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


This is another Change-alley Coffee-house, which is described in the Tatler, No. 38, as "the general mart of stock-jobbers;" and the Spectator, No. 1, tells us that he "sometimes passes for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's." This was the rendezvous, where gambling of all sorts was carried on; notwithstanding a formal prohibition against the assemblage of the jobbers, issued by the City of London, which prohibition continued unrepealed until 1825.

In the Anatomy of Exchange Alley, 1719, we read:—"The centre of the jobbing is in the kingdom of Exchange-alley and its adjacencies. The limits are easily surrounded in about a minute and a half: viz. stepping out of Jonathan's into the Alley, you turn your face full south; moving on a few paces, and then turning due east, you advance to Garraway's; from thence going out at the other door, you go on still east into Birchin-lane; and then halting a little at the Sword-blade Bank, to do much mischief in fewest words, you immediately face to the north, enter Cornhill, visit two or three petty provinces there in your way west; and thus having boxed your compass, and sailed round the whole stock-jobbing globe, you turn into Jonathan's again; and so, as most of the great follies of life oblige us to do, you end just where you began."

Mrs. Centlivre, in her comedy of A Bold Stroke for a Wife, has a scene from Jonathan's at the above period: while the stock-jobbers are talking, the coffee-boys are crying "Fresh coffee, gentlemen, fresh coffee! Bohea tea, gentlemen!"

Here is another picture of Jonathan's, during the South Sea mania; though not by an eye-witness, it groups, from various authorities, the life of the place and the time:—"At a table a few yards off sat a couple of men engaged in the discussion of a newly-started scheme. Plunging his hand impatiently under the deep silver-buttoned flap of his frock-coat of cinnamon cloth and drawing out a paper, the more business-looking of the pair commenced eagerly to read out figures intended to convince the listener, who took a jewelled snuff-box from the deep pocket of the green brocade waistcoat which overflapped his thigh, and, tapping the lid, enjoyed a pinch of perfumed Turkish as he leaned back lazily in his chair. Somewhat further off, standing in the middle of the room, was a keen-eyed lawyer, counting on his fingers the probable results of a certain speculation in human hair, to which a fresh-coloured farmer from St. Albans, on whose boots the mud of the cattle market was not dry, listened with a face of stolid avarice, clutching the stag-horn handle of his thonged whip as vigorously as if it were the wealth he coveted. There strode a Nonconformist divine, with S. S. S. in every line of his face, greedy for the gold that perisheth; here a bishop, whose truer place was Garraway's, edged his cassock through the crowd; sturdy ship-captains, whose manners smack of blustering breezes, and who hailed their acquaintance as if through a speaking-trumpet in a storm—booksellers' hacks from Grub-street, who were wont to borrow ink-bottles and just one sheet of paper at the bar of the Black Swan in St. Martin's-lane, and whose tarnished lace, when not altogether torn away, showed a suspicious coppery redness underneath—Jews of every grade, from the thriving promoter of a company for importing ashes from Spain or extracting stearine from sunflower seeds to the seller of sailor slops from Wapping-in-the-Wose, come to look for a skipper who had bilked him—a sprinkling of well-to-do merchants—and a host of those flashy hangers-on to the skirts of commerce, who brighten up in days of maniacal speculation, and are always ready to dispose of shares in some unopened mine or some untried invention—passed and repassed with continuous change and murmur before the squire's eyes during the quarter of an hour that he sat there."—Pictures of the Periods, by W. F. Collier LL.D.

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