Project Gutenberg's Club Life of London, Vol. I (of 2), by John Timbs This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Club Life of London, Vol. I (of 2) With Anecdotes of the Clubs, Coffee-Houses and Taverns of the Metropolis During the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries Author: John Timbs Release Date: October 23, 2012 [EBook #41146] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CLUB LIFE OF LONDON, VOL. I (OF 2) *** Produced by Melissa McDaniel and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original document have been preserved.
On page 47, "Mrs. Read's" should possibly be "Mr. Read's".
On page 100, "Sheridan had no personal dislike" should possibly be "Selwyn had no personal dislike".
Martin Folkes is also spelled Martin Foulkes.
On page 177, "set in half-a-dozen barbers" should possibly be "sent in half-a-dozen barbers".
On page 287, "Woolbidding" should possibly be "Woolbeding".
CLUB LIFE OF LONDON
ANECDOTES OF THE CLUBS, COFFEE-HOUSES
AND TAVERNS OF THE METROPOLIS
DURING THE 17th, 18th, AND 19th CENTURIES.
JOHN TIMBS, F.S.A.
IN TWO VOLUMES.—VOL. I.
RICHARD BENTLEY, PUBLISHER IN ORDINARY TO HER MAJESTY.
JOHN EDWARD TAYLOR, LITTLE QUEEN STREET,
LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.
Pictures of the Social Life of the Metropolis during the last two centuries are by no means rare. We possess them in Diaries, Memoirs, and Correspondence, in almost countless volumes, that sparkle with humour and gaiety, alternating with more serious phases,—political or otherwise,—according to the colour and complexion, and body of the time. Of such pictures the most attractive are Clubs.
Few attempts have, however, been made to focus the Club-life of periods, or to assemble with reasonable limits, the histories of the leading Associations of clubbable Men,—of Statesmen and Politicians, Wits and Poets, Authors, Artists, and Actors, and "men of wit and pleasure," which the town has presented since the days of the Restoration; or in more direct succession, from the reign of Queen Anne, and the days of the Tatler and Spectator, and other Essayists in their wake. vi
The present Work aims to record this Club-life in a series of sketches of the leading Societies, in which, without assuming the gravity of history or biography, sufficient attention is paid to both to give the several narratives the value of trustworthiness. From the multitude of Clubs it has been found expedient to make a selection, in which the Author has been guided by the popular interest attached to their several histories. The same principle has been adopted in bringing the Work up to our own time, in which the customary reticence in such cases has been maintained.
Of interest akin to that of the Clubs have been considered scenes of the Coffee-house and Tavern Life of the period, which partake of a greater breadth of humour, and are, therefore, proportionally attractive, for these sections of the Work. The antiquarianism is sparse, or briefly descriptive; the main object being personal characteristics, the life and manners, the sayings and doings, of classes among whom conviviality is often mixed up with better qualities, and the finest humanities are blended with the gladiatorship and playfulness of wit and humour.
With a rich store of materials at his command, the Author, or Compiler, has sought, by selection and condensation, to avoid the long-windedness of story-telling; for the anecdote should be, like the viand,—"'twere vii well if it were done quickly." Although the staple of the book is compiled, the experience and information which the Author has gathered by long familiarity with the Metropolis have enabled him to annotate and illustrate in his own progress, notwithstanding the "lion's share" of the labour is duly awarded to others.
Thus, there are grouped in the present volume sketches of One Hundred Clubs, ranging from the Mermaid, in Bread-street, to the Garrick, in Covent Garden. Considering the mixed objects of these Clubs, though all belonging to the convivial or jovial system, strict classification was scarcely attainable: hence chronological sequence has been adopted, with the advantage of presenting more connected views of social life than could have been gained by the former arrangement.
The Second Volume is devoted to the Coffee-house and Tavern Life, and presents a diversity of sketches, anecdotes, and reminiscences, whose name is Legion.
To the whole is appended a copious Index, by which the reader may readily refer to the leading subjects, and multitudinous contents of the Work. ix
|ORIGIN OF CLUBS||1|
|EARLY POLITICAL CLUBS||15|
|SATURDAY AND BROTHERS CLUBS||19|
|CALVES' HEAD CLUB||25|
|KING'S HEAD CLUB||35|
|TATLER'S CLUB IN SHIRE-LANE||63|
|ROYAL SOCIETY CLUB||65 x|
|"FIGHTING FITZGERALD" AT BROOKES'S||102|
|THE BEEF-STEAK SOCIETY||123|
|CLUB AT TOM'S COFFEE-HOUSE||159|
|THE KING OF CLUBS||165|
|CANNING AT THE CLIFFORD-STREET CLUB||169|
|THE WITTINAGEMOT OF THE CHAPTER COFFEE-HOUSE||179|
|THE ROXBURGHE CLUB DINNERS||186|
|SOCIETY OF PAST OVERSEERS, WESTMINSTER||193|
|THE ROBIN HOOD||196|
|ESSEX HEAD CLUB||202|
|THE LITERARY CLUB||204|
|GOLDSMITH'S CLUBS||219 xi|
|THE DILETTANTI SOCIETY||222|
|ROYAL NAVAL CLUB||230|
|UNITED SERVICE CLUB||236|
|ECONOMY OF CLUBS||248|
|OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CLUB||277|
|ARMY AND NAVY CLUB||278|
|JUNIOR UNITED SERVICE CLUB||280|
|"KING ALLEN," "THE GOLDEN BALL," AND SCROPE DAVIES||287|
|THE FOUR-IN-HAND CLUB||289|
|PRINCE'S CLUB RACQUET COURTS||298|
|AN ANGLING CLUB||301|
|THE RED LIONS||303 xii|
|COVENTRY, ERECTHEUM, AND PARTHENON CLUBS||305|
|ANTIQUARIAN CLUBS,—THE NOVIOMAGIANS||306|
|DOUGLAS JERROLD'S CLUBS||308|
|CLUBS AT THE THATCHED HOUSE||318|
|CLUBS OF 1814||321|
|GAMING-HOUSES KEPT BY LADIES||323|
CLUB LIFE OF LONDON.
The Club, in the general acceptation of the term, may be regarded as one of the earliest offshoots of Man's habitually gregarious and social inclination; and as an instance of that remarkable influence which, in an early stage of society, the powers of Nature exercise over the fortunes of mankind. It may not be traceable to the time
"When Adam dolve, and Eve span;"
but, it is natural to imagine that concurrent with the force of numbers must have increased the tendency of men to associate for some common object. This may have been the enjoyment of the staple of life; for, our elegant Essayist, writing with ages of experience at his beck, has truly said, "all celebrated Clubs were founded upon eating and drinking, which are points where most men agree, and in which the learned and the illiterate, the dull and the airy, the philosopher and the buffoon, can all of them bear a part." 2
For special proof of the antiquity of the practice it may suffice to refer to the polished Athenians, who had, besides their general symposia, friendly meetings, where every one sent his own portion of the feast, bore a proportionate part of the expense, or gave a pledge at a fixed price. A regard for clubbism existed even in Lycurgan Sparta: the public tables consisted generally of fifteen persons each, and all vacancies were filled up by ballot, in which unanimous consent was indispensable for election; and the other laws, as described by Plutarch, differ but slightly from those of modern Clubs. Justus Lipsius mentions a bonâ fide Roman Club, the members of which were bound by certain organized rules and regulations. Cicero records (De Senectute) the pleasure he took in frequenting the meetings of those social parties of his time, termed confraternities, where, according to a good old custom, a president was appointed; and he adds that the principal satisfaction he received from such entertainments, arose much less from the pleasures of the palate than from the opportunity thereby afforded him of enjoying excellent company and conversation.
The cognomen Club claims descent from the Anglo-Saxon; for Skinner derives it from clifian, cleofian (our cleave), from the division of the reckoning among the guests around the table. The word signifies uniting to divide, like clave, including the correlative meanings to adhere and to separate. "In conclusion, Club is evidently, as far as form is concerned, derived from cleave" (to split), but in signification it would seem to be more closely allied to cleave (to adhere). It is not surprising 3 that two verbs, identical in form (in Eng.) and connected in signification, should sometimes coalesce.
To the Friday-street or more properly Bread-street Club, said to have been originated by Sir Walter Raleigh, was long assigned the priority of date in England; but we have an instance of two centuries earlier. In the reign of Henry IV., there was a Club called "La Court de bone Compagnie," of which the worthy old poet Occleve was a member, and probably Chaucer. In the works of the former are two ballads, written about 1413; one, a congratulation from the brethren to Henry Somer, on his appointment of the Sub-Treasurer of the Exchequer, and who received Chaucer's pension for him. In the other ballad, Occleve, after dwelling on some of their rules and observances, gives Somer notice that he is expected to be in the chair at their next meeting, and that the "styward" has warned him that he is
"for the dyner arraye
Ageyn Thirsday next, and nat is delaye."
That there were certain conditions to be observed by this Society, appears from the latter epistle, which commences with an answer to a letter of remonstrance the "Court" has received from Henry Somer, against some undue extravagance, and a breach of their rules. This Society of four centuries and a half since was evidently a jovial company.
Still, we do not yet find the term "Club." Mr. Carlyle, in his History of Frederick the Great, assumes that the vow of the Chivalry Orders—Gelübde—in vogue about A.D. 1190, "passed to us in a singularly dwindled condition: Club we now call it." To this it is objected that the mere resemblance in sound of Gelübde and Club is inconclusive, for the Orders of Templars, Hospitallers, and Prussian Knights, were never called clubs in England; and the origin of the noun need not be sought for beyond its verb to club, when persons joined in paying the cost of the mutual entertainment. Moreover, Klubb in German means the social club; and that word is borrowed from the English, the native word being Zeche, which, from its root and compound, conveys the idea generally of joint expenditure, and specially in drinking.
About the end of the sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century, there was established the famous Club at the Mermaid Tavern, in Bread-street, of which Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Raleigh, Selden, Donne, &c., were members. Ben Jonson had a Club, of which he appears to have been the founder, that met at the Devil Tavern, between Middle-Temple gate and Temple Bar.
Not until shortly after this date do we find the word Club. Aubrey says: "We now use the word clubbe for a sodality in a taverne." In 1659, Aubrey became a member of the Rota, a political Club, which met at the Turk's Head, in New Palace Yard: "here we had," says Aubrey, "(very formally) a balloting box, and balloted how things should be carried, by way of Tentamens. 5 The room was every evening as full as it could be crammed." Of this Rota political Club we shall presently say more. It is worthy of notice that politics were thus early introduced into English Club-life. Dryden, some twenty years after the above date, asks: "What right has any man to meet in factious Clubs to vilify the Government?"
Three years after the Great Fire, in 1669, there was established in the City, the Civil Club, which exists to this day. All the members are citizens, and are proud of their Society, on account of its antiquity, and of its being the only Club which attaches to its staff the reputed office of a chaplain. The members appear to have first clubbed together for the sake of mutual aid and support; but the name of the founder of the Club, and the circumstances of its origin, have unfortunately been lost with its early records. The time at which it was established was one of severe trials, when the Great Plague and the Great Fire had broken up much society, and many old associations; the object and recommendation being, as one of the rules express it, "that members should give preference to each other in their respective callings;" and that "but one person of the same trade or profession should be a member of the Club." This is the rule of the old middle-class clubs called "One of a Trade."
The Civil Club met for many years at the Old Ship Tavern, in Water-lane, upon which being taken down, the Club removed to the New Corn Exchange Tavern, in Mark Lane. The records, which are extant, show among former members Parliament men, baronets, and aldermen; the chaplain is the incumbent of St. Olave-by-the-Tower, 6 Hart-street. Two high carved chairs, bearing date 1669, are used by the stewards.
At the time of the Revolution, the Treason Club, as it was commonly called, met at the Rose tavern, in Covent Garden, to consult with Lord Colchester, Mr. Thomas Wharton, Colonel Talmash, Colonel Godfrey, and many others of their party; and it was there resolved that the regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Langstone's command should desert entire, as they did, on Sunday, Nov. 1688.
In Friday-street, Cheapside, was held the Wednesday Club, at which, in 1695, certain conferences took place under the direction of William Paterson, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Bank of England. Such is the general belief; but Mr. Saxe Bannister, in his Life of Paterson, p. 93, observes: "It has been a matter of much doubt whether the Bank of England was originally proposed from a Club or Society in the City of London. The Dialogue Conferences of the Wednesday Club, in Friday-street, have been quoted as if first published in 1695. No such publication has been met with of a date before 1706;" and Mr. Bannister states his reasons for supposing it was not preceded by any other book. Still, Paterson wrote the papers entitled the Wednesday Club Conferences.
Club is defined by Dr. Johnson to be "an assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions;" but by Todd, "an association of persons subjected to particular rules." It is plain that the latter definition is at least not that of a Club, as distinguished from any other kind of association; although it may be more comprehensive than is necessary, to take in all the gatherings that in 7 modern times have assumed the name of Clubs. Johnson's, however, is the more exact account of the true old English Club.
The golden period of the Clubs was, however, in the time of the Spectator, in whose rich humour their memories are embalmed. "Man," writes Addison, in No. 9, "is said to be a sociable animal; and as an instance of it we may observe, that we take all occasions and pretences of forming ourselves into those little nocturnal assemblies, which are commonly known by the name of Clubs. When a set of men find themselves agree in any particular, though never so trivial, they establish themselves into a kind of fraternity, and meet once or twice a week, upon the account of such a fantastic resemblance."
Pall Mall was noted for its tavern Clubs more than two centuries since. "The first time that Pepys mentions Pell Mell," writes Cunningham, "is under the 26th of July, 1660, where he says 'We went to Wood's (our old house for clubbing), 'and there we spent till ten at night.' This is not only one of the earliest references to Pall Mall as an inhabited locality, but one of the earliest uses of the word 'clubbing,' in its modern signification of a Club, and additionally interesting, seeing that the street still maintains what Johnson would have called its 'clubbable' character."
In Spence's Anecdotes (Supplemental,) we read: "There was a Club held at the King's Head, in Pall Mall, that arrogantly called itself 'The World.' Lord Stanhope, then (now Lord Chesterfield), Lord Herbert, &c., were members. Epigrams were proposed to be written on the glasses, by each member after dinner; once, when Dr. Young was invited thither, the Doctor would have declined writing, because he had no diamond: 8 Lord Stanhope lent him his, and he wrote immediately—
"'Accept a miracle, instead of wit;
See two dull lines with Stanhope's pencil writ.'"
The first modern Club mansion in Pall Mall was No. 86, opened as a subscription house, called the Albion Hotel. It was originally built for Edward Duke of York, brother of George III., and is now the office of Ordnance, (correspondence.)
This famous Club was held at the Mermaid Tavern, which was long said to have stood in Friday-street, Cheapside; but Ben Jonson has, in his own verse, settled it in Bread-street:
"At Bread-street's Mermaid having dined and merry,
Proposed to go to Holborn in a wherry."
Ben Jonson, ed. Gifford, viii. 242.
Mr. Hunter also, in his Notes on Shakspeare, tells us that "Mr. Johnson, at the Mermaid, in Bread-street, vintner, occurs as creditor for 17s. in a schedule annexed to the will of Albain Butler, of Clifford's Inn, gentleman, in 1603." Mr. Burn, in the Beaufoy Catalogue, also explains: "the Mermaid in Bread-street, the Mermaid in Friday-street, and the Mermaid in Cheap, were all one and the same. The tavern, situated behind, had a way to it from these thoroughfares, but was nearer to Bread-street than Friday-street." In a note, Mr. Burn adds: "The site of the Mermaid is clearly defined from the circumstance 9 of W. R., a haberdasher of small wares, 'twixt Wood-street and Milk-street,' adopting the same sign 'over against the Mermaid Tavern in Cheapside.'" The Tavern was destroyed in the Great Fire.
Here Sir Walter Raleigh is traditionally said to have instituted "The Mermaid Club." Gifford has thus described the Club, adopting the tradition and the Friday-street location: "About this time  Jonson probably began to acquire that turn for conviviality for which he was afterwards noted. Sir Walter Raleigh, previously to his unfortunate engagement with the wretched Cobham and others, had instituted a meeting of beaux esprits at the Mermaid, a celebrated tavern in Friday-street. Of this Club, which combined more talent and genius than ever met together before or since, our author was a member; and here for many years he regularly repaired, with Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect." But this is doubted. A writer in the Athenæum, Sept. 16, 1865, states: "The origin of the common tale of Raleigh founding the Mermaid Club, of which Shakspeare is said to have been a member, has not been traced. Is it older than Gifford?" Again: "Gifford's apparent invention of the Mermaid Club. Prove to us that Raleigh founded the Mermaid Club, that the wits attended it under his presidency, and you will have made a real contribution to our knowledge of Shakspeare's time, even if you fail to show that our Poet was a member of that Club." The tradition, it is thought, must be added to the long list of Shakspearian doubts.
Nevertheless, Fuller has described the wit-combats 10 between Shakspeare and Ben Jonson, "which he beheld," meaning with his mind's eye, for he was only eight years of age when Shakspeare died; "a circumstance," says Mr. Charles Knight, "which appears to have been forgotten by some who have written of these matters." But we have a noble record left of the wit-combats in the celebrated epistle of Beaumont to Jonson:—
"Methinks the little wit I had is lost
Since I saw you; for wit is like a rest
Held up at tennis, which men do the best
With the best gamesters: what things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtile flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolv'd to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life; then when there hath been thrown
Wit able enough to justify the town
For three days past, wit that might warrant be
For the whole city to talk foolishly
'Till that were cancell'd: and when that was gone
We left an air behind us, which alone
Was able to make the two next companies
Right witty; though but downright fools, mere wise."
The noted tavern, with the sign of St. Dunstan pulling the Devil by the nose, stood between Temple Bar and the Middle Temple gate. It was a house of great resort in the reign of James I., and then kept by Simon Wadloe. 11
In Ben Jonson's Staple of News, played in 1625, Pennyboy Canter advises, to
"Dine in Apollo, with Pecunia
At brave Duke Wadloe's."
Pennyboy junior replies—
"Content, i' th' faith;
Our meal shall be brought thither; Simon the King
Will bid us welcome."
At what period Ben Jonson began to frequent this tavern is not certain; but we have his record that he wrote The Devil is an Asse, played in 1616, when he and his boys (adopted sons) "drank bad wine at the Devil." The principal room was called "the Oracle of Apollo," a large room evidently built apart from the tavern; and from Prior's and Charles Montagu's Hind and Panther Transversed, it is shown to have been an upper apartment, or on the first story:—
"Hence to the Devil—
Thus to the place where Jonson sat, we climb,
Leaning on the same rail that guided him."
Above the door was the bust of Apollo; and the following verses, "the Welcome," were inscribed in gold letters upon a black board, and "placed over the door at the entrance into the Apollo:
"Welcome all, who lead or follow,
To the Oracle of Apollo—
Here he speaks out of his pottle,
Or the tripos, his Tower bottle;
All his answers are divine,
Truth itself doth flow in wine.
Hang up all the poor hop-drinkers,
Cries old Sim the king of skinkers; 12
He that half of life abuses,
That sits watering with the Muses.
Those dull girls no good can mean us;
Wine it is the milk of Venus,
And the Poet's horse accounted:
Ply it, and you all are mounted.
'Tis the true Phœbeian liquor,
Cheers the brain, makes wit the quicker,
Pays all debts, cures all diseases,
And at once three senses pleases.
Welcome all, who lead or follow,
To the Oracle of Apollo."
Beneath these verses was the name of the author, thus inscribed—"O Rare Ben Jonson," a posthumous tribute from his grave in Westminster Abbey. The bust appears modelled from the Apollo Belvedere, by some skillful person of the olden day, but has been several times painted. "The Welcome," originally inscribed in gold letters, on a thick black-painted board, has since been wholly repainted and gilded; but the old thickly-lettered inscription of Ben's day may be seen as an embossment upon the modern painted background. These poetic memorials are both preserved in the banking-house of the Messrs. Child.
"The Welcome," says Mr. Burn, "it may be inferred, was placed in the interior of the room; so also, above the fireplace, were the Rules of the Club, said by early writers to have been inscribed in marble, but were in truth gilded letters upon a black-painted board, similar to the verses of the Welcome. These Rules are justly admired for the conciseness and elegance of the Latinity." They have been felicitously translated by Alexander Broome, one of the wits who frequented the Devil, and who was one of Ben Jonson's twelve adopted poetical sons. Latin inscriptions were also placed in 13 other directions, to adorn the house. Over the clock in the kitchen, in 1731, there remained "Si nocturna tibi noceat potatio vini, hoc in mane bibes iterum, et fuerit medicina." Aubrey reports his uncle Danvers to have said that "Ben Jonson, to be near the Devil tavern, in King James's time, lived without Temple-barre, at a combemaker's shop, about the Elephant and Castle;" and James, Lord Scudamore has, in his Homer à la Mode, a travesty, said—
"Apollo had a flamen,
Who in's temple did say Amen."
This personage certainly Ben Jonson represented in the great room of the Devil tavern. Hither came all who desired to be "sealed of the tribe of Ben." "The Leges Conviviales," says Leigh Hunt, "which Jonson wrote for his Club, and which are to be found in his works, are composed in his usual style of elaborate and compiled learning, not without a taste of that dictatorial self-sufficiency, which, notwithstanding all that has been said by his advocates, and the good qualities he undoubtedly possessed, forms an indelible part of his character. 'Insipida poemata,' says he, 'nulla recitantur' (Let nobody repeat to us insipid poetry); as if all that he should read of his own must infallibly be otherwise. The Club at the Devil does not appear to have resembled the higher one at the Mermaid, where Shakspeare and Beaumont used to meet him. He most probably had it all to himself."
In the Rules of the Apollo Club, women of character were not excluded from attending the meetings—Probæ feminæ non repudiantur. Marmion, one of Jonson's contemporary dramatists, describes him in his presidential chair, as "the boon Delphic god:"— 14
"Careless.I am full
Of Oracles. I am come from Apollo.
Emilia. From Apollo!
Careless.From the heaven
Of my delight, where the boon Delphic god
Drinks sack, and keeps his bacchanalia,
And has his incense and his altars smoaking,
And speaks in sparkling prophecies; thence I come,
My brains perfumed with the rich Indian vapour,
And heightened with conceits. From tempting beauties,
From dainty music and poetic strains,
From bowls of nectar and ambrosial dishes,
From witty varlets, fine companions,
And from a mighty continent of pleasure,
Sails thy brave Careless."
Randolph was by Ben Jonson, adopted for his son, and that upon the following occasion. "Mr. Randolph having been at London so long as that he might truly have had a parley with his Empty Purse, was resolved to see Ben Jonson, with his associates, which, as he heard, at a set time kept a Club together at the Devil Tavern, neere Temple Bar: accordingly, at the time appointed, he went thither, but being unknown to them, and wanting money, which to an ingenious spirit is the most daunting thing in the world, he peeped in the room where they were, which being espied by Ben Jonson, and seeing him in a scholar's threadbare habit, 'John Bo-peep,' says he, 'come in,' which accordingly he did; when immediately they began to rhyme upon the meanness of his clothes, asking him if he could not make a verse? and without to call for a quart of sack: there being four of them, he immediately thus replied,
"I, John Bo-peep, to you four sheep,—
With each one his good fleece;
If that you are willing to give me five shilling,
'Tis fifteen-pence a-piece."
15 "By Jesus!" quoth Ben Jonson (his usual oath), "I believe this is my son Randolph;" which being made known to them, he was kindly entertained into their company, and Ben Jonson ever after called him son. He wrote The Muses' Looking-glass, Cambridge Duns, Parley with his Empty Purse, and other poems.
We shall have more to say of the Devil Tavern, which has other celebrities besides Jonson.
Our Clubs, or social gatherings, which date from the Restoration, were exclusively political. The first we hear of was the noted Rota, or Coffee Club, as Pepys calls it, which was founded in 1659, as a kind of debating society for the dissemination of republican opinions, which Harrington had painted in their fairest colours in his Oceana. It met in New Palace Yard, "where they take water at one Miles's, the next house to the staires, where was made purposely a large ovall table, with a passage in the middle for Miles to deliver his coffee." Here Harrington gave nightly lectures on the advantage of a commonwealth and of the ballot. The Club derived its name from a plan, which it was its design to promote, for changing a certain number of Members of Parliament annually by rotation. Sir William Petty was one of its members. Round the table, "in a room every evening as full as it could be crammed," says Aubrey, sat Milton and Marvell, Cyriac Skinner, Harrington, Nevill, and their friends, discussing abstract political questions. Aubrey calls them "disciples 16 and virtuosi." The place had its dissensions and brawls: "one time Mr. Stafford and his friends came in drunk from the tavern, and affronted the Junto; the soldiers offered to kick them down stayres, but Mr. Harrington's moderation and persuasion hindered it."
To the Rota, in January, 1660, came Pepys, and "heard very good discourse in answer to Mr. Harrington's answer, who said that the state of the Roman government was not a settled government; and so it was no wonder the balance of prosperity was in one hand, and the command in another, it being therefore always in a posture of war: but it was carried by ballot that it was a steady government; though, it is true, by the voices it had been carried before that, that it was an unsteady government. So to-morrow it is to be proved by the opponents that the balance lay in one hand and the government in another." The Club was broken up after the Restoration; but its members had become marked men. Harrington's Oceana is an imaginary account of the construction of a commonwealth in a country, of which Oceana is the imaginary name. "Rota-men" occurs by way of comparison in Hudibras, part ii. canto 3:
"But Sidrophel, as full of tricks
As Rota-men of politics."
Besides the Rota, there was the old Royalist Club, "The Sealed Knot," which, the year before the Restoration, had organized a general insurrection in favour of the King. Unluckily, they had a spy amongst them—Sir Richard Willis,—who had long fingered Cromwell's money, as one of his private "intelligencers;" the leaders, on his information, were arrested, and committed to prison. 17
The writer of an excellent paper in the National Review, No. VIII., well observes that "Politics under Anne had grown a smaller and less dangerous game than in the preceding century. The original political Clubs of the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and the Restoration, plotted revolutions of government. The Parliamentary Clubs, after the Revolution of 1688, manœuvred for changes of administration. The high-flying Tory country gentleman and country member drank the health of the King—sometimes over the water-decanter, and flustered himself with bumpers in honour of Dr. Sacheverell and the Church of England, with true-blue spirits of his own kidney, at the October Club," which, like the Beef Steak Club, was named after the cheer for which it was famed,—October ale; or rather, on account of the quantities of the ale which the members drank. The hundred and fifty squires, Tories to the backbone, who, under the above name, met at the Bell Tavern, in King Street, Westminster, were of opinion that the party to which they belonged were too backward in punishing and turning out the Whigs; and they gave infinite trouble to the Tory administration which came into office under the leadership of Harley, St. John, and Harcourt, in 1710. The Administration were for proceeding moderately with their rivals, and for generally replacing opponents with partisans. The October Club were for immediately impeaching every member of the Whig party, and for 18 turning out, without a day's grace, every placeman who did not wear their colours, and shout their cries.
Swift was great at the October Club, and he was employed to talk over those who were amenable to reason, and to appease a discontent which was hastily ripening into mutiny. There are allusions to such negotiations in more than one passage of the Journal to Stella, in 1711. In a letter, February 10, 1710-11, he says: "We are plagued here with an October Club; that is, a set of above a hundred Parliament men of the country, who drink October beer at home, and meet every evening at a tavern near the Parliament, to consult affairs, and drive things on to extremes against the Whigs, to call the old ministry to account, and get off five or six heads." Swift's Advice humbly offered to the Members of the October Club, had the desired effect of softening some, and convincing others, until the whole body of malcontents was first divided and finally dissolved. The treatise is a masterpiece of Swift's political skill, judiciously palliating those ministerial errors which could not be denied, and artfully intimating those excuses, which, resting upon the disposition of Queen Anne herself, could not, in policy or decency, be openly pleaded.
The red-hot "tantivies," for whose loyalty the October Club was not thorough-going enough, seceded from the original body, and formed "the March Club," more Jacobite and rampant in its hatred of the Whigs, than the Society from which it branched.
King Street would, at this time, be a strange location for a Parliamentary Club, like the October; narrow and obscure as is the street, we must remember that a century ago, it was the only thoroughfare to the Palace 19 at Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. When the October was broken up, the portrait of Queen Anne, by Dahl, which ornamented the club-room, was bought of the Club, after the Queen's death, by the Corporation of Salisbury, and may still be seen in their Council-chamber. (Cunningham's Handbook, 2nd edit., p. 364.)
Few men appear to have so well studied the social and political objects of Club-life as Dean Swift. One of his resorts was the old Saturday Club. He tells Stella (to whom he specially reported most of his club arrangements), in 1711, there were "Lord Keeper, Lord Rivers, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Harley, and I." Of the same Club he writes, in 1713: "I dined with Lord Treasurer, and shall again to-morrow, which is his day, when all the ministers dine with him. He calls it whipping-day. It is always on Saturday; and we do, indeed, rally him about his faults on that day. I was of the original Club, when only poor Lord Rivers, Lord Keeper, and Lord Bolingbroke came; but now Ormond, Anglesey, Lord Stewart, Dartmouth, and other rabble intrude, and I scold at it; but now they pretend as good a title as I; and, indeed, many Saturdays I am not there. The company being too many, I don't love it."
In the same year Swift framed the rules of the Brothers Club, which met every Thursday. "The end of our Club," he says, "is to advance conversation and 20 friendship, and to reward learning without interest or recommendation. We take in none but men of wit, or men of interest; and if we go on as we began, no other Club in this town will be worth talking of."
The Journal about this time is very full of Brothers Arran and Dupplin, Masham and Ormond, Bathurst and Harcourt, Orrery and Jack Hill, and other Tory magnates of the Club, or Society as Swift preferred to call it. We find him entertaining his "Brothers" at the Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's Street, at the cost of seven good guineas. He must have been an influential member; he writes: "We are now, in all, nine lords and ten commoners. The Duke of Beaufort had the confidence to propose his brother-in-law, the Earl of Danby, to be a member; but I opposed it so warmly, that it was waived. Danby is not above twenty, and we will have no more boys; and we want but two to make up our number. I staid till eight, and then we all went away soberly. The Duke of Ormond's treat last week cost £20, though it was only four dishes and four without a dessert; and I bespoke it in order to be cheap. Yet I could not prevail to change the house. Lord Treasurer is in a rage with us for being so extravagant; and the wine was not reckoned neither, for that is always brought in by him that is president."
Not long after this, Swift writes: "Our Society does not meet now as usual; for which I am blamed; but till Treasurer will agree to give us money and employments to bestow, I am averse to it, and he gives us nothing but promises. We now resolve to meet but once a fortnight, and have a committee every other week of six or seven, to consult about doing some good. 21 I proposed another message to Lord Treasurer by three principal members, to give a hundred guineas to a certain person, and they are to urge it as well as they can."
One day, President Arbuthnot gives the Society a dinner, dressed in the Queen's kitchen: "we eat it in Ozinda's Coffee-house just by St. James's. We were never merrier or better company, and did not part till after eleven." In May, we hear how "fifteen of our Society dined together under a canopy in an arbour at Parson's Green last Thursday. I never saw anything so fine and romantic."
Latterly, the Club removed to the Star and Garter, in Pall Mall, owing to the dearness of the Thatched House; after this, the expense was wofully complained of. At these meetings, we may suppose, the literature of politics formed the staple of the conversation. The last epigram, the last pamphlet, the last Examiner, would be discussed with keen relish; and Swift mentions one occasion on which an impromptu subscription was got up for a poet, who had lampooned Marlborough; on which occasion all the company subscribed two guineas each, except Swift himself, Arbuthnot, and Friend, who only gave one. Bolingbroke, who was an active member, and Swift, were on a footing of great familiarity. St. John used to give capital dinners and plenty of champagne and burgundy to his literary coadjutor, who never ceased to wonder at the ease with which our Secretary got through his labours, and who worked for him in turn with the sincerest devotion, though always asserting his equality in the sturdiest manner.
Many pleasant glimpses of convivial meetings are 22 afforded in the Journal to Stella, when there was "much drinking, little thinking," and the business which they had met to consider was deferred to a more convenient season. Whether (observes a contemporary) the power of conversation has declined or not, we certainly fear that the power of drinking has; and the imagination dwells with melancholy fondness on that state of society in which great men were not forbidden to be good fellows, which we fancy, whether rightly or wrongly, must have been so superior to ours, in which wit and eloquence succumb to statistics, and claret has given place to coffee.
The Journal to Stella reveals Swift's sympathy for poor starving authors, and how he carried out the objects of the Society, in this respect. Thus, he goes to see "a poor poet, one Mr. Diaper, in a nasty garret, very sick," described in the Journal as "the author of the Sea Eclogues, poems of Mermen, resembling pastorals and shepherds; and they are very pretty, and the thought is new." Then Swift tells us he thinks to recommend Diaper to the Society; he adds, "I must do something for him, and get him out of the way. I hate to have any new wits rise; but when they do rise, I would encourage them; but they tread on our heels, and thrust us off the stage." Only a few days before, Swift had given Diaper twenty guineas from Lord Bolingbroke.
Then we get at the business of "the Brothers," when we learn that the printer attended the dinners; and the Journal tells us: "There was printed a Grub-street speech of Lord Nottingham, and he was such an owl to complain of it in the House of Lords, who have taken up the printer for it. I heard at Court that Walpole, (a great Whig member,) said that I and my whimsical 23 Club writ it at one of our meetings, and that I should pay for it. He will find he lies; and I shall let him know by a third hand my thoughts of him." ... "To-day I published The Fable of Midas, a poem printed on a loose half-sheet of paper. I know not how it will take; but it passed wonderfully at our Society to-night." At one dinner, the printer's news is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sent Mr. Adisworth, the author of the Examiner, twenty guineas.
There were gay sparks among "the Brothers," as Colonel or "Duke" Disney, "a fellow of abundance of humour, an old battered rake, but very honest; not an old man, but an old rake. It was he that said of Jenny Kingdown, the maid of honour, who is a little old, 'that since she could not get a husband, the Queen should give her a brevet to act as a married woman.'"—Journal to Stella.
"The Brothers," as we have already seen, was a political Club, which, having, in great measure served its purpose, was broken up. Next year, 1714, Swift was again in London, and in place of "the Brothers," formed the celebrated "Scriblerus Club," an association rather of a literary than a political character. Oxford and St. John, Swift, Arbuthnot, Pope, and Gay, were members. Satire upon the abuse of human learning was their leading object. The name originated as follows. Oxford used playfully to call Swift Martin, and 24 from this sprung Martinus Scriblerus. Swift, as is well known, is the name of one species of swallow, (the largest and most powerful flier of the tribe,) and Martin is the name of another species, the wall-swallow, which constructs its nest in buildings.
Part of the labours of the Society has been preserved in P. P., Clerk of the Parish, the most memorable satire upon Burnet's History of his Own Time, and part has been rendered immortal by the Travels of Lemuel Gulliver; but, says Sir Walter Scott, in his Life of Swift, "the violence of political faction, like a storm that spares the laurel no more than the cedar, dispersed this little band of literary brethren, and prevented the accomplishment of a task for which talents so various, so extended, and so brilliant, can never again be united."
Oxford and Bolingbroke, themselves accomplished scholars, patrons and friends both of the persons and to genius thus associated, led the way, by their mutual animosity, to the dissolution of the confraternity. Their discord had now risen to the highest pitch. Swift tried the force of humorous expostulation in his fable of the Fagot, where the ministers are called upon to contribute their various badges of office, to make the bundle strong and secure. But all was in vain; and, at length, tired with this scene of murmuring and discontent, quarrel, misunderstanding, and hatred, the Dean, who was almost the only common friend who laboured to compose these differences, made a final effort at reconciliation; but his scheme came to nothing, and Swift retreated from the scene of discord, without taking part with either of his contending friends, and went to the house of the Reverend Mr. Gery, at Upper Letcombe, Berkshire, where 25 he resided for some weeks, in the strictest seclusion. This secession of Swift, from the political world excited the greatest surprise: the public wondered,—the party writers exulted in a thousand ineffectual libels against the retreating champion of the high church,—and his friends conjured him in numerous letters to return and reassume the task of a peacemaker; this he positively declined.
The Calves' Head Club, in "ridicule of the memory of Charles I.," has a strange history. It is first noticed in a tract reprinted in the Harleian Miscellany. It is entitled "The Secret History of the Calves' Head Club; or the Republican unmasked. Wherein is fully shown the Religion of the Calves' Head Heroes, in their Anniversary Thanksgiving Songs on the 30th of January, by them called Anthems, for the years 1693, 1694, 1695, 1696, 1697. Now published to demonstrate the restless implacable Spirit of a certain party still amongst us, who are never to be satisfied until the present Establishment in Church and State is subverted. The Second Edition. London, 1703." The Author of this Secret History, supposed to be Ned Ward, attributed the origin of the Club to Milton, and some other friends of the Commonwealth, in opposition to Bishop Nixon, Dr. Sanderson, and others, who met privately every 30th of January, and compiled a private form of service for the day, not very different from that long used. "After the 26 Restoration," says the writer, "the eyes of the government being upon the whole party, they were obliged to meet with a great deal of precaution; but in the reign of King William they met almost in a public manner, apprehending no danger." The writer further tells us, he was informed that it was kept in no fixed house, but that they moved as they thought convenient. The place where they met when his informant was with them was in a blind alley near Moorfields, where an axe hung up in the club-room, and was reverenced as a principal symbol in this diabolical sacrament. Their bill of fare was a large dish of calves' heads, dressed several ways, by which they represented the king and his friends who had suffered in his cause; a large pike, with a small one in his mouth, as an emblem of tyranny; a large cod's head, by which they intended to represent the person of the king singly; a boar's head with an apple in its mouth, to represent the king by this as bestial, as by their other hieroglyphics they had done foolish and tyrannical. After the repast was over, one of their elders presented an Icon Basilike, which was with great solemnity burnt upon the table, whilst the other anthems were singing. After this, another produced Milton's Defensio Populi Anglicani, upon which all laid their hands, and made a protestation in form of an oath for ever to stand by and maintain the same. The company only consisted of Independents and Anabaptists; and the famous Jeremy White, formerly chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, who no doubt came to sanctify with his pious exhortations the ribaldry of the day, said grace. After the table-cloth was removed, the anniversary anthem, as they impiously called it, was sung, and a calf's skull filled with wine, or other liquor; and then a brimmer went about to the 27 pious memory of those worthy patriots who had killed the tyrant and relieved their country from his arbitrary sway: and, lastly, a collection was made for the mercenary scribbler, to which every man contributed according to his zeal for the cause and ability of his purse.
The tract passed, with many augmentations as valueless as the original trash, through no less than nine editions, the last dated 1716. Indeed, it would appear to be a literary fraud, to keep alive the calumny. All the evidence produced concerning the meetings is from hearsay: the writer of the Secret History had never himself been present at the Club; and his friend from whom he professes to have received his information, though a Whig, had no personal knowledge of the Club. The slanderous rumour about Milton having to do with the institution of the Club may be passed over as unworthy of notice, this untrustworthy tract being the only authority for it. Lowndes says, "this miserable tract has been attributed to the author of Hudibras;" but it is altogether unworthy of him.
Observances, insulting to the memory of Charles I., were not altogether unknown. Hearne tells us that on the 30th of January, 1706-7, some young men in All Souls College, Oxford, dined together at twelve o'clock, and amused themselves with cutting off the heads of a number of woodcocks, "in contempt of the memory of the blessed martyr." They tried to get calves'-heads, but the cook refused to dress them.
Some thirty years after, there occurred a scene which seemed to give colour to the truth of the Secret History. On January 30, 1735, "Some young noblemen and gentlemen met at a tavern in Suffolk-street, called themselves the Calves' Head Club, dressed up a calf's head in 28 a napkin, and after some hurras threw it into a bonfire, and dipped napkins in their red wine and waved them out of the window. The mob had strong beer given them, and for a time hallooed as well as the best, but taking disgust at some healths proposed, grew so outrageous that they broke all the windows, and forced themselves into the house; but the guards being sent for, prevented further mischief. The Weekly Chronicle of February 1, 1735, states that the damage was estimated at 'some hundred pounds,' and that the guards were posted all night in the street, for the security of the neighbourhood."
In L'Abbé Le Blanc's Letters we find this account of the affair:—"Some young men of quality chose to abandon themselves to the debauchery of drinking healths on the 30th of January, a day appointed by the Church of England for a general fast, to expiate the murder of Charles I., whom they honour as a martyr. As soon as they were heated with wine, they began to sing. This gave great offence to the people, who stopped before the tavern, and gave them abusive language. One of these rash young men put his head out of the window and drank to the memory of the army which dethroned this King, and to the rebels which cut off his head upon a scaffold. The stones immediately flew from all parts, the furious populace broke the windows of the house, and would have set fire to it; and these silly young men had a great deal of difficulty to save themselves."
Miss Banks tells us that "Lord Middlesex, Lord Boyne, and Mr. Seawallis Shirley, were certainly present; probably, Lord John Sackville, Mr. Ponsonby, afterwards Lord Besborough, was not there. Lord Boyne's finger was broken by a stone which came in at the window. Lord Harcourt was supposed to be present." 29 Horace Walpole adds: "The mob destroyed part of the house; Sir William (called Hellfire) Stanhope was one of the members."
This riotous occurrence was the occasion of some verses in The Grub-street Journal, from which the following lines may be quoted as throwing additional light on the scene:—
"Strange times! when noble peers, secure from riot,
Can't keep Noll's annual festival in quiet,
Through sashes broke, dirt, stones, and brands thrown at 'em,
Which, if not scand- was brand-alum magnatum.
Forced to run down to vaults for safer quarters,
And in coal-holes their ribbons hide and garters.
They thought their feast in dismal fray thus ending,
Themselves to shades of death and hell descending;
This might have been, had stout Clare Market mobsters,
With cleavers arm'd, outmarch'd St. James's lobsters;
Numskulls they'd split, to furnish other revels,
And make a Calves'-head Feast for worms and devils."
The manner in which Noll's (Oliver Cromwell's) "annual festival" is here alluded to, seems to show that the bonfire, with the calf's-head and other accompaniments, had been exhibited in previous years. In confirmation of this fact, there exists a print entitled The True Effigies of the Members of the Calves'-Head Club, held on the 30th of January, 1734, in Suffolk Street, in the County of Middlesex; being the year before the riotous occurrence above related. This print shows a bonfire in the centre of the foreground, with the mob; in the background, a house with three windows, the central window exhibiting two men, one of whom is about to throw the calf's-head into the bonfire below. The window on the right shows three persons drinking 30 healths; that on the left, two other persons, one of whom wears a mask, and has an axe in his hand.
There are two other prints, one engraved by the father of Vandergucht, from a drawing by Hogarth.
After the tablecloth was removed (says the author), an anniversary anthem was sung, and a calf's-skull filled with wine or other liquor, and out of which the company drank to the pious memory of those worthy patriots who had killed the tyrant; and lastly, a collection was made for the writer of the anthem, to which every man contributed according to his zeal or his means. The concluding lines of the anthem for the year 1697 are as follow:—
"Advance the emblem of the action,
Fill the calf's skull full of wine;
Drinking ne'er was counted faction,
Men and gods adore the vine.
To the heroes gone before us,
Let's renew the flowing bowl;
While the lustre of their glories
Shines like stars from pole to pole."
The laureate of the Club and of this doggrel was Benjamin Bridgwater, who, alluding to the observance of the 30th of January by zealous Royalists, wrote:—
"They and we, this day observing,
Differ only in one thing;
They are canting, whining, starving;
We, rejoicing, drink, and sing."
Among Swift's poems will be remembered "Roland's Invitation to Dismal to dine with the Calf's-Head Club":—
"While an alluding hymn some artist sings,
We toast 'Confusion to the race of kings.'"
31 Wilson, in his Life of De Foe, doubts the truthfulness of Ward's narrative, but adds: "In the frighted mind of a high-flying churchman, which was continually haunted by such scenes, the caricature would easily pass for a likeness." "It is probable," adds the honest biographer of De Foe, "that the persons thus collected together to commemorate the triumph of their principles, although in a manner dictated by bad taste, and outrageous to humanity, would have confined themselves to the ordinary methods of eating and drinking, if it had not been for the ridiculous farce so generally acted by the Royalists upon the same day. The trash that issued from the pulpit in this reign, upon the 30th of January, was such as to excite the worst passions in the hearers. Nothing can exceed the grosness of language employed upon these occasions. Forgetful even of common decorum, the speakers ransacked the vocabulary of the vulgar for terms of vituperation, and hurled their anathemas with wrath and fury against the objects of their hatred. The terms rebel and fanatic were so often upon their lips, that they became the reproach of honest men, who preferred the scandal to the slavery they attempted to establish. Those who could profane the pulpit with so much rancour in the support of senseless theories, and deal it out to the people for religion, had little reason to complain of a few absurd men who mixed politics and calves' heads at a tavern; and still less, to brand a whole religious community with their actions."
The strange story was believed till our own time, when it was fully disproved by two letters written a few days after the riotous occurrence, by Mr. A. Smyth, to Mr. Spence, and printed in the Appendix to his Anecdotes, 32 2nd edit. 1858: in one it is stated, "The affair has been grossly misrepresented all over the town, and in most of the public papers: there was no calf's-head exposed at the window, and afterwards thrown into the fire, no napkins dipt in claret to represent blood, nor nothing that could give any colour to any such reports. The meeting (at least with regard to our friends) was entirely accidental," etc. The second letter alike contradicts the whole story; and both attribute much of the disturbance to the unpopularity of the Administration; their health being unluckily proposed, raised a few faint claps but a general hiss, and then the disturbance began. A letter from Lord Middlesex to Spence, gives a still fuller account of the affair. By the style of the letter one may judge what sort of heads the members had, and what was reckoned the polite way of speaking to a waiter in those days:—
"Whitehall, Feb. ye 9th, 1735.
"Dear Spanco,—I don't in the least doubt but long before this time the noise of the riot on the 30th of January has reached you at Oxford; and though there has been as many lies and false reports raised upon the occasion in this good city as any reasonable man could expect, yet I fancy even those may be improved or increased before they come to you. Now, that you may be able to defend your friends (as I don't in the least doubt you have an inclination to do), I'll send you the matter of fact literally and truly as it happened, upon my honour. Eight of us happened to meet together the 30th of January, it might have been the 10th of June, or any other day in the year, but the mixture of the company has convinced most reasonable people by this 33 time that it was not a designed or premeditated affair. We met, then, as I told you before, by chance upon this day, and after dinner, having drunk very plentifully, especially some of the company, some of us going to the window unluckily saw a little nasty fire made by some boys in the street, of straw I think it was, and immediately cried out, 'D—n it, why should not we have a fire as well as anybody else?' Up comes the drawer, 'D—n you, you rascal, get us a bonfire.' Upon which the imprudent puppy runs down, and without making any difficulty (which he might have done by a thousand excuses, and which if he had, in all probability, some of us would have come more to our senses), sends for the faggots, and in an instant behold a large fire blazing before the door. Upon which some of us, wiser, or rather soberer than the rest, bethinking themselves then, for the first time, what day it was, and fearing the consequences a bonfire on that day might have, proposed drinking loyal and popular healths to the mob (out of the window), which by this time was very great, in order to convince them we did not intend it as a ridicule upon that day. The healths that were drank out of the window were these, and these only: The King, Queen, and Royal Family, the Protestant Succession, Liberty and Property, the present Administration. Upon which the first stone was flung, and then began our siege: which, for the time it lasted, was at least as furious as that of Philipsbourg; it was more than an hour before we got any assistance; the more sober part of us, doing this, had a fine time of it, fighting to prevent fighting; in danger of being knocked on the head by the stones that came in at the windows; in danger of being run through by our mad friends, who, sword in hand, swore 34 they would go out, though they first made their way through us. At length the justice, attended by a strong body of guards, came and dispersed the populace. The person who first stirred up the mob is known; he first gave them money, and then harangued them in a most violent manner; I don't know if he did not fling the first stone himself. He is an Irishman and a priest, and belonging to Imberti, the Venetian Envoy. This is the whole story from which so many calves' heads, bloody napkins, and the Lord knows what, has been made; it has been the talk of the town and the country, and small beer and bread and cheese to my friends the garretteers in Grub-street, for these few days past. I, as well as your friends, hope to see you soon in town. After so much prose, I can't help ending with a few verses:—
"O had I lived in merry Charles's days,
When dull the wise were called, and wit had praise;
When deepest politics could never pass
For aught, but surer tokens of an ass;
When not the frolicks of one drunken night
Could touch your honour, make your fame less bright;
Tho' mob-form'd scandal rag'd, and Papal spight."
To sum up, the whole affair was a hoax, kept alive by the pretended "Secret History." An accidental riot, following a debauch on one 30th of January, has been distributed between two successive years, owing to a misapprehension of the mode of reckoning time prevalent in the early part of the last century; and there is no more reason for believing in the existence of a Calves' Head Club in 1734-5 than there is for believing it exists in 1864. 35
Another Club of this period was the "Club of Kings," or "the King Club," all the members of which were called "King." Charles himself was an honorary member.
A more important Club was "the King's Head Club," instituted for affording the Court and Government support, and to influence Protestant zeal: it was designed by the unscrupulous Shaftesbury: the members were a sort of Decembrists of their day; but they failed in their aim, and ultimately expired under the ridicule of being designated "Hogs in armour." "The gentlemen of that worthy Society," says Roger North, in his Examen, "held their evening sessions continually at the King's Head Tavern, over against the Inner Temple Gate. But upon the occasion of the signal of a green ribbon, agreed to be worn in their hats in the days of street engagements, like the coats-of-arms of valiant knights of old, whereby all warriors of the Society might be distinguished, and not mistake friends for enemies, they were called also the Green Ribbon Club. Their seat was in a sort of Carfour at Chancery-lane end, a centre of business and company most proper for such anglers of fools. The house was double balconied in the front, as may be yet seen, for the clubsters to issue forth in fresco with hats and no peruques; pipes in their mouths, merry faces, and diluted throats, for vocal encouragement of the canaglia below, at bonfires, on usual and unusual occasions. They admitted all strangers 36 that were confidingly introduced; for it was a main end of their Institution to make proselytes, especially of the raw estated youth, newly come to town. This copious Society were to the faction in and about London a sort of executive power, and, by correspondence, all over England. The resolves of the more retired councils of the ministry of the Faction were brought in here, and orally insinuated to the company, whether it were lyes, defamations, commendations, projects, etc., and so, like water diffused, spread all over the town; whereby that which was digested at the Club over night, was, like nourishment, at every assembly, male and female, the next day:—and thus the younglings tasted of political administration, and took themselves for notable counsellors."
North regarded the Green Ribbon Club as the focus of disaffection and sedition, but his mere opinions are not to be depended on. Walpole calls him "the voluminous squabbler in behalf of the most unjustifiable excesses of Charles the Second's Administration." Nevertheless, his relation of facts is very curious, and there is no reason to discredit his account of those popular "routs," to use his own phrase, to which he was an eyewitness.
The conversation and ordinary discourse of the Club, he informs us, "was chiefly upon the subject of Braveur, in defending the cause of Liberty and Property; what every true Protestant and Englishman ought to venture to do, rather than be overpowered with Popery and Slavery." They were provided with silk armour for defence, "against the time that Protestants were to be massacred," and, in order "to be assailants upon fair occasion," they had recommended to them, "a certain 37 pocket weapon which, for its design and efficacy, had the honour to be called a Protestant Flail. The handles resembled a farrier's blood-stick, and the fall was joined to the end by a strong nervous ligature, that, in its swing, fell just short of the hand, and was made of Lignum Vitæ, or rather, as the Poets termed it, Mortis." This engine was "for street and crowd-work, and lurking perdue in a coat-pocket, might readily sally out to execution; and so, by clearing a great Hall or Piazza, or so, carry an Election by choice of Polling, called knocking down!" The armour of the hogs is further described as "silken back, breast, and potts, that were pretended to be pistol-proof, in which any man dressed up was as safe as in a house, for it was impossible any one would go to strike him for laughing, so ridiculous was the figure, as they say, of hogs in armour."
In describing the Pope-burning procession of the 17th of November, 1680, Roger North says, that "the Rabble first changed their title, and were called the Mob in the assemblies of this Club. It was their Beast of Burthen, and called first, mobile vulgus, but fell naturally into the contraction of one syllable, and ever since is become proper English."
We shall not describe these Processions: the grand object was the burning of figures, prepared for the occasion, and brought by the Mob in procession, from the further end of London with "staffiers and link-boys, sounding," and "coming up near to the Club-Quality in the balconies, against which was provided a huge bonfire;" "and then, after numerous platoons and volleys of squibs discharged, these Bamboches were, with redoubled noise, committed to the flames." These outrageous celebrations were suppressed in 1683. 38
During the first quarter of the last century, there were formed in the metropolis "Street Clubs," of the inhabitants of the same street; so that a man had but to stir a few houses from his own door to enjoy his Club and the society of his neighbours. There was another inducement: the streets were then so unsafe, that "the nearer home a man's club lay, the better for his clothes and his purse. Even riders in coaches were not safe from mounted footpads, and from the danger of upsets in the huge ruts and pits which intersected the streets. The passenger who could not afford a coach had to pick his way, after dark, along the dimly-lighted, ill-paved thoroughfares, seamed by filthy open kennels, besprinkled from projecting spouts, bordered by gaping cellars, guarded by feeble old watchmen, and beset with daring street-robbers. But there were worse terrors of the night than the chances of a splashing or a sprain,—risks beyond those of an interrogatory by the watch, or of a 'stand and deliver' from a footpad." These were the lawless rake-hells who, banded into clubs, spread terror and dismay through the streets. Sir John Fielding, in his cautionary book, published in 1776, described the dangerous attacks of intemperate rakes in hot blood, who, occasionally and by way of bravado, scour the streets, to show their manhood, not their humanity; put the watch to flight; and now and then murdered some harmless, inoffensive person. Thus, although there are in London no ruffians and bravos, as in some parts of Spain and Italy, 39 who will kill for hire, yet there is no resisting anywhere the wild sallies of youth, and the extravagances that flow from debauchery and wine. One of our poets has given a necessary caution, especially to strangers, in the following lines:—
"Prepare for death, if here at night you roam,
And sign your will before you sup from home;
Some fiery fop with new commission vain,
Who sleeps on brambles 'till he kills his man;
Some frolic drunkard, reeling from a feast,
Provokes a broil, and stabs you in a jest.
