The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fleet Street

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FLEET STREET, London, one of London's historic highways. It derives its name from the Fleet River (q.v.). It extends from Ludgate Hill to Temple Bar at the east end of the Strand. As early as the 13th century it seems to have been known as Fleet Bridge street and in the early part of the 14th century it began to be mentioned frequently by its present name, spelled, of course, in accordance with the customs of those days. The west part of the street was destroyed by the great fire that devastated such a large part of London in the 17th century. For many years Fleet street was especially noted for its taverns and coffeehouses. Many notable persons of literary and political fame used to frequent these, and a few have survived to this day, in name at least. Three old London churches must also be mentioned as belonging to the Fleet street region: Temple Church, Saint Dunstan's and Saint Bride's. Fleet street witnessed throughout its long career many notable processions. Coronations, funerals, etc., never failed to pass through it. Famous men in large numbers had frequently close relations with Fleet street, either by living there or in one of its many side streets, or by being regular frequenters of its taverns. Amongst these should be mentioned especially Ben Jonson, Milton, Izaak Walton, Dryden, Dr. Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith and Lamb. In the 18th and 19th centuries Fleet street became the home of publishers of books, magazines and newspapers, after having housed quite a number of printers and booksellers in the two preceding centuries. Among these should be noted the famous publishing house of Murray, Gentleman's Magazine, Punch, Daily Telegraph, Daily News, Standard, Daily Chronicle, etc. Hardly a foreign or provincial newspaper, possessing London offices, is located elsewhere than in Fleet street and, though some of the big London dailies are located in some other part of London, Fleet street of to-day is still the journalistic street of London. In this connection should also be mentioned two volumes of poetry by John Davidson, bearing the title ‘Fleet Street Eclogues’ (London 1893 and 1896) and describing life from the point of view of a journalist. Consult Baker, H. B., ‘Stories of the Streets of London’ (London 1899); Bell, W. G., ‘Fleet Street in Seven Centuries’ (London 1912); Besant, Sir W., ‘London in the 18th Century’ (London 1902); Id., ‘London in the Time of the Tudors’ (London 1904); Id., ‘Mediæval London’ (London 1906); Id., ‘London in the 19th Century’ (London 1909); Id., ‘London City’ (London 1910); Id., ‘London North of the Thames’ (London 1911); Chancellor, E. B., ‘The Annals of Fleet Street, etc.’ (London 1912) ; Fitzgerald, P., ‘Dr. Johnson and the Fleet Street Taverns’ (in Gentleman's Magazine, U. S., Vol. XXVI, p. 305, London 1881); Hutchings, W. W., ‘London Town Past and Present’ (2 vols., London 1909); Hutton, L., ‘Literary Landmarks of London’ (New York 1897); Jesse, J. H., ‘London and its Celebrities’ (2 vols., London 1850); Lang, E. M., ‘Literary London’ (London 1906); Lemon, M., ‘Up and Down the London Streets’ (London 1867); Smith, J. T., ‘An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London’ (2 vols., London 1846); Taylor, G. R. S., ‘An Historical Guide to London’ (London 1911); Welch, C, ‘Modern History of the City of London’ (London 1896); Wheatley, H. B., London, Past and Present’ (3 vols., London 1891).