Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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THE STRAND:—NORTHERN TRIBUTARIES.
Catherine Street—Derivation of its Name—The Morning Chronicle and Mr. John Black—Wimbledon House—D'Oyley's Warehouse—Exeter Street—Exeter Arcade—The Strand Music Hall—The Gaiety—The Morning Post—Exeter House, and Visit of Queen Elizabeth to Lord Burleigh—Exeter Change—The Menagerie—The Elephant "Chunee"—The Lyceum Theatre—The Beef-steak Club—Exeter Hall—The Adelphi Theatre—Maiden Lane and its Noted Residents—Southampton Street—The "Bedford Head"—The Corps of Commissionaires—Bedford House—The Lancet and Mr. T. Wakley—General Monk and the Duchess of Albemarle—Newspapers published in the Strand.
That the Strand, especially that part of it which lay nearest to the two royal theatres, bore no good reputation in the days of our great-grandfathers, may be gathered from Gay's "Trivia." The poet, who speaks of the dangers of the "mazy" purlieus of Drury Lane, gives an equally bad character to the inhabitants of Catherine Street, in spite of the derivation of its name from the Greek word denoting "purity." The street, it may be added, is now chiefly devoted to second-class eating-houses, and the shops of newsvendors and advertising agents. About half-way down the street, on the eastern side, at No. 22, is the office of the Echo, a newspaper which is worthy of record here, since the publication of its first number, in 1868, marked an era in the history of the cheap press, as being the first halfpenny daily paper started in London.
In Catherine Street were published the Court Gazette and Court Journal, the Naval and Military Gazette, the Racing Times, the London Herald, the Illustrated Times, and also the Literary Gazette in the last days of its existence. The Era also was published here for many years. The upper part of the thoroughfare was formerly called Brydges Street, but the two were made into one and called Catherine Street by the authority of the Board of Works in 1872.
Before going further westward we may notice that at No. 332, Strand, opposite Somerset House, now the office of the Weekly Times, was published for many years prior to its decease in 1861, at the age of more than a century, the Morning Chronicle. This was the organ of the Whig party in the days of Fox, and afterwards in those of Lord Grey, Lord Melbourne, and Lord John Russell; and under the successive editorships of Mr. J. Perry and Mr. John Black it obtained a leading position such as that now held by the Times. Among the contributors of literary and political articles who, during the hundred years of its existence, were frequent visitors to the editor's inner room, were Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Professor Porson, Jekyll, the wit and M.P., David Ricardo, James Mill, the historian, Lords Erskine and Durham, Albany Fonblanque, Horace Smith, Mr. Poulett Thompson (afterwards Lord Sydenham), Harry Brougham, Lord (then "plain John") Campbell, Joseph Hume, Mr. J. R. M'Culloch, Sir John Bowring, Mr. Charles Buller, and Mr. N. W. Senior. The supposed ghost of Sir Philip Francis also haunted the editorial sanctum, and it will not be forgotten that it was as a reporter on the staff of the Morning Chronicle that Charles Dickens earned some of the first five-pound notes which afterwards flowed into his pocket so freely.
The following story will serve to illustrate at once the character of Mr. Black (who died in 1855) and the position of the Chronicle in its palmy days:—Mr. Black was a great favourite with Lord Melbourne when the latter was Prime Minister. His lordship esteemed him not only for his great learning, his wonderful memory, his apt illustration of every topic of discourse by an apparently inexhaustible fund of anecdote derived from the most recondite sources, but for his simplicity and bonhomie. John Black was a modern Diogenes in everything but his ill-nature. On one occasion Lord Melbourne said to him, "Mr. Black, you are the only person who comes to see me who forgets who I am." The editor opened his eyes with astonishment. "You forget that I am Prime Minister." Mr. Black was about to apologise, but the Premier continued, "Everybody else takes especial care to remember it, but I wish they would forget it; they only remember it to ask me for places and favours. Now, Mr. Black," added his lordship, "you never ask me for anything, and I wish you would; for, seriously, I should be most happy to do anything in my power to serve you." "I am truly obliged," said Mr. Black, "but I don't want anything; I am editor of the Morning Chronicle. I like my business, and I live happily on my income." "Then, by Heaven," said the peer, "I envy you; and you're the only man I ever did."
On the west side of Catherine Street, and covering the ground now occupied by the Gaiety Theatre and Restaurant and the adjacent buildings, formerly stood Wimbledon House, a noble mansion built at the close of the sixteenth or early in the seventeenth century by Sir Edward Cecil, third son of Thomas, Earl of Exeter. He was an eminent military character in the reigns of James I. and Charles I., by the latter of whom he was created Viscount Wimbledon; but, as he died without issue, the title ceased at his death. This mansion was burnt down, as we learn from John Stow, in 1628, the next day after its noble owner's country seat at Wimbledon had been accidentally destroyed by an explosion of gunpowder. Strange to say, the name of Wimbledon House is entirely forgotten in this neighbourhood, its memory not being perpetuated even by a court or an alley. Sic transit gloria!
