Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John





THE name of Club, is undoubtedly taken from the practice of a jovial company to 'club,' or divide the whole expenses of the entertainment; and 'the payment of our Clubs' [1]  is a frequently mentioned wind-up of any festivity. Naturally, such agreeable meetings were repeated until they became habitual, and the society, or club, was formed; and these humble beginnings laid the foundation of that great social organisation which nowhere flourishes better than in England.

The principal clubs of Queen Anne's time were the , the , and the . The was a Political Club, of high Tory proclivities, and it was so called from the 'October Ale' which was supposed to be the drink of the members. It was held at the 'Bell Tavern,' in , , and they succeeded in plaguing the Whigs to their hearts' content. writes Stella of them :[2]  'We are plagued here with an ; that is, a set of above a hundred Parliament men of the Country, who drink October beer at home, and meet every evening at a tavern near the Parliament, to consult affairs, and drive things on to extremes against the Whigs, to call the old ministry to account, and get off five or six heads. The ministry seem not to regard them, yet one of them in confidence, told me that there must be something thought on to settle things better.' wrote a little pamphlet called 'Some Advice Humbly Offered to the


Members of the , in a letter from a Person of Honour,' which met with varying fortunes; for he tells Stella, 'The little twopenny letter of "Advice to the ," does not sell: I know the reason; for it is finely written, I assure you; and like a true author, I grow fond of it, because it does not sell: you know that it is usual to writers to condemn the judgment of the world; if I had hinted it to be mine, every body would have bought it, but it is a great secret.' [3]  A few days later, and he writes, February 1, that it 'begins now to sell; but I believe its fame will hardly reach Ireland.' There is no doubt but that it partially had the desired effect-of making these troublesome gentlemen less obstructive. Poor was once nearly getting into a dilemma with regard to this club, and his story is as follows: 'Then Ford drew me to dine at a tavern, it happened to be the day and the house where the dine. After we had dined, coming down, we called to inquire, whether our yarn business had been over that day, and I sent into the room for Sir George Beaumont. But I had like to be drawn into a difficulty; for in two minutes out comes Mr. Finch, Lord Guernsey's son, to let me know, that my Lord Compton, the steward of this feast, desired, in the name of the club, that I would do them the honour to dine with them. I sent my excuses, adorned with about thirty compliments, and got off as fast as I could. It would have been a most improper thing for me to dine there, considering my friendship for the Ministry. The Club is about a hundred and fifty, and near eighty of them were then going to dinner at two long tables in a great ground room.' [4]  Afterwards the was split, and the more Jacobite portion formed themselves into the March Club.

The was decidedly an opposition one, and its history, true or not, is told in a little book which some people have attributed to , [5]  'The SECRET HISTORY of the : or, the REPUBLICAN UNMASK'D. Wherein is fully shewn the religion of the CALVES HEAD Heroes in their Anniversary Thanksgiving


Songs on the Thirtieth of January, by them called Anthems, for the years , , , , . Now PUBLISHED to demonstrate the Restless, Implacable Spirit of a certain Party still among us, who are never to be satisfied till the present Establishment in Church and State is subverted. The Second Edition. Virg. London. Printed, And Sold by the Booksellers of London and . .'

The author tells the history of the club as follows: 'Happening in the late Reign to be in the Company of a certain active Whigg, who in all other Respects was a Man of probity enough; he assured me, that to his Knowledge, 'twas true, That he knew most of the Members of that Club, and that he had been often invited to their Meetings, but that he had always avoided them: Adding, that according to the Principles he was bred up in, he wou'd have made no scruple to have met Charles the First, in the Field, and oppos'd him to the utmost of his Power; but that since he was Dead, he had no further Quarrel to him, and looked upon it as a cowardly piece of Villany, below any Man of Honour, to insult upon a Memory of a Prince, who had suffer'd enough in his Life Time. 'He farther told me, that Milton, and some other Creatures of the Commonwealth, had instituted this Club, as he was inform'd, in Opposition to Bp. Juxon, Dr. Sanderson, Dr. Hammond, and other Divines of the Church of England, who met privately every 30th of January; and, tho' it was under the Time of the Usurpation, had compil'd a private Form of Service for the Day, not much different from that we now find in the Liturgy .... 'By another Gentleman, who, about Eight Years ago, went out of meer Curiosity to see their Club, and has since furnish'd me with the following Papers; I was inform'd that it was kept in no fix'd House, but that they remov'd as they saw convenient; that the place they met in when he was


with 'em, was a blind Ally, about Morefields; [6]  that the Company wholly consisted of Independents and Anabaptists (I am glad for the Honour of the Presbyterians to set down this Remark); that the Famous Jerry White, formerly Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, who, no doubt on 't, came to sanctify with his Pious Exhortations, the Ribbaldry of the Day, said Grace; that after the Table Cloth was removed, the Anniversary Anthem, as they impiously call'd it, was sung, and a Calves Scull filled with Wine or other Liquor, and then a Brimmer went about to the Pious Memory of those worthy Patriots that had kill'd the Tyrant, and deliver'd their Country from his Arbitrary Sway; and lastly, a Collection made for the Mercenary Scribler, to which every Man contributed according to his Zeal for the Cause, or the Ability of his Purse.'

