Stories of the Streets of London

Baker, H. Barton


CHAPTER X: Covent Garden


CHAPTER X: Covent Garden


II. Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden MarketPiazza Coffee-houses Taverns and surrounding Streets.

The wanderer in the now dreary and depressing piazza of Covent Garden, where the squat market buildings loom ghostly through "the fog and filthy air," and the nostrils are assailed by every odour that foul mud and bruised and trampled vegetables can give forth, would require a very potent imagination to conjure up in its place such a picture as this. A pleasant garden all sweetness and greenery, shaded by umbrageous trees; a sparkling stream of clear water that has come all the way from the northern heights, and, after eddying into a fish pond, overflows and pursues its way merrily into the brooks that run down to the river; on the slope facing the sun is a vineyard clustered with ripening grapes; above all a cloudless blue sky; there is no sound to break the stillness save the songs of the birds, the soughing of the trees in the breeze, and now and again the chanting of the monks in their chapel. Mount those steps and glance over the south wall into Long Acre and your eyes will fall upon a delightful woodland, and over the mossy turf you will see citizens and their wives, and youths and maidens, taking their evening stroll and enjoying the fresh country air that is wafted over the golden meadows that stretch away to Hampstead. Less than four hundred years ago such a picture could have been realised in the Covent it was always so spelled after the French couvent-Garden of the Abbot of Westminster.

At the confiscation of the monastery Edward VI. granted the lands to his uncle, the Duke of Somerset,. and when that traitor was attainted they were transferred by patent to John, Earl of Bedford, who had so very interestedly served Henry VIII. in his appropriation of Church property. Upon the site now occupied by Bedford Street he built a half-wooden mansion, the garden of which skirted the Strand. But the greater part of the monastic domain was left a waste, where rubbish was shot and where football matches were played, a pastime that continued to be practised there even in the days of the first Georges.Gay thus describes the scene in Trivia:- Where Covent Garden's famous temple stands, That boasts the work of Jones' immortal hands, Columns with plain magnificence appear, And graceful porches lead along the square; Here oft my course I bend, when lo ! from far, I spy the furies of the football war ; The 'prentice quits his shop to join the crew, Increasing crowds the flying game pursue. Thus, as you roll the ball o'er snowy ground, The gath'ring globe augments with ev'ry round. But whither shall I run ? the throng draws nigh, The ball now skims the street, now soars on high; The dext'rous glazier strong returns the bound, And jingling sashes on the penthouse sound. From the reign of Elizabeth London had been rapidly extending, and in 1631 Francis, the fourth earl, having previously leased Long Acre to the builder, commissioned Inigo Jones to lay out a portion of the ground as a square.

The plan prepared by the great architect was a model of the piazza at Leghorn; on the northern and eastern sides were continuous porticoes-the southeastern was destroyed by fire in 1769. On the west was built a church dedicated to St. Paul,Burned down in 1795 and rebuilt on the same model as its predecessor. while the south side was bounded by the garden wall of Bedford House; against this wall, beneath a row of trees, country people, from about Oxford Road and the village of Charing, obtained permission to vend fruit and vegetables from their gardens three times a week. The centre of the square was gravelled, and in the middle stood a column with a sun-dial. Stately houses were erected upon the lines of the porticoes, which soon found tenants among the chief nobility and other persons of consequence, and became the most fashionable quarter of London. The market rapidly increased and grew into a strange medley of shed and penthouse, rude stall and crazy tenement, coffee-house and gin-shop, intersected by narrow footways, where the shoeblacks kept up a din that would do credit to the modern newspaper boy, of " Black your honour's shoes !"See The Spectator, No. 454, for a pleasant sketch of the market people in 1712. Towards the end of the last century a portly woman, who stood at a fruit stall, appeared daily in a lace dress which was worth a hundred guineas. The market, however, continued to be a heterogeneous mass, without plan or definite arrangement, until the present buildings were erected in 1830.

