Lovelace and Babbage vs the Organist, Pt 6

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series The Organist

As the ancient saying goes, “Audiences are like monkeys.  Give them a grape a day, not a whole bucket of bananas at once!” Sadly I am so constructed that buckets of bananas are my natural production unit.  And they don’t get much more bananas than this here.   It’s been a while, GOD KNOWS, so a summary of how we have reached our present state:


–Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Engineer. Genius.  Coffee connoisseur and Master of Sarcasm:

Brunel to the Swindon rail station coffee shop proprietor, who had heard Mr Brunel had a complaint:

Dear Sir,
I assure you that Mr Player was wrong in supposing that I thought you purchased inferior coffee. I thought I said to him that I was surprised you should buy such bad roasted corn. I did not believe you had coffee in the place: I am certain that I never tasted any. I have long ceased to make complaints at Swindon. I avoid taking anything there when I can help it.

Brunel also gave as a principal reason for his pursuance of the broad-gauge rail the smoothness of the ride enabling him to drink his coffee.  I’m guessing caffine had a part to play in his only sleeping four hours a night.  I’m trying to figure out how he had a hand free to draw, seeing as he was BOTH continually smoking cigars and continually drinking coffee.

— The Coffee House was a fixture of both high and low Victorian London, ever as much as it is today.  Finding decent coffee was notoriously difficult; if you find yourself wandering around Victorian London looking for a cup, you may consult this excellent guide.

— Every once in a while, a piece of evidence is found which utterly overturns the foundations of an understanding we once thought unshakably sound;  evidence which forces a humble confession of the inability of our puny constructions to hold up before the awesome weight and complexity of Truth.  Such  epoch-birthing evidence is found in this painting, from which I drew the coffee shop interior– before you click I warn you– it contains a SHOCKING IMAGE.

They are all wearing hats.  INSIDE.

My inside/outside no-hat/hat paradigm is utterly shattered.  Is it because there are no ladies?  As usual with everything cool in Victorian England, women were not admitted to Respectable Coffeshops… in any case I need to go and lie down for a while before I recover from this shock.

— I honestly have no idea at all what impact an actually Analytical Engine would have had on the course of Victorian Science.  They did pretty good without it!

— Here is a period Organ Grinder and monkey:

— Although we pride ourselves on our meticulous research here at 2dgoggles, there is no evidence that Charles Babbage was ever kidnapped by an army of capuchin monkeys.  He did have troubles with mobs, sadly, as can be found in the following anecdote (warning:  in this anecdote, the human race kind of sucks):

A German band was in the habit of annexing a position before his house, and treating him to its music. .. Babbage got tired of this sort of thing, and ordered them go and play somewhere else.  They refused, and he, worn out by their music, left his study to seek a policeman and have them moved on.  Like Carlyle, he dressed quaintly, and moreover, at the moment, he was bareheaded… Babbage’s dispute with the band soon collected a small crowd, eager to witness the fun.

Hatless!  In the streets!  At least some things I KNOW are wrong.

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  1. demdike on April 18, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    They are wearing hats indoors because its a public location, same as you can keep hats on in a pub. You only remove your hat to show respect when you enter a private house or building.

  2. that girl on December 18, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Wouldn’t that be APEduction?

  3. Ian on August 31, 2011 at 2:46 am

    I lived in Swindon for 18 months. Nothing has changed with regard to the coffee since Brunel’s time.

  4. Nicole, of the Forgotten Island on December 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    ….I’m just going to be over here, swooning….. oh, Brunel….

    (@Teeny Gozer: I do that casting thing as well! Haven’t started for L&B yet, but it’s really only a matter of time. Mostly I’m still obsessed with finding the perfect cast for Sandman, which may take me some time….

    also, is that a Ghostbusters reference?)

  5. Teeny Gozer on July 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    First time comment from me! I just read ALL the comics and subscribed to 2D Goggles on a Live Bookmark feed (first time I ever did that, too.)

    This is the best webcomic I ever read, bar none. I love the sweep of the art, the humor, and the way I learn a lot about History! and Science! from the postscripts. Can’t wait to see coming chapters! You really are amazingly talented and funny.

