Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 The Grecian Coffee House


Devereux-court, Strand, (closed in 1843,) was named from Constantine, of Threadneedle-street, the Grecian who kept it. In the Tatler announcement, all accounts of learning are to be "under the title of the Grecian;" and, in the Tatler, No. 6: "While other parts of the town are amused with the present actions, [Marlborough's,] we generally spend the evening at this table [at the Grecian], in inquiries into antiquity, and think anything new, which gives us new knowledge. Thus, we are making a very pleasant entertainment to ourselves in putting the actions of Homer's Iliad into an exact journal."

The Spectator's face was very well-known at the Grecian, a Coffee-house "adjacent to the law." Occasionally, it was the scene of learned discussion. Thus Dr. King relates that one evening, two gentlemen, who were constant companions, were disputing here, concerning the accent of a Greek word. This dispute was carried to such a length, that the two friends thought proper to determine it with their swords: for this purpose they stepped into Devereux-court, where one of them (Dr. King thinks his name was Fitzgerald) was run through the body, and died on the spot.

The Grecian was Foote's morning lounge. It was handy, too, for the young Templar, Goldsmith, and often did it echo with Oliver's boisterous mirth; for "it had become the favourite resort of the Irish and Lancashire Templars, whom he delighted in collecting around him, in entertaining with a cordial and unostentatious hospitality, and in occasionally amusing with his flute, or with whist, neither of which he played very well!" Here Goldsmith occasionally wound up his "Shoemaker's Holiday" with supper.

It was at the Grecian that Fleetwood Shephard told this memorable story to Dr. Tancred Robinson, who gave Richardson permission to repeat it. "The Earl of Dorset was in Little Britain, beating about for books to his taste: there was Paradise Lost. He was surprised with some passages he struck upon, dipping here and there and bought it; the bookseller begged him to speak in its favour, if he liked it, for they lay on his hands as waste paper. Jesus!—Shephard was present. My Lord took it home, read it, and sent it to Dryden, who in a short time returned it. 'This man,' says Dryden, 'cuts us all out, and the ancients too!'"

The Grecian was also frequented by Fellows of the Royal Society. Thoresby, in his Diary, tells us, 22 May, 1712, that "having bought each a pair of black silk stockings in Westminster Hall, they returned by water, and then walked, to meet his friend, Dr. Sloane, the Secretary of the Royal Society, at the Grecian Coffee-house, by the Temple." And, on June 12th, same year, "Thoresby attended the Royal Society, where were present, the President, Sir Isaac Newton, both the Secretaries, the two Professors from Oxford, Dr. Halley and Kell, with others, whose company we after enjoyed at the Grecian Coffee-house."

In Devereux-court, also, was Tom's Coffee-house, much resorted to by men of letters; among whom were Dr. Birch, who wrote the History of the Royal Society; also Akenside, the poet; and there is in print a letter of Pope's, addressed to Fortescue, his "counsel learned in the law," at this coffee-house.

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