Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Freemasons Tavern Great Queen Street


This well-appointed tavern, built by William Tyler, in 1786, and since considerably enlarged, in addition to the usual appointments, possesses the great advantage of Freemasons' Hall, wherein take place some of our leading public festivals and anniversary dinners, the latter mostly in May and June. Here was given the farewell dinner to John Philip Kemble, upon his retirement from the stage, in 1817; the public dinner, on his birthday, to James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, in 1832; Mollard, who has published an excellent Art of Cookery, was many years Maître d'Hôtel, and proprietor of the Freemasons' Tavern.

In the Hall meet the Madrigal Society, the Melodists' and other musical clubs: and the annual dinners of the Theatrical Fund, Artists' Societies, and other public institutions, are given here.

Freemasons' Hall has obtained some notoriety as the arena in which were delivered and acted the Addresses at the Anniversary Dinners of the Literary Fund, upon whose eccentricities we find the following amusing note in the latest edition of the Rejected Addresses:—

"The annotator's first personal knowledge of William Thomas Fitzgerald, was at Harry Greville's Pic-Nic Theatre, in Tottenham-street, where he personated Zanga in a wig too small for his head. The second time of seeing him was at the table of old Lord Dudley, who familiarly called him Fitz, but forgot to name him in his will. The Viscount's son, however, liberally supplied the omission by a donation of five thousand pounds. The third and last time of encountering him was at an anniversary dinner of the Literary Fund, at the Freemasons' Tavern. Both parties, as two of the stewards, met their brethren in a small room about half-an-hour before dinner. The lampooner, out of delicacy, kept aloof from the poet. The latter, however, made up to him, when the following dialogue took place:

"Fitzgerald (with good humour). 'Mr. ——, I mean to recite after dinner,'

"Mr. ——. 'Do you?'

"Fitzgerald. 'Yes: you'll have more of God bless the Regent and the Duke of York!'

"The whole of this imitation, (one of the Rejected Addresses,) after a lapse of twenty years, appears to the authors too personal and sarcastic; but they may shelter themselves under a very broad mantle:—

"Let hoarse Fitzgerald bawl

His creaking couplets in a tavern-hall."—Byron.

"Fitzgerald actually sent in an address to the Committee on the 31st of August, 1812. It was published among the other Genuine Rejected Addresses, in one volume, in that year. The following is an extract:—

"The troubled shade of Garrick, hovering near,

Dropt on the burning pile a pitying tear."

"What a pity that, like Sterne's recording angel, it did not succeed in blotting the fire out for ever! That falling, why not adopt Gulliver's remedy?"

Upon the "Rejected," the Edinburgh Review notes:—"The first piece, under the name of the loyal Mr. Fitzgerald, though as good we suppose as the original, is not very interesting. Whether it be very like Mr. Fitzgerald or not, however, it must be allowed that the vulgarity, servility, and gross absurdity of the newspaper scribblers is well rendered."

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