There I was, listening to Alton Brown dissect the history of brunch in episode 232 (14.4) of Good Eats, and I learn for the first time ever that the first known use of the word brunch in print was in the article “Brunch: A Plea” by one Guy Beringer, published in Hunter’s Weekly in 1895.
That sort of thing excites me. “I’d like to read that article!” say I to myself.
Confidently, I typed
"Brunch: A Plea" into my search bar. Result: lots of blog posts, magazine articles, blog posts masquerading as magazine articles, and a newspaper item or two.
“Oh, ha ha,” I think. “That makes sense.” I open a few likely ones from top results. Smithsonian. Mental Floss. Lots of links, but none to the source, and always the same quote, pulled by a Wikipedian from a 1998 New York Times article:
Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a postchurch ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Beringer wrote. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Hmm. Oh my.
filetype:pdf "brunch, a plea"
Uh-oh. Wikipedia references and external links: no. Google Books: no. Gutenberg: no. Library of Congress: no. WorldCat: no.
This is getting serious. And yet…
“Fool!” think I. “Work from the Wikipedia references! Track it down!”
Well, here they are:
Seven is the aforementioned NYT article. Six is of no use. Five, in a gentle diatribe against over-cautious imprecision in the dating of word origins in dictionaries, offers this:
For brunch, The Random House Dictionary says “1895-1900,” yet it is well known that Guy Beringer, the Englishman who coined the word, first used it in print in his article entitle “Brunch: A Plea,” which appears in Hunter’s Weekly in 1895. [Bold emphasis mine.]
So here it is: “Brunch: A Plea”: A Plea: somebody, please, track down the original article and give it to the Internet. We need this. I believe this particular story is factual; no real reason to doubt it and the Times piece quotes from it in several places. Nevertheless, the first-page-result writing on brunch in the past fifteen or twenty years knows about a single paragraph of Beringer and is quick to attribute his words to an article no one seems able to produce. Even Good Eats offered up the ubiquitous paragraph in full, leaving me little better off now than when I began.
Find this article, you win my thanks…and you restore the rights of brunching know-it-alls everywhere to tell Beringer’s story without shame.
13 thoughts on “Brunch: A Plea: A Plea”
Here is the Harper’s Weekly Copy.
For what it’s worth, years later, I have found it. It’s here (archival jpg scanned by the British Library):
Here it is, with thanks to the British Library.
Oh man, I came across your article in the same manner of Hunt that you and St. John Frizell went through as well. THE SEARCH CONTINUES.
Hi – I am a librarian trying to locate this for a patron, and discovered that you can order a copy through the British Library. This is the only library I could find that still owns a copy of Hunter’s Weekly. Here’s a long link to their catalog record:
And the response from the British Library to my question of whether or not we can order a copy:
I can confirm that you can order this item through our Imaging Service.
Further information, including details of the products available and prices for this service, can be found on our website at:
Please note, the price for a standard or premium resolution image on CD-ROM is per shot per page, not per CD-ROM.
You can fill in an online order form for the item required. This can be found on our website at: https://forms.bl.uk/imaging/index.aspx
The standard service is 10 – 20 working days subject to preservation checks. We also have an express service with a 5 – 10 working day turnaround again subject to preservation checks. The charge for express is an additional £19.00 per item. If you require Express then please type ‘Express’ in the additional information part of the order.
If you intend to use a British Library image for any purpose except non-commercial research, you will need to contact our Permissions Department, as there may be an additional permissions charge:
Tel: 00 44 (0)20 7412 7755
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Did you ever find a copy of the article?? I’ve been searching high and low!
This looks like the original Punch reference, with no Beringer quote, unfortunately. From the text format of August 1, 1896 issue of Punch on archive.org. Now we just have to find the source of that Beringer quote.
If someone found that original Beringer quote in Hunter’s Weekly, why wasn’t the reference in MW ever changed to 1895?
BRUNCH v. BLUNCH!
ACCORDING to the Lady, to be fashionable nowadays we must
” brunch.” Truly an excellent portmanteau word, introduced,
by the way, last year, by Mr. GUY BERINGER, in the now defunct
Hunter’s Weekly, and indicating a combined breakfast and
lunch. At Oxford, however, two years ago, an important dis-
tinction was drawn. The combination-meal, when nearer the
usual breakfast hour, is ” brunch,” and, when nearer luncheon,
is ” blunch.” Please don’t forget this.
