Pete Brown truly understands the appeal of a pub. Not just the camaraderie when sitting on a stool with a beer, but the security blanket aspect they can project in absentia as well. "We take pubs for granted. We think they'll always be there when we need them, unchanging, just how we left them. And if we don't visit them for weeks, months, or years, and we come back and find them changed, we're outraged. If we come back and find them closed, we berate all the other people who should have come here more often and kept them in business." This innate understanding of our relationship colors every word of Shakespeare's Pub for the better.
I enjoy hanging out at my local pub, but I certainly couldn't write over 300 pages about its history. Of course, B. B. Rover's hasn't been around for over six centuries, either. The George Inn at the foot of London Bridge is so old that the actual opening date is lost to the dusty past, but Brown does an entertaining job of sleuthing and maintains that it goes back to at least the 1380s. "If you are writing a history of anything, it makes sense to start that history with the date the damn thing was first built, invented, born or otherwise hurled into existence." He then proceeds to cover the entire history of the inn and southern London through the present day. This time period covers the rise of live theater (Shakespeare's Globe Theater was nearby), popular literature (Dickens used the George as a setting for Little Dorrit), and the entire stagecoach era (the George is the last remaining coaching inn in London). Pop culture references are used throughout (the TARDIS is used as a literary device to occasionally change the time period) and the footnotes often had me in stitches. This is the first of Pete Brown's books I've read but it certainly won't be the last.
A century and a half, or thereabouts, after the last stagecoach thundered under the arch and out of its yard, the George Inn can be reached easily via the number 149 bus.