“The West End seems to me one vast cemetery. Hardly a street but has in it a house once occupied by dear friends with whom I had daily intercourse: if I stopped and knocked now, who would know or take interest in me? The streets to me are peopled with shadows: the city is as a city of the dead.”—Samuel Rogers.
The Strand (South Side).—p. 25.
“I often shed tears in the motley Strand for fulness of joy at such multitude of life.”—Charles Lamb’s Letters, vol. i.
The Strand is three-quarters of a mile long. Van de Wyngerede’s view, 1543, shows straggling houses on the south side, but on the north side all is open to Covent Garden. There were three water-courses, crossed by bridges. Haycock’s Ordinary, near Palsgrave Place, was much frequented in the seventeenth century by Parliament men and town gallants. No. 217 was the shop of Snow, a wealthy goldsmith who withstood the South Sea Bubble without injury. Gay describes him during the panic with black pen behind his ear. He says to Snow—
“Thou stoodst (an Indian king in size and hue);
Thy unexhausted shop was our Peru.”
The Robin Hood Debating Society held its meetings in Essex Street. Burke spoke here, and Goldsmith was a member. The great Cottonian Library was kept in Essex House from 1712 to 1730, on the site of the Unitarian Chapel, built about 1774. Mr. Lindsey, Dr. Disney, Mr. Belsham (Priestley’s successor) preached here, and after Mr. Belsham the Rev. Thomas Madge. At George’s Coffee-house, now 213 Strand, Foote describes the town wits meeting in 1751. Shenstone was a frequenter of this house, and came here to read pamphlets—the subscription being one shilling. The Grecian Coffee-house was used by Goldsmith and the Irish and Lancashire[Pg 444] Templars. Milford Lane was so named from an adjacent ford over the Thames. A windmill stood near St. Mary’s Church, temp. James I. Sir Richard Baker, the worthy old chronicler whom Sir Roger de Coverley so admired, lived in this lane in 1632-9. The old houses were taken down in 1852. No. 191 was the shop of William Godwin, bookseller, the author of Caleb Williams, and the friend of Lamb and Shelley.—Strype mentions the Crown and Anchor Tavern. Here, in 1710, was instituted the Academy of Ancient Music. Here, on Fox’s birthday, in 1798, 2000 guests were feasted. Johnson and Boswell occasionally supped here, and here the Royal Societies were held. In Surrey Street, in a large garden-house at the east end fronting the river, lived the Hon. Charles Howard, the eminent chemist who discovered the process of sugar-refining in vacuo.
At No. 169, now the Strand Theatre, Barker, an artist, exhibited the panorama—his own invention—suggested to him when sketching under an umbrella on the Calton Hill. No. 217, now a branch of the London and Westminster Bank, was formerly Paul, Strahan, and Bates’s, who in 1858 disposed of[Pg 445] their customers’ securities to the amount of £113,625, and were sentenced to fourteen years’ penal servitude. The drinking fountain opposite St. Mary’s Church is a product of a most useful association. The first fountain erected under its auspices was opened in April 1859, by Lord John Russell, Lord Carlisle, and Mr. Gurney.—At No. 147 was published the Sphinx, and Jan. 2, 1828, No. 1 of the Athenæum. No. 149 is the shop once belonging to Mr. Mawe, the mineralogist, who was succeeded by James Tennant, Professor of Mineralogy at King’s College. At No. 132 Strand (site of Wellington Street), the first circulating library in London was started by a Mr. Wright, in 1740. Opposite Southampton Street, from 1686 to late in the last century, lived Vaillant, the eminent foreign bookseller. No. 143 was the site of the first office of the Morning Chronicle (Perry succeeding Woodfall in 1789). Lord Campbell and Hazlitt were theatrical critics to this paper. Mr. Dickens was a parliamentary reporter, Mr. Serjeant Spankie an editor, Campbell the poet a contributor. On Perry’s death, in 1821, it was purchased by Mr. Clement for £42,000. The Mirror, the first cheap illustrated periodical was also published at this office. At No. 1 lived Rudolph Ackermann, the German printseller, who introduced lithography and annuals. He illuminated his gallery when gas was a novelty. Aaron Hill was born in a dwelling on the site of the present Beaufort House; Lord Clarendon lived here while his unlucky western house was building; and here, in 1660, the Duke of York married the chancellor’s daughter.
The York Buildings Water Company failed in 1731. Hungerford Hall and its panoramic pictures were burnt in 1854. At No. 18 Strand, in 1776, the elder Mathews the comedian was born; Dr. Adam Clarke and Rowland Hill used to visit his father, who was a religious bookseller. No. 7 Craven Street (Franklin’s old house) was long occupied by the Society for the Relief of Persons imprisoned for Small Debts. In Northumberland Court, once known as “Lieutenants’ Lodgings,” Nelson once lodged.
Norfolk Street.—p. 44.
Mr. Dickens has sketched Norfolk Street in his own inimitable way. “Norfolk is a delightful street to lodge in, provided[Pg 446] you don’t go lower down (Mrs. Lirriper dates from No. 81); but of a summer evening, when the dust and waste paper lie in it, and stray children play in it, and a kind of gritty calm and bake settles on it, and a peal of church-bells is practising in the neighbourhood, it is a trifle dull; and never have I seen it since at such a time, and never shall I see it ever more at such a time, without seeing the dull June evening when that forlorn young creature sat at her open corner window on the second, and me at my open corner window (the other corner) on the third.”
