INNS AND TAVERNS OF OLD LONDON
SETTING FORTH THE HISTORICAL AND LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS OF THOSE ANCIENT HOSTELRIES, TOGETHER WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE MOST NOTABLE COFFEE-HOUSES, CLUBS, AND PLEASURE GARDENS OF THE BRITISH METROPOLIS
HENRY C. SHELLEY
Author of "Untrodden English Ways," etc.
For all races of Teutonic origin the claim is made that they are essentially home-loving people. Yet the Englishman of the sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially of the latter, is seen to have exercised considerable zeal in creating substitutes for that home which, as a Teuton, he ought to have loved above all else. This, at any rate, was emphatically the case with the Londoner, as the following pages will testify. When he had perfected his taverns and inns, perfected them, that is, according to the light of the olden time, he set to work evolving a new species of public resort in the coffee-house. That type of establishment appears to have been responsible for the development of the club, another substitute for the home. And then came the age of the pleasure-garden. Both the latter survive, the one in a form of a more rigid exclusiveness than the eighteenth century Londoner would have deemed possible; the other in so changed a guise that frequenters of the prototype would scarcely recognize the relationship. But the coffee-house and the inn and tavern of old London exist but as a picturesque memory which these pages attempt to revive.
Naturally much delving among records of the past has gone to the making of this book. To enumerate all the sources of information which have been laid under contribution would be a tedious task and need not be attempted, but it would be ungrateful to omit thankful acknowledgment to Henry B. Wheatley's exhaustive edition of Peter Cunningham's "Handbook of London," and to Warwick Wroth's admirable volume on "The London Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century." Many of the illustrations have been specially photographed from rare engravings in the Print Boom of the British Museum.
I. INNS AND TAVERNS OF OLD LONDON.
I. FAMOUS SOUTHWARK INNS.
II. INNS AND TAVERNS EAST OF ST PAUL'S.
III. TAVERNS OF FLEET STREET AND THEREABOUTS.
IV. TAVERNS WEST OF TEMPLE BAR.
VI. INNS AND TAVERNS FURTHER AFIELD.
II. COFFEE-HOUSES OF OLD LONDON.
I. COFFEE-HOUSES ON 'CHANGE AND NEAR-BY.
II. ROUND ST PAUL'S.
III. THE STRAND AND COVENT GARDEN.
IV. FURTHER WEST.
III. THE CLUBS OF OLD LONDON.
"SOCIAL AND GAMING".
IV. PLEASURE GARDENS OF OLD LONDON.
III. OTHER FAVOURITE RESORTS.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
KING'S HEAD TAVERN, FLEET STREET GEOFFREY CHAUCER TABARD INN, SOUTHWARK IN 1810 BRIDGE-FOOT, SOUTHWARK, SHOWING THE BEAR INN IN 1616 COURTYARD OF BOAR'S HEAD INN, SOUTHWARK GEORGE INN WHITE HART INN, SOUTHWARK OLIVER GOLDSMITH COCK INN, LEADENHALL STREET PAUL PINDAR TAVERN ANCIENT VIEW OF CHEAPSIDE, SHOWING THE NAG'S HEAD INN A FRENCH ORDINARY IN LONDON YARD OF BELLE SAUVAGE INN THE CHESHIRE CHEESE—ENTRANCE PROM FLEET STREET THE CHESHIRE CHEESE—THE JOHNSON ROOM DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON TABLET AND BUST FROM THE DEVIL TAVERN BEN JONSON FEATHERS TAVERN ADAM AND EVE TAVERN A TRIAL BEFORE THE PIE-POWDER COURT AT THE HAND AND SHEARS TAVERN FALCON TAVERN, BANKSIDE GARRAWAY'S COFFEE-HOUSE MAD DOG IN A COFFEE-HOUSE TOM'S COFFEE-HOUSE LLOYD'S COFFEE-HOUSE GRECIAN COFFEE-HOUSE JOHN DRYDEN JOSEPH ADDISON SIR RICHARD STEELE LION'S HEAD AT BUTTON'S COFFEE-HOUSE BRITISH COFFEE-HOUSE SLAUGHTER'S COFFEE-HOUSE OLD PALACE YARD, WESTMINSTER DON SALTERO'S COFFEE-HOUSE ST JAMES'S STREET, SHOWING WHITE'S ON THE LEFT AND BROOKS'S ON THE RIGHT THE BRILLIANTS "PROMISED HORRORS OF THE FRENCH INVASION" GAMBLING SALOON AT BROOKS'S CLUB TICKETS FOR VAUXHALL ENTRANCE TO VAUXHALL THE CITIZEN AT VAUXHALL SCENE AT VAUXHALL VENETIAN MASQUERADE AT RANELAGH, 1749 THE ASSAULT ON DR. JOHN HILL AT RANELAGH MARYLEBONE GARDENS WHITE CONDUIT HOUSE BAGNIGGE WELLS FINCH'S GROTTO, SOUTHWARK
INNS AND TAVERNS OF OLD LONDON.
FAMOUS SOUTHWARK INNS.
Unique among the quaint maps of old London is one which traces the ground-plan of Southwark as it appeared early in the sixteenth century. It is not the kind of map which would ensure examination honours for its author were he competing among schoolboys of the twentieth century, but it has a quality of archaic simplicity which makes it a more precious possession than the best examples of modern cartography. Drawn on the principle that a minimum of lines and a maximum of description are the best aid to the imagination, this plan of Southwark indicates the main routes of thoroughfare with a few bold strokes, and then tills in the blanks with queer little drawings of churches and inns, the former depicted in delightfully distorted perspective and the latter by two or three half-circular strokes. That there may be no confusion between church and inn, the possibility of which is suggested by the fact that several of the latter are adorned with spire-like embellishments, the sixteenth-century cartographer told which were which in so many words. It is by close attention to the letter-press, and by observing the frequent appearance of names which have age-long association with houses of entertainment, that the student of this map awakens to the conviction that ancient Southwark rejoiced in a more than generous provision of inns.
Such was the case from the earliest period of which there is any record. The explanation is simple. The name of the borough supplies the clue. Southwark is really the south-work of London, that is, the southern defence or fortification of the city. The Thames is here a moat of spacious breadth and formidable depth, yet the Romans did not trust to that defence alone, but threw up further obstacles for any enemy approaching the city from the south. It was from that direction assault was most likely to come. From the western and southern counties of England, and, above all, from the Continent, this was the high road into the capital.
All this had a natural result in times of peace. As London Bridge was the only causeway over the Thames, and as the High street of Southwark was the southern continuation of that causeway, it followed that diplomatic visitors from the Continent and the countless traders who had business in the capital were obliged to use this route coming and going. The logical result of this constant traffic is seen in the countless inns of the district. In the great majority of cases those visitors who had business in the city itself during the day elected to make their headquarters for the night on the southern shore of the Thames.
Although no definite evidence is available, it is reasonable to conclude that the most ancient inns of Southwark were established at least as early as the most ancient hostelries of the city itself. To which, however, the prize of seniority is to be awarded can never be known. Yet on one matter there can be no dispute. Pride of place among the inns of Southwark belongs unquestionably to the Tabard. Not that it is the most ancient, or has played the most conspicuous part in the social or political life of the borough, but because the hand of the poet has lifted it from the realm of the actual and given it an enduring niche in the world of imagination.
No evidence is available to establish the actual date when the Tabard was built; Stow speaks of it as among the "most ancient" of the locality; but the nearest approach to definite dating assigns the inn to the early fourteenth century. One antiquary indeed fixes the earliest distinct record of the site of the inn in 1304, soon after which the Abbot of Hyde, whose abbey was in the neighbourhood of Winchester, here built himself a town mansion and probably at the same time a hostelry for travellers. Three years later the Abbot secured a license to erect a chapel close by the inn. It seems likely, then, that the Tabard had its origin as an adjunct of the town house of a Hampshire ecclesiastic.
But in the early history of the hostelry no fact stands out so clearly as that it was chosen by Chaucer as the starting-point for his immortal Canterbury pilgrims. More than two centuries had passed since Thomas Becket had fallen before the altar of St. Benedict in the minster of Canterbury, pierced with many swords as his reward for contesting the supremacy of the Church against Henry II.
"What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house," cried the monarch when the struggle had reached an acute stage, "that not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk!"
Four knights took the king at his word, posted with all speed to Canterbury, and charged the prelate to give way to the wishes of the sovereign.
"In vain you threaten me," Becket rejoined. "If all the swords in England were brandishing over my head, your terrors could not move me. Foot to foot you will find me fighting the battle of the Lord."
And then the swords of the knights flashed in the dim light of the minster and another name was added to the Church's roll of martyrs. The murder sent a thrill of horror through all Christendom; Becket was speedily canonized, and his tomb became the objective of countless pilgrims from every corner of the Christian world.
In Chaucer's days, some two centuries later, the pilgrimage had become a favourite occupation of the devout. Each awakening of the year, when the rains of April had laid the dust of March and aroused the buds of tree and herb from their winter slumber, the longing to go on a pilgrimage seized all classes alike.
"And specially, from every shires ende Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, The holy blisful martir for to seke, That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke."
