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Jonathans coffee house : London coffee houses and taverns
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JONATHAN'S COFFEE-HOUSE, Change alley.
This is a Change alley Coffee-house, which is described in the Tatler, No. 38,
as " the general mart of stock-jobbers;" and the Spectator, No. 1, tells us that
he " sometimes passes for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's."
This was the rendezvous, where gambling of all sorts was carried on ;
notwithstanding a formal prohibition against the assemblage of the jobbers,
issued by the City of London, which prohibition continued unrepealed until 1825.
In the Anatomy of Exchange Alley, 1719, we read : —
" The centre of the jobbing is in the kingdom of Exchange-alley and its
adjacencies. The limits are easily surrounded in about a minute and a half: viz.
stepping out of Jonathan's into the Alley, you turn your face full south ;
moving on a few paces, and then turning due east, you advance to Garraway's;
from thence going out at the other door, you go on still east into Birchin lane
; and then halting a little at the Sword blade Bank, to do much mischief in
fewest words, you immediately face to the north, enter Cornhill, visit two or
three petty provinces there in your way west; and thus having boxed your
compass, and sailed round the whole stock-jobbing globe, you turn into
Jonathan's again; and so, as most of the great follies of life oblige us to do,
you end just where you began."
Mrs. Centlivre, in her comedy of A Bold Stroke for a Wife, has a scene from
Jonathan's at the above period : while the stock-jobbers are talking, the
boys are crying " Fresh coffee, gentlemen, fresh coffee ! Bohea tea, gentlemen !
Here is another picture of Jonathan's, during the South Sea mania ; though not
by an eye-witness, it groups, from various authorities, the life of the place
and the time : — " At a table a few yards off sat a couple of men engaged in the
discussion of a newly-started scheme. Plunging his hand impatiently under the
deep silver-buttoned flap of his frock-coat of cinnamon cloth and drawing out a
paper, the more business-looking of the pair commenced eagerly to read out
figures intended to convince the listener, who took a jewelled snuff-box from
the deep pocket of the green brocade waistcoat which overflapped his thigh, and,
tapping the lid, enjoyed a pinch of perfumed Turkish as he leaned back lazily in
his chair. Somewhat further off, standing in the middle of the room, was a
keen-eyed lawyer, counting on his fingers the probable results of a certain
speculation in human hair, to which a fresh-coloured farmer from St. Albans, on
whose boots the mud of the cattle market was not dry, listened with a face of
stolid avarice, clutching the stag-horn handle of his thonged whip as vigorously
as if it were the wealth he coveted. There strode a Nonconformist divine, with
S. S. S. in every line of his face, greedy for the gold that perisheth ; here a
bishop, whose truer place was Garraway's,
edged his cassock through the crowd ; sturdy ship-captains, whose manners smack
of blustering breezes, and who hailed their acquaintance as if through a
speaking-trumpet in a storm — booksellers' hacks from Grub-street, who were wont
to borrow ink-bottles and just one sheet of paper at the bar of the Black Swan
in St. Martins lane, and whose tarnished lace, when not altogether torn away,
showed a suspicious coppery redness underneath — Jews of every grade, from the
thriving promoter of a company for importing ashes from Spain or extracting
stearine from sunflower seeds to the seller of sailor slops from Wapping-in-the-Wose,
come to look for a skipper who had bilked him — a sprinkling of well-to-do
merchants — and a host of those flashy hangers-on to the skirts of commerce, who
brighten up in days of maniacal speculation, and are always ready to dispose of
shares in some unopened mine or some untried invention — passed and repassed
with continuous change and murmur before the squire's eyes during the quarter of
an hour that he sat there." — Pictures of the Periods, by W. F. Collier,
Jonathan's coffee-house in Change Alley, at the time of the South Sea Bubble
speculation, was a great rendezvous for stockjobbers long prior to the
establishment of the Stock Exchange. Mrs. Centilivre lays one of the scenes of
her comedy, "A Bold Stroke for a Wife," at Jonathan's. This coffee-house
disappeared long since, and is almost as much forgotten as Mrs. Centilivre and
Lots of references are made to two sources on the
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2
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