Many remarkable people have been inhabitants of the Piazza. In the mansion at the north-west corner lived that bitter Puritan, Sir Harry Vane, who, with Pym, compassed the destruction of the great Earl of Strafford. To him succeeded the great scholar, mystic and man of action as well, Sir Kenelm Digby, who was accredited with the knowledge of twelve languages and with having discovered the philosopher's stone; it was he who introduced into England the Greek "sympathetic powder," which, it was averred, healed a wound, not by its application to the injured part, but by anointing the weapon which had inflicted it.It is worth noting that Francis Bacon in his Natural History says that such experiments, and the success of them, are "constantly received and avouched by men of credit," though he himself is not "yet fully inclined to believe them ". Yet the great philosopher presented to Prince Henry "a sympathising stone, made of several mixtures, to know the heart of man". A more delightful presence than that of this learned pundit graced the mansion in the person of his wife, the lovely Venetia Stanley, so rapturously praised by the poets of the time; one compared her hair to a stream of sunbeams made solid, and Ben Jonson composed an exquisite little poem upon her sudden and premature death. Denzil Holles, a son of the Earl of Clare, and Admiral Russell, Earl of Oxford, the victor of La Hogue, were successive tenants of this house; ultimately it was converted into an hotel, and at the beginning of the century Evans's Supper-rooms were 1 built upon the site of Sir Kenelm's garden and laboratory. Lately it has undergone rapid transformations -it was the Falstaff Club and is now the New Club.

The Tavistock Hotel has a record equally illustrious, as it was the abode of four celebrated artists, Lely, Kneller, Thornhill and Richard Wilson. Think of the illustrissimi who flocked to the studios of Lely and Kneller; the Stuart kings, Charles and James; Dutch William and German George; all the princes and princesses; the voluptuous beauties ; the fine gentlemen, the wits and the philosophers, the literati and the actors who still gaze at us out of the canvasses of those artists! King James was sitting to Kneller when the news came of the landing of the Prince of Orange. The painter naturally would have retired but the king said: " No, I have promised Mr. Pepys the picture and will finish the sitting". Sir Godfrey charged only sixty guineas for a full length! He was terribly egotistical. "Don't you really think, Sir Godfrey," said Pope to him one day, " that if your advice could have been asked at the creation some things would have been better shaped than they are ?" "Foregad !" retorted the painter, laying his hand upon the poet's crooked shoulder, " I think they would." It is worthy of note, as a contrast between past and present London, that Kneller's hobby, the cultivation of flowers, was carried on in his garden that extended to Bow Street.

Almost adjoining this house were the Piazza and Shakespeare Coffee-houses-did not Major Pendennis, and several other characters in Thackeray's immortal portrait gallery, sometimes dine at the Piazza ? At the latter end of the last century "the prince of auctioneers," George Robins, had his auction rooms at the Piazza; and here he once entertained no less a personage than George, Prince of Wales; the Piazza was afterwards incorporated with the Tavistock. Don't you remember that Harry Foker and that superfine snob, Arthur Pendennis, frequented the house ? It need scarcely be added that little or nothing of the original building, except the cellarage, is now left.

Among notable residents of the houses under the portico were the last Earl of Oxford, the Bishop of Durham, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, John Rich, and Tom Killigrew.

At the corner of Russell Street stood the old "Hummums,"Hummums is a corruption of the Turkish Homoum, a sweating bath, which was introduced into London in the reign of James I. But in course of time these " bagnios," which gave their name to houses of ill fame, were abolished as being haunts of immorality, to be revived in our own day as the Turkish bath. another house used by Dr. Johnson, and with a ghost story scarcely worth relating; also the bar known as " Rockley's," the resort of generations of actors, especially on Saturday afternoons; both have disappeared to make room for the new hotel.

As I have attempted a sketch of Covent Garden in the sixteenth century, let me essay another, as a companion picture, of " the joyous neighbourhood " in the early decades of the eighteenth.

The fruit and vegetable stalls have advanced from beneath the wall of Bedford House to the centre of the square, and are now presided over by buxom lasses from Fulham and Battersea; fine ladies and city wives are cheapening the gifts of Pomona; old and young beaux are loitering about, leering at the country girls, chucking them under the chin, snatching kisses, and proceeding even to greater freedoms.

