STRANG'S GLASGOW AND ITS CLUBS. * THE eighteenth century was in
the Three Kingdoms the age of clubs. Men not only lived but carried on the business of life in taverns. The physician could be " seen " by his patients at his coffeehouse ; the lawyer met his clients at the same place ; bar- gains were driven and concluded over a bottle of wine or a bowl of punch—or rather, over bottles or bowls. Regular clubs, of course, were confined to their particular members, and had their fixed days of meeting ; but male life itself was then an agglomeration of clubs. Every man had his house of resort, where he could be " found in the evening," from the politician, the lover of literature and of the drama, down to the humblest tradesman who used the public-house parlour, where " drouthy neibors neibors meet." He was not a man but a milksop who did not " spend his evenings out." Pranks and practical jokes were played, which would startle or scandalize the present age ; but those who remembered the life spoke of it as very attractive. There was gossip and relaxation, not unmingled with discussion and shrewd remark. In those days, when reporters and penny-a-liners were scarcely known, these meetings formed a substitute for the " home news" of the journals, each man contributing what he had seen or heard. There must have been much, too, of the " idem velle et idem none"; for if a man did not like his company he could change it, by going to another house ; though to discontinue his formal club might not be so easy to many.
In London at the early part, in Ireland throughout the whole of the century, there were clubs consisting of members of young blood and "the quality," that reflected in a repulsive way the manners of the age., Such were the Mohawks and other clubs of Queen Anne's time and probably all the " genteel " clubs of Ireland. In the long run, these last might inflict a great deal more mischief, and indeed misery, than their congeners of London. But there was less of mere purposeless cruelty in jest, more of frolic, perhaps folly, in their mischief; and there was less of intelligent animus in their crimes. For partisan spirit, in- dividual ostentation, rollicking dare-devil jollity running on to- wards madness, the clubs of Ireland stand alone. We have had many passing notices of them, and some attempts at their story ; but their history has yet to be written. Dr. Doran could do it very well.
One would not expect from Glasgow either the cold and point- less outrage of some of the London clubists, or the theatrical display and rampagious violence of those of Dublin or the pro- vinces. As little, however, should we have looked for the regu- larity and almost decorum which appears in Dr. Strang's pages to have characterized the clubs of Glasgow from 1750 to the close of the century. The first club in the city of the West, or at least the first club the historian commemorates, was called Anderston, from the name of the suburb where the iavern was situate. It was founded by Simson the mathematician ; its records are dim, and it is only by inference that its members can be guessed at ; they seem to have been professors of the University, including Adam Smith, and laymen with a turn for literature and science. Beyond potations pottle deep, which might scarcely have flustered Scottish literati in those days of hard drinking, many pranks might not have been expected; but most of the clubs seem, as far as events show, to have been dull and not always very deep in their cups. We hear, indeed, of men being escorted home from the sederunt ; but only at private parties are they left under the table. Perhaps records and tradition have both perished; for the early periods would appear to have been more serious and sober than the later. The Camperdown Club could only have been formed fifty-eight years ago (1797); yet if this extract means what it says, each member must have been more than equivalent to an eight-bottle man upon grand occasions.
"On ordinary club nights, each member sipped his tumbler of punch or toddy, according to his humour ; but on anniversary occasions, every glass of punch was accompanied by a toast,—not, however, as in the present day, with the accessory of that foe to all hilarity, a regular set speech. The toast was given simply with Here goes l'—and with Here goes again it was swallowed. After the president had given the ' King and Constitution,' and the 'Hero of Camperdown,' each member in succession was left to give his own say; and although there were frequently above a score at the board, it rarely happened that the brotherhood separated before at least half a dozen • Glasgow and its Clubs; or Glimpses of the Condition, Manners, Characters, and Oddities of the City during the Past and Present Centuries. By John Strang, LL.D., Author of " Germany in 1831," " Social and Economic Statistics of Ghia. gow,"&c. Published by Griffin and Co.
rounds of healths and sentiments had been proposed by each, and swallowed by the whole."
