Page images

throat. Sir Robert grappled with his antagonist in return, and, after a momentary struggle, both parties mutually relinquished their grasp and laid their hands on their swords. Mrs. Selwyn, who was present, ran out in a fright to call in the palace guard; she was prevented, however, by the celebrated Henry Pelham, by whose interposition the friends were subsequently reconciled.* According to Wraxall, Gay introduced this scene into the

Beggar's Opera,” where Walpole and Townshend are represented as Peachum and Lockit.t Unfortunately however, for the truth of this literary anecdote, I find that the fracas between the two ministers of state did not take place till the year 1729, at which period the “ Beggar's Opera” had had the run of the stage about a year.

It was in the house, where this extraordinary scene occurred, that George Selwyn resided for some years, and here he died, penitent and devout, on the 25th of January, 1791. Close to him, in Cleveland Court, died, in 1805, his friend Gilly Williams, another celebrated wit of the last century, whose correspondence with Selwyn, during more than twenty years, has recently been given to the public; and, lastly, at No. 5, Cleveland Row, lived a wit still more brilliant, the late lamented Theodore Hook.

Previous to his great victory over De Grasse, in 1782, Lord Rodney lived in great distress in Cleve

* Coxe's “ Life of Walpole.”
+ Wraxall's “ Memoirs of his own Time.”

land Row. In Wraxall's “Memoirs of his Own Time," the reader will find an interesting account of him at this period.

Cleveland Row and Cleveland Court,—the latter a small area at the back,--take their names from Cleveland House which stood close by, but nearer the Green Park. It was originally called Berkshire House, from being the residence of the Howards, Earls of Berkshire, and was then of great extent. After the restoration of Charles the Second, it was for some time the residence of the great Earl of Clarendon, but was afterwards purchased and presented by Charles the Second to his beautiful mistress Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, and was the scene of many of their revels and their loves. A part of the property was sold by the Duchess, and converted into smaller houses. The remaining part, which she kept herself, was afterwards the residence of the Dukes of Bridgewater, but has been pulled down within the last few years, to make room for the splendid mansion which has been so long projected by the representative of the Bridgewater family, Lord Elles


Passing up St. James's Street, on the east side, are two streets, King Street and Little Ryder Street, which deserve a passing notice. In King Street are Almack's rooms, which were opened, in 1765, by Almack, the proprietor of the once fashionable club in Pall Mall, which we have seen Gibbon preferring to every other club in

London. Horace Walpole writes to the Earl of Hertford on the 14th of February, 1765,—“ The new assembly room at Almack's was opened the night before last, and they say is very magnificent, but it was empty; half the town is ill with colds, and many were afraid to go, as the house is scarcely built yet. Almack advertised that it was built with hot bricks and boiling-water; think what a rage there must be for public places, if this notice, instead of terrifying, could draw any body thither.

They tell me the ceilings were dropping with wet,-but can you believe me when I tell you the Duke of Cumberland was there? Nay, he had had a levee in the morning, and went to the opera before the assembly! There is a vast flight of steps, and he was forced to rest two or three times. If he died of it, it will sound very silly, when Hercules or Theseus ask him what he died of, to reply,—'I caught my death on a damp staircase at a new club-room."*

Somewhat higher up St. James's Street is Little Ryder Street, where Swift was residing in December, 1712.1 From hence we pass into Bury Street, where the unfortunate Letitia Pilkington informs us that she lodged in the time of her necessity.I Swift also resided here in 1710, and from this street many of the most interesting of his letters to Stella are dated. He writes to her on the 19th

Walpole's “ Correspondence.”
+ Journal to Stella,” 12 December, 1712.
# See her curious “Memoirs of Herself,” vol. ii.

[ocr errors][merged small]


of September, 1710,—“ To-morrow I change my lodgings in Pall Mall for one in Bury Street, where I suppose I shall continue while in London.” And again he writes to her on the 29th of the month,—“I lodge in Bury Street, where I removed a week ago; I have the first floor, a dining-room, and bed-chamber, at eight shillings a week, plaguy dear, but I spend nothing for eating, never go a tavern, and very seldom in a coach; yet after all it will be expensive."

It is a pleasure to me to point out that Bury Street has long been the temporary residence of the author of the “ Irish Melodies" and of “ Lalla Rookh,” during his periodical visits to London. Future historians of London may perhaps thank me for the information.


* “ Journal to Stella,” 22 Sept. 1710.





ST. JAMES'S SQUARE dates its existence from the days of Charles the Second. King Street, and Charles Street, were named in compliment to that monarch, as York Street and Duke Street were also named after his brother the Duke of York, afterwards James the Second.

As early as the year 1683, we find the Marquis of Dorchester, and the Earls of Kent, St. Albans, and Essex, residing in St. James's Square. Many, however, of the ancient nobility still continued to retain their old family mansions in the eastern quarters of London, or in districts which now sound strangely uninhabitable to fashionable ears. At the period of which we are speaking, the Duke of Newcastle lived in Clerkenwell Close, the Earl of Bridgewater in the Barbican, the Earl of Thanet in Aldersgate Street, and Lord Grey of Werk in Charterhouse Close. The Dukes of Norfolk and Beaufort, and the Earls of Bedford and Salisbury, still retained the houses of their forefathers in the Strand; the Marquis of Winchester, and the Earls

« PreviousContinue »