Unfortunately Bibiana can’t be with us this time (and yes,
it is a delightfully appropriate name, isn’t it?) but I happened to be reading
a book on gentlemen’s clubs, and they drank a lot of port and brandy, so I
though I’d share some tidbits from that.
Also, I couldn’t find a picture of Charlie even in London, though he’s been there, so here’s one of him frolicking at Versailles.
The book is The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London by Anthony
Lejeune and Malcolm Lewis, and I just noted that their names aren’t on the
front, only on the spine, which seems so delightfully, understatedly English. 🙂
This book was sent me by a fan after she found it in a
booksale, but it seems moderately rare. It’s written in the delightful style of
one who really knows his clubs, and that seems to be Lejeune. Lewis seems to
have been responsible for the many illustrations and photographs. Alas, being
temporarily without a scanner, I can’t share any.
– don’t give quite enough weight to the gentlemen’s clubs. Wodehouse, for
example, with the Drones’ Club, or Ian Fleming with Blades, is probably more on the mark. Of course they had an advantage, both being men, and the sort of men who had a club or two as
naturally as they had shoes.
probably would rather their menfolk be at home than at the club. In fact, the
book includes a poem that is a lament by neglected wives, though attributed to
one Tom Hood.
Of all the modern schemes of man
That time has brought to bear,
A plague upon the wicked plan
That parts the wedded pair!
My female friends they all allow
They hardly know their hubs;
And heart and voice unite with me,
“We hate the name of clubs!”
(Doesn’t "hubs" sound strange?)
You can read it all here in a book of Hood’s work, published
in 1861. Of course earlier, women had clubs such as the Bluestocking salons, and Almack’s, but men were allowed, even encouraged. Anyone know of any exclusively for women? If not, why not?
It strikes me as a book full of delicious tid-bits. Can
anyone find one?
Can you recall any memorable scenes set in a
club? What’s the betting (how very clubbish!) it’s a scene where the heroine
invades, probably dressed as a man? So, what about a realistic scene, with men
I was actually looking for this.
mighty roast beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our hearts and
enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were
Oh! the roast beef of England,
And Old England’s roast beef."
Henry Fielding, 1735.
and the Charing Cross Road. (One of those English quirks is that quite a few streets are the Charing Cross Road, the Edgeware Road etc, presumably because they were originally
heading to those places. However in most places they become simply Bolton Road, Chorley Road, etc. ) Unlike most clubs it is and has always been a single
room with one long, communal dining table. The membership is a mix of peers,
politicians, academics, and people from the arts, which is perhaps
representative of that earlier age when mingling seemed to come naturally.
In its early days it had only 24 members, and even the Prince of Wales had to wait for an opening. They dined at 2pm — this was a typical dinner hour and in 1808 it moved to 4pm and in 1833 to 6pm in keeping with the drift to the evening meal — every Saturday between November and June (the months when gentlemen were most likely to be in London rather than at their country estates.) They ate beefsteaks followed by that great favorite, toasted cheese, washed down with port, porter (ale), punch, and whisky toddy. They wore blue coats, buff waistcoats and buttons which said “Beef and Liberty!”
The original club died in 1867, killed mostly by the
railways, which were taking people out of Town on the weekends, but it was
revived in 1876 as an everyday dining club and moved to the present location.
There’s more at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beefsteak_Club
but no pictures. Shame about the scanner. I’ll try to put up some another time.
This is another famous club that doesn’t get much play in
historical romance, perhaps because it sounds like the sort of place Bertie
Wooster would hang out. In fact,
according to Lejeune, “Solidity and tranquility make up the atmosphere of
Boodles.” It was largely free of
political affiliations and anything else that might cause disturbances. It was Ian Fleming’s favorite club because he
said a pub should be dull. Perhaps that’s why we romance writers avoid it. 🙂
Mall in the early 1760s.. It later moved to 28, St. James’s
street, to a place previously inhabited by the Savoire Vivre club. Now Lejeune
spells that Scavoire and I don’t know why. Anyone?
the one at White’s. Apparently Sir Winston Churchill, when made an honorary
member, had only one request – that he be allowed to sit in the window and
smoke a cigar. But who knew there was also a Boodles (without the ‘s) Jewelers, established in 1798? That could create confusion in a novel, couldn’t it?
Check Boodles the jewelers out here.
I really think that’s long enough for a blog, isn’t it? I’ll
be continuing to make notes from this book, and I’ll share them either here or
on my Minepast Blog.
Thanks to everyone who bought A Lady’s Secret and put it on the New York Times in print list (top 20) for four beautiful weeks. Don’t forget Lovers and Ladies, which has
also been selling very well. 🙂
If you’re wondering, I’m now working on Christian’s story. It’ll be out next year with the title, The Secret Wedding. No clubs in these books yet, but it was early days for clubs. Social life outside of home or court was still centered on coffee and chocolate houses, where nearly everyone was admitted.
As I said above, society became more restrictive over time, not less, and some think that the easy mixing of educated people in London in places like coffee houses contributed to Britain’s rising greatness. The lists of famous minds who might be chatting on any particular night is dazzling.
On the other hand, the reason it became more restrictive was expansion and the rising middle classes. There were just too many people and everyone didn’t know everyone anymore, so there were private clubs, and then clubs for this sort of person, and that profession, and that nationality…. Progress? Who can say.