Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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"Oh, bear me to the paths of fair Pall Mall!
Safe are thy pavements, grateful is thy smell;
At distance rolls along the gilded coach,
Nor sturdy carmen on thy walks encroach;
No lets would bar thy ways were chairs denied—
The soft supports of laziness and pride:
Shops breathe perfumes, through sashes ribbons glow,
The mutual arms of ladies and the beaux."—Gay's "Trivia," Book ii.
Appearance of Pall Mall in the Time of Charles II.—Charles Lamb prefers Pall Mall to the Lakes of Westmoreland—Bubb Dodington—Cumberland House—Schomberg House—Bowyer's Historic Gallery—The "Celestial Bed"—The Beggar's Opera concocted—The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts—Nell Gwynne's House—A Relic of Nell Gwynne—The First Duke of St. Albans—Messrs. Christie and Manson's Sale-rooms in Pall Mall—Buckingham House—Lord Temple and Lord Bristol—The Duchess of Gordon as the Tory "Queen of Society"—The War Department—Statue of Lord Herbert of Lea—Marlborough House—The Great Duke of Marlborough—Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough—The Mansion bought by the Crown—Its Settlement upon the Prince of Wales—The Vernon Gallery—Literary Associations of Pall Mall—The "Tully's Head"—The "Feathers"—The Shakespeare Gallery—Notable Sights and Amusements—The British Institution—Habitués of Pall Mall during the Regency—The "Star and Garter" Hotel—Duel between Lord Byron and Mr. Chaworth—Introduction of Gas.
Pall Mall is described by Strype, in his edition
of Stow, as "a fine long street," adorned with
gardens on the south side, many with raised
mounds and fine views of the royal gardens and St.
James's Park beyond; nevertheless, three centuries
ago, the whole of the space between St. James's
Palace and Charing Cross was only a tract of
fields. In the time of Charles II. it was sometimes
styled Catharine Street, out of compliment to the
king's unhappy and neglected consort, Catharine
of Braganza. We know that at a far later period it
was the favourite haunt of the beaux and dandies
of the Regency in a summer afternoon; and few
will have forgotten the popularity of the song of
the jovial and genial Captain Morris—
"Oh! give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall!"
In the days of Pepys, Pall Mall had really a "sweet shady side," as there grew along it a row of elm-trees, a hundred and fifty in number, "in a very decent and regular manner on both sides of the walk;" and the few houses which stood on the south side of it were "fair mansions enclosed with gardens." The north side was entirely open, and one or two hay-stacks might be seen on the spot now occupied, as has already been mentioned, by the Junior Carlton Club. At that time the Mall was the fashionable walk of the "upper ten thousand," who afterwards transferred their affections, when the trees were cut down, to the Long Walk in Kensington Gardens.
Some celebrated characters have been remarkable for their fondness for London, and especially for the West-end. The reader may possibly remember that when Charles Lamb was invited by Wordsworth to come down and stay with him by the side of the Westmoreland Lakes, he sighed for the silversmiths' shops about Charing Cross, and the "sweet shady side of Pall Mall."
On the south side, in a house which overlooked the Park and its gardens, resided George Bubb Dodington, afterwards Lord Melcombe, whom Pope immortalised as "Bubo." Lord Hervey tells us in his "Memoirs," that his house "stood close to the garden which the Prince (Frederick, Prince of Wales) had bought of Lord Chesterfield," and that "during Dodington's favour, the Prince had suffered him to make a door out of his house into his garden, which, upon the first decay of his interest, the Prince shut up—building and planting before Dodington's house, and changing every lock to his own house, to which he had formerly given Dodington keys." Dodington was a witty, generous, ostentatious, and, in a political sense, unprincipled man; but he was the kind patron of James Thomson (who dedicated to him his "Summer"), and also the early friend of Richard Cumberland. To him Dr. Young inscribed his third Satire, and Lord Lyttelton his second Eclogue. The unwarrantable publication of his "Diary" by a person to whom he had left his papers on condition of his printing such only as would do credit to his memory, reveals him to the light as politically the type of profligacy, though probably he was not worse than many of his cotemporaries, who were wise enough not to commit their thoughts to paper. Dodington is thus portrayed by Walpole:—"A man of more wit and more unsteadiness than Pulteney; as ambitious, but less acrimonious; no formidable enemy, no sure political, but an agreeable private friend. Lord Melcombe's speeches were as daring and pointed as Lord Bath's were copious and wandering from the subject. Ostentatious in his person, houses, and furniture, he wanted in his expense the taste which he never wanted in his conversation. Pope and Churchill treated him more severely than he deserved—a fate that may attend a man of the greatest wit, when his parts are more suited to society than to composition. The verse remains; the bon mots and sallies are forgotten."
"Soon after the arrival of Frederick, Prince of Wales, in England," says his biographer, "Dodington became a favourite, and submitted to the Prince's childish horse-play, being once rolled up in a blanket, and tumbled down stairs; nor was he negligent in paying more solid court, by lending his Royal Highness money. 'This is a strange country, this England,' said his Royal Highness once; 'I am told Dodington is reckoned a clever man; yet I got £5,000 out of him this morning, and he has no chance of ever seeing it again." In 1761 he was advanced to the peerage, under the title of Lord Melcombe Regis; and in the following year he died, at the age of seventy-one." "Poor Lord Melcombe," writes Lady Hervey, "an old friend, and a most entertaining and agreeable companion, has lately been subtracted from the friends I had left. He is really a great loss to me; I saw him often; and he kept his liveliness and his wit to the last."
A good anecdote is told of Lord Melcombe; when his name was Bubb, he was appointed ambassador to Spain. Lord Chesterfield told him it would not do, as the Spaniards could not suppose a man to possess any dignity whose name was a monosyllable. "You must make an addition to it." "But how?" answered Lord Melcombe. "Oh," replied Lord Chesterfield, "I can help you to one: suppose you make it Silly Bubb."
As nearly as possible on the site of what is now Carlton Gardens, stood as lately as 1786, if not much later, Cumberland House. It was a large brick mansion, retiring from the street. According to Thornton's "Survey of London," it was built for Edward, Duke of York, but afterwards became the residence of his brother, whose name it bore. Thornton describes it as "a lofty and regular building, with a back-front commanding a beautiful prospect of the Park." The house fell into a neglected state after the duke's death, in 1790. When the union of England and Ireland was in agitation, it was resolved to establish a club in honour of the event; a number of gentlemen then purchased the house and fitted it up for an hotel. It bore the name of the "Albion."