Part of the site of Wimbledon House was afterwards occupied by "D'Oyley's warehouse," a shop which has never been outdone in name and fame even in these days of monster establishments. The following account of it we take from the European Magazine:—"There have been few shops in the metropolis that have acquired more celebrity than D'Oyley's warehouse. … We have been told that the original founder of the house was a French refugee, who sought an asylum in this country after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and formed a connection in the weaving branch of business with some persons in Spitalfields, whose manufactures, most judiciously fostered by the Government and patriotically encouraged by the nobility, were just then reaching that eminence which they afterwards attained. D'Oyley himself was a man of great ingenuity, and having the best assistance he invented, fabricated, and introduced a variety of stuffs, some of which were new, and all of them such as had never been seen in England. He combined the different articles silken and woollen, and spread them into such an infinite number of forms and patterns, that his shop quickly became the mart of taste, and his goods, when first issued, came to be the height of fashion." To this gentleman it is that the Spectator alludes in one of its papers, when it says that "if D'Oyley had not by his ingenious inventions enabled us to dress our wives and daughters in cheap stuffs, we should not have had the means to have carried on the war." In another paper (No. 319) the gentleman who was so fond of striking bold strokes in dress characteristically observes: "A few months after I brought up the modish jacket, or the coat with close sleeves, I struck the first in a plain doiley; but that failing, I struck it a second time in blue camlet, which was also one of Doiley's stuffs." In Vanbrugh's Provoked Wife, in the scene in Spring Gardens, Lady Fanciful says to Mademoiselle, pointing to Lady Brute and Belinda, "I fear those doiley stuffs are not worn for want of better clothes." "The warehouse was almost equally famous, even in very early times, not only for articles to suit the ladies, but also as the grand emporium for gentlemen's night-gowns and night-caps. … In the former part of the eighteenth century, all the beaux who used to stick to the custom of breakfasting at coffee-houses appendant to the Inns of Court, made their morning strolls in their elegant déshabille, which was carelessly confined around the waist by a band or sash of yellow, red, green, or blue, according to the taste of the wearer; these were also exclusively of D'Oyley's manufacture. This idle fashion of lounging during the morning in such a dress was not quite extinct in 1760–70, for we remember about that period to have seen some of those early birds in their night-gowns, caps, &c., at Wills's Coffee House near Lincoln's Inn Gate, in Searle Street, about that period." D'Oyley's warehouse, however, was celebrated not for this article alone, but in general for its woollen manufactures. Steele, it may be remembered, speaks in the Guardian (No. 102) of his "Doily suit," and Dryden in one place mentions "Doyly petticoats;" but if we may believe Gay's "Trivia," these articles were more elegant than useful in winter, and but a sorry protection against the cold.
It was only at some date between 1848 and 1852 that the name of "D'Oyley's Warehouse (A. Walker & Co., 346, the Strand)" disappeared from the annual issues of Messrs. Kelly's Post Office Directory. The site of this famous warehouse is now the printing and publishing offices of the Queen, Field, and Law Times newspapers.
Exeter Street has witnessed some of those early struggles which either make or mar the lives of literary men. It is well known to every reader of Boswell that it was in this street that Dr. Johnson, on his first arrival in London, lodged and dined at a staymaker's, paying for his keep the large sum of fourpence-halfpenny per day; and that he was living here when he and his friend Garrick "were compelled to borrow five pounds on their joint note from Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller."
Running obliquely from the bottom of Catherine Street to Wellington Street was formerly a small arcade, built by the late Marquis of Exeter—a lineal descendant of the great Lord Burghley, whose family still own the property—with the view of resuscitating the glories of old Exeter 'Change. He entrusted the work to Mr. Sydney Smirke, the wellknown architect, who designed a polygonal compartment at each end of the arcade, which comprised ten neat shops with dwellings over them. There were "polychromic arabesque decorations, imitation bronze gates, and other ornamentations; and the street fronts, of fine red brick, with stone dressings, were in good Jacobean style." But the place, as a business speculation, was a total failure; the public gave the arcade "the cold shoulder;" the shops were mostly tenantless, and an air of solitariness and desertion seemed to take possession of it. The site was in the end considered eligible as part of the design for a large music hall, fronting the Strand; and within the year 1863, after a short and struggling career, the arcade disappeared. The Strand Music Hall, which rose upon its site, does not appear to have been much more successful than its predecessor, for in a very short time the company, under whose auspices the music hall was erected, collapsed, and the building underwent another transformation. An elegant and fashionable theatre—the "Gaiety"—with a commodious and well-appointed restaurant adjoining, has taken its place.
The "Gaiety," which was opened in 1868, will seat 2,000 persons. It was built from the designs of Mr. C. J. Phillips, and in the Gothic style of architecture. The entrance in the Strand leads by a few steps to the level of the stalls, and by a spacious staircase to the balcony or grand tier, and the upper boxes. Another entrance in Exeter Street, designed as a private entrance for the Royal Family, is available as an exit way in case of a sudden panic, there being a stone staircase from the doorway to the highest part of the theatre, with communications on every level. The entrances to the pit and gallery are in Catherine Street, and the stage entrance is in Wellington Street. The columns supporting the various tiers of boxes, &c., are carried up to a sufficient height above the gallery, and from the cap springs a series of pointed arches, supporting cornice and coved ceiling, in the centre of which is a sun-light burner. There is a depth of some twenty feet below the stage, for sinking large scenes, and a height of fifty feet above. The decoration of the interior is striking and effective, a very noticeable feature being the frieze over the proscenium, which was designed and painted by Mr. H. S. Marks. It represents a king and queen of mediæval times, with surrounding courtiers, watching a "mask" which is being performed before them. The "Gaiety" deserves the credit, be it great or small, of having been the first to acclimatize in London what is known as the Opera Bouffe of Paris. The pieces played on the night of the opening were the operetta of The Two Harlequins and a comedy drama, entitled On the Cards, in the last of which pieces the veteran Mr. Alfred Wigan displayed some admirable acting. The opening night closed with the extravaganza of Robert the Devil. The entertainment given at the "Gaiety" consists of drama, farce, operetta, extravaganza, &c.; and there is a constant change in both programme and actors. A café, on the French model, was attached to the theatre at first starting; but it was afterwards separated, owing to the stringency of a clause in the Licensing Act.
