You can search the historical London and Pub wiki sites by surname, street name, district etc.

Famous Southwark Inns - Henry C Shelley

The book online

Unique among the quaint maps of old London is one which traces the ground-plan of Southwark as it appeared early in the sixteenth century. It is not the kind of map which would ensure examination honours for its author were he competing among schoolboys of the twentieth century, but it has a quality of archaic simplicity which makes it a more precious possession than the best examples of modern cartography. Drawn on the principle that a minimum of lines and a maximum of description are the best aid to the imagination, this plan of Southwark indicates the main routes of thoroughfare with a few bold strokes, and then tills in the blanks with queer little drawings of churches and inns, the former depicted in delightfully distorted perspective and the latter by two or three half-circular strokes. That there may be no confusion between church and inn, the possibility of which is suggested by the fact that several of the latter are adorned with spire-like embellishments, the sixteenth-century cartographer told which were which in so many words. It is by close attention to the letter-press, and by observing the frequent appearance of names which have age-long association with houses of entertainment, that the student of this map awakens to the conviction that ancient Southwark rejoiced in a more than generous provision of inns.

Such was the case from the earliest period of which there is any record. The explanation is simple. The name of the borough supplies the clue. Southwark is really the south-work of London, that is, the southern defence or fortification of the city. The Thames is here a moat of spacious breadth and formidable depth, yet the Romans did not trust to that defence alone, but threw up further obstacles for any enemy approaching the city from the south. It was from that direction assault was most likely to come. From the western and southern counties of England, and, above all, from the Continent, this was the high road into the capital.
All this had a natural result in times of peace. As London Bridge was the only causeway over the Thames, and as the High street of Southwark was the southern continuation of that causeway, it followed that diplomatic visitors from the Continent and the countless traders who had business in the capital were obliged to use this route coming and going. The logical result of this constant traffic is seen in the countless inns of the district. In the great majority of cases those visitors who had business in the city itself during the day elected to make their headquarters for the night on the southern shore of the Thames.

Although no definite evidence is available, it is reasonable to conclude that the most ancient inns of Southwark were established at least as early as the most ancient hostelries of the city itself. To which, however, the prize of seniority is to be awarded can never be known. Yet on one matter there can be no dispute. Pride of place among the inns of Southwark belongs unquestionably to the Tabard. Not that it is the most ancient, or has played the most conspicuous part in the social or political life of the borough, but because the hand of the poet has lifted it from the realm of the actual and given it an enduring niche in the world of imagination.

No evidence is available to establish the actual date when the Tabard was built; Stow speaks of it as among the "most ancient" of the locality; but the nearest approach to definite dating assigns the inn to the early fourteenth century. One antiquary indeed fixes the earliest distinct record of the site of the inn in 1304, soon after which the Abbot of Hyde, whose abbey was in the neighbourhood of Winchester, here built himself a town mansion and probably at the same time a hostelry for travellers. Three years later the Abbot secured a license to erect a chapel close by the inn. It seems likely, then, that the Tabard had its origin as an adjunct of the town house of a Hampshire ecclesiastic.

But in the early history of the hostelry no fact stands out so clearly as that it was chosen by Chaucer as the starting-point for his immortal Canterbury pilgrims. More than two centuries had passed since Thomas r Becket had fallen before the altar of St. Benedict in the minster of Canterbury, pierced with many swords as his reward for contesting the supremacy of the Church against Henry II.

"What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house,"
cried the monarch when the struggle had reached an acute stage,
"that not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk!"

Four knights took the king at his word, posted with all speed to Canterbury, and charged the prelate to give way to the wishes of the sovereign.
"In vain you threaten me," R Becket rejoined. "If all the swords in England were brandishing over my head, your terrors could not move me. Foot to foot you will find me fighting the battle of the Lord."