Precisionists of the type who are never satisfied unless they can apply chronology in the realm of imagination will have it that Chaucer's pilgrimage was a veritable event, and that it took place in April, 1388. They go further still and identify Chaucer's host with the actual Henry Bailley, who certainly was in possession of the Tabard in years not remote from that date. The records show that he twice represented the borough of Southwark in Parliament, and another ancient document bears witness how he and his wife, Christian by name, were called upon to contribute two shillings to the subsidy of Richard II. These are the dry bones of history; for the living picture of the man himself recourse must be had to Chaucer's verse:
"A semely man our hoste was with-alle For to han been a marshal in an halle; A large man he was with eyen stepe, A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe; Bold of his speche, and wys, and well y-taught, And of manhood him lakkede right naught. Eke thereto he was right a merry man."
No twentieth century pilgrim to the Tabard inn must expect to find its environment at all in harmony with the picture enshrined in Chaucer's verse. The passing years have wrought a woeful and materializing change. The opening lines of the Prologue are permeated with a sense of the month of April, a "breath of uncontaminate springtide" as Lowell puts it, and in those far-off years when the poet wrote, the beauties of the awakening year were possible of enjoyment in Southwark. Then the buildings of the High street were spaciously placed, with room for field and hedgerow; to-day they are huddled as closely together as the hand of man can set them, and the verdure of grass and tree is unknown. Nor is it otherwise with the inn itself, for its modern representative has no points of likeness to establish a kinship with the structure visualized in Chaucer's lines. It is true the poet describes the inn more by suggestion than set delineation, but such hints that it was "a gentle hostelry," that its rooms and stables were alike spacious, that the food was of the best and the wine of the strongest go further with the imagination than concrete statements.
Giving faith for the moment to that theory which credits the Canterbury Tales with being based on actual experience, and recalling the quaint courtyard of the inn as it appeared on that distant April day of 1388, it is a pleasant exercise of fancy to imagine Chaucer leaning over the rail of one of the upper galleries to watch the assembling of his nine-and-twenty "sondry folk." They are, as J. R. Green has said, representatives of every class of English society from the noble to the ploughman. "We see the 'verray-perfight gentil knight' in cassock and coat of mail, with his curly-headed squire beside him, fresh as the May morning, and behind them the brown-faced yeoman in his coat and hood of green with a mighty bow in his hand. A group of ecclesiastics light up for us the mediaeval church—the brawny hunt-loving monk, whose bridle jingles as loud and clear as the chapel bell—the wanton friar, first among the beggars and harpers of the courtly side—the poor parson, threadbare, learned, and devout ('Christ's lore and his apostles twelve he taught, and first he followed it himself')—the summoner with his fiery face—the pardoner with his wallet 'full of pardons, come from Rome all hot'—the lively prioress with her courtly French lisp, her soft little red mouth, and Amor vincit omnia graven on her brooch. Learning is there in the portly person of the doctor of physics, rich with the profits of the pestilence—the busy sergeant-of-law, 'that ever seemed busier than he was'—the hollow-cheeked clerk of Oxford with his love of books and short sharp sentences that disguise a latent tenderness which breaks out at last in the story of Griseldis. Around them crowd types of English industry; the merchant; the franklin in whose house 'it snowed of meat and drink'; the sailor fresh from frays in the Channel; the buxom wife of Bath; the broad-shouldered miller; the haberdasher, carpenter, weaver, dyer, tapestry-maker, each in the livery of his craft; and last the honest ploughman who would dyke and delve for the poor without hire."
Smilingly as Chaucer may have gazed upon this goodly company, his delight at their arrival paled before the radiant pleasure of mine host, for a poet on the lookout for a subject can hardly have welcomed the advent of the pilgrims with such an interested anticipation of profit as the innkeeper whose rooms they were to occupy and whose food and wines they were to consume. Henry Bailley was equal to the auspicious occasion.
"Greet chere made our hoste us everichon, And to the soper sette he us anon; And served us with vitaille at the beste. Strong was the wyn, and wel to drinke us leste."
But the host of the Tabard was more than an efficient caterer; he was something of a diplomatist also. Taking advantage of that glow of satisfaction which is the psychological effect of physical needs generously satisfied, he appears to have had no difficulty in getting the pilgrims to pay their "rekeninges," and having attained that practical object he rewarded his customers with liberal interest for their hard cash in the form of unstinted praise of their collective merits, In all that year he had not seen so merry a company gathered under his roof, etc., etc. But of greater moment for future generations was his suggestion that, as there was no comfort in riding to Canterbury dumb as a stone, the pilgrims should beguile their journey by telling stories. The suggestion was loudly acclaimed and the scheme unanimously pledged in further copious draughts of wine. And then, to "reste wente echon," until the dawn came again and smiled down upon that brave company whose tale-telling pilgrimage has since been followed with so much delight by countless thousands. By the time Stow made his famous survey of London, some two centuries later, the Tabard was rejoicing to the full in the glories cast around it by Chaucer's pen. Stow cites the poet's commendation as its chief title to fame, and pauses to explain that the name of the inn was "so called of the sign, which, as we now term it, is of a jacket, or sleeveless coat, whole before, open on both sides, with a square collar, winged at the shoulders; a stately garment of old time, commonly worn of noblemen and others, both at home and abroad in the war, but then (to wit in the wars) their arms embroidered, or otherwise depict upon them, that every man by his coat of arms might be known from others." All this heraldic lore did not prevent the subsequent change—for a time—of the name Tabard to the meaningless name of Talbot, a distortion, however, which survives only in antiquarian history.
At the dissolution of the monasteries this inn, which up till then had retained its connection with the church through belonging to Hyde Abbey, was granted to two brothers named Master, and in 1542 its annual rent is fixed at nine pounds. An authority on social life in England during the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign ventures on the following description of the arrangements of the inn at that period. "On the ground-floor, looking on to the street, was a room called 'the darke parlour,' a hall, and a general reception-room called 'the parlour.' This was probably the dining-room of the house, as it opened on to the kitchen on the same level. Below the dark parlour was a cellar. On the first floor, above the parlour and the hall, were three rooms—'the middle chamber,' 'the corner chamber,' and 'Maister Hussye's chamber,' with garrets or 'cock lofts' over them. Over the great parlour was another room. There were also rooms called 'the Entry Chamber' and 'the Newe chamber,' 'the Flower de Luce' and 'Mr. Russell's chamber,' of which the position is not specified."
When, in 1575, the old Tabard, the inn, that is, of George Shepherd's water-colour drawing of 1810, was demolished, making way for the present somewhat commonplace representative of the ancient hostelry, many protests were made on the plea that it was sheer vandalism to destroy a building so intimately associated with the genius of Chaucer. But the protests were based upon lack of knowledge. Chaucer's inn had disappeared long before. It is sometimes stated that that building survived until the great Southwark fire of 1676, but such assertions overlook the fact that there is in existence a record dated 1634 which speaks of the Tabard as having been built of brick six years previously upon the old foundation. Here, then, is proof that the Tabard of the pilgrims was wholly reconstructed in 1628, and even that building—faithful copy as it may have been of the poet's inn—was burnt to the ground in 1676. From the old foundations, however, a new Tabard arose, built on the old plan, so that the structure which was torn down in 1875 may have perpetuated the semblance of Chaucer's inn to modern times.
Compared with its association with the Canterbury pilgrims, the subsequent history of the Tabard is somewhat prosaic. Here a record tells how it became the objective of numerous carriers from Kent and Sussex, there crops up a law report which enshrines the memory of a burglary, and elsewhere in reminiscences or diary may be found a tribute to the excellence of the inn's rooms and food and the reasonableness of the charges. It should not be forgotten, however, that violent hands have been laid on the famous inn for the lofty purposes of melodrama. More than sixty years ago a play entitled "Mary White, or the Murder at the Old Tabard" thrilled the theatregoer with its tragic situations and the terrible perils of the heroine. But the tribulations of Mary White have left no imprint on English literature. Chaucer's pilgrims have, and so long as the mere name of the Tabard survives, its recollection will bring in its train a moving picture of that merry and motley company which set out for the shrine of Becket so many generations ago.
Poetic license bestows upon another notable Southwark inn, the Bear at Bridge-foot, an antiquity far eclipsing that of the Tabard. In a poem printed in 1691, descriptive of "The Last Search after Claret in Southwark," the heroes of the verse are depicted as eventually finding their way to
"The Bear, which we soon understood Was the first house in Southwark built after the flood."
To describe the inn as "the first house in Southwark" might have been accurate for those callers who approached it over London Bridge, but in actual chronology the proud distinction of dating from post-deluge days has really to give place to the much more recent year of 1319. There is, preserved among the archives of the city of London a tavern lease of that date which belongs without doubt to the history of this hostelry, for it refers to the inn which Thomas Drinkwater had "recently built at the head of London Bridge." This Thomas Drinkwater was a taverner of London, and the document in question sets forth how he had granted the lease of the Bear to one James Beauflur, who agrees to purchase all his wines from the inappropriately named Drinkwater, who, on his part, was to furnish his tenant with such necessaries as silver mugs, wooden hanaps, curtains, cloths and other articles.
