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A Flight to Domesticity? Making a Home in the Gentlemen's Clubs of London, 1880–1914

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2012


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1 “Ramblings in Clubland: Ramble No. 3—the Junior Constitutional,” Society Herald: A Weekly Record of Social, Political, Theatrical, Literary and Financial Events, 14 May 1888, 14.

2 I use the terms “upper class” and “elite” throughout the article to refer to the membership of gentlemen's clubs. Clubmen were aristocrats, politicians, and men at the top of the business, professional, and military worlds. This would include men from both the landed aristocracy and the upper middle class or the aristocracy of talent. A more detailed exploration of membership can be found in my dissertation, “Clubland: Masculinity, Status, and Community in the Gentlemen's Clubs of London, c. 1880–1914” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, forthcoming)Google Scholar.

3 Ruskin, John, Sesame and Lilies (New Haven, CT, 2002), 77Google Scholar.

4 Tosh, John, “New Men? The Bourgeois Cult of Home,” History Today 46 (1996): 10Google Scholar.

5 Tosh, John, A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England (New Haven, CT, 1999)Google Scholar.

6 Davidoff, Leonore and Hall, Catherine, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850 (Chicago, 1987)Google Scholar.

7 Grier, Katherine C., Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850–1930 (Washington, DC, 1988), 106Google Scholar. The term “Society” was used to describe the social life of London's aristocratic and fashionable elite.

8 Vickery, Amanda, The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (New Haven, CT, 1998), 291Google Scholar.

9 Any formalistic domestic ideal also met some resistance from the working classes, who maintained traditions of the open stoop, back garden gossip, and more formal parlor culture; see Thompson, F. M. L., The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain, 1830–1900 (Cambridge, 1988), 192–96Google Scholar. The inability of most working-class men to earn breadwinner wages and the continuing tradition of domestic violence also implied that a working-class home was far from the middle-class domestic ideal, despite its rhetorical popularity; see Clark, Anna, The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class (Berkeley, 1995), 248–63Google Scholar. Martin Hewitt's work on middle-class visitation rituals suggests a modified ideal of domestic privacy among the working classes, along different lines and with different values from the middle classes; see “District Visiting and the Constitution of Domestic Space in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” in Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior, ed. Bryden, Inga and Floyd, Janet (Manchester, 1999), 137–38Google Scholar.

10 Huggins, Mike (“More Sinful Pleasures? Leisure, Respectability and the Male Middle Classes in Victorian England,” Journal of Social History 33 [2000]: 593)CrossRefGoogle Scholar points to the club as a center of drink and sociability merely posing as a respectable retreat. Hearn, Jeff (Men in the Public Eye: The Construction and Deconstruction of Public Men and Public Patriarchies [London, 1992], 224)CrossRefGoogle Scholar explains club and pub life as examples of “homoerotic self-advertisement.” Murray, Venetia (High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period 1788–1830 [London, 1998], 158)Google Scholar points to clubs of the Regency era as escapes from women's social world. Howard Chudacoff's work in the American context is an exception to this trend, as he notes that late nineteenth-century clubs tended to present a cozy and domestic atmosphere; see The Age of the Bachelor: Creating an American Subculture (Princeton, NJ, 1999), 42Google Scholar.

11 Tosh, “New Men?” 14.

12 Tosh, A Man's Place, 183, 185, and What Should Historians Do with Masculinity? Reflections on Nineteenth-Century Britain,” History Workshop Journal 38 (1994): 188–89Google Scholar.

13 Rybczyniski, Witold, Home: A Short History of an Idea (New York, 1986), 75Google Scholar.

14 Rendell, Jane, The Pursuit of Pleasure: Gender, Space and Architecture in Regency London (New Brunswick, NJ, 2002), 70Google Scholar.

15 The fact of many male family members belonging to the same club was common, some even forming dynastic legacies (e.g., the Devonshire family at Brooks's Club); see Lejeune, Anthony, The Gentlemen's Clubs of London (London, 1979), 8Google Scholar.

16 It should be noted that Tosh's work on a late nineteenth-century flight from domesticity focuses on the middle classes and does not deal explicitly with the upper middle classes or the elites; see Tosh, John, Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Harlow, 2005), 107Google Scholar.

17 Tosh, A Man's Place, 4.

18 Waddy, H. T., The Devonshire Club—and “Crockford’s” (London, 1919), 105Google Scholar.

19 Francis, Martin, “The Domestication of the Male? Recent Research on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Masculinity,” Historical Journal 45 (2002): 643CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 Lejeune uses the term “gentlemen's club” in its most embracive sense, and thus his numbers are higher; see Lejeune, , White’s: The First Three Hundred Years (London, 1993), 132Google Scholar.

