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[Pg 82]

JACOB TONSON’S BOOK-SHOP, 1742.

 

 

CHAPTER V.

THE STRAND (SOUTH SIDE, CONTINUED).

On the Thames, off Somerset House, was a timber shed built on a strong barge, and called “the Folly.” In William III.’s reign it was anchored higher up the stream, near the Savoy. Tom Brown calls it “a musical summer-house.”[Pg 83] Its real name was “The Royal Diversion.” Queen Mary honoured it with her presence.[141] It was at first frequented by “persons of quality,” but latterly it became disreputable, and its orchestra and refreshment alcoves were haunted by thieves, gamesters, and courtesans.

Near the Savoy stood the palace of the bishops of Carlisle, which was obtained by exchange with Henry VIII. for Rochester Place at Lambeth. The English sultan gave it to his lucky favourite, Bedford, who took it as his residence. In the reign of James I. the Earl of Worcester bought it; and in 1627 the Duke of Beaufort let it to Lord Clarendon, while his ill-fated house was building in Piccadilly. It was then rebuilt on a smaller scale by the duke, and eventually burnt down in 1695.[142] The present Beaufort Buildings were then erected. Beaufort House, which occupies the site of one in which Cardinal Beaufort died, is now a printing-office.

Blake, the mystical painter, died in 1828, at No. 3 Fountain Court, after five years’ residence there. In these dim rooms he believed he saw the ghost of a flea, Satan himself looking through the bars of the staircase window, to say nothing of hosts of saints, angels, evil spirits, and fairies. Here also he wrote verse passionate as Shelley’s and pure and simple-hearted as Wordsworth’s. Here he engraved, tinted, railed at Woollett, and raved over his Dante illustrations; for though poor and unknown, he was yet regal in his exulting self-confidence. Here, just before his death, the old man sat up in bed, painting, singing, and rejoicing. He died without a struggle.[143]

The office of the Sun is on this side the Strand. This paper was established in 1792. Mr. Jerdan left the Sun in 1816, selling his share for £300. He had quarrelled with the co-proprietor, Mr. John Taylor, who aspired to a control over him. In 1817 he set up the Literary Gazette, the first exclusive organ of literary men.[144] The first editor of the[Pg 84] Sun got an appointment in the West Indies. The paper was then edited by Robert Clark, printer of the London Gazette, and afterwards by Jerdan, assisted by Fladgate the facetious lawyer, Mulloch, and John Taylor. After getting his sop in the pan of £300 a year from Government, that low-principled satirist, Dr. Wolcot (Peter Pindar), wrote epigrams for it.

Fountain Court was in Strype’s time famous for an adjacent tavern from which it derived its name. It was well paved, and its houses were respectably inhabited.[145] The Fountain Tavern was renowned for its good rooms, excellent vaults, “curious kitchen,” and old wine. The Fountain Club, of which Pulteney was a member (circa 1737), held its meetings in this tavern, to oppose that fine old Whig gentleman Sir Robert Walpole.[146] Sir Charles Hanbury Williams thus mentions it in one of his lampoons:—

“Then enlarge on his cunning and wit,
Say how he harangued at the Fountain,
Say how the old patriots were bit,
And a mouse was produced by a mountain.”

Here Pulteney may have planned the Craftsman with Bolingbroke, and perhaps have arranged his duel with Lord Hervey, the “Sporus” of Pope.

Dennis, the critic, mentions in his Letters dining here with Loggen, the painter, and Wilson, a writer praised by poor Otway in Tonson’s first Miscellany. “After supper,” he says, “we drank Mr. Wycherly’s health by the name of Captain Wycherly.”[147] This was the dramatist, the celebrated author of The Plain Dealer and The Country Wife.

The great room of the Fountain Tavern was afterwards Akermann’s well-known picture shop; and is now Simpson’s cigar divan.

Charles Lillie, the perfumer recommended by Steele in the Tatler (Nos. 92, 94), lived next door to the Fountain Tavern. He was burnt out and went to the east corner of[Pg 85] Beaufort Buildings in 1709. Good-natured Steele, pitying him probably for his losses, praised his Barcelona snuff, and his orange-flower water prepared according to the Royal Society’s receipt.

The Coal Hole, in this court, was so named by Rhodes, its first landlord, from its having been originally the resort of coal-heavers. In his and Edmund Kean’s time it was respectably frequented. It was once the “Evans’s” of London, famous for steaks and ale; afterwards it sank to a low den with poses plastiques and ribald sham trials, that used to be conducted by “Baron” Nicholson, a fat gross man, but not without a certain unctuous humour, who is now dead.

Edmund Kean, always low in his tastes, used to fly the society of men like Lord Byron to come hither and smoke and drink. The dress, the ceremony, and the compulsory good behaviour of respectable society made him silent and melancholy.[148] He used to say that noblemen talked such nonsense about the stage, and that only literary men understood the subject.

