As that scene at the Blue Boar played so important a part in the sequence of events which were to lead to Cromwell's attainment of supreme power in England, so another Holborn inn, the Red Lion, was to witness the final act of that petty revenge which marked the downfall of the Commonwealth. Perplexing mystery surrounds the ultimate fate of Cromwell's body, but the record runs that his corpse, and those of Ireton and Bradshaw, were ruthlessly torn from their graves soon after the Restoration and were taken to the Red Lion, whence, on, the following morning, they were dragged on a sledge to Tyburn and there treated with the ignominy hitherto reserved for the vilest criminals. All kinds of legends surround these gruesome proceedings. One tradition will have it that some of Cromwell's faithful friends rescued his mutilated remains, and buried them in a field on the north side of Holborn, a spot now covered by the public garden in Red Lion Square. On the other hand grave doubts have been expressed as to whether the body taken to the Red Lion was really that of Cromwell. One legend asserts that it was not buried in Westminster Abbey but sunk in the Thames; another that it was interred in Naseby field; and a third that it was placed in the coffin of Charles I at Windsor.
Impatient though he may be to revel in the multifarious associations of Fleet Street, the pilgrim should turn aside into Ludgate Hill for a few minutes for the sake of that Belle Sauvage inn the name of which has been responsible for a rich harvest of explanatory theory. Addison contributed to it in his own humorous way. An early number of the Spectator was devoted to the discussion of the advisability of an office being established for the regulation of signs, one suggestion being that when the name of a shopkeeper or innkeeper lent itself to "an ingenious sign-post" full advantage should be taken of the opportunity. In this connection Addison offered the following explanation of the name of the Ludgate Hill inn, which, it has been shrewdly conjectured by Henry B. Wheatley, was probably intended as a joke. "As for the bell-savage, which is the sign of a savage man standing by a bell, I was formerly very much puzzled upon the conceit of it, till I accidentally fell into the reading of an old romance translated out of the French; which gives an account of a very beautiful woman who was found in a wilderness, and is called in the French La Belle Sauvage; and is everywhere translated by our countrymen the bell-savage."
Not quite so poetic is the most feasible explanation of this unusual name for an inn. It seems that the original sign of the house was the Bell, but that in the middle of the fifteenth century it had an alternative designation. A deed of that period speaks of "all that tenement or inn with its appurtenances, called Savage's inn, otherwise called the Bell on the Hoop." This was evidently a case where the name of the host counted for more than the actual sign of the house, and the habit of speaking of Savage's Bell may easily have led to the perversion into Bell Savage, and thence to the Frenchified form mostly used to-day.
Leaving these questions of etymology for more certain matters, it is interesting to recall that it was in the yard of the Belle Sauvage Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion came to an inglorious end. That rising was ostensibly aimed at the prevention of Queen Mary's marriage with a prince of Spain, and for that reason won a large measure of support from the men of Kent, at whose head Wyatt marched on the, capital. At London Bridge, however, his way was blocked, and he was obliged to make a dtour by way of Kingston, in the hope of entering the city by Lud Gate. But his men became disorganized on the long march, and at each stage more and more were cut off from the main body by the queen's forces, until, by the time he reached Fleet Street, the rebel had only some three hundred followers. "He passed Temple Bar," wrote Froude, "along Fleet Street, and reached Ludgate. The gate was open as he approached, when some one seeing a number of men coming up, exclaimed, 'These be Wyatt's ancients.' Muttered curses were heard among the by-standers; but Lord Howard was on the spot; the gates, notwithstanding the murmurs, were instantly closed; and when Wyatt knocked, Howard's voice answered, 'Avaunt! traitor; thou shall not come in here.' 'I have kept touch,' Wyatt exclaimed; but his enterprise was hopeless now, He sat down upon a bench outside the Belle Sauvage yard." That was the end. His followers scattered in all directions, and in a little while he was a prisoner, on his way to the Tower and the block.
More peaceful are the records which tell how the famous carver in wood, Grinling Gibbons, and the notorious quack, Richard Rock, once had lodgings in the Belle Sauvage Yard, and more picturesque are the memories of those days when the inn was the starting-place of those coaches which lend a touch of romance to old English life. Horace Walpole says Gibbons signalized his tenancy by carving a pot of flowers over a doorway, so delicate in leaf and stem that the whole shook with the motion of the carriages passing by. The quack, into the hands of whom and his like Goldsmith declared all fell unless they were "blasted by lightning, or struck dead with some sudden disorder," was a "great man, short of stature, fat," and waddled as he walked. He was "usually drawn at the top of his own bills, sitting in his arm-chair, holding a little bottle between his finger and thumb, and surrounded with rotten teeth, nippers, pills, packets, and gallipots."
From the Belle Sauvage to the commencement of Fleet Street is but a stone's throw, but the pilgrim must not expect to find any memorials of the past in the eastern portion of that famous thoroughfare. The buildings here are practically all modern, many of them, indeed, having been erected in the last decade. As these lines are being written, too, the announcement is made of a project for the further transformation of the street at the cost of half a million pounds. The idea is to continue the widening of the thoroughfare further west, and if that plan is carried out, devastation must overtake most of the ancient buildings which still remain.
By far the most outstanding feature of the Fleet Street of to-day is the number and variety of its newspaper offices; two centuries ago it had a vastly different aspect.
"From thence, along that tipling street, Distinguish'd by the name of Fleet, Where Tavern-Signs hang thicker far, Than Trophies down at Westminster; And ev'ry Bacchanalian Landlord Displays his Ensign, or his Standard, Bidding Defiance to each Brother, As if at Wars with one another."
How thoroughly the highway deserved the name of "tipling street" may be inferred from the fact that its list of taverns included but was not exhausted by the Devil, the King's Head, the Horn, the Mitre, the Cock, the Bolt-in-Tun, the Rainbow, the Cheshire Cheese, Hercules Pillars, the Castle, the Dolphin, the Seven Stars, Dick's, Nando's, and Peele's. No one would recognize in the Anderton's Hotel of to-day the lineal successor of one of these ancient taverns, and yet it is a fact that that establishment perpetuates the Horn tavern of the fifteenth century. In the early seventeenth century the house was in high favour with the legal fraternity, but its patronage of the present time is of a more miscellaneous character. The present building was erected in 1880.
Close by, a low and narrow archway gives access to Wine Office Court, a spot ever memorable for its having been for some three years the home of Oliver Goldsmith. It was in 1760, when in his thirty-second year, that he took lodgings in this cramped alleyway, and here he remained, toiling as a journeyman for an astute publisher, until towards the end of 1762. So improved were Goldsmith's fortunes in these days that he launched out into supper parties, one of which, in May, 1761, was rendered memorable by the presence of Dr. Johnson, who attired himself with unusual care for the occasion. To a companion who, noting the new suit of clothes, the new wig nicely powdered, and all else in harmony, commented on his appearance, Johnson rejoined, "Why, sir, I hear that Goldsmith, who is a very great sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency by quoting my practice, and I am desirous this night to show him a better example." The house where that supper party was held has disappeared, but in the Cheshire Cheese nearby there yet survives a building which the centuries have spared.
Exactly how old this tavern is cannot be decided. It is inevitable that there must have been a hostelry on this spot before the Great Fire of 1666, inasmuch as there is a record to show that it was rebuilt the following year. Which goes to show that the present building has attained the ripe age of nearly two and a half centuries. No one who explores its various apartments will be likely to question that fact. Everything about the place wears an air of antiquity, from the quaint bar-room to the more private chambers upstairs. The chief glory of the Cheshire Cheese, however, is to be seen downstairs on the left hand of the principal entrance. This is the genuinely old-fashioned eating-room, with its rude tables, its austere seats round the walls, its sawdust-sprinkled floor, and, above all, its sacred nook in the further right hand corner which is pointed out as the favourite seat of Dr. Johnson. Above this niche is a copy of the Reynolds portrait of the sturdy lexicographer, beneath which is the following inscription: "The Favourite Seat of Dr. Johnson.—Born 18th Septr., 1709. Died 13th Decr., 1784. In him a noble understanding and a masterly intellect were united with grand independence of character and unfailing goodness of heart, which won him the admiration of his own age, and remain as recommendations to the reverence of posterity. 'No, Sir! there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness has been produced as by a good tavern.'"
After all this it is surprising to learn that the authority for connecting Dr. Johnson with the Cheshire Cheese rests upon a somewhat late tradition. Boswell does not mention the tavern, an omission which 'is accounted for by noting that "Boswell's acquaintance with Johnson began when Johnson was an old man, and when he had given up the house in Gough Square, and Goldsmith had long departed from Wine Office Court. At the best," this apologist adds, "Boswell only knew Johnson's life in widely separated sections." As appeal cannot, then, be made to Boswell it is made to others. The most important of these witnesses is a Cyrus Jay, who, in a book of reminiscences published in 1868, claimed to have frequented the Cheshire Cheese for fifty-five years, and to have known a man who had frequently seen Johnson and Goldsmith in the tavern. Another writer has placed on record that he often met in the tavern gentlemen who had seen the famous pair there on many occasions.
Taking into account these traditions and the further fact that the building supplies its own evidence as to antiquity, it is not surprising that the Cheshire Cheese enjoys an enviable popularity with all who find a special appeal in the survivals of old London. As a natural consequence more recent writing in prose and verse has been bestowed upon this tavern than any other of the metropolis. Perhaps the best of the many poems penned in its praise is that "Ballade" written by John Davidson, the poet whose mysterious disappearance has added so sad a chapter to the history of literature.
"I know a house of antique ease Within the smoky city's pale, A spot wherein the spirit sees Old London through a thinner veil. The modern world so stiff and stale, You leave behind you when you please, For long clay pipes and great old ale And beefsteaks in the 'Cheshire Cheese.'
