Piccadilly: Burlington House

Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Edward Walford, 'Piccadilly: Burlington House', Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878), pp. 262-272. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp262-272 [accessed 14 June 2024].

Edward Walford. "Piccadilly: Burlington House", in Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878) 262-272. British History Online, accessed June 14, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp262-272.

Walford, Edward. "Piccadilly: Burlington House", Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878). 262-272. British History Online. Web. 14 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp262-272.

In this section



"Burlington's fair palace still remains:
Beauty within—without, proportion reigns;
There Handel strikes the strings, the melting strain
Transports the soul, and thrills through every vein;
There oft I enter, but with cleaner shoes,
For Burlington's beloved by every muse."—Gay's "Trivia."

The Earl of Burlington's Taste for Classical Architecture—Walpole's First Visit to Burlington House—A Critical Reviewer's Opinion of the Old Entrance and Colonnade—Pope lampooned by Hogarth—Anecdotes of Pope and Dean Swift—Burlington House under the Regency—Visit of the Allied Sovereigns—The Elgin Marbles—The Mansion purchased by Government—Various Plans drawn up for rebuilding it—Description of the New Buildings—The Royal Society—Charles II. and his Piscatorial Query—Scientific Experiments under the Auspices of the Royal Society—How Sir Isaac Newton became a Member—Remarkable Events connected with the Royal Society—Principal Presidents, Secretaries, and Fellows of the Society—Society of Antiquaries of London—The Linnæan Society—The Geological Society—The Royal Astronomical Society—The Chemical Society—The Royal Academy—Burlington Arcade.

This splendid mansion, now the home of the Royal Academy, the Royal Society, and other learned and scientific associations, dates its existence from the time of Charles II., having been erected by Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington, on the site of a house built by Sir John Denham, the poet, whose wife was the mistress of James II. when Duke of York, and is said to have been poisoned. Lord Burlington was a man actuated by a fine public spirit. He was at the expense of repairing St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, the work of Inigo Jones; and by his publication of the "Designs" of that great architect, and of the "Antiquities of Rome" by Palladio, he contributed to form a taste for classical architecture in England. To this Pope alludes in his fourth Epistle, at the same time expressing his fear that the public will be slow to profit by such works:—
"You show us Rome was glorious, not profuse,
And pompous buildings once were things of use:
Yet shall, my lord, your just and noble rules
Fill half the land with imitating fools,
Who random drawings from your sheets shall take,
And of one beauty many blunders make."
Lord Burlington also deserves to be held in honour for having helped that pure and simpleminded philosopher, Dr. Berkeley, by his powerful recommendation, to attain the dignity of an Irish bishopric.

It is to this Lord Burlington that the author of the "New Critical Review of the Public Buildings, &c., in and about London and Westminster, in 1736," most appropriately dedicated his work, as one of those few persons who "have the talent of laying out their own fortunes with propriety, and of making their own private judgment contribute to the public ornament." We have already mentioned one instance of this public spirit in the part which he took towards the rebuilding of the great dormitory at Westminster School. (fn. 1)

At the time when Pope dedicated his "Epistle on Taste" to Lord Burlington, his lordship was in his thirty-sixth year. He was then engaged in ornamenting his gardens, and building his villa at Chiswick. The celebrated front and colonnade at Burlington House had been erected some years before, in 1718. There is reason to believe that, in this splendid improvement, his lordship, then very young, had the assistance of a practical architect, Colin Campbell, though Walpole considers that the design is too good for the latter. The same lively and picturesque writer thus describes the effect which the Burlington colonnade had upon him when he first beheld it:—"Soon after my return from Italy, I was invited to a ball at Burlington House. As I passed under the gate by night it could not strike me. At daybreak, looking out of the window to see the sun rise, I was surprised with the vision of the colonnade that fronted me. It seemed one of those edifices in fairy tales that are raised by genii in a night-time."

The author of the "Critical Review," above mentioned, observes that 'in this street we are entertained with a sight of the most expensive wall in England, namely, that before Burlington House." This he criticises, and, on the whole, favourably. "The grand entrance," he says, "is august and beautiful, and by covering the house entirely from the eye, gives pleasure and surprise at the opening of the whole front, with the area before it, at once." He complains, however, of the columns of the gate, as "merely ornamental, and supporting nothing." The colonnade remained till the last, but the dead wall in front concealed from the public all view of the fine architecture within.