The Strand Theatre.—p. 53.
The Strand Theatre, No. 169, formerly called Punch’s Playhouse, was altered in 1831 for Rayner, the low comedian, and Mrs. Waylett, the singer. Here were produced many of Douglas Jerrold’s early plays. Under Miss Swanborough’s management, Miss Marie Wilton, arch and witty as Shakspere’s Maria, delighted the town. Here poor Rogers, now dead, was inimitable in burlesque female characters.
The Somerset Coffee-house.—p. 56.
The bold and redoubtable Junius (now pretty well ascertained, after much inkshed, to be Sir Philip Francis) occasionally left his letters for Woodfall at the bar of the Somerset Coffee-house at the east corner of the entrance to King’s College. His other houses of call were the bar of the New Exchange, and now and then Munday’s in Maiden Lane.
Somerset House.—p. 56.
The School of Design, formerly located in Somerset House, was established in 1857, under the superintendence of the Board of Trade, for the improvement of ornamental art, with regard more especially to our staple English manufactures. The school is now incorporated with the Science and Art Schools at South Kensington, which have been established, under Government, in connection with South Kensington Museum.
King’s College.—p. 56.
King’s College and School (to the latter of which the author owes some gratitude for a portion of his education) form a proprietary institution that occupies an east wing of Somerset House which was built to receive it. The college was founded in 1828; its fundamental principle is, that instruction in religion is an indispensable part of instruction, without which knowledge “will be conducive neither to the happiness of the individual nor the welfare of the State.” The college education is divided into five departments:—1. Theology. 2. General Literature and Science. 3. Applied Sciences. 4. Medicine. 5. The School. A certificate of good conduct, signed by his last instructor, is required of each pupil on entry. The age for admission is from nine to sixteen years. A limited number of matriculated students can live within the walls. Each proprietor can nominate two pupils—one to the school, and one to the college. The museum once contained the celebrated calculating machine of the late Mr. Charles Babbage. This scientific toy was given by the Commissioners of the Woods and Forests. It is now at South Kensington. The collection of mechanical models and philosophical instruments was formed by George III. and presented to the college by Queen Victoria.
Helmet Court.—p. 56.
Helmet Court-so called from the Helmet Inn-is over against Somerset House. The inn is enumerated in a list of houses and taverns made in the reign of James I. When the King of Denmark came to see his daughter, he was lodged in Somerset House, and new kitchen-ranges were set up at the Helmet and the Swan at the expense of the Crown. Henry Condell, a fellow-actor with Shakspere, left his houses in Helmet Court to “Elizabeth, his well-beloved wife.”
Beaufort Buildings.—p. 83.
Charles Dibdin, born 1745, the author of 1300 songs, gave his musical entertainments at the Lyceum, and at Scott and[Pg 448] Idle’s premises in the Strand. Latterly, assisted by his pupils, he conducted public musical soirees at Beaufort Buildings.
Coutts’s Bank.—p. 86.
Mr. Coutts died in 1822. He was a pallid, sickly, thin old gentleman, who wore a shabby coat and a brown scratch-wig. He was once stopped in the street by a good-natured man, who insisted on giving him a guinea. The banker, however, declined the present with thanks, saying he was in no “immediate want.” Miss Harriet Mellon first appeared at Drury Lane in 1795, as Lydia Languish. Mr. Coutts married Miss Mellon in 1815. She made her last appearance at Drury Lane, early in the same year, as Audrey. She left the bulk of her fortune to Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts, whose gold the Morning Herald once computed at 13 tons, or 107 flour-sacks full. The sum, £1,800,000, was the exact sum also left by old Jemmy Wood of Gloucester. Counting a sovereign a minute, it would take ten weeks to count; and placed sovereign to sovereign, it would reach 24 miles 260 yards.
Coutts’s Bank was founded by George Middleton. Till Coutts’s time it stood near St. Martin’s Church. Good-natured Gay banked there, and afterwards Dr. Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, and the Duke of Wellington. The Royal Family have banked at Coutts’s ever since the reign of Queen Anne.
The Dark Arches.—p. 97.
“The Adelphi arches, many of which are used for cellars and coal-wharfs, remind one in their grim vastness,” says Mr. Timbs, “of the Etruscan Cloaca of old Rome.” Beneath the “dry arches” the most abandoned characters used to lurk; outcasts and vagrants came there to sleep, and many a street thief escaped from his pursuers in those subterranean haunts before the introduction of gas-light and a vigilant police. Mr. Egg, that tragic painter, placed the scene of one of his most pathetic pictures by this part of what was once the river-bank.
Society of Arts.—p. 99.