The houses Nos. 81 and 82 formed originally one mansion, known as Schomberg House, which was built during the Commonwealth. Like the adjoining house of Nell Gwynne, it had in its rear a garden with a handsome raised terrace commanding a view of the royal gardens and of the Park beyond. At the Restoration it was tenanted by Edward Griffin, one of the high officers of the court of Charles II. Here afterwards lived the Duke of Schomberg, one of the Dutch generals brought over in his train by William, Prince of Orange, and who fell at the battle of the Boyne: the house was named after him. It was beautified for Frederick, the third and last duke, for whom Peter Berchett painted the grand staircase with landscapes in lunettes. The rest of the history of the mansion shall be told in the words of the author of "Curiosities of London:"—"In 1699 the house was near being demolished by a body of disbanded soldiers; and in the Gordon Riots of 1780 attempts were made to sack and burn it. William, Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, became tenant of the house in 1760. John Astley, the painter and the 'beau,' who lived here many years, divided the mansion into three, and placed the bas-relief of 'Painting' above the middle doorway. Astley built also on the roof a large painting-room—his country-house, as he called it—overlooking the Park, to which and to some other apartments he had a private staircase. After Astley's death, Conway the portrait-painter became the tenant of the central portion. Gainsborough occupied the west wing from 1777 to 1788, when he died in a second-floor room. He sent for Sir Joshua Reynolds and was reconciled to him; and then exclaiming, 'We are all going to heaven, and Van Dyke is of our number,' he immediately expired. Part of the house was subsequently occupied by Robert Bowyer for his 'Historic Gallery,' and by Dr. Graham, the empiric, for his 'Celestial Bed,' and other impostures, advertised by two gigantic porters stationed at the entrance, with gold-lace cocked hats and liveries. The house was a good specimen of the red-brick mansion of the seventeenth century. It was partly occupied by Messrs. Payne and Foss, with their valuable stock of old books, until 1850, soon after which the eastern wing was taken down and rebuilt in the Italian style, though incongruously, for the War Department." The house is still remarkable for its foreign design, with wings, pediment, and caryatide porticos.
Many years after the duke's death it was bought from the Earl of Holdernesse, who then owned it, by a portrait painter named John Astley, who, as stated above, divided it into three houses. Gainsborough and his works of art have made one of these houses known far and wide. Astley himself occupied the central house, and raised it by a storey. During the latter part of the eighteenth century it was hired by various speculators in succession as a gallery for the exhibition of pictures, &c., and it is said that more shillings were taken at its doors than at any other house in the time of George III. Early in the present century it was converted to more strictly literary uses, becoming the bookshop of Mr. Thomas Payne, whose father, "honest Tom Payne of immortal memory," had been for forty years a bookseller at the Mews Gate. It was here that was first concocted the dramatic scheme of the Beggar's Opera. It was originally proposed to Swift to be named the Newgate Opera, as the first thought of writing such a gross and immoral drama originated with him. Swift also, who was an ardent admirer of the poetic talents of Gay, delighted to quote his Devonshire pastorals, they being very characteristic of low, rustic life, and congenial to his taste; for the pen of the Dean revelled in vulgarity. Under the influence of such notions, he proposed to Gay to bestow his thoughts upon the subject, which he felt assured he would turn to good account, namely, that of writing a work to be entitled "A Newgate Pastoral;" adding, "and I will, sub rosâ, afford you my best assistance." This scheme was talked over at Queensberry House, and Gay commenced it, but soon dropped it, with something of disgust. It was ultimately determined that he should commence upon the Beggar's Opera. This proposal was approved, and the opera written forthwith, under the auspices of the Duchess of Queensberry, and performed at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, under the immediate influence of her Grace, who, to induce the manager, Rich, to bring it upon his stage, agreed to indemnify him all the expenses he might incur, providing that the daring speculation should fail.
No. 79, adjoining Schomberg House, was for very many years the head-quarters of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, prior to its removal, about the year 1870, to Park Place, St. James's Street. The house has been identified as that occupied by Nell Gwynne during the heyday of her career as the favourite of King Charles II. To the south side of it was attached a garden, adjoining that of the King; and we have already told our readers how Evelyn was a witness on this spot to "a familiar discourse between the King and Mrs. Nelly, as they call an impudent comedian; she looking out of her garden on a terrace on the top of the wall, the King standing on a green walk under it." According to Mr. John Timbs, part of this "terrace," or raised mound of earth, is still to be seen "under the Park wall of Marlborough House," and the same authority tells us that a bill for erecting this very mound was found among Nell Gwynne's papers. It is interesting to learn that whilst basking in the sunshine of the royal favour Nelly did not forget her poor mother, and that the same doctor's bill which mentions the medicine sent for her own use and that of her little son, includes also "a cordial for old Mrs. Gwynne." Maintained in decent comfort after the King's death, whose last words were "Do not let poor Nelly starve," she died in Pall Mall in November, 1687, and was buried in the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, the vicar, Dr. Tenison, preaching her funeral sermon.
With respect to this residence of Nell Gwynne, Mr. Peter Cunningham writes:—"Nelly at first had only a lease of her house, which as soon as she discovered, she returned the conveyance to the King, with a remark characteristic alike of her wit and of the monarch to whom it was addressed. The King enjoyed the joke, and perhaps admitted its truth; so the house in Pall Mall was conveyed free to Nell and her representatives for ever. The truth of the story," he adds, "is confirmed by the fact that the house which occupies the site of the one inhabited by her, No. 79, is the only freehold on the southern or Park side of Pall Mall. No entry, however, of the grant is to be found in the Land Revenue Record Office." The house rebuilt upon the site of that given by Charles II. to Nell Gwynne was some years since occupied by Dr. Heberden.
Previously to living on this side of Pall Mall, Nell Gwynne had occupied a house on the north side, whither she had removed in 1670, soon after the birth of her eldest son by Charles II. That house is described by Pennant as the first good one on the left hand of St. James's Square, as we enter from Pall Mall. Its site is now covered by the Army and Navy Club. When Pennant wrote, it belonged to Mr. Thomas Brand, afterwards Lord Dacre; it subsequently was the town residence of Lord De Mauley. Pennant says, "The back room on the ground floor was, within memory, entirely of looking-glass, as also was said to have been the ceiling. Over the chimney was her picture, and that of her sister was in a third room." Mr. John Timbs adds the fact that in Lord De Mauley's house was a relic of Nell Gwynne—namely, her looking-glass; "this," he tells us, "was bought with the house, and is now in the Visitors' Room of the Club."