And then the swords of the knights flashed in the dim light of the minster and another name was added to the Church's roll of martyrs. The murder sent a thrill of horror through all Christendom; R Becket was speedily canonized, and his tomb became the objective of countless pilgrims from every corner of the Christian world.
In Chaucer's days, some two centuries later, the pilgrimage had become a favourite occupation of the devout. Each awakening of the year, when the rains of April had laid the dust of March and aroused the buds of tree and herb from their winter slumber, the longing to go on a pilgrimage seized all classes alike.

"And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke."

Precisionists of the type who are never satisfied unless they can apply chronology in the realm of imagination will have it that Chaucer's pilgrimage was a veritable event, and that it took place in April, 1388. They go further still and identify Chaucer's host with the actual Henry Bailley, who certainly was in possession of the Tabard in years not remote from that date. The records show that he twice represented the borough of Southwark in Parliament, and another ancient document bears witness how he and his wife, Christian by name, were called upon to contribute two shillings to the subsidy of Richard II. These are the dry bones of history; for the living picture of the man himself recourse must be had to Chaucer's verse:

"A semely man our hoste was with-alle
For to han been a marshal in an halle;
A large man he was with eyen stepe,
A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe;
Bold of his speche, and wys, and well y-taught,
And of manhood him lakkede right naught.
Eke thereto he was right a merry man."

No twentieth century pilgrim to the Tabard inn must expect to find its environment at all in harmony with the picture enshrined in Chaucer's verse. The passing years have wrought a woeful and materializing change. The opening lines of the Prologue are permeated with a sense of the month of April, a "breath of uncontaminate springtide" as Lowell puts it, and in those far-off years when the poet wrote, the beauties of the awakening year were possible of enjoyment in Southwark. Then the buildings of the High street were spaciously placed, with room for field and hedgerow; to-day they are huddled as closely together as the hand of man can set them, and the verdure of grass and tree is unknown. Nor is it otherwise with the inn itself, for its modern representative has no points of likeness to establish a kinship with the structure visualized in Chaucer's lines. It is true the poet describes the inn more by suggestion than set delineation, but such hints that it was "a gentle hostelry," that its rooms and stables were alike spacious, that the food was of the best and the wine of the strongest go further with the imagination than concrete statements.

Giving faith for the moment to that theory which credits the Canterbury Tales with being based on actual experience, and recalling the quaint courtyard of the inn as it appeared on that distant April day of 1388, it is a pleasant exercise of fancy to imagine Chaucer leaning over the rail of one of the upper galleries to watch the assembling of his nine-and-twenty "sondry folk." They are, as J. R. Green has said, representatives of every class of English society from the noble to the ploughman. "We see the 'verray-perfight gentil knight' in cassock and coat of mail, with his curly-headed squire beside him, fresh as the May morning, and behind them the brown-faced yeoman in his coat and hood of green with a mighty bow in his hand. A group of ecclesiastics light up for us the mediaeval church--the brawny hunt-loving monk, whose bridle jingles as loud and clear as the chapel bell--the wanton friar, first among the beggars and harpers of the courtly side--the poor parson, threadbare, learned, and devout ('Christ's lore and his apostles twelve he taught, and first he followed it himself')--the summoner with his fiery face--the pardoner with his wallet 'full of pardons, come from Rome all hot'--the lively prioress with her courtly French lisp, her soft little red mouth, and _Amor vincit omnia_ graven on her brooch. Learning is there in the portly person of the doctor of physics, rich with the profits of the pestilence--the busy sergeant-of-law, 'that ever seemed busier than he was'--the hollow-cheeked clerk of Oxford with his love of books and short sharp sentences that disguise a latent tenderness which breaks out at last in the story of Griseldis. Around them crowd types of English industry; the merchant; the franklin in whose house 'it snowed of meat and drink'; the sailor fresh from frays in the Channel; the buxom wife of Bath; the broad-shouldered miller; the haberdasher, carpenter, weaver, dyer, tapestry-maker, each in the livery of his craft; and last the honest ploughman who would dyke and delve for the poor without hire."