Lord Folkestone and Mr. Shipley founded the Society of Arts, at a meeting at Rawthmell’s Coffee-house, in Catharine Street, in March 1754. It was proposed to give rewards for the discovery of cobalt and the cultivation of madder in England. Premiums were also to be given for the best drawings to a certain number of boys and girls under the age of sixteen. The first prize, £15, was adjudged by the society to Cosway, then a boy of fifteen. The society was initiated in Crane Court; from thence it removed to Craig’s Court, Charing Cross; from there to the Strand, opposite Beaufort Buildings; and from thence, in 1774, to the Adelphi.
The subjects of Barry’s six pictures in the Council Room are the following (beginning on the left as you enter):—1. “Orpheus.” The figure of Orpheus and the heads of the two reclining women are thought fine. 2. “A Grecian Harvest Home” (the best of the series). 3. “Crowning the Victors at Olympia.” 4. “Commerce, or the Triumph of the Thames.” (Dr. Burney, the composer, is composedly floating among tritons and sea-nymphs in his grand tie-wig and queue.) 5. “The Distribution of Premiums by the Society of Arts.” (This picture contains a portrait of Dr. Johnson, for which he sat.) 6. “Elysium, or the State of Final Retribution.”
Barry did pretty well with this work, which occupied him from 1777 to 1783. The society gave him £300 and a gold medal, and also £500, the profit of two exhibitions-total, £800.
In 1776 the society had proposed to the Academy to decorate the Council Room, and be reimbursed by the exhibition of the works. Reynolds and the rest refused, but Barry soon afterwards obtained permission to execute the whole, stipulating to be paid for his colours and models. Barry at the time had only sixteen shillings in his pocket. During the progress of the work the painter, being in want, applied for a small subscription through Sir George Savile, but in vain. An insolent secretary even objected to his charge for colours and models. The society afterwards relented and advanced £100. Barry died poor, neglected, and half crazy, in 1806, aged sixty-five.
The Adelphi Rooms contain three poor statues (Mars, Venus, and Narcissus) by Bacon, R.A., a portrait of Lord Romney[Pg 450] by Reynolds, and a full-length portrait of Jacob, Lord Folkestone, the first president, by Gainsborough. In the ante-room, in a bad light, hangs a characteristic likeness of poor, wrongheaded Barry. The pictures are to be seen between ten and four any day but Wednesday and Saturday. The society meets every Wednesday at eight from October 31 to July 31.
In the Council Room, that parade-ground of learned men, Goldsmith once made an attempt at a speech, but was obliged to sit down in confusion. Dr. Johnson once spoke there on “Mechanics,” “with a propriety, perspicuity, and energy which excited general admiration.”
Jonas Hanway, that worthy old Russian merchant, when he came to see Barry’s pictures, insisted on leaving a guinea instead of the customary shilling. The Prince of Wales gave Barry sittings. Timothy Hollis left him £100. Lord Aldborough declared that the painter had surpassed Raphael. Lord Romney gave him 100 guineas for a copy of one of the heads, and Dr. Johnson praised the “grasping mind” in the six pictures.
Duchy of Lancaster.—p. 110.
The Duchy of Lancaster is a liberty (whatever that means) in the Strand. It belongs to the Crown, the Queen being “Duchess of Lancaster.” It begins without Temple Bar and runs as far as Cecil Street. The annual revenue of the duchy is about £75,000.
Waterloo Bridge.—p. 124.
Hood’s exquisite poem, “The Bridge of Sighs,” appeared in “Hood’s Magazine” in May 1844. The poet’s son informs me that he believes that the poem was not suggested by any special incident, but that a great many suicides had been reported in the papers about that time.
“The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver”
marks the date of the writing,
“But not the dark arch
Of the black flowing river.”
The dark arch is that of Waterloo Bridge, a spot frequently selected by unfortunate women who meditate suicide, on account of its solitude and privacy.
York House.—p. 135.
After the death of Buckingham, York House was entrusted to the guardianship of that Flemish adventurer and quack in art, Sir Balthasar Gerbier, who here quarrelled and would have fought with Gentilleschi, a Pisan artist who had been invited over by Charles I., and of whom he was intolerably jealous. Some of Gentilleschi’s work is still preserved at Marlborough House. The York Buildings Waterworks Company was started in the 27th year of Charles II. In 1688 there were forty-eight shares. After the Scotch rebellion in 1715, the company invested large sums in purchasing forfeited estates, which no Scotchman would buy. The concern became bankrupt. The residue of the Scotch estates was sold in 1783 for £102,537.
Buckingham Street.—p. 135.
It is always pleasant to recall any scenes on which the light of Mr. Dickens’s fancy has even momentarily rested. It was to Buckingham Street that Mr. David Copperfield went with his aunt to take chambers commanding a view of the river. They were at the top of the house, very near the fire-escape, with a half-blind entry and a stone-blind pantry.
Hungerford Bridge.—p. 138.
The Hungerford Suspension Bridge was purchased in 1860 by a company of gentlemen, and used in the construction of the bridge across the Avon at Clifton. This aerial roadway has a span of 703 feet, and is built at the height of 245 feet. It cost little short of £100,000. A bridge at Clifton was first suggested in 1753 by Alderman Vick of Bristol, who left a[Pg 452] nest-egg of £1000. The bridge was completed and opened in 1864.
The Gaiety Theatre, Strand (North Side).—p. 147.
