Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4

Thornbury, Walter
1872-78

St. James's Street.-Club-Land (continued).

St. James's Street.-Club-Land (continued).

 

The Campus Martius of St. James's Street, Where the beaux' cavalry pace to and fro, Before they take the field in Rotten Row.--Sheridan.

 

The spread and increase of our clubs are remarkable signs of the times; their uses and advantages are such as to make wonder not only why such things were not established very much earlier than they were, but how

men about town

existed without them.

White's,

Brooks's,

and

Boodle's

were clubs of London for many years;

White's

being the oldest, and famous as a

chocolate-house

in the time of Hogarth. The origin of

Brooks's

was the

blackballing

of

p.153

Messrs. Boothby and James, at

White's;

they established it as a rival, and it was at held at

Almack's.

Sir Willoughby Aston subsequently originated

Boodle's;

but these clubs were clubs of amusement, politics, and play, not the matter-of-fact meeting-places of general society, nor did they offer the extensive and economical advantages of breakfast, dinner, and supper, now afforded by the present race of establishments. And, connected with this subject in some degree, what a wonderful change in the state of affairs has taken place since it was the custom of the king to play

hazard

publicly at , on Twelfth Night. In the for is the following account of the result of this annual performance for that year :--

Saturday, Jan

.

6

.-In the evening his Majesty played at hazard for the benefit of the groom-porter; all the Royal Family who played were winners--particularly the duke,

£ 3,000

. The most considerable losers were the Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Huntingdon, the Earls of Holderness, Ashburnham, and Hertford. Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Prince Edward, and a select company, danced in the little drawingroom till

eleven

o'clock, when the Royal Family withdrew.

The custom of hazard-playing was discontinued after the accession of George III.; but it is odd, looking back scarcely a century, to find the sovereign, after attending divine service with the most solemn ceremony in the morning, doing that in the evening which, in these days, subjects men to all sorts of pains and penalties, and for the prohibition and detection of which a bill has been passed through Parliament, arming the police with the power of breaking into the houses of Her Majesty's lieges at all hours of the day and night.

It is obvious that the gradual improvement of the club-houses, together with the changes which passed over West-end society, would almost of its own accord develop the club system out of that which preceded it. There is, therefore, little need for dwelling on the subject, in the way of explanation, and so we will at once pass on up .

At the south-west corner of , next door to the corner house, and commanding the view up , was the

St. James's Coffeehouse,

the great rendezvous of the Whig party for nearly a years, beginning with the reign of Queen Anne. Its very name has become classical, and indeed immortal, by being so repeatedly mentioned in the pages of the , &c. Thus we find, in a passage already quoted by us from the number of the -

Foreign and domestic news you will have from the St. James's Coffee-house;

and thus Addison, in of his papers in the (No. ), remarks-

That I might begin as near the fountain-head [of information] as possible, I

first

of all called in at the St. James's, where I found the whole outward room in a buzz of politics. The speculations were but very indifferent towards the door, but grew finer as you advanced to the upper end of the room; and were so much improved by a knot of theorists who sat in the inner rooms, within the steams of the coffeepot, that I heard there the whole Spanish monarchy disposed of, and all the line of the Bourbons provided for, in less than a quarter of an hour.

This house was much frequented by Swift, who here used to receive his letters from

Stella,

and who tells us in his

Journal to Stella,

how in he christened the infant of its keepers, a Mr. and Mrs. Elliot, and afterwards sat down to a bowl of punch along with the happy parents. Being so close to the palace it was also frequented by the officers of the household troops, who, it is said, would lounge in to listen to the learned Dr. Joseph Warton, as he sat at breakfast in of the windows. Mr. John Timbs reminds us that,

in the

first

advertisement of the

Town Eclogues

of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, they were stated to have been read over at the St. James's Coffeehouse, where they were considered by the general voice to be the productions of a lady of quality.

In there appeared a poem with the title of

The Character of a Coffee House, wherein is contained a description of the persons usually frequenting it, with their discourse and humours, as also the admirable virtues of coffee; by an Ear and Eye Witness.

It begins thus:--

A coffee-house the learned hold,

It is a place where coffee's sold;

This derivation cannot fail us,

For where ale's vended, that's an alehouse.

It is evident from what follows that these coffeehouses soon became places of general resort-

of some and all conditions,

E'en vintners, surgeons, and physicians,

The blind, the deaf, the aged cripple,

Do here resort, and coffee tipple.

At the door of the St. James's Coffee-house, a globular oil-lamp, then described as

a new kind of light,

was exhibited in , by its inventor, Michael Cole. To this house, in early life, the elder D'Israeli, as his son tells us, would repair to read the newspapers of the day, returning to his home at Enfield in the evening, sometimes

laden with journals.

p.154

 

The St. James's Coffee House continued to exist for some few years into the present century, when, its Whig friends having deserted its doors, it passed quietly away, superseded, no doubt, in a great degree, by Brooks's Club.