But it is beneath the porticoes that the scene is most animated, for they vie with the Mall as a fashionable promenade; the belles sweep backwards and forwards in their rustling silks and hoops and sacques, laughing over the latest scandal, and listening, with half-averted faces and fluttering fans, to hide the enjoyment in their sparkling eyes, to anecdotes from the lips of their cavaliers that would now be thought fit only for a bachelors' party. Yet much more salacious stories are exchanged among the beaux, as with mincing steps they follow behind, titillating their nostrils with pulvilio and interlarding their sentences with many a " Foregad" and "stap my vitals," the slang of that day. There are poets and statesmen, actors and painters, nobles and adventurers, actresses and ladies of title, just what you find now-a-days at an "afternoon" a la mode. That little, round, fat, sleepy-looking man is John Gay, the poet, whose Beggar's Opera is drawing all London to Drury Lane, and that charming girl, upon whom her somewhat staid but noble-looking cavalier is casting such doting glances, is Lavinia Fenton, the Polly Peachum, who will by-and-by be Duchess of Bolton; on the other side of my lord duke is a darkeyed, vivacious, somewhat shrewish-looking lady, that is the eccentric, but good-hearted Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, Gay's patroness, fearless in the defence of her friends and out of favour at court for her bold speaking.

Here come two gentlemen, evidently personages of importance from the attention they excite; one is a handsome, well-made young fellow, very elegantly dressed, and with the swagger and self-satisfied smirk of a ladykiller, that is Tom Walker, the original Captain Macheath; they say there is not a fine lady in the boxes who would not willingly play the part of Polly or Lucy in private life, while he is singing " How happy could I be with either". His companion, portly, stately, pompous, solemn and measured of tread, is Mr. Quin, the tragedian of Lincoln's Inn Fields, a man much esteemed, and received by the highest in the land, even by royalty.Quin was elocution master to George III. when that monarch was Prince of Wales. " I taught the boy," said the old actor proudly, when he heard of the first speech that the king delivered from the throne. A lady, handsome but somewhat raddled, superbly dressed, but somewhat slovenly-it is my Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who has been both flattered and reviled by poet Pope-is evidently not a persona grata to the canaille; the basket women glower and the porters scowl upon her, and make uncomplimentary remarks; they have hissed and hooted her through the streets before to-day: for has not this Lady Mary Wortley Montagu introduced a barbarous practice from heathen Turkey, called inoculation, and submitted her own child to the operation, for which every mother feels that she should like to tear her eyes out? We boast of our progress, and yet we have returned to the same state of things ! In the years to come, a dapper little fellow, with eyes of fire, named David Garrick, who carries on a wine business in partnership with his brother in Adam Street, Adelphi, and is terribly stage-struck, will walk up and down here for hours, eagerly conversing upon his favourite theme with Charles Macklin, who has just made a great hit by playing Shylock as a serious character, the Jew of Shakespeare having hitherto been presented as a low comedy part in a fiery-red wig.

The Piazza was almost as favourite a rendezvous for duellists as Leicester Square or the fields behind Montagu House, especially among the actors, who were as sudden and quick in quarrel as the fine gentlemen. A dispute over stage business-as was the case with Quin and a player called Bowen, who was killed -and after the performance an adjournment to the porticoes and a flashing of rapiers. Another actor, a choleric little Welshman named Williams, who challenged the tragedian for deriding his pronunciation of Cato-he called it " Keeto "-fell beneath Quin's sword. But in both cases it was proved that the survivor acted only in self-defence, and he was acquitted. Quin had another affair with that rogue, Theophilus Cibber, who well deserved pinking, but he was reserved for the fishes of the Irish Channel. Pepys (29th July, 1667) graphically describes the fatal duel between Tom Porter and Sir H. Bellasses, the latter dying of his wounds, that was fought here in Covent Garden.