In Wellington Street has been printed and published, for nearly half a century, the Morning Post, the recognised daily organ of the fashionable world, the first number of which appeared on the 2nd of November, 1772, thirteen years before the establishment of the Times. The paper was originally published at No. 14, Fleet Street; but it was removed to the Strand, and subsequently to its present site in Wellington Street. Its earliest editor, the Rev. Henry Bate Dudley, an eccentric clergyman, who was at once a man about the town of fashion, an Essex rector, a Cambridgeshire magistrate, and a political and dramatic writer. At one time he held a deanery in Ireland. Whilst editor of the Morning Post he inserted an article which happened to give offence to a Captain Stoney, and, on refusing to give up the writer's name, he received a challenge, which he accepted. The parties adjourned to the "Adelphi" Tavern, in the Strand, hard by, and called for a private room and a brace of pistols. These having failed, the combatants resorted to swords, and, both being wounded, they were separated with some difficulty. Dudley (who, having made the acquaintance of the Prince Regent, in after life was created a baronet) soon after this quarrelled with the proprietors of the Post, and established the Morning Herald as its rival. In 1776 a pirated edition of the Post was brought out, but soon suppressed by an affidavit sworn at Bow Street that the paper established in 1772 was "the original Morning Post."
Among the contributors to the Post during the
first half century of its existence were Charles
Lamb, Robert Southey, Sir J. Mackintosh, William
Wordsworth, Arthur Young, and S. T. Coleridge.
Lord Byron alludes to this latter fact in the third
canto of "Don Juan:"—
"Or Coleridge, long before his flighty pen
Lent to the Morning Post its aristocracy."
The connection of Coleridge with the paper dated from 1797, when he began to supply "political pieces," and three years later, as he tells us himself, he was "solicited to undertake the literary and political departments" of the paper. He ceased to write for the Post regularly in 1802. More recently the paper numbered among its contributors William Jerdan, Thomas Moore, W. Mackworth Praed, and Mr. James Stephen, afterwards M.P., the father of the late Sir James Stephen. On account of the adherence of its managers to the side of George IV., in the trial of Queen Caroline, the office was more than once attacked by the Radical party; and its windows were broken with brickbats by the mob because the editor refused to illuminate his windows to celebrate the release of Sir Francis Burdett from the Tower. Lord Byron, in more than one passage of his poems, mentions the Morning Post by name, and on one occasion he records the fact that the literature of the Prince Regent at his breakfast table at Carlton House consisted of
"Death warrants and the Morning Post."
Elsewhere he couples it with the then brilliant and high-standing papers, the Courier and the Chronicle, and it is worth noting that one editor of Byron commences his list of "testimonies in favour of Don Juan" with an extract from "the most courtly, decorous, and high-spirited of papers, the Morning Post."
On the site of Exeter House, and of its successor, the "Exeter 'Change" of the age of our grandfathers, antiquaries tell us that there once stood the rectory-house belonging to St. Clement Danes' parish, "with a garden and a close for the parson's horse." Such, at all events, was the case until a certain Sir Thomas Palmer, during the reign of Edward VI., came into possession of the living, which he lost by forfeiture for treason. Sir Thomas pulled down the house, and "rebuilt the same of brick and timber very large and spacious." Sir. T. Palmer is called "a creature of the Duke of Somerset," his mansion "a magnificent house of brick and timber." In the first year of Mary it reverted to the Crown, in which it remained vested until it was granted by Elizabeth to Sir William Cecil, her Lord Treasurer, who enlarged and partly rebuilt it, and called it Burleigh or Cecil House. According to Pennant, Burleigh House was "a noble pile, built with brick, and adorned with four square turrets." As appears from ancient plans, it faced the Strand, its gardens extending "from the west side of the garden walk of Wimbledon House (nearly where now runs Wellington Street) to the green lane westwards, which now is Southampton Street."
Cecil, when he became Lord Burleigh, was honoured in this house by a visit from Queen Elizabeth, who, knowing him to be a martyr to the gout, would allow him to sit in her presence. This was, of course, a great concession from such an imperious queen, even to such a favourite; and when he would apologise for the weak state of his legs, her Majesty would playfully remark, "My lord, we make use of you not for the badness of your legs, but for the goodness of your head." Allen remarks, in his "History of London," that "in all probability when she came to Burleigh House, the queen wore that pyramidical head-dress, built of wire, lace, ribbons, and jewels, which shot up to so great a height, and made part of the fashion of the day; for, when the principal esquire in attendance ushered her into the house, he suggested to her Majesty to stoop. 'For your master's sake, I will stoop,' she replied haughtily, 'but not for the King of Spain.'" Lord Burleigh spent most of his days between this house and his country residence at Theobalds, in Hertfordshire. "At his house in London," we learn from the "Desiderata Curiosa," "he kept ordinarily in household fourscore persons besides . . . . such as attended him at court. The charge of his housekeeping in London amounted to thirty pounds a week," a very large sum indeed in those days, "and the whole sum yearly £1,560, and this in his absence; and in term time, or when his lordship lay at London, his charges increased ten or twelve pounds more. Besides keeping these houses he bought great quantities of corn in times of dearth, to furnish markets about his house at under prices, to pull down the price so as to relieve the poor. He also gave, for the releasing of prisoners in many of his latter years, thirty and even forty pounds in a term. And for twenty years together he gave yearly in beef, bread, and money at Christmas to the poor of Westminster, St. Martin's, St. Clement's, and Theobalds, thirty-five, and sometimes forty pounds per annum. He also gave yearly to twenty poor men lodging at the Savoy, twenty suits of apparel: so as his certain alms, besides extraordinaries, was cast up to be £500 yearly, one year with another."
