you well know, are not judges of Tea!
For men, you well know, are not judges of Tea!

 

Though mankind may taunt, and satirics defame,
By ever connecting with scandal my name,
And with French-fashion’d coffee at clubs make a fuss,
Say how would the creatures go on without us?
What boiling resentment, grows under my lid!
But there my emotions must ever lie hid,
Ah me! I could weep, but at best it would be,
An exposure of weakness, a wasting of tea.
An exposure of weakness, a wasting of tea.

 

Philosophers, Statesmen, the truth may conceal,
But their grandest ideas grace the ev’ning meal;
Ev’n Poets, Divines, Men of Bus’ness, find
That infusion of tea giveth strength to the mind.
Perhaps the grand secret is this only then
The Ladies can hold conversation with men!
Then if gratitude warm you, join chorus with me
In the Song of the Teapot, the pleasures of Tea!
In the Song of the Teapot, the pleasures of Tea!

 

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C. D. Hickman (lyric) and J. Ellis (composer), Sitting down to Tea (Sequel to “Table Etiquette”) (London : Francis, Day & Hunter, [1891])

 

Now I’ve often sung to you
Of the things you shouldn’t do
At the table when invited out to dine with friends a few;
So it’s fitting, you’ll allow,
That I should tell you now
What to do when you are sitting down to tea;
For there’s very few who know—
Some are “fast” and some are “slow,”
And some there are who never in society should go.
It’s the right and proper thing
When you hear the tea-bell ring
For all to soon be sitting down to tea.

 

Chorus

Down to tea! down to tea! act genteelly as can be;
It’s considered very wrong
To commence a comic song
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

When at table you’ve sat down,
If the “white” bread should be brown,
And the toast as hard as paving stones in London’s little town—
If the butter’s margarine,
Which has turned a trifle green,
Such matters, pray, pretend you fail to see.
Round the table cast your eyes,
But your feelings, please, disguise,
If with the marmalade you swallow half-a-dozen flies—
If the jam’s with mildew furred,
Sweetly smile without a word,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

Chorus

Down to tea! down to tea! act genteelly as can be;
If no handle’s on your cup,
Don’t in scorn your nose turn up,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

If too hot you find your tea,
Quickly cooler it will be
If you “saucer” it and whistle on it “Woodman, spare that tree.”
If you find the bloater-paste
Is unpleasant to the taste,
Don’t fling it where the ashes ought to be.
If the sugar’s full of sand,
Don’t scoop some in your hand,
And spread it on the floor to do a “sand dance,” understand.
If there’s fish bones in the cream,
Just imagine it’s a dream,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

Chorus

Down to tea! down to tea! act genteelly as can be;
Though the “silver” spoons are brass,
Yet remarks you mustn’t pass,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

Mind you sit with style sedate,
And with wonder never prate,
If you see the potted lobster walking right across your plate.
If the pickled salmon, too,
Has been soused in Irish stew,
Refrain from using language impolite.
If to eat one be your wish,
With a tooth-pick, please, don’t fish
For the sardines in a tin, nor yet for winkles on a dish.
If there’s tin-tacks in the cake,
Any fuss you mustn’t make,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

Chorus

Down to tea! down to tea! act genteelly as can be;
For good manners it’s beneath
With a fork to pick your teeth,
When with company you’re sitting down to tea.

 

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Leslie Harris, Humorous Song. Middle Class Society Tea. Written, Composed, and Sung by Leslie Harris in his Humorous Sketch “Jottings on Juveniles” (London : Charles Woolhouse, [1894])

 

1st Verse

Whenever you go out to tea
In middle class Society
It’s an unwritten law that you mustn’t go late,
Or else your poor hostess gets into a state
Of frenzy, for fear that the tea must wait,
And the light-cakes all be spoiled.
Then when you arrive, the tea’s such a treat,
For you mix up blanc-mange with shrimps and cold meat,
Then comes sponge-cake and jelly that’s made from calves’ feet,
Concluding with eggs hard-boiled.

 

Chorus

Oh! the Middle Class Society Tea
Is a pleasure to some but it is’nt to me.
It’s a sort of a “drink-a-lot, eat-a-lot, talk-a-lot,
Smile-a-lot[”], very hot ceremonee.
Oh! the Middle Class Society Tea
May be fun for some, but it is’nt for me.
You meet such a very mixed Companee
At a Middle Class Society Tea.

 

2nd Verse

Then your hostess is certain to let you know
All the family news, from her daughter’s new beau,
To “Bob’s had the measles, the dog’s had a pup,
And Miss Smithors next door’s been obliged to sell up”
And “You’ve surely not finished? Have just one more cup?
I’m afraid you’ve not had a good tea.”
Then the youngest son Tommy (a rude little beast)
Spills his tea o’er your pants in the course of the feast,
And you smilingly say “You don’t mind in the least!”
But you privately swear a big D.

 

Chorus

Oh! the Middle Class Society Tea
Is a pleasure to some but it is’nt to me.
It’s a sort of a “drink-a-lot, eat-a-lot, talk-a-lot,
Swear-a-lot[”] (Spoken: – ‘Beg pardon! of course I mean
Smile-a-lot”) very hot ceremonee.
Oh! the Middle Class Society Tea
May be fun for some, but it is’nt for me.
You meet such a very mixed Companee
At a Middle Class Society Tea.

 

3nd Verse

Then at last, when according to regular plan,
The guests have all eaten as much as they can,
They say “What a treat it has been to be sure,”
“We never enjoyed ourselves so much before.”
But at home say “We’ll never go there any more”
“’Twas a shockingly dull affair.”
And the host, though he’ll talk and he’ll laugh and he’ll jest
And make himself pleasant to every guest,
When they’ve gone, will remark to his wife “Well I’m blest!”
“What a fathead crowd they were!”

 

Chorus

Oh! the Middle Class Society Tea &c. &c. &c.

 

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