    As is my wont (since attending film school many years ago*,) I am in the process of casting all the parts in my head. I think Canadian actor David Hewlett would be perfect for Babbage, in fact he may have channeled the spirit of Babbage the entire five years he played crabby genius Dr. Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis. No idea who’s awesome enough to play Lovelace, but I’ll let you know who I come up with. ;)

    *Mostly I tend to play casting director for novels while I’m reading them, but this webcomic reads like a hilarious and complicated steampunk novel.

  6. Eva on July 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

    It’s the first time I comment, but seriously: this is my favourite webcomic of all time. And that while I’m allergic to math!

  7. Anon, A Mouse on July 14, 2010 at 1:46 am

    For some reason, this episode reminds me of Walt Kelly’s Pogo. Which is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

    “I want to help science, too.” Brilliant.

    Enjoy the giant monsters! Or.. .Eustance…

  8. lns on July 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Hats: as a couple of people have suggested, it is a private/ public thing. We’ve lost most of this nowadays but perhaps think of situations in which you would be happy padding about in brightly-coloured slipper-socks with each toe knitted in a different colour… those would be the no-hat situations in daytime (it all changes again for evenings, I’m afraid – and often different rules for town/country as well).
    So if you were to go to a coffee-shop, you probably would not be padding round in your slipper-socks, no? Hence: keep your hat on.

    I’m awaiting a Viva-date for my thesis, so have not yet started making the prototype of the reefable skirt from a previous episode, but rest assured, I am still thinking on it. I recently found some 19th century illustrations for a type of underskirt with tapes which could be pulled to raise the front hem a fraction to enable the mounting of a staircase, so it may even be a referenced reefable skirt!

    Finally… I love this comic. It HAS to go to book-form. A4, with the strip on the left-page and the notes on the right-page. You are wonderful and I abase myself at your feet, not for the first time, in admiring awe.


  9. Bella Green on July 7, 2010 at 5:06 am

    This made my return to dreary hot & humid Texas from fabulously cool Alaska and Vancouver soooo much easier to bear. You are a goddess! Love the monkeys. Love Brunel! Thank you!

  10. Rhonan on July 6, 2010 at 6:27 am

    I must commend you on never picturing Brunel for more than a frame, now and then, without his cigar. That is doing far better then the sculptor who did that dreadful statue of him without one. But why do you never include at least the strap of his signature portable humidor?

  11. Nick on June 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Truly wonderful stuff. It’s sent a breath of fresh air riffling through my comics. Loved the Doplar effect on Ada’s horse! :)
    And the drunk Ada with Brunel-“WE NEED COFFEE” frame would make a very sexy T-shirt.

  12. Sam on June 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Now get out there and do whatever the hell it is you do!!
    I think I’m in love.

  13. Liz on June 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    i have such a crush on Brunel now!

  14. insomniac on June 27, 2010 at 2:56 am

    mister isembard kingdom brunel
    so busy there’s too much to tell
    getting ada less doze-y
    and somewhat more prose-y
    (saving babbage from monkeys as well?)

  15. Kaptain Kobold on June 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    @ajay:”As you all know, he spent several years of his life post-Beagle voyage studying fossil barnacles full-time”

    Not just fossil ones; he spent years producing a four-volume catalogue of the world’s barnacle species. It got him known in academic circles, and meant that he wasn’t an unknown maverick when he published ‘On The Origin Of Species’.

    As for the family, all of his children seem to be on record as saying what a fantastic dad he was.

    I’d like to see more Darwin in this strip. Please.


    ‘Ape Abduction’? I see no apes, only monkeys. Not just pedantry but pedantray based on SCIENCE! :)

  16. Nate on June 26, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Utterly brilliant. Thank you for your work.

  17. John Spencer on June 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    “Now get out there and do whatever the hell it is you do!” … wonderful, pure, high-strength coffee!

    p.s. Is that a Very Large Wimshurt Machine I spy in the illustration of the Victorian future – yikes, the very thought of what it could do terrifies me.

  18. Redshift on June 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Charles Wheatstone and a coffee shop called “The Bridge”? Hmmm…

  19. ajay on June 24, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Also, need more Darwin.

