Dr. Johnson’s Opinions of London.—“It is not in the showy evolution of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.... The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say there is more learning and science within the circumference of where we now sit than in all the rest of the kingdom.... A man stores his mind [in London] better than anywhere else.... No place cures a man’s vanity or arrogance so well as London, for no man is either great or good, per se, but as compared with others, not so good or great, and he is sure to find in the metropolis many his equals and some his superiors.... No man of letters leaves London without regret.... By seeing London I have seen as much of life as the world can show.... When a man is tired of London he is tired of life, for there is in London all life can afford, and [London] is the fountain of intelligence and pleasure.”—Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Boswell’s Opinion of London.—“I have often amused myself with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium, a politician thinks of it merely as the seat of government, etc.; but the intellectual man is struck with it as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.”—Boswell’s Life of Johnson (Croker, 1848), p. 144.
















[Pg v]


This book deals less with the London of the ghost-stories, the scratching impostor in Cock Lane, or the apparition of Parson Ford at the Hummums, than with the London consecrated by manifold traditions—a city every street and alley of which teems with interesting associations, every paving-stone of which marks, as it were, the abiding-place of some ancient legend or biographical story; in short, this London of the present haunted by the memories of the past.

The slow changes of time, the swifter destructions of improvement, and the inevitable necessities of modern civilisation, are rapidly remodelling London.

It took centuries to turn the bright, swift little rivulet of the Fleet into a fœtid sewer, years to transform the palace at Bridewell into a prison; but events now move faster: the alliance of money with enterprise, and the absence of any organised resistance to needful though sometimes reckless improvements, all combine to hurry forward modern changes.

If an alderman of the last century could arise from his sleep, he would shudder to see the scars and wounds from which London is now suffering. Viaducts stalk over our chief roads; great square tubes of iron lie heavy as nightmares on the breast of Ludgate Hill. In Finsbury and Blackfriars there are now to be seen yawning chasms as large and ghastly as any that breaching cannon ever effected in[Pg vi] the walls of a besieged city. On every hand legendary houses, great men’s birthplaces, the haunts of poets, the scenes of martyrdoms, and the battle-fields of old factions, heave and totter around us. The tombs of great men, in the chinks of which the nettles have grown undisturbed ever since the Great Fire, are now being uprooted. Milton’s house has become part of the Punch office. A printing machine clanks where Chatterton was buried. Almost every moment some building worthy of record is shattered by the pickaxes of ruthless labourers. The noise of falling houses and uprooted streets even now in my ears tells me how busily Time, the Destroyer and the Improver, is working; erasing tombstones, blotting out names on street-doors, battering down narrow thoroughfares, and effacing one by one the memories of the good, the bad, the illustrious, and the infamous.

A sincere love of the subject, and a strong conviction of the importance of the preservation of such facts as I have dredged up from the Sea of Oblivion, have given me heart for my work. The gradual changes of Old London, and the progress of civilisation westward, are worth noting by all students of the social history of England. It will be found that many traits of character, many anecdotes of interest, as illustrating biography, are essentially connected with the habitations of the great men who have either been born in London, or have resorted to it as the centre of progress, art, commerce, government, learning, and culture. The fact of the residence of a poet, a painter, a lawyer, or even a rogue, at any definite date, will often serve to point out the social status he either aimed at or had acquired. It helps also to show the exact relative distinctions in fashion and popularity of different parts of London at particular epochs, and contributes to form an illustrated history of[Pg vii] London, proceeding not by mere progression of time, and dealing with the abstract city—the whole entity of London—but marching through street after street, and detailing local history by districts at a time.

A century after the martyrs of the Covenant had shed their blood for the good old cause, an aged man, mounted on a little rough pony, used periodically to make the tour of their graves; with a humble and pious care he would scrape out the damp green moss that filled up the letters once so sharp and clear, cut away the thorny arches of the brambles, tread down the thick, prickly undergrowth of nettles, and leave the brave names of the dead men open to the sunlight. It is something like this that I have sought to do with London traditions.

I have especially avoided, in every case, mixing truth with fiction. I have never failed to give, where it was practicable, the actual words of my authorities, rather than run the risk of warping or distorting a quotation even by accident, or losing the flavour and charm of original testimony. Aware of the paramount value of sound and verified facts, I have not stopped to play with words and colours, nor to sketch imaginary groups and processions. Such pictures are often false and only mislead; but a fact proved, illustrated, and rendered accessible by index and heading, is, however unpretentious, a contribution to history, and has with certain inquirers a value that no time can lesson.

