Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF ST. JAMES'S SQUARE.
"John his dull invention racks,
To rival Boodle's dinners, or Almack's."
Heroic Epistle to Sir W. Chambers.
King Street—Nerot's Hotel—St. James's Theatre—Début of John Braham—An Amusing Story of him—Mr. Hooper opens the St. James's Theatre—Mr. Bunn and German Opera—The Name of the Theatre Changed to "The Prince's"—The Theatre opened with English Opera—Willis's Rooms—"Almack's"—The Dilettanti Society and their Portraits—Curious Comments on Quadrilles—A Ball in Honour of the Coronation of George IV.—Christie and Manson's Sale-rooms—Famous Residents in King Street—Louis Napoleon—Crockford's Bazaar—Duke Street and Bury Street—A Famous Lawyer and his Will—Steele—Swift and Crabbe—Yarrell, the Naturalist—York Street and its Foot Pavement—Charity Commission Offices—Jermyn Street—A Strange Story of a Truant Husband—The Brunswick Hotel—The Museum of Practical Geology—The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—The Turkish Bath—An Artists' Quarter—"Harlequin's" Account of the Neighbourhood.
Extending from the west side of the square to St. James's Street, parallel with Pall Mall and Jermyn Street, runs a thoroughfare to which the loyalty of the Stuart times gave the name of King Street. On the south side of this street, on the site now occupied by the St. James's Theatre, formerly stood a large building, long known as Nerot's Hotel. The premises were old, probably dating from the time of Charles II.; it had a large heavy staircase, carved after the fashion of the time, its panels being adorned with a series of mythical pictures of Apollo and Daphne and other heathen deities. The front of the house was pierced with no less than twentyfour windows.
The St. James's Theatre, like the New Royalty, owes its existence to one of those unaccountable infatuations which stake the earnings of a lifetime upon a hazardous speculation. It was built in 1835, from a design by Mr. Beazley, and at a cost of £26,000, by the celebrated John Braham, then sixty years of age. The great tenor, who was of Jewish origin, having from childhood developed remarkable vocal powers, made his début at the old Royalty Theatre in 1787, at the age of thirteen, as a pupil of Leoni; in the bills he is called "Master Abrahams." Here he is said to have attracted the notice of the wealthy Abraham Goldschmidt, who placed him under the tuition of Rauzzini, the director of the Bath concerts, in which city Braham first established his reputation as a vocalist. He returned to London in 1796, and made his appearance in Storace's opera of Mahmoud. Subsequently he proceeded to Italy, where he completed his musical studies, and returned to England in 1801, from which time he pursued his professional career with uninterrupted success. His delivery of the recitative "Deeper and deeper still," from Handel's Fephthah, is said to have been one of the finest specimens of tragic vocalisation ever heard. Charles Lamb says of him:—"There is a fine scorn in Braham's face. . . . . . The Hebrew spirit is strong in him, in spite of his proselytism. He cannot conquer the shibboleth: how it breaks out when he sings 'The children of Israel passed through the Red Sea!' The auditors for the moment are as Egyptians to him, and he rides over our necks in triumph. The foundation of his vocal excellence is sense." Henry Russell relates the following amusing story of him:—"His father's name was Abraham, and as he was short and stout, his neighbours nicknamed him 'Aby Punch.' Braham on one occasion was performing in an absurd pasticcio with Mrs. Crouch, Mrs. Bland, Kelly, and Jack Bannister. The scene represented the interior of an old country inn. [Enter Braham with a bundle slung to a stick on his shoulder.] 'I have been traversing this desolate country for days with no friend to cheer me. [Sits.] I am weary—yet no rest, no food, scarcely life. O Heaven, pity me! Shall I ever realise my hopes? [Knocks on the table.] What ho there, house! [Knecks again.] Will no one come!' [Enter Landlord.] 'I beg pardon, sir, but—[starts]. I know that face [aside]. What can I do for you, sir?' Braham: 'Gracious Heaven! 'tis he—the voice, the look—the —[with calmness]—Yes; I want food.' Landlord: 'Tell me, what brings one so young as thou appearest to be through this dangerous forest?' Braham: 'I will. For days, for months, oh! for years, I have been in search of my father.' Landlord: 'Your father!' Braham: 'Yes; my father. 'Tis strange—but that voice—that look—that figure—tell me that you are my father.' Landlord: 'No, I tell thee, no; I am not thy father.' Braham: 'Heaven protect me! Who, tell me, WHO IS MY FATHER?' Scarcely had Braham put this question when a little Jew stood up in an excited manner in the midst of a densely-crowded pit, and exclaimed, 'I knowed yer father well. His name was Abey Punch!' The performance was suspended for some minutes by the roars of laughter which followed this revelation."
Braham's theatre opened under the most favourable auspices on the 14th of December, 1835, with an original operatic burletta by Gilbert A'Beckett, entitled Agnes Sord, in which the principal parts were sustained by Messrs. Braham and Morris Barnett, and the Misses Glossop and P. Horton. An original interlude, A Clear Case, followed the opera, and an original farce, A French Company, concluded the performances. Braham appears to have been a liberal patron of dramatic writers, as we find an unusual number of "new and original" pieces produced at this theatre during his too brief reign, although far more numerous audiences assembled on the nights when he performed in his famous parts of "Fra Diavolo" and "Tom Tug," in The Waterman. Mrs. Honey and Love, the polyphonist, were engaged at the St. James's Theatre during Lent, 1836, Mrs. Honey appearing in the parts of "Captain Macheath," in the Beggar's Opera, and "Kate O'Brien," in Perfection. It seems rather ominous of the future that the first season of the new theatre lasted little more than three months, when Braham was glad to let it to Madame Jenny Vertpré for French plays, which commenced April 8th, 1836, and in which Mdlle. Plessis appeared. Braham re-opened his theatre on September 29th, 1836, with the somewhat pompous announcement that "The theatre having been, during the recess, perfected in all parts, was now admitted to be the most splendid in Europe!" The performances commenced on this occasion with The Strange Gentleman, by "Boz," followed by The Sham Prince, by John Barnett, concluding with The Tradesmen's Ball, all three being burlettas, and all "new and original." Dr. Arne's operetta of Artaxerxes was produced the following month, with Miss Rainforth as "Mandane," and Braham as "Artabanes." "Boz" again appears in December, 1836, as the author of the libretto of The Village Coquettes, the music being by John Hullah, in which the chief performers were Miss Rainforth and Messrs. Braham, Morris Barnett, Harley, and John Parry—a strong caste, indeed, and one which might have been supposed to ensure the success of any piece of average merit. The Village Coquettes seem, however, to have met with less favour than The Strange Gentleman, the latter having had a run of more than fifty nights, while the former disappeared from the bills after fifteen representations. By this time Wright and Mrs. Stirling had joined the already powerful company; yet, in spite of the combination of talent which he had assembled in his elegant little theatre, the unfortunate proprietor found himself at the close of the season of 1838 a ruined man, forced, at the age of sixty-four, to seek a maintenance in America by the exercise of his profession. Here he achieved as great a popularity as he had enjoyed in England, and on his subsequent return a few years later to his native land, his old age was made happy by the dutiful affection of his daughter, the Countess Waldegrave. He died in 1856, in his eighty-third year, leaving a name which will always be remembered as one of the greatest of English singers. His fame did not rest solely upon his remarkable skill as a scientific vocalist in operas and oratorios, but upon his exquisite and most pathetic rendering of the homely ballads and patriotic songs so dear to the heart of the people of every country, and to an especial degree of the people of England.