Bishop Burnet calls Nell Gwynne the indiscreetest and wildest creature that was ever in a king's court, and says she was maintained at a great expense. The Duke of Buckingham, he says, told him that at first she asked only £500 a year; but at the end of the fourth year she had received from the King £60,000. Throughout her whole life she continued negligent in her dress, but that might have arisen from the acknowledged fact that whatever she wore became her. Her eldest son, by Charles II., was born in May, 1670, and the tradition of his first elevation to the peerage is as follows:—Charles one day going to see Nell Gwynne, and the little boy being in the room, the King wanted to speak to him. "Come hither, you little bastard, and speak to your father." "Nay, Nelly," said the King, "do not give the child such a name." "Your Majesty," replied Nelly, "has given me no other name by which I may call him!" Upon this the King conferred upon him the name of Beauclerk, and created him Earl of Burford; and shortly before his death made him Duke of St. Albans. In the next house west to Schomberg House lived Mrs. Fitzherbert, of whom we have already spoken.
Pall Mall is styled by Malcolm, in 1807, a "handsome street, but subject to the endless rattle of coaches, and the lounging place of strings—or rather links, or chains—of men of fashion, and their humble imitators, during the months in which London is tolerable, that is, from December to June." It could not at this time have been well kept or watered, for he complains that "it becomes a desert when the pavements are dry and the carriage way is fit for crossing." He enumerates as its chief attractions, Carlton House, Kelly's Opera Saloon, or rather music shop—"made fashionable by an odd set of lattices, distributed over the west front,"—and lastly by Christie's Auction Room, which then stood on the south side, next to Schomberg House.
"The late Mr. Christie," observes Malcolm, "was perhaps the most eminent auctioneer in the world"—George Robins, it may be observed by us in passing, was not then known to fame—"and the value of property which waited the tap of his hammer would almost baffle the powers of calculation. The manors, estates, jewels, plate, and collections of pictures which he sold, were situated in or collected from all parts of the kingdom; and he had the singular fortune to dispose of the rich articles and paintings of but too many noble fugitives from France, Italy, and Holland during the French Revolution. This house was and is," he adds, "the exhibition of everything curious in the arts, under his son and successor, who to his father's abilities adds a rich stock of classical attainments." It may be added that the first auction in London is said to have been held in 1700.
Among the other various relics which here passed under the hammer of Messrs. Christie, was the famous Shakspeare Cup, which is thus described by Mr. J. T. Smith:—"The much-famed cup, carved from Shakespeare's mulberry-tree, lined with and standing on a base of silver, with a cover surmounted by a branch of mulberry leaves and fruit, also of silver-gilt, which was presented to Mr. Garrick on the occasion of the Jubilee at Stratfordupon-Avon." It was sold early in the present century by Mr. Christie, who addressed the assembly, adjuring them "by the united names of Shakespeare and Garrick" to offer biddings worthy of the occasion. The first bid was 100 guineas; and it was knocked down ultimately for 121 guineas, the purchaser being Mr. J. Johnson, of Southampton Street, Covent Garden.
How thoroughly these rooms held their position
not merely as a mart and market, but also as a
criterion of the arts, may be inferred from the first
stanza of a poem by Mr. Richard Fenton, published
just a century ago:—
"As Painting and Sculpture now bending with years
Proclaimed an assembly at Christie's great room,
For adopting an heir, and reflected with tears
On the days when they boasted their vigour and bloom;
The doors were scarce opened, when thronging the space
With different pretensions the candidates pressed."
And so on. What happened does not much matter; but the lines certainly imply that there was at that time no other "repository" in London where the special works of two at least of the Muses would be likely to find competent critics. Messrs. Christie's sale room was removed in the year 1823 to King Street, St. James's Square.
It is mentioned incidentally by Miss Meteyard, in her "Life of Wedgwood," that in 1768 the great master of pottery was in treaty for some premises in Pall Mall, which had been formerly used as auction rooms, but were then occupied as an "Artists' Exhibition Gallery;" and she gives a print of the house as it then stood. The negotiation, however, passed off.
On the south side also, nearly opposite to the entrance leading to the west side of St. James's Square, is a mansion of the last century, built by Sir John Soane, formerly belonging to Lord Temple, and afterwards to his son, the Marquis of Buckingham, and sometimes therefore called Buckingham House. One night, if we may believe Sir N. W. Wraxall, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Nugent was at a party at Lord Temple's, when, in a foolish frolic, he laid a bet with his host that he would spit in Lord Bristol's hat. He coolly did so, then pretended to apologise for the indecorum, and asked to be allowed to wipe off the affront with his pocket-handkerchief. With a coolness and high breeding which marks the perfect gentleman, Lord Bristol took out his own handkerchief, and performed that office for himself, and then sat down to a rubber of whist. Next morning, however, Lord Bristol addressed him a note demanding an apology or instant satisfaction. Mr. Nugent, finding the matter serious, and not wishing to be made the laughing-stock of the town by fighting a duel for so silly a freak, found himself obliged to tender an apology, to which Lord Temple also was forced to subscribe, both asking his pardon at White's Club. Lord Bristol declared himself satisfied, and there the matter happily ended without blood being shed. This Lord Bristol was George, the eldest son of the famous Lord Hervey, whom Pope has most unjustly handed down to posterity as "Sporus" and "Lord Fanny," and like his father, he had an effeminate manner, which led Mr. Nugent to take the liberty of insulting him—with what result we have seen.
Mr. Nugent is the same individual of whom the same writer tells us another capital story. When he was a member of the House of Commons, in the early part of the reign of George III., a bill was introduced for the better watching of the streets of London and Westminster. One of the clauses proposed that watchmen should be made to go to sleep in the day-time, so as to make them the more active at night. Mr. Nugent, with admirable humour, got up, and in his usual Irish accent, begged the Ministers to include him personally in the provisions of the bill, as he was frequently so tormented with the gout that he could sleep neither by day nor by night. Glover, in speaking of this Mr. Nugent, describes him in very just terms, as "a jovial and voluptuous Irishman, who had left Popery for the Protestant religion, widows, and money." Singularly enough, a great part of his wealth in the end came to the son of this same Lord Temple, afterwards Marquis of Buckingham, by his marriage with Lord Nugent's daughter and heiress.
Buckingham House was the head-quarters of the Tory party in the eventful days of the struggles between Pitt and Fox. Accordingly it suffered some indignities from the mob who marched from Covent Garden to Devonshire House, carrying Mr. Fox in triumph on their shoulders as member for Westminster, in 1784. Five years later, the mansion of Lord Buckingham was tenanted by the Duchess of Gordon, whom Pitt and Dundas put forward as the Tory "Queen of Society," in opposition to the Duchess of Devonshire. With her five unmarried daughters she brought together here the leaders of the "constitutional" party, both Lords and Commons, summoning doubtful members to her receptions, questioning and remonstrating with them, and using all other feminine arts for confirming their allegiance to Pitt.
