THE GARRICK CLUB
Mr. Thackeray was a hearty lover of London, and has left us many evidences of his sincerity. He greatly favoured Covent Garden, of which he has painted this clever picture, sketched from "the Garden," where are annually paid for fruits and vegetables some three millions sterling:—
"The two great national theatres on one side, a churchyard full of mouldy but undying celebrities on the other; a fringe of houses studded in every part with anecdote and history; an arcade, often more gloomy and deserted than a cathedral aisle; a rich cluster of brown old taverns—one of them filled with the counterfeit presentment of many actors long since silent, who scowl or smile once more from the canvas upon the grandsons of their dead admirers; a something in the air which breathes of old books, old pictures, old painters, and old authors; a place beyond all other places one would choose in which to hear the chimes at midnight; a crystal palace—the representative of the present—which peeps in timidly from a corner upon many things of the past; a withered bank, that has been sucked dry by a felonious clerk; a squat building, with a hundred columns and chapel-looking fronts, which always stands knee-deep in baskets, flowers, and scattered vegetables; a common centre into which Nature showers her choicest gifts, and where the kindly fruits of the earth often nearly choke the narrow thoroughfares; a population that never seems to sleep, and that does all in its power to prevent others sleeping; a place where the very latest suppers and the earliest breakfasts jostle each other on the footways—such is Covent-Garden Market, with some of its surrounding features."
About a century and a quarter ago, the parish of St. Paul was, according to John Thomas Smith, the only fashionable part of the town, and the residence of a great number of persons of rank and title, and artists of the first eminence; and also from the concourse of wits, literary characters, and other men of genius, who frequented the numerous coffee-houses, wine and cider cellars, jelly-shops, etc., within its boundaries, the list of whom particularly includes the eminent names of Butler, Addison, Sir Richard Steele, Otway, Dryden, Pope, Warburton, Cibber, Fielding, Churchill, Bolingbroke, and Dr. Samuel Johnson; Rich, Woodward, Booth, Wilkes, Garrick, and Macklin; Kitty Clive, Peg Woffington, Mrs. Pritchard, the Duchess of Bolton, Lady Derby, Lady Thurlow, and the Duchess of St. Alban's; Sir Peter Lely, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and Sir James Thornhill; Vandevelde, Zincke, Lambert, Hogarth, Hayman, Wilson, Dance, Meyer, etc. The name of Samuel Foote should be added.
Although the high fashion of the old place has long since ebbed away, its theatrical celebrity remains; and the locality is storied with the dramatic associations of two centuries. The Sublime Society of Steaks have met upon this hallowed ground through a century; and some thirty years ago there was established in the street leading from the north-west angle of Covent-Garden Market, a Club, bearing the name of our greatest actor. Such was the Garrick Club, instituted in 1831, at No. 35, King-street, "for the purpose of bringing together the 'patrons' of the drama and its professors, and also for offering literary men a rendezvous; and the managers of the Club have kept those general objects steadily in view. Nearly all the leading actors are members, and there are few of the active literary men of the day who are not upon the list. The large majority of the association is composed of the representatives of all the best classes of society. The number of the members is limited, and the character of the Club is social, and therefore the electing committee is compelled to exercise very vigilant care, for it is clear that it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than that one terrible bore should be admitted. The prosperity of the Club, and the eagerness to obtain admission to it, are the best proofs of its healthy management; and few of the cases of grievance alleged against the direction will bear looking into."
