Image: “Sir William Fawcett” Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)
National Portrait Gallery, London “Although Reynolds displayed the portrait at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1785, Fawcett had the ribbon and the star of the Order of the Bath added after 1786 when he was awarded the honour.”
“The Club or Literary Club is a London dining club founded in February 1764 by the artist Joshua Reynolds and essayist Samuel Johnson, with Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher-politician.
Initially, the Club would meet one evening per week at seven, at the Turk’s Head Inn in Gerrard Street, Soho. Later, meetings were reduced to once per fortnight whilst Parliament was in session, and were held at rooms in St James’s Street. Though the initial formation was proposed by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Samuel Johnson became the person most closely associated with the Club.
John Timbs, in his Club Life in London, gives an account of the Club’s centennial dinner in 1864, which was celebrated at the Clarendon hotel. Henry Hart Milman, the English historian, was treasurer. The Club’s toast, no doubt employing a bit of wishful thinking, was “Esto perpetua”, Latin for “Let it be perpetual”. This Latin phrase traces its origin to the last dying declaration of Paolo Sarpi (1552–1623) the Venetian theologian, philosopher and canon law expert who uttered these words towards the Venetian Republic, whose independence he devoutly espoused. The introduction of the phrase to Britain was probably through Sir Joshua Reynolds who went to Italy for his higher training in Renaissance art and painting with the contemporary Italian masters.
The nine original members were:
• Joshua Reynolds: artist
• Samuel Johnson: essayist, lexicographer
• Edmund Burke: writer, later M.P.
• Christopher Nugent
• Topham Beauclerk
• Bennet Langton
• Oliver Goldsmith: author, playwright, poet
• Anthony Chamier
• John Hawkins: author”