« PreviousContinue »
. In Answer to the late published CHARACTER OF A COFFEE-HOUSE.
Asserting from Reason, Experience, and good Authors, the excellent Use, and
With the grand Conveniency of such civil Places of Resort and ingenious
Conversation. London, printed by J. Lock, for J. Clarke, 1675. Folio, containing eight Pages.
IT, of late, is grown so wanton, and the humour of affecting it,
become so common, that each little fop, whose.spungy brain can but coin a small drossy joke or two, presently thinks himself privileged to asperse every thing that comes in his way, though in itself never so innocent, or beneficial to the publick. To the influence of this predominant folly, we may not improperly refer the production of those swarms of insect pamphlets, which the press weekly spawns into the world; and, particularly, the nativity of that folio-impertinence which occasions our present reflexions: a piece whose faunting title raised our thoughts to an expectation of somewhat extraordinary; but, finding little in it but downright abuse, the quintessence of Billingsgate rheto. rick, dregs of canting, and such rubbish language, as bubbling, bullyrock, fluxing, gonorrhæa, &c. Charity itself could not but suspect the author more conversant somewhere else than in coffee-houses, and conclude those places, being too civil for a debauched humour, had given occasion for his exposing them as lay.conventicles, &c.
However, we shall preserve that equal regard to Solomon's doublefaced advice, to answer and not answer such as our characterising author, that we shall decline retorting any thing particularly to his scur. rilities : let the town-wit (whom we leave to take his own satisfaction) fence with him, if he please, at those weapons ; a formal answer would be too great an indulgence to his vanity, and make him think too considerably of himself: besides, to reply, in the pitiful stile of his ped. dling drollery, is to engage in a game at pushpin ; and to say any thing serious will be no more (to borrow his phrase) than reading a lecture to a monkey. Instead, therefore, of wasting our own or the reader's time so impertinently, we shall briefly endeavour to give you an account of the use and vertues of coffee, and next consider some of those many conveniences coffee-houses afford us both for business and conversation.
Though the happy Arabia, nature's spicery, prodigally furnishes the voluptuous world with all kinds of aromaticks, and divers other rarities; yet I scarce know whether mankind be not still as much obliged to it for the excellent fruit of the humble coffee-shrub, as for any other of its more specious productions : for, since there is nothing we here enjoy, next to life, valuable beyond health, certainly those things that contribute to preserve us in good plight and eucrasy, and fortify our weak bodies against the continual assaults and batteries of diseases, deserve our regards much inore than those which only gratify a liquorish palate, or otherwise prove subservient 10 our delights. As for this salutiferous berry, of so general a use through all the regions of the east, it is suffi. ciently known, when prepared, to be moderately hot, and of a very drying attenuating and cleansing quality ; whence reason infers, that its decoction must contain many good physical properties, and cannot but be an incomparable remedy to dissolve crudities, comfort the brain, and dry up ill humours in the stomach. In brief, to prevent or redress, in those that frequently drink it, all cold drowsy rheumatick distempers whatsoever, that proceed from excess of moisture, which are so numerous, that but to name them would tíre the tongue of a mountebank.
This consideration alone should, methinks, be sufficient to ingratiate it to our esteem, since the use thereof does thence appear absolutely necessary; especially to us in whom phlegm is apt to abound, both by reason of the northern situation of our country, and the ill habit of ex. traordinary drinking, grown too epidemical among us.
Experience proves, that there is nothing more effectual than this re- viving drink, to restore their senses, that have brutified themselves by immoderate tippling heady liquors, which it performs by its exsiccant property before mentioned, that instantly dries up that cloud of giddy fumes, which, boiling up from the over-charged stomach, oppress the brain : but this, being only a kindness to voluntary devils, as my Lord Cook calls common drunkards, we should scarce reckon amongst coffee's vertues, did it not evidence its quality, and shew how beneficial it may prove by parity of reason, when designed to more worthy and noble uses, such as expelling wind, fortifying the liver, refreshing the heart, corroborating the spirits, both vital and animal, quickening the appetite, assisting digestion, helping the stone, taking away rheums and de. fluxious, with a thousand other kindnesses to nature, which we might enumerate, did we not think it a sufficient argument of its excellency only to observe, how universally it takes in the world ; for we cannot, without an affront to our nature, imagine mankind so sottish, as greedily to entertain a drink that has nothing of sweetness to recommend it to the gust, nor any of those pleasant blandishments wherewith wine and other liquors tempt and debauch our palates, unless there were some more than ordinary vertue and efficacy in it; yet we see, without any of these insinuating advantages, coffee has so generally prevailed, that bread it. sdf (though commonly with us voted the staff of life) is scarce of so uriversal use ; for of that the Tartars and Arabians, vast and numerous people, eat little or none, whereas both they and the Turks, Persians, and almost all the eastern world, are so devoted to coffee, that, besides innumerable publick houses for sale of it, there is scarce a private fire without it all day long, as any, that are but moderately acquainted with sashes and turbants, can witness. Is it not enough to silence the
barking of our little wits against this innocent and wholesome drink, that is so generally used by so many mighty nations, and those too celebrated for the most witty and sagacious ?