"Beneath this board Burke's, Goldsmith's knees Were often thrust—so runs the tale— 'Twas here the Doctor took his ease And wielded speech that like a flail Threshed out the golden truth. All hail, Great souls! that met on nights like these Till morning made the candles pale, And revellers left the 'Cheshire Cheese.'
"By kindly sense and old decrees Of England's use they set the sail We press to never-furrowed seas, For vision-worlds we breast the gale, And still we seek and still we fail, For still the 'glorious phantom' flees. Ah well! no phantom are the ale And beefsteaks of the 'Cheshire Cheese.'
"If doubts or debts thy soul assail, If Fashion's forms its current freeze, Try a long pipe, a glass of ale, And supper at the 'Cheshire Cheese.'"
While the Cheshire Cheese was less fortunate than the Cock in the Fire of London, the latter house, which escaped that conflagration, has fallen on comparatively evil days in modern times. In other words, the exterior of the original building, which dated from early in the seventeenth century, was demolished in 1888, to make room for a branch establishment of the Bank of England. Pepys knew the old house and spent many a jovial evening beneath its roof. It was thither, one April evening in 1667, that he took Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Knapp, the latter being the actress whom he thought "pretty enough" besides being "the most excellent, mad-humoured thing, and sings the noblest that ever I heard in my life." The trio had a gay time; they "drank, and eat lobster, and sang" and were "mightily merry." By and by the crafty diarist deleted Mrs. Pierce from the party, and went off to Vauxhall with the fair actress, his confidence in the enterprise being strengthened by the fact that the night was "darkish." If she did not find out that excursion, Mrs. Pepys knew quite enough of her husband's weakness for Mrs. Knapp to be justified of her jealousy. And even he appears to have experienced twinges of conscience on the matter. Perhaps that was the reason why he took his wife to the Cock, and "did give her a dinner" there. Other sinners have found it comforting to exercise repentance on the scene of their offences.
Judging from an advertisement which was published in 1665, the proprietor of the Cock did not allow business to interfere with pleasure. "This is to certify," his announcement ran, "that the master of the Cock and Bottle, commonly called the Cock Alehouse, at Temple Bar, hath dismissed his servants, and shut up his house, for this Long Vacation, intending (God willing) to return at Michaelmas next."
But the tavern is prouder of its association with Tennyson than of any other fact in its history. The poet was always fond of this neighbourhood. His son records that whenever he went to London with his father, the first item on their programme was a walk in the Strand and Fleet Street. "Instead of the stuccoed houses in the West End, this is the place where I should like to live," Tennyson would say. During his early days he lodged in Norfolk Street close by, dining with his friends at the Cock and other taverns, but always having a preference for the room "high over roaring Temple-bar." In the estimation of the poet, as his son has chronicled, "a perfect dinner was a beef-steak, a potato, a cut of cheese, a pint of port, and afterwards a pipe (never a cigar). When joked with by his friends about his liking for cold salt beef and new potatoes, he would answer humorously, 'All fine-natured men know what is good to eat.' Very genial evenings they were, with plenty of anecdote and wit."
All this, especially the pint of port, throws light on "Will Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue," which, as the poet himself has stated, was "made at the Cock." Its opening apostrophe is familiar enough:
"O plump head-waiter at The Cock, To which I most resort, How goes the time? 'Tis five o'clock. Go fetch a pint of port."
How faithfully that waiter obeyed the poet's injunction to bring him of the best, all readers of the poem are aware:
"The pint, you brought me, was the best That ever came from pipe."
Undoubtedly. As witness the flights of fancy which it created. Its potent vintage transformed both the waiter and the sign of the house in which he served and shaped this pretty legend.
"And hence this halo lives about The waiter's hands, that reach To each his perfect pint of stout, His proper chop to each. He looks not like the common breed. That with the napkin dally; I think he came like Ganymede, From some delightful valley.
"The Cock was of a larger egg Than modern poultry drop, Stept forward on a firmer leg, And cramm'd a plumper crop; Upon an ampler dunghill trod, Crow'd lustier late and early, Sipt wine from silver, praising God, And raked in golden barley.
"A private life was all his joy, Till in a court he saw A something-pottle-bodied boy That knuckled at the law: He stoop'd and clutch'd him, fair and good, Flew over roof and casement: His brothers of the weather stood Stock-still for sheer amazement.
"But he, by farmstead, thorpe and spire, And follow'd with acclaims, A sign to many a staring shire Came crowing over Thames. Right down by smoky Paul's they bore, Till, where the street grows straiter, One fix'd for ever at the door, And one became head-waiter."
Just here the poet bethought himself. It was time to rein in his fancy. Truly it was out of place to make
"The violet of a legend blow Among the chops and steaks."
So he descends to more mundane things, to moralize at last upon the waiter's fate and the folly of quarrelling with our lot in life. It is interesting to learn from Fitzgerald that the Cock's plump head-waiter read the poem, but disappointing to know that his only remark on the performance was, "Had Mr. Tennyson dined oftener here, he would not have minded it so much." From which poets may learn the moral that to trifle with Jove's cupbearer in the interests of a tavern waiter is liable to lead to misunderstanding. But it is, perhaps, of more importance to note that, notwithstanding the destruction of the exterior of the Cock in 1888, one room of that ancient building was preserved intact and may be found on the first floor of the new house. There, for use as well as admiration, are the veritable mahogany boxes which Tennyson knew,—
"Old boxes, larded with the steam Of thirty thousand dinners—"
and not less in evidence is the stately old fireplace which Pepys was familiar with.
Not even a seat or a fireplace has survived of the Mitre tavern of Shakespeare's days, or the Mitre tavern which Boswell mentions so often. They were not the same house, as has sometimes been stated, and the Mitre of to-day is little more than a name-successor to either. Ben Jonson's plays and other literature of the seventeenth century make frequent mention of the old Mitre, and that was no doubt the tavern Pepys patronized on occasion.
No one save an expert indexer would have the courage to commit himself to the exact number of Boswell's references to the Mitre. He had a natural fondness for the tavern as the scene of his first meal with Johnson, and with Johnson himself, as his biographer has explained, the place was a first favourite for many years. "I had learned," says Boswell in recording the early stages of his acquaintance with his famous friend, "that his place of frequent resort was the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, where he loved to sit up late, and I begged I might be allowed to pass an evening with him there, which he promised I should. A few days afterwards I met him near Temple-bar, about one o'clock in the morning, and asked if he would then go to the Mitre. 'Sir,' said he, 'it is too late; they won't let us in. But I'll go with you another night with all my heart.'" That other night soon came. Boswell called for his friend at nine o'clock, and the two were soon in the tavern. They had a good supper, and port wine, but the occasion was more than food and drink to Boswell. "The orthodox high-church sound of the Mitre,—the figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson,—the extraordinary power and precision of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ever before experienced."
On the next occasion Goldsmith was of the company, and the visit after that was brought about through Boswell's inability to keep his promise to entertain Johnson at his own rooms. The little Scotsman had a squabble with his landlord, and was obliged to take his guest to the Mitre. "There is nothing," Johnson said, "in this mighty misfortune; nay, we shall be better at the Mitre." And Boswell was characteristically oblivious of the slur on his gifts as a host. But that, perhaps, is a trifle compared with the complacency with which he records further snubbings administered to him at that tavern. For example, there was that rainy night when Boswell made some feeble complaints about the weather, qualifying them with the profound reflection that it was good for the vegetable creation. "Yes, sir," Johnson rejoined, "it is good for vegetables, and for the animals who eat those vegetables, and for the animals who eat those animals." Then there was that other occasion when the note-taker talked airily about his interview with Rousseau, and asked Johnson whether he thought him a bad man, only to be crushed with Johnson's, "Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don't talk with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of men." Severer still was the rebuke of another conversation at the Mitre. The ever-blundering Boswell rated Foote for indulging his talent of ridicule at the expense of his visitors, "making fools of his company," as he expressed it. "Sir," Johnson said, "he does not make fools of his company; they whom he exposes are fools already: he only brings them into action."
But, if only in gratitude for what Boswell accomplished, last impressions of the Mitre should not be of those castigations. A far prettier picture is that which we owe to the reminiscences of Dr. Maxwell, who, while assistant preacher at the Temple, had many opportunities of enjoying Johnson's company. Dr. Maxwell relates that one day when he was paying Johnson a visit, two young ladies, from the country came to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined. "Come," he said, "you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will take over that subject." Away, they went, and after dinner Johnson "took one of them upon his knee, and fondled her for half an hour together." Dante Gabriel Rossetti chose that incident for a picture, but neither his canvas nor Dr. Maxwell's record enlightens us as to whether the "pretty fools" were preserved to the Church of England. But it was a happy evening—especially for Dr. Johnson.
As with the Cock, a part of the interior of the Rainbow Tavern dates back more than a couple of centuries. The chief interest of the Rainbow, however, lies in the fact that it was at first a coffee-house, and one of the earliest in London. It was opened in 1657 by a barber named James Farr who evidently anticipated more profit in serving cups of the new beverage than in wielding his scissors and razor. He succeeded so well that the adjacent tavern-keepers combined to get his coffee-house suppressed, for, said they, the "evil smell" of the new drink "greatly annoyed the neighbourhood." But Mr. Farr prospered in spite of his competitors, and by and by he turned the Rainbow into a regular tavern.