Buckingham House now forms part of the Government Offices, having been purchased by the War Department. The department of the Secretary for War, the duties of which were formerly performed at the Horse Guards, was established in the year 1856. Up to that time, as we learn from "Murray's Official Handbook," the business had formed part of the duty of the Secretary of State; but the consolidation of the finance of the army in his department had become so inconvenient, that this separate office was then created. Since the remodelling of the administration of our military department after the Crimean war, the Secretary of State for War has been really the supreme controller of the army, assuming and exercising a power which essentially minimises that of the Commander-in-Chief. "Not a soldier can be moved," writes the author of the "Personal History of the Horse Guards," "not an alteration effected, or a comfort administered which involves the expenditure of a shilling, unless it pleases the Secretary for War; he is the prime originator, the Commander-in-Chief the instrument; the one pulls the strings, the other is the puppet."
Before the War Office is a statue of Lord Herbert of Lea, its pedestal inscribed with the name by which he is better known, "Sidney Herbert." "It stands," observes the writer above quoted, "in front of the office which he had dignified by his labours and accomplishments."
At the western end of Pall Mall, and on the south side, almost completely shut out from view by the walls and out-buildings which partially enclose it, and also by the buildings forming the southern side of the street, stands Marlborough House, the town residence of the Prince of Wales. Built in 1709–10, by Sir Christopher Wren for John, Duke of Marlborough, on ground leased on easy terms to his Duchess by Queen Anne; it occupies the site of the old pheasantry of St. James's Palace, and of the garden of Mr. Secretary Boyle, the latter of which was taken out of St. James's Park. The supplement to the Gazette of April 18th, 1709, says:—"Her Majesty having been pleased to grant to his Grace the Duke of Marlborough the Friary next St. James's Palace, in which lately dwelt the Countess du Roy, the same is pulling down in order to rebuild the house for his Grace; and about a third of the garden lately in the occupation of the Right Hon. Henry Boyle, her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, is marked out in order to be annexed to the house of his Grace the Duke of Marlborough." The lease of the site was for fifty years, at a low rental; and this was nearly the only boon which the haughty and grasping Duchess of Marlborough obtained from her royal mistress, as she boasts in a letter of Vindication which was published in her name. How true this statement is will be seen presently.
Marlborough House is thus described by Defoe in his "Journey through England" in 1722:—"The palace of the Duke of Marlborough is in every way answerable to the grandeur of its master. Its situation is more confined than that of the Duke of Buckinghamshire, but the body of the house is much nobler, more compact, and the apartments better composed. It is situated at the west end of the King's Garden on the Park side, and fronts the Park, but with no other prospect but that view. Its court is very spacious and finely paved; the offices are large, and on each side as you enter; the stairs, mounting to the gate, are very noble."
The building is a stately red-brick edifice, ornamented with stone. The front is very extensive; and the wings on each side are decorated at the corners with stone rustic-work. A small colonnade extends on the side of the area next the wings; the opposite side of the area is occupied by sundry offices. The top of the house was originally finished with a balustrade, but that was subsequently altered, and the first storey crowned by an attic raised above the cornice. The front towards the Park resembles the other; only instead of there being two wings, there are niches for statues; and instead of the area as in front, there is a descent by a flight of steps into the gardens. The vestibule was painted with a representation of the battle of Hochstet, in which the most remarkable incident was the taking of Marshal Tallart, the French general, and several other officers of distinction, prisoners; the long series of battles in which the illustrious duke was engaged, including of course those of Malplaquet and Blenheim, were painted by La Guerre as ornaments for the house.
If Marlborough House, even now, is quiet and retired, what must it have been when it was first built, when it was shut in upon two sides by a grove of chestnut-trees, its west front open to the gardens of the Palace, its south to the Park, then private? "Here, and at Blenheim," observes Malcolm, "it might have been supposed that the conqueror of so many battles would have enjoyed the honours lavished on him; but party, ambition, and peculation stepped in, and prevented him from enjoying repose. Had he fallen in battle on the day of his last victory, his memory would have been more gratefully remembered by his countrymen."
It is well known to readers of history that the Duke of Marlborough outlived not only his fame but his reason, and during his latter years was reduced to a state of imbecility, of which he was so conscious that he never liked to be seen by strangers, becoming, as it has been said, a "driveller and a show;" though Archdeacon Coxe, in his "Life" of the duke—the substance of which was inspired by the family—appears to represent him as having retained his powers to the last. One day the witty Dr. Monsey being at Marlborough House, and wishing to get slily a view of the duke, hid himself behind a door in the hall, but did not manage to escape detection. Taylor tells us in his "Recollections" that "the duke, all the while that he was getting into his (sedan) chair, and when he was seated, kept his eye fixed on the doctor, and at the moment when the chairmen were carrying him away, the doctor saw the duke's features gather into a whimper like those of a child, and the tears start into his eyes."
Lord Sackville used to say that one of his earliest memories was that of being carried, when a child of five years old, to the gate of St. James's Palace, in order to see the great Duke of Marlborough, as he came away from court. "He was then (1721) in a state of caducity, but he still retained the vestiges of a most graceful figure, though he was obliged to be supported by a servant on either side, whilst the tears ran down his cheeks, just as he is drawn by Dr. Johnson. The populace cheered him as he passed through the crowd to enter his carriage. I have, however, heard my father say," adds Lord Sackville, "that the duke by no means fell into settled or irrecoverable dotage, as is commonly supposed, but manifested at times a sound understanding till within a very short period of his decease, occasionally attending the Privy Council, and sometimes speaking in his official capacity on matters of business with his former ability."
For the Duke of Marlborough's first step on the
ladder of advancement, as Macaulay hints in his
"History of England," he was perhaps indebted to
the fact of his sister Arabella Churchill being the
mistress of James II., as this led to his introduction to the gay scenes of court life. Of the duke
in his early days, Macaulay tells a story to the
effect that he was one day nearly surprised by the
King in the chamber of the Duchess of Cleveland,
but effected his escape by leaping out of the window in time to shield his paramour. The duchess
rewarded her youthful lover with a present of
£5,000, which the prudent young officer laid out
in the purchase of a well-secured annuity. Pope
adds, it is to be hoped untruly, though we know
that the duke grew very avaricious in his old
"The gallant, too, to whom she paid it down,
Lived to refuse his mistress half-a-crown."
