Abbildungen der Seite

being in subordination to it; for no man can be a gainer here but at the same time he himself, or some other, must succeed in their dealings with the Government. It is called “The Multiplication Table," and is so far calculated for the immediate service of Her Majesty, that the same person who is fortunate in the lottery of the State may receive yet further advantages in this table. And I am sure nothing can be more pleasing to her gracious temper than to find out additional methods of increasing their good fortune who adventure anything in her service or laying occasions for others to become capable of serving their country, who are at present in too low circumstances to exert themselves. The manner of executing the design is by giving out receipts for half guineas received, which shall entitle the fortunate bearer to certain sums in the table, as is set forth at large in proposals printed on the 23rd instant. There is another circumstance in this design which gives me hopes of your favour to it, and that is what Tully advises, to wit, that the benefit is made as diffusive as possible. Every one that has half-a-guinea is put into the possibility, from that small sum, to raise himself an easy fortune; when these little parcels of wealth are, as it were, thus thrown back again into the redonation of Providence, we are to expect that some who live under hardships or obscurity may be produced to the world in the figure they deserve by this means. I doubt not but this last argument will have force with you, and I cannot add another to it but what your severity will, I fear, very little regard ; which is, that I am,

Sir, your greatest admirer,

RICHARD STEELE. Some progress was made in this scheme, as appears from the following Advertisement appended to No. 417 of the Spectator, oddly enough, “On the Pleasures of the Imagination :"

"Whereas the proposal called the Multiplication Table is under an information from the Attorney-General; in humble submission and duty to Her Majesty, the said undertaking is laid down, and attendance is this day given, at the last house on the left hand, in Ship-yard, Bartholomew-lane, in order to repay such sums as have been paid in the said table, without deduction.”

How the projector fared is thus told in Swift's Works, vol. xv. p. 312, 8vo edit. 1801 : " Steele was arrested the other day for making a lottery, directed against an act of parliament. He is now under prosecution ; but they think it will be dropped out of pity. I believe he will very soon lose his employment, for he has been mighty impertinent of late in his Spectator, and I will never offer a word in his behalf.”

SIR RICHARD STEELE AND THE PLAYERS. Upon the accession of George I. Steele's prospects brightened. He was made Surveyor of the Royal Stables; was

[ocr errors]


placed in the commission of peace for Middlesex ; and on going up with an address from that county, was knighted. The supervision of the Theatre Royal (then a Government office, entitling to a share in the patent, worth 7001. or 8001. a-year,) became vacant, and upon the earnest petition of the players, Steele was named to the office. He was delighted, and the players remembered when the services of a criticism in the Tatler used to fill their theatre when nothing else could. All owed something to Richard Steele, who, on one occasion, good-naturedly permitted Dogget to announce the Tatler as intending to be present at his benefit. Accordingly, a fictitious Isaac Bickerstaff was dressed, and occupied a box over the pit during the performance of three acts of Love for Love, to the delight of the crowded house.

Steele’s kindness and genius as a critic of players in the Tatler were exemplary: the most humble as well as the highest obtained his good word. An instance occurs in his notice of a small actor in Betterton's time; and who, Steele tells us, spoke the prologue to the play introduced in the tragedy of Hamlet, “ with such an air as represented that he was an actor ; and with such an inferior manner as only acting an actor, that the actors on the stage were made to appear real great persons, and not representatives. This was a nicety in acting

that none but the most subtle player could so much as conceive."

STEELE AND ADDISON AT THE KIT-KAT CLUB. Upon Addison's return to England, he found his friend Steele established among the wits; and they were both received with great honour at Will's and the St. James's, and at the Trumpet, in Shire-lane.

They were also members of the famous Whig Club—the Kit-Kat, which met in Shire-lane, at the house of Christopher Kat, the maker of the mutton-pies which formed a standing dish at the club suppers : these pies were called Kit-Kats;

the portraits of the members were all painted for old Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, and secretary of the club, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, on canvases of uniform size, thirtysix inches by twenty-eight, since known among portraitpainters as kit-kat size. Pope, however, says that each member gave Tonson his own portrait. A writer in the National Review, No. 8, remarks: It is hard to believe, as we pick our way along the narrow and filthy

pathway of Shire-lane, that in this blind alley, some hundred and fifty years ago, used to meet many of the finest gentlemen and choicest wits of the days of Queen Anne and the first George. Inside one of those frowsy and low-ceiled rooms, Halifax bas conversed and Soniers unbent, Addison mellowed over a bottle, Congreve flasbed his wit, Vanbrugh let loose his easy humour, Garth talked and rhymed. The Dukes of Somerset, Richmond, Grafton, Devonshire, Marlborough, and Newcastle ; the Earls of Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, Wharton, and Kingston ; Sir Robert Walpole, Granville, Maynwaring, Stepney, and Walsh,-all belonged to the Kit-Kat.

The reviewer omits Steele, who stands first in the list of members given by Pope, 1730.-(Spence's Anecdotes, Supplement.) The members subscribed in 1709 four hundred guineas for the encouragement of good comedies. Soon after that they broke up. Its toasting-glasses, each inscribed with a verse to some reigning beauty of the time, were long famous.

