Thursday, June 6, 2013

1674 Womens' Petition Against Coffee

by Anita Davison

Lloyds Coffee House
Were you aware that the non-fat latte you collected on your way to work this morning made men impotent, and increased their capacity for gossip? Well, in the 1670’s that’s exactly what the women did think when coffee was largely drunk by men in coffeehouses rather than at home.

King Charles II wasn’t pleased about the activities of intellectually stimulated men gathering at the coffee houses for political debate, discussions on philosophy and finance. Fearing this habit would spread dissent, he set out to ban them with an edict that condemned - tradesmen and others do therein misspend much of their time. And went on to state that sale of coffee, chocolate, sherbet and tea in coffee houses or private homes was to be banned.  However public opinion caused him to back down a few days before the ban was to take effect.

In 1674, the women of London presented a petition calling for the closure of the coffee houses and the consumption of what they called: ‘a drying, enfeebling liquor', and addressed it to: "The Humble Petitions and Address of Several Thousands of Buxome Good-Women, Languishing in Extremity of Want, and contained the phrase ---The Age of Man, Now Cramp't into an Inch, that was a Span".

It’s a very wordy document but I have listed some of the more entertaining sections below:

"...our men, who in former Ages were justly esteemed the Ablest Performers in Christendome; But to our unspeakable Grief, we find of late a very sensible Decay of that true Old English Vigor; 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...

"...we can Attribute to nothing more than 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 Cripple our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent as Age, and as unfruitful...

 "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."

The female fraternity were also worried their men were becoming better gossips than they were, in that -  "...they would soon learn to exceed us in Talkativeness: a Quality wherein our Sex has ever Claimed preheminence".

However, the men of London had an answer to this petition and issued, "The Mens Answer to the Womens petition Against Coffee, Vindicating their own performances and the Virtues of that Liquor from undeserved aspersions cast upon them by their scandalous pamphlet."

This reply is far less entertaining than the Womens’ Petition and most of it is taken up railing against their wives for daring to complain, saying "Our Island is a Paradise for Women" and call upon the whores of Whetstones Park, the Suburb Runners, and Moorfields Night-walkers, to ask if they ever had better Trading:

" is a harmless and healing Liquor, which Indulgent Providence first sent amongst us, at a time  when Brimmers of Rebellion, and Fanatick Zeal had intoxicated the Nation, and we wanted a Drink at once to make us Sober and Merry..." 

Coffee Advertisement 1650's

They also maintained that Coffee "Collects and settles the Spirits, makes the erection more Vigorous, the Ejaculation more full, adds a spiritualescency to the Sperme, and renders it more firm and suitable to the Gusto of the womb, and proportionate to the ardours and expectation too, of the female Paramour."

As for the gossiping -- the response says: and this is the funniest section and certainly spares nothing in telling their women what they think of them:

You may well permit us to talk abroad, for at home we have
scarce time to utter a word for the insufferable Din of your
ever active Tongues, the Foolish extravagancies of our lives,
are infinitly out-done by the wild Frolliques of yours; 'Till Noon
you lie a Bed hatching Concupiscence, then having paid your
Adorations,  to the Ugly Idol in the Glass, you descend to Dinner
were you gormondize enough at one Meal to Famish a Town
Besiedg'd; after that, you are call'd out by a Cozen, and hurried
out in his Honours Coach (whose jogging, serves as a Preparative
 to your Letchery) away to the Play-house, where a Lascivious
Dance, a Bawdy Song, and the Petulant Gallants Tickling of
your hand, having made an Insurrection in your Blood, you go to
Allay it with an Evenings Exercise at the Tavern, there you spend
freely, yet being Rob'd of nothing we can miss, home you come in
a Railing humour, and at last give us nothing for Supper but a
Butter'd Bun.

They finish with, "Solomon was in the right, when he told us that the Grave and the Womb were equally Insatiable."

All that from trying to deny a man his Espresso!

The full text is here

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, Royalist Rebel, is published under the name Anita Seymour by Claymore Press.


  1. The Womens Petition Against Coffee, which was satirical and full of sex puns, was almost certainly written by men—I’d guess at a table in a coffee house!

    The publication of the pamphlet was followed shortly thereafter with a less-funny, less-successful pamphlet, supposedly an answer to the "women's" petition.

    1. I thought it was most likely written by the Prostitutes' Union, afraid of losing custom.

  2. Very entertaining post!

  3. Great post...loved the advertisement. Gosh they were explicit then.


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