21 Lejeune, The Gentlemen's Clubs of London, 15.

22 Forrest, Denys, Foursome in St. James’s: The Story of the East India, Devonshire, Sports and Public Schools Club (London, 1982), 106Google Scholar.

23 “Table Talk,” Gentleman's Magazine, May 1884, 519. Baedeker's guide reported eighty-eight social and sporting clubs in London in 1898, rising to ninety-seven by 1915; see Baedeker, Karl, London and Its Environs: Handbook for Travellers, 11th ed. (Leipzig, 1898)Google Scholar, and 17th ed. (Leipzig, 1915).

24 Dasent, Arthur Irwin, Piccadilly in Three Centuries: With Some Account of Berkeley Square and the Haymarket (London, 1920), 84Google Scholar.

25 Gunn, Simon, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority and the English Industrial City 1840–1914 (Manchester, 2000), 91Google Scholar.

26 Clubs,” Temple Bar, a London Magazine for Town and Country Readers 51 (1877): 194Google Scholar.

27 To discuss business of any sort save politics was not only considered bad form but was actually an infringement of the rules at a gentlemen's club. Even the East India United Service, a somewhat lesser status gentlemen's club, was adamant in the fact that no business transactions were to take place at the club; see The Rules and Regulations of the East India United Service Club (London, 1890), 32Google Scholar.

28 “The Club as a Social Organism,” Club News, 28 January 1911, 3. More work certainly needs to be done on the relationship of workingmen's clubs with the home and family.

29 See, e.g., “Raids on London Clubs,” New York Times, 13 May 1889; Vanity Fair, 18 May 1889, 355; The Times, 28 September 1896.

30 The National Liberal Club, with such a soaring membership, was on the border between a middle-class and gentlemen's club.

31 Thompson, F. M. L., “Moving Frontiers and the Fortunes of the Aristocratic Town House, 1830–1930,” London Journal 20 (1995): 75Google Scholar.

32 White Sergeant, “Bachelor Ways. And What They Teach the Housewife,” The Queen, 24 January 1880, 106. To keep up one of the grand London palaces, a man would have needed to be bringing in at least £20,000 per year; see Thompson, “Moving Frontiers,” 72.

33 Thorold, Peter, The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City, from 1666 to the Present (New York, 1999), 262Google Scholar.

34 “Club-House for Literary and Scientific Bodies,” The Builder, 16 November 1850, 545.

35 “Military, Naval, and County Service Club-House,” The Builder, 12 May 1849, 225.

36 Beckett, Arthur À, London at the End of the Century: A Book of Gossip (London, 1900), 79Google Scholar.

37 Sarah Luria, “The Architecture of Manners: Henry James, Edith Wharton and the Mount,” in Bryden and Floyd, Domestic Space, 187.

38 The chronicler of Brooks's pointed with pride to its “refined, if somewhat solemn comfort” that did not need the size of the more modern clubhouses; see Alfred Benzon, Benzon's Black Book. A History of the Clubs of London, Baltimore and Washington (1891), 12–13; Wegg-Prosser, J. F., Memorials of Brooks's from the Foundation of the Club 1764 to the Close of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1906), xiiGoogle Scholar.

39 “Social Clubs in London: Where Englishmen Pass Their Leisure Time,” New York Times, 1 August 1885.

40 W. Bayne Ranken, “Club Land,” Belgravia, a London Magazine, October 1873, 461–63.

41 “Social Clubs in London,” New York Times.

42 A Member of the Aristocracy, Manners and Tone of Good Society: Or, Solecisms to Be Avoided, 2nd ed. (London, n.d., ca. 1880), 4Google Scholar.

43 Letter from Royal Automobile Club, 11 November 1912, Bonar Law Papers, 27/4/18, House of Lords Record Office. The idea that a man's first point of call was his club was echoed in popular fiction when a young woman awaiting the return of her fiancé assumes he has gone to his club when he does not immediately appear at her door; see Dixon, Ella Hepworth (Margaret Wynman), The Story of a Modern Woman (Peterborough, 2004), 119Google Scholar.

44 Matthew Arnold to T. H. S. Escott, 15 June c. 1883/4, Arnol. 3, 39; Matthew Arnold to T. H. S. Escott, 2 October c.1883/4, Arnol. 6, Escott Papers, 58774, British Library (BL), 42. Similarly, when J. C. Ardagh returned to London, he went to the Junior United Service Club to write to his friends. His visit was short, however, as he was ill and soon departing for Egypt; see J. C. Ardagh to T. H. S. Escott, 18 August 1883, Ar. 1, Escott papers, 58774, BL, 13.