Smilingly as Chaucer may have gazed upon this goodly company, his delight at their arrival paled before the radiant pleasure of mine host, for a poet on the lookout for a subject can hardly have welcomed the advent of the pilgrims with such an interested anticipation of profit as the innkeeper whose rooms they were to occupy and whose food and wines they were to consume. Henry Bailley was equal to the auspicious occasion.

"Greet chere made our hoste us everichon,
And to the soper sette he us anon;
And served us with vitaille at the beste.
Strong was the wyn, and wel to drinke us leste."

But the host of the Tabard was more than an efficient caterer; he was something of a diplomatist also. Taking advantage of that glow of satisfaction which is the psychological effect of physical needs generously satisfied, he appears to have had no difficulty in getting the pilgrims to pay their "rekeninges," and having attained that practical object he rewarded his customers with liberal interest for their hard cash in the form of unstinted praise of their collective merits, In all that year he had not seen so merry a company gathered under his roof, etc., etc. But of greater moment for future generations was his suggestion that, as there was no comfort in riding to Canterbury dumb as a stone, the pilgrims should beguile their journey by telling stories. The suggestion was loudly acclaimed and the scheme unanimously pledged in further copious draughts of wine. And then, to "reste wente echon," until the dawn came again and smiled down upon that brave company whose tale-telling pilgrimage has since been followed with so much delight by countless thousands. By the time Stow made his famous survey of London, some two centuries later, the Tabard was rejoicing to the full in the glories cast around it by Chaucer's pen. Stow cites the poet's commendation as its chief title to fame, and pauses to explain that the name of the inn was "so called of the sign, which, as we now term it, is of a jacket, or sleeveless coat, whole before, open on both sides, with a square collar, winged at the shoulders; a stately garment of old time, commonly worn of noblemen and others, both at home and abroad in the war, but then (to wit in the wars) their arms embroidered, or otherwise depict upon them, that every man by his coat of arms might be known from others." All this heraldic lore did not prevent the subsequent change--for a time--of the name Tabard to the meaningless name of Talbot, a distortion, however, which survives only in antiquarian history.

At the dissolution of the monasteries this inn, which up till then had retained its connection with the church through belonging to Hyde Abbey, was granted to two brothers named Master, and in 1542 its annual rent is fixed at nine pounds. An authority on social life in England during the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign ventures on the following description of the arrangements of the inn at that period. "On the ground-floor, looking on to the street, was a room called 'the darke parlour,' a hall, and a general reception-room called 'the parlour.' This was probably the dining-room of the house, as it opened on to the kitchen on the same level. Below the dark parlour was a cellar. On the first floor, above the parlour and the hall, were three rooms--'the middle chamber,' 'the corner chamber,' and 'Maister Hussye's chamber,' with garrets or 'cock lofts' over them. Over the great parlour was another room. There were also rooms called 'the Entry Chamber' and 'the Newe chamber,' 'the Flower de Luce' and 'Mr. Russell's chamber,' of which the position is not specified."



When, in 1575, the old Tabard, the inn, that is, of George Shepherd's water-colour drawing of 1810, was demolished, making way for the present somewhat commonplace representative of the ancient hostelry, many protests were made on the plea that it was sheer vandalism to destroy a building so intimately associated with the genius of Chaucer. But the protests were based upon lack of knowledge. Chaucer's inn had disappeared long before. It is sometimes stated that that building survived until the great Southwark fire of 1676, but such assertions overlook the fact that there is in existence a record dated 1634 which speaks of the Tabard as having been built of brick six years previously upon the old foundation. Here, then, is proof that the Tabard of the pilgrims was wholly reconstructed in 1628, and even that building--faithful copy as it may have been of the poet's inn--was burnt to the ground in 1676. From the old foundations, however, a new Tabard arose, built on the old plan, so that the structure which was torn down in 1875 may have perpetuated the semblance of Chaucer's inn to modern times.