A century and a half later the inn figures in the accounts of Sir John Howard, that warlike "Jacke of Norfolk" who became the first Duke of Norfolk in the Howard family and fatally attested his loyalty to his king on Bosworth Field. From that time onward casual references to the Bear are numerous. It was probably the best-known inn of Southwark, for its enviable position at the foot of London Bridge made it conspicuous to all entering or leaving the city. Its attractions were enhanced by the fact that archery could be practised in its grounds, and that within those same grounds was the Thames-side landing stage from whence the tilt-boats started for Greenwich and Gravesend. It was the opportunity for shooting at the target which helped to lure Sir John Howard to the Bear, but as he sampled the wine of the inn before testing his skill as a marksman, he found himself the poorer by the twenty-pence with which he had backed his own prowess. Under date 1633 there is an interesting reference which sets forth that, although orders had been given to have all the back-doors to taverns on the Thames closed up, owing to the fact that wrong-doers found them convenient in evading the officers of the law, an exception was made in the case of the Bear owing to the fact that it was the starting-place for Greenwich.
Evidence in abundance might be cited to show that the inn was a favourite meeting place with the wits and gallants of the court of Charles I and the Restoration. "The maddest of all the land came to bait the Bear," is one testimony; "I stuffed myself with food and tipple till the hoops were ready to burst," is another. There is one figure, however, of the thirties of the seventeenth century which arrests the attention. This is Sir John Suckling, that gifted and ill-fated poet and man of fashion of whom it was said that he "had the peculiar happiness of making everything that he did become him." His ready wit, his strikingly handsome face and person, his wealth and generosity, his skill in all fashionable pastimes made him a favourite with all. The preferences of the man, his delight in the joys of the town as compared with the pleasures of secluded study in the country, are clearly seen in those sprightly lines in which he invited the learned John Hales, the "walking library," to leave Eton and "come to town":
"There you shall find the wit and wine Flowing alike, and both divine: Dishes, with names not known in books, And less among the college-cooks; With sauce so pregnant, that you need Not stay till hunger bids you feed. The sweat of learned Jonson's brain, And gentle Shakespeare's eas'er strain, A hackney coach conveys you to, In spite of all that rain can do: And for your eighteenpence you sit The lord and judge of all fresh wit."
Nor was it in verse alone that Suckling celebrated the praises of wine. Among the scanty remains of his prose there is that lively sally, written at the Bear, and entitled: "The Wine-drinkers to the Water-drinkers." After mockingly commiserating with the teetotalers over the sad plight into which their habits had brought them, the address continues: "We have had divers meetings at the Bear at the Bridge-foot, and now at length have resolved to despatch to you one of our cabinet council, Colonel Young, with some slight forces of canary, and some few of sherry, which no doubt will stand you in good stead, if they do not mutiny and grow too headstrong for their commander. Him Captain Puff of Barton shall follow with all expedition, with two or three regiments of claret; Monsieur de Granville, commonly called Lieutenant Strutt, shall lead up the rear of Rhenish and white. These succours, thus timely sent, we are confident will be sufficient to hold the enemy in play, and, till we hear from you again, we shall not think of a fresh supply.... Given under our hand at the Bear, this fourth of July."
Somewhere about the date when this drollery was penned there happened at the Bear an incident which might have furnished the water-drinkers with an effective retort on their satirist. The Earl of Buccleugh, just returned from military service abroad, on his way into London, halted at the Bear to quaff a glass of sack with a friend. A few minutes later he put off in a boat for the further shore of the Thames, but ere the craft had gone many yards from land the earl exclaimed, "I am deadly sick, row back; Lord have mercy upon me!" Those were his last words, for he died that night.
Another picturesque figure of the seventeenth century is among the shades that haunt the memory of the Bear, Samuel Pepys, that irrepressible gadabout who was more intimately acquainted with the inns and taverns of London than any man of his time. That Thames-side hostelry was evidently a favourite resort of the diarist. On both occasions of his visits to Southwark Pair he made the inn his base of operations as it were, especially in 1668 when the puppet-show of Whittington seemed "pretty to see," though he could not resist the reflection "how that idle thing do work upon people that see it, and even myself too!"
Pepys had other excitements that day. He was so mightily taken with Jacob Hall's dancing on the ropes that on meeting that worthy at a tavern he presented him with a bottle of wine. Having done justice to all the sights of the fair, he returned to the Bear, where his Waterman awaited him with the gold and other things to the value of forty pounds which the prudent diarist had left in his charge at the inn "for fear of my pockets being cut."
Pepys himself incidentally explains why he had so friendly a regard for the Bridge-foot tavern. "Going through bridge by water," he writes, "my Waterman told me how the mistress of the Beare tavern, at the bridge-foot, did lately fling herself into the Thames, and drowned herself; which did trouble me the more, when they tell me it was she that did live at the White Horse tavern in Lumbard Street, which was a most beautiful woman, as most I have seen."
Yet another fair woman, Frances Stuart, one of the greatest beauties of the court of Charles II, is linked with the history of the Beare. Sad as was the havoc she wrought in the heart of the susceptible Pepys, who is ever torn between admiration of her loveliness and mock-reprobation of her equivocal position at court, Frances Stuart created still deeper passions in men more highly placed than he. Apart from her royal lover, there were two nobles, the Dukes of York and Richmond who contended for her hand, with the result of victory finally resting with the latter. But the match had to be a runaway one. The king was in no mood to part with his favourite, and so the lovers arranged a meeting at the Bear, where a coach was in waiting to spirit them away into Kent. No wonder Charles was offended, especially when the lady sent him back his presents.
Nearly a century and a half has passed since the Bear finally closed its doors. All through the lively years of the Restoration it maintained its reputation as a house of good cheer and a wholly desirable rendezvous, and it figures not inconspicuously in the social life of London down to 1761. By that time the ever-increasing traffic over the Thames bridge had made the enlargement of that structure a necessity, and the Bear was among the buildings which had to be demolished.
Further south in the High street, and opposite the house in which John Harvard, the founder of America's oldest university, was born, stood the Boar's Head, an inn which was once the property of Sir Fastolfe, and was by him bequeathed through a friend to Magdalen College, Oxford. This must not be confused with the Boar's Head of Shakespeare, which stood in Eastcheap on the other side of the river, though it is a remarkable coincidence that it was in the latter inn the dramatist laid the scene of Prince Hal's merrymaking with the Sir John Falstaff we all know. The earliest reference to the Southwark Boar's Head occurs in the Paston Letters under date 1459. This is an epistle from a servant of Fastolfe to John Paston, asking him to remind his master that he had promised him he should be made host of the Boar's Head, but whether he ever attained to that desired position there is no evidence to show. The inn makes but little figure in history; by 1720 it had dwindled to a-mere courtyard, and in 1830 the last remnants were cleared away.
Inevitably, however, the fact that the Boar's Head was the property of Sir John Fastolfe prompts the question, what relation had he to the Sir John Falstaff of Shakespeare's plays? This has been a topic of large discussion for many years. There are so many touches of character and definite incidents which apply in common to the two knights that the poet has been assumed to have had the historic Fastolfe ever in view when drawing the portrait of his Falstaff. The historian Fuller assumed this to have been the case, for he complains that the "stage have been overbold" in dealing with Fastolfe's memory. Sidney Lee, however, sums up the case thus: "Shakespeare was possibly under the misapprehension, based on the episode of cowardice reported in 'Henry VI,' that the military exploits of the historical Sir John Fastolfe sufficiently resembled those of his own riotous knight to justify the employment of a corrupted version of his name. It is of course untrue that Fastolfe was ever the intimate associate of Henry V when Prince of Wales, who was not his junior by more than ten years, or that he was an impecunious spendthrift and gray-haired debauchee. The historical Fastolfe was in private life an expert man of business, who was indulgent neither to himself nor his friends. He was nothing of a jester, and was, in spite of all imputations to the contrary, a capable and brave soldier."
Sad as has been the havoc wrought by time and the hand of man among the hostelries of Southwark, a considerable portion of one still survives in its actual seventeenth century guise. This is the George Inn, which is slightly nearer London Bridge than the Tabard. To catch a peep of its old-world aspect, with its quaint gallery and other indubitable tokens of a distant past, gives the pilgrim a pleasant shock. It is such a contrast to the ugly modern structures which impose themselves on the public as "Ye Olde" this and "Ye Olde" that. Here at any rate is a veritable survival. Nor does it matter that the George has made little figure in history; there is a whole world of satisfaction in the thought that it has changed but little since it was built in 1672. Its name is older than its structure. Stow included the George among the "many fair inns" he saw in Southwark in 1598, a fact which deals a cruel blow to that crude theory which declares inns were so named after the royal Georges of Great Britain.