During the life of Lord Burlington, the town mansion which bore his name was the haunt of all the wits, poets, and learned men of his day. Pope was a frequent visitor; and it was in allusion to his noble host's talents as an architect that he wrote—
"Who plants like Bathurst, or who builds like Boyle?"

In satire of Pope's adulation of Lord Burlington, and his fierce onslaught on the "princely" Duke of Chandos, under the character of "Timon," Hogarth made a humorous design, in which the poet was represented as standing on a builder's stage or platform, engaged in whitewashing the gate of Burlington House, and at the same time bespattering the coach of the duke as it passed by along Piccadilly.

Dr. King, in his "Anecdotes of his Own Times," tells a story about Pope, which shows that, at all events, he was not a tea-totaler, and had no idea of sinking down into one of those water-drinkers whose poems, according to Horace, have no chance of immortality. He writes: "Pope and I, with my Lord Orrery, and Sir Harry Bedingfield, dined with the late Earl of Burlington. After the first course Pope grew sick, and went out of the room. When dinner was ended, and the cloth was removed, my Lord Burlington said he would go out, and see what was become of Pope. And soon after they returned together. But Pope, who had been casting up his dinner, looked very pale, and complained much. My lord asked him if he would have some mulled wine, or a glass of old sack, which Pope refused. I told my Lord Burlington that he wanted a dram. Upon which the little man expressed some resentment against me, and said he would not taste any spirits, and that he abhorred drams as much as I did. However, I persisted, and assured my Lord Burlington that he could not oblige our friend more at that instant than by ordering a large glass of cherrybrandy to be set before him. This was done, and in less than half an hour, while my lord was acquainting us with an affair which engaged our attention, Pope had sipped up all the brandy. Pope's frame of body did not promise long life; but he certainly hastened his death by feeding much on highly-seasoned dishes, and drinking spirits."

Sir John Hawkins tells us, in his "History of Music," that Handel lived for three years an honoured guest here.

Swift also was a frequent guest here, and he did not always carry to the table of its hospitable owner the manners of a gentleman. For instance, in Scott's "Life of Swift" an anecdote is related, to the effect, that on the last occasion of the Dean being in London, he went to dine with the Earl of Burlington, then recently married. The earl, it is supposed, being willing to have a little diversion, did not introduce him to his lady, nor mention his name. After dinner, said the Dean, "Lady Burlington, I hear you can sing; sing me a song." The lady looked on this unceremonious manner of asking a favour with distaste, and positively refused. He said "she should sing, or he would make her. Why, madam, I suppose you take me for one of your poor English hedge-parsons; sing when I bid you." As the earl did nothing but laugh at this freedom, the lady was so vexed that she burst into tears, and retired. His first compliment to her when he saw her again was, "Pray, madam, are you as proud and ill-natured now as when I saw you last?" To which she answered, with great goodhumour, "No, Mr. Dean, I'll sing for you if you please." From which time he conceived a great esteem for her ladyship.

Lord Burlington died in the year 1753, and with his demise a title honoured and ennobled through three generations by genius, virtue, and public spirit, became extinct. It was afterwards revived in the person of a member of the ducal house of Cavendish, who had inherited part of his fortune. Nightingale says that the mansion was left to the Cavendishes on the express condition that it should not be pulled down, but the statement is questioned.


Pennant says, that long after the year 1700, Burlington House was the last house westwards in Piccadilly; but the statement may be questioned. It will be remembered that the nobleman who had built the mansion in the seventeenth century, had placed it there, "because he was certain that no one would build beyond him." This aim, however, if it was ever true in fact, was speedily frustrated, for shortly afterwards we read that to the west of Burlington House rose Clarges House, named after Sir Thomas Clarges, and two others, inhabited, according to Strype, by "Lord Sherbourne and the Countess of Denby" (sic).