    Great story about Darwin:
    As you all know, he spent several years of his life post-Beagle voyage studying fossil barnacles full-time. At the same time, he (or more probably Mrs Darwin) was raising a family – and his daughter was heard, at the age of 6 or so, to ask a small friend “Does your Papa do his barnacles after lunch, or before lunch like mine?”
    Because she thought that obsessive barnacle studying was just something that every grown-up man did, full-time…

  20. Jeanette Diaz on June 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I think they were wearing the hats because they were in a public place, like a store or a post office. I think if they were in a home or at a ball or at a classy restaurant they would take off their hats. The rules for hat removal etiquette were probably esoteric and ever-evolving.

    I once read it was considered indecent in the Victorian era to give up your seat to a lady because she would feel the warmth of your bottom. I have no references, sadly, so it may not be true.

  21. Kat on June 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I for one am grateful for the ‘banana delivery method’. It is such treat when a new installment is added, and it is really wonderful to have it take more than just a minute or two to read (and savor all the details and notes!).

    I second (or third or whatever) the votes for a mug/t-shirt/etc with the “Now get out there…” on.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  22. nekokami on June 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Oh, and when the action moves away from the coffee shop, skip to this link (or you could even just start here):

  23. nekokami on June 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Sorry to merely echo:

    “Now get out there and do whatever the hell it is that you do!”

    “For SCIENCE!”


    Re: coffee machines… I hop it is not too tacky to point to another web comic, but while we’re waiting for your next installment, some of your fans may wish to entertain themselves with this sequence:

  24. noah on June 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Those last four panels, with the monkeys, are fantastic!

  25. ajay on June 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Oh, don’t think we haven’t noticed the name of the coffee house by the way. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that in the CLIMACTIC BATTLE SCENE… right?

  26. E-Wit on June 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Yes yes yes — a mug please; or a T-shirt, or something — with “Now go and do whatever the hell it is you do.” !! And with that, excuse me, I have to go and do whatever the hell it is that I do. Wish I had a Brunel around. But maybe not — those cigars… Brilliant comic, as usual, in fact even more than usual!

  27. Nexxo on June 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I did not realise (although I could have surmised, had I given the matter adequate thought) that Brunel was a coffee drinker. I can but wonder what espresso machines he might have created. Perhaps contraptions involving repurposed steam engine boilers and more metal tubing than the brass section of the London Philharmonic. Something not unlike the Crossness Pumping Station in London (Google it. It’s impressive)…

    Anyway, material for a new Brunel mug? ;)

  28. Kaaz on June 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    How do I love this comic? Let me count the ways:
    1. Coffee
    2. “For SCIENCE!”
    3. Coffee
    4. “Now go and do whatever the hell it is you do!” (this is most of my friends’ view of what *I* as a software engineer do)
    5. Coffee
    6. Cute little monkeys who morph into Gollum-like creatures as they whisk Babbage away
    7. Coffee
    8. Wonderful use of dark/light & spacing, dramatic silhouettes, etc
    9. EVERYTHING! (and coffee…)

  29. hapax on June 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    So. Much. Love.

    I would buy coffee cups with the “whatever the hell it is you do” and give them to my entire staff.

    Also, FOR SCIENCE!

  30. skauthen on June 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Yes! Another episode! Now I can die in peace!

    I find the notion not only plausible but probable that the only thing that prevented Brunel from creating immense flying machines were the idiosyncratic failings of Lovelace and Babbage… so, my question is, will there be some sort of hero v. heroes battle from the coggy heights of the difference engine?

    Yes! Pray to Saint Faraday! Good move, Brunel!

    HAHAHAHAHA @ ‘flying’ monkeys

    Awww, the panel with Babbage with his head on the desk and the gigantic cogs looming over him I want to print off for every ‘missing you’ card I ever send. All he’s got, now, is a wittle cog to love and to hold.

    The Babbage-kidnap scene is AMAZING! All the contrast and flowyness – you should seriously consider taking up creating monster battle scenes for a living…

    >Brunel to the Swindon rail station coffee shop proprietor

    Gasp! I went to the Swindon rail station coffee shop! Super glad I got a Coke…. that place is not Brunel approved.


    That. Is. A brilliant. Scheme.