45 To a bachelor, all such amenities were even more appealing; see Verne, Jules, Around the World in Eighty Days, trans. Towle, George M. (New York, 1956), 10Google Scholar.

46 Catalogue of the Library of the Reform Club, 2nd ed. (London, 1894), 11Google Scholar.

47 Woodbridge, George, The Reform Club, 1836–1978: A History from the Club's Records (London, 1978), 108Google Scholar.

48 Waugh, Francis Gledstances, The Athenaeum Club and Its Associations (London, 1900), 91Google Scholar.

49 SirFitzroy, Almeric, History of the Travellers’ Club (London, 1927), 133Google Scholar.

50 Woodbridge, Reform Club, 125–29.

51 “In Clubland: The Carlton,” Clubland, June 1910, 35.

52 “Club Manners,” The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 22 June 1892, 14.

53 “Table Talk,” Gentleman's Magazine, January–June 1880, 378–79.

54 “Diary of Edward Hamilton: 3 March 1882 to 23 September 1882,” 26 August 1882, Add. MS 48632, BL, 223.

55 Fulford, Roger, Boodle's 1762–1962: A Short History (London, 1962), 43Google Scholar.

56 Hutchinson, Horace G., ed., Private Diaries of the Rt. Hon. Sir Algernon West, G.C.B. (London, 1922), xiGoogle Scholar.

57 SirBiron, Charles, Without Prejudice: Impressions of Life and Law (London, 1936), 30Google Scholar.

58 See, e.g., an invitation from Fred Burnay for a small dinner party at the Junior Carlton Club; Fred Burnay to T. H. S. Escott, 29 August 1883, Bur. 3 58776, Escott Papers, BL, 57.

59 Menu from United Service Club Dinner, ACC/1302/134, Wood Family Papers, London Metropolitan Archives, 1911.

60 Fitzroy, Almeric William, Memoirs, 3rd ed. (London, 1925), 63Google Scholar.

61 Bancroft, Squire, Empty Chairs (London, 1925), 7Google Scholar.

62 In the surviving diaries of the Prince of Wales between 1875 and 1877, the prince dined at clubs at least thirty-three times. The Marlborough functioned in that capacity most often: twenty-three times; see “Indexes to diary of King Edward VII,” EVII/D, Royal Archives, Windsor.

63 Norgate, Matthew and Wykes, Alan, Not So Savage (London, 1976), 23Google Scholar.

64 Escott, T. H. S., Club Makers and Club Members (London, 1914), 233Google Scholar.

65 Henry James to W. E. Norris, 23 December 1900, Correspondence of Notable Club Figures, B47, Reform Club Archive.

66 A British Officer, Social Life in the British Army (New York, 1899), 1415Google Scholar.

67 Besant, Walter, London in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1909), 264Google Scholar.

68 “London Clubs,” New York Times, 18 June 1871, 3.

69 Galsworthy, John, The Island Pharisees (London, 1921), 5960Google Scholar.

70 A detailed account of one such “wild night” survives from the Caledonian Club. Mr. A. H. Connell entered the club with some friends at one in the morning, and they proceeded to a small smoking room where they ordered refreshments. Included in the list were numerous orders of brandy and soda and six bottles of lager beer. The waiter attested that the group was very loud, not only shouting and singing, but also jumping around on the furniture. The men proceeded to throw beer at one another, the walls, and the carpet. They knocked over a glass table and the list of members from the mantelpiece, they damaged two settees, three armchairs, and a lampshade, and broke several glasses. The total estimate for damages was at least £20–25. Such behavior was considered far too rowdy for a gentlemen's club, and it was not typical—Connell resigned and was asked to pay for the damages; see the entries October 13 and October 20, 1909, in the “Committee Minute Book, December 6 1905–November 20 1917,” Caledonian Club Archives.

71 Dellamora, Richard, Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism (Chapel Hill, NC, 1990), 195Google Scholar.

72 R. D. Stordale, “Clare, Lord Bayswater: A Tale of the Times,” Vanity Fair, 1 January 1881, 7.

73 “The Homeless Husband,” The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 15 August 1883, 8–9.

74 “The Wail of the Mothers,” Vanity Fair, 21 June 1884, 361.

75 Alice Oldcastle, “Our Husbands’ Clubs,” The Queen, 11 September 1880, 229.

76 Punch, 27 August 1887, 90.

77 “In Home Politics,” Vanity Fair, 17 July 1902, 45.