Yet, ev'n these heroes, mischievously gay,
Lords of the street, and terrors of the way;
Flush'd as they are with folly, youth, and wine,
Their prudent insults to the poor confine;
Afar they mark the flambeau's bright approach,
And shun the shining train and gilded coach."
This nocturnal fraternity met in the days of Queen Anne: but it had been for many previous years the favourite amusement of dissolute young men to form themselves into Clubs and Associations for committing all sorts of excesses in the public streets, and alike attacking orderly pedestrians, and even defenceless women. These Clubs took various slang designations. At the Restoration they were "Mums" and "Tityre-tus." They were succeeded by the "Hectors" and "Scourers," when, says Shadwell, "a man could not go from the Rose Tavern to the Piazza once, but he must venture his life twice." Then came the "Nickers," whose delight it was to 40 smash windows with showers of halfpence; next were the "Hawkabites;" and lastly, the "Mohocks." These last are described in the Spectator, No. 324, as a set of men who have borrowed their name from a sort of cannibals, in India, who subsist by plundering and devouring all the nations about them. The president is styled "Emperor of the Mohocks;" and his arms are a Turkish crescent, which his imperial majesty bears at present in a very extraordinary manner engraven upon his forehead; in imitation of which the Members prided themselves in tattooing; or slashing people's faces with, as Gay wrote, "new invented wounds." Their avowed design was mischief, and upon this foundation all their rules and orders were framed. They took care to drink themselves to a pitch beyond reason or humanity, and then made a general sally, and attack all who were in the streets. Some were knocked down, others stabbed, and others cut and carbonadoed. To put the watch to a total rout, and mortify some of those inoffensive militia, was reckoned a coup d'éclat. They had special barbarities, which they executed upon their prisoners. "Tipping the lion" was squeezing the nose flat to the face, and boring out the eyes with their fingers. "Dancing-masters" were those who taught their scholars to cut capers by running swords through their legs. The "Tumblers" set women on their heads. The "Sweaters" worked in parties of half-a-dozen, surrounding their victims with the points of their swords. The Sweater upon whom the patient turned his back, pricked him in "that part whereon school-boys are punished;" and, as he veered round from the smart, each Sweater repeated this pinking operation; "after this jig had gone two or three times round, and the patient was thought to have sweat sufficiently, he 41 was very handsomely rubbed down by some attendants, who carried with them instruments for that purpose, when they discharged him." An adventure of this kind is narrated in No. 332 of the Spectator: it is there termed a bagnio, for the orthography of which the writer consults the sign-posts of the bagnio in Newgate-street and that in Chancery-lane.
Another savage diversion of the Mohocks was their thrusting women into barrels, and rolling them down Snow or Ludgate Hill, as thus sung by Gay, in his Trivia:—
"Now is the time that rakes their revels keep;
Kindlers of riot, enemies of sleep.
His scattered pence the flying Nicker flings,
And with the copper shower the casement rings.
Who has not heard the Scourer's midnight fame?
Who has not trembled at the Mohock's name?
Was there a watchman took his hourly rounds
Safe from their blows, or new-invented wounds?
I pass their desperate deeds and mischiefs, done
Where from Snow-hill black steepy torrents run;
How matrons, hooped within the hogshead's womb,
Were tumbled furious thence; the rolling tomb
O'er the stones thunders, bounds from side to side:
So Regulus, to save his country, died."
Swift was inclined to doubt these savageries, yet went in some apprehension of them. He writes, just at the date of the above Spectator: "Here is the devil and all to do with these Mohocks. Grub-street papers about them fly like lightning, and a list printed of near eighty put into several prisons, and all a lie, and I begin to think there is no truth, or very little, in the whole story. He that abused Davenant was a drunken gentleman; none of that gang. My man tells me that one of the 42 lodgers heard in a coffee-house, publicly, that one design of the Mohocks was upon me, if they could catch me; and though I believe nothing of it, I forbear walking late; and they have put me to the charge of some shillings already."—Journal to Stella, 1712.
Swift mentions, among the outrages of the Mohocks, that two of them caught a maid of old Lady Winchilsea's at the door of her house in the Park with a candle, and had just lighted out somebody. They cut all her face, and beat her without any provocation.
At length, the villanies of the Mohocks were attempted to be put down by a Royal proclamation, issued on the 18th of March, 1712: this, however, had very little effect, for we soon find Swift exclaiming: "They go on still, and cut people's faces every night! but they sha'n't cut mine; I like it better as it is."
Within a week after the Proclamation, it was proposed that Sir Roger de Coverley should go to the play, where he had not been for twenty years. The Spectator, No. 335, says: "My friend asked me if there would not be some danger in coming home late, in case the Mohocks should be abroad. 'I assure you,' says he, 'I thought I had fallen into their hands last night; for I observed two or three lusty black men that followed me half-way up Fleet-street, and mended their pace behind me, in proportion as I put on to get away from them." However, Sir Roger threw them out, at the end of Norfolk Street, where he doubled the corner, and got shelter in his lodgings before they could imagine what was become of him. It was finally arranged that Captain Sentry should make one of the party for the play, and that Sir Roger's coach should be got ready, the fore wheels being newly mended. "The Captain," 43 says the Spectator, "who did not fail to meet me at the appointed hour, bid Sir Roger fear nothing, for that he had put on the same sword which he made use of at the battle of Steenkirk. Sir Roger's servants, and among the rest, my old friend the butler, had, I found, provided themselves with good oaken plants, to attend their master upon this occasion. When he placed him in his coach, with myself at his left hand, the Captain before him, and his butler at the head of his footmen in the rear, we convoyed him in safety to the playhouse." The play was Ambrose Phillips's new tragedy of The Distressed Mother: at its close, Sir Roger went out fully satisfied with his entertainment; and, says the Spectator, "we guarded him to his lodging in the same manner that we guarded him to the playhouse."
The subject is resumed with much humour, by Budgell, in the Spectator, No. 347, where the doubts as to the actual existence of Mohocks are examined. "They will have it," says the Spectator, "that the Mohocks are like those spectres and apparitions which frighten several towns and villages in Her Majesty's dominions, though they were never seen by any of the inhabitants. Others are apt to think that these Mohocks are a kind of bull-beggars, first invented by prudent married men and masters of families, in order to deter their wives and daughters from taking the air at unseasonable hours; and that when they tell them 'the Mohocks will catch them,' it is a caution of the same nature with that of our forefathers, when they bid their children have a care of Raw-head and Bloody-bones." Then we have, from a Correspondent of the Spectator, "the manifesto of Taw Waw Eben Zan Kaladar, Emperor of the Mohocks," vindicating his imperial dignity from the false aspersions 44 cast on it, signifying the imperial abhorrence and detestation of such tumultuous and irregular proceedings; and notifying that all wounds, hurts, damage, or detriment, received in limb or limbs, otherwise than shall be hereafter specified, shall be committed to the care of the Emperor's surgeon, and cured at his own expense, in some one or other of those hospitals which he is erecting for that purpose.
Among other things it is decreed "that they never tip the lion upon man, woman, or child, till the clock at St. Dunstan's shall have struck one;" "that the sweat be never given till between the hours of one and two;" "that the sweaters do establish their hummums in such close places, alleys, nooks and corners, that the patient or patients may not be in danger of catching cold;" "that the tumblers, to whose care we chiefly commit the female sex, confine themselves to Drury-lane and the purlieus of the Temple," etc. "Given from our Court at the Devil Tavern," etc.
The Mohocks held together until nearly the end of the reign of George the First.
The successors of the Mohocks added blasphemy to riot. Smollett attributes the profaneness and profligacy of the period to the demoralization produced by the South Sea Bubble; and Clubs were formed specially for the indulgence of debauchery and profaneness. Prominent among these was "the Hell-fire Club," of which the Duke of Wharton was a leading spirit:— 45
"Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days,
Whose ruling passion was the lust of praise.
Born with whate'er could win it from the wise,
Women and fools must like him, or he dies.
Though wondering senates hung on all he spoke,
The club must hail him master of the joke."—Pope.
So high did the tide of profaneness run at this time, that a Bill was brought into the House of Lords for its suppression. It was in a debate on this Bill that the Earl of Peterborough declared, that though he was for a Parliamentary King, he was against a Parliamentary religion; and that the Duke of Wharton pulled an old family Bible out of his pocket, in order to controvert certain arguments delivered from the episcopal bench.
Among the political Clubs of the metropolis in the early part of the eighteenth century, one of the most popular was the Mug-house Club, which met in a great Hall in Long Acre every Wednesday and Saturday, during the winter. The house received its name from the simple circumstance, that each member drank his ale (the only liquor used) out of a separate mug. The Club is described as a mixture of gentlemen, lawyers, and statesmen, who met seldom under a hundred. In A Journey through England, 1722, we read of this Club:
"But the most diverting and amusing of all is the Mug-house Club in Long Acre.
"They have a grave old Gentleman, in his own gray Hairs, now within a few months of Ninety years old, who 46 is their President, and sits in an arm'd chair some steps higher than the rest of the company to keep the whole Room in order. A Harp plays all the time at the lower end of the Room; and every now and then one or other of the Company rises and entertains the rest with a song, and (by the by) some are good Masters. Here is nothing drunk but Ale, and every Gentleman hath his separate Mug, which he chalks on the Table where he sits as it is brought in; and every one retires when he pleases, as from a Coffee-house.
"The Room is always so diverted with Songs, and drinking from one Table to another to one another's Healths, that there is no room for Politicks, or anything that can sow'r conversation.
"One must be there by seven to get Room, and after ten the Company are for the most part gone.
"This is a Winter's Amusement, that is agreeable enough to a Stranger for once or twice, and he is well diverted with the different Humours, when the Mugs overflow."
Although in the early days of this Club there was no room for politics, or anything that could sour conversation, the Mug-house subsequently became a rallying-place for the most virulent political antagonism, arising out of the change of dynasty, a weighty matter to debate over mugs of ale. The death of Anne brought on the Hanover succession. The Tories had then so much the better of the other party, that they gained the mob on all public occasions to their side. It then became necessary for King George's friends to do something to counteract this tendency. Accordingly, they established Mug-houses, like that of Long Acre, throughout the metropolis, for well-affected tradesmen to meet 47 and keep up the spirit of loyalty to the Protestant succession. First, they had one in St. John's-lane, chiefly under the patronage of Mr. Blenman, member of the Middle Temple, who took for his motto, "Pro rege et lege." Then arose the Roebuck Mug-house, in Cheapside, the haunt of a fraternity of young men, who had been organized for political action before the end of the late reign.
According to a pamphlet on the subject, dated in 1717, "the next Mug-houses opened in the City were at Mrs. Read's, in Salisbury-court, in Fleet-street, and at the Harp in Tower-street, and another at the Roebuck in Whitechapel. About the same time several other Mug-houses were erected in the suburbs, for the reception and entertainment of the like loyal Societies: viz. one at the Ship, in Tavistock-street, Covent Garden, which is mostly frequented by royal officers of the army, another at the Black Horse, in Queen-street near Lincoln's Inn Fields, set up and carried on by gentlemen, servants to that noble patron of loyalty, to whom this vindication of it is inscribed [the Duke of Newcastle]; a third was set up at the Nag's Head, in James-street, Covent Garden; a fourth at the Fleece, in Burleigh-street, near Exeter Change; a fifth at the Hand and Tench, near the Seven Dials; several in Spittlefields, by the French refugees; one in Southwark Park; and another in the Artillery-ground." Another noted Mug-house was the Magpie, without Newgate, which house still exists as the Magpie and Stump, in the Old Bailey. At all these houses it was customary in the forenoon to exhibit the whole of the mugs belonging to the establishment, in a row in front of the house.
The frequenters of these several Mug-houses formed 48 themselves into "Mug-house Clubs," known severally by some distinctive name, and each club had its President to rule its meetings and keep order. The President was treated with great ceremony and respect: he was conducted to his chair every evening at about seven o'clock, by members carrying candles before and behind him, and accompanied with music. Having taken a seat, he appointed a Vice-president, and drank the health of the company assembled, a compliment which the company returned. The evening was then passed in drinking successively loyal and other healths, and in singing songs. Soon after ten they broke up, the President naming his successor for the next evening; and before he left the chair, a collection was made for the musicians.
We shall now see how these Clubs took so active a part in the violent political struggles of the time. The Jacobites had laboured with much zeal to secure the alliance of the street mob, and they had used it with great effect, in connexion with Dr. Sacheverell, in over-turning Queen Anne's Whig Government, and paving the way for the return of the exiled family. Disappointment at the accession of George I. rendered the party of the Pretender more unscrupulous; the mob was excited to greater excesses, and the streets of the metropolis were occupied by an infuriated rabble, and presented a nightly scene of riot. It was under these circumstances that the Mug-house Clubs volunteered, in a very disorderly manner, to be champions of order; and with this purpose it became part of their evening's entertainment to march into the street, and fight the Jacobite mob. This practice commenced in the autumn of 1715, when the Club called the Loyal Society, which 49 met at the Roebuck in Cheapside, distinguished itself by its hostility to Jacobitism. On one occasion this Club burned the Pretender in effigy. Their first conflict with the mob, recorded in the newspapers, occurred on the 31st of January, 1715, the birthday of the Prince of Wales, which was celebrated by illuminations and bonfires. There were a few Jacobite alehouses, chiefly on Holborn Hill, in Sacheverell's period; and on Ludgate-hill: the frequenters of the latter stirred up the mob to raise a riot there, put out the bonfire, and break the windows which were illuminated. The Loyal Society men, receiving intelligence of what was going on, hurried to the spot, and thrashed and defeated the rioters.
On the 4th of November in the same year, the birthday of King William III., the Jacobite mob made a large bonfire in the Old Jewry, to burn an effigy of the King; but the Mug-house men came upon them again, gave them "due chastisement with oaken plants," extinguished their bonfire, and carried King William in triumph to the Roebuck. Next day was the commemoration of Gunpowder Treason, and the loyal mob had its pageant. A long procession was formed, having in front a figure of the infant Pretender, accompanied by two men bearing each a warming-pan, in allusion to the story about his birth; and followed by effigies in gross caricature of the Pope, the Pretender, the Duke of Ormond, Lord Bolingbroke, and the Earl of Marr, with halters round their necks; and all of them were to be burned in a large bonfire made in Cheapside. The procession, starting from the Roebuck, went through Newgate-street, and up Holborn-hill, where they compelled the bells of St. Andrew's church, of which Sacheverell was rector, to ring; thence through Lincoln's Inn Fields 50 and Covent Garden to the gate of St. James's Palace; returning by way of Pall Mall and the Strand, and through St. Paul's Churchyard. They had met with no interruption on their way, but on their return to Cheapside, they found that, during their absence, that quarter had been invaded by the Jacobite mob, who had carried away all the fuel which had been collected for the bonfire.
On November 17, in the same year, the Loyal Society met at the Roebuck to celebrate the anniversary of the Accession of Queen Elizabeth; and, while busy with their mugs, they received information that the Jacobites were assembled, in great force, in St. Martin's-le-Grand, and were preparing to burn the effigies of King William and King George, along with the Duke of Marlborough. They were so near, in fact, that their party-shouts of High Church, Ormond, and King James, must have been audible at the Roebuck, which stood opposite Bow Church. The Jacobites were starting on their procession, when they were overtaken in Newgate Street, by the Mug-house men from the Roebuck, and a desperate encounter took place, in which the Jacobites were defeated, and many of them were seriously injured. Meanwhile the Roebuck itself had been the scene of a much more serious tumult. During the absence of the great mass of the members of the Club, another body of Jacobites, much more numerous than those engaged in Newgate Street, suddenly assembled, attacked the Roebuck Mug-house, broke its windows, and those of the adjoining houses, and with terrible threats, attempted to force the door. One of the few members of the Loyal Society who remained at home, discharged a gun upon those of the assailants who were attacking the door, and killed one of their leaders. This and the 51 approach of the Lord Mayor and city officers, caused the mob to disperse; but the Roebuck was exposed to attacks during several following nights, after which the mobs remained tolerably quiet during the winter.
Early in 1716, however, these riots were renewed with greater violence, and preparations were made for an active campaign. The Mug-houses were re-fitted, and re-opened with ceremonious entertainments. New songs were composed to stir up the Clubs; and collections of these Mug-house songs were printed. The Jacobite mob was heard beating with its well-known call, marrow-bones and cleavers, and both sides were well equipped with staves of oak, their usual arms for the fray, though other weapons and missiles were in common use. One of the Mug-house songs thus describes the way in which these street fights were conducted:—
"Since the Tories could not fight,
And their master took his flight,
They labour to keep up their faction;
With a bough and a stick,
And a stone and a brick,
They equip their roaring crew for action.
"Thus in battle array,
At the close of the day,
After wisely debating their plot,
Upon windows and stall
They courageously fall,
And boast a great victory they've got.
"But, alas! silly boys!
For all the mighty noise
Of their 'High Church and Ormond for ever!'
A brave Whig, with one hand,
At George's command,
Can make their mightiest hero to quiver."
52On March 8, another great Whig anniversary, the day of the death of William III., commenced the more serious Mug-house riots of 1716. A large Jacobite mob assembled to their own watch-cry, and marched along Cheapside, to attack the Roebuck; but they were soon driven back by a small party of the Royal Society, who then marched in procession through Newgate Street, to the Magpie and Stump, and then by the Old Bailey to Ludgate Hill. When about to return, they found the Jacobite mob had collected in great force in their rear; and a fierce engagement took place in Newgate Street, when the Jacobites were again worsted. Then, on the evening of the 23rd of April, the anniversary of the birth of Queen Anne, there were great battles in Cheapside, and at the end of Giltspur Street; and in the immediate neighbourhood of the Roebuck and the Magpie. Other great tumults took place on the 29th of May, Restoration Day; and on the 10th of June, the Pretender's birthday. From this time the Roebuck is rarely mentioned.
The Whigs, who met in the Mug-house, kept by Mr. Read, in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, appear to have been peculiarly noisy in their cups, and thus rendered themselves the more obnoxious to the mob. On one occasion, July 20, their violent party-toasts, which they drank in the parlour with open windows, collected a large crowd of persons, who became at last so incensed by some tipsy Whigs inside, that they commenced a furious attack upon the house, and threatened to pull it down and make a bonfire of its materials in the middle of Fleet Street. The Whigs immediately closed their windows and barricaded the doors, having sent a messenger by a back door, to the Mug-house in 53 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, begging that the persons there assembled would come to the rescue. The call was immediately responded to; the Mug-house men proceeded in a body down the Strand and Fleet Street, armed with staves and bludgeons, and commenced an attack on the mob, who still threatened the demolition of the house in Salisbury Court. The inmates sallied out, armed with pokers and tongs, and whatever they could lay their hands upon, and being joined by their friends from Covent Garden, the mob was put to flight, and the Mug-house men remained masters of the field.
The popular indignation was very great at this defeat; and for two days crowds collected in the neighbourhood, and vowed they would have revenge. But the knowledge that a squadron of horse was drawn up at Whitehall, ready to ride into the City on the first alarm, kept order. On the third day, however, the people found a leader in the person of one Vaughan, formerly a Bridewell boy, who instigated the mob to take revenge for their late defeat. They followed him with shouts of "High Church and Ormond! down with the Mug-house!" and Read, the landlord, dreading that they would either burn or pull down his house, prepared to defend himself. He threw up a window, and presented a loaded blunderbuss, and vowed he would discharge its contents in the body of the first man who advanced against his house. This threat exasperated the mob, who ran against the door with furious yells. Read was as good as his word,—he fired, and the unfortunate man Vaughan fell dead upon the spot. The people, now frantic, swore to hang up the landlord from his own sign-post. They forced the door, pulled down the 54 sign, and entered the house, where Read would assuredly have been sacrificed to their fury, if they had found him. He, however, had with great risk escaped by a back-door. Disappointed at this, the mob broke the furniture to pieces, destroyed everything that lay in their way, and left only the bare walls of the house. They now threatened to burn the whole street, and were about to set fire to Read's house, when the Sheriffs, with a posse of constables, arrived. The Riot Act was read, but disregarded; and the Sheriffs sent to Whitehall for a detachment of the military. A squadron of horse soon arrived, and cleared the streets, taking five of the most active rioters into custody.
Read, the landlord, was captured on the following day, and tried for the wilful murder of Vaughan; he was, however, acquitted of the capital charge, and found guilty of manslaughter only. The five rioters were also brought to trial, and met with a harder fate. They were all found guilty of riot and rebellion, and sentenced to death at Tyburn.
This example damped the courage of the rioters, and alarmed all parties; so that we hear no more of the Mug-house riots, until a few months later, a pamphlet appeared with the title, Down with the Mug; or Reasons for suppressing the Mug-houses, by an author who only gave the initials Sir H—— M——, but who seems to have so much of what was thought to be a Jacobite spirit, that it provoked a reply, entitled the Mug Vindicated.
The account of 1722 states that many an encounter they had, and many were the riots, till at last the Government was obliged by an Act of Parliament to put an end to this strife, which had this good effect, that upon 55 pulling down of the Mug-house in Salisbury Court, for which some boys were hanged on this Act, the city has not been troubled with them since.
There is some doubt as to the first use of the term "Mug-house." In a scarce Collection of One Hundred and Eighty Loyal Songs, all written since 1678, Fourth Edition, 1694, is a song in praise of the "Mug," which shows that Mug-houses had that name previous to the Mug-house riots. It has also been stated that the beer-mugs were originally fashioned into a grotesque resemblance of Lord Shaftesbury's face, or "ugly mug," as it was called, and that this is the derivation of the word.
This famous Club was a threefold celebrity—political, literary, and artistic. It was the great Society of Whig leaders, formed about the year 1700, temp. William III., consisting of thirty-nine noblemen and gentlemen zealously attached to the House of Hanover; among whom the Dukes of Somerset, Richmond, Grafton, Devonshire, and Marlborough, and (after the accession of George I.) the Duke of Newcastle; the Earls of Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, Wharton, and Kingston; Lords Halifax and Somers; Sir Robert Walpole, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Granville, Addison, Garth, Maynwaring, Stepney, and Walsh. They are said to have first met at an obscure house in Shire-lane, by Temple Bar, at the house of a noted mutton-pieman, one Christopher Katt; from whom the Club, and the pies that formed a 56 standing dish at the Club suppers, both took their name of Kit-Kat. In the Spectator, No. 9, however, they are said to have derived their title not from the maker of the pie, but from the pie itself, which was called a Kit-Kat, as we now say a Sandwich; thus, in a prologue to a comedy of 1700:
"A Kit-Kat is a supper for a lord;"
but Dr. King, in his Art of Cookery, is for the pieman:
"Immortal made, as Kit-Kat by his pies."
The origin and early history of the Kit-Kat Club is obscure. Elkanah Settle addressed, in 1699, a manuscript poem "To the most renowned the President and the rest of the Knights of the most noble Order of the Toast," in which verses is asserted the dignity of the Society; and Malone supposes the Order of the Toast to have been identical with the Kit-Kat Club: this was in 1699. The toasting-glasses, which we shall presently mention, may have something to do with this presumed identity.
Ned Ward, in his Secret History of Clubs, at once connects the Kit-Kat Club with Jacob Tonson, "an amphibious mortal, chief merchant to the Muses." Yet this is evidently a caricature. The maker of the mutton-pies, Ward maintains to be a person named Christopher, who lived at the sign of the Cat and Fiddle, in Gray's Inn-lane, whence he removed to keep a pudding-pye shop, near the Fountain Tavern, in the Strand. Ward commends his mutton-pies, cheese-cakes, and custards, and the pieman's interest in the sons of Parnassus; and his inviting "a new set of Authors to a collation of oven trumpery at his friend's house, where they were nobly entertained with as curious a batch of pastry delicacies as 57 ever were seen at the winding-up of a Lord Mayor's feast;" adding that "there was not a mathematical figure in all Euclid's Elements but what was presented to the table in baked wares, whose cavities were filled with fine eatable varieties fit for the gods or poets." Mr. Charles Knight, in the Shilling Magazine, No. 2, maintains that by the above is meant, that Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, was the pieman's "friend," and that to the customary "whet" to his authors he added the pastry entertainment. Ward adds, that this grew into a weekly meeting, provided his, the bookseller's friends would give him the refusal of their juvenile productions. This "generous proposal was very readily agreed to by the whole poetic class, and the cook's name being Christopher, for brevity called Kit, and his sign being the Cat and Fiddle, they very merrily derived a quaint denomination from puss and her master, and from thence called themselves of the Kit-Cat Club."
A writer in the Book of Days, however, states, that Christopher Cat, the pastry-cook, of King-street, Westminster, was the keeper of the tavern, where the Club met; but Shire-lane was, upon more direct authority, the pieman's abode.
We agree with the National Review, that "it is hard to believe, as we pick our way along the narrow and filthy pathway of Shire-lane, that in this blind alley [?], some hundred and fifty years ago, used to meet many of the finest gentlemen and choicest wits of the days of Queen Anne and the first George. Inside one of those frowsy and low-ceiled rooms, now tenanted by abandoned women or devoted to the sale of greengroceries and small coal,—Halifax has conversed and Somers unbent, Addison mellowed over a bottle, Congreve flashed his wit, Vanbrugh let loose his easy humour, Garth talked and rhymed." 58
The Club was literary and gallant as well as political. The members subscribed 400 guineas for the encouragement of good comedies in 1709. The Club had its toasting-glasses, inscribed with a verse, or toast, to some reigning beauty; among whom were the four shining daughters of the Duke of Marlborough—Lady Godolphin, Lady Sunderland, Lady Bridgewater, and Lady Monthermer; Swift's friends, Mrs. Long and Mrs. Barton, the latter the lovely and witty niece of Sir Isaac Newton; the Duchess of Bolton, Mrs. Brudenell, and Lady Carlisle, Mrs. Di. Kirk, and Lady Wharton.
Dr. Arbuthnot, in the following epigram, seems to derive the name of the Club from this custom of toasting ladies after dinner, rather than from the renowned maker of mutton-pies:—
"Whence deathless Kit-Kat took his name,
Few critics can unriddle:
Some say from pastrycook it came,
And some from Cat and Fiddle.
From no trim beaus its name it boasts,
Grey statesmen or green wits,
But from this pell-mell pack of toasts
Of old Cats and young Kits."
Lord Halifax wrote for the toasting-glasses the following verses in 1703:—
The Duchess of St. Albans.
The line of Vere, so long renown'd in arms,
Concludes with lustre in St. Albans' charms.
Her conquering eyes have made their race complete:
They rose in valour, and in beauty set.
The Duchess of Beaufort.
Offspring of a tuneful sire,
Blest with more than mortal fire;
Likeness of a Mother's face,
Blest with more than mortal grace:
You with double charms surprise,
With his wit, and with her eyes.
The Lady Mary Churchill.
Fairest and latest of the beauteous race,
Blest with your parent's wit, and her first blooming face;
Born with our liberties in William's reign,
Your eyes alone that liberty restrain.
The Lady Sunderland.
All Nature's charms in Sunderland appear,
Bright as her eyes, and as her reason clear;
Yet still their force to man not safely known,
Seems undiscover'd to herself alone.
The Mademoiselle Spanheim.
Admir'd in Germany, ador'd in France,
Your charms to brighten glory here advance:
The stubborn Britons own your beauty's claim,
And with their native toasts enrol your name.
To Mrs. Barton.
Beauty and wit strove, each in vain,
To vanquish Bacchus and his train;
But Barton with successful charms,
From both their quivers drew her arms.
The roving God his sway resigns,
And awfully submits his vines.
In Spence's Anecdotes (note) is the following additional account of the Club: "You have heard of the Kit-Kat Club," says Pope to Spence. "The master of the house where the club met was Christopher Katt; Tonson was secretary. The day Lord Mohun and the Earl of Berkeley were entered of it, Jacob said he saw they were 60 just going to be ruined. When Lord Mohun broke down the gilded emblem on the top of his chair, Jacob complained to his friends, and said a man who would do that, would cut a man's throat. So that he had the good and the forms of the society much at heart. The paper was all in Lord Halifax's handwriting of a subscription of four hundred guineas for the encouragement of good comedies, and was dated 1709, soon after they broke up. Steele, Addison, Congreve, Garth, Vanbrugh, Manwaring, Stepney, Walpole, and Pulteney, were of it; so was Lord Dorset and the present Duke. Manwaring, whom we hear nothing of now, was the ruling man in all conversations; indeed, what he wrote had very little merit in it. Lord Stanhope and the Earl of Essex were also members. Jacob has his own, and all their pictures, by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Each member gave his, and he is going to build a room for them at Barn Elms."
It is from the size at which these portraits were taken (a three-quarter length), 36 by 28 inches, that the word Kit-Kat came to be applied to pictures. Tonson had the room built at Barn Elms; but the apartment not being sufficiently large to receive half-length pictures, a shorter canvas was adopted. In 1817, the Club-room was standing, but the pictures had long been removed; soon after, the room was united to a barn, to form a riding-house.
In summer the Club met at the Upper Flask, Hampstead Heath, then a gay resort, with its races, ruffles, and private marriages.
The pictures passed to Richard Tonson, the descendant of the old bookseller, who resided at Water-Oakley, on the banks of the Thames: he added a room to his villa, and here the portraits were hung. On his death the pictures 61 were bequeathed to Mr. Baker, of Bayfordbury, the representative of the Tonson family: all of them were included in the Art Treasures Exhibition at Manchester and some in the International Exhibition of 1862.
The political significance of the Club was such that Walpole records that though the Club was generally mentioned as "a set of wits," they were in reality the patriots that saved Britain. According to Pope and Tonson, Garth, Vanbrugh, and Congreve were the three most honest-hearted, real good men of the poetical members of the Club.
There were odd scenes and incidents occasionally at the club meetings. Sir Samuel Garth, physician to George I., was a witty member, and wrote some of the inscriptions for the toasting-glasses. Coming one night to the club, Garth declared he must soon be gone, having many patients to attend; but some good wine being produced, he forgot them. Sir Richard Steele was of the party, and reminding him of the visits he had to pay, Garth immediately pulled out his list, which numbered fifteen, and said, "It's no great matter whether I see them to-night, or not, for nine of them have such bad constitutions that all the physicians in the world can't save them; and the other six have such good constitutions that all the physicians in the world can't kill them."
Dr. Hoadley, Bishop of Bangor, accompanied Steele and Addison to one of the Whig celebrations by the Club of King William's anniversary; when Steele had the double duty of celebrating the day and drinking his friend Addison up to conversation pitch, he being hardly warmed by that time. Steele was not fit for it. So, John Sly, the hatter of facetious memory, being in the 62 house, took it into his head to come into the company on his knees, with a tankard of ale in his hand, to drink off to the immortal memory, and to return in the same manner. Steele, sitting next Bishop Hoadley, whispered him, "Do laugh: it is humanity to laugh." By-and-by, Steele being too much in the same condition as the hatter, was put into a chair, and sent home. Nothing would satisfy him but being carried to the Bishop of Bangor's, late as it was. However, the chairmen carried him home, and got him upstairs, when his great complaisance would wait on them downstairs, which he did, and then was got quietly to bed. Next morning Steele sent the indulgent bishop this couplet:
"Virtue with so much ease on Bangor sits,
All faults he pardons, though he none commits."
Mr. Knight successfully defends Tonson from Ward's satire, and nobly stands forth for the bookseller who identified himself with Milton, by first making Paradise Lost popular, and being the first bookseller who threw open Shakespeare to a reading public. "The statesmen of the Kit-Kat Club," he adds, "lived in social union with the Whig writers who were devoted to the charge of the poetry that opened their road to preferment; the band of orators and wits were naturally hateful to the Tory authors that Harley and Bolingbroke were nursing into the bitter satirists of the weekly sheets. Jacob Tonson naturally came in for a due share of invective. In a poem entitled 'Factions Displayed,' he is ironically introduced as "the Touchstone of all modern wit;" and he is made to vilify the great ones of Barn Elms: 63
"'I am the founder of your loved Kit-Kat,
A club that gave direction to the State:
'Twas there we first instructed all our youth
To talk profane, and laugh at sacred truth:
We taught them how to boast, and rhyme, and bite,
To sleep away the day, and drink away the night.'"
Tonson deserved better of posterity.
Shire-lane, alias Rogue-lane, (which falleth into Fleet-street by Temple Bar,) has lost its old name—it is now called Lower Serle's-place. If the morals of Shire-lane have mended thereby, we must not repine.
Here lived Sir Charles Sedley; and here his son, the dramatic poet, was born, "neere the Globe." Here, too, lived Elias Ashmole, and here Antony à Wood dined with him: this was at the upper end of the lane. Here, too, was the Trumpet tavern, where Isaac Bickerstaff met his Club. At this house he dated a great number of his papers; and hence he led down the lane, into Fleet-street, the deputation of "Twaddlers" from the country, to Dick's Coffee-house, which we never enter without remembering the glorious humour of Addison and Steele, in the Tatler, No. 86. Sir Harry Quickset, Sir Giles Wheelbarrow, and other persons of quality, having reached the Tatler's by appointment, and it being settled that they should "adjourn to some public-house, and enter upon business," the precedence was attended with much difficulty; when, upon a false alarm of "fire," all 64 ran down as fast as they could, without order or ceremony, and drew up in the street.
The Tatler proceeds: "In this order we marched down Sheer-lane, at the upper end of which I lodge. When we came to Temple Bar, Sir Harry and Sir Giles got over, but a run of coaches kept the rest of us on this side of the street; however, we all at last landed, and drew up in very good order before Ben Tooke's shop, who favoured our rallying with great humanity; from whence we proceeded again, until we came to Dick's Coffee-house, where I designed to carry them. Here we were at our old difficulty, and took up the street upon the same ceremony. We proceeded through the entry, and were so necessarily kept in order by the situation, that we were now got into the coffee-house itself, where, as soon as we had arrived, we repeated our civilities to each other; after which we marched up to the high table, which has an ascent to it enclosed in the middle of the room. The whole house was alarmed at this entry, made up of persons of so much state and rusticity."
The Tatler's Club is immortalized in his No. 132. Its members are smokers and old story-tellers, rather easy than shining companions, promoting the thoughts tranquilly bedward, and not the less comfortable to Mr. Bickerstaff because he finds himself the leading wit among them. There is old Sir Jeffrey Notch, who has had misfortunes in the world, and calls every thriving man a pitiful upstart, by no means to the general dissatisfaction; there is Major Matchlock, who served in the last Civil Wars, and every night tells them of his having been knocked off his horse at the rising of the London apprentices, for which he is in great esteem; there is honest Dick Reptile, who says little himself, but 65 who laughs at all the jokes; and there is the elderly bencher of the Temple, and, next to Mr. Bickerstaff, the wit of the company, who has by heart the couplets of Hudibras, which he regularly applies before leaving the Club of an evening; and who, if any modern wit or town frolic be mentioned, shakes his head at the dulness of the present age, and tells a story of Jack Ogle. As for Mr. Bickerstaff himself, he is esteemed among them because they see he is something respected by others; but though they concede to him a great deal of learning, they credit him with small knowledge of the world, "insomuch that the Major sometimes, in the height of his military pride, calls me philosopher; and Sir Jeffrey, no longer ago than last night, upon a dispute what day of the month it was then in Holland, pulled his pipe out of his mouth, and cried, 'What does the scholar say to that?'"
Upon Addison's return to England, he found his friend Steele established among the wits; and they were both received with great honour at the Trumpet, as well as at Will's, and the St. James's.
The Trumpet public-house lasted to our time; it was changed to the Duke of York sign, but has long disappeared: we remember an old drawing of the Trumpet, by Sam. Ireland, engraved in the Monthly Magazine.
In Sir R. Kaye's Collection, in the British Museum, we find the following account of the institution of a 66 Society, which at one time numbered among its members some of the most eminent men in London, in a communication to the Rev. Sir R. Kaye by Sir Joseph Ayloffe, an original member:—"Dr. Halley used to come on a Tuesday from Greenwich, the Royal Observatory, to Child's Coffeehouse, where literary people met for conversation: and he dined with his sister, but sometimes they stayed so long that he was too late for dinner, and they likewise, at their own home. They then agree to go to a house in Dean's-court, between an alehouse and a tavern, now a stationer's shop, where there was a great draft of porter, but not drank in the house. It was kept by one Reynell. It was agreed that one of the company should go to Knight's and buy fish in Newgate-street, having first informed himself how many meant to stay and dine. The ordinary and liquor usually came to half-a-crown, and the dinner only consisted of fish and pudding. Dr. Halley never eat anything but fish, for he had no teeth. The number seldom exceeded five or six. It began to take place about 1731; soon afterwards Reynell took the King's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard, and desired Dr. Halley to go with him there. He and others consented, and they began to have a little meat. On Dr. Halley's death, Martin Foulkes took the chair. They afterwards removed to the Mitre (Fleet-street), for the convenience of the situation with respect to the Royal Society, and as it was near Crane-court, and numbers wished to become members. It was necessary to give it a form. The number was fixed at forty members; one of whom was to be Treasurer and Secretary of the Royal Society."
Out of these meetings is said to have grown the Royal Society Club, or, as it was styled during the first 67 half century of its existence, the Club of Royal Philosophers. "It was established for the convenience of certain members who lived in various parts, that they might assemble and dine together on the days when the Society held its evening meetings; and from its almost free admission of members of the Council detained by business, its liberality to visitors, and its hospitable reception of scientific foreigners, it has been of obvious utility to the scientific body at large." (Rise and Progress of the Club, privately printed.)
The foundation of the Club is stated to have been in the year 1743, and in the Minutes of this date are the following:—
"Rules and Orders to be observed by the Thursday's Club, called the Royal Philosophers.—A Dinner to be ordered every Thursday for six, at one shilling and sixpence a head for eating. As many more as come to pay one shilling and sixpence per head each. If fewer than six come, the deficiency to be paid out of the fund subscribed. Each Subscriber to pay down six shillings, viz. for four dinners, to make a fund. A pint of wine to be paid for by every one that comes, be the number what it will, and no more, unless more wine is brought in than that amounts to."
In addition to Sir R. Kaye's testimony to the existence of a club of an earlier date than 1743, there are in the Minutes certain references to "antient Members of the Club;" and a tradition of the ill omen of thirteen persons dining at the table said to be on record in the Club papers: "that one of the Royal Philosophers entering the Mitre Tavern, and finding twelve others about to discuss the fare, retreated, and dined by himself in another apartment, in order to avert the prognostic." 68 Still, no such statement is now to be found entered, and if ever it were recorded, it must have been anterior to 1743; curiously enough, thirteen is a very usual number at these dinners.
The original Members were soon increased by various Fellows of the Society; and at first the club did not consist exclusively of Royals; but this arrangement, not having been found to work well, the membership was confined to the Fellows, and latterly to the number of forty. Every Member was allowed to introduce one friend; but the President of the Royal Society was not limited in this respect.
We must now say a few words as to the several places at which the Club has dined. The Society had their Anniversary Dinner at Pontack's celebrated French eating-house, in Abchurch-lane, City, until 1746. Evelyn notes: "30 Nov. 1694. Much importuned to take the office of President of the Royal Society, but I again declined it. Sir Robert Southwell was continued. We all dined at Pontac's, as usual." Here, in 1699, Dr. Bentley wrote to Evelyn, asking him to meet Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Robert Southwell, and other friends, at dinner, to consider the propriety of purchasing Bishop Stillingfleet's library for the Royal Society.
From Pontack's, which was found to be inconveniently situated for the majority of the Fellows, the Society removed to the Devil Tavern, near Temple Bar.
The Minutes record that the Club met at the Mitre Tavern, in Fleet-street, "over against Fetter-lane," from the date of their institution; this house being chosen from its being handy to Crane-court, where the Society then met. This, be it remembered, was not the Mitre Tavern now standing in Mitre-court, but "the Mitre 69 Tavern, in Fleet-street," mentioned by Lilly, in his Life, as the place where he met old Will. Poole, the astrologer, then living in Ram-alley. The Mitre, in Fleet-street, Mr. J. H. Burn, in his excellent Account of the Beaufoy Tokens, states to have been originally established by a William Paget, of the Mitre in Cheapside, who removed westward after his house had been destroyed in the Great Fire of September, 1666. The house in Fleet-street was lastly Saunders's Auction-room, No. 39, and was demolished by Messrs. Hoare, to enlarge the site for their new banking-house, the western portion of which now occupies the tavern site. The now Mitre Tavern, in Mitre court, formerly Joe's, is but a recent assumption of name.
In 1780, the Club removed to the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in the Strand, where they continued to dine for sixty-eight years, until that tavern was converted, in 1848, into a Club-house. Then they removed to the Freemasons' Tavern, in Great Queen Street; but, in 1857, on the removal of the Royal Society to Burlington House, Piccadilly, it was considered advisable to keep the Club meetings at the Thatched House, in St. James's Street, where they continued until that tavern was taken down.
During the early times, the docketings of the Club accounts show that the brotherhood retained the title of Royal Philosophers to the year 1786, when it seems they were only designated the Royals; but they have now settled into the "Royal Society Club." The elections are always an exciting matter of interest, and the fate of candidates is occasionally severe, for there are various 70 instances of rejections on two successive annual ballots, and some have been black-balled even on a third venture: some of the defeated might be esteemed for talent, yet were considered unclubbable.
Some of the entries in the earliest minute-book are very curious, and show that the Philosophers did not restrict themselves to "the fish and pudding dinner." Here is the bill of fare for sixteen persons, a few years after the Club was established: "Turkey, boiled, and oysters; Calves' head, hashed; Chine of Mutton; Apple pye; 2 dishes of herrings; Tongue and udder; Leg of pork and pease; Srloin of beef; Plum pudding; butter and cheese." Black puddings are stated to have figured for many years at every dinner of the Club.
The presents made to the Club were very numerous, and called for special regulations. Thus, under the date of May 3, 1750, it is recorded: "Resolved, nem. con., That any nobleman or gentleman complimenting this company annually with venison, not less than a haunch, shall, during the continuance of such annuity, be deemed an Honorary Member, and admitted as often as he comes, without paying the fine, which those Members do who are elected by ballot." At another Meeting, in the same year, a resolution was passed, "That any gentleman complimenting this Society annually with a Turtle shall be considered as an Honorary Member;" and that the Treasurer do pay Keeper's fees and carriage for all venison sent to the Society, and charge it in his account. Thus, besides gratuities to cooks, there are numerous chronicled entries of the following tenour:—"Keeper's fees and carriage of a buck from the Hon. P. Yorke, 14s.; Fees, etc., for Venison and Salmon, £1. 15s.; Do., half a Buck from the Earl of 71 Hardwick, £1. 5s.; Fees and carriage for a Buck from H. Read, Esq., £1.3s. 6d.; Fees for Venison and Game from Mr. Banks, £1. 9s. 6d.; ... August 15, 1751. The Society being this day entertained with halfe a Bucke by the Most Honble the Marquis of Rockingham, it was agreed, nem. con., to drink his health in claret. Sept. 5th, 1751.—The Company being entertained with a whole Bucke (halfe of which was dressed to-day) by Henry Read, Esq., his health was drunk in claret, as usual; and Mr. Cole (the landlord) was desired to dispose of the halfe, and give the Company Venisons instead of it next Thursday." The following week the largess is again gravely noticed: "The Company being this day regaled with the other halfe of Mr. Read's buck (which Mr. Cole had preserved sweet), his health was again drank in claret."
Turtle has already been mentioned among the presents. In 1784, the circumnavigator Lord Anson honoured the Club by presenting the members with a magnificent Turtle, when the Club drank his Lordship's and other turtle donors' healths in claret. On one occasion, it is stated that the usual dining-room could not be occupied on account of a turtle being dressed which weighed 400 lb.; and another minute records that a turtle, intended to be presented to the Club, died on its way home from the West Indies.
James Watt has left the following record of one of the Philosophers' turtle feasts, at which he was present:—"When I was in London in 1785, I was received very kindly by Mr. Cavendish and Dr. Blagden, and my old friend Smeaton, who has recovered his health, and seems hearty. I dined at a turtle feast with them, and the select Club of the Royal Society; and never was turtle 72 eaten with greater sobriety and temperance, or more good fellowship."
The gift of good old English roast-beef also occurs among the presents, as in the subjoined minute, under the date of June 27, 1751, when Martin Folkes presided: "William Hanbury, Esq., having this day entertained the company with a chine of Beef which was 34 inches in length, and weighed upwards of 140 pounds, it was agreed, nem. con., that two such chines were equal to half a Bucke or a Turtle, and entitled the Donor to be an Honorary Member of this Society."
Then we have another record of Mr. Hanbury's munificence, as well his conscientious regard for minuteness in these matters, as in this entry: "Mr. Hanbury sent this day another mighty chine of beef, and, having been a little deficient with regard to annual payments of chines of beef, added three brace of very large carp by way of interest." Shortly after, we find Lord Morton contributing "two pigs of the China breed."
In addition to the venison, game, and other viands, there was no end of presents of fruits for dessert. In 1752, Mr. Cole (the landlord) presented the company with a ripe water-melon from Malaga. In 1753, there is an entry showing that some tusks, a rare and savoury fish, were sent by the Earl of Morton; and Egyptian Cos-lettuces were supplied by Philip Miller, who, in his Gardener's Dictionary, describes this as the best and most valuable lettuce known; next he presented "four Cantaloupe melons, equal—if not superior—in flavour to pine-apples." In July, 1763, it is chronicled that Lord Morton sent two pine-apples, cherries of two sorts, melons, gooseberries of two sorts, apricots, and currants of two sorts. 73
However, this practice of making presents got to be unpopular with the Fellows at large, who conceived it to be undignified to receive such gifts; and, in 1779, it was "resolved that no person in future be admitted into the Club in consequence of any present he shall make to it." This singular custom had been in force for thirty years. The latest formal thanks for "a very fine haunch of venison" were voted to Lord Darnley on the 17th of June, 1824.
The Club Minutes show the progressive rise in the charges for dinner. From 1743 to 1756 the cost was 1s. 6d. a head. In the latter year it was resolved to give 3s. per head for dinner and wine, the commons for absentees to remain at 1s. 6d., as before. In 1775, the price was increased to 4s. a head, including wine, and 2d. to the waiter; in 1801, to 5s. a head, exclusive of wine, the increased duties upon which made it necessary for the members to contribute an annual sum for the expense of wine, over and above the charge of the tavern bills.
In 1775, the wine was ordered to be laid in at a price not exceeding £45 a pipe, or 1s. 6d. a bottle; to have a particular seal upon the cork, and to be charged by the landlord at 2s. 6d. a bottle. The Club always dined on the Society's meeting-day. Wray, writing of a Club-meeting in 1776, says that, "after a capital dinner of venison, which was absolutely perfect, we went to another sumptuous entertainment, at the Society, where five electrical eels, all alive, from Surinam, were exhibited; most of the company received the electrical stroke; and then we were treated with the sight of a sucking alligator, very lively."
It has been more than once remarked that a public 74 dinner of a large party of philosophers and men of science and letters generally turns out to be rather a dull affair; perhaps, through the embarras of talent at table. Not so, however, the private social Clubs, the offshoots of Public Societies, like the Royal Society Club, and others we could mention. The Royals do not appear to have been at all indifferent to these post-prandial wit-combats. "Here, my jokes I crack with high-born Peers," writes a Philosopher, alluding to the Club dinners; and Admiral Smyth, in his unpublished Rise and Progress, tells us, that to this day "it unites hilarity, and the macrones verborum of smart repartee, with strictures on science, literature, the fine arts—and, indeed, every branch of human knowledge."
The administration of the affairs of the Club was minutely attended to: when, in 1776, it was considered necessary to revise "the commons," a committee was appointed for the purpose, consisting of Messrs. Aubert, Cuthburt, Maskelyne, Russell, and Solander, who decided that "should the number of the company exceed the number provided for, the dinner should be made up with the beefstakes, mutton-chops, lamb-chops, veal-cutlets, or pork-stakes, instead of made dishes, or any dearer provisions." And "that twopence per head be allowed for the waiter" (which seems to have been the regular gratuity for many years). Then, the General Committee had to report that the landlord was to charge for gentlemen's servants, "one shilling each for dinner and a pot of porter;" and "that when toasted cheese was called for, he was to make a charge for it."
In 1784, the celebrated geologist, Faujas de Saint-Fond (Barthélemy,) with four other distinguished foreigners, partook of the hospitality of the Club, of 75 which, in 1797, M. Faujas published an account. "He mentions the short prayer or grace with which Dr. Maskelyne blessed the company and the food—the solid meats and unseasoned vegetables—the quantities of strong beer called porter, drank out of cylindrical pewter pots d'un seul trait—the cheese to provoke the thirst of drinkers—the hob-a-nobbing of healths—and the detestable coffee. On the whole, however, this honest Frenchman seems to have been delighted with the entertainment, or, as he styles it, 'the convivial and unassuming banquet,'" and M. Faujas had to pay 'seven livres four sols' for his commons. Among the lighter incidents is the record of M. Aubert having received a present from the King of Poland, begged to have an opportunity of drinking His Majesty's health, and permission to order a bottle of Hermitage, which being granted, the health was drank by the company present; and upon one of the Club-slips of 1798, after a dinner of twenty-two, is written, "Seven shillings found under the table."
The dinner-charges appear to have gradually progressed from 1s. 6d. to 10s. per head. In 1858-9 the Club-dinners had been 25, and the number of dinners 309, so that the mean was equal to 12·36 for each meeting, the visitors amounting to 49; and it is further computed, that the average wine per head of late, waste included, is a considerable fraction less than a pint, imperial standard measure, in the year's consumption.
Among the distinguished guests of the Club are many celebrities. Here the chivalrous Sir Sidney Smith described the atrocities of Djezza Pasha; and here that cheerful baronet—Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin—by relating the result of his going in a jolly-boat to attack a whale, 76 and in narrating the advantages specified in his proposed patent for fattening fowls, kept "the table in a roar." At this board, also, our famous circumnavigators and oriental voyagers met with countenance and fellowship—as Cook, Furneaux, Clerke, King, Bounty Bligh, Vancouver, Guardian Riou, Flinders, Broughton, Lestock, Wilson, Huddart, Bass, Tuckey, Horsburgh, &c.; while the Polar explorers, from the Hon. Constantine Phipps in 1773, down to Sir Leopold M'Clintock, in 1860, were severally and individually welcomed as guests. But, besides our sterling sea-worthies, we find in ranging through the documents that some rather outlandish visitors were introduced through their means, as Chet Quang and Wanga Tong, Chinese; Ejutak and Tuklivina, Esquimaux; Thayen-danega, the Mohawk chief; while Omai, of Ularetea, the celebrated and popular savage, of Cook's Voyages, was so frequently invited, that he is latterly entered on the Club papers simply as Mr. Omai.
The redoubtable Sir John Hill dined at the Club in company with Lord Baltimore on the 30th of June, 1748. Hill was consecutively an apothecary, actor, playwright, novelist, botanist, journalist, and physician; and he published upon trees and flowers, Betty Canning, gems, naval history, religion, cookery, and what not. Having made an attempt to enter the Royal Society, and finding the door closed against him,—perhaps a pert vivacity at the very dinner in question sealed the rejection,—he revenged himself by publishing an impudent quarto volume, vindictively satirizing the Society.
Ned Ward, in his humorous Account of the Clubs of London, published in 1709, describes "the Virtuoso's Club as first established by some of the principal members 77 of the Royal Society, and held every Thursday, at a certain Tavern in Cornhill, where the Vintner that kept it has, according to his merit, made a fortunate step from his Bar to his Coach. The chief design of the aforementioned Club was to propagate new whims, advance mechanical exercises, and to promote useless as well as useful experiments." There is humour in this, as well as in his ridicule of the Barometer: "by this notable invention," he says, "our gentlemen and ladies of the middle quality are infallibly told when it's a right season to put on their best clothes, and when they ought not to venture an intrigue in the fields without their cloaks and umbrellas." His ridicule of turning salt water into fresh, finding a new star, assigning reasons for a spot in the moon, and a "wry step" in the sun's progress, were Ward's points, laughed at in his time, but afterwards established as facts. There have been greater mistakes made since Ward's time; but this does not cleanse him of filth and foulness.
Ward's record is evidence of the existence of the Royal Society Club, in 1709, before the date of the Minutes. Dr. Hutton, too, records the designation of Halley's Club—undoubted testimony; about 1737, he, Halley, though seized with paralysis, once a week, within a very short time of his death, met his friends in town, on Thursdays, the day of the Royal Society's meeting, at "Dr. Halley's Club." Upon this evidence Admiral Smyth establishes the claim that the Royal Society Club was actually established by a zealous philosopher, "who was at once proudly eminent as an astronomer, a mathematician, a physiologist, a naturalist, a scholar, an antiquary, a poet, a meteorologist, a geographer, a navigator, a nautical surveyor, and a truly social member of the community—in 78 a word, our founder was the illustrious Halley—the Admirable Crichton of science."
A memorable dinner-party took place on August the 11th, 1859, when among the visitors was Mr. Thomas Maclear (now Sir Thomas), the Astronomer-Royal at the Cape of Good Hope, who had just arrived in England from the southern hemisphere, after an absence of a quarter of a century. "On this day, were present, so to speak, the representatives of the three great applications by which the present age is distinguished, namely, of Railways, Mr. Stephenson; of the Electric Telegraph, Mr. Wheatstone; and of the Penny Post, Mr. Rowland Hill—an assemblage never again to occur." (Admiral Smyth's History of the Club.)
Among the anecdotes which float about, it is related that the eccentric Hon. Henry Cavendish, "the Club-Crœsus", attended the meetings with only money enough in his pocket to pay for his dinner, and that he may have declined taking tavern-soup, may have picked his teeth with a fork, may invariably have hung his hat on the same peg, and may have always stuck his cane in his right boot; but more apocryphal is the anecdote that one evening Cavendish observed a very pretty girl looking out from an upper window on the opposite side of the street, watching the philosophers at dinner. She attracted notice, and one by one they got up and mustered round the window to admire the fair one. Cavendish, who thought they were looking at the moon, bustled up to them in his odd way, and when he saw the real object of their study, turned away with intense disgust, and grunted out "Pshaw;" the amorous conduct of his brother Philosophers having horrified the woman-hating Cavendish. 79
Another assertion is that he, Cavendish, left a thumping legacy to Lord Bessborough, in gratitude for his Lordship's piquant conversation at the Club; but no such reason can be found in the Will lodged at Doctors' Commons. The Testator named therein three of his Club-mates, namely, Alexander Dalrymple, to receive 5000l., Dr. Hunter 5000l., and Sir Charles Blagden (coadjutor in the Water question), 15,000l. After certain other bequests, the will proceeds,—"The remainder of the funds (nearly 700,000l.) to be divided, one-sixth to the Earl of Bessborough, while the cousin, Lord George Henry Cavendish, had two-sixths, instead of one;" "it is therefore," says Admiral Smyth, "patent that the money thus passed over from uncle to nephew, was a mere consequence of relationship, and not at all owing to any flowers or powers of conversation at the Royal Society Club."
