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


In Pall Mall, was, in the reign of Queen Anne, famous for "that cluster of wise-heads" found sitting every evening, from the left side of the fire to the door. The following announcement in the Tatler, No. 78, is amusing: "This is to give notice to all ingenious gentlemen in and about the cities of London and Westminster, who have a mind to be instructed in the noble sciences of music, poetry, and politics, that they repair to the Smyrna Coffee-house, in Pall Mall, betwixt the hours of eight and ten at night, where they may be instructed gratis, with elaborate essays by word of mouth," on all or any of the above-mentioned arts. The disciples are to prepare their bodies with three dishes of bohea, and to purge their brains with two pinches of snuff. If any young student gives indication of parts, by listening attentively, or asking a pertinent question, one of the professors shall distinguish him, by taking snuff out of his box in the presence of the whole audience.

"N.B. The seat of learning is now removed from the corner of the chimney, on the left hand towards the window, to the round table in the middle of the floor over against the fire; a revolution much lamented by the porters and chairmen, who were much edified through a pane of glass that remained broken all the last summer."

Prior and Swift were much together at the Smyrna: we read of their sitting there two hours, "receiving acquaintance;" and one entry of Swift's tells us that he walked a little in the Park till Prior made him go with him to the Smyrna Coffee-house. It seemed to be the place to talk politics; but there is a more agreeable record of it in association with our "Poet of the Year," thus given by Cunningham: "In the printed copy of Thomson's proposals for publishing, by subscription, the Four Seasons, with a Hymn on their succession, the following note is appended:—'Subscriptions now taken in by the author, at the Smyrna Coffee-house, Pall Mall.'"[11] We find the Smyrna in a list of Coffee-Houses in 1810.

[11] The Dane Coffee-house, between the Upper and Lower Malls, Hammersmith, was frequented by Thomson, who wrote here a part of his Winter. On the Terrace resided, for many years, Arthur Murphy, and Loutherbourg, the painter. The latter died there, in 1812.

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