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Palaces of Power Reviews

Palaces of Power by Stephen Hoare

Palaces of Power: The Birth and Evolution of London's Clubland

Stephen Hoare

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: The History Press Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Publication date: 5 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780750990769

The first book to chart the extraordinary story of St James's in London, the home to the city's iconic clubland and a host of famous institutions

4 stars out of 5
26 Sep 2019

"This book vividly captures clubland’s brief history in all its transient (and occasionally squalid) glory."

The author enlivens his narrative with some entertaining anecdotes and a splendid cast of characters from that well-known dandy Beau Brummell, who appraised ladies from the large bay window in White’s, to Colonel Dan MacKinnon, a Battle of Waterloo veteran and founder member of the Guards’ Club, who amused his friends by climbing over the furniture like a monkey and dressed up as a nun to play a joke on the Duke of Wellington; and Charles James Fox, the notorious gambler who would drop £12,000 in an afternoon... This book inevitably focuses on the venerable historic clubs at the expense of more contemporary establishments, so modern-day counterparts such as Soho House and the Groucho warrant just a fleeting mention. From a peak of 400 gentlemen’s clubs in the late 19th century, the author tells us clubland now comprises just 50 clubs. That’s contingency for you.

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
Roger Lewis
17 Aug 2019

"a tour of gentlemen’s clubs from their rowdy beginnings to their stately present"

As Stephen Hoare shows in his sober study of these institutions, clubland represents “a sedate experience based on shared British values”. Most of the clubs are housed in beautiful, solid 18th and 19th-century buildings, usually by James Wyatt, Charles Barry or Alfred Waterhouse. The Reform, for example, an Italianate palazzo in Pall Mall, was constructed in 1841 at a cost of £84,000 and is a popular film location — Phileas Fogg, in Jules Verne’s book and David Niven’s performance, set off from there to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.