No one who gazes upon the century-old print of the King's Head can do other than regret the total disappearance of that picturesque building. This tavern stood at the west corner of Chancery Lane and is believed by antiquaries to have been built in the reign of Edward VI. It figures repeatedly in ancient engravings of the royal processions of long-past centuries, and contributed a notable feature to the progress of Queen Elizabeth as she was on her way to visit Sir Thomas Gresham. The students of the Temple hit upon the effective device of having several cherubs descend, as it were, from the heavens, for the purpose of presenting the queen with a crown of gold and laurels, together with the inevitable verses of an Elizabethan ceremony, and the roof of the King's Head was chosen as the heaven from whence these visitants came down. Only the first and second floors were devoted to tavern purposes; on the ground floor were shops, from one of which the first edition of Izaak Walton's "Complete Angler" was sold, while another provided accommodation for the grocery business of Abraham Cowley's father.
From 1679 the King's Head was the common headquarters of the notorious Green Ribbon Club, which included a precious set of scoundrels among its members, chief of them all being that astounding perjurer, Titus Gates. Hence the tavern's designation as a "Protestant house." It was pulled down in 1799.
Another immortal tavern of Fleet Street, the most immortal of them all, Ben Jonson's Devil, has also utterly vanished. Its full title was The Devil and St. Dunstan, aptly represented by the sign depicting the saint holding the tempter by the nose, and its site, appropriately enough, was opposite St. Dunstan's Church, on the south side of Fleet Street and close to Temple-bar. One of Hogarth's illustrations to "Hudibras" gives a glimpse of the tavern, but on the wrong side of the street, as is so common in the work of that artist.
No doubt the Devil had had a protracted existence prior to Jonson's day, but its chief title to fame dates from the time when the convivial dramatist made it his principal rendezvous. The exact date of that event is difficult to determine. Nor is it possible to explain why Jonson removed his patronage from the Mermaid in Cheapside to the Devil in Fleet Street. The fact remains, however, that while the earlier period of his life has its focus in Cheapside the later is centred in the vicinity of Temple-bar.
Perhaps Jonson may have found the accommodation of the Devil more suited to his needs. After passing through those years of opposition which all great poets have to face, there came to him the crown of acknowledged leadership among the writers of his day. He accepted it willingly. He seems to have been temperamentally fitted to the post. He was, in fact, never so happy as when in the midst of a group of men who owned his pre-eminence. What was more natural, then, than that he should have conceived the idea of forming a club? And in the great Apollo room at the Devil he found the most suitable place of meeting. Over the door of this room, inscribed in gold letters on a black ground, this poetical greeting was displayed.
"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 Bow in wine. Hang up all the poor hop-drinkers, Cries old Sam, the king of skinkers; He the 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 Phoebian liquor, Cheers the brains, 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."
That relic of the Devil still exists, carefully preserved in the banking establishment which occupies the site of the tavern; and with it, just as zealously guarded, is a bust of Jonson which stood above the verses. Inside the Apollo room was another poetical inscription, said to have been engraved in black marble. These verses were in the dramatist's best Latin, and set forth the rules for his tavern academy. Much of their point is lost in the English version, which, however, deserves quotation for the sake of the inferences it suggests as to the conduct which was esteemed "good form" in Jonson's club.
"As the fund of our pleasure, let each pay his shot, Except some chance friend, whom a member brings in. Far hence be the sad, the lewd fop, and the sot; For such have the plagues of good company been.
"Let the learned and witty, the jovial and gay, The generous and honest, compose our free state; And the more to exalt our delight whilst we stay, Let none be debarred from his choice female mate.
"Let no scent offensive the chamber infest. Let fancy, not cost, prepare all our dishes. Let the caterer mind the taste of each guest, And the cook, in his dressing, comply with their wishes.
"Let's have no disturbance about taking places, To show your nice breeding, or out of vain pride. Let the drawers be ready with wine and fresh glasses, Let the waiters have eyes, though their tongues must be ty'd.
"Let our wines without mixture or stum, be all fine, Or call up the master, and break his dull noddle. Let no sober bigot here think it a sin, To push on the chirping and moderate bottle.
"Let the contests be rather of books than of wine, Let the company be neither noisy nor mute. Let none of things serious, much less of divine, When belly and head's full profanely dispute.
"Let no saucy fidler presume to intrude, Unless he is sent for to vary our bliss. With mirth, wit, and dancing, and singing conclude, To regale every sense, with delight in excess.
"Let raillery be without malice or heat. Dull poems to read let none privilege take. Let no poetaster command or intreat Another extempore verses to make.
"Let argument bear no unmusical sound, Nor jars interpose, sacred friendship to grieve. For generous lovers let a corner be found, Where they in soft sighs may their passions relieve.
"Like the old Lapithites, with the goblets to fight, Our own 'mongst offences unpardoned will rank, Or breaking of windows, or glasses, for spight, And spoiling the goods for a rakehelly prank.
"Whoever shall publish what's said, or what's done, Be he banished for ever our assembly divine. Let the freedom we take be perverted by none To make any guilty by drinking good wine."
By the testimony of those rules alone it is easy to see how thoroughly the masterful spirit of Jonson ruled in the Apollo room. His air was a throne, his word a sceptre that must be obeyed. This impression is confirmed by many records and especially by Drummond's character sketch. The natural consequence was that membership in the Apollo Club came to be regarded as an unusual honour. There appears to have been some kind of ceremony at the initiation of each new member, which gave all the greater importance to the rite of being "sealed of the tribe of Ben." Long after the dramatist was dead, his "sons" boasted of their intimacy with him, much to the irritation of Dryden and others. While he lived, too, they were equally elated at being admitted to the inner circle at the Devil, and, after the manner of Marmion, sung the praises of their "boon Delphic god," surrounded with his "incense and his altars smoking."
Incense was an essential if Jonson was to be kept in good humour. Many anecdotes testify to that fact. There is the story of his loss of patience with the country gentleman who was somewhat talkative about his lands, and his interruption, "What signifies to us your dirt and your clods? Where you have an acre of land, I have ten acres of wit." And Howell tells of that supper party which, despite good company, excellent cheer and choice wines, was turned into a failure by Jonson engrossing all the conversation and "vapouring extremely of himself and vilifying others." Yet there were probably few of his own circle, the "sons of Ben," who would have had it otherwise. Few indeed and fragmentary are the records of his conversation in the Apollo room, but they are sufficient to prove how ready a wit the poet possessed. Take, for example, the story of that convivial gathering when the tavern keeper promised to forgive Jonson the reckoning if he could tell what would please God, please the devil, please the company, and please him. The poet at once replied:
"God is pleased, when we depart from sin, The devil's pleas'd, when we persist therein; Your company's pleas'd, when you draw good wine, And thou'd be pleas'd, if I would pay thee thine."
Some austere biographers have chided the memory of the poet for spending so much of his time at the Devil. They forget, or are ignorant of the fact that there is proof the time was well spent. In a manuscript of Jonson which still exists there are many entries which go to show that some of his finest work was inspired by the merry gatherings in the Apollo room.
For many years after Jonson's death the Devil, and especially the Apollo room, continued in high favour with the wits of London and the men about town. Pepys knew the house, of course, and so did Evelyn, and Swift dined there, and Steele, and many another genius of the eighteenth century. It was in the Apollo room, too, that the official court-day odes of the Poets Laureate were rehearsed, which explains the point of the following lines:
"When Laureates make odes, do you ask of what sort? Do you ask if they're good or are evil? You may judge—From the Devil they come to the Court, And go from the court to the Devil."
But the Apollo room is not without its idyllic memory. It was created by the ever-delightful pen of Steele. Who can forget the picture he draws of his sister Jenny and her lover Tranquillus and their wedding morning? "The wedding," he writes, "was wholly under my care. After the ceremony at church, I resolved to entertain the company with a dinner suitable to the occasion, and pitched upon the Apollo, at the Old Devil at Temple-bar, as a place sacred to mirth tempered with discretion, where Ben Jonson and his sons used to make their liberal meetings." The mirth of that assembly was threatened by the indiscretion of that double-meaning speaker who is usually in evidence at such gatherings to the confusion of the bride, but happily his career was cut short by the plain sense of the soldier and sailor, as may be read in the pages of the "Tatler."
Within easy hail of the Devil, on the site now occupied by St. Clement's Chambers, Dane's Inn, there stood until 1853 a quaint old hostelry known as the Angel Inn. It dated from the opening years of the sixteenth century at least, for it is specifically named in a letter of February 6th, 1503. In the middle of that century, too, it figures in the progress of Bishop Harper to the martyr's stake, for it was from this inn that prelate was taken to Gloucester to be burnt. The Angel cannot hope to compete with the neighbouring taverns of Fleet Street on the score of literary associations, but the fact that seven or eight mail coaches started from its yard every night will indicate how large a part it played in the life of old London.
TAVERNS WEST OF TEMPLE BAR.
Even one short generation ago it would have been difficult to recognize in the Strand of that period any resemblance to the picture of that highway given by Stow at the dawn of the seventeenth century. Much less would it have been possible to recall its aspect in those earlier years when it was literally a strand, that is, a low-lying road by the side of the Thames, stretching from Temple-bar to Charing Cross. On the south side of the thoroughfare were the mansions of bishops and nobles dotted at sparse intervals; on the north was open country. To-day there are even fewer survivals of the past than might have been seen thirty years ago. The wholesale clearance of Holywell Street and the buildings to the north has completely transformed the neighbourhood, while along the southern line of the highway, changes almost equally revolutionary have been carried out. As a consequence the inns and taverns of the Strand and the streets leading therefrom have nearly all been swept away, leaving a modern representative only here and there. Utterly vanished, for example, leaving not a wreck behind, are the Spotted Dog and the Craven Head, two houses more or less associated with the sporting fraternity. The former, indeed, was a favourite haunt of prize-fighters and their backers; the latter was notorious for its host, Robert Hales by name, whose unusual stature—he stood seven feet six inches—enabled him "to look down on all his customers, although he was always civil to them." When the novelty of Hales' physical proportions wore off, and trade declined, a new attraction was provided in the form of a couple of buxom barmaids attired in bloomer costume—importations, so the story goes, from the United States.
