"Alas, Sir," said Johnson in a kind of appendix to his poem, "these are all only struggles for happiness. When I first entered Ranelagh, it gave an expansion and gay sensation, to my mind, such as I never experienced any where else. But, as Xerxes wept when he viewed his immense army, and considered that not one of that great multitude would be alive a hundred years afterwards, so it went to my heart to consider that there was not one in all that brilliant circle, that was not afraid to go home and think; but that the thoughts of each individual there would be distressing when alone."
Smollett, like Goldsmith, made good use of his visits to Ranelagh. With the enterprise of the observant novelist, he turned his experiences into "copy." And with that ubiquity of vision which is the privilege of the master of fiction he was able to see the place from two points of view. To Matt. Bramble, that devotee of solitude and mountains, the Chelsea resort was one of the worst inflictions of London.
"What are the amusements of Ranelagh?" he asked. "One half of the company are following one another's tails, in an eternal circle; like so many blind asses in an olive-mill, where they can neither discourse, distinguish, nor be distinguished; while the other half are drinking hot water, under the denomination of tea, till nine or ten o'clock at night, to keep them awake for the rest of the evening. As for the orchestra, the vocal music especially, it is well for the performers that they cannot be heard distinctly." But Smollett does not leave Ranelagh at that. Lydia also visited the place and was enraptured with everything. To her it looked like an enchanted palace "of a genio, adorned with the most exquisite performances of painting, carving, and gilding, enlighted with a thousand golden lamps, that emulate the noon-day sun; crowded with the great, the rich, the gay, the happy, and the fair; glittering with cloth of gold and silver, lace, embroidery, and precious stones. While these exulting sons and daughters of felicity tread this round of pleasure, or regale in different parties, and separate lodges, with fine imperial tea and other delicious refreshments, their ears are entertained with the most ravishing music, both instrumental and vocal." If the management of Ranelagh had been on the lookout for a press agent, they would doubtless have preferred Smollett in his Lydia mood.
Only occasionally was the even tenor of Ranelagh amusement disturbed by an untoward event. One such occasion was due to that notorious Dr. John Hill who figures so largely in Isaac Disraeli's "Calamities and Quarrels of Authors." Few men have tried more ways of getting a living than he. As a youth he was apprenticed to an apothecary, but in early manhood he turned to botany and travelled all over England in search of rare plants which he intended drying by a special process and publishing by subscription. When that scheme failed, he took to the stage, and shortly after wrote the words of an opera which was sent to Rich and rejected. This was the beginning of authorship with Hill, whose pen, however, brought more quarrels on his head than guineas into his pockets. And it was his authorship which connected him with the history of Ranelagh. One of Hill's ventures was to provide the town with a daily paper called The Inspector, in the pages of which he made free with the character of an Irish gentleman named Brown. Usually the men Hill attacked were writers, who flayed him with their pens whenever they thought there was occasion. Hence the conclusive epigram with which Garrick rewarded an attack on himself:
"For physic and farces, his equal there scarce is, His farces are physic, his physic a farce is."
But Mr. Brown was a man of action, not words. So he sought out his assailant at Ranelagh on the night of May eth, 1752, and caned him in the Rotunda in the presence of a large company. Here was excitement indeed for Ranelagh, and the affair was the talk of the town for many a day afterwards. Of course Hill did not retort in kind; on the contrary he showed himself to be an abject coward and took his thrashing without any bodily protest. That he made loud vocal protest seems likely enough. Hence the point of the pictorial satire which was quickly on sale at the London print-shops. This drawing depicted Hill being seized by the ear by the irate Mr. Brown, who is represented as exclaiming, "Draw your sword, libeller, if you have the spirit, of a mouse."
The only reply of Hill was, "What? against an illiterate fellow that can't spell? I prefer a drubbing. Oh, Mr. P——, get me the constable, for here's a gentleman going to murder me!"
Mr. P——, who is seen hastening from behind a pillar of the Rotunda, replies: "Yes, sir, yes. Pray young gentleman don't hurt him, for he never has any meaning in what he writes."
Hill took to his bed, raised an action against Mr. Brown for assault, and proclaimed from the housetops that there was a conspiracy to murder him. This brought forth a second print, showing Hill in bed and attended by doctors, one of whom, in reply to the patient's plea that he had no money, responds, "Sell your sword, it is only an encumbrance."
Another lively episode disturbed the peace of Ranelagh on the night of May 11th, 1764. Several years previously some daring spirits among the wealthier classes had started a movement for the abolition of vails, otherwise "tips," to servants, and the leaders of that movement were subjected to all kinds of annoyance from the class concerned. On the night in question the resentment of coachmen, footmen and other servants developed into a serious riot at Ranelagh, special attention being paid to those members of the nobility and gentry who would not suffer their employees to take vails from their guests. "They, began," says a chronicle of the time, "by hissing their masters, they then broke all the lamps and outside windows with stones; and afterwards putting out their flambeaux, pelted the company, in a most audacious manner, with brickbats, etc., whereby several were greatly hurt." This attack was not received in the submissive spirit of Dr. Hill; the assaulted gentry drew their swords to beat back the rioters and severely wounded not a few. They probably enjoyed the diversion from the ordinary pleasures of Ranelagh.