So intense was the avarice of the old duke, who at his death in 1722 left a million and a half behind him, that he would walk home from the Palace or from his neighbour's house, however cold the night, in order to save sixpence in the hire of a sedan chair.
Pope often satirised the Duke of Marlborough.
In the early editions of the "Moral Essays" the
following lines were inserted, though subsequently
"Triumphant leaders at an army's head,
Hemm'd round with glories, pilfer cloth, or bread;
As meanly plunder as they bravely fought,
Now save a people, and now save a groat."
The satire here is general as respects the army—and nothing could be more lax or extravagant than the system of military accounts and supplies—but the poet evidently points to Marlborough, whose avarice he frequently condemns. The general did not pilfer, but he had taken presents from army contractors. One of the most striking illustrations of his penurious habits, and the best comment on Pope's verses, is an anecdote related by Warton, on the authority of Colonel Selwyn. The night before the battle of Blenheim, after a council of war had been held in Marlborough's tent, at which Prince Louis of Baden and Prince Eugene assisted, the latter, after the council had broken up, stepped back to the tent to communicate something he had forgotten, when he found the duke giving orders to his aide-de-camp at the table, on which there was now only a single light burning, all the others having been extinguished the moment the council was over. "What a man is this," said Prince Eugene, "who at such a time can think of saving the ends of candles!"
After her husband's death his widow, Sarah, continued to live here, and, as we know from the diaries of the time, delighted to speak of "neighbour George," as she styled the Hanoverian King who lived in St. James's.
The readers of English history, and of Mr. Harrison Ainsworth's historical romance of "St. James's," will not need to be reminded of the character of this imperious and ambitious woman, who kept Queen Anne, as well as her court, in awe of her power. It may be well, however, to say that, from the day of that Queen's accession, she lost no opportunity of aggrandising her husband's family and her own at the cost of the patient and long-enduring public. She quickly obtained from the personage whom she styled "her royal mistress," besides large pensions, the posts of Groom of the Stole, Keeper of the Great and Home Parks, and of the Privy Purse, and Mistress of the Robes, whilst she extended her female influence by uniting her eldest daughter, Lady Henrietta Churchill, to the eldest son of the Earl of Godolphin, the Lord High Treasurer; her second daughter, Lady Anne, to the Earl of Sunderland; her third, Lady Elizabeth, to the Earl of Bridgewater; and her youngest, Lady Mary, to the Marquis of Monthermoer, afterwards by her interest created Duke of Montagu. Hence the Marlborough and Godolphin party, having almost a monopoly of court influence and favour, were called by their opponents "The Family."
The duchess was accustomed to give here an annual feast, to which she invited all her relations, many of whom were expectant legatees in case of her demise. At one of these family gatherings, she exclaimed, "What a glorious sight it is to see such a number of branches flourishing from the same root!" "Alas!" sighed Jack Spencer to a first cousin next him, "the branches would flourish far better if the root were under ground."
Here, too, in October, 1744, having survived all her children but one, and her husband by more than twenty years, the duke's haughty and imperious widow died at the age of eighty-four. The youngest of the three daughters of a plain country gentleman, Mr. Richard Jennings, of Holywell, on the outskirts of the town of St. Albans, she was sent to London at twelve years old, to become the playmate of the Princess Anne at the court of James II., in each of whose wives she found a patroness in succession. At nineteen she married Colonel John Churchill, "the handsome Englishman," whose merits Turenne had even then acknowledged. Though fond of her husband almost to a fault, she became so intimate a friend of the Princess that they agreed to call each other "Mrs. Freeman" and "Mrs. Morley" respectively. She had apartments in the "Cock-pit" at Whitehall before the abdication of James, and so played her cards as to become a necessary adjunct to the courts of Mary and of Anne, in both of which successively she reigned as "Queen Sarah," at once a beauty and a wit. For the first ten years of Anne's reign she governed the Queen herself without a rival, her husband's successes in war serving to consolidate her power. The accession of Harley and the Tory and High Church party to place and power to some extent shook her influence at Court, which was still further imperilled by her opposition to Queen Anne's wish to exclude the Hanoverian succession. She now became head of the opposition, and exerted in this capacity a really formidable power. She was attacked by Swift, and waged war to the knife with Sir John Vanbrugh, all the years during which he was building Blenheim, and also with Sir Robert Walpole, in spite of his Whig principles. To attempt to give an outline of her career, however, would be to write the history of three reigns, which would be foreign to our purpose here.
Many anecdotes of the Duchess of Marlborough are to be gleaned from books of cotemporary memoirs; none, however, show her character more forcibly than the following:—After the death of her husband, the great Duke of Marlborough, her hand was solicited—partly, no doubt, on account of her wealth—by Charles Seymour, the "Proud" Duke of Somerset, whose first wife had been the heiress of the Percies, and who thought that he honoured her by making the offer of his hand. "The widow of Marlborough shall never become the wife of any other man," was her haughty reply. Whilst she filled the salons of Marlborough House with the leaders of the Whig party, the "queen" of the Jacobite Tory circles was the Duchess of Buckingham, a natural daughter of James II. For her rival she felt both contempt and aversion. Her Grace of Buckingham, on being left a widow, made for him a funeral just as splendid as that with which "Queen" Sarah had honoured her lord; and when her son died, she even sent to Marlborough House to borrow the funeral car on which the hero of Blenheim had been conveyed to his tomb. "It carried my Lord of Marlborough," cried the duchess fiercely, "and it never shall carry any other." "It is of no consequence." retorted her Grace of Buckingham; "since I made the request, I have seen the undertaker, who tells me that he can make as good a one for twenty pounds."
Many good stories, as may easily be imagined, are current respecting the Duchess of Marlborough. It is said she once pressed the duke to take a medicine, adding, with her usual warmth, "I'll be hanged if it do not prove serviceable." Dr. Garth, who was present, exclaimed, "Do take it, then, my lord duke, for it must be of service one way or the other." Among the duchess's constant guests was Bishop Burnet, whose absence of mind was notorious. Dining with her Grace after her husband's fall, he compared that great general to Belisarius. "But," said the duchess, eagerly, "how came it that such a man was so miserable, and universally deserted?" "Oh, madam," exclaimed the distrait prelate, "he had such a brimstone of a wife!"
Horace Walpole tells an amusing anecdote about the haughty duchess in her last days. He writes:—"Old Marlborough is dying; but who can tell? Last year she had lain a great while ill, without speaking. Her physician said, 'that she must be blistered, or she will die.' She called out, 'I won't be blistered, and I won't die!' And she kept her word; at all events, she recovered for a time."