Compared with its association with the Canterbury pilgrims, the subsequent history of the Tabard is somewhat prosaic. Here a record tells how it became the objective of numerous carriers from Kent and Sussex, there crops up a law report which enshrines the memory of a burglary, and elsewhere in reminiscences or diary may be found a tribute to the excellence of the inn's rooms and food and the reasonableness of the charges. It should not be forgotten, however, that violent hands have been laid on the famous inn for the lofty purposes of melodrama. More than sixty years ago a play entitled "Mary White, or the Murder at the Old Tabard" thrilled the theatre goer with its tragic situations and the terrible perils of the heroine. But the tribulations of Mary White have left no imprint on English literature. Chaucer's pilgrims have, and so long as the mere name of the Tabard survives, its recollection will bring in its train a moving picture of that merry and motley company which set out for the shrine of R Becket so many generations ago.
Poetic license bestows upon another notable Southwark inn, the Bear at Bridge-foot, an antiquity far eclipsing that of the Tabard. In a poem printed in 1691, descriptive of "The Last Search after Claret in Southwark," the heroes of the verse are depicted as eventually finding their way to

"The Bear, which we soon understood
Was the first house in Southwark built after the flood."

To describe the inn as "the first house in Southwark" might have been accurate for those callers who approached it over London Bridge, but in actual chronology the proud distinction of dating from post-deluge days has really to give place to the much more recent year of 1319. There is, preserved among the archives of the city of London a tavern lease of that date which belongs without doubt to the history of this hostelry, for it refers to the inn which Thomas Drinkwater had "recently built at the head of London Bridge." This Thomas Drinkwater was a taverner of London, and the document in question sets forth how he had granted the lease of the Bear to one James Beauflur, who agrees to purchase all his wines from the inappropriately named Drinkwater, who, on his part, was to furnish his tenant with such necessaries as silver mugs, wooden hanaps, curtains, cloths and other articles.
A century and a half later the inn figures in the accounts of Sir John Howard, that warlike "Jacke of Norfolk" who became the first Duke of Norfolk in the Howard family and fatally attested his loyalty to his king on Bosworth Field. From that time onward casual references to the Bear are numerous. It was probably the best-known inn of Southwark, for its enviable position at the foot of London Bridge made it conspicuous to all entering or leaving the city. Its attractions were enhanced by the fact that archery could be practised in its grounds, and that within those same grounds was the Thames-side landing stage from whence the tilt-boats started for Greenwich and Gravesend. It was the opportunity for shooting at the target which helped to lure Sir John Howard to the Bear, but as he sampled the wine of the inn before testing his skill as a marksman, he found himself the poorer by the twenty-pence with which he had backed his own prowess. Under date 1633 there is an interesting reference which sets forth that, although orders had been given to have all the back-doors to taverns on the Thames closed up, owing to the fact that wrong-doers found them convenient in evading the officers of the law, an exception was made in the case of the Bear owing to the fact that it was the starting-place for Greenwich.

[Illustration: BRIDGE-FOOT, SOUTHWARK. (_Showing the Bear Inn in_ 1616.)]

Evidence in abundance might be cited to show that the inn was a favourite meeting place with the wits and gallants of the court of Charles I and the Restoration. "The maddest of all the land came to bait the Bear," is one testimony; "I stuffed myself with food and tipple till the hoops were ready to burst," is another. There is one figure, however, of the thirties of the seventeenth century which arrests the attention. This is Sir John Suckling, that gifted and ill-fated poet and man of fashion of whom it was said that he "had the peculiar happiness of making everything that he did become him." His ready wit, his strikingly handsome face and person, his wealth and generosity, his skill in all fashionable pastimes made him a favourite with all. The preferences of the man, his delight in the joys of the town as compared with the pleasures of secluded study in the country, are clearly seen in those sprightly lines in which he invited the learned John Hales, the "walking library," to leave Eton and "come to town":

"There you shall find the wit and wine
Flowing alike, and both divine:
Dishes, with names not known in books,
And less among the college-cooks;
With sauce so pregnant, that you need
Not stay till hunger bids you feed.
The sweat of learned Jonson's brain,
And gentle Shakespeare's eas'er strain,
A hackney coach conveys you to,
In spite of all that rain can do:
And for your eighteenpence you sit
The lord and judge of all fresh wit."

