The Queens Diamond Jubilee marked the start of a tourist rush into the capital for a summer of partying (and accompanying drinking) thanks to the upcoming Olympics and Cultural Olympiad. To celebrate the best of british literature we thought we would compile a little list detailing the top-spots where readers can go and raise a glass of ale in honour of our literary history. We have focused primarily on our esteemed literary drinking dens around Soho, Bloomsbury, Fleet Street and the Southbank making a rather nice trail around central London, although we won't be held responsible should you decide to take a tipple in all of them on the way...
The Dog and Duck
Location: Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 3AJ
Book with your beer? Animal Farm
Built in 1718 the Dog and Duck is now a Grade II listed building and was the spot George Orwell chose to celebrate the news that Animal Farm had been selected as the American Book-of-the-Month Club in September 1946. Orwell had much to celebrate as their selection of the novella is seen by some as the single most significant event for expanding Animal Farm’s international reputation, Club President Harry Scherman issued a special statement encouraging readers to buy it: “Every now and then through history, some fearless individual has spoken for the people of a troubled time…Just so does this little gem of an allegory express, perfectly, the inarticulate philosophy of tens of millions of free men… Wherever… men are free to read what they want, this book and its influence will spread.” Animal Farm went on to sell 460,000 copies through the club alone and in 1947 was translated into nine languages!
The Fitzroy Tavern
Location: 16 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2NA
Book with your beer? Orlando
Renamed from The Hundred Marks to The Fitzroy Tavern in March 1919 this pub has been a regular drinking haunt for many of London’s artists, intellectuals and bohemians ever since. Some put this down to its close proximity to Broadcasting House and Langham Place – with Dylan Thomas and George Orwell both drinking here when they worked for the BBC in the 1940s and 50s. Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Augustus John and their fellow Bloomsbury Group cohorts also came here to "rage against the dying of the light", argue and of course drink!
Location: 25 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1DG
Book with your beer? Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
Here at the Wheatsheaf poet Dylan Thomas met and fell in love with his future wife Caitlin Macnamara in the first week of April 1936. According to Caitlin, they spent the next five or six days at the nearby Eiffel Tower Hotel, leaving the bill to be picked up by her occasional lover, Augustus John. And of course this is another spot George Orwell drank in – apparently going so far as to vomit on the bar. It is now home to comedy nights hosted by The 99 Club as well as monthly meetings of The New Sheridan Club (a descendent of The Chap magazine) and the Sohemian Society who meet here to read, talk and chat about famous Fitzrovian and Soho characters.
Location: 94 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3LZ
Book with your beer? Oliver Twist
We can’t compile a list of London literary drinking spots without including Charles Dickens’ favourite haunt. Stumbling distance from his former residence The Lamb was built in the 1720s, it was renovated in Victorian times and has been beautifully preserved right down to the rare "snob screens" - panels of etched glass at head height at the bar to conceal the drinker's identity. The perfect spot to indulge in some unobtrusive observation of your fellow drinkers Dickens style!
The Edgar Wallace
Location: 40 Essex Street, London, EC4Y
Book with your beer? Oxford English Dictionary
The home to Dr Samuel Johnson’s Supper Club, founded in 1783, when Johnson invited Joshua Reynolds to join he explained that “The company is numerous, and, as you will see by the list, miscellaneous. The terms are lax, and the expences light". Johnson died in 1784, but the Essex Head Club survived at least until 1794 and for an unknown period afterwards. Brewer and MP James Boswell announced in 1792 that ‘there are few societies where there is better conversation or more decorum’. In its emphasis on conviviality rather than the celebration of influence and fame, which often came to characterize the Club, the Essex Head Club perhaps came closest to meeting Johnson's ideal of a social gathering.
The site of the original literary Apollo Club and Devil's Tavern (no longer standing)
Location: 1-2 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1BD
Book with your beer? Gulliver’s Travels
The history of the Devil's Tavern has become merged with the almost greater fame of the Apollo Club (situated in an apartment above the pub) a spot that welcomed invited guests while requesting that "dunces, fools, sad sordid men keep home.” How long the Apollo existed at the Devil is unknown but the 'Apollo' room, was used for many a literary gathering in the following years, becoming a favourite resort of Samuel Pepys, Richard Steele, Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift. William Goldsmith also frequented the place, not only as a tavern, but also as a spot where a card club to which he belonged was wont to meet; while Dr Samuel Johnson was often here, and it was at the Devil that, in 1751, he gave a famous supper in honour of Mrs. Charlotte Lenox and her first literary bantling, the Life of Harriet Stuart.
The Punch Tavern
Location: 95 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1DE
Book with your beer? Punch Magazine
As the name suggests this was the drinking establishment of choice for the contributors of Punch the satirical magazine, it is here contributors would meet to discuss their new publication. Punch survived for 150 years but closed in 1992. Artefacts on the Punch theme are everywhere but the most interesting are the pages and cartoons from the original magazine.
The Cheshire Cheese
Location: 145 Fleet St, London, EC4A 2BU
Book with your beer? Sherlock Holmes Stories
No tour of London’s literary drinking dens would be complete without including The Cheshire Cheese. Over the years patrons have included Dr Samuel Johnson (again!) after he moved in next door in 1748, William Thackeray, Charles Dickens (who name checks it in A Tale Of Two Cities), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton and so on and so on. It is, simply, one of the most famous literary pubs in the world!
The Anchor Pub
Location: Bankside, 34 Park Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9EF
Book with your beer? The Diary of Samuel Pepys
From its safe distance this is where diarist Samuel Pepys was said to have watched the destruction of London in the Great Fire of 1666, describing the dreadful heat and "fire drops." Rebuilt in 1676, the pub's original structure has been added-to over several centuries, creating a maze of odd little rooms featuring old brick fire places and creaking floorboards. And as if he didn’t get around enough one of the bars is even named after Samuel Johnson, who drank here regularly. A copy of his dictionary is on display.
This is just a tiny number of our esteemed literary drinking dens with a focus on the centre of London, do you have a favourite drinking spot with literary connections to share with your fellow book-exchangers?