But to return to the history of the St. James's Theatre, which was opened by Mr. Hooper in 1839, with a company comprising Messrs. Dowton, Wrench, Alfred Wigan, Mdmes. Glover, Honey, Nisbett, and several other excellent performers from the Haymarket Theatre. As he was a sufficiently wise man in his generation to profit by the unfortunate experience of his predecessor, Hooper resolved not to depend upon talent alone for success. Van Amburgh, the lion-tamer, with his formidable troupe of wild beasts, had at this time gained such a triumph over Macready and the legitimate drama at Drury Lane, that, as Mr. Bunn, the lessee, tells us, whereas the latter had been playing (at £16 a night) to comparatively empty benches, the former now nightly exhibited his intrepidity before crowded audiences, including on several occasions the young Queen, who highly eulogised this fascinating exhibition! Mr. Hooper therefore announced that the St. James's Theatre would re-open on the 4th of February, 1839, with three new pieces, and a dozen lions and tigers of extraordinary size. The three new pieces consisted of a burletta, Friends and Neighbours, by Haynes Bayley; The Young Sculptor, by Henry Mayhew; and The Troublesome Lodger, by Bayley and Mayhew. Dowton, although at that time the oldest actor on the stage, having passed his seventieth year, was a universal favourite, as also were both Wrench and Mrs. Glover; but the manager soon found that the taste of the day gave four-legged performers so decided a preference over bipeds, that he started off to Paris and obtained the services of a troupe of highly-trained monkeys, dogs, and goats. The event proved his sagacity; the attraction was irresistible, and all the rank and fashion of the metropolis crowded to witness the antics of "Madame Pompadour, Mademoiselle Batavia, Lord Gogo, and his valet Jacob!" So, at least, says Theodore Hook, in an essay written during this year upon "The Decline of the Drama:"—
"Perhaps as great an alteration as any which has occurred during the present generation is to be found in the theatrical taste of the people—not to go back to the theatrical reign of Garrick, which terminated in 1811, during which the acceptance or rejection of a comedy formed the subject of general conversation. Then there were but two theatres, the seasons of which were limited from the 15th of September to the 15th of May. Then each theatre had its destined company of actors, a change in which, even in an individual instance, created a sensation in society. Theatrical representations had a strong hold upon the public, up to a much later period—in fact, until that which modern liberality denounced as a gross monopoly was abolished, and theatres sprung up in almost every street of the metropolis. The argument in favour of this extension was that the population of London and the suburbs had so much increased, that the demand for playhouses was greater than the supply, and that 'more theatres' were wanted. We have the theatres, but where are the authors and the actors to make them attractive? Monkeys, dogs, goats, horses, giants, lions, tigers, and gentlemen who walk upon the ceiling with their heads downwards, are all very attractive in their way, and they will sometimes, not always, fill the playhouses. But as to the genuine drama, the public taste has been weaned from it, first by the multitude of trashy diversions scattered all over the town, and, secondly, by the consequent scattering of the theatrical talent which really does exist. At each of these minor theatres you find some three or four excellent actors, worked off their legs, night after night, who if collected into two good companies, as of old, would give us the legitimate drama well and satisfactorily."
On the marriage of Her Majesty with Prince Albert, in February, 1840, a scheme was set on foot for the establishment of a German opera in London. An arrangement was effected with Herr Schuman, director of the opera at Mayence, and the St. James's Theatre, of which Mr. Bunn had become the lessee, was selected as a suitable locale for the purpose, and its name changed to "The Prince's Theatre," in honour of the illustrious bridegroom. Public expectation was wrought up to the highest pitch: a new entrance was made for Her Majesty and the Queen Dowager through Mr. Braham's private house; the Duke of Brunswick engaged the box next to that of the Queen for the season, and long before the opening night every box and stall had been disposed of. The German company, headed by their director, Herr Schuman, duly arrived in London, and the procession of carriages and baggage wagons, containing the stage wardrobes, decorations, and other articles, resembled, said the Era, "a troop of soldiers rather than a troupe of actors; it was, indeed, more like a military than a Thespian corps."
With all this flourish of trumpets, and under this distinguished patronage, "The Prince's" opened on the 27th of April, 1840. "Never was it our lot," says one of the weekly papers of that date, "to witness such a fashionable and crowded audience in the walls of any theatre. Many families of the highest rank were obliged to be contented with seats in the public and upper boxes, while the private ones were filled by their noble subscribers, including the Cambridge family, and a portion of that of the Queen Dowager. The two queens were prevented from attending by the death of the Countess of Burlington."The well-known and ever-popular Der Freischiits, by Weber, was judiciously chosen for the opening performance. Among the operas subsequently produced at this theatre were Spohr's Jessonda; his Faust, of which it was remarked that "the opera of Faust might be set to the text of the oratorio of The Day of Judgment, and would be as much in character with the one as with the other;" Weber's Euryanthe, said, on account of its dulness, to have been nicknamed in Germany Ennuianthe; Glück's Iphigenia in Tauris; and Beethoven's Fidelio.
