Snobs and art lovers

Nick "Memories of Caesar's Forum,'' by GEORGE NICK, in his "George Nick: Paintings and Legacy''  show at the St. Botolph Club, in Boston's Back Bay, through June 26.

The St. Botolph Club is one of those cultural centers -- in the case of the St. Botolph mostly for visual art (of which it has quite a permanent collection) -- spawned by the new  industrial and trading money of the late 19th Century, mostly in the Northeast.

Members prided themselves on promoting an educational and civic mission instead of simply enjoying establishments where the elite could eat and drink with the comforting sense of being in the cocoon of the financially and socially very comfortable, with no Jews, Catholics or Blacks, please.

Such ethnic and religious limitations (at some clubs enforced without anything in writing) have since mostly been dropped in these buildings, though there's still a disproportionate share of the descendents of  the old Yankee mercantile aristocracy among the membership. Yes, the Brahmins.

That is not to say that they didn't offer plenty of food and drink, too; they still do. Indeed, evidence of alcoholism  has been far from absent over the years in these brick piles, especially since enthusiastic drinking could be taken as a sign of collegiality, within limits, of course.

I remember once being asked by a friend to drop by the St. Botolph on a very quiet Sunday morning and the front door was opened by member who had been staying there during the time of his divorce. Divorces were considerably more complicated and time-consuming then; at least something has gotten simpler.  (Presumably the staff had the morning off.)

The member wore a very long, Mandarin-looking silk bathrobe (or would you call it a dressing gown?) and a glass of brandy in his hands. Who could expect any less in "the Athens of America''? This member was not alcoholic, by the way. He was just trying to settle his stomach.

Botolph, by the way, is derived from the name of a  7th Century Saxon saint living in England. The place name "Boston'' is said to come from it.

A reminder of the Anglophilia that permeated these clubs.