The house in King-street was, previous to its occupation by the Garrick men, a family hotel: it was rendered tolerably commodious, but in course of time it was found insufficient for the increased number of members; and in 1864, the Club removed to a new house built for them a little more westward than the old one. But of the old place, inconvenient as it was, will long be preserved the interest of association. The house has since been taken down; but its memories are embalmed in a gracefully written paper, by Mr. Shirley Brooks, which appeared in the Illustrated London News, immediately before the removal of the Club to their new quarters; and is as follows:—
"From James Smith (of Rejected Addresses) to Thackeray, there is a long series of names of distinguished men who have made the Garrick their favourite haunt, and whose memories are connected with those rooms. The visitor who has had the good fortune to be taken through them, that he might examine the unequalled collection of theatrical portraits, will also retain a pleasant remembrance of the place. He will recollect that he went up one side of a double flight of stone steps from the street and entered a rather gloomy hall, in which was a fine bust of Shakspeare, by Roubiliac, and some busts of celebrated actors; and he may have noticed in the hall a tablet recording the obligation of the Club to Mr. Durrant, who bequeathed to it the pictures collected by the late Charles Mathews. Conducted to the left, the visitor found himself in the strangers' dining-room, which occupied the whole of the ground-floor. This apartment, where, perhaps, more pleasant dinners had been given than in any room in London, was closely hung with pictures. The newest was Mr. O'Neil's admirable likeness of Mr. Keeley, and it hung over the fireplace in the front room, near Sir Edwin Landseer's portrait of Charles Young. There were many very interesting pictures in this room, among them a Peg Woffington; Lee (the author of the Bedlam Tragedy, in nineteen acts); Mrs. Pritchard, and Mr. Garrick, an admirable illustration of
'Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick six feet high;'
a most gentlemanly one of Pope the actor, Garrick again as Macbeth in the court-dress, two charming little paintings of Miss Poole when a child-performer, the late Frederick Yates, Mrs. Davison (of rare beauty), Miss Lydia Kelly, and a rich store besides. The stranger would probably be next conducted through a long passage until he reached the smoking-room, which was not a cheerful apartment by daylight, and empty; but which at night, and full, was thought the most cheerful apartment in town. It was adorned with gifts from artists who are members of the Club. Mr. Stanfield had given a splendid seapiece, with a wash of waves that set one coveting an excursion; and Mr. David Roberts had given a large and noble painting of Baalbec, one of his finest works. These great pictures occupied two sides of the room, and the other walls were similarly ornamented. Mrs. Stirling's bright face looked down upon the smokers, and there was a statuette of one who loved the room—the author of Vanity Fair.
"The visitor was then brought back to the hall, and taken upstairs to the drawing-room floor. On the wall as he passed he would observe a vast picture of Mr. Charles Kemble (long a member) as Macbeth, and a Miss O'Neil as Juliet. He entered the coffee-room, as it was called, which was the front room, looking into King-street, and behind which was the morning-room, for newspapers and writing, and in which was the small but excellent library, rich in dramatic works. The coffee-room was devoted to the members' dinners; and the late Mr. Thackeray dined for the last time away from home at a table in a niche in which hung the scene from The Clandestine Marriage, where Lord Ogleby is preparing to join the ladies. Over the fireplace was another scene from the same play; and on the mantelpiece were Garrick's candlesticks, Kean's ring, and some other relics of interest. The paintings in this room were very valuable. There was Foote, by Reynolds; a Sheridan; John Kemble; Charles Kemble as Charles II. (under which picture he often sat in advanced life, when he in no degree resembled the audacious, stalwart king in the painting); Mrs. Charles Kemble, in male attire; Mrs. Fitzwilliam; Charles Mathews, père; a fine, roystering Woodward, reminding one of the rattling times of stage chivalry and 'victorious burgundy;' and in the morning-room was a delightful Kitty Clive, another Garrick, and, near the ceiling, a row of strong faces of by-gone days—Cooke the strongest.
"On the second floor were numerous small and very characteristic portraits; and in a press full of large folios was one of the completest and most valuable of collections of theatrical prints. In the card-room, behind this, were also some very quaint and curious likenesses, one of Mrs. Liston, as Dollalolla. There was a sweet face of 'the Prince's' Perdita, which excuses his infatuation and aggravates his treachery. When the visitor had seen these things and a few busts, among them one of the late Justice Talfourd (an old member), he was informed that he had seen the collection and he could go away, unless he were lucky enough to have an invitation to dine in the strangers' room.