Admiral Smyth, to whose admirable précis of the History of the Club we have to make acknowledgment, remarks that the hospitality of the Royal Society has been "of material utility to the well-working of the whole machine which wisdom called up, at a time when knowledge was quitting scholastic niceties for the truths of experimental philosophy. This is proved by the number of men of note—both in ability and station—who have there congregated previously to repairing to the evening meeting of the body at large; and many a qualified person who went thither a guest has returned a candidate. Besides inviting our own princes, dukes, marquises, earls, ministers of state, and nobles of all grades to the table, numerous foreign grandees, prelates, ambassadors, and persons of distinction—from the King of Poland and Baron Munchausen, down to the smart little 80 abbé and a 'gentleman unknown'—are found upon the Club records. Not that the amenities of the fraternity were confined to these classes, or that, in the Clubbian sense, they form the most important order; for bishops, deans, archdeacons, and clergymen in general—astronomers—mathematicians—sailors—soldiers—engineers—medical practitioners—poets—artists—travellers—musicians—opticians—men of repute in every acquirement, were, and ever will be, welcome guests. In a word, the names and callings of the visitors offer a type of the philosophical discordia concors; and among those guests possessed of that knowledge without which genius is almost useless, we find in goodly array such choice names as Benjamin Franklin, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gibbon, Costard, Bryant, Dalton, Watt, Bolton, Tennant, Wedgwood, Abyssinian Bruce, Attwood, Boswell, Brinkley, Rigaud, Brydone, Ivory, Jenner, John Hunter, Brunel, Lysons, Weston, Cramer, Kippis, Westmacott, Corbould, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Turner, De La Beche, et hoc genus omne."
The President of the Royal Society is elected President of the Club. There were always more candidates for admission than vacancies, a circumstance which had some influence in leading to the formation of a new Club, in 1847, composed of eminent Fellows of the Society. The name of this new Association is "the Philosophical Club," and its object is "to promote, as much as possible, the scientific objects of the Royal Society, to facilitate intercourse between those Fellows who are actively engaged in cultivating the various branches of Natural Science, and who have contributed to its progress; to increase the attendance at the Evening Meetings, and to encourage the contribution and the discussion of papers." 81 Nor are the dinners forgotten; the price of each not to exceed ten shillings.
The statistical portion of the Annual Statement of 1860, shows that the number of dinners for the past year amounted to 25, at which the attendance was 312 persons, 62 of whom were visitors, the average being = 12·48 each time: and the Treasurer called attention to the fact that out of the Club funds in the last twelvemonth, they had paid not less than £9. 6s. for soda and seltzer water; £8. 2s. 6d. for cards of invitation and postage; and £25 for visitors, that is, 8s. 0¾d. per head.
This noted Club was the Tory Chocolate-house of Queen Anne's reign; the Whig Coffee-house was the St. James's, lower down, in the same street, St. James's. The party distinction is thus defined:—"A Whig will no more go to the Cocoa-tree or Ozinda's, than a Tory will be seen at the coffee-house of St. James's."
The Cocoa-tree Chocolate-house was converted into a Club, probably before 1746, when the house was the head-quarters of the Jacobite party in Parliament. It is thus referred to in the above year by Horace Walpole, in a letter to George Montagu:—"The Duke has given Brigadier Mordaunt the Pretender's coach, on condition he rode up to London in it. 'That I will, Sir,' said he; 'and drive till it stops of its own accord at the Cocoa-tree.'"
Gibbon was a member of this Club, and has left this 82 entry, in his journal of 1762:—"Nov. 24. I dined at the Cocoa Tree with * * *, who, under a great appearance of oddity, conceals more real humour, good sense, and even knowledge, than half those who laugh at him. We went thence to the play (The Spanish Friar); and when it was over, retired to the Cocoa-tree. That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom in point of fashion and fortune supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch. At present we are full of King's counsellors and lords of the bedchamber; who, having jumped into the ministry, make a very singular medley of their old principles and language with their modern ones." At this time, bribery was in full swing: it is alleged that the lowest bribe for a vote upon the Peace of Fontainebleau, was a bank-note of £200; and that the Secretary of the Treasury afterwards acknowledged £25,000 to have been thus expended in a single morning. And in 1765, on the debate in the Commons on the Regency Bill, we read in the Chatham Correspondence: "The Cocoa-tree have thus capacitated Her Royal Highness (the Princess of Wales) to be Regent: it is well they have not given us a King, if they have not; for many think, Lord Bute is King."
Although the Cocoa-tree, in its conversion from a Chocolate-house to a Club, may have bettered its reputation in some respects, high play, if not foul play, was known there twenty years later. Walpole, writing to Mann, Feb. 6, 1780, says: "Within this week there has been a cast at hazard at the Cocoa-tree, (in St. 83 James's Street,) the difference of which amounted to one hundred and fourscore thousand pounds. Mr. O'Birne, an Irish gamester, had won one hundred thousand pounds of a young Mr. Harvey of Chigwell, just started into an estate by his elder brother's death. O'Birne said, "You can never pay me." "I can," said the youth: "my estate will sell for the debt." "No," said O.; "I will win ten thousand—you shall throw for the odd ninety." They did, and Harvey won."
The Cocoa-tree was one of the Clubs to which Lord Byron belonged.
Almack's, the original Brookes's, on the south side of the Whig Club-house, was established in Pall Mall, on the site of the British Institution, in 1764, by twenty-seven noblemen and gentlemen, including the Duke of Roxburghe, the Duke of Portland, the Earl of Strathmore, Mr. Crewe (afterwards Lord Crewe), and Mr. C. J. Fox.
Mr. Cunningham was permitted to inspect the original Rules of the Club, which show its nature: here are a few.
"21. No gaming in the eating-room, except tossing up for reckonings, on penalty of paying the whole bill of the members present.
"22. Dinner shall be served up exactly at half-past four o'clock, and the bill shall be brought in at seven.
"26. Almack shall sell no wines in bottles that the Club approves of, out of the house. 84
"30. Any member of this Society that shall become a candidate for any other Club, (old White's excepted,) shall be ipso facto excluded, and his name struck out of the book.
"40. That every person playing at the new guinea table do keep fifty guineas before him.
"41. That every person playing at the twenty guinea table do not keep less than twenty guineas before him."
That the play ran high may be inferred from a note against the name of Mr. Thynne, in the Club-books: "Mr. Thynne having won only 12,000 guineas during the last two months, retired in disgust, March 21st, 1772."
Some of its members were Maccaronis, the "curled darlings" of the day: they were so called from their affectation of foreign tastes and fashions, and were celebrated for their long curls and eye-glasses. Much of the deep play was removed here. "The gaming at Almack's," writes Walpole to Mann, February 2, 1770, "which has taken the pas of White's, is worthy the decline of our empire, or commonwealth, which you please. The young men of the age lose ten, fifteen, twenty thousand pounds in an evening there. Lord Stavordale, not one-and-twenty, lost £11,000 there last Tuesday, but recovered it by one great hand at hazard. He swore a great oath, 'Now, if I had been playing deep, I might have won millions.' His cousin, Charles Fox, shines equally there, and in the House of Commons. He was twenty-one yesterday se'nnight, and is already one of our best speakers. Yesterday he was made a Lord of the Admiralty." Gibbon, the historian, was also a member, and he dates several letters from here. On June 24, 1776, he writes: "Town grows empty, and 85 this house, where I have passed many agreeable hours, is the only place which still invites the flower of the English youth. The style of living, though somewhat expensive, is exceedingly pleasant; and, notwithstanding the rage of play, I have found more entertainment and rational society than in any other club to which I belong."
The play was certainly high—only for rouleaus of £50 each, and generally there was £10,000 in specie on the table. The gamesters began by pulling off their embroidered clothes, and put on frieze greatcoats, or turned their coats inside outwards for luck. They put on pieces of leather (such as are worn by footmen when they clean the knives) to save their laced ruffles; and to guard their eyes from the light and to prevent tumbling their hair, wore high-crowned straw hats with broad brims, and adorned with flowers and ribbons; masks to conceal their emotions when they played at quinz. Each gamester had a small neat stand by him, to hold his tea; or a wooden bowl with an edge of ormolu, to hold the rouleaus.
Almack's was subsequently Goosetree's. In the year 1780, Pitt was then an habitual frequenter, and here his personal adherents mustered strongly. The members, we are told in the Life of Wilberforce, were about twenty-five in number, and included Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden), Lords Euston, Chatham, Graham, Duncannon, Althorp, Apsley, G. Cavendish, and Lennox; Messrs. Eliot, Sir Andrew St. John, Bridgeman (afterwards Lord Bradford), Morris Robinson (afterwards Lord Rokeby), R. Smith (afterwards Lord Carrington), W. Grenville (afterwards Lord Grenville), Pepper Arden (afterwards Lord Alvanley), Mr. Edwards, Mr. Marsham, Mr. Pitt, 86 Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Bankes, Mr. Thomas Steele, General Smith, Mr. Windham.
In the gambling at Goosetree's, Pitt played with characteristic and intense eagerness. When Wilberforce came up to London in 1780, after his return to Parliament, his great success coloured his entry into public life, and he was at once elected a member of the leading clubs—Miles's and Evans's, Brookes's and Boodle's, White's and Goosetree's. The latter was Wilberforce's usual resort, where his friendship with Pitt, whom he had slightly known at Cambridge, greatly increased: he once lost £100 at the faro-table, and on another night kept the bank, by which he won £600; but he soon became weaned from play.
In the year following the opening of Almack's Club in Pall Mall, Almack had built for him by Robert Mylne, the suite of Assembly Rooms, in King-street, St. James's, which was named after him, "Almack's," and was occasionally called "Willis's Rooms," after the next proprietor. Almack likewise kept the Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's-street.
Almack's was opened Feb. 20, 1765, and was advertised to have been built with hot bricks and boiling water: the ceilings were dripping with wet; but the Duke of Cumberland, the Hero of Culloden, was there. Gilly Williams, a few days after the opening, in a letter to George Selwyn, writes: "There is now opened at 87 Almack's, in three very elegant new-built rooms, a ten-guinea subscription, for which you have a ball and supper once a week, for twelve weeks. You may imagine by the sum the company is chosen; though, refined as it is, it will be scarce able to put out old Soho (Mrs. Cornelys) out of countenance. The men's tickets are not transferable, so, if the ladies do not like us, they have no opportunity of changing us, but must see the same persons for ever." ... "Our female Almack's flourishes beyond description. Almack's Scotch face, in a bag-wig, waiting at supper, would divert you, as would his lady, in a sack, making tea and curtseying to the duchesses."
Five years later, in 1770, Walpole writes to Montagu: "There is a new Institution that begins to make, and if it proceeds, will make a considerable noise. It is a Club of both sexes, to be erected at Almack's, on the model of that of the men of White's. Mrs. Fitzroy, Lady Pembroke, Mrs. Meynell, Lady Molyneux, Miss Pelham, and Miss Lloyd, are the foundresses. I am ashamed to say I am of so young and fashionable society; but as they are people I live with, I choose to be idle rather than morose. I can go to a young supper without forgetting how much sand is run out of the hour-glass."
Mrs. Boscawen tells Mrs. Delany of this Club of lords and ladies who first met at a tavern, but subsequently, to satisfy Lady Pembroke's scruples, in a room at Almack's. "The ladies nominate and choose the gentlemen and vice versâ, so that no lady can exclude a lady, or gentleman a gentleman." Ladies Rochford, Harrington, and Holderness were black-balled, as was the Duchess of Bedford, who was subsequently admitted! 88 Lord March and Brook Boothby were black-balled by the ladies, to their great astonishment. There was a dinner, then supper at eleven, and, says Mrs. Boscawen, "play will be deep and constant, probably." The frenzy for play was then at its height. "Nothing within my memory comes up to it!" exclaims Mrs. Delany, who attributes it to the prevailing "avarice and extravagance." Some men made profit out of it, like Mr. Thynne, "who has won this year so considerably that he has paid off all his debts, bought a house and furnished it, disposed of his horses, hounds, etc., and struck his name out of all expensive subscriptions. But what a horrid reflection it must be to an honest mind to build his fortune on the ruin of others!"
Almack's large ball-room is about one hundred feet in length, by forty feet in width; it is chastely decorated with gilt columns and pilasters, classic medallions, mirrors, etc., and is lit with gas, in cut-glass lustres. The largest number of persons ever present in this room at one ball was 1700.
The rooms are let for public meetings, dramatic readings, concerts, balls, and occasionally for dinners. Here Mrs. Billington, Mr. Braham, and Signor Naldi, gave concerts, from 1808 to 1810, in rivalry with Madame Catalani, at Hanover-square Rooms; and here Mr. Charles Kemble gave, in 1844, his Readings from Shakspeare.
The Balls at Almack's are managed by a Committee of Ladies of high rank, and the only mode of admission is by vouchers or personal introduction.
Almack's has declined of late years; "a clear proof that the palmy days of exclusiveness are gone by in England; and though it is obviously impossible to prevent 89 any given number of persons from congregating and re-establishing an oligarchy, we are quite sure that the attempt would be ineffectual, and that the sense of their importance would extend little beyond the set." In 1831 was published Almack's, a novel, in which the leaders of fashion were sketched with much freedom, and identified in A Key to Almack's, by Benjamin Disraeli.
We have just narrated the establishment of this Club—how it was originally a gaming club, and was formed at first by Almack. It was subsequently taken by Brookes, a wine-merchant and money-lender, according to Selwyn; and who is described by Tickell, in a copy of verses addressed to Sheridan, when Charles James Fox was to give a supper at his own lodgings, then near the Club:—
"Derby shall send, if not his plate, his cooks,
And know, I've brought the best champagne from Brookes,
From liberal Brookes, whose speculative skill
Is hasty credit, and a distant bill;
Who, nursed in clubs, disdains a vulgar trade,
Exults to trust, and blushes to be paid."
From Pall Mall Brookes's Club removed to No. 60, on the west side of St. James's-street, where a handsome house was built at Brookes's expense, from the designs of Henry Holland, the architect; it was opened in October, 90 1778. The concern did not prosper; for James Hare writes to George Selwyn, May 18, 1779, "we are all beggars at Brookes's, and he threatens to leave the house, as it yields him no profit." Mr. Cunningham tells us that Brookes retired from the Club soon after it was built, and died poor about the year 1782.
Lord Crewe, one of the founders of the Club in Pall Mall, died in 1829, after sixty-five years' membership of Brookes's. Among its celebrities were Burke and Sir Joshua Reynolds, Garrick and Hume, Horace Walpole, Gibbon, and Sheridan and Wilberforce. Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry, was one of its notorieties—"the old Q., whom many now living can remember, with his fixed eye and cadaverous face, watching the flow of the human tide past his bow-window in Pall Mall."—National Review, 1857. [This is hardly correct as to locality, since the Club left Pall Mall in 1778, and a reminiscent must be more than 80 years of age.] Among Selwyn's correspondents are Gilly Williams, Hare, Fitzpatrick, the Townshends, Burgoyne, Storer, and Lord Carlisle. R. Tickell, in "Lines from the Hon. Charles Fox to the Hon. John Townshend cruising," thus describes the welcome that awaits Townshend, and the gay life of the Club:—
"Soon as to Brookes's thence thy footsteps bend,
What gratulations thy approach attend!
See Gibbon tap his box; auspicious sign,
That classic compliment and evil combine.
See Beauclerk's cheek a tinge of red surprise,
And friendship gives what cruel health denies.
Important Townshend! what can thee withstand?
The ling'ring black-ball lags in Boothby's hand.
E'en Draper checks the sentimental sigh;
And Smith, without an oath, suspends the die."
91 Mr. Wilberforce has thus recorded his first appearance at Brookes's: "Hardly knowing any one, I joined, from mere shyness, in play at the faro-tables, where George Selwyn kept bank. A friend, who knew my inexperience, and regarded me as a victim decked out for sacrifice, called to me, 'What, Wilberforce, is that you?' Selwyn quite resented the interference, and, turning to him, said, in his most expressive tone, 'Oh, Sir, don't interrupt Mr. Wilberforce; he could not be better employed!'"
The Prince of Wales, one day at Brookes's, expatiating on that beautiful but far-fetched idea of Dr. Darwin's, that the reason of the bosom of a beautiful woman being the object of such exquisite delight for a man to look upon, arises from the first pleasurable sensations of warmth, sustenance, and repose, which he derives therefrom in his infancy; Sheridan replied, "Truly hath it been said, that there is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. All children who are brought up by hand must derive their pleasurable sensations from a very different source; yet I believe no one ever heard of any such, when arrived at manhood, evincing any very rapturous or amatory emotions at the sight of a wooden spoon." This clever exposure of an ingenious absurdity shows the folly of taking for granted every opinion which may be broached under the sanction of a popular name.
The conversation at Brookes's, one day, turning on Lord Henry Petty's projected tax upon iron, one member said, that as there was so much opposition to it, it would be better to raise the proposed sum upon coals. "Hold! my dear fellow," said Sheridan, "that would be out of the frying pan into the fire, with a vengeance."
Mr. Whitbread, one evening at Brookes's, talked 92 loudly and largely against the Ministers for laying what was called the war tax upon malt: every one present concurred with him in opinion, but Sheridan could not resist the gratification of a hit at the brewer himself. He wrote with his pencil upon the back of a letter the following lines, which he handed to Mr. Whitbread, across the table:—
"They've raised the price of table drink;
What is the reason, do you think?
The tax on malt's the cause I hear—
But what has malt to do with beer?"
Looking through a Number of the Quarterly Review, one day, at Brookes's, soon after its first appearance, Sheridan said, in reply to a gentleman who observed that the editor, Mr. Gifford, had boasted of the power of conferring and distributing literary reputation; "Very likely; and in the present instance I think he has done it so profusely as to have left none for himself."
Sir Philip Francis was the convivial companion of Fox, and during the short administration of that statesman was made a Knight of the Bath. One evening, Roger Wilbraham came up to a whist-table at Brookes's, where Sir Philip, who for the first time wore the ribbon of the Order, was engaged in a rubber, and thus accosted him. Laying hold of the ribbon and examining it for some time, he said: "So, this is the way they have rewarded you at last: they have given you a little bit of red ribbon for your services, Sir Philip, have they? A pretty bit of red ribbon to hang about your neck; and that satisfies you, does it? Now, I wonder what I shall have.—What do you think they will give me, Sir Philip?" 93
The newly-made Knight, who had twenty-five guineas depending on the rubber, and who was not very well pleased at the interruption, suddenly turned round, and looking at him fiercely, exclaimed, "A halter, and be d—d to you!"
George III. invariably evinced a strong aversion to Fox, the secret of which it is easy to understand. His son, the Prince of Wales, threw himself into the arms of Fox, and this in the most undisguised manner. Fox lodged in St. James's-street, and as soon as he rose, which was very late, had a levee of his followers, and of the members of the gaming club, at Brookes's, all his disciples. His bristly black person, and shagged breast quite open, and rarely purified by any ablutions, was wrapped in a foul linen night-gown, and his bushy hair dishevelled. In these cynic weeds, and with epicurean good-humour, did he dictate his politics, and in this school did the heir of the Crown attend his lessons, and imbibe them.
Fox's love of play was desperate. A few evenings before he moved the repeal of the Marriage Act, in February, 1772, he had been at Brompton on two errands: one to consult Justice Fielding on the penal laws; the other to borrow ten thousand pounds, which he brought to town at the hazard of being robbed. Fox played admirably both at whist and piquet; with such skill, indeed, that by the general admission of Brookes's Club, he might have made four thousand pounds a year, as they calculated, at those games, if he could have confined himself to them. But his misfortune arose from playing games at chance, particularly at Faro. After eating and drinking plentifully, he sat down to the Faro table, and inevitably rose a loser. Once, indeed, and once only, he won about eight thousand pounds in 94 the course of a single evening. Part of the money he paid away to his creditors, and the remainder he lost almost immediately. Before he attained his thirtieth year, he had completely dissipated everything that he could either command, or could procure by the most ruinous expedients. He had even undergone, at times, many of the severest privations annexed to the vicissitudes that mark a gamester's progress; frequently wanting money to defray the common daily wants of the most pressing nature. Topham Beauclerc, who lived much in Fox's society, affirmed, that no man could form an idea of the extremities to which he had been driven in order to raise money, after losing his last guinea at the Faro table. He was reduced for successive days to such distress, as to borrow money from the waiters of Brookes's. The very chairmen, whom he was unable to pay, used to dun him for their arrears. In 1781, he might be considered as an extinct volcano, for the pecuniary aliment that had fed the flame was long consumed. Yet he then occupied a house or lodgings in St. James's-street close to Brookes's, where he passed almost every hour which was not devoted to the House of Commons. Brookes's was then the rallying point or rendezvous of the Opposition; where, while faro, whist, and supper prolonged the night, the principal members of the Minority in both Houses met, in order to compare their information, or to concert and mature their parliamentary measures. Great sums were then borrowed of Jews at exorbitant premiums. Fox called his outward room, where the Jews waited till he rose, the Jerusalem Chamber. His brother Stephen was enormously fat; George Selwyn said he was in the right to deal with Shylocks, as he could give them pounds of flesh. 95
When Fox lodged with his friend Fitzpatrick, at Mackie's, some one remarked that two such inmates would be the ruin of Mackie, the oilman; "No," said George Selwyn; "so far from ruining him, they will make poor Mackie's fortune; for he will have the credit of having the finest pickles in London."
The ruling passion of Fox was partly owing to the lax training of his father, who, by his lavish allowances, fostered his propensity for play. According to Chesterfield, the first Lord Holland "had no fixed principles in religion or morality," and he censures him to his son for being "too unwary in ridiculing and exposing them." He gave full swing to Charles in his youth: "let nothing be done," said his Lordship, "to break his spirit; the world will do that for him." (Selwyn.) At his death, in 1774, he left him £154,000 to pay his debts; it was all bespoke, and Fox soon became as deeply pledged as before.
Walpole, in 1781, walking up St. James's-street, saw a cart and porters at Fox's door; with copper and an old chest of drawers, loading. His success at faro had awakened a host of creditors; but, unless his bank had swelled to the size of the Bank of England, it could not have yielded a sou apiece for each. Epsom, too, had been unpropitious; and one creditor had actually seized and carried off Fox's goods, which did not seem worth removing. Yet, shortly after this, whom should Walpole find sauntering by his own door but Fox, who came up and talked to him at the coach-window, on the Marriage Bill, with as much sang froid as if he knew nothing of what had happened.
It was at the sale of Fox's library in this year that Walpole made the following singular note:—"1781, 96 June 20. Sold by auction, the library of Charles Fox, which had been taken in execution. Amongst the books was Mr. Gibbon's first volume of 'Roman History,' which appeared, by the title-page, to have been given by the author to Mr. Fox, who had written in it the following anecdote:—'The author at Brookes's said there was no salvation for the country till six heads of the principal persons in the administration were laid on the table; eleven days later, the same gentleman accepted the place of Lord of Trade under those very ministers, and has acted with them ever since!' Such was the avidity of bidders for the smallest production of so wonderful a genius, that by the addition of this little record, the book sold for three guineas."
Lord Tankerville assured Mr. Rogers that Fox once played cards with Fitzpatrick at Brookes's from ten o'clock at night till near six o'clock the next afternoon, a waiter standing by to tell them "whose deal it was," they being too sleepy to know. Fox once won about eight thousand pounds; and one of his bond-creditors, who soon heard of his good luck, presented himself, and asked for payment. "Impossible, Sir," replied Fox; "I must first discharge my debts of honour." The bond-creditor remonstrated. "Well, Sir, give me your bond." It was delivered to Fox, who tore it in pieces, and threw them into the fire. "Now, Sir," said Fox, "my debt to you is a debt of honour;" and immediately paid him.
Amidst the wildest excesses of youth, even while the perpetual victim of his passion for play, Fox eagerly cultivated at intervals his taste for letters, especially the Greek and Roman historians and poets; and he found resources in their works, under the most severe depressions 97 occasioned by ill-success at the gaming-table. One morning, after Fox had passed the whole night in company with Topham Beauclerc at faro, the two friends were about to separate. Fox had lost throughout the night, and was in a frame of mind approaching desperation. Beauclerc's anxiety for the consequences which might ensue led him to be early at Fox's lodgings; and on arriving, he inquired, not without apprehension, whether he had risen. The servant replied that Mr. Fox was in the drawing-room, when Beauclerc walked upstairs, and cautiously opened the door, expecting to behold a frantic gamester stretched on the floor, bewailing his losses, or plunged in moody despair; but he was astonished to find him reading a Greek Herodotus. "What would you have me do?" said Fox, "I have lost my last shilling." Upon other occasions, after staking and losing all that he could raise at faro, instead of exclaiming against fortune, or manifesting the agitation natural under such circumstances, he would lay his head on the table, and retain his place, but, exhausted by mental and bodily fatigue, almost immediately fall into a profound sleep.
One night, at Brookes's, Fox made some remark on Government powder, in allusion to something that had happened. Adams considered it a reflection, and sent Fox a challenge. Fox went out, and took his station, giving a full front. Fitzgerald said, "You must stand sideways." Fox said, "Why I am as thick one way as the other,"—"Fire," was given: Adams fired, Fox did not, and when they said he must, he said, "I'll be d—d if I do. I have no quarrel." They then advanced to shake hands. Fox said, "Adams, you'd have killed me if it had not been Government powder." The ball hit him in the groin. 98
Another celebrated character, who frequented Brookes's in the days of Selwyn, was Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton; and many keen encounters passed between them. Dunning was a short, thick man, with a turn-up nose, a constant shake of the head, and latterly a distressing hectic cough—but a wit of the first water. Though he died at the comparatively early age of fifty-two, he amassed a fortune of £150,000 during twenty-five years' practice at the bar; and lived notwithstanding, so liberally, that his mother, an attorney's widow, some of the wags at Brookes's wickedly recorded, left him in dudgeon on the score of his extravagance, as humorously sketched at a dinner at the lawyer's country-house near Fulham, when the following conversation was represented to have occurred:—
"John," said the old lady to her son, after dinner, during which she had been astounded by the profusion of the plate and viands,—"John, I shall not stop another day to witness such shameful extravagance."
"But, my dear mother," interrupted Dunning, "you ought to consider that I can afford it: my income, you know—"
"No income," said the old lady impatiently, "can stand such shameful prodigality. The sum which your cook told me that very turbot cost, ought to have supported any reasonable family for a week."
"Pooh, pooh! my dear mother," replied the dutiful son, "you would not have me appear shabby. Besides, what is a turbot?"
"Pooh, pooh! what is a turbot?" echoed the irritated dame: "don't pooh me, John: I tell you such goings-on can come to no good, and you'll see the end of it before long. However, it sha'n't be said your mother 99 encouraged such sinful waste, for I'll set off in the coach to Devonshire to-morrow morning."
"And notwithstanding," said Sheridan, "all John's rhetorical efforts to detain her, the old lady kept her word."
Sheridan's election as a member of Brookes's took place under conflicting circumstances. His success at Stafford met with fewer obstacles than he had to encounter in St. James's-street, where Selwyn's political aversions and personal jealousy were very formidable, as were those of the Earl of Bessborough, and they and other members of the Club had determined to exclude Sheridan. Conscious that every exertion would be made to ensure his success, they agreed not to absent themselves during the time allowed by the regulations of the Club for ballots; and as one black ball sufficed to extinguish the hopes of a candidate, they repeatedly prevented his election. In order to remove so serious an impediment, Sheridan had recourse to artifice. On the evening when it was resolved to put him up, he found his two inveterate enemies posted as usual. A chairman was then sent with a note, written in the name of her father-in-law, Lord Bessborough, acquainting him that a fire had broken out in his house in Cavendish Square, and entreating him immediately to return home. Unsuspicious of any trick, as his son and daughter-in-law lived under his roof, Lord Bessborough unhesitatingly quitted the room, and got into a sedan-chair. Selwyn, who resided not far from Brookes's in Cleveland-row, received, nearly at the same time, a verbal message to request his presence, in consequence of Miss Fagniani, (whom he had adopted as his daughter,) being suddenly seized with alarming 100 indisposition. This summons he obeyed; and no sooner was the room cleared, than Sheridan being proposed a member, a ballot took place, when he was immediately chosen. Lord Bessborough and Selwyn returned without delay, on discovering the imposition that had been practised on their credulity, but they were too late to prevent its effects.
Such is the story told by Selwyn, in his Memoirs; but the following account is more generally acredited. The Prince of Wales joined Brookes's Club, to have more frequent intercourse with Mr. Fox, one of its earliest members, and who, on his first acquaintance with Sheridan, became anxious for his admission to the Club. Sheridan was three times proposed, but as often had the black ball in the ballot, which disqualified him. At length, the hostile ball was traced to George Selwyn, who objected, because his (Sheridan's) father had been upon the stage. Sheridan was apprised of this, and desired that his name might be put up again, and that the further conduct of the matter might be left to himself. Accordingly, on the evening when he was to be balloted for, Sheridan arrived at Brookes's arm-in-arm with the Prince of Wales, just ten minutes before the balloting began. They were shown into the candidates' waiting-room, when one of the club-waiters was ordered to tell Mr. Selwyn that the Prince desired to speak with him immediately. Selwyn obeyed the summons, and Sheridan, to whom this version of the affair states, Sheridan had no personal dislike, entertained him for half-an-hour with some political story, which interested him very much, but had no foundation in truth. During Selwyn's absence, the balloting went on, and Sheridan was chosen; and the result was announced to himself and the Prince 101 by the waiter, with the preconcerted signal of stroking his chin with his hand. Sheridan immediately rose from his seat, and apologizing for a few minutes' absence, told Selwyn that "the Prince would finish the narrative, the catastrophe of which he would find very remarkable."
Sheridan now went upstairs, was introduced to the Club, and was soon in all his glory. The Prince, in the meantime, had not the least idea of being left to conclude a story, the thread of which (if it had a thread) he had entirely forgotten. Still, by means of Selwyn's occasional assistance, the Prince got on pretty well for a few minutes, when a question from the listener as to the flat contradiction of a part of His Royal Highness' story to that of Sheridan, completely posed the narrator, and he stuck fast. After much floundering, the Prince burst into a loud laugh, saying, "D—n the fellow, to leave me to finish the infernal story, of which I know as much as a child unborn! But, never mind, Selwyn; as Sheridan does not seem inclined to come back, let me go upstairs, and I dare say Fox or some of them will be able to tell you all about it." They adjourned to the club room, and Selwyn now detected the manœuvre. Sheridan then rose, made a low bow, and apologized to Selwyn, through his dropping into such good company, adding, "They have just been making me a member without even one black ball, and here I am." "The devil they have!" exclaimed Selwyn.—"Facts speak for themselves," said Sheridan; "and I thank you for your friendly suffrage; and now, if you will sit down by us, I will finish my story."—"Your story! it is all a lie from beginning to end," exclaimed Selwyn, amidst loud laughter from all parts of the room.
Among the members who indulged in high play was 102 Alderman Combe, who is said to have made as much money in this way as he did by brewing. One evening, whilst he filled the office of Lord Mayor, he was busy at a full hazard-table at Brookes's, where the wit and the dice-box circulated together with great glee, and where Beau Brummell was one of the party. "Come, Mashtub," said Brummell, who was the caster, "what do you set?"—"Twenty-five guineas," answered the Alderman.—"Well, then," returned the Beau, "have at the mare's pony" (25 guineas). He continued to throw until he drove home the brewer's twelve ponies, running; and then, getting up, and making him a low bow, whilst pocketing the cash, he said, "Thank you, alderman; for the future, I shall never drink any porter but yours."—"I wish, Sir," replied the brewer, "that every other blackguard in London would tell me the same."
This notorious person, George Robert Fitzgerald, though nearly related to one of the first families in Ireland (Leinster), was executed in 1786, for a murder which he had coolly premeditated, and had perpetrated in a most cruel and cowardly manner.
His duelling propensities had kept him out of all the first Clubs in London. He once applied to Admiral Keith Stewart to propose him as a candidate for Brookes's; when the Admiral, knowing that he must either fight or comply with his request, chose the latter. Accordingly, on the night when the ballot was to take 103 place (which was only a mere form in this case, for even Keith Stewart had resolved to black-ball him), the duellist accompanied the Admiral to St. James's-street, and waited in the room below, while the ballot was taken. This was soon done; for, without hesitation, each member threw in a black ball; and when the scrutiny came, the company were not a little amazed to find not even one white ball among the number. However, the rejection being carried nem. con., the question was, which of the members had the hardihood to announce the result to the expectant candidate. No one would undertake the office, for the announcement was thought sure to produce a challenge; and a duel with Fitzgerald had, in most cases, been fatal to his opponent. The general opinion was that the proposer, Admiral Stewart, should convey the intelligence. "No, gentlemen," said he, "I proposed the fellow because I knew you would not admit him; but, by Jove, I have no inclination to risk my life against that of a madman."
"But, Admiral," replied the Duke of Devonshire, "there being no white ball in the box, he must know that you have black-balled him as well as the rest, and he is sure to call you out at all events."
This posed the Admiral, who, after some hesitation, proposed that the waiter should tell Fitzgerald that there was one black ball, and that his name must be put up again if he wished it. All concurred in the propriety of this plan, and the waiter was dispatched on the mission. In the meantime, Fitzgerald had frequently rung the bell to inquire "the state of the poll," and 104 had sent each waiter to ascertain, but neither durst return, when Mr. Brookes took the message from the waiter who was descending the staircase, and boldly entered the room, with a coffee equipage in his hand. "Did you call for coffee, Sir?" said Mr. Brookes, smartly. "D—n your coffee, Sir! and you too," answered Mr. Fitzgerald, in a voice which made the host's blood run cold. "I want to know, Sir, and that without one moment's delay, Sir, if I am chose yet?"
"Oh, Sir!" replied Mr. Brookes, attempting to smile away the appearance of fear, "I beg your pardon, Sir, but I was just coming to announce to you, Sir, with Admiral Stewart's compliments, Sir, that unfortunately there was one black ball in the box, Sir; and consequently, by the rules of the Club, Sir, no candidate can be admitted without a new election, Sir;—which cannot take place, by the standing regulations of the Club, Sir, until one month from this time, Sir."
During this address, Fitzgerald's irascibility appeared to undergo considerable mollification; and at its close, he grasped Brookes's hand, saying, "My dear Brookes, I'm chose; but there must be a small matter of mistake in my election:" he then persuaded Brookes to go upstairs, and make his compliments to the gentlemen, and say, as it was only a mistake of one black ball, they would be so good as to waive all ceremony on his account, and proceed to re-elect their humble servant without any more delay at all." Many of the members were panic-struck, foreseeing a disagreeable finale to the farce which they had been playing. Mr. Brookes stood silent, waiting for the answer. At length, the Earl of March (afterwards Duke of Queensberry) said aloud, "Try the effect of two balls: d—n his Irish impudence, 105 if two balls don't take effect upon him, I don't know what will." This proposition was agreed to, and Brookes was ordered to communicate the same.
On re-entering the waiting-room, Mr. Fitzgerald eagerly inquired, "Have they elected me right, now, Mr. Brookes?" the reply was, "Sorry to inform you that the result of the second balloting is—that two black balls were dropped, Sir."—"Then," exclaimed Fitzgerald, "there's now two mistakes instead of one." He then persuaded Brookes again to proceed upstairs, and tell the honourable members to "try again, and make no more mistakes." General Fitzpatrick proposed that Brookes should reply, "His cause was all hopeless, for that he was black-balled all over, from head to foot, and it was hoped by all the members that Mr. Fitzgerald would not persist in thrusting himself into society where his company was declined." This message was of no avail: no sooner had Fitzgerald heard it than he exclaimed: "Oh, I perceive it is a mistake altogether, Mr. Brookes, and I must see to the rectifying of it myself, there's nothing like daling with principals; so, I'll step up at once, and put this thing to rights, without any more unnecessary delay."
In spite of Mr. Brookes's remonstrance, that his entrance into the Club-room was against all rule and etiquette, Fitzgerald flew upstairs, and entered the room without any further ceremony than a bow, saying to the members, who indignantly rose at the intrusion, "Your servant, gentlemen—I beg ye will be sated."
Walking up to the fireplace, he thus addressed Admiral Stewart:—"So, my dear Admiral, Mr. Brookes informs me that I have been elected three times."
"You have been balloted for, Mr. Fitzgerald, but I am sorry to say you have not been chosen," said Stewart. 106
"Well, then," replied the duellist, "did you black-ball me?"—"My good Sir," answered the Admiral, "how could you suppose such a thing?"—"Oh, I supposed no such thing, my dear fellow; I only want to know who it was that dropped the black balls in by accident, as it were!"
Fitzgerald now went up to each individual member, and put the same question seriatim, "Did you black-ball me, Sir?" until he made the round of the whole Club; and in each case he received a reply similar to that of the Admiral. When he had finished his inquisition, he thus addressed the whole body: "You see, Gentlemen, that as none of ye have black-balled me, I must be chose; and it is Mr. Brookes that has made the mistake. But I was convinced of it from the beginning, and I am only sorry that so much time has been lost as to prevent honourable gentlemen from enjoying each other's company sooner." He then desired the waiter to bring him a bottle of champagne, that he might drink long life to the Club, and wish them joy of their unanimous election of a "rael gentleman by father and mother, and who never missed his man."
The members now saw that there was nothing to be done but to send the intruder to Coventry, which they appeared to do by tacit agreement; for when Admiral Stewart departed, Mr. Fitzgerald found himself cut by all his "dear friends." The members now formed parties at the whist-table; and no one replied to Fitzgerald's observations nor returned even a nod to the toasts and healths which he drank in three bottles of champagne, which the terrified waiter placed before him, in succession. At length, he arose, made a low bow, and took leave, promising to "come earlier next night, and have 107 a little more of it." It was then agreed that half-a-dozen stout constables should be in waiting the next evening to bear him off to the watch-house, if he attempted again to intrude. Of this measure, Fitzgerald seemed to be aware; for he never again showed himself at Brookes's; though he boasted everywhere that he had been unanimously chosen a member of the Club.
This Club, established more than a century since, at No. 69, St. James's-street, derives its name from Mr. Arthur, the master of White's Chocolate-house in the same street. Mr. Cunningham records: "Arthur died in June, 1761, in St. James's-place; and in the following October, Mr. Mackreth married Arthur's only child, and Arthur's Chocolate-house, as it was then called, became the property of this Mr. Mackreth."
Walpole, writing in 1759, has this odd note: "I stared to-day at Piccadilly like a country squire; there are twenty new stone houses: at first I concluded that all the grooms that used to live there, had got estates and built palaces. One young gentleman, who was getting an estate, but was so indiscreet as to step out of his way to rob a comrade, is convicted, and to be transported; in short, one of the waiters at Arthur's. George Selwyn says, 'What a horrid idea he will give us of the people in Newgate?'"
Mackreth prospered; for Walpole, writing to Mann, in 1774, speaking of the New Parliament, says: "Bob, 108 formerly a waiter at White's, was set up by my nephew for two boroughs, and actually is returned for Castle Rising with Mr. Wedderburne;
"'Servus curru portatur eodem;'
which I suppose will offend the Scottish Consul, as most of his countrymen resent an Irishman standing for Westminster, which the former reckon a borough of their own. For my part, waiter for waiter, I see little difference; they were all equally ready to cry, 'Coming, coming, Sir.'"
Mackreth was afterwards knighted; and upon him appeared this smart and well-remembered epigram:
"When Mackreth served in Arthur's crew,
He said to Rumbold, 'Black my shoe;'
To which he answer'd, 'Ay, Bob.'
But when return'd from India's land,
And grown too proud to brook command,
He sternly answer'd, 'Nay, Bob.'"
The Club-house was rebuilt in 1825, upon the site of the original Chocolate-house, Thomas Hopper, architect, at which time it possessed more than average design: the front is of stone, and is enriched with fluted Corinthian columns.
This celebrated Club was originally established as "White's Chocolate-house," in 1698, five doors from the bottom of the west side of St. James's-street, "ascending from St. James's Palace." (Hatton, 1708.) A print 109 of the time shows a small garden attached to the house: at the tables in the house or garden, more than one highwayman took his chocolate, or threw his main, before he quietly mounted his horse, and rode down Piccadilly towards Bagshot. (Doran's Table Traits.) It was destroyed by fire, April 28, 1733, when the house was kept by Mr. Arthur, who subsequently gave his name to the Club called Arthur's, still existing a few doors above the original White's. At the fire, young Arthur's wife leaped out of a second floor window, upon a feather-bed, without much hurt. A fine collection of paintings, belonging to Sir Andrew Fountaine, valued at 3000l., was entirely destroyed. The King and the Prince of Wales were present above an hour, and encouraged the firemen and people to work at the engines; a guard being ordered from St. James's, to keep off the populace. His Majesty ordered twenty guineas to be distributed among the firemen and others that worked at the engines, and five guineas to the guard; and the Prince ordered the firemen ten guineas. "The incident of the fire," says Mr. Cunningham, "was made use of by Hogarth, in Plate VI. of the Rake's Progress, representing a room at White's. The total abstraction of the gamblers is well expressed by their utter inattention to the alarm of the fire given by watchmen, who are bursting open the doors. Plate IV. of the same pictured moral represents a group of chimney-sweepers and shoe-blacks gambling on the ground over-against White's. To indicate the Club more fully, Hogarth has inserted the name Black's."
Arthur, thus burnt out, removed to Gaunt's Coffee-house, next the St. James's Coffee-house, and which bore the name of "White's"—a myth. The Tatler, in 110 his first Number, promises that "all accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and entertainment, shall be under the article of White's Chocolate-house." Addison, in his Prologue to Steele's Tender Husband, catches "the necessary spark" sometimes "taking snuff at White's."
The Chocolate-house, open to any one, became a private Club-house: the earliest record is a book of rules and list of members of the old Club at White's, dated October 30th, 1736. The principal members were the Duke of Devonshire; the Earls of Cholmondeley, Chesterfield, and Rockingham; Sir John Cope, Major-General Churchill, Bubb Dodington, and Colley Cibber. Walpole tells us that the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield lived at White's, gaming and pronouncing witticisms among the boys of quality; "yet he says to his son, that a member of a gaming club should be a cheat, or he will soon be a beggar," an inconsistency which reminds one of old Fuller's saw: "A father that whipt his son for swearing, and swore himself whilst he whipt him, did more harm by his example than good by his correction."
Swift, in his Essay on Modern Education, gives the Chocolate-house a sad name. "I have heard," he says, "that the late Earl of Oxford, in the time of his ministry, never passed by White's Chocolate-house (the common rendezvous of infamous sharpers and noble cullies) without bestowing a curse upon that famous Academy, as the bane of half the English nobility."
The gambling character of the Club may also be gathered from Lord Lyttelton writing to Dr. Doddridge, in 1750. "The Dryads of Hagley are at present pretty secure, but I tremble to think that the rattling of a dice-box at White's may one day or other (if my son 111 should be a member of that noble academy) shake down all our fine oaks. It is dreadful to see, not only there, but almost in every house in town, what devastations are made by that destructive fury, the spirit of play."
Swift's character of the company is also borne out by Walpole, in a letter to Mann, December 16, 1748: "There is a man about town, Sir William Burdett, a man of very good family, but most infamous character. In short, to give you his character at once, there is a wager entered in the bet-book at White's (a MS. of which I may one day or other give you an account), that the first baronet that will be hanged is this Sir William Burdett."
Again, Glover, the poet, in his Autobiography, tells us: "Mr. Pelham (the Prime Minister) was originally an officer in the army, and a professed gamester; of a narrow mind, low parts, etc.... By long experience and attendance he became experienced as a Parliament man; and even when Minister, divided his time to the last between his office and the club of gamesters at White's." And, Pope, in the Dunciad, has:
"Or chair'd at White's, amidst the doctors sit,
Teach oaths to gamesters, and to nobles wit."
The Club removed, in 1755, to the east side of St. James's-street, No. 38. The house had had previously a noble and stately tenant; for here resided the Countess of Northumberland, widow of Algernon, tenth Earl of Northumberland, who died 1688. "My friend Lady Suffolk, her niece by marriage," writes Walpole, "has talked to me of her having, on that alliance, visited her. She then lived in the house now White's, at the upper end of St. James's-street, and was the last 112 who kept up the ceremonious state of the old peerage. When she went out to visit, a footman, bareheaded, walked on each side of her coach, and a second coach with her women attended her. I think, too, that Lady Suffolk told me that her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Somerset, never sat down before her without leave to do so. I suppose the old Duke Charles [the proud Duke] had imbibed a good quantity of his stately pride in such a school." (Letter to the Bishop of Dromore, September 18, 1792.) This high-minded dame had published a "Volume of Prayers."
Among the Rules of the Club, every member was to pay one guinea a year towards having a good cook; the names of all candidates were to be deposited with Mr. Arthur or Bob [Mackreth]. In balloting, every member was to put in his ball, and such person or persons who refuse to comply with it, shall pay the supper reckoning of that night; and, in 1769, it was agreed that 'every member of this Club who is in the Billiard-Room at the time the Supper is declared upon table, shall pay his reckoning if he does not sup at the Young Club.'
Of Colley Cibber's membership we find this odd account in Davies's Life of Garrick:—"Colley, we told, had the honour to be a member of the great Club at White's; and so I suppose might any other man who wore good clothes and paid his money when he lost it. But on what terms did Cibber live with this society? Why, he feasted most sumptuously, as I have heard his friend Victor say, with an air of triumphant exultation, with Mr. Arthur and his wife, and gave a trifle for his dinner. After he had dined, when the Club-room door was opened, and the Laureate was introduced, he was 113 saluted with loud and joyous acclamation of 'O King Coll! Come in, King Coll!' and 'Welcome, welcome, King Colley!' And this kind of gratulation, Mr. Victor thought, was very gracious and very honourable."
In the Rules quoted by Mr. Cunningham, from the Club-books, we find that in 1780, a dinner was ready every day during the sitting of Parliament, at a reckoning of 12s. per head; in 1797, at 10s. 6d. per head, malt liquors, biscuits, oranges, apples, and olives included; hot suppers provided at 8s. per head; and cold meat, oysters, etc., at 4s., malt liquor only included. And, "that Every Member who plays at Chess, Draughts, or Backgammon do pay One Shilling each time of playing by daylight, and half-a-crown each by candlelight."
White's was from the beginning principally a gaming Club. The play was mostly at hazard and faro; no member was to hold a faro Bank. Whist was comparatively harmless. Professional gamblers, who lived by dice and cards, provided they were free from the imputation of cheating, procured admission to White's. It was a great supper-house, and there was play before and after supper, carried on to a late hour and heavy amounts. Lord Carlisle lost 10,000l. in one night, and was in debt to the house for the whole. He tells Selwyn of a set, in which at one point of the game, stood to win 50,000l. Sir John Bland, of Kippax Park, who shot himself in 1755, as we learn from Walpole, flirted away his whole fortune at hazard. "He t'other night exceeded what was lost by the late Duke of Bedford, having at one period of the night, (though he recovered the greater part of it,) lost two-and-thirty thousand pounds."
Lord Mountford came to a tragic end through his 114 gambling. He had lost money; feared to be reduced to distress; asked for a Government appointment, and determined to throw the die of life or death, on the answer he received from Court. The answer was unfavourable. He consulted several persons, indirectly at first, afterwards pretty directly—on the easiest mode of finishing life; invited a dinner-party for the day after; supped at White's, and played at whist till one o'clock of the New Year's morning. Lord Robert Bertie drank to him "a happy new year;" he clapped his hand strangely to his eyes. In the morning, he sent for a lawyer and three witnesses, executed his will; made them read it twice over, paragraph by paragraph; asked the lawyer if that will would stand good though a man were to shoot himself. Being assured it would, he said, "Pray stay, while I step into the next room,"—went into the next room, and shot himself.
Walpole writes to Mann: "John Damier and his two brothers have contracted a debt, one can scarcely expect to be believed out of England,—of 70,000l.... The young men of this age seem to make a law among themselves for declaring their fathers superannuated at fifty, and thus dispose of their estates as if already their own." "Can you believe that Lord Foley's two sons have borrowed money so extravagantly, that the interest they have contracted to pay, amounts to 18,000l. a year."
Fox's love of play was frightful: his best friends are said to have been half-ruined in annuities, given by them as securities for him to the Jews. Five hundred thousand a year of such annuities, of Fox and his Society, were advertised to be sold, at one time: Walpole wondered what Fox would do when he had sold the estates 115 of all his friends. Here are some instances of his desperate play. Walpole further notes that in the debate on the Thirty-nine Articles, February 6, 1772, Fox did not shine, "nor could it be wondered at. He had sat up playing at hazard at Almack's, from Tuesday evening the 4th, till five in the afternoon of Wednesday, 5th. An hour before he had recovered 12,000l. that he had lost, and by dinner, which was at five o'clock, he had ended losing 11,000l. On the Thursday, he spoke in the above debate; went to dinner at past eleven at night; from thence to White's, where he drank till seven the next morning; thence to Almack's, where he won 6,000l.; and between three and four in the afternoon he set out for Newmarket. His brother Stephen lost 11,000l. two nights after, and Charles 10,000l. more on the 13th; so that, in three nights, the two brothers, the eldest not twenty-five, lost 32,000l."
Walpole and a party of friends, (Dick Edgecumbe, George Selwyn, and Williams,) in 1756, composed a piece of heraldic satire—a coat-of-arms for the two gaming-clubs at White's,—which was "actually engraving from a very pretty painting of Edgecumbe, whom Mr. Chute, as Strawberry King at arms," appointed their chief herald-painter. The blazon is vert (for a card-table); three parolis proper on a chevron sable (for a hazard-table); two rouleaux in saltire between two dice proper, on a canton sable; a white ball (for election) argent. The supporters are an old and young knave of clubs; the crest, an arm out of an earl's coronet shaking a dice-box; and the motto, "Cogit amor nummi." Round the arms is a claret-bottle ticket by way of order. The painting above mentioned by Walpole of "the Old and Young Club at Arthur's" was bought at the sale of 116 Strawberry Hill by Arthur's Club-house for twenty-two shillings.
At White's, the least difference of opinion invariably ended in a bet, and a book for entering the particulars of all bets was always laid upon the table; one of these, with entries of a date as early as 1744, Mr. Cunningham tells us, had been preserved. A book for entering bets is still laid on the table.
In these betting books are to be found bets on births, deaths, and marriages; the length of a life, or the duration of a ministry; a placeman's prospect of a coronet; on the shock of an earthquake; or the last scandal at Ranelagh, or Madame Cornelys's. A man dropped down at the door of White's; he was carried into the house. Was he dead or not? The odds were immediately given and taken for and against. It was proposed to bleed him. Those who had taken the odds the man was dead, protested that the use of a lancet would affect the fairness of the bet.
Walpole gives some of these narratives as good stories "made on White's." A parson coming into the Club on the morning of the earthquake of 1750, and hearing bets laid whether the shock was caused by an earthquake or the blowing-up of powder-mills, went away in horror, protesting they were such an impious set, that he believed if the last trump were to sound, they would bet "puppet-show against Judgment." Gilly Williams writes to Selwyn, 1764, "Lord Digby is very soon to be married to Miss Fielding." Thousands might have been won in this house (White's), on his Lordship not knowing that such a being existed.
Mr. Cunningham tells us that "the marriage of a young lady of rank would occasion a bet of a hundred 117 guineas, that she would give birth to a live child before the Countess of ——, who had been married three or even more months before her. Heavy bets were pending, that Arthur, who was then a widower, would be married before a member of the Club of about the same age, and also a widower; and that Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, would outlive the old Duchess of Cleveland."
"One of the youth at White's," writes Walpole to Mann, July 10, 1744, "has committed a murder, and intends to repeat it. He betted £1500 that a man could live twelve hours under water; hired a desperate fellow, sunk him in a ship, by way of experiment, and both ship and man have not appeared since. Another man and ship are to be tried for their lives, instead of Mr. Blake, the assassin."
Walpole found at White's, a very remarkable entry in their very—very remarkable wager-book, which is still preserved. "Lord Mountford bets Sir John Bland twenty guineas that Nash outlives Cibber." "How odd," says Walpole, "that these two old creatures, selected for their antiquities, should live to see both their wagerers put an end to their own lives! Cibber is within a few days of eighty-four, still hearty, and clear, and well. I told him I was glad to see him look so well. 'Faith,' said he, 'it is very well that I look at all.'" Lord Mountford would have been the winner: Cibber died in 1757; Nash in 1761.
Here is a nice piece of Selwyn's ready wit. He and Charles Townshend had a kind of wit combat together. Selwyn, it is said, prevailed; and Charles Townshend took the wit home in his carriage, and dropped him at White's. "Remember," said Selwyn, as they parted, "this is the first set-down you have given me to-day." 118
"St. Leger," says Walpole, "was at the head of these luxurious heroes—he is the hero of all fashion. I never saw more dashing vivacity and absurdity with some flashes of parts. He had a cause the other day for ducking a sharper, and was going to swear; the judge said to him, 'I see, Sir, you are very ready to take an oath.' 'Yes, my Lord,' replied St. Leger, 'my father was a judge,'" St. Leger was a lively club member. "Rigby," writes the Duke of Bedford, July 2, 1751, "the town is grown extremely thin within this week, though White's continues numerous enough, with young people only, for Mr. St. Leger's vivacity, and the idea the old ones have of it, prevent the great chairs at the Old Club from being filled with their proper drowsy proprietors."
In Hogarth's gambling scene at White's, we see the highwayman, with the pistols peeping out of his pocket, waiting by the fireside till the heaviest winner takes his departure, in order to "recoup" himself of his losings. And in the Beaux' Stratagem, Aimwell asks of Gibbet, "Ha'n't I seen your face at White's?"—"Ay, and at Will's too," is the highwayman's answer.