The Kit-Cat Club was instituted in 1700, and died away about the year 1720. There were originally thirty-nine members, and they increased gradually to the forty-eight whose portraits Kneller painted for their secretary, Jacob Tonson, Dryden’s bookseller. Their earliest rendezvous was at the house of a pastry-cook, one Christopher Cat, in Shire Lane, near Temple Bar. When he grew wealthier, the club removed with him to the Fountain Tavern in the Strand. The club derived its name from the celebrated mutton pie,[149] which had been christened after its maker.[150] The first members were those Whig patriots who brought about the Revolution and drove out King James. Their object was the encouragement of literature and the fine arts, and the diffusion of loyalty to the House of Hanover. They elected their “toast” for the year by ballot. The lady’s name, when chosen, was written on the club drinking-glasses with a[Pg 86] diamond. Among the more celebrated of the members of this club were Kneller, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Addison, Garth, Steele, Lord Mohun, the Duke of Wharton, Sir Robert Walpole, the Earl of Burlington, the Earl of Bath, the Earl of Dorset, the Earl of Halifax, the proud Duke of Somerset, and the Duke of Newcastle.

In summer the Club met at Tonson’s house at Barn Elms in Surrey, or at the Upper Flask Tavern at Hampstead.[151] There seems to have been always some doubt about the derivation of the name of the club; for an epigram still extant, written either by Pope or Arbuthnot, attributes the name to the fact of the members toasting “old Cats and young kits.” Mr. Defoe mentions the landlord’s name as Christopher Catt,[152] while Ned Ward says that though his name was Christopher, he lived at the sign of the Cat and Fiddle.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was once brought by her father to this club when a child, and made the toast for the year. “Petted, praised, fondled, and fed with sweetmeats,” she used to say in her old age that it was the happiest day of her life![153]

No. 59 is Coutts’s Bank. It was built for Mr. Coutts, in 1768, by the Adam brothers—to whom we are indebted for the Adelphi. The old house of the firm, of the date of Queen Anne, was situated in St. Martin’s Lane. The present house contains some fine marble chimney-pieces of the Cipriani and Bacon school. The dining-room is hung with quaint Chinese subjects on paper, sent to Mr. Coutts by Lord Macartney, while on his embassy to China, in 1792-95. In another room hang portraits of some early friends of this son of Mammon, including Dr. Armstrong, the poet and physician, Fuseli’s friend, by Reynolds. The strong rooms consist of cloistered vaults, wherein the noblemen and rich commoners who bank in the house deposit patents, title-deeds, and plate of fabulous value.

[Pg 87]Mr. Coutts was the son of a Dundee merchant. His first wife was a servant, a Lancashire labourer’s offspring. He had three daughters, one of whom became the wife of Sir Francis Burdett, a second Countess of Guilford, and a third Marchioness of Bute. On becoming acquainted with Miss Mellon, and inducing her to leave the stage to avoid perpetual insults, Mr. Coutts bought for her of Sir W. Vane Tempest, a small villa called Holly Lodge, at the foot of Highgate Hill, for which he gave £25,000. His banking-house strong rooms alone cost £10,000 building. The first deposit in the enlarged house was the diamond aigrette that the Grand Signor had placed in Nelson’s hat. Mr. Coutts, though very charitable, was precise and exact. On one occasion, there being a deficit of 2s. 10d. in the day’s accounts, the clerks were detained for hours, or, as is said, all night. One of Coutts’s clerks, who took the western walk, was discovered to be missing with £17,000.[154] Rewards were offered, and the town placarded, but all in vain. The next day, however, the note-case arrived from Southampton. The clerk’s story was, that on his way through Piccadilly, being seized with a stupor, he had got into a coach in order to secure the money. He had remained insensible the whole journey, and had awoke at Southampton. Mr. Coutts gave him a handsome sum from his private purse, but dismissed him.

Coutts’s Bank stands on nearly the centre of the site of the “New Exchange.” When the Adelphi was built in Durham Gardens, Mr. Coutts purchased a vista to prevent his view being interrupted, stipulating that the new street leading to the entrance should face this opening; and on this space, up to the level of the Strand, he built his strong rooms. Some years after, wishing to enlarge them, he erected over the office a counting-house and a set of offices extending from William Street to Robert Street, and threw a stone bridge over William Street to connect the front and back premises.

Mr. Coutts, late in life, married Harriet Mellon, who,[Pg 88] after his death, became the wife of the Duke of St. Albans, a descendant of Nell Gwynn, that light-hearted wanton, whom nobody could hate. “Miss Mellon,” says Leigh Hunt, “was arch and agreeable on the stage; she had no genius; but then she had fine eyes and a good-humoured mouth.” The same gay writer describes her when young as bustling about at sea-ports, selling tickets for her benefit-night; but then, says the kindly apologist for everybody, she had been left with a mother to support.[155]

Edmund Kean, the great tragedian, was lodging at 21 Cecil Street when, poor and unknown, he made his first great triumph as Shylock, at Drury Lane; a few days after, his mantelpiece was strewn with bank-notes, and his son Charles was seen sitting on the floor playing with a heap of guineas.[156] This great actor brought the theatre, in sixty-eight nights of 1814, no less than twenty thousand pounds.

