The Fortune of War was an ancient public house in Smithfield, London.
It was located on a corner originally known as Pie Corner, today at the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane, the name deriving from the magpie represented on the sign of an adjoining tavern.
The Fortune of War on Pie Corner is allegedly the place where the Great Fire of London stopped, after destroying a large part of the City of London in 1666. The statue of a cherub, initially built in the front of the pub, commemorates the end of the fire.
In 1761, the tenant of the house Thomas Andrews was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by King George III in one of the first cases of public debate about homosexuality in England.
Until the 19th century, the Fortune of War was the chief house of north of the River Thames for resurrectionists, being officially appointed by the Royal Humane Society as a place "for the reception of drowned persons". The landlord used to show the room whereon benches round the walls were placed with the snatchers' names waiting till the surgeons at St Bartholomew's Hospital could run round and appraise them.
The public house is mentioned in William Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1848) in a chapter entitled "How to Live Well on Nothing a Year" (ch. 37):
The bill for servants' porter at the Fortune of War public house is a curiosity in the chronicles of beer. Every servant also was owed the greater part of his wages, and thus kept up perforce an interest in the house. Nobody in fact was paid. Not the blacksmith who opened the lock; nor the glazier who mended the pane; nor the jobber who let the carriage; nor the groom who drove it; nor the butcher who provided the leg of mutton; nor the coals which roasted it; nor the cook who basted it; nor the servants who ate it: and this I am given to understand is not infrequently the way in which people live elegantly on nothing a year.
It is also mentioned by Charles Dickens in Tale of Two Cities where Jerry Cruncher of Tellson's Bank moonlights as a Bodysnatcher. The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise has an excellent historical account of the infamous murder by Williams, Bishop and May to provide anatomical subjects for surgeons.
British pop band Pet Shop Boys refer to the pub in their song "The resurrectionist" from their 2006 single I'm with stupid.
The public house was demolished in 1910.
Famous quotes containing the words public house, house, public, war and/or fortune:
“Now I am in the public house and lean upon the wall,
So come in rags or come in silk, in cloak or country shawl,
And come with learned lovers or with what men you may
For I can put the whole lot down, and all I have to say
Is fol de rol de rolly O.”
—William Butler Yeats (18651939)
“A pilgrim I on earth perplext,
with sinns, with cares and sorrows vext,
By age and paines brought to decay,
and my Clay house mouldring away,
Oh how I long to be at rest
and soare on high among the blest!”
—Anne Bradstreet (c. 16121672)
“[The political mind] is a strange mixture of vanity and timidity, of an obsequious attitude at one time and a delusion of grandeur at another time. The political mind is the product of men in public life who have been twice spoiled. They have been spoiled with praise and they have been spoiled with abuse.”
—Calvin Coolidge (18721933)
“A war undertaken without sufficient monies has but a wisp of force. Coins are the very sinews of battles.”
—François Rabelais (14941553)
“Good places for aphorisms: in fortune cookies, on bumper stickers, and on banners flying over the Palace of Free Advice.”
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)