The pranks seem to have belonged to this century, unless, as we opine, the memory of the last has faded. The pranks themselves were comparatively mild. Nine members of the Banditti Club rode at midnight through the streets of Glasgow clad in white, their horses with sheets for trimmings, and phosphorus playing about them, to the great terror of the old watchmen and of some whom a convenient cry of " fire !" roused from their beds. Beau Findlay, who particularly prided himself on his head-gear and whiskers, was made dead drunk by the Gegg [practical joke]Club, his head shaved, his darling whiskers cut off and put in his pocket, and himself borne home in triumph, to discover his loss when he con- sulted his looking-glass in the morning. A member of this same club piqued himself upon keeping his legs, and finding the key- hole, under any extent of potations. One night, however, he was at fault. He felt confident he had reached the house, and his own " flat," but no effort could find the door ; as indeed was not likely, for it had been bricked up during the sitting. On another occasion a joke was carried a shade too far. A vain citizen who was nicknamed " the Count," and ostentatiously avowed his opinion of his own beauty, declared " that he would never sacrifice himself to any woman without obtaining a handsome donoeur as a recompense." It was long before the belle appeared with the requisite combinations ; but at length she did; and the Count was invited to meet her at a ball, he making no secret of his " vidi yid" intentions. This was too good a chance to be thrown away. The chairman of the Gegg Club persuaded him to come to a dinner on the day of the dance, their extraordinary sit- tings being held at the private house of one of the members. They "fooled him to the top of his bent" : when he rose to go, he found the outer door locked and no servant to answer his call. The days had passed when the host locked the dining-room door and put the key in his pocket : the Count therefore did not suspect a trick, but received the explanation that the servants had gone out with the key ; and the club took the case into earnest consideration. "One proposed to break open the outer door ; another, to call out for a ladder. At length, however, after much anxious discussion, it was resolved to let the Count down to the street, through the front window, by the aid of a pair of sheets. The project was thankfully grasped at by the geggee. The landlord procured the sheets, and the Count having been firmly fixed in their double, the window was raised, the geggee stepped out with his white silk stockings upon the sill, the club seized hold of the ends of the suspend- ing apparatus, and the lowering immediately took place. The gegg was now about brought to its acme : it required that the poor Count should be left suspended in middle air ; which was instantly done ; for no sooner were the geggee's limbs seen dangling over the shop-window, than down the geggers rattled the window,—and lo! his legs were permitted, handsome though they were, to waltz in mid air ! Here he hung ; and there his silk limbs dangled, like a sign-post, for some time before he sung out : but, finding that the party he had left had no intention of allowing him to proceed to the party which was expecting him, he bawled out lustily. The Gegg Club roared with laughter within, while he roared with rage without. The neighbours were alarmed at seeing a man hanging, like Mahomet's coffin, between heaven and earth ; and, anxious for his immediate safety, rushed in on all hands for mattresses, beds, &c., to break his fall. The street was, for a moment, in confusion ; when, no sooner did the geggers see that the fall would be broken, than up they banged the window, allowed one of the ends of the sheet to go, and down fell the poor Count in a fright, and a plight that rendered his visit to the ball-room and his siege of the fair fortune for that night utterly hope- less. The story soon got wind; it became the talk of that most gossiping of all places, the Coffeeroom at the Cross; and though a mighty threat about satisfaction was made by the geggee to all the individuals present, the geg- gers remained safe and sound ; and the gegg often drew forth abundant mer- riment, but neither apology nor bloodshed."
The reader who wishes a continuous and chronological account of the Glasgow Clubs—how they originated, who founded them, what was the distinguishing object of each, with short biographical totices of the most eminent members, and some specimens of club Terse—will find all combined in Dr. Strang's volume. Living ma- terials for the older clubs do not appear to have been so full as might have been desired to bring out the nodes or the members in all their glory, when " the mirth and fun grew fast and furi- one." The Doctor has hardly sufficient vivacity of style or light- ness of touch for the very peculiar subject he has got to deal with ; and this occasionally leads him to make too much of a story in the telling, or to suppose circumstances when authorities are want- ing. The book, however, is curious, and an interesting record of times and manners utterly passed away save in the memory of some few survivors.
Glasgow Clubs, however, is not the sole feature of the volume. Dr. Strang traoes the marvellous growth of Glasgow itself, which has a more than local interest for those who like to observe the wonderful extension of Anglo-Saxon towns during the last eighty or a hundred years, not only at home but in the Colonies and America. He also describes, at fitting intervals, the changes of manners, opinions, and costumes. Here is an example of Phari- saical Sabbath-observance eighty years ago, which might be matched now in spirit.