A far more ancient and reputable house was the Crown and Anchor which had entrances both on the Strand and Arundel Street. It is referred to by Strype in his edition of Stow, published in 1720, as "a large and curious house, with good rooms and other conveniences," and could boast of associations with Johnson, and Boswell, and Reynolds. Perhaps there was something in the atmosphere of the place which tended to emphasize Johnson's natural argumentativeness; at any rate the Crown and Anchor was the scene of his dispute with Reynolds as to the merits of wine in assisting conversation, and it was here too that he had his famous bout with Dr. Percy. Boswell describes him as being in "remarkable vigour of mind, and eager to exert himself in conversation" on that occasion, and then transcribes the following proof. "He was vehement against old Dr. Mounsey, of Chelsea College, as 'a fellow who swore and talked bawdy.' 'I have been often in his company,' said Dr. Percy, 'and never heard him swear or talk bawdy.' Mr. Davies, who sat next to Dr. Percy, having after this had some conversation with him, made a discovery which in his zeal to pay court to Dr. Johnson, he eagerly proclaimed aloud from the foot of the table: 'Oh, sir, I have found out a very good reason why Dr. Percy never heard Mounsey swear or talk bawdy, for he tells me he never saw him but at the Duke of Northumberland's table.' 'And so, sir,' said Dr. Johnson loudly to Dr. Percy, 'you would shield this man from the charge of swearing and talking bawdy, because he did not do so at the Duke of Northumberland's table. Sir, you might as well tell us that you had seen him hold up his hand at the Old Bailey, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy; or that you had seen him in the cart at Tyburn, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy. And is it thus, sir, that you presume to controvert what I have related?' Dr. Johnson's animadversion was uttered in such a manner, that Dr. Percy seemed to be displeased, and soon after left the company, of which Johnson did not at that time take any notice." Nor did the following morning bring any regret. "Well," said he when Boswell called, "we had good talk." And Boswell's "Yes, sir; you tossed and gored several persons," no doubt gave him much pleasure.
When the Crown and Anchor was rebuilt in 1790 the accommodation of the tavern was materially increased by the erection of a large room suitable for important public occasions and capable of seating upwards of two thousand persons. That room was but eight years old when it was the scene of a remarkable gathering. Those were stirring times politically, largely owing to Fox's change of party and to his adhesion to the cause of electoral reform. Hence the banquet which took place at the Crown and Anchor on January 24th, 1798, in honour of Fox's birthday. The Duke of Norfolk presided over a company numbering fully two thousand persons, and the notable men present included Sheridan and Horne Tooke. The record of the function tells how "Captain Morris"—elder brother of the author of "Kitty Crowder," and a song-writer of some fame in his day—"produced three new songs on the occasion," and how "Mr. Hovell, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Dignum, and several other gentlemen, in the different rooms sang songs applicable to the fte." But the ducal chairman's speech and the toasts which followed were the features of the gathering. The former was commendably brief. "We are met," he said, "in a moment of most serious difficulty, to celebrate the birth of a man dear to the friends of freedom. I shall only recall to your memory, that, not twenty years ago, the illustrious George Washington had not more than two thousand men to rally round him when his country was attacked. America is now free. This day full two thousand men are assembled in this place. I leave you to make the application. I propose to you the health of Charles Fox."
Then came the following daring toasts:
"The rights of the people."
"Constitutional redress of the wrongs of the people."
"A speedy and effectual reform in the representation of the people in Parliament."
"The genuine principles of the British constitution."
"The people of Ireland; and may they be speedily restored to the blessings of law and liberty."
And when the chairman's health had been drunk "with three times three," that nobleman concluded his speech of thanks with the words: "Before I sit down, give me leave to call on you to drink our sovereign's health: 'The majesty of the people.'"
Such "seditious and daring tendencies," as the royalist chronicler of the times described them, could not be overlooked in high quarters, and the result of that gathering at the Crown and Anchor was that the Duke of Norfolk was dismissed from the lord-lieutenancy of the west riding of Yorkshire, and from his regiment in the militia. It would have been a greater punishment could George III have ordered a bath for the indiscreet orator. That particular member of the Howard family had a horror of soap and water, and appears to have been washed only when his servants found him helpless in a drunken stupor. He it was also who complained to Dudley North that he had vainly tried every remedy for rheumatism, to receive the answer, "Pray, my lord, did you ever try a clean shirt?"
In that district of the Strand known as the Adelphi—so called from the pile of buildings erected here in 1768 by the brothers Adam—there still exists an Adelphi Hotel which may well perpetuate the building in which Gibbon found a temporary home in 1787. Ten years earlier it was known as the Adelphi Tavern, and on the thirteenth of January was the scene of an exciting episode. The chief actors in this little drama, which nearly developed into a tragedy, were a Captain Stony and a Mr. Bates, the latter being the editor of The Morning Post. It appears that that journal had recently published some paragraphs reflecting on the character of a lady of rank, whose cause, as the sequel will show, Captain Stony had good reason for making his own. Whether the offending editor had been lured to the Adelphi ignorant of what was in store, or whether the angry soldier met him there by accident, does not transpire; the record implies, however, that the couple had a room to themselves in which to settle accounts. The conflict opened with each discharging his pistol at the other, but without effect, which does not speak well for the marksmanship of either. Then they took to their swords, with the result of the captain receiving wounds in the breast and arm and Mr. Bates a thrust in the thigh, clearly demonstrating that at this stage the man of the pen had the better of the man of the sword. And he maintained the advantage. For a little later the editor's weapon "bent and slanted against the captain's breast-bone." On having his attention called to the fact the soldier agreed that Mr. Bates should straighten his blade. At this critical moment, however, while, indeed, the journalist had his sword under his foot, the door of the room was broken open and the combatants separated. "On the Sunday following," so the sequel reads, "Captain Stony was married to the lady in whose behalf he had thus hazarded his life."
Duels were so common in those days that Gibbon probably heard nothing about the fight in the Adelphi when he took rooms there one hot August day in 1787. Besides, he had more important matters to occupy his thoughts. Only six weeks had passed since, between the hours of eleven and twelve at night, he had, in the summer house of his garden at Laussanne, written the last sentence of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and now he had arrived in London with the final instalment of the manuscript on which he had bestowed the labour of nearly twenty years. The heightened mood he experienced on the completion of his memorable task may well have persisted to the hour of his arrival in London. Some reflection of that feeling perhaps underlay the jocular announcement of his letter from the Adelphi to Lord Sheffield, wherein he wrote: "INTELLIGENCE EXTRAORDINARY. This day (August the seventh) the celebrated E. G. arrived with a numerous retinue (one servant). We hear that he has brought over from Laussanne the remainder of his History for immediate publication." Gibbon remained at the Adelphi for but a few days, after which the story of the tavern lapses into the happiness which is supposed to accrue from a lack of history.
Before retracing his steps to explore the many interesting thoroughfares which branch off from the Strand, the pilgrim should continue on that highway to its western extremity at Charing Cross. The memory of several famous inns is associated 'with that locality, including the Swan, the Golden Cross, Locket's, and the Rummer. The first named dated from the fifteenth century. It survived sufficiently long to be frequented by Ben Jonson and is the subject of an anecdote told of that poet. Being called upon to make an extemporary grace before King James, and having ended his last line but one with the word "safe," Jonson finished with the words, "God blesse me, and God blesse Raph." The inquisitive monarch naturally wanted to know who Ralph was, and the poet replied that he was "the drawer at the Swanne Taverne by Charing Crosse, who drew him good Canarie." It is feasible to conclude that no small portion of the hundred pounds with which the king rewarded Jonson was expended on that "good Canarie." And perhaps Ralph was not forgotten.
By name, at any rate, the Golden Cross is still in existence, but the present building dates no farther back than 1832. Of Locket's ordinary, however, no present-day representative exists. When Leigh Hunt wrote "The Town" he declared that it was no longer known where it EXACTLY stood, but more recent investigators have discovered that Drummond's banking house covers its site.
As was the case with Pontack's in the city, Locket's was pre-eminently the resort of the "smart set." The prices charged are proof enough of THAT, even though they were not always paid. The case of Sir George Ethrege is one in point. That dissolute dramatist and diplomat of the Restoration period was a frequent customer at Locket's until his debt there became larger than his means to discharge it. Before that catastrophe overtook him he was the principal actor in a lively scene at the tavern. Something or other caused an outbreak of fault-finding one evening, and the commotion brought Mrs. Locket on the scene. "We are all so provoked," said Sir George to the lady, "that even I could find in my heart to pull the nosegay out of your bosom, and throw the flowers in your face."
Nor was that the only humorous threat against Mrs. Locket from the same mouth. Probably because he was so good a customer and an influential man about town, his indebtedness to the ordinary was allowed to mount up until it reached a formidable figure. And then Sir George stopped his visits. Mrs. Locket, however, sent some one to dun him for the money and to threaten him with prosecution. But that did not daunt the wit. He bade the messenger tell Mrs. Locket that he would kiss her if she stirred in the matter. Sir George's command was duly obeyed. It stirred Mrs. Locket to action. Calling for her hood and scarf, and declaring that she would see if "there was any fellow alive that had the impudence," she was about to set out to put the matter to the test when her husband restrained her with his "Pr'ythee, my dear, don't be so rash, you don't know what a man may do in his passion."
It is not difficult to understand how the bill of Sir George Ethrege reached such alarming proportions. "They shall compose you a dish," is a contemporary reference, "no bigger than a saucer, shall come to fifty shillings." And again,
"At Locket's, Brown's, and at Pontack's enquire What modish kickshaws the nice beaux desire, What fam'd ragouts, what new invented sallat, Has best pretensions to regale the palate."