Among the numerous other inns which once lined the High Street of Southwark there is but one which has claims upon the attention on the score of historic and literary interest. This is the White Hart, which was doubtless an old establishment at the date, 1406, of its first mention in historical records. Forty-four years later, that is in 1450, the inn gained its most notable association by being made the head-quarters of Jack Cade at the time of his famous insurrection. Modern research has shown that this rebellion was a much more serious matter than the older historians were aware of, but the most careful investigation into Cade's career has failed to elicit any particulars of note prior to a year before the rising took place. The year and place of his birth are unknown, but twelve months before he appears in history he was obliged to flee the realm and take refuge in France owing to his having murdered a woman who was with child. He served for a time in the French army, then returned under an assumed name and settled in Kent, which was the centre of discontent against Henry VI. As the one hope of reform lay in an appeal to arms, the discontent broke into open revolt. "The rising spread from Kent over Surrey and Sussex. Everywhere it was general and organized—a military levy of the yeomen of the three shires." It was not of the people alone, for more than a hundred esquires and gentlemen threw in their lot with the rebels; but how it came about that Jack Cade attained the leadership is a profound mystery. Leader, however, he was, and when he, with his twenty thousand men, took possession of Southwark as the most desirable base from which to threaten the city of London, he elected the White Hart for his own quarters. This was on the first of July, 1450, and for the next few of those midsummer days the inn was the scene of many stirring and tragic events. Daily, Cade at the head of his troops crossed the bridge into the city, and on one of those excursions he caused the seizure and beheadal of the hated Lord Say. Daily, too, there was constant coming and going at the White Hart of Cade's emissaries. At length, however, the citizens of London, stung into action by the robberies and other outrages of the rebels, occupied the bridge in force. A stubborn struggle ensued, but Cade and his men were finally beaten off. The amnesty which followed led to a conference at which terms were arranged and a general pardon granted. That for Cade, however, as it was made out in his assumed name of Mortimer, was invalid, and on the discovery being made he seized a large quantity of booty and fled. Not many days later he was run to earth, wounded in being captured, and died as he was being brought back to London. His naked body was identified by the hostess of the White Hart, who was probably relieved to gaze upon so certain an indication that she would be able to devote herself once more to the entertainment of less troublesome guests.
For all the speedy ending of his ambitions, Cade is assured of immortality so long as the pages of Shakespeare endure. The rebel is a stirring figure in the Second Part of King Henry VI and as an orator of the mob reaches his greatest flights of eloquence in that speech which perpetuates the name of his headquarters at Southwark. "Hath my sword therefore broke through London gates, that you should leave me at the White Hart in Southwark?"
But English literature was not done with the old inn. Many changes were to pass over its head during the nearly four centuries which elapsed ere it was touched once more by the pen of genius, changes wrought by the havoc of fire and the attritions of the hand of time. When those years had fled a figure was to be seen in its courtyard to become better known to and better beloved by countless thousands than the rebel leader of the fifteenth century. "In the Borough," wrote the creator of that figure, "there still remain some half dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories.... It was in the yard of one of these inns—of no less celebrated a one than the White Hart—that a man was busily employed in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse-striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he made to the clean row, he paused from his work, and contemplated its results with evident satisfaction."
Who does not recognize Sam Weller, making his first appearance in "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club"? And who has not revelled in the lively scene in the White Hart when Mr. Pickwick and his friends arrived in the nick of time to prevent the ancient but still sentimental Rachael from becoming Mrs. Jingle? It is not difficult to understand why that particular instalment of "Pickwick" was the turning-point of the book's fortunes. Prior to the advent of Sam in the courtyard of the White Hart the public had shown but a moderate interest in the new venture of "Boz," but from that event onward the sales of the succeeding parts were ever on the increase. Sam and the White Hart, then, had much to do with the career of Dickens, for if "Pickwick" had failed it is more than probable that he would have abandoned literature as a profession.
When Dickens wrote, the White Hart was still in existence. It is so no longer. Till late in the last century this hostelry was spared the fate which had overtaken so many Southwark taverns, even though, in place of the nobles it had sheltered, its customers had become hop-merchants, farmers, and others of lower degree. In 1889, in the month of July, four hundred and thirty-nine years after it had received Jack Cade under its roof, the last timbers of the old inn were levelled to the ground.
INNS AND TAVERNS EAST OF ST. PAUL'S.
Boswell relates how, in one of his numerous communicative moods, he informed Dr. Johnson of the existence of a club at "the Boar's Head in Eastcheap, the very tavern where Falstaff and his joyous companions met; the members of which all assume Shakespeare's characters. One is Falstaff, another Prince Henry, another Bardolph, and so on." If the assiduous little Scotsman entertained the idea of joining the club, a matter on which he does not throw any light, Johnson's rejoinder was sufficient to deter him from doing so. "Don't be of it, Sir. Now that you have a name you must be careful to avoid many things not bad in themselves, but which will lessen your character."
Whether Johnson's remark was prompted by an intimate knowledge of the type of person frequenting the Boar's Head in his day cannot be decided, but there are ample grounds for thinking that the patrons of that inn were generally of a somewhat boisterous kind. That, perhaps, is partly Shakespeare's fault. Prior to his making it the scene of the mad revelry of Prince Hal and his none too choice companions, the history of the Boar's Head, so far as we know it, was sedately respectable. One of the earliest references to its existence is in a lease dated 1537, some sixty years before the first part of Henry IV was entered in the Stationers' Register. Some half century later, that is in 1588, the inn was kept by one Thomas Wright, whose son came into a "good inheritance," was made clerk of the King's Stable, and a knight, and was "a very discreet and honest gentleman."
But Shakespeare's pen dispelled any atmosphere of respectability which lingered around the Boar's Head. From the time when he made it the meeting-place of the mad-cap Prince of Wales and his roistering followers, down to the day of Goldsmith's reverie under its roof, the inn has dwelt in the imagination at least as the rendezvous of hard drinkers and practical jokers. How could it be otherwise after the limning of such a scene as that described in Henry IV? That was sufficient to dedicate the inn to conviviality for ever.
How sharply the picture shapes itself as the hurrying dialogue is read! The key-note of merriment is struck by the Prince himself as he implores the aid of Poins to help him laugh at the excellent trick he has just played on the boastful but craven Falstaff, and the bustle and hilarity of the scene never flags for a moment. Even Francis, the drawer, whose vocabulary is limited to "Anon, anon, sir"—the fellow that had "fewer words than a parrot, and yet the son of a woman"—and the host himself, as perplexed as his servant when two customers call at once, contribute to the movement of the episode in its earlier stages. But the pace is, increased furiously when the burly Falstaff, scant of breath indeed, bustles hurriedly in proclaiming in one breath his scorn of cowards and his urgent need of a cup of sack. We all know the boastful story he told, how he and his three companions had been set upon and robbed by a hundred men, how he himself—as witness his sword "packed like a hand-saw"—had kept at bay and put to flight now two, anon four, and then seven, and finally eleven of his assailants. We all can see, too, the roguish twinkle in Prince Hal's eyes as the braggart knight embellishes his lying tale with every fresh sentence, and are as nonplussed as he when, the plot discovered, Falstaff finds a way to take credit for his cowardice. Who would not forgive so cajoling a vaunter?
It was later in this scene, be it remembered, that the portly knight was found fast asleep behind the arras, "snorting like a horse," and had his pockets searched to the discovery of that tavern bill—not paid we may be sure—which set forth an expenditure on the staff of life immensely disproportionate to that on drink, and elicited the famous ejaculation—"But one half-pennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack!"
But Shakespeare had not finished with the Boar's Head. More coarse and less merry, but not less vivid, is that other scene wherein the shrill-tongued Doll Tearsheet and the peace-making Dame Quickly figure. And it is of a special and private room in the Boar's Head we think as we listen to Dame Quickly's tale of how the amorous Falstaff made love to her with his hand upon "a parcel-gilt goblet," and followed up the declaration with a kiss and a request for thirty shillings.
For Shakespeare's sake, then, the Boar's Head is elect into that small circle of inns which are immortal in the annals of literature. But, like Chaucer's Tabard, no stone of it is left. Boswell made a mistake, and so did Goldsmith after him, in thinking that the Boar's Head of the eighteenth century was the Boar's Head of Shakespeare's day. They both forgot the great Fire of London. That disastrous conflagration of 1666 swept away every vestige of the old inn. Upon its foundation, however, another Boar's Head arose, the sign of which, cut in stone and dated 1668, is among the treasures of the Guildhall Museum. This was the building in which Boswell's club met, and it was under its roof Goldsmith penned his famous reverie.
As was to be expected of that social soul, the character of Falstaff gave Goldsmith more consolation than the most studied efforts of wisdom: "I here behold," he continues, "an agreeable old fellow forgetting age, and showing me the way to be young at sixty-five. Sure I am well able to be as merry, though not so comical, as he. Is it not in my power to have, though not so much wit, at least as much vivacity?—Age, care, wisdom, reflection, begone—I give you to the winds! Let's have t'other bottle: Here's to the memory of Shakespeare, Falstaff, and all the merry men of Eastcheap!"
