So that’s who ate all the pies

From The Guardian:

Newkitcatclub140 Whatever the health police think of them, pies are a great leveller. In the late 1690s, a pastry cook called Christopher (Kit) Cat hung up his sign, a cat playing a small fiddle (or ‘kit’), in Gray’s Inn Lane. His signature dish was a mutton pie, dubbed a kit-cat in his honour, though he also sold cheesecakes, rosewater codling tarts (made with a kind of cooking apple, not fish) and many another inexpensive treat. It was a place where hungry authors could afford to chitchat while eating Kit Cat’s kit-cats at the Cat and Kit. The coterie who met there became an institution, under the inevitable name of the Kit-Cat Club, and were a formidable force for social change, not least because theirs was a meritocratic club within a rigidly stratified society: ‘A Kit-Cat,’ observed poor playwright William Burnaby, ‘is a supper for a Lord.’

The members of the Kit-Cat Club were writers of various kinds, politicians and aristocrats. Their names include a litany of famous authors – William Congreve, John Vanbrugh, Matthew Prior, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele – but they also included Jacob Tonson, the most important publisher in London, Robert Walpole and a shoal of peers. The unifying factor was Whiggery. In 1700, Whigs, as opposed to Tories, stood for constitutional government against royal absolutism; they were pro-parliament, progressive and hungry for cultural change. But beyond that, the Kit-Cats were friends. The group at the club’s core had known each other since their schooldays. Field’s highly intelligent book is about politics and culture, but it is also about male bonding and networking and how it works.

More here.