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- Inns and Taverns of Old London - 4/42 -

structure a necessity, and the Bear was among the buildings which had to be demolished.

Further south in the High street, and opposite the house in which John Harvard, the founder of America's oldest university, was born, stood the Boar's Head, an inn which was once the property of Sir Fastolfe, and was by him bequeathed through a friend to Magdalen College, Oxford. This must not be confused with the Boar's Head of Shakespeare, which stood in Eastcheap on the other side of the river, though it is a remarkable coincidence that it was in the latter inn the dramatist laid the scene of Prince Hal's merrymaking with the Sir John Falstaff we all know. The earliest reference to the Southwark Boar's Head occurs in the Paston Letters under date 1459. This is an epistle from a servant of Fastolfe to John Paston, asking him to remind his master that he had promised him he should be made host of the Boar's Head, but whether he ever attained to that desired position there is no evidence to show. The inn makes but little figure in history; by 1720 it had dwindled to a-mere courtyard, and in 1830 the last remnants were cleared away.


Inevitably, however, the fact that the Boar's Head was the property of Sir John Fastolfe prompts the question, what relation had he to the Sir John Falstaff of Shakespeare's plays? This has been a topic of large discussion for many years. There are so many touches of character and definite incidents which apply in common to the two knights that the poet has been assumed to have had the historic Fastolfe ever in view when drawing the portrait of his Falstaff. The historian Fuller assumed this to have been the case, for he complains that the "stage have been overbold" in dealing with Fastolfe's memory. Sidney Lee, however, sums up the case thus: "Shakespeare was possibly under the misapprehension, based on the episode of cowardice reported in 'Henry VI,' that the military exploits of the historical Sir John Fastolfe sufficiently resembled those of his own riotous knight to justify the employment of a corrupted version of his name. It is of course untrue that Fastolfe was ever the intimate associate of Henry V when Prince of Wales, who was not his junior by more than ten years, or that he was an impecunious spendthrift and gray-haired debauchee. The historical Fastolfe was in private life an expert man of business, who was indulgent neither to himself nor his friends. He was nothing of a jester, and was, in spite of all imputations to the contrary, a capable and brave soldier."

Sad as has been the havoc wrought by time and the hand of man among the hostelries of Southwark, a considerable portion of one still survives in its actual seventeenth century guise. This is the George Inn, which is slightly nearer London Bridge than the Tabard. To catch a peep of its old-world aspect, with its quaint gallery and other indubitable tokens of a distant past, gives the pilgrim a pleasant shock. It is such a contrast to the ugly modern structures which impose themselves on the public as "Ye Olde" this and "Ye Olde" that. Here at any rate is a veritable survival. Nor does it matter that the George has made little figure in history; there is a whole world of satisfaction in the thought that it has changed but little since it was built in 1672. Its name is older than its structure. Stow included the George among the "many fair inns" he saw in Southwark in 1598, a fact which deals a cruel blow to that crude theory which declares inns were so named after the royal Georges of Great Britain.

[Illustration: GEORGE INN.]

Among the numerous other inns which once lined the High Street of Southwark there is but one which has claims upon the attention on the score of historic and literary interest. This is the White Hart, which was doubtless an old establishment at the date, 1406, of its first mention in historical records. Forty-four years later, that is in 1450, the inn gained its most notable association by being made the head-quarters of Jack Cade at the time of his famous insurrection. Modern research has shown that this rebellion was a much more serious matter than the older historians were aware of, but the most careful investigation into Cade's career has failed to elicit any particulars of note prior to a year before the rising took place. The year and place of his birth are unknown, but twelve months before he appears in history he was obliged to flee the realm and take refuge in France owing to his having murdered a woman who was with child. He served for a time in the French army, then returned under an assumed name and settled in Kent, which was the centre of discontent against Henry VI. As the one hope of reform lay in an appeal to arms, the discontent broke into open revolt. "The rising spread from Kent over Surrey and Sussex. Everywhere it was general and organized--a military levy of the yeomen of the three shires." It was not of the people alone, for more than a hundred esquires and gentlemen threw in their lot with the rebels; but how it came about that Jack Cade attained the leadership is a profound mystery. Leader, however, he was, and when he, with his twenty thousand men, took possession of Southwark as the most desirable base from which to threaten the city of London, he elected the White Hart for his own quarters. This was on the first of July, 1450, and for the next few of those midsummer days the inn was the scene of many stirring and tragic events. Daily, Cade at the head of his troops crossed the bridge into the city, and on one of those excursions he caused the seizure and beheadal of the hated Lord Say. Daily, too, there was constant coming and going at the White Hart of Cade's emissaries. At length, however, the citizens of London, stung into action by the robberies and other outrages of the rebels, occupied the bridge in force. A stubborn struggle ensued, but Cade and his men were finally beaten off. The amnesty which followed led to a conference at which terms were arranged and a general pardon granted. That for Cade, however, as it was made out in his assumed name of Mortimer, was invalid, and on the discovery being made he seized a large quantity of booty and fled. Not many days later he was run to earth, wounded in being captured, and died as he was being brought back to London. His naked body was identified by the hostess of the White Hart, who was probably relieved to gaze upon so certain an indication that she would be able to devote herself once more to the entertainment of less troublesome guests.