This elegant and well-appointed theatre, near the corner of Wellington Street, was built in 1868, from the designs of Mr. C. J. Phillips. It occupies the site of the Strand Music Hall, a large building which had been erected in the place of an arcade which the late Lord Exeter had built here in order to resuscitate the glories of old Exeter ’Change. Both the arcade and music hall proved disastrous failures, whilst the Gaiety Theatre, on the other hand, has turned out immensely successful, under the management of Mr. John Hollingshead.
The Strand (North Side).—p. 147.
Sir John Denham, the poet, when a student at Lincoln’s Inn, in 1638, in a drunken frolic blotted out with ink all the Strand signs from Temple Bar to Charing Cross.
In a house in Butcher Row, Winter, Catesby, Wright, and Guy Fawkes met and took the sacrament together. Raleigh’s widow lived in Boswell Court, and also Lord Chief Justice Lyttelton and Sir Richard and Lady Fanshawe; and in Clement’s Lane resided Sir John Trevor, cousin to Judge Jeffries and Speaker to the House of Commons. Dr. Johnson’s pew at St. Clement’s is No. 18 in the north gallery; Dr. Croly put up a tablet to his memory. The Tatler, 1710, announces a stage-coach from the One Bell in the Strand (No. 313) to Dorchester.
No. 317 was the forge kept by the Duchess of Albemarle’s father, and it faced the Maypole; Aubrey describes it as the corner shop, the first turning to the right as you come out of the Strand into Drury Lane. Dr. King died at No. 332, once the Morning Chronicle office. The New Exeter Change—the site of which is now covered by the Gaiety Theatre and Restaurant—was designed by Sydney Smirke, with Jacobean frontage. East of Exeter Change stood the Canary House, mentioned by Dryden as famous for its sack with the “abricot” flavour. Pepys mentions Cary House, probably the same place. At No. 352 was born, in 1798, Henry Neale the poet, son of the[Pg 453] map and heraldic engraver. In Exeter Change No. 1 of the Literary Gazette was published, January 25, 1817. Old Parr lodged at No. 405, the Queen’s Head public-house. No. 429, built for an insurance office by Mr. Cockerell, has a fine façade. At No. 448 is the Electric Telegraph Office; the time signal-ball, liberated by a galvanic current sent from Greenwich, falls exactly at one, and drops ten feet. The old Golden Cross Hotel stood farther west than the present. The Lowther Arcade, designed by Witherden Young, is 245 feet long and 20 feet broad. Here the electric eel and Perkin’s steam-gun were exhibited about 1838. In 1832 a Society for the Exhibition of Models had been formed here. In 1831 the skeleton of a whale was exhibited in a tent in Trafalgar Square; it was 98 feet long, and Cuvier had estimated it to be nearly a thousand years old.
It should be added that for most of the facts in this note the author is indebted to that treasure-house of topographical anecdote, Curiosities of London, by J. Timbs, Esq., F.S.A., a book displaying an almost boundless industry.
The Crown and Anchor Tavern.—p. 152.
The Crown and Anchor Tavern, at the corner of Arundel Street, was for some years the Whittington Club. Before the alterations it had an entrance from the Strand, which is now closed, its door being now in Arundel Street. Douglas Jerrold was one of the earliest promoters of this club, which was much used by young men of business. In 1873, after having been closed for some time, it was re-opened as the Temple Club. The King of Clubs was started about 1801 by Mr. Robert (Bobus) Smith, brother of Sydney, a friend of Canning’s, and Advocate-General of Calcutta. It sat every Saturday at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, at that time famous for its dinners and wine, and a great resort for clubs. Politics were excluded. One of the chief members was Mr. Richard Sharpe, a partner in a West India house, and a Parliamentary speaker during Addington’s and Perceval’s administrations. Mackintosh, Scarlett, Rogers the poetical banker, John Allen, and M. Dumont, an emigré and friend of the Abbé de Lisle, were also members. Erskine, too, often dropped in to spend an hour stolen from his immense and overflowing business. He there[Pg 454] told his story of Lord Loughborough trying to persuade him not to take Tom Paine’s brief. He once met Curran there. A member of the club describes the ape’s face of the Irish orator, with the sunken and diminutive eyes that flashed lightning as he compared poor wronged Ireland to “Niobe palsied with sorrow and despair over her freedom, and her prosperity struck dead before her.”
Wych Street.—p. 164.
“In a horrible little court, branching northward from Wych Street,” writes Mr. Sala, in an essay written in America, “good old George Cruikshank once showed me the house where Jack Sheppard, the robber and prison-breaker, served his apprenticeship to Mr. Wood, the carpenter; and on a beam in the loft of this house Jack is said to have carved his name. * * * Theodore Hook used to say that “he never passed through Wych Street in a hackney-coach without being blocked up by a hearse and a coal waggon in the van, and a mud-cart and the Lord Mayor’s carriage in the rear.”
Newspaper Offices.—p. 167.