The following if not the most refined of the series, is, at least, the most spirited and characteristic:- An Anthem on the 30th of January .

There was a King of Scottish Race, a Man of Muckle might a, Was never seen in Battels Great, but greatly he would sh--a; This K. begot another K. which made the Nation sad a, Was of the same Religion, an Atheist like his Dad a: This Monarch wore a Picked Beard, and seem'd a Doughty Hero, As Dioclesian Innocent, and Merciful as Nero. The Churches darling Implement, but Scourge of all the People, He Swore he'd make each Mother's Son Adore their Idol Steeple: But they perceiving his designs, grew plagy shy and jealous, And timely Choppt his Calve's head off, and sent him to his fellows. Old Rowly did succeed his Dad, such a King was never seen a, He'd lye with every nasty Drab, but seldom with his Queen a.

His Dogs at Council Board wou'd sit, like Judges in their Furs a, 'Twas hard to say which had most Wit, the Monarch or his Curs a. At last he died, we know not how, but most think by his Brother, His Soul to Royal Tophet went to see his Dad and Mother. The furious James Usurp'd the Throne, to pull Religion down a; But by his Wife and Priest undone, he quickly lost his Crown a. To France the wand'ring Monarch's trudg'd, in hopes relief to find a, Which he is like to have from thence, even when the D--'s blind a. Oh! how shou'd we Rejoyce and Pray, and never cease to Sing a, If Bishops too were Chac'd away, and Banished with their King a: Then Peace and Plenty wou'd ensue, our Bellies wou'd be full a, The enliven'd Isle wou'd Laugh and Smile, as in the days of Noll a.

Whether this 'Secret History' be true or not, it would almost appear that there was a in George the Second's reign, for in the Monthly Intelligencer, which was a portion of the Gentleman's Magazine, we find [7]  : 'Friday, January 30, . Some young Noblemen and Gentlemen met in a Tavern in Suffolk Street,[8]  called themselves the ; dress'd up a Calfs Head in a Napkin, and after some Huzzas threw it into a Bonfire, and dipt Napkins in their red Wine, and wav'd them out at Window. The Mob had strong beer given them, and for a time hallood as well as the best; but taking Disgust at some Healths propos'd, grew so outragious, that they broke all the Windows, and forc'd themselves into the House, but the Guards being sent for, prevented further Mischief.' Different accounts exist of this occurrence, variously modifying it, until they end in a total denial; but engravings exist professing to give the 'True Effigies' of the scene. Apropos of this, in the edition of the 'Secret History' is an engraving of 'the Calf's Head Club,' which is none other than the representation of a coffee-house already produced (see p. 215), but altered somewhat to suit the occasion. For instance, the dame de comptoir is erased, and in her place is a huge axe.

Perhaps one of the now best-known clubs of Anne's time was the , which derived its peculiar cognomen (so says) 'from a Mutton Pye.' Attempts have been made to attribute its origin to a political gathering of Whig


noblemen and gentlemen, but contemporary authorities all agree that it was founded by Jacob Tonson, the bookseller; and Sir R. Blackmore, who wrote a poem called 'the Kitcats' in , may be considered as knowing something about what he wrote. Whether the pieman's name was Christopher Cat, or Christopher, living at the sign of the Cat and Fiddle, does not much matter: certain it is that the pies from which the club was named were called Kit Cat's pies.

Various domiciles have been given to the club, but Sir R. Blackmore says it was held at the Fountain in , a site now occupied by the Cigar Divan, as is denoted by the name of Fountain Court.

On the fair Strand by which with graceful Pride, Unrival'd Thamis rolls his alternate Tyde, Between the Courts which most the People awe, (In one the Monarch reigns, in one the Law.) A Stately Building rear'd its lofty Head, Which both the


and Town around survey'd. Here crown'd with Clusters Bacchus kept his Court, Where mighty Vats his chearful Throne support; High o'er the Gate he hung his waving Sign, A Fountain Red with ever-flowing Wine. One Night, in Seven, at this convenient Seat, Indulgent BOCAJ

Jacob transposed.

did the Muses treat, Their Drink was generous Wine, and Kit Cat's Pyes their Meat. Here he assembled his Poetic Tribe, Past Labours to Reward, and new ones to prescribe; Hence did th' Assembly's Title first arise, And Kit-Cat Wits sprung first from Kit-Cat's Pyes. BOCAJ the mighty Founder of the State Led by his Wisdom, or his happy Fate, Chose proper Pillars to support its Weight All the first Members for their Place were fit Tho' not of Title, Men of Sense and Wit.