In a comprehensive work, dealing with so many thousand dates, and introducing on the stage so many human beings, it is almost impossible to have escaped errors. I can only plead for myself that I have spared no pains to discover the truth. I have had but one object in view, that of rendering a walk through London a journey of interest and of pilgrimage to many shrines.

[Pg viii]In some cases I have intentionally passed over, or all but passed over, outlying streets that I thought belonged more especially to districts alien to my present plan. Maiden Lane, for example, with its memories of Voltaire, Marvell, and Turner, belongs rather to a chapter on Covent Garden, of which it is a palpable appanage; and Chancery Lane I have left till I come to Fleet Street.

I should be ungrateful indeed if, in conclusion, I did not thank Mr. Fairholt warmly for his careful and valuable drawings on wood. To that accomplished antiquary I am indebted, as my readers will see, for several original sketches of bygone places, and for many curious illustrations which I should certainly not have obtained without the aid of his learning and research.



[Pg ix]


Introduction pp. 1-3
The Devil Tavern—London Bankers and Goldsmiths—A Whim of John Bushnell, the Sculptor—Irritating Processions—The Bonfire at Inner Temple Gate—A Barbarous Custom—Called to the Bar—A Curious Old Print of 1746—The White Cockades—An Execution on Kennington Common—Shenstone’s “Jemmy Dawson”—Counsellor Layer—Dr. Johnson in the Abbey—The Proclamation of the Peace of Amiens—The Dispersion of the Armada—City Pageants and Festivities—The Guildhall—The Guildhall Twin Giants—Proclamation of War—A Reflection pp. 4-24
Essex Street—Beheading a Bishop—Exeter Place—The Gipsy Earl—Running a-muck—Lettice Knollys—A Portrait of Essex—Robert, Earl of Essex, the Parliamentary General—The Poisoning of Overbury—An Epicurean Doctor—Clubable Men—The Grecian—The Templar’s Lounge—Tom’s Coffee-house—A Princely Collector—“The Long Strand”—“Honest Shippen”—Boswell’s Enthusiasm—Sale and the Koran—The Infamous Lord Mohun—A fine Rebuke—Jacob Tonson pp. 25-55
 [Pg x]
The Protector Somerset—Denmark House—The Queen’s French Servants—The Lying-in-State of Cromwell—Scenes at Somerset House—Sir Edmondbury Godfrey—Old Somerset House—Erection of the Modern Building—Carlini’s Grandeur—A Hive of Red Tapists—Expensive Auditing—The Royal Society—The Geological and the Antiquarian Societies—A Legend of Somerset House—St. Martin’s Lane Academy—An Insult to Engravers—Rebecca’s Practical Jokes—A Fashionable Man actually Surprised—Lying in State pp. 56-81
The Folly—Fountain Court and Tavern—The Coal-hole—The Kit-cat Club—Coutts’s Bank—The Eccentric Philosopher—Old Salisbury House—Robert the Devil—Little Salisbury House—Toby Matthew—Ivy Bridge—The Strand Exchange—Durham House—Poor Lady Jane—The Parochial Mind—A Strange Coalition—Garrick’s Haunt—Shipley’s School of Art—Barry’s Temper—The Celestial Bed—Sir William Curtis pp. 82-105
The Earl of Savoy—John Wickliffe—A French King Prisoner—The Kentish Rebellion—John of Gaunt—The Hospital of St. John—Cowley’s Regrets—Secret Marriages—Conference between Church of England and Presbyterian Divines—An Illegal Sanctuary—A Lampooned General—A Fat Adonis—John Rennie—Waterloo Bridge—The Duchy of Lancaster pp. 106-125
York House—Lord Bacon—“To the Man with an Orchard give an Apple”—“Steenie”—Buckingham Street—Zimri—York Stairs—Pepys and Etty—Scenery on the Banks of the Thames—The London Lodging of Peter the Great—The Czar and the Quakers—The Hungerford Family—The Suspension Bridge—Grinling Gibbons—The Two Smiths—Cross Readings—Northumberland Street—Armed Clergymen pp. 126-145