Nor wants this liquor the suffrages of excellent authors. The famous Parkinson, in his exquisite Herbal, p. 1622, commends it for the strengthening weak stomachs, helping digestion, and obstructions and tumours of the liver and spleen; the incomparable Verulam, in his Na. tural Histoty, fol. 155, amongst other encomiums, asserts, that it com. forteth the brain, and, by condensing the spirits, expelleth fear, and maketh them strong and chearful; Sandys, in his Travels; and the ju. dicious Sir H. B. both in his Voyage to the Levant, and elsewhere, speaks very advantageously of it: nor did the ingenious Mr. Howel, in his life-time, deny it his publick testimony in print, in a letter to Mr. Justice R. before his Organum Salutis.
After so many worthy names have given it their votes, what have our puisne quibblers to object? only this, it is black, and therefore wit must be shewn to call it Stygian puddle; and, besides this, it is bitter, and therefore a lye must be framed, that it is made of soot.
For the first, were they but so well acquainted with the prince of Latin poets, as our character-maker would make us believe he is with Ovid, by his dull, tedious, and impertinent quotation, they might remember,
Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur. It is the opinion of better heads, than any on their shoulders, that this liquor is no other, than that famous black broth of the Lacedemonians, so much celebrated by antiquity.
For its taste, it is a pitiful childish humour always to indulge our palates ; diseases are removed by bitter pills, and the most sanative po. tions are oftentimes very ungrateful to swallow; but the truth is, this drink has nothing in it of nauseousness, nor any taste, but what, fa. miliarised by a little use, will become pleasant and delightful.
The dull planet Saturn has not finished one revolution through his orb, since coffee-houses were first known amongst us; yet it is worth our wonder to observe how numerous they are already grown; not only here in our metropolis, but in both universities, and most cities and eminent towns throughout the nation; nor, indeed, have we any places of entertainment of more use and general conveniency, in several respects, amongst us.
First, In regard of easy expence: Being to wait for or meet a friend, a tavern-reckoning soon breeds a purse-consumption; in an ale-house, you must gorge yourself with pot after pot, sit dully alone, or be drawn in to club for others reckonings, or frowned on by your landlady, as one that cumbers the house, and hinders better guests : but here, for a penny or two, you may spend two or three hours, have the shelter of a house, the warmth of a fire, the diversion of company, and conveniency, if you please, of taking a pipe of tobacco; and all this without any grumbling or repining.
Secondly, For sobriety : it is grown, by the ill influences of I know not what hydropick stars, almost a general custom amongst us, that no
bargain can be drove, or business concluded between man and man, but it must be transacted at some publick-house. This, to persons much concerned in the world, must needs be very injurious, should they al. ways run to taverns or ale-houses, where continual sippings, though never so warily, would be apt to Ay up into their brains, and render them drowsy and indisposed for business ; whereas, having now the opportunity of a coffee house, they repair thither, take each man a dish or two (so far from causing, that it cures any dizziness, or disturbant fumes) and so, dispatching their business, go out more sprightly about their affairs, than before. The like may be said of mornings draughts, which, taken in wine, ale, or beer, most times either destroy, or very much maim the business of the whole day; whereas, if people would be persuaded to play the good fellows, in this wholesome, wakeful, inno. cent drink, they would find it do no less good to their bodies, and much more promote and advance their business and employments.