Burlington House, in 1811, was tenanted by the Earl of Harrington, who gave there a grand ball. Under the Regency and in the reign of George IV., the mansion became occasionally the rallying-point of the Liberal party. In 1817, as Lord Russell tells us in his "Recollections," there was held here a meeting, at which Lord Grey, as the leader of the party, sketched out the policy of Lord Liverpool's ministry, and his own plan of opposition tactics. The Honourable Miss Amelia Murray tells us in her "Recollections," that about the year 1812 there was an intention of pulling down Burlington House, and of building a crescent of houses on its site. "I do not know," she writes, "why the plan fell to the ground; but in 1814, the great fêtes in honour of the Allied Sovereigns were given in these gardens, which were enclosed for the purpose; and now," she adds, "in 1868, the site is likely to be applied to still better purposes"—alluding, probably, to the University of London. "The whole garden of Burlington House was enclosed by tents and temporary rooms. I did not think the Emperor of Russia a handsome man; he looked red, and stiff, and square: but Nicholas, the future Emperor, was a magnificent young prince. Among the numerous followers of the Emperor of Russia, there were the 'Hetman' Platoff, and twelve of his Cossacks, who were lodged by Lord James Murray, in Cumberland Place."

At Burlington House were exhibited the Elgin marbles, on their first arrival from the East, till they could find a permanent home at the British Museum. Cyrus Redding, in his "Fifty Years' Recollections," records his first visit to them here, in company with Haydon the painter.

In 1854, the mansion was purchased by the Government, and some five years later Lord John Manners (then First Commissioner of Works) instructed Messrs. Banks and Barry to prepare a plan for buildings covering the entire site, which were then intended to comprise "a new Royal Academy, the University of London, and a Patent Office much enlarged, and to be connected with an extensive museum of patented invention for public reference, and also accommodation for at least six of the principal learned and scientific societies, who, it was considered, by past usage had acquired claims to be lodged at the public expense." The design consisted of two spacious quadrangles, each communicating with the other, and having arched gateways in the centre of the façades to Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens, thus connecting all together internally, and giving a thoroughfare through the building from the one part to the other. By this arrangement the Royal Academy would have had allotted to it nearly the whole of the Piccadilly facade, and the whole side of the first quadrangle on the west. This appropriation of the site, however, involved the removal of Old Burlington House, and, as the Builder remarks, "the sentimental ideas of its architectural importance and beauty were allowed to set aside this arrangement."

It was subsequently proposed by the Government to remove the national collection of pictures from Trafalgar Square, giving up the whole building there to the Royal Academy only, and to construct a National Gallery on the Burlington House lands. Accordingly, in 1863, fresh plans were prepared to meet this arrangement, by which the old mansion was to remain, the screen-wall in Piccadilly was to be replaced by a handsome open railing, the colonnades being retained, and, with the old building, being made to furnish the access to the new galleries. Again their plans met with the approval of the trustees of the National Gallery, after most careful deliberation, and also of the Government; but the vote for carrying this scheme into effect was refused by Parliament, partly on the same grounds as before—namely, the muchfeared interference with the architectural glories of Old Burlington House.

"At last," says the Builder, "in the year 1866, it was proposed to reverse the above scheme, and that the National Gallery should remain in Trafalgar Square, and the Royal Academy should have a lease for 999 years, at a nominal rent, of the centre portion of Old Burlington House, with about half the garden in the rear, on which latter area they should erect new galleries and schools at their own cost, and under the direction of one of their members, Mr. Sydney Smirke; the access to the same being through the old building, which was to accommodate the administration."

The grounds in the rear, extending to Burlington Gardens, were to be given as a site for the University of London, and their new edifice has been erected accordingly, under the direction of Sir James (then Mr.) Pennethorne. The wingbuildings, the colonnades, and the wall to Piccadilly were to be removed, and Messrs. Banks and Barry were again called upon to prepare designs for the erection of the new buildings, which were to accommodate six of the learned and scientific societies, namely, the Royal Society, the Linnæan Society, and the Chemical Society, who had hitherto occupied Old Burlington House, and the Society of Antiquaries, the Geological Society, and the Astronomical Society, who at that time were occupying parts of Somerset House. Arrangements having once more been made with the governing bodies of each society, as to the accommodation which they considered would be necessary for them respectively, and the plans having been finally approved by the then Government and by Parliament, and obtaining the Royal assent, the foundations for the present buildings were commenced in November, 1868.

