Because the gentlemen themselves have changed. If in the 18th century it was important for an Englishman to be known as an eccentric and a bright personality, for which he was happy to join some kind of club of the ugly, then in the 19th century gentlemen tried not to stand out from the general mass of graduates of elite private schools, and the clubs all as one began to equal to the Whites Club with its prim regulations.
Now the object of jokes was those who were still trying to be weird. So, once in the Athenium, which was considered the most bohemian and most liberal club in London, a certain Captain F. demanded a bottle of gin.
Gin was not considered a gentleman’s drink, and the servants politely refused him, saying that there was no such bottle in the club’s storerooms. The captain was not going to give up and demanded that at least one bottle of gin be kept especially for him.
Since then, in the wine cellar of the Athenium, there has been a single bottle with the inscription “Bottle of Captain F.’s Gin”.
If in the 18th century people went to the club to have fun and spend money, then in the 19th century they went to the club to live and save money. The food in the clubs was much cheaper than in any restaurant, since no one here sought to profit from the restaurant markup. Alcohol was also cheap, since until the early 20th century clubs were not required to have a license to sell wine.
In many clubs it was even possible to spend the night, which suited many quite well.
In the middle of the 19th century, a German traveler wrote about London clubs: “The youngest son from some ancient family with an income of two to four hundred pounds cannot live like others, because of the size of his income. He cannot furnish a house, or support servants, or give dinners for his friends.
The club is his home, in which he lives a proper life. In the club, spacious and luxuriously furnished chambers are ready for his disposal, there is a library, a reading room, baths and wardrobes. Here he finds all the latest books and newspapers here it is surrounded by a crowd of servants, and the kitchen is incomparable …
Dinners here are good and cheap compared to prices in London hotels. The club provides everything at low prices – a member of a good club pays five shillings for a meal, while in a hotel they charged him four times more.” But even those whose fortune allowed them not to think about the prices of food and drink preferred to spend time in the club, since wealthy rentiers and landowners simply did not know what to do with their free time, which they had plenty of.
Finally, they went to the club simply to take a break from the family, which caused dull irritation among women. When the Athenium opened the doors for the ladies for several days, the gentlemen themselves were annoyed: “The members of the club grumbled about the intrusion of women and retired to the library, which they first read,” wrote one of the clubmen.
“But now the women have penetrated there, as well as into the smoking room, which they examined with the same curiosity as if we men looked into the harem … Women complain that the club wean married men from home.
From the instrument of social mobility they were in the eighteenth century, the clubs became bastions of elitist insularity as Britain moved from the cradle of technological progress to the inert and conservative mistress of vast colonial possessions.
All sections of society sought to imitate the aristocrats, and sometimes the members of a lackey’s club began to behave like the peers of England. So, in 1898 there was a split in the Club of newspaper draftsmen. Part of the clubmen demanded that dinner be served hot, while the conservative majority insisted that dinner was always cold and should remain so forever and ever. The schismatics left the club to start their own.
Development of clubs in different countries
Meanwhile, while the British were resting on their laurels, other countries were rapidly catching up with the relaxed “workshop of the world.” The United States, which inherited club traditions from the metropolis, moved forward by leaps and bounds, and American clubmen set an example of social activity.
Thus, during the war between the North and the South, members of the League of the Union club actively helped the New York blacks affected by the pogroms, and members of the oldest and most elite Hoboken Turtle club in the United States fed New York prison inmates with turtle soup.
In Britain, clubs became such an integral part of the social system that when the First World War broke out, the British went into the trenches in clubs. At the front, a “battalion of athletes” was formed, in which they took “those who had experience in shooting and hunting … only for representatives of the upper and middle class”, as well as numerous “football battalions” and even a “battalion of short men” for people of short stature.
The classic club sense of humor did not betray the British even at the front, which was recognized even by their opponents. Having decided after the war that the British troops were able to endure all the hardships of the front thanks to this feature, the German officers even developed special instructions for introducing a sense of humor into the German army.
However, even today on the banks of the Thames you can hear the old London proverb: “There is nothing that could not be decided within an hour over a glass of sherry at the Whites Club.