Adam Locket, the founder of the house, lived until about 1688, and was succeeded by his son Edward who was at the head of affairs until 1702. All through the reign of Queen Anne the ordinary flourished, but after her death references to it become scanty and finally it disappeared so completely that Leigh Hunt, as has been said, was in ignorance as to its site.
And Hunt also owned to not knowing the site of another Charing Cross tavern, the Rummer. As a matter of fact that, to modern ear, curiously-named tavern was at first located almost next door to Locket's, whence it was removed to the waterside in 1710 and burnt down in 1750. The memory of the tavern would probably have sunk into oblivion with its charred timbers, save for the accident of its connection with Matthew Prior. For the Rummer was kept by an uncle of the future poet, into whose keeping he is supposed to have fallen on the death of his father. One cannot resist the suspicion that this uncle, Samuel Prior by name, was of a shifty nature. He had serious enemies, that is certain. The best proof of that fact is the announcement he inserted in the London Gazette offering a reward of ten guineas for the discovery of the persons who spread the report that he was in league with the clippers of aoin. Then there is the nephew's portrait, which implies that his tavern-keeping relative was an adept in the tricks of his trade.
"My uncle, rest his soul! when living, Might have contrived me ways of thriving; Taught me with cider to replenish My vats, or ebbing tide of Rhenish; So, when for hock I drew pricked white-wine,' Swear't had the flavour, and was right-wine."
Destiny, however, had decided the nephew's fate otherwise. The Earl of Dorset, so the story goes, was at the Rummer with a party one day when a dispute arose over a passage in Horace. Young Prior, then a scholar of Westminster, was called in to decide the point, and so admirably did he do it that the earl immediately undertook to pay his expenses at Cambridge. He, in fact, "spoiled the youth to make a poet." Annotators of Hogarth have pointed out that the scene of his "Night" picture was laid in that district of Charing Cross where Locket's and the Rummer were situated.
Harking back now to Drury Lane the explorer finds himself in the midst of the memories of many daring adventures. The Jacobites who aimed at the dethroning of William III were responsible for one of those episodes. During the absence of that monarch they tried to raise a riot in London on the birthday of the Prince of Wales. Macaulay tells the rest of the story. "They met at a tavern in Drury Lane, and, when hot with wine, sallied forth sword in hand, headed by Porter and Goodman, beat kettledrums, unfurled banners, and began to light bonfires. But the watch, supported by the populace, was too strong for the revellers. They were put to rout: the tavern where they had feasted was sacked by the mob: the ringleaders were apprehended, tried, fined, and imprisoned, but regained their liberty in time to bear a part in a far more criminal design."
Noisy brawls and dark deeds became common in Drury Lane. It was the haunt of such quarrelsome persons as that Captain Fantom, who, coming out of the Horseshoe Tavern late one night, was offended by the loud jingling spurs of a lieutenant he met, and forthwith challenged him to a duel and killed him. And the tavern-keepers of Drury Lane were not always model citizens. There was that Jack Grimes, for example, whose death in Holland in 1769 recalled the circumstance that he was known as "Lawyer Grimes," and formerly kept the Nag's Head Tavern in Princes' Street, Drury Lane, "and was transported several years ago for fourteen years, for receiving fish, knowing them to be stolen." There is, however, one relieving touch in the tavern history of this thoroughfare. One of its houses of public entertainment was the meeting-place of a club of virtuosi, for whose club-room Louis Laguerre, the French painter who settled in London in 1683, designed and executed a Bacchanalian procession. This was the artist who was coupled with Verrio in Pope's depreciatory line,
"Where sprawl the Saints of Verrio and Laguerre."
Poets and prose writers alike were wont to agree in giving Catherine Street an unenviable reputation. Gay is specially outspoken in his description of that thoroughfare and the class by which it used to be haunted. It was in this street, too, that Jessop's once flourished, "the most disreputable night house of London." That nest of iniquity, however, has long been cleared away, and there are no means of identifying that tavern of which Boswell speaks. He describes it, on the authority of Dr. Johnson, as a "pretty good tavern, where very good company met in an evening, and each man called for his own half-pint of wine, or gill if he pleased; they were frugal men, and nobody paid but for what he himself drank. The house furnished no supper; but a woman attended with mutton pies, which anybody might purchase."
If the testimony of Pope is to be trusted, the cuisine of the Bedford Head, which was described in 1736 as "a noted tavern for eating, drinking, and gaming, in Southampton Street, Covent Garden," was decidedly out of the ordinary. In his imitation of the second satire of Horace he makes Oldfield, the notorious glutton who exhausted a fortune of fifteen hundred pounds a year in the "simple luxury of good eating," declare,
"Let me extol a Cat, on oysters fed, I'll have a party at the Bedford-head."
And in another poem he asks,
"When sharp with hunger, scorn you to be fed, Except on pea-chicks at the Bedford-head?"
There is an earlier reference to this house than the one cited above, for an advertisement of June, 1716, alludes to it as "the Duke of Bedford's Head Tavern in Southampton Street, Covent Garden." Perhaps the most notable event in its history was it being the scene of an abortive attempt to repeat in 1741 that glorification of Admiral Vernon which was a great success in 1740. That seaman, it will be remembered, had in 1739 kept his promise to capture Porto Bello with a squadron of but six ships. That the capture was effected with the loss of but seven men made the admiral a popular hero, and in the following year his birthday was celebrated in London with great acclaim. But in 1740 his attempt to seize Cartagena ended in complete failure, and another enterprise against Santiago came to a similar result. All this, however, did not daunt his personal friends, who wished to engineer another demonstration in Vernon's honour. Horace Walpole tells how the attempt failed. "I believe I told you," he wrote to one of his friends, "that Vernon's birthday passed quietly, but it was not designed to be pacific; for at twelve at night, eight gentlemen dressed like sailors, and masked, went round Covent Garden with a drum beating for a volunteer mob; but it did not take; and they retired to a great supper that was prepared for them at the Bedford Head, and ordered by Whitehead, the author of 'Manners.'" At a later date it was the meeting-place of a club to which John Wilkes belonged.
In all London there is probably no thoroughfare of equal brief length which can boast so many deeply interesting associations as Maiden Lane, which stretches between Southampton and Bedford Streets in the vicinity of Covent Garden. Andrew Marvell had lodgings here in 1677; Voltaire made it his headquarters on his visit to London in 1727; it was the scene of the birth of Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1775; and while one tavern was the rendezvous of the conspirators against the life of William III, another was the favourite haunt of Richard Porson, than whom there is hardly a more illustrious name in the annals of English classical scholarship.
While the name of the conspirators' tavern is not mentioned by Macaulay, that frequented by Porson had wide fame under the sign of the Cider Cellars. It had been better for the great scholar's health had nothing but cider been sold therein. But that would hardly have suited his tastes. It is a kindly judgment which asserts that he would have achieved far more than he actually did "if the sobriety of his life had been equal to the honesty and truthfulness of his character." All accounts agree that the charms of his society in such gatherings as those at the Cider Cellars were irresistible. "Nothing," was the testimony of one friend, "could be more gratifying than a tte—tte with him; his recitations from Shakespeare, and his ingenious etymologies and dissertations on the roots of the English language were a high treat." And another declares that nothing "came amiss to his memory; he would set a child right in his twopenny fable-book, repeat the whole of the moral tale of the Dean of Badajos, or a page of Athenus on cups, or Eustathius on Homer." One anecdote tells of his repeating the "Rape of the Lock," making observations as he went on, and noting the various readings. And an intimate friend records the following incident connected with the tavern he held most in regard. "I have heard Professor Porson at the Cider Cellars in Maiden Lane recite from memory to delighted listeners the whole of Anstey's 'Pleaders' Guide.' He concluded by relating that when buying a copy of it and complaining that the price was very high, the bookseller said, 'Yes, sir, but you know Law books are always very dear.'"
Somewhat earlier than Porson's day another convivial soul haunted this neighbourhood. This was George Alexander Stevens, the strolling player who eventually attained a place in the company of Covent Garden theatre. He was an indifferent actor but an excellent lecturer. One of his discourses, a lecture on Heads, was immensely popular in England, and not less so in Boston and Philadelphia. Prior to the affluence which he won by his lecture tours he had frequently to do "penance in jail for the debts of the tavern." He was, as Campbell says, a leading member of all the great Bacchanalian clubs of his day, and had no mean gift in writing songs in praise of hard drinking. One of these deserves a better fate than the oblivion into which it has fallen, and may be cited here as eminently descriptive of the scenes enacted nightly in such a resort as the Cider Cellars.
"Contented I am, and contented I'll be, For what can this world more afford, Than a lass that will sociably sit on my knee, And a cellar as sociably stored. My brave boys.
"My vault door is open, descend and improve, That cask,—ay, that will we try. 'Tis as rich to the taste as the lips of your love, And as bright as her cheeks to the eye: My brave boys.
"In a piece of slit hoop, see my candle is stuck, 'Twill light us each bottle to hand; The foot of my glass for the purpose I broke, As I hate that a bumper should stand, My brave boys.
"Astride on a butt, as a butt should be strod, I gallop the brusher along; Like a grape-blessing Bacchus, the good fellow's god, And a sentiment give, or a song, My brave boys.
"We are dry where we sit, though the coying drops seem With pearls the moist walls to emboss; From the arch mouldy cobwebs in gothic taste stream, Like stucco-work cut out of moss: My brave boys.
"When the lamp is brimful, how the taper flame shines, Which, when moisture is wanting, decays; Replenish the lamp of my life with rich wines, Or else there's an end of my blaze, My brave boys.
"Sound those pipes, they're in tune, and those bins are well fill'd; View that heap of old Hock in your rear; 'Yon bottles are Burgundy! mark how they're pil'd, Like artillery, tier over tier, My brave boys.