Lord Burleigh died here in 1598. The house afterwards passed into the hands of his son Thomas, who, being created Earl of Exeter, gave it that name, which it retained almost to our own days. After the Fire of London it was occupied for some few years by the members of Doctors' Commons, and the various courts of the Arches, the Admiralty, &c., were carried on here. At last, being deserted by the family, it was divided, the lower part being turned into shops of various descriptions, while the upper part, containing a menagerie of wild beasts and reptiles, became known as "Exeter 'Change."
Exeter 'Change, when it arose on the ruins of Exeter House, was in no sense externally beautiful, being designed wholly and solely for business purposes. It consisted of three spacious floors, which contained apartments on each side fitted up as shops for milliners, sempstresses, hosiers, &c., and has been from time to time the home of many interesting exhibitions. It appears to have passed through several phases of existence during the last two centuries. It is said by Malcolm to have been built, as it stood till lately, about the time of William and Mary, by a Dr. Barbon, "a speculator in houses," who mortgaged it to the Duke of Devonshire and Sir Francis Child. In 1708 the lower storey comprised forty-eight shops, mostly occupied by milliners, while the upper storey was tenanted by the "Company of Upholsterers." In 1714, one John Gumley, of whom little is known beyond his name, rented the upper part of the building as a warehouse for pier-glasses, &c.; and it is worthy of note that Sir Richard Steele devotes part of one of his papers in the Tatler to what looks much like what Mr. Sneer, in The Critic, would have called a "puff direct" in his favour. In 1721 it was used by a Mr. Cany as an exhibition room for the display of a wonderful bed, eighteen feet in height, for the sight of which—still more wonderful—visitors paid half-a-crown! In 1732 the body of the poet Gay lay in state here before its interment in Westminster Abbey. In 1764, Malcolm tells us "the great room was opened as an improvement on modern statute halls," and in 1772 the eccentric Lord Baltimore's body here lay in state before its removal in a hearse to Epsom. For some years after this it appears to have been used as a warehouse for storing the printed volumes of the Rolls and Journals of the House of Lords. After this it became "Pidcock's Exhibition of Wild Beasts," and as such it long continued a most popular place of resort, being constantly visited by "country cousins." The beasts were in cages and dens upstairs, the lower part being made a thoroughfare lined with shops on either side, like the Lowther and Burlington Arcades of our own day.
Thornton, in his "Survey of London and Westminster," in 1786, describes it as "erected for the purposes of trade, and consisting of two floors, the lower being laid out in small shops ranged on each side of a long gallery, and the upper one used for auctions and other temporary purposes."
In the early part of the present century the front of Exeter 'Change, projecting as it did over the pavement of the Strand, and daubed all over with pictures of monsters and wild beasts between its Corinthian pillars, must have presented a grotesque appearance not easily to be forgotten by the "country cousins" who came in shoals to see it; and its attractions were heightened in the eyes of the children by Mr. Pidcock's sham Yeoman of the Guard, stationed outside (like the Beef-eaters at the Tower), to invite the passers-by to step in and see the lions, tigers, elephants, and monkeys.
It appears that the wild beasts, which formed such an attraction to the Londoners and their "country cousins" at the commencement of the present century, had not become domesticated in Exeter 'Change so early as 1773. At all events, Northouck, in his "History of London," published in that year, is silent on the subject, and speaks of it only as an old-fashioned building erected for the purposes of trade, and consisting of a long room with a row of shops on each side, and a large room above, "now used for auctions." The 'Change itself projected into the street so as greatly to narrow it; and Northouck remarks that in his opinion it ought to be taken down, the street being greatly contracted by its projection, and by "the sheds stuck round it on the outside;" and his opinion will be confirmed on referring to our engraving of its frontage (see page 109).
The menagerie was successively occupied by Pidcock, Polito, and Cross; and some half a century ago the sight-lover had to pay half-acrown to see a few animals confined in small dens and cages in rooms of various size, the walls painted with exotic scenery, in order to favour the illusion; whereas now the finest collection of living animals in Europe may be seen in a beautiful garden for a shilling, and on Mondays for sixpence! The roar of the lions and tigers of Exeter 'Change could be distinctly heard in the street, and often frightened horses in the roadway. During Cross's tenancy, in 1826, the elephant "Chunee," which had been shown here since 1809, became ungovernable, as it is said, through the return of an annual paroxysm, and so greatly endangered the safety of the menagerie that it was deemed advisable to put the animal to death. For this purpose a file of soldiers was engaged, and 152 bullets were fired before it fell. The elephant weighed nearly five tons, stood eleven feet in height, and was valued at £1,000. The skin, which weighed 17 cwt., was sold to a tanner for £50; the bones weighed 876 Ibs.; and the entire skeleton, sold for £100, is now in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields. "Chunee" had achieved some theatrical distinction: he had performed in the spectacle of Blue Beard, at Covent Garden; and he had kept up an intimate acquaintance with Edmund Kean, whom he would fondle with his trunk, in return for a few loaves of bread.
Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," tells us how he went late at night to the menagerie, accompanied by his friend, Sir J. Winter Lake, when they had the gratification of taking a pot of "Barclay's Entire," in company with Chunee, whom they had met shortly before, being led by its keeper between ropes along the narrow part of the Strand.
The greatness of the Exeter 'Change departed with Chunee; the animals were removed to the King's Mews, in 1828, and two years afterwards Exeter 'Change was entirely taken down. Previous to the opening of the Zoological Gardens in the Regent's Park, Exeter 'Change and the Tower were the only two places in the metropolis where wild beasts could be seen alive, except in travelling menageries; and it was to those two places that "country cousins" were taken on their first arrival in London, so that to "see the lions" passed into a proverb.
The Lyceum Theatre, on the western side of what is now known as Wellington Street, stands on part of the site of old Exeter House, according to Newton's "London in the Olden Time." The ground whereon the theatre stands was purchased about the year 1765, when the Society of Artists was incorporated, by James Payne, the architect of Salisbury House, and on it he built an academy or exhibition room, to anticipate the royal establishment then in contemplation; and here several exhibitions took place. The apartments consisted of a large saloon, with a sky-light, and lesser rooms adjoining. Upon the insolvency of the society this place was deserted, and sold by auction to proprietors, who converted the back part of it into a theatre, and here Mr. Dibdin and Dr. Arnold exhibited their musical talents for some time. It was afterwards taken by a Mr. Porter for the exhibition of his "Grand National Paintings of the 'Siege of Seringapatam,' 'The Siege of Acre,' 'The Battle of Lodi,' 'The Battle of Agincourt,' &c." The place was subsequently used for a variety of miscellaneous entertainments. Here, in 1802, was first shown Madame Tussaud's exhibition of waxwork figures, on her arrival in England from France. The theatre was rebuilt in 1816, but destroyed by fire in 1830. It was again rebuilt, and opened with English Opera in 1834; but although success at first appeared certain, the losses of the lessee subsequently became so great that the theatre was closed in the following year. In 1841 the theatre was taken by the English Opera Company, under the management of Mr. Balfe; equestrian performances were introduced in 1844; and in the same year it was re-opened with a dramatic company, under the management of Mrs. Keeley. The Lyceum has since been under the management of, or had among its members, several theatrical celebrities, and has been used for the representation of English and Italian operas, and also for legitimate dramas.
Behind the scenes of this theatre are some rooms forming a sanctum unique of its kind, in which a society of noblemen and gentlemen, known as "The Sublime Society of Beef-steaks," used to meet on Saturdays, from November to the end of June, to partake of a dinner of beef-steaks. "They abhor," writes Mr. Peter Cunningham in 1851, "the notion of being thought a club; they dedicate their hours to "Beef and Liberty," and enjoy a hearty English dinner with hearty English appetites. The room in which they dine, a little Escurial in itself, is most appropriately fitted up—the doors, wainscoting, and roof of good old English oak, being ornamented with gridirons, as thickly as Henry VII.'s chapel with the portcullis of its founder. Everything here assumes the shape, or is distinguished by the representation of their favourite implement—the gridiron. The cook is seen at his office, through the bars of a spacious gridiron, and the original gridiron of the society (the survivor of two terrific fires), holds a conspicuous position in the centre of the ceiling. Every member has the right of inviting a friend, and pickles are not allowed till after the third helping. The 'Steaks' had their origin in a convivial gathering, founded in 1735 by John Rich, the patentee of Covent Garden Theatre, and George Lambert, the scene-painter."
Among the members of this defunct association
were George, Prince of Wales, and his brothers,
the Dukes of York and Sussex, Richard Brinsley
Sheridan, Lord Sandwich, Paul Whitehead, David
Garrick, Sir F. Burdett, Harry Brougham, John
Wilkes, the Duke of Argyle, Alderman Wood, the
Duke of Leinster, and Lord Saltoun. The club
had its president and vice-president, its "bishop,"
or chaplain, who said grace, and its "boots," as the
steward or burser was called; and our readers may
be amused at learning that the Dukes of Sussex
and Leinster in their turn discharged the duties of
"boots." Its evening for meeting was Saturday,
and its festivals were of a somewhat bacchanalian
character; the standing dish of "beef-steaks," from
which it derived its name, being washed down
by the best of ale and wine, to say nothing of
stronger liquors. The wine, as it passed round the
table, was always accompanied by songs; and the
"Laureate of the Steaks" was the celebrated wit,
Charles Morris, who in early life had been in the
Life Guards, and who lived to be ninety before
he resigned his office and his life. One of his
effusions, composed for this club, has the following stanza:—
"Like Briton's island lies our steak,
A sea of gravy bounds it;
Shalots, confus'dly scattered, make
The rockwork that surrounds it.
Your isle's best emblem these behold,
Remember ancient story:
Be, like your grandsires, first and bold,
And live and die with glory."
This song rendered Morris so great a favourite with the Prince that he adopted him into the circle of his intimate friends, and made him his constant guest both at Carlton House and at the Pavilion at Brighton. He was succeeded in his "Laureateship of the Steaks" by Mr. C. Hallett.
