1896: The Bicycle begets Lunch; Lunch begets mental dissipation and moral laziness.

Archives of The London Spectator aren't online, so all we have to go on here is the rebuttal from the New York Times ridiculing them. It's a Transatlantic Victorian smack-down! Over bicycles!

June 21, 1896: The Wheel and Society.

The effect of cycling on the social customs of England engages the grave and minute attention of The London Spectator, which devotes nearly a page to its discussion. The phase of the wheel's influence that strikes our contemporary most forcibly is, to put it briefly, the abolition of dinner and the advent of lunch. That seems simple and not overwhelmingly important, but habitual readers of The Spectator will not be misled by appearances. They know what a fine array of speculation, inquiry, doubt, suggestion, and what a pungent pinch of dogmatism may often be found in its columns connected with a simple and seemingly subordinate matter.

In this case, the passing of dinner and the advance of lunch to the first rank mean to The Spectator a distinct loss to society. If people can pedal away ten miles or so in the middle of the day to a lunch for which they need not dress, where the talk is hap-hazard, varied, light, and only too easy, and then glide back in the cool of the afternoon to dine quietly and get early to bed, the habit of intercourse is clearly to be modified. Conversation of the more serious and continuous type will tend to go out, and talk -- just fortuitous, unelaborated, give-and-take talk -- will tend to come in.

Moreover, the influence of neighborhood will be weakened. Men, and still more, women, will so easily get away from their homes, it will become much pleasanter to see a little of many and not much of any one, that people will know each other and themselves less thoroughly. They will thus tend to become superficial, hasty, ignorant, mentally dissipated, and morally lazy.

Bicyclists: We Brunch Hard.


Update: Oh hey, the original (which is definitely tl;dr) seems to be in here, though I couldn't figure out how to link to it directly.

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7 Responses:

  1. pavel_lishin says:

    They will thus tend to become superficial, hasty, ignorant, mentally dissipated, and morally lazy.

    I want to bring him back from the dead and show him twitter.

  2. I Just Ride says:

    So cycling will change the habit of intercourse. I see.

  3. Mark Welch says:

    I just like saying "the habit of intercourse is clearly to be modified".

  4. jymdyer says:

    • Bicycling 10 miles to lunch (necessitated by so many tourists and mothers in every local eatery) is more a San Francisco thing these days. In NYC one is more likely to grab a bagel midday, and have dinner at 10pm.

  5. Phil says:

    I love this:

    Or you may buy machines "which have been superseded" by some trivial or, if you are tolerably sharp, some imperceptible improvement.

    Gratuitous consumer product improvements date to the dawn of manufactured consumer products....

    What is it with the British press and "putting quotes around everything?" Not a new habit it would seem.

  6. Josh says:

    Okay, so it's evil to post a yelp link, but I don't see the cafe having its own site:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/arbor-cafe-oakland

    Because, bicyclists, do brunch hard. Coffee is quite good, too.