I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

White's--Sanctuary for the Regency Gentleman

A well-born Regency hero very well would have been a member of White’s London gentlemen’s club—oh no, it was not that kind of gentlemen’s club.

White’s was a place where a noble or wealthy gentleman (once members, of course) could dine, gamble, drink, and gather with similarly well-heeled friends.
File:White's Club St James's Street - geograph.org.uk - 1375768.jpg

  © Copyright PAUL FARMER and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In 1693, an Italian named Francesco Bianco (anglicized to Francis White) opened an establishment to sell hot chocolate, which was nothing like today’s Swiss Miss. The beverage was thick, bitter, exotic, expensive, and went well with dissident discussion. Charles II didn’t care for chocolate houses, and many converted into fashionable gentlemen’s clubs like White’s, Brooks’s, and Boodles’.

Entry wasn't easy to receive, mind you. It was exclusive and proud of it.

In 1778, White’s moved to its current location on Nos. 37-38 St. James’s Street. Today, once can still view the ground floor bow window which became a seat of honor. That arbiter of style and elegance, Beau Brummell, took the spot until he left in shame for the Continent in 1816, and his seat was quickly taken by Lord Alvanley, friend of the Prince Regent.
File:BrummellEngrvFrmMiniature.jpg
Ah, Beau Brummell. Get a load of that snazzy neck cloth. Public Domain.
With such strong ties to the monarchy, it’s little wonder White’s was the unofficial headquarters of the Tories, while Whigs preferred Brooks’s.

Betting was as liberal as the consumption of Madeira. Wealthy, bored gentlemen bet on anything and everything, from whom would marry who to which horse could run fastest. The Napoleonic Wars offered innumerable fodder for gamblers, but many bets were less serious in nature: Lord Alvanley bet £3,000 which of two raindrops would slide down the bottom of the pane of the box window.

White’s is still in business as a gentleman’s club today. Current members include Prince Charles, David Cameron MP, and oddly, Henry Winkler (the Fonz).

I wonder who gets to sit in the bow window now?

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