M'Clean, the fashionable highwayman, had a lodging in St. James's-street, over-against White's; and he was as well known about St. James's as any gentleman who lived in that quarter, and who, perhaps, went upon the road too. When M'Clean was taken, in 1750, Walpole tells us that Lord Mountford, at the head of half White's, went the first day; his aunt was crying over him; as soon as they were withdrawn, she said to him, knowing they were of White's, "My dear, what did the Lords say to you? Have you ever been concerned with any of them? Was it not admirable? What a favourable idea people must have of White's!—and what if White's should not deserve a much better?" 119
A waitership at a club sometimes led to fortune. Thomas Rumbold, originally a waiter at White's, got an appointment in India, and suddenly rose to be Sir Thomas, and Governor of Madras. On his return, with immense wealth, a bill of pains and penalties was brought into the House by Dundas, with the view of stripping Sir Robert of his ill-gotten gains. This bill was briskly pushed through the earlier stages; suddenly the proceedings were arrested by adjournment, and the measure fell to the ground. The rumour of the day attributed Rumbold's escape to the corrupt assistance of Rigby; who, in 1782, found himself, by Lord North's retirement, deprived of his place in the Pay Office, and called upon to refund a large amount of public moneys unaccounted for. In this strait, Rigby was believed to have had recourse to Rumbold. Their acquaintance had commenced in earlier days, when Rigby was one of the boldest "punters" at White's, and Rumbold bowed to him for half-crowns. Rumbold is said to have given Rigby a large sum of money, on condition of the former being released from the impending pains and penalties. The truth of this report has been vehemently denied; but the circumstances are suspicious. The bill was dropped: Dundas, its introducer, was Rigby's intimate associate. Rigby's nephew and heir soon after married Rumbold's daughter. Sir Thomas himself had married a daughter of Dr. Law, Bishop of Carlisle. The worthy Bishop stood godfather to one of Rumbold's children; the other godfather was the Nabob of Arcot, and the child was christened "Mahomet." So, at least, Walpole informs Mann.
Rigby was a man of pleasure at White's. Wilkes, in 120 the North Briton, describes Rigby as "an excellent bon-vivant, amiable and engaging; having all the gibes and gambols, and flashes of merriment, which set the table in a roar." In a letter to Selwyn, Rigby writes: "I am just got home from a cock-match, where I have won forty pounds in ready money; and not having dined, am waiting till I hear the rattle of the coaches from the House of Commons, in order to dine at White's.... The next morning I heard there had been extreme deep play, and that Harry Furnese went drunk from White's at six o'clock, and with the ever memorable sum of 1000 guineas. He won the chief part of Doneraile and Bob Bertie."
The Club has had freaks of epicurism. In 1751, seven young men of fashion, headed by St. Leger, gave a dinner at White's: one dish was a tart of choice cherries from a hot-house; only one glass was tasted out of each bottle of champagne. "The bill of fare is got into print," writes Walpole, to Mann; "and with good people has produced the apprehension of another earthquake."
From Mackreth the property passed in 1784, to John Martindale, and in 1812, to Mr. Raggett, the father of the present proprietor. The original form of the house was designed by James Wyatt. From time to time, White's underwent various alterations and additions. In the autumn of 1850, certain improvements being thought necessary, it came to be considered that the front was of too plain a character, when contrasted with the many elegant buildings which had risen up around it. Mr. Lockyer was consulted by Mr. Raggett as to the possibility of improving the façade; and under his direction, four bas-reliefs, representing the four seasons, which occupy the place of four sashes, were designed by Mr. 121 George Scharf, jun. The interior was redecorated by Mr. Morant. The Club, which is at this time limited to 500 members, was formerly composed of the high Tory party, but though Conservative principles may probably prevail, it has now ceased to be a political club, and may rather be termed "Aristocratic." Several of the present members have belonged to the Club upwards of half a century, and the ancestors of most of the noblemen and men of fashion of the present day who belong to the club were formerly members of it.
The Club has given magnificent entertainments in our time. On June 20, 1814, they gave a ball at Burlington House to the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, and the allied sovereigns then in England; the cost was 9849l. 2s. 6d. Three weeks after this, the Club gave to the Duke of Wellington a dinner, which cost 2480l. 10s. 9d.
This Club, originally the "Savoir vivre," which with Brookes's and White's, forms a trio of nearly coeval date, and each of which takes the present name of its founder, is No. 28, St. James's-street. In its early records it was noted for its costly gaieties, and the Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, 1773, commemorates its epicurism: 122
"For what is Nature? Ring her changes round,
Her three flat notes are water, plants, and ground;
Prolong the peal, yet, spite of all your clatter,
The tedious chime is still ground, plants, and water;
So, when some John his dull invention racks,
To rival Boodle's dinners or Almack's,
Three uncouth legs of mutton shock our eyes,
Three roasted geese, three buttered apple-pies."
In the following year, when the Clubs vied with each other in giving the town the most expensive masquerades and ridottos, Gibbon speaks of one given by the members of Boodle's, that cost 2000 guineas. Gibbon was early of the Club; and, "it must be remembered, waddled as well as warbled here when he exhibited that extraordinary person which is said to have convulsed Lady Sheffield with laughter; and poured forth accents mellifluous like Plato's from that still more extraordinary mouth which has been described as 'a round hole' in the centre of his face."
Boodle's Club-house, designed by Holland, has long been eclipsed by the more pretentious architecture of the Club edifices of our time; but the interior arrangements are well planned. Boodle's is chiefly frequented by country gentlemen, whose status has been thus satirically insinuated by a contemporary: "Every Sir John belongs to Boodle's—as you may see, for, when a waiter comes into the room and says to some aged student of the Morning Herald, 'Sir John, your servant is come,' every head is mechanically thrown up in answer to the address.'"
Among the Club pictures are portraits of C. J. Fox, and the Duke of Devonshire. Next door, at No. 29, resided Gillray, the caricaturist, who, in 1815, threw himself from an upstairs window into the street, and died in consequence.
In the Spectator, No. 9, March 10, 1710-11, we read: "The Beef-steak and October Clubs are neither of them averse to eating or drinking, if we may form a judgment of them from their respective titles." This passage refers to the Beef-steak Club, founded in the reign of Queen Anne; and, it is believed, the earliest Club with that name. Dr. King, in his Art of Cookery, humbly inscribed to the Beef-steak Club, 1709, has these lines:
"He that of honour, wit, and mirth partakes,
May be a fit companion o'er Beef-steaks:
His name may be to future times enrolled
In Estcourt's book, whose gridiron's framed with gold."
Estcourt, the actor, was made Providore of the Club; and for a mark of distinction wore their badge, which was a small gridiron of gold, hung about his neck with a green silk ribbon. Such is the account given by Chetwood, in his History of the Stage, 1749; to which he adds: "this Club was composed of the chief wits and great men of the nation." The gridiron, it will be seen hereafter, was assumed as its badge, by the "Society of Beef-steaks, established a few years later: they call themselves 'the Steaks,' and abhor the notion of being thought a Club." Though the National Review, heretical as it may appear, cannot consent to dissever the Society from the earlier Beef-steak Club; which, however, would imply that Rich and Lambert were not the founders of the Society, although so circumstantially shown to be. Still, the stubbornness of facts must prevail.
Dick Estcourt was beloved by Steele, who thus introduces him in the Spectator, No. 358: "The best man 124 that I know of for heightening the real gaiety of a company is Estcourt, whose jovial humour diffuses itself from the highest person at an entertainment to the meanest waiter. Merry tales, accompanied with apt gestures and lively representations of circumstances and persons, beguile the gravest mind into a consent to be as humorous as himself. Add to this, that when a man is in his good graces, he has a mimicry that does not debase the person he represents, but which, taken from the gravity of the character, adds to the agreeableness of it."
Then, in the Spectator, No. 264, we find a letter from Sir Roger de Coverley, from Coverley, "To Mr. Estcourt, at his House in Covent Garden," addressing him as "Old Comical One," and acknowledging "the hogsheads of neat port came safe," and hoping next term to help fill Estcourt's Bumper "with our people of the Club." The Bumper was the tavern in Covent Garden, which Estcourt opened about a year before his death. In this quality Parnell speaks of him in the beginning of one of his poems:—
"Gay Bacchus liking Estcourt's wine
A noble meal bespoke us,
And for the guests that were to dine
Brought Comus, Love, and Jocus."
The Spectator delivers this merited eulogy of the player, just prior to his benefit at the theatre: "This pleasant fellow gives one some idea of the ancient Pantomime, who is said to have given the audience in dumb-show, an exact idea of any character or passion, or an intelligible relation of any public occurrence, with no other expression than that of his looks and gestures. If all who have been obliged to these talents in Estcourt will be at Love for Love to-morrow night, they will but pay him what 125 they owe him, at so easy a rate as being present at a play which nobody would omit seeing, that had, or had not, ever seen it before."
Then, in the Spectator, No. 468, August 27, 1712, with what touching pathos does Steele record the last exit of this choice spirit: "I am very sorry that I have at present a circumstance before me which is of very great importance to all who have a relish for gaiety, wit, mirth, or humour: I mean the death of poor Dick Estcourt. I have been obliged to him for so many hours of jollity, that it is but a small recompense, though all I can give him, to pass a moment or two in sadness for the loss of so agreeable a man.... Poor Estcourt! Let the vain and proud be at rest, thou wilt no more disturb their admiration of their dear selves; and thou art no longer to drudge in raising the mirth of stupids, who know nothing of thy merit, for thy maintenance." Having spoken of him "as a companion and a man qualified for conversation,"—his fortune exposing him to an obsequiousness towards the worst sort of company, but his excellent qualities rendering him capable of making the best figure in the most refined, and then having told of his maintaining "his good humour with a countenance or a language so delightful, without offence to any person or thing upon earth, still preserving the distance his circumstances obliged him to,"—Steele concludes with, "I say, I have seen him do all this in such a charming manner, that I am sure none of those I hint at will read this, without giving him some sorrow for their abundant mirth, and one gush of tears for so many bursts of laughter. I wish it were any honour to the pleasant creature's memory, that my eyes are too much suffused to let me go on——" We agree with Leigh 126 Hunt that Steele's "overfineness of nature was never more beautifully evinced in any part of his writings than in this testimony to the merits of poor Dick Estcourt."
Ned Ward, in his Secret History of Clubs, first edition, 1709, describes the Beef-steaks, which he coarsely contrasts with "the refined wits of the Kit-Cat." This new Society griliado'd beef eaters first settled their meeting at the sign of the Imperial Phiz, just opposite to a famous conventicle in the Old Jury, a publick-house that has been long eminent for the true British quintessence of malt and hops, and a broiled sliver off the juicy rump of a fat, well-fed bullock.... This noted boozing ken, above all others in the City, was chosen out by the Rump-steak admirers, as the fittest mansion to entertain the Society, and to gratify their appetites with that particular dainty they desired to be distinguished by. [The Club met at the place appointed, and chose for a Prolocutor, an Irish comedian.] No sooner had they confirmed their Hibernian mimic in his honourable post, but to distinguish him from the rest, they made him a Knight of St. Lawrence, and hung a silver (?) gridiron about his neck, as a badge of the dignity they had conferred upon him, that when he sung Pretty Parrot, he might thrum upon the bars of his new instrument, and mimic a haughty Spaniard serenading his Donna with guitar and madrigal. The Zany, as proud of his new fangle as a German mountebank of a prince's medal, when he was thus dignified and distinguished with his culinary symbol hanging before his breast, took the highest post of honour, as his place at the board, where, as soon as seated, there was not a bar in the silver kitchen-stuff that the Society had presented him with, but was presently handled with a theatrical pun, or 127 an Irish witticism.... Orders were dispatched to the superintendent of the kitchen to provide several nice specimens of their Beef-steak cookery, some with the flavour of a shalot or onion; some broil'd, some fry'd, some stew'd, some toasted, and others roasted, that every judicious member of the new erected Club might appeal to his palate, and from thence determine whether the house they had chosen for their rendezvous truly deserved that public fame for their inimitable management of a bovinary sliver, which the world had given them.... When they had moderately supplied their beef stomachs, they were all highly satisfy'd with the choice they had made, and from that time resolved to repeat their meeting once a week in the same place." At the next meeting the constitution and bye-laws of the new little commonwealth were settled; and for the further encouragement of wit and pleasantry throughout the whole Society, there was provided a very voluminous paper book, "about as thick as a bale of Dutch linen, into which were to be entered every witty saying that should be spoke in the Society:" this nearly proved a failure; but Ward gives a taste of the performances by reciting some that had been stolen out of their Journal by a false Brother; here is one:—
ON AN OX.
"Most noble creature of the horned race,
Who labours at the plough to earn thy grass,
And yielding to the yoke, shows man the way
To bear his servile chains, and to obey
More haughty tyrants, who usurp the sway.
Thy sturdy sinews till the farmer's grounds,
To thee the grazier owes his hoarded pounds:
'Tis by thy labour, we abound in malt,
Whose powerful juice the meaner slaves exalt; 128
And when grown fat, and fit to be devour'd,
The pole-ax frees thee from the teazing goard:
Thus cruel man, to recompense thy pains,
First works thee hard, and then beats out thy brains."
Ward is very hard upon the Kit-Cat community, and tells us that the Beef-steaks, "like true Britons, to show their resentment in contempt of Kit-Cat pies, very justly gave the preference to a rump-steak, most wisely agreeing that the venerable word, beef, gave a more masculine grace, and sounded better in the title of a true English Club, than either Pies or Kit-Cat; and that a gridiron, which has the honour to be made the badge of a Saint's martyrdom, was a nobler symbol of their Christian integrity, than two or three stars or garters; who learnedly recollecting how great an affinity the word bull has to beef, they thought it very consistent with the constitution of their Society, instead of a Welsh to have a Hibernian secretary. Being thus fixed to the great honour of a little alehouse, next door to the Church, and opposite to the Meeting, they continued to meet for some time; till their fame spreading over all the town, and reaching the ears of the great boys and little boys, as they came in the evening from Merchant Taylors' School, they could not forbear hollowing as they passed the door; and being acquainted with their nights of meeting, they seldom failed, when the divan was sitting, of complimenting their ears with 'Huzza! Beef-steak!'—that they might know from thence, how much they were reverenced for men of learning by the very school-boys."
"But the modest Club," says Ward, "not affecting popularity, and choosing rather to be deaf to all public flatteries, thought it an act of prudence to adjourn from thence into a place of obscurity, where they might feast 129 knuckle-deep in luscious gravy, and enjoy themselves free from the noisy addresses of the young scholastic rabble; so that now, whether they have healed the breach, and are again returned into the Kit-Cat community, from whence it is believed, upon some disgust, they at first separated, or whether, like the Calves' Head Club they remove from place to place, to prevent discovery, I sha'n't presume to determine; but at the present, like Oates's army of pilgrims, in the time of the plot, though they are much talk'd of they are difficult to be found." The "Secret history" concludes with an address to the Club, from which these are specimen lines:
"Such strenuous lines, so cheering, soft, and sweet,
That daily flow from your conjunctive wit,
Proclaim the power of Beef, that noble meat.
Your tuneful songs such deep impression make,
And of such awful, beauteous strength partake,
Each stanza seems an ox, each line a steak.
As if the rump in slices, broil'd or stew'd
In its own gravy, till divinely good,
Turned all to powerful wit, as soon as chew'd.
To grind thy gravy out their jaws employ,
O'er heaps of reeking steaks express their joy,
And sing of Beef as Homer did of Troy."
We shall now more closely examine the origin and history of the Sublime Society of the Steaks, which has its pedigree, its ancestry, and its title-deeds. The gridiron of 1735 is the real gridiron on which its first steak was broiled. Henry Rich (Lun, the first Harlequin) was the founder, to whom Garrick thus alludes in a prologue to the Irish experiment of a speaking pantomime:
"When Lun appeared, with matchless art and whim,
He gave the power of speech to every limb.
Though masked and mute conveyed his true intent,
And told in frolic gestures what he meant;
But now the motley coat and sword of wood,
Require a tongue to make them understood."
There is a letter extant, written by Nixon, the treasurer, probably to some artist, granting permission by the Beef-steak Society "to copy the original gridiron, and I have wrote on the other side of this sheet a note to Mr. White, at the Bedford, to introduce you to our room for the purpose making your drawing. The first spare moment I can take from my business shall be employed in making a short statement of the rise and establishment of the Beef-steak Society."
Rich, in 1732, left the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre for Covent Garden, the success of the Beggars' Opera having "made Gay rich and Rich gay." He was accustomed to arrange the comic business and construct the models of tricks for his pantomimes in his private room at Covent Garden. Here resorted men of rank and wit, for Rich's colloquial oddities were much relished. Thither came Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough, the friend of Pope, and thus commemorated by Swift:
"Mordanto fills the trump of fame;
The Christian world his death proclaim;
And prints are crowded with his name.
In journeys he outrides the post;
Sits up till midnight with his host;
Talks politics, and gives the toast,
A skeleton in outward figure;
His meagre corpse, though full of vigour,
Would halt behind him, were it bigger,
So wonderful his expedition;
When you have not the least suspicion,
He's with you, like an apparition: 131
Shines in all climates like a star;
In senates bold, and fierce in war;
A land-commandant, and a tar."
He was then advanced in years, and one afternoon stayed, talking with Rich about his tricks and transformations, and listening to his agreeable talk, until Rich's dinner-hour, two o'clock, had arrived. In all these colloquies with his visitors, whatever their rank, Rich never neglected his art. Upon one occasion, accident having detained the Earl's coach later than usual, he found Rich's chat so agreeable, that he was quite unconscious it was two o'clock in the afternoon; when he observed Rich spreading a cloth, then coaxing his fire into a clear cooking flame, and proceeding, with great gravity, to cook his own beef-steak on his own gridiron. The steak sent up a most inviting incense, and my Lord could not resist Rich's invitation to partake of it. A further supply was sent for; and a bottle or two of good wine from a neighbouring tavern prolonged their enjoyment to a late hour. But so delighted was the old Peer with the entertainment, that, on going away, he proposed renewing it at the same place and hour, on the Saturday following. He was punctual to his engagement, and brought with him three or four friends, "men of wit and pleasure about town," as M. Bouges would call them; and so truly festive was the meeting that it was proposed a Saturday's club should be held there, whilst the town remained full. A sumptuary law, even at this early period of the Society, restricted the bill of fare to beef-steaks, and the beverage to port-wine and punch.
However, the origin of the Society is related with a difference. Edwards, in his Anecdotes of Painting, relates that Lambert, many years principal scene-painter 132 at Covent Garden Theatre, received, in his painting-room, persons of rank and talent; where, as he could not leave for dinner, he frequently was content with a steak, which he himself broiled upon the fire in his room. Sometimes the visitors partook of the hasty meal, and out of this practice grew the Beef-steak Society, and the assembling in the painting-room. The members were afterwards accommodated with a room in the playhouse; and when the Theatre was rebuilt, the place of meeting was changed to the Shakespeare Tavern, where was the portrait of Lambert, painted by Hudson, Sir Joshua Reynolds's master.
In the Connoisseur, June 6th, 1754, we read of the Society, "composed of the most ingenious artists in the Kingdom," meeting "every Saturday in a noble room at the top of Covent Garden Theatre," and never suffering "any diet except Beef-steaks to appear. These, indeed, are most glorious examples: but what, alas! are the weak endeavours of a few to oppose the daily inroads of fricassees and soup-maigres?"
However, the apartments in the theatre appropriated to the Society varied. Thus, we read of a painting-room even with the stage over the kitchen, which was under part of the stage nearest Bow-street. At one period, the Society dined in a small room over the passage of the theatre. The steaks were dressed in the same room, and when they found it too hot, a curtain was drawn between the company and the fire.
We shall now glance at the celebrities who came to the painting-room in the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, and the later locations of the Club, in Covent Garden. To the former came Hogarth and his father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, stimulated by their love of the painter's art, and the equally potent charm of conviviality. 133
Churchill was introduced to the Steaks by his friend Wilkes; but his irregularities were too much for the Society, which was by no means particular; his desertion of his wife brought a hornets' swarm about him, so that he soon resigned, to avoid the disgrace of expulsion. Churchill attributed this flinging of the first stone to Lord Sandwich; he never forgave the peccant Peer, but put him into the pillory of his fierce satire, which has outlived most of his other writings, and here it is:
"From his youth upwards to the present day,
When vices more than years have made him grey;
When riotous excess with wasteful hand
Shakes life's frail glass, and hastes each ebbing sand;
Unmindful from what stock he drew his birth,
Untainted with one deed of real worth—
Lothario, holding honour at no price,
Folly to folly, added vice to vice,
Wrought sin with greediness, and courted shame
With greater zeal than good men seek for fame."
Churchill, in a letter to Wilkes, says, "Your friends at the Beef-steak inquired after you last Saturday with the greatest zeal, and it gave me no small pleasure that I was the person of whom the inquiry was made." Charles Price was allowed to be one of the most witty of the Society, and it is related that he and Churchill kept the table in a roar.
Formerly, the members wore a blue coat, with red cape and cuffs; buttons with the initials B. S.; and behind the President's chair was placed the Society's halbert, which, with the gridiron, was found among the rubbish after the Covent Garden fire.
Mr. Justice Welsh was frequently chairman at the Beef-steak dinner. Mrs. Nollekens, his daughter, acknowledges 134 that she often dressed a hat for the purpose, with ribbons similar to those worn by the yeomen of the guard. The Justice was a loyal man, but discontinued his membership when Wilkes joined the Society; though the latter was the man at the Steaks.
To the Steaks Wilkes sent a copy of his infamous Essay on Women, first printed for private circulation; for which Lord Sandwich—Jemmy Twitcher—himself, as we have seen, a member of the Society—moved in the House of the Lords that Wilkes should be taken into custody; a piece of treason as the act of one brother of the Steaks against another, fouler than even the trick of "dirty Kidgell," the parson, who, as a friend of the author, got a copy of the Essay from the printer, and then felt it his duty to denounce the publication; he had been encouraged to inform against Wilkes's Essay by the Earl of March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry. However, Jemmy Twitcher himself was expelled by the Steaks the same year he assailed Wilkes for the Essay; the grossness and blasphemy of the poem disgusted the Society; and Wilkes never dined there after 1763; yet, when he went to France, they hypocritically made him an honorary member.
Garrick was an honoured member of the Steaks; though he did not affect Clubs. The Society possess a hat and sword which David wore, probably on the night when he stayed so long with the Steaks, and had to play Ranger, at Drury-lane. The pit grew restless, the gallery bawled "Manager, manager!" Garrick had been sent for to Covent Garden, where the Steaks then dined. Carriages blocked up Russell-street, and he had to thread his way between them; as he came panting into the theatre, "I think, David," said Ford, one of 135 the anxious patentees, "considering the stake you and I have in this house, you might pay more attention to the business."—"True, my good friend," returned Garrick, "but I was thinking of my steak in the other house."
Many a reconciliation of parted friends has taken place at this Club. Peake, in his Memoirs of the Colman Family, thus refers to a reconciliation between Garrick and Colman the elder, through the Sublime Society:—
"Whether Mr. Clutterbuck or other friends interfered to reconcile the two dramatists, or whether the considerations of mutual interest may not in a great measure have aided in healing the breach between Colman and Garrick, is not precisely to be determined; but it would appear, from the subjoined short note from Garrick, that Colman must have made some overture to him.
"'My dear Colman,—Becket has been with me, and tells me of your friendly intentions towards me. I should have been beforehand with you, had I not been ill with the beefsteaks and arrack punch last Saturday, and was obliged to leave the play-house.
"'He that parts us shall bring a brand from Heav'n,
And fire us hence.'
"'Ever yours, old and new friend,
The beef-steaks, arrack punch, and Saturday, all savour very strongly of a visit to the Sublime Society held at that period in Covent Garden Theatre, where many a clever fellow has had his diaphragm disordered, before that time and since. Whoever has had the pleasure 136 to join their convivial board; to witness the never-failing good-humour which predominates there; to listen to the merry songs, and to the sparkling repartee; and to experience the hearty welcome and marked attention paid to visitors, could never have cause to lament, as Garrick has done, a trifling illness the following day. There must have been originally a wise and simple code of laws, which could have held together a convivial meeting for so lengthened a period.
Garrick had no slight tincture of vanity, and was fond of accusing himself, in the Chesterfield phrase, of the cardinal virtues. Having remarked at the Steaks that he had so large a mass of manuscript plays submitted to him, that they were constantly liable to be mislaid, he observed that, unpleasant as it was to reject an author's piece, it was an affront to his feelings if it could not be instantly found; and that for this reason he made a point of ticketing and labelling the play that was to be returned, that it might be forthcoming at a moment. "A fig for your hypocrisy," exclaimed Murphy across the table; "you know, Davy, you mislaid my tragedy two months ago, and I make no doubt you have lost it."—"Yes," replied Garrick; "but you forgot, you ungrateful dog, that I offered you more than its value, for you might have had two manuscript farces in its stead." This is the right paternity of an anecdote often told of other parties.
Jack Richards, a well-known presbyter of the Society, unless when the "fell serjeant," the gout, had arrested him, never absented himself from its board. He was recorder, and there is nothing in comedy equal to his passing sentence on those who had offended against the rules and observances of the Society. Having put on 137 Garrick's hat, he proceeded to inflict a long, wordy harangue upon the culprit, who often endeavoured most unavailingly to stop him. Nor was it possible to see when he meant to stop. But the imperturbable gravity with which Jack performed his office, and the fruitless writhings of the luckless being on whom the shower of his rhetoric was discharged, constituted the amusement of the scene. There was no subject upon which Jack's exuberance of talk failed him; yet, in that stream of talk there was never mingled one drop of malignity, nor of unkind censure upon the erring or unhappy. He would as soon adulterate his glass of port-wine with water, as dash that honest though incessant prattle with one malevolent or ungenerous remark.
William Linley, the brother of Mrs. Sheridan, charmed the Society with his pure, simple English song: in a melody of Arne's, or of Jackson's of Exeter, or a simple air of his father's, he excelled to admiration,—faithful to the characteristic chastity of the style of singing peculiar to the Linley family. Linley had not what is called a fine voice, and port-wine and late nights did not improve his organ; but you forgot the deficiencies of his power, in the spirit and taste of his manner. He wrote a novel in three volumes, which was so schooled by the Steaks that he wrote no more: when the agony of wounded authorship was over, he used to exclaim to his tormentors:—
"This is no flattery; these are the counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am."
His merciless Zoilus brought a volume of the work in his pocket, and read a passage of it aloud. Yet, Linley never betrayed the irritable sulkiness of a roasted author, 138 but took the pleasantries that played around him with imperturbable good-humour: he laughed heartily at his own platitudes, and thus the very martyr of the joke became its auxiliary. Linley is said to have furnished Moore, for his Life of Sheridan, with the common-place books in which his brother-in-law was wont to deposit his dramatic sketches, and to bottle up the jokes he had collected for future use; but many pleasantries of Sheridan were deeply engraved on his recollection because they had been practised upon himself, or upon his brother Hozy (as Sheridan called him), who was an unfailing butt, when he was disposed to amuse himself with a practical jest.
Another excellent brother was Dick Wilson, whose volcanic complexion had for many years been assuming deeper and deeper tints of carnation over the port-wine of the Society. Dick was a wealthy solicitor, and many years Lord Eldon's "port-wine-loving secretary." His fortunes were very singular. He was first steward and solicitor, and afterwards residuary legatee, of Lord Chedworth. He is said to have owed the favour of this eccentric nobleman to the legal acumen he displayed at a Richmond water-party. A pleasant lawn, under a spreading beech-tree in one of Mr. Cambridge's meadows, was selected for the dinner; but on pulling to the shore, behold a board in the tree proclaiming, "All persons landing and dining here will be prosecuted according to law." Dick Wilson contended that the prohibition clearly applied only to the joint act of "landing and dining" at the particular spot. If the party landed a few yards lower down, and then dined under the tree, only one member of the condition would be broken; which would be no legal infringement, as the prohibition—being 139 of two acts, linked by a copulative—was not severable. This astute argument carried the day. The party dined under Mr. Cambridge's beech-tree, and, it is presumed, were not "prosecuted according to law." At all events, Lord Chedworth, who was one of the diners, was so charmed with Dick's ready application of his law to practice, that he committed to him the management of his large and accumulating property.
Dick stood the fire of the Steaks with good humour; but he was sometimes unmercifully roasted. He had just returned from Paris, when Arnold, with great dexterity, drew him into some Parisian details, with great glee; for Dick was entirely innocent of the French language. Thus, in enumerating the dishes at a French table, he thought the boulevards delicious; when Cobbe called out, "Dick, it was well they did not serve you at the Palais Royal for sauce to your boulevards." The riz de veau he called a rendezvous; and he could not bear partridges served up in shoes; and once, intending to ask for a pheasant, he desired the waiter to bring him a paysanne! Yet, Dick was shrewd: calling one day upon Cobbe at the India House, Dick was left to himself for a few minutes, when he was found by Cobbe, on his return, exploring a map of Asia suspended on the wall: he was measuring the scale of it with compasses, and then applying them to a large tiger, which the artist had introduced as one of the animals of the country. "By heavens, Cobbe," exclaimed Dick, "I should never have believed it! Surely, it must be a mistake. Observe now—here," pointing to the tiger, "here is a tiger that measures two-and-twenty leagues. By heavens, it is scarcely credible."
Another of the noteworthy Steaks was "Old Walsh," 140 commonly called "the Gentle Shepherd:" he began life as a servant of the celebrated Lord Chesterfield, and accompanied his natural son, Philip Stanhope, on the grand tour, as valet: after this he was made a Queen's messenger, and subsequently a Commissioner of Customs; he was a good-natured butt for the Society's jokes. Rowland Stephenson, the banker, was another Beef-Steaker, then respected for his clear head and warm heart, years before he became branded as a forger. At the same table was a capitalist of very high character—William Joseph Denison, who sat many years in Parliament for Surrey, and died a millionnaire: he was a man of cultivated tastes, and long enjoyed the circle of the Steaks.
We have seen how the corner-stone of the sublime Society was laid. The gridiron upon which Rich had broiled his solitary steak, being insufficient in a short time for the supernumerary guests, the gridiron was enshrined as one of the tutelary and household emblems of the Club. Fortunately, it escaped the fire which consumed Covent Garden Theatre in 1808, when the valuable stock of wine of the Club shared the fate of the building; but the gridiron was saved. "In that fire, alas!" says the author of The Clubs of London, "perished the original archives of the Society. The lovers of wit and pleasantry have much to deplore in that loss, inasmuch as not only the names of many of the early members are irretrievably gone, but what is more to be regretted, some of their happiest effusions; for it was then customary to register in the weekly records anything of striking excellence that had been hit off in the course of the evening. This, however, is certain, that the Beaf-steaks, from its foundation to the present hour, has been— 141
"'native to famous wits
That, as guests or members, persons distinguished for rank, and social and convivial powers, have, through successive generations, been seated at its festive board— Bubb Dodington, Aaron Hill; Hoadley, author of The Suspicious Husband, and Leonidas Glover, are only a few names snatched from its early list. Sir Peere Williams, a gentleman of high birth and fashion, who had already shone in Parliament, was of the Club. Then came the days of Lord Sandwich, Wilkes, Bonnell Thornton, Arthur Murphy, Churchill, and Tickell. This is generally quoted as the golden period of the Society." Then there were the Colmans and Garrick; and John Beard, the singer, was president of the Club in 1784.
The number of the Steaks was increased from twenty-four to twenty-five, in 1785, to admit the Prince of Wales, an event of sufficient moment to find record in the Annual Register of the year: "On Saturday, the 14th of May, the Prince of Wales was admitted a member of the Beaf-steak Club. His Royal Highness having signified his wish of belonging to that Society, and there not being a vacancy, it was proposed to make him an honorary member; but that being declined by His Royal Highness, it was agreed to increase the number from twenty-four to twenty-five, in consequence of which His Royal Highness was unanimously elected. The Beaf-steak Club has been instituted just fifty years, and consists of some of the most classical and sprightly wits in the Kingdom." It is curious to find the Society here termed a Club, contrary to its desire, for it stickled much for the distinction.
Arthur Murphy, the dramatist, John Kemble, the 142 Dukes of Clarence and of Sussex, were also of the Steaks: these princes were both attached to the theatre; the latter to one of its brightest ornaments, Dorothy Jordan.
Charles, Duke of Norfolk, was another celebrity of the Steaks, and frequently met here the Prince of Wales. The Duke was a great gourmand, and, it is said, used to eat his dish of fish at a neighbouring tavern—the Piazza, or the Grand—and then join the Steaks. His fidus Achates was Charles Morris, the laureate-lyrist of the Steaks. Their attachment was unswerving, notwithstanding it has been impeached. The poet kept better hours than his ducal friend: one evening, Morris having left the dinner-table early, a friend gave some significant hints as to the improvement of Morris's fortunes: the Duke grew generous over his wine, and promised; the performance came, and Morris lived to the age of ninety-three, to enjoy the realization.
The Duke took the chair when the cloth was removed. It was a place of dignity, elevated some steps above the table, and decorated with the insignia of the Society, amongst which was suspended Garrick's Ranger hat. As the clock struck five, a curtain drew up, discovering the kitchen, in which the cooks were seen at work, through a sort of grating, with this inscription from Macbeth:—
"If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly."
The steaks themselves were in the finest order, and in devouring them no one surpassed His Grace of Norfolk: two or three steaks, fragrant from the gridiron, vanished, and when his labours were thought to be over, he might be seen rubbing a clean plate with a shalot for the reception of another. A pause of ten minutes 143 ensued, and His Grace rested upon his knife and fork: he was tarrying for a steak from the middle of the rump of beef, where lurks a fifth essence, the perfect ideal of tenderness and flavour. The Duke was an enormous eater. He would often eat between three and four pounds of beaf-steak; and after that take a Spanish onion and beet-root, chop them together with oil and vinegar, and eat them. After dinner, the Duke was ceremoniously ushered to the chair, and invested with an orange-coloured ribbon, to which a small silver gridiron was appended. In the chair he comported himself with urbanity and good humour. Usually, the President was the target, at which all the jests and witticisms were fired, but moderately; for though a characteristic equality reigned at the Steaks, the influences of rank and station were felt there, and courtesy stole insensibly upon those who at other times were merciless assailants on the chair. The Duke's conversation abounded with anecdote, terseness of phrase, and evidence of extensive reading, which were rarely impaired by the sturdy port-wine of the Society. Charles Morris, the Bard of the Club, sang one or two of his own songs, the quintessence of convivial mirth and fancy; at nine o'clock the Duke quitted the chair, and was succeeded by Sir John Hippisley, who had a terrible time of it: a storm of "arrowy sleet and iron shower" whistled from all points in his ears: all rules of civilized warfare seemed suspended, and even the new members tried their first timid essays upon the Baronet, than whom no man was more prompt to attack others. He quitted the Society in consequence of an odd adventure 144 which really happened to him, and which, being related with malicious fidelity by one of the Steaks, raised such a shout of laughter at the Baronet's expense that he could no longer bear it. Here is the story.
Sir John was an intelligent man; Windham used to say of him that he was very near being a clever man. He was a sort of busy idler; and his ruling passion was that of visiting remarkable criminals in prison, and obtaining their histories from their own lips. A murder had been committed, by one Patch, upon a Mr. Bligh, at Deptford; the evidence was circumstantial, but the inference of his guilt was almost irresistible; still many well-disposed persons doubted the man's guilt, and amongst them was Sir John, who thought the anxiety could only be relieved by Patch's confession. For this end, Sir John importuned the poor wretch incessantly, but in vain. Patch persisted in asserting his innocence, till, wearied with Hippisley's applications, he assured the Baronet that he would reveal to him, on the scaffold, all that he knew of Mr. Bligh's death. Flattered with being made the depository of this mysterious communication, Sir John mounted the scaffold with Patch, and was seen for some minutes in close conference with him. It happened that a simple old woman from the country was in the crowd at the execution. Her eyes, intent upon the awful scene, were fixed, by an accidental misdirection, upon Sir John, whom she mistook for the person who was about to be executed; and not waiting till the criminal was actually turned off, she went away with the wrong impression; the peculiar face, and above all, the peculiar nose (a most miraculous organ), of Hippisley, being indelibly impressed upon her memory. Not many days after, the old lady met Sir John in Cheapside; the certainty 145 that he was Patch, seized her so forcibly that she screamed out to the passing crowd, "It's Patch, it's Patch; I saw him hanged; Heaven deliver me!"—and then fainted. When this incident was first related at the Steaks, a mock inquest was set on foot, to decide whether Sir John was Patch or not, and unanimously decided in the affirmative.
Cobb, Secretary of the East India Company, was another choice spirit at the Steaks: once, when he filled the vice-chair, he so worried the poor president, an Alderman, that he exclaimed, "Would to Heaven, I had another vice-president, so that I had a gentleman opposite to me!"—"Why should you wish any such thing?" rejoined Cobb; "you cannot be more opposite to a gentleman than you are at present."
After the fire at Covent Garden, the Sublime Society were re-established at the Bedford, where they met until Mr. Arnold had fitted up apartments for their reception in the English Opera House. The Steaks continued to meet here until the destruction of the Theatre by fire, in 1830; after which they returned to the Bedford; and, upon the re-building of the Lyceum Theatre, a dining-room was again provided for them. "The room they dine in," says Mr. Cunningham, "a little Escurial in itself, is most appropriately fitted up—the doors, wainscoting, and roof, of good old English oak, ornamented with gridirons as thick as Henry the Seventh's Chapel with the portcullis of the founder. Everything assumes the shape, or is distinguished by the representation, of their emblematic implement, the gridiron. The cook is seen at his office through the bars of a spacious gridiron, and the original gridiron of the Society, (the survivor of two terrific fires) holds a conspicuous position in the centre 146 of the ceiling. Every member has the power of inviting a friend." The portraits of several worthies of the Sublime Society were painted: one brother "hangs in chain," as Arnold remarked in alluding to the civic chain in which he is represented; it was in allusion to the toga in which he is painted, that Brougham, being asked whether he thought it a likeness, remarked that it could not fail of being like him, "there was so much of the fur (thief) about it."
The author of the Clubs of London, who was a member of the Sublime Society, describes a right in favouring them, "a brotherhood, a sentiment of equality. How you would laugh to see the junior member emerging from the cellar, with half-a-dozen bottles in a basket! I have seen Brougham employed in this honourable diplomacy, and executing it with the correctness of a butler. The Duke of Leinster, in his turn, took the same duty.
"With regard to Brougham, at first sight you would not set him down as having a natural and prompt alacrity for the style of humour that prevails amongst us. But Brougham is an excellent member, and is a remarkable instance of the peculiar influences of this peculiar Society on the human character. We took him just as the schools of philosophy, the bar, the senate, had made him. Literary, forensic, and parliamentary habits are most intractable materials, you will say, to make a member of the Steaks, yet no man has imbibed more of its spirit, and he enters its occasional gladiatorship with the greatest glee."
Admirable were the offhand puns and passes, which, though of a legal character, were played off by Bolland, another member of the Society. Brougham was putting hypothetically the case of a man convicted of felony, and 147 duly hanged according to law; but restored to life by medical appliances; and asked what would be the man's defence if again brought to trial. "Why," returned Bolland, "it would be for him to plead a cord and satisfaction." ["Accord and satisfaction" is a common plea in legal practice.] The same evening were talked over Dean Swift's ingenious but grotesque puns upon the names of antiquity, such as Ajax, Archimedes, and others equally well known. Bolland remarked that when Swift was looking out for those humorous quibbles, it was singular that it should never have occurred to him that among the shades that accost Æneas in the sixth book of the Æneid, there was a Scotchman of the name of Hugh Forbes. Those who had read Virgil began to stare. "It is quite plain," said Bolland: "the ghost exclaims, 'Olim Euphorbus eram.'"
The following are the first twenty-four names of the Club, copied from their book:—
The following were subsequent members:—
In 1805 the members were—
November 6th, 1814:—
When the Club dined at the Shakspeare, in the room with the Lion's head over the mantelpiece, these popular actors were members:—
149 Formerly, the table-cloths had gridirons in damask on them; their drinking-glasses bore gridirons; as did the plates also. Among the presents made to the Society are a punch-ladle, from Barrington Bradshaw; Sir John Boyd, six spoons; mustard pot, by John Trevanion, M.P.; two dozen water-plates and eight dishes, given by the Duke of Sussex; cruet-stand, given by W. Bolland; vinegar-glasses, by Thomas Scott. Lord Suffolk gave a silver cheese-toaster; toasted or stewed cheese being the wind-up of the dinner.
Hitherto we have mentioned but incidentally Charles Morris, the Nestor and the laureate of the Steaks; but he merits fuller record. "Alas! poor Yorick! we knew him well;" we remember his "political vest," to which he addressed a sweet lyric—"The Old Whig Poet to his Old Buff Waistcoat." Nor can we forget his courteous manner and his gentlemanly pleasantry, and his unflagging cheerfulness, long after he had retired to enjoy the delights of rural life, despite the early prayer of his racy verse:—
"In town let me live then, in town let me die;
For in truth I can't relish the country, not I.
If one must have a villa in summer to dwell,
Oh! give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall."
This "sweet shady side" has almost disappeared; and of the palace whereat he was wont to shine, not a trace remains, save the name. Charles Morris was born of good family, in 1745, and appears to have inherited a taste for lyric composition; for his father composed the popular song of Kitty Crowder. For half a century, Morris moved in the first circles of rank and gaiety: he was the "Sun of the table," at Carlton House, as well as at Norfolk House; and attaching himself politically as well as convivially to his table companions, he composed the celebrated ballads of "Billy's too young to drive us," and "Billy Pitt and the Farmer," which were clever satires upon the ascendant politics of their day. His humorous ridicule of the Tories was, however, but ill repaid by the Whigs; at least, if we may trust the Ode to the Buff Waistcoat, written in 1815. His 'Songs Political and Convivial,' many of which were sung at the Steaks' board, became very popular. In 1830, we possessed a copy of the 24th edition, with a portrait of the author, half-masked; one of the ditties was described to have been "sung by the Prince of Wales to a certain lady," to the air of "There's a difference between a Beggar and a Queen;" some of the early songs were condemned for their pruriency, and were omitted in subsequent editions. His best Anacreontic is the song Ad Poculum, for which Morris received the Gold Cup from the Harmonic Society:
"Come, thou soul-reviving cup;
Try thy healing art;
Stir the fancy's visions up,
And warm my wasted heart.
Touch with freshening tints of bliss
Memory's fading dream. 151
Give me, while thy lip I kiss,
The heaven that's in thy stream.
As the witching fires of wine
Pierce through Time's past reign,
Gleams of joy that once were mine,
Glimpse back on life again.
And if boding terrors rise
O'er my melting mind,
Hope still starts to clear my eyes,
And drinks the tear behind.
Then life's wintry shades new drest,
Fair as summer seem;
Flowers I gather from my breast,
And sunshine from the stream.
As the cheering goblets pass,
Memory culls her store;
Scatters sweets around my glass,
And prompts my thirst for more.
Far from toils the great and grave
To proud ambition give,
My little world kind Nature gave,
And simply bade me live.
On me she fix'd an humble art,
To deck the Muse's groves,
And on the nerve that twines my heart
The touch of deathless love.
Then, rosy god, this night let me
Thy cheering magic share;
Again let hope-fed Fancy see
Life's picture bright and fair.
Oh! steal from care my heart away,
To sip thy healing spring;
And let me taste that bliss to-day
To-morrow may not bring."
The friendship of the Duke of Norfolk and Charles Morris extended far beyond the Steaks meetings; and the author of the Clubs of London tells us by what means the Duke's regard took a more permanent form. It appears that John Kemble had sat very late at one of the night potations at Norfolk House. Charles Morris had just retired, and a very small party remained in the dining-room, when His Grace of Norfolk began to deplore, somewhat pathetically, the smallness of the stipend upon which poor Charles was obliged to support his family; observing, that it was a discredit to the age, that a man, who had so long gladdened the lives of so many titled and opulent associates, should be left to struggle with the difficulties of an inadequate income at a time of life when he had no reasonable hope of augmenting it. Kemble listened with great attention to the Duke's jeremiade; but after a slight pause, his feelings getting the better of his deference, he broke out thus, in a tone of peculiar emphasis:—"And does your Grace sincerely lament the destitute condition of your friend, with whom you have passed so many agreeable hours? Your Grace has described that condition most feelingly. But is it possible, that the greatest Peer of the realm, luxuriating amidst the prodigalities of fortune, should lament the distress which he does not relieve? the empty phrase of benevolence—the mere breath and vapour of generous sentiment, become no man; they certainly are unworthy of your Grace. Providence, my Lord Duke, has placed you in a station where the wish to do good and the doing it are the same thing. An annuity from your overflowing coffers, or a small nook of land, clipped from your unbounded domains, would scarcely be felt by your Grace; but you would be repaid, my Lord, with usury;—with 153 tears of grateful joy; with prayers warm from a bosom which your bounty will have rendered happy."
Such was the substance of Kemble's harangue. Jack Bannister used to relate the incident, by ingeniously putting the speech into blank verse, or rather the species of prose into which Kemble's phraseology naturally fell when he was highly animated. But, however expressed, it produced its effect. For though the Duke (the night was pretty far gone, and several bottles had been emptied) said nothing at the time, but stared with some astonishment at so unexpected a lecture; not a month elapsed before Charles Morris was invested with a beautiful retreat at Brockham, in Surrey, upon the bank of the river Mole, and at the foot of the noble range of which Box Hill forms the most picturesque point.
The Duke went to his rest in 1815. Morris continued to be the laureate of the Steaks until the year 1831, when he thus bade adieu to the Society in his eighty-sixth year:—
"Adieu to the world! where I gratefully own,
Few men more delight or more comfort have known:
To an age far beyond mortal lot have I trod
The path of pure health, that best blessing of God;
And so mildly devout Nature temper'd my frame,
Holy patience still sooth'd when Adversity came;
Thus with mind ever cheerful, and tongue never tired,
I sung the gay strains these sweet blessings inspired;
And by blending light mirth with a moral-mix'd stave,
Won the smile of the gay and the nod of the grave.
But at length the dull languor of mortal decay
Throws a weight on its spirit too light for its clay;
And the fancy, subdued, as the body's opprest,
Resigns the faint flights that scarce wake in the breast.
A painful memento that man's not to play 154
A game of light folly through Life's sober day;
A just admonition, though view'd with regret,
Still blessedly offer'd, though thanklessly met.
Too long, I perhaps, like the many who stray,
Have upheld the gay themes of the Bacchanal's day;
But at length Time has brought, what it ever will bring,
A shade that excites more to sigh than to sing.
In this close of Life's chapter, ye high-favour'd few,
Take my Muse's last tribute—this painful adieu!
Take my wish, that your bright social circle on earth
For ever may flourish in concord and mirth;
For the long years of joy I have shared at your board,
Take the thanks of my heart—where they long have been stored;
And remember, when Time tolls my last passing knell,
The 'old bard' dropp'd a tear, and then bade ye—Farewell!"
In 1835, however, Morris revisited the Society, who then presented him with a large silver bowl, appropriately inscribed, as a testimonial of their affectionate esteem; and the venerable bard thus addressed the brotherhood:—
"Well, I'm come, my dear friends, your kind wish to obey,
And drive, by light mirth, all Life's shadows away;
And turn the heart's sighs to the throbbings of joy,
And a grave aged man to a merry old boy.
'Tis a bold transformation, a daring design,
And not past the power of Friendship and Wine;
And I trust that e'en yet this warm mixture will raise
A brisk spark of light o'er the shade of my days."
Shortly after this effusion, he thus alluded to the treasured gift of the Society:—
"When my spirits are low, for relief and delight,
I still place your splendid Memorial in sight;
And call to my Muse, when care strives to pursue,
'Bring the Steaks to my Memory and the Bowl to my view.' 155
When brought, at its sight all the blue devils fly,
And a world of gay visions rise bright to my eye;
Cold Fear shuns the cup where warm Memory flows;
And Grief, shamed by Joy, hides his budget of Woes.
'Tis a pure holy fount, where for ever I find
A sure double charm for the Body and Mind;
For I feel while I'm cheer'd by the drop that I lift,
I'm Blest by the Motive that hallows the Gift."
How nicely tempered is this chorus to our Bard's "Life's a Fable:"—
"Then roll along, my lyric song;
It seasons well the table,
And tells a truth to Age and Youth,
That Life's a fleeting fable.
Thus Mirth and Woe the brighter show
From rosy wine's reflection;
From first to last, this truth hath past—
'Twas made for Care's correction.
Now what those think who water drink,
Of these old rules of Horace,
I sha'n't now show; but this I know,
His rules do well for Morris.
Old Horace, when he dipp'd his pen,
'Twas wine he had resort to;
He chose for use Falernian juice,
As I choose old Oporto;
At every bout an ode came out,
Yet Bacchus kept him twinkling;
As well aware more fire was there,
Which wanted but the sprinkling."
At Brockham, Morris "drank the pure pleasures of the rural life" long after many a gay light of his own time had flickered out, and become almost forgotten. At length, his course ebbed away, July 11, 1838, in his 156 ninety-third year; his illness, which was only of four days, was internal inflammation. The attainment of so great an age, and the recollection of Morris's associations, show him to have presented a rare combination of mirth and prudence. He retained his gaîté de cœur to the last; so that with equal truth he remonstrated:
"When Life charms my heart, must I kindly be told,
I'm too gay and too happy for one that's so old?"
The venerable Bard's remains rest near the east end of his parish church of Betchworth, in the burial-ground: the grave is simply marked by a head and foot-stone, with an inscription of three or four lines: he who had sung the praises of so many choice spirits, has not here a stanza to his own memory: such is, to some extent, the natural sequitur with men who outlive their companions. Morris was staid and grave in his general deportment. Moore, in his Diary, has this odd note: "Linley describes Colman at the Beefsteak Club quite drunk, making extraordinary noise while Captain Morris was singing, which disconcerted the latter (who, strange to say, is a very grave, steady person) considerably." Yet, Morris could unbend, with great simplicity and feeling. We have often met him, in his patriarchal "blue and buff" (blue coat and buff waistcoat), in his walks about the lovely country in which he resided. Coming, one day, into the bookseller's shop, at Dorking, there chanced to be deposited a pianoforte; when the old Bard having looked around him, to see there were no strangers present, sat down to the instrument, and played and sang with much spirit the air of "The girl I left behind me:" yet he was then past his eightieth year.
Morris's ancient and rightful office at the Steaks was 157 to make the punch, and it was amusing to see him at his laboratory at the sideboard, stocked with the various products that enter into the composition of that nectareous mixture: then smacking an elementary glass or two, and giving a significant nod, the fiat of its excellence; and what could exceed the ecstasy with which he filled the glasses that thronged around the bowl; joying over its mantling beauties, and distributing the fascinating draught
"That flames and dances in its crystal bound"?
"Well has our laureate earned his wreath," (says the author of The Clubs of London, who was often a participator in these delights). "At that table his best songs have been sung; for that table his best songs were written. His allegiance has been undivided. Neither hail, nor shower, nor snowstorm have kept him away: no engagement, no invitation seduced him from it. I have seen him there, 'outwatching the bear,' in his seventy-eighth year; for as yet nature had given no signal of decay in frame or faculty; but you saw him in a green and vigorous old age, tripping mirthfully along the downhill of existence, without languor, or gout, or any of the privileges exacted by time for the mournful privilege of living. His face is still resplendent with cheerfulness. 'Die when you will, Charles,' said Curran to him, 'you will die in your youth.'" 158
There are other Beef-steak Clubs to be chronicled. Pyne, in his Wine and Walnuts, says: "At the same time the social Club flourished in England, and about the year 1749, a Beef-steak Club was established at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, of which the celebrated Mrs. Margaret Woffington was president. It was begun by Mr. Sheridan, but on a very different plan to that in London, no theatrical performer, save one female, being admitted; and though called a Club, the manager alone bore all the expenses. The plan was, by making a list of about fifty or sixty persons, chiefly noblemen and members of Parliament, who were invited. Usually about half that number attended, and dined in the manager's apartment in the theatre. There was no female admitted but this Peg Woffington, so denominated by all her contemporaries, who was seated in a great chair at the head of the table, and elected president for the season.
"'It will readily be believed,' says Mr. Victor, in his History of the Theatres, who was joint proprietor of the house, 'that a club where there were good accommodations, such a lovely president, full of wit and spirit, and nothing to pay, must soon grow remarkably fashionable.' It did so; but we find it subsequently caused the theatre to be pulled to pieces about the manager's head.
"Mr. Victor says of Mrs. Margaret, 'she possessed captivating charms as a jovial, witty bottle companion, 159 but few remaining as a mere female,' We have Dr. Johnson's testimony, however, who had often gossiped with Mrs. Margaret in the green-room at old Drury, more in the lady's favour.
"This author (Victor) says, speaking of the Beef-steak Club, 'It was a club of ancient institution in every theatre; when the principal performers dined one day in the week together (generally Saturday), and authors and other geniuses were admitted members.'"
The Club in Ivy-lane, of which Dr. Johnson was a member, was originally a Beef-steak Club.
There was also a political Club, called "the Rump Steak, or Liberty Club," in existence in 1733-4. The members were in eager opposition to Sir Robert Walpole.
At the Bell Tavern, Church-row, Houndsditch, was held the Beef-steak Club, instituted by Mr. Beard, Mr. Dunstall, Mr. Woodward, Stoppalear, Bencroft, Gifford, etc.—See Memoirs of Charles Lee Lewis, vol. ii. p. 196.
