Cosmopolitan Club (London)

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The Cosmopolitan Club in London, England, was a club which existed from 1852 to 1902. It met in rooms in Berkeley Square which had previously been the studio of George Frederic Watts and then of Henry Wyndham Phillips. The meeting room was dominated by a large painting by Watts of a naked damsel in distress. The painting, A Story from Boccaccio, depicted the woman fleeing towards a group of classically dressed figures. It was presented to the nation when the club closed.[1]

The membership included literary men, artists, civil servants and political figures. Watts joined, as did the writers Matthew James Higgins (Jacob Omnium), Francis Turner Palgrave, Edward Fitzgerald and Anthony Trollope. Other members included Henry Layard, Sir Robert Morier, James Spedding and William Gladstone.[2]

The club is said to be the basis of "The Universe", "the club where the best informed political gossip is heard", in Trollope's novel Phineas Redux.[3]


  1. ^ Tate Gallery Website. The painting is now in the collection of the Tate Gallery. The woman and the man chasing her are being eternally punished, the one for her hard heart and the other killing himself over her. The figures watch the scene as a lesson in love gone wrong.
  2. ^ Colin Trodd, "Before History Painting: Enclosed Experience and the Emergent Body in the Work of G. F. Watts", Visual Culture in Britain, 2005, p.37ff.
  3. ^ Kent, Christopher A. "Cosmopolitan Club (act. 1852–1902)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2011-03-18.  Available online to subscribers and also in print