How gladly the frequenters of the gardens welcomed the slightest departure from the normal proceedings of the place may be inferred from the importance which was attached to an incident which took place soon after 1770. Public mourning was in order for some one, and of course the regular patrons of Ranelagh expressed their obedience to the court edict by appropriate attire. One evening, however, it was observed that there were two gentlemen in the gardens dressed in coloured clothes. It was obvious they were strangers to the place and unknown to each other. Their inappropriate costume quickly attracted attention, and became the subject of general conversation, and, such a dearth was there of excitement, Lord Spencer Hamilton aroused feverish interest by laying a wager that before the night was out he would have the two strangers walking arm in arm. The wager taken, he set to work in an adroit manner. Watching one of the strangers until he sat down, he immediately placed himself by his side, and entered into conversation. A few minutes later Lord Spencer left his new friend in search of the other stranger, to whom he addressed some civil remark, and accompanied on a stroll round the gardens. Coming back eventually to the seat on which the first stranger was still resting, Lord Spencer had no difficulty in persuading his second new acquaintance to take a seat also, The conversation of the trio naturally became general, and a little later Lord Spencer suggested a promenade. On starting off he offered his arm to the first stranger, who paid the same compliment to stranger number two, with the result that Lord Spencer was able to direct the little procession to the vicinity of his friends, and so demonstrate that the wager was won. So simple an incident furnished Ranelagh with great amusement for an entire evening!
What the management provided by way of entertainment has been partially hinted at. Music appears to have been the chief stand-by from the first and was provided at breakfast time as well as at night. Many notable players and singers appeared in the Rotunda, including Mozart, who, as a boy of eight, played some of his own compositions on the harpsichord and organ, and Dibdin, the famous ballad singer. Fireworks were a later attraction, as also was the exhibition named Mount Etna, which called for a special building. Occasional variety was provided by regattas and shooting-matches, and balloon-ascents, and displays of diving.
No doubt Ranelagh was at its best and gayest when the scene of a masquerade. But unfortunately those entertainments had their sinister side. Fielding impeaches them in "Amelia" by their results, and the novelist was not alone in his criticism. The Connoisseur devoted a paper to the evils of those gatherings, deriding them as foreign innovations, and recalling the example of the lady who had proposed to attend one in the undress garb of Iphigenia. "What the above-mentioned lady had the hardiness to attempt alone," the writer continued, "will (I am assured) be set on foot by our persons of fashion, as soon as the hot days come in. Ranelagh is the place pitched upon for their meeting; where it is proposed to have a masquerade al fresco, and the whole company are to display all their charms in puris naturalibus. The pantheon of the heathen gods, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Titian's prints, will supply them with sufficient variety of undressed characters." A cynic might harbour the suspicion that this critic was in the pay of Vauxhall.
Even he, however, did not utter the worst about the amusements of Ranelagh. The truth was known to all but confessed by few. The outspoken Matt. Bramble in the indictment cited above gave emphatic utterance to the fact that the chief recreation at Ranelagh was worse than none at all. "One may be easily tired" of the place, was the verdict of a noble lord in 1746; "it is always the same." And to the same effect is the conclusion reached by a French visitor, who was delighted for five minutes, and then oppressed with satiety and indifference. When the visitor had made the promenade of the Rotunda, there was practically nothing for him to do save make it again. Hence the mill-round of monotony so aptly expressed by the Suffolk village poet, Robert Bloomfield, who was lured to Ranelagh one night shortly before its doors were finally closed.
"To Kanelagh, once in my life, By good-natur'd force I was driven; The nations had ceas'd their long strife, And Peace beam'd her radiance from Heaven. What wonders were there to be found, That a clown might enjoy or disdain? First, we trac'd the gay ring all around; Aye—and then we went round it again.
"A thousand feet rustled on mats, A carpet that once had been green, Men bow'd with their outlandish hats, With corners so fearfully keen! Fair maids, who, at home in their haste, Had left all their clothes but a train, Swept the floor clean, as slowly they pac'd, Then.—walked round and swept it again.
"The music was truly enchanting, Right glad was I when I came near it; But in fashion I found I was wanting— 'Twas the fashion to walk, and not hear it. A fine youth, as beauty beset him, Look'd smilingly round on the train, 'The King's nephew,' they cried, as they met him. Then-we went round and met him again.
"Huge paintings of heroes and peace Seem'd to smile at the sound of the fiddle, Proud to fill up each tall shining space, Round the lantern that stood in the middle. And George's head too; Heaven screen him; May he finish in peace his long reign: And what did we when we had seen him? Why-went round and saw him again."
That poem ought to have killed Ranelagh had the resort 'not been near its demise at the time it was written. But there was to be one final flare-up ere the end came. On a June night in 1803 the Rotunda was the scene of its last ball. The occasion was the Installation of the Knights of the Bath, and produced, on the authority of the Annual Register, "one of the most splendid entertainments ever given in this country." The cost was estimated at seven thousand pounds, which may well have been the case when the guests ate cherries at a guinea a pound and peas at fourteen shillings a quart. That fte was practically the last of Ranelagh; about a month later the music ceased and the lamps were extinguished for ever. And the "struggles for happiness" of sixty years were ended.
OTHER FAVOURITE RESORTS.
Prior to the eighteenth century the Londoner was ill provided with outdoor pleasure resorts. It is true he had the Paris Garden at Bankside, which Donald Lupton declared might be better termed "a foul den than a fair garden. It's a pity," he added, "so good a piece of ground is no better employed;" but, apart from two or three places of that character, his al fresco amusements were exceedingly limited. It should not be forgotten, however, that the ale-houses of those days frequently had a plot of land attached to them, wherein a game of bowls might be enjoyed.
But the object-lesson of Vauxhall changed all that. From the date when that resort passed into the energetic management of Jonathan Tyers, smaller pleasure gardens sprang into existence all over London. By the middle of the eighteenth century they had grown so numerous that it would be a serious undertaking to attempt an exhaustive catalogue. As, however, they had so many features in common, and passed through such kindred stages of development, the purpose of this survey will be sufficiently served by a brief history of four or five typical examples.
