Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Dicks' Coffee House


This old Coffee-house, No. 8, Fleet-street (south side, near Temple Bar), was originally "Richard's," named from Richard Torner, or Turner, to whom the house was let in 1680. The Coffee-room retains its olden paneling, and the staircase its original balusters.

The interior of Dick's Coffee-house is engraved as a frontispiece to a drama, called The Coffee-house, performed at Drury-lane Theatre in 1737. The piece met with great opposition on its representation, owing to its being stated that the characters were intended for a particular family (that of Mrs. Yarrow and her daughter), who kept Dick's, the coffee-house which the artist had inadvertently selected as the frontispiece.

It appears that the landlady and her daughter were the reigning toast of the Templars, who then frequented Dick's; and took the matter up so strongly that they united to condemn the farce on the night of its production; they succeeded, and even extended their resentment to every thing suspected to be this author's (the Rev. James Miller) for a considerable time after.

Richard's, as it was then called, was frequented by Cowper, when he lived in the Temple. In his own account of his insanity, Cowper tells us: "At breakfast I read the newspaper, and in it a letter, which, the further I perused it, the more closely engaged my attention. I cannot now recollect the purport of it; but before I had finished it, it appeared demonstratively true to me that it was a libel or satire upon me. The author appeared to be acquainted with my purpose of self-destruction, and to have written that letter on purpose to secure and hasten the execution of it. My mind, probably, at this time began to be disordered; however it was, I was certainly given to a strong delusion. I said within myself, 'Your cruelty shall be gratified; you shall have your revenge,' and flinging down the paper in a fit of strong passion, I rushed hastily out of the room; directing my way towards the fields, where I intended to find some house to die in; or, if not, determined to poison myself in a ditch, where I could meet with one sufficiently retired."

It is worth while to revert to the earlier tenancy of the Coffee-house, which was, wholly or in part, the original printing office of Richard Tottel, law-printer to Edward VI., Queens Mary and Elizabeth; the premises were attached to No. 7, Fleet-street, which bore the sign of "The Hand and Starre," where Tottel lived, and published the law and other works he printed. No. 7 was subsequently occupied by Jaggard and Joel Stephens, eminent law-printers, temp. Geo. I.-III.; and at the present day the house is most appropriately occupied by Messrs. Butterworth, who follow the occupation Tottel did in the days of Edward VI., being law-publishers to Queen Victoria; and they possess the original leases, from the earliest grant, in the reign of Henry VIII., the period of their own purchase.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866