The women's petition against coffee
May 3, 2005 7:23 PM   Subscribe

The women's petition against coffee "the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought." (via)
posted by dhruva (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Apparently this was just after the invention of italics?

This is absolutely great. I feel bad, now. 17th century women are chiding my manhood. Maybe I don't really need that coffee in the morning...
posted by blacklite at 7:40 PM on May 3, 2005


"They come from it with nothing moist but their snotty Noses, nothing stiffe but their Joints, nor standing but their Ears: They pretend 'twill keep them Waking, but we find by scurvy Experience, they sleep quietly enough after it."

Zing.
posted by blacklite at 7:41 PM on May 3, 2005


Looks like certain elements of society have a long history of getting their panties in a bunch... if it's not about drugs it's about alcohol. If not alcohol, apparently, coffee. Go back far enough and you'll find some group willing to blame all of its ills on some outside substance or other...
posted by clevershark at 7:43 PM on May 3, 2005


whoa! is this really real?

... our Gallants being every way so
Frenchified, that they are become meer Cock-sparrows,
fluttering things that come on Sa sa, with a world of Fury,

but are not able to stand to it, and in the very first Charge
fall down flat before us. Never did Men wear greater
Breeches, or carry less in them of any Mettle whatsoever. ...

That our Husbands may give us some other Testimonies
of their being Men, besides their Beards and wearing of empty Pantaloons:
That they no more run the hazard of being Cuckol'd by Dildo's:
But returning to the good old strengthning Liquors of our Forefathers;
that Natures Exchequer may once again be replenisht, and a Race of
Lusty Hero's begot, able by their Atchievments, to equal the Glories
of our Ancesters. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on May 3, 2005


"They come from it with nothing moist but their snotty Noses, nothing stiffe but their Joints, nor standing but their Ears: They pretend 'twill keep them Waking, but we find by scurvy Experience, they sleep quietly enough after it."

Uh huh. They drink coffee and go off to sleep, leaving their women unfulfilled. I've never heard of coffee "drying up" a man's manhood. Something tells me that 17th century coffee houses were the first gay bars. Well, actually, I already knew that.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2005


I always thought molly houses were taverns, not coffeehouses.
posted by amberglow at 7:50 PM on May 3, 2005


Or a convenient excuse for the languishing of lust that we find amongst marriages in our current age.
posted by dreamsign at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2005


Metafilter: a convenient excuse for the languishing of lust?
posted by dreamsign at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2005


Nor let any Doating Superstitious Cato's shake their
Goatish Beards, and tax us of Immodesty for this Declaration,
since 'tis a publick Grievance, and cries aloud for
Reformation, Weight and Measure, 'tis well known, should
go throughout the world, and there is no torment like
Famishment.
I've always found it strange how pre-18th century english was often written with seemingly random capitalization. Is it random or is there reasoning there?? It's hard to read without sounding out those words louder in my head. There will have been a few MeTa threads about their typing style if the authors had been members no doubt.
Nice one Dhruva!
posted by peacay at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2005


Beautiful. That is art, not just a historical document. And I say that despite--NAY!--especially, viewing the irony of the fact that I just drank a hefty 10:00 P.M. cappuccino on top of four or five cups of joe this a.m.

Doomed we are. Evidently we just do not take heed...

"Eunocht our Husbands," though? I've heard of brewer's droop but never coffee drinker's dangle (or perhaps, in this sad day of ubiquitous Starbucks, frappucino flaccidity.) And caffeine perks sperm, makes them swim faster and increases the likelihood of pregnancy, heh.

LOL! Great find, a classic. Thanks, dhruva.
posted by Shane at 7:51 PM on May 3, 2005


Well, this is from 1674 when tea was still big BIG business. I have the hunch that this might have been some sort of attempt to keep coffee from closing in on the tea market.
posted by Jon-o at 8:02 PM on May 3, 2005


Well, this is from 1674 when tea was still big BIG business. I have the hunch that this might have been some sort of attempt to keep coffee from closing in on the tea market.
Not yet in 1674, I don't think.

Utterly spectacular link dhruva, btw.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:09 PM on May 3, 2005


Jon-o: I think you nailed it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:09 PM on May 3, 2005


Context:

1668: Coffee replaces beer as New York's City's favorite breakfast drink.

1668: Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse opens in England and is frequented by merchants and maritime insurance agents. Eventually it becomes Lloyd's of London, the best-known insurance company in the world.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:15 PM on May 3, 2005


I still can't believe that it's real.
posted by amberglow at 8:28 PM on May 3, 2005


StickyCarpet: Thanks for the backup with that evidence there. I was just guessing at that tea thing, to be honest...
posted by Jon-o at 8:39 PM on May 3, 2005


Is anyone else thinking about asking metafilter to ascertain the veracity of the document?