The German singers were not generally admired. The Era remarks, apropos of the performance of Weber's Euryanthe: "Herr Poeck sang with great spirit and power, Schmerzer was good in some parts of the opera; but the ladies, whom out of gallantry we ought to praise, can only claim it on that head. If they had but moderate execution, and could but sing tolerably in tune, we would willingly excuse their badness of school, for we should at least hear the composer without being offended; but really (and the ladies must pardon us for saying so) such singers as Madame Fischer Schwartzböck and Madame Michalesi are sufficient to destroy the effect of any opera, however fine it may be." In spite of these trifling drawbacks, the Prince's Theatre continued to be both fashionably and fully attended up to the close of the season, and Herr Schuman, previous to his departure, is said to have expressed himself "confident that he had laid the foundation of a permanent German opera in England, and that he should return the following year, this, his experimental season, having proved that it would be worth his while to bring over the élite of the German singers."
These "great expectations" were never destined to be fulfilled. The late German opera-house reopened in November, 1840, under the management of Mr. Morris Barnett, with Fridolin, a new opera by Frank Romer, which, not proving a success, terminated the winter season before Christmas, and with it ended the career of this theatre as "The Prince's." In 1841 we find it was taken by Mr. Mitchell, and opened for French plays, in its old name of the St. James's, which it has ever since retained. Under the lesseeship of Mr. Mitchell, which lasted twelve years, the English public had an opportunity of witnessing the best works of the French dramatists, represented by the best native artists, such as the veteran Perlet, Achard, Ravel, Levasseur, Lemaitre, Mdlle. Plessy, the famous Dejazet, and the gifted Rachel, who, to use the fashionable cant, "created" the parts of "Adrienne Lecouvreur,' of Racine's Phédre, and of Corneille's "Camille" in Les Horaces. At the close of each of his last two seasons of French plays Mr. Mitchell essayed the experiment of a brief series of German dramas, but with no encouraging result. In 1855, the St. James's Theatre, then under the management of Mrs. Seymour, produced the lyrical drama of Alcestis, adapted from the Greek of Euripides, set to music by Glück, the choruses, &c., being under the direction of Sir Henry Bishop. This scarcely classical entertainment was lightened by two after-pieces, Abon Hassan, an extravaganza, and The Miller and his Men. Alcestis was not appreciated by the public, and was withdrawn after a few nights.
In June, 1859, an English opera by Edward Loder, entitled Raymond and Agnes, was brought out at this theatre, under the management of Augustus Braham, a son of the great tenor. The principal parts were sustained by Hamilton Braham, George Perren, Mdmes. Rudersdorf and Susan Pyne. But the St. James's Theatre would seem to have been the evil genius of the Braham family; for, although the opera was highly commended by musical authorities, and the caste unobjectionable, Raymond and Agnes proved an utter failure, and after being performed five nights to nearly empty benches disappeared on the sixth, to be seen and heard no more. From 1859 to 1863 the St. James's was successively leased to Messrs. F. B. Chatterton, Alfred Wigan, Frank Matthews, and B. Webster, the short tenure of each lease proving that the speculation was in no case satisfactory. The company during the greater part of the time comprised the two clever couples, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Wigan and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Matthews, Miss Rainforth, and Miss Herbert. The lastnamed lady became lessee of the theatre in 1864, but, although an elegant and highly popular actress, she, like her predecessors, failed to make a fortune out of the proverbially unfortunate place. In 1868 the management was assumed by Mrs. John Wood, a lively lady, whose piquant performance of "La Belle Sauvage" was the great hit of the season of 1869. In 1874, the St. James's acquired an unenviable notoriety from the nature of the entertainment offered, which fell under the ban of the Lord Chamberlain, and completed up to the present time the list of the misfortunes of this persistently unlucky little playhouse.
We learn casually from Forster's "Life of Charles Dickens," that when in 1846 the idea of giving readings from his published works first came into his head, he at first proposed to take the St. James's Theatre for that purpose.
Apropos of Mr. Braham's management of the St. James's, a story is told, which may be worth repeating here. Mr. Bunn was passing through Jermyn Street late one evening, and seeing Kenney at the corner of St. James's Church, swinging about in a nervous sort of manner, he inquired the cause of his being there at such an hour. He replied, "I have been to the St. James's Theatre, and, do you know, I really thought Braham was a much prouder man than I find him to be." On asking why, he answered, "I was in the greenroom, and hearing Braham say, as he entered, 'I am really proud of my pit to-night,' I went and counted it, and there were but seventeen people in it!"
Close by the St. James's Theatre are "Willis's Rooms," a noble suite of assembly-rooms, formerly known as "Almack's." The building was erected by Mylne, for one Almack, a tavern-keeper, and was opened in 1765, with a ball, at which the Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, was present. Almack, who was a Scotchman by birth, seems to have been a large adventurer in clubs, for he at first "farmed" the club afterwards known as "Brooks's." The large ball-room is about one hundred feet in length by forty feet in width, and is chastely decorated with columns and pilasters, classic medallions, and mirrors. The rooms are let for public meetings, dramatic readings, concerts, balls, and occasionally for dinners. Right and left, at the top of the grand staircase, and on either side of the vestibule of the ball-room, are two spacious apartments, used occasionally for large suppers or dinners.
In these rooms are held the re-unions of the Dilettanti Society. This society, as we have stated in a previous chapter, was established in the year 1734, and originally met at the "Thatched House" Tavern, St. James's Street, its object being "the promotion of the fine arts, combined with friendly and social intercourse." The members of this association dine here every fortnight during the "London season." The walls of the apartment are still hung with the portraits of the members, most of which were removed hither on the demolition of the old "Thatched House." Many of the portraits are in the costume familiar to us through Hogarth, others are in Turkish or Roman dresses, and several of them are so represented as to show the convivial nature of the gatherings for which they were famous: for instance, Sir Francis Dashwood, afterwards Lord Le Despenser, who figures as a monk at his devotions—the object on which his gaze is intently fixed, however, is not a crucifix, nor an image of "Our Lady;" Charles Sackville, Duke of Dorset, appears as a Roman soldier. The three principal pictures in the room are those by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was himself a member of the Dilettanti Society: one of these represents a group containing portraits of the Duke of Leeds, Lord Dundas, Lord Mulgrave, Lord Seaforth, the Hon. Charles Greville, Charles Crowle, Esq., and Sir Joseph Banks; another is a group treated in the same manner, containing portraits of Sir William Hamilton, Sir Watkin W. Wynn, Mr. Richard Thomson, Sir John Taylor, Mr. Payne Gallwey, and Mr. Spencer Stanhope; the third is a portrait of Sir Joshua himself, attired in a loose robe, and without the addition of his customary wig. There are also portraits of the late Lord Broughton (better known as Sir John Cam Hobhouse), and Lord Ligonier, and, in fact, nearly every man of note in the early part of the present century. The latest addition to the collection is the portrait of Sir Edward Ryan, who died in August, 1875.
