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LONDON has no associations so interesting as those connected with its literary men. To the cultivated reader the Temple owes its greatest charm to the fact that it was the birthplace of Lamb, the home of Fielding, and that it contains Goldsmith's grave. Addison and Steele have hallowed the now unholy precincts of Charter House Square and Covent Garden; the shade of Chatterton still haunts Shoe Lane; Fleet Street, to this day, echoes with the ponderous tread of Dr. Johnson; and the modest dwelling that was once Will's Coffee House is of far more interest now than all that is left of the royal palaces of Whitehall and St. James.
The Society of Arts, in marking with its tablets certain of the historic houses of London, is deserving of much praise; but only a few of the many famous old buildings which still exist in the metropolis are thus distinguished, and no definite clew to their position is given, even in the best of guide-books. When the houses themselves have disappeared, the ordinary searcher, in nearly all instances, has the utmost difficulty in finding anything more than a faint indication of their site. To remedy this in some measure is what is designed in the following pages. They are intended simply as a guide to a side of London which has never before received particular attention. The places of literary association in the metropolis and in the suburbs are noted with
more or less accuracy in the ordinary hand-books and in the thousands of volumes - historical, traditional, local, and anecdotal - that have been published about the Great City; but in no single work has any attempt hitherto been made to follow the literary worthies of England to the spots they have known and loved in London as they have journeyed from the cradle to the grave.
The chief aims of this book have been completeness and exactness. It contains not only a great deal of matter which has never been printed before, but it verifies the statements and corrects the mistakes of the works that have gone before it. Innumerable volumes upon London have been consulted, from Stow and Strype to the younger Dickens; early insurance surveys, containing the number and position of every house in London since houses were first numbered, in 1767, have been compared with similar surveys of the present, by means of tracings and by actual measurements of the streets themselves; the first maps of London have been examined and compared in like manner with later and contemporary plans; directories for the last century and a half have been studied carefully; and it has been possible by these means to discover and note the exact sites of many interesting buildings, the position of which has hitherto been merely a matter of conjecture or entirely unknown.
The history of the London Directory has yet to be written. The oldest volume of that kind in the Library of the British Museum was "Published and sold by Henry Kent in Finch Lane, near the Royal Exchange," in 1736. It is a small pamphlet of fifty pages, and the original price was sixpence. It is prefaced by the following remarks: "The Difficulty which People are continually under, who have Business to transact, for Want of knowing where to find One Another, makes such a little PIECE as this very Useful, by saving a great deal of Trouble, Expense, and Loss of Time, in Dispatch
of Affairs, especially to Merchants, Bankers and others who deal in Notes and Bills of Exchange."1
This directory was published at irregular intervals until 1827. In the earlier volumes, as the houses were not numbered, only the business streets and the names of residents who were business men were inserted. It was followed in 1772 by a rival Directory "Printed for T. Lowndes, No. 77 Fleet Street," the price of which was one shilling, and which contained, as the advertisement stated, "An Alphabetical List of the Names and Places of Abode of the Merchants and Principal Traders of the City of London, and Westminster, and the Borough of Southwark and their Environs, with the number of each House." This series lived only until 1799. The numbers of the houses were given first in Kent's Directory for 1768.
The official Post Office Directory was first published when Lowndes retired in 1799; and the separate Trades and Court departments first appeared in 1841. The initial number of
Boyle's Fashionable Court and Country Guide" is dated 1796, and it is continued to the present day. It contained from the outset an irregular court and street directory, both of the City and West ends of the town; but it was naturally less complete and thorough than the official Post Office Directory of the present day.
The difficulties met with in the preparation of the following pages have been many and great. Old houses have disappeared, streets have been renamed and renumbered, and in many instances entire streets have been swept away in the dreadful march of improvement. It is easier to-day to discover the house of a man who died two hundred years ago, before streets were numbered at all, than to identify the houses of men who have died within a few years, and since the mania for changing the names and numbers of streets began. Dryden, for instance, was living in 1686 in a
house on the north side of Long Acre, over against Rose Street,' and easily traced now by the Dryden Press, which stands upon its site; while the house in which Carlyle lived for nearly half a century, and in which he died in 1881, when it was No. 5 Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, was in 1885 No. 24 Great Cheyne Row, with nothing to distinguish it from the new No. 5 on the opposite side of the way.
The confusion caused by this renumbering and renaming can hardly be expressed in words, nor does there seem to the ordinary observer to be any good reason for these changes. Oxford Street, which Pennant described in 1790 as the longest street in Europe, was considered not long enough, and has been extended by the absorption of New Oxford Street, and renumbered; while the New Road, an equally important thoroughfare running nearly parallel with it from City Road to Edgeware Road, was deemed too long, and has been divided into Pentonville Road, Euston Road, and Marylebone Road, and of course renumbered. The following note, quoted in full from the London Post Office Directory for 1882, will give some faint idea of the confusion of numbers:
That part of Oxford Street which lies to the west of Tottenham Court Road has been renumbered, the numbers beginning at Tottenham Court Road, and ending at the Marble Arch, the even numbers being on the north, and the odd numbers on the south side; but the numbers of that part of the street which lies to the east of Tottenham Court Road not having been altered, many of the numbers in that part of the street are duplicates of new numbers which are near the Marble Arch: these duplicate numbers are distinguished here by being printed in black type, thus (468). To avoid confusion, care should be taken, in addressing letters, to add the correct postal initials; and it may be desirable for the duplicated numbers to add either 'near Marble Arch,' or 'near Holborn,' as the case may be, as part of the address.
I rest this portion of my case here.
By some strange fatality the most interesting of the old buildings in London have been removed or what is often worse restored, while adjacent old buildings about which no tradition or association lingers are left intact. Drayton's house, in Fleet Street, has been altered and changed beyond recognition, but the two houses next door to it remain as in Drayton's day. The Bell Inn at Edmonton - Gilpin's Bell, and a favorite haunt of Charles Lamb during the last years of his life- has been taken down, in favor of a dull, commonplace public house, about which there is nothing attractive except its name, The Bell; while on all sides of it there exist, from the days of Lamb and Cowper and long before, and in all their old-fashioned picturesque beauty, the contemporary inns which neither of them chanced to make immortal.
It will be observed that no attempt has been made here to write a text-book or a biographical dictionary. Nothing has been preserved in these pages concerning the members of the guild of literature from Addison to Young excepting what may relate to their career in London; and the book appeals only to those who love and are familiar with Pepys and Johnson and Thackeray, and who wish to follow them to their homes and their haunts in the metropolis, not to those who need to be told who Pepys and Johnson and Thackeray were, and what they have done. It will be observed, too, that the rank of these men in the world of letters is not to be inferred from the amount of space devoted to them here. Wordsworth and Herrick have assigned to them but a few lines, simply because they were not poets of brick and mortar, and knew almost nothing of town life; while whole pages are sometimes bestowed upon the half-forgotten authors of one immortal song, who spent all their days in London, and loved it well. A few writers will