The space now occupied by Burlington House extends from Piccadilly northwards into Burlington Gardens, having a frontage to each of about 200 feet, and a depth between them of nearly 600 feet. The old mansion, which still remains, stands at a distance of about 225 feet back from Piccadilly. The site of the south wall and the colonnades and wings is now covered with lofty and spacious buildings, forming three sides of a quadrangle, which, in the shape of an oblong square, has replaced the old court-yard. In the new façade towards Piccadilly, the most peculiar feature is the grand central archway leading into the court-yard; it is probably the largest archway of the sort in London, being 20 feet clear in width and about 32 feet in height. The façade of Burlington House (now the Royal Academy of Arts) is fully seen from Piccadilly through this archway; but it has had an additional storey added to it, in order to assimilate it to the height of the new buildings.

The style of architecture adopted by Messrs. Banks and Barry is pure Italian; and, as the authority above quoted observes, "taking as the keynote the general features and proportions of the facade of Old Burlington House, which was to form one side of the quadrangle, the architects have endeavoured to blend it with their new composition, with sufficient similarity of design to effect this, but with more finished details."

On the completion of the new building intended for the learned societies, those which at that time occupied the old mansion vacated their apartments, and that building was wholly made over to the Royal Academy, with the proviso that the Academy should, at their own expense, heighten their building by the addition of an upper storey. The portions of the buildings occupied by the members of the several societies are arranged on two floors, on the upper of which are situated the libraries—with the exception of that of the Geological Society, which is on the ground floor—each fitted with galleries, and lighted from the roof as well as at the sides. The Geological Society has its museum on the first floor, and this is fitted with two tiers of galleries.

The Royal Society has on the first floor a noble suite of reception-rooms, available for the annual soirées of the president, and a library which it is computed will give room for nearly 35,000 volumes, enabling it to continue what it now is, one of the most perfect scientific libraries in the world. The libraries of the Linnæan and Antiquarian Societies are very spacious, and all of them two storeys in height, with internal galleries.

The resident officers of the various societies located here have their apartments on the first and second floors of the building, in positions convenient to the scene of their daily labours. Dispersed throughout the rooms occupied by the Royal Society are the portraits of the presidents, distinguished Fellows, and other great luminaries of science, painted by Van Somer, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and other great artists.

It will not be out of place to introduce in this place a brief mention of some of our chief learned societies which have the advantage of free quarters here.

First and foremost, of course, stands the Royal Society. This is the oldest scientific society, with a consecutive history, in Europe, and stands with the French Institute at the head of the science of the world. As stated already (Vol. I., page 104), it dates its existence from the year 1645, and its early meetings were held sometimes at the lodgings of Dr. Goddard (one of its originators) in Wood Street, sometimes in Cheapside, and on other occasions in Gresham College. In 1648 and the following year, some of the supporters of these meetings became connected with the University of Oxford, and instituted a similar society in that city. Ten years later, several of the members of this philosophical society came to London, and held their meetings at Gresham College, where they were joined by Lord Brouncher, John Evelyn, and others; but owing to the political troubles of the times, their meetings were not long continued. In 1660, it was agreed to constitute a society for the study of science, when, in accordance with this resolve, a president, secretary, and registrar were elected; the president was Sir Robert Moray.

During the two centuries of the society's life it has occupied several dwellings. First at Gresham College; then at Arundel House, which was lent by Henry Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk; and again at Gresham College, where the society remained until 1710, when it removed to Crane Court. It continued here, in its own house, until 1780, when apartments in Somerset House were provided for it; and in these it remained till its removal to Burlington House, but its annual dinners were held at the "Thatched House Tavern" until the latter was taken down.

In 1859, the dinner party of the Royal Society would appear to have been remarkably cosmopolitan; the Electric Telegraph having been represented by Professor Wheatstone, the Railway System by Mr. Robert Stephenson, the Penny Post by Rowland Hill, and Astronomy by Sir Thomas Maclear, now Astronomer Royal at the Cape of Good Hope.

