The Hummums Hotel Covent Garden (c.1770)
In June 1822 a captain in the army (unnamed in the report) was brought from the Hummums Hotel in Covent Garden (an allegedly haunted hostelry according to Dr Johnson…) to be charged with assaulting its proprietor, Mr Harrison.
The anonymous captain had taken a room at the hotel, called for food and had drunk negus (a hot drink made from port and lemon) all evening. The next day he had feasted on a ‘hearty breakfast’ of eggs, tongue, ham, cocoa with ‘all the relishing etceteras‘ and then wandered out wearing the landlord’s crimson slippers.
He next popped into Mr Paiba’s shoe shop in Great Russell Street as his own shoes were in need of ‘translating’ (which I take to mean repair in some manner). There he tried on a pair of new shoes and asked the assistant to carry his slippers back to Hummums where he would pay for his purchase. However once there he told the boy to call again in an hour.
When that hour passed and the captain was nowhere to be seen Mr Paiba himself presented himself at the hotel to request his money in person. When the captain arrived but refused to pay him he removed the shows from his feet. The landlord (Mr Harrison) now appeared and asked the captain to settle his bill but the he too was declined with the officer adding, ‘I will pay you when it is convenient’. The captain told Harrison that: ‘A gentleman worth £20,000 can not always keep cash about him. I bank at Drummond’s, and I pledge my honour you shall be paid, and the word of a Gentleman cannot be doubted’.
At this point Harrison swore at his guest and a scuffle ensued; all three men ended up at Bow Street police court and the captain and Harrison accused each other of assault. Mr Paiba declined to prosecute since he had his property back and thought the captain was quite ‘mad’. The magistrate asked both men to find bail and at first the captain agreed to settle his bill later and so was initially discharged only to be called back to find sureties that he would honour his promise.
He may have been ‘mad’; there were plenty of of damaged servicemen in the wake of the Napoleonic wars and perhaps this was his way of coping with life and the horrors he had seen in the Peninsula or at Waterloo. But perhaps he was a charlatan, someone who exploited the contemporary notion that a gentleman’s word was his bond and so live don credit and left a trail of broken promises behind him.
He wouldn’t be dining at Hummums again, that at least was certain.
[from The Morning Post , Monday, June 03, 1822]