Many Londoners, no doubt, have often wondered why the houses between Marlborough House and Pall Mall, which so obstruct the view, have never been removed. The reason is given by Thornton in his "Survey of London and Westminster:"—"When this noble structure was first finished, the late Duchess of Marlborough intended to have opened a way to it from Pall Mall, directly in the front, as appears from the manner in which the court-yard is formed. But she reckoned without her host: Sir Robert Walpole having purchased the house before it, and not being on good terms with the duchess, she was prevented from executing her design."
The mansion was bought by the Crown, in the year 1817, for the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, but the Princess died before the purchase was actually completed. Her widower, however (afterwards King of the Belgians), lived in it for several years.
In 1828 there was a talk, but only a talk, as we learn from the Correspondence of the Duke of Wellington, about pulling down Marlborough House and building a street upon its site. The question appears to have been discussed among the Lords of the Treasury on financial grounds, and then to have died away; probably their decision, if any was arrived at, was based on the experience gained at Carlton House.
Considering that Marlborough House has been the residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales ever since their marriage in 1863, having been settled in 1850 on the Prince on his coming of age, it seems strange to find the following paragraph in the Weekly Post of 1714:—"The Duke of Marlborough has presented his house to the Prince and Princess of Wales; and it is said a terrace walk will be erected, to join the same to St. James's House (sic)." The mansion then lent to the one Prince of Wales is now the property of the other.
Shortly after the settlement of Marlborough House upon the Prince of Wales, the lower part of the building was appropriated to the accommodation of the Vernon collection of pictures, and others of the English school, until they could be fitly hung in the National Gallery. The upper rooms were set apart for the use of the Department of Practical Art, for a library, museum of manufactures, the ornamental casts of the School of Design, a lecture-room, &c. Here, in 1852, was designed the Duke of Wellington's funeral car. which was subsequently exhibited to the public in a temporary building in the court-yard.
A few of the literary associations of Pall Mall in the last century are thus briefly recorded by Mr. John Timbs in his "Curiosities of London:"—"In gay bachelor's chambers in this street lived 'Beau Fielding'—Steele's 'Orlando the Fair;' here he was married to a supposed lady of fortune, brought to him in a mourning coach and dressed in widow's weeds, which led to his trial for bigamy. Fielding's namesake places Nightingale and Tom Jones in Pall Mall, when they leave the lodgings of Mrs. Miller in Bond Street. Letitia Pilkington for a short time kept here a pamphlet and print shop. At the sign of 'Tully's Head,' Robert Dodsley, formerly a footman, opened a shop in 1735, with the profits of a volume of his poems and of a comedy, published through the kindness of Pope; and this soon afterwards was followed by the 'Economy of Human Life,' and Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy.' Robert Dodsley retired in 1759, but his brother James, his partner, continued the business until his death in 1797; he is buried at St. James's, Piccadilly." The "Tully's Head" was the resort of Pope, Chesterfield, Lyttelton, Shenstone, Johnson, and Glover, as also of Horace Walpole, the Wartons, and Edmund Burke.
The sign of Dodsley's house—which, by the
way, was in an age before shops were designated
by numbers—was set up out of his regard for
Cicero. It is thus mentioned in a newspaper of
the time:—"Where Tully's bust and honour'd name
Point out the venal page,
There Dodsley consecrates to fame
The classics of the age.
Persist to grace this humble post
Be Tully's head the sign,
Till future booksellers shall boast,
To sell their tomes as thine."
At Dodsley's, in the winter of 1748–49, was
held a meeting at which Warton, Moore, Garrick,
Goldsmith, Dr. Johnson, and other literary men
were present: on this occasion the title of the
then newly intended periodical, the Rambler, was
discussed. "Garrick," says Boswell, "proposed
that it should be called the 'Salad,' on account of
the variety of its ingredients"—a name which, by
a curious coincidence, was afterwards applied to
himself by Goldsmith:—
"Our Garrick's a salad, for in him we see
Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree!"
Dodsley proposed that it should be called the World, and at last the company parted without any suggestion of which they all approved being offered. Johnson, it is well known, the same night sat down by his bedside, and resolved that he would not go to sleep till he had fixed a title. "The Rambler seemed to me the best," he says, "and so I took it."
At Dodsley's shop was published in 1759 the first volume of the Annual Register, planned and prepared by Edmund Burke, whose name had recently become known to the world by his "Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful." To it Burke contributed for many years the department entitled "The Historical Chronicle," as well as some philosophical and other essays. The result was to establish the reputation of the Annual Register as a standard work of reference and general information, and for a century and more a fit companion for our library shelves to the Gentleman's Magazine.
Dodsley's shop, as already remarked, was the recognised rendezvous and centre of all who were learned or who cultivated a literary taste. Hence when Burke anonymously published his "Vindication of Natural Society" as a satire on and imitation of Lord Bolingbroke, we read that the poet David Mallet rushed into Mr. Dodsley's when it was most crowded, and made an open disclaimer of its authorship on behalf of both Bolingbroke and himself.
In 1780, Mr. H. Payne, whose shop, as we learn from his title-pages, stood "opposite Marlborough House in Pall Mall," published for an unknown and unbefriended writer named George Crabbe, "The Candidate; a Poetical Epistle to the Authors of the Monthly Review." Crabbe was poor; within a few weeks his publisher failed; and the young poet was plunged into great perplexity, which led him to seek aid—but in vain—in high circles, where afterwards, when he no longer needed it, he found ready assistance and support. So selfish and blind is human nature.
Apropos of the literary character or reputation of this locality in former times, it may be stated that Pall Mall has given a name to more than one newspaper, all of which perhaps have almost passed clean out of memory. In 1865 was commenced the evening paper bearing the title of the Pall Mall Gazette; this, however, has little or nothing to do with Pall Mall, except that it is supposed to retail much of Club talk and gossip. There was published in the reign of George II. a collection of loose tales and biographical sketches, mainly taken from West-end life, and named the "Pall Mall Miscellany." It went through several editions.
As a proof of the rural character of this part of the town, it may be mentioned that in the reign of Charles II. there was in Pall Mall—as at a later time in Piccadilly—an inn rejoicing in the name of the "Hercules' Pillars," denoting, of course, the very westernmost extremity of what then was the metropolis.
