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The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

The Bhagavad Gita


Clubs and club life in London

by John Timbs


Three years after the Great Fire, in 1669, there was established in the City, the Civil Club, which exists to this day. All the members are citizens, and are proud of their Society, on account of its antiquity, and of its being the only Club which attaches to its staff the reputed office of a chaplain. The members appear to have first dubbed together for the sake of mutual aid and support; but the name of the founder of the Club, and the circumstances of its origin, have unfortunately been lost with its early records. The time at which it was established was one of severe trials, when the Great Plague and the Great Fire had broken up much society, and many old associations; the object and recommendation being, as one of the rules expresses it, "that members should give preference to each other in their respective callings;" and that "but one person of the same trade or profession should be a member of the Club." This is the rule of the old middle-class clubs called " One of a Trade."

* Notes and Queries, 2nd S. vol. xii. p. 386. Communicated by Mr. Buckton. t Memoir of Aubrey, by John Britton, 4to, p. 36.

The Civil Club met for many years at the Old Ship Tavern, in Water-lane, upon which being taken down, the Club removed to the New Corn Exchange Tavern, in Marklane. The records, which are extant, show among former members Parliament men, baronets, and aldermen; the chaplain is the incumbent of St. Olave-by-the-Tower, Hartstreet Two high carved chairs, bearing date 1669, are used by the stewards.

At the time of the Revolution, the Treason Club, as it was commonly called, met at the Rose Tavern, in Covent Garden,' to consult with Lord Colchester, Mr. Thomas Wharton, Colonel Talmash, Colonel Godfrey, and many others of their party; and it was there resolved that the regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Langstone's command should desert entire, as they did, on Sunday, Nov. 1688.*

In Friday-street, Cheapside, was held the Wednesday Club, at which, in 1695, certain conferences took place under the direction of William Paterson, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Bank of England. Such is the general belief; but Mr. Saxe Bannister, in his Life of Paterson, p. 93, observes: "It has been a matter of much doubt whether the Bank of England was originally proposed from a Club or Society in the City of London. The Dialogue Conferences of the Wednesday Club, in Friday-street, have been quoted as if first published in 1695. No such publication has been met with of a date before 1706;" and Mr. Bannister states his reasons for supposing it was not preceded by any other book. Still, Paterson wrote the papers entitled the Wednesday Club Conferences.

* Maopherson's History of England, vol. iil.—Original papers.

Club is defined by Dr. Johnson to be "an assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions;" but by Todd, "an association of persons subjected to particular rules." It is plain that the latter definition is at least not that of a Club, as distinguished from any other kind of association; although it may be more comprehensive than is necessary, to take in all the gatherings that in modern times have assumed the name of Clubs. Johnson's, however, is the more exact account of the true old English Club.

The golden period of the Clubs was, however, in the time of the Spectator, in whose rich humour their memories are embalmed. "Man," writes Addison, in No. 9, "is said to be a sociable animal; and as an instance of it we may observe, that we take all occasions and pretences of forming ourselves into those little nocturnal assemblies, which are commonly known by the name of Clubs. When a set of men find themselves agree in any particular, though never so trivial, they establish themselves into a kind of fraternity, and meet once or twice a week, upon the account of such a fantastic resemblance."

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