How general was the impression that Vauxhall had served as a model in most instances may be seen from the remark of a historian of 1761 to the effect that the Marylebone Garden was to be "considered as a kind of humble imitation of Vauxhall." Had Pepys' Diary been in print at that date, and known to the proprietor, he would have been justified in resenting the comparison. For, as a matter of fact, the diarist, under the date of May 7th, 1668, had actually set down this record: "Then we abroad to Marrowbone, and there walked in the garden, the first time I ever was there, and a pretty place it is." At a first glance this entry might be regarded as disposing of the charge of imitation on the part of Marylebone Gardens. Such, however, is not strictly the case. It is true there were gardens here at the middle of the seventeenth century, but they were part of the grounds of the old manor-house, and practically answered to those tavern bowling-alleys to which reference has been made. The principal of these was attached to the tavern known as the Rose, which was a favourite haunt of the Duke of Buckingham, and the scene of his end-of-the-season dinner at which he always gave the toast: "May as many of us as remain unhanged next spring meet here again."
What needs to be specially noted in connection with the history of this resort is, that it was not until 1737—five years after the opening of Vauxhall under Tyers—that the owner of Marylebone Gardens, Daniel Gough, sufficiently put the place in order to warrant a charge for admission. In the following year the place was formally advertised as a resort for evening amusement, that announcement marking a definite competition with Vauxhall. The buildings at this time comprised a spacious garden-orchestra fitted with an organ, and what was called the Great Room, an apartment specially adapted for balls and suppers.
Many singers, some famous and other notorious, entertained the patrons of Marylebone Gardens. From 1747 to 1752 the principal female vocalist was Mary Ann Falkner, who, after a respectable marriage, became the subject of an arrangement on the part of her idle husband whereby she passed under the protection of the Earl of Halifax. She bore two children to that peer, and so maintained her power over him that for her sake he broke off an engagement with a wealthy lady. Another songstress, fair and frail, was the celebrated Nan Catley, the daughter of a coachman, whose beauty of face and voice and freedom of manners quickly made her notorious. She had already been the subject of an exciting law suit when she appeared at Marylebone at the age of eighteen. Miss Catley had been engaged by Thomas Lowe, the favourite tenor, who in 1763 became the lessee of the gardens, and opened his season with a "Musical Address to the Town," sung by himself, Miss Catley and Miss Smith. The address apologized for the lack of some of the attractions of Vauxhall and Ranelagh, but added—
"Yet nature some blessings has scattered around; And means to improve may hereafter be found."
Presuming that Lowe kept his promise, that did not prevent failure overtaking him as a caterer of public amusement. He lacked enterprise as a manager, and a wet summer in 1767 resulted in financial catastrophe.
More serious musical efforts than ballad concerts were attempted at Marylebone from time to time. That this had been the case even before Dr. Samuel Arnold became proprietor of the gardens is illustrated by an anecdote of Dr. Fountayne and Handel, who often frequented the place. Being there together on one occasion the great composer asked his friend's opinion of a new composition being played by the band. After listening a few minutes, Dr. Fountayne proposed that they resume their walk, for, said he, "it's not worth listening to—it's very poor stuff." "You are right, Mr. Fountayne," Handel replied, "it is very poor stuff. I thought so myself when I had finished it."
Fireworks were not added to the attractions until 1751, and even then the displays were only occasional features for some years. In 1772, however, that part of the entertainment was deputed to the well-known Torr, whose unique fireworks were the talk of London. He had one set piece called the Forge of Vulcan, which was so popular that its repetition was frequently demanded. According to George Steevens, it was the fame of Torr's fireworks which impelled Dr. Johnson to visit the gardens one night in his company. "The evening had proved showery," wrote Steevens in his account of the outing, "and soon after the few people present were assembled, public notice was given that the conductors of the wheels, suns, stars, etc., were so thoroughly water-soaked that it was impossible any part of the exhibition should be made. 'That's a mere excuse,' says the Doctor, 'to save their crackers for a more profitable company. Let us both hold up our sticks, and threaten to break these coloured lamps that surround the orchestra, and we shall soon have our wishes gratified. The core of the fireworks cannot be injured; let the different pieces be touched in their respective centres, and they will do their offices as well as ever.' Some young men who overheard him immediately began the violence he had recommended, and an attempt was speedily made to fire some of the wheels which appeared to have received the smallest damage; but to little purpose were they lighted, for most of them completely failed."
Apparently that was not the only occasion when the management failed to keep faith with the public. In July, 1774, the newspaper severely criticised the proprietors for having charged an admission fee of five shillings to a Fte Champtre, which consisted of nothing more than a few tawdry festoons and extra lamps, and another mentor of an earlier date had dismissed the whole place as "nothing more than two or three gravel roads, and a few shapeless trees." Altogether, popular as Torre's fireworks were when they went off, it is not improbable that they had a considerable share in terminating the existence of the gardens. Houses were increasing fast in the neighbourhood, and the dwellers in those houses objected to being bombarded with rockets. At any rate, six years after the renowned Torr began his pyrotechnics, the site of the gardens fell into the hands of builders and the seeker of out-door amusement had to find his enjoyment elsewhere.
Perhaps some of the frequenters of Marylebone Gardens transferred their patronage to the White Conduit House, situated two or three miles to the north-east. Here again is an example of a pleasure resort developing partially from an ale-house, for the legend is that the White Conduit House was at first a small tavern, the finishing touches to which were given, to the accompaniment of much hard drinking, on the day Charles I lost his head.
