Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lloyd's in the time of Charles II


During the reign of Charles II., Coffee-houses grew into such favour, that they quickly spread over the metropolis, and were the usual meeting-places of the roving cavaliers, who seldom visited home but to sleep. The following song, from Jordan's Triumphs of London, 1675, affords a very curious picture of the manners of the times, and the sort of conversation then usually met with in a well-frequented house of the sort,—the "Lloyd's" of the seventeenth century:—

"You that delight in wit and mirth,

And love to hear such news

That come from all parts of the earth,

Turks, Dutch, and Danes, and Jews:

I'll send ye to the rendezvous,

Where it is smoaking new;

Go hear it at a coffee-house,

It cannot but be true.

"There battails and sea-fights are fought,

And bloudy plots displaid;

They know more things than e'er was thought,

Or ever was bewray'd:

No money in the minting-house

Is half so bright and new;

And coming from the Coffee-House,

It cannot but be true.

"Before the navies fell to work,

They knew who should be winner;

They there can tell ye what the Turk

Last Sunday had to dinner.

Who last did cut Du Ruiter's[3] corns,

Amongst his jovial crew;

Or who first gave the devil horns,

Which cannot but be true.

"A fisherman did boldly tell,

And strongly did avouch,

He caught a shole of mackerell,

They parley'd all in Dutch;

And cry'd out Yaw, yaw, yaw, mine hare,

And as the draught they drew,

They stunk for fear that Monk[4] was there:

This sounds as if 'twere true.

"There's nothing done in all the world,

From monarch to the mouse;

But every day or night 'tis hurl'd

Into the coffee-house:

What Lilly[5] what Booker[6] cou'd

By art not bring about,

At Coffee-house you'll find a brood,

Can quickly find it out.

"They know who shall in times to come,

Be either made or undone,

From great St. Peter's-street in Rome,

To Turnbal-street[7] in London.

"They know all that is good or hurt,

To damn ye or to save ye;

There is the college and the court,

The country, camp, and navy.

So great an university,

I think there ne'er was any;

In which you may a scholar be,

For spending of a penny.

"Here men do talk of everything,

With large and liberal lungs,

Like women at a gossiping,

With double tire of tongues,

They'll give a broadside presently,

'Soon as you are in view:

With stories that you'll wonder at,

Which they will swear are true.

"You shall know there what fashions are,

How perriwigs are curl'd;

And for a penny you shall hear

All novels in the world;

Both old and young, and great and small,

And rich and poor you'll see;

Therefore let's to the Coffee all,

Come all away with me."

[3] The Dutch admiral who, in June, 1667, dashed into the Downs with a fleet of eighty sail, and many fire-ships, blocked up the mouths of the Medway and Thames, destroyed the fortifications at Sheerness, cut away the paltry defences of booms and chains drawn across the rivers, and got to Chatham, on the one side, and nearly to Gravesend on the other; the king having spent in debauchery the money voted by Parliament for the proper support of the English navy.

[4] General Monk and Prince Rupert were at this time commanders of the English fleet.

[5] Lilly was the celebrated astrologer of the Protectorate, who earned great fame at that time by predicting, in June, 1645, "if now we fight, a victory stealeth upon us:" a lucky guess, signally verified in the King's defeat at Naseby. Lilly thenceforth always saw the stars favourable to the Puritans.

[6] This man was originally a fishing-tackle-maker in Tower-street, during the reign of Charles I.; but turning enthusiast, he went about prognosticating "the downfall of the King and Popery;" and as he and his predictions were all on the popular side, he became a great man with the superstitious "godly brethren" of that day.

[7] Turnbal, or Turnbull-street as it is still called, had been for a century previous of infamous repute. In Beaumont and Fletcher's play, the Knight of the Burning Pestle, one of the ladies who is undergoing penance at the barber's, has her character sufficiently pointed out to the audience, in her declaration, that she had been "stolen from her friends in Turnbal-street."

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