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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Convi~ialii] THE SPENDTHRIFT CLUB. 12.5 called one of his brother boars by his proper outof- club name, the term < Sir ? being only allowed. The entry-money, fines, and other pecuniary acquisitions, were hoarded for a grand annual dinner.? In 1799 some new officials were added, such as a poet-laureate, champion, archbishop, and chief grunter, and by that time, as the tone and expenses of the club had increased, the fines became very severe, and in the exactions no one met with any mercy, ?? as it was the interests of all that the & should bring forth a plenteous farrow.? This practice led to squabbles, and the grotesque fraternity was broken up. The COUNTRY DINNER CLUB was a much more sensible style of gathering, when some respectable citizens of good position were wont to meet on the afternoon of each Saturday about the year 1790 to dine in an old tavern in Canonmills, then at a moderate distance from town. They kept their own particular claret. William Ramsay, a banker, then residing in Warriston House, was deemed ?( the tongue of the trump to the club,? which entirely consisted of hearty and honest old citizens, all of whom have long since gone to their last account. The EAST INDIA CLUB was formed in 1797, and held its first meeting in John Bayll?s tavern on the 13th of January that year, when the Herald announces that dinner would be on the table at the then late and fashionable hour of four, but the body does not seem to have been long in existence ; it contributed twenty guineas to the sufferers of a fire in the Cowgate in the spring of 1799, and fifty to the House of Industry in 1801. John Bayll managed the ?George Square assemblies,? which were held in Buccleuch Place. His tavern was in Shakespeare Square, where his annual balls and suppers, in 1800, were under the patronage of the Duchess of Buccleuch and Mrs. Dundas of Amiston. Of the CAPE CLUB, which was established on the 15th of March, 1733, and of which Fergusson the poet and Runciman the painter were afterwards members, an account will be found in Vol. I., which, however, omitted to give the origin of the name of that long-existing and merry fraternity, and which was founded on an old, but rather weak, Edinburgh joke of the period. Some well-known burgess of the Calton who WE in the habit of spending the evening hours with friends in the city, till after the ten o?clock drum had been beaten and the Netherbow Port wa: shut, to obtain egress was under the necessity 01 bribing the porter there, or remaining within the walls all ni&it. On leaving the gate he had tc turn acutely to the left to proceed down Leith Wynd, which this facetious toper termed ?? doubling the Cape.? Eventually it became a standing joke in the small circle of Edinburgh then, ?and the Cape Club owned a regular institution from 1763,? says Chambers, but its sixty-fifth anniversary is announced in the HeraZd of 1798, for the 15th of March as given above. The SPENDTHRIFT CLUB, was so called in ridicule of the very moderate indulgence of its members, whose expenses were limited to fourpence-halfpenny each night, yet all of them were wealthy or well-to-do citizens, many of whom usually met after forenoon church at the. Royal Exchange for a walk in the country-their plan being to walk in the direction from whence the wind blew and thus avoid the smoke of the city. ? In 1824,? says ChamberS, ?? in the recollection of the senior members, some of whom were of fifty years? standing, the house (of meeting) was kept by the widow of a Lieutenant Hamilton of the army, who recollected having attended the theatre in the Tennis Court at Holyrood when the play was the ? Spanish Friar,, and many of the members of the Union Parliament were present in the house.? The meetings of this club were nightly, till reduced to four weekly, Whist was played for a halfpenny. Supper originally cost only twopence, and half a bottle of strong ale, with a dram, cost twopence-halfpenny more ; a halfpenny to the servant-maid, was a total of fivepence for a night of jollity and good fellowship. The PIOUS CLUB was composed of respectable and orderly business-men who met every night, Sundays not excepted, in the Pie-house-hence their name, a play upon the words. We are told that ?the agreeable uncertainty as to whether their name arose from their pie& or the circumstance of their eating piesy kept the club hearty for many years.? Fifteen members constituted a full night, a gill of toddy to each was served out like wine from a d e canter, and they were supposed to separate at ten o?clock. The ANTEMANUM CLUB was composed of men of respectability, and many who were men of fortune, who dined together every Saturday. ? Brag? was their chief game with cards. It was a purely convivial club, till the era of the Whig party being in the ascendant led to angry political discussions, and eventual dissolution. The SIX FEET CLUB was composed of men who were of that stature or above it, if possible. It was an athletic society, and generally met half-yearly at the Hunter?s Tryst, near Colinton, or similar places,