The Bedford Coffee-house, under the eastern portico, was to the second half of the eighteenth century what Will's and Button's had been to the beginning of it, the great resort of the actors and their following. Here struts the Temple beau, a notable figure of the day-a wit, a gallant-more versed in plays than law books, who passes the hours, fondly believed by parents to be engrossed by Blackstone and Coke, in theatres, taverns, coffee-houses; here is the poor devil author, shabby and humble, hoping to get a commission for a prologue or dedication, or to meet with some one he can borrow a coin of; there is a sprinkling of clergy in shabby cassocks; one or two country squires, listening open mouthed to the discussions upon the last new play or poem, or the repartee upon the latest scandal, all of which is as Greek to them; a young cit., supposed by his parents to be snug in bed beneath the shop counter, in red-heeled shoes and scarlet coat, is devouring the words of the wits and actors that he may repeat them at a city tavern next night. Every one is eager to listen to Foote's bons mots and malicious quips, to Garrick's imitations of the great French actors and actresses whom he has seen during his visit to Paris. Although Garrick was always his best and truest friend, Foote never spared him. One night the famous actor, who was rather close-fisted, dropped a guinea at the Bedford, nor could the most diligent search recover it. "Where can it have gone to? " remarked some one. "To the devil, I think," answered Garrick irritably. "Trust Davey to make a guinea go farther than anybody else," retorted Foote.

Tavistock Row, now absorbed by the market, was in our time as dull and dreary a thoroughfare as any within the neighbourhood, but in the days of the first Georges it was the Bond Street, or Regent Street, of the town-the most fashionable shopping-place in London, and its narrow limits were crowded with carriages and sedans, and with lounging beaux dangling attendance upon the ladies, throughout the day.

In the year 1779 it was the scene of a notable tragedy. No. 4 was a hosier's and glover's, at which served a young girl, Miss Ray, who attracted the attention of that notorious libertine, Lord Sandwichthe inventor of the husky comestible which bears his name, one of "the monks of Medmenham," and familiarly known as "Jemmy Twitcher"-and she became his mistress. Miss Ray was the mother of several children when Captain Hackman, an officer in a foot regiment, conceived a mad passion for her. He proposed marriage, but Miss Ray had no taste for following the drum. So Hackman doffed his red coat for a black, entered holy orders and obtained a living at Wyverton, in Norfolk. But a country parsonage had no more temptation for the lady than a barracks. Finding all hope gone and that Miss Ray was placed under the charge of a duenna, Hackman became desperate. On the night of 7th April she and her attendant went to Covent Garden Theatre; as her carriage was skirting the northern portico on its way homeward, the door opened, a man thrust himself in and pressed the muzzle of a pistol against Miss Ray's forehead; there was a report, a shriek, and the next moment the lady who sat next to her was deluged in blood. The murderer then tried to batter in his own brains with the butt end of his weapon, but was arrested before he could effect his purpose. This dastardly crime created a great sensation, and the letters and chronicles of the day abound in references to it. It is a curious trait of the time that the Earl of Carlisle and James Boswell rode in the carriage which conveyed the criminal to Tyburn.

There is not a foot of ground around Covent Garden that is not haunted by the memories of famous people. " Peter Pindar " (Dr. Wolcott), who so cleverly ridiculed the eccentric silliness of George III., and was himself so terribly and deservedly flayed by Gifford in The Maeviad, for he was a very black sheep, lived at one time in Tavistock Row. Wolcott was clever rogue enough even to do a publisher! Putting on a dying air and a racking cough he sold him all his copyrights for an annuity of £250. "Barabbas" (I quote Byron) went away well satisfied that he had made a good bargain and would not be called upon for more than a quarter's payment. But "Peter Pindar" rapidly recovered and enjoyed his stipend for many years. In a narrow passage, which joined Tavistock Street and Tavistock Row, stood, until the demolition of the Row, a public-house called the Salutation, at which, when bent upon some nocturnal ramble or a visit to Stunning Joe Banks's in "The Rookery," the Prince Regent, Sheridan and one or two others of that ilk, under assumed names, often dined, and witnessed a little sparring by " The Fancy," who used the house.