It is almost impossible to enumerate all the Strand newspaper offices, present and past. It is, perhaps, sufficient to mention The Spectator (a very able paper,—office in Waterloo Place); The London Journal (a cheap, well-conducted paper with an enormous circulation); The Family Herald (the house formerly of Mr. Leigh, bookseller, a relation of the elder Mathews, and the first introducer of the Guides that Mr. Murray has now rendered so complete); The Illustrated Times, The Morning Post, Notes and Queries, The Queen, Law Times, Athenæum, and Field (in Wellington Street); Bell’s Life, The Globe, Bell’s Messenger, The Observer, and lastly, The Pall Mall Gazette, and The Saturday Review.
The Beef-Steak Club.—p. 172.
Bubb Doddington, Aaron Hill, “Leonidas” Glover, Sir Peere Williams (a youth of promise, shot at the siege of[Pg 455] Belleisle), Hoadly, and the elder Colman (the author of The Suspicious Husband), were either guests or members of this illustrious club, whose origin dates back to Rich’s days in 1735. Then came the days of Lord Sandwich, Wilkes, Bonnell Thornton, Arthur Murphy, Churchill, and Tickell. In 1785 the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.) became the twenty-fifth member.
Churchill resigned when the club began to receive him coldly after his desertion of his wife. Wilkes never visited the club after the contemptuous rejection of his infamous poem, the Essay on Woman. Garrick was a great ornament of the club; he once dined there dressed in the character of Ranger. Little Serjeant Prime was another club celebrity of that period. An anonymous writer describes a meeting of the club in or about 1799. There were present John Kemble, Cobb of the India House, the Duke of Clarence, Sir John Cox Hippisley, Charles Morris (the writer of our best convivial songs), Ferguson of Aberdeen, Mingay, and the Duke of Norfolk. As the clock struck five, a curtain drew up, discovering the kitchen through a gridiron grating, over which was inscribed this motto—
“If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly.”
The Duke of Norfolk ate at least three steaks, and then when the cloth was removed, took the chair on a dais, elevated some steps above the table, and above which hung the small cocked-hat in which Garrick played Ranger, and other insignia of the society. He was also invested with an orange ribbon, to which a silver gridiron was appended. The sound motto “Beef and Liberty” is inscribed on the buttons of the members. It is the duty of the junior member at this club to bring up the wine. The writer before quoted describes seeing Lord Brougham and the Duke of Leinster performing this subordinate duty. Sir John Hippisley was the man who Windham used to say was very nearly a clever fellow. Cobb was the author of “First Floor” (a farce) and of three comic operas—“The Haunted Tower,” “The Siege of Belgrade,” and “Ramah Drûg.” To the two former Storace set his finest music.
“Captain” Morris, the author of those delightful songs, “The Town and Country Life” and “When the Fancy-stirring Bowl wakes the Soul to Pleasure,” used to brew punch and[Pg 456] “out-watch the Bear” at this club till after his seventy-eighth year. The Duke of Norfolk, at Kemble’s solicitation, gave the veteran bard a pleasant little Sabine retreat near Dorking. Jack Richards, the presbyter of the club, was famous for inflicting long verbal harangues on condemned social culprits.
Another much respected member was old William Linley, Sheridan’s brother-in-law; nor must we forget Richard Wilson, Lord Eldon’s secretary, and Mr. Walsh, who had been in early life valet to Lord Chesterfield. The club secretary, in 1828, was Mr. Henry Stephenson, comptroller to the Duke of Sussex; and about this time also flourished, either as guests or members, Lord Viscount Kirkwall, Rowland Stephenson the banker, and Mr. Denison, then M.P. for Surrey.
A literary friend tells me that the last time he saw Mr. Thackeray was one evening in Exeter Street. The eminent satirist of snobs was peering about for the stage door of the Lyceum Theatre, or some other means of entrance to the Beef-steak Club, with whose members he had been invited to dine.
Exeter Change.—p. 175.
Thomas Clark, “the King of Exeter Change,” took a cutler’s stall here in 1765 with £100 lent him by a stranger. By trade and thrift he grew so rich that he once returned his income at £6000 a year, and before his death in 1816 he rented the whole ground-floor of the Change. He left nearly half a million of money, and one of his daughters married Mr. Hamlet, the celebrated jeweller. Some of the old materials of Exeter House, including a pair of large Corinthian columns at the east end, were used in building the Change, which was the speculation of a Dr. Barbon, in the reign of William and Mary.
Trafalgar Square.—p. 221.
The fountains were constructed in 1845, after designs from Sir Charles Barry.
Morley’s Hotel (1 to 3 at the south-east corner) is much frequented by American travellers, who may be seen on summer evenings calmly smoking their cigars outside the chief entrance. The late proprietor, who died a few years since,[Pg 457] left nearly a hundred thousand pounds to the Foundling and other charities.
The Union Club.—p. 226.
The Union Club House, which stands on the south-west of Trafalgar Square and faces Cockspur Street, was built by Sir Robert Smirke, R.A. The club, consisting of 1000 members, has been in existence forty-four years; its expenditure is about £10,000 a year. Its trustees are the Earl of Lonsdale, Viscount Gage, Lord Trimleston, and Sir John Henry Lowther, Bart. The entrance money is thirty guineas, the annual subscription six guineas. Mr. Peter Cunningham, writing in 1849, describes the club as “the resort chiefly of mercantile men of eminence;” but its present members are of all the professions.