Charles II. presented the society with a silvergilt mace, which is still placed on the table whenever the council or society meets, and without which no meeting can be legally held. This mace was for long supposed to be the "bauble" that Cromwell so unceremoniously ordered to be taken away from the table of the House of Commons, but Mr. Weld unluckily proved that it was made expressly for the society by command of the king. Another benefactor was Henry Howard, who presented the Arundel Library, which is still in the possession of the society; but the collection of antiquities and curiosities was presented to the British Museum when the apartments at Somerset House were found to be too contracted for its reception. The society still possesses several relics of Newton; as the sun-dial which he cut in the wall of his father's house when he was a boy; the first reflecting telescope, made, in 1671, with his own hands; and the original mask of his face, taken by Roubiliac.

The meetings of the society take place once a week, from the third Thursday in November to the third Thursday in June. A record of these meetings is published in the octavo "Proceedings," and a selection of the best papers is printed in the quarto "Transactions." These last were first printed in 1665, under the title of "Philosophical Transactions, giving some Account of the present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in many considerable Parts of the World;" and the series now extends to upwards of 160 volumes.

The society has at its disposal four medals, in the distribution of which it is able to mark its appreciation of scientific investigations and distinguished discoveries. The first award of the Copley medal was made in 1731, and of the Rumford medal in 1800 to the founder himself (Benjamin, Count Rumford) for his various discoveries respecting light and heat. In the year 1825, George IV. communicated through Sir Robert Peel his intention "to found two gold medals of the value of fifty guineas each, to be awarded as honorary premiums under the direction of the president and council of the Royal Society in such manner as shall by the excitement of competition among men of science seem best calculated to promote the objects for which the Royal Society was instituted." These medals were first awarded, in the year 1826, to John Dalton and James Ivory. William IV. and Queen Victoria have continued the gift of these royal medals, and they are, therefore, annually awarded. Besides these, the society undertakes the distribution of the annual grant of £1,000, which is voted by Parliament to be employed in aiding the promotion of science in the United Kingdom; and it also performs the office of scientific adviser to the Government on the difficult questions that arise in the various public departments. Through a committee of its Fellows, the Royal Society has made itself gratuitously useful to Her Majesty's Government for many years by directing the business of the Meteorological Department, which was formerly part of the duty of the Board of Trade.

In 1874, an attempt was made, though unsuccessfully, to limit the number of fellows to be elected in each year to fifteen. The proposal was carefully considered by a committee, to whom it was referred; but after a long discussion, a resolution was passed by the Council not to make any change in the existing rules.

Many particulars about the society and its convivial meetings, &c., may be learnt from a privately printed history of the club by the late Admiral Smyth, one of its most active and zealous members.

The following story of the merry monarch and of the learned society, though often told before, will bear being told again in the present chapter:—When King Charles II. dined with the members on the occasion of constituting them a Royal Society, towards the close of the evening he expressed his satisfaction at being the first English monarch who had laid a foundation for a society which proposed that their whole studies should be directed to the investigation of the arcana of nature, and added, with that peculiar gravity of countenance he usually wore on such occasions, that among such learned men he now hoped for a solution to a question which had long puzzled him. The case he thus stated:—Suppose two pails of water were fixed in two different scales that were equally poised, and which weighed equally alike, and two live bream, or small fish, were put into either of the pails; he wanted to know the reason why that pail, with such addition, should not weigh more than the other pail which was against it. Every one was ready to set at quiet the royal curiosity; but it appeared that every one was giving a different opinion. One at length offered so ridiculous a solution, that another of the members could not refrain from a loud laugh; when the king, turning to him, insisted that he should give his sentiments as well as the rest. This he did without hesitation; and told his Majesty, in plain terms, that he denied the fact; on which the king, in high mirth, exclaimed: "Odds fish, brother, you are in the right!" The jest was not ill designed, and the story is often useful to cool the enthusiasm of the scientific visionary, who is apt to account for what never existed.

