Almack’s Trivia

According to the Wikipedia entry for Almack’s:

Almack’s opened in King Street, St. James, in London, on the 20th of February, 1765. Established by William Macall who, to avoid the onus of a Scottish name, then considered foreign and uncouth, reversed the syllables. (His Almack’s Coffee House, opened at the same time, was bought in 1774 to become the gentlemen’s club, Brooks’s.)

Anyone know if that’s true or just a false factoid inserted in the Wiki? I’m looking elsewhere but am limited by firewall and time at hand.

And if it IS true, Candy and I are SO opening a women’s club called Hctib Trams.

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  1. 1
    Jackie L. says:

    Encyclopedia.jrank.cambridge says he was of either Scottish or Yorkshire descent and the name may have been McCall originally.  I tried 4 or 5 other Brit sites that didn’t confirm or deny.

  2. 2
    jmc says:

    Reference.com’s entry on Almack’s says the same thing.  Er, word for word, actually.  Because it was pulling from Wikipedia.

    BritainExpress agrees on the opening date but doesn’t mention the naming.

    Suite101.com disagrees, though, saying that it was founded in 1715 as a gaming hall and became assembly rooms later.

  3. 3
    Kalen Hughes says:

    The name thing is true from all the sources I’ve seen. I’m not sure about the date off the top of my head. Please may I be a member of Hctib Trams?

  4. 4
    Myriantha Fatalis says:

    I’ve seen this story mentioned in quite a few romances by different authors, several of which predate the existence of the internet, much less Wikipedia.  Of course, they could all be drawing from a common wrong source.

  5. 5

    As it comes from Wikipedia, I would be tempted to call bullsh** on it, but who knows?  I read a Wiki that was factually correct once, so anything can happen.

    Hctib Trams would be an awesome name for a club, though it might get confused with like, a Russian taxi company or something.

  6. 6
    nina armstrong says:

    As far as I know,the date is about correct,but I’m fairly sure it was a tavern first and then later became assembly rooms.

  7. 7

    Using Ian Kelly’s biography of Beau Brummell as a source (ISBN 0340836989), and I assume that because it is recent and is the first major biography of Brummell in a generation, that it was copy-editted correctly and therefore is accurate—1764, MacCall or Macall opened a most magnificent suite of rooms as a safe haven for high society. The Almack’s look was devised by Brummell and was derigour by 1801. p 281 -288 gives a very good description of the rooms.

    BTW Brummell is spelt Brummell in the book because that is how he signed his name.And is the spelling on the gravestones of his grapndparents. His first French biographer spelt it Brummel.

    FWIW

  8. 8
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Brummell would not have devised the look in 1764—he wasn’t born yet.  But later, sure.

    And isn’t that biography incredibly amazingly wonderful?  I could have done without some of the descriptions of what syphillis does to a body, but otherwise, I adored it!

    At home I also have Venetia Murray’s An Elegant Madness, which should talk about Almacks, but alas, I’m not home, but elsewhere.

    I will tell you that Almack’s only permitted the waltz in 1814, so all those romance authors who have their characters waltz through Almacks before then are wrong!

  9. 9
    Elena Greene says:

    Be careful about using the Venetia Murray book for research.  It’s amusing but she gets details wrong—such as getting the Lady Jerseys confused.  One was a patroness of Almack’s; it was her mother-in-law who was one of Prinny’s mistresses.

  10. 10

    I used the MacCall (sp?) factoid in Almost a Gentleman, and I got it from Ellen Moers’ The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm. I’d check her source if I weren’t traveling at the moment – but the book often turns up in academic bibliographies, though it’s out of print and not very well known among romance writers, partly, I think, because it takes in a whole century, and England and France—bringing in Baudelaire and Proust, for example.

  11. 11
    Maili says:

    Heh. It’s so weird to be here again. Anyway—

    I don’t know if that particular story is true, but there were strong anti-Scottish sentiments in England during that time. Hell, it was a tradition to bash Scots for a century or two.

    Many Scots amended their surnames to make their social climbing in England easier, which is why there are so many bastardised/Scottish-influenced surnames.

    So with this in mind, that McCall/Almack story is plausible.

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