Drummond’s Bank.—p. 227.
This bank is older than Coutts’s. Pope banked there. The Duke of Sutherland and many of the Scottish nobility bank there.
St. Martin’s Lane.—p. 252.
Roger Payne was a celebrated bookbinder in Duke’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane, London. This ingenious artist, a native of Windsor Forest, was born in 1739, and first became initiated into the rudiments of his business under the auspices of Mr. Pote, bookseller to Eton College. On settling in the metropolis, about the year 1766, he worked for a short time for Thomas Osborne, bookseller in Holborn, but principally for honest Thomas Payne, of the Mews Gate, who, although of the same name, was not related to him. His talents as an artist, particularly in the finishing department, were of the first order, and such as, up to his time, had not been developed by any other of his countrymen. “Roger Payne,” says Dr. Dibdin, “rose like a star, diffusing lustre on all sides, and rejoicing the hearts of all true sons of bibliomania.” He succeeded in executing binding with such artistic taste as to command the admiration and patronage of many noblemen. His chef-d’œuvre is a large paper copy of Æschylus, translated by the Rev. Robert Potter, the ornaments and decorations of which are most[Pg 458] splendid and classical. The binding of this book cost Earl Spencer fifteen guineas.
It was by his artistic talents alone that Roger Payne became so celebrated in his day; for, owing to his excessive indulgence in strong ale, he was in person a deplorable specimen of humanity. As evidence of this propensity, his account-book contains the following memorandum of one day’s expenditure: “For bacon, one halfpenny; for liquor, one shilling.” Even his trade bills are literary curiosities in their way, and frequently illustrate his unfortunate propensity. On one delivered to Mr. Evans for binding Barry’s work on The Wines of the Ancients, he wrote:—
“Homer the bard, who sung in highest strains,
Had, festive gift, a goblet for his pains:
Falernian gave Horace, Virgil fire,
And barley-wine my British muse inspire;
Barley-wine, first from Egypt’s learned shore,
Be this the gift to me from Calvert’s store!”
During the latter part of his life, as might have been expected, Roger Payne was the victim of poverty and disease. He closed his earthly career at his residence in Duke’s Court on Nov. 20, 1787, and was interred in the burial-ground of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, at the expense of his worthy patron, Mr. Thomas Payne. This excellent man had also a portrait taken and engraved of his namesake at his work in his miserable den, under which Mr. Bindley wrote the following lines:—
“Rogerus Payne: Natus Vindesor. MDCCXXXIX.; denatus Londin. MDCCLXXXVII. Effigiem hanc graphicam solertis Bibliopegi ?????????? meritis Bibliopola dedit. Sumptibus Thomæ Payne. [Etch’d and published by S. Harding, No. 127 Pall Mall, March 1, 1800.”]
Hemings’ Row.—p. 252.
Hemings’ Row, St. Martin’s Lane, was originally called Dirty Lane. The place probably derived its name from John Hemings, an apothecary living there in 1679. Peter Cunningham writes in 1849: “Upon an old wooden house at the west end of this street, near the second-floor window, is the name given above, and the date 1680.”
Mr. James Payne, a bookseller of Bedfordbury (perhaps the son of Thomas Payne), died in Paris in 1809. Mr. Burnet describes him as remarkable for amenity as for probity and learning. Repeated journeys to Italy, France, and Germany had enabled him to collect a great number of precious MSS. and rare first editions, most of which went to enrich Lord Spencer’s library—the most splendid collection ever made by a private person.
Earl of Bristol.—p. 264.
Digby, Earl of Bristol, whom Pepys accuses of losing King Charles his head by breaking off the treaty of Uxbridge, lived in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. His second daughter, Lady Ann, married the evil Earl of Sutherland. It was Bristol who was base enough to impeach Lord Clarendon for selling Dunkirk and making Charles marry a barren queen. Burnet describes the earl as having become a Roman Catholic in order to be qualified for serving under Don John in Flanders. He was an astrologer, and had the impudence to tell the king he was in danger from his brother. He renounced his new religion openly at Wimbledon, and then fled to France.
Wild House.—p. 277.
Wild House, Drury Lane, was formerly the town mansion of the Welds of Lulworth Castle. Short’s Gardens were so called from Dudley Short, Esq., who had a mansion here with fine gardens in the reign of Charles II. In Parker Street, Philip Parker, Esq., had a mansion in 1623.
Craven House, Drury Lane.—p. 292.
Pepys frequently mentions Lord Craven as attending the meetings at the Trinity House upon Admiralty business. The old veteran, whom he irreverently calls “a coxcomb,” complimented him on several occasions upon his popularity with the[Pg 460] Duke of York. Pennant says that Lord Craven and the Duke of Albemarle “heroically stayed in town during the dreadful pestilence, and, at the hazard of their lives, preserved order in the midst of the terrors of the time.” This fine old Don Quixote happened to be on duty at St. James’s when William’s Dutch troops were coming across the park to take possession. Lord Craven would have opposed their entrance, but his timid master forbidding him to resist, he marched away “with sullen dignity.” The date of the sale of the pest-houses should be 1722, not 1772.
Drury Lane.—p. 299.