 [Pg xi]
Faithorne, the Engraver—The Stupendous Arch—The Murder of Miss Ray—One of Wren’s Churches—Thomas Rymer—Dr. Johnson at Church—Shallow’s Revelry—Low Comedy Preachers—New Inn—Alas! poor Yorick!—The first Hackney Coaches—Doyley—The Beef-steak Club—Beef and Liberty—Madame Vestris—Old Thomson—Irene in a Garret—Mathews at the Adelphi—The Bad Points of Mathew’s Acting—The Old Adelphi—A Riot in a Theatre—Dr. Johnson’s Eccentricities pp. 146-189
The Gunpowder Plot—Lord Herbert’s Chivalry—A Schoolboy Legend—Goldsmith’s Audience—Dobson Buried in a Garret—Charing—Queen Eleanor—A Brave Ending—Great-hearted Colonel Jones—King Charles at Charing Cross—A Turncoat—A Trick of Curll’s—The Cock Lane Ghost—Savage the Poet—The Mews—The Nelson Column—The Trafalgar Square Fountains—Want of Pictures of the English School—Turner’s Pictures—Mrs. Centlivre of Spring Gardens—Maginn’s Verses—The Hermitage at Charing Cross—Ben Jonson’s Grace—The Promised Land pp. 190-238
A Certain Proof of Insanity—An Eccentric Character—Experimentum Crucis—St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields—Gibb’s Opportunity—St. Martin’s Church—Good Company—The Thames Watermen—Copper Holmes—Old Slaughter’s—Gardelle the Murderer—Hogarth’s Quack—St. Martin’s Lane Academy—Hayman’s Jokes—The Old Watch-house and Stocks—Garrick’s Tricks—An Encourager of Art—John Wilkes—The Royal Society of Literature—The Artist Quarter pp. 239-261
The Plague—Great Queen Street—Burning Panama—Lord Herbert’s Poetry—Kneller’s Vanity—Conway House—Winchester House—Ryan the Actor—An Eminent Scholar and Antiquary—Miss Pope—The [Pg xii]Freemasons’ Hall—Gentleman Lewis—Franklin’s Self-denial—The Gordon Riots—Colonel Cromwell—An Eccentric Poetaster—Black Will’s Rough Repartee—Ned Ward—Prior’s Humble Cell—Stothard—The Mug-houses—Charles Lamb pp. 262-286
Drury House—Donne’s Vision—Donne in his Shroud—The Queen of Bohemia—Brave Lord Craven—An Anecdote of Gondomar—Drury Lane Poets—Nell Gwynn—Zoffany—The King’s Company—Memoranda by Pepys—Anecdotes of Joe Haines—Mrs. Oldfield’s Good Sense—The Wonder of the Town—Quin and Garrick—Barry and Garrick—The Bellamy—The Siddons—Dicky Suett—Liston’s Hypochondria—The First Play—Elliston’s Tears—The End of a Man about Town—Edmund Kean—Grimaldi—Kelly and Malibran—Keeley and Harley—Scenes at Drury Lane—“Wicked Will Whiston”—Henley’s Butchers—“Il faut vivre”—Henley’s Sermons—The Leaden Seals pp. 287-348
The Lollards—Cobham’s Death—The Lazar House—Holborn First Paved—The Mud Deluge—French Protestants—The Plague Cart—The Plague Time—Brought to his Knees—The New Church—The Grave of Flaxman—The Thorntons—Hog Lane—The Tyburn Bowl—The Swan on the Hop—The Irish Deluge—Sham Abraham—Simon and his Dog—Hiring Babies—Pavement Chalkers—Monmouth Street pp. 349-386
The Earl of Lincoln’s Garden—The Headless Chancellor—Spelman a late Ripener—Denham and Wither—Lord Lyndhurst—Warburton and Heber—Ben Jonson the Bricklayer—A Murder in Whetstone Park—The Dangers of Lincoln’s Inn Fields—Shelter in St. John’s Wood—Lord William Russell—A Brave Wife—Pelham—The Caricature of a Duke—Wilde and Best—Lindsey House—The Dukes of Ancaster—Skeletons—Lady Fanshawe—Lord Kenyon’s Latin—The Belzoni Sarcophagus—Sir John Soane—Worthy Mrs. Chapone—The Duke’s House—Betterton—Mrs. Bracegirdle—A Riot—Rich’s Pantomime—The Jump pp. 387-442
Appendix pp. 443-465
Index pp. 467-476



[Pg xiii]