Unusual as is the name of this resort, it is largely self-explanatory. There was a water-conduit in an adjacent field, which was faced with white stone, and hence the name. The house itself, however, had its own grounds, which were attractively laid out when the whole property was reconstructed somewhere about 1745. At that time a Long Room was erected, and the gardens provided with a fish-pond and numerous arbours. The popularity of the place seems to date from the proprietorship of Robert Bartholomew, who acquired the property in 1754, and to have continued unabated till nearly the end of the century. Mr. Bartholomew did not overlook any of his attractions in the announcement he made on taking possession; "For the better accommodation of ladies and gentlemen," so the advertisement ran, "I have completed a long walk, with a handsome circular fish-pond, a number of shady pleasant arbours, inclosed with a fence seven feet high to prevent being the least incommoded from people in the fields; hot loaves and butter every day, milk directly from the cows, coffee, tea, and all manner of liquors in the greatest perfection; also a handsome long room, from whence is the most copious prospects and airy situation of any now in vogue. I humbly hope the continuance of my friends' favours, as I make it my chief study to have the best accommodations, and am, ladies and gentlemen, your obliged humble servant, Robert Bartholomew. Note. My cows eat no grains, neither any adulteration in milk or cream." It is obvious that Mr. Bartholomew's enthusiasm made him reckless of grammar, and that some of his ladies and gentlemen might have objected to have their butter hot; but it is equally plain that here was a man who knew his business.
And he did not fail of adequate reward. Six years after the publication of that seductive announcement the resort had become so popular, especially as the objective of a Sunday outing, that its praises were sung in poetry in so reputable a periodical as the Gentleman's Magazine. The verses describe the joy of the London 'Prentice on the return of Sunday, and give a spirited picture of the scene at the gardens.
"His meal meridian o'er, With switch in hand, he to White Conduit House Hies merry-hearted. Human beings here In couples multitudinous assemble, Forming the drollest groups that ever trod Fair Islingtonian plains. Male after male, Dog after dog succeeding—husbands, wives, Fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, And pretty little boys and girls. Around, Across, along, the gardens' shrubby maze, They walk, they sit, they stand. What crowds press on, Eager to mount the stairs, eager to catch First vacant bench or chair in long room plac'd. Here prig with prig holds conference polite, And indiscriminate the gaudy beau And sloven mix. Here he, who all the week Took bearded mortals by the nose, or sat Weaving dead hairs, and whistling wretched strain, And eke the sturdy youth, whose trade it is Stout oxen to contund, with gold-bound hat And silken stocking strut. The red arm'd belle Here shows her tasty gown, proud to be thought The butterfly of fashion: and forsooth Her haughty mistress deigns for once to tread The same unhallow'd floor.—'Tis hurry all And rattling cups and saucers. Waiter here, And waiter there, and waiter here and there, At once is call'd—Joe—Joe—Joe—Joe—Joe— Joe on the right—and Joe upon the left, For ev'ry vocal pipe re-echoes Joe. Alas, poor Joe! Like Francis in the play He stands confounded, anxious how to please The many-headed throng. But shou'd I paint The language, humours, custom of the place, Together with all curts'ys, lowly bows, And compliments extern, 'twould swell my page Beyond its limits due. Suffice it then For my prophetic muse to say, 'So long As fashion rides upon the wings of time, While tea and cream, and butter'd rolls can please, While rival beaux and jealous belles exist, So long, White Conduit House, shall be thy fame.'"
More distinguished members of the community than the London 'prentice and the "red arm'd belle" frequented the gardens now and then. About 1762 the place was a favourite resort with Oliver Goldsmith, and was the scene of a typical episode in his life. While strolling in the gardens one afternoon he met the three daughters of a tradesman to whom he was under obligation, and of course must needs invite them to take tea as his guests. But when the time of reckoning came he found, characteristically enough, that his pocket was empty. Happily some friends were near to rescue him from his difficulty, but the crucial moment of the incident was to be perpetuated in all its ludicrous humour by an artist of a later generation, who, in the painting entitled "An Awkward Position," depicted the poet at the moment when he discovered his pockets were empty.
Later in its history the White Conduit House became known as the "Minor Vauxhall" and was the scene of balloon ascents, fireworks, and evening concerts. Gradually, however, it fell on evil days, and in 1849 it passed permanently into the history of old London.
No one traversing that sordid thoroughfare known as King's Cross Road in the London of to-day could imagine that that highway was the locality in the mid-eighteenth century of one of the most popular resorts of the English capital. Such, however, was the case. At that time the highway was known as Bagnigge Wells Road, and at its northern extremity was situated the resort known as Bagnigge Wells. The early history of the place is somewhat obscure. Tradition has it that the original house was a summer residence of Nell Gwynne, where she frequently entertained her royal lover. It has also been stated that there was a place of public entertainment here as early as 1738.
Whatever truth there may be in both those assertions, there is no gainsaying the fact that the prosperity of Bagnigge Wells dates from a discovery made by a Mr. Hughes, the tenant of the house, in 1757. This Mr. Hughes took a pride in his garden, and was consequently much distressed to find that the more he used his watering-can, the less his flowers thrived. At this juncture a Dr. Bevis appeared on the scene, to whom the curious circumstance was mentioned. On tasting the water from the garden well he was surprised to find its "flavour so near that of the best chalybeates," and at once informed Mr. Hughes that it might be made of great benefit both to the public and himself. The next day a huge bottle of the water was delivered at Dr. Bevis's house, and analysis confirmed his first impression. Before he could proceed further in the matter, Dr. Bevis fell ill, and by the time he had recovered notable doings had been accomplished at Bagnigge Wells.