All sorts of scientific experiments have been made from time to time under the auspices of the Royal Society. The following may be taken as a specimen:—In 1667, the Royal Society successfully performed the experiment of transfusing the blood of a sheep into a man in perfect health. The subject of the experiment was Arthur Coga, who, as Pepys says, was a kind of minister, and, being in want of money, hired himself for a guinea. Drs. Lower and King performed the experiment, injecting twelve ounces of sheep's blood, without producing any inconvenience. The patient drank a glass or two of Canary, took a pipe of tobacco, and went home with a stronger and fuller pulse than before. The experiment was in a day or two afterwards repeated on Coga, when fourteen ounces of sheep's blood was substituted for eight ounces of his own. Pepys went to see him, and tells us that he heard him give an account in Latin of the operation and its effects.

The following is Sir David Brewster's account, in the North British Review, of the circumstances under which the great Sir Isaac Newton became a member of the society:—"Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, was proposed as a Fellow by Dr. Seth Ward, Bishop of Sarum. Newton, then in his thirtieth year, had made several of his greatest discoveries. He had discovered the different refrangibility of light; he had invented the reflecting telescope; he had deduced the law of gravity from Kepler's theorem; and he had discovered the method of fluxions. When he heard of his being proposed as a Fellow, he expressed to Oldenburg, the secretary, his hope that he would be elected, and added, that he would endeavour to testify his gratitude by communicating what his poor and solitary endeavours could effect towards the promoting their philosophical design. The communications which Newton made to the society excited the deepest interest in every part of Europe. His little reflecting telescope, the germ of the colossal instruments of Herschel and Lord Rosse, was deemed one of the wonders of the age."

The most remarkable events connected with the society during the last century were the bequest of £100 by Sir George Copley in 1709, which resulted in the institution of the Copley medal; the measures taken for observing the transit of Venus, which, according to Halley, was to occur in 1761 and 1769, and the grand discovery of the composition of water in 1784, by some attributed to Cavendish, by others to Watt. In the early part of the present century Sir Humphry Davy commenced his well-known scientific career, and after having had all the honours of the Royal Society showered upon him, in 1820 took his seat as president in the chair previously occupied by Wren, Sir Isaac Newton, Sloane, and Banks.

The first list of Fellows includes such names as Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir William Petty (of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter (fn. 2) ), Matthew Wren, Robert Boyle, John Dryden, and Isaac Barrow. The signatures of all the Fellows, from the time of Charles II., when the society received the royal charter, down to the latest elected, are preserved in a vellum charter-book, which is a treasure of the highest interest. The number of presidents of the society, from Lord Brouncker—the first after its incorporation—down to Dr. Hooker, who was chosen in 1874—is thirty-two, among whom have been Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Hans Sloane, Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys, Lord Chancellor Somers, Sir John Pringle, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Humphry Davy, Sir Benjamin Brodie, the Duke of Sussex, and the Earl of Rosse. The list of secretaries is specially rich in great names, such as John Evelyn, Dr. Halley, Sir John Herschel, Bishop Wilkins, Robert Hooke, Sir Humphry Davy, and many others.

The Society of Antiquaries of London, already mentioned in our account of Somerset House, (fn. 3) was founded by Archbishop Parker, in 1572. The members assembled at the house of Sir Robert Cotton, near Westminster Abbey, for twenty years. They applied to Elizabeth for a charter and a public building; but their hopes were frustrated by the queen's death. James I. took umbrage at some of the society's proceedings, and dissolved it. It would appear, however, to have existed privately during the seventeenth century, for in Ashmole's "Diary" we read of the "Antiquaries' feast on July 2, 1659," probably their annual dinner, which has now fallen into desuetude.

In 1707, we hear of their resuming their meetings in a more public form, and under the presidency of Le Neve. With him were associated Dr. William Stukeley, Humphrey Wanley, Roger Gale, Vertue, Browne Willis, and many others well known to fame. The minutes of the society commence in 1717, and in the same year they resolved to issue the first of that great series of prints which grew up into the work known as the "Vetusta Monumenta." We may here mention that the society has recently (1875) issued some fasciculi of great interest in completion of the sixth volume of this valuable collection.

In 1751, a royal charter of incorporation was granted to the society. In 1776, the king gave orders, when Somerset House was rebuilt, that the society should be accommodated with apartments in the new building. The whole of the fittings were put up at the expense of the Government, and in 1781 the society was formally inducted into possession of their new apartments.

