Stories of the Streets of London

Baker, H. Barton

1899

CHAPTER X: Covent Garden

"THE JOYOUS NEIGHBOURHOOD OF COVENT GARDEN."

CHAPTER X: Covent Garden

"THE JOYOUS NEIGHBOURHOOD OF COVENT GARDEN."

 

 

THE ancient name of was the Via de Aldwych-hence Wych Street; but in the reign of Elizabeth Sir Robert Drury built a mansion with gardens upon the spot where now stands the Olympic Theatre, and from that time it has been known by its present appellation. The gallant Earl Craven, who was supposed to have been secretly united to James I.'s daughter, the titular Queen of Bohemia, was the next tenant, and during the latter part of the eighteenth century the noble house was converted into a tavern, known by the sign of the Queen of Bohemia. By the structure had fallen into such decay that it was necessary to pull it down. The ground was taken by Philip Astley, of amphitheatre notoriety, who thereupon erected, chiefly out of the materials of an old French warship, a naval prize, "The Olymphic Pavilion," and opened it as a circus.

Drury Lane was quite an aristocratic quarter in (164) COVENT GARDEN.

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the Stuarts' days; the Marquis of Argyle and the Earl of Anglesey among others had mansions in it; but even in the time of Charles II. its inhabitants were
mixed. Pepys tells us that Nell Gwynne lodged here when she was an actress, and some biographers assert that Nelly was born in the Coal Yard, at

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the Holborn end of the street, but this is very doubtful. By the opening of the eighteenth century Drury Lane had begun to be known as a harbour of vice and squalor, and as such it has been notorious ever since. Goldsmith writes of "the drabs and bloods of Drury Lane"; Pope, in The Dunciad, indicates that it was the haunt of the hack writer who, Lulled by zephyrs through the broken panes, Rhymes ere he wakes, and Gay, in Trivia, writes of Drury's mazy courts and dark abodes.

Hogarth here laid the scene of The Harlot's Progress, and references to the peculiar vices of the place will be found in The Tatler.

Drury Lane, from the time of James I., has been closely associated with the stage. The Cockpit, burned down in a 'prentice riot, and rebuilt under the name of The Phoenix, the first theatre erected within its precincts, was, like the Blackfriars and Salisbury Court, "a private house". Its memory was preserved until recently in Pitt Court, a noisome cul-de-sac, now covered by the model lodging-houses on the eastern side of the Lane. It ceased to be used soon after the Restoration.

Killigrew converted a tennis court in Vere Street, Clare Market, into a temporary theatre, which he opened on the 8th of November, . It had a brief existence of less than three years, and it does not appear to have been used again after the company was

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transferred to their new house, of which I shall write directly. Vere Street would claim no notice here but for the fact that it was on its stage the first English actress made her debut, 8th December, , in the character of Desdemona. The name of the lady who inaugurated such a revolution in things theatrical, as the women's parts had hitherto been performed by boys, is unknown, though it might have been either of the beautiful sisters, Anne or Beck Marshall, so frequently mentioned by Pepys, or Prince Rupert's favourite, Mrs. Hughes, who figures in De Grammont's Memoirs.[1] 

Charles II. granted Henry Killigrew, a groom of the chamber, a patent, still extant, for the erection of a theatre upon an old riding yard in Drury Lane. Four successive houses have stood there. The first, which cost only the modest sum of £ , was opened on 8th April, , and destroyed by fire nine years afterwards. The second, built from the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, was plain and unpretentious, and thereby offered a striking contrast to Davenant's splendid theatre in Salisbury Court. Its records were, however, unique; it stood through six reigns, and was the scene of the triumphs of Betterton, Booth, Garrick, Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Oldfield, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Pritchard,

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Peg Woffington, Mrs. Abington, Mrs. Siddons, etc., etc. By the house had fallen into such decay that it had to be pulled down. A magnificent and colossal building, which could accommodate 3611 people, or nearly 600 more than the present theatre, was opened on 12th March, , and perished in the flames on 24th February, . The loss was so enormous that it was not until 10th October, , that the Drury Lane of to-day was ready for the public. A host of delightful recollections are associated with this famous Temple of Thespis, but the exigencies of space forbid me even to glance at them.1

But as I have attempted a picture of the Blackfriars in the days of James I., I will now essay a companion sketch of Drury Lane in the days of his grandsons. The theatre is of moderate dimensions, and lit only by candles; footlights are unknown, and will be until Garrick introduces them from Paris, and the stage is illumined only by a ring of candles dependent from "the flies". The orchestra occupies a side balcony, as it did at the Blackfriars; the deep proscenium projects in a semi-oval form to the front bench of the pit; there are no stage boxes, but an entrance on each side for the actors. The auditorium consists of two tiers of boxes, divided into compartments; at the sides are balconies, and a 12d. and 18d. gallery.