For Mr. Hughes was not wholly absorbed in the cultivation of flowers. Visions of wealth residing in that well evidently captured his imagination, and he at once set to work fitting up his gardens as a kind of spa, where the public could drink for his financial benefit. A second well was sunk and found to yield another variety of mineral water, and the two waters were connected with a double pump over which a circular edifice named the Temple was constructed. Other attractions were added as their necessity became apparent. They included a spacious banqueting hall known as the Long Room, provided with an organ, and the laying out of the gardens in approved style. No doubt the curative qualities of the waters speedily became a secondary consideration with the patrons of the place, but that probably troubled Mr. Hughes not at all so long as those patrons came in sufficient numbers.
That they did come in crowds is demonstrated by the literature which sprang up around the gardens, and by many other evidences. On its medicinal side the place was celebrated by one poet in these strains:
"Ye gouty old souls and rheumatics crawl on, Here taste these blest springs, and your tortures are gone; Ye wretches asthmatick, who pant for your breath, Come drink your relief, and think not of death. Obey the glad summons, to Bagnigge repair, Drink deep of its waters, and forget all your care.
"The distemper'd shall drink and forget all his pain, When his blood flows more briskly through every vein; The headache shall vanish, the heartache shall cease, And your lives be enjoyed in more pleasure and peace Obey then the summons, to Bagnigge repair, And drink an oblivion to pain and to care."
Twenty years later the muse of Bagnigge Wells was pitched in a different key. The character of the frequenters had changed for the worse. Instead of "gouty old souls," and "rheumatics," and "asthmaticks," the most noted Cyprians of the day had made the place their rendezvous. So the poet sings of
"Thy arbours, Bagnigge, and the gay alcove, Where the frail nymphs in am'rous dalliance rove."
Concurrently with this change the gentlemen of the road began to favour the gardens with their presence, chief among their number being that notorious highwayman John Rann, otherwise known as Sixteen-String Jack from his habit of wearing a bunch of eight ribbons on each knee. But he came to Bagnigge once too often, for, after insisting on paying unwelcome attentions to a lady in the ball-room, he was seized by some members of the company and thrown out of a window into the Fleet river below.
Notwithstanding this deterioration, the proprietor of the place in 1779 in announcing the opening for the season still dwelt upon the invaluable properties of the waters, not forgetting to add that "ladies and gentlemen may depend on having the best of Tea, Coffee, etc., with hot loaves, every morning and evening." But nothing could ward off the pending catastrophe. "Bagnigge Wells," wrote the historian of its decline, "sported its fountains, with little wooden cupids spouting water day and night, but it fearfully realized the facilis descensus Averni. The gardens were curtailed of their fair proportions, and this once famous resort sank down to a threepenny concert-room." It struggled on in that lowly guise, for a number of years, but the end came in 1841, and now even the name of the road in which it existed is wiped off the map of London.
More fortunate in that respect was the Bermondsey Spa, the name of which is perpetuated to this day in the Spa Road of that malodorous neighbourhood. This resort, which, like Bagnigge Wells, owed its creation to the discovery of a chalybeate spring, is bound up with the life-story of a somewhat remarkable man, Thomas Keyse by name. Born in 1722, he became a self-taught artist of such skill that several of his still-life paintings were deemed worthy of exhibition at the Royal Academy. He was also awarded a premium of thirty guineas by the Society of Arts for a new method of fixing crayon drawings.
But thirty guineas and the glory of being an exhibitor at the Royal Academy were hardly adequate for subsistence, and hence, somewhere about 1765, Keyse turned to the less distinguished but more profitable occupation of tavern-keeper. Having purchased the Waterman's Arms at Bermondsey, with some adjoining waste land, he transformed the place into a tea-garden. Shortly afterwards a chalybeate spring was discovered in the grounds, an event which obliterated the name of the Waterman's Arms in favour of the Bermondsey Spa Gardens. The ground was duly laid out in pleasant walks, with the usual accompaniments of leafy arbours and other quiet nooks for tea-parties. The next step was to secure a music license, fit up an orchestra, adorn the trees with coloured lamps, organize occasional displays of fireworks, and challenge comparison with Vauxhall if only on a small scale. One of the attractions reserved for special occasion was a scenic representation of the Siege of Gibraltar, in which fireworks, transparencies, and bomb shells played a prominent part. Keyse himself was responsible for the device by which the idea was carried out, and the performance was so realistic that it was declared to give "a very strong idea of the real Siege."
Hearty as were the plaudits bestowed upon the Siege of Gibraltar, there is not much risk in hazarding the opinion that Keyse took more pride in the picture-gallery of his own paintings than in any other feature of his establishment. The canvases included representations of all kinds of still life, and, thanks to the recording pen of J. T. Smith, that enthusiastic lover of old London, it is still possible to make the round of the gallery in the company of the artist-proprietor. Mr. Smith visited the gardens when public patronage had declined to a low ebb, so that he had the gallery all to himself, as he imagined. "Stepping back to study the picture of the 'Greenstall,' 'I ask your pardon,' said I, for I had trodden on some one's toes. 'Sir, it is granted,' replied a little, thick-set man with a round face, arch looks, and close-curled wig, surmounted by a small three-cornered hat put very knowingly on one side, not unlike Hogarth's head in his print of the 'Gates of Calais.' 'You are an artist, I presume; I noticed you from the end of the gallery, when you first stepped back to look at my best picture. I painted all the objects in this room from nature and still life.' 'Your Green-grocer's Shop,' said I, 'is inimitable; the drops of water on that savoy appear as if they had just fallen from the element. Van Huysun could not have pencilled them with greater delicacy.' 'What do you think,' said he, 'of my Butcher's Shop?' 'Your pluck is bleeding fresh, and your sweetbread is in a clean plate.' 'How do you like my bull's eye?' 'Why, it would be a most excellent one for Adams or Dolland to lecture upon. Your knuckle of veal is the finest I ever saw.' 'It's young meat,' replied he; 'any one who is a judge of meat can tell that from the blueness of its bone.' 'What a beautiful white you have used on the fat of that Southdown leg! or is it Bagshot?' 'Yes,' said he, 'my solitary visitor, it is Bagshot: and as for my white, that is the best Nottingham, which you or any artist can procure at Stone and Puncheon's, Bishopsgate Street Within.' 'Sir Joshua Reynolds,' continued Mr. Keyse, 'paid me two visits. On the second, he asked me what white I had used; and when I told him, he observed, "It's very extraordinary, sir, that it keeps so bright. I use the same." "Not at all, sir," I rejoined: "the doors of this gallery are open day and night; and the admission of fresh air, together with the great expansion of light from the sashes above, will never suffer the white to turn yellow."'"
