No. 009 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Story type: Essay

No. 9
Saturday, March 10, 1711. Addison.
Tigris agit rabida cum tigride pacem
Perpetuam, saevis inter se convenit ursis.


Man is said to be a Sociable Animal, and, as an Instance of it, we may observe, that we take all Occasions and Pretences of forming ourselves into those little Nocturnal Assemblies, which are commonly known by the name of ‘Clubs’. When a Sett of Men find themselves agree in any Particular, tho’ never so trivial, they establish themselves into a kind of Fraternity, and meet once or twice a Week, upon the Account of such a Fantastick-Resemblance. I know a considerable Market-town, in which there was a Club of Fat-Men, that did not come together (as you may well suppose) to entertain one another with Sprightliness and Wit, but to keep one another in Countenance: The Room, where the Club met, was something of the largest, and had two Entrances, the one by a Door of a moderate Size, and the other by a Pair of Folding-Doors. If a Candidate for this Corpulent Club could make his Entrance through the first he was looked upon as unqualified; but if he stuck in the Passage, and could not force his Way through it, the Folding-Doors were immediately thrown open for his Reception, and he was saluted as a Brother. I have heard that this Club, though it consisted but of fifteen Persons, weighed above three Tun.

In Opposition to this Society, there sprung up another composed of Scare-Crows and Skeletons, who being very meagre and envious, did all they could to thwart the Designs of their Bulky Brethren, whom they represented as Men of Dangerous Principles; till at length they worked them out of the Favour of the People, and consequently out of the Magistracy. These Factions tore the Corporation in Pieces for several Years, till at length they came to this Accommodation; that the two Bailiffs of the Town should be annually chosen out of the two Clubs; by which Means the principal Magistrates are at this Day coupled like Rabbets, one fat and one lean.

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Every one has heard of the Club, or rather the Confederacy, of the ‘Kings’. This grand Alliance was formed a little after the Return of King ‘Charles’ the Second, and admitted into it Men of all Qualities and Professions, provided they agreed in this Sir-name of ‘King’, which, as they imagined, sufficiently declared the Owners of it to be altogether untainted with Republican and Anti-Monarchical Principles.

A Christian Name has likewise been often used as a Badge of Distinction, and made the Occasion of a Club. That of the ‘Georges’, which used to meet at the Sign of the ‘George’, on St. ‘George’s’ day, and swear ‘Before George’, is still fresh in every one’s Memory.

There are at present in several Parts of this City what they call ‘Street-Clubs’, in which the chief Inhabitants of the Street converse together every Night. I remember, upon my enquiring after Lodgings in ‘Ormond-Street’, the Landlord, to recommend that Quarter of the Town, told me there was at that time a very good Club in it; he also told me, upon further Discourse with him, that two or three noisy Country Squires, who were settled there the Year before, had considerably sunk the Price of House-Rent; and that the Club (to prevent the like Inconveniencies for the future) had thoughts of taking every House that became vacant into their own Hands, till they had found a Tenant for it, of a Sociable Nature and good Conversation.

The ‘Hum-Drum’ Club, of which I was formerly an unworthy Member, was made up of very honest Gentlemen, of peaceable Dispositions, that used to sit together, smoak their Pipes, and say nothing ’till Midnight. The ‘Mum’ Club (as I am informed) is an Institution of the same Nature, and as great an Enemy to Noise.

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After these two innocent Societies, I cannot forbear mentioning a very mischievous one, that was erected in the Reign of King ‘Charles’ the Second: I mean ‘the Club of Duellists’, in which none was to be admitted that had not fought his Man. The President of it was said to have killed half a dozen in single Combat; and as for the other Members, they took their Seats according to the number of their Slain. There was likewise a Side-Table for such as had only drawn Blood, and shown a laudable Ambition of taking the first Opportunity to qualify themselves for the first Table. This Club, consisting only of Men of Honour, did not continue long, most of the Members of it being put to the Sword, or hanged, a little after its Institution.

Our Modern celebrated Clubs are founded upon Eating and Drinking, which are Points wherein most Men agree, and in which the Learned and Illiterate, the Dull and the Airy, the Philosopher and the Buffoon, can all of them bear a Part. The ‘Kit-Cat’ [1] it self is said to have taken its Original from a Mutton-Pye. The ‘Beef-Steak’ [2] and October [3] Clubs, are neither of them averse to Eating and Drinking, if we may form a Judgment of them from their respective Titles.

