Robinson Crusoe Quote

"He preferred, however, "gourmandization," was an idolater of a certain decent, commodious fish, called a turtle, and worshipped the culinary image wherever he nozed it put up."
---The Contradiction (1796)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Anatomy of Betrayal

In my last post, I brought up a very peculiar attendance record that seemed to indicate some degree of unhealthy strife among the Wednesday's Club members.  Here it is again.  Seems like the club basically stopped recording its meetings after a few months.  By 1695, eleven of these 20 members had been erased from the records.

The Wednesday's Club seemed to go on hiatus in April of 1694: Buy why?
But what happened?  Where did these men go?  To get to the bottom of this, I decided to look at the seven pages of rules instituted in 1695, designed “by the severall persons of this clubb for the better rule and government of this loving society.”

The first "rule" was particularly intriguing.  It states:

For Dismissing Old Members

“Wheras Mr. Johnson Senior, Mr Thatcher, Mr Hinde, Mr Johnson Junior, Mr Pooler, Mr Pickering, Mr Todd, Mr Dudson, Mr Barnes, Mr Owen and Mr Cheshire, former members of this Clubb have discontinued their appearances at this Clubb for Some time, and have met at a Separat Clubb at the Castle Tavern in Paternoster Row after the Place of meeting was by the majority of the votes of this Clubb upon on noting for that purpose given, fixed to be at the Fountaine Tavern at Aldersgate.  It is Ordered the said persons so discontinuing their appearances shall be dismissed from being members of this Clubb and that for the future this Clubb shall to consist of twenty members and no more. 

What have we here?  Up to now, I had thought that most of these eating clubs had decided to institute rules in order to prevent non-paying "stangers" from showing up to the tavern unannounced and mooching off of the pre-paid dinner.  The institutionalization of the Wednesday's Club –– manifested in its many rules governing dining, comportment and membership ––  apparently resulted from decidedly less happy circumstances.

Distance from the Fountain to the Castle Tavern
Courtesy of Google-Maps
But why did these guys leave and start their own club?  It certainly couldn't have been the commute; A quick search revealed that the walking distance between the the locations of the two taverns amounted to a paltry five minutes.

But as vast social, religious and political divisions can make themselves apparent within the smallest of distances, it was worth asking why the defectors went to Paternoster Row of all places.  In the early 18th century, this street was a mecca for booksellers and printers.  One contemporary described the streets being so jam packed with gentleman's coaches that regular folks couldn't even find a place to walk.  And apparently the Castle Tavern, the venue to which the members deserted, was a pretty classy place; a 1699 newspaper remarked that a Man and Woman could order "1/2 dozen Potch'd Eggs which were brought upon a Plate with as many Silver Spoons." 

But I still needed to know more about the circumstances of this desertion.  I tried to search the names of the deserters in order to answer this question, but I didn't come up with much.

Except for one thing:    
First Year of the Centenary Club: Looks like the defectors ended up here!
I know this is a little hard to read, but if you look closely, my efficacious readers will notice that the exact same names of the deserters showing up in founding document of the Centenary Club in 1695!  Because the rules and organization of both clubs were so similar, I had been convinced for some time that the two clubs had some sort of relationship with one another.  This document said it all.  

Still, the circumstances regarding this betrayal remain a mystery.  Was it a matter of religion?  (After all, London in the late Stuart age was marked by religious strife among Anglicans, Catholics, and myriad Dissenting groups; the Sacheverell riots were looming in the not too distant future.)  Or perhaps politics caused the split?  (The Centenary Club entertained Tory loyalties, but I am not sure as of yet where the Wednesday's Club allegiances lied.)  Or could this division have resulted from a personal squabble among a once cohesive group of friends?

More on this matter next time.