In the boxes, which are almost exclusive to the court, 1 See the author's Our Old Actors, and The London Stage from 1576 to 1888.

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with their heads affectedly posed on one side, languish the Sir Fopling Flutters and Sir Courtly Nices, a raree-show of gaudy velvets and satins, slashed, laced, spangled and covered with streaming ribbons. Their inane faces, spotted with black patches of various shapes, are half-hidden by huge periwigs, veritable cascades of hair of every shade from flaxen to black. Lounging back in their chairs, they languidly pass silver or gold-mounted combs through their rippling locks, to display the whiteness of their hands and their jewelled fingers, and their ruffles of point de Venise, while some wear gold-fringed and embroidered silk gloves, buttoning up to the elbow, the cuff of the coat or doublet not coming lower. Standing behind their chairs lacqueys sprinkle their wigs and handkerchiefs with delicate essences from gold and crystal flagons, while they themselves titillate their nostrils with pulvilio from gold and jewelled snuff-boxes, lest the odour from the groundlings should " nauseate" them. A lady kisses her hand to one of these beaux from an opposite box; he rises, bows almost to his knees, and, in doing so, contrives to jerk the whole mass of his periwig over his face, and as he rises again throws it back without ruffling a curl. To another enter un bon camarade. With what effusiveness he greets him in a jargon of French and Italian, and kisses him upon both cheeks, amidst shouts of derision from " the groundlings," whose choice sport it is to bait the fops.

The male butterfly is so gorgeous that the female

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is almost eclipsed by him. The faces of most of the ladies are concealed by silk visors, a necessary reserve, considering the very free dialogue of the play, though here and there some Phryne braves the leers of men, preferring to display her charms.

But what a hubbub of laughter, jesting, hissing, quarrelling, jumping on seats, tumbling over seats, scrambling and screaming rises from the half-crown pit during the intervals. The more sober part of the audience occupy the centre, while the sides are given up to the gallants and the vizards. Ladies of quality, hiding their identity beneath their masks, share the licence of this Agapemone with the nymphs of Covent Garden. In Fops' Corner, men of mode mingle with the Temple beaux, threadbare wits, knights of the post and adventurers of every description. "Fine Chaney oranges! Fine Chaney oranges!" is a cry that resounds on every side, and the buxom vendors drive a thriving trade with their fruit at sixpence each, while the gallants toy and flirt with them.

Up in the galleries the fun is yet more fast and furious. The Olympians pelt the boxes with apples and oranges, and salute the Laises and Phrynes of the court with epithets more truthful than decent. Abigails, sempstresses from the New Exchange, and Lindabrides from the Stews, better on the example set by their superiors. When the curtain draws up, another audience is revealed to the occupants of the auditorium, which hem in the stage, much as I have

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shown in my pictures of the Blackfriars and Lincoln's Inn Fields.1

During the last twenty years Drury Lane has undergone much purging, and many of its vilest slums have been cleared out. Not many years ago no fewer than three hundred professional thieves were located in Charles Street, which was equally notorious in the eighteenth century, when it was known as Lewkner Lane.

The clearing of the area to the south of Drury Lane Theatre has removed some plague spots and some interesting nooks as well. Among them the burial ground in Russell Court, through the grated iron gate of which Jo showed Lady Dedlock her lover's grave, and against which on that bitter winter's night the erring woman was found dead. Apropos of that ghastly spot, less than half a century ago the coffins on Sundays, which was a general burial day, were often piled seven or eight deep beneath the back windows of the houses in Vinegar Yard, which looked out upon this Devil's acre, and even underneath the kitchen flags human remains were rotting. Another awful Golgotha was the Green Ground; it was only one-third of an acre in extent, but in the twenty-five years preceding 1848 over 5000 bodies were interred 1 This most abominable privilege was supposed to have been abolished by Garrick, but it evidently survived long after his time, as is shown by the following paragraph from The Times, 9th May, 1796: "The stage at the Opera is so crowded that Madame Rose, in throwing up her fine muscular arm into a graceful attitude, inadvertently levelled three men of the first quality at a stroke".

