In An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity it is written:

Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity is the clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and consequently the kingdom one seventh less considerable in trade, business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public of so many stately structures now in the hands of the clergy, which might be converted into play-houses, exchanges, market-houses, common dormitories, and other public edifices.

I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word if I call this a perfect cavil. I readily own there hath been an old custom, time out of mind, for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that shops are still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to preserve the memory of that ancient practice; but how this can prove a hindrance to business or pleasure is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure are forced, one day in the week, to game at home instead of the chocolate-house? Are not the taverns and coffee-houses open?

I looked up chocolate in Wiktionary and chocolate house in Wikipedia. Of what chocolate house does Swift write here?

  • 2
    I think chocolate houses were more expensive and "refined" than coffee-houses and taverns in Swift's day (more upper crust, less peasants). So for some of his contemporaries, they'd have been first choice to go out gaming. But if those chocolate houses weren't available, they'd have easy alternatives Jun 23, 2023 at 10:08
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    Though I can't find any reference to the string, I'd say it's analogous to the more familiar compound noun 'coffee house', an establishment where cocoa was served. Jun 23, 2023 at 10:10
  • Refer to the importance of English chocolate houses
    – Graffito
    Jun 23, 2023 at 23:18

1 Answer 1



chocolate house, n.

Etymology: < chocolate n. + house n.1, after coffee-house n. Now historical.

An establishment whose main business is the sale of chocolate as a hot drink. Cf. coffee-house n.

Chocolate houses were much frequented in the 18th cent. (after which chocolate declined in popularity and fashionability as a drink), and were known as places for the exchange of political and literary conversation, news, etc.

1691 W. Mountfort Greenwich-Park Prol. sig. A4 And for the Masks who hunt the smaller Fry, Their Chocolet-House will their wants supply.

See also the short and readable "A letter from a Gentleman in White's Chocolate-House, to his Friend at the Smyrna Coffee House (1725)."

  • Interesting book. I had no idea early printers used three versions of letter 's' .
    – R.S.
    Jun 23, 2023 at 11:41

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