The last house on the west side of Cecil Street was inhabited in 1706 by Lord Gray, and in 1721-4 by the Archbishop of York. In the opposite house lived for many years Major-General Sir William Congreve, the inventor of the rockets which bear his name, and a great friend and companion of George IV., to whom he is said to have borne a striking personal resemblance. Sir William was a descendant of Congreve the dramatist; and he was the inventor of a number of successful projects and contrivances, among which may be mentioned the engines employed in dredging the Thames. The east side of Cecil Street is in the Savoy precinct, the west in the parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields.

Dr. Wollaston was living in Cecil Street (No. 28) in the year 1800. This eccentric philosopher, originally a physician, was born in 1766, and died of brain disease in 1828. He discovered two new metals—palladium and rhodium—and acquired more than £30,000, by inventing a plan to make platinum malleable. He improved and invented the camera lucida, and was the first to demonstrate the identity[Pg 89] of galvanism and common electricity. He carried on his experiments with the simplest instruments, and never allowed even his most intimate friends to enter his laboratory. When a foreign philosopher once called on him and asked to see his study, he instantly produced, in his strange way, a small tray, on which were some glass tubes and a twopenny blow-pipe. Once, shortly after inspecting a grand galvanic battery, on meeting a brother philosopher in the street he led him by the button into a mysterious corner, took from his pocket a tailor’s thimble, poured into it some liquid from a small phial, and instantly heated a platinum wire to a white heat.[157]

Salisbury Street, in the Strand, was originally built about 1678, but was extensively rebuilt by Payne in the early part of the reign of George III.

Old Salisbury House stood on the sites of Salisbury and Cecil Streets, between Worcester House, now Beaufort Buildings, and Durham House, now the Adelphi. It was so called after Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, and Lord High Treasurer to James I., who died 1612. Queen Elizabeth was present at the house-warming. This Cecil was the bad minister of a bad king. He was Raleigh’s enemy and Bacon’s; he was the foe of reform, and the friend of Spain, from whom he received bribes, and the slave of vice. Bacon painted this vicious hunchback in his Essay on Deformity. The house was divided subsequently into Great and Little Salisbury House—the latter being let to persons of quality. About 1678 it was pulled down, and Salisbury Street built; but it proved too steep and narrow, and was not a successful speculation.[158] The other part, next to Great Salisbury House and over the Long Gallery, was turned into the “Middle Exchange.” This eventually gave way to Cecil Street,—a fair street, with very good houses, fit for persons of repute.[159]

On the death of Sackville the poet, Cecil took the white staff, being already Premier-Secretary. His ambition stretched into every department of the State. “He built[Pg 90] a new palace at Hatfield, and a new Exchange in the Strand. Countesses intrigued for him. His son married a Howard, his daughter a Clifford. Ambassadors started for Italy, less to see Doges and Grand Dukes than to pick up pictures and statues, and bronzes and hangings, for his vast establishment at Hatfield Chase. His gardeners travelled through France to buy up mulberries and vines. Salisbury House, on the Thames, almost rivalled the luxurious villas of the Roman cardinals; yet, under this blaze of worldly success, Cecil was the most miserable of men. Friends grudged his rise; his health was broken; the reins which his ambition drew into his hands were beyond the powers of a single man to grasp; and the vigour of his frame, wasted by years of voluptuous licence, failed him at the moment when the strain on his faculties was at the full.”[160]

In Little Salisbury House lived William Cavendish, third Earl of Devonshire, and father of the first Duke of Devonshire, one of the leaders of the great revolution that drove out the Stuarts. Two or three days after the Restoration, King Charles, passing in his coach through the Strand, espied Hobbes, that mischievous writer in favour of absolute power, standing at the door of his patron the earl. The king took off his hat very kindly to the old man, gave him his hand to kiss, asked after his health, ordered Cooper to take his portrait, and settled on him a pension of £100 a year. Hobbes had been an assistant of Bacon, and a friend of Ben Jonson and of Lord Herbert of Cherbury. He had taught Charles II. mathematics, and corresponded with Descartes.