    Wandering around London I had to suffer shite coffee houses for weeks until I found some decent ones… but if there were an international scale…

  31. Ken on June 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    The wait was more than amply repaid.

  32. Jondxs on June 21, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this yet, but it seems to point to another avenue of attack on street musicians:

    (visions of marauding packs of mathematics graduates roaming the streets stealing the pitches of organ grinders…)

  33. Frederick Ross on June 21, 2010 at 6:16 am

    The exhortation of Lovelace reminds me of a snippet of doggerel I ran across long ago:

    “The mathematician is e’er among us,
    We cloth him and we feed him.
    We don’t know what the hell he does,
    We only know we need him.”

    A new comic, a wonderful way to start a morning after an essentially sleepless night. Now, off to give a street concert, followed by a lecture on abstract algebra! (Not kidding…)

  34. Eric on June 21, 2010 at 3:41 am

    “Now get out there and do whatever the hell it is you do!”

    I kind of identify with this panel. Bravo!

  35. Lance on June 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Sublime as ever :-)

    I can personally verify the link between good coffee and properly functioning engineers. Sadly my employers have some bizarre dictats against chain-smoking cigars, so I’ll have to give the “genius” bit a miss.

  36. Tealin on June 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Nooo, my gif of delight failed to be incorporated somehow! Imagine a row of happy dancing Hertzfeld doodles. (sigh…)

  37. Tealin on June 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    My delight is too great to be expressed in words, and so I resort to a selfishly appropriated animated gif:

    Also: if I ever throw in the animation towel I will open a steampunk coffee shop called What Ho Old Bean. :D

    Eagerly awaiting the next chapter! (so, like, no pressure, eh?)

  38. Brian on June 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Sydney Padua, you must never stop drawing this cartoon. Seriously. You owe it to me.

    I mean, England.

    I mean, SCIENCE!

  39. Frank Wales on June 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I love the idea that, due to Brunellian Expressive Acoustic Resonance, a.k.a. the BEAR effect, his cigar remains floating in mid-air in front of his face as he bellows.

    I imagine that, once he’s done, he’s able to chomp onto it again before gravity gets a grip of it.

  40. SnarkMaiden on June 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Hats. Germans. Different rules. Also I *think* indoor/outdoor less important than private/public space; hats came off in church and at home and in the club, but not if you were browsing at an exhibition or in some other public space – so a coffee house might count as public space. Also if you took your hat off, it might get coffee tipped into it!

  41. R. S. Buchanan on June 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    re: Hats, two possibilities come immediately to my mind.
    1) They could be worried that, in a drinking establishment, setting a hat down is an invitation to some clumsy oaf to spill something onto or into it.
    2) They could all be cads.

    I tend to favor the second possibility.

  42. altadel on June 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Whither part 5?

  43. Doug on June 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I want to help science too!! Genius, and after Brunel’s, ehem, galvanizing speech, I echo the sentiment!

  44. itsathoughtnet on June 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    The vision of futuristic Victorian London is marvelous. Very steam punk.
    And Brunel of course is fabulous.
    I hope the rescue of the hapless Babbage is as dramatic as the steam engine scene.

  45. Owen Fleet on June 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Surely that should be ‘ape-duction’, ha ha ha. Or maybe not.

  46. Dvon on June 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you for revealing yet another reason to admire the great Brunel. (Although it also invoked a fleeting vision of an espresso machine driving itself around the banquet table. Clearly I need more coffee.)

    The caption on the linked source “coffeehouse” image says it depicts Hamburg, notorious city of hats and risky foodstuffs. While this wouldn’t be the first time our trans-temporal reporter revealed certain deficiencies in the accepted historical record, perhaps one may take some small portion of solace that the offense, if accurately described, did not take place in England.

  47. John on June 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    With the screen size on my machine and the haphazard way I was scrolling, I only saw a gaping white space after the “this will do” panel. The “tease” was hilarious, but fortunately an error on my part. Unless you’re a not-so-flying monkey, I guess. Not so fortunate for you. (Speaking of which, if I haven’t mentioned it, I really enjoy that “swarming shadow of monkey” effect.)

    “…Go do whatever the Hell it is you do!” Pretty much the entire field of informatics, right there.

    Re: Hats. The painting is German. Perhaps they had different rules. Sort of like how some bacteria evolve to function without oxygen.

    Most importantly, though, “I want to help science, too” Guy had better make a comeback.

    Stupid question: Is most of Ada’s dialogue authentic from correspondence as you’ve done, or has her voice merely overtaken you?