Memoirs of the Bedford Coffee-House . . .

The Coffeehous Mob, frontispiece to Ned Ward, Vulgus Brittanicus, or the British Hudibras part iv (1710)

The Coffeehous Mob, frontispiece to Ned Ward, Vulgus Brittanicus, or the British Hudibras part iv (1710)

…were written by A. Genius in 1763. In the year of 2013, the spirit of A. Genius has filled my cup. To be honest, as the originator of “Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl,” I’m the only genius around these parts. Some might argue with that assertion. Let them; see if I care. Returning to the anonymous, yet self-esteeming, author of “Memoirs of the Bedford Coffee-House,” I downloaded the Kindle edition of his 250-year-old book and have been reading it while performing the tricks necessary to make sense of garbled, public-domain e-texts. As an 18th C nutcase, I’m at home reading an ƒ as an , given the context and a desire not to sound like Elmer Fudd during monologues and recitations. These garbled e-texts, though–egad!! They’re difficult, even for my generally mixed-up mind that is at home with Dpftor is undfer fome apprchenfions and other strange characters.

In usual fashion, my mind began to wander to more amusing reading material, such as what comes after the frontispiece to Ned Ward, Vulgus Brittanicus. Those were the days, weren’t they? When a man could enter a coffeehouse and slam down a text of Descartes in front of a perfect stranger and demand an intelligent opinion, the world was a better place. It had to be. How else do you explain the image above? The frontispiece mob must have been a true history in its depiction of a real coffeehouse event because men with tri-cornered hats were known for throwing coffee in the faces of their detractors. Fie! Fie! Your separation from your mind has been too long, you pot-bellied looby of a litckspittle! Ah, how a fine brew stimulates the mind! It stimulates right down to the merriest insults.

In all my numerous coffeehouse days, I’ve never seen anything so exciting as a coffeehouse mob. Can you imagine if this occurred in one of our modern smooth-jazz-playing, corporate Bohemian cafes? No, it never would. Those are the places of pretend free-speech and intelligent thought, which allow no buffoonery, except during scheduled events, where the scheduled parties find themselves amusing and avant-garde, even though Jack Kerouac did it better in 1959. Nowadays, the coffeehouse has become the internet. There is where you will find the mobs, the creative insults, the doggerel, the ad hominems–all right alongside intelligent critiques and philosophical essais.

I have no idea who A. Genius is–certainly not me, as I find the text to be gibberish. Ned Ward, however, was an actual man, regardless of whether he wasn’t a genius. He was a publican and a satirist–a High-Church Tory who once had to stand in the pillory because he accused the queen of not supporting the Tories in Parliament. Although the pillory may sound like an amusing punishment (sort of pillowy, really, where silly people lob marshmallows at you), it certainly wasn’t. People could die while in the pillory, owing to the free-for-all mob allowed to throw more than coffee at the head of the accused. Criticizing the monarch, in those days, was an act of sedition. So much for the world being a better place.

John_Waller_in_pillory

How are you enjoying the atmosphere of this particular internet cafe? Are you drinking a fine strong cup of coffee as you read the wit-verging-on-stupidity you find at jilldomschot.com? I’m not. I’m thirty seconds away from a glass of wine and my bed. Sleep is what comes before coffee, coffee before a day of work, a day of work before wine and bed. What a mobless life I live, dripping time through a coffee sieve.*

*That was to give you a taste of doggerel.

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9 comments

  1. When girls were girls and men were men….

    There’s also a naked chick sitting at the picnic table. That could be what they’re fighting about, more than Decartes.

    I came here because of VD’s link, stayed at first to antagonize feminism, then for the intelligent pure weirdness.

    1. “I came here because of VD’s link, stayed at first to antagonize feminism, then for the intelligent pure weirdness.” The problem is, of course, that you can’t antagonize me. I’m not a feminist by modern definition, anyway. Btw, thanks for calling my weirdness intelligent.

      As for “when men were men”–yeah, it used to be that coffeehouses were mostly confined to men because they were places of business, and not just places to discuss philosophy and literature. Women had their own discussion groups at their homes. However, a fair number of women owned coffeehouses and/or worked in them. They were part of the business world, just not in the same way as men were. In 18th C England, there was a distinct separation between a man’s world and a woman’s world that had not been there to such an extent in prior generations.

  2. I can. I think it would be pointless, though. Plus, like I said, I’m here for the weirdness now anyway.

    I think modern feminism is Feminism. Tell me where I’m wrong.

    I don’t know much about the 18th century business world or coffee house history, so I couldn’t say whether you’re right or wrong. I was just making a joke. But that’s the weirdness.

    1. Modern day feminism has codified it, I guess. My feminism leans more toward dignity toward women as women–much like that of the earliest feminist writers of the 17th and 18th centuries. I’m particularly disgusted by the worm in the brain that causes modern feminists to believe that masculine traits are superior to feminine ones and that, consequently, influences women to become as much like men as possible. Some camps of very conservative Christians have the same belief structure, but they act on it in a different way. As a feminist w/ enlightenment-era thinking, I would like to be respected as a reasonably intelligent and educated mother who spends most of her life caring for her children. I could go on and on about this subject, but I’ll end on this note: 20th C feminism hasn’t provided women w/ dignity. There is absolutely nothing dignified about cheating one’s way into male spaces and/or stealing them.

      I could write an entirely different blog post about the widening gap between male and female spheres in the 18th C, but it would be a general truth to say that it was caused by growing affluence, industrialization, and literacy. This is not to say that, prior to the 18th C, women did men’s work. They did in isolated cases, but generally they did their own work in the same sphere as the menfolk. Even gentlemen’s clubs and journals/magazines aimed at men and women separately are all phenomenons of the 18th C.

      Ha, ha, I know you were initially joking, and you probably weren’t expecting an essay in response, but there it is. History and feminism are two of my pet subjects. 🙂

  3. Then are you mainly attached to the name feminist? What I’ve usually seen in modern feminism is the exact opposite, a belief that feminine traits are superior to masculine traits. It can be seen everywhere in Christian sects from liberal to conservative.

    1. No, I’m not attached to a name at all. It’s a convenient term, but loaded, just as “humanist” is loaded. Maybe I should stick to my usual “misanthrope” and be done with it. 😉

  4. Or “Christian” if that had a universal meaning for explaining men and women.

    I think modern feminists must have self-rejecting mentality, since they usually have a stated belief that feminine traits are superior to masculine traits, but they have to adopt masculine traits to put it into practice. Until they gain enough “seats at the table,” then negative feminine traits take over.

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