When the club was broken up in 1869, the pictures of former members, which adorned the walls of the room where they assembled for dinner (mostly copies, however, not originals), were sold for only about £70. The plate, however, brought very high prices; the forks and table-spoons, all bearing the emblem of the club—viz., a gridiron—fetched about a sovereign apiece; but the grand competition was for a punch-ladle, with a handle in the shape of a gridiron, and inlaid with a Queen Anne guinea, which realised £14 5s., and for the ribbon and badge of the president, a gridiron of silver, made in 1735, and knocked down at £23. Other articles fetched equally fancy prices, as souvenirs of a bygone institution. Thus a cheesetoaster brought £12 6s., a couteau de chasse, the reputed work of B. Cellini, the gift of Dr. Askew, £84; a brown jug of stone ware, silver mounted, £7; a pair of halberts, £3 10s.; an Oriental punch-bowl, presented by Lord Saltoun, £17 15s. Some wine-glasses, engraved with the gridiron, realised from 27 to 34 shillings a pair; while the pewter dishes, plates, and quart pots fetched nearly the price of silver. The chairs, which had been occupied by so many distinguished members, including that of the president, were knocked down at various prices between £7 and £14 apiece. The actual gridiron, which had for years been the centre of so much veneration and homage, plain as it was, fetched five guineas and a half. Almost all the articles, in addition to being stamped with the gridiron, were labelled "Beef and Liberty." The marble bust of Wilkes, which formerly had adorned the dining-room, fell under the auctioneer's hammer for twenty-two guineas. For the above particulars we are indebted to "The Life and Death of the Sublime Society," by "Brother" W. Arnold, published by Messrs. Bradbury, Evans, and Co.
At a short distance westward of the Lyceum Theatre stands the building known to the religious and musical world as Exeter Hall. It was erected in the years 1830–31, by Mr. G. Deering, in the Græco-Corinthian style of architecture, but has since been much improved. The Hall is 131 feet in length by 77 feet wide, and will contain upwards of 3,000 persons. It was originally intended as a place for holding public meetings, but these are mainly confined to the month of May. At one end of the Hall is a gigantic orchestra, in which, on some occasions, from 700 to 750 performers, vocal and instrumental, are seated. The Hall is let for the annual "May Meetings" (above mentioned), and in other months of the year for the meetings of religious, charitable, and scientific institutions, and also for the concerts of the Sacred Harmonic and National Choral Societies, &c.
The sacred music performed here consists principally of oratorios by some well-known composer, and occasionally of purely church music, such as the anthems sung in Divine worship. Oratorios, like the sacred plays, are of ancient date, and, according to a writer in Chambers' Cyclopædia, were so called from the chapel or oratory, the place where these compositions were first performed. St. Filippo Neri, born in 1515, has been considered as the founder of the oratorio. He engaged poets and composers to produce dialogues, on subjects from Scriptural and legendary history, in verse, and set to music, which were performed in his chapel or oratory on Sundays and Church festivals. The subjects were "Job and his Friends," "The Prodigal Son," "The Angel Gabriel with the Virgin," and "The Mystery of the Incarnation." By far the greatest master of oratorio was Handel, who perfected that species of music, and was the first to introduce it into England. On the occasion of the first public performance of an oratorio in London, in the year 1732, it was so complete a novelty that it was deemed necessary to give the following explanation in advertising it:—"By His Majesty's command, at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, on Tuesday, the 2nd of May, will be performed the sacred story of 'Esther,' an oratorio in English, composed by Handel, and to be performed by a great number of voices and instruments.—N.B. There will be no acting on the stage, but the house will be fitted up in a decent manner for the audience." The oratorio of "Esther" had been privately given, some years previously, in the chapel at Cannons, the seat of the "princely" Duke of Chandos. The two crowning works of Handel were "Israel in Egypt" and "The Messiah." The former is considered to rank highest of all compositions of the oratorio class; but the latter has attained an even more universal popularity, and from the time when it was first brought out down to the present day, it has been performed for the benefit of nearly every charitable institution in the kingdom. In Handel's time the orchestra was but very imperfectly developed; and since that period it was customary in London to have oratorios performed twice a week during Lent in the various theatres, but these performances were given up on the institution of the oratorios at Exeter Hall. Here, and at the musical festivals throughout England, oratorios are now performed on a large scale, and with a power, a precision, and a perfection unknown elsewhere. The greatest oratorio performances, however, are now those of the Triennial Festivals at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. At the first of these festivals, in 1862, the chorus amounted to 3,120 voices, and there was an orchestra of 505 performers; at the festival of 1874 the number exceeded 4,000.
About half-way between Exeter Hall and Charing Cross are the Vaudeville and the Adelphi Theatres. The former, which was erected in the year 1870, from the designs of Mr. C. J. Phillips, is a neat building internally, but has very little pretension to architectural display in its exterior. It will seat about 1,000 persons, and was built for the performance of comedy, burlesque, and farce. The pieces produced on the opening night were Love or Money, a comedy by Mr. A. Halliday, and a burlesque, entitled Don Carlos, or the Infant in Arms.
The Adelphi Theatre stands opposite Adam Street, and is the second building of the kind that has stood here. Mr. John Scott, colour-maker, of the Strand, was the original architect, and it was built in 1806 under his superintendence. The old theatre was pulled down in the summer of 1858, and the present edifice, the first stone of which was laid by Mr. Benjamin Webster, in his Masonic capacity, was erected, and opened on Boxing Night of the same year. The Adelphi Theatre has been principally celebrated for melodramas, and for the attractiveness of its comic actors.
