To the credit of the post-Knickerbocker Petronius it must be said that he was ever content with his lot. If there were poses to laugh at, there were qualities to respect. A meaner soul might have turned the peacock prestige to financial account. “Had I charged a fee for every consultation with anxious mothers on this subject” (that of introducing a young girl into New York society) “I would be a rich man.” A Wall Street banker visiting him in his modest home in Twenty-first Street exclaimed against the surroundings, offering to buy a certain stock at the opening of the Board, and send the resulting profits in the afternoon of the same day. Commodore Vanderbilt, who apparently never forgot that first dinner, once advised: “Mac, sell everything you have and put it in Harlem stock; it is now twenty-four; you will make more money than you know how to take care of.”
But steadfastly McAllister refused to be tempted. So long as his cottage was a “cottage of gentility,” why try to augment his fortune? “A gentleman can afford to walk; he cannot afford to have a shabby equipage,” he once said. That distinction which he felt to be his was not to be impaired by his trudging afoot.
It is not in the pictures of his youth, winning his way into society to rule it; but come to ripe years, secure in his position, imparting his creed on points of social usage, with mellow dogmatism laying down the law in all matters of vintages and viands, that he is most impressive. “My dear sir, I do not argue, I inform.”
It was that spirit that led to the dictum that made him famous. “My dear boy, there are only four hundred persons in New York who really count socially.” It was as if he had said: “Decant all your clarets before serving them, even your vin ordinaire. If at a dinner you give both Burgundy and claret, give your finest claret with the roast, your Burgundy with the cheese. Stand up both wines the morning of the dinner, and in decanting, hold the decanter in your left hand, and let the wine first pour against the inside of the neck of the decanter, so as to break its fall.” Doubtless, t’other side of Styx, his spirit has found congenial companions. I see his shade in dignified disputation with other shades. He argues with Brummel about the tying of a cravat, with Nash about a minuet, the proper composition of a sauce is the subject of a weighty dialogue with the great Vatel.
The Crest of Murray Hill
Stretches of the Avenue—The Crest of Murray
Hill—The House of
“Sarsaparilla” Townsend—A.T. Stewart’s Italian Palace—The
Knickerbocker Trust Company—The Coventry Waddell Mansion—A House at
Thirty-ninth Street—The Present Union League—A Tavern of the
Fifties—The “House of Mansions”—The Old Reservoir, and Egyptian
Temple—The Crystal Palace—The Latting Tower—“Quality Hill.”