The Society of Antiquaries was no favourite, strange to say, in spite of his antiquarian tastes, with Horace Walpole, who writes: "I dropped my attendance there four or five years ago, being sick of their ignorance and stupidity, and have not been three times amongst them since."

When the Royal Society removed to Burlington House, some changes were effected as to the rooms occupied by this society. In 1866, a scheme was submitted to the society by Her Majesty's Government for accommodating the society in Burlington House. To this scheme the society acceded, not without some reluctance, and only on the understanding that adequate accommodation should be provided, and that the expense of the fittings should be borne by the Government.

The services which the society has rendered are patent to the world. Its "Transactions" can only be compared with the "Memoirs" of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres for range and depth. Among the more recent and public services rendered by the society may be mentioned the restoration of the Chapter House at Westminster, which was undertaken mainly at the instance and through the zeal of its council. The late Lord Stanhope, better known by his former title of Lord Mahon, held the presidential chair of the Society of Antiquaries from 1846 down to his death at the close of 1875.


The Linnæan Society, so called after the great naturalist, Linnæus, was founded, as stated in our account of Soho Square, (fn. 4) in 1788, for the study of natural history, more especially that of the British Islands, and was incorporated by royal charter in 1802. It was the earliest offset of the Royal Society, the separation taking place with the ready assent and concurrence of the parent body, it being felt that natural history was a science of sufficient extent and importance to demand the entire attention of a distinct society. The infant society was warmly aided by the then president of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, to whom it was indebted for pecuniary assistance, and for large additions to its library and collections.

From an early period of its existence, the Linnæan Society took a high station in the world of science, and it stands now, as it always has done, at the head of the natural history societies of the United Kingdom, and on a level with the most distinguished of similar societies abroad.

Its "Transactions" now include about thirty copiously-illustrated quarto volumes, and form, unquestionably, the most important series of memoirs on natural history which this country has produced. In addition, it has now for many years published an octavo journal in two sections, Zoology and Botany, where those papers appear which have less need of illustration.

The library and collections of the society are very extensive, including those of Linnæus (invaluable in themselves, and in illustration of the works of the great Swedish naturalist), which, together with the additions made by its founder, Sir J. E. Smith, were purchased by the society, in 1829, for £3,000, and the extensive herbarium of Indian plants, munificently presented by the Court of Directors of the East India Company in 1832.

The funds of the society, with the exception of a very small return, in proportion to the outlay, from the sale of its publications, are wholly derived from the contributions of its Fellows, to whom the "Transactions" and "Journal" are distributed without further payment.

By the cost of printing and illustrating these publications, and in other necessary expenses, the society was, for a long period, seriously cramped in its operations. When, therefore, in 1856, the Government offered to put the Royal Society in possession of the main building of Burlington House, on the understanding that suitable accommodation therein should be assigned to the Linnæan and Chemical Societies, the Linnæan, although it had recently renewed, for a long term, its lease of the house in Soho Square, availed itself of the proposal, which, in the first place, promised to place its library and collections out of danger from fire, and would relieve the funds of the society from the outlay for rent.

CLARGES HOUSE, PICCADILLY. (From Mr. Crace's Collection.)

The Geological Society was established in 1807, and incorporated by royal charter in 1826. In 1828, the late Sir Robert Peel, then Secretary of the Treasury, assigned to it the apartments in Somerset House which it continued to occupy till its removal to Burlington House in 1874. Previously it had occupied a house in Bedford Street, Strand. The charter says: "Whereas the Reverend William Buckland, B.D., Arthur Aikin, esquire, John Bostock, M.D., George Bellas Greenough, esquire, Henry Warburton, esquire, and several others of our loving subjects, being desirous of forming a society for investigating the mineral structure of the earth, and having for promoting such investigation expended considerable sums of money in the collection and purchase of books, maps, specimens, and other objects, and in the publication of various works, the said William Buckland, Arthur Aikin, John Bostock, George Bellas Greenough, and Henry Warburton have humbly besought us to grant unto them and unto such other persons as shall be appointed and elected Fellows of the Society, as hereinafter is mentioned, our Royal Charter of Incorporation, for the better carrying on the purposes aforesaid." A charter was accordingly granted, Dr. Buckland being appointed first president. The early publications of the society consisted of "Proceedings" in octavo, and "Transactions" in quarto: of the former, four volumes were published; and of the latter, twelve volumes in two series (of five and seven). The "Transactions" ceased in 1856, but in 1845 a quarterly journal was started, and has been carried on ever since in their place. The society also publishes Mr. Greenough's Geological Map of England. The society possesses an extensive library, and a museum consisting of fossils, minerals, &c.; the collection of foreign fossils being particularly interesting.

