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Answer 54. The dying author at the Athenaeum Club was WM Thackeray. His old enemy was Charles Dickens.

According to another club member who witnessed the incident, Dickens’ account was quite untrue. The bystander claimed that Dickens passed Thackeray without a flicker of recognition. It was Thackeray who made the first approach:

‘Dickens turned to him, and I saw Thackeray speak and presently hold out his hand to Dickens. They shook hands, a few words were exchanged, and immediately Thackeray returned to me saying “I’m glad I have done this”.’


IMG_4786 DofY stepsThe Athenaeum Club lies at the top of the Duke of York’s steps, on the left. Around 11.30 on the night of 6 May 1882, a Member of Parliament named Colonel Tottenham left the club after dinner and was met by an astonishing sight on the steps. The Prime Minister was talking to a prostitute under the gaslight.

Colonel Tottenham was delighted. As an Opposition MP, he saw an opportunity to make trouble for the Prime Minister, a sanctimonious old goat who always took a high moral tone in public while evidently behaving quite differently in private.

Another eyewitness, a man name Parkinson, was so horrified that he wrote to the Prime Minister next day:

‘Had I seen the Heavens open & an angel descend & said such a thing (as I saw), I should have asked the Earth to open and swallow that angel as a liar.’

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 55. Name the sanctimonious Prime Minister who was accosted by a prostitute here.

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