White, Francis (d.1711) (DNB00)

WHITE, FRANCIS (d. 1711), original proprietor of White's Chocolate House, who may very probably have been of Italian origin with a name anglicised from Bianco, set up a chocolate house on the east side of St. James's Street, upon the site now occupied by 'Boodle's,' in 1693. It was perhaps started in rivalry with the tory ' Cocoa Tree ' at the west end of Pall Mall. White's customers grew more and more select and exclusive, and in 1697 he changed his quarters for others on the west side of the street. A number of the early 'Tatlers' of 1709 are dated from 'White's Chocolate-house' in accordance with Steele's announcement in the first number, 'All accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and entertainment shall be under the article of White's Chocolate-house; poetry under that of Will's Coffee-house; learning under the title of Grecian; foreign and domestic news you will have from St. James's Coffee-house.' We learn from the same authority that the charge for entrance at White's was sixpence, the charge at the majority of coffee-houses being only one penny. Francis White prospered in his business until his death in February 1711, in which month he was buried in St. James's, Piccadilly. By his will he left a sum of 2,500l., including legacies, to his sister Angela Maria, wife of Tomaso Casanova of Verona, and to his aunt Nicoletta Tomasi of Verona. The widow, Elizabeth White, carried on the chocolate-house, already established as the favourite resort in the new west end for aristocratic members of the whig party; she made it equally well known as a place for the sale of opera and masquerade tickets. Upon her death, shortly before 1730, the proprietorship fell to John Arthur, formerly assistant to Francis White. The famous club within the chocolate-house, the history of which is so intimately bound up with that of the oligarchic régime down to 1832, is believed to have originated about 1697, but the first list of rules and members is dated 1736. Long before this 'White's' had become notorious for betting and high play (cf. Swift, Essay on Education; Pope's 3rd Epistle, 'To Lord Bathurst;' and Hogarth, Rake's Progress, plates iv. and vi.: the plate last mentioned has reference to the fire by which the chocolate-house was burned to the ground in April 1733, see Daily Courant, 30 April). In 1755 the club was removed to the 'great house' in St. James's Street (east side) the premises in which it still flourishes.

[The History of "White's Club, 1892, 2 vols. 4to (chaps, i-iii.); Timbs's Clubs and Club Life of London, 1872, pp. 92-103; Steele's Tatler, ed. Aitken, i. 12; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 41, 134, 430, 487, iv. 520, 488; National Review, 1857, No. viii.; Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Anne, p. 67; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 127, 7th ser. xii. 288.]

T. S.