"Poor fellow! He likes us better than the fine folks, who don't care for him now now he is no longer a fine folk himself," adds the girl, smiling. "Why have you not set up for the fashion, and frequented the chocolate-houses and the racecourses, Mr. Warrington?" "Has my brother got so much good out of his gay haunts or his grand friends, that I should imitate him?"
At noon most of the nobility, and such gentlemen as are members of the House of Commons, go down to Westminster, and when the Houses do not sit late, return home to dinner. Others that are not members of either House, and have no particular business to attend, are found in the chocolate-houses near the Court, or in the park, and many more do not stir from their houses till after dinner.
These rates appear to have been from 10s. to 15s. a pound, a price which made chocolate, rather than coffee, the beverage of the aristocracy, who flocked to the chocolate-houses soon to spring up in the fashionable centres. Here, records a Spanish visitor to London, were to be found such members of the polite world as were not at the same time members of either House.
The chocolate-houses were thus the forerunners of our modern clubs, and one of them, "The Cocoa Tree," early the headquarters of the Jacobite party, became subsequently recognised as the club of the literati, including among its members such men as Garrick and Byron. White's Cocoa House, adjoining St.
They wrote, and rallied, and rhymed, and sung, and said, and said nothing; they drank, and fought, and slept, and swore, and took snuff; they went to new plays on the first night, haunted the chocolate-houses, beat the watch; they bilked hackney-coachmen, ran in debt with shopkeepers, and lay with their wives; they killed bailiffs, kicked fiddlers down-stairs, ate at Locket's, loitered at Will's; they talked of the drawing-room and never came there; dined with lords they never saw; whispered a duchess and spoke never a word; exposed the scrawls of their laundress for billet-doux of quality; came ever just from court and were never seen in it; attended the levee sub dio; got a list of peers by heart in one company, and with great familiarity retailed them in another.
People this street, so ornamented, with crowds of swinging chairmen, with servants bawling to clear the way, with Mr. Dean in his cassock, his lackey marching before him; or Mrs. Fancy the beaux thronging to the chocolate-houses, tapping their snuff-boxes as they issue thence, their periwigs appearing over the red curtains.
The coffee-houses and chocolate-houses were the clubs of the day. It was there the wits gathered together to talk, just as in the days of Ben Jonson they gathered at the Mermaid Tavern. And in these still nearly newspaperless days it was in the coffee-houses that the latest news, whether of politics or literature or sheer gossip, was heard and discussed.
They did not stand, as Italians love to do, grouped in the piazzas, chattering, gesticulating and acting as much for their own amusement as for their hearers'; nor did they crowd the chocolate-houses, where, as a rule, the very flies are buzzing the news. It seemed to me that church doors alone stood open.
They were married at the Savoy, and my grandfather dying very soon, Harry Barry, Esquire, took possession of his paternal property and supported our illustrious name with credit in London. He pinked the famous Count Tiercelin behind Montague House, he was a member of 'White's, and a frequenter of all the chocolate-houses; and my mother, likewise, made no small figure.