"The Feathers" is, of course, the symbol of the Prince of Wales; and there can be no doubt that, considering the fact of the Prince and Princess of Wales being resident at Marlborough House, the sign of "The Feathers" would be by far the most popular now-a-days, if it were still the fashion to denote the houses in Pall Mall and elsewhere by signs instead of numbers.
There was a sign of "The Feathers" in Pall Mall during the time of the Great Plague, as is clear from the following advertisement in one of the newspapers published at that time:—"The late Countess of Kent's powder has been lately experimented upon divers infected persons with admirable success. The virtues of it against the plague and all malignant distempers are sufficiently known to all the physicians of Christendom, and the powder itself, prepared by the only person living that has the true receipt, is to be had at the third part of the ordinary price at Mr. Calvert's, at 'The Feathers,' in the old Pall Mall, near St. James's," &c.
On the north side of Pall Mall, a little to the east of St. James's Street, stood formerly the Shakespeare Gallery, the creation of that real and true patron of art, and especially of historical painting and engraving, Alderman Boydell, whose name is far less well known than it deserves to be among artists and men of taste. Beginning life as an engraver, he spent a larger sum than any nobleman had done up to that time in encouraging a British school of engraving; for, as he tells us in one of his appeals, "when he commenced business nearly all the fine engravings sold in England were imported from abroad, and more especially from France." The outbreak of the French Revolution seriously embarrassed his venture in this artistic business, and in 1789 he was obliged to make arrangements for disposing of his Gallery. He brought out, however, a costly edition of the works of Shakespeare, the profits of which, together with a Shakesperian lottery, saved him from bankruptcy. After his death, however, the Gallery was for some years vacant, and Malcolm in 1807 speaks of it as "a melancholy memento of the irretrievable ruin of the arts in England."
When Alderman Boydell first proposed, in the
interest of the fine arts, to issue his superb edition
of Shakespeare, an envious cotemporary imputed
his patriotism to sheer vanity, and the following
lines appeared in one at least of the journals:—
"Old Father Time, as Ovid sings,
Is a great eater up of things,
And without salt or mustard
Will gulp down e'en a castle wall
As easily as at Guildhall
An alderman eats custard.
But Boydell, careful of his fame,
By grafting it on Shakespeare's name,
Shall beat his neighbours hollow:
For to the Bard of Avon's stream
Old Time has said, with Polypheme,
'You'll be the last I'll swallow.'"
In the last century, the pillory was occasionally set up here, as well as at Charing Cross; one of the last sufferers from this punishment in Pall Mall was a notorious lady, of the stamp of Mrs. Cornelys, who was pelted with rotten eggs by the gentry as well as by the rabble, and, if tradition may be believed, by the soldiery as well. She had probably been plying her trade in the neighbourhood of St. James's.
John Timbs reminds us that Pall Mall had at an early date its notable sights and amusements. "In 1701 were shown here models of William III.'s palaces at Loo and Hunstaerdike, 'brought over by outlandish men,' with curiosities disposed of 'on public raffling days.' In 1733 'a holland smock, a cap, checked stockings, and laced shoes,' were run for by four women in the afternoon, in Pall Mall; and one of its residents, the High Constable of Westminster, gave a prize laced hat to be run for by five men, which created so much riot and mischief that the magistrates issued precepts to prevent future runs to the very man most active in promoting them!" In the old "Star and Garter" house, westward of Carlton House, was exhibited, in 1815, the Waterloo Museum of portraits and battle scenes, cuirasses, helmets, sabres, firearms, and trophies of Waterloo; besides a large picture of the battle painted by a Flemish artist. At No. 121 Campanani exhibited his Etruscan and Greek Antiquities, in rooms fitted up as the "Chambers of Tombs."
At No. 52, on the north side, now the Marlborough Club, the British Institution was founded as far back as 1805 for the encouragement of native art, by affording to English artists facilities for the exhibition and sale of their productions. The Institution had two exhibitions every year; the former from February to May for the works of living artists, and the latter from June to the end of the summer for the works of old masters, lent by their owners for the occasion. Here was exhibited West's large picture of "Christ healing the Sick in the Temple," bought by the British Institution for 3,000 guineas, and presented to the National Gallery. Pall Mall has always been a place for exhibitions, especially of pictures. In the present year (1875) here are three or four galleries devoted to the fine arts:—No. 53 is the Institute of Painters in Water Colours; the British Gallery of Art is at No. 57; and No. 120, further eastward, is the French Gallery.
On the site of the British Institution, in the early part of the reign of George III. (1764–5), was "Almack's Club." It was celebrated as the home of Macaronis and high play. It was afterwards known as "Goose-tree's" Club, and William Pitt was one of its frequenters. It was here that he made the acquaintance of Wilberforce. Of the association so long known as "Almack's" we shall have more to say when we come to King Street. Mr. Timbs mentions here a club called the "Je ne sais quoi" Club, of which he says that the Prince of Wales, the Dukes of York, Clarence, Orleans, Norfolk, and Bedford, were members; but no details of its history are known to exist.
Among the habitués of Pall Mall, in the days of the Regency, was George Hanger, the eccentric "Lord Coleraine." Mr. C. Redding says in his "Recollections:"—"He might be seen in Pall Mall riding his grey pony without a servant; then dismounting at a bookseller's shop, he would get a boy to hold his horse, and sit upon the counter for an hour, talking to Burdett, Bosville, or Major James, who used to haunt that shop, Budd and Calkin's then or afterwards. He was a very rough subject, but honest to the backbone, and plain speaking. He carried a short, thick shillelagh, and now and then took his quid. A favourite of the Prince of Wales, he administered a well-merited reproof to the Prince and the Duke of York one day at Carlton House for the grossness of their language. His name in consequence became no longer on the list of guests there. Upon this, as often related by others, he advertised himself as a coal merchant. Meeting the Prince one day on horseback afterwards, the former addressed him, "Well, George, how go coals now?" "Black as ever, please your Royal Highness," was the quick reply.
In this street was living Lord George Germain, when Secretary of State for the American department in 1781; and here Sir N. W. Wraxall, Lord Walsingham, and a large party were dining in the November of that year, when a messenger arrived announcing the defeat and surrender of the forces in America under Lord Cornwallis. The tidings sent on to the King at Kew, Wraxall tells us, never disturbed the King's dignity nor affected his self-command, deeply as it grieved his heart.