"Almack's" was already established as a place of public amusement as far back as 1768, for in the Advertiser of November 12th, in that year, we find the following notice:—"Mr. Almack humbly begs leave to acquaint the nobility and gentry, subscribers to the Assembly in King Street, St. James's, that the first meeting will be Thursday, 24th inst. N.B. Tickets are ready to be delivered at the Assembly Room."
In a satire on the ladies of the age, published in
1773, we read—
"Now lolling at the Coterie and ' White's,'
We drink and game away our days and nights.
* * * * *
No censure reaches them at Almack's ball;
Virtue, religion—they're above them all."
The assembly which bore the title of "Almack's" was in its palmy days under the regulation of six lady patronesses, of the first distinction, whose fiat was decisive as to admission or rejection of every applicant for tickets, and became a most autocratic institution—quite an imperium in imperio. In fact, the entrée to "Almack's" was in itself a passport to the highest society in London, being almost as high a certificate as the fact of having been presented at Court.
Lady Clementina Davies writes in her "Recollections of Society:"—"At 'Almack's,' in 1814, the rules were very strict. Scotch reels and country dances were in fashion. The lady patronesses were all powerful. No visitor was to be admitted after twelve o'clock, and once, when the Duke of Wellington arrived a few minutes after that hour, he was refused admission."
A writer in the New Monthly Magasine (1824) observes: "The nights of meeting fall upon every Wednesday during the season. This is selection with a vengeance, the very quintessence of aristocracy. Three-fourths even of the nobility knock in vain for admission. Into this sanctum sanctorum, of course, the sons of commerce never think of intruding on the sacred Wednesday evenings; and yet into this very 'blue chamber,' in the absence of the six necromancers, have the votaries of trade contrived to intrude themselves."
Mr. T. Raikes tells us in his "Journal" that the celebrated diplomatiste, the Princess Lieven, was the only foreign lady who was ever admitted into the exclusive circle of the lady patronesses of this select society, into the tracasseries of which establishment she entered very cordially, though her manner, tinctured at times with a certain degree of hauteur, made her many enemies.
"At the present time," writes Captain Gronow, in 1862, "one can hardly conceive the importance which was attached to getting admission to 'Almack's,' the seventh heaven of the fashionable world. Of the three hundred officers of the Foot Guards, not more than half a dozen were honoured with vouchers of admission to this exclusive temple of the beau monde, the gates of which were guarded by lady patronesses, whose smiles or frowns consigned men and women to happiness or despair as the case might be. These 'lady patronesses,' in 1813, were the Ladies Castlereagh, Jersey, Cowper, and Sefton, Mrs. Drummond Burrell, afterwards Lady Willoughby d'Eresby, the Princess Esterhazy, and the Princess Lieven.
"The most popular amongst these grandes dames," he adds, "was unquestionably Lady Cowper, now Lady Palmerston. Lady Jersey's bearing, on the contrary, was that of a theatrical tragedy queen; and whilst attempting the sublime, she frequently made herself simply ridiculous, being inconceivably rude, and in her manner often ill-bred. Lady Sefton was kind and amiable, Madame de Lieven haughty and exclusive, Princess Esterhazy was a bon enfant, Lady Castlereagh and Mrs. Burrell de très grandes dames.
"Many diplomatic arts, much finesse, and a host of intrigues, were set in motion to get an invitation to 'Almack's.' Very often persons whose rank and fortunes entitled them to the entrée anywhere, were excluded by the cliqueism of the lady patronesses; for the female government of 'Almack's' was a pure despotism, and subject to all the caprices of despotic rule: it is needless to add that, like every other despotism, it was not innocent of abuses. The fair ladies who ruled supreme over this little dancing and gossiping world, issued a solemn proclamation that no gentleman should appear at the assemblies without being dressed in knee-breeches, white cravat, and chapeau bras. On one occasion, the Duke of Wellington was about to ascend the staircase of the ball-room, dressed in black trousers, when the vigilant Mr. Willis, the guardian of the establishment, stepped forward and said, 'Your Grace cannot be admitted in trousers;' whereupon the Duke, who had a great respect for orders and regulations, quietly walked away.
"In 1814, the dances at 'Almack's' were Scotch reels and the old English country dance; and the orchestra, being from Edinburgh, was conducted by the then celebrated Neil Gow. It was not until 1815 that Lady Jersey introduced from Paris the favourite quadrille, which has so long remained popular. I recollect the persons who formed the first quadrille that was ever danced at 'Almack's:' they were Lady Jersey, Lady Harriet Butler, Lady Susan Ryder, and Miss Montgomery; the men being the Count St. Aldegonde, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Montague, and Charles Standish. The 'mazy waltz' was also brought to us about this time; but there were comparatively few who at first ventured to whirl round the salons of 'Almack's;' in course of time Lord Palmerston might, however, have been seen describing an infinite number of circles with Madame de Lieven. Baron de Neumann was frequently seen perpetually turning with the Princess Esterhazy; and, in course of time, the waltzing mania, having turned the heads of society generally, descended to their feet, and the waltz was practised in the morning in certain noble mansions in London with unparalleled assiduity."
Mr. T. Raikes thus commemorates the arrival of the German waltz in England:—"No event ever produced so great a sensation in English society as the introduction of the German waltz in 1813. Up to that time the English country dance, Scotch steps, and an occasional Highland reel, formed the school of the dancing-master, and the evening recreation of the British youth, even in the first circles. But peace was drawing near, foreigners were arriving, and the taste for Continental customs and manners became the order of the day. The young Duke of Devonshire, as the 'magnus Apollo' of the drawing-rooms in London, was at the head of these innovations; and when the kitchen and country dance became exploded at Devonshire House, it could not long be expected to maintain its footing even in the less celebrated assemblies. In London, fashion is or was then everything. Old and young returned to school, and the mornings which had been dedicated to lounging in the Park, were now absorbed at home in practising the figures of a French quadrille, or whirling a chair round the room, to learn the step and measure of the German waltz. Lame and impotent were the first efforts, but the inspiring effect of the music, and the not less inspiring airs of the foreigners, soon rendered the English ladies enthusiastic performers. What scenes have we witnessed in those days at 'Almack's,' &c.! What fear and trembling in the débutantes at the commencement of a waltz, what giddiness and confusion at the end!
"It was perhaps owing to this latter circumstance that so violent an opposition soon arose to this new recreation on the score of morality.