The

Thatched House Tavern

,

the name of which implies a very humble and rural origin, was probably an inn which had existed in the days when St. James's was a veritable hospital and not a palace. It stood near the bottom, on the western side of the street. When the Court settled at St. James's, it was frequented by persons of fashion, and grew gradually in importance, as did the suburb of which it formed part. We should like to have seen it in the days when the frolicsome maids of honour of the Tudor and Stuart days ran across thither from the Court to drink syllabub and carry on sly flirtations. In the absence of documents, it is impossible to trace its growth down to the days of Swift, who speaks in his

Journal to Stella,

in , of

having entertained our society at dinner at the Thatched House Tavern;

it was, however, a small hotel at that date, for the party were obliged to

send out for wine, the house affording none.

It was possibly on account of this and other proofs of its earlier stage of existence, that even when the

Thatched House

had grown into a recognized rendezvous of wits, politicians, and men of fashion, Lord Thurlow alluded to it during of the debates on the Regency Bill as the

ale-house.

By the time of Lord Shelburne, or at all events in the days of Pitt and Fox, it had become of the chief taverns at the West-end, and had added to its premises a large room for public meetings.

Here the Earl of Sunderland, the great Duke of Marlborough's son-in-law, having shaken off the cares of state, would dine off a chop or steak, in a quiet way, along with Lord Townshend, or his constant companion, Dr. Monsey. The tavern was for many years the head-quarters of the annual dinners or other convivial meetings of the leading clubs and literary and scientific associations. Mr. Timbs gives the following as the list of such gatherings in , on the authority of the late Admiral W. H. Smyth-The Institute of Actuaries, the Catch Club, the Johnson Club, the Dilettanti Society, the Farmers', the Geographical and the Geological, the Linnaean and Literary Societies, the Navy Club, the Philosophical Club, the Club of the Royal , the Political Economy Club, the Royal Academy Club, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Institution Club, the Royal London Yacht Club, the Royal Naval Club, the Royal Society Club, the St. Alban's Medical Club, the St. Bartholomew's Cotemporaries, the Star Club, the Statistical Club, the Sussex Club, and the Union Society of St. James's.

The Literary Society (or Club) was limited to members, and its meetings in were held here. At that time Canning was a member of it; so were Sir William Scott (Lord Stowell), Sir William Grant, and Mr. J. H. Frere.

Mr. Cradock tells us in his

Memoir,

that evening he dined with the club, being introduced by Dr. Percy, and met, , Edmund Burke and Oliver Goldsmith.

The table that day was crowded, and I sat next Mr. Burke; but as the great orator said very little, and as Mr. Richard Burke talked much, I was not aware at

first

who my neighbour was.

He adds an amusing story which brings in both Burke and Johnson, and may therefore well bear telling here :--

One of the party near me remarked that there was an offensive smell in the room, and thought it must proceed from some dog that was under the table; but Burke, with a smile, turned to me and said, I rather fear it is from the beef-steak pie that is opposite us, the crust of which is made of some very bad butter which comes from my country. Just at that moment Dr. Johnson sent his plate for some of it; Burke helped him to very little, which he soon dispatched, and returned his plate for more; Burke, without thought, exclaimed, I am glad that you are able so well to relish this beef-steak pie. Johnson, not at all pleased that what he ate should ever be noticed, immediately retorted, There is a time of life, sir, when a man requires the repairs of a table.

Before dinner was finished, Mr. Garrick came in, full-dressed, made many apologies for being so much later than he intended, but he had been unexpectedly detained at the House of Lords; and Lord Camden had absolutely insisted upon setting him down at the door of the hotel in his own carriage. Johnson said nothing, but looked a volume.

During the afternoon some literary dispute arose; but Johnson sat silent, till the Dean of Derry very respectfully said, We all wish, sir, for your opinion on the subject. Johnson inclined his head, and never shone more in his life than at that period. He replied, without any pomp; he was perfectly clear and explicit, full of the subject, and left nothing undetermined. There was a pause; and he was then hailed with astonishment by all the company. The evening in general passed off very pleasantly. Some talked perhaps for amusement, and others for victory. We sat very late; and the conversation that at last ensued was the direct cause of my friend Goldsmith's poem, called Retaliation.

Here, in the beginning of the present century, the

Neapolitan Club

used to dine, the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Sussex taking the chair. Beckford was frequently a guest, and so were

Beau

Brummell, Sir Sidney Smith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Tommy Moore, then quite a young man. Here, too, the members of the Old Royal Naval Club--not a club in the modern Westend sense, but a charitable institution for the dispensing of charity among old

salts

and their families-used to dine on the anniversary of the battle of the Nile.

At the

Thatched House Tavern

were formerly held, on Sunday evenings during the London season, the dinners of the Dilettanti Society, the portraits of whose members-many of them painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds-adorned the walls of a room which was devoted exclusively to their accommodation.

This society, composed of lovers of the fine arts, was founded in by some gentlemen who had travelled in Italy, and who thought that that fact, coupled with a taste for the beautiful and for the remains of antiquity, was a sufficient bond of union. The members, though they have enjoyed a

name

for a century and a half, have never had a

local habitation.

