THE SALUTATION AND CAT TAVERN
No. 17, Newgate-street (north side), was, according to the tradition of the house, the tavern where Sir Christopher Wren used to smoke his pipe, whilst St. Paul's was re-building. There is more positive evidence of its being a place well frequented by men of letters at the above period. Thus, there exists a poetical invitation to a social feast held here on June 19, 1735-6, issued by the two stewards, Edward Cave and William Bowyer:
"Saturday, Jan. 17, 1735-6.
"You're desir'd on Monday next to meet
At Salutation Tavern, Newgate-street.
Supper will be on table just at eight,
[Stewards] One of St. John's [Bowyer], 'tother of St. John's Gate [Cave]."
This brought a poetical answer from Samuel Richardson, the novelist, printed in extenso in Bowyer's Anecdotes:
"For me, I'm much concerned I cannot meet
'At Salutation Tavern, Newgate-street.'
Your notice, like your verse, so sweet and short!
If longer, I'd sincerely thank you for it.
Howe'er, receive my wishes, sons of verse!
May every man who meets, your praise rehearse!
May mirth, as plenty, crown your cheerful board,
And ev'ry one part happy—as a lord!
That when at home, (by such sweet verses fir'd)
Your families may think you all inspir'd.
So wishes he, who pre-engag'd, can't know
The pleasures that would from your meeting flow."
The proper sign is the Salutation and Cat,—a curious combination, but one which is explained by a lithograph, which some years ago hung in the coffee-room. An aged dandy is saluting a friend whom he has met in the street, and offering him a pinch out of the snuff-box which forms the top of his wood-like cane. This box-nob was, it appears, called a "cat"—hence the connection of terms apparently so foreign to each other. Some, not aware of this explanation, have accounted for the sign by supposing that a tavern called "the Cat" was at some time pulled down, and its trade carried to the Salutation, which thenceforward joined the sign to its own; but this is improbable, seeing that we have never heard of any tavern called "the Cat" (although we do know of "the Barking Dogs") as a sign. Neither does the Salutation take its name from any scriptural or sacred source, as the Angel and Trumpets, etc.
More positive evidence there is to show of the "little smoky room at the Salutation and Cat," where Coleridge and Charles Lamb sat smoking Oronoko and drinking egg-hot; the first discoursing of his idol, Bowles, and the other rejoicing mildly in Cowper and Burns, or both dreaming of "Pantisocracy, and golden days to come on earth."
Club Life of London Vol. II