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in it. Close to Clement's Inn was Clare Market Chapel, beneath which interments were made until the coffins touched the rafters of the floor. When the place was closed, in 1844, it was turned into a dancing room, and continued to be used for that purpose during several years! The Green Ground is now covered by a portion of King's College Hospital, which at the same time absorbed an ancient tavern, called the Grange, much affected by the actors of Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Clement's Inn, which dates back to the fifteenth century, and is associated with Sir Matthew Hale and Justice Shallow, is being fast modernized out of all recognition. Many of us will remember that, before the demolitions for the Law Courts began, it was approached from the Strand by a spacious gateway, enclosed at night by iron gates, which were there in the days when Clement's Lane, as I have before intimated, was the fashionable lounge of a fashionable neighbourhood. New Inn, of which Sir Thomas More was a student, still retains its old-world appearance. It is scheduled for the new street. Upon the site of Lyon's Inn, formerly an annexe of the Temple, now stand the Globe Theatre and the Opera Comique, opened in 1868 and 1870.

Bow Street-so called because its outline was in the figure of a bent bow-was laid out in 1637, and for the first seventy years of its existence was as aristocratic a quarter as Drury Lane. Here lived for a while the libertine Earl of Rochester; the poet Earl of Dorset,

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Dryden's patron; Edmund Waller, William Wycherley the dramatist, after his marriage with the Dowager Countess of Drogheda, and here he died in 1715; Edward Harley, afterwards Earl of Oxford, one of Queen Anne's prime ministers, was born in this street in 1660; Grinling Gibbons, the greatest of wood carvers, lived in a house on the eastern side from 1678 to the year of his death, 1721. Dr. Radcliffe felt pulses in Bow Street for some years, and Kneller painted some of his best portraits here before removing to Covent Garden piazza.

A notable Bow Street tavern was the Cock; it frequently figures in the comedies of the Restoration -in The Country Wife, Plain Dealer, and others. It was the scene of that disgraceful frolic of Lord Buckhurst and Sir Charles Sedley, the wit and dramatist: one day both of them stripped themselves naked, and, going out on the balcony, harangued the passersby; an indignant crowd stoned the house, and the jokers were heavily fined.

Edmund Waller's old house was converted into a police court. And in 1749 Harry Fielding came to reside in it as head magistrate. It was burned down by the Gordon rioters in 1780.

Horace Walpole, in one of his letters, gives us a curious, if ill-natured, glimpse of Fielding's menage. "Rigby and Peter Bathurst, the other night, carried a servant of the latter's, who had attempted to shoot him, before Fielding, who, to all his other avocations, had, by the grace of Mr. Lyttleton, added that of

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Middlesex Justice. He sent them word he was at supper and they must come next morning. They did not understand that freedom, and ran up, when they found him banqueting with a blind man, a w---, and three Irishmen on some cold mutton and a bone of ham, both in one dish, and the dirtiest cloth. He never stirred nor asked them to sit."1 Nevertheless the great novelist was very zealous in his office, for he was able to boast, after he had held it five years, that during the last few months of 1753 there had not been a single robbery or murder in the metropolis. More than that Magistrate Fielding discountenanced the corrupt practices then common to his order. His office carried no salary, being paid in fees that had to be squeezed out of prisoners and prosecutors; he used to say that his predecessor made £1000 a year, while he never gained more than £300, because he composed instead of inflaming the quarrels of porters and beggars, and refused to take a shilling from a man who would not have had another left.

The instruments used by Fielding for the suppression of crime, which had previously been rampant, were the men to whom this street is much indebted for its world-wide notoriety, the Bow Street Runners, who, until they were abolished by the institution of the New Police, in 1829, were as well known by their red waistcoats-from which they were nicknamed "Robin Redbreasts "--and silver-tipped staves, as the 1" The blind man" was his half-brother, Sir John Fielding, and the lady so opprobriously designated was Sir John's wife.