"The anti-waltzing party took the alarm, cried it down, mothers forbade it, and every ball-room became a scene of feud and contention; the waltzers continued their operations, but their ranks were not filled with so many recruits as they expected. The foreigners, however, were not idle in forming their élèves; Baron Tripp, Neumann, St. Aldegonde, &c., persevered in spite of all the prejudices which were marshalled against them, every night the waltz was called, and new votaries, though slowly, were added to their train. Still the opposition party did not relax in their efforts, sarcastic remarks flew about, and pasquinades were written to deter young ladies from such a recreation.
"The waltz, however, struggled successfully through all its difficulties; Flahault, who was la fleur des pois in Paris, came over to captivate Miss Mercer, and with a host of others drove the prudes into their entrenchments; and when the Emperor Alexander was seen waltzing round the room at 'Almack's,' with his tight uniform and numerous decorations, they surrendered at discretion."
The author of "Memoirs of the Times of George IV." favours us with the following curious comments on quadrilles, then (1811) newly exhibited in England:—"We had much waltzing and quadrilling, the last of which is certainly very abominable. I am not prude enough to be offended with waltzing, in which I can see no other harm than that it disorders the stomach, and sometimes makes people look very ridiculous; but after all, moralists, with the Duchess of Gordon at their head, who never had a moral in her life, exclaim dreadfully against it. Nay, I am told that these magical wheelings have already roused poor Lord Dartmouth from his grave to suppress them. Alas! after all, people set about it as gravely as a company of dervises, and seem to be paying adoration to Pluto rather than to Cupid. But the quadrilles I can by no means endure; for till ladies and gentlemen have joints at their ankles, which is impossible, it is worse than impudent to make such exhibitions, more particularly in a place where there are public ballets every Tuesday and Saturday. When people dance to be looked at, they surely should dance to perfection. Even the Duchess of Bedford, who is the Angiolini of the group, would make an indifferent figurante at the opera; and the principal male dancer, Mr. North, reminds one of a gibbeted malefactor, moved to and fro by the winds, but from no personal exertion."
In July, 1821, a splendid ball was given here in honour of the coronation of George IV. by the special Ambassador from France, the Duc de Grammont. The King himself was present, attended by some of his royal brothers, the Duke of Wellington, and a numerous circle of courtiers. "Whatever French taste, directed by a Grammont, could do," writes Mr. Rush in his "Court of London," "to render the night agreeable, was witnessed. His suite of young gentlemen from Paris stood ready to receive the British fair on their approach to the rooms, and from baskets of flowers presented them with rich bouquets. Each lady thus entered the ball-room with one in her hand; and a thousand posies of sweet flowers displayed their hues, and exhaled their fragrance as the dancing commenced."
Here, from 1808 to 1810, Mrs. Billington, Mr. Braham, and Signor Naldi gave concerts, in rivalry with Madame Catalini at Hanover Square Rooms. In 1839 Master Bassle, a youth only thirteen years of age, appeared here in an extraordinary mnemonic performance; and in 1844 the rooms were taken by Mr. Charles Kemble, for the purpose of giving his readings from Shakespeare. In 1851, while the Great Exhibition was attracting its thousands, Thackeray here first appeared in public as a lecturer, taking as his subject "The English Humorists." Mr. Tom Taylor tells us an anecdote which belongs to his very first evening:—"Among the most conspicuous of the literary ladies at this gathering was Miss Bronté the authoress of 'Jane Eyre.' She had never before seen the author of 'Vanity Fair,' though the second edition of her own celebrated novel was dedicated to him by her, with the assurance that she regarded him 'as the social regenerator of his day—as the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped state of things.' Mrs. Gaskell tells us that, when the lecture was over, the lecturer descended from the platform, and making his way towards her, frankly asked her for her opinion. 'This,' adds Miss Bronte's biographer, 'she mentioned to me not many days afterwards, adding remarks almost identical with those which I subsequently read in "Villette," where a similar action on the part of M. Paul Emanuel is related.' The remarks of this singular woman on Thackeray and his writings, and her accounts of other interviews with him, will be found scattered about Mrs. Gaskell's biography of her."
As far back as 1840 it was pretty evident that "Almack's" was on the decline; as a writer in the Quarterly Review of that time puts it, there was "a clear proof that the palmy days of exclusiveness are gone by in England; and," he adds, "though it is obviously impossible to prevent any given number of persons from congregating and re-establishing an oligarchy, we are quite sure that the attempt would be ineffectual, and that the sense of their importance would extend little beyond the set."
Opposite Willis's Rooms are the auction-rooms of Messrs. Christie and Manson, still celebrated as ever for sales of pictures and articles of vertu. The sale-rooms of Messrs. Christie, as stated in a previous chapter, were originally in Pall Mall, but were removed hither in 1823. The eldest son of him who raised the firm to its lofty position, and who subsequently was himself its principal, was Mr. James Christie, no less distinguished as the scholar and the gentleman than as an auctioneer. His first literary production was a disquisition upon Etruscan vases, a subject suggested to him through his intimacy with the collection of the famous Townley Marbles. Works of a similar character followed at different times; and, without entering into particulars, it will be sufficient to transcribe the opinion of the author of a memoir in the Gentleman's Magazine, "that the originality of his discoveries is not less conspicuous than the taste and talent with which he explains them." To this we may add, from the same eloquent tribute to his memory, that it will not seem surprising to find that such a man "raised the business he followed to the dignity of a profession. In pictures, in sculpture, in vertu, his taste was undisputed, and his judgment deferred to, as founded on the purest models and the most accredited standard. If to these advantages we add that fine moral feeling and that inherent love of truth which formed the basis of his character, and which would never permit him for any advantage to himself or others to violate their obligations, we may then have some means of judging how in his hands business became an honourable calling, and how that which to many is only secular, by him was dignified into a virtuous application of time and talents." This, the best of auctioneers, if we may credit the portrait here drawn of him, died in 1831.
The prices realised in these rooms for books, pictures, prints, old china, and other curiosities and antiquities, have almost always been high, though they have varied according to the direction taken by each passing mania of the day. It is stated that a pair of Sevrès china vases, for which in 1874 Lord Dudley gave £6,000 at Christie's, were not worth more than as many hundreds. It appears that a rival commission for this was given by one of the Rothschilds. A story is also told of a nobleman who sent an agent to a sale here with directions to buy a certain picture. The work was knocked down for a very large sum. "Well," said his lordship a few days after the sale, "did you bring the picture home?" "No," said the steward, "it fetched an enormous price, I did not think it worth the money, so I did not buy it." "Sir," said his lordship, "I did not say anything about the price; I told you to buy the picture." Similarly, these two agents of china-loving millionaires were told to buy the vases, and it is a good thing for one of the purchasers that both of them were not guided by the story of the noble lord, who, by the way, finished his rebuke to the steward with the remark, "Sir, it was your duty to buy that picture if you and your opponent had remained bidding for it until Doomsday."