In the British Portrait Gallery, at Manchester, in 1857, Mr. Baker, of Bayfordbury, the present representative of Jacob Tonson, contributed a few of the forty portraits of the members of the Kit-Kat Club, namely, Tonson himself, Lord Somers, Dryden, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Steele, and Addison.

Steele did not spare the abuses of the chocolate-houses, which preceded the clubs, in his day. The National Reviewer also states :

Steele, who had no doubt bled but too freely, devoted many numbers of the Tatler to the exposition of these chocolate-house sharpers, and ran no slight risk of assassination from some of the Aces and Cutters he showed up. But Honest Dick was known to be a master of his weapon, and a true Irishman in his defiance of danger; so he carried home his skinful of claret unpinked from many a heavy bout at Button's with Addison, Brett, and Budgell, to poor Mrs. Steele in Bury-street.

There are two slips here which should be corrected. Steele left Bury-street in the same year that Button's was established ; and Mrs. Steele became Lady Steele three years after.

A MEDICAL CONFESSION, A confession, frankly made by Sir Samuel Garth, physician to George I., and a member of the Kit-Kat Club, has been preserved : perhaps the truth it reveals is as conspicuous as its humour. Garth, coming to the Club one night, declared he must soon be gone, having many patients to attend; but some good wine being produced, he forgot them. Sir Richard Steele was of the party, and reminding him of the visits he had to pay, Garth immediately pulled out his list,

[ocr errors]


which amounted to fifteen, and said, “It's no great matter whether I see them to-night or not, for nine of them have such bad constitutions that all the physicians in the world can't save them, and the other six have such good constitutions that all the physicians in the world can't kill them.”

A GREAT WHIG MEETING. Dr. Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor, accompanied Steele and Addison to a Whig celebration of King William's anniversary; when Sir Richard, in his zeal, rather exposed himself, having the double duty of the day upon him—as well to celebrate the immortal memory of King William, it being the 4th of November, as to drink his friend Addison up to conversation pitch, whose phlegmatic constitution was hardly warmed for society by that time. Steele was not fit for it. Two remarkable circumstances happened. John Sly, the hatter of facetious memory, was in the house; and John, pretty mellow, took it into his head to come into the company on his knees, with a tankard of ale in his hand to drink off to the immor. tal memory, and to return in the same manner. Steele, sitting next Bishop Hoadly, whispered him-Do laugh. It is humanity to laugh. Sir Richard, in the evening, being too much in the same condition, was put into a chair, and sent home. Nothing could serve him but being carried to the Bishop of Bangor's, late as it was. However, the chairmen carried him home, and got him upstairs, when his great complaisance would wait on them downstairs, which he did, and then was got quietly to bed. Next morning Steele sent the indulgent Bishop this couplet:

6. Virtue with so much ease on Bangor sits,
All faults he pardons, though he none commits."

STEELE AT “BUTTON'S.” After the death of Dryden, who made Will's Coffee-house the great resort of the wits of his time, Addison transferred it to Button's, on the south side of Russell-street, Coventgarden, over against Tom's. It was kept by Daniel Button, who had been a servant in the Countess of Warwick's family, and was, accordingly, patronized by Addison. It was established in 1712, and was supported by Steele, in the Guardian,* in No. 85 of which we find Button addressing Mr

* The Lion's Head was removed to the Shakspeare Tavern, under the Piazza : and in 1751 was placed in the Bedford Coffee-house adjoin. ing, as the letter-box of the Inspector. In 1804, it was bought by Mr. Richardson, of Richardson's Hotel : it was sold by his son to the Duke of Bedford, and is preserved to this day at Woburn. The Lion's Head is etched in Ireland's Illustrations of Hogarth : it is boldly carved, and bears these lines from Martial :

Ironside, entreating him to do him justice, he having noticed Will's Coffee-house with a sort of preference: the letter has a postscript—“ The young poets are in the back room, and take their places as you directed.” In the 98th Guardian it is announced that a Lion's Head will be set up at Button's as a letter-box, and Button is to “ instruct any young author how to convey his works into the mouth of it with safety and secresy.'

Addison usually met his party at Button's, and dined there. Steele was frequently one of the party, and Villiers-street was handy to Russell-street. Button's continued in vogue till Addison's death, and Steele's retirement into Wales. It well bespeaks their clubable influence to learn that Button's then ceased to exist.

[ocr errors]


SHIRE-LANE. Shire-lane, alias Rogue-lane, which (falleth into Fleet-street by Temple Bar) has lost its old name-it is now called Lower Serle’s-place. This change of name is a common process in the moral purgation of a place, and if the morals of Shire-lane have been mended thereby, we must not repine. But this process will not efface the recollection, that at the upper end of the lane was the Trumpet public-house, where the Tatler (Steele) met his club. At this house in the lane he dated a great number of his papers, and received many interesting visitors ; and hence it was that he led down into Fleet-street, across the road to Dick's Coffee-house, the immortal deputation of “Twaddlers" from the country.

The Tatler's Club set is immortalized in his No. 132. Its members are smokers and old story-tellers, rather easy than shining companions, promoted the thoughts tranquilly bedward, and not the less comfortable to Mr. Bickerstaff because he found himself the leading wit among then. There is old Sir Jeffrey Notch, who has had misfortunes in the

• Cervantur magnis isti Cervicibus ungues :
Non nisi delictâ pascitur ille ferâ.”

Curiosities of London.

« ZurückWeiter »