The improving of Maiden Lane, which, as it anciently formed a part of the convent grounds, was probably so called from an image of the Virgin that stood in it,Some authorities give a very different origin of the name by asserting that the true form of the word was Midden (Dunghill) Lane. has swept away many interesting houses. Andrew Marvell, the republican poet and satirist, and Milton's Latin secretary, lived next door to the Bedford Head, and in the next century Voltaire, during his visit to London, lodged in the same domicile, then known by the sign of the White Peruke, and there wrote the greater part of La Henriade. At the west end of the north side was formerly a gloomy, tunnel-like place, approached by a low archway, called Hand Court, in the left-hand corner of which was a barber's shop, kept by William Turner, the father of the greatest of all English landscape painters, who first saw the light in that gloomy defile. It was demolished in 1861. The Bedford Head, just mentioned, was famous among Covent Garden taverns as a resort of the wits and beaux, and was frequented by Voltaire, who dined there with Bolingbroke on his first introduction to the renowned statesman. There also M. Arouet met Pope, and Cibber, and Young, Arbuthnot and the literati of the day, and read portions of La Henriade to them. Pope celebrates the tavern in two couplets:-

Let me extol a cat on oysters fed, I'll have a party at the Bedford Head.


When sharp with hunger, scorn you to be fed, Except on pea chicks at the Bedford Head ?

Here was held " the Shilling Rubber Club," of which Fielding, Hogarth, Wilkes, Garrick, Churchill, Goldsmith and others were members. The old house was not pulled down until 1870. On the south side of Maiden Lane, close to the spot where the stage entrance to the Adelphi now stands, was the notorious Cyder Cellar, first opened in 1730, a sort of Cafe Chantant, though no women ever sang there; its regular patrons seldom dropped in before midnight. As I have before mentioned,See " The Temple," p. 134. it was the nightly resort of Porson, the great Greek scholar, whose power of memory surpassed even that of Macaulay, and whose learning was equally prodigious; Porson was a most extraordinary combination of supreme intellect and gross bestiality. Somewhat late in life he married a widow; on his marriage day he dined alone at the Bedford Head and afterwards repaired to the Cyder Cellar, where he remained drinking until eight o'clock the next morning.

Round the corner, in Southampton Street, No. 27, now a gas office, Garrick spent the earlier years of his married life; the house has been little altered since; Caius Cibber, the father of Colley, who sculptured the designs on the base of the Monument, lived and died in this street, and the famous actress, Mrs. Oldfield, was also a resident in it. No. 3 Henrietta Street was Offley's Supper Rooms. The window of the large room looked out upon St. Paul's Churchyard, Covent Garden, and therein was buried the original of Thackeray's Captain Costigan; out of this window, it is said, that some of his boon companions used to pour libations of punch upon his grave. In Henrietta Street lived the famous actress, Kitty Clive, the " Pivy" of Horace Walpole's Letters, and Garrick's "Joy and Plague ". It was in a room of the Castle Tavern in this street that Sheridan fought a duel with Captain Matthews for traducing the beautiful Maria Linley, "St. Cecilia," with whom Brinsley had made a runaway match, and forced the scoundrel to beg his life and publish an ample apology. King Street is equally rich in memories; at No. 35, on the north side, the Garrick Club was first established, in 1834. At No. 38 lived Dr. Arne, the composer of the once famous opera, Artaxerxes, but now best remembered by his setting of Shakespeare's songs, and no musician, since his day, has succeeded so well in catching the spirit of the dramatist. His sister, Maria, afterwards the celebrated tragedienne, Mrs. Cibber, of whom Garrick said, hyperbolically, that tragedy died with her, passed her early years in this house. Coleridge the poet was for a time a resident of King Street. Readers of Richardson will remember that Clarissa Harlowe lay in hiding from Lovelace at a glove shop in this thoroughfare.

III.-Covent Garden Elections-The Finish-Evans's Supper Rooms.

