Regency Hot Spots: The Daffy Club

“Notwithstanding the writer of this article most anxiously wishes his KEY should fit well and that every person who is in possession of it should be able with the utmost ease to unlock the door that affords a peep into the movements of the Sporting World yet rather than attempt to gammon any of his readers etymology being out of the question the only definition he can give to the term DAFFY is that the phrase was coined at the Mint of the Fancy and has since passed current without ever being overhauled as queer. The Colossus of Literature after all his nous and acute researches to explain the synonyms of the English Language does not appear to have been down to the interpretation of DAFFY nor indeed does BAYLEY or SHERIDAN seem at all fiy to it and even slang GROSE has no touch of its extensive signification. The squeamish Fair One who takes it on the sly merely to cure the vapours politely names it to her friends as White Wine. The Swell chaffs it as Blue Ruin to elevate his notions. The Laundress loves dearly a drain of Ould Tom from its strength to comfort her inside. The drag Fiddler can toss off a quartern of Max without making a wry mug. The Coster Monger illumines his ideas with a fiash of lightning. The hoarse Cyprian owes her existence to copious draughts of Jacky. The Link boy and Mud Larks in joining their browns together are for some Stark Naked. And the Out and Outers from the addition of bitters to it in order to sharpen up a dissipated aud damaged Victualling Office cannot take any thing but Fuller’s Earth Much it should seem therefore depends upon a name and as a soft sound is at all times pleasing to the listener to have denominated this Sporting Society the GIN CLUB would not only have proved barbarous to the ear but the vulgarity of the chaunt might have deprived it of many of its elegant friends. It is a subject however which must be admitted has a good deal of Taste belonging to it and as a Sporting Man would be nothing if he was not flash the DAFFY CLUB meet under the above title Picture of the Road to the Fight “-Pierce Egan, Pierce Egan’s Book of sports

During the time Tom Belcher was the landlord of the Castle Tavern the Daffy Club was started by Mr James Soares.

As a “complete antidote to the Blue Devils”, the club was for members of The Fancy to enjoy a bit of gin and sport. According to Egan, the Daffy Club could “boast of greater advantages than any other Society in the Metropolis from its members being always in Spirits” and with the distinction that “Formality does not belong to this Institution, it has no written rules to bind its members no specified time of meeting no fines for non attendance but the corner stone is to do what is right.”

According to John Timbs, (Clubs and club life in London: with anecdotes of its famous coffee houses, hostelries, and taverns, from the seventeenth century to the present time, 1899) The Daffy Club featured a long room adorned with portraits of the great boxers, including the famous dog “Trusty” a gift to Jem Belcher from Lord Camelford.

Other taverns sprinkled through Town and owned by former pugilist had their own Daffy Clubs, so that a friendly rivalry of clubs supporting the sporting set. The Castle Tavern Holborn Daffy Club “fancy gathered once a week and the most noble patrons of the ring did not disdain to appear on occasion and take their glass of spirits and water with the professors of the art” (William Biggs Boulton).

Although the club members drank the Blue Ruin, its supply was limited; according to Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue “The spirituous liquor drank by the club is DAFFY ie gin but in small quantities as the third of a quartern is the allowance for each member at one time.”

Finally, William West (a contemporary of the Daffy Club) gave his own review of the Fancy hot spot “This club which is of rather modern date and the account of which we quote from the work of a well known flash linguist is held at the Castle Tavern Holborn. The title is a new term lately coined in the Mint of the Fancy for it does not appear in any of the works of the great lexicographers. However the article which gives name to the club is of rather ancient date. It is known in various circles by sundry names such as White Wine, Old Tom Max, Blue Ruin, a Flash of Lightning, Jacky, Stark Naked and Fuller’s Earth but generally by the old name Gin. Being a sporting club they deemed this old fashioned title not quite so agreeable to the listener to which the term Gin Club would have been rather unmusical and as sporting characters they would be nothing without being flash they determined to meet under the title of the Daffy Club. This club is without any written or printed rules no fines are exacted for non attendance their ouly rule is to do what is right yet they are very remarkable for accommodation as they show their good breeding in the case of an inventive relator of a story doing it rather too brown such as stating with a face of day that in the country he ran a mile in two minutes and three quarters so as almost to spoil the steadiness of the mugs of the club the president therefore gently reminds them that as being staunch members of course they will accommodate the gentlemen in his story. Very few evenings pass over without one such bouncer making his appearance and causing the gentle chaff to circulates “Do you believe it?!” Every member is expected to be in spirits and the Daffies seldom drink by halves but generally together by way of trio and it rarely happens that a DafTyonian is under the necessity of muzzing solus. “I ll take a third” is the assent made whenever the office is given to have a taste. Harmony is the basis of the Daffies and between the different heats of betting some good characteristic haunting often adds an interest to the scene at the castle and the president is always ready to further the wishes of the company by his throwing off without the least hesitation.”

Like a modern day sports bar, the trick is for like minded men to enjoy fish tales of sporting over a companionable glass of spirits.


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