"My cellar's my camp, and my soldiers my flasks, All gloriously rang'd in review; When I cast my eyes round, I consider my casks As kingdoms I've yet to subdue, My brave boys.
"Like Macedon's Madman, my glass I'll enjoy, Defying hyp, gravel, or gout; He cried when he had no more worlds to destroy, I'll weep when my liquor is out, My brave boys.
"On their stumps some have fought, and as stoutly will I, When reeling, I roll on the floor; Then my legs must be lost, so I'll drink as I lie, And dare the best Buck to do more, My brave boys.
"Tis my will when I die, not a tear shall be shed, No Hic Jacet be cut on my stone; But pour on my coffin a bottle of red, And say that his drinking is done, My brave boys."
Although to-day celebrated chiefly for being the central clearing-house for the flower, fruit and vegetable supply of London, Covent Garden as a whole can vie with any other district of the British capital in wealth of interesting association. The market itself dates from the middle of the seventeenth century, but the area was constituted a parish a few years earlier. By that time, however, it could boast many town residences of the nobility, and several inns. One of these has its name preserved only in the records of the House of Lords, in a letter from a John Button at Amsterdam, who wrote to his brother "with Mr. Wm. Wayte, at the sign of the Horseshoe, Covent Garden." But the taverns of greater note, such as Chatelaine's, the Fleece, the Rose, the Hummums, and Macklin's ill-fated ordinary, belong to more recent times.
Which of these houses was first established it would be hard to say. There can be no question, however, that Chatelaine's ordinary was in great repute during the reign of Charles II, and that it continued in high favour throughout the latter years of the seventeenth century. Pepys alludes to it in 1667 and again in his entries of the following year. On the second occasion his visit interfered with toothsome purchases he was making for a dinner at his own house. "To the fishmonger's, and bought a couple of lobsters, and over to the 'sparagus garden, thinking to have met Mr. Pierce, and his wife, and Knipp; but met their servant coming to bring me to Chatelin's, the French house, in Covent Garden, and there with musick and good company, Manuel and his wife, and one Swaddle, a clerk of Lord Arlington's, who dances, and speaks French well, but got drunk, and was then troublesome, and here mighty merry till ten at night. This night the Duke of Monmouth and a great many blades were at Chatelin's, and I left them there, with a hackney-coach attending him." This was a different experience than fell to the lot of Pepys on the previous occasion, for he tells how the dinner cost the party eight shillings and sixpence apiece, and it was "a base dinner, which did not please us at all." The ordinary was evidently in the same class as Pontack's and Locket's, as may be inferred from it being classed with the latter in one contemporary reference:
"Next these we welcome such as firstly dine At Locket's, at Gifford's, or with Shataline."
Allusions in the plays of the period also show it was the resort of those who thought quite as much of spending money as of eating. Thus Shadwell makes one of his characters say of another who had risen in life that he was "one that the other day could eat but one meal a day, and that at a threepenny ordinary, now struts in state and talks of nothing but Shattelin's and Lefrond's." And another dramatist throws some light on the character of its frequenters by the remark, "Come, prettie, let's go dine at Chateline's, and there I'll tell you my whole business."
Far less fashionable was the Fleece tavern, where Pepys found pleasant entertainment on several occasions. His earliest reference to the house is in his account of meeting two gentlemen who told him how a Scottish knight was "killed basely the other day at the Fleece," but that tale did not prevent him from visiting the tavern himself. Along with a "Captain Cuttle" and two others he went thither to drink, and "there we spent till four o'clock, telling stories of Algiers, and the manner of life of slaves there." And then he tells how one night he dropped in at the Opera for the last act "and there found Mr. Sanchy and Mrs. Mary Archer, sister to the fair Betty, whom I did admire at Cambridge, and thence took them to the Fleece in Covent Garden; but Mr. Sanchy could not by any argument get his lady to trust herself with him into the taverne, which he was much troubled at."
Equally lively reputations were enjoyed by the Rose and the Hummums. The former was conveniently situated for first-nighters at the King's Playhouse, as Pepys found on a May midday in 1668. Anxious to see the first performance of Sir Charles Sedley's new play, which had been long awaited with great expectation, he got to the theatre at noon, only to find the doors not yet open. Gaining admission shortly after he seems to have been content to sit for a while and watch the gathering audience. But eventually the pangs of hunger mastered him, and so, getting a boy to keep his place, he slipped out to "the Rose Tavern, and there got half a breast of mutton off the spit, and dined all alone." Twenty years later the vicinity of the Rose gained an unenviable reputation. "A man could not go from the Rose Tavern to the Piazza once, but he must venture his life twice." And it maintained that reputation well into the next century, growing ever more and more in favour with the gamblers and rufflers of the times. It was at the bar of this house that Hildebrand Horden, an actor of talent and one who promised to win a great name, was killed in a brawl. Colley Cibber tells that he was exceedingly handsome, and that before he was buried "it was observable that two or three days together several of the fair sex, well dressed, came in masks, and some in their own coaches, to visit the theatrical hero in his shroud."
To the student of etymology the name of the Hummums tells its own tale. The word is a near approach to the Arabic "Hammam," meaning a hot bath, and hence implies an establishment for bathing in the Oriental manner. The tavern in Covent Garden bearing that name was one of the first bathing establishments founded in England, and the fact that it introduced a method of ablution which had its origin in a country of slavery prompted Leigh Hunt to reflect that Englishmen need not have wondered how Eastern nations could endure their servitude. "This is one of the secrets by which they endure it. A free man in a dirty skin is not in so fit a state to endure existence as a slave with a clean one; because nature insists that a due attention to the clay which our souls inhabit shall be the first requisite to the comfort of the inhabitant. Let us not get rid of our freedom; let us teach it rather to those that want it; but let such of us as have them, by all means get rid of our dirty skins. There is now a moral and intellectual commerce among mankind, as well as an interchange of inferior goods; we should send freedom to Turkey as well as clocks and watches, and import not only figs, but a fine state of pores."
John Wolcot, the satirist to whom, as Peter Pindar, nothing was sacred, and who surely had more accomplishments to fall back upon than ever poet had before, having been in turns doctor, clergyman, politician and painter, found a congenial resort at the Hummums when he established himself in London. He preserved the memory of the house in verse, but it is an open question whether his reflections on the horrible sounds of which he complains should be referred to Covent Garden or to the city he had abandoned.
"In Covent Garden at the Hummums, now I sit, but after many a curse and vow, Never to see the madding City more; Where barrows truckling o'er the pavement roll: And, what is sorrow to a tuneful soul, Where asses, asses greeting, love songs roar: Which asses, that the Garden square adorn, Must lark-like be the heralds of my morn."
Those love songs have not ceased in Covent Garden; the amorous duets are to be heard to this day from the throats of countless costermongers' donkeys. But they disturb Peter Pindar's tuneful soul no more as he lies in his grave near by.
It would be a grave injustice to the Hummums to overlook the fact that it possessed a ghost-story of its own. Its subject was Dr. Johnson's cousin, the Parson Ford "in whom both talents and good dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness," and the story was told to Boswell by Johnson himself. "A waiter at the Hummums," Johnson said, "in which house Ford died, had been absent for some time, and returned, not knowing that Ford was dead. Going down to the cellar, according to the story, he met him; going down again, he met him a second time. When he came up he asked some of the people of the house what Ford could be doing there. They told him Ford was dead. The waiter took a fever, in which he lay for some time. When he recovered, he said he had a message to deliver to some women from Ford; but he was not to tell what or to whom. He walked out; he was followed; but somewhere about St. Paul's they lost him. He came back and said he had delivered it, and the women exclaimed, 'Then we are all undone!' Dr. Pellet, who was not a credulous man, inquired into the truth of this story, and he said the evidence was irresistible." A tantalizing ghost-story this, and one that begets regret that the Society for Psychical Research did not enter on its labours a century or so earlier.
One other tavern, or ordinary, of unusual interest spent its brief career of less than a year under the Piazza of Covent Garden. It was the experiment of Charles Macklin, an eighteenth century actor of undoubted talent and just as undoubted conceit and eccentricity. He had reached rather more than the midway of his long life—he was certainly ninety-seven when he died and may have been a hundred—when he resolved to leave the stage and carry out an idea over which he had long ruminated. 'This was nothing less than the establishment of what he grandiloquently called the British Institution.
So much in earnest was Macklin that he accepted a farewell benefit at Drury Lane theatre, at which he recited a good-bye prologue commending his daughter to the favour of playgoers. In the greenroom that night, when regrets were expressed at the loss of so admirable an actor, Foote remarked, "You need not fear; he will first break in business, and then break his word." And Foote did not a little to make his prophecy come true. For a part of Macklin's scheme, whereby he was to instruct the public and fill his own pockets at the same time, was a lecture-room on the "plan of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Modern French and Italian Societies of liberal investigation." Macklin appointed himself the instructor in chief, and there was hardly a subject under the sun upon which he was not prepared to enlighten the British public at the moderate price of "one shilling each person." The first two or three lectures were a success. Then the novelty wore off and opposition began. Foote set up a rival oratory and devoted himself to the simple task of burlesquing that of Macklin. He would impersonate Macklin in his armchair, examining a pupil in classics after this fashion.
"Well, sir, did you ever hear of Aristophanes?"
"Yes, sir; a Greek Dramatist, who wrote—"
"Ay; but I have got twenty comedies in these drawers, worth his CLOUDS and stuff. Do you know anything of Cicero?"
"A celebrated Orator of Rome, who in the polished and persuasive is considered a master in his art."
"Yes, yes; but I'll be bound he couldn't teach Elocution."
Of course all this raillery was more attractive to the public than Macklin's serious and pedagogic dissertations. The result may be imagined. Foote's oratory was crowded; Macklin's empty.
