Portrait Gallery

Elisha Cullen Dick

Invitation to Dinner

Dr. Dick's invitation to Philip Wanton appears in The Story of OLD TOWN & ‘GENTRY ROW’ in Alexandria, Virginia by Robert H. Wilson, 1983, pp. 38–39:

216 Prince Street
Philip Wanton: The Man Invited to Dinner

A celebrated dinner invitation written in Rhyme by Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick is quoted in most books about Old Town Alexandria:

If you can eat a good fat duck
Come up with us and take pot luck,
Of whitebacks we have got a pair
So plump, so round, so fat, & fair
A London Alderman would fight
Through pies and tarts to get one bite.
Moreover, we have beef or pork
That you may use your knife and fork.
Come up precisely at two o'clock
The door shall open at your knock.
The day tho' wet, the streets tho' muddy
To keep out the cold we'll have some toddy.
And if, perchance, you should get sick,
You'll have at hand
E. C. Dick

This unusual missive was addressed to Philip Wanton, Dr. Dick's good friend, who lived in a small frame house which once stood at 216 Prince Street. The original invitation turned up some years ago in a treasure trunk in an old Alexandria attic. It is now on exhibit in the museum of the Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Shop, where many of the genial Dr. Dick's prescriptions were filled.

Philip Wanton's house disappeared long ago.

The frame building was put up about 1790 by John Saunders, a carpenter and another of the Quakers who came from Philadelphia. He was a brother of Susanna Hartshorne, whose husband built the double dwelling next door. John did not live long after that, for a real estate deed of 1796 recites that “said John Saunders departed this life leaving three children and a widow, Mary, since intermarried with Philip Wanton”.

Wanton was an ironmonger of some prominence in Alexandria, a member of the Quaker meeting and one of the founders of the Alexandria library. Ownership of the property at 216 passed to him and he built behind John Saunders' tiny house a sizeable warehouse to accommodate his business.

From The Story of Old Town & ‘Gentry Row’ in Alexandria, Virginia By Robert H. Wilson, 1983, pp. 38-39.

Quoted by the Saunder's Family History, PDF: Chapter 3 - John Saunders, page 29.