Tag Archives: memoirs from a 1690s coffeehouse

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.


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.