In the street standing on the site of Sir Robert Cecil’s house was the residence of the famous Partridge, the cobbler, impudent sham-almanac maker, and predecessor of our own Moore and Zadkiel, who had foretold the death of the French king. To expose this noisy charlatan and upset his ridiculous hap-hazard predictions, Swift with cruel and trenchant malice reported and lamented his decease in the Tatler (1708), to which he contributed under the name[Pg 91] of Bickerstaff. The article raised a laugh that has not even quite died away in the present day. Partridge, furious at his losses and the extinguishing of his ill-earned fame, knocked down a hawker who passed his stall crying an account of his death. This happening just as the joke was fading, revived it again, and finally ruined the almanac of poor Partridge.[161] “The villain,” says the poor outwitted astrologer, “told the world I was dead, and how I died, and that he was with me at the time of my death. I thank God, by whose mercy I have my being, that I am still alive, and, excepting my age, as well as ever I was in my life.” He actually died in 1715.

A little beyond Cecil Street formerly stood Ivy Bridge, under which there was a narrow passage to the Thames, once forming a boundary line between the Duchy of Lancaster and the City of Westminster. Near Ivy Bridge stood the mansion of the Earls of Rutland. Opposite this spot Old Parr had lodgings when he came to court to be shown to Charles I., and died of the visit. Parr was a Shropshire labourer. He was born in 1483, and died aged 152. His grandson lived to 120, and in the year of his death had married a widow. Parr’s London lodging became afterwards the Queen’s Head public-house.[162]

Mrs. Siddons was living at 149 Strand, during the time of her earlier successes. Probably she returned there on that glorious October night of 1782, when she achieved her first great triumph in Southerne’s tragedy of Isabella, when her younger son, who acted with her, burst into tears, overcome by the reality of the dying scene. “I never heard,” she says, “such peals of applause in all my life.” She returned home solemnly and calmly, and sat down to a frugal, neat supper with her father and husband, in silence uninterrupted, except by exclamations of gladness from Mr. Siddons.

Durham Street marks the site of old Durham House, built by Hatfield, Bishop of Durham, in 1345. In[Pg 92] Henry IV.’s time wild Prince Hal lodged there for some nights.

In the reign of Henry VIII. Bishop Tunstall exchanged the house with the king for one in Thames Street. Here, in 1550, lodged the French ambassador, M. de Chastillon, and his colleagues.

Edward VI. granted the house to his sister Elizabeth for life, and here that princess bore the scorn and persecution of Bonner and his spies. On Mary coming to the throne and finding Tunstall driven from the Strand and without a shelter, she restored to him Durham House. This Tunstall led a life of great vicissitudes. Henry VIII. had moved him from London to Durham; Edward VI. had dissolved his bishopric altogether; Mary had restored it; and Elizabeth again stripped him in 1559, the year in which he died.

The virgin queen kept the house some time in her own tenacious hands, but in 1583 granted it to Raleigh, whom she had loaded with favours, and who, in 1591, was Captain of the Guard, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, and Lieutenant of Cornwall.

On the death of Queen Elizabeth Raleigh’s sun of fortune set for ever, and that sly time-server Toby Matthew, Bishop of Durham, claimed the old town house of the see, relying on Cecil’s help and King James’s dislike to the great enemy of Spain. Sir Walter opposed him, but the king in council, 1603, recognised the claim, and stripped Raleigh of his possession. The aggrieved man, in a letter of remonstrance to the Lord Keeper Egerton, states that he had occupied the house about twenty years, and had expended on it £2000 out of his own purse.[163] Raleigh did not die at Tower Hill till 1618; but Durham House was never occupied again either by bishop or noble, and five years after the stables of the house came down to make way for the New Exchange.

In Charles I.’s reign the Earl of Pembroke bought Durham Yard from the Bishop of Durham for £200 a[Pg 93] year, and built a handsome street leading to the river.[164] The river front and the stables remained in ruins till the Messrs. Adam built the Adelphi on the site of Raleigh’s old turret study. Ivy Street had been the eastward boundary of the bishop’s domain.[165]

The New Exchange was opened April 11, 1609, in the presence of King James and his Danish queen. It was built principally through the intervention of Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who lived close by. It was called by the king “Britain’s Bourse,” but it could not at first compete with the Royal Exchange. At the Restoration, however, when Covent Garden grew into a fashionable quarter, the New Exchange became more frequented than Gresham’s building in the city.

In the year 1653 (Cromwell), the New Exchange was the scene of a tragedy. Don Pantaleon de Saa, brother of the Portuguese ambassador, quarrelled with a gentleman named Giraud, who was flirting with the milliners, and who had used some contemptuous expression. The Portuguese, bent on revenge, hired some bravos, who the next day stabbed to death a gentleman whom they mistook for Mr. Giraud. They were instantly seized, and Don Pantaleon was found guilty and executed. Singularly enough, the intended victim perished on the same day on the same scaffold, having in the meantime been condemned for a plot against the Protector.