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British soldier by his red coat and bayonet. A jovial crew were "the Runners," looking like what was formerly the type of the jolly farmer, and as dissimilar from the sphinx-like detective of our own time as the modern agriculturist is from the John Bull of our grandfathers. Most famous among the " Robin Redbreasts" was John Townshend, the special guardian and favourite of George III. After the death of that monarch Townshend used to say: "Why, bless you, his gracious majesty and myself were like brothers" And indeed " Farmer George " and his protector were frequently seen walking up and down the terrace at Windsor in familiar conversation; and John Townshend always dressed in exact imitation of his royal patron. In the performance of his duty this officer was as daring as he was expert; his very voice was a terror to evildoers. One night while he and Joe Manton, the gunmaker, were travelling in a chaise across Hounslow Heath they were attacked by footpads. Manton was about to fire upon them, when Townshend stopped him with "Wait a minute, Joe," and thrust his head out of the window. At the sound of that dread voice the thieves fled like the wind, but not before he had identified them. He acquired a great reputation by his captures of the notorious highwayman, Jerry Abershaw, and pickpocket George Barrington. He was usually selected for duty at all the royal levees, and at the routs and balls of the aristocracy.

George Ruthven, George Ledbitter, John and Daniel Forester were notable members of this formidable

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fraternity, which never numbered above forty, about whose doings some good stories might be told did space permit. The last of the Runners died only a short time ago at the age of eighty-five. These oldfashioned thief-catchers were much better rewarded than the modern detective; they were paid from £40 to £100 for the conviction of every criminal they captured, and received besides handsome presents for private services. Townshend died worth £20,000.

The " Robin Redbreast " played an important part in the fiction of his day. I think Oliver Twist is one of the last novels he appeared in, and it is curious that Dickens, with Inspector Bucket, was the first to exploit his successor. One may still be young and yet remember that dreadful old police court, at which Harry Fielding presided, in all its noxiousness. The chronicles of it would be tantamount to the history of criminal London during the last century and a half, since a very large percentage of the most notorious law-breakers have there undergone their preliminary examinations.

Among all the associations of Bow Street, however, those connected with its great theatre are the most world famous. Covent Garden playhouse was erected by John Rich, in 1731, to take the place of Lincoln's Inn Fields, which had then fallen into decay. Many curious scenes have been enacted without as well as within its walls. While it was building, the street became a fashionable lounge, and when the ladies had finished their shopping in Tavistock Street they drove

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round in their carriages with their cavaliers to watch the masons at work, and to flirt and chatter.

At the beginning of the present century there was thefurore over the "Young Roscius" (1804), one of those unaccountable manias to which that most hysterical of bodies, the British public, is subject. A company of Foot Guards had to be sent to make a passage through the prodigious crowd that assembled round the theatre at one o'clock on the day of his debut; when the doors were opened coats and gowns were torn to ribbons in the rush, and swooning people were dragged out of the press every few minutes. Duchesses contended for the honour of driving Master Betty in their carriages; William Pitt adjourned the House of Commons to see him act, and the University of Cambridge made him the subject of a prize medal. Yet he was only an ordinarily clever boy, after all, and when he reappeared the next season his whilom perfervid admirers found that out.

A very terrible scene was witnessed in Bow Street when, on the night of 30th September, 1808, the great theatre was discovered to be in flames. Twenty-three firemen perished in the conflagration. Kemble and his sister lost everything ; but the Duke of Northumberland sent him the munificent sum of £10,000, and burned the bond on the day the foundation stone was laid.

Never was Bow Street more lively than it was during the sixty-one nights of the 0. P. riots. In consequence of the enormous sum, £ 150,000, expended upon the 12

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new theatre, Kemble raised the prices of admission -the boxes from 6s. to 7s., the pit from 3s. 6d. to 4s. Instead of showing their disapproval by staying away, theatregoers made the advanced tariff an excuse for one of the most extraordinary riots on record. Night after night not a word of the performance could be heard, the voices of the actors being drowned by shouts of " old prices!" groans, hisses, cat calls, dust bells, rattles, horns and a kind of Carmagnole, called the 0. P. dance. Men went about with the letters 0. P. stuck in their hats, and ladies wore 0. P. medals. The struggle ended in the victory of the malcontents. It may be noted that at this time the nightly expenses of the theatre were £300. The new house went the way of its predecessor, on 4th March, 1856, during a masked ball given by James Anderson, the conjuror.