(Crap, not only is this awesome, but it's anachronifying my prose)
posted by stet at 8:52 PM on May 3, 2005


I've always found it strange how pre-18th century english was often written with seemingly random capitalization. Is it random or is there reasoning there?

My half-baked theory is that it's an artifact of English's Germanic roots (nouns in German are capitalized). I'm probably wrong.
posted by sklero at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2005


in the event that it is from the right time period, anyone else think this might have been penned by a fellow? that would certainly go with the propaghana charge....
posted by es_de_bah at 9:08 PM on May 3, 2005


Willy says coffee is good. Willy would know. Free Willy!

But coffee also inspired other things. In the 18th century, coffee was the drink of revolutionaries. Perhaps Starbucks has removed some critical component from their brew, making the American male Eunucht.
posted by Goofyy at 9:17 PM on May 3, 2005


You know, I used to see this guy on education TV in Seattle (mainly for UW-related stuff).

He was an American history professor from some university in the Midwest, and he'd do these televised lectures about Thomas Jefferson, while dressed like him; reading from his letters, that sort of thing (although surprisingly non-cheesy).

Then he'd take questions at the end about this bit of history, or how would the founders react to _____.

One time a guy asked him about Jefferson's coffee consumption.

It seems that Jefferson drank it constantly, and he went on to elaborate that there's this theory going around in academic history circles that the enlightenment was a byproduct of a BIG coffee jag; e.g. guys staying up for hours on end, hyped on caffeine, arguing about how to improve the world.

In addition to Jefferson and other founders, many of the leading lights of French enlightenment thinking were heavy, heavy coffee drinkers.

He mentioned that one of them (I want to say de Tocquevill) even wrote this long letter of praise for coffee and about how it was a ' ... gift from the new world even more valuable than the gold from Mexico ... ' and advocating that everyone should drink it.

Not sure if it's still a popular theory or not, but it struck me as an interesting idea

I wish I could remember the prof's name.
posted by Relay at 9:19 PM on May 3, 2005


Is anyone else thinking about asking metafilter to ascertain the veracity of the document?

Huh? Metafilter has a veracitizing program? Can I get in that line?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:22 PM on May 3, 2005


Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library
posted by gubo at 9:23 PM on May 3, 2005


I've heard other such things about various other Big Names in 17th-19th century thought, Relay. Unfortunately, I can't get anyone to pay me to stay up all night drinking coffee and arguing.
posted by blacklite at 9:51 PM on May 3, 2005


Ah, such is our lot blacklite to live in dull and uninteresting times ... Oh, wait.

Where's that grant application?
posted by Relay at 9:57 PM on May 3, 2005


I like coffee. I esp. like coffee after a nice dinner just in case. Coffee helps the body in many ways none which I can argue with. Italians made coffee a treat. I am Italian, so whiny chics take it up with them. Italians hate whiny chics questioning their taste.

Venus really had nothing to do with this.

By the way, alll your ancestors were alcoholics that cheated on their wives.
posted by Viomeda at 10:02 PM on May 3, 2005


sklero, if it's caps for nouns then they've made some mistakes.

Where's languagehat for some urbane reductionism.

Good story relay.
I love the smell of coffee but even 1/4 of a cup makes my hands shake. No enlightenment for me.
posted by peacay at 10:05 PM on May 3, 2005


I've seen this cited with some frequency, but this is the first opportunity I've had to see the petition in its entirety.

Early coffee houses wore all kinds of stripes; from hotbeds of political and intellectual discourse, to finance, to betting parlors, to intercourse of most every imaginable sort.

Mr. Edward Lloyd’s coffee house catered largely to merchants and sailors, as well as the underwriters who met over coffee to offer insurance. In time, Lloyd’s Coffee House became Lloyd’s of London, the storied insurance company. Likewise, other coffeehouses – centers for news, currency and futures markets – gave birth to newspapers, banks, and stock exchanges, many of which thrive still today. It's likely that's not all they engendered... among their patrons are many we might consider fathers of revolution and industry -- in more ways than one.

P.S. First post... nice ta meet ya.
posted by deCadmus at 10:24 PM on May 3, 2005


I am sure Ozymandias drank plenty of coffee and the women loved him for it. *Pardon the totally random thought.*
posted by Viomeda at 10:33 PM on May 3, 2005


Hmm. Until gubo's image, I would have guessed this was a put-on. It seems far too playful and self-aware to be the product of a legitimate concern. Now I'm with the tea lobby propaganda crowd.

Additionally, from this article:
The historical anthropologist Alan Macfarlane has recently argued for a causal link between the rise of British tea-drinking and the burst of physical energy that accompanied the Industrial Revolution.
posted by gramschmidt at 10:50 PM on May 3, 2005


welcome deCadmus!
posted by peacay at 11:38 PM on May 3, 2005


welcome! sit, have some coffee!

and, of course:
Metafilter: By the way, alll your ancestors were alcoholics that cheated on their wives. : >
posted by amberglow at 5:37 PM on May 4, 2005


I'm not a Scottish historian, but coffee was popular in England long before tea took off, and you might have noticed that nothing has ever replaced tea in Britain since (though beer still holds its own). I have this from a professor who is about to publish a book on London Coffeehouses, and who knows everything I think anyone ever wants to know about 17th and 18th century caffine consumption.

So it was tea that replaced coffee, at least in England, and in many places the English seem to have even forgotten how to make good coffee, while they have excellent tea.

Coffee also isn't from the New World - it's from North Africa, I believe, via the Middle East.

I've heard talk of that idea about tea (and sugar, which was even more important) and its relation to the industrial revolution - it's a very interesting one. It's also another connection between industrialisation and colonialisation, which I think are inextricably linked, as sugar was cultivated in Carribean colonies (most with slaves before the 1830s), and tea was first from China, paid for with opium grown in India, before it began to be grown in India.

----

As for the typography - that's completely standard for texts published in the seventeenth century. Newspapers continue to have wacky capitalization right through to the end of the eighteenth century, though some also used what we would recognise as a modern standard.

I have no idea why - I'm just a history student (Ph.D. student in English 17th and 18th century social history), not an expert on typography
posted by jb at 5:45 PM on May 4, 2005


Oh, and yes, they do all use more italics than a high-school aged girl's diary.
posted by jb at 5:47 PM on May 4, 2005


Never more pertinent than today. And so eloquent at the same time.
posted by destro at 5:47 PM on May 4, 2005


To clarify on the tea and industrialisation point. I haven't read the article, but I don't think that it is thought that tea helped give a "burst of physical energy" to industrialisation - labour was always extremely physical before industrialisation. When I heard an academic talking about the issue, he was talking about the use of tea to help people get up early and work long hours, whereas premodern labour had different patterns of labour (early in the summer, later in the winter, naps in the afternoon in the summer, etc).
posted by jb at 5:51 PM on May 4, 2005


That sounds like a concept Malcolm Gladwell and co. could revel in: an entire generation of intellectuals driven by coffee. Here's another:

The Opium Wars were caused by Britain pumping opium into China illegally, to balance the trade deficit caused by heavy tea imports.

Also, the rise of magazines and newspapers was aided by the distribution of pamphlets in coffeehouses. While Gutenberg found the means to copy literature, coffeehouses made such print jobs worthwhile. You could draw a parallel between this and the Internet's transformation of computers.
posted by NickDouglas at 5:58 PM on May 4, 2005


if it's caps for nouns then they've made some mistakes

Yeah, it's not that simple. They basically used Caps whenever they Felt like it.

I must say, I was sure this was a fake, but gubo's Image certainly makes it Seem Real. I Doff my Cap to the Rhetorick of the Seventeenth Century.
posted by languagehat at 6:04 PM on May 4, 2005


I would guess that capitalization wasn't standardized until the the late 1700's. That was when english dictionaries came into common use. Before widespread use of dictionaries spelling was inconsistent. I imagine Capitalization is just another aspect of written English that got standardized at about the same time. I'm sure someone who actually knows something about the history of written English will come along and correct me.
posted by rdr at 6:13 PM on May 4, 2005


I googled around about the caps. I didn't see any other basis than for nouns or reflecting the 'fashion'.
posted by peacay at 6:20 PM on May 4, 2005


See also:
"It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the like amount of money that goes out of the country in consequence. My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were his ancestors."
-- Frederick the Great (1777)

Four years later the king forbade coffee's roasting except in official government establishments, forcing the poor to resort to coffee substitutes, such as roast chicory root, dried fig, barley, wheat, or corn. They also managed to get hold of real coffee beans and roast them clandestinely, but government spies, pejoratively named coffee smellers by the populace, put them out of business.

source

posted by bashos_frog at 6:44 PM on May 4, 2005


Interestingly, tea was the subject of similar attacks:
He who should be able to drive three Frenchmen before him, or she who might be a breeder of such a race of men, are to be seen sipping tea! ...Were they the sons of tea-sippers, who won the fields of Cressy and Agincourt, or dyed the Danube's streams with Gallic blood?
That's a quote from An Essay On Tea Considered as Pernicious to Health, Obstructing Industry, and Improverishing the Nation, by Jonas Hanway (who was also noted for introducing the umbrella to London, by the way.)

I've posted more quotes from the essay at my blog. (Self-link, obviously.)
posted by yankeefog at 3:30 AM on May 5, 2005


And someone's doing a contempory magazine-as-broadside now too: Isnot Magazine
posted by amberglow at 5:51 AM on May 5, 2005


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