They met originally at Parsloe's, in , but removed to the

Thatched House Tavern

in . By the time that the society was years old, its finances were found to be so prosperous, that its members resolved to send out properly-qualified persons to the East, in order to collect information as to such antiquities as the hands of time and of man had spared, and to bring back their measurements, and correct drawings and elevations. The persons so sent abroad were Mr. Chandler, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, an architectural draughtsman named Rivett, and Mr. J. Stuart, whose name will long be remembered as the author of

The Antiquities of Athens.

This noble work, published under the auspices of the Dilettanti Society, in instalments, had the effect of rescuing Grecian architecture and art from the contempt into which it had fallen, and to revive a taste for the majestic and beautiful. This book was followed, at distant intervals, by similar works, magnificently illustrated; among these were

Specimens of Sculpture, Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman,

published in ;

The Unedited Antiquities of Attica,

in ; a large treatise on

Ancient Sculpture,

in ; and Professor Cockerell's elaborate work on

The Temples of Jupiter in AEgina, and of Bacchus at Phigaleia,

published in . It was, no doubt, the interest excited by the early meetings of the Dilettanti Society which woke up the Earl of Aberdeen, or, to give him Lord Byron's title-

The travell'd Thane, Athenian Aberdeen,

to write and publish his

Enquiry as to the Principles of Beauty in Grecian Architecture;

Sir William Gell to explain the Troad, Argolis, and Ithaca; whilst the Earl of Elgin, our ambassador at Constantinople, rescued from destruction and sent over to England that collection of Athenian sculpture which is known to every visitor to the as the Elgin Marbles. Among the best-known members of the Dilettanti Society, besides those above-mentioned, were Sir William Chambers, Mr. John Towneley, the Marquises of Northampton and Lansdowne, Sir Richard Westmacott, Henry Hallam, the Duke of Bedford, Mr. H. T. Hope, Sir Martin Archer Shee, Mr. Richard Payne Knight, the Earl of Holderness, Sir Bourchier Wrey, Sir Henry Englefield, and Lord Le Despencer (better known by his former name of Sir Francis Dashwood), Lord Northwick, George Selwyn, Charles James Fox, Garrick, Colman, Lord Holland, Lord Fitzwilliam, Sir William Hamilton, and the Duke of Dorset.

Mr. Peter Cunningham says that the original

Thatched House Tavern

stood on the site of the present Conservative Club, to build which it was pulled down in , when it was moved to another house a few doors nearer to the gate of the palace. When he wrote, in , the Dilettanti still numbered members, and continued to hold their Sunday evening meetings. Horace Walpole, in , had described it in of his letters to Sir H. Mann, as

a club for which the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real

one

, being drunk; the

two

chiefs,

he adds,

are Lord Middlesex and Sir Francis Dashwood, who were seldom sober the whole time they were in Italy.

Mr. Cunningham, however, assures us, that in the middle of the present century

the character of the club was considerably altered

--it may be hoped and believed for the better. If Horace Walpole's words are true, it could not well be for the worse.

An interesting account of the Dilettanti Society will be found in , vol. . Since the demolition of their old house, the Dilettanti have held their weekly festive gatherings at Willis's Rooms, where the pictures belonging to the society now grace the walls. Their publications, however, are no longer such as those which were produced under their auspices in the last century.

p.156

 

The original

Thatched House Tavern

was taken down in .

Beneath its front,

says Mr. John Timbs,

was a range of low-built shops, including that of Rowland, the fashionable

coiffeur

of

Macassar fame.

Through the tavern was a passage to the rear, where, in Catharine Wheel Alley, in the last century, lived the widow Delaney, some of whose fashionable friends then resided in

Dean Street

, Soho.

On the site of the new

Thatched House Tavern

was built, in , the

Civil Service Club,

which was modified in , and changed its name to the

Thatched House Club.

It is still, however, mainly recruited from the Civil Service of the Crown, including county magistrates, ex-high sheriffs, and deputy-lieutenants.

 

Adjoining the

Thatched House Club,

on the south, is of the most recent additions to clubland, in an institution styling itself the

Egerton Club.

It occupies a portion of the house No. .

Higher up, at the corner of , stands the

Conservative Club

.

This was established in , in order to supply accommodation for those who could not procure admission into the

Carlton.

The building was erected from the designs of Messrs. Basevi and Sydney Smirke. It is at once ornate and stately in its external appearance, and the interior is well arranged, but the club is not rich in anecdote or in incident.

On the same side of the street, only or houses intervening, is

Arthur's Club House

.

This club was so named after its founder, who was [extra_illustrations.4.156.3] 

p.157

also, at time, the keeper of

White's.

Dr. King, in his

Anecdotes of his Own Times,

alludes to these clubs in the following terms, which imply that they were both addicted to high play:--

If I were to write a satire against gaming, and in the middle of my work insert a panegyric on the clubs at

Arthur's,

who would not question the good intention of the author, and who would not condemn the absurdity of such a motley piece?

Here used to meet an inner club--an -called

the Old and Young Club.

Lady Lepel Hervey gives a clue to its name when she laments, in a letter dated , that

luxury increases. All public places are full, and

Arthur's

is the resort of old and young, courtiers and anti-courtiers-nay, even of ministers.