78 T. H. S. Escott, “Concerning Club Servants,” Belgravia, a London Magazine, November 1874, 207.

79 Miscellaneous letter, Brooks's Club, ACC/2371/BC/03/131, London Metropolitan Archives.

80 “Arts Club Committee Minute Book: 1 October 1878 to January 1891,” entries for 4 February 1879 and 6 October 1885, Arts Club Archive, London.

81 Grossmith, Weedon, From Studio to Stage: Reminiscences of Weedon Grossmith, Written by Himself, 3rd ed. (London, 1913), 263Google Scholar.

82 Colson, Percy, White’s, 1693–1950 (London, 1951), 123Google Scholar.

83 Punch, 27 November 1912, 433.

84 Moira Donald, “Tranquil Havens? Critiquing the Idea of Home as the Middle-Class Sanctuary,” in Bryden and Floyd, Domestic Space, 105.

85 Hepworth, Mike, “Privacy, Security and Respectability: The Ideal Victorian Home,” in Ideal Homes? Social Change and Domestic Life, ed. Chapman, Tony and Hockey, Jennifer Lorna (London, 1999), 19Google Scholar.

86 Gunn, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class, 92.

87 Waddy, The Devonshire Club—and “Crockford’s,” 42.

88 Griffiths, P. J., “Foreword,” in The Oriental: Life Story of a West End Club, ed. Forrest, Denys Mostyn (London, 1979), 5Google Scholar.

89 “New Clubs,” The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 23 April 1884, 10.

90 “Brooks's Club Minute Book: 12 June 1880 to 29 May 1894,” 8 November 1882, ACC/2371/BC/02/007, London Metropolitan Archives.

91 Cook, Matt, London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914 (Cambridge, 2003), 31Google Scholar.

92 Maudie: Revelations of Life in London and an Unforeseen Denouement (London, 1909), 62Google Scholar.

93 Oldcastle, “Our Husbands’ Clubs,” 229; “Zakouska,” Vanity Fair, 29 March 1894, 201.

94 “Gloves,” The World, 3 July 1895, 40.

95 Hatton, Joseph, Club-Land, London and Provincial (London, 1890), iiiGoogle Scholar.

96 At many clubs to this day a “strangers’ room” exists in some form.

97 Thorne, Robert, “Places of Refreshment in the Nineteenth-Century City,” in Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment, ed. King, Anthony D. (London, 1980), 232Google Scholar.

98 Griffiths, “The Oriental,” 73.

99 Benson, E. F., Mammon and Co. (New York, 1899), 98Google Scholar.

100 “Travellers’ Club Committee Minute Book: 19 February 1863 to 31 January 1867,” Travellers’ Club Archive, London.

101 MajorGriffiths, Arthur, Clubs and Clubmen (London, 1907), 189Google Scholar.

102 The Guards’ Club List of the Trustees, the Committee and the Honorary Members, and the Rules and Regulations of the Club (London, 1889), 7Google Scholar; The Rules and Regulations, with an Alphabetical List of the Members of the Army and Navy Club (London, 1868), 4Google Scholar; Thole, John Bernard, The Oxford and Cambridge Clubs in London (London, 1992), 149Google Scholar.

103 “Oriental Club Minute Book: 7 January 1890 to 20 December 1892,” 22 December 1891, LMA/4452/01/03/018, London Metropolitan Archives, 197.

104 “Athenaeum Club Minute Book: 11 January 1887 to 19 March 1897,” 14 June 1892, Athenaeum Club Archive.

105 “Travellers’ Club Minute Book: 18 November 1903 to 18 December 1907,” 4 February 1906, Travellers’ Club Archive, 205.

106 Secretary to the Hon. R. Lawley, 9 November 1882, in Brooks's Club Letter Book: 29 January 1881 to 24 January 1890, ACC/2371/BC/03/003, London Metropolitan Archives, 137.

107 Vanity Fair, 30 December 1882, 381.

108 The reticence of the staff to question the intruder too closely is not to be wondered at, however. To not know a member by sight was considered a huge failing, even if the man had been absent many years or had changed his appearance—or even if he had been disfigured, which was not uncommon in service clubs; see An Old Fogey [pseud.], “The Club Staff,” chap. 5 of “Clubs and Clubmen,” serial, Pall Mall Gazette, 28 February 1903, 2.

109 This did not necessarily entail that 28,000 men were without a club; some would have been members of several clubs; see “The Deserted West-End: Twenty-One Clubs Closed,” Pall Mall Gazette, 19 August 1902, 6. The same journal a few years later compared the desertion of the residential districts with the empty palaces of Pall Mall; “London Clubland: Signs of Awakening,” Pall Mall Gazette, 6 September 1905, 6.

110 “Club-Cleaning,” The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 27 August 1884, 9.