In the Regency time, and before, Drury Lane was what the Haymarket is now. Oyster shops, low taverns, and singing-rooms of the worst description surrounded the theatre. One of the worst of these, even down to our own times, was “Jessop’s” (“The Finish”)—a great resort of low prize-fighters, gamblers, sporting men, swindlers, spendthrifts, and drunkards. “H.’s” (I veil the infamous name), described in a MS. of Horace Walpole, is now a small, dingy theatrical tailor’s, and in the besmirched back-shop shreds of gilding and smears of colour still show where Colonel Hanger knocked off the heads of champagne bottles, and afterwards, Lord Waterford and such “bloods” squandered their money and their health.
The Savage Club.—p. 303.
The Savage Club, which was started at the Crown Tavern in Drury Lane, and then removed to rooms next the Lyceum, and said to have been those once occupied by the Beef-steak Club, is now moored at Evans’s Hotel, Covent Garden. The name of the club has a duplex signification; it refers to Richard Savage the poet, and also to the Bohemian freedom of its members. It includes in its number no small share of the literary talent of the London newspaper and dramatic world.
Clare Market.—p. 339.
Denzil Street was so called by the Earl of Clare in 1682, in memory of his uncle Denzil, Lord Holles, who died 1679-80.[Pg 461] He was one of the five members of Parliament whom Charles I. so despotically and so unwisely attempted to seize. The inscription on the south-west wall of the street was renewed in 1796.
Street Characters.—p. 381.
It would be impossible to recapitulate the street celebrities from Hogarth’s time to the present day which St. Giles’s has harboured. A writer in Notes and Queries mentions a man who used to sell dolls’ bedsteads, and who was always said to have been the king’s evidence against the Cato Street conspirators. Charles Lamb describes, in his own inimitable way, an old sailor without legs who used to propel his mutilated body about the streets on a wooden framework supported on wheels. He was said to have been maimed during the Gordon riots. But I have now myself to add to the list the most remarkable relic of all. There is (1868?) to be seen any day in the London streets a gaunt grey-haired old blind beggar, with hard strongly-marked features and bushy eyebrows. This is no less a person than Hare the murderer, who years ago aided Burke in murdering poor mendicants and houseless people in Edinburgh, and selling their bodies to the surgeons for dissection. Hare, a young man then, turned king’s evidence and received a pardon. He came to London with his blood money, and entered himself as a labourer under an assumed name at a tannery in the suburbs. The men discovering him, threw the wretch into a steeping-pit, from which he escaped, but with loss of both eyes.
The Seven Dials.—p. 385.
Evelyn describes going (Oct. 5, 1694) to see the seven new streets in St. Giles’s, then building by Mr. Neale, who had introduced lotteries in imitation of those of Venice. The Doric column was removed in July 1773, in the hope of finding a sum of money supposed to be concealed under the base. The search was ineffectual; the pillar now ornaments the common at Weybridge. Gay describes Seven Dials, in his own pleasant, inimitable way (circa 1712).
“Where fam’d St. Giles’s ancient limits spread,
An inrailed column rears its lofty head,
[Pg 462]Here to seven streets seven dials count the day,
And from each other catch the circling ray;
Here oft the peasant, with inquiring face,
Bewildered trudges on from place to place;
He dwells on every sign with stupid gaze,
Enters the narrow alley’s doubtful maze,
Tries every winding court and street in vain,
And doubles o’er his weary steps again.”
Martinus Scriblerus is supposed to have been born in Seven Dials. Horace Walpole describes the progress of family portraits from the drawing-room to the parlour, from the parlour to the counting-house, from the housekeeper’s room to the garret, and from thence to flutter in rags before a broker’s shop in the Seven Dials. Here Taylor laid the scene of “Monsieur Tonson.”
“Be gar! there’s Monsieur Tonson come again!”
The celebrated Mr. Catnach, the printer of street ballads, lived in Seven Dials. He died about 1847.
Streets in St. Giles’s.—p. 385.
In Dyot Street lived Curll’s “Corinna,” Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, and her mother. At the Black Horse and Turk’s Head public-houses in this street, those wretches Haggerty and Holloway, in November 1802, planned the murder of Mr. Steele on Hounslow Heath, and here they returned after the perpetration of the crime. At the execution of these murderers at the Old Bailey, in 1807, twenty-eight persons were trampled to death. The street was immortalised by a song in Bombastes Furioso, an excellent and boisterous burlesque tragic opera, written by William Barnes Rhodes, a clerk in the Bank of England. Bainbridge and Breckridge Streets, St. Giles’s, now no more, were built prior to 1672, and derived their names from the owners, eminent parishioners in the reign of Charles II. Dyot Street was inhabited as late as 1803 by Philip Dyot, Esq., a descendant of Richard Dyot, from whom it derived its name. In 1710 there was a “Mendicants’ Convivial Club” held at the Welsh’s Head in this street. The club was founded[Pg 463] in 1660, when its meetings were held at the Three Crowns in the Poultry. Denmark Street was probably built in 1689. Zoffany lived at No. 9. Bunbury, the caricaturist, laid the scene of his “Sunday Evening Conversation” in this street. In July 1771 Sir John Murray, the Pretender’s secretary, was carried off in a coach from his house near St. Giles’s Church by armed men.