When Men are thus knit together, by Love of Society, not a Spirit of Faction, and do not meet to censure or annoy those that are absent, but to enjoy one another: When they are thus combined for their own Improvement, or for the Good of others, or at least to relax themselves from the Business of the Day, by an innocent and chearful Conversation, there may be something very useful in these little Institutions and Establishments.

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I cannot forbear concluding this Paper with a Scheme of Laws that I met with upon a Wall in a little Ale-house: How I came thither I may inform my Reader at a more convenient time. These Laws were enacted by a Knot of Artizans and Mechanicks, who used to meet every Night; and as there is something in them, which gives us a pretty Picture of low Life, I shall transcribe them Word for Word.

‘RULES to be observed in the Two-penny Club, erected in this Place, for the Preservation of Friendship and good Neighbourhood.’

I. Every Member at his first coming in shall lay down his Two Pence.

II. Every Member shall fill his Pipe out of his own Box.

III. If any Member absents himself he shall forfeit a Penny for the Use of the Club, unless in case of Sickness or Imprisonment.

IV. If any Member swears or curses, his Neighbour may give him a Kick upon the Shins.

V. If any Member tells Stories in the Club that are not true, he shall forfeit for every third Lie an Half-Penny.

VI. If any Member strikes another wrongfully, he shall pay his Club for him.

VII. If any Member brings his Wife into the Club, he shall pay for whatever she drinks or smoaks.

VIII If any Member’s Wife comes to fetch him Home from the Club, she shall speak to him without the Door.

IX. If any Member calls another Cuckold, he shall be turned out of the Club.

X. None shall be admitted into the Club that is of the same Trade with any Member of it.

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XI. None of the Club shall have his Cloaths or Shoes made or mended, but by a Brother Member.

XII. No Non-juror shall be capable of being a Member.

The Morality of this little Club is guarded by such wholesome Laws and Penalties, that I question not but my Reader will be as well pleased with them, as he would have been with the ‘Leges Convivales’ of Ben. Johnson, [4] the Regulations of an old Roman Club cited by Lipsius, or the rules of a Symposium in an ancient Greek author.


[Footnote 1: The ‘Kit-Cat’ Club met at a famous Mutton-Pie house in Shire Lane, by Temple Bar. The house was kept by Christopher Cat, after whom his pies were called Kit-Cats. The club originated in the hospitality of Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, who, once a week, was host at the house in Shire Lane to a gathering of writers. In an occasional poem on the Kit-Cat Club, attributed to Sir Richard Blackmore, Jacob is read backwards into Bocaj, and we are told

One Night in Seven at this convenient Seat
Indulgent Bocaj did the Muses treat;
Their Drink was gen’rous Wine and Kit-Cat’s Pyes their Meat.
Hence did th’ Assembly’s Title first arise,
And Kit-Cat Wits spring first from Kit-Cat’s Pyes.

About the year 1700 this gathering of wits produced a club in which the great Whig chiefs were associated with foremost Whig writers, Tonson being Secretary. It was as much literary as political, and its ‘toasting glasses,’ each inscribed with lines to a reigning beauty, caused Arbuthnot to derive its name from ‘its pell mell pack of toasts’

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‘Of old Cats and young Kits.’

Tonson built a room for the Club at Barn Elms to which each member gave his portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, who was himself a member. The pictures were on a new-sized canvas adapted to the height of the walls, whence the name ‘kit-cat’ came to be applied generally to three-quarter length portraits.]

[Footnote 2: The ‘Beef-Steak’ Club, founded in Queen Anne’s time, first of its name, took a gridiron for badge, and had cheery Dick Estcourt the actor for its providore. It met at a tavern in the Old Jewry that had old repute for broiled steaks and ‘the true British quintessence of malt and hops.’]

[Footnote 3: The ‘October’ Club was of a hundred and fifty Tory squires, Parliament men, who met at the Bell Tavern, in King Street, Westminster, and there nourished patriotism with October ale. The portrait of Queen Anne that used to hang in its Club room is now in the Town Council-chamber at Salisbury.]

[Footnote 4: In Four and Twenty Latin sentences engraven in marble over the chimney, in the Apollo or Old Devil Tavern at Temple Bar; that being his club room.]

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