Babbage Racket

A couple of comments at the hectic Caucasian Lullaby discussion reminded me about Charles Babbage and his hatred of “street disturbances”. This was the subject of a brief snippet posted here as long ago as 19 January 2004. I thought I would dig it out of the archive and reproduce it here. Much to my annoyance, I failed to identify the source of my quotations, and now I cannot recall where I read them. Very slapdash.

When he wasn’t inventing the computer, Charles Babbage spent much of his time getting het up about what he called “street disturbances”. These seem to have consisted almost entirely of what most people call “music”. He wrote a helpful list of “instruments of torture permitted by the Government to be in daily and nightly use in the streets of London”:

Organs, Bagpipes, Brass bands, Accordians, Fiddlers, Halfpenny whistles, Harps, Tom-toms, Harpsichords, Trumpets, Hurdy-gurdies, Shouting out objects for sale, Flageolets, Religious canting, Drums, Psalm-singing.

And apart from the Government, responsible for allowing this mayhem, Babbage knew who to blame: “Tavern-keepers, Public-houses, Girl-shops, Beer-shops, Coffee-shops, Servants, Children, Visitors from the country, Ladies of doubtful virtue, Occasionally titled ladies; but these are almost invariably of recent elevation, and deficient in that taste which their sex usually possess”.

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