There are many legends existing about the New Exchange. Thomas Duffet, an actor of Charles II.’s time, kept originally a milliner’s shop here. At the Eagle and Child, in Britain’s Bourse, the first edition of Othello was sold in 1622. At the sign of the “Three Spanish Gypsies” lived Thomas Radford, who sold wash-balls, powder, and gloves, and taught sempstresses. His wife, the daughter of John Clarges, a farrier in the Savoy before or after Radford’s death, married General Monk, became the vulgar Duchess of Albemarle, and was eventually buried in Westminster Abbey. At the sign of the Fop’s Head lived, in 1674, Will Cademan, a player and[Pg 94] play-publisher.[166] Henry Herringham, the chief London publisher before Dryden’s petty tyrant, Tonson, had his shop at the Blue Anchor in the Lower Walk. Mr. and Mrs. Pepys frequented the New Exchange. Here the Admiralty clerk’s wife had “a mind to” a petticoat of sarcenet bordered with black lace, and probably purchased it. Here also, in April, 1664, Pepys and his friend Creed partook of “a most delicate dish of curds and cream.”[167] Both Wycherly and Etherege have laid scenes of their comedies at the New Exchange; and here, too, Dryden’s intriguing Mrs. Brainsick pretends to visit her “tailor” to try on her new stays.

This Strand Bazaar, in the time of William and Mary, was the scene of the pretty story of the “White Widow.” For several weeks a sempstress appeared at one of the stalls, clothed in white, and wearing a white mask. She excited great curiosity, and all the fashionable world thronged her stall. This mysterious milliner was at last discovered to be no less a person than the Duchess of Tyrconnel, widow of Talbot, the Lord Deputy of Ireland under James II. Unable to obtain a secret access to her family, and almost starving, she had been compelled to turn shopwoman. Her relatives provided for her directly the story became known.[168] This duchess was the Frances Jennings mentioned by Grammont, and sister to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.

This long arcade, leading from the Strand to the water stairs, was divided into four parts—the outward walk below stairs, the inner walk below stairs, the outward walk above stairs, and the inner walk above stairs. The lower walk was a place of assignations. In the upper walk the air rang with cries of “Gloves or ribands, sir?” “Very good gloves or ribands.” “Choice of fine essences.”[169] Here Addison used to pace, watching the fops and fools with a kindly malice.[170] The houses in the Strand, over against the Exchange door, were often let to rich country families, who glared from the balconies and stared from the windows.[171]

[Pg 95]Soon after the death of Queen Anne the New Exchange became disreputable. No one would take stalls, so it was pulled down in 1737, and a frontage of dwelling-houses and shops made to the Strand, facing what is now the Adelphi Theatre. But we must return for a moment to old Durham House and a few more of its earlier tenants.

In Henry VIII.’s time Durham House had been the scene of great banquets given by the challengers after the six days’ tournament that celebrated the butcher king’s ill-omened marriage with that “Flemish mare,” as he used ungallantly to call Anne of Cleves. To these sumptuous feasts the bruised and battered champions, together with all the House of Commons and Corporation of London, were invited. To reward the challengers, among whom was Oliver Cromwell’s ancestor, Dick o’ the Diamond, the burly king gave them each a yearly pension of one hundred marks out of the plundered revenues of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

Later a mint was established at Durham House by Sir William Sherrington, to aid the Lord Admiral Seymour in his treasonable efforts against his brother, the Protector, who finally offered him up a victim to his ambition. Sherrington, however, escaped, and worked the mint for the equally unfortunate Protector.

But no loss of heads could warn the Strand noblemen. It was here that the ambitious Duke of Northumberland married his son, Lord Guildford Dudley, to poor meek-hearted Lady Jane Grey, who, the luckless queen of an hour, longed only for her Greek books, her good old tutor Ascham, and the quiet country house where she had been so happy. On that great day for the duke, Lady Jane’s sister also married Lord Herbert, and Lord Hastings espoused Lady Catherine Dudley. It was from Durham House that the poor martyr of ambition, Lady Jane, was escorted in pomp to the Tower, which was so soon to be her grave.

In 1560 Jean Nicot, a French ambassador, had carried tobacco from Lisbon to Paris. In 1586[172] Drake brought[Pg 96] tobacco from Raleigh’s colony in Virginia. Raleigh was fond of smoking over his books. His tobacco-box still existed in 1715; it was of gilt leather, as large as a muff-case, and contained cases for sixteen pipes.[173] There is a doubtful legend about Raleigh’s first pipe, the scene of which may be not unfairly laid at Durham House, where Raleigh then lived.

One day his servant, bringing in a tankard of spiced ale as usual into the turret study, found Raleigh (it is said) smoking a pipe over his folios. The clown, seeing smoke issue in clouds from his master’s mouth, dropped the tankard in a fright, and ran downstairs to shout to the family that “master was on fire, and that he would be burnt to ashes if they did not run directly to his help.”[174]

The stalwart, sour-faced Raleigh disported himself at Durham House in a suit of clothes beset with jewels and valued at sixty thousand pounds,[175] and in diamond court-shoes valued at six thousand six hundred pieces of gold. Here he lived with his wife Elizabeth, and his two unlucky sons Walter and Carew. Here, as he sat in his study in the little turret that looked over the Thames,[176] he must have written against the Spaniards, told his adventures in Virginia, and described his discovery of the gold country of Guiana, his quarrel with Essex at Fayal, and the capture of the rich caracks laden with gold, pearls, and cochineal.