The Royal Astronomical Society was founded in the year 1820 by the exertions of the Rev. Dr. Pearson, Mr. Francis Baily, and other gentlemen at that time eminent in the science of astronomy, its objects being "the encouragement and promotion of astronomy." We need scarcely add that it has been eminently successful in carrying out these objects, having published thirty-eight volumes of "Memoirs," and thirty volumes of "Monthly Notices," which are held in much estimation both by English and foreign astronomers.

The only remaining learned body located here is the Chemical Society. This was founded in 1841, and incorporated under royal charter in 1848. Its objects are defined to be "the promotion of chemistry and of those branches of science immediately connected with it, by the reading, discussion, and subsequent publication of original communications." The society holds fortnightly meetings during eight months of the year, and publishes a journal in monthly numbers. Its management is vested in a president and a council, chosen, for the most part, annually by ballot.

Of the rise and progress of the Royal Academy we have already spoken in our notice of the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. (fn. 4) It only remains to add that, since the removal hither, the exhibitions of the Royal Academy have gone on steadily increasing in popularity, and that during "the season" not only are the spacious apartments here crowded with the élite of society, but the exhibitions have become sufficiently attractive to induce artisans and others belonging more to the working classes to flock thither, and in such numbers as to warrant the council in allowing the works of art annually brought together to be exhibited during the evening by gas-light. Apropos of the good work achieved by the Royal Academy, it may be stated that the choice of Angelica Kauffmann and Mrs. Montague among its first members gave an impetus to female education, and helped to keep alive till a more enlightened period the claims of women to take their place side by side with men in the battle of life, and in following the professions. As a proof that their example was not without effect, we may add that, in the year 1778, the publisher of "The Ladies' Pocket-book" gave, as a frontispiece, a group of nine ladies celebrated in art or in literature, namely, Miss Carter, Mrs. Barbauld, Angelica Kauffmann, Mrs. Sheridan, Mrs. Lennox, Mrs. Montague, Miss Moore, Mrs. Macaulay, and Miss Griffith, each lady in the fanciful character of one of the nine Muses.

On the west side of Burlington House is the Burlington Arcade, which was built as a bazaar by Lord George Cavendish, afterwards Earl of Burlington, in 1819. This arcade, upwards of 200 yards in length, forms a covered pathway between Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens; it has shops on each side for the sale of millinery, jewellery, and, in fact, almost every article of fashionable demand. It is closed at night by gates at each end under the charge of a beadle in livery. It is stated by Mr. Peter Cunningham that the rents of the shops in this arcade amount to upwards of £8,000 a year, only about half of which finds its way into the pockets of its owners, the Cavendishes.

We have given on page 264 a view of the original Burlington House, with its gardens in the rear, laid out on the square formal French fashion. It shows the little temporary church or chapel in Conduit Street, standing quite isolated from every other building. There is also a view, by Kip, of the first Burlington House, built by Sir John Denham, the author of the poem called "Cooper's Hill," and also Surveyor of Buildings under the Crown.

With reference to the old court-yard and colonnade, of which we have already spoken, we may add that it is represented in the first of the abovementioned views, and that to it Sir William Chambers thus alludes:—"In London, many of our noblemen's palaces towards the street look like convents. Nothing appears but a high wall, with one or two large gates, in which there is a hole for those who are privileged to go in and out. If a coach arrives, the whole gate is indeed opened; but this is an operation that requires time, and the porter is very careful to shut it up again immediately, for reasons to him very weighty. Few in this vast city, I suspect, believe that behind an old brick wall in Piccadilly there is one of the finest pieces of architecture in Europe."


  • 1. See Vol. III., p. 469.
  • 2. See ante, p. 256.
  • 3. See Vol. III., page 94.
  • 4. See Vol. III., pp. 146–149.