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Literary Coffee-houses In The Last Century








Three of the most celebrated resorts of the literati of the last
century were Will's Coffee-house, No. 23, on the north side of Great
Russell-street, Covent Garden, at the end of Bow-street. This was the
favourite resort of Dryden, who had here his own chair, in winter by the
fireside, in summer in the balcony: the company met in the first floor,
and there smoked; and the young beaux and wits were sometimes honoured
with a pinch out of Dryden's snuff-box. Will's was the resort of men of
genius till 1710: it was subsequently occupied by a perfumer.

Tom's, No. 17, Great Russell-street, had nearly 700 subscribers, at a
guinea a-head, from 1764 to 1768, and had its card, conversation, and
coffee-rooms, where assembled Dr. Johnson, Carrick, Murphy, Goldsmith,
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Foote, and other men of talent: the tables and
books of the club were not many years since preserved in the house, the
first floor of which was then occupied by Mr. Webster, the medallist.

Button's, "over against" Tom's, was the receiving-house for
contributions to The Guardian, in a lion-head box, the aperture for
which remains in the wall to mark the place. Button had been servant to
Lady Warwick, whom Addison married; and the house was frequented by
Pope, Steele, Swift, Arbuthnot, and Addison. The lion's head for a
letter-box, "the best head in England," was set up in imitation of
the celebrated lion at Venice: it was removed from Button's to the
Shakspeare's Head, under the arcade in Covent Garden; and in 1751, was
placed in the Bedford, next door. This lion's head is now treasured as a
relic by the Bedford family.

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