With such zest did Goldsmith enter into his night out at the Boar's Head that when the midnight hour arrived he discovered all his companions had stolen away, leaving him—still in high spirits with the landlord as his sole companion. Then the mood of reverie began to work. The very room helped to transport him back through the centuries; the oak floor, the gothic windows, the ponderous chimney-piece,—all were reminders of the past. But the prosaic landlord was an obstacle to the complete working of the spell. At last, however, a change came over mine host, or so it seemed to the dreaming chronicler. "He insensibly began to alter his appearance; his cravat seemed quilled into a ruff, and his breeches swelled out into a farlingale. I now fancied him changing sexes; and as my eyes began to close in slumber, I imagined my fat landlord actually converted into as fat a landlady. However, sleep made but few changes in my situation: the tavern, the apartment, and the table, continued as before: nothing suffered mutation but my host, who was fairly altered into a gentlewoman, whom I knew to be Dame Quickly, mistress of this tavern in the days of Sir John; and the liquor we were drinking seemed converted into sack and sugar."
Such an opportunity of interviewing an acquaintance of Falstaff was not to be lost, and to the credit of Dame Quickly be it said that she was far more communicative than some moderns are under the questioning ordeal. But it was no wonder she was loquacious: had she not been ordered by Pluto to keep a record of every transaction at the Boar's Head, and in the discharge of that duty compiled three hundred tomes? Some may subscribe to the opinion that Dame Quickly was indiscreet as well as loquacious; certainly she did not spare the reputations of some who had dwelt under that ancient roof. The sum of the matter, however, was that since the execution of that hostess who was accused of witchcraft the Boar's Head "underwent several revolutions, according to the spirit of the times, or the disposition of the reigning monarch. It was this day a brothel, and the next a conventicle for enthusiasts. It was one year noted for harbouring Whigs, and the next infamous for a retreat to Tories. Some years ago it was in high vogue, but at present it seems declining."
One other son of genius was to add to the fame of the Boar's Head, the American Goldsmith, that is, the gentle Washington Irving. Of course Shakespeare was the moving spirit once more. While turning over the pages of Henry IV Irving was seized with a sudden inspiration: "I will make a pilgrimage to Eastcheap, and see if the old Boar's Head tavern still exists." But it was too late. The only relic of the ancient abode of Dame Quickly was the stone boar's head, built into walls reared where the inn once stood. Nothing daunted, however, Irving explored the neighbourhood, and was rewarded, as he thought, by running to earth Dame Quickly's "parcel-gilt goblet" in a tavern near by. He had one other "find." In the old graveyard of St. Michael's, which no longer exists, he discovered, so he avers, the tombstone of one Robert Preston who, like the Francis of "Anon, anon, sir," was a drawer at the Boar's Head, and quotes from that tombstone the following admonitory epitaph:
"Bacchus, to give the toping world surprise, Produced one sober son, and here he lies. Though rear'd among full hogsheads, he defied The charms of wine, and every one beside. O reader, if to justice thou'rt inclined, Keep honest Preston daily in thy mind. He drew good wine, took care to fill his pots, Had sundry virtues that excused his faults. You that on Bacchus have the like dependence, Pray copy Bob, in measure and attendance."
Small as was the reward of living's quest, a still more barren result would ensue on a modern pilgrimage to the Boar's Head. It was still a tavern in 1785, for a chronicler of that date described it as having on each side of the doorway "a vine branch, carved in wood, rising more than three feet from the ground, loaded with leaves and clusters; and on the top of each a little Falstaff, eight inches high, in the dress of his day." But Dame Quickly's forecast of declining fortune moved on to its fulfilment. In the last stages of its existence the building was divided into two, while the carved boar's head which Irving saw still remained as the one sign of its departed glories. Finally came the resolve to widen the approach to London Bridge from the city side, and the carrying out of that resolve involved the sweeping away of the Boar's Head. This was in 1831, and, as has been said, the only relic of the ancient tavern is that carved sign in the Guildhall Museum. But the curious in such matters may be interested to know that the statue of King William marks approximately the spot of ground where hover the immortal memories of Shakespeare, and Goldsmith, and Irving.
Within easy distance of Eastcheap, in Upper Thames Street, which skirts the river bank, there stood, in Shakespeare's day and much later, a tavern bearing the curious name of the Three Cranes in the Vintry. John Stow, that zealous topographer to whom the historians of London owe so large a debt, helps to explain the mystery. The vintry, he tells us, was that part of the Thames bank where "the merchants of Bordeaux craned their wines out of lighters and other vessels, and there landed and made sale of them." He also adds that the Three Cranes' lane was "so called not only of a sign of three cranes at a tavern door, but rather 'of three strong cranes of timber placed on the Vintry wharf by the Thames side, to crane up wines there." Earlier than the seventeenth century, however, it would seem that one crane had to suffice for the needs of "the merchants of Bordeaux," and then the tavern was known simply as the Crane. Two references, dated respectively 1552 and 1554, speak of the sign in the singular. Twenty years later, however, the one had become three.
Ben Jonson, whose knowledge of London inns and taverns was second, only to that of Pepys, evidently numbered the Three Cranes in the Vintry among his houses of call. Of two of his allusions to the house one is derogatory of the wit of its patrons, the other laudatory of the readiness of its service. "A pox o' these pretenders to wit!" runs the first passage. "Your Three Cranes, Mitre, and Mermaid men! Not a corn of true salt, not a grain of right mustard amongst them all." And here is the other side of the shield, credited to Iniquity in "The Devil is an Ass":—
"Nay, boy, I will bring thee to the bawds and roysters At Billingsgate, feasting with claret-wine and oysters; From thence shoot the Bridge, child, to the Cranes in the Vintry, And see there the gimblets how they make their entry."
Of course Pepys was acquainted with the house. He had, indeed, a savage memory of one meal under its roof. It was all owing to the marrying proclivities of his uncle Fenner. Bereft of his wife on the last day of August, that easy-going worthy, less than two months later, was discovered by his nephew in an ale-house, "very jolly and youthsome, and as one that I believe will in a little time get him a wife." Pepys' anticipation was speedily realized. Uncle Fenner had indulged himself with a new partner by the middle of January, and must needs give a feast to celebrate the event. And this is Pepys' frank record of the occasion: "By invitation to my uncle Fenner's, where I found his new wife, a pitiful, old, ugly, ill-bred woman, in a hatt, a midwife. Here were many of his, and as many of her relatives, sorry, mean people; and after choosing our gloves, we all went over to the Three Cranes taverne, and (although the best room of the house) in such a narrow dogg-hole we were crammed, (and I believe we were near forty) that it made me loath my company and victuals; and a sorry, poor dinner it was."
In justice to the Three Cranes, Pepys must not be allowed to have the last word. That particular dinner, no doubt, owed a good deal of its defects to the atmosphere and the company amid which it was served. At any rate, the host of the Black Bear at Cumnor—he of Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth"—was never weary of praising the Three Cranes, "the most topping tavern in London" as he emphatically declared.
No one can glance even casually over a list of tavern signs without observing how frequently the numeral "three" is used. Various explanations have been offered for the propensity of mankind to use that number, one deriving the habit from the fact that primitive man divided the universe into three regions, heaven, earth, and water. Pythagoras, it will be remembered, called three the perfect number; Jove is depicted with three-forked lightning; Neptune bears a trident; Pluto has his three-headed dog. Again, there are three Fates, three Furies, three Graces and three Muses. It is natural, then, to find the numeral so often employed in the signs of inns and taverns. Thus we have the Three Angels, the Three Crowns, the Three Compasses, the Three Cups, the Three Horseshoes, the Three Tuns, the Three Nuns, and many more. In the city of London proper the Three Cups was a favourite sign and the Three Tuns was hardly less popular. There were also several Three Nuns, the most famous of which was situated in Aldgate High Street, where its modern representative still stands. In the bygone years it was a noted coaching inn and enjoyed an enviable reputation for the rare quality of its punch. Defoe has a brief reference to the house in his "A Journal of the Plague Year."
An attempt to enumerate the King's Head taverns of London would be an endless task. It must not be overlooked, however, that one of the most notable houses so named stood in Fenchurch Street, on the site now occupied by the London Tavern. This is the tavern for which a notable historic association is claimed. The tradition has it that when the Princess Elizabeth, the "Good Queen Bess" of after days, was released from the Tower of London on May 19th, 1554, she went first to a neighbouring church to offer thanks for her deliverance, and then proceeded to the King's Head to enjoy a somewhat plebeian dinner of boiled pork and Pease-pudding. This legend seems to ignore the fact that the freedom of the Princess was comparative only; that she was at that time merely removed from one prison to another; and that the record of her movements on that day speaks of her taking barge at the Tower wharf and going direct to Richmond en route for Woodstock. However, the metal dish and cover which were used in serving that homely meal of boiled pork and Pease-pudding are still shown, and what can the stickler for historical accuracy do in the face of such stubborn evidence?