Covent Garden Theatre was the original home of the celebrated " Sublime Society of Beef-steaks," founded in 1735.[2]  The famous Earl of Peterborough, then an old man-he who, for his daring and romantic exploits, was called " the last of the knights errant," and who had secretly espoused Anastasia Robinson, the singer-was in the theatre one afternoon talking with Rich in his room, while the manager was cooking a steak upon the gridiron for his dinner; my lord was invited to partake of it, and, with the help of a bottle or two of good wine, made such a hearty meal, and was so delighted

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with the novelty of the thing, that he proposed it should be repeated on the following Saturday. He kept his engagement and brought three or four friends with him. Everybody was charmed, and it was arranged that a select little club should be formed and meet every Saturday, the fare to be strictly confined to steaks, port and punch. This was the fortuitous commencement of a society, which, during the hundred and thirty-four years of its existence, numbered among its members the Prince of Wales and his brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Sussex and York, Garrick, John Wilkes, George Colman, John Kemble, Sheridan, Brougham, and any number of peers.

Two of the most famous of its members were the gourmand Duke of Norfolk, Fox's great friend, and Captain Charles Morris, the poet laureate of the club, who celebrated its members in a ballad, of which the following is a specimen:- First Rich, who this feast of the gridiron planned, And formed with a touch of his harlequin's wand, Out of mighty rude matter this brotherly band, The jolly old steakers of England. First George Prince of Wales, and York's royal Duke, For the wit of this board other pleasures forsook, And of good wine and punch they both freely partook With the jolly old steakers of England. And Norfolk's great Duke, who belonged to the band Of sturdy old barons of famed Runnymede, In the same cause of freedom delighted to feed With the jolly old steakers of England.

And his Grace certainly did feed, for after preparing his stomach by a fish dinner at a Covent Garden hotel, he would sometimes consume six pounds of steak at the club, and never less than four, with wine in proportion. A man of enormous proportions, such as we see in Rowlandson's and Bunbury's caricatures, he invariably dressed in a bright blue coat, which made him look even more unwieldy than he was.

Punctually at five " the jolly old steakers " sat down to table in a room set apart for them in Covent Garden Theatre. It was divided in two by a curtain, which, on the last stroke of the hour, was drawn aside and discovered the kitchen, partitioned off from the diners by an open grating, over which was this motto from Macbeth :-

If it were done, when it is done, then 'twere well

It were done quickly.

The Duke of Norfolk, with a small silver gridiron suspended round his neck by an orange ribbon, would take the chair. Captain Morris was the punchmaker, a very important office in those days, requiring great nicety of palate. When the cloth was removed the Steakers gave themselves up to conviviality, and the Captain was again in great request, for he had a good voice and trolled forth his own songs, sentimental and bacchanalian, with excellent effect.

The members were limited to twenty-four, and many notable persons were always on the list of candidates eager for election. Perfect equality among the Steakers was the rule of the club, and the last

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enrolled, though he were a prince of the blood, was made the fag for the rest. One night a somewhat pompous Liverpool merchant was among the guests, and perceiving the free and easy manners that obtained, communicated his suspicions to the friend who had brought him to the club that the royal and titled persons whom he had been told that he was among were all a flam. The friend informed his fellow-steakers of the bourgeois' incredulity, and to keep up the joke they pretended to be a society of tradesmen. The Duke of Sussex reproached Alderman Wood for the tough steaks he had sent in last Saturday. The alderman retorted upon his royal highness by complaining of the ill-fitting stays he had sent his wife, and so on. A leaf had to be withdrawn to shorten the table, and in closing it again the chair of the Duke of Leinster, who was presiding, was overturned, and his Grace was toppled into the grate. Nobody moved, everybody roared. This confirmed the Liverpudlian's scepticism. "Why, of course," he said, " if it had been a real duke everybody would have run to pick him up. It was a very good joke, but I saw through it from the first."

When Covent Garden was burned down in 1808 the Sublime Society took up its quarters for a time at the Bedford Coffee-house, in the north piazza, but very soon migrated to the Lyceum, where the club remained until its dissolution in 1869. Sir Henry Irving now uses the old beef-steak room for his receptions. A new Beef-steak Club, however, was

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formed, and now holds its meetings in Charing Cross Road, opposite the Garrick Theatre.

Among the chief glories of old Bow Street was Will's Coffee-house, which stood at the south-west corner. The earliest mention of it is in Pepys' Diary, (2nd Oct., 1660). But it is with Dryden that it is chiefly associated. " Under no roof," writes Macaulay, " was a greater variety of figures to be seen ; earls in stars and garters, clergymen in cassocks and bands, pert Templars, sheepish lads from the universities, translators and index makers in ragged coats of frieze. The great push was to get near the chair where John Dryden sat. In winter that chair was always in the warmest nook by the fire; in summer it stood in the balcony. To bow to him and hear his opinion of Racine's last tragedy, or of Bossu's treatise on epic poetry was thought a privilege. A pinch of snuff from his box was an honour sufficient to turn the head of an enthusiast." Pope, at his own request, was taken to Will's when a mere child to see the great poet, and at seventeen became himself a constant frequenter of the house, but not until after the master's death. Steele says in The Tatler that Will's declined after Dryden's time, and that cards took the place of conversation.

