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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