Two other Fenchurch Street taverns have wholly disappeared. One of these, the Elephant, was wont to claim a somewhat dubious association with Hogarth. The artist is credited with once lodging under the Elephant's roof and with embellishing the walls of the tap-room with pictures in payment for a long overdue bill. The subjects were said to have included the first study for the picture which afterwards became famous under the title of "Modern Midnight Conversation," but treated in a much broader manner than is shown in the well-known print. When the building was pulled down in 1826 a heated controversy arose concerning these Hogarth pictures, which were removed from the walls and exhibited in a Pall Mall gallery. The verdict of experts was given against their being the work of the master for whom they were claimed. The other tavern was one of the many mitres to be found in London during the seventeenth century. The host, Dan Rawlinson, was so staunch a royalist that when Charles I was executed he hung his sign in mourning, an action which naturally caused him to be regarded with suspicion by the Cromwell party, but "endeared him so much to the churchmen that he throve again and got a good estate." Something of that prosperity was due no doubt to the excellent "venison-pasty" of which Pepys was so fond. But Dan Rawlinson of the Mitre had his reverses as well as his successes. During the dreaded Plague of London Pepys met an acquaintance in Fenchurch Street who called his attention to the fact that Mr. Rawlinson's door was shut up. "Why," continued his informant, "after all this sickness, and himself spending all the last year in the country, one of his men is now dead of the plague, and his wife and one of his maids sick, and himself shut up." Mrs. Rawlinson died a day or two later and the maid quickly followed her mistress to the grave. A year later the Mitre was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and Pepys met its much-tried owner shortly after "looking over his ruins." But the tavern was rebuilt on a more spacious scale, and Isaac Fuller was commissioned to adorn its walls with paintings. This was the artist whose fondness of tavern life prevented him from becoming a great painter. The commission at the Mitre was no doubt much to his liking, and Walpole describes in detail the panels with which he adorned a great room in that house. "The figures were as large as life: a Venus, Satyr, and sleeping Cupid; a boy riding a goat and another fallen down, over the chimney: this was the best part of the performance, says Vertue: Saturn devouring a Child, Mercury, Minerva, Diana, Apollo; and Bacchus, Venus, and Ceres embracing; a young Silenus fallen down, and holding a goblet, into which a boy was pouring wine; the Scarons, between the windows, and on the ceiling two angels supporting a mitre, in a large circle." The execution of all this must have kept Fuller for quite a long time amid his favourite environment.
One of the lesser known Cock taverns of London was still in existence in Leadenhall Street during the first quarter of the last century. A drawing of the time shows it to have been a picturesque building, the most notable feature being that the window lights on the first floor extended the entire width of the front, the only specimen of the kind then remaining in London. At the time the drawing was made that particular room was used as the kitchen. From the dress of the boys of the carved brackets supporting the over-hanging upper story, it has been inferred that the house was originally a charity school. Behind the tavern there stood a brick building dated 1627, formerly used by the bricklayers' company, but in 1795 devoted to the purposes of a Jewish synagogue. As with all the old taverns of this sign, the effigy of the bird from which it took its name was prominently displayed in front. Far more ancient than the Cock is that other Leadenhall Street tavern, the Ship and Turtle, which is still represented in the thoroughfare. The claim is made for this house that it dates back to 1377, and for many generations, down, indeed, to 1835, it had a succession of widows as hostesses. The modern representative of this ancient house prides itself upon the quality of its turtle soup and upon the fact that it is the meeting-place of numerous masonic lodges, besides being in high favour for corporation and companies' livery dinners.
If the pilgrim now turns his steps toward Bishopsgate Street Within—the "Within" signifying, of course, that that part of the thoroughfare was inside the old city wall—he will find himself in a neighbourhood where many famous inns once stood. Apart from the Wrestlers and the Angel which are mentioned by Stow, there were the Flower Pot, the White Hart, the Four Swans, the Three Nuns, the Green Dragon, the Ball, and several more. The reason for this crowding together of so many hostelries in one street is obvious. It was through Bishop's gate that the farmers of the eastern counties came into the city and they naturally made their headquarters in the district nearest to the end of their journey.
For many years the White Hart maintained its old-time reputation as a "fair inn for the receipt of travellers." That it was an ancient structure is proved by the fact that when it was demolished, the date of 1480 was discovered on one of its half-timbered bays. The present up-to-date White Hart stands on the site of the old inn.
Far greater interest attaches to the Bull inn, even were it only for the fact of its association with Thomas Hobson, the Cambridge carrier whom Milton made famous. In the closing years of the sixteenth century the house appears to have had a dubious reputation, for when Anthony Bacon came to live in Bishopsgate Street in 1594 his mother became exceedingly anxious on his account, fearing "the neighbourhood of the Bull Inn." Perhaps, however, the distressed mother based her alarm on the dangers of play-acting, for the house was notable as the scene of many dramatic performances. That it was the recognized headquarters for Cambridge carriers is shown by an allusion, in 1637, which reads: "The Blacke Bull in Bishopsgate Street, who is still looking towards Shoreditch to see if he can spy the carriers coming from Cambridge." Hobson, of course, was the head of that fraternity. He had flourished amazingly since he succeeded to his father's business in the university city, and attained that position of independence which enabled him to force the rule that each horse in his stable was to be hired only in its proper turn, thus originating the proverb, "Hobson's choice," that is, "this or none." Despite his ever growing wealth and advanced years, Hobson continued his regular journeys to London until the outbreak of the plague caused the authorities to suspend the carrier service for a time. This is the fact upon which Milton seized with such humourous effect in his poetical epitaph:
"Here lies old Hobson. Death hath broke his girt, And here, alas! hath laid him in the dirt; Or else, the ways being foul, twenty to one He's here stuck in a slough, and overthrown. 'Twas such a shifter that, if truth were known, Death was half glad when he had got him down; For he had any time this ten years full Dodged with him betwixt Cambridge and The Bull. And surely Death could never have prevailed, Had not his weekly course of carriage failed; But lately, finding him so long at home, And thinking now his journey's end was come, And that he had ta'en up his latest inn, In the kind office of a chamberlain, Showed him his room where he must lodge that night, Pulled off his boots, and took away the light."
Among the "Familiar Letters" of James Howell is a stately epistle addressed "To Sir Paul Pindar, Knight," who is informed to his face that of all the men of his times he is "one of the greatest examples of piety and constant integrity," and is assured that his correspondent could see his namesake among the apostles saluting and solacing him, and ensuring that his works of charity would be as a "triumphant chariot" to carry him one day to heaven. But Sir Paul Pindar was more than benevolent; he was a master in business affairs and no mean diplomatist. His commercial aptitude he put to profitable use during a fifteen years' residence in Italy; his skill as a negotiator was tested and proved by nine years' service in Constantinople as the ambassador of James I to Turkey. At the date of his final return to England, 1623, the merchant and diplomat was an exceedingly wealthy man, well able to meet the expense of that fine mansion in Bishopsgate Street Without which perpetuated his name down to our own day. In its original state Sir Paul Pindar's house, both within and without, was equal in splendour and extent to any mansion in London. And, as may be imagined, its owner was a person of importance in city and court life. One of his possessions was a great diamond worth thirty-five thousand pounds, which James I used to borrow for state occasions. The son of that monarch purchased this jewel in 1625 for about half its value and successfully deferred payment for even that reduced sum! Sir Paul, indeed, appears to have been a complacent lender of his wealth to royalty and the nobility, so that it is not surprising many "desperate debts" were owing him on his death. A century and a quarter after that event, that is in 1787, the splendid mansion of the wealthy merchant and diplomat had become a tavern under the names of its builder, and continued in that capacity until 1890, when railway extension made its demolition necessary. But the beautifully carved front is still preserved in the South Kensington Museum.
While there may at times be good reason for doubting the claims made as to the antiquity of some London taverns, there can be none for questioning the ripe old age to which the Pope's Head in Cornhill attained. This is one of the few taverns which Stow deals with at length. He describes it as being "strongly built of stone," and favours the opinion that it was at one time the palace of King John. He tells, too, how in his day wine was sold there at a penny the pint and bread provided free. It was destroyed in the Great Fire, but rebuilt shortly after. Pepys knew both the old and the new house. In the former he is said to have drunk his first "dish of tea," and he certainly enjoyed many a meal under its roof, notably on that occasion when, with Sir W. Penn and Mrs. Pepys, he "eat cakes and other fine things." Another, not so pleasant, memory is associated with the Pope's Head. Two actors figured in the episode, James Quin and William Bowen, between whom, especially on the side of the latter, strong professional jealousy existed. Bowen, a low comedian of "some talent and more conceit," taunted Quin with being tame in a certain role, and Quin retorted in kind, declaring that Bowen's impersonation of a character in "The Libertine" was much inferior to that of another actor. Bowen seems to have had an ill-balanced mind; he was so affected by Jeremy Collier's "Short View" that he left the stage and opened a cane shop in Holborn, thinking "a shopkeeper's life was the readiest way to heaven." But he was on the stage again in a year, thus resuming the career which was to be his ruin. For so thoroughly was he incensed by Quin's disparagement that he took the earliest opportunity of forcing the quarrel to an issue. Having invited Quin to meet him, the two appear to have gone from tavern to tavern until they reached the Pope's Head. Quin was averse to a duel, but no sooner had the two entered an empty room in the Cornhill tavern than Bowen fastened the door, and, standing with his back against it and drawing his sword, threatened Quin that he would run him through if he did not draw and defend himself. In vain did Quin remonstrate, and in the end he had to take to his sword to keep the angry Bowen at bay. He, however, pressed so eagerly on his fellow actor that it was not long ere he received a mortal wound. Before he died Bowen confessed he had been in the wrong, and that frank admission was the main cause why Quin was legally freed of blame for the tragic incident in the Pope's Head.