111 “Autumn in London,” Vanity Fair, 5 October 1893, 220.

112 Articles typically focus on either the intrusion of outsiders or the desertion of the once full buildings; see Vanity Fair, 2 October 1880, 192; “Across the Puddle,” chap. 1, Vanity Fair, 27 September 1884, 209; “Club-Cleaning,” 9; “The Dying Season,” The World, 27 July 1887, 8.

113 “Club-Cleaning,” 9.

114 “The Cry of the Club Man,” Vanity Fair, 24 August 1889, 116.

115 Most clubs typically had to resort to a wider group of clubs, however. While the East India United Service was the most common host for the members of the Oriental Club, they also exchanged with the Union, Windham, Conservative, Junior United Service, Arts, Caledonian, Naval and Military, and Garrick Clubs; see “Oriental Club Minute Books, 1879–1915,” LMA/4452/01/03/015–023, London Metropolitan Archives.

116 Vanity Fair, 17 August 1889, 102.

117 Matthew Arnold to T. H. S. Escott, 2 October c. 1883/4, Arnol. 6, Escott Papers, 58774, BL, 42.

118 Russell, George W. E., A Londoner's Log-Book 1901–1902 (London, 1902), 154Google Scholar.

119 Cotsford Dick, “The Lonely Londoner,” The World: A Journal for Men and Women, 2 September 1896, 13.

120 Beckett, London at the End of the Century, 85–86.

121 At the Marlborough, Guards’, Gresham, Carlton, and Brooks's Clubs, members absent from England for the year were exempt from all fees. At the Reform, Windham, Army and Navy, East India United Service, Thatched House, Union, and United University Clubs members had to pay a reduced subscription of two guineas or less. See Brooks's List of Members, and Rules (London, 1889), 42Google Scholar; The Guards’ Club List of the Trustees, the Committee and the Honorary Members, and the Rules and Regulations of the Club (London, 1889), 6Google Scholar; Rules and Regulations and List of Members of the Thatched House Club (London, 1889), 10Google Scholar; The Rules and Regulations of the East India United Service Club, as Revised at the Second Annual General Meeting, May 26th (London, 1890), 1516Google Scholar; Rules and Regulations of the Gresham Club, with a List of Members (London, 1867), 4Google Scholar; Rules and Regulations of the Marlborough Club (London, 1887), 20Google Scholar; The Rules and Regulations of the Union Club: With a List of the Members (London, 1868), 11Google Scholar; Rules and Regulations of the Windham Club, with a List of the Members (London, 1890), 13Google Scholar; The Rules and Regulations, with an Alphabetical List of the Members of the Army and Navy Club (London, 1889), 25Google Scholar; Rules, Regulations, and List of Members of the Carlton Club (London, 1890), 9Google Scholar; United University Club, Rules and Regulations, List of Members (London, 1888), 10Google Scholar.

122 “A Popular Dramatist,” no. 495 of “Vain Tales,” series, Vanity Fair, 12 July 1900, 28.

123 Forrest, Denys Mostyn, The Oriental: Life Story of a West End Club, 2nd ed. (London, 1979), 2122Google Scholar.

124 “Home from Madagascar: A Chat with Three Englishmen,” Pall Mall Gazette, 20 April 1895, 3.

125 Panckridge, H. R., A Short History of the Bengal Club (Calcutta, 1927), 1Google Scholar.

126 Sinha, Mrinalini, “Britishness, Clubbability, and the Colonial Public Sphere: The Genealogy of an Imperial Institution in Colonial India,” Journal of British Studies 40, no. 4 (2001): 499CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The formation of clubs would be a good example of what David Cannadine sees as imperialists replicating the familiarity and domesticity of England throughout the world; see Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (New York, 2001), xixGoogle Scholar.

127 Imperial clubland is a topic that requires greater research but is beyond the scope of this project; see Ivey, George James, Clubs of the World: A General Guide or Index to the London and County Clubs and Those of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, United Kingdom Yacht Clubs, and British Colonial Possessions, Together with the English and Other Clubs in Europe, the United States, and Elsewhere throughout the World, 2nd ed. (London, 1880), iiiGoogle Scholar.

128 Beerbohm, Max, “A Club in Ruins,” in Yet Again (London, 1909), 6061Google Scholar.

129 Joseph Sykes to Committee, 8 October 1892, B 173, Reform Club Archive.

130 E. Lees to Committee, 20 November 1890, B 172, Reform Club Archive.

131 Hough, Richard Alexander, The Ace of Clubs: A History of the Garrick (London, 1986), 52Google Scholar.

132 Grossmith, George (Junior), G. G. (London, 1933), 6Google Scholar.

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