The estate of Durham Place was purchased from the Earl of Pembroke, about 1760, by four brothers of the name of Adam, sons of an architect at Kirkaldy, who were patronised by the handsome and much-abused Earl of Bute, and who built Caen Wood House, near Hampstead, afterwards the wise Lord Mansfield’s. Robert, the ablest of the brothers, had visited Palmyra, and was supposed from those gigantic ruins to have borrowed his grand spirit of construction, as well as much of that trivial ornament which he might surely have found nearer home. When the brothers Adam began their work, Durham Yard (the court-yard of Raleigh’s[Pg 97] old house) was a tangle of small sheds, coal-stores, wine-vaults, and lay-stalls. They resolved to leave the wharves, throw some huge arches over the declivity, connect the river with the Strand, and over these vaults erect a series of well-built streets, a noble river terrace, and lofty rooms for the newly-established Society of Arts.

In July 1768,[177] when the Adelphi Buildings were commenced, the Court and City were at war, and the citizens, wishing to vex Bute, applied to Parliament to prevent the brothers encroaching on the river, of which sable stream the Lord Mayor of London is the conservator, but not the purifier; but they lost their cause, and the worthy Scotchmen triumphed.[178]

The Scotch are a patriotic people, and stand bravely by their own folk. The Adams sent to Scotland for workmen, whose labours they stimulated by countless bagpipes; but the canny men, finding the bagpipes played their tunes rather too quick, threw up the work, and Irishmen were then employed. The joke of the day was, that the Scotchmen took their bagpipes away with them, but left their fiddles![179]

The Adelphi at once became fashionable. Garrick, then getting old, left his house in Southampton Street to occupy No. 5, the centre building of the terrace, and lived there till his death in 1779. Singularly enough, this great and versatile actor had, on first coming to London with his friend Johnson, started as a wine merchant below in Durham Yard. Here he must have raved in “Richard,” and wheedled as Abel Drugger; and in the rooms at No. 5 half the celebrities of his century must have met. He died in the “first floor back,” and his widow died in the same house as long after as 1822. The ceiling in the front drawing-room was painted by Antonio Zucchi. A white marble chimney-piece in the same room is said to have cost £300.[180] Garrick died after only nine years’ residence in the new[Pg 98] terrace; but his sprightly widow, a theatrical critic to the last, lived till she was past ninety, still an enthusiast about her husband’s genius. The first time she re-opened the house after Davy’s death, Dr. Johnson, Boswell, Sir Joshua, Mrs. Carter, and Mrs. Boscawen were present. “She looked well,” says Boswell; “and while she cast her eyes on her husband’s portrait, which was hung over the chimney-piece, said, that death was now the most agreeable object to her.” Worthy woman! and so she honestly thought at the time; but she lived exactly forty-three years longer in the same house.

If there is a spot in London which Johnson’s ghost might be expected to revisit, it is that quiet and lonely Adelphi Terrace. At night no sound comes to you but a shout from some passing barge, or the creak of a ship’s windlass. Here Johnson and Boswell once leant over, looking at the Thames. The latter said, “I was thinking of two friends we had lost, who once lived in the buildings behind us, Beauclerk and Garrick.” “Ay, sir,” replied Johnson, seriously, “and two such friends as cannot be supplied.” This is a recollection that should for ever hallow the Adelphi Terrace to us.

The Beauclerk above mentioned was one of the few rakes whom Johnson loved. He was a friend of Langton, and as such had become intimate with the great doctor. Topham Beauclerk was a man of acute mind and elegant manners, and ardently fond of literature. He was of the St. Albans family, and had a resemblance to swarthy Charles II., a point which pleased his elder friend. The doctor liked his gay, young manner, and flattered himself much as women do who marry rakes, that he should reform him in time.

“What a coalition!” said Garrick, when he heard of the friendship; “why, I shall have my old friend to bail out of the Round House.” Beauclerk, says Boswell, “could take more liberties with Johnson than any one I ever saw him with;”[181] but, on the other hand, Beauclerk was not spared.[Pg 99] On one occasion Johnson said to him, “You never open your mouth, sir, without an intention to give pain, and you have often given me pain—not from the power of what you said, but from seeing your intention.” At another time he said, “Thy body is all vice, and thy mind all virtue.”

When the Adelphi was building, Garrick applied for the corner house of Adam Street for his friend Andrew Beckett, the bookseller in the Strand, and he obtained it. In this letter he calls the architects “the dear Adelphi,” and the western house “the corner blessing.” Garrick’s house was for some years occupied by the Royal Literary Fund, but is now a Club.

