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CLUBS OF LONDON.
THE BEEF.STEAK CLUB.
Who has not heard of the Sublime Society of the Beef-Steaks? Of this Club, British in heart, character, and humour, a true conservatory of our national good-nature and mirth, I never met with an authentic account. Some antiquarians have confounded its ancient history with the Beef-Steaks Club mentioned in the Spectator, founded, it was said, by Tom Estcourt, the player, and of which Peg Woffington was the president. Nor let it be mistaken, as it sometimes is, for the
pseudo-club of modern origin, that has assumed
The real Beef-Steaks has nothing new about it. It has enjoyed, through a long chain of tradition, a corporate life, that never dies. The Sublime Society has its pedigree, its ancestry, its title-deeds. The gridiron of 1735, standing out in proud relief from the ceiling of its refectory, is, to this fraternity, what the Clarencieux, the rouge-dragons of Collins and Edmondson, are to the heraldic pride of our aristocracy. It is the real gridiron, on which its first steak was broiled. That eloquent emblem is engraved on the hearts and on the buttons of every member, with the no less eloquent motto that encircles it, BEEF AND LIBERTY.
As every thing in this Society breathes a spirit of antiquity, so every thing promises long duration. Its founders, in the provident spirit of wise legislators, infused into it a vitality that has preserved it through the giddy revolutions of taste, and the petulant caprices of fashion. Though composed of fleeting materials, its capital fund of humour, wit, and social glee, has been locked up, like property in mortmain. Fashions have passed
away, but not the fashion of the Beef-Steaks, which remains unsoiled and unchanged in the glossy freshness of its primæval character.
Do not, I beseech you, profane this venerable institution, by imagining a collection of greasy citizens devouring beef-steaks, whom common voracity draws together, and common satiety will disperse. On that despicable tenure, the flies of the shambles would be a Beef-Steak Club. But the princes, the nobles, the wits of the land, seated at a plenteous, but frugal board, and in equal brotherhood, keeping alive the old, in-bred good-nature of the better classes of the English people. Beef is, indeed, the grosser ligament of the union, its outward and tangible sign. But an ethereal spirit, an intellectual sympathy is there, to draw and cement kindred hearts to each other. It is the carnival of the soul ; its unfettered commerce, not in verbose tortuous mazes of disquisition, but in all sorts of gladnesses, extracted from all sorts of things; a voyage of the spirits bound no where, with liberty to touch every where, and bringing home from every point of the compass, an unperishable cargo of innocuous satire, and heart-stirring hilarities—undisturbed by one moment's spleen, or acerbity, or wounded self-love. It is
“ The mirth which after no repenting draws;”
the mirth which goes home with you to your pillow, startles your wife in the watches of the night, with your involuntary laugh, as you are musing over the whim and fancy of the evening, and even endangers your cup of tea the next morning by the agitation of your fibres.
He who has passed a good day at the BeefSteaks, and has not felt this sensation, máy indeed "go in the catalogue" for a man; but, without calling for any more evidence, I would pronounce him anti-social in his composition. Poor old Johnson, many years the father of the Society, was so frequently visited with these reminiscences, that Mrs. Johnson began to throw out hints for a separate couch, till habit had reconciled her to the occasional interruptions of her slumbers. In short, the fun of Ben Jonson's Club, at the Mermaid, in Cornhill, as it is recorded by Beaumont, in his epistle to honest