Night Houses- “The Cave of Harmony”

Searching through Lee Jackson’s “The Victorian Dictionary” I came across the Category of “Night Houses” where “The Cave of Harmony” caught my attention. To my understanding, the “Cave of Harmony” was what would presently be known as a night club. Back then, a certain time comes about when the streets of London have long been deserted, the shops and theaters are dark and quite and only a lone police man strolls the empty streets. Yet as you walk down a certain road to a particular alley you begin to decipher the distinct, overwhelming smell of spilt grog and tobacco smoke. As you venture closer to the cacophony and chaos of clanking glasses and piano notes you notice a door held open by a well fashioned waiter. You enter and are quickly engulfed and teary eyed- wallowing through thick waves of smoke and sound. The room is filled with 1200 merchants, lawyers, medical students and army officers- generally a whole array of distinguished men. The atmosphere is joyous as singers atop a stage perform along side a piano and different acts of musical talent are performed. Although seemingly enticing, Jackson has his own opinions on such a night life.

Jackson seems passionately averse to this “Cave of Harmony”. It seemed that Jackson thought that the people attending a “Night House” like this would eventually grow accustom and maybe even dependent on such a lavish life style and once out of money would turn to fraud and crime to obtain such a life style again.

” I know better than you; the man I write of, after having been the attraction of the Cave of Harmony for years, after having been feasted by the nobility and gentry, after having led a career of pleasure on the most extravagant scale, will go down yet young as a beggar to one of our sea-port towns, and, after craving in vain a refuge from the winter’s cold and a crust of bread, will die in the workhouse, and be buried in a pauper’s grave.”

Another website claimed the “Cave of Harmony” to be a “cellar for shameful song-singing” (Cite). It was hard to find much information past that. In general, the Cave of Harmony did not seem very harmonious at all. Perhaps a place I would personally enjoy now and then but also a vacuum that succumbed numerous men of great stature, valor and wealth into a life style of greed and self loathing disparity.

the cave of harmony by william makepeace thackeray
the cave of harmony by william makepeace thackeray

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