In the pre-reform days Covent Garden had a lively time of it during the Westminster elections, especially when Sir Francis Burdett or Charles James Fox was the candidate. The poll was open three weeks, during which the whole neighbourhood was given over to riot and debauchery. The pencils of Hogarth and Bunbury have bequeathed us vivid representations of these scenes, but they are so unfamiliar to the present generation that a word-painting of the humours of an oldfashioned contest, in which Fox was the hero, may not be unacceptable.

The hustings are close against the east end of St. Paul's Church, and right away beneath the porticoes; and overflowing into King Street, Tavistock Street, Henrietta Street is a turbulent, shouting, shrieking, scrambling, swearing, fighting crowd, almost every man and woman of which wears the candidates' colours, the blue and buff of Charles James being greatly favoured. Against the hustings is a phalanx of "bludgeon- men," a villainous-looking crew, chiefly selected from the prize ring, armed with heavy cudgels. A cry of " Here comes the duchess!" sends everybody wildly rushing in the direction of Henrietta Street, which is all of a roar as an open carriage drawn by four high-stepping horses, the panels and harness ornamented with a ducal coronet, slowly makes its way through the human billows. Seated within is a splendidly attired and very handsome woman, who smiles and bows and kisses her hand effusively in response to the cheers with which she is greeted. But, oh heavens! huddled on the satin and velvet seats, beside and opposite her, are three or four drunken, dirty creatures that her Grace of Devonshire has raked out of the slums of St. Giles's-"free and independent electors " who are going to vote for " Fox and liberty". She has actually bribed one of them with a kiss! Faugh! It suggests Circe and her swine.

And now the shouts grow louder than ever as another carriage is seen making its way towards the. market-place, the central figure in which is a very dark-complexioned man, very big, very slovenly in dress; a frantic rush is made for the coach, men hang on behind, grip the horses' manes and harness, and a score of dirty hands are thrust out to be shaken by the hero of the hour, while a beery brass band brays out something intended for " See the Conquering Hero Comes! " It is with difficulty, and only by the interposition of the bludgeon-men, that his perfervid admirers permit Fox to descend from his carriage and mount the rostrum. As he bows to the seething mass, "caps, hands and tongues applaud him to the sky," and quite drown the groans and hisses of the feeble minority, who are little heeded until " the patriot" is struck upon the breast by a well-directed dead cat. In a moment the bludgeon-men are in the thick of the crowd, whirling their clubs and indiscriminately smashing friend and foe; there is a free fight, men pummel one another, women scratch each other's faces and tear out each other's hair by handfuls, while the spectators from the windows shriek shouts of encouragement.

This is the last day of the poll, and when soon after four o'clock Fox is declared to be elected by a substantial majority, there follows an indescribable saturnalia. The taverns, which have been all full, are more crowded than ever. Evoe Bacche ! The friend of Fox who can keep his feet under him that night is a skulker; the streets look as if London had been cannonaded; they are strewn with helpless wretches, but it is John Barleycorn and not Mars who has put them hors de combat ! Then comes "the chairing"; on a gorgeous throne, covered with blue and buff, the successful candidate is carried round the borough upon the stalwart shoulders of bludgeon-men, who, however, have drunk his health so frequently that they are in danger of breaking their patron's neck.

In Hogarth's picture of " Morning " we see against the north end of St. Paul's Church a wooden shebeen, Tom King's Coffee-house, in his time a resort of the market porters, of thieves, beaux, harlots. Half a century later Tom King's was superseded by the yet more notorious Carpenter's Coffee-house, nicknamed "The Finish". It was not demolished until 1829. Some place that's like the Finish, lads ! Where all your high pedestrian pads That have been up and out all night, Running their rigs among the rattlers, At morning meet, and honour bright, Agree to share the blunt and taters, wrote Tom Moore, in Tom Cribb's Memorial to Congress. This tavern was supposed to be expressly for the accommodation of the market people, but as it was open all night, " the Corinthians" made it a house of call in the early hours of the morning, and nicknamed it "The Finish". Here, at those unseemly hours, in the long low sanded-floored room., with its rough wooden benches and tables, its atmosphere reeking with fumes of stale tobacco, beer and unsnuffed tallow candles, met footpads, highwaymen, cypriennes, dandies, legislators, actors, literati; Sheridan, Fox, Tom Moore among others. Adolphus, in his Recollections, gives us a glimpse of stately John Philip Kemble coming into the Finish at five o'clock in the morning, after a dinner-party, very drunk, and beginning to spout to an acquaintance some new part that he was studying, at which the company, quite unawed by the frown of Coriolanus, broke into a ribald chorus, and the tragedian, who resented this insult, had to be hurried into a hackney coach to save him from violence.