Among the most important sales that have taken place here of late years was that of the beautiful collection of modern pictures, water-colour drawings, and objects of art belonging to Mr. Charles Dickens, and removed hither from his residence at Gad's Hill, near Rochester, where he died; the prices realised at this sale are said to have been fabulous.
It may be interesting to record here the fact that the first book-auction in England, of which there is any record, was held in 1676, when the library of Dr. Searnan was brought to the hammer. Prefixed to the catalogue there is an address to the reader, saying, "Though it has been unusual in England to make sale of books by auction, yet it hath been practised in other countries to advantage." For general purposes this mode of sale was scarcely known till 1700.
In this street was born, in 1749, Mrs. Charlotte Smith, well known as a poet and a novelist. She was the daughter of Nicholas Turner, Esq., of Bignor Park, Sussex. She was the author of "The Old Manor House," "Rural Walks," and other works which enjoyed a wonderful popularity near the close of the last century. She died in October, 1806, at the age of fifty-seven.
At the beginning of 1847 the future Emperor of the French, then known as Prince Louis Napoleon, and an exile, took up his abode at No. 1c, on the north side of King Street, which bears on its front a tablet commemorating the fact. There he amused himself by collecting his books, portfolios, and family portraits, and made it his regular home. He was elected an honorary member of the Army and Navy Club, where he spent much of his spare time, rode in Hyde Park constantly, and frequented "Crockford's" in the evening. Here he entertained his friends quietly and unostentatiously, living quite a retired life in his "furnished apartments;" and it is pleasant news to learn, on the authority of Mr. B. Jerrold, that here the Prince made some clever sketches of decorations for Lady Combermere's and Lady Londonderry's stalls at the great military bazaar for the benefit of the Irish, which was held in the barracks of the Life Guards. Louis Napoleon was still living here in the following spring, when he served as one of 150,000 special constables who had been sworn in to keep order in anticipation of a Chartist rising. And here, too, he was residing when summoned to Paris a few months later by the events of the Revolution, which speedily raised him to the presidential chair, and ultimately to the imperial throne. When he entered London in 1855 along with his bride, the Empress Eugenie, he was seen to point out to her with interest and pleasure the street in which he had spent those months of weary waiting, as, amid the cheering of the crowds, the cortege drove slowly up St. James's Street.
At one corner of King Street, in the year 1832, a large saloon, nearly 200 feet in length, was built for Mr. Crockford, and opened by him as the St. James's Bazaar. It was not, however, successful in attracting visitors. Here were exhibited, in 1841, three dioramic tableaux of the second obsequies of the great Napoleon in Paris; and in 1844 the first exhibition of decorative works for the New Houses of Parliament was held here.
Two main thoroughfares connect King Street on the north with Jermyn Street—namely, Duke Street and Bury Street. In the former, on the 12th of February, 1781, was born Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and subsequently of England also, and one of the most consummate lawyers of the nineteenth century. His father was a fashionable hairdresser and wig-maker; and it is said—we know not with how much of truth—that the future occupant of the woolsack and "keeper of Her Majesty's conscience," as a boy, often held the bridles of the horses of customers who stopped to make their purchases at the shop of Mr. Richard Sugden. On one occasion, later in life, on the Sussex hustings, when reproached with his being the son of a barber, Mr. Sugden made the brave and noble reply, "The gentleman before me asks me if I remember that I am the son of a tradesman? Yes; I remember it, and know it, and am proud of it. But the difference between my assailant and myself is, that I, being a barber's son, have raised myself to the position of a barrister, while he, if he had been born like me, would doubtless have remained a barber's son, and perhaps a barber, all his life." As it was, he netted in middle life an income of twenty thousand a year, and no doubt was a great loser in money by accepting a seat upon the judicial bench. It was late in life that he took a peerage, his patent as Lord St. Leonard's being dated 1st of March, 1852, certain obstacles to its acceptance being then removed. His lordship died in January, 1875, having reached the good old age of ninety-four. His will was afterwards the subject of litigation, the result of which was to establish, under certain conditions, the validity of a formal declaration of a testator's intentions, if satisfactorily proved and corroborated, as equivalent to a written will, where that will was known to exist, but was accidentally lost.
In this street Edmund Burke was living in 1795 when his hopes and parental pride were raised to the highest pitch by the election of his only son, Richard, in his own room, as M.P. for Malton. These hopes, however, were destined to be speedily and rudely cast down, for no sooner had the father and son returned thither from Yorkshire than the latter was seized with a fatal illness, and died a week later at Brompton. The aged statesman was never himself again, and he survived the heavy blow only just two years.
At No. 10, now called Sussex Chambers, was formerly the Association of the Friends of Poland, over which the late Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart so long presided. This association was founded in 1832, for the purpose of diffusing information about Poland, of relieving poor Polish refugees, and of educating their children. The building, now the head-quarters of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, is, or once was, a very fine mansion, with a noble staircase, ornamental ceilings, and doors of the finest mahogany. It has below it large cellars and vaults, which, tradition says, went under Pall Mall and St. James's Park, and led to the Houses of Parliament. This, however, must be a fiction. There may, perhaps, be more truth in the story that the house was once occupied for a time by Oliver Cromwell.
Bury (or, more properly, Berry) Street, being so named after its original builder, being mainly let out as "apartments for bachelors," has had the honour of accommodating some distinguished residents; among others, Sir Richard Steele and Dean Swift, George Crabbe and Thomas Moore. Swift, as we learn from his writings, occupied a first-floor set of rooms, for which he paid eight shillings a week rent, "plaguy dear," as he remarks; but it is as well that he did not live here in our own day, and in the "season," or we fear that he would have found himself far more heavily rented.
Here, upon his marriage, in September, 1707, "Captain" (afterwards Sir Richard) Steele, the wit and essayist, took for his lady a house, "the third door from Germain [Jermyn] Street, left hand of Berry [Bury] Street." But it is clear, from autograph letters still to be seen at the British Museum, that the rent of this nuptial house, so sacred to "Prue," and to the tenderness and endearments of the honeymoon, was not paid until the landlord had put in an execution upon Steele's furniture. He appears soon after this to have migrated to Bloomsbury Square, where the same fate befell his establishment. Steele and "Prue" were married, in all probability, about the 7th of September in the above-mentioned year. "There are traces," writes Thackeray, "of a 'tiff' between them in the middle of the next month; she being as prudish and fidgety as he was impassioned and reckless."
