Page images
PDF
EPUB

He did not remember the name of the place, but his description of the character of the proceedings, enabled an acquaintance at once to point out the debating assembly into which he was desirous of being introduced.

Oh, it is the Cogers' Hall you mean," remarked his friend.

“That is the name of the place," observed Joseph. “ In what part of London is it?”

“ In the neighbourhood of St. Bride's Church."

“Let us go together," said Mr. Jenkins.
"I have no objection,” returned the other.
“Shall we go to-night?”

“ If you wish it; but this being Thursday, will not be a good night."

“Is, then, one night better than another ?” “Oh, yes, there is a very great difference.” “ Which is the best night?"

Saturday night. On that night the place is crowded. In fact Saturday night is always a field night in the Cogers' Hall."

“Suppose, then, we appoint Saturday night

next."

“Agreed."

Joseph's friend kept his appointment, and to the Cogers' Hall they proceeded. But, before following them thither, let us pause for a little, and endeavour to give the reader some idea of the place.

Cogers' Hall can boast of a very respectable antiquity; perhaps there is no other place in the country appropriated to discussions of the same kind, that has existed for an equal period. The discussions now nightly carried on in Cogers' Hall, commenced in the year 1756. The circumstances in which they had their origin, beyond the fact of their being of a political character, are, we believe, unknown; at any rate, our researches into the matter have not been rewarded with results on which we can rely.

The name, Cogers' Hall, is said to have been derived from the word “ cogitate;" the persons forming the Society calling themselves co

gitators, or reflectors, on the political events of

the day.

A number of individuals, who have afterwards risen to great distinction, have made their first appearance, as public speakers, in Cogers' Hall. Among these may be mentioned the name of the late Mr. Alderman Waithman, twice Lord Mayor of London, and for many years one of the Members for the city.

The room in which the Cogers meet is not large. It is not capable of containing more than from fifty to sixty persons, with any degree of comfort, though a much larger number often cram themselves into it.

The Cogers always muster most strongly on occasions of great political excitement. On such occasions, even on the evenings of the other days of the week, as well as on that of Saturday, the Hall is often crowded in every part. Every one is naturally anxious to express his opinions on the state of public affairs in all great political conjunctures. It is only at such seasons that the inveterate political character of the Cogers is seen in its proper light. Nothing can exceed the earnestness of their manner in commenting on the conduct of public men, except in masticating their chops, steaks, Welsh rabbits, or any of the other good things which grace the ever amply-supplied larder of the landlord. In ordinary circumstances, a few of the fraternity rejoicing in the reputation of crack speakers, are allowed to monopolize the greater part of the oratory to themselves. Not so when there is great political excitement out of doors,—the phrase by which the Cogers, in imitation of both Houses of Parliament, usually designate the public; then all are speakers. It may be worthy of mention, that the first time we visited Cogers' Hall, which was in company with a Coger of considerable standing, was on the Wednesday evening after the opening of the Parliament of 1837. The public mind, it will be remembered, was then very much occupied with the declaration of Lord John Russell against the vote by ballot, the extension of the suffrage, the shortening of the duration of Parliaments, and, indeed, against all farther progress in the road to additional reform. That was a circumstance which could not fail to call forth the Cogers from the retirement of private life. Accordingly there was a numerous attendance, all eager to denounce the conduct of the then Home Secretary; and yet, paradoxical as the position may appear, the very excess of the general -I may say, universal-anxiety which prevailed on this occasion in Cogers' Hall, to play the orator, almost entirely prevented anything worthy of the name of public speaking taking place. We may be asked, “How could this be?" We will answer the question in as few words as possible. Well, then, the truth was, that so eager were the Cogers to give vent to their Radicalism at so momentous a national crisis, that they endeavoured to speak by the dozen at a time. The only evil was, that the audience, not having individually a couple of dozen ears, so as

« PreviousContinue »