Kemble, like other men of his day, was a tremendous toper. When George Colman the younger had completed The Iron Chest, he invited John Philip to dinner and to hear it read. The reading progressed slowly, the bottle quickly; the dawn found them both hard at it-the bottle, not the play. The butler was roused out of bed to get a fresh supply; they drank all night and began again after breakfast, and, with dozes between, kept it up until dinner-time ; after that they made another night of it until they fell asleep. Both woke simultaneously in the grey light of the morning. "What are you staring at?" cried Colman nervously. "By --, Kemble, you look like the devil incarnate ! " Upon which Coriolanus took his departure in high dudgeon. And it might have been on that night that Adolphus met him at the Finish. Sir Walter Scott said that Kemble was the only man who, after he had attained middle life, could seduce him into deep potations, and more than once, when John Philip was playing at Edinburgh, did Sol's red face look in upon the pair as they sat with a halfemptied bowl of punch still between them.

Notable among dead and gone institutions of Covent Garden was the well-known " Evans's Supper Rooms". Evans, an actor, who first opened the place at the beginning of the century, had long since quitted this world of chops, steaks and kidneys for another, where the eaters thereof are themselves eaten. When I knew the rooms, famous " Paddy Green," rubicund of countenance and effusive of manner, who raised them to the pinnacle of their glory, was the director. And -there was the great star, Herr Von Joel, who whistled like birds, imitated a farm-yard, sang Swiss mountain melodies, and played tunes upon walking-sticks borrowed from the company.

Ah, me! What recollections of the halcyon days of our youth, before we were on intimate terms with our liver, before we troubled our heads about what to eat, drink and avoid, and pessimism had taken the savour out of life, what recollections that old familiar name conjures up! Why, Evans's was one of the things to do, and a young man from the country would now as soon omit a visit to the Empire or the Alhambra as our provincial fathers and grandfathers would have thought of returning home without supping at the famous Covent Garden rooms, where all the lions of the day, actors, artists, literati were to be seen after twelve.

Thackeray, spectacled, with nose in air, was at times almost a nightly visitor; he had his own particular seat at the back of the room, against the wall, apart, unsocial, wrapped in meditation; it was an excellent place for the study of character, and many a one in his marvellous portrait gallery was mentally sketched over his chop or kidney. What is more probable than that the presence of some old Indian officer and his son suggested, not only the scene at this " the Cave of Harmony," but the immortal Colonel Newcome as well? Many a time, after a midnight prowl about the neighbourhood of "Tom All Alone's," Dickens, keen of eye and restless of movement, might be seen at one of the tables; but the habitues of Evans's were not in the way of" Boz's" pen. There you might see at one table Douglass Jerrold, a little body surmounted by a leonine head with a grey mane, with glowing eyes and a caustic sneer, not a pleasant person even to his intimates. Beside him is another little man, very thin, with the gentlest of faces and the merriest twinkle in his eye, dear Tom Hood, kindest and drollest of tender-hearted creatures, who has drawn tears from all the world by his " Song of the Shirt" and " The Bridge of Sighs "; thrilled it with " Eugene Aram's Dream," and shaken its sides with his puns and humour. A rotund little man, with a sly, moist eye, makes up a trio. It is Harry Lee, whose wit and drollery are second only to those of his companions. Talking with these, at an adjoining table, is the Falstaffian, Rabelaisian editor of Punch, genial Mark Lemon. A little apart sits a red-bearded man in seedy attire, gloomily discussing a chop, with a rejected play, called " Society," across which the Haymarket manager has contemptuously scribbled " Bosh," in his pocket. Yet some day not far distant that comedy will make the fortune of another theatre. But Tom Robertson's day has not yet come. He looks up savagely as he hears the well-known tones of "Buckey's" voice, which always sets the Haymarket in a roar before even his words are distin- guishable, calling for a steak and punch. And at his heels follow a couple of the Broughs, who have just made a hit with one of their rollicking burlesques at the Strand. Albert Smith, fresh from the descent of Mount Blanc; cheery Planche, rippling with goodhumour like one of his extravaganzas. And so I might pass in review the names of all the bohemians of the time, for they were all frequenters of Evans's after the play.