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126 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Convivialia party by appointment, especially in winter, after evening closed in, and took their carriages as near as they could go conveniently, to these subterranean abysses or vaults, called Zu&h shops, where the raw oysters and flagons of porter were set out plentifully on a table in a dingy wainscoted room, lighted, of course, by tallow candles. The general surroundings gave an additional zest to the supper, and one of the chief features of such entertainments would seem to have been the scope they afforded to the conversational powers of the company. Ladies and gentlemen alike indulged in an unrestrained manner in sallies and witticisms, observations and jests, that would not have been tolerated elsewhere; but in those days it was common for Scottish ladies, especially of rank, to wear black velvet masks when walking abroad or airing in the carriage ; and these masks were kept close to the kce by a glass button or jewel which the fair wearer held by her teeth. Brandy or rum punch succeeded the oysters and porter ; dancing then followed; and when the ladies had departed in their sedans or carriages the gentlemen would proceed to crown the evening by an unlimited debauch. ?It is not,? says Chambers, writing in 1824,? ? more than thirty years since the late Lord Melville, the Duchess of Gordon, and some other persons of distinction, who happened to meet in town after many years of absence, made up an Dyster cellar party by way of a frolic, and devoted me winter evening to the revival of this almost forgotten entertainment of their youth. It seems diffixlt,? he adds, ? to reconcile all these things with the staid and somewhat square-toed character which 3ur country has obtained amongst her neighbours. The fact seems to be that a kind of Laodicean 3rinciple is observable in Scotland, and we oscillate letween arigour of manners on one hand, and a axity on the other, which alternately acquires a iaram ount ascendency. ? In 1763 people of fashion dined at two o?clock, ind all business was generalIy transacted in the :vening ; and all shop-doors were locked after one or an hour and opened after dinner. Twenty rears later four or five o?clock was the fashionable linner hour, and dancing schools had been estadished for servant girls and tradesmen?s apprentices. We may conclude this chapter on old manners, ~y mentioning the fact, of which few of our readers are perhaps aware, that Edinburgh as a dukedom is a title much older than the reign of Queen Victoria. GeorgQ III., when Prince of Wales, was Duke of Edinburgh, Marquis of Ely, and Earl of Chester. when silver medals were given for rifle-shooting throwing a hammer 16 pounds in weight, single stick, &c. On these occasions, Sir Walter Scott Professor Wilson, and the Ettrick Shepherd, werc frequently present, and often presided. In 182l we find the club designated the Guard of Honou to the Lord High Constable of Scotland. Its chair man was termed captain, and Sir Walter Scott wa! umpire of the club. The SHAKESPEARE CLUB was, as its name im ports, formed with a view to forward dramatic art anc literature, yet was not without its convivial feature! also, Among its members, in 1830, were W. D Gillon of Walhouse, M.P., the Hon. Colonel Ogilv) of Clova, Patrick Robertson, afterwards the well known and witty Lord Robertson, Mr. Pritchard 0. the Theatre Royal, and other kindred spirits. Edinburgh now teems with clubs, county anc district associations, and societies ; but in tone, anc by the change of times and habits, they are verj different from most of the old clubs we have enume. rated here, clubs which existed in ? the Dark Age of Edinburgh,? when a little fun and merrimeni seemed to go a long way indeed, and when grim professional men appeared to plunge into madcaF and grotesque roistering and coarse racy humour, as if they were a relief from, or contrast to, the general dull tenor of life in those days when, aftei the Union, the gloom of village life settled ovei the city, and people became rigid and starched in their bearing, morose in their sanctimony, and the most grim decorum seemed the test of piety and respectabiIity. Many who were not members of clubs, by the occasional tenor of their ways seemed to protest against this state of things, or to seek relief from it by indulging in what would seem little better than orgies now. In the letters added to the edition of Arnot?s ?History in 1788,? we are told that in 1763 there were no oyster cellars in the city, or if one, it was for the reception of the lowest rank; but, that in 1783, oyster cellars, or taverns taking that name, had become numerous as places of fashionable resort, and the frequent rendezvous of dancing parties or private assemblies. Thus the custom of ladies as well as gentlemen resorting to such places, is a curious example of the state of manners during the eighteenth century. The most famous place for such oyster parties was a tavern kept by Lucky Middlemass in the Cowgate, and which stood where the south pier of the first bridge stands now. Dances in such places were called ?? frolics.? In those days fashionable people made up a
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