Swift shared his lodgings here with his "Stella," Hester Johnson. Five doors off lived the rival lady, who flattered him and made love to him so outrageously, and in the end died for hopeless love of him—his "Vanessa." Thackeray tells us that Mrs. Vanhomrigh, "Vanessa's" mother, was the widow of a Dutch merchant who had held some lucrative posts in the time of King William. The family settled in London in Anne's reign, and had a house in Bury Street—"a street," he adds, "made notable by such residents as Steele and Swift, and in our own times by Moore and Crabbe." In one of his letters Swift describes his lodging in detail: he has "the first floor, a dining-room and bed-chamber, at eight shillings a week." He often lounged in upon the Vanhomrighs. In his journal to Stella, he writes: "I am so hot and lazy after my morning's walk that I loitered at Mrs. Vanhomrigh's, where my best gown and my periwig were, and, out of mere listlessness, dine there very often: so I did to-day."
On coming up to London from Trowbridge, late in life, George Crabbe took lodgings in this street, to be near Rogers and some other literary friends. Whilst here, he was a frequent visitor at Holland House, at Mr. Murray's, in Albemarle Street, and at Lansdowne House, from the doors of which he had been repulsed by its former owner, Lord Shelburne. At Holland House he made the acquaintance of Thomas Campbell, and Tommy Moore, and Brougham, and Sylvester Douglas, and the Smiths of the "Rejected Addresses," and Sydney Smith, and Ugo Foscolo. He writes in his "diary" on his return, "This visit to London has been indeed a rich one. I had new things to see, and was, perhaps, something of a novelty myself. Mr. Rogers introduced me to almost every man he is acquainted with; and in this number were comprehended all I was previously very desirous to obtain a knowledge of." It is only fair to add that by all that the quiet country parson-poet saw in the gay world of London he seems to have been quite unaltered, and that he returned to Trowbridge and his parochial duties with his head unturned and his kind heart unchanged.
At the corner of Ryder Street and Duke Street for many years lived William Yarrell, the naturalist, the author of "British Fishes," "British Birds," &c. He followed the trade of a news-agent. In 1849 he was elected a vice-president of the Linnæan Society. He died in 1856. His collections of British fishes, and the specimens illustrative of his papers in the "Transactions" of the Linnæan Society, were secured by the trustees of the British Museum at the sale of Mr. Yarrell's effects.
York Street, a short thoroughfare extending from the north side of St. James's Square to Jermyn Street, was the first street in London paved for foot-passengers. Strype, in his edition of Stow, describes it as "a broad street coming out of St. James's Square;" but, he adds, "the greatest part is taken up by the garden walls of the late Duke of Ormond's house on the one side, and on the other by the house inhabited by the Lord Cornwallis." On the eastern side of this street stood, till the present year, St. James's Chapel, a dull and poorlooking chapel-of-ease to the parish church. It was formerly occupied by Josiah Wedgwood, as a show-room for his pottery and porcelain from Etruria, in Staffordshire. In previous time this had been the residence of the Spanish ambassador, the chapel being used as a Roman Catholic place of worship under the ambassador's wing. It was subsequently used by Dissenting congregations, and from 1866 down to the time of its demolition it was the scene of the ministrations of the Rev. Stopford Brooke.
At No. 8 in this street are the offices of the Charity Commission. The endowed charities amounted, in 1786, according to returns then made to Parliament under the Gilbert Act, to £528,710 a year. A Committee of the House of Commons, moved for by Mr. Brougham in 1816, recommended an inquiry into their condition. The first commission for this purpose was appointed by the Crown, under an Act of 1818, and further commissions of inquiry were issued and prosecuted under that and several subsequent Acts, until 1837. During many years after this time, numerous ineffectual proposals were made, in and out of Parliament, for the establishment of some jurisdiction for the permanent superintendence and control of these endowments. In 1853, an Act for the better administration of charitable trusts was, however, obtained, appointing commissioners and inspectors, but with the very minimum of power which could be given without rendering the commission altogether nugatory. Beyond a veto on suits by any one but the Attorney-General, the commissioners had only powers of inquiry, of advice, and of rendering assistance in a few cases in which trustees might seek it. The Act enabled the Lord Chancellor to appoint official trustees of charity funds; and those officers, who were constituted in 1854, now hold probably upwards of a million and a half of charity stock. In 1855, another Act empowered the Board to apportion parish charities under £30 a year; but with regard to new schemes, its operations were still subordinate, not only to Chancery, but to the County Courts. An Act passed in 1860 for the first time gave the commissioners judicial power over charities of £50 a year, and like power, with the consent of the trustees, over larger charities; but being judicial, they can only be called into operation at the suit of persons interested in each case. Under the jurisdiction thus given, the Charity Commission has aided in establishing improved schemes in several cases; but a public department, which Parliament did not at its outset place even as high as a County Court, and which has ever since remained in the same position, cannot be expected to exercise influence enough with the public to originate and carry out any enlarged principles of administration on a subject in which so many individual and local prejudices are to be encountered. The Education Commissioners have proposed to vest the control of charities in a committee of the Privy Council, which might be governed less by technical and narrow rules than by an enlightened public opinion.
Abutting on York Street is Ormond Yard, so called after the Duke of Ormond, who suffered so severely in the royal cause during the Civil War. Mr. P. Cunningham reminds us that "the gallant Earl of Ossory" was his son, and the beautiful Countess of Chesterfield, of De Grammont's "Memoirs," his daughter, and that his grandson and heir was attainted in 1715 for his share in the rebellion of that year.
Jermyn Street, which runs parallel with Piccadilly on the north side of St. James's Square, and extends from St. James's Street to the Haymarket, was named from Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans. This nobleman's residence, called St. Albans House, was on the south side of the street, and its site was afterwards occupied by part of Ormond House, of which we have already spoken. Like many other staunch loyalists, the Earl of St. Albans was little remembered by Charles II. He was, however, an attendant at court, and one of his Majesty's companions in his gay hours. On one of these occasions a stranger came with an importunate suit for an office of great value just vacant. The King, by way of joke, desired the Earl to personate him, and commanded the petitioner to be admitted. The gentleman, addressing himself to the supposed monarch, enumerated his services to the royal family, and hoped the grant of the place would not be deemed too great a reward. "By no means," answered the Earl, "and I am only sorry, that as soon as I heard of the vacancy, I conferred it on my faithful friend, the Earl of St. Albans," pointing to the King, "who constantly followed the fortunes both of my father and myself, and has hitherto gone unrewarded." Charles granted, for this joke, what the utmost real service would not have received. The Earl was supposed to have been privately married to the Queen Dowager, Henrietta Maria, who, as Pennant puts it, "ruled her first husband, a king; but the second, a subject, ruled her." The Earl died here in 1683.