Parallel with the Strand at this part, and to the south of Covent Garden Market, is Maiden Lane, sometimes, though erroneously, supposed to have been so called from a sisterhood of nuns, attached to the abbey, whose sheltered "Convent Garden" it bounded on the southern side. In early rate-books of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, it is spoken of as Maiden Lane, behind the "Bull" Inn. Bullin Court, no doubt, marks the site of the inn here mentioned. In Maiden Lane Voltaire lodged during his visit to London in 1726, and in it lived Andrew Marvell, of whom we have already made mention as an honest member of Parliament, and whose name we shall again have occasion to record as a satirist, when we come to Charing Cross. Here, too, at one time, lived Archbishop Sancroft, the nonjuror, before he had taken his seat on the episcopal bench. No. 20 in Maiden Lane was a tavern called the "Cyder Cellars," a house which gained some notoriety in its day. It was a favourite haunt of Professor Porson, and is now converted into a "School of Arms." "Proctor, the sculptor," says Mr. Peter Cunningham, "died in reduced circumstances, in a house in Maiden Lane, opposite the 'Cyder Cellars.'" Here also, at No. 26, on the north side, was born, in May, 1775, no less an artist than Joseph Mallord William Turner, his father being at that time a hair-dresser and a householder. Here the great painter early began to draw direct from Nature, and from the scenery which came readiest to his hand; and a front room in the old house in Maiden Lane is said to have been his first studio. The house has been rebuilt within the last few years.
Southampton Street was so called in compliment to Lady Rachel Russell, daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, and wife of William, Lord Russell, the patriot. At No. 27 in this street Garrick resided before his removal to the Adelphi. Mrs. Oldfield, the actress, also lived in Southampton Street. Tavistock Street was the stable-yard to Bedford House; and where Tavistock and York Streets meet was "the horse-pond."
In Southampton Street was a celebrated eatinghouse, known as "The Bedford Head," which is
several times mentioned by Pope and Walpole.
Its exact site is not known, but it is recorded that
the steps of its back door were on the south side of
Denmark Court. Pope writes in his "Satires:"—
"Let me extol a cat on oysters fed,
I'll have a party at the 'Bedford Head.'"
And again, in his "Sober Advice," he expresses himself in terms which would seem to imply that the house was well known for its good fare:—
"When sharp with hunger, scorn you to be fed,
Except on pea-chicks at the 'Bedford Head?'"
And this is confirmed by the fact that Paul Whitehead ordered for himself and a party of gay roisterers a "great supper" at the "Bedford Head," as Horace Walpole tells his correspondent, Sir Horace Mann, under date November, 1741. There is now a "Bedford Head" in this street, but it is a new tavern, and does not inherit the traditions of the former house.
In Exchange Court, on the north side, between Nos. 419 and 420, Strand, near Bedford Street, are the head-quarters of the Corps of Commissionaires, a set of men who, having served in the army, the navy, or the police, and having good characters and being in the receipt of pensions, are willing to earn a livelihood by going on messages, delivering circulars, or being detailed off on private business. Some are permanently and others temporarily employed. They are all amenable to the authority of an adjutant, and wear a uniform. They have a mess-room, reading-room, &c., and also a military band. They were first organised in the year 1859, and at the end of 1874 their strength was a little under 500 men, of whom all but 90 were employed in various parts of London.
On what is now Southampton Street stood the ancient mansion of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford. It is described by Strype as having been "a large but old-built house, with a great yard before it for the reception of carriages; with a spacious garden, having a terrace-walk adjoining to the brick wall next the garden, behind which were coach-houses and stables, with a conveyance into Charles Street, through a large gate." This house and garden being demolished in 1704, the site was covered by Tavistock, Southampton, and some other streets. Before the Russell family built the town-house in the Strand they occupied, for a time, the Bishop of Carlisle's "inn," over against their newly-erected mansion, the site of which was afterwards built upon and called "Carlisle Rents." Stow speaks of it in 1598 as "Russell or Bedford House." In 1704 they removed to Bedford House, Bloomsbury, of which we shall speak hereafter.
At the corner of Bedford Street is now the
publishing office of the Lancet. This journal was
established in 1823 by Mr. Thomas Wakley, who,
as we learn from the "Autobiographical Recollections of J. F. Clarke, M.R.C.S.," and many
years on the staff of the Lancet, was the son of a
village farmer in Devonshire. As a boy he was of
a restless disposition, and anxious to go to sea.
He was apprenticed to an apothecary at Taunton,
but finished his indentures with two other gentlemen, one at Henley-on-Thames, and the other at
Beaminster. He became a student at the united
hospitals of Guy's and St. Thomas's, where Sir
Astley Cooper was then the popular lecturer on
surgery. He passed the College of Surgeons in
1817, and from thence till 1823 he kept a shop in
the Strand, at the east corner of Norfolk Street.
His old schoolfellow, Mr. Collard—the venerable
head of the firm of pianoforte manufacturers of
that name—assisted him in the first seven or eight
numbers of his new journal. After a time the
Lancet was printed at the office of Mills, Jowett,
and Mills, in Bolt Court, Fleet Street. Cobbett's
Register was printed at the same establishment,
and Wakley, to some extent, made the style of
Cobbett his model. At this time it was no uncommon occurrence for four persons to meet in
a little room in Mills's office. Three of them
made themselves famous—William Cobbett, William
Lawrence, and Thomas Wakley; the fourth was a
barrister of the name of Keen, who used to join
the party on printing nights, probably with a view
of determining whether the productions which were
about to appear were libellous. The sanctum was
seldom violated. The printer's boy was the only
person admitted, and he in after life described the
room as the scene of the utmost merriment. He
could hear as he ascended the stairs the boisterous
laugh of Cobbett above the rest; the loud, cheerful,
good-humoured ring of Wakley; and on entering
the room, could see the quiet, sneering smile of
Lawrence, and hear the suppressed giggle of the
lawyer. Lawrence left the Lancet when he achieved
power, and his place was supplied by Wardrop—witty, and able, and unscrupulous. The Lancet
soon got into hot water, and the insertion of an
account of a defective operation for the stone, by
Mr. Bransby Cooper, the nephew of Sir Astley, led
to the latter bringing against it an action for libel,
which created a great sensation at the time. In
addition to the report, leading articles of an exciting kind, and squibs and epigrams—some in the
worst taste—were inserted. The following is given
as a specimen:—
"When Cooper's 'nevvy' cut for stone,
His toils were long and heavy;
The patient quicker parts has shown,
He soon cut Cooper's nevvy."