And then the enthusiastic artist and his solitary patron walked out to the orchestra in the gardens, sole auditors of the singer who had to sing by contract whether few or many were present. It is a pathetic record, portending the final closing of Bermondsey Spa but a few years later.
On the return journey to Southwark, the Southwark of Chaucer's Tabard, the pilgrim among these memories of the past may tread the ground where Finch's Grotto Gardens once re-echoed to laughter and song. They were established in 1760 by one Thomas Finch, who was of the fraternity of Thomas Keyse, even though he was but a Herald Painter. Falling heir to a house and pleasant garden, encircled with lofty trees and umbrageous with evergreens and shrubs, he decided to convert the place into a resort for public amusement. The adornments consisted of a grotto, built over a mineral spring, and a fountain, and an orchestra, and an Octagon Room for balls and refuge from wet evenings. The vocalists included Sophia Snow, afterwards as Mrs. Baddeley to become notorious for her beauty and frailty, and Thomas Lowe, the one-time favourite of Vauxhall, whose financial failure at Marylebone made him thankful to accept an engagement at this more lowly resort. But Finch's Grotto Gardens were not destined to a long life. Perhaps they were too near Vauxhall to succeed; perhaps the policy, of engaging had-been favourites was as little likely to bring prosperity in the eighteenth as in the twentieth century. Whatever the cause, the fact is on record that after a career of less than twenty years the gardens ceased to exist.
As has been seen in an earlier chapter, the great prototype of the pleasure gardens of old London, Vauxhall, outlived all its competitors for half a century. But upon even that favourite resort the changing manners of a new time had fatal effect. As knowledge grew and taste became more diversified, it became less and less easy to cater for the amusement of the many. To the student of old-time manners, however, the history of the out-door resorts of old London is full of instruction and suggestion, if only for the light it throws on these "struggles for happiness" which help to distinguish man from the brute creation.
"A Cup of Coffee, or Coffee in its Colours," Adam and Eve Tavern Adam., the brothers Addison, Joseph Adelphi hotel Aix-la-Chapelle, Peace of Alice's coffee-house Alfred Club Almack, William Almack's "Amelia" Anderson, Mrs. Anderton's Hotel Angel Inn, Fleet Street Angel Inn, Islington Anne, Queen Annual register Anstey's "Pleaders' Guide" Apollo room at the Devil tavern Archer, Mrs. Mary Argyll, Duke of Aristophanes Armstrong, Dr. John Arnold, Dr. Samuel Arthur's Club Arthur, Mr. Athenseum Club Bacon, Anthony Baddeley, Mrs. Bagnigge Wells Bailley, Christian Bailley, Henry Barrington, Hon. Daines Barrington, Sir Jonas Bartholomew Fair Bartholomew, Robert Bate, Henry Bath, Installation of the Knights of Batson's coffee-house Bear inn Beauclerk, Lady Sydney Beauclerk, Topham Beaufort, Duchess of Beaumont, Francis Becket, Thomas , Bedford coffee-house Bedford, Duke of Bedford Head tavern Beeswing Club, The Beef Steak Club Bell tavern Belle Sauvage inn Bermondsey Spa Gardens Bevis, Dr. Bickerstaff, Sir Isaac Bishopsgate Street Within, inns of Bishopsgate Street Without, inns of Blackmore, Sir Richard Bloomfield, Robert Blount, Sir Henry Blue Boar inn Blue Posts tavern Blue-Stocking Club Boar's Head inn, Eastcheap Boar's Head inn, Southwark Boehm, Mr. Boileau's Lutrin Bolinbroke, Viscount Boodle's Club Bordeaux, merchants of Boswell, James Bowen, William Bowman, Mrs. Bramble, Matt British coffee-house British Institution Broghill, Lord Bront, Anne Bront, Charlotte Brooks's Club Brown, Tom Buchan, Dr. Buckingham, Duke of Bull and Gate inn Bull Head tavern Bull inn Burke, Edmund Burney, Dr. Burney, Fanny Burton's, Thomas, "Parliamentary Diary" Button's coffee-house Buttony, Daniel Byron, Lord Byron, Lord, the poet Cade, Jack "Calamities and Quarrels of Authors" Calf's Head Club Campbell, Lord Campbell, Thomas Cannon coffee-house Canterbury Canterbury Tales Cambridge carriers Carlisle, Lord Carlyle, Thomas Cat, Christopher Catley, Nan Chamier, Anthony Chapter coffee-house Charnock, Robert Charing Cross, coffee-houses of Charing Cross, inns of Charles I Charles II Charles V Chatelaine's Chatterton, Thomas Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaworth, William Cheapside Cross Cheshire Cheese Chesterfield, Lord Child's coffee-house Chinaman, Goldsmith's, at Vauxhall Christ's Hospital Churchill, Lady Mary Cibber, Colley Cicero Cider Cellars, "Citizen of the World," Claypole, Elizabeth, Club, definition of, Clubs