Covent-Garden has lost many of its houses "studded with anecdote and history;" and the mutations among what Mr. Thackeray affectionately called its "rich cluster of brown taverns" are sundry and manifest. Its coffee-houses proper have almost disappeared, even in name. Yet, in the last century, in one short street of Covent-Garden—Russell-street—flourished three of the most celebrated coffee-houses in the metropolis: Will's, 160 Button's, and Tom's. The reader need not be reminded of Will's, with Dryden, the Tatler and Spectator, and its wits' room on the first floor; or Button's, with its lion's head letter-box, and the young poets in the back room. Tom's, No. 17, on the north side of Russell-street, and of somewhat later date, was taken down in 1865. The premises remained with little alteration, long after they ceased to be a coffee-house. It was named after its original proprietor, Thomas West, who, Nov. 26, 1722, threw himself, in a delirium, from the second-floor window into the street, and died immediately (Historical Register for 1722). The upper portion of the premises was the coffee-house, under which lived T. Lewis, the bookseller, the original publisher, in 1711, of Pope's Essay on Criticism. The usual frequenters upstairs may be judged of by the following passage in the Journey through England, first edit., 1714:—"After the play, the best company generally go to Tom's and Will's coffee-houses, near adjoining, where there is playing at piquet and the best conversation till midnight. Here you will see blue and green ribbons, with stars, sitting familiarly and talking with the same freedom as if they had left their quality and degrees of distance at home; and a stranger tastes with pleasure the universal liberty of speech of the English nation. And in all the coffee-houses you have not only the foreign prints, but several English ones, with the foreign occurrences, besides papers of morality and party disputes." Such were the Augustan delights of a memorable coffee-house of the reign of Queen Anne. Of this period is a recollection of Mr. Grignon, sen., having seen the "balcony of Tom's crowded with noblemen in their stars and garters, drinking their tea and coffee exposed to the people." We find 161 an entry in Walpole's Letters, 1745:—"A gentleman, I don't know who, the other night at Tom's coffee-house, said, on Lord Baltimore refusing to come into the Admiralty because Lord Vere Beauclerk had the precedence, 'it put him in mind of Pinkethman's petition in the Spectator, where he complains that formerly he used to act second chair in "Diocletian," but now he was reduced to dance fifth flower-pot.'"
In 1764 there appears to have been formed here, by a guinea subscription, a Club of nearly 700 members—the nobility, foreign ministers, gentry, and men of genius of the age; the large front room on the first floor being the card-room. The Club flourished, so that in 1768, "having considerably enlarged itself of late," Thomas Haines, the then proprietor, took in the front room of the next house westward as a coffee-room. The front room of No. 17 was then appropriated exclusively as a card-room for the subscription club, each member paying one guinea annually; the adjoining apartment being used as a conversation-room. The subscription-books are before us, and here we find in the long list the names of Sir Thomas Robinson, Bart., who was designated "Long Sir Thomas Robinson," to distinguish him from his namesake, Sir Thomas Robinson, created Lord Grantham in 1761. "Long Tom," as the former was familiarly called, was a Commissioner of Excise and Governor of Barbadoes. He was a sad bore, especially to the Duke of Newcastle, the minister, who resided in Lincoln's Inn Fields. However, he gave rise to some smart things. Lord Chesterfield being asked by the latter Baronet to write some verses upon him, immediately produced this epigram:— 162
"Unlike my subject now shall be my song,
It shall be witty, and it shan't be long."
Long Sir Thomas distinguished himself in this odd manner. When our Sovereign had not dropped the folly of calling himself "King of France," and it was customary at the Coronation of an English Sovereign to have fictitious Dukes of Aquitaine and Normandy to represent the vassalage of France, Sir Thomas was selected to fill the second mock dignity at the coronation of George III., to which Churchill alludes in his Ghost; but he assigns a wrong dukedom to Sir Thomas:
"Could Satire not (though doubtful since
Whether he plumber is or prince)
Tell of a simple Knight's advance,
To be a doughty peer of France?
Tell how he did a dukedom gain,
And Robinson was Aquitain."
Of the two Sir Thomas Robinsons, one was tall and thin, the other short and fat: "I can't imagine," said Lady Townshend, "why the one should be preferred to the other; I see but little difference between them: the one is as broad as the other is long."
Next on the books is Samuel Foote, who, after the decline of Tom's, was mostly to be seen at the Bedford. Then comes Arthur Murphy, lately called to the Bar; David Garrick, who then lived in Southampton-street, (though he was not a clubbable man); John Beard, the fine tenor singer; John Webb; Sir Richard Glynne; Robert Gosling, the banker; Colonel Eyre, of Marylebone; Earl Percy; Sir John Fielding, the justice; Paul Methuen, of Corsham; Richard Clive; the great Lord Clive; the eccentric Duke of Montagu; Sir Fletcher Norton, the ill-mannered; Lord Edward Bentinck; Dr. 163 Samuel Johnson; the celebrated Marquis of Granby; Sir F. B. Delaval, the friend of Foote; William Tooke, the solicitor; the Hon. Charles Howard, sen.; the Duke of Northumberland; Sir Francis Gosling; the Earl of Anglesey; Sir George Brydges Rodney (afterwards Lord Rodney); Peter Burrell; Walpole Eyre; Lewis Mendez; Dr. Swinney; Stephen Lushington; John Gunning; Henry Brougham, father of Lord Brougham; Dr. Macnamara; Sir John Trevelyan; Captain Donellan; Sir W. Wolseley; Walter Chetwynd; Viscount Gage, etc.;—Thomas Payne, Esq., of Leicester House; Dr. Schomberg, of Pall-Mall; George Colman, the dramatist, then living in Great Queen Street; Dr. Dodd, in Southampton-row; James Payne, the architect, Salisbury-street, which he rebuilt; William Bowyer, the printer, Bloomsbury-square; Count Bruhl, the Polish Minister; Dr. Goldsmith, Temple (1773), etc. Many a noted name in the list of 700 is very suggestive of the gay society of the period. Among the Club musters, Samuel Foote, Sir Thomas Robinson, and Dr. Dodd are very frequent: indeed, Sir Thomas seems to have been something like a proposer-general.
Tom's appears to have been a general coffee-house; for in the parish books of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, is the entry:—
|46 Dishes of chocolate||1||3||0|
Mr. Haines, the landlord, was succeeded by his son. Thomas, whose daughter is living, at the age of eighty-four, and possesses a portrait, by Dance, of the elder Haines, who, from his polite address, was called among 164 the Club "Lord Chesterfield." The above lady has also a portrait, in oil, of the younger Haines, by Grignon.
The coffee-house business closed in 1814, about which time the premises were first occupied by Mr. William Till, the numismatist. The card-room remained in its original condition; "And, here," wrote Mr. Till, many years since, "the tables on which I exhibit my coins are those which were used by the exalted characters whose names are extracted from books of the Club, still in possession of the proprietress of the house." On the death of Mr. Till, Mr. Webster succeeded to the tenancy and collection of coins and medals, which he removed to No. 6, Henrietta-street, shortly before the old premises in Russell-street were taken down. He possesses, by marriage with the grand-daughter of the second Mr. Haines, the old Club books, as well as the curious memorial, the snuffbox of the Club-room. It is of large size, and fine tortoiseshell; upon the lid, in high relief, in silver, are the portraits of Charles I. and Queen Anne; the Boscobel oak, with Charles II. amid its branches; and at the foot of the tree, on a silver plate, is inscribed Thomas Haines. At Will's the small wits grew conceited if they dipped but into Mr. Dryden's snuffbox; and at Tom's the box may have enjoyed a similar shrine-like reputation. It is nearly all that remains of the old coffee-house in Covent Garden, save the recollection of the names of the interesting personages who once thronged its rooms in stars and garters, but who bore more intellectual distinctions to entitle them to remembrance. 165
This ambitious title was given to a Club set on foot about the year 1801. Its founder was Bobus Smith, the brother of the great Sydney Smith. The Club at first consisted of a small knot of lawyers, a few literary characters, and visitors generally introduced by those who took the chief part in the conversation, and seemingly selected for the faculty of being good listeners.
The King of Clubs sat on Saturday of each month, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in the Strand, which, at that time, was a nest of boxes, each containing its Club, and affording excellent cheer, though latterly desecrated by indifferent dinners and very questionable wine. The Club was a grand talk, the prevalent topics being books and authors; politics quite excluded. Bobus Smith was a convivial member in every respect but that of wine; he was but a frigid worshipper of Bacchus, but he had great humour and a species of wit, that revelled amidst the strangest and most grotesque combinations. His manner was somewhat of the bow-wow kind; and when he pounced upon a disputatious and dull blockhead, he made sad work of him.
Then there was Richard Sharp, a partner of Boddington's West India house, who subsequently sat in Parliament for Port Arlington, in Ireland. He was a thinker and a reasoner, and occasionally controversial, but overflowed with useful and agreeable knowledge, and an unfailing stream of delightful information. He was celebrated for his conversational talents, and hence called "Conversation Sharp;" and he often had for his 166 guest Sir James Mackintosh, with whom he lived in habits of intimacy. Mr. Sharp published a volume of Letters and Essays in Prose and Verse, of which a third edition appeared in 1834. Sharp was confessedly the first of the King of Clubs. He indulged but rarely in pleasantry; but when anything of the kind escaped him, it was sure to tell. One evening, at the Club, there was a talk about Tweddel, then a student in the Temple, who had greatly distinguished himself at Cambridge, and was the Senior Wrangler and medallist of his year. Tweddel was not a little intoxicated with his University triumphs; which led Sharp to remark, "Poor fellow! he will soon find that his Cambridge medal will not pass as current coin in London." Other frequent attendants were Scarlett (afterwards Lord Abinger); Rogers, the poet; honest John Allen, brother of the bluest of the blues, Lady Mackintosh; M. Dumont, the French emigrant, who would sometimes recite his friend the Abbé de Lisle's verses, with interminable perseverance, in spite of yawns and other symptoms of dislike, which his own politeness (for he was a highly-bred man) forbade him to interpret into the absence of it in others.
In this respect, however, he was outdone by Wishart, who was nothing but quotations, and whose prosing, when he did converse, was like the torpedo's touch to all pleasing and lively converse. Charles Butler, too, in his long life, had treasured up a considerable assortment of reminiscences, which, when once set going, came out like a torrent upon you; it was a sort of shower-bath, that inundated you the moment you pulled the string.
Curran, the boast of the Irish bar, came to the King of Clubs, during a short visit to London; there he met Erskine, but the meeting was not congenial. Curran 167 gave some odd sketches of a Serjeant Kelly, at the Irish bar, whose whimsical peculiarity was an inveterate habit of drawing conclusions directly at variance with his premises. He had acquired the name of Counsellor Therefore. Curran said he was a perfect human personification of a non sequitur. For instance, meeting Curran, on Sunday, near St. Patrick's, he said to him, "The Archbishop gave us an excellent discourse this morning. It was well written and well delivered; therefore, I shall make a point of being at the Four Courts to-morrow at ten." At another time, observing to a person whom he met in the street, "What a delightful morning this is for walking!" he finished his remark on the weather by saying, "Therefore I will go home as soon as I can, and stir out no more the whole day." His speeches in Court were interminable, and his therefore kept him going on, though every one thought he had done. "This is so clear a point, gentlemen," he would tell the jury, "that I am convinced you felt it to be so the very moment I stated it. I should pay your understandings but a poor compliment to dwell on it for a minute; therefore, I will now proceed to explain it to you as minutely as possible."
Curran seemed to have no very profound respect for the character and talents of Lord Norbury. Curran went down to Carlow on a special retainer; it was in a case of ejectment. A new Court-house had been recently erected, and it was found extremely inconvenient, from the echo, which reverberated the mingled voices of judge, counsel, crier, to such a degree, as to produce constant confusion, and great interruption of business. Lord Norbury had been, if possible, more noisy that morning than ever. Whilst he was arguing a point with the counsel, and talking very loudly, an ass brayed vehemently 168 from the street, adjoining the Court-house, to the instant interruption of the Chief-Justice. "What noise is that?" exclaimed his Lordship. "Oh, my Lord," retorted Curran, "it is merely the echo of the Court."
This Club was the great Macao gambling-house of a very short period. Mr. Thomas Raikes, who understood all its mysteries, describes it as very genteel, adding that no one ever quarrelled there. "The Club did not endure for twelve years altogether; the pace was too quick to last: it died a natural death in 1819, from the paralysed state of its members; the house was then taken by a set of blacklegs, who instituted a common bank for gambling. To form an idea of the ruin produced by this short-lived establishment among men whom I have so intimately known, a cursory glance to the past suggests the following melancholy list, which only forms a part of its deplorable results.... None of the dead reached the average age of man."
Among the members was Bligh, a notorious madman, of whom Mr. Raikes relates:—"One evening at the Macao table, when the play was very deep, Brummell having lost a considerable stake, affected, in his farcical way, a very tragic air, and cried out, 'Waiter, bring me a flat candlestick and a pistol.' Upon which Bligh, who was sitting opposite to him, calmly produced two loaded pistols from his coat pocket, which he placed on the table, and said, 'Mr. Brummell, if you are really desirous 169 to put a period to your existence, I am extremely happy to offer you the means without troubling the waiter.' The effect upon those present may easily be imagined, at finding themselves in the company of a known madman who had loaded weapons about him."
There was in the last century, a debating Club, which boasted for a short time, a brighter assemblage of talent than is usually found to flourish in societies of this description. Its meetings, which took place once a month, were held at the Clifford-street Coffee-house, at the corner of Bond-street. The debaters were chiefly Mackintosh, Richard Sharp, a Mr. Ollyett Woodhouse; Charles Moore, son of the celebrated traveller; and Lord Charles Townshend, fourth son of the facetious and eccentric Marquis. The great primitive principles of civil government were then much discussed. It was before the French Revolution had "brought death into the world and all its woe."
At the Clifford-street Society, Canning generally took "the liberal side" of the above questions. His earliest prepossessions are well known to have inclined to this side; but he evidently considered the Society rather as a school of rhetorical exercise, where he might acquire the use of his weapons, than a forum, where the serious profession of opinions, and a consistent adherence to them, could be fairly expected of him. One evening, the question 170 for debate was "the justice and expediency of resuming the ecclesiastical property of France." Before the debate began, Canning had taken some pains to ascertain on which side the majority of the members seemed inclined to speak; and finding that they were generally in favour of the resumption, he expressed his fears that the unanimity of sentiment would spoil the discussion; so, he volunteered to speak against it. He did so, and it was a speech of considerable power, chiefly in reply to the opener, who, in a set discourse of some length, had asserted the revocable conditions of the property of the church, which, being created, he said, by the state, remained ever after at its disposition. Canning denied the proposition that ecclesiastical property was the creature of the state. He contended that though it might be so in a new government, yet, speaking historically, the great as well as lesser ecclesiastical fiefs were coeval with the crown of France, frequently strong enough to maintain fierce and not unequal conflicts with it, and certainly not in their origin emanations from its bounty. The church, he said, came well dowered to the state, who was now suing for a divorce, in order to plunder her pin-money. He contended that the church property stood upon the same basis, and ought to be protected by the same sanctions, as private property. It was originally, he said, accumulated from the successive donations with which a pious benevolence ought to enrich the fountains, from which spiritual comfort ought to flow to the wretched, the poor, the forsaken. He drew an energetic sketch of Mirabeau, the proposer of the measure, by whose side, he remarked, the worst characters in history, the Cleons, the Catilines, the Cetheguses, of antiquity, would brighten into virtue. He said that the character of the lawgiver 171 tainted the law. It was proffered to the National Assembly by hands hot and reeking from the cells of sensuality and vice; it came from a brain inflamed and distended into frenzy by habitual debauchery. These are, of course, but faint sketches of this very early specimen of Canning as a speaker. The humour and irony with which he delighted his auditors are indescribable. He displayed the same powers of pleasantry which, in maturer years, enlivened the dulness of debate, and softened the asperities of party. He was, indeed, less rapid, and more measured in his elevation; sometimes impeded in flow, probably, from too fastidious a selection of words; but it was impossible not to predict that at no very distant period he would rise into high distinction as a parliamentary speaker.
Canning was then the most handsome man about town; and his fine countenance glowed, as he spoke, with every sentiment which he uttered. It was customary during the debates at the Clifford-street Senate, for pots of porter to be introduced by way of refreshment. Canning, in his eloquent tirade against Mirabeau, handled the peculiar style of the Count's oratory with great severity. The president had, during this part of Canning's speech, given a signal for a pot of porter, which had been brought in and placed before him. It served Canning for an illustration. "Sir," said he, "much has been said about the gigantic powers of Mirabeau; let us not be carried away by the false jargon of his philosophy, or imagine that deep political wisdom resides in tumid and decorated diction. To the steady eye of a sagacious criticism, the eloquence of Mirabeau will appear to be as empty and vapid as his patriotism. It is like the beverage that stands so invitingly before you,—foam and froth at the top, heavy and muddy within." 172
In Ward's Secret History, we read of the Golden Fleece Club, a rattle-brained society, originally held at a house in Cornhill, so entitled. They were a merry company of tippling citizens and jocular change-brokers, who every night washed away their consciences with claret, that the mental alienations and fallacious assurances the one had used in their shops, and the deceitful wheedling and stock-jobbing honesty by which the other had outwitted their merchants, might be no impediment to their night's rest; but that they might sleep without repentance, and rise next day with a strong propensity to the same practices. Each member on his admission had a characteristic name assigned to him; as, Sir Timothy Addlepate, Sir Nimmy Sneer, Sir Talkative Do-little, Sir Skinny Fretwell, Sir Rumbus Rattle, Sir Boozy Prate-all, Sir Nicholas Ninny Sipall, Sir Gregory Growler, Sir Pay-little, etc. The Club flourished until the decease of the leading member; when the dull fraternity, for want of a merry leader, and neglecting to be shaved and blooded, fell into the dumps, gave up their nocturnal revels, forsook frenzied claret for sober water-gruel, and a cessation of bumpers was proclaimed, till those who were sick recovered their health, and others their senses; and then, the better to prevent their debasement being known, they adjourned their Society from the Fleece in Cornhill to the Three Tuns in Southwark, that they might be more retired from the bows and compliments of the London apprentices, who 173 used to salute the noble knights by their titles, as they passed to and fro.
Another of Ward's humorous Sketches is that of the Lying Club, at the Bell Tavern, in Westminster, with Sir Harry Blunt for its chairman.
The Clubs were fruitful sources of satire to the Spectator. He is merry on the Mummers, the Twopenny, the Ugly, the Fighting, the Fringe-Glove, the Humdrum, the Doldrum, and the Lovers; on Clubs of Fat Men, Tall Men, and One-Eyed Men, and of Men who lived in the same Street.
The pretentious character of the Clubs of Queen Anne's time, and the historical importance attached to their annals, are humorously satirized in the following sketch of the Everlasting Club, to which, in those days, if a man were an idle, worthless fellow, who neglected his family, and spent most of his time over a bottle, he was, in derision, said to belong.
"The Everlasting Club consists of an hundred members, who divide the whole twenty-four hours among them in such a manner, that the Club sits day and night from one end of the year to another: no party presuming to rise till they are relieved by those who are in course to succeed them. By this means, a member of the Everlasting Club never wants company; for though he is not upon duty himself, he is sure to find some who are; so that if he be disposed to take a whet, a nooning, an evening's draught, or a bottle after midnight, he goes to the Club, and finds a knot of friends to his mind.
"It is a maxim in this Club that the Steward never dies; for as they succeed one another by way of rotation, no man is to quit the great elbow-chair, which stands at the upper end of the table, till his successor is ready 174 to fill it; insomuch that there has not been a sede vacante in their memory.
"This Club was instituted towards the end, or, as some of them say, about the middle of the Civil Wars, and continued with interruption till the time of the Great Fire, which burnt them out and dispersed them for several weeks. The Steward all that time maintained his post till he had like to have been blown up with a neighbouring house, which was demolished in order to stop the fire: and would not leave the chair at last, till he had emptied the bottles upon the table, and received repeated directions from the Club to withdraw himself. This Steward is frequently talked of in the Club, and looked upon by every member of it as a greater man than the famous captain mentioned in my Lord Clarendon, who was burnt in his ship, because he would not quit it without orders. It is said that towards the close of 1700, being the great year of jubilee, the Club had it under consideration whether they should break up or continue their session; but after many speeches and debates, it was at length agreed to sit out the other century. This resolution passed in a general club nemine contradicente.
"It appears, by their books in general, that, since their first institution, they have smoked fifty tons of tobacco, drank thirty thousand butts of ale, one thousand hogsheads of red port, two hundred barrels of brandy, and one kilderkin of small beer. There had been likewise a great consumption of cards. It is also said that they observe the law in Ben Jonson's Club, which orders the fire to be always kept in (focus perennis esto), as well for the convenience of lighting their pipes as to cure the dampness of the club-room. They have an old 175 woman, in the nature of a vestal, whose business is to cherish and perpetuate the fire, which burns from generation to generation, and has seen the glass-house fires in and out above an hundred times.
"The Everlasting Club treats all other clubs with an eye of contempt, and talks even of the Kit-Kat and October as a couple of upstarts. Their ordinary discourse, as much I have been able to learn of it, turns altogether upon such adventures as have passed in their own assembly; of members who have taken the glass in their turns for a week together, without stirring out of the Club; of others who have not missed their morning's draught for twenty years together; sometimes they speak in rapture of a run of ale in King Charles's reign; and sometimes reflect with astonishment upon games at whist, which have been miraculously recovered by members of the Society, when in all human probability the case was desperate.
"They delight in several old catches, which they sing at all hours, to encourage one another to moisten their clay, and grow immortal by drinking, with many other edifying exhortations of the like nature.
"There are four general Clubs held in a year, at which time they fill up vacancies, appoint waiters, confirm the old fire-maker or elect a new one, settle contributions for coals, pipes, tobacco, and other necessaries.
"The senior member has outlived the whole Club twice over, and has been drunk with the grandfathers of some of the sitting members."
The Lawyer's Club is thus described in the Spectator, No. 372:—"This Club consists only of attorneys, and at this meeting every one proposes to the board the cause he has then in hand, upon which each member gives his 176 judgment, according to the experience he has met with. If it happens that any one puts a case of which they have had no precedent, it is noted down by their chief clerk, Will Goosequill (who registers all their proceedings), that one of them may go with it next day to a counsel. This is, indeed, commendable, and ought to be the principal end of their meeting; but had you been there to have heard them relate their methods of managing a cause, their manner of drawing out their bills, and, in short, their arguments upon the several ways of abusing their clients, with the applause that is given to him who has done it most artfully, you would before now have given your remarks.
"They are so conscious that their discourses ought to be kept a secret, that they are very cautious of admitting any person who is not in the profession. When any who are not of the law are let in, the person who introduces him says, he is a very honest gentleman, and he is taken, as their cant is, to pay costs." The writer adds, "that he is admitted upon the recommendation of one of their principals, as a very honest, good-natured fellow, that will never be in a plot, and only desires to drink his bottle and smoke his pipe."
The Little Club, we are told in the Guardian, No. 91, began by sending invitations to those not exceeding five feet in height, to repair to the assembly, but many sent excuses, or pretended a non-application. They proceeded to fit up a room for their accommodation, and in the first place had all the chairs, stools, and tables removed, which had served the more bulky portion of mankind for many years, previous to which they laboured under very great disadvantages. The President's whole person was sunk in the elbow-chair, and when his arms 177 were spread over it, he appeared (to the great lessening of his dignity) like a child in a go-cart. It was also so wide in the seat, as to give a wag occasion of saying, that "notwithstanding the President sat in it, there was a sede vacante." "The table was so high, that one who came by chance to the door, seeing our chins just above the pewter dishes, took us for a circle of men that sat ready to be shaved, and set in half-a-dozen of barbers. Another time, one of the Club spoke contumeliously of the President, imagining he had been absent, when he was only eclipsed by a flask of Florence, which stood on the table, in a parallel line before his face. We therefore new-furnished the room, in all respects proportionably to us, and had the door made lower, so as to admit no man above five feet high, without brushing his foretop; which, whoever does, is utterly unqualified to sit amongst us."
Mr. Daniel, in his Merrie England in the Olden Time, has collected a further list of Clubs existing in London in 1790. He enumerates the following:—The Odd Fellows' Club; the Humbugs (held at the Blue Posts, in Covent-Garden); the Samsonic Society; the Society of Bucks; the Purl Drinkers; the Society of Pilgrims (held at the Woolpack, in the Kingsland-road); the Thespian Club; the Great Bottle Club; the Je ne sçai quoi Club (held at the Star and Garter in Pall-Mall, and of which the Prince of Wales, and the Dukes of York, Clarence, Orleans, Norfolk, Bedford, etc., were members); the Sons of the Thames Society; the Blue Stocking Club; the No Pay No Liquor Club (held at the Queen and Artichoke, in the Hampstead-road, and of which the ceremony, on a new member's introduction, was, after his paying a fee on entrance of one shilling, that 178 he should wear a hat, throughout the first evening, made in the shape of a quart pot, and drink to the health of his brother members in a gilt goblet of ale); the Social Villagers (held at the Bedford Arms, in Camden-town), etc. Of the Villagers of our time, Sheridan Knowles, the dramatist, was a jovial member.
In the year 1854 a Correspondent of Notes and Queries communicated to that journal the following interesting reminiscences of a political Club, with characteristics of the reminiscent.
"The adherents of the Stuarts are now nearly extinct; but I recollect a few years ago an old gentleman in London, who was then upwards of eighty years of age, and who was a staunch Jacobite. I have heard him say that, when he was a young man, his father belonged to a society in Aldersgate-street, called 'The Mourning Bush;' and this Bush was to be always in mourning until the Stuarts were restored." A member of this society having been met in mourning when one of the reigning family had died, was asked by one of the members how it so happened? His reply was, "that he was not mourning for the dead, but for the living." The old gentleman was father of the Mercers' Company, and his brother of the Stationers' Company: they were bachelors, and citizens of the old school, hospitable, liberal, and charitable. An instance occurred that the latter had a presentation to Christ's Hospital: he 179 was applied to in behalf of a person who had a large family; but the father not being a freeman, he could not present it to the son. He immediately bought the freedom for the father, and gave the son the presentation. This is a rare act. The brothers have long gone to receive the reward of their goodness, and lie buried in the cemetery attached to Mercers' Hall, Cheapside.
By the above statement, the Club appears to have taken the name of the Mourning Bush Tavern, in Aldersgate, of which we shall have more to say hereafter.
The Chapter Coffee-house, at the corner of Chapterhouse Court, on the south side of Paternoster-row, was, in the last century, noted as the resort of men of letters, and was famous for its punch, pamphlets, and good supply of newspapers. It was closed as a coffee-house in 1854, and then altered to a tavern. Its celebrity, however, lay in the last century. In the Connoisseur, January 31, 1754, we read: "The Chapter Coffee-house is frequented by those encouragers of literature, and (as they are styled by an eminent critic) 'not the worst judges of merit,' the booksellers. The conversation here naturally turns upon the newest publications; but their criticisms are somewhat singular. When they say a good book, they do not mean to praise the style or sentiment, but the quick and extensive sale of it. That book is best which sells most; and if the demand for 180 Quarles should be greater than for Pope, he would have the highest place on the rubric-post."
The house was much frequented by Chatterton, who writes to his mother: "I am quite familiar at the Chapter Coffee-house, and know all the geniuses there;" and to Mr. Mason: "Send me whatever you would have published, and direct for me, to be left at the Chapter Coffee-house, Paternoster-row." And, writing from "King's Bench for the present," May 14th, 1770, Chatterton says: "A gentleman who knows me at the Chapter, as an author, would have introduced me as a companion to the young Duke of Northumberland, in his intended general tour. But, alas! I spake no tongue but my own."
Forster relates an anecdote of Oliver Goldsmith being paymaster at the Chapter, for Churchill's friend, Lloyd, who, in his careless way, without a shilling to pay for the entertainment, had invited him to sup with some friends of Grub-street.
The Club celebrity of the Chapter was, however, the Wittinagemot, as the box in the north-east corner of the coffee-room was designated. Among its frequenters was Alexander Stevens, editor of the Annual Biography and Obituary, who died in 1824, and who left among his papers, printed in the Monthly Magazine, as "Stephensiana," his recollections of the Chapter, which he frequented in 1797 to 1805, where, he tells us, he always met with intelligent company. We give his reminiscences almost in his own words.
Early in the morning it was occupied by neighbours, who were designated the Wet Paper Club, as it was their practice to open the papers when brought in by the newsmen, and read them before they were dried by 181 the waiter; a dry paper they viewed as a stale commodity. In the afternoon, another party enjoyed the wet evening papers; and (says Stephens) it was these whom I met.
Dr. Buchan, author of Domestic Medicine, generally held a seat in this box; and though he was a Tory, he heard the freest discussion with good humour, and commonly acted as a moderator. His fine physiognomy, and his white hairs, qualified him for this office. But the fixture in the box was a Mr. Hammond, a Coventry manufacturer, who, evening after evening, for nearly forty-five years, was always to be found in his place, and during the entire period was much distinguished for his severe and often able strictures on the events of the day. He had thus debated through the days of Wilkes, of the American war, and of the French war, and being on the side of liberty, was constantly in opposition. His mode of arguing was Socratic, and he generally applied to his adversary the reductio ad absurdum, creating bursts of laughter.
The registrar or chronicler of the box was a Mr. Murray, an episcopal Scotch minister, who generally sat in one place from nine in the morning till nine at night; and was famous for having read, at least once through, every morning and evening paper published in London during the last thirty years. His memory being good, he was appealed to whenever any point of fact within the memory of man happened to be disputed. It was often remarked, however, that such incessant daily reading did not tend to clear his views.
Among those from whom I constantly profited was Dr. Berdmore, the Master of the Charterhouse; Walker, the rhetorician; and Dr. Towers, the political and historical 182 writer. Dr. B. abounded in anecdote; Walker, (the Dictionary-maker,) to the finest enunciation united the most intelligent head I ever met with; and Towers, over his half-pint of Lisbon, was sarcastic and lively, though never deep.
Among our constant visitors was the celebrated Dr. George Fordyce, who, having much fashionable practice, brought news which had not generally transpired. He had not the appearance of a man of genius, nor did he debate, but he possessed sound information on all subjects. He came to the Chapter after taking his wine, and stayed about an hour, or while he sipped a glass of brandy-and-water; it was then his habit to take another glass at the London Coffee-house, and a third at the Oxford, before he returned to his house in Essex-street, Strand.
Dr. Gower, the urbane and able physician of the Middlesex, was another pretty constant visitor. It was gratifying to hear such men as Fordyce, Gower, and Buchan in familiar chat. On subjects of medicine they seldom agreed, and when such were started, they generally laughed at one another's opinions. They seemed to consider Chapter punch, or brandy-and-water, as aqua vitæ; and, to the credit of the house, better punch could not be found in London. If any one complained of being indisposed, the elder Buchan exclaimed, "Now let me prescribe for you without a fee. Here, John or Isaac, bring a glass of punch for Mr. ——, unless he likes brandy-and-water better. Take that, Sir, and I'll warrant you you'll soon be well. You're a peg too low; you want stimulus, and if one glass won't do, call for a second."
There was a growling man of the name of Dobson, who, when his asthma permitted, vented his spleen upon 183 both sides; and a lover of absurd paradoxes, author of some works of merit, but so devoid of principle, that, deserted by his friends, he would have died for want, if Dr. Garthshore had not placed him as a patient in the empty Fever Institution.
Robinson, the king of the booksellers, was frequently of the party, as well as his brother John, a man of some talent; and Joseph Johnson, the friend of Priestley, and Paine, and Cowper, and Fuseli, came from St. Paul's Churchyard.
Phillips, then commencing his Monthly Magazine, was also on a keen look-out for recruits, and with his waistcoat pocket full of guineas, to slip his enlistment money into their hand. Phillips, in the winter of 1795-6, lodged and boarded at the Chapter, and not only knew the characters referred to by Mr. Stephens, but many others equally original, from the voracious glutton in politics, who waited for the wet papers in the morning twilight, to the comfortless bachelor, who sat till the fire was raked out at half-past twelve at night, all of whom took their successive stations, like figures in a magic lantern.
Alexander Chalmers, the workman of the Robinsons, and through their introduction editor of many large books, also enlivened the box by many sallies of wit and humour. He always took much pains to be distinguished from his namesake George, who, he used to say, carried, "the leaden mace," and he was much provoked whenever he happened to be mistaken for his namesake.
Cahusac, a teacher of the classics; M'Leod, a writer in the newspapers; the two Parrys, of the Courier, the organ of Jacobinism; and Captain Skinner, a man of 184 elegant manners, who personated our nation in the procession of Anacharsis Clootz, at Paris, in 1793, were also in constant attendance.
One Baker, once a Spitalfields manufacturer, a great talker, and not less remarkable as an eater, was constant; but, having shot himself at his lodgings in Kirby-street, it was discovered that, for some years, he had had no other meal per day besides the supper which he took at the Chapter, where there being a choice of viands at the fixed price of one shilling, this, with a pint of porter, constituted his daily subsistence, till, his last resources failing, he put an end to himself.
Lowndes, the celebrated electrician, was another of our set, and a facetious man. Buchan the younger, a son of the Doctor, generally came with Lowndes; and though somewhat dogmatical, yet he added to the variety and good intelligence of our discussions, which, from the mixture of company, were as various as the contents of the newspapers.
Dr. Busby, the musician, and an ingenious man, often obtained a hearing, and was earnest in disputing with the Tories. And Macfarlane, the author of the History of George the Third, was generally admired for the soundness of his views; but this worthy man was killed by the pole of a coach, during an election procession of Sir Francis Burdett, from Brentford. Mr. W. Cooke, author of Conversation, constantly exemplified his own rules in his gentlemanly manners and well-timed anecdotes.
Kelly, an Irish school-master, and a man of polished manners, kept up warm debates by his equivocating politics, and was often roughly handled by Hammond and others, though he bore his defeats with constant good humour. 185
There was a young man named Wilson, who acquired the distinction of Long-bow, from the number of extraordinary secrets of the haut ton, which he used to retail by the hour. He was an amusing person, who seemed likely to prove an acquisition to the Wittinagemot; but, having run up a score of thirty or forty pounds, he suddenly absented himself. Miss Brun, the keeper of the Chapter, begged me, if I met with Wilson, to tell him she would give him a receipt for the past, and further credit to any amount, if he would only return to the house; "for," said she, "if he never paid us, he was one of the best customers we ever had, contriving, by his stories and conversation, to keep a couple of boxes crowded the whole night, by which we made more punch and more brandy-and-water, than from any other single cause whatever."
Jacob, afterwards an alderman and M.P., was a frequent visitor, and then as remarkable for his heretical, as he was subsequently for his orthodox, opinions in his speeches and writings.
Waithman, the active and eloquent Common Councilman, often mixed with us, and was always clear-headed and agreeable. One James, who had made a large fortune by vending tea, contributed many good anecdotes of the age of Wilkes.
Several stockbrokers visited us; and among others of that description was Mr. Blake, the banker, of Lombard-street, a remarkably intelligent old gentleman; and there was a Mr. Paterson, a North Briton, a long-headed speculator, who taught mathematics to Pitt.
Some young men of talent came among us from time to time; as Lovett, a militia officer; Hennell, a coal merchant, and some others; and these seemed likely to 186 keep up the party. But all things have an end: Dr. Buchan died; some young sparks affronted our Nestor, Hammond, on which he absented himself, after nearly fifty years' attendance; and the noisy box of the Wittinagemot was, for some years previously to 1820, remarkable for its silence and dulness. The two or three last times I was at the Chapter, I heard no voice above a whisper; and I almost shed a tear on thinking of men, habits, and times gone by for ever!
We shall have more to say of the Chapter Coffee-house in Vol. II.
The Roxburghe Club claims its foundation from the sale of the library of the late John, Duke of Roxburghe, in 1812, which extended to forty-one days following, with a supplementary catalogue beginning Monday, July 13, with the exception of Sundays. Some few days before the sale, the Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, who claimed the title of founder of the Club, suggested the holding of a convivial meeting at the St. Alban's Tavern after the sale of June 17th, upon which day was to be sold the rarest lot, "Il Decamerone di Boccaccio," which produced £2260. The invitation ran thus:—"The honour of your company is requested, to dine with the Roxburghe dinner, on Wednesday, the 17th instant." At the first dinner the number of members was limited to twenty-four, which at the second dinner was extended to thirty-one. The president of this club was Lord 187 Spencer: among the other celebrated members were the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquis of Blandford, Lord Althorp, Lord Morpeth, Lord Gower, Sir Mark Sykes, Sir Egerton Brydges, Mr. (afterwards) Baron Bolland, Mr. Dent, the Rev. T. C. Heber, Rev. Rob. Holwell Carr, Sir Walter Scott, etc.; Dr. Dibdin, secretary.
The avowed object of the Club was the reprinting of rare and ancient pieces of ancient literature; and, at one of the early meetings, "it was proposed and concluded for each member of the Club to reprint a scarce piece of ancient lore, to be given to the members, one copy being on vellum for the chairman, and only as many copies as members."
It may, however, be questioned whether "the dinners" of the Club were not more important than the literature. They were given at the St. Alban's, at Grillion's, at the Clarendon, and the Albion, taverns; the Amphytrions evincing as recherché taste in the carte, as the Club did in their vellum reprints. Of these entertainments some curious details have been recorded by the late Mr. Joseph Haslewood, one of the members, in a MS. entitled, "Roxburghe Revels; or, an Account of the Annual Display, culinary and festivous, interspersed incidentally with Matters of Moment or Merriment." This MS. was, in 1833, purchased by the Editor of the Athenæum, and a selection from its rarities was subsequently printed in that journal. Among the memoranda, we find it noted that, at the second dinner, a few tarried, with Mr. Heber in the chair, until, "on arriving at home, the click of time bespoke a quarter to four." Among the early members was the Rev. Mr. Dodd, one of the masters of Westminster School, who, until the year 1818 (when he died), enlivened the Club with 188 Robin-Hood ditties and similar productions. The fourth dinner was given at Grillion's, when twenty members assembled, under the chairmanship of Sir Mark Masterman Sykes. The bill on this occasion amounted to £57, or £2. 17s. per man; and the twenty "lions" managed to dispose of drinkables to the extent of about £33. The reckoning, by Grillion's French waiter, is amusing:—
Dinner du 17 Juin 1815.
|Deu sorte de Glasse||1||4||0|
|Glasse pour 6||0||4||0|
|5 Boutelle de Champagne||4||0||0|
|7 Boutelle de harmetage||5||5||0|
|1 Boutelle de Hok||0||15||0|
|4 Boutelle de Port||1||6||0|
|4 Boutelle de Maderre||2||0||0|
|22 Boutelle de Bordeaux||15||8||0|
|2 Boutelle de Bourgogne||1||12||0|
|Biere e Ail||0||6||0|
|Por la Lettre||0||2||0|
|Pour faire un prune||0||6||0|
|Pour un fiacre||0||2||0|
The anniversary of 1818 was celebrated at the Albion, in Aldersgate-street: Mr. Heber was in the chair, and the Rev. Mr. Carr vice, vice Dr. Dibdin. Although only fifteen sat down, they seem to have eaten and drunk for the whole Club: it was, as Wordsworth says, "forty feeding like one;" and the bill, at the conclusion of the night, amounted to £85. 9s. 6d. "Your cits," says Mr. Haslewood, "are the only men for a feast; and, therefore, behold us, like locusts, travelling to devour the good things of the land, eastward ho! At a little after seven, with our fancies much delighted, we fifteen sat down." 189
The bill of fare was as follows:—
|Turtle Cutlets.||Turtle Fin.|
|Sauté of Haddock.||Chartreuse.|
|Tendrons of Lamb.||Fillets of Whitings.|
|Tongue.||John Dory.||R. Chickens.|
|Turtle Fin.||Fricandeau of Turtle.|
|+++ Cold Roast Beef on Side Tables.|
|Venison (2 Haunches).|
|R. Quails.||R. Leveret.|
|Salade Italienne.||Crême Italienne.|
The bill, as a specimen of the advantages of separate charges, as well as on other accounts, may be worth preserving:—
June 17, 1818.
|Bread and Beer||0||9||0|
|Cheas and Butter||0||9||0|
|Saturne (sic in MS.)||1||4||0|
|Tea and Coffee||1||8||0|
|2 Haunches of Venison||10||10||0|
|Sweet sauce and dressing||1||4||0|
|50 lbs. Turtle||12||10||0|
|Ice for Wine||0||6||0|
|Lemons and Sugar for do.||0||3||0|
"Consider, in the bird's-eye view of the banquet, (says Mr. Haslewood,) the trencher cuts, foh! nankeen displays; as intersticed with many a brilliant drop to friendly beck and clubbish hail, to moisten the viands, or cool the incipient cayenne. No unfamished liveryman would desire better dishes, or high-tasted courtier better wines. With men that meet to commune, that can converse, and each willing to give and receive information, more could not be wanting to promote well-tempered conviviality; a social compound of mirth, wit, and wisdom;—combining all that Anacreon was famed for, tempered with the reason of Demosthenes, and intersected with the archness of Scaliger. It is true we had not any Greek verses in praise of the grape; but we 191 had as a tolerable substitute the ballad of the Bishop of Hereford and Robin Hood, sung by Mr. Dodd; and it was of his own composing. It is true we had not any long oration denouncing the absentees, the Cabinet council, or any other set of men, but there was not a man present that at one hour and seventeen minutes after the cloth was removed but could not have made a Demosthenic speech far superior to any record of antiquity. It is true no trait of wit is going to be here preserved, for the flashes were too general; and what is the critical sagacity of Scaliger, compared to our chairman? Ancients, believe it we were not dead drunk, and therefore lie quiet under the table for once, and let a few moderns be uppermost.
"According to the long-established principles of 'Maysterre Cockerre,' each person had £5. 14s. to pay—a tremendous sum, and much may be said thereon."
Earl Spencer presided at the dinner which followed the sale of the Valdarfer Boccaccio: twenty-one members sat down to table at Jaquière's (the Clarendon), and the bill was comparatively moderate, £55. 13s. Mr. Haslewood says, with characteristic sprightliness: "Twenty-one members met joyfully, dined comfortably, challenged eagerly, tippled prettily, divided regretfully, and paid the bill most cheerfully."
The following is the list of "Tostes," given at the first Dinner, in 1812:—
The Order of ye Tostes.
The Immortal Memory of John Duke of Roxburghe.
Christopher Valdarfer, Printer of the Decameron of 1471.
Gutemberg, Fust, and Schæffher, the Inventors of the Art of Printing. 192 William Caxton, the Father of the British Press. Dame Juliana Barnes, and the St. Alban's Press. Wynkyn de Worde and Richard Pynson, the Illustrious Successors of William Caxton. The Aldine Family, at Venice. The Giunta Family at Florence. The Society of the Bibliophiles at Paris. The Prosperity of the Roxburghe Club. The Cause of Bibliomania all over the World.
To show that the pursuits of the Roxburghe Club have been estimated with a difference, we quote what may be termed "another side of the question":—
"Among other follies of the age of paper, which took place in England at the end of the reign of George III., a set of book-fanciers, who had more money than wit, formed themselves into a club, and appropriately designated themselves the Bibliomaniacs. Dr. Dibdin was their organ; and among the club were several noblemen, who, in other respects, were esteemed men of sense. Their rage was, not to estimate books according to their intrinsic worth, but for their rarity. Hence, any volume of the vilest trash, which was scarce, merely because it never had any sale, fetched fifty or a hundred pounds; but if it were but one of two or three known copies, no limits could be set to the price. Books altered in the title-page, or in a leaf, or any trivial circumstance which varied a few copies, were bought by these soi-disant maniacs, at one, two, or three hundred pounds, though the copies were not really worth more than threepence per pound. A trumpery edition of Boccaccio, said to be one of two known copies, was thus bought by a noble marquis for £1475, though in two or three years afterwards he resold it for £500. First editions of all authors, and editions by the first clumsy 193 printers, were never sold for less than £50, £100, or £200.
"To keep each other in countenance, these persons formed themselves into a club, and, after a Duke, one of their fraternity, called themselves the Roxburghe Club. To gratify them, facsimile copies of clumsy editions of trumpery books were reprinted; and, in some cases, it became worth the while of more ingenious persons to play off forgeries upon them. This mania after awhile abated and, in future ages, it will be ranked with the tulip and the picture mania, during which, estates were given for single flowers and pictures."
The Roxburghe Club still exists; and, with the Dilettanti Society, may justly be said to have suggested the Publishing Societies of the present day, at the head of which is the Camden. The late Duke of Devonshire was a munificent member of the Roxburghe.
There are several parochial Clubs in the metropolis; but that of the important parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, with "Past Overseers" for its members, has signalized itself by the accumulation and preservation of an unique heirloom, which is a very curious collection of memorials of the last century and a half, exhibiting various tastes and styles of art in their respective commemorations, in a sort of chronology in silver.
Such is the St. Margaret's Overseer's Box, which originated as follows. It appears that a Mr. Monck 194 purchased, at Horn Fair, held at Charlton, Kent, a small tobacco-box for the sum of fourpence, from which he often replenished his neighbour's pipe, at the meetings of his predecessors and companions in the office of Overseers of the Poor, to whom the Box was presented in 1713. In 1720, the Society of Past Overseers ornamented the lid with a silver rim, commemorating the donor. In 1726, a silver side case and bottom were added. In 1740, an embossed border was placed upon the lid, and the under part enriched with an emblem of Charity. In 1746, Hogarth engraved inside the lid a bust of the Duke of Cumberland, with allegorical figures, and scroll commemorating the Battle of Culloden. In 1765, an interwoven scroll was added to the lid, enclosing a plate with the arms of the City of Westminster, and inscribed: "This Box to be delivered to every succeeding set of Overseers, on penalty of five guineas."
The original Horn box being thus ornamented, additional cases were provided by the Senior Overseers for the time being,—namely, silver plates engraved with emblematical and historical subjects and busts. Among the first are a View of the Fireworks in St. James's Park, to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1749; Admiral Keppel's Action off Ushant, and his acquittal after a court-martial; the Battle of the Nile; the Repulse of Admiral Linois, 1804; the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805; the Action between the San Fiorenzo and La Piémontaise, 1808; the Battle of Waterloo, 1815; the Bombardment of Algiers, 1816; View of the House of Lords at the Trial of Queen Caroline; the Coronation of George IV.; and his Visit to Scotland, 1822.
There are also—Portraits of John Wilkes, Churchwarden in 1759; Nelson, Duncan, Howe, Vincent; Fox 195 and Pitt, 1806; George IV. as Prince Regent, 1811; the Princess Charlotte, 1817; and Queen Charlotte, 1818. But the more interesting representations are those of local circumstances; as the Interior of Westminster Hall, with the Westminster Volunteers, attending Divine Service at the drum-head on the Fast Day, 1803; the Old Sessions House; a view of St. Margaret's, from the north-east; and the West Front Tower, and altar-piece. In 1813, a large silver plate was added to the outer case, with a portrait of the Duke of Wellington, commemorating the centenary of the agglomeration of the Box.
The top of the second case represents the Governors of the Poor, in their Board-room, and this inscription: "The original Box and cases to be given to every succeeding set of Overseers, on penalty of fifty guineas, 1783." On the outside of the first case is a clever engraving of a cripple.
In 1785, Mr. Gilbert exhibited the Box to some friends after dinner: at night, thieves broke in, and carried off all the plate that had been in use; but the box had been removed beforehand to a bedchamber.
In 1793, Mr. Read, a Past Overseer, detained the Box, because his accounts were not passed. An action was brought for its recovery, which was long delayed, owing to two members of the Society giving Read a release, which he successfully pleaded in bar to the action. This rendered it necessary to take proceedings in equity: accordingly, a Bill was filed in Chancery against all three, and Read was compelled to deposit the box with Master Leeds until the end of the suit. Three years of litigation ensued. Eventually the Chancellor directed the Box to be restored to the Overseers' Society, 196 and Mr. Read paid in costs £300. The extra costs amounted to £76. 13s. 11d., owing to the illegal proceedings of Mr. Read. The sum of £91. 7s. was at once raised; and the surplus spent upon a third case, of octagon shape. The top records the triumph: Justice trampling upon a prostrate man, from whose face a mask falls upon a writhing serpent. A second plate, on the outside of the fly-lid, represents the Lord Chancellor Loughborough, pronouncing his decree for the restoration of the Box, March 5, 1796.
On the fourth or outer case is the Anniversary Meeting of the Past Overseers' Society, with the Churchwardens giving the charge previous to delivering the Box to the succeeding Overseer, who is bound to produce it at certain parochial entertainments, with three pipes of tobacco at the least, under the penalty of six bottles of claret; and to return the whole, with some addition, safe and sound, under a penalty of 200 guineas.
A tobacco-stopper of mother-of-pearl, with a silver chain, is enclosed within the Box, and completes this unique Memorial of the kindly feeling which perpetuates year by year the old ceremonies of this united parish; and renders this traditionary piece of plate of great price, far outweighing its intrinsic value.
In the reign of George the Second there met, at a house in Essex-street, in the Strand, the Robin Hood 197 Society, a debating Club, at which, every Monday, questions were proposed, and any member might speak on them for seven minutes; after which the "baker," who presided with a hammer in his hand, summed up the arguments. Arthur Mainwaring and Dr. Hugh Chamberlain were among the earliest members of this Society. Horace Walpole notices the Robin Hood as one of the celebrities which Monsieur Beaumont saw in 1761: "it is incredible," says Walpole, "what pains he has taken to see:" he breakfasted at Strawberry Hill with Walpole, who was then "as much a curiosity to all foreigners as the tombs and lions."
The Robin Hood became famous as the scene of Burke's earliest eloquence. To discipline themselves in public speaking at its meetings was then the custom among law-students, and others intended for public life; and it is said that at the Robin Hood, Burke had commonly to encounter an opponent whom nobody else could overcome, or at least silence: this person was the president. Oliver Goldsmith was introduced to the Club by Samuel Derrick, his acquaintance and countryman. Struck by the eloquence and imposing aspect of the president, who sat in a large gilt chair, Goldsmith thought Nature had meant him for a lord chancellor: "No, no," whispered Derrick, who knew him to be a wealthy baker from the City, "only for a master of the rolls." Goldsmith was little of an orator; but, till Derrick went away to succeed Beau Nash at Bath, seems to have continued his visits, and even spoke occasionally; for he figures in an account of the members published at about this time, as "a candid disputant, with a clear head and an honest heart, though coming but seldom to the Society." 198
One of the members of this Robin Hood was Peter Annet, a man who, though ingenious and deserving in other respects, became unhappily notorious by a kind of fanatic crusade against the Bible, for which (published weekly papers against the Book of Genesis,) he stood twice in one year in the pillory, and then underwent imprisonment in the King's Bench. To Annet's room in that prison went Goldsmith, taking with him Newbery, the publisher, to conclude the purchase of a Child's Grammar from the prisoner, hoping so to relieve his distress; but on the prudent publisher suggesting that no name should appear on the title-page, and Goldsmith agreeing that circumstances made this advisable, Annet accused them both of cowardice, and rejected their assistance with contempt.
The earliest mention of a Blue-Stocking, or Bas-Bleu, occurs in the Greek comedy, entitled the Banquet of Plutarch. The term, as applied to a lady of high literary taste, has been traced by Mills, in his History of Chivalry, to the Society de la Calza, formed at Venice, in 1400, "when, consistently with the singular custom of the Italians, of marking academies and other intellectual associations by some external sign of folly, the members, when they met in literary discussion, were distinguished by the colour of their stockings. The colours were sometimes fantastically blended; and at other times one 199 colour, particularly blue, prevailed." The Society de la Calza lasted till 1590, when the foppery of Italian literature took some other symbol. The rejected title then crossed the Alps, and found a congenial soil in Parisian society, and particularly branded female pedantry. It then diverted from France to England, and for awhile marked the vanity of the small advances in literature in female coteries.
But the Blue-stocking of the last century is of home-growth; for Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, date 1781, records: "About this time it was much the fashion for several ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by a desire to please. One of the most eminent members of these societies, when they first commenced, was Mr. Stillingfleet (grandson of the Bishop), whose dress was remarkably grave; and in particular it was observed that he wore blue stockings. Such was the excellence of his conversation, that his absence was felt so great a loss that it used to be said, 'We can do nothing without the blue stockings;'" and thus by degrees the title was established. Miss Hannah More has admirably described a Blue-Stocking Club, in her Bas-Bleu, a poem in which many of the persons who were most conspicuous there are mentioned. And Horace Walpole speaks of this production as "a charming poetic familiarity called 'the Blue-Stocking Club.'"
The Club met at the house of Mrs. Montagu, at the north-west angle of Portman-square. Forbes, in his Life of Beattie, gives another account: "This Society consisted originally of Mrs. Montagu, Mrs. Vesey, Miss Boscawen, and Mrs. Carter, Lord Lyttelton, Mr. Pulteney, Horace Walpole, and Mr. Stillingfleet. To the 200 latter gentleman, a man of great piety and worth, and author of some works in natural history, etc., this constellation of talents owed that whimsical appellation of 'Bas-Bleu.' Mr. Stillingfleet being somewhat of an humourist in his habits and manners, and a little negligent in his dress, literally wore gray stockings; from which circumstance Admiral Boscawen used, by way of pleasantry, to call them 'The Blue-Stocking Society,' as if to intimate that when these brilliant friends met, it was not for the purpose of forming a dressed assembly. A foreigner of distinction hearing the expression, translated it literally 'Bas-Bleu,' by which these meetings came to be afterwards distinguished." Dr. Johnson sometimes joined this circle. The last of the Club was the lively Miss Monckton, afterwards Countess of Cork, "who used to have the finest bit of blue at the house of her mother Lady Galway." Lady Cork died at upwards of ninety years of age, at her house in New Burlington-street, in 1840.
This was one of the creations of Dr. Johnson's clubbable nature, which served as recreation for this laborious worker. He was now "tugging at the oar," in Gough-square, Fleet-street. Boswell describes him as "engaged in a steady, continued course of occupation." "But his enlarged and lively mind could not be satisfied without more diversity of employment, and the pleasure of animated relaxation. He therefore not only exerted 201 his talents in occasional composition, very different from lexicography, but formed a Club in Ivy-lane, Paternoster-row, with a view to enjoy literary discussion, and amuse his evening hours. The members associated with him in this little Society were his beloved friend Dr. Richard Bathurst; Mr. Hawkesworth, afterwards well known by his writings; Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney; and a few others of different professions." The Club met every Tuesday evening at the King's Head, a beef-steak house in Ivy-lane. One of the members, Hawkins, then Sir John, has given a very lively picture of a celebration by this Club, at the Devil Tavern, in Fleet-street, which forms one of the pleasantest pages in the Author's Life of Johnson. Sir John tells us:
"One evening, at the [Ivy-lane] Club, Dr. Johnson proposed to us celebrating the birth of Mrs. Lennox's first literary child, as he called her book, by a whole night spent in festivity. The place appointed was the Devil Tavern; and there, about the hour of eight, Mrs. Lennox, and her husband, and a lady of her acquaintance now living , as also the Club and friends, to the number of near twenty, assembled. Our supper was elegant, and Johnson had directed that a magnificent hot apple-pye should make a part of it, and this he would have stuck with bay-leaves, because, forsooth, Mrs. Lennox was an authoress, and had written verses; and further, he had prepared for her a crown of laurel, with which, but not until he had invoked the Muses by some ceremonies of his own invention, he encircled her brows. The night passed, as must be imagined, in pleasant conversation and harmless mirth, intermingled, at different periods, with the refreshments of coffee and tea. About five, Johnson's face shone with meridian splendour, 202 though his drink had been only lemonade; but the far greater part of us had deserted the colours of Bacchus, and were with difficulty rallied to partake of a second refreshment of coffee, which was scarcely ended when the day began to dawn. This phenomenon began to put us in mind of our reckoning; but the waiters were all so overcome with sleep, that it was two hours before we could get a bill, and it was not till near eight that the creaking of the street-door gave the signal for our departure."