By way of a sneer at the wide-spread habit of presenting civic freedoms to Mr. Pitt and his colleagues in office, this same Lady Hervey writes, under date ,

I hear Mr. George Selwyn has proposed to the old and new clubs at

Arthur's

to depute him to present the freedom of each club in a dice-box to the Right Hon. William Pitt, and the Right Hon. Henry Bilson Legge. I think it ought to be inserted in the newspapers.

 

Some of Horace Walpole's dilettante friends at Strawberry Hill once beguiled a dull and wet day by devising for this club a satirical coat of arms. The shield was devised by Walpole, Sir C. H. Williams, George Selwyn, and the Hon. R. Edgecumbe, and drawn by the last. The drawing formed a lot in the Strawberry Hall sale; and a copy of it, with an explanation of its punning or

canting

allusions to card-playing, the great end and object of the club, will be found in Chambers'

Book of Days.

Arthur's Club

has always embraced a goodly list of members of the titled classes and the heads of the chief county families, though less aristocratic than

White's

or

Brooks's.

A most painful circumstance, however, took place within it in the year . To use the words of Captain Gronow's

Reminiscences,

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, died of a broken heart.

At No. , on this side of the street, is the

Cocoa Tree Club.

In the reign of Queen Anne there was a famous chocolate-house known as the

Cocoa Tree,

a favourite sign to mark that new

p.158

and fashionable beverage. Its frequenters were Tories of the strictest school. De Foe tells us in his

Journey through England,

that

a Whig will no more go to the

Cocoa Tree

.... than a Tory will be seen at the Coffee House of St. James's.

In course of time, the

Cocoa Tree

developed into a gaming-house and a club. In its former capacity, Horace Walpole, writing in , mentions an amusing anecdote connected with it :

Within this week there has been a cast at hazard at the

Cocoa Tree,

--the difference of which amounted to an

hundred

and fourscore

thousand pounds

. Mr. O'Birne, an Irish gamester, had won

£ 100,000

of a young Mr. Harvey, of Chigwell, just started from a midshipman 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'Birne,

I will win ten thousand, and you shall throw for the odd ninety thousand.

They did, and Harvey won.

It is to be hoped that he left the gaminghouse a wiser man thenceforth.

The anecdotes connected with the

Cocoa Tree

when it was really

the Wits' Coffee House,

would fill a volume. of them may be quoted here. Dr. Garth, who used often to appear there, was sitting morning in the coffee-room conversing with persons of

quality,

when the poet Rowe, who was seldom very attentive to his dress and appearance, though fond of being noticed by great people, entered the door. Placing himself in a box nearly opposite to that in which the doctor sat, Rowe looked constantly round with a view to catch his eye, but not succeeding, he desired the waiter to ask him for the loan of his snuff-box, which he knew to be a very valuable , set with diamonds,. and the gift of royalty. After taking a pinch he returned it, but again asked for it so repeatedly that Garth, who knew him well, and saw through his purpose, took out a pencil and wrote on the lid Greek characters, and ,

Fie! Rowe.

The poet's vanity was mortified, and he left the house.

As an instance of the familiarity that would sometimes show itself between the menials and the aristocratic visitors at these fashionable rendezvous, this anecdote may be given. A waiter named Samuel Spring having on occasion to write to George IV., when Prince of Wales, commenced his letter as follows :--

Sam, the waiter at the Cocoa Tree, presents his compliments to the Prince of Wales,

&c. His Royal Highness next day saw Sam, and after noticing the receiving of his note, and the freedom of the style, said,

Sam, this may be very well between you and me, but it will not do with the Norfolks and Arundels.

As a club, the

Cocoa Tree

did not cease to keep up its reputation for high play. Although the present establishment bearing the name dates its existence only from the year , the old chocolatehouse was probably converted into a club as far back as the middle of the last century. Lord Byron was a member of this club; and so was Gibbon, the historian.

Brooks's,

pre-eminently the club-house of the Whig aristocracy, occupies No. on the west side of the street. It was originally established at

Almack's,

in , in , by the Duke of Portland, Charles James Fox, and others. They afterwards removed it to , and the club-house, designed by Holland, was opened in . The early history of this club, so long the head-quarters of the leaders of the old Whig party, is thus told in the

Percy Anecdotes:

--

When the Whigs, with Mr. Fox for their leader, commenced their long opposition to the Tory party under Pitt, they formed themselves into a club at

Almack's,

for the joint purpose of private conference on public measures, and of social intercourse. In

1777

, a Mr. Brooks built, in

St. James's Street

, a house for the accommodation of the club, and had the honour of conferring on it the name by which it has ever since been known. The number of members is limited to

four hundred and fifty

. A single black ball is sufficient to exclude. The members of the club are permitted by courtesy to belong to the club at Bath, and also to

Miles's

and other respectable clubs, without being balloted for. The subscription is

eleven

guineas a year. Although, strictly speaking, an association of noblemen and gentlemen for political objects, gaming is allowed. It was in the bosom of this club that Fox may be said to have spent the happiest hours of his life. Here, when the storm of public contention was over, would the banished spirit of true kind-heartedness return to its own home. Here, with Sheridan, Barre, Fitzpatrick, Wilkes, and other men of the same stamp, did his spirit luxuriate in its natural simplicity; and hence, after a night of revelry, he would hasten off to the shades of St. Anne's Hill, near Chertsey, and with a pocket Horace-his favourite companion-bring back his mind to contemplative tranquillity.