Although there was a Mermaid tavern in Cornhill, it must not be confused with its far more illustrious namesake in the nearby thoroughfare of Cheapside. The Cornhill house was once kept by a man named Dun, and the story goes that one day when he was in the room with some witty gallants, one of them, who had been too familiar with the host's wife, exclaimed, "I'll lay five pounds there's a cuckold in this company." To which another immediately rejoined, "Tis Dun!"
Around the other Mermaid—that in Cheapside—much controversy has raged. One dispute was concerned with its exact site, but as the building disappeared entirely many generations ago that is not a matter of moment. Another cause of debate is found in that passage of Gifford's life of Ben Jonson which describes his habits in the year 1603. "About this time," Gifford wrote, "Jonson probably began to acquire that turn for conviviality for which he was afterwards noted. Sir Walter Raleigh, previously to his unfortunate engagement with Cobham and others, had instituted a meeting of beaux esprits at the Mermaid, a celebrated tavern in Friday Street. Of this club, which combined more talent and genius, perhaps, than ever met together before or since, our author was a member; and here, for many years, he regularly repaired with Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect." Many have found this flowing narrative hard of belief. It is doubted whether Gifford had any authority for mixing up Sir Walter Raleigh with the Mermaid, and there are good grounds for believing that Jonson's relations with Shakespeare were not of an intimate character.
All the same, it is beyond dispute that there were rare combats of wit at the Mermaid in Jonson's days and under his rule. For indisputable witness we have that epistle which Francis Beaumont addressed to Jonson from some country retreat whither he and Fletcher had repaired to work on two of their comedies. Beaumont tells how he had dreams of the "full Mermaid wine," dwells upon the lack of excitement in his rural abode, and then breaks out:
"Methinks the little wit I had is lost Since I saw you; for wit is like a rest Held up at tennis, which men do best With the best gamesters. What things have we seen Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been So nimble, and so full of subtle flame, As if that every one (from whence they came) Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest, And had resolved to live a fool the rest Of his dull life."
That poem inspired another which should always be included in the anthology of the Mermaid. More than two centuries after Beaumont penned his rhyming epistle to Jonson, three brothers had their lodging for a brief season in Cheapside, and the poetic member of the trio doubtless mused long and often on those kindred spirits who, for him far more than for ordinary mortals, haunted the spot where the famous tavern once stood. Thus it came about that John Keats' residence in Cheapside was a prime factor in suggesting his "Lines on the Mermaid Tavern":
"Souls of poets dead and gone, What Elysium have ye known, Happy field or mossy cavern, Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern? Have ye tippled drink more fine Than mine host's Canary wine? Or are fruits of Paradise Sweeter than those dainty pies Of venison? O generous food! Drest as though bold Robin Hood Would, with his maid Marian, Sup and bowse with horn and can.
"I have heard that on a day Mine host's sign-board flew away, Nobody knew whither, till An Astrologer's old quill To a sheepskin gave the story, Said he saw you in your glory, Underneath a new-old sign Sipping beverage divine, And pledging with contented smack The Mermaid in the Zodiac.
"Souls of poets dead and gone, What Elysium have ye known, Happy field or mossy cavern, Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?"
Compared with the Mermaid, the other old taverns of Cheapside make a meagre showing in history. There was a Mitre, however, which dated back to 1475 at the least, and had the reputation of making "noses red"; and the Bull Head, whose host was the "most faithful friend" Bishop Ridley ever had, and was the meeting-place of the Royal Society for several years; and, above all, the Nag's Head, famous as the alleged scene of the fictitious consecration of the Elizabethan bishops in 1559. There is an interesting drawing of 1638 depicting the procession of Mary de Medici in Cheapside on the occasion of her visit to her daughter, the wife of Charles I. This animated scene is historically valuable for the record it gives of several notable structures in the thoroughfare which was at that time the centre of the commercial life of London. In the middle of the picture is an excellent representation of Cheapside Cross, to the right the conduit is seen, and in the extreme corner of the drawing is a portion of the Nag's Head with its projecting sign.
Another of Ben Jonson's haunts was situated within easy distance of the Mermaid. This was the Three Tuns, of the Guildhall Yard, which Herrick includes in his list of taverns favoured by the dramatist.
"Ah Ben! Say how or when Shall we thy Guests, Meet at those lyric feasts Made at the Sun, The Dog, the Triple Tunne; Where we such clusters had As made us nobly wild, not mad?"
Close at hand, too, in Old Jewry, was that Windmill tavern, of which Stow wrote that it was "sometime the Jews' synagogue, since a house of friars, then a nobleman's house, after that a merchant's house, wherein mayoralties have been kept, and now a wine tavern." It must have been a fairly spacious hostelry, for on the occasion of the visit of the Emperor Charles V in 1522 the house is noted as being able to provide fourteen feather-beds, and stabling for twenty horses. From the fact that one of the characters in "Every Man in His Humour" dates a letter from the Windmill, and that two of the scenes in that comedy take place in a room of the tavern, it is obvious that it also must be numbered among the many houses frequented by Jonson.
One dramatic episode is connected with the history of the Windmill. In the early years of the seventeenth century considerable excitement was aroused in Worcestershire by the doings of John Lambe, who indulged in magical arts and crystal glass enchantments. By 1622 he was in London, and numbered the king's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, among his clients. That was sufficient to set the populace against him, an enmity which was greatly intensified by strange atmospheric disturbances which visited London in June, 1628. All this was attributed to Lambe's conjuring, and the popular fury came to a climax a day or two later, when Lambe, as he was leaving the Fortune Theatre, was attacked by a mob of apprentices. He fled towards the city and finally took refuge in the Windmill. After affording the hunted man haven for a few hours the host, in view of the tumult outside, at length turned him into the street again, where he was so severely beaten that he died the following morning. A crystal ball and other conjuring implements were found on his person.
Far less exciting was the history of Pontack's, a French ordinary in Abchurch Lane which played a conspicuous part in the social life of London during the eighteenth century. Britons of that period had their own insular contempt for French cookery, as is well illustrated by Rowlandson's caricature which, with its larder of dead cats and its coarse revelation of other secrets of French cuisine, may be regarded as typical of the popular opinion. But Pontack and his eating-house flourished amazingly for all that. A French refugee in London in 1697 took pride in the fact that whereas it was difficult to obtain a good meal elsewhere "those who would dine at one or two guineas per head are handsomely accommodated at our famous Pontack's." The owner of this ordinary is sketched in brief by Evelyn, who frequently dined under his roof. Under date July 13, 1683, the diarist wrote: "I had this day much discourse with Monsieur Pontaq, son to 'the famous and wise prime President of Bordeaux. This gentleman was owner of that excellent vignoble of Pontaq and Obrien, from whence come the choicest of our Bordeaux wines; and I think I may truly say of him, what was not so truly said of St. Paul, that much learning had made him mad. He spoke all languages, was very rich, had a handsome person, and was well bred; about forty-five years of age."
Hogarth, it will be remembered, paid Pontack a dubious compliment in the third plate of his Rake's Progress series. The room of that boisterous scene is adorned with pictures of the Roman Emperors, one of which has been removed to give place to the portrait of Pontack, who is described by a Hogarth commentator as "an eminent French cook, whose great talents being turned to heightening sensual, rather than mental enjoyments, has a much better chance of a votive offering from this company, than would either Vespasian or Trajan." These advertisements, however, were all to the good of the house. They were exactly of the kind to attract the most profitable type of customer. Those customers might grumble, as Swift did, at the prices, but they all agreed that they enjoyed very good dinners. The poet, indeed, expressed the unanimous verdict of the town when he asked:
"What wretch would nibble on a hanging shelf, When at Pontack's he may regale himself?"
TAVERNS OF FLEET STREET AND THEREABOUTS.
Save for the High Street of Southwark, there was probably no thoroughfare of old London which could boast so many inns and taverns to the square yard as Fleet Street, but ere the pilgrim explores that famous neighbourhood he should visit several other spots where notable hostelries were once to be seen. He should, for example, turn his steps towards St. Paul's Churchyard, which, despite the fact that it was chiefly inhabited by booksellers, had its Queen's Arms tavern and its Goose and Gridiron.
Memories of David Garrick and Dr. Johnson are associated with the Queen's Arms. This tavern was the meeting-place of a select club formed by a few intimate friends of the actor for the express purpose of providing them with opportunities to enjoy his society. Its members included James Clutterback, the city merchant who gave Garrick invaluable financial aid when he started at Drury Lane, and John Paterson, that helpful solicitor whom the actor selected as one of his executors. These admirers of "little David" were a temperate set; "they were 'none of them drinkers, and in order to make a reckoning called only for French wine." Johnson's association with the house is recorded by Boswell as belonging to the year 1781. "On Friday, April 6," he writes, "he carried me to dine at a club which, at his desire, had been lately formed at the Queen's Arms in St. Paul's Churchyard. He told Mr. Hoole that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but, said he, 'Don't let them be patriots.' The company were to-day very sensible, well-behaved men." Which, taken in conjunction with the abstemious nature of the Garrick club, would seem to show that the Queen's Arms was an exceedingly decorous house.