But that was not the worst. Another feature of the British Institution was the establishment of the ordinary aforesaid. The prospectus of the Institution bore this notice: "There is a public ordinary every day at four o'clock, price three shillings. Each person to drink port, claret, or whatever liquor he shall choose." A disastrous precursor of the free lunch this would seem. And so it proved. But not immediately. Attracted by the novelty of having a famous actor for host, the ordinary went swimmingly for a time. Macklin presided in person. As soon as the door of the room was shut—a bell rang for five minutes, a further ten minutes' grace was given, and then no more were admitted—the late actor bore in the first dish and then took his place at the elaborate sideboard to superintend further operations. Dinner over, and the bottles and glasses placed on the table, "Macklin, quitting his former situation, walked gravely up to the front of the table and hoped 'that all things were found agreeable;' after which he passed the bell-rope round the chair of the person who happened to sit at the head of the table, and, making a low bow at the door, retired." He retired to read over the notes of the lecture he had prepared for these same guests, and during his absence for the rest of the evening his waiters and cooks seized the opportunity to reap their harvest. The sequel of the tale was soon told in the bankruptcy court, and Macklin went back to the stage, as Foote said he would. And now he lies peacefully enough in his grave in the Covent Garden St. Paul's, within stone's throw of the scene where he tried to be a tavern-keeper and failed.
INNS AND TAVERNS FURTHER AFIELD.
Outside the more or less clearly defined limits of the city, the neighbourhood of St. Paul's, Fleet Street, the Strand and Covent Garden, the explorer of the inns and taverns of old London may encircle the metropolis from any given point and find something of interest everywhere. Such a point of departure may be made, for example, in the parish of Lambeth, where, directly opposite the Somerset House of to-day, once stood the Feathers Tavern connected with Cuper's Gardens. The career of that resort was materially interfered with by the passing of an act in 1752 for the regulation of places of entertainment "and punishing persons keeping disorderly houses." The act stipulated that every place kept for public dancing, music, or other entertainment, within twenty miles of the city, should be under a license.
Evidently it was found impossible to secure a license for Cuper's Gardens, for in a public print of May 22nd, 1754, the Widow Evans advertises that "having been deny'd her former Liberty of opening her Gardens as usual, through the malicious representations of ill-meaning persons, she therefore begs to acquaint the Public that she hath open'd them as a Tavern till further notice. Coffee and Tea at any hour of the day." There is no record of the Widow Evans ever recovering her former "Liberty," and hence the necessity of continuing the place as a tavern merely, with its seductive offer of "coffee and tea at any hour." Even without a license, however, a concert was announced for the night of August 30th, 1759, the law being evaded by the statement that the vocal and instrumental programme was to be given by "a select number of gentlemen for their own private diversion." As there is no record of any other entertainment having been given at the E'eathers, it is probable that this attempt to dodge the law met with condign punishment, and resulted in the closing of the place for good. After it had stood unoccupied for some time Dr. Johnson passed it in the company of Beauclerk, Langton, and Lady Sydney Beauclerk, and made a sportive suggestion that he and Beauclerk and Langton should take it. "We amused ourselves," he said, "with scheming how we should all do our parts. Lady Sydney grew angry and said, 'An old man should not put such things in young people's heads.' She had no notion of a joke, sir; had come late into life, and had a mighty unpliable understanding." Though Johnson did not carry his joke into effect, the Feathers has not lacked for perpetuation, as is shown by the modern public-house of that name in the vicinity of Waterloo Bridge.
From Lambeth to Westminster is an easy journey, but unhappily there are no survivals of the numerous inns which figure in records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of those hostelries makes its appearance in the expense sheet of a Roger Keate who went to London in 1575 on the business of his town of Weymouth. He notes that on Friday the tenth day of February, "in the companie of certain courtiars, and of Mr. Robert Gregorie, at Westminster, at the Sarrazin's Head" he spent the sum of five shillings. This must have been a particularly festive occasion, for a subsequent dinner cost Mr. Keate but twenty pence, and "sundrie drinkinges" another day left him the poorer by but two shillings and twopence.
Another document, this time of date 1641, perpetuates the memory of a second Westminster inn in a lively manner. This is a petition of a constable of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields to the House of Commons, and concerned the misdoings of certain apprentices at the time of the riot caused by Colonel Lunsford's assault on the citizens of Westminster. The petitioner, Peter Scott by name, stated that he tried to appease the 'prentices by promising to release their fellows detained as prisoners in the Mermaid tavern. When he and another constable approached the door of the house, his colleague was thrust in the leg with a sword from within, which so enraged the 'prentices—though why is not explained—that they broke into the tavern, and the keeper had since prosecuted the harmless Peter Scott for causing a riot.
Numerous as were the taverns of Westminster, it is probable that the greater proportion of them were to be found in one thoroughfare, to wit, King Street. It was the residence and place of business of one particularly aggressive brewer in the closing quarter of the seventeenth century. This vendor of ale, John England by name, had the distinction of being the King's brewer, and he appears to have thought that that position gave him more rights than were possessed by ordinary mortals. So when an order was made prohibiting the passing of drays through King Street during certain hours of the day, he told the constables that he, the King's brewer, cared nothing for the order of the House of Lords. The example proved infectious. Other brewers' draymen became obstreperous too, one calling the beadle that stopped him "a rogue" and another vowing that if he knew the beadle "he would have a touch with him at quarterstaff." But all these fiery spirits of King Street were brought to their senses, and are found expressing sorrow for their offence and praying for their discharge.
According to the legend started by Ben Jonson, this same King Street was the scene of poet Spenser's death of starvation. "He died," so Jonson said, "for want of bread in King Street; he refused twenty pieces sent him by my Lord Essex, and said he was sure he had no time to spend them." This myth is continually cropping up, but no evidence has been adduced in its support. The fact that he died in a tavern in King Street tells against the story. That thoroughfare, then the only highway between the Royal Palace of Whitehall and the Parliament House, was a street of considerable importance, and Spenser's presence there is explained by Stow's remark that "for the accommodation of such as come to town in the terms, here are some good inns for their reception, and not a few taverns for entertainment, as is not unusual in places of great confluence." There are ample proofs, too, that King Street was the usual resort of those who were messengers to the Court, such as Spenser was at the time of his death.
It is strange, however, that not many of the names of these taverns have survived. Yet there are two, the Leg and the Bell, to which there are allusions in seventeenth century records. There is one reference in that "Parliamentary Diary" supposed to have been written by Thomas Burton, the book which Carlyle characterized as being filled "with mere dim inanity and moaning wind." This chronicler, under date December 18th, 1656, tells how he dined with the clothworkers at the Leg, and how "after dinner I was awhile at the Leg with Major-General Howard and Mr. Briscoe." Being so near Whitehall in one direction and the Parliament House in the other, it is not surprising to learn that the nimble Pepys was a frequent visitor at the tavern. After a morning at Whitehall "with my lord" in June, 1660, he dined there with a couple of friends. Nearly a year later business took him to the House of Lords, but as he failed to achieve the purpose he had in view he sought consolation at the Leg, where he "dined very merry." A more auspicious occasion took place three years after. "To the Exchequer, and there got my tallys for ~17,500, the first payment I ever had out of the Exchequer, and at the Legg spent 14s. upon my old acquaintance, some of them the clerks, and away home with my tallys in a coach, fearful every moment of having one of them fall out, or snatched from me." He was equally glowing with satisfaction when he visited the tavern again in 1667. All sorts of compliments had been paid him that day, and he had been congratulated even by the King and the Duke of York. "I spent the morning thus walking in the Hall, being complimented by everybody with admiration: and at noon stepped into the Legg with Sir William Warren."
'Then there was that other house in King Street, the Bell, upon which the diarist bestowed some of his patronage. On his first visit he was caught in a neat little trap. "Met with Purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me, and to let me pay my club." Which was too bad of the Purser, when Pepys' head and heart were full of "infinite business." The next call, however, was more satisfactory and less expensive. He merely dropped in to see "the seven Flanders mares that my Lord has bought lately." But the Bell had a history both before and after Pepys' time. It is referred to so far back as the middle of the fifteenth century, and it was in high favour as the headquarters of the October Club in the reign of Queen Anne.
During the eighteenth century many fashionable resorts were located in Pall Mall and neighbouring streets. In Pall Mall itself was the famous Star and Garter, and close by was St. Alban's Tavern, celebrated for its political gatherings and public dinners. Horace Walpole has several allusions to the house and tells an anecdote which illustrates the wastefulness of young men about town. A number of these budding aristocrats were dining at St. Alban's Tavern and found the noise of the coaches outside jar upon their sensitive nerves. So they promptly ordered the street to be littered with straw, and probably cared little that the freak cost them fifty shillings each.
No doubt the charges at the St. Allan's were in keeping with the exclusive character of the house, and it might be inferred that the same would have held good at the Star and Garter. But that was not the case. Many testimonies to the moderate charges of that house have been cited. Perhaps the most conclusive evidence on this point is furnished by Swift, who was always a bit of a haggler as to the prices he paid at taverns. It was 'at his suggestion that the little club to which he belonged discarded the tavern they had been used to meeting in and went to the Star and Garter for their dinner. "The other dog," Swift wrote in one of his little letters to Stella, "was so extravagant in his bills that for four dishes, and four, first and second course, without wine or dessert, he charged twenty-one pounds, six shillings and eightpence." That the bill at the Star and Garter was more reasonable is a safe inference from the absence of any complaint on the part of Swift.