If we may trust Captain Gronow's

Anecdotes and Reminiscences,

at

Brook's,

for nearly half a century, the play was of a more gambling character than at

White's.

Faro and macao were indulged in to an extent which enabled a man to win or to lose a considerable fortune in night. It was here that Charles James Fox, Selwyn, Lord Carlisle,

p.159

Lord Robert Spencer, General Fitzpatrick, and other great Whigs won and lost hundreds of thousands, frequently remaining at the table for many hours without rising. On 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, . He retired, strange to say, from the fetid atmosphere of play, with the money in his pocket, and never again gambled. George Harley Drummond, of the famous banking-house at , played once only in his whole life at

White's

at whist, on which occasion he lost to Brummell. This event caused him to retire from the banking-house of which he was a partner. Lord Carlisle was of the most remarkable victims amongst the players at

Brooks's,

and Charles Fox was not more fortunate, being subsequently always in pecuniary difficulties.

The membership of

Brooks's Club,

in the days of Pitt and Fox, was a sort of crucial test by which the members of the Whig party of the time were distinguished. It was a passport to Holland and , and also to Carlton House, while the Prince of Wales was at war with his father and his ministers. Hence, on Sheridan's entrance into the , in , of the objects of Fox and his friends was to procure his admission inside the doors of

Brooks's.

But he was, personally, most unpopular with of the leaders of the Whig , George Selwyn and Lord Bessborough, who were resolved to keep him out. As black ball at that time excluded a candidate, the Foxites resolved to get him in by a . Aided by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the presiding genius of the Whig party, when the time for the ballot came on, they sent false messages, conveying alarming news of the illness of near relatives, to both of the dissentients. The bait took in both cases, each no doubt supposing that the other would be in his place to give the black ball; and the result was the election of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, wit, dramatist, orator, and statesman in .

Even after he had published the volume of his

History,

Gibbon observes that his forced residence in London was sad and solitary.

The many forgot my existence when they saw me no longer at

Brooks's,

and the few who sometimes had a thought on their friend were detained by business or pleasure; and I was proud if I could prevail on my bookseller, Elmsley, to enliven the dulness of the evening.

Unlike his proud and haughty rival Pitt, it was in the nature of Fox to unbend in social intercourse. The latter, when away from London or from his club, found his home at St. Anne's Hill, at Chertsey, where he derived amusement from his library, from his garden, from conversation, and from a variety of domestic and literary avocations.

Here, William, the Duke of Devonshire, would spend his evenings, at whist or faro, whilst [extra_illustrations.4.159.1] , was laying down the law to her political allies in the saloons of . At time O'Connell was a member; but he was not at all a man after the hearts of the old English Whigs, who on occasion, if we may believe Mr. Raikes'

Journal,

had serious thoughts of expelling him.

Mr. Raikes, under date of , recording the defeat of the Reform Bill in the , and the refusal of the king to create fresh peers, writes:

Brooks's

is full of weeping and of gnashing of teeth, so little was the Whig party prepared for this sudden catastrophe.

In the evening,

he adds,

there was a most violent meeting of Whigs at

Brooks's,

where the virulence of the speeches, and especially that of Mr. Stanley, the Irish secretary, who got on the table, showed the exasperated feelings of the party.

This Mr. Stanley, it may be added, is the same individual who became afterwards the Tory premier, as the [extra_illustrations.4.159.2] .

Like

Arthur's Club,

of which we have spoken above,

Brooks's

contains a sort of in the

Fox Club,

an association of the admirers of the statesman whose name it perpetuates. The members of the Fox Club dine together constantly during the London season. Though nearly years have passed away since the death of Charles James Fox, in the upper room at Chiswick House, yet his name and memory are fresh among the sons and grandsons of his old personal and political friends. It may be asked why there is not still equally green and fresh amongst us a

Pitt Club,

as once there was? Englishmen as a rule are

conservative

as well as

progressive

in their tastes and likings; but, as a matter of fact, the

Pitt Club

is particularly extinct, while that named after the great Premier's rival, Fox, still exists. Can the reason be after all that while Pitt was stern and haughty, Fox was pleasant and genial, and made friends instead of repelling them? If so, [extra_illustrations.4.159.3] 

p.160

it is good to know that amiable traits of character are not soon forgotten.

Brooks's Club,

according to Mr. Rush, the American Minister, at the time of the Regency, consisted of members.

A little below is the

New University Club,

founded in . The house, which is semi-Gothic in its style of architecture, reaches back into . It consists mainly of the younger members of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

At the corner of , the house No. has been, since , the home of the

Junior St. James's Club;

and next door, occupying part of the extensive building formerly known as

Crockford's,

is the

Devonshire Club.