Nor was it in verse alone that Suckling celebrated the praises of wine. Among the scanty remains of his prose there is that lively sally, written at the Bear, and entitled: "The Wine-drinkers to the Water-drinkers." After mockingly commiserating with the teetotalers over the sad plight into which their habits had brought them, the address continues: "We have had divers meetings at the Bear at the Bridge-foot, and now at length have resolved to despatch to you one of our cabinet council, Colonel Young, with some slight forces of canary, and some few of sherry, which no doubt will stand you in good stead, if they do not mutiny and grow too headstrong for their commander. Him Captain Puff of Barton shall follow with all expedition, with two or three regiments of claret; Monsieur de Granville, commonly called Lieutenant Strutt, shall lead up the rear of Rhenish and white. These succours, thus timely sent, we are confident will be sufficient to hold the enemy in play, and, till we hear from you again, we shall not think of a fresh supply.... Given under our hand at the Bear, this fourth of July."

Somewhere about the date when this drollery was penned there happened at the Bear an incident which might have furnished the water-drinkers with an effective retort on their satirist. The Earl of Buccleugh, just returned from military service abroad, on his way into London, halted at the Bear to quaff a glass of sack with a friend. A few minutes later he put off in a boat for the further shore of the Thames, but ere the craft had gone many yards from land the earl exclaimed, "I am deadly sick, row back; Lord have mercy upon me!" Those were his last words, for he died that night.
Another picturesque figure of the seventeenth century is among the shades that haunt the memory of the Bear, Samuel Pepys, that irrepressible gadabout who was more intimately acquainted with the inns and taverns of London than any man of his time. That Thames-side hostelry was evidently a favourite resort of the diarist. On both occasions of his visits to Southwark Pair he made the inn his base of operations as it were, especially in 1668 when the puppet-show of Whittington seemed "pretty to see," though he could not resist the reflection "how that idle thing do work upon people that see it, and even myself too!"
Pepys had other excitements that day. He was so mightily taken with Jacob Hall's dancing on the ropes that on meeting that worthy at a tavern he presented him with a bottle of wine. Having done justice to all the sights of the fair, he returned to the Bear, where his Waterman awaited him with the gold and other things to the value of forty pounds which the prudent diarist had left in his charge at the inn "for fear of my pockets being cut."
Pepys himself incidentally explains why he had so friendly a regard for the Bridge-foot tavern. "Going through bridge by water," he writes, "my Waterman told me how the mistress of the Beare tavern, at the bridge-foot, did lately fling herself into the Thames, and drowned herself; which did trouble me the more, when they tell me it was she that did live at the White Horse tavern in Lumbard Street, which was a most beautiful woman, as most I have seen."
Yet another fair woman, Frances Stuart, one of the greatest beauties of the court of Charles II, is linked with the history of the Beare. Sad as was the havoc she wrought in the heart of the susceptible Pepys, who is ever torn between admiration of her loveliness and mock-reprobation of her equivocal position at court, Frances Stuart created still deeper passions in men more highly placed than he. Apart from her royal lover, there were two nobles, the Dukes of York and Richmond who contended for her hand, with the result of victory finally resting with the latter. But the match had to be a runaway one. The king was in no mood to part with his favourite, and so the lovers arranged a meeting at the Bear, where a coach was in waiting to spirit them away into Kent. No wonder Charles was offended, especially when the lady sent him back his presents.
Nearly a century and a half has passed since the Bear finally closed its doors. All through the lively years of the Restoration it maintained its reputation as a house of good cheer and a wholly desirable rendezvous, and it figures not inconspicuously in the social life of London down to 1761. By that time the ever-increasing traffic over the Thames bridge had made the enlargement of that structure a necessity, and the Bear was among the buildings which had to be demolished.