At her residence in Pall Mall, in 1815, at the age of eighty-three, died the celebrated Mrs. Abington, the first actress who played the part of Lady Teazle in the "School for Scandal." "Of all the theatrical ungovernable ladies under Mr. Garrick's management," says Mr. Raikes, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," "Mrs. Abington, with her capriciousness, inconsistency, injustice, and unkindness, perplexed him the most. She was not unlike the miller's mare, for ever looking for a white stone to shy at. And though no one has charged her with malignant mischief, she was never more delighted than when in a state of hostility, often arising from most trivial circumstances, discovered in mazes of her own ingenious construction. Mrs. Abington, in order to keep up her card-parties, of which she was very fond, and which were attended by many ladies of the highest rank, absented herself from her abode to live incog. For this purpose she generally took a small lodging in one of the passages leading from Stafford Row, Pimlico, where plants are so placed at the windows as nearly to shut out the light, at all events, to render the apartments impervious to the inquisitive eye of such characters as Liston represented in 'Paul Pry.' Now and then, she would take a small house at the end of Mount Street, and there live with her servant in the kitchen, till it was time to reappear; and then some of her friends would compliment her on the effects of her summer's excursion."
About the year 1760 a gentleman named Backwell, one of the partners in the banking-house of Messrs. Child, of Temple Bar, started on his own account a bank in Pall Mall, and named it "The Grasshopper." It dragged on its existence, in anything but prosperity, for something less than fifty years, when it closed its accounts, and its business was absorbed into other establishments. The exact site of the bank, however, is not known.
As one of the leading thoroughfares in the
neighbourhood of the Court and the aristocracy,
Pall Mall is very naturally associated in our minds
with the coaches and sedan chairs of our grandfathers' days. Nor will the English reader probably have forgotten how Gay alludes to the latter
in his "Trivia:"—
"For who the footman's arrogance can quell,
Whose flambeau gilds the sashes of Pall Mall,
When in long ranks a train of torches flame,
To light the midnight visits of the dame?"
But of these we have already spoken in our chapter on St. James's Palace.
In this street was an old and fashionable hotel, now long forgotten, named the "Star and Garter." Here, as we learn from the title-page of a small publication on the rules of that English game, were "The Laws of Cricket revised on February 25, 1774, by a committee of noblemen and gentlemen." The "Rules" are prefaced by a woodcut of the bat then in use, which appears to have been curved, and with a face perfectly flat, whereas the modern bat is quite straight, and has a face slightly convex. Perhaps the best information about the early history of the game is to be found in "The Young Cricketer's Tutor, by John Nyren," who was for many years a celebrated member of the Hambledon Club.
In one of the public rooms of the "Star and Garter," in 1762, was fought the fatal duel between William, fifth Lord Byron, and his neighbour in Nottinghamshire, old Mr. Chaworth. The ground of the quarrel was a trivial one, arising out of a heated argument over a dinner-table; but in little more than an hour from its commencement, Mr. Chaworth received a mortal wound from his opponent. Lord Byron—who was the great-uncle and immediate predecessor of the poet—was tried for the capital offence; but the House of Lords found him guilty of manslaughter only, and, as he pleaded his privilege of peerage, he was let off, and discharged from custody on payment of the fees! The "Star and Garter" was famous for its choice dinners and its exorbitant prices, as we learn from the Connoisseur of 1754.
It may sound strange when we tell our readers that, as late as the year 1786, a highway robbery was committed on one of his Majesty's mails in Pall Mall. At all events, Horace Walpole writes in January of that year: "On the 7th, half an hour after eight, the mail from France was robbed in Pall Mall—yes, in the great thoroughfare of London, and within call of the Guard at the palace. The chaise had stopped, the harness was cut, and the portmanteau was taken out of the chaise itself. What think you of banditti in the heart of such a capital?"
The Hon. Amelia Murray writes, in her "Recollections," under the year 1811: "It was about this time that gas was first introduced into England; a German of the name of Winsor gave lectures about it in Pall Mall. He had made his first public experiments at the Lyceum, in the Strand, in 1803. He afterwards lighted with gas the walls of Carlton Palace Gardens, on the king's birthday, in 1807, and during 1809 and the following year he lighted a portion of Pall Mall. He died in 1830. My eldest brother," she adds, "and my uncle were so convinced of the importance of the discovery, that they exerted themselves to get a bill through Parliament which gave permission for an experiment to be made; and my uncle established the first gas-works. Like all the pioneers in great works, he was ruined, and his country place, Farnborough Hill, came to the hammer. Since then the old house has been taken down, and a modern mansion has been built by the present possessor of the property; and it is a curious circumstance that the new house is lit throughout by gas made upon the spot. The greatest chemists and philosophers may be mistaken. In 1809, Sir Humphry Davy gave it as his opinion that it would be as easy to bring down a bit of the moon to light London, as to succeed in doing so with gas!" Walker says, in his "Original:" "The first exhibition of gas was made by Winsor, in a row of lamps in front of the colonnade before Carlton House, then standing on the lower part of Waterloo Place; and I remember hearing Winsor's plan of lighting the metropolis laughed to scorn by a company of very scientific men." To our disgrace, Grosvenor Square was the last public place in the West-end of London where gas was adopted.
Macaulay thus records the state of the metropolis, in respect to lighting, two centuries ago:—"It ought to be noticed that, in the last year of the reign of Charles the Second, began a great change in the police of London, a change which has perhaps added as much to the happiness of the body of the people as revolutions of much greater fame. An ingenious projector, named Edward Heming, obtained letters patent conveying to him, for a term of years, the exclusive right of lighting up London. He undertook, for a moderate consideration, to place a light before every tenth door, on moonless nights, from Michaelmas to Lady Day, and from six to twelve of the clock. Those who now see the capital all the year round, from dusk to dawn, blazing with a splendour beside which the illuminations for La Hogue and Blenheim would have looked pale, may perhaps smile to think of Heming's lanterns, which glimmered feebly before one house in ten during a small part of one night in three. But such was not the feeling of his contemporaries. His scheme was enthusiastically applauded and furiously attacked. The friends of improvement extolled him as the greatest of all the benefactors of his city. What, they asked, were the boasted inventions of Archimedes, when compared with the achievement of the man who had turned the nocturnal shades into noon-day? In spite of these eloquent eulogies. the cause of darkness was not left undefended. There were fools in that age who opposed the introduction of what was called the new light, as strenuously as fools in our age have opposed the introduction of vaccination and railroads. Many years after the date of Heming's patent there were extensive districts in London in which no lamp was seen."
Those who may wish for further information on the subject of gas will find it in a work called "Angliæ Metropolis," 1690, sect. 17, entitled, "Of the New Lights," and in two works on gas-lighting by the late Mr, Samuel Clegg, jun. (son of the inventor of the gas-meter), and by Mr. Samuel Hughes, both published some years ago in Weale's "Educational Series."