‘Tis the voice of the Bruncher, I heard him complain,
” You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again 1
When the clock says it ‘s twelve, then perhaps I ’11 revive,
Meanwhile into bed yet once more let me dive 1
The last meal I had was about 3 A.M. ;
I ‘in a writer, so please don’t such habits condemn 1
This cross between supper and breakfast I ’11 name,
If you ’11 let me, a ‘ suckfast ‘ and ‘ brupper ‘ ‘s the same !
Later on, too, a similar mixture I make,
And of ‘ five o’clock tinner ‘ at seven I partake ;
The term ‘s a propos, for the fare is tinned meat,
With tea for ‘ ontray ‘ and lump sugar for sweet.
While the small hours get larger I ‘m fit as a flea,
The sunrise I ‘m cheerfully ready to see,
With ‘ blunch ‘ for to-morrow, and no trains to catch,
I don’t need to repose with unseemly despatch.
Beauty sleep is a thing that ne’er troubles my head ;
When the cock has done crowing I turn into bed,
Then peacefully dream of the virtues of ‘ blunch,’
And, on waking, I rise and indite this to Punch ! “
I like “suckfast”.
Did you ever find “Brunch: A Plea”? I came across your site in exactly the way you describe looking for the original text—amazing that it is so frequently quoted in brunch articles, but always the same quote. I wonder if any of these writers have actually read the original!
And I wonder if the original actually exists. Grimes seems to be the original modern source for that quote. What if he pulled it, not from the 1895 original source (Hunter’s Weekly), but from the 1896 issue of Punch referenced here:
We’ve got to get our hands on that Punch article. If the Grimes quote comes from that piece, I think we must allow for the strong possibility that the original article was a fabrication of the writer for Punch—which was a satirical humor magazine, and probably wouldn’t hesitate to do something like that.
Two facts aid this hypothesis: 1) all online references to “Hunter’s Weekly” seem to reference this article, suggesting it could be fabricated, and 2) the earliest reference, according to M-W.com, is 1896.
What do you think? I can’t find one article that even suggests that this could be a possibility.
St. John Frizell
I never even remarked on the Punch reference! It seems just the sort of joke that would be played.
Curious, I went to confirm for myself that Hunter’s Weekly was even really a thing. A simple Google search for “Hunter’s Weekly” (with quotes) gives, predictably, a lot of brunch references and then occurrences of the two words in succession in larger phrases.
Subtracted “brunch” from results narrows the field somewhat. I found some misinterpretations by OCR of scanned-in text, as in this instance of Harper’s Weekly reading incorrectly: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH18760301.2.3.6
According to Google Books and The Publisher’s Circular Newspaper, Magazine, and Periodical Supplement, Hunter’s Weekly commenced publishing on 29 October 1895, to be published every Tuesday and sold for a shilling: https://books.google.com/books?id=3cTnAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA450-IA2&lpg=PA450-IA2&dq=%22hunter%27s+weekly%22+magazine+-brunch&source=bl&ots=5HuX2fKKXL&sig=uj7LUM4KTqB9e4nAanmjfxihBgg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=l8vaVJbqK4XegwSiyYDwDw&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22hunter's%20weekly%22%20magazine%20-brunch&f=false
The magazine was to be “an illustrated record of the hour” with a literary portion, illustrations “humorous without suggestiveness, and possibly pathetic without being maudlin.” A portion handled by “two experienced writers” would be geared toward “ladies” and a finance page would “give disinterested advice to the small investor”. There would even be prize competitions.
The publisher even took out a half-page ad on the front of the Supplement for their “common sense paper for common sense people”. Sad — “defunct” by August 1, 1896!
Although several authors are named for the inaugural issue, there is no mention of Guy Beringer, including elsewhere in the Supplement. A quick Google search also does not turn up likely suspects
Interestingly, “Hunter’s Weekly” also shows up in the 1995 novelization of the computer game Pandora’s Directive, on page 166:
I have been searching for the article “Brunch: A Plea” and have arrived at many of the same issues that you have in looking for the origin.
I have found this site and wasn’t sure if you had come across it
I do not think that Guy Beringer coined the word brunch. I think this started somewhere and how has taken off.
I just figure if it exhists than we should be able to find a copy of this article that everyone keeps quoting from. The same quote. Though I have on occasion found a few different quotes….
Im still searching for the truth myself. If I come across anymore information I will pass it on.
Note that the “Word Histories” page mentions that the word “brunch” appears in an essay by Margaret Barker Upham Wright, which was published earlier in 1895 than Beringer’s “Brunch: A Plea.”
A digitized version of Mrs. Wright’s essay can be found here: