prime president of Bordeaux. … I think I may truly say of him, what was not so truly said of St. Paul, that much learning had made him mad. He had studied well in philosophy, but chiefly the rabbines, and was exceedingly addicted to cabalistical fancies, an eternal hablador [babbler], and half distracted by reading abundance of the extravagant Eastern Jews. He spake all languages, was very rich, had a handsome person, and was well bred, about 45 years of age.’ These accomplishments are not usually expected of a successful eating-house proprietor. Ten years later (30 Nov. 1693) Evelyn, speaking of the Royal Society, says: ‘We all dined at Pontac's as usual;’ and in 1699 he ‘there met at dinner Bentley, Sir Christopher Wren, and others.’ The eating-house and the wine named Pontack are mentioned in Montagu and Prior's ‘The Hind and Panther transvers'd’ (1687), and in Southerne's ‘The Wives' Excuse’ (1692). In 1697 Misson (Travels, p. 146) said: ‘Those who would dine at one or two guineas per head are handsomely accommodated at our famous Pontack's; rarely and difficultly elsewhere.’ On 17 Aug. 1695 Narcissus Luttrell records (Brief Relation of State Affairs, iii. 513) that Pontack, ‘who keeps the great eating-house in Abchurch Lane,’ had been examined before the lord mayor for spreading a report that the king was missing, and had given bail.
Tom Brown speaks of ‘a guinea's worth of entertainment at Pontack's,’ and the ‘modish kickshaws’ to be found there are mentioned in the prologue to Mrs. Centlivre's ‘Love's Contrivance.’ In the same year (1703) Steele (Lying Lover, i. 1) makes Latine say, ‘I defy Pontack to have prepared a better [supper] o' the sudden.’ In ‘Reflections … on the Vice and Follies of the Age,’ part iii. (1707), there is a description of a knighted fop dining at Pontack's, at disastrous expense, on French ragouts and unwholesome wine. On 16 Aug. 1711 Swift wrote: ‘I was this day in the city, and dined at Pontack's. … Pontack told us, although his wine was so good, he sold it cheaper than others—he took but seven shillings a flask. Are not these pretty rates?’ On 25 Jan. 1713 ‘the whole club of whig lords’ dined at Pontack's, and Swift was entertained there by Colonel Cleland on 30 March of that year. The house is mentioned in ‘Mist's Journal’ for 1 April 1721, where it is hinted that, through the losses arising from the ‘South Sea Bubble,’ the brokers at the Royal Exchange went to a chop-house instead of to Pontack's, and that the Jews and directors no longer boiled Westphalia hams in champagne and burgundy. In 1722 Macky (Journey through England, i. 175) spoke of Pontack's, ‘from whose name the best French clarets are called so, and where you may bespeak a dinner from four or five shillings a head to a guinea, or what sum you please.’ Pontack's guinea ordinary, according to the ‘Metamorphosis of the Town’ (1730), included ‘a ragout of fatted snails’ and ‘chickens not two hours from the shell.’
It is not known when Pontack died, but in 1735 the house was kept by a Mrs. Susannah Austin, who married William Pepys, a banker in Lombard Street. Pontack's head is seen in some copies of plate iii. of Hogarth's ‘Rake's Progress’ (Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of Hogarth, 1785, p. 214).
[Wheatley and Cunningham's London Past and Present; Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, i. 186–7; Burn's Descriptive Catalogue of London Traders, Tavern, and Coffee-house Tokens, p. 13; Timbs's Club Life in London, i. 68, ii. 130–1; Larwood and Hotten's History of Signboards, 1867, pp. 93, 94; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 375, 7th ser. ii. 295; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. pt. ii. p. 354; Tatler, No. 131.]
PONTON, MUNGO (1802–1880), photographic inventor, only son of John Ponton, farmer, was born at Balgreen, near Edinburgh, on 23 Nov. 1802. He was admitted writer to the signet on 8 Dec. 1825, and was a founder and subsequently secretary of the National Bank of Scotland.
Ill-health caused him to relinquish his professional career, and he devoted his attention to science. On 29 May 1839 he communicated to the Society of Arts for Scotland ‘a cheap and simple method of preparing paper for photographic drawing in which the use of any salt of silver is dispensed with’ (Edin. New Phil. Journal, xxvii. 169). In this paper he announced the important discovery that the action of sunlight renders bichromate of potassium insoluble, a discovery which has had more to do with the production of permanent photographs than any other. It forms the basis of nearly all the photo-mechanical processes now in use. The developments of Ponton's method are stated in ‘Reports of the Juries of the Exhibition of 1862,’ class 14, p. 5. In 1849 he communicated to the ‘Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal,’ xxxix. 270, an account of a method of registering the hourly variations of the thermometer by means of photography. A list of his papers, which mainly relate to optical subjects, is in the ‘Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers.’ He became fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1834. He died at Clifton on 3 Aug. 1880.