Concerning the Goose and Gridiron only a few scanty facts have survived. Prior to the Great Fire it was known as the Mitre, but on its being rebuilt it was called the Lyre. When it came into repute through the concerts of a favourite musical society being given within its walls, the house was decorated with a sign of Apollo's lyre, surmounted by a swan. This provided too good an opportunity for the wits of the town to miss, and they promptly renamed the house as the Goose and Gridiron, which recalls the facetious landlord who, on gaining possession of premises once used as a music-house, chose for his sign a goose stroking the bars of a gridiron and inscribed beneath, "The Swan and Harp." It is an interesting note in the history of the St. Paul's Churchyard house that early in the eighteenth century, on the revival of Freemasonry in England, the Grand Lodge was established here.
Almost adjacent to St. Paul's, that is, in Queen's Head Passage, which leads from Paternoster Row into Newgate Street, once stood the famous Dolly's Chop House, the resort of Fielding, and Defoe, and Swift, and Dryden, and Pope and many other sons of genius. It was built on the site of an ordinary owned by Richard Tarleton, the Elizabethan actor whose playing was so humorous that it even won the praise of Jonson. He was indeed such a merry soul, and so great a favourite in clown's parts, that innkeepers frequently had his portrait painted as a sign. The chief feature of the establishment which succeeded Tarleton's tavern appears to have been the excellence of its beef-steaks. It should also be added that they were served fresh from the grill, a fact which is accentuated by the allusion which Smollett places in one of Melford's letters to Sir Walkin Phillips in "Humphry Clinker": "I send you the history of this day, which has been remarkably full of adventures; and you will own I give you them like a beef-steak at Dolly's, hot and hot, without ceremony and parade."
Out into Newgate Street the pilgrim should now make his way in search of that Salutation Tavern which is precious for its associations with Coleridge and Lamb and Southey. Once more, alas! the new has usurped the place of the old, but there is some satisfaction in being able to gaze upon the lineal successor of so noted a house. The Salutation was a favourite social resort in the eighteenth century and was frequently the scene of the more formal dining occasions of the booksellers and printers. There is a poetical invitation to one such function, a booksellers' supper on January 19, 1736, which reads:
"You're desired on Monday next to meet 'At Salutation Tavern, Newgate Street, Supper will be on table just at eight."
One of those rhyming invitations was sent to Samuel Richardson, the novelist, who replied in kind:
"For me I'm much concerned I cannot meet At Salutation Tavern, Newgate Street."
Another legend credits this with being the house whither Sir Christopher Wren resorted to smoke his pipe while the new St. Paul's was being built. More authentic, however, and indeed beyond dispute, are the records which link the memories of Coleridge and Lamb and Southey with this tavern It was here Southey found Coleridge in one of his many fits of depression, but pleasanter far are the recollections which recall the frequent meetings of Lamb and Coleridge, between whom there was so much in common. They would not forget that it was at the nearby Christ's Hospital they were schoolboys together, the reminiscences of which happy days coloured the thoughts of Elia as he penned that exquisite portrait of his friend: "Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the day-spring of thy fancies, with hope like a fiery column before thee—the dark pillar not yet turned—Samuel Taylor Coleridge—Logician, Metaphysician, Bard!—How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration to hear thee unfold, in thy deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of Jamblichus, or Plotinus, or reciting Homer in his Greek, or Pindar—while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to the accents of the inspired charity-boy!" As Coleridge was the elder by two years he left Christ's Hospital for Cambridge before Lamb had finished his course, but he came back to London now and then, to meet his schoolmate in a smoky little room of the Salutation and discuss metaphysics and poetry to the accompaniment of egg-hot, Welsh rabbits, and tobacco. Those golden hours in the old tavern left their impress deep in Lamb's sensitive nature, and when he came to dedicate his works to Coleridge he hoped that some of the sonnets, carelessly regarded by the general reader, would awaken in his friend "remembrances which I should be sorry should be ever totally extinct—the 'memory 'of summer days and of delightful years,' even so far back as those old suppers at our old Salutation Inn,—when life was fresh and topics exhaustless—and you first kindled in me, if not the power, yet the love of poetry and beauty and kindliness."
Continuing westward from Newgate Street, the explorer of the inns and taverns of old London comes first to Holborn Viaduct, where there is nothing of note to detain him, and then reaches Holborn proper, with its continuation as High Holborn, which by the time of Henry III had become a main highway into the city for the transit of wood and hides, corn and cheese, and other agricultural products. It must be remembered also that many of the principal coaches had their stopping-place in this thoroughfare, and that as a consequence the inns were numerous and excellent and much frequented by country gentlemen on their visits to town. Although those inns have long been swept away, the quaint half-timbered buildings of Staple Inn remain to aid the imagination in repicturing those far-off days when the Dagger, and the Red Lion, and the Bull and Gate, and the Blue Boar, and countless other hostelries were dotted on either side of the street.
With the first of these, the Dagger Tavern, we cross the tracks of Ben Jonson once more. Twice does the dramatist allude to this house in "The Alchemist," and the revelation that Dapper frequented the Dagger would have conveyed its own moral to seventeenth century playgoers, for it was then notorious as a resort of the lowest and most disreputable kind. The other reference makes mention of "Dagger frumety," which is a reminder that this house, as was the case with another of like name, prided itself upon the excellence of its pies, which were decorated with a representation of a dagger. That these pasties were highly appreciated is the only conclusion which can be drawn from the contemporary exclamation, "I'll not take thy word for a Dagger pie," and from the fact that in "The Devil is an Ass" Jonson makes Iniquity declare that the 'prentice boys rob their masters and "spend it in pies at the Dagger and the Woolsack."
A second of these Holborn inns bore a sign which has puzzled antiquaries not a little. The name was given as the Bull and Gate, but the actual sign was said to depict the Boulogne Gate at Calais. Here, it is thought, a too phonetic pronunciation of the French word led to the contradiction of name and sign. What is more to the point, and of greater interest, is the connection Fielding established between Tom Jones and the Bull and Gate. When that hero reached London in his search after the Irish peer who brought Sophia to town, he entered the great city by the highway which is now Gray's Inn Road, and at once began his arduous search. But without success. He prosecuted his enquiry till the clock struck eleven, and then Jones "at last yielded to the advice of Partridge, and retreated to the Bull and Gate in Holborn, that being the inn where he had first alighted, and where he retired to enjoy that kind of repose which usually attends persons in his circumstances."
No less notable a character than Oliver Cromwell is linked in a dramatic manner with the histories of the Blue Boar and the Red Lion inns. The narrative of the first incident is put in Cromwell's own mouth by Lord Broghill, that accomplished Irish peer whose conversion from royalism to the cause of the Commonwealth was accomplished by the Ironsides general in the course of one memorable interview. According to this authority, Cromwell once declared that there was a time when he and his party would have settled their differences with Charles I but for an incident which destroyed their confidence in that monarch. What that incident was cannot be more vividly described than by the words Lord Broghill attributed to Cromwell. "While we were busied in these thoughts," he said, "there came a letter from one of our spies, who was of the king's bed-chamber, which acquainted us, that on that day our final doom was decreed; that he could not possibly tell us what it was, but we might find it out, if we could intercept a letter, sent from the king to the queen, wherein he declared what he would do. The letter, he said, was sewed up in the skirt of a saddle, and the bearer of it would come with the saddle upon his head, about ten of the clock that night, to the Blue Boar Inn in Holborn; for there he was to take horse and go to Dover with it. This messenger knew nothing of the letter in the saddle, but some persons at Dover did. We were at Windsor, when we received this letter; and immediately upon the receipt of it, Ireton and I resolved to take one trusty fellow with us, and with troopers' habits to go to the Inn in Holborn; which accordingly we did, and set our man at the gate of the Inn, where the wicket only was open to let people in and out. Our man was to give us notice, when any one came with a saddle, whilst we in the disguise of common troopers called for cans of beer, and continued drinking till about ten o'clock: the sentinel at the gate then gave notice that the man with the saddle was come in. Upon this we immediately arose, and, as the man was leading out his horse saddled, came up to him with drawn swords and told him that we were to search all that went in and out there; but as he looked like an honest man, we would only search his saddle and so dismiss him. Upon that we ungirt the saddle and carried it into the stall, where we had been drinking, and left the horseman with our sentinel: then ripping up one of the skirts of the saddle, we there found the letter of which we had been informed: and having got it into our own hands, we delivered the saddle again to the man, telling him he was an honest man, and bid him go about his business. The man, not knowing what had been done, went away to Dover. As soon as we had the letter we opened it; in which we found the king had acquainted the queen, that he was now courted by both the factions, 'the Scotch Presbyterians and the Army; and which bid fairest for him should have him; but he thought he should close with the Scots, sooner than the other. Upon this we took horse, and went to Windsor; and finding we were not likely to have any tolerable terms with the king, we immediately from that time forward resolved his ruin."