When Johnson, the year before his death, endeavoured to re-assemble as many of the Club as were left, he found, to his regret, he wrote to Hawkins, that Horseman, the landlord, was dead, and the house shut up.
About this time, Johnson instituted a Club at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard. "He told Mr. Hook," says Boswell, "that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but," said he, "don't let them be patriots." (Boswell's Life, 8th edit. vol. iv. p. 93.) This was an allusion to the friends of his acquaintance Wilkes. Boswell accompanied him one day to the Club, and found the members "very sensible, well-behaved men."
In the year before he died, at the Essex Head, now No. 40, in Essex-street, Strand, Dr. Johnson established a little evening Club, under circumstances peculiarly interesting, as described by Boswell. He tells us that "notwithstanding the complication of disorders under which 203 Johnson now laboured, he did not resign himself to despondency and discontent, but with wisdom and spirit endeavoured to console and amuse his mind with as many innocent enjoyments as he could procure." Sir John Hawkins has mentioned the cordiality with which he insisted that such of the members of the old Club in Ivy-lane as survived, should meet again and dine together, which they did, twice at a tavern, and once at his house; and in order to ensure himself in the evening for three days in the week, Johnson instituted a Club at the Essex Head, in Essex-street, then kept by Samuel Greaves, an old servant of Mr. Thrale's: it was called "Sam's."
On Dec. 4, 1783, Johnson wrote to Sir Joshua Reynolds, giving an account of this Club, of which Reynolds had desired to be one; "the company," Dr. J. says, "is numerous, and, as you will see by the list, miscellaneous. The terms are lax, and the expenses light. Mr. Barry was adopted by Dr. Brocklesby, who joined with me in forming the plan. We meet twice a week, and he who misses forfeits twopence." It did not suit Sir Joshua to be one of this Club; "but," says Boswell, "when I mention only Mr. Daines Barrington, Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. John Nichols, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Joddrel, Mr. Paradise, Dr. Horsley, Mr. Windham, I shall sufficiently obviate the misrepresentation of it by Sir John Hawkins, as if it had been a low ale-house association, by which Johnson was degraded." The Doctor himself, like his namesake, Old Ben, composed the Rules of his Club. Boswell was, at this time, in Scotland, and during all the winter. Johnson, however, declared that he should be a member, and invented a word upon the occasion: "Boswell," said he, "is a very clubbable man;" and he was subsequently chosen of the Club. 204
Johnson headed the Rules with these lines:—
"To-day deep thoughts with me resolve to drench
In mirth, which after no repenting draws."—Milton.
Johnson's attention to the Club was unceasing, as appears by a letter to Alderman Clark, (afterwards Lord Mayor and Chamberlain,) who was elected into the Club: the postscript is: "You ought to be informed that the forfeits began with the year, and that every night of non-attendance incurs the mulct of three pence; that is, ninepence a week." Johnson himself was so anxious in his attendance, that going to meet the Club when he was not strong enough, he was seized with a spasmodic asthma, so violent, that he could scarcely return home, and he was confined to his house eight or nine weeks. He recovered by May 15, when he was in fine spirits at the Club.
Boswell writes of the Essex: "I believe there are few Societies where there is better conversation, or more decorum. Several of us resolved to continue it after our great founder was removed by death. Other members were added; and now, above eight years since that loss, we go on happily."
Out of the casual, but frequent meetings of men of talent at the hospitable board of Sir Joshua Reynolds, in Leicester-square, rose that association of wits, authors, scholars, and statesmen, renowned as the Literary Club. Reynolds was the first to propose a regular association 205 of the kind, and was eagerly seconded by Johnson, who suggested as a model the Club which he had formed some fourteen years previously, in Ivy-lane; and which the deaths or dispersion of its members had now interrupted for nearly seven years. On this suggestion being adopted, the members, as in the earlier Club, were limited to nine, and Mr. Hawkins, as an original member of the Ivy-lane Club, was invited to join. Topham Beauclerk and Bennet Langton were asked and welcomed earnestly; and, of course, Mr. Edmund Burke. The notion of the Club delighted Burke; and he asked admission for his father-in-law, Dr. Nugent, an accomplished Roman Catholic physician, who lived with him. Beauclerk, in like manner, suggested his friend Chamier, then Under-Secretary-at-War. Oliver Goldsmith completed the number. But another member of the original Ivy-lane, Samuel Dyer, making unexpected appearance from abroad, in the following year, was joyfully admitted; and though it was resolved to make election difficult, and only for special reasons permit addition to their number, the limitation at first proposed was thus, of course, done away with. Twenty was the highest number reached in the course of ten years.
The dates of the Club are thus summarily given by Mr. Hatchett, the treasurer:—It was founded in 1764, by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Dr. Samuel Johnson, and for some years met on Monday evenings, at seven. In 1772, the day of meeting was changed to Friday, and about that time, instead of supping, they agreed to dine together once in every fortnight during the sitting of Parliament. 206 In 1773, the Club, which, soon after its foundation, consisted of twelve members, was enlarged to twenty; March 11, 1777, to twenty-six; November 27, 1778, to thirty; May 9, 1780, to thirty-five; and it was then resolved that it should never exceed forty. It met originally at the Turk's Head, in Gerard-street, and continued to meet there till 1783, when their landlord died, and the house was soon afterwards shut up. They then removed to Prince's, in Sackville-street; and on his house being, soon afterwards, shut up, they removed to Baxter's, which afterwards became Thomas's, in Dover-street. In January, 1792, they removed to Parsloe's, in St. James's-street; and on February 26, 1799, to the Thatched House, in the same street.
"So originated and was formed," says Mr. Forster, "that famous Club, which had made itself a name in literary history long before it received, at Garrick's funeral, the name of the Literary Club, by which it is now known. Its meetings were noised abroad; the fame of its conversations received eager addition, from the difficulty of obtaining admission to it; and it came to be as generally understood that Literature had fixed her social head-quarters here, as that Politics reigned supreme at Wildman's, or the Cocoa-tree. With advantage, let me add, to the dignity and worldly consideration of men of letters themselves. 'I believe Mr. Fox will allow me to say,' remarked the Bishop of St. Asaph, when the Society was not more than fifteen years old, 'that the honour of being elected into the Turk's Head Club, is not inferior to that of being the representative of Westminster or Surrey.' The Bishop had just been elected; but into such lusty independence had the Club sprung up thus early, that Bishops, even Lord Chancellors, were known to 207 have knocked for admission unsuccessfully; and on the night of St. Asaph's election, Lord Camden and the Bishop of Chester were black-balled."
Of this Club, Hawkins was a most unpopular member: even his old friend, Johnson, admitted him to be out of place here. He had objected to Goldsmith, at the Club, "as a mere literary drudge, equal to the task of compiling and translating, but little capable of original, and still less of poetical composition." Hawkins's "existence was a kind of pompous, parsimonious, insignificant drawl, cleverly ridiculed by one of the wits in an absurd epitaph: 'Here lies Sir John Hawkins, without his shoes and stauckins.'" He was as mean as he was pompous and conceited. He forbore to partake of the suppers at the Club, and begged therefore to be excused from paying his share of the reckoning. "And was he excused?" asked Dr. Burney, of Johnson. "Oh yes, for no man is angry at another for being inferior to himself. We all scorned him, and admitted his plea. Yet I really believe him to be an honest man at bottom, though, to be sure, he is penurious and he is mean, and it must be owned that he has a tendency to savageness." He did not remain above two or three years in the Club, being in a manner elbowed out in consequence of his rudeness to Burke. Still, Burke's vehemence of will and sharp impetuosity of temper constantly exposed him to prejudice and dislike; and he may have painfully impressed others, as well as Hawkins, at the Club, with a sense of his predominance. This was the only theatre open to him. "Here only," says Mr. Forster, "could he as yet pour forth, to an audience worth exciting, the stores of argument and eloquence he was thirsting to employ upon a wider stage; the variety of knowledge, the fund of astonishing 208 imagery, the ease of philosophic illustration, the overpowering copiousness of words, in which he has never had a rival." Miss Hawkins was convinced that her father was disgusted with the overpowering deportment of Mr. Burke, and his monopoly of the conversation, which made all the other members, excepting his antagonist, Johnson, merely listeners. Something of the same sort is said by that antagonist, though in a more generous way. "What I most envy Burke for," said Johnson, "is, that he is never what we call humdrum; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to leave off. Take up whatever topic you please, he is ready to meet you. I cannot say he is good at listening. So desirous is he to talk, that if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end."
The Club was an opportunity for both Johnson and Burke; and for the most part their wit-combats seem not only to have instructed the rest, but to have improved the temper of the combatants, and to have made them more generous to each other. "How very great Johnson has been to-night!" said Burke to Bennet Langton, as they left the Club together. Langton assented, but could have wished to hear more from another person. "Oh no!" replied Burke, "it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him."
One evening he observed that a hogshead of claret, which had been sent as a present to the Club, was almost out; and proposed that Johnson should write for another, in such ambiguity of expression as might have a chance of procuring it also as a gift. One of the company said, "Dr. Johnson shall be our dictator."—"Were I," said Johnson, "your dictator, you should have no wine: it would be my business cavere ne quid detrimenti respublica 209 caperet:—wine is dangerous; Rome was ruined by luxury." Burke replied: "If you allow no wine as dictator, you shall not have me for master of the horse."
Goldsmith, it must be owned, joined the Club somewhat unwillingly, saying: "One must make some sacrifices to obtain good society; for here I am shut out of several places where I used to play the fool very agreeably." His simplicity of character and hurried expression often led him into absurdity, and he became in some degree the butt of the company. The Club, notwithstanding all its learned dignity in the eyes of the world, could occasionally unbend and play the fool as well as less important bodies. Some of its jocose conversations have at times leaked out; and the Society in which Goldsmith could venture to sing his song of "An Old Woman tossed in a Blanket" could not be so very staid in its gravity. Bennet Langton and Topham Beauclerk were, doubtless, induced to join the Club through their devotion to Johnson, and the intimacy of these two very young and aristocratic young men with the stern and somewhat melancholy moralist. Bennet Langton was of an ancient family, who held their ancestral estate of Langton in Lincolnshire, a great title to respect with Johnson. "Langton, Sir," he would say, "has a grant of free warren from Henry the Second; and Cardinal Stephen Langton, in King John's reign, was of this family."
Langton was of a mild, contemplative, enthusiastic nature. When but eighteen years of age, he was so delighted with reading Johnson's Rambler, that he came to London chiefly with a view to obtain an introduction to the author. 210
Langton went to pursue his studies at Trinity College, Oxford, where Johnson saw much of him during a visit which he paid to the University. He found him in close intimacy with Topham Beauclerk, a youth two years older than himself, very gay and dissipated, and wondered what sympathies could draw two young men together of such opposite characters. On becoming acquainted with Beauclerk, he found that, rake though he was, he possessed an ardent love of literature, an acute understanding, polished wit, innate gentility, and high aristocratic breeding. He was, moreover, the only son of Lord Sidney Beauclerk, and grandson of the Duke of St. Albans, and was thought in some particulars to have a resemblance to Charles the Second. These were high recommendations with Johnson; and when the youth testified a profound respect for him, and an ardent admiration of his talents, the conquest was complete; so that in a "short time," says Boswell, "the moral, pious Johnson and the gay dissipated Beauclerk were companions."
When these two young men entered the Club, Langton was about twenty-two, and Beauclerk about twenty-four years of age, and both were launched on London life. Langton, however, was still the mild, enthusiastic scholar, steeped to the lips in Greek, with fine conversational powers, and an invaluable talent for listening. He was upwards of six feet high, and very spare. "Oh that we could sketch him!" exclaims Miss Hawkins, in her Memoirs, "with his mild countenance, his elegant features, and his sweet smile, sitting with one leg twisted round the other, as if fearing to occupy more space than was equitable; his person inclining forward, as if wanting strength to support his weight; and his arms crossed over his bosom, or his hands locked together on his knee." 211 Beauclerk, on such occasions, sportively compared him to a stork in Raphael's cartoons, standing on one leg. Beauclerk was more a "man upon town," a lounger in St. James's-street, an associate with George Selwyn, with Walpole, and other aristocratic wits, a man of fashion at court, a casual frequenter of the gaming-table; yet, with all this, he alternated in the easiest and happiest manner the scholar and the man of letters; lounged into the Club with the most perfect self-possession, bringing with him the careless grace and polished wit of high-bred society, but making himself cordially at home among his learned fellow-members.
Johnson was exceedingly chary at first of the exclusiveness of the Club, and opposed to its being augmented in number. Not long after its institution, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to Garrick. "I like it much," said little David, briskly, "I think I shall be of you." "When Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. Johnson," says Boswell, "he was much displeased with the actor's conceit. 'He'll be of us!' growled he; 'how does he know we will permit him? The first duke in England has no right to hold such language."
When Sir John Hawkins spoke favourably of Garrick's pretensions, "Sir," replied Johnson, "he will disturb us by his buffoonery." In the same spirit he declared to Mr. Thrale, that if Garrick should apply for admission, he would black-ball him. "Who, Sir?" exclaimed Thrale, with surprise: "Mr. Garrick—your friend, your companion—black-ball him?" "Why, Sir," replied Johnson, "I love my little David dearly—better than all or any of his flatterers do; but surely one ought to sit in a society like ours,
"Unelbowed by a gamester, pimp, or player."
The exclusion from the Club was a sore mortification to Garrick, though he bore it without complaining. He could not help continually asking questions about it—what was going on there?—whether he was ever the subject of conversation? By degrees the rigour of the Club relaxed; some of the members grew negligent. Beauclerk lost his right of membership by neglecting to attend. On his marriage, however, with Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, and recently divorced from Viscount Bolingbroke, he had claimed and regained his seat in the Club. The number of the members had likewise been augmented. The proposition to increase it originated with Goldsmith. "It would give," he thought, "an agreeable variety to their meetings; for there can be nothing new amongst us," said he; "we have travelled over each other's minds." Johnson was piqued at the suggestion. "Sir," said he, "you have not travelled over my mind, I promise you." Sir Joshua, less confident in the exhaustless fecundity of his mind, felt and acknowledged the force of Goldsmith's suggestion. Several new members, therefore, had been added; the first, to his great joy, was David Garrick. Goldsmith, who was now on cordial terms with him, had zealously promoted his election, and Johnson had given it his warm approbation. Another new member was Beauclerk's friend, Lord Charlemont; and a still more important one was Mr., afterwards Sir William Jones, the linguist. George Colman, the elder, was a lively Club-man. One evening at the Club he met Boswell; they talked of Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands, and of his coming away "willing to believe the second sight," which seemed to excite some ridicule. "I was then," says Boswell, "so 213 impressed with the truth of many of the stories which I had been told, that I avowed my conviction, saying, "He is only willing to believe—I do believe; the evidence is enough for me, though not for his great mind. What will not fill a quart bottle will fill a pint bottle; I am filled with belief."—"Are you?" said Colman; "then cork it up.""
Five years after the death of Garrick, Dr. Johnson dined with the Club for the last time. This is one of the most melancholy entries by Boswell. "On Tuesday, June 22 (1784), I dined with him (Johnson) at the Literary Club, the last time of his being in that respectable society. The other members present were the Bishop of St. Asaph, Lord Eliot, Lord Palmerston (father of the Premier), Dr. Fordyce, and Mr. Malone. He looked ill; but he had such a manly fortitude, that he did not trouble the company with melancholy complaints. They all showed evident marks of kind concern about him, with which he was much pleased, and he exerted himself to be as entertaining as his indisposition allowed him."
From the time of Garrick's death the Club was known as "The Literary Club," since which it has certainly lost its claim to this epithet. It was originally a club of authors by profession; it now numbers very few except titled members (the majority having some claims to literary distinction), which was very far from the intention of its founders. To this the author of the paper in the National Review demurs. Writing in 1857, he says: "Perhaps it now numbers on its list more titled members and fewer authors by profession, than its founders would have considered desirable. This opinion, however, is quite open to challenge. Such men as the 214 Marquis of Lansdowne, the late Lord Ellesmere, Lords Brougham, Carlisle, Aberdeen, and Glenelg, hold their place in 'the Literary Club' quite as much by virtue of their contributions to literature, or their enlightened support of it, as by their right of rank." [How many of these noble members have since paid the debt of nature!]
"At all events," says Mr. Taylor, "the Club still acknowledges literature as its foundation, and love of literature as the tie which binds together its members, whatever their rank and callings. Few Clubs can show such a distinguished brotherhood of members as 'the Literary.' Of authors proper, from 1764 to this date (1857), may be enumerated, besides its original members, Johnson and Goldsmith, Dyer and Percy, Gibbon and Sir William Jones, Colman, the two Wartons, Farmer, Steevens, Burney, and Malone, Frere and George Ellis, Hallam, Milman, Mountstuart Elphinstone, and Lord Stanhope.
"Among men equally conspicuous in letters and the Senate, what names outshine those of Burke and Sheridan, Canning, Brougham, and Macaulay? Of statesmen and orators proper, the Club claims Fox, Windham, Thomas Grenville, Lord Liverpool; Lords Lansdowne, Aberdeen, and Clarendon. Natural science is represented by Sir Joseph Banks, in the last century; by Professor Owen in this. Social science can have no nobler representative than Adam Smith; albeit, Boswell did think the Club had lost caste by electing him. Mr. N. W. Senior is the political economist of the present Club. Whewell must stand alone as the embodiment of omniscience, which before him was unrepresented. Scholars and soldiers may be equally proud of Rennel, Leake, and Mure. Besides the clergymen already 215 enumerated as authors, the Church has contributed a creditable list of bishops and inferior dignitaries: Shipley of St. Asaph, Barnard of Killaloe, Marley of Pomfret, Hinchcliffe of Peterborough, Douglas of Salisbury, Blomfield of London, Wilberforce of Oxford, Dean Vincent of Westminster, Archdeacon Burney; and Dr. Hawtrey, late master and present provost of Eton.
"Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Charles Eastlake are its two chief pillars of art, slightly unequal. With them we may associate Sir William Chambers and Charles Wilkins. The presence of Drs. Nugent, Blagden, Fordyce, Warren, Vaughan, and Sir Henry Halford, is a proof that in the Club medicine has from the first kept up its kinship with literature.
"The profession of the law has given the Society Lord Ashburton, Lord Stowell, and Sir William Grant, Charles Austin, and Pemberton Leigh. Lord Overstone may stand as the symbol of money; unless Sir George Cornewall Lewis is to be admitted to that honour by virtue of his Chancellorship of the Exchequer. Sir George would, probably, prefer his claims to Club membership as a scholar and political writer, to any that can be picked out of a Budget.
"Take it all in all, the Literary Club has never degenerated from the high standard of intellectual gifts and personal qualities, which made those unpretending suppers at the Turk's Head an honour eagerly contended for by the wisest, wittiest, and noblest of the eighteenth century."
Malone, in 1810, gave the total number of those who had been members of the Club from its foundation, at seventy-six, of whom fifty-five had been authors. Since 1810, however, literature has far less preponderance. 216
The designation of the Society has been again changed to "the Johnson Club." Upon the taking down of the Thatched House Tavern, the Club removed to the Clarendon Hotel, in Bond-street, where was celebrated its centenary, in September, 1864. There were present, upon this memorable occasion,—in the chair, the Dean of St. Paul's; his Excellency M. Van de Weyer, Earls Clarendon and Stanhope; the Bishops of London and Oxford; Lords Brougham, Stanley, Cranworth, Kingsdown, and Harry Vane; the Right Hon. Sir Edmund Head, Spencer Walpole, and Robert Lowe; Sir Henry Holland, Sir C. Eastlake, Sir Roderick Murchison, Vice-Chancellor Sir W. Page Wood, the Master of Trinity, Professor Owen, Mr. G. Grote, Mr. C. Austen, Mr. H. Reeve, and Mr. G. Richmond. Among the few members prevented from attending were the Duke of Argyll (in Scotland), the Earl of Carlisle (in Ireland), Earl Russell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Overstone (at Oxford), Lord Glenelg (abroad), and Mr. W. Stirling (from indisposition). Mr. N. W. Senior, who was the political economist of the Club, died in June, preceding, in his sixty-fourth year.
Hallam and Macaulay were among the constant attendants at its dinners, which take place twice a month during the Parliamentary season. The custody of the books and archives of the Club rests with the secretary, Dr. Milman, the venerable Dean of St. Paul's, who takes great pride and pleasure in showing to literary friends the valuable collection of autographs which these books contain. Among the memorials is the portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds, with spectacles on, similar to the picture in the Royal Collection: this portrait was painted and presented by Sir Joshua, as the founder of the Club. 217
Lord Macaulay has grouped, with his accustomed felicity of language, this celebrated congress of men of letters.
"To discuss questions of taste, of learning, of casuistry, in language so exact and so forcible that it might have been printed without the alteration of a word," was to Johnson no exertion, but a pleasure. He loved, as he said, to fold his legs and have his talk out. He was ready to bestow the overflowings of his full mind on anybody who would start a subject, on a fellow-passenger in a stage-coach, or on the person who sat at the same table with him in an eating-house. But his conversation was nowhere so brilliant and striking as when he was surrounded by a few friends, whose abilities and knowledge enabled them, as he once expressed it, to send him back every ball that he threw. Some of these, in 1764, formed themselves into a Club, which gradually became a formidable power in the commonwealth of letters. The verdicts pronounced by this conclave on new books were speedily known over all London, and were sufficient to sell off a whole edition in a day, or to condemn the sheets to the service of the trunk-maker and the pastrycook. Nor shall we think this strange when we consider what great and various talents and acquirements met in the little fraternity. Goldsmith was the representative of poetry and light literature, Reynolds of the Arts, Burke of political eloquence and political philosophy. There, too, were Gibbon, the greatest historian, and Jones, the greatest linguist of the age. Garrick brought to the meetings his inexhaustible pleasantry, his incomparable mimicry, and his consummate knowledge of stage effect. Among the most constant attendants were two high-born and high-bred gentlemen, closely bound together by friendship, but of widely 218 different characters and habits,—Bennet Langton, distinguished by his skill in Greek literature, by the orthodoxy of his opinions, and by the sanctity of his life; and Topham Beauclerk, renowned for his amours, his knowledge of the gay world, his fastidious taste, and his sarcastic wit. To predominate over such a society was not easy. Yet even over such a society Johnson predominated. Burke might indeed have disputed the supremacy to which others were under the necessity of submitting. But Burke, though not generally a very patient listener, was content to take the second part when Johnson was present; and the Club itself, consisting of so many eminent men, is to this day popularly designated as "Johnson's Club."
To the same master-hand we owe this cabinet picture. "The [Literary Club] room is before us, and the table on which stand the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live for ever on the canvas of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke, and the tall thin form of Langton; the courtly sneer of Beauclerk, the beaming smile of Garrick, Gibbon tapping his snuff-box, and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in his ear. In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up—the gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease; the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the grey wig with the scorched foretop; the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see the eyes and the nose moving with convulsive twitches; we see the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the 'Why, Sir?' and the 'What then, Sir?' and the 'No, Sir!' and the 'You don't see your way through the question, Sir!'" 219
However Goldsmith might court the learned circle of the Literary Club, he was ill at ease there; and he had social resorts in which he indemnified himself for this restraint by indulging his humour without control. One of these was a Shilling Whist Club, which met at the Devil Tavern. The company delighted in practical jokes, of which Goldsmith was often the butt. One night, he came to the Club in a hackney-coach, when he gave the driver a guinea instead of a shilling. He set this down as a dead loss; but, on the next club-night, he was told that a person at the street-door wanted to speak to him; he went out, and to his surprise and delight, the coachman had brought him back the guinea! To reward such honesty, he collected a small sum from the Club, and largely increased it from his own purse, and with this reward sent away the coachman. He was still loud in his praise, when one of the Club asked to see the returned guinea. To Goldsmith's confusion it proved to be a counterfeit: the laughter which succeeded, showed him that the whole was a hoax, and the pretended coachman as much a counterfeit as the guinea. He was so disconcerted that he soon beat a retreat for the evening.
Another of these small Clubs met on Wednesday evenings, at the Globe Tavern, in Fleet-street; where songs, jokes, dramatic imitations, burlesque parodies, and broad sallies of humour, were the entertainments. Here a huge ton of a man, named Gordon, used to delight Goldsmith with singing the jovial song of "Nottingham Ale," and 220 looking like a butt of it. Here too, a wealthy pig-butcher aspired to be on the most sociable terms with Oliver; and here was Tom King, the comedian, recently risen to eminence by his performance of Lord Ogleby, in the new comedy of The Clandestine Marriage. A member of note was also one Hugh Kelly, who was a kind of competitor of Goldsmith, but a low one; for Johnson used to speak of him as a man who had written more than he had read. Another noted frequenter of the Globe and Devil taverns was one Glover, who, having failed in the medical profession, took to the stage; but having succeeded in restoring to life a malefactor who had just been executed, he abandoned the stage, and resumed his wig and cane; and came to London to dabble in physic and literature. He used to amuse the company at the Club by his story-telling and mimicry, giving capital imitations of Garrick, Foote, Colman, Sterne, and others. It was through Goldsmith that Glover was admitted to the Wednesday Club; he was, however, greatly shocked by the free-and-easy tone in which Goldsmith was addressed by the pig-butcher; "Come, Noll," he would say as he pledged him, "here's my service to you, old boy."
The evening's amusement at the Wednesday Club was not, however, limited; it had the variety of epigram, and here was first heard the celebrated epitaph, (Goldsmith had been reading Pope and Swift's Miscellanies,) on Edward Purdon:—
"Here lies poor Ned Purdon, from misery freed,
Who long was a bookseller's hack;
He had led such a damnable life in this world,
I don't think he'll wish to come back."
It was in April of the present year that Purdon closed 221 his luckless life by suddenly dropping down dead in Smithfield; and as it was chiefly Goldsmith's pittance that had saved him thus long from starvation, it was well that the same friend should give him his solitary chance of escape from oblivion. "Doctor Goldsmith made this epitaph," says William Ballantyne, "in his way from his chambers in the Temple to the Wednesday evening Club at the Globe. I think he will never come back, I believe he said; I was sitting by him, and he repeated it more than once. I think he will never come back! Ah! and not altogether as a jest, it may be, the second and the third time. There was something in Purdon's fate, from their first meeting in college to that incident in Smithfield, which had no very violent contrast to his own; and remembering what Glover had said of his frequent sudden descents from mirth to melancholy, some such faithful change of temper would here have been natural enough. 'His disappointments at these times,' Glover tells us, 'made him peevish and sullen, and he has often left his party of convivial friends abruptly in the evening, in order to go home and brood over his misfortunes.' But a better medicine for his grief than brooding over it, was a sudden start into the country to forget it; and it was probably with a feeling of this kind he had in the summer revisited Islington; he laboured during the autumn in a room of Canonbury Tower; and often, in the evening, presided at the Crown tavern, in Islington Lower Road, where Goldsmith and his fellow-lodgers had formed a kind of temporary club. At the close of the year he returned to the Temple, and was again pretty constant in his attendance at Gerard-street." 222
The origin of this Society, which has now existed some 130 years, is due to certain gentlemen, who had travelled much in Italy, and were desirous of encouraging at home a taste for those objects which had contributed so much to their intellectual gratification abroad. Accordingly, in the year 1734, they formed themselves into a Society, under the name of Dilettanti, (literally, lovers of the Fine Arts,) and agreed upon certain Regulations to keep up the spirit of their scheme, which combined friendly and social intercourse with a serious and ardent desire to promote the Arts. In 1751, Mr. James Stuart, "Athenian Stuart," and Mr. Nicholas Revett, were elected members. The Society liberally assisted them in their excellent work, The Antiquities of Athens. In fact it was, in great measure, owing to this Society that after the death of the above two eminent architects, the work was not entirely relinquished; and a large number of the plates were engraved from drawings in the possession of the Dilettanti. Walpole, speaking in 1743, of the Society, in connexion with an opera subscription, says, "The nominal qualification [to be a member] is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk; the two chiefs are Lord Middlesex and Sir Francis Dashwood, who were seldom sober the whole time they were in Italy." We need scarcely add, that the qualifications for election are no longer what Walpole described them to have been.
In 1764, the Society being possessed of a considerable sum above what their services required, various schemes 223 were proposed for applying part of this money; and it was at length resolved "that a person or persons properly qualified, should be sent, with sufficient appointments, to certain parts of the East, to collect information relative to the former state of those countries, and particularly to procure exact descriptions of the ruins of such monuments of antiquity as are yet to be seen in those parts."
Three persons were elected for this undertaking, Mr. Chandler, of Magdalen College, Oxford, editor of the Marmora Oxoniensia, was appointed to execute the classical part of the plan. Architecture was assigned to Mr. Revett; and the choice of a proper person for taking views and copying the bas-reliefs, fell upon Mr. Pars, a young painter of promise. Each person was strictly enjoined to keep a regular journal, and hold a constant correspondence with the Society.
The party embarked on June 9, 1764, in the Anglicana, bound for Constantinople, and were just at the Dardanelles on the 25th of August. Having visited the Sigæan Promontory, the ruins of Troas, with the islands of Tenedos and Scio, they arrived at the Smyrna on the 11th of September. From that city, as their head-quarters, they made several excursions. On the 20th of August, 1765, they sailed from Smyrna, and arrived at Athens on the 30th of the same month, having touched at Sunium and Ægina on their way. They staid at Athens till June 11, 1766, visiting Marathon, Eleusis, Salamis, Megara, and other places in the neighbourhood. Leaving Athens, they proceeded by the little island of Calauria to Trezene, Epidaurus, Argos, and Corinth. From this they visited Delphi, Patræ, Elis, and Zante, whence they sailed on the 31st of August, and arrived in England on 224 the 2nd of November following, bringing with them an immense number of drawings, etc., the result of which was the publication, at the expense of the Society, of two magnificent volumes of Ionian Antiquities. The results of the expedition were also the two popular works, Chandler's Travels in Asia Minor, 1775; and his Travels in Greece, in the following year; also, the volume of Greek Inscriptions, 1774, containing the Sigæan inscription, the marble of which has been since brought to England by Lord Elgin; and the celebrated documents containing the reconstruction of the Temple of Minerva Polias, which Professor Wilkins illustrated in his Prolusiones Architectonicæ, 1837.
Walpole, in 1791, has this odd passage upon the Ionian Antiquities: "They who are industrious and correct, and wish to forget nothing, should go to Greece, where there is nothing left to be seen, but that ugly pigeon-house, the Temple of the Winds, that fly-cage, Demosthenes's Lantern, and one or two fragments of a portico, or a piece of a column crushed into a mud wall; and with such a morsel, and many quotations, a true classic antiquary can compose a whole folio, and call it Ionian Antiquities."
But, it may be asked, how came the Society to associate so freely pleasure with graver pursuits? To this it may be replied, that when the Dilettanti first met they avowed friendly and social intercourse the first object they had in view, although they soon showed that they would combine with it a serious plan for the promotion of the Arts in this country. For these persons were not scholars, nor even men of letters; they were some of the wealthiest noblemen and most fashionable men of the day, who would naturally sup with the Regent as he 225 went through Paris, and find themselves quite at home in the Carnival of Venice. These, too, were times of what would now be considered very licentious merriment and very unscrupulous fun,—times when men of independent means and high rank addicted themselves to pleasure, and gave vent to their full animal spirits with a frankness that would now be deemed not only vulgar but indecorous, while they evinced an earnestness about objects now thought frivolous which it is very easy to represent as absurd. In assuming, however, the name of "Dilettanti" they evidently attached to it no light and superficial notion. The use of that word as one of disparagement or ridicule is quite recent. The same may be said of "Virtù," which, in the artistic sense, does not seem to be strictly academical, but that of "Virtuoso" is so, undoubtedly, and it means the "capable" man,—the man who has a right to judge on matters requiring a particular faculty: Dryden says: "Virtuoso the Italians call a man 'who loves the noble arts, and is a critic in them,' or, as old Glanville says,' 'who dwells in a higher region than other mortals.'
"Thus, when the Dilettanti mention 'the cause of virtue' as a high object which they will never abandon, they express their belief that the union into which they had entered had a more important purpose than any personal satisfaction could give it, and that they did engage themselves thereby in some degree to promote the advantage of their country and of mankind.
"Of all the merry meetings these gay gentlemen had together, small records remain. We, looking back out of a graver time, can only judge from the uninterrupted course of their festive gatherings, from the names of the statesmen, the wits, the scholars, the artists, the amateurs, 226 that fill the catalogue, from the strange mixture of dignities and accessions to wealth for which, by the rules of the Society, fines were paid,—and above all, by the pictures which they possess,—how much of the pleasantry and the hearty enjoyment must have been mixed up with the more solid pursuits of the Members. Cast your eye over the list of those who met together at the table of the Dilettanti any time between 1770 and 1790." Here occur the names of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Earl Fitzwilliam, Charles James Fox, Hon. Stephen Fox (Lord Holland), Hon. Mr. Fitzpatrick, Charles Howard (Duke of Norfolk), Lord Robert Spencer, George Selwyn, Colonel Fitzgerald, Hon. H. Conway, Joseph Banks, Duke of Dorset, Sir William Hamilton, David Garrick, George Colman, Joseph Windham, R. Payne Knight, Sir George Beaumont, Towneley, and others of less posthumous fame, but probably of not less agreeable companionship.
The funds must have largely benefited by the payment of fines, some of which were very strange. Those paid "on increase of income, by inheritance, legacy, marriage, or preferment," are very odd; as, five guineas by Lord Grosvenor, on his marriage with Miss Leveson Gower; eleven guineas by the Duke of Bedford, on being appointed First Lord of the Admiralty; ten guineas compounded for by Bubb Dodington, as Treasurer of the Navy; two guineas by the Duke of Kingston for a Colonelcy of Horse (then valued at 400l. per annum); twenty-one pounds by Lord Sandwich on going out as Ambassador to the Congress at Aix-la-Chapelle; and twopence three-farthings by the same nobleman, on becoming Recorder of Huntingdon; thirteen shillings 227 and fourpence by the Duke of Bedford, on getting the Garter; and sixteen shillings and eightpence (Scotch) by the Duke of Buccleuch, on getting the Thistle; twenty-one pounds by the Earl of Holdernesse, as Secretary of State; and nine pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, by Charles James Fox, as a Lord of the Admiralty.
In 1814, another expedition was undertaken by the Society, when Sir William Gell, with Messrs. Gandy and Bedford, professional architects, proceeded to the Levant. Smyrna was again appointed the head-quarters of the mission, and fifty pounds per month was assigned to Gell, and two hundred pounds per annum to each of the architects. An additional outlay was required; and by this means the classical and antique literature of England was enriched with the fullest and most accurate descriptions of important remains of ancient art hitherto given to the world.
The contributions of the Society to the æsthetic studies of the time also deserve notice. The excellent design to publish Select Specimens of Antient Sculpture preserved in the several Collections of Great Britain was carried into effect by Messrs. Payne Knight and Mr. Towneley, 2 vols. folio, 1809-1835. Then followed Mr. Penrose's Investigations into the Principles of Athenian Architecture, printed in 1851.
About the year 1820, those admirable monuments of Grecian art, called the Bronzes of Siris, were discovered on the banks of that river, and were brought to this country by the Chevalier Brondsted. The Dilettanti Society immediately organized a subscription of 800l., and the Trustees of the British Museum completed the purchase by the additional sum of 200l. 228
It was mainly through the influence and patronage of the Dilettanti Society that the Royal Academy obtained a Charter. In 1774, the interest of 4000l. three per cents. was appropriated by the former for the purpose of sending two students, recommended by the Royal Academy, to study in Italy or Greece for three years.
In 1835 appeared a Second Volume on Ancient Sculpture. The Society at this time included, among a list of sixty-four names of the noble and learned, those of Sir William Gell, Mr. Towneley, Richard Westmacott, Henry Hallam, the Duke of Bedford, Sir M. A. Shee, P.R.A., Henry T. Hope; and Lord Prudhoe, afterwards Duke of Northumberland.
That a Society possessing so much wealth and social importance as the Dilettanti should not have built for themselves a mansion is surprising. In 1747 they obtained a plot of ground in Cavendish Square, for this purpose; but in 1760, they disposed of the property. Between 1761 and 1764 the project of an edifice in Piccadilly, on the model of the Temple of Pola, was agitated by the Committee; two sites were proposed, one between Devonshire and Bath Houses, the other on the west side of Cambridge House. This scheme was also abandoned.
Meanwhile the Society were accustomed to meet at the Thatched House Tavern, the large room of which was hung with portraits of the Dilettanti. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was a member, painted for the Society three capital pictures:—1. A group in the manner of Paul Veronese, containing the portraits of the Duke of Leeds, Lord Dundas, Constantine Lord Mulgrave, Lord Seaforth, the Hon. Charles Greville, Charles Crowle, Esq., and Sir Joseph Banks. 2. A group in the manner of 229 the same master, containing portraits of Sir William Hamilton, Sir Watkin W. Wynne, Richard Thomson, Esq., Sir John Taylor, Payne Galway, Esq., John Smythe, Esq., and Spencer S. Stanhope, Esq. 3. Head of Sir Joshua, dressed in a loose robe, and in his own hair. The earlier portraits are by Hudson, Reynolds's master.
Some of these portraits are in the costume familiar to us through Hogarth; others are in Turkish or Roman dresses. There is a mixture of the convivial in all these pictures: many are using wine-glasses of no small size: Lord Sandwich, for instance, in a Turkish costume, casts a most unorthodox glance upon a brimming goblet in his left hand, while his right holds a flask of great capacity. Sir Bouchier Wray is seated in the cabin of a ship, mixing punch, and eagerly embracing the bowl, of which a lurch of the sea would seem about to deprive him: the inscription is Dulce est desipere in loco. Here is a curious old portrait of the Earl of Holdernesse, in a red cap, as a gondolier, with the Rialto and Venice in the background; there is Charles Sackville, Duke of Dorset, as a Roman senator, dated 1738; Lord Galloway, in the dress of a cardinal; and a very singular likeness of one of the earliest of the Dilettanti, Lord Le Despencer, as a monk at his devotions: his Lordship is clasping a brimming goblet for his rosary, and his eyes are not very piously fixed on a statue of the Venus de' Medici. It must be conceded that some of these pictures remind one of the Medmenham orgies, with which some of the Dilettanti were not unfamiliar. The ceiling of the large room was painted to represent sky, and crossed by gold cords interlacing each other, and from their knots were hung three large glass chandeliers. 230
The Thatched House has disappeared, but the pictures have been well cared for. The Dilettanti have removed to another tavern, and dine together on the first Sunday in every month, from February to July. The late Lord Aberdeen, the Marquises of Northampton and Lansdowne, and Colonel Leake, and Mr. Broderip, were members; as was also the late Lord Northwick, whose large collection of pictures at Thirlestane, Cheltenham, was dispersed by sale in 1859.
About the year 1674, according to a document in the possession of Mr. Fitch of Norwich, a Naval Club was started "for the improvement of a mutuall Society, and an encrease of Love and Kindness amongst them;" and that consummate seaman, Admiral Sir John Kempthorne, was declared Steward of the institution. This was the precursor of the Royal Naval Club of 1765, which, whether considered for its amenities or its extensive charities, may be justly cited as a model establishment. (Admiral Smyth's Rise and Progress of the Royal Society Club, p. 9.) The members of this Club annually distribute a considerable sum among the distressed widows and orphans of those who have spent their days in the naval service of their country. The Club was accustomed to dine together at the Thatched House Tavern, on the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile.
"Founded on the model of the old tavern or convivial 231 Clubs, but confined exclusively to members of the Naval Service, the Royal Naval Club numbered among its members men from the days of Boscawen, Rodney, and 'the first of June' downwards. It was a favourite retreat for William IV. when Duke of Clarence; and his comrade, Sir Philip Durham, the survivor of Nelson, and almost the last of the 'old school,' frequented it. Sir Philip, however, was by no means one of the Trunnion class. Coarseness and profane language, on the contrary, he especially avoided; but in 'spinning a yarn' there has been none like him since the days of Smollett. The loss of the Royal George, from which he was one of the few, if, indeed, not only officer, who escaped, was a favourite theme; and the Admiral, not content with having made his escape, was wont to maintain that he swam ashore with his midshipman's dirk in his teeth. Yet Sir Philip would allow no one to trench on his manor. One day, when a celebrated naval captain, with the view of quizzing him, was relating the loss of a merchantman on the coast of South America, laden with Spitalfields products, and asserting that silk was so plentiful, and the cargo so scattered, that the porpoises were for some hours enmeshed in its folds: 'Ay, ay,' replied Sir Philip, 'I believe you; for I was once cruising on that coast myself, in search of a privateer, and having lost our fore-topsail one morning in a gale of wind, we next day found it tied round a whale's neck by way of a cravat.' Sir Philip was considered to have the best of it, and the novelist was mute."
This Club, which partakes of the character of Arthur's and Boodle's, was founded by Lord Nugent, its object being, as stated in Rule 1, "to secure a convenient and agreeable place of meeting for a society of gentlemen, all connected with each other by a common bond of literary or personal acquaintance."
The Club, No. 11, St. James's-square, is named from the mansion having been the residence of William Wyndham, who has been described, and the description has been generally adopted as appropriate, as a model of the true English gentleman; and the fitness of the Club designation is equally characteristic. He was an accomplished scholar and mathematician. Dr. Johnson, writing of a visit which Wyndham paid him, says: "Such conversation I shall not have again till I come back to the regions of literature, and there Wyndham is 'inter stellas luna minores.'"
In the mansion also lived the accomplished John, Duke of Roxburghe; and here the Roxburghe Library was sold in 1812, the sale extending to forty-one days. Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough lived here in 1814; and subsequently, the Earl of Blessington, who possessed a fine collection of pictures. 233
This famous Club was originated shortly after the Peace of 1814, by the Marquis of Londonderry (then Lord Castlereagh), with a view to a resort for gentlemen who had resided or travelled abroad, as well as with a view to the accommodation of foreigners, who, when properly recommended, receive an invitation for the period of their stay. One of the Rules directs "That no person be considered eligible to the Travellers' Club who shall not have travelled out of the British Islands to a distance of at least 500 miles from London in a direct line." Another Rule directs "That no dice and no game of hazard be allowed in the rooms of the Club, nor any higher stake than guinea points, and that no cards be introduced before dinner."
Prince Talleyrand, during his residence in London, generally joined the muster of whist-players at the Travellers'; probably, here was the scene of this felicitous rejoinder. The Prince was enjoying his rubber, when the conversation turned on the recent union of an elderly lady of respectable rank. "How ever could Madame de S—— make such a match?—a person of her birth to marry a valet-de-chambre!" "Ah," replied Talleyrand, "it was late in the game: at nine we don't reckon honours."
The present Travellers' Club-house, which adjoins the Athenæum in Pall-Mall, was designed by Barry, R.A., and built in 1832. It is one of the architect's most admired works. Yet, we have seen it thus treated, with 234 more smartness than judgment, by a critic who is annoyed at its disadvantageous comparison with its more gigantic neighbours:—
"The Travellers' is worse, and looks very like a sandwich at the Swindon station—a small stumpy piece of beef between two huge pieces of bread, i.e. the Athenæum and the Reform Clubs, which look as if they were urging their migratory neighbour to resume the peregrinations for which its members are remarkable. Yet people have their names down ten years at the Travellers' previous to their coming up for ballot. An election reasonably extended would supply funds for a more advantageous and extended position."
The architecture is the nobler Italian, resembling a Roman palace: the plan is a quadrangle, with an open area in the middle, so that all the rooms are well lighted. The Pall-Mall front has a bold and rich cornice, and the windows are decorated with Corinthian pilasters: the garden front varies in the windows, but the Italian taste is preserved throughout, with the most careful finish: the roof is Italian tiles. To be more minute, the consent of all competent judges has assigned a very high rank to this building as a piece of architectural design; for if, in point of mere quantity, it fall greatly short of many contemporary structures, it surpasses nearly every one of them in quality, and in the artist-like treatment. In fact, it makes an epoch in our metropolitan architecture; for before, we had hardly a specimen of that nobler Italian style, which, instead of the flutter and flippery, and the littleness of manner, which pervade most of the productions of the Palladian school, is characterized by breath and that refined simplicity arising from unity of idea and execution, and from every part being consistently 235 worked up, yet kept subservient to one predominating effect. Unfortunately, the south front, which is by far the more striking and graceful composition, is comparatively little seen, being that facing Carlton Gardens, and not to be approached so as to be studied as it deserves; but when examined, it certainly must be allowed to merit all the admiration it has obtained. Though perfect, quiet, and sober in effect, and unostentatious in character, this building of Barry's is remarkable for the careful finish bestowed on every part of it. It is this quality, together with the taste displayed in the design generally, that renders it an architectural bijou. Almost any one must be sensible of this, if he will but be at the pains to compare it with the United Service Club, eastward of which, as far as mere quantity goes, there is much more.
Another critic remarks: "The Travellers' fairly makes an epoch in the architectural history of Club-houses, as being almost the first, if not the very first, attempt, to introduce into this country that species of rich astylar composition which has obtained the name of the Italian palazzo mode, by way of contradistinction from Palladianism and its orders. This production of Barry's has given a fresh impulse to architectural design, and one in a more artistic direction; and the style adopted by the architect has been applied to various other buildings in the provinces as well as in the metropolis; and its influence has manifested itself in the taste of our recent street architecture."
The Travellers' narrowly escaped destruction on October 24, 1850, when a fire did great damage to the billiard-rooms, which were, by the way, an afterthought, and addition to the original building, but by no means 236 an improvement upon the first design, for they greatly impaired the beauty of the garden-front.
One of the oldest of the modern Clubs, was instituted the year after the Peace of 1815, when a few officers of influence in both branches of the Service had built for them, by Sir R. Smirke, a Club-house at the corner of Charles-street and Regent-street,—a frigid design, somewhat relieved by sculpture on the entrance-front, of Britannia distributing laurels to her brave sons by land and sea. Thence the Club removed to a more spacious house, in Waterloo-place, facing the Athenæum; the Club-house in Charles-street being entered on by the Junior United Service Club; but Smirke's cold design has been displaced by an edifice of much more ornate exterior and luxurious internal appliances.
The United Service Club (Senior) was designed by Nash, and has a well-planned interior, exhibiting the architect's well-known excellence in this branch of his profession. The principal front facing Pall Mall has a Roman-Doric portico; and above it a Corinthian portico, with pediment. One of the patriarchal members of the Club was Lord Lynedoch, the hero of the Peninsular War, who lived under five sovereigns: he died in his 93rd year, leaving behind him a name to be held in honoured remembrance, while loyalty is considered to be a real virtue, or military renown a passport to fame. It is a curious fact that the Duke of Wellington 237 fought his last battle at an earlier period of life than that in which Lord Lynedoch "fleshed his maiden sword;" and though we were accustomed to regard the Duke himself as preserving his vigour to a surprisingly advanced age, Lord Lynedoch was at his death old enough to have been the father of his Grace. The United Service was the favourite Club of the Duke, who might often be seen dining here on a joint; and on one occasion, when he was charged 1s. 3d. instead of 1s. for it, he bestirred himself till the threepence was struck off. The motive was obvious: he took the trouble of objecting, so that he might sanction the principle.
Among the Club pictures is Jones's large painting of the Battle of Waterloo; and the portrait of the Duke of Wellington, painted for the Club by W. Robinson. Here also are Stanfield's fine picture of the Battle of Trafalgar; and a copy, by Lane, painted in 1851, of a contemporary portrait of Sir Francis Drake, our "Elizabethan Sea-King." The Club-house has of late years been considerably enlarged.
In the comparatively quiet Albemarle-street was instituted, in 1808, the Alfred Club, which has, ab initio, been remarkable for the number of travellers and men of letters, who form a considerable proportion of its members. Science is handsomely housed at the Royal Institution, on the east side of the street; and literature nobly represented by the large publishing-house of Mr. 238 Murray, on the west; both circumstances tributary to the otium enjoyed in a Club. Yet, strangely enough, its position has been a frequent source of banter to the Alfred. First it was known by its cockney appellation of Half-read. Lord Byron was a member, and he tells us that "it was pleasant, a little too sober and literary, and bored with Sotheby and Francis D'Ivernois; but one met Rich, and Ward, and Valentia, and many other pleasant or known people; and it was, in the whole, a decent resource in a rainy day, in a dearth of parties, or Parliament, or in an empty season."
Lord Dudley, writing to the Bishop of Llandaff, says: "I am glad you mean to come into the Alfred this time. We are the most abused, and most envied, and most canvassed, Society that I know of, and we deserve neither the one nor the other distinction. The Club is not so good a resource as many respectable persons would believe, nor are we by any means such quizzes or such bores as the wags pretend. A duller place than the Alfred there does not exist. I should not choose to be quoted for saying so, but the bores prevail there to the exclusion of every other interest. You hear nothing but idle reports and twaddling opinions. They read the Morning Post and the British Critic. It is the asylum of doting Tories and drivelling quidnuncs. But they are civil and quiet. You belong to a much better Club already. The eagerness to get into it is prodigious."
Then, we have the Quarterly Review, with confirmation strong of the two Lords:—"The Alfred received its coup-de-grâce from a well-known story, (rather an indication than a cause of its decline,) to the effect that Mr. Canning, whilst in the zenith of his fame, dropped in accidentally at a house dinner of twelve or fourteen, stayed 239 out the evening, and made himself remarkably agreeable, without any one of the party suspecting who he was."
The dignified clergy, who, with the higher class of lawyers, have long ago emigrated to the Athenæum and University Clubs, formerly mustered in such great force at the Alfred, that Lord Alvanley, on being asked in the bow-window at White's, whether he was still a member, somewhat irreverently replied: "Not exactly: I stood it as long as I could, but when the seventeenth bishop was proposed I gave in. I really could not enter the place without being put in mind of my catechism." "Sober-minded people," says the Quarterly Review, "may be apt to think this formed the best possible reason for his lordship's remaining where he was. It is hardly necessary to say that the presence of the bishops and judges is universally regarded as an unerring test of the high character of a Club."
Several years ago, the high dignitaries of the Church and Law kept the Alfred to themselves; but this would not do: then they admitted a large number of very respectable good young men, who were unexceptionable, but not very amusing. This, again, would not do. So, now the Alfred joined, 1855, the Oriental, in Hanover-square. And curiously enough, the latter Club has been quizzed equally with the Alfred. In the merry days of the New Monthly Magazine of some thirty years since, we read:—"The Oriental—or, as the hackney-coachmen 240 call it, the Horizontal Club—in Hanover-square, outdoes even Arthur's for quietude. Placed at the corner of a cul-de-sac—at least as far as carriages are concerned, and in a part of the Square to which nobody not proceeding to one of four houses which occupy that particular side ever thinks of going, its little windows, looking upon nothing, give the idea of mingled dulness and inconvenience. From the outside it looks like a prison;—enter it, it looks like an hospital, in which a smell of curry-powder pervades the 'wards,'—wards filled with venerable patients, dressed in nankeen shorts, yellow stockings, and gaiters, and faces to match. There may still be seen pigtails in all their pristine perfection. It is the region of calico shirts, returned writers, and guinea-pigs grown into bores. Such is the nabobery, into which Harley-street, Wimpole-street, and Glocester-place, daily empty their precious stores of bilious humanity." Time has blunted the point of this satiric picture, the individualities of which had passed away, even before the amalgamation of the Oriental with the Alfred.
The Oriental Club was established in 1824, by Sir John Malcolm, the traveller and brave soldier. The members were noblemen and gentlemen associated with the administration of our Eastern empire, or who have travelled or resided in Asia, at St. Helena, in Egypt, at the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, or at Constantinople.
The Oriental was erected in 1827-8, by B. and P. Wyatt, and has the usual Club characteristic of only one tier of windows above the ground-floor; the interior has since been redecorated and embellished by Collman. 241
The Athenæum presents a good illustration of the present Club system, of which it was one of the earliest instances. By reference to the accounts of the Clubs existing about the commencement of the present century, it will be seen how greatly they differed, both in constitution and purpose, from the modern large subscription-houses, called Clubs; and which are to be compared with their predecessors only in so far as every member must be balloted for, or be chosen by the consent of the rest. Prior to 1824, there was only one institution in the metropolis particularly devoted to the association of Authors, Literary Men, Members of Parliament, and promoters generally of the Fine Arts. All other establishments were more or less exclusive, comprising gentlemen who screened themselves in the windows of White's, or Members for Counties who darkened the doors of Brookes's; or they were dedicated to the Guards, or "men of wit and pleasure about town." It is true that the Royal Society had its convivial meetings, as we have already narrated; and small Clubs of members of other learned Societies, were held; but with these exceptions, there were no Clubs where individuals known for their scientific or literary attainments, artists of eminence in any class of the Fine Arts, and noblemen and gentlemen distinguished as patrons of science, literature, and the arts, could unite in friendly and encouraging intercourse; and professional men were compelled either to meet at taverns, or to be confined exclusively to the Society of their particular professions. 242
To remedy this, on the 17th of February, 1824, a preliminary meeting,—comprising Sir Humphry Davy, the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker, Sir Francis Chantrey, Richard Heber, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Dr. Thomas Young, Lord Dover, Davie Gilbert, the Earl of Aberdeen, Sir Henry Halford, Sir Walter Scott, Joseph Jekyll, Thomas Moore, and Charles Hatchett,—was held in the apartments of the Royal Society, at Somerset House; at this meeting Professor Faraday assisted as secretary, and it was agreed to institute a Club to be called "The Society," subsequently altered to "The Athenæum." "The Society" first met in the Clarence Club-house; but, in 1830, the present mansion, designed by Decimus Burton, was opened to the members.