In Jermyn Street, near the church, there was living, in the reign of Queen Anne, a Mrs. Howe, of whom, or rather of whose husband, we find an amusing account in Dr. W. King's "Anecdotes of his Own Time." Her maiden name was Mallett; she was of a good family in the West of England, and married a Mr. Howe, who had a fortune of some £700 or £800 a year. Seven or eight years after his marriage, when he had two children, apparently without any reason he disappeared from his home in Jermyn Street, leading his wife to suppose that he had gone abroad. For seventeen years she heard no tidings of him, and, her two children having died, she removed into a smaller abode in Brewer Street, Golden Square. It appears that during all this long period Mr. Howe had gone no further away than Westminster, where he lived under an assumed name, and disguised in dress; that he constantly saw his wife at St. James's Church, Piccadilly (being so placed that she could not see him); and even frequented a coffee-house, from the window of which he could see his own wife at her meals. The strangest thing is, that the coffee-house keeper, supposing him to be an elderly bachelor, recommended to him the deserted lady and supposed widow as a wife. At the end of seventeen years, Mr. Howe sent to his wife an anonymous letter, begging her to be the next night, at a particular hour, in Birdcage Walk. On repairing thither, the truant husband declared himself, and they lived happily together ever afterwards. It appears that the eccentric old gentleman was in the habit of even reading in the newspapers his wife's petition for a private Act of Parliament, entitling her and her children to a maintenance out of his estate; but that, in spite of this, he continued to keep up his incognito. The story is improbable, and would make the subject of a comedy.
At the Brunswick Hotel, in this street, Louis Napoleon took up his residence, under the assumed name of the Comte d'Arenenberg, on his escape from his captivity in the fortress of Ham, in May, 1846.
On the north side, extending through to the south of Piccadilly, is the Museum of Practical Geology and Government School of Mines. It occupies an area of 70 feet by 153 feet, specially designed and built for its purposes by Mr. James Pennithorne, architect, at a cost of £30,000. The building comprises, on the ground storey, a spacious hall, formed into three divisions by Doric columns, for the exhibition of building-stones, marbles, the heavier geological specimens, and works of art. Adjoining is a theatre for lectures upon scientific subjects, capable of accommodating upwards of 600 persons. There is also a library, librarian's apartments, and reception-room. On each side the entrance-hall is a staircase, joining in a central flight between Ionic columns, leading to the principal floor, containing the museum, a splendid apartment having two galleries along its sides to give access to the cases with which the walls are lined. At the north and south ends are modelrooms, containing a gallery, and connected with the principal museum. The principal object of the Government School of Mines, which is engrafted on the Museum of Practical Geology and Geological Survey, is to discipline the students thoroughly in the principles of those sciences upon which the successful operations of the miner and metallurgist depend. During the session, viz., from October to June, courses of lectures are delivered on chemistry, natural history, physics, mining, mineralogy, geology, applied mechanics, and metallurgy.
At No. 105, on the south side, is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This institution, the only one having for its object the protection of dumb and defenceless animals, was founded in 1824, and is under the patronage of Her Majesty. The labours of this institution embrace the circulation of appropriate tracts, books, lectures, and sermons, and the prosecution of persons guilty of acts of cruelty to the brute creation.
At No. 76, on the same side of the street, is the London and Provincial Turkish Bath Company, which was established about the year 1860. Here, as in establishments of a similar kind which have sprung up in various parts of the United Kingdom, the plan of the old Roman bath is strictly followed. There is the Tepidarium, the Sudatorium (heated to a temperature of 120), and the Calidarium, in which the heat is exalted to 160 degrees. Next to this is the Lavatorium, in which the washing and shampooing process is carried on. Apropos of such baths, a writer in Once a Week has remarked that "the barbarian Turk has been the medium of keeping alive one of the most healthful practices of the ancients. There is scarcely a spot throughout the United Kingdom in which the remains of these very baths have not been disinterred and gazed at by the curious during the last half century. We turn up the flues, still blackened with the soot of fourteen centuries ago; we find, as at Uriconium, the very furnaces, with the coal fuel close at hand; and we know that the hot bath was not only used by the legionaries who held Britain, but by the civilised Britons themselves; yet we must go all the way to the barbarian Turk for instruction upon one of the simplest and most effective methods of maintaining the public health."
In 1768 Dr. Hunter gave up his house in this street to his brother John, and took possession of one which he had built in Windmill Street, whence ultimately he moved, as we have noticed in a previous chapter, into Leicester Square.
Jermyn Street appears to have been at one time inhabited by artists. In 1782, at his rooms in this street, Mrs. Siddons gave sittings to Sherwin, for her portrait, in the character of the "Grecian Daughter," which was afterwards engraved; the print from which, in consequence of a purse having been presented to Mrs. Siddons by gentlemen of the long robe, was dedicated to the Bar.
In this neighbourhood meets a Bohemian club called the "Century," composed of worshippers of the philosophy of Herbert Spencer, and other thinkers of the "advanced" school. The rest of the street is now mainly devoted to private family hotels, and to apartments for members of Parliament and aristocratic bachelors. A few years ago it was one of the head-quarters of gambling-houses.
In some papers in the London Magazine for 1773, signed "Harlequin," the whole of the neighbourhood of St. James's and Pall Mall, which we have described in this and the preceding chapters, is fictitiously traversed by a sprite, who peeps in at St. James's, at Carlton House, in Pall Mall, at "Boodle's," and at the "stately mansion of the Northumberlands, at Charing Cross." It is amusing, at the distance of a century or more, to note the scenes witnessed by "Harlequin." In St. James's Palace he saw the interior of the royal nursery, where "Madame Schulenberg was teaching the young Prince of Wales to play leap-frog," while his brother, the "Bishop of Osnaburg," was "riding a wooden horse called Hanover;" and at Carlton House, Prince George and the Earl of Bute were standing in a bow window, while the Queen and the princess were engaged in working a flowered waistcoat for the simple and easy-going king.