of old London, Club, The, Clutterback, James, Cock tavern, Fleet Street, Cock tavern, Leadenhall Street, Cock tavern, Suffolk Street, Cocoa-Tree Club, Coffee, "Coffee House, The Character of," Coffee-houses in London, first to be opened, subject of a play, pamphlets for and against, petition, against, proclamationl suppressing, influenced by locality, "Coffee. Women's Petition against," "Coffee House Vindicated," Coleridge, S. T., Colin. Farmer, Collier's, Jeremy, "Short View," Congers, Connoisseur, The, Cony, Nathaniel, "Country Mouse and the City Mouse," Covent Garden, coffee-houses of, Covent Garden, taverns of, Coverley, Sir Roger de, Cowley, Abraham, Cowper, William, Craven Head Inn, Crown and Anchor, Cromwell, Oliver, Cruikshank, George, Cumberland, Duke of, Cumberland, Richard, Cupels Gardens, Curran, Jolin Philpot, Cuthbert, Captain, Dagger tavern, "Dark Walks" of Vauxhall. Davidson, Jobs, Davies, Thomais, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Defoe, Daniel, De Moivre. Abraham, Devil tavern, Devonshire, Duke of, Dibdin, Charles, Dickens, Charles, Dick's coffee-house, Dolly's chop-house, Don Saltero's coffee-house, Dorset, Duke of, Dorset. Earl of. Douglas, Bishop, Dover House Club, Drinkwater, Thomas, Drummond, William, Drury Lane, inns of, Dryden, John, Dudley, Lord, D'Urfey, Thomas, Dutton, John, Edward VI, Edwards; Mrs., Egan, Pierce, Elephant and Castle tavern, Elephant tavern Elizabeth, Queen England, John E O tables Essex, Lord Essex Street Club Ethrage, Sir George Evans, Widow Evelyn, John Falcon tavern Falkner, Mary Ann Falstaff, Sir John Farr, James Faslolfe, Sir John Fantom, Captain Feather's tavern Fielding, Henry Finch's Grotto Gardens Finch, Thomas Fireworks at Vauxhall at Ranelagh at Marylebone at Bermondsey Spa Gardens Fitzgerald, Edward "Fitzgerald, Fighting," Fleece tavern Fleet Street, taverns of Ford, Parson Foote, Samuel Fortune Theatre Fountain tavern Fountayne, Dr. Fox, Charles James Franklin, Beniamin Froude, James Anthony Fuller, Isaac Fuller, Thomas Garrawav's coffee-house Garraway, Thomas Garrick, David Garth, Sir Samuel Gaskell, Mrs. Gay, John Gentleman's Magazine George I George II George III George's coffee-house George inn Gibbon, Edward Gibbons, Grinling Gibraltar, Siege of Gifford's, William, Life of Ben Jenson Gillray, James Golden Cross tavern Golden Eagle tavern Goldsmith, Oliver Goose and Gridiron Gordon, George Goueh, Daniel Grant, Andrew Gray, Thomas Grecian coffee-house Green, J. R. Green Ribbon Club Gregorie, Robert Gresham, Sir Thomas Grimes, Jack Guardian, The Guildhall Museum Gwynne, Nell Hackman, James Hal, Prince Hales, John Hales, Robert Halifax, Earl of Hall, Jacob Halley Professor Hamilton, Lord Spencer Hand and Shears tavern Handel, George Frederick Hanover Club Harley, Edward, Earl of Oxford Harper, Bishop Harrington, James Harvard, John Haslam, Dr Hawkins, Sir John Henry II Henry III Henry IV Henry V Henry VI Henry VIII Herrick, Robert Hill, Aaron Hill, Dr. John Hobson, Thomas Hogarth, William Holborn, inns of Holland, Lord Horden, Hildebrand Horn tavern Horseshoe tavern Horseshoe tavern, Covent Garden Howard, Lord Howard, Major-General Howard, Sir John Howell. James. "Familiar Letters" of Hughes, Mr Hummums tavern Humphries, Miss "Humphry Clinker" Hunt's, Leigh, "The Town" Hyde, Abbot of Hyde, Lady Inspector, The Irving, Washington Jacobites Ja-mes I James III Jay, Cyrus Jerusalem coffee-house Jessop's Jonathan's coffee-house John's coffee-house Johnson, Dr. Samuel Jones, Sir William Jones, William Jonson, Ben Keate, Roger Keats, John Kenrick, William Kensington, South, Museum Keyse Thomas Killigrew, Harry King's coffee-house King, Thomas King's Head tavern, Penchurch Street King's Head tavern, Fleet Street King John's Palace Kingston, Lord King Street, Westminster, taverns of Kit-Cat Club Kit-Cat portraits Knapp, Mrs. Lacy, James Laguerre, Louis Lamb, Charles Lambe, John Lambert, George Langton, Bennet Lee, Sidney Leg tavern Leslie, Charles Robert Lill, William Lincolnshire, Fens of Lion's Head at Button's coffee-house "Lives of the English Poets" Lloyd, Charles Lloyd's coffee-house Lloyd, Edward Lloyd, Sir Philip Locket's Locket, Adam Locket, Mrs. Lockier, Francis London Bridge London coffee-house London, Fire of London, Plague of London tavern Long's tavern Lonsdale, Earl of Loughborough, Lady Loughborough, Lord Louis XVI Lowe, Thomas Lowell, J. R. Lowther, Sir James Lunsford, Colonel Lupton, Donald Lyttelton, Lord Macaulay, Lord "Mac Fleoknoe" Macklin, Charles Mackreth, Robert Maiden Lane taverns Malone, Edmund Man, Alexander Man's coffee-house Manchester, Lady Marlborough, Duchess of Marvell, Andrew Marylebone Gardens