The Athenæum Club-house is built upon a portion of the court-yard of Carlton House. The architecture is Grecian, with a frieze exactly copied from the Panathenaic procession in the frieze of the Parthenon,—the flower and beauty of Athenian youth, gracefully seated on the most exquisitely sculptured horses, which Flaxman regarded as the most precious example of Grecian power in the sculpture of animals. Over the Roman Doric entrance-portico is a colossal figure of Minerva, by Baily, R.A.; and the interior has some fine casts of chefs-d'œuvre of sculpture. Here the architecture is grand, massive, and severe. The noble Hall, 35 feet broad by 57 feet long, is divided by scagliola columns and pilasters, the capitals copied from the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. This is the Exchange, or Lounge, where the members meet. The floor is the Marmorato Veneziano mosaic. Over each of the two fire-places, in a niche, is a statue—the Diana Robing and the Venus Victrix, selected by Sir Thomas Lawrence—a very fine 243 contrivance for sculptural display. The Library is the best Club Library in London: it comprises the most rare and valuable works, and a very considerable sum is annually expended upon the collection, under the guidance of members most eminent in literature and science. Above the mantelpiece is a portrait of George IV., painted by Lawrence, upon which he was engaged but a few hours previous to his decease; the last bit of colour this celebrated artist ever put upon canvas being that of the hilt and sword-knot of the girdle; thus it remains unfinished. The bookcases of the drawing-rooms are crowned with busts of British worthies. Among the Club gossip it is told that a member who held the Library faith of the promise of the Fathers, and was anxious to consult their good works, one day asked, in a somewhat familiar tone of acquaintance with these respectable theologians, "Is Justin Martyr here?"—"I do not know," was the reply; "I will refer to the list, but I do not think that gentleman is one of our members."
Mr. Walker, in his very pleasant work, The Original, was one of the first to show how by the then new system of Clubs the facilities of living were wonderfully increased, whilst the expense was greatly diminished. For a few pounds a year, advantages are to be enjoyed which no fortunes, except the most ample, can procure. The only Club (he continues) I belong to is the Athenæum, which consists of twelve hundred members, amongst whom are to be reckoned a large proportion of the most eminent persons in the land, in every line,—civil, military, and ecclesiastical,—peers spiritual and temporal (ninety-five noblemen and twelve bishops), commoners, men of the learned professions, those connected with science, the arts, and commerce, in all its principal 244 branches, as well as the distinguished who do not belong to any particular class. Many of these are to be met with every day, living with the same freedom as in their own houses, for 25 guineas entrance, and 6 guineas a year. Every member has the command of an excellent library, with maps; of newspapers, English and foreign; the principal periodicals; writing materials, and attendance. The building is a sort of palace, and is kept with the same exactness and comfort as a private dwelling. Every member is master, without any of the trouble of a master: he can come when he pleases, and stay away when he pleases, without anything going wrong; he has the command of regular servants, without having to pay or manage them; he can have whatever meal or refreshment he wants, at all hours, and served up as in his own house. He orders just what he pleases, having no interest to think of but his own. In short, it is impossible to suppose a greater degree of liberty in living.
"Clubs, as far as my observation goes, are favourable to economy of time. There is a fixed place to go to, everything is served with comparative expedition, and it is not customary in general to remain long at table. They are favourable to temperance. It seems that when people can freely please themselves, and when they have an opportunity of living simply, excess is seldom committed. From an account I have of the expenses at the Athenæum in the year 1832, it appears that 17,323 dinners cost, on an average, 2s. 9¾d. each, and that the average quantity of wine for each person was a small fraction more than half-a-pint.
"The expense of building the Club-house was 35,000l., and 5,000l. for furnishing; the plate, linen, and glass cost 2,500l.; library, 4,000l., and the stock of wine in cellar is 245 usually worth about 4000l.: yearly revenue about 9000l."
The economical management of the Club has not, however, been effected without a few sallies of humour. In 1834, we read: "The mixture of Whigs, Radicals, savants, foreigners, dandies, authors, soldiers, sailors, lawyers, artists, doctors, and Members of both Houses of Parliament, together with an exceedingly good average supply of bishops, render the mélange very agreeable, despite of some two or three bores, who 'continually do dine;' and who, not satisfied with getting a 6s. dinner for 3s. 6d., 'continually do complain.'"
Mr. Rogers, the poet, was one of the earliest members of the Athenæum, and innumerable are the good things, though often barbed with bitterness, which are recorded of him.
Some years ago, judges, bishops, and peers used to congregate at the Athenæum; but a club of twelve hundred members cannot be select. "Warned by the necessity of keeping up their number and their funds, they foolishly set abroad a report that the finest thing in the world was to belong to the Athenæum; and that an opportunity offered for hobnobbing with archbishops, and hearing Theodore Hook's jokes. Consequently all the little crawlers and parasites, and gentility-hunters, from all corners of London, set out upon the creep; and they crept in at the windows and they crept down the area steps, and they crept in unseen at the doors, and they crept in under bishops' sleeves, and they crept in in peers' pockets, and they were blown in by the winds of chance. The consequence has been, that ninety-nine hundredths of this Club are people who rather seek to obtain a sort of standing by belonging to the Athenæum, than to give it lustre by the talent of its members. 246 Nine-tenths of the intellectual writers of the age would be certainly black-balled by the dunces. Notwithstanding all this, and partly on account of this, the Athenæum is a capital Club: the library is certainly the best Club library in London, and is a great advantage to a man who writes."
Theodore Hook was one of the most clubbable men of his time. After a late breakfast, he would force and strain himself at large arrears of literary toil, and then drive rapidly from Fulham to town, and pay a visit "first to one Club, where, the centre of an admiring circle, his intellectual faculties were again upon the stretch, and again aroused and sustained by artificial means: the same thing repeated at a second—the same drain and the same supply—ballot or general meeting at a third, the chair taken by Mr. Hook, who addresses the members, produces the accounts, audits and passes them—gives a succinct statement of the prospects and finances of the Society—parries an awkward question—extinguishes a grumbler—confounds an opponent—proposes a vote of thanks to himself, seconds, carries it,—and returns thanks, with a vivacious rapidity that entirely confounds the unorganized schemes of the minority—then a chop in the committee-room, and just one tumbler of brandy-and-water, or two, and we fear the catalogue would not always close there."
At the Athenæum, Hook was a great card; and in a note to the sketch of him in the Quarterly Review, it is stated that the number of dinners at this Club fell off by upwards of three hundred per annum after Hook disappeared from his favourite corner, near the door of the coffee-room. That is to say, there must 247 have been some dozens of gentlemen who chose to dine there once or twice every week of the season, merely for the chance of Hook's being there, and permitting them to draw their chairs to his little table in the course of the evening. Of the extent to which he suffered from this sort of invasion, there are several bitter oblique complaints in his novels. The corner alluded to will, we suppose, long retain the name which it derived from him—Temperance Corner. Many grave and dignified personages being frequent guests, it would hardly have been seemly to be calling for repeated supplies of a certain description; but the waiters well understood what the oracle of the corner meant by "Another glass of toast and water," or, "A little more lemonade."
In Suffolk-street, Pall Mall East, was instituted in 1824, and the Club-house, designed by Deering and Wilkins, architects, was opened in 1826. It is of the Grecian Doric and Ionic orders; and the staircase walls have casts from the Parthenon frieze. The Club consists chiefly of Members of Parliament who have received University education; several of the judges, and a large number of beneficed clergymen. This Club has the reputation of possessing the best stocked wine-cellar in London, which is of no small importance to Members, clerical or lay. 248
Thirty years ago, Mr. Walker took some pains to disabuse the public mind of a false notion that female society was much affected by the multiplication of Clubs. He remarks that in those hours of the evening, which are peculiarly dedicated to society, he could scarcely count twenty members in the suite of rooms upstairs at the Athenæum Club. If female society be neglected, he contended that it was not owing to the institution of Clubs, but more probably to the long sittings of the House of Commons, and to the want of easy access to family circles. At the Athenæum he never heard it even hinted, that married men frequented it to the prejudice of their domestic habits, or that bachelors were kept from general society. Indeed, Mr. Walker maintains, that Clubs are a preparation and not a substitute for domestic life. Compared with the previous system of living, they induce habits of economy, temperance, refinement, regularity, and good order. Still, a Club only offers an imitation of the comforts of home, but only an imitation, and one which will never supersede the reality.
However, the question became a subject for pleasant satire. Mrs. Gore, in one of her clever novels, has these shrewd remarks:—"London Clubs, after all, are not bad things for family men. They act as conductors to the storms usually hovering in the air. The man forced to remain at home and vent his crossness on his wife and children, is a much worse animal to bear with, than the man who grumbles his way to Pall Mall, and not 249 daring to swear at the Club-servants, or knock about the club-furniture, becomes socialized into decency. Nothing like the subordination exercised in a community of equals for reducing a fiery temper."
Mr. Hood, in his Comic Annual for 1838, took up the topic in his rich vein of comic humour, and here is the amusing result:—
"TURNED UP BY A FEMALE HAND.
"Of all the modern schemes of Man
That time has brought to bear,
A plague upon the wicked plan
That parts the wedded pair!
My female friends they all agree
They hardly know their hubs;
And heart and voice unite with me,
'We hate the name of Clubs!'
"One selfish course the Wretches keep;
They come at morning chimes;
To snatch a few short hours of sleep—
Rise—breakfast—read the Times—
Then take their hats, and post away,
Like Clerks or City scrubs,
And no one sees them all the day,—
They live, eat, drink, at Clubs!
"With Rundell, Dr. K., or Glasse,
And such Domestic books,
They once put up, but now, alas!
It's hey! for foreign cooks.
'When will you dine at home, my dove?'
I say to Mr. Stubbs.
'When Cook can make an omelette, love—
An omelette like the Clubs!'
"Time was, their hearts were only placed
On snug domestic schemes, 250
The book for two—united taste,—
And such connubial dreams,—
Friends, dropping in at close of day,
To singles, doubles, rubs,—
A little music,—then the tray,—
And not a word of Clubs!
"But former comforts they condemn;
French kickshaws they discuss,
And take their wine, the wine takes them,
And then they favour us;—
From some offence they can't digest,
As cross as bears with cubs,
Or sleepy, dull, and queer, at best—
That's how they come from Clubs!
"It's very fine to say, 'Subscribe
To Andrews'—can't you read?
When Wives, the poor neglected tribe,
Complain how they proceed!
They'd better recommend at once
Philosophy and tubs,—
A woman need not be a dunce,
To feel the wrong of Clubs.
"A set of savage Goths and Picts
Would seek us now and then,—
They're pretty pattern-Benedicts
To guide our single men!
Indeed, my daughters both declare
'Their Beaux shall not be subs
To White's, or Black's, or anywhere,—
They've seen enough of Clubs!'
"They say, without the marriage ties,
They can devote their hours
To catechize, or botanize—
Shells, Sunday Schools, and flow'rs—
Or teach a Pretty Poll new words,
Tend Covent Garden shrubs, 251
Nurse dogs and chirp to little birds—
As Wives do since the Clubs.
"Alas! for those departed days
Of social wedded life,
When married folks had married ways,
And liv'd like Man and Wife!
Oh! Wedlock then was pick'd by none—
As safe a lock as Chubb's!
But couples, that should be as one,
Are now the Two of Clubs!
"Of all the modern schemes of Man
That time has brought to bear,
A plague upon the wicked plan,
That parts the wedded pair!
My wedded friends they all allow
They meet with slights and snubs,
And say, 'They have no husbands now,—
They're married to the Clubs!'"
The satire soon reached the stage. About five-and-twenty years since there was produced at the old wooden Olympic Theatre, Mr. Mark Lemon's farce, The Ladies' Club, which proved one of the most striking pieces of the time. "Though in 1840 Clubs, in the modern sense of the word, had been for some years established, they were not quite recognized as social necessities, and the complaints of married ladies and of dowagers with marriageable daughters, to the effect that these institutions caused husbands to desert the domestic hearth and encouraged bachelors to remain single, expressed something of a general feeling. Public opinion was ostentatiously on the side of the ladies and against the Clubs, and to this opinion Mr. Mark Lemon responded when he wrote his most successful farce."
Here are a few experiences of Club-life. "There are 252 many British lions in the coffee-room who have dined off a joint and beer, and have drunk a pint of port-wine afterwards, and whose bill is but 4s. 3d. One great luxury in a modern Club is that there is no temptation to ostentatious expense. At an hotel there is an inclination in some natures to be 'a good customer.' At a Club the best men are generally the most frugal—they are afraid of being thought like that little snob, Calicot, who is always surrounded by fine dishes and expensive wines (even when alone), and is always in loud talk with the butler, and in correspondence with the committee about the cook. Calicot is a rich man, with a large bottle-nose, and people black-ball his friends.
"For a home, a man must have a large Club, where the members are recruited from a large class, where the funds are in a good state, where a large number every day breakfast and dine, and where a goodly number think it necessary to be on the books and pay their subscriptions, although they do not use the Club. Above all, your home Club should be a large Club, because, even if a Club be ever so select, the highest birth and most unexceptionable fashion do not prevent a man from being a bore. Every Club must have its bores; but in a large Club you can get out of their way."
"It is a vulgar error to regard a Club as the rich man's public-house: it bears no analogy to a public-house: it is as much the private property of its members as any ordinary dwelling-house is the property of the man who built it.
"Our Clubs are thoroughly characteristic of us. We are a proud people,—it is of no use denying it,—and have a horror of indiscriminate association; hence the exclusiveness of our Clubs.
"We are an economical people, and love to obtain the greatest possible amount of luxury at the least possible expense: hence, at our Clubs we dine at prime cost, and drink the finest wines at a price which we should have to pay for slow poison at a third-rate inn.
"We are a domestic people, and hence our Clubs afford us all the comforts of home, when we are away from home, or when we have none. Finally, we are a quarrelsome people, and the Clubs are eminently adapted for the indulgence of that amiable taste. A book is kept constantly open to receive the outpourings of our ill-humour against all persons and things. The smokers quarrel with the non-smokers: the billiard-players wage war against those who don't play; and, in fact, an internecine war is constantly going on upon every conceivable trifle; and when we retire exhausted from the fray, sofas and chaises longues are everywhere at hand, whereon to repose in extenso. The London Clubs are certainly the abodes of earthly bliss, yet the ladies won't think so."
This noble Club-house, at the south-west angle of Trafalgar-square, was erected in 1824, from designs by Sir Robert Smirke, R.A. It is much less ornate than the Club-houses of later date; but its apartments are spacious and handsome, and it faces one of the finest open spaces in the metropolis. As its name implies, it consists of politicians, and professional and mercantile 254 men, without reference to party opinions; and, it has been added, is "a resort of wealthy citizens, who just fetch Charing Cross to inhale the fresh air as it is drawn from the Park through the funnel, by Berkeley House, out of Spring Gardens, into their bay-window."
James Smith, one of the authors of the Rejected Addresses, was a member of the Union, which he describes as chiefly composed of merchants, lawyers, members of Parliament, and of "gentlemen at large." He thus sketches a day's life here. "At three o'clock I walk to the Union Club, read the journals, hear Lord John Russell deified or diablerized, do the same with Sir Robert Peel or the Duke of Wellington, and then join a knot of conversationists by the fire till six o'clock. We then and there discuss the Three per Cent. Consols (some of us preferring Dutch Two-and-a-half per Cents.), and speculate upon the probable rise, shape, and cost of the New Exchange. If Lady Harrington happen to drive past our window in her landau, we compare her equipage to the Algerine Ambassador's; and when politics happen to be discussed, rally Whigs, Radicals, and Conservatives alternately, but never seriously, such subjects having a tendency to create acrimony. At six, the room begins to be deserted; wherefore I adjourn to the dining-room, and gravely looking over the bill of fare, exclaim to the waiter, 'Haunch of mutton and apple-tart!' These viands dispatched, with the accompanying liquids and water, I mount upward to the library, take a book and my seat in the arm-chair, and read till nine. Then call for a cup of coffee and a biscuit, resuming my book till eleven; afterwards return home to bed." The smoking-room is a very fine apartment. 255
One of the grumbling members of the Union was Sir James Aylott, a two-bottle man; one day, observing Mr. James Smith furnished with half-a-pint of sherry, Sir James eyed his cruet with contempt, and exclaimed: "So, I see you have got one of those d—d life-preservers."
The Club has ever been famed for its cuisine, upon the strength of which, we are told that next-door to the Club-house, in Cockspur-street, was established the Union Hotel, which speedily became renowned for its turtle; it was opened in 1823, and was one of the best appointed hotels of its day; and Lord Panmure, a gourmet of the highest order, is said to have taken up his quarters in this hotel, for several successive seasons, for the sake of the soup.
Mr. Thackeray was a hearty lover of London, and has left us many evidences of his sincerity. He greatly favoured Covent Garden, of which he has painted this clever picture, sketched from "the Garden," where are annually paid for fruits and vegetables some three millions sterling:—
"The two great national theatres on one side, a churchyard full of mouldy but undying celebrities on the other; a fringe of houses studded in every part with anecdote and history; an arcade, often more gloomy and deserted than a cathedral aisle; a rich cluster of 256 brown old taverns—one of them filled with the counterfeit presentment of many actors long since silent, who scowl or smile once more from the canvas upon the grandsons of their dead admirers; a something in the air which breathes of old books, old pictures, old painters, and old authors; a place beyond all other places one would choose in which to hear the chimes at midnight; a crystal palace—the representative of the present—which peeps in timidly from a corner upon many things of the past; a withered bank, that has been sucked dry by a felonious clerk; a squat building, with a hundred columns and chapel-looking fronts, which always stands knee-deep in baskets, flowers, and scattered vegetables; a common centre into which Nature showers her choicest gifts, and where the kindly fruits of the earth often nearly choke the narrow thoroughfares; a population that never seems to sleep, and that does all in its power to prevent others sleeping; a place where the very latest suppers and the earliest breakfasts jostle each other on the footways—such is Covent-Garden Market, with some of its surrounding features."
About a century and a quarter ago, the parish of St. Paul was, according to John Thomas Smith, the only fashionable part of the town, and the residence of a great number of persons of rank and title, and artists of the first eminence; and also from the concourse of wits, literary characters, and other men of genius, who frequented the numerous coffee-houses, wine and cider cellars, jelly-shops, etc., within its boundaries, the list of whom particularly includes the eminent names of Butler, Addison, Sir Richard Steele, Otway, Dryden, Pope, Warburton, Cibber, Fielding, Churchill, Bolingbroke, 257 and Dr. Samuel Johnson; Rich, Woodward, Booth, Wilkes, Garrick, and Macklin; Kitty Clive, Peg Woffington, Mrs. Pritchard, the Duchess of Bolton, Lady Derby, Lady Thurlow, and the Duchess of St. Alban's; Sir Peter Lely, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and Sir James Thornhill; Vandevelde, Zincke, Lambert, Hogarth, Hayman, Wilson, Dance, Meyer, etc. The name of Samuel Foote should be added.
Although the high fashion of the old place has long since ebbed away, its theatrical celebrity remains; and the locality is storied with the dramatic associations of two centuries. The Sublime Society of Steaks have met upon this hallowed ground through a century; and some thirty years ago there was established in the street leading from the north-west angle of Covent-Garden Market, a Club, bearing the name of our greatest actor. Such was the Garrick Club, instituted in 1831, at No. 35, King-street, "for the purpose of bringing together the 'patrons' of the drama and its professors, and also for offering literary men a rendezvous; and the managers of the Club have kept those general objects steadily in view. Nearly all the leading actors are members, and there are few of the active literary men of the day who are not upon the list. The large majority of the association is composed of the representatives of all the best classes of society. The number of the members is limited, and the character of the Club is social, and therefore the electing committee is compelled to exercise very vigilant care, for it is clear that it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than that one terrible bore should be admitted. The prosperity of the Club, and the eagerness to obtain admission to it, are the best proofs of its healthy management; and 258 few of the cases of grievance alleged against the direction will bear looking into."
The house in King-street was, previous to its occupation by the Garrick men, a family hotel: it was rendered tolerably commodious, but in course of time it was found insufficient for the increased number of members; and in 1864, the Club removed to a new house built for them a little more westward than the old one. But of the old place, inconvenient as it was, will long be preserved the interest of association. The house has since been taken down; but its memories are embalmed in a gracefully written paper, by Mr. Shirley Brooks, which appeared in the Illustrated London News, immediately before the removal of the Club to their new quarters; and is as follows:—
"From James Smith (of Rejected Addresses) to Thackeray, there is a long series of names of distinguished men who have made the Garrick their favourite haunt, and whose memories are connected with those rooms. The visitor who has had the good fortune to be taken through them, that he might examine the unequalled collection of theatrical portraits, will also retain a pleasant remembrance of the place. He will recollect that he went up one side of a double flight of stone steps from the street and entered a rather gloomy hall, in which was a fine bust of Shakspeare, by Roubiliac, and some busts of celebrated actors; and he may have noticed in the hall a tablet recording the obligation of the Club to Mr. Durrant, who bequeathed to it the pictures collected by the late Charles Mathews. Conducted to the left, the visitor found himself in the strangers' dining-room, which occupied the whole of the ground-floor. This apartment, where, perhaps, more 259 pleasant dinners had been given than in any room in London, was closely hung with pictures. The newest was Mr. O'Neil's admirable likeness of Mr. Keeley, and it hung over the fireplace in the front room, near Sir Edwin Landseer's portrait of Charles Young. There were many very interesting pictures in this room, among them a Peg Woffington; Lee (the author of the Bedlam Tragedy, in nineteen acts); Mrs. Pritchard, and Mr. Garrick, an admirable illustration of
'Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick six feet high;'
a most gentlemanly one of Pope the actor, Garrick again as Macbeth in the court-dress, two charming little paintings of Miss Poole when a child-performer, the late Frederick Yates, Mrs. Davison (of rare beauty), Miss Lydia Kelly, and a rich store besides. The stranger would probably be next conducted through a long passage until he reached the smoking-room, which was not a cheerful apartment by daylight, and empty; but which at night, and full, was thought the most cheerful apartment in town. It was adorned with gifts from artists who are members of the Club. Mr. Stanfield had given a splendid seapiece, with a wash of waves that set one coveting an excursion; and Mr. David Roberts had given a large and noble painting of Baalbec, one of his finest works. These great pictures occupied two sides of the room, and the other walls were similarly ornamented. Mrs. Stirling's bright face looked down upon the smokers, and there was a statuette of one who loved the room—the author of Vanity Fair.
"The visitor was then brought back to the hall, and taken upstairs to the drawing-room floor. On the wall as he passed he would observe a vast picture of Mr. 260 Charles Kemble (long a member) as Macbeth, and a Miss O'Neil as Juliet. He entered the coffee-room, as it was called, which was the front room, looking into King-street, and behind which was the morning-room, for newspapers and writing, and in which was the small but excellent library, rich in dramatic works. The coffee-room was devoted to the members' dinners; and the late Mr. Thackeray dined for the last time away from home at a table in a niche in which hung the scene from The Clandestine Marriage, where Lord Ogleby is preparing to join the ladies. Over the fireplace was another scene from the same play; and on the mantelpiece were Garrick's candlesticks, Kean's ring, and some other relics of interest. The paintings in this room were very valuable. There was Foote, by Reynolds; a Sheridan; John Kemble; Charles Kemble as Charles II. (under which picture he often sat in advanced life, when he in no degree resembled the audacious, stalwart king in the painting); Mrs. Charles Kemble, in male attire; Mrs. Fitzwilliam; Charles Mathews, père; a fine, roystering Woodward, reminding one of the rattling times of stage chivalry and 'victorious burgundy;' and in the morning-room was a delightful Kitty Clive, another Garrick, and, near the ceiling, a row of strong faces of by-gone days—Cooke the strongest.
"On the second floor were numerous small and very characteristic portraits; and in a press full of large folios was one of the completest and most valuable of collections of theatrical prints. In the card-room, behind this, were also some very quaint and curious likenesses, one of Mrs. Liston, as Dollalolla. There was a sweet face of 'the Prince's' Perdita, which excuses his infatuation and aggravates his treachery. When the 261 visitor had seen these things and a few busts, among them one of the late Justice Talfourd (an old member), he was informed that he had seen the collection and he could go away, unless he were lucky enough to have an invitation to dine in the strangers' room.
"The new Club-house is a little more westward than the old one, but not much, the Garrick having resolved to cling to the classic region around Covent-Garden. It is in Garrick-street from the west end of King-street to Cranbourn-street. It has a frontage of ninety-six feet to the street; but the rear was very difficult, from its shape, to manage, and Mr. Marrable, the architect, has dealt very cleverly with the quaint form over which he had to lay out his chambers. The house is Italian, and is imposing, from having been judiciously and not over-enriched. In the hall is a very beautiful Italian screen. The noble staircase is of carved oak; at the top, a landing-place, from which is entered the morning-room, the card-room, and the library. All the apartments demanded by the habits of the day—some of them were not thought necessary in the days of Garrick—are, of course provided. The kitchens and all their arrangements are sumptuous, and the latest culinary improvements are introduced. The system of sunlights appears to be very complete, and devices for a perfect ventilation have not been forgotten."
The pictures have been judiciously hung in the new rooms: they include—Elliston as Octavian, by Singleton; Macklin (aged 93), by Opie; Mrs. Pritchard, by Hayman; Peg Woffington, by R. Wilson; Nell Gwynne, by Sir Peter Lely; Mrs. Abington; Samuel Foote, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; Colley Cibber as Lord Foppington; Mrs. Bracegirdle; Kitty Clive; Mrs. Robinson, 262 after Reynolds; Garrick as Macbeth, and Mrs. Pritchard, Lady Macbeth, by Zoffany; Garrick as Richard III., by Morland, sen.; Young Roscius, by Opie; Quin, by Hogarth; Rich and his family, by Hogarth; Charles Mathews, four characters, by Harlowe; Nat Lee, painted in Bedlam; Anthony Leigh as the Spanish Friar, by Kneller; John Liston, by Clint; Munden, by Opie; John Johnston, by Shee; Lacy in three characters, by Wright; Scene from Charles II., by Clint; Mrs. Siddons as Lady Macbeth, by Harlowe; J. P. Kemble as Cato, by Lawrence; Macready as Henry IV., by Jackson; Edwin, by Gainsborough; the twelve of the School of Garrick; Kean, Young, Elliston, and Mrs. Inchbald, by Harlowe; Garrick as Richard III., by Loutherbourg; Rich as Harlequin; Moody and Parsons in The Committee, by Vandergucht; King as Touchstone, by Zoffany; Thomas Dogget; Henderson, by Gainsborough; Elder Colman, by Reynolds; Mrs. Oldfield, by Kneller; Mrs. Billington; Nancy Dawson; Screen Scene from The School for Scandal, as originally cast; Scene from Venice Preserved (Garrick and Mrs. Cibber), by Zoffany; Scene from Macbeth (Henderson); Scene from Love, Law, and Physic (Mathews, Liston, Blanchard, and Emery), by Clint; Scene from The Clandestine Marriage (King and Mr. and Mrs. Baddeley), by Zoffany; Weston as Billy Button, by Zoffany.
The following have been presented to the Club:—Busts of Mrs. Siddons and J. P. Kemble, by Mrs. Siddons; of Garrick, Captain Marryat, Dr. Kitchiner, and Malibran; Garrick, by Roubiliac; Griffin and Johnson in The Alchemist, by Von Bleeck; Miniatures of Mrs. Robinson and Peg Woffington; Sketch of Kean by Lambert; Garrick Mulberry-tree Snuff-box; Joseph Harris 263 as Cardinal Wolsey, from the Strawberry Hill Collection; Proof Print of the Trial of Queen Katherine, by Harlowe.
The Garrick men will, for the sake of justice, excuse the mention of a short-coming: at the first dinner of the Club, from the list of toasts was omitted "Shakspeare," who, it must be allowed, contributed to Garrick's fame. David did not so forget the Bard, as is attested in his statue by Roubiliac, which, after adorning the Garrick grounds at Hampton, was bequeathed by the grateful actor to the British Museum.
The Club were entertained at a sumptuous dinner by their brother member, Lord Mayor Moon, in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House, in 1855.
The Gin-punch made with iced soda-water, is a notable potation at the Garrick; and the rightful patentee of the invention was Mr. Stephen Price, an American gentleman, well known on the turf, and as the lessee of Drury-lane Theatre. His title has been much disputed—
"Grammatici certant et adhuc sub judice lis est;"
and many, misled by Mr. Theodore Hook's frequent and liberal application of the discovery, were in the habit of ascribing it to him. But, Mr. Thomas Hill, the celebrated "trecentenarian" of a popular song, who was present at Mr. Hook's first introduction to the beverage, has set the matter at rest by a brief narration of the circumstances. One hot afternoon, in July, 1835, the inimitable author of Sayings and Doings (what a book might be made of his own!) strolled into the Garrick in that equivocal state of thirstiness which it requires something more than common to quench. On describing the sensation, he was recommended to make a trial of 264 the punch, and a jug was compounded immediately under the personal inspection of Mr. Price. A second followed—a third, with the accompaniment of some chops—a fourth—a fifth—a sixth—at the expiration of which Mr. Hook went away to keep a dinner engagement at Lord Canterbury's. He always ate little, and on this occasion he ate less, and Mr. Horace Twiss inquired in a fitting tone of anxiety if he was ill. "Not exactly," was the reply; "but my stomach won't bear trifling with, and I was tempted to take a biscuit and a glass of sherry about three."
The receipt for the gin punch is as follows:—pour half a pint of gin on the outer peel of a lemon, then a little lemon-juice, a glass of maraschino, about a pint and a quarter of water, and two bottles of iced soda-water; and the result will be three pints of the punch in question.
Another choice spirit of the Garrick was the aforesaid Hill, "Tom Hill," as he was called by all who loved and knew him. He "happened to know everything that was going forward in all circles—mercantile, political, fashionable, literary, or theatrical; in addition to all matters connected with military and naval affairs, agriculture, finance, art, and science—everything came alike to him." He was born in 1760, and was many years a drysalter at Queenhithe, but about 1810 he lost a large sum of money by a speculation in indigo; after which he retired upon the remains of his property, to chambers in the Adelphi. While at Queenhithe, he found leisure to make a fine collection of old books, chiefly old poetry, which were valued at six thousand pounds. He greatly assisted two friendless poets, Bloomfield and Kirke White; he also established The Monthly Mirror, which 265 brought him much into connection with dramatic poets, actors, and managers, when he collected theatrical curiosities and relics. Hill was the Hull of Hook's clever novel, Gilbert Gurney, and the reputed original of Paul Pry, though the latter is doubtful. The standard joke about him was his age. He died in 1841, in his eighty-first year, though Hook and all his friends always affected to consider him as quite a Methuselah. James Smith once said that it was impossible to discover his age, for the parish-register had been burnt in the fire of London; but Hook capped this:—'Pooh, pooh!—(Tom's habitual exclamation)—he's one of the Little Hills that are spoken of as skipping in the Psalms.' As a mere octogenarian he was wonderful enough. No human being would, from his appearance, gait, or habits, have guessed him to be sixty. Till within three months of his death, Hill rose at five usually, and brought the materials of his breakfast home with him to the Adelphi from a walk to Billingsgate; and at dinner he would eat and drink like an adjutant of five-and-twenty. One secret was, that a 'banyan-day' uniformly followed a festivity. He then nursed himself most carefully on tea and dry toast, tasted neither meat nor wine, and went to bed by eight o'clock. But perhaps the grand secret was, the easy, imperturbable serenity of his temper. He had been kind and generous in the day of his wealth; and though his evening was comparatively poor, his cheerful heart kept its even beat.
Hill was a patient collector throughout his long life. His old English poetry, which Southey considered the rarest assemblage in existence, was dispersed in 1810; and, after Hill's death, his literary rarities and memorials occupied Evans, of Pall Mall, a clear week to sell by 266 auction: the autograph letters were very interesting, and among the memorials were Garrick's Shakspeare Cup and a vase carved from the Bard's mulberry-tree; and a block of wood from Pope's willow, at Twickenham.
Albert Smith was also of the Garrick, and usually dined here before commencing his evening entertainment at the Egyptian Hall, in Piccadilly.
Smith was very clubbable, and with benevolent aims: he was a leader of the Fielding Club, in Maiden-lane, Covent Garden, which gave several amateur theatrical representations, towards the establishment of "a Fund for the immediate relief of emergencies in the Literary or Theatrical world;" having already devoted a considerable sum to charitable purposes. This plan of relieving the woes of others through our own pleasures is a touch of nature which yields twofold gratification.
This political Club was established by Liberal Members of the two Houses of Parliament, to aid the carrying of the Reform Bill, 1830-1832. It was temporarily located in Great George-street, and Gwydyr House, Whitehall, until towards the close of 1837, when designs for a new Club-house were submitted by the architects, Blore, Basevi, Cockerell, Sydney Smirke, and Barry. The design of the latter was preferred, and the site selected in Pall Mall, extending from the spot formerly occupied by the temporary National Gallery (late the 267 residence of Sir Walter Stirling), on one side of the temporary Reform Club-house, over the vacant plot of ground on the other side. The instructions were to produce a Club-house which should surpass all others in size and magnificence; one which should combine all the attractions of other Clubs, such as baths, billiard-rooms, smoking-rooms, with the ordinary accommodations; besides the additional novelty of private chambers, or dormitories. The frontage towards Pall Mall is about 135 feet, or nearly equal to the frontage of the Athenæum (76 feet) and the Travellers' (74 feet). The style of the Reform is pure Italian, the architect having taken some points from the celebrated Farnese Palace at Rome, designed by Michael Angelo Buonarroti, in 1545, and built by Antonio Sangallo. However, the resemblance between the two edifices has been greatly over-stated, it consisting only in both of them being astylar, with columnar-decorated fenestration. The exterior is greatly admired; though it is objected, and with reason, that the windows are too small. The Club-house contains six floors and 134 apartments: the basement and mezzanine below the street pavement, and the chambers in the roof are not seen.
The points most admired are extreme simplicity and unity of design, combined with very unusual richness. The breadth of the piers between the windows contributes not a little to that repose which is so essential to simplicity, and hardly less so to stateliness. The string-courses are particularly beautiful, while the cornicione (68 feet from the pavement) gives extraordinary majesty and grandeur to the whole. The roof is covered with Italian tiles; the edifice is faced throughout with Portland stone, and is a very fine specimen of masonry. In 268 building it a strong scaffolding was constructed, and on the top was laid a railway, upon which was worked a traversing crane, movable along the building either longitudinally or transversely; by which means the stones were raised from the ground, and placed on the wall with very little labour to the mason, who had only to adjust the bed and lay the block.
In the centre of the interior is a grand hall, 56 by 50, (the entire height of the building,) resembling an Italian cortile, surrounded by colonnades, below Ionic, and above Corinthian; the latter is a picture-gallery, where, inserted in the scagliola walls, are whole-length portraits of eminent political Reformers; while the upper colonnade has rich floral mouldings, and frescoes of Music, Poetry, Painting, and sculpture, by Parris. The floor of the hall is tessellated; and the entire roof is strong diapered flint-glass, executed by Pellatt, at the cost of 600l. The staircase, like that of an Italian palace, leads to the upper gallery of the hall, opening into the principal drawing-room, which is over the coffee-room in the garden-front, both being the entire length of the building; adjoining are a library, card-room, etc., over the library and dining-rooms. Above are a billiard-room and lodging-rooms for members of the Club; there being a separate entrance to the latter by a lodge adjoining the Travellers' Club-house.
The basement comprises two-storied wine-cellars beneath the hall; besides the kitchen department, planned by Alexis Soyer, originally chef-de-cuisine of the Club: it contains novel employments of steam and gas, and mechanical applications of practical ingenuity; the inspection of which was long one of the privileged sights 269 of London. The cuisine, under M. Soyer, enjoyed European fame. Soyer first came to England on a visit to his brother, who was then cook to the Duke of Cambridge; and at Cambridge House, Alexis cooked his first dinner in England, for the then Prince George. Soyer afterwards entered the service of various noblemen, amongst others of Lord Ailsa, Lord Panmure, etc. He then entered into the service of the Reform Club, and the breakfast given by that Club on the occasion of the Queen's Coronation obtained him high commendation. His ingenuity gave a sort of celebrity to the great political banquets given at the Reform. In his O'Connell dinner, the soufflés à la Clontarf, were considered by gastronomes to be a rich bit of satire. The banquet to Ibrahim Pacha, July 3, 1846, was another of Soyer's great successes, when Merlans à l'Égyptienne, la Crême d'Égypte and à l'Ibrahim Pacha, mingled with Le Gâteau Britannique à l'Amiral (Napier). Another famous banquet was that given to Sir C. Napier, March 3, 1854, as Commander of the Baltic Fleet; and the banquet given July 20, 1850, to Viscount Palmerston, who was a popular leader of the Reform, was, gastronomically as well as politically, a brilliant triumph. It was upon this memorable occasion that Mr. Bernal Osborne characterized the Palmerston policy in this quotation:—
"Warmed by the instincts of a knightly heart,
That roused at once if insult touched the realm,
He spurned each State-craft, each deceiving art,
And met his foes no vizor to his helm.
This proved his worth, hereafter be our boast—
Who hated Britons, hated him the most."
Lord Palmerston was too true an Englishman to be insensible to "the pleasures of the table," as attested by 270 the hospitalities of Cambridge House, during his administration. One of his Lordship's political opponents, writing in 1836, says: "Lord Palmerston is redeemed from the last extremity of political degradation by his cook." A distinguished member of the diplomatic body was once overheard remarking to an Austrian nobleman, upon the Minister's shortcomings in some respects, adding, "mais on dîne fort bien chez lui."
It is always interesting to read a foreigner's opinion of English society. The following observations, by the Viscountess de Malleville, appeared originally in the Courrier de l'Europe, and preceded an account of the Reform. Commencing with Clubs, the writer remarks:
"It cannot be denied that these assemblages, wealthy and widely extended in their ramifications, selfish in principle, but perfectly adapted to the habits of the nation, offer valuable advantages to those who have the good fortune to be enrolled in them.... The social state and manners of the country gave the first idea of them. The spirit of association which is so inherent in the British character, did the rest. It is only within the precincts of these splendid edifices, where all the requirements of opulent life, all the comforts and luxuries of princely habitations are combined, that we can adequately appreciate the advantages and the complicated results produced by such a system of association. For an annual subscription, comparatively of small amount, every member of a Club is admitted into a circle, which is enlivened and renewed from time to time by the accession of strangers of distinction. A well-selected and extensive library, newspapers and pamphlets from all parts of the world, assist him to pass the hours of leisure and digestion. According as his tastes incline, a man may 271 amuse himself in the saloons devoted to play, to reading, or to conversation. In a word, the happy man, who only goes to get his dinner, may drink the best wines out of the finest cut-glass, and may eat the daintiest and best-cooked viands off the most costly plate, at such moderate prices as no Parisian restaurateur could afford. The advantages of a Club do not end here: it becomes for each of its members a second domestic hearth, where the cares of business and household annoyances cannot assail him. As a retreat especially sacred against the visitations of idle acquaintances and tiresome creditors—a sanctuary in which each member feels himself in the society of those who act and sympathize with him—the Club will ever remain a resort, tranquil, elegant, and exclusive; interdicted to the humble and to the insignificant."
The writer then proceeds to illustrate the sumptuous character of our new Club-houses by reference to the Reform. "Unlike in most English buildings, the staircase is wide and commodious, and calls to mind that of the Louvre. The quadrangular apartment which terminates it, is surrounded by spacious galleries; the rich mosaic pavement, in which the brilliancy of the colour is only surpassed by the variety of the design—the cut-glass ceiling, supported by four rows of marble pillars—all these things call to remembrance the most magnificent apartments of Versailles in the days of the great king and his splendours. This is the vestibule, which is the grand feature of the mansion." The kitchen is then described—"spacious as a ball-room, kept in the finest order, and white as a young bride. All-powerful steam, the noise of which salutes your ear as you enter, here performs a variety of offices: it diffuses a uniform heat 272 to large rows of dishes, warms the metal plates upon which are disposed the dishes that have been called for, and that are in waiting to be sent above: it turns the spits, draws the water, carries up the coal, and moves the plate like an intelligent and indefatigable servant. Stay awhile before this octagonal apparatus, which occupies the centre of the place. Around you the water boils and the stew-pans bubble, and a little further on is a moveable furnace, before which pieces of meat are converted into savoury rôtis; here are sauces and gravies, stews, broths, soups, etc. In the distance are Dutch ovens, marble mortars, lighted stoves, iced plates of metal for fish; and various compartments for vegetables, fruits, roots, and spices. After this inadequate, though prodigious nomenclature, the reader may perhaps picture to himself a state of general confusion, a disordered assemblage, resembling that of a heap of oyster-shells. If so, he is mistaken; for, in fact, you see very little, or scarcely anything of all the objects above described. The order of their arrangement is so perfect, their distribution as a whole, and in their relative bearings to one another, all are so intelligently considered, that you require the aid of a guide to direct you in exploring them, and a good deal of time to classify in your mind all your discoveries.
"Let all strangers who come to London for business, or pleasure, or curiosity, or for whatever cause, not fail to visit the Reform Club. In an age of utilitarianism, and of the search for the comfortable, like ours, there is more to be learned here than in the ruins of the Coliseum, of the Parthenon, or of Memphis." 273
The Carlton is purely a political Club, and was founded by the great Duke of Wellington, and a few of his most intimate political friends. It held its first meeting in Charles-street, St. James's, in the year 1831. In the following year it removed to larger premises, Lord Kensington's, in Carlton Gardens. In 1836, an entirely new house was built for the Club, in Pall-Mall, by Sir Robert Smirke, R.A.: it was of small extent, and plain and inexpensive. As the Club grew in numbers and importance, the building became inadequate to its wants. In 1846, a very large addition was made to it by Mr. Sydney Smirke; and in 1854, the whole of the original edifice was taken down, and rebuilt by Mr. Smirke, upon a sumptuous scale; and it will be the largest, though not the most costly Club-house, in the metropolis. It is a copy of Sansovino's Library of St. Mark, at Venice: the entablature of the Ionic, or upper order, is considerably more ponderous than that of the Doric below, which is an unorthodox defect. The façade is highly enriched, and exhibits a novelty in the shafts of all the columns being of red Peterhead granite, highly polished, which, in contrast with the dead stone, is objectionable: "cloth of frieze and cloth of gold" do not wear well together. In the garden front the pilasters, which take the place of columns in the entrance front and flank, are of the same material as the latter, namely, Peterhead granite, polished. Many predictions were at first ventured upon as to the perishable nature of the lustre 274 of the polished granite shafts; but these predictions have been falsified by time; nine years' exposure having produced no effect whatever on the polished surface. Probably the polish itself is the protection of the granite, by preventing moisture from hanging on the surface.
The Carlton contains Conservatives of every hue, from the good old-fashioned Tory to the liberal progressist of the latest movements,—men of high position in fortune and politics.
Some thirty years ago, a Quarterly reviewer wrote: "The improvement and multiplication of Clubs is the grand feature of metropolitan progress. There are between twenty and thirty of these admirable establishments, at which a man of moderate habits can dine more comfortably for three or four shillings (including half a pint of wine), than he could have dined for four or five times that amount at the coffee-houses and hotels, which were the habitual resort of the bachelor class in the corresponding rank of life during the first quarter of the century. At some of the Clubs—the Travellers', the Coventry, and the Carlton, for example—the most finished luxury may be enjoyed at a very moderate cost. The best judges are agreed that it is utterly impossible to dine better than at the Carlton, when the cook has fair notice, and is not hurried, or confused by a multitude of orders. But great allowances must be made when a simultaneous rush occurs from both Houses of Parliament; and the caprices of individual members of such institutions are sometimes extremely trying to the temper and reputation of a chef." 275
This handsome Club-house, which occupies a portion of the site of the old Thatched House Tavern, 74, St. James's-street, was designed by Sydney Smirke and George Basevi, 1845. The upper portion is Corinthian, with columns and pilasters, and a frieze sculptured with the imperial crown and oak-wreaths; the lower order is Roman-Doric; and the wings are slightly advanced, with an enriched entrance-porch north, and a bay-window south. The interior was superbly decorated in colour by Sang: the coved hall, with a gallery round it, and the domed vestibule above it, is a fine specimen of German encaustic embellishment, in the arches, soffites, spandrels, and ceilings; and the hall-floor is tessellated, around a noble star of marqueterie. The evening room, on the first floor, has an enriched coved ceiling, and a beautiful frieze of the rose, shamrock, and thistle, supported by scagliola Corinthian columns: the morning room, beneath, is of the same dimensions, with Ionic pillars. The library, in the upper story north, has columns and pilasters with bronzed capitals. Beneath is the coffee-room. The kitchen is far more spacious than that of the Reform Club. In the right wing is a large bay-window, which was introduced as an essential to the morning room, affording the lounger a view of Pall Mall and St. James's-street, and the Palace gateway; this introduction reminding us, by the way, of Theodore Hook's oddly comparing the bay-window of a coffee-house nearly on the same 276 spot, to an obese old gentleman in a white waistcoat. Hook lived for some time in Cleveland-row: he used to describe the real London as the space between Pall Mall on the south, Piccadilly north, St. James's west, and the Opera-house east.
This is the second Club of the Conservative party, and many of its chiefs are honorary members, but rarely enter it: Sir Robert Peel is said never to have entered this Club-house except to view the interior. Other leaders have, however, availed themselves of the Club influences to recruit their ranks from its working strength. This has been political ground for a century and a half; for here, at the Thatched House Tavern, Swift met his political Clubs, and dined with Tory magnates; but with fewer appliances than in the present day; in Swift's time "the wine being always brought by him that is president."
The Oxford and Cambridge Club-house, 71, Pall Mall, for members of the two Universities, was designed by Sir Robert Smirke, R.A., and his brother, Mr. Sydney Smirke, 1835-8. The Pall Mall façade is 80 feet in width by 75 in height, and the rear lies over against the court of Marlborough House. The ornamental detail is very rich: as the entrance-portico, with Corinthian columns; the balcony, with its panels of metal foliage; and the ground-story frieze, and arms of Oxford and Cambridge Universities over the portico columns. The upper part of the building has a delicate Corinthian entablature and balustrade; and above the principal windows are bas-reliefs in panels, executed in cement by Nicholl, from designs by Sir R. Smirke, as follows:—Centre panel: Minerva and Apollo presiding on Mount Parnassus; and the River Helicon, surrounded by the Muses. Extreme panels: Homer singing to a warrior, a female, and a youth; Virgil singing his Georgics to a group of peasants. Other four panels: Milton reciting to his daughter; Shakspeare attended by Tragedy and Comedy; Newton explaining his system; Bacon, his philosophy. Beneath the ground-floor is a basement of offices, and an entresol or mezzanine of chambers. The principal apartments are tastefully decorated; the drawing-room is panelled with papier mâché; and the libraries are filled with book-cases of beautifully-marked Russian birchwood. From the back library is a view of Marlborough House and its gardens. 278
Was formerly housed in St. James's-street, next Crockford's, north; but, in 1850, they removed to Pall Mall, No. 70. The new Club-house was designed for them by Henry Harrison, and remarkable for its compactness and convenience, although its size and external appearance indicate no more than a private house. The architect has adopted some portion of a design of Sansovino's in the lower part or basement.
The Army and Navy Club-house, Pall Mall, corner of George-street, designed by Parnell and Smith, was opened February 1851. The exterior is a combination from Sansovino's Palazzo Cornaro, and Library of St. Mark at Venice; but varying in the upper part, which has Corinthian columns, with windows resembling arcades filling up the intercolumns; and over their arched headings are groups of naval and military symbols, weapons, and defensive armour—very picturesque. The frieze has also effective groups symbolic of the Army and Navy; the cornice, likewise very bold, is crowned by a massive balustrade. The basement, from the Cornaro, is rusticated; the entrance being in the centre of the east or George-street front, by three open arches, similar in 279 character to those in the Strand front of Somerset House. The whole is extremely rich in ornamental detail. The hall is fine; the coffee-room is panelled with scagliola, and has a ceiling enriched with flowers, and pierced for ventilation by heated flues above; adjoining is a room lighted by a glazed plafond; next is the house dining-room, decorated in the Munich style; and more superb is the morning-room, with its arched windows, and mirrors forming arcades and vistas innumerable. A magnificent stone staircase leads to the library and reading rooms; and in the third story are billiard and card rooms; and a smoking-room, with a lofty dome elaborately decorated in traceried Moresque. The apartments are adorned with an equestrian portrait of Queen Victoria, painted by Grant, R.A.; a piece of Gobelin tapestry (Sacrifice to Diana), presented to the Club in 1849 by Prince Louis Napoleon; marble busts of William IV. and the Dukes of Kent and Cambridge; and several life-size portraits of naval and military heroes. The Club-house is provided with twenty lines of Whishaw's Telekouphona, or Speaking Telegraph, which communicate from the Secretary's room to the various apartments. The cost of this superb edifice, exclusive of fittings, was 35,000l.; the plot of ground on which it stands cost the Club 52,000l.
The Club system has added several noble specimens of ornate architecture to the metropolis; to the south side of Pall Mall these fine edifices have given a truly patrician air. But, it is remarkable that while both parties political have contributed magnificent edifices towards the metropolis and their opinions; while the Conservatives can show with pride two splendid piles and the Liberals at least one handsome one; while the 280 Army and Navy have recently a third palace—the most successful of the three they can boast; while the Universities, the sciences, even our Indian empire, come forward, the fashionable clubs, the aristocratic clubs do nothing for the general aspect of London, and have made no move in a direction where they ought to have been first. Can anything be more paltry than that bay-window from which the members of White's contemplate the cabstand and the Wellington Tavern? and yet a little management might make that house worthy of its unparalleled situation; and if it were extended to Piccadilly, it would be the finest thing of its kind in Europe.
At the corner of Charles-street and Regent-street, was erected in 1855-57, Nelson and James, architects, and has a most embellished exterior, enriched with characteristic sculpture by John Thomas. The design is described in the Builder as in the Italian style of architecture, the bay-window in Regent-street forming a prominent feature in the composition, above which is a sculptured group allegorical of the Army and Navy. The whole of the sculpture and ornamental details throughout the building are characteristic of the profession of the members of the Club. The exterior of the building is surmounted by a richly-sculptured cornice, with modillion and dentils, and beneath it an elaborate frieze, having medallions with trophies and other suitable emblems, 281 separated from each other by the rose, shamrock, and thistle. The external walls of the building are of Bath stone, and the balustrade round the area is of Portland stone; and upon the angle-pieces of this are bronze lamps, supported by figures. The staircase is lighted from the top by a handsome lantern, filled with painted glass, with an elaborate coved and ornamented ceiling around. On the landing of the half space are two pairs of caryatidal figures, and single figures against the walls, supporting three semicircular arches, and the whole is reflected by looking-glasses on the landing. On the upper landing of the staircase, is the celebrated picture, by Allan, of the Battle of Waterloo. Upon the first floor fronting Regent-street, and over the morning-room, and of the same dimensions, is the evening-room, which is also used as a picture-gallery, 24 feet high, with a bay-window fronting Regent-street. In the gallery are portraits of military and naval commanders; Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the Emperor Napoleon; and an allegorical group in silver, presented to the Club by his Imperial Majesty.
This noted gaming Club-house, No. 50, on the west side of St. James's-street, over against White's, was built for Mr. Crockford, in 1827; B. and P. Wyatt, architects.
Crockford started in life as a fishmonger, at the old bulk-shop next-door to Temple Bar Without, which he quitted for play in St. James's. "For several years 282 deep play went on at all the Clubs—fluctuating both as to locality and amount—till by degrees it began to flag. It was at a low ebb when Mr. Crockford laid the foundation of the most colossal fortune that was ever made by play. He began by taking Watier's old Club-house, in partnership with a man named Taylor. They set up a hazard-bank, and won a great deal of money, but quarrelled and separated at the end of the first year. Taylor continued where he was, had a bad year, and failed. Crockford removed to St. James's-street, had a good year, and immediately set about building the magnificent Club-house which bears his name. It rose like a creation of Aladdin's lamp; and the genii themselves could hardly have surpassed the beauty of the internal decorations, or furnished a more accomplished maître d'hôtel than Ude. To make the company as select as possible, the establishment was regularly organized as a Club, and the election of members vested in a committee. 'Crockford's' became the rage, and the votaries of fashion, whether they liked play or not, hastened to enrol themselves. The Duke of Wellington was an original member, though (unlike Blücher, who repeatedly lost everything he had at play) the great Captain was never known to play deep at any game but war or politics. Card-tables were regularly placed, and whist was played occasionally; but the aim, end, and final cause of the whole was the hazard-bank, at which the proprietor took his nightly stand, prepared for all comers. Le Wellington des Joueurs lost 23,000l. at a sitting, beginning at twelve at night, and ending at seven the following evening. He and three other noblemen could not have lost less, sooner or later, than 100,000l. apiece. Others lost in proportion (or out of proportion) to their means; but we leave 283 it to less occupied moralists, and better calculators, to say how many ruined families went to make Mr. Crockford a millionnaire—for a millionnaire he was in the English sense of the term, after making the largest possible allowance for bad debts. A vast sum, perhaps half a million, was sometimes due to him; but as he won, all his debtors were able to raise, and easy credit was the most fatal of his lures. He retired in 1840, much as an Indian chief retires from a hunting country when there is not game enough left for his tribe, and the Club is now tottering to its fall."