Temple Bar, 1761, from a drawing by S. Wale. The view is taken from the City side of the Bar, looking through the arch to Butcher Row and St. Clement’s Church. The sign projecting from the house to the spectator’s left is that of the famous Devil Tavern Vignette on Title
Old Houses, Ship Yard, Temple Bar, circa 1761, from a plate in Wilkinson’s Londina Illustrata 4
The Lord Mayor’s Show. From the picture by Hogarth 19
Temple Bar, 1746, copied from an undated print published soon after the execution of the rebel adherents of the young Pretender. The view is surrounded by an emblematic framework, and contains representations of the heads of Townley and Fletcher, remarkable as the last so exposed; they remained there till 1772 23
St. Clement’s Church and the Strand in 1753, from a print by I. Maurer 25
Two Views of Arundel House, 1646, after Hollar. These views, unique of their kind, are particularly valuable for the clear idea they give of a noble London mansion of the period. Arundel House retains many ancient features, particularly in its dining-hall, which, with the brick residence for the noble owner, is the only dignified portion of the building. The rest has the character of an inn-yard—a mere collection of ill-connected outhouses and stabling. The shed with the tall square window in the roof was the depository of the famous collection of pictures and antiques made by the renowned Earl, part of which still forms the Arundel Collection at Oxford 40, 41
Penn’s House, Norfolk Street, 1749, from a view by J. Buck. The view is taken from the river, looking up Norfolk Street to a range of old houses, still standing, in the Strand. Penn’s house was the last on the west side of the street (to the spectator’s left), overlooking the water 55
 [Pg xiv]
Somerset House from the River, 1746, from an engraving by I. Knyff. Upon a barge moored in the river is seen the famous coffee-house known as “The Folly,” which, originally used as a musical summer-house, ended in being the resort of depravity 56
Strand Front of Somerset House, 1777, from a large engraving after I. Moss 80
Jacob Tonson’s Book-shop, 1742, from an etching by Benoist. The shop of this famous bibliopole was opposite Catherine Street. The view is obtained from the background of the print representing a burlesque procession of Masons, got up by some humourist in ridicule of the craft 82
Old Houses in the Strand, 1742, copied from the same print as the preceding view. These houses stood on the site of the present Wellington Street 104
The Savoy, from the Thames, in 1650, after Hollar 106
The Savoy Chapel, from an original drawing 119
The Savoy Prison, 1793, from an etching by J. T. Smith 125
Durham House, 1790, from an etching by J. T. Smith 126
The Water Gate, 1860, from a Sketch 133
York Stairs and surrounding Buildings, circa 1745, after an original drawing by Canaletti in the British Museum. This is one of the few interesting views of Old London sketched by Canaletti during his short stay in England. It comprises the famous water-gate designed by Inigo Jones, and the tall wooden tower of the York Buildings Water Company. The large mansion behind this (at the south-west corner of Buckingham Street) was that inhabited by Pepys from 1684, and in which he entertained the members of the Royal Society during his presidency. The house at the opposite corner (seen above the trees) is that in which the Czar Peter the Great resided for some time, when he visited England for instruction in shipbuilding 144
Crockford’s Fish-shop, from an original sketch 146
The Old Roman Bath, from a drawing 169
Exeter Change, 1821, from an etching by Cooke 188
Titus Oates in the Pillory, from an anonymous contemporary Dutch engraving 190
 [Pg xv]
The King’s Mews, 1750, from a print by I. Maurer. This building, erected in 1732 at the expense of King George II., was pulled down in 1830. In the foreground of this view the King is represented returning to his carriage after inspecting his horses 238
Barrack and Old Houses on the site of Trafalgar Square in 1826, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt. The view is taken from St. Martin’s Church, looking toward Pall Mall; the building in the distance, to the left, is the College of Physicians 239
Old Slaughter’s Coffee-house, 1826, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt 260
Salisbury and Worcester Houses in 1630, from a drawing by Hollar in the Pepysian Library, Cambridge 262
Lyon’s Inn, 1804, from an engraving in Herbert’s History of the Inns of Court 286
Craven House, 1790, from an original drawing in the British Museum 287
Drury Lane Theatre, 1806, from an original drawing by Pugin. This was the third theatre, succeeding Garrick’s. It was built by Henry Holland, opened March 12, 1794, and burnt down Feb. 24, 1809. It was never properly finished on the side toward Catherine Street, where this view was taken 347
Church Lane and Dyot Street, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt 349
The Seven Dials, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt 386
Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in 1821, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt 387
The Black Jack, Portsmouth Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from an original sketch by F. W. Fairholt. This public-house was the resort of the actors from the theatre, and among them Joe Miller, who was buried in the graveyard close by, where the hospital now stands. The house was also frequented by Jack Sheppard, and was sometimes termed “The Jump,” from the circumstance of his having once jumped from one of the first-floor windows to escape from officers of justice 441



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