"The new Club-house is a little more westward than the old one, but not much, the Garrick having resolved to cling to the classic region around Covent-Garden. It is in Garrick-street from the west end of King-street to Cranbourn-street. It has a frontage of ninety-six feet to the street; but the rear was very difficult, from its shape, to manage, and Mr. Marrable, the architect, has dealt very cleverly with the quaint form over which he had to lay out his chambers. The house is Italian, and is imposing, from having been judiciously and not over-enriched. In the hall is a very beautiful Italian screen. The noble staircase is of carved oak; at the top, a landing-place, from which is entered the morning-room, the card-room, and the library. All the apartments demanded by the habits of the day—some of them were not thought necessary in the days of Garrick—are, of course provided. The kitchens and all their arrangements are sumptuous, and the latest culinary improvements are introduced. The system of sunlights appears to be very complete, and devices for a perfect ventilation have not been forgotten."
The pictures have been judiciously hung in the new rooms: they include—Elliston as Octavian, by Singleton; Macklin (aged 93), by Opie; Mrs. Pritchard, by Hayman; Peg Woffington, by R. Wilson; Nell Gwynne, by Sir Peter Lely; Mrs. Abington; Samuel Foote, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; Colley Cibber as Lord Foppington; Mrs. Bracegirdle; Kitty Clive; Mrs. Robinson, after Reynolds; Garrick as Macbeth, and Mrs. Pritchard, Lady Macbeth, by Zoffany; Garrick as Richard III., by Morland, sen.; Young Roscius, by Opie; Quin, by Hogarth; Rich and his family, by Hogarth; Charles Mathews, four characters, by Harlowe; Nat Lee, painted in Bedlam; Anthony Leigh as the Spanish Friar, by Kneller; John Liston, by Clint; Munden, by Opie; John Johnston, by Shee; Lacy in three characters, by Wright; Scene from Charles II., by Clint; Mrs. Siddons as Lady Macbeth, by Harlowe; J. P. Kemble as Cato, by Lawrence; Macready as Henry IV., by Jackson; Edwin, by Gainsborough; the twelve of the School of Garrick; Kean, Young, Elliston, and Mrs. Inchbald, by Harlowe; Garrick as Richard III., by Loutherbourg; Rich as Harlequin; Moody and Parsons in The Committee, by Vandergucht; King as Touchstone, by Zoffany; Thomas Dogget; Henderson, by Gainsborough; Elder Colman, by Reynolds; Mrs. Oldfield, by Kneller; Mrs. Billington; Nancy Dawson; Screen Scene from The School for Scandal, as originally cast; Scene from Venice Preserved (Garrick and Mrs. Cibber), by Zoffany; Scene from Macbeth (Henderson); Scene from Love, Law, and Physic (Mathews, Liston, Blanchard, and Emery), by Clint; Scene from The Clandestine Marriage (King and Mr. and Mrs. Baddeley), by Zoffany; Weston as Billy Button, by Zoffany.
The following have been presented to the Club:—Busts of Mrs. Siddons and J. P. Kemble, by Mrs. Siddons; of Garrick, Captain Marryat, Dr. Kitchiner, and Malibran; Garrick, by Roubiliac; Griffin and Johnson in The Alchemist, by Von Bleeck; Miniatures of Mrs. Robinson and Peg Woffington; Sketch of Kean by Lambert; Garrick Mulberry-tree Snuff-box; Joseph Harris as Cardinal Wolsey, from the Strawberry Hill Collection; Proof Print of the Trial of Queen Katherine, by Harlowe.
The Garrick men will, for the sake of justice, excuse the mention of a short-coming: at the first dinner of the Club, from the list of toasts was omitted "Shakspeare," who, it must be allowed, contributed to Garrick's fame. David did not so forget the Bard, as is attested in his statue by Roubiliac, which, after adorning the Garrick grounds at Hampton, was bequeathed by the grateful actor to the British Museum.
The Club were entertained at a sumptuous dinner by their brother member, Lord Mayor Moon, in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House, in 1855.
