Map

The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from:

Summary

Run by Mr Steadman. The tavern was on the south side of Fleet Street, almost opposite St Dunstan-in-the-West, shown on this 18th century map. Assuming this is the same Mitre; it may have been confused with the Mitre on Mitre Court, which L&M list separately.

1 Annotation

Terry Foreman   Link to this

Mitre (Fleet St)

Next to Hoare's [Bank in Fleet Street] once stood the "Mitre Tavern," where [Pepys had drunk and] some of the most interesting of the meetings between Dr. Johnson and Boswell took place. The old tavern was pulled down, in 1829, by the Messrs. Hoare, to extend their banking-house. The original "Mitre" was of Shakespeare's time. In some MS. poems by Richard Jackson, a contemporary of the great poet, are some verses beginning, "From the rich Lavinian shore," inscribed as "Shakespeare's rime, which he made at ye 'Mitre,' in Fleet Street." The balcony was set on flames during the Great Fire, and had to be pulled down. Here, in June, 1763, Boswell came by solemn appointment to meet Johnson, so long the god of his idolatry. They had first met at the shop of Davis, the actor and bookseller, and afterwards near an eating-house in Butcher Row. Boswell describes his feelings with delightful sincerity and, self-complacency. "We had," he says, "a good supper and port wine, of which Johnson then sometimes drank a bottle. The orthodox High Church sound of the Mitre, the figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson, the extraordinary power of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ever before experienced." That memorable evening Johnson ridiculed Colley Cibber's birthday odes and Paul Whitehead's "grand nonsense," and ran down Gray, who had declined his acquaintance. He talked of other poets, and praised poor Goldsmith as a worthy man and excellent author. Boswell fairly won the great man by his frank avowals and his adroit flattery. "Give me your hand," at last cried the great man to the small man: "I have taken a liking to you." They then finished a bottle of port each, and parted between one and two in the morning. As they shook hands, on their way to No. 1, Inner Temple Lane, where Johnson then lived, Johnson said, "Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope we shall pass many evenings, and mornings too, together." A few weeks after the Doctor and his young disciple met again at the "Mitre," and Goldsmith was present. The poet was full of love for Dr. Johnson, and speaking of some scapegrace, said tenderly, "He is now become miserable, and that insures the protection of Johnson." At another "Mitre" meeting, on a Scotch gentleman present praising Scotch scenery, Johnson uttered his bitter gibe, "Sir, let me tell you that the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England." In the same month Johnson and Boswell met again at the "Mitre." The latter confessed his nerves were much shaken by the old port and the late tavern hours; and Johnson laughed at people who had accepted a pension from the house of Hanover abusing him as a Jacobite. It was at the "Mitre" that Johnson urged Boswell to publish his "Travels in Corsica;" and at the "Mitre" he said finely of London, "Sir, the happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say there is more learning and science within the circumference of ten miles from where we sit than in all the rest of the kingdom." It was here the famous "Tour to the Hebrides" was planned and laid out. Another time we find Goldsmith and Boswell going arm-in-arm to Bolt Court, to prevail on Johnson to go and sup at the "Mitre;" but he was indisposed. Goldsmith, since "the big man" could not go, would not venture at the "Mitre" with Boswell alone. At Boswell's last "Mitre" evening with Johnson, May, 1778, Johnson would not leave Mrs. Williams, the blind old lady who lived with him, till he had promised to send her over some little dainty from the tavern. This was very kindly and worthy of the man who had the coat but not the heart of a bear. From 1728 to 1753 the Society of Antiquaries met at the "Mitre," and discussed subjects then wrongly considered frivolous. The Royal Society had also conclaves at the same celebrated tavern; and here, in 1733, Thomas Topham, the strongest man of his day, in the presence of eight persons, rolled up with his iron fingers a large pewter dish. In 1788 the "Mitre" ceased to be a tavern, and became, first Macklin's Poet's Gallery, and then an auctionroom. The present spurious "Mitre Tavern," in Mitre Court, was originally known as "Joe's Coffee. House."
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?co...

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References

  • 1660