Garrick promised the brothers, if the request was granted, to make the shop, as old Jacob Tonson’s once was, the rendezvous of the first people in England. “I have,” he says, “a little selfishness in this request. I never go to coffee-houses, seldom to taverns, and should constantly (if this scheme takes place), be at Beckett’s at one at noon and six at night.”[182]

Garrick was a frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Thomas Beckett, the bookseller, in Pall Mall, and he obtained the appointment of sub-librarian at Carlton Palace for the son Andrew, who had written a comedy on the Emile of Rousseau at the age of fourteen, and produced a poem called Theodosius and Constantia. For nearly ten years he wrote for the British and Monthly Reviews. He was born in 1749, and died in 1843. His most useful work is called Shakspere Himself Again, in which he released the original text from much muddy nonsense of commentators. He complained bitterly of Griffiths, of the Monthly Review, having given him only £45 for four or five years’ work—280 articles, produced after reading and condensing 590 volumes; Mr. Griffiths’ annual profit by the Monthly being no less than £2000.

Into a house in John Street the Society of Arts, established in 1753 by Mr. Shipley, an artist, moved, about 1772. This society still give lectures and rewards, and does[Pg 100] about as much good as ever it did. Art must grow wild—it will not thrive in hot-houses. The great room is still adorned with the six large pictures illustrating the “Progress of Society,” painted by poor, half-crazed Barry, the ill-educated artist, who, too proud to paint cabinet pictures, could yet paint nothing larger sound or well.

Shipley, who established the society of Arts in imitation of one already established at Dublin, was originally a drawing-master at Northampton. From its commencement in 1753-4 to 1778 the society distributed in premiums and bounties £24,616. A year after its foundation Josiah Wedgwood began to infuse a classical and purer taste among the proprietors of the Staffordshire potteries,[183] and employed Flaxman to draw some of his designs, and was the first to improve the shape and character of our simplest articles of use.

Mr. Shipley was a brother of the Bishop of St. Asaph, and had studied under a portrait-painter named Phillips. In 1738 the Society of Arts voted their founder a gold medal for his public spirit. His school was continued by a Mr. Pars. He died, aged upwards of ninety, in 1784.[184]

Nollekens, the sculptor, learned drawing there, and Cosway, afterwards the fashionable miniature-painter, was the errand-boy. The house was subsequently inhabited by Rawle, the antiquary, a friend of fat, coarse, clever Captain Grose.[185]

Dr. Ward, the inventor of “Friar’s Balsam,” a celebrated quack doctor ridiculed by Hogarth, left his statue by Carlini to the Society of Arts. The doctor allowed Carlini £100 a year, so that he should work at this statue for life.[186]

This Joshua Ward, celebrated for his drop and pill, by which and his balsam he made a fortune, was the son of a drysalter in Thames Street. Praised by General Churchill and Lord Chief Baron Reynolds, he was called in to prescribe for King George. The king recovering in spite of[Pg 101] the quack, “Spot” Ward was rewarded by a solemn vote of a credulous House of Commons, and he obtained the privilege of being allowed to drive his carriage through St. James’s Park. Ward is conspicuous in one of Hogarth’s caricatures by a claret mark covering half his brazen face.

The housekeeper at the Society of Arts in Haydon’s time (1842) remembered Barry at work on the frescoes that are so deficient in colour and taste, but show such a fine grasp of mind. She said his violence was dreadful, his oaths horrid, and his temper like insanity. In summer he came at five and worked till dark; he then lit his lamp and went on etching till eleven at night. He was seven years at his task. Burke and Johnson called once; but no artist came to see him. He would have almost shot any painter who dared to do so. He had his tea boiled in a quart pot, dined in Porridge Island, and took milk for supper.[187]

Years after Barry lay in state in the great room which his own genius had adorned, and was buried in the Abbey; but few of the Academicians attended his funeral. The Adelphi pictures have been recently lined and restored.

Barry having vainly attempted to decorate St. Paul’s, executed the paintings now at the Society of Arts for his mere expenses, but eventually, one way and another, cleared a considerable sum by them. He painted them, as he said, to prove that Englishmen had a genius for high art, music, and other refinements of life. They are fairly drawn, often elegantly and reasonably well grouped, but bad in colour. The heterogeneous dresses are jumbled together with bad taste—Dr. Burney in a toupee floats among water-nymphs, and William Penn’s wig and hat are ludicrously obtrusive. The perspective is often “out,” and the attitudes are stiff; still, historically speaking, the pictures are large-minded and interesting; and, in spite of his faults, one likes to think of the brave Irishman busy on his scaffold, railing at Reynolds and defying everybody. Barry was really a self-deceiver, like Haydon, and aimed far beyond his powers.