The Club-house consists of two wings and a centre, with four Corinthian pilasters, and entablature, and a balustrade throughout; the ground-floor has Venetian windows, and the upper story, large French windows. The entrance-hall had a screen of Roman-Ionic scagliola columns with gilt capitals, and a cupola of gilding and stained glass. The library has Sienna columns and antæ of the Ionic order, from the Temple of Minerva Polias; the staircase is panelled with scagliola, and enriched with Corinthian columns. The grand drawing-room is in the style of Louis Quatorze: azure ground, with elaborate cove; ceiling enrichments bronze gilt; door-way paintings à la Watteau; and panelling, masks, terminals, heavily gilt. Upon the opening of the Club-house, it was described in the exaggerated style, as "the New Pandemonium"; the drawing-rooms, or real Hell, consisting of four chambers; the first an ante-room, opening to a saloon embellished to a degree which baffles description; thence to a small, curiously-formed cabinet, or boudoir, which opens to the supper room. All these rooms are panelled in the most gorgeous manner, spaces 284 being left to be filled up with mirrors, silk or gold enrichments; the ceilings being as superb as the walls. A billiard-room on the upper floor completes the number of apartments professedly dedicated to the use of the members. Whenever any secret manœuvre is to be carried on, there are smaller and more retired places, both under this roof and the next, whose walls will tell no tales.
The cuisine at Crockford's was of the highest class, and the members were occasionally very exigeant, and trying to the patience of M. Ude. At one period of his presidency, a ground of complaint, formally addressed to the Committee, was that there was an admixture of onion in the soubise. Colonel Damer, happening to enter Crockford's one evening to dine early, found Ude walking up and down in a towering passion, and naturally inquired what was the matter. "No matter, Monsieur le Colonel! Did you see that man who has just gone out? Well, he ordered a red mullet for his dinner. I made him a delicious little sauce with my own hands. The price of the mullet marked on the carte was 2s.; I asked 6d. for the sauce. He refuses to pay the 6d. That imbécille apparently believes that the red mullets come out of the sea with my sauce in their pockets!" The imbécille might have retorted that they do come out of the sea with their appropriate sauce in their pockets; but this forms no excuse for damaging the consummate genius of a Ude.
The appetites of some Club members appear to entitle them to be called gourmands rather than gourmets. Of such a member of Crockford's the following traits are related in the Quarterly Review, No. 110:—"The Lord-lieutenant of one of the western counties eats a covey of partridges for breakfast every day during the season; 285 and there is a popular M.P. at present  about town who would eat a covey of partridges, as the Scotchman ate a dozen of becaficos, for a whet, and feel himself astonished if his appetite was not accelerated by the circumstance. Most people must have seen or heard of a caricature representing a gentleman at dinner upon a round of beef, with the landlord looking on. 'Capital beef, landlord!' says the gentleman; 'a man may cut and come again here.' 'You may cut, Sir,' responds Boniface; 'but I'm blow'd if you shall come again.' The person represented is the M.P. in question; and the sketch is founded upon fact. He had occasion to stay late in the City, and walked into the celebrated Old Bailey beef-shop on his return, where, according to the landlord's computation, he demolished about seven pounds and a half of solid meat, with a proportionate allowance of greens. His exploits at Crockford's have been such, that the founder of that singular institution has more than once had serious thoughts of giving him a guinea to sup elsewhere; and has only been prevented by the fear of meeting with a rebuff similar to that mentioned in Roderick Random as received by the master of an ordinary, who, on proposing to buy off an ugly customer, was informed by him that he had already been bought off by all the other ordinaries in town, and was consequently under the absolute necessity of continuing to patronize the establishment."
Theodore Hook was a frequent visitor at Crockford's, where play did not begin till late. Mr. Barham describes him, after going the round of the Clubs, proposing, with some gay companion, to finish with half an hour at Crockford's: "The half-hour is quadrupled, and the excitement of the preceding evening was nothing to 286 that which now ensued." He had a receipt of his own to prevent being exposed to the night air. "I was very ill," he once said, "some months ago, and my doctor gave me particular orders not to expose myself to it; so I come up [from Fulham] every day to Crockford's, or some other place to dinner, and I make it a rule on no account to go home again till about four or five o'clock in the morning."
After Crockford's death, the Club-house was sold by his executors for 2,900l.; held on lease, of which thirty-two years were unexpired, subject to a yearly rent of 1,400l. It is said that the decorations alone cost 94,000l. The interior was re-decorated in 1849, and opened for the Military, Naval, and County Service Club, but was closed again in 1851. It has been, for several years, a dining-house—"the Wellington."
Crockford's old bulk-shop, west of Temple-bar, was taken down in 1846. It is engraved in Archer's Vestiges of London, part i. A view in 1795, in the Crowle Pennant, presents one tall gable to the street; but the pitch of the roof had been diminished by adding two imperfect side gables. The heavy pents originally traversed over each of the three courses of windows; it was a mere timber frame filled up with lath and plaster, the beams being of deal with short oak joints: it presented a capital example of the old London bulk-shop (sixteenth century), with a heavy canopy projecting over the pathway, and turned up at the rim to carry off the rain endwise. This shop had long been held by a succession of fishmongers; and Crockford would not permit the house-front to be altered in his lifetime. He was known in gaming circles by the sobriquet of "the Fishmonger." 287
In the old days when gaming was in fashion, at Watier's Club, princes and nobles lost or gained fortunes between themselves. It was the same at Brookes's, one member of which, Lord Robert Spencer, was wise enough to apply what he had won to the purchase of the estate of Woolbidding, Suffolk. Then came Crockford's hell, the proprietor of which, a man who had begun life with a fish-basket, won the whole of the ready money of the then existing generation of aristocratic simpletons. Among the men who most suffered by play was Viscount Allen, or 'King Allen,' as he was called. This effeminate dandy had fought like a young lion in Spain; for the dandies, foolish as they looked, never wanted pluck. The 'King' then lounged about town, grew fat, lost his all, and withdrew to Dublin, where, in Merrion-square, he slept behind a large brass plate with 'Viscount Allen' upon it, which was as good to him as board wages, for it brought endless invitations from people eager to feed a viscount at any hour of the day or night, although King Allen had more ready ability in uttering disagreeable than witty things.
Very rarely indeed did any of the ruined gamesters ever get on their legs again. The Golden Ball, however, was an exception. Ball Hughes fell from the very top of the gay pagoda into the mud, but even there, as life was nothing to him without the old excitement, he played pitch and toss for halfpence, and he won and lost 288 small ventures at battledore and shuttlecock, which innocent exercise he turned into a gambling speculation. After he withdrew, in very reduced circumstances, to France, his once mad purchase of Oatlands suddenly assumed a profitable aspect. The estate was touched by a railway and admired by building speculators, and between the two the Ball, in its last days, had a very cheerful and glittering aspect indeed.
Far less lucky than Hughes was Scrope Davies, whose name was once so familiar to every man and boy about town. There was good stuff about this dandy. He one night won the whole fortune of an aspiring fast lad who had come of age the week before, and who was so prostrated by his loss that kindly-hearted Scrope gave back the fortune the other had lost, on his giving his word of honour never to play again. Davies stuck to the green baize till his own fortune had gone among a score of less compassionate gentlemen. His distressed condition was made known to the young fellow to whom he had formerly acted with so much generosity, and that grateful heir refused to lend him even a guinea. Scrope was not of the gentlemen-ruffians of the day who were addicted to cruelly assaulting men weaker than themselves. He was well-bred and a scholar; and he bore his reverses with a rare philosophy. His home was on a bench in the Tuileries, where he received old acquaintances who visited him in exile; but he admitted only very tried friends to the little room where he read and slept. He was famed for his readiness in quoting the classical poets, and for his admiration of Moore, in whose favour those quotations were frequently made. They were often most happy. For example, he translated 'Ubi plura nitent non ego paucis offendar maculis,' 289 by 'Moore shines so brightly that I cannot find fault with Little's vagaries!' He also rendered 'Ne plus ultra,' 'Nothing is better than Moore!'
Gentleman-coaching has scarcely been known in England seventy years. The Anglo-Erichthonius, the Hon. Charles Finch, brother to the Earl of Aylesford, used to drive his own coach-and-four, disguised in a livery great-coat. Soon after his début, however, the celebrated "Tommy Onslow," Sir John Lacy, and others, mounted the box in their own characters. Sir John was esteemed a renowned judge of coach-horses and carriages, and a coachman of the old school; but everything connected with the coach-box has undergone such a change, that the Nestors of the art are no longer to be quoted. Among the celebrities may be mentioned the "B. C. D.," or Benson Driving Club, which held its rendezvous at the "Black Dog," Bedfont, as one of the numerous driving associations, whose processions used, some five-and-thirty years ago, to be among the most imposing, as well as peculiar, spectacles in and about the metropolis.
On the stage, the gentlemen drivers, of whom the members of the Four-in-Hand Club were the exclusive élite, were illustrated rather than caricatured in Goldfinch, in Holcroft's comedy The Road to Ruin. Some of them who had not "drags" of their own, "tipped" a weekly allowance to stage coachmen, to allow them to "finger the ribbons," and "tool the team." Of course, they 290 frequently "spilt" the passengers. The closeness with which the professional coachmen were imitated by the "bucks," is shown in the case of wealthy young Ackers, who had one of his front teeth taken out, in order that he might acquire the true coachman-like way of "spitting." There were men of brains, nevertheless, in the Four-in-Hand, who knew how to ridicule such fellow-members as Lord Onslow, whom they thus immortalized in an epigram of that day:—
"What can Tommy Onslow do?
He can drive a coach and two!
Can Tommy Onslow do no more?
He can drive a coach and four."
It is a curious fact, that the fashion of amateur charioteering was first set by the ladies. Dr. Young has strikingly sketched, in his satires, the Delia who was as good a coachman as the man she paid for being so:—
"Graceful as John, she moderates the reins,
And whistles sweet her diuretic strains."
The Four-in-Hand combined gastronomy with equestrianism and charioteering. They always drove out of town to dinner, and the ghost of Scrope Davies will pardon our suggesting that the club of drivers and diners might well have taken for their motto, "Quadrigis, petimus bene vivere!"
There is another version of the epigram on Tom Onslow:—
"Say, what can Tommy Onslow do?
Can drive a curricle and two.
Can Tommy Onslow do no more?
Yes,—drive a curricle and four."
This is the version current, we are told, among Onslow's relations in the neighbourhood of Guildford.
Lord Onslow's celebrity as a whip long preceded the existence of the Four-in-Hand Club (the palmy days of which belong to the times of George the Fourth), and it was not a coach, but a phaeton, that he drove. A correspondent of the Athenæum writes: "I knew him personally, in my own boyhood, in Surrey, in the first years of the present century; and I remember then hearing the epigram now referred to, not as new, but as well known, in the following form:—
'What can little T. O. do?
Drive a phaeton and two.
Can little T. O. do no more?
Yes,—drive a phaeton and four.'
"Tommy Onslow was a little man, full of life and oddities, one of which was a fondness for driving into odd places; and I remember the surprise of a pic-nic party, which he joined in a secluded spot, driving up in his 'phaeton and four' through ways that were hardly supposed passable by anything beyond a flock of sheep. An earlier exploit of his had a less agreeable termination. He was once driving through Thames-street, when the hook of a crane, dangling down in front of one of the warehouses, caught the hood of the phaeton, tilting him out, and the fall broke his collar-bone."
The vehicles of the Club which were formerly used are described as of a hybrid class, quite as elegant as private carriages and lighter than even the mails. They were horsed with the finest animals that money could secure. In general, the whole four in each carriage were admirably matched; grey and chestnut were the favourite colours, but occasionally very black horses, 292 or such as were freely flecked with white, were preferred. The master generally drove the team, often a nobleman of high rank, who commonly copied the dress of a mail coachman. The company usually rode outside, but two footmen in rich liveries were indispensable on the back seat, nor was it at all uncommon to see some splendidly attired female on the box. A rule of the Club was that all members should turn out three times a week; and the start was made at mid-day, from the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, through which they passed to the Windsor-road,—the attendants of each carriage playing on their silver bugles. From twelve to twenty of these handsome vehicles often left London together.
There remain a few handsome drags, superbly horsed. In a note to Nimrod's life-like sketch, "The Road," it is stated that "only ten years back, there were from thirty-four to forty four-in-hand equipages to be seen constantly about town."
Nimrod has some anecdotical illustrations of the taste for the whip, which has undoubtedly declined; and at one time, perhaps, it occupied more attention among the higher classes of society than we ever wish to see it do again. Yet, taken in moderation, we can perceive no reason to condemn this branch of sport more than others. "If so great a personage as Sophocles could think it fitting to display his science in public, in the trifling game of ball, why may not an English gentleman exercise his skill on a coach-box? If the Athenians, the most polished nation of all antiquity, deemed it an honour to be considered skilful charioteers, why should Englishmen consider it a disgrace? To be serious, 293 our amateur or gentlemen-coachmen have done much good: the road would never have been what it now is, but for the encouragement they gave, by their notice and support, to all persons connected with it. Would the Holyhead road have been what it is, had there been no such persons as the Hon. Thomas Kenyon, Sir Henry Parnell, and Mr. Maddox? Would the Oxford coachmen have set so good an example as they have done to their brethren of 'the bench,' had there been no such men on their road as Sir Henry Peyton, Lord Clonmel, the late Sir Thomas Mostyn; that Nestor of coachmen, Mr. Annesley; and the late Mr. Harrison of Shelswell? Would not the unhappy coachmen of five-and-twenty years back have gone on, wearing out their breeches with the bumping of the old coach-box, and their stomachs with brandy, had not Mr. Warde of Squerries, after many a weary endeavour, persuaded the proprietors to place their boxes upon springs—the plan for accomplishing which was suggested by Mr. Roberts, nephew to then proprietor of the White Horse, Fetter Lane, London, but now of the Royal Hotel, Calais? What would the Devonshire road have been, but for the late Sir Charles Bamfylde, Sir John Rogers, Colonel Prouse, Sir Lawrence Palk, and others? Have the advice and the practice of such experienced men as Mr. Charles Buxton, Mr. Henry Villebois, Mr. Okeover, Sir Bellingham Graham, Mr. John Walker, Lord Sefton, Sir Felix Agar, Mr. Ackers, Mr. Maxse, 294 Hon. Fitzroy Stanhope, Colonel Spicer, Colonel Sibthorpe, cum multis aliis, been thrown away upon persons who have looked up to them as protectors? Certainly not: neither would the improvement in carriages—stage-coaches more especially—have arrived at its present height, but for the attention and suggestions of such persons as we have been speaking of."
A commemoration of long service in the coaching department may be related here. In the autumn of 1835, a handsome compliment was paid to Mr. Charles Holmes, the driver and part proprietor of the Blenheim coach (from Woodstock to London) to celebrate the completion of his twentieth year on that well-appointed coach, a period that had elapsed without a single accident to his coach, his passengers, or himself; and during which time, with the exception of a very short absence from indisposition, he had driven his sixty-five miles every day, making somewhere about twenty-three thousand miles a year. The numerous patrons of the coach entered into a subscription to present him with a piece of plate; and accordingly a cup, bearing the shape of an antique vase, the cover surmounted by a beautifully modelled horse, with a coach and four horses on one side, and a suitable inscription on the other, was presented to Mr. Holmes by that staunch patron of the road, Sir Henry Peyton, Bart., in August, at a dinner at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's-street, to which between forty and fifty gentlemen sat down. The list of subscribers amounted to upwards of two hundred and fifty, including among others the Duke of Wellington. 295
To Hoyle has been ascribed the invention of the game of Whist. This is certainly a mistake, though there can be no doubt that it was indebted to him for being first specially treated of and introduced to the public in a scientific manner. He also wrote on piquet, quadrille, and backgammon, but little is known of him more than he was born in 1672, and died in Cavendish-square on 29th August, 1769, at the advanced age of ninety-seven. He was a barrister by profession, and Registrar of the Prerogative in Ireland, a post worth £600 a year. His treatise on Whist, for which he received from the publisher the sum of £1000, ran through five editions in one year, besides being extensively pirated.
"Whist, Ombre, and Quadrille, at Court were used,
And Bassett's power the City dames amused,
Imperial Whist was yet but slight esteemed,
And pastime fit for none but rustics deemed.
How slow at first is still the growth of fame!
And what obstructions wait each rising name!
Our stupid fathers thus neglected, long,
The glorious boast of Milton's epic song;
But Milton's muse at last a critic found,
Who spread his praise o'er all the world around;
And Hoyle at length, for Whist performed the same,
And proved its right to universal fame."
Whist first began to be popular in England about 1730, when it was very closely studied by a party of gentlemen, who formed a sort of Club, at the Crown Coffee-house in Bedford-row. Hoyle is said to have 296 given instructions in the game, for which his charge was a guinea a lesson.
The Laws of Whist have been variously given. More than half a century has elapsed since the supremacy of "long whist" was assailed by a reformed, or rather revolutionized form of the game. The champions of the ancient rules and methods did not at once submit to the innovation. The conservatives were not without some good arguments on their side; but "short whist" had attractions that proved irresistible, and it has long since fully established itself as the only game to be understood when whist is named. But hence, in the course of time, has arisen an inconvenience. The old school of players had, in the works of Hoyle and Cavendish, manuals and text-books of which the rules, cases, and decisions were generally accepted. For short whist no such "volume paramount" has hitherto existed. Hoyle could not be safely trusted by a learner, so much contained in that venerable having become obsolete. Thus, doubtful cases arising out of the short game had to be referred to the best living players for decision. But there was some confusion in the "whist world," and the necessity of a code of the modern laws and rules of this "almost perfect" game had become apparent, when a combined effort was made by a committee of some of the most skilful to supply the deficiency.
The movement was commenced by Mr. J. Loraine Baldwin, who obtained the assistance of a Committee, including members of several of the best London Clubs well known as whist players. They were deputed to draw up a code of rules for the game, which, if approved, was to be adopted by the Arlington Club. They performed 297 their task with the most decided success. The rules they laid down as governing the best modern practice have been accepted, not only by the Arlington, but the Army and Navy, Arthur's, Boodle's, Brookes's, Carlton, Conservative, Garrick, Guards, Junior Carlton, Portland, Oxford and Cambridge, Reform, St. James's, White's, etc. To the great section of the whist world that do not frequent Clubs, it may be satisfactory to know the names of the gentlemen composing the Committee of Codification, whose rules are to become law. They are Admiral Rous, chairman; Mr. G. Bentinck, M.P.; Mr. J. Bushe; Mr. J. Clay, M.P.; Mr. C. Greville; Mr. R. Knightley, M.P.; Mr. H. B. Mayne; Mr. G. Payne; and Colonel Pipon. The Laws of Short Whist were in 1865 published in a small volume; and to this strictly legal portion of the book is appended A Treatise on the Game, by Mr. J. Clay, M.P. for Hull. It may be read with advantage by the commencing student of whist and the advanced player, and with pleasure even by those who are totally ignorant of it, and have no wish to learn it. There are several incidental illustrations and anecdotes, that will interest those not gifted with the faculties good whist requires. Mr. Clay is reported to be one of the best, if not the very best, of modern players. The Dedication is as follows: "To the Members of the Portland Club, admitted among whom, as a boy, I have passed many of the pleasantest days of my life, I have learned what little I know of Whist, and have formed many of my oldest friendships, this Treatise on Short Whist is dedicated 298 with feelings of respect and regard, by their old playfellow, J. C."
Leaving his instructions, like the rules of the committee, to a more severe test than criticism, we extract from his first chapter a description of the incident to which short whist owes its origin. It will probably be quite new to thousands who are familiar with the game.
"Some eighty years back, Lord Peterborough, having one night lost a large sum of money, the friends with whom he was playing proposed to make the game five points instead of ten, in order to give the loser a chance, at a quicker game, of recovering his loss. The new game was found to be so lively, and money changed hands with such increased rapidity, that these gentlemen and their friends, all of them leading members of the Clubs of the day, continued to play it. It became general in the Clubs, thence was introduced to private houses, travelled into the country, went to Paris, and has long since so entirely superseded the whist of Hoyle's day, that of short whist alone I propose to treat. I shall thus spare the reader, the learning much in the old works that it is not necessary for him to know, and not a little which, if learned, should be at once forgotten."
Graham's, in St. James's-street, the greatest of Card Clubs, was dissolved about five-and-twenty years back.
In the early history of the metropolis we find the Londoners warmly attached to outdoor sports and pastimes; 299 although time and the spread of the great city have long obliterated the sites upon which these popular amusements were enjoyed. Smithfield, we know, was the town-green for centuries before it became the focus of its fanatic fires; Maypoles stood in various parts of the City and suburbs, as kept in remembrance by name to this day; football was played in the main artery of the town—Fleet-street and the Strand, for instance; paille malle was played in St. James's Park, and the street which is named after the game; and tennis and other games at ball were enjoyed on open grounds long before they were played in covered courts; while the bowling-greens in the environs were neither few nor far between, almost to our time.
Tennis, we need scarcely state here, was originally played with the hand, at first naked, then covered with a thick glove, to which succeeded the bat or racquet, whence the present name of the game. A few of our kings have been tennis-players. In the sixteenth century tennis courts were common in England, being attached to country mansions. Later, playing-courts were opened in the metropolis: for example, to the houses of entertainment which formerly stood at the opposite angles of Windmill-street and the Haymarket were attached tennis-courts, which lasted to our time: one of these courts exists in James-street, Haymarket, to this day. To stroll out from the heated and crowded streets of the town to the village was a fashion of the last century, as we read in the well-remembered line—
"Some dukes at Marybone bowl time away."
Taking into account the vast growth of the metropolis, we are not surprised at so luxurious a means of healthful enjoyment as a racquet court presents being added to the 300 establishments or institutions of this very clubbable age. Hitherto Clubs had been mostly appropriated to the purposes of refection; but why should not the social refinement be extended to the enjoyment of so health-giving sport and manly a pastime as racquet? The experiment was made, and with perfect success, immediately upon the confines of one of the most recent settlements of fashion—Belgravia. It is private property, and bears the name of "Prince's Club Racquet Courts."
The Club, established in 1854, is built upon the Pavilion estate, in the rear of the north side of Sloane-street, the principal entrance being from Hans-place. The grounds are of considerable extent, and were originally laid out by Capability Brown. They were almost environed with lofty timber-trees; and the genius of landscape gardening, fostered by wealth, rendered this glade in the Brompton groves of old a sort of rural elysium.
The Pavilion estate was once the property of Holland, the well-known architect, who planned Sloane-street and Hans-place, as a building speculation; and, in the grounds nearly between them, built himself what was then considered a handsome villa, the front of which was originally designed by Holland as a model for the Prince of Wales's Pavilion at Brighton; hence the name, the Pavilion estate. In the grounds, among the remains of Brown's ornamental work, was an icehouse, amidst the imitative ruins of a priory. Here, also, were the Ionic columns (isolated) which were formerly in the screen of Carlton House.
The Club buildings comprise seven closed courts; a tennis court; gallery and refreshment rooms; baths, and a Turkish bath.
Prince's Club is a subscription establishment; and its 301 government is vested in a committee. Gentlemen desirous of becoming members of the Club must be proposed and seconded by two of its members. Two of the rules enact—that members have the privilege of introducing two friends, but that such visitors, if they play, be charged double the rate charged to members; and that no hazard, dice, or game of chance be allowed in this Club. Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge are members.
Professor Owen is accustomed to relate the following very amusing incident, which occurred in a Club of some of the working scientific men of London, who, with a few others, after their winter's work of lecturing is over, occasionally sally forth to have a day's fishing. "We have," says Professor Owen, "for that purpose taken a small river in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, and near its banks there stands a little public-house, where we dine soberly and sparingly, on such food as old Izaak Walton loved. We have a rule that he who catches the biggest fish of the day shall be our president for the evening. In the course of one day, a member, not a scientific man, but a high political man, caught a trout that weighed 3½ lb.; but earlier in the day he had pulled out a barbel of half a pound weight. So while we were on the way to our inn, what did this political gentleman do but, with the butt-end of his rod, ram the barbel down the trout's throat, in which state he handed his fish to be weighed. Thus he scored four 302 pounds, which being the greatest weight he took the chair.
"As we were going away from home, a man of science,—it was the President of the Royal Society,—said to the man of politics, 'If you don't want that fine fish of yours, I should like to have it, for I have some friends to dine with me to-morrow.' My Lord took it home, and I heard no more until we met on the next week. Then, while we were preparing our tackle, the President of the Royal Society said to our high political friend, 'There were some very extraordinary circumstances, do you know, about that fish you gave me. I had no idea that the trout was so voracious; but that one had swallowed a barbel.'—'I am astonished to hear your Lordship say so,' rejoined an eminent naturalist; 'trout may be voracious enough to swallow minnows—but a barbel, my Lord! There must be some mistake.'—'Not at all,' replied his lordship, 'for the fact got to my family that the cook, in cutting open the throat, had found a barbel inside; and as my family knew I was fond of natural history, I was called into the kitchen. There I saw the trout had swallowed a barbel, full half a pound weight.'—'Out of the question, my Lord,' said the naturalist; 'it's altogether quite unscientific and unphilosophical.'—'I don't know what may be philosophical in the matter—I only know I am telling you a matter of fact,' said his Lordship; and the dispute having lasted awhile, explanations were given, and the practical joke was heartily enjoyed. And" (continued Professor Owen) "you will see that both were right and both were wrong. My Lord was right in his fact—the barbel was inside the trout; but he was quite wrong in his hypothesis founded upon that fact, that the trout had therefore 303 swallowed the barbel,—the last was only matter of opinion."
In 1839, when the British Association met in Birmingham, several of its younger members happened, accidentally, to dine at the Red Lion, in Church-street. The dinner was pleasant, the guests well suited to each other, and the meeting altogether proved so agreeable, that it was resolved to continue it from year to year, wherever the Association might happen to meet. By degrees the "Red Lions"—the name was assumed from the accident of the first meeting-place—became a very exclusive Club; and under the presidency of Professor Edward Forbes, it acquired a celebrity which, in its way, almost rivalled that of the Association itself. Forbes first drew around him the small circle of jovial philosophers at the Red Lion. The names of Lankester, Thomson, Bell, Mitchell, and Strickland are down in the old muster-roll. Many were added afterwards, as the Club was kept up in London, in meetings at Anderton's, in Fleet-street. The old cards of invitation were very droll: they were stamped with the figure of a red lion erect, with a pot of beer in one paw, and a long clay pipe in the other, and the invitation commenced with "The carnivora will feed" at such an hour. Forbes, who, as pater omnipotens, always took the chair at the first chance meeting round the plain table of the inn, gave a capital stock of humour to this feeding of 304 the naturalists by taking up his coat-tail and roaring whenever a good thing was said or a good song sung; and, of course, all the other Red Lions did the same. When roaring and tail-wagging became so characteristic an institution among the members, Mr. Mitchell, then secretary of the Zoological Society, presented a fine lion's skin to the Club; and ever after the President sat with this skin spread over his chair, the paws at the elbows, and the tail handy to be wagged. Alas! this tail no longer wags at Birmingham, and after vibrating with languid emotion in London, has now ceased to show any signs of life. The old Red Lion has lost heart, and has slumbered since the death of Forbes.
At the Meeting of the British Association at Birmingham, in 1865, an endeavour was made to revive the Red Lion dinner on something like its former scale; the idea being probably suggested by the circumstance of the Club having been originated in Birmingham. Lord Houghton, who is, we believe, "an old Red," presided; but the idiosyncrasy of the real Red Lion, and his intense love of plain roast and boiled, were missed: some sixty guests sat down, not at the Red Lion, but at a hotel banquet. Not one of the celebrants on this occasion had passed through his novitiate as a Red Lion cub: he was not asked whether he could roar or sing a song, or had ever said a good thing, one of which qualifications was a sine quâ non in the old Club. There were, however, some good songs: Professor Rankine sang "The Mathematician in Love," a song of his own. Then, there are some choice spirits among these philosophers. After the banquet a section adjourned to the B. Club, members of which are chiefly chemical in their serious moments. Indeed, all through the meeting 305 there was a succession of jovial parties in the identical room at the Red Lion.
The Coventry, or Ambassadors' Club was instituted about twelve years since, at No. 106, Piccadilly, facing the Green Park. The handsome stone-fronted mansion occupies the site of the old Greyhound inn, and was bought by the Earl of Coventry of Sir Hugh Hunlock, in 1764, for £10,000, subject to the ground-rent of £75 per annum. The Club enjoyed but a brief existence: it was closed in March, 1854.
The Erectheum Club, St. James's-square, corner of York-street, was established by Sir John Dean Paul, Bart., and became celebrated for its good dinners. The Club-house was formerly the town depôt of Wedgwood's famous "ware;" and occupies the site of the mansion built for the Earl of Romney, the handsome Sydney of De Grammont's Memoirs.
The Parthenon Club-house (late Mr. Edwards's), east side of Regent-street, nearly facing St. Philip's Chapel, was designed by Nash: the first floor is elegant Corinthian. The south division was built by Mr. Nash for his own residence; it has a long gallery, decorated from a loggia of the Vatican at Rome: it is now the Gallery of Illustration.
"The Coventry Club was a Club of most exclusive 306 exquisites, and was rich in diplomacy; but it blew up in admired confusion. Even so did Lord Cardigan's Club, founded upon the site of Crockford's. The Clarence, the Albion, and a dozen other small Clubs have all dissolved, some of them with great loss to the members, and the Erectheum and Parthenon thought it prudent to join their forces to keep the wolf from the door."—New Quarterly Review.
We have already seen how the more convivially disposed members of Learned Societies have, from time to time, formed themselves into Clubs. The Royals have done so, ab initio. The Antiquaries appear to have given up their Club and their Anniversary Dinner; but certain of the Fellows, resolving not to remain impransi, many years since, formed a Club, styled "Noviomagians," from the identification of the Roman station of Noviomagus being just then discovered, or rather
"Rife and celebrated in the mouths
Of wisest men."
One of the Club-founders was Mr. A. J. Kempe; and Mr. Crofton Croker was president more than twenty years. Lord Londesborough and Mr. Corner, the Southwark antiquary, were also Noviomagians; and in the present Club-list are Sir William Betham, Mr. Fairholt, Mr. Godwin, Mr. S. C. Hall, Mr. Lemon, etc. The Club 307 dine together once a month during the season at the old tavern next the burial-place of Joe Miller in Portugal Street. Here the Fellows meet for the promotion of good fellowship and antiquarian pursuits. "Joking minutes are kept, in which would be found many known names, either as visitors or associates,—Theodore Hook, Sir Henry Ellis, Britton, Dickens, Thackeray, John Bruce, Jerdan, Planché, Bell, Maclise, etc." The Club and its visitors may have caught inspiration here; for in their sallies movere jocum, they have imitated the wits at Strawberry Hill, and found Arms for the Club, with a butter-boat rampant for the crest, which is very significant.
In 1855, Lord Mayor Moon, F.S.A., entertained at the Mansion House the Noviomagians, and the office-bearers of the Society of Antiquaries to meet them. After dinner, some short papers were read, including one by Mr. Lemon, of the State Paper Office, presenting some curious illustrations of the state of society in London in the reign of James I., showing the "Migration of Citizens Westward." (See Romance of London, vol. iii. pp. 315-320.)
Late in the last century there met at a tavern kept by one Fulham, in Chandos Street, Covent Garden, a convivial Club called "The Eccentrics," which was an offshoot of "The Brilliants." They next removed to Tom Rees's, in May's-buildings, St. Martin's-lane, and 308 here they were flourishing at all hours, some five-and-twenty years since. Amongst the members were many celebrities of the literary and political world; they were always treated with indulgence by the authorities. An inaugural ceremony was performed upon the making of a member, which terminated with a jubilation from the President. The books of the Club up to the time of its removal from May's-buildings are stated to have passed into the possession of Mr. Lloyd, the hatter, of the Strand, who, by the way, was eccentric in his business, and published a small work descriptive of the various fashions of hats worn in his time, illustrated with characteristic engravings.
From its commencement the Eccentrics are said to have numbered upwards of 40,000 members, many of them holding high social position: among others, Fox, Sheridan, Lord Melbourne, and Lord Brougham. On the same memorable night that Sheridan and Lord Petersham were admitted, Hook was also enrolled; and through this Club membership, Theodore is believed to have obtained some of his high connexions. In a novel, published in numbers, some five-and-twenty years since, the author, F. W. N. Bayley, sketched with graphic vigour the meetings of the Eccentrics at the old tavern in May's-buildings.
One of the chapters in "The Life and Remains of Douglas Jerrold," by his son, Blanchard Jerrold, discourses 309 most pleasantly of the several Clubs to which Mr. Jerrold became attached. He was of a clubbable nature, and delighted in wit-combats and brilliant repartees, the flash of which was perfectly electric.
In this very agreeable précis, we find that towards the end of the year 1824, some young men at a humble tavern, the Wrekin, in the genial neighbourhood of Covent Garden, with Shakspeare as their common idol; and "it was a regulation of this Club that some paper, or poem, or conceit, bearing upon Shakspeare, should be contributed by each member." Hither came Douglas Jerrold, and he was soon joined by Laman Blanchard. Upon Jerrold's suggestion, the Club was called the Mulberries, and their contributions were entitled Mulberry Leaves. In the Club were William Godwin; Kenny Meadows, the future illustrator of Shakspeare; W. Elton, the Shakspearean actor; and Edward Chatfield, the artist. Mr. Jerrold wrote, in the Illuminated Magazine, a touching memoir of the Society—"that knot of wise and jocund men, then unknown, but gaily struggling."
The Mulberry Club lived many years, and gathered a valuable crop of leaves—contributions from its members. They fell into Mr. Elton's hands, and are now in the possession of his family. They were to have been published, but no one would undertake to see them through the press—an office which, in most cases, is a very un-thankful one. The Club did not, however, die easily: it was changed and grafted. "In times nearer the present, when it was called the Shakspeare Club, Charles Dickens, Mr. Justice Talfourd, Daniel Maclise, Mr. Macready, Mr. Frank Stone, etc. belonged to it. Respectability killed it." But some delightful results of 310 these Mulberry Club meetings are embalmed in Mr. Jerrold's Cakes and Ale, and their life reminds one of the dancing motes in the latter. Then we hear of other clubs—the Gratis and the Rationals, of which Jerrold was a member.
"But," says the gentle Memoir, "with clubs of more recent date, with the Hooks and Eyes, and lastly, with Our Club, Douglas Jerrold's name is most intimately associated. It may be justly said that he was the life and soul of these three gatherings of men. His arrival was a happy moment for members already present. His company was sought with wondrous eagerness whenever a dinner or social evening was contemplated; for, as a club associate said of him, 'he sparkled whenever you touched him, like the sea at night.' A writer in the Quarterly Review well said of him: 'In the bright sallies of conversational wit he has no surviving equal.'
"He was thus greatly acceptable in all social literary Clubs. In the Museum Club, for instance, (an attempt made in 1847 to establish a properly modest and real literary Club,) he was unquestionably the member; for he was the most clubbable of men." When members dropped in, sharp shots were possibly exchanged: here are a few that were actually fired within the precincts of the Museum Club—fired carelessly, and forgotten:
Jerrold defined dogmatism as "puppyism come to maturity;" and a flaming uxorious epitaph put up by a famous cook, on his wife's tomb, as "mock turtle." A prosy old gentleman, meeting him as he was passing at his usual quick pace along Regent Street, poised himself into an attitude, and began: "Well, Jerrold, my dear boy, what is going on?"—"I am," said the wit, instantly shooting off. 311
At a dinner of artists, a barrister present, having his health drunk in connexion with the law, began an embarrassed answer by saying he did not see how the law could be considered one of the arts, when Jerrold jerked in the word black, and threw the company into convulsions.
A bore remarking how charmed he was with a certain opera, and that there was one particular song which always carried him quite away—"Would that I could sing it!" ejaculated the wit.
A dinner is discussed. Douglas Jerrold listens quietly, possibly tired of dinners, and declining pressing invitations to be present. In a few minutes he will chime in, "If an earthquake were to engulf England to-morrow, the English would manage to meet and dine somewhere among the rubbish, just to celebrate the event."
A friend is anxious to awaken Mr. Jerrold's sympathies in behalf of a mutual acquaintance who is in want of a round sum of money. But this mutual friend has already sent his hat about among his literary brethren on more than one occasion. Mr. ——'s hat is becoming an institution, and friends were grieved at the indelicacy of the proceeding. On the above occasion, the bearer of the hat was received with evident dissatisfaction. "Well," said Douglas Jerrold, "how much does —— want this time?"—"Why, just a four and two noughts will, I think, put him straight," the bearer of the hat replied. Jerrold—"Well, put me down for one of the noughts."
"The Chain of Events," playing at the Lyceum Theatre, though unsuccessful, is mentioned. "Humph!" said Douglas Jerrold, "I'm afraid the manager will find it a door-chain strong enough to keep everybody out of the house,"—and so it proved. 312
Douglas Jerrold is seriously disappointed with a certain book written by one of his friends, and has expressed his disappointment. Friend—"I have heard that you said —— was the worst book I ever wrote." Jerrold—"No, I didn't; I said it was the worst book anybody ever wrote."
A supper of sheep's-heads is proposed, and presently served. One gentleman present is particularly enthusiastic on the excellence of the dish, and, as he throws down his knife and fork, exclaims, "Well, sheep's-heads for ever, say I!" Jerrold—"There's egotism!"
During a stormy discussion, a gentleman rises to settle the matter in dispute. Waving his hands majestically over the excited disputants, he begins: "Gentlemen, all I want is common sense."—"Exactly," says Douglas Jerrold, "that is precisely what you do want."
But the Museum Club was broken up by troubled spirits. Then succeeded the Hooks and Eyes; then the Club, a social weekly gathering, which Jerrold attended only three weeks before his death. Hence some of his best sayings went forth.
Jerrold ordered a bottle of old port; "not elder port," he said.
Walking to his Club with a friend from the theatre, some intoxicated young gentleman reeled up to the dramatist and said, "Can you tell me the way to the Judge and Jury?"—"Keep on as you are, young gentleman," was the reply; "you're sure to overtake them."
Asking about the talent of a young painter, his companion declared that the youth was mediocre. "Oh!" was the reply, "the very worst ochre an artist can set to work with."
"The laughing hours, when these poor gatherings," 313 says Mr. Blanchard Jerrold, "fell from the well-loaded branch, are remembered still in the rooms of Our Club; and the hearty laugh still echoes there, and will, it is my pride to believe, always live in the memory of that genial and refined circle."
The Whittington Club originated in 1846, with Douglas Jerrold, who became its first President. It was established at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand; where, in the ball-room, hung a picture of Whittington listening to Bow-bells, painted by Newenham, and presented to the Club by the President. All the Club premises were destroyed by fire in 1854; the picture was not saved, but fortunately it had been cleverly engraved. The premises have been rebuilt, and the Club still flourishes.
The Clubs in various parts of the Metropolis and the suburbs, where Chess, and Chess only, forms the staple recreation of the members, are numerous. We must, however, confine ourselves to the historical data of the early Clubs, which record the introduction of the noble game in the Metropolis.
In 1747, the principal if not the only Chess-Club in the Metropolis met at Slaughter's Coffee-house, St. Martin's-lane. The leading players of this Club were—Sir Abraham Janssen, Philip Stamma (from Aleppo), Lord Godolphin, Lord Sunderland, and Lord Elibank; Cunningham, the historian; Dr. Black and Dr. Cowper; 314 and it was through their invitation that the celebrated Philidor was induced to visit England.
Another Club was shortly afterwards founded at the Salopian Coffee-house, Charing Cross: and a few years later, a third, which met next door to the Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's-street. It was here that Philidor exhibited his wonderful faculty for playing blindfold; some instances of which we find in the newspapers of the period:—
"Yesterday, at the Chess-Club in St. James's-street, Monsieur Philidor performed one of those wonderful exhibitions for which he is so much celebrated. He played three different games at once without seeing either of the tables. His opponents were Count Bruhl and Mr. Bowdler (the two best players in London), and Mr. Maseres. He defeated Count Bruhl in one hour and twenty minutes, and Mr. Maseres in two hours; Mr. Bowdler reduced his games to a drawn battle in one hour and three-quarters. To those who understand Chess, this exertion of M. Philidor's abilities must appear one of the greatest of which the human memory is susceptible. He goes through it with astonishing accuracy, and often corrects mistakes in those who have the board before them."
In 1795, the veteran, then nearly seventy years of age, played three blindfold matches in public. The last of these, which came off shortly before his death, we find announced in the daily newspapers thus:—
"Chess-Club, 1795. Parsloe's, St. James's Street.
"By particular desire, Mons. Philidor, positively for the last time, will play on Saturday, the 20th of June, at two o'clock precisely, three games at once against three good players; two of them without seeing either 315 of the boards, and the third looking over the table. He most respectfully invites all the members of the Chess-Club to honour him with their presence. Ladies and gentlemen not belonging to the Club may be provided with tickets at the above-mentioned house, to see the match, at five shillings each."
Upon the death of Philidor, the Chess-Clubs at the West-end seem to have declined; and in 1807, the stronghold and rallying-point for the lovers of the game was "The London Chess-Club," which was established in the City, and for many years held its meetings at Tom's Coffee-house, in Cornhill. To this Club we are indebted for many of the finest chess-players of the age.
About the year 1833, a Club was founded by a few amateurs in Bedford-street, Covent Garden. This establishment, which obtained remarkable celebrity as the arena of the famous contests between La Bourdonnais and M'Donnell, was dissolved in 1840; but shortly afterwards, through the exertions of Mr. Staunton, was reformed under the name of the "St. George's Club," in Cavendish-square. 316
Captain Gronow, writing in 1814, says: "At the present time, one can hardly conceive the importance which was attached to getting admission to Almack's, the seventh heaven of the fashionable world." Of the three hundred officers of the Foot Guards, not more than half-a-dozen were honoured with vouchers of admission to this exclusive temple of the beau monde; the gates of which were guarded by lady patronesses, whose smiles or frowns consigned men and women to happiness or despair. These lady patronesses were the Ladies Castlereagh, Jersey, Cowper, and Sefton; Mrs. Drummond Burrell, now Lady Willoughby; the Princess Esterhazy, and the Countess Lieven.
"The most popular amongst these grandes dames were unquestionably Lady Cowper, now Lady Palmerston. Lady Jersey's bearing, on the contrary, was that of a theatrical tragedy queen: and whilst attempting the sublime, she frequently made herself simply ridiculous, being inconceivably rude, and in her manner often ill-bred. 317 Lady Sefton was kind and amiable; Madame de Lieven haughty and exclusive; Princess Esterhazy was a bon enfant; Lady Castlereagh and Miss Burrell, de très grandes dames.
"Many diplomatic arts, much finesse, and a host of intrigues, were set in motion to get an invitation to Almack's. Very often persons, whose rank and fortunes entitled them to the entrée anywhere, were excluded by the cliqueism of the lady patronesses; for the female government of Almack's was a pure despotism, and subject to all the caprices of despotic rule: it is needless to add that, like every other despotism, it was not innocent of abuses. The fair ladies who ruled supreme over this little dancing and gossiping world, issued a solemn proclamation, that no gentleman should appear at the assemblies without being dressed in knee-breeches, white cravat, and chapeau bras. On one occasion, the Duke of Wellington was about to ascend the staircase of the ball-room, dressed in black trousers, when the vigilant Mr. Willis, the guardian of the establishment, stepped forward and said, 'Your Grace cannot be admitted in trousers;' whereupon the Duke, who had a great respect for orders and regulations, quietly walked away.
"In 1814, the dances at Almack's were Scotch reels, and the old English country-dance; the orchestra, being from Edinburgh, was conducted by the then celebrated Neil Gow. In 1815, Lady Jersey introduced from Paris the favourite quadrille. The persons who formed the very first quadrille that was ever danced at Almack's were Lady Jersey, Lady Harriett Butler, Lady Susan Ryder, and Miss Montgomery; the men being the Count St. Aldegonde, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Montague, and Charles Standish. The mazy waltz was also brought to 318 us about this time; but there were comparatively few who at first ventured to whirl round the salons of Almack's; in course of time Lord Palmerston might, however, have been seen describing an infinite number of circles with Madame de Lieven. Baron de Neumann was frequently seen perpetually turning with the Princess Esterhazy; and in course of time, the waltzing mania, having turned the heads of society generally, descended to their feet, and the waltz was practised in the morning in certain noble mansions in London with unparalleled assiduity."—Abridged from the Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, 1862.
Mr. Willis took this tavern from Mr. Freere, about 1755; and, as a relative of Mr. Almack, afterwards succeeded to the celebrated assembly-rooms which bore his name. "If the old saw, that 'practice makes perfect,'" writes Admiral Smyth, "be correct, the cuisinerie of the Thatched House ought to surpass that of all others; for besides accidental parties and visitors, the Messrs Willis ably entertain the following Societies and Clubs: [this was written in 1860.]
And they moreover accommodate the following Masonic Lodges:—
Charles Dartiquenane, better known by the abbreviated name of Dartineuf, was the intimate friend and associate of Swift, Steele, and Addison, and a member of the Kit-Kat Club. He was not only famous as an epicure, but as a punster. He is said to have been a contributor to the Tatler, though his papers cannot now be ascertained. Pope, in his Epistles, has:
"Each mortal has his pleasure, none deny—
Scarsdale his bottle, Darty his Ham Pie.
Hard task to suit the palate of such guests,
When Oldfield loves what Dartineuf detests."
Lord Lyttelton has a Dialogue in the Shades between Dartineuf and Apicius, on good eating, in which ham pie is stated to have been the favourite dainty of the former. Darty died in 1737, and is stated to have left the receipt for his favourite pie with an old lady, who transferred it to Dr. Kitchiner. (See his Housekeeper's Oracle, 1829, p. 249.)
Captain Gronow also relates the following account of the origin of this noted but short-lived Club:—
Upon one occasion, some gentlemen of both White's and Brookes's had the honour to dine with the Prince Regent, and during the conversation, the Prince inquired what sort of dinners they got at their Clubs; upon which Sir Thomas Stepney, one of the guests, observed "that their dinners were always the same, the eternal joints or beef-steaks, the boiled fowl with oyster sauce, and an apple-tart; this is what we have at our Clubs, and very monotonous fare it is." The Prince, without further remark, rang the bell for his cook Watier, and in the presence of those who dined at the Royal table, asked him whether he would take a house, and organize a dinner-club. Watier assented, and named Madison, the Prince's page, manager; and Labourie, the cook, from the Royal kitchen. The Club flourished only a few years, owing to the night-play that was carried on there. The Duke of York patronized it, and was a 321 member. The dinners were exquisite: the best Parisian cooks could not beat Labourie. The favourite game played there was Macao. Upon one occasion, Jack Bouverie, brother of Lord Heytesbury, was losing large sums, and became very irritable. Raikes, with bad taste, laughed at Bouverie, and attempted to amuse the company with some of his stale jokes; upon which Bouverie threw his play-bowl, with the few counters it contained, at Raikes's head; unfortunately, it struck him, and made the City dandy angry, but no serious results followed this open insult.
Captain Gronow, in his very entertaining Anecdotes and Reminiscences, gives these details of the Clubs of the above period:—
"The members of the Clubs in London, many years since, were persons, almost without exception, belonging exclusively to the aristocratic world. 'My tradesmen,' as King Allen used to call the bankers and the merchants, had not then invaded White's, Boodle's, Brookes's; or Watier's, in Bolton-street, Piccadilly; which, with the Guards, Arthur's, and Graham's, were the only Clubs at the West End of the town. White's was decidedly the most difficult of entry; its list of members comprised nearly all the noble names of Great Britain.
"The politics of White's Club were then decidedly Tory. It was here that play was carried on to such an extent that made many ravages in large fortunes, the traces of which have not disappeared at the present day. 322 General Scott, the father-in-law of George Canning and the Duke of Portland, was known to have won at White's 200,000l.; thanks to his notorious sobriety and knowledge of the game of whist. The General possessed a great advantage over his companions by avoiding those indulgences at the table which used to muddle other men's brains. He confined himself to dining off something like a boiled chicken, with toast-and-water: by such a regimen he came to the whist-table with a clear head; and, possessing, as he did, a remarkable memory, with great coolness and judgment, he was able honestly to win the enormous sum of 200,000l.
"At Brookes's, for nearly half a century, the play was of a more gambling character than at White's.... On one occasion Lord Robert Spencer contrived to lose the last shilling of his considerable fortune given him by his brother, the Duke of Marlborough. General Fitzpatrick being much in the same condition, they agreed to raise a sum of money, in order that they might keep a faro-bank. The members of the Club made no objection, and ere long they carried out their design. As is generally the case, the bank was a winner, and Lord Robert bagged, as his share of the proceeds, 100,000l. He retired, strange to say, from the fœtid atmosphere of play, with the money in his pocket, and never again gambled. George Harley Drummond, of the famous banking-house, Charing Cross, only played once in his whole life at White's Club at whist, on which occasion he lost 20,000l. to Brummell. This even caused him to retire from the banking-house, of which he was a partner."
Arthur's and Graham's were less aristocratic than those Clubs I have mentioned. It was at the latter place, 323 in 1832, that a most painful circumstance took place. A nobleman of the highest position and influence in society, was detected in cheating at cards, and after a trial, which did not terminate in his favour, he died of a broken heart.
The following curious piece of evidence, probably an extract from the Journals of the House of Lords, although there is no reference to the subject in the published "Parliamentary Debates," was found not long since by the Editor of the Athenæum amongst a mass of contemporary MSS.:—
"Die Lunæ, 29° Aprilis, 1745.—Gaming.—A Bill for preventing the excessive and deceitful use of it having been brought from the Commons, and proceeded on so far as to be agreed to in a Committee of the whole House with amendments,—information was given to the House that Mr. Burdus, Chairman of the Quarter Session for the city and liberty of Westminster, Sir Thomas de Veil, and Mr. Lane, Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the county of Middlesex, were at the door; they were called in, and at the Bar severally gave an account that claims of privilege of Peerage were made and insisted on by the Ladies Mordington and Cassillis, in order to intimidate the peace officers from doing their duty in suppressing the public gaming-houses kept by the said ladies. And the said Burdus thereupon delivered in an instrument in writing under 324 the hand of the said Lady Mordington, containing the claim she made of privilege for her officers and servants employed by her in her said gaming-house.—And then they were directed to withdraw.—And the said instrument was read as follows:—'I, Dame Mary, Baroness of Mordington, do hold a house in the Great Piazza, Covent Garden, for and as an Assembly, where all persons of credit are at liberty to frequent and play at such diversions as are used at other Assemblys. And I have hired Joseph Dewberry, William Horsely, Ham Cropper, and George Sanders as my servants or managers (under me) thereof. I have given them orders to direct the management of the other inferior servants, (namely) John Bright, Richard Davids, John Hill, John Vandenvoren, as box-keepers,—Gilbert Richardson, housekeeper, John Chaplain, regulator, William Stanley and Henry Huggins, servants that wait on the company as the said Assembly, William Penny and Joseph Penny as porters thereof—And all the above-mentioned persons I claim as my domestick servants, and demand all those privileges that belong to me as a peeress of Great Britain appertaining to my said Assembly.—M. Mordington.—Dated 8th Jan. 1744.'—Resolved and declared that no person is entitled to privilege of Peerage against any prosecution or proceeding for keeping any public or common gaming-house, or any house, room, or place for playing at any game or games prohibited by any law now in force."
END OF VOL. I.
PRINTED BY J. E. TAYLOR, LITTLE QUEEN STREET, HOLBORN
 Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Royal Society Club. 1860. (Not published.)
 Notes and Queries, 3rd S. i. p. 295, in which is noted:—"A good illustration of the connexion between the ideas of division and union is afforded by the two equivalent words partner and associé, the former pointing especially to the division of profits, the latter to the community of interests."
 Notes and Queries, No. 234, p. 383. Communicated by Mr. Edward Foss, F.S.A.
 Notes and Queries, 2nd S., vol. xii. p. 386. Communicated by Mr. Buckton.
 Memoir of Aubrey, by John Britton, qto., p. 36.
 Macpherson's History of England, vol. iii.—Original papers.
 See Walks and Talks about London, p. 246. The Mitre in Fleet-street was also the house frequented by Dr. Johnson.
 Quarterly Review, 1840.
 This was the bon-vivant Duke who had got ready for him every night, for supper, at Brookes's, a broiled blade-bone of mutton.
 National Review, No. 8.
 London Clubs, 1853, p. 51.
 At the sale of the curiosities belonging to Mr. Harley, the comedian, at Gower-street, in November, 1858, a silver gridiron, worn by a member of the Steaks, was sold for 1l. 3s.
 This and the subsequent lists have been printed by Mr. John Green.
 See Century of Anecdote, vol. i. p. 321.
 These Tureens were removed for two dishes of White Bait.
 Westminster. By the Rev. Mackenzie S. C. Walcott, M.A., Curate of St. Margaret's, 1849, pp. 105-107.
 Forster's Life of Goldsmith, p. 253.
 The house in Ivy-lane, which bore the name of Johnson, and where the Literary Club is said to have been held, was burnt down a few years since: it had long been a chop-house.
 See Forster's Life of Goldsmith, pp. 422-424.
 Edinburgh Review, No. 214, p. 500.
 London Clubs, 1853.
 New Quarterly Review.
 Times journal.
 New Quarterly Review.
 The Builder.
 London Clubs, 1853, p. 75.
 Civil Engineer and Architects' Journal, 1841.
 The Palace clock has connected with it an odd anecdote, which we received from Mr. Vulliamy, of Pall Mall, who, with his family, as predecessors, had been the royal clockmakers since 1743. When the Palace Gate-house was repaired, in 1831, the clock was removed, and not put up again. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood, missing the clock, memorialized William IV. for the replacement of the time-keeper, when the King inquired why it was not restored; the reply was that the roof was reported unsafe to carry the weight, which His Majesty having ascertained, he shrewdly demanded how, if the roof were not strong enough to carry the clock, it was safe for the number of persons occasionally seen upon it to witness processions, and the company on drawing-room days? There was no questioning the calculation; the clock was forthwith replaced, and a minute-hand was added, with new dials. (Curiosities of London, p. 571.)
 Edinburgh Review.
 Athenæum review of Captain Gronow's Anecdotes.
 Athenæum, No. 1739.
 Written, it must be recollected, some thirty years since. Reprinted in Murray's 'Reading for the Rail.'
 Perhaps one of the finest specimens of good coachmanship was performed by Sir Felix Agar. He made a bet, which he won, that he would drive his own four-horses-in-hand, up Grosvenor-place, down the passage into Tattersall's Yard, around the pillar which stands in the centre of it, and back again into Grosvenor-place, without either of his horses going at a slower pace than a trot.
 Abridged from the Times journal.
 The Laws of Short Whist, edited by J. L. Baldwin, and a Treatise on the Game, by J. C. Harrison, 59, Pall Mall.
 Abridged from the Daily News.
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