The Gin-punch made with iced soda-water, is a notable potation at the Garrick; and the rightful patentee of the invention was Mr. Stephen Price, an American gentleman, well known on the turf, and as the lessee of Drury-lane Theatre. His title has been much disputed—
"Grammatici certant et adhuc sub judice lis est;"
and many, misled by Mr. Theodore Hook's frequent and liberal application of the discovery, were in the habit of ascribing it to him. But, Mr. Thomas Hill, the celebrated "trecentenarian" of a popular song, who was present at Mr. Hook's first introduction to the beverage, has set the matter at rest by a brief narration of the circumstances. One hot afternoon, in July, 1835, the inimitable author of Sayings and Doings (what a book might be made of his own!) strolled into the Garrick in that equivocal state of thirstiness which it requires something more than common to quench. On describing the sensation, he was recommended to make a trial of the punch, and a jug was compounded immediately under the personal inspection of Mr. Price. A second followed—a third, with the accompaniment of some chops—a fourth—a fifth—a sixth—at the expiration of which Mr. Hook went away to keep a dinner engagement at Lord Canterbury's. He always ate little, and on this occasion he ate less, and Mr. Horace Twiss inquired in a fitting tone of anxiety if he was ill. "Not exactly," was the reply; "but my stomach won't bear trifling with, and I was tempted to take a biscuit and a glass of sherry about three."
The receipt for the gin punch is as follows:—pour half a pint of gin on the outer peel of a lemon, then a little lemon-juice, a glass of maraschino, about a pint and a quarter of water, and two bottles of iced soda-water; and the result will be three pints of the punch in question.
Another choice spirit of the Garrick was the aforesaid Hill, "Tom Hill," as he was called by all who loved and knew him. He "happened to know everything that was going forward in all circles—mercantile, political, fashionable, literary, or theatrical; in addition to all matters connected with military and naval affairs, agriculture, finance, art, and science—everything came alike to him." He was born in 1760, and was many years a drysalter at Queenhithe, but about 1810 he lost a large sum of money by a speculation in indigo; after which he retired upon the remains of his property, to chambers in the Adelphi. While at Queenhithe, he found leisure to make a fine collection of old books, chiefly old poetry, which were valued at six thousand pounds. He greatly assisted two friendless poets, Bloomfield and Kirke White; he also established The Monthly Mirror, which brought him much into connection with dramatic poets, actors, and managers, when he collected theatrical curiosities and relics. Hill was the Hull of Hook's clever novel, Gilbert Gurney, and the reputed original of Paul Pry, though the latter is doubtful. The standard joke about him was his age. He died in 1841, in his eighty-first year, though Hook and all his friends always affected to consider him as quite a Methuselah. James Smith once said that it was impossible to discover his age, for the parish-register had been burnt in the fire of London; but Hook capped this:—'Pooh, pooh!—(Tom's habitual exclamation)—he's one of the Little Hills that are spoken of as skipping in the Psalms.' As a mere octogenarian he was wonderful enough. No human being would, from his appearance, gait, or habits, have guessed him to be sixty. Till within three months of his death, Hill rose at five usually, and brought the materials of his breakfast home with him to the Adelphi from a walk to Billingsgate; and at dinner he would eat and drink like an adjutant of five-and-twenty. One secret was, that a 'banyan-day' uniformly followed a festivity. He then nursed himself most carefully on tea and dry toast, tasted neither meat nor wine, and went to bed by eight o'clock. But perhaps the grand secret was, the easy, imperturbable serenity of his temper. He had been kind and generous in the day of his wealth; and though his evening was comparatively poor, his cheerful heart kept its even beat.
Hill was a patient collector throughout his long life. His old English poetry, which Southey considered the rarest assemblage in existence, was dispersed in 1810; and, after Hill's death, his literary rarities and memorials occupied Evans, of Pall Mall, a clear week to sell by auction: the autograph letters were very interesting, and among the memorials were Garrick's Shakspeare Cup and a vase carved from the Bard's mulberry-tree; and a block of wood from Pope's willow, at Twickenham.
Albert Smith was also of the Garrick, and usually dined here before commencing his evening entertainment at the Egyptian Hall, in Piccadilly.
Smith was very clubbable, and with benevolent aims: he was a leader of the Fielding Club, in Maiden-lane, Covent Garden, which gave several amateur theatrical representations, towards the establishment of "a Fund for the immediate relief of emergencies in the Literary or Theatrical world;" having already devoted a considerable sum to charitable purposes. This plan of relieving the woes of others through our own pleasures is a touch of nature which yields twofold gratification.
Club Life of London Vol. I