Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

The Haymarket

On the right side of the street, coming from White-Hall, is Northumberland-House, so called, because belonging to the Northumberland family for some ages; but descending to the Duke of Somerset in right of marriage, from the late dutchess, heiress of the house of Piercy.

’Tis an ancient, but a very good house, the only misfortune of its situation is, its standing too near the street; the back part of the house is more modern and beautiful than the front, and when you enter the first gate, you come into a noble square fronting the fine lodgings: ’Tis a large and very well design’d building, and fit to receive a retinue of one hundred in family; nor does the duke’s family come so far short of the number, as not very handsomely to fill the house.

The present duke having married the greatest heiress in Britain, and enjoy’d her and the estate for above forty years, and besides, having been master of the horse many years also, he is immensely rich, and very well merits the good fortune he has met with.

Advancing thence to the Hay-Market, we see, first, the great new theatre, a very magnificent building, and perfectly accommodated for the end for which it was built, tho’ the entertainment there of late, has been chiefly operas and balls.

These meetings are called BALLS, the word masquerade not being so well relished by the English, who, tho’ at first fond of the novelty, began to be sick of the thing on many accounts;

However, as I cannot in justice say any thing to recommend them, and am by no means, to make this work be a satyr upon any thing; I choose to say no more; but go on.

From hence westward and northward, lie those vastly extended buildings, which add so exceedingly to the magnitude of the whole body, and of which I have already said so much: It would be a task too great for this work, to enter into a description of all the fine houses, or rather palaces of the nobility in these parts: To touch them superficially, and by halves, is too much to imitate what I complain of in others, and as I design a particular account of all the houses of the nobility and men of quality in London, and the country fifteen miles round, in a work by itself; I bespeak my readers patience, and go on.