"The stern Puritanical spirit, which attempted in Glasgow to force every one either to go to church or to keep within doors on Sundays, was carried so far, that persons were employed, called Bum Bodies, to perambulate the streets and the public Green, and to seize upon all they found in the open air during divine service. Mr. Blackburn, the grandfather of the present laird of Killearn, having been taken into custody, according to the perse- cuting spirit of the period, for walking in the Green on Sunday, brought an action against the Magistrates for unwarranted exercise of authority, and carried his suit to the Court of Session ; who at once decided against the pre- posterous attempt to prevent walking on Sunday either on the streets or on the Green. The result of this Puritanical severity was very soon found in the fearful laxity of the succeeding generation in this respect. Would that the citizens of 1855 could take a lesson from the consequences of which the pharisaical stringency of 1780 was productive !"
Bents, we take it, are different now : but so also are buildings- * this present 1855, you may see in Glasgow shops and ware- houses of more splendid architecture than anything in London.
"The rents of dwelling-houses in fiats, about 1780 and 1782, ranged from 61. to 121. a year. Shops or merchant-booths from 101. to 201. Most of the shops had under-ground premises, called laigh shops, which were let sepa- rately."
From the early part of the century till the American war, to- bacco was a great card in Glasgow commerce ; by which large for- tunes were made, and a class of mercantile millionaires raised up, who did not bear their honours meekly. "During the period when this trade was in the ascendant, it is perhaps scarcely necessary to repeat what all the old historians of the city have told us, that the persona engaged in it ruled with a very high hand. With a hauteur and bearing, indeed, since altogether unparalleled, they kept them- selves separate from the other classes of the town ; assuming the air and de- portment of persons immeasurably superior to all around them ; and treat- ing those on whom they looked down, but on whom they depended, with no little superciliousness. For one of the shopoeracy or eorkocraey to speak to a tobacco aristocrat on the street, without some sign of recognition from the great man, would have been regarded as an insult. They were princes on the .Plainstanes, and strutted about there every day as the rulers of the des- tinies of Glasgow. Like the princely merchants, too, who formerly paced the Piazetta in Venice, or occupied the gorgeous palaces in the Strada Balbi of Genoa, the tobacco distinguished themselves by a particular garb; being attired, like their Venetian and Genovese predecessors, in scarlet cloaks, curled wigs, cocked hats, and bearing gold-headed canes."
With the; downfall of the trade the red cloaks and other dis- tinguishing garb disappeared, and about 1780 costume took this form.
"If such be something like the contrast which the Glasgow of 1780 would present to that of 1855, how different would the dress of the citizens of that period appear, compared with the garbs of the present day. Gentlemen and tradesmen invariably wore dark-blue coats with clear buttons, not double- breasted as in modern days, but having buttons on one side only ; the vest being usually of the same cloth and colour, with deep pockets and pocket- lids. The breeches of tradesmen were always of corduroy, buckled at the knee ' • with which they wore rig-and-fur stockings, and shoes pointed at the toes, fastened with bright brass buckles, while their costume was completed with a cocked hat. The garb of the higher classes was not much different except in quality ; the buttons on their coats being gilt, and the shoe and knee-buckles of silver. With the exception of young boys and clergymen, every man in the city wore long hair, soaked with pomatum and covered. with powder ; some having their hair wrapped round with a silk riband, lying on their backs like a pig-tail; while others had a bunch of their hair bound with a knot of riband, dangling on their shoulders, called a club. "The boys of this period all wore breeches ; which were made of leather, and supplied by skinners at from one shilling and sixpence to two shillings a pair."
We will close with an example, less illustrative of Glasgow than of Byron's idea, that " persons livingon annuities are longer lived than others."
"The Tontine buildings, which were erected immediately to the North of the Town Hall at the Cross, were commenced in 1781. The Coffee-room or Reading-room was long considered the moat elegant in Britain. 'How have the mighty fallen l' There were 107 shares or lives, at 501. each, at its foundation in 1780; and in 1853 there were still twelve alive."