They showed they had sense at all events, for in the summer they went into the fresh air, and held their meetings at the Flask at .

Or when Apollo like, thou'rt pleas'd to lead Thy Sons to feast on


's airy Head;


that now in name Parnassus shall exceed.

Another proof, if it were needed, that Tonson was the founder of the club, is that forty-two of its members presented him with their portraits, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, to adorn his house at Barn Elms. As the room was not lofty enough to admit of their being the regulation size, special canvases were had (36 x 28 in.), and this is still called Kit Cat size. These portraits are still in existence, and were all shown at the Art Treasures Exhibition at Manchester, and some at the International Exhibition of . This club was famous for the toasts engraved on its drinking glasses, many of which have survived to this day; and this gave rise to Dr. Arbuthnot's epigram-

Whence deathless Kit-Cat took his name, Few Critics can unriddle: Some say from pastry cook it came And some from Cat and Fiddle. From no trim beaus its name it boasts, Grey statesmen or green wits, But from this pell mell pack of toasts Of old Cats and young Kits.

There were numerous social clubs, the Beefsteak, and the Saturday Club, of which makes frequent mention in his letters to Stella. Take one instance [10]  : 'I dined with lord-treasurer, and shall again to-morrow, which is his day, when all the ministers dine with him. He calls it whipping day. It is always on Saturday, and we do indeed usually rally him about his faults on that day. I was of the original club, when only poor Lord Rivers, lord keeper, and Lord Bolinbroke came; but now Ormond, Anglesey, lord Steward, Dartmouth, and other rabble intrude, and I scold at it; but now they pretend as good a title as I; and, indeed, many Saturdays I am not there.' He also belonged to a club or society for social converse and the encouragement of literature, which was founded in the latter part of the year . Its meetings were on Thursday, and it was the custom of the members to entertain their brethren in turns. He gave one dinner at the Thatched House [11] : 'it will cost me five or six pounds; yet the secretary says he will give me wine.' But


they soon got extravagant, for their very next dinner is noted [12]  as 'The Duke of Ormond's treat last week cost £pound;pound;20 though it was only four dishes, and four without a dessert; and I bespoke it in order to be cheap;' and this did not include wine. In this society, when money was raised for a benevolent purpose, the members were assessed according to their several estates: thus, the Duke of Ormond paid ten guineas, half a guinea.

, in No. 9, gives an amusing and graphic account of a club, held at a tavern called the Trumpet, in Shire Lane; and, to show how prevalent the establishment of clubs was in this reign, the following are some of suggested ones (of course only in fun) to be found in the : The Amorous, Chit Chat, Everlasting, Fox hunters, Fringe glove, Hebdomadal, Henpecked, Lazy, Lawyers, Mohock, Moving, Rattling, The Romp, Sighing, 's, Street, Twopenny, Ugly, Widows; and the supplies a list of supposed clubs of little men, and the Short, Silent, Tall, and Terrible Clubs.


[1] London Spy.

[2] Journal, Feb. 18, 1711.

[3] Journal, Jan. 28, 1712.

[4] Ibid. April 13, 1714.

[5] Brit. Mus. 1093, c. 73.

[6] In the ninth ed., 1714, after ' Morefields' it goes on: ' Where an Axe hung up in the Club Room, and was reverenced as a principal Symbol in this Diabolical Sacrament. Their Bill of Fare was a large Dish of Calves-Heads, dressed several ways, by which they represented the King and his Friends, who had suffer'd in his Cause; a large Pike with a small one in his Mouth, as an Emblem of Tyranny; a large Cod's Head, by which they pretended to represent the Person of the King singly; a Boar's Head with an Apple in its Mouth, to represent the King, by this, as Beastial, as by their other Hieroglyphicks they had done Foolish and Tyrannical. After the Repast was over, one of their Elders presented an Ikon Basilike, which was with great Solemnity burn'd upon the Table, whilst the Anthems were singing. After this, another produc'd Milton's Defensio Populi Anglicani, upon which all laid their Hands, and made a Protestation in the form of an Oath, for ever to stand by, and maintain the same;' then the text goes on as above.

[7] Gent. Mag. vol. v. p. 105.

[8] Charing Cross.

[10] Journal to Stella, Jan. 9, 1713.

[11] Ibid. Feb. 21, 1712.

[12] Journal to Stella, March 5, 1712.