At Osborne’s Hotel, in John Street, the King and Queen[Pg 102] of the Sandwich Islands resided while on a visit to England in the reign of George IV. A comic song written on their arrival was once popular, though now forgotten; and Theodore Hook produced a quaint epigram on their death by small-pox, the point of which was, that one day Death, being hungry, called for “two Sandwiches.” The epigram was not without the unfeeling wit peculiar to that heartless lounger at the clubs, who spent his life amusing the great people, and who died at last a worn-out spendthrift, sans character, sans everything.

Of all London’s charlatans, perhaps the most impudent was Dr. Graham, a Scotchman, whose brother married Catherine Macaulay, the author of a forgotten History of England, much vaunted by Horace Walpole. In or about 1780 this plausible cheat opened what he called a “Temple of Health,” in a central house in the Adelphi Terrace. His rooms were stuffed with glass globes, marble statues, medico-electric apparatus, figures of dragons, stained glass, and other theatrical properties. The air was drugged with incense and strains of music. The priestess of this temple was said to be no less a person than Emma Lyons, afterwards Lady Hamilton, the fatal Cleopatra of Lord Nelson. She had been first a housemaid and afterwards a painter’s model. She was as beautiful as she was vulgar and abandoned. The house was hung with crutches, ear-trumpets, and other trophies.[188] For one night in the celestial bed, that secured a beautiful progeny, this impostor obtained £100; for a supply of his elixir of life £1000 in advance, and for his earth-baths a guinea each. Yet this arrant knave and hypocrite was patronised by half the English nobility. Archenholz, a German traveller, writing about 1784, describes Dr. Graham and his £60,000 celestial bed. He dilates on the vari-coloured transparent glasses, and the rich vases of perfume that filled the impudent quack’s temple, the half-guinea treatises on health, the moonshine admitted into the rooms, and the divine balm at a guinea a bottle.

[Pg 103]A magneto-electric bed, to be slept in for the small sum of £50 a night, was on the second floor, on the right hand of the orchestra, and near the hermitage. Electricity and perfumes were laid on in glass tubes from adjoining reservoirs. The beds (there were two or three at least) rested on six massy transparent columns. The perfumed curtains were of purple and celestial blue, like those of the Grand Turk. Graham was blasphemous enough to call this chamber his “Holy of Holies.” His chief customers were captains of privateers, nabobs, spendthrifts, and old noblemen. The farce concluded in March 1784, when the rooms were shut for ever, and the temple of Apollo, the immense electrical machine, the self-playing organ, and the celestial bed, were sold in open daylight by a ruthless auctioneer.[189]

Bannister “took off” Graham in a farce called The Genius of Nonsense, produced at the Haymarket in 1780. His satin sofas on glass legs, his celestial bed, his two porters in long tawdry greatcoats and immense gold-laced cocked hats, distributing handbills at the door, while his goddess of health was dying of a sore-throat from squalling songs at the top of the staircase, were all hit off by a speaking harlequin, who also caricatured the doctor’s sliding walk and bobbing bows. The younger Colman and Bannister had been to the Temple of Health on purpose to take the quack’s portrait.[190]

Mr. Thomas Hill, the fussy, good-natured Hull of Theodore Hook’s Gilbert Gurney, lived for many years and finally died in the second floor of No. 1 James Street, Adelphi. He was the supposed prototype of the obtrusive Paul Pry. It was Hill’s boast always to have what you wanted. “Cards, sir? Pooh! pooh! Nonsense! thousands of packs in the house.” Liston made the name of Paul Pry proverbial and world-wide.

The names of the four Scotch brothers, John, Robert, James, and William Adam, are preserved by the existing Adelphi Streets. When will any of our streets be named after great thinkers? It is a disgrace to us to allow new districts to be christened, without Government supervision,[Pg 104] by worthless, ignoble, and ridiculous names, confusing in their vulgar repetition. Indifferent kings, and nobles not much better, give their names to half the suburbs of London, while Shakespere is unremembered by the builders, and Spenser and Byron have as yet no brick-and-mortar godchildren.

 

OLD HOUSES ON THE SITE OF WELLINGTON STREET, 1742.

 

The eldest of the brothers, Robert Adam, died in 1792, and was buried in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey. His pall was supported by the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Coventry, the Earl of Lauderdale, Lord Stormont, Lord Frederick Campbell, and Mr. Pulteney.

It was told as a joke invented against that fat butt, Sir William Curtis, that at a public dinner some lover of royalty and Terence proposed the healths of George IV. and the[Pg 105] Duke of York as “the Adelphi,” upon which the alderman, who followed with the next toast, determining that the East should not be far behind the West, rose and said that “as they were now on the subject of streets, he would beg to propose Finsbury Square.” But, after all, why should we laugh at the poor alderman because he did not happen to know Greek? That surely is a venial sin.

And here, retracing our steps, we must make an episode and turn back down the Savoy.

And Last updated on: Sunday, 06-Sep-2020 21:44:02 BST