We know from József Szinnyei’s diary that the University Library’s patio was not as bleak as some of us might remember from earlier years. On the contrary, it used to be a comfortable venue with verdured trees of merry social events, both private and institutional. These gatherings were especially frequent during the directorship of director-general Sándor Szilágyi (1878-1899).
On the 20th September 1881 Szilágyi invited the library staff for lunch to celebrate his niece’s, little Olga’s (Olga Szűcs, later Gyuláné Mayer) birthday. To these kinds of get-together’s, like the Sándor name-days, the staff was usually invited, which actually included only the civil servants, so in this case Lajos Pádli, Ödön Egervári, Dr. Sándor Máté and Károly Kudora. If the weather was nice, they met in the patio, under the trees. Szinnyei was a great gourmet and wrote very detailed accounts of the food served at these celebrations, and also told many colourful anecdotes about these events. His reports are especially valuable for us, because so many historic documents about the University Library (like the photo of eleven staff members given by above-mentioned Olga to the library) got lost.
It speaks volumes about the importance of the patio for this little community, that whenever it required tidying or renewal, the university’s main gardener looked after the work.
If not every time, other guests could join to the company, too. This could happen when the host had a higher position in the hierarchy, or the type of the occasion made the celebration a bit more colloquial. The relationships between the inhabitants of the building were highly determined by their social status. For example, the residents of the 2nd floor (the director’s apartment) could bundle out any inconvenient person from the flat of a librarian whom they happened to visit.
Not all birth- and name-days came with rich feasts, people celebrated according to their own personality. For example, József Szinnyei was a stingy person, thus he did not hold big feasts, like director Szilágyi.
The most baronial evets were the celebrations of the director’s name-days, the Sándor days. Let’s recall it with the help of an entry of Szinnyei’s diary from 28 March 1881: “there were pálinka [Hungarian brandy]. We had lunch quite early: ricesoup, beef, rice, egg barley, potato, tomato sauce, stuffed cabbage, doughnut (I have eaten three of them!), veal cutlet with salad, apple strudel, apple, cheese, wine.”
This is how the Reader should imagine these celebrations, completed with a few cigars, which was beloved by both Szinnyei and Szilágyi.