novel by Thomas Love Peacock
, published in 1816.
Squire Headlong becomes "seized with a violent passion to be thought a philosopher and a man of taste; and accordingly set off on an expedition to Oxford, to inquire for other varieties of these same genera, namely, men of taste and philosophers; but, being assured by a learned professor that there were no such things in the University", so he goes to London and forms an acquaintance with many dilettanti, and invites them back to his hall in Caernarvonshire to solve problems over his best port and burgundy over Christmas.
Mr Foster was a perfectibilian, his opposite Mr Escot was a deteriorationist, a balance between them was kept by Mr Jenkison the statu-quo-ite, and the food-loving Reverend Doctor Gaster. Peacock concocted an elaborate Greek etymology for each of these names suitable for their inclinations.
Next come a landscape painter, two reviewers called Gall and Treacle, a phrenologist called Mr Cranium (and his lovely daughter -- she and Mr Escot blush to see each other), and more poets, scientists, painters, and novelists, all ready to ply their trade for the edification of anyone else willing to sit still for long enough.
As they pass the bottle around at dinner they discourse of paradise, moral decay, landscape, philanthropy, authority (tsk tsk, Mr Panscope would have made an ideal user name for /me), and... well then they start singing.
This sort of thing continues through a long walk, a visit to a graveyard, a ball; and a lecture by Mr Cranium, who has the skull of Sir Christopher Wren, and that of a beaver for comparison to show that both share an organ of building.
And so it goes on till they all depart, the lovers fairly happily settled. There is no plot, just wit and satire and amusement and learning.