Like its neighbour, this club is of quite recent origin (), but it nevertheless numbers among its members most of the of the Liberal party. It was at time proposed that its name should be altered to the

Liberal,

so as to place it in direct antagonism to the

Conservative,

but this proposal was ultimately negatived. Whenever the club begins to build, it will probably take the site hitherto occupied by the late Duke of Buckingham's house on the south side of adjoining to the War Office, and at present used for some of the clerks of that department.

Lord Hartington was chosen as the chairman of the

Devonshire Club,

so called after his father. Among its trustees and members of its committee appeared the names of the Duke of , Lords Huntly, Cork, Wolverton, Kensington, and Lansdowne; Mr. Gladstone and Mr. John Bright; the Right Hons. W. F. Cogan, H. C. E. Childers, and W. P. Adam; Sir Henry James, Q.C., Mr. A. D. Hayter, Sir William Drake, and several leading members of Parliament.

Crockford's Club-house

,

at which we have now arrived, was built for its founder, the late Mr. John Crockford, in , by Wyatt. It was erected at a vast cost, and in the grand proportions and palatial decorations of the principal floors,

had not been surpassed in any similar building in the metropolis.

On the ground floor are the entrance-hall and inner-hall opening into a grand suite of rooms of noble proportions; on the principal floor are a suite of very lofty and splendid reception-rooms, gorgeously decorated , approached from a superb staircase, itself an architectural triumph, and a great feature of the building.

This club was founded by Mr. John Crockford, of whom we have already made mention in speaking of the shop just outside , where his money was made; and during the last years of his life-time it was frequented by wealthy and aristocratic gentlemen. It lost its character at his death in , and soon afterwards was closed. It was re-opened, after a few years' interval, as the

Naval, Military, and Civil Service Club;

it then was converted into a dining-room, called the

Wellington;

and, lastly, it was taken by a Joint-Stock Company as an auction-room.

The death of Mr. Crockford, in , is thus mentioned in the

Journal

of Mr. T. Raikes :--

That arch-gambler Crockford is dead, and has left an immense fortune. He was originally a low fishmonger in

Fish Street Hill

, near the Monument, then a

leg

at Newmarket, and keeper of

hells

in London. He finally set up the club in

St. James's Street

, opposite to

White's,

with a hazard bank, by which he won all the disposable money of the men of fashion in London, which was supposed to be near

two

millions.

At the time of his decease Mr. Crockford was worth , if we may trust the abovementioned authority, though he had lost as much more in mining and other speculations. His death was accelerated by anxiety about his bets on the Derby; a proof of the inconsistency of human nature, which seeks the acquisition of wealth at the risk even of life and health, without which all is valueless.

In a work entitled

Doings in London,

with illustrations by Cruikshank, it is not obscurely hinted that Mr. Crockford made his fortune by keeping a

hell

in , St. James's, and that the fashionable club called after his name was in reality little or no better. No doubt very high play was carried on there, and the exact limits of a house so called have never, that we know of, been strictly defined.

Many stories are told about

Crockford's,

and most of them certainly not to the credit of its owner. For instance, Mr. B. Jerrold tells us that in the proprietor of

Crockford's

was compelled to return to Prince Louis Napoleon

£ 2,000

, which a cheat had endeavoured to extort from him inside his walls.

It is almost a satisfaction to read the fact which has been stated, that this same proprietor of

Crockford's

became afterwards so reduced in circumstances that in he begged money of the emperor, at whose

fleecing

he had at all events connived.

Mr. Raikes writes in his

Journal

from Paris, in -

Had a letter from G , with a detail of what is going on in London society, where the gaming at

Crockford's,

is unparalleled. Alea quando hos animos?

p.161

 

White's Club,

near the top of the street, on the east side, occupies the site of the town-house of Elizabeth, Countess of Northumberland, daughter of Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk. Here she lived in her widowhood, if we may trust Horace Walpole, whose information came from the lady's niece by marriage. She was

the last lady who kept up the ceremonious state of the old peerage. When she went out to pay visits, a footman, bareheaded, walked on each side of her coach, and a

second

coach with her women attended her. I think,

adds Horace Walpole,

Lady Suffolk told me that her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Somerset, never sat down before her without her leave to do so. I suppose old Duke Charles, the

proud

Duke of Somerset, had imbibed a good quantity of his stately pride in such a school.

White's

originally stood at the bottom of , on the eastern side, nearly opposite to where are now the Conservative and Thatched House Clubs. Gay, in his

Trivia,

thus brings to the mind's eye the scene which in former times might here be witnessed--in the winter, of course :

At White's the harness'd chairman idly stands,

And swings around his waist his tingling hands.

The history of the establishment of this club is related as follows in the

Percy Anecdotes :

--

When

Brooks's

became the head-quarters of the Foxite party, their opponents formed on the other side of the street a club which, from the name of its

first

steward, took the name of

White's.

