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Hazlitt's red cat cellars
Hazlitt's red cat cellars, at 3–4 Luton Street, Covent Garden, London, were created by Richard Caton, a wine merchant in the 18th century. They became well-known for having been frequented by William Makepeace Thackeray, William Hazlitt and other famous writers and artists. They were demolished in the late 18th century.
Richard Caton (1679–1746) was born in Surrey and was apprenticed to a grocer and wine merchant in London. He started to frequent, apparently to sell drinks, the house of a friend of his who was a friend of a friend. His drinking habit spread rapidly through the city and became notorious, so that by 1706 he was in "prison for intoxication". He got married, though, to a woman, Elizabeth, the daughter of a London tobacconist, who survived him.
He seems to have lost his family at this time, and his new father-in-law and his children helped to support him. He became a publican, running a tavern at Bagnigge Wells, then moved to Woburn Place, an area that was in those days a separate parish from Covent Garden. He lived there for most of the rest of his life. He was sd to be a man of great taste, who had an extraordinary cellar that was sd to have been "a curiosity to connoisseurs". A story had it that he kept two bottles of every wine that came out, to be able to tell which was best. He was also sd to keep in his cellars a black slave (who was sd to have been a man), who was a master of various languages and was able to speak all of the great European tongues, as well as English, Italian and French. He was so well known for his cellar, in fact, that one day he had to send two men round to collect it to see if he was losing money or customers.
He seems to have worked at this business for about the next 40 years. He was sd to be one of the few publicans who was never out of work, whenever there was a wine shortage he had his customers bring him barrels and cases of wine which he sold off cheaply. He was a friend of the leading men of his day, especially the Duke of Bedford, who was an alderman at the Guildhall and an MP in the Westminster Parliament. Bedford was one of the executors of his will, though Bedford was the only executor who did not give one of his own money to his family. The other executors were John, Earl of Bedford, the Duke of Somerset, the Marquess of Hertford, Thomas St John and John Richardson.
About 1710 he bought a part share in the house of Richard Savage, bookseller and publisher, at Charing Cross. It was called Savage's Head, which in the early 18th century was a famous place to see and hear plays and other entertnments. Later it was called The Playhouse. For the first ten years of their partnership (1710–20) Richard Savage was not on the premises. They were known as Richard &, Savage. In 1720 Richard Savage left the business and started his own book publishing business at the sign of the Hand and Pen (opposite the Rose Tavern at the corner of Whitecross Street and Chancery Lane). From 1721 his shop was at Chancery Lane. He had two sons, William (1719–1798) and Richard (1720–1785).
His daughter Anne married a member of the family of the Duke of Marlborough, and his son, Richard Savage (1753–1814), made some notes on the family history. He was a friend of the well-known pnter Joshua Reynolds, who introduced him to the Society of Dilettanti.
The business, eventually passed on to his son Richard, had an active and prosperous existence, having a shop near Somerset House for over 150 years, but by the time of Richard Savage's death in 1785, the business had declined, and the shop had been converted to ten apartments for boarders.
Richard Savage had two brothers and two sisters, James and Elizabeth, both born and died in London. Elizabeth was the mother of John Wallis, the celebrated divine, and Sarah, who was married to the surgeon John Percival, and to William James, a clergyman.
Anne, his daughter, married the well-known author of Letters from the Country, William Cowper, who lived a short while in a house in Soho, and is known for the letters he wrote to his wife, which are full of his love for her, and of his distress at being prevented from seeing her.
Category:People from London