Several clubs were wont to meet under this roof. Among these was the Nottinghamshire Club, an association of gentlemen who had estates in that county and were in the habit of dining together when in town. One such gathering, however, had a tragic termination. It took place on January 26th, 1765, and among those present were William Chaworth, John Hewett, Lord Byron, a great-uncle of the poet, and seven others. Perfect harmony prevailed until about seven o'clock, when the wine was brought in and conversation became general. At this juncture one member of the company started a conversation about the best method of preserving game, and the subject was at once taken up by Mr. Chaworth and Lord Byron, who seem to have held entirely opposite views. The former was in favour of severity against all poachers, the latter declaring that the best way to have most game was to take no care of it all. Nettled by this opposition, Mr. Chaworth ejaculated that he had more game on five acres than Lord Byron had on all his manors. Retorts were bandied to and fro, until finally Mr. Chaworth clenched matters by words which were tantamount to a challenge to a duel.
Nothing more was said, however, and the company was separating when Mr. Chaworth and Lord Byron happened to meet on a landing. What transpired at first then is not known, but evidently the quarrel was resumed in some form or other, for the two joined in calling a waiter and asking to be shown into an empty room. The waiter obeyed, opening the door and placing a small tallow candle on the table before he retired. The next news from that room was the ringing of a bell, and when it was answered it was found that Mr. Chaworth was mortally wounded. What had happened was explained by Mr. Chaworth, who said that he could not live many hours; that he forgave Lord Byron, and hoped the world would; that the affair had passed in the dark, only a small tallow candle burning in the room; that Lord Byron asked him if he meant the conversation on the game to Sir Charles Sedley or to him? To which he replied, if you have anything to say, we had better shut the door; that while he was doing this, Lord Byron bid him draw, and, in turning, he saw his lordship's sword half drawn, on which he whipped out his own, and made the first pass; the sword being through his lordship's waistcoat, he thought he had killed him, and asking whether he was not mortally wounded, Lord Byron, while he was speaking, shortened his sword, and stabbed him in the abdomen. Mr. Chaworth survived but a few hours. There was a trial, of course, but it ended in Lord Byron's acquittal on the ground that he had been guilty of but manslaughter. And the poet, the famous grand-nephew, rounds off this story of the Star and Garter by declaring that his relative, so far from feeling any remorse for the death of Mr. Chaworth, always kept the sword he had used with such fatal effect and had it hanging in his bedroom when he died.
Although the neighbouring Suffolk Street is a most decorous thoroughfare at the present time, and entirely innocent of taverns, it was furnished with two, the Cock and The Golden Eagle, in the latter portion of the seventeenth century. At the former Evelyn dined on one occasion with the councillors of the Board of Trade; at the latter, on January 30th, 1735, occurred the riot connected with the mythical Calf's Head Club. How the riot arose is something of a mystery. It seems, however, that a mob was gathered outside the tavern by the spreading of the report that some young nobles were dining within on a calf's head in ridicule of the execution of Charles I, and a lurid account was afterwards circulated as to how a bleeding calf's head, wrapped in a napkin, was thrown out of the window, while the merrymakers within drank all kinds of confusion to the Stuart race. According to the narrative of one who was in the tavern, the calf's head business was wholly imaginary. Nor was the date of the dinner a matter of prearrangement. It seems that the start of the commotion was occasioned by some of the company inside observing that some boys outside had made a bonfire, which, in their hilarity, they were anxious to emulate. So a waiter was commissioned to make a rival conflagration, and then the row began. It grew to such proportions that the services of a justice and a strong body of guards were required ere peace 'could be restored to Suffolk Street.
Rare indeed is it to find a tavern in this district which can claim a clean record in the matter of brawls, and duels, and sudden deaths. Each of the two most famous houses of the Haymarket, that is, Long's and the Blue Posts Tavern, had its fatality. It was at the former ordinary, which must not be confused with another of the same name in Covent Garden, that Philip Herbert, the seventh Earl of Pembroke, committed one of those murderous assaults for which he was distinguished. He killed a man in a duel in 1677, and in the first month of the following year was committed to the Tower "for blasphemous words." That imprisonment, however, was of brief duration, for in February a man petitioned the House of Lords for protection from the earl's violence. And the day before, in a drunken scuffle at Long's he had killed a man named Nathaniel Cony. This did not end his barbarous conduct, for two years later he murdered an officer of the watch, when returning from a drinking bout at Turnham Green. Mercifully for the peace of the community this blood-thirsty peer died at the age of thirty. At the Blue Posts Tavern the disputants were a Mr. Moon and a Mr. Hunt, who began their quarrel in the house, "and as they came out at the door they drew their swords, and the latter was run through and immediately died." There was another Blue Posts in Spring Gardens close by, which became notorious from being the resort of the Jacobites. This, in fact, was the house in which Robert Charnock and his fellow conspirators were at breakfast when news reached them which proved that their plot had been discovered.
A more refined atmosphere hangs around the memory of the Thatched House, that St. James's Street tavern which started on its prosperous career in 1711 and continued it until 1865, at which date the building was taken down to make room for the Conservative Clubhouse. Its title would have led a stranger to expect a modest establishment, but that seems to have been bestowed on the principle which still prevails when a mansion is designated a cottage. It reminds one of Coleridge and his
"the Devil did grin, for his darling sin Is the pride that apes humility."
Swift was conscious of the incongruity of the name, as witness the lines,
"The Deanery House may well be match'd, Under correction, with the Thatch'd."
As a matter of fact the tavern was of the highest class and greatly in repute with the leaders of society and fashion. And its frequenters were not a little proud of being known among its patrons. Hence the delightful retort of the Lord Chancellor Thurlow recorded by Lord Campbell. "In the debates on the Regency, a prim peer, remarkable for his finical delicacy and formal adherence to etiquette, having cited pompously certain resolutions which he said had been passed by a party of noblemen and gentlemen of great distinction at the Thatched House Tavern, the Lord Chancellor Thurlow, in adverting to these said, 'As to what the noble lord in the red ribbon told us he had heard at the ale-house.'"
Town residences of a duke and several earls are now the most conspicuous buildings in the Mayfair Stanhope Street, but in the closing years of the eighteenth century there was a tavern here of the name of Pitt's Head. On a June night in 1792 this house was the scene of a gathering which had notable results. The host conceived the idea of inviting a number of the servants of the neighbourhood to a festivity in honour of the King's birthday, one feature of which was to be a dance. The company duly assembled to the number of forty, but some busybody carried news of the gathering to a magistrate who, with fifty constables, quickly arrived on the scene to put an end to the merrymaking. Every servant in the tavern was taken into custody and marched off to a watch-house in Mount Street. News of what had happened spread during the night, and early in the morning the watch-house was surrounded by a furious mob. A riot followed, which was not easily suppressed. But another consequence followed. During the riot the Earl of Lonsdale was stopped in his carriage while passing to his own house, and annoyed by that experience he addressed some curt words to a Captain Cuthbert who was on duty with the soldiers. Of course a duel was the next step. After failing to injure each other at two attempts, the seconds intervened, and insisted that, as their quarrel had arisen through a mutual misconception, and as neither of them would make the first concession, they should advance towards each other, step for step, and both declare, in the same breath, that they were sorry for what had happened.
In pre-railway days Piccadilly could boast of the White Horse Cellar, which Dickens made famous as the starting-point of Mr. Pickwick for Bath after being mulct in seven hundred and fifty pounds damages by the fair widow Bardell. The fact that it was an important coaching depot appears to have been its chief attraction in those and earlier days, for the novelist's description of the interior would hardly prove seductive to travellers were the house existing in its old-time condition. "The travellers' room at the White Horse Cellar," wrote Dickens, "is of course uncomfortable; it would be no travellers' room if it were not. It is the right-hand parlour, into which an aspiring kitchen fireplace appears to have walked, accompanied by a rebellious poker, tongs, and shovel. It is divided into boxes, for the solitary confinement of travellers, and is furnished with a clock, a looking-glass, and a live waiter: which latter article is kept in a small kennel for washing glasses, in a corner of the apartment." Pierce Egan, in the closing pages of his lively account of Jerry Hawthorn's visit to London, gives an outside view of the tavern only. And that more by suggestion than direct description. It is the bustle of the place rather than its architectural features Egan was concerned with, and in that he was seconded by his artist, George Cruikshank, whose picture of the White Horse Cellar is mostly coach and horses and human beings.
Few if any London taverns save the Adam and Eve can claim to stand upon ground once occupied by a King's palace. This tavern, which has a modern representative of identical name, was situated at the northern end of Tottenham Court Road, at the junction of the road leading to Hampstead. It was built originally on the site of a structure known as King John's Palace, which subsequently became a manor house, and then gave way to the Adam and Eve tavern and gardens. This establishment had a varied career. At one time it was highly respectable; then its character degenerated to the lowest depths; afterwards taking an upward move once more.
Something in the shape of a place for refreshments was standing on this spot in the mid seventeenth century, for the parish books of St. Giles in the Fields record that three serving maids were in 1645 fined a shilling each for "drinking at Totenhall Court on the Sabbath daie." In the eighteenth century the resort was at the height of its popularity. It had a large room with an organ, skittle-alleys, and cosy arbours for those who liked to consume their refreshments out of doors. At one time also its attractions actually embraced "a monkey, a heron, some wild fowl, some parrots, and a small pond for gold-fish." It was at this stage in its history, when its surroundings were more rural than it is possible to imagine to-day, that the tavern was depicted by Hogarth in his "March to Finchley" plate. Early in the last century, however, it "became a place of more promiscuous resort, and persons of the worst character and description were in the constant habit of frequenting it; highwaymen, footpads, pickpockets, and common women formed its leading visitants, and it became so great a nuisance to the neighbourhood, that the magistrates interfered, the organ was banished, the skittle-grounds destroyed, and the gardens dug up." A creepy story is told of a subterraneous passage having existed in connection with the manor house which formerly stood on this spot, a passage which many set out to explore but which has kept its secret hidden to this day.