Here those measures which were to agitate Europe were submitted to the country gentlemen, whilst the spirit of resistance to the minister's power and ambition was cherished and fed at the other club. In the morning they met to organise and train their opposing forces; at night, when debate was over, each party retired, the

one

to

White's,

and the other to

Brooks's,

to talk over triumphs achieved, or to sustain disappointed hopes by new resolves and new projects.

White's

was the great Tory club, and in the days of the Regency, when Whig and Liberal peers could almost be counted on the fingers, it embraced -thirds, if not -fourths, of the

upper

ten thousand

among its members. Being so fashionable, it is not a matter of wonder that it should have been extremely difficult to gain entrance to it. Its doors were shut against anybody, however rich, who had made his money by mercantile industry. Its large bow window, looking down into , during the season, was very frequently filled by the leading dandies and beaux, who preferred lounging to politics: such as the Marquis of Worcester, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Alvanley, Lord Foley, Mr. G. Dawson Damer, Hervey Aston,

Rufus

Lloyd, &c.

Mr. Rush, the American ambassador, speaks of

White's

as the Tory Club established in the reign of Charles II., and consisting of members. He adds that it was generally so full that there was great difficulty in gaining admission; and that the place of head-waiter was said to be worth a year. The club was a great place of resort among the

upper

ten thousand

.

Whenever I lose a friend,

said George Selwyn,

I go to

White's,

and pick up another.

This club was originally of the head-quarters of the Tories of the old school, who here; in , discussed the advisability of throwing out the Reform Bill. But from and after that day it adopted a neutral tint, being frequented by members of both sides of the house.

The records of

White's

are said to be perfect from . It may be questioned whether any entry on the books of

this famous academy

(as Swift once described it) has more interest than that which records an event in the year -viz., when the leading members of the club gave a complimentary dinner to their fellow-member, the Duke of Cambridge, on his departure to take a command in the military expedition about to proceed to the East.

To this club belonged Sir Everard Fawkner, an official high in the Post Office department, who was celebrated for playing cards for high stakes, and very badly too. In allusion to his office, George Selwyn used to say, that some who played with him was

robbing the mail.

At this club, on the last night of the year , the Lord Montfort supped and played at cards, as usual, and on leaving told the waiter to send his lawyer to wait on him the next day at , as he had important business to transact. The important business was simply the work of blowing out his brains with a horse-pistol. Lady Hervey says that the sole cause of this rash act was a quite unaccountable in a man who had enjoyed all the success of public life.

Colley Cibber,

player, poet, and manager,

not only an excellent actor, but the author of a treatise on the stage, which Horace Walpole terms

inimitable,

was a member of

White's Club.

Davies, in his

Life of Garrick,

tells us the following story about him :--

Colley, we are 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 Gibber 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 saluted with a 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.

White's Club

is more than once alluded to by Pope, as a place where high play and loose morality prevailed in his day. In of Walpole's letters occurs the following rich bit of satire on the folly of betting, which we may imagine was here indulged in to a very large extent:--

Sept. 1st, 1750

. --They have put in the papers a good story made at

White's.

A man dropped down dead at the door, and was carried in; the club immediately made bets whether he was dead or not; and when they were going to bleed him, the wagerers for his death interposed, and said it would affect the fairness of the bet.

By common consent, as it would appear from Captain Gronow, the late Lord Alvanley was re-

garded as the author of the chief witticisms in the clubs after the abdication of the throne of dandyism by Brummell, who, before that time, was always quoted as the sayer of good things, as Sheridan had been some time before. Lord Alvanley had the talk of the day completely under his control, and was the arbiter of the

school for scandal

in St. James's. A attributed to him gave rise to the belief that Solomon caused the downfall and disappearance of Brummell; for on some friends of the prince of dandies observing that if he had remained in London something might have been done for him by his old associates, Alvanley replied,

He has done quite right to be off: it was Solomon's judgment.

Of

White's Club,

Lord Russell tells in his

Recollections

an amusing story.

A noble lord, who owned several

pocket boroughs

in the good old days of Eldon and Perceval, was asked by the returning officer whom he meant to nominate. Having no

eligible

candidate at hand, he named a waiter at

White's,

one

Robert Mackreth; but as he did not happen to be sure of the Christian name of his nominee, the election was declared void. Nothing daunted, his lordship persisted in

1. Arthur's Club. 2. Brooks's Club.

his nomination. A fresh election was therefore held, when the name of the gentleman having been ascertained, he was returned as a matter of course, and took his seat in

St. Stephen's

.

In order to do this, he must at that time have been qualified by his patron with freehold land to the value of a year! Such was the representation of England in the good old days before the Reform Bill!

About the year this club was offered for auction, and changed hands, becoming the property of Mr. T. Percivall, of Wansford, in Northamptonshire. Since this period there has been, it is stated, a great falling off in the number of members proposed for election; and after being so many years the great resort of the dandies, it is rapidly becoming the stronghold of what may be called

fogeydom.