For all the speedy ending of his ambitions, Cade is assured of immortality so long as the pages of Shakespeare endure. The rebel is a stirring figure in the Second Part of King Henry VI and as an orator of the mob reaches his greatest flights of eloquence in that speech which perpetuates the name of his headquarters at Southwark. "Hath my sword therefore broke through London gates, that you should leave me at the White Hart in Southwark?"

But English literature was not done with the old inn. Many changes were to pass over its head during the nearly four centuries which elapsed ere it was touched once more by the pen of genius, changes wrought by the havoc of fire and the attritions of the hand of time. When those years had fled a figure was to be seen in its courtyard to become better known to and better beloved by countless thousands than the rebel leader of the fifteenth century. "In the Borough," wrote the creator of that figure, "there still remain some half dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories.... It was in the yard of one of these inns--of no less celebrated a one than the White Hart--that a man was busily employed in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse-striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he made to the clean row, he paused from his work, and contemplated its results with evident satisfaction."


Who does not recognize Sam Weller, making his first appearance in "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club"? And who has not revelled in the lively scene in the White Hart when Mr. Pickwick and his friends arrived in the nick of time to prevent the ancient but still sentimental Rachael from becoming Mrs. Jingle? It is not difficult to understand why that particular instalment of "Pickwick" was the turning-point of the book's fortunes. Prior to the advent of Sam in the courtyard of the White Hart the public had shown but a moderate interest in the new venture of "Boz," but from that event onward the sales of the succeeding parts were ever on the increase. Sam and the White Hart, then, had much to do with the career of Dickens, for if "Pickwick" had failed it is more than probable that he would have abandoned literature as a profession.

When Dickens wrote, the White Hart was still in existence. It is so no longer. Till late in the last century this hostelry was spared the fate which had overtaken so many Southwark taverns, even though, in place of the nobles it had sheltered, its customers had become hop-merchants, farmers, and others of lower degree. In 1889, in the month of July, four hundred and thirty-nine years after it had received Jack Cade under its roof, the last timbers of the old inn were levelled to the ground.



Boswell relates how, in one of his numerous communicative moods, he informed Dr. Johnson of the existence of a club at "the Boar's Head in Eastcheap, the very tavern where Falstaff and his joyous companions met; the members of which all assume Shakespeare's characters. One is Falstaff, another Prince Henry, another Bardolph, and so on." If the assiduous little Scotsman entertained the idea of joining the club, a matter on which he does not throw any light, Johnson's rejoinder was sufficient to deter him from doing so. "Don't be of it, Sir. Now that you have a name you must be careful to avoid many things not bad in themselves, but which will lessen your character."

Whether Johnson's remark was prompted by an intimate knowledge of the type of person frequenting the Boar's Head in his day cannot be decided, but there are ample grounds for thinking that the patrons of that inn were generally of a somewhat boisterous kind. That, perhaps, is partly Shakespeare's fault. Prior to his making it the scene of the mad revelry of Prince Hal and his none too choice companions, the history of the Boar's Head, so far as we know it, was sedately respectable. One of the earliest references to its existence is in a lease dated 1537, some sixty years before the first part of Henry IV was entered in the Stationers' Register. Some

Inns and Taverns of Old London - 4/42

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