Based on the Goncourts' Journal and other contemporary materials, this is a conversational reconstruction of the dinners held at a small but choice Left Bank restaurant attended by Uncle (Sainte) Beuve, Turgenev, Renan, Flaubert, Gautier and the Goncourts, George Sand (who is often treated most unkindly by her confreres) and others. The dinners were initiated in 1862 and continued for about ten years until after the deaths of Sainte Beuve and then Gautier and the general decline of Magny's. Those present discussed everything -- Hugo and Balzac and many other men of letters; language and style and criticism, the ""enemy of genius""; sexual puissance and prostitution; the Prussian threat and diminishing siege of 1872; and of course food. Toward the close there is a sad backward look by Flaubert and then Edmond de Goncourt on first love and throughout there are intimate particulars -- Balzac dirty under his monkish robe in which he wrote; the flatulent aridity of George Sand's Nohant. Dr. Baldick who has long presided over this period has assembled the material with considerable skill (the remarks made by the more famous people are genuine) and his literary table scraps are more than occasionally edifying and entertaining.