Saint Giles.—p. 385.
This saint has some scurvy worshippers. Pierce Egan, in his Life in London (1820), afterwards dramatised, describes the thieves’ kitchens and beggars’ revels, which men about town in those days thought it “the correct thing,” as the slang goes, to see and share. “The Rookery” was a triangular mass of buildings, bounded by Bainbridge, George, and High Streets. It was swept away by New Oxford Street. The lodgings were threepence a night. Sir Henry Ellis, in 1813, counted seventeen horse-shoes nailed to thresholds in Monmouth Street as antidotes against witches. Jews preponderate in this unsavoury street. Mr. Henry Mayhew describes a conversation with a St. Giles’s poet who wrote Newgate ballads, Courvousier’s Lamentation, and elegies. He was paid one shilling each for them. A parliamentary report of 1848 describes Seven Dials as in a degraded state. “Vagrants, thieves, sharpers, scavengers, basket-women, charwomen, army seamstresses, and prostitutes, compose its mass. Infidels, chartists, socialists, and blasphemers have their head-quarters there. There are a hundred and fifty shops open on the Sunday. The ragged-school there is badly situated and uninviting.” Mr. Albert Smith says gin shops are the only guides in “the dirty labyrinth” of the Seven Dials. The author once accompanied a Scripture-reader to some of the lowest and poorest courts and alleys of St. Giles’s. In one bare room, he remembers, on an earth floor, sat a blind beggar waiting for the return of his boy, a sweeper, who had been sent out to a street-crossing to try and earn some bread. In another room there was a poor old lonely woman who had made a pet of an immense ram. We ended our tour by visiting an Irishwoman who had been converted from “Popery.” While we were there, some Irish boys surrounded the house and shouted in at the key-hole,[Pg 464] threatening to denounce her to the priest. When we emerged from this den we were received with a shower of peculiarly hard small potatoes, a penance which the author bore somewhat impatiently, while the Scripture-reader, who seemed accustomed to such rough compliments, took the blows like an early Christian martyr.
Lincoln’s Inn Hall.—p. 398.
In 1800 or 1801 Mackintosh delivered lectures in the old Lincoln’s Inn Hall on the “Laws of Nature and Nations.” They were attended by Canning, Lord Liverpool, and a brilliant audience. They contained a panegyric on Grotius. In style Mackintosh was measured and monotonous—of the school of Robertson and Gilbert Stuart. He made one mistake in imputing the doctrine of the association of ideas to Hobbes, which Coleridge corrected. He refuted the theories of Godwin in a masterly way.
Serle Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.—p. 401.
This street derived its name from a Mr. Henry Serle, who died intestate circa 1690, much in debt, and with lands heavily mortgaged. He purchased the property from the executors of Sir John Birkenhead, the conductor of the Royalist paper, Mercurius Aulicus, during the Civil War, a writer whose poetry Lawes set to music, and who died in 1679. New Square was formerly called Serle’s Court, and the arms of Serle are over the Carey Street gateway. The second edition of Barnaby’s Journal was printed in 1716, for one Illidge, under Serle’s Gate, Lincoln’s Inn, New Square. Addison seems to have visited Serle’s Coffee-house, to study from some quiet nook the “humours” of the young barristers. There is a letter extant from Akenside, the poet, addressed to Jeremiah Dyson, that excellent friend and patron who defended him from the attacks of Warburton at Serle’s Coffee-house.
Christian Knowledge Society.—p. 414.
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, now at 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, had apartments in 1714 at No. 6[Pg 465] Serle’s Court. This society was founded by Dr. Bray and four friends on the 8th of March 1699, and it celebrated its third jubilee, or 150th anniversary, in 1849. The society assists schools and colonial churches, and is said to have distributed more than a hundred millions of Bibles and Prayer-books since its foundation.
The Soane Museum.—p. 424.
The following squib is said to have been placed under the plates at an Academic dinner:—
“THE MODERN GOTH.
“Glory to thee, great artist soul of taste
For mending pigsties where a plank’s displaced,
Whose towering genius plans from deep research
Houses and temples fit for Master Birch
To grace his shop on that important day
When huge twelfth-cakes are raised in bright array.
Each pastry pillar shows thy vast design;
Hail! then, to thee, and all great works of thine.
Come, let me place thee in the foremost rank
With him whose dulness discomposed the Bank.”
The writer then, apostrophising Wren, adds—
“Oh, had he lived to see thy blessed work,
To see pilasters scored like loins of pork,
To see the orders in confusion move,
Scrolls fixed below and pedestals above,
To see defiance hurled at Rome and Greece,
Old Wren had never left the world in peace.
Look where I will—above, below is shown
A pure disordered order of thy own;
Where lines and circles curiously unite
A base compounded, compound composite,
A thing from which in turn it may be said,
Each lab’ring mason turns abash’d his head;
Which Holland reprobates and Dance derides,
While tasteful Wyatt holds his aching sides.”
Soane foolishly brought an action against the bitter writer; but Lord Kenyon directed the jury to find for the defendant on the ground that the satire was not personal.