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Macklins coffee house : London coffee houses and taverns
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MACKLINS COFFEE-HOUSE ORATORY, Covent garden.
After Macklin had retired from the stage, in 1754, he opened that portion of the
Piazza-houses, in Covent Garden, which is now the Tavistock Hotel. Here he
fitted up a large coffee-room, a theatre for oratory, and other apartments. To a
three-shilling ordinary he added a shilling lecture, or " School of Oratory and
Criticism ;" he presided at the dinner-table, and carved for the company ; after
which he played a sort of " Oracle of Eloquence. " Fielding has happily sketched
him in his Voyage to Lisbon : " Unfortunately for the fishmongers of London, the
Dory only resides in the Devonshire seas; for could any of this company only
convey one to the Temple of luxury under the Piazza, where Macklin, the high
priest, daily serves up his rich offerings, great would be the reward of that
In the Lecture, Macklin undertook to make each of his audience an orator, by
teaching him how to speak. He invited hints and discussions; the novelty of the
scheme attracted the curiosity of numbers ; and this curiosity he still further
excited by a very uncommon controversy, which now subsisted either in
imagination or reality, between him and Foote, who abused one .another very
openly — " Squire Sammy " having for his purpose engaged the Little Theatre in
Besides this personal attack, various subjects were debated here in the manner
of the Robin Hood Society, which filled the orator's pocket, and proved his
rhetoric of some value.
Here is one of his combats with Foote. The subject was Duelling in Ireland,
which Macklin had illustrated as far as the reign of Elizabeth. Foote cried "
Order;" he had a question to put. " Well, Sir," said Macklin, " what have you to
say upon this subject ?" " I think, Sir," said Foote, a this matter might be
settled in a few words. What o'clock is it, Sir?" Macklin could not possibly see
what the clock had to do with a dissertation upon Duelling, but gruffly reported
the hour to be half-past nine. il Very well," said Foote, " about this time of
the night every gentleman in Ireland that can possibly afford it is in his third
bottle of claret, and therefore in a fair way of getting drunk ; and from
drunkenness proceeds quarrelling, and from quarrelling, duelling, and so there's
an end of the chapter." The company were much obliged to Foote for his
interference, the hour being considered; though Macklin did not relish the
The success of Footers fun upon Macklin' s Lectures, led him to establish a
summer entertainment of his own at the Haymarket. He took up Macklin' s notion
of applying Greek Tragedy to modern subjects, and the squib was so successful
that Foote cleared by it 500l, in five nights, while the great Piazza
Coffee-room in Covent Garden was shut up, and Macklin in the Gazette as a
But when the great plan of Mr. Macklin proved abortive, when as he said in a
former prologue, upon a nearly similar occasion —
" From scheming, fretting, famine, and despair,
We saw to grace restor'd an exiled player ;"
when the town was sated with the seemingly-concocted quarrel between the two
theatrical geniuses, Macklin locked up his doors, all animosity was laid aside,
and they came and shook hands at the Bedford ; the group resumed their
appearance, and, with a new master, a new set of customers was seen.
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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