Adelphi, Farewell! by Arthur Machen
'He and I walked away together; we stopped a little while by the
rails of the Adelphi, looking on the Thames, and I said to him with
some emotion that I was now thinking of two friends we had lost, who
had once lived in the buildings behind us, Beauclerk and Garrick.
"Ay, sir (said he tenderly), and two such friends as cannot be
'He and I were Johnson and Boswell. And yet I understand that they
are going to pull down the Adelphi.
Nay, 'he and I' were just coming away from poor Davy's house,
Number 5, where his widow had entertained them elegantly. Mrs.
Garrick had talked of her husband with complacency, and when she cast
her eyes on his portrait, which hung over the chimney-piece, said
that 'death was now the most agreeable object to her.'
Now, this should be sufficient. The place where this amazing
remark was uttered to a festive assembled party, presumably with the
object of cheering everybody up, and promoting a flow of genial
spirits, such a place as this should be a sacred relic, a house to be
preserved for ever.
And yet they are going to pull down the Adelphi. Nay, more. After
this gay beginning, there was a large company in the drawing-room.
Hannah More and Sir Joshua and Dr. Burney were present at dinner;
later came the Bishop of Killaloe—did he often visit his
Cathedral Church?—Dr. Percy of the Reliques, and several
others. Johnson, talking of 'a very respectable authour'—modern
English, 'a distinguished man of letters'—told the company a
curious circumstance of his life, which was that he had married a
'And,' added the Doctor, 'she did not disgrace him; the woman had
a bottom of good sense.' Now, the Doctor was here talking the English
of his youth. If he had said this in 1730 nobody would have laughed.
To this day we don't see anything funny when we speak of a blind
street or alley as a cul-de-sac\ I am sure no self-respecting
French cook of a very few years ago would have seen the slightest
impropriety in murmuring in the ears of Madame la Duchesse, as he
presented his new-found and exquisite dish to Her Grace: 'Les culs
d'Artichauts à la Marjolaine.' But times change and phrases,
and when the great Doctor brought out this sentence at Mrs. Garrick's
reception, on Friday, April 20th, 1781: 'most of us could not forbear
tittering and laughing.' So Boswell records, though, remembering the
honour of the Church, he declares that the Bishop of Killaloe kept
his face with perfect steadiness. And Hannah More, who might be
considered the Church's Maiden-Aunt-in-chief, slyly hid her face
behind a lady's back. This was a tremendous occasion. Johnson would
not bear that a phrase of his, meant to be perfectly straightforward
common-sense English, should be regarded as funny. And so he glared
sternly round and said: 'Where's the merriment?' And then he 'looked
aweful,' and slowly pronounced: 'I say the woman was
fundamentally sensible.' I think that it shows the power of
this great man that the company, which had tittered, did not now howl
with mirth. But they did not. They 'sat composed as at a
And all this in the Adelphi. And yet they are going to pull down
And, coming to a later, though still a most noble age, and to
imagination in place of fact, do you remember where it was that Mr.
Wardle rubbed his hands and said:
'Let us have some of your best wine to-day, waiter.'
And the waiter replied:
'You shall have some of the very best, sir.'
Now, I declare that that wine, the very best wine of an
old-fashioned London hotel in 1830, has afforded me more choice
pleasures than any wine I have ever drunk in fact. I revel in it. I
do not seek to know exactly what wine it was. But I have every
confidence in it. 'Some of the very best!' It was more than wine; it
was dreams and chimes and music. The oldest and the rarest of it had
been binned very deep down in dark cellars near the flow of the
river, almost from the time of the Brothers Adam. I incline to
surmise, though I will not be obstinate, that the dessert wine was
Malmsey Madeira, older perhaps than the place where it was drunk; a
vintage, let us say, of 1740.
And this wine was administered at Osborne's Hotel in the Adelphi.
Is this a place to pull down?
But I am afraid it will be pulled down, and that the game of our
dear old London is definitely up. In the last twenty years the change
has been great; in the next twenty years it will probably be much
greater. The world changes and the Strand must change with it. I
suppose so; but I am sorry. Of course it all began just a hundred
years ago. Many people have been accustomed to regard our late King
George IV as a typical Tory. Some people said he was a pig-headed
despot. Leigh Hunt, a Radical, was sent to gaol for abusing him. But
I am afraid he was not of the true Tory faith. In his youth, let it
be remembered, he had associated with the Whigs—I fear that
they left their mark on him. Anyhow, it was in his reign that they
began to knock about the Strand; the West Strand, by Trafalgar
Square. David Copperfield remembered the old West Strand.
'I remember two pudding-shops, between which I was divided,
according to my finances. One was in a court close to St. Martin's
Church—at the back of the church—which is now removed
altogether. The pudding at that shop was made of currants, and was
rather a special pudding, but was dear, twopennyworth not being
larger than a pennyworth of more ordinary pudding. A good shop for
the latter was in the Strand—somewhere in that part which has
been rebuilt since. It was a stout, pale pudding, heavy and flabby,
and with great flat raisins in it, stuck in whole at wide distances
And I remember that stout, pale pudding too. In my day, it was to
be seen sweltering in pans in the window of a shop on the north side
of the Strand, over against St. Mary's.
Thus David's recollections of his sparse meals. I do not suppose
that he—or Dickens—was aware that the court which sold
the superior pudding was a relic of a cookshop rookery of the early
seventeenth century. The quarter was sometimes called Porridge
Island, sometimes the Bermudas, sometimes the Caribbee Islands. In
Ben Jonson's day the place was noted for 'bottle ale' and tobacco. In
1753 a periodical essayist mentions the 'fine gentleman whose dinner
is served up under cover of a pewter plate, from the Cook's shop in
Porridge Island.' Men had eaten and drunk roughly in this maze of
courts and alleys for more than two hundred years; poor little David
Copperfield comes last and gets his slice of pudding there; and then
George IV sweeps it all away. I wish he hadn't. Then there was peace
for a long time. Now and then a fine old house was pulled down, and
an ugly modern house took its place, but the aspect of things in the
Strand and about it remained pretty much as they were in 1830. When I
first saw the Strand in 1880 it was still intact, and so it remained
till late in the 'nineties. And then the crash came. Beautiful old
Clement's Inn was, I think, the first to fall.
'I was once of Clement's Inn,' says Shallow, 'where I think they
will talk of mad Shallow yet.'
As you went up by the narrow way from the Strand, you passed the
fine hall of the Society, built in 1715, and within there were green
gardens and closes, and a delicious eighteenth-century house standing
in the middle of a lawn; what a choice retreat in the very heart of
London; peace and greenness within a minute of the roaring Strand!
Down came St. Clement's Inn; and up went the big red flats. Soon
after came the great scheme. Holywell Street and Wych Street with
their sixteenth-century gables were swept away; New Inn disappeared;
queer mazes of mouldering streets about Clare Market banished for
ever; the old Globe, the old Olympic became as Babylon, things fallen
and abolished. Australia House, mighty business buildings, as
magnificent as anything in Berlin, stand in their stead.
And now the Adelphi also is to become a memory!