Mr. Wakley defended himself on his trial, and the verdict for the plaintiff, £100 damages, was considered to be in his favour. Outside Westminster Hall there was a large crowd who cheered him vociferously, and the Sun newspaper kept up its type till twelve o'clock at night in order to record the verdict. The reporter of the case, the late Mr. Lambert, was expelled the hospitals, and a board was placed in the hall of Guy's, cautioning all students against reporting for the Lancet. This restriction, however, is no longer in force, and the bitterness of the contest is almost forgotten.
Among the many scenes enacted in the Strand, we may be pardoned for mentioning one in which some of the personages whom we have already mentioned were concerned, including General Monk and the Duchess of Albemarle. On the news of Monk being called upon to concert the first measures towards the restoration of royalty, in February, 1659, Pepys tells us, in his "Diary," that the Strand was one blaze of bonfires, and that he himself counted no less than "fourteen between St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street, and the Strand Bridge," near Somerset House. A day or two afterwards he records a very different sight—"Two soldiers hanged in the Strand for their late mutiny at Somerset House."
Pepys has the following entry in his "Diary," under date 4th November, 1666:—"The Duke of Albemarle is grown a drunken sot, and drinks with nobody but Troutbecke, whom nobody else will keep company with. Of whom he" (Mr. Cooling) "told me this story: That once the Duke of Albemarle in his drink taking notice, as of a wonder, that Nan Hyde should ever come to be Duchess of York. 'Nay,' says Troutbecke, 'never wonder at that, for if you will give me another bottle of wine, I will tell you as great, if not greater, miracle. And what was that but that our dirty Besse' (meaning his duchess) 'should come to be Duchess of Albemarle.'"
Aubrey says that the mother of this low-born
and low-bred duchess was one of "five women
barbers" belonging to the locality, thus celebrated
in a ballad of the day:—
"Did ever you hear the like,
Or ever hear the fame,
Of five women barbers
That lived in Drury Lane?"
As Aubrey published his "Lives" as early as 1679, he is probably to be trusted on a fact which would be within his own knowledge. And he identifies the site of the blacksmith's forge with "the corner shop, the first turning on ye right, as you come out of the Strand into Drury Lane;" and Mr. John Timbs adds, that "it is believed to be that at the right-hand corner of Drury Court, now (1850) a butcher's."
In spite of her low birth and vulgar habits, however, the Duchess of Albemarle is credited with having had a considerable hand in bringing about the Restoration. She was a great loyalist, and Monk, though not afraid of an enemy in the field, was terribly afraid of her and of her tongue; so that it is not improbable that in his case "the grey mare was the better horse," and that it was at her suggestion that he put himself at the head of the movement for bringing King Charles "to his own again." And yet this was the woman of whom Pepys could write in his "Diary:"—"4th April, 1667. I find the Duke of Albemarle at dinner with sorry company—some of his officers of the army—dirty dishes and a nasty wife at table, and bad meat, of which I made but an ill dinner."
The Duchess of Albemarle seems to have been anything rather than attractive personally, but Pepys seems to have regarded her with positive aversion. He never has a good word to say for her, and calls her a "plain and homely dowdy," and a very "ill-looked woman." Could ill-nature well go further?
Next to Fleet Street, the thoroughfare of the Strand has been during the present century the chief home of that Muse who presides over the newspaper press. Here, or else in the streets leading out of it, have been published not only the Morning Chronicle, the Post, and the Daily Telegraph, and the Illustrated London News, as mentioned already, but the Sun, the Globe, Bell's Life in London, the Observer, the Leader, the Press, the Economist, the Court Journal, the Spectator, the Examiner, the Field, the Queen, and the Graphic, besides a host of other inferior journals, the list of whom "were long to tell," and whose obituaries are well-nigh forgotten. It may be worth recording that in 1835, the year prior to the reduction of the Newspaper Duty, the gross amount of duty on newspapers in the United Kingdom was £553,197. The reduction of the Newspaper Duty took effect on the 15th of September, 1836. In the half-year ending April 5, 1836, the number of newspapers stamped in Great Britain was 14,874,652, and the net amount of duty received was £196,909. In the half-year ending April 5, 1837, the number of newspapers stamped in Great Britain was 21,362,148, and the net amount of duty received was £88,502; showing an increase in the number in the last halfyear, as compared with the corresponding half-year before the reduction, of 6,487,496, and a loss of revenue of £108,317. Of the above number of stamps taken out in the half-year ending April 5, 1837, 11,547,241 stamps were issued since 1st of January, 1837, when the distinctive die came into use; whereas only 14,784,652 were issued in the six months ending April, 1836.
Before quitting the literary associations of the Strand, we may note that the first publisher of Samuel Rogers was Mr. Cadell, in the Strand. It was in 1786 that the former first appeared in print with his "Ode to Superstition." The author called and left his MS. in Cadell's shop with a short note containing a bank-note to cover any possible loss that might arise from publication. Mr. Rogers lived down to the end of 1855.