Further south in the High street, and opposite the house in which John Harvard, the founder of America's oldest university, was born, stood the Boar's Head, an inn which was once the property of Sir Fastolfe, and was by him bequeathed through a friend to Magdalen College, Oxford. This must not be confused with the Boar's Head of Shakespeare, which stood in Eastcheap on the other side of the river, though it is a remarkable coincidence that it was in the latter inn the dramatist laid the scene of Prince Hal's merrymaking with the Sir John Falstaff we all know. The earliest reference to the Southwark Boar's Head occurs in the Paston Letters under date 1459. This is an epistle from a servant of Fastolfe to John Paston, asking him to remind his master that he had promised him he should be made host of the Boar's Head, but whether he ever attained to that desired position there is no evidence to show. The inn makes but little figure in history; by 1720 it had dwindled to a-mere courtyard, and in 1830 the last remnants were cleared away.

Courtyard OF Boar's Head Inn, Southwark

Inevitably, however, the fact that the Boar's Head was the property of Sir John Fastolfe prompts the question, what relation had he to the Sir John Falstaff of Shakespeare's plays? This has been a topic of large discussion for many years. There are so many touches of character and definite incidents which apply in common to the two knights that the poet has been assumed to have had the historic Fastolfe ever in view when drawing the portrait of his Falstaff. The historian Fuller assumed this to have been the case, for he complains that the "stage have been overbold" in dealing with Fastolfe's memory. Sidney Lee, however, sums up the case thus: "Shakespeare was possibly under the misapprehension, based on the episode of cowardice reported in 'Henry VI,' that the military exploits of the historical Sir John Fastolfe sufficiently resembled those of his own riotous knight to justify the employment of a corrupted version of his name. It is of course untrue that Fastolfe was ever the intimate associate of Henry V when Prince of Wales, who was not his junior by more than ten years, or that he was an impecunious spendthrift and gray-haired debauchee. The historical Fastolfe was in private life an expert man of business, who was indulgent neither to himself nor his friends. He was nothing of a jester, and was, in spite of all imputations to the contrary, a capable and brave soldier."
Sad as has been the havoc wrought by time and the hand of man among the hostelries of Southwark, a considerable portion of one still survives in its actual seventeenth century guise. This is the George Inn, which is slightly nearer London Bridge than the Tabard. To catch a peep of its old-world aspect, with its quaint gallery and other indubitable tokens of a distant past, gives the pilgrim a pleasant shock. It is such a contrast to the ugly modern structures which impose themselves on the public as "Ye Olde" this and "Ye Olde" that. Here at any rate is a veritable survival. Nor does it matter that the George has made little figure in history; there is a whole world of satisfaction in the thought that it has changed but little since it was built in 1672. Its name is older than its structure. Stow included the George among the "many fair inns" he saw in Southwark in 1598, a fact which deals a cruel blow to that crude theory which declares inns were so named after the royal Georges of Great Britain.