A happy-go-lucky, impecunious, spendthrift race! With a guinea in his pocket, dull care could find no place in the bohemian's heart; he made but little, and he spent that little merrily; he could not invite friends to an ostentatious banquet as his successors do, but he welcomed them to a cut of cold beef, a jug of ale and a jorum of punch, and pipes and tobacco afterwards; and on Sundays there were a knife and fork for any associate who liked to partake of a leg of mutton or a rib of beef, and pudding to follow; such was the hospitality offered by such men as Jerrold and Hood. Sometimes your Broughs and Robertsons and Lees had not wherewithal to provide even this frugal meal, and then the bitterness of poverty fell heavily upon them. But, hey, presto! a guinea for a magazine or newspaper article, and all was forgotten. Off to the pit of some theatre-authors did not sit in the boxes half a century ago, and stalls were unknown-and a chop at Evans's, and all their troubles were dissipated.

And at Evans's we find them; little attention do they pay to the glees and sentimental songs, though these are admirably executed: but then they have heard them so often, and they have so much to converse about. Presently there enters a performer whose appearance is hailed with universal acclamation, a performer whose terrible realism rivets the attention of the most languid, and there is a dead hush. So horribly but unconventionally repulsive is his makeup that if you have not seen him before you instinctively tighten your hold upon your walking-stick. He slouches unto a stool upon the stage, casts a malignant scowl around, and then, without any trick of manner, without any attempt at effect, tells the story, just as it would pass through his mind, of a convict in the condemned cell the night before his execution; no maudlin, chaplain-humbugging criminal, but a callous, ferocious, impenitent murderer, who ends every verse of his chant with the refrain, " D--n your eyes! " Nothing so shudderingly gruesome as Bob Ross's song, " Sam Hall," has been heard before or since.

After that there is a general movement, and William the waiter comes with the reckoning; he has a system of arithmetic all his own. "Chop, potatoes, bread, stout, sir-1s., 1s. 2d., 1S. 3d., 1s. 7d., and three brandies are 3s. 1d., that's 3s. 6d." How 3s. 1d., without any additional items, comes to 3s. 6d., nobody but William can tell, but it always does. If we pass out under the piazza the summer's dawn is breaking and the market outside is all bustle and commotion.

The beaux and belles, the fine ladies and gentle- men, the coffee-houses and taverns, the Finish, the Cyder Cellar, and Evans's, and all their famous and infamous frequenters, all the gaiety, fashion, romance, wit, all the intellectual life of Covent Garden have passed away, and nothing now is left but a sordid emporium-in its squalor and ugliness a disgrace to the greatest capital in the world, and to the magnate who owns it-to help feed the insatiable maw of ever-ravening London; all that remains of old days are the ashes of the famous dead, who lie interred in St. Paul's-Lely, Hudibras Butler, Dick Estcourt, Macklin, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, Sir Henry Herbert, the famous master of the Revels; William Wycherley, Kynaston, the celebrated actor of female parts; Mrs. Centlivre, the authoress of The Wonder, Robert Wilks, the renowned comedian of the Queen Anne and the first George's days; Grinling Gibbons, Dr. Wolcott, Sir Robert Strong, and others who After life's fitful fever [there] sleep well.



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.


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


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


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,


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.


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


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


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".


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,


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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-


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,


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.


[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."