Maxwell, Dr. Medici, Mary de Melford, Lydia Mermaid tavern, Cheapside Mermaid tavern, Cornhill "Mermaid Tavern, Lines on," Miles's coffee-house Mitre tavern, Cheapside Mitre tavern, Fenchurch Street Mitre tavern, Fleet Street Monmouth, Duke of Montagu, Captain Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mrs. More, Hannah Morris, Captain Mounsey, Dr. Mozart, W. A. Nag's Head tavern, Cheapside Nag's Head tavern, Drury Lane Nando's coffee-house Nash, Beau Newport, Young New Spring Gardens Newton, Sir Isaac Norfolk, Duke of North, Dudley North, Lord Northumberland, Duke of Nottinghamshire Club Oates, Titus Observer, The "Oceana" October Club Oldisworth, William Orford, Lord Ormonde, Marquis of Oxford, Earl of Pall Mall taverns Pantheon, The "Paradise Lost," Paris Garden Paterson, James Pellett, Dr. Pembroke, Earl of Pepys, Mrs. Pepys, Samuel Percy, Dr. Petres, Lord Philips, Ambrose Phillips, Sir Richard "Pickmick Papers," Pierce, Mrs. Pie-Powder Court Pindar, Sir Paul Pindar, Sir Paul, tavern Pindar, Peter Pitt, Colonel Pitt's Head tavern Pitt, William Poins Pontack's Pope, Alexander Pope's Head tavern Porson, Richard Portland, Duke of Preston, Robert Price, Dr. Richard Priestly, Dr. "Prince Alfred," Prior, Matthew Prior, Samuel Queen's Arms tavern Queensbury, Duchess of Quickly, Dame Quin, James Rainbow tavern Raleigh, Sir Walter Ranelagh Rotunda at, f&e at, amusements of, riot at, poem on, closing of Ranelagh, Earl of Rann, John Raw&son, 'Dan Rawlinson, Mrs. Rawthmell's coffee-house Ray, Martha Red Lion inn "Retaliation" Reynolds, Sir Joshua Rich, John Richard II Richardson, Samuel Richmond, Duke of Ridley, Bishop Robinson, Sir Thomas Rochester, Lord Rock, Richard Rogers, Samuel Rosee, Pasqua Rose tavern Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rota Club Rousseau, J. J. Rowlandson, Thomas Rummer tavern St. Albans, Duchess of St. Alban's tavern St. James's coffee-house St. James's Palace St. Paul's churchyard St. Paul's coffee-house Salter, James Salutation tavern Sam's coffee-house Sanchy, Mr. Sandwich, Earl of Saqui, Mme. Saracen's Head tavern, Snow Hill "Sarrasin's Head," Westminster Savage, Richard Scott; Peter Scott, Sir Walter Sedley, Sir Charles Sedley, Jos. Selden, John Selwyn, George Shadwell, Thomas Shakespeare, William Sharp, Rebecca Sheffield, Lord Shepherd, George Sheridan, R. B. Ship and Turtle tavern Slaughter's coffee-house Slaughter, Thomas Sloane, Sir Hans Smith, Adam Smith, Captain John Smith, J. T. Smollett, Tobias Smyrna coffee-house Snow, Sophia Somerset coffee-house Southey, Robert South Sea Bubble Southwark map of meaning of name inns of Tabard inn Bear inn fair of Boar's Head inn George inn White Hart inn Spectator, The Spenser, Edmund Spotted Dog inn Staple inn Star and Garter tavern Steele, Sir Richard Steevens, George Stella, Journal to Stevens, George Alexander Stewart, Admiral Keith Stewart, General William Stillingfleet, Benjamin Stony, Captain Stow, John Strand, Inns and taverns of Strype, John Stuart, Frances Suckling, Sir John Suffolk Street taverns Swan inn Swift, Jonathan Tabard inn Tarleton, Richard Tassoni's Secchia Rapita Tatler, The Tearsheet, Doll Temple Bar Tennyson, Alfred, Lord Thackeray, W. M. Thatched House tavern Thomson, James Three as sign of London taverns Three Cranes' Lane Three Cranes in the Vintry Three Nuns tavern Three Tuns tavern Thurlow, Lord Chancellor Tibbs, Mr. and Mrs. Tickell Thomas Till, William Tom's coffee-house, Birchin Lane Tom's coff ke-house, Covent Garden "Tom Jones" Tonson, Jacob Tooke, Home Torre Totenhall Court Turk's Head coffee-house Turner, J. M. W. Tyers, Jonathan Tyers, Tom "Vanity Fair" Vauxhall, plan of; Rotunda at; attractions of; supper party at; closing of Vernon, Admiral Vittoria, victory of Voltaire Wales, Prince of (George IV) Walker's "The Original" Walpole, Horace Walton's, Isaac, "Complete Angler" Ward, Ned Warren Sir William Warwick, Countess of Washington, George Washington, Purser Waterman's Arms tavern "Webb, Young" Weller, Sam Wellington, Duke of Welteie's Club West, Captain Thomas Westminster taverns and coffee-houses "Wet Paper Club" Wheatley, Henry B. White's Chocolate-house White Conduit House White Hart inn White Hart inn, Bishopsgate Street Within White Horse Cellar "White, Mary, or the Murder at the Old Tabard" Wildman's coffee-house "Wilkes and Liberty" Wilkes, John William III William, King, statue of, Wilson, "Long-Bow" Will's coffee-house, Belle Sauvage yard Will's coffee-house, Covent Garden "Will Waterproofs Lyrical Monologue" Windmill tavern Wittengamot Club Wolcot, John, "Peter Pindar" Wren, Sir Christopher Wright, Thomas Wyatt, Sir Thomas Yarmouth, Lady York, Duke of Young, Edward