London at the End of the Century:A Book of Gossip
a Beckett, Arthur William
THE EARLIEST CLUBS FOR THE WORKING MAN.
I am not quite sure when commenced. Years and years ago a society was organised to establish It was assumed by the founders that the artisan, however bright he might be in pursuing his own calling, had yet scarcely sufficient intelligence to look after himself in the hours of non-labour. The builder, the mason, and the bricklayer were consequently invited to spacious buildings opened for their benefit wherein the greatest dissipation consisted of bagatelle and in which the cellar was stocked with no more intoxicating drinks than lemonade, gingerbeer, and soda water. The excellent-intentioned people who issued the invitations to the working men soon found they had made a mistake. The club, with its bagatelle board and temperance drinks had no chance against the tavern with its bright appointments and stimulants. So it soon went to the wall. The movement, I am afraid, did more harm than good, inasmuch as the lesson was learned with a view to future development. When the goody-goody clubs disappeared
|others devoted to deep drinking and gambling took their place. I fancy that many of the now attracting special attention of the police are the outcome of the scheme for improving the leisure hours of the people. The working man resented the irritating patronage of those who considered themselves his ; so, instead of playing chess and sipping milk and water he went in for betting and the unlimited consumption of spirits. And I am afraid that he had general sympathy. Charles in his novels and stories never lost an opportunity of ridiculing the imitation philanthropists. Albert Smith, too, was particularly hard upon the patrons of the poorer classes. In his performances at the Egyptian Hall he delivered many a sly dig at this painstaking community, and ultimately raised a perfect storm of remonstrances by saying that the enthusiasts in China had only one convert-a billiard marker-whose piety was more likely to be the product of cash than any nobler consideration. Both and Albert Smith were entirely opposed to and there was not a single writer who took up the cudgels on the behalf of|