George Inn

[Illustration: GEORGE INN.]
Among the numerous other inns which once lined the High Street of Southwark there is but one which has claims upon the attention on the score of historic and literary interest. This is the White Hart, which was doubtless an old establishment at the date, 1406, of its first mention in historical records. Forty-four years later, that is in 1450, the inn gained its most notable association by being made the head-quarters of Jack Cade at the time of his famous insurrection. Modern research has shown that this rebellion was a much more serious matter than the older historians were aware of, but the most careful investigation into Cade's career has failed to elicit any particulars of note prior to a year before the rising took place. The year and place of his birth are unknown, but twelve months before he appears in history he was obliged to flee the realm and take refuge in France owing to his having murdered a woman who was with child. He served for a time in the French army, then returned under an assumed name and settled in Kent, which was the centre of discontent against Henry VI. As the one hope of reform lay in an appeal to arms, the discontent broke into open revolt. "The rising spread from Kent over Surrey and Sussex. Everywhere it was general and organized--a military levy of the yeomen of the three shires." It was not of the people alone, for more than a hundred esquires and gentlemen threw in their lot with the rebels; but how it came about that Jack Cade attained the leadership is a profound mystery. Leader, however, he was, and when he, with his twenty thousand men, took possession of Southwark as the most desirable base from which to threaten the city of London, he elected the White Hart for his own quarters. This was on the first of July, 1450, and for the next few of those midsummer days the inn was the scene of many stirring and tragic events. Daily, Cade at the head of his troops crossed the bridge into the city, and on one of those excursions he caused the seizure and beheadal of the hated Lord Say. Daily, too, there was constant coming and going at the White Hart of Cade's emissaries. At length, however, the citizens of London, stung into action by the robberies and other outrages of the rebels, occupied the bridge in force. A stubborn struggle ensued, but Cade and his men were finally beaten off. The amnesty which followed led to a conference at which terms were arranged and a general pardon granted. That for Cade, however, as it was made out in his assumed name of Mortimer, was invalid, and on the discovery being made he seized a large quantity of booty and fled. Not many days later he was run to earth, wounded in being captured, and died as he was being brought back to London. His naked body was identified by the hostess of the White Hart, who was probably relieved to gaze upon so certain an indication that she would be able to devote herself once more to the entertainment of less troublesome guests.
For all the speedy ending of his ambitions, Cade is assured of immortality so long as the pages of Shakespeare endure. The rebel is a stirring figure in the Second Part of King Henry VI and as an orator of the mob reaches his greatest flights of eloquence in that speech which perpetuates the name of his headquarters at Southwark. "Hath my sword therefore broke through London gates, that you should leave me at the White Hart in Southwark?"
But English literature was not done with the old inn. Many changes were to pass over its head during the nearly four centuries which elapsed ere it was touched once more by the pen of genius, changes wrought by the havoc of fire and the attritions of the hand of time. When those years had fled a figure was to be seen in its courtyard to become better known to and better beloved by countless thousands than the rebel leader of the fifteenth century. "In the Borough," wrote the creator of that figure, "there still remain some half dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories.... It was in the yard of one of these inns--of no less celebrated a one than the White Hart--that a man was busily employed in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse-striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he made to the clean row, he paused from his work, and contemplated its results with evident satisfaction."

White Hart Inn, Southwark
Who does not recognize Sam Weller, making his first appearance in "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club"? And who has not revelled in the lively scene in the White Hart when Mr. Pickwick and his friends arrived in the nick of time to prevent the ancient but still sentimental Rachael from becoming Mrs. Jingle? It is not difficult to understand why that particular instalment of "Pickwick" was the turning-point of the book's fortunes. Prior to the advent of Sam in the courtyard of the White Hart the public had shown but a moderate interest in the new venture of "Boz," but from that event onward the sales of the succeeding parts were ever on the increase. Sam and the White Hart, then, had much to do with the career of Dickens, for if "Pickwick" had failed it is more than probable that he would have abandoned literature as a profession.
When Dickens wrote, the White Hart was still in existence. It is so no longer. Till late in the last century this hostelry was spared the fate which had overtaken so many Southwark taverns, even though, in place of the nobles it had sheltered, its customers had become hop-merchants, farmers, and others of lower degree. In 1889, in the month of July, four hundred and thirty-nine years after it had received Jack Cade under its roof, the last timbers of the old inn were levelled to the ground.

And Last updated on: Sunday, 21-Jun-2020 19:41:53 BST