This is supposed to be the result of the establishment of the Marlborough Club, which has special attractions for the rising young men of the day. The club nevertheless still counts a goodly number of the wealthy portion of the aristocracy among its members, including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Boodle's

is the last of the surviving clubs which have been identified with the names of individuals; it was so called after its founder, of whom, however, little or nothing is known. It is still the property of his representatives, though governed by a committee. Like

White's,

it has a very modest and unpretending aspect when compared with some of the lordly edifices in its neighbourhood; but it is said to be marked by most agreeable and comfortable arrangements within. It is frequented mainly by elderly country gentlemen, chosen indifferently from both of the great political parties. Hence this club has never been identified with politics. It has been sarcastically said to be sacred to Boeotian tastes, but it has had distinguished persons on its list of members- Edward Gibbon, for instance, whose waddling gait and ugly visage convulsed with laughter not merely such fast friends as Lord and Lady Sheffield, but many of his literary friends and compeers.

Among the eccentric members of this club were the late Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor, M.P., and John, Earl of Westmorland. The former was a notorious gossip and retailer of news and small talk; in fact, quite a

Paul Pry

in his way: the latter was as thin as a lath. Coming in day, Taylor found Lord Westmorland, who had just dined off a roast fowl and a leg of mutton.

Well, my lord,

said Taylor,

I can't make out where you have stowed away your dinner, for I can see no trace of your ever having dined in your lean body.

Upon my word,

replied Lord Westmorland,

I have finished both, and could now go in for another helping.

His lordship, slim as was his figure, was remarkable for a prodigious appetite: in fact, it is said that he thought nothing of eating up a respectable joint or a couple of fowls at a single meal.

The original name of this club was the

Savoir vivre,

and along with

Brooks's

and

White's,

it formed a trio of nearly. coeval date. In its early years it was noted for its costly gaieties, and its epicurism is thus commemorated in the

Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers

;--

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 chatter,

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.

A variety of clubs, past and present, have not been mentioned in this or the previous chapter: these, however, will be dealt with as we come to them in our future account of , , and other parts of the West-end of

Modern Babylon.

It may be remarked, by way of a conclusion to the present chapter, that there were from the too many aristocratic clubs and private mansions in to leave much room for plebeian inns and hostelries on either side of so highly respectable a thoroughfare. Still, Mr. Jacob Larwood is at the pains of reminding us, in his very amusing and entertaining

History of Signboards,

that, in the century, there was in this street an inn known as

The Poet's Head.

He adds, however,

Who the poet was, it is impossible to say now; perhaps it was Dryden, since the trade's tokens represent a head crowned with bays.

The

poet,

as such, has not been a favourite as the sign of an inn, though we fail to see why such should be the case if there be truth in the old saying of Horace, that

no poems will last or live that proceed from the pens of waterdrinkers.

 
 
Footnotes:

[extra_illustrations.4.156.3] Thatched House Club--Dinner of Dilettante Society

[extra_illustrations.4.159.1] his Duchess, the beautiful Georgiana

[extra_illustrations.4.159.2] Earl of Derby

[extra_illustrations.4.159.3] Lord Stanley

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 Title Page
 Chapter I: Westminster: A Survey of the City: Millbank, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter II: Westminster.-Tothill Fields and Neighbourhood
 Chapter III: Westminster.-King Street, Great George Street, and the Broad Sanctuary
 Chapter IV: Modern Westminster
 Chapter V: St. James's Park
 Chapter VI: Buckingham Palace
 Chapter VII: The Mall and Spring Gardens
 Chapter VIII: Carlton House
 Chapter IX: St. James's Palace
 Chapter X: St. James's Palace (continued)
 Chapter XI: Pall Mall
 Chapter XII: Pall-Mall.-Club-Land
 Chapter XIII: St. James's Street.-Club-Land (continued)
 Chapter XIV: St. James's Street and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XV: St. James's Square and its Distinguished Residents
 Chapter XVI: The Neighbourhood of St. James's Square
 Chapter XVII: Waterloo Place and Her Majesty's Theatre
 Chapter XVIII: The Haymarket
 Chapter XIX: Pall Mall East, Suffolk Street, &c.
 Chapter XX: Golden Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXI: Regent Street and Piccadilly
 Chapter XXII: Piccadilly.-Burlington House
 Chapter XXIII: Noble Mansions in Piccadilly
 Chapter XXIV: Piccadilly: Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXV: Hanover Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVI: Berkeley Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVII: Grosvenor Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVIII: May Fair
 Chapter XXIX: Apsley House and Park Lane
 Chapter XXX: Hyde Park
 Chapter XXXI: Hyde Park (continued)
 Chapter XXXII: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXIII: Oxford Street.-Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXIV: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXV: Oxford Street East.-Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXVI: Oxford Street: Northern Tributaries.-Tottenham Court Road
 Chapter XXXVII: Bloomsbury.-General Remarks
 Chapter XXXVIII: The British Museum
 Chapter XXXIX: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XL: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XLI: Bloomsbury Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLII: Red Lion Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLIII: Queen Square, Great Ormond Street, &c.
 Chapter XLIV: Russell and Bedford Squares, &c.
 Chapter XLV: Gordon and Tavistock Squares, &c.
This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Description and Travel
London --England
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/14824
ID: tufts:UA069.005.DO.00063
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