In Russell Street, nearly opposite to Will's, stood Button's Coffee-house, which was of a much later date than its celebrated rival. Button's was first opened in 1712 by a servant of Addison's wife, the Countess of Warwick, and it became the favourite resort of

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Mr. Spectator and his colleague Steele, of Budgell and Philips, Swift, Gay, Prior, and consequently of "the Town". How charmingly Landor, in one of The Imaginary Conversations, has sketched the author of Cato as he appeared at Button's.
Addison. "There we have dined together some hundred times."

Steele. " Aye, most days for many years. . .. .Why, cannot I see him again in his arm-chair, his right hand upon his breast under the fawn-coloured waist-

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coat, his brow erect and clear as his conscience, his wit even and composed as his temper, with measurely curls and antithetical top-knots, like his style; the calmest poet, the most quiet patriot: dear Addison! drunk, deliberate, moral, sentimental, foaming over with truth and virtue, with tenderness and friendship, and only worse in one ruffle for the wine."

At the entrance to Button's was the renowned Lion's Head, into the mouth of which were dropped contributions, by unknown hands, for The Guardian, and so frequently referred to in that periodical. It is preserved at Woburn Abbey.[3]  Near Button's was the no less famous Tom's, which survived until 1814; it was during the eighteenth century the resort of " blue and green ribbons and stars," of Garrick and Johnson,

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and Sir Joshua Reynolds, of Murphy, Sir Philip Francis, etc., etc. The house, which was No. 17, was pulled down in 1865. To the east, No. 8, was the shop of Davies, actor and bookseller, the rendezvous both of wits, players and literati. It was in Davies' parlour that Johnson and Boswell first met. What delights the reading world, past, present and to come, owes and will owe to that encounter!

Notorious among taverns was the Rose; it was very near old Drury Lane Theatre, and in some of Garrick's alterations was absorbed in it. It was as old as the Stuarts' days, and there are frequent allusions to it in the old dramatists as a haunt of riotous roues. How many of us have supped at the Old Albion after the play, and there met Ben Webster, and Buckstone, and John Ryder, and many another famous player of our young days. Nor must I forget the Harp, close by, Edmund Kean's favourite tavern, where I have seen a looking-glass shivered by a tumbler he had hurled in one of his mad freaks; many a wild orgie had he assisted at in that frowsy parlour, fresh from the delirious excitement of shouting and applauding audiences. It was there he was at home, and he would abruptly leave a nobleman's table to hurry back to his boon companions, and heartily damn all lords.

 
 
Footnotes:

[1] This was not the actual debut of a woman upon the English stage. In 1656 a Mrs. Coleman took the part of Ianthe in the opera of The Siege of Rhodes. This was probably a private performance at the Cockpit, either in defiance of or by connivance of the law, for the stringent suppression of the theatres was beginning to be relaxed at that time.

[2] This, however, was not the first club of that name. Reference to a Beef-steak Club, of which Dick Estcourt was the first providore, is to be found in The Tatler.

[3] Steele writes in The Guardian, No. 98 (3rd July, 1713): " On the twentieth instant it is my intention to erect a lion's head, in imitation of those in Venice, through which all the intelligence of that commonwealth is to pass. This head is to open a most wide and voracious mouth, which shall take in such letters and papers as are conveyed to me by my correspondents .... Whatever the lion swallows I shall digest for the use of the public. ... It will be set up at Button's Coffee-house, in Covent Garden, who is directed to show the way to the lion's head, and to instruct any young author how to convey his works into the mouth of it with safety and secrecy." In No. 114 Steele announces that the lion is set "for the reception of such intelligence as shall be thrown into it. It is reckoned an excellent piece of workmanship, and was designed by a great hand in imitation of an antique Egyptian lion, the face of it being compounded out of that of a lion and a wizard. The features are strong and well furrowed. The whiskers are admired by all that have seen them. It is planted on the western side of the coffee-house, holding its paws under the chin, upon a box which contains everything it swallows."