Lastly, For diversion. It is older than Aristotle, and will be true, when Hobbes is forgot, that man is a sociable creature, and delights in company. Now, whither shall a person, wearied with hard study, or the laborious turmoils of a tedious day, repair to refresh himself? Or where can young gentlemen, or shop-keepers, more innocently and advantageously spend an hour or two in the evening, than at a coffeehouse? Where they shall be sure to meet company, and, by the custom of the house, not such as at other places, stingy and reserved to themselves, but free and communicative; where every man may modestly begin his story, and propose to, or answer another, as he thinks fit. Discourse is pabulum animi, cos ingenii ; the mind's best diet, and the great whetstone and incentive of ingenuity ; by that we come to know men better than by their physiognomy. Loquere, ut te rideam, speak, that I may see thee, was the philosopher's adage. To read men is acknowledged more useful than books ; but where is there a better library for that study, generally, than here, amongst such a variety of humours, all expressing themselves on divers subjects, according to their respective abilities?
But our pamphlet-monger, that sputters out senseless characters faster, than any hocus can vomit inkle, will needs take upon him to be dictator of all society, and confine company to sit as mute in a coffee-house, as a quaker at a silent meeting, or himself with a little wench, when behind the hangings they are playing a game at whist. To this purpose, he babbles mightily against tattling, and makes a great deal of cold mirth with three or four stale humours, that you may find a thousand times better described in a hundred old plays; yet to collect these excellent observables cost the poor soul above half a year's time, in painful pilgrimage from one coffee-house to another; where, plant. ing himself in a dark corner, with the dexterity of short-hand, he recorded these choice remarks, whilst all the town took him for an exciseman counting the number of dishes ; the world is now obliged with the fruits of his industry, which proves no more, than that some giddy. headed coxcombs, like himself (whose skulls, instead of brains, are stuffed with saw-dust) do sometimes intrude into coffee-houses, a doctrine we are easily persuaded to believe: for, if their doors had been kept shut against all fops, it is more than probable, himself had never known so much of their humours. We confess, in multiloquio non deest vanitas, Amongst so much talk there may happen some to very little purpose. But, as we doubt not, but the royal proclamation has had the good success to prevent, for the future, any dangerous intelli. gence, saucy prying into arcana imperii, or irreverent reflexions on affairs of state, so, for the little innocent extravagancies, we, hold them very diverting, every fool being a fiddle to the company; for, how else should our author have raised so much laughter through the town? Besides, how infinitely are the vain pratings of these ridiculous pragmaticks over-balanced by the sage and solid reasonings, here frequently to be heard, of experienced gentlemen, judicious lawyers, able physicians, ingenious merchants, and understanding citizens, in the abstrusest points of reason, philosophy, law, and publick commerce !
In brief, it is undeniable, that, as you have here the most civil, so it is, generally, the most intelligent society; the frequenting whose converse, and observing their discourses and deportment, cannot but civilise our manners, enlarge our understandings, refine our language, teach us a generous confidence and handsome mode of address, and brush off that pudor rubrusticus (as, I remember, Tully somewhere calls it) that clownish kind of modesty frequently incident to the best natures, which renders them sheepish and ridiculous in company.
So that, upon the whole matter, spight of the idle sarcasms and pal. try reproaches thrown upon it, we may, with no less truth than plaina ness, give this brief character of a well-regulated coffee-house (for our pen disdains to be an advocate for any sordid holes, that assume that name to cloke the practice of debauchery) that it is the sanctuary of health, the nursery of temperance, the delight of frugality, an academy of civility, and free-school of ingenuity.
THE CHARACTER OF A FANATICK,
BY A PERSON OF QUALITY. London, printed in the Year 1675. Quarto, containing eight Pages. L E is a person of a more exercised faith than understanding; one Il governed by instinct, not intellect; and who, like those of old, never thinks he has enough of the deity, till beside himselli : You may call him, if you please, a perpetual motion, or a restless 'whirligig, ever turning from bad to worsel; or the ignis fatuus of divinity, carried about with every wind ; lest, considering whence it cometh, or whither it goeth, as even such, likewise, is every one that is born of him. It may be thought, the prophet had something like him in his eye, in that wheel (of his) within a wheel; for of himself he never was, but ill split from another; like those imperfect